Thursday, December 9, 2010

I am Featured! Huzzah!

I have been picked up by Lordkat of Lordkat.com
I will be posting all game related articles on there, but I will still use my blog for anything not related to games. I will also post updates for whenever I do write an article for Lordkat.com!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

World of Warcraft and the New Social Dynamic

World of Warcraft has over twelve million subscribers (“Subscriber Base Reaches 12 Million Worldwide” 1). The population of Azeroth is that of a small nation and it’s still receiving new immigrants daily, or are they refuges? Video games, after all, have always been thought of as a form of escapism, but how much escapism is in a game where the majority of game-play revolves around interacting with other people? These interactions aren’t always shallow either. People who first met on World of Warcraft have ended up forming lasting relationships and, in some cases, even marrying. While few people would think of games as the hobby of recluses and the socially inept anymore, how many people would be willing to believe that such strong relationships can be formed through a video game? Ignorance of the nuances of this trend could lead to turmoil between friends and family that could otherwise be avoided. That is why this growing form of social interaction can’t be ignored or defined by simple stereotypes any longer.

            This idea, that video games can spark and even nurture relationships, is an unusual idea even to people who play video games. The reason for this is that different games support different types of communication. Games that don't require as much time and dedication to play have a distinctly different social experience than those that do, like World of Warcraft, Second Life, etc. The latter games tend to have several features that encourage or require social interaction between individuals (player-ran markets/economies, guilds/groups, and dungeons/levels that require the collaborated effort of several people to complete). People tend to have interactions with the same people as a result of these factors. This provides the groundwork for people to get to know each other and do things together on a regular basis. This makes the idea of friendship sound possible, but how can this relate to face to face interaction?

         Dr. Mark Kline is a psychologist who writes articles for a website called The Escapist, a website devoted to the video game community as a whole. An individual recently sent an email asking why his parents seem to think it's impossible to have a deep, meaningful relationship when most of the interactions in said relationship take place over the internet or within a video game. In response, he said “I think you're absolutely right that people of your parents' generation (of whom am I probably one) have an instinctive discomfort with this. It seems inadequate and alien to us. How could you really know or trust someone who lives hundreds of miles away that you may have never met in person or in some cases never even laid eyes on? We are also constantly regaled with horror stories about pedophiles and murderers who find their victims through the internet. While these risks are real, and I certainly advise caution in developing online relationships with people you don't really know, I think they are highly over-emphasized by a media hungry for sensational lurid stories that attract a lot of eyeballs” (Kline 2). In another article, he stated that “Parents are naturally skeptical because they don't see how playing a game on the internet could really be "hanging out with your friends," but for growing numbers of kids, that's just what it is” (Kline 1). So, to a number of kids, meeting up with their friends after school in the city square of Stormwind (a major city in World of Warcraft), is no different than meeting up at the local Taco Bell.

     Then why not meet up at the local Dell Taco? What is the appeal of going to a video game for social interaction? What makes it unique? Mr. Kline remarks to an email “This is a nice statement about the tremendous benefits the internet and gaming can offer to people who find themselves isolated socially or geographically. You can find people elsewhere on this planet with whom you might have something in common and you can build meaningful and significant relationships with some of them“ (Kline 2). First off, people who meet while playing these video games already have something in common, the video game. This promise of common ground is very appealing to those who find it hard to find people who share their hobbies. It can also be appealing for those who have a history of hardships in relationships or suffer from anxiety, providing for them a comfortable environment to ease back into the social setting. It also provides an activity for friends and family to take part in when there is a great distance between them. 
 
          It wouldn't be fair to only focus on the positive aspects of this growing social trend. One of the most glaring flaws is that these long-distance forms of communication lack the subtle nuances of expression and verbal tone present in face to face interactions. Many gamers communicate verbally through programs like Vent out of the necessity of quick responses in dungeons, thus allowing for nuances in tone to be heard. Some games allow a player's avatar to portray simple expressions, but this can't replicate the depth of expressions produced by the human face and body. Another complaint is that video games don't provide the variety of activities available in close-distance relationships. After all, there are only so many ways you can kill a computer program. MMORPGS have this covered. Many MMORPGS are built around universes that are very deep and complex. This results in many MMORPGS having holidays, as the World of Warcraft Lunar Festival (“Events Calender” 1), fairs, and other events to provide a variety of activities for friends to enjoy. A creative group can even create their own events if they so wish.

      This trend will continue to gain momentum, but this isn't a bad thing. Indeed, this trend will provide several possibilities that were not as available previously, such as allowing our friends who live thousands mile away to stand right beside us as we battle goblins, gnolls, and gorgons. It would be a waste to look at this as intrinsically inferior to other social settings, and to avoid it outright. Instead it should be seen as a unique social setting, with unique advantages and disadvantages. We should take advantage of all the possibilities this new social avenue provides us. Now raiding the Icecrown Citadel (“World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King” 1), can stand alongside grabbing lunch at Denny's and going to see the Dodgers as something to be enjoyed by friends and family, strengthening relationships and sparking new friendships. 
 
Works Cited

n.p. “World of Warcraft Subscriber Base Reaches 12 Million Worldwide” http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/press/pressreleases.html?101007. Blizzard, Oct 7, 2010. Web.
Kline, Mark. “Ask Dr. Mark #2”. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/ask-dr-mark/7747-Ask-Dr-Mark-2.2 . Escapist Magazine, 1 Jul 2010. Web.
Kline, Mark “Ask Dr. Mark #8”. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/ask-dr-mark/8147-Ask-Dr-Mark-8 . Escapist Magazine. 23 September 2010. Web.
n.p. “World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King”. http://www.wowwiki.com/World_of_Warcraft:_Wrath_of_the_Lich_King. WowWiki, n. d. Web.
n.p. “Events Calender”. http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/events/calendar/. World of Warcraft. n.d.

Cigarette Smoking and Mental Illness: A Casual Relationship?

Issue: Is the evidence sufficient to conclude that there is a casual relationship between cigarette smoking and the onset of mental illness symptoms?

Research: Forty-one percent of individuals with a current mental disorder are smokers, as compared to the 22 percent of people who have never been diagnosed with a mental disorder (Lasser 2000). People with a mental illness are more likely to be heavy smokers, consuming a pack of cigarettes per day or more (Lasser 2000). People who have been diagnosed with multiple mental disorders have higher rates of smoking and smoke more heavily than people with fewer mental disorders (Lasser 2000). Forty-four percent of all cigarettes smoked in the United States are consumed by people with one or more mental disorders (Lasser 2000). The lifetime prevalence of developing major depression is strongly linked to the number of cigarettes consumed (Breslau &others, 1993, 1998; Kendler, Neale, & others, 1993b). People who smoke a pack of cigarettes or more per day have a 50 percent chance of experiencing major depression, while nonsmokers have about a 17 percent chance. Three separate studies focusing on adolescents fond that cigarette smoking predicted the onset of depressive symptoms, rather than the other way around (Goodman & Capitman, 2000; Ohayon, 2007; Windle & Windle, 2001; Wu & Anthony, 1999). In a study of patients with bipolar disorder, the prevalence and severity of cigarette smoking predicted the severity of psychotic symptoms during manic episodes (Corvin & others, 2001). A positive association was found between smoking and the severity of symptoms experienced by people with anxiety disorders (McCabe & others, 2004). In a study of people with schizophrenia, 90 percent of the patients had started smoking before their illness began (Kelly & McCreadie, 1999). This suggests that in vulnerable people, smoking may precipitate a person's initial schizophrenic episode.
Application: If both premises were accepted, that cigarettes were smoked to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness, but they in turn exasperated the symptoms themselves, then we are presented with a vicious spiral. People with mental disorders are more likely to smoke to alleviate anxiety and to relax, but they are in fact worsening future trauma caused by the mental disorders, while also putting them at risk for other disorders. Is the evidence sufficient though? Most of the evidence simply shows that smoking cigarettes followed the onset of mental disorder or visa versa. They don't show how smoking alleviates the symptoms or how it exasperates them, the physiological effects of smoking. I'm afraid that claiming the this particular group of evidence shows a casual relationship between smoking and the onset of mental illness will be committing the post hoc fallacy.

Conclusion: I do not believe that the evidence provided is sufficient to prove a casual relationship, as most of the evidence simply shows a correlation between smoking and the onset of mental illness symptoms, but not how smoking relates to the onset of mental illness symptoms.

Bibliography:
Lasser, Karen; Boyd, J. Wesley; Woolhandler, Steffie; Himmelstein, David U.; McCormick, Danny; & Bor, David H. . (2000) Smoking and mental illness: A population-based prevalence study. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284, 2606-2610
Breslau, Naomi; Kilbey, M. Marlyne; & Andreski, Patricia (1993). Nicotine dependence and major depression: New evidence from a prospective investigation. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 31-35.
Kendler, Kenneth S.; Neale, Michael C.; MacLean, Charles J.; Heath, A.C.; Eaves, L. J., & Kessler, R.C. (1993). Smoking and major depression: A casual analysis. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 36-43.
Goodman, Elizabeth; & Capitman, John. (2000). Depressive symptoms and cigarette smoking among teens. Pediatric,106, 748 – 755.
Ohayon, Maurice M. (2007, April – June). Epidemiology of depression and its treatment in the general population. Journal of Psychiatry Research, 41(3-4), 207-213.
Windle, Michael; & Windle, Rebecca C. (2001). Depressive symptoms and cigarette smoking among middle adolescents: Prospective association and intrapersonal and interpersonal influences. Journals of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 215 – 226.
Wu, Li-Tzy & Anthony, James C. (1999). Tobacco smoking and depressed mood in late childhood and early adolescence. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 1837-1840.
Corvin, Aiden; O'Mahony, Ed; O'Regan, Myra; Comerford, Claire; O'Connel; Craddock, Nick; & Gill, Michael. (2001). Cigarette smoking and psychotic symptom in bipolar affective disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 35-38.
McCabe, Randi E. ; Chudzik, Susan M.; Antony, Martin M.; Young, Lisa; Swinson, Richard P.; & Zolvensky, Michael J. (2004). Smoking behaviors across disorders, Anxiety Disorders, 18, 7-18.
Kelly, Ciara; & McCreadie, Robin (1999). Smoking habits, current symptoms, and premorbids characteristics of schizophrenia patient in Nithsdale, Scotland. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 1751-1757.

Truman Show Review


The Truman Show is not a comedy. It may seem like a comedy, with its jokes and its pratfalls, but is really a psychological thriller. This is a large scale and elaborate Skinner's Box, with our Truman as the pigeon. Everything has been structured, planned, and scheduled. From his job to his sex life, everything has been planned for Truman to follow. The worst part? Society, like a bunch of perverse voyeurs, tunes in day after day to see this man run around the maze that has been set for him. Now you may think that I'm engaging in hyperbole, but consider this. As a way to stop him from escaping, they've conditioned him to be so traumatized by the sight of open water that he can't even make his way across a small bridge. How did they do this? The director, a Mr. Christof, had his “father” die in a boating accident with young Truman in the same boat! We are dealing with some severely sadistic people, or so it seems.

The lead role of Truman (his first name is Truman), is played by Jim Carrey, a man who can quite easily snuggle himself in the upper lip of the uncanny valley. While not being uncomfortable to watch, there is something surreal about most of his performances that don't seem quite human. This works to his great advantage in this film. The awkward sterility and artificiality of the town is accentuated by Truman's not-quite-normal mannerisms. It's quite brilliant. It's really hard to criticize him for behaving in any way that might seem artificial since the whole world he inhabits is artificial. It could be equated to his reactionary development as he grew up in this city. He does manage to keep his manic energy under control, at least to the extent that he can manage. This is one of his more sublime performances.

A man who easily combats Mr. Carrey for the spotlight however is Ed Harris as the director, Mr. Christof. He plays the role as a subtle intellectual, a private and introverted individual. He ends up being something of an antithesis to Truman. While Mr. Christof is presented as a very private, introverted, and controlling individual, Truman is forced to develop into a much more extroverted individual, with no hopes of privacy and little to no control over his life. He pulls off the role of a puppet-master brilliantly, but manages the almost impossible task of being human too. We get a sense that he honestly cares, even loves Truman as a child of his. He represents the theme of the controlling parent, wishing to construct the perfect world for their child while robbing said child of all freedom. Spiting his curiosity and pushing him to accept the status-quo presented to him, but doing so all out of love. Misguided, obsessive, controlling love, but love. Every moment he's on screen you feel the tension brewing inside this man, and it's quite infectious. Ed Harris was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for his performance.

The plot of The Truman Show is a bit of a mixed bag. While the final scenes of Truman losing his wits are gripping, suspenseful, oddly comedic, and all that jazz, the 'coincidences' that spark his curiosity are contrived. These string of events, from a prop light falling from the sky, to the set falling apart, to the radio signal getting intercepted by Truman's car stereo, all come off as exceedingly forced. My suspension of disbelief was stretched severely thin when they presented these coincidences as freak accidents and not the meddling of some 'freedom fighter' or something. While it might be acceptable if these events happened over a series of several years, these seem to happen within weeks or even days of each other. Did their set technicians go on strike? Admittedly, it becomes harder and harder to hold onto these gripes as the film progresses. I'd lie though if I said I wasn't gripping my chair during the finale, a great show down of wits and determination.

The Truman Show is a classic that deserves watching. It's an 'art film' without being an acquired taste. It is an intellectual mainstream film, a crowning achievement in my opinion. Is it perfect? Not at all. I don't think, however, that perfection is the most important factor of a classic anyway. The Truman Show has the originality, thematic depth, and subtle performances that provides new discoveries upon each viewing. It also defies genre, and in that appeals to fans of several genres. You get a comedic film, a psychological 'art film', an action thriller, and few subtle hints of a romance all mixed into a wonderful casserole. You can shovel spoonful after spoonful, or accept the subtle nuances of flavor and still enjoy it either way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ugh, what to do what to do.

I've recently realized that I haven't done anything outside of school for the past month or so and it's bothering the hell out of me! My creative drive is down the toilet and I am completely confused as to why. I need inspiration, a muse, something! I'm desperate. I think I'm going to try a few ideas on how to spark creativity. Perhaps sleep deprivation might allow my thoughts to wonder, but I don't know. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tips for Making a Let's Play

Tips for Making a Let's Play


Commentary is a very stylized medium and this essay is going to focus on a particular type of commentary, the video game walkthrough, or the Lets Play.

Production


When producing a Lets Play you must be conscious of your recording equipment. You may be incredibly funny and informative, but if there's a glare on the screen and constant pops in the audio recording people will be focusing on that instead.

I've noticed that quite a few people record footage from a camcorder. I must admit, I think that doing so should be completely avoided unless absolutely necessary, but I realize that sometimes it can't be helped.

Some tips for recording on a camcorder...

  • Know how lighting effects the video quality, set up lamps and adjust shutters so that the screen is lit up as equally as possible. Avoid lighting that will produce a glare on the screen.
  • Audio quality on most camcorders is very low. It would be best to avoid recording commentary audio until you're at your computer, where you can use a headset or condenser microphone instead.
  • Avoid background noise. Don't record in areas of high foot traffic. We don't care to hear what your dog has to say about the game.

The better option is to buy av cables and hook them up to the audio and video output and input ports of your camcorder and television screen. This will greatly increase the video and audio quality and avoid any background noise. With this method, however, you can't record the commentary until later.

Recording from your computer also provides its share of pitfalls, but they generally lie in the details. These can be harder for a novice to realize, but nonetheless can still be very distracting if present.

In regards to your screen capture program...

  • If you are using a program that allows you to adjust the size of your recording space, avoid recording the game window's border. This applies to emulators too.
  • Be sure that the recording program can record enough frames per second without bogging down your computer. Nobody wants to watch a video game at half speed. (A potential remedy for this is to speed up the footage in editing).
  • Make sure to remove any benchmarks from appearing on the footage. We don't care about how many frames per second you're recording and if we do it means something is wrong.
  • Make sure that your cursor does not appear in the recording. Most recording programs allow you to toggle whether or not it appears.

In regards to audio recording...

  • Few things are more annoying than pops and feedback. Adjust the placement of the microphone so that you can avoid both of these.
  • When recording game audio and commentary simultaneously, be sure to adjust the volume so that your voice is loud enough to not be droned out by the in-game audio.
  • Update your audio drivers so that the audio quality is as high as it can possibly be. This is important for both in game audio and commentary.


Final Notes
A good program for recording game footage is Fraps, which can be found here. http://www.fraps.com/buy.php
A good program to use for recording and editing audio is Audacity, which can be found here.http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Sound levels can be adjusted by clicking the speaker icon at the bottom right of the Windows screen and going to the volume control window.
A lot of problems can be solved in editing, it's a good idea to watch all of your recorded footage before posting.

Commentary



The content of a person's commentary is solely up to the author. This is where the appeal lies, the commentator can choose whatever style of commentary he wishes: informative, comedic, or a mixture of the two. However there are a few things that should generally be avoided...

  • Avoid filler. Anecdotes can be both funny and informative, but try to avoid rambling about how your day was or some particular commenter that pissed you off if it doesn't apply to the game.
  • Try to avoid constant screaming and yelling. No matter how funny it might initially be, nonstop yelling will eventually strain our patience as much as it strains your vocal chords.
  • Randomness can be funny, but random does not, by itself, equal humor, remember that.
  • Avoid a commentary style that makes your natural voice come off as grating or abrasive. (If you have a high pitched, nasal, and sharp voice perhaps a dramatic delivery with constant yelling might not be the best style for you).
  • Avoid voice acting text boxes. This can be taken with a grain of salt, but unless you're a good actor I'd save it for a joke at the character's expense or something similar.
  • Don't record if you can barely stay awake. Tiredness and exhaustion will come across in your voice. This doesn't apply to sounding tired or exhausted as a stylistic choice.

Now I will go through a few general styles and their characteristics...

Informative
  • Focuses on aspects of the game that might not be obvious: secrets, strategies, bugs, and glitches.
  • Includes information about the game's development and release.
  • Makes comments about how the game, or certain events regarding the game were received and how you agree or disagree with a particular opinion or the general consensus.
  • Includes information about how certain events in the game are similar to events in other games. (Tropes) 
Overly Dramatic
  • Manages a fine line between comically hammy and horrifically annoying by overreacting to certain events in the game.
  • Puts an emphasis on a certain personality traits (short-tempered, cowardly, snarky, etc.), to create a persona that's in many ways similar to a cartoon character or professional wrestler.
  • Can focus on glaring flaws, bad A.I, horrible voice acting, glitches, etc.
  • Has a sharp volume dynamic, shifting from loud to soft and from clear to whisper/growl.
Deadpan
  • Focuses on sharp, dry wit instead of comedic overreacting
  • Comments on mellow-drama, hammy/bad voice acting, idiotic game play aspects
  • Makes witty jokes toward the fan base, other characters, or other individuals surrounding the game.
  • Generally makes heavy use of sarcasm.

Of course these archetypes are simply some of the several available and you can mix and match different characteristics for different situations or to create a wholly unique persona.

Final Notes
Generally speaking, developing a persona that's close to your own personality is the best option as it will be the most natural for you. You might not need to develop a persona at all, but you will probably have to exaggerate your personality somewhat.

Scripting or Improvisation?

This is the place where innate talent seems to be the most relevant. Choosing whether to use scripting or improvisation depends on a few factors...

  • Are you the type to makes jokes without thinking or is your humor very methodical?
  • In general, are you spontaneous or plan oriented?
  • Do you stumble over your words or can you speak with clear diction most of the time?
  • Are you the type who frequently runs out of things to say or can you recall information relevant to a conversation without missing a beat?
  • Do you prefer continuity over control or visa-versa?

Both scripting and improvisation have their advantages..

Improvisation
  • More reliant on reacting to the content at hand than methodical comments
  • Allows for train of thought commentary, which may produce a funny off-hand comment
  • It's easier to sound natural due to the fact that you're in the moment
Scripting
  • Allows for running gags, motifs, and themes better than improvisation
  • Since recording footage and recording commentary happens separately it allows the commentator to do multiple takes of a joke.
  • Easier to edit because footage and commentary is separate.

Final Notes
While it's uncommon, some commentators choose a combination of scripting and improvisation. They might outline a general theme for their jokes, make note of how to react to a certain event, or dub over jokes and lines that were done improperly or weren't funny.

Final Statements

I sincerely hope that this helps all aspiring commentators to make the most informative and funny videos that they can. Lets Plays have something of a stigma as generally being easy, poor quality, and unfunny. I hope that overtime, this changes. The only way that this will change though is if the bar is raised and the status-quo is excellence.

If anyone would like for me to comment on their Lets Play, or talk to me further about Lets Plays, feel free to send me an PM on my Youtube account (http://www.youtube.com/deathcomesx). I will always be more than happy to give my advice. Of course, if you want to comment on this essay you can send me a PM too, I would love to know what you thought.


Special Thanks to:
Copper Chocobo



Monday, October 4, 2010

Pitiful Child Part 2 (I Needed a Shave)

“I needed a shave, a haircut, a breath mint, and a bath,” I muttered to myself, running a hand through my hair, feeling the slickness of my oily mop. I turned on the sink and gave my face a few splashes of pristine gas station water, straightening my hair with my fingers and parting it to the right. Looking back in the mirror I gave myself a look of bemusement; I didn’t look like the Unabomber, but it wouldn’t be hard for me to frighten little children. After finishing up with the rest of my bathroom activities I headed out. I walked up to the attendant. “Is there a pay phone near here?” “I don’t know, there might be a one few streets down that way,” he pointed to his right. “Thanks.” I exited, going around the corner and picking up my coffee, my nectar of life for this little adventure.

As I headed down the street my mind was free to introspect. Something tells me I shouldn’t be taking this in stride. Something tells me I should be losing my fucking mind. Something tells me I’m out of shape. I sat down on a bench to catch my breath, casually waving a bus on by as it drove past the stop. Not ten seconds after I did, a man in a business suit comes scrambling past me, his hand frantically waving at the bus as it turns the corner. I guess today isn’t my day to be a saint. I looked down at my coffee, my source of power. As I drink from it I can’t help but raise my cheeks into a smile. God, I love this stuff. I reached for my wallet, pulling it from my pocket as I began to thumb through it once again. Perhaps there was something else to help me out. I had a five, three quarters, and a nickel. I guess that’s something.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pitiful Child

"Credit or debit?” “Huh?” My eyes came into focus on a twenty-something year old: crew cut, slight features, tenor voice. “Debit or credit...” It was obvious that my expression caused him some concern. “Are you alright man?” I nodded, reaching into my pocket, blindly searching for something, anything. I grabbed a hold of leather, sighing with relief as I pulled it from my pocket. His eyes lit up with amusement. I looked at the contents of my hand..A collar. As I shoved the collar back in my pocket I could see him shaking his head, a smile on his lips. I searched my other pocket, glimpsing at what I had in my grasp. “Yes, that's a wallet.” I looked up the attendant, who had taken the moment to recheck my merchandise. “Cheeky bastard.” I thought, opening up the wallet to find a credit card, tossing it on the counter. Once my attention was taken away from the attendant I finally managed to grasp the situation, I had no idea where the fuck I was. What was I even buying? I looked: a pack of gum, a cup of coffee, and a protein bar.

I didn't have a headache, I checked my breath, it smelled like two days without toothpaste, but apart from that nothing in particular. “There you go, I bagged it for you.” I grabbed the bag, almost leaving before reaching back and taking my wallet. As I exited, I quickly took the corner, leaning against the wall. I looked toward the nearby street, nope, no idea where I was. I began searching my wallet as the attendant turned the corner, looking at me with a cup of coffee in his hand. “Yes?” He held out the coffee “You forgot this.” I grabbed the coffee, forcing a slight smile to thank him. As he began to turn I almost began to ask him where I was, but I held my tongue. He might know me, I'd rather not let anyone know that I seem to have lost a few of my marbles, at least not until I know for a fact that I'm fucked. I took a sip from the coffee: black, no cream whatsoever, and I liked it. Useless tidbit of information for me, but it woke me up enough to get me to check my wallet. I rummaged through the various cards, business cards, debit cards, coupons for dog food....finally I came across a little blue note, crumpled and shoved behind the last card in my wallet. I flattened it on the wall and looked at it.

“'555-2319, call if lost.” I slumped back against the wall, my head laying against the concrete as I sighed. This is good, this is very good. Do I even have a cellphone? I patted my pockets. Nope. I grabbed my protein bar, opening it up and taking a chunk out of it: peanut butter, delicious. I took a few minutes to finish off the bar, tossing the wrapper at a nearby trashcan. “What do I need to do..” I mumbled out loud. I had to find a phone, obviously, but first I want to make sure that I didn't look like Allen Moore on a good day, so I went back inside the gas station. “Bathroom?” I asked. “Next to the beer.” I went to the restroom and looked in the mirror.




Saturday, August 7, 2010

Logos and Pathos

This might be a minor point, but a common aspect about Shakespeare that I hear is that the situations presented aren't complex, that it is simply the language of the time that comes across as complex. The situations are rather rudimentary and easy to pick up. While this might be true, I don't think it is for lack of complexity.

Literature has three words that are well known, pathos, logos, and ethos. Logos is the logic, Pathos the emotion. Yet, some people seem to consider Pathos to be of lesser importance in the grand scheme of things. From essays to plays the ability to engage ones emotions seems to take a back seat to the works of high intellectual prowess, why is that?

I think the answer is simple, people put more trust, or would like to, put more trust into their brain and logic than their heart and emotions. Emotions are feeble, fickle things, easily manipulated and controlled, but one's mind is a stalwart fortress unable to be penetrated by such cheap tactics, right?

Now, this idea tends to be specific to the 'intellectuals', those of higher intelligence who think such pleas to their hearts to be beneath the coaxing of their minds. Emotions simply get in the way of clear thinking and reasoning, after all. Yet, I think this is a very detrimental mindset to have, and I shall show why using Shakespeare.

Shakespeare, The Bard, is well known as the grandmaster of drama, the greatest mind to ever produce a script. However, if you look at most of his plays, they are actually deceivingly simple. Take Hamlet, for example. The plot is simple, Hamlet sees the ghost of his father, we know that it isn't just his imagination because his friends see the ghost before him. The ghost tells Hamlet that Hamlet's uncle, the new king and husband to his mother, murdered him and that he must avenge him. Why must he avenge him, no reason given. Via confession we learn that Hamlet's uncle, Claudius is absolutely guilty, Hamlet delays killing him due to over thinking the scenario.

If one were to look at a simple plot analysis they could be confused as to why this seemingly basic plot has become one of the most famous and performed plays of all time. The reason? Pathos. Shakespeare was not only the master of the word, but the master of emotions. He knew how to produce humans. Not to say that all of his plays were photo-realistic, nay, most of them were not, but the characters developed like real people, they faced the same turmoil of conscience that we all do. They appealed to our humanity, whether villain or hero, because they indeed had a conscience and had a heart.

Another deception is the idea that it's harder to touch the mind than to touch the heart. I think this not to be completely true. While yes, it is relatively easy to yank a sensation of fear, of joy, or of sorrow from an audience, it's indeed much harder to penetrate the simplicity of such emotions and instead strike people to their core. To make them question themselves and their morals, not because the evidence was objectively sound, but because it introduced a perspective previously unknown to someone. It took them out of their own sees and watched an event, possibly similar to one they encountered, taken in a direction far different than how they would have intended, yet, they cannot disagree with it completely, they see the point.

I think the misconception lies in the idea that emotions are fleeting. While the emotions everyone is aware about might be so, there is also the core of one's being, the true heart, their morals, their dogma, and this is shaped through experiencing events that they cannot ignore and that they cannot help, but have affect them. This is what shapes one's inclinations, one's habits, and one's lifestyle choices. If you really boil down to it, very few of these are objectively decided, but instead ruled by the one's heart, the sooner we learn this the sooner we might see the severe magnitude of pathos.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Sour Taste for Political and Current Event Oriented Radio and Television

Why do I border on having absolute scorn for most political radio, political television, newspapers: CBS, NBC, Fox, KFI? Why do I think that some border on National Enquirer levels of emotional exploitation have a similar lack of shame? Why, even if I agree with the some of the opinions of commentators such as O'Reilly, Beck, and Handel do I sometimes have to shut off the radio out of pure disgust? More importantly, why do I not think that their behavior and conduct is all their fault?

I think we both know who the figureheads of most popular political and current event talk shows, television or otherwise, are.  The ones with the most passionate tempers, loudest voices, but with strong research toward their side arguments, or the other side, if to only find a way to debunk it, does this sound familiar? Republicans? Democrats? MSNBC? Fox? Now mind you, I can burn as hot as anyone when something I believe in is mocked or knocked off its throne, and it takes most of my self-control to not chew that poor bastard a new asshole. I dislike that part of me though, I try my hardest to always keep at least some semblance of civility and open-mindedness. This, however, doesn't seem to be the case with these commentators, but I also don't believe it is wholly their fault.

These men, in at least one aspect or another, are entertainers. Their livelihood is dependant on how long they can keep your attention and generally the best way to do that is to entertain you, this is true for all the arts. I don't think any of these men are idiots, I'm willing to think that all of these commentators are intelligent, but they also know what their demographic likes to hear. These men don't become immensely popular because of some commercial conspiracy, they live and die by the ratings, by popularity. Now the reason why I don't believe that it is because of the logic and empirical data behind their argument is because there is a running motif with all popular commentators, my statement in the last paragraph. The reason they are popular is because their temper, passion, and lack of civility when the stakes are raised is what people want!

I'll let that simmer with you while I consider the underlying factors of this truth.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kingdom of Cardboard

My frequent trips to Los Angeles, Venice in particular, has revealed to me the severity of the homeless population in the area. From the moment you leave Union Station, perhaps even before, you are bound to spot the decrepit, ill-attired folk who carry their life around in an armada of suitcases, a rusted, squealing cart, or simply in their pockets. Like broken machines they lay hunched over themselves, staring blankly into their own soles. They may mumble, beg, or say nothing at all, but to most they say only two words "Help me".

I cannot, in all honesty, provide a cure for their financial situation, and many already dedicate their lives to nourishing their bodies, but I do believe that much can be done.

My first plea is simple, talk to one of them. You may think that many of them mumble to themselves due to a mental disease. However, I believe that many might do it simply out of loneliness, when is the last time you spoke to a homeless person or saw them conversing with others? They retreat into their own minds because this reality provides them nothing except the most meager means of survival. My demand does not require that you are resourceful in anything except friendliness and willingness. Show them that society hasn't completely forgotten about them.

A second demand would be to perhaps motivate them to engage their minds, even in the simplest of senses. An inactive, lethargic mind is nothing, but a decaying corpse of an organ. Find a way to engage them, discuss with them. You might think that they have nothing to say about the world that would interest you, but I, myself, have been proven wrong by even more modest sources.

A third and final request, learn why they are here, learn their story, their reason for being in such a situation. I can almost guaranteed you that, if nothing else, you'll be provided with a deep insight into a spectrum of life that you had probably never even conceived of, let alone experienced.

What is to come of one who agrees to such demands. I do not know. What is the use of doing any of this? I cannot say for certain. Why should I waste my time? To learn, to teach, and to grow. Let their story and their life instill you with a greater appreciation for your own. Engage their mind so that your own mind might be engaged. Learn about them, so that you might learn about yourself. Give them hope, so that you yourself might learn to allow hope to come from the most meager of origins.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tales from the Sapling (Part 4)

By the luck of the wind I had managed to guide myself into more open terrain. My peers seemed rather content nestled in their own little circle of fists, feet, and puke. I fell back into the nearest open stool. As my rump sunk into the heavenly cushion, my eyes dropped down to my feet, per habit. Apparently I had stepped in a puddle of puke without realizing it. "Hope my employer doesn't ask for his boots back". I must have laughed because I soon heard a slight, tenor voice "Never knew a sober man to laugh at puke on his boots." I froze, my face falling flat as I heard an orchestra of laughter building at the remark. I had happened across another group, and, if they were anything like my friends, I was about to be a few teeth shorter before the hour was out.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tales from the Sapling (Part 3)

"Oh look! It's the new guy!" came bellowing out from the rear of the tavern. "Which one?" followed. "There's only one you.." I never had an ear for small talk to be truthful, so it was probably just habit that I tuned out what he said after that. I had to focus on a much more pressing matter, navigating my way around a pen full of drunks. Easy in thought difficult in execution. Each foot, each sway of the torso, each blink had to be perfectly timed to avoid having someone's fist mistake you for another drunk.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tales from the Sapling (Part 2)

If it were my choice I'd be back in my home, buried comfortably in my own pillow, but the company decided to locate me an hours travel away and I'd rather sleep with the drunk than torture myself with another mile, however enticing the destination. My eyes had decided to carefully watch my feet, lest they try to run away without me, so I was already a few steps inside before I even began to notice my surroundings. As I looked up any hope of relaxation was swept way by the man tumbling ass over elbow in front of my feet. I had stepped into a wooden cage. A cage holding not beasts, but something far worse. Creatures so aggressive, so obnoxious, so hopelessly mundane that even a sage would have his patience torn asunder by their ways, my fellow workers.

Tales from the Sapling (Part 1)

"Tough day today sapling?", said a man slouched by the tavern door. He reeked of spirits and his near toothless maw didn't do him any favors as he belted out his guffaws. I did not give the drunk the honor of a reaction, for his words, though not elegantly spoken, were true. My entire body felt weighed down with the pressure of my own sweat stained across my skin, and my stench was likely not much better than that of the drunk. Despite my hatred of manual labor I had taken up a job at the nearby logging company, my belly wouldn't be filled by my scrolls and books. "Bloody slave drivers!", I thought, my bitterness provoked by the drunk. "I have twice the mind of any of them and they get to make the decisions?!". My arguments though, however valid, were pointless. They had the gold, they had the seniority, and I was the sapling.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Rational Idealist

Quite simply is a person who uses rational means to obtain fantastic hopes. Now you know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2 Movie Review

Has there been a better casting choice than deciding to cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man? To be fair, I've never read much into the Iron Man series so I wouldn't be able to vouch for how closely he resembles the Tony Stark of that medium, but just as Heath Ledger took the Joker and made him his own, Mr. Downey seems to have masterfully tailored the character to fit his acting strengths like a form-fitting suit, yet still seems to appease to the comic book fan base, which, like all nerd fan bases, can be very volatile.


Lets get right down to it, Iron Man 2 is fun, it's bright, it's flashy, it's clever, and it's action packed. This is the archetypal superhero movie refined to a near flawless degree. It isn't Dark Knight, that's certain, but it isn't trying to be. It doesn't strive for the in depth social commentaries, the visceral imagery, or the outright horrifying dilemmas that made the Dark Knight great. It, instead, is focused on two things, coaxing you to get on the roller coaster with its flashy presentation, and then making sure you have a damn good time while riding with its character development, clever dialogue, and strong conflict.


Said conflict is engaged by two men, Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer. Both of whom seem to attack Tony from two separate fronts. Hammer attempts to overthrow Tony's technological empire by upstaging him at the Stark Expo replicating and improving on Stark's Iron Man design; Ivan attempts to take a far more direct approach and simply tries to throw as much firepower and weaponized units, including himself, at Tony in an attempt to tear him limb from limb. It's actually somewhat brilliant in the fact that Tony needs his resources to be Iron Man, since someone has to pay for all his fancy gadgets, and of course Tony can't run his company if he's dead.

The ensemble cast is very strong, Mickey Rourke gives a gorgeous performance as the filthy, brutish, yet ultimately brilliant Ivan Vanko. While Gwyneth Paltrow's character isn't as involved, she still does a good job of not vanishing into the background despite her somewhat minor role. Scarlett Johansson as the vicious, yet gorgeous and sophisticated Natalie Rushman is a great example of how to do sexy right. To be frank the only actor I seemed to have a problem with is Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. I can't point out any tangible flaws, but something about his performance came off as very awkward and to be frank, annoying. I think they showed one too many scenes of him trying desperately to catch ahold of the spotlight after Tony Stark stole it from him, which had the effect of making him seem more like an annoying pest instead of a diabolical serpent like Obadiah Stane was in the original.

Like Hammer, the final battle also seemed to have fought desperately for all the screen time it managed to obtain. To say it felt rush would be a understatement. (Spoiler) While it begins strong with multiple drones, and a hacked War Machine, chasing Stark throughout the Stark Expo, allowing for many scenes of wanton and glorious destruction, the final confrontation with Ivan couldn't have lasted more than two minutes. If I might speak freely, I don't think they should have even bothered to bring Ivan because he was outright pitiful and his defeat ultimately deflated him as a villain and made him seem much weaker than originally portrayed. I think the film would have ended much stronger if they simply had him vanish from site, which could have been accomplished with cutting his final appearance and shooting maybe a single new scene to reveal the characters' recognition of his disappearance. I wouldn't be lying if I said I didn't feel a bit robbed by the climax.(End of Spoiler)

Overall, while the film did stumble now and again (I would also like to state that I think Mr. Rhodes acted a bit prematurely when he grabbed the suit and began wailing on Mr. Stark), it was overall a strong film and an enjoyable one at that. It managed to surpass the mindless popcorn flick with its clever dialogue and strong character development, but still held onto the crisp, bright, and action packed atmosphere of any summer blockbuster. 

Dr. Boll Approves














Grade Sheet for Iron Man 2

Presentation = A 

Ensemble Performance = B+

Plot = B+


Narrative Flow = B-

Climax = C

Overall Grade = B

Friday, May 7, 2010

Addition to my ingredients post

I was thinking of how you could factor in the uniqueness of each individual and how this will affect how they portray a character without destroying the analogy or mutating it into something infeasible. While each character may have a distinct list of ingredients, each actor uses ingredients that they have grown and cared for in the soil that is their being. How a plant is fed and under what conditions it is grown can affect many factors of said ingredient, be it taste, texture, ect, ect. As such, when an actor uses the ingredients from his own garden it has his own distinct signature.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Excerpt From a Conversation about Creating a Character

An excerpt from a conversation I had with a friend: "This might not be perfect, but I suppose you could deconstruct yourself into a series of ingredients, by researching all aspects of the character, his history, his occupation, his mannerisms, you can fill the recipe with the correct amounts of ingredients where you simply use water (cliche) for everything else, lacking in substance and common, instead of the ingredients which can be rare, unique, and more flavorful."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Holy Batista yelling at a small child (Indeed), this month has flown by fast. I do have a reason, actually plenty of reasons, for my lack of posts this month. I shall fill you all in as well as giving a few explanations to my lack of videos.

I have actually been taking a few steps toward my career as an actor, one vital step that I have taken is that I've actually looked into acting classes. One class that I decided to call was the Theater Group Studio in Los Angeles. There I met a very nice lady by the name of Lorinne Vozoff who actually instilled me with the personal confidence of me being in good hands if I did decide to follow through (and was also accepted), with this acting class. She, her daughter, and another compatriot teach the Stanislvaski Method that I have noted a few times as my key focus when it comes to acting technique. For those who might actually be interested here is the website of Theater Group Studio.

I've also been focusing on my career as a vocalist. I've been not doing much in terms of heavy duty training at this point, due to a lack of a teacher, but I have kept my voice up to par with various daily exercises. I'm still in the process of searching for a teacher who focuses on the classical style of vocal training. The reason being is that I have no faith whatsoever in the new style of 'pop' oriented singing, I despise the horrific physical stresses of 'belting', and I just don't think that pop singers sound as appealing as a properly trained classical vocalist.

I have also fulfilled one of my lifelong aspirations recently, at the same time, that I went to my interview for said acting class. I was able to workout at Muscle Beach California in Venice Beach. Though I am not actively focused on bodybuilding I have always respected and admired the classic stars of the sport, and you can't think of people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu,and Frank Zane without drawing focus onto Muscle Beach. For the price of 10 dollars I was able to be a slight exhibitionist for two hours, working out in the outdoor gym while also conversing with a bodybuilder who happened to be working out there. Another little note is that I had the chance to visit Venice Beach, which is quite an enjoyable experience if you ignore everything along the board walk that isn't facing toward the surf.

Finally, an explanation to my lack of videos. From a point five weeks prior to two weeks prior I was struck with an intense case of lethargy and couldn't bring myself to doing more than the basic cognitive functions as well as keeping up with my basic responsibilities. I was sleeping more than fifteen hours a day and barely did much more than eat and sleep. Luckily, my love managed to kick my ass into shape and get me to both, catch up with my school work, and have me back on a normal sleep schedule with daily activity that comprised of more than what I needed to do to survive. I have been quite busy for the last two week, but I am thinking of doing a few walkthroughs starting tomorrow, as well as some more voice over work. Another note is that I actually have managed to snag a voice acting job, non-pay of course, and plan to keep up with that responsibility as well as that to my fans who I plan to entertain in sometime soon!

Monday, March 29, 2010

To Portray a Taxi Driver You Must First Know How to Drive a Taxi! (Comment on a Known Adler System/Strasberg System "Method Acting" Cliche)

Anyone whose an avid fan of film will know of the basic cliche surrounding "method actors" and followers of the Adler System. The cliche that involves a "method actor" literally performing the occupation or defining characteristic of the role in real life so that they may prepare for said role. An example would be Robert De Niro spending six or so months as a taxi driver to prepare himself for his role in the film The Taxi Driver, or Marlon Brando spending months in a hospital bed to prepare himself for the role of an injured war veteran. Generally, they take these steps so that they may feel and seem more comfortable at the role, as well as knowing the basics mannerisms and actions associated with said situations.

One might consider this a foolish, ultimately pointless, and insane way to properly prepare for a role, but in that I disagree. An actor has two forms of knowledge that they can pull from when they read a script and prepare for a role: their own personal experience, and experience that they learn from conversation or research. Without knowledge they are left to their own creativity and imagination. Generally speaking, one will find that personal experience is more reliable than the latter two in allowing one to know how to properly perform an action or group of actions surrounding an occupation, sport, or hobby, and as such will generally come across more effective in a performance. I would safely assume that many would agree that it is better to know personally how to operate a taxi cab, or maneuver around in a wheelchair, than it is to simply speak to someone in such a situation or worse, read about it. This is why the teachers generally have students perform activities that involve the topics they are discussing instead of simply relying only on research, it is more effective as a learning tool!

When an actor prepares in this manner, they become so used to the basic mannerisms involved with the occupation or action that it becomes second nature, allowing them to use that to not only shape the character in a more complete manner, but focus on other aspects of the performance that can't be prepared for in such a way.

Obviously, not all actors have the time, money, or resources to prepare in such a manner, I'm not saying that you cannot give an effective performance without these forms of preparation, but simply that they are reliably effective. A character's occupation helps shape his personality, it helps define him as a unique individual; also, it's hard to be believable in a role, such as a taxi driver if you seem like your having a hard time going about the basic operations of that occupation. Someone whose, supposedly spent years in a wheelchair, shouldn't have a difficult time operating the damn contraption once on screen or on stage. As they say, if you want to learn how to do something, go out and do it!

On a final note, these big name bastards generally make millions of dollars per role (at least now), so I think they should take such actions to prepare for a role if it means they can give their best damn performance. I think they can sacrifice a few months out of their comfort zone to acquire the knowledge and experience to shape a character. I have yet to see such effort go to waste and a lot of performances seem like they could have done quite a bit better if such methods of preparation were used.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mother, Son by Jon "Moose" Tetrino

The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. It was how it worked.


Efficient like so many of the processes the people went through. Why waste the effort picking up the crop?


Why waste the crop that would inevitably spoil on the ground? This was the reasoning behind Son.


Mother stood guard. The fields were vast, hiding dangers both known and untold.


Many would see to it that Mother and Son were prevented from harvesting – for they would surely starve.


Mother often wondered who would be so cold as to present such a want, for isn’t all life sacred in its being?


“Mother?” Son asked, far from oblivious of Mother’s current passage into the same wonderment as before.


“Son, you should continue. We do not have the time to waste here. We must feed the family.”


“Sorry Mother.”


The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. It was how it worked.


Son stopped again, and looked up at the Mother. “I just wanted to know... if all life is sacred, as you have taught... why do we harvest? Is the crop not as sacred as all other life?”


Mother looked down and sighed. “There is a place for all life. The wind plants the seeds in the soil the ground prepared. The rain grows the crops we then eat. Eventually we die, and the family use us to continue, turning us into soil to continue the crops. Now, keep working, your sacks are almost full.”

The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. It was how it worked.



Son, interested more by this way of thinking, could not help himself. While working, he was distracted. Where was his place in this chain of life? To work until death, then be turned into more work for someone else? “Is work all there is?” he muttered under his breath.


Mother heard him, as she always did, and scorned. The bond they had was unbreakable to a fault, everything he said or even thought she heard.


Son forgot this often. It was a mark of the family – unity without question, all for the good of the Queen.
The sickle went down, and cut the stems.


The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. Liquid melted bulkheads. It was how it worked.


Ah yes the Queen. Commander of all the family, as large as it is. Without her, things would grind to a halt. The village wouldn’t be built, the Sons wouldn’t work, the Mothers wouldn’t protect. It would be anarchy A long painful death for the family.


Son often envied her position, but never dared to speak about it.


Others, to, had felt the same, but short of wonder nobody would attempt to usurp the Queen.


Failure would bring death, success would bring upheaval. Neither helped the family, both caused unnecessary loss.


There was no need to cause revolution when the system they had was so successful.


The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. Liquid melted bulkheads. Tendrils collected the liquid. It was how it worked.


Son was still young – a new addition, a new sheep in the flock.


There were many things he did not understand, and that was why Mother was there.


Mother would answer his questions, and protect him until he could protect himself.


In the field, something stirred.


A wolf, as big as the Son himself, came out of hiding and ran towards him.


Son did not notice the threat, concentrating as he was on the crop.


Mother, on the other hand, caught it at the last moment.


 Jumping in the path of the Wolf, there was little struggle.


Mother was a capable fighter, having been a protector for many ages past.


A strike from her sword and a shot from her bow was enough to send the wolf fleeing.


Son was unsure if the wolf would return, but Mother seemed content with the results of her work.


The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. Liquid melted bulkheads. Tendrils collected the liquid. A ship arrived. A volley was fired. The ship was damaged. The ship warped away. It was how it worked.


The sun began to set. The day had been long, and Son had to finish his work.


He had harvested many fields today, but Mother would not be pleased if he did not fill his sacks for return to the village. A few more minutes and he would be done.


The sickle went down, and cut the stems. The crop fell to the sack. An explosion occurred. People screamed in terror. Liquid melted bulkheads. Tendrils collected the liquid. A ship arrived. A volley was fired. The ship was damaged. The ship warped away. The habitat module was breaking apart. People were dying. It was how it worked.


Finally, it was time. Mother spoke softly to her Son. “Come, you did well, it is time to offer your work to the village.”


Son was happy. He had managed to finish his work in time to return.


It would be a long journey back through the fields to the village, but he didn’t mind. Mother was always there for him, and with her by his side he felt as safe as he could be.


Tonight he sees the queen, and offers his harvest.


One more cut and he was done, and together, they began their journey home.


The Mother Drone and her Son aligned to the Hive. After flying through the debris of their toils, they warped, leaving the empty husk of the structures behind them. It was how it worked.


(This is a short story written by a good friend of mine, if you wish to contact him he told me to place his MSN messenger here ogf@hotmail.co.uk , tell me or him if you wish to see more of his work in the future!) 

The Difference Between Acting and Adam Sandler

Acting has been twisted, devolved, and mangled into the form you see today in theaters. There are rare occasions of great acting, presented by actors with a true understanding of the emotional, physical, and logical traits presented in every performance. Then you get hacks, hacks who wouldn't know how to develop a character if they were given a character creation screen for each of their performances. I might strike a harsh note with some, but I don't think half of the modern actors that grace the screen are true actors, they're performers, comedians, theatrical individuals. I'd safely claim that half of the actors who have been within a movie release within the last year are not competent actors.

Lets start with a singular subject, Adam Sandler. Why do I say Adam Sandler isn't an actor? He never, ever, ever, ever does anything beside behave as himself (sometimes slightly exaggerated) being directed by a script, not acting. Case and point: Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Anger Management, and Billy Madison are all the same character! If you took out the story, plot, and lines from all of the movies and were simply left with Adam's performance there would be no discernible difference between the characters. They are all relatively short tempered, childish, somewhat clever, outgoing, and flirty, but not in an disrespectful manner (romantic interests only), and a tad awkward. The only time he's changed his character type is for Waterboy, and Little Nicky, and even those two characters are more or less the same. Sure he has more subdued, roles in movies like 50 First Dates and Click, but those simply seem like him being him in a normal setting.

Lets pick some opposition from a true actor, Robert Di Niro. This man is a true actor, he develops a character for each particular role, making the character complete with their own nuances: speaking manner, behavioral ticks, and reactions to external stimuli. They feel, look, and behave like complete people, yet each and every one of them is distinctly different from one another. Case and point (again): Leonard Love (Awakenings) and Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver). We'll start with Leonard: A child from the mid 1900's who turns catatonic before eventually be "awoken" by Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) in 1969. Both of the noted actors play parts that seem severely different from how they behave in real life, from Robin William's usual eccentrically outgoing and comedic behavior being toned down to a quiet, conservative, and almost reclusive person. Niro's character is childish, curious, chip, and more than a bit naive, obviously different from the behavior of Niro in real life. Even more important is that both of these characters are complete and believable, that's because, despite them being characters different from the person portraying them, they still pull upon the actor's rich emotional and intellectual repertoire, adding truth instead of cliche. Adam's character in both the The Waterboy and Little Nicky seem stilted, unbelievable, and hard to swallow.

In the past this issue was relatively minor, there were actors like Sandler, but they were not nearly as prominent as they are now. It seems that eye-candy and memorable mechanisms (Sandler is eternally guilty for this), take priority over actual acting.

I will clarify one point, just because I chose a comedic actor for the negative aspect doesn't mean I do not think that comedy can't also contain full and interesting characters. There are actors: Jerry Lewis, Tim Curry, and Robin Williams who can all play the bombastic comedic role that Adam strives for while still supplying a complete, identifiable, and entertaining character. It isn't impossible, but people like Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Owen Wilson, and Bernie Mac cannot pull it off without simply devolving acting into a stand up act, complete with repeated mechanisms, mannerisms, and trademarks.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Love, a Chorus of Whispers!

Love, a chorus of whispers
Bit parts, built upon each other
Until it reaches a crescendo

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Boom, headshot!

I've taken yet another step toward being able to claim I'm an actor! I want to thank my Media Arts teacher for taking time out to helping me, not only by taking the photographs herself, but by providing very helpful posing tips. Oh, if you didn't know before, I want to be an actor. I don't think I've posted that here before..

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Have a Recommendation

Take this test Political Compass and use it as a tool of self-discovery or self-reaffirmation.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What an Actor is in One Sentence

An actor is a person who can create a truthful, whole, communicative, and interesting character using their tools of imagination, knowledge, creativity, and experience.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Copy of my Scholarship Application Letter

It was my first theater attendance of a 2009 production of Sweeney Todd. Before then, I had always thought of the arts as a mystical realm, restricted to all but those gifted with near inhuman innate talent. From that point forward, however, the realm of the arts seemed accessible (it had always been desirable), to me.


After attending a university, I plan to start my career in local performing arts centers, building up my resume and skill, until I can be accepted for more prestigious performances. One of my lifelong goals is to be cast as the voice of a major Disney character. Robby Benson, the beast from Beauty and the Beast, and Keith David, Doctor Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, are some of the greatest examples of how a great vocal performance can cause a production to go from good to exemplary. Other roles I would love to be cast as: Sweeney Todd from Sweeney Todd, Leo Bloom from The Producers, and The Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera.

My reasons for pursuing the arts as a career are simple. I feel that my gift is the ability to enrich people’s lives through my voice, body, and words. My passion and respect for the arts will never be quenched, no matter what obstacles are placed in my way. I believe that my dedication and passion should allow me the opportunity to pursue further training, and eventually a career, in the arts.

Mass Effect 2 Review

If you happen to be on my buddy list you'll notice that I've finished both Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2 within the span of a week and you bet your ass I have thoughts on both, but for now we'll start with the latter. Mass Effect 2, the sequel to the space epic from 2007 of a similar name, has been coined by a single word, streamlined, and while it's true, I would much rather focus on the other aspects that don't get enough attention.

You could consider this paragraph to be chock full of minor spoilers, but if you've spoken to anyone whose played this game for more than ten minutes you'll know everything I'm about to type. The game starts with the Normandy, which has basically been demoted clean-up as they patrol the universe looking for remaining Geth. This glorified form of retirement lasts for a while until, within the time frame of ten seconds: the Normandy detects an anomaly, a bizarre space ship lodged into a rock warps within a hundred yards of the ship, and the aforementioned ship splits the Normandy in half with the same amount of effort that we'd use to split string cheese. You then go about the demolished ship rescuing all you can from the surrounding destruction; this sounds familiar (Knights of the Old Republic 2), well okay, it's not a complete copy, but I think Bioware studied up on  some of their old notes before making Mass Effect 2 (it doesn't help that both are sequels either). You precede to save just about everyone, including everyone's beloved paraplegic Joker. After that, you get blown from the ship and die due to a combination of asphyxiation and being torn up by a planet's atmosphere; cue Six Million Dollar man intro sequence!

The rest of the game is compromised of you forming a team to combat the new menace known as the Collectors. There's no real point in mentioning the main goal any further because it's literally a copy of the one from the original. Instead, we'll focus on the addition that caught my attention the most, the upgrade system. This skillfully deals with an issue that has been plaguing role playing games since their creation, item overload. Instead of being forced to sift through dozens of weapons to find the one you want, you are given a maximum of three to four guns for each category and you improve upon them. This solves an issue and presents an impressive way to emphasize each weapon's key qualities. Secondly, you are only allowed to change weapons at the beginning of each mission or at weapon lockers placed at key checkpoints within the mission, which is a blessing for us afflicted with ADD when it comes to our load-out.

The final aspect worth mentioning is one of the best uses of quick-time events I've yet to see. These events take the form of Renegade and Paragon choices that occur whenever the situation arises. Generally this comes into play with your party member's various loyalty missions and secondary missions. The Paragon option almost always boils down to you stopping your buddy from making an incredibly stupid decision, with the Renegade option usually allowing you to either take an unfair advantage against an enemy or slap someone into shape. Neither of these options are mandatory, but they can have a major impact on the game's continuity and story progression, luckily the game telegraphs when these events are going to occur and gives you over ten seconds to react.

Now of course, you are wondering why I'm not telling you if this game is good or not, that's because you already know this. You and I both know that you've read other reviews and probably played the original, so focusing on the big picture is a waste of time. What I want to do is tip those undecided into purchasing this title by presenting them the game's most glorious positive qualities, but I'm not going to simply flatter the game's developers either, so here is a negative aspect!

The game is far too easy in terms of combat. The only time you die is when you overstep your class's boundaries and go into territory you shouldn't be in. At no point in the game are you required to reload and stock up on stronger upgrades in order to beat a certain section. I personally didn't even go to any of the game's shops until well past the seventy-five percent mark. Secondly, the game generally auto saves before each battle so your only penalty for death is restarting that specific battle over again.What the game lacks in combat difficulty though it makes up in moral dilemmas, prepare yourself for some tough choices that will most likely affect the how the third installment pans out.

This game is all about decisions, decisions, decisions. You will spend more time dwelling over how to help your psychopathic biotic get over her mental scars than you ever will spend in a single battle, and that's a good thing. It presents a completely different style of gaming in a manner that's not threatening to most people and is generally accessible by everyone whose willing to give it a shot due to its sugary coating of streamlined combat, interface, and conversation options. Will you enjoy this game if you enjoy action? Yes. Will you enjoy this game if you enjoy story? Yes. Will you enjoy this game if you like flashing lights and pretty music? Oh fuck yes. Should you get this game? Must you really ask?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Socialism versus Self-Interest

Though many might consider me making a mountain out of an anthill, I think that the story of Rapture (the setting of the video game Bioshock 2), provides great insight into the dangers, and possibilities of strong capitalism and socialism. If you're willing to suspend your disbelief and consider the ideals presented as those presented by true men and women, then there might be a strong lesson for you and me to learn.

Lets begin with Sofia Lamb, socialism.
To provide a basic summary of her belief system: The pursuits of one's own self-interest is the primary sin of humanity, to instead focus on the common good above all else is the pursuit of a true Utopian (the perfect being). Unity above all else leads to the betterment of society at the cost of personal freedom. Strong moral standards in opposition to human nature.


Now Andrew Ryan, capitalism and self-interest.
The pursuits of one's self-interest without the restrictions of morality and government lead to strides in science, art, and overall ingenuity, the forces behind a true utopia. Self-interest leads to an ambition to better one's self through the fields of art, science, or business, and this eventually leads to an overall increase in the quality of life for all. Moral standards are a hindrance, whose only purpose are to restrict such fields. He also does not believe in restrictions caused by government, religion, and totalitarianism.

Both promise to result in a utopia, a pinnacle of society, yet both provide stark contrasts to each other. One promotes a focus on the common good, while the other promotes an ambition to better one's self. One enforces strong moral restrictions while sacrificing freedom, yet the other provides freedom while excluding moral responsibility. Which is better?

The problem with both is that they oppose basic human nature, both cases. The first opposes basic human ambition to strive beyond others for the sake of pure competition or financial gain or recognition. The second opposes the viciousness of the human-spirit, who would be willing to dominate, repress, or destroy anything that impedes their attempts at success, the only thing stopping many being the restrictions of morality.

We see an example of the latter in Fontaine, a man who uses murder, manipulation, and over maliciousness to secure his own monetary gain. He even goes so far as to take the illegitimate child of Andrew Ryan himself and mentally condition it to eventually destroy Ryan and take control of Rapture. He manipulates the people through the guise of Atlas, rallying them under the facade of promoting the good of the common man, when his true intent is simply monetary gain and control. Without moral restrictions and laws, he is free to trod upon others for his own personal gain without being held to any sense of humanity.

An example of the latter would be Sofia Lamb herself, a person more than willing to destroy someone who she thinks would hinder the common good of the people. She believes that ambition and competition are a sin and that instead, complete unity without focus or care for one's own being is what leads to perfection. Self-identity by means of art, science, and business is evil and thus should not be allowed. Nationalism over individualism, community over self, unity over self-identity.

My own personal opinion? If forced to side with one I would side with Andrew Ryan. I believe that self-identity is something of great importance, we should be ambitious, competitive, and strive to better ourselves. Artistic and scientific exploration should not be restricted due to the mislead belief that we should never do anything that might demotivate our fellowman and make them feel like a lesser-being. In my mind, being beaten should fill a person with ambition to find a subject they are passionate and talented at (the two tend to go hand-in-hand if one is true with themselves), and strive to become the best in whatever definition of the word they use. While moral responsibility should be present, I do not think that they should be taken to the extremes, restricting freedom of speech and expression to prevent situations that might offend others. I do think that they should be in place so that no one can repress a person's human rights and ability to reach their goal (I oppose political correctness, affirmative action, the current state of American welfare, medicare, and social security, and do not believe in nationalizing any business, though some should be kept under certain standards and restrictions, such as the banking industry). I believe in a strong free-market with very limited government restrictions, and believe in art without moral restrictions (freedom of expression), and science with the restrictions of human rights ( I am against what I consider the casual destruction of human life: abortion except under certain circumstances, embryonic stem-cell research except under circumstances where the embryo would be destroyed otherwise, and the death-penalty except under circumstances of extreme human atrocity such as murder, torture, or rape). I believe in the freedom to purchase firearms, unless one is a convicted felon who would be considered a severe risk if allowed a weapon. I do not believe in double-standards (everyone should be judged based upon their skill, ambition, and talent, without bringing race, religious, sexual preference, or gender into consideration).

I DO NOT believe that every person has the ability to master any field they attempt. We are imbued with talents and motivations that allow us to strive in certain fields and fail in others, the best we can do is realize this and focus on those fields that we feel true passion for, instead of lying to ourselves and ultimately failing to focus on what is important to us.

I do believe that we should respect the creatures of this earth and as such not hunt them for simple sport or cause them severe unwarranted physical trauma, but I do not believe this means we should go to such extremes that would restrict the ability of a person to strive in such a market. I believe that a vegetarian or vegan who does not eat meat for moral reasons is simply a person who tries to imbue themselves with a false sense of moral high-ground because they believe that no animal should be used by a human for food, shelter, or scientific advancement. They ignore the fact that many of these creatures, without our aid and security, would have a much lesser chance of survival and reproduction and as such, we are more than likely increasing their quality of life under our care. I do believe certain restrictions should be placed upon farming and fishing as to not damage the ecosystem by severely limiting a food source or predator, instead focusing on the concept of equivalent exchange. An example being the lumber company that plants just as many trees as they harvest, or the farmer or hunter who waits for nature to increase the numbers of the game or size of their herd before slaughtering them for the resources they need. I also believe that following these standards would ultimately lead to benefit for society (since most animals that are fed proper nutrition and given a comfortable way of life tend to provide healthier products; also, wild game, whose nutrition focuses on wild edibles, tend to provide healthier meat and than farm-raised in exchange for lesser quantities).

I do not believe that the government needs to enforce morality, but instead promote it through their own individual actions. A politician should place themselves under strong moral standards (such as truthfulness, ambition, charity), which will in turn inspire others to follow suit. Anyone who, with or without their intention, is a person of strong societal influence is given the ability to change how society functions, if even on small levels.

Laws should be placed only to protect human rights and the free-market. Laws should not be placed for matters that do not involve these two. Incentives such as tax-cuts, benefits, and popularity are perfectly reasonable manners to influence corporations to have a high moral standard. A company, however, should not be forced to take actions they deem detrimental to their prosperity if the action does not impede on human rights and free-market. An example would be providing a tax-cut to certain companies that introduce technological advances that lower the overall amount of pollution they produce or providing an incentive to hire people under different backgrounds. A company, however, should have the freedom to not do either if they view it better to do so. Overall though, most corporations will probably take the incentives and as such, be kept to a higher moral standard.

So there are my own personal thoughts and interpretations of these two viewpoints. You are of course free to oppose them and by all means I implore you to express your opinion, as long as it is one you believe in, but I also implore you to fill yourself with the experience and knowledge that will allow your personal truth to hold credibility with those you present it to through your actions, or words.