Tag Archives: enjoyment

“Her” Makes Sci-Fi Heartfelt

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Someone once read that the key to writing good Sci-Fi was creating a future where the major difference from our current world isn’t the technology, but the culture that surrounds it. Well, if that is the key to an amazing work of Science-Fiction, director Spike Jonze nails it on the head with “Her.” Dismissing the doom and gloom of recent science-fiction, Jonze instead focuses on how relationships could flower and grow between humans and AI. The result is that “Her” makes Sci-Fi heartfelt, and all the more haunting. (Some slight spoilers ahead)

“Her” follows recently divorced Theodore Twombly – played amazingly by Joaquin Phoenix – an introverted, awkward, and miserable man. Theodore’s life consists mainly of writing personalized messages at a card company and playing video games in his apartment in slightly chromified and glassy future LA. An emotional mess, Theodore on a whim decides to try out the world’s first AI operating system.
Once set up, Theodore and his AI, Samantha – voiced flawlessly by Scarlett Johansson – develop a strong relationship that eventually blossoms into a complete romance. While this concept had the chance to be highly flawed and flat out ridiculous, Jonze  masterfully built an entire universe and culture that allowed such a concept to flower. So, while Theodore becomes intimately connected to Samantha, other characters drop hints of the friendships they are simultaneously developing with their own respective operating systems or gossip about how rare this type of relationship actually is.

A movie like “Her” would never have worked fifteen, or even ten, years ago. But now, as we are already all but inseparable from our phones, “Her” doesn’t feel like such a leap. Who hasn’t had a friend, or acquaintance, become genuinely emotional about breaking a laptop or losing a phone? Now how would we all actually respond if our devices could actually learn, connect, and talk to us with their own unique personalities and view points?

“Her”‘s greatest strength most certainly lies in the casting choices. Joaquin Phoenix manages to convey genuine remorse, doubt, and joy. At every step of the story, you can understand exactly how Theodore must feel and, more masterfully, you can empathize with how someone in his situation would eventually seek a relationship through Samantha, who does seem to truly love him – thanks to Johansson’s amazing work.

Whereas many films may fall into general sappiness or reach for some deus ex machina solution to the underpinning question of how a human and a disembodied machine may ever truly achieve a true relationship, “Her” suffers no such pitfall. The ending is masterful, and drives home the general thrust of the film – What are relationships truly? How tenable are they ever really?

All in all, “Her” is the first must see movie of 2014 (or, technically, the last ‘must see’ of 2013).

Expat Thanksgiving

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To celebrate Thanksgiving – and to soothe our mounting pumpkin pie cravings after having taught about Thanksgiving for an entire week – Danielle and I headed down to Gaziantep. There are six other Fulbrighters posted down in Antep, and another 5 assorted American and Turkish friends also converged on the city for us all to celebrate our collective first expat Thanksgiving. Danielle and I were also pleasantly surprised by how close the city was – only three and a half hours by bus from Malatya – which is wonderful considering the amount of sights within the ancient city center that we missed out on.

This time around in Antep, we saw nothing of the city itself as we immediately headed down to our friends’ apartments on the outskirts of the city by Gaziantep University. Once we had all assembled, with friends coming in from Osmaniye, Sivas, Malatya and Gaziantep, we made an executive decision to skip Antep cuisine (a horrible crime, I’ve been assured) and instead eat at a local Syrian restaurant opened up by some wealthy refugees. I assure you, I love Middle Eastern food in America; however, this restaurant was truly the first time I have ever been floored by the cuisine. The combination of having it cooked authentically with the intended regional fresh produce made it outstanding. I just wish I remembered what the name of what I ate was… Or what it was, besides chickpeas.

Thanksgiving Prep
I am confused by kitchens

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Waiting for the Inevitable

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anxiety
howtocalmanxiety.net

I was trolling through blogs today, and I ended up at the site 1,000 Awesome Things. I had been here before about a year ago and gave it a cursory glance, but I never thought much of it. Today, though, I read an article about remembering friends who have passed on, and it got me to thinking about the fragility of life. Instead of being scared, or sad, about how random life is – and how it is very possible, when considered objectively, that death is always right there – this author ended on a positive note about enjoying every moment

I’m a worrier, and for the longest time I was loathe to admit it. I always knew deep down that my worries – about whether my friends really wanted to hang out with me (obviously not), or relationships, or whether I was happy where I was in life – were completely counterproductive. It’s not as if I could change people’s perceptions or attain happiness through thinking about it as hard as possible; no, only actions count… or, I guess, you could find a hypnotoad and just be convinced of the value of, well, anything really.

Only recently, probably within the past two days, have I truly sat down and thought, “Well, fuck me. I worry about everything. Might as well just accept that and go on with my life.” Lo and behold, I have started doing that, and it feels pretty great. As a great friend once said to me – once said, being sometime last week – “No matter what you do, you’re stuck here. Might as well enjoy the ride.”

The problem with worrying and anxiety is that it is baseless. I remember in third grade – in a memory that, in hindsight, probably spells out exactly how strange I was – hearing from another kid at lunch how a giant meteor was going to hit the earth in thirty years and kill everyone. NASA said it, so we were all guaranteed to die. Most kids thought about it briefly and then started talking about dinosaurs…and then Jurassic Park.

I remember sitting there, though, by myself and bugging in. I kept thinking to myself, maybe not in so many words, “fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I don’t want to die when I’m only 37! Fuck. Fuck.” Let alone that at that time, I wasn’t even ten yet. I hadn’t even experienced a full decade, and thirty years was, for me at least, literally life times away. Still, I kept thinking about it and worrying, as if that would somehow change the meteor’s course enough that it would only hit the bullies, or Boba Fett would save me, or something like that.

Very recently I had a revelation. I was sitting around in my living room with some of my best friends, when a sadly familiar feeling crept upon me. It was the feeling of total abandonment and loneliness, as if an abyss had opened besides me and was tearing me away from everything. Then, it hit me.

I felt so alone because I am terrified. I am terrified that everything I love, all my relationships, are inherently transitory. Try as hard as you might, everything changes and change is terrifying. Realizing this is power, though. I know now that I can not stop life’s course, but I can appreciate every little moment. If anything, this transitory nature makes every moment even more special. This is only happening now, for once – make sure to appreciate it.