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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Disney Princes: The Beast

 The Beast

First Impression: Ooh... it's very hard to recover your rep when you A) skulk in the shadows, wearing nothing but a cloak and pants like The Hulk B) lock someone's father in a tower. But the whole point of the story is turning from monster to man, so...

Wait, my image search came up with more results. Is this the Beast?

Appearance: Resembles a giant buffalo/gorilla/bear/wolf-thing. And despite this, more people prefer his beast form to human, which resembles a French aristocrat with long flowing locks and big blue eyes.

Intelligence: Sources are sketchy on this. On one hand, he's got a huge-ass library. On the other, if you believe the deleted scenes, Belle has to teach him to read. There are all kinds of intelligence--kinetic, spatial, musical, logical--but he really doesn't demonstrate any of these. He's just a schmoe adapting to life with a pretty girl in his house.

Ah, hang on. This looks closer.

Job/Source of Income: Inherited. But waning fast. I can't imagine anyone is out collecting the taxes.

Well, this one looks pretty close too.

Sense of Humor: Little to none. His sense of humor comes from the way he does everything "wrong". Some guys just aren't funny.

Huh, this one looks pretty beast-like. And a little Klingon.

Critical Fault: Verbally abusive and violent. The trope namer of the fixer-upper boyfriend.

But this one's all handsome and Phantom-of-the-Opera-brooding

Quality of sidekick: Despite the fact that his best friends are products from Pier 1 Imports, they stay by his side. But not because they have to, because they could have left his employ before he was cursed. But they didn't. Something to be said for that.

But wait, the image search says this is the Beast. But it just looks like a fat gray guy. Love the Long Fall Boots though.

Relatability: He starts out representing the dark side, the side you wish you could use when someone cuts you off in traffic or brings you into a pointless meeting. And by the end, he's a fine respectable gentleman, and women want to date him.

Is this the Beast too? Geez, so many iterations

Talent: Jumping, climbing, clawing, roaring. Can lick his own balls.

I searched for "number of beasts" and this is what I got -- more beasts!

Does he have a name? No. Still no canon source have given dear Beasty a name. Not even the live-action film took the opportunity. Tsk tsk.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Somebody at Work Keeps Bringing Their Kid In

Somebody at work keeps bringing their kid in and I thought this would be a good thought experiment. My intention is to demonstrate what's going through the heads of those people who want to burn down health care, transgender bathrooms, marijuana regulation, immigration reform, and the like.

Someone at work, an Indian woman, one of the QA, brings her kid in to work about once a month for the past two months. Seven or eight year old boy. Mostly he plays on an iPad all day, but I occasionally see him run around or during an all-team meeting, coming to get his Mom for something. He doesn't make trouble.


This feels wrong. This is a workplace. The intended residents are adults. There is nothing here for a child. People should not be bringing their kids to the office.

Oh, sure, everyone else loves it, they're all charismatic. They love children, they have children of their own. But I've got shit to do, you know? And every time that kid makes the littlest squee, my spine tingles. My parent-sense twitches. I come to work to avoid kids.

Isn't there a daycare? Don't you have another parent you cohabitate with? Can't you work from home on days like this? That's the biggest one--we all have laptops. The system is DESIGNED for you to work mobile and remotely. So there should be no need to come into work when circumstances do not favor it. What, you can't afford wi-fi? I doubt it, with the kind of salary my contemporaries get.


I mean, it's not like I do or say anything during the day that a kid shouldn't hear. Not that I do anything he should--it's a neutral place. The kid is really not interfering with your ability to work. There are bigger things in the environment, like crowdedness and proxies and noise and useless meetings and product managers that don't send you stuff when they promise, that are more of a factor on your ability to work than this kid.

You don't know this person's situation. And if you weren't an asshole anti-social, you might know why. You might get to know this mother-son family, and maybe make a friend in the process. But I'm not here to talk about the future. That's the abstract, that's not my department.

There's nothing in the employee handbook that says a kid CAN'T come to work. I know that's the "Air Bud" schism, but it's true. And again, it's not impacting your ability. It's a minor annoyance, but I'm sure not as much of an annoyance as it is for the mom who has to monitor him. But to you, it's trivial. In fact today, when you worked from home, you spent more time helping your kids play Zelda then you have spent in total thinking about this kid.

The kid's not hurting anything. This isn't like "Stilwell" from "A League of Their Own" or the kid from "Problem Child". He's not pulling out plugs or smearing cream cheese on your seat. His mom is keeping him wrangled. He's not affecting you in any way.

Here's the deal. The rational should always triumph the emotion. I don't mean to sound like we should make a world of Spocks, but the fact is that at the root of emotions is selfishness. All the feelings I listed above. They're all about how I feel. They take nothing of what anyone else feels into account. And when emotion gets to cancel out rational, people get hurt.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Disney Princes: Flynn Rider

Flynn Rider

(a.k.a. Eugene Fitzherbert)

First Impression: A selfish cad who we're supposed to sympathize with because "this is the story of how he died", which is a cheaty way of creating intrigue. His first line is "Guys, I've made up my mind. I want a castle." This didn't endear him to me because one of my pet peeves is not staying on task during a crucial time. And it's compounded by betrayal of his companions immediately after. Arrogant, deceitful, and trouble-making are not qualities you want in a protagonist.

Appearance: Slender, muscular, handsome, fair skin, dark brown hair and goatee, light brown eyes. Also, watch out for the smolder.
Crap, typo...
Ah, there we go

Intelligence: Street smart, but let's face it -- he grew up at an orphanage. Can he read?

Job/Source of Income: None. I mean, like literally, he is a thief and has no steady job. Now after he gets married, he has a job as Prince Consort and trainer of guards, but really... I mean, come on girls, do you want a man who gets his job after and because he gets married to you?

Sense of humor: Fantastic. I especially like it when he has to drop his facade and realize how out of his shit he his when he sword-fights a horse with a frying pan.

Critical fault: Conceited and steals your stuff

Quality of sidekick: Has a true bromance with Maximus. If your guy's best friend is a horse, why would you ever mind when they go out with his friends. No such thing as a third wheel there.

Relatability: Despite what the first impression is, his charm supersedes it quickly.

Talent: Thief things like breaking into places, escaping from those places, escaping, spending ill-gotten gains. And like all medieval thieves, he has a +1 in Agility and Athletics.

Does he have a name? He has two. As we'll soon see, I wish he would give one to one of the other princes.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Kindertrauma: The Hippo Song

You know what they don't have anymore? Children's music. I mean, I don't think it was ever popular, but it existed. I guess it's because children don't have disposable income, and parents don't want to listen to that kind of dreck.

Also, there's no avenue for kids to pick up new stuff. When I was your age, we had a thing called the radio to hear new music. By the time they're old enough to operate YouTube they find stuff like Willow Smith and Justin Bieber. The closest equivalent, Radio Disney, well... it doesn't play kid's music. I looked at the Top 30 chart and all the names I recognize seemed aimed at middle-schoolers, talking about romantic stuff that no one that age should be doing. I blame Hannah Montana.

There's nothing for ten and under. But they existed when I was that age. I remember them from elementary school/preschool times and Radio AAHS. Works of Joe Scruggs. Who can forget "Don't Play with Bruno" and "Bahamas Pajamas" by Joe Scruggs. How would I know how colors work if not for Cheech Marin's album? (it happened) If not for the constant playback of "Yakko's World", I wouldn't have all those countries memorized.

But there was one song that gave me Kindertrauma.

I have no recollection of first hearing this song. No doubt it was before I could form conscious memories. This is "Hey Daddy" by Anne Murray. Known to me as "Hippo in the Bathtub".

It didn't help that the lady singing it sounded like a kindly grandma or Carole King, just watching this hippo die. Just a little bit raspy, a little bit charming. Like a serial killer.

And yes, I know a hippopotamus cannot possibly fit down a bathtub drain. This is kid logic, okay? That's how kindertrauma works. And as a result of my kid logic. I was afraid to be in the bathtub while the drain was open. I had to call my parents in and I would get out and they would unplug the drain. This also might explain why I was afraid of getting sucked into escalators as a kid.

I remember in second grade, I heard it again, and it still sends shivers up my spine. Nowadays, I have enough rationality to understand the concept of spatial equilibrium. But that's the thing about kindertrauma -- its not about what you know, it's about what you felt as a child. And for some reason, what you feel as a child is so intense it follows you all your life.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Sliding Scale of Infidelity

I was talking about this with my wife the other day. Apparently there is some new sex robot that can replicate emotions and give responses. I'm sure it's not much better than a furby. But it reminded me that we are facing a paradigm shift in technology + sex and it's going to go common soon.

I can't remember where I read it, but there's a quote that says "As soon as a new technology is invented, people will figure out a way to use it for sex". It happened with paintings, the telephone, the video tape, and so on. I don't know if the same debates occurred back then, but I know that today's technology allows to get into some very gray area regarding infidelity.

Case in point, there's a scene in Bad Moms (2016 starring Mila Kunis) where the husband is on the computer masturbating. The wife thinks it's just porn, but he's webcamming with another girl. I don't know if this is a camgirl or a normal citizen. It's someone he's established rapport with, that much is known.

The wife (and mine) considered this cheating. But no fluids were exchanged. They were never in the same room together. In fact, they had never met IRL and lived in different states.

To be clear, I'm not saying this ISN'T cheating. I'm saying it's an interesting debate. I understand both sides of the issue. On one hand, feelings were hurt. On the other hand, how different is this than pornography or strippers? To what degree of intimacy was exchanged?

And that's just today. I don't know what it was like in the past days--I guess women didn't feel like they had voice enough to protest their husbands sexual escapades. But now that we've got stronger women PLUS accelerating technology, a hand must be raised.

And it's interesting that this "accelerated technology" is pretty much devoted to giving humans artificial experiences. I grew up in a time when the greatest advance in VR was A) that thing at the State Fair where you shoot dragons or your friend in Blockoland or B) Virtual Boy.

Right now, sex dolls are still tossed in the uncanny valley, but eventually, they will make a human-passable gynoid. Is a nearly human gynoid worse or better than watching a camgirl?

When I try and evaluate "am I masturbating or am I having an affair?" I think of it on a scale from 0 (monogamous, no fear of betrayal) to 10 (you've been unfaithful to me, I want a divorce). Here are some things that are going to have to be placed on that scale:
  • A full-size sex doll with no electronics or moving parts
  • A sex doll that can have a face projected onto it (any face you want)
  • A sex doll with moving parts and electronics (meant to be as close to a human as possible)
  • A non-humanoid robot that can give a handjob
  • Virtual reality porn
  • Virtual reality porn with a peripheral
  • Virtual reality porn with a haptic suit
  • A sex game on a Kinect (or perhaps virtual sex on the Kinect)
  • Attaching a fleshlight to an iPad.
  • Anything you can make with a 3-D printer
  • Interacting one-on-one with a camgirl (compare to getting a lap dance with a stripper)
  • Interacting one-on-one with someone on ChatRoulette
  • Using a remotely-operated sex toy (they've got everything from kissing simulators to virtual vajayjays).
  • Putting on Google Glasses and face-swapping your partner with someone else.

To me, none of these sound terribly appealing. Maybe the most likely one I'd get is something VR for the cell phone. Nothing too expensive. I've got kids, I've got to hide it, you know. I can't put on a haptic suit every time. But the thing about VR is it does feel a leetle beet too much like having sex with someone who's not my wife. Also, someone could walk in and I'd never know it.

For me personally, I think a big part comes from "is there a human on the other end or not"? Although this is not an end-all/be-all. Men can fall in love with a non-feeling object. We're living in a world where people marry their pillows, for God's sake.

Ultimately, it comes down to what's okay between you and your spouse. And these days that may not be so cut and dried. So that means some uncomfortable communications are going to have to occur, and it's better they occur sooner than later.

Monday, June 05, 2017

On the Origin of Supernatural Characters

So this is something I've been thinking about for quite some time, but my passion for finding an answer hasn't reached the level of putting down words until now.

So let's imagine you've got a horror movie. And your movie needs a scary killer. Something palpable and not en masse (not zombies or plague). Something like a big spider or a hillbilly cannibal or a pale kid ghost. Here's the question: do you give that bad guy an origin?

Here's why I ask. Is it scarier when you don't know where the bad guy came from? What his/her/its motivations are? What its nature is? Or is that just lazy writing? I've heard criticisms both ways. The first that explaining the bad guy makes him less scary. The second from critics, who say that because you don't know what it wants, it's not scary. You don't know where it came from or why it's there or the reasoning behind its strength and weaknesses. Why does Jason seem to be able to teleport? Why does Pennywise only appear every twenty-seven years? How did a white-boy criminal learn the voodoo to put his soul into a doll?

Or you could say that the lack of definition enhances the fear. The time when things are the scariest are when you don't know. You don't know if something's in the dark. You don't know why the devil inhabits this little girl. You don't know what the Blair Witch is. You don't know why the Babadook has a little book (why can he get published and not me?). You don't know why the It in "It Follows" is following you. Is it a gypsy curse? A confused ghost? Is the film itself just allegorical?

Let's look at some scary movies to see if we can find an answer. You can't count some franchises like Friday the 13th, Nightmare Before Christmas on Elm Street. I applaud these movies for keeping things as fresh as possible, especially Freddy. But you can't have this many sequels and not have backstory come out. To the point where it stops being horror and starts being action and/or science fiction (e.g. Resident Evil, Jason X).

"Dear! Are you going out in that?!"

I give Halloween a pass because A) it started the eighties horror rennaissance B) I consider only the first two part of the mythos. Number three had no Michael Myers. Four + Five + Six add some weird cult/curse/prophecy thing that was so tainted with studio interference and poor production that I can't bear to include it. Seven and Eight you could make an argument for, but they're essentially milking a dead cow for nostalgia. And the Rob Zombie movies are real reboots (and add way too much backstory).

Anyway, my point is that Halloween (I & II) do not explain where Michael Myers came from, why he kills, etc. All Dr. Loomis can say is that he's absolute evil (not very professional, but effective storytelling). He's like a force of nature. He's there, but you don't know why, and you don't know the reason for his mask, or why he wants to kill family. It launched an entire decade of genre so it should be effective.

Some others that are scary, but do a decent job of explaining the character's origin are The Exorcist, The Shining, The Ring, and Psycho. Yet, there is an element of the unexplainable in all these. Norman Bates's psychosis is abnormal, so as much as the psychiatrist bores us to death tries to explain, you still don't get the unnatural connection to Mother. Umbrella Corporation still seems to be in business after seven games and a thousand zombie outbreaks. Hasn't someone complained to the Better Business Bureau by now? Why does Samara care more about getting her tape out than avenging her death? How does a hotel go from Indian curse to directing a father to murder his family?

So then we have movies that have nil or just about nil story/background/characterization to the bad guy. The Babadook and It from "It Follows" have obvious allegorical meanings, but that's metaphysical. Where did they come from in the universe of the movie? Why does the Babadook look like Ryuk with a little hat and coat?

Is their ship name "Babaryuk"? Or "RyukDook"?

Why does the It from "It Follows" follow? If It from "It" follows "It Follows" and It from "It Follows" follows "It" then it follows It follows "It Follows" follows "It" following It from "It Follows" follows "It". I don't know what I just said. None of those words have any meaning anymore to me.

The Blair Witch has no identity or origin as the kids look for her. The fear comes from what they find during their journey into the woods. And the movie was criticized for this. For as scared as people were, there were as many that said "a pile of rocks and popsicle-stick men aren't scary". And if you didn't catch the blink-and-you'll-miss-it "standing in the corner" line from the beginning, the ending is lost on you. For them, the absence of meaning behind these actions was silly rather than scary.

In Jaws, there's no explanation why the shark has entered populated waters. It contradicts what's known about sharks. We know it's bigger than normal and it's behavior is aberrant. Why? No one knows. But this didn't change the fact that it was scary. What it could do was more important than why it did it.

Okay, lightning round now: Night of the Living Dead - no explanation for zombies (the "comet" line is pure conjecture). Paranormal Activity (the first one, see above explanation about franchises) - no explanation. Funny Games - no explanation for why the serial killer preppies are doing this (but then it gets negated by the metaphysical remote control interruption). Cloverfield (doing web searches for the ARG doesn't count). The Birds. Five Nights at Freddy's. Silent Hill.

And then a few that are on the fence: does Texas Chainsaw Massacre count? Do we need more backstory if it's based on a historical figure? Do we need to know what planet Xenomorphs originate from? Or how they survive with acid for blood and the evolutionary reasoning for two mouths? Does "Death" in Final Destination need something more or is that just torture porn anyway?

I think it's more important what the characters do than where they came from. If there's meanings in the actions of the bad guy, that makes not only an effective bad guy, but an effective movie. Random shit happening is just random shit. If you can't attach meaningfulness (and in horror movies, meaningfulness means threat or doom), then it's not scary.

The funny part is that "Cabin in the Woods" -- arguably the best horror movie in the past decade -- is nothing BUT explanation of the scary killer.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Disney Princes

This was inspired by Pocket Princesses, a fan comic by Amy Mebberson, which was an inspiration for "Reprise". Everyone makes a big deal out of the Disney Princesses, but where's the love for the princes? It's with the princesses. Duh. That's why they're together.


Well, I've got to have something to make blog posts from.

So these won't be as comprehensive or analytic. There also won't be as many of them since, while most Disney movies contain a villain, not all include a prince. Also, there's a big difference between "prince" and "male protagonist/deuteragonist", and that's key. Not all Disney princes are of royal lineage, but they have to be involved with the female protagonist. These are the movies that won't be covered.
  • Pinocchio
  • Fantasia or Fantasia 2000
  • Dumbo
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • 101 Dalmatians
  • The Jungle Book
  • The Aristocats
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • Robin Hood
  • The Rescuers
  • The Fox and the Hound
  • The Great Mouse Detective
  • Oliver and Company
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Dinosaur
  • The Emperor's New Groove
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  • Treasure Planet
  • Brother Bear
  • Home on the Range
  • Chicken Little
  • Meet the Robinsons
  • Bolt
  • Brave
  • Wreck-It Ralph
  • Big Hero 6
  • Zootopia
  • Moana
You got a problem with any of these decisions, cash me outside. How bou dah?

Princes will be judged subjectively on the following material:
  • First Impression
  • Appearance
  • Intelligence
  • Job/Source of Income
  • Sense of humor
  • Critical fault
  • Quality of sidekick
  • Relatability
  • Talent
  • Does he have a name?

Check for updates to see who's the first to take the stage.