I’m Not Listening (Verbal Communication)

I’ve I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice, and I’ll probably say it a few more times for good measure.

Basic communication is essential, whether you are a painter, photographer, graphic designer, actor, musician or any other kind of creative professional. If you can become an expert of communication, then the sky is limit in terms of success with your business, hobbies or however you choose to pursue your art. Want to nail that audition? Communicate. Have to organize a meeting for a grant proposal? Communicate. Need to put time in at a trade expo and you want to gain some prospects? Communicate.

Just ask Descendents. They know.

We’ve covered it before, but there are four kinds of communication – written (I chose email as our example), verbal, non-verbal, and interpersonal.

Today we are going to focus on verbal communication and I’ll cite some specific examples from pop culture, and maybe one from my life, that demonstrate the importance of following etiquette as best we can. Now, granted, there have been countless books written on the topic of verbal communication alone, so we can’t expect to simplify the topic in one post, but I think this will be a great primer for anyone who needs some guidance. Whether you are well versed in the subject or merely a spectator.

Move Or Be Moved

Verbal communication, just like the three other forms of communication, requires the sender to convey needs, thoughts and feelings – feelings being what I personally think are central to a lot of communication problems. Conveying what you need can be just as difficult, but for many people it is even more difficult to express emotions in a healthy way. It’s not something which can be easily taught either

It seems as if emotions are either over-expressed in outbursts of anger and sorrow OR held back and expressed non-verbally.

This is why so many families fall into cyclical habits of rebuffing each other with the same arguments and literal arguments over and over again. Without having an alternative strategy to communicate, we persist at explaining our ideas, thoughts, and feelings, without making room for the other party to understand from their position.

When we are capable of emphasizing then dialogue opens up, otherwise the adage of rocks versus hard places presents itself. The Dark Knight sums it up perfectly in fact – within the context of the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy, The Joker and Batman were always going to interlocked in perpetual battle because they couldn’t relate to each other. This also applies to the Batman mythos in general, but more importantly, it applies to those situations where people are at consistently at odds.

Missing You(r Point)

Effective verbal communication really comes down to clarity of speech, a calm and focused delivery, following conventional etiquette while simultaneously correcting for environment etiquette, and being polite and encouraging in dialogue. Simple right?

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Break-up, featuring the under-appreciated talents of Vince Vaughan and Jennifer Aniston, then you are likely familiar with the scene where the very much mismatched Gary and Brooke finally have the relationship ending fight that leads to Brooke saying “I’m done.”

Yes, it’s tough to watch, because we’ve all been there at one time in our lives. Whether the male or female in the relationship (or masculine energy VS female energy for our non-hetero friends). I challenge you to watch the movie for the dynamic between the two before the break-up and immediately preceding the break-up, but before the movie falls apart into rom-com shenanigans.

Those kind of shenanigans.

The main point I want you to walk away with dear readers, is that as much as talking is important in a conversation, listening is far more valuable because it endears each party to the other, allows for a more thorough discussion, and limits conversations stoppers like judgment, self-centredness, derailing the topic, or ignoring the other speaker.

theories Summarized

All that said, no I didn’t leave you with a proper road map on verbal communication.

But I did warn you that this was a heavier topic then one post could cover. I fully expect to cover more tips and strategies for proper communication in coming months. Developing character and honing the correct life skills is absolutely essential in your communications, and if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to run timotheories at all. This is a community based vision, and honouring differences of others through respectful discussion is key to that end.

Put these theories to work creative cuties, and you’ll see the positive results for yourselves.

Tim!

Why Did Batman Cross The Road? Because We Were Sick of His Clucking (The LEGO Batman Movie review)

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na nah. Just kidding. It’s like a 1000x yeah instead.

 

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifanakis, Jenny Slate
Director: Chris McKay
re-released on blu-ray June 13, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Chris McKay also know as Chris Taylor, is an American director and animator of film and television. Best known for his work directing and editing the shows Robot Chicken and Moral Orel, The LEGO Batman Movie is his first film. He is also set to direct a live-action Nightwing movie which has yet to be scheduled.

Having spent most of his early career involved in video production, McKay learned about editing and eventually landed an editing job with ShadowMachine, which allowed him the opportunity to work on what would become the hugely successful Robot Chicken stop motion animated sketch comedy show. Which led him to help co-direct animation for The Lego Movie and giving him the opportunity to direct the film of today’s focus.

A little flavour on the film

Taken from Wikipedia and edited down –

The Joker (Zach Galifanakis) has plans to destroy the city, then Batman (Will Arnett) hurts his arch-rival’s feelings by telling him he is not as important in his life as he thinks he is, leading Joker to seek the ultimate revenge on him.

During the city’s winter gala, which also celebrates the city’s new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), Bruce Wayne falls head over heels, only to be infuriated by Barbara’s plans to restructure the police to function without the need of Batman. Joker then crashes the party with all of Batman’s rogues gallery, and oddly enough surrenders, with the exception of Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate), who disappears during the confusion.

Suspicions now raised, Batman plans to steal Superman’s Phantom Zone Projector, a portal to a prison housing some of the most dangerous villains in the Lego multiverse.  Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) intervenes and involves Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), whom Bruce unwittingly adopted as his ward during the gala. After the heist, the pair break into Arkham Asylum and send Joker to the Phantom Zone, but Barbara locks up Batman and Robin for their reckless actions.

Harley steals back the project and frees Joker, with all the Phantom Zone villains in tow. Barbara has a change of heart realizing what has happened. She frees Batman and Robin, and along with a suited up Alfred, the four of them team up to stop Joker. When they meet one-on-one again, Joker confronts Batman, stating they are arch-rivals, but Batman baulks at it and Joker zaps him with the projector. In the Phantom Zone, Batman accepts that even he needs help, and makes a deal with the Zone’s gatekeeper, Phyllis (Ellie Kemper), to retrieve the villains so that he can stop the destruction of Gotham.

Joker intends to blow up the city’s Energy Facility, forcing the thin floor of the city apart and be destroyed, and so Batman assigns Barbara a Batgirl costume, and recruits the other villains Joker has left behind. It’s too little too late, and the bomb rips the city apart. Knowing this was his fault, Batman reluctantly convinces Joker that he is the true reason for being the hero he is, before they, their friends and allies, and the city’s inhabitants, chain-link themselves together and pull the plates back together, saving the city.

Phyllis decides that Batman can remain after seeing how much he had changed in order to save everyone. Batman then allows Joker and the rest of his rogues gallery to temporarily escape, with the confidence that whenever they return, they will be no match for his new alliance with Robin, Batgirl, and Alfred.

Now, what the synopsis I have provided doesn’t tell you is how self-referential and hilarious this movie is to experience.

It is at-once a biting satire of previous Batman franchise outings, teasing the ever-popular use of Bruce Wayne’s backstory as plot motivation, as well as directly addressing the eternal dance between The Joker and The Batman. And yeah, it’s great that The Batman wants to fight around, but The Joker wants him to commit to him as an arch-villain. And rightfully so, they’ve only been at it for over seventy years!

The zaniness of Lego also fits well with Batman’s wonderfully odd and sometimes embarrassing tacky history of stories, costumes and villains. Think Disco Batman, Eraser and Clock King. And yes, you get to see King Tut, Polka Dot Man and Egghead make appearances too.

Pros: It is surprisingly sophisticated in it’s exposure of Batman, how pop culture has appropriated him, and core issues we’ve all been thinking about for what seems like decades. Top it off with a smart bow, riddled with fun for kids, and this is a movie not to be taken for granted. Michael Cera is heartwarming as Robin.

Cons: It does become a bit difficult to swallow all of the bricks towards the end, surprisingly enough because the story works so well to disengage us from the kitsch of the format it’s presented in. And the happy Bat family moment feels a bit shoehorned.

Runtime: 1 hour 44 minutes

Points of Interest: In a blink and you’ll miss it moment, Batman references the 1989 movie when he says  “You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” to the Joker. Billy Dee Williams voices Two-Face for the movie. He also portrayed Harvey Dent in the 1989 movie, but never got to play Two-Face in the third movie because Joel Schumacher recast Dent with Tommy Lee Jones.

I cannot say enough good things about this movie. It is so reinvigorating to see DC poke fun at The Batman for once. Acknowledging all of the missteps over the past few years, *cough* Suicide Squad, Batman V Superman, and Man of Steel *cough* it’s great for them to realize that Batman is their best character, but that people are sick of seeing the same old Bruce Wayne.

The LEGO Batman Movie gives the people something to look forward to. It’s fun, interesting, and even humanizes the Bat. Go Will Arnett go.

theories Summarized

Maybe it’s my fine art background or maybe it’s simply my love deconstructing and reconnecting the LEGO assemblages I made as a young boy, but this is exactly what postmodernism should have been doing with Batman in the 1990s, not making him a goof with big nipples, but a caricature worthy of dissection and primed for exploration.

That said, you should also check out this cool vid we did for episode three of Watch Culture!

Out of theories for now creative cuties, tune in tomorrow for some wisdom. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Tim!

Two Piece Band (Royal Blood, How Did We Get So Dark? review)

It’s important to make music that you care about dear readers. And it’s essential to listen to music that fires you up inside. And man does this music ever do that for me.

 

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

released Jun 16, 2017
******** 8/10

Royal Blood are an English rock and roll duo, comprised of vocalist and bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher. They have been making music since 2013 – they hit the ground running when they released their first single, Out of the Black later that year. But they first truly got my attention in 2014 when the fourth single Figure It Out debuted.

Holy Moses was that a good experience.

Most definitely my favourite song of that summer. It had the raw quality needed to start a personal process of healing for me. And that release was almost three years ago, so it says a lot about their rock and roll power, because a great deal has happened for these blokes in the time past. Royal Blood saw a huge spike in popularity in a short time, winning several awards including Best British Group for 2015.

When it comes to describing their sound, Kerr has stated that one of his biggest influencers is Steven Hamblin from Graces Collide, which is all well and good, but if you’re new to Royal Blood, then you’re probably wondering what these guys sound like comparatively and I’m happy to oblige. The White Stripes, Black Keys, Death From Above 1979, and Japandroids are probably the best ones I can think of straight away, so take the time and look ’em up.

This is one of those albums that faces the ever-popular challenge of the sophomore follow-up. Tread the course or swim out into deeper waters and hope you don’t drown. Luckily for us, Royal Blood are strong enough swimmers fully capable of doing both; sometimes we hear songs like Where Are You Now? and Look Like You Know which stick to the sounds that what we know, but then we get excellence in the form of album closer Sleep, allowing everything that happens in between songs one to ten to vibrate at level far more grand then on the first album.

Yes. There is a big block of cheese to go with the album’s third single and eighth track, Hook, Line & Sinker, but it’s definitely still a fun song, and considering the tempo of the rest of this record, that’s a far better excuse to be forgiven of then some of my previous album reviews. Also She’s Creeping is kinda bland, angular, and annoys me, but I read another review on Ultimate Guitar which specifically stated a resemblance to Nirvana on this song (who some might say I inexplicably hate), so I’ll just leave it alone.

For my final thoughts… The use of extra vocals and overdubs on the second and third tracks Lights Out and I Only Lie When I Love You make them incredibly catchy, with all of the rawness that made Royal Blood popular to begin with, but making better use of Kerr’s voice and layering in more instrumentation to boot.

Pros: If you’re willing to listen to this a few times over, you might be surprised to learn that one of the best tracks is the title one – How Did We Get So Dark mixes in the new and old sounds quite well. And it deserves to be a single. Also Lights Out and Sleep. It’s a short album with a lot of buzz and well paced.

Cons: Sometimes the production runs a little slick and I think that’s where we end up with songs like She’s Creeping and Hook, Line & Sinker, which unfortunately feel a little phoned in for me. Also, I wish that some the themes were either more epic or more intimate, less middling, please and thank you.

Runtime: 35 minutes

Points of Interest: Royal Blood share the same management as Arctic Monkeys. And months before they released their debut album back in 2013, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders sported a Royal Blood t-shirt in support of them.

If you haven’t been convinced to check this album out just yet, then I’m a sad theorist, but I think you should check out these tracks (1) (2) (3) and make up your mind for yourself.

theories Summarized

Royal Blood may or may not be a great band of our generation, but either way they rock out with the best of them. I have high hopes for future years and sincerely someone figures out how to turn the lights on, if not, I’ll just jam along in the dark with them.

Tim!

For Teh Lulz (Email Communication)

I know. You’re sick of explaining to your clients what your performance rates are… I mean how many times is going to take for them to realize you are creative professional and that you won’t work for anything less then the cost of the labour and materials?!?

And THAT is for charity work.

If we’re talking about a professional show or a corporate portrait, you gotta get paid, dear readers!

Earlier this month, I committed to the idea that basic communication is essential in all interactions; if you don’t have good communication skills, you are going to struggle with all of the ups and downs of life, from the small to the large ones. Ultimately this means you are moving against the flow of life OR being led by the flow, but never setting up your own course of navigation.

Why Don’t You Write A Book About It?

All great navigators know how to control the movement of their vessel from one place to another, and while navigation is defined by land, sea, air, and space, communication is divided up into 4 main forms – written, oral, non-verbal (gestures, words, facial expressions, body language), and interpersonal (personal relationships). And I’ve chosen to start this topic off right or rather write, with written communication.

But why writing timotheories?

Because writing is the form that I am interacting with you in this specific moment, dear readers. You creative cuties!

After all, true writing (read: contextual and encoded writing) has been with us since the bronze age of history, with proto-writing likely preceding 2000 BC, but definitely in that ballpark of time. Though to be clear, this was not a sudden change throughout the world, but a slow one, which developed from symbols and tablets.

History lesson aside, what that means is that written communication is here to stay, and we better figure out how best to interpret it, less we become even more delayed in our growth. Which would suck.

PC Load Letter, What The F Does That Mean?

Speaking of suckage, have you ever seen the Mike Judge classic Office Space? I’m not going to go into a bunch of detail on the movie, instead, you should wait for our upcoming Watch Culture on it, but I will share this little clip and some wisdom.

Life is already difficult as it is, so leave the jargon at the door! You’ve got memos, reports, bulletins, email, text messaging, and a host of other types of written communication to juggle on a daily basis, and thanks to smart phones, these things pile on quick.

It’s not so difficult to manage though, if you rely on a checklist of etiquette and follow through with it, of course. Let’s use the ever-so-popular email format as a basis in demonstrating the  7 C’s of communication (clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous). And clean language too if you want to emphasise courtesy, unlike what Mr. Bolton just did.

  1. Respond to emails promptly. This is one I personally struggle with, as I want to be attentive in my responses, but responding within 24 hours is ideal, within 8 even more preferable, and within 1 if you want to be a rock star.
  2. Proofread your work, and think twice before sending. It should go without saying, but leaving your emotions out of a response can be extremely difficult, and written communication is so easy to do, you can articulate your thoughts and rearrange them. Also, spend some time reading over your work, typos are the worst.
  3. Know your audience. In case it isn’t obvious, don’t blind copy everyone in a response either. Knowing your audience in every instance is difficult to be perfectly honest, but if you pay close attention, you CAN learn others motivations and keep projects moving forward amicably.
  4. Also, please stop forwarding your junk onto others. For example, if you like sharks, and want to let the world about shark week, but your work buddy lost his family in freak shark tank incident, he probably doesn’t want to deal with your email.
  5. Brevity is king. Keep emails brief. People hate reading long boring things. See?

It’s up to you obviously in how you go about enabling these new habits, but at the very least, you now have some basic tools of written communication that will help you better convey your ideas to others. And just like that printer that Michael hated, people can give messages which just don’t make sense… Frustrating for sure.

 

theories Summarized

You don’t want to be like that printer folks. That printer eventually got taken out to pasture and bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat and a few swift kicks to the paper tray. And yes, maybe that’s an extreme example of the risks of bad communication, but worse things have happened in real life. And unlike a theory, I’ll share some examples in the next post of this series to prove it.

Tim!

Gun Kata (John Wick: Chapter 2 review)

I love the TV Tropes brand. It’s all about the collection of and education on popular culture, specifically as it relates to common figures of speech. The ones that best convey concepts that exist in various forms of media, like movies, or say, television.

Now for example, in action movies, it’s fairly common for guys to smash and girls to shoot things. But does this action movie fall prey to tropes? Or transcend them?

 

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Chad Stahelski
re-released on blu-ray June 13, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Chad Stahelski is an American stuntman and director. It wasn’t until fairly recently that he took up the reins and decided to direct a movie, starting with  the first John Wick, and now it’s sequel John Wick: Chapter 2. More importantly, Stahelski is famous for his relationship with Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, who died from a gunshot wound during the final days of filming for The Crow. Stahelski was a good friend, and agreed to replace Lee as a stunt double, even wearing prosthetics to look like Lee, so that the movie could be completed.

He is also currently working on Triple Threat, a movie which stars Tony Jaa, Tiger Chen and Iko Uwais. That said, I think with his well established history in film that Stahelski was more then prepared to take on the action genre, and so far, it’s been to his benefit.

In case you haven’t seen 2014’s John Wick, I recommend you go and do so, because there are massive spoilers ahead.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited down –

Mere days later for, former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is at Abram Tarasov’s (Peter Stormare) chop shop looking for his car. He demolishes Tarasov’s men, but his car is damaged in the fight. He chooses to spare Tarasov as a peace offering, and heads home.

Aurelio (John Leguizamo) fixes the car, but John is visited by Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). We learn that John was able to retire with the help of D’Antonio, and that they have a blood oath which John is required to fulfill upon request. D’Antonio presents the medallion to demand services from John, but John refuses. In a fit of rage, D’Antonio decides to take a grenade launcher to John’s house.

Winston (Ian McShane) reminds John of the two rules of the underworld, and that by breaking the oath he would be marked for death. The other rule being that every assassin has amnesty in Winston’s hotel. John reluctantly agrees and accepts the proposal, which is to assassinate  D’Antonio’s sister (Claudia Gerini), the head of the criminal group called the  “High Table”, a council of high-level crime lords. D’Antonio sends Ares (Ruby Rose), his personal bodyguard, to surveil John.

John easily infiltrates Gianna’s compound and confronts her – Gianna instead chooses to commit suicide. While retreating, D’Antonio’s men flip on John, hoping to consolidate his newfound power. Gianna’s bodyguard Cassian (Common) learns what has happened and begins a relentless pursuit.  They land at Winston’s hotel, and stop their battle at per the rules. Cassian vows revenge.

D’Antonio then opens a $7 million  contract on John and he fights his way through the city, dispatching numerous hidden assassins. He even runs into Cassian again, and wins the fight, so he can make his way to underground crime lord The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), whose subordinates treat his injuries and guide him to D’Antonio’s location. After navigating a hall of mirrors, John forces D’Antonio back to the the Continental. But despite Winston’s warnings, John kills D’Antonio in the Continental dining room.

Winston unfortunately has to excommunicate John from the order, but gives him another marker and some time to plan his next move before doubling the contract and sending it out globally. This doesn’t phase John, who collects his dog and starts running across the city.

Oddly enough this movie manages to accomplish more then enough in the way to trope fulfillment and furnishing a thin plot to move the action ahead.

But where most action flick fall apart because of their ridiculous premise, John Wick embraces the odd and each element is considered within the framework of the already established world. We can suspend our disbelief because we don’t “really” know how the world of assassins works, but the action and dialogue are slick, allowing the most important motivation of John Wick’s revenge to shine throughout.

Pros: The rules of this world continue to be defined with great consideration and the lack of CGI create better entertainment then anything out there right now. The choreography, the cinematography, even Reeves in the role of John is deliberate.

Cons: Of course, the motivations of the first film are stronger and the action a little more frantic. This movie serves up a lot more of the same, and is a little long as a result. And then we introduce the problem of John as someone who is invincible, and with that Superman complex, a little less compelling.

Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes

Points of Interest: Keanu Reeves is a talented martial artist, and performed almost all of the stunts himself, with the exceptions of the car crash and falling down stairs. Second time director Chad Stahelski was a stuntman in the Matrix Trilogy. Laurence Fishburne elude to their connections as co-stars of The Matrix Trilogy.

The first John Wick movie was artfully created and a sleeper hit of 2014. This movie is an excellent addition to the catalogue and another example that over-the-top budgets don’t always equal action success. The Fishburne cameo is a welcome addition and perfect demonstration of the skillful layering going in in this movie.

theories Summarized

I really enjoyed this film and I suspect that if you are an action movie fan, Keanu Reeves supporter and even interested in experiments in storytellling, then you won’t blink twice at picking this up. That said, I have to wonder where we can go from here, and hope that Stahelski can put a nice bow on these films after the third is completed. John Wick: Chapter 2 appears to be mindless fun, but it has more then enough world-building to make stand out as one of the top five movies of 2017.

Also, in case you’re looking for another movie recommendation, the latest and greatest Watch Culture vid is now up!

No more theories from me friends, I’m tapped out for the now. But come back tomorrow for some wisdom.

Tim!