Sunday, September 28, 2008

Survival - It Does A Body Good

For the longest time mankind has been fighting a battle against odds insurmountable.

It is the battle for survival.

Every time you eat a meal, every time you choose to fly overseas instead of swimming it, every time you copulate with a drunken skank you picked up in a bar instead of blowing your brains out, you are making a voluntary effort to ensure the continuation of the second most precious asset you have. Life.

But life is not one big, happy game of Smell The Cheese. Sometimes in order to win someone has got to lose.

If you've ever littered a highway before, you know how hard it was to make that choice. It was the choice between leaving your car untidy and crawling with germs that might lead to cancer or, nearly as tragic, your children's cancer; or dumping it out a convenient window and thus effecting a minor act of genocide against the indigenous-American crybabies who refuse to get with the times. You embraced the comforting notion that, to ensure your own continued existance, someone else must live in squalor, contract dysentery and die. The equations balance. The world maintains its equilibrium.

Axiom of Survival #1: Whatever doesn't kill you, though it might make someone else weaker, still makes you stronger.

In researching human survival, psychologists wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to dream up the assumption that our fear instincts came to us via evolutionary processes. This occurred long before we we got tired of our poo flinging shennanigans, and is thought to have developed as a mechanism for protecting most of our species from becoming Darwin Award nominees. Now, instead of grinning like an idiot when some dickweed lobs a rock or tactical nuke in your direction, you instinctively know to duck and cover. Your survival instinct then kicks into high gear, calling on every violent movie you've ever seen to lull you into a raging psychotic state. It does this by dumping lethal quantities of adrenalin and oxyacetaline into your blood stream, prompting you to retaliate before anyone has a chance to call you a "pussy".

More recently, librarians and really old people who still read books came to realize that both fear and survival instincts are central to the greatest tales mankind has ever told, and even some he hasn't! These concepts, whilst thought of as fundamental to dramatic storytelling, are unfairly considered dangerous "extremists" in the eyes of the illiterate Western capitalist invaders.

Axiom of Survival #2: Blowing yourself up does NOT make you stronger.

For those of you still unclear on what this post is about I offer the following graphic depiction of the human struggle. Scholars think it to be the greatest our civilization has to offer:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Is There An Upper Limit To Coincidence?

Whilst drafting this post about coincidence, wouldn't you know it, a couple of coincidences occurred!

The other day I wrote about the mash-up trailer for The Shining. The next time I went to visit my favorite capping site, which movie do you think was currently playing on the schedule? You guessed it. The Shining. The fact that this happened whilst I was drafting a post about coincidences is in itself ANOTHER coincidence!

Life is strange.

Anyway. Onto the post as it was originally intended--

A bit of a darker theme to today's post as it has something to do with the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Don't worry, this isn't going to be another flogged-to-death opinion about the mayhem that occurred that day. Instead, I'm going to focus on an eerie coincidence.

When coincidences crop up they can really do a number on you and it can be very easy to read more into what has occurred than was there to begin with. I try not to let myself do that. Either there's a simple explanation I've failed to notice that only makes it seem like a coincidence has occurred, or what we're dealing with might be a genuine, bona-fide, 24 Karat, real McCoy coincidence. That's nothing to be afraid of. Statistically speaking, it would be very strange if there weren't any coincidences in our lives.

The following anecdote on coincidence I've been carrying around for a while now. The context makes it pretty hard to forget. Here's how it goes:

On the morning of September 11, 2001 you could walk into a music store in the U.S. and pick up the latest CD from prog-metal supergroup Dream Theater. Of all the factors that go into deciding the release date of a product, this one's just happened to align with that exact date.

There were probably a great many other products slated for release to consumers on 9/11. So, no great coincidence here, really. At least, not yet.

A year before, Dream Theater had played a live date in New York City. The set included a track by track performance of their previous studio album - a concept album titled Scenes From A Memory. They had recorded the event and set about preparing it for release as a live album. It seemed a fitting choice, then, that when the album was released it should feature cover artwork depicting the iconic New York City skyline, with the Twin Towers prominently featured--


An unsavory coincidence; sure. And more than enough to warrant pulling the album from circulation for a makeover. But, the thing is -- we're still not done.

Because the album was a live presentation of Scenes From A Memory it made good sense to give it a title that implied as much. Unfortunately, the chosen title would mimick a phrase the world would hear again and again as they surveyed the mortally wounded Twin Towers on their TV sets that fateful September morning:

"These are Live Scenes From New York."

I decided not to publish the artwork in this post, mainly because you'd likely cheat and skim the picture, rendering my prose inert. You can find the original art on the Wikipedia entry.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Film That Will Haunt You

When you think back over the distinguished career of director Stanley Kubrick, one stubby little faggoty word leaps to mind.


In almost a half-century of work that spanned nearly 50 years, Kubrick brought much needed inspiration to the lives of cinema-going families. So much so that global divorce rates went into steep decline. His legacy was to break a new dawn of cinema in which sentimental, inspirational, touchy-feely crowd pleasers were the gold standard. Cherished holiday favorites like Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot and Escape From L.A., owe much of their continuing success to Kubrick.

I carry such fond memories of the time I first saw Kubrick's antepenultimate masterpiece, Shining. In one all-too-brief film (runtime: 146mins) the collective works of Frank Capra had been rendered obsolete. I left that showing with a spring in my step and the rapturous notion that if you go out of your way to help people, you will get everything you deserve. Suffice it to say, had it not been for this film I would never have had anywhere near the self-confidence needed to start this blog!

If you have yet to experience this film for yourself, you owe it to yourself to experience this film. Maybe you'll even think to share this wonderous,* life-changing classic with your family.

For your approval - the trailer:

*WARNING: Some families have reported experiencing an adverse reaction that renders their wonder as dead as Kubrick himself. Adults are cautioned to privately review the film before deciding if their children or household doors can hack it. Induce vomiting if imbibed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is That A Lightning Storm Brewing Overhead?

(WARNING: Explicit talk of Dungeons & Dragons ahead.)

If you've never rolled a d20 to save your life you haven't lived. Those of you who have, this post's for you.

Remember gathering with your friends at the end of the week to munch through bowls of salty chips, suck down copious amounts of soft drink, and bicker endlessly with the DM over game mechanics, some of which were ill-conceived if not irrelevent in the first place? Yeah, me too. I haven't played D&D in a looong, long time, but I still have fond memories of those games, which just goes to show how fallible memory can be.

To remind us what it's really like, Shamus Young, on his Twenty Sided blog, created a series titled The DM of the Rings. In it Shamus, our beleaguered DM, illustrates just what happens when you take Tolkein's classic Lord of the Rings trilogy and try to play it as a D&D campaign. He's managed to do this by stringing together screenshots from Peter Jackson's LotR films in a comic form. Such a simple idea, right? Right. Simple. And insightful. Also a little unnerving. But damn funny!

To find out why (and do set aside some hours for this unless you intend to string out the experience - something you will inevitably fail to do) you should go check it out!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Who are The Delusionists? I really couldn't say, which is a shame seeing as they hail from the same Croc infested shores as yours truly. Surfing the net one day I came across one of their YouTube videos which I thought mildly funny. I decided to give another of their efforts a shot. It was a skit that turned the courtroom climax to A Few Good Men on its ear in an innovative and completely irreverent fashion. I won't risk spoiling it for you by rabbiting on further, other than to say, the next time a friend invites you to play a round of 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon -- I dare you not to crack a smile.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's All A Big Mystery

For a while there things looked bleak. Nothing but murder, murder and more murder. But then something changed. House cut through the 'Police Line Do Not Cross' tape to become one of the top rated mystery shows on TV. Not only did I start watching mystery television again, but I had cause to do a little happy dance for Hugh Laurie. He suffered long and hard to get a dream gig like this. Hurrah and huzzah for him!

One of my favorite clips of Hugh is from his comedy years on A Bit of Fry and Laurie, a sketch comedy show he did with Stephen Fry a ways back. Mystery, as this comedic song is called, is something very special. Every line unfolds like a revelation. If you haven't seen it before and you like a good laugh, then this may be just what the doctor ordered.