Archive | November, 2013

Revisiting Seinfeld’s Fake Movies

26 Nov

Seeing the list of fake beers inspired me to think about all the fake movies hiding in plain site everywhere, and I thought the best place to start was Seinfeld, it is the most popular show ever and they had to have so much fun coming up with all these fake movies. Lists of Seinfeld’s fake movies exist but this one is made from scratch, the result of a 4  day marathon, and includes crappy pictures.

Dishonorable Mention

Firestorm: A Hell of a picture starring Harrison Ford; action sequences include Ford jumping out of a plane and shooting back at it as he is falling, an underwater escape, and a helicopter landing on a car. Sounds amazing, unfortunately the title Firestorm was ruined because instead of making this movie Hollywood made another movie called Firestorm. It starred football has-been Howie Long throwing chainsaws at flaming trees or something.

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Honorable Mentions

The Muted Heart: Starring Glen Close and Sally Field… well, that should be good. Do you think he’ll ever find her again? Oh.. I sure hope so.

The Pain and the Yearning: An old woman experiences pain and yearning for 192 minutes (that’s a lot of yearning), clearly a movie that only an art-house goon would pick. Memorable quote: “Brittle bones, how I long to be rid of the pain.”

Now the Top Ten

10.) The Other Side of Darkness: A movie that went straight to video about this woman who goes into a coma. Before making any changes to your living will make sure you watch this movie until the end, when she wakes up and says “I feel so rested and refreshed. Get me a toothbrush”

IMG_26829.) Cry Cry Again: An arty movie that involves a French Guy falling off his bike in Paris. There’s a scene about a guy buying a loaf of bread. But bread is his soul, he’s trying to buy  back a loaf of his soul. But the whole story comes apart at the end, out of nowhere there’s this lone dancer who appears to be injured. It’s a disturbing image. So you cry and then when you see the dancing you cry again.

8.) Prognosis Negative: A man interprets a “negative” result on a medical test as being bad. The movie is really bad, really bad, long, there’s no story, and is so unbelievably boring, I heard. I  have an instinct for these things.

IMG_26997.) Sack Lunch: So do you think they got Shrunk down, or is it just a giant sack? Starring Dabney Coleman. I would totally see this movie over The English Patient.

6.) Mountain High: Starring Kevin Bacon, and Susan Sarandon “You’ve got to get me over that mountain! NOOOO!!(Gudche, Gudche) AAAAAHHHH!!!” There’s no higher place then… Mountain High, Rated -R.

5.) Ponce De Leon: About the search for the mythical fountain of youth. Receiving mixed reviews, the ending, where everybody is all splashing around in the fountain of youth and then goes over to the mirror to see if it really worked might make you hate the movie because it is so stupid. Or maybe when Ponce looked in that mirror and saw that he hadn’t changed and that tear started to roll down his cheek, you might loose it because it is so good.

IMG_27234.) Flaming Globes of Sigmund: The only sci-fi movie on the list, It’s an older movie that plays on late night cable tv. “Look Sigmund, look at the sky. It is just as you prophesized! The planets of our solar system are incinerating. Like flaming globes Sigmund, like flaming globes! Ah ha ha ha…”

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3.) Death Blow: When someone tries to blow you up, not because of who you are, but because of different reasons altogether! The bootleg of this movie is legendary. Who do you think got the final Deathblow? Cause I thought that Hawaiian guy really had it coming to him.

2.) Chunnel:  The tagline “Thirty-two miles of Hell!” says it all. The plot involves some sort of explosive disaster in the Chunnel. If you listen to the movie in the background you can hear Larry David say “Everyone get out of the Chunnel!” Then a little later “Mr. President, your daughter is inside the Chunnel.”

seinfeld-rochelle-rochelle1.) Rochelle Rochelle: A young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk. The Village Voice called the film “a masterpiece” about life, love, and becoming a woman. Does this movie stink or what? It proves that men will sit through the most boring pointless movie if there’s the slightest chance a woman will take her top off. It’s only redeeming quality is the nudity which occurs at least once when Rochelle’s clothes get wet and the voice of Larry David instructs her to “Come by the fire and take off those wet clothes. You’ll catch your death of cold.”

Rochelle: My hands are so cold, I can barely get these buttons open… That’s much better. Much, much better.

Which reveals either “hot”, or mostly “sidal” nudity.

(Then later)

Rochelle: My father was a shoemaker and we didn’t have much money.

Larry David: Rochelle Rochelle what are we going to do with you?

Rochelle: I’m going away tomorrow.

David: Where? Where are you going? I want to go with you. Take me with you.

Rochelle: Well, don’t be a silly goose.

David” But I’ve never seen Minsk. I hear there’s so much hustle and bustle.

Rochelle: You’re being absurd. Leave me alone.

David: Rochelle Rochelle, do you know–?

But that writing didn’t stop it from being so successful it spawned a musical starring Bette  Middler, (eeewwww).

BONUS

IMG_2701Checkmate: The next move could be your last.

Larry David: I didn’t know you enjoyed Chess your majesty.

Jerry Seinfeld as The King: Why wouldn’t I?

David: Because the King is always in Jeopardy.

King: Yes, but it’s only a game.

David: Yes, of course…only a game.

There are a few titles left out but I’m sure everyone will have fun looking for those, then telling me how I should’ve listed “Chow Fun” and all the rest.

Carl Wells

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12 Things Wrong With 12 Years A Slave

21 Nov

I’m sure 12 Years A Slave is one of those movies that is going to receive all sorts of critical acclaim and win a bunch of awards because that’s what happens to any movie that deals with slavery (this also happens with any movie about World War II). The inspiring true story it is based on is certainly an important part of American History and I am not criticizing that story. I am not even saying that 12 Years A Slave is bad movie for that matter. But what else is the internet good for if not nit-picking the little details out of stuff everyone else thinks is great? So here we go, in no particular order here are 12 things wrong with the movie 12 Years A Slave.

12 Years

1.) At the beginning of the movie Solomon is lying next to a woman who he fondles and fingerbangs then she turns over and cries. What The Hell was that about? We never see her again, who was she? Why do they have that connection? There’s no context for this scene, unless it is to establish that most of the movie will be full of unexplained moments, so get used to it.

2.) The story is jumbled up with too many flashback scenes. First he’s cutting sugar cane then he’s back in New York, this technically makes almost everything for the first half of the movie a flashback. Except that also contains even more flashbacks and flash forwards, it is very distracting.

3.) It was extremely unclear how Solomon Northup a freeman became captured, one moment he’s in bed then he just wakes up in a dungeon. How did he get there? I get that he was probably drugged but show more of what the act involved.

4.) You killed Michael K. Williams a.k.a. Chalky Whilte a.k.a. Omar from The Wire. Are you crazy? Now he has a vendetta and is totally going to buss a cap in yo ass.

Spanish Moss

5.) Way too many cutaways to Spanish moss blowing in the wind. I like pretty nature shots as much as the next guy. But it is like this movie didn’t know how to segue from one story element to the next so they just added another shot of Spanish moss as a transition. Maybe they were trying to convey the passage of time or something but it became very repetitive and predictable.

6.) Benedict Cumberbatch is in this movie, I can’t stand him. If you cast him in a movie his character better die.

7.) This movie is really violent, that doesn’t bother me except for that Django Unchained was criticized for being excessively violent, and in my stupid opinion 12 Years A Slave is more violent. Every 15 minutes someone is being whipped, beaten, stripped, raped, or hung. I guess what bothers me is that these scenes are being discussed as “intense” in the media and are somehow more acceptable than similar scenes in Django Unchained which was “Gratuitously violent”. I know that’s not the movie’s fault but it needs to be said this movie is pretty violent.

8.) Solomon has to keep his literacy a secret so when he takes his only chance to escape by writing a letter. It’s a great opportunity to let the audience know how eloquent he is. A voiceover of Solomon reading that letter could convey how desperate and isolated he is. Especially when he has to burn it to avoid discovery and you show a piece of paper burring for 90 seconds wouldn’t hearing what he wrote in that letter just be heartbreaking? Missed that opportunity.

9.)  Brad Pitt is shown in the trailer, but he’s only in the movie for like 8 minutes, he deserves more screen time than that, especially since he’s responsible for Solomon regaining his freedom.

More Spanish Moss

10.) Over use of unrelated Spanish moss shots to reinforce how monotonous they are.

11.) If you would like to show the passage of time how about some establishing shots of the plantation at different times of the year; in the winter the trees are bare and there’s frost on the windows, In the spring there are new shoots in the soil. Also have Solomon age. When he reunites with his grown kids he looks exactly the same, We’ve all heard that the black don’t crack but adding some facial hair or a couple grey hairs would’ve worked fine.

12.) The end of the movie has way too much stuff to read at the end. The audience wants to know what happened to Solomon and his kidnappers for closure. But textual exposition at the end of a movie should be limited to like one or two paragraphs, not one paragraph, then another, then a third, then a whole other screen of paragraphs. I saw this movie so I wouldn’t have to read the book.

Before being judged as way too cynical I need to point out that I didn’t hate this movie and could’ve just as easily made a list of 12 reasons you should go watch 12 Years A Slave, like for the most part, the acting is suburb. But where’s the fun in that?

P.S. I know I ‘m way too cynical.

Carl Wells

A Stupid Opinion About the Impact of Eastbound and Down

18 Nov

Eastbound and Down wrapped up and last night, and I have the feeling that Jody Hill, DDG, Steve Janowski and Danny McBride won’t have to rock themselves to sleep cuddling the existential nihilism that keeps me warm at night. Not as promoted series finale as another anti-hero finale this year, but just as important in its own right. The was brilliant and worked in large part because of McBride’s genius, but not to take anything away from the great writing, great direction either. All of this, and it just happened to come at the exact right time where everyone’s desire to be famous was gaining some dangerous speed.

SOWP_Eb&D_5

Over the four seasons and 29 chapters, Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers has kept his ego in check for all eighteen seconds of the show. The alpha male everyone hates to love, but really loves to love is the rawest machismo just pissing his way through life with drugs, sex, baseball and fame. The team that put this production together relied on McBride’s charm to carry the asshole Powers through the gut wrenching, hilarious decisions for four seasons, and luckily for them McBride is lovable enough to abandon any sense of polite behavior and still be loved. It’d be a pandering page grabbing attempt if I just broke down all the dick moves and rank just how awful Kenny Powers, but  thanks to what I find more interesting about this vulgar little show I decided not to.

The series debuted in the simpler times of 2009 when facebook only had 350 million uses and zero movies made about it. Everyone was just getting used to the personal access via Hubble telescope of the internet and social media. This was the puberty of online identity. Slowly, there was a collective realization that being online wasn’t anonymous anymore. There were real world consequences for letting the faceless superego run wild on message boards and chat rooms, or posting pictures of drug-fuel parties.  And if they weren’t fully understood, at least they were better understood. What was still misunderstood was how online fame translated to the real world. Were people with over a thousand followers really famous? If we posted enough pictures or wrote enough blogs would we ever get paid? We knew we weren’t anonymous, but could we still be famous?

And just at that time we got Kenny Powers. The man who so blatantly fucked or fucked over everything that crossed his path to suckle that sweet titty of being known as the motherfucking pope. The whole show, despite how cringe worthy Kenny’s actions got, always turned up relatively aces for him. The show started with a montage of his major league antics as he wore out his welcome across the MLB, partying and buying tanning beds for everyone around. Kenny Powers showed the world-wide web that you didn’t really have to be responsible and you could do whatever you wanted, just as long as you were motherfucking famous.

Season after season, Kenny strived for the glory and exposure of that opening montage and he went about it in the same way he acted when he was famous. And until last nights show, it pretty much worked out for him as he chased the paparazzi lined coffin called fame up and down North America. And his success planted seeds of doubt in those casually seeking fame of the online variety, making them take a good long hard look at their latest selfie and ask, “Am I willing to be Kenny Powers level of asshole to be famous?” Hopefully, many people just settled on the social aspect of social media thanks to Eastbound and Down. Kenny Powers is the example of everything that fame can get you, as well as everything it costs to get.  Eastbound and Down taught a world with the possibility of fame right at their fingertips what it took to grab that golden ring, and that will be the show’s lasting legacy.

Want to be famous? Most celebrities got their big break posting comments on blogs just like this one. I’m pretty sure that’s how one of the Kardashians got on the show. I know that’s how Tom Hiddleston got the role of Loki. Let us know what you think about Eastbound and Down? or other stupid and poorly written aspects about us.

-C.Charles 

How Bad Wasn’t Thor 2?

14 Nov

I know I know I put Thor 2 on my Fuck it list. But as my 5th grade D.A.R.E. officer told me, peer pressure is an awful thing. It seemed like too many people were talking about what a big deal Thor 2 was and I kinda wanted to find out first hand what all the fuss was about.

IMG_2673When I was extended an invitation to join some friends at the local googla-plex theater (which also serves 32oz beer) I accepted. I’m weak, what can I say? Especially when beer is involved, Mmmm, didn’t that D.A.R.E. officer also warn how peers use alcohol to pressure you into things you wouldn’t otherwise do?…Ahhh must’ve not been important.

Besides, it is good to sometimes test your ability to judge a movie as “bad” based solely on the preview, by going out to genuinely see it. That way you can reaffirm that you still can predict which movies are bad without actually having seen them.

Thor: The Dark World was over the top, silly, and stupid, but they knew it, and used it to their advantage just enough to keep it from being boring.

thor 2 movie poster

Trying to go over the story and worrying about spoiling it is just an exercise in futility. Because I’ve realized something, the people who keep seeing these comic book movies, just want to be dazzled. The plot doesn’t matter if you got big men and beautiful women in a mostly CG environment with an operatic score and lots of destruction, that’s the movie. Even if I revealed the whole story and all its secrets and gaps and twists and logic flaws it wouldn’t change the mind of anyone. Nobody is seeing these movies to think about them. This has all been said before but what I’ve realized is that comic book movies function more like rock concerts. People go to see the living embodiment of something they already loved  in its simpler form. So have the people audiences expect to see, be loud, exciting, include tons of eye candy, with an encore and you got a hit.

Thor: The Dark World truly is an embarrassment of riches, every shot looks like it cost a billion dollars. There’s this stuff called “Aether” that makes planets go dark or something, it’s like floating cranberry juice flowing in and out and through itself. If someone could just go ahead and make that a screensaver, that would be great. This Aether infuses into Natalie Portman’s body and anytime someone touches her the Aether creates a crimson explosion knocking everyone down. Except Thor, he can touch her because???? The whole show is absurdly engrossing to look at. My favorite parts of the first Thor were in Asgard. Thor 2 spends much more time there and it was fun seeing more of that world and even better watching it attacked by ships that look like flying black blades who’ve also got weapons that create miniature black holes but they’re no match for a hammer. Anthony Hopkins as Odin remains conscious unlike the first Thor. However Odin is supposed to be this powerful being, let’s see him kick some ass instead of just ordering people around.

Thor 2

I’m aware everybody loves Tom Hiddleston but Loki is just not a threatening presence. Instead of the Villain I see him more as a whining emo man-boy, crying cause daddy didn’t hug him. In Norse mythology Loki isn’t a bad guy, he’s a trickster who sometimes plays pranks on his fellow gods and sometimes helps them, usually out of trouble he himself caused. Norse mythology also includes a little known tidbit about the Frost Giants (Movie Loki technically is a Frost Giant). The Frost Giants were created by the god Ymir’s feet having sex with each other. Seriously. Portray that origin story Hollywood, I dare you! Luckily this movie’s main villain isn’t Loki, it’s some sort of albino space elf who thinks the universe it too bright and wants to bring darkness everywhere, probably because he can’t go into daylight without being sunburned. The space elf goes to London at the end of the movie and so much wild shit gets thrown at the audience in the final battle, it is hard to decipher what’s actually going on. But there is a lot of visually exciting stuff, like worm holes, gravity shifts, space ships, monsters, lightening, shape shifting, and the flying cranberry juice Aether.

They knew this was going to be a dumb movie before they made it and just decided to make the best dumb movie they could. This gives Thor a comedic flavor. I mean who would really design costumes with shoulder pads bigger than football uniforms and put horns on everything if they didn’t want me to laugh at it? I thought the movie was really funny both intentionally and unintentionally. Nevertheless it is the umpteenthth movie in the Marvel film factory and we all know the drill at this point. It might be kind of fun to watch as a guilty pleasure but ultimately doesn’t distinguish itself from other comic book movies and the main story has no resonance or staying power and is easily forgotten the next day.

There was an encore / teaser in the credits that had Benecio Del Toro in some crazy get-up. If anyone knows what the Hell that was about please tell me.

Carl Wells

I Finally Saw Ender’s Game

10 Nov

Let’s get this out of the way. NO, seeing Ender’s Game will not give Orson Scott Card money, it’s official. My stupid opinion on why this shouldn’t influence any judgment of the movie itself is outlined here. Admittedly knowing that none of my money was going to OSC did make me feel better. This review starts out spoiler free then ends by bringing up some details that people who already saw the movie or read the book know. I’ll warn you when spoilers are coming.

The main character Ender, a boy named Andrew but everyone calls by his nickname Ender (The movie doesn’t make this obvious) is enrolled in a program to train children to become military leaders. A surprise alien invasion by the Formics 50 years ago has lead the military to try and prevent another attack at all cost. The creative, pliable, minds of children are crucial to its success and Ender is seen as the best candidate to defeat the Formics. If he can complete the strategic training in battle school while also surviving the harsh social landscape of adolescence.

Ender's Game Cast

Casting a movie like this is tricky, requiring many young actors to be convincing and authentic, which is not what you normally get with actors in this age group. The seamless embodiment of Ender is Asa Butterfield, he has a tough job, as Ender has to be confident, super-intelligent, and isolated but not be cocky, nerdy, or weak. His peers in battle school, highlighted by Hailee Steinfeld are all pretty convincing. But I think their characters were underused toward the end. The veteran cast of Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, and Harrison Ford is fool proof and they anchor the heavy points of the story.

The IMAX format is defiantly not wasted in this movie. Everything was very detailed, from little things like the dorms of the battle school having 3D printers in the background (because it’s the future) to the Formics’ sets and ships looking like they were constructed ever so delicately by resin secreting insects. The space battles are grandiose in scale involving hundreds of ships swarming around one another, with explosions! Because you got to have stuff blowing up, that’s just science. This movie’s zero-g battleroom sequences were highly anticipated but after seeing Gravity it is easy to spot the fake weightlessness when you first see it. Although as it progresses the zero-g is portrayed better in the film and you kind of get used to it, so it ends up looking pretty fun on the screen. The sound design is also great, I say this because I normally don’t especially notice good sound design, so the fact that I did deserves mentioning, together with the score this movie sounds tremendous.

I thought this movie delivered a better story than most YA movies and had enough sci-fi stuff to satiate sci-fi fans like myself. But it skipped some crucial points in the story, like what the rules were in battle school, or what made the Formic invasion 50 years ago so devastating. All they said was it “nearly destroyed us”, how so? The movie also missed the mark on a few emotional moments like toward the end when there’s supposed to be this big, shocking, heart-sinking reveal, instead the mood is flat and quickly moves on. The movie needed to take more time showing the characters reacting to and processing their feelings. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, it was surprisingly better than expected. I liked it a lot and think it is entertaining if you’re up for a sci-fi adventure flick.

Ender's Game

Here’s the massive spoiler part for people who already know the story. The movie tries to be very faithful to the book concerning what they left in, the first 30 minutes of the movie is exactly like the book. It is quick to get to battle school and stays there for most of the movie, that’s fine. But I think they could’ve reinforced that Ender’s fantasy game was being used as an attempt by the Formics to establish contact. Not be obvious with it but build it up just enough so that at the end you don’t need the flashback sequence with voiceovers to spell it out. I thought that after battle school the movie rushed toward the ending too fast. Harrison Ford kind of just said here’s a new M.D. weapon and an ansible link now let’s get you guys in the simulation. Doesn’t Ender (and the audience) need more explanation on what those are? The most fascinating parts of the book for me were learning about The Formics/Buggers, in fact they’re what got me to read 3 sequels and I never saw the word “Formic” appear in any of them. Nevertheless as Kingsley describes his victory he should’ve went into detail about what he learned of the Formic organizational structure, other than say “they’re like ants obeying their queen”. I loved the design of the Formic Queen at the end but they could have elaborated on the telepathic exchange between her and Ender. Use the voice of Valentine to represent the Queen like the video game did, turning the Queen into a character instead of just an image.

Summing up there is still a lot to enjoy about this movie and I know there will be various reactions to it, please feel free to share yours.

Carl Wells

A Stupid Opinion About The Institution

8 Nov

Fake realities will create fake humans. Or, fake humans will generate fake realities and then sell them to other humans, turning them, eventually, into forgeries of themselves. So we wind up with fake humans inventing fake realities and then peddling them to other fake humans. It is just a very large version of Disneyland. You can have the Pirate Ride or the Lincoln Simulacrum or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride—you can have all of them, but none is true.

-Philp K. Dick, How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later

SOWP_the_Institute

The documentary The Institution is full of fake realities believed in and played with by real people. The film tells of an alternate reality game played in San Francisco where players were introduced to ideas of “nonchalance” and challenged to explore their city. It takes a lot to get me in the mood for a documentary, but after I saw this trailer I was sold. It looked nothing like a documentary and instead some wild sci-fi guerrilla style movie that cast the city of San Francisco and spent the camera budget on graphic design. I didn’t believe it was reality when I saw it. I had to rent to the movie the day it was available.

After watching the movie, it reminded me of the essay How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later* from Philp K. Dick. The essay tackles the question: What is reality? PKD shows all his mind bending ability while talking about re-living a story he wrote which happened to be a re-telling of The Book of Acts, as well as, sharing poignant little tests of reality such as “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” The essay challenges what reality is and who is running the show and the passive evils of consuming too much television. The themes Dick railed against in 1978 are the same themes Jeff Hull, the creator of the game, saw in San Francisco only multiplied by the power of having a lifetime of entertainment only a slide-to-unlock away at all times.

The purpose of the game in the documentary was to explore the world. True you may have all the mind-numbing entertainment, opinions and pictures of a world-class city in the palm of your hand courtesy of a few apps and following social-savvy mavens, but that doesn’t mean that an LTE connection and ranch style house in Lincoln Nebraska will provide you with the same experience as a loft in Williamsburg. The game challenged people of San Francisco to actively interact with their city. The documentary issues the same challenge to not just the people of the world-class cities, but to everyone with an LTE connection and the ability to turn their device to the movie watching portrait mode.**

Through amateur footage, materials from the game and participants interviews the filmmakers conveyed the mystery of the game.  There is a good sense of the game without it being a walk through or recreation of the events in the game. Watching these real people in real locations playing out fictional scenarios is more immersive than any mega-budget-Bay-buster.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. -PKD

Are the filmmakers presenting a fake reality? As with any documentary, more than likely. Did the creator of the game and thousands of people who bought into the fake reality become fake humans? One of the participants who quit playing before the game ended told the filmmakers that he likes to think it is still going on. He could never put the Jejune Institute to the Philp K. Dick test. He may have became a victim of inauthenticity.*** However, for the majority of the players who stayed to the end and watched it end right in front of their eyes, the effects of the game still seem to loom large. Their reality seems more real than before. I can’t say the same for me, sure I enjoyed the movie and learning about the game, but at the end of the day, I’m still the same algorithm-based game theory A.I. application created to make typos and contradict myself on the reg.***

Does this flim sound like your cup of tea? Have you see the film or participated in the real life game? If you want me to play the villain in your upcoming alternate reality game/art project, let me know in the comments.

-C.Charles

*I first came across the essay in Waking Life when director Richard Linklater shares it with Wiley Wiggins in the penultimate scene of the film. In 2001 after watching the film and hunting for the essay, I became fanatical about both of them. I read Flow My Tears the Policeman Said and the Book of Acts with care it takes to make dollhouse furniture. Only to come to the conclusion that PKD was certifiably insane. I couldn’t see the connection between the two, and I didn’t even really see the situation he claimed he relived from the book. I put it away and stumbled upon it a few years ago. When I re-read it I had a whole new appreciation of it. The ideas of reality and fake fakes were more important than the literal connections between PKD’s Flow My Tears and the Bible.

**The movie also tried to wrap up any loose ends and attempted to do the same with the unsatisfied feeling from some of the participates. It may also function as a bridge to the next game to the next game by fleshing out character and a healthy dose of fiction paraded as nonfiction.

*** or he just got busy, lost interest and isn’t fake

****also use irregular abbreviations in a pandering attempt to seem cool .

Half-Assed Book Review of David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

4 Nov Half-Assed Book Review

Malcolm Gladwell knows how to write books that sell and, presumably, make him loads of money. Can you blame him? Of course not. People call him a fraud or say he sounds extremely convincing if you lack expertise, but the reality is that he has written several successful books because he has found a formula that works. First, start with a white cover using a Garamond font. Then, use anecdotes and other people’s research to make readers see the world in the exact opposite way they thought it should be. The key to what makes this formula so profitable for Gladwell is his storytelling abilities.

His newest book David and Goliath is no exception to the Gladwellian method. Basically, he uses the most famous underdog story in western society to show that sometimes weaknesses are actually strengths and, conversely, strengths are weaknesses.

Watch this video to see Gladwell’s storytelling abilities in action.

Gladwell has a knack for popularizing phrases making them part of our lexicon. At a majority of dinner parties since 2000 when his first book was published, someone will reference the “10,000 hour rule,” “mavens” or “tipping points” most likely. “Desirable difficulties” and “inverted-U curve” are his new phrases from this book. Dyslexia (or slexdyexia as I see it) is an example of a desirable difficulty. Most people affected by dyslexia struggle to read and comprehend, but Gladwell argues that by learning how to cope with this disorder, some people develop habits that are actually quite beneficial. Apparently, many prosperous people suffer from dyslexia. The inverted-U curve is like the over-dramatic cousin of the tipping point. It shows that to a point something gets better and better until it reaches its peak and starts getting worse and worse. Kinda like marginal diminishing returns on steroids. The best example from the book is alcohol consumption:

Inverted-U Curve: Alcohol Consumption

Woohoo! Negative health! (image from http://www.bonytobeastly.com)

I personally enjoy his books, but haters gonna hate. I read several reviews of David and Goliath before actually getting a copy, and while I read the book I was looking for reasons to hate it. While reading, I thought to myself, “How could Gladwell possibly write another great book? His luck must have run out?” This book relies on connections between chapters much more than any of his other books seem to. No chapter can stand alone as a result, which poses a problem for a book of essays. Honestly, though, this book is such an engaging and quick read that it doesn’t matter. There are lots of people out there who criticize Gladwell for never doing his own research and for intentionally not including information to make his point. True, he is doing that, but, no, it is not a bad thing. He is a journalist taking liberties, not a psychologist establishing laws. He has mastered the arts of storytelling and combining other people’s research to sell an idea. And these ideas inspire people and make them think differently. Even if the ideas are flawed.

David and Goliath is no Tipping Point, Outliers, or Blink, but it is still a decent book. Maybe a 7/10. Should you read it? If you want to know what the hell people are talking about at your next dinner party, yes.