Thoughts on Furious 7

April 3rd, 2015

Furious 7 — and the entire (The) Fast and (the) Furious franchise — doesn’t seemingly merit the praise I laud upon it. As an action series, there’s an expectation for it to hit specific beats and move on. And it certainly does that with aplomb; fast driving here, explosions there, punches aplenty, attractive women looking attractive… But at the same time, this series packs more heart into it, more appreciation for its characters and their diverse personalities and quirks, more respect for the audience than we would ever expect of normally-mindless action flicks.

Are there crazy physics-and-logic-defying sequences that stress the limits of suspension of disbelief? Certainly, and possibly more in Furious 7 than anything prior (and that includes Fast Five’s giant-safe-tethered-to-two-cars-driving-at-speed-being-used-as-sliding-wrecking-ball). If that’s going to be a problem for you, I might suggest sitting this one out. (The guy who sat next to me at last night’s IMAX screening was quite vocal in his disapproval of the stunts presented onscreen; I fear he may have been in the wrong theater. Or state.)

But at the same time, there’s a movie-long romance arc about Dom and Letty’s relationship (I assume you’re all equally on first-name basis with the characters) being strained by Letty’s persistent amnesia (let’s all just move on from that bit), and a respectful farewell for Brian’s character that doubles as a teary-eyes goodbye to Paul Walker.

There’s a revisiting of the scene and characters from Tokyo Drift — a film made ten years ago with none of the characters from the previous films as a crazy effort to breathe new life into a waning franchise, no forethought of an ongoing story, but which became the springboard for an arc spanning five films — to dovetail Han’s death/funeral with Owen Shaw’s drive for vengeance. No action movie I can recall has story seeds running through the veins of a decade of films; most exist movie-to-movie, trying to reboot a series with every release to sustain public interest, keeping only one or two actors in to maintain audience recognition (and probably to keep the budget down).

James Wan had a difficult task of taking over for Justin Lin, who had directed films 3-6 and established the long arc, and continuing those story threads into their next phases. He successfully weaved Han and Gisele’s death, Walker’s struggles with the doldrums of domestic life, Shaw’s defeat in Fast and Furious 6 acting as ghost from their past for a new antagonist in Jason Statham, and the aforementioned Letty amnesia into a beautiful tapestry, while still giving everyone in this (now slightly smaller) ensemble cast appropriate screen time to continue to develop their characters and simultaneously kick ass. He even brought in new faces such as the brilliant hacker Ramsey and the mysterious US government agent/benefactor/plot driver Mr. Nobody, both of whom I expect to see in future endeavors.

And there’s no doubt in my mind that there will be future endeavors. Although the actors got to pay their respects to Walker in character and let his character sunset in as fitting a way as I could have ever imagined, it’s also clear that their love for Walker motivated them to give this movie a proper heartfelt ending. That same motivation, that shared experience amongst cast and crew, will no doubt continue to drive them to keep telling their story as long as there’s a story to tell. They’ve lost someone special to them, and instead of throwing in the towel and canceling the film they can now be catalyzed to carry on. The cast, like the characters they portray, are family.

That mutual love, adoration, and respect is ever-apparent onscreen, and serves as yet another indicator that this series is special. The cars, the jet-setting, the action, the spectacle… It all hides something much more profound and powerful than I ever expected to find in movies like this. In the end, that heart is what will keep bringing me back.

Steamrollers Game Results

February 16th, 2015

Today I watched the San Jose Steamrollers play power soccer (a soccer variant played with power wheelchairs), and figured I’d do a sports writeup on their two games. Because I can!

vs. BORP: 1-0
vs. Hollister Free Wheelers: 2-2

Jairo Solorio scored a fantastic goal against BORP. The Strike Force chairs are generally superior on the court when it comes to maneuverability, but Jairo’s chair packed more mass and allowed him to simply push through the defenses and nudge the ball over the goal line.

Hollister’s Chad Bojorquez squeezed in an early first goal for game two, but San Jose quickly retaliated when Ryan Connolly pulled off a slap-shot from halfway down the court, too fast for the Hollister goalie to respond. The Steamrollers then pulled ahead after Matthew Arensdorf passed the ball across the goal to Jairo, who nudged it in before Hollister could intercept, but Hollister tied it up again when Bojorquez knocked the ball through a gap between players. Despite Hollister’s aggressive push for the goal, some near-misses on their part combined with blocks from Steamrollers goalie Jenny Mitchell helped maintain a tied score at the end.

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I Like-Like You! Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 13th, 2015

My sometimes-yearly tradition of making store-bought-style Valentine’s Day cards based on things I like… continues! This year I went with The Legend of Zelda for NES. Personally I prefer Zelda II, but it’s hard to deny the cuteness of square-aspect-ratio-3/4-pseudo-isometric-view Link from the original.

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2014: A Year in Photos and Videos and Some Music

December 29th, 2014

Facebook wouldn’t stop bugging me to make a dumb collection of photos recapping my 2014 on Facebook. So I decided to actually make it cool by making a longer video with moving pictures and music tracks. You rocked, 2014!

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Mario’s Tahoe Journal

December 3rd, 2014

In the interest of converting my entire collection of physical representations of childhood memories into eternal digital archives, I’m scanning pages from Mario’s Tahoe Journal, my old pen-and-binder-paper-powered diary of our family trips to the alpine lake back in the 90s. You can now read the pages on this very blog! I’ve posted them with their original dates and typed them out as accurately as I can (misspellings and sullen teenage angst and all), and included photos I had taken during the same trips. They will all be posted under a single category for reference, which can be found here:

Mario’s Tahoe Journal

Please note that the opinions I had expressed as a teenager of siblings and peers do not reflect current opinions of same individuals. These entries are being posted unedited for posterity. I have nothing but love for my family and those we traveled with all those years ago. Blame the hormones, and forgive Baby Mario his transgressions.

[Discuss]

How many baseballs to a soccer ball?

July 8th, 2014

Twitter was all abuzz today with the impressively high-scoring Brazil vs Germany World Cup game. In the end, one of the teams* defeated one of the others with a score of 7-1. Twitter parody account @DodgerzGM made the following statement partway into the game:

Which made me wonder: what would the actual equivalent score be? Or to put it another way: what is the conversion of soccer goals to baseball runs?

This is, of course, a ridiculous question. Which is why, equally of course, I needed to address it.

To start, I had to narrow some definitions. It would not be practical or informative to try and determine, say, an average score of every baseball game played around the world for all time. I decided to compare the latest available data in both sports: the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2013 MLB Season. Right off the bat, you sports-minded folk may be complaining about some kind of selection bias, claiming that an entire season of baseball isn’t an appropriate sample size compared to the relatively smaller World Cup series of games, and that just using the World Series or the 2013 postseason would make more sense. To this I say:

  • It was a World Cup game, so using the World Cup as a basis seemed to make the most sense. As I understand it, there are other regional qualifying matches that lead up to the World Cup, but that amount of information would have been difficult to compile.
  • The World Series only involves two teams across 7-ish games, so that sample size seems ridiculously small. The postseason is only slightly better with four teams.
  • Baseball-Reference.com made it very easy to get the numbers needed to make this calculation on the baseball side (I used Wikipedia for the soccer stats).
  • Comparing soccer to baseball in this apples-and-oranges sort of way is fun, we don’t need to muck it up with more complicated stat-gathering.

With that disclaimer out of the way, it’s Fun With Numbers time!

The average team score in the 2010 World Cup was 1.13 goals. In the 2013 MLB season, the average score was 4.17 runs. With this information, we can determine that 1 World Cup goal is roughly equivalent to 3.69 MLB runs.

Now that we have a conversion, we see that a World Cup score of 7-1 is about 25-3 in MLB.

“Why didn’t you state the score in decimal values?”, you might ask. The reason is that the actual output of 25.83-3.69, while technically more precise, would never fly in actual baseball. In such a hypothetical game, .69 runs barely gets past second base, so the runner would probably stay on rather than try to power to home plate. .83 runs gets the runner around third, but I’m guessing they doubled back or got caught/tagged out. Either way, a fraction of a run isn’t a run.

Data Sources:

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*I didn’t actually watch. It’s all sportsball to me.

Splatoon Lady

June 18th, 2014

Splatoon Lady (deviantART)

From the moment I saw the trailer for this game, I was enamored by its style and colors. So I put them on my computer I guess?

Some Stream-of-Consciousness Thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars

October 1st, 2013

OB_IMG - The Fault in Our StarsVan Houten is as wrong about characters as a character/person can be. They do exist beyond the pages. But this book has taught me that their lives are just as fleeting as the supposedly more “real” lives we all possess. Characters are real, but just as assuredly do they continue living past the last chapter, they also eventually expire.

Hazel wanted to know what happened to the characters surrounding Anna because that will also be the mystery of her loved ones when she passes. She’s frustrated because she can’t know what will happen to Isaac, or Augustus, or her parents. When she dies, it’s the end of her personal story, but hearing what happens after Anna’s last sentence is cut off would ensure her that a world continues on.

I was so fearful that this book would pull a Van Houten and cut off Hazel’s sentence.

It occurs to me now that Van Houten’s cutoff robs the reader of important closure that they get when grieving the loss of a loved one. Augustus’ death is tragic, and I felt real pain and shed real tears as I read. It hurt like any loss I’ve ever suffered in life. I was Hazel for those pages. But Anna’s mother and hamster get no such closure. Their story is eternally paused, their opportunity for closure taken from them. As Hazel, I got to see the story continue. I got to experience how awful a world without Augustus truly is, but I also got to see that there WAS still a world to grieve in.

Van Houten got everything right about death and dying except for the eternity that follows. He thought a story can just be a first person perspective of a slow decline, but the story belongs to the other characters as much as it does to the protagonist. Anne Frank’s story is also Otto Frank’s story, and the story of the museum’s patrons. Anne Frank’s story has a chapter about Hazel and Augustus kissing in her childhood home, and of strangers applauding two teenagers finding love in a place normally reserved for reverence. The act happened in spite of reverence, and was itself a reverent act because it played a part in Anne Frank’s life after life.

The Fault in Our Stars is An Imperial Affliction is Anne Frank’s Diary is John Green’s dealing with the loss of Esther Earl (despite and because of his disclaimers).

That book thoroughly knocked me on my ass.

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SoundCloud

January 11th, 2013

Over a decade ago, I used to (via Zelda Comic) host a collection of songs and ditties I’d created in MOD tracker software (and later, a Mac OS 9 version of Logic), little covers of video game tunes mostly but also some original music. However, a major website overhaul resulted in the song page and all associated music disappearing. Some readers asked me where they could find music I had written. My response at the time was simply that I didn’t feel the songs were related to Zelda Comic, hadn’t found an appropriate new home for them, and for the most part was a little embarrassed of my lack of musical prowess demonstrated in most of those tracks. Almost every song I’ve ever composed (except for a track on OCReMix’s Hedgehog Heaven compilation album, but let’s not talk about that) was stricken from the Internet.

Since then, a few developments have occurred:

  • SoundCloud started existing.
  • I’ve got a hankering to archive old songs again, regardless of perceived quality.

My SoundCloud account can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/mario-panighetti. Right now it only has a silly kazoo cover of an amazing web series theme song, but I’ll soon be uploading other tracks from days of yore, including a soundtrack I made for a for reals computer game! Maybe even new songs eventually?? We will see.

So stay tuned I guess!

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Frog and Toad Meet Mr. Bump

August 20th, 2012

Back in elementary school, we had access to a cheap, simple book publishing process; we would write and draw our stories, and the librarian would laminate the pages, punch holes and apply plastic binding. Some of my fondest school memories involved churning out story after story and seemingly having them immortalized in real book form.

Cut to the modern era, where I have been collecting old childhood artwork as Apple Cow fodder (turns out I’m still making those???). During one of these scanning sessions, I came across one of my old books.

Then I discovered this book was actually an early attempt at crossover fanfiction and told the story of Frog and Toad meeting Mr. Bump!

So I’ve decided to treat this a little differently than Apple Cow. Not only because the characters are protected under copyright law (and I’ve never created webcomics primarily featuring copyrighted characters), but also because, as a completed work, I felt a more appropriate (and entertaining) action would be to release it in its entirety to an unsuspecting Internet.

I’ll probably eventually add the pages to Dot Matrix for archival purposes, but for the time being I’ve created a Tumblr blog dedicated to this project. Tune in to Frog and Toad Meet Mr. Bump for weekly page uploads and hopefully humorous commentary as I delve into the creative mind of my nine-year-old self!

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