Archive | May, 2013

We Were Promised Jetpacks: The Summer Sci-Fi Blockbuster Scene

27 May

Lately I’ve been thinking about something that Douglas Coupland talks about in his novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture called “Now Denial.” Now Denial is “the only time worth living is in the past and that the only time that may be interesting again is the future.” Ever since I was a child I’ve been obsessed with sci-fi. I followed the Europa report closely. I lamented Pluto’s planetary downgrade. I took Astronomy in post-secondary even though it did not fit in with my Arts degree. Heck, I even follow the Mars Rover on Twitter and insisted we take a side trip to NASA when we were last in Florida.

The first herald of the summer sci-fi blockbuster season was the Tom Cruise vehicle Oblivion. Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness have opened in the past few weeks to big numbers, and we are still waiting upon the releases of After Earth, Pacific Rim, Elysium, and Riddick.

But if you check out the box-office numbers, Fast and the Furious 6 is set to out-pace both Star Trek and Iron Man domestically and probably internationally.

Here’s a pseudo-list of what I want in the summer sci-fi scene:

Ask Hard Questions or Be A Fun Ride
A lot of the time the sci-fi genre gets a bad rap for being predominantly espacist in nature. To me, the hallmark of a sci-fi text (whether it’s made out of paper, celluloid, or e-ink) is that it asks hard questions. Questions like why are we here? Who made us? Are there other beings out there? Are we actually going to destroy our planet? Our humanity? The way in which sci-fi answers these questions varies. But at it’s core, I want sci-fi to do either of two things: ask the hard questions, or be a fun ride. Ten points to Gryffindor if the text manages to do both.

World-Building Sense-Making
For Pete’s sake, all I ask is that the world-building make sense. This is pretty self-explanatory, but crucial, at least to me. If the runaway success of Inception is any indicator, you don’t have to dumb a text down just to make it more accessible to audiences. If you have a convoluted plot-line, all it has to do is make sense, and they will come (I’m looking at you X-Men: Days of Future Past).

SFX
The special effects must be rip-your-face-off, blow-your-mind awesome. This is sci-fi we’re talking about. However, I could do without the recent trend of the overuse of lens flare *cough*J.J. Abrams*cough*.

Character Development, Character Development, Character Development
We need believeable characters. And not just WHITE characters. This is where and why the Fast and the Furious franchise is still popular after all of these years. It’s got the action, some would say no plot, but there are both female and male characters with diversity. The females aren’t just there for eyecandy, they are equals with the male characters, and are given their own characterization and backstory.

Star Trek had a good thing going with the alternate timeline. How would Kirk react without a father figure? How would Spock react with no home when Vulcans populate the original series? I haven’t seen the new Star Trek yet, but I can guess where the plot line is going. We need new and diverse characters (protagonists AND antagonists) or else the genre will end up like many others — stale, outdated, and with severely lowered box office numbers.

Modern Friendship and The Cult of Accessibility

16 May

Are We Still On For Lunch?

Are We Still On For Lunch?

Dear readers, colleagues, coworkers, friends, and family,

I know we’ve all done it — you’ve received a text, an email, a facebook wall post or message — and you’ve ignored it for whatever reason. You’re in the middle of a movie, or out for dinner, or in the middle of a big project at work.

In the age of social media, we’ve basically thrown privacy out the window. Everyone is a little bit too accessible. There are always new invitations or notifications pending: Facebook, Twitter, G+, Instagram, Vine, the list goes on and on as we add and join more social media.

So sometimes I let my notifications pile up and then I clear them off the screen. I don’t even take a peek. Sometimes I’ll even go as far as to turn on the wonderful “Do Not Disturb” function on my iPhone (It really is a great function — if anyone calls more than twice, the call goes through as it may be an emergency).

But then minutes or hours later when I do have some time to go through them, I make sure I get back to anyone who took the time to reach out to me. So here’s where I get to the crux of my post for today: If everyone is making such a big deal about how accessible they are, why do so many people have trouble taking the time to reach back?

I don’t know how many times when I have texted a friend or even *gasp* called them, and I have received no response. It’s frustrating. It sends me into a spiral of anxiety. And I know that like me, you could be in a movie, at work, spending time with your kids, or doing any other number of countless things. But when 24, 36, 72 hours go by and I haven’t heard back from you? Then it’s time to send a follow-up call, email, text, or what-have-you.

I’m sure this has happened to you all as well. After the follow-up contact, you get the “I’m so sorry! I’ve just been sooooo busy!” Cue the eye roll here.

Because we have all made ourselves so accessible with social media, we all should be able to step up and accept accountability for being so accessible. It’s like how McDonald’s advertises that they are now open 24 hours; you would not be a happy camper if you made your way down to the local Mickey D’s and found them to be anything but open 24 hours.

I for one am making the change starting today. I’m taking the leap and turning on my read receipts on my iPhone — a leap which some of my colleagues and friends have already made, whether they started out with BBM or any of the earlier incarnations. When the read receipts were first introduced I found myself questioning a friend as to why they had chosen to opt in to the receipts. She explained it in the following way:

If someone took the time out of their day to text me a “what’s up?” or “I miss you,” I want them to know that their time matters. I want them to know that I got their text and that it matters. If I don’t reply, I feel like I’m telling them that my time matters more than theirs. It doesn’t.

In the age of social media, where you have all of your “friends” in one handy little list, you can easily lose touch with those friends. You figure “I can chat with them at any time, we’re friends on Facebook!” This has been said many times elsewhere, but this is where social media is hurting us. It is in the day to day personal interactions amoung friends, family, coworkers, colleagues, and even strangers.

So if someone reaches out to you today or tomorrow or two years from now. Be accountable. Sometimes all they’ve been wanting to hear is an “I missed you too.”

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