Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED by Jenny Lawson

Image from Wikipedia
This year, in an effort to better myself, I'm trying to read more books by women, by people of color, and more nonfiction titles.  I just finished reading a political analysis book that was very dire and very informative but not much fun to read in that it made me sad deep in the black vacuous void where my heart used to be before I traded it for Coke Zero and sugar free sweet tea.  I needed something to lighten the mood.

I first heard of Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) through the Geek and Sundry hangout on Google+/YouTube.  She was very funny and charming, and so I wound up following her on Twitter.  When she tweeted that her book was on sale on the Nook, I bought it, but I have a tendency to buy books and say that I'll get to it later.  I had to finish said political analysis book first.  Once that was done, though, man, I needed something to cheer me up.  This book was exactly that.

Have you ever been dragged to a party by one of your outgoing friends under the insistence that it'll be fun, but when you get there, everyone is busy talking to people they already know, and you don't want to be rude and barge in on their conversations, and they're talking about stuff that you don't know anything about anyway.  And you think maybe you could talk about this funny YouTube video that you saw or maybe discuss this documentary about healthcare that you just watched, but you don't think anyone wants to talk about that.  Then, when you do start talking to someone, they start talking about movies, and you really like movies, so you begin talking about your strong feelings about the gender representation in movies and about how the writers did a good job with characterization of most of the characters, but there were a few places they could have spent more time on the supporting character to make his death have more impact later.  Then the other person's eyes start glazing over and you can tell they stopped caring and they were only making small talk, but you can't stop babbling.  You know you're making things worse, and they're looking increasingly bored/uncomfortable, so you eventually pretend you see someone you know across the room and make an excuse to get away and go hide in the bathroom for a while until you've calmed down?

Now imagine that, but instead of movies, you begin rambling about the time that your dad brought a bloody half of a squirrel in and used it as a puppet to wake you up, or the time you got stabbed in the face by a serial killer, or the time you took too many laxatives and spent your afternoon locked in the bathroom with diarrhea and terrified that a rapist was trying to get you.

That's the gist of Jenny Lawson's book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened.  She openly admits that she has OCD, general anxiety disorder, and a few other medical problems that complicate her life, but she describes it in such a way that makes the book incredibly entertaining, and highlights how much of a bad ass she is to be able to deal with all of that and still find humor in all of these situations.

I cannot express effectively how funny this book is.  There are a few times where she describes things and then says that she was just exaggerating--like the post-it war she has with her husband--but then follows it up with an even more unbelievable story that is totally true--like the bloody squirrel puppet.

There were a lot of moments where I found myself nodding along in understanding.  I can relate to a lot of the social anxieties and worries.  I deal with depression a lot--it was especially bad in college--and I'm still incredibly socially awkward, so her discomfort at gatherings with her friends totally hits home for me.

This book isn't just funny, however.  She writes about several very personal, very sad moments in the book.  The humor in the book highlights these moments and makes them even more heart-wrenchingly sad and touching.  The closest thing I can compare it to is...this book is like the movie Up.  

You know how everyone talks about the first 15 minutes of the movie and how incredibly sad it is?  But then the movie gets all silly and there are dogs flying airplanes and talking with funny voices and stuff?  But the movie that keeps calling back to the beginning of the movie, creating little poignant moments in all the silly?  Well, Jenny Lawson sort of does that.  This book has some truly, beautiful and sad moments, but those work hand in hand and complement the ridiculous, silly moments very well.

The book's subtitle is "A Mostly True Memoir."  Don't think she lies to make things more ridiculous.  She's stated that the only things that have been changed have been some names, combining a few events to make the stories easier to tell, and occasionally exaggerating (and then admitting she's exaggerating and explaining what really happened).  And if you don't believe her?  She's included pictures of a lot of these things.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  Go buy it.  You will laugh your ass off over and over and over again.  You'll reread it.  I guarantee it.  I plan to.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Google Glasses and the Feed

Google Glasses are man's answer to so many things.  Imagine no longer needing to fumble with your phone when you want to take a picture.  You just command that your eyes (glasses) take a picture of what they see.  Imagine if, instead of having to fumble with your phone or GPS, you could see the directions to get to wherever you're going in your field of vision.  Imagine getting instant messages, chats, reminders for appointments, news updates, and who knows what else, all in your field of vision--instant, constant reminders so that you never forget anything again.

It sounds, to be honest, completely remarkable and astounding.

I have a terrible memory.  I'm constantly forgetting things.  It would be amazing to be able to look up information, schedule reminders, and other things, by using my eyes and voice recognition software.



And yet.

And yet, I can't help but imagine a few problems.  For one thing, our phones have chained us to the online world.  If we forget our phones, we are screwed for the day.  Not only do we go through withdrawals from not being able to check and see what someone is having for lunch on Facebook or Twitter, but we also feel we must remain in constant contact with our peers and family.  If we have radio silence for too long, we start to panic, to wonder is something is wrong.  People who unplug from the internet are often viewed with the same odd, judgmental distrust of people who don't have a TV--like there must be something wrong with them.  Like they must be a Luddite.

I also can't help thinking about the dangers of having things pop up in your field of vision.  Can you imagine having a news report pop up when you're driving in the middle of a rain storm?  Or when you're busy trying to have a private conversation with your friends?

And really, the worst thing of all--can you imagine what will happen when advertisers are inevitably allowed to broadcast to your glasses?

It makes me think about the book by M.T. Anderson, Feed.  The book is set in a futuristic society in which everyone has a chip implanted into their heads from a young age that lets them access the internet at any time.  Here's a relevant passage:
Image from: Barnes and Noble 
We got there and it had been torn down.  They had built a pretty nice stucco mall there, so Loga and Quendy said we should go in and buy some cool stuff to go out in.  That seemed good to us.  I wanted to buy some things but I didn't know what they were.  After we walked around for a while, everything seemed kind of sad and boring so we couldn't tell anymore what we wanted.  Our feeds tried to help, and as we were walking around we were getting all the prices of things, but really the only thing that I wanted to get was a pair of infrared knee bands, and I could get better ones off the feed, and have them sent to my house, than in the stupid physical moon stores.  Quendy bought some shoes, but the minute she walked out of the store she didn't like them anymore.  Marty couldn't think of anything he wanted, so he ordered this really null shirt.  He said it was so null it was like ordering nothing.
Imagine going to a store and having everything you look at be cataloged and used to gather data on you.  We get all pissy about Facebook doing it, but this would be a thousand times easier.  It would make marketing to you easier, but I can't imagine having advertisements being shoved in my face all of the goddamned time.  Every time I want to look at something, hearing the business scream at me about their amazing deals, slapping banner ads in my field of vision, begging me to come inside.  It's like we're trying to make life more like a Futurama episode.

Honestly, it creeps me out, man.  Another relevant quote:
"They’re also waiting to make you want things. Everything we've grown up with - the stories on the feed, the games, all of that - it’s all streamlining our personalities so we’re easier to sell to. I mean, they do these demographic studies that divide everyone up into a few personality types, and then you get ads based on what you’re supposedly like. They try to figure out who you are, and to make you conform to one of their types for easy marketing. It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on."
Edited to add:  I don't want anyone to think that I really some old man huddled up in his home, terrified of the future.  I mean, I have a smart phone.  I'm a member of the 21st century.  I just saw that add adn thought, Holy crap!  That's Feed!  And the next thing I thought was, What happens when advertisements are allowed to pop up periodically in your field of vision.  How annoying will that get?  And then I thought, Holy crap, that is Feed!  

Anyway, blah blah blah, I'm a Luddite and totally terrified of the future.  Enjoy these hilariously well done (mildly NSFW) spoofs of the Google Glasses promo.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Helicopter Rides and Puns

Photo from  rkelland of Flickr
On the weekends, the wife and I like to go catch a movie.  We are even members of this program that lets us go see movies for free (save the cost of the membership), which I'll need to write about some time.  But not now.

Anyway, we were heading into town to see Dark Skies because it looked like a relatively entertaining movie and we could still make the showing--if we didn't make it, we were going to see Parker.  Because as much as I hated Crank, I kind of like Jason Statham as an action hero.

The wife and I were busy complaining about something--traffic, gender representation in Disney movies, what passes for movies nowadays...it's sort of a grab bag what we'll be discussing in the car--when I saw a helicopter flying around overhead.

"You know, I kind of want to ride in a helicopter," said as we came to a stop at a red light.

"Not me," my wife said in that matter-of-fact way that means she thinks I've suggested we go steal ice cream from toddlers or something.

"Well, I mean, I'm afraid of heights, but I think it would be totally cool to see what the city looks like from above.  And besides, something about helicopters seems less scary than planes.  Maybe it's because they don't move as fast."

"Yeah."  My wife had clearly begun ignoring me.

"Also, you never really hear about helicopter crashes as often as you hear about plane crashes.  Except over, like, war zones, but, honestly, I'm not planning on taking any helicopters over war zones."

My wife perked up and looked over at me, "There was one last week."

"A plane crash?"

"A helicopter crash."

"Oh.  Where?"

"Oklahoma."

"Weeeeeell, it is Oklahoma.  I mean, that place is kind of a war zone."

"How?!"

"Well, they have that war on women, or at least on their vaginas."

"Okay, fair point.  But still.  No way you could get me in one of those things."

We drove past a gigantic sign about that point that said "HELICOPTER RIDES $--" and some price that I couldn't make out.

"Hey!" my wife said, "Looks like we could make your dreams come true!"

I let my foot slam on the gas and passed a car.  "Oh well, we sure don't want to be late for that movie."

My wife leaned behind my seat, looking back.  "I couldn't make out how much it was.  I thought it said something like $225, but you were driving far, and I'm near-sighted."

"Who has the money to drop $225 for a helicopter ride???  ...wait...THAT WAS AWESOME!  Seriously, that was a Shakespearean level pun, baby!"

"Yeah?"

"Yeah!  Like 'You have dancing shoes with nimble soles/I have a soul of lead/So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.'  Quality punning, sweetie!"

"Well, you know."

We made it to the movie on time, and afterward, on the way back through town, my wife saw the sign again.

"Hey, those helicopter rides were only $25 per ride.  We could afford that for you!"

And for just a moment, I thought about how cool it would be to fly around above the city.  I could take some video with my phone, but honestly just enjoy a new and fascinating experience.  I've never flown before--never even been on a plane.  This one of those unique moments in life where you can really life--really experience things outside of the humdrum norm.

And then I remembered how much I'm afraid of heights.

"Yeah.  Maybe someday.  But I'm pretty sure we need something at the store."

But the real point of all this, really, is how incredibly awesome that pun my wife made was.  Seriously!

Updated:

Five and a half hours after making the pun, my wife begins uncontrollably laughing.  We're watching The New Girl, but it's on a commercial break, so it can't be the show.

"What?" I ask, growing concerned that maybe her new head medicine is a little too strong.

"My pun!  I just got it!  Why didn't you explain it to me earlier!?" she shouts through peals of laughter.  She laughs for 2 solid minutes.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Google Autofill Game: "When is it...?"

I am completely brain dead today, and you know what that means?

IT'S TIME FOR THE GOOGLE AUTOFILL GAME AGAIN!!!

Photo from Venganza.org. Pic by Eric W
Today's Google question is going to be "When is it..." and then each letter of the alphabet.  Ready?  Let's do this thing!

When is it a full moon?

That's not a moon.  That's a massive space station built by the government to blast and destroy disobedient nations.  It's sort of like a deadly star of some sort.  Not sure what kind of name you could give a space station like that?  Deadly Ball of Flaming Gas?  Moon Blaster?  Sky Pimple?  Hmm...I'll get back to you on the name.

When is it best to take a pregnancy test?

I've always found that the best time to take a pregnancy test is before you fully decide to have a baby.  If you have been kicking around the idea, I've heard the Barnes and Noble sells plenty of study guides to help you prepare for the big day.  Just make sure you bring two sharpened, number two pencils, extra erasers, and that you get plenty of sleep the night before.

When is it cheapest to fly?

Have you tried building your own wings out of wax?  I'm pretty sure that was an idea invented by Leonardo DaVinci or something like that, and I seem to remember that working out pretty well.

When is it dark in Alaska?

When the Moon Goddess is angered and reaps all encompassing blackness of the heretical masses.  That's when.

Also, every time Sara Palin is allowed on TV...that's a pretty dark time for the state.  High-oh!

When is it evening?

6-ish?  Maybe?  That's what my old DVR used to claim, but then again, that bastard used to lie to me all the goddamned time.  One time I thought I was recording a Boy Meets World marathon, and instead it was a Jersey Shore marathon.  I put a fire ax through my DVR to teach it a lesson.  It doesn't play tricks like that on me anymore.  You just have to show the machines who's boss.

When is it full moon?

When it can't hold anymore.  And don't call me, Moon, asshole.  M-O-O-N, that spells "asshole."

When is it going to snow in Arkansas?

It snowed yesterday morning.  Today I'm wearing a t-shirt and shorts.  Fuckin' Arkansas weather.  Eraserhead was more predictable than our fucking weather.

When is it hurricane season?

You can tell what the weather is like by keeping an eye on your Andersoon Cooper.  Your Andersoon Cooper will often disappear when bad weather is nearby.  He seems to be drawn--or rather directed--to stand in the midst of the most cataclysmic meteorological conditions all to give you the most up-to-date coverage live from the swirling, hellish asshole of Mother Nature herself.

When is it in Spanish?

When you're following ElBloombito on Twitter.

When is it justified to break the law?

Breaking the law is totally okay, as long as you have several billions of dollars at your disposal to invest in high tech gadgets, an off-the-books research and development department, and a customized bat suit.

When is it kitten season?

It's always kitten season.  Unless you're allergic to cats.  Then it's always sadness season.  Here, to make you feel better:


When is it love?

I hear it has something to do with being struck in your spherical ocular organs by the moon...or possibly a pizza.  Of course, I'm not a scientist.

When is it most likely to get pregnant?

That kind of depends on what "it" is.  I mean, ladies are often most likely to get pregnant when you put your peeper in their happy time zone.  If it's a rock, I don't believe you have anything to worry about.

When is it normal to start dilating in pregnancy?

When the baby has completed the blood sacrifice to the Elder gods that is necessary to open the portal form the Infantium Pandemorum dimension to this one.  I believe.  Of course, I'm not a doctor.  I'm just basing this on my own experiences with babies.

When is it okay to say I love you?

"I love you" is so boring.  I say you go bigger.  Like, rent a white-water raft, strap it to the roof of your truck, have your friends floor it and slam on the brakes, launching you in the raft at the approaching vehicle of your love.  Make sure you're naked and have flowers prepared, because they may be so attracted to you that happy-fun-times begin before you fully come to a stop.

When is it possible to get pregnant?

When you hear Jeremy Irons say anything.  I'm usually pregnant 50 times over by the end of The Lion King.  And I'm a dude.  God help me if I go see Beautiful Creatures.

When is it q...ERROR ERROR ERROR

Seriously?  No q's?  Lame.

When is it right to say I love you?

I find it's best to verbally berate your spouse first.  Don't go for the cliches and old stand-bys, your partner appreciates it when you work in insults that feature some of their own biggest insecurities.  It shows that you care and took that time to make things personalized, not just some form insulting that you could give to any old Joe or Jane.  Then, cap it off with "I love you."  If you can follow that up with admission of having eaten the last of the chocolate chip cookies, you're doing it right.

When is it supposed to snow?

Do you live in Arkansas?  You're better off praying for something feasible, like being able to turn things into gold with a touch.

When is it time to break up?

Better wait until the sight of each other in the morning makes you physically sick, until the very sound of your partners voice makes you want to run screaming through the neighborhood punching toddlers and kicking puppies.  Then give it a few more years just to make sure.

When is it unsafe to fly when pregnant?

Usually if you're falling.  Although, that may be true for everyone that hasn't built their own wings out of wax or come from Krypton.

When is it voting day?

When the sight of another political ad makes you begin trying to dig your way out of the room with a spoon, it's probably finally voting day.  Maybe.  Unless you live in Ohio.  Then it's never voting day.  This is your new reality.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!

When is it worth it to refinance?

NEEEEEEEEEEEERD!

When is it xmas?

Uh, excuse me.  The correct, COMPLETE name of the holiday is XMASSINGTONENSHIRE.  I hate it when people try to take the SINGTONENSHIRE out of xmas.  It's so disrespectful.

When is it you and i or you and me?

If Lady Gaga is singing, it's you and I, if it's Kenny Chesney singing, it's you and me.  If nobody is singing?  It's just you because nobody likes you because you ask weird questions.  Weirdo.

When is it Zayn's birthday?

Who?

Previous Google Autofill Game entry.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Send Bruce Willis to Space!

Dunno if you've seen the videos.  Apparently, God sneezed and his flaming boogers exploded in the sky above Russia or something.

Honestly, this video is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen, and I'm sure it doesn't do it justice.  Captured from dashboard cameras in Russia, this videos honestly looks like a scene straight out of Armageddon--minus the whole "crashing into buildings and killing thousands" thing.

Seriously, take a look.


Amazing.

However, this brought some more interesting information to light of which I was not aware.

From the Huffington Post:
A 150-foot asteroid hurtled through Earth's backyard Friday, coming within an incredible 17,150 miles and making the closest known flyby for a rock of its size. 
[...] 
Asteroid 2012 DA14, as it's called, came closer to Earth than many communication and weather satellites orbiting 22,300 miles up. Scientists insisted these, too, would be spared, and they were right.
 That is terrifying.  Especially if you consider that the two astrological events aren't related.  So, in the course of a week, we've had TWO massive rocks from space hurtling into our atmosphere.  This cannot stand.

I think that NASA should keep Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck on retainer.  I think they're the only ones qualified to handle a similar situation like this, should another one rise up.  And for God's sake, hurry NASA!

Also, as an added precaution, we should keep Steven Tyler and Aerosmith on standby to play us into oblivion should Willis and Affleck fail.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oh, Arkansas...You Make Me (Less) Sad *UPDATED*

Chuck Wendig linked to this thing on Twitter.  It's called One Billion Rising.  From the website:

Today, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated. V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence. 
On February 14th, 2013, V-Day's 15th Anniversary, we are inviting one billion women and those who love them to walk out, DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. One Billion Rising is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, "Enough! The violence ends now."
They have an interactive map that shows events that have been started in the world.  I was so super stoked when I saw the US map.

Look at all that pink!!!!
Curious, I decided to zoom in to see a slightly more detailed look at all the events that would be happening.  If there was one nearby, I was going to go.

And then I saw this:

Oh, Arkansas.  You make me so sad.

**UPDATED** Hooray, Arkansas!  Way to go, guys!  I feel less sad!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Top 5 Movies I Saw in 2012

Photo from: Digital Sextanton Flickr
I know this post is late.  Y'know what, sue me.  Actually...don't please.  We don't have anything anymore except this book of matches we stole from a Marriot and a pack of sea salt crackers from a McAlister's.

Anyway, remember that these aren't in any particular order, and that I saw a lot of movies last year.  Just because it doesn't appear on this list doesn't mean I didn't like it.  I just didn't want to write a 32 point list.  So, yes, these were my 5 favorite films from 2012.

1) The Woman in Black

Anymore, I'm very picky with my horror movies.  Gore just doesn't do it for my, and if the characters are unlikable ass-hats, I'm very unlikely to take to the movie.  And I can suspend my disbelief for a lot, but there has to be some pay off from the movie, or I get annoyed and frustrated.  It was the reason I ultimately disliked Don't Be Afraid of the Dark so much.  There were no interesting, dynamic characters.  The husband was a douchebag, so I didn't care what happened to him, and the step-mom was a boring mannequin of a person.  And the little girl--c'mon guys, she was a little girl. You have to have a child actress of Dakota Fanning levels of talent before I give too much of a crap beyond that instinctual "don't want the kids to be hurt" thing.
Image from: Netflix.com

Which is why The Woman in Black was such a surprise.  Daniel Radcliffe and I are almost the same age.  Despite that, it was kind of weird seeing him in a grown up movie with a kid and stuff.  However, I quickly forgot about that as I was swept into a great, atmospheric movie.  My wife joked that the movie is, like, 90 minutes of Daniel Radcliffe walking around an empty house with a candle looking scared, and there's some truth in that. But here's the thing: this movie is all about establishing atmosphere.  It takes pains to establish the setting, to establish characters, and then to slooooowly ratchet the tension up.  It's creepy.  It's quiet.  It lets the characters breath.  The storyline is not so completely ludicrous that you shake your head with annoyance, which often happens in these types of haunted house movies. Often the plot makes the characters do incredibly stupid things in order to make them stay.  This movie deals with it in a much more clever way.  The house Daniel Radcliffe must keep visiting is isolated because it is surrounded by an area that turns into a swamp.  And that leads to foggy landscapes, empty, creaky houses, and an amazingly claustrophobic feel.  There are a few jump scares--a minor annoyance.  And it plays a few tricks with the resolution that kept it from being predictable.  It was a great supernatural horror flick.  It's exactly what I like in horror movies without relying on excessive amounts of gore to be "shocking," nor a lot of jump scares--which is a lazy way to scare someone.  More like these please.

2) Lincoln

On the one hand, I understand the problematic aspect of the film--African Americans played a strong and significant role in their own liberation, and this movie ignores that.  And while it's easy for me to make the argument that that's not the story that this movie was trying to tell, it seems that no movies are trying to tell that story, hence the issues.  And it paints Lincoln as a sort of Christ-like savior of the African-American race.  All that said...

Image from: Wikipedia
HOLY CHRIST DANIEL DAY LEWIS IS AMAZING.  Lincoln has always been one of my favorite presidents.  He's a complex, interesting man.  A quiet intellectual, a lover of tall tales, and a practical idealist. He had awesome ideals for his time period, but also recognized that progress was often won through small victories.

My love of this movies goes far beyond Daniel Day Lewis's amazing Lincoln portrayal.  It's also Tommy Lee Jones' fiery portrayal as a slavery abolitionist with a particular interest in the game.  It's the fantastic political espionage and subterfuge that is highlighted in the film with great performances from everyone.  It's Lincoln's dealings with both his political career and his family, and how the two were kept separate, and how the two intertwined.  It was Joseph Gordon Levitt's portrayal as a young man wanting to make a mark in his world the only way he knew how, and Lincoln's desire to protect his oldest son.  It's a family stricken by grief from the loss of a child, and the dysfunction and fights and come from being human and not knowing how to deal with those issues.

My god.  This movie was amazing.

3) Seven Psychopaths

There's this thing in movies that's called Tarantino-ing.  You can probably guess where the name comes from.  Tarantino-ing involves starting a movie two characters having a conversation about something that will ultimately have nothing to do with the movie, often as a way to introduce characters or a scenario.  Tarantino is a master of dialog and characterization.  His plots may occasionally be meh, but his characters are always memorable and interesting, and his dialog is quotable and snappy.
Image from: Badassdigest.com

Seven Psychopaths feels like it should have been a Quentin Tarantino movie.  It starts with a classic Tarantino scenario where two guys are waiting for someone.  They're going to kill them. But, as you do, these guys get bored and discuss other things. As the movie's plot evolves, it gets better and better.

It's a movie about identities who people really are. It's also a movie about movies, which occasionally results in it becoming so meta that some people may be annoyed by it. I might have been too, if it weren't for two things: SAM MOTHERFUCKIN' ROCKWELL and CHRISTOPHER SUMBITCHIN' WALKEN!

These two amazing charismatic actors are the most fun you'll ever have watching a movie. They are amazing at what they do. They chew the scenery like Hungry-Hungry Hippos, and you'll love every moment. Seriously. This is my wife's favorite movie of the year--possibly of all time.  It's just so damn good.  Sam Rockwell hasn't been this good since he was Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  And Christopher Walken is at his most not-giving-a-fuck-iest.  Honorable mention goes to Woody Harrelson for playing a hilariously bipolar, self-aware villain. He will spin between ridiculously macho, to furious, to weepy within minutes, and have you laughing every second.

Also, a huge chunk of this movie involves a kidnapped Shih-Tzu.  To see all of this gun-blazing shit unfold over such a prissy, sissy little dog is awe-inspiring.

4) Paranorman

The misunderstood loner trope has been done to death.  And movies about those misunderstood loners being able to see the dead has also been done to death (no pun intended).  Paranorman makes all of these things feel fresh and new.

I'm of the mind that children's movies are a little too twee anymore.  When Kung-Fu Panda is being rated PG for...what exactly?...it leaves you frustrated.  Children's movies are becoming dumber and dumber and dumber.  The last bastion of hope for good kids movies has been, until recently, Pixar, but they've had a rough go of it lately, between Cars 2 being...well...Cars 2, and Brave being a bit of a flop, and that god-awful Planes becoming a legitimate thing...let's just say they need to do some soul-searching.
Image from: Wikipedia

Paranorman is an exercise in unique. It's a unique concept for a kids movie to feature ghosts and zombies.  It's unique that it's animated in stop-motion in a time when that's almost never done.  And it's unique in that it plays with your expectations of tropes and plots.  It takes things you expect, and twists them, either violating your expectations, or figuring out new ways to make the same tropes play out.  It's characterization is great.  Of course, it may be a little bit on the nose with its message, but when a children's movie is referencing 1950's horror movies...that's just awesome.

Go see this movie if you want to see how a movie can achieve the highest levels of characterization without laziness.  The dumb jock is refreshingly not a douchebag and legitimately cares for his brother.  The villain has a complicated and surprisingly dark back story with excellent motivations, and the confrontation with said villain is amazingly dark and gorgeously animated.

I love this movie to death.  If you watched Frankenweenie and left disappointed, or even if you enjoyed it, you should watch this movie to see what Frankenweenie should have been.  If this movie doesn't win the Oscar for best animated film, I'll be convinced that there was some serious ass kissing being done by the judges, and this is the clear winner.

5) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World


This move may be one of the most bizarre and endlessly fascinating movies to me.  There are some that criticize it for not knowing what it wants to do.  One minute it seems to want to be a screwball comedy; the next minute it's very dramatic and poignant.  I can totally understand the people that the movie drags people through tonal shifts so quick, you're liable to get whiplash.  On the other hand, it's one of the reasons I kind of love this movie.

For the uninitiated, Seeking is a movie about people learning that it's the end of the world.  One guy, Dodge, decides to go on a road trip to find The One That Got Away.  Along for the ride is reckless free spirit Penny.  The set up is a tired one, but that added layer--that the world will be ending in [x] amount of days, really adds something to the scenarios.
Image from: Wikipedia

I've always liked road trip stories.  The idea that you find yourself on the open road while encountering all of these strange places, people, and experiences you wouldn't normally have is already a solid concept that has been done before (see: An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns for examples), but adding the end of the world aspect makes the scenarios much more interesting.  Now, when they go to a restaurant, you can see the remnants of what was, while seeing how each type of person deals with the disaster in their own way.  In many of the comedic situations, the comedy can almost feel laced with sadness because the manic behavior that many engage in is clearly desperate.  And that's the brilliant part!  People would totally indulge in chaotic, reckless behaviors.  Some would party until the world burned, some would hole up in a shack and pray.  The bitter-sweet tone of the movie is brilliant.

Also, this movie shows massive amounts of guts in going to places that very few movies about this type of subject go.  I LOVED the finale.  Some found it disappointing.  Not me.  I found it heart-breaking, funny, sad, and a thousand different things. You know how on the internet it's common to say "I had the feels," but really you just mean that the ending of Titanic or The Notebook made you cry?  Not with this movie.  I seriously had "the feels" because I couldn't sort out all of my thoughts, and I still can't.  Every time I think about the finale, it's like my brain suffers from over-stimulation and shuts down.  I can't put it into words--especially not without spoiling it.

I don't want to build this movie up too much.  It is a flawed movie.  It has moments where the tone snaps back and forth, where the plot is somewhat cliched and predictable, blah blah blah.  But I admire this movie for having guts.  For taking the story to unexpected places at time, and for daring to try to put an interesting spin on the road trip-type movie.  And Keira Knightly and Steve Carell were well cast to keep my interest all the way through.

My wife hated this movie, by the way.  I loved it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Gamer Gurl vs. Girl that Plays Video Games

I wish I could credit the original artist, but I can't seem to find the original posting, just 
a ton of reshares.  I guess that's the danger with things going viral on the internet.
The above picture has been making the rounds on the interwebz--Google+, Tumblr, etc. The reaction I saw made me facepalm. I was originally going to post this as a comment to someone I know, but it seemed ranty and I didn't want to come off as an epic barnacle encrusted dick, so now it has been retrofitted to be a blog post.

Obviously, the picture on the left is supposed to depict the fake gamer girl.  The Fake Gamer Girl (probably a close relative of the Fake Geek Girl) doesn't really like video games.  They just pretend so that they can get attention from the boys.  They have no investment in the game at all.  They just flirt with all the boys and make giggly little goo goo sounds.  I guess they also play games in their underwear?

The picture on the right is supposed to depict the real gamer girl.  Real gamer girls get invested in the games.  They forsake hygiene, personal relationships, and sanity, all for the glory of defeating the boss, or unlocking all the trophies, or...whatever.  They don't dress sexy.  They dress real.  Which I guess means sweatpants.  I mean, I know both my wife and myself have played video games in our underwear before...so I guess we're flirting, too?  I wonder how that would go if I mentioned via headset that I was in my underwear?  (Mmmm, now I'm rubbing myself with Cheeto powder.  Don't you want me?)

One defense that I saw of the above picture was that it wasn't really about real gamers vs. fake gamers, but that the state of being a gamer is on a continuum.  The people that supported this picture claimed not to be critical of the girl depicted on the left, just noting their similarities to the girl on the right.  I call shenanigans.  I know that the comic is critical of the girl on the left, even hateful, and excluding and shaming that girl based on this comment made by the person that shared the picture:

"Girl on the left, I hate you."

This was greeted with many +1's, affirmations, and comments expressing similar thoughts.

Whether the person that drew the comic is the person that made the above comment or not is irrelevant.

1) The girl on the left is an artists exaggerated depiction of a type of person that the artist dislikes. Therefore, it's going to depict the person in a manner highlighting and exaggerating the qualities the artist disliked--much like the people that populate infomercials are completely incompetent and would wind up starving to death without someone there to water them every now and then and turn them toward the sun.

2) Regardless, assuming that the girl on the left were an accurate depiction of a person, what is so wrong with faking interest in something to get someone's attention?  You have two possible outcomes from that:
  • Either they're going to get bored with the charade and drop the activity because of a multitude of reasons including being bored, finding the charade not worth the effort, looking foolish when masquerading as an expert at something they're not, whatever...
  • Or the person will become a legitimate fan of whatever it is they're doing. How many people have gotten into something simply because their friends or--god forbid--their crush was into it. The crush may come and go, but the interests often stay.  I wasn't really into The Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly or Swinging Udders until college when I started trying to date a girl that liked all of the above.  I eventually gave up on the girl, but I'll Save What's Left of the Flag till the day I die, motherfuckers!
Shaming the girl on the left is accomplishing nothing for the first scenario beyond being a dick, and alienating and possibly deterring a potential fan before the second scenario could hope to play itself out.

3) Many of the people hated on for being "fake geeks" are people who are paid to do a particular job. If a girl is paid by G4 (back when it was a channel about video games, anyway) to review a game, it doesn't matter two shits if she doesn't play Call of Duty outside of her job, she still has to play and review it because that's what she gets paid to do. Similar silencers are placed on women who are paid to dress like video game characters.

4) There's this bizarre hate on girls who dare to cross over into the mostly male dominated world of gaming. They have to prove themselves and be sufficiently aggressive, or they're not considered "real." As in, if you don't throw your controller across the room and spill forth enough bile to make the devils salty-mouthed cousin blush, you're not a "real" gamer. So, by implication, despite the fact that my wife has, until recently, only played Lego video games or games aimed at children, she's not a real gamer. Forget that she's spent hours unlocking every damned secret in those games, that's not REAL gaming because it's not sufficiently nerdy/aggressive/badass/blah blah blah enough. If I had had the attitude that many men seem to have, my wife would never have gotten into games like Red Dead Redemption and Infamous because I would have been a total douchenozzle to her and turned her off of the things.

4a) The idea that fandom has to have gradients beyond, "I like this thing" and "I dislike this thing" is bizarre, and often hurts people's feelings. I've joked with my friends and family that if they haven't heard/watched/read [X piece of media that I like], then they're not really American (sorry, foreigners. My example is biased in that it comes from me, an American. Don't worry, it's definitely me, not you). The difference is that people don't legitimately question your citizenship as an American if you haven't seen Die Hard or read Starship Troopers, but they people do question your nerd cred (TM) if you haven't experienced [X nerdy thing in question]. 

As anecdotal evidence, I once had a very nice lunch with someone. We were discussing Doctor Who and video games and crap, and when they tried talking about Star Trek, I mentioned that I had not seen it. They immediately shouted, "How can you call yourself a nerd without having seen Star Trek!!!???" They were kidding (sort of), but still, that hurt. It made me feel like an outsider, and I've been reading fantasy and watching anime since I was a freshman in high school. The thing is, this happens SO MUCH MORE OFTEN to girls. I don't see a similar picture circling the net that depicts "fake gamer boys" vs real gamer boys. Because there appear to be no "gamer boys" that only play Call of Duty to pick up chicks and really prefer Rayman Raving Rabbids instead, or if there are, then nobody cares. Guys are automatically lumped into "nerd" category by evidence of testimony alone.

5) Why is it that when women do something, it's often thought that DOODZ is the main reason behind the action? And even when that is the case, why is it always treated as a bad thing. "Ugh, she's just doing that for attention." Why don't guys ever get crap for that? The only similarity I can come up with involves Bronies, and while that may be true, that is a very small niche group of fandom, whereas girls must deal with this in EVERYTHING.

Anyway, if you find yourself swelling up to begin giving a severe put down to a girl that isn't well acquainted with something in nerd culture, why not instead strike up a conversation about how long they've been playing/reading/watching.  Develop a bond with this person.  Introduce them to things you think they'll like.  They may do the same for you.  And then the world will suck significantly less.

Image by:  Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Amazon Wants to Sell Used E-Books


Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi both have awesome posts about this, of course.  Did you expect anything different from them???

Wendig's

Scalzi's (1)

Scalzi's (2)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lock 'N Load Fer Jesus

Photo via Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com of Flickr

Brothers and Sisters,

It's been a long, hard fought battle.  We have had to deal with detractors, people that use our words against us, people who mercilessly mock our cause, people who mock our beliefs and long standing traditions, and people who criticize us for feeling persecuted despite so many people thinking like we do.  However, I can finally tell you all that, through the strength of Jesus Christ and a lot of prayer, we've been able to fight back against this censoring, evil administration that would take what we hold so dear and tear it asunder with their twisted, devilish pitchforks.

Which is to say...

WE CAN HAVE GUNS IN CHURCH, Y'ALL!

I know what you're thinking.  I was worried, too.  There were some unfortunate tragedies caused by unstable people that do NOT reflect the bulk of our ilk.  It's just like one of those socialist nogoodniks to start attacking us just because some nutter butter went and did something foolish, claiming to be one of us.

Thankfully, the Arkansas state legislators have seen it wise to use THE POWER OF THE STATES to allow us a freedom that has been withheld from us for far too long.  And I, of course, am thankful that I am able to practice my religion to the full extent of my abilities now that the state is not unconstitutionally oppressing my rights.  Sure, we can have guns at home.  Sure, we can carry guns to many public places.  But do you know where the power and protection of my .38 Police Special has been seriously lacking?  Defending me at church!

As they say, God helps those who help themselves, and I plan to help myself with a hand cannon that'd make Dirty Harry soil himself--if you'll excuse the graphic imagery.

There may be some of you that are hesitant to this new law.  But think how much safer this'll make the congregation!  After all, what with all the people kneeling and bowing with their eyes closed, one of them murderous psychopaths could come in and do some serious damage--and us with no way to defend ourselves!  That just can't be.

Personally, I've been feeling a little less than safe at the church lately.  After all, did you see that story about that crazy man that took that little boy hostage?  And, I won't tell y'all who, but one woman--a supposedly "good Christian" from our very own congregation--told me "I could just kill my husband for leaving the toilet seat up."

I'll feel much safer knowing that there will be far and away more people carrying guns to protect our children on the way to Sunday school.  And if anyone tries anything, why, he'll be shaking hands with Jesus before he can so much as flinch.

Celebration of this historic event will take place at the Gary's Glorious Guns shooting range after church. (Kids 9 and under shoot for free!!!!!)

God bless y'all,

Brother Buford Maggins
Pastor/Youth Leader
First United Soldiers in the Army for Christ with AK-47's and Possibly Rocket Launchers

Friday, February 1, 2013

Go Pop Some Tags, Y'all!

Good god.  Since finding this song I...CAN'T...STOP...LISTENING!!!

Please be to the enjoying.  Also note, the lyrics are most definitely NSFW (lots of eff werds and such).  This song is ridiculously catchy.  This is the sort of hip hop I like.