I started off the month by going to Ressurgence @ Scandels with thepussykat and _phoenixrising, which was good and a welcome change from going to Dungeon all the time. It's nice to hear different music to what I'm used to, even when I'm down Industrial Fallout it's still lots of EBM mixed in with heavier Industrial stuff so to hear more Goth Rock mixed in with light EBM was really welcome. Completely different atmosphere and crowd too :o)
Skipped going out all-together on the weekend of the 7th and spent it in with lacuna_raze instead; lots of fun catching up on Doctor Who (I like the new Doctor, like the new season arc, increasingly unsure on the new companion) and mucking about on the X-box.
After spending Fri 14th in playing Fallout 3, the prospect of spending the entire weekend in by myself playing computer games struck me as a little bit depressing so I decided I would head out to Dungeon on Sat 15th despite not really 'feeling it' down there at the moment. It wasn't great but it was okay; seemed like there was a nice variety of different crowds down there, which made it more interesting. Still need to find something else to do on a Fri/Sat night :oP (something to do mid-week wouldn't hurt either!)
Spent 22nd and 29th out at Dungeon as well, same old really. 29th was a bit colder and wet too (after being too warm all during the middle of the week) and everyone seemed to have disappeared for a Sonisphere gig at Talking Heads too. Damn :o/
Gaming at littlecyberalex's was fun through the month though. Managed to convince people to play Monopoly a couple of times, including a very quick speed-game with Chris that we finished in half an hour of frantic dice rolling :oP Played the Cities and Knights version of Settlers, which I think does add something interesting to the original (whilst not really fully replacing it); I'll be looking forward to getting a copy when I can afford it :oP
Bert came over at the end of the month to play Diablo II. My brother had been trying to organise everyone playing through Nightmare with level 30 characters but I got bored of waiting so me and Bert have started playing through normal with fresh characters :o)
Diary: Hospital Stuff
Had my meeting with the psychiatrist re: kidney stuff on the 11th, which ironically felt the most invasive of all the appointments I've been too. I appreciate that they need to be sure of people's sanity and general mental health before allowing people to become donors but I can't say I like being asked probing questions by a complete stranger; felt very rude. Still, it was necessary and I wasn't going to be able to go through with it unless I complied so I just did my best to get through it.
Had to take out my piercings for the MRI scan on Thurs 20th, which was odd. I've had my ear piercings out a few times over the last couple of years and, whilst it looks ugly having all these undecorated holes in my ears, I'd seen it before. The really odd bit was removing my body piercings, which I've not really taken out since getting them a fair few years ago. Strange.
The scan itself was pretty strange and a little unpleasant too. They had to start by putting a tube in my arm but the nurse was having trouble doing it successfully on either arm (she collapsed a vein on my left arm). She said that it was tricky because I've got so many recent holes in my arms due to all the tests they've done recently :oP The doctor had to do it in the end and it went in much quicker and much less painlessly. The resulting bruise still hasn't entire healed yet! :oP
Then I was strapped down and put into a narrow metal tube where I was told to hold my breath whilst the machine made noises like someone had forgotten to push the button whilst in the hatch :oP Bit odd!
Getting the piercings in again was as much trouble as usual. The ones below my neck are easy to get in and close but I couldn't close the others without my mother's help and one of the rings seemed to have closed enough that I just couldn't get it in. I tried opening it again with a stud but I just ended up making a bloody mess of the top of my ear and making a new hole in the wrong place, opps. Have decided to let it heal and then get it repierced :oP
Films: Avatar, Twilight and a few others
So I finally got around to seeing Avatar when my older brother bought it on Blu-Ray :o) (spoilers follow)
Obviously, the special effects are very impressive. They've done a very good job on creating an immersive and beautiful setting. It must have also been very expensive and hard (not sure which is the more important) task to create the aliens so that the audience would be able to respond to them as real people and empathise with them - it would be too easy to end up with something that wasn't believable enough to feel sad for.
The plot is centred around an old, old trope of course. It's the white westerner who encounters a foreign culture that he's originally going to plunder/attack but gets to know them and ends up becoming 'one of them' and then fights for them against his previous allies. The earliest film of that type that I can remember watching was Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, which has an awful lot in common with this film - it's just fairies instead of aliens. Google tells me that the common name for this sort of trope is 'The White Messiah'. It's easy to see why that sort of trope is compelling and so many people like it, on the face of it, it's an attack on imperialism and a defence of foreign culture. If it was just the occasional film that explored these issues that way, it might even be just that. However, like the 'Magical Negro' trope, the fact that it's such a popular trope raises the question of why, in this case: 'why does every film about resisting imperialism have to involve a white guy to lead, thus reducing the natives to a supporting cast?'. I don't want to say much more about that but it seems plenty of others have already, here's one: linky
The 'connection with nature' theme is given a very literal incarnation with the aliens actually plugging into trees and animals. It's an interesting idea, although it all seems way too convenient for the aliens to my mind. I'm not really sure what the animals get out of it and certainly no idea what the evolutionary benefit for the trees is. I guess I'm hoping for way too much in hoping for such explanations but it would have been nice to give some kind of hand-wave excuse for this. Mind you, I suspect that a lot of the people who really resonate with that sort of thinking aren't that scientifically minded anyway.
I was also slightly disappointed at the plot line where the pilot, Trudy Chacon, turned her helicopter around and stopped firing on the alien village. I understand that they wanted to keep the character 'pure' and show that she was one of the good guys but that wouldn't have gone unnoticed. It may have been more interesting if she 'just followed orders' even though it upset her and then have her guilt motivate her actions for the rest of the film.
I think they may have missed a trick with the whole switching bodies thing too. As presented, the change is merely physical; they're much bigger, they're blue, etc. If nothing else, I was at least expecting some adjustment as they got used to talking with an entirely alien mouth but the really interesting thing would have been sensory differences; how they see and hear things. That could have easily tied into the protagonist learning to appreciate Pandora and see it in new eyes as well. In fact, I think it would have been very interesting if Pandora really did look hellish and ugly to human eyes but beautiful when seen through those alien eyes.
Still, all worth watching though :oP If nothing else, it really was quite something just for the special effects :o)
I also watched Twilight, which I actually thought was 'okay'. Not brilliant but not the insult to film that some people make out. It's not like vampire films have this reputation for being outstanding works of art anyway. I enjoyed it a lot more than the terrible mess that was Queen of the Damned, it was more entertaining than the (for some reason) popular From Dusk to Dawn and managed to easily be more deep than the fairly vapid Underworld (and a host of similarly superficial films). Okay, so it was not on the same level as Interview With a Vampire but then I never expected it to be.
Edward is as creepy and predatory as everyone had lead me to believe. From his very introduction he's very creepy in the way that he stares at her, he starts watching her whilst he sleeps for months before she knows about it, he's eighty years older than her, generally very sulky and reveals that he constantly feels the urge to kill her. That's not really the odd part though; he's a vampire - he's supposed to be a predatory monster that isn't likeable. The odd bit is that Bella is emotionally disturbed enough to accept all this without complaint or issue.
Worse, the film seems to want us to accept all of this as 'romantic' rather than being the extremely disturbing scenario it truly is.
The beginning of the film didn't seem to bad, seemed quite toned down and interesting if not exciting. The film started to take a nose dive when it started to try to convince me that Bella and Edward are uber-attractive; I'm sorry but slow-motion standing in front of a fan whilst pouting is just going to make me roll my eyes, not arouse me. The fact is that I can see them both clearly enough and judge for myself whether they're attractive; scenes like that aren't going to change my mind, they're just going to look silly. There were a few other badly done scenes as well. The baseball scene where the two sets of vampires square off with each other again just made them look silly in their overdone stances.
The main problem goes back to Bella and Edward's relationship though. It's not just inexplicable because any sane girl would run a mile from a guy like that but also because it jumps from 'not really knowing each other' to 'in love' so abruptly that it just seems random. We're never given any reason to accept them as being in love other than the fact they say so, which ends up making the whole thing seem like a teenage crush rather than the 'true love' that the show presumably wants us to believe it is.
On the plus side, there seemed remarkable less racial stereotyping than I'd have expected in a show like this, especially with the Native American characters. Okay, so I was already aware that they were going to turn out to be werewolves at some point, it's obvious without even knowing anything about the next movie, but compared to their appearances in fantasy tv shows they came across as real characters rather than just blatant and unthinking cardboard cut-outs of what a child might imagine a Native American to be like.
New Moon continues the trend of presenting emotional instability as romance.
As we start the film, it's revealed that Edward would kill himself without Bella. Rather than the huge red-flag that ought to be, it's instead supposed to be romantic. Of course, Edward then leaves Bella for her own good which means that she stops speaking with her friends, screams in her sleep and then starts putting herself in dangerous situations in order to 'see Edward', which is never explained and thus quite possibly just her hallucinating. This is presumably 'romantic'.
Of course, the only solution to this is to start dating another guy, except she never really wants to date him and refuses the title until he disappeared mysteriously, warns her off and doesn't want to see her, then it's a real relationship. Beyond the fact that this again shows Bella to be a bit of a nutcase, it's also reinforcing the idea that Bella can't be happy unless she's got a boyfriend, although at least this time she does appear like she's having some fun, unlike with Edward where they just seem miserable all the time. Of course, she ends up preferring her dour romance with Edward anyway.
Bah. Again, okay for what it is. As a story about vampires and werewolves, the two films are okay. A lot of people hated the fact that the vampire sparkle in the sunlight but my only problem was it wasn't dramatic enough; I wasn't impressed and it just seemed to minor a revelation for all the drama that came with it. I've nothing against altering the mythos though; with the amount of vampire films out there, it's good to make yours a bit distinct.
I also watched Alien Vs Predator: Requiem, which was awful. The first one was by no means that good either but this one was really awful. The started it off in a Transformers style way by introducing a romance between characters I really don't care about, including a very clichéd thin blonde girl that was just annoying the entire way through the film. In fact, I didn't really care for any of the characters and the only thing propping up the film was the special effects in the fight scenes.
I then watched 'The Day the Earth Stood Still', which had some interesting ideas tied haphazardly together and not really executed very well along with some very stupid aliens whose behaviour is supposed to be justified by a bit of inane pop-philosophy. I get that it's a remake of an earlier film and thus they wanted to try to keep it somewhat similar but it really wasn't working for me.
I actually enjoyed Die Hard 4.0. It was by no means a deep and thought-provoking film but then it didn't try to be anything more than it was. I also find it easier to like the protagonist when he's doing all these impressive things due to the fact that he get really badly beaten up by the experience and does occasionally make stupid mistakes - he's still not realistic but it does make him more 'fleshed out'.
Robots was okay. I enjoyed a post on imdb that suggested it was 'socialist propaganda' because it's about a corrupt business and suggests that business owners should try to run their businesses in a fair and moral way and also because the protagonist does a lot of unpaid work.
Thoughts: Nice Vs Good
I'm often surprised by the way people decide whether a person is 'nice' or 'not nice'. Often, the descriptions seemed to be thrown around haphazardly and it makes me wonder about people's character judgement (not that mine is always brilliant). I've begun to wonder whether it's a problem with the term 'nice' itself though. It certainly sounds like a good thing or, rather, it's obviously a 'nice' thing but I can't help wonder if it has to come with moderation and perhaps sometimes with a certain level of scepticism.
There is of course a lot of material on self-titled 'Nice Guys' and why that form of 'nice' is not a good thing (linky). I think that cover a few different issues with the way the term 'nice' is often used.
The first is problem is that it's so often disgenuine, although that may be the least damning.
In the case of the self-titled 'Nice-guy', sometimes the problem is that they're not genuinely nice as a person but only in behaviour. Whilst they think of themselves as better than 'jerks', but at their core they're exactly the same; the only difference is that their dating strategy works less well. They're not better people, they're just nicer to people they want to sleep with.
Okay, so people in relationships can be manipulative and false, that's not a news flash for anyone and isn't a condemnation of all niceness.
But how much of 'nicety' is also disgenuine in the same way? So much of what seems to be regarded as 'nice behaviour' seems to be swapping empty pleasantries and people politely asking questions that they don't honestly want the answer to. The worst thing is that this seems to be popularly acknowledged and accepted; you're not expected to honestly care about the small talk as long as you fake it well enough.
That's not so bad, not as bad as the 'nice guys who are really jerks' example because it's morally neutral (taking caring about people's welfare as the moral standard). What it doesn't seem to be is honest. Of course, some people might suggest that they really do care but the truth is that, in the vast majority of cases, niceness extends only so far as it doesn't significantly inconvenience the person being nice and then it stops, yet this is again largely accepted. No one is judged for a lack of charity work or donation but a lack of pleasantries? Well, that's not nice.
But, as I begun, the problem is with the disingenuity, so maybe I'm being too harsh on the word 'nice'. Perhaps what I should be criticising is the way that people confuse 'niceness' with 'civility'. Civility is perhaps the better word because being genuinely civil doesn't require any genuine care or compassion for the people one is being civil to. Perhaps the problem here is the people who value civility over genuine niceness.
The second is that it can be pathetic. Here I'm referring to the idea of being 'too nice'.
This too is referenced in the 'Nice Guy' syndrome, although it's often mixed in with the above disgenuity because it's usually not genuine caring that leads self-titled 'nice guys' to behave this way but sexual desperation, which (as pointed out in the articles) is not attractive and thus backfires.
It probably works a little bit better for people who aren't suffering sexual desperation but are simply a little lonely and want some more friends and thus, in an attempt to earn the friendship of other, go overboard in their 'niceness' to excessive lengths to prove themselves. I feel a little bit more sympathetic even if the desire is still not rooted in genuine care for other people but it is still something I by no means think of as 'admirable', especially if it means allowing themselves to be taken advantage of.
But let's instead say that someone's desire to be 'nice' is rooted in genuine care for others, that does seem admirable in a general way. I still don't think it's faultless though. That I think brings me on to another point, it can be pointless.
I wrote an little rant on a previous entry entitled 'When Not to Help' that covers this point a little. In some cases that rant was about when 'being nice stops being nice and becomes obnoxious' but in other cases it's also about 'when to restrain yourself from being nice'. The example of the car driver who stops on an empty main road to let you turn in front of him/her is undoubtedly doing a 'nice' thing but it's also somewhat annoying and counter-productive - it's the sort of niceness that can go too far. It's also an example of a situation where you can be less 'nice' than you're able to without it meaning that you care less about people, suggesting that 'being nice' and 'being caring' aren't exact synonyms.
So, in a few cases, niceties should be avoided in order to benefit others better.
However, I also think there are times when you should not be nice for less generally pleasant reasons, when being nice is inappropriate.
Sometimes, a good person has to 'not be nice' in order to get good things done. The world isn't a perfect place and sometimes you have do unpleasant things to get through it and sometimes you have to do unpleasant things to people. No one said that throwing a person into a prison is a 'nice' thing to do to someone but I think it has to be done sometimes.
There are less extreme and more 'every day' examples too.
Sometimes a parent has to give up on being 'nice' with their children. I think that every good parent should want to be nice to their children as much as possible but I also think that every responsible parent has to learn that they can't be... sometimes a child doesn't need 'nice', they need 'authoritative' or maybe even 'harsh' or 'angry' if the situation merits it.
Sometimes a friend has a problem and all the 'nice' answers are cop-outs or lies and to give an honest and helpful answer is to give an answer that just isn't 'nice'.
Sometimes someone, who may not be worthy of the title 'friend', has behaved in a way that simply does not deserve to be treated 'nicely'. It's a nice idea to be able to treat everyone nicely regardless of what they've done but sometimes what the good thing to do is to be harsh and show a person that part of the cost of their behaviours is that it affects the way that people treat them. I don't necessarily mean that we have to stoop to the level of horrible people and be horrible back but, at the least, we don't have to be 'nice' to them.
I think, in all of these situations, the -good- thing to do is not always the -nice- thing to do.
Obviously, this is basically semantics; people may mean all sorts of different things by the terms 'nice' and 'good' and this only reflects my interpretation of general usage. Still, for that reason I do increasingly find myself worrying more and more about whether I'm a 'good person' and caring less and less about whether I'm a 'nice person'. 'Niceness' as a social concept (as I encounter it) does seem to be manage to fluctuate between either mere appearances; even in the excessive cases it still often seems to be about reputation and other people's perceptions and I often find myself wondering why I should care without that making me feel less of a 'good person'.
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Link: And we shall call this “Moff’s Law” - linky
Link: 5 Reasons It's Still Not Cool to Admit You're a Gamer linky