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RE: Ray Bradbury

It's his birthday today, and I read this quote from Fahrenheit 451 and decided I'd post it here:

“And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands? He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.” (Source here; the other quotes listed are, of course, also awesome)

It reminds me of other people, too, as I'm sure it will--inevitably, but with a warm kind of sadness--remind you.

Hope all is well with all of you.

RIP Richard Matheson (1926 - 2013)

I'll try to refrain from any "he was legend" stuff in this post, despite the fact that, well...he was.

I was introduced to Richard Matheson's work, as I imagine many people were, through The Twilight Zone. At first I was drawn to the "twist" endings--a staple of the Zone that Matheson used effectively in episodes like "The Invaders" and "Third From The Sun"--and the often bizarre stories that made my teenage mind hum with possibilities. Literally anything could happen on that show and often did.

As I got older, it was the inherent humanity in Matheson's work and his ability to turn the mundane into the macabre that made me want to read (and watch) more and more of it. I rooted for the over-the-hill and down-on-his-luck boxer who got one last shot at glory in "Steel." I sympathized with Tom Wallace (Witzky in the film version), whose ordinary life was turned upside-down by his careless meddling with forces beyond his control in A Stir of Echoes. I slept with the lights on when Robert Neville realized his watch was broken and the sun was going down in I Am Legend. Who wouldn't be afraid to fly after "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet?" And whose heart wouldn't swell upon finding hope and the universe within the human soul as Scott Carey does in The Shrinking Man:

"To a man, zero inches meant nothing. Zero meant nothing. But to nature there was no zero. Existence went on in endless cycles. It seemed so simple now. He would never disappear, because there was no point of non-existence in the universe."

I think that's all there is to say.

Cloud Atlas (No Spoilers)

In keeping with my recent trend of only posting here when I see a movie that affects me, I saw Cloud Atlas last night and really enjoyed it. I read the book a couple of years ago and thought it was a really amazing piece of work. The movie does a great job of highlighting the themes from the book without changing much from the text (if my memory is correct, which is debatable) aside from eliminating a character or two and revising some of the plot to unify the themes the filmmakers wanted to emphasize. My only real criticisms are that the transitions between stories can sometimes be jarring as the movie jumps back and forth throughout the timeline and the makeup effects are distracting. In fact, I can't decide whether the makeup is really good or really bad. On the one hand, the actors are playing people of different races and genders, so it's not exactly fair to ask for the moon. On the other hand, it's pretty obvious who is playing each part in each story, so does that mean that the makeup is shite, or was that the intent all along?

Either way, I recommend watching this movie if you--like me--think that Hollywood doesn't take enough risks and fund interesting movies with something to say. Cloud Atlas cost over $100 million and made back less than 10% of its budget this weekend. It's not going to be a mega-hit (and an endorsement in this blog isn't going to help that one way or the other--don't think I'm deluding myself), but if it flops completely, it will be a long time before a studio kicks any money towards a project like it again (according to Wikipedia, Cloud Atlas is technically an independent film though Warner Bros. did pay $15 million for the North American rights). Cloud Atlas is nothing if not art that is risky, provocative, and powerful; but it demands an investment from its audience (and I mean that literally--this movie needs your money--and figuratively).

Hope you're all doing well.
First, it's time to talk about guns, America. If now isn't the time, when will it be time? We don't have to shout or make rash decisions or place blame; we'll just talk like rational adults (I really believe we can do that if we try). Listen, I like guns. I own guns. Sometimes, I carry a gun. I do not want to give up my guns. However, I think we should at least consider that maybe there should be some tighter requirements upon who gets to own and carry guns. I know, there's a whole Constitutional amendment that governs this, but at the end of the day, it's a piece of paper and we can change it (if need be) or at least rethink it to allow for some contingencies. That's all I'll say about that (and I'm thankful that I don't have more traffic to this journal because there could be some hate coming my way).

Cut to:  I saw The Dark Knight Rises on Sunday and I liked it a lot better than I thought I would. Don't worry, I won't be spoiling anything except to say that Tom Hardy is great as Bane (I really thought this would be a disappointment after Heath Ledger's turn as The Joker, but Tom Hardy's Bane is a worthy successor), Anne Hathaway is great as Catwoman, and Christian Bale is great as Bruce Wayne (though he could still use a lozenge during the Batman sequences). Christopher Nolan succeeded admirably in making a comic book trilogy that was intelligent, realistic (as realistic as a film about a billionaire in a bat costume can be, anyway), dramatic, and still fun.

While I'm on the subject of movies, the trailer for Cloud Atlas has finally been released. I read the book a couple of years ago and thought it was incredible in its scale but still simply, beautifully human in its capacity to be touching and tender. The trailer (available from Apple here) looks like the filmmakers (Tom Tykwer and The Wachowskis) may have really captured the spirit of the novel and I can't wait to see it. There is also an intro video for the trailer which features (to my knowledge) Lana Wachowski's (formerly Larry Wachowski) first public appearance, so congratulations to her. I hope this raises tolerance and acceptance for transsexual/transgender individuals. However, I also hope that it doesn't overshadow the film and become a huge issue because it's ultimately nobody's business but Lana's. I hope that last bit doesn't read like I'm saying that the movie is more important than acceptance for transsexual/transgender individuals--it most definitely is not--but it's 5 AM and I'm ready for sleep, and I may not be communicating very well.

On a related note, I will not be eating at Chick-fil-A anymore.

Prometheus

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD (Not that anyone reads this stuff, anyway) YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*

Finally got around to seeing Prometheus yesterday evening. I had been very excited for the movie (something that hasn't happened in a while), but I couldn't get anything solidified with friends to actually go before then. I wasn't disappointed exactly, but the movie was definitely not what I expected.

Except that isn't right, either.

Where to begin? I knew the movie wasn't going to be a direct tie-in to Alien and I was fine with that. I really loved the visual and atmospheric bits that seemed pulled from the 1979 original. And, honestly, the visual scope of the entire film is one of its greatest strengths in my opinion. Additionally, I knew that the film had some philosophical (and pseudo-scientific/Chariots of the Gods) elements to it, and I was fine with that, too. I eat that stuff up with a spoon in each fist, even when I think it's hokum.

But I felt like the writing fell flat and it wasn't because the film opts to raise questions without providing concrete answers. I love abstract science fiction like 2001:  A Space Odyssey, The Fountain, and Solaris. Those movies (and others like them) resonate with me precisely because I can't explain every detail of them, but I think of them often and I remember the sense of wonder they left me with upon my first viewing of them--a sense of wonder that, in the best of cases, does not diminish, but may even grow with repeat viewings. And Prometheus may well fall into that category; I do want to watch the film again because I feel that the script deals with evocative concepts and there is quite a bit to take in. However, Prometheus fell short for me in the character department. We are told that the ship has a crew of 17, but only a small handful of the characters are even remotely memorable, and those few have vague motivations and often do inexplicably stupid things in spite of their scientific backgrounds. Why weren't the crew introduced to one another and exposed to hibernation sleep before setting off on a trillion dollar discovery mission? Why are they taking their masks off in the alien atmosphere (even if they know they can breathe the air, who knows what kind of potentially deadly microbes live on this planet)? Why is the biologist talking to the alien life form like it's a puppy when it clearly is not? How did the two scientists who go all knock-kneed at the sight of an alien corpse ever get picked for this mission? Why would they let the crew back on the ship when one of them has obviously been contaminated by a pathogen of unknown origin and biology (and because of the aforementioned mask removal, it's safe to assume that the rest of the away team could also be infected)? And on and on until the only real question is, why don't these people do the only sensible thing and run screaming from this planet? I hesitate to use the phrase "idiot plot," but I don't feel it's entirely unfair. And, to be clear, my disappointment with the characters has nothing to do with the actors, who I felt were outstanding (especially Michael Fassbender as David, the ship's android).

I know this "review" is lacking and poorly written. In fact, I don't mean this as a review. If anything, it's a testament to the fact that I really wanted to be blown away by this movie, but felt underwhelmed by the actions of the characters to the point that I was underwhelmed by the movie as a whole and felt a need to vent about it here. Apparently, there was a good deal of footage that wound up on the cutting room floor and I'd like to see it restored (provided that it is useful footage and wasn't cut for some reason other than running time). In the end, I feel like there is an epic scale to Prometheus that the script--despite raising some interesting questions--doesn't quite live up to.

RIP Ray Bradbury (1920 - 2012)

"I SING the Body electric;
The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves;
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do as much as the Soul?
And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?"

--Walt Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric" from Leaves of Grass

"It was a pleasure to burn."

--Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

It was a pleasure...have a good journey, friend.

RIP Davy Jones (1945 - 2012)

You were my fave...you'll be missed. Here's to you and yours.

RIP Christopher Hitchens (1949 - 2011)

I've just heard that Christopher Hitchens died on December 15. I always seem to miss the important ones.

I didn't always agree with what Mr. Hitchens said (and I freely admit to not having read his books), but I always admired his passion and the fact that he seemed to arrive at his opinions intelligently. And he struck me as one of the great literary drinkers, so I had a hard time not liking him at least a little.

When I drink my bourbon on New Year's Eve, I'll raise my glass to his memory--whether or not he will ever know.

RIP Joe Frazier (1944 - 2011)

Joe Frazier died of liver cancer on Monday. He did great things in and out of the ring, including winning Olympic gold in 1964 and petitioning Richard Nixon to allow Muhammad Ali to continue boxing after Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam war. He was a legend who will be sorely missed.

Trying to Work

So, I'm trying to finish my case study for Tuesday night (It's about Google's strategy--which seems to be world domination--if you're wondering), but I can't stop listening to this:

Mustang Ranch by Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

May it infect your brain (and your hips), too.