Tuesday, June 3, 2014

She's not so bad, She's Just....misunderstood.

I had a sense this movie was going to be uninteresting: just another repetitive damsel in distress film (but told from another perspective). In some senses this turned out to be true; however I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie did have some redeeming qualities in it.

For starters, and I hope this doesn't spoil too much, but it is NOT the same story the animated version tells. this was great because there's really no point in re-hashing a story everyone knows already. If you go to see the movie don't expect everything to line up even though the same basic setting and characters are involved. Its best to just watch the story unfold as if you've never seen its predecessor. I want to take some time to review each aspect of the film then give it an overall score.

Graphics, visual and audio effects: 8/10
The CGI was pretty good but you could definitely tell the difference between the live action and the animated parts. You get to see some pretty interesting creatures and environmental effects like the huge impassible brambles definitely set the tone for a fantasy movie. I thought the choice of how to render the fairies was unimaginative, but it was nice that they had live action roles to supplement the CGI for part of their screen time.

Music: 5/10
You could hardly notice it was there. To me that says how bland it was, although, to the composer's credit, at least it didn't distract or take away from the films beauty and storyline.

 Acting: 8/10
Anjolina Jolie really made the character come to life. Her voice acting was probably the best she's ever done, but the real treat was her facial expressions which conveyed her emotions and character so well she wouldn't have to say much (if anything at all). Every time You'd get a close up of her you knew you were in for a treat. You can just imagine exactly what she was thinking in the moment. She was so alluring and easy to empathize with I totally fell in love with the character. Maleficent pretty much Is the show, so the other actors aren't of much significance which is a good thing because the other actors were subpar. Other reviewers were critical of the actress selection for Aurora because she was homely and plain. You need to remember this is a different story than the original. Aurora plays a vastly different role in this version. Viewed from this light the actress selection was perfect.

Dialog 5/10
Maleficent has some good lines but really there was no really powerful or emotionally charged dialog. Its really bare bones and superficial (almost if it was rushed or cut). It gets the plot line along but little else.

Plot: 9/10
I'm going to give a short spoiler free description here, but you can read my opinions on the ending HERE. (<--click link to read)

 I love antagonists with dynamic personalities and maleficent clearly fits this bill. You get much more of the back story in this tale to show who Maleficent really is, and what her motivations are. You'll find yourself cursing her at some points and cheering for her at others (and maybe even crying for her). This is a much better story from the original, but it does steal/borrow from other famous movies/books especially the ending. I could tell how the movie was going to end about halfway into the movie (I'm betting the average person could do the same) but that doesn't ruin the tension of the story because it makes you REALLY want to see that ending happen.

Definitely worth watching(more than once) for children and adults who don't mind a romantic fairy tale.

Maleficent review Part 2: The Spoilers!

You first get the sense that the story is going a different direction by the way maleficent is portrayed as a child. Its clear that the writer wants you to like her, or at least sympathize with her on some level. I was very touched by how emotional her scream was when she was betrayed by Stephan.   She was horrified and heartbroken at the same time. After this you could see bitterness sinking into her when she realized that love wasn't real at all. She lost her innocence along with her wings.

But the real twist was to see her transform into a good character again. You could see this start to happen when she fed Aurora as an infant.  What she first took to be just pity for the child turned into love. I think it captured her before she was aware it was happening. near the end you could see her regret especially when she ambiguously tells Aurora that she can't protect her from "the evil in the world"

I just kept thinking: how can you not like this character? All good stories have a hero or heroine with hamartia ( a tragic flaw) which leads to their downfall and this tale was no different. At first I thought it was the makings of a Taylor Swift song when I realized that her downfall was caused by a man who broke her heart, but then I remembered that my lowest low came after a tragic heartbreak as well.

Stephan was arguably the REAL bad guy of the story, but unlike  maleficent he was quite static and superficial. We never know how he goes from being in love with her to becoming obsessed with money and power.  Whats worse is he shows no sign of guilt or regret. This makes him easier to hate I suppose but it also makes him a rather bland and uninteresting character that I couldn't really buy into.

There was one plot hole that really bothered me. If Maleficent could rebond with her wings, why didn't she ask for them back when she had Stephan on his knees begging for mercy? This couldn't just be an oversight.  I'm betting there was scenes that were cut out that explained this.

Finally I'd like to say that I liked the ending a lot (even though I saw it coming)
I loved that they reminded the audience that the prince had only met her once and thus couldn't be her true love. Its great to see a story revolving about a mother daughter relationship (which is basically Maleficent is to Aurora).  I couldn't help but see a resemblance to the ending of "Frozen". The idea for the ending may very well have been stolen from Frozen".  So while I was a bit bummed by the lack of originality of the ending, i found it satisfying and entertaining nonetheless.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gaining Other Perspectives

The ability to see different sides of an argument and seeing alternate perspectives is a skill vital to social interaction and moral decision making.  We all like it when other understand us or at least make an attempt to do so. If we want others to see into our perspective we must first make the good faith effort to see into theirs. How can we expect others to listen if we don’t listen ourselves?

Another benefit to seeing other perspectives is that it releases the anxiety, fear and frustration we have about others. Even if you don’t agree with the conclusions that come from another perspective you gain much by simply understanding how they got to those conclusions.  It’s human nature to fear the unknown so the best way to quell that fear is by gaining knowledge and in this case it’s of others’ perspective. It’s also much easier to hate someone if you have incomplete or incorrect knowledge of their perspective and conversely, it’s much easier to love and trust them when you do understand them.

But how does one accomplish seeing outside of one’s own perspective? You must start by first understanding the nature of the bias that forms your perspective.  Realize that the way you see things is shaped by your past experiences, limited knowledge of how everything works, and yours brain chemistry (emotions).  When you understand the limitations of your perspective you can begin to fill the gaps of knowledge with information you attain from others.  Give your past experience equal weight as others’. Attempt to remove your emotions from the equation. Example: is there any objective evidence that that man is just out to get you, or just it just feel that way?. Your feelings will often mislead you into believing something is more factually true than it actually is.

We often think “I would never act that way” if you want to see into others perspectives, refrain from that type of thinking.  Instead think about this: “Is there anything that could happen to me that could make me act that way? Is this person possibly experiencing some of those conditions?”

If what someone has said is unclear to you (or even if it does appear to be clear) ask questions! There is always more information to get.   Try not to angle any questions to get a certain response. You questions should simply seek clarification of the information already presented. 

The most important step is to empathize! It’s helpful to know the facts of another’s situation, but to feel what they feel is to go to another realm of understanding.  Empathizing with another perspective will give you opportunities to connect, trust and even love where it would be otherwise impossible.

It’s a difficult and slow process but one that I think you will find to be well worth the effort.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting Through Shame Over Your Sexuality

I probably could write an encyclopedia on the subject of shame from just the personal experience I have with it, so I’d like to keep this short by limiting this blog to the subject of shame and sexuality.

Society places the most shame on women and gay men based on their sexuality/sex life. Women are stuck with the virgin/whore complex and gay men are told that even their feelings are evil. In certain contexts straight men are shamed as well. A man who chooses to refrain from sex is commonly put down by his fellow males (the exception to this would be in devote religious circles). While the intent of the insults is often benign and playful the damage to the male’s self-esteem can be equally great. What’s even harder to face is when women put down men for abstaining from sex or lack of sexual experience. The feeling of shame in these contexts can be likened to being kicked in the gut (or someplace much lower). Straight males are often made to feel shame by their religious upbringings which hold, in the case of Catholicism, that even thinking about women and sex is a sin for having “unclean thoughts”. Granted that these religious upbringings are greater in the case of a gay male or woman, the shame felt can still be overwhelming. In my case the shame brought on by religion has (mostly) faded away with my religious beliefs, but those feelings of shame have been reinforced (in many cases) by women in my life. They have often treated my sexuality as though it were some dirty (and perhaps sinful) thing while flaunting their own sexuality freely and unashamed.

Provided that your sex life does not include rape, sexual assault, nor deception one should NEVER be ashamed of their sexuality. Who you love and desire is part of who you are. It is not, nor has it ever been, a matter of your choice just as one cannot choose which foods or colors they will like the best (I have a special place in my heart for the color crimson). The mater of your sex life is a choice, but it is a private choice that only involves you and who you share a bed with. It does not involve anyone else in any way. People who object to who you choose to sleep with (whether it be 1, 1000, or none) are forcing their own sexuality problems on you. I deeply empathize with those who struggle with their sexuality and the emotional whirlwind that comes with it; however, struggling with your sexuality does not give you the right to harm others over their sexuality.

It is my personal opinion and educated guess that a large part of the homophobia expressed today is deeply seeded with men (and occasionally women) who are secretly gay themselves. They have come to hate themselves through shame and thus think it’s only fair to hoist that shame on others. I’ve noticed that a similar phenomenon happens when women feel undesirable or sexually repressed (often by religion) in that these women tend to be the ones who try to shame and repress the sexuality of other women. Again I empathize with all people who struggle emotionally, but they should be seeking a hand to lift them up out of their despair rather than pulling everyone else down to their level.

The best tool in dealing with shame is to remind yourself that you have the right as a human being to feel whatever you feel. The desire to have sex is as natural as sleeping, eating and breathing and the desire to repress it will only bring pain. Realize that you are not alone in feeling the way you do. You also have the right to sleep (consensually) with whomever you want and your value does not deteriorate one bit. If you were a good/likeable person before you had sex you will still be that good/likeable person after. It is important for you to surround yourself with the people who will feel the same way about this. A friend who shames you about your sex life is not a friend worth having. Realize that those who try to shame you on your sexuality are probably struggling with shame about their own sexuality. Their hurtful words are not an accurate reflection of you but of their own injured and troubled emotions. Be whoever you want to be, make mistakes, learn and be happy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Art of Arguing

I’ve noticed that many of us tend to avoid conflict with those close to us because they fear arguing as the ultimate evil. This never made sense to me. I prefer to not argue with people I do not care about (what’s the purpose in that?). I do care what my loved ones think so arguing often becomes necessary. Not only is arguing necessary in many occasions it is quite enjoyable if done the right way. In order to make an argument productive and enjoyable I strongly suggest the following guidelines:

The Rules of Argumentation
1) No name calling. Stick to the argument. This includes sarcasm, mocking and any form of personally insulting behaviors.

2) Ideas may be criticized and/or insulted to the full extent possible, but be sure to explain why they deserve criticism.

3) Arguments must conform to LOGIC only and not belief nor emotion.

4) Emotions may be declared as a matter of statement if they start the sentence with the phrase: “I feel”. You may not infer nor imply that anyone else feels the way you do without statistical documented proof. You may not imply or state outright that anyone “made you feel” any way.

5) Arguments must continue until there is a clear winner (Breaks are acceptable but make a clear date/time to resume the way a court case would).
5a) People may call upon a mutually agreed unbiased 3rd party to declare winners to arguments.

6) Make a point to listen and learn from your opponent. Assume at the onset that the disagreement is purely a misunderstanding so seek to understand your opponent.
6a) Do not get offended by your opponent not understanding you. Take it as an opportunity to clear things up and realize that someone seeking to understand you is a compliment of respect and affection.

7) Do not be afraid to be wrong. Being wrong just means you have learned something new. There is no shame in it.
7a) Do not celebrate your victory if you won the argument. If anything you should be apologetic to your opponent and be grateful they finally understand your point of view.

8) Talk in segments no longer than 3minutes (5 in a rare occasion) then take a clear pause to allow your opponent to respond before continuing. Responses must also be under 3 minutes long.

9) Do not talk over or interrupt your opponent (provided they are following rule 8).

10) Do not substitute semantics, wordplay, or cliché for legitimate argument. You may use these methods to introduce a point, but then you must still explain why they apply.

11) Have fun. It’s easy to get upset about ideas you are passionate about, but remember that you have found someone in your opponent that is also passionate about the subject. Enjoy it the way you would enjoy any competitive sport.

12) Seek clarification. If the way an argument is made sounds confusing try asking a “are you saying that…?” question. Often times we will all make arguments but leave out important details because we forget what we know isn’t common knowledge.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top 10 Mistakes Women Make on their Internet Dating Profile

1) Showing Too Much Skin
Women have figured out that showing more skin gets them more attention in life, but many haven’t stopped to think about what kind of attention they were getting and from who. If your profile pictures show you in a bikini or lingerie (sometimes even less) you are likely to get the attention of all the men on the site looking solely for sex, but you are just as likely to scare off any guy looking for a meaningful relationship. Every time I see a gal with a cleavage shot I think: “why is she trying so hard?”. It leaves men with the impression that your self-esteem relies upon your looks and many men will find you too sexually aggressive. Feel free to take a sexy shot in a fancy dress or a cute outfit, but you are best to leave something to the imagination.

2) Ticking Biological Clock
If you can, avoid mentioning your deep desire to have children. Men are aware of the fact that most women want to have kids, but that conversation needs to happen after you begin a relationship with someone. Don’t try to skip steps here ladies. You’re not even on your first date and you want a guy to make promises to you that only your husband needs to make. Guys will get freaked out if it’s too obvious that you are husband/father –of –my-child hunting. Most guys will tell you that they are unsure if they want kids or not (if they are being honest) and it makes you sound crazy to try to force him into a decision on the first date. If you absolutely feel the need to mention anything on this subject be sure to say that you are patient and waiting for the right time and place to have a child.

3) Child Worship
Many single mothers find dating sites attractive and they have every right to be there as childless women do. The mistake women make is in overemphasizing their connection to their children. Men will run for the hills when they see statements like “my child is my world” and “I want a man who will love my child like I do”. If you have kids, men will assume you love them and that they are important to you. Instead of shoving instant fatherhood down your date’s throat, try to reassure him that you are independent and have the mommy thing covered. Men expect that they will be able to go on dates with you without the kids being there, so be sure to have some sort of babysitter ready. You also should make clear that you actually have the time to date. I’ve seen countless profiles where women say they are unbelievably busy between work and parenting. If this is the case reassure your potential date by saying you have a few hours a week (at least) that can be dedicated to dating. You will of course want to introduce your date with your kids at some point. It’s safest to do so at the beginning of a serious committed relationship. You don’t want to break your kids' heart by getting them attached to some guy who might not be around in a week.

4) Ambition
This has got to be the most ambiguous/confusing word that appears in every woman’s profile. Ambition means different things depending on who is saying it. If you must use this word, explain precisely what you mean by it. Most men when they see that word they think “she’s after a rich man” or “nothing I can accomplish will be good enough for her”. Be realistic with your expectations. Not every woman can marry he future president or CEO of a major corporation. A word that can be used as a substitute with a much more positive spin is “self-growth”. Most men want to improve themselves whether or not they are in a relationship or not, but where they choose to grow can be different. Is financial growth all there you are looking for? What about emotional, spiritual, or social growth? Which is most important and which is least?

5) The Royal Treatment
As a man gets older and wiser he learns to avoid women with a “princess” complex. Women who are looking to be worshiped as a god are very unattractive to most men. The men who are attracted to this type of woman are likely to be submissive and passive with low self-esteem. Don’t ever refer to yourself as a princess, “looking for my prince”. It shows maturity to be proud of yourself for who you are: a smart, fun, beautiful woman. Make it clear on your profile that you are looking for an equal (I always like the phase “partner in crime”). Also, go watch “The Philadelphia Story”. Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant may enlighten you on the ways of love.

6) The Party Girl
When you are in college your female friends always loved the rowdy, loud and drunk side of you, but as an adult you'll find that men do not find this appealing. If all of your pictures are of you getting "smashed" or you mention in your profile that you “just want to party and have fun” you are servrely deterring men who want a serious relationship. Don’t get me wrong. Men want a girl who is humorous and fun, but if you are serious about holding on to a good guy try not to come off as an obnoxious alcoholic.

7) Grammar and Spelling
Do I really need to explain this? In general men don’t mind grammatical errors as much as women do (there are probably no less than five typos in this blog), but when you type like a 7 year old or a high school dropout it makes it hard for men to respect you. I’ve gotten messages that say: “WuD uP BOI u FEiN!” You’re not cool and you are certainly not literate. You expect this from teenage girls from the inner city, but I’ve seen women 30 years old talk this way. I don’t care how good you look; I’m not writing you back.

8) Anger/Negativity
Most people at least try to smile and be friendly when meeting strangers. Yet many women have become so jaded by the dating world that they use their profile as a soundboard for airing their grievances of the male sex. Ladies, we know dating is hard and there are a lot of horrible men out there, but treating every man as guilty until proven innocent isn’t going to win any hearts. It makes perfect sense to be cautious especially if you’ve been recently hurt. Consider talking with your close friends about what you are angry about instead of posting it on your profile. Also consider whether or not you are emotionally ready to date. Have pictures of yourself smiling and set a positive /hopeful tone to your profile and you’ll be much more successful.

9) Confusing Pictures
Pictures matter to men on dating sites. Men are visual creatures and infatuation begins with what we see. If you are thinking that “looks shouldn’t matter” consider how that can work both ways or consider only looking for platonic friendships. You want to make sure that you have multiple pictures of you and just you. Cell phone pictures at arm’s length and mirror picks aren’t likely to show your good side. If you don’t already have good picture of you, have a friend that owes you a favor take pictures of you in the park. Make sure photos are well lit and in focus. In addition to having a decent headshot with your eyes and face un-obscured (glasses=ok, sunglasses=not ok) you need to have one shot that shows your body (at least from the hip up). Pictures should also be taken within the last year or two unless you honestly haven’t changed much since that photo (high school pictures for a 35+ woman are unacceptable). Realistically women, the guy is going to see how you look when he goes on a date with you. Isn’t it better to weed out the guys who have no attraction to you? If it is unclear from the pictures how you look (including but not exclusive to your body type/size) he’s likely to assume you are unattractive and ashamed about how you look.

10) Unclear Expectations
Men on dating sites will view dozens of profiles a day. When he decides who he is going to message he wants to know who is likely to write him back. It is just as important to let men know what you are looking for as to write about who you are. What are the traits in a man that make him boyfriend material and which are the most important? It is also vital that you let men know about any “deal-breakers” or “red flags”. Taking this step helps you just as much as the guy messaging you. Guys who know they break one of your deal-breaker rules will not waste time writing you and you will not have to waste time reading dozens (if not hundreds) of messages from guys you don’t want to date. Try to be positive yet clear when writing these.
Here’s a good example: “Single dads are amazing people and I respect them very much, but I’m not interested in pursuing a relationship with one”.
Here’s a bad example: “if you are a douchebag or loser don’t bother writing me”. What makes a guy a douchebag or loser? Chances are the douchebag and losers don’t think of themselves as such.

If you don’t set clear expectations, men will probably think you don’t know what your expectations are (a sign of immaturity). If you’re not sure yourself what you want in a relationship take some time to reflect on what worked well and didn’t work in relationships in your past. If you don’t have a lot of relationship experience, think about the dates you’ve been on and/or think about the close friendships you’ve had. What made the good dates good dates and the bad dates horrible? What brought you close to your friends?

The best advice I can give any woman on an online dating site is to find a strait male friend or relative they deeply respect and have them view your profile and offer feedback.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On Anti-Materialism

People become pretty confused when I describe myself as an anti-materialist. There is a kind of materialism which places value in the material world: everything that can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted. If you are thinking of this type of materialism I am in fact a materialist to my very core. However, when I refer to myself as an anti-materialist I refer to the type of materialism which places value on human possessions: any objects which can be bought and sold or the currency itself. I recognize the need for certain objects like food and housing to be able to continue existing. Moreover I recognize that certain objects can be indeed pleasurable to use. I do not recognize the need to own material objects, and I am extremely baffled by those who see the value in acquiring massive amounts of those objects or currency.
Most importantly I believe in valuing the relationships between people above the value of material objects at all times. This has led some to refer me to a humanist, but I would never self apply this title. I do not believe that any deep or lasting happiness can come from ownership of material objects; moreover, placing value of those objects over human beings will lead to unhappiness.
I do not believe that any human being has a right to own any object. By what authority can we make this claim? Our founding fathers were mostly wealthy land owners who pursued property rights in order to ensure their own power. They had no right to kill millions of Indians who were living on this land before them. Indians who, by the way, asserted that no one has the right to own land. Most people in this country who are religious follow a god which tells them in clear language to abandon their worldly desires.
So I ask you what right do you or I have to own anything? We were born into this world owning nothing and we die the same way. We may claim that our parents gave us an object but where did they get it from? Every material object starts as raw material from the earth. Some may argue that the work we put into an object makes it ours to sell. I will agree that there should be value in work. I assert that while we may come into possession through hard work, it is not due purely to our hard work that we come into possession. We own things not from just rights but merely by the capricious hand of luck. Most of the rich did not earn their wealth but were born into it and simply made more. Can anyone say that Paris Hilton would be as famous and rich today if she were born to any other parent? There are some (such as Andrew Carnegie) who did start from humble beginnings and I do give credit to such people for their achievements. As much skill and will power as these people possess even they had to deal with a good amount of luck. So many factors leading up to their success were established without their knowledge by the hard work of others.
“That there are so many are ready to live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society”-H.D. Thoreau
I submit that it’s a selfish and childish self importance that promotes others to claim the rights to property as if screaming and threatening made it true. So if you can accept that you have no right to ownership of material objects how can you (or anyone) claim that any object is worth more than a connection to a human being?

Next time you and your loved one have an argument about material objects or money remember to think and say: “It’s just a thing, its not worth hurting you or our relationship over”