Never Going to Watch HBO’s The Leftovers.

In The Leftovers, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta and developed by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) a mysterious, a event has occurred making 2% of the world’s population disappear. Both the Perrotta and Lindelof have said here and here have said it isn’t about the mystery but about how the characters react and change to it.

That’s well and good but it isn’t the kind of storytelling for me. I need both, character development and answers to the mystery. The whole point of even having a mystery in a story is to eventually answer it. What Lindelof loves doing instead is using the mystery in order to explore his pseudo philosophy about the meaning of life, a mystery that he cannot answer. I already have a story like that, we all do, it’s called life and I am not looking for the ambiguity of life in the stories I consume. The problem I have with his style of writing is either he doesn’t answer the question or the answers he provides are so anti-climactic (Lost & Prometheus) that I am left feeling like I wasted my time. The fear of their time being wasted, in my personal opinion, is why people hate spoilers. When you spoil a story for someone you’ve essentially taken the joy of discovery away from them thus watching, reading, listening to it is now a waste of time. With Lindelof everything I have watched by him makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time because his character development doesn’t connect with me, his protagonist often coming off unlikable, ineffectual and his answers are either not there or disappointing.

Modern mystery and thriller novels have the opposite problem. All the stories has is answers, answers I’ve usually figured out early into the book. Without the character development in their protagonist the journey to the answers I already guessed isn’t very interesting to me.

Plus, what I don’t understand is what does that character development even mean if there is no resolution or a poor one? What makes it matter? That’s not what interests Lindelof as a writer. So I am not interested in his writing and I am not going to waste my time with The Leftovers.

Resisting Reading.

I haven’t always been an avid reader. I have always had great reading skills but reading books for leisure was something I resisted up until I went to college.

I was often bullied, made fun of and nicknamed from elementary school until the end of junior high school. Nerd & Geek culture wasn’t like it is now. If you were different, you were bullied and you couldn’t be more different if you did anything that fell into that kind of nerdy category like reading for fun. That was something losers did, losers who tried to be smart and being smart meant you were an outsider. It wasn’t cool and it wasn’t what being a man meant. This is, of course, the opinion of the 6 to 12-year-olds who bullied me and even amongst some of my peers. I honestly don’t remember people who were good at math getting the same chagin and those who read books for fun. It was either sports, video games, professional wrestling or cool action movies. Never books.

It’s not as if my parents didn’t try. They read to me as a smaller child and every time they went to the library they would ask me if I wanted anything. “No,” I would say and play through Super Mario World for the 50th time. When a Border opened up for the first time near our house, I believe around when I was 12ish, is when my parents got me to read some books. It wasn’t many though. In fact, it was a series by Bruce Coville that started with Aliens Ate My Homework. 

I can think of so many times I was bored in the library, walking up and down the aisles. I wonder how many times I passed J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, or Douglas Adams walking those aisles. Instead of reading it I would wait for the library to get the latest copy of Nintendo Power. That’s how I discovered the Nintendo 64, through the library’s copies of that magazine.

The dilemma I faced though was that I wanted to be a writer. It’s hard to be a writer if you’re so resistant to liking books. If you look at my 6th grade yearbook, when they ask what you wanted to do when you grow up I wrote movie script writer instead of writer or novelist because writing wasn’t cool but movies were.

Then when I met who would become my best friend from 8th grade to 12th and he introduced me to hip-hop I suddenly had a new world to explore that I never had before. In my mind, writing other genres of music was about playing instruments first and lyrics second. With hip-hop, it was mostly about the words and the rhythm of words. When he would ask me to join his rap group, I suddenly had an outlet for my writing. I wasn’t very good at the performing part but I love writing lyrics. So many marble notebooks just filled with lyrics and song ideas.

I was always good at reading though. When Shakespeare was taught in class I had no struggle with the language. Spelling and vocabulary tests were what I lived for. When my 10th grade English teacher showed us Finding Forrester I immediately connected with it.

Then we had a major falling out and I was left without my main group of friends. Suddenly I hated writing, very resistant of it. I associated writing with that friendship and I had no desire to do it anymore. Without music or writing I had to think of what I was like before I met my highschool group of friends. Besides video games I would read comic books. My dad would bring home bundles of Spider-Man, Green Lantern and The Simpsons comic books for me to read. I remember this shop my mom used to hate bringing me to because the parking lot was so bad and immediately looked it up. There, I saw Green Lantern Rebirth #3 and asked the clerk about it. He found me copies of the first and second issue and that’s where my comic book habit started and my love for reading began to grow strong again.

It was when I went to a Barnes & Noble for the first time that I started transitioning from comic books to books. It all began with this beautiful leather bound copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy then at Christmas I got an equally beautiful copy of The Lord of the Rings. It’s been all about books since then.

Paper People.

“It’s not real. And beyond that, when you’re dealing with characters, they exist on paper. They’re real in that context. I always say they’re much more real than we are because they have much longer lives and more people know about them. But we get people reading superhero comics and going, ‘How does that power work? And why does Scott Summers shoot those beams? And what’s the size of that?’ It’s not real! There is no science. The science is the science of ‘Anything can happen in fiction and paper’ and we can do anything.
“We’ve already got the real world. Why would you want fiction to be like the real world? Fiction can do anything, so why do people always want to say, ‘Let’s ground this’ or ‘Let’s make this realistic.’ You can’t make it realistic because it’s not. So basically Batman is 75 years old, and Robin is 74 years old. They don’t grow old because they’re different from us. They’re paper people.” – Grant Morrison

The Appeal of Pete Holmes’ Podcast: You Made It Weird.

I love podcasts, to a ridiculous level now. I listen to podcasts more than I do music and more than I watch television or movies. Think of it as talk radio but without the limitations of, well anything. Anything can be a podcast, and anything is a podcast.

One particular podcasts though that I’ve stuck with since it started was by stand-up comedian Pete Holmes, former host of the Pete Holmes Show that ran earlier this year. Beginning in 2011 with the running theme of talking about comedy, sex, and religion. At the beginning, when Pete is learning how to host a podcast this theme is strictly enforced but when it fades into just being the underlying themes of the show is when it really takes off while the length of the podcast starts to get longer.

It is essentially WTF with Marc Maron if it was hosted by Pete Holmes, but the host is what makes the difference. I’m not going to compare the two but Maron’s podcasts tend to delve into what has happened in the guests’ life while Pete’s podcast explores what the guest thinks about life.

It appeals to my brain on a couple levels, all having to do with curiosity. After writers, comedians tend to be the group that hold in the highest regard followed by musicians. So on Pete’s podcast I get a peek behind the curtain. I get to hear comedians not only talk about their own personal beliefs about comedy but about their lives. These are people I admire for their ability to make me laugh opening up about the screwed up childhoods, families, and experiences they had or their individual philosophies on what the meaning of all this is.

I don’t know what your perception is of comedians but if it is shallow in anyway I highly recommend giving any comedic podcast a chance, not just You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes because, and T.J. Miller put in nicely on a recent episode, the last generation of comedians such as George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks were activists on stage while the newer generation rising in fame in the 21st Century have become the philosophers. You’d be surprised at the depth these people get into, which I imagine comes from having to think about life in order to find what is funny about it.

On top of that it scratches that curiosity that comes from our culture of celebrity. These are people I admire, so in a sense they’re my celebrities. Therefore on Pete’s podcast I get the celebrity gossip of straight from the source. Some people read gossip magazines or websites but I get mine out of their mouths on podcast.

Another part, and I have this experience with writers as well, I get to learn about the process. Stand-up comedians are essentially a kind of writer, aurator, performer combination and just like writers, comedians tend to have narcissistic tendencies so of course they want to talk about the career they are passionate about. From Pete’s podcast you learn the jargon, you learn how comedians develop, how they develop differently, how they write jokes and what it’s like behind the stage. I didn’t know what barking was before listening to his podcast, nor did I know there was a difference between the comedy scene in Boston, New York and L.A. I learned which clubs, theaters and places are great to perform at in a certain city and state and how the comedy boom began, ended and how the alternative comedy scene rose to compete with the club scene.

The best part though is just how funny comedians are being themselves, not their ego version of themselves that perform on stage. When you listen to You Made It Weird it is like being in on the inside jokes, and you get to hear material before it’s material, when it’s just something they thought and decided to say. Then what happens is you hear about a stand-up you’ve never heard before become humanize and you say to yourself Oh, they have an special or an album out? I’ll check that out. 

Pete Holmes stand-up comedy is fantastic, real great comedian. His talk show, now cancelled, was a sort of filter version of his podcast plus his stand-up. His podcast though? It’s an exploration of comedy on a depth that I explore stories in college as an English major. That’s why I love it and I highly recommend anyone giving it a chance.

You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes on Nerdist.com

His podcast in Itunes: Subscribe here.

A Word on the Desolation of Smaug – Extended Edition Trailer

The blu-ray for the extended edition of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug comes out November 4th in the United States. My copy will hopefully arrive that day but in the meantime here’s a trailer that offer two major bits that got axed from the theatrical edition.

First of all, though he looks a little tall to me in the trailer, that is Thráin, Thorin’s father, confronting Gandalf in Dol Goldur and shouting that Thorin must never enter Erebor. Finally, after getting a name drop in the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey perhaps what has happened to the last dwarven ring of power will be explained. Also, with the jumbling of time Jackson has done I can’t wait to see how he explains Gandalf getting the key and map from Thorin’s father before they’ve actually met in Dol Goldur, that being originally how he got it in the books.

Second, there’s Beorn, barely even in the theatrical release it seem, and this is just my guess, most of what was cut from the film involves Beorn. Before the release of the film there was talks of Beorn hunting down orcs at night to corroborate Thorin and Gandalf’s story. The other part seen in this trailer involving Beorn is in his garden with him chopping wood, possibly for a scene of exposition between Gandalf and Beorn or perhaps the introduction of the dwarves and the telling of what has happened to them so far just as in the books. Also, it looks like a scene in the forest involving Beorn and Gandalf is included as well. It could be possible that Beorn escorts Gandalf part of the way to Dol Goldur considering that the wizard has one of his horses.

Also in the trailer, besides reiterating what was in the theatrical release are scenes involving a conversation between Thorin and Bilbo upon arriving in Laketown and one between the Master of Laketown and Alfred of what Thorin’s quest means to him.

Not included in the trailer but released earlier this summer is extended Mirkwood scene mirroring the one in the book where they have to cross the river and poor Bombur falls into the enchanted water and the company is forced to carry him. You can see most of that scene here:

In interview, Richard Armitage mentions Bilbo and Thorin seeing the white stag, just like in the books, but this stag is projection of Thranduil into the forest. Thorin will try to kill it of course, because dwarf king no like elf king.

It’ll be interesting to see what else was cut that are scenes from the book and what Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh made up for their version of The Hobbit.

Pizza & Steak – A Childhood of Picky Eating

Recently, in order to lose some weight and generally be more healthy, I’ve been using MyFitnessPal to count my calories. Seeing my eating habits just reminds me of how badly my eating habits were before my twenties. Bad eating habits isn’t the right word, it is more like from birth to twenty I refused to try new food. Each decade my palate has expanded twice as much as the previous decade.

As a child, I ate practically nothing. As far as regular meals went pizza and steak weren’t just my favorite meals it was practically the only thing I would eat. I hated sandwiches, everything about them including the cold cuts, the bread and anything that went else with them. I would eat muffins as my main meal, except on Friday when Pizza was served in the cafeteria. I’d save my change until I had eighty cents, enough to get two bags of Cheddar Fries that week.

I feel bad about it. It would of been much easier on my parents if I had just tried more food. My dad used to have to go to Sal Anthony’s Pizza shop next to the chinese food place because I wouldn’t try any of it. When we bought bagels after church on Sundays, the only bagel I would eat was a salt bagel with nothing on it. Yeah, I just wrote that and it sound crazy to me now. It took forever for my brain to make the connection that the bagels my mother was making pizza bagels on tasted so good because they were everything bagels.

I obviously loved fast food, but not burgers. This isn’t burgers fault but rather just due to the circumstances of my family. Burgers at home were burnt and stiff like hockey pucks. This isn’t because my parents didn’t know how to cook burgers but because we were doing really bad financially. It was cooked so much because it was really cheap meat and they, being my parents, were protecting me from getting sick from cheap meat. I, being a child. thought that is just what all burgers tasted like. Here’s how long I went on thinking burgers tasted like that. It wasn’t until 2008 after I saw the How I Met Your Mother episode “The Best Burger in New York” that I tried burgers again. Spoiler alert: I really love burgers now.

One time on Christmas my aunt tricked me into eating the Christmas ham. I don’t know why I fell for it but she told me it was turkey or chicken, which one I am not sure. Of course I liked it because ham is delicious but obviously it was hilarious for them because they tricked me into eating something I normally would not have eaten.

Here’s some other crazy oh-man-I-can’t-believe-I’m-just-trying-this-now moments. It wasn’t until sixteen that I tried a bagel with cream cheese, bacon, and eggs. Technically, thanks to my former best friend’s dad on New Year’s Eve, I tried liquor before I tried those foods. It blows my mind now and I can remember distinctly when I had them. I had the bagel with cream cheese when a friend of mine in a class wasn’t hungry enough to eat her whole bagel so she offered me half. I didn’t want to be rude and was pretty hungry so I tried it. Delicious. I used to stay over my best friend’s house all the time so one morning his mom was making breakfast, a big ol’ plate of bacon. Not wanting to be rude, I tried it. Oh man, so great. The eggs, similar situation, I went camping with the same family in Smith’s Point and for breakfast his parents made scrambled eggs with bacon which I had never tried before. My thought process was since I liked bacon I’ll probably like eggs as well. Boom, egg lover for life. Same best friend, had a girlfriend whose dad loved to cook ribs. He was kind of pushy at a barbeque for everyone to try them. I’m noticing a theme of trying new phone in order to not be rude as a teenager. Anyway, ribs, yum. Obviously, having newly acquired a love of cream cheese on bagels at sixteen I also gained a love for cheese cake.

My twenties has just been an explosion of trying new food. Working in a deli department I have tried so many different meats and cheeses I had never tried as a kid or a teenager. I probably didn’t try strawberries until I was 21. It wasn’t until my friends brought me to Chipotle in I want to say 2011 that I had a burrito for the first time. It wasn’t until 2012 that I tried Taco Bell, having constantly being told it was grade F horse meat as a kid from my mother. This year I actively chose to try as many new foods as possible. I tried sushi, tomatoes on burgers and sandwiches (which was one of the rare foods I actively hated, not just refused to try), salsa, different salads with mayo (still don’t like it), gyros, Spanish food (Spain Spanish), and Thai food.

Looking back I can’t believe the food I refused to eat. Not because of the taste but because of how they looked, their texture, their smell or bad experience I had with them. It wasn’t until my twenties that I learned to get over my preconceived notions of food and just try it. You could probably apply that to life, just try it.

I Wish I had Chrono Trigger as a kid.

Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite SNES games, but also one I never actually played on Super Nintendo. To my great shame I didn’t discover it until they remade it for the Nintendo DS.

When I did finally play all I kept thinking was I wish I had this game as a kid. It would of been up there with Super Mario World, Kirby Superstar, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country as one of those games I would replay again and again. Now as an adult I don’t have the same kind of free time as I did as a child.

So many elements of this game would of hit my sweet spots when O was young. Great music (which I now realize Super Mario RPG borrowed heavily from), an epic story, time travel, science fiction, robots, talking animals, legendary swords, multiple endings, silly humor, and a straight forward turn based RPG system.

Ob well, I’ll just have to find the time.

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