Friday, October 30, 2009

Thank God for Our Daily Miracles

How many times have you sincerely thanked God recently? I am firmly of the opinion that when something good in your life happens, you should thank Him. I'm not just talking about the big stuff; I mean a lot of the little miracles he blesses us with on a daily basis.

Take, for example, the relatively insignificant event of me pulling into my school's parking lot this morning, and finding a spot quickly. This is a routine and otherwise unremarkable event. Or is it? While I prefer to park in Oakland University's Lot 1, it is the most common lot for people to park in, so it's usually quite full as it was this morning. In fact, it's usually so full that I usually don't try to find a spot there any more, and settle for Lot 3 further away. But today, I entered the lot, made a few turns that I didn't particularly want to make, and found a large spot staring me in the face. Despite the numerous other cars circling the lot looking for a space, one was presented to me uncontested and quickly. While this was an world changing event, it was just another one of God's daily miracles.

This isn't the only example; take those occasions when you happen to have just enough money for something you spontaneously decided to buy. Or perhaps when some stranger willingly helps you when you need it the most, and doesn't even wait for a "thank you." There are miracles in our lives daily, we just have to learn to see them for what they are. Then when you do recognize God's hand in your life, if only for that brief, insignificant moment, tell Him "thank you", and mean it from the bottom of your heart.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Film Sense Must Be Fucked...

I blame Maxx.

While I have always enjoyed watching movies, it's only been since I've known Maxx that I started watching some of the really strange stuff, and some of the really bad stuff. In all honesty, he's made me into a movie critic, and a connoisseur of well written movies. That's a really good thing I owe him. He and Omar are as much my brothers as my actual blood siblings are, and they are both responsible for pushing me creatively speaking more than most people I've known. They are directly responsible for my sick and twisted sense of humor.

You hear that world? You can blame them!!

Now, tonight's blamestorming session is focusing on two movies that I've partaken of in the last three days. One was a big multi-million dollar blockbuster release, and the other seems to have been a little independent film that was trying to go viral through the net a couple years ago. But before I go into the movies, I want to point out some facts that lay further blame on Maxx.

Many moons ago, Maxx and I went to the same high school, along with Omar. I was already hanging out with the bad crowd, psycho-nerds like myself, starring Omar and a few other sick and twisteds. Omar later introduced me to Maxx who subsequently disappeared and resurfaced a few years later as Omar was headed into the Air Force. Maxx and Omar both encouraged me to push myself as a writer, and to come up with stories that were interesting to say the least. Maxx, a former film student, but a kick ass artist, would likewise push himself artisticly. Now, considering that I, more than 15 years later, am a cinema studies student, I feel that I can confidently blame Maxx directly and indirectly for this post. This one's for you Maxx!

Now, on to the films... The blockbuster you may have heard of ran epic looking commercials with the title character screaming his introduction in a voice reminiscent of 300's King Leonidas. I speak of none other than Beowulf. Many, many, many moons ago, long before I ever met either Omar or Maxx, before I even entered high school, I had heard of and read a small portion of the great epic poem known as Beowulf. In high school, a friend of ours based some of his characters in our role playing games off a combination of Grendel and Marvel Comics' Wolverine. Needless to say, I was greatly looking forward to seeing the movie once it was announced, and I was even more eager after seeing the commercials. For reasons that I shall not discuss, it didn't happen...

Until Friday morning.

Just before I was to leave for school on Friday morning, I discovered that Beowulf was on some random cable channel; I don't know if it was HBO, Cinemax, Showtime or what, but I sat down and watched about a half hour's worth of the movie. What I saw left me completely speechless.

I hated every second I watched. I know that computer animation has become a large part of the movie industry, particularly for special effects, and God knows I love animated movies, CG and otherwise, but I was not even slightly impressed with Beowulf the movie. I had been under the impression that the movie was live action, and to be honest, I'm not 100% sure it wasn't live action, but there were enough telltales for a guy like me to determine that it was at the very least significantly computer enhanced where it didn't need to be. Watching it reminded me of half remembered, half thought out rumors that the movie wasn't what my friends and social circle at the time wanted to see, and I'm definitely glad I didn't pay money for it. Now, that's not to say that it was all bad... I did enjoy some of the chanting songs that were being sung by the characters at various parts, and I certainly think that they were the high points of the film. You can probably guess, though, that Beowulf is now being removed from my "To Buy on Blu-Ray" list...

The other film is more complicated. I was watching TV, looking for something that might catch my attention and amusement for a little while when I stumbled across it. It looked like it was going to be cheap soft-porn, based on the name and description given to me by the satellite TV network, and I thought to myself "What the hell... Why not?". Now, I'm not going to say that I'm always up for porn. Frankly, while I do occasionally enjoy partaking, I'm really not into the made for cable soft-porn that even hardcore porn stars think is disgusting. (For different reasons of course. The bottom line is that at least hardcore porn is honest, with people actually having sex, while the soft porn is just faked all around without even the decency to have a good plot.) But being a hetero male in America, I was hoping to see some boobs. So, given the title and description of Zerophilia, I was intrigued and curious about exactly what they were going to do.

I'm not going to lie and tell you that it was the best movie ever. I'm not even going to tell you that it was a better movie than Beowulf. But the bottom line is that I actually enjoyed Zerophilia more than Beowulf, and I definitely think that it had potential. While Zerophilia did indeed have a couple of scenes with the naked breasts of twenty something young women and talked about sex and gender quite a bit, it actually wasn't porn of any kind. It was a real movie with an interesting plot, though it was a bit weak in some respects. The basic plot, for the lazy, is that a young man discovers that he changes gender when he's sexually aroused after having his first sexual encounter with a woman, and of course he meets the girl of his dreams just days later.

I can't say how I'd improve Zerophilia, because certain things were just plainly obvious to me right from the beginning, but I can't see how those points could have been done any differently. I think I might have gone in a different direction with the main character's discovery and exploration of his feelings about his gender, and I probably would have done without a plot twist near the end altogether. But the thing that is probably most important to Martin Curland, the writer/director/producer of the film, is that I enjoyed the movie more than Beowulf.

Mr. Curland, I'm a nobody [at the moment], but I'd like to see what you're working on next, and see if I can contribute to it in some way!

So, as you can see, while I ended up disappointed with both films for different reasons, at least I enjoyed watching one of them. And I think the key reason in both cases is my long experience watching movies, analyzing movies with Maxx and Omar, and getting an early schooling on a number of things film related by Maxx. Ultimately, I blame Maxx for this, and I think you should too! On three, everyone shout (with feewing!) "Thanks Maxx!"

Oh, and uh, go and Netflix Zerophilia. Throw some cash at Mr. Curland for being creative. You don't even have to feel guilty: you can watch it instantly instead of waiting for the DVD to arrive.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Ok, if you read and speak Japanese, you probably know that the title of this post is bad, and likely a mistake. Well, it's a mistake, but it was done intentionally. For those that don't speak Japanese, the title translates roughly to, "Coffee drinks you in Japan." Now, the reasons I wrote this title like this are two fold: first, while in my Japanese class today, we were working on using the de (で) particle, which denotes a place an action takes place, and on a couple occasions, I was placing the nouns in the wrong place, resulting in sentances like "Coffee drinks you in Japan." Second, there's a somewhat common meme that goes something along the lines of "In Russia, the coffee drinks you!"

Now, I didn't think about what I was screwing up in this second context until I was on my way home. When it suddenly occurred to me, I started laughing uncontrollably and decided to make this post. So, the translation of the title, in the spirit of this meme is, "In Japan, the coffee drinks you."

I had some other random things to say, but they've slipped my mind. If they come back to me, I'll make another post.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Michelle Obama's Slave Ancestor and the U.S. Reaction To It

Last week, the New York Times apparently released a story that they had been researching for some time, that determined that Michelle Obama had an ancestor that was a slave here in the United States, and apparently the news was so shocking, NBC seemed to go out of their way to talk about it on several news programs (Today and NBC Nightly News) for at least two days. I wouldn't doubt that other channels also covered this story in depth. The thing is, I don't know what the big deal is. Or do I?

Being Black (I'm not African-American because I'm not from Africa) and growing up in Detroit, I got regular lessons on slavery, the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and most of the other slavery and civil rights related issues that Blacks faced here in the United States. While I'm not dismissing the significance of these things, I can say with certainty that to most Blacks that I know, the slave period of America isn't that big a deal any more. To have an ancestor that was a slave here? That covers far more than half of Black American families. We're not surprised that we had ancestors that were slaves less than 200 years ago, so why is every one else?

In fact, as my family and I discussed last week, we'd be very surprised if any Black family in America (whose ancestors were in the U.S. during the slavery period) today didn't have ancestors that were slaves. There are Blacks that have ancestors that came to the United States after slavery ended, but comparatively speaking, their numbers are tiny. I told my mother and sister this last week: you can take 100 Black Americans, at random, put them in a room, turn off the lights, reach out and touch any random person among them, and be over 99% confident that their ancestors were slaves in America.

So what's my point? We got over it. Yes, we're glad that we now have a Black president, but we're not sitting around waiting for him to invoke a slavery act to put Whites through what we went through. We're not waiting with baited breath for him to give us reparations for slavery... I sure as hell wouldn't know what to do with 40 acres and a mule, and I surely couldn't afford the taxes associated with the land.

In short, we celebrated Obama's victory in last year's presidential election because even though his father was not a slave here in America, his victory meant that we as a people have finally reached a level of equality here that our slave ancestors couldn't have dreamt about. It meant that we were that much closer to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream. That the country that we love has finally permitted us to participate in the highest office we as a country have.

I think the bottom line is that we Black Americans, whether we have the blood of slaves running through our veins or not, finally feel like complete Americans.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Strange Day...

Any one that knows me probably considers me strange. I'm not afraid of being strange or different, and everyone knows that. However, even I can have strange days. Today, thus far, has been one of the strangest I've had in a very long time...

I got up this morning, and got ready for class. I only have one class on Fridays, Japanese, and I was very much looking forward to it because it's currently my favorite class. Since it was raining, I decided I better leave earlier than I normally do, and got on the road at roughly 10:30 am. I made a quick stop to get a bit of gas, and that's when the first unusual thing happened. I say unusual because it's not strange just... unusual. For the last few months, I've been using a program on my phone (T-Mobile's G1) called "Mileage" which keeps track of your gas mileage, fuel costs, etc.. Today, I spent the exact same amount and got the exact same amount of gas that I did earlier in the week according to the app. Like I said, that's not particularly strange, but it is unusual given the way gas prices change and the amount of money I might happen to have that day. Any ways, it set the mood for the day.

I hopped on the freeway, headed North on I-75. About half a mile past 7 Mile Road, there was an accident on the freeway. A car had obviously spun out or something and was facing the wrong way near the center divider. On its side. Now, I can get facing the wrong way in rain... The road is slippery. No big surprise there. I could even understand the car being on its side if it were facing the right way: it might have hit the divider and tipped over. But backwards AND on its side? What the hell? Did it do somersaults and fail to stick the landing or something? Besides being on its side, it didn't seem to have a whole lot of damage, so, no, I don't think that's what happened...

Got to school, did the Japanese thing, had a good time. I decided to get an iced coffee in Oakland Center (Oakland University's student center building) before I hit the road. While standing in line, I saw some delicious looking brownies and decided to have one. After I ordered, I stood there confused and staring at the receipt while I waited for my drink. The medium Iced White Chocolate Mocha is priced $3.29, and the brownie costs $1.45. That's $4.74 right? Apparently, not according to the cash register. It decided the price was $6.09. I kept staring at the receipt thinking that maybe I was charged for whipped cream and/or the large size mocha, but I wasn't. I got a medium drink, no whipped cream. I did the math in my head, and double checked it with my phone. It couldn't be taxes, because that was $0.37 in addition to the $6.09. What I had encountered was a computer screwing up on REALLY SIMPLE math... The cashier didn't screw up, because the receipt showed the correct prices, it's just that the register's computer randomly decided to charge me more than a dollar extra for my goods. What the fuck? I spoke to the manager nicely and explained that the cashier hadn't done anything wrong, it's just some completely bizarre behavior out of their register. The manager rang it up on a different register which showed my total (including taxes) to be $5.02, and she triple checked on the register that gave me the wrong result, and it too showed the correct price now. So even they were freaked out about what happened... I made up my mind right then that I had to go buy a lottery ticket for tonight's MegaMillions drawing with that dollar...

Which of course lead to more strange occurrences. I almost always buy my lottery tickets at a grocery store in Highland Park on Woodward and Manchester, and since it was on my way home, it was easiest to stop there today. As I was coming off the freeway, I looked over and saw ANOTHER car on its side facing the wrong way on the freeway, and proceeded to wonder what's with this day. I slipped into the market, and got my ticket just before the cashier closed down the lottery station for her shift or lunch, and returned to my car. Now, there were two other people that had also just returned to their cars near me. One was in the next car over, on my passenger side, and the other was on her passenger side. The furthest car left without any problem, and I got myself together and backed out before the car adjacent to me was ready. Can you guess what happened?

That's right! The lady next to me backed into the front end of my car! We pulled back into our spots and looked at the damage on my car, which fortunately wasn't significant. It was really just a matter of exchanging paint. Sadly, my car has worse damage than that caused by my father (who owned the car before his passing several years ago) and some anonymous asshole that backed into my rear bumper at some parking lot last year. So I shrugged off the damage, and told the lady not to worry about it. It was just par for the course of my day, and we went merrily on our respective ways.

I got home and explained my day to my mother and told her that I was not going to leave my man-cave for the rest of the weekend without being dragged kicking and screaming out of it. She kindly suggested that I go and get another lottery ticket with a particular combination of numbers inspired by my drink prices, and drop off a letter at the post office. This is rare. My mother doesn't have anything against buying lottery tickets, but she almost never suggests that one be purchased. In her belief, this is probably God's way of giving me a hint about what to do, and given the odd day that I've had, with the completely bizarre cash register incident, that there must be something more to today than just the oddities. So I left the house once more, mailed the letter and got a second lottery ticket...

And I had another interesting incident... As I was driving back to the house, a car behind me suddenly sped up, swerved around me into the middle lane (I was in the left lane on a one way street), and made a left turn in front of me, sliding and screeching tires and all. I don't even want to know what the hell that was all about...

I don't know if I'll win the lottery tonight or not, I would really love to given the fact that I'm broke and have bills to pay, but I'll tell you this much, I'm damned near afraid to leave my room right now...