Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

Photo by:  CherryPoint
 New Year's Eve is a weird time in our culture.

You have the cynics on one side that scoff and ruffle their feathers at the concept of New Year's resolutions, often coming across like Calvin when he rails against the practice to Hobbes.  The idea that we should dedicate this day to looking back is absurd, it's just another day, yadda yadda yadda.

Then you have those people who overromanticize New Year's Eve.  They're the people who'll freak out until they have black eyed peas and cornbread to eat, who will quest for a person to kiss when the clock strikes midnight, etc., etc.

I'm neither of those people.

To me, and as I've mentioned before, New Year's Eve was always a holiday that was sort of weird. It was made out to be a big deal on TV, but it was never reallly a big deal to me. I mean, I had fun with my little mini-parties with my brother and cousin, but in college, I never went to any crazy parties.  In my adult life, as of yet, I have yet to go to any crazy gatherings. It's always been more of a night of quiet reflection.

However, there was one New Year's Eve, four years ago, that was special.

That night, I got invited to attend an all night party at the local little theater.  I had been in a production there and had made some friends, so I went along.

Once there, I hung out with my best friend from high school for a while.  Eventually, they started playing a movie for the majority of the people to watch, but my small group of friends snuck off to the lobby, set up a table, and played Cranium for hours.  In that time, there was a girl there that was super cool, super smart, and super funny.  She was crass and vulgar and hilariously irreverent.  She got herself registered online as a reverend so she could make her own holy water because the theater was supposedly haunted and "I didn't think the Catholics would just give that stuff away."

I married her about a year and a half later.

In that time, we've gone through some rough shit.  But we've stuck it out.  So, New Year's Eve is often a day where I look back and wonder how I was ever so lucky as to meet such a wonderful person.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Friday, December 28, 2012

In Which Snow is Displayed


This is my backyard. It's been snowing about 2 hours. It looks like it's about to stop, but it was still a nice surprise to encounter when we went to Best Buy. We came home early and just enjoyed the quiet little present.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: Ukulele Owner


As you can see, I am the owner of a new ukulele.  It's not an expensive one because it would be silly for my wife to have gotten me an expensive one since I'm just learning how to play.  I did buy new strings as my uke came with metal strings that snapped pretty quickly.  Now I have nylon strings from the local music store--which was an awesome experience.  The guy was super friendly and I'm looking forward to going back--possibly buying a slightly better uke from him once I've practiced some.

Anyway, the uke.  It's one of the cheap ones they sell at Barnes and Noble. Nothing fancy, and it doesn't need to be. I looked up some YouTube videos on how to string a ukulele, and I felt pretty accomplished with myself when I was done.

At first, I looked up some cool ukulele covers of popular songs, but those are all much too out of my depth at the moment, so I started looking up beginner songs and beginners lessons. Since my uke came with an instruction booklet, I've been using it and supplementing with free videos and audio lessons I can find on the internet.  I can't really attest to how good the playing is, but it's been a ton of fun.

I'm getting pretty adept at "I've Been Working on the Railroad," and "Clemetine" is coming along pretty nicely. "Amazing Grace" is fairly easy to play, but doesn't sound right, so I've sort of skipped that one. I might try to find a more complicated arrangement once I've put a bit more practice under my belt.

By the way, if you notice any egregious typos, try to forgive me, yeah?  I've never played guitar or anything really before and let's just say--OW OW OW MY FINGERS ARE OWIE.

So, there you have it.  New uke. Lots of fun fiddling with it. Beware, between my ukulele, my new TARDIS earflap hat (pictured above), I may be insufferable.

Obviously my Christmas was fantastic. Hope yours was as well. Now if you'll excuse me.  I need to go ice my fingers.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

It's obviously Christmas. I'm off, celebrating with my family and friends.  It's shaping up to be an awesome day.

But, if you're here, you might as well enjoy some stuff.

Below, I've left you a few Christmas songs to enjoy.

We Wish You a Metal Xmas - with Jeff Scott Soto (of Journey); Run, Run Rudolph - with Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead; and Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime - by nerd musician extraordinaire Jonathan Coulton.

(Note: "Run, Run, Rudolph" is slightly NSFW...the very last thing spoken is a dirty wordy.)



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Letter to Krampus

Drawing by MissMonster
I have recently seen a surprising influx of Krampus related material on the internet.  I mean, Shirt.Woot had an awesome Krampus t-shirt, and I couldn't help myself when I saw a Krampus novel (Krampus by Brom) in Barnes and Noble.

Oh, you don't know who Krampus is?

Krampus is an example of how America's children are little spoiled namby pambies that need to zip up their bad-ass suits and harden the fuck up.

What do I mean?

In America, we believe that Santa comes around every Christmas Eve and delivers presents in the cover of darkness to all the good little boys and girls of the world.  What happens to the bad kids?  They get a lump of coal in their stocking instead of a present.

In Austria, Germany, and Switzerland believe something different.  Instead of coal (I mean, if I woke up and saw coal, I'd be like...oh...oh...okay...), these boys and girls are told that Santa comes around, just like in America, and delivers presents to all the good children.  However, where our stories deviate, where they WANDER TO DIFFERENT PATHS, if you will, is what happens to the bad children.

The bad children get to meet Krampus, a hellish goat-man/satyr-like figure.  Krampus breaks into the bad kids' houses with a handful of switches, beats them, and then stick them in a sack and carries them away.  To where?  DUNNO!  But clearly being threatened with Krampus is a much stronger incentive for good behavior than Santa's whole "coal" plan in America.  Maybe that's why people keep complaining that American children are so spoiled and selfish--no satyrs showing up and beating them with switches?

Needless to say, I love Krampus. I'm not crazy enough to raise my kids on his legend.  I just love the oddness of Krampus, the brutality, and the differences that the legend of Krampus demonstrates between our current culture, and the cultures of old.

That said, enjoy this letter to Krampus:

___________________________________

Dear Krampus,

I understand that you are a hard-working guy, and this time of year is your busy season.  I'm sure you're figuring out creative and inventive ways to terrorize the naughty children of Europe, but how would you feel about taking a trip to America?

Now, hear me out. America is the land of the free!  It's the home of the brave!  And it's the place where the most coddled and narcissistic children in the world spend their days whining because they got the red Furby when they wanted the PINK ONE!!!

If I may, I have a few deserving recommendations if and when you make your trip to the good ol' land of the red, white, and blue.

1) The kid that kept kicking the back of my chair in The Hobbit.  Look, I'm glad he was excited to be there, but there's only so much constant kicking a person can take before they begin hatching revenge schemes involving a monster mask, an entire can of silly string, and a spray painted canoe.

2) My sister-in-law's obnoxious little brat.  He came over to my house last week and ate all of the Twinkies I had stocked up from the collapse of Hostess/the end of the world.  You just don't touch a man's golden, cream-filled sponge cakes.  What if the world had ended?  I'd have been out vital supplies.

3) That kid that barfed on me when I went to pick up my kid from the daycare.  I mean...seriously.  I was there for 5 minutes.  How do you vomit into someone else's shoes...WHILE THEY'RE STILL WEARING THEM??

4) That kid that laughed at me when I went out the get breakfast the other day.  I know "Rootie-Tootie Fresh and Fruity" is silly name, but I wasn't trying to make a funny voice.  Something got caught in my throat while I was trying to talk.

5) My brother.  I know, I know he's technically 35, and that's not really "child" territory.  However, the man still goes to see Disney movies in the theater by himself.  And I still haven't forgiven him for pantsing me in front of Jenny Alberson when I was 11.

6) My neighbor's dauchsund. Do you handle animals?  Because, if so, this little bastard has shit on my newspaper for the last time.

I hope that you'll consider this my recommendations, and overall just consider coming and sharing the wealth of you've brought to Europe.  There are many families that desperately need your services if you can find the time.

Have a great holiday, a merry Christmas, and enjoy your new slave labor,

Reginald Archover, Attorney at Law

P.S. I don't care what that douchebag Jackson says, my kids are well-behaved.  I've taught them how you properly act in public.  His dog's ass probably lost all of its hair from stress.  It happens, especially with his little hell-spawn.  Maybe consider adding them to your list, as well?

______________________________

UPDATED: Apparently, this is my 100th post.  So, y'know, that's kinda cool.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Civil War on Christmas

Chuck Wendig, Supreme Wordist and Pen Monkey Lord, has issued another Flash Fiction Challenge.

In his own words:
"I love the concept of the “War on Christmas.” I don’t mean that I like the actual faux-bullshit “war,” I mean, I like that term.
I want you to use that term literally.
I want you to write a war about – or even against — Christmas."

With that idea in mind, I present to you my attempt at this holiday flash fiction challenge, at around 887 words.


The Civil War on Christmas 

Original Photo by:  vastateparksstaff of Flickr
We always expected the fall of Christmas to come from the secularists.  We never expected the real trouble to come from within.

I still remember Christmas growing up.  Mom would spend several hours the night before getting the ham and other side dishes ready.  We’d wake up early Christmas morning, pass around mugs of egg nog or hot chocolate, and open our presents.  Then we’d all sit down to watch a holiday movie—one of those classics like It’s a Wonderful Life or White Christmas.  Soon it was time for dinner.  My uncle would say grace, my father would carve the ham, and my mom would stand back observing the whole thing and smiling.  That smile glowed—she loved seeing us all together like that, fussing and fighting and poking at each other with our forks, urging each other to hurry so we could get some stuffing before Cousin Harry horded it all.

The first signs there might be trouble ahead was the arrival of those god-awful elves.  You know, those dead-eyed monstrosities that you hid throughout your house and tricked your kids into thinking were real so they’d behave whenever they saw them around.  Sure, they were creepy as all fuck, but hey, it kept the kids in line, and who doesn’t love that?  It was a hell of a lot easier than threatening them with a phone call to Santa.

For whatever reason, immigration into the US spiked, and that meant other countries kept bringing their own traditions into the country.  My nephews actually went to school with someone who believed the Three Wise Men brought presents on Christmas.  Now tell me, what kind of crazy shit is that?  It was evident that the purity of what made Christmas special was being watered down by a whole bunch of foreign trinkets and doodads.  It soon became impossible to tell anybody what you were doing over the holidays without getting bogged down in a lengthy explanation of the history of their traditions.  Even the goddamned Secularists wanted in on the action, co-opting our holiday. 

Pretty soon, a grass roots movement started.  Pictures began circling on Facebook and Twitter—“Out with the new! Keep Christmas traditional!”  There came a time when a line in the sand had to be drawn.  Either you celebrated Christmas—real Christmas, with lights on your house and Miracle on 34th Street—or you celebrated one of them weirdo hodgepodge “Christmases” with hidden elves or whatever.  I still remember the last Christmas card we got from Cousin Harry.  He and his family wearing Santa hats and floral print shirts in front of a palm tree with a string of lights wrapped around it.  When we got the card in the mail, Mom rushed out of the room sobbing and my uncle wouldn’t speak for the next two hours.  No one ever mentioned it again.

We heard stories, but the problem wasn’t real to us until Greg’s Hardware started stocking those toy elves.  That’s when it hit us.  We knew something had to be done.  In the cover of darkness, we snuck over to his shop and spray painted over the windows with a simple message, a message everyone would understand.  It was a traditional Christmas tree, the star on top shining like a beacon of hope against the scourge of radical Christmas celebrations.

The night of the attack on Terry’s Tree Farm shattered any ideas that things might resolve peacefully.  Once the flames had been put out, Terry realized he’d lost 50% of his crop.  A melted, wind up elf sat at the base of one smoldering tree, its soulless, mocking smile a blight on us and our traditions.  It was that very night that we decided to take up arms, to join our brothers across the country in defending what we held most dear.

In the years since that night, I sometimes look back and wonder if maybe things could have turned out differently.  Not that I regret fighting the good fight.  Some things should be preserved as they are.  But on particularly dark, cold nights, when the gingerbread men are gone and the nog has run low…well, we’ve all been there, right?

Last week my troop met up with another from up north, coming down to patrol the river valley.  We sat around a fire that night, swapping stories and food, when of them asked for a moment of silence.  We obliged, but when it was over, I asked what we were being silent for.

“We had let a couple of guys drop from our ranks yesterday.  Turns out, they’d been sympathetic to a bunch of radical Christmas crazies.”

It broke my heart to hear that.  “Who were they?”

The soldier spit into the fire and shook his head.  “Their mother and father.  Damn shame.”

I nodded.  “That’s why we have to be especially vigilant.  We can’t let any of those revisionist Christmas hippies getting their claws into our holidays.  Some traditions should be preserved.  There’s no sense changing something that’s already good enough.”

The soldier across from me nodded and swallowed hard.  “I hear ya, buddy.  We gotta keep Christmas the same.”  He leaned over and rummaged in his pack for a plastic container—Santa shaped with a red lid.  He opened it and held it out to me.

“Latka?”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hopeful Reading Plans

Photo by:  Honou of Flickr
As 2012 draws to a close, I can't help but look back and reflect.  It's been a good year--actually a very good year considering the last few I've had.  That said, I can't help but feel fatigue, and I think a lot of that comes from the fact that I've had almost no time to read.

Recently, my wife and I have been fortunate enough to go see a ton of movies.  However, movies and TV shows are different than reading.  Movies and television are passive things.  You don't participate when you watch a movie or television show.  I mean, I think I've learned a lot about story telling lately, just by watching a crap-ton of movies, but I can feel my brain getting flabby.

I desperately long for a day where I can just vegetate and read all day.  Get lost in a book and read the hell out of it.  Currently, I'm reading Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig, a non-fiction book called It's Worse Than it Looks (about the current state of politics in our country), and I just bought a book about Krampus called, fittingly, Krampus by Brom.  I'd love to read one or any of these books.  And those are just the ones I've read semi-lately.  I also started 'Salems Lot a while back, but couldn't really dedicate the time I needed to it because of work and other things.  There's also a few books that the wife and I bought together that she's read, but I haven't had the chance to get through.  And I've been re-reading The Hobbit...but as the movie got closer, even though I love it so much, it felt like an obligation to read it rather than just pleasure.

I'm thinking in the upcoming weeks as work gets a little less crazy, I'm going to try to dedicate more time to reading.  I have some free time coming up that will allow me a few lost-in-the-awesome-of-reading days, but I think I can start working in a little more ahead of time.

I'm thinking that this total lack of time to read has been part of why I can't write any words of any real sort lately.  I think my creative tank is empty--it's been OUTPUT, OUTPUT, OUTPUT with work sapping it dry almost daily--and I need a bit to recharge.

Over the next few weeks, I'm also going to try to remake my schedule that I made a few months ago.  I had one over the summer that worked well.  I stuck to it pretty well.  And I had one a few months ago that allowed me to be a little more productive, but not long after making it, life dropped a series of bunker-buster warheads down and blew my plans to smithereens.  As 2012 rolls into 2013, however, I think I can craft a schedule that allows me to write semi-regularly while also allowing me time to consume creative works (including reading) that should refill the ol' creative tanks.

I'll let you know how this all goes, but I'm relatively hopeful at this point.  We shall see, however.  As the poem goes, "The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go often awry."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown & Guns

I do not have the words at this point to talk about what I think.  It's too hard, too wearying at this point. I probably will at some point, but not today.  However, I will say this: in light of the number of mass shootings we've had in the US in just 2012, it is time to have a conversation about gun control laws.

Chuck Wendig, author and pro-gun man, has posted an article on Terribleminds about how he thinks that they should be handled.  I 100% agree with him.

A few relevant quotes:

"I mean, dang, if you think you’re going to march into a situation where some dude’s got a gun and he’s shooting up a college campus or a movie theater and you’re going to pull a John McClane, I might suggest you uncork your head from your ass, Rambo, because you don’t have the training for that. See, shooting people in a combat situation takes, ohh, I dunno, training. It’s not Call of Duty. That’s not an Xbox controller in your hand, that’s a deadly weapon — and, as your heart goes wild and panic punches through your nervous system, are you competent enough to take out the shooter and not, say, a little girl?"

[...]

"You might then say, “But criminals don’t need to be regulated or care about regulation,” which is another version of the “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” saying. And that’s true. But it’s true of everything, isn’t it? Bombs are illegal, so only bombers will have bombs. Last I checked, criminals are always willing to do things we’re not — that’s why we create laws that ideally prevent and ultimately punish them for the transgression. “If we make rape illegal, only rapists will have rape! And murder, too! And they can shoplift! OUR FREEDOMS ARE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK DAMN YOU OBAMACARE.”"

Read the rest of the very fair, very sensible approach to gun control here.  I'm turning off comments because I don't have the energy to deal with people regarding this issue yet.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Hobbit Day!

I'm basically unplugged from the internet until I see The Hobbit.

In my stead, please enjoy this nearly 8 minute Hobbit Super Movie Trailer.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writing Scared

Photo by: KristinNador

Lately, I’ve been struggling with getting words on paper. There is a massive portion of that that is being emotionally and physically drained because work has been hella busy, yo. There’s a much larger part of that, though. The larger part is that I’m scared to write.

I do remember the last time I actually tried to sit down and get some writing done: I submitted a short story. This story had been making the rounds for a while, and obviously meeting rejection. I wasn’t really worried about that, though. Although I think that it’s the best I could make it, I also knew that there was a good chance that it wouldn’t be accepted anywhere. I acknowledge that I’m still learning the craft, and I’ve been entirely too on and off with my writing--I need the practice and the rejections. Once I’ve had something published in a professionally paying market, then I can begin working toward a new goal.

So, I did another once over of the story to check for anymore screw ups or typos and sent it on its way again. With nothing else to do, I opened up an e-mail from a friend who had agreed to beta read a different story for me. My writing friends are limited, so I try not to abuse the few I have and flood them with requests--especially since my time is so limited and I feel bad about not being able to reciprocate. I opened the e-mail and read through my friend’s critique--tough, but a fair assessment of the things wrong. I won’t lie, it stung, but not bad, and it immediately gave me ideas for how to fix the story. The fixes that I had in mind would mean effectively rewriting the story. It involved massive changes. Only the basic premise would remain the same.

I opened up a new document, and tried to outline the story--just a few sentences per scene to help me stay on track. If I don’t outline, I have a tendency to meander, write into scenes, write out of scenes, or come up with concepts that are grander and lend themselves more neatly to novels than to writing a short story.

I wrote a bit of an outline, got annoyed, deleted it, wrote another outline, got annoyed, deleted it. Then I tried to just jump right in. I wound up deleting everything that I wrote there, too. It was all just...absolutely awful. Even as I typed it, I knew it was terrible. Something felt off. Maybe it was that I didn’t to have to write it all over again. Maybe I’d be more invested if I gave my brain a break from that story.

Instead of forcing it, I opened up a different story--I have a bunch in various forms of completion, so there’s usually something I can be working on. I tried outlining it. Couldn’t. I tried jumping into it. It worked a liiiitle bit, but eventually I hit a wall with no idea where to go from there. Frustrated, I got up, left the room, and I haven’t really been back since.

Ever since then, every day, I think about how I should write, and then I go sit down and watch Daria, or Red vs. Blue, or some movie or documentary on Netflix. As the days have passed, I’ve felt worse and worse about not writing. It made me feel like I wasn’t a real writer. I feel like those guys that go to Starbuck with their laptops, hoping that one cute and curious barista will ask them about their latest Grand Manifesto. I recognize that if my ass isn’t in my seat, and I’m not getting words on the paper, then I can’t really claim myself to be a writer. Writers write. Posers talk. And I definitely wasn’t writing.

My blog writing began to fizzle out as well. I couldn’t come up with anything to write about. The few meager attempts I tried, my hands felt clumsy and unsure, and the words were slow, awkward, and uninteresting. Everything I wrote sounded trite, or boring, or unfocused.

So, I shied away from the blog, and I shied away from the computer. Thinking about writing made me feel terrible--guilty for not writing like a should, and shame because I knew that anything I wrote would be garbage anyway.

I have tried, lately, to write. Even today, writing stuff was difficult and clumsy, like playing a musical instrument when you haven’t touched it in a while. You sort of remember the motions, but everything feels off and the sounds produced aren’t what you would call “music.”

What’s the point of all this? I realized what happened. I got the yips. I got scared and discouraged and started to doubt myself. I’m terrified to write again, terrified that it’ll be bad, that I’m a bad writer, that I’m wasting my time. But I’m hoping, by writing this, by confronting my fears head on, I can garner up the courage to put fingers to keys and get something out. I’m starting with blog posts--things with no stakes. Next I’ll try to write some fiction for the blog. Then I’m going to commit to writing and editing a story to get it ready for submission. Something completely new, with no feelings or emotions wrapped up in it.

We all write scared. The key, though, is to write.

At least...I hope.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Race, Gender, and RED DAWN

Photo from:  avclub.com
The other day, my wife and I went to see Red Dawn, the remake of the 1980's movie.  I hadn't seen the original, so I was going into this completely fresh.  I had no preconceived notions about it, other than "Oh, hey, Thor and the squirrely brother from Drake and Josh are in it."

If you want the quick version: it was okay. I'd give it 3 stars. A resounding "meh." Fairly entertaining, it's your standard big dumb action movie.  Passable, but I can think of many other movies I'd rather see.  To be honest, this movie takes itself a bit too seriously.  As I said, I haven't seen the original, but I feel this movie could have benefited from a little 80's cheese.  There are a slew of problems in the plot, from pacing, to characterization, to the very premise itself.  However, it's certainly not the worst movie I've ever seen, and it was a fairly entertaining way to burn an hour and a half.

As the title of this post indicates, I do have further thoughts about the film.  If you're interested in that sort of thing, keep on reading.  However, be warned that this review will be somewhat spoiler heavy--not because I like spoiling things, but because many of the problems I have reveal significant moments in the movie.

So if you're interested in that kind of thing, read on.  Otherwise, now would be a good time to stop.



::Beyond this point, there be many a SPOILER ye scurvy dogs::



::Are ye sure ye be willin' to venture beyond this here point?::



::Alrighty there, bucko.  But don' say I didn't warn ye::



My first exposure to the Red Dawn remake was from the point of view of a Tumblr post which featured the following quotes:

"This upside-down vision of the world is actually a recurring characteristic of white supremacism: white people imagine and fear people of color doing horrible things to them which, in fact, white people have historically done to people of color."
"In “Red Dawn”, white Hollywood imagines that Koreans are militarily invading Washington state, when in fact recent history has seen the USA invade and partition Korea with an ongoing military presence there[...]" 
                                                                            -- Knowing Coves Tumblr

I also read (cannot remember where) an article which basically said that Red Dawn was White America fighting off the Yellow Menace.

This stuck with me because issues of race are things that, as a white person, I try to pay special attention to because I recognize that I have tons of privileges that can often obscure problems from my caucasian eyes. (By the way, My Caucasian Eyes is the name of my next jazz album.)

I recognize that most movies have their share of problems, and that you often can enjoy something while recognizing its flaws.  However, I also know everyone has their line for when something becomes so offensive it's no longer enjoyable.

This movie didn't really cross that line for me, but I could see why it bothered some people, particularly people of color.  I mean, just look at the way it was marketed.

Picture from Racebending.com  
That posters looking a little...er...monochromatic guys.

I think part of the reason the race angle didn't bother me much was because the movie wasn't really that good, so it just added to the problems already present.  The movie's execution was less than stellar, so I wasn't exactly expecting this movie to be a paragon of racial sensitivity.  What I found was actually quite surprising.

For approximately the first half of the movie, I thought the Tumblr post I read was completely and inappropriately wrong.  I mean, there were three white men, sure, but there were also two white females, one hispanic female, one hispanic male, and two black men.  This actually sort of hurt the film's story because there were so many characters that you barely get to know any of them.  Even the leading characters--Josh Peck (Matt) and Chris Hemsworth (Jed)--barely get any character development.

However, it's around the halfway point that things start to go downhill quickly.  I was thinking about how well the movie was doing at representing people of different races and genders.  Then, all of the minority characters started getting killed off.  No kidding, the movie that started as such a fantastic example of racial and gender diversity (if a little light on character development), then one by one kills off all the people of color.

First its the hispanic guy, Greg, who I'm not sure actually says anything during the movie.  Matt--the giant insufferable douche of a character he is--races off to rescue his Barbie-doll-like girlfriend from a prison camp instead of following Jed's orders.  Greg goes to help and gets shot.

Later, bombs dropped on their base result in the death of Julie and Danny (the second black character).  That's three people of color, and the deaths aren't that far apart either.  That leaves the three white guys, the three white females, and one black character.

The final black character, Daryl, got the most development out of all of the people of color in the film.  The film starts with his dad asking them to turn themselves in and join the Koreans to avoid getting hurt or worse.  Later, when they're trying to stage a strike during a Korean press conference, Daryl has to overcome his sadness when he sees his dad sitting among the Korean officials--turned full traitor.  The movie implies that they killed his dad--punishment for betraying the US.

During a nighttime raid to capture the story's MacGuffin, Daryl almost gets caught by some Korean troops and runs away, but not before getting tackled and stabbed in the back.  When he breaks away and the Koreans don't pursue, you wonder what's up.  After the mission, back at their base, Jed gets capped in the head and we learn the truth: Daryl was implanted with a tracking device and he's been leading the Koreans to the Wolverine's base all along.

Here's where the movie gets really questionable.  When Matt returned to base after going rogue and jeopardizing the mission to save his girlfriend, Julie--Greg's sister--is expected to forgive Matt, EVEN THOUGH his epic douchebaggery is exactly what causes Greg's death.  That is Matt explicitly acting like an childish asshole to serve his own selfish demands--and she's expected to forgive him for the death of her brother.  However, later, when Daryl completely unknowingly leads the enemy to them, resulting in Jed's death, everyone treats him like some sort of traitorous bastard.  Mind you, there's no way he could have known he was implanted with a tracking device.  He just thought it was a stab wound; they all did when they checked out the wound.

But what really, really got under my skin was what happened next.  Daryl, freaking out, asks them to get it out.  And they respond with, "With what?"  Um...you guys are basically a military operation, right?  I saw you use knives earlier in the movie.  Cut it the fuck out of him!  I mean, it may hurt, but he's your friend.

Nope.  The black guy must be punished for his betrayal--just like his father.  What do they do?  Leave him a gun and abandon him to the Koreans--where he would be forced to choose either death or defection.

The final total in the cast?  Two white chicks, two white guys.  All of the people of color have been eliminated one way or another.  That's where I finally got what the article was talking about.  How difficult would it have been to make Josh Hutcherson's character, Robert, a person of color.  The film desperately needed an Asian character to help balance out the "whites vs. Asians" vibe the movie gives off.  Of course, I shouldn't also need to point out that the main characters could have been people of color.  There's no reason a pair of strong African American or Hispanic actors couldn't carry the movie.

But what about the gender representations?  Well, this movie does better than many at representing gender.  There are three female characters, and they participate in the military operations a bit--once again, because of the massive cast, it's difficult for anyone to get much screen time.

However, it didn't escape my attention that Julie's main role in the group is the medic (until she's killed, anyway).   However, in the climactic battle for the MacGuffin, the two remaining girls are sidelined.  Everyone has jobs assigned to them, but the girls' job is 1) a back up in case shit goes wrong, and 2) all they do.  When shit hits the fan, they blast off a couple of rocket launchers to create some chaos and then completely disappear.  They don't then grab guns and start helping get everyone out.  They're just done.

Meanwhile, Matt runs around gunning down enemies and leaping across gigantic chasms like he's goddamned Neo.

When Jed dies, the character set up to be Jed's love interest, Toni, has a total meltdown.  This is understandable.  However, in order to strengthen Matt's character and make him out to be the leader he needs to be, they have to make Toni a blithering idiot.  She collapses in front of Jed's body and shrieks and cries while Matt screams at her to get out and get to safety.

I can understand being upset that he's dead, but for Christ's sake, that was Matt's brother and he didn't wig out to nearly the level that Toni did.  Her mental capacity dropped to a Def-Con 5 meltdown until Matt snapped her back to focus.  I understand that they were driving home the "lesson" that Matt needed to learn (it's the same reason that they killed off Jed--so that Matt could take over as leader of the group without the issue of barking orders at a Marine), but doing so at the cost of Toni was disappointing and frustrating.

I find it interesting that the crew on the film appeared to have worked so hard to create diversity among the Wolverines--an admirable approach, for sure--only to have that completely fall apart by the end of the film.  By the end of the film, the females were shoved back into a passive role, and all of the people of color had been removed.  Unfortunately, that very much drives home the social norms that people have been trying so hard to break.  Maybe next time, Hollywood.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Cards Are Against Us, My Friends


I don't know if you've ever played Cards Against Humanity, but if you haven't, here's an example of the kind of genius that erupts from it.  This game is like Apples to Apples for terrible people.  You have to have a very black sense of humor, and be very comfortable with who you are to play this game. But for those of you that are...good god is it fun.

(Photo courtesy of my good friend, Brooke Johnson, who can be found at many places including her blog, Twitter, and (most commonly, and oddly) Google +.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Google, We Need to Talk



But, really, guys.  This is a problem that you've had TWICE now.  Can you not figure out how to properly code a way to adjust that for widescreen monitors or something?  I've got someone you can call.  He'd gladly help.

Getting Older


I’m going bald. I’m 23 years old, and I’m going bald.

Being 23, I should still be in the prime of my life. I should have a luxurious mane of long blonde hair cascading down my back in waves. I should lift girls onto my white stallion and ride off into a glittering, Caribbean sunset as my golden locks flow behind me in a shimmering cape of youth and beauty and strength.*

Instead, I see a slowly but steadily receding hairline. When I see people like Neil Gaiman and John Green, I can’t help but feel a bit of a pang of jealousy.**

I first noticed the problem roughly a year ago when I noticed I could see my scalp through the front of my hair. I wondered if that had always been the case. I’ve always had thin, light hair, so it might just be that it didn’t hide my scalp as well as thick, strong, black hair might. I managed to hide the truth from myself for a while longer. It wasn’t until I had to dress like a 1950’s greaser one day (don’t ask) that the truth really hit home.

I tried to make the costume authentic. I wore a white t-shirt, jeans, boots, rolled up a pack of gum in my sleeve (since I don’t smoke), and donned my leather jacket.

You know what makes the greasers’ hairstyles work? THEY HAVE HAIR! Thick, glorious, luxurious hair to dip into the grease and comb backward. MY hair didn’t so much fluff and curl as fall back limply. That’s when the truth of the situation sunk in.

It’s funny that I didn’t notice this before. It’s not a thing that happens overnight. Someone doesn’t go to bed looking like Fabio and then wake up looking like George Castanza. There’s a transition. You could say it’s all transition. And yet, I was so shocked by this revelation that I tried to drop it into conversation with my family, all subtle-like.

“So,” I said to my brother one night after dinner, “I think my hair’s been looking a little thin lately. I might buy some of the hair thickening shampoo to try to get it back up to where it used to be.”

My brother, without a moment’s hesitation, blank faced and as non-shocked as someone being told that the sun rises in the mornings or that sugar is sweet, responded, “Oh yeah, it’s looking pretty rough. I’ve noticed that for a while.”

“...oh...”

I’d always told myself that when the time came to go bald, I would accept it with quiet grace and dignity. I wouldn’t bitch and moan like those guys you see on TV. I wouldn’t go buy myself a yellow sports car and race the teenagers up and down main street. I’m aware that people get older and things change. Then again, I also thought that I’d be going bald in my 30’s or 40’s like most men. Not 23.

I’ve mostly accepted it. I mean, there are still days every now and then where I look at myself in the mirror, notice my hairline (this is particularly noticeable first thing in the morning), and think “Really, guys? C’mon, this is ri-goddamn-diculous.”

All that said, I’m fairly comfortable with who I am. There’s not much I can do to change it, save spending metric fuck-tons*** of money to undergo surgery where they implant my ass hair into my head. That doesn’t really sound like living the dream, so I think I just let my hair go with quiet grace and dignity.

And if my wife tells you any different, she’s a liar!

* I would obviously be giving these girls a ride in a strictly platonic way. I’m happily married people.

** I love those guys, and they have written some of the most important stories in my life. But I mean, seriously, c’mon. Fuck those guys and their glorious hair.

*** These would be metric fuck-tons, as opposed to imperial fuck-tons.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All of the Awesome of the Internet Concentrate

Good sweet lord is this awesome.  Just...just watch it.  Watch it all.

John Scalzi, Wil Wheaton, Patrick Rothfuss, and Jenny Lawson.


Here's Your Ass-Kicking Song for the Day