Pi: Faith in Chaos, but I like Bananna Cream, Better

Got the movie Pi: Faith in Chaos from Netflix over the weekend, because once in a while I like to watch a movie that stretches my brain beyond the three dimensions it usually thinks in. It’s by acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky, whose The Fountain I also checked out just recently. The movies are not for the cinematically timid. They’re meant to blow your mind and make you think. Mostly, Pi made me think, “Wow, the guys who make LOST sure lifted a lot of stuff from this Aronofsky guy…” Pi’s got nosebleeds after flashy trips and significantly powerful numbers that are meant to save humanity. I kept waiting for Hurley to walk into the movie and say, “Dude, nice haircut. What are you doing with that drill?”

Ultimately, I think I’m tired of these deep, meaningful films. I like to have my mind stretched, which is why I read stuff like the books of Michio Kaku about string theory and quantum physics. But I think in my fiction I prefer to have something¬† with a little more chocolate cream or baked apples, dude!

Did Anyone See a Blog Around Here?

I swear, I used to have a blog around here somewhere. Probably lost under all this Facebook, Twitter, and various other social media stuff. I actually meant to update it recently, being as it was my birthday, and I was on vacation, and I had some really deep insights into the meaning of life and stuff, but then something shiny kind of zipped by and all of a sudden I had a new car (Honda Fit) and I was back at work trying to figure out where all my free time was.

Yes, you did hear right…new car. I really loved my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. It felt so green, despite the fact that it was blue. But it developed an ABS chip problem that was draining the battery. And when I looked back through my phonebook sized stack of warranty work (including replacing the hybrid battery pack), I realized that the same ABS chip problem precipitated months of regular trips to the dealership. Even my wife, as she shuffled through the pages in the stack sorting them, finally said, “Um, do you REALLY want to fix this clunker on your own dime?”

So we spent a few days of our vacation on car stuff. What Natasha calls my “most expensive birthday present ever.” But, in looking at the maintenance schedule for the Fit, it’s going to be a LOT cheaper to maintain than the hybrid. And it doesn’t have that gremlin guy from the Bugs Bunny cartoon under the hood with his little hammer.

Now that I’ve actually found this blog again, I think I might try to upgrade the look some. I’ve been meaning to finally get around to posting some more bad poetry and stuff. Hmmm…you might want to consider deleting your bookmarks…

Star Trek for the Next Generation (My Review, Minor Spoiler)

I really liked the new Star Trek movie. I had actually written the whole franchise off a few years ago, after Enterprise once again disappointed me with how unlike the original series it was, and even how dark and adolescent it was.

I had some trepidation about the new movie. First off, though I think JJ Abrams has got creative chops, his work hasn’t always clicked with me. I really love LOST, but technically he only created that, and then left it in the able hands of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. I really enjoyed Alias when it was focused on the whole spy thing, but when they went off the fantasy deep end, looking for mysterious artifacts and blowing up the entire setup they had created in the first season, I got tired of it really quickly. Next, [minor spoiler] there’s time travel involved. I hate time travel stories. (Yes, I know I said I really like LOST. It didn’t start out as a time travel story, and they have balanced my general hatred of time travel stories by saying “You can’t change the past/future”. They tend to look at time travel from a fairly deep physics perspective, and also from a fairly deep thematic perspective. So, at least so far, they failed to disappoint me.)

Ultimately, I thought the cast was fantastic. (Karl Urban’s McCoy especially.) The story was good, although in the end the villain is kind of ultimately forgettable. The action was awesome, although occasionally it suffered a bit from the “Oh, look, someone is hanging over a very high drop…again. Remind me again why there are no railings on these spaceships? And why they don’t build floors instead of just tiny little walkways?” Oh wait, that’s right, JJ Abrams promised he would bring more Star Wars to Star Trek. So I guess that explains it.

The most pleasing thing to me about the movie is, there’s a return to the old values of Trek. With a diverse group of people working together to combat evil. There’s even kind of a thematic thing going on, where this new story kind of kills off the dark Trek that we had been living with for all those years. In the end, it’s a reboot and gives us the chance to enjoy the kind of Roddenberry-esque Trek I’d been missing. I’m really hopeful that the planned sequels (and possible TV rebirth) will be a return to the sort of positive stories that have been missing from entertainment lately.

One other minor note to the filmmakers. Those light on the bridge that sort of blind the camera at the beginning of every shot? Not cool. They suck. Stop it. I go to the movies to actually be able to see what’s going on, not for your kewl lighting effect.

Jury Duty Sucks

Polk County has seen fit yet again, for the second time in two years, to call me for jury duty. Wow. A chance to do my civic duty. Great.

Yeah, not really.

It’s a friggin’ hour drive to Bartow to the court house, way too early in the morning. Then I get to spend the day attempting to convince a bunch of lawyers that I would make a lousy juror, without actually saying, “Because I don’t care, and all I really want to do right now is go home. Or go to work. Or have dental work.” I know, “It’s my civic duty.” “I should be honored to serve.” Blah blah blah. Well, I’m not. I’m bitter.

Anyway, think of me on Monday, waiting desperately for them to dismiss me, so I can go home and forget about this whole ridiculous ordeal for another year or more. I swear, if they call me next year, I’m moving.

For all of you who face similar issues in the future, may I present the following links on how to get out of jury duty. I haven’t tested any of them, but they do give me some hope that I might only have to be there one day.

There’s more. Google is an awesome service.

“Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings” for the Wii – Trust Me…

Speaking of Wii games, the new Indiana Jones game looks quite adventurous. Sporting some neat motion controls and some puzzle play that looks like it might be similar to Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which was, of course, the greatest Indiana Jones game ever made. Pretty kewl video about the game, and I don’t just say that because I have a friend who’s in it….

http://videogames.yahoo.com/events/indiana-jones-and-the-staff-of-kings/indiana-jones-and-the-staff-of-kings-videos/1299470

Disney to Release “Toy Story Midway Mania” as Wii Game, No Need To Go To Disney Anymore

When I first rode “Toy Story Midway Mania” a few months ago, I was really underwhelmed. I mean, it’s a good ride, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t get off going, “Wowee zowee! That was something I’ve never seen before!” You know that feeling — when you step off say, “Mission:Space” at Epcot and you’re like, “Holy CRAP! I’ve just been in friggin’ SPACE!” And at the time, I said to a lot of people, “It just feels like a Wii game.” And now it is one.

From Midway Mania

Yes, I like Wii games, but I don’t go to theme parks to play them. When I go to a theme park I want to have that “Mission:Space” or “Soaring” experience, where I get to do experience something, I get to have a rush of emotion and experience I can’t possibly recreate at home. “Midway” just feels like an annoying way to play a video game — what with the spinning and long waiting in lines with sweaty tourists. If I wanted that, I’d wait an hour to play Wii Sports with my air conditioner turned off and a packet of liverwurst open in front of me. And then when I played I’d have my wife spin my recliner in random directions between levels.

Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for the folks who put together these rides. It’s hard and it’s expensive. There’s no question in my mind that it’s an incredible challenge if you’re trying to make something a game and interactive and entertaining and also make it a big enough experience that people walk out thinking, “I may never do that again in my life. That was incredible.” And maybe Midway isn’t meant to be that kind of experience. But it’s hard for me to accept that you would build anything nowadays in a theme park that wasn’t that for someone at some level of thrill.

My suggestions? For Midway — it needs a better story. The game is fun, but where’s the “Buzz has been stolen by the evil carnival owner and the only way for me to get him back is to score high on these games and win him!” And then where’s the total twist on that, where’s the point where I won Buzz, but the evil carnies realize what I’m up to and I have to throw baseballs and pies to escape the carnival before we’re all caught. Just a blue-sky, not perfect. But I really feel like there needs to be a more emotion-grabbing resonance somewhere. The story that comes first and engages me in the game.

Maybe they’ll give away some liverwurst free with the Wii version.

Henson Exhibit at the Orlando History Center

Yeah, I know…you read the title and said “Orlando has a History Center?” Yes, indeed it does. The Orlando History Center is nestled downtown in a historic old courthouse building and is a gem of a find for a local sick of roller coasters and dacing hippos.

From Orlando History Center

Natasha and I went there this weekend to see the Jim Henson’s Fantastic World exhibit that’s showing until May 3. I had hoped to post some pics from the exhibit, but the Muppets asked for a little peace from cameras. Besides, if you learned how to count in Spanish or your alphabet from Sesame Street, then you really want to go see this exhibit. On the one hand, it’s a trip down memory lane to see all of the Muppet wisdom and comedy that were the building blocks of my education.¬† Seeing things like The King of 8 really took me back to the very beginnings of the formation of my education.

You know, call me dumb, but I never really got the “Sesame Street was brought to you today by, the number 7, and the letter K” at the end of every episode. I mean, I got it was a spin on the whole sponsor thing, but in the exhibit, they point out that it was a creative TV person who looked at the children of that day and realized they were learning more from commercials on TV than from their busy parents. She set out to take the commercial format and harness it to teach kids things they needed to know. Like how to count. And she enlisted Jim Henson because up to that point he was best-known for making engaging commercials with puppets. So subtly, all those short films in Sesame Street were commercials for education.

Soaking up the concentrated career of Jim Henson, it’s amazing to see all he did and to realize he was just one of those people, those leaders who was always out there trying to push the next big thing, like Walt Disney and George Lucas. I was especially taken by looking at the concept art on display for Dark Crystal, with how many of the artistic memes there have become a staple of the fantasy movie and video game genre. I looked at some of them and felt like I was looking at World of Warcraft concept art. Henson’s work really was great inspiration for the artists of today.

The History Center is well worth a spin for the other exhibits there, too. I mean how much do you know about John Young, or Dr. Phillips, or all those other place names you pass by every day? Take an afternoon and realize that there’s more to Central Florida history than Walt setting up stakes here.

One other note on the Henson exhibit, there’s a link on the history center web site to an MP3 tour of the exhbit that you can pop on your iPod and use to guide you through. It’s a bit hard to follow, because there are some numbers missing from the exhibit that are mentioned in the audio tour, but it’s well worth listening to for the interviews and commentary.