Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dreams, Reviews, Weddings and more.

Let’s start with a video recommended to me by one of my bestest ever friends, Miss Lorelei.

“No Time to Think” is a video about information overload. (Don’t worry, the guy with the hard to follow accent is not the main speaker, he just introduces him.) It is a fascinating piece on information overload, advertising, the internet, the great manufacturing machine and testing. One of the parts that really struck home was about a woman who won a prize in medicine. She said the way she figured out the solution was to stop and think. Rather than see some test results, make a quick conclusion, then move on to the next test to see what you can find out, she just stopped and thought for days on each test. She didn’t just proceed to the next test which is what most people in her field did. She just thought - and solved the problem.

And then they started talking about the environment, I got bored and turned it off.

But as Lorelei had told me, let it sink in for a few days. It’s really starting to make an impression on me and I might go back and watch the end of it – if I can find… the… time. See how dumb that reads?

I strive to get better at being in the moment which I have talked at length on before. I am getting better but this video emphasizes that in completely different manner. Even while watching it I decided I only needed to listen and opened up my digital pictures folder and deleted repeats, out of focus, too dark and other bad pictures; while listening to a video about information overload. Oh, the irony!

“Vanity Fair” is a perfect example of what this video is talking about. Stories are interrupted by pages and pages of ads, some pages have six different little subjects and blurbs. The table of contents starts on page seventy. I skim though it at blazing speed, reading snippets here and there, tiny factoids that interest me and half finishing full articles that fail to hold my attention.

I read an article in “Vanity Fair” last night about John Hughes that was fascinating. Do you know he wrote Ferris Bueler’s Day Off in a week? He used to keep notes on how much he wrote in one day.

Tuesday: Night only – 10 pages
Wednesday: 26 pages
Thursday: 19 pages
Friday: 20 pages

He’s the guy who also wrote Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Home Alone, Plane's Train’s and Automobiles, The Breakfast Club, and She’s Having a Baby.

And then one day he did something I am surprised more people don’t do. He left it all behind. He had enough money to retire, work on his farm and spend time with his family. Which on one hand baffles me and on the other I totally understand. Like George Clooney. Or Bill Gates. You’re worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Or Billions as the case may be. Why do you keep pushing so hard? How many movies does Clooney make in a year? How long did Bill Gates run Microsoft even though he was the richest man in the world? Why not just quit and enjoy life?

And of course I know the reason why some people quit and some people do not. Like me. A dozen years ago if I was worth a hundred million dollars I think I would have just quit and stayed home and played video games. Now, I can’t imagine not writing. I can’t imagine getting just one book published, I want dozens. I want to travel even more and report all the amusing anecdotes and strange sights and wonder to anyone who is interested in travel journals. I want to entertain people for years, not one book. I don’t want to ever quit and work around the house.

I think it was Ray Bradbury who said that “Writers write because they have to write.” I have to write. (I wouldn’t wish this affliction on anyone.) But then I need feedback. John Hughes continued to write in notebooks but never showed them to anyone. His sons have found three hundred notebooks so far since he passed away in August last year.

Today, I am not doing well to just think about things and to be in the moment. I started this at ten this morning and since then have sent out three emails, read a “Time” magazine article about some movies I might like to see and sought out their reviews on the web, remembered there is a UFC this weekend and went to see who is on the main card, got back to writing this, remembered Wendy and I need to decide on food for the BBQ and went down to the other end of the apartment and discussed that for ten minutes. And now I’m back. Speaking of the wedding…

No matter how much it costs to use this website, if you are getting married, I couldn’t recommend a better one.

Not that I would know how hard it is to set up said website because Wendy did all that. I wrote a few pithy lines and then I go look at it every now and then to see who has RSVP’d and what they are having for dinner. (So far, steak is winning by a landslide.) But, I think she did a fantastic job and it looks amazing. I have been debating about putting it up here because I don’t want any hurt feelings. But hey, as Wendy rationalized the other night: “People know we’re getting married, they know we can’t invite everyone, I don’t mind if you post a link.” I’ve been debating with it for a few days and I know there are people out there who would like to see some pictures or waste some time on a boring work day and Wendy put so much work into it I decided why not. So here’s the link:

“Lost” continues to annoy us; the main reason being that they never really answer anything. Even in its final season they continue to wrap a riddle in another riddle inside another riddle. The second reason “Lost” is so annoying is the jumping around, which has always been a problem. But last season and this season has been beyond the pale. Each episode is about the past, the present, what might happen, parallel storylines, people jumping through time not once but multiple times for many weeks, while others are stranded in time. Thank God it’s the final season. I am betting the ending will be similar to “Twin Peaks” in the sense of wholly unsatisfying.

Game Play Randomness: At five this morning I woke up after a truly weird dream. I felt like I had had this dream before and I knew what was going to happen. These three guys are going to come in and try and kidnap me, but my accomplice knows this and we leave before they get there, avoiding any conflict. So, that time is coming up in the dream, but rather than leave, my accomplice starts making sandwiches, the three men barge in, and we have to fight for our lives. It was a great fight and we won. Then I woke up.

Current replayability in games is based on alternate beginnings, making different choices or alternate endings based on those choices. For instance – In Dragon Age you can choose your beginning race and class. A human noble Fighter’s beginning of the game will be vastly different than a woodland elf mages beginning. Thus, once you finish the game, you can go back and replay the beginning and see what it is like to play as another race or class. Moral choices are presented in the game and if you choose to play “good” one time through and “evil” another time through the ending will be vastly different. Hence, replayability.

I think the next step in game evolution will be scenes like the dream I had last night. What if you start out as a human noble and, much to your surprise, events unfold in a completely different manner? You make all the same choices and now you’re sitting there thinking “Okay, this is the part where the castle is under siege in the middle of the night and I have to get my armor.” Only, the siege doesn’t happen. Your character wakes up in the morning and he has breakfast and the game goes in an entirely different direction. Most modern hard core game players would be like “WTF just happened?”

I predicted it first.

Lastly, I am sorry Jim, we could not finish The Hurt Locker. It’s not that it was a bad movie, it was the fact it pointed out so well and so obviously, we need to get our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan now.

The story focuses on a unit working in Baghdad and how you never know who the enemy is and who are the friends. All you’re trying to do is help, but you never know when someone is going to shoot you, watch you blow up, or befriend you. I’m not giving away any spoilers when I describe this scene. A car has been wired to explode, on a random street in the city. Not next to an Army base or anything. An American demolitions team goes in to try and disarm it. It’s a tricky thing to disarm and part of the team is keeping an eye out for hostiles. An Iraqi shows up on a rooftop with a camera and starts filming. Why is he filming flickers across the men’s faces. Men come out on balconies to watch. Could they be armed? Do they have a detonation switch? Are they just curious to see what will happen? More people start to gather on rooftops or balconies and watch the men trying to protect the demolition expert. Hostiles? Friendly? Ambivalent? The tension is mounting the longer this takes and the demolitions team is getting jumpier and jumpier the more Iraqi’s they see.

That’s when we turned it off.

See, I know it’s a great movie, but all it made us feel was “What are we doing there? Why are we disarming bombs and trying to protect the populace that generally wants us to leave? Why don’t we just leave the car with the bomb in it, right where it is, and see what happens? How will that affect the war and the Iraqi people?”

I know that’s a perfectly simplistic view and the situation is more complex than that, but that was all we could see. Get out of Iraq now was all we could feel watching up to that point. The Iraqi people might stand up. They might erupt in civil war. They might… who knows? But how long can we stay there and disarm bombs? We have been there longer than the duration of World War I and World War II combined.


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  2. Spam, Yuk.

    Lots to aborb in that last blog. Thank you for giving that to me on a Friday morning. I too am working on the living for the moment thing, but it is really tough.

    You know, what you described about Iraq sounds very familliar, wasn't there another war(sorry, police action) that went kind of the same way?

    Those who fail to read history are doomed to repeat it, yet we all fall into those same pitfalls over and over.

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  4. After reading this short blurb on Dragon Age, and the previous mini-review rave, I went out and bought it. It is a ton of fun. Natch I played a human noble (I also brought my version of Verdant Force to a local tournament, and won in the first round against a Tradewind Rider deck with Unyaro Bee Sting...) And as it turns out my wife started her game as a woodland elf. Thanks for turning us on to this!