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m. ward’s sasquatch avenges a community of elephants. [five things. 5.20.12]

It’s been a while since I’ve written a ‘five things’ post. The time has come.

In personal news, I finally got back to writing my novel in earnest, again. It’s still early, but I’ll be pushing past the 20,000 word mark today, so that’s a lot better than nothing.

1. The Magician’s Elephant – Kate DiCamillo

I’ve never read DiCamillo’s hugely successful books, The Tale of Despereaux or Because of Winn Dixie, so unlike most who have read her work, The Magician’s Elephant was my first encounter with her. Emily encouraged me to read it because she thought it would be the perfect story for my sensibilities. She was very, very right.

I want to believe that there is genuine beauty and magic in the world. I want to believe that there is grace and goodness there for those who keep their eyes open to see glimpses of them. I want to believe that there are such things as home, belonging, and love. I want to believe that if we are good to one another, and if we are willing to do crazy, extraordinary things, the world can be made lighter and kinder and better. I want to believe those things, and in my better moments, I actually do.

The Magician’s Elephant, the story of a boy in search of a home and a family, is written by someone who wants to believe those things along with me, and it is written for everyone else who feels similarly.

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2. The Avengers

I know, I’ve written about this once already, but there was one important thought that I forgot to mention in my last post about it. It seems like today is a good day to blog about it again, as in its third weekend so far, The Avengers CRUSHED Battleship, leading everyone in the blogosphere to make bad puns about sinking and torpedoes.

Speaking of which, I still don’t understand how they can say that a movie is based on the game ‘Battleship’ when it has nothing to do with the game ‘Battleship.’ I mean, just because there are battleships in it doesn’t mean you can say ‘based on the game.’ Just because both the game and the movie happen to center on the reality that battleships do, in fact, exist… that’s enough? I’m going to write an indie film about a tortured architect trying to complete a project building a huge tower. The project is going to cost him more and more emotionally and financially, but his ego is going to be so tied up in the project that he is going to push himself to utter ruin because he just won’t let go. I’m going to call it Jenga. I mean, they both have towers, so I think that is probably enough to say it is ‘based on the game.’

Anyway, the thought that I forgot to share before was this: In almost every movie that has as much scope and potential as The Avengers, I find myself disappointed. I still like the movies, but usually I find myself saying, “It was really good, but they could have done so much more! Maybe they will in the sequel.” Not so with The Avengers. It delivers excitement, fun, and size that truly fulfills all of the movie’s potential. It is everything a movie with this many great, dynamic, superhuman personalities should be. I’ve seen it twice so far, and I am itching for number three.

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3. Community

The life of a Community fan sure is bittersweet. First came the news that the show would be renewed for a fourth season, but only for a half-order of episodes. Then came the rumors that Dan Harmon was out as showrunner. Then came the confirmation that Dan Harmon was out as showrunner. It’s entirely possible that most of what we all love about the show will be leaving with him. Hopefully not, but it is highly likely. He was the brains, heart, and soul of the show. It was his baby. Now that he’s gone… ::sigh::

Yet, since the final episodes of Season 3 were written with the distinct possibility that the show would be cancelled altogether, they offer a beautiful end to what Community has been. From the awesome 8-bit episode, to Jeff’s final monologue in which he articulates the soul of the show: that even though we are cynical, jaded, self-centered, broken people, we still need each other, and we make the world better when we embrace that and get over ourselves a little bit. It’s a thought that temporarily zaps the beard off my inner ‘Evil Abed.’ It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears when the final story ended with a single screen featuring the ‘six seasons and a movie’ hashtag. I love the show that much. I really hope we don’t all come to wish it had just been cancelled when Dan Harmon was fired. I really wish the show had somehow moved to Netflix like Arrested Development. That would have immediately made Netflix my favorite company on the planet.

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4. Wasteland Companion – M. Ward

I realize that I’ve never recommended M. Ward’s newest release. That’s an oversight that needs to be remedied right this moment. Ward is a master of crafting sweet, sad, spiritual songs of life and existence, disappointment and love. He has the ability to be as silly as he is melancholy. His music is perfect for the soul of the rainy pacific northwest. I love him.

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5. Sasquatch!!

Speaking of M. Ward, Sasquatch starts Friday!! And I’M GOING TO BE THERE!! In the immortal words of Jason Penopolis, “Wee-ow!” I made a list of things I want to do in my 30’s. This weekend, I cross one of those things off!

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hasan minhaj responds to ashton kutcher’s racist pop chips ad.

I know this is late. I meant to post it last week, but never did. After watching it again with Brian, I decided it was time to throw it up.

It wasn’t news that Ashton Kutcher isn’t funny. I knew that already. Many people did. It probably is news that he’s a racist douchebag.

On the bright side, Kutcher’s Steve Jobs movie, Jobs, was probably made immediately irrelevant once Aaron Sorkin agreed to write the screenplay for a rival Steve Jobs project based on Walter Isaacson’s immensely successful biography. Ah, sweet justice.

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the proper use of the word ‘irony.’

There is perhaps no word in the English language more abused than the word ‘irony’. It is a remarkably important device in the worlds of language, literature, drama, and comedy. So, it is important to try and clear things up a bit. I’m going to try, and probably fail, to do that now.

There are many perpetrators of this misuse: both from those who have no idea what the word means and throw it around willy-nilly, and from those who think they know how to use it, and are woefully and terribly wrong.

I think the primary reason that the word is so often misused is because there is a great frequency of times when something can be ironic and something else. Many times something can be an example of irony, while also being an example of something like poetic justice, coincidence, an improbable occurrence, or sarcasm. Thus, people start confusing irony with the ‘something else.’ Often, poetic justice can be ironic, so people start confusing irony and poetic justice as if they are the same thing. Sarcasm is many times ironic, so people start using the words interchangeably. The result is that we wind up with the woeful misuse of the variations of the word irony.

The most infamous and much-maligned villain in this story is certainly Alanis Morissette, who wrote an entire song listing so called examples of irony, yet only accidentally touched on actual irony once or twice in the whole song. I’ve mused with friends that perhaps it is actually the purest example of irony ever, because she is attempting to sing a song all about irony, and is, ironically, doing nothing of the sort. She sings about “rain on your wedding day” (just unfortunate), “good advice that you just didn’t take” (simply poor judgment), and “a free ride when you’ve already paid” (What the fuck? That’s not possible, a ride can’t be free when you’ve already paid for it, that’s not even… I can’t… how is that ironic?!? It’s not even a thing!). Yet, while her lyrics may be infuriatingly stupid, I’ll stop wasting ones and zeroes on her song now, she’s suffered enough for her crime against the English language.

As a side note, while mentioning the song that represents the worst use of irony, I would also like to point out the best, from the song ‘Robots’ by Flight of the Conchords (these lyrics are from the live version, since they differ in the studio version).

Fellow robots, or ‘robros’, what we have done is wrong. By destroying the humans because of their destructive capabilities and tendencies, we too have been… well it was kind of ironic.

When it comes to misusing the word ‘irony’, Alanis may be the most famous offender, but she didn’t start the fire. She is just a symptom. The most common misuses of irony occur when people use it to refer to something that’s particularly unfortunate, or something that is a coincidence. Often, when something falls into Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong), people call it ironic. Also, as mentioned above, many times people refer to things that fall under the category of poetic justice as irony.

Examples of the misuses mentioned above:

  1. Your car is running fine all year, and you never really need it to get anywhere urgent. Then, on the one day that you really need to be somewhere, your car won’t start. You say to yourself, “Well, that’s ironic.”(Nope, that’s just a really unfortunate coincidence.)
  2. A basketball player is known as a dirty player, and often hurts other players with cheap shots. One day, during a game, someone cheap shots him back and the dirty player suffers a career ending injury. The sports analyst says, “How ironic!” (Nope, that’s just poetic justice).
  3. I write my entire life. I toil away at a novel, and no one cares. After my death, someone finds the manuscript amongst my things and it sells for millions of dollars, becoming one of the best loved novels of all time. People sadly say, “It’s so ironic.” (Nope, that just really sucks.)

Irony happens in life when you are attempting to achieve one result, and the opposite happens. Like, you take medication to reduce your cholesterol so you won’t have a heart attack, then it turns out the medication causes heart attacks, and you die from one. That’s ironic. You’re worried about the neighborhood you live in, it’s getting too dangerous. You move to the wealthy part of town, and the next day you are mugged by a neighbor. Ironic! In both cases, you were taking action to create or prevent a certain event, and somehow the opposite of what you were working toward is actually created by your action. That’s irony.

To put it in the example of the misuses I listed above, here is how each can be converted to actual irony:

  1. Your car has been running great all year, but you know you really need it to work for a trip you’re taking soon. You take it into the shop to get it checked over, a mechanic screws something up, and your car breaks down on your trip as a result. The car only broke down because of your reasonable, well planned attempt to prevent it from breaking down. That’s ironic.
  2. Said dirty basketball player takes aim for one of his famous cheap shots, intentionally hoping to injure another player. Instead, his plan backfires, so that he actually injures himself instead. That is poetic justice and irony. He tried for one thing, and the opposite happened.
  3. I toil on that novel, and after taking it to another literary agent or publisher, none are interested. I finally give up, throwing the manuscript off the top of a building in a dramatic display of disgust (alliteration!). It hits the sidewalk, and is picked up by a famous novelist who reads it, loves it, and champions it in the literary world. The book gets published and becomes successful. I physically attempted to give up, and my actions led to exactly what I’d been working so hard for in the past. That’s coincidence and irony.
A good example on wikipedia is that of the attempted assassination of President Reagan. Hinckly missed Reagan with all of his shots, but one of the stray bullets bounced off of the president’s bullet-proof car and hit the president. Thus, someone designs a bullet-proof car to protect Reagan from bullets, and it actually causes the president to get hit by a bullet.
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Those are all situational examples of irony. However, irony is most often seen in reference to the world of words. It is “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.” This can also be true in life, if an outcome is the opposite of that which is intended.

“Henry Watson Fowler, in The King’s English, says “any definition of irony—though hundreds might be given, and very few of them would be accepted—must include this, that the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same.” Also, Eric Partridge, in Usage and Abusage, writes that “Irony consists in stating the contrary of what is meant.” (via @ wikipedia)

Often, to be funny, we ironically say one thing when we obviously mean something else. Which leads us to one of the primary areas where people’s understanding of irony is mixed up with something else. What people often call sarcasm is actually irony. It’s funny, because most often, when people say irony, they are actually referring to something else. Then, when they could be saying irony correctly, instead they call it sarcasm.

The word sarcasm actually refers to a remark that is biting and taunting (it’s from Greek and Latin words which mean ‘to rend the flesh’). The reason it is often confused with irony is because it is usually ironic. When little kids are playing basketball, and someone shoots an air ball, and some other kid says, “Nice shot!”, that’s ironic sarcasm. It’s ironic because he says one thing and means the opposite, it’s sarcasm because he’s being a dick.

However, if I were to say “Wow, I really loved having that stomach virus all week!” Most people would refer to it as sarcasm. It’s actually not sarcasm at all, because it isn’t biting or taunting, no one is jeered by it. It is ironic, because I am saying one thing and meaning the opposite. Often, when someone says, “I was just being sarcastic,” they weren’t actually being sarcastic at all, unless they were actually attempting to belittle someone. What they were really being was ‘ironic.’

Let’s recap. Something is only an example of irony if, A. Someone attempted to accomplish or prevent something, and the opposite of what they intended occurs, or, B. Someone says one thing, but means the opposite. Don’t forget, almost every single time you hear someone say something is ironic, they are wrong. Sarcasm, poetic justice, improbable occurrence, funny coincidence, Murphy’s Law, and ‘things that suck’, often overlap with irony, but they are not irony. There is most certainly a big grey area where things get confusing, but most of the time people aren’t anywhere near the grey area, they’re just way out in the big wrong area. Be prepared, or the misuse of irony will happen to you, too.

There you have it. A brief overview of the proper use of irony. Now, go unto the world and preach the good news.

 

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hyde park on hudson. [trailer park.]

         Hyde Park, New York. Where we would go to the drive-in movie theater, where my cousin Jeff took karate lessons, where my youth pastor hosted skate nights… oh yeah, and where the Roosevelts lived. I’m a sucker for movies about the area I grew up (chief among them is Paul Newman’s, Nobody’s Fool).
        However, this one doesn’t need a preexisting soft-spot to make it worth seeing. It’s got Bill Murray as FDR! I’m so in.
        And speaking of Bill Murray, don’t forget that Moonrise Kingdom comes out a week from today. I’ll be at Sasquatch, but I assure you I’ll be seeing it immediately upon my return.

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the possession campaign of the gangster, killer joe. [an old school trailer park post.]

I’m really behind in sharing trailers that have intrigued me lately. Or, to put it more accurately, to share trailers for films that have been intriguing me as I’ve been waiting for the release of their trailers. Here are a few, just in case there are those out there actually getting their trailer fixes from me.

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Gangster Squad

The cast is outstanding, but I’m a little underwhelmed by the trailer. I was hoping that once the premier trailer hit I would be super-excited for this one. So far, I’m in more because of my hopes for the cast, and because I know how terrible trailers can be at times.

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The Campaign

Again, the trailer isn’t quite as good as I was expecting. Still, let’s be honest… I’m going to see this movie.

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Killer Joe

It could be one of those films that’s so obsessed with being edgy, troubling, and violent that it forgets to tell a compelling story, or be otherwise interesting. Or, it could be like Drive, in that I can’t help but love it in spite of the troubling violence. History seems to be in favor of the former, but only time will tell.

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The Possession

Scary, ‘kid possessed by a demon’ movie. Normally, these films are uninspired drivel, but the inclusion of Sam Raimi gives me reason to hope it will be a smarter, better crafted addition to the sub-genre.

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the we and the i. [trailer park.]

The new Michel Gondry movies looks like the opposite of most Michel Gondry movies, departing from the heady fever dreams for stark realism. One afternoon/evening on a public bus with a bunch of kids on the last day of school.

It looks really compelling.