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In my pursuit of 152 movies, I have come to realize how critical a good antagonist can be for most movies. Some men just want to watch the world burn!  A great antagonist brings so much to the movie – providing contrast to the protagonist, demonstrating their limitations, and competing for some goal against our hero. Similarly, the antagonist must be presented in a reasonable way – when an antagonist creates conflict, the stakes must be real and plausible, and I can’t stress how important that last point is… it’s why so many comic book movies feel hollow. If the fate of the universe is always at stake and you know there is a sequel, there isn’t much tension. The difference in development of the villain is exactly why the original Star Wars movies are legendary and The Force Awakens is just ok. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Just to reiterate, I will do a few different styles of blog posts here, but mainly I will present an important part of film making first and then elaborate on the specifics in a series of more specific posts that follow up. So without further ado, the 10 characters I have chosen to demonstrate the importance of an antagonist (in no specific order):

  • Anton Chigurh – No Country For Old Men. What’s the most you ever anton-chigurhlost in a coin toss? What a way to start, with perhaps my favorite movie of all time. What makes Anton Chigurh great as an antagonist is the contrast he creates with No Country’s protagonist, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. Wait a second, you mean the protagonist, Josh Brolin aka Llewelyn Moss, right? Nah, but you aren’t far off. I can’t wait to dig deeper on this one.
  • Billy Mitchell – King of Kong. Steve Wiebe is the classic American hero we all wish we could be. Despite his reserved nature, he is an accomplished billy-mitchellathlete, musician, father, and worker. Speak softly and be successful at everything, a Teddy Roosevelt/Justin Timberlake Renaissance Man, if you will. It’s not hard to root for him since I think we can all see a part of ourselves in his everyman persona, so not much of an antagonist is needed. BUT OH, WHAT A DICK BILLY MITCHELL IS. He represents a massive obstacle to Steve Wiebe’s pursuit of success, increasing tension to the climax. JUST LET THE MAN WIN AT SOMETHING FOR ONCE!!
  • Darth Vader – Star Wars. We all know the deal here, but mostly I want to use this example as a case study in comparison to Kylo Ren, aka Darth Vader’s shitty clone, in the new movies.
  • Michael Corleone – The Godfather trilogy. Shaq once compared the three young, All-Star shooting guards that he played with to the Corleone brothers. Penny was Fredo – weak, and never quite ready to take over the empire. Kobe was Sonny – overly brash don-michael-corleoneand short-sighted instead of cold and calculating. And lastly, Dwayne Wade – Michael, just the right mix of aggression and intelligence to lead a mob family, or an NBA team apparently. Michael begins as a protagonist in the first movie, but as he becomes Don Corleone he changes in to a completely different character. I’ll focus more on this metamorphosis and how the contrast between the two Michaels establishes a perfect good guy/bad guy comparison later.
  • Daniel Plainview – There Will Be Blood. “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.” How amazing that this movie and No Country For Old Men came out the same year? This is a movie about a relentless man who sees only the worst in people. From the very first scene, Daniel Plainview rises, seemingly from the depths of hell, physically broken as a man but driven by his compulsion for the wealth beneath his feet to crawl on his back god alone knows how far to get help. Oh, but first he stops to pick up a check for that gold and silver ore he found. He doesn’t speak for what feels like the first half of the movie, chosing to forgo the humanizing tools of society to instead focus all of his energy on the tools of getting rich. He is covered in a thick layer of scum literally and metaphorically thoughout this movie and systematically disembowels the other despicable swindlers who cross his path. My favorite part of this character is that the original actor quit the shoot after only two weeks of dealing with Daniel Day-Lewis, who famously immerses himself in his roles.daniel-plainview
  • The dinosaurs – Jurassic Park. Alan Grant and the rest of the team of scientists in Jurassic Park deal with various immutable laws of science. Throughout the movie, it becomes clear that while the rules still apply in the park, the scientists may not understand them as well as they had believed. The dinosaurs here challenge the protagonist’s rules and principles, creating one of my favorite movies of all time.
  • HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL 9000 is a powerful and eventually frightening tool in the hands of humanity. Perhaps our tools had evolved a little faster than our ability to use them. HAL 9000 and his interactions with the astronauts in 2001 is a representation of our limitations as a species. As Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”hal-9000
  • Terence Fletcher/John Fitzgerald – Whiplash/The Revenant: JK Simmons and Tom Hardy are two of the best actors in the business. Seriously, see any movie either of these two make, it is almost guaranteed to be great. Both play essential characters in two of the best movies to come out in the past few years. In a world of participation trophies, JK Simmons forces the viewer by means of the protagonist to confront the most extreme definitions of sacrifice and question whether it justifies the payoff of whiplash-simmons-shoutingexcellence. Similarly, in a series of escalating conflicts, Tom Hardy undermines the goals that Leonardo DiCaprio pursued throughout the film. Completely different roles, completely different outcomes, similar characters.
  • John Doe – Se7en. Kevin Spacey plays what is maybe the best developed villain in all whats-in-the-boxof cinema in Se7en. He is potent, competent, singularly focused on the specific flaws
    of our detective protagonist, and able to force our hero to test his character in an excellent moral dilemma, built through the entire course of the movie to the climatic crescendo.
  • Alien/The Thing – Alien/The Thing. I feel like I have covered this ground by now, but these two iconic monsters serve such a specific purpose in a sci-fi story that I think they deserve special treatment. Though humans are apex predators on earth with the-thingfew natural threats to our survival, space creates a world where an adolescent mankind is under-evolved, naïve, and weak. Both characters revert our brains to a particular vulnerability that is surely programmed in to our human DNA but often lays fallow in modern society. That existential fear of weakness is brilliantly exposed by these powerful antagonists.


Rush Limbaugh, Idiocy and Volcanoes

Rush Limbaugh was quoted on his talk show last week blaming the Obama Administration’s recent passage of the health care bill for the massive Icelandic volcano that has cleared the sky’s of Europe from air travel.

that unpronouncable icelandic volcano

that unpronouncable icelandic volcano

Clearly, Limbaugh is confusing this volcano with the massive Tsunami that wiped out Australia… God’s retaliation for the Magna Carta (he smited that habeas corpus bulljive!)  Very similar to the meteorite that blasted the Yucatan after Hammurabi so boldly (and foolishly!) wrote his laws on that slab of stone.  Please, Obama, PLEEEAAAAASSSSEEE don’t pass any more reform laws or Florida may sink in the ocean like that big ass boat they named after that James Cameron movie.

But on a more serious note, should we be more shocked that God has chosen Rush Limbaugh to voice His word… or that His Armageddon would manifest in a bunch of airport closings?


so this is going to be pretty geeky and “in to physics” but my roommate and i were talking today about a theory for the new season of LOST involving Lorenz Attractors.  these are sets of differential equations that describe systems that seem to be chaotic and in disarray or even random, however they are centered around “equilibria” and are fully and completely described by mathematical equations – in other words predetermined (im looking at you, john locke).  i guess a good way to describe this is very complicated, non-linear math  system that follows patterns, but not any sort of pattern we can easily discern ourselves.

lorenz attractors

an interesting thing about these differential equation systems is that they can support different equilibria based on different boundary or initial conditions.  for example think of a spring with a hanging weight.  if you pull the weight down an inch or two, it will wobble back and forth for a while and eventually go back to the resting state.  now on the other hand if you pull the weight down and inch and every few bounches give that weight a little push, in theory the spring would bobble back and forth through equilibrium forever.  now if you take that system again and instead of just giving it a little poke, you give it a big poke… now the system will gain energy every time and eventually the spring would be violently swinging until the spring snapped or exploded or something crazy like that.

Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction

Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction

imagine the “LOST” parallels.  we have a system in a very smooth equilibrium – the island, pre-nuke.  now imagine we add a ton of energy – the nuke.  it seems we now have two parallel systems going towards very different equilibrium states – maybe even perpendicular equilibria.  furthermore, with all the flashing/LOST sounds that act as transitions between the seemingly different worlds (the plane landing in LA vs. the island as we remember it) it seems as though we are actually jumping randomly between the two worlds as opposed to simultaneous but different worlds.  These chaotic but determined systems exist in several real-life applications – notably the hopf bifurcation (a system describing how our neurons work), certain chemical reactions, atmosphere and weather, and finally lasers

check out this website to see an illustration of what im talking about

Lorenz Attractors in 3D

im on fire

welp, its happened again.  every now and then i just get that feeling in my bones.  maybe its because fall has fell (even in los angeles) and the cold air has me all full of piss and vinegar.  maybe im just that age where my soul is all tough and sinewy and my body is not afraid of pain.  i just want to build something.  i wanna pull a ryan gosling in the notebook and build a house.  somewhere to settle down and live.  but i want it to be my house, my blood and tears.  my snot and hammered-thumbs and back-aches and sunburned back and cracked skin.  i feel like i can do whatever i want with my hands and maybe i need to find out if i actually can.  but i need it to be me.  i think its just a guy thing – every man worth his nuts just wants to build, to make things grow.

its just restlessness.  i wake up every day and go to work and i like what i do.  but i wont be able to do these things all my life.  someday ill have a family and a real job and responsibilities and the fear or anger or desire will fade away.  and after that, when everything left of my body has softened and slumped and wasted away, what will be left of this young man?  maybe im just thinking too much and i need to find a hobby.

adirondack chair

this is what happened last time i felt like this

faustian economics

today i read an interesting piece from the may 2008 edition of harper, Faustian Economics: Hell Hath No Limits. in general, the piece is about a corollary to the pseudo-economic Parkinson’s Law which states that ‘consumption increases to meet the supply of resources (but not the other way around)’.   the supposed ‘faustian fault‘ of modern society is that we have forgotten how to create a reasonable limit to our lives; if our resources are in theory so prolific that we couldn’t forseeably consume them all, what is to stop us from wrecklessly burning through our worldly supplies?  a great example from the essay:

The entire contraption of “Unbridled Energy” is supported only by a rote optimism: “The United States has 250 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves—enough to last 100 years even at double the current rate of consumption.” We humans have inhabited the earth for many thousands of years, and now we can look forward to surviving for another hundred by doubling our consumption of coal? This is national security? The world-ending fire of industrial fundamentalism may already be burning in our furnaces and engines, but if it will burn for a hundred more years, that will be fine. Surely it would be better to intend straightforwardly to contain the fire and eventually put it out! But once greed has been made an honorable motive, then you have an economy without limits. It has no place for temperance or thrift or the ecological law of return. It will do anything. It is monstrous by definition.



further, the essay goes on to explain how humans have come to see the world as a bottomless treasure chest:

Perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure—in addition to its difficulties—that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.

space junk

space junk

to paraphrase the conclusion, there is no way we can go back and undue the wastefulness or re-evaluate the efficiency with which we consumed the first half of our petroleum resources.  only now, with maybe half of the original supplies, we can consider ways to change our habits.

i know this is so zeitgeist, bashing the wasteful habits of generations on a blog without providing any suggestions to fix the problems.  i just enjoyed the article and thought i would pass it forward.  anyways, my dad forwarded me some information about a new type of wind power generator (i guess i should explain that my dad works in the renewable energy/wind power section of General Electric’s renowned power and infrastructure division).  i put some pictures below and some specs on the device, which i think is a pretty cool idea but probably not the solution to all the worlds troubles.

Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS)

Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS)

magenn deployed above arctic research

magenn deployed above arctic research

MARS vs. conventional turbines

MARS vs. conventional turbines

how it works

how it works

The Advantages of MARS over Conventional Wind Turbines are:

1. low cost electricity – under 15 cents per kWh

2. bird and bat friendly

3. lower noise

4. wide range of wind speeds – 2 to more than 28 meters/second

5. higher altitudes – from 200 to 1,000 feet above ground level are possible without expensive towers or cranes

6. fewer limits on placement location – coast line placement is not necessary

7. ability to install closer to the power grid

8. mobile

9. ideal for off grid applications or where power is not reliable.

Cant Tell Me Nothin

i know ive had some shitty posts recently but this is one of my favorite videos of all time.  zach galifianakis.  north carolina.  kanye west.