Monday, 25 August 2014

House Warming

This past week, I moved into a house with 3 other guys I knew from Briercrest. Before that, I was living in a bachelor suite over near Broadway St, which I had been in for about a year while attending the U of S, and then living and working here in Saskatoon during the summer. This was not the worst place I could have found. There was an ice cream shop a block from my building, you could walk downtown (if you wanted) or to Broadway, where there was a tea shop, a cheese store, a cupcake place and a music store. It was generally quiet, though you would hear sirens and concerts from across the city. But when the opportunity came to move out, I leaped on it. Because overall, the bachelor life was…well, let’s put it this way…

Here are the top 25 reasons why my new house is better than my bachelor apartment:

1. It’s a house.

2. There are actual rooms. I can leave my bedroom, go up the stairs into the kitchen, make breakfast, then take it to the dining room, eat it, then relax in the living room with a book. In the apartment, this was one room.

3. I don’t have to clean the entire house when company comes. If my room’s a mess, I can just close the door and hang out in another room.

4.  I can actually have people over for stuff, like board games or whatever. My guest list no longer has a max capacity of 3, limited mainly by the amount of chairs I had. Which also means…

5. I now have more than 3 seating options for myself.

6. My guitars have their own room (for now).

7.  If I want to play guitar, I can crank it up. No more headphones every time I want to plug in the electric. And I can actually break out the acoustic without people complaining. Hopefully. I haven’t actually played when other people are here. But, in theory, they shouldn’t.

8. I have two basements. This may sound a bit funny, but to get to my room, you must go down a small flight of stairs and into the first basement. There’s also a bathroom and a small living room where my guitars are (yes, I’ve taken over the first basement). It’s not a true basement, but most of it is underground, so it counts. Then there’s the unfinished, or second basement. That’s where the laundry and storage is. There may be plans to convert it into a gaming center, but that needs some planning and such. But still, two basements.

9. I have a backyard.

    10.   There can be BBQs in a backyard.
    
    11.   There can also be fires in the backyard. Like in a fire pit. Not just there. I think that might be arson.
    
    12.   I could even just sit out there in the morning with a book and a coffee and enjoy the sunrise…if the weather would ever smarten up.
    
    13.   There’s a kitchen with enough counter space to prepare meals. That is, if we didn’t have so many appliances.

    14.   I have a dishwasher. You have no idea how happy I was when I saw that I had a dishwasher.

    15.   There’s laundry facilities that don’t force me to spend 11 dollars just to do my laundry for the week. Even if the utility bill comes out to that, it still feels better than plunking coins.

    16.   Speaking of laundry, I no longer have to save every loonie, toonie and quarter I get. Now I can spend them on Big Macs.
    
    17.   I can stand straight up in the shower when I wash my hair. The shower head no longer is aimed at my throat.

    18.   I generally don’t want to avoid the people who share my building.

    19.   I don’t have to brace myself for people every time the elevator door opens, because the times I don’t, there’s a person there I wasn’t expecting, and then I jump, then realize he’s an East Indian, and then hope he doesn’t think I’m racist. Too much stress.

    20.   I can stay home all day and still be socialable. Roommates are awesome.

    21.   Another roommate benefit: internet suddenly becomes that much cheaper per month. Also, rent. And utilities. Basically, everything is cheaper.

    22.   I don’t have to plan as much if I want to do something. For example, this evening Ben had a friend visiting and they wanted to go see Guardians of the Galaxy, and asked if I wanted to go. I said yes. That was the extent of the planning. Living alone requires actual effort in setting things up, then someone has to drive somewhere to meet up.

    23.   Ben and Carter have Costco memberships. Which means I have access to a Costco membership. As long as they drag me along.

    24.   The temperature is adjustable. In the house, you can leave the furnace off for very cool, or turn it on and select the temperature you desire. In the apartment, you can open all the windows, keep the lights off until ten at night, wear as little clothes as possible, and then continue to melt because you have zero control over the five floors of rising heat. I had my heater on for about 3 weeks last year. That’s it.

    
    25.   Did I mention it’s a house?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Whales Are People Too?

I have big news! There is a new social justice bandwagon to hop onto!

I was browsing my Facebook wall when I noticed a picture of a city by the ocean, but the water around it was stained red. The comment from the person who posted (someone I don’t even know, by the way, so I’m not even sure how I saw it) read, “You people are despicable,” and the heading of the article link stated, “Her child was torn from her body. It’s almost impossible to view these images.” Immediately, some sort of natural disaster comes to mind. Maybe a tsunami, pulling people into the ocean? But that doesn’t explain the “you people” comment. So maybe a genocide? I mean, it’s gotta be just the worst thing ever, right? The worst human cruelty on earth? So I clicked on the link. It took me to a page where pictures were posted of a small coastal village on the Faroe Islands during their whale hunt. There were slaughtered whales strewn along the beach, and their blood soaked the shored. One picture even portrayed a small boy sitting on top of a bloody whale carcass. I couldn’t even finish scrolling to the bottom of the page.

Mainly because I just didn't care.

Why? There’s so much public outrage (apparently) about the whaling practices of this super tiny island most people have never heard of before this issue arose. Why don’t I care about this movement against animal cruelty?

First is the location. Though I didn't know where the Faroe Islands were initially, if they’re hunting whales, then they’re either in East Asia, where whaling practices are slightly below legal, or up north somewhere, where whales are common and traditional food staples. My gut said up north. Sure enough, after a quick google, I discovered that this small group of islands is in between England and Iceland, and part of the Kingdom of Denmark (also, Denmark is still a kingdom. Who knew). Up in northern Canada, whales are killed for food, yet there is very little you hear about that. Because that’s what the Inuit do, and as Canadians, we are taught to respect native peoples traditional rights. Yet these people don’t get the same ones? According to another article I read, the people of the Faroe Islands have also practiced whaling for generations upon generations. So why is this so deplorable?

Well, one of the reasons is that somewhat recently, there was a huge push against China and Japan and their whaling habits. I believe this was a case of mass overfishing and sub-par killing tactics, which China always seems to be in trouble for. I remember watching a fairly disturbing video a while back which showed some of the practices in the fur industry, where animals aren’t even fully dead when they’re skinned. Of course, it was in China. My theory to China’s notoriety in this area is a combination of the huge population, authoritarian government and wide variety of food they consume. In order to satisfy all those desires for whatever food they like (like shark-fin soup), animals are killed in massive groups and because government regulation is lax in these areas, companies can save money with sub-par practices and not having the proper equipment. Because it all comes down to money. So now, with the pictures from the Faroe Islands going viral, these memories are brought up again and the worst is automatically assumed.

Now, if that’s correct, it makes sense about the outrage. But it doesn’t explain why it’s so furious. The Faroe Islands people are called despicable because they kill whales. That’s it. No one knows what else they do. So the problem becomes less about prevention and more about ignorance. Which is annoying. But not nearly as annoying as my last point.

After reading a response to the whaling pictures supporting the right for the Faroe people to fish whales like they have for generations, one thing became fairly obvious: the biggest driving factor of this social movement is animal rights.

Now, I do have to admit, I am not well researched in this issue. I read a news article and a half about it. I googled where the Faroe Islands were. That’s pretty much all I’ve heard of it. But it vividly reminds me of another group I have more knowledge with, which is PETA. Most people I know would agree with me in saying that PETA is straight up crazy. I remember when they wrapped up naked supermodels in clear plastic in order to make a point about eating meat. I also remember when they made a mini-game based on Pok√©mon, but arguing that it was supporting abuse towards animals. Both those are HUGE over-reactions towards something that ISN’T A PROBLEM. So that doesn’t help my opinion of this whole whaling thing.
But the biggest thing that makes me completely right this off as another internet social movement is that it’s arguing that whales and dolphins, because of their high intelligence and advanced family structures, deserve rights of their own.

No.

No no no no no no no.

Animals don’t get rights. They get survival. People get rights, because we’ve figured out that the best way to live is to have some sort of government with laws, and that we can’t simply run around doing whatever we please. This was done with logic and rational thought. We figured out that killing each other over a mate isn’t right, and should be punished. We figured out that eating each other would quickly wipe us out. We figured out that grabbing a mate whenever we want is also bad and should be punished, because if one person has rights, so does another. Religion has given us a great guide in those. God basically commanded all those things, along with a few others, in Exodus. But we don’t have to follow them. We’ve figured out that it helps to. That’s why we have rights. Animals haven’t figured those out yet, so they don’t get people status. They get animal status, which means no rights.

But because we have rational thought and the ability to think in future and past tense, as well contemplate our own existence, we realize that we have to respect and take care of animals. It doesn’t mean that we have to treat them as equals, because they are not equal to us, but that we shouldn’t kill all the cows because we want steak. We’re smart about raising beef, so that we can have beef for many many years. This goes for any other animal that is eaten in this world. It also helps to remember that God created all the animals, and we should respect all that God created, because God didn’t make something for no reason.

Sadly, some people haven’t figured this out, as there have been actions passed giving whale and dolphin relatives the right to life. The animals didn’t decide this. They had it forced on them by people who think they’re doing the right thing. They’re not. If a whale wants the right to live, then it can argue it in a court of law.

So this is nothing more than an internet fad. Someone found some bloody pictures and now everyone hates the people of the Faroe Islands. I’m sure they’re super nice, too. Anyone remember Kony? No? Exactly. 2 years ago, there was a movement to raise awareness about Kony, a dictator in Africa (I can’t even remember where), who was using child soldiers. And why were people supporting that? Because kids shouldn’t be soldiers. That’s obvious. But nothing ever happened, and everyone forget about it in a few months. The organizers even dropped it. It all started because kids are so cute, and now they’re brainwashed and killing people. Now it’s the adorable baby whales, who are slaughtered right in front of their parents. There are so many other REAL things to be enraged over, like the overfishing of tuna in the Mediterranean, but have you ever seen a tuna? Not a pretty fish. It’s the cute factor. That’s really the driving force behind this.


Now, it’s up for everyone to decide what they want to support. But it’s always good to think about it first before jumping on the social bandwagon. As for me, I’m going to support the rights of the Faroe Island people to hunt responsibly. And though I wouldn’t join the hunt, I’d sure eat with them. Fresh whale meat sounds tasty. 

I could go on for much longer about how much I hate the animal right groups, but I'll spare you my ranting. So here's the link to the article I read. It has a bunch of interesting stats that'll make you think. http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9126932/why-we-should-let-faroe-islanders-hunt-whales/

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.