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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On mutant powers and being a pedestrian

A weird summit of Raleigh commuters met in secret at the start of 2015 to discuss whether or not crosswalks and those who use them on a regular basis should continue to be paid attention to and/or respected.  Following an unprecedented unanimous vote, it was decided crosswalks should be utterly ignored and the lives of those who use them on a regular basis be devalued  to something below lice on a worm.  Satisfied with their unholy decision, this cabal of sinister motorists sacrificed a virgin to their devil-god and gorged themselves on the blood of infants.

I don't have substantial proof that the above event actually took place, I'm just making an educated guess.  I've nearly been flattened while using crosswalks more times in the first four months of 2015 than I have in the last seven-and-a-half years I've been walking to the office at which my day job is located.  Obviously something strange is going on.  It may not be a secret cult of demon-worshipping baby-eaters, but something unnatural has happened to the brains of the commuting public.
I used to have this fantasy about what I would do if I had the good fortune of narrowly avoiding being steamrolled in a crosswalk and also possessed eerie, man-frog powers.  I developed said fantasy after I was almost smashed to pulp by an idiot, who after nearly causing my death, felt the need to pull over to the curb, roll his window down, shout the word "asshole" at me and then screech away like a getaway driver post-bank heist.  You see, in this scenario, Dum-Dum believed that I was the asshole, when in reality, it couldn't be clearer who the asshole was.  Just so we're clear, the asshole is always the person who almost/definitely commits vehicular manslaughter.  You don't hear a lot of victims of hit-and-runs or police brutality or rape being called "assholes" by the press.  There's a reason for that.

Oh, the fantasy!  Yes, in that moment, as the garbage person drove off into his unhappy life, I imagined I had superhuman frog powers, kind of like Spider-Man if instead of being bitten by a radioactive spider he’d been licked or had licked a radioactive frog.  In my fantasy, I leaped from my spot on the sidewalk onto the hood of the dickhead’s car, smashed the windshield with my superhuman frog strength (???), and using my tongue as a bullwhip or lasso, lifted the man from the driver’s seat by this neck, leaped into the nearest parking lot with him firmly gripped in my prehensile tongue and bashed his face into the concrete.  His car, of course, would veer off into an abandoned lot and explode for reasons unknown.  Finally, I imagined me standing the dude up—he’s now crying like a baby, snot, tears and blood running down his dumb face—removing my tongue from around his throat and spin kicking him through the plate glass window of an abandoned storefront.  Slurping my super tongue back into my mouth, I’d look down at this guy, who is now just a sobbing, blubbery mess, and say, all nonchalant and suave, “Asshole.”  This actually happened—the fantasy, not the man-frog street fight.  I have a rich imagination and should be hired by Pixar immediately to write and direct films.  What do you say, Pixar???
For a long time, I thought the frog-man bit was the best way to deal with shitty drivers. Now, I’m not so sure.  I think I found a better way, an easier way, a way that would take away the interaction, the confrontation.  Whenever I want to punish someone for almost killing me dead, I suppress it because I don’t want the confrontation part.  You don’t know who you are about to scrap with if you decide to make a scene, could be someone with nothing to lose—I often assume it is, because I think people who chronically refuse to respect and acknowledge the human beings they share the planet with are soulless monsters without love.  I’m opposed to getting into a shouting match with someone who might, without a seconds hesitation, punch my nose into my brain or shoot me in the heart.  There are people like that.  George Zimmerman, for instance.  Side note, can we get that guy away from the general public, please?  He’s already killed someone.  The next thing is going to be even worse.
What do I currently do when I’m almost run over in a crosswalk?  I’m glad you asked.  I mumble curses like an elderly gypsy woman.  I’ll typically flip the classic bird, let the driver in question know I do not support what he/she just did.  I’m almost 100% certain they don’t care even a little bit.  “Gotta get to the office, even if it means committing a murder.”  I hope you choke on your Starbucks, you rat!
I give bad drivers the finger and I fantasize revenge scenarios.  The scenario I fantasized last time I was nearly killed, however, may be the best revenge fantasy I’ve had to date; in fact, I’ve found a way to make it work for situations outside of the crosswalk paradigm.  And I owe it all to the film X-Men: Days of Future Past.

If you haven’t seen the film or somehow don’t know the scene by this point—I feel like it’s the only thing people were talking about in the podcast-iverse last summer—you can check it out here.  Doing so is vital to fully understanding my fantasy plan for dealing with the crosswalk-illiterate in this town.  For those who refuse to click the link, I will tell you the scene features Quicksilver, a mutant who can run/perform tasks super fast, running and performing tasks super fast.  This moment in the movie so inspired me, that I immediately upped my already rigorous training game—did I mention I’m running a 10K through Disney’s Epcot amusement park in January?  Oh, I didn’t?  Stay tuned!—in the hopes of building my running speed to Quicksilver-like levels.  This will never happen, obviously, but if sleeping has taught me anything, it’s that it’s all right—nay, necessary!—to dream.  Anyway, here’s my fantasy.  It requires both Quicksilver’s mutant speed abilities and a paper sack full of nails.
So, I’m almost flattened by some thoughtless commuter with coffee stains on his work shirt or a cell phone crammed in her ear, and I leap out of the way—not a Quicksilver leap, just a regular fat guy leap, a leap I’m quite familiar with, being, as I am, a regular fat guy.  I take a second to smile deviously to myself, while removing a paper sack of nails from my work bag (my daughter refers to it as my "purse"), and using my mutant speed powers, I do a few hundred laps around the perpetrator’s car, jamming handfuls of nails into each tire as I do so.  Then I dash back to the curb, stash the nail bag and watch the results of my super-powered revenge.  The crappy, almost-a-murderer is stranded at morning rush hour, a chorus of honks and swears serenading him or her and there are no witnesses to how the driver’s four tires got the Cenobite treatment in a matter of milliseconds.  Oh, man, just seeing this fantasy in print brings me so much satisfaction.
I’ve found, between the time I started writing this article and having returned to it weeks later, that Quicksilver powers could come in handy for non-crosswalk-related revenge situations as well.  For instance, there was a little girl at my daughter’s gymnastics class last Monday who refused to follow the directions of any of the three Little Gym instructors who have been tasked with the difficult duty of teaching three-to-six year olds to tumble, walk a balance beam and perform all manner of potential neck-breaking activities.  “Like herding cats,” is my wife’s weekly refrain, and if you’ve ever witnessed a child’s gymnastics class, you’d agree said statement is pretty apropos.  Anyway, this girl isn’t listening.  She’s running to whatever station she wants to whenever she wants to, she’s jumping off of things when she’s supposed to be sitting quietly, in essence, she’s being a little shit.  And what are this little shit’s parents doing about it?  Well, they were seated right in front of me in the parent’s viewing area, so I can tell you exactly what they were doing: nothing.  Literally nothing.  They just sat there, slack-jawed and vacant, as their little shit kid wreaked havoc all over the Little Gym.  It’s almost like they couldn’t see what was going on. I’m pretty sure they weren’t blind though.  They weren’t wearing sunglasses or brandishing white canes, and I’m pretty sure I saw them drive away in a car.  They just didn’t care.  At all.  I was enraged.  I know every kid isn’t like my daughter, but, dammit, they should all strive to be.  She has a blast in gymnastics class, but she also listens and follows directions.  This little shit did nothing she was told, and it was fairly simple to figure out why.
So, what if, using my Quicksilver powers, I dashed into the gym, picked up the little shit, ran her out into the parking lot—making sure to cradle her neck to avoid whiplash, like Quicksilver does for Magneto—leave her there and dash back to my seat.  To be clear, I don’t want this little girl to get hit by a car—I would make sure the parking lot is clear when I pull this stunt and, if need be, I can dash back outside to grab her if anything goes amiss—I just want her parents to notice her.  My brain won’t let me believe these two want to raise a child who does whatever shitty thing she wants and thinks it’s OK, so, it must be that they view gymnastics class as a break, and when she’s in there, she becomes a blank, or, rather, a blind spot crystalizes over their eyeballs, and they become blissfully ignorant for an hour.  Only you’re not allowed to do that.  You’re not allowed to unleash an unruly kid on an unsuspecting world and force us to deal with your parenting failures.  So, you watch your kid, you pay attention, and when they come up short in the behavior department, you correct them, right the ship as it were.
By moving their kid into a potentially dangerous situation, I would be testing to see if they were truly paying attention.  Your kid, who has been running around like a headless chicken, in and out of the gym, jumping off of this and that, is suddenly in the parking lot alone, scared and possibly in the path of a rampaging monster truck—I live in the South, where we do have free range monster trucks, so it could happen—now what are you going to do?  I’m using my Quicksilver abilities here for good, you see.  I’m waking everybody up.  I’m teaching a lesson.  Or maybe I’m just being a dick.  Maybe everybody has a different parenting style, and maybe it’s dickish of me to think I’ve got all the answers.  I mean, people constantly rave about our daughter’s behavior and politeness to us, but maybe me and my wife don’t have all the answers. Maybe I should just stick to jamming nails into people’s tires.

I understand that I will never possess the quickness of a Quicksilver or a Flash or a Fasty the World’s Fastest Toddler (patent pending), so, what do I do when the next thoughtless driver narrowly avoids turning me into a road pancake?  Do I continue my ineffective campaign of subtle bird-flippings or do I, as I’ve also fantasized, pull my umbrella out of my work purse and toss it at the driver, praying it won’t actually hit their car because then they’ll yell at me?  Middle finger salutes haven't helped so far, and umbrellas don’t grow on trees.  Do I write more posts about how important it is to watch out for pedestrians?  Honestly, I don’t think anybody will see them.  Maybe if I mention Taco Bell a lot.  People seem to find my blog when I write about Taco Bell.
What I’ll probably do is continue being the cautious one.  I’ll watch out for the drivers who so callously take my life for granted.  I’ve been doing it for seven-plus years at this point.  If I hear anything about creepy experiments to give  people actual, real-life speed powers, I may volunteer, but until then I’ll just watch my back and fantasize revenge scenarios; sweet, sweet revenge scenarios.
UPDATE: Because I’m lazy, it took me a long time to finish and post this essay, but during this time, something happened that I feel compelled to mention here in passing.  Last week, while walking to work, I was nearly flattened in a crosswalk by someone ON A BICYCLE!!!  We’re on the same team, bike riders and pedestrians!  I was horrified!  We exchanged glances, the bike rider and me, and she seemed pretty apologetic, and I didn’t scowl at her or flip her off or throw a paper sack of nails at her face, I was just kind of shocked.  I encounter this particular bike rider a lot during my walk to work and in the past we’ve been nothing but friendly (i.e. ignored each other), so I didn’t get too fired up.  Seemed like something I should mention though. 

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Reflections on the first 50-minutes of the film Noah

I don't believe the Old Testament story of Noah and his ark full of heterosexual animals and the flood that destroyed all of mankind thus paving the way for the Earth 2 continuity ever actually happened.  Now, a lot of you are probably saying, "Well, duh," but do you realize that just as many readers have this minute cursed me as a heretic and begged God to purge their minds of the offending sentence they've just encountered on this sinfully liberal, obviously atheistic and virulently anti-Christian Web site?  Look, it's a fine story, an uplifting tale in which an angry deity mass murders his creations because they turned out to be a bunch of jerks, a real heartwarming yarn repeated by others scores before the Bible was even in pre-production, I just don't believe any of it happened.  Starting the post out with this statement is intended neither as a warning to believers that some hardcore religious intolerance is on the horizon nor as a sneering indictment of Christianity as a whole.  I'm merely attempting to illustrate why a lot of what irritated Christian viewers about Darren Aronofsky's 2014 film Noah, didn't bother me all that much.  In my opinion, the story of Noah and his ark has never been rich enough to justify a feature-length film adaptation, so why not include rock monsters?

I should also admit here that I've only seen the first 50-minutes of Noah, and 20 of those were spent on a treadmill--I'm training for a 10K, blah blah blah whatever, stay tuned--so, my thoughts on the compleat Noah experience is not fully formed, though forthcoming.  Netflix issues made it so I had to stop watching around the scene where Hermoine is chatting with Noah about being infertile or something, but I'm pretty sure I've encountered enough of the "offending material" to offer some thoughts.  

The following are my reflections, seasoned a bit with that classic GEP wit you've all come to know/love/roll your eyes at, on the first half of the film.  They are not intended to make religious folks feel dumb or give the impression that I am some Bill Maher-style Christianity hater.  Also, it should not be concluded that I am a super fan and/or defender of Aronofsky's film.  I've only seen 50-minutes of it, for Methuselah's sake, and those 50-minutes, frankly, were just OK.  It's not the worst thing I've seen, but I'm not necessarily champing at the bit to leap back into the fray, if I may use two cliches in one sentence (I may.  It's my blog and I can do what I want.).

1. I conducted the tiniest amount of online research--regular readers of the blog will recognize this as my typical modus operandi--regarding the Christian community's reaction to Noah, and, as you can probably guess, I immediately bumped up against Answers in Genesis, the organization that, among other nutty things, believes that Man and dinosaurs lived together Flintstones-style.  AIG has posted numerous reviews and concerns about Noah online, most of which I, admittedly, barely skimmed, but the thing they took umbrage with that most interested me was Aronofsky's use of artistic license.

Yes, Mr. Aronofsky is presenting his own take on the Biblical account of Noah and the ark.  I do not remember hearing anything about rock monsters and mystical vision tea in Children's Church.  And what's all this about Noah being a vegetarian and respecting the environment?!?  The Noah story "they" tell you when you are a kid goes like this:

God was mad at everybody; He told Noah to build a giant boat and cram two of every animal inside it; He sent a flood to destroy the world--it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, if I'm not mistaken; after the rain stopped, Noah sent a dove on a secret mission; the dove came back with an olive branch, revealing that dry land does exist in Waterworld after all; Dennis Hopper and his band of jet ski thugs are defeated; God sends a rainbow, says "Sorry, dudes;" the animals engage in a massive re-population orgy; and you can't buy beer on a Sunday until after 12 PM.  

I don't think I need to tell you, but the Flood story is one thin soup.  There ain't much to it.  To sustain two hours of prime Russell Crowe brooding, it is necessary, nay essential, for one to take some form of artistic license.  My question to AIG is this:  Who cares?  Aronofsky didn't take the story of Christ's crucifixion--without a doubt a far more important story in the Christian tradition--and add a wise-cracking dog to it.  He didn't depict the Last Supper as some kind of Sushi Girl-style revenge dinner.  He didn't make a movie about the Nativity in which Baby Jesus is protected from an evil wizard and his orc army by a hobbit, two elves and a roguish swashbuckler played by Chris Pratt, and slap the label "Based on a true story" in the opening credits.  He took a straightforward, dusty old bland myth from the Old Testament and added rock monsters to it.  Again, who cares?  Is the Flood story that precious?  It certainly seems so to the AIG people.  To them I say, it's Noah's ark, guys.  So, Aronofsky's Noah doesn't dig on meat and is kind of a treehugger.  It's not Jesus with sunglasses, a black leather duster and a machine gun in the temple warning the tax collectors and falafel vendors , "I'll be back."  It's a Bible story for children.
2. OK.  I've mentioned these rock monsters enough, lets get down to it.  Yes, there are rock monsters in Noah.  I don't yet know the ultimate fate of their race, but they are around, a lot, and they're helping Noah build the ark, which totally makes sense if you think about it, because how did Noah and his family build a boat large enough to house two of every animal on the planet without the help of super-strong giants?  The answers, I'm afraid, are not in Genesis, so Aronofsky had to come up with his own, so, rock monsters.

But it's not like he doesn't explain what they are!  I mean, the movie doesn't just throw in a bunch of rock monsters like it's the most normal thing in the world.  The rock monsters are actually a race of beings called the Watchers.  They were once beings of pure light (i.e. angels), created on Day #2 of God's infamous Creation Binge (AKA The Big Bang).  Through their observations of mankind, the Watchers grow to care for humanity and even begin to pity them after the Fall.  God doesn't particularly like this, so he banishes them to Earth, where they become encased in rocks an dirt for some reason.  The Watchers make the best of a bad situation, and use their banishment to help humanity, until humanity turns on them (i.e. hunts them down and slaughters them mercilessly).  Many Watchers are killed, and the remaining few are rescued from extinction by a fire-sword-wielding man named Methuselah, Noah's grandfather.  When Noah meets the Watchers, they are pretty much just wandering the wasteland surrounding Methuselah's Mountain Fortress Playset, still bummed about being tossed out of Heaven and pissed off at mankind for being a bunch of insufferable dicks.

That said, I still can't quite get a handle on who Aronofsky's Watchers are exactly.  My first idea was that maybe they were the director's take on who God conscribed to stand guard at the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were evicted.  After hearing their story however, and it was revealed that they are considered fallen angels, I wondered if maybe this was Aronofsky's take on Lucifer's rebellion, but then I couldn't recall if that was Biblical or just Paradise Lost.  And then when that one Watcher tells Noah that they came to Earth to help humans out, I wondered if maybe he was admitting that he was, or at least knew, Satan, and the the whole Tree of Knowledge sitch was what he meant by "helping" (i.e. humans gained free will, put on some pants, etc), but God didn't like that.  In the end though, it doesn't actually matter.  Noah didn't have access to bulldozers or cranes, so, giant angels encased in rocks.  Why is that any crazier than anything else in the Bible.

3. Methuselah is, like, a magical witch doctor, I guess.  I don't know.  It's dumb.

4. I finally have a name for my current look: The Noah
Me, just add glasses, self-control and a boring American accent.

5. I've never been able to come to terms with the fact that Noah had a son named Ham.  That name makes me so hungry for a hoagie!

6. That armadillo dog at the beginning: Is that a dinosaur?  Is Aronofsky saying dogs evolved from armadillos?  Did one male and one female armadillo dog make it onto the ark, or did they get left behind to die with the dinosaurs, dragons and unicorns?  No major spoilers please, but can someone tell me how this whole armadillo dog thing shakes out?  Put it in the comments or send me an e-mail.  Do you think they taste good?  What do you think armadillo dogs taste like?  And don't say chicken.  Could you keep an armadillo dog as a pet?  Are they good with kids?

Next time: My reflections on the rest of Noah, if Netflix can get it's act together!!!

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