Archive for July, 2012

Three Days Left; An Ode to the City of New York and A Brief Summary of My Time So Far (TheByteWeek Issue 15)

It’s a city that wakes up at night, assuming that it ever really does sleep. It’s a city of people who love where they live, and who love that they’re a part of it. It’s a city of opinions that celebrates expression, and dedicates itself to promoting ideas and possibilities. It’s a city that’s almost definitely filled with problems and troubles, but it’s a city filled with new ways to try to solve them. From what I can tell, it’s a city that people actually enjoy living in.

Honestly, New York has been leaving me absolutely fascinated; the people I’ve met have been nothing short of extraordinary, the things I’ve seen have both startled and intrigued me, and the places I’ve visited have done absolutely everything in their power to avoid boring me. I’m not even talking about the historic places, or the museums, or the even restaurants, shops, and bars, I’m referring specifically to the ordinary stuff. The people on the street who I would never get a chance to talk to, much less get to know on a personal level. I’m talking about the day to day events, and the ordinary people who don’t show up on television, online, or in most forms of mass media. The people who pay their taxes, go to work, have trouble staying in touch with friends; the people who enjoy their Saturdays and Sundays, and the people who don’t always have something happening – the regular crowd, as it were.

I’ve spent everyday of my vacation, except for last Friday and today (another Friday), going out and exploring the “Famous” parts of the city – I’ve been to the places that tourists are always instructed to go, I’ve been to the smaller places that the guidebooks claim are “A genuine slice of New York,” I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge just to see what it’s like, and I’ve been at Times Square caught in the rain twice (so I’ve already done two things romantic comedies set in this city force their protagonists to do). I’ve been to the Museum of Modern Art, FAO Schwarz, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’ve seen the Apple Store on 5th Ave., and the flagship store for Toy “R” Us (only because they bought out FAO Schwarz sometime back), and I’ve been to Staten Island too (I barely spent anytime there, of course, because I went so I could ride the ferry and see the other islands by boat). I’ve seen Wall St., Washington Square Park, I’ve gone to Columbia University in the City of New York, and New York University, not to mention the time I spent admiring part of The New School’s campus in the Union Square Area.

I’ve spent everyday on a subway train watching as people have asked for help, money, and support, been ignored by the people around them, given us all a dirty looks, and climbed a train on the neighbouring track to spin their tales once again. I’ve even had two homeless people ask me to buy them pizza on Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, which I genuinely thought would never happen in my lifetime. I’ve witnessed some of the most formidable people say some of the craziest things in some of the most random places – I say seen because I’ve tried to avoid those conversations, for obvious reasons. I’ve been to three press screenings, toured The Village’s segment of Hudson River Park, I’ve spent an hour lost looking for a Train, and I’ve had some of the best Indian food and some of the worst shawarma ever.

My point is, in nine days in New York City I’ve done a significant amount, and yet, territorially, I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. I’ve walked more in these past few days than I’ve done in a significant amount of time, and yet I’ve gotten absolutely nowhere in this city. Everyone I talk to brings up another place I should visit, another sight I should see, another bakery I should enjoy, and more restaurants whose stocks need to be thoroughly reduced by unsatisfiable appetite. This city doesn’t end, and I suppose my only point is that it’s daunting, and strangely exciting, knowing that there’s still so much more to do with so little time left.

So far, I’ve spent time in the company of everyone from writers to economists to critics to homeless people, and the consensus is that New York City is one of the best places in the world; suffice it to say, I do agree, and I’m excited, if only a bit disappointed, for my next three days.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Birthday Parties, Pujas, and Press Screenings; My Fourth and Fifth Days In New York City (TheByteWeek Issue 14)

I’m in pain because my feet hurt. I’m almost certain that I’ve burnt my legs, arms, and neck. My feet are covered in blisters, and my legs are surging with an excruciating amount of pain. To top it off, I look like a raccoon because of the glasses I was wearing throughout the day. I also feel indestructible and, redundantly, invincible because I just walked across the Brooklyn Bridge twice – to Brooklyn from Manhattan, and back. I’ll admit that this isn’t a major milestone, but I’m going to bask in my glory and accomplishment for just a little longer; taking into account how little I exercise, how little I actually go out for walks, and how out of shape I am, the Brooklyn Bridge is my physical Everest – my psychological Everest is another subject entirely.

These past few days have been spent, in one way or another, experiencing moments of great emotion and circumstance, beginning with the 50th birthday I had the pleasure of attending on the 21st, the pooja (Hindu prayer ceremony) I attended on the 22nd, my first ever press screening that I experienced on the 23rd, and today’s trek across the Brooklyn Bridge and back. Suffice it to say, I haven’t spent very much dilly dallying in this city, and my days have been filled with a significant amount of movement and campaign.

I digress however; the 21st was one of my first planned days and the itinerary had me visiting Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, and the Highline, a former railroad track converted into a public park based in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. As anyone can surmise, my original plan was to visit the Highline and then move towards Chelsea or the Meatpacking District depending on the weather and my state of exhaustion. The actual park is absolutely spectacular and can honestly only be described by saying that it’s exactly what it sounds like; the park is about a mile long (about 1.6 kilometres), was a former train line and has been converted to serve as a public park – there are benches, lawn chairs, lounge beds made out of wood, a water area for children to play in, several restaurants and cafes, performers playing trombone and other brass instruments, and an insane number of tourists that I only contributed to. Honestly speaking, my favourite part of the park was the amphitheatre dedicated to looking at the street below – a raised series of benches help form an auditorium that overlooks a portion of the street with a glass facade in front of the seats.

I concluded the afternoon by having lunch at The Park, an interesting concept where the dining room leads into an open air atrium that leads into a private lounge, used for special events, and the Meatpacking District’s street side. Lunch was delicious, and I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the ambiance; at first I thought the restaurant’s design was fascinatingly gauche, but I changed my mind once I sat down and relaxed. The entire design was earthen and physical, with a strong emphasis on browns and darker colours to bring a very relaxed and Terran feel to both the atmosphere and the guests. I’m flourishing, of course, but the point is that the restaurant looked good, and the design was quite remarkable.

That evening I attended a birthday party in Brooklyn, spending the night among academics, intellectuals, and those well-versed in culture, philosophy, and intellect. I’ll spend no time denying the fact I was definitely worried that I wouldn’t fit in, though, as is becoming the norm, “Fitting in” is in no way a problem. The hosts were welcoming, the guests were inviting, and the conversation flowed throughout the majority of the evening. The party fascinated me in that it took a very emotional and sentimental turn once it came time to deliver the necessary speeches by the necessary people – the host, and “Birthday boy,” as it were, received everything but a standing ovation from almost everyone at the party. I mean to say that he was quite loved, and that his welcoming attitude was spread well amongst his friends and close companions. It intrigued me simply because it grew to be so emotional instead of jokingly so.

The following day began at 7:30 in the morning to catch a train that would get me to Times Square at 8:30 for a 9:00 showing of The Dark Knight Rises. My review is now available, and I’ll spend no more time on the subject than is necessary – it was a good film, and that’s all that needs to be said about that.

My evening on the 22nd was spent attending a puja – a Hindu prayer ceremony – for an acquaintance moving into a new office building and beginning a new part of her career. At first I considered dedicating an entire article to my experiences, but I quickly realized that, unlike the Iraqi wake, there wasn’t anything incredibly revealing in the ceremony. It was fascinating to attend my first puja, and it seemed hilariously anachronistic for the pundit to have been using a Gefen Honey Bear, but there wasn’t very much that occurred during the ceremony that drew an immediate reaction from me. Indeed, much of the ceremony was spent in silence, allowing the pundit to pray for the health and well-being on the individual and her business, but an equal part was spent breaking character to laugh or share in a joke among the other attendants. I suppose the fact of the matter is that the event wasn’t solemn or mind-boggling like the Iraqi wake – it all seemed rather standard, apart from the fact that it was a Hindu ceremony praying to Ganesha and Saraswati for good luck, good fortune, and good health.

I regret having to sound so mundane, but I suppose that’s an important fact to draw from the evening – despite it being my first puja, it didn’t feel any different than any other major prayer. The familiarity was overpowering, right down to the family members joking with the holy man, the attendants knowing little about the actual proceedings, and everyone seemingly enjoying themselves and struggling to hold back sheepish giggles during a very important and traditional event. It’s humanizing knowing that the core qualities of tradition extend far beyond the boundaries of culture and ethnicity, and it helps to know that no matter the age of the individual, fumbling a certain phrase of prayer can, and will, always be considered funny. It also helps knowing that holy men, regardless of their ethnicity, cultures, traditions, and genders, will always attempt to draw out an event to greater lengths than anyone around them can deem necessary – I had no idea, but apparently the pundit repeated a certain phrase far too many times.

The 23rd had me attending two press screenings as a guest of a film critic/ writer/ journalist that I had spent an evening with sometime ago. Allow me to paint a picture of fear: attending a press screening as guest while having absolutely no credentials apart from writing for an almost nonexistent blog that receives less traffic than U.S. Route 66. To top it all off, I had the pleasure of sharing the same room as the first critic who gave one of the most anticipated films of the past three years a bad rating, so I definitely wasn’t in a room with bit players in the film industry. Reflecting back on my fear, I don’t particularly know what I was so worried about – I suppose I was saying something so horrifically wrong that I would be shunned from society, but now that I think about it, I doubt I’m even capable of saying something so devastatingly vulgar. The fact remains that I spent much of my time viewing Celeste and Jesse Forever wondering what I was doing in a Sony Plaza Theatre screening room, and the remaining time trying my hardest to not draw attention to myself by restraining my breathing.

I’m speaking with hyperbole (in hyperbole? I feel like that’s the kind of mistake I was trying to avoid), of course, because I wasn’t afraid to the point of not breathing, but it’s the overpowering sensation of unimaginable talent that gets to a person – especially a small time blogger. Hilariously, I was so nervous the first time that, walking into Broken Lizard’s The Babymakers, my worries had vanished. An overwhelming sense of calm washed over me, and I was far more relaxed. That being said, I feel like enough attention can’t be drawn to the fact that I casually (in the most abstract sense of the term) attended two press screenings. I say this with all the gusto I can muster: go figure.

In all my time writing reviews, I genuinely never thought I’d ever actually attend a screening of a film, guest or otherwise, well beyond it’s release date in theatres.

In a sense, these past few days have been filled with more than tedious emotional circumstances; instead, they’ve been filled with gratifying personal moments, small victories, and overcoming relative amounts of panic, terror, and fear in one way or another.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

The Dark Knight Rises (TheByteScene Review)

3 Caped-Crusaders-Returning-From-Eight-Years-of-Retirement-to-Stop-a-New-Foe out of 4

It begins with a CIA operative tracking down a doctor and learning that he’s also been delivered three more men. He phones his superiors on the plane and informs the crew, the doctor, and the men that he only has clearance for one of the bagged characters. He threatens their lives while asking for information on their boss until one of the bagged men speaks. The operative instructs his men to remove the bag and the audience sees Bane, the man who will eventually lead Gotham into it’s darkest moment in history, for the first time.

In all actuality, Christopher Nolan’s final foray into the Batman mythos begins with the six-minute clip that was attached as a trailer along with IMAX prints of Mission Impossible 4.

The scene is the exact same, with the only difference being that the synthesizer on Bane’s voice is reduced, if only slightly. Scenes shift from Bane’s reveal, and the audience learns that the death of Gotham City’s once district attorney, Harvey Dent, has allowed the passing of the Dent Act insuring that the city’s violent and organized crime have been all but eradicated. Moving to a reception in the honour of Harvey Dent, at Wayne Manor, characters slowly fill in the details of the past eight years; neither Batman, nor Bruce Wayne have been sighted in that entire time, leaving Wayne Enterprises in the difficult position of operating without one of the most vital members of the board of directors. The next few scenes introduce the integral characters to the film, including Alfred Pennyworth, Police Commissioner and the closest ally to Batman during his active time James Gordon, Police Officer and orphan John Blake, Cat-Burglar Selina Kyle, Wayne Enterprises CEO Lucius Fox, Wayne Enterprises Collaborator Miranda Tate, Wayne Enterprises Rival John Daggett and, of course, the enigmatic Bruce Wayne – the recluse who apparently spends his time holed up in Wayne Manor, refusing to accept visits from anyone and everyone, especially the lovely Miranda Tate.

The film spends the first half of its run-time introducing new characters, conflicts, and subplots to varying degrees of effectiveness, and a considerable amount of time is spent with the non-costumed characters attempting to build an effective plot. In terms of success, much of this is accomplished, with a few setbacks along the way. I have to say it immediately: this film has amazing dialogue, some of the best cinematography Wally Pfister has ever produced (rivalling his previous foray with Nolan, Inception, at certain points), absolutely stunning special effects, CGI used to great effectiveness while genuinely complimenting the plot, brilliant sound effects and an absolutely Earth-shaking score by long time Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer, and fantastic set pieces that not only make sense but also allow the story to be told in a better way. Immediately, one will notice that any mention of the plot is vacant, but only because it’s the weakest aspect of the film, and I must make another point of stating that the plot is very good, great at many points in the film, but almost never fantastic.

My issue with the plot isn’t the direction it takes, or even the choices that the writers made – it makes sense and it flows incredibly well, but there are certain attributes that are difficult to accept, and others that didn’t seem necessary. The romantic sub-plots being some of the weaker aspects of the film, especially since the strong romantic connections created by Wayne with Tate and Wayne with Kyle seemed out of place.

Of course, another issue is the time spent out of cape-and-cowl; for a film about Batman, Bruce Wayne seemed to have been the star. Considering the franchise built, and thrived in the question of which personality dominated which, it seemed odd to have so little time spent with the caped crusader. From an analytic point-of-view, this can be explained and almost hand waved by assuming that Bruce Wayne won the battle, and dominated his alter-ego, allowing him to overcome his personal trauma. However, Christian Bale’s performance as Wayne reveals a massive amount of lingering hurt, all while being surrounded by characters who goad and beg him into reclaiming the mantle and trying to save Gotham City yet again. Wayne is scarred, and hurt by his time during and away from the mantle, and it’s evident that his feelings regarding justice and morality have remained even if his time has been spent away from the proverbial, and literal, line of fire. Bale does a good job, as he has always done as Bruce Wayne and Batman, but the film doesn’t give the latter enough time, as if to say that his development ended long before the film began.

Disregarding the decision to have a Bruce Wayne focused film, a significant amount of time is spent with Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, the self righteous Robin Hood like Catwoman (who spends no time having the name assigned to her). I say self-righteous because she steals from the rich to give to the richer, and herself. For all the time she spends discussing the finer failings of capitalism, her equipment is so advanced and well-engineered that one wonders if she understands the hypocrisy in claiming that the rich have stolen from the poor while she herself provides little to the proverbial 99%. Of course, despite a few qualms with her characterization, her development is believable and her portrayal by Anne Hathaway is remarkable.

Kyle’s convictions are the opposite of Wayne’s where, instead of having to hide her identity to protect those around her, she simply hides her identity to avoid being arrested again – a major subplot involves Kyle seeking a program capable of erasing any and all information about her, allowing her to start fresh or begin with a “Clean slate,” as characters in the film call it. Hathaway almost flawlessly breathes life into Selina Kyle and while I don’t want to make the comparison, she was a far better Catwoman than either Michelle Pfeiffer or Halle Berry, the latter of whom managed to remove all of the character’s vitality regardless. Hathaway gives Kyle somehow manages to perfectly bring to life a character that is tormented, tortured, seductive, and opportunistic, all while maintaining the self serving philanthropy that the character is known for.

Additional attention should also be paid to Michael Caine’s Alfred, Wayne’s butler and closest advisor, who confronts Wayne when he makes the decision of returning to his life as Batman. Caine’s scenes are touching, and more than a little heartbreaking as his character is the only one that truly knows of Wayne’s suffering, sadness, and deep pain. Disregarding his screen time, Caine manages to provide a breathtaking performance as a man who truly cares for Wayne and who truly wishes for the character to find some kind of comfort in a city that has needlessly and pointlessly rendered him vulnerable and damaged.

Finally, I must address Tom Hardy’s role as Bane, though I regret to say that I was joyously disappointed in his performance. On the whole, he was the perfect Bane, and he managed to produce a character that was physically, mentally, and more than psychologically intimidating. He portrays the character as vicious yet eloquent, vulgar but cultured, venomous but provocative, and horrifyingly violent. He casually chokes a man to death to use him as bait, and barely flinches in doing so. Despite certain brilliant moments where Bane is given centre stage to cause all the catastrophe and mayhem his heart desires, he’s lacking a kind of finesse and integrity that a villain of his magnitude deserves.

In short, he’s portrayed as nothing more than a violent anarchist attempting to bring dissonance to an otherwise orderly city. Bane, instead of being Batman’s physical and mental superior becomes nothing more than a terrorist, and his motivation is almost non-existent; he claims to want to return Gotham to its people, but he produces an ultimatum that will desolate the city in a certain time frame anyway. I don’t want to go as far as calling him hypocritical and contrived, though his plan to give the power back to the hands of the common man would be swallowed better if the sugar he was using didn’t involve killing the common man anyway.

In summation, the film excels in its dialogue, effects, direction, cinematography, editing, and sound, but fails at points when it comes to its main antagonist, protagonist, and the finer points of its plot. It’s not a bad film by any means because it’s good overall, and even great sometimes; it’s just not fantastic. I regret to say that it’s the good film we all needed it to be so it could end a superb franchise, but it’s not the amazing “bat-tastic” film we all wanted it to be so it could mark the end of a superb and masterful era of superheroes in film.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Letting Each Moment Leave Us Breathless; My Second and Third Days In New York City (TheByteWeek Issue 13)

Coming back from the Museum of the Moving Image, I’ve learned three things in these past few days; first and most importantly is to not leave a backpack containing a laptop, charger, two notebooks, and three pens in an art gallery during an auction for pieces created by South Asian artists. The story behind that series of events is actually quite straightforward, though the important news is that the plot culminates with my personal belongings returning to me the next day. The second lesson is that weather is highly unpredictable, and no amount of planning or foreshadowing (quite literally, in terms of precipitation) can stand as a reasonable warning towards an incoming rainstorm. Finally, I learned that, while life is made up of proverbial moments that leave us breathless, we must actively make sure that we enjoy each and every single one of these moments instead of thinking about the moment in passing as a faded memory. Furthermore, we must insure that we don’t spend the rest of our lives trying to replicate a moment for whatever reason; I’ll return to the final lesson later, though, considering my ability to retell events in an interesting way needs significant work.

The 19th of July began with the knowledge that, at some point during the day, I’d be attending the Indo-American Arts Council Benefit Auction at the Aicon Gallery on Great Jones Street, at approximately 7:00 PM. Knowing that arriving to the event on time would require skillful planning on my part, I decided to spend the day walking in the Union Square area and not risking it. Around lunchtime, I was informed of the Strand Book Store on 12th St. and Broadway Ave.

As anyone can imagine, I made it to the bookstore and spent an hour taking it all in; reportedly, the store houses over 8 miles of books (about 12.9 kilometres), and quite frankly I’d believe it. I didn’t particularly spend very much time tracking down an individual book, but instead chose to browse the shelves, taking note of the publications I found all while making sure to take note of anything that seems interesting. Over the course of the hour, I managed to find books from the mid 1850’s, both available for sale and otherwise, all the way to current day (though finding “Recent” books in a bookstore doesn’t seem like a very monumental feat). I realized quite quickly that, if I didn’t continue on soon, I’d spend the rest of my life in the shop.

Continuing on Broadway Ave. I found myself entering forbidden planet, a comic book shop that coincidentally seems to be the graphical equivalent of Strand; I didn’t ask anyone for confirmation for fear of shattering my already fragile dream however. Not very much time was spent in forbidden planet, and I continued along Broadway until I arrived at 6th Ave. (changed in 1945 to “The Avenue of the Americas” by then mayor Fiorello La Guardia to “…bring grandeur to a shabby street…”); in all honesty, I wouldn’t have paid very much attention to the street had it not been for the name, and realizing that my curiosity had gotten the better of me I continued along 6th Ave. to discover what secrets it held. Sadly, the name appeared to be merely for show, though if I’ve been misdirected by own observation I’d be more than happy to return to rectify any existing error.

I did learn about The New School though – it’s a liberal New York university founded in 1919 as an institution designed to encourage understanding and knowledge – and I was utterly fascinated by the philosophy that students are to choose and run their own courses (with certain input from academic advisors and professors). To prove this point, the student at the front desk at the school’s welcome centre pointed out that one of his courses included a subject named “Games 101,” a course I later noticed highlighted in the school’s Wikipedia entry (any similarity is, without a doubt, entirely unintentional I’m sure).

Without being disingenuous or needlessly sarcastic, I must say that I’ve been fascinated with The New School since the moment I learned about its existence a few days ago. It seems quite interesting that the school focuses on its students instead of its monetary and financial gain, and the fact that the education is the focus and not the prestige of its graduates is refreshing. Following my brief time spent talking to students and security guards at The New School’s welcome centre, I continued walking around the area until it was time for the Aicon Gallery event.

Before I continue, I’d like to mention that I was apparently only a few blocks from High Line Park, and the Meatpacking District and would have ventured there had I known of my proximity. Ironically, this all ties into the ultimate point on moments, though I do digress. My second day in New York City ended with a delicious dinner at Schiller’s Liquor Bar. Granted, I also ended my second day forgetting my bag filled with almost all of my important technological equipment (really only the laptop), but I digress once again.

So far, I’d spent my first day trying to not be a tourist, all while accomplishing the sole feat of being a tourist, and I’d spent my second day having no plan whatsoever. I decided on my third day to fix these mistakes by spending time doing what I should have from the start – setting out with a planned destination in mind, instead of wandering around a city aimlessly. Ironically, the day I decided on that, I completely missed the fact that I was standing in front of the Flatiron Building. There is an explanation for this; having forgotten the bag, I’d arranged to retrieve it the following day, and exiting the 23rd St. subway station, I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the street names so I could get to the right building where a mutual acquaintance works. As consolation, I got my bag back quickly, but didn’t notice an important New York City landmark (for both tourists, and otherwise). As far as not wandering around aimlessly, and going out with a plan, I was focused on going to High Line Park, and sneaking in the Meatpacking District if I had time – first however, I was intent on finding lunch.

I noticed the line for the Shake Shack simply because it was so long – at first I thought it was two or three separate lines, but I realized my mistake soon. I suddenly found myself caught between two schools of thought; I wanted to try the burgers to see if they were really as good as people were making them out to be, but I didn’t want to waste too much time. Considering that it actually took me 45 minutes to get through the line and order, I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision at the time, but the burger proved me otherwise.

The burger was cooked medium, meaning that the patty was juicy but it was somehow prepared in such a way that the juices didn’t dribble out of the burger and onto everything else. Quite the contrary, the meat was medium soft, but somehow managed to retain the overall fluid density of a well-done preparation – that is to say, the juices were there, but they weren’t going anywhere. The buns were prepared in such a manner that they were incredibly soft, and very warm, but not overcooked to the point that bits were breaking off into crumbs. At the same time, the buns were toasted to a golden brown and tasted, quite honestly, heavenly. Finally, the shack sauce was unlike any burger sauce I’ve ever had it was not too sweet, not too salty, not too thick, and not too creamy.

I was speaking to a friend earlier – discussing the overall structure and taste of the burger – and concluded that everything else we’d had was a subpar replica, a quasi-burger, that was incomparable to the creation manufactured by Shake Shack. I will mention that I was incredibly hungry, so obviously that influenced my train of thought.

Incidentally, this is also when the New York City skyline decided to cloud the sun and release the second round of the downpour that began on the 18th. I got very wet, and a bit cold, and decided to call a personal day; I spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging around here and there, taking short but leisurely naps for no reason at all. In summation, I spent the remainder of my Friday quite casually, until 7:00 PM when I went with two others to the Museum of the Moving Image for a viewing of Cabaret, the 1972 film adaptation of the 1966 Broadway production based on the 1951 play based on the 1939 novel. The film was absolutely magnificent; Liza Minelli provided a wonderful performance, Michael York was fantastic, and Joel Grey was terrifyingly sublime in his performance as Emcee of the Kit Kat Klub. My third day in New York City was remarkably lackadaisical, and my third night was filled with Cabaret.

Until now, I’ve touched upon my first two lessons; I’ve lost and regained my technological identity, and I’ve learned to never bet on or against an uncontrollable natural source – which only leaves me with my third and final educational sentiment.

These articles, and in many ways this blog, are designed as both a helpful tool, and a memorial journal of my ideas, experiences, opinions, and thoughts, and though it exists on a public forum, it is undoubtedly for my own pleasure entirely. It’s always been a fervent rule of mine that I’d stop writing the moment I couldn’t, whether this occurred due to natural reasons such as a lack of time or rational reasons such as a lack of ability, though until such a moment the blog will be a compilation of my individual memories.

In more than a few ways, I’ve dabbled with the notion of moments and events, and have come to the current conclusion that much of the time we spend experiencing moments is also spent trying to recreate memories from past moments. This isn’t to say that a married couple attempts to reproduce the moment they first met, or first declared their love for one another, as much as they attempt to reproduce the emotions of these moments. It’s an absolutely logical human reaction to want to be able to experience moments once again, though it’s less reasonable to compare and contrast events to events; the couple would quickly realize that, if the relationship had positively progressed, that the emotions are still very much present or that, if the relationship had negatively progressed, that they might not be present at all, though it’s undeniable that they’d discover a new moment to remember regardless.

Yesterday’s Aurora, Colorado shootings aren’t the entire reason for this sudden proclamation, since the idea has been rattling in my mind for quite some time, though they certainly are the catalysts for my sudden declaration of memory. Lives are lost, families are torn apart, memories are crafted and destroyed in an instant, and while the pundits and so-called “Intelligent and Educated” individuals drone on about the cause-and-effect of tragic events, human lives are forced to recreate and relive moments all while comparing, contrasting, and critiquing their past decisions and memories to see if they’ve gathered any meaning.

I lost my bag two days ago, and got it back yesterday, and now this memory is ingrained in my subconscious for whenever I’m capable of recalling it. In much the same way as the moment I realized that I had completely missed the Flatiron Building, this moment will be a reminder of this 11 day trip I’ve found myself on. These are individual moments that deserve attention, and instead of spending my time trying to relieve my past vacations in the city, I should be spending time making new memories (considering the weather’s unabashed randoms, I do have an excuse, however). Much like my past memories and experiences, the present ones deserve as much attention, pomp, and circumstance.

If there’s anything to take from this article, and if there’s anything to truly be gained from my vacation in New York City, it’s this: life is made up of moments that take our breathe away, but only if we stop and really let them leave us breathless. Otherwise, we’re just spending our entire lives trying to relive and recreate the past instead of enjoying the present.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

A Day Spent Losing Myself in New York City – Or Trying to, At the Very Least (TheByteWeek Issue 12)

Through a hilariously convoluted series of events, I’ve found myself back in the city of my Winter time escapades. For all intents and purposes, I’m in New York City for the next 12 days, and have absolutely no idea how to spend my time here. Before my possible plans, however, a word of advice to all travellers: pick the aisle seat. I know you’re going to want to look out the window and observe the breathe-taking views and scenery that will roll by, but try to fight off your desire for beauty especially if your journey finds you travelling for an excess of 11 hours in a bus throttling down several highways, freeways, and interstates. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the position of being unable to move your legs from their initial position until the occupant of the seat next to your own wakes up. This is, of course, all assuming that the adjacent occupant does sleep; if they don’t you’ll be more than capable of moving around the cabin of your chosen mode of transportation. In all seriousness, however, my complaints are completely unfounded; getting to New York was incredibly comfortable (if not cramped in a completely expected manner), and was no trouble whatsoever.

As always, the so-called “Big Apple” is as inviting as ever, if not akin to stepping into a sauna surrounded by the Sahara dessert, if the Sahara was on the sun. Ironically, my complaints this morning made complete sense given that the temperature was like the Gobi, but as I arrived in Times Square, and began acting like a sight-seeing tourist a torrential downpour manifested itself, though I do speak out of chronological turn.

My day began with me having no idea how to spend it; deciding to board the nearest train to whichever destination that sounded the most appealing, I boarded the #7 heading uptown to Times Square (for the simple reason that I wanted to reenact the scene from every famous film based in New York City by standing in the “Centre” of the square, facing the New Year’s Ball). Noticing that the #7 passes through Grand Central Terminal, one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, in addition to one of the most beautiful buildings in the world – and one that I’ve never visited – I decided to give my journey some direction. At that moment, I concluded that I would spend my day doing two things: I would blindly walk around Grand Central Terminal and Times Square, all while trying my hardest to get lost. My reasons weren’t entirely remarkable, though the purpose was self-interest and not novelty; I got off the train, walked around Grand Central Terminal and proceeded to enter the main concourse.

It’s a shame, but I haven’t yet found the words to describe the grand hall that serves as New York City’s largest train station. Certainly, the words I have found fail to encapsulate the sensation of walking into the massive concourse to find that one’s mouth has become unhinged in awe. For some reason, it’s very easy to imagine walking into the concourse and ignoring the ceiling, architecture, and overall ambiance, especially if there’s a train that simply won’t wait on the other side of the station. In such cases, I do recognize that there isn’t time to stand in the centre of the concourse and look around for half an hour, as I did, but given my lack of genuine concern for time, I took full advantage of my surroundings. It’s interesting to note that the terminal building’s architecture is somehow both in stark contrast and in conjunction with the buildings around it. The skyscrapers that seemingly never end, built in a very modern design, manage to accentuate the terminal’s overall look.

Sadly, my knowledge of architecture is depressingly bleak, so I won’t make a show of discussing topics I don’t fully understand myself, but I’ll say this: the building looks stunningly ancient compared to the beaming towers that surround it and, as such, it’s very pretty.

Concluding the time I spent gawking at the Terminal, I attempted to get lost in a small portion of Manhattan. I decided to follow the green light and walk signal, never waiting for a light to turn green, always walking in the direction of an open street, first to get an interesting zig-zag view of the few blocks I travelled, and second to see if I could actually lose my way. Interestingly enough, even though I only followed green lights, and even though my sense of position didn’t extend past acknowledging street names, I managed to find myself back at the entrance of Grand Central Terminal. Through no attempt on my part, I somehow managed to travel from 42nd street, all the way to 39th street, passing through Lexington, Madison, 5th, and Park avenue, all the back to the entrance of Grand Central Terminal on 42nd street. After trying to understand how it happened, and deducing that it was nothing more than luck and coincidence that I wouldn’t have to retrace my steps back, I continued towards Time Square.

I must admit that I do realize my first day spent alone in New York is reminiscent of most popular films based in the city – I plan on recreating the well-known scene from Woody Allen’s Manhattan looking at the Queensboro bridge sometime soon – though I can guarantee that the remaining portion of the trip will not be spent in such a way.

Times Square proved to be an interesting paradigm as it started to rain almost exactly as I exited the station. I say rain, though I feel that it’s better to describe the event as a low category hurricane hitting the city, reversing the temperature from “Hot as a solar flare” to “Relatively warm and enjoyable, despite the torrential downpour occurring in the relative vicinity.” Needless to say, I didn’t spend very much more time in Times Square, and considering that I dived in and out of stores, strategically of course, to avoid the rain, I did enjoy my time there. Much like Grand Central Terminal, the movies, films, and television specials I’ve seen were entirely unable to live up to the real location – it’s a beautiful amalgamation of consumerism at its finest, and is, quite simply, a sight to behold. Granted, it’s not so much fun when Ororo decides to unleash her mutant powers on an entire burrow, but the sentiment is capable of remaining despite the climate.

My day ended by eating some Thai food in a restaurant in Queens and typing this article. The rain has stopped, and, most likely due to, today’s short journeys have exhausted me. In any case, my first day in New York City has been, in a word, remarkable. I’m trying very hard to not produce lyrics written by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, if only because the time isn’t right; regardless, day turns to night, and exhaustion turns to sleep.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Pick A Side, Maintain Your Convictions, Put Up a Good Fight, and, Above All Else, Admit Defeat; The Importance of Not Taking Things Too Seriously, With Help from the Anonymity of the Internet

At the heart of every non-confrontational form of communication lies the ever present concept of anonymity. Certain emotions may seem obvious to convey, regardless of the medium, but the fact remains that, even when conversations happen with both parties directly speaking to one another, and every aspect of their language is made clear, details can still be misconstrued. It’s how comedians manage to make so many jokes about men and women, their differences, and the explosive danger of not listening to one’s significant other, and it’s how politicians manage to make even the most basic greetings devolve into an all out media war.

Despite this truth, however, it goes without saying that anonymity allows many otherwise “Quiet” individuals to speak out, and speak up, about topics that they might not be able to discuss if their identity were made public. At the same time, this unknown quality also allows many to take advantage of the security of their true identity by acting out, and against, those around them; the colloquial “No one knows if you’re a dog on the internet” metaphor can be extended further, with many, otherwise silent individuals accepting a new persona with their “Bark” and “Bite” gaining equal intensity.

I use the term persona, because anonymity allows us the advantage of being whomever we choose to be, whether these identities support Obama, Harper, Chavez, Jehovah, Zenu, Racial Insensitivity or Racial Equality, and the internet, as the most prevalent form of non-confrontational communication continues to grow due to the power of anonymity, for better or worse. Of course, I use the term non-confrontational in much the same way that a pacifist who engages in verbal arguments defines their position on physical violence; certainly, the internet fosters, and seems to feed on, confrontation, but the truth is that, excluding certain exceptional cases, we rarely see our online opponents in the so-called “Real World.”

In many ways, this is a positive aspect, since much of what is said online is done as a form of absurd extremism to cultivate attention to an issue that the commentator feels is important and worthy of such attention. Though, in other ways, this also means that a significant amount of what is said online bears little value or meaning to those who said it, and to those who it was said to. Even worse, this also means that, to a select few people, topics that seem otherwise important, become nothing more than meaningless drivel spouted as a means to an end.

However, I digress since anonymity has little to do with the overall thesis of this article, instead my issue lies with conviction and maintaining these convictions. In essence, my overall point is relatively straightforward: pick a side, find arguments that support your beliefs, produce these arguments in a manner that doesn’t involve insulting your opponent, and accept that, if your opponent produces better arguments that seem more logical and more acceptable than yours, you might have been wrong anyway. It’s not a matter of arguing against a fundamentalist about the creation of the universe, or arguing with an animal activist about the aspects of the economy that would suffer if animals were given equal rights as humans, or even discussing the possibility of Hamlet hallucinating his entire ordeal – it’s a matter of picking a side, believing in that decision, and standing by that decision until such a time that a singularity occurs that changes one’s mind.

I do recognize my literary redundancy (after all, I’ve already written two articles on giving up – one that’s all for it, and one that’s against it), but it’s a matter of enough importance that it warrants further incidence. This nihilistic belief that it’s pointless to argue for fear of validating the argument’s topic is elementary and against the very nature of opinion – specifically, that any one individual is allowed, and often encouraged, to have an idea or thought that is contrary to another.

Furthermore, the opinion that both sides can coexist is far more insulting than mediating. The arbitrator that believes both sides of an argument can happily coexist insults both sides equally, especially when both parties have dedicated their minds to an opinion that they feel comfortable with (assuming that they aren’t arguing for the sake of arguing, and that they genuinely believe in the side they have positioned themselves on).

Once again, I recognize that history repeatedly shows that two conflicting sides will almost definitely prove to be incapable of maintaining a non-violent approach to conflicting opinions, which is why mediation and arbitration is more than necessary when dealing with large-scale conflict that escalates far beyond the control of the original parties. Moving forward, I also recognize that it’s even more difficult for a party to accept that they’re wrong in a matter, and my opinions on fanaticism remain stagnant (it’s a troublesome byproduct of maintaining a single point-of-view on an opinionated duality), which is why the most important aspect of picking a side is accepting that possibility that one might be wrong in their decision.

Granted, when discussing topics that can neither be proven or disproved, it’s best to maintain a proverbial “Open mind.” Ultimately, however, this is a trivial point since, given the lack of violent escalation, and given that there isn’t an absolute right or wrong, an argument can continue indefinitely, so long as both parties firmly maintain their convictions. That’s really all it comes down to. Well, that and not believing in something strongly enough to become violent.

After all, not everything needs to be taken so seriously.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Pretension; A Discussion of Films, Their Criticisms, and The Belief That a Movie Is Never Just a Movie

It happens in an instant between the moment the film companies get their titles splashed across the screen and the opening credits roll. We’re enthralled, and intrigued; we’re waiting impatiently for the plot to begin and the characters to reveal themselves. In an instant, we’ve been taken away from our lives and placed in the centre of a new one, observing new people, new stories, and new events. A good film has us immediately hooked, wanting to know more about what we’ve seen onscreen – a bad movie has us questioning whether we made the right decision in choosing it – an even better movie asks us to wait and to be patient, because it knows it’s going to get better. A great movie knows that the beginning is just the beginning, and that it has time to amaze us; it knows that it needs time to amaze us and that, like a good illusion, the small details that we miss while we’re waiting are the most important.

Of course, every director, like every illusionist, knows that we’re not really paying attention since we want to be amazed.

We continue to watch as the plot develops, regardless of the introduction and the opening credits, and as the characters begin to reveal themselves. We continue to watch as the visuals fascinate us, and as the effects fool us into believing such an existence is possible. We continue to watch as the sounds’ subtlety silently dulls us into a sense of ease and acceptance. We continue to watch as the cinematography and editing, two of the most overlooked aspects of film, transition us further into the film, while we pay all of our attention to the characters and plot onscreen. A good movie has, by now, eased its way into our psyche and is producing scene after scene of relative perfection. A bad movie has, almost definitely, made us regret our decision. A great movie has, no doubt, made itself evident and has made us aware of its mastery.

A critic may use words and phrases such as “well-cast,” “brilliantly shot,” “terribly edited,” or “wonderfully directed,” and the so-called “Regular” movie-goer may use words like “boring,” “bad acting,” “good plot,” and “interesting,” but the fact remains that the two opinions stem from similar psyches. A bad movie is still a bad movie, and a good plot is still a good plot. The occupation of the critic does not change the fact that criticism is dispensed, and the popularity of the judge does not change the critique they provide. An individual might not evaluate a film based on the same criteria as another, but that doesn’t make their opinion any less valid, and it doesn’t reduce the validity of a film in any way.

Certainly, bad movies and good movies exist within the same spectrum, but our criticisms cannot end there.

The plot finally eases its way into the climax, and the characters have reached the pinnacle of their development; from this point forward, the plot will begin to resolve itself and each conflict will come to a close. The music might swell, the editing might become smooth and fluid, and the plot might resolve itself in the most mundane and contrived of fashions, but it’s undeniable that the film has left a mark on those who have given up their time to experience it. The film ends, the credits roll, and the audience is left to their own devices, but the end, as always, is merely the beginning of a new series of events.

The conclusion of the film brings out our inner critics, and the eventual realization that the film we so heavily and strongly debate is, after all, nothing but a film. As one can possibly imagine, this is simply untrue; though what’s onscreen might be a movie, it not specifically just a movie, in the same way that a piece of art isn’t just a piece of art, and a song simply isn’t just a song. Art, in any form, is not just art, and those that seem to stand by the belief that the contrary is true to maintain a sort detachment are, undeniably, wrong in their assessment.

Interestingly enough, the belief that a film is nothing more than what it appears to be is a sentiment that’s only really expressed when discussing bad movies – entire arguments and debates on The Iron Lady, The Happening, Battlefield Earth, and Showgirls have ended because an individual raised the opinion that “…these are just movies, and we don’t need to take them so seriously. They don’t mean anything.” I understand the sentiment behind the statement – the person who raises these claims is exhausted from debating the merits of a film and simply wants those around them to recognize that there’s little need in continuing the discussion any further. It makes sense for a person to want to move on to a different topic, especially when they’re not enjoying themselves – or when they’re on the wrong side of an argument and have managed to find themselves with their back against a very proverbial wall.

In such cases, the statement is not intended to be taken seriously, and is really an attempt at segueing the conversation forward. Honestly, I understand the sentiment, and given my penchant for debates and arguments, I recognize that there are times when enough is genuinely enough and I need to move on. My concern is not with the individuals who find themselves exhausted from debate, but from those who decide that debate is needless and unnecessary. My concern is with those who claim that a film is nothing more than the sum of its parts without trying to recognize why it might be as such. Once again, this phrase never presents itself when everyone agrees that a movie is good, but only when someone thinks a movie is bad, or only when someone produces an opinion that exists as the antithesis to one’s own.

Frankly, it’s incredibly pretentious, and more than a little condescending.

Granted, pretension isn’t so much creating a void of opinion, so much as providing a topic with more heft than it truly requires; ironically, by not treating a subject with enough seriousness, the same effect is produced. In every sense of the term, it’s equally pretentious to create a vacuum, as it is to fill it with meaningless drivel. Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of opinion and perspective; importance is a subjective concept, and it’s obvious that not everyone will treat the same topic with the same amount of interest as others. Despite this fact, however, art is never just art, and a movie, though definitely a movie, is never just a movie. Believing otherwise is an insult to those who dedicated their time creating and producing the film, and an insult to those who dedicated their time watching and experiencing it.

Ultimately, even the worst film ever deserves to be discussed, debated, argued over, and, most importantly, challenged. Otherwise, the human desire to gain knowledge, and the concept of intelligence, is rendered null and void. Films are art, and as a form of art, they deserve to be recognized as the amalgamation and transcendence of generations worth of intellectual, psychological, and emotional evolution – regardless of whether they get a high rating on Rotten Tomatoes, how much money was spent making it, and how much money it made back.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

The Amazing Spider-Man (TheByteScene Review)

3.75 Biocapable-radioactive-potentially-life-threatening-spiders out of 4

Remakes, sequels, adaptations and reboots are becoming a Hollywood trademark to the point that a supposedly “New” film is released every single year with the sole aim of capitalizing on an already existing property, or franchise. I’ve already mentioned that Hollywood has run out of ideas, and while The Amazing Spider-Man does little to deny this claim, the fact remains that it’s single-handedly one of the best Hollywood films this year, one of the best superhero movies of all time, one of the best looking films in recent history, in addition to the best remake/reboot that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in recent memory.

Being a retelling of Spider-Man’s origin story, the film features many of the same characters that have been shelled out, characterized, developed, and introduced in every piece of Spider-Man media since the character’s introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15. Peter Parker is a highly intelligent, if slightly unpopular, high-school student who gets bitten by a genetically enhanced spider that grants him the abilities to cling to walls (much like a spider), in addition to the standard arsenal of regenerative abilities, superhuman strength and speed, and superhuman intuition. Effectively, the only thing the spider doesn’t grant Parker is the ability to create spider-silk webbing, which he develops on his own, and incorporates into a set of mechanical “Web-slingers” of his own creation.

Spider-Man’s origin story features the loss of his parents at a young age, in addition to the subsequent loss of his Uncle, Benjamin Parker, whose death allows Peter to realize the true meaning of power, and the responsibility that goes along with it. In addition to the death of Uncle Ben, Peter Parker routinely experiences the difficulties of balancing a regular life alongside his journalistic endeavours at The Daily Bugle, his school life, his personal and romantic lives, and his superhero identity. In a way, Spider-Man is Marvel’s most human character in that his powers act as an allegory for his ascension into adulthood; Parker is frequently caught between making the moral choice of saving lives and helping New York City as Spider-Man, and acting on his selfish desires to leave behind the mask and live life as a regular civilian.

The Amazing Spider-Man covers all of these aspects of Parker’s character, all while adding a romantic interest in Gwen Stacy (played quite well by Emma Stone), a father-like relationship with Curt Connors, who later becomes the film’s main villain, and a strained relationship with his Aunt, May, who is forced to take care of Peter on her own, all while coping with the loss of the man she had called her husband for 37 years.

It’s difficult, and I can imagine more than annoying, for a director to have to tackle a project that’s been done before so many times, all while adding aspects to make the viewing experience enjoyable for the audience. Marc Webb (whose name is so deeply ironic, that coincidence is the only plausible explanation) has been put in a position of rebooting a character whose last film was only five years ago, in addition to having to tackle a property that fans believe has been done well anyway. In every sense of the word, if the film had been terrible, if the plot was weak, if the writing was sub par, if the characters were hollow and lifeless, no one would have given Webb any trouble – many would have expected it, and many did expect it.

Frankly, if the film was dreadful, Webb would’ve been off the hook, so to speak, immediately, or so I’d imagine.

Instead, Marc Webb, through his brilliant usage of Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors, managed to create a film that is fun to watch, fun to experience and, honestly, absolutely astounding. The plot is beautifully detailed, the characters are incredibly realistic, despite a lack of Aunt May (which I found to be a bit odd), the cinematography is fantastic, and the acting is sublime. Garfield did a stellar job as Peter Parker, finding the perfect balance between held back and restrained, as Parker, and courageous and arrogant, as Spider-Man. The character has the same issue that every superhero has – finding balance – and the fact that Garfield was capable of bringing this balance to the character was stupendous. His evolution from the timid, stern, and scared Peter Parker, before being bitten, to the confident, slightly arrogant, and whimsical Spider-Man, after the exposure to the bug, is handled superfluously. The evolution of the character is also expressed as Parker evolves into Spider-Man; his journey to discover his self is somehow described, elaborated, and explored within the time frame of the film, and through extremely well written plot points, realized.

The supporting cast is as well played, with Emma Stone carrying a significant amount of weight and presence as Gwen Stacy. I thought that the casting would have been a bit odd, considering that Stone’s past experiences with characters have always had her playing incredibly strong and self-made, empowered female leads, but her casting as Stacy worked very well, with Stacy being portrayed as head-strong and the perfect match to the cocky Spider-Man. Her scenes resonate quite well, and Stone does a fantastic job of really selling herself as a girl forced with losing her father every morning, all while never being sure if he’ll return home (being a police captain, after all). I wasn’t expecting to be so taken in by Stacy’s turmoil and inner conflict, but Stone gave such a wonderful performance, that I was deeply captivated.

As for Sally Field as Aunt May, I was surprised that she wasn’t given as much screen time, considering her importance in developing Parker as a character. I noticed that a majority of the film had Field in a weaker position, struggling to deal with the loss of her husband, and the sudden emotional development of Parker into Spider-Man (despite her not knowing about her nephew’s dual-identity). It’s a minor gripe I had with the portrayal of Aunt May, but on the whole, Field did a good job of bringing Aunt May down-to-Earth; she’s willful, but deeply concerned for the well-being of her nephew, she’s prying, but very motherly, and that helped cement the film’s realism.

Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors was one of the weaker casting decisions, with the character growing from a concerned humanitarian into a deeply fanatic fundamentalist as quickly as he evolves into the Lizard. Sitting down and thinking, I wonder if that was the purpose behind his development; it’s more than possible, but though Ifans did well as Connors, his role didn’t seem as important as the film seemed to stress. Regardless, his anguish was well written and acted, and though his fundamentalism was a rapid development, it was still oddly believable.

I cannot continue without mentioning the cinematography, the filming, and the editing. This film is a feast for the eyes, and if nothing else matters, the movie has some of the most beautiful set pieces portrayed on film. New York changes from a booming metropolis, to a shirking hub of crime and villainy, and the change from night to day is so beautifully dramatic that I was left gasping at the difference. Of course, being a film about a man slinging above New York City, the cinematography is gorgeous.

I didn’t watch the film in IMAX, though I did make the right choice of watching it in 3D; the same problems with 3D are always there, but the extra dimension adds so much to this film. Once again, this film proves that scenes involving flying and incredibly wide screen angles are best done in 3D. Allow me this one dramatic statement: The Amazing Spider-Man has a vivacity to it that must be experienced in 3D to truly be taken in, and this is only if one doesn’t want to see it in IMAX.

The movie is gorgeous, and is, for all intents and purposes, another cinematic masterpiece hidden under the mask of another superhero movie. Honestly, I’m flourishing yet again, because The Amazing Spider-Man is an amazing superhero movie, an amazing reboot, and an amazing film that can easily be described as gorgeously amazing cinema, with self-discovery, and a story about the individual discovering himself at its core.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Understanding Tyranny; Why The Implied Absence is Far More Powerful Than the Actual Absence of Rights and Why it’s Easier to Challenge than to Accept or Give in to Tyranny

Before the definition took on a harsher connotation, tyranny merely referred to the seizure of control and power through illegal means in a Greek polis (or city). Today, we recognize that tyranny extends far beyond merely seizing power, and often involves the incorporation of harsh means of torture, cruelty, and destruction to insure that the power remains in the hands of the tyrants; needless to say, a tyrant desires to remain in power through any means necessary, and strives to accomplish this task by eliminating any and all opposition. On the opposite side of the spectrum, those living under tyranny suffer simply because any conflicting ideals they may share renders them enemies of the tyrant and, therefore, endangered beings. I genuinely believe that tyranny fails because of the very human desire to understand and to know; in this way, it’s far easier and far more natural for a human to ask “Why,” than to submit to tyranny.

Of course, I say conflicting ideals, though what I really mean to say is the ability to think; anyone with the ability to think freely suffers under tyranny, because even those who agree with the ruler have the ability to switch sides and produce a conflicting opinion – something that renders them endangered simply because their tyrant will remain adamant on his stance and decision. To a tyrant, anyone that can think is a threat, which is why dictators often eliminate the “Most educated” members of the populace first, in order to instill fear in the hearts of those who live, and to insure that anyone that can speak out in defiance is rendered mute indefinitely. The choice to eliminate opposition is also very human, though tyranny fails because of the over reliance on fear; a tyrant will use fear to rule – whether it be the fear of execution, the fear of starvation, the fear of militarization, or the fear of genocidal expansion – in order to continue their tyranny, and in order to maintain their undisputed rule.

Indeed, this fear is important to note because it’s the element that thrives the tyrant’s ability to withstand revolution and change. I must mention that I believe that the absence of freedoms and liberties isn’t what fuels the greatest fear in an individual, so much as the implied absence of these rights and freedoms. In a way, the same is true for any individual living through any form of government – even those living in democratic countries that allow freedom of speech, association, and protest. One isn’t afraid of being persecuted for breaking a law, so much as the implication of persecution given the breaking of said law. It’s easy to believe that the law is an objective set of principles, but the truth is that the law is, ultimately, subjective. A protestor can claim freedom of speech for what they do and say, but the truth is that their ability to speak is dependent entirely on what they say, to whom they say it, and what they do while saying it. Granted, I highly doubt a protestor is concerned with prosecution if their aim is to persecute, but I do digress; the absence of freedom is not what instills the greatest fear in an individual, so much as the implied seizure of these freedoms by a greater power than their own.

In the most rudimentary sense of the term, not being able to speak is an absolute that immediately silences anyone who could have dared to open their mouths to begin with. However, being allowed to speak only certain words or phrases is even more terrifying simply because the restrictions can change at any given moment. Tyranny thrives on this fear far more than any other; after all, the fear of death is one that can be overcome, but the fear of random, arbitrary persecution results in a populous too scared and wary to even think, let alone think about revolution or political upheaval.

Frankly, I must admit that tyranny is necessary, though I’m also inclined to mention that it’s existence is only appropriate during the most difficult of times, and only in order to insure the survival of the people under the tyrannical rule. During times of war, or great struggle, a tyrant will be welcome for their ability to be decisive and quick-minded, though once these times of struggle end, democracy must be revived as the choice method of rule – something that the Romans swiftly discovered once their democratic dreams were, more or less, crushed by the introduction of Caesar. Otherwise, the results will produce an individual too powerful to overthrow or worse, an individual too respected for the power they hold instead of the good they produce. As always, deifying a leader is still the most illogical thing any one person can do, and refusing to challenge their thoughts and opinions is still the stupidest thing any one person can do.

A human with power over others must have this ability constantly challenged in order for the people to understand their place in the decision making process. For better or worse, the most powerful human must have their powers questioned to insure a relative amount of equality on both sides of the spectrum; political parties might take this issue too far when dealing with their opposition, but it’s far better than the alternative – having a single person, or group of people, making every single decision without question.

I recognize that democracy is flawless in the same way that tyranny is not entirely flawed; tyranny relies on quick thinking, and decisive action to create restrictions that exist for a short period of time, while democracy relies on the presence and opinion of a populous to enact laws and regulations that last far longer than any tyrannical restriction. Once again, I make the point that the modern connotation of tyranny doesn’t conjure images of decisive, quick action, so much as long withstanding, militaristic, destructive oppressions that risk the lives of the people for greater ruling power, but the fact remains that, originally, tyranny was meant to provide the people with short term results and not long terms hindrances (though calling modern tyranny a “Hindrance” is an understatement).

Ultimately, the focus falls on the individual and their ability to think, question, and opine; the mind is to be used and is a muscle that must continue to be flexed. Challenging our leaders is not a task for those who have a problem with their leadership, but for everyone and especially for those that agree with their points-of-view. It’s impossible to blame tyranny on those that enact it for the same reason that it’s impossible to blame tyranny on those that allow it to be enacted. The constant human desire to know, to think, to challenge, and to question makes it impossible for tyranny to ever be a lasting method of rule, and while every tyranny or dictatorship can exist, it will not be able to do so without constant challenge and question, regardless of the attempts to silence or eliminate the opposition.

Simply put, it’s far easier to ask “Why?” than it is to submit to tyranny and accept that things exist undeniably. Tyranny might be a human inevitability, but challenge and opposition is a human necessity.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK