First Blog Part II

I was thinking about Rambo: First Blood Part II which has to be one of the most awesome titles in movie history. If you don’t remember Rambo: First Blood Part II (RFBP2) let me just say it’s woven into my DNA, always there, subtly altering the trajectory of my life without me even realizing it.

Going almost entirely from memory, RFBP2 I think opens with Rambo’s old commander seeking Rambo out and finding him in a monastery and so creating one of the greatest action hero tropes: We need you back, Hero Guy, you’re the best that ever was.

There’s one more mission. One last mission that only Rambo can do. He’s got to go back into the jungle and rescue POWs.

So of course he goes back into the jungle to rescue the POWs. Along the way he gets captured and tortured by Evil Dudes. They want him to call in to the guys who sent him in, I forget the exact context. He gets tortured until he agrees to get on the radio. He gets on the radio and… well…

He threatens to kill the traitor then beats the crap out of the Evil Dudes. My mind was blown as a kid. Blown. They thought they’d broken him but in fact he had not been broken! Surprise suckers! You’ve been Rambo’d.

I’ve always had an intense relationship in media with the ideas of torture and coercion. It’s a terrifying concept to me, the idea of being broken down until you can only do what your captors want. That’s probably why I was fascinated with Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I think as a kid, and maybe all kids feel this way, I felt extremely powerless in a crazy world. The fact that Rambo didn’t give up, even after they had him and the odds were stacked against him, was really uplifting to me. To fight on even if they were bigger and stronger than you. That resonated with something in me and still does to this day.

Yeah, it’s an 80s action movie. And, yeah, in Rambo 3: Second Blood Part I he does go to Afghanistan and helps the Mujahadeen against the Soviets. But a part of me carried that scene with me to this day and even though I sometimes got pretty low in life, it’s possible that a part of me believed that maybe, just maybe, I could be a little like Rambo and keep going.

A list of movie titles that are the first and last name of the protagonist

Peter Pan
Mary Poppins
Barry Lyndon
Crocodile Dundee
Robinson Crusoe
Vera Drake
Michael Collins
Oliver Twist
Osmosis Jones
Ned Kelly
Jack Frost
Jane Eyre
Johnny Mnemonic
Nanny McPhee
Richie Rich
Donnie Brasco
Napoleon Dynamite
Marie Antoinette
Donnie Darko
Dick Tracy
Edward Scissorhands
Jack Reacher
John Wick
Jerry MacGuire
Forrest Gump
Erin Brokovich
Aeon flux
Ed Wood
Max Payne
Ellie Parker
Sherlock Holmes
Rocky Balboa
Barton Fink
Dorian Gray
Jeremiah Johnson
John Carter
August Rush
Billy Elliott
Annie Hall
Solomon Kane
Dolores Claiborne
Robin Hood
Jackie Brown

50 Shades of Reacher

I was wondering if Jack Reacher is really just 50 Shades of Gray for a different demographic. If it’s like 50 Shades for grandpas. The reason I started thinking about this was a discussion about the outrageous success of the 50 Shades franchise, and I noticed that Jack Reacher seemed incredibly successful.

I’m going to take a second to check Box Office Mojo:

50 Shades of Gray:

$413,773,840

Jack Reacher:

$218,340,595

Oh man! Jack Reacher has already made around only half of what 50 Shades has made! Which I find sad because I’ve argued many times that Jack Reacher is actually a good movie. It’s a well filmed, well acted movie based on a ridiculous story, but seriously it’s probably one of the best 80s action movies that has been released in a long time.

So my reasons to compare them is that I think of Jack Reacher as a power trip fantasy for your right wing conservative grandpa. Jack is this libertarian ubermensch who bows to no master but what he perceives is right, and cannot be shackled by The Man or even The WoMAN. Jack is also the coolest guy who has ever lived, dropping grandpa jokes all over town, and beating up young hooligans who think they’re cool (spoiler: they’re not cool).

50 Shades also seems to be at its heart a kind of power fantasy, but it’s kind of like an inversion of Jack Reacher. It’s like, there exists an unstoppable, irrational power, that is directed at a person who is powerless except for this hold they have on this high potency male. I haven’t read the book, I should note, I’ve only read about the book, but from what I’ve read I’d rather read Twilight. Because at least Twilight has vampires.

I’ll have to think more on it, but at least I’ve learned that 50 Shades of Gray is way more successful than Jack Reacher.

Teenage Wasteland 2

I’ve started playing Wasteland 2 and I’m having a blast. It’s an isometric two-dimensional turn-based tactical post-apocalyptic role-playing game set in the Southwest of the USA after a devastating war. Basically, it’s like playing Fallout 2 all over again. Fallout 2 came into my life in a very troubling period of my life. I was always looking for some kind of escape from problems I didn’t understand and Fallout 2 offered me that escape to a world that was dark and devastated, but had the glimmer of hope. As the Chosen One in Fallout 2 I could make things better for the people of the Wastes. The amazing thing about Fallout 2, one of the amazing things anyway, was the post-game recap where you could see the consequences of your actions. And it always felt good knowing that you helped some people and left that world a better place. Real life, at the time, didn’t offer those same opportunities.

So now I feel I have returned to the Wastes after decades away. I come back less looking for escapism, and yet in the Wastes I find the same feelings stirring in me that I left a long time ago. I’m not a child looking to escape anymore, so when I come to the Wastes now I simply find the joy of returning to an old playground. Wasteland 2 is a grim game, much darker perhaps than Fallout 2, but I still see the hope that runs through the heart of it. Though the world is ruined, people can make it better.

And that’s when I rediscovered something I forgot I had: a love for games. It’s not just an addiction or a distraction, or at least it wasn’t always so, but it was actually a true art that had a positive impact on my life in some ways.

Maybe this means I’ll think about getting into game development. Maybe it just means I can have a good time with the kid I used to be.

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Community

“I should write an essay about Larry David being the modern Odysseus.” -My roommate

I started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and it is a continuation of the Seinfeld experience. I enjoyed the first few seasons but I don’t think the show really became brilliant until the Seinfeld reunion season. The Producers season was really good, but I feel like the show is just on now and I feel like it’s the best season yet.

I’ve watched pieces of Community and Curb Your Enthusiasm and I keep speculating that there’s a connection. Dan Harmon, creator of Community is too big a tv and sitcom nerd not to know and love Seinfeld. There’s meta-humor in Curb that is not unlike the meta-humor that is in Community but there’s a difference there that I have yet to fully be able to articulate. My best guess is that Communityhas to nod and wink at the camera but Curbjust plays it absolutely straight. I think the difference comes down to skill level, Dan Harmon and Larry David use the formula, but while Dan approaches it from a loving mockery position, Larry is just a master of the formula. It’s an interesting comparison and I plan on thinking about it some more.

Oh hi vectors. We went to college together, remember?

I’ve studied a lot of physics in my time so this is a pretty nice review. None of this is really new for me (in fact I think I’ve learned it multiple times) but it’s nice to see it’s applications in a programming/gaming sense.

For example, you can use dot products to tell if you’re facing something or not. Not exactly exciting but I can definitely see the use for it.

Not much done tonight. I’m pretty wiped out. Tomorrow night or Wednesday I’m just going to vector up my program.

I realize there are lots of gaps in my knowledge. I’ll probably try and do some backtracking this week.