Monday, April 30, 2012

My Avengers Film Review

After a long buildup spanning several movies, all of our favourite Marvel heroes finally teamed up to star in The Avengers. I know a lot of film reviewers and they seem to have fun with their jobs, so I am going to try review this film too. Heavy spoilers follow, take care.

The action wastes no time in commencing as we're treated to the opening scene of New York being flattened by a nuclear explosion. Thousands of refugees flee to Stark Island, protected from the radiation and fallout by the island's arc reactor shields.

Iron Man, Captain America and Scarlett Johansson meet in Stark's office to discuss the source of the explosion when Thor teleports in. He explains that Loki was responsible, using a special nuclear bomb powered by a magical substance known as "iridium". A fight breaks out between Thor and Captain America and several acres of Stark Island are destroyed. The two eventually reconcile and learn what it means to be a team.

Meanwhile, Loki approaches Nick Fury with an offer of ultimate power, promising that he can be his right hand man once he's subjugated the whole of America. Fury wrestles with his doubts before finally turning Loki down, and Loki punishes him by locking him in a jail cell. The Hulk hears of this plan, however, and breaks Fury out while Loki isn't looking. Valuable information on Loki's plans are brought to SHIELD.

A fight breaks out between Scarlett Johansson and Iron Man. Fury stops the fight by reminding them why they are there, "to avenge the Earth, not themselves". The feuding heroes put down their weapons, reconcile and learn what it means to be a team. Fury delivers an emotional speech about how he lost his eye, galvanising the squad.

New York suffers another nuclear strike from Loki, and The Avengers realise that they urgently need to stop him before it is too late. The Hulk suspects that Loki deliberately fed the wrong plans to Nick Fury and that the whole thing is an elaborate trap, but nobody believes him so he leaves before he gets too angry. Hawkeye tries to stop him, but he just looks at him and says, "Don't make me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry," so Hawkeye lets him go.

Captain America and Thor look on in horror as New York gets nuked.

A fight breaks out between Iron Man and Captain America. Loki's frost giants attack the ruins of New York, and Fury sends a nuclear missile to stop them. Iron Man tries to stop Fury, causing a fight to break out between Iron Man, Fury and Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson stops fighting and tearfully announces that she's pregnant. A fight breaks out between Hawkeye and Captain America. They eventually reconcile and learn what it means to be a team.

New York is in chaos. Iron Man sends a nuclear missile to destroy the frost giant invasion while Loki watches from the edge of the city, surrounded by hundreds of human slaves who now know him as "King of America". He laughs and tells his advisors of his real plans, but unknown to him a fight breaks out between him and the Hulk. After beating Loki, the Hulk tries to go to warn the others but while his back is turned Loki freezes him in a time field.

Thor has a theory that he can make missiles with his own substance, "thorium", to combat Loki's. A fight breaks out between Thor and Iron Man. New York is in chaos. They reconcile and learn what it means to be a team. A fight breaks out between Captain and America. Nick Fury puts a stop to it by announcing that Scarlett Johansson wasn't pregnant after all, and that they are there "to avenge the Earth, not themselves".

A fight breaks out between Hawkeye and New York. They explode and learn what it means to be a team.

The frost giants reconcile with Iron Man and share the secrets of thorium. Thor imbues his hammer with its power. Everybody asks "where is the Hulk?" but nobody knows where he is and they are interrupted by a sudden explosion. They are on a team.

The remaining Avengers stand in a circle and shoot Loki's army. Hawkeye shoots using arrows. Iron Man says, "Winter is coming" and also shoots. Scarlett Johansson confesses to Thor that she isn't pregnant. Thor smiles and whispers "I know" and kisses her. Loki enters the field of battle and tries to talk them into surrendering. They refuse, saying they are there "to avenge the Earth, not themselves". Fury is proud of them. Captain America gives a battlecry and they all charge into battle, defeating Loki's army and advisors.

Scarlett Johansson learns what it means to be a team.

Just when it looks like they've won, Loki pulls out a gun and shoots Captain America. Instead, the Hulk appears at the last minute and takes the bullet for Captain America. As the Hulk lies dying, Captain America goes to him and the Hulk changes back to Bruce Banner for the first time. He smiles and says "Thank you my friend." Then the Hulk dies. Captain America kisses his dead forehead and weeps.

A fight breaks out between Hawkeye and Iron Man. They reconcile and learn what it means to explosion.

Scarlett Johansson appeals to Loki's good side and reminds him of the power of love. Loki is overcome by grief and remorse and drops his gun and goes to hug his brother, Thor. Reconciled at last, Thor and Loki return to Asgard with the blessing of the other heroes, except for Captain America who is still bitter about the Hulk's death.

In the final scene of the movie, the remaining Avengers are seen waving off the Asgardian brothers while New York explodes softly in the background.

Credits roll, and those who are patient enough for the post-credit sequence get to see Captain America donning a new black uniform. The star on his shield is also black. He looks at the camera and says, "I am Evil Captain America now." Scene fades.

A fight breaks out between Thor and Iron Man.

I give the film a 4 out of 5. Good fight scenes, great acting, though there could have been more explosions. Nice job, Marvel.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Emo stuff

Okay -- beware, friends. I usually talk a complete mountain of irreverent bullshit on this blog, but there's a bit of a tone swap in this post. I'm afraid you'll have to get your herpderp fix somewhere else if you decide to carry on. There's not enough derp to herp around right now -- what follows is a 9.3 on the self-indulgence scale, so you have been warned.

Two years ago yesterday, my father passed away. It was a sudden, merciful and non-violent death, which is probably better than can be said for many people.

My relationship with him was heavily strained and arguably quite bitter. He'd said and done a lot of stuff that I'd considered wholly unforgivable. By the time I was out of university and living my own life away from the family, it was my mission to never see the man again. I guess I got my wish.

I was thinking of waxing lyrical here about all the little switches that his death flipped in my head -- my seemingly permanent loss of core inspiration for game design, an overwhelming obsession with finding a partner to get close to, that still-lingering inability to get an unbroken night's sleep short of blackout drunkenness, the general change in my perception of existence and people and all that other stuff ... but I think what screws with me the most is the growing realisation that I'm very, very much like my dad, no matter how much I hated him at one point, and that often means far more to me than I'm comfortable with.

He wasn't the perfect human being, and he made a lot of mistakes which I hope to avoid emulating, but I feel a real stab whenever I sit down and let myself imagine how he must have dealt with life. He was a spot-on representation of my own character in countless ways -- the perks AND the flaws -- and if he didn't have a 30-year head start on me I may have realised that sooner.

He was confused and confident and insecure and weak and happy and sad in so many of the same ways I find myself to be. And I'm pretty sure that as much as he loved people, he found it monstrously difficult to relate to them as deeply as he wanted to. But there I was, genuinely one of the few human beings out there with the experience, personality and capacity to truly *get* him, and I'd deliberately isolated myself from him for a number of years.

It feels cliche, but there are so many things I want to say to him now. I want to tell him that I forgive him and understand him. I want to share bonding experiences with him that I didn't ever get to do before because I was just so damn angry and so damn stubborn and he was just so damn stupid. God. But most of all, I really just wish I'd been a better son towards the end.

After his death, I asked about his last year with my mom. He'd gotten better, she said. Set his life in order. He was happier. My mother and brother were getting close to him again. He'd cut out all the crap and finally returned to the self we'd all well and truly missed -- someone I hadn't known since childhood.

And in this emergence, he never stopped telling people how proud he was of me, of all the things that I was achieving out there (Desktop Dungeons had just taken off massively, too). He was sorry about his mistakes. He was sorry that I'd been chased off. He was sorry about everything. He wanted things to get better between us, he wanted to earn my trust back, have me open up to him again. He wanted us to get along and smile and relax and be happy together. But he didn't know how to make that happen, so he waited and hoped that I would forgive him one day, come back and let the wounds start healing.

In the end, none of that happened. When he died, I didn't even return in time for his cremation. I'd made no offer of reconciliation, relief or understanding -- that's just how things had ended between me and my father. It was the closing point of one of the most important relationships that will ever exist in my life, and there will never be a second take.

And, well, a part of me dies whenever I think about that. Sigh.

I miss you, dad. I miss your guitar, your music, your easygoing nature, your pride, your passion, your compassion, your patience, your little mannerisms (pretty much ALL of which I've found myself adopting, by the way) your strength, your vulnerability, your abnormality, your smoky study room, your awesome office chair, your equally awesome leather jacket, your weird obsession with collecting small change (again, guilty here too), your laugh, your sneeze, your road trips to Pretoria, your unparalleled pap 'n vleis recipe -- hell, I even miss the infuriating way you'd stare at me for half a minute before answering my questions because you knew just how to piss me off. There's a lot that I miss about you, and I only got around to thinking about most of it after your death. It all feels kinda weird now.

I love you, dad. And I wish I'd told you that in time. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Facts about mountains

In Cape Town, people basically do two things: get super drunk on local wine and climb mountains. Not at the same time, of course*, but these two resources share the convenience of being close and abundant.

The tracks of Table Mountain and its surrounding environs afford budding hikers / climbers endless entertainment, and if you haven't yet sampled the joys of walking uphill for several hours followed by walking downhill for several hours, here's a few interesting factoids about our rocky friends.

Fact 1: Mountains are not your rocky friends. Mountains are trying to kill you.

Mountains are dangerous and awful things which actually come equipped with a startling number of hazards. Injuries and even deaths from falling are disturbingly common in the Cape area, while other nasty effects like dehydration and general exposure are always legitimate concerns. A mountain would probably break into your home and steal your TV right now if it was small enough to get through your door and smart enough to know what a TV was.

Thankfully, mountains are dumb.

I tend to overprepare for just about any trip nowadays, mainly because my first hike up Table Mountain saw me and two unfortunate friends getting very, very lost and very, very thirsty for a good couple of hours before stumbling across the cable car station and buying grossly overpriced Powerade because we hadn't brought enough water along.

Fucking around with mountains can lead to injury, death and getting ripped off by station vendors. Remember this and be careful out there.

Fact 2: Mountains are taller than other things.

Since ancient times, society has been built around people trying to put themselves in positions where they can look down on other people. Mountains are pretty much the epitome of looking-down-on-ness. Even humble climbs such as Lion's Head tend to provide some pretty nice views of the surrounding environs.

Camps Bay on one side.

City Bowl, Gardens/Vredehoek area. You may have noticed my house there.

Signal Hill.

Some dude's head.

It's all a lot nicer-looking with a decent camera, but capturing any sort of picture is ultimately awkward and half-hearted compared to seeing the real thing as a real person.

Lion's Head in particular is a popular hiking choice due to its relative ease, the fact that the track circles all the way around the peak, and the almost guaranteed safety from shark attacks. But this also means that the narrow route can get pretty crowded from time to time, particularly if you're climbing at sunset or during a full moon -- the evening sky looks REALLY pretty from up top, and it gives you a brilliant view of the astounding floodlights that illuminate the side of Table Mountain later on.

Fact 3: People's butts.

This isn't really a fact, per se, just something I thought I'd share. This isn't even the best butt picture -- some other dude took a picture where one person's butt was, like, in another person's face and stuff. It was hilarious.

This is a small section of the aforementioned Lion's Head climb that uses a bunch of neat little chains and footholds and stuff to help you get up. It's not absolutely necessary to go up this way, but the other way around is longer and much more humiliating because all the cool kids are going ahead and using the chains and taking butt pictures and you're totally missing out.

Fact 4: Mountains have a top.

One of the things that I really do love about hikes is that with a reasonably-sized group, you have yourself a perfect activity to take your own social pace with, complete with a massive payoff at the top that involves snacks and chatter and basking. If you're anything like me, you'll find that there's times in any social engagement where you kinda just want to drift off and absorb the world without talking much or taking butt pictures, and mountain climbing presents just that opportunity: if you're not immediately engaged in conversation, you're concentrating on your movement, taking in the lovely views and generally just feeling "alive".

And if you REALLY want annoying talky-talky social people to sod off for a few minutes, just start sweating and panting profusely. Sneeze / fart on them for good measure. It'll be disgusting but understandable in context, causing people to leave you alone without feeling like they were deliberately chased off. I've never actually had this problem, mind you, but I'm pretty sure my solution would work if I ever had to use it.

Fact 5: You cannot zorb down a mountain.

My friends have told me this, repeatedly and insistently. A part of me still believes that it could be done with enough padding.

* Actually, a lie. I have a rather interesting story to tell about that

Monday, April 9, 2012

Newly Bachelorated

The last few weeks have been astounding. I mean jaw-droppingly crazy and interesting, though also kinda harrowing. Change is good and exciting and all, but there have been waaaay too many things going on in every single life sphere right now, making things a bit of a cluster-screw* overall.

At least in all of this I've kept my health -- though the gums near one of my back teeth
are a little sensitive due to overambitious brushing, and I got a headache from reading Game of Thrones in poor light yesterday.

Okay, so this is what you get when you type "anything except tombstones" into image search. Damnit, google, you're not even trying.

Cluster-screw or not, I'm being 100% serious when I say that I'm pretty stoked at all of the exciting stuff going on. I'm wibbling between absolute wreckage and utter ecstacy, and while I can't really sustain that sort of swinging tempo for any sensibly long duration, it is providing me with lots of things to remark upon that I really should've taken the time to sit down and write about.

So here's the biggest one. Behold my new house place:

Yeah, just realised I took portrait pics instead of landscape. Facepalm.

It's a lovely little studio pad in Vredehoek within walking distance of Cape Town's city centre (well, a considerable walk, but I've got a bus nearby too). I'm quite stupidly excited about it, because for the very first time ever ever EVER I've got a place all to my selfsome. And don't let the inept photography fool you, it's pretty respectable in size.

I've been on my own fairly often before, but not in any sort of situation which provided the complete nesting opportunity presented here. Aromatherapy candles, alphabetically arranged kitchenware, walls smeared with fecal matter ... it becomes whatever I want and the possibilities of bachelordom are giddying.

Toilet on right, though I think I'm technically allowed to pee anywhere I want. What are the bachelor rules, again?

Of course, I just need to stop being dirt poor, first. There's been a lot of startup expenses involved in this whole moving-into-my-own-place thing, even with the studio itself being fully furnished. I'll be spending the next month living in an amazing home in an amazing neighbourhood eating amazingly artificial survival rations. And I obviously had to secure myself some mobile internet on top of it all, despite the fact that it reduced my grocery budget from "passable adult intake" to "wouldn't satiate an anorexic fieldmouse".

"Starved to death, but at least his connection was reliable"

April's gonna be a belt-tightening month, and I'll have to exercise my polite-invitation-turndown muscles quite regularly until I get my finances in order. Fortunately, lots of the healthier activities out there are kinda on the cheap side, so maybe I'll be more inspired to hike or run or occasionally entertain friends with the cheapest beer possible. Stuff like that. Oh, and blogging. I have a data bundle and a computer to write on, so I may as well keep myself busy with that.

I'll write more things about more specific stuff soon -- it's surprisingly hard to focus fire on any single thing that's happening in my life at the moment. I may be inclined to write an essay about my new washing machine, though, because that bugger has definitely given me a run for my money so far.

* Trying not to write "fuck"** on the blog.
** Oops, fuck.