Zeitgeist


I'm living the dream because I dream when life lets me.

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~ Thursday, August 14 ~
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Robin Williams and World’s Greatest Dad

Sometimes an actor has touched you so deeply that it feels like you know him in person.  You can’t help but feel hurt when you hear that he took his own life. 

And then sometimes you watch a movie of his and his performance is so human and poignant that you feel like he’s with you again.

That’s how I felt when I got to the end of World’s Greatest Dad, which I watched for the first time today, the tragedy of Robin Williams’s suicide still fresh in my mind.

Robin Williams is of course a master of versatility.  What this means is that he can wear many masks and make us believe that each one is a real character.  He literally wears a mask in Mrs. Doubtfire and fools an entire street into thinking he’s a hobbling old lady.

By contrast, World’s Greatest Dad seems to show us a maskless Robin Williams—one who isn’t jumping off the walls like the Genie, or delivering perfectly sculpted lines like in Good Will Hunting.  Instead, he plays an unremarkable teacher who just wants people to love and respect him.  He’s tried without success to have his books accepted for publication but he’s on the verge of giving up. 

One night, his son accidentally dies by autoerotic asphyxiation.  The scene in which his son is hanging from his neck actually slaps you in the face if you know and remember that Robin Williams asphyxiated himself.  To mitigate public embarrassment, Robin Williams disguises his son’s accidental death as a suicide.  To make it more believable, he pens a suicide note in his deceased son’s hand. 

Once the suicide note goes public, the entire school suddenly views Robin Williams’s son as a misunderstood genius, and Robin Williams is thrust into the loving attention of his colleagues and students.  To keep the charade going, Robin Williams fabricates an entire journal in his son’s name, winning himself fame, adulation and sexual companionship at the same time. 

Yet he does not wish to keep the performance up forever—it is simply not him.  In one of the last scenes of the movie, he runs to the school swimming pool alone, having confessed his sins to the world.  A smile washes over his face—the first time in the entire movie he smiles in earnest—as he strips down to his socks and ascends a ladder to the diving board.  We remember that he was on the diving team in college and off the board he goes, naked, shameless, totally in bliss. 

The camera follows him as he plunges underwater and, as he reaches the surface face-first, in slow motion, like a baby in the womb, “Under Pressure” crescendos in the background.  He has washed away his sordid past, having achieved everything he wanted but baptized now with the realization that there is more to life than he once thought.  Robin Williams tells us, “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone.  It’s not.  The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”

Now, I don’t know Robin Williams, what he was like in person and in private.  But we heard that he committed suicide and was struggling with depression and substance abuse for much of his acting career.  Yet despite this, he was able to embody so many different characters that gave us so much joy. 

What did he have to suppress to make his performances so believable and powerful?  Perhaps a side of him that was as sad and vulnerable as his own character in World’s Greatest Dad.  Or perhaps even a side of him that resembled the callous and selfish son that choked to death. 

I don’t know.  But I truly hope that Robin Williams, like his character in the movie, is in a better place now than where he was when it was all just a show.


~ Monday, May 20 ~
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~ Saturday, May 18 ~
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Spezza

Spezza is back in the line-up.  I hope he remains healthy and that his prior injuries are behind him for good.  Go Sens go!

Tags: senators Sens jason spezza
~ Thursday, May 9 ~
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A nice article about Paul MacLean, the coach of the Senators

"After Spezza, Michalek and then Karlsson got hurt, MacLean came in and said, ‘Don’t feel sorry for yourselves.’ It was an opportunity for other guys to step up and play. I think that’s the biggest thing. He has confidence in everyone in this room. Even the guys sitting out, he has confidence in them. If they’re going in the lineup, they’re going in for a reason, and that’s because they can play on an elite level where we’re at. I think the confidence he shows in us helps us to have confidence in him." - Chris Neil

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=669861&print=true

Go Sens Go!

Tags: Senators sens chris neil leadership paul maclean
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~ Sunday, May 5 ~
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Oblivion (2013)

I don’t understand why Oblivion didn’t get better reviews.  Personally, I loved it.  I thought the visuals were breathtaking and its premise unique.  I enjoyed its exploration of, and conclusion about, what gives a person his or her identity.  I don’t care, like some critics did, that Tom Cruise’s spaceship looked like a sperm or that Morgan Freeman’s sunglasses were unnecessary.  Instead, I liked the theme that love is one element of human nature that makes it much more resilient to oblivion than it would otherwise be.

Tags: oblivion film
~ Tuesday, November 13 ~
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Reaching the end of this video was the exact moment when I turned from a horrible vitriolic hatred-spewing homophobe into a gay marriage supporter!

Tags: gay marriage homophobia
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~ Monday, November 12 ~
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24th Birthday

Yesterday I turned 24.  My celebrations began early this year when my girlfriend Lilian delivered me a present (a beautiful computer monitor) and card about two weeks ago. Two nights ago I had dinner and drinks with some of my closest friends.  Last night I went out to a stand-up comedy show featuring Rob Delaney with two friends and Lilian. Today I am one year older.  Here’s a to a happier new year of life!

Tags: birthday Rob Delaney friends
~ Wednesday, November 7 ~
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Zombocalypse

INTRODUCTION

I have killed more zombies in the free online game Zombocalypse than I care to admit.  This very addictive game is available to play here.  It’s a pretty mindless game, yet produces a very satisfying effect when you mow down a line of zombies. The element of chance also plays an important role in the game, making it even more addictive.  

That said, there’s an important skill component to the game as well.  If you follow certain strategies in the game, you’ll survive longer and rack up a larger kill count.  I explain below.

BASIC RULES

The premise of the game is simple.  You are in a 2D arena, and unlimited waves of zombies come at you.  There are 3 kinds of zombies.  Slow green ones.  Fast purple ones.  And slow but powerful brown ones called Stalkers.  

Your character is armed only with a machete, but crates drop at random carrying one weapon each.  The crates are marked on the outside indicating what weapons resides within.  When you pick up a weapon, it comes with a finite amount of ammo.  After you deplete the weapon’s store of ammo, your character reverts back to hacking away at zombies with his machete.  If you pick up a new weapon while holding another weapon in hand, your old weapon disappears and you can’t get it back again unless you open a new crate carrying that weapon.  

Crates holding weapons stick around for about 5 seconds before they begin blinking. After blinking for about a second, they disappear.  There is also one bonus crate that gives you more health and one bonus crate that gives you a double damage upgrade for a limited time.  The bonus crates, once they appear in the arena, stay until you pick them up.  After you pick a bonus crate up, it takes about a minute before that bonus crate drops into the arena again.

Your character begins at level one.  After you are overwhelmed by zombies and you lose all your health points, which is inevitable, the round tallies how many zombies you killed and your character gains a corresponding number of experience points.  When your character levels up, you can access new weapons and the amount of ammo per weapon you start with when you open a crate increases.

BONUS MOVES

If you manage to kill 25 zombies in quick succession, you can access a bonus move (MISSILE STRIKE) at a time of your choosing that basically kills all the zombies in your immediate area.  

If you manage to kill 50 zombies in quick succession, the bonus move becomes killing all the zombies in a larger area (AIR STRIKE).  

If you kill 100 zombies in quick succession, then for six seconds a helicopter (offscreen) continues to kill all zombies in your proximity (HELICOPTER ATTACK).  

You can only have one bonus move in your reserve at a time, and a higher grade bonus move replaces a lower grade bonus move as soon as it is accessed.

WEAPONS

Pistol: not too powerful, holds a relatively small number of bullets.  If you pick up another pistol while holding a pistol, you get dual pistols, which is twice as powerful but depletes your ammo twice as quickly.

Sniper: kills 2 opponents per bullet, holds a relatively small number of bullets, takes a long time to reload, can shoot from one end of the arena to the other.

Shotgun: heavy splash damage, can hold a medium number of shells, takes a medium amount of time to reload, but not a good range.

Assault Rifle: rapid fire, bullets don’t do too much damage, can hold a lot of bullets, good range.

Mini Gun: one of the two best weapons in the game.  Kills 2 opponents per bullet, rapid fire, can hold a ton of bullets, excellent range.  

Watch out for the purple zombie trap: do not pick up the mini gun when there are purple zombies in your immediate vicinity.  The gun slows your movement down and cannot shoot zombies at close range.  Thus, if you pick the gun up while a purple zombie is close enough to you, it will essentially latch onto you and continue dealing damage, and there’s nothing you can do except hope for another weapon to drop in your immediate area before you die. 

Riot Shield: melee weapon.  When in use, you are invulnerable.  Slows you down a lot.  Is only helpful because it can buy you some time.

Flamethrower: the other best weapon in the game.  Deals a huge amount of damage, has splash damage, holds a lot of fuel, and you can move quickly while equipped with it.  Its only limitation is its range.

MFG: clears all zombies in the direction that you shoot the gun.  Slows you down a lot, so you can fall into the purple zombie trap explained above.  It only holds five rounds.

Godhand: makes your machete into a one-hit-kill weapon for a limited number of chops.  Because it forces you to engage zombies at a close range, it leaves you vulnerable to damage.

STRATEGIES

If your goal is to survive for as long as you can, keep these strategies in mind.  

The game is all about buying time for yourself while you wait for the next weapon to drop into the arena.  Thus, you should use your ammo sparingly, particularly that of the flamethrower, mini gun and godhand.  Don’t just floor the space bar.  Tap it when zombies are near and you’ll get essentially the same results.

That said, if you have some ammo left but a crate for a good weapon appears, then empty the clip of the weapon in your hands as soon as you can and then pick up the new weapon, since you can’t take the old ammo with you anyways.

Continue to patrol the arena, going from one end to the other and back again continually.  This helps you find any new crates that have dropped into the arena.  It also serves to fan out the zombies (because the purple ones will move ahead of the pack), meaning that they don’t all clump together.  Finally, it gives you more space in which you can back into, which can buy you precious seconds while waiting for new crates to appear.

Once you pass the 1000 kill mark, the waves of zombies become so thick that the only way to be reasonably comfortable is to pick up a mini gun or a flamethrower and then to patrol the arena as mentioned above until another crate holding a mini gun or a flamethrower appears.  If none does, then try to pick up a riot shield, assault rifle or godhand.  If none of those appear, then pick up crates in this order: shotgun, sniper rifle, pistol.  If you are without a weapon, then use your Bonus Move if possible.  If none of those are possible, then you’re likely going to die.

If you’re going after the Martyr II achievement (kill 200 zombies in a near death situation), then allow the first couple zombies to get you down to about 15% health (you’ll see blood on the screen indicating that you’re near death) and then go on your killing spree.  The reason is that the zombie waves at the beginning of every round are the weakest and it makes sense to rack up those kills first.

Tags: Zombocalypse zombies free online game walkthrough games
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~ Monday, November 5 ~
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Race and the Canadian Opera Company

I find it to be a sad state of affairs when a production of the Canadian Opera Company is so homogenously white.  A few Saturdays ago, I attended the COC’s production of Die Fledermaus and there was not a single cast member who was not white, despite boasting a cast of almost 50 people, most of whom do literally nothing but chime in in the background and strut around in costumes that look like they emerged from the Rocky Horror PIcture Show.  The issue is hardly better in the orchestra, where only three members in an ensemble of over 60 are non-White.

What makes it particularly ironic is that the production tried so very hard to be Canadian.  Just a few moments into the show, Dr. Eisenstein, one of the main characters of the operetta, gamboled on stage humming the Canadian national anthem loudly.  This would be our first clue that US director Christopher Alden would be trying hard to pander to his Canadian crowd.

Later in the show, Dr. Eisenstein pretends to be a Frenchman in order to get into a party.  However, he doesn’t speak French.  Nevertheless, the party guests force him to speak French to another character (who also doesn’t speak French), so Dr. Eisenstein summons whatever French he’s stumbled upon in the past to fake a conversation.  In a sequence that becomes tiresome very quickly, he goes from French gibberish to articulations of “Justin Trudeau” and “Vive le Québec libre.”

Finally, when Rosalinde, Dr. Eisenstein’s wife, emerges later in the play pretending to be a Hungarian princess, she is challenged to prove her Hungarian blood by singing a Hungarian song.  She chooses to sing Csárdás, which is introduced in the surtitles as the Hungarian national anthem (when in fact it’s just a well-known Hungarian folk song).  Rosalinde is about to begin when the conductor says in English, “Alright everyone, the national anthem!”  The orchestra proceeds to sound out a triumphant “O Canada!” while Rosalinde has to wave the conductor down, break character by requesting the Hungarian national anthem, and after the dust settles we’re on our merry way.

I find it sad and ironic that a production of the Canadian Opera Company tries so very hard to add things to make it seem Canadian, but that a quick glance at its cast and orchestra makes it glaringly obvious that the production lacks diversity, a core Canadian value.

I don’t buy the argument that the COC couldn’t cast any non-Whites because Die Fledermaus is set in Germany.  The COC had already modernized practically every aspect of the show.  The racy costumes, absurdist set, and Canada-related interjections do everything short of rewriting the script to sever Strauss’s creation from its classical roots.  It’s all fine and dandy to reinterpret a classic through a modern lens, but if that’s the case then add some minorities and bring it fully into the 21st century please.

I especially don’t buy the argument that opera is a White form of art.  To racialize forms of art undermines the very strength of those art forms by suggesting that they fail to resonate with certain groups of people due solely to the colour of the skin.  The fact of the matter is that there are non-White appreciators of opera (why hello), and there are non-White artists in the field.  Not as many, true, as there are White people.  That said, when it comes to stage art, the skin colour of those on stage has an effect on society’s perceptions of the medium as a whole.  When everyone on stage is consistently and homogenously White, this indicates that opera is not so much White at its roots but rather an instrument used to further exclude non-Whites by maintaining a cell of cultural elitism that cannot be penetrated by non-Whites, not even in the chorus.

Thus, the Canadian Opera Company would do better to live up to its namesake by adding some diversity to its cast and orchestra.  The COC may even find that doing so would ignite an interest among cultural groups in buying tickets to their productions.  Opera is a beautiful and powerful form of art; it ought to be enjoyed by one and all.

Tags: Canadian Opera Company Die Fledermaus race
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~ Sunday, November 4 ~
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Today I am thankful for: the freedom I enjoy and the lives and efforts of those who fought and continue for it.

Today I am thankful for: the freedom I enjoy and the lives and efforts of those who fought and continue for it.

Tags: sunday