Battle of Waterloo vs. Charge at Pelennor Fields

by talkbackty on Jun 28, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I talked about how great it was watching Lord of the Rings.  One thing I mentioned specifically was Peter Jackson's intro to the movie and how he felt really welcoming and appreciative of my (our) patronage.

Well this week I went to go see Return of the King and Jackson described something particularly interesting, at least to me.

He described how when he was a boy he read a lot about the Battle of Waterloo and the French Calvary charge on English foot soldiers.  He said that he was amazed by the size of Napoleon's Calvary, 6,000 men strong.  Jackson wished he could see what 6,000 men charging on horses looked like, but since the advent of technology- tanks, cars, planes, and the like- there was no need for countries to keep training Calvary.  Jackson would have to make due with artist images, which look like this...

Then Jackson got the chance to make Lord of the Rings.  He directed most, if not all, the battle scenes and Pelennor Fields was one he was really excited about.  Why?  Well, Tolkien specifically said that the battle included exactly 6,000 Rohirrim.  Suddenly Jackson would get to see a life long dream and see what 6,000 men charging into foot soldiers looked like.  In  fact, he would get to create it.  He did this...

I just think this is awesome.  Think of all the childhood fantasies we have.  How often do we get to see those things come to life?  Not only did Peter Jackson get to see (and create) history, but then he shared that story with others.

When I saw the charge during the movie suddenly it became much more important.  I related it to Waterloo, and was reminded that those were real men charging into battle.  Through that connection, everything on screen felt more real, more emotional.  It was a great bit of film making.  

If you don't believe me, look at that picture again.

And if that doesn't do it for you...

Pretend it is in French, just like Waterloo.

A Town

by talkbackty on Jun 26, 2011

I went looking for a place to live in a town I'm going to be working in for 6 months or so. However, calling it a town is too generous. A city would be better, but there are serious drawbacks to calling it a city. At the end of the day, it's just a place. And that is why I despised it so.

I know I was lucky. My parents picked a good place their children to grow up. And for a humorous sketch, here's Craig Ferguson doing a bit on the town I grew up.

If you didn't have time to watch...go back and watch it you lazy bum. It's funny.

Notice how he talked about two things specifically. The old-timey feel and main street. Now for the record Pleasanton is hardly old-timey compared to the rest of the country or world. Every street is paved, every sidewalk is walkable, there are well-maintained parks, a Raleys, a Wal-Mart, a Safeway, and an Albertsons. It's not old-timey.

But it does give off an atmosphere different from other places. It is a town.

I don't even know what this means. It's just a concept. What I think it means is that we've had some pretty good city-planners over the years. Let me explain why.

Everything flows outward from main street, which is kept pristine. There are sections of the town for different things. And, I think, most importantly, there is no street with only stores upon stores upon stores. Things are broken up and segmented. All those grocery stores I mentioned? Ya, they aren't even close to one another. And with the exception of Safeway, they are all on the edges of town...not in the middle.

This isn't the case with my new soon-to-be residence. It's a disgusting sprawl that doesn't have a center, only more shops. The main street is 12th avenue. Because that's where all the businesses went. And I mean all of them. So over time that became the most frequented place, so it needed revisions to handle the most traffic, and then other places were left behind as that area developed.

This is the problem of land, low populations, and freedom. Now some of you just gasped. Calm down, I have reasons.

See geography sets up nice borders for some places. L.A stays in the valley (for the most part), Manhattan can't build off it's island. Land restricts us. But that causes innovations. The skyscrapers of Manhattan are only because it was highly populated and on an island. If they had more room to move outward they would have, because that is easier.

Low populations that grow quickly to large populations are probably the most damaging thing I've seen. Rural towns that suddenly grow because technology has made it possible to live their are normally atrocious. Actually I haven't seen any I like, including where I currently live and where I'm going to live. They become overrun with things that are secondary, but treated as if they are the primary objective. Gas stations, motels, car dealerships, 7-11's. All those things pop up quickly and whereever there are people. And city councils (because they are old people who have lived in the same place for years) don't know enough to stop them.

Lastly, freedom. I know I'm American. But freedom isn't all it's cracked up to be. See freedom of resources actually leads to stagnation instead of innovation. This is why all great societies grow next to rivers or water. Literally everywhere. New York, Chicago, London, Rome, Egypt, Hong Kong, Islamabad. They are all right next to water sources. People HAD to live there because it was the only place around that had enough water and resources. Now we can live basically anywhere. Las Vegas is a great example. No one should live in Vegas. It should kill all it's inhabitants. But we adjust rivers and use technology and that allows Vegas to expand- although quite harmfully.

You have to look closely to see these things. If you never leave the town you grew up in (whether it's a good or bad town) you'll never notice these things. But there are differences between a town and a plot of land where people live.

To go macro in my thoughts. This is why third-world countries dislike Westernization. Because they go from living in there rural, simple towns and watch it change into a disgusting metropolis that reflects humanities worst instinct...greed.

In closing, Craig Ferguson is funny.  I was lucky where I grew up.  Growth without restrictions and regulation and boundaries is rarely a good thing.  That's all folks.

Say, what's the big idea!

Samwise Gamgee

by talkbackty on Jun 21, 2011

""It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.  That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.""


by talkbackty

That picture was drawn by my roommate Rolando on our white board next to our door. I was on the couch, he was walking around, we were talking, he started drawing. He stopped there and then I looked at it.

Here's what I said, "Hey that's really good. It looks like a little cartoon character whose sitting, staring off into the distance. Seems kinda alone and sad."

Rolando's reply: "You're insane! Those are just lines. I wasn't even done yet!"

If that was a Rorschach test then I failed miserably and a psychologist would be having a great time diagnosing me. At least, that's what Rolando probably thinks.

For me, I still see what I originally saw. Even when Rolando did finish and what your looking at became the Foot on the island and he added the Black Rock about to crash into it. (That's all stuff from LOST, no worries if you don't understand).

My main point is that what I saw, and what I see, is fundamentally different from how others view things. To me, life is all about perspective. How we view the world changes with time and new experiences. It is shaped by how we were raised, our race, our nationality, our religion. Everything adds another layer to our image of the world.

From a photographers perspective, I think of it as the different lenses someone can use. A telephoto can allow you to see great distances, a wide angle can let you encompass a whole landscape, a fish-eye can distort your view.

We all have different lenses. We are born with a certain disposition, a certain way of handling incoming stimuli. Then on top of those lenses we add filters. There's a great quote from one of the creator's of the Blair Witch Project. When asked how they shot a feature-length movie in such high quality with only a $300 camera, he replied, "With $600 worth of filters."

Filters are our experiences. Did you come from a rich family, that's a filter. A poor family? That's a different filter. College? Filter. Military? Filter. Kids? Job? Relationship? Filter, filter, filter. A good photographer can take just about any lens and with enough filters get any shot they want.

That's how I think of it at least. We continually are adding and removing filters to our life. Maybe you can't remove them. I'm not sure about that point right now. But you get the basic idea.

That's why even with my own photographs I can have different perspectives on them. And let me be clear, I took all these. Some were difficult and required a long set-up and post-production work. Some I saw, positioned, and fired away. But none are snapshots. I try to put a lot of thought into my work. I'm not great, however, I am conscious of it.

But let's look at a few.  (All available in gallery, plus more.)

The first took awhile to set up.  It required a tripod and some other equipment.  I really liked the end result.  Two weeks later I looked at it again and found a part I love even more.  It's end the red box below.

This tiny, fragment of that larger picture is my favorite part.  When I was actually out taking the picture it was a secondary thought.  My focus was on the main fall and that stick leaning into it.  Now whenever I look at this photo, this is all I see...

The next photo I just took yesterday.  I went out with some friends and saw this tree.  I walked around it for a bit.  Trying to figure out why I liked it.  There were plenty of trees.  But I kept looking at this one.  

I still can't figure it out.  I know why I took the picture.  The tree was isolated from others.  It was resting on the very last piece of earth before the water.  The hard lines contrasted against the softness of the sky and clouds is visually appealing and draws the viewers eyes.  The orange of the limbs against the blue of the sky makes the image pop.  Those are all reasons I thought the photo would work.  

But there's more I can't describe.  There's something about that photo that I absolutely love and can't explain to anyone.  Some people look and say...that's a tree.  I don't.  

Rolando was flabbergasted, and probably concerned, about what I saw in his half-finished drawing.  But we were just looking through two different lenses, with very different filters on.

That's why I think it's so important to be conscious of others views and perspectives.  That's why I'm so glad to live in the time that I do, because we are able to read and see and experience things that were never before possible.

It is, quite simply, a beautiful thing.

What watching a movie should be. A Lord of the Rings story.

by talkbackty on Jun 15, 2011

Last night I went to go see Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition in theaters.

They decided to re-screen LOTR to promote the release of the Blu-Ray extended editions.

Normally I'm not a fan of this marketing tool. LOTR gets a pass because it is the best trilogy ever.

That's right, I said it Star Wars.

But this isn't a blog about why LOTR is better than Star Wars. This is an entry about what watching a movie should be like. should be exactly what happened to me last night.

I arrived early. I picked out my seat. On the screen was trivia based on the movies and books. Playing in the background was the music from the movie. This wont' fall into my necessary category, but it definitely was a nice added touch. I went to a movie and they showed me things actually related to that movie.

But here are the necessary things. The things that I believe all moviegoers and theater companies should adopt as ways of doing business.

1. No Ads. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I go to a movie. I pay an entrance fee. Then when the clock rolls around and the thing I paid for is supposed to begin...I get bombarded with marketing. Do you want to go back out and get some overpriced food, drinks, and candy?  No I passed it when I came in.  Are you sure?  You'll have plenty of time, this honestly isn't going to start for awhile.  No thank you.  Do you want to watch trailers for new movies? No, I have youtube. I came to see LOTR. I don't care about the upcoming Transformers.

This practice would be akin to you going to a Subway and before they let you begin they spent 5 minutes talking about other companies, products and promotions. I have no problem with the theater running things before the show. After all, that's their screen and I'm not paying to have their screen. What I am paying for is a movie that is supposed to start at a certain time. NOTHING ELSE.

The worst part is that companies keep pushing the limits. Average amount of time on ads, trailers, promotions is now close to 15 minutes for every movie. I've sat through ones that were 25 mins. I honestly have watched an episode of TV on my phone.  It's like they keep pushing more and more to see how much crap we'll take. Stop it.

For the record, LOTR had no ads. At 7pm (the time my ticket said) the movie began, with only a reminder to turn off your cell phones. Classy. Intelligent. Thank you.

2. Director intros. Peter Jackson (on location while filming The Hobbit) gave a nice introduction to the movie, and will for the next two as well. He seemed genuine, happy, and, most importantly, grateful. He knows the Blu-Ray is coming soon. He knows that the DVD's are already out. He knows movie theaters can be a hassle. And he thanked us, as an audience, for coming out and watching the movie as he intended it to be seen. Uncut and on a big screen.

Outside of L.A. or film festivals people are not used to this. Trust me, it is one of the nicest things to feel that your patronage is appreciated. It also gives creators a chance to share a moment with their audience. Something, I feel, is missing too much from society today.

3. Attentive Audiences. Ever had someone ruin a movie for you? A crying baby, a loud teenager, an avid texter. The stereotypes are numerous for a reason. Other people can ruin a movie.

Not here. These people knew what they were coming for. I'm guessing 98% had seen the movies before. The 2% were those people's children who were too young or not alive when the originals were released. Either way, everyone was lovely.

In a three and half hour movie, guess what? People will move around. Bathroom breaks. Shifting to get comfy. Standing to get some blood flow. And that's ok. If you remember where you are. Everyone was respectful and quiet. Not a single cell phone went off for almost 4 hours. Let me know what the last movie was when a cell phone didn't go off.

Even the cute, completely unnecessary, ducking while you pass in the front row was a testament to the generosity of the audience. They didn't want to ruin anyone's experience because they wanted their own.

I have honestly never had a better movie going experience. And I look forward to going back for The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

That's right, me. 

 The same guy who doesn't go to movies at night anymore just so I can avoid the crowds. The same guy who will drive half an hour to go to a smaller, more out of the way, less populated theater just to avoid crowds.

I am looking forward to going to a packed house.

Because it is how movies should be experienced.

Super 8 Review

by talkbackty on Jun 11, 2011

The Steven Spielberg/ J.J. Abrams project is a one of a kind movie.

Not that it breaks any new ground. Great special effects? Got it. Classic monster movie motif? Got it. Filled with 70's & 80's film making style? Got that too. In fact a clever and knowledgeable moviegoer can probably find numerous homages, references, and "inspired by" moments filling the screen time of Super 8.
Property of Paramount Pictures

What's so great about the movie is that it combines everything into one beautiful, enjoyable package.

One of the more impressive feats is the child actors. All of them are good. While the main character (Joel Courtney) and his love interest (Elle Fanning) are fantastic. They capture that early, innocent love as convincingly as they do utter terror and panic.

The adult actors (Kyle Chandler of FNL, and Ron Eldard) also weave a complex sub-story (maybe over-story would be a better phrase). That reminds me a lot how parents are living in very different world from the ones their children inhabit. While heartbreaking at times, the adult story going on in Super 8 is subtle enough to add emotional depth without destroying the simple magic of the film.

And what is that simple magic? To me it was a daydream gone wrong. An adventure in my backyard when I realized the sky was falling. Children seeking excitement in their small town by filming a movie with their friends until a train crashes and explodes in a terrifying scene that made me stop and sit up in my chair. 

It's wonderfully done. Reminding me so much of that first episode of Abrams' other project, LOST. When the plane crashed in the series pilot and Jack is running along the beach I couldn't help but stare at my TV screen in wonder and mutter, "Damn this is good." Well Abrams did it again.

Even before the train crashes though, one of the characters reminds us of how important story is. He is speaking about his own movie -which is shown in its completion during the credits so don't run out of the theater- but we should really take this as a hint as viewers. This isn't a monster movie. It's about these people. This family. This boy and his father. The heartbreak, sorrow, and loss that we all feel in life and the things we do that can heal us.

The one drawback for me was that the attempted jokes during the action scenes fell flat. Some were rushed, some were poorly delivered, none really hit for me. This could be one of the drawbacks of child actors- rarely is comedy something people are born with. It takes time and practice and a lot of work. Kids don't have it yet. I know the film was not trying to be a comedy and I'm really just nitpicking. But imagine the original Star Wars films without the back and forth of C3PO and R2D2. Imagine Indiana Jones without the sword swinging Arabian being shot down cooly. We need comedic breaks from time to time. It allows the audience to breath a bit, even if just enough for the next big action scene. Again I nitpick.

The film was great. I honestly thing it's one of those generation levelers. Young kids will like it. Young adults will like it. Adults will like it. It has the rapid flow of Abrams mixed with the steady hand and experience of Spielberg. Cloverfield mixed with E.T. LOST mixed with Indiana Jones. Honestly, Abrams and Spielberg is a combination I could get used to.

Overall Grade: B+

How to deal with emotions: Green Language

by talkbackty on Jun 8, 2011

I was introduced to these ideas years ago and it warrants far more discussion than I'm about to give it. So see here for more. How I understand and practice this concept is thusly: there are two ways we adapt ourselves.

Firstly, our thoughts change our language and behaviors. Imagine you read a book (or blog, wink wink) that has some piece of information you like. i.e. "Breathe." You read that breathing might help you. You start changing your language to include things like, "I should breathe now." And then finally you breathe consciously.

Secondly, you start doing an action or using some language and then your thoughts change to believe your actions and language. Your family has arranged for you to be married. You marry the person because you are told to. You have to live with the person. Love blossoms and grows later; in response to your action of marrying.

Married life to a Single Person

So Green Language is meant to be an action and behavior that will eventually change how you think about things. Let's take some examples.

"I made my wife happy today."

Look at that sentence. If you are really good break it down using sentence diagramming. If you don't know what that is you should be thankful. It basically reminds the world that they know nothing about how the English language should work.

But let's break it down a bit together. Who is important in this sentence? Is it the wife or the speaker? Well it says, "I made..." so it's about the speaker and what he did. Then it says "my wife..." also suggesting the speaker is the important one. This sentence isn't about the wife, it is about the speaker and what he did.

That sentence would be considered red language. It's possessive for one. Casting the wife as something that the speaker can make feel certain ways. In this case happy. The truth is that nobody can make anyone feel anything. People control their own emotions. We choose to be happy, or sad, or upset.

Green language is a way to reflect this.

Listen to your conversations, listen to others conversations. How often do they remove responsibility from themselves. How often do you hear, "the weather made me upset," "my boyfriend got me angry," etc.

When you start taking responsibility for your emotions that's also the same point when you realize that you can do something to change them. If your boyfriend makes you sad then you are also reliant on him to make you happy again. At least that is what your language is implying.  Not good.

When we take control of our language and emotions it sounds more like this: "I am happy because my boyfriend is sweet to me." "I think that my wife is a lovely individual." "I believe ice cream is tasty."

Maybe that sounds a little "me" centric to some, but that is the kind of attitude I think we should have about our emotions. Otherwise we fall into certain roles.

From Team Edserve

I'm a rescuer by nature. I want to make you happy, make you feel better, make you love me in return. If I can't do this I get pretty messed up. Well, better to say I used to get pretty messed up. Now that I'm conscious of what's going on I handle it slightly better...but only slightly.

Now on to some science!
Not quite that awesome.

When we start experiencing strong emotions our brains start to work differently. You've probably heard it described as the "flight or fight" response.

Here's a little more detail.

Different areas of our brain handle different things. The amygdala is responsible for most emotions. That's what starts firing up when a fight breaks out. You either get defensive or aggressive. Maybe you get a bitter taste in your mouth (adrenaline). And everything starts feeling like an attack on you, your family, your nation, whatever.

I mentioned three good ways to deal with this emotional response yesterday. But here's one I left out because it's so sciencey.

You need to shut down your amygdala and fire up your prefrontal cortex. That's your logical center. The easiest way to do this? Start naming things you see around you.   Doorknob. Lamp. Computer mouse. Superman comic. Books.

You'll start feeling more calm. Trust me. Our brains can't actually do more than one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth. What brains actually do is switch back and forth incredibly fast. So if you focus on naming things (recognition of formerly known objects is handled by the prefrontal cortex) your brain will not be able to process information from the amygdala as well.

The more powerful my emotions are the more detailed I tried to be in naming things. Don't just start listing stuff though. Look at something and call up its name from memory. If you see a book spine say the name of the book, "The Name of the Wind." Then try and describe its cover from memory. Basically anything and everything works. Still angry. Go to a new room. Name everything you see there.

It sounds weird until you know the science.

I just gave you the science. Feel less weird.

To recap:
Green Language is a way of changing our words and actions to influence changing our thoughts.

It allows us to take responsibility for our emotions. Reminding us that we are both in control and capable of changing them.

It keeps us out of the roles people often fall into of rescuer, persecutor, and victim. All are equally as dangerous to be in because all expect things out of people that is unrealistic.

A sciency trick you can use is "naming." By naming things we see, we can shut down our amygdala (emotion center) and fire up our prefrontal cortex (logic center).

And that's Green Language in a nutshell. It's what I do. It works for me. I believe it can work for other people. Give it a shot and let me know in the comments if anything I say is actually making sense :)

How to deal with emotions

by talkbackty on Jun 7, 2011

I don't know about everyone else in the world but this is generally how I feel things emotionally:

Slowly.  And like a tidal wave.

See tidal waves aren't like what we see in the movies.  They are usually only a couple of feet high and yet can be propelled for thousands of miles from their origin point.  That's my emotions in a nutshell.  They are basically even-keel or comprehensible (like a 4 foot tall wave) and yet they are immensely powerful, and will sometimes overwhelm me like a helpless sun-tanner on the beach.  

Over the years I've attempted multiple coping methods to deal with my emotions and today I've come to surprise myself by how well they work.  And so I have decided to share.  Thanks Barney.

It's okay if you didn't understand the Barney joke.  

1.  Be present while feeling emotions.  I used to bury things.  (Like any real man).  Unfortanately, that often leads to bursting into tears in the work place and cursing Zeus, Odin and Captain Morgan.  The truth is that we should all be aware of what we are feeling, a kind of "control your emotions and not be controlled by them" type of thing.  It helps to speak the words out loud.  Say, "I feel angry, sad, upset, hurt, lonely, afraid."  This also works in good moments too.  Saying when you are happy, excited, thankful (especially to another person who is expereincing things with you) can be a real benefit.

2.  Breathe.  A few deep breaths increases blood flow while steadying the heart rate.  Especially handy if you are in one of those situations where testoserone and/or adrenaline has started pumping.  Neurochemicals don't travel in your bloodstream, however, the oxygen that often is required to have a bodily reaction most certainly does.  If you can control your breathing you are much closer to controlling your emotions.

3.  Move, dance, run, be physical.  Excercise is fantastic.  Try to be pissed off after running 2 miles (or your health equivalent of 2 miles), it's a lot harder.  There's biological reasons for this, but for the most part just know that it works.  I generally go in this order for small-medium issues (bad day, argument with someone): walk, dance, walk some more.  I dance.  It's a thing I do.  I'm not particualary good but I do it nonetheless.  The thing is most people are capable of dancing and don't.  I'd suggest giving it a try.  For really big issues (death, break-ups) I try and immediately exhaust myself.  The longer I stew in my own brain the worse I'll feel.  

Fantastic.  We've felt our emotions.  We've breathed to overcome the inital rush of physiological reactions.  And then we've gotten physical in order to help cope.  All those things help deal with immediate emotional responses.  But what about the things that seem to last and last.  Surely we can't just breathe and run our way out of emotions right?

Dont' call me Shirley.

It's less okay if you didn't understand that joke.

I like those things because it's universal.  I know those things will work for everyone.  The rest is how I deal with things because it works for me.  I think it will work for others but I'm not "others", so I don't know for sure.  

I will complete my thoughts in the next post.

X-Men: First Class Review

by talkbackty on Jun 4, 2011

Don't bury the lead: it fell flat.

I was optimistic about the latest X-men movie. The casting got me a little excited. And then the trailers came out.

Those were awesome.

Alas, once again the Hollywood system has betrayed my excitement. Toyed with my geek emotions like a puppeteer. Of course, they do this quite often. But it hits especially close to home when they do it with one of my favorite franchises.

Let me say this. I enjoyed the movie. Watching it wasn't terrible. There were even a couple of moments (that I won't spoil) that truly made me smile. Overall though, the film was exactly what I said: flat.

The most compelling character and storyline, Erik (Magneto), played by 
Michael Fassbender; and his creator Sebastian Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon,  is only used as a reference point. The team involved instead tries to fill the movie with philosophical arguments and weak sub-story lines, involving children we don't actually care about.

The next misstep I felt was the writing in general but especially that for Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy. I think McAvoy is a great actor. I don't know who on the Vaughn team felt that it was a necessary move for Xavier to touch his temple every time he did something remotely mutant-y, but it became incredibly annoying as the movie dragged on.

Next? I don't understand the direction Hollywood decides to take these movies. If you are going to do a reboot then I think you should either A.) ignore everything that has ever been done before and create for yourself or B.) realize that you are creating an introduction to movies, characters, and stories that already exist.

This movie seems to do a little of both...badly. If we consider "A" The movie fails completely. It exists purely as a check list movie. Describe how Xavier loses his legs; check. Describe how Magneto and Xavier grew apart; check. Describe how Mystique joins Magneto; check. It clearly tries to exist within the stories already laid out and not create everything from scratch.

Aside for comic book readers. Whenever a movie is made from comic books, especially ones spanning multiple decades, I just assume that the movie isn't following anything honestly. That's just me. It helps me get by.

So the movie is clearly trying to exist within "B" world. And yet it completely mangles numerous storylines. And not little side characters, like Beast and Mystique knowing one another, but major ones. In X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a clearly bald and much older Charles Xavier is shown walking.

So to me this movie fails on two fronts. As a true reboot that ignores everything and creates its own story arc, it fails. To be fair it doesn't try to be that. And that's okay.  What it does try to be is an introduction to the original X-Men movies. In that respects it confuses a lot of established work.  And that's not okay.

Overall: B-

Characters and stories that fall flat. A confused sense of identity that doesn't live up to hardcore fanboys or even casual observers of the original trilogy. But the visuals and action scenes alone make for an enjoyable, and sometimes captivating, viewing experience.

An Open Letter to my Brother, the graduate

by talkbackty on Jun 3, 2011

This is a letter to my brother. Who graduates from high school next week.

It is also a letter to myself. Who will graduate from college in a few months.

Both will forgive its length.


You may think that I'm a little young to be dispensing the advice I'm about to. Advice ranging from the relatively pointless to the (assumed) importance. I know for a fact that mom and dad will think I'm too young to be talking about things in such a way. Something that everyone will have to learn:

I'm old enough to feel old.

You and I were never particularly close. Unless one counts close as the incessant fear I continually struck into you while you were growing up. Which leads to the first life lesson I have for you...

1. Shit rolls down hill. Dad terrified me. I terrified you. You terrified Kelly (our sister). She didn't have anyone to terrify so she attempts to throw it back at you when she can. It's important to know that rarely will you ever be on the top of anything. Someone will always be smarter than you. Someone will always be better than you. Someone will always be faster, stronger, quicker than you. No innate ability that you have will propel you to the top of anything. It would be best to learn this quickly because...

2. Effort will overcome talent every time. You were blessed to be raised in the family you were. We were well off, but that's not what I mean. Both our parents were college graduates. Education, while never overbearingly stressed, was always going to happen. You owe all your natural gifts to our parents. Both genetically and environmentally. You and I both squander them too often. Which is why, in a world where our talents will never make us the best at anything, it is so important for you to put all your effort into the tasks you are trying to accomplish. That is the only way you will be able to rise from the mediocrity surrounding you and stand out. Keep working at life, it's not going to let you skate by.

3. People can be terrible. I don't know much about your friends. I don't know much about your love life. I do know a thing or two about this...people can be terrible. They can or will hurt you very deeply at some point in your life. The ones that aren't in your immediate field of influence will not blink an eye at your misfortunes, your hardships, or your trials. And I don't know if they should...I just know that it doesn't feel good. When people are terrible to, or around, you try not to take it too personally. If you figure out how to do this, tell me how.

4. Be kind. Too many people live in a bubble. Buffered by their own fears and defenses and remoteness. Whenever you can, be different. Accept who people are and do not judge them for their faults. Do not assume that because of your upbringing or you current status that anyone is lower in importance than you.

"The great challenge of being a human is comprehending that everyone else is human and is stuck inside of their own brains just as you are stuck inside of yours, and that all of them are also frightened and excited and desperately searching for friends and lovers and everything else." -John Green

5. You will get out of things as much as you are willing to put into them. While I would like to say that the world always works in a karmic fashion, I can't say for certain that it does. I do know that when you put effort into a project it will always turn out better than if you did not. Nothing will ever turn out as good as it could have without effort on your behalf. Things don't fall into anyone's laps. And if they do...

6. Never get to full of yourself. You are a collection of other people. The words you speak you learned from others. The skills you have you learned from others. 99% of what we do is not original. You owe everything you have, say, or do to other people. Most of what happens to us is luck because...

7. You are not in control. No matter what you try to convince yourself of. No matter what app you have for that, what new planner you buy, what you wish and hope for. You are not in control. I'm sorry. It's a tough one to learn. Whether it's God, or the Universe, or the Force- something is going on outside of your control. As far as I can tell IT does not care about you or your Google calender. That's okay if you...

8. Learn to accept things/people as they are. Don't try and change things that much. If you've got a plan then so do they, and as I've said- your plans don't matter anyways.

9. Breath. Most things in this world can be accomplished if you take a moment to calm yourself beforehand. Take as deep a breath as you can, let it fill your stomach and chest. Exhale. Repeat as necessary. Nothing will help you more as you encounter this world. Deep breaths are the universe's saving grace.

10. Stretch. I can't speak much for exercise. Others who are thinner and healthier than me can tell you all the benefits of that. However, become flexible. Nothing is worse than a tight body. It will cause you stress when you wake, when you go out into the world, and when you return to bed. Stretch every limb as often as you can. You'll thank me for it in 20 years.

11. Take walks. If breathing is the saving grace then walking is grace's best friend. Do both in tandem and you'll have a ball. Honestly. This world is a gorgeous place, you should be outside walking around and seeing it. It can clear your mind, relieve stress, and solve most emotional problems. Which brings me to...

12. Always swallow your pride to say you’re sorry. Being too proud to apologize is never worth it - your relationship suffers for no good benefit. If you have yet to learn this lesson then take it from me. I've ruined all my relationships, in one way or another, because of my pride. Say you're sorry. And when you say it, mean it. That takes...

13. Become happy with who you are. This is a life-long goal for most people. It doesn't have to be. Smile. Find the joy in little moments. Accept yourself, who you are, and what you do.

14. Slow down. This is even more valuable for you and I than the previous generations. Society is trying to pull you in a thousand different directions. Show you millions of different things. Again, breathe. Things society has to offer can wait. Most can be ignored entirely. You can have a perfectly happy life if you learn to tune out all the stimuli around you. Your emails can wait. Your text messages can go unanswered. Your facebook feed will always be there. Instead...

15. Be present. Open your eyes to the world. The world, not society. They are different. Learn to understand this difference. The only moments that matter are the ones going on right now. Take in all that you can because it is gone in an instant. There is no rewinding, no fast-forwarding. We are all slaves to the river of time. Enjoy the journey it takes you on.

16. Do not talk about Fight Club. That was a joke. Just making sure you are still around.

17. Get some perspective. Maybe that means travel, maybe it means becoming more aware of your surroundings. There is more to this life than your perspective on it. When you come to a problem do not be afraid to look at it from a view you've never had before. In every aspect of life, this will help you. But I'd suggest...

18. Travel. Nothing will give you perspective so quickly and in such abundance.

"No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection" -Patrick Rothfuss

19. Nothing you learn in school is that great. At the best, they can teach you to love learning. To show you things you've never seen before. To remind you of how small you are and how large the world is. At the worse...they can do far more harm. Which means you have to...

20. Learn things on your own. Soon enough you'll be asked to pick a major and then a job and then a million other things. Your major will be next to pointless. Read books, learn from others who love to teach, learn by fire. This is where the internet will come in handy. Use it wisely. The diploma they hand you next week and the one you will get from college is exactly what it appears to be...a piece of paper.

21. Don't drink. I mean this as much as I mean anything. There is nothing good about alcohol. And if you understand this list you'll realize that alcohol is just a poor tool people use in hope of doing some of these things. I have never met a man or woman I liked drunk. Go to enough gatherings sober and you will realize this even quicker.

22. Create. I don't know what your great at. Maybe you don't know yet. But you'll find it with time. Whether it's a product or service for people to buy, artwork to entertain, an invention that helps, or children to love and cherish. Create. We need to do it. Learn what you can create and never stop. It can be tangible or something more. Love and laughter is something the world could use a lot more of. If in doubt...try to create some of that.

I borrowed some ideas here and there. I cited some. Others have become so ingrained in me that it would be irrelevant to cite them at all. It is far from comprehensive. I am, admittedly, very stupid. I know a microscopic amount. I wanted to share what little I have in hopes that it will remind us both to keep searching for more.

Know that I love you. Not in a way that I love anything else. Familial bonds can be strange and powerful things. I don't understand them. Nor can I describe them.

Just know that we will always be here,



by talkbackty on Jun 2, 2011

I need to vent sometimes. We probably all do I suppose.

I'm a pretty relaxed person. I call it California chill. Others call it being a hippie. Others call it not being an adult/not caring enough. When push comes to shove though I am a laid back kinda guy. (Don't push me's rude)

The truth is that occasionally I got to let it all out. I do this mainly by bitching about little stuff. Insulting Sarah Palin, or Twilight, or Twitter, or blogging. Whatever gets in my way at a particular moment.

The podcast generally allows me to vent pretty healthily I believe. But it sneaks in to other aspects of my life as well. My roommates usually catch the majority of this anger. I often think that I'm on the verge of losing anything I have resembling friends when I do this because it's out of character.

I think people get used to the ones around them being a certain way. Oh she's the gossipy one, he's the moocher, she's the whore...whatever it may be. We craft this idea of people in our minds and then if they ever deviate from our script we become confused, upset, or angry. "Read the script man! The script is the bible!"

We respond by saying things like, "they've changed," "we used to have so much in common," "I don't know who you are anymore."

Sound familiar? ex-girlfriends???


People are more complicated than that. I'm more complicated than that and so are you. There's a quote I love and it goes roughly like this:

"Any time two people enter into a conversation there are actually 6 men present. There are the 2 men as they see themselves. Then there are the 2 men as they see one another. And finally, there are the 2 men as they really are."

Some days I need to vent. I take it out on anyone within earshot and about anything that seems to get in my way. Is this who I am? I don't believe so.

What trait do others see in you? What traits do you see in yourself? Are they wrong? Are they right?

In a world ruled not by absolute truths, but by perception, how are we to live? Do we judge people for every emotion they show? Do we do the same to ourselves?

I would like to get to a place where I am living in the present. Not how teenagers use the phrase to describe their right to party, but on a level more in line with Buddhism. Recognizing that something is going on at this moment. Excepting it. Living my life based on the assumption that all people want to be good- even if our society socializes that out of us.

So it goes my friends. So it goes.