Friday, September 30, 2011

The Top Ten Reasons I Should Have My Own Reality Show

1. We've got reality shows about washed up actors, wedding planners, truck drivers, Mormons, alligator hunters, bounty hunters, hoarders, pawn shop owners, and orange goblins, but our televisions are yet to introduce us to the exciting world of freelance writing. Imagine watching the freelance writer roll out of bed, contemplate the flavour of coffee he'll drink, wander into his home office, furiously type away while sitting at his desk, occasionally scratch his ass, stop to think about getting a snack, then get that snack, and then type some more!. Nothing else on TV can offer this type of viewing experience.

2. Pets = ratings.

3. I'll finally have video proof of how much ice cream I really consume during the day. Or even better, I can judge the progression of ice cream's effect by comparing the premiere episode me to the finale episode me.

4. Playboy Club would no longer be the most likely to be cancelled first.

5.
It can be educational, because watching me in a half hour episode would finally erase any doubts that the "writer's life" is in any way glamorous.

6. I can end every single episode with a cliff-hanger. "Will he or won't he realize the yogurt has already expired?"

7. You'll finally realize that 99.9% of all the things I tweet about are complete lies (I really don't have a castle made of pop tarts nor do I ever ride a Unicorn on Tuesdays -- it's a Thursday thing).

8. I can invite guests to my house and then the TV audience can vote if I serve them roast chicken or cat food.

9. We'll finally end the debate on who really leaves the fan on in the bathroom (then I'll doctor the footage when it is revealed to be me).

10. Because I need something to pass the time while waiting for The Donald and the wealthy entertainment site to throw mountains of cash towards me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Disney All Tangled Up In Wanting to Repeat Pixar's Success

Pixar is the undisputed king of animated features, and has had an iron grip on the crown since the original Toy Story. It is a lofty position that was once proudly held by Disney. Now, I realize that Pixar is owned by Disney, and most people see them as essentially the same entity. Even though Pixar is part of the Disney umbrella, it is better seen as a company owned by Disney rather than actually being Disney. Pixar has its own animation studio and own group of staff that produce its pictures. Plus as long as Disney keeps making animated films under the Disney banner, I'm going to see them as separate animation studios.

You look at the films produced under the Disney name over the past ten years, and you'd see rather different films than those produced as Pixar during the same period. Both are animated films that are trying to appeal to children and families, but Pixar has created the type of cred that will draw in teens and adults not accompanying children. Pixar films are always considered possible nominees for Best Picture. They're essentially the type of film that grown-ups have no problem discussing or admitting they like. Disney animated films typically don't get that same leeway (or at least, among most adult males).

Tangled was clearly Disney's attempt to gain Pixar like success. Their prior film Princess and the Frog didn't do as well as hoped in the box office, and so Tangled was going to be the film that propelled Disney back on top. The strategy was to make a film that looked and felt like a Pixar film as much as possible. It was computer animated just like all Pixar films, and the characters and scenery's style resembled what you'd expect from Pixar. It was full of pop culture references and 'winks' to current events/culture. It had humour that appeals to children, but also throws a few bones to amuse the adults. It eschewed standard children storytelling and adopted atypical heroes (a hallmark of Pixar if you look at most of their main stars). It leaned more to a liberal mindset with the characters employed and how genders were portrayed, unlike most of Disney's more conservative depictions (though Princess and the Frog was an attempt to be more culturally open by having the main character be an African American). You wrap all those different elements into one package, and you have a film that resembles something by Pixar rather than Disney.

But did Tangled really measure up to the powerhouse animated spectaculars by Pixar?

Tangled
is a retelling of the fairy tale Rapunzel, but adds a few twists and spins on the classic tale. Instead of a dashing prince, the man to meet Rapunzel at the tower is a rogue thief. This shows a different type of Disney film right there, as there isn't really a lot that is honest or good about Flynn Rider. He is more of your Han Solo type character who is charming and charismatic, but maybe not someone you want to trust right away. I know Disney has cast a thief as a main star before in Aladdin, but at least Aladdin was doing it in order to feed himself. Ryder does it because it beats getting a real job. It is a very different direction for Disney to cast an antihero in the leading position, and it does allow for a more refreshing take on the Rapunzel story. We've already had our fill of several Disney dashing princes.

The other big twist on the classic tale is that Rapunzel's hair is magical rather than just really long. It has the power to heal and even keep certain people young. This allows for a clear reason as to why Gothel keeps her up in the tower. Gothel also believes Rapunzel is her possession due to the fact Rapunzel's powers came about by a flower ingested by her mother, which Gothel had been using to remain young. This story point also allows for an interesting ambiguous relationship.

Unlike the fairy tale, Rapunzel doesn't know she is being held captive. She believes Gothel is her mother. She’s just a really over protective mother that won't allow her to go out of the house. Gothel seems kind to her for the most part, and at the beginning of the story they seem to have a decent relationship. Or at least, as decent as a relationship one can have with a parent who shelters her daughter. Rapunzel seems to love who she believes is her mother, and Gothel seems to have real feelings for Rapunzel. It isn't your obvious evil witch capturing helpless maiden scenario. If anything Ryder starts off as the clearer villain, but the characters and relationship develop as the story progresses.

Tangled has made a valiant effort at presenting a different type of animated fairy tale. The humour appeals to both kids and adults. The characters aren't cookie cutter, but rather deeply layered. The film is progressively minded and doesn't fit into the type of conservative or sexism Disney has been accused of in the past. But it is still just a really good Disney film rather than in the league of Pixar.

I felt the storyline wasn't deep or complex as some Pixar films. The resolution at the end was a little too quick and neat. For a film that had layered and deep characters, it was sort of disappointing that the climax was your more traditional good versus evil Disney fare. The humour is strong and will appeal to adults, but it isn't as witty or snappy as it is with Pixar. Of course, this isn't Pixar and it's Disney. In the end, you are reminded by that fact by storytelling and scripting that isn't as tight and fresh.

I do want to add that there is one things about this film that I really loved. Disney has a habit of casting a female lead that is often in desperate need of a male to come to her rescue. Even if she is strong and independent, in the end it is the male who ends up being the hero. Not this time. Rapunzel is the true hero of this film. She is smart, independent, resourceful and strong willed. She has the ability and skills to protect herself. Actually, she ends up protecting Rider too. It's still refreshing when the female ends up being the stronger character and also the protector of the male. It is great that young girls actually have a strong fictional character to look up to. Rapunzel is the type of person that has the potential to run her own company or be more than happy living on her own. She is one of the rare female princesses in the Disney universe that I'd want my potential daughter to aspire to be like.

Tangled is entertaining. . . for a children's animated film. This is different than most Pixar films, which can stand up to any adult fare when it comes to strong storytelling and writing. It is a different type of Disney film and one that shows the company is growing. They're willing to do a few things different. They've made a more progressive and unique film that doesn't fit the mold they established decades ago. Tangled may not measure up to some of the animated Pixar juggernauts of the past few years, but it still is an absolutely magical way to spend a few hours with the whole family.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Even More Grab Bag of Thoughts and Musings: September 2011 Edition

Just like the title says, it seems like yesterday just wasn't enough spraying of thoughts and musings for one month.

1. It is looking like the blue terror will continue to sweep across Canadian politics. The Conservatives have gained a lot of momentum the past few years thanks to Rob Ford taking the role of mayor in the biggest city in the country (he isn't officially a Conservative but a major backer of the party) and with Stephen Harper gaining his coveted majority seats in the past federal election. I am fearful that it looks like Tim Hudak is going to make it 3 for 3 for the Conservatives. I don't mind saying that scares me to the point that I may have to change my pants a few times on Election Day. I have not hidden the fact that I do not like Stephen Harper as the leader of this country and I feel he has done a piss poor job of running the country in a democratic way. But I am also well aware that Hudak is not Stephen Harper nor should I assume he'll run the province in a similar way.

He is still a part of the Conservative government, which has showed it is more than happy to play in the hand of major corporations, pander to the moral right, and pull hissy fits whenever they are challenged. Of course, there are all the policies they've tried to push forward that I feel are a direct slap in the face of what is supposed to be a multi-cultural country that honours rights and liberties. But again, I can't just compare the provincial party to the federal party, because they are different entities.

At the same time, Hudak looks to be following the same campaign strategy as Harper. He is making it an economic issue and promising financial relief. Though this country was not hit as hard by the recession, it still was hit. Promises of implementing strategies that allow money to remain in the wallet seem like a very appetizing thing. It is the very thing that I am convinced propelled both Ford and Harper into positions of leadership. It is a sound campaign strategy to go the exact same route, because that is clearly what this province wants to hear (Ontario voted Conservative by a landslide in the last federal election).

The problem is I am not really sure Hudak's promises of mass tax cutting are really helping those that need financial aid the most. I know the tax cuts will be a marvelous wonder akin to roaming the fields of fairies while astride a unicorn for the corporations and the wealthy, because they just love their tax cuts. But I am not really sure that the recession hurt too many of the very well off, because many of their jobs stayed fairly secure (maybe they couldn't buy that cottage up north this year or could only eat out three times a week at the fine dining establishment of their choice). The people hurt by the recession are the young families and the low to middle class. The reality is that tax cuts mean the cutting of programs, and likely the very programs that this hard off demographic is relying on. If there is too much hacking then you're bound to see the negative results in your health, educations, day care, and welfare sectors (among others), BC vehemently rejected the HST and everyone cheered with its demise over there, but now you're looking at the deficit being tripled. This means that province is definitely going to have to trim the budget and you only do that by cutting programs. The government over there has said they'll try to protect health care and education, but in political speak that basically means they'll promise to not completely wipe it off the map. Tax cutting is great for those that can afford to pay for any need they may have (or not need some of the key services), but not so grand for those actually relying on the assistance to improve their life (a single mom holding down two jobs may need help with day care or definitely not able to pay for some benefits out of pocket).

Hudak's other major platform is crime and safety. Apparently, we live in a province full of barbarians and werewolves, and we need his shining sword to saves us. It is essentially the same route that Harper went as well, by making it seem like absolute chaos is filling our streets. This of course ignores that crime is actually down compared to past decades and years, and that I at least feel relatively safe in the place I live. I realize media reports endless murders and evils, but people tend to buy more papers when there is the promise of gore and debauchery. So essentially, Hudak is promising to spend lots of time passing laws that have to do with enforcement, and using the reduced budget to fix a problem that may not be as horrendous as is being reported (while cutting out things that would actually help people).

I have to say that I don't understand the huge Dalton McGuinty hate that is causing people to flock from the Liberals to the Conservatives. The man has made some great strides with this province over the years and pushed forward some really worthwhile policies. We've got great things like improved day care, more doctors in this province, full day kindergarten, and an increase of jobs (though, still many are out of work, but we did have a recession -- one we did okay with all things considered). I know he isn't a hero among the moral right, but I also think a lot of the dislike is due to spin doctoring. I remember how many railed against him for the sex education program he wanted to introduce to elementary schools, and I still think it was a great plan (as long as the teachers were given the proper training and tools).

But I am also not even saying that I am necessarily voting for McGuinty and the Liberals. I really am not a diehard Liberal; they just tend to be the best option most of the time (though I voted NDP in the last federal election). But I am a huge fan of the Liberal MPP, Dave Levac. I feel he has been a great voice for Brant and he has listened to the concerns of the people. He fights for this city, and that is really all you can ask out of a MPP. I've actually had firsthand experience where he addressed some problems I had and he dealt with them in person. The man isn't too busy for his constituents. Plus he genuinely is a good and nice guy, and tries to remain as actively involved in the city and county as possible. If I do vote Liberal, then a lot of it has to do with my huge respect for my MPP, Dave Levac.

2. I came across this article thanks to a link on Facebook, and I think it is a good read to show how piracy actually hurts the artist. Now, I've talked about this before, and so I don't want to repeat myself too badly here. I think, this article is pretty solid evidence against the argument, "I am not really hurting the artist if I don't buy the book, but rather it just takes a few dollars from the big, filthy, rich corporations." Well, here is a novelist saying it isn't true.

I can promise you it is the same thing for the musicians, directors, actors, and video game developers. You're likely not hurting the big corporations because the big corporations have money, but you are hurting the people who actually created the work you're enjoying. If sales are incredibly low (and I not saying views or reads or plays -- because success is judged on the sales not how much it is liked) then you're likely sealing the fate of your beloved artist. If they don't sell to expectations, then the publisher or label won't be eager to ever work with them again.

Someone who toils for year putting their heart and soul into a work deserves compensation. They deserve to get the money for the time they've put into it. If you enjoy watching film or reading books or playing games or listening to music, then you definitely want to make sure these artists continue to put out work. They can't do it if it isn't financially feasible and worth their time. I know some will do it for free, but the reality is, the exceptional work takes a full time job to complete unless you want to wait several years in between each product (even then it just isn't worth it for many people to do that). The money doesn't come from the magical giving tree, but it comes from customers who actually pay the money or legally view the product.

The other day I was invited to a Facebook group that was promoting a new TV show. The director/writer of the show was asking all his friends to tune in and support the show. In the comment section, a friend actually had the gall to mention that they wouldn't watch it on TV (they don't have cable), but they'll download it on Bit Torrents instead. I couldn't believe the absolute cluelessness of the poster. The person wasn't just asking us to watch the show. He was asking to support the show. A show survives by getting sponsors to pay for ads on the show, and sponsors pay money according to how many views the show gets. The sponsors won't pay squat for any views on Bit Torrents or any other illegal site. You're not supporting a show by illegal downloads, because as far as a sponsor is concerned, you aren't watching that show. The person mind as well just said they aren't going to see the show, because it is as helpful as illegally downloading it.

If I ever get a book published, don't ever tell me you read an illegal download. Because that is about as useful to me as jamming a screwdriver up my nose. All you're doing is taking away potential money and increasing the chance I never get to publish another novel. Now, if you illegally download it, and decide the book is crap then maybe I'd let it go. You wanted to see if you liked it and you decided it was trash. But if you read the whole thing and enjoyed the ride you were taken on, then you really owe it to the artist to pay for the damned thing.

3. I was doing a breakdown of the type of writing work I do, and how much I make in each of those sectors. I was also doing some research on the most profitable sectors and talking to some people who are big players in those specific writing industries. I realized that if I focused my entire business on corporate and marketing writing, that I would have strong potential in making a very large sum of cash (not immediately but if I focused all my efforts on that in the next few years). I've got an expanding family, and I do have an innate instinct to provide for my family. I also do enjoy the perks of having extra lump sums of cash to play with. I've heard from several sources that it is very important to specialize and focus (which usually means to even focus on a specific type of market writing -- such as real estate). I really am confident that I can do that and be really successful. But I won't.

I am very confident I can make a ridiculously good living on corporate writing in a few years as I hone my craft. I also know I'd become more and more unpleasant to live with. I enjoy writing sales copy and doing marketing work. It presents a unique challenge and for the most part, I find it stimulates my mind. Plus it pays pretty handsomely. But I know I'd get antsy and bored writing for a specific niche all the time. I really know I would get frustrated and unsatisfied if all my writing revolved around marketing work over the rest of my career. I want to be able to write columns, reviews, books, scripts, and novels. Those types of projects excite me and motivate me. I realize it is much harder to make a living off those things. This is why I know I'll need to continue to build up my sales connections and hone my craft in that area. I don't just want to be that type of writer. I want to write more, even if it means I'll make a little less. In the long run, I think it will make me a happier and better balanced person. That is a better thing for everybody.

I know there are a lot of sites out there talking about focusing on corporate work or zeroing in on a niche. I'd completely recommend that if your main goal in writing is to make lots of money. If you also enjoy the creative side or have bigger writing dreams, then their advice isn't your holy grail. Of course, my needs and preferences are probably entirely different than your own. So, just take this all as one writer's crazy ramblings, and grab whatever value you want from it.

4. I've got a few really interesting emails in the last several months. It has all come from people with fairly similar religious and cultural beliefs, and they've essentially challenged me on not doing a very good job on following those beliefs. Or more to the point, they assumed I couldn't possibly be a follower of those beliefs, because my writing clearly shows I am another specific type of follower. They may be right in my case, but they wouldn't be right when it comes to other people I know (who share some views like mine but have different beliefs than me). I've talked about the dangers of labeling before, and how much I really hate 'titles'.

People tend to get a very specific image of a person when they hear Christian or libertarian or atheist or environmentalist. They attribute specific attributes to that title, and don't seem to allow people to veer away from it. It causes you to not actually take the time to get to know people, but rather put them in tidy little categories -- that they may not belong. It is incredibly irritating that society seems to be happy labeling someone a liberal, and then deciding exactly what that person cares about and how they behave. Because it is outright moronic to actually follow such a strategy, because people are complex organisms that don’t usually just fit into one tidy category. One person may be a Christian but they can also be a Liberal or believe in evolution or like the Yankees (cringe). One person's take on a particular belief and how one should behave under that belief is likely going to be different than your own, and the thing is that is okay. It really is. Trust me.

I'm not pegging this annoying habit on one particular group of people either. I would then just be as guilty. It comes from all sides. It comes from the fact it is just easier to define people by a title, and then assume they completely fit into how you define that specific belief or affiliation. This plan avoids you from actually getting to know people and take the time to understand each other. Sometimes your problem with a person may be more with how you think they are rather than who they actually are.

Now, we'll see what type of emails I get now that I've written this.

5. I think it is crucial that I announce that I've recently had Apple Jacks for several of my breakfasts. This is important because Apple Jacks was one of my favourite breakfast treats as a child. You may remember how I lamented that my matured taste buds have ruined my childhood memories of such delightful junks foods as KFC and Pizza Pops. Neither ended up being the frolicking with pandas in Narnia that I remembered, but rather actually tasted closer to the sock a panda had worn while frolicking. I had feared what other childhood taste treats would now be ruined by my refined taste buds.

Well, it is nice to know that childhood memories can still win. Apple Jacks were just as magical and magnificent as I remembered. I really think it is the taste of jacks that makes the experience so wondrous. Emily thinks it is just my childhood winning out rather than it actually tasting good. I think she was expecting something a bit more apple tasting, rather than the power of jack. Some people just can't appreciate a good spoonful of jacks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Grab Bag of Thoughts and Musings: September 2011 Edition

I haven't blogged much in the past several days, and so I felt it was time to unleash a hodge-podge of my pent up thoughts and feelings.

1. Troy Davis was executed last week. For several reasons, it ended up being a pretty divided issue. The controversy has got many speaking up against the death penalty, and providing ammunition for several groups to make the big push to eliminate this form of punishment. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening any time soon, but it'll likely cause state's to stretch out the time until the next execution.

One of my major problems is the absolute glee that some seem to embrace with the death penalty. I get nauseous when I hear statements like 'Justice has now been served.' Because no, the justice was served when the killer was convicted and sentenced to jail. What the state is essentially doing now is enacting a 'life for a life' or an 'eye for an eye' type mentality. It's reveling in medieval barbarism and sacrificing a life in order to make up for a lost one. They punish one horrendous crime by doing the exact same thing. That isn't justice.

What I really don't get, is that the people who tout the excellence of the death penalty are often the same people who claim to be 'pro-lifers'. These are people who are screaming over and over 'thou shall not kill', but then the first to demand for the lethal injection. I realize I have potential to open up a huge can of worms in the comment section, and so I'm not going to go too much deeper here (but rather save it for another time), but an execution is the ending of an already established life and an abortion is the stoppage of the potential for a life. One is clearly killing someone who has already lived and made connections with other humans, but yet that isn't the issue that gets any attention from most 'pro lifers'.

The bigger issue with Troy Davis is there was a good deal of questions and doubt surrounding his guilt. The man was decided to be guilty by a court of law, and so I don't think many were just asking for his release. When you have doubts, should you really be killing a man for the crime? There was no DNA evidence linking him to the crime. The eye witnesses over the years either retracted their statements or they started changing their stories. Even a few of the jurors have begun questioning if they made the right decision. There was definite doubt, yet it was decided the man should be killed. So, the question I've asked in other places is what happens to the state if it is discovered they murdered an innocent man?

2. In the "I really hope this is a totally misreported Onion story' category, the town of Bay Minette, Alabama is passing a new law where a misdemeanor offender has the choice of going to church for a year or going to jail. Because apparently, the moral fiber of the world has been torn apart and the only way to save it is to regularly attend church. Because everyone who goes to church never ever does anything wrong. The act of church apparently makes you perfect. Well, I know a few people who must not have gone to church properly, because they still ended up being rather powerful assholes. It seems that this town has never heard of the term, "Sunday Christian." Anyway, I'm sure it will be deemed unconstitutional rather quickly.

3. A quick writing update, September has made me feel a bit like a child who has been eagerly waiting weeks and weeks for Christmas, but then his parents get laid off, so he is left with his cousin's hand me down sweater as a gift. I had been hearing all summer about how the fall is the big ocean full of fresh writing clients. I was pretty stoked because my summer (the apparent dry period) was fairly busy. Well, fall has started, and September hasn't been as hectic as I dreamed. I've got work and my family isn't heading to the soup kitchen, but I think my expectations were inappropriately raised.

At the same time, I did all of sudden fall into a rather big puddle of work at the end of last week and I have formulated more really positive connections. Plus I got myself yet another byline, which is always like dancing with unicorns and pandas.

It is a reminder that as awesome as it is to work for your self and be able to stay at home, there are some rather large pains in the ass. The big two are the endless need to try to track down your next gig and then, the even more important nagging until you actually get paid for the work you've done (luckily, this is still fairly rare for me and my clients have been fantastic at paying promptly). It is definitely not a job for everyone, or especially those with low risk tolerance and high anxiety. I'm still hoping it is the job for me.

4. A quick rundown on some of the TV I've recently watched but not done any reviews for yet.

Community: I decided to check out the premiere this year, because I've always been intrigued about seeing Chevy Chase back at work and the show has received plenty of solid reviews. I am not sure if it was because Emily wasn't really liking the show or if it was an especially weak episode, because I wasn't really feeling it. I love that Chase and John Goodman are on my TV, but the show never made me laugh out loud. A good comedy has to at least cause one big laugh out loud moment (and then several that make you smile or giggle softly). I do like that it is quirky and pretty over the top, and I'll likely give it another chance down the line.

Parks and Rec: This one the other hand was a super strong season premiere. How can you possibly not like an episode that sports the type of mighty beard showcased by Ron Swanson? The episode was full of great moment like Ann being sent several pictures of male official's private parts after she properly diagnosed one perv with the mumps, Tom having a black print on a black background business card, poor Jerry finally getting some good news when it is revealed he has one magnificently large penis, the fact Swanson has an emergency kit and a getaway route in case ex-wives arrive, and Andy not only quitting his shoe shining job but ruining the already polished shoe so the job wasn't half done. I'm sure I'm leaving out so many other great moments.

It has also opened up some great potential future storyline such as Leslie running for mayor, Andy taking on the role as Leslie's assistant and Ron having to deal with being audited. We've got some interesting storyline arcs for this season.

The Office: I still question if the series will live past this season (how many shows last more than one more season after losing their main star?), but I thought this was a fantastic start. James Spader has joined the cast as the new CEO of Sabre, Robert California (he got the job as branch manager, but immediately went down to Florida to talk Jo out of the CEO job). I like his addition because he is entirely different from the Michael Scott character. In order for the show to work, they needed a replacement that wasn't just a Michael Scott rip off. It was also revealed that Andy Bernard is the new branch manager, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes while the season progresses. Based off the premiere, I like him as the branch manager, because again he is something very different from Michael Scott and will allow for different type of stories.

I was a real big fan of the premiere episode, and it did a good job of showcasing several of the characters. The cast is huge, and so some characters will get ignored occasionally, but I felt most were given a few chances to shine. I'm the fan of Stanley's new catchphrase and the fact it gives him his usual 30 second cameo. The parody of planking was funny, and I always enjoy when a show makes fun of a stupid trend. The whole storyline of the office trying to figure out what the left side and right side of the notebook means was classic Office humour, and I loved the fact California just nonchalantly revealed the heart breaking truth (one side was reserved for the losers of the office). I loved when Andy finally confronted his CEO and stood up for his staff, well, except for Gabe. Speaking of Gabe, I swear his character was written out last season, but maybe I was confusing things (I also don't remember when Angela went from girlfriend to wife). The Office has a great mix of sweetness with strong laughs, and it was a great way to kick off the season. I have faith we are looking at a really fun season with some pretty crazy moments in store.

Terra Nova: I caught the two hour premiere of this heavily hyped TV series. Fox has marketed this thing like crazy and Steven Spielberg is even attached to this sucker. The special effects prove this one has a fairly high budget for a television series. Then again, the expectations of TV shows really have changed this past decade, thanks to premium cable such as HBO and Showtime focusing on original programming (and snagging big name film stars).

For a series kick off, I thought it was a pretty decent episode. The show has got a few freight train sized plot holes and characters did a few rather convoluted things to push the plot, but I also realize they needed to move things forward to get to the premise and purpose of this show. Maybe you'll get annoyed if you think for too long about things, but the show still was pretty fun and action packed. I can see it doing a decent job of filling my one hour science fiction action fix for the week.

They've done a decent job of establishing the main characters and giving you an idea of what is going to motivate them going forward. It has also dropped in some mystery and intrigue, and so you'll want to stick around to get those questions solved. I think, they want to go for a bit of a Lost vibe here, where these is some larger overarching storylines and mysteries that you hope will slowly get revealed over time. I also like the fact there is a bit of ambiguity at this point as to who really are the good guys. This episode painted the Sixers as the show baddies, but there were scenes in the episodes that make you think not everything is how it seems. The show ended with you discovering that the main leader of Terra Nova's son may not really be missing like he said and that he has got some pretty dark secrets that are being kept hidden from the rest of the colony.

Plus dinosaurs are cool.

5. Speaking of reviews, I've got a mountain of already read book taking up my desk space. I've watched three movies recently (Tangled, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Albert Nobbs) that I've got my opinions on. At one point, I actually had been hired as a reviewer for novels and films, but unfortunately, we couldn't agree on a rate. I like spraying out my opinions on pop culture, but my reviews are usually one of the lesser read articles on the blog. So, my question is do you actually like the more in depth reviews or would you prefer one post that quickly sums up my thoughts on several books or films? In the end, I am just going to do what I feel like anyway, but I like hearing people's feedback.

6. I've been playing a bit of Sam & Max Save the World. It is an adventure game created by Telltale, which is a company that specializes in adventures games. Sam & Max was originally a comic strip that Lucas Arts then turned into a rather successful game back in the '90s. But by the early 2000s (and really late 90s), adventure games were no longer considered economically viable forms of electronic entertainment and so Lucas Arts (and several other companies) basically dropped those brands from their schedules.

Telltale is actually full of former Lucas Arts employees and has resurrected some past brands such as this and Monkey Island (I still need to play the new version). Though they'll likely never becomes a massive gaming empire by doing just adventure games; they are a strong niche company and do well selling their wares online.

As for the game, I think the graphics are great and the controls are smooth. They've set up an easy interface and a clean landscape that allows you to easily immerse into the world. There are a few moments where you get annoyed because you can see a diner or building, but your character is unable to get past the magical force field blocking him (I realize there are restrictions and at some point, you have to get a cut-off point on what can be explored). The humour is pretty strong for the most part, but there are a few jokes that die a fiery death. It may be partly because I am not familiar with the comic, but I found there were things that just weren't funny (but obviously, were intended to be). I do think the game excels in presenting really quirky and odd characters. For me, the variety of characters is the game's charm and as the season (they call the game a season and break it up in six episodes) goes on, you start to get connected with the recurring characters, which makes you feel at home. The storytelling is the games strong point, and they've got some really intriguing and over the top cases. My criticism is some of the puzzles are a little too easy and seem to be designed just to push the story rather than supply actual game play. I also found it annoying that many of the puzzles made me feel like an errand boy, where essentially, I had to pick up one item then cart it to another location and then repeat that a few times. Some puzzles were nothing more than relaying information from one character to another character or giving one character an item from another location, and so you end up wasting time with lots of dull travel.

For the most part, I've enjoyed the game. I'll find myself thinking about puzzles while I'm doing other things. I'd say that is a fair sign that it achieved its purpose, and it is an enjoyable way to waste some time if you're into adventure games.

7. We've been shopping around for baby stuff lately. Mostly because it is nice for a baby to actually have a place to sleep or be a baby. On top of that, we've been going over the different baby names that we love and despise -- we'll likely go with the names we love. In between that, I usually feel Emily's belly so that I can get a high five from my future child. The baby definitely moves, so I have lots of opportunity for that. You pile all those things on top of each other; I'm starting to feel like a future daddy. For the most part that is pretty exciting. The constant parade of cribs and strollers and car seats can get a little tiring, and I can never get the names straight. Sometimes, I feel that at the end of the day, all the information has just blended together and I start wondering why I need a maneuverable two seated crib. I also think we've done a rather good job scouting, and we've got a pretty strong idea of what purchases we want to make.

The more planned we get, the more I feel like this thing is real. I am going to be a father. It is pretty exciting and thrilling and happy. As long as I don't start thinking about the teen years or how much time parenting will consume my life going forward. Even then, I start realizing this is a child that I am going to love so much, and be able to show this entire magnificent world to. I get a kick out of showing off my house to visitors, so how fun will it be to show off an entire world to a new member.

You don't realize how much there is to decide and prepare for, until you're actually in the spot. There are the strollers and seats and cribs and such. Of course, you want to name this thing that will be occupying your life for many years to come. There are also things like mid wives vs. doctors or home vs. hospital. Things that I never really had much thought about until friends started having babies. Yes, we've made most of our decisions and we're happy with them, but it is a crazy process all the same. On top of all that, I've got my wife's growing belly and my own growing emotions. Emotions that are so strong, and not always easy to describe. I just call them the, "Holy crap, I am going to be a daddy!" emotions. Or maybe more accurately, "Holy crap, I am going to be a daddy to this thing in my wife's belly, and I don't even know it, but I love it so much already." Yeah, that is probably closer.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hey Christopher, What Are Your Thoughts on the Middle East?

Well, it is rather funny you should ask such a thing. Because just this weekend, the fine site known as Collective Publishing has published my latest article. An article that looks at the effects youth and social media have had on the Middle East revolutions. If you don't live under a rock, then you've probably heard that things have been getting shaken up over there. You can check out my own thoughts and views on what was one of the major catalysts for this massive upheaval. If you like the article then feel free to pass it on via your social media site of choice or just talk about it incessantly to family and friends. While you're there, check out all the other goodness that is Collective Publishing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

To Celebrate the First Day of Fall, I'm Going to Hibernate

I've got a giant stack of client work that is all very deadline sensitive. So, I'm going to err on the side of making my clients happy and stray away from most social networking distractions -- like this blog. The weekend is also almost here, so don't be overly surprised if its a few days hibernation. In case I don't surface until Monday, have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Not to Hide the Fact You're Smoking Pot

Go into the woods beside a heavily populated neighbourhood, three schools, and a shopping plaza.

Take a log from the woods and drag it out into the path.

You do this, because you want to sit on the log -- right on the path.

Make sure this is a path that has an entrance near the heavily used shopping plaza, and that this path is directly beside the high school.

It is crucial you do this is in the middle of the day.

Once you're sitting on your log that is on the frequently used path, light up your joint.

To your surprise, someone will likely end up walking on the path at some point during your toking. If this is the case then start shaking your joint around furiously in hopes it will disappear. When it doesn't disappear, jam it in between your legs, because then you might burn yourself. If you're in pain, then maybe the passerby's memory will be erased and he will not know you were smoking up.

When the passerby comes near, make sure you make a blank face and stare directly ahead of you. Because it is really natural for people to sit on a log on a path and then stare blankly into the distance. Nobody will ever suspect you're high.

If you follow all these directions, then congratulations you really are a pot head.

Wacky Wednesday Wrap-up of Prime Time TV Premieres

It worked oh-so-well for the Monday shows, and so I thought why not do a recap of the premieres on Wednesday night. As always, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers for shows that has already been on national television.

Survivor South Pacific: Okay, this wasn't a season premiere, because we had that last week. I watched it last night, and so it just felt right to stuff it in with the rest of the shows (sometimes, you just have to do what feels right).

This was a far better episode than last week. The tribes are forming their alliances, and friction is beginning to mount between certain individuals. It looks like there is some great potential for drama down the road. At this point, there isn't one player who is in complete control of the game, and this hopefully means a lot more potential for big plays this season. Of course, Coach probably does think he is in control and calling the shots (actually, the smile at the end of the episodes guarantees that is exactly what he thinks), but Coach also thinks he is a Dragon Slayer, so you know.

It wasn't an amazing second episode, but it has given me a bit more hope that this season should be entertaining. The show is filled with some interesting personalities, and there are lots of chances for conflict (the driving force of the series). There were a few characters that got almost no TV time this episode, but that is likely more due to the nature of the show (you can only focus on so many issues and players). So, hopefully players like Country Music Whitney, University Mom Dawn, Papa Bear and Cowboy Rick get more play in the coming weeks.

There were some definite highlights from this week's episode. I'm impressed Ozzy walked away with the immunity idol despite having no clues -- remember when it was a big deal that Russell found the idol without any clues and now it happens almost every season? Ozzy also admitted to his past blunder of being voted off with the idol last time, and now realizes the importance of keeping it a secret (trying to do that should be entertaining). Cochrane trying to be a provider and useful around camp, but doing it in the most awkward and inefficient way -- the boy is definitely the comic relief. Brandon revealing to Coach he is Russell's nephew, and then Coach declaring Russell is his number one nemesis (a true Coach Moment). Coach causing all hell to break loose in tribal council, which led to some pretty impressive meltdowns and conflicts. Christine brought some pretty impressive aggression and attitude to this episode, which makes it a shame she is likely permanently packing her bags real soon. Jim trying to orchestrate the order of eliminations and be the mastermind of his alliance was entertaining, especially if it leads to his downfall real soon (I also found it interesting that he was trying pass himself off as the social outcast, despite acting like your typical jock).

I want to focus a bit more on Brandon Hantz. The man is one of the more entertaining characters in a while, and it is a pity I think his days are numbered. He is just an episode away from a potential complete mental meltdown. I'm entertained with his absolute obsession with Mikayla and how he feels she is a she-devil (though he keeps referring her to as the new Parvati). He also keeps on following her around like a puppy dog. He wanted to get rid of her so bad that he pulled a Russell type move, and then he ruined it all by admitting his own lie at tribal council. His conscious seems to stop him from being able to stick to any manipulative strategies but not before he makes the actual play first. He also has risked his longevity in the game by revealing to Coach that he is the nephew of Russell. It may have been fine, if it wasn't for the fact he essentially outed himself as being distrustful later on. He is so entertaining because he is having this great internal morality war, but it is causing him to self-implode. An implosion I look forward to seeing.

The second episode was far better than the premiere, and it has definitely set in motion the potential for more intriguing storylines.

Modern Family: My favourite sitcom returned with a double episode premiere. This premiere was far more entertaining and humorous than last year's. I remember worrying about how the second season would turn out, but after a slow start it ended up still being really entertaining. This season's premiere episodes have proven Modern Family is quickly getting back in its groove and has some pretty big potential for being outright hilarious. As always, it mixes that hilarity with a sweetness and warmness that is rare for a sitcom (it isn't overly sappy, and really adds to the show).

Lots of great stuff out of the double premiere. I loved how Phil excitedly announced that he and Claire were going to a dude ranch for their anniversary, and then a non excited Claire added, "with the whole family." Phil's constant attempts to impress Jay were entertaining as always, especially when he revealed he had been training for weeks to show off his cowboy skills. Dylan just getting hired as a rancher and then explaining to Hayley their relationship couldn't work because they come from two different worlds ("You're still in high school and I am a ranch hand."). The cowboy who kept giving each person a nickname, all of which were great (especially when Phil started calling his own wife by the name "Bossy"). It was a hilarious sight watching Jay ride to the rescue of Gloria -- on the back of Phil's horse.

The second parter offered up some more great moments. Jay 'interrogating' Manny about the locket, and then being relieved that Manny wasn't going to wear it. Claire going to extreme measures to prove she was right about Phil pushing her into the cans. Cam's flamboyant plan for announcing that he and Mitchell were adopting a baby boy. Luke knowing he was being tricked into staying in the attic, but wanted to do it anyway (he was fearful what the ants would do when the candy was all gone). The family suddenly realizing where Claire got her need to be right (psst. . . it's in the genes). Mitchell is happy that Cam is to blame for a problem with Lilly (he coddles her), and then finds out it actually might be his problem after all (doesn't like to share).

Cam and Mitchell are probably the best couple on TV. They've got great chemistry together, and they end up going through many issues that your usual couple suffers through. I also like that the more flamboyant male is also the athletic, sports lover. The couple does a great job of smashing stereotypes. This episode really demonstrated why they're a great TV couple.

It was a strong premiere, with countless great moments. I'm looking forward to future storylines like the adoption process and Hayley getting ready for college. It should be a great season and maybe the best one yet.

Revenge: It has been described as a modern day version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Amanda Clark, under the alias of Emily Throne, returns to the South Hamptons in order to get. . .well duh, revenge. It appears some naughty rich folks were responsible for framing her father and essentially ruining his life. She now wants to ruin the lives of each individual responsible.

It is an interesting concept, even though I can't see how it can go past one season (unless it is a long and drawn out revenge process). The show is told by having one main narrative along with occasional flashbacks to reveal more about each character or the storyline. The story actually starts with the murder of a rich family's son, but jumps back five months. It is the five months later where the main storytelling is, but it does several flashbacks to the main characters childhood throughout the episode.

The show has lots of secrets and ambiguous elements. The goal seems to slowly reveal things through occasional flashbacks. We still don't know the reason for the whole framing, but there seems to be an allusion to a possible affair in the past between Amanda's father and Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe). The episode did reveal enough to satisfy the first time viewer, but left enough out to make you want to return to find out more.

The show does seem a little schizophrenic though. It wants to be a smart and cerebral type thriller, and make the viewer have to think as things go on. At the same time, it seems to not trust a network television audience, and so it then feels like it has to spell things out. There were times were it just briefly hinted at something, but then later it outright shows you the answer to what it hinted at. It made for some frustrating moments where I felt my intelligence was being questioned.

It is a unique premise. It is attempting something a little bit darker. I think there is the risk of the show being full of unlikable characters, especially since everyone is snobby rich folks. Of course, the fact that everyone in this show has done something vile and evil, and so you don't have too many people to root for. You can see why Amanda desires revenge. She didn't necessarily come off as a really engaging and relatable character. Plus the show had a few plot holes, such as how a renter didn't know their tenant beforehand or why no one questions this girl who magically appears from nowhere (and is loaded with money despite looking fresh out of high school). For the most part, it is an interesting little thriller and you do want to find out some of the answers to the many questions. It is easy for a show to leave you with questions, but the key is to make them intriguing enough that you come back to have them answered. I think, Revenge did okay on its first outing, and at least, makes me what to find out more.

So far, none of the brand new shows have wowed me. None of them have been outright awful either, and I am willing to give each one another shot in a week. The returning sitcoms on the other hand have been home runs so far, and I look forward to seeing how their seasons will play out.