Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One of my favorite monologues from any movie.

Hannah and Her Sisters  Woody Allen 1987

Lee walks along the sidewalk in the rain; she's bareheaded. The streets are dark.  A car drives by; a pedestrian passes holding an umbrella.  Lee passes a restaurant well lit inside by hanging lamps.  The baroque music continues as she enters the loft, her head soaked.  She closes the door,
touching her soaking hair.

 You're late.

Lee walks through the loft's living room area, unbelting her
coat, towards the bathroom.  She passes Frederick, who sits
at a table in the kitchen area, drinking a cup of coffee and
reading the paper.  A plate with a half-eaten sandwich sits
in front of him.  The music stops.

        (opening the bathroom door)
 Lucy and I kept talking, and I didn't realize how late it had gotten.

        (barely glancing up
        from his paper)
 You missed a very dull TV show
 about Auschwitz.  More gruesome
 film clips...and more puzzled
 intellectuals declaring their
 mystification over the systematic
 murder of millions.

As he talks, Lee is seen turning on the bathroom light.  She
takes off her coat, hanging it on a hook, then begins to dry
her hair with a towel.

        (turning his head
        slightly in Lee's
        direction and gesturing)
 The reason why they could never
 answer the question "How could it
 possibly happen?" is that it's the
 wrong question.  Given what people
 are, the question is
 "Why doesn't it happen more often?"
 Of course it does, in subtler forms.

Frederick takes a bite of his sandwich and another sip of
coffee as Lee walks out of the bathroom, tossing the towel
down on the counter.

        (moving her fingers
        through her wet hair)
 I have a little headache from this

She takes a kettle and fills it with water.

        (grunting, sipping
        his coffee)
 It's been ages since I sat in front
 of the TV... just changing channels
 to find something.

As Frederick continues his monologue, Lee is busy in the
background: striking a wooden match and lighting a burner on
the stove for the kettle, taking a glass out of the cupboard,
walking into the bathroom for some pills, filling the glass
with water in the kitchen sink, and taking her pills.

 You see the whole culture...Nazis,
 deodorant salesman, contests, the
 talk show... Can you imagine the
 level of a mind that watches
 Hmm?  But the worst are the
 fundamentalist preachers...third-
 rate con men, telling the poor
 suckers that watch them that they
 speak for Jesus...and to please
 send in money.
        (picking up his sandwich)
 Money, money, money!  If Jesus came
 back, and saw what's going on in
 his name, he'd never stop throwing

Some issues that are bothering me...

Wednesday night is my African American History class which is a fascinating forum to hear different viewpoints from a wide range of people and I learn stuff and sometimes get frustrated by humanity.  Then I got home, jumped on my computer, and to start found these links:

I know I may seem like a misanthrope, argumentative to a fault, pig-headed, ignorantly over-opinionated drunken blaggart and in some instances I am.  However, when I see this kind of idiotic drivel I am sickened to my core by the actions and words of some people.  

Then there's the Missouri State Senator Jane Cunningham who is proposing (in MO Sentate Bill 222) to repeal certain "restrictive" child labor laws.  As I snarkily said to Moxie when I read this piece, "This is great! Now we won't have to outsource our sweatshops to Asia, we can send them to Missouri!"  A knee-jerk response of course but still (as an aside - these laws were developed as part the Fair Labors Act of 1938) I can't help but worry about the cans of worms that the passing of this bill would entail.  Certainly there will be legislation developed to prevent the exploitation of children but my concern is that children will be exploited by unscrupulous folks (whether their families or employers is another issue) and I agree (in many aspects) with Jeff Tucker's The Trouble With Child Labor Laws (he has some convincing rhetoric).  However, again this is a knee-jerk response, there suddenly seems to be some kind of insane shift in rational thought by American elected officials:  Arizona's new round of anti-immigrant bills, battles over "right to work" laws (anti-Union practices), the assault on funding for Planned Parenthood, and...

Now, as we all know I'm a strident proponent of the historical "What if?" the United States had remained British.  In fact I call myself a Royalist, yeah roll your eyes but during the American Revolution only about 20% of the Colonial population were anti-Crown.  Yet hypocritically I consider myself a patriotic person.  I love my country (I just wish that we could unfuck ourselves and truly be the shining city on the hill).  Hell, I like the fact I can write this blog and not have the Death Squads bust in at any moment.  Truth be told I don't even have a problem with someone not "Pledging Allegiance to the Flag" (because it's kind of spooky and group-thinky for me) and I don't put my hand over my heart when I hear the National Anthem.  I do however, out of respect of those around me, take off my hat, stand and act with proper solemnity.  It's Josh Howard's sentiment, "I'm black." which confuses me.  Perhaps confuse is the wrong word, I can understand his thinking but something about it seems...well, it was a stupid thing to say when a camera phone was in his face.

And finally,
I posted this yesterday on my Facebook.  I feel that I need to expand my thoughts a little.  In response to one comment I replied:
Texas is no more gun crazy than where we grew up nor any less dangerous than anywhere else (in the United States). 
I personally abhor firearms in RL (no I don't mean a hunting rifle or granny's double barrel or a .22 - I mean .45s, fucking Desert Eagles, military grade hardware). I know it's a complicated issue with many variables but I have an interesting example for you: Replace the word "firearms" with "chainsaws" and see how utterly absurd this "armed society" is.

If your home is a castle then I suggest you use boiling oil, crossbows, swords, and peasant levies to defend it.

I was being facetious but I am, at my current age and status in life, scared of guns.  I play a lot of video games with guns and watch a lot of movies that involve guns but in reality I have a deep dislike and distrust of guns.  I won't own one and I won't have one in my home.  The idea of guns on college campuses terrifies me.  People can barely manage to operate their automobiles on North Street and you want these assholes armed?  Will I feel comfortable in a classroom wondering if the person I disagree with intellectually is armed?  "An armed society is a polite society.  Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life."?  Heinlein's famous line from Beyond the Horizon  is ripe for out-of-contextualization.

I'm losing my righteous indignation steam.  I hope that some of you readers will respond because frankly these are important questions and issues that are happening today.  I'm not saying that I or we have any answers or that we can enable great change but I'd like to open the floor up to some comments and polite intellectual debate.

I close with a quote from one of my favorite authors that popped up on my google "Quote a Day" RSS:

Human Dignity has gleamed only now and then and here and there, in lonely splendor, throughout the ages, a hope of the better men, never an achievement of the majority. - James Thurber 

Dragon Age II: The demo.

I'll be honest with you folks, I have a strange relationship with RPGs.  Considering I've been playing them for over a quarter century I think I know my way around the genre a bit but lately I've noticing a trend - in particular with Bioware and Bethesda.  Each company does somethings I like and others that I don't (I want to see them merge into an uber-RPG company but that will never happen) and frankly I've figured out how to break each system.  With each successive game the bloom fades from the rose faster and faster.  I love the blending of gaming genres with RPG and I believe that full incorporation of multiple game play modes would truly move the genre to the next level.  All that being said I played the demo for Dragon Age II last night.

I wasn't excited about Dragon Age II - especially considering the price debacle that ended up costing me an arm and a leg with Dragon Age and attendant expansions - so when the demo froze on me last night I had to laugh at it.  I gave it a second chance though and I wasn't thrilled.  Granted it looks pretty and the combat is fancy and faster and the skill trees have an interesting set up but I'm not impressed.  I ended up button mashing A with ranged attacks and ended up fast switching to another character to heal her.  I set up the tactics from the get-go and had no problems whomping the hordes.

I will end up buying Dragon Age II but not until the GOTY edition comes out with all expansions included - thus avoiding getting hosed on pricing thanks to DLC.  

Movie Review Extravapalooza! Predators, The Expendables, Black Death, Deathwatch, Machete, Prince of Persia

When it rains it pours!  I've been remiss in my movie reviewing as of late.  Mainly because I haven't been watching that many movies (mainly been rewatching stuff or simply watching SVU or PBS documentaries about things eating things).  This last week though I've put in some movie time so 'ere we go!  'Ere we go!

Predators (2010) I used to really dislike Adrien Brody but I've grown to like him since Splice.  I really wasn't expecting much from this installment of the Predator series (I'm a Predator fanatic but every other one has been as disappointing as an alcohol free wake).  In fact I was expecting it to suck.  In all honesty I was surprised, I not only enjoyed but I thought it was a pretty solid action flick with a solid action movie cast (except for Adrien Brody's stupid gravelly voice).  In no way shape or form is Predators as good as Predator but still worth watching while sucking down lager.

The Expendables (2010)  This movie was awesome.  Was it good?  No.  Was it...?  Who cares?  This ain't Becket in the Park!  Shit blows up?  Check.  Stallone and Statham have a good rapport?  Check (actually some of their lines are so funny I did a spit take).  Jet Li kicking ass without being The One?  Check.  Mickey Rourke being one of my favorite actors ever (except for that one movie I'm not gonna talk about)?  Check.  Convoluted evil plot taking place in a banana republic?  Check.  I had fun watching this movie and that was/is the entire point.  Seeing the old warhorses up on screen glowering at one another, battling for scenery to chew on, and generally seeming like they are having fun being there.  A great double feature with Rambo (2008).

Black Death (2010) This is one of those movies I watched and went huh.  A period piece set during the 14th Century about a novice monk accompanying a band of witch hunters to investigate a heretical village and mete out justice where needed.  It's a very well done movie (direction, cinematography, acting, action, lots of gore, and scoring) but two factors kept me from really enjoying it: hand held cam and a vaguely foundering plot.  The handheld cam was actually not distracting during combat but during scenes with no action it was putting.  The plot is straight forward, the resolution was good, but for some reason there were some elements that should have been developed further or cut in order to streamline the film.  Well worth seeing, if only for the action sequences and the last third of the movie.

Machete (2010)  Trejo!  Segal!  Machete!  Mayra Leal buckassnekkid!  Amusing dialogue between hired goons!  Jessica Alba sorta nekkid!  A low rider army!  Alicia Rachel Marek topless!  Decapitations!  Score by Chingon!  "Machete don't text."!  With so many exclamations why was I disappointed by "Machete"?  I don't know.  I enjoyed it but for some reason I was just left going, "Meh.  Rodriguez sure can get chicks to take off their clothes."  Worth watching but perhaps better as a concept piece than in execution.  That being said the first fifteen minutes are fucking bad ass.

Deathwatch (2002)  This movie is a rarity among rarities - a supernatural thriller set in the trenches of World War I.  Written and directed by Michael J Bassett (who also directed Wilderness [2006]) this movie is now on my list of to buy movies.  I enjoyed everything about this movie - which truth be told played out like a really top notch Twilight Zone more than a modern horror movie.  The premise works on the standard of the squad of troops cut off from their company, spooky shit starts to happen, they all go mad.  Complicated?  No.  Excellently done with little to no cheeky humor to lighten the mood?  Yes.  The acting is solid (though I kept expecting Sean Pertwee to show up), the effects are great, hell I can't really find fault with this gem.  Andy Serkis is one of the highlights of the movie.  You have to watch to find out why.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010)  Don't asked me why I watched this last night.  It was on netflix for free and I needed something to stare at slack jawed before I went to bed.  I also wanted to see how bad it really was.  Y'know...yes it was pretty bad in pretty much every regard (except Alfred Molina was awesome of the brigand Sheik Amar) but I watched all of it and realized that it was even worse because if it weren't for the crappy CGI, wretched acting, cheap Jerry Goldsmith knock off score, gaping plot holes, annoying repetition of plot devices, and no one seemed to be having a good time (which I can forgive a lot for example: The Rock or Brandon Fraiser and any movie they're in), I also don't like the cut of Gyllenhaal's jib - He came across as hating his role (a la the dickhead Colin Farrell in Miami Vice) and that's not cool - but when all is said and done Prince of Persia could have been a pretty good swashbuckler.  I also was put off by the bizarre social commentary on the invasion of Iraq: non-existent WMDs (in the form of high quality swords), a vaguely Cheney-esque character, and some snippets of dialogue that were starkly out of place - Sheik Amar: "Tch, secret government killing activity! That's why I don't pay taxes!"  Sigh.  On the upside I am inspired to write a retrospective piece on Sir Ben Kingsley.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Conversation While...Ch. 3

Conan was right and so are these guys.  Nicely done gentlemen.  The next round is on me.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Two reasons why people "hate" poetry and literature:

  1. "Of course I pretend to no originality in either the rhythm or metre of the "Raven".  The former is trochaic - the latter is octametre acatalectic, alternating with heptametre cataletic repeated in the refrain of the fifth verse, and terminating with tetrametre cataletic.  Less pendantically, the feet employed throughout (trochees) consist of a long syllable followed by a short, the first line of the stanza consists of eight of these feet..." Edgar Allan Poe (1846) The Philosophy of Composition
  2. Harold Bloom How to Read and WhyHey Bulldog you write shit like this and then wonder why people wanna curbstomp intellectualism?  Title your book, How to be a smug Ivy League prick and take and the fun and joy out of what was popular entertainment of the time by painting a veneer of elitism all over it.
Before all you literature fans start jumping up and down, yelling, 'Kill!  Kill!  Kill! please realize that I do respect and love literature but my eyes are crossing at attempting to read something this dry.  This is like math with words.  I'm going to go console myself with some nice safe history.  Mmmm, history.  Mmmm, Chicago Manual of Style.

p.s.  MLA can suck it too.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Freedom Fighters (2003) - IO Interactive

Here's a blast from the past.  One of my all time favorite games (in my top ten). 

James Noir's Hollywood Crimes announcement trailer

Far Cry 2 (2008) Ubisoft Montreal- I finally picked it up in 2011 you should too.

My two previous semi-reviews  (12/18/08 and 12/19/08) never amounted to a full review, which is kind of a a shame because my love of Far Cry 2 is kind of insane.  As far as a gaming experience goes I'm very pleased with it.  There are a couple of tweaks I would like to see and maybe a few more options for side quests and the like but in all honesty those are minor quibbles. I'm still about 3/4 through the story arc and am considering starting over since I don't remember most of what's going on (plus it might be fun).

What might turn some people off of the Far Cry 2 experience is that there are times when you're just travelling, driving or boating along.  There is a fast travel system but you're kind of missing out on the pacing of the game experience if you do that.  Most of the time I enjoy just bopping along because I like exploring and finding secrets.  The downside to the amount of travelling is you're travelling in a war-torn country with a sign on you that says, "Will trade hand jobs for being used as target practice."  Seriously, everyone shoots at you.  Granted your reputation proceeds you but damn.  One of the tweaks I wish that the game had was more of a faction balance (like in Mercenaries) so not every road block would turn into a bullet orgy.  I have to admit though that driving like hell through a checkpoint with gunfire all over the place is kind of fun sometimes.

So far my favorite weapon is the flare gun.  Combined with the fire dynamics in the game (which are astoundingly awesome) and the amount of panic caused on the enemy (understandable, I'd panic if someone shot a flare gun at me) and well I just like setting people on fire in combat games (often I will laugh my ass off and yell, "Stop drop and roll motherfucker!"  I have issues).  Also the flare gun doesn't degrade as fast as some of the other weapons.  Weapon degradation is a major factor in how combat works in FC2.  There's nothing more harrowing than your weapon jamming in the middle of a gun battle (during one mission my SAW jammed, I was out of grenades and molotovs so I basically had to forage for weapons - the downside being enemy weapons are pieces of shit and jam or break on you very quickly).  Fortunately your machete doesn't degrade or consume ammo. 
I haven't delved into the multiplayer yet so I'll put something up about that experience once...I uh...experience it.  I'm a little worried that there won't be much of an online presence but I'm hoping that the fans who are still playing are a cut above the majority of Halo or COD players. 

What I have started tinkering with is the map editor.  I'm still trying to figure out the basics but there are some seriously insane folks out there like Animattronic and RaptorIGN (their maps are below).  There's even a book I want to pick up called simply From Gamer to Game Designer: The Official Far Cry 2 Map Editing GuideIf I manage to come up with something cool I'll post it.  I'm thinking insane trench warfare or perhaps a recreation of a famous battlefield...hmmm...crap what was I supposed to read for class?

Friday, February 04, 2011

"A Conversation While..." - a kind of sort of initial review.

Normally I'm not a fan of this kind of thing, it almost reeks of the reasons I left Austin (well one of the reasons) however, this is actually cleverer and smarter than it pretends or wants to be.  Chapter One is pretty good and has some really brilliant lines ("Picayune? here's a term for you - you pendantic fuck") but Chapter Two had me laughing my ass off.  It kind of sort of turns Godwin's Law on its head.  Plus there are some choice lines about Woody Allen - on another viewing of the video I realized that these guys used Woody Allen's font during the credits.  Well played.

Truth be told I think it's my love of Woody Allen movies (way back in the 20th Century, pre-Scarlett muse days ex. Love and Death) that allow me to appreciate the jokes in these clips.  Additionally the production quality and Mr. Joiner's scoring bring these clips up several notches (to me production quality is kind of important as a mark of quality - it's like the difference between a shitty horror movie with shitty production and a shitty horror movie that's filmed well and might have something going for it).  Additionally, it's the bringing of absurdity, reality, and pragmatism into philosophical concepts, thus rendering these concepts as onanistic as they really are.

I look forward to the up-coming releases from these guys.  At the very least watching these clips will give us something to fill the time while waiting for updates from XKCD.  

A plug for something actually pretty good (if you're smart enough to get the jokes)

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