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Watching the Short Film, “The Funeral”

ActsidersYou may remember a while back when I shared an episode of the podcast Actsiders that featured an interview with Ali Nasser. He discussed being an international actor and having a multifaceted career that spans cultures as easily as it does genres and artistic mediums.

If you haven’t listened to Ali on Actsiders, check it out, and then subscribe to and listen to the rest of the episodes. When you’ve finished all that, jump over to YouTube and watch a short film by Ahsan Minhas that Ali recently starred in called “The Funeral.”

In a very brief glimpse into his character’s life, we are able to see a man struggling to balance the success that will define his future and the relationships that represent his past. Having listened to the Actsiders interview and knowing Ali as an Egyptian-born/New York-based actor who is so rooted in both worlds by the relationships and career paths he’s cultivated, I may be seeing a deeper duality than was intended by either actor or writer/director. More than likely however, that was precisely what was intended, as this film sought to convey not only the intimate grief of one man, but the constant struggle between the almost split personalities our modern lives break us into.

In everyday life, even when there isn’t a death or culminating milestone event, aren’t we all constantly being pulled in different directions, whether by responsibilities, expectations, promises, dreams?

How can we balance it all? The mantra of ‘work hard, hard’ that was meant to symbolize a hard day’s work to pay for a fulfilling personal life has been cast aside in today’s world as we find ourselves always working, always connected, always moving.  And always falling short.

How can we be good men and women, good mothers, fathers, children and siblings, good friends, good bosses, coworkers, good Muslims, Christians, believers of any faith, good creators and consumers? How can we balance what we give with what we receive?  How can we be good people and good enough? And how do we keep up the strength to be all of those things that we expect of ourselves when we have failed at one of them.

I hope you’ll watch the film, and if you have the time, check out Ahsan’s other work, which I found just as interesting and thought provoking.


All Booked Up at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library

img_1913Library?  Podcast?  Sold.

I just finished listening to the first episode of “All Booked Up” on SoundCloud, a new(ish) podcast put out by librarians Michelle and Jacob with the Buffalo and Erie County Library.

I put it on while I was shoveling the other day (which I don’t necessarily recommend as I started laughing a few times and had to stop) and finished it later while folding laundry (a much safer activity while listening to this), because that’s just the jack of all trades that I am.

I loved all of its geeky rambling about “The Disaster Artist”, “Dunkirk” and “The Big Lebowski” and everything the Library has to offer to take you into those stories and beyond.

I was a little scared when Michelle started professing her genuine love and obsession for “The Room” but then I remember I own multiple copies of “Manos: The Hands of Fate”, a movie made by a fertilizer salesman just to prove he could and whose title literally is “Hands: The Hands of Fate”. What does that even mean? Why does it seem like two movies spliced together? Seriously, what is happening with Torgo? Why am I watching it again?

Yeah, so I guess who am I to judge, right?

The podcast’s hosts are true librarians, who can work multiple recommendations into a conversation without it being overwhelming, and their suggestions are informed by their own reading history and interests. They’re not just throwing suggestions at you or reciting a bestsellers’ list, but recommending books and movies they have available through the library based on the conversation they’re having.  The episode notes include a list of all the books and movies they talked about as well as links to those titles on the library’s website.  So if something sounds really interesting, you can immediately click over and request it from your local branch.

I’m looking forward to catching up and listening to the rest of the episodes they have up, and checking out some of their recommendations. It’s available now on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Penguin Deja Vu

the Fourth and Final Part to My Babbling about Originality—

And I don’t want to hear the nerds pipe up and jump at their chance to remind everyone how they think the Hunger Games is a rip off of Battle Royale, because to that I say who cares?  Originality is relative term these days.  You’re not unique, so stop whining about books or movies sharing common themes or plots, ad how nothing is original anymore.

It happens.  And whatever two or three books or movies that are similar still go about it differently.  Each one may have something unique to contribute.

At least Battle Royale and the Hunger Games were nine years part.  What about Deep Impact and Armageddon?  They were released two months apart.  Antz and a Bug’s Life?  They were release a month apart.  All four of those movies were released in 1998, so there was a shitload of déjà vu for moviegoers that year.

But ’98 isn’t the first time this has happened.  In 1989 you had K-9 and Turner and Hooch, both buddy cop flicks with a cop and a dog.  Both with a cop who wanted nothing to do with dogs before he met that loveable canine costar.  Both dogs were shot, both dogs led to their cop friends finding love and realizing how awesome dogs were.

December ’93 and June ’94, Tombstone and Wyatt Earp respectively.  Both featuring—you guessed it: Wyatt Earp. You’re pretty clever, I’m glad you figured that one out.   I love Tombstone more, but I will grant Costner’s Earp was darker.  Tombstone also wins because it featured Michael Biehn, and as everybody knows, he’s pretty awesome.

Gordy was May ’95, Babe in August.

Braveheart May ’95, Rob Roy April ’95.

                   Dante’s Peak and Volcano

                                           Toy Story and Small Soldiers.

       Red Planet and Mission to Mars.

                                                      Chasing Liberty and First Daughter.

                                                                       The Cave and The Descent. 

                        Happy Feet and Surf’s Up.

                                    Madagascar and Into the Wild.


I’ve seen both. Multiple times. I’m OK with that.

This shit happens.

Is there some massive studio conspiracy here with intern double agents passing information about what big movie the other is working on?  OK, maybe there’s some drunk interns spilling secrets, but this frequently?  It take five seconds to do a Google search for what people are looking for, what topics are trending.

I could crank out a post based on that and increase traffic to the site, hits will go up because the trending searches will draw people in.  What I have to say doesn’t matter, I’d just be writing for what’s selling—what people are searching for.

Is it that farfetched that studios do the same thing?  Millions in marketing, millions in production.  You think they haven’t put those millions into finding out what will sell?

In January 2005 French cinematographers Laurent Chalet and Jérôme Maison released their documentary they’d spent the last year filming in Antarctica.  You may have heard of it—March of the Penguins.  It was sort of popular.  Detective Somerset narrated it, reinforcing the idea that Morgan Freeman is God.

But before all that, back in 2000, this guy named Lance Priebe was making Flash web-based games for shits.  Working for Rocketsnail Games he designed a game called Experimental Penguins.  It didn’t last long, but it led to another idea, Penguin Chat.

Not much happened there, except that it offered enough feedback on the overall concept, so that in 2003 Priebe and a couple other guys started working on yet another friggin penguin idea.  Launched two years later they called it Club Penguin, and it was pretty much a gameplay based social networking site for kids.  Or something like that.  I don’t know.

March of the Penguins was January 2005—June for North America, if you want to split hairs—and in October 2005 Club Penguin launches, accumulating around 15,000 users.  By the following March, they were at a million and a half, doubled by September and by the time they turned two they had 4 million people using this site.  All because some guy liked penguins and learned Flash in his spare time.

Tap dancing? Surfing? This is more like it.

And because a couple of French guys spent a year in Antarctica with their cameras capturing penguins out in the wild doing whatever it is penguins do.  And they ponied up for Azeem to narrate their touching story.

What happened within the two years that Club Penguin’s membership sky rocketed is that Happy Feet and Surf’s Up are released, both featuring penguins doing cool shit like tap dancing and surfing.  You know, normal penguin things.  These movies didn’t just appear one day though.

You can’t crank out a computer animated feature with clever anthropomorphic characters and elaborate music numbers and A-list actors in a couple days just to satisfy a fleeting trend. These things tend to take a little while to get rolling.   Happy Feet was in production for four years, putting its genesis at 2001; Surf’s Up started production in 2002.

Now, March of the Penguins brought ridiculous attention to penguins and with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 94% is pretty friggin popular—

I mean, Magic Mike only has an 81% rating, and if abs and cock doesn’t get some thumbs up, what hope does any movie have?  I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard things.  Things like abs and cock.

—but it was by no means the first in this penguin craze.

My point is that there was a shitload of penguins all over the place for a while.  A lot of it landed at the same time, which led most people to claim everyone was jumping on March of the Penguins‘ popularity, but in reality these projects came from a variety of sources and backgrounds and were in production for years.

But no, let’s just take it at face value and say all Club Penguin, Happy Feet, Surf’s Up—they all just jumped on the March of the Penguins’ bandwagon and rode it for all it was worth.

You keep bitching about the Hunger Games ripping off your precious Battle Royale, fine—then let’s boil it down.  What was Battle Royale?  It was nothing more than a rip off of gladiators in the coliseum, with Japanese schoolchildren instead of slaves.

So get off your high horse because it doesn’t fit in your command center in your mom’s basement.

Are you really the lone spokesman for Battle Royale as the last bastion of originality in literature or has all that anime twisted your libido into something that only responds to gasps of surprise from androgynous Japanese cartoons?

By the way, you smell like Cheetos.  Not your breath—you, you reek of it.  Piss off and take a shower.  I wouldn’t dare tell you to read something without pictures, but maybe you should try some that don’t involve a prepubescent in a school girl outfit fighting Pokemon.

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