Below is the second article I wrote for Factinate. Chronologically, this one comes third but it is the second that the site has posted. I am not sure how much longer I will continue with the venture but I figured I will post the work that I complete.
We all want to achieve something special,
Do something that will be remembered long after we’re gone,
In our minds,
We’re the next Steve Jobs,
The next Stephen King,
The next Spielberg,
The next Picasso,
Isn’t this the case for just about everyone?
No one grows up wanting to flip burgers,
Or deal with whiny, angry customers all day,
Yet we need people to fill those roles,
As a Pixar character once said, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”
We can’t have a society where everyone gets what they want out of life,
The people who are at the top are often there because they are catering to some unfulfilled need or desire in the people below them,
The best creams to moisturize and get ride of acne,
The best clothes to compliment their body,
The best pill for losing weight,
The best advice to get out of the rut they are in,
I am a victim of the last one,
Devouring whatever is dished out by people who don’t identify as self-help gurus,
But serve the same purpose,
Maybe I am just another pawn,
Shelling out what little money I have,
Reading, studying, applying,
And hoping my investment pays off,
I remember attending a Writer’s Conference years ago,
Seeing people twice or three times my age still working at their dream,
It was admirable in one sense,
But also disheartening,
Will I be another person stuck in an unfulfilling day job?
Continuing to work towards something more,
And possibly never getting what I truly want?
At the very least, the venture brings in some extra money but I am hoping I can leverage it for something greater. As of now, I at least have an article published on something other than my own blog. As they say, “progress, not perfection.”
Ryan Holiday is one of my favourite authors, penning books such as The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy. His blog and his books introduced me to the concept of stoic optimism, which I try to apply to my daily life as much as possible.
While reading through his blog I came across a post discussing a “commonplace book“, a single repository of all the info collected from reading. For the past year I have read more non-fiction, while also marking pages of interest. The pages of interest sometimes apply to anecdotes or random facts but sometimes they are simply quotes or pieces of advice I want to remember. I realized (too late) that all this reading wasn’t resulting in as much retention or action as I hoped. Due to this, I wanted to try starting my own commonplace book.
The commonplace book is something I have put off for a while now, and as Holiday says in the linked post, the longer you put it off the harder it is to start. It is intimidating to look at all the books and marked pages I have, and know I have to transcribe them now. Holiday uses 4×6 index cards and categorizes them by themes e.g writing, books, education. I was tempted just to type out my notes, but I do remember all the lessons The Shallows taught me, analyzing how writing helps retention. This is part of the reason I never used a laptop to take notes in college.
Although the scope of this project makes me want to just type everything out, I want to try committing to writing everything instead. As time goes on, storage may be an issue, and maybe at some later time I’ll decide to just type everything out. For now, I want to stick to writing it out. I have already copied over notes from three books, and have decided I will try to do more on saturday. Afterwards, I will try to add notes from at least one new book every week. Trying to copy everything over at one time is an intimidating project, and I don’t want the dread of taking that project on to dissuade me from doing anything.
Aside from retention, writing out the notes also forces me to be more selective with what I transcribe. I can make quick references to anecdotes (e.g. Mastery, page 30) but I only choose to write out the words that will give me the most value if I skim through my commonplace book.
I recently finished watching Netflix’s “Dark”, knowing that it was drawing lots of comparisons to “Stranger Things”. After watching the show, I am reminded of the comparisons people made between IT (2017) and “Stranger Things”. Both involve kids, and both took place in the 1980s. That was pretty much it for the comparisons and that was enough for people to throw out words like “rip-off”.
With “Dark” and “Stranger Things”, both shows involve a missing kid and sci-fi elements. That is it for comparisons. The cast is mostly comprised of adults and teenagers, with a teenaged main character (as opposed to kids). There aren’t any sci-fi monsters in “Dark”, and the time travel theme is a far cry from what we got in “Stranger Things”.
If we always reduce a show or movie to its most basic elements, it is easy to compare just about any film to another one e.g. you can reduce The Dark Knight to a story about a man who lost his parents. Then you can compare it to a lot of other films that are actually nowhere near close. Although we have so much information available online people either don’t come across facts, or aren’t bothered to look up facts that clear up their ignorance. For example, all of the IT trailers (if I’m not mistaken) advertised the film as a Stephen King adaptation. Yet you still get idiots that said IT was inspired by “Stranger Things”, when in fact it is the other way around. Pacific Rim got compared to Transformers simply because they both have robots, even though the plots are actually very different, and the inspiration for Pacific Rim came from a 1958 anime called Tetsujin 28.
“Dark” is a strong show, with a somewhat unsatisfactory ending, that is a victim of the online sound chamber: People who parrot the criticisms that they hear online, refusing to think for themselves and viewing their entertainment through a lens that someone else placed on them. Any issues I have with “Dark”, have nothing to do with comparisons to “Stranger Things” or any other show.
Over the past few days, The 2014 Isla Vista Killings came to the forefront of my mind again. I previously did an article on Elliot Rodger that was directed at the people who disavowed the arguments that Rodger was misogynist because most of his victims were men, and disavowed the argument that he was racist because he was half-Asian.
As a quick recap of my previous article:
- Rodger was misogynist. In his manifesto, “My Twisted World” he says women make poor decisions about who they date (a.k.a men who weren’t him) since their brains are less developed than men’s. Yes, he killed mostly men, but those men represented the men who took the girls he felt entitled to. Let’s not forget that Rodger’s primary target was a sorority house, but since he couldn’t get access to the people inside he settled for killing people nearby.
- Rodger was half-Asian, that doesn’t mean he can’t be racist. While the alt-right and other conservative groups love to complain about white people always being the target of accusations of racism, they also tend to use the “but he’s a minority” excuse to derail conversations on racism. In Rodger’s own words, full-blooded Asians are “disgusting ugly”. Rodger only wanted white girls, particularly blondes, and he repeatedly expresses frustration that other men, especially minorities, could get white girls when he couldn’t. “How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me?…I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more.”
Now, with those arguments out of the way, I had to get some thoughts of my chest regarding people’s willingness to choose ignorance. All of the people who deny that Rodger was racist of misogynist likely didn’t bother to do any research to prove their point. They looked at the most basic statistics, his half-Asian identity and the demographics of his victims, and then dropped the mic on the conversation. This method of argument is easy and convenient, and is becoming all too popular. Despite being able to access information easier than ever, it is also easier to block out the information we don’t want to see.
I previously remember seeing this phenomenon when I was doing research for a paper on the racial portrayal of Egypt in Hollywood films. I argued that racist conceptions fueled the dominant portrayals of Egyptians as either white or Arab, but rarely black. I used Exodus: Gods and Kings (Exodus) as a case study, finding information on the time period (1300 BCE) to prove that the portrayal of a white Egyptian royal family clashes with known history. I did research on Ancient Egypt to prove that dark-skinned black Africans did rule Egypt at numerous points in history and accounted for a significant portion of its soldiers, civil servants and royalty, at least until the Greek invasion later in Egypt’s history.
Another part of my study was analyzing moviegoer’s thoughts on Exodus and it’s portrayal, analyzing the arguments people used to defend it. While some people resorted to the easy “it’s a movie” argument (which they would probably reject if they saw a black person playing an ancient Greek), some argued that Ancient Egyptians were white. I remember a thread on IMDB’s forums, which no longer exist, where someone presented a link showing proof of Cushite-ruled Egypt. Cushite is a term for those who came from “Kush”, an area located in or near modern-day Sudan (Bennett 499). The term Cushite refers to dark-skinned Africans and is replaced by “Ethiopians” in the King James version of the Bible (“Communications” 683). Instead of checking the link, one poster simply responded that he refused to read that “liberal propaganda”. Now, this person could have Googled “Cushites”, or “Cushite-ruled Egypt” to see that the term isn’t just propaganda.
Although it may be easier to read through a link, it is also easier to ignore a link someone sends you than to read a book or passage that they present in person. The above user chose ignorance when he decided that he simply didn’t want to read any information that might disprove his world view. I can’t just blame this random IMDB user either, this is something many people do that erodes the intellect we’re supposed to possess in this techno-savvy era.
Bennett Jr., Robert A. “Africa and the Biblical Period.” The Harvard Theological Review 64.4 (1971): 483-500. Print.
“Communications.” The William and Mary Quarterly 54.3 (1987): 682-690. Print.
Update: Late last year I met up with a friend who works for Factinate. He was gracious enough to offer me a position as a writer for the site, compiling listicles. The gig doesn’t dictate an amount of articles per week/month etc. and I am excited to try to get something published online, aside from my own blog. The factinate articles will either be pop-culture related or general research articles, which span a variety of topics ranging from history, politics, geography etc.
These topics and the site as a whole may not align directly with my creative writing interests but it is still an opportunity that I am thankful for.
I will repost any of my factinate articles to this site, but I do also recommend checking out the site since there are a lot of interesting articles (they’re not paying me to say that).
Note: Happy New Year everyone.
The past week has been a dead zone with the holidays, but I am happy to return to this blog in 2018. As always, there are New Year’s Resolutions, but I intend to stick to these ones. I refuse to be like the horde of people who swarm the gym in January and February, before disappearing in March. Two of my biggest writing goals are to have something published in 2018, whether it’s an article or a poetry piece. The second is to complete my fourth book, Alive: Part II. I have already tried to get all of my previous works published but I realize now that it will likely be easier to get smaller pieces published, and use those to gain some traction for attempting to publish my novels.
Without further ado, I present some thoughts on Episode 4.1 of Black Mirror.
I would be lying if I said that Black Mirror won me over instantly. While I was still enthralled by most of the first episode, the ending could have been a breaking point. I understood the purpose of the ending and the rationale but I could not help but be repulsed by it. Then again, that was the show’s intention. Black Mirror is this generation’s Twilight Zone and it would be a disservice to stop watching because it makes you squirm. At the most basic level, the show analyzes how technology affects the way we interact with each other. From my least favourite, The Waldo Moment (that stupid voice really got on my nerves) to Shut Up and Dance or White Christmas, technology is central to the stories.
Season 4 continues the trend with an episode that is dark but also lighter than many of the others. “USS Callister” is a story about wish fulfilment and escapism gone wrong, and those are the elements that I wanted to focus on in this piece. I wasn’t interested in doing a review, although I will say that the performances were great and that I loved the homage to Star Trek. The ending is meant to be happy but I can’t help but wonder if an infinity surrounded by online trolls is truly happiness.
I think anyone who has ever been bullied or ostracized could initially empathize with Daly. Of course, forcing the female members of Space Fleet to kiss him at the end of every game was undeniably creepy and I’m not going to defend that. What I could relate to more was a fantasy where you are a hero to your bullies. That is why I found it interesting that Daly is unquestionably a villain by the end.
In a sense, Daly’s escapism prevents him from asserting himself in real life. He hides behind technology to avoid confrontation. Many people do this, with the mentality that it is easier or more polite. Ghosting is just one of the many anti-social and spineless methods people now use in an attempt to avoid uncomfortable situations. However, uncomfortable situations are a part of life and it is impossible to mature without them. Instead of being more assertive in real-life, Daly goes to the other extreme in his modified version of Infinity. He goes from a pushover to a tyrant, when what he needed to become in the real-world was something in between.
His rejection by his peers guides him further away from them, and further into Infinity. As part of the vicious cycle, this only makes him more off-putting. The staring that causes Shania Lowry to avoid Daly, is implied to be part of his vetting process. He analyzes his potential subjects to see what objects he can steal in order to add them to his game. Of course, his staring is also a part of his fantasizing and the literal possessiveness that we see play out in Infinity.
What I have always liked about Black Mirror and science-fiction as a whole is that it can use outlandish concepts to mask or examine relevant truths. “Hated in the Nation” attacks online mobs, “Men Against Fire” attacks prejudice and propaganda, “San Junipero” and “USS Callister” examine virtual realities. Daly is no different than the online trolls who abuse others in order to feel a sense of power they likely don’t have in the real world, the supposed “Kings of Space”. As technology evolves, these trolls will evolve too. People will retreat further from the real, avoiding confrontation and the truth to hide deeper in their fantasies.
Note: Been a busy week starting a new job and looking for a place in a new city. I’ll also be celebrating the holidays over the weekend, but I should hopefully have another blog post up over the weekend.
I remember watching my first Guillermo Del Toro film, Blade II over ten years ago. I didn’t know it was a Del Toro film at the time but I remembered loving the story and the action.
I followed up Blade II with Hellboy. At the time, Hellboy was one of my favourite comic book films and although it may not be a top five, the Hellboy films and Blade II both stand as distinctive entries in the genre of comic book films. Blade II and Hellboy II also both contain great performances from Luke Goss as the villains Nomak and Prince Nuada respectively.
Nomak Prince Nuada
Pan’s Labyrinth was a masterpiece that combined historical fiction and fantasy seamlessly, combined with great performances and more of the stunning imagery and creature design I was introduced to in Hellboy. Finally, Pacific Rim gave me a live-action mecha film that I have been dreaming of seeing since I watched Gundam Wing as a child.
There are earlier works by Del Toro, such as The Devil’s Backbone that I have not yet seen. I have also missed newer releases such as Crimson Peak and The Shape of Water. After seeing the Del Toro exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) I am making it a priority to travel through more of Del Toro’s filmography.
The exhibit “At Home with Monsters” began September 30th and will end on January 7, 2018. I caught the exhibit near the end of its run and I’m glad I didn’t miss it. The exhibit is not only a great tribute to Del Toro’s works, it is also an insight into his creative process and all of the influences that birthed his works. I don’t only recommend the exhibit to movie lovers or Del Toro fans, I believe it is also a must see for any creative mind.
“At Home with Monsters” uses real decorations and props from Del Toro’s own home (or one of them), which he refers to as the “Bleak House”. These props include life-size figures of characters from his movies, and my personal favourite, his “rain room”: a room with a simulated environment of a rainy day, where Del Toro likes to spend a few hours at a time writing. Many of the figures I follow, such as Ryan Holiday, will play one song on repeat in order to focus. I have adopted this strategy as well, playing a low-energy, repetitive song on a loop. After a few minutes, the song becomes part of the background noise but helps to block out other noises e.g. loud roommates. The rain room appears to have a similar effect, with the repetitive and consistent light drumming of rain on a window, complete with an artificial overcast sky outside.
Edgar Allan Poe and H.P Lovecraft emerged as two of Del Toro’s literary influences. While I read some of Poe’s works in school, I have yet to touch H.P Lovecraft’s works. This is not due to an unwillingness, Lovecraft has been on my list for a while but this exhibit makes him a priority. Del Toro has expressed interest in adapting Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”, going so far as to complete a screenplay for it. The exhibit featured a concept model of an ‘albino penguin’ for the film, which was basically a tall and pale penguin with puss infested eyes. Sweet dreams children.
I felt creatively motivated seeing Poe and Lovecraft represented. Both authors struggled to support themselves with their writing while they lived, but have since become legendary authors. I am not arrogant enough to assume the same fate will befall me, but their stories do give me motivation to continue working at my goal.
A theme of the exhibit, present in the Del Toro quotes plastered throughout, is that adulthood causes many people to lose their sense of wonder and creativity. Perhaps this is a cliche to some, but “At Home with Monsters” gives us a sense of what we can accomplish if we don’t let our curiosity die. A life-size statue of Poe reveals one inspiration, a wall of comics reveals another, a wall of novels reveals more… Del Toro’s works are the amalgamation of everything he consumed and continues to consume. His rain room is a childhood dream brought to life, the embodiment of someone who didn’t let go of what they wanted as a child. Del Toro didn’t only continue to dream, he continued to work at making his goal a reality, and that is what I intend to do as well.
Warning: This should be obvious but this review will have spoilers for previous Star Wars films
After seeing The Last Jedi yesterday, I am now ready to share my thoughts on one of my most anticipated films of 2017. While I believed The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, I still enjoyed the film and Rogue One also cemented my continuing interest in Star Wars lore.
I try to avoid reading or watching any reviews of a film before I see it, since I want to avoid going in with preconceptions. I also try to avoid social media as a whole since Han Solo’s death was spoiled for me by one of the attention-seeking denizens of YouTube. I wasn’t able to abstain completely prior to seeing The Last Jedi but I can only hope that I successfully subdue any preconceptions or at least acknowledge the impact they had on my viewing of this movie.
Episode VIII begins right where VII left off, cutting between the stories of Poe, Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren. I am happy to say that this film doesn’t come across as a complete rehash of Empire Strikes Back, although there are a few moments of similarity. The film’s strongest arc is definitely Kylo Ren’s, who is still dealing with the conflict of truly embracing the dark side. Rey and Ben shippers have a lot to moments to look forward to. Aside from the will they/won’t they moments, Episode VIII delves further into Ben’s past and his relationship with Luke Skywalker.
While the plot revolves around getting Luke to rejoin the Resistance, Luke is a reluctant mentor for Rey. He is a tragic figure whose past failures hinder his ability to move forward. There is plenty to love in the original Star Wars trilogy, but my enjoyment of them was always hampered by Mark Hamill’s subpar acting. Hamill has developed a lot as an actor since then, with a plethora of voice acting and live action roles separating his speaking roles as Luke in Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi. Hamill is able to bring true vulnerability to the role, along with the wisdom expected from the last Jedi Master.
Aside from criticisms that may be reasonable, there is also a slate of alt-right vitriol since this movie has too many women and minorities for their liking. I always found it amusing that people who use the word “triggered” to insult others, are actually the most triggered. They will not be bothered by any of the issues present in “liberal propaganda” but it’s all hands on deck if a film set in another galaxy isn’t dominated by white males. I will ignore these people’s opinions, since they are no more valid than the thoughts of a flat-earther.
Andy Serkis puts in another great motion capture performance as Snoke, surrounded by a cast that delivers for the most part. Finn’s marketing bait and switch, from possible Jedi to bumbling comic relief, was one of my biggest criticisms for the previous film and I happy to see that remedied here. Finn has a meatier role this time around. Domhall Gleeson’s General Hux straddled the line between campy and intense in The Force Awakens, but he crosses that line here quite a few times. There are some weak performances from some minor characters; ones who only have a few lines. While this shouldn’t hamper a film too much it didn’t help that two such characters had the film’s first spoken lines, seemingly setting the tone for what was to come.
Rey’s character was met with a flurry of Mary Sue complaints and some fans will be happy to see some of their thoughts addressed here. One reviewer I follow said The Last Jedi is the Cabin in the Woods of Star Wars films, and I have to admit that this thought influenced my outlook on certain scenes. For example, in one scene Snoke criticizes Ben Solo for his lack of commitment to the dark side, noting that killing Han Solo must have broken his spirt since he lost a fight to a girl who had never wielded a lightsaber. With the Cabin in the Woods comparison in mind, I had to think that writer/director Rian Johnson was trying to address some of the previous film’s biggest criticisms. The film also takes this approach when it delves into Rey’s history, giving us a reveal that may be anti-climactic for some, but also helps to set it apart from other Star Wars films.
I think that some of these scenes help to account for the polarizing reception that The Last Jedi has among fans. While The Rotten Tomatoes critic score is 92%, the audience score is 54%. I am sure that this low rating is partly due to people bothered by too much colour and ovaries, but I won’t say that the alt-right is mostly to blame.
The Last Jedi is nearly three hours long, and its length was the main criticism from the friend I saw it with. While I didn’t feel like the film dragged, I will understand if people say it could have been shorter. New characters are introduced, such as Rose Tico, Star War’s first Asian character and an easy target for the alt-right. She is paired with Finn for the majority of the film and I have to agree that this is a subplot that could have been condensed at the very least. This subplot leads to the infamous confrontation with Phasma that we saw in the first trailer, but one can’t help but wonder if we could have arrived at that moment differently. The subplot would not have been improved if Rose was white. I will say that like Rogue One, this subplot helps to bring in more moral ambiguity to the Star Wars characters. Instead of characters who are affiliated with light or dark, The Last Jedi shows us more who are simply looking out for themselves.
There are some moments of humour, or attempted humour, that do not work. However, I will say that the majority of jokes didn’t feel out of place. Aside from some flat jokes, there are also several scenes or moments that could have been cut to allow screen time to be used more efficiently. Yes, porgs are cute. After the film cut to them for the tenth time, I started to get annoyed. As a result of some unnecessary or dragged out scenes, we miss out on other moments that could have been expanded, such as the reunions of key characters. It would have been great to see more of Princess Leia, especially since this was Carrie Fisher’s last performance. Obviously she may have been written somewhat sparsely with more in mind for Episode IX, but a weak subplot just brings more attention to what else could have been presented. There are now more questions that will have to be answered by Episode IX.
To end on a more positive note, The Last Jedi, has moments, whether dramatic or action-oriented, that I believe will become iconic parts of Star Wars lore. The action, at the very least, is sure to please fans, but I believe the film has more to offer as well. I honestly believe I may need to watch The Last Jedi again before I can give it a true rating. For the moment, I will say that I am looking forward to seeing it again.
Star Wars Film Rankings
A New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
The Last Jedi
The Force Awakens
Revenge of the Sith
“” Attack of the Clones
“” The Phantom Menace