Thursday, 24 July 2014

Another Story

This is a story that I'm currently working on. It's a sci-fi narrative based on the theory of cloning, and whether the same person would be created if genetic material was used from someone who had died (for example, cloning John Lennon). Would being in a different time create a different person, even though they would be exactly the same genetically? Would it create a completely different person, based on their surroundings (would new John Lennon even be musical?). Would that genetic material also carry with it memories? Probably not, but what if? That's what I based my idea for this story on. The stuff here is the preface and first bit of Chapter 1. I've always liked the idea of having something I've written published, and I think this story has the potential to be a very interesting novel for teens, but also enjoyable for anyone who's a fan of the genre. But I first need to know if this is worth reading. I think it is, but I can only buy so many of my own books. So please send me some feedback on what you think. You can leave it as a comment here, or email it to me at dayton.reimer@gmail.com. Or tell it to me in person. Basically, I'm wondering if this intro is at all interesting and would compel the reader to continue. If so, let me know. If not, why? What could I do to improve it? Also, I'd imagine there's plenty of grammar errors. You can tell me about them too. 

Thanks, and (hopefully) enjoy.





“This isn’t legal.”

The doctor ignored him, flipping a switch on a large drum-like object. The machine whirred to life, making a soft electrical hum as it waited for its next orders.

“This is going to destroy everything we’ve worked for!”

The lab coat spun around, revealing the hate and frustration that was spilling from his eyes. “No, to do NOTHING will destroy everything we’ve worked for!”

He abruptly turned back to the machine, and began to insert several petri dishes smeared with a clear-ish gel smeared in their centers. His colleague behind him glared, but he didn’t turn to return the frustration and reveal that he was just as afraid and cynical. There were no guaranteed success. The samples provided were barely enough, since so much had been either charred beyond use or weren’t the parts needed. And if they were caught, it would mean instant death. Not that their involvement with this group hadn’t already ensured that, but this added a new level of fear. They were committing a crime that was outlawed before everything changed. But orders were orders, and it did seem like the best- and only- solution.

 The doctor quickly pushed several buttons on the cylindrical machine, causing it to emit a louder, spinning sound from within. The process would take several hours before any development could be observed, so he turned to leave, brushing past the terrified and frustrated colleague, who stood motionless, staring at the whirring machine. The only light and sound in the room, other than the doctor’s brisk footsteps, was emitted by this metallic barrel. The doctor reached the door, pushed the latch open, and took a step out.

“Ihr Geist lebt weiter.”

The doctor paused in the doorway, grabbed by his colleague’s voice. That phrase - their spirit lives on, in English. That’s why they were doing this, the reason that he had signed up in the first place. It was the reason behind every decision he had made in the last five years, even the one to support this undercover, highly risky action. He just never imagined that he would be one of the two selected to design and execute the procedure. As these thoughts rushed through his mind, he took a deep breath and dropped his chin to his chest. “Ihr Geist lebt weiter,” he uttered in reply, then entered the darkness of the hallway.


CHAPTER 1

Gunfire sounded all around him. Explosions ripped through the night air, followed closely by the whizzing of bits of dirt and metal as it flew by the soldier’s heads, occasionally finding its mark with a wet thud. The only way to avoid certain death was to huddle deep in the trenches. Any movement too high was announced with bullet and laser fire. It was chaos, and Captain Arric was running out of options.

They had tried to catch the enemy by surprise, but every attempt was predicted, maybe even already known by their foes. They had tried waiting for a lull in the fire. In fact, they were still waiting. It hadn’t come for three months, since the beginning of this battle. Food and water were low, and morale was even lower. Arric was sure that if they weren’t trapped in this trench, he would have been the only one who would have stayed. That, and if every person associated with him didn’t already have a bounty on their head. But he still had to do something.

Then it hit him. Thankfully, he was wearing a helmet. A shovel had come flying out of the air and slammed against Arric’s head after the latest shell had erupted in another trench ahead of them. They could tunnel to the other side. Maybe. It was beyond risky; it was uncomfortably close to suicide. But what other choice did he have?

Suddenly, a sharp cry cut through the stillness.

“Arric!”

Arric jolted awake and found himself. Gone were the explosions, the gunfire, the dark, muddy trenches, and the cries of fear and pain. He was instead placed under the disapproving gaze of a middle-aged woman, whose face was scarred with stress lines. Her eyes were tired and apathetic, yet fierce, begging whoever they fell upon to try that again just to see what happens. Then he realized that he was also confined in a small, wooden desk. Arric was not on the battle field. He was still in school.  

“Would you care to answer the question?”

Arric rubbed his eyes and looked down at the worn surface that had only moments ago held his head and noticed a small puddle of drool, which he quickly wiped away. “Umm…not really,” he replied, his face pointed towards his desk top, trying to avoiding eye contact with his teacher. A few students giggled behind him.

“Would that be because you were asleep again in my class and didn’t hear a word I said?” Her voice was agitated, but it was obvious that apathy had again won against doing anything about it.

“Yes, Mrs. Hiller,” mumbled Arric, his face still down, still trying to avoid that spiteful gaze.

Mrs. Hiller sighed a sigh of defeat and frustration, wishing more than anything that she could be at home with her cats. It sometimes seemed that even they listened better than these students. “That’s the sixth time this week. This has got to stop, Arric. I’ll be sending a note home to your father after school.” She shook her head and walked over to her big oak desk and scribbled a brief reminder on a sticky note. “As I was saying,” she began again, continuing on with the lesson, “the American government used to be made up of three branches: the legislative, the judicial, and the executive. These all worked together to form a balance of power and ensure that everything was done democratically, but proved at times to be very inefficient. The system now used, which was created by President Gowen, is the single branch, simply called the President. This position combines the previous three branches in order to promote efficiency and effectiveness in dealing with immediate problems. Now, can anyone tell me why the position was created?”

Arric’s hand immediately shot up and high as he could raise it. Mrs. Hiller thought that it actually might have detached itself if it had gone up any faster. She watched as the young boy bounced in his seat, begging to be picked. She looked around the classroom to see if anyone else knew the answer. A few other students had also raised their hands, though not nearly as enthusiastically. She contemplated actually picking one of the other students, but decided against it, as not picking Arric would probably cause his head to explode. And the biggest issue she had against that was that parents would complain about the mess and ‘mental scarring.’ She hated parent complaints.

“Yes, Arric?”

“The civil war of 2076!” he shouted, barely waiting for his teacher to stop speaking.

“Very good, Arric,” she replied. “Do you know why the civil war caused Mr. President to change the governmental structure?” Mrs. Hiller immediately winced. Of course he knew the answer, and she had just set off a bomb.

“Because the rebel leader Graff was opposing the President by having lots of protests and stuff. He was the leader of an opposition party, called the White Rhino Party, which the President didn’t like because Graff kept talking about how bad the government was, so he attacked a protest group in April of 2074, which is why it’s called the April Massacre, because there was, like, twenty people that were killed, and then Graff built an army over two years, and attacked the government, and the government wanted to get stuff done really fast without having to ask questions and so he called for a state of emergency, but they weren’t actually gotten rid of until 2078 and Graff was dead.”

Arric gasped for air, as he hadn’t taken a breath in his entire monologue. Mrs. Hiller glanced upwards in exasperation. “Thank you, Arric.” She opened her mouth to resume her lecture again, but just then a loud bell rang through the classroom. She sighed. The end of the day. Freedom. “Alright class, remember to read to chapter on how the American government was organized throughout history, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Soccer Confuses Me

With World Cup fever thoroughly infecting the internet, I decided to hop on board. Or, at least, wave to the bandwagon that is passing by and maybe jog beside it for a bit, since you actually have to know something about the game of soccer to hop on.

And I don't.

I'm a hockey guy. If you have a hockey question about some obscure player that played 6 years ago for 7 games, ask me. I know the answer. I know what happened to Thomas Phihal. I know who the Oilers drafted in the second round in 2010. I know the names of all the backup goalies in the NHL. I know hockey.

I don't even know how many people are on the field for soccer.

The way I've tried to get into soccer is by making my own player cards for at least one player per team in the World Cup. There are lots of pictures on the internet to choose from, but finding which stats to use, or ignore, isn't so easy. So I've done some research on what's important. And I've made a significant discovery: Soccer has no organization whatsoever.

Seriously. No two websites are the same in regards to stats. I can't even figure out if assists are considered important. Most sites don't even agree on the height and weight of a player. If you can't figure out those things, I think you have problems.

So here's my theory. Before the game the coach will gather his players and say to them,

"Alright, go and kick that round thing around the field for a bit."

"For how long, coach?"

"Ehhh, until your bored, I guess."

Positions? Forget about it. From what I've seen, attacker, forward, and midfielder are all interchangeable. It's like elementary gym class hierarchy, where the fast and athletic kids go after the ball, while the fat and lazy kids hang back by the goal, playing "defense." Goalies are the kids who had either less athletic ability than the defenders, or a high pain tolerance. Or a combination of both (me).

And I'm pretty sure the stats guy for each game always forgets to hand in the score sheet at the end of the game, so guys running the websites are forced to make up numbers to fill the spaces.

Now, every non-fan loves to go on about the divers and wimps that make up 99.4% of soccer players, but I don't think they're wimps at all. One impressive stat I found was that these guys are playing like 60 minutes straight. That's ridiculous. But that also makes sense for why there is so many divers in soccer. The longer you chase that stupid white ball around and watch it go nowhere near the goal, the more comfortable that soft, green grass looks underneath your feet. You'd give anything to just lay on it for a while, but you can't just sit down and stop playing like a toddler or a college student. You need an excuse, like...

"AAHGHGHHHGHGH HE PUNCHED ME IN THE FACE!!!!! I'M BLEEDING EVERYWHERE!!!!"

Then collapse to that luscious sod beneath you and roll away your exhaustion, while screaming out your boredom. You're also helping out everyone else, too, by giving them a break from running. They just don't get to lay down like you.

Soccer also seems to love their tournaments. In order to qualify for the big tournament, you have to play a smaller tournament, which is held a year before the actual tournament, with the winner getting the top seed for the future tournament. Everyone else will be put back into another tournament, in order to figure out the rest of the placement. But to even be eligible to play in the qualifying tournament, you have to win 3 and a half tournaments in the previous 6 months. And that's just for league playoffs.

Tournament groups are the result of really good punchlines in the manager meetings, which starts out with one saying,

"Oh oh, I got one. What about Spain and Brazil...

"That seems fair..."

"...and AUSTRALIA!!!", which is then greeted with a wave of laughter, then immediately made official, because, as overheard from bystanders, "that would be hilarious."

ESPECIALLY if Australia wins.

That's all I've figured out so far. I hope as this tournament goes on, I can gain new insight into the world of soccer.

Or at least new ways to make fun of it.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Why the Friendzone is Ruining Society

Did you hear about Elliot Rodgers?

I just learned about him today, and the story only is only day or two old. He was a 22 year old student from Santa Barbara, California, who recently killed 7 people and himself, specifically targeting women. This, in itself, is awful. Every murder/suicide is. But why would he try to target women?

Because he was a lonely virgin.

Now, I never really heard about the Columbine shooting until much later. Even though I was around during the time, I don't remember it having any impact on me whatsoever. Things like that are so beyond an 8-year-old's consciousness that it didn't even register as reality. But for those who understood what happened that day, I can imagine it was similar to what I felt after hearing the story of Elliot.

Fear.

This kid was beyond messed up. On top of having a vendetta against women for making his college experience miserable because none of them would sleep with him, he made YouTube videos expressing his rage and outlining his plot to kill every girl in a certain sorority house. He had planned this for at least a year, and had even created a 140 pg. manifesto chronicling his life and loneliness in great detail. I watched only the YouTube clips that were put into news stories, and they were terrifying.

It's even scarier that his struggle with loneliness and despair at having girls not like him isn't so different than so many guys, including me. I know the pain of rejection and loneliness. I know what it's like to have girls not return the affection I have for them. But there's an extra detail that I picked up in Elliot's story here that I've never felt, or even really believed in.

The Friendzone.

This may seem to be a stretch of a connection. But what is the friendzone? It's a metaphorical area that guys are placed in by a girl who they have feelings for, but she does not return. She wants to keep the guy as a friend, but he wants to date her. There are countless internet references to this phenomena, retelling the stories of a poor, quiet kid who really liked this girl, but didn't know how to express it, so he tried doing all these nice things for her and being there for her whenever he can. But the girl never liked the guy, and when he finally gets the nerve to ask her out (which rarely ever happens), she responds, "I'm sorry, but we can still be friends."

I have SO many problems with this, but the first, and biggest, comes from personal experience. In case you didn't know, I'm a fairly quiet person. I was even more so in high school. I was also supremely awkward, which is fairly normal for a kid in high school, but it seemed to be more advanced than others. Anyways, when I first went to Foremost, I developed a crush on the prettiest girl in class. For years, I harboured this crush, trying to be nice to her (along with everyone else, so my affection didn't stick out) and such, but nothing ever came of it. I even gave her valentines (somewhat) anonymously. She was always with the most popular guy in class, with me left standing on the fringes. I always hoped she would tell me that she liked me, but that never happened. So, after far too long of just waiting for nothing, I moved on.

The summer after I did that, I met a girl at camp, we kind of hit it off, and we started dating after we got home (MSN long distance style). It lasted 2 weeks. But it was my first relationship of the dating variety. I wasn't bent on some unattainable goal of forcing a girl to like me. I found someone who liked me because I was me. I feel like so many of the stories on the internet, or even from my friends, about the friendzone, are founded on the inability to move on. If you can't move on, then you can't ever experience something better.

The other big part of the friendzone that drives me nuts is the desire to get close to girls only to date them. Apparently, single guys can't have friends that are girls that they don't have plans to date eventually. The only reason for female companionship is for romance and pleasure. Now, stop me if I'm wrong, but isn't viewing women as objects kind of a bad thing? Because that's what the friendzone does. The goal is to get a date, women are the means to accomplish the goal, and the friendzone is the failure to get that goal. It also supports the belief that nice guys should be entitled to get a girl out of niceness. Girls should just submit to their charm and gentlemanly personality. And that their friendship, which is the sharing of common interests, experiences and trust between two people, is worthless.

Why can't guys just be friends with girls? Why is that such a bad thing? Yes, dating and girlfriends are great, but is it really that much of a let down to end up with a great friend you can rely on, are comfortable with, and do crazy stuff with? If you "end up" with that, consider yourself blessed, because a friend is just as important as a significant other. Heck, they ARE a significant other. You just have less responsibilities.

Elliot had been rejected by (I'm guessing) plenty of girls who weren't interested in him. He felt that they had no reason not to be. Other guys were getting girls, so why shouldn't he? It wasn't fair. Essentially, he had been friendzoned. So he killed a bunch of people and himself because life didn't turn out the way it was supposed to. Not only is that beyond stupid, it's immature. He couldn't deal with the fact that maybe college wasn't going to be a cakewalk of social encounters. Maybe he couldn't deal with the fact that it was his fault girls weren't into him (I mean, a 6 second YouTube clip gave me chills. Imagine what a face-to-face encounter would do to someone). But in his mind, maybe subconsciously, was the idea that friendship was second place; dating was the grand prize. Anything less was failure. So many men have that set deep into their minds. It's what is voiced by the friendzone. And it's what is ruining society, one Elliot Rodgers at a time.



Note: I'm not saying that depressed people just need to move on. Depression is serious. Even sadness can cloud the mind and make us do dumb things, and depression is more the far more amplified medical condition. But the friendzone is unhappiness caused when something doesn't go your way. It's a wimpy excuse used by pouty, entitled people. I doubt Elliot was depressed, because there are physical side effects to that. He was unhappy that he hadn't slept with a girl yet in 22 long years. So I have zero sympathy for his circumstance. My high school experience was a nightmare. But I didn't kill anyone. I didn't even injure anyone, because I knew how to move on and look ahead to a brighter future.



Wednesday, 30 April 2014

God's Actually Not Dead

So I saw God's Not Dead last night.

It had taken me a while to see it. My aunt first mentioned it to me, since she knew that I had taken a lot of courses through Briercrest that dealt with theology and philosophy, and the topic of proving God's existence intrigues me. And, had I not gone with a bunch of friends, I probably wouldn't have. This may seem very odd, since most people who read this are well aware I'm a Christian and God's Not Dead is very much a Christian film, but I have seen more than my fair share of poorly-acted Christian movies that focus more on the message instead of the means of telling of that message. Luckily, those films are becoming a thing of the past, especially in recent years.

This movie was really good, though. There were several moments where I choked up, and any movie that gets you to connect with the characters emotionally is doing a pretty good job (in my opinion). Now, I won't reveal too many spoilers, but if you're planning to see it, proceed with caution. I'm bad with secrets. The movie is about a college freshman who enrolls into a intro-level philosophy class with an especially impassioned atheist professor. The first class begins with the prof handing out a blank piece of paper and explaining that the sooner the class accepts that "God is Dead", as many of the recent philosophers have, and write this declaration on the paper given to them, things can progress much easier in the class. However, this one freshmen, named Josh Wheaton, can't, because he's a Christian. The prof then tells Josh, who is still in his first week at post-secondary education, to lead three lectures defending the antithesis, that God is NOT dead, and fully expects to fail him afterwords. And not saying that I have all the answers or even know what I'm talking about half the time, but the arguments presented by Josh seemed really good and well researched. He really represented his faith well in comparison to atheist claims. Though I was little disappointed with the ending (which I can't really say why...significant spoilers), I though it was well-made and overall an enjoyable watch.

HOWEVER, it still had issues. IMDB gave it a 4.9, which is a bit harsh, but only a bit. And since while at Briercrest I also took some video editing courses, I feel that I can give my opinion on how it should have been made.

(Now I'm not restraining myself in regards to spoilers. So go watch the movie, then come back. Go ahead, I'll wait.)







Alright, good to see you back. Let's start, then, shall we?

1. Waaaaaaaay too many stories

In the movie, the obvious main character is Josh, followed closely behind the professor, Mr. Radisson. This is the main story line, in which Josh is challenged by his professor to defend his faith. You then have his crazy girlfriend (like, super crazy), who doesn't support Josh in his struggles, and a Chinese student in the class who ends up accepting Jesus at the end of the movie (he's one of my favourite characters). Really, that's all you need as significant roles, and you could probably just give the girl a minimal role, since she dumps him pretty quickly after he starts spending almost all his time preparing for these lectures.

But then there was the pastor and his friend who want to go to Disneyland and learn a lesson in faith, the girlfriend of the professor who also happens to be a Christian and a former student (the heck!?) who eventually leaves him because he's a huge jerk, the Arabic student who has no connection to Radisson or Josh, but is in the same school and is hiding her Christian faith from her conservative, (I'm assuming) Muslim  father, a left-wing blogger who ambushes Christians and discovers she has cancer, her businessman boyfriend who is another huge jerk (he breaks up with her because she has cancer) and is the brother of Radisson's girlfriend, and then their mother who has dementia. Then you throw in the Newsboys at the end (I miss Peter Furler) who have a hand in converting the reporter with cancer, and Willie Robertson, though it's more of a cameo. The Arabic girl only interacts with Josh in the final minute of the movie, and she said one line to him. So that's THREE separate story lines, each with a main character(s) and supporting cast. Most movies like to stick with one.

I have found that Christian movies can sometimes make the mistake of trying to show too many faith journeys and how God is working everywhere. Though this is true, it takes away from the main story line and therefore the quality of production, leaving the audience with a bunch of mediocre stories instead of one story done very well.

2. More focus on Josh and Radisson

My suggestion: forget the other stories. Sure, they're interesting and uplifting, but I think the movie is primarily about Josh and his struggles against a professor who hates everything he believes. That story just oozes with potential, most of which was not exploited. Instead, we're gonna show a pastor trying to start a car 7 times. Yaaaaaay.

So keep the pastor, but forget his story. It's not important to Josh. Forget the Arabic girl, and the reporter, and the businessman and his mom. I'd keep the sister, simply for to show the opposite side of Josh- she rejected her faith and wrote the declaration for a forbidden romance with Radisson. She cowered; Josh took the challenge. Also, I'd keep the Chinese guy because Josh had a direct hand in his story. Essentially, strip away everything that doesn't have to do with Josh, Radisson, or the philosophy class. That's the most interesting and important story in the movie.

Side Note: I'm not saying the other journeys of faith were meaningless, but in the essence of making an entertaining and thought provoking movie, I think it would be the best to focus on the main story, making it the most important.

3. Josh as THE protagonist

The actor who plays Josh is actually fairly accomplished and has decent chops; he's a regular on the Disney Channel's "Good Luck Charlie", which is one of the more well-made Disney TV shows.

Stop judging me. I have a younger sister.

So he can act. Awesome. Use that. Show the struggle of trying to figure out how to defend his faith. Revealing the mental anguish and fear that Josh is having would better connect his character with the audience. In the movie, you don't get to see him research and look for sources to prepare for a 20-minute lecture. Have you ever tried to write a philosophy paper?? A week is hardly enough time to find what you're looking for in the plethora of material that is out there. Where do you even start?? I wanted to see how he found what he was looking for. That's where you could bring in the pastor, and MAYBE even his missionary friend, depending if he was portrayed as a highly educated man (as in several years of higher education in a seminary, which is not necessary to be a missionary. Buckets of faith, yes; to know everything there is about Thomas Aquinas, not exactly). He would have to be play a minimal role, though. Too much of his back story, and it starts to take away from Josh.

And definitely keep the girlfriend, as she adds a new difficulty in trying to prepare for these classes. She wants him to write on the paper that God's dead, in order to protect his (essentially her) future. So she forbids him to go through with his defense of faith, which is a major red flag for a Christian girlfriend. If a girl says that to you, run. Run fast and far away.

She also claims that "everyone" thinks that this is stupid. Who is everyone? Family? Close friends? Does Josh have little support from those around him? Develop that! What kind of struggle would that be for him? Defending your faith is never easy, but try throwing in rejection and scorn from those you care about. Now tell your professor, who hates you already, that this faith is worth keeping.

That already is causing me pain. Which means it would be an AWESOME movie aspect.

4. More Radisson as the antagonist

So this is basically along the same lines as #3, but he makes some interesting comments that would be fun to expand on. Specifically, he threatens to destroy Josh's hopes of ever getting a law degree if he continues with the challenge after Josh's first lecture. But nothing ever comes of that. Instead, we learn that some girl got cancer, which was super emotional and really raw emotionally, but had nothing to do with Josh or Radisson. Did Josh go to the school board? Was Radisson punished? WHAT HAPPENED??

He also decides to "switch things up" in Josh's last lecture, which I assume meant that he stood at the front of class to offer criticisms and commentary. But he barely did that. He just stood there. That moment should have been the climax. This lecture would make or break Josh. Yet the movie didn't give a good sense of that. It was always kind of assumed that Josh would win. No major build up. Minor build up, yes, but there could have been so much more.

5. Really amp up the intellectual debate

This movie was filled with references to well-known thinkers in the philosophical and intellectual world. The stuff Josh said was pretty intense, and I found it entertaining to follow along with his arguments in class, as well as Radisson's rebuttals. But there could have been more. I think it can be too tempting to dumb down the intelligence of the movie in favour for a wider audience, and this happens in a lot of other Hollywood movies. Expendables is a great example: It's awesome, full of explosions, guns, and fighting, and I love them, but it sure don't make me think while watching it. With God's Not Dead, the director could instead have tried to appeal to the more educated crown, who could follow along (or found it fun trying to) the in depth arguments that were present in this debate, because it's incredibly complex. It's been debated since Plato and Socrates, and there is still no unanimous decisions. If there's no resolutions after them, then it's doomed to debate for eternity.

If you think that this might be too risky, there are a ton of movies, like A Beautiful Mind, Dead Poet's Society, and Good Will Hunting, that have dealt with more intellectual questions, and have done very very well. So delve into those philosophical debates. Not all the way, that will hurt most of the audience, but enough to see that the debate is real. That way, it will make Josh's victory that much more momentous because it will be against very real and seemingly insurmountable odds.

6. The Ending (my last point)

Like I said, the ending was disappointing. It had everyone at a Newsboys concert, Josh with his new Chinese friend who wants to follow Jesus, and they gave a shoutout to Josh for his good defending skills, then asked everyone to text all their friends, "God's not dead." Then the screen went dark, giving the theater audience the same call. That was it.

I know I'm a little cynical with things like that, but it seems like the movie is playing too much with the emotional state of the audience. Without context, a text that says, "God's not dead," would be really confusing to a non-Christian. But I also know that some people will find this movie very helpful for them to witness to friends. Most of my friends are Christians, and I would tend to debate the strengths and weaknesses of the movie with them instead. So I don't condemn the movie for that. I think it kinda had to end with a call to action, in some way. I just am very aware that it's easy to feel the "spirit of God" when you're in a very emotional state. Everything seems more real and important. I make really bad decisions in an emotional state. But I'm not everyone. The rest of the movie spoke more to me than the ending, and that's fine.

The biggest problem with the ending was that Radisson dies.

I TOLD you there would be spoilers.

He, of course, has had a life changing experience, and decides to go to the concert to get his girlfriend back, but on the way, gets hit by a car and dies, but not before giving his life to God in the presence of the pastor from before (who finally got his car to start and learned about having faith in small things. Yaaaaay). It just wrapped up really quickly. Radisson was dead, no one was sad because no one knew. Everyone else was happy and worshiping at the Newsboys concert. I dunno. it's just a bit too pretty, like one of those professionally wrapped Christmas presents with the fancy ribbon and bow and no wrinkles anywhere. He didn't get to adjust to a new life, to apologize to Josh, to make amends with anyone. Nope, just kill him off, it's easier and cleaner. I think good movies aren't afraid to show struggle, though. Real life has struggles. Hollywood makes it seem like you can solve them in 2 hours, where most of us know that it takes at least twice that.

Anyways, though I enjoyed this movie, I think it still had a lot of untapped potential. A few changes, and this movie would have been very engaging. But nothing is perfect, and I'm glad that I got to see it.




PS: I almost have 2500 views on my blog. That's super cool.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Greatest Battle of Wits to Ever Happen Ever (Maybe)

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most iconic characters to ever appear in fiction. For this reason, movie directors have attempted to bring the famous detective to the big screen since, well, the big screen was invented. Lately, there have been two reincarnations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories that have captured audience’s attentions. First was the Hollywood creation with Robert Downey Jr. as the quirky detective, soon followed by BBC’s Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the emotionless private eye. I thoroughly enjoyed RDJ as Sherlock, with all the mental play and plain strangeness, but Janelle recently got me hooked on the BBC version and now I can’t wait until the third season (or 4th…I can’t remember. Each season is about 3 episodes). Anyways, since they both ended at approximately the same point and this is really the only portrayals of Sherlock I know as I've never read the original books, I thought it might be fun to pit them against each other and see which is better.


SETTING and PLOT

Hollywood: Sherlock Holmes is set in the classic old English setting in which (I’m assuming) it was written. I’ve always liked it when movies incorporate time-appropriate ways of solving problems, and this is everywhere in these movies. Now, I’m no historian and I’d really have no idea if the things used were accurate to the time or books, but hey, it still looked cool. A good movie should force you to suspend your understanding of reality and skepticism for a few hours, and these 2 movies did that for me perfectly.

BBC: This series decided to take a new spin on the classic Sherlock, setting him in modern day London and giving him access to all the technology of our world. Everything is explained with a modern twist, from why Sherlock wears a deerstalker cap (also taught me what a deerstalker was), to the existence of the Hounds of the Baskervilles. Sherlock has access to forensics, cellphones, the internet, and really whatever he could desire, which really allows the audience to follow along with the story and believe that these crimes are solvable. It’s a new way to relate to Sherlock, and it’s done incredibly well.

VERDICT: Sadly, I’m a sucker for a good time piece. Good on ya, Hollywood. 
Hoolywood: 1, BBC: 0


SHERLOCK HOLMES

Hollywood: I don’t think you could have gotten a better depiction of the socially awkward, incredibly strange, and powerfully intelligent detective than Robert Downey Jr., somewhat recently famous for his depiction of Iron Man. He always looks like part of him is still lost in his own mind, always thinking, giving him a touch of crazy. He’s quirky to the extreme. He’s beyond brilliant. In many ways, he’s similar to another character he does very well. If Tony Stark was a social outcast and poor, you’d have Sherlock. Allowing the audience to see into his mind also helps us relate to him, removing some of the coldness that is often attributed (according to a YouTube video I watched) to Sherlock.

BBC: The modern Sherlock is portrayed by the incredible Benedict Cumberbatch, who I'd never really heard of before this, but is scheduled to play Smaug the Dragon in the new Hobbit movie. Rather than a quirky, lovable Sherlock, in this series you get an emotionless, rude, determined, and yet still lovable Sherlock. He’s hilarious. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is incredibly blunt and honest with people, believing emotion only gets in the way. He is also beyond determined in anything he sets his mind to, 100% invested in a case. RDJ is also a very determined Sherlock, but always seems distracted, probably by his own thoughts. Cumberbatch is never distracted, only thinking of what is important at any given time, always appearing focussed. I just love everything he says. He’s a social outcast and abrasive, but he doesn’t care. He’ll do what needs to be done to get the job done.

VERDICT: This is probably the toughest one to judge. I love RDJ’s quirkiness, but also Cumberbatch’s perceived superiority. Maybe it’s because it was the first Sherlock I was exposed to, but I prefer Robert Downy Jr., even if Cumberbatch is more accurate.
Hollywood: 2, BBC: 0


JOHN WATSON

Hollywood: Dr. John Watson is portrayed by Jude Law, who's been in tons of dramatic movies, and I have to say this Watson is done very well. He is the common sense behind Sherlock, or at least he tries to be, trying to get him to be reasonable and not awkward, though rarely succeeds. He is a character of amazing patience and loyalty. Not only that, when Sherlock needs him, he reveals his intelligence and dexterity, being a capable fighter and detective, though still made to look a little thick by Sherlock. This Watson appears to be the perfect counterpart to Sherlock, and they create the perfect crime solving team. The only thing I have against him is his character doesn’t feel as deep as Sherlock’s. You don’t really get to know Watson other than as Sherlock’s partner, though a very effective partner.

BBC: Here, Watson becomes a Hobbit. Yes, Martin Freeman may never live that role down as Bilbo, but is that really a bad thing? In the modern age, Watson is Sherlock’s blogger, recording their adventures online for the public to enjoy, as well as providing some advertising. He’s an ex-military commander and doctor, and much more socially adept than his counterpart, often being left to smooth over situations that Sherlock has muddled up. However, this partnership feels less like a partnership and more like hero and sidekick. Watson is constantly left looking like an idiot after working with his friend, and often loses patience with Sherlock’s lack of sympathy. Still, when he is needed, he can perform admirably. I once read that Freeman plays a similar character in all his roles: “I should not have gone on this adventure.” He does it super well, and it’s often hilarious and authentic, but he still seems inferior to the magnificent Sherlock.

VERDICT: This is almost a tie. Law provides a partner to Sherlock, where Freeman is more of a sidekick and seemingly less useful, though he does show is invaluable to Cumberbatch. However, Freeman is far more personable and entertaining, while Law is less dynamic as a character. But I think Bilbo wins.   
Hollywood: 2, BBC: 1


JAMES MORIARTY

Hollywood: Portrayed by Jared Harris, who apparently is constantly a supporting actor, Moriarty hides in plain sight as a professor at the university. He appears old yet distinguished in his role as a professor, but is actually brilliantly ruthless. I, however, have a tough time taking him seriously because of his looks. He is significantly older than Sherlock, yet matches him in the fight at the end and they plummet off the cliff (spoiler…but not really). I kinda always assumed Sherlock had Moriarty bested, even though he’s supposed to be his equal in brilliance.  

BBC: This guy is messed up. Played by Andrew Scott, known for his incredibly role as a body on the beach of Saving Private Ryan (seriously, IMDB it. It's his number one known-for role), he also hides in plain sight at the beginning of the series. He later reveals himself to be testing Sherlock, and then begins to toy with him. Sherlock responds enthusiastically, even though there are lives on the line, because he loves the challenge. He doesn’t fail, but it shows how devious Moriarty is. Human life doesn’t matter. He just wants to prove that he’s smarter than Sherlock, and almost does (spoiler?). This Moriarty is much younger than Harris’ interpretation, and is far more psychopathic. Imagine if the Joker was English and had no makeup. He has the desire to destroy because he has the power to. Scott is scary.

VERDICT: Andrew Scott, no question. He proves he’s Sherlock’s equal. Half the time you have no idea who’s going to win. That’s the true definition of a mortal enemy.
Hollywood: 2, BBC: 2


MYCROFT HOLMES

Hollywood: Sherlock’s influential politician of a brother is played by Stephen Fry, who, if you don't watch any of his real life political stuff, is quite likable as a stuck-up British type, like Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear. In much the same way RDJ is quirky, so is Fry, giving a bit of insight on how odd the family is, though Mycroft is much more socially adept than his brother because of his constant work with other people of influence. He’s still weird, though, which I thoroughly enjoy. Fry doesn’t play a hugely significant role in the second movie (his only appearance so far), but it was still memorable.

BBC: Mycroft loses his goofiness in favour of importance. Played by Mark Gatiss, who's appeared in a ton of British films and TV series, this Mycroft looks every part the influential person of power he is. Like his brother, he is emotionless and tends to hide from the public spotlight, but is often embarrassed by his younger brother’s actions. He is proper and distinguished, coming off as very English. That’s great for someone who is supposed to be one of the most powerful people in London, possibly the world, but still, he’s not very fun.

VERDICT: Stephen Fry. Both interpretations do a good job of showing family connections, with Fry and RDJ being strange and quirky, while Cumberbatch and Gatiss are emotionless and proper, as well as the tension between the brothers, with both Sherlocks hating to ask for help from Mycroft. I’m just a fan of the quirkier Holmes family.  
Hollywood: 3, BBC: 2


After a nail biting finish, the antique and weird Hollywood Sherlock Holmes has beaten the modern and very British BBC series Sherlock. Both of these shows are very well done, and it seems that where one lacks in one area, the other makes up for it. The movies have less character development, while the series provides some very dynamic characters. Law’s utility to Freeman’s personality. Gatiss’s distinction to Fry’s weirdness. Everything works so well together in each adaptation. Both have plans for more screen time, with a new BBC season coming out within a year and another Sherlock movie after that (I read writing has just begun…blame Marvel). Really, you can’t go wrong with either, and I thoroughly enjoy both of them, so go watch the one you haven’t seen. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Give Me My Blood Back!

Today I get to cross an item off my bucket list- donating blood. Normally, such an event would not garner mention in a blog. However, most people don't donate like I do.

It all began in Stats class. Lately, Stats has become increasingly...complicated (sample formula: px(x)=P[X=x]=(M choose x)*(N-M) choose (n-x) all divided by (N choose x)), so I've grown a little resentful of the class. Unfortunately, an assignment was due, so I had to attend.

My Stats friends, Rachel and Dakota, seemed overly excited about something when I sat down. Before I got the chance to notice, though, I was asked, "Are you going to donate blood? You should donate blood."

"...but I like my blood..."

"Oh, you replace the blood you give within around 50 days," replied Dakota. "They barely take that much, too, like 2 small bags." She then mimed a bag about the size of a baseball.

That didn't seem too bad. But still, I wasn't sold.

"I need my blood. I'm accident prone. I lose enough already without giving it away."

This excuse wasn't good enough either. In case I forgot, Dakota reminded me that I'll get it all back in about 2 months, and they don't take that much.

"I'm not a fan of needles."

"But the needles are small and you barely feel a thing," Rachel chimed in.

To be honest, this all seemed pretty good. I've thought about giving blood before, but usually for not very long because the blood I have is doing a fine job of staying inside me. I like my blood inside me. I don't even know what type I am.

"Alright, I think I can do that," I relented.

This seemed to please them, and they began to describe when they first gave blood, and how often, and why they liked it so much, and how much free food was going to be there. Then class started and all was forgotten.

Except by me.

After another class of more letters than numbers, most of which were upper and lower case x, Dakota and Rachel turned towards the tunnel that lead to the Education building and said goodbye. This made it a little awkward since I had decided to follow them to give blood.

"Oh, you're coming this way, too?" asked Rachel.

"Ya. Is this the way to Education? You convinced me to give blood."

"Really? You don't have to," she replied.

"Ya, I'd forgotten we'd asked you!" laughed Dakota. Hey, I love being forgotten about.

So I continued to follow them towards the blood clinic set up in the Education building, though they still seemed confused that I was actually coming. Was I not supposed to? Now I'm confused.

Just before going inside, I pointed to the two girls in front of me and said, "If I faint, I'm blaming you," and we all laughed. Who faints from losing too much blood?

Since Dakota hadn't eaten anything, we went down to the cafeteria and she grabbed a sandwich while I ate an apple I packed. I felt a little hungry, but I had a burger for lunch along with some juice. I was sure I was going to be fine, even though I was a bit nervous.

Finally, we lined up to give away the precious fluid of life in our bodies. I totally wasn't having second thoughts at this time at all. I let Dakota and Rachel go ahead of me, who already had their blood donor cards ready to go. When it was my turn, I was asked if I had donated before, which I said no. The guy behind the desk got a little gleam in his eye and happily grabbed the roll of stickers beside him.

"These are for first-time donors, so the nurses can tell who's never done it before and can help you out. Just put it on your shirt and you'll be good to go."

Great. I love being singled out in a crowd.

The next part was to get a blood test for hemoglobin and stuff. I scored a 179, which is apparently super high and an excellent score. But to get it, they had to prick my finger. This looked like it would hurt a little bit. The volunteer grabbed my finger and squeezed the tip of it, while holding a small pink stabbing device that resembled a really tiny USB drive. I know the finger tip is sensitive, so I braced for a sharp little pain, but instead of going for the tip, she angled my finger ever so slightly and quickly pushed the pink thing into the side, which clicked, then she threw it away and began to squeeze blood from my finger. There was zero pain. It was even kinda cool. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad. Maybe sharp stabby things aren't to be feared, especially when they're pink. Maybe I'm nervous for nothing.

Now onto the survey. I only could answer yes for three of the first set of questions: Are you feeling good today, do you have a cold/flu/bug/whatever (getting over a cold), and have you been out of the country in the last year (Turkey and Greece trip)? There was one question about if I ever had a seizure or a coma or epilepsy or fainted, to which I said no solely on the fact of the first three. I had fainted a few times before, and even blackout out vision on a gondola once, but this made it seem more serious than I thought my incidents were. I did mention it to the interview lady, who seemed to think I should have put a yes there, but said it didn't really matter. It's quite rare for people to faint while giving blood.

Next was the interview about the more confidential things. Here, my blood pressure and heart rate were tested, both of which turned out fine. The lady interviewing and testing me complimented me on my large blood vessels. I can't say that's a first. She was really nice and helped relieve a lot of my nervous tension accumulated from waiting around. After having a nice chat about visiting Greece and Turkey and discussing the risk of malaria in such places (not in the places I was at, though) with the interview lady, I was ready to give blood. She handed me a bag of what seemed like 27 blood bags and 300 feet of tubes and told me to sit and wait for the nurses to call me. I thought I was only giving 2 bags. How much do they want from me? And just like that, I was nervous again.

Since I wasn't being called when I thought I should be, I began to read my book to kill some time. I started a new one on the life of Cicero, the famous Roman politician. So far so good. But before I could finish the page, I was up.

I was ushered to a large black chair that had a slight include to offer the maximum comfort...or, at least from something designed like a lawn chair. My arm was placed on the cushion on the side, then yanked up as the nurse began to weave the miles of tube around it. There were more nozzles than I ever could have imagined, and what looked like at least 2 different stems to flow into. Then the needle was revealed.

Small? Ya right. I've seem smaller plumbing pipes. It looked more like a straw with a needle, and it was going to be plunged into my arm. Wonderful. Then the nurse handed me a stress ball shaped like the earth. I giggled to myself. I had the whole world in my hand. She then told me to make a fist so the vein would stick up. As is my habit with any needle, I turned away before the nurse stabbed me. I felt it go in every inch. It was unpleasant, but not the worst needle I'd ever had. And just like that, blood began to pour out of me.

Besides the discomfort, it really wasn't that bad. I looked over at the guy beside me to watch him get stabbed (that doesn't bother me as much, for some reason), and saw blood spurt as the needle went in. I then wondered if mine had done that. I didn't see any blood on my arm, though, so I dismissed it. Rachel, now just finishing up giving blood, made faces at me, so I made them back. Then I noticed the nurse take some vials and stick them onto a part of the tube, one at a time, where they shot full of blood. I guess they wanted more than the bag, which was NOT baseball sized (more like 2 coke cans), but I didn't mind, because watching my blood shoot into them was kinda fun. Then I tried to get a good look at my blood bag below, but couldn't really see much. However, I saw enough to mentally claim, "Yeah, that's my blood." Yes, I'm a little weird.

And just like that, I was finished. Then nurse removed the straw-needle, which I again felt every inch, and told me to press a gauze pad on to heal it up. Well, that wasn't too bad. I think they only filled one bag, too. I'm practically done here.

Soon after removing the needle, though, I began to feel a bit light headed, which I took to be my body realizing that it just lost a lot of blood, and didn't consider it to be serious. I've felt light headed before, and usually recovered within a few seconds, so I didn't say anything.

"Dayton?"

That name. That's my name.

"Dayton?"

Why are they saying my name?

I looked around at the nurses standing around me. They kept saying my name. I wanted to say, "Ya?" but didn't. Couldn't. What was happening?

"Are you ok, Dayton?"

Finally, I felt I could speak. "Ya, I'm fine."

I then noticed I wasn't holding my gauze pad anymore. The nurse was. Why wasn't I doing that? I was also leaned way back in my chair that was originally upright. Then I noticed that there was another nurse standing beside me that wasn't there a few seconds ago. And another in front. The one beside me was wiping and arm my face with really nice, ice cold water.

"Dayton, you fainted on us."

Crap.

I couldn't believe I fainted. Well, not entirely. This would happen to me. But still, I fainted. It was more humorous than embarrassing, but only slightly.

My head felt warm, but the ice water was refreshing. The nurse apologized for messing up my hair, but I was ok with that. I've trained my hair to look amazing. Apparently, I caught everyone off guard. My complexion was normal and I gave no normal signs that I was about to pass out. But I have a real problem with subtlety. Within seconds of removing the needle, my body stiffened up and I was out cold. Thankfully, it wasn't while the needle was in.

I was then offered some juice and told to just sit and  relax for a few minutes to make sure I was ok. I felt shakey and a bit weird, but ok. Then I got up and joined Rachel and Dakota at the snack station.

You better believe I blamed them for fainting.

Monday, 11 November 2013

How to Fix Everything (or at least Stupidity)

I recently read an article titled "Abstinence is Unrealistic and Old-fashioned." You're probably thinking the same things I first thought when I saw the title: "Why the heck is a Christian guy posting this on facebook? Is there something I don't know about him? Has he fooled us ALL???"

Or something like that.

The article is actually a critique of the issue and in support of abstinence. It was a very interesting read, and made me think of the messages that our culture is sending us. Why would a teacher (spoiler alert) tell his student that abstinence isn't practical anymore, and it's better to explore sexuality? That's pretty alarming.

However, I found something even worse. One of the comments said something along the lines of, "I wouldn't have a problem with this is you stated it as your opinion, not as truth. Sex is important in a marriage, so you should practice. THERE IS NO RIGHT AND WRONG! I'M A BIG STUPID IDIOT! BLAH BLAH BLAH!"

At least, that's how I remember it.

Several other people had the same or similar issues with this comment as I do, judging from the endless list of replies to this person. A lot of them said exactly what I was thinking, but none seemed to touch on my biggest issue: the claim that there is no right or wrong. Yes, this person actually said that (in all caps, too). It's an issue I've had in some of my classes at the U of S here as well. The belief that there is no right or wrong, only personal experiences and mentality that shapes our individual morals.

Do you see the contradiction?

If you don't, that's ok. I was in a Philosophy class when this idea was first brought to me and it blew my mind. The contradiction is that to say there is no right or wrong is based on the belief that this statement is truthful, or right. So you shouldn't actually be able to say this with a straight face. It's a similar phrase to "There is no absolute truth," which is an absolute truth statement. It's an immediate contradiction, which renders the initial statement false. Even to follow the statement with everyone has their own morality is saying that right and wrong exists, just on an individual level.

Ok, so what about ignoring the first statement and focusing on personal morality? Consider the example of Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot. These people acted on their own judgement. They believed that they were helping their nation/people by getting rid of the opposing force. For Hitler, it was the Jews; Stalin, political enemies; and Pol Pot...ok, so I don't know much about him, just that he's considered evil for some sort of genocide thing. Google it (I will later). Some researchers have even claimed mental impairments that allowed them to do these unspeakable atrocities, because no regular human could do that. This points to the existence of a universal standard to which people can be considered evil.

Therefore, if something can be considered evil, there must also be it's opposite, or at least the idea of it, which provides an understanding of what evil is. Evil is a comparative claim. We only consider Hitler to be evil because he is so far from our understanding of what good is. So if there is a universal evil, there is also a universal good. It is through this good that we base our understanding of evil from, not vise-versa. The Good is a topic that has been discussed since the time of Plato and Socrates. In fact, the beginning of Plato's Republic goes through this argument also exactly by taking three popular views and then refuting them one by one. These views are still almost parallel to the majority of views expressed today on the Good.

Hmm...that's interesting.

So, really, societal beliefs really haven't changed much since ancient Greece. It's all repeats through history. The only thing that changes is the technology we use to express it. Every generation seems to believe that they are the best and most advanced, and the previous generation regards the present generation as the worst and most degraded people. Since people killed each other for sport in Rome and there were celebrations to gods that was basically sleeping around with everyone, I don't think we're getting that much worse. It's all our narrow perception.

So why do we still believe/do all these things if it's a) happened a million times before and b) been proven to be false by Philosophy?

Simple: education.

I believe our high school education could use the addition of philosophy classes. This might be in the form of an ethics class, or framed more in a historical context (history of thought). It could even be added to present courses, like Health or Social Studies or English. This would provide the basic knowledge of some elementary philosophical principles that would help students become much more knowledgeable and wise adults.

"But Dayton! Philosophy is hard! The language is difficult and the concepts can leave people even more confused! Even if they didn't, they would still need to find teachers qualified to teach these subjects! Your idea is impractical!"

Yes, so maybe this is a little impractical, but not as much as you might think. First, our generation is in the mess it's in now because of laziness. We don't want to work hard for our rewards. We want instant fame through a viral video. We want the instant pleasure of sleeping with dozens of people before marriage. If it's easy, we want it. But since when did something worth while come from not working? The YouTube celebrities put in hours and hours on projects. They spend their money on equipment in order to make better content and travel to spread their brand. It's not lazy stuff. Hard work=better rewards. Ask anyone who's ever worked for anything ever.

Besides, teens already look at Shakespeare in class. That language is tough and there are layers upon layers of thought and analogy that is definitely not all looked at in school. Yet we study it anyways in order to get a better understanding on literary works considered to be some of the greatest of all time. So throwing in a little Plato and his analogy of the Cave or discussion with the three perspectives on the Good wouldn't be that big of a stretch. As for effective teachers, well, maybe this would help get rid of the crappy ones like the one mentioned in the article I read if they were required to have taken Philosophy courses in college or university. Teachers should be developing minds in order to think for themselves, anyways, not shoving facts down throats. That's why I want to be a teacher. I want to get kids to think about things and discover the joy of learning. Cause learning is so cool. Getting your mind blown is awesome.

With the influence that media has on our society today, I think this is more important than ever. To add philosophy in school would be to combat the negative trends that are consuming the youth. What is the Good? What is Justice? Love? Wisdom? Prosperity? Philosophy addresses it all. They may seem basic, but the basic is always the last thing to be considered.