surrealcouchuniverse

"You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on." – Dean Martin


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HOW FAST CAN YOU PACK YOUR LIFE AWAY?

So this should be an interesting 10 days coming up. Over the course of the next 10 days, I have to pack my life away and sort out allot of loose ends as I prepare myself to move countries for a new job. Life does have a habit of throwing these curveballs out just when you think everything is sorted. For me, sorted involved having the job of my dreams, everyone I cared about being in good health, getting the girl of my dreams and moving to somewhere I felt like I belonged (while still being an hours drive from all my existing friends and family). As dreams go it was pretty good.

But pretty good wasn’t destined to last even if I forgot that all things end. Here, the end involved poor health, too many hours in hospitals, losing the girl and losing the job. I am still fortunate in my life and am still pretty well off despite what I have lost. However, the sense of belonging is once again gone as I am just reminded of how I managed to lose all these things. So now I am off, relocating overseas to see whether another fresh start can make me feel like I belong again.

I begin my new job in 10 days time. In that 10 days, there are allot of loose ends and people I will let down be necessity as I relocate. Tomorrow I will start packing and seeing how much of my life I actually need to start again. I have live a fortunate life and will continue to do so, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to relocate and continue the hunt for somewhere I belong. Because in the words of Fight Club, this is our lives and they are over one moment at a time.


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The Winter Soldier- Things I Would Like To See More Of

 I really enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, there were a few things that I felt they could’ve done a bit more with (some spoiler follow).

1. PTSD and Falcon/Black Widow- This was a theme brought up a couple of times, but then it felt like it was forgotten about. It would have been interesting to see Black Widow dealing with facing super-humans/aliens or Falcon’s PTSD a bit more. Instead it felt like one or two scenes and then it fell by the wayside.

2. The Winter Soldier- For most of the movie, he felt like a super-powered thug. And once it was revealed that he was Steve’s best childhood friend, not much was done with it. The only impact this revelation seemed to have is for a dramatic ending of Steve showing mercy and then nearly dying from it.

3. Captain America’s Evolution to a Spy- Captain America had to evolve to a new style of warfare, from straight-up war to a much more covert style. Although this was shown during the Avengers a bit, I would have liked to see a bit more of Captain coming to terms with this much less-direct style of warfare.

As I said, I really enjoyed Captain America and, much more than Thor or Iron-Man, I predict it will end up as one of my favourite movies of the year. It did pack allot of different themes into its runtime, so it was understandable that some themes were dropped. However, they still feel like missed opportunities a bit.


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BURN NOTICE: THE NEW SEASON

I am not sure whether I am enjoying the new season of Burn Notice. In this season, Michael is back working undercover with the CIA in order to take down a bigger bad. His team of Jessie, Sam and Fiona all started broken up but are now kind-of back together.

I am still enjoying their formula. In effect, it is the classic ‘problem- solution 1- complication to raise stakes- risky solution- resolution and advancement of overarching plot’. However, I feel like it has lost something. It almost feels like they should throw away the formula and be more adventurous with the story structure.

It also feels like they are getting rid of any adventurous elements they have. Jessie and Sam working independently is abandoned as they are joined back with Michael. Fiona’s new relationship is abandoned because of her baggage with Michael, and there past comes back to haunt them whenever they need a filler episode. The formula is starting to feel a little repetitive.

The low-tech savvy spycraft that used to hold this formula together has been abandoned. Most of the solutions now involve just blowing something up or having a sniper. The dialogue doesn’t feel quite as witty as in previous seasons to hold the pace of the show up.

And I guess that without the dialogue or spycraft being there, the show has started to feel a little too repetitive to me. The show feels like it needs a bit of a shake-up otherwise, for me, it is going to fall by the wayside of shows I don’t normally watch.


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GOING OUT TO EAT- MY DECISION CRITERIA

For me, going out to eat can be confusing. However, I am often expected to make snap decisions to decide what I am going to eat. Add to this that I don’t actually go out too often to eat (I normally try to encourage doing something else). Therefore, whenever I go out to eat, I use a certain criteria to decide what I am going to eat. This has served me well on many occasions.

  1. CAN I MAKE IT (EASILY) AT HOME- If I can make it easily at home, I don’t see the point in paying inflated prices to get it when going out. I like to treat myself when I go out instead of eating something I can make. This is particularly relevant for breakfasts. I have no desire to pay $15 for bacon and eggs when I can just make it at home in 10 minutes.
  2. HAVE I TRIED IT BEFORE- I am a lover of novelty. If I haven’t tried it before, I am often keen to try it out. And because I haven’t tried it before, it often means I can’t make it easily at home. Some of the best meals I have eaten have often been because I went for a “why-not” attitude.
  3. HAVE I EATEN IT LATELY- If I have had chicken last night, I will try to eat something else.  Pretty simple and straightforward. I tend to get sick of meals pretty quickly. This also applies for flavours and spices (such as curry).
  4. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ANY CHEAT DAYS- If I am having a cheat day, I am definitely getting some ice-cream. By the same token, I am having meat for every meal in the days leading up to lent. I don’t want to look back with regret because I can always fit more ice-cream/bacon/ bacon-flavoured ice-cream in my stomach.
  5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SPECIALS- Sometimes it feels like everything on the menu will cost an arm and a leg. From someone who is used to going to supermarkets and cooking at home, paying $35 for 250 grams of meat seems a bit excessive. For this reason, I try to pick something from a special menu. This is especially true for weekday lunch menus, where a meal can be up to half the price. This takes a bit of the sting out of the hip pocket.

So they are the main criteria I use when deciding what to eat when I am out at a restaurant. This normally ensures that I always enjoy what I eat, and if I don’t, at least I have a good story to tell from it.


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300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE- MULLING IT OVER

So after seeing the sequel to 300: Rise of an Empire, I am trying to mull over what my opinion of it. I am unable to decide whether it is a bad movie or a brilliant movie that didn’t quite hit the mark. It is a weird position as the two extremes are so far apart, so I thought I would write down some quick thoughts on it to see if that clears it up in my head a bit. Apologies as I can’t remember any of these names.

The first thing is that the movie tried to make every speech an epic speech without earning it. The first 300 movie showed the brutal training, the Persian envoy coming and the march and preparations. So when it gave an epic speech, it was well earned with characters you were introduced to. The sequel felt like every battle and interaction tried to be epic, but without earning it like the original did it felt conceited and over-bloated.

The visual style did not match with the ship combat. The unique fighting style in the original was what the sequel tried to use, but the ship-to-ship combat didn’t suit it. The only time it worked was when they pretty much treated the ships like land.

The movie made a point of saying that they are just average people (rather than Spartan warriors) fighting. It even shows an interaction between father and son to contrast the father/son relationship from the first movie (keeping him safe v.s. earning a glorius death). This could have been an effective angle. However, when the fight scenes kick in, these ordinary Greeks seem just as good at chopping up people as the Spartans from the first movie. This is even worse with their leader, who is meant to be a statesman but matches it with a couple of SHIPFULS of Persians (including their super-assasin leader and several immortals at the same time).

I am still not sure whether we are meant to cheer the enemy or heroes. The Greek general is shown trying to defend an ineffective democracy while the Persian general has a tragic backstory based on being a Greek sex slave. I am not sure whether this is meant to be subversive with the original movies very black-and-white villains, but I was hoping the villain would have her just revenge.

The whole movie was spent building up the Spartans as superheros that would save all of Greece. In the same breath, however, it also insults and mocks the Spartans as a relic of a bygone age and arrogant beyond belief. And after the whole movie was spent building up the Spartans arrival to the battlefield, the movie ends when they arrive (without even playing out the final battle). And Sparta, the defenders of liberty from the first movie, only come seeking vengeance rather than defending Greece, which actually makes more sense based on their warrior-culture. It reminds me of a story that says that sometimes the world the warriors defend don’t always have a place for them (I think it was a Discworld book).

So these are some of the contradictions I am mulling over in my head. I think after writing them down, I think I am leaning towards it breaking the narrative too much to get away with it. But it came pretty close to being a good movie, but I think mimicking the style of the original ended up hurting it too much.

Or I could go for the simplest way to determine if I liked it. I was bored during the movie and had no emotional investment in the characters, therefore it was a bad movie.

 


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SOME MUSINGS WHILE I AM UNEMPLOYED

As my unemployment continues to lengthen, I have  been getting out and about trying new things and retrying old things. With all this experimentation, I have learned a few things about myself.

I have learnt that the “me” from 10 years ago was a fool. If I knew then what I know now, I would be allot happier today. But by the same token, I am now also wise enough to know that in 10 years time, I would think that the “me” of today will be considered a fool by the “me” 10 years from now. I guess that this cycle will go on until I die or lose my mind to age and time.

I have learnt that revisiting my favourite things is good. This for me has been books, magazine articles, games and movies. Sure, the content may not change, but that isn’t the point. As life goes on, time and experiences have changed my perspectives on allot of things. This why my favourites are my favourites as I can always peel back more layers to what is going on in them. Perspective had also meant some of my former favourite things have dropped out as I can no longer relate to them as much as I used to. This is also good, as it shows that I have changed and grown from my time on this earth.

I have learnt not to be so scared of trying things or retrying things to see if you now enjoy them. In some ways this also ties in with experience and time changing my perspective on things. I recently went to a couple of poetry evenings and have really enjoyed them. This is despite the fact that, for a long time, I never really liked or much understood poetry. This is similar to small music performances by local bands or seeking out people to help teach me new skills.

I have learnt I am much more patient when trying to learn new things. In the past I have been guilty of trying to take as many shortcuts as possible. It was made worse when I realised that I could get away with these shortcuts, and I could just give up when I couldn’t. Now, I am much more persistent in completing works and giving things a fair shot. This may also be because I am much more focused on the things that I now want to learn. The result of this is I have learnt some skills that I used to think were beyond me due to lack of natural skill.

I have also learnt that things like meditation and writing are good for me and that I will continue to learn new things about myself. As the my days on this planet continue and my mistakes seem to stack up upon eachother, the ability to unwind and focus is becoming more and more valuable.

also doubt this will be the last one of these I will do.


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BASTION- ONE OF MY FAVORITE GAMES FROM THE X-BOX 360

As the last console generation slowly winds down, I have been thinking about what were my favourite games that I had the pleasure of playing on my X-Box 360, which is also affectionately known as the 360 or My Baby. There have been many highs and some pitiful lows (hello Vampire Rain, fancy seeing you here), the game that always comes back to me is Bastion. Bastion is also the only game I played more than once after I beat it (in fact, I beat it 4 times). So I thought I would do a quick summary on some of my favourite moments and thoughts on them (spoilers ahead).

-          The dream sequence where the Narrator turns on you and the world and you fight your only friend, yourself. It recaps the game so far but with a dark twist. I always thought of it as looking at The Kid’s actions through another point of view.

-          The monsters that you have to fight to recover the shard while they are just trying to build their own Bastion. The Kid needs the crystal, however, and so must slaughter the monsters. Perhaps you and the monsters are not so different after all. Without any means to communicate, they both resort to violence to try and achieve their goals.

-          Going through a Pompeii-like ghost town while the Narrator tells you the people’s names and also small snippets of their lives. The Calamity stole away any hope they had of life and most of them had no idea of The How and The Why of it. They were just ordinary people trying to go about their lives.

-          The Kid’s “Who Knows Where” story. It captures the essence of The Kid being loner and outcast from the world even before the Calamity. The moments of violence between snippets of his sad story serve as exclamation marks. Zia and Zulf’s “Who Knows Where” stories are also good but The Kid’s is the one I liked best.

-          The ending as you try to get the man who betrayed you home safely while an entire army is barraging you. With no hope to fight back or survive, they stop firing when they realise that you are helping an enemy you have every reason to hate.

Bastion is a game about betrayal, cruelty, lack of understanding, loneliness, friendship and hope. This is a game that drips atmosphere with a near seamless blend of game mechanics, story and player agency. Bastion is one of my favourite games for 360 and possibly of all time.

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