I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Monday, May 30, 2011

Woot Weekly Round-Up 5/30/2011

Not a lot of changes on Woot.com. Of the Top 20 t-shirts at Shirt.Woot's Reckoning, these are four that I recommend you check out:

#1. The Cheese Is A Liederkranz

#4. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (I received this shirt in the mail and the detail is insane. Immediately, I spilled on it. It remains to be seen whether or not the damage is permanent. Hopes and prayers, people.)

#7. In Harmony

#9. Meh

In the Going, Going... category I'm a little surprised that #26 In A Galaxy Bar Far Away is going to be leaving us, as it is one of the best shirts released in the last two weeks. That said, it doesn't break my heart that it's gone. As for the Bystanders, none of them really made it onto my radar.

As always, check out Shirt.Woot for fantastic daily deals, and make sure you hop on over to the Reckoning and make sure your favorite shirts don't get kicked off of the site.

Arnold 365, Day 150 (Raw Deal)

Banner by Adam Friedli.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yellowbrickroad Trailer

Party Down

There are some romances you can never forget. Sam and Diane on Cheers. Zack and Kelly on Saved by the Bell. Mulder and Scully on X-Files. Ross and Rachel on FRIENDS. Jack and Kate on LOST. Jim and Pam on The Office. Well, I really think that if Party Down hadn't been canceled, you'd include Henry and Casey in that number. Whereas many of these other romances would take an entire season to have the slightest bit of development, Party Down's romance developed each and every episode. Henry and Casey were complex and interesting, and there was always a new place for their relationship to go. Would that have been the case in the future? I think so. The writers seemed really smart, like they could have given us good drama and comedy for some six plus seasons. Unfortunately, we'll never know. The life of Party Down was cut short. Two seasons and then it was over. But those two seasons were pretty spectacular though!

Greenberg (2010)

After a semester of uninteresting movies, I returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan to see the first good movie of the year, Greenberg. That Christmas, I would purchase this same film on Blu Ray for a beautiful woman. Why? It should be enough that I bought a great film for a great woman. But it's not. When I came home from a semester of boring movies in Fort Worth, I saw the first good movie of 2011 with the first interesting person I met after returning to Michigan. This happened to be the first movie of many that I would see with a woman named Amy Bolan. And this Great Revision post is written near my one year anniversary with Amy. What do I expect from the next year? I have no way of knowing what to expect. Here's to hoping that we are at least able to get all the way through the David Lynch film Dune!

Arnold 365, Day 147 (Raw Deal)

Banner by Adam Friedli.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Publication History: Instincts

I'm much less embarrassed by the short story titled "Instincts" that I've included in my publication history. Sure, the story itself was lacking a lot of character development and plot, but there were some cool ideas and riffs in it, and I've always liked the style in which I wrote it. People compared my writing to my favorite authors at the time, Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis, assuring me that they did not mean it as an insult.

Below is a scan of a "broadside" featuring a passage from "Instincts," and a diagram of dog anatomy. Broadsides like these were made by Jason Rederstorf in limited quantities and used to promote the fledgling Student Reading Series at Grand Valley State University. Another copy of this very broadside hung framed in the hallways of the GVSU writing department for a year or so. Since it was made public in such a way, I consider it a publication. Of course, by that standard, a child's elementary school finger painting could be considered published once it lines the walls of said elementary school, and I have no problem listing myself amongst the great artists of elementary schools across the nation.

The Fuzzy Pack Trailer

Looks like we beat Josh over at Fat Train to this one too!

A Guide to Video Game Lingo 7

1. D.P.S. (noun) - an acronym that stands for Damage Per Second. "It refers simply to the amount of damage a player or group of players can inflict on the enemy in one second. It's not usually an exact figure unless it is used to rate something like a weapon or spell. Melee and caster classes typically do high DPS, while healer classes most often do much less." (About.com)

2. Tank (noun) - "A player-character, typically in a MMORPG, that is able to occupy an agressor and take the brunt of the aggressor's attacks while the other players deal damage, heal, or perform some other action. The "tank" can survive longer while taking damage than the other characters. Typically, the tank has higher hitpoints (health) and a higher armor rating than the other characters. Less commonly, a character with a lower armor rating can perform the actions of the tank by using avoidance abilities. Ultimately, the tank needs to be able to occupy the agressor without dying. The method employed, whether avoidance or absorption, does not matter, as long as the tank can mitigate damage in some way." (Urban Dictionary)

3. Caster (noun) - a character who, to put is simply, "casts" spells. Casters tend to use magical abilities rather than physical abilities and often do so from a distance.

(Immediately after publishing each episode of "A Guide to Video Game Lingo," I usually encounter someone who wants me to tackle a word or words that he/she is familiar with in the video gaming world. I want to take a moment to say that I wish all of you would think of words and phrases that are specific to the world of video gaming, be it PC, console or otherwise, and feel free to list them. I keep a master list and I hope to get to every single term in the near future.)

Arnold 365, Day 146 (Raw Deal)

Banner by Adam Friedli.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pendulum Waves

Serious Sci Fi: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the fourth installation of film adaptations of he original 1966 television show Star Trek. In this film, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew travel back in time to save two humpback whales in a sort of "save the whales, save the universe" plot. (Are lame Heroes jokes still vogue?) The crew must split up in order to abduct, store and transport the two whales efficiently, or else...

Many of you have difficulty suspending disbelief long enough to believe that one can time travel (accurately) by using a space vessel to "slingshot" around the sun. Perhaps, due to the fact that my dad raised us on Star Trek, it's easier for me to deal with this uncritically. Perhaps I fear the consequences of closing minds to, as Mulder would say, "extreme possibilities." I do have a problem with Star Trek IV, however. If you guessed that it involves Mr. Spock mind-melding with a whale then you've guessed wrong. My problem has to do with the actions of Scotty in the above divide and conquer situation, or what I call the Montgomery Scott Paradox.

Mr. Scott's job, in preparation for saving the whales, is to acquire panels of ultra-thick acrylic glass which will be used to construct water tanks in the ship's cargo bay strong enough to transport two humpback whales and tons of water. Since Mr. Scott does not have enough money - 23rd-century economics is apparently drastically different from 20th century economics - he gives Dr. Nichols of Plexicorp the chemical formula for transparent aluminum in exchange for several sheets of plexiglass. Dr. Leonard McCoy, always concerned with the ethical implications of peoples' actions, censures Mr. Scott for giving Nichols the formula and potentially changing the future with possibly dire consequences. Mr. Scott brushes off the accusation humorously, responding, "How do you know he didn't invent the thing?" According to the novelization of the film, Dr. Nichols did, in fact, invent transparent aluminum.

The Montgomery Scott Paradox is better known as the predestination paradox. (Apparently people talked about this paradox prior to Star Trek IV. All I know is that I sure as heck didn't...) If Montgomery Scott's knowledge ultimately originates in the knowledge of Dr. Nichols, and the knowledge of Dr. Nichols originally comes from Montgomery Scott (as depicted in the film), then the result is an infinite loop in which the knowledge doesn't have any true origin. There is no original idea, no inception, only the transmission of an idea that technically should not exist. Assuming that only one timeline / dimension / reality exists (which we technically can't do after the events of J.J. Abrams's Star Trek), this exchange of knowledge without origin cannot happen.

The only way out, according to my imagination, is through multiverse theory, though the intermingling of tangent universes and the propagation of knowledge across dimensions. Even with the help of multiverse theory, however, I have trouble coming up with a concise account of how one can solve this paradox. The Montgomery Scott paradox from Star Trek IV remains, to this interpreter at least, a serious difficulty.

(If anyone can provide an acocunt of how to resolve this paradox, please feel free to make me look like a fool. I would love to learn from your science / sci-fi expertise.)

Sexy Sax Man

Arnold 365, Day 145 (Raw Deal)

Banner by Adam Friedli.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Good Name: Ella

During the same hypothetical discussion of children's names that spawned A Good Name: Harvey, Amy and I decided that our top name possibility for a daughter would be Ella.

Our biggest influence on choosing this name is the fact that Amy's older sister is named Ella. As a matter of fact, she owns a coffee shop called Ella's in Lowell, Michigan where they serve pretty fantastic food. Amy also happens to be a fan of Ella Fitzgerald, and I believe there is even an Ella in my family, perhaps my mother's aunt. The name just has a really good sound and we've only ever known good Ellas.

Ella might also be a good name for an elephant. No good reason other than the fact that it's a pun.

Amy's been obsessed with toucans lately. Why not name a toucan Ella?

And this one comes from Adam Friedli. Adam thought that we should name a pet umbrella Ella. You know, like umbrella Ella Ella...

Our Idiot Brother Trailer

Why You Couldn't Be Batman, Part Three: Of Fists and Feet

Part One: Introduction can be viewed here.
Part Two: Those Wonderful Toys can be viewed here.

Bruce Wayne has seemingly endless bankroll and a first-rate mind, but so does Bill Gates. Is Bill Gates Batman? He most certainly is not. Like Bruce Wayne, Gates gives massive amounts of money to charities that attempt to right the structural wrongs of society - poverty, hunger, etc. Unlike Bruce Wayne, Gates is not a well-oiled machine, a human weapon who places his body, his everything, between the victim and the victimizer. I praise a man like Bill Gates, both because he has given away such a substantial portion of his wealth to people in need and because he does so while being non-fictional, but he's no Batman.

In a way, Batman is understood as police officer par excellence. He is the best detective. He is a fantastic fighter who does not need a gun and who does not kill perpetrators. He transcends law when law is not in the service of justice. Just as one might imagine that there must always be a police force, a group of individuals donning the uniforms of the dead or retired generation after generation in order to pledge solidarity against crime, so also there must always be a Batman. This is why an exhausted Batman had to push on in the "A Lonely Place of Dying" and "Knightfall" storylines, why Jean-Paul Valley / Azrael donned the cape and cowl when Bruce Wayne's back was broken and why Dick Grayson / Robin I / Nightwing became Batman after Bruce Wayne's death.

Whereas there is a police academy dedicated to training young people to replace the old guard, there is no Batman academy. (After writing this, however, I was alerted that because of the events of Batman Incorporated, there now appears to be a Batman academy.) If there were, Azrael would not have become a dangerous tyrant of a Batman. In training to become Batman, Bruce Wayne left his home as an angry young adult, traveling throughout the world in order to learn the best of martial arts, of illusion and of striking fear in ones opponents. This is one of the dominant themes in the 2005 film Batman Begins. The idea that I have gotten from the various manifestations of Batman, in comics, on TV, in movies, is that if there is a better fighter than Bruce Wayne then Wayne has either trained with this person or engaged in mortal combat with this person. Batman is a member of the Justice League, a founding member, and he is generally understood as someone you don't want to mess with. Were he simply a brain this would not be so. Even the most powerful heroes must have some resonating fear that Batman can best them physically, and this speaks well of the Batman's physical prowess.

There was an individual a few years back who had made a great deal of money selling rap records. I wish I could remember his name! But this individual realized that he was in a situation where he could become like Batman. As this story was told to me, I crossed my fingers that the next words would describe the rapper's journey to become an accomplished and self-controlled fighter. Instead, I heard the story of how this rapper had bought a Batmobile and Batman outfit.

I think that Batman's endless fight against crime and the sacrifice of his body is especially important when we think of Batman's mere humanity, of his mortality. Bruce Wayne can be injured by a knife or bullet just like any of us. He is no man of steel. And yet, unlike most of us, Bruce Wayne continues to best the most heavily armed enemies in spite of the obvious and real threat to his life. If you cannot do this, then you are not Batman.

Though I've largely made my point regarding Batman's martial arts ability and bodily sacrifice, I would like to discuss, for a moment, Batman and his relationship to violence. The most important truth about Batman is that he abhors violence. If he believed that violence could be stopped without resorting to further violence then he would no longer fight with fists and feet. Born in blood, Bruce Wayne wants nothing but to serve justice by ending corruption and bloodshed. It should be clear in any Batman story that Batman only wishes to disarm and capture adversaries, that killing is never a viable option. And yet that's not always the case. In the original Tim Burton Batman films, Batman straight up kills villains. There is no way many of these thugs could survive what Batman does to them. The video game Batman: Arkham Aslum is incredibly violent, and even beyond the idea of blowing up villains with concrete walls, the placement and force of Batman's punches and kicks could easily paralyze or kill villains.

I wanted to bring this up in order to caution first against striving to be a Batman who kills, but also to question whether training to become a vigilante who could die any day is anything you should aspire to. This series could be critiqued as holding Batman up as an example we ought to follow. Quite frankly, I don't know that people should learn how to meet violence with violence. In fact, I don't know that people should ever strive for Bruce Wayne's wealth. Even his level of intelligence is something I wouldn't be quick to recommend. It's a good way to feel alone. All the time. I do think that the Batman stories help individuals in moral development, but similar to religion, I caution against a monkey-see, monkey-do mentality.

Of the next post on why you couldn't be Batman, all I can say is that there will be blood. As you can probably guess, we will be dealing with Batman's tragic origin and its consequences.

Part Four: Crime Alley can be viewed here.

Arnold 365, Day 144 (Raw Deal)

Banner by Adam Friedli.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

The Star Trek movie franchise has been generally the object of jokes and disdain. There is a large group of individuals called Trekkers or Trekkies who un-ironically love these films as a unified corpus, and I belong, by birth, to this category. My dad took us to Star Trek conventions when we were children. I am used to music videos featuring Star Trek scene collages to the tune of "Sloop John B" or "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," to people walking around dressed as Klingons, and to fans asking unnecessarily detailed questions to actors who obviously don't know the answers.

It is because of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that there is any degree of mainstream respect for Star Trek. Ricardo Montalban's genetically enhanced super-solidier from the 1990s called Khan is easily one of the best movie villains of all time. His rivalry with (and wrath towards) Admiral James T. Kirk is enticing enough that one forgets they are never even in the same room. Most importantly, the closing scenes are some of the most memorable in movie history, Kirk's closing speech bringing me to tears every time.

Star Trek II follows the laws of good literature better than any other Star Trek film. I'm specifically referring to the use of allusion, foreshadowing, and most importantly, characterization. It is the most epic and touching story in Star Trek history, and you should make time to see it. Soon.

Green With Envy Trailer

Woot Weekly Round-Up 5/23/2011

Of the Top 20 t-shirts at Shirt.Woot's Reckoning, these are four that I don't think you should miss out on.

#1. The Cheese Is A Liederkranz

#4. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (I already bought this one!)

#6. In Harmony

#8. Meh

There's really nothing in the Going, Going... category that I'm sad to see leave. In fact, I'm fairly happy the Thesaurus t-shirt will be leaving us. As for the Bystanders, Thursday's In A Galaxy Bar Far Away is pretty interesting, but I wouldn't say it's one of the best I've seen.

Good work making sure Eats, Shoots, and Leaves didn't get eliminated, my friends, and good job skyrocketing it nearly to the top of the Top 20. As always, check out Shirt.Woot for fantastic daily deals, and make sure you hop on over to the Reckoning and make sure your favorite shirts don't get kicked off of the site.

Arnold 365, Day 143 (Raw Deal)

Banner by Adam Friedli.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jimmy Smits

Actor Jimmy Smits. Back in the '90s everyone was in love with Smits because of his work on NYPD Blue. I never really had any desire to watch that show. What really got me hooked on Jimmy Smits is his performance on the third season of Dexter. Whereas almost everyone I knew was obsessed with Dexter by the first or second season, it was during Smits's third season that I really go into the program. And it was largely because of the acting of Jimmy Smits. I know I'm going to watch out for Jimmy Smits more in the future, and if you're not already Streets Ahead of me, you should too.

It's OK To Be Takei

George Takei, actor/activist, confronts Tennessee legislators who have recently passed a bill where homosexuality cannot be discussed in the classroom. Buttressing his comedic yet inspirational video, Takei has his own web site called It's OK to be Takei. On this web site one can find It's OK to be Takei merchandise. All profits go to charity.

Old Rip's Tex-Mex Restaurant

I must have walked past Old Rip's Tex-Mex Restaurant a couple hundred times, walking to the grocery store, walking to other restaurants that I was less than pleased with, walking to school, but I never really gave the place a chance. The restaurant has two large picture windows facing the main road, and every evening I've seen nicely dressed people sitting in the restaurant enjoying themselves. I think I never went there until my last month in Fort Worth mainly because I thought I'd need a reservation. When Amy and I finally stopped in one afternoon, we were really surprised.

I do have to say that if you come to Old Rip's Tex-Mex Restaurant expecting classic and signature Tex-Mex entrees, you might be disappointed. I would describe Old Rip's as a Mexican restaurant with a couple of Tex-Mex inspired elements: mainly bacon, brisket, rib-eye and ranch dressing. I also have to say that I do not promote disappointing restaurants on this webs site, so if you can overlook the absence of Tex-Mex despite the emphasis on Tex-Mex in the restaurant's name you'll be happy.

What I recommend at Old Rip's is the burrito. I've had both the brisket burrito and the steak burrito, and while both are fantastic I would definitely suggest the steak. Amy had the chicken fajita burrito also, and she highly recommends that as well. My hypothesis is that all of their burritos are good. Burritos are filled with lettuce, tomato, guacamole, sour cream, pico, Monterey Jack, cheddar and cilantro. If I have one critique it is that ordering burritos like this can sometimes seem a little much. I am a fan of the ambition to put all of these fillings in a burrito, but I think these burritos hit a critical mass of flavor. I would suggest removing at least one of these fillings as suits you. I like to order burritos here without guacamole. It's not that I don't like guacamole, but I do think that the burrito has a better flavor balance without it. Amy likes to order burritos at Old Rip's without the sour cream. That's just what works best for her. All burritos are topped with queso and jalapeno peppers and served with Mexican rice and refried beans.

I did not find a lot of really good burritos in Fort Worth. It took non-traditional Mexican food like that at Old Rip's to keep me from declaring it a burrito-free zone. I would definitely check out Old Rip's if you're in Fort Worth, especially if you're in the Texas Christian University vicinity. March right past Fuzzy's - unless you just want queso with chips - and stop in at Old Rip's Tex-Mex Restaurant. You'll get better service and better food, and one of the best burritos in Fort Worth.

Old Rip's Tex-Mex Restaurant
3105 Cockrell Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76109

Arnold 365, Day 141 (Raw Deal)


Banner by Adam Friedli.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises Viral Campaign

By now I'm sure everyone knows that filming has begun on The Dark Knight Rises. It just happens that there is also a viral campaign going on today. Earlier this morning, geek news sites began prompting their Twitter followers to tweet #thefirerises and to check out this image for The Dark Knight Rises. A magnifying glass appears and allows the viewer to see that the forming image is made up of Twitter profile pictures. If you scan the picture, it is possible to find your own picture. I found mine:

The full picture has materialized quite a bit since I first joined in on the fun. Almost immediately, the same news sites that began the buzz regarding this viral campaign had access to an unaltered version of the picture that we were constructing with our Twitter profile pictures.

As you can see, this is the first picture of Tom Hardy as Bane in the upcoming film The Dark Knight Rises. Many of us have been wondering how exactly Christopher Nolan is going to pull off a good Bane story, but I am sure that most of us are still childishly giddy to see such an impressive representation of Bane as this.

Now, I've decided to use The Dark Knight Rises viral campaign for my own purposes. I have been working on a side project, and the only way for you to find out more about it is to check out The Dark Knight Rises web site and search for this picture:

Feel free to leave your comments regarding either my viral campaign or The Dark Knight Rises viral campaign here.

Arnold 365, Day 140 (Raw Deal)

Banner by Adam Friedli.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Scream 5?

If you're anything like me, you enjoyed a couple of scenes from Scream 4 - the beginning within a beginning within a beginning at the beginning, and the Fight Club-esque beat-the-crap-out-of-herself moment near the end - and felt like the rest was just kind of blah. If you're anything like me, you're both incredibly surprised and incredibly not-surprised to hear that there is a Scream 5 in the works. Immediately after Scream 4 concluded, some friends and I engaged in a discussion regarding what the fifth installation in the Scream saga would look like. And here are a few of the ideas we came up with.

1. Scream 5 with Zombies!

Leaving the theater, I overheard someone suggesting that they thought there would be a lot more cameos from actors who were in the first three Scream movies, actors like Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowen, and so on. If the Scream franchise is concerned with taking on current trends in horror and proving that it can be done better, then they're going to have to get to zombie films eventually, right? What better way to return these actors to the Scream franchise than to resurrect their characters. Sure, they're going to look a couple decades older, but good zombie make-up can transform that age into rot and blood. Alakazam! You've got a fantastic Scream 5.

2. Scream 5 in Time!

There was already a moment in Scream 4 where they made fun of the in-movie Stab series employing time travel. Why not use that as a teaser for what's to come in the Scream series? This is another way that we can interact with characters from the original movies. Maybe we can use the reverse-aging technology of Terminator: Salvation and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to put our favorite Scream actors back in their original setting, and looking as good as new. Or maybe we can use some of that Forrest Gump technology to insert other characters, perhaps simply older characters, into the first three movies. (Heaven forbid it turn into a prequel...)

3. Scream 5 in Space!

When the joke was made about Stab doing time travel, I had thought that perhaps they would have first gone into outer space. After all, the idea of sending your franchise into space has much more of a precedent than time travel. I'm thinking of Jason X and Leprechaun 4: In Space, specifically. It only took four Leprechauns to get to space. Five Screams should just about do it. (Leprechaun 3 was easily as good as Scream 3 and 4 put together. Am I right?) As for my reasoning for bringing Scream to space... Well, I don't really need to have one. That's just where horror franchises go. Maybe they could even title it (Where Nobody Can Hear You) Scream.

4. Scream 5 in the Hood!

You had to get me started on the Leprechaun franchise, didn't you? Leprechaun went to the hood not once, but twice, in 2000s Leprechaun in the Hood and 2003s Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. For those of you who think that the complaints of a bunch of white people along with the occasional black person (who is only there to make a point about black people in horror movies) in the suburbs are annoying, here is a horror movie in which the ghostface killer (possibly played by Ghostface Killah) is in over his head. That's right, ghostface looks like a chump compared to the people he'll meet in the streets of Compton. Maybe ghostface will actually die in the opening scene, and it will just turn into a Boyz n the Hood sequel. This one clearly has a lot of promise.

5. Scream 5 with Ghosts!

OK. Maybe ghostface isn't played by Ghostface Killah. Maybe ghostface is a ghost. Here's the opening. Ghostface is chasing after a young, attractive woman. She pulls her own gigantic knife out of a drawer and hides in a closet. Ghostface opens the closet and she takes a swing at ghostface, only to find that the knife goes right through him. He kills her, but that's not the punchline. The punchline is that ghostface is a ghost.

6. Scream 5 with Nicholas Cage!

I brought up the idea of the next Scream movie revolving Nicholas Cage (NO COSTUME!) running around with a giant knife and saying ridiculous stuff. Nobody liked my idea. I'm still crossing my fingers. ("A! B! C! D!"... Anybody?)

7. Scream vs. the Wayans Brothers

Somebody brought up that he was surprised that the Scream franchise hasn't confronted the Scary Movie franchise. After all, the Stab franchise within the Scream franchise already does a better job at making fun of the Scream franchise than the Scary Movie franchise ever did. Franchise. Franchise franchise franchise. There - I got it out of my system. Anyways, do you remember classic horror films like Halloween where the killer was obsessed with killing everyone in his own family? Well, in this movie, ghostface would be obsessed with killing the Wayans brothers because he dislikes their films. Of course, Damon Wayans would be the one who survives, mainly because Major Payne was straight-up gold. Or maybe he'd be the one killing his family because they are making a mockery of the Wayans name.

And that's all I've got. For now. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUN!

Arnold 365, Day 139 (Raw Deal)

Banner by Adam Friedli.