The Journey Through the FAYZ

I just finished reading “LIGHT” by, Michael Grant. It’s the conclusion of the GONE series. I find myself seemingly overwhelmed by the impact these six books have had on me. They’re absolutely incredibly, but will leave no person unchanged should they decide to pick them up and journey through the FAYZ with the characters they’ll grow to love, hate, and fear.

I started reading the GONE series 5 years ago. My first year in college I had picked up GONE and from there I was hooked. I awaited each book release with excitement and trepidation because I knew that whatever was going to take place on those pages was going to be an emotional roller coaster. There are moments that are beautiful, moments that are terrifying, and moments where you think the situation couldn’t POSSIBLY get any worse, but you’d be wrong.

There is something different about reading through this series as opposed to other series’ that have similar themes or scenarios. The Hungers Games may be brutal, but GONE is harrowing. It’s Lord of the Flies with super powers and a lot less hope. Don’t get me wrong, there is hope throughout, but the world presented here is so bleak for so long that you almost begin to lose hope as some the characters do.

The stories of the children in these books are so powerful though. Quinn, Sam, Lana, Edilio, Caine, Diana, Brianna, Orc, etc. They are all meaningfully laid out through each of the novels. These kids go from being young, innocent teenagers to powerful, thoughtful adults, even over the course of the year and a half or so that they’re in this situation. Some kids lead, some run away. Some kids kill, some protect. Factions are built. People choose sides. Lives are lost. The whole time you’re reading through this epic war-like scenario that thought keeps springing to the forefront of your mind, “These are kids. Good God, these are kids.”

There has been talk of the series being adapted for movies or television and I hope to God they find someone who understands the darkness of the series and why that darkness matters. I hope they find a channel like AMC that will let them get away with the brutality that this content needs to work. In 50 years, The Hunger Games won’t  be in a conversational about incredible movies because they sacrificed content for a PG-13 rating. The Hunger Games was decent, but sacrificed the brutality of the books for ticket sales. At the core of a series like The Hunger Games or GONE you have to remember that the power of these characters’ journeys stems from the incredible odds they have to overcome, and yes, sometimes that means killing other children to survive.

The violence, sex, drugs, etc in the GONE series is there as a reminder. A reminder that sometimes, sometimes the world can be an incredibly dark place. The people who get up in arms about the content of these books and the situations that these kids are placed in are missing the point. You’re supposed to be horrified, just as these children are, but you’re also supposed to understand something; for every bit of darkness, there is light. There is love. There is mercy. There is friendship. The children of Perdido Beach all make their journeys along that spectrum. Some end up embracing the darkness and the evil, but some embrace the hope; the light, and that’s all that matters.

I Don’t Feel #Wonderstruck…

I wanted to write about seeing Les Mis or playing through Far Cry 3, but the inspiration for those posts won’t flow.

For the past week or so I’ve been doing the #livewonderstruck challenge. I don’t feel wonderstruck though.

Here’s what my family has found out since December 12th, 2012:

– My mom has cancer. We don’t know much more than that because treatments and appointments cost money; money that we don’t have.

– Short of a miracle, we’ll be out of a house in March.

– We barely have money for groceries/bills as they come in. Basically parts of everyone’s checks go to paying bills for the house.

– We have one car for 4 people, 3 of which have jobs that require them to leave the house.

– I can’t find another job (on top of the one I have) because I don’t have reliable transportation (see above).

I mean,  I’m a 23 year old white male living in America. Things should be peachy-keen for me right? And I shouldn’t complain because, for now, at least I HAVE a house. That’s better than like 80% of the world right now.

I hate it when people say these things. Shit falls on everyone. It doesn’t feel better or worse depending on where you are or what you have. Bill Gates has probably had some pretty shitty days. You wouldn’t say, “Dude, you’re like in the top 3 richest people in the world. Quit your complaining!” would you (some of you probably would, humor me)?

My birthday had my mom in the hospital. Christmas, we were too broke to get/give presents, but we were able to find out my mom had cancer. Her next appointment (we have no idea where the money will come from) is on Valentine’s Day. Easter better watch the fuck out.

What the hey right? Rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.

It’s been really rainy lately, and I fucking hate it.

My TOP 10 Movies of 2012

paranorman-banner10. PARANORMAN

This is the best animated movie of the year hands-down. Wreck-It-Ralph made a good effort, but my soft spot for stop-motion and horror movies made this one my choice.

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9. MOONRISE KINGDOM

Wes Anderson movies are very hit and miss with me. He’s about as hit and miss as Tarantino simply because of how “them” both of their films are. Moonrise Kingdom is one of his hits for me. A fantastically quirky tale of true love with a brilliant cast throughout. The kids in this movie do some brilliant acting. My personal favorite is the “war room” scene between the boy scouts. (DAMN US.)

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8. THE GREY

This is the movie you should’ve seen instead of TAKEN 2. If you haven’t seen this movie, go now, WATCH IT. It’s on Netflix. Incredibly powerful film.

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7. LOOPER

Great actors? Check. Great story? Check. Great action/special effects? Check. This movie is one of the best sci-fi films of recent memory. It sucks you in without being campy or over the top. JGL plays an awesome young Bruce Willis in this.

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6. ARGO

This movie was INTENSE, especially considering we all knew the ending going into the film. I knew they were going to make it, but I was still gripping my armrests throughout the airport finale. This is a testament to Ben Affleck’s directing prowess. This should be nominated for Best Picture come awards time.

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5. THE AVENGERS

Best comic book movie of all-time.

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4. CABIN IN THE WOODS

Best horror-comedy of all-time. This is the second Joss Whedon film on here. The writing in this one is absolutely amazing. The final 20 minutes of monsters are not to be missed.

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3. SKYFALL

Sam Mendes went and made the best damn Bond movie out there. The only thing I could complain about is that I didn’t really like the opening credits, but everything else is damn near perfect. My favorite Bond film is still View To A Kill though. 😀

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2. DJANGO UNCHAINED

This is probably Tarantino’s most entertaining film that he’s made. I enjoyed it more than Inglourious Basterds and that’s saying something. I was never really uncomfortable with the content, but there was a black woman behind me in the theater that laughed hysterically as the white characters were systematically killed off. THAT made me a bit uncomfortable.

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1. CLOUD ATLAS

Are you cynical? Did you just cynically deny it? GO SEE THIS MOVIE. This movie is like a 3-hour dose of hope and love straight to your heart. The idealism through this film is amazing. Even when things are going bad, the characters stay hopeful and do their best to make the best of things. The visuals in this movie are also astounding (which is why I used the picture from my favorite scene of the film). The Wachowski’s delivered again and I hope this movie builds a cult following on DVD and Blu-Ray because it truly deserves it.

If a movie you wanted to be on the list wasn’t, it’s probably because I’m poor and didn’t see it. Holy Motors, Les Mis, etc…would fit into that category.

Top 15 IMAX Films EVER (That I’ve Seen)

15. Resident Evil 4

Arguably the worst of the films I’ve listed, but I’m a fan of the series. Basically I saw it for the cool action bits.

They were cool. The rest of the movie was not. For last place I gave it this cool moving banner image.

14. Underworld 4

Kate Beckinsale + Leather + Guns + Action = one IMAX ticket please.

13. I Am Legend

I saw it for the TDK prologue. It was a decent film with an ATROCIOUS ENDING.

12. Christmas Carol 3D

I took 2 of my friends to see this as their first IMAX film. I really love the story and Jim Carrey and the movie was really good.

I mean, it’s no “Muppets Christmas Carol,” but it’s nice. 😀

11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Almost entirely worthless, but the magic scenes are so wonderful in IMAX. Part 2 is better (and thus ranked higher).

10. Mission Impossible IV

Saw it for the Prologue to TDKR after I had already seen the prologue via winning a contest. Still a damn good movie. Almost the best of the 4 (that goes to 2).

9. Star Trek

One of the best movie opening scenes ever. Such a brilliant movie. It’s even better in IMAX. The sound, that score! Can’t wait for “INTO DARKNESS!”

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Basically non-stop magical action. This was brilliant in 3D. The magic really popped. Kudos to the conversion people on this one.

7. The Matrix Revolutions

MY FIRST IMAX MOVIE. This series was amazing.

I saw this one so much I could quote a lot of it and even used the monologue from the end in an acting class (why mr. Anderson? WHY?!).

6. INCEPTION

This was for my birthday and for research (he got out. The kids are wearing different clothes, Michael Caine was never in the dreams, and the top wobbled. HE GOT OUT.).

5. The Dark Knight

This phenomenal little devil was higher on the list until…

4. SKYFALL

…this guy knocked it down. Roger Deakins’ cinematography in IMAX. Adele singing in IMAX. SO MUCH WIN.

3. THE AVENGERS 3D

Saw this at midnight the day I graduated from college. Best comic-book movie ever made.

2. Tron: LEGACY

This movie was made for IMAX. So many bright lights as well as a pounding Daft Punk soundtrack. One of my favorites of the IMAX movies I’ve seen.

1. AVATAR 3D

Did you really think something else was going to win?

This movie revolutionized the way 3D was used and managed to mesmerize me twice in IMAX 3D and once in regular 3D.

Still the most mesmerizing movie experience I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to head back to Pandora eventually.

Say what you will about the story, but you know the movie was incredible.

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So there’s my list! Hope you enjoyed reading this! Have you seen another film in IMAX that I haven’t? What was it, and was it better than these?

Let me know in the comments!

Twitter Debates and Free Will

Social networks are brilliant creations. They keep the world connected in ways that people never thought possible. They’ve created new venues of getting your voice heard, your talent noticed, and a plethora of other great things. They also have a downside. Scandals get out quicker. If you mess up at a concert, expect it to immediately be up on YouTube. That’s just part of the culture we live in. You know what one of the best parts of these networks is? They’re voluntary.

You’re not forced into a social network online. You exist in one daily, through human interaction, but that’s something that’s incredibly hard to get rid of; short of isolation or death. The online one? Those are something you have to choose to join. Also, you get to choose the people you follow, friend, and generally connect with on these networks.

I am a member of a bevy of social networks. Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare; I love ’em all. I also love debate. I love figuring things out, forming an opinion, and then voicing/defending it. Robert A. Heinlein once said, “I never learned from a man who agreed with me.” I see debate as a way of sharpening your own beliefs. If you’re right, it gives you a chance to teach. If you’re wrong, it gives you a chance to learn. All men do both.

Social Networks are a platform that can utilize these debates. If someone tweets something I can tweet back at them and reply until we figure something out. I love this. Anyone who follows us can see the debate and potentially learn something from it as well. Anyone can voice their opinion in the debate. It’s FANTASTIC.

A lot of people apparently feel differently, and that brings me to an earlier point; participation is voluntary. You don’t have to follow me. You don’t have to friend me. If you don’t like what I say, you can hide/block it. I don’t screen my followers. There are so many different options to utilize before you get to, “Twitter debates aren’t cool.” It’s a public forum that’s completely participated in by choice. My self-esteem can take you not following me.

If you don’t like what someone is saying, that’s perfectly fine, but take a second to think about what Mr. Heinlein said. Surrounding yourself with “yes men” isn’t the way to go.

 

Company, Meet Consumer: Creating a Community

To most corporations and companies in this day and age, you, the consumer, are not a person. You are a dollar sign. The point of businesses are to make money right? You have to be in the green for your company to continue. Some companies decide to take a detached route for community, while other are embracing it. I believe that community will make and break companies in the coming years, and this is why.

What’s the strongest emotion in the human encyclopedia? Love. Songs, movies, and monuments are built in the name of love. People are willing to do ridiculous things in the name of love. People will kill you for it. They’ll also save you for it. People love to love, and they love to BE loved.

Companies are not used to loving their consumers. Most companies still don’t, but the outlook is getting better.  There are some companies out there that totally get this, and they aren’t super successful. Then there are other companies out there that are super successful, and they don’t get it at all. My best example of the latter is Apple Inc.

Apple makes a ton of things that tons of people use. They just announce the iPhone 5 and a plethora of new iterations of their products. However, Apple doesn’t seem to care about you past your purchase and the occasional tech support. Apple makes no effort to put themselves out in the public for reasons of “brand security.” If they don’t put themselves out there, then there’s no chance of getting hurt. Apple chooses to remain a recluse to the community, and sit in their tower making products they know you’ll buy.

Because of this, they’ve made some pretty amazing things, but they haven’t made people like them. They’ve had scandals with how they treat their workers outside of the U.S. They’ve shown their hypocrisy by stealing from other designers, patenting trivial things like rounded edges, and then suing the pants off of anyone who dares to use the simplest of patent without permission. They’ve made no secret of their distaste for other companies. They also haven’t engaged the community outside of advertising.

Apple doesn’t have an official Facebook page. Apple doesn’t have an official Twitter page. Name a social network and chances are they don’t have an account for it. They’ve stated that they don’t want anyone else to hold power over their brand. They want to protect the image of Apple from all other outside influences. They want to sit inside instead of playing with the kids at recess, because they might fall and skin their knee. This is going to cost them in the long run, because other companies understand community, and embrace it.

These are companies like AT&T, Microsoft, Harmonix, Visceral Games, EA, Paramount, Warner Bros, etc… There are a ton of companies that are paving the way for future businesses. These companies understand that consumers are potential profit, but that they’re also people. They understand that it’s OK to be imperfect and to figure things out. They also understand that their consumers may have problems, and those problems will need answers as quickly as possible. Most important, these companies understand that people have value that goes far further than a monetary gain.

Let’s look at AT&T. Yesterday, after the iPhone 5 announcement one of my friends was discussing carriers and asked who they thought they should go with for the new phone. I, being an AT&T customer, mentioned AT&T as the best network out there. It was a tweet in a sea of tweets, but somebody noticed…

AT&T made an effort to let me know that I had value to them. That’s incredible. That’s connection.

Other companies have done the same thing. @deadspace constantly responds to tweets from their fans about their games. @RockBand and @HMXHenry read a blog post from May where I explained my love for Rock Band (the best music game ever) and mentioned that, because of said love, my drums had broken a long while back. They re-tweeted my link, favorited it, and then asked me to DM them my address so they could send me a new set of drums. (You can read that post and the update here) @CinemarkUSA responds to moviegoers in lines at midnight showings. @Oatmeal responds to love and hate all on the same feed.

These people all understand their communities. When I was already a lifetime customer, they made me an eternal one.

I think, going forward, companies will NEED to be connected to their consumer bases. Tons of companies already have community managers and social network experts working for them. THEY GET IT. I can only hope that it will eventually be something that is thought about as essential and necessary without any complaint or wariness. Social interaction with your consumer is an opportunity to go from a faceless entity, to someone who directly cares about the people they make products for, and that’s huge.

Follow these people. Talk with them. Get to know the people who sell you things. Most of them are willing to make that connection with you, and that’s a priceless opportunity.