Thursday, January 31, 2008

Five Def. of Pi's

Ah Pi, that elusive impossible goal. It has driven many to madness (especially the guy in this movie), but many also to great feats.

And so unsurprisingly it has a special place in the hearts of many mathematicians. The 16th century German mathematician Ludoph van Ceulen even had his tombstone engraved with his 32 decimal place estimations of pi.

Ah, Pi!

Fiercely irrational, blissfully transcendent, and so essential to the universe and how it works...

But it's so tricky. Oh course, I know how to write Pi's true form, but instead of revealing that truth to you and thus blowing your minds, I'll just share with you some other def.s of pi, beyond just the ratio of the perimeter of a circle and its diameter (meter! meter!) (all better than the old stand-by 3.14).

1. Good old Archimedes came up with a rough estimate: π is between 223/71 and 22/7

He figured this by drawing a circle, drawing a polygram inside the circle, touching all the sides, and then drawing a polygram outside the circle where the circle touched all of its sides. Then he compared the two polygrams, and by making more and more sides... and this is how you get the rough estimate 22/7 which I used through much of elementary school.

2. Here's one an Indian did write up in the 15th century AD:
and so on... FOREVER!!!

Pretty damn awesome. INFINITE SERIES RULE!!!
Good work Madhava of Sangamagrama! It would take until the 17th century for the series to be rediscovered through the hearty work of James Gregory and Gottfried Leibniz.

3. And if you like your arctangents (and who doesn't?), how about this def. of pi:

Kudos John Machin!

And if you don't like your arctans, well,
and so on, still FOREVER!!!
At least according to a nice little Taylor expansion of arctangent.

4. Well, to take Pi to the next level, another Indian had to get into the game. And so in the early 19th century another Indian did (actually Indians had been working all along, but this 5 def.s not a total history). I'm talking about the one, the only Srinivāsa Rāmānujan!!!
Check out his method for finding Pi, derived from the highest halls of Number Theory:

While that method didn't hit the big time till 1985, in that year William Gosper used it to calculate Pi to 17 million digits. Dude, sweet.

5. But if you want to go a little ways by the abstract route. Well, remember that Euler with some Taylor formulization of e^(ix), sin x and cos x, came up with

which when x = pi leads to a nice little identity involving pi:

Ah, Euler, you may have lived in the 18th century and pronounced your name like a greaser, but you're still one of the best.

So in conclusion let me give you one more def. of pi:

Pi = Awesome


At home in the lonely hearts club

So I'm doing a semi-review, semi-link-centered, semi-exposition, semi-introspection, and all of it's going to be awesome.

Take a deep breath.

To help you relax, here's as the title might suggest a link to Sergent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as portrayed in Yellow Submarine. (By the way, while the song is pretty cool, I'm not overall a huge fan of that album, although I realize its merits)

So, under the unrelenting pressure of the TV writers strike (actually there have been moments of relention, due to various factors, but unrelenting sounds cool), mega-cool tv critic Alan Sepinwall has been taking a look at an old short-lived favorite (or at least fondly remembered) of his called Cupid (all of whose episodes can be found on youTube with a simple search (if you come up with more videos of music, such as the excellent though quite off-topic song and music video of Cupid's Chokehold by Gym Class Heroes, try searching for Cupid 1, since the episodes are broken into 5 pieces, as a general rule that's usually a good way to find broken up episodes on youTube). And obliged by my unrelenting loyalty to NJ's premier tv critic I have given it a shot.

I'm not going to do a real review because I haven't watched the whole series (currently I'm on ep. 9, out of however, I think only 15, although rumor has it that the series might be getting a do-over and being remade by the head writer) and my mind's still too sunk into the series to really have any sensibility to the review.

But some things to point out especially as they relate to that semi-introspection I've been hinting at.

First of all: The intro theme is pretty damn cool (the song's called "Human" by the Pretenders. At first, I wasn't crazy about it, it doesn't have that strong of a hook or an overwhelming energy, but it has a quiet intensity that grows on you. The nice little images of the intro also help with that.

So here's a link to Cupid's intro.

However, if what to see that quiet intensity really brought out in its intense sense (the Cupid intro more brings out the quiet, pleasant sense) check out the Pretenders video for the song which takes the intensity to a funny but really quite creepy place.

Also, notice the main line: "I'm only human on the inside." Where does the emphasis fall on that? If it's on the "human", the song is emphasizing her essential humanness, if it's only on "the inside" then there's the suggestion that on the outside she's something other than human, which the video also suggests. And if the song's having it both ways, then it's crazy, but heck, so are we all. After all, we're human on the inside.

But if I might return to that show Cupid. With reviews I usually have a lot of trouble explaining plots, not so much with Cupid, partially because the overall arches either were never finished or I didn't see them finish, but more so because this is an anthology show.

The focus is a couple of the week, either having problems or needing to be put together, and to help is Trevor Hale, who's convinced that he's actually Cupid, the Roman god of love, and he just might be (my view of the show is that it tends to say he is, but there's just a slight chance he might be otherwise...). Of course, if he's not Cupid, he's just delusional. And the spectacular feature of his delusion is that he's convinced he's been exiled to Earth as a mortal and needs to fix up 100 couples with true love before he can return to Olympus. To his fortune, he is placed under the care of a psychologist named Claire who sees his delusions as harmless and who runs a single therapy group. To his misfortune, Claire's views on love are very much different from his and often she works against his attempts to unite couples, although her actions often end up complementing his. Underneath it all is chemistry between Claire and Trevor, and to round out the cast is good old Champ, an actor and barkeep who's Trevor's roommate and acts in the everyman role.

Essentially its a fantasy-influenced romantic comedy with dramatic elements. If that doesn't sound that appealing, let me assure you that the comedy is very real and the dramatic elements often reach right to the core. Afterall, while it is melodramatic at times, it is melodramatic about the inherently melodramatic concept of love, which is truly beautiful none the less. But more than anything else, this show has charm to spare. I'm reminded of one of the posts my friend Howard did for me while I was away on vacation, Why I Watch the Tonight Show, and his conclusion is that its because of Jay's good-natured charm, well that's why I like Cupid. It's absolutely charming. And I guess that's because it's unashamedly about LOVE, in its both big and small, funny and dramatic, zany and serious forms, without taking itself too seriously or too lightly, and dancing away all the pretentiousness with mounts of utterly hilarious wit.

So for a preliminary review I'm giving it a 7 out of 10, because it is pretentious, it does get overdramatic, sometimes its storylines are silly or drawn out, sometimes its emotional arcs are rushed, but its got so much damn charm. (I think in the end you just have to label me a rank sentimentalist)

But I wanted to talk about this more because of its relation to the title of this post: The Lonely Hearts Club. And damn this show reminds me that I'm in that. If it wasn't so good, and heck, honestly if I was deeply involved with some other show (ie if Scrubs had produced a really nice season 6 and 7), I probably wouldn't watch it, because even when I'm laughing, even when I'm touched to the center of my being, it hurts. But maybe that's a good thing in the end. If you don't feel the hurt of love...

I have enough plans keep me busy forever. I have work. I have God. I don't need romance. But why then does a show like Cupid hurt? Just the wistfulness of could maybe be? In the end, no. Some don't need the dream of romance, but the reason why Cupid hurts is because I do. That's me. And so I need the pain, even if it is the bitter, bitter pain of loneliness, to keep that romantic part of me from decaying. Because I love romance with such a passion, to give it up...

Now you can't idolize romance, that's a sin. But to give up romance when it's such a central part of me, essentially because of fear, because despite the excuse of busy-ness, the real reason for avoiding romance is for me fear (especially given the questionable nature of some of my side projects), that's a sin. And as a good Christian, I must do God's will, not mine.

And besides, it's not that unlikely... it might be hard, but it's probably not that hard... it won't be perfect, but chances are it could be so good... maybe one fine day despite the tides of the past, there will be a woman who I can hold in my arms and love with total romance.

Perhaps that sounds sappy, perhaps that sounds foolish, perhaps there's a little crazy there too, but I'm only human on the inside, add emphasis where you choose.

Anyways, if you have something to drink (man, how I wish I had a glass of orange juice right now), let's raise a toast: To Love. And to God, the founder of the great feast of love, in all its many forms.

So take it to your head, take it to your HEART, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Post-script: I have a special feature: reviews of certain Cupid episodes I found mega-awesome and certain Cupid episodes that have had a mega-awesome impact on me. It's also possible that some time later I might throw in a full review of Cupid, plus a review of episodes of less than highest caliber, and those that I simply haven't seen yet. But that's getting far too ahead of ourselves. For now though, check out the episode reviews I have now (I put them on a separate page since this is getting obscenely long) because they kick up the reviewerness up a notch, but they also kick up some of the introspection too, overall, they kick up the awesomeness up a notch (because of that very reason, I might do some ep. reviews of other shows I review too, maybe, if only I have the time...)

Because it was a funny episode, of our lives that is

Cupid's a pretty damn good show (as I have noted here). But that said it's a pretty uneven show. No episodes are really bad or unwatchable, but some are only so-so. But those episodes that are good, they're solid gold. And moreover, they've got so many nooks and crannies that they're worth talking about, whether just for a little bit (as I do) or for quite a bit (as the grand NJ TV guru Alan Sepinwall does). So talk I shall... for I AM RAND!!!

But for reasons of time, and perhaps even interest, I'm only going to hit the upper-crust of the episodes I've seen. It's a mixed bag of funny, dramatic, relateability, and straight-to-the-heart (usually obvious, but still valuable) truths about love. Even if the truth hurts sometimes. Even if just thinking about romance for a man lonely in that department is painful. But if an episode can conjure up such an emotional response, that's a testament to its quality (isn't it?).

Because of that a couple of the best episodes hurt enough that I can wax poetic (or perhaps pathetic (but how can the mighty and glorious Rand be pathetic?)) about them, especially since they were a bit close to home. But let me first highlight just some generally very good episodes (I'm planning to go back and do this with a lot of the other shows I've reviewed):

Ep. 3: Heaven, He's in Heaven (you can get the start here, I'll leave you smart internet-pioneers to find your way to the rest of the episode) (And here's the comments of Mr. Sepinwall on the episode (including input from the show's creator Rob Thomas))
- Touching episode about death, loss, and growing old - and about your husband spontaneously bursting out into song and dance in the middle of the day (and he's surprisingly good at it too). Hilarious and moving. That's Cupid.

Ep. 5: First Loves (start's here) (Mr. Sepinwall's comments)
- The central concept is cliche, but Cupid's about love, so the show's unabashed by cliches, or if abashed, it still runs gleefully into them. And there's plenty of glee here. And some soft played romance (with a nice twist ending). And then there's some more weighty drama in the background. Perhaps most important in the episode is it shows all the characters being themselves in a softly spectacular way, and if you love those characters, then the episode's just gold.

Ep. 6: Meat Market (start's here) (Mr. Sepinwall's comments)
-Dude, for Halloween the guys dressed up as the village people. And one of them thought there was a milkman in the group. And one of them thought they weren't gay. Dude. This is a fun, fun, funnity fun episode, with little gems of small drama because the fun just demands you love the characters. That's Cupid (once more).

Ep. 8: Heart of the Matter (start's here) (Mr. Sepinwall's comments)
-This episode is a tricky beast. It brings in a new character who's got some real comedic chops. It puts up a real solid barrier to the romance. And then it hits you with a surprise that neither you or the characters really know how to deal with. Does the episode hit some sour notes? A little. The introduced character slips into Trevor's life a little too easily and with too few questions (usually characters friendly with Trevor take some getting used to his whole Roman god thing). But the balance of so many different emotions. It's like a house of cards, except the house is holding. Have you ever looked at a house of cards? Imagine if despite all the gravity and balance issues it held. That's this episode, and that's Cupid at its best.

So those are some generally good episodes. Now let me touch on some episodes that have a particular sense for me:

Ep. 2: The Linguist (full links: 1/5, 2/5, 3/5, 4/5, 5/5) (Mr. Sepinwall's commentary as well) (well, I've got spoilers everywhere, but there's especially a lot of spoilers coming up about these episodes).
- This episode speaks to me for a couple reasons. First of all, the male of the week is a virgin. I actually don't like how this is played in the episode, since it's treated as a freak thing, which I don't think anyone outside of Hollywood would actually consider it (I mean its funny to talk about the 40-year old virgin when it's apparent that the whole thing is pure laughs, but here, while the show laughs at how other people react to a 35 (around that)-year old virgin, it also laughs at him, and that pisses me off a little). When I first saw that I basically felt I probably wouldn't like it. But even from the beginning there were a few elements of gorgeous charm.

First of all, the male was a linguist, and while linguistics isn't quite my field, it is still pretty cool. Secondly, it was dealing mostly w/ the university crowd, which I've grown up with (P-town all the way!!!). Thirdly, it had an interesting angle on how Claire might try to get to the root of Trevor's "delusions."

But then I thought about the reason why the man was a virgin. He had dedicated his life to his work. Sex, but more importantly romance, was a distraction and more importantly it sucked out his energy. But now his interest in work is fading, and he's still alone, and he's never really gotten the hang of the connections necessary for dating. Now I'm still highly interested in my work, but that could, without too much of a stretch be me in fifteen years or so.

And yet there is someone he has feelings for. And there's a secret he's hiding, one he doesn't really need to hide, but one which has defined him. But he lets that go for the woman he loves, and in helping her he revives his own interest in teaching linguistics. But through just tangles of circumstance, and more importantly tangles of prejudice, he starts to lose her. Yet with a bit of help from Cupid, well, he sheds his secret, and shows just how good a linguistics teacher he is, and then... well they were born to run. (funny thing, it's explicitly a quote from Bruce Springstein but they don't use his song at the end, probably because they can't afford it)

So let me give one more episode that struck me like The Thunderbolt:
Ep. 9: The End of Eros
-Again here's an episode that I started out disliking. The set-up was too cliche, a show about love and then there's a psychologist who doubts love. And I think (although my cultural time-line isn't perfect) this came out at a certain time when there were a lot of movies and such that dealt with people giving up on love (Down with Love, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Wedding Planner, etc.). But the male lead again struck me as interesting. He was an academic, in this case a cosmologist (ultra-cool field), he was petrifyingly nervous around women, but when he relaxed, say after he decided romance wasn't a concern, he was decently funny and decently happy and he had work and all that.

This could actually be me today, sometimes. Sometimes I just seem to give up on love. But love strikes him without his wanting. And moreover, it again uncovers a connection between his professional and personal love. Yet he resists.

Redeeming how pretentious anti-love is: Drunk Cupid. Drunk Cupid + Romance distracted Claire = male lead's not getting the help he needs. But Claire remembers about children, and she rallies Cupid's fundamental by nature belief in love, and they form a genius plan. Except, Cupid, wounded by events, scared to fail, wants to blow it all off at the last moment, except Claire says no! And they argue, all the while the plan seems to be falling to pieces. But then they bump into a button and a switch and a ... and all the plans they speculated on come up without them, even better than they planned, and then the planetarium lights up, and then it plays:

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Beautiful. Maybe it makes me believe in love.

Maybe this whole show does. But if it does then what? Really, do I throw myself out there? Well, what if I do? What will that require in terms of school and projects and plans? It's so late in my college career and it's in such a critical part of my life and... And what about all of that and that and that and that?

I don't believe that everybody needs somebody. Some people will be more about friendships than romances, and some, from choice or circumstances, will be tied just barely to humanity, and while they need to hold on to those ties, they might not need romance.

And I don't really need romance. It's a Christian Creed that God's love is all you need. But it's not a sin to want romance. And I've always dreamed of it. And it's always inspired me. And... and... I believe in romantic love. And I believe in me and romantic love. And it's hard to imagine me giving up on it, without the surrender being at the root being about fear. And if that's the case... I think I can't really give up on love without giving up on a part of myself that's an essential part of who I am.

Cupid at its best is about that. That those who at their hearts are romantics cannot give up on romance without betraying a part of themselves; however if they keep chasing that romance, they might just be able to raise their soul a bit higher to a very special place. But you got to keep trying, even if it's damn hard. Ask and you shall receive, but you need to ask! It's an old lesson. But God bless Cupid for telling it to us again.

Now before I start whining like a little shojo baby (see Piro in Megatokyo), I think I need to wrap things up. If I have time, some time, I might go over the episodes I didn't get to and some of the episodes that were less than full outstanding level or didn't really hit the connection with me.

But until then, keep on chasing that green light, even if it's very far away.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pulling away, but just a little

So I don't have a post today for the Rand Show, but that's because I've been trying to get some other stuff going. And if you want to check out that other stuff, please kind sirs, be my guest.

My History webpost

My Math webpost

Check it out now, because the funk's your brother.

Mathimoto Speaks!!!

I, Rand McRanderson, on behalf of Mathimoto, man of math, air his complaint: People do not know enough about math!!!

And thus, I have been commanded to share with the people the world of math!!!

So stay tuned for:

Math History
Mini-math Lessons
Cool Math Facts
Math News


Math rules!!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dance! Dance! Now where's my revolution buddy?

I've been talking about plans and the future and stuff a lot lately, however, unlike my previous bouts of future-philia there is a reason for that.

I am planning to make big changes to things. And hopefully, if I actually get off my ass and do them, they should come to pass.

Big plans:
Multiple webposts:

History man (I might change the name, the current name I have for it is Years Like Grains of Dust or something of the like): A history-focused webpost. I've done occasional history-centered webposts from time to time, but I've never expected the audience here to be focused on that. Moreover, I've never used the prompt of necessity to make myself write more about history. I'm a little bit scared of unleashing that potent prompt, but no pain no gain. Check out the first introductory post here.

Mathimoto's complaint (or something of the like): A math-focused webpost. There's a dearth of good math-centric webposts on the web as a whole. I'm aiming to fill that void with a vengeance. I'm talking interesting math facts, quick math lessons, math news, math history, the works. I might also be able to get some other math folk to help out with this.

Rand Reviews: Basically a focus on my reviews, with also my AMV reviews and maybe some webpost pointers. Mainly just getting away from my personal stuff and philosophy stuff for people who aren't as interested in that. Also, it's a way to force me to do more reviews and such.

The Rand Show: I'm hoping to keep this going strong, but with more emphasis on my personal philosophy, my religion, and my take on the world as it turns. Although I might have to clip some parts of what I have now. The work world isn't the best place for dealing with certain things, and since more job places are getting more intense in searching the web for who you are, I might have to take a censorship axe to some of my older stuff.

Also, a possibility: The Rutgarian. My thoughts on Rutgers and such. The limitation with that though would be, I'm graduating in a semester. I think part of the reason I'm feeling so much Rutgers pride is that I've gotten used to this place and am a little afraid of leaving, but there's a whole world out there, and it's not going to conquer itself (or will it? Dunn Dunn Dunn!!!).

Also, a Rand art webpost. I'm planning to make a big push with the comic soon, and I've also been drawing a lot otherwise. My camera's now working and I'm trying to learn some video editing skills. So I'm hoping all that stuff will end up on the site, but the problem with that is: Some people are more readers than lookers, and some people (like me when I have to deal with the highly interesting but image and clip-saturated webpost The House Next Door) get tired by slow, slow upload times due to massive files located on a swebsite. Answer: Secondary website where those giagantic files can roam free.

Other plans:

GET A JOB!!! (Yeah, I'm going to need to do that, and so some of these high-flying plans might need some trimmin').

Sellin' some T-shirts!!! Woo!!!:
I've never been opposed to selling out, well, as long as I can still do stuff at my quality level or reasonably close. But so far, busy and lazy have kept me from doing so. And yet here's something which I can do with relatively little effort, so perhaps you'll see some of that sometime pretty soon.

Getting more webbish: it's time I got more into the 21st century, especially since some parts of me are more 19th century. So I'm learning so web apps and such and I'm trying to borrow my way into the general web community. Look out web, you're about to get Randerzized.

So those are my plans. As I've said I've been talking a lot about them lately and so I'm going to try less about them from now on unless I actually have something significant to say about them. But stay tuned, because I AM RAND!!!! And that makes me just plain awesome.

And because of my great and glorious awesomeness I've deigned to give you a treat:

Here's TURK (of Scrubs fame) DANCING!!!!

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ah, for breath of fire

So as I said before I'm a fan of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzuyama. Now the show, even though it's chaotic chronology-wise (although as I pointed out in my review, there's a method to that madness), roughly fit a full story arc. However, there was enough left over and enough left open, and simply enough immensity of fun to invite a second season and so I am eagarly awaiting for that second season to come to translation.

I'm also interested in checking out some of the Haruhi extra features scattered all over the net due to the immense cultiveness of the Haruhi-fandom (which as this post shows I can only claim peripheral involvement in). So when I found on DC++, that there was a new item belonging to the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise on the file sharing hub (the item being called Suzumiya Haruhi no Gekisou, which I'm not going to even pretend to know), I jumped on it despite the 2GB download.

But then I found it was all Japanese. As I found out from a review of the product (found here), it is essentially a recording of a concert/fan convention centering on the voice actors for the series. Even though I generally shy away from such things my passion for Haruhi is enough that I might have watched it end to end... if it were in English. Here's where the line is drawn between me and hardcore anime fans. Hardcore anime fans will watch anime even if it's not in English. They will learn Japanese solely for the purpose of understanding Japanese. Heck some learn Japanese only from animes (giving them a action/sex-pun centered vocabulary, as Geniksen, a manga (which I have not read) and anime (which I have seen much of and which sould be findable on youTube) about Otaku (the truly hard-core anime/manga/cosplay/sci-fi-fantasy model building/etc. fans), scewers in one of it's characters). Basically they love the media so much, and the culture associated with it, that they're willing to sit through incomprehensible yammering just to get the taste of it.

I have to admire that devotion. Me, I dunno. I could see myself watching something in pure Japanese if it showed a plot point I missed before, but I'd have to fast forward it so I could watch it in as little time possible. Even if an anime was especially pretty, it would be hard for me to imagine just watching it with no dubs or subtitles. You loose so much nuance that way, and some anime I watch would be complete cliches without that nuance (probably His and Her Circumstances, which is why I haven't watched the Japanese episodes on the web, despite being desperate to watch the rest of the series, having only watched half (although given the reputation of the second half, that might be a good thing, but that's another story for another day)). But to wade through another language that is several thousand miles from anything you understand, just to get a little more about a story you love. That's beautiful.

For the most part, at least. There are those who obsess to the point of idol-worship. It's a terrible approach to what might be a fantastic piece of media but in the end is not the center of life. But that happens in most subcultures as well as mainstream culture (more commonly with the idol that seems to top the historical list, money!). I find myself often enchanted though by the straight-forward passion of true otaku. It's amazing how worked up they can get talking about a series, and how much effort they put into celebrating it. Me, I like a lot of anime, I love a few, but that passion... oh well. At least I can watch it as a friendly observer of the subculture. That seems to be my place for most subcultures, but it's not too bad of a place to be, even if it does get a little lonely at times, but once again that is a story for another day.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Oops, no, I'm not going through with that reference

Sorry for the missed post, loves, but I actually had my first bad (mood-wise, and to be honest mental health-wise) night in a long while. Of course this wasn't a mental collapse, just a bad night and a rough morning. But none of that was too bad, it simply derailed my plans for the evening. Which gets me athinkin' that I should probably start doing more work in advance, because you never know when a bad night might strike. On the other hand if you plan for everything in advanced, well, I can't say what would happen to you and you should be ashamed for asking me to say that. However, I know when I put on myself the necessity to do everything in advance I simply get overwhelmed all the time, instead of just near deadlines. And yet I can't really afford to be overwhelmed near deadlines as the waiting till the last minute plan sometimes leads to.

So what to do? I could say it's a matter of balance, and I suppose it is, but no matter how you balance things, there are still going to be bad nights at bad times. With plans, everything's always a little bit of a gamble, and I really should accept that. Yet, I also think...

Really I think I probably should relax to some degree about these far away plans. What I mean to say is, I should keep some important stuff in mind, keep some lesser stuff in the background but not worry myself about everything that is worry-worthy that I might encounter in the wandering of my mind and body, because to be quite frank, the world is filled with worry-worth stuff. And with all that sort of stuff out there, the mind, the soul, the spirit needs to relax, probably in the shade if there's some shade around.

All that said, attention must be paid to important matters. But there's nothing wrong with taking a breather...

Saying all that really amounts to nothing if you think about it. So let me try to clarify, my plan (and something perhaps you should think about since I AM RAND and thus my plans should be rich and delicious food for thought for you) is to keep track of very important things. Well, let me clarify this even further by making tiers. First tier is those very important things that I need to keep track of.

First tier: Church stuff (ie, going to church every Sunday I can and holy days of obligation if I can), school stuff, job search, writing, a relatively regular social life (talking to other people in some form every couple days), making sure I relax every now and then and maintain good mental health, taking time for introspection, possibly finishing some project that's near completion, and getting some time, but not necessarily a lot of time (at least 2-4 hours in a week) for some things the second tier.

Second tier: Improving my health, improving my comp. and other skills, learning Malayalam, connecting with old friends, getting a girlfriend, in a general sense, long-term goals (which, depending on how busy my life is, or how old I've gotten, or other circumstances, might be moved up to first tier or dropped down to third tier), and random projects (which, depending on how close they are to completion or how the first tier stuff they relate to becomes more or less important, could move up to first tier or dropped down to third tier)

Third tier: Watching more movies, improving my poker game, reading more books, getting better social habits, keeping my room neat, in short, stuff that's nice/fun to do but not very important, really long-term goals of lesser importance, and some long-shot projects (some of this stuff could be moved w/ life changes).

That's my overall sense of things.
To be concise, really important things keep good track of;
lesser important things, make sure you're making progress in the long term but don't worry too much about;
slightly important or unimportant stuff, if you can do it great, if you can't don't worry about it.

Of course, such a general sense of things is still only a vague guide, and even within this vague guide there might be misplaced priorities needing tweaking.

No matter what plans of action you have, no matter how well you schedule, things are going to get messed up, least that's how I see it. So that's okay.

But when life hands you a SNAFU (situation normal: all fucked up), just press on.

After all, in the end, what matters is if you kept up the good fight for what you truly believe is right;
if at your deathbed, you still have faith in goodness;
if you keep love at the center of your heart to your moment of expiration;

if you are, knowingly or unknowingly, implicitly or explicitly, with results or without results, a follower of God.

Least that's how I see it.

Anywho, take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ah, the savage winds of history

And so I can't say I'm a master historian. Yet I'd say I'm something more than an amateur. I could probably fit the mold of an expert, I haven't invested my life in history, but I've studied it in a concentrated sort these last four years (ie. I'm a history major), and I have a massive interest in the subject that keeps me up to date. Moreover I like to play around with historical ideas and such and...

So why not be a historian?

Well, maybe I will someday. I've got enough of a life out there to change my direction three or four times. But for now I am possessing of an active spirit far too restless for the ivory tower or even the back-roads of academia which travel around the world but only in certain circles. My current focus now is becoming a journalist, a profession which I believe will have an activeness to suit me. Moreover, also I have not the taste for the rigidness of academic rules and I think journalism will free me for that. But perhaps times will change me. Who knows?

But for now, I think I will indulge the historical side of me by writing greatly of that subject no other place than right here!

It should be fun, and I think you'll like it.

Stay tuned!

Blinded by the light

And moreover the future's so bright I've got to where shades.

That's from a song by Timbuck3 and the actual title line is from a Bruce Springsteen's song (more famously covered by Steven Miller), both of the same name. However, with the Springsteen song I always thought the second line was something like "revved up like a douche," which if you think about it makes no sense what-so-ever. But as it turns out it is "cut loose like a deuce" which seems to refer to a car called a "deuce coup" which is apparently a very fast car. So that's that.

As I've been saying things are looking good, but with good times always comes, blah, blah, blah

Enough of that.


Here's a nice song with that lovely sentiment. (also known as the opening for episode 00 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (which I reviewed here)

Now I'm trying to reduce a little of my over-plannerizing, but let me tell you guys a leetle beet about some stuff I've been planning:

Multiple webposts.

Now I know I've promised this before (and I'm not just taking about the mySpace, doubling I've got now), but previously my idea was doing different webposts as different characters from my various stories, but that's actually a bit harder than I thought it would be, with less growth potential (I think, I might actually retry that sometime). My new idea is to try to hit up the niche webpost market and make a history webpost, a math webpost, a media review webpost, and maybe a comp. sci. webpost in addition to maintaining this for my personal thoughts, ideas, philosophy, religion, etc.

Except that's a boat-load of work.

That would also be a pain to look through for someone who wanted to read a variety of my stuff so I'm probably going to include the other posts on this page as well. If it all sounds confusing, it is, but on the plus side my plans should give me a lot more readers and allow me to actually have some respectable posts that I can write in my own name.


But then again, I'm not a very respectable type of guy.

Anywho, take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tell me there's a moment for me

Ah, that new semester smell. All the world's filled with possibilities and the reality of work does not lay on my back lie a two-ton rhino with a vendetta. And I have that oh-so-faintly possible hope that I might this semester actually work hard and keep on top of things. On the plus side, mentally, physically, socially, spiritually I have never (or almost never) felt better. On the minus side, I'm taking 6 classes (although 2 of which are with professors I know to be tough but interesting and fair), I'm dealing with a Princeton Review class (although that should end mid-February), I'm trying to up my writing skills and improve this webpost, I'm involved with the Rutgers Indian Christian Fellowship (who I kind of neglected last semester, unfortunately) and WRSU, as well as any other clubs I might pick up an interest in, furthermore, I had hoisted upon me the presidency of my Malankara Catholic church youth group, and I'm trying to maintain and if possible improve my social life. Looming over everything is my search for a new job and the planning I need to do for after graduation.

But calming down a bit, all those things seem feasible. Classes don't take up that much time, the P. Review classes are only 3-6 hours each weekend, the youth group presidency is lessened by the low-expectations due to our youth group's chronic inactivity, a social life once in motion tends to stay in motion and I've been getting help from a variety of sources in my job search. Moreover, on the writing side, I'm getting more discipline and finding that creativity is following the demand for work.

So things are seeming good, yet that statement always carries a little bit of terror with it. If things are good now, is the collapse of the current situation a simple inevitablity. Afterall my mental illness moves in cycles (I'm trying to simplify my search topics that you see at the bottom of the post, so in the future all my posts about mental illness will be under the topic mental health), and so what if I'm just on an up-swing. Hasn't all my past suggested that I cannot maintain good times?

Undoubtably I'm going to suffer some bad times sometime in the future, but that's simply a reflection that I've got a long future left (it's odd, about a year ago I was so worried about my mental illness that I was convinced that I was unlikely to make 30, but nowadays I actually believe in my future which probably is a very good sign). But I think I've learned from the past, and my mental abilities (some of them, although I wonder sometimes what my mental abilities would be like if I had no disease and didn't have to take medication (mental illness medication tends to cause side effects that dampen some mental abilities, I think before I started taking medication I could read faster and remember more, but then again my depression screwed up a whole lot of my mental abilities, and moreover through repeated effort I think my thinking skills are once again grade A, and anything my med.s have cost has been more than made up due to the lessening of my depressive and suicidal impulses), my coping skills, and my spiritual depth (although I don't want to claim some special spiritual gift, I am a man of devout faith and I am proud of my faith however large or small it may be in the ultimate measurement) (some people will say "I have no regrets" but I think that expression can't be taken literally, everyone has times in the past when they acted last than perfectly, yet I think what that expression really means is that they are proud of who they are now, and so they would not want to lose that by messing with their past, and so by that reckoning I have no regrets (probably)), have I think been increased, and so maybe I will face bad times, but maybe I won't be destroyed by them, maybe the next time crises hit me on the left and on the right I will avoid crumpling into a ball of intense depression.

Afterall I am RAND!!!! But more seriously, the future is always an undiscovered country, to paraphrase Star Trek VI (a very good movie if you ask me, and you should ask me, because I am RAND!!!), and I believe that while the past can foreshadow our difficulties, it does not predestine us. Furthermore, as a man of devout faith, as I have said before, I think that even the destiny that our traits and circumstances may make likely can be moved through the will of God. So my point is we are not bound by our past, and maybe I will slip into depression again, but maybe then I will become even better at dealing with my disease and with life in general and maybe then I will be able to resist any depressions after that or maybe...

Maybe, no mater what depressions I might face, I will still live my life in a fashion I can be proud of, in pursuit of rightousness, and with a heart that believes completely and utterly in God and His everylasting Love.

And maybe then, chasing the ideal above all ideals, I will rise above my past. Maybe even though I am a boat against the current borne back by the tides of the past, maybe even those tides can be navigated or broken to allow me to reach the furthest sea (drawing for this analogy from The Great Gatsby and maybe some other works of literature that is dancing about in my mind (I think the furthest sea comes from some place or other)).

Anyways, before I get too serious, let me remind you all that orange juice is a good juice and you should drink more of it (and people shouldn't manufacture watered down orange juice, I mean I admit that for shipping reasons you need concentrate, but some of the watery crap that people sell in stores... it just ain't no good, it just ain't no good).

So anywho, take it to your head, take it to your hearts, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks! (I'm wondering if I should end with God Bless! instead of Goodnight Folks!, God Bless! is a good sentiment, but it sort of pegs my webpost, perhaps unfairly, as completely religious and while I like to think I talk without fear about my religion here, I also talk of other matters and so perhaps the more secular Goodnight Folks! is more appropriate, I could do both but on a regular basis that seems too bulk. Oh well, for today let me say Goodnight Folks and God Bless!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Closing Time

It's Monday isn't it?

Monday morning.

Far too early to be posting. But I haven't posted during the weekend and I'm not sure I'll get a chance later today. You see good friends and gentleflops, I am returning to Rutgers for my last semester at that fine institution. And then off to the world...

The end of one phase of my life and the beginning of the new. Anticipation and fear. Blah, blah, blah, blah...

It's easy to be over-pretentious about this, I mean the event is significant in my life, but on the other hand it's not like I'm dying and passing on to the afterlife or even like I'm getting married or starting my dream job. From now on I won't take classes and I'll have some job to work at and that'll be a big change, but I'll essentially be the same person. And that person is the mighty and glorious Rand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So let's lift up a glass. Whatever you've got, for me it'll be orange juice.

To the future, may it be glorious.

To all the girls I have ever and will ever love.

And to God, the founder of the feast.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Highly distractible, but nigh industructable

While the latter may or may not be true (time will tell if I am nigh industructable), I certainly am highly distractible, especially when I'm in still a semi-vacationish mode. In fact I'm right now more distractible than I was while I was in full-vactionish mode. Alac, Alac, Alac.

So anyways:

Here's some tunes:


1. Devil's Haircut - Beck - From the album Odelay - Weird, weird, weird song. The free association lyrics, the nonsensical constant refrain, it's all madness really it is, and I truly doubt there's a straight forward understanding one's supposed to get from all of it (although there are claims of a straight forward meaning to it on the internet, even one by Bob Dylan, but even if Beck were to tell me himself, I'd be like dude, whatever it's supposed to say, it's not saying that in a fashion that anyone should be expected to directly understand). But if I were to guess, and I am inclined to, I'd probably say it's all madness. The lyrics recite a list of crazy bad (eyes ripped from sockets!) stuff happening with the repeated line my mind is fadin', but the tone is all detached, not quite cheerfully so but with a bit of almost amusement, maybe fascination or interest. Then at the end you get an intensity to the voice and something like rage but perhaps more akin to adrenaline rush. Maybe it's all just madness. Least that's how I'm thinkin' of it.


Beck's Music Video - Beck's not one to shy away from the weird is he?

Devil's Haircut AMV - tv show : The Tick - Made by (since making good AMV's takes good work, I've decided to start crediting the AMV makers, in this case an outfit called:) Brilliantwerk (the guy seems to be in a lot of online communities, although I checked the website at the end of the video and that goes no where (the link here goes to his (or could be her) youTube site)) - Now really the whole reason I took this song is because I found this AMV and since I'm using in my title nigh industructable I had to include some Tickige. But the song and the video are actually a really nice match since both are slightly off-kilter in a weird direction. Moreover, by starting and ending with the bomber dude, the video manages to match the tone of the song which isn't quite as cheery as the Tick himself and his cry of "Spoooooooon!"

2. Parallel Universe - Red Hot Chili Peppers - From the album Californication - Some semi-Transendentalist mystic mombo-jumbo (also see the mention of Oversoul in By the Way) + rockin' triumphantcy + Red Hot Chili Peppers = Awesome, awesome song. Few songs are this intense and this triumphant. That made it easy to tweak into my own version which I called Dravidian King, as a song it might be less than great, but as a webpost session it has the spontaneity, emotionalism, etc., let's not go into webpost theory right now, let's not go into music theory right now either, let's just rock out with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Lyrics - For a long time I didn't realize it was California King, I don't remember what I thought it was, but California King is that lyric that's just spit out full force in the refrain, and we all know California likes to rock triumphant

Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert Video - There's no music video for this song, but this is a pretty nice concert video, all the way from the good folk in Brazil.

Parallel Universe AMV - anime : Kiddy Grade - Made by Charles Fontillas - I'm not a big fan of the anime Kiddy Grade, but this AMV is pretty awesome. It's as energized, colorful, and full of life as the song, plus it even captures the Red Hot Chili Peppers psychedelic flavors. The characters are nicely trotted out but not idolized or fan-serviced, the action is brisk but does not detract from the song, etc., overall very great. A nice comparison would be to another AMV of Parallel Universe, this one made with Gunslinger Girl (an anime I haven't seen much of, but which seems pretentious). The second AMV isn't bad but it isn't as good as the first, the whole video is too static, both in subject and shot, and even when there is action, the scene itself is focused on, dragged down the momentum of the video. Admittedly I might think this way due to my biases towards Gunslinger Girl, but then again I'm no fan of Kiddy Grade, then again... then again, it's time to move on to our next contender (for no prize, title or position what-so-ever!!!! (Wooo, what-so-ever!!!!)).

3. Bad Reputation - by Thin Lizzy, but covered more famously by Joan Jett - From the album Bad Reputation - This is a punk shout, so I'm not going into much detail about it. Especially since I did go into more detail about it before in a previous session. So let me just say:


Here are the Lyrics

Here's Joan Jett's Music Video.

And here's an AMV of Bad Reputation using for the anime the 3rd Series of Digimon focusing on everyone's favorite bad-asses Rika and Renamon (made more subject-worthy by the fact Rika, despite loving her bad-assness, was worried about her mother's reaction for parts of the series). Digimon rules!!!!! (actually I wasn't thrilled with the 4th series and I haven't seen the 5th one, and the 2nd one, while good wasn't as good as the 1st or the 3rd ones.)

Just to cap things off to an off-form entry, let me point you towards the intro credits of Freaks and Geeks which featured Bad Reputation, since Freaks and Geeks was awesome.

4. Saturday Night's Alright - by Elton John - From the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - You know when you look at craftsmanship, some of these older rockers who now have turned into adult contemporary staples, used to be real rock craftsmen. Now I'm all for raw power, but there's also something to be said for craftsmanship, and Mr. Elton John says it well.


A concert video with Elton John

Saturday Night's Alright AMV - (note: the song here is actually covered by Nickleback and Kid Rock)- anime : Love Hina - Made by CrashOverRide83m - A splendid little AMV I must say. Fast as the wind through the lyrics, nice imagery, over-the-top action on the video front to match the over-the-top energy in the song as well as the exuberant embrace of fighting, also nice that the fan-service implications of Love Hina play well with the date connotations of Saturday Night. So overall, a well crafted piece, Mr. Elton John could have probably done better, but that doesn't detract from the fact that this AMV was done very well.

So usually I do 5 songs, but usually I'm not this tired, and even usually the 5th song gets a little bit of the shaft when I'm writing it up and everything. So for now I'm only doing 4 songs, and I might actually make that a new policy. Perhaps. PERHAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So anyways, take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

And God Bless.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

California, show your teeth

So I'm leaving California, and that makes me think about that line in Danni California that goes: California rest in peace. But I already used California rest in peace as the title of a different session about a previous trip to California, so I just shot up another line from Danni California.

Of course there are a number of other California-related songs I could have quoted from, after all California is a bit of a powerful place in the imagination.

My brother says that California has probably the highest standard of living in the nation, and he's probably right. In sheer income, NJ I think is harder, but in terms of services, environment, and other pleasant factors, California I do think has a higher standard of living. Still NJ rocks harder, in the depths of its heart, than California ever could, that's just the way it is. I'm not denying that.

But it may come soon a time for me to leave good old New Jersey. The jobs there aren't as good, the cold there is quite cold, and the traveling there only takes me so far. Perhaps the time will come, and not too long now, when I will depart from NJ grounds. Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps...

But for now I'm leaving for NJ again.

There's a bit of nervousness to me now, a bit of fear, a bit of crazy. I said I'm not going to obsess about crappy moods in my life (most recently here), and I stand by that, but I believe in introspection including in the bad times, and so let me touch on my moods, and I will try not to obsess into excess.

So as I said, there's a bit of fear to me and a bit of crazy. Part of that could just be the fact that I'm regretting things I didn't get a chance to do, or that I spend too much money, or whateever, when I look at things more objectively, I can say, sure I spend a good deal of money, but overall through the year I don't spend that much and this was a special moment, and in terms of amount of use I got out of this trip, well it was: extreme brother visiting, extreme funness, extreme meeting peopleness, extreme city-exploring, extreme awesome man, extreme awesome...

So that's what the trip was like. And so I rocked it pretty hard.

So that's not really the root of things as things go. My current off-good mood is I think more the fact of what's about to come after my return from California than what came before it.

Now... and now...

Now I need to deal with life and its lifeness. With you know working sort of life. I need to do classes, find a job, do P-review work on stories, work on comics and other projects and insane many, many things. I basically need to go on with life as I did before, except this time do things better since before I messed things up. Which is a tall order, since I was trying damn hard in all my time before break, but now I need to do better than even damn hard and...

But that's all a little bit of mistakes I say. My life isn't that hard if I actually relax a little bit. And I've learned some skills and lessons from my mistakes and circumstances in my life are actually better than they were before (to some degree) and...

And I haven't done that bad in the past with my life and even if I mess up it probably won't be that bad and even if it is I can still go on, living as best as I can, investing through striving a beauty in my life and...

And if I trust in God, I will be okay. Least that's how I believe it. And if you want things a bit more secular for you, let me point out that I try to do good with my life, and I think that's what makes a life good, and so if I keep on trying, even with the mess ups, I think in the end I'll still have a good life when all is accounted for. Of course, who does the accounting? (I have an answer, but mine should be apparent by now)

And so we push onwards...

Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more


(Kansas - Carry On My Wayward Son)

Oh yeah!!!!

So that's what I'm saying about that. So anywho, take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's mighty cold in Juno

Juno, a review:

(note: the title of this session comes from a song I stumbled upon in the internet whose chorus was It's mighty cold in Alaska, but the location and author of that song are lost in the sands of my brain)

Juno, the main character of the film Juno, is not named after the city Juno, Alaska. She is as she points out in the film, named after Juno, queen of the Roman gods. It's a fitting name, because this film revolves around her in more ways than one.

Firstly, she is the star. It is Juno's unexpected pregnancy which the movie centers upon and while it takes two to have sex, Bleeker, her male partner stupendously played by Michael Cera, veteran of Superbad and Arrested Development, didn't really have a choice, as Juno makes clear to her friend later. Juno was just bored. Except even the passive partner in a relationship often has the oddest of effects on its course, and while this is Juno's story, at times it is also Bleeker's story.

Bleeker doesn't necessarily get too much screen time, but he has likely the 2nd most scenes, which show him as a devoted runner, a tic-tac addict, and a boy who's confused utterly by the world and most of all by the girl he likes. His reactions to Juno's pregnancy and Juno herself and his reactions to her reactions to him are subtle and wonderfully awkward, but they paint a deeply interesting and complex character, almost as well developed as Juno herself.

But as I said Juno is the star, and this film makes itself or breaks itself on her likability and depth. She is in 90% of the scenes (although not all of them), she gives narration, and she drives the action. But she is likable and her character is deep. She is utterly at ease with herself, and when she is not she vigorously denies that she is ill-at-ease. She is youthful looking (she doesn't wear a bra until her pregnancy) for 16, but maturely independent. Her interests in camp seem child-like but actually hold a very-teenagerish contempt for the world redeemed by a celebration of its ridiculous coolness. And she has the counterculture chique right down to the weirdo-hip language and the aloof disregard of popularity. If that all sounds pretentious, it is but the character is saved from pretentiousness by her sincerity and her flaws. She gets angry, she has burst of immaturity, she makes rash decisions, she refuses to deal with certain emotional issues honestly, and she is far out of her depth in dealing with an unexpected pregnancy.

She has help of course. This film boasts a wonderful ensemble of supporting characters, many highly established, including Jason Bateman who here plays the would-be dad of Juno and Bleeker's child, even though he played the father of the character played by Michael Cera in Arrested Development (that has to be some kind of weird). The main seconds here are Juno's parents and a couple who wants to adopt her child. Also in the mix, is Juno's best friend, Leah, and a bunch of more minor elements. Yet all these secondary characters have a little oddity to them, I noticed as I watched the film. Here's where I started to notice how much the film really centers around Juno.

Let me break for a second and admit to something. I read a review of Juno before I saw the movie and read some partial reviews in addition. Ideally I think you should watch a movie cold first, read about it, then watch it again, but that's very hard to actually arrange. But what you read changes how you view the movie and two items I read altered, perhaps a little, perhaps a lot, how I viewed Juno. Firstly, I read a NY Times opinions piece about Juno, I will discuss it later, but I also read a small item on Roger Ebert's website (I'm not sure if the item is still there, but basically it says that the dialog is too witty and Roger Ebert says the tone sells it convincingly).

The smaller piece I read, the one on Roger Ebert's website, had a greater impact I think. Because when I heard Juno's dad say Damn Skippy instead of a curse, I knew this dialog was far too witty to be realistic. Maybe some people do curse with Damn Skippy, but those people who do are rare, and by all other measures Juno's dad is a good-hearted, pretty hip, but essentially average blue-collar father, so for him to realistically say Damn Skippy... But why should this be realistic? Looking at the other characters I realized there's something surreal about them too. Juno's friend Leah is supposed to be popular and a teacher-phile (it's not terribly strange that she's friends with Juno, cliques these days aren't what they used to be), but she talks in the same way Juno does, or rather in a cool kid dialect of how Juno talks, and since Juno talks in a way cool kids generally only talk with sarcasm, such a dialect should not exist.

Moreover, the store clerk insults her when she goes for pregnancy tests. Why would he do that? Moreover, her parents let her drive her car at all odd hours of the night after she was pregnant (well, the step-mother does scold her briefly, but as scolds go it was fairly light). Moreover... moreover Fall and Winter are pencil sketched in the sky to signal their presence. That isn't something odd for modern movies, but what it represents has been forgotten by many modern filmwatchers and filmmakers. It represents surreality, where reality adjusts to the contours of the mind. And here, Juno's entire world, and her supporting characters fit perfectly the contours of the emotional and mental reality of Juno, who may be a fictional character, but who's complexities suggest a degree of emotional and mental reality. So the excessive wittiness, the oddness of the characters, the strangeness of some of the things Juno gets away with (like sitting in a trophy case at school during lunchtime (and not an isolated trophy case)), all just serve to help deepen her character.

Like I said, the film revolves around her. All this surrealism means that Juno is the center of this universe, she is its queen, and because she's such an engaging character, this film remains engaging, heart-tugging, and enchanting.

It even allows me to excuse some miscues that I would be far more critical of otherwise. One miscue I found glaring, was in the suburban couple who wants to adopt Juno's child. Let me point out here, as some people might have guessed, that this film in many ways parallels Knocked Up, as a woman gets pregnant and then falls in love with the guy who knocked her up, except here the girl is firmly the center of the film and the girl is 16 (the guy is around 16 too). Yet one way the film also seemed to be paralleling Knocked Up is in Michael Bateman's character, who was the suburban father-to-be who was an ex-rock star turned jingle writer, who is now worried about what he'll have to give up to become a father.

Eventually, this character sort of falls in love with Juno (and she, it is implied, kind of falls in love with him, although when confronted with his feelings she rejects him), decides he'd rather be a rockstar than be a father, and leaves his wife. On the surface very different from Knocked Up's dad-to-be character, who was an uber-slacker. But if you look at the ambition Michael Bateman's dream (it's not enough for him to have toured with the Melvins, there's still something more he has to do), his fancying an underage girl, and the relatively weak pressure from his wife's side (it is fairly obvious she disapproves of some ways he behaves, but on the other hand, she doesn't seem to harsh on him for it, although she usually gets her way), it seems like he's just having trouble growing up.

Yet the film doesn't let this fully play out. Instead Michael Bateman's character just leaves his wife after the first fight and it is implied that she then raises Juno's child as a single mother. The emotionally deep ground of the disintegration of a marriage and its complexity with this adoption is only superficially treated. But I understand that a film which encompasses most of a pregnancy must make some narrative choices, and I understand that this film is in the end Juno's story.

And yet, I also thought it was Bleeker's story, which makes another miscue by the film a little more annoying. Bleeker's emotional journey in this film is shown in odd scenes here and there, which is understandable, and it is most spelled out in his interactions with Juno, fine, the film is called Juno. Yet, his emotional journey in this film is all about him telling Juno how he feels and forcing her to confront those feelings and her feelings. It isn't at all dealing with the fact that the baby is his. Maybe Juno was the initiator of sex, maybe she was the driving force of their relationship, maybe she is the star of the film, still... I really would have liked to see Bleeker's reaction to the fact he has a child being born and eventually given away. While other characters were oddly shallow at times, I thought Bleeker was for the most part a fully developed character, and I was disappointed that I didn't see him act like a father. Perhaps Bleeker's story would have taken up too much time, perhaps Bleeker the boyfriend fit in better with the surreal world centered around Juno, but a little something about Bleeker the father would have been appreciated in the movie about Juno the mother.

But then again, in the end Juno isn't the mother. The suburban mom, now alone, takes Juno's child and Juno doesn't go see the baby off and the movie implies that Juno now has no role in the child's life. That isn't actually a bad move for the movie to make, because many teen pregncies end with similar situations. But not all end with the teen smiling in the sunshine and playing a love song with her boyfriend.

Juno is a fairy tale. So said that New York Time op-ed piece I read before (I told you I would get back to that), and that's because it neglects any real emotional aftermath after the baby is given away. I have to say that while I'm not as harsh on the film as the op-ed piece, the character of Juno is far too deep to fit in a fairy tale, I must say the ending is a bit off-putting. Not that Juno should have ended up sad and alone, scarred forever by her teen pregnancy. It makes perfect sense to end the film with Juno and Bleeker side by side happy. But the film should have shown some sign that the pregnancy left an impact on Juno. There should be some measure of emotional weight on her, even if she's capable, as her character should be by all we've seen before, of handling that weight. There should be some significance of the pregnancy to Juno's life. As it is, the pregnancy seems to have just been another one of those obstacles Juno had to overcome in her teenage years to grow up emotionally and become a good girlfriend.

Yet, let me not end on complaints. Because this movie is marvelous. It is immensely funny, it is full of a consistent liveliness, it is beautifully crafted in terms of filmcraft, and it paints a masterpiece of a portrait of the emotional life of a fully individualized, yet highly realistic (I knew kids sort of like this in high school, let me just call them the counterculture geeks, combine the aspects of both the counterculture groups and the geek groups, and you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about), 16-year old girl. It is simply an amazing film, and a wonderfully well-spend 2 hours.

So despite flaws that dig at me even now, the wonder that is Juno demands nothing less than 8 out of 10. I have to give it to her, it wasn't really my idea.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

But for a nail... 28 weeks after the fact

28 Weeks Later (The REVIEW!!!):

Yesterday I wrote a session on 28 Days Later and talked lightly about its sequel: 28 Weeks Later. I promised a second session later, and planned it to be lengthy an in-depth. This is not quite as big or in-depth as I planned, but that might be for the best for reasons of time and perhaps even quality. Either way, this is all you're getting so enjoy the quick (relatively) review.

28 Weeks Later, takes place 28 Weeks after an infection wiped out the population of Great Britan. A US-led NATO security force has killed the last surviving infected and are beginning a program to repopulate Great Britan. An ambitious dream, but there are many who still dream of Britan, especially the survivors of the infection and those who were overseas at the time. The military is confident that the infection is over but they haven't secured everywhere, and so only a small island is being repopulated.

It seems that while humanity is just as ambitious as in 28 Days Later (where the virus started as an attempt to cure rage, and an attempt by a military base to repopulate humanity led to its annihilation). But it soon becomes clear that just as in 28 Days Later, people are careless. The American soldiers guarding the island are joking around, and the military doesn't even bother to tell the medical officer that children are being reintroduced. And then when the children wander off, the military is agonizingly slow in picking them up. When a survivor with a mutated version of the infection returns, they maintain weak security and... of course the infection re-emerges. And of course they try to annihilate the population to stop the spread, becoming monsters in the process. And of course, they fail, and the infection spreads to mainland Europe...

The themes of ambition and carelessness so prominent in 28 Days Later are here large looming still. Another theme is the memory, as the choices of the father who survived the infection's first wave are driven by his guilt and doom the island, and the actions of his children are driven by their need for their memories and the hidden secrets of that father. All good, meaty themes, and with mixed success the film bears them out. I personally would have liked some revisiting of the idea of memories, with the aftermath of the children's memories, but since director decides to jump from saving the children to doomsday that I guess must be left out. There's another complaint, the film does show the virus traveling from Britan over the channel through the children, but there's no reason given why that must lead to a new outbreak.

I suppose something strange must of happened that doomed mainland Europe. Strange things happened throughout the film, incidental coincidences and odd mistakes, and tricks of chance, none impossible or violations of logic but all... well let's just say this movie features some very, very unlucky people. That's the thing that bugs me the most about this movie, it attempts a sense of realism, it attempts a sense of grandeur, it seems to preach lessons about humanity, but everything here seems to driven by bad luck. Furthermore, unlike 28 Days Later where most of the bad luck was stuff that probably was going to happen, the bad luck here is all so unnecessary. It gives the film a contrived feel overall.

But I can't dislike this film. It is too well crafted, it makes for some beautiful scenes and some beautifully terrifying scenes. It draws you into the horror, and draws you into the tragedy of the picture as well. In the best moments of the film, it speaks of the deep themes, even though what it says isn't necessarily apparent. And unlike 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later's characters earn a happy ending, and it gives the world a sad ending which 28 Weeks Later almost shows the world deserves.

But in the worse moments, the film seems pointless, excessive, and tiring. Still the better outweighs the worse although not by an immense amount.

Overall, I give it a 6 out of 10.

Anywho, take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Monday, January 14, 2008

28 Days later, 28 weeks later, 28 years later and forever

And then the world was empty.

That was 28 days after.

And when we tried to fix it, the world emptied again.

That was 28 weeks after.

And it began with monkeys.

Caution: Lot's of spoilers, very long, while this post will talk about 28 Weeks Later and 28 Days Later it will deal primarily with 28 Days Later and a second post will deal with 28 Weeks Later

(note: I kind of liked 28 Days Later better (although that might be because I watched 28 Weeks Later in 2 shifts, but I think it's because 28 Days Later is a better film, but also since I'm doing the 28 Days Later post first, it will probably be longer and more in-depth)

There's actually a good tradition of monkey-based sci-fi horror (see 12 Monkeys), but 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later strike things a little different than most. Let me start with 28 Days Later.

The film starts insanely. It starts with a monkey watching flashes of violence. Other cages of monkeys surround the scene. And then enter the animal activists. The scientist warns them, but they are some specially intense kind of stupid (well, perhaps a kind of stupid animal activists often have). And the scientist tells them. They're infected with rage: We have to understand it before we can stop it. You don't know what you're doing. Don't do it.

And then the monkeys are released, a monkey tears into an activist and vomits blood into her. And her eyes go red, and now she too is infected with rage.

28 Days Later.

Now the movie really starts. And this start is beautiful, elegant and supremely creepy. A patient in an isolation ward wakes up. The world is empty. There is soda and candy from the vending machines, he can live. But there is just pure emptiness, with only minute clues. Infection. Exodus. Quarantine.

These two scenes give the fullness of the film's atmosphere. It is a cross between creepy insanity and chilling beauty. The hospital patient Jim finally stumbles upon a hidden cache of the infected and the creepiness returns. A couple of survivors save Jim and tell Jim the truth. Jim can't take it, needs to see his parents. the empty house, the emancipated corpses, the chilling beauty returns. But Jim lights a candle near a window watching memories play in his head. This is when it becomes clear that this movie isn't just the an intense realistic zombie movie. The color saturated memory scene intensifies the chilling beauty. But then... you don't light a candle near the window when zombies are most active at night.

Careless. This is a repeated theme of 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. People are careless, they release infected monkey, they give away their location to monkeys, they don't monitor the infected, they give complete access to one man without being careful about him, they kiss the infected despite blood-borne transmission. Just carelessness. It kills. It kills us all.

The light in the window signals the zombies and they crash through the window in a rampage. The super-fighter chick of the two survivors who saved Jim leads the defense and together they kill the infected, except the male survivor was bitten. And so, Seline, the ruthless, the beautiful, the survivor, chilling and insane and beautiful, kills the man she's spent so many days surviving with, the only friend she's had in the dead world. You have to, she tells Jim. Even if it means killing you. But I wouldn't says Jim. Seline's the survivor, Jim's the sentimentalist. Still they only have each other.

But there's a light in the window so far away. It's blinking. Night has fallen, the infected are loose, but the infected are mindless killers, and they can't work lights. So Jim and Seline venture to the skyscraper where the light was. There's a barrier of shopping carts, but these can be climbed. There are stairs to walk. But the infected can climb stairs. And so they're running. And Seline is leaving Jim behind and the infected are coming, but they're running and running.

A man in riot gear stands at the top of the stairs. He pushes Jim and Seline through to the upper hallway while he faces the infected. Jim and Seline bang on the door beyond but the man's daughter won't open it, she wants to see her father, and then...

The man beats the infected zombies, he tells his daughter to open the door and she does. Everyone shares a meal and even some liquor. It's a celebration, people are united, the two pairs of two become four. But Seline doesn't trust them, there's some reason hidden here. Seline's the survivor, but Jim's the sentimentalist, he trusts them, but he also thanks Seline, and she gives him a Sure, which she assures him is sincere.

I thought for a moment here this was going to be the standard hidden bad guy horror story where the people they join are actually evil. Well, that actually will come. But these two are good. And they know something Jim and Seline don't. There's a radio signal broadcasting a recording from a military group, promising a cure for the infection. And so they set off.

There are run-ins with infected but for the most part the trip has an odd feel to it. It is beautiful and romantic, the four become a family, and Jim and Seline start to fall in love. Very beautiful, but slightly creepy in this dead world where the infected could lurk anywhere. And where the urge to revenge might even urge one to seek the infected out and kill them, even a small child.

There's the undertheme, one repeated in 28 Weeks later, man becoming as vicious as monsterous as the infected. Even though as the film makes clear, their eyes are not the red that belong to the infected.

The four make it to the army base, but it is abandoned. It is empty, just like the rest of the world. Machines are there, buildings, but no people. The father is devestated, this was the future he had depended on, the future he needed for his daughter. Sadness, frustration, and he wanders around the deserted base, uncaring, careless:

And then a drop of blood falls on his eye. From an infected corpse. And the infection is bloodborne. The dad staggers. His daughter runs to him with concern but he calls her to stay back, and Seline grabs her. And Jim, the dad knows what Jim must do. But shots ring out. Snipers. The army birgade is still alive, even if they're late.

The army birgade has it all. A fortress with every defense against the infected. Lots of guns. Food. Water. Plans and hopes for the future with 9 young soldiers with a charismatic and fatherly commander. They do not have the cure, despite what they promised, but they do have an infected chained up, one they hoped might yield a cure through experiments (shades of Day of the Dead), but all they find, is the infected take time to starve. But enough time the commander knows they will starve, and then the world will belong to humans again.

The soldiers are a rowdy bunch, some desperate, some joking, some depressed, but they believe in their commander. And when the infected attack, they run to the guns and can fend off the attack. Here I notice something, Seline doesn't run to the battlements, but Jim does. It may be because Seline's now in love or because she needs to stay with the daughter, but still... that's a little lame. The next moment makes up for things.

The battle is over. The boys are cocky and triumphant. They see Seline, one soldier, the cockiest, takes here machete blade and boasts he will protect her now. She doesn't take well to this. He doesn't take well to rejection. He grabs for her, Jim defends her, he takes on Jim, the most depressed soldier takes on the cockiest, chaos is breaking loose and... the commander arrives. The matter is settled. And he takes Jim aside apologizing...

And then telling the truth. The boys need hope. They need a future. The world needs a future. But a future requires women. The commander had promised them women.

Jim rushes to the Seline and the daughter, he tries to get them in time. But the soldiers take the women, and beat down Jim. The depressed soldier tries to stop things but he can't. The commander offers Jim to join them. But he refuses, and so he and the depressed soldier will be executed.

The cocky soldier and one of the nicer soldiers take them to the woods. The cocky soldier isn't satisfied however with just killing them. He wants to use the bayonet. But the nicer soldier, he can't stand it, he just can't, and so... he shoots the depressed soldier. Deprived of his revenge for interference, the cocky soldier tackles the nicer soldier and in the struggle, Jim escapes. They chase after him, they shoot, they miss. He goes out of the wall. That's good enough for them.

There's a strangeness to the killing power of the infected. Sometimes it seems invincible, sometimes it seems fairly easy. Perhaps it's just a matter of whether they're in hordes, but these don't quite seem like creatures that could destroy civilization and the merry little island of England. Still, it is a disease, not understood at first, and supposedly highly contagious. Just a tear, or even a bit of saliva in a kiss as 28 Weeks Later would show. But the army men are convinced of their killing power (I'm a bit surprised there isn't infected hunts, well, so many have died in this movie, but still, it seems with enough guns and enough care... but as these two movies show again and again, people are careless.).

Presumed dead, desperate, alone, what is Jim to do... but there's a plane overhead, there's hope, there's a future, there's something to save Seline and the daughter for.

Perhaps it's this to convince Jim that even if the army men are survivors, their plans of rape deserve capital punishment.

I understand capital punishment for rapists, even though I don't agree with it. I can agree with killing a rapist to prevent a rape if there's no other choice, but what Jim does...

There's a breach at the wall and it starts to rain. The commander takes one soldier and goes himself, allowing the other soldiers to dress up the girls. It seems odd for the commander to do that, he's a rather utilitarian man, but then again he might want to preserve the boys ideas of society. But still dressing the girls up... it was shown that he feels bad about what is going to happen, but he believes that it is necessary. Do the other soldiers also feel like that? Some of them do, but some are just happy to get sex. And some are just far too excited. Why does the commander leave them to investigate the breach? Is he too disgusted with what's happening? Is he just scared of Jim's abilities? Is he just careless though?

The movie is a bit inconsistent about this. Why is Jim such a damn good fighter? He was a bicycle courier before the infection. Did he just learn along the way? But shouldn't the soldiers be even better? Maybe Jim's just more ruthless, but aren't the soldiers, well soldiers, who also have lived through all this? This actually bugs me.

But Jim fights. He kills the soldier accompanying the commander and strands the commander far from the fortress. And Jim also leaves a small squad of infected for the commander to deal with.

This hints at what Jim will do in the fortress. Jim makes it to the fortress, past the defenses and climbs on the outside, to a little internal courtyard. There they have a chained infected. Apparently, I guess because of the women, the infected isn't guarded, but maybe that's because it's chained so well. But not well enough for the gun Jim lifted from the soldier he killed. An infected is loose. Some of the soldiers go to investigate. They leave Seline and the daughter under low guard, and allow Seline to give the daughter some Valium so she just won't care about what she still thinks is going to happen (I wonder couldn't the commander have done something like this?).

But the infected are loose, and the soldiers are caught off guarded, and slowly the soldiers are either infected or dead. A few hide, one tries to flee, but Jim's there, with the bayonette. It doesn't matter that the soldier was fleeing, or even that this was the nicer soldier who had spared the depressed soldier the bayonette. And Jim doesn't give him a finishing shot. For though his eyes are not red, his face is blood covered and his mind filled with rage...

Seline and the daughter run, they hide, and all the soldiers die. 9 boys. Some too young to be anything but cadets. 9 of the few left in Britian. Even with the plane in the sky are there than many humans to spare? Yes, rape is horrible, but this? Perhaps that's why the filmmakers highlighted the bayonette. Perhaps Jim's not supposed to be the hero. Perhaps...

But at last there's just the cocky soldier, Seline, and Jim. There was another soldier, but Jim led the infected to him, and that was injured and Jim abandoned him. The commander's still out there, but he stopped to hold the hand of the dying bayonetted soldier. The commander cries, while Jim hunts. The daughter is then cornered by an infected but she hides behind a mirror. The infected stares at it, does the infected recognize himself, recognize what he's become? Maybe he just doens't understand a mirror. In the end, he leaves the daughter. If he hadn't... Jim saved one woman from rape while leaving one woman dead. But the daughter survives and then it's just the cocky soldier, Seline and Jim.

Jim surprises the cocky soldier and though the cocky soldier took Jim before, this time Jim isn't fighting like a man. He tears into the cocky soldier, ruthless, unstoppable. And then to finish it, hands in the eyeballs (to cement this as infected behavior, it is echoed by an infected in 28 Weeks Later). Seline can not believe this is Jim. She prepares to kill him as an infected, but... he then jokes with her, and she kisses him. I'm not sure even the killing that just happened was as creepy as that carefree kiss.

The daughter and Jim and Seline rush to the car, they need to escape, infected still are loose. But the commander is waiting there. You killed my boys. He shoots Jim, but the daughter manages to take the car and crash it just enough to kill the commander. Jim blacks out.

We next find them in a shed in the country side. The daughter is preparing something outside. Seline is converting the dresses into fabric for other purposes, and Jim greets her with a smile on his face. The day is bright outside, and the camera wanders. The infected now are truly starving, they lie with their stomaches distended, dying, finally. And a plane flies above it all. The daughter hears it far away and tells Jim and Seline to rush out, they rush to straighten out long sheets of fabric, and the camera pans back.

They spelled out a word in giant sheets of fabric. It's hello. Not help, but hello. Just a greeting that belongs to a world that as it turns out isn't actually dead.

The plane flies overhead, and Jim remarks: I think this time they saw us.

What does that mean exactly, really... the obvious and probably intended answer is that the plane probably did see them and they'll be rescued soon and the "again" might be referring to the last plane Jim saw or previous planes they saw before but couldn't signal to it.

There's another answer I'd like, maybe they've done this before, and before, and before. But the plane never lands. The infected are too mindless to spell out words so the plane would know that they aren't infected. But maybe, the plane knows that those who survived have been reduced to the level of the infected.

Jim with his hands in those eyeballs.

But the cheery sunlight, the cheery music. It's so bright. I have to wonder if the movie is suggesting not only that the three not only were saved, but deserved to be saved.

It's just something...

I dunno. There are the words of the depressed soldier, wondering if the normal was a world free of humanity, and that if humanity did die that would be a return to normal, defying the weeping of the other soldiers for the previous world they call normal.

There are scenes of nature, one is actually a painting which they drive through, there is a family of horses galloping. It is beautiful. And it is empty of humanity. The world dead of humans is still alive with nature.

Perhaps that's something.

Zombie movies always have a scare factor and a degree to which they are made just as a matter of emotional artistry (or attempted so). Of course some are just made as violence porn (sometimes perhaps this veers into that, was it really necessary to show the eyeballs being pierced, couldn't that just be implied?). But usually zombie movies are a critique of the world, where the zombies are in the end humans stripped of illusions (see especially Dawn of the Dead series or I am Legend). Is that the case here. The commander at one point says: Today I see humans killing humans and that's what I saw before the infection and before that. Rage was a condition of humanity. They were trying to cure it. They were so ambitious. But they were careless.

That ambition. Perhaps that's the flaw. The tragic flaw of humanity that dooms them. They were trying to cure rage, they infected the world, just like the dreaming conquerors of history. The soldiers were trying to recreate the world, but that what they believed was necessary, it killed them all. In 28 Weeks Later they tried to rebuild a nation, they end up infecting the world. How many nationalists have done the same?

Is it all about rage? Jim wakes up free of rage, free of any objects of rage, he apologizes for awakening the infected at first. Jim becomes an avatar of rage more than humanity. But he ends just smiling waiting for rescue. Perhaps then, the illusion is simply restored, and that it fell off was forgotten, especially since now the infected were starving, there were no more reminders it was easy to forget.

Forgetting... that would lead to what would happen The 28 Weeks Later...

I'm not sure in the end what everything meant from the piece. It still was crafted with utter care. It still brushed at things much deeper than violence porn which justified most of the violence and horror. It still showed a world reduced to another corner of hell. This earns the film a 7 out of 10 (which is very good in my book, I know that even with the same 10 point scale, the actual calibration of those points vary between critics immensely).

And hell doesn't simply go away. Even as illusions return. This 28 Weeks Later would show...

So take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

And the road goes on and on and on and on

So I've done quite a bit of transferring of the mySpace posts to the account. And while that was incredibly irritating it was still pretty damn cool to get a lot of the old stuff out. However looking back at the old posts, it was a kind of strange. I suppose it's a bit of an evolution of my personality, or at least the bit of my personality that's Rand. I mean Rand isn't exactly who I am to the surface of the world. But well Rand is me, just the different parts of me in a different configuration and ordering.

It's not quite I don't like who I was, in fact I really like some of the sessions I did even as much as a year ago, but again, I notice certain things. For example, as I go back down in my sessions, I've noticed that I've been a little bit more bitter in the past. Also, I guess I seem a little overly obsessed by my mood and such. I suppose looking back allows me to be a bit of introspection. What I really figure I guess, is that I need to learn to get a bit better about the past and the future. Things aren't so bad really, and I haven't done such a bad job of things as life goes.

As I was talking with my brother, life is always so beautiful, that's the soul really, a shard crafted in the image of God, even imperfect it is still damn beautiful. And even if it's short or tragic, even the tragedy is beautiful even if it's sad beauty. And even in the sadness, it's not that life isn't beautiful, it's that life could be so much more beautiful if things were just a little better. But I suppose the way things work out, the sadness and the joys all combined, it's as good as it gets this world, even with the tragedy.

Dude, that's deep dude.


Anywho, that's about three sentences too much of that, so take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!