Saturday, September 19, 2009

Not Knowing


I watched the Nic Cage movie KNOWING last night. I was really, really excited to see it too, knowing (he, he) that it was supposed to be bad. But sometimes, bad movies are great. Bad comedies can be hilarious. Bad Horror films can be... hilarious. Bad sci-fi? It really depends. A bad sci-fi can either be horrific and embarrassing to watch or downright entertaining. When it comes to crazy scenarios, the basic 2 sentence catch of a sci-fi film can be enough to make it entertaning, wrapping an alternate environment blanket around our brains for a couple hours.

On top of all that, I've been sadly following this movie for many years. Back in the day when I first saw Donnie Darko, I was hooked on it. Got the DVD and watched it many times until I soon realized it was just an art student's wet dream and it had all the ingredients to cater to such a person (I was in art school at the time, still developing my artistic and film sense). Don't get me wrong, it's a good movie, but too many people along with myself took the interest too far. After years of having not seen the movie, I rented the director's cut. It was terrible. Absolutely, a horrific, terrible movie. I know my taste and intelligence in film evolved in the last seven years, but this was ridiculous. Turns out, it wasn't my taste - it WAS the cut of the movie. Everyone who has expressed their interest in the film hates the director's cut. For me, it made the movie boring and lost it's sense of believability, making it an embarrassment to watch.

Back to Knowing. So in my Donnie Darko hayday, I read that the director (Richard Kelly - the filmmaker, not the kiddie porno guy), was making a film: "a time capsule is discovered with numbers and dates. The numbers and dates list worldwide catastrophies and the specific fatalities. Some of the dates haven't happened yet." Wow - that sets the line for a very entertaining movie - regardless how good or bad it may be. And if Mr. Kelly is making it, it's GOT to be worthwhile.

Turns out Mr. Kelly did not make the movie and it was eventually put together by other people. When it hit the theaters, I was excited to see it, but with the extreme panning by critics, I decided to wait for video.

So with everything invested in the movie, along with my low expectations for it being good, my excitment level was high. How did it do? Quite poor. Worth watching? Sadly, no. Why? Well, my main complaint, which is 100% valid, is that the movie HAS NO PURPOSE. What does this mean? The last 10 minutes of the movie had no relevance. The first 90% of the movie tells the tale of Nic and his number sheet, trying to figure it out, then in the last 10 minutes, something else happens that has no bearing at all toward Nic Cage or anything. We could have watched EMPIRE for 8 hours and spliced the last 10 minutes of Knowing to the end - and it would be as logical of a movie. It's like if you watched a Law and Order episode and after 55 minutes of interrogations and adventure, some random dude who we haven't seen yet and has no connections to anything in the episode, walks into the police station and admits to the murder. His DNA matches and he is definately the guy. Seriously? What the hell is this movie supposed to be about!?

I could spout the many inconsistencies and poor filmmaking decisions about KNOWING but I'll hold off - this was supposed to be entertaining and not an epic, so all silly moments and numerous cliches can be described elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WTF LA METRO


After living in downtown Chicago for four years (2000-2004) I became spoiled with cheap, accessible, reliable public transportation. In fact, I upheld the Chicago mentality of lamenting the idea of taking a bus vs. a subway seeing it went everywhere and any place that requires a bus was 'too far.'

Then I moved to Los Angeles in 2006. Unbelievable. This system is not only completely underdeveloped, but the organization and simplicities that should be a given are absent.


1 - METRO PASS
You are not able to buy a rechargeable Metro pass. What is this? Say you buy a pass to go on the subway. You put $10 on it, use it a few times over a month, then, when it is about to run out, you put another $10 on it. Maybe $20 so it lasts longer. Makes sense, right? WRONG! The only pass you can buy is an exact change 1-fare pass or an unlimited weekly or monthly pass (and no free transfers anywhere). A monthly pass for $62 is your amazing alternative. You used to be able to buy an all-day pass for $5 on the buses, but they stopped it, requiring you buy a Metro card online, have it shipped to you, then buy the one day pass in advance online to put on your card. What a crock and waste of everyone's time and money. When I took the bus to work, I was paying approximately $40 a month. I was sick and tried of keeping in line quarters and single dollars at a constant rate. My only other option? Buy a monthly pass for $62! And the funny thing is, they market this card as a rechargeable card, which is a complete lie. Rechargeable just like your 2-year cell phone contract recharges every month - the same price at the same rate no matter what. YOU ARE STUCK AND HAVE NO OPTIONS. Great going.

2 - BEVERLY HILLS
The LA subway system is nice and cute. It's about 1/4 the size it needs to be (and 1/6 the size it should be) and barely covers the 'proper' LA that I like to refer to it as. If you live or work in North Hollywood, Hollywood, or downtown, then this system is for you! If you live anywhere near the ocean, westwood, mid-wilshire, or anywhere else in the valley, you have to rely on a bus. If you know anything about LA, the reason you want to take public transportation is to escape the roads of fucking gridlock and it taking 2 hours to travel 8 miles. Why do you want to get on a bus! (yes there are a couple EXPRESS bus roads that are only for buses, so it's not 100% terrible).

I realize that public transportation isn't a profit system - it's hard to make a profit on something like this - but what we have here is ridiculous. And what makes matters worse is Beverly Hills. Back in the day, or the last 50 years, Beverly Hills has made it difficult for the advancing city of Los Angeles to develop. Sure, they have lots of money and want to keep their reclusive, grassy and spacey (yet still righteous and above all) feeling and attitude, but it's a little beyond ridiculous. Beverly Hills stands directly between Hollywood (major area for the subway) and the ocean and Santa Monica. They have blocked permits and requests to dig under and create a better Subway. WTF! They are also going ape shit with parking, wanting more and more streets to be permit only. You can have one, but not both! Live up to living in a major city or move to Carbondale, IL.

3 - THE INTERNET
You think that a system as important as public transportation would have a top-notch website. WRONG! Since there are few options for taking the subway, most likely you will be taking a bus (to only sit in awful LA traffic).

I can't believe this site, it's so GOD AWFUL. The maps suck. If you think mapquest is a nuisance instead of google maps, you should try this place. Remember way back when and you visited first webpages? How awesome it was? All GIF filled crappy layouts with rainbow MS Word 3D text? That's the Metro's MAP system. My God, it could only be worse if you asked a 5 year old to duplicate a map with grey crayons and give you directions.

And to make matters worse, there is Trip Planner. This is terrible. Just an example of looking for a ride today: I type in centenella and pico to my apartment and it gives me 4 options, all of which are about the same: take 2 buses, transferring in century city. The FUNNY thing is, if i put in centenella and pico to pico and la brea (which is two blocks from my apartment) it says take 1 rapid (express) bus. WTF is this? It's an 8 mile ride and if I enter in specific addresses, it tells me to take 2 slow buses, transferring in the middle of the 8 miles, otherwise I can take one FAST bus if my end destination is 2 blocks different? So to know what my best option is, I need to put in several permutations! (Of which, I don't know which ones will generate further options).
And this isn't the only option. I've been screwed over by the trip planner before. I was traveling from mid-wilshire to west Pasadena and had a connection downtown. It told me to get off an a specific intersection and pick up a specific bus at that very same intersection. Did the bus I needed to get on stop there? NOPE! Luckily I asked a driver of a different bus (who was not familiar with the bus I was catching) and he was overly nice and gave me a ride about half a mile north to where I needed to be. WTF! On the good note, all Metro personnel (drivers) have always been super nice to say the least - these guys deal with a lot of crap all day long from crazy people to angry jerks, so being nice and them being able to accomplish something positive goes a long way. Lastly was an incident last week, traveling from Mid-wilshire to Santa Monica. It was a pretty simple trip - walk to wilshire and take a bus to Santa monica. The trip planner told me to take either one slow bus, or one Rapid (express) bus. I walked to wilshire and decided to take whatever bus came first, knowing the waiting time would equal out the slowness of the ride should I get on the regular bus, which is what I did. And what happened? The bus took me to Westwood and I was told it was the last stop! (not what the internet said). Luckily again, the driver was very nice and gave me a free transfer for the rapid, but it did mean waiting 15 minutes for the new bus to arrive and continue down Wilshire.

I now am completely skeptical of the trip planner. What can I trust with reliable times and location? And furthermore, how do I know that the bus they are telling me to take is the best option?

4 - THE FUTURE
I love following advancements and improvements. I need to create a website or business based on the fact people will want to track the progress of businesses, cities, buildings, construction, etc. So needless to say, I am always interested in the development of LA's Metro. They even have their own website talking about the next 20 years! Exciting, right? WRONG. To be fair, this section of the site isn't that bad, but it is lacking great strides. This is the site to get the youth and those who don't take public transpo in LA interested! But they don't. It's just links with text and a lot of boring details. Interactive forums? Nope. Awesome artistic renderings of things to come? Nope. Current, up to date info? Nope. Hell - I got more out of the wikipedia page than the metro page when it comes to progress and the future. Seriously - who markets this?

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I am a strong believer in public transportation and am GODLY SHOCKED at the amount of people in Los Angeles who not only don't use it, but have NEVER used it. When I first moved here, I was told by several people to NOT TO USE IT because it is dirty, gross, and unsafe. From my experiences, it's cleaner than Chicago, fewer crazies than Chicago, and safe? I never had an incident in Chicago. So far, nothing in LA either. Both good things. I've heard horror stories about public transpo in both cities, which is scary and somewhat expected, not to say a good thing. Either way, I hope Metro gets their act together and capitalizes on making their system easier and more accessible.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time Crimes and Hot Tubs


I recently watched the Spanish Film TIME CRIMES, which was excellent. Not only a mixture of many time traveling theories, but a brilliant suggestion for a future Halloween costume. Make sure you don't read into it before watching, it's best if you have as few spoilers as possible. It's about an insane adventure a man partakes after accidentally traveling through time. How does he do this? And I am not giving anything away by saying this, but by stepping into a large vat of water, nothing less than a high-tech hot tub.

This brings me to an interesting discovery this week of a film trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine - a slapstick comedy about a group of men who seem to have traveled back in time by taking a dip in their Hot Tub. Connection? Probably not, but these two films do share a unique method of time travel.

As we are used to speeding cars and spaceships, it is often more fun to use a non-conventional mechanism: a vat of water with little explanation. This creates a gap theory and allows us to just accept it rather then have a fake theory thrown down our throats to try and believe. After all, the method just gets us to where we want to be, right?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top 5 Vocabulary Words I Learned from The Simpsons


I have seasons 2-12 of The Simpsons memorized backward and forward. Skipping the debate on when they jumped the shark, the show still puts out great episodes, but these are the seasons I grew up with and watched countless times from my homemade collection of VHS tapes. (I want to say I was on 30-something when season 1 came out on DVD). It was a difficult decision and many cuts were made; the final decision was based on the strongest examples of words that because of the simpsons, are engraved in my head. There are vast (and I mean vast) examples from the show, but these had the biggest impact.

(in alphabetical order)

Concoct
The Brother from Another Series, February, 1997
1 - To prepare by mixing ingredients, as in cooking.
2 - To devise, using skill and intelligence; contrive

Sideshow Bob and his brother, Cecil, are arrested and thrown into a police car. It drives off and police chief Wiggum stands in the road and ponders, "There they go, two criminal geniuses locked away together. Who knows what diabolical schemes they might concoct."

Integrity
Bart's Girlfriend, November 1994
1 - A sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition
2 - The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

Bart is trying to impress a girl who turns out to be bad - she dares him to ride his skateboard down a steep road. During his initial descent, Bart gains speed and struggles to keep his balance. "Actually," notes Bart, "if the road surface maintains its integrity, I just might be able to hold on --"

Lamentably
Bart's Friend falls in Love, May 1992
1 - Regrettably
2 - In an unfortunate or deplorable manner

Marge buys homer a weight loss tape he can can listen to while he sleeps. Unbeknown to her, he was sent a 'build your vocabulary' instead:

Homer is nestled in bed, a set of headphones on his head. He reminisces on the things he and his stomach have done together before going to sleep. The tape begins. ``Hello, this is Dr. Marvin Monroe. Let's build your vocabulary. A -- Abattoir. Slaughterhouse. The cow was slaughtered in the abattoir.''

The next morning, Homer eats several handfuls of bacon.

Marge: Homer, has the weight loss tape reduced your appetite?
Homer: Ah, lamentably no. My gastronomic rapacity knows no satieties.

Rhetorical
Mother Simpson, November 1995
1 - The art of using language, especially public speaking, as a means to persuade
2 - Meaningless language with an exaggerated style intended to impress

Homer's mother is singing with Lisa and Homer in company:

Grandma: [singing] How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?
Homer: Seven!
Lisa: No, Dad, it's a rhetorical question.
Homer: Rhetorical, eh? Eight!
Lisa: Dad, do you even know what "rhetorical" means?
Homer: [incredulous] Do I know what "rhetorical" means?!

Specious
Much Apu About Nothing - May, 1996
1 - Having deceptive attraction or allure
2 - Having a false look of truth or genuineness

A harmless bear walks into Springfield, resulting in the implementation of the bear patrol.

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, honey.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kaffir Tree Timeline (part 2)

It's been a few weeks and to my surprise, a second tree has sprouted, making the sprouting rate (holding off on calling it a success rate thus far) to about 16% from the 12 seeds I received in an envelope from Malaysia that I purchased on ebay. The original tree is growing well and so far so good!