Monday, April 23, 2012

FNL: clear eyes, full hearts.

the latest addition to my top TV shows of all time*: Friday Night Lights.
...hit play already for the soundtrack to this post.

"...but isn't that a football show?" 

yes it is. and it was that sentiment which left me as dismissive as you probably are.

i'm not a football guy. but i went to a football school. hell, i grew up in a small suburban southern town, where people's "teams" were of the highschool/college variety (there were no nearby pro teams) - and of those football was king. but i was on the sidelines of that culture - as the child of immigrants, and a scrawny/nerdy one at that. so yea, i was hesitant to dive in to a show about football.

but friends of equal/superior television-viewing taste* had been recommending FNL for quite some time. then several months ago, i actually read a Time article (spoilers within), for which this particular (non-spoiler) quote caught my attention:
"Just as HBO's crime-drama masterpiece The Wire was a searing vision of what is wrong with America, Friday Night Lights has been a clear-eyed, full-hearted tribute to what is right with it."
that's right. TIME just said FNL was the yin the Wire's yang. and the Wire is arguably the best show ever made. so it was no longer a question of IF i would watch FNL, just WHEN. and that began a few short weeks ago.

and yes, you remember correctly. there was actually a movie (2004 - starring Billy Bob Thornton, NOT James Van der Beek) surrounding the same topic/themes (Texas high school football) - but condensed for 2 hours of Hollywood-ness (if you haven't yet watched the show - the film is a great appetizer - and here's a good trailer). apparently both the film and TV-series were based on a book by H.G. Bissinger, profiling a small town in Texas and it's relationship with high school football. while the film is historically accurate (names and places), it was limited in scope, not looking into the broader lives of the local town-folk. 

"...but while the show is all the better for its specificity, it isn’t limited by it." (USA Today)

FNL the television show digs much, much deeper. what it loses in historical accuracy - it more than makes up for in the development of character archetypes in the more contemporary, fictional town of Dillon, TX. what results is relevant, realistic stories of (a part of) America as it is, and America how it is changing. 

big/small government? race? abortion? military/Iraq? outside financial influence on our institutions? work/life balance? kids these days? all are on the table, and both views are expressed - but through the lens of their affect on one small town. unlike sci-fi (BSG, etc), it doesn't need the false veil of aliens, space-travel, and killer robots to make its points, but like with any great story - great character development is needed. and that is handled in spades by Eric/Tammy/Julie Taylor, Matt Saracen, Tim/Billy Riggins, Jason Street, Vince Jordan, hell, even Buddy Garrity, Landry Clarke, and all the other Dillon Panthers/Lions. 

nevermind the breathe-taking Texas scenery, real-life cinematography and emotionally inspiring score/soundtrack. i'm a particular music-geek, so the latter really hit home - whether it was Explosions in the Sky, W.G Snuffy Walden (also of the West Wing fame), or the unofficial theme of Tony Lucca's "Devil Town" (playing above). does the show start/go slow? sure. but all good so patience is needed (something that clearly does not exist in the mass-TV-viewing public obsessed with show choirs, crime dramas, quick laughs, and/or reality TV). the show doesn't just build you up, it also brings you the stark realities that are present in our society and lives. one critical point in the very first episode brings this point to life. 

it's an emotional roller coaster well-worth the ride.

so after a 3-week television love affair (my wife was surprisingly understanding, with a tad bit of condescension) with my friends in the the small town of Dillon, Texas - i firmly understand the importance of the shows leading sentiment: 

clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. 

*what else makes the TV- cut? in partial order: the Wire, BSG, Lost, West Wing, Scrubs, the Daily ShowAvatar (the cartoon, not the movie). sure, there are tons of other shows i (really) like, but these are the ones that start to finish, stand the test and go the distance. i'm a better person for watching them, and you would be too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

turn off?

wanna to know the next big media/tech trend? 

stepping away from it. turning it off.

after having past-pontificated on this a few times, echos of this are starting to show up in the media.

the curmudgeon in me firmly believes there are too many outlets for distraction. and if you're not aware of this, you live under a rock, which in this case, is probably a good thing. 

don't get me wrong, the access to unlimited streams of information, anywhere, anytime, is a mostly positive force in the world. just as, if not more significant than the invention of fire, cars, and flight. but keep in mind, as mass adoption of any new "thing" takes hold, mass idiocracy occurs, as most of us are morons. "a person is smart, people are stupid."

remember, fire ultimately lead us warfare (and arson). cars shortened vast distances, but bad drivers make automotive-related deaths a part of everyday life. as for flight - even though planes are the true mass transit (air-buses?), don't get me started on why flying cars, while cool enough for me, Marty Macfly, and agents of SHIELD/MASK are a bad idea (see earlier point on bad drivers).

TMI (too much information) isn't necessarily going to cause a mass extinction event, but it IS making most of us dumber, because we're not mature enough to manage this flow. so maybe it's just slow, mind-numbing, thinning of the herd (mush mush). too many short pulses of information (sometimes signals, but mostly noise), keep us from...thinking.

when was the last time you read a book that taught you something. really listened to an album. wrote something that had meaning? watched a good film that made you think? had a conversation about something that mattered? drew something that took effort? came up with - and implemented - your/the next great idea? 

every evening i come home and leave my phone with my keys (where they charge at night - not in our bedroom). i don't believe in the second/third-screen viewing when i watch TV/movies. i want to immerse myself in the story, and think/talk about it later. i (try to) read every night before bed and every morning before work, despite the temptations to tune in, log on, etc. 

give it a try for a few days and see what happens. 

one of the reasons i live to travel abroad? beyond the adventure/food/cool-factor - it's a way to go off the grid. to escape the inbox, social networks, TV-queue, and mostly irrelevant texts + contacts. the allure of being surrounded by something foreign helps realize the ability to be in the moment, versus seeking distraction from the daily mundane. sadly, technology is catching up. but an often different time-zone helps. 

and yet, even all of this is not enough to combat the daily deluge of information. i spend more of my day working from my inbox and making small adjustments to existing items than actually working on something big and tangible. my best thinking/work happens when my mind is quiet. mental connections and leaps are made. ideas come together. 

maybe at some point, the masses will start to see this. maybe this realization has been with me awhile because i'm usually an (obnoxious) early adopters of all the tech/media/gadgets that connect us to the infinite amounts of information out there. i've worn/burnt out out faster.

or maybe everyone else simply knows how to manage it better (" these days!"), and i'm choosing (or trying) to stay behind.

at least it's quieter here.

Monday, April 09, 2012

zombies VS aliens?

no, this post is NOT about a really bad/good/bad comic or movie (though apparantly it's already a game). it's an [attempted] legitimate scientific argument. the term "scientific" is used loosely.

fair warning - my opening, tangential salvo may offend  some sensibilities (if so, please skip the next 2-3 paragraphs), but frankly, it's funny, and i enjoy observing/talking about religion. hopefully, further down are also some good points to make you think.

zom·bie [zom-bee] noun  
1. the body of a dead person given the semblance of life by a supernatural force.
2. a great Cranberries song.
al·ien [ey-lee-uhn] noun
1. a person who has been estranged or excluded.
2. a creature from outer space.
3. one residing under a government or in a country other than that of one's birth without having or obtaining the status of citizenship there.
4. a great Fountains of Wayne song.

i chuckle to think this post might have been more appropriate yesterday, given the religiously-observed occasion (the original sequel).

what do i mean? well the big guy with whom many are obsessed was - when you think about it - either a zombie or an alien. seriously, just re-read the standard definitions above in said context. if you are a believer (relgiously, walking dead-edly, extra-terristerially, or pop-musically), truth really IS stranger than fiction.

(---the easily-offended may now resume reading---)

ignoring my controversial (albeit inspirational-to-this-post) tangent though, it begs the question: zombies or aliens...which will we first encounter? below is the net of a heated discussion i had with another member of the ramancoke team this past holiday=weekend.

the case against aliens:
phone home?
space is big (i've recently become re-obsessed with it). but seriously, space is really, really BIG (how big?). let us assume some future encounter with aliens would be one with an evolved, intelligent Alien Life Form (not the discovery of micro-organisms like space-algae or cosmic-bacteria), and assume that intelligent life in the universe likely comes from another planet. other planets outside of our solar system are really far away (the nearest star beyond our sun is Alpha Centauri ...4.24 light years away, and most conventional means of transport don't even get close to light-speed). i'm not saying intelligent life isn't likely to exist (given the universe is a BIG place, it IS possible), but if so, they are going to be far, far away. 

AND, the universe is a really OLD place (how old?). our so-far brief tenure as an intelligent, barely-space faring species is but a blip in not just mankind's history, or even a smaller blip in the earth's existance, but a really, really, REALLY tiny blip in the universe's existance. if you assume another (alien) species' intelligent tenure is just as small a blip in the time-span of the univese - the chances of our brief existance intersecting theirs (nevermind the time it would take for us to journey to or communicate with eachother) are INFINITESIMALLY small. so it might happen, but not anytime soon. or perhaps they find out about us after we are long gone. unless, of course, the aliens are omnipotent/omnipresent beings like Q and/or the Silver Surfer, but come on, now you're just being silly.

the case FOR zombies:
at it's simplest, zombies are people. to be sure, mostly-dead people, driven by the carnal, un-evolved desire to feed on meat of any kind (not necessarily humans or brains). so higher-brain function doesn't exist. their bodies are (re?)animated and driven by an insatiable appetite. well, we already have a lot of people on earth...China and India aren't really helping out here. we already have lots of crazy evolving viruses, and we're dabbling a LOT with the brain (in our quest to cure all sorts of neurological disoreders) - whether it's stem-cell research, cloning, virus-destruction/mutation, etc. it's a bit doomsday-esque, but we're playing with godly-things here, unlocking the building blocks of creation/intelligent life (hooray for science!). but given our past track record, we could easily unleash something as unexpected/horrible as the walking dead. the pandora's box is waiting to be opened. hell, even the CDC has an official POV. coincidence?

in conclusion
while both the aliens and zombies are HIGHLY (i hope) unlikely, zombies are more so, and aliens less so.

that being said, we'd better start planing for either worst-case scenario, however unlikely or likely. which means  i probably need to watch/read a lot more about aliens and zombies. darn.

even though we didn't even mention robots (who are already ready and waiting), 

you're welcome.

Friday, April 06, 2012

photo randomness. april edition.

and a good Friday to you, loyal reader. no, i'm still pretty sure man and dinosaur did not walk the earth together, but it still makes for some awesome visuals.

fair warning, this installment of the ramancoke team plastering of other's images will largely be space-geek influenced, bc it's been on my mind lately (and apparently the internets).

before things get too crazy, let's check out some Bat-Manga ("holy Arigato!")

that certainly was as refreshing as a fistful of wasabi (or as it is mostly served in this hemisphere - green-colored horseradish). speaking of fists (and onomatopoeia), check out this modern-day POWer ring...

even more spectacular is this marvel-ous interpretation of Mssr.Waterson's scientific progress (goes "thwip"?)...

what is it about cutesy mashups that make me want to "save as"?

or you can always just double-down on the geekery (that's no moon)...

ok, this one doesn't fit. it was just cool looking. i recently re-watched City Slickers, am watching far too much FNL, and read a Hornby novel where the main character talks to Tony Hawk in his head. consider me inspired.

and here is just a sad, sad robot...

...and a sad, sad Surfer.

...Hamm Solo?

by now you are probably starting to see a pattern.

 if not, then you probably had trouble reading above. 

that's about all i've got for now. so we'll see you next time.
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