NEWS: I know, I've been gone a long time. Shut up. :P

Saturday, March 12, 2016

"Nighthawks" As I See It

This is Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Its easily one of the most recognized American works of art from the last century. Hopper, who had simple works dating back to 1906-07, has less than 10 released works of art on display. Nighthawks currently resides at The Art Institute of Chicago and was sold to be displayed there in 1942, the same year the painting was completed, for only $3000.1 Its recognizable for how serene it is, the simplistic nature of the colors, the timeless surrounding of the buildings and the fact that people will always be there.
It shows four people: three men and one woman, at a late night diner in, what Edward Hopper called, "a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet."2 They are nameless. The man and woman may not be married, they may be strangers. The lone man to the left might be an insurance salesman. The soda jerk (if you view a larger image) looks to be just as old as the man and woman. They're not the whole story of the painting. The moment is the story.

The simplicity of the moment: no cars, no entrance to the diner, no neon signs, no one outside hurrying along the sidewalk makes it a serene scene that we can relate to: when all the noise dies down we are left alone with our thoughts, or in the case of the man and woman, someone close. If the diner had existed, it would be a popular tourist attraction. There would be little peace in all the posing and camera works. It would have been diluted among the (I hate to use this word) ignorance of today.

And yet its not without homage and parody. The timelessness has caused it to be crossed with one form of entertainment after another: parodies from That 70s Show, The Simpsons, and of course the many unofficial fan-made digital manipulations all stem from the timelessness of it. The buildings will last, the people will come and go, the sun will rise and people will begin to stir, but eventually it will come back to this calm moment in time.

Despite all that blathering, what Nighthawks means to me is this: 
I love this painting because I'm all too familiar with a real life form of it: in the last 10 years I've maybe fallen asleep before midnight less than 50 times, even on nights when I had to work the next morning. A late night of sitting in the glow of a TV or computer screen working on a review or mostly playing video games. A fast food job where the outside world was dark, slow, and only busy on weekends. A night spent talking with friends until the sun came up. Eating a late dinner with family at a restaurant. Its these calm moments I treasure amid the chaos of the day.
Even as I look at it, I know someone else out there can see it, relate to it, and appreciate it in ways that I don't even comprehend. But I'm not an art major, so I have no idea what I'm talking about. We all need to appreciate at least one work of art in our lives, and this is mine.

Friday, September 11, 2015

14 years ago....

And a little bit more....

In 1999, when the craze behind Y2K was just beginning, things were awesome, man.
We had an abundance of talented musical artists. We had news anchors we could trust. We had new and aspiring companies to believe in. CGI movies were taking us places we'd never been before. For those who had the internet, they could find a site and a community to belong to.
The idea of a new millennium was coming and we were all full of hope. A shining future where the only major arguments were about who was better: Backstreet Boys or N*Sync? It was going to be as bright as the music videos and flashy as the clothes the California cool kids were wearing.
Then 2000 came. The Y2K bug was nothing more than a few glitched computers that were quickly updated. The supermarket tabloids that claimed the end of the world was coming suddenly had to backtrack (and now those same tabloids are nothing more than celebrity lies and rumors). People's major complaints were about President Bush, Firestone tires exploding, and who Jennifer Lopez was dating that month. It carried on for a long while and things seemed to be okay. These phases were going to pass just like all the others.

Then it happened. September 11, 2001.
I was in my 2nd or 3rd period class, auto tech, when rumors were going around so much so that my teacher had the TV on so we could see the news. 

I saw the second plane hit.
I saw both towers fall.
Not the replays. In real time. I can't get them out of my head.
I remember the principal asking us to remain in our classrooms.
I remember him making an announcement later that day but I don't remember what was said. 
I remember thinking "this is the end of our shiny new future."

We tried to continue on with life as normal. School wasn't canceled for us but a lot less students showed up the next day. A few months later we had a new student arrive. A kid from New York. He said his school was close enough on the mainland that he could see the smoke rising in the sky.
It taught us Americans the importance of togetherness, not just with each other but with the people of the world. We came together to help each other, to get through a terrible tragedy, a black mark on the calendars of history. I can only imagine that after this next generation of kids is gone they won't believe the stories we tell them, much like it was for those who fought in the Gulf Wars, Vietnam, World War II, etc. Stories that fade because of a lack of interest and attention.

When people say that only 90s kids remember the 90s, I think that's true. But I think we remember being full of hope. The future was ours and we had limitless potential. We could grab life by the balls and be who we wanted to be.

9/11 only brought us closer together as a nation for a little while, but now we've forgotten how to love. People want to blame others for their own harshness without taking responsibility for their own actions. People are looking to be offended. They're looking for someone to hate.
I go through each day feeling as though I'm being judged by everyone who walks by simply because I exist. I feel like I'm being told that I have to be a certain someone. I keep wondering if the next customer I encounter and make angry over the price of food will unleash a gun and end me because they forgot to take their meds that day.
I can't claim to be a Christian anymore because it will offend someone. I'm not allowed to mention my faith anymore or tell someone to have a blessed day because I'll be fired and wind up on the chopping block because someone think I shouldn't have any faith at all.
I can't hold an intelligent conversation with an 18-year old co-worker because they're either too hyper, too cynical, or they think they already know everything. We live in the era of smart phones and stupid people. I also can't hold a conversation with the old co-workers either because they treat me as though I know nothing. 

The world has changed and it hasn't been for the better. It makes my head spin, my heart hurt, and my soul feel burdened. The bright shining future that the 90s whispered in our ears has been gagged by people who think the 90s were lying, only to whisper other lies in our ears. I can't describe it in a more poetic way because I'm being told not to talk about it by the same people. It could be a trigger for some and I have to be sensitive to everyone else.

I'm kind to people. I asked a man with a flat tire earlier today if I could help him. He needed a jack and the one in my car wasn't big enough. I bought a customer's groceries when her food stamp card was being declined. People give me tips and I use that money to help people when they're short on change. I stayed 45 minutes after I was supposed to clock out to help a blind customer around the store. 
Admittedly these are only things that have happened at my job but if they can make someone's day or life a little easier, why can't we all do that? Why do we have to listen to these people that say we should voice our discontent if we feel the slightest bit awkward? Why do we have to believe doctors who say one thing when 15 years ago other doctors were saying the complete opposite? Why are we being told by a few people that we should fear the police and hate our soldiers?

I wrote, cut, pasted, and saved away a whole paragraph I was going to write but the topic isn't appropriate to what I'm saying here. If this new world beyond 9/11 and the new millennium want us to be harsh because they say we have to be, then I say no.
Be kind.
Regardless of your religion or beliefs, if you can help out a fellow human, do it.

Don't let people tell you that being kind is wrong.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Movie review: CHAPPiE

I recently had the chance to rent this from RedBox, and unfortunately it was a waste of time and money. I wrote this review first over at Favslist and decided I might as well post it here because this blog has been left to the dust. Btw, spoilers ahead.
As for my other blog, I've ended it. I may write a book, album, or movie review here but I don't have any plans to put a lot of effort into this blog.

Blomkamp seems really hellbent on letting the world know that Johannesburg, South Africa, is one of the worst places to live. Not only was it mentioned as a bad place in District 9, here he goes so far as to say that not even the police can handle being there and they need robots to fight crime for them. When watching it you first get a sense of it being like Short Circuit, a robot gaining self-awareness and this is his journey. Nope. More than halfway through you get another sense of this being about self-preservation, "what is a robot to do when faced with its own mortality?" Nope. And then by the third act its an action movie and you're so damn tired of Die Antwoord's horrible acting you may just cheer when they finally bite the dust. The ending is the ultimate letdown when you realize that its recycled from District 9.
Chappie doesn't grow as a character because he's not allowed to grow, Blomkamp as the writer didn't want him to grow, his potentials for learning and comprehension are only mentioned in passing. He's not allowed to think for himself even after gaining access to the internet, which could open up several thousand new cans of worms. He learns, for sure, but its about how to be angry. Any attempt on playing on the emotions of the audience are interrupted when Ninja opens his mouth (you may need to watch this one with subtitles just to understand him) and spouts about how he wants a murdering robot. Whereas Ex Machina was about a robot wanting to be human, Chappie is only given the opportunity to ask about his existence only to have it shrugged off. He's just a robot and the film does everything in its power to remind you that that is all he will ever be.
The action sequences are one of the few cinematic saving graces with great direction, clear visuals, and nice CGI. The designs of Chappie and the Moose are decent but awfully barebones in detail. There's not much science in describing how they work. Most of the movie seems to take place in Die Antwoord's hideout and almost feels like the office scene was rented for three days so they had to shoot quickly. That's enough of that, back to the abandoned factory!
During the last action sequence, when the gang's third wheel gunman meets his demise at the hands of the Moose, you don't feel for his character AT ALL. At one point he mentions "I can go back home now!" He means to Mexico. Does he have a wife and kids? Did he get mixed up in all this and get deported? Oh I'm sorry now he's a splatter on the wall. Thanks for watching. Die Antwoord's reason for being criminals, "because we're bad guys, and bad guys are criminals, and criminals steal stuff." A background motive would have been greatly appreciated. What's even worse than Die Antwoord being criminals is that they owe money to someone else who is an even worse character. "I want everything" is his motive and you feel no justice when he meets the business end of a shovel. Yes, a shovel. A nice analogy that even though this movie is about high concept technology its very savage and simple in its execution.
Like an unknown boy band playing a state fair in the late 90s, Chappie has the potential to make you take notice of what its doing but its ultimately ignored in favor of others that have gone before and have done so much better. Chappie is Crappie.