Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 25, 2011

Captain America

So, first let me start out by saying that if you like superhero movies, you'll probably really enjoy Captain America. By most standards it appears to be a really good movie. I just had a terrible time getting into it, myself.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, I did, but the progress of the story all felt extremely wooden to me, kind of like watching Saturday Morning Cartoons where everything is telegraphed a little too much so the (presumably younger) audience can follow along. The camera just dwells way too long on things in order to let you know they're Important, and much of the dialog is delivered in a way that makes it feel too pat.

This is probably just a personal thing, but I found it irksome enough that I didn't enjoy the movie thoroughly.

Jul 23, 2011


Adam and I watched this movie last night, and I have to say the movie I'm most strongly reminded of is No Country for Old Men. Not because they have any superficial qualities in common, but they share a self-sabotaging sort of ending that purposefully and maliciously destroys the theme of the movie and replaces it with something rather vile.

Oh, just as a quick aside before I get started pulling this thing to bits: from the trailers I honest-to-goodness thought Bradley Cooper was Jake Gyllenhaal. Now that I look them up, they don't look all that similar, but good grief how many brown-haired scruffy youngish men are there hanging about in Hollywood? Do they all have to have the same haircut? Sheesh.

The general plot of this movie at the start is not too original (more, unusual, as in you don't see it quite as often). Cooper plays Edward Morra, a down-at-the heels would-be writer who is too depressed and out-of-focus to produce anything. He is, essentially, the most stereotypical of stereotypical smart-ish loser types. Heck, I'm one myself. He lives in a crappy apartment, he's divorced, his girlfriend left him, it's all pretty pathetic.

The character/situation development is rather undercut by this whole part of the story being narrated, by the way, and the movie begins with a flash-forward scene informing you, in no uncertain terms, that Something Bad Is Going To Happen. Even the trailers weren't too coy about the basic premise of Limitless. As a result, I spent most of the movie waiting for the surprise. That's just the problem though--there isn't one.

Limitless doesn't only lack surprise, it lacks any conflict whatsoever. Time and time again, you think some sort of conflict is going to develop--Morra is going to be forced to question what he's doing and where he's going--something is going to happen. And it never does. Terrible things occur as a result of this miracle drug that turns Morra into a super-genius. Many people die, some of them at Morra's hands. Yet what happpens in the end? He outsmarts everyone and gets away free.

This is, essentially, a story of someone who magically wins the "lottery of life". At the beginning of the movie, anyone who is struggling in their life can certainly identify with Morra's situation. Yet by the end that identification and meaning are completely stripped out. I'm not a super-genius with all the money in the world and the solutions to everything. Why the heck would I root for someone who is just because he is?

The problem is that Morra never displays any *moral* characteristics. He doesn't decide to "do good" with his newfound superpowers. He doesn't decide to bring the drug to the world (even though it's revealed by the end that he's figured out how to "beat" the horrendous side effects). At the end, he's running for president, but goodness knows what kind of policies a characterless non-entity would decide to implement. It is the ultimate in Naturalist movie-making, just a series of randomish events that don't add up to anything other than, hey, I got lucky and got a hold of a big pile of money and killed some people and drank a guy's blood and whoop, I totally got away with it! Awesome!

While that might be a fun wish-fulfillment fantasy for some, it's not a story that means anything. It reminds me of the sentiment in Terry Pratchett's novel Hat Full of Sky: "In any story worth the telling, the third wish is the one that puts everything back the way it was." It is not wishing or luck or miracle drugs that get you ahead in life.

By presenting intelligence in this light--as an amoral faculty of luck and deceit--what Limitless really conveys is a profound hatred of the intellect. But this isn't the misguided yet honest hatred of a man of limited intelligence who is suspicious or envious of something he cannot have. This is a form of what Ayn Rand called "hatred of the good for being the good"--a wish, not to seize a value, but for it to cease to exist. It is a parade of anti-intellectualism wearing the trappings of the intellect, all the worse for its sheer banality.

Fortunately, due to its banality it is likely to disappear without even a ripple. At least, one can hope.

Jul 22, 2011

Carbs: I Need Dem

So, in the third week of doing Paleo here, and I've started adding some "non-toxic" carbs back into my diet out of desperation, because I basically turned into a zombie there for a while. I could not stay awake. Well, I could, but I was sad, weepy. All the time. And I couldn't focus. It took me (literally) 45 minutes to put on a pair of pants yesterday. Finally, I had some ice cream.

Boom, fixed.

I waited up to make sure it hadn't just spiked my blood sugar and sent me into a sugar high, but I didn't have any sugar high symptoms, I merely felt "normal" for the first time in days. I could pay attention, I wanted to do stuff, I felt normally tired at the normal time. So I'm going to start eating some potatoes and whatever else I find I tolerate well (excepting grains/legumes for the time being). And I won't worry about adding a small spoonful of sugar to my tea.

I don't think I've ever really been hyperglycemic. I've had my blood sugar tested immediately after eating a large, carb-filled meal and my blood sugar was NORMAL. I suspect, but do not know, that I may be generally HYPOglycemic. It'd be nice to have an actual professional I could ask about this, but I've ALWAYS had low blood sugar in the mornings (part of why it's so painful for me to haul myself out of bed). My average body temp is lowish--97.9 instead of 98.6.

I don't want to go crazy and start diagnosing myself with everything under the sun. I don't have *most* of the symptoms of hypoglycemia, just incredibly sluggish tiredness. I don't get lightheaded or pass out, but I will feel really weak and shaky if I've gone a while without food. While I suspect some of this might be the result of my former habit of loading up on carbs and sugary foods, over the past few weeks I've definitely learned that the tiredness is NOT an effect of that. I NEED some carbohydrates for fuel so I don't turn into a zombie.

Jul 14, 2011


So, I did something today for the first time ever: I made an omelet. I've never made an omelet before, I could never get them to turn out. They always wound up as scrambled eggs. But this time I got my non-stick pan nice and hot, melted a knob of butter in it, and just poured enough eggs in to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Add a little cheese, and you've got a lovely decadent paleo omelet. Yum yum yum.

I also saw some Dagoba unsweetened drinking chocolate at the store, so I got some coconut milk, added just a little Stevia, and voila, omelet with hot chocolate for dinner.

It's so nice, because I was feeling really down in the dumps today, and this cured it.

Jul 12, 2011


(As always, click the post title to go check out the Official Movie Site).

So, I watched Faster a while ago with Adam, and I have to say, the movie really surprised me. It's not even close to what I guessed it might be about. I was expecting some kind of fast-driving crime-glorifying (or at least outlaw-glorifying) action movie, but that's not what Faster is at all. It's a movie about people making horrible decisions and then trying to move on in some fashion. Yet, ultimately, they can't escape the rippling negative consequences of their decisions.

In Faster, Dwayne Johnson plays the victim of a bank job gone horribly wrong when another gang interfered. They tortured him and his brother for information, then killed his brother and nearly killed him by shooting him in the back of the head. He winds up in jail for ten years, and immediately upon release goes after the other gang for revenge, killing them one after another.

One of the things I like a lot about this movie is that it makes excellent use of the principle of Chekov's Gun--even seemingly insignificant details like the main character having a metal plate holding his skull together have their part to play in the story. I also like that revenge itself is not glorified, either, it is shown as a horrific act that, even given extreme provocation, Johnson's character has to force himself to carry out in some cases.

Most of the characters in the movie don't have names, a stylistic choice that I think works well. There's no glitz to this movie at all, no glamor, it is a straight-out tale told in the sparest way possible, a morality play of sorts. However, there's no real message here other than that actions have consequences, so it doesn't come across as some sort of syrupy public-service "take your vitamins" message film.

I think my favorite scene is about 2/3 of the way through the movie, after Driver (the only moniker given for Johnson's character) has killed a bouncer at a nightclub. The bouncer instructed Driver to call the bouncer's son on his cell phone and explain what happened. Driver does this, and then the son vows to undertake his own revenge. Driver doesn't apologize or try to make excuses, he simply says "you do what you have to do".

This declaration that the revenge is not some consequence-less act really brings home the movie for me. It strips things down to their naked essence--that this movie reviles evil as such, even when it's the "protagonist" doing the evil things. Driver is not a fully sympathetic character as a result. What he's doing *is* evil. However, he's not shown in the light of a helpless victim, either. *Everyone* in the movie chose to do what they did, and suffered for it when they chose badly.

So, despite its focus on crime, murder, and revenge, Faster is actually a benevolent movie, because it focuses on what ultimately *also* allows people to live good lives: free choice.

Jul 11, 2011

Here We Go Again

So, after determining that I've sunk about as low as I can go emotionally and physically, I've had enough. First step is to get out of this stupid funk I'm in. So I decided a dietary change and exercise routine were of primary importance to getting my life back on track.

With Adam's (sort of) blessing, I've gone onto a paleo diet again. (He doesn't care what I eat or cook as long as he gets fed something he's willing to eat when he wants it, apparently.) Well, paleo-ish. I've cut grains, sugar, beans completely out of my diet. I've been eating a little fruit (berries) with some cream and a little stevia for sweetening as something dessert-like. The first couple of days were kind of nasty--I could barely keep my eyes open, and if I wasn't constantly engaged I'd find myself dozing off. However, the near-constant heartburn/sour stomach I'd been experiencing for the past few months was just GONE. Completely. Instantly. I'm over the dozies (yay!) and no return of stomach pains/heartburn.

The swelling in my feet has gone down a bit (not completely, but what do you expect?) and my ankles are still a BIT sore, but not too bad. I expect this will gradually improve with consistent diet and exercise.

Today, I decided to start my exercise program with the GoFit kettlebell/dvd I got. It's a 7 lb kettlebell (the smallest they had, and it's lovely girly magenta just to bring home the point). The workout is 25 minutes. I made it through eight. EIGHT. And no way could I do most of the exercises. The reverse lunges were completely beyond me, my ankles just wouldn't bend enough without screaming pain.

So, looks like I have a nice new very specific exercise goal: finish the video! Properly!

By the way, I love this video (even though I couldn't do most of it). The instructor (Jessica Huthmaker) is very relaxed and low-key, no shouting at you, and she says repeatedly "If you're having trouble, do X instead" and "do as many as you can" and "If you need a break, go on and take one" which is precisely the sort of encouragement someone like me needs. I don't really feel bad for not finishing the video (I feel bad for being as out-of-shape as I am), I was certainly soaked in sweat and my heart was pounding, so it wasn't like I did NOTHING. And I want to go back and try it again soon, i.e. Wednesday.

I am going to make it a point to stretch my ankles out REALLY WELL first, though.