Things I’m looking forward to (but also secretly dreading)

An Editorial

Have you ever really, really, really wanted to see a movie or TV show, or play a video game, or go to some event, and then you see/play/attend it, and you realize it wasn’t worth your time?

Have you ever worried that something you’re really looking forward to will turn out to be one of the above situations?

This is in dedication to those moments.

The Avengers (2012)

Why I’m looking forward to it:

In the Marvel comic books, all of the various characters and storylines exist in the same fictional universe. This is so that the comic book writers are free to use fellow Marvel characters for crossover stories at will. They have even created story arcs that span all of their titles and involve all of the Marvel heroes and villains. Fans love it because they can see Deadpool fighting the X-Men, for example. Marvel loves it because, well…

So when Marvel finally began making its own movies instead of farming them off to other studios, they decided to pull this same trick in the theaters.

Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger are all intended to build up to their masterpiece: The Avengers, a movie about how the superhero team is formed.

It has taken them four years to build this story up, with each new movie making increasingly overt references to the others in order to keep the over-arching plotline coherent and to get audiences jazzed up for what Marvel bills as the greatest superhero movie of all time.

Why I’m secretly worried:

There is such a thing as building up so much suspense and anticipation that the final product simply can’t compare to what people have in their imaginations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read an article by Stephen King about this very phenomenon. In horror writing, the author always faces the problem that when a monster is unknown, the audience will fill in the blanks with their imagination, and then when our hero opens the door to find a five-foot-tall giant bug, the reader will say, “At least it wasn’t a fifty-foot-tall bug.”

While I will almost certainly go see The Avengers in the theaters, and I will probably thoroughly enjoy it, there is this nagging worry that I will walk out thinking, “We spent all those years building up to that?”

Star Trek 2

Why I’m looking forward to it:

J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot was really cool! I loved it. It is one of the best Star Trek movies of all time. They got a great plot, great pacing, great effects, and a great cast.

Of course the sequel is going to be great! It’s J.J. Abrams at the helm! How could it possibly go wrong?

Why I’m secretly worried:

The sequel was originally going to be released in June of next year. The problem is that they still don’t have a script. And they are due to begin filming in January. Naturally, the movie has been delayed, which gives them more time to work on it, but this IS Hollywood, and they will be under a lot of pressure from Viacom to convert film into cash as soon as possible. Even if the director and the fans are both in agreement that good movies are worth the wait, corporate bosses are only willing to push the release date back so far. I can only hope that the film won’t feel like a rush job.

Halo 4

Why I’m looking forward to it:

SPOILER ALERT! At the end of Halo 3, our hero finds himself many light-years from Earth in orbit of a mysterious planet. That sort of teaser is just begging for a sequel. Now that we’re done with the two main villains from the previous series, what bold, new alien life will Master Chief discover?

Besides, it’s Halo. The series that made first-person shooters cool again. And inspired dozens of online cartoons. And just generally was awesome.

You can't tell me he doesn't look cool in that shot.

Why I’m secretly worried:

Halo 4 will also be the first Halo game that will NOT have been made by Bungie Studios.

A little back story, first: In 2000, Bungie was working on a little game called Halo: Combat Evolved. While it was finishing this game up, it was bought by Microsoft. Halo became a major phenomenon, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say Halo was the reason millions of people bought Xboxes that year.

Five games and seven years later, Bungie announced that it was leaving Microsoft, buying itself back as an independent company. But Microsoft kept the intellectual property rights to anything Halo-related.

Pictured: Halo. From Microsoft's point of view, anyway.

So now Halo 4 will be made by a Microsoft in-house studio, staffed mainly by people whose last place of employment was the completely unrelated Pandemic Studios.

That would be like hiring Stan Lee to write a Batman comic. Oh, wait…

Information from ComicBookMovie.com, Wikipedia, and other websites.

Alleged Norwegian terrorist confesses, says he “acted alone”

Reporter Jon Magnus was sitting at his desk when the explosion knocked him over. He later told CNN: “We’ve been so lucky in this part of the world — it happened every other place, but not here, and now it has happened.”

Norwegian police say the man they arrested for the bomb blast and a shooting that same day at a camp for teenagers openly admitted to the charges, and told his interrogators that he “acted alone”. 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik faces 21 years in prison under Norwegian law for two incidents that have killed at least 93 people and injured 96 more, with many victims still missing.

The bomb blast occurred near the Prime Minister’s office in the center of Oslo at 3:26 p.m. local time Friday, killing at least seven people. Police say it is likely that they will find the remains of more victims as they sift through the rubble.

At 4:50 p.m. that same day, a man described as being dressed in a police uniform began shooting people at a youth camp run by the governing Labour Party on Utoeya island, 24 miles from the Norwegian capital city. Eyewitnesses say he shot people at random during the hour and a half it took for police to arrive. The police were delayed by difficulties in obtaining a safe boat crossing. Breivik surrendered to authorities without a struggle. His defense lawyer says he ran out of bullets by the time police arrived, but Norwegian police deny this.

Breivik has not pled guilty to the charges, nor has he told police why he carried out the attacks, but a 1,500-page manifesto and video released online shortly before the attacks has surfaced. It appears to be from Breivik, though this has not been confirmed.

An image of Anders Behring Breivik, the man accused of a shooting and bombing in Norway that claimed at least 93 lives.

The manifesto, entitled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” advocated a Europe-wide revolution and civil war to eliminate Muslims, multiculturalism, and “cultural Marxism”. It advocates what its author calls “cultural conservatism” and “monoculturism”. The author claims he does not oppose Muslims who “fully integrate” into European society, but opposes what he calls “Islamic colonisation and Islamisation”.

It includes a Q&A section where he imagines himself answering questions in an interview. It also includes many pages copied and pasted from the manifesto of Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber”. The author imagines himself as a modern-day version of the medieval Knights Templar, and uses imagery reminiscent of World of Warcraft.

The manifesto includes a diary reference, where the author claims to “have prayed for the first time in a long time“, praying for victory for “the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom”.

King Harald V of Norway, his wife, Queen Sonja, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg attended a memorial service for the victims, laying white flowers among the many flowers and candles left in honor of the victims.

Norway’s Parliament is set to meet for a memorial service as well.

Information from BBC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and Time.

UPDATE! STOP PRESS!

According to BBC News, Breivik now claims he has “two cells” working with him; police are investigating the claim.

Norwegian police have also revised the death toll: 76 people were killed; 68 from the shooting on the island and eight from the bombing.

Breivik gave a statement to Judge Kim Hedger in a preliminary hearing, which the judge summarized for the press. According to the judge, Breivik’s goal was to create the greatest loss possible to Norway’s Labour Party. Judge Hedger ruled that Breivik could communicate only with his lawyer, and could not receive any other visitor or letters.

I have also learned from BBC News and CNN that the 21-year maximum prison sentence mandated by Norwegian law can be extended in exceptional cases if the prisoner poses a continued danger to society.

Finally, I have learned from MSNBC that Breivik intended to prepare for his “martyrdom” by “hiring prostitutes and drinking French wine”.

Everybody buy new maps! South Sudan joins the community of nations

Celebrations in Juba, the new capital of the world's newest counrty: South Sudan

The United Nations just got a little bit more crowded Thursday, as the General Assembly unanimously voted to admit its 193rd member: The Republic of South Sudan.

With a name like "Cat Flag", you knew I had to include their flag.

South Sudan won its independence July 9. And I do mean “won”, as it was a long, hard, bloody road to get here.

Back when no European nation would be taken seriously unless they ruled some Africa, the British were one of the best at Africa-conquering. They eventually got the Union Jack planted along a solid band of the continent from Cape Town to Cairo. Along the way, they drew up political boundaries based on their own convenience, with no regard to who actually lived there.

I suppose a straight line here works. Close enough. Is that my tea?

One of the British Empire’s many artificial creations was Sudan, the largest country on the continent. Down its length ran the Nile River, from lakes and mountain springs to the south up to Egypt in the north. That was about the only unifying feature of the country.

The north was part of the Sahara Desert, inhabited by culturally-homogeneous Arab and black Muslims with a sophisticated agricultural society that had been in contact with the developed world for millennia. It might as well have been “Egypt South”. The southern part of Sudan, meanwhile, was a swampy jungle inhabited by 200 ethnic groups with a myriad of different languages. They lived a traditional village-subsistence lifestyle, the sort you might expect to see on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. Most of them practiced traditional religions, though a few had converted to Christianity. How could this all possibly go wrong?

By the 1950s, the British were tired of the whole “ruling the world” thing and gave most of their colonies independence. The problem was that the new nations had the same boundaries as the colonies that preceded them, flaws and all. Southerners were not thrilled with living in a country that was politically, militarily, economically, and culturally dominated by northerners. Neither were they thrilled that Islamic fundamentalists had taken over the government and declared the country an Islamic state, imposing sharia law and banning Christian missionaries and schools.

In the inevitable civil war, both sides were known to use child soldiers, and 200,000 southern villagers were captured and brought north to be slaves. The Sudanese government bombed schools, hospitals, and relief centers to break the southerners’ will. A total of 4 million people, about half the population of South Sudan, were displaced at least once if not multiple times by the fighting. The war meant no infrastructure was built, which meant famines were (and still are) a real threat to the area. The civilian death toll, 2 million, is the highest for any war since World War II.

Finally, in 2005 a peace agreement was reached, where South Sudan would get some control over local matters, with an option for independence in six years. The rebel leader, John Garang, was even made Vice President. But not seven months after the peace agreement, Garang was killed in a helicopter crash.

In spite of this, and periodic skirmishes between government and rebel forces, the referendum went ahead in January of this year. South Sudan’s voters, not surprisingly, approved independence by 99%.

Already, South Sudan has a flag, national anthem, currency, and even a soccer team. It will soon get stamps, and an internet domain suffix.

But just being independent is only the beginning for the new nations’ people. It doesn’t have the roads, schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure we in a nation that has been independent for more than two centuries enjoy. That said, they do have oilfields to draw income from as well as a plan to revamp their major cities; shaping them like animals in the process.

Information from BBC News and Wikipedia

Strange origins of phrases we use every day

Language is not what is in the dictionaries. If it were, most of the phrases we use every day would make no sense, like “running for office.” We don’t actually choose our leaders with a foot race, but we all know what you mean.

Though that would be kind of cool.

Because of these figures of speech, language can be very strange, indeed. Have you ever wondered why we say what we say? Why, for example, do we say…

Rule of Thumb

When you want a rough measurement that doesn’t have to be exact, or a default policy to handle many different situations for which you can’t prepare, you use a “rule of thumb”. Why do we say this? Because there was at one time the original Rule of Thumb that started it all.

In Tudor England, women who were smart married someone with very small thumbs, because a new law made it illegal for a man to beat his wife with a stick thicker than his thumb.

Not happening.

A better law may have been to ban beating wives in any way, shape, or form, but I guess in the Middle Ages this was what counted as progress.

Why won't any woman date me?

Information from The Worst Jobs in History

Juggernaut

The Freakin' Juggernaut!

Before a particular enemy of the X-Men adopted this moniker, it was used to mean anything big and invincible, like huge tanks and trucks, or an athlete with an impressive record. You still hear the term used this way sometimes. But where did it come from?

Hindu mythology, it turns out. The Hindu god Vishnu, is also called “Lord of the World”. In Sanskrit, that title is translated as “Jaggannatha”. So how did this religious title from India come to refer to, well, the picture above?

This is how:

Yes. That is a giant chariot, drawn by dozens of horses, carrying a god.

This temple has a small-scale replica of Vishnu's chariot

If you are a Hindu, and you are in the army, you do NOT want to see that coming at you, because that means your cause is lost. The gods have decided for the other guys, and you are about to have your butt handed to you on a gold platter.

Information from Why Do We Say It?: The stories Behind the Words, Expressions, and Cliches We Use

Privates and Officers in the Army

I know it seems silly to say this, but some of the terms in the Army are quite strange to me. Why are the lowest-ranked soldiers called “Privates” and high-ranking soldiers called “Officers”?

Well, both are short for something. “Private” is short for “private citizen”; “Officer” is short for “public officer”. These are legal terms, and there is a reason for them. In theory, someone who is drafted or volunteers for the army is just an ordinary citizen fighting to protect America from its enemies. The military, it is assumed, isn’t his or her career. He is just a “private citizen”, the legal term for an average Joe, in a uniform.

An officer, on the other hand, is more than just a private citizen. An officer is someone who went through West Point and took all kinds of specialized training for military leadership, or a private who has proven himself or herself worthy of promotion. Once you are an officer, you are a U.S. Government employee who has made a career out of the military. You are now a “public officer”, just like a sheriff, mayor, Senator, or Secretary of State. This means you have legal obligations that a private doesn’t have, and are held to a higher standard in such things as libel cases.

Information from Why Do We Say It?: The stories Behind the Words, Expressions, and Cliches We Use

References to “Screwing”

“I’m screwed!”, “Screw you!”, and phrases like this are a very rude, but unfortunately very real, part of our lives. It’s pretty much accepted by everybody that “screwing” is a crude and provocative description of sex.

But the origins of these phrases have nothing to do with sex. At all.

In Victorian England, people who were sent to prison were introduced to this little device:

It was called “the crank”. Prisoners cranked it 10,000 times a day. What did the machine do? It counted how many cranks the prisoner had turned. Seriously, that’s it. The machine had no purpose other than to be a punishment in and of itself.

To make matters worse for convicts, the crank was adjustable. Guards were equipped with special screws that could make the crank harder to turn or easier to turn. Thus, a prisoner who was caught breaking the rules was “screwed”. A guard who wanted to threaten a prisoner would say, “I’ll screw you.” The guards themselves were called “screws”. And so on.

Information from What the Victorians Did For Us.

Before you go: Check out my mom’s review of a restaurant that will open soon in Morro Bay, California. It will feature one of the tastiest burgers I have ever tried!

Awesome People in History: Lord Byron

What is up with that hair?

George Gordon Byron, the 6th Baron Byron, was a famous romantic poet; like many creative-types, he was very eccentric and odd. He simply chose to be eccentric and odd in the most awesome way possible.

How was he awesome? Well, in 1810 he swam from Greece to Turkey across the Dardanelles.

This thing.

Needless to say, he was kind of big on athleticism, not only swimming but also boxing and horse-riding in his spare time.

Then there were his pets. When he went to Trinity College in Cambridge, he found their “No Dogs Allowed” rule irksome. So, he just brought his pet bear instead.

Hurry, we're going to be late for class... nevermind. Better run the other way.

He also owned at one time or another a fox, monkeys, an eagle, a badger, and a freaking crocodile, just to name a few.

Then there was the time Byron wrote English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, a work so controversial some of his critics challenged him to a duel.

Then there was the time he served in Parliament, when he had a habit of writing poems about his opponents with titles like “Wellington, The Best of the Cutthroats” and “The Intellectual Eunuch Castlereagh. I wonder how those poems went over on the campaign trail.

Actually, Byron was extremely popular in Britain of the early 19th century. His wife coined the term “Byromania” for all the attention he was getting, living the equivalent of a rock superstar as fans flocked to him. He was also rather infamous for his promiscuous love life… many a woman (and a few men) are believed to have been involved with him.

Byron was a traveler. He spent many years voyaging across the Mediterranean, learning how to curse in Portuguese and falling in love with Sufi Islam. These voyages ultimately sent him to Greece in 1823, where he volunteered for their war of independence against the Ottoman Turks.

Oh, good. He put a hat on.

He ultimately died of a fever in Greece, but is still honored as a national hero over there. They even named a city for him.

Not bad for a career path most people in this day and age scoff at.

Information from Wikipedia.