Alway’s A Problem

“Dark wings, dark words.” A Song of Ice and Fire fans know what that means. Those of you not familiar with that series may be familiar with the TV series based on it; Game of Thrones. In either series it means essentially ‘bad news travels fast’, brothers and sisters ain’t that the truth. Why is it that negativity has such a profound impact on our lives, we are bombarded with it all day every day and it seems to move at supersonic speed. It takes a conscious effort to avoid the negative content in any form of media, social or traditional. The ease at which we can access media in our time is unbelievable, the thing of fiction to generations before us really, the downside being that the negative content is inescapable. Scroll past as much as you want you can’t escape the headlines, more so when your friends share the same detrimental garbage repeatedly.

I have never been a fan of the news, it has always seemed so just say awful things when I had just finished watching 30 minute toy commercials with good out comes. The good guys won every day when drawn but when the real life stories came into the same room afterwards the bad guys always seem to be winning. Terrorists, killers, thieves, liars and dealers always seemed to be ahead. When the good guys did win it seemed that the system let them off easy every time…come to think of it that happened in the happier shows too, why didn’t someone put two in Cobra Commanders shiny face mask? I digress, it is no secret that the news is a hive of negativity and a few human interest puff pieces at the tail end do not do much to counter act the rest of the broadcast most of the time. While I never liked it I was in my early thirties when I read a few articles on how it impact our psyches and when I looked at those around me I did notice that the more negative personality people had they more likely it was they were very close followers of the news, While it is not a 100% true correlation I can still see it in friends and family that are negative almost as a default setting. While getting an update on the world is not a bad thing the tone and main focus really drags the world view into a dark corner doesn’t it? The more harm caused the more ‘important’ it is to get in our faces it seems.

There is the chicken and the egg conundrum to it all though isn’t there. Are people negative because they follow dark news and events or are dark news and events popular because most of the population are negative?  Until social media really peaked I would have thought one way but now I wonder if humanity as a whole has a penchant for dwelling on the dark side. Scroll through any of your social media feeds and you will run across a great deal of negativity and hate ranging from minor outrage to near criminal levels of our worst isms. There is plenty of fuel for the fire too, national leaders, sports teams, movies, celebrities, books, any thing that can result in an opinion seems to spark the urge to spew negativity. I am not referring to legitimate poor reviews or constructive criticism, I mean those knee jerk rants and ignorant statements that serve no purpose but to shit on what ever doesn’t measure up in the eyes of the commentator. I’ m not saying we should agree with everything either but a constructive or informed expression seems to be hard to come by these days. There must be a better balance to the excessive negative content and just sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that unicorns are running the world because neither is a viable option.

There is also the relatively recent development of the status update that is frosting on the cake for me. I can avoid all sorts of input that is consistently negative, that is relatively easy once the ate identified but avoiding people is a tad trickier. Sure there are ways to deal with that too but how many times can you unfriend, unfollow or block people before you end up alone? Obviously it is easier with some folks than others but everyone has a bad day or rough patch in life to get through, they need to vent or put out a cry for help, been there and posted that. There are the ones that just seem to always look at the dark clouds and point them out to us all, to be fair I have had my bouts of that too. So I wonder often if it is the constant influx of negative content that promote the excessive ‘poor me’ attitude or if some of us are just incapable of breaking free of negativity. I do not believe anyone can live a life untouched by being negative at some point but the perpetual cycle some seem stuck in is mind blowing.

The internet often seems like a litter box and there are far too many jerk cats just waiting to soil the fresh contents the second it’s refilled. Big media love to remind us the world is nasty before they show us a few rays of sunshine, internet critics can’t wait to highlight what they see as wrong with everything, everyday people need to splatter their own dark view points all over our feeds just in case the first two didn’t get through. I may not spew rainbows forth from my 7 natural body openings nor should anyone but the constant barrage of late has me annoyed and really struggling to remember that my life isn’t that bad and the Earth is not such a miserable place to be once you shut out the negativity floating around.

 

All By Myself


Do you remember the first time you got to stay home alone? I sure do, I finally got to opt out of one of my brothers hockey games and that winter night in 1989 I was free to just watch TV and play video games. Then the house started to creak and it became apparent that only 1 lamp and the TV was on in the entire house, what the hell was out there in the dark?  As it turned out nothing but a few horror movies from Super Channel that I had seen at a friend’s house tickled the worst parts of my imagination, it was a very long hour before the rest of the family got home. I would start growing more accustomed to being alone in the next few years, not that I didn’t have friends but the early teen years aren’t always conducive to keeping every minute filled with people, once in a while I would get a feeling of being too alone and that would crush me to a level that still embarrasses me. I eventually found a balance to it and still managed to cultivate a social circle.

I have gone through periods of being surrounded by people constantly and stretches of spending more of my free time alone, not just with kids and no grown folks but alone, don’t confuse that with lonely (but there were bouts of that too), just not with other people. I was able to be out and feel fine being just by myself. Meals, t6debnvgcdf (my cat just walked across the key board), errands, shows, movies, none of these things mattered much if I did them alone or with company I didn’t think about it often. Then I had kids and a long relationship which ended and I found myself unaccustomed to alone time again, my emotional turmoil did not help but I eventually got through all that and found certain things were very to handle doing alone. I found that the key to the readjustment was centering myself mentally and emotionally again. Why would anyone want to be alone with someone they aren’t comfortable with? Seems like the same thing applies when it is yourself.

I started this piece as I sat eating appetizers waiting to see Rogue One, the easiest thing I found to readjust to was seeing a movie alone. I had access to just seeing what I wanted when I wanted thanks to a job perk and I did not let that privilege go by often. I did have friends join me a good deal of the time but I had no qualms just watching something alone either after hours or a regular show time. It took longer adjust to but a meal out on my own was not much harder to get used to again. There is something about the unselfish silence involved. I think that is the key, comfortable silence with oneself. If a person can have a comfortable silence with themselves then doing things alone is easy or at least easier. In retrospect I see a lot of correlation between how at peace I was in my own skin and how easily I was able to do things by myself. Once I had quelled the uncertainty in my own head any sense of discomfort or anxiety vanished.

I love my alone time as much as I love my family time, by no means am I saying I would rather be alone than with family or friends. Alone is different than lonely and definitely does not mean anti-social, all it means to me in this context is ‘not with anyone’ that is hard to get with a household of six. I love them all and they deserve my time as much as I do and I want to spend time with them. I value the time on my own though, I can just go and do what I feel like or just quietly enjoy whatever I am about at the time in the few chances I get to just be on my own. Even though I don’t miss the amount of time I used to have for it, when it comes down to just being peacefully alone for a little while I highly recommend it, IF you can enjoy your own company.

F*cked That Up…

I just caught myself doing something I swore I would not do. I sat here typing away on the article I intended to produce for you and when I had finished I saved it and closed my laptop. I moved a few feet to the kitchen and realized I had just written a piece that was negative and trashed people doing something I had no experience doing.  I wrote the kind of thing I loathe to see posted and I caught myself before I let it out. That particular contribution has gone to oblivion instead let me shift gears a tad and take a different approach to the topic of super-hero films.

The biggest battle in producing these films has to be how to take a world were the limits are the imagination and a pencil then bring it to a level that is realistic to an audience. The main hurdle is knowing what to keep, what to adapt and what to drop entirely. Throwing out too much alienates the fans of the books, staying too true to form can make the film cheesy or campy. Look back at the early live action super-hero films and it’s easy to see that spandex does not work most of the time. The secret lair, the look of the power set, the transportation so many things must be accounted for including the time frame of the original story, decades have passed since many of the popular heroes of today were first introduced, the circumstances of their origin may be obsolete now or just too far in our past to make any sense. Making the wrong choice in any adaptation process can lead to plot holes, audience detachment or worst of all a bad movie. Imagine you are cooking (not baking) and the recipe allows for leeway in the process, if you over do or under do certain ingredient you could ruin the entire meal or just not hit the home run you wanted that is how any movie adapted from print goes.

My biggest pet peeve is off model casting, it doesn’t have to be exact but when choices are made that are too far off the original design. Things don’t have to be exact, there is plenty of leeway for bold choices, the physical design of most comic characters is not one that leans towards an easy day in auditions, most talented thespians are not body doubles for what artists depict the characters as, actors have to hit the gym hard to look like they belong saving the world by the time the cameras roll. There is a fine line in casting a capable actor and one that physically resembles the character. Brock Lesnar may look like a great choice for the roll of Juggernaut but can he deliver the lines? Conversely a great actor such as Forest Whitaker is not going to be a good choice for Namor. Finding that sweet spot may be why we are seeing lesser know actors get the roles in the hero movies and build their name from there. All that being said there are a few perfect storms out there, Patrick Stewart and Professor X and Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man to name a few. The casting choices have baffled me in some cases, many in ways where the film immediately turned me of but there have been some where I was astounded at the prowess of the choice, Ben Affleck as Batman, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan to name few. If the casting director is doing proper research and looking for the right qualities magic happens.

The most popular characters are always at the top of the list to get moved on to the screens, each has a classic story or several behind them that fans can latch on to. Where things can get tricky is where the format counts. Longer or more complex stories need more time to set up so either a TV series or a few movies to build towards a larger payoff. With no shortage of quality stories to adapt or build off of the question becomes “How best to do it?” The more drawn out a story becomes the less likely it will make an impact at the box office for a single film, therefore a subplot needs to run through a few films, The Avengers was five films of build up just to set the table for the characters to speak to one another which also saved a couple hours of introducing each one properly or skipping over things that make us like them by briefly covering each individual. Wasting time stretching things out can be equally disruptive to a story and is more of a threat to a TV series like Arrow or Daredevil, finding enough to fill 13 to 24 hrs of programming with out running out tap dancing around a void or prolonged lull at risk of losing the attention of the viewer is a real hazard that has been the end of many TV series of every genre.

CGI…Oh the green screen and digital era has caused a tight rope to be stretched across the screen. No matter what size of the screen is, who is cast or the run time the CGI can make of break any project. Super-hero films almost require CGI, Dr Manhatten, Wolverine’s healing and almost the entirety Guardians of the Galaxy rely on CGI all were done very well. There are lots more instances were the CGI was over used and as such became no better than an extra that should remain in the back ground but instead resorts to all sorts of shenanigans to get noticed. CGI popping to the front of the screen is a bad thing and turns even the best stories into campy parodies. Take Hulk in the Avengers films, it is obvious that he is CGI yet it is not shoved so far in our face that we snicker. In Guardians of the Galaxy the CGI was almost the entire environment of the movie but it was kept grounded enough that we accepted the immersion in it where we could have balked at such a fantasy world.  CGI done poorly or excessively is much like pulling a needle of a record player but when done right and in the appropriate amounts it can be magic, those who have seen Dr. Strange know exactly what I mean.

Creating these films and TV shows for us fans and reaching a mass audience must be a monumental task for all involved. I began this piece and finished one version ripping them apart for misrepresenting certain characters. That was not only against my personal goals for these pieces but unfair to those doing a job I have not done. The tight rope of picking out of hundreds of characters to work on, the right story to tell, adapting everything from time lines to clothing environment, finding the right cast and then generating the best balance of practical and digital effects to set the project apart yet keep it relate-able. My Lord how any of these get made so well seems like an act of God. I was as disgusted with my first attempt as I am when I read the click bait bashing sessions that pop up daily. I fucked up don’t judge me too harshly..

WTL Reveiw: Deadwood

WTL Reveiw: Deadwood

TV is a business, in business sometimes quality products fall by the way side too soon to the outrage of consumers. Family Guy and Futurama were rescued from the nostalgia heap by fans but it does not always work that way. Firefly got a movie that from what fans have told me (haven’t seen it so it may get a WTL review too) was unsatisfying and done just to kill off the chatter. Deadwood has had the same legacy but has never gotten it’s closure. I have been told for years that I need to see this show since I like westerns and many other HBO offerings. Right before Christmas I started binge watching  through HBO on demand. My first question was “Why the fuck did it take me this long to watch this show?” Before I go any further I will say I am four episodes away from completing the entire series, I thought I would start this before I got the full emotional impact of the ending.

First Impression: I love the western genre and Deadwood started off feeling authentic. There was no hint of a back lot with highway just out of sight. The dialog fascinates me to no end, it is an intriguing blend of eloquent verbiage and excessive vulgarity. I am a fan. I can’t get enough of the way the characters interact, whether the personality in question is more prone to the eloquence or the profane each brings their own blend. Finally the historical aspect, Wild Bill Hickock, Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, George Hearst even the two central characters of Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen are plucked from history for dramatization. Historical fiction at it’s finest.

The Cast: For years I have scrolled through IMDB and found that Deadwood is a credit in many fine performers resume. Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant being the most prominent but not the only stand outs. Robin Weigert puts on a tremendous show as Calamity Jane, she is unrecognizable. Several main performers go on to hold key roles in Sons of Anarchy, Fear the Walking Dead, Ray Donovan, Breaking Bad and Supernatural. Deadwood almost seems like a career shot gun that blasted it’s cast into wide spread success. I am not sure if any other caused as many talents to get noticed en masse but it is an impressive feat.  The litany of recognizable character actors that feature prominently into the show is no less worthy of acclaim. Some you can easily pick out from film others may need a trip to IMDB but all said and done this show boasts an all-star cast like none other.

The Run: Three seasons…as I mentioned above this ranks up there with TV’s biggest ball drops as far as fan backlash is concerned. With 12 episodes per season that run 1 hour each this may not be your biggest binge watch ever but I recommend you take it slow as some episodes just need time to sink in. Much like network cousins Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones this show is worth taking your time for to let a few of the more intense portions settle. That and you may find yourself calling everyone a cocksucker like you just left The Gem.

Does this hold up? Absolutely does.  Period pieces have a better chance at holding up if they are properly done. Deadwood leaves no trace of when it was made.

Worth watching?: Absolutely. If for some reason you missed it so far and can handle profanity get after it. If you have already seen it it is worth the repeat. If you are the sort that cannot abide profanity this is not for you.

Final thoughts: It took me weeks to get up the will to watch the final three episodes. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters yet. While I did want to see how it all turned out the prospect of being outraged at a cliffhanger ending caused no small degree of hesitation. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ending was less a cliffhanger and more a wrap up with, what I can only assume, is a new jumping off point left for the start of the next season which never happened. While there is no ‘oh my God’ moment left unresolved there is an amazing amount of story left on the table unexplored. Personally I think it could have been given a better series finale but I do not think it needs to be followed up with a film or long delayed fourth season.It may not be a perfect place to end but it is not a terrible one either.

Social Burn Out

There are times when everyone gets burned out. Life just drains your batteries and you must recharge, either by choice or by sheer lack of energy. That’s pretty much how my 39th year started for me. I had a nice little groove going, for the most part everyday was segmented in to being where I needed to be and a system to make it function as best as possible. My week was pretty standard as far as timing it out went including two days where I was on the run for upwards of 20hrs. Fifteen years ago that wouldn’t have phased me but not only am I older now but I do have a family that seems to want my time too. Weird right? True though. I chugged along for a few months like that and managed to get these little things done on top of it all. About a week into November I was forced to take a look at how this was all working out and the answer was; not well. As a family we ran into a few health issues and stress had played a role in a few of them. One night I sat outside and watched the flames dance in our fire pit and put a lot of thought in to how to proceed.

First I had to make some choices and decide where the priorities were and which endeavours needed my time more. Just to get through a few weeks I stopped those 20hr days, but the prolonged concern surrounding the need for a break simply demanded that I eliminate them, so I have, for the most part I am doing something I have not done in years, a single occupation Monday – Friday for about 8 hours a day, that’s it. This resulted in many more family movie nights and this weird feeling of not being tired all the time. I get real sleep in a defined pattern, no longer all over the map with a few rounds of way too much sleep to get proper rest for the next day. Consistent sleep, I had forgotten what this was like, it has been over a decade since I’ve had this kind of rest and even back then it was mostly riding the energy of youth that kept me moving. The rub is that I don’t socialize nearly as much as I used to and admit I don’t miss it much right now. I have had many periods in my life where I just felt better being by myself, perhaps ‘at peace’ is a more apt term here. The thing is that in this case it has been much longer than the others. I haven’t felt the need to get out and see people or do things. It’s not that I am anti-social, the best way I can explain it is that I feel ‘socially burnt out’. Until I had spent a couple weeks decompressing and adjusting I had not noticed how much energy was going in to just being myself and keeping my good humour.

You may understand this but if you are unsure here’s what I have noticed about social burn out.

1) Easy to convince. Think of it as a very attractive person buying you a drink, doesn’t take a lot of debate to put it in your hand does it? Instead of a drink it’s your home and instead of an attractive person it is…anything. Chores, NetFlix, a hobby, a book, the cat looks lonely. I am not talking about an anxiety attack or a bout of any form of depression I mean that one honestly has no desire to go out and any other thing to do at home and any excuse to stay will do. It helps that there are legitimate projects or work to do as well, such as writing a blog or expanding ones written portfolio, legitimate cause goes a long way and nullifies any twinge of guilt one may feel.

2) No personal appeal. There is no malice or anger towards anyone, in fact you may even miss seeing many people but no one person or even group has the appeal you need to be out. In the last two months I have kept in touch with a lot of people and even reached out as I usually do to friends I haven’t seen in a while or are out of town. There are plenty of people I enjoy spending time with out in the social world and simply do not see recently only because I am truly tired of being out. Even very good friends don’t currently over come this lack of appeal. I’m not saying that if I haven’t seen you, you are a problem or a stress, in most cases the opposite is true.

3) Contentment. While it is not easy to understand there is a contentment in just being home. No case of stir crazy or restlessness pops up. There is just a serine peace with the home body life style. Again having things to accomplish at the same time does help but even if there is a completely empty to-do list the enjoyment of just relaxing at home hits a need that a social event normally does. I do get some help in that I am enjoying my job again and the people I work with now are fun to be around,  eliminating much non-sense and drama along with the people that cause it.

4) Swelling. It started under my eyes and even caused a colour change from dark circles to a more flesh like tone. From there it traveled to my bank account, money stopped disappearing (well until Christmas shopping started) at random. It even moved to my ego as a few people have reached out in private and public to inquire as to where I had disappeared to, my answer is usually along the lines of putting my house in order, which is true, part of that is going through this social burn out for the betterment of my household.

5) Intimacy. Calm down I don’t mean that in a sexual manner (entirely) what I mean is that the few occasions I have gone out I have found a better connection with those around me and a richer experience. I met a pair of friends for beer a couple times, a birthday dinner with a small group, a few car rides with a friend that was picking up extra cash working casually with me (granted some rides were just comfortable silence), I even managed to sit in my living room with a friend for over 2 hours just talking on Boxing Day. The social interactions I have had mean more, they don’t blur together. I don’t know when I will be out next, it’s no longer “See you Friday!” or “Catch you next time.” so these smaller visits are more potent lately.

6) Energy. As I said earlier my energy was low, I was absolutely drained most of the time. Even after leaving the job that was sucking the life from me I found myself struggling to get into top form for guests, nights out, shows anything. I could do NOTHING to get myself in the mood to be out in public until I got there and faked it. I kept it up until, like jump-starting a car, I was firing on all cylinders. After a few weeks of cutting back on everything I  found it was easier to get on track to be around other human beings. It was Christmas Eve afternoon when I finally did not have to think about my head space to be social, so I had no problem going for beers with friends at a near by brewery, also the outing where I consciously realized I was feeling the intimacy of just being with friends.

Let me be crystal clear here, I am not blaming or self diagnosing depression or anxiety, I am neither qualified to do so nor would I disrespect those with those conditions by throwing those terms around with out a professional opinion. I am simply saying I am socially burned out as a simplified expression of how I am feeling, sooner or later I may get past this and find a happy medium for a change. Right now I am content and feeling much better than I have in a long time, not depressed or angry or avoiding anyone. Apologies if my lack of presence has not been received well, it’s not you, it’s me.

That’s A Wrap

Ladies and Gentlemen we have arrived! The year that the internet has declared nigh unbearable is over and the chosen one has arrived. Yes, indeed baby New Year 2017 has rolled in like a golden child of prophecy, at least that’s what the pessimistic internet culture would have us believe. Personally I didn’t think 2016 was that bad, sure we toasted the passing of many celebrities but the reality is many of those were not people we had met, they were not the people closest to us. That isn’t to say they were meaningless or weren’t beloved by their family and friends just that as fans we do not always feel the same level of grief. The internet seems stead fast in its opinion that the celebrity deaths have caused irreparable harm to the last year and I call bullshit. 2016 can only be defined as good or bad by the individual.

We all had our highs and lows, myself I was hit with a few family realizations that I am still making adjustments to, a few people close to me have had health challenges and not all have been slight. I attended a funeral for someone who was a key component in me getting my shit together and becoming a functional adult (granted I have a hard time thinking of myself as an adult). There were unexpected expenses, misunderstandings and sudden confrontations but when I total them all up they amounted to very little against the better parts of the year.

When I look back I see brighter things, a wonderful weekend away with my fiance (broken ankle didn’t ruin it) my kids had great years in school, they cope well with the unfortunate things that touched their lives. My mother became a Pastor after years of hard work, my brother got married to a lovely lady with two adorable daughters and just prior to Christmas they welcomed a beautiful baby girl to their family. I quit a job that sucked the joy from my life and spent time pursuing other endeavors and enjoying my family and friends. I stumbled into a new job which I am enjoying and a few new projects to tackle that I hope prove to be both fun and profitable. I met dozens of new friends that I have enjoyed being around, reconnected with older ones I had lost touch with and met the new baby of my best friend and her husband. Perhaps most important to me has been that I have managed to keep pumping out these, not all are great and a few have been misconstrued but I think I have grown a bit, practiced a lot and still enjoy it, above all I stuck to it and plan to for quite sometime. I go to sleep almost every night next to a wonderful woman and, as vexing as they can be from time to time, wake up to four great kids, bills are paid, fridge is stocked, pets are well-behaved (ish), debt is minimal, bank account may be shallow but hasn’t run dry. I coached my kids for the first time, learned to enjoy a vacation and ride an ATV. I’m sure there are other things in there I have forgotten but that’s not a bad start in the blessings list.

I urge you not to get sucked into the poor publicity that 2016 has had, look at your year and decide for yourself, was it a good one or a bad one? From there decide how you are going to try to shape your 2017. Internet propaganda is not your perspective, not one other person can decide how your year was and only you can decide how this one will be. As a great man once said “We’re all in this together, I’m pulling for you.”