Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Visa Conspiracy

Reading a SilverSabre post about women being stereotyped in advertising reminded me of this post I wrote a while ago. It's still going on, so I've decided to repost:

This is one of a group of Visa commercials circulating the T.V. airwaves, about long, smooth lines of customers in a store making a steady flow of traffic, all by paying with their Visa cards. There’ll be one token customer who decides to pay with cash or check, and then everything stops, everyone staring at the one person with sloppy paper currency. This could be my paranoid anti-government self talking, but this seemed a bit conspiratorial and subliminal to me.

This stream of everyday-people, like cogs on a conveyor belt, are paying for their merchandise with the Visa card (even at the freakin’ newsstand in one instance!) Their purchases, time and location, digital existential life stamp, is registered with this card corporation a bunch of times a day (the idea must make police give each other hi-fives). As soon as someone decides to pay with good old’ green, everybody centers their eyesight on what has just become enemy #1. It doesn’t sound like their trying to make life easier for us; it sounds like their trying to simplify our identities for themselves (the corporation, that is). A bit spooky is all I’m saying.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Why shouldn't I be allowed to have a child who looks like me? Everybody else can."

In the Law and Order SVU episode "Inconceivable", Detectives are investigating the theft of a group of embryos from a clinic. In the list of subjects they compiled was a dwarf named Jocelyn Miller (played by Meredith Eaton Gilden) who the detectives interviewed for a more detailed motive and means to do it. Prior to the theft, she had given her eggs to the clinic for embryo development. They were made, and when she screened them, she had made an uproar at the clinic. Her embryos being part of the group that was stolen, Detective Fin Tutuola and Det. Chester Lake questioned her about the nature of her screening and argument with the doctors, and this conversation followed:

Jocelyn: It's humane to get rid of the defective ones. Babies born with homozygous achondroplasia usually die within a year. Their tiny chest cages cause constriction, resulting in respiratory distress. It's a nasty death.
Fin: That's what you were screening for?
Jocelyn: We [her and her husband] had a little girl named Rose who had it. She died in my arms.
Chester: I am so sorry.
Jocelyn: My husband is also a dwarf, which gives us a 25% chance of having a baby with the condition.
Fin: So you had them weed out the embryos with the death sentence attached?
Jocelyn: I donated them to research.
Chester: Sounds like the clinic helped, but we heard you caused a disturbance.
Jocelyn: Yea, after all of that, my doctor refused to implant one of my healthy embryos.
Fin: He refused to implant because of your size?
Jocelyn: No, because of babies. He wanted to use an embryo that would become what you call "normal" size. I wanted an LP.
Chester: LP? Little person.
Fin: You wanted to purposely create a child with a disability?
Jocelyn: Size is not a disability. We have normal lifespans and lives. Why shouldn't I be allowed to have a child who looks like me? Everybody else can.
Jocelyn: I think someone would have noticed if the thief was 4 foot one.

This was a great episode, but this scene stuck out in my memory the most.

What's the prevailing approach that decides the baby's fate?

Yes, the doctor has the ability to make the baby "normal-sized", and not to live as a possible outcast amongst society. He could be trying to save the child the burden of all the possible ridicule Jocelyn has suffered, but he neglects and hurts Jocelyn's pride in the process. But, as Jocelyn clears up for Det. Fin, having small stature is not necessarily a disability. The public chooses to view dwarfs this way. To ridicule them and treat them like they're some sort of rejected drawings God threw away in pursuing the perfect picture of man. A doctor who is possibly too conscious of widely-held opinion would try to push something like that on to Jocelyn.

I see something a bit noble in Jocelyn wanting to continue her family line as it is. Having small-stature is not what she chose for herself, but it is what she is. She realizes that she has plenty to offer to humanity regardless of how small she is, and her child will too. However, this can also be construed as selfishness, bringing unwarranted and easily-avoided ridicule onto her child in the future.

At the end of it all, both of these opinions are morally null and void, since it should really be up to the person (baby) to be who they want. Of course, an embryo cannot pick this for themselves, so they'll inevitably be subject to some kind of existential guilt (being a normal sized person ashamed of their parents) or embarrassment and anger (being an LP and being outcast) at some point in their life. It is for these people that I pray they have the strength and faith to go on.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"The Happening"

Everybody has called it quits on M. Night Shyamalan, but I still have hope in him. His ideas are still good, and he still has the ability to manipulate characters and a story to make it seem as if the supernatural is acting behind it all without any special effects. With his latest efforts however (“Lady In The Water”, “The Village”), other imbalances in the narrative damage what has the potential to be great films. Like in “The Happening”.

At first, I was a bit thrown off by the unnatural, stiff dialogue and emotion of the characters, but quickly began to be entertained by it, realizing that it’s Shyamalan’s trademark fairy-tale like narrative. A morbid, blood-painted fairy-tale. Mark Wahlberg’s performance carried the movie gracefully, as well as John Leguizamo’s grave mood making character.

I suppose if it were some novice director or even worse, Eli Roth, making another one of these art-house imitation horror movies where grotesque creatures and odd images are flashed every two seconds in the trailer, I’d come to see the gory deaths and accept the somewhat reasonable excuse to connect it all. Actually, no I wouldn’t. If it wasn’t for Shyamalan’s name behind it, I wouldn’t have watched this film at all (everything looks good in the coming attractions, but if you want to know if something will most likely be good or not, you look at who’s behind the camera).

Anyway, because his name is behind it, I looked past the “first Rated R” –ness that the commercials dramatically put forth, past the bizarre gore, for the brilliant, interconnected endings that he usually delivers. But no dice.

I think he left “The Happening” too vague. The “we’ll never truly understand” theme seemed like a bit of a cop out, as though he didn’t really feel like explaining the reason and just wanted to thrill and shock audiences with this invisible menace. I mean, the movie does explain a good chunk of the inner workings of the bigger picture, but I didn’t feel it was enough to be satisfied with not knowing more. Coupled with the fact that the sub-plot resolved with nothing substantial to add to the story whatsoever, I left the theater with a bit of an empty feeling, and figured that he was perhaps planning a sequel.

Regardless, “The Happening” was still chock full of his “natural oddities” (unadulterated with CGI), and his unique brand of eeriness. So, the film was still decent to me. But Shyamalan must review himself, review his vision, and take his storytelling skills back to what they were in “Signs” (yes, Signs, which was better than “The Sixth Sense”)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Being Grateful

The same person from before had recently asked me "What are three things that you're grateful for?" I said that I was grateful for the strength and faith to go on in life. She told me to be more detailed.

I immediately found something wrong with this, having to sit and search my life for certain material objects to be grateful for.

I first said "a roof over my head", but then I thought about the people who didn't have that as well as much less. I expressed this and she told me that they weren't my concern. So my material blessings are the only things that matter? Do the homeless and family-less have nothing to be thankful for since they don't have the things that I have? I told her that I think what she said was superficial (which I also suspect she doesn't really have a correct definition for in her head). Being thankful to God does cannot stand solely in the fact that my mother still lives, or that I have a home. They are blessings, but not the important ones. Those things can come and go.

Of course, some people with much less of a material standing than me do throw God away, and there are some that are quite happy where they are at in life, regardless of it being difficult to earn/keep a living. It's what they're thankful for that we all should be thankful for (secularly and religiously), which is the strength and faith to go on in life, regardless of whether the dynamics work for or against us.

Anyway, I tried explaining this to her, but of course, she didn't listen. She tried rephrasing the question: "No, no, if you want to talk about how bad things are for people and how life sucks and stuff, I listen. But for right now, I'm asking you what you're personally thankful for." This rectified nothing.

I suppose she had a hard time trying to fit my answer (strength and faith) into her own brand of thinking, which was probably quite difficult since it didn't fit in with whatever illogic she made up for herself.

People suck.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not even once

I recently stumbled across, a website that’s part of Thomas M. Siebel’s campaign to help end teenagers’ curiosity to try crystal meth for the first time. He first launched his campaign in Montana and did a documentary for HBO called “Montana Meth”. The campaign has since then launched nationally into the internet, radio commercials and billboards. But what really grabbed my attention were the T.V. ads.

Focused on dark situations and perceptions that are influenced by just trying meth once, the 30-second ads artistically portray their characters and situations in various themes and genres. All of them are entertaining (as well as message-driven), but these following few are my favorites:

Bathroom - This one has kind of an old-school horror movie feel. She finds something like a monster from another universe in her bathtub (so my imagination says). A product of herself has come to warn her. Fate and transcendence seem to emanate here.

O.D. – This one seemed to have a bit of a dark fantasy, surreal effect to it. A double-universe that one character is connected to.

Laundromat – The two themes from the bathroom ad are reiterated here. The part that particularly drew me in about this ad was the interaction between the meth-head and the woman with her baby. It showed insight into his self-reflection with one line.

Car Accident – This one discusses the choices you make. I mean, they’re all about the choices you make, but this one singles out and defines that theme. The character’s consideration of her life’s paths are especially bleak:

This one is more dramatic than anything. Here, distancing himself from his parents, meth has turned the character into something that, behavior-wise, almost doesn’t even seem human anymore.

Go to the website, linked above in the first sentence, to check out the rest.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Analyze This.

I had a dream. Not the MLK Jr. kind, but something more abstract and less ideal.

It starts with me being in the center stage of a circular auditorium-like place. It seemed smaller than the size you'd see in "Gladiator" or "Ben Hur", but....just as big? Any kind of mathematic measurement is subject to distortion in these visions.

The seats all around me were filled with what looked young adults, in winter coats, down jackets and wool hats. The thing is, it was only after seeing them dressed that way that I realized I was cold. I was standing in muddy, icy waters up to my knees. Did one make the other appear?

Anyway, I was standing behind store registers (yes, in the muddy waters) at a counter, and in addition to a crowded seating area, there was a mob of people all talking, and meshing amongst each other in front of the counter to buy I-don't-know-what.

It was dusk with a purple sky stretching from a light to a darker tone when I noticed the sky.

But then it was instantly night.

Then a cloudy day.

Then, suddenly, everyone was running and screaming up and over the top rows and out of the auditorium.

I followed, and above was now a clear, sky-piercing sun with summer heat.

I was in between two townhouses in a cluster of them, and there was sight of remnants of the auditorium people still scattering away in a section of the area where I live. I turned my head a couple of degrees, and seen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold standing there, one of which was holding someone up by their collar and putting a bullet in and out of their temples with a submachine gun.

As the body fell to the floor limp, I looked at them. They stood together and looked at me. Then I woke up.

According to Jung, the logic of dreams is nothing like the causal strings of real life. D does not happen because C does not happen because B, so on and so forth. Rather, it is the subsconscious trying to talk to you, but taking images from your conscious mind and using them for its own meanings.

The changing of day and night may have absolutely nothing to do with time, registers nothing to do with sales, Eric and Dylan nothing to do with a bully-inspired violent rampage. But then, are there reasons why the subconscious chose those images instead of others? Perhaps I should just complete the book and answer my own questions.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Bourne Analysis

I liked the Matt Damon movies a lot, so I’ve decided to deepen the understanding of Bourne’s predicament by getting into the novels, and I was definitely impressed.

Although the novel has an added preliminary scene, both it and the film start off with Bourne floating in the ocean and being picked up by fishermen. The fishermen in the film try to help Bourne recover, while the narrative in the book takes a more developed start involving a drunk town doctor and a favor the mentioned fishermen owe to him. After this, the book and movie take two different tones.

Upon first seeing the film, I thought that it was a great blend of thrills, drama and intelligence. But the book, with all of it’s heavily thought-out espionage, makes the movie seem like a boiled-down action flick.

This doesn’t take away as much from the film as I might imply. Realistically, it would probably take about 2 3-and-some-change hour-movies just to capture most of what happened in the novel. And Matt Damon’s performance effectively provides that sharp, dramatic feel that the title character and his adventure give in the novel. And I’m glad that they’ve changed the love interest around.

In the film, Marie (played by Franka Potente) is a German traveler who Bourne paid to drive him to Paris. She had some of her own personality to contrast against Bourne’s with. She was easy-going, down to earth. A bit more modern, I guess.

In the novel, Marie was a highly intelligent Canadian economist who aides Bourne in his clandestine navigation around Paris and Zurich. She was also, in my view, almost completely servile to Bourne, falling in love with him and repeatedly professing this just a day or two after he’s beaten her, twisted her arm and terrorized her.

Supposedly, Marie sees him in a different light after she is kidnapped by Carlos’ (a major character taken out of the films) henchman and he saves her before she is raped. While this is...well...noble of him...I can’t really see how it would be enough for her to be completely willing to risk her job and life, diving into a world filled with murder and deceit just to help him out. At best, showing him an intelligent next step in his journey and then being on her own way would display the realistic amount of gratitude, but then again, I don’t know her psychology/personal history, and Ludlum must’ve seen something in their violent union that I can’t.

Anyway, it was definitely a good read. I look forward to the next film and reading the next book.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I forget to remember sometimes.

"I had been walking in a fog. Time hadn't seemed to pass at all. It had been two hours since I left my place and I had hardly any memory of what streets I had crossed to get here. Nothing came back to me at all until I was outside the old apartment building where Bettie had been torn away and jammed into the back of a light truck."

Sometimes, authors are perfect at describing feelings and perceptual events in life that it seems impossible to find the perfect words for.

This particular passage in "Dead Street" (listed to the right) stuck out to me because of the numerous amount of times that I've stepped into my apartment and ended up laying down in bed, not even remembering that I had taken a shower and eaten dinner.

For the protagonist, Jack Stang, his body had carried him to the location of his ex-girlfriend's kidnapping because of the emotion connected to it. My fog is produced from daily habit, which is....kind of sad in a way, although I am entertained when it happens.