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With Regards To Motivation

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Apr 27 2013 · 76 views

Essays, Not Rants! 058: With Regards To Motivation
 
I have a research paper I should be writing. I also have a stack of books near me ranging from On Free Choice and The Will by Saint Augustine, Iron Man and Philosophy, Campbell’s The Hero with A Thousand Faces, Finding Serenity, The Existential Joss Whedon, my own annotated copy of Life of Pi, The Philosophy of Joss Whedon, and a few others too. These are what people in academia call ‘sources’. I think I know what I’ll be writing about, but I’m not quite sure yet.
 
So, once again, I’ll be writing an essay (that’s not a rant) to hone in on it.
 
One of the ‘texts’ (a fancy word for story, apparently) I’ll be looking at is Uncharted 2. Because I love said game and the class is called ‘Adventure Narratives’ so it must be done. I wanna explore the tension of Nathan Drake between the two women: Chloe Frazer and Elena Fisher. No, not the love triangle, but rather how they represent his inner conflict. Chloe, who’ll pursue her goal with a keen sense of self-preservation versus Elena, who’s sense of justice overrides everything else. They represent Nate’s struggle to choose between what’s smart and what’s right. It’s fascinating, really, a layer of depth you wouldn’t expect in a video game. Ultimately, Nate chooses to do what’s right, to follow his duty.
(Note: Elena and Chloe are far more interesting than just representing Nate’s duality. But that’ll be in an essay for Games 101)
 
So maybe I’ll write about the duality of man/the hero, how the hero must choose between right and wrong. Interesting, but let’s read further.
 
In Christopher Robichaud’s essay “Can Iron Man Atone For Tony Stark’s Wrongs” he explores the duality of Tony Stark and Iron Man. Tony Stark was the one who screwed up his life and put weapons in the hands of criminals. Iron Man is the one fighting to make things right. Iron Man is an atoner; he does the hero thing to try and redeem who he was as Tony Stark. There’s his motivation, and that’s why he does what he does.
 
Wait. So maybe instead of looking at the tension, let’s ask why an adventure hero does what they do.
 
In Life of Pi (which is a book I read for this class, and I must include one from the reading list), Pi tries his best to stay a moral man adrift in the lifeboat because he’s a religious man three times over. His motivation is to please God, to serve him even when things look bleak.
 
Swell. Now let’s look at Firefly, because this is my research paper and if I want to write about Firefly for class then I darn well will. K. Dale Koontz wrote the book Faith and Choice in the Works of Joss Whedon which is proving to be a fascinating read that I’d like to give a proper look at when I’m not hunting for sources. In it he explores Mal’s faith and morality, exploring why he does what he does. In becomes apparent that after Mal’s loss of faith at Serenity Valley, the man chooses to rely only on himself and his crew. Threaten them, you threaten him (see Ariel, 1.09). But why? Koontz believes that underneath his calloused shell, Mal has a wealth of love for his ship and crew. It’s love that makes Mal take action, it’s love that drives him. This is driven home at the end of Serenity, when Mal tells River what the first rule of flying is: “Love. You can learn all the math in the 'Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurtin' 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.” (Whedon) Love is at the core of Mal.
 
But does this motivation of love apply to the others too? Pi’s religious reverence is certainly fueled by a love for God, so love is there too. That’s an easy one.
 
Nathan Drake chooses to do what’s right perhaps out of a love for Elena and her sense of justice. We see this echoed in Drake’s Deception when he apologizes for letting her down. His love for her means he wants to do what’s right by her. Hence his going after Lazarevic and being the hero, like what she would do.
 
It’s with Tony Stark that things get hairy. Or does it? In the film Iron Man, he saves the day at last when he stops caring solely about himself and is willing to love his fellow man.
 
So I guess it’s love, love of something more than onself that motivates heroes to, well, be heroes.
 
Now let’s write this paper.


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Assembled

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Apr 27 2013 · 88 views

An amount of Mechanical Turking allowed me to pick up a set with Hawkeye. My tax return, the Hulk. At long last, they're assembled:

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Change is Good

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Apr 20 2013 · 100 views

Essays, Not Rants! 057: Change is Good
 
The TV show Chuck begun with a really simple conceit: nerdy, intelligent twenty-something stuck in a lousy deadend job in a BestBuy BuyMore suddenly finds himself with a CIA computer (the Intersect) in his brain and involved with various spy activities with agents from the NSA and CIA.
 
Simple.
 
The show could have very easily fallen into step; keep the perpetual romantic tension between Chuck and Sarah (the CIA agent) with Casey (the NSA one) filling the role of the authority figure. They’d fight the villain of the week and just maintain that status quo. It’d be fun, filled with great gags with Chuck and best friend Morgan or with his inability to really mesh with the whole spy gig. Instant formula.
 
Only they didn’t.
 
In Season Two, Chuck gets the Intersect out of his head. But then the show plays with the idea of the Intersect, giving him a new one that rather than just information, gives him skills too. So come Season Three, Chuck, now intermittently capable, is able to actually take to the field. He and Sarah become a committed couple (eschewing the will-they-or-won’t-day schtick), and Morgan is let in on Chuck’s double life. As the series continues Chuck loses the Intersect and becomes a spy in his own right, Casey softens into the papa wolf of the group (which in turn expands to include Morgan and Chuck’s sister and brother-in-law). Seasons 4 and 5 were very different from Seasons 1 and 2. The show kept its heart throughout, but allowed its characters to grow.
 
TV’s a special medium. It’s a blend of short and long-form storytelling, one that allows for long arcs and even changing genres. Look at Lost. The show shifted gears from mostly a drama-mystery to mostly science-fiction show. But, despite the change, it remained heavily character focused right up to and during the end. Lost couldn’t have kept spinning its wheels with the castaways on the island idea, it had to develop beyond the simple idea.
 
What happens if a show does stay the same? Look at The Office, which began to wear out its format and stories a while ago. Recently, though, the show has begun to explore its idea of being a mocumentary and, with only a couple episodes left, allow its characters to really start making big life choices (that would have them leaving Dunder Mifflin and thus the show). In this case, the show format grew to hamper the story. Anything we saw on camera had to be justifiably filmed by the documentary crew.
 
Sometimes watching characters grow and change is good too. Look at How I Met Your Mother over the years. Granted, some episodes/storylines fall flat and nothing seems to happen, but the show isn’t afraid to let the characters grow. Barney, for example, grew from a one-note womanizer to an engaged man. Their friendship remains constant, but they’re all in different places from where they were seven years ago. ‘cuz, y’know, people change.
 
Which brings me to Community. Here again we have a show that’s changed over the years as characters develop and relationships change. Abed has become more social and Jeff legitimately cares now. It’s not as much of a black-and-white change as in other shows, but the dynamic between characters steadily grows and shifts over time. Watching Season One makes you realize just where these characters go. It stays interesting.
 
I find TV to be a fascinating medium with great potential. Shows like Lost and Game of Thrones wouldn’t work as a film. Long arcs play out so much better in television, especially when they’re character focused. One thing that Chuck, How I Met Your Mother, and Community all have in common is that though some of the storylines can be farfetched and goofy, the characters are always treated with a level of respect and allowed to grow over time. No matter how unrealistic the world around them can get, the characters stay grounded. The shows continue to be interesting and we really begin to fall in love with them and who they are. They change, and change is good. Sure beats pulling a The Big Bang Theory and making the same joke for years on end.


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Emma Stone

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Apr 17 2013 · 169 views

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My brother's a big fan so I asked her to hold up my notebook so I could send it to him. Which I did.
 
I also saw Andrew Garfield, Daniel Mindel, and Marc Webb. Film sets are cool, man.
 
Anyway. I need to go edit my film now. The one that I shot in Grand Central and stuff.


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Friendly Neighborhood Map

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Apr 16 2013 · 106 views

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Relief

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Apr 16 2013 · 61 views

That moment when, at 2:50am. you realize that the Research Prospectus due in 5 hours is an ungraded assignment.


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Great Artists Steal

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Apr 13 2013 · 128 views

Essays, Not Rants! 056: Great Artists Steal
 
When explaining what make the Mac so good, Steve Jobs quoted Picasso saying “Good artists copy, great ones steal.” In an interesting twist of fate, that quote often gets attributed to Jobs now instead of Picasso (who may or may not have said it first). It’s a fun quote that definitely is the background for the Mac, it’s also very applicable to, y’know, art. And here that means everything.
 
Especially Neill Blomkamp’s filmography. Who, you ask? You might know him from the Halo: Landfall short and as the guy Peter Jackson chose to be the one to direct the Halo film. When plans for the Halo film fell through, Jackson instead gave Blomkamp the resources for District 9, an amazing piece of serious science-fiction that showed a few shades of the Halo games in its design and look. It’s subtle, but there’s some resemblance.
 
E
nter Elysium, the trailer for which dropped earlier this week. It’s Blomkamp’s next film and it looks just as cool as District 9. It too has some stolen design influence. Let’s look at the titular Elysium. It’s a ring-shaped megastructure, like the titular Halo (which wasn’t the first, but more on that later). So we have that look, but it doesn’t look just like a Halo but like Mass Effect’s Citadel as well (the spokes and the interior design). Artificial world inhabited mostly by the rich? Looks like the Citadel’s Presidium to me. It’s an almost uncanny resemblance. But it’s not bad. It’s a good idea, and Blomkamp’s not just copying the idea, but he’s stealing it and mixing it into his own work. He’s using it for a different story.
 
Halo’s a thief too, particularly from the film Aliens. How much? Halo’s Wikia has an entire article listing them. Not only are the marines’ armor very similar, but Sergeant Johnson is more or less Sergeant Apone. They even have some of the same lines. More than that, the setting of a ringworld is similar to the titular structure in Larry Niven’s  novel Ringworld. Halo took conventions, ideas, and designs (and a secondary character) and gave it a new life with a totally new story. Halo doesn’t feel or look derivative; that’s good stealing.
 
Uncharted is another culprit. Globetrotting treasure hunter who more often that not finds something with a supernatural power? Nathan Drake might as well be Indiana Jones without a whip. They’re often in similar predicaments: already up against lousy odds, everything goes wrong and they’ve gotta fumble —sorry, improvise— their way out. Nathan Drake is Indiana Jones set sixty years late. Yet the works as a whole are different enough. Uncharted’s supporting cast is more different and consistent than Indy’s and the plot and character arcs are very different. Uncharted takes what’s essentially the Indiana Jones mythos and reworks it for a more modern age. The end result is a fantastic video game that, for no small reason, has been called the best Indiana Jones video game.
 
The trick with stealing is to not take something wholesale and repeat it. As Steve Jobs said in the interview where he quoted Picasso: “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done, and then try to bring those things to what you’re doing.” Just copying something isn’t enough, you have to blend it in to what you’re making. Look at Dungeons & Dragons. Much of the setting is taken from JRR Tolkien’s work; you’ve got Hobbits, Ents, and Balrogs (all of which had to be renamed in later editions). But Gygax and Arneson gave the world its own spirit, mixing in influences from other worlds as well. Super 8, Mass Effect, The Secret of Monkey Island; everyone steals from everyone else. The thing is to make it new, to make it work, to make it yours. Don’t copy; steal.


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Film Permit

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Apr 08 2013 · 151 views

So this morning I got a permit.
 
To film inside Grand Central Terminal.
 
The Grand Central.
 
I'm going to be filming there on Sunday.


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Too Many Characters, Too Little Time

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Apr 06 2013 · 117 views

Essays, Not Rants! 055: Too Many Characters, Too Little Time
 
I started watching Game of Thrones with a couple friends of mine because everybody and their grandmother (actually, no, your grandmother wouldn’t watch Game of Thrones) have been telling us how good it is. And it is, but that’s not quite the point of this essay (that’s not a rant). One of the great things about Thrones is the incredible amount of characters. Seriously, this show gives Lost a run for its money. Unlike Lost, however, Thrones doesn’t have quite as much luxury with giving each character their proper and definite introduction.

We’ll meet characters quickly in the background then a couple episodes (or season if you’re Theon Grayjoy or Loras Tyrell) until they become relevant, at which point we’ve probably forgotten their name. Even if we’re plenty familiar with the character it’s still easy to forget their name (“oh, that’s Varys and he’s Pycelle”). But it’s these characters that make the show so terribly interesting. They’re all magnificently fleshed out; each one with their own goals and they lie, lie, and lie. It’s dramatic irony at it’s finest: we know what they want, but the other guy doesn’t and we get to watch as one falls into the other’s ploy. It’s exciting, it’s interesting.

And, of course, this wouldn’t be possible were it not for its airing on television. We get ten episodes a season and each episode’s an hour long. Not the 45 minutes of network television, a proper hour. We spend time with these characters, enough time that even if we’re not quite sure what their name is we know who they are.

Lost did this too. I’ve mentioned this before, but through its flashbacks we got to know the characters. Lost, and like Thrones, developed enough characters enough that watching them die cost us something. Furthermore, enough characters died with little pomp that for a while there we were worried if anyone would survive.

Which in turn is very similar to the climate in Game of Thrones. Anyone can die. It adds tension and, since these aren’t just red shirts beamed down to show how dire the situation is, we actually care about their deaths. The whole issue of character death is further enhanced since very often a death of one is a great character moment for another. Even if a character seems to die needlessly, the ripples of the impact effect everyone and we begin to see exactly who they are.
The thing is, it ll feels too short. These characters are fascinating, but we don’t get enough of them. It feels like we’re just getting glimpses of them or, in some cases, not seeing them at all (seriously, where was Arya in the season 3 premiere?). Sometimes focusing on one character or another from episode to episode makes sense, but screen time is a valuable commodity and the writers have to make the most of it. Firefly (which, yes, is my gold standard of characterization) had incredibly layered characters that were quickly built up. Granted, the interplay and politicking wasn’t as dense as in Thrones, but the writers found a way to make sure each character really got their dues. Most everything characters did in Firefly said something about their character. The plot advanced due to it. Thrones spends more time dealing with its plot because with a plot like what it has, well, it has to.

Perhaps Game of Thrones suffers more from its short seasons. Had they more than ten episodes we’d get to spend more time with characters and their conniving. We don’t get quite enough time with them as it is. And we want more time with them, these incredibly fleshed out characters with their myriad goals and plans.

As it is, though, I’m eagerly awaiting Sunday night to see what happens next. Because the show is just so darn fascinating. We keep watching to find out more about our characters, hoping that the next episode will focus more on Arya or Jon Snow or Tyrion, and hoping even more that they won’t die.

Except Joffery. I can’t wait till he dies. Because he has to.

Please.


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Set Review!

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Apr 02 2013 · 107 views

Would you look at this? I fine, charming, exceedingly handsome young man wrote a set review. You should check it out.





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josh

twenty-three

grew up on a ship

studies Storytelling

at New York University

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