Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hodgpodge: Some More Catchup

Hi! Back so soon?

Yes, well... It was a really long time between my last post and the one that preceded it, so I have lots of stuff that I have meant to discuss, or at least mention. Here's a quick list, in no particular order:

Speed dating, my most recent Stacy related meltdown, flashback scenes, blogs vs twitter, writing in general, I should move to Boston, XKCD, and some more of my social failings.

I don't know how many of these things i'll get to today, or if I'll ever end up discussing all of them at all.

Let's start with the Stacy thing for today. I forgot to mention it in the last post like I meant to. I'm not going to devote a lot of time to it, because, seriously... I'm pretty pathetic. But I wanted to mention it.

So, I thought that ever since a year ago I had actually moved on. It finally registered fully to me how Stacy had never really treated me particularly well, and sometimes outright poorly and mean. Turns out, I'm okay with all of these things being in the past and have moved on--emotionally if not like... In actuality--but I'm not okay with the idea that Stacy is still... You know... Alive and in existence. Emily mentioned to me that she was the maid of honor at the wedding of a mutual acquaintance and I did not take it well.

So, I afforded myself a day of being mopey and exceptionally unhappy, and that, for the most part, was that. Though since then she has been, most unwelcomelym closer to the forefront of my thoughts.

And that's that. Moving on.

I think XKCD next. Have you seen this comic? I've known it existed for years, but never bothered to look ionto it. Thenh a litt le bit algo there was a Captre the Flag FPS comic from it listed in the Hoystiq Weekly Webcomic Wrapup, and I thought it wuas just really clever. So I started to look at some of the streips by sing the random button, and it contined to be really clever. I've since read throgh all of the archives. Twice.

If you haven't given this strip a look, you should. It's routinely insightful and incredibly smart. It has a lot to say about the way we deal with relationships from time to time... And it's in this vein that I sort of bring it up.

Sometimes there's a strip that's just incredibly sweet, and it gives me a very melancholy/lonely feeling. It's not incredibly easy to find these sorts of strips mixed in with the complex math equations and frequent yor mom jokes, but they're there. And even when there's a your mom joke, it will often be a heel to the setup of some incredibly sweet imagery on the ideals of relationships. I just eat this shit up. Here's a few sample comics: <------- My favorite

The art is, obviously, not the focus. Also, remember to mouseover each comic for the mouseover comment thingy. It's often better than the comic itself.

Alright... Next up is speed dating. I'm thinking of giving it a try. I don't like that i'm thinking of giving it a try. I'd like to think that I can deal with just being alone and waiting for someone to come along who I develop a crush on and then a relationship to mature organically (read: I wear her down into dating me) But it's painfully obvious that this scenario is not coming into fruition with anywhere near the speed to satisfy me. I havena't met anyone new that i've been remotely interested in for like for years now. Maybe five. I lost count.

So, speed dating seems like an... Option, I guess. Except I'm pretty sre it'll just be a waste of time. If for no other reason than the only event I'm aware of has an age limit of 25-35. I'm right at the bottom of that. I don't expect there to be too many girls of my preferred age bracket at one of these things. Emily mentioned a while back that she and Michelle had wanted to do one of these things... Maybe I should ask her about it. Maybe she'd go to one with me. I probably won't bring it up with her though. Also, I think she's currently mad at me. Oh well. Moving on.

Let's do "I should omove to Boston" next. Lior's been bugging me that I should pick up and move up North with him for a few years. I probably should. I'm pretty stagnant down here.

Problem is, it's comfortable here. I think I would be pretty much equally stagnant in Boston, but down here at least the rent is free.

It might be easier to find a job in a sort of office settig that I would prefer in an area like Boston. But, I really don't have the first clue how to effectively look for a job. That wouldn't change drastically by changing location, I don't think.

Also, I don't know that Boston would be the best idea for me. Not that I wouldn't like to be closer to Lior again. Thhat wouyld be nice. Bt moving p to live with Lior I would sort of jutst be adopting his friends instead of being forced ot of my little hole and making some new friends and forging relationships. So, in that respect, maybe a new city where I don't have any ties would be better.

Except I don';t bel'ieve in my ability to meet people and form relationships, which is the whole point, in that sort of situation. I'm sure I would movle to a new city, live off the meager money I have savevd up, not find a job, not make friends, be miserable, and move back home. So, were I to do this, I suppose it should be Boston with Lior.

But, who are we kidding? There's little to no chance of me taking myself up on this.

I think thins one's gonna be the last topic, and I've saved it for last becase, while I wanted to mention all the other things, this is the one I realley actally want to write about. Flashback scenes.

What's up with them lately?

Maybe "lately" is a misleading term. I think going back about a decade now. Maybe 15 years. But still, in the scheme of things it's lately.

A flashback can be a very effective tool in storytelling. While it was incredibly boring, Citizen Kane used the concept of flashback incredibly well. Guy dies, says Rosebud. Why did he say that? Movie attempts to figure it out.

There are some other really good examples of this approach, but none spring to mind immediately. Fight Club was alright, but maybe not incredibly necessary. There's a particular episode of the West Wing where it's used really well. The one where Toby's brother almost dies in space. And lots of other stuff happened too.

Actually, Aaron Sorkin has sed flashback effectively a number of times, now that I think about it. And the way he does it is very remeniscent of the last episode of MASH, which also did a good job of starting at the end with a purpose.

But television shows, particularly I think moreso than movies, have been abusing the shit out of this techniqe. If a story starts at the end, and then flashes back to the beginning before working its way back to the starting point--read: the end-- then there needs to be a damn good reason for it. There needs to be some sort of impetous... Some amont of mystery in that first scene that's staying with th=e viewer throgh the rest of the story until we get back to it and it all comes together.

If the story works just as well when told in linear fashion, then tell it that way.

A lot of the ti me, I think the purpose is to give a story the illsion of complexity where there really isn't any. A scene cshown out of context can be really confsing and leave the viewer with a feeling of "what's going on?"

But then the episode proper will start, and ten mintes minutes after that jarring "X amount of time earlier" screen, there's a story going on that is independent of the opening scene. None of the things that happened need be going through the viewer's mind.

It just frustrates me that this techniqe has been so overdone senselessly. I really like the techniqe, and when sed properly it can aid in telling a really compelling story. And the blatant overuse of it when it's wholly unecessary only serves to weaken the impact it has when used properly.

I want to asay that JJ Abrams is the most egregious practitioner in this. But, while it is very likely true, it's maybe not entirely fair. The stories he tends to be telling (namely Lost and Alias) are just so incredibly convoluted and ridiculous that the added "story being told out of order for no good reason" meme almost has a place.

Heroes does it a lot too, but those guys are Abrams' buddies, so I'm lumping them in with him.

But it's not just shows like that. Regular, non-incredibly-convoluted-more-like-soap-opera shows like Brothers and Sisters overuse the technique as well. How I Met Your Mother is founded on it--sometimes, to be fair, effectively. Sometimes, like that episode a couple weeks ago where the girl with the mbrella turns out to be what's-her-name from Scrbs, obnoxiously.

Actually, to be fair... That was a good use of the technique, in more technical terms. The episode proper really wasn't about the main storyline. It was a cheap way to tell a series of uuninteresting anecdotes. It just annoyed me because it was purposefully and unabashedly jerking the audience around.

Anyway... I think I 've, more or less, eclumsily made my point. Next time you're watching something and it flashes back to some time in the past after the first scene, really pay attention and ask yourself it it was necessary. Chances are, it wasn't.

On a side note, before I stop swriting because my phone battery is dying and I also don't want to write anymore, I was thinki ng of going back and watching all of Lost again from the beginning and recording the major plot points as they happen. I think it would be interesting, if not amusing, to look at a list of the shit that's happened and see what things were dropped completely and such. Aside from that... Ever tried to explain Lost to someone who doesn't watch it? Yeah, you know how that conversation goes. A list of sthe plot points like that would just be ridiculous.

Kim had missed an episode of Lost recently, and I sort of glibly summarized the things that happened in the episode, saying them, admittedly, in as ridiculous a manner as possible. She rolled her eyes at me like I was just making fn of the show. Which I was. But all of the things I said had happened pretty much the way I said them. The show's retarded. So I think presenting this sort of stuff in a master list wold prove hilarious.

Then I realized that in order to do this, I would have to watch Lost from the beginning and really pay attention and stay engaged enough to be recording things as they happen. I wouldn't so much mind watching the series again... It's stupid, but entertaining... I just don't want to have to pay real attention to it. For the most part, that's not how I choose to partake in my video media. I like to lay in ybed and just let shows happen to me withot having to be alert. I often faltl asleep and have to watch things more than once to finish the episode.

Okay... Time to go back inside and post this. If I didn't get to one of the listed topics that I said I was going to, and that was the one you were really looking forward to reading about, chances are I'm not gonna get to it. But ifyou tell me which it is, then I just might tdo it special for you.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Brought to You by: Djarum

I like Twitter, and I think it has its uses... But it's just not the same as writing a good old lengthy rambling blog. I've missed it. And there have been things that I've been wanting to, but neglecting, to write about. So, when I was at the mall I picked up a pack of cloves to be used for writing purposes.

There have been a bunch of things I've wanted to discuss here, but I can only really remember three of them: D&D, Rush Limbaugh, and How I Met Your Mother. So, let's discuss these three topics in reverse order.

Lior told me How I Met Your Mother was good. So, I downloaded the entire series and watched it. It's alright... If you like generic sitcoms, then you'll like it. It's basically a generic sitcom plus... Well... Plus Neil Patrick Harris, basically. The plan a while ago when I wanted to devote an entire entry to HIMYM was to go into specifics about what is good and bad about the show, but it's been a few weeks since I watched it and it honestly wasn't memorable enough for me to do a decent job of pros and cons.

Laterally though, I wanted to briefly discuss, once again, meeting people.

You know what? I was going to go into the bar scene, and how television presents an unrealistic version of bars and clubs, for the most part, and how I don't understand how to in any actual way take advantage of that scene, or how to turn a chance encounter into something more... But I realized I've discussed all of these things ad nauseum in the past. So I'll just say this... I could really use a good wingman. As much as I think I wou ld hate it as iit was happening to me, like the dynamic between Barney and... Uh... The main character, whatever his damn name is, towards the beginning of the series, it's the sort of thing that I think would be ultimately positive. And that's all I'm going to say about that. Moving on to Rush Limbaugh.

A few weeks back, Mike posted a blog discussing Rush Limbaugh's opinions on... Well...I don't really remember. Something to do with cars and the Obama administration's hostile takeover of GM. The specifics are less than important. The point is, he said he listens to the guy and that the podcasts are posted on demonoid.

So, I decided that I wanted to read his blog with the knowledge of what had actually been said on the radio show. So I downloaded the podcasta and listened to it, and then read Mike's blog.

Then I decided, "you know what? All of the media and pretty much everything i'm exposed to from friends and family tends to have a left wing slant. How much of my ideals are shaped by that, and how much of that is shaped by my ideals? What if I started to regularly listen to a persuasive and persistent account from the other side? Would I starte to mirror those ideals? Or is Rush Limbaugh just a big fat idiot, as has been posited through literature in the past?" And thus the experiment began.

So, I've been listening to all his shows since. I download them and listen to them while I'mj working. I have to say... There are some things that genuinely surprised me. I 've always known that the differences between liberal and conservative rhetoric is largely cosmetic, but sometimes it's not even that. Hearing conservative callers and such spouting the exact same rhetoric was surprising. I never would have thought that conservatives also felt that they had the market sewn up in terms of sense of humor, for instance.

Aside from the mild dose of culture shock, Rush has some pretty good points. Or he's just very persuasive. Either way, I find I agree with a lot of the things he has to say about specific intents of political PR moves. Certainly not all of what he says about them... He seems to think that the current administration is genuinely evil and selfish, but I can see his point on a lot of things.

That said; the guy's a nutball.

The best thing about listening to Rush Limbaugh is telling people I'm listening to him and watching them react. Jim's mom was particularly fun.

I decided that I wanted to nfind an equally batshit insane liberal radio show and listen to that, so I can get a simultaneous crazy ass liberal take on the same issues as the crazy ass conservative Rush Limbaugh take I'm currently getting. But there aren't any good liberal talk shows I know of. nI looked into Al Frankenr, but he quit his radio show on Air America to run for senate or whatever he's in his legal battle about. So I downloaded some of his books... They're alright, but not exactly what I was going for.

Jeanine Garrafolo's show is off air too.... She's busy acting on a conservative TV series that is broadcast on a conservative television station. Crazy bitch...

You know who needs a radio show for me to listen to? Bill Maher. Or Michael Moore... Or even like a John Stewart, if he dropped the "centrist comedian" guise and just did a radio show. But no... Liberal crazies control the television and movie mediums, while the radio waves are ruled by the right wing lunatics. These lunatics need to get together and decide on one medium and then just compete fairly.

Anyway; D&D.

So, Brian wanted to try it out. And Jim wanted to play. So we got some people together to play, and I was tasked with the job of GM. If not me, then who?

Well, someone else. It's not my thing. I'm just not very good at it. I would have thoght I would be better, but as it turns out, no.

Maybe it's not entirely my fault (it's at least mostly my fault.) Maybe 4th edition is just not the venue for the game I want to run.

I don't think that's it. I'm just not cut out for being a good GM.

The problem is, a dungeon crawl just isn't a lot of fun. And that's really all 4th is; a dungeon crawl mechanism.

That's not really the problem. The beauty of D&D is that you can use the rules as much or as little as you'd like. My problem as a GM is threefold. I'm not creative enough, I'm not quick enough on my feet, and I get frustrated too easily.

When I write a story, I struggle over how to get from one thing to the next. WHat should the next event be? I could have characters sit around and talk about nothing forever. My problem comes when I have to make my characters do things. Story points are the hard bit for me. If I coul d map out a good story, I could write it no problem. It's the initial planning that's the huge bitch for me. And when writing acampaign, all you have is the initial planning

So, because I'm so bad at it, my plots hinge on certain things happening. And if they don't happen, then the plot kinda falls to shit. And the players don't always want to do the thing that you need them to do to make the story move forward.

A good GM takes that, and works with it. A good GM has an idea of what is happening in the world, and then adapts that to what the players decide to do. I get frusrtrated and try to force myplayers lto do what I want them to.

So, it's a little sadldening to me that my GMing debut didn't turn out well. I'm fine rnning a prebpuilt campaign, btu writing my own thing just doesn't look good. And the prebuilt campaigns aren't very fun. They're just dungeon crawls.

You know? I kind of enx-ected this to be longer... But I'm tired, and I sort of glossed over things instead of delving into them with my customary zeal. Also, I'm not really enjoying the cloves so much. Hopefully I'll be back again soon. We should do this again sometime. Can I get your number?

See how desperately I need a wingman?