Why I Enjoy Watching Scary Movies


“I enjoy watching scary movies.”

When you think about it, that’s a strange claim to make. Why would someone willingly watch something that makes you feel uncomfortable and freaks you out?

Here’s the thing, unless you watch a bit of horror you might not realize that it’s a pretty nuanced genre, there are a lot of rules and traditions. As well as that there are different types of horror which appeal to different people. Some people get a kick out of watching movies with lots of gore and torture (that’s not my thing). Personally, I love trashy horror movies featuring teenagers getting attacked.

There are two main reasons, which are semi-related as to why people watch horror movies. The first is a sense of catharsis you get from watching some average person survive through a horrific experience. It was terrible and disgusting and gross, but they GOT THROUGH IT. And by extension, so did you. A lot of people will say that there’s something wrong with their life, or that they feel stressed, but aren’t able to actually put their finger on what’s wrong. Seeing something horrible and terrifying but also very concrete can help them try to cope with a general feeling of unease in their real life.The Strangers

Another reason that it makes you feel better about your own life is it give you something to compare yourself to. “Well, I know things haven’t been going very well lately, but on the plus side, nobody’s barged into my house wielding a machete.” But for this to happen there needs to be some trust between the creators of the movie and the viewer. The scary thing has to be outlandish and incredible, some people say things like “oh I really liked Paranormal Activity because I could totally imagine that happening to me” and while that’s true, you still don’t really think that you’re going to be attacked by some demon. However, a strange man coming in and stealing your children, that’s way more terrifying, because this is a real thing that actually happens to people and as such, you don’t see much of it in horror films. Joey Comeau touched on this on why horror movies shouldn’t feature rape.

This is why when people ask me what the scariest horror movie I’ve seen is I’ll say Sinister, but then say that you’d be much better off watching The Strangers. Sinister is terrifying, but in crazy, unreal ways, but you still have this sense that there’s no reason why each act in it couldn’t have actually happened (something to keep in mind while watching it is that the story was inspired by director’s actual life). Although The Strangers will still leave you terrified and is about a home invasion, it still makes the whole thing crazy enough that you’re pretty sure it won’t happen to you.

My recommendation for horror if you’ve not really seen any and you’re wondering if you might be interested in it would be something stupid, like Final Destination or Jeepers Creepers. If for some reason you enjoyed that and start wanting more try The Strangers. Only watch Sinister if you’re prepared to be totally and completely terrified (don’t watch the trailer, it spoils most of the scares).

Tell me in the comments why you watch horror, or what your favourite movies are. If I get enough interest I’ll sit down and come up with a recommendation list of different types, because good horror is hard to find.

Does Good Anime Even Exist Though?


As a one time fan of anime, I can tell you straight out that more than 90% of it is total bullshit weirdness not worth your time.
(this is all my opinion btw, and I don’t claim to be an expert)

Most anime is seems really derivative, I find it really hard these days to get into anything because I’ve had a run of such bad disappointments. So much seems to feel the need to satisfy certain (totally lame) tropes, such as the use of one dimensional unbeatable heroes, standard storylines, lack of character development in long running series (oh god) and fear of trying new things.

So I decided to make a list of series which I think are both good, and avoid many of the common anime problems. If you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to leave them.

Before we continue though, I have two quick notes to make.

Subbed or Dubbed

This is a big debate. Subbed anime refers to keeping the original Japanese audio and having subtitles down the bottom of the screen where dubbed anime is when the audio has been rerecorded with English speaking voice actors. Some purists insist that subbed anime is the only way to go because only the original actors carry the correct emotion or that it only sounds right when speaking Japanese. I disagree on this point for two reasons. Firstly, unless you’re fluant in Japanese you’re not going to be able to pick up on the nuances of the actors performance anyway because of the culteral differences. Secondly anime is, by nature, a very visual medium.  If you’re looking at the subtitles, you’re going to be missing part of the quick action that’s happening on the screen. So personally, I recommend watching anime dubbed when you can, except for special cases with have a particularly bad dub, such as Azumanga Daioh.

Filler

Most anime is adapted from manga, (usually) weekly serial comics at the same time the comic is coming out. However, generally there isn’t a 20 minute episode worth of content in the 20 or so pages comic so anime producers  will pad out the series with original episodes. Which sounds great! More story right? Sadly not. The content isn’t written by the original author, so it tends to be pretty terrible and nothing is allowed to happen in the episode which influences the main story. So no character is allowed to change in any way. Some people will attempt to watch all filler to get the “full experience”. Don’t, just look up which episodes are real on the Internet and skip the rest. That said, most entries here won’t have any filler at all (HELL YES).

Good Anime

Code Geass

love Code Geass so much. This one manages to combine classic techniques, while cutting away what isn’t needed. An original story (as in, not from a manga) set in a world where England never fell as a superpower and has taken over most of the known world. It centres on a high schooler, Lelouch, who gains the power to make anyone do anything he commands them, but only when they are making eye contact, and only once. Oh, there are also giant robots. 

The reason Code Geass is better than all those other stories about teenagers with powers or giant robots is that rather than focusing on fighting it focuses on the interactions of the characters. Their motivations, their relationships with each other, how far they’re willing to go, whether they’re doing good or not. The fantastic elements of the plot are just a means to explore this. And Code Geass has a LOT of characters, each with their own stories and motivations.

One of Code Geass’ best assets is that it isn’t afraid to change the status quo. Expect relationships and situations to change and characters to die, nothing is off limits.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Another anime about giant robots, however, in contrast to Code Geass’ gritty realism TTGL is basically a Saturday morning cartoon. It is, however, the only anime that I’ve watched the entire way through twice. Created by Studio Gainax of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame, TTGL is what happens when you try to be as outrageous as possible. In the world of TTGL the more enthusiastic you are (your ‘fighting spirit’) the more powerful you are, and the main characters are *very* enthusiastic.

It’s hard to describe TTGL as over the course of the 26 episodes it goes from an optimistic adventure story about two best friends to an epic battle against overwhelming odds to save the universe. The themes and tone change a lot over the course of the series, but one thing that stays the same is the idea that you can do anything if you try hard enough. For a show that was originally aimed at kids there are some huge downs as well as the massive highs in the series. I suppose if you want to sum it up in a word you could call it ’emotional’.

TTGL is for the fun loving, but it’s so different from what’s already around, it’s hard to explain. The best thing to do would be to give the first couple episodes a go and see if it’s your thing. It just so happens that whole series is available for free on Youtube. Better check it out.  (or at least I remember watching it on some official channel but I can’t find it any more).

Note: The soundtrack to this is amazing.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

This is the more action oriented series based on the manga and not related to the (excellent) movie. This series explores the issues that would arise in a society where technology has progressed to the point where the line between human and machine is blurred, which still containing some awesome action scenes. 

GITS:SAC (as the fans call it) is famous for it’s originality of a world in which people are mostly machine. If a person wants to commit a crime, they could stay at home and hack someone’s body, forcing them to do what they want, or they could do it in person, but erase everyone’s memory of him. It’s extremely cool. Another reason for fame is the very strong female lead. Where a lot of anime tend to having a male lead with some boob girl following him around GITS:SAC has The Major, a powerful character who is still unmistakably female.

Fruits Basket

Now in a total change of pace, we have Fruits Basket. The story of Tohru Honda, a high school girl who starts living with a family with an secret, if anyone of the opposite gender hugs them they turn into animals. Now, while this sounds like exactly the kind of craziness that this list is trying to avoid for some reason Fruits Basket JUST WORKS. This is the epitome of Shoujo (anime aimed at pre-teen girls) and yet everyone just loves it. After Naruto, it’s the biggest selling series in America. In a complete departure of every other entry so far, this series is based in a high school and focuses totally on the relationships between characters. No world needs saving, no evil guy must be defeated in a fight. And yet, this is maybe the saddest series on the list, possibly because it’s the most relate-able. It’s also the funniest and the most heart warming, I didn’t think I’d like it so much when one of my friends made me watch it, but after a couple episodes I was hooked.

Dragonball Z

This one nearly didn’t make it onto the list. Not because I don’t like it (because I do, as my friends can attest to, I never shut up about it) but because it suffers from a lot of anime problems. The pacing is slow, it’s full of filler, the dubs aren’t faithful and it’s a pretty formulaic fighting anime. And yet, I love it so much possibly because it does what it does SO WELL. This is the big one, the original which inspired Naruto, Bleach, One Piece. I’ve previously written a whole post about it here, so I’ll try to summarise as much as possible.

  1. It’s epic.
  2. The amazing chemistry between heroes and villains.
  3. You can respect the opponents.
  4. It shows that hard work is the most important thing.

Cowboy Bebop/Samurai Shamploo

It’s hard to talk about one of these without thinking of the other. Cowboy Bebop and it’s spiritual successor, Samurai Shamploo are often held up as the gold standard of anime. Cowboy Bebop could best be described as a Space Westen, mixed with jazz music, where Samurai Shamploo is a traditional samurai story, mixed with modern hip hop elements. Both are often considered the ‘best’ of anime, if not the most popular for it’s engrossing characters which grow over the course of the series and the beautiful mix of old and new in the setting. 

Cowboy Bebop is actually so good that I’ve never finished it. I can’t bring myself to watch the few episodes that I missed, including that final ones, so for me, it never finished, if that makes any sense at all. I simply cannot recommend these two series high enough.

Good but didn’t make the list

  • Kenichi. Very similar to Dragonball Z, simply amazing, however it tends to focus a bit to much on this gross concept called “fanservice” which pervades anime. Notable for showing the growth of Kenichi from the school dropkick, pick on by everyone to the greatest of the young fighters purely by hard work.
  • FMA: Brotherhood. By all accounts it’s amazing, but sadly I haven’t seen it, I’ve only read the series. It’s probably still a safe bet.
  • Studio Ghibli works. If I started listing movies, this post would never end. Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind are my favourite for showing that conflict is not always between good and bad. Also very good are Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away.
  • Death Note. The anime started very strongly, but sadly the weak second season makes me unable to recommend it as ‘good’ anime.

Series to Avoid (maybe)

  • Naruto. It’s a much much MUCH better experience when read. Just trust me on this.
  • Bleach. It never ends, it never goes anywhere, it’s frustrating. Don’t go there.
  • Fate Stay/Night. I wasted so much time. 😦
  • COUNTLESS OTHERS

On Going to the Cinema


Since moving into a place within walking distance of a cinema I’ve enjoyed going to a few more movies than I had previously. In general I enjoy it, sometimes I even go by myself so that nobody bugs me. That’s the second worst thing that can happen in the movies, someone sits with you and makes jokes. If you’re going to interrupt me being immersed in a movie with jokes, you have a responsibility to be hilarious, sadly people who talk through movies often aren’t. Since I don’t have a TV I watch movies on my computer and the temptation is always there to alt tab and go on Facebook during boring parts. But then the boring parts are actually setting something up, and then you missed a scene, and then you wonder why the movie sucks when your friends told you it was totally awesome.

The very worst thing though, is 3D movies. Here’s why:

  1. They cost more. Going to the cinema is expensive enough already, I don’t want to pay even more.
  2. They can hurt your eyes.
  3. They make the movie darker. If I’m wanting to take my glasses off because the picture is better without them then there’s a problem.
  4. Does it really add that much to the movie? Sure it sometime seems like things are coming towards me, but it’s a gimmick that’s only used once or twice in a movie. And it’s really conspicuous when you later watch the movie on DVD (Resident Evil: Afterlife) and things are constantly getting flung towards the camera.
  5. It can be distracting. Last night I watched Abraham Lincon: Vampire Hunter and there was once scene where a post was getting 3D’d in the foreground and it was difficult to focus on what was going on in the actual shot. There were other scenes where small things, like a desk with a telephone would be in front of the character, but the 3D makes the audiences eyes focus on it instead of the character in the scene.
  6. It’s shit.

It’s not all bad though. I feel sorry for people who didn’t see Prometheus or The Avengers at the movies. Those two movies in particular took advantage of the sound system and huge screens. Watching these movies at home just wouldn’t compare to seeing Hulk smash huge space snakes on the big screen or feeling the rumble when Prometheus breaks into the atmosphere

Going to the movies by yourself really isn’t that bad either and it’s the best way to get 100% into it. I went and saw Moneyball by myself as a treat at the end of the semester and I have zero regrets about it. Inititally I was a bit embarrassed, it seemed like everyone else who was there was with a friend, more specifically a friend of the opposite sex. But luckily the cinema was packed so nobody could tell that I was alone. In fact, I’m pretty sure this girl who came with her friend was touching my leg part way through the movie.

Here’s my other movie tip, get food before you go. Eat like a fat man in a pudding factory. Before I saw Abe Lincon I had a this huge coffee thickshake (deliciousness) and a mars bar (this was also my dinner). Because movie food is expensive. Nothing wrong with bringing in a packet (or two) of tim tams.

Final thoughts: Why is my spell check putting a red line under ‘movies’?

 

 

 

Things I’m going to do better next Semester


After exams is a sort weary relief. On the one hand you’re ecstatic that it’s over, on the over hand, you’re terrified about what score you’ve gotten. To cut a long story short, when I received my score at the end of last semester, I was pretty bummed out with what I got. I’m not going to say that the semester was a complete waste, but I wasn’t looking forward to explaining to my parents what I got.

I love the life I lead, but I do have some lifestyle issues that have a) given me shit uni results and b) made me somewhat unhealthy. It has gotten to the point that at the end of last semester I had forgotten what it was like to be operating at 100%, I was always thinking in a sort of haze. Not only that, but I also got sick twice in Summer/Autumn, which is unusual for me. So I’ve come up with a few guidelines I want to start following (in no particular order):

  1. Go to bed at 10:30, so I can be asleep at 11:00. Last semester I had a girlfriend who works night times, often only getting home at around 1am, or only leaving at 12am. Although she never asked me to, I always wanted to stay up to say hi to her when she finished her shift. I guess I was in the phase of the relationship when I was really excited to see her anytime, for any amount of time. This worsened my pre-existing inclination to stay up really late. It got to the point where I considered going to bed at midnight to be a huge achievement.
  2. Strictly at least be in bed before midnight on a normal night. When I say normal, this means when I’m not going out, or some event is happening.
  3. Get up at 7. I know for a fact that I only got up before 9am a few times last semester because breakfast ends at 9am, and I was almost never at breakfast. 10am was much more common for me. But this was the start of a bad day. If I get up at 10, I’ll go on the Internet or watch some tv for half an hour to an hour (honestly: probably more) then go have lunch at 12:30. This leaves me with only four hours of productivity (since tea is at 5:30 and doing work just before tea is painful). I’m also not a fan of doing serious work after tea, so already, my potential productive time was shit house. I could do work after tea, but if I did, this would worsen my staying up late problem, meaning at I sleep in more, meaning that I stay up later, etc.
  4. Do some exercise when I wake up. This is related to the last point. When I was in my phase of jogging in the mornings I was the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. Not only from being fitter from the exercise, but doing physical activity first thing in the morning makes the rest of the day seem so good. You’re more alert, the endorphins make you feel happy, you’re less tired. You’re just feeling great all round, it’s something I want to get into. In contrast, my house mate going jogging at 10PM in the middle of the city. Other than the fact that it’s super dangerous, you’re not getting the awesome views (because I really do live in a nice area) and exercising that late makes it hard to sleep.
  5. Attend all classes, no matter how boring they are. Some are honestly torture. Even if I fall asleep I want to at least be present. I always say to myself I can just catch up, but it’s not the same. Information doesn’t sink in as when just watching lecture recordings, and just reading the text-book is even worse.
  6. Read the material before the lecture. I know this one might be shooting myself in the foot a bit (making the lectures MORE boring? What are you thinking Tom!?) but being lost in a lecture is no fun. I think I learn more in a lecture if I already have a kind of idea of what’s going on. This doesn’t mean I need to know the material. Just be aware of it. It also means that I can ask questions if there’s something I don’t understand. Because it’s not like I can ask my textbook when I’m reading it later.
  7. Friday is a review day. This coming semester I have Friday off and I figure that makes it a perfect day for reviewing what I’ve learnt during the week. Each Friday I want to write-up a summary of what I’ve learnt during the week. This will serve two purposes, firstly, it’s easy to miss so information. I hate looking at past exams and wondering if we were even taught what’s being tested (fun fact: sometimes, because the course changes, we weren’t). And secondly having a summary of what was taught each week should be helpful for revision at the end of the semester.
  8. Fridays are also for working out what tutorial prep work needs to be done during the week. Because tutorials can be so spasmodic, I often forget to do tutorial prep work. So Fridays are also for working out when tute work needs to be done by (although I don’t actually need to do it then, although, if I do, that’s cool too?). Lets go even further and say that Fridays are also for finding out when all my work is due. A quick check on how close my assignments are to being done, compared to how close they are to being due.
  9. Sundays are for doing constructive things, not related to uni. As the end of the semester neared and I was realized how ill prepared I was I compensated by studying ALL THE TIME (this was actually probably something closer to a normal uni workload and I just wasn’t used to it) and I was getting frustrated that I had no time for projects that I wanted to do. Sometimes these projects were writing related (in another life, I wanted to be a writer) sometime programming related, and sometimes they were simple things like “doing the laundry”. Although leaving the laundry until I literally have no underwear left is kind of exciting, I would like some time to stop thinking about uni and feel going about things I do.
  10. Aim to have Big Assignments done a week in advance. Yep, A WHOLE WEEK. So that if something comes up, like illness, or a surprise assignment that got through I’m not totally screwed.
  11. Start assignments as soon as I get them, if I don’t know how to do it yet, learn. Last semester I was given an assignment and told that we didn’t yet know how to complete it. Well, to my slacker brain that was all the excuse it needed to completely forget about it. Meaning that when we finally had learnt how to do it, the assignment had slipped my noticed and gone to low priority.

So, if you’re still with me, what do you think? Will these help me get my uni career back on track? Are some of these stupid, do you have any better ideas, or things I should add?

Reader Question: what should I do on Saturdays?

Review: College Life


Here’s a quick quiz.

  • Do you want to study hard and get good grades?
  • Do you enjoy your privacy and/or quiet time?
  • Did you hate the social pressures of high school?
  • Is independence  and ability to do what you want something you value?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you’d hate college. And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not for everyone.

The bad things:

  • Small rooms. Rooms so small that you cannot possibly have people over comfortably.
  • No privacy. At all times I know exactly what my college buddies relationship status is. Exactly.
  •  Shitty food. I mean, I get it though. It’s hard to make good food for one hundred people.
  • No oven. It’s true. I have no oven.
  • Set meal times. After years of having tea at exactly 5:25 it starts getting to you. I want to choose when to eat! If I’m doing something super important I want to be able to delay eating.
  • No personal space. I mean sure, there’s my room, but there’s no place I can decorate properly and make my own.
  • The clothes dryer runs off of twenty cent coins, which have made them a prized possession around the college, like cigarettes in a prison.
  • Constant loudness. And I mean constant, this doesn’t stop at midnight.

The good things:

  • You don’t have to cook your own food.
  • I’m now much better at cooking things in a microwave.
  • Less responsibilities.
  • They provide clean sheets. That’s pretty awesome, right?
It’s half way between living with your parents and having a place of your own but doesn’t really contain the best of both worlds.

Score: 3/10, would not do again.

I killed Christine


Our time together was so sweet, yet such love is not meant to last. In this case it lasted a week before I killed her. I feel I should point out that Christine is the name of my car.

I was driving along with Dad, doing our usual Saturday round of the garage sales (which is a great way to find cheap awesome things, like my $10 espresso machine) when we saw this dusty car idling outside one of the houses with a garage sale. Me and Dad went to investigate and discovered that it was for safe for a meer $800 dollars! Not satisfied with that though we bargined down until we got it $660, and told Mum when we got home that it was $600 because that’s the limit that we agreed on.

Me and Dad were very happy with it, I got really excited. When Monday came around I got my P2s and we registered it. We also hard to put more break fluid in it in the parking lot by the store because it was so very very close to running out. We also put three new tires on it, after finding one brand new tired in the boot. I think that the previous owner forgot that it existed otherwise he would have kept it for himself.

As you can tell, we were all getting really excited about it.

Dad was also teaching me how to drive a manual, which was going much better than I thought it would, I was actually going really well. I was capable of driving myself easily, but it took more concentration than I was used to and I wasn’t really going to impress anyone any time soon.

In the middle of all this I got a job picking apricots, I had to be at work at 7:30 am, but it was just out of town so it didn’t really matter. I bought the car on Saturday, registered it on Monday and my first day was next Tuesday, that Sunday I’d slept over at a mate’s place because she was having a gaming night so I hadn’t really gotten much sleep. On top of that I’d stayed up till ten the night before talking to people on Facebook and I also wasn’t used to waking up so early because it was the holdidays. So I got in the car, still kind of sleepy and drove to work.

Or, better put I tried to, because I crashed the car at the intersection. I stopped for the red light and so did the guy across from me. I was going to turn right and he was going to go straight and when the light turned green I drove right into his way. Dad had to come tow Christine away and my boss told me to go home on my first day. The other car was fine because it was a huge 4WD with a massive bullbar and we only hit at a slow speed because we only just took off, however it still messed me up for the rest of the day, it’s something about car accidents that really unsettle you. I was also really sad for losing Christine so early in our relationship together.

So what’s the point of telling this story? Well, other than stopping people from wondering why I’ve suddenly stopped talking about my car (I imagine people obsess over what I talk about on Facebook) I also really want to tell people not to drive when they’re tired. I thought it’d be ok because it was the morning and I’ve been driving for a while but it really wasn’t. At the point it could have been anything and I wouldn’t have seen it, I didn’t even look at where the guy was, that’s how tired I was. It doesn’t matter how good you are at driving if you’re too notice what’s going on. DON’T DRIVE WHEN YOU’RE TIRED. I was lucky, but I could easily have had a much worse crash.

What I Want From a Smartphone


I’m going to put this out here to start, I pretty much don’t know anything about smartphones. I want a smartphone, and in Tom’s Perfect World, these are the things that it can do. So in no particular order, here is my wishlist.

I am a uni student. So I don’t exactly have a heap of money to throw around the place. As such, I don’t want a phone on a plan that’ll charge me a heap of money for internet access. It should be able to connect to wireless networks and use that. From there I should be able to do all sorts of things to use bandwidth to contact people.

It should have a headphone jack. A normal headphone jack. You think this would be a given but my last  (only) phone, the Samsung A411 did NOT have a standard jack so only the special headphones would work. Funny story I was talking to someone once using these, the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, cool! I found a button on my headphones! I wonder what it does.
Her: It probably disconnec- *call disconnected* -ts the call.
*Tom calls again*
Me: Guess what! It disconnects the call!

Anouther, more sci-fi application is think it’d be cool to be able to use the phone as a sort of remote control of everything in my life. For instance, I want to be able to connect my computer to my TV to watch shows on my computer. Then I want to be able to wirelessly access my computer from my phone and choose what movie I want to watch. What would be more cool is if everything in my hypothetical house has some sort of electronic control, so I could turn lights, tv, microwave, whatever on and off. A practical application of this would be pressing one button on the phone that turns everything off when I leave the house. This could maybe be achieved by installing something on all the powerpoints that can receive signals.

To be honest, I don’t really care about watching movies on a phone, the screen would be all small and if I was in a situation like that I’d prefer to read a book… and listen to some music off of my smartphone. Good music capacity is something that I DO want, video is something I DON’T care about.

It’s also be awesome to have some cool programmer goodies. The ability to be able to make apps and run them on this smart phone would be awesome. As would the ability to get to some kind of command  line/terminal. I’m not certain what I’d use it for, but I think it’d be pretty cool.

So there you go, this is my wishlist. Are these things stupid and impossible? Or are then obviously standard with every phone? I’m probably going to regret doing zero research on this, but I still want to here what you guys have to say about this.