It was my turn to make dinner, and I am trying to finish a pitch before the end of the week, so I decided to make it easy on myself; but little did I know I was preparing a demise of someone at the dinner table.
I choose smoked herring from a can, with toasted sourdough and a Charles Shaw white wine because nothing is too good for my wife and myself. This particular can of herring is our favorite, it’s from Trader Joe’s, but on this evening I found out we bought its evil twin brother.
This particular tin of herring uses a pivot top to open and reveal its fishy contents, it’s designed for ease, but it was designed stupidly. I say stupid because it’s designed for those who do not know how to operate a can opener. These people would throw the tin against the wall until it burst open, and eat its contents on the floor like the Neanderthals they are rather than utilizing the millions of years it has taken for us to harness the power of tools!
Back to the Red Dinner. I had cut the sourdough bread and Amber had uncorked the bottle of wine, we were sitting at the table and I began the delicate process of opening the tin. You would think it would be simple, but because of the previously stated design flaw you must be careful when opening the top or oil will fly everywhere.
I was nearly 75% done when the unthinkable happened.
The seam was weak along the back end and since I was applying the force needed to open the tin but at the same time keep the oil along its surface, the top sprang open! It had enough tension in it to give the oil the gift of flight, and like the Nazi bastard this tin was, it blitzkrieged my pants!
I give you a dramatic reenactment of this fateful evening:
Remember fish tin manufacturers, this horror does not need to happen to another family! Please, just let us use a can opener!
SPOILER LEVEL: PACE SALSA MEDIUM (This game has been out for nearly 20 years)
Name: Barret Wallace
Job: Leader of AVALANCHE
I may catch some hell for this, but hear me out. I will be evaluating Barret, from Final Fantasy 7, as the leader of AVALANCHE, an eco-terrorist group that actually delivers on the terror rather than hugging the evil out of the mega-corporation. This has nothing to do with his character arch or how he indirectly destroyed his hometown.
Let’s look at the three characteristics a leader needs and see if Barret matches up.
Barret’s plan for reactor 5 consists of two things:
A. Break in
B. Blow it up
Now that is straight forward and simple. When we join AVALANCHE (a name so cool it must always be said in caps or yelled) that is the plan and after executing it successfully, barely mind you, Barret calls together a meeting at the ultra secret AVALANCHE hideout that is directly under the bar that one of his team members owns. I guess it increased the property value?
And the plan for the next reactor is to blow up it! Great! How will they do that?
A. Break in
B. Blow it up
Yes, it’s the same plan! Surely Shinra won’t see this coming!
When planning to blow up a reactor it is advisable to, perhaps, change the plan a bit? This is when things go wrong and the group fails at their mission, because Shinra, somehow, saw this one coming.
2. Cool under pressure
When the pressure mounts and things go south you have to be cool under pressure so the rest of the team can be reassured that everything will be alright.
Barret doesn’t do that; in fact he yells and shoots his gun off whenever he feels like it. When he goes to the bathroom, to call a waiter over, or when he washes the car he doesn’t have, that thing just goes off. Whenever things go just a tiny bit off schedule, Barret is the first character to start yelling and shooting everything.
3. Building up team morale
If there is a motto that embodies Barret’s leadership style it’s: “The beatings shall continue until morale improves.” The guy is constantly belittling the members of his terrorist cell and constantly gives Cloud a bunch of shit from the word “go.” He is like that one friend from high school who thought Stockholm Syndrome was a philosophy on how to make friends. This isn’t a man out to win an award for being an inspiration or anything, no, this guy wants to murder Shinra piece by piece.
Which leads me to the biggest fault of Barret’s leadership:
What was the end goal again?
We get it, you want to save the planet, but blowing up the reactors that are pulling in this highly unstable, and potentially dangerous, substance from deep within the planet might not be the best course of action. I mean, what’s stopping the explosion from causing a chain reaction that would do the very things you were trying to avoid, which is, oh, I dunno, destroying the planet?!
That aside, let’s say you stop Shinra, what then? It seems that while everyone in this city is rather not cool with their lot in life, they’re not really giving a giant shit about almost everything in town. In fact, the people you run into are just trying to get by, and if Shinra left town, do you think they would be better off? Yeah sure, the planet would be saved, but how many people would die in the ensuing riots? What would be the plan to make sure that didn’t happen?
Did Barret even think about that when he started his crusade? No, he didn’t, he was so pissed at this company that he just didn’t care about anything else other than destroying this place utterly.
Should he keep his job?
No, he shouldn’t, but in the game he doesn’t anyway because Shinra decides to blow up a section of Midgar that drops on top of the slums along with everyone in AVALANCHE that wasn’t an A list character in the game’s instruction manual.
His actions did attract attention to this particular section of town, but that’s some scorched earth politics! I guess I can see why he was so pissed at Shinra… apparently PR isn’t one of their strong suits. I’ll go over evil mega corporations another day, but for now:
A job is something we all do, right? We get up each morning, and whether it is school or work, we head out of the house each day to perform actions that either help us intellectually or monetarily or just survive. For some of us, the job comes to define us as we begin to identify as the job title, we read and intake information that deals with what our job is; so why is it that most characters are terrible at their job?
A job is probably one of the most important things in the life of a human being and yet fictional characters time and time again suck at theirs or just magically have money from a dead relative. Not only is that a played out device, it’s also just plain lazy on the part of the writer, because I know I would love guilt/emotionally free corpse money. This isn’t to say that this doesn’t happen in real life, but if it happened at the rate it does in fiction, extended family wouldn’t exist and this would make a fantasy world in which holiday gatherings aren’t that awkward.
Cutting out dead-family-money, most characters live in impossible to afford places doing jobs that wouldn’t allow you to live in the shittiest shanty in all the land. Yet, they do, all the time, especially college graduates. Those assholes typically live in the ‘hovel’ they lovingly call their floor wide flat in the ‘rough’ part of Irvine, California.
We’ve all watched these pop-culture spewing falsehoods, known as ‘characters’ and have forgotten them time and time again on TV and film. These characters have no sticking power because they are essentially selling a lifestyle that will keep you eating Top Ramen into your 30’s… that isn’t to say that has happened to me… I just love Top Ramen, okay?
When you are creating a character for your piece, please keep in mind that their job is very important because it tells a lot about the character without them having to say anything:
Librarian: Loves books, order, peace, and cardigans
Mechanic: Messy genius or moron, a lover of trash talk, and cat calls
Blogger: Underachiever, hates life, feels important by using their image everywhere (…okay, I may have a problem)
Of course, these are stereotypes, but they are for a reason and that’s because these jobs usually attract a certain kind of personality. The people that take on these positions can buck the public opinion as being the librarian who always wears wrinkled clothes or the mechanic that quotes Shakespeare; but no matter what, these jobs say something about the character.
In many instances writers tend to put their characters in shitty jobs while their true desires are repressed behind the security of a paycheck. This is something we see all the time and it’s usually because it is the easiest way to show character progression, but let’s face facts, even if they hate their job, that character should have probably become good at their dead end job. Most of the time we see the character sucking at their job because it isn’t what they truly are good at… then I ask why hasn’t that character been fired from their job as a mid-level manager who can figure out Excel?
Don’t just assign your character a job because you either see it as a cool job or one that everyone would universally loath. Why? Because you are a being an asshole to your audience in two ways:
A. You are showing your audience that you too can get that dream job with minimal effort, when in reality the only reason that jackass got the gig was because a family member was best friends with the president of the company. You setup an unrealistic world that people just fall into thinking is possible, but then turns out is complete bullshit, and they go home, drink all the NyQuil, and miss next weeks Game of Thrones because they’re dead.
B. You are shitting on a job that someone actually has and goes to everyday. They may even be super happy with their position in life, but because you arbitrarily chose your character to be a janitor, and show that job in the worst light possible, because you hate the idea of using a plunger in a shit filled toilet, you are telling that viewer/reader that their job sucks.
I’m not saying that this blog will change the world or anything, but for the love of all that is holy, give them a job! The worst offender is the character that just does things without a care in the world while they live in San Francisco as a poet! You think I am making that up? Go watch So I Married an Axe Murderer? and tell me what Charlie does for a living in that film.
I love that movie, but that is a huge damn hole!
My final note, thought, whatever, is this: Jobs, or lack there of, are important to a character; so don’t just assign a job to the character and never bring it up again. Don’t give them a job that they suck at unless that plays into the story. Stop being lazy with this small, but very informative piece of information!
When it comes to writing you’ll find that it’s much like a science experiment. You try to get a certain result, but you will probably wind up with something else all together awesome; like Silly Putty.
You have to play around with words. Try them in a certain order, fashion, or style. Writing is playing, but it isn’t like going outside and playing on the swings, it’s more like sitting in a dank basement with a really dull blade and a grinding wheel. No, there isn’t a Gimp in a box nearby or anything (of course I can’t vouch for your mind basement to confirm this), and while that may sound like a terrible place to work, it’s probably the best environment for myself.
This is something you’ll hear from every writer out there: Writing is hard work. There are reasons why we are the most creative procrastinators out there and that’s because we like to do other things, but we must write. I know for myself if I haven’t written in a week I become very pedantic, like a madman wandering a manor overlooking a lake, I ponder my existence with a glass of brandy in a room full of mounted heads.
It is a controlled chaos, a mild form of insanity that is treated when we plug our asses to the chair and inject our fingers into the keys to form the words you are now reading.
To sum this up, I’m back, I have a schedule, and you will have something to read, hear, and sometimes watch.
Get a job is a new series of blogs I want to do once a week for the fun of it. The idea stemmed from a point I will be touching on in another post about the importance of a character’s job (Update: Here’s the post!). In many books, movies, games, and comics we find that a character might have a job, but it really doesn’t do anything on the journey they are on in that particular title.
So, the idea is to look at what their job is and see if they are even good at it. If they are fine, then march on my wayward son, if they suck then I will suggest a replacement position for them.
Tuvok wears a lot of hats, but this isn’t because Voyager is an indie game company, but rather they are the most eager hipsters in the Federation as they try to discover everything first in the Delta Quadrant. After having their ride hijacked to the Salton Sea of space, uncharted territory to Star Fleet (And much of Southern California), the crew have to make their way back home in a seven year trek, a star trek that is.
Ha, ha, ha, why am I the only one laughing?
Due to their low crew count, and the fact that they are stranded, everyone on the ship has to pull double duty; except the captain of course, though she does show off how good at hacking, tactical, engine cycling, and plate spinning she is whenever the situation calls for it. Let’s break down each of Tuvok’s positions details:
Chief Tactical Officer- The role of the tactical officer is to offer combat solutions for the captain and make sure that the weapon systems are online and ready to fire.
How does Tuvok measure up?
You can name, in order, the systems that will go out on Voyager whenever they meet a new threat or alien species and the first to go is the warp drive, the second is usually weapons, followed by shields. Now, Tuvok cannot be held accountable for foreign tech screwing with his particular position, but whenever he gives his advice on a situation the captain usually ignores him and pulls something else out of her butt. Tuvok’s suggestions from the audience’s point of view is perfectly sound, he is ignored because he is too practical. This problem will continue as we move forward into:
Chief Security Officer- To make sure that the ship is secure from foreign and domestic invaders and that the safety of the crew is maintained.
How does Tuvok measure up?
Well, we could say again that alien technology that is unknown to Star Fleet makes this job harder, but no, he’s just bad at it. This again comes back to no one ever listens to Tuvok, he’s the Shinji of Star Trek, “Shut the fuck up Tuvok and get back to your station.” A sign of a good leader is how good your team does when you’re not around, and the fact that the security teams are woefully ill-prepared and are constantly taken off guard shows how much he sucks at his job. Tuvok himself is a good shot, but the rest of the security force are Stormtrooper level.
Should he keep his job(s)?
No, he shouldn’t. Tuvok isn’t respected enough by the crew to hold his current positions. This lack of respect echoes from the leadership, and without respect in a military environment, or any work environment, a leader cannot lead. This isn’t his fault entirely, so I suggest he move into the one position that no one has ever questioned his abilities on:
I’m heading to the flicks once more for another helping of Fury Road, and after posting my last blog about this film on Reddit I got to thinking about what the movie is; not the individual elements, but rather why did Miller make Fury Road the way he did.
Max has been absent from the screen for about 30 years, as Thunderdome released in 1985. Nowadays, most movies have a full on reboot for features that aren’t any older than 10 (Case in point: Fantastic 4). In a reboot you can redo the character’s story and whatever, but you lose out on the layers that the character could have collected over time. By keeping the character and making them older you get an entirely different person for the audience to experience and this makes the story infinitely more interesting than seeing Max nab his first bad guy with brilliant CG effects, again.
In some ways, Fury Road is a reboot without losing it’s soul.
This world isn’t the exact same mad world that was in the first three films. This is a place with history, an economy, and a mythology which wasn’t really established as well in the first three versions. Max has clearly been absent from it for as long as have we, and thus we all learn the same information at the same time. We are in as much of the dark as he is at the beginning of the film.
So, we have this character and his world, but he isn’t the same guy from the first three films. But, he is.
Besides the physical markings the knee brace, the jacket, the boots- Max states information that only he would know at the beginning of the film. The missing element to the current Max is hope. Hope is a recurring theme in the movie and Max even states, again, that it is a dangerous thing. Why is it dangerous? Because Max has had hope and has had it taken away. I’m not talking about his wife and kid, though that started it, but when he helped the group out in The Road Warrior (TRW) and then the kids at the end of Thunderdome, he regained more hope.
What if Max gained enough hope to settle down again? To try once more? I ask this because in the film we get flashbacks of a daughter character and some other tribal people, and clearly some of it is Max’s guilt and some of them are a spirit quest deal. While his first family had a son, who’s to say that he didn’t try to start again, only to have it go to shit once more? (Losing hope once again and driving him completely mad.) The one critique I’ve heard of Tom Hardy’s Max is that he isn’t roguish enough; but a proper rogue character has to have something to fight for before they reach their full rogueishness.
The world Max lives in is fire and blood and that is where we come in and meet the current Max. He is more animal than man, he is without conscience, and he is at his most pragmatic. He is about the immediate future rather than the long play. He is reactionary rather than calculating; I mean, in TRW he waits for his chance to get in and make a deal for gas, and same in Thunderdome. This Max is broken, alone, and bonkers.
How do we have the audience relate to that in a standard action movie length of 120 mins? You could show this information in some canned, terrible info dump of character exposition where we don’t care about how he lost his family (as that card has been overplayed to death and we just want to get to the action) or you go primal and more visceral. Miller upholds my golden rule, and that is: Don’t treat the audience or reader like they’re stupid. Using the imagery we get the emotions Miller wants us to have and we move on. To go back to the original question at the beginning of this paragraph, you give them a character that they can understand: Furiosa.
Furiosa is your typical action hero. She has a mission, a drive, and a moral code in her that is strong and leads the audience through the adventure. We’ve seen this character many times before, but only a few times with a woman at the helm. She says she is seeking redemption, but you cannot have redemption without the hope that you can fix what you have broken. All action heroes have hope in them; it’s what keeps them going to find the next job, to shove off into danger, because there is the hope that everything will be alright. Furiosa is the channel in which the audience can gain an understanding of the world and the film. She is the center of the film and because of her strong character she even helps Max find the humanity he has lost.
When they first meet Max is literally an grunting animal. Demanding things, taking what he wants, and generally not giving a shit about anyone else but himself; like a wild animal. By the end of the film, he has the tiny flame of hope inside of himself once again, so much so that when he sees that Furiosa is starting to come around again in the truck he has a bit more levity in his voice and finally says his name. Max can live again because Furiosa reminded him of who he is by being the person he once was and he literally saves her life in return.
This is why I say that Max is the focus of the film and Furiosa is the center. Furiosa is the hero of the film but we learn who Max is through this adventure and see what he is capable of doing. This is why Miller constructed the film the way he did, because we aren’t just shown who Max is, we experience who he is through the choices he makes, through the things he says, and through the people who are around him. Max is surrounded by people who have hope and when they lose it, he rekindles it. When things get dark, he shines, and we wouldn’t have gotten that through some BS talking head scene in the first fifteen minutes. By trekking through this story with him, we get to know this character on a deeper level.
And that is how you reintroduce a character.
P.S. Pardon the lack of humor in this post, but I needed to theory craft a bit, also craft in general and now I want Kraft Mac n Cheese.
This is a post about the insanity that is Mad Max: Fury Road, if you haven’t seen this film yet, stop now and go and see it because like a hard boiled egg left in an unplugged fridge for two weeks, this post will have spoilers in it.
I have loved Mad Max since I was 13 and Fury Road did not disappoint. It’s the first film in a long time to make my head explode in the most pleasant of ways, which has made me return to the movie theater twice now, with a third waiting in the wings. This film, like its action, has a lot going on and is the most subtle film you will see this year.
Yes, a movie with spikey hot rods and metal shredding freaks is subtle.
Its storytelling is so focused that a lot can be missed as this world blurs past the audience in a fireball of themes and ideas. This moving metal album cover has a lot going on under the hood.
There is very little dialogue in the movie. I wouldn’t say it approaches Once Upon A Time In The West level of silence, but it is on par with that film. We see character development that is shown and not told.
Look at the beginning of the film, with Max and his V8 Interceptor standing alone against the wilderness. Max is more animal than man here because of the fact that he has had to become an animal in order to survive; as per his intro, survival is the only thing left in him. Fast forward to the end of the film, where he disappears into the masses of people and into the society he left behind. Through his journey we see him become more and more human. As he gets his stuff back, his boots, jacket, and gear, he becomes more of a man. His increasing interaction with women also helps to civilize him and make him into a functional person once again.
Then you have Furiosa (As a friend of mine said is the best female action hero since Ripley, I wholeheartedly agree), when we meet her it’s a close up of her Immortan Joe brand on the back of her neck and we pull back to see her getting into the war rig. She seems cool but tense at the same time. The reason why is because this is probably her last time attempt to escape the Citadel and if it fails she will die. She is a woman who knows exactly what she is doing and knows she cannot let her guard down. The only time we ever really she her guard down is when she meets The Vulvani tribe of Many Mothers and at the end of the film.
The actors are showing the character development rather than letting the editing show it. There isn’t a specific moment in which they become better people or suddenly appear in a Deus Ex Machina sort of way. They carry the film and drive it forward, rather than just being carted along by the plot.
It’s about people
This film has people in it, and I don’t mean that people can be seen in it, but rather it has people in it that care about one another. Obviously if you’re on the opposite side of the gun, the care is quite small, but within the individual groups from Immortan Joe’s Warboys to The Vulvani, they truly care about one another. It’s a connection that is strong and serves a purpose in the film as the Warboys bow and salute one another and The Many Mothers respectfully remember those who have gone in their hearts.
These tribes of people become family to one another and it is through this connection that they are able to live.
At one point the group talks about satellites and how TV shows were everywhere. It’s something that is almost unimaginable to the younger group as that kind of connectivity seems almost god-like.
Max begins to earn his humanity once more by being around these women who care for one another. He sees a piece of himself in Furiosa and begins to regain his humanity through her while she has him to assist in her plans to return home and save the wives from their life of slavery. Max at the beginning of the film is more animal than man and when he finally says his name, he almost doesn’t believe it himself because it probably has been a long time since even he uttered it out loud.
How freaking weird it is
There is nothing in this film that is normal or even remotely close to normal, I mean it had a breast milk farm, and I loved it for that reason. For the last ten years a lot of sci-fi films have tried to go weird, but wind up being the goth kid version of Star Wars. In fact, many modern sci-fi films have been heralded as the new Star Wars or something to that effect and because of that marketing tilt, and probably the pressure of the film’s producers, they usually do feel like a watered down SW.
This film isn’t trying to mimic another film or even be “the new XYZ” it really is unique. If you look at the designs of the film, from the cars to the other tribes to the gear that the characters in the film use, it is analog. Nothing in this film is slick, all of it is boxy, rough, and tangible.
This film is a 1980’s film and 80’s sci-fi or fantasy films were all freaking strange. I mean look at what came out of the 80’s:
The Dark Crystal
The Masters of the Universe
The Last Starfighter
All of these films have bizarre designs and even stranger story lines, but they were each different in their own way and did something. Most modern sci-fi is very similar, in both design and story, and follows a rigid structure we have seen hundreds of times. The closest films to Fury Road, in my mind, are The Road Warrior and Stagecoach.
I really do hope we see more bizarre stuff in the theaters, because that’s what’s really going to get me in there every weekend.
It’s probably one of the most unlikely sex symbols to pop up in the American psyche and yet it is commonly accepted that librarians are sexy.
I find the concept so strange, I mean, when was the last time you went into a library? I know a majority of people have not done so in a decade or longer, but frankly when you do, I’m pretty sure you won’t find that 24 year old brunette with the low cut top wearing a skirt as a second skin. You’ll probably discover a nice old lady with thick glasses who loves books and Thomas Kinkade paintings.
Where are these unicorns then? Why has their image endured for so long? I have a conspiracy theory.
I think the library system has perpetuated this symbol so people go to the library. Think about it, you see a sexy librarian lady or man in some photos or art and you think: “You know what, I am going to go to the library and see these creatures in their natural habitat!” And you go and you find that this isn’t the case, so you sit and begin reading a book and you return every day in the hopes that they will show up. They never do, but your lust has turned into a love for reading and coming to the library.
You are now a slave to this establishment, and it is good.
Libraries are an amazing facet of our society and an interesting notion in general. These establishments are simply here to allow you or anyone access to knowledge. Granted, we have the Internet, but these places are still important to us because of a number of factors:
They provide free Internet access
They have free books, movies, games, programs to learn another language, and more
Some even have high end computers that allow for music or film editing
Most importantly they are large, quiet spaces to study and get lost in your mind
That last thought might seem rather odd, but really, it’s probably the most valuable tool that the library has these days. Many of them do not allow cellphone use and this isolates you. Sure, there’s the Internet on the computers, but you have to reserve your time on them and they are usually built for work only; so you can’t really do much on them other than look things up. The silence of a library is unlike anything else, because it is silence for a reason, and that reason is concentration.
How does this relate to sexy librarians?
It comes back to my tinfoil-hat-thought about how the library system has perpetuated this image and it’s to get you into the building. Sex sells, and I for one can safely say there is nothing sexier than a woman reading a book. Put that image together with the American male psyche from the age of 14 moving forward and you can see how this begins to build up. The lure to this building is the fantasy of sexy librarians, books, and finding something no one else has found; but once you get into the building you notice that it is a place unlike anything else out there because you can just disappear.
The silence can be disturbing for most since we are so used to being stimulated on an almost constant rate, but let it sink in and you get why it matters. Having a place you have to be quiet inside of allows you the chance to really relax and think about things without having to put a hashtag on it. You have to actually think here and you do so because you have really no other choice. This will cause many people to lose their minds and find themselves wanting to leave because they simply cannot handle the internal questions that pop up from the pit of their stomach:
Am I really a vegetarian?
Is my uncle D.B. Cooper?
Have I lost my faith?
Is there a God?
Will I ever finish watching all of Gunsmoke?
Why not jump out of a perfectly good airplane?
Do I even matter?
Will I find the lost treasure of the Spanish fleet?
Do I feel pretty?
Does chocolate really taste like chocolate or is chicken how chocolate should really taste?
Without these questions, and a space to ask ourselves them without the risk of judgement, we never really know who we are as a person. In our “modern” world we are finding this time of silence and quiet thought to be ever shrinking. We think we are ultra advanced with our tech and social media, but a 14 year-old kid from 1975 feels and thinks the same as a 14 year-old kid from 2015. Our problems have not changed (personal problems, not geopolitical), nor have we as a species, in the last 20, 50 or even 100 years. The differences are that mistakes are recorded and laughed about online. Every misspelling, misstep, and bad thought is recorded and stored for future flame wars on message boards. Quiet, stillness, and purposeful isolation are needed in times of growth, no matter what age you happen to be at the time.