Saturday, December 5, 2015

Red in 'Temple of Doom' - Part One - Roller

Indiana Jones observes an underground ritual sacrifice.

     Anyone familiar with this Indiana Jones sequel will likely remember it for the parts in the cave under the temple, with blood rituals, magic doll-poking, and human sacrifice—even a man’s heart being pulled bare-handed from his chest by a cult leader. Roger Ebert called Temple of Doom “one of the greatest Bruised Forearm Movies ever made […] That’s the kind of movie where your date is always grabbing your forearm in a viselike grip, as unbearable excitement unfolds on the screen.” While this is definitely true (the fast-paced mix of action and shock value make this movie one hell-of-a-great Saturday morning couch movie), the film is also a testament to skillful art direction; everything designed and chosen to be shown within the frame of the camera (from costumes, set design, and lighting) ends up being very important in augmenting The Temple of Doom’s script for the screen. I’ll be breaking down the first 3 minutes of Temple and its intentional use of red, a color that ends up being just as important a character as Indiana Jones himself.

     The opening credit sequence wastes no time before filling the screen with red. A door-sized dragon mouth glows and smokes on the stage of a cocktail lounge, the music swells and falls and then out walks Kate Capshaw. She briefly poses for the title card before she begins to sing and dance to the song, "Anything Goes." All the lyrics are in Mandarin except for the song's title phrase. This idea that "anything goes," quickly becomes an established theme that plays throughout the entire film. Many things about to happen to the characters in the next two hours of the movie are absurd and impossible and hard to believe. For this reason, the creators of the film give us a rule upfront: red is in charge, and when red is around, "anything goes."  

     Our biggest clue to the rule is the dragon. It's no coincidence that its mouth is cave-like; it feel ominous and mysterious because we can't see what's inside through the smoke and curtains. But what I find to be the most interesting aspect of the "dragon-cave," is it's mysterious spacial properties. After singing a verse or so, Capshaw walks back into the dragon's mouth and the song continues on; the shot fades from red to 30 or so tap dancers, all positioned on sets of stairs that look like larger versions of the steps sitting outside of the "cave," on either side of the dragon. The room that is transitioned to is enormous, and seemingly out of view from the audience that Capshaw was performing for. Beyond the size of the room, there are several other strange aspects to the tap dancing number:

  • A sparkling filter frames every shot of the silver-clad dancers, and lasts until Capshaw runs back out of the dragon, back into the lounge. 
  • At minute mark 2:13 (in the previous video above) the dancers line up and fall into the splits in an elegant fashion, then, the camera cuts to a shot of them performing the same action, but this time it is shown in reverse and from a slightly higher angle; the dancers appear to perform a completely impossible action in the way that they rise from the floor. 
  • Red sashes are pulled from jackets (looking like and emulating magicians), and then one shot later they've become "magically" larger (the size of gigantic blankets) and then they immediately transform into one enormous, long, train of red that Capshaw holds onto as she runs from the room.
  • Capshaw appears out of seemingly nowhere to perform this act, and so does the ramp which she's running down.    

    When she exits the mouth now for the second time, we get a better of a view of the stage and the room it's in; the space behind the dragon is tiny and limited. The whole number was completely impossible. But this is exactly what is intended my the film makers, and it's a useful metaphor for the rest of the movie. Red is the house for possibility; crazy, impossible things will happen when ever it's around. For the rest of the film, red will act like fate rolling the dice.  

     The song ends, Capshaw and the other dancers run from the room, and then in walks Indiana Jones, dressed like James Bond. Deadly situations with unknown outcomes will soon bombard him and his friends, even before they leave the lounge.The dragon's mouth is looming in the background, and our hero is marked over his heart with the color red. The stage is set, and the bright bloody fateful color red will direct his path to the place where "anything goes."

(Stay tuned for my break-down of the opening scene's second half in Part Two of my review.)


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Red Roses

Red Roses

            Giving flowers as an act of kindness has been around for many years, but by giving roses, and depending on the color, can convey many different messages.
Giving a pink rose can signify appreciation, a white rose represents marriage or new beginnings, orange can suggest enthusiasm or passion, and yellow can show friendship and good health ( But what about roses and the color red that has such great significance? 
            Red is a fierce and powerful color; it is a color of extremes. Red can signify a large range of things varying from anger, violence, danger and adventure, all the way to seduction, and passionate love. A red rose is given to someone you want to show love and passion towards, a person who has shown courage, or to those you have great respect for (

           Another message that can be conveyed through roses is the quantity of roses that you give to a person can serve as a different meaning. One single rose represents love, two red roses tied together symbolize an engagement, a dozen roses shows gratitude, 25 shows congratulations, and 50 roses represent unconditional love. To be a little more tedious, along with quantity, the shade of red that a rose has can be of meaning also. Bright red symbolizes love, burgundy means unconscious love, and dark crimson is used to show mourning (

When I think of a red rose, I instantly think of a wonderful romantic love, which is why I thought it would be interesting to look into the background of the thorns on the stem. This lead me to the famous proverb, “Every rose has its thorn.” This wise saying is commonly used to teach an important fact about human nature- that nobody is perfect. Even a red rose that is beautiful and signifies deep love also has its ups and downs. The red rose represents such an important part of life-love. Another saying that is less commonly used, but I found interesting is, “He who wants a rose must respect it.” When relating this to a red rose, this can teach us that all relationships have imperfections, but one can only have a healthy relationship with each other if each person respects the others differences and flaws (

           A red rose is a universal symbol for love and romanticism. So now that you know so much about roses and the meaning behind their colors and quantities, go out and buy some red roses for your significant other. I can almost guarantee you can never go wrong there!

Works Cited

"Rose Color Meanings: Choose the Right Color for Your Message." ProFlowers Blog. 22 Aug. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. <>.

"Red." Red. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <>.

"Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Roses., 2015. Web. <>.

Monday, November 30, 2015

12/2 Riddick: The Blank Page

I hear a ringing outside. The big black hands indicate that it is now 6:00 P.M.

A blank page can be one of the most daunting things to a young writer, especially when accompanied by a harsh deadline, a high standard, and a spinning clock. The intensity of any situation sets the stage for the insecurity of another, and such an insecurity often creates the parameters for intensity to arise. Most of the time, however, this blank page is a poltergeist. A false specter impersonating a demon who deals in doubts. But who’s the impersonator?

Aside from being a pitless abyss of black mental darkness, Writer’s Block is a term referring to an immaterial condition where the afflicted individual struggles to produce creative ideas or generate active motivation for extended periods of time, sometimes lasting for years on end. First described in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler, the malady has left a recorded impact on the lives of many notable artists (writers, cartoonists, singers), including Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, and the well-known rapper Eminem.

The obvious nature of what fails to be recognized is that, in all literal reality, this blank page is nothing. It’s no page at all. Like a point on a graph, it’s nothing until it moves, and it doesn’t matter unless it’s selected to matter. It’s always present and it’s never present. A blank page is a fake obstacle. Writer’s block is a made-up condition. These words are bogus metaphors.

And that’s what makes anxiety such a dick.

These fits of disparaging self-deprecation come in waves that can be triggered by anything. Whether it be a tragic event, inexplicable depression, the premature expiration of inspiration, or the simple pressure of social expectations (dastardly deadlines), this artistic arm-twisting can destroy a person’s entire life, because it isn’t just limited to the arena of expression. It’s a black, endless chasm. Like an unpredictable anxiety attack, it can seize anybody, at any time, for any reason.

For some, that just means a skipped homework assignment or a flaccid penis at the least convenient of times. For others, notwithstanding, it can mean hospitalization.

start at 3:25 and listen to the end for a glimpse into what it's like to suffer an anxiety attack

Or suicide.

As Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. (the civil rights legend who stood next to MLK, Jr. on a balcony during the night of his assassination) spoke to a collection of students at the UC African American Cultural and Resource Center just a few weeks ago, “the only thing worse than oppression, is adjusting to it.” If I may draw an incommodious comparison, I do believe that the only thing worse than a blank page, is black ink (or, in 2015, black pixels).

Bromides filled to the brim with black, thoughtless rifts of bullshit. Fluff, as some high school teachers called it. This is an analogy.

To project anything over 100 words solely discussing the antiquities and platitudes of some recycled liberal concept, 30 minutes before a due-date, would be an utter misuse of time, and a disrespectful waste of any platform. Giving up is not staring at a blank page or screen for hours on end, hoping that God tosses you an idea, until an assignment is late. That’s just life. Giving up is throwing down the creative baton to be picked up by an abused clock, puking up a pressurized mess of little black letters which say absolutely nothing, and waving an unoriginal, white flag in concession to the egotistical, anxious brain.

Of course, it’s been suggested that writer’s block is more than just a mentality. Under duress, according to Rosanne Bane’s The Writer’s Brain, a human brain is said to “shift control from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system,” where many instinctual responses and few creative ones are processed. But where does that duress stem from?

Who’s the real impersonator?

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, an often-context-less excerpt from Frederick Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech (March 4, 1933), is something that should give all of us the heebie jeebies.

I see blank pages everywhere. We’ll all encounter millions before we die, each one equally as non-existent and detrimental as the rest. We see them every time we speak publicly, or stay sober through an all-white drinking party, or put into question a skill we know we have, or flirt with the unfounded possibility that we’ve got a rare disease, or dwell on a past regret, or even feel guilt for being ourselves.

I hear another ringing outside, except this one tells me it’s 7:00 P.M. An hour ago, I was looking into the eyes of another blank page.

As a person living with anxiety, these blank pages aren’t new to me. I overcame this facade of a mountain beast in the same way I kill them all. Not with an overload of black ink/pixels that crowd-pleases and inadvertently silences the rawness of my eccentricity. I refuse to give this world what it wants from me, and I’m not going to write what’s easy to read. I don’t say the polite thing, or the comfortable thing. I say the Nick Riddick thing, because that’s the most I could ever hope to do.

So, the next time you get writer’s block, instead of a cop out, try a free write and check out Lawrence J. Oliver, Jr.


12/2 Hulsether- Black Panther Party

We Want Freedom. We Want Power to Determine

 The Destiny of Our Black Community.

 The Black Panther Party (BPP), a black extremist group founded in Oakland, California, is known for advocating the use of violence and guerilla tactics to overthrow the US government. The group was founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seal. The panthers practiced militant self-defense for minorities against the government (Marxists). The Black Panther Party was the first group to actively and militantly fight for ethnic and working class emancipation—a party whose agenda was the establishment of a real economic, political and social system among all genders and races.
   All power to the people.

 Much of the party’s practices and theories came from Malcom X (Marxists). Malcom had represented a militant revolutionary as well as a role model for the party. The party saw him as someone who sought to bring about positive social services, something the BPP would take to new levels. In the same month the party’s official news organ went into distribution, the party marched on the California state capitol, fully armed, in protest of the state’s attempt to outlaw carrying loaded weapons. This early act of political repression sparked the fires to the resistance movements in the US. This soon initiated new Panther chapters of the party to arise outside of the state.  In October 1967, Huey Newton, one of the party’s founders, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and 1st degree murder of an Oakland police officer. This only made Newton a revolutionary icon in the eyes of the party. The Party’s outrage caused 3 years of rallies and protests to “Free Huey” and finally he was released on August 5th, 1970 (PBS). “That was true power of the people—the freed me. I was just sittin’ up in my 5x7 cell, up in my 5x7 hell, up there on the 10th floor of the Alameda County jail.” –Huey Newton.

Although the party was relieved to have their leader back after 3 years in prison, it came with a new problem. The party focused on their communist-like state. The people freed Huey because they expected him to free all of them. The true power of the people lies in freeing yourself, but they can’t free themselves because people always have to create a leader and that leader has to be everything the people want and everything the people can’t be.

But the leader will fail.

The leader is just a human and will fail. And when the leader fails, the whole concept of leadership fails and then it becomes a matter of contempt (PBS).

 Even though the party members were willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives, to fight for equality in all matter, the party came with its’ own set of rules…
A set of  26 rules, 8 points of attention, 3 main rules of discipline and a pledge for kids to abide by.  A commitment more than 2,000 members were willing to follow until the party dissolved in 1982.


Works Cited:


Hammann 12/2 - Divergent

Update: I made some changes to this post, mostly in the form of additions, for clarity's sake.

Book cover & movie poster.

Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent centers itself on a female protagonist, Beatrice (“Tris”) Prior, who abandons her family and their mundane, unbearably selfless lifestyle to live with strangers who teach her healthy selfishness, how to fight, and how to conquer her worst fears. Oh, and she has a secret that she can’t tell anyone, because if the government finds out, it’s game over for her.

It sounds amazing – who wouldn’t want to read this?!

The very first inkling the reader gets of Tris’ character is that she is unhappy with her family of origin; she describes quiet mornings where her brother sets the table, her father reads, and her mother hums while she cleans, and says, “it is on these mornings that I feel guiltiest for wanting to leave them” (Roth 3). Their city’s population is comprised of five “factions,” and Tris belongs to the Abnegation faction, whose “thing” is selflessness, embodied by their plain gray clothes and their uniform, identical housing blocks.

And Tris? Is not selfless. She envies her brother how easily he stops to help people without thinking, and she doesn’t know how to explain to him that her instincts are not like his, or like those of their parents. She thinks to herself, “I am not sure I can live this life of obligation any longer. I am not good enough” (Roth 35).

Her problem, though, is that she doesn’t know what other faction she could possibly belong in – she stares wistfully at one of them, the militant Dauntless faction, and says, “My father calls the Dauntless ‘hellions.’ They are pierced, tattooed, and black-clothed.” (Roth 7); she feels like she’s too weak to fit in with the Dauntless. She knows that her brother will choose to stay in Abnegation, and she wishes she knew where belongs, too.

But when she takes a so-called aptitude test that’s supposed to tell her which faction she belongs in, Dauntless registers as one of her results. Her test administrator, Tori, tells her that people who get inconclusive test results are called “Divergent,” and that because Tris is Divergent, she needs to hide the fact of it, because it’s dangerous.

This is where the story starts to get confusing; she doesn’t elaborate, even a little bit, because… the plot isn’t ready for her to, I guess? If she was confident enough that they weren’t being watched that she decided to tell Tris that she is Divergent and that Divergence is dangerous, well, it doesn’t make sense that she wouldn’t give the kid some idea of what she’s up against.

But why even have the aptitude tests in the first place if everyone has the right to choose what faction they want to go into anyway? Not to mention that it’s a very simple test where your entire fate can come down to a block of cheese and a knife, which doesn’t make sense (but it is sort of hilarious to think about because it doesn't make sense). Since Tris can’t mingle with non-Abnegation faction members much, this is the clumsy way she has to choose. Because exposition. Or something.

When Tris goes to the annual Choosing Ceremony, where every sixteen-year-old chooses to either stay with their faction and their family or to leave them for another, she chooses to leave. She chooses Dauntless. “I open my eyes and thrust my arm out … I shift my hand forward and my blood sizzles on the coals. I am selfish. I am brave.” (Roth 47).

I won’t lie – this is a great moment, but I’d say the same for any female protagonist who makes the realization that she isn’t where she wants to be, and decides, “to hell with it, I’ll do what I want.”

From then on Tris is introduced to a new faction where she sees an unstable leadership, one where the good ideals in Dauntless struggle against the ruthless ones. She meets friends and enemies and learns how to work things to her advantage, even if she has to appear weak when she doesn’t want to. She finds herself wanting to make the faction what she feels it should be, even though as an initiate, she doesn’t have the power to do so.

The red-glowing coals and black as the signature color of Dauntless, with fire as its faction emblem, allows for connotations of the whole "rebirth by fire" thing that lots of fantasy writers love, though this is more of a dystopian sci-fi setting. Who doesn't love black and red together? The base of the Dauntless faction is implied to be underground, with only dim lighting serving as a guide, but Tris eventually gets used to the darkness, and more or less invites it into herself in a more symbolic way by learning to let go of her Abnegation-ness and become a little more ruthless.

Tris gets the Dauntless symbol as a tattoo, because the Dauntless are all about tattoos. (I can't blame her though.)

Which would all be fine, but there’s just one problem: the Dauntless method of training these kids is to throw them in a ring and have them fight until they can’t, which seems like a terrible way to train soldiers – one of Tris’ instructors even acknowledges that it wasn’t always that way, and there’s a sense among the characters of “it is what it is,” but that doesn’t changed the fact that they’re forced into a competitive environment that makes no sense.

Oh, yeah, and there’s like twelve or so people in Tris’ initiate group, and you’d think more people than that would transfer into this faction, even if they have to split up the different groups to make them easier to manage. Dauntless is one of five factions that populate Chicago, so I can only assume the non-transfer initiate group is much, much larger. But there’s only one woman mentioned to be handling it, so I don’t know. (Judging by Tris’ description of the faction as a whole, it’s big enough for plenty of people.)

They get, like, one day of learning punches and kicks, which isn’t really enough to learn how to fight effectively, but it is enough to make a reader question who even decided these rules were a good idea (spoilers: it’s the ruthless Dauntless leader whose mannerisms scream “I’m an antagonist,” not that that’s a bad thing in and of itself). I have problems with the way this book acts like having these kids whale on each other for days at a time and throw knives around somehow turns them into badasses when the crueler of the two instructors is the guy running the show, and he apparently doesn’t know what he’s doing.

The other instructor, Four, kinda just… goes along with it. (Does this guy have no authority at all? I know he turned down a faction leadership position, but if he knows how to teach these idiots properly, then he should be doing it.)

And as it turns out, that lady Tori who administered Tris’ aptitude test is Dauntless (how convenient). When Tris goes to Tori, though, and tries to ask her what it means to be Divergent, Tori doesn’t say anything that she hasn’t told Tris already, other than that her own brother was Divergent and was killed because of it. Then she shoos Tris away, making the whole scene sort of pointless. Thanks, Tori.

Among other things, Tris falls in love with Four later, like that’s not weird – they’re not even like, “we shouldn’t be doing this.” His reaction is just “well, I wouldn’t want everyone to think I’m showing you favoritism” even though he totally is, ‘cause he spends way more time with her than the other initiates, and even lets her have an early go at the fear landscape simulator thing (their final exam).

The romance subplot is tiresome and distracting, as romantic subplots tend to be – it didn’t have to be, but it is, and I can’t really get over the “student and her instructor are in love” thing. I know there’s only a two-year age difference between them, but the unequal power dynamics in their relationship go without much commentary, which seems kind of like an important thing to touch on.

I really wanted to like Tris, reading this book. It’s not even that her narration is annoying, even if it does sound awkward and stilted at times, like she’s a robot for a few seconds at a time occasionally. Most of her choices are things I can get behind, and the very premise of the book is exactly the kind of thing I’d want to read. It’s just that the execution is not that great, and it’s not the protagonist’s fault.

It feels like the story Roth wanted to write is buried somewhere in this book, but it got lost beneath the clumsy writing and poorly-thought-out logistics of the story and setting/worldbuilding in general. She could have used black/darkness as a theme in the Dauntless faction very well, but the time the book could have spent taking care of that was instead wasted on relationship drama and things that seem less important than, I don't know, the fact that the protagonist has to avoid being found out by the government? (But wait, I thought the government was controlled by the Abnegation, so I guess she's really just afraid of the Erudite, who really want to control the city.) The book's approach to its own premise was frustratingly, almost heartbreakingly inefficient.

The movies aren't much better about the plot, but they have good music, and the main actress is stunning.
No, I'm serious, they're actually almost enjoyable.

Works Cited

Roth, Veronica. Divergent. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2011. Print.