Movie Guy, at Your Service: Inception

A captivating, culture-relevant movie that explores the mysterious capabilities of the human mind and the weirdness of our dreams.

I realized that the movie Inception would be an inescapable movie for me after at least 37% of my facebook friends had a status update praising it the moment they walked out of the theatre.  Then my sister and brother-in-law told me it reminded them a little bit of LOST; at that moment it became official that I would not only see Inception but that it would be a movie worth writing a movie review/recap about it.

In my first official Movie Guy post (click here to read it: Movie Guy, at Your Service: My Top Ten Favorites), under the “Basic Do Not Watch” criteria for movies I listed “simply by watching the trailer for the movie, you fully understand the plot and possibly the resolution”.  That definitely wasn’t the case with Inception.  When I first saw the preview several weeks ago all I knew was that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was having some trouble finding the floor while for Ellen Page accompanied by Leonardo DiCaprio the floor was becoming a wall.  Perfect.  That meant it would be worth seeing.  Though I had no idea what the plot was.  Perfect.

While the movie does have a strong plot, I see Inception as a vehicle for interesting theories which attempt to explain and explore the mysteries of the dream world and the human body (especially the mind) as it is in a dream state.  For example, the facts that often we usually wake up from dream if in the dream we are falling or if we get killed in the dream are vital to the plotline.

Surprisingly, there were two ideas about dreams in particular I have written about before (which I thought were unique) which the movie touches on:

1)     Years after the memories are made, what really is the difference between a good memory from an actual event and a good memory from a dream, as long as in that moment of the actual event or dream you were truly happy and it remains in your mind as a positive place you can return to when you remember it?  Read Adventures in Thailand: Man Cave Time Machine.

2)     A dream only last a fraction of the time that the dream seems to take place (in Inception, five minutes equaled one hour).  Therefore, if a person could be forced to be trapped in a dream, it could be a horrible type of punishment for a person.  Read Lowercase Punishment.

Aside from being a little like The Matrix (which I never really got into, even after seeing it twice) and LOST, it also reminds me of Vanilla Sky, The Butterfly Effect, and even The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  There is nothing not to enjoy about this movie: A+.

Bonus: Ethnic Backgrounds of the International Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio (as Dominic Cobb): American- 1/2 German, 1/4 Italian, 1/4 Russian

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Arthur): Jewish-American

Ellen Page (as Ariadne): Canadian of English descent

Tom Hardy (as Eames): English of English and Irish descent

Marion Cotillard (as Mal Cobb): French

Cillian Murphy (as Robert Fischer): Irish

Ken Watanbe (as Saito): Japanese

Tom Berenger (as Peter Browning): American of Irish descent

Dileep Rao (as Yusuf): American of Indian descent

Pete Postlethwait (as Maurice Fischer): English

Luke Haas (as Nash): American- 1/2 German, 1/2 English

Michael Caine (as Miles): English

The spinning totem started to wobble before the screen cut to black. While there easily could be a sequel, I believe the totem ended up falling over.

Stranger than Deja Vu

Sometimes DJ’s read our minds…

Here’s a unexplainable mystery that has happened to everyone at least once in their lives. I get a random song in my head I haven’t heard or thought of in years, then it comes on the radio later that afternoon. What would cause that DJ to want to play the same random song and what would cause me to happen to listen to that same radio station at the exact same time he played it?

In August of 2007 I was in Dallas for the Great American Trucking Show (made famous from my photo albums on facebook). As I sat down in the hotel lobby to wait for the charter bus to take me to the convention center, The Beatles’ song “Hey Jude” was playing. In particular, it was the end of the song, “Na na na na… hey Jude…”

Ten minutes later I stepped up into the bus and as I found a vibrantly decorated New Mexico–style embroidered seat, the elevator music version of “Hey Jude” was playing. And it just happened to be the end of the song: “Na na na na… hey Jude…”

During my lunch break today I was in a store picking out a card when I heard the worst song ever recorded in history. I’d never heard it before. But it was awful. Sounded like they made up the melody on the spot. Or lack of melody, I should say: “I… miss… you”. Sounded like Amy Grant in the late ‘80’s. As I paid the cashier teen boy, also named Nick, I said, “So the radio station here. Sucks, don’t it?” He politely agreed.

An hour later I’m back at work. I call our legal guy to ask him a question about a title for a vehicle. I’m put on hold. There could only be one song in the universe that plays in elevator music form. Yes. It was “I Miss You”.

This “hear a song on the radio, then the next song I hear is that song, but the elevator music form of it” event has happened to me twice in the last two years. With a little help from some co-workers and a consultation with Wikipedia, I found out more about the worst song ever recorded in history. “I Miss You” was a 1985 hit by a group called Klymaxx.  It’s worse than any song a Hollywood actor recorded during the 5 months they tried to also have a career in music. It’s bad, man. Bad.

Not important in the grand scheme of things, but if nothing else, this “deja vu song” concept sometimes happens to us.  During what would have been another ordinary day. 

Do you, the random or regular reader, have any weird stories like that?  I’m currently collecting them in my mind.  It’s fascinating.  You can leave a comment about it.  I will care.  I will read it.  I will be fascinated.  I want to know this truly doesn’t just happen to me.

John Mayer’s Stupid Mouth

Will his recent humiliation humble him for good?  We keep on waiting.  (Waiting.)  Waiting for John Mayer to change.

In November 2009 when his new album Battle Studies was released, I wrote a review that in essence said the music itself was solid as always, but the man John Mayer himself was becoming increasingly annoying and obnoxious (read it here http://wp.me/pxqBU-fj).  But I have the ability to separate the art from the artist.  I believe John Mayer will always make music that I love, but can he ever get over himself?

I remember a simpler time, in college, circa 2002, when I ironically thought to myself as I was in the check out aisle, “How weird would it be if John Mayer was ever on the cover of these tabloid magazines?  What if he dated famous stars like Jennifer Aniston?”  It was such a foreign thought regarding the fresh-on-the-scene musical Wonderboy.

So it obviously was a huge case of déjà vu when this random thought from just a few short years earlier became a reality.  And with his rock star status came a major case of “I’m too sexy for my cat”.  That brings us to the year 2010.

The once funny and personable musician began to realize that the general consensus of him is that he is the current textbook definition of a douchebag, even more so than Spencer Pratt, who held that title for 2008.  Realizing this, and trying to shrug off his undesirable reputation, he acknowledged the public’s perception of himself in the December 2009 issue of Details magazine, yet still ended up saying this:

“I’m in the place of greatest freedom right now- not giving a f—…  I don’t have f— you money… I have ‘that’s my seat’ money’ “

Ultimately, his attitude has seemed to be: “I’m John Mayer.  I’ve got the talent, money, fame, and women that everyone else wants.  Oh yeah, and I’m clever and witty too.  See?”

Here’s the complete article: http://www.details.com/celebrities-entertainment/cover-stars/200912/singer-musician-cover-star-half-of-my-heart-john-mayer

It didn’t seem like he really cared or wanted to change.  He just wanted people to stop desecrating his name.

Then came the interview with Playboy magazine.  To sum it up, he’s gives his biggest “kiss and tell” list ever as he sexually degrades the women he’s been romantically involved with, makes a remark about his romantic disinterest in African-American women, and uses the “N-word” in the process.  That’s the PG summary.  Here’s a more detailed recap, not the actual interview: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35334100/ns/entertainment-celebrities/

Not quite the same mindset as his hit song, “Daughters”.

Soon after, he apologized on Twitter.  And last night here in Nashville he broke down on stage in the middle of “Gravity” (appropriate song choice) with the most sincere apology and acknowledgement of his self-centeredness:  http://wonderwall.msn.com/music/singer-john-mayer-breaks-down-on-stage-1537819.story?GT1=28135

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYS_qdWy_wM

It’s one thing to be a rich and famous womanizer, but even worse to acknowledge it, then brag about it while trying to appear sophisticated, in the public eye.

Now only time will tell whether the musical prodigy/media addict will return to the 2002 version of himself.  The guy that knew how to keep his stupid mouth shut.  The guy that seemed to narrate my life the way the TV show The Wonder Years did when I was a kid.  The only other guy I knew who was equally obsessed with the year 1983.

No need for us to collect all of our John Mayer recordings and burn them in the city square like disgruntled fans did with The Beatles when John Lennon said they were bigger than Jesus, or when Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks said they were ashamed of President Bush.  I still believe in the guy, as a person, that he can get through this by getting over himself.

Back on his first album, Room for Squares, John asked the question:  “Will you love me when I’m not myself?”

Yes.  Yes, John, I will.  But I hope the real you is the 2002 version, not 2010.

Related posts by this author:

Manspeak, Volume 1: Humor  http://wp.me/pxqBU-1i

Boyspeak  http://wp.me/sxqBU-boyspeak

Dr. Deja Vu: The Scenic Route

If I could go back in time and speak to the version of myself from ten years ago, I would give myself “good advice”. About which college to go to, what to major in, what hobbies to take up, and where to live after I graduate college. About what to say to people and what not to say. There are a lot of things I would tell myself to do differently. So that I could become the best me.

But then I would be a much different person today. In essence, I wouldn’t be me. Though I would have life figured out, it wouldn’t be my life.

From 1995 to 2006, I spent hundreds of hours writing and recording and performing music. All that time, it seems all I really did was keep myself entertained. At the surface, it led to nothing lasting.

But writing hundreds of songs made it easy for me to write for this website. It took an old hobby to make a new one.

If I went back to myself ten years ago and told myself to take up an interest in daily creative writing (instead of music) so I could eventually have a website that a small corner of the world reads, the younger version of myself probably wouldn’t have been very motivated.

Life is made up of countless bland surprises that end up shaping who we are.  The ordinary turns into the exciting.

And of course my musical past is only one minor detail in the strand of events that brings me to my present day.  But without it,  I wouldn’t have moved to Nashville to pursue a musical career and a year later met my wife.

So what’s the best advice I can give myself today? Don’t go back in time and give yourself advice. It would only mess up everything. Not help it.

As much as I try to structure and plan out my life, it has ended up being something slightly different instead. Instead of taking the interstate, by instinct I end up on the scenic route every time. Capturing my current thoughts and perspectives in my writings which become like snapshots. Scenic route snapshots.

“And when I look behind on all my younger times, I’ll have to thank the wrongs that led me to a love so strong.” – “Perfectly Lonely” by John Mayer


Life’s Too Short: The Sad Truth that the Past is an Imaginary Place We Can Never Return To

About a year ago I was watching American Idol and Simon was interrogating one of the male contestants on why he wants to become a professional singer. The man explained he has a wife and a kid and he wants to be sure they’re taken care of financially. Simon asked the man again, “I get that, but WHY do you want to be a singer?” The man again explained it was because he has a wife and a kid… then Simon (who was obviously looking for an answer involving the man’s passion for music, etc.) cut him off with, “I get that, just sing for us.”

We focus so much on “right now”. Chances are, you’re never going to have enough money. Because once you do, you’re going to buy a bigger house or find a new way to get yourself in debt. Money is never enough.

Chances are, you’re never going to have enough time. America has set so much pressure on its people to be thin and in shape, yet it remains one of the most overweight countries in the world. We’re too busy to eat the right foods and to exercise, so instead of making time to be healthy, 74% of the population is overweight but carries the heavy burden of wanting to look like Jennifer Anniston or Brad Pitt, two people who are paid to make time to live healthy lifestyles. So obviously if we as a nation don’t have enough time to be healthy, we’re never going to have enough time.

Maybe I’m weird for not questioning the meaning life, but it’s never really been an issue for me. I’ve just always kind of known. I’ve understood since the age of six that this life is barely a speck of dust in comparison to the life after this. I’ve understood that God has blessed us with friends and family and we need to value them like the precious a gift they are. I’ve understood, more importantly, that God loves us and what it really comes down to our relationship with Him.  Even that goes back to loving people.

I subscribe to a magazine called Details. The thing I like most about it is its unique, random, and yet relevant articles. I realize as someone who earned a degree in English that quotes are only supposed to be a few lines, but for this I will cheat:

“…I climbed eagerly abroad this one-way rocket to Death in Adulthood and left the planet of my childhood forever in starry wake. I know this. My grandparents, my boyhood bedroom furniture… I will never see those or a million things again. And yet, lurking somewhere in the back of my mind is the unshakable, even foundational knowledge- for which certainty is too conscious a term- that at some unspecified future date, by unspecified means, I will return to those people and those locales. That I am going back. No, that’s false. The delusion is not really that I believe, or trust, that I will be returning one day to the planet of childhood…”
– an excerpt from “Time Bandits” by Michael Chabon

my Italian grandfather, Albert Metallo

Only a few weeks after I got married last July, my Italian grandfather died. He is the only one of my grandparents I have lost. Only second to my dad, he had the most influence on me as far as what it means to be a man. I know a lot of the reason I randomly talk to strangers in public is because of him. He always did it. I learned from him that much heaven can be found in spending hours working in a garden and then being able to enjoy the beauty of it. (Even though I don’t yet have a house with a yard.) It was because of his decision to move from Buffalo, NY to Fort Payne, AL in 1973 that I am alive. Otherwise my parents wouldn’t have met.

Like that article reminds me, all those weekends I spent at his house in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s as a kid are only now a memory. He would push me and my sister down the hill in his front yard in barrels. Then when we got too dizzy, he would get in the barrel and make us push him down the hill. We would do that for hours it seemed.

Then he would take us to Burger King for lunch. We would sit next to the window right by the drive-thru and he would make funny faces at the people waiting in the drive-thru. It was hilarious to see a man in his sixties being so goofy in public.

We would go back to his house and he would watch taped professional wrestling from the night before (WWF- Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Vince McMahon… the whole gang) and we would get out the toys (which were Styrofoam blocks). After about 15 minutes of my sister and me playing, and him watching wrestling, he pick up some of our Styrofoam blocks and throw them at our heads. Which would start an all out war in the living room. Then we would sneeze for 15 minutes afterwards from all the dust in the air from those blocks.

He had a bathroom closet full of nothing but bars of soap. And a freezer full of freezer-burnt TV dinners and ice cream bars, which were a treat to us. He wore a flannel shirt, navy pants, and black shoes no matter the occasion. Except for my sister’s wedding, which he wore a tux and sunglasses. He really looked like he was part of the mafia.

And all these strange and funny memories make up who he was to me. There is a major importance to “showing up to life”. He definitely did that. He was always there for every family get-together and would look for an excuse to visit our family, like bringing over a junky knick-knack he bought at a yard sale the weekend before. He knew what life was really about.

I was watching my favorite movie, Garden State, recently and though I’ve seen it probably at least ten times, I heard (and finally processed) what is one of the major themes of the movie:

“You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some where you can put your stuff that idea of home is gone.
…It just sort of happens one day one day and it’s just gone. And you can never get it back. It’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I mean it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y2snCNXT2k

I’ll always have that sense of “home” when I think of my grandfather. I still have a lot of family and friends whom I still have that sense of home with. Despite whatever shortage of money or time, despite whatever amount of stress or chaos calls for, life is too short to worry. And if you feel you must worry, pray instead.

Classic song…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6xMqo3wFxw

Dr. Deja Vu: The Magically Disappearing Friend

In elementary school, it was quite normal to spend years alongside a friend (or at least a friendly acquaintance) then to come back one Fall and after a few weeks of research, only to hear from a teacher or classmate, “Oh, his family moved away during the summer.” And what could I really do or say? Those concrete words became the end of it. Even as a kid, the realization was simple: Sometimes friends disappear forever.

All I was left with was an inch tall, black and white picture in the yearbook to remember them by. No e-mail address or phone number. Just gone.

There was the blonde haired, red-skinned Jesse Jackson who sat across from me in Kindergarten and got in trouble for making Debi Owen cry when he called her “stupid”. And Katy Petzold who moved after 3rd grade, whom I never had a class with or ever talked to, but her weird last name always stood out to me when I saw it in the yearbook. And she must have worn her green Girl Scouts uniform to school a lot because that’s how I remember her.

Ferne Taylor- I sat next to her in 3rd grade while we were reading Charlotte’s Web and everyone bugged her because Fern is the name of the girl in the story. And I also remember her flattening a Coke can to decorate it with buttons to look like a woman, then Justin Burt sang, “Ugly woman, walking down the street”, as he walked the tin can woman across his desk. It was hilarious. (That’s always what I think of when I hear “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, now.)

Zack Bain- a cool kid that loved to play basketball and when he had to draw a personalized license plate for his 5th grade homeroom teacher Mrs. Jones’ class, it read “PARTIER”. She hung it up outside her room on the bulletin board and every time I walked by it I thought, “Really? Surely his Ninja Turtle birthday party wasn’t as cool as mine…”

And of course the classic Jon Peterson with his precise chili bowl haircut who moved away after 4th grade, whose dad always smoked a sweet smelling pipe in the den, wore sweater vests, and worked at the First Methodist Church. I’m sure today these 28 year-olds would have no idea who I am, but I remember them clearly.

I have memories of these random people, now serving as wallpaper in the attic of my brain. Obviously, I have already searched for them on facebook and Google, with no results. It’s strange to think that somewhere out there these long lost classmates are living normal lives just like the rest of us. And surely they have to remember spending their first couple of years in that small school back in Alabama in the late ‘80’s. Who do they remember from my school? Would the people they remember in turn remember them?

People come and go. But when they go, they go somewhere. Sometimes forever a mystery.

“If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal.” –Paul Simon (“You Can Call Me Al”)

What Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences Taught Me about Why I Have Such a Good Memory

 

In 1988 for Ms. Riddle’s 2nd grade reading class we had to write a poem telling about a time when we really wanted something for a long time and finally got it. I remember Susan Johnson writing about getting to go to the beach. And Diego Reynoso wrote about getting a pet dog. That was the general idea of the assignment. I, on the other hand, wrote a poem about how happy I was when my dad went to the True Value hardware store and bought an adapter so I could play my Atari games on the TV in my bedroom.

Ten years and 3 weeks ago I walked across the stage for my high school graduation. All seniors had been given a document from the principal listing the proper attire to wear underneath our gowns. We were clearly told to wear black shoes. The token rebel thing to do was to go barefoot. I, instead, chose to wear canary yellow Saucony tennis shoes and hold out a stick of Mentos candy to the audience as I crossed the stage. It’s simply what’s expected from the kid who was voted “One and Only” for the Senior Who’s Who.

One question I have consistently been asked throughout my lifetime is, “You just HAVE to be different, don’t you?” Assuming it must be true, I would always casually agree. But then two weeks ago my wife came back from one of her Master’s classes for Childhood Education and dropped some science on me. Having learned Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence (1983), she told me that I am a “visual-linguistic learner”. That’s when it was officially confirmed: Yes, I HAVE to be different.

 

I have been hard-wired to seek out the road less travelled, every time. Not a rebel in the expected way, but a rebel in the fact I am prone to find a different perspective on everything I encounter in life. I was never the annoying kid in class who tried to argue with the teacher. That kid always annoyed me. But I was the kid who, when given a project, always ended up with the weirdest possible submission and was able to pull it off.

Noted, my long-term memory is often exceptionally unbelievable. In high school, many people were forced to be made aware of my obsession with 1980’s trivia, since I could correctly tell the year of any movie or song, my specialty being 1983. In college, most people who knew me were forced to be made aware that they could name any celebrity and I could accurately tell the height of that celebrity. I’m simply not much fun to play against in modern trivia board games like Scene It or Trivial Pursuit and being the first to solve the puzzle while watching Wheel of Fortune just comes natural.

And it turns out I’m not the only one. A quick visit to Wikipedia helped my life make a lot more sense:

“Verbal-linguistic Intelligence

This area has to do with words, spoken or written. People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and MEMORIZING WORDS ALONG WITH DATES. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure. This intelligence is highest in writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians, poets, and teachers.”

Being raised my whole life in the South, people from the North and out West have always questioned my lack of a Southern accent. Because my mom moved from Buffalo, NY when she was 14, I always assumed that neutralized me. But after realizing anyone who’s ever met my mom says she actually has one of the biggest Southern accents out there, I’ve recently come to terms with the truth there is another reason people think I’m from Pennsylvania or Ohio.

The reason: I am overly aware of how words are supposed to sound. I could never bring myself to say “Eh’ll seeh yuh nehxt Tuesdee, Eh reckin!” (“I’ll see you next Tuesday, I reckon!”) For me, that’s a sin. That’s breaking so many rules of pronunciation and is a threat to clear communication. I never realized I was so OCD about words and speech.

Speaking of communication, when I met my wife for the first time on October 5, 2006, it was her beauty that captured me from across the crowded lobby. Anytime I revisit that event with her she confirms it was because I was good at telling stories and entertaining her that caused a random new stranger like me to be able to steal her attention. (I purposely stood next to her as we waited in an hour long line- that’s how we met.) As we began dating four months later (to the day) and immediately fell in love thereafter, two particular things attracted her most to me: 1) I knew “who I was” and was confident in that, 2) She knew because of my random knowledge that we would never run out of things to talk about.

Not because I was suave and charming, but because my randomness of speech worked for me.

So thanks to Howard Gardner, it’s safe to say I’m not that weird after all. Actually, I am- but at least now I have been diagnosed. While I may be a bit of a prodigy at a few things, any talent I have in other fields is completely absent: Math, science, multi-tasking (driving while talking on a cell phone), and sports (except Corn Hole and Mario Kart Wii). Like by magnetic force, I am drawn to what is offbeat and untrendy.

This, has been my version of a Top 25 or a “Which Power Ranger Would You Be?” quiz.

The other intelligences…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences