Saturday, September 14, 2019

Movie Review: It Chapter 2

Speaking of Stephen King, I recently went to see It Chapter 2 with a friend. Here's what I thought (while I try to keep spoilers to a minimum).


The story starts off in Derry, Maine, present day, when Pennywise the Clown is seen again. Mike Hanlon finds a message at the site of a murder that says, "Come home." He proceeds to call his fellow members of the Losers' Club, telling them it's time to keep the promise they made 27 years before: to come back and kill Pennywise if he ever returns. Unfortunately, the remaining "losers" don't remember their time in Derry, and have to be reminded of many of the events from the first movie in order to effectively fight Pennywise.

First, what I liked about the movie. While most of the movie takes place in the present day, there are a few scenes that go back to the losers as they were 27 years before. The clubhouse they built, which was very important in the book, finally makes an appearance. We also get to meet Bill's bike, Silver, at last. The movie, while scary, is also incredibly funny. The characters impart their dark, dry humor with each other often, even during tense scenes, which feels completely real and believable. And my favorite part was a great reference to this scene in my all-time favorite horror movie, John Carpenter's The Thing:


Oh yeah, and in addition to The Thing reference, the movie features some fun fan service for people who love horror movies, and great Easter eggs for anyone who loves horror movie trivia.

I also liked seeing Mike get a much more important role in this movie, since he was relegated to the sidelines in the first one and much of his contribution to that story was given instead to Ben. And some of the subplots from the book, while interesting, were cut from the movie, making it a much more straightforward story.

At the same time, the things I didn't like as much about the movie were also related to departures from the book. The clubhouse, while finally appearing, was given little to no importance in terms of the ritual to fight Pennywise. I also didn't like some of the changes they made to Mike. In the book, Mike often didn't tell the others things he remembered but they didn't because they needed to find them out in their own time. But movie Mike also lied to his friends and purposefully put them in danger, not something book Mike would have done. In the book, the danger was always Pennywise. Really, my biggest complaint about both movies has to do with their changes to Mike's character.

The Ritual to kill Pennywise was also much more interesting in the book, though I suppose it would have been difficult to film coherently, because the book version was much more about emotions and thoughts, as opposed to clear actions. Honestly, I didn't really like the way they defeated Pennywise in the movie, but I still enjoyed the rest of the movie, so I'll let it go.

Overall, It Chapter 2 was a fun, entertaining movie that neatly wrapped up the Pennywise and Losers' Club storylines. While I'm a little sad about some of the elements from the book that were cut or changed, I'm glad that they did this as a single film instead of a two-parter, as they would have had to in order to include some of the scenes Stephen King requested they keep in the movie. The tone of this movie is certainly different than the first, but it works. As I said, you could see these characters growing up into the sarcastic, wry, somewhat dark humor they impart throughout their scenes, based on what they went through in the first movie. Despite fighting a shape-shifting, pan-dimensional fear and flesh devourer, the characters felt real.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Mad Tangerine-Colored Commissar

If you haven't already, you must check out Randy Rainbow's brilliant showtunes medley/political commentary:

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Totally Superfluous Book Review: Stephen King's Cujo

I've been a fan of Stephen King's since I was a child, and have recently created a personal goal for myself to read all of his books. The most recent entry into that read list was Cujo, the story of a rabid St. Bernard who terrorizes two families in Castle Rock, Maine.


This book was an incredibly difficult read and I finished it last night feeling gross all over. I have to say, I hated this book. I sincerely hope people who want to get into Stephen King don't choose this as their first read, because it will leave them with a completely inaccurate view of King's writing. His style is brutally honest and often darkly funny, but not mean-spirited and sexist as this book is. The monster wins, and I know that message of this book was a reflection of what was going on in his own life at the time. He had a severe substance abuse problem at the time, and as such, says he has no memory of writing this book. The monster in his closet was winning, and he poured all of that strife and darkness into this book. If anything, this book is a reflection of how the history of the writer influences how one of their projects is viewed and interpreted. This book is filled with hopelessness and anger.

If you, like me, want to read all of King's books, you should probably read this one. But otherwise, this is one to be avoided, unless you'd like a demonstration of how personal demons seep into one's writing.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Working on a New Project

I'm working on a new project that I'll be sharing on my blog. Stay tuned!


Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Rough Night

I had an incredibly rough night last night. In the early morning, I woke up and had the terrible feeling that I wasn't alone. I felt someone or something was in the room with me, even in the bed with me, though I knew I was the only one there. Over the excruciating moments, I began to feel I was being haunted or even possessed by something. I woke up this morning unbelievably anxious and feeling sore in every muscle in my body. It seems last night I was the victim... of sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is an interesting, and quite terrifying, phenomenon. What happens is that you wake up while still in REM sleep. Dreams intertwine with reality and can cause such experiences as hallucinations (auditory, visual, even olfactory), emotions (such as fear and dread), inability to move (because your body paralyzes you during REM to keep you from acting out your dreams, that carries over into this semi-wakeful state), and muscle soreness. Though sleep paralysis is more common among people who already have some form of sleep disturbance, such as insomnia, it can happen to anyone. It's been theorized that many so-called experiences of the paranormal are actually cases of sleep paralysis.

There's a great documentary on sleep paralysis I highly recommend if you'd like to learn more:



Has anything like this ever happened to you? Feel free to share in the comments!

Friday, May 24, 2019

I'm More Sad About This Show Ending than Game of Thrones

Like many, I eagerly waited to see how the game of thrones would end. I tore through the books available at the time shortly before the first season of Game of Thrones aired, and look forward to reading how George R.R. Martin himself would write the ending of the story.

And like many, I was disappointed in the turns taken by Game of Thrones that felt inauthentic to the characters. Especially, this was a show that failed many of its female characters. They took Brienne, who we watched grow into a strong, independent, and honorable knight, and reduced her to Carrie F***ing Bradshaw. They justified the horrible things that had happened to Sansa as character-building. (No one can make you be someone you're not. Sansa, the strength was inside you all the time. Littlefinger and Ramsay don't get credit for that. If anyone does, it's the strong women in your life, like Brienne and Arya.)

But while I'm disappointed in how the show ended, and a little sad that it's gone, I'm honestly more sad that this show is over:


Who would have guessed that a musical comedy TV show would take on some very important issues with such authenticity? Here's just a few of them (some spoilers ahead, so read on only if you've watched the show or don't care about being spoiled):

Women's Issues
Just as a short list, this show tackled periods, abortion, women's sexuality, motherhood, and body image in a way that never felt cheap, judgmental, or cliché. It was the first network show to use the word "clitoris." The relationships between the women on the show felt real and the conversations were about more than simply the men in their lives. It didn't glamorize women's bodies - in fact, it pulled back the curtain on many issues related to women's appearance and projection of themselves to the world.



Men's Issues
The show didn't just represent women authentically - the men were fully realized characters too, and never props or plot devices. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend explored men's relationships, fatherhood, and toxic masculinity and how it affects men.


Mental Health
I could probably write an entire blog post just on how this show represents mental health issues. The main character, Rebecca Bunch, is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in season 3. And in fact, the show was building up to and establishing that diagnosis from the very beginning. The show constantly made us rethink the word "crazy" and helped to normalize many mental health issues - and when I say normalize, I mean show us that these issues are common and experienced by many people, while still encouraging those struggling with mental health issues to seek help.


The show also tackled issues like low self-esteem, self-hatred, suicide, and alcoholism, without ever glamorizing them. Instead, it encouraged us to take better care of ourselves, and recognize when we have a problem we can't handle ourselves.



Bisexuality
When bisexuals show up in other movies or TV shows, they're often portrayed as promiscuous - people who are bi because they want to have sex with everyone. Either that, or they portray it, especially among men, as someone who is actually gay but not comfortable with coming fully out of the closet. Not Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.


Race and Ethnicity
This show has a diverse cast. And unlike many shows with "diversity," none of the characters are tokens. In fact, race and ethnicity aren't referenced so much as heritage. Further, the show pokes fun at the token concept. One great episode deals with Heather's ethnicity. Her boss, Kevin, encourages her to join a management training program because she is "diverse." Later, he gives her a gift to apologize for his insensitivity: a sari, because he assumes she is Indian. She corrects him; her father is African-American and her mother is White. The extra layer here is that the actress who plays Heather, Vella Lovell, has been mistakenly called Indian in the media, when she, like her character, is African-American and White. So this episode not only makes fun of the concept of the token, it also makes fun of the media trying so hard to ascertain and define an actor by her race.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I'm really going to miss you.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

New Color Palette for R

As I was preparing some graphics for a presentation recently, I started digging into some of the different color palette options. My motivation was entirely about creating graphics that weren't too visually overwhelming, which I found the default "rainbow" palette to be.

But as the creators of the viridis R package point out, we also need to think about how people with colorblindness might struggle with understanding graphics. If you create figures in R, I highly recommend checking it out at the link above!