Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Undying

I was supposed to die yesterday.

The clock ran out sometime during the afternoon. I had cleared my calendar, finished everything up, even turned in my library card and paid my bills. Then, I sat on the living room sofa and watched the little numbers go down, down, down until they hit zero.

I have seen how it works, of course. Dad didn't want me during his last hour, but I caught a peek through the curtains, mom by his side. They were laughing, and talking, he was giving some last-minute instructions about money or my school schedule or something like that. Suddenly, there was this strange, sucking sound, and dad slumped back. It wasn't like he was tired and leaned back for a rest, it was like whatever was holding the strings had just let go. Mom sat there transfixed for a while, covered him with the shroud she was holding, and called us.

That was my first time. I was there when mom went, and Greg as well. Greg was my best friend, but his timer was always low, and we knew he wouldn't last very long. Naturally, his family was rich, all his grants having been paid up before it ended when he was seventeen. Unlike mom, Greg specifically asked for me to be there. I sat on their patio and held his hand. We didn't talk much - just some chitchat about my plans for the weekend. I wasn't even looking at him when he went. I was talking about hitting the new pancake place when I felt his arm go limp and heard the familiar, sucking sound again.

I didn't ask for anyone to stay for mine. My relationship with Diana had ended a while back, and it was pointless to get back into something for just a few months. So there I was, sitting on my lumpy, sofa, waiting to feel...well, anything. I won't deny I was just a little bit excited and maybe even scared, but mostly, I was glad to be done with it and move on. But then, the numbers had hit zero, and nothing had happened. I was still there, sitting in my sofa, waiting to die. The upload had failed.

For a while, I thought this was how it was supposed to be. That the simulation would be an exact replica of my final moment, so I could pick up where I left off. But it didn't make sense. It was supposed to set me down on an empty canvas, a world I could build on my own. It was supposed to snatch my consciousness in the last micro moment of my existence and jack me in a world that I would build based on my wildest dreams and fantasies. This didn't seem like my wildest dream.

I didn't dare take off the neural uploader. After all, it could happen at any moment, and then, I wouldn't just die. I would be deleted. Wiped from existence. My consciousness, having nowhere to go, would cease to exist. Fear gnawed at the pit of my stomach. I curled up, and decided to wait.

It's been 24 hours. I don't know how long to wait. I don't know what else to do. I don't know when it will happen. I was supposed to die yesterday, but I didn't. I am terrified.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Stranger in a Strange Sea

 "Yeah, the water's salty, it burns, and it'll get in your eyes and mouth. But don't worry, you get used to it." As soon as the scuba master said this, I decided diving wasn't for me. Unfortunately, at that point I was treading water, a belt of lead weights around me, looking as ridiculous as only a fat man in a skintight wetsuit can look. We were 20 minutes away from a decent shoreline. There was no backing out.

He was right. it burns, and you feel like you'll never stop blinking. The shampoo they wash your underwater goggles with to ensure they don't fog up, stings. But you do get used to it. One minute, you are sputtering and gasping, trying to get used to the strange sensation of breathing through your mouth, and only through your mouth. The next, you know exactly what Dorothy meant when she realised it wasn't Kansas anymore.

This is a world where the normal rules don't apply. Nothing works like it should. Light doesn't. Nor does gravity. The plants don't flutter in the breeze, they sway to the gentle ebb and flow of the currents, or the silent probings of the marine life that cuts through them. It's wet, of course, but it's wet all around, so it doesn't feel wet anymore. Instead, it just is....a slow motion world where you are the alien invader. Bug eyes peek at you from within creamy white bulbous shoots that gently float in the water. It's their world. You are just a visitor.

You're told not to touch anything, and your instructor makes sure you obey, firmly guiding you away from arm's reach of every interesting, spiky, gelatinous, shimmering, sparkling, crusted or just plain weird object you see (magnified 2.5 times thanks to your underwater goggles). It's the world's scariest "look, don't touch" policy, because you don't know which little sting gives you a mere 7-hour itch, and which one puts you in a hospital. The presence at your shoulder does, of course, but he would't tell you even if he could. Which he can't. So you drink in through your eyes, while hoping you don't drink anything in through your mouth. Yes, he showed you what to do if your breathing apparatus comes off. It's just that you are 30 feet underwater, and you'd really rather not check if you remember all the steps in the correct order.

In fact, you're quite helpless, being pulled and pushed and occasionally tapped on your shoulder if there's something interesting you might be missing. Your dive master points at what seems like an surprisingly even, jagged split in a rock before disturbing the water with a wave of his hand. The opening snaps close, and you realise it was a gigantic clam, so crusted with corals and mud so as to be indistinguishable from the bedrock. A fish wiggles by, paying you scant attention, every colour of the rainbow and then some playing on it's gleaming surface, Sea cucumbers, one and a half foot long and nearly as wide rest on the ocean floor, barely registering as living creatures. Schools of fish show more coordination than a Chinese regiment, moving as if controlled by a singular, erratic, and above all, lightning-quick puppet master.

And then, just like that, it's over. A quick visit to the sea bed to experience the novel sensation of walking 30 feet underwater, and you are pulled back to the world of noise and motion, away from the comforting, insistent pressure of water all around you. Suddenly, you realise you are wet, you are cold, you are hungry because you didn't have breakfast, and your throat is parched. Time moves. You clamber back into the waiting boat. Waiting to take you away from this world of blue and green dreams. Back to reality. Back to the familiar. Back to where you belong. Back to where the water is sweet and the eyes don't burn and the plants move like they are supposed to. So why, as I sit on the swaying deck and look at the emerald water below, do I want to slip quietly back in, and be an alien once more, in a world that isn't quite mine?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

At one point during the movie, we have our intrepid heroes being chased by a giant angry alien in Cloverfield cosplay AND the alien ship "2 minutes" away from drilling completely into the molten core of the earth AND alien soldiers swarming into a room with an alien robot (that can only be called the iBall) crucial to the survival of the galaxy AND more alien fighters about to overrun the final outpost of human resistance.

Yeah. If you judge the quality of a movie by the number of "people in peril" scenes, this is

This movie is almost defiantly by-the-numbers, no trope left behind. The aliens are creepy, tentacled and in spite of developing galactic travel, no more sophisticated than grunting heavies. The heroes are square-jawed American patriots (except the requisite Chinese representation - gotta have something to market the movie in the second-largest global market) who must resolve their conflict and learn to work together before the end. Of course a mother and her newborn baby need to be rescued and of course there's a bunch of adorable kids, and of course the smallest has an equally adorable puppy and of course the puppy will have to be rescued and of course the big bad alien queen will chase them and of course some of our heroes will lose loved ones and finally, of-frigging-course the Americans Army will stare down the alien menace for a last stand but not before the American President makes a rousing speech that the rest of the world listens to while sucking their proverbial thumbs because all non-American soldiers have died or are off visiting their grannies or something. I don't know. The movie sure as hell doesn't give a hint.

I won't even try to go into the story, because there is none. The setup takes way too long to establish that, surprise, the aliens are returning for round 2. Since that's the entire premise of the movie, I don't know why we had to wait for a good 40 minutes. It's not a good sign when your audience is begging the world conquering aliens to get here already. Meanwhile, we are supposed to be invested in some pointless conflict between the two leads, but because Liam Hemsworth and Jessie Usher together have less charisma than a life-size cutout of Will Smith, it doesn't work.

The Fresh Prince isn't but some of the other alumni are back. Bill Pullman is now a crazy old man with PTSD who warns us that the aliens are coming. Jeff Goldblum is, well, pretty much the same. He's also warning us that the aliens are coming. Brent Spiner's crazy Dr. Brakish Okun was clearly killed off in the last film, but people loved him so even he's back with the laziest hand-waving possible. In fact, with so much of the old cast back and a gaggle of new characters, the film is a bloated mess, and if it actually had a story, it would be quite difficult to follow. Fortunately, once the aliens show up, they are divided into precisely two camps - people who shoot at the aliens and those who are shot at, so it's all good.

I don't hate Independence Day 2. It's a big, dumb movie that's fun in parts, usually when those parts are exploding all over the screen. Sure, the dialogue is as juvenile and stupid (At one point, the alien AI/Robot says it is "thousands of years more advanced") and Bill Pullman delivers another "inspirational" speech that looks and sounds as spontaneous as a cards and chocolate on Valentine's Day, but the visual effects are impressive and the performances by the old-timers are sincere. It's a fine way to kill a few hours, especially if you liked the previous movie and are ok with nostalgia carrying you through. If you didn't, though, eh, give it a miss. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Batman V Superman: The Essential FAQ (Part 1)

You have seen the movie, eaten the popcorn, finished the soda, and are pretty much done with superheroes for a month, until that Avengers movie comes out. However, there are things about Batman V Superman that made you go "Huh?!", and wouldn't it be great if someone could clear up those irritating loose plot threads? That's where this comes in. Browse the handy-dandy Batman V Superman FAQ I have prepared with tremendous care and just a little bit of alcohol, and you'll know all about the subtle details behind two dudes in tight shirts punching each other in the face.

Q: First things first. Why did we need to see Batman’s parents die again? Didn't they already do an entire movie about this called Batman begins?
A: Well, I guess Snyder wanted to reinforce the "Martha" connection. Not the most subtle way to go about it, but that's Zack Snyder for ya. Also, yes, that doesn't explain why they had to show bruce falling down a hole AGAIN, but that's Zack Snyder for ya.

Q: Oh right, the Martha connection! How stupid is that? So these guys just became best buddies because their mom's have the same name? And not even a unique name, like Florence? There's a million "Martha's" out there!
A: Actually, it's more like the fact that Superman had a mom at all. See, up until then, Batman always thought Superman was just an alien. A being with godlike powers with no one to answer to. Remember the line "You are not brave. Men are brave." Having a mother, and obviously caring about her, humanised Superman in his eyes.

Q: Ok, I'll buy that. But now that you say it, why on earth is Batman so pissed off? Isn't he supposed to be this hero guy? Who never kills? I distinctly remember him shooting up a bunch of cars until they explode with people inside!
A: Ok, in the movies, Batman has always killed people as collateral damage. Let's just accept it. I know reviewers are pretending like this is a big deal, and Snyder has broken some cardinal bat-law, but in the very second Batman movie, he stuck a BOMB in a guys stomach. So yeah, movie BatFleck is a saint in comparison
Second, this is not the typical Batman. He has been Batmanning for 20 years, and as he put it - Criminals are like weeds, they keep growing back. So in his own eyes, his crusade is a failure. This is an old, bitter batman who has grown more and more desperate. However, for the first time, there is a threat at a planetary scale, one that he must put down. He can't eliminate crime, but he can certainly eliminate this one threat from the skies. So yeah, the Bat-intensity is off the charts.

Q: Are you going to Bat-everything throughout this blog?
A: On all Bat-topics, yes.

Q: Why?
A: It's a fanboy thing, Ok? Do you wan't your questions answered or not?

Q: I don't really care that much. I am a hypothetical non-fan remember? But fine, moving on...Is that why Luthor also wants Superman dead? Why is he so angry at Superman? Did Superman piss in Luthor's cereal or what?
A: Not totally. See, one of the core character traits of Lex Luthor is that he is a megalomaniac. He is really, really smart, and hates the fact that people worship a super-strong alien from the skies instead of another human being that represents the best of their own species.

Q: That....actually makes some sense!
A: Yes, that's what makes him a great villain. However, by "another human being that represents the best of their own species", he means him and only him. So yeah, the moral high ground is kind of shaky here.

Q: Anyway, so Batman wants Superman dead because threat to humanity, Luthor wants Superman dead because threat to ego? That's kind of a flimsy reason, dude.
A: Yes, but you have to realise that from Luthor's perspective, his ego is far more important than all of humanity.

Q: Hmm, but you said Luthor hates Superman becuase people love him. But people hate him here! They are constantly giving depositions against him, and defacing his statue, and badmouthing him. Luthor's ego has nothing to fear!
A: Not really. See, they built a big-ass statue of him in the first place. Plus, there are bits and pieces where people are chanting in support of Superman. See, another one of Snyder's boneheaded decisions is to not make it very clear that on the whole, people quite like Superman. They draw his symbol on roofs when they need to be rescued, they want to touch him when he saves kids from burning buildings etc. it's just a few who see him as a threat. But of course, the movie chooses to devote 99% of the runtime to that, so you don't see much of Luthor's motivation.

Q: Love him!? Isn't he put on trial for killing a bunch of people in Africa? 
A: Ok, yes, I can see why that may seem stupid. But follow me here. See, Superman is not on trial. It's a Congressional deposition, which means he has some concerns raised about him, and he has been given a platform to put forward his side of the story.

Q: Which reminds me, why do people think he killed those terrorists in Africa? They had bullets in them? Are the investigators so dumb as to think that a man who can charcoal-grill people when he squints hard is going to pick up a gun and shoot?
A: Ok, this is another bit of misconception. See, if he was accused of killing those people, he'd be arrested. Or at least, they would declare him a wanted man. No one thinks he killed those people in Africa. The concern is that there is this American citizen who shows up anywhere in the world and does whatever the hell he likes. It was obvious that the firing started when he showed up, so the question is, if he should be responsible for collateral damage on foreign soil.

Q: Fine, although I wish they mentioned that stuff a little more. And speaking of foreign soil, any idea why the movie suddenly becomes Batman: Desert Storm? With giant bugs?
A: It's a dream/premonition. It's also a ploy to get fanboys frothy with delight. See, remember the symbol drawn on the dirt in that sequence? Yeah, that's the symbol of the BIG BAD in DC comics lore. You think Joker is bad? Darkseid is a ruler of a whole freaking planet who can toss Superman around like a rag doll. Anyway, so that is Darkseid's symbol.

Q: That's great. But why is it in the middle of THIS movie? This Dark Side or whatever never shows up? And isn't Superman the villain during this dream?
A: Darkseid is actually supposed to be the villain of the planned Justice League movie. Basically, Batman dreams that he is coming, but since, at the time, he thinks Superman is a bad guy, that's who he sees.

Q: So Batman can see the future now?
A: Batman can do a lot of things that need to be done to set up the Justice League movie. Snyder is not the most subtle of directors! We already established that!

Q: What the hell is a Justice League?
A: , I can't believe I am saying this, but Justice League is like the Avengers of DC comics. And before you ask, DC comics are the guys who publish Batman and Superman and a lot of other characters. Spider-Man, Avengers and X-Men, on the other hand, are published by Marvel comics, which is a totally different company.

Hang on for part 2!