Friday, April 25, 2014

The Walking Dead

I've known about 'The Walking Dead' since the comic came out in 2003.

One thing I hated about it was the title. It seemed so on the nose.

A zombie story called 'The Walking Dead?' That's like calling 'Ocean's Eleven' 'George Clooney, Matt Damon & a Bunch of Other Famous People Rob A Casino.'

The other day somebody else mentioned something on a movie forum that blew my mind.

Oh, they said. That's cute.

You thought when they called the show 'The Walking Dead,' they were talking about the ZOMBIES?

Mind blown.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Take A Look At The Bad Guy

There's a secret to a good villain, and it might not be what you think.

When we think of iconic villains, we tend to think of the cool ones: Boba Fett. Michael Meyers. Tywin Lannister.

But in many ways, cool villains are not villains at all.

In one sense, they are failures as bad guys.

Because the secret to a great bad guy isn't that he is bad.

The secret to a great bad guy is that he makes you want to see the good guy win.

A great villain is not the bad guy you love to hate. He's not funny or cool. He (or she) is profoundly unlikable. He is the bad guy you want to see fail.

Boba Fett is a great character, but he's not a great villain because he is cooler that most of the good guys he faces. We end up cheering for him.

Not only that, he's tough and competent and single-minded and courageous and professional. How can you complain about that? You can be opposed to him, but you can't really dislike him.

That's why I think LeBron James is a great real-life villain.

He's not just a great player. He's also a great player that is easy to dislike. There was the controversy over "The Decision," an hour of television where he picked the team he was going to go to when his contract ended. There was his behaviour during the 2011 finals when he and Wade mocked Dirk Nowitiski's cold as well as his speech to the haters about them 'having to go back to their lives.' There was his tendency to disappear or shrink from the moment during crunch time in close playoff series.

All of that makes it easy to see LeBron as a man who is spoiled, arrogant, and entitled. And since most of this behaviour happened before he won a championship, it was easy to see him as someone who hadn't earned the right to be arrogant, especially given his tendency to disappear in close games.

We could see him as a choker, which made him even easier to dislike.

In short, he could be profoundly unlikable.

But being a villain is about more than that, and LeBron took things one step further.

When people talk about LeBron James' basketball greatness, they sometimes point to the way he
 makes his teammates better. But I've noticed something else about LeBron.

He also seems to make his OPPONENTS better (*).

You couldn't say that about Michael Jordan. When Jordan's Bulls were done with them, Barkley was a guy who wasn't quite good enough and Malone was a choker.

But LeBron's opponents?

Until 2013's conference finals, I couldn't name a single Indiana Pacer. I thought of them as the Trailblazers East.

The year before, he made the Celtics, who had been written off as washed-up seem a title threat and nearly made a star out of Rajon Rondo.

Last year's Spurs looked more like a championship team than ANY of the Spurs teams that actually won the title.

And two years earlier, for six games, we all thought Dirk Nowitski was the Greatest Basketball Player on the Planet.

Who else could make a seven-foot tall German, not just into the hero?  Who else could make a seven foot tall, sharpshooting first ballot Hall-of-Famer into an underdog? The San Antonio Spurs have been written off as a boring team for fifteen years despite unfathomable success. Who else but LeBron James and the Miami Heat could turn them into the most dynamic team ever put together?

A true villain, that's who.

LeBron James is the Ric Flair of basketball.

I'm glad he's here for us.

(*)The 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder are the exception that proves the rule. Before the Heat series they were the Next Big Thing. Afterwards--even before the Harden trade--they Weren't Who We Thought They Were.

Monday, April 7, 2014

More Than Meets The Mind: Robot Therapist -- Episode 12: Sunstreaker (Autobot)

How are you feeling?

SUNSTREAKER: About what?

About...this. Being held here.

SUNSTREAKER: I don't understand why you're keeping me. I should be out there being seen.

Being seen?

SUNSTREAKER: I'm the best warrior the Autobots have. People need to know I'm out there protecting them. The Decepticons need to see and fear me. The other Autobots can't do it without me.

 I spoke with your brother. He's very protective of you.

SUNSTREAKER: I don't get why. I don't need protection. I can handle myself. How long do I have to stay here, anyway?

 As of yet, that remains to be seen. Earlier you said you aren't sure why you're here. Could you hazard a guess to why you might be being held?

SUNSTREAKER: Not really. Politics, I guess. Something to do with Charon.

You're on the right track. These psychological interviews are being conducted as part of a multi-planetary inquiry into the effects of the Cybertronian Civil War on other sentient races, and the Battle of Charon, specifically. What do you remember about Charon?

SUNSTREAKER: I remember when we got there, it was a total clusterfuck. Thank Primus I was there to clean up the mess.

 Some would say your actions on Charon were...excessive.

SUNSTREAKER:  Excessive? That's impossible.

What makes you say that?

SUNSTREAKER: I'm an Autobot. We're the good guys.


SUNSTREAKER: Did you see the Charon footage?

Yes. Yes, I did.

SUNSTREAKER: What did you think?

It's important to you what I think?

SUNSTREAKER: You saw it. Tell me that wasn't the most awesome deployment you've ever seen.

Being seen as awesome means a lot to you.

 SUNSTREAKER: Did you see how I came in? Landed, came up firing in midtransformation. Took out five Decepticons before my feet hit the ground.

Witness reports say two. Kickback and Octane.

SUNSTREAKER: It was five. At least five. maybe, six. Those witnesses were wrong.

Were they wrong about the civilian casualties?


The civilians killed or injured in the course of your attack.

SUNSTREAKER: They were in the way. We're at war.

Wintess reported one one killed and three injured from the impact of your landing. Four killed by your weapon when you opened fire on the Decepticons. Could the witnesses have been right about that?

SUNSTREAKER: I don't know. They could've been. I don't really remember. I was dealing with the Decepticons.

You don't remember at all.

SUNSTREAKER: I remember they were there. But I wasn't really paying attention.

There are some who consider your actions a war crime. How would you respond to that?

SUNSTREAKER: I'd say they're crazy. That's impossible.

It's impossible that civilians were killed?

SUNSTREAKER: No, I mean it's impossible that I committed a war crime.

Why is that?

SUNSTREAKER: Because I'm an Autobot. I'm one of the good guys.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How I Met Your Mother Finale

Loved this thread and the ensuing comments.

As a self-proclaimed sex and dating nerd, that's no surprise.

What struck me reading the comments was that the central, unspoken issue was not about what happened. At its core, much of the criticism was really whispered around one thing.

That thing is Time.

An ending that would have been perfect 5 years ago feels wrong today. People have grown and evolved. We've had a chance to digest the Big Picture around these characters, to see that Ted and Robin, however much they might care about each other Do Not Work.

We've had too much time with these character to accept this ending.

At the same time, there is not enough time between the death of Tracy and Ted getting together with Robin to process the emotions. We don't see the circumstances that led to Barney and Robin's divorce and his subsequent regression.

We haven't had enough time with these characters to accept this ending.

We don't often talk about it, but most of us understand on some level that things unfold in time, that they cannot be rushed or forced. We understand the rhythm of healing. We learn that the most important things--letting go, moving on, growing up, reaching out--are processes. They don't happen instantly; we take time to come to get to those decsions points, to make and re-make those commitments. We experience them as journeys rather than events.

We see how they happen on Time's schedule, not ours.

We don't always like it. Often we rebel against it. We look for shortcuts. We try and make things happen before they are ready to happen or try to hold on to things long after the time for them has passed.

In our heart of hearts though, we understand. Those moments when we fully embrace and accept it tend to be our most peaceful moments. When we feel we're being ripped apart by forces we don't understand, in the worst of our despair, we find those moments where we surrender to the effects of time. And in those seconds, even in the midst of the whirlpool, we find islands of serenity.

In life, time works exactly the way it should.

On television though, all bets are off.

Sometimes there's too much time. Some times there's not enough. Sometimes, as in the case of How I Met Your Mother, it's a little of both.

And sometimes, sometimes it's exactly right.