Liar, Liar (Snopes)

Snooping can be quite a rush.

You know you are looking at something which isn’t really for you, but it feels good to look at weird things, so you do it.

I’ve done some snooping on the internet from time to time, dear readers. It’s similar to research, but is a lot more cathartic, because I could get lost in one topic or another fairly easily, and I could spend moments or I could spend hours on said topic.

Though I’ve always been skeptical of what I learn online.

This is because I know that people lie on the internet, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident, and because of the scope and scale of the internet, it is very difficult to be sure when someone writes anything with authority.

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Though I’ve never been one to side with the Snopes.

In case you’ve been living under a metaphorical rock, The Snopes are a family from a triliogy of novels by William Faulkner. A really weird family to boot.

Which is probably where the website snopes.com got their name from and which I will refer to as Snopes for the rest of the blog post. Snopes is going to be the source of this post but not the source for your wisdom today.

For all of those who take Snopes at their word, if you really want to to know something and figure out the truth of the matter, I think it’s time to reconsider their value proposition.

If you really want to know the truth of a story, you need to do exactly what your teachers in primary school used to tell you – do your own damn research first and cite your sources.

You see my friends, the authors of Snopes do exactly what most of us already do, run a Google search and mark it down on their website. And that’s a good thing, researching and investigating.

Unfortunately though the team at Snopes don’t have a background in investigative journalism, so it’s not like their research skills are that much greater than your own, and it also means that there are no guarantees that what they conclude are more accurate then your own findings. Granted, they just might spend a few hours on a given topic, but how assured are you of that fact at this point?

And I’m quite confident that you have friends or colleagues that’ll run a search on Snopes, find out that the authors have debunked that theory/urban legend/story you shared, and then they’ll ultimately say “see, I told you!”

Which your friends SHOULD do, because we shouldn’t be able to just get away with shit. No one should. George Washington demonstrates it best with this quote.

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You want some more info on Snopes, now don’t you? Well, Snopes is run by a husband and wife team, no office, no bullpen, no mail room, no team of lawyers, journalists, and administrators, and definitely not a library. David and Barbara Mikkelson started their website in the early oughts, but much like Wikipedia, it’s run by two enthusiasts who are human and flawed.

Humans have spiritual, social, and political leanings, and we should celebrate that diversity, but never give absolute authority to one group.

You have to take your sources with a grain of salt, dear readers. Only then can you gain more perspective and become a better artist. After all, artists are the lens through which ideas are filtered and transmitted, and so we have a responsibility to take in the world, fully.

And those are all of the theories I have today.

Tim!

 

 

Toot Toot, Beep Beep (Midnight Special review)

Science fiction is supposed to challenge and stimulate our thoughts about life. This is usually accomplished through escapism and “what if” situations.

But what is curious is how it does it.

You see, I have this theory that one of the best ways to share new ideas is through science fiction, because the medium inherently combines the creative with the analytical. And it cuts through all of the ego, to get to the root of humanity… and what makes us special.

 

 

 

Midnight Special (2016)

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver
Director: Jeff Nichols
released on blu-ray June 21, 2016
********** 10/10

Midnight-Special-Poster

IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Audience Score 72%
The Guardian: ****/*****

 

Jeff Nichols is an American film director known for making independant films with minimal budget. He has now directed four films total (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud, and Midnight Special) and is currently working on a fifth movie about prejudice against interracial marriage in the 1970s. That movie is called Loving.

All of these films are dramas, though Midnight Special is without a doubt the most interesting film he has made to date. And it should be noted Nichols has cast Michael Shannon as his lead three times now, with Matthew McConaughey as an alternate and correctly chosen for 2012’s Mud.

Which came out just a year before McConaughey got his Best Actor award at the Oscars for Dallas Buyers Club. So keep that in mind.

Set in the the southern United States, I believe somewhere in Texas, Roy (Michael Shannon) and his friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) have seemingly kidnapped a young boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) – who we later find out is Roy’s son.

Roy and Lucas are on a mission to return Alton to his mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and eventually get Alton to an undisclosed location by a certain date. The movie reveals information to us in pieces. With each piece of information letting us in on the story a bit more.

It turns out that Alton and his parents were part of a religious cult, and because Alton possesses latent supernatural abilities, which are also slowly revealed to us, the FBI has become involved and sent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) to investigate cult.

To reveal more of the plot would be a huge disservice to the story, but before I move on, I will mention this, this film is grounded the grittiness of dramas of the 1970s, very slowly giving ways to fantastic wonderment of early 1980s science fiction. And it is amazing to behold.

ProsThe story manages to avoid direct violence and rely on the imagination where necessary, but also use CGI in a way that the story becomes better, rather than extraneous. The relationships between family, friends, and believers are beautifully depicted.

Cons: At times the pacing felt too rushed, while other times it was oddly slow. And so the movie often feels strange, and the tension never raises to a point where leads are in imminent danger.

Runtime1 hour 52 minutes

Points of InterestJeff Nichols wrote the film as an allusion to becoming a father himself, and it was shot over a period of 40 days.

Midnight Special is, to use a single word, special. It is an excellent example of GOOD modern storytelling in that it relies on both practical filmmaking camera work and CGI to tell its narrative. It’s cast is well chosen and the implications of the final reveal make it worthwhile on any science fiction fan shelf, but it holds a special place in the current political environment as well.

I still don’t really know why the movie is called Midnight Special, I think it has something to do with the song, but maybe that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the movie is accessible and addresses issues that we can all relate to. And so it qualifies as good science fiction.

But what do you think? See you tomorrow with some wisdom, dear readers.

Tim!

What Doesn’t Kill You, Only Makes You Stranger (Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger review)

Ever watched a movie JUST for the soundtrack? No? Well me neither, but there are tons of posts on the internet which claim that exact practice is worthwhile, and I will strongly disagree.

However, I do believe that a great soundtrack can help define and reinforce the ideas of a film. And the reason for this is that it usually comes down to the storytelling ability of the musician(s) behind the scenes.

This week we review an album that I could very easily see in a soundtrack in the near future.

 

 

 

Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger
released June 3, 2016
****** 9/10

Paul-Simon-Stranger-To-Stranger

Paul Simon is an American musician, singer, songwriter and sometimes actor. He got his start as part of the duo known as Simon & Garfunkel, which performed together for six years in the 1960’s before splitting up at the height of their success – Simon is known to have been the predominant writer of Simon & Garfunkel and should be especially proud of Mrs. Robinson, The Sound of Silence, and Bridge over Troubled Water, which were all no.1 singles in their time.

He has also successfully managed a solo career, including 12 Grammy awards, a Lifetime Achievement award, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and various other accolades.

Stranger to Stranger is Simon’s 13th studio outing and what I would consider a fantastic representation of him as an artist, given that I haven’t really followed his work. At. All.

Yes, my personal experiences with Paul Simon have mostly revolved around movie soundtracks that sampled his work in Simon & Garfunkel, so that means I’ve enjoyed the tranquillizer scene in Old School all the more thanks to The Sound of Silence, was bemused by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate while Mrs. Robinson played and played with him, and even Bridge Over Troubled Water has a movie title named after it, it is the quintessential S&G song, after all.

But I think that recognizing a well made and ambitious album has less to do with knowing the artist’s catalogue of work and more to do with understanding the broader soundscape that is music.

Songs range from the hilarious opener The Werewolf, which is about a midwest murder in suburbia, to the lightly spread Wristband (with hints of darkness), to the very direct phone problems of In A Parade.

Though one track that manages to stick out like a sore thumb for me is Cool Papa Bell.

It’s incredibly absurd and paints a portrait of a man who has lost touch with reality, and it’s full of swear words. Which is kind of hard to imagine if you think about Simon’s vocals for too long. He lays it on in his typical indie folk style, but the lyrics combined with the world music tone create a very interesting and satirical final product.

And he takes life experiences as well to produce these songs, which tells me Paul Simon isn’t quite done experimenting like The Riverbank, which is the result of visiting vets at a Boston hospital.

And then we have the closing track, Insomniac’s Lullaby. Which is my personal favourite. It’s silly, sincere, sweet, and surprisingly sinister. And yes, I apologize for all of the alliteration, but Paul Simon says so, so I shall share. Now I’m done.

Should you listen to this record? Hell yes, you should. Paul Simon may be in his 70s but just as relevant today as he was 50 years ago and that shouldn’t make him a stranger to anyone.

 

 

 

Fortunately for Paul Simon, his glory days are not behind him. He is still creating music that can entertain and tell a wonderful story. Which is why it should surprise no one at this point that Mike Nichols knew what he was doing when he grabbed Simon & Garfunkel hot off the press and inserted it into his movie. Hopefully there is an indie more or 3 out there that will sample from this album and further cement it’s value in pop culture. And that’s all the theories I’ve got for today, see you tomorrow with a review that should be in a zoo.

Tim!

This Is Your Brain On Words (Quotes To Inspire Creativity)

This might seem like a bit of surprise, but I have not always enjoyed the writing process.

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And I don’t think I’m alone in this attitude. Much like any “seemingly” basic skill, writing takes some time to learn, and a lifetime to master. Because of that hard truth about writing, from a young age I always felt pressured into the writing process and moreover, that I didn’t have the characteristics to make my ideas and literary voice heard. So I did what I would do with social situations, I would borrow ideas and quotes from other established works.

This of course changed after I got accepted into university and had the opportunity to expand my library of literary options.

It got more difficult!

I thought that maybe I wasn’t mature yet or life experiences hadn’t happened enough for me so I didn’t have a way of articulating detailed stories proper. But as I explored my own identity I began to realize that creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and for me, I enjoyed pulling from different sources to build an idea out. Also hard won personal experiences with writing under pressure over and over again helped relieve some of the stress.

Which is a pretty cool thing, if you were to ask me. But I guess you are asking me, seeing as how you are at timotheories right now, reading about my ideas. Fortunately I do have a formal education in the arts so it’s not like I’m Joe Blow from Timbuktu writing about my snail collection.

I’m an expert in the arts and on this journey with you.

Which is why I decided that today I want to share some word wisdom with you, and in anticipation of a little old project I am about to undertake(read: new project. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll share that project with you on a later date. For now, let’s start with that sweet sweet wisdom dear readers.

I’ve written about the power of reading at least once before, but have I discussed the power of words themselves? No I didn’t think so either. Sometimes we get so caught up in our routines (which are helpful) that we forget to spend time enjoying life and *gasp*, procrastinating simply to be immersed in culture.

Matt-LeBlanc-Gasp

But seriously… Sound familiar? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Personally I’ve found that reading exercises my brain and that taking quotes from literature can help cement new ideas or creative directions I want to take – So today I’m going to share with you, in no particular order, some of my favourite quotes from film and literature, as infographics. And after you’ve gone through the list, I want you to think about how you feel. But for now, let’s take a scroll.

 

 

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Bet you are feeling pretty good right now? And some of those quotations are tied into your own experiences. You see, dear readers, I have this theory that word association has the incredible power to motivate, but only to motivate. It doesn’t provide discipline, like at all. But that is not what it was meant for.

You need to balance short term pains (emotions) against long term gains (skill). It’s just how it is. So why not spend some time building a Pinterest board or vision board or whatever to give yourself some instant emotional gratification? And most of those quotes are useful advice anyway, and there have been studies done that indicate human beings can only learn a few new things at a time.

So put your ideas up somewhere digital or real; bathroom and bedroom walls can do the trick. And revisit those quotes regularly, that way you can slowly absorb the knowledge you need, to increase your knowledge, skill, and discipline to create.

While, I’m out of theories and wisdom for the day friends, so I’ll see you tomorrow with something timely!

Tim!

Slow Down Baby (The Lumineers, Cleopatra review)

Folk music has a soothing nature to it, it feels like clean soap and a warm basin full of water, like a brown bottle of beer dropped on a hard wood floor, like a summer dress brushing against the wheat fields.

You know what they say right? Music can sooth even the savage beast, and this week’s band is making major efforts to bring you up to their level of newfound sincerity and thoughtfulness.

Let’s take a look-see.

 

 

 

The Lumineers – Cleopatra (White Album)
released April 8, 2016
******** 8/10

CLEOPATRA

The Lumineers are an American folk rock band. Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar), Jeremiah Fraites (drums, percussion), Neyla Pekarek (vocals, cello), Stelth Ulvang (piano) and Ben Wahamaki (bass) make up the group.

The band initially formed between Fraites and Schultz after Josh Fraites (best friend to Wesley and brother of Jeremiah) died of a drug overdose in 2002. The two began playing together as a way to cope with their loss.

This is their second studio album, which was self-titled and released in 2012. And they have come a long way from both that album and their initial outings – When Fraites and Schultz first started to play together, they had a number of random names, and they did all kinds of songs, from covers and basic hard rock numbers, to acoustic jams, to electronic infused music.

As a fan of the band, who owns that first album, I can tell you that this is a welcome change of pace.

Schultz’ vocals are stronger, seasoned and somehow more supple. If I can use that word. Sleep On The Floor is a good opener, because it reminds you of their range and ability to get a room moving in a slow sway.

But it’s at the second and third tracks that you get excited. Ophelia is a fun and somewhat sad song, while Cleopatra changes the pace ever so slightly. It’s kind of invigorating to listen to and reminds me of their breakout single Ho Hey. That song let the world know that The Lumineers meant business.

Sure they are a fun folk act that you can enjoy drinking whiskey or beer, but that belies the epic scale of their range – they can sing intimately to an entire crowd and no one will get jealous.

Now this is where it gets interesting, the rest of the album shifts to more nuanced efforts with the percussion, ivories and vocals of Schultz. If you’re not careful you might not appreciate the album on a first or second go, and it doesn’t surprise me that some reviews are giving this sophomore LP a 6 or a 7, but I promise you’ll enjoy it more and more as you go.

Yes, it’s more tempered but exploration is what is going to give them future opportunities and ways provide input to the musical landscape. You’ll definitely notice the shift when it happens, but that doesn’t mean it always goes down smooth. Angela is quite solid and represents both the monotony of small-town life and some of the tracks that follow, because some of the other songs do bleed together.

Which is why it’s not perfect. They’re still figuring it out, but so what. Most of the album is good, and sometimes you want an album to slow down on you so you can turn of the lights and get some gentle sleep.

 

 

 

Delicate narratives wrapped in vocals coated with milk and honey are never a bad thing dear readers, and The Lumineers are just warming up and shining a spotlight on their subject matter. Do they know exactly what they want to say just yet? Well, no.

But you can count me among the ever-faithful who will be tuning their radio in and sitting on the rug with some oval-tine and a cookie or two.

But what do you hear when you listen to the Lumineer…s? Comment! Subscribe! Share! Join the conversation creative types, and I’ll see you tomorrow with something theatrical.

Tim!