Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Jeff Bowman (Dax)
265 followers
265 followers
About
Posts

I have thoughts about Jurassic World. Spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.

So:

- It felt a lot like Portal 2 With Dinosaurs, complete with echoes of Hammond/Johnson and an unexpected saunter through the derelict old buildings with overgrowth and old logos. That said, points for bringing in Jurassic Park in ways that I didn't think they'd dare to. I expected to see none of the old logo and name, then the t-shirt scene was a wink, then HOLY CRAP THEY DID NOT JUST FIND—OH SHIT THEY DID.

- I can't believe they had this fantastic John Williams music, with these great themes with big crescendos, and then blew their load with NO DINOSAURS on the screen. "Here's your chills-down-tbe-spine buildup, one you remember from childhood with those first jaw-dropping dinosaur scenes, and...BUILDINGS!" That's all editing, though: the score and adaptation were fantastic, just misused big time.

- Likewise, no points for the script. The first 10 minutes beat you over the head with plot and context. Show me, don't tell me, and PLEASE don't tell me THAT much.

- There were a few attempts to show us characterization, rather than telling us, but they wound up feeling like Stuff That Wasn't Necessary: The divorce arc. The older brother's obsession with girls, versus an almost-girlfriend back home that we never really meet. The mom's use of the today/tomorrow line. The younger brother's encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs. Were any of these things really resolved, or useful to the plot/characters enough to justify their screen time? Why couldn't the kid's dinosaur facts come in handy, or the trip to old-Jurassic-Park give them a useful piece of knowledge or equipment or experience, or the crazy Indominus camouflage matter for more than two early scenes?

- The meta "dinosaurs aren't enough for today's crowd" is quite a speech. Impressively blunt and literal, though almost to the point of breaking the fourth wall.

- Effects are excellent 3D. Characters were 2D, if not 1D. Way too many characters with nothing to them at all, except as "good guy dinosaur food" and "bad guy dinosaur food". We get it, dude is an asshole, he's gonna get eaten.

- Chris Pratt is a great cartoon character here. Badass with the best lines doing ridiculous things without breaking a sweat. I dig the "respect the animals, you don't control them, they're more than assets" characterization, but he had no backstory or motivation to speak of, so the "dino whisperer" bit came from nowhere.

- Also cartoonish: The masses of terrified people dying. Wow, much death, so scary. No real stakes established here.

- The theme park satire is so delicious, I'm still laughing about it. Jimmy Fallon as himself? IMAX theaters and Pandora and Jamba Juice and Starbucks and Margaritaville and $7 sodas? Disinterested teenager operating the ride amid angry vacationers? A+.

- For that matter, the product placement was lampshaded so hard I don't even know what to think. Samsung Innovation World? Verizon Wireless presents Indominus Rex? "Pepsisaur"? I'm almost surprised they got away with it.

- The biggest disappointment for me was that there was no Crichton left. Part of the fun of a Crichton story is seeing the elaborate setup of dominoes so we can watch them fall, usually with good characters and big stakes punctuated with a little suspense/action and an ethical dilemma as an undercurrent. This was no stakes, no setup, no characters, early moral handwaves, then just action and action and action and loud dinosaurs and cardboard cutouts of bad guys getting entirely predictable karmatic deaths. All dessert, no dinner.

- That said, the dessert was tasty.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
P.L. Travers on Anthropomorphic Animals

"Oh, he’s clever, this Disney! From the depths of my misanthropy I admit it. Set a rabbit weeping, reveal a heart of pity beneath the tortoise shell, trump up a good deed for the adder and kind thoughts for the stoat and you have the password to the modern heart. And Disney knows it. The very pith of his secret is the enlargement of the animal world and a corresponding deflation of all human values. There is a profound cynicism at the root of his, as of all, sentimentality."

-P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins, writing a review of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" for the New English Weekly in 1938
 http://www.litfilm.upol.cz/dokumenty/MJLF0302Inge.pdf
Add a comment...

"It's always the lead's fault."

When I started swing dancing, a decade ago in Santa Rosa, one of the things they taught is that "it's always the lead's fault": The person leading the dance ("the lead") is always the one responsible, no matter what their dance partner ("the follow") does. If the lead steps on the follow's foot, it's the lead's fault. If the follow steps on the lead's foot, it's the lead's fault. If the lead starts a move and the follow misses it, or crashes into somebody, or loses the beat, you guessed it: The lead's fault. It was a little tongue in cheek—it can't ALWAYS be one partner's fault, right?—but that's what we were told: The lead made the decision of what to do, so it's the lead's fault.

For pilots, the same rule holds, but with a lot more gravitas. It is almost always the pilot's fault. The aircraft was designed and vetted with checklists, and handbooks; the laws are all there. For something major to go wrong, there were probably multiple bad decisions that led there—warning signs, or ignored checks, or bad decisions. It doesn't matter exactly which bad thing happened; if there was a bad decision or skipped check anywhere down the line, no matter what the catastrophe was, it's probably the pilot's fault.

So, what's the point, outside of dancing and flying?

For everyone and everything in a single human life, you don't know what's going on in their life, what baggage they have, or what their values are. You don't know why a person is how they are, or if they'll change, or when. Even after hearing 'the whole story', you probably don't know the other side of it. The important thing is to know how little you know, see how far you're actually covered, and find the best next step.

Thus, the question is not "why did this person misinterpret me?", it's "how can I be clearer in my intentions next time?" It's not "this person should have talked to us earlier", it's "why wouldn't this person have felt comfortable with the options we provided, and how can we fix that?" It's not "why can't person X and person Y just get along", it's "how can we best ensure person X and person Y both have a good time?" This has a nice, important side effect: You don't have to determine who's right and who's wrong. You just have to figure out what course will ensure the best outcome next time.

Come on up, and be a lead. Of course, it'll be your fault too. And maybe, if you enter with that frame of mind, you might just come out better for it. :)
Add a comment...

I love jokes. I always have. I love the inversions of logic, the reversals of assumptions, the unsignaled left turn that simultaneously makes you think "well, of course" and "dammit why didn't I think of that". My favorite are the odd patterns in language, the blessings of an ambiguous vocabulary and grammar where you can read the perfect words or syllables two completely different ways and they both work out right—puns, of course.

The hardest part of telling jokes is reading the situation. It's remembering each person, their history, their base of knowledge, and their state of mind, and how they'll take the thing you're saying. It's figuring out what will offend, what will goad, what will derail and what will reinforce those positive and negative little personal and cultural ledges on which jokes are built. Telling jokes well means reading your own thought this million ways and making sure they all come out okay.

Jokes on the internet? Expert mode. Then it's figuring out one thing to say that everyone can laugh at, devoid of tone or inflection, in one screen or less, with possibly a much larger audience than anticipated. It also means apologizing sincerely when you get it wrong, because nobody bats a thousand. Remember, things on the internet never truly go away, deleted or not—as soon as it hits another screen, there is no undo.

I've seen a few really bad "jokes" on the internet recently—usually people making casual fun of some other marginalized group, or a group who has specifically had it rougher than most—and the joke-teller laments that people just aren't getting it, or are blowing up at this thing that they voluntarily, publicly said, that was "just a joke". No. It may be a joke to you, but if you said it, you have to own it and its consequences. It's that simple. You can't control how it is received, but you are the only one in control of what was said.

So there. Go be funny, or don't be funny, but one way or another please be respectful and responsible and own up to your mistakes. Even if the joke bombs, it's the best way to keep the whole room smiling.


(BTW, I'm sure my jokes genuinely annoy some, or have offended or derailed someone or something. I try to apologize when that happens and I notice it, and if I don't, tell me. Screwing up and learning is how we all get better.)
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
<<Nostalgia traps the things you love in glass jars, letting you appreciate their arrested beauty until they finally die of boredom or starvation. The sought-after object cannot move on from you or depart from the fixed impression that you have imposed upon it. After all, a thing can’t be “authentic” if it’s allowed the power to change.>>

That quote is from an article called "Craving the Other", by Soleil Ho [1], which is about the hipster-centric search for "authentic food" as sought and judged by white Orientalists. I got there from a really-quite-excellent comic by Shing (sawdustbear on tumblr), who writes and illustrates her own experience with the same [2]. I have to admit I feel the same sometimes, as I'm half-Chinese by genetics but speak less Cantonese than most international tourists would pick up on their first day. Maybe it's just my difficult-to-identify ethnicity, but luckily I'm usually spared of the "your people" cultural expectations from my friends and friends-of-friends.

The more relatable experience for me, though, is with the furry fandom. Specifically, with several friends of mine, who yearn for the old days of Further Confusion or the furry fandom or any such experience in our collective community. While I understand the feeling that things may have once felt better to that person than they do now, I also have little to say in response. The fandom is growing, and changing, and evolving, and I think that that process is glorious. Old social norms are being cast aside, with new ones in their place. We can't fit in our old venues any more than I can still fit in the 3-foot-long toy fire truck I had as a kid, no matter how much nicer it felt at the time.

Our community is what we make of it. We can learn from our mistakes, and in some ways we can influence the future, but we sure can't go back. Let's focus instead on making a great experience—one that stands, on its own, as the best we can do.

[1]: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/craving-the-other
[2]: http://sawdustbear.tumblr.com/post/76581381051/i-was-grumbling-on-twitter-earlier-today-about
Add a comment...

I'm going to have to be a jerk sometimes at this convention. I'm really sorry. There's nothing else I can do.

As a convention staff member, I have a responsibility to ensure that the convention survives, and that everyone has a fun and fair experience inasmuch as it's under my control. Depending on your behavior, that might mean enforcing rules, telling you not to do things you want to do, getting you in trouble, denying you special privileges, and probably generally being The Man getting you down. I really don't like it—I'd really rather not tell you to do anything you don't want to do, or tell you to stop what you're doing—and I won't do it unless I truly believe it's the best chance we have of making sure everyone keeps having a fun time year after year.

In a good number of those cases, I'm going to enforce a rule when "nothing bad would have happened anyway", or "someone else gets to do it", or the ten other reasons that you should get to do exactly what you're asking for. I will absolutely consider those and try to work with you; that's a promise. I will also estimate some things poorly, and end up being too liberal with some things and too conservative with others. I'm not without error.

Sadly, it's really easy to see the negative results I've caused, and not the negative results or conflicts or possibilities I've prevented. That's how prevention works, if I'm doing my job right.

The best way you can help me out is to please listen, follow reasonable requests, and give me the benefit of the doubt. I can often explain why things are the way they are, and they might be for subtle reasons. Sometimes I can't. But do know that I am—and every other staff member you're going to see this weekend is—working really, really hard to make sure that you and everyone else can have fun.

If you need to tell me about something going on, or think that we're not being fair, please email me at dax@furtherconfusion.org.

Thank you all, and have a truly wonderful weekend.
Add a comment...

I forget about it sometimes, but at one point in my life I was director of DeCal, a nonprofit volunteer organization within UC Berkeley that organized and publicized student-led courses that other students could take for credit. We'd get about 150 courses per semester, and our responsibility was to list the information in a directory, provide resources to existing facilitators, and help get new courses started.

Now, as one of FC's programming leads, I help accept and publicize panel programming—about 100 per year—as part of a volunteer organization with the added challenges of scheduling, unions, conflicting times, and physical publication deadlines.

It's funny, though, how life can repeat itself at times.

(By the way, as part of my time at DeCal I coded up the website and course management system—which, incidentally, I'm working on for FC. They're still using it at DeCal, and still haven't taken out my admin account. :3)
Add a comment...

Post has shared content
This is sickeningly cute.
Add a comment...
Wait while more posts are being loaded