Wednesday, 30 January 2013

My Flood Story

Yet again, Brisbane has been flooded with an unprecedented amount of water. If you know statistics you can argue that, but the important fact is that a lot of people have lost a lot of things, including other people in this latest disaster.
One ex-Tropical Cyclone “Oswald” swept across the East coast of Australia, causing rain and strong winds for days on end. This caused flooding and rapid-flowing water in many cities and low lying areas. I don’t have the ability to get all the details, because some of them are still unfolding at time of writing. However, this is not the first time we have been flooded thanks to a cyclone. In 2011, we also suffered at the hands of Cyclone “Tasha”. In that instance, Australia was already suffering from flooding, and the cyclone merely exacerbated it, with increased rainfall. The storm itself was quite weak, but the rains came down by the truckloads. Many places, including Brisbane CBD, were flushed with water. Throughout both of these situations, I was in a relatively privileged condition. My family and I have always had the luxury of living at the top of a hill or in the very least in places higher than the surrounding areas. We never will suffer from flooding except in the event of an apocalyptic flood. But I have seen the events of this flood. Although I have never been in the centre of this mess, I have stood at the very edge and seen the destruction this has wrought. The Word of the Day is ‘INUNDATED’.
Inundate /’inundayt/ v.t., To overspread with, or as with a flood; flood; deluge; overwhelm: To inundate surrounding country; to be inundated with work.

 It’s always been sort of a joke. Admittedly, a harsh joke. Gallows humour, you’d call it. That bastard, Thesaurus, doesn’t have many synonyms for ‘flood’, so for both of these cases of flooding in Brisbane, the news is peppered with the only word that sounds intelligent, ‘inundated’:
  “Aldershot houses inundated as areas isolated by floodwaters
  “Homes in South Grafton inundated with flood waters
  “Inundated mines out of action for weeks
  “Western suburbs inundated by rain
And in countless spoken reports, it’s the only verb used to describe how towns have been affected. But I don’t like them using that word.   “But wait,” I hear you say, “The Absurd Word Nerd doesn’t like a word? How can this be?!” No, it’s the word I don’t like. It’s the context. Certainly, the news needs to have some level of authority. They are often the ones providing emergency numbers and vital information for those in these at-risk or low-lying areas. People need to believe in these sources of information, so they aren’t doing the wrong thing. They need to take the emotion away and give clear, truthful information.
But I am here to put it back. Because what I saw in 2011 wasn’t Brisbane being ‘inundated’. It was Brisbane drowning.
It was early morning, and I’d just left Kelvin Grove to go to the city. I was living with some schoolmates in a share house deal, and we didn’t watch much television because it was loud, and six young men couldn’t always agree on what to watch, so I hadn’t seen the news. Anyway, I was headed to the city to go to the doctor. At the time I was suffering from Depression, and I was due for a new prescription. I headed to the city at, I think about nine o’clock or ten. I took the bus. Things seemed normal at the time, even if it was raining a little, but I had just woken up and was under-medicated so I didn’t really care what was happening around me. I got to the doctor’s office and waited in their room there for about an hour and a half. It wasn’t too eventful. But I remember as I waited there I kept overhearing people talk about being ‘stuck’. One of the others waiting was on the phone, convincing his boss that he could work at home. Some of the nurses were saying that not everyone came in because roads were blocked. Some people were calling family, but I didn’t eavesdrop on their personal conversations, I didn’t pay much heed because I didn’t much care. I eventually got to see the doctor, and got my prescription pretty quick. I didn’t think about it at the time, but the doctor didn’t really chat to me. He usually asked how the family was and all of that small talk nonsense. This time was very clinical, very clear and I walked out in less than ten minutes with a new script. I’d like to think (for dramatic purposes) that he was worried about the flood. But truth be told, I think it’s because I wasn’t in a talkative mood. I left the doctor’s office, and the first thing that struck me was the Chinese place next door. It was closed, and there was a sign on the door. It said something along the lines of ‘Closed due to flood’. I remember snickering at the sign. I imagined some poor sod, wading through chest-high water to get some Chinese food. Then he’d see the sign and only then realize he’d walked all this way for nothing. Anyway, I thought the Chinese place was just an anomaly. One paranoid soul trying to get a day off work. But a few stores down the line, I saw sandbags. And I crossed the street to see more stores which were closed and had sandbags piled up either outside or just inside the doors. I started to wonder how serious this flood thing was. It was around about then that I got the phone call. At the time I was sort-of going out with this girl. [It’s a long story, much longer than this one. Suffice to say that it ended. So for her sake I won’t mention her name.] She called and asked me how I was doing. I said that I was wet and confused. She asked where I was, so I told her I had just gotten to the CBD. That’s when she got worried. She explained to me that the city was flooding, and that the best thing to do was to get out. I disagreed, explaining that my parents lived in an apartment at the time, and we’d be fine up there on the fourth floor.
All these people around me, struggling to get to safety. And yet me, in the warning zone, was walking calmly home.
I spent the night there, watching the news, and the next day I went home. back at the Kelvin Grove house, we watched a lot more news. It felt so odd because everyone around me was, essentially, unaffected. But the news kept showing these horror stories. Thirty-five or so people had died, countless others had lost everything.

But one story caught our eye. I think it was a week later or so, when some of the leaders in this crisis were asking for helpers. Volunteers, to aid in the clean-up effort. One of my housemates suggested we help.
Feeling guilty for being so comfortable during the crisis, I agreed with him. And we ended up organizing for a few of us to travel out and help. We went there in my roommate's mother's car.

The road was the cleanest spot. Either the rain had come down drains, or cars had cleared it as they drove through. But it was still gritty, like badly made sandpaper.
All of the lawns squelched underfoot. If you could call them lawns. They were all brown, and so soaked that every step turned a small patch of wet, brown grass into a foot-print shaped chocolate pudding. Then the houses. They didn’t look too bad, just a little dirty, where the dirty water had dried. But they just looked okay, almost every houses had a pile out the front. This stuff had once been belongings. But every wooden chest of drawers, bookshelf, table or desk had swollen, cracked and gutted open like a fallen tree. Some chipboard pieces of furniture had been reduced to a thousand splinters, barely kept together by soggy plastic faux-wood. There were couches that were soaked through and mouldy. In each pile there were televisions and computers, some looking like a novelty aquariums with water in the screens, but most were cracked. Not from the floods, but from the manner in which the owners had discarded it on the lawn in disgust.
Every pile was taller than me, a sick monument to the lives that had been destroyed. Like some cruel god had lifted the houses shaken them up and poured their belongings by the street. And the smell was like shit and tears. A salty mix of mud, sea-water and torn-up plantlife.
I couldn’t help that first day. There were so many volunteers that there was a mix-up. The organizers told us to wait aside as others helped, for fear that too many people would get in the way. These were people’s homes after all they’d been through. A thousand strangers walking through, throwing your once-cherished birthday presents, belongings and memories onto the lawn . . . you could see some of the owners struggling to keep their composure.
And like everyone else, their building looked just a little dirty on the outside. But (I fear, also like everyone else) the inside was another matter entirely. The whole place smelt like mould and wood. Others helped to remove dead carpets, caked in with crud. We shifted out wooden furniture including some ruined billiards tables, throwing it out the back in a pile to be collected as rubbish. Some of the windows were cracked, but most had been washed a filthy brown. The ceiling was also swollen from the water, and we helped them to remove most of it so that it wouldn’t rot and fall on people.
I just spent most of my time sweeping. People would wet the floor with hoses, buckets or mops, and I helped sweep the muck out the door. It wasn’t easy, and the dirt was in pretty good, but we managed to clear most, if not every, concrete surface.
We didn’t fix the whole place. We couldn’t, a lot could not be salvaged. But by the end of the day we had washed the windows, and someone was helping to hose some of the crap out of the lawn, so it was a step in the right direction. For our help, the owners gave us a simple lunch and a lot of words in thanks. I can’t remember what they fed us, but I was more than grateful that they bothered to give us anything, given they had lost so much and probably had to count every cent.
I left that day feeling like I had done something. Not a great deal, but something to help those in need. They had gone through a trial, and managed to come out with a smile.

In the end I got two certificates, one for each day I helped out, but I only kept the second one. Partially because I didn't do anything on the first day, but mostly because they spelled my name Mattjer, which isn't even a word. It was all over, and I never thought I'd see it again.

That is, until a week ago.

I heard about it on the news, and then for a full week, it seemed, there were heavy winds and rains; not only on the news but outside my window every night as I tried to sleep. But for that full week, the only downside for me was that the sound of running water meant I had to pee more than usual. But again, I am left unaffected.
Perhaps I am lucky, but more likely it is my parents being forward thinkers in their real estate purchases, that has kept me not only safe, but comfortable during both of these tragedies.
And this time, I am just thinking that even with all these news stories about the floods, and the rising number of deaths (five, last I heard), the one thing missing is that emotion.
These people have lost everything, and yet the newsreaders seem to tell us nothing but numbers. So that is how I plan to help this time. This was my story of how I saw the floods, and I have tried to express in my words how I feel about the whole mess. If you have a flood story, I ask that you share it.
The news is there to tell us the facts. But I want to hear the stories. The emotions, the devastation and the truth. Because I am still unaffected. I mean, a tree fell down in our front yard, but it hit no one, never hit anything and broke nothing but itself. I feel nothing this time around but surprise. Hell, I barely felt anything the last time, except guilt.

So for those like me who see nothing but numbers, I want to hear your words . . . What is your Flood Story?
These people have lost everything, and yet the newsreaders seem to tell us nothing but numbers. So that is how I plan to help this time. This was my story of how I saw the floods, and I have tried to express in my words how I feel about the whole mess. If you have a flood story, I ask that you share it.
The news is there to tell us the facts. But I want to hear the stories. The emotions, the devastation and the truth. Because I am still unaffected. I mean, a tree fell down in our front yard, but it hit no one, never hit anything and broke nothing but itself. I feel nothing this time around but surprise. Hell, I barely felt anything the last time, except guilt.
So for those like me who see nothing but numbers, I want to hear your words . . . What is your Flood Story?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Dark Word


The latest Quentin Tarantino movie, “Django Unchained” has been out in Australia for a little while now. I haven’t gone to see it, but that’s because it’s been raining in Queensland for the past week (even during Australia Day celebrations!). And since I have to walk to the movie theatres (until I get my car) I don’t want to get drenched just for the sake of a movie. Especially some Tarantino flick.
But ever since this came out, there has been controversy of alleged racism being slung at the film from various hyper-sensitive groups, mostly because of the use of a particular word within the film. Now, being the Absurd Word Nerd, you can bet your arse that I have an opinion on the matter.
Unfortunately, people can take offense even with the most harmless uses of these terms. So I must preface this by saying that I apologize for any offense you misinterpret from this post. However, I don’t apologize for invoking my right to free speech, because I’m not here to insult people for being black or promote racism. I’m here to teach you something.
The Word of the Day is ‘NIGGER’.

Nigger /nigə/ n. (offensive) 1. A Negro. 2. A member of any dark-skinned race.

Because it is not often used, a lot of people do not truly understand the word nigger and what it means. In this regard, everyone (yes, even black people) can use a little education. I find a fun way to explain it is by answering that age-old question:
  “How come black people can say ‘nigger’ and it’s fine; but when white people do it, it’s considered racist?

Well, we already know nigger means ‘members of a dark-skinned race’ or ‘Negro’. To be clear, the word ‘Negro’ just refers to those of African descent, or with identifiably African traits, so nigger just means, broadly ‘a dark-skinned person’.
This is not insulting, and alone is not offensive, although I admit it is a bit blunt. The problem with the word is that we don’t live in a vacuum. So depending on who says the word, and the manner in which they say it, the context of the word can make it quite rude.

You know what I like to do, for fun? I call people who wear glasses ‘four-eyes’. I think it’s funny, because I have a pair of glasses that I wear constantly (or I’d be blind).
It’s fun, because a term used to insult people who wear glasses is removed of all crueller meaning, because I am not segregating or insulting people with glasses. I can’t, because I wear them myself. So, in essence, what I am saying when I call someone ‘four-eyes’ is:
  “Hey you, over there, you’re just like me.
It’s exactly the same with the word nigger. When a black person points out another’s dark skin, they are pointing out the ways they are the same. That’s not so say that a black person calling another ‘nigger’ can’t be racist, because it’s all dependant on context. But on the very shallow surface of this context it is an inclusive term, akin to calling them ‘kin’ or ‘brother’, which is used by black people for that very purpose.
However, since I don’t have dark skin, if I call a black person a nigger it would be pointing out how they are different from me. It is an exclusive term, because it is deliberately pointing out our differences to separate and segregate us. Not only that, but by reinforcing that difference (especially one as self-evident as colour) there is the subtle implication that since it is a difference worthy of note, then that difference must be inherently wrong.
And if you believe what some people say, using the word is also a way of reminding black persons that they were slaves, and implies that you believe they are inhuman (as a majority of American people once believed) because of the ‘historical context’ of the word, pointing out that cruel period of American history where the blacks were considered subhuman, and people were forced into slavery for their ethnicity.

It can get pretty heavy for one word . . . unfortunately, I am sorry to say, a lot of it is bullshit.

No matter what the ‘historical context’ of a word is, it has nothing to do with the current context. And the context of ‘nigger’ is that we have abolished Slavery and Racism [for the most part] in first world countries.
That being said, to anyone who reads this thinking I am ‘brave’ or ‘edgy’ as a white person using the word nigger: Grow the fuck up.
I am not making up that dictionary entry. It specifically says it is a noun that is offensive.
I don’t appreciate people telling me what words I can use, but I sure as shit don’t like people using words to hurt, harm or ridicule others in a way they don’t deserve. And to be clear, black people do not deserve to be insulted in this way.

There is no getting around the fact that, when said by a white person, it is implicitly exclusive. And that is why I don’t use the word ‘nigger’ against others. Even though I see nothing wrong with the word, as a person with pale skin, using the word would be unnecessarily inflammatory.
That doesn’t mean I can’t use it. I just don’t want to. At least, not right now.

Because I want to be able to use the word. Mostly, because I like to write fiction. There are more than a few examples wherein I would like to use the word either to show the prejudices of a certain fictional character, or to show the inner strength of a dark-skinned character towards whom the insult is directed, or many other similar stories.
There is a lot of emotion, drama and narrative to be gleaned from racism and prejudice, and if I am to talk about it, the word ‘nigger’ is an important part of that Discourse.

This brings me neatly back to the movie ‘Django Unchained’. Characters in the movie use the word all the time. It is used by the Caucasian, American characters many times to demean, differentiate and define black people. However, this is perfectly acceptable, because this is a fictional story that is about racism!
The term is being used by racist characters, in a contextually accurate way. Some people still think of this:
  "Well, I don't like the word, even in context. I don't like to hear it, because it is a racist word."

And yes, I agree that it’s not nice, and in a perfect world, no one would use any racist terms; but the movie isn’t set in a perfect world, and does not ascribe to be. Rather, it is trying to show a horrible, racist world that we were once a part of, and why it was a bad idea which we had to rectify.
‘Django Unchained’ provide examples of using the word, not to affirm racism, but to deter it. So although the film uses the word offensively, the purpose of the film is to demonize those that use it to offend.

I can understand why people don’t like people to use the term, because it is inherently blunt and potentially offensive, and I can agree that I wish we lived in a world where we would never have to use them. But I will never agree with people who say that certain words can’t be used just because they have bad meanings or have a cruel history. Even people that say “just don’t do it, because I don’t like it” because they are just dismissing the idea, rather than confronting it.
After all, words are just ideas, put into a fluent and transmissible form. So fear of words is no different from fear of ideas.
Sure, racism is a bad idea, and you should be afraid of prejudiced and proactive racists. But stopping people from using the word, isn’t going to stop the idea. It’s just going to make it harder to find.
Because you should not be dismissing the word, you should be dismissing the asshole using it. Because no matter how cruel a word is, or the history that created it: You should never be afraid of language.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Haven Sent



I get a coffee cup out of the cupboard and place it by the kettle.
  “A Blog post . . . a blog post . . .” I say to no one in particular. You see, my unofficial update schedule had again arrived before an idea, and I was at a loss for ideas. “I could always just raid my backlog . . .”
I open the fridge door and grab the first bottle of milk. It’s almost empty, but some fortuitous soul restocked the fridge, so there’s a full carton behind it, I take them both to the bench.
  “It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those meta, fictionalized features. That was kinda my trademark way back when, in December . . .”
I ready myself to make a cup of coffee, but I’m lost. Something is missing. For the last few nights my sleeping pattern had been, shall we say . . . irregular. So to right myself, I had not slept the night before, planning to spend the whole day awake and crash that afternoon. A great plan.
Unfortunately my secret weapon, coffee, was a lot harder to make without eight hours of sleep.
  “Teaspoon!” I exclaimed. Of course, not loudly enough to wake anyone in the house, but loud enough for you to read. I head to the cutlery drawer and search for a spoon. I grasp the florally designed handle of a long, slender, silver spoon. We have a random mix of spoons within the drawer. Long and pointed, short and thick, round and thin. But this was my favourite. The size of the bowl holds the perfect spoonful of coffee, or sugar; the stem was a practical length for my coffee cup. The floral designs were isolated at the terminal tip, leaving the business end unadorned, and the bowl tip was pointed, for manual scooping. The perfect spoon.
  “I love having the right spoon for my coffee,” I say to the cutlery drawer as I close it. I head to the coffee bench, piece together the elements of my brown elixir, add ice and milk and head to my room, stirring it.
  “Wake up, Dictionary!” I say, taking the old book from its place on the shelf. As the ancient codex grumbles under the covers, I take a sip of my coffee. It’s perfect, in no small part because of the spoon that brewed it.
  “I love it when the coffee’s done,” I say, referencing Wheezy Waiter, a really cool guy who, alone, validates Youtube’s existence.
  “Sleeping . . .” grumbles Dictionary, ignoring internet and pronunciation references “n. 1. The condition of being asleep. 2. A state no longer applicable to Dictionary.”
  “Sleep later,” I say, “I need a word.”
Dictionary groans, loudly and obnoxiously.
  “Come on, I just need a good word for ‘favourite’. I want to talk about some of my favourite things. But not favourite. Some other word.”
  “Thesaurus . . .” it grumbles.
  “I thought you said Thesaurus was an asshole.”
  “You /yū/ pron. An asshole. See also, Thesaurus.”
  “Look, I just need a word. One word, and you can go back to sleep.”
Dictionary thinks about it for a moment, before it concedes.
  “Right. Now I’m thinking, like, things that are just your favourite, because they make you feel at ease. At peace, you know? Like when things fall into place, and the world feels better, safer and pleasant . . .”
  “ . . . Haven,” says Dictionary, after a moment’s thought.
  “Heaven?”
  “/hey-vən/," it reiterates, "n. 1. A harbour or port 2. Any place of shelter and safety; asylum; sanctuary.”
  “Safety and sanctuary, huh? Yeah, Haven sounds right to me. Thanks Dick.”
  “Goodnight.” Says Dictionary. But I doubt it knows what that means because not only does it give no definition, but it is clearly early morning. I place Dictionary back on the shelf anyway, and start my blog post:


>>Today, I started my morning thinking about those things that I love. Because I was listening to my ‘ Nocturnal’ playlist of songs with soft beats, with the night’s darkness still lingering outside my window, and I just felt content. So today, since my last list was so much fun to write, I thought I’d continue with another list. A much more personal list. A list of things that make me feel safe, and at home, and like the world should keep on spinning for another few years, just so moments like this can exist. These are my:

TOP 10 PERSONAL HAVENS

Number Ten: Wiki-surfing.
On Wiki-based websites they offer links to their other pages. So as I read and indulge in new information, if I then come across a new concept I want to know more on, I can open up that can of worms, and learn even more. Wiki-surfing is when you keep clicking on links and amass a whole bunch of these tabs, and then finally ‘ride the wave’ and absorb all of that information. And for me, when I finally close that last tab, I feel perfectly content. I wanted to read something, and I then read all there is to know on it. I am not only now informed (or just entertained), but I finished a task I set myself. I have feasted on knowledge, and completed a goal. There’s no better feeling than that, except for the next nine . . .

Number Nine: Rain Outside a Window.
For one thing, I have mild tinnitus. So in a seemingly silent room, I will often hear a persistent high-pitched whine, like a bee is screaming in agony. So I like ambient sound. But rain is more than that. Each individual drop makes its sound. A single drip that exists, and then disappears forever. But this one sound, amongst the orchestra of millions upon millions more raindrops, creates a harmony in this downpour of finite, singular tears. It helps calm and clear my mind. Not only does it silence the screaming bee, but also those little niggling thoughts. The mental minutia of an operating brain: nose twitches, skin itches, twerks, thoughts and brain bubbles just become a blank, white slate for ideas. And even if I don’t want to write a story, knowing that I can have an instant, clean white canvas on which to create, puts me at peace.

Number Eight: Having the Right Ingredients.
In the words of Marco Pierre White: “Gastronomy is the greatest therapy an individual can ever be exposed to.” Which is quite true, and so I do, occasionally, like to cook. But not some grand meal something small: French Toast; a Simple Pasta Sauce with Fettuccine; Egg & Bacon on Toast & Westernized Nachos are my favourite dishes. Because they are simple, smaller recipes that I can make my own, experiment in and play with, while still retaining those uncompromising, beautiful flavours. But there’s one thing that makes the moment that much sweeter: Spontaneity. If I am in the kitchen, and I just want to make a sandwich, but then realize we have one of those key ingredients. I’ll start to look. I’ll find more bits and pieces and place them on the bench. And if it turns out I have everything for a recipe, and all of the right ingredients, then I feel a wave of excitement as the adventure begins. It is a moment built by random chance that I celebrate every time, with my feast of a single dish, and I love it.

Number Seven: Feeling Pensive.
Feeling pensive is, essentially, just thinking about things, but that does not do the term justice. Because I don’t mean when you are trying to remember something, or trying to solve a problem. It is more like daydreaming, but while fully conscious of your mind. Not so much “letting your mind wander” as it is “wandering through your mind”. I like it because, when I am feeling pensive I am usually thinking about story stuff, or life, or people and the world around me. In essence, it’s my way of not taking the world for granted. Using my imagination to run a diagnostic on my logic and reasoning. And I like this feeling, because when I am done, I always feel right. As in correct, conclusively proven to be true. Because even if I was wrong about something I once knew, I now know what’s right! This is the more abstract item of the list, but don’t worry, the rest make more sense.

Number Six: Watching a Meaningful Film on my Own.
Some films should be watched in groups. But I find this is because ‘misery loves company’ and these types of films are either bad, stupid or romantic comedies [so: bad
and stupid]. And while I enjoy watching some action, comedy and romance films with others, some films I find it better to view with no distractions. No other stimuli. Just me, a dark room and a screen. That way I get to absorb the story. Feel the emotion and understand the characters the way the writer, director or cinematic artist wanted me to. Then, when it ends, I watch the credits, listening to the music as I let it come to a slow boil in my mind. Then when it ends, I get to lean back in my chair, and enjoy the contentment not of having ‘watched’ a film, but having ‘experienced’ it.

Number Five: One last, stiff drink
I like to drink alcohol. But I don’t like to get red-eye, where’s-my-pants, blackout drunk. At least, not all the time. I like to remember my experiences. For you non-alcoholics [here
alcoholic should be read as Australian] you may not understand enjoying a drink to get drunk. But for those that do, it’s good to do so amongst friends, and good company.
But when a night of hard drinking is coming to its end and everyone else is calling it quits, I like to enjoy those last moments with a drink. I get one last glass of whatever poison is on offer, and I sit alone amongst the debris, slowly sipping it. I let it sink in, and enjoy the moment. Because I know I have had a good night with friends, and I am mulling over the events in my mind and will soon go to bed and drift into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

Number Four: Watching a Sunrise, when it’s Cold.
I don’t like sunsets. To me it just means ‘The End’. And while you can say the colours are pretty, to me it’s just the sun giving up and going to bed. Which is why I like sunrises. They are full of potential, and awaken the day. And they can be pretty. But I’m not fond of aesthetics for aesthetics sake, I think that true art is about meaning, not just colour. But when it is a cold morning, and the house is chilled to a blue coldness, that sunrise means so much more. Because not only does it mean beginning and awakening and fresh life, but as the sun’s orange light rolls over my skin, the warmth of it becomes a part of me, and cooks up my core, so that my body becomes alive with the oncoming heat of the day. It’s an invigorating, bright and beautiful kind of serenity that only the Australian Sun can provide on a cool morning. And it makes me feel at one with the entire world that is coming alive at that very moment. A wonderful feeling.


Number Three: A Well-Made Cup of Coffee
I love coffee. It gets me up in the morning. I know, because when I don’t drink it I seem to drag around like a zombie that wants to melt back between the blankets. But more than that, I enjoy the flavour. It’s the perfect mix of smooth and sharp, and I really enjoy that taste of coffee . . .
But only when it’s done right. Yet the fact that I sometimes stuff up and get it wrong, makes it that much more special when I make it right. Too much sugar is sickly, too much coffee is bitter. But if you can hit that perfect harmony of ‘bittersweet’, then it’s a drink to worship. Just one sip is sweet and inviting, and smooth with the milk and the flavour of the beans. Then the caffeine seems to bleed into your veins, and you stretch and moan with the pleasure. Then the bitterness on your tongue starts to bite, teasing you like a lover. “Please,” it says “have a bit more . . .” and so you do, and that tantalizing taste starts the whole cycle over again. A good cup of coffee is more than a beverage. It’s a seductress.

Number Two: Writing a Good Short Story
I like writing stories, and when I finish writing a long story that I’ve been planning for months and months, that rush makes me feel like King Kong on cocaine. But that’s not exactly a haven, that’s too violent and raw. That should be a list of “Top 10 Favourite Drugs (that are Legal)”. But writing short stories is different. I didn’t spend months planning it, working out the scenes in my mental theatre or talking to the characters like they were real. I probably got the idea a week ago, and wrote it out on the weekend. And while I love those little ideas and enjoy fleshing them out, when I am done, I just feel a little buzzed. Like Donkey Kong on Pixie Sticks. But then, what really makes me smile, is that I then get to read my story. And in one sitting, I experience my writing like a reader, enjoying the fruits of my labour. So it’s all the fun of reading a good story, all while knowing that I was the one that made it happen. It’s a good feeling.

Number One, Soft Words in Darkness.

I like a good conversation. People use their words to express ideas; communicate and make their thoughts material. But good conversation is hard to find. People can say really stupid things, especially on the internet, and even some of my best friends can say inane, pointless shit that doesn’t even matter within the context of why they said it in the first place.
But I find the best way to get people to talk about what matters is in a quiet, dark place. I prefer outside, because of the ambient sound of nature (treating my tinnitus), but it should be at night, early morning or very late afternoon.
I find then, people tend to talk softly. Not in a whisper, just a low voice. I like this for a few reasons. Firstly, even the most annoying, whiny voice can sound pleasant when they speak softly; so it sounds nice. Secondly, It means everything that is said is punctuated by silence, so you are both heard clearly and forced to say what you mean more distinctly, so everyone becomes more social. Thirdly, because of the darkness there are no distractions, just listening to what is being said, or trying to improve the silence. Finally, and most importantly, that quiet, solemn atmosphere tends to make people more thoughtful, and prone to more meaningful and intelligent conversation.
So it’s kind of like Numbers Nine, Seven, Six & Two on this list, all rolled into one, with the added bonus that you don’t have to do it alone. Although, if you so choose, you can. I like the sound of my own voice, and in the early morning, after a sip of coffee, I like to softly read poetry to the darkness. It is a good atmosphere, but of course not as good as having a deep, meaningful conversation with a close friend in the dark, something I think we all need to do at some point, just for the pleasant sanctity of it.

I finish the post, and drain the last few drips of coffee from my cup. Then exhale with delight.
  "Today is a good day."
I look out the window at the late morning sky. The clouds above are dark and promising rain. And indeed, the house is quiet and empty, with Dictionary softly snoozing away.
"Hmmm . . . I might watch a movie," I say softly to myself. I get up ready to leave, but a thought lingers, makes me pause for thought, and glance back at the screen of my word processor.
  "It's a little self-centred isn't it? Personal Havens. Perhaps I could get some feedback up in here . . ."


- - -

That is a conclusive list of my top ten personal havens, but this doesn't have to be all about me. What about you? What do you consider your 'Personal Haven'? Do you enjoy one of mine? Or do you have a serene sanctuary, all your own?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Executive Augur


On this day, in 2013, Barack Hussein Obama II was publicly inaugurated as President of the United States for a second term. Some people don't like him, some people do. I don't much care about that. I don't believe politicians do much good either way, but just the fact that he's African-American sends a message to the world that America is not a sack full of racists, as we once viewed them.
But I'm not really here because I want to talk about politics, or racism or even really the presidency. Because I am the Absurd Word Nerd, and I want to talk about a word that people have been throwing around.
The Word of the Day is: 'INAUGURATION'.


Inauguration /in'awgyərayshən/ n. 1. An act or ceremony of inaugurating.


Wow. Thanks, Dictionary. That was really helpful . . .
But just to be sure, what does 'inaugurate' mean.


Inaugurate /in'awgyərayt/ v.t. 1. To make a formal beginning of; initiate; commence; begin. 2. To introduce into office, etc., with formal ceremonies; install.


Now THAT sounds a lot more familiar. And it makes sense. Barack was introduced into office, and it was a formal beginning. That is fascinating. But that's not the reason I bring up the word. I bring it up because I happen to know of another word that makes this one raise my eyebrow.
I know there exists a much older word, with obvious ties to this one. Dictionary? Can you helps us out, here?


Augur /'awgə/ n. 1. (In Ancient Rome) one of a body of officials charged with observing and explaining omens for guidance in public affairs. ♦v.i. 2. To be a sign; bode (well or ill).


You know, I am always fascinated by this sort of thing. Etymologies. Generally, words are built upon similar words, and you can see exactly what it means, because everyone has meant the same thing through generations. But as with this example the word 'inauguration', although now associated with pomp and ceremony, was once a much more spiritual and holy affair. to 'inaugurate' was to perform the duties of an augur, and essentially to divine the future through blessings and omens.

And on first glance, they may seem terribly unrelated. And yes, there are oddities in history that can show seemingly similar words having completely different meanings.
But I don't believe that is the case here. Think about it.


The purpose of the President's Inauguration is to begin his official term, and they continue it with celebration and, of course, a speech by the freshly hired president.
And what is the purpose of this Inaugural Address, if not to set a precedent? [Puns, gotta love 'em!]
Seriously, Obama read out his speech (which he apparently wrote by hand) for the purposes of setting the standard. Letting people know what he is doing, where he is going, and why he is the president you voted for. The Inauguration can be seen as a sign. A declaration of the duties he will uphold.

And in a poetic way, you could even say that all inaugurations could be seen as the fork in the road that could either bode ill, or bode well, for their term ahead of them. There are still those elements of old traditions. And, of course, when Emperors were brought into office, it is known they did so with the ministrations of that body of officials.

But it's not exact, and there's some give either way on how closely this new use of the word translates to Ancient Rome, but I believe you can see it in there, maybe if you squint. There is a beauty to the way language evolves, but we have to remember it's roots. Where it came from. It not only advises, but evolves what the language means. In fact, to express this idea, I don't think I can say it better than Barack Obama himself:


  'Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time . . .'


Words of the past do not always translate to the modern age. And in terms of religion, sooth-saying, ceremony, history and prejudice, I believe language will continue to shed away all the unneeded baggage and step into the modern age with a new life and vigour to them, to communicate new ideas. Because words truly are immortal, and as we evolve, words too must catch up with our culture, or they will remain reclusive terms, used only by old, dying men and risk being forgotten . . .


- - - 

That's all I have to say on the word 'Inauguration'. Unfortunately I've got a little time left here . . . hmm . . . what to say, what to say.
Well, for one, the timing here may seem a little late, but that's because I live in Australia. The Inauguration, it seems, happened on the 2
1st, and today is the 22nd, so it seems late. But for us, he was inaugurated today, because of the time difference. Unfortunately, I was asleep when it all happened. But I don't think I would have watched it anyway. This isn't about me, it's about Americans. And I don't care about politics.

Perhaps later, I'll better flesh out my own views on politics. Not next post or anything.

Huh . . . still got 200 more words to fill . . .

Well, I can tell you that I plan on another piece of blogfiction in the near future. I don't want to reveal too much, because I don't want to put too much pressure on it, but be warned: there will be more blogfiction. I also have a special blogfiction planned for Earth Hour. But since I'll put it on a little before then, I guess for those who want to read it, you should print it out (on recycled paper) and read it by candlelight, or you'd defeat the point of Earth Hour.

100 more words?


Gee, I'm really straining today . . . You know what? Since I'm not overly versed in politics, I'll ask you lot: Who on Earth should (and can) be President after Obama?I honestly don't know. Mitt Romney is just a joke, and I don't see him winning. Hilary Clinton was my best bet, but apparently she's getting old, eight years after her presidential campaign, so I don't know if she's got it in her. It could just be the media exaggerating her condition, but I don't know if she even wants to run for the presidency anymore.
I would just prefer Obama continue until he drop dead, but apparently you can only be president if you don't know what you're doing. So he's getting kicked out. But I ask you:
Who will be President after Obama?


There we go, that's enough words. I hope I can do a full post for next time. Until then, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, signing off.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A List Full of Cash Cows

The most fun I’ve had with this “Hollywood Dollars” trilogy is that I came up with it on a whim, because of the title of the first instalment. And naming them backwards from the “Man with No Name” trilogy. This means that, as an added bonus, the titles will sit in descending order in my archives. But the fact is, this is part 3.
If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2, and wish to read this in order, feel free to do so now. But it’s not necessary. In a year or so, the times will all be put out of whack anyway, since today I’m looking ahead to movies that are to be released in a year or so. But not just any movies, remember!
Because, the Word of the Day is ‘ADAPTATION’.

Adaptation /Adap’tayshən/ n. 1. The act or result of adapting; adjusting. 2. Literature a work rewritten for a different presentation: adaptation of a book for the stage.

Okay, This is promising to be a long post [Editor’s Note: Like REALLY damn long], since I’ve got a lot to say with these lists, so let’s do this part quick. Adapting another’s work to film is a tricky business. Once you take one thing, and change it into a different medium, it’s too different to be relative to its former self.
A lot of people say: “The Book’s better than the Film!
Humbug! I say. The only reason people think that is because you take a much longer time with a book. It’s a personal journey you travel at your own pace. But have you ever read a novelization of a film? I once read a Toy Story book. Spoiler Alert: (It sucked).
But some stories translate to screen better than others, and you can’t really generalize. So, I’ve looked at the upcoming film adaptations of the next year and I have categorized them to find the “Top 10” Best and Worst.
However, in my research, I came across quite a few films that just, well, weirded me out. I was either confused or left speechless. So I have included a third category for films that left me flabbergasted.
I also mention other film adaptations throughout the list, but please note, these are not ALL of the adaptations of the upcoming year. Seriously, there’s over a hundred of these. So any I don’t mention, I either know nothing about, or I need more information before I can formulate a proper opinion to elaborate further.
Now, Without Further Ado! Here we go!

A.W.N.’S TOP 10 FILMS I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO FOR 2013:

10. The Mask of Red Death
I love Edgar Allen Poe. Who doesn’t? I like what I’ve read, and although I haven’t read ‘The Mask of Red Death’, it’s premise of a freaky plague victim killing people in a manor house is great for a horror movie. But this movie now promises to place this story in Post-Apocalyptic London? Not to mention the only signed-on actress, Charlie Bond, looks eerily beautiful . . . where can I buy a ticket?
Of course, filmmakers are going nuts with old books with expired copyright, so we’re also getting not one, but TWO new movies about Mary Shelley’s monster: “Frankenstein” & “I, Frankenstein” (sadly not an Asimov crossover). While these movies don’t suck, they weren’t as good a cut as the Top 10.

09. World War Z
At first, I yawned at the prospect of a new zombie movie. Even based off a best-seller and with Brad “Joe Black” Pitt signed on. But what sold me was the new ‘feature’ of their zombies I saw in the trailer. Just look at zombies piling over one another. That’s freakin’ scary! And looks crazy awesome. Sure, I’d pay to watch that. What I won’t pay to watch is someone try to squeeze a romance plot out of a zombie movie called “Warm Bodies”. I’ll read the book maybe. Of course, then there was "The Forest of Hands and Teeth", which I didn’t even know was a zombie movie until I googled it. Sounds pretty cool . . . but just not as cool as Brad Pitt fighting zombies in WWZ. Sorry.

08. R.I.P.D.
I don’t know where I first heard of the graphic novel. But the “Rest In Peace Department” just ticks so many of my boxes. ‘Back from the Dead’ stuff is great for drama. Add in the ‘All in a day’s work’ ethic of a cop on the beat, and finally some monsters to fight? That’s a hell of a good movie, in my opinion. I think graphic novels are good fodder for film, in general. But this "Darkchylde" thing, while it has some creepy nightmare stuff, this just looks like softcore to me. There’s also "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", (but I’ve already seen a good Sin City, so I don’t care), and finally "Morgan Kane: The Legend Begins" which I’ve never heard of, so I’ll keep my eye on it, but 
I’m not looking forward to it like I am with R.I.P.D. and it’s premise. 

07. Pacific Rim
What is Pacific Rim adapted from?” I hear you ask. Why, Japanese monster movies, of course! In the movie, they call these monsters “Kaiju” in reference to the movie phenomenon, and the fact that the entire movie is a lead up and into just one monster fight? I think they’re giving this kind of film the scale that it needs. And with Guillermo del Toro at the helm, and Ellen McLain (aka GlaDoS) signed on to voice their computer, this films pedigree just gets better and better. Some might ask, “If I want to watch a ‘kaiju’ movie, why not just watch the “Godzilla” remake that they're promising?
Because if I wanted to watch Godzilla films, I’d watch Godzilla films. CG isn’t better than puppets of claymation, why would I watch someone else try to ruin a classic?

06. Ender's Game
Although, the aliens are called ‘buggers’, (make of that what you will) we’re ignoring Orson Scott Card’s homophobia for now, because this movie intrigues me. It’s the future: cool. Main character is a teenaged super-genius: wicked cool. He’s training for the war: okay. He trains in zero-gravity virtual environments with lasers: DUDE!
And there’s drama because other people hate Ender for being a genius. So yeah, I’m gonna watch it. I like sci-fi, but I hate the ridiculously political/complicated sci-fi, like "Dune". It’s the same reason why I like "John Carter" (which you need to see by the way), it’s all the cool stuff, explained naturally. And also the same reason I don’t care about "Hyperion". I mean, even the title sounds like way too much research to understand.

05. Man of Steel
What do you expect? I’m the Absurd Word Nerd after all. Actually, I want to see this because I haven’t seen a good superman movie (you failed me, Christopher Reeve) and so I want to see it done right. That’s not to say this will be done right. They’ve got Christopher Nolan on board, (who did the Dark Knight trilogy) and while that movie was good, it was a little too realistic, grim and gritty for the likes of Clark Kent. But from the trailers I’ve seen, they have an idea of what their doing. And while it’ll probably draw out the movie as long as they can before putting him in the suit, I expect it will be worth the wait. Don’t let me down, Superman!

04. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
I have to. I saw the first one, and it didn’t suck, so I have to see the next one. As I understand it, they’re actually going to finish the story here, and the next will be a sort of ‘interim’ movie, to connect the Hobbit movies to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So that means here we’ll actually get to see Smaug (who has until now, only been seen partially, or as a fiery blur), so it’s got a lot of promise. I do like this sort of ‘follow the little hero’ fantasy epic. Which is why I am also keeping an eye on "Jack the Giant Slayer”, a film adapted from the fairytale of the same name. I’ve never been an orc, or an elf, but if your main character is a hobbit, or a Jack, I feel like I can better relate to it, so let’s hope for the best from these two.

03. The Seventh Son
From "The Wardstone Chronicles", better known as “The Spook’s Books” for UK and Australian readers in particular, this film promises to adapt Joseph Delaney’s “The Spook’s Apprentice/The Last Apprentice” story to film. That alone has me enthused, I love these stories. But the spook is none other than Jeff “The Dude” Bridges? Oh, I swooned.
Promises of other Young Adult books like "Beautiful Creatures" & "Paranormalcy", while still interesting, are blown out of the water by the tight, thrilling story of Tom Ward and John Gregory as they fight off the forces of the Dark. Then again, those two movies are more aiming for the Twilight fandom, whereas I believe the Spooks series could be the next Harry Potter phenomenon. If you haven’t got the books yet, get them! They’re AWESOME!

02. John Dies at the End
Spoiler Alert: John Dies at the End. But that’s just the end of the story . . . there’s a lot more to it than that. The How, Where, Why & What of John’s death are just a glimpse into a bigger world of trans-dimensional drugs, imaginary creatures and lots of dick jokes. I loved the book. It’s got that surreal humour of other comedy authors, grounded in the reality of a scared little man named David Wong. My only issue is, it seems to follow the story pretty closely, so make up your mind NOW if you want to read the book first or see the movie, because there will be no surprises afterward. Oh, except for the sequel: “ThisBook is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It!” Which I have yet to finish reading, because I want to re-read the JD@TE first. Yes, it’s that good.

01. Iron Man 3
Oh, like I even had to say it. But it’s not just because I watched and loved the first two (yes, even Justin Hammer) that makes me want to watch Iron Man 3, but also it looks like they’re doing the ‘rogue suit’ storyline, where the Iron Man armour, sans Stark, slaps around Tony for being a drunk (at least, that’s how I understand it). That alone is ripe for drama, but then there’s the Mandarin on top of that! His hair looks ridiculous, but whatever, Ben Kingsley still acts awesome, and the Mandarin is his arch-nemesis. I can’t wait.
There’s also new sequels for all Avengers except Hulk with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" & "Thor: The Dark World". I’m going to watch those movies anyway, but more than both of them I really want to know what’s happening with Tony Stark and his pimped-out prosthesis.

A.W.N.’S TOP 10 FILMS THAT ARE A BAD IDEA THIS 2013:

10. The Wolf of Wall Street
Firstly, a movie with ‘Wolf’ in the title that is not actually about werewolves is always going to piss me off. But more than that, who cares about Wall Street? This movie’s description is ‘a stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud cause involving–‘
BOOOOOORIIIIING. Sure, DiCaprio can act, there’s no denying that after Inception. But can he make the stock market interesting?
Eh, Meh, Nyeh . . . No. Sorry, but No. Another adaptation with a misleading title is "Black Wings Has My Angel". But this pisses me off less because A) It’s based on a crime pulp fiction novel from the 1950s, and they can have weird titles & B) It’s a Crime Thriller of the 1950’s! That sounds pretty cool. I’ll keep my eye on that one.

09. Jack Ryan
Based on Characters by Tom Clancy” That’s pretty much all I needed to hear. to be sure, I looked into this Jack Rya character on my old friend, Wikipedia. I got about four paragraphs in, then started skimming, then gave up. It's boring . . .
So let's talk about "Serena". Set during the depression, and I quote: "George Pemberton's timber empire becoems complicatred when it is learned that his wife, Serena, cannot bear children." Admitted
ly this too sounds boring. But Depression, business issues and family conflict all sounds like fodder for drama. It doesn't sound like something I would enjoy, but I've been surprised before. I'm much more interested in Pemberton's housewife than I am in "Jack Ryan, C.I.A. agent", that's for damn sure.


08. Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral
A sequel for a horror movie is always a bad idea. I mean, you already know the stakes if they’re able to do a sequel. For one thing, it means the monster isn’t dead, which ruins any potential catharsis of the originals. It makes the monster unstoppable (and as Bane taught us, we need hope otherwise there’s nothing to lose). And lastly, it’s Jeepers Creepers! Those movies weren’t really scary. I’ll admit some of the stuff was gross, and at times the creature was ‘creepy’ but never horrifying. And we already know the Jeepers Creepers monster, so what more does it need to do?

07. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
This one is very simple. The first one sucked. I don’t like watching movies that suck. And it wasn’t just the story, the story seemed pretty cool. But the actors are either B-list or lower, and the main character is boring. I don’t know if it’s the actor’s fault or the director’s fault. But it’s someone’s fault that it sucked, because you have to try pretty hard to make Greek Gods boring. Speaking of Ancient Gods, another ancient tale to be remade is "The Monkey King" a story about magic, monkeys and Japanese folklore which promises to be better than anything about Percy Jackson. And despite being Made in China, it is apparently being filmed in both Mandarin and English, but I’m not sure, so keep an eye out for updates in that respect.

06. Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn
No, these books are not suited for film. There are some interesting plot points with treasure, cross-dressing and murder. But these books seem more like a character piece. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m sure Mark Twain’s writing is swell. But as a movie, it seems like it doesn’t have much of a point, so long as they don’t add extra scenes. Not that I mind directors adding their own scenes, where necessary. Extra scenes are the only thing I can think of to save the upcoming “Noah" film from being a flop. It’s the story of Noah, I know how it ends! And for those six or seven people that haven’t heard the story before, it’s a pointless story anyway, it teaches you nothing of truth or value.

05. Pet Sematary
Again, just no. There’s a reason all Stephen King books suck on film. It’s the same reason Twilight sucks as a film. The story is stupid. The only reason people like his books is because he is good at the atmosphere and making everything sound creepy with his writing. But that cannot translate to film. Not to mention this is a film about dead things “coming back evil”, which has been done before and better. And by that token, "The Ten O'Clock People" should not be a movie either. It’s about smokers who take drugs and then ‘discover reality’. Do I really need to explain why this is boring? Come on, people. Stephen King is a bad storyteller, don’t you get that yet?

04. The Smurfs 2
The Smurfs sucked. Thus and therefore, Smurfs 2 will suck. I’m not saying sequels to bad movies are always bad. I mean, I didn’t like Batman Begins, and look where that took us? But the reason this will suck is because it looks like it does the same thing as the first movie. Same goofy acting, same bad premise, same style. And on top of that, the ‘Naughties’ freak me out. Seriously, when I first saw the image of Smurfette turning into a Naughty, I got chills. That face resides deep in the pits of the Uncanny Valley for me. She looks like the original Miss Piggy puppet before they fixed her eyes. Just having to find the link for that image has given me chills. Those eyes, man . . . eurgh.

03. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Despite the racist undertones and poor storyline of the original game, I do believe this would make a great movie: Young dude, out solving ancient mysteries of archeology while bad guys are trying to kill him. The problem is, we already HAVE that movie. Four of them. They’re called Indiana Jones. “Oh, but wait,” I hear you say, “This may be like Indiana Jones, but it’s set in modern times!” Oh right. Problem is, we already have that movie too. It was called “National Treature” and no matter how flippant, fun and self-aware this Nathan Drake man is, no one can out-cage Nicolas “The Cage” Coppola. I'd prefer they do another sequel to that, to be honest. Oh, a "National Treasure 3" is in the works? Well, fantastic then.

02. Untitled Transformers Sequel
Why is Michael Bay still alive? I’ve heard of presidents that were killed for less. Fellating the army into submission; ruining childhood favourites; ignoring the last 50 years of women’s rights & the last 200 years of race relations. Why has no one killed this man? He’s a douchebag, and more importantly one that makes bad, bad movies. He’s also trying his hardest to ruin "Ninja Turtles". Thankfully he’s not directing the Turtles movie, so I’m gonna wait for a trailer before I decide to set his Humvee on fire (I just assume he drives a Humvee). But then the next film he’s actively working on is the macho man-meatfest of "Pain & Gain", a movie all about the struggles of a trio of bodybuilders that can fight crime. For heaven's sake, Mr Bay, can you please just fuck off and die?

01. Oldboy
Oh, hell no. I get that people don’t like to read subtitles, but that is, at best, an excuse to redub a film. But what sick hell is this changing the main character “Oh Dae-su” to “Joe Doucett”? I’m sorry, but that’s just racist. The original was a story, amidst two others in the “Vengeance Trilogy” showing the love and hatred of the human heart in a cinematic triptych. This is just a remake for money’s sake. The Absurd Word Nerd does not approve.
It’s almost as bad as the “Akira” remake that they’re trying to make, which is threatening to be a two-parter . But that film doesn’t get the number one spot here because it has the decency to dwell in developmental hell. This Oldboy movie should not be remade. End of story.

A.W.N.’S TOP 10 FILMS THAT JUST . . . WTF?!:

10. Santapprentice
Okay, I get that this was apparently a French-made kid’s animated movie or something, so it’s not as random as it sounds. The story of Santa's apprentice who is chosen when Santa retires. But why is someone actually paying for this to be a movie? What gets weirder is not only does it have two directors (Tim Hill & Mike Mitchell) and Dreamworks on the bill as the animator, but check out this ‘tagline’:  “Finally!, DreamWorks Animation's First Live-action/CGI Hybrid” Wait, what? First of all, so many movies with special effects these days, MOST movies are Live-Action/CGI hybrids. And second, this is your big movie for it? A Christmas Movie about Santa Claus's retirement plan? Where the hell did this idea come from?!

09. Riddick
First off, why just Riddick? The first movie was called “Pitch Black”, followed by “The Chronicles of Riddick” Two videogames and an animation followed. But why come up with the title, with the word Chronicles, plural, if you only had one. Isn’t this another Chronicle? The IMDB page says “Follows The Chronicles of Riddick”, so this isn’t a reboot or anything. Is there any real need for this besides Vin Diesel having fun roleplaying? Oh, wait that was the only reason. There’s also an “Untitled Daredevil Reboot" in the works, which at least was worse than Pitch Black, so deserves a reboot. But there’s also “Short Circuit” reboot in the works! That movie was pretty bad, yes. But it was a family movie. It was supposed to be like that. Besides, we already have a cool self-aware, goggle-eyesd robot movie. It was called "Wall-E", So why do we also need a new Number 5?

08. Untitled Muppets Sequel
You know what I really liked about “The Muppets”? The ending.
SPOILER ALERT! [FOR REAL THIS TIME!]: In the end, they failed their mission. They did not raise all the money they needed. But they decided to go on anyway. Because it’s not about being The Muppets, it’s about being together. -END OF SPOILERS! That is a beautiful message. And having a sequel screws that up! Now they’re just like “Oh well, let’s just keep going”. I am conflicted about this movie the same as I was with “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”, because I know it is a bad idea, but I have to watch it anyway. Hopefully The Muppets 2 will be less disappointing than that movie was.

07. The Lone Ranger
One question: Why is Johnny Depp playing a Native American? He’s whiter than I am. Why couldn’t they give the part to an actual Native American actor? They do exist, just look at this list from Wikipedia. Also, how do they expect such an old show to translate to modern times? The trailer for the movie promises train crashes and action scenes. But that didn’t happen in the original show, so why even call it The Lone Ranger? I don’t know. Another film adaptaion based on the Old West is "A Walk Among the Tombstones" a movie I know nothing about. But, dude, Liam Neeson is signed on to play a cowboy, so I’ve definitely got my hopes up for that one.

06. Paddington Bear
Y'know, someone in the movies industry believes it’s a good idea for a teddy bear to get a movie. Until I heard of this film I didn’t know much about the bear. But Wikipedia tells me Paddington is an immigrant from “Darkest” Peru, who was found in a train station and has a long history that he shares as the stories go along. The majority of stories seem to be about how difficult it is for a teddy bear/Peruvian to get around England. That being said, I vaguely remember seeing the thing around when I was really young, but just barely [haha, 'bear-ly']. And from what I see, if done well, this could be a beautiful story. But right now . . . all I’m thinking is: So, it’s "Ted", if Ted wasn’t an asshole? But yeah, as far as I’m concerned it all depends on the voice they pick for Paddington. I’d like something gruff and worldweary.

05. Kane & Lynch
Did you play the Kane & Lynch game, or it’s sequel? If so, I am so very sorry for you. If not, let me fill you in: It sucks. A game about unlikeable characters in a poorly written story with retarded A.I. to shoot. On the one hand I thought “Well, the game sucks, so now this has the opportunity to do it again, better, in a new medium” but on the other hand, the story of Kane & Lynch sucks because nobody cares about these horrible, horrible characters. There are so many other games to choose from, why . . . what’s that? Another “Tomb Raider” movie? Did that really need a sequel . . . a reboot you say? So Angelina Jolie gets to start all over with . . . she’s not signed on as Lara Croft? But that’s the only reason anyone watched the movie in the first place!

04. Bunyan
Wait a minute, I know that name . . . oh, Paul Bunyan. Yeah, that’s that old folktale of a giant lumberjack who has a blue ox as a pet. Wait, WHAT?! No, wait, okay, it seems they’re serious. But what’s this now. The tagline is: “This Tall Tale is Murder” . . . so it’s a murder mystery, about a twelve-storey lumberjack? Oh, wait. IMDB says the genre is Horror. Hmmm . . . I can kind of see where they’re coming from. Anyone who think that a lovable folklore figure can’t be scary obviously hasn’t seen a sculpture of this thing. I don’t know if this will be a good movie, but the premise alone demands you pay attention, even if it’s just to watch this thing crash and burn.

03. Hansel & Gretel Get Baked
Okay, for these last three, I feel the need to remind you: I am not making these up. There are quite a few Hansel & Gretel movies coming out this year, such as "Hansel and Gretel in 3D!" which just looks childish and stupid. But this just sounds, well, adulterated and stupid. It's basically a Comedy Horror of the original tale, set in Suburbia wherein all fantastical elements are explained by the drugs or by other characters being high. The drug stuff just looks stupid, but the non-comedy indie Horror "Hansel & Gretel" also coming out this year doesn't seem to fare much better. Yet still a fourth "Hansel and Gretel" film presents an indie action version, but that's all I know about it. However, this all pales in comparison to the “Van Helsing” inspired, "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters". At least here, although the premise is ridiculous, the moviemaker seems in on the joke, and they’re just having a load of fun. But can someone explain why we need FIVE freaking Hansel and Gretel movies?

02. Lego: The Movie
Again, not kidding. One of the cool things about the Lego company, is that with the “Lego Star Wars” & “Lego Harry Potter” videogames and the like, you get the impression that Lego doesn’t take itself too seriously. Which suits, because it’s a toy company. And the story is said to be about an average Lego figurine caught up in a quest to stop an evil Lego figurine from gluing Lego together. Sounds pretty funny, but could get serious what with the drama of Lego figures stuck together. But check this out: What do Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett and Morgan Freeman have in common? They’re all signed on to do voices in this movie! And with characters like President Business, Bad Cop, Pirate & Batman to look forward to, I just don’t know what to expect next!

01. Postman Pat: The Movie - You Know You're the One
I’m sorry, what? Postman Pat? At first I thought this was just a joke or something, but David Tennant, Rupert Grint & Jim Broadbent are all signed on to do voices. And IMDB says it's Post-Production, so it seems like this movie is totally happening. But I have to ask. Why is it called “The Movie”, only then to add the subtitle “You Know You’re the One”? Usually you call something The Movie, if you’re only gonna make one. But a subtitle implies it’s the first of a series, or that it’s a special case. So is this The Movie, or a special case? It can’t be  both, damn it! And this thing says the storyline is that Postman Pat “finds his beliefs challenged” when he enters a televised Talent Show. How the hell are his beliefs challenged? And in a talent show?
The Absurd Word Nerd is at a loss for words.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

For a Few Million Dollars More

Three days ago, I talked about continuity, and expanding stories with sequels and spin-offs. And since I had so much fun raging against the machine, today I'm continuing that with a look at the next trick in the Capitalistic Hollywood playbook.
The Word of the Day is, 'REMAKE'

You know, in doing research for this article [he does research now?] I was trying to find the difference between a remake and a reboot. At first glance, there's very little difference. But while you're thinking about it yourselves, let me give you the two definitions.

Remake /ree'meyk/ v. 1. To make again or anew. ♦n. 2. Anything that has been remade, renovated, or rebuilt. 3. Movies. A more recent version of an older film.

Compare and contrast with:

Reboot /ree'boot/ v. 1. To restart (a computer) by loading the operating system; boot again. ♦n. 2. An act or instance of restarting a computer. 3. The process of starting over again.

Unfortunately, Dictionary has yet to catch up with the culture, in the use of the word Reboot, but the basic idea is there. Here's the difference, as I understand it.
Remakes identify with and accept the original, while building upon it. Reboots ignore the original, taking what they want, reinventing the rest.
Or, to put it in an anthropomorphic way:

The Remake looks at the original version of the movie, tips its hat and says "You did a good job, friend. But now it's my turn."

The Reboot sneers over at the original, gives it the finger and turns to the audience saying, "This is how it SHOULD have been done."

Now, both of these have issues. The very important issue of money. They both exist so the Hollywood executives can get another few of those titular million dollars more. But that doesn't necessarily mean all remakes are bad.
That is the beauty of the movie-making system. While it's run by a bunch of stereotypical, evil businessmen, the movies themselves are made by a group of real people who actually LIKE to make movies. And no matter how much the executives are doing this just to add a few more coins in their swimming pool full of gold, the movie-makers are still fully capable of wringing a good movie out of it.
(Capable, mind you. Not pre-determined.)

So what bothers me more than the Capitalism, is the mindset of the remake, as it stands. Because I always have (and always will) see the Reboot as an insult. They remade a Total Recall movie in 2012, and I happen to like the new version better, just because I don't like listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger chew his way through the English Language, and it didn't take itself too seriously. But a year before that, they made a remake of Arnie's first acting role, Conan the Barbarian.
Now, I agree that Arnold can't act. But for that movie, he didn't have to! He was playing a mono-syllabic, oil-slicked, pulsating muscle! It was the perfect role for an ex-bodybuilder. At this rate, It's just starting to feel like someone has a vendetta against Austrians.
Huh, Perhaps this "Jews run the media" conspiracy theory has some credence after all . . . [don't hate me, it's a joke]
But my point is, that movie was good. Sure, it's old, but it's great for what it is. It served its purpose. It's just unkind for people to keep coming up saying "Yeah, I can do that again!"

You know what I want to see? Remakes of Bad Movies. That at least has some logic to it. These people keep thinking: "I can do better".
Well . . . you can! Just think about it:
The Room; Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever; Troll 2; Battlefield Earth; Star Wars: Holiday Special; The Shining . . .
All made again so we can finally have a good film by that name. Or, on the flip-side, it could give a great point, counter-point for audiences that enjoyed them for being so crap. That way, people can check out how terrible the original was, then enjoy the new film even more!
We've already seen a good Batman, Evil Dead & Robocop movie. But I've never seen a good Catwoman or Troll movie! Why can't someone make those?

Well, because that's not how the Hollywood Movie Marketing Machine works. There's too much risk in innovative ideas, so they prefer to rehash old ideas they know were successful. And only after someone takes a risk and makes money, do Hollywood execs also take such risks. But then, it's not a risk anymore. Rather, a business decision.

It's a sad state of affairs . . .

But I've not given up on Hollywood. As I said, those actual film-makers at the helm are perfectly capable of making good movies. And I am still looking forward to a few.
And in fact, that's how I plan to end this "Hollywood Dollars" trilogy, looking at the upside.
So next time [in just two days, because an overheating CPU screwed up my unofficial schedule] We'll talk about some of the upcoming films that I am looking forward to, (and not looking forward to), that are based on stories that already exist.
That's right. Next time, we're going to run down the "Best & Worst Upcoming Movie Adaptations", in as much detail as I am willing to scrounge from the internet . . .