Looper

This is another sci fi action movie that I never got around to watching because I figured I already knew the story.

You can get a pretty clear idea of it from the trailer. A hit man who kills future people sent back in time from the mob. Then one day he has to kill himself. Action happens.

What I didn’t expect is how fun and tense it would be, and how… unexpected certain parts of it were, some of it quite disturbing, even.

But there were major things that  made no sense to me–time travel nonsense aside.

The big one being… why do they need to send the victims back in time alive? If the point is disposal of the bodies, then just send back a corpse and your problem is solved. You wouldn’t even have to hire anyone to burn or bury them, just have them sent back to the bottom of the ocean or something.

But, I’m not too worried about that because it makes for an interesting story about having to kill your future self. If we worry too much about uses for time machines, we’ll start wondering why any group who had one would bother being a criminal organization at all and wouldn’t just send a volunteer back in time to make billions in the stock market or gambling and put it in a bank account for the group to access in the future– but we could do this all day. It doesn’t matter.

Mostly the movie held together and was really fun and exciting, and had an interesting plot and characters, who for the most part had clear motivations.

The other things that didn’t make sense are Major Spoilers, so skip ahead if you haven’t seen it.

SPOILERS!!>>>>>

So, one thing introduced early on in the movie is the fact that some people in this future world have a mutation that allows them to control some small objects with their minds, like float a quarter over their palm, or move a lighter around. They are called ‘TK’s’, which I assume is short for telekinetics. This has nothing to do with anything happening in the story, and no character ever uses any TK skills to do anything of consequence.

Until… the very end, when suddenly we are shocked to learn that the future killer man who is currently a little kid has super powers that let him explode people with his mind.

I can’t understand why this is in the movie. When we’re learning about the ‘rain man’ who is closing all the loops by killing the loopers, we never hear about him doing any unexplained things. There is never any suggestion of him being anything more than human, or doing any impossible acts. The only thing we hear from future Joe is that ‘he saw his mom killed and has a prosthetic jaw’ which nicely foreshadows the events of the climax. But this telekinetic stuff? The only hint we have of that is the quick mention of it at the start of the movie that relates to nothing.

It’s my opinion that in the original script–and maybe even an early version of the movie–the ‘rain man’ was just a normal guy, maybe still a super genius like the kid was, but not superhuman. Then some producer said ‘hmm, are people going to understand why this person is dangerous? Give him super powers or something!” So they had to shoehorn in this TK nonsense.

If they really wanted to include it in the movie wholeheartedly, then Joe should have been a TK. Then he could have used his powers to help him kill people, which would have lent a bit of believability to the ending action sequence where he KILLS EVERYONE somehow. As it is, he’s a retired ex-drug addict who’s been out of the killing business for at least a decade, judging by the timeline, yet somehow he’s a super powered terminator machine.

But it’s a fun action movie, so whatever.

And finally, the other major thing that makes no sense is him killing himself in the end because he wants to… what? Protect a future that he doesn’t care about? He was perfectly willing to kill his older self and spend the rest of his days living in the now. Old Joe is the one who cared about the future, cared about what had happened to his wife and wanted to change things. Young Joe wanted everything to go back to normal. Up until the very end his motivation is to kill Old Joe so he can get his life back. It never, that I can tell, becomes a want to protect the kid or some wish to make the world a better place. That kind of idealism is never shown as being a part of the character. And even if he WAS interested in saving the future, what a crazy amount of trust must he have in a woman he just met, to think that the sole act of preventing her death would magically fix everything.

But I guess it was a neat way for the movie to tie things up without having to kill a child.

END SPOILERS>>>

Despite some head shaking and wol’ing (saying What?? out loud) this movie was really rather enjoyable, and kept my attention the whole time. I thought the acting was very good–Willis and Gordon-Levitt did a great job of matching each other’s mannerisms, and were a believable pair. Emily Blunt was also really great, as well as all the bit players.

Over all this was a really entertaining movie, and I’d recommend it to any sci fi fans, or anyone who just wants a fast paced action movie.

Elysium

When I first saw the trailer for this Sci Fi action movie, I found myself rolling my eyes a bit. The theme is a bit played out: rich versus poor, social commentary, etc. You kind of know what to expect. So I didn’t watch it for a while.

After watching it, it sort of was what I expected, but was more entertaining than I thought it would be.

The message is clear, of course. The average working person is screwed by the rich elite who actively avoid providing healthcare and would rather just let people die than suffer the inconvenience of being around poors.

The idea that the rich up in space have these magic machines that will cure all illness with the press of a button, but they won’t send any down to earth because…? Isn’t really that hard to believe because people are shit in real life too. And companies will gladly deny  healthcare and let people die if it saves them a few dollars. So I didn’t find that hard to believe at all. They didn’t even need to try to explain it.

The action was fun and exciting, some of the dialogue was a bit ham handed, Only one scene really irritated me and that was when after someone had their face …damaged, lets say, he is put in one of the healing machines and it regenerates his face back together. The annoying thing is that the guy had a beard, and after the regeneration his beard is all back to normal too. How is this machine gunna know how long his chin hair was? It would have been a lot cooler if part of his beard was missing after his face grew back, and would have made the technology seem a lot more real instead of just a magic fixit button.

Overall I liked the movie and would recommend it to Sci Fi and action movie fans alike. Even though the theme might be a bit overdone, it’s one I think most people can identify with.

A flash of light

I recently watched this video on YouTube, which is a brief (ten minute) history of the universe, narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is an interesting video, and Dr. Tyson is always nice to listen to, but one part stood out to me and got me thinking.

I’d heard it said several times before, that in the early universe everything was made of matter and anti-matter pairs that annihilated each other, giving off heat and light. And the only reason that there is any matter at all is because of an imbalance–that there was slightly more ‘normal’ matter, the kind we are familiar with–than there was anti-matter. But I never realized how small that difference was.

One extra particle of normal matter per billion, gives us our entire universe. This is such a slight difference, the tiniest imbalance, without which our entire universe would contain nothing but light. It got me thinking… what if this imbalance was a mistake?

Perhaps our universe was meant to be nothing but photons, a burst of energy to provide some incomprehensible being a flash of light as they flip a switch. Perhaps that one part per billion imbalance is a fault in the design, and all the galaxies and black holes and nebulae we know are byproducts of that inefficiency. Maybe the universe was meant to be an expanding, bursting, ball of light, and now it’s got all this extra …stuff floating around in it.

The universe makes a certain kind of sense intended as a clean, efficient flash of light. If we look at matter as an error in calculation, a grinding of gears, a malfunction– then all the chaos and confusion we observe seems natural.

If only we could observe the beginnings of other universes for comparison… maybe some day!

Pluto!

It’s been all over the news and social media for the past few days, but in case you haven’t heard somehow, the New Horizons probe has taken some amazing pictures of Pluto, after nearly a decade of travel and three billion miles.

Distances like this are so hard to grasp, the numbers are just so huge that they don’t really make sense to our human minds. Trying to think about it really makes me feel a lot of respect for the people that engineered and planned this. It’s so easy to take things like this for granted. “Oh, cool we got pictures of another planet, great.” you might say.

This planet is three BILLION miles away, and we were able to fire this tiny probe at it with such accuracy that it flew by within 8000 miles. That’s like trying to hit a target an inch across from nearly six miles away, if I did my math right. And not just hit the target, take pictures of it then turn around and broadcast them back to Earth.

So I’m feeling pretty impressed, and proud of humanity for doing something so awesome. And I’m enjoying having all these pictures we’ve been getting. And there is even more to come as the probe continues to send the images back.

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Maybe one day we’ll be sending a robot to land there… or even people?

Writing Status and memories

My novella is nearly complete! Currently I’m just working over the final touches and tweaks, and I’m confident you’ll be able to read it somewhere by the end of this year.

I still don’t have a title for it, though… I should probably get that figured out.

Three years ago today I was broke down in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, with no cell service. I know this because I took a picture of myself and my lonely stranded car, and the trusty app TimeHop gave me a little reminder.

Looking at what I was doing years ago on each day has been making me feel like I should do more, or at least document what I am doing better. The days where my time hop is blank is always a bit depressing. I think, really? I never took one picture or made one post on this day for the past 5 years in a row? Then I think I better take a picture or make a post about whats going on that day, so I can have a memory to reminisce about next year.

If only TimeHop would show my blog posts…

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Did you grow up in the 80’s? Do you like video games and geek culture? Then you might only be a little bit irritated by this book.

In the future, a global total immersion video game dominates the worlds economy, with most of humanity spending every available waking hour inside of it. The creator of said video game has hidden an ‘Easter Egg’ inside the game, which would grant the one who finds it complete control of the game and his company, according to his will.

The creator of this video game world, though, was obsessed with 80’s movies and old video games, and the clues to finding ‘the egg’ are all somehow related to these obsessions. This has the consequence of causing an entire generation of egg hunters, or ‘gunters’ as they are referred to in the novel, to become obsessed with the minutia of movies and games made 50 years before they were even born. (This novel is set in the future.)

It’s fun and nostalgic at first, then becomes really kind of sad and pathetic about halfway into the book, and I almost stopped reading. These characters have no interests of their own, they only like something because their game designer god-hero liked it. In one scene, a character orders a drink at the bar, and another says ‘ah, that’s Connor MacLeod’s favorite drink, good choice.’ So, it’s a good choice not because it tastes good, not because you enjoy it, but because some fictional character enjoys it. And the whole book is like this.

I wonder if the author meant it as a statement on the celebrity obsessed culture that we live in. I wonder if these characters were meant to be pathetic shells of humans whose only interests and knowledge about life revolve around movies and shows and games half a century gone. I wonder if the recitation of movie quotes as if they were some kind of sacred scripture was meant to highlight how ridiculous some of our own modern religions are, or if it was meant to mirror the deity-like status we give to actors and musicians.

Or is Ernest Cline just a big, smelly nerd who wanted an excuse to go on for chapters long rambles about the trivial details of Zork and Joust and Back to the Future and Wargames, and have big video game battles between his favorite robots and monsters?

The world may never know.

I enjoyed the book for the most part, in retrospect. It was an exciting and interesting read, and I did enjoy some of the nostalgia. I’d recommend it to people who grew up in the 80’s.

Independence

Yesterday I set off some fireworks with family at my sisters house. It seems the quality of fireworks has gone down over the past year, because these ones kept falling over and shooting at us, and a small fire was started in the bushes, which we scrambled to put out.

After that adrenaline rush, I kept thinking of how easily I could have been terribly injured. And on the drive home I kept thinking about how I could easily die at any moment, and convinced myself for a few moments that I would likely die soon.

It was a strange feeling. You can know, logically, that you will die one day. You can say all the platitudes–life is short, you’ll be old before you know it, one day you’ll wake up and realize you’ve wasted your life… etc–but feeling it is something else all together.

I realized–and accepted, on some deeper level than I had before, that my time is very limited. I might only have a couple years left, or a couple months. There is no way to know. And even if I’m lucky and have 30 or 50 years to go, that is still going to fly by extremely fast.

We have very little time to do the things we want, and we shouldn’t waste that time worrying about if we’re doing it right, or good enough for someone else.

Just do it.  Don’t put it off. Do it now.

I’m going to write as much as I can before I die. And I hope that some of it will resonate with enough people to live on for a while after I’m gone.

I don’t know what this has to do with Independence day, except maybe that I’m now more independent from myself. I’m not going to rely on time or life to work out in a convenient way. I’m going to do it now, while I can!