Sunday, May 27, 2012

An Interview With Steve Roggenbuck

Some of you may remember that I helped Steve Roggenbuck distribute his poems back in 2010. He's gone and done a few things ever since i am like october when i am dead, including download helvetica for free and recently self-published a book of poems called Crunk Juice. It's a combination of absurd humour and unusual poems with varying formats and deliberate misspellings littered throughout. I've read through it multiple times and it is one of the most interesting collections of poems I've read. Here is an interview with the man himself about Crunk Juice and his work in general:

Q:Your videos online are very unusual and often random. Do you script them or do you just pick up a camera and say whatever comes to mind?
A:usually i have a loose topic and then all the rest is improvised

Q:How often do you get asked if you’re on drugs?
A:haha maybe once a month. i am not on drugs

Q:You’ve retweeted bad reviews and incredibly negative ones are featured on the back of Crunk Juice. Do you ever get offended by people hating your poetry?
A:if the person actualy seems to be one of my friends or someone with an informed opinion, it has gotten me down a few times. most of the criticism i get is just so hyberbolic and ridiculous, it is hard to take it seriously. also most of the criticism i get is from people who write way different styles of literature than me. it seems like, they have their way and i have mine, and its ok for people to like differnt things

Q:Crunk Juice as a whole has recurring themes and motifs, but individual shorter poems appear random, bizarre, or even incoherent. Is it possible or intended for someone to understand and deconstruct your shorter poems on an individual basis?
A: i think a lot of the shorter poems are just functioning to embody a certain style or a kind of humor, and u get more by reading a whole bunch and getting a feel for the voice in general, the personality or the energy behind it all. analyzing the specific mispelling in a single isolated line might not help a lot

Q:What are your poems about generally as a whole?
A:i think they r about how to live.. i want to promote an approach to living that is playful and honest and free. a lot of the way people live is bulshit they are just following peoples expectations or the usual way.. i want to be an example of someone who has questoned the usual way and created a more beautiful, alternative way. i want to create a cultural movment and impact people spirtually and their personality and how they treat themselves and others

Q:You say in one of your videos enjoy the internet because people can appreciate your deliberate misspellings. Crunk Juice has obvious visual influences from the internet in some of its IM styled speech, text based emoticons like \m/\m/, , ... and even its inclusion of URL segments like “Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about! http://invalid.invalid/url””. Are your deliberate misspellings related to this internet influence?
A:yes stuff like lol cats and some twitter accounts like @wolfpupy influenced my misspellings. but the internet is not the only influence. peter orlovsky was a beat poet who used mispellings to create a realy funny and cute as heck writing style, he is pre-internet and he was a major influence on me. also, poems by kids. oh my god kids are beautiful they write better poems than adults. i think its because they are more beautiful people. and iam willing to acknoweldge that, so i write more like a kid

Q:You confess to being inspired by e.e. cummings, do any other poets inspire you?
A: walt whitman and tao lin are usually the two others that i list along with cummings. k silem mohammad and some other flarf poets have greatly inspired me. ron silliman and some other language poets have inspired me. some dada poets and beat poets have inspired me. a lot of my peers in Pop Serial and the extended "alt lit" scene have inspired me

Q:I hear you’re working on your own feature film though I can’t find where it was written. Did I imagine that? If not, then will that be like a 90 minute version of one of your videos, a documentary styled video, or will we see a pseudo-narrative form?
A:i think it's gonna be a compliation of a bunch of my short videos, plus excerpts from my live broadcasts and live readings, plus short interview clips with a lot of people. kind of like how "justin bieber never say never" has all those different sources hehe i want it to capture this year of traveling and community building, and also just encourage people to watch a whole bunch of my material at once instead of just 1 or 2 short videos. the working title is "A YEAR IN THE LIEF." lately i created a couple longer videos, particularly "this is how we live in this world," and was really satisfied with it, i would like to use the length of my full movie to build emotional depth and realy mmove people

Q: would you describe some of your poems as having a stream of consciousness feel to them?
A: i coudl see them being descriebd that way. a lot of my poems use found internet language or they are styled to be similar to internet-comment type of language. also the poems (and videos) change topics prety frequently.. but sometimes the changes of topic seem even harsher than most stream-of-consciousness writing, like there is more overt randomness, compared to a poem that is just meandering thought. usually i end up deleting a lot of my first draft, so there is only a few lines left, and they dont always relate to each other in any obvious way, but i still keep them in the same poem haha
Q:Do you ever see your poetry being physically sold in a store in the future?
A:it could happen, but it wouldn't mean much to me, i dont need the help of any publishers or corporations to get where i want to go. i will probably never distribute my books through chain stores because i dont want to contribute to that system. independent bookstores would be more likely, but still it's not a priority in the near future. im building up everything myself, with my friends help

Crunk Juice can be bought physically or downloaded as PDF for a donation of your choosing here. Printed copies are on %100 recycled paper. For more Steve Roggenbuck you can follow him via Tumblr here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"But they should learn bloody English!"

Recently at my work someone was complaining about Asians. One of them had tried ordering food with imperfect English and asked for fries by saying "chip" as in singular. This co-worker of mine was busy having a rant about it in the staff room.

"They shouldn't be here if they can't speak bloody English, it's so damn annoying. I can't stand it!" and so on.

How inconvenient it must be for her to have to deal with someone who doesn't speak perfect English. I mean can you imagine just how difficult it must be for her when she had to come against that one person who couldn't order properly? I mean what is this? This middle aged lady is so linguistically disadvantaged that she can't even order food properly. And I work in a restaurant! Food is our thing! Out of the 20+ million people in this country, most of which speak English, it is so annoying to occasionally run into someone who doesn't. I mean, don't they understand that English is the 3rd most spoken language in the world? Why is that lady even bothering with her native language, which might be Mandarin, the most common one in the world? She should learn English, like everyone else in this country. In fact, a billion Chinese people should all just learn English so they can go and visit countries like Australia without annoying a few of us. It's their fault that they weren't lucky enough to be born in a country where English is a native language.

My co-worker lives a different life to me. I don't get to experience the awful personal inconvenience of running into people who are incapable of communicating with anyone around them, all alone in a world of strange unintelligible words that they can't learn because the ability to learn new languages diminishes with age. She should have thought of that 40 years ago when she was in China. I mean, surely she had the same opportunities to learn a second language at school like we all did right? And we ALL speak second languages thanks to our public school educations right? See? Easy. Can you imagine how awful it must be to have to deal with someone like that? A break from the normal everyday routine of having people talk to you in a language you speak, and having to deal with someone who speaks a foreign language for a few minutes? It must really get in the way of her job of customer service when things aren't really simple and easy for my co-worker.

I cannot begin to understand just how terrible it is for my co-worker. I mean... how does she cope? I don't know man. I don't know how someone can handle that sort of language barrier on a once-every-few-months basis even if it is for a few minutes. You can see why on a separate occasion she was in a car crash and as soon as she discovered the other party involved was Asian she drove off without giving insurance information. That's totally understandable and justified...

Seriously. If you don't speak the language you shouldn't be allowed to travel, let alone migrate to another country. I mean, that's always been the case right? We English speakers were here in way back even in my grandfather's day, and his grandfather's day, and... well actually it runs out and stops abruptly at 1770... but still...

My co-worker leads a very hard life...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gay Marriage - Why Arguments Against are Faulty

You hear it constantly from someone on the TV, radio, on the internet, or just in public if you're in the wrong spot at the wrong time: "Gay marriage is wrong and we shouldn't allow it. Marriage is between One Man and One Woman. We must stand up for Traditional Marriage. Gays just aren't natural." And so on. Even more so now that Obama has become the first President to support Gay Marriage (another step forward by Obama, proving to the world that he doesn't want to recreate history he wants to make history. Another reason why his presidency is progress for more than just his ethnicity)

There are multiple reasons why this is nonsense, with most Gay rights supporters arguing that love is love between two consenting adults, and that enforcing a religious belief on a minority is religious oppression. Both very good arguments, but one I don't see very often which I would really like to be brought into this discussion is the fallacy of "traditional marriage". We see a brief discussion of it that only ranges back to pre-60s (1967 interracial marriage becomes legal in America in all states not just a few) but really we need to address the fact that conservatives are pretending their historical framework is based off thousands of years worth of how "marriage" is defined.

What even is traditional marriage? "Marriage" is currently a thing between two consenting adults ("adult" in our Western culture is currently 18) that are of opposite sexes. Previously it was between two consenting adults of the same sex and race. We believe marriage is all about an expression of love whereas throughout many cultures, Western included, marriage has frequently been for political or social gain. People married for money, or for power, not necessarily because the other person was actually interesting. Marriage used to be determined by the father or at least the parents. Marriage used to be between people younger than 18.

One awfully stupid argument (excuse my bias) against Gay Marriage is "it will lead to Polygamy." Most Christians in the US will probably tell you that they are against such things. Polygamy we know is wrong, because the Bible is riddled with examples of great kings who practised Polygamy, some of which were hand chosen by God to rule, like king David who had 18 wives. Oh wait, let me start that again... We know Gay Marriage is wrong because no recognised denomination of Christianity has ever made it a core tenant of their faith as the only way to get into heaven, like Mormonism. Oh wait, no I'm bad at this... were was I? Oh yes, pointing out that Gay Marriage will somehow lead to an unrelated form of relationships when those relationships have been endorsed by your religious heritage on numerous occasions is called hypocrisy and I'm sorry but it invalidates that argument.

We know that marriage is important, because otherwise why would we hold the ceremony in a Church? That's tradition right? Well, no. Up until the 16th century it was uncommon for marriages to be held in a church, be overseen by clergy, people didn't even have to witness it. A marriage was a commitment to the other person that they may or may not have told the church about. Not only does the idea of what marriage is keep changing throughout history, but the rituals and ceremonies associated with it keep changing also. For starters divorced used to be illegal, and in some points in history it was only acceptable because of adultery, but remarriage wasn't allowed. I was going to bring up Newt Gringrich at this point to point out that he has had multiple wives, but they all ended because of his adultery, so I guess actually he is technically sticking to a "traditional" idea of how marriages should end. His poor respect for personal commitment to his wives can be used as an argument for why gay marriage will no more sully the good name of marriage any more than all those darn straight people constantly getting divorced, but it is not part of my current argument so let's ignore it.

Marriages that a lot of people would look down on are still legal. For instance: an 80 year old can marry a 20 year old and suddenly everyone goes "gasp! What a gold digger!" even though Gerontophilia and graeophilia are legitimate paraphilias. The issue for most people would be the 60 year old age difference, but you probably wouldn't feel the same way about an 120 year old marrying a 60 year old. Granted, some marriages with massive age differences maybe be a bad idea and really don't work, but the point is that even though you don't like them they're still two consenting adults. That's a very important thing: two consenting adults. I hear arguments that Gay Marriage will lead to Pedophilia being legalised, which is absurd. Pedophilia is taking advantage of someone too young to understand what is happening, or to be mature enough to give consent, and therefore is not comparable to the love between two gay adults. One is abuse, the other is a wonderful thing between two mature individuals.

I keep coming back to this to add more as I remember more of my argument. I do apologise. "Gay marriage has never existed!" some cry, further spouting ignorance. Ancient Rome in the early Imperial period had gay couples celebrating traditional marriage rites. It was not until Christianity began taking over the Roman empire in the 4th century did anti gay marriage laws appear. The Roman emperor Nero was married to another man. Twice.  Possibly even three times apparently but that third time I can't find information on. Freedman Pythagoras and Sporus. Though generally marriage was considered to be between man and woman, the Greek historian Dio Cassius implied that Nero's gay marriages were less scandalous than his stage performances (I will admit that maybe Nero was the Tommy Wiseau of his generation and maybe no one could stop him because he was emperor?). Nero isn't the only example. The 3rd century Emperor Elagabalus also married a man and said that he was "delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the queen of Hierocles". He really wanted to be a woman and would've paid anyone handsomely if they could give him female genitals, but alas, technology wasn't what it is today. In fact, 13 of the first 14 Roman emperors were bisexual or even entirely homosexual. To say that homosexual tendencies aren't found in history is utter ignorance.

Marriage is no longer even a religious thing, it is just a commitment to another no different in secular society. We can not deny Atheists marriage no more than we can deny Islamic people marriages in Western society just because their idea of marriage does not hold the same religious significance and "traditions" as Christian marriage.

Believing that Gay Marriage is against tradition is deliberately ignoring the fact that your idea of what is or isn't tradition is merely social and historical bias effected by your cultural background. Remember that: defending traditional marriage is a fallacy brought on by a social and historical bias. Thanks to the magic of things like transportation, internet, phones, and other forms of communication, people should be able to understand better that other cultures exist outside their own and thus become more understanding of the complexities of human life. I look forward to people embracing this.

Believing that Gay Marriage is wrong because of some passage in the Bible is just part of your religious beliefs, and no one is trying to take that away from you. You have every right to believe that it is wrong but then again, from a Christian perspective so are all other religions because they deny Jesus. And Atheism. And all manner of things that people defend under moral relativism. But those things aren't illegal, because the US is not a theocracy. Therefore it is impractical and downright arrogant to think that one system of belief should be forced upon another group as law. I have just discussed Gay Marriage in terms of Christian marriage traditions which is incredibly limited considering that there are a wide variety of marriage traditions of all kinds of cultures that make up America, not just religious rituals, but ethnic traditions as well. The complexity of marriage is simply too large to discuss in a concise manner and as I've been saying all this time: it should not be boiled down to the narrow contemporary cultural perspective of the Christian right-wing.

And, as always, the most obvious thing to say: If you don't like gay marriage, don't get one.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Writing a Novel vs Writing a Blog

For those who don't know, I'd like to be a writer when I grow up (...well grow up more) and for the past few years I have been working on a novel. I've probably been working on it for as long as I've been working on this blog... I've found an extract it on one of my blogs from 2008 so it started in the same year.

The problem with my novel is I still haven't finished a draft yet. It's been going for nearly 4 years and I've yet to write "the end". I've started a 2nd draft without finishing the first one. Of course it takes time and patience for these things, I know that. But I recently looked at my archive for this blog (a bit of a nostalgic mood) and started to wonder... how big is this blog? So I've been copying the archives into Word so I can get a word count. In the first year and a half of this blog the word count is over 73,000 words. That's 3,000 words short of the first Harry Potter book.

If I had spent as much attention as I did to this blog as I did my novel I could have finished it years ago. 81 blog posts = a novel. Well, the first draft and a bit of a novel. I am obviously not going to call draft 1 finished. But even though my blogging pace has slowed down due to moving on to other blogging sites such as Tumblr and Twitter I still have managed to write a reasonable amount. This blog now contains over 130,000 words. Seeing as I'm aiming for my novel to be around 60,000 words that means I could have re-written it entirely and then some.

The obvious thing to do here is to spend some of the time I would blogging writing instead. So that's what I'm going to do. This novel has been a very on/off piece of work for a very long time now and I promise you I will finish it some day...

Some day...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Every John Green Book: A Review of themes

Well if you don't like spoilers then it goes without saying you shouldn't read this. So in case you accidentally don't pay too much attention I'll put it in bold caps: SPOILER WARNING FOR JOHN GREEN BOOKS.

John Green is the best selling author of nearly half a dozen young adult novels. I haven't read Will Grayson, will grayson, co-authored by David Levithan yet so I'm going to stick to ones he's the sole author of (they are in order, Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars).

There are some recurring themes and kinds of characters that you can see in pretty much every John Green book. The protagonist and narrator is (usually male except in The Fault in Our Stars) introverted, socially awkward, and has limited friends. Their main source of interaction or desire stems from someone they percieve to be cooler and more interesting than them, which becomes a romantic love interest for the protagonist. This character can be present from the start but the friendship they have has to have a large change in the beginning as the catalyst for this desire (in Paper Towns Q already knows Margo, but it is not until years later, after they haven't talked in ages, that his interest in her is reinvigorated and the story revolves around it). Also, the love interest must be in a relationship doomed to fail, or have had a doomed relationship in the past.

The protagonist is not allowed to be enthusiastic about running. Despite this disdain and aversion to exercise they'll end up doing something physical (in Hazel's case it's just climbing up stairs). They are by default terrible at sports. I don't think there is a single protagonist that excels at sports in his books, that is generally left for the people the protagonist dislikes.

SOMEONE. MUST. DIE. There is not a single book where death does not play a part. An Abundance of Katherines involves a death but it happens years beforehand and is not vital to the main action in the story but in the end you realise it's significance to the town that they drive to. Heck, he wrote a short story where a vast majority of the population dies and becomes zombies (well what kind of zombie story doesn't involve lots of death?)

The future plays a minor role as this thing of uncertainty, source of fear, and its consideration is abandoned by at least one of the protagonists for sometimes reckless spontaneity. Alaska doesn't care for the future, Margo is disgusted by everyone's need to plan for the future, Hassan avoids planning for his future and only at the end agrees to go to college, and Augustus and Hazel both realise they don't have a future due to cancer.

Travel features in each book as a journey that changes the protagonist. Pudge travels to his boarding school where his life changes, Colin goes on a road trip that changes his outlook on life, Q goes on a road trip looking for Margo that allows him to see Margo for who she is, and Hazel travels to Amsterdam only to realise her favourite author is nothing but a drunkard.

Another recurring theme is identity and how people perceive and construct the identities of those around them. Each book involves the protagonist trying to examine clues or events to come to a conclusion about an individual. In Looking for Alaska the narrator Pudge realises he didn't understand Alaska as he searches for clues to whether or not her death was accident or deliberate. In An Abundance of Katherines, we have Colin trying to examine his past relationships to understand Katherine III, meanwhile, Lindsey is coping with a struggle to understand her own identity that she has constructed as a front so she can be popular and accepted by her superficial friends. Paper Towns doesn't have this as a background theme, this idea about identity is the entire novel. Margo Roth Spieglman has left cryptic clues to her location when she runs away, and as they search for her the narrator, Q, realises that people construct their own ideas about people and each has a different idea of who Margo is. Only in the very end does he realise who she is. The Fault in Our Stars isn't so much about understanding the identity of the love interest as Hazel isn't fighting to find a way into Augustus's heart, she's there and he's in hers, and it's adorable (I love their romance, it is amazing), but Hazel is confronted with the harsh reality that her construction of Peter Van Houten's personality in her mind has been gravely wrong. Her expectations are shattered.

So when you examine his books you can see recurring ideas and themes, some playing minor roles in one book only to be the major theme in another. So why read them? They might sound repetitive when you simplify them down like I did...

But why watch horror movies? You see you know what happens in most horror films: people die. Teens do dumb things. The blonde one dies. Black guy never lives. Etc. You see, those are recognisable things that allow you to classify it as part of a genre. They share things in common, but each one is different (well horror movies can get pretty cliche and similar, but there are tons of horror movies and only a few John Green books). Each story John Green writes is different in a way. They may involve romance, but each romances outcome is different and so is the journey to this outcome. You can see the similarities between how Hazel has few friends in The Fault in Our Stars and Colin being similarly introverted in An Abundance of Katherines, but The Fault in Our Stars is about a cancer sufferer who is pursuing a romantic ideal whereas An Abundance of Katherines is about Colin's need to make a difference and break free of what he sees as a stigma of being a child prodigy - which is very different from being a genius, and usually amounts to nothing. You can see how they both have travel in them, but both serve different purposes.

The point is that although they have similarities, they are not the same story. So that's why you should read them. Because they are each awesome. They will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and they will entertain you. You will fall in love with the characters, and if you're like me, you can relate to some of them, and you'd really wish they were real so you could hang out with them.

In short, the works of John Green are incredible.

Note: I kept writing "Looking for Alaska" every time I wanted to say "The Fault in Our Stars" so if you see any examples where I talk about cancer in Looking for Alaska you know it's just a typo. I'd proofread but...

Welcome to Nerdfighteria

I recently finished watching all of the videos on the Vlogbrothers youtube channel. It took me from the beginning of February to the end of April, but I did it. Well over 900 videos of the remarkable John Green and amazing Hank Green. During this time I also managed to read all the books that John Green is the sole author of (and I am ordering Will Grayson, will grayson, co-authored by David Levithan right now). They are awesome and I highly recommend them (more on that later)

I am now what one would call a "nerdfighter". What is a nerdfighter? You might ask. Well, uninitiated one, nerdfighters aren't people who fight nerds but fight for nerds (like freedom fighters only with less guns and more Awesome. Nerdfighters don't have internal organs, they are made entirely of awesome.) "Why do you get to be made of only awesome? I want to be made of awesome too!" well you can! Admission into nerdfighterdom is simple: if you want to be a nerdfighter you are a nerdfighter. We don't judge you for your nerdiness, we just like that you want to be part of the community.

A recurring idea is an island nation called Nerdfighteria. Hank Green wrote a song about it (Hank Green writes many songs and has 3 albums which you should check out). Fun fact about Nerdfighters and Nerdfighteria: if we assume every subscriber to Vlogbrothers is a nerdfighter (approximately 688,000 people when I write this) then the theoretically population of Nerdfighteria would be larger than %31.8 of recognised countries in the world. (That's somewhere between Comoros and Equatorial Guinea in terms of population.) OK so there are probably disused channels, and people who have fallen out of nerdfighterdom (*cough* Abbey *cough*come back to us *cough* - or is being a nerdfighter like being a Catholic? You can say you're not anymore but the church stills counts you as one of them. One of them.), or have two accounts subscribed, so if we knock off %10 of those people then that only makes us fall 1 or 2 spots down the list. So it's actually a viable thing to create a society and working economy with that amount of people.

If we pitched in a dollar each we could buy an island. 5 each and we could buy a pretty awesome one (I know, I researched this), though we'd never fit more than a small fraction of nerdfighters on the island at any one time. Oh well. The dream of nerdfighteria dies... for now... But we live on online. Online is where it's at man. The weather is always perfect and distance doesn't mean a thing, unless you're in Nerdfighterlike, in which case then distance sucks... because you'd like to touch and hug them (and nothing else, or something else, depending on which verse of the song stage of the relationship you're in), even though you have a date with your bookshelf you could stay up on skype all night and slow dance to music that's royalty free. Too bad they don't live anywhere near you...

But yes. If you haven't watched the awesomeness that is John and Hank Green then go! Go now! I guarantee that through this journey of watching their styles form and nerdfighteria grow from Brotherhood 2.0 to TruthorFail, to now, you will laugh, you will get excited, and you will most definitely learn quite a few things about thing you didn't know you would care about until they were explained to you by a man with peanut butter smeared all over his face. (yes, that happened, John Green - respected best selling author everybody!) Oh, and if you aren't happy with peanut butter on his face, then why not watch him scribble on his face with Sharpie? 

I swear he's a really smart...  like... really smart I swear.

Oh, and of course I must end this with the obligatory Nerdfighter sign off: DFTBA! (Don't forget to be awesome) (Imagine I am saying with with the "live long and prosper" sign on both hands facing the wrong direction and crossed over my chest).

Kiva - or Charity Without the Charity

Are you the kind of person who wants to help the poor but doesn't want to give to those big charity organisations because you're not sure how much of your money is going where? Don't like the giving part of charity? Wish there was something in it for you? Want to help lots of people but don't have that much money to spare?

Well guess what! The solution is here! There is this amazing website called where you can give out microfinance loans to people trying to start a business or do something that would help their business survive. You may recognise the concept from the Simpson's episode Loan-a Lisa, where Lisa anonymously funds Nelson's bike company. It's very simple, you're like a bank lender only you don't get interest on your loan and you're considered a good person instead of viewed as below Journalists but above Used Car Salesmen on societies list of barely reputable individuals. You find the person you want and give them $25 (though you can lend up to $500 for one person) and then this gets added to all the other donations by other people so said poor person can reach their goal. They then have a schedule to repay you over the next few months, which quite a lot of them do.

That's right... you get the money back! It's like charity only you get paid back for it! How awesome is that? Though of course you could always be a kind soul and put this refunded money back into a different loan so another person has the joy of making their own business. That way there's an endless cycle of giving! You put say, $100 into Kiva, and that $100 can help dozens of people over time not just 4.

And you know the money is going to them and not Kiva, because Kiva asks you if you'd like to donate a little for it's operational costs and you can also pick how much you want to give to them. You can even pick $0 if you're one of those people. Though you know, you don't get paid back for anything you give to Kiva's operational costs, but it makes you feel good about helping the people who helped you help others.

So why not join up today? It's simple, quick, and easy! And there's communities on it too for you to join, like the Nerdfighter community. (HOO-HA NERDFIGHTERS!) Donations you make contribute to their overall ranking of charitableness compared to other groups. Yeah, it kinda makes you feel a bit competitive about giving, which is a good idea. Let's all give Kiva a round of applause for their brilliant idea.

Oh, and if you sign up really quickly by clicking on this url you can get your first $25 loan for free! YEAH! CHARITY! (Hurry! It can only last so long!)

Want to know more about how microfinance works? Here's a helpful short video about Microfinancing by John Green which I do recommend you watch:

And the follow up by his brother Hank Green talking about using the site and how interactions with those in poverty create a better understanding of how they're people just like us:

If John Green, Hank Green, and this blog post have yet to convince you to join Kiva then I don't know what will...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Two Old Men Discuss 3D

I was on the bus when I overheard a conversation happening directly behind me, which I try to avoid as it distracts from whatever book I am reading, but these two old men were discussing film (which I am studying after all) and how little they liked 3D film.

"The technology isn't new..." one said, "I remember seeing a 3D film when I was young." Which was possible as the first 3D films came out nearly 60 years ago with the Man in The Dark being the first 3D film by a major motion picture and the original House of Wax film being the first 3D film by a major American studio 2 days later, both in 1953. Unlike it's remake in 2005 starring Paris Hilton, it had actually talented actors in it such as Vincent Price. Fun fact: the director, Andre de Toth, only had one working eye and thus was unable to see the 3D aspect of the film.

They were in agreement that 3D wasn't that interesting of a thing. It hadn't even made any advancements in technology, which I initially thought was wrong because we'd changed from red-blue glasses (anaglyph 3D) to ones with polarised lenses but turns out that this is merely my limited experience. I remember things like Spy Kids 3 in Anaglyph 3D and it seemed normal for that technology until recently with things like Coraline and Avatar to have polarised glasses that had completely replaced blue-red. Turns out that polarised lenses were actually far more popular and widespread even in the 50s 3D craze (which suddenly makes me realise just how hipster-ish it is to wear red-blue 3D glasses in the 50s).

Remarkably the old man is up to date with his information about 3D films. I listened on, no longer pretending to read my book but simply looking forward and smiling as I wondered whether or not I should join in on his derision of 3D films. Next he mentioned 3D TVs, which didn't seem popular. "There just aren't that many 3D films" he said. Well the amount increases yearly, thanks to the re-invigorated 3D craze jump started by Polar Express and more recently commonly attributed to James Cameron's 2009 record breaking blockbuster Avatar.

But 3D isn't this quick and easy way to making a billion dollars at the box office despite past examples to the contrary. The 2004 film Polar Express might have had 3D sales outweigh 2D sales by 14 to 1, but this trend has decreased over the years. 2D tickets for Kung-fu Panda 2 were greater than 3D. RealD, a 3D technology company, had an %11 drop of shares in May 2011. But 3D isn't dead or dying, it just isn't the most amazing big thing any more. But it seems to be growing according to this article. Before 2008, US 3D films accounted for %3 of film revenue, then in 2009 it was %16.3 (I might remind you that Avatar was released in 2009) and %31.4 in 2010. So there appears to be some conflicting evidence around the popularity and success of 3D. It is reserved only for big-budget films though, which are pretty much guaranteed box office success. Think about it, more and more action films are in 3D, and why wouldn't they be? Big explosions in 3D would be so much more awesome than a deep period-drama in 3D - though I am glad this means we will probably never see the works of Jane Austen in 3D, for that would be a horrific fate for her works. So 3D can't help but rake in the big bucks while less popular films are left to the conventional grace of 2D. This means we won't be plagued with 3D films wherever you go and there will still be lots of 2D entertainment for those of us who don't care for 3D, or get headaches from the glasses. Don't worry though, if the future of film is that all films are forced onto us as 3D then you can always just buy some of Hank Green's (of vlogbrothers fame) 2D glasses that allow you to see 3D films in 2D!

But I believe that people choose 3D because they're enthusiastic about the film not the 3D. Avatar was a cinematic "event" in a way and seeing it in 3D was just part of enhancing that experience, to pull you further into that world. Other 3D films don't get to market themselves like that.

In my opinion 3D used to be gimmicky, with things reaching out of the screen for a cool use of the 3D, but now it is just a thing used to enhance mise en scene. It serves to add a new level of artistic control to the perceivable depth to a film and varies dramatically throughout a film. So when people watch it, still expecting things to reach out to them like in films like Spy Kids 3, they are disappointed, and inevitably notice the lack of depth during a scene that was specifically not designed to have depth. People become disappointed, thinking that the 3D was terrible. I don't think people really realise the purpose of 3D over the past few years as opposed to 3D films in the days where something would alert to "put your glasses on now" for the specially prepared 3D section ("Whoa! Reaching out of the screen wow!" moments). People just don't care about 3D any more because it has lost its novelty and audiences don't understand the artistic point of it, just as the average audience doesn't appreciate how stylistic the lighting is. Perhaps a lot of directors misusing it and putting it in because of it's current trendiness is adding to this problem. People who deconstruct the elements of films as they watch them will appreciate the subtlety if they look for it, but I doubt lots of people will care for any 3D sequence that doesn't involve action. Go to any movie premier where both 3D and 2D are shown at the same time and you will see which one is most popular by far and I don't think it's just because of the slight price increase for tickets.

As a general rule I have decided upon I won't see any film that was turned 3D in post-production as it just isn't worth it. The process is less effective at getting depth the same way as filming in 3D. I learned this the hard way from watching Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 3D. It was like watching cardboard cut-outs with light-sabers move around the screen... which was what it was like beforehand, but now it costs even more to be disappointed by. So because of this rule I am allowed to get excited about The Hobbit in 3D. It was filmed with special rigs that allowed Peter Jackson to adjust the depth of 3D as he was filming it which means if anyone is going to get the 3D right, it'll be this film... I hope.

Although, as you can tell, I have a somewhat negative view of 3D in general, I will say that I think it really suits stop-motion styled films like Coraline. It looked amazing in 3D and I really think the models that fight for the illusion of depth in sets that are effectively a few feet long can really benefit by the additional help of 3D technology.

"So Matt Newton is spending a lot of time in Miami jail..." said one as the two men had finished agreeing with each other over how little they cared for 3D. And just like that the conversation continued on, with the mention of 3D quickly forgotten as it was some fad they'd seen come and go before and would live to see go again...

Even if it isn't the most interesting of innovations in film technology I definitely believe it is here to stay. And it will churn out some amazing examples that will be heralded for decades to come... but it certainly will have a ton of bad and cheap examples before then.