Movie Review – A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, William Hurt, Francis O’Connor, Sam Robards, and the voice of Jack Angel.

What’s a summer without a Steven Spielberg movie? Of course, the pickings have been kind of slim, ever since he won that Oscar for Schindler’s List and adopted the policy of “I’ll work like crazy every three years.” And now, we have the first product of his latest work spurt. I’m sure we’ve all heard the legend by now. A.I. was going to be the next project for legendary director Stanley Kubrick, but he passed away in 1999. After his death, it broke in the press that Kubrick had consulted with Spielberg many times about this project, and had even suggested on occassion that Spielberg may be more suited to direct it. So, when Kubrick passed on, Spielberg announced that he would make it his next project, as a tribute to his old friend and colleague.

It’s sometime in the future. The polar icecaps have melted, thus flooding out coastal cities like New York and Venice. With land and natural resources in short supply, robots, dubbed “mecha” by this future society, have become an integral part of society. And, to stop the threat of overpopulation on the remaining land masses, having children is now regulated by the government. Enter a visionary scientist from the Cybertronics corporation (Hurt). His idea is to take mecha to the next level. He wants to develop a robot child, capable of loving its parents as much as a real child is. Before long, the prototype is created, David (Osment). For trial runs, David is sent to live with Monica and Henry (O’Connor and Robards), a couple who’s child is in cryogenic suspension with some disease. Monica is leary of David at first, but soon comes to love him as her son. But, trouble ensues when Monica and Henry’s son is cured, and returns home. Sibling rivalry sets in, and soon David’s attempts to be loved by his “mother” are interpreted as hostility. While taking David back to Cybertronics for dismantling, Monica can’t go through with it. She can’t have her son killed. So, she abandons him in the woods. David believes that he’s been abandoned because he’s not a real boy, and thus his mother can’t love him. Since his mother read Pinocchio to him a lot, David then sets out to find the Blue Fairy and become a real boy. His odyssey throughout this future world takes him through the horrors of the anti-mecha flesh fair, the perpetual sin of Rouge City, and finally, to the city at the edge of the world. Fortunatley, he has some companions in his journey: the robotic teddy bear Teddy, and the love mecha (i.e. walking, talking sex toy) Gigolo Joe (Law). Will David find the Blue Fairy and become a real boy? Will he get the love from his mother that he’s been programmed to desire? Or, does he genuinley desire it?

This movie is a lot like Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Both involve the ramifications of advancing technology and whether we are able to live up to the responsibility or not. But, whereas Jurassic Park used it as the springboard for an action film, A.I. is a serious, cerebral exploration of the issue. If we start creating these sentient machines, what kind of responsibility do we have to them? Will we treat them as equals, or just “things?” And I tell you, a movie hasn’t ripped me apart inside like this since I first saw The Iron Giant. You honestly begin pulling for David and hoping that he does find his Blue Fairy. Osmet is amazing as David on his odyssey; as a child caught in circumstances he can’t quite comprehend. Law puts in a wonderfully quirky performance as Gigolo Joe, who soon becomes David’s protector from the horrors of the world. And Stan Winston Studios did a remarkable job bringing Teddy to life. You know me, I love my special effects and ILM pushes the envelope on this one. John Williams even gets experimental in his score, tossing out his tradition orchestras for synthesizers and techno-beats in some scenes. Everything about this film is top-notch. It’s truly one of the greatest movies of 2001. Go see it, go see it, go see it. One quick question, though. If Spielberg trying to “do” Kubric gets me this much, I wonder how much genuine Kubric would get to me?

(OK, and a quick trivia note. Listen for former Spielberg movie stars Robin Williams, Ben Kingsley, and Chris Rock doing the voices of assorted mecha.)

4 Nibs

The Ambition and the Ability

Chaos in Print

My mind has been going back to this episode of G.I. Joe. In it, G.I. Joe’s commander, Hawk, was off at a military conference, so Cobra took the opportunity to destroy G.I. Joe. They hacked into G.I. Joe’s computers and promoted three of the most unfit Joes for leadership into command: Dial Tone, Lifeline, and Shipwreck. Since they were unfit for command, chaos and disorder reigned in G.I. Joe, and Cobra set out conquering the world. Fortunately, Hawk came back from the conference, took control, and took out Cobra in a huge counter-offensive. When the battle was won, Hawk pulled aside Dial Tone, Lifeline and Shipwreck and gently explained why they were unfit for command. He said that all leaders need two qualities: the ambition and the ability. To Dial Tone, he pointed out that while he has the ambition, he is lacking in the ability. Lifeline, Hawk pointed out, had the ability, but not the ambition. And to Shipwreck, he said, “And some people have neither.”

This episode is haunting me because, for the first time in my life, I find myself in a leadership role. Previous attempts to attain such a role have failed in the past. There was my bid to run the radio station in university, only to be beat out. Again, there was also my election campaign in university for the position of VP External. Again, I lost. Were the Fates, like Hawk, trying to tell me something? I’m starting to ask if I do have the ambition, but not the ability.

As the front end supervisor, there are often times when it is just I and I have to get certain staff members to focus on their tasks. There’s this one teenager. She wanted to be a front end supervisor, but she couldn’t because she was under 18. But, seeing how she performs some nights, I’m starting to think that it was just a convenient excuse. She has this nasty tendency to wander away from her till, and when lines start forming at other ones, she doesn’t return to her’s. It’s as though she has this aversion to hard work. So, I’ve told her a few times that she shouldn’t wander away; that she should keep on eye on her register. Now she’s getting mad at me. She thinks I’m singling her out and picking on her. Well, I wouldn’t have to do that if she stuck to her job like the others. This is where my looks work against me. Since there is this misconception that I’m just a teenager, the teenagers tend to think that I should be one of them. So when I get upset at them for being immature, they think I’m being hypocritical.

And then we run into situations like the other night. This particular teenager and another similar teenaged cashier were chasing each other around and embarrassing the store in front of the customers. Since I was the one closing the store that night, I was in the office getting a jump on all the close-down procedures. (See, Westfair Foods believes that evenings should be slow enough that you can get the majority of work done before the actual closing time. Then, when you close, it’s just an hour to do the paperwork and you’re out of there. I find that belief to be in error.) The assistant store manager comes in. (That’s another problem with Westfair Foods, too much management.) She told me of this incident and asked if I knew where the reprimand forms were kept. She then told me that, in times like this, I shouldn’t be afraid to lay the law down. Firstly, I like to think that I would have had I known of the incident. Secondly, I find that’s the most difficult part of the job: disciplinarian. It takes a special skill to tell people to shape up or ship out, and, being one who is overcome with feelings of guilt for doing so much as raising his voice, I find I don’t have that skill.

But surely, I must have other skills that qualify me for a leadership role. Let’s look at one of my fellow supervisors. She is highly adept at the paperwork. Just a few days ago, when I was the supervisor on duty, it got really, really busy, and I was stuck behind my till. This other supervisor, whose till was broke down, had nothing to do. So, she took it upon herself to make the bank run, do up some paperwork in the office, help out in the photo lab, and just do a whole bunch of supervisor duties. Me? I was stuck behind my till, helping to keep the lines flowing, doing cashier duties. It reached a point where the crew started asking her if it were their break times and such instead of coming to me. On busy days, such as this one, the help is appreciated. On others, though, it gets frustrating. She has taken to making the coffee break schedules weeks in advance. It’s more painful having to revise one made a week before than it is to come up with one in the morning. On that morning, you know who’s called in sick, which tills are broken down, and how best to manage it. When the schedule was made the previous week, you spend more time than you have to juggling.

We had a bit of a debate the day before this busy one. She was the cashier on the “12 items or less” lane, and my shift as supervisor was done for the day. She had closed down her lane to go chat with the clerk in the photo lab. On my way out, we had this discussion:

Me>> You know, you really should re-open your till.
Her>> Why? It’s not busy.
Me>> No, it’s not. But I feel the customer’s frustration when they only have three things and they have to go stand behind a shopping cart that’s slowly being emptied.
Her>> (under her breath grumbling)

Needless to say, she didn’t re-open her till. This is one of the more popular views of the leadership role today. The one in the back room doing the paperwork is the one in charge. The leaders are the ones who don’t get their hands dirty.

I look at my comrade in arms, here, and then I start to compare myself to her. I, too, find work to keep myself buys. I tend to find it outside of the office, though. I tend to find it in my own department. If they don’t need another cashier, I pack. If they don’t need another packer, I clean. It’s not that I have an aversion to the office, it’s just that I know where I’m needed in the moment. The paperwork in the office isn’t really my duty; that’s why the boss works 9 hour shifts and I only work 5 hour shifts.

I can’t lay down the law on uncooperative employees. I can’t get as much paperwork done as my fellow supervisors. So, do I truly lack the ability for a leadership role? There’s no question that I have the ambition, because I stepped forward to take the job when no one else would. But I can’t crack the whip. I can’t sit in the office and focus on the paperwork. Is there more to a leadership role than those two abilities? Something tells me there is.

I was victim to an incident not to long ago. Out of nowhere, it got the busiest it had been in days. As is the case in busy situations, all the management had taken off for coffee, leaving just me. Then, it happened: a scenario where I was needed in two places at once. The customer at my till noticed that something was going in at the wrong price. As I was running off to check the correct price, the packer came up to me. The cashier two tills down needed the supervisor. Since the supervisor was off at coffee, that meant me. I told the packer, “I’ll be right there. Just let me finish with my customer.” I ran off, got the correct price, then ran back to my till. The packer was still standing there. “MARK!” the packer said. “Didn’t you hear me? You’re needed at that till over there.” At this point, the cashier who needed my assistance got on the P.A. and said, “Mark, come to my till now!” Since she was just 30 feet away, I yelled out, “I’M COMING!” I finished with my customer, sprinted down to the other till, saw to her and her customer, and ran back to my till. (That’s another thing I’m noticing about Extra Foods, I’m the only who runs when it’s busy.) Things moved on. A few days went by. Then, I get called into the office. It turned out that the cashier’s customer didn’t like how I yelled out “I’m coming.” When he got home, he called the store to complain about how rude I was. So management was all quick to act. They started filling out the reprimand form. But, they hit a snag. Since all the management was off at coffee when this happened, they weren’t witness to this incident, and they couldn’t sign the form. The only witness they could come up with was that cashier who kept calling for me. When they brought her into the office to sign the reprimand, she refused to. She said that she understood the situation that I was in, and, in her opinion, I wasn’t rude. Since management’s only witness was a bust, I couldn’t be reprimanded. For a member of my crew to defend me like that must mean I’m doing something right.

The ambition and the ability. The desire to do something, and the right skills to do it. At the end of the day, that’s all you really need to do any job. But it’s something that takes on an added weight when you are in a leadership role. There’s an unknown quality that people need to posses to be able to give orders and have people follow them. Anyone can give orders. Getting people to follow them is the tricky part. It’s more than the whip. It’s more than the paperwork. Hawk knew that. Hawk had that. And, Hawk had the rare gift to recognize it in others. But, Hawk is a cartoon character; an idealization. He’s not going to step in anytime soon and tell me what I’m lacking. Like with all things in life, I can just keep doing what I’m doing and pray I do it right. I’m not the best, but I do OK. Yo Joe!

Midnight Ramblings XVIII

Chaos in Print

NOTE: Yeesh! Ramble, ramble, ramble! Remember when this guy used to write stories about his life, virginity, and angst? Now, we get all these pop culture ramblings. Bring back the angst-ridden lifeless virgin!

Hey Neelix!

I HATE NAPSTER!! Ever since they got their little copyright filters, I can’t find anything anymore! I’m trying to find this song I heard on MuchMusic a few weeks ago. It’s the best crazy/weird song I’ve heard in ages. It’s called “Doin’ Dishes” by Melanie Melody and the Pop Machine. Let me sing the chorus for you:

I love to do the dishes

I love to mop the floor

I have my coffee and some Prozac

And then I do some more

And the whole song plays out over some sort of sampled 50’s do-whap song. It was just crazy, man. But, thanks to greedy recording artists, I can’t find this indie artist’s song on Napster. My geek friends recommend a similar program called “Gnutella.” I guess I’m going to have to look into that. But, in the meantime, I’ve got my DVD player.

Actually, I’m thrilled with DVD. Disney just made a big announcement telling the public about their DVD strategy. See, Disney’s finally getting behind DVD 100%, and their going to be releasing all their DVD’s in four lines:

The Vista Editions – These are the 2-disc, special editions of their live-action blockbusters. The first one under this label, Unbreakable, comes out in the weeks ahead. This summer’s hit Pearl Harbor will probably be a “Vista Edition” in time for Christmas.

The Gold Editions – These are the DVD’s of their contemporary animated films. They’re already on the market. They tend to be full screen, and bonuses generally tend to include similarly-themed animated shorts.

<No Name> – Of course, they will continue producing bare-bones, movie-only discs under no fancy label whatsoever.

But the one that’s thrilled me is the Platinum Editions. These are the 2-disc, super special editions of their classic animated films. Now, Disney has done something truly unique with these. See, Disney, being the all-encompassing conglomerate that they are, did their market research, and they came up with something interesting. The average DVD owner wants all the bonus materials, but doesn’t watch them. I know we watch them, but remember, we’re not average. So, Disney’s question was how can they get the average DVD owner to watch this stuff? The solution. Disney’s hired a whole bunch of celebrities to be “tour guides” on these DVDs, walking you through all the bonus material. And of course, for the above-average users like ourselves, we can turn off this “tour guide” and just do it the old fashioned way. I don’t like how Disney’s releasing these, though. There’s only 10 DVDs in the collection, and they’re releasing one a year over the next 10 years! The first one, Show White and the Seven Dwarves, comes out this November. Then, between now and 2011, they’ll be releasing (in an order to yet be decided), Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Bambi, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians. As previously hoped, Disney’s big prototype for this was the Fantasia boxed set, which is still one of my favorites.

But let us move now from Disney to Pokémon. I’ve just discovered that there is yet another edition of Pokémon coming out for the Game Boy! We’ve had the red, blue, yellow, gold and silver editions, but make way for the crystal edition! Like how yellow edition was just a “special edition” of red and blue, crystal is a “special edition” of gold and silver. But what’s new in the crystal edition? Well, Nintendo, like Disney, does their market research. Nintendo discovered that only 11% of pokémon players are female. The question: how can they get more girls and young women playing Pokémon? The solution: Crystal Edition is the first edition where you can choose a female character instead of Ash to play! All the online review sites I found didn’t have an American translation for her name, yet. Actually, all the online review sites I found had better get moving. All the ones I found said that they were doubtful the Crystal Edition would be coming to North America. Well, I first found out about it in a CompuSmart flyer! They’re taking pre-orders for its North American release next month!

And from the future, into the past. One of my guilty pleasure is watching reruns of Petticoat Junction. You ever see this show? It was from Paul Henning, the same guy behind The Beverly Hillbillies. This one centered on the Shady Rest Hotel in the town of Hooterville. The Shady Rest was a family affair, run by Kate Bradley and her three daughters: Billie Jo, the singer and blond, Bobbie Jo, the intellectual and brunette, and Betty Jo, the tomboy and redhead. Also helping out at the Shady Rest is Kate’s old Uncle Joe, who’s got a scheme for every season. (Man, was that Henning guy stuck on the name “Joe” or what? But I digress.) Anyway, the run of the show I’m watching right now involves a guy named Steve. He’s a crop duster pilot whose plane crashed in Hooterville and he just never left. After a while, he settled down there and married Betty Jo. Now this is where I find it odd. As I said, Betty Jo was the tomboy. She played on the local baseball team and even honed her skills as a mechanic. But then, she got married. Suddenly, she’s wearing her hair longer. Gone are the baseball uniforms, only to be replaced with simple, wifely house-dresses. No longer a strong, independent woman, now she’s a “good wife.” In fact, Steve even referred to her like that. “Just be a good wife.” This just makes me do a double-take.

I have to ask, what the hell happened to you, Betty Jo? You completely sold out your value systems and who you were just so you could be a “good wife.” But, how good a wife is she being? I mean, she and Steve seem to fighting in every episode. It also doesn’t help that the actor and actress portraying these two seemed to have zero chemistry together. I don’t know. I just get the impression that Betty Jo and Steve would have ended in divorce. Betty Jo was the youngest of Kate’s daughters, perhaps this marriage was just one of those young, impulsive things. But still, I find it weird. That transformation Betty Jo made from independent to kept. I guess I mainly find it weird because most of the women I know would bitch-slap their boyfriends if they ever called them a “good wife” or some such nonsense. Yup, Petticoat Junction is OK, for the most part, but it’s truly a relic of its time.

Not like Star Trek: Voyager. There’s a show that looks into the future! I’m still reeling from that finale episode, “Endgame.” It just wasn’t the grand, epic finale I wanted it to be. It just came across as a really good episode. I remember reading one complaint about Return of the Jedi. This critic asked, “That’s the best George Lucas could come up with? Another Death Star?” My complaint about “Endgame” is similar. That’s the best the writers could come up with to get them home? Another mysterious array? Sure, this one was run by the Borg instead of the Caretaker, but it was still an array. But, there were some cool elements. Having the array be run by the Borg gave us one final appearance of the Borg Queen. But this time, she was played by Alice Krige, who originated the role in Star Trek: First Contact. And there were some cool effects, like Voyager’s Borg armor. Remember the Batmobile’s armored cocoon in the Batman movie? Just like, only on Voyager. I guess I was just expecting more.

Now, all my hopes lie on Enterprise, the next Star Trek series coming this fall. It’s set in the 22nd Century, 100 years before Kirk and Spock. We follow the adventures of Captain Jonathan Archer, the first commander of the first starship to bear the name “Enterprise.” All I can say is the show is in good hands when the only previous work of one of the actresses is a Maxim pictorial she did a few months ago.

And that’s all for now. I’m all rambled out.


Movie Review – Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Starring the voices of Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Claudia Christian, Cree Summer, Leonard Nimoy, Don Novello, Phil Morris, Jacquiline Obradors, Corey Burton, and John Mahoney.


I saw this film at Edmonton’s Gateway 8 cinema. It’s an early-80s style suburban multiplex, like the ones I was introduced to movies in. It reminded me a lot of Park Plaza 7, the Famous Players theater in Red Deer where my grandmother would take me to the latest Dinsey animated film every summer. It was there that I saw one of my favorite Disney animated films, The Black Cauldron, which became famous as Disney’s first attempt to break out of the standard Disney formula. So, it just makes sense that I was in such a similar theater to see Disney’s latest attempt to break out of said formula.

The year is 1914, and we meet with Milo Thatch (voice of Fox). He’s an expert on ancient languages, and he’s been trying to get the museum he works for to fund an expedition to Atlantis. Of course, the museum dismisses Thatch’s work as fantasy. Enter our Preston Whitmore (Mahoney). It seems that he was an old friend of Milo’s grandfather, the first Atlantis expert. Whitmore has come across the map to Atlantis, and is getting ready to fund the expedition. He wants Milo to join up. Of course Milo joins, and soon he’s off with a bunch of mercinaries, led by Captian Rourke (Garner) in a Nautilis-type submarine on their way to the lost continent. After peril after peril, they arrive, and find a thriving society. Or is it? Prinsess Kada (Summer) believes the Atlantean way of life to be dying, and perhaps these outsiders can help. Of course, though, Milo is on an expedition with a bunch of money-grubbing mercenaries, and soon the mercs break out the guns and seek to loot and plunder Atlantis. Can the Atlanteans stop the plunderers? Can Milo help Kada save Atlantis? It’s Disney, so I think you can figure it out.

This is a Disney movie, so, as always, the animation is top-of-the-line. But, maybe it’s just a bit better. Hey, if you’re going to set a movie at an undersea city, why not have the princess run around for the whole movie in a bikini? But I digress. The voice work is good, with Fox being a great nerd-turned-hero. And I’m glad to see that Disney is starting to use veteran voice actors like Cree Summer (the voice of Penny on Inspector Gadget) rather than feeling the need to fill every role with a celebrity. Disney ruled theaters with this brand of action film back in the 50s, with films like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Treasure Island, but this animated version just didn’t seem to live up to those classics. This isn’t a great breakaway from the standard Disney formula, but it is a baby step in the right direction. As an action film, it was pretty good. I’d say it was about as good as The Mummy Returns. (Geez, what was it this summer with treasure-hunting adventure films?) And yes, like what one critic pointed out online, there are some similarities to Stargate. But I like Stargate. And I liked this. Still, though, it was no Black Cauldron. Maybe it’s just because Oma didn’t take me.

Oh, and in one little trivia note, this was the final film of Jim “Ernest” Varney, who gave voice to one of the mercenaries. The film is dedicated to him.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Directed by Simon West

Starring Angelina Jolie, Iain Glen, Daniel Craig, Noah Taylor, Chris Barrie, and Jon Voight.


This is the one summer blockbuster I was looking forward to all year. Imagine my horror, then, as day after day went by and I missed opportunity after opportunity to see it. Imagine my even greater horror when the reviews started coming in, and they weren’t that good. Imagine my complete and utter horror when even my friends said it wasn’t that good. Hopes were high for Tomb Raider. The track record for movies based on video games hasn’t been very good, but since Lara Croft had a well-developed back story, people were hoping that Tomb Raider would be the first great one. And now, a month and half after its release, I’d be able to see for myself.

We catch up with Lara Croft (Jolie) at home, and she’s feeling rather depressed. She’s between adventures right now, but besides that, it’s the anniversary of her father’s death. It’s coinciding with a rare planetary alignment that her father would have loved to have seen. Then, one night, Lara discovers an old artifact in a hidden room in her stately mansion. It’s a clock of some kind, and it’s ticking down to something. She’s pointed to an expert named Powell (Glen), who claims to know nothing about the clock. But, when the clock is stolen from her that night, an old letter from her father is delivered to her. The clock is the key to an artifact called the Clock of Ages, that has the ability to control time. Powell is with a secret society called the Illuminate, which needs the Clock of Ages for its own dark designs. The race is on then between Lara and Powell to find the two halves of the Clock, which were hidden at opposite ends of the Earth. Making things more dangerous is the fact that Powell has teamed up with Lara’s old rival, Alex West (Craig). Lara has her allies too, though: her faithful butler Hillary (Barrie), and her resident tech-head Bryce (Taylor). Who will find the two halves first, Croft or Powell? Or will the two even have to form an alliance to get it in time? And what’s the connection between the Illuminate and Lara’s father?

When I first heard that this movie was in development, my initial thought was “The best we can hope for is a lame Indiana Jones clone.” Guess what? It’s not that lame. Similarities to Indy are there, but since Indy established this genre 20 years ago, it can be forgiven. True, Indy did have the better plot and the better director, but that was because Spielberg and Lucas were behind the camera. This time around, we’ve got the director of Con Air. There were some odd things in the movie, like why did we have to show the giant CGI monsters in slow motion? No wonder someone told me about odd editing choices. It was a bit slow to start, but it did pick up about halfway through. And, if I may say so, it was a bit better than the similar Mummy Returns which also came out this summer. In the grand scheme, though, I don’t think it was worth the wait I endured. Essentially, it’s the opposite of Final Fantasy: I was expecting lame, but I got good.

3 Nibs

Just Keep Going

Chaos in Print

It’s a common enough occurrence. It happens to me just about every day as I drive off to work. It’s a long drive to work. Every day, I’m looking at about an hour round trip. Every day, I hop in my car and embark on the drive south. Every day, it’s the same. I look out the windows, and I see the endless acres of farmer’s fields along each side of the highway. I dip through a valley where the radio reception is terrible, and my car fills with nothing but static. I pass by massive power transformers, set up along the highway to help send electricity to the hungry masses. I pass even more farmland. Before long, I being spotting the signs of industrialization on the horizon. The turnoff into the town of Drayton Valley soon comes up, and that’s when I hear the voice.

“Just keep going.”

I’ve been hearing this voice for a long time, now. It first began appearing in high school, when I faced a similarly dreary bus ride every morning. As my school appeared, there would be a soft whispering, as though pleading for the bus to keep going. But of course, it wouldn’t, and soon I would find myself facing another day at school. The origin of that voice, though, has always troubled me. It appears at times when my life has become somewhat routine and somewhat mundane. Why should the voice come, then? I mean, isn’t this what we all aspire to in our lives? We all want to reach a point where we have the security of a routine. We’ve been raised to believe that getting up in the morning, going to a 9 to 5 job, and then coming home in the evening is the pinnacle of human evolution. A nice, safe, secure, routine. This is what we’re supposed to want. This is what I’m supposed to want. Why, then, is there this voice, pleading with me to continue down the road?

When I arrive at the questions to which I have no answers, I tend to turn to my heroes. Yes, this may seem like a childish way of dealing with things, but it works. All I have to do is look around at my wall of fame, and the small plastic effigies of my heroes surround me. There’s Luke Skywalker, the young farm boy destined to become a Jedi Knight. There’s Ash Ketchem, the young boy who left home at the tender age of 10 to realize his dreams. There’s archeologist Daniel Jackson, who was swept to a distant planet to become savior of a long-forgotten race. There’s the captains Kirk and Picard, who went to the distant reaches of the galaxy in search of new life and new civilizations. There is Batman, and his precursor, the Shadow. These are figures who stalked the night in search of justice. And let us not forget Lara Croft, who turned her back on the life of a socialite for one of high adventure. That is the one quality that all these figures share: adventure.

Why do we live in a society where we create heroes that embody the exact opposite of what we strive for? None of these characters have the 9 to 5 jobs that we are all taught to believe is the ultimate goal. They lead lives where they are lead by their heart. They constantly go where the wind takes them, in search of some higher goal or purpose. Where’s the time to worry about financial security when you are hanging on the edge of the final frontier, or coming face to face with some booby trap in a long lost tomb? If these are our heroes, then what are we?

Some where in our quest for the financial security and relative safety of a normal life, we forget the need for adventure. Since we can’t get to the farthest reaches of the globe to find long-lost artifacts and gateways to other worlds, we invent people who can do it for us. Feeling trapped in your cubical? Play Tomb Raider. Someone cut you off on your way home? Read the latest issue of Batman. We want adventure, but the dream we’ve been told to pursue excludes it. So we’ve invented fictional people to do it for us. But, there eventually comes a time when it’s not enough.

That’s where the voice comes in. Sure, people like to point at all the video games and movies and TV shows and say that it drives us to do crazy things, but it doesn’t. It’s a desire that’s deep-rooted in all of us. We get our adventure vicariously, but soon we crave the real thing. That’s when people start acting all goofy. They go to West Edmonton Mall and pay their $75 to go bungee jumping. They head to the south seas where they can go swimming with sharks. They apply to be on the next season of Survivor. All these people have those little voices in their heads, saying, “Just keep going.”

But what about me? I don’t have the money to head to the south seas, and Survivor doesn’t take Canadians. It’s true, that I do crave some form of adventure in my life, but as to what form it should take is unknown. If there is one thing I’ve always known, it’s that when it looks like the craving will be satisfied, sheer panic sets in. There was one day in high school when the bus driver wasn’t really paying attention to her work and just about missed the turn to Seba Beach. The dread that set in was overwhelming. Therein lies my problem. Yes, I crave it, but I never seem to have the courage to go through with it. I’ve gained the security that all my heroes lack, and while the lack of it allows them to go on all sorts of high adventures, I’m too afraid to risk losing it. I’ve fulfilled the dream that society has beaten into me, and now I don’t dare do anything else.

But the call to adventure remains. As much as my grown-up responsibilities are in play, the voice can never be silenced. Until the day that I have the courage to keep going, I will have to continue to be one of the mass market consumers, living through the televised adventures of my heroes. The voice keeps calling, but I continue to ignore it. I pull into Drayton Valley, past the Boston Pizza. It just celebrated it’s one year anniversary. I usually have to stop for the red light next to the Petro-Canada. The light turns green, and I pull into the parking lot of the deadest mall in the world. I lock my car, and head toward the mall. Responsible. Secure. Safe. I just keep going…to work.

Movie Review – Evolution


Directed by Ivan Reitman

Starring David Duchovney, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott, Julianne Moore, Ted Levine, Ethan Suplee, and Dan Aykroyd.

Men In Black was described as Ghostbusters meets X-Files. Then, I started reading a few things online about Evolution. It sounded like it was going to be Men In Black from the director of Ghostbusters and starring the guy from X-Files. And since I liked all three, I started putting Evolution on my must-see-movies list. And besides, any chance to get out of the house and hook up with an old friend to see a movie is an opportunity not to be taken lightly.

Dr. Ira Kane (Duchovney) is a disgraced army scientist who now finds himself teaching at a small community college in Arizona. One of his few associates is Harry Block (Jones), another teacher at the college. When a meteor strikes outside of town, they head out to investigate and make an amazing discovery. The meteor is teeming with single-celled organisms! But that’s not all. These alien life forms are evolving at a phenomenal rate. Within a day, they evolve from single celled organisms to worms and soon bigger creatures. As much as they try to keep this discovery under wraps, it’s not long before the army discovers it and moves in with their own research team, headed up by Dr. Allison Reed (Moore). But soon, not even the Army can keep these rapidly evolving creatures under wraps as they begin making their way out of the crash site and terrorize the town. With the help of a local poolboy/wannabe firefighter (Scott), can our intrepid team of scientists destroy the aliens before they evolve into something that can take over the world?

You can see many similarities to Ghostbusters in this film in certain characterizations and scenes, but it just doesn’t gel they way Ghostbusters did. Having seen this the same day as Shrek, I just couldn’t help but notice how this comedy just didn’t have me smiling as much as Shrek did. Yes, there are some truly funny moments, but not enough. The cast makes a good go of it, but sadly, it’s just not Ghostbusters. Still, though, it did make me want to buy some Head and Shoulders shampoo. It was OK, but not as good as it could have been.

2.5 Nibs

The Process

Chaos in Print

I’ve got three hours to go before my latest column has to be uploaded, but I’ve got no ideas whatsoever. It’s been a dry week for me, with, quite literally, “nothing to write home about.” I need an idea. I have to induce creativity. I haven’t felt pressure like this since my old university days, when a 15-page paper would be due the next day and all I had done were a few index cards of research. In order to get something going, all I have to do is remember the process. That’s one of the lasting lessons I got from my junior high English teacher, Mr. Twerdoclib. Nothing creative just happens. There is a process to it. The one that ol’ Twerdy (as we called him behind his back) kept harping on was the writing process. You can’t just write, according to Twerdy. You had to go through this step-by-step process: pre-writing, writing, revising & rewriting, edition & proofreading, ending with sharing & publication. As we neared the end of our junior high years, Twerdy told my class that this process could be modified and streamlined to suit our individual needs. And now, that I’ve found a version of the writing process that works for me, I find that I have to go through it just to get something out to my 12 loyal readers.

The first step is putting off any actual real work until your favorite TV shows ends. This step is a lot easier if you are watching one of your favorite videos or DVDs. You can just keep repeating to yourself, “I’ll start as soon as this movie ends.” It’s a lot easier when you have a DVD. Then you can say, “I’ll start as soon as this movie ends, and I’ve watched all the featurettes and trailers, and have gone back and watched it again with the director’s running commentary.” Yes, it is possible to stop the movie and watch it after your work is finished, but this just interrupts the process.

The second step is playing Mr. Do. No work can begin until you’ve played a round of Mr. Do. Remember Mr. Do? This was the classic mid-1980’s arcade game in which you were some kind of rabbit/wizard/KKK member who ran around with a gun, digging these tunnels, eating cherries and shooting all the bad guys. I used to play it all the time on my cousin’s ColecoVision. Well, thanks to modern technology, I’ve got the Atari 2600 version for my Atari emulator. I just can’t write until I’ve played Mr. Do. Of course, if Mr. Do proves to be too challenging a game, you can substitute Yar’s Revenge.

Next comes pre-writing. This is where you sit down with a blank sheet of paper, and just brainstorm ideas. Mr. Twerdoclib was a big fan of the “though web.” This is where you’d write something in the middle of the page, and put a circle around it. You think of all the things that thing makes you think of, and then they all get their own bubbles, connected to your central bubble via a line. Then, you do that with your next level of bubbles, and so on and such forth. At the end of this, there’ll be one chain of bubbles that’s the longest and most developed. This becomes your plot-line. As I’ve said, that’s what Mr. Twerdoclib was a fan of. Myself? I fine the best way is to just lie on your bed, staring at the ceiling until you think of something.

The next, and most important part of the process, is urination. Hey, you’ve been holding it in since halfway through that movie. Best you get it out now.

Now, we come to the fun part: writing. With a developed idea and an empty bladder, you can now sit down and crank out that first draft. In the good ol’ days, I would always do this by hand. I would sit down with my pen and a binder full of looseleaf and write it by hand. I abandoned that idea in my first years of university, when writing out a 20-page paper by hand didn’t have much appeal. Plus, I did the numbers. I discovered, a long time ago, that when I type something, I tend to halve the length of something handwritten. That is, if I write something 2 pages long, it’ll be one page after I’ve typed it up. So, if the final product had to be 20 pages typed, that meant I would have to write a minimum of 40 pages. Yup, university meant kissing good-bye to the pen and paper, and getting into the 21st Century.

The next all-important step is that of the snack. Writing a first draft is tough, and now you deserve a break. I find that, when writing my columns, nothing makes a finer snack than some of Mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies and a store-brand cola. If you are still a university student, then you’ll find that is the prime time for a sev-run. “Sev-run” is Augustana slang for “trip to 7-11 for the purpose of snack foods.” When in university, the proper way to do this step is to round up about three or four friends to bring along.

Now that you’re back from 7-11 and you have a full belly, it’s time to move on to revising and rewriting! This is where the whole concept of multiple drafts comes in. You look back at your “product” and you start searching for what you could cut, what would be better if introduced earlier, and where you should perhaps add a little more. Then, you take all that and write your next draft. I gave up this step a long time ago because I soon learned that I am a genius and I pretty much nail it in the first draft all the time. Hey! It’s not my fault I’m a genius. I just became aware of my talents and decided to use them to streamline the process.

Thanks to modern technology, this next step has become the easiest: editing and proofreading. This is where you cut stuff that’s unnecessary, and look for spelling and grammatical errors. Firstly, I never have to cut anything because, as I’ve said, I pretty much nail it on the first draft. And as for errors, thank you computer! All you have to do is punch that little button that says “check spelling,” and it’s done! But, you do have to watch it. Since we are Canadians and most spell checkers are written in the U.S.A., you’ll find that something like “colour” is detected as a spelling error, only to be replaced with “color.” I’ve been told that you can get a patch to correct this, but I’m a genius, and can’t be bothered with such menial things as spelling. And besides, I took spelling in school. I don’t need technology to tell me when “hi” is spelled wrong.

Then, the final step! The one that we’ve all been waiting for! Sharing & publishing! In the good ol’ days, when I would write everything by hand first, this would be when I finally sit down in front of a computer and type it up. But, since I do everything on the computer now, this is just when I hit “print.” Again, in the good ol’ days, this would finally end when I turned it into the teacher the next morning. Now, it ends when I run off an HTML version and uploaded it to ye old website. The end of the process. Or, Mr. Twerdoclib would have us think that….

Every few months, around mid-term time, ol’ Twerdy would have us do something he called a “superior good copy.” We’d get to sift through everything we had written throughout the last few months, and select something to do another draft of. It’s essentially the same thing y George Lucas did with the Star Wars: Special Editions. Twerdy’s attitude was that we had given him 110% throughout the last few months, now he wanted 150%, plus blood. I guess there will always be those in life who see no end to the process. There will always be those who can’t conceive of anything outside the process, and will forever be confined in it. But, for me, the process must begin now, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been dying to watch that Blade DVD I just got.