Sunday, February 15, 2015

What I Learned From Being a Human Statue During Valentine's Week (2015)

What I gave: flowers and chocolate for free
What I received: $30 in two hours, a bullet (yes, a bullet from a gun), a cookie, a bottle of water, really great compliments, questions about purpose.
What I’ve learned: People are really nice sometimes. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that people actually gave me money for standing still and giving out flowers and chocolate. Someone gave me a ten dollar bill. Someone bought a cookie and water and gave it to me.
I have to wonder if the “service” I was providing was worth the money I got.
Maybe I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
If people think what you’re doing is worth it, they’ll let you know.
And if they think what you’re doing is not worth it…you bet your ass they’ll let you know about that also.
Maybe it was enough that I was giving things out for free. Not asking for anything in return. Donations optional.
Too good to be true on a college campus.
So the questions came. What are you doing this for? Is there a meaning to it? We’ve been sitting here staring at you for ten minutes trying to figure out what you’re doing. Is it a social experiment? Performance art?
Sure. Yeah. Let’s go with that.
No, but what is it?
It’s whatever you want it to be.
Sometimes there is no why. There is only because.
Because I want to. Because it’s fun. Because it’s a tradition of mine. Because I think it’s a nice gesture.
Sometimes, it just is.
People would come up, ask me if they should take the flower.
Can we take it?
No, I’m not going to spoon-feed you. Figure it out.
Should I take it?
Look back to their friends for approval.
They nod. Yeah! Take it!
They’re still unsure.
In my head, I’m yelling–
Yes. Just take the flower. Please. Just do it. Take it. Take the fucking flower.
Have a leap of faith and maybe something good will happen.
They reach out, touch the stem, and I let it go.
I make eye contact, smile, bow, say ‘Thank you’. They yelp and giggle.
See? Nothing bad happened. And now you get a flower. For free. How ‘bout that.
Sometimes, taking a leap of faith pays off.
Sometimes, people are nice.
You’re better than anyone here proselytizing. You’re awesome. Thank you. What you’re doing is intense. That’s so cool. Thank you. Can I take a selfie? Take as many bullets as you want. No, thankyou. This honestly made my day. Can I record you?
Toward the end, it got to the point where I would get offended if someone came by me, looked at the chocolate, looked at the flower, and then left.
They didn’t even take a picture.
Ridiculous that I would get offended by it. They were simply not interested.
No reason to take it so personally.
A lot of people don’t like chocolate. Or flowers.
I get off my stool, head to class.
Pass two girls with the flowers that they had taken earlier.
I hope you like them!
They smile back.
No, thank you.
This is good for the soul.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to get money from it.
Yay, bus fare.
But that doesn’t make it any less valid.

Monday, February 9, 2015

the butterfly center: humanity at work

There are those who come in, eyes wide, mouths open,
enchanted by the colours and delighted by the flurry of wings.

They gently spread their hands out, entreating the butterflies to land on them,
carefully treading the cobbled path, terrified they might step on one.

There are those who, just as delighted, ignore the clearly stated rules
and run on the path, climb on the rock, chase and charge through the butterflies,
eager to catch them, hold them,
just to touch them and see if those vibrant colours are real.

In their eagerness, they don’t notice the butterflies
perching under their feet.
[panel of butterfly getting squished]

And there are those who could care less about the fragility
of this tiny world
and tear off the leaves, pick off petals, playing wack-a-mole with the butterflies on the ground,
leaving behind a trail of dislodged wings and crushed bodies.

Uselessly yelling,
I gently scrape their remains off the pavement
scoop up clumps of mangled bodies,
sticky legs trembling, wings hopelessly fluttering.

I slowly carry them to the Butterfly Morgue
hushing them quietly as they spasm, telling them it will be alright,
apologizing before I lay them down with the others.

After a day of frantically scooping up butterflies before they get crushed,
whispering dozens of ‘rest in peace’ s
and losing my voice
and temper

I sit down,
hands covered with wing dust
and am finally still enough
for the butterflies to land on me.
[panel of self quietly smiling as butterfly lands, while people gather around in awe, and others are still running around in the background]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Script & Movie a Week - Seven


  • Main character descriptions: Somerset: 45; Detective Taylor: 52; Detective Mills: 31, muscular and handsome; Tracy: 30, a beautiful woman; John Doe: balding, almost silly looking man with thick glasses and wrinkled clothing (when he’s posing as a reporter)
These descriptions are not all that specific, and especially for Somerset, where only his age is given. Instead of describing their physique (telling), on the most part, Walker showsthe reader who these characters are, what their personalities are like, through their actions. I think it’s interesting that the character who is described the most is John Doe, the killer, the character who shows up only halfway through the script (albeit, a very important character).

  • The way that Somerset and Mills interact throughout the script is incredibly important. From their first conversation, they are uneasy and tense around each other. It also sheds some light on each character—Somerset is about to retire and Mills has been transferred over. As they spend more time with each other, they warm up to each other, until the final part of the script where they go together to find the two bodies Doe promised them. This progression of their relationship is slow and steady

  • The scene in which Tracy and Somerset talk about the baby: I’m wondering if it could have been placed anywhere differently to have the same impact. The conversation is important—at the end, Doe references the baby and then when Somerset sees the boy and his father kissing, the reader can understand why he is so much affected by this simple act. I think the scene to me seems a bit out of place because this is one of the only two scenes we really see Tracy have any lines. I think it would have been much better if she had been more than just a plot device to further the Man’s Journey along, but I don’t know where more of her could have fit, honestly. Truth be told, this is a crime movie and romance doesn’t have much place in one. I think if somewhere in the script Mills and Somerset would have talked about family and Mills would have mentioned that he wanted to have a child with Tracy, it would have added an extra punch to the end, where Doe tells Mills about the baby and the latter is shocked by it because he didn’t know.

  • What really impressed me about this script was the way the plot unfolded, the way the characters were written, how bit by bit we’re given more information about them (but only what’s necessary to the plot), the way the Mills and Somerset relationship developed, and obviously the ending. The suspense to the final act was done so well. Every movement of the deliveryman, Somerset’s actions, his reactions and emotions, Mills’s anxiety…wow. Must learn how to write like this.

  • The ending: I actually read the alternate script ending first and then I went to the Wikipedia page of the movie. I accidentally read the ending of the movie (which is different from both scripts) and was confused, so I found another script (dailyscript one) and read the ending of that one, which is I think closer to the movie version than the alternate one. Personally, I like the dailyscript version better, but the alternate version also left an impression.
The dailyscript script however does not have the final line that the movie has and that disappointed me because it’s fantastic. The alternate ending, though in my opinion, more nobler, doesn’t have that final weariness to it—Somerset shoots Doe and then shoots himself, leaving Mills to do the “good work”, whereas in the movie/script, Mills cracks, shoots Doe, and is arraigned (and it’s understood that he may not have a career after this). With this one case, from a passionate, justice-filled cop, he sinks lower than Somerset. He’s not burnt out, he’s hopeless. There is nothing left for him. He is one of the “good ones”, but he loses, leaving Somerset with no choice but go back to work, because there is nothing else he can do.
This script definitely packs a wallop. I would highly recommend reading it because it is very good. The only criticism I have with it is that the only woman character there is used for the benefits of the men. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a solution as to how that problem might have been avoided.

  • The flower tile is shown in the beginning of the movie but the scene in the script at the beginning where Somerset takes it from the house is cut, as well as the end scene where he takes it out again, which makes the appearance of the tile completely meaningless.

  • In the script, the reader is allowed a bit of time (5 pages) to get to know a bit of Somerset—a burnt-out, weary cop who lives alone in a horrific, dismal city. In the movie, we don’t see this and we get introduced to Mills in the first two minutes.

  • Brad Pitt, in my opinion, was good for this role. Morgan Freeman seemed to me to be too animated, too kind. He doesn’t have that hardness that Somerset has in the script.

  • The title credits are interesting because we get a taste of Doe from the very beginning—the notebooks, the bandaged fingers…we are shown the killer from the very start, but we only get to know him towards the end. I thought this was very clever. (Not to mention, I was tickled to see that the song ‘Closer’ by Nine Inch Nails was used.)

  • Somerset refuses to look at Mills when he asks to be reassigned to another case. The way it’s filmed makes it very apparent that Somerset is ignoring Mills, doesn’t really respect him. The shots focus on Somerset and the captain, and only when Mills tries to interject himself does the shot go to him. Even when he speaks, Freeman is seen in profile. And only when Mills finally tells him to say it to his face does Freeman finally face the camera fully.

  • Similarly, when the captain comes to talk to Somerset in his office, we see that the latter pays attention to the former only when the former is talking to him about the case. When he starts talking about Somerset’s personal life, he gets disinterested and turns his back. The only close-up we have of Somerset in this scene is from above, when he explains why he’s retiring—signifying that this part is important.

  • From the moment where Somerset explains his theory of the seven deadly sins to the captain and Mills, this is where we see the two detectives start working together, frame-wise. This is the first time Somerset has given Mills the time of day, and he shows him the two pictures, intentionally turning towards him and letting him see them before he turns his attention to the captain. Throughout the rest of the movie, we see them both in the same frame, signifying their increasing closeness, culminating in the last scene with Doe.

  • The scenes with Tracy and Somerset, to me, seem to me to be a lot friendlier than they came across in the script, so much so that the restaurant scene actually seemed well-placed and natural. I think it’s because Freeman’s acting is different than I would have imagined someone to play Somerset. So, there’s a pro and con to the character/actor.

  • A detail that I noticed that I really liked was that in the script, the city is supposed to be this rotten, dirty, disgusting city. In the movie, I think this was shown well, especially because throughout the entire movie, it’s raining…until the detectives and Doe go out to find the dead bodies.

  • Kevin Spacey was well cast in this role. He has this quietness about him, this calm smile that makes you shiver a bit inside. He’s exactly who I think of when the murderer is this insane sort-of genius who does intricate, fascinating murders. He plays kind of the same role in ‘The Usual Suspects’.

  • The most important scene actually fell short for me. I didn’t think Freeman expressed enough horror (in the script, he actually throws up, and I think that would have been appropriate in the movie) and Pitt’s performance was not angry enough. When he actually shoots Doe, it was anticlimactic, also because there was no struggle between Mills and Somerset (like there was in the script). In addition, the very last scene was a letdown as well because I thought the father/son moment was fantastic. I really liked the last quote but there was no quote at the beginning of the movie so I thought it didn’t really make much sense.
So…the movie was good, but I thought that the ending would have much better if the script was followed.
8 Sequence Method
Act 1: Sequence 1: Set up of world, point of attack
Pages 1-8: Somerset is introduced, his surroundings (the dirty, sleazy city), his job. He meets Mills.
Sequence 2: Things start to go wrong, establishing the main tension
Pages 8-25: The first two murders, gluttony and greed happen. The link to the deadly seven sins is made. Mills gets put on the case.
Act 2: Sequence 3: Explanation of why goal is difficult, learn more about the characters, develop a plan
Pages 25-44: Somerset researches the seven deadly sins and he starts helping Mills. Somerset gets invited to dinner and the two detectives put their heads together and try to figure out what’s going on.
Sequence 4: First attempt of plan, characters think they know what they’re doing but they don’t. The plan fails, but the characters emerge with a stronger, better, more focused plan. Focuses the movie, also contains midpoint.
Pages 25-66: The detectives go to talk to the second victim’s wife. Fingerprints are found and a match is made. They go to the suspect’s house only to find that he is the victim of sloth. Midpoint is at page 67, but close enough.
Sequence 5: Main attempt
Pages 66-78: John Doe is found but scuffle ensues.
Sequence 6: Further on main attempt
Pages 78-99: Doe’s house is investigated, Tracy and Somerset talk about his past and her having a baby, and Mills and Somerset talk about whether what they’re doing is worth it.
Act 3: Sequence 7: Descent into the darkness, false ending to the end, we think all hope is lost, and there’s the twist.
Pages 99-126: Pride is found, Doe comes in, Somerset and Mills go out to the deserted place to find the two bodies that Doe promised them. The deliveryman delivers the package…which contains Tracy’s head.
Sequence 8: The ending, characters have to wrap it all up, this is the real resolution and we get all the info
Pages 126-134: The last two bodies are supposed to be Doe’s (who’s Envy) and Mills (who’s Wrath). Doe envies Mills life and so killed Tracy and cut off her head. He’s trying to get Mills to kill him…Mills kills him, ruining his career. Somerset gets shot in the scene…A few weeks later, he gets out of the hospital, gets a letter from Mills telling him he was completely right. Somerset’s not so sure anymore and the script ends with him walking up the police station’s stairs…not retired.
Personal observation on diversity: No race/ethnic inclusion in character descriptions in script for the main characters. There are two detectives that are specified as black and female. Of the five-ish main characters, four are men (Somerset, Mills, Doe, California) and one is female (Tracy). Only one of these five main characters is a POC (Somerset). There are a few POCs in the film as minor characters as well (three, if I recall correctly).
But, only counting main characters, 1/5 and 1/5 on gender and race.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Script & Movie a Week - Nightcrawler

ually, these two would be reversed but since I saw the movie first, we go with the movie first. Spoilers exist below.

  • First and developing impressions of characters —> Louis Bloom: looks like a lean coyote; like a fucking predator. He smiles too wide, there’s a disturbing lack of emotion and depth in his eyes. He is extremely ambitious, and his motivation is money. He is ruthless and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He talks like a self-help book or internet motivational guides. Does he believe in what he says? He may very well. It’s actually quite scary, because who really believes that crap?
(I love how they show you a coyote as well. I actually read an interview where Jake Gyllenhaal and Dan Gilroy, I think, describe him as that.)

  • When he assaults the officer and takes his watch, I was reminded of Patrick Bateman. Actually, Louis reminds me of an everyman’s version of Patrick—the sociopath that the lower to middle class person can relate to more.

  • When he steps to see the accident on the highway, he’s obviously completely unconcerned with the fact that he may be wanted for the assault of an officer.

  • Moreover, why does he stop at the accident? Concern? Curiosity? It seems to be completely the latter rather than the former.

  • During the scene where he moves the body to get a better shot for his camera, we see him interrogating the motorist who is calling 911. He obviously cares more about the job than the victim. This cements his complete and utter indifference and distaste for humans. Later on, we hear one of the victims in the Horror House moaning, and Louis does absolutely nothing.

  • The first and pretty much only emotion in the entire movie that Louis exhibits is anger, when his competitor bests him and when he doesn’t get what he wants.

  • Who wins the scenes between Lou and Nina? Always Lou, never Nina. He always has the upper hand, even though we are led to believe she is in a position of power over him. This is false. At the time, it didn’t seem that the cinematography lent anything to support this, but I’m probably going to have to re-watch their scenes together to see for sure.

  • Rick tells him he doesn’t understand people. This is false. He understands people probably better than anyone else, either in the movie, or really outside of it. Even though he does have a very strange way of behaving occasionally and it can be off-putting, that does not invalidate his understanding of people.

  • When Rick refuses to negotiate, Lou looks a bit lost. Because he was made to feel helpless by someone that was his inferior (because there are other times in the movie where Lou is not allowed to negotiate, but they were always in a position where they had what Lou wanted—> money…but this is the only time where Lou has the upper hand and he is made to feel like a fool), he killed him.

  • The scene at the end between Nina and Louis where she tells him how amazing his footage is and she tells him she wants it and he says “How much do you want it?” and she answers “You tell me”, it is shown as a very intimate, almost romantic scene. The dialogue is actually a bit sexy, in any other situation, it would be lustful, they’re shot in profile, looking straight at each other, inching closer, their faces dark against the background…which is the TV screen showing Rick bleeding to death. I love the way this scene was shot. It is perverse because we know there is nothing sexy about it or that Nina even really wants him, but she is forced to do what he tells her because he has that control over her. I was also reminded by that scene in which he tells her that one of the things he wants from her is for her to do what he tells her to do when they’re together.

  • The last line: “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself”. The scary part is that he’s telling the truth. Throughout the movie, we see that he has absolutely no concern over the safety of others or himself, he is only interesting in his goal. He would kill himself, and gladly, if that meant him getting the best shot.

  • Something that I found very refreshing and that I really appreciated greatly was that there was no sex scene. In my opinion, there are way too many sex scenes in movies and they don’t make them any better, if anything, they actually detract from the quality, because they are so unnecessary. However, I would actually say that in this movie, a sex scene would not have detracted from the quality. I think it actually would have been interesting to see an emphasis of his manipulation on Nina. Simply a scene where they have a conversation beforehand could have sufficed, though I would be interested in seeing what Gilroy would have had his sociopath act like in bed. That’s just me, though.

  • Criticisms and questions: It would have been a good idea to see him delete the footage and the screenshots he took. Also, there’s a moment where he asks Rick to open the window and Rick asks him why and Lou says ‘Because I told you so’. There was no reason for it. He also tells Rick about the man who wasn’t dead in the Horror House. Why? And then, at the end, the murderer sees Lou but doesn’t kill him (after he’s shot Rick). To me, that didn’t make any sense. It also didn’t make sense at the end when Nina refuses to go with the cocaine horror house news, and just to let it be the way it is. She should have known that it would have blown the story away.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It was an interesting concept, and I always like to see how sociopaths and psychopaths are portrayed in the media. The acting was very good, but Jake Gyllenhaal really was the one who shone. I would say that he carried the movie and if it weren’t for him, it wouldn’t have been half as engaging.
It did bring up some good questions though, especially about how the public, us in general, like to see blood, gore, and unusual titillating things. This reminded me of the episode of Black Mirror, “The National Anthem”, where everyone, though they were sort of disgusted, still watched the Prime Minister fuck a pig. There’s this draw to these sorts of things that we, as a human race, have, and I honestly think it goes beyond us. I think that other animals as well would have this draw to it.
I read this interview with Gilroy and I thought it was incredibly interesting that he said this: “I’m interested in the idea that sociopaths are not these rare people that you rarely encounter.  I feel they’re walking amongst us, and to some degree, we all have tendencies that are not dissimilar and on a good day, we’re aware of those tendencies and we counterbalance them.” It reminds me of the whole us/them dynamic and how it’s not always as simple or true as that.

  • First impression: really weird format. There are no real traditional slug lines.

  • Example of strange format (pg. 5):
the effect is electrifying as
banks low and
smash glass and
film as an
skids to a stop…”
However, I do feel as though the way the script is written actually enhances the scene.

  • On pg. 7, the description is very well-written. Gilroy’s got style.
against an anthracite SKY…night-black tinting day-blue…”
The scene where we transition from the accident to Lou’s apartment was not included in the movie, unfortunately. I think would have made a very visually stimulating scene.

  • I love the way he describes the news anchors…”teeth-bleached MAN”, “plastic PEOPLE…mock cheer”, HAIR-SPRAYED ANCHORS”, “Ken doll ANCHORMAN and pin-up ANCHORWOMAN peddling unvarnished fear and mayhem.”

  • Character descriptions: Lou—>”30…pure primal id…if there’s music it’s in his head…disconnected…feral…driven by dollar signs and a dream of some imagined Eden.” ; Nina: 50-ish, over-made, hard-bitten beauty who…through sheer survival, bec[a]me the madam of the whore-house” ; Rick: a young man, ragged and rangy ; Detective Frontieri: WOMAN

  • The writer doesn’t explain the character’s emotions, he lets the dialogue do the explaining. He doesn’t spoonfeed the readers.

  • The way Lou is written, as I mentioned before, reminds me of Patrick Bateman, but I say this, specifically in the script, because there are moments where Lou is very specific with details and then asks a completely unrelated question that puts the other character he’s having the conversation with (and the reader) off. For example, when he asks Nina out.

  • The way Rick dies is changed in the movie. I like the movie version better, but the script version makes a lot more sense as to why the murderer didn’t kill Lou.

  • The quasi-romantic scene between Lou and Nina at the end did not come off that way in the script at all.

  • The movie made the script come to life. The way that Gyllenhaal delivered the lines is magnificent. He really took the character and put substance, meat on him.
The script feels a bit bare. Lou is not really shown very clearly in my opinion, and it took Gyllenhaal to really give him depth and personality. The format of the script is interesting, but untraditional, so I think it would be better if I took a look at other scripts with more traditional formats to base mine off of.
As a personal observation…There was no race/ethnicity inclusion in the character descriptions at all. Out of the four main characters, two are male, two female. In the movie, out of the two males, one (Lou) is white, and the other (Rick) is a POC. From the females, one (Nina) is white, and the other (Detective) is a POC.
So, half-half on both the gender and race lines, but I do have to mention that Lou and Nina are the “main” characters, while Rick and the Detective are more minor characters.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blueberry Coffee Cake with Lemon Topping

This came out well in my opinion. I’m definitely very proud at how much I’ve progressed. The only issue with this one is that I think it came out a bit too sweet, but that may be because I used regular sugar instead of icing (confectioner’s ?) sugar for the lemon topping. I would highly recommend making this though because it’s relatively easy to do so and it also goes incredibly with milk.
Ingredients: 1/2 cup butter (soft)*, 2/3 cups sugar, 2 eggs, 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cups milk, 1 cup blueberries
For the topping: 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, 1/2 cup icing sugar
0. Preheat oven to 374 degrees F.
1. Cream the soft butter and sugar in a bowl.
2. Mix in the eggs.
3. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
4. Mix the flour mixture and milk into the butter/sugar mixture.
5. Mix in the blueberries.
6. Pour the mixture into a greased pan.
7. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
8. While the cake is baking, for the topping, mix the lemon juice and rind with the icing sugar.
9. Pour the topping onto the cake.
10. For added sweetness, sprinkle additional sugar onto the cake and place it under the broiler until the sugar bubbles, about 2 minutes.
* I actually mostly melted the butter. I don’t think it makes much of a difference.
Edit: It makes a ton of difference. When it says soft, don’t melt it!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blueberry Scones


I did not put in the lemon zest and instead of cream, I used whole milk, but the scones turned out decently even so. A few of the comments on the recipe post noted that the scones aren’t sweet enough. In my opinion, this is not an issue, but keep in mind that if you do like them sweet and you’d like to use this recipe, more sugar should be added. I don’t think my scones were too rough and hard, they seem to be pretty moist and flaky but I’m not a scone expert so I could be wrong. However, I do believe these creations were a success and I am quite proud that they turned out so well. These also go incredibly with milk.
Ingredients: 2 cups flower, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into pieces the size of peas), 1 1/2 cups blueberries, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1/3 cup heavy cream, 2 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Put in the cut up butter and distribute it evenly. Cover the butter with the flour mixture. Stir in blueberries and zest.
3. Whisk together cream and egg in another bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir lightly with fork little pieces of dry ingredient mixture in order to allow the dough to come together slowly. Knead it a few times for good measure.
4. Pat the dough into a square and cut it into four smaller squares. Then cut those squares diagonally to make eight triangles. Put the dough on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20-22 minutes.

Avocado Smoothie


Spinach smoothie, move over. This one is so much better. 

One avocado, one banana, 1/2 cup milk, 1.5 cups mango lemonade. Absolutely amazing.