A different brain

I was out at a karaoke bar recently and someone sang ‘What It’s Like’ by Everlast. This somewhat cheesy, quintessentially 90’s song came out when I was a teen, and I’ve always known all the words but somehow I’ve never really heard them before. Or maybe it’s that, being older and having a bit of experience in the world, I can identify with them in a way a 16 year old cant. Because, hearing them sung, off key and in a cracked voice by a tipsy stranger, was somehow as if actually listening to the words for the first time, and I almost wanted to cry.

What could have changed in my brain to cause this song I’ve heard a thousand times before and never really thought about, to suddenly have an emotional effect on me?

Brains… are strange…

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Stranger Things: Season 2, episodes 3 and 4

This show is getting dark.

There is something incredibly creepy about what is happening to Will, and I stayed up late to watch another episode I wasn’t planing on because of it.

This show really knows how to do creepy and dark, without having obnoxious jump scares or shocking blood and violence. That’s something I’ve realllllly been missing from movies lately!

Another thing this show handles better than Hollywood is nostalgia. There are so many references to 80s culture, but I still don’t feel banged over the head with it or pandered to. And it’s so nice to recognize a thing from my childhood and not want to throttle someone for re-imagining, remaking, rebooting or any other re-ing it.

Excited for whatever comes next!

How to avoid looking back?

I never used to look back, to wonder or care about how I could have done things differently. Maybe it’s part of getting older, but I’ve started having those thoughts more often.

I started listening to a new book recently, ‘Replay’, about a man who dies, and wakes up 25 years in the past, in his own 18 year old body, but with all his memories of the next decades intact.

I read a similar story, a couple years ago, ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’, but this one, ‘Replay’, was written about 20 years earlier. And, Harry August annoyed me so much that I hope this one can make better use of such a cool concept.

Listening to it has been making me think about my life at 18, and all the missed opportunities, all the wasted energy and unused potential.

These are useless thoughts though, and can lead nowhere but depression. Forward is the only direction we can ever go, so it is the direction we should look.

When I look at the stories I wrote in the past, I don’t wish I’d written them better or different. I just write new ones now. That’s the way to be, in life and in work.

It sure is hard sometimes, though, to avoid the trap of nostalgia and the dreams of the past.

Stranger Things: Not just 80’s nostalgia

Remember when the big movies coming out that everyone was excited about weren’t remakes, or reboots, or based on a comic book or video game or brand name or fairy tale or popular book series? Well, maybe this is 80’s nostalgia after all…

Stranger Things not only has the refreshing attribute of being something new, despite its nostalgic feel, but also of being something good. The acting is great and heartfelt, the story is interesting and surprising, and the look and feel of the world is memorable and fun. And all this without the producers having to buy a recognizable name and force the story to fit around it in order to get more views.

Watching it, I was reminded of when kids movies used to be actually scary, creepy, smart–fun for adults to watch too. Now everything is dumbed down with rounded edges and neutered monsters.

In the opening episode, the  monster almost gave me a tingle up my spine, and I’ve seen it all. I lost it though, when they gave it the same monster sounds (deep growl/screech and clicking sounds) that every monster for the past 10 or 15 years has had. Silence is much more creepy than that trope. But, I think they were aiming for the over-done in some cases (Kids know the truth and parents are clueless, teenage sex leads to the villain appearing, etc) to give it that throw-back feel.

This show was so good, that there is only one scene in the entire series that bothered me, and pulled me out of the story for a moment.

In episode 6, Joyce and Jim are talking to a woman with a missing child, that they suspect may be related to Will’s disappearance somehow. The woman’s caretaker starts describing how the woman believes her daughter had special powers, such as telekinesis and telepathy. At this point, six episodes in, there is no way anyone could have come so far without knowing what character that sounds like. Yet, we are still treated to several ‘flashback’ looks at El using her powers to wreak havoc, just to make sure we know what character with special powers (the only one on the show!) they are talking about. This is already insulting as a flashback (no, I am not so stupid I can’t figure out who they are talking about) but these aren’t events that anyone in the scene witnessed, so it’s not even a flashback! It is literally just past scenes inserted into the conversation the characters are having for sole purpose of making absolutely sure that I, the dimwitted viewer, know what is going on. This stood out so much (and badly) from the rest of the show that I can only imagine some producer or executive must have gotten confused while half paying attention and assumed it was the story’s fault.

Anyway, even if you aren’t into the 80’s, this was a really entertaining, well-thought-out, and fun show that the whole family can watch together. Highly recommended.

Dumb and Dumber To

Well I wouldn’t bother writing about this except that I made a point to write a post about EVERY movie I watched this year that I hadn’t seen before. So, here goes.

This movie was stupid, mean-spirited, thoughtless and lazy. And that coming from a fan of the original.

It started out promising. The idea of Lloyd faking a coma for 20 years just to say ‘gotcha!’ to Harry is pretty funny, and I probably would have laughed a lot if it hadn’t been given away in the trailer. The jokes after that are low hanging, predictable and mean. And when the jokes weren’t mean or gross, I felt like i was being mocked. Everything else was a cheap callback, stealing any positive feelings fans might have had for the original, instead of coming up with their own jokes. Much of the main plotline made no sense, many of the jokes were impossible to have occurred in real life, (like, physically impossible) And Jim Carry’s face has never been more punchable.

Just to make sure this wasn’t me having a case of the olds, I rewatched the original right after watching this horrible sequel.

Even 20 years later, when I’m an adult and rarely watch comedies, I found the first one to be charming, heartfelt and funny. Yes it’s stupid. Yes the characters might as well be mentally handicapped. But they have motivations and you can almost believe they might be real people, instead of walking gross-out punchlines that could never exist in the real world. Incompetence is real, and the original movie is actually internally consistent. The characters don’t appear places without having to get there, or disappear for a few scenes then reappear saying they’ve been to Mexico, like bugs bunny popping up out of his hole.

The people in the sequel could never have been real people. They have no redeeming factors, skills or anything positive about them. Even their friendship seems false most of the time. In the original, Harry and Lloyd are dumb, yes, but even they show some skills. Lloyd tricks Sea-bass into a free meal, and Harry is actually charming enough to get Mary to go out with him a second time. In the sequel, Penny has to be (and is) portrayed as an imbecile in order to show even a brief interest in either of these characters.

I also got the impression that the Jeff Daniels must have been forced into doing this movie somehow, because he didn’t seem to be trying, and often it felt like he was making fun of me for even watching.

The whole movie just felt thin, hostile, and cheap.

Not recommended. Just watch the original again if you want that nostalgia.