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Movie Review: Proxy

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The easiest way to describe this fantastic movie and give it the credit it deserves is to say that it’s like Psycho, but updated for modern times. Just like in Hitchcock’s classic, the horror stems not from gore or the supernatural, but instead from something much more horrifying: extremely disturbing behavior.

Malicious insanity wrapped in a normal-looking package scares well. We’ve all seen it. We all know it exists. We’ve all heard the comment, “He seemed like such a nice guy,” said about a murderer, pedophile or other horrible person.

Psycho wove under your skin at many levels. First there was the horror of the killing, then the eerie tension of watching the killer hide the body. Lastly, the final reveal of the mother’s corpse in the attic. It was a hat-trick of creepiness. The word now has a complete description in movie form.

For those who don’t know, there’s a mental illness called Munchausen syndrome. That’s when a person pretends to be suffering to get others’ sympathy. Munchausen By Proxy is when a person intentionally harms a loved one in order to get sympathy. In today’s world of attention addiction, you can start to see how this is ripe ground for storytelling.

“That person’s a psycho.” Such a phrase is solidly entrenched in American vernacular. If this movie gets the attention it deserves, it will receive the same honor. “That chick on Facebook is always worrying out loud about her kids’ health. She’s a total proxy.” Perhaps the usage isn’t clinically accurate, but the meaning will be.

This is the best type of art. It’s a great film on a mystery level as you try to understand what’s happening. It has that rare combination of shock and surprise, then backs it up with substance. It also says a little something about our world. In parts it feels a little long, but it’s a must-see.

p.s. Make sure you see Proxy (2013) by Zack Parker (IMDB Link.) As of this writing, there is another movie called Proxy listed on IMDB set to release sometime in 2014. (IMDB link.)

Book Review: Oh Myyy! There Goes The Internet

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I’ve never been a big Star Trek fan. Star Wars was always my sci-fi preference, so I never knew too much about who George Takei was until recently, since it’s hard to visit any online media without stumbling across someone sharing one of the funny graphics or gently profound quotes. There’s no denying that George Takei is an omnipresent internet force.

That’s a fact he himself admits is surprising in this book, since the internet often seems to embody the douche-iest aspects of things new and young. If you don’t take time to appreciate the web’s power, you might think it’s all a waste, just a fad, or only encourages bad behavior. Takei proves that done right, social media can be an enjoyable experience.

This book is part autobiography (the details of the Takei family’s internment during WW2 are heart-breaking, as are his struggles as a gay man.) More than that, as other reviewers have said, this is a key guide for anyone who wants to be successful using the internet.

I’ve read a lot of stuff about SEO and SEM and blah blah blah OMG marketing advice that is so boring and gimmicky that I never want to go on the web again. George Takei keeps it simple. Success on the internet boils down to sincerity. Do you really want to communicate or sell something? Do you want to exchange a laugh for a follow or do you just want to make demands? Do you really want people’s opinions or are you asking just to create an illusion of engagement?

The principles of success in society are identical. Share, but not too much and not too often. If something is great, pass it along. Have confidence, have a sense of humor, and don’t take it all too seriously. Lastly, if you screw up, apologize and move on. There’s also plenty of advice for dealing with trolls as well, again most of which parallels advice in face-to-face society: ignore and avoid.

Want to get more from the internet? Read this.

Book Review: Your Country Is Just Not That Into You

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I jumped at the chance to read this book because I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Dore’s comedy. I first encountered him while watching The Young Turks online news show and though I like all the hosts, Jimmy is in the top tier. For those unfamiliar with him, I’d describe him as The Daily Show’s more opinionated, foul-mouthed cousin.

I’m always impressed how he can discuss super-serious issues while still being funny. It’s hard to be righteous and avoid being a douche, but somehow Jimmy does it. He’s always on the side of compassion and the little guy. He hates bullies, too. Obviously it helps me enjoy his jokes based on the fact that I agree with him 99% of the time.

That near full agreement may be why this book wasn’t as thrilling for me as I had hoped, simply because having enjoyed his podcast and Young Turks appearances, I always knew what angle he was going to take. He still managed to turn a phrase or insult a powerful scumbag so artistically that I did literally laugh out loud a few times.

I wonder if someone who doesn’t agree with Jimmy Dore’s political views would enjoy this. It’s hard for me to imagine that someone wouldn’t agree with him at least morally, because his stances often to me seem to be just common sense. Then again, doesn’t everyone think that?

There’s a routine he does on his podcast where a celebrity or politician (not the real person, but an impersonator) will call in and Jimmy will lampoon that person’s views simply by asking them questions. It’s a great bit, repeated in the the book that works much better live than in print.

Jimmy does hit out at Republicans and also Democrats, but the chapter on Republicans is nearly twice the size, which makes sense, because while Democrats suck, Republicans suck worse.

I wonder about this book’s broad appeal, but I hope it does well because Jimmy’s views and his comedy deserve to be heard more.

Talking with Creative Impulse Podcast

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Many, many thanks to Lane and Dave and the entire crew at The Creative Impulse podcast. I’m honored and humbled that they felt I was worth listening to. We had a great talk about what we feel makes creativity work and why we should bother. Inspiring stuff. Click the graphic below (or this link) to open a new window and go right to the podcast page where you can listen. Thanks and enjoy!
Go to Creative Impulse Podcast

No One Mentions This About Shooting Rampages

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I can’t stand it when someone shoots up a bunch of people at random. It’s just so senseless. If you’re going to hurt a group of people, at least make sure they deserve it. Like Dallas Cowboys fans. Of course I’m kidding. I don’t want to see Dallas Cowboys fans get shot or even hurt. They’re a part of God’s creation, too. Like mosquitoes.

Speaking of wannabe cowboys, every time these shooting rampages happen, someone who’s watched too many westerns steps up and insists if only someone had a gun, they could have killed the shooter.

Now hold up right there, pard’ner. Do you see the assumption you just made? You’re assuming nobody was armed. How do you know someone wasn’t?

Just for fun, I recently tried some amateur journalism, like they do at Fox News. I contacted some pro- and anti-gun groups and I asked them all the same question: “If a citizen is armed, and a shooter begins a rampage, is the armed citizen legally obligated to return fire?” Just like the girls I knew in high school, they all said no.

“If a citizen is armed, and a shooter begins a rampage, is the armed citizen legally obligated to return fire?”

So, maybe someone was present and armed during the rampage, but they didn’t shoot back, because they did what anyone would do. They ran. Booked it. After every one of these rampages, slimy gun companies say, “Hey, buy our product and you won’t die.” You don’t see sneaker companies saying the same thing, but I bet sneakers have played a bigger part in keeping people unshot than guns ever have.

If I’m there with my friends, am I going to return fire or run and make sure my friends gets out? I’m going to run, because that has the added bonus of getting my ass to safety too. A wannabe cowboy says they would abandon their friends and engage the shooter. Yeah right. The same people who flip out when someone scams five bucks off welfare are suddenly going to enter life-and-death combat with a suicidal maniac just to save a bunch of strangers? I don’t think so.

I bet even if every single person was armed at a rampage there’s a good chance no one would shoot back, because of human nature. They’ll all be like, oh someone else will take care of it. That’s why debris can sit in the road for days and everyone just drives around it. Or a computer system goes down at work and no one files an I.T. ticket because everyone is certain someone else already did.

So let’s assume I’m correct and someone has been armed at these rampages but didn’t shoot back. We’ll never know. no one is crazy enough to come forward and admit that: “Yeah I was armed, but I was there with my four-year-old and I wanted to make sure she got to safety, so I didn’t shoot back.” That person would never live in peace again. They’d be called a coward, there would be death threats on their dog at the very least. At the very, very least.

Their life would become a living hell. All because of the supposedly sane people.

(A slightly different version of this totally awesome essay was originally an exclusive contribution to Yahoo! Voices editorial pages in 2013, but since Yahoo! has discontinued that feature, the rights revert back to me. It seems the point here is still very relevant. I hope you found it interesting. Cheers.)