Jupiter Ascending – final review

I saw Jupiter Ascending again in theaters, this time up close on the ULTRA screen.  Sitting up close makes it a bad movie.  You lose the big picture.  I sort of got to experience the movie how others might see it: a big blurry mess.

On second viewing, I see how the movie made a big mistake, and how the confusion I talked about in my previous post was created. A movie is a story, and this story lacked something called a “narrative imperative”, meaning the core of the story lacks a means from moving naturally from one scene to the next. Normally this is accomplished by the imperatives and motivations of the main character and her story, but in the case of Jupiter Ascending, she has no story. She has no ambitions. She’s Cinderella without a ball to go to. This is normal for a character piece, where the story *is* the character, and doesn’t need to go anywhere. But in an action movie, that’s bad. You need a story that moves.

The writers realize this and so invent a three ancillary characters to push the story along. In Jupiter’s case, there is the bounty hunters, the space cops (Aegis), and the Mercenary, Stinger. These three characters function to get Jupiter to meet all three Abrasax family members. So far so good. The problem starts when the writers made these ancillary characters more interesting than the main character, Jupiter. Jupiter doesn’t have a backstory. She doesn’t look interesting. All these ancillary characters looked phenomenal, blue-haired Anime girl, personal invisible hovercrafts, blue-skinned guys, cool sonic guns, the Aegis with its aliens and chain of command, and Stinger, ex-marshal who lost his wings. So right away you get the sense they are important when they’re really not.

Still not a deal-breaker. Every character is explainable, you just need an introduction. The more interesting or complex the character, the longer the introduction. They introduced Stinger the proper way, name, emotions or motivation, even a title. Stinger was the retired ex-commanding officer. Audiences got that.

But the other two characters, the blue-skinned bounty hunters and the Aegis, the writers completely failed in their introduction. There were no names, no sense of backstory, and no motivations. They tried, but it was in exposition and way earlier in the movie. There was no easy way to link what they were talking about with the actual characters once you see them. Even if you did, there was no emotional reason to care. The introduction failed.

So when the characters started affecting the plot, you get confused. Something feels wrong. They all tried to kidnap Jupiter, and they all first appeared at the same time. So we’ve got several very detailed, interesting characters who were not properly introduced, all manipulating the action and the plot all at the same time. To further complicate things, they all were betraying the person who originally hired them. It was minor, but to audiences who were desperately trying to figure out what these characters’ motivations were, the added complication was just too much. It was unnecessary. It was too ambitious.

I see more clearly that the movie was more of a character piece, not a story. The character, however, was NOT the main character, Jupiter. The character was the world. The fantastic, futuristic, gorgeous world, and the people who ran it, mainly the Abrasax family. I thought at first maybe the movie was about the three members of the Abrasax family, since each one was very unique, but upon thought I see that they were all the same. They all wanted the same thing. They all wanted Earth, they all wanted Jupiter, and they all wanted to screw up each other. So I think they were all just three parts of one single character.

Jupiter was just the vessel from which the characters were displayed. The writers couldn’t just *show* you the world. So they invented a character, Jupiter, to go from place to place and have things happen to her and by doing so show you the world. To get Jupiter from place to place they invented the 3 ancillary characters, one for each member of the Abrasax family, namely Stinger, The Aegis, and the unnamed bounty hunters. And then they made those ancillary characters too interesting and botched their introductions.

It would have been such an easy fix, too. All they needed was for Jupiter to ask “Who are these people giving us a ride?” while they were first on board the ship and *then* Caine should have explained that they were Aegis, basically space cops, upholding the laws and protecting the royalty. Not while they were walking around on Earth.

Same with the bounty hunters. All they needed was Jupiter (or Caine, asking Stinger, or vice versa) to say “Who are these people with guns surrounding the house?”
“Oh they seem to be bounty hunters, trying to kidnap you and sell or trade you off for profit. I ran into them earlier outside the fertility clinic. Somehow they found out there was untitled royalty on Earth and are after you. Or maybe someone hired them. Stay away from them.”

That’s all it took to do a proper introduction. Instead they neglected it, because they thought they were unimportant. Sorry writers, its not whether *you* think they are important, its whether the *audience* thinks they are important. You made them look cool and had all these cool gadgets and details so the audience thought they were important.

In the final estimation, a movie is just a story. Jupiter Ascending did not have much of a story. Aliens coming to conquer the earth, blah blah, it’s that movie Independence Day all over again. Stories have been built on less. It still could have been good. But then the rest of the story should have been how to save earth. It needed to hint how that was going to happen, foreshadows and conflict, how the characters motivations change and adapt to the exigencies created by this imperative. Instead the story strayed. It became just a vessel for the Wachowskis to show off this fantabulous world they created with its wacky elephant pilots and tri-sexual (men, women, robots) bureaucracy and reptile-humans that descended from the dinosaurs of earth and amazing technology and oh yeah its insane royalty.

Only at the very very end did they move the focus away from Milo Kunis and all the visuals to the heart of the matter – The Story. Saving her family, saving earth. She throws down and shatters the document signing away her claim to the earth, and only at *that* moment, only then did the story really begin. They should have done that scene, that showdown between her and the bad guy, earlier. They could have done it again at the end if they wanted. But until that choice, that struggle, that motivation, and the imperative that runs a story, becomes clear, there is no story.

Final Grade: B+

Jupiter Ascending: A defense

I’m going to do this review a little differently because there are so many bad reviews out there, bad reviews about a movie I thought I would hate and instead loved.  Just google “Jupiter Ascending Reviews” and the entire page will scream at you how Jupiter is a colossal mess.  This is not abnormal for good films, but what made Jupiter a little different was that I could not find any good reviews.  Not a one.  Even rottentomatoes.com, which consistently over-rates movies, gave it a 22%.  So I figure no review I write could possibly succeed without addressing all the negative reviews.

 

I first need to say that this is a space shooter.  If you don’t like action movies with guns, or sci-fi, you won’t like Jupiter.  I get that.  Completely reasonable.  What’s not reasonable is Rolling Stone calling Jupiter an ‘unholy mess’ or a ‘shambling fiasco’.  Ebert calls it ‘bland’ and ‘listless’.  NYTimes calls it ‘mildewy’ and says there were no believable human emotions.  Chicago times called it the worst movie of 2015.  More comments like ‘tired, reused visuals’ or ‘boring music’ make me think these people were not watching the same movie I did.  And so, to all those reviewers who were watching and asked themselves ‘what is happening right now?’, this is for you.

How could you not follow the plot?  Were you not listening when they explained the plot five different ways?  When she straight-up asked ‘why are they after me?’  How her genes matched, how they have an almost spiritual relationship with royalty, how she is heir to half the galaxy, how she looks just like the old queen – did you really miss ALL those explanations?   These explanations weren’t even convoluted.   They were just a few simple bits of exposition given their own brief scenes after a firefight or a rescue.  The writers went out of their way to hold your hand and if you still don’t understand anyone’s motivation, that’s your fault.

Yes, I myself don’t know what every character on the screen was doing.  There were many characters, but most were minor.  I missed the explanation for one or two while I was in the bathroom – but even having missed their introduction, I can still extrapolate.  That small ship that picked up Caine from floating around in space?  At first I was like ‘that is too convenient’ but then I realized they were his ex-space cop friends and knew Caine was in trouble and they were looking for him.  They appeared earlier and had just stuck around.  Not complicated.  And that was the only thing I didn’t understand.  Minor.

Too much was happening?  Too much not explained?  It’s a sci-fi movie.  They have unlimited technology.  They can virtually walk from planet to planet, learn anything instantly with that chip in their neck, create holographic worlds with a flick of their hand.  That little box he kicked out into space with him?  That was the spacesuit.  No, I know it didn’t look like a spacesuit.  Did it need to, for you to understand it molecularly rearranged itself around him when he pushed the button?  It was a new concept for me too, but instead of complaining how it was confusing I was awed by the genius of the simplicity and the smooth on-screen execution.  Give that a try.  And go watch a few episodes of Dr. Who.

You couldn’t follow the plot?  There were only 3 main characters:  The good girl, Jupiter, the good guy, Caine and the bad guy (and family).  Sean Penn?  Friend of good guy.  Russian people calling good girl on cell phone trying to get her to do strange things?  Family.  Creepy guy who never blinks, creepy girl always talking about immortality, charming prince who wants to marry good girl, weird talking dinosaurs?  All bad guy and family.  Blue-skinned guy and blue-haired girl shooting at Caine?  People hired by bad guy.  What more do you need?  Where was it complicated?  Was it the fifty different types of aliens?  Go watch star wars again and don’t look at the main characters.  Go watch any Sci-fi.

All the chasing and shooting and flying and backgrounds blowing up was loud and trashy and tasteless and boring?  WRONG.  It was freaking awesome.  He’s got roller-blade hover boots.  He’s got an arsenal built into his body.  He’s impossible to kill.  How would *you* demonstrate those things?  I’d have a lot of flying and chasing and shooting and blowing things up in the background.  Have you seen superman?  It’s the same as superman but with more guns.  Do you not like superman or cool sci-fi guns?  Oh, you like them?  Then don’t trash the movie because they had the brilliant idea to combine the two.

Boring music?  Unappealing visuals?  What the !@%* are you talking about?  The music was typical star wars and star trek music, you’re right, but maybe you aren’t aware that star wars and star trek music is FREAKING AWESOME.  Go watch the movie again.  Go watch the scene where our heroine Jupiter meets the sister of the royal family.  Where she explains Jupter looks like her mother.  Jupiter asks about her mother.  At that point, LISTEN.  Listen to the musical tone slowly turn minor, quieter, and the moment the sister says ‘My mother and I did not really get along’, the music at that point introduces a bell. A lone, quiet, tolling of a bell in the background.  With that single musical note from a single bell, the audience suddenly realizes that this sister knows who killed her mother, maybe even did it herself.  It’s not in the dialogue.  It’s not in the face expressions or the acting.  That information is in the music.

Unappealing visuals?  Really?  Really?!  Show me one moment of boring in the entire movie.  ONE. I dare you.  Show me a single freaking wall in the background that isn’t elaborately etched or textured.  There isn’t any.  The amount of care and detail poured into every single shot, even as they are zipping around in exploding hovercraft, ESPECIALLY as they are zipping around in exploding hovercraft, was exquisite.  It rivaled the detail put into Lord of the Rings.  It was even better, because it had the advantage of using CGI.  Did you notice that when Caine brought up his shield it had veins in it?  It was alive with electricity.  Or the little virtual console in his glove that he used to control the portals he had placed in the floors?  The buttons at his fingertips weren’t just generic glowing green buttons.  They had little virtual circuit boards leading to them.  I noticed them (and thought “Ridiculous!  Still using silicon-based technology in the billionth century?”  :))  I appreciated it because it was visually appealing and oh yeah INCREDIBLY DETAILED.  If you didn’t see anything visually appealing the entire movie then you had your eyes closed.

The ships appear to be made of gold and glass.  They are gorgeous.  They are art.  Did you notice there are no joints on any of the robots?  No wires, no hoses, nothing ‘attaching’ anything to anything else?  Yet moved and flowed as if there were real, solid, joints?  They weren’t hovering like the hover effects in Star Wars.  They were rock solid, attached as if by steel but without all the friction.  Don’t you realize that that sort of visual is a unique, original creation in the history of Sci-fi?  Every other ‘force field attached’ object has always had something to let the audience know ‘this is a force-field attached object’.  Something glowy or showy or gaudy.  Remember the hovercrafts in star wars?  They slowly bob up and down, floating.  They recoil as you jump into them.  Did you ever think how stupid that is?  Master of gravity and you can’t make something that sits still?  Star Wars is afraid of having its technology being too subtle.  Jupiter Ascending has no fear of that.  Clear, plain, subtle negative space to emphasize how much technology was taking place in those gaps.

The technology in Jupiter Ascending was beautiful.  It made me cry.  The shimmering, peaceful transport beams ascending into the night sky to an invisible ship floating above the Sears Tower.  The heavenly portals the ships create.  The personal hovercraft of kick-ass ridden by the blue-haired anime chick that turns invisible so quietly and slowly it is a character in itself.  Every ship, every robot, even the gay C3po-style personal assistant with his fat metal pistons where his ears should be that twitched in and out to show his emotions, was beautiful.

The acting and emotion was bland and stilted?  Maybe.  Since when did we expect great acting from a sci-fi movie?  It was ten times better than the acting in Star Wars or Star Trek, a hundred times better than most action movies, and a thousand times better than Twilight.  I actually liked the acting.  Let me explain.  There’s one scene with Jupiter and Caine in the alley, after days of bureaucratic legalize claiming her title.  She’s officially royalty, and Caine, Channing Tatum, addresses her as “Your Majesty.  She leans in, and then there is a moment.  Caine does this thing with his jaw.  He wants her, but knows it’s wrong, and doesn’t particularly like himself, and still controls himself.  It’s pretty darn hard to pull off boy-scout sincerity, especially while playing a hired killer, but Channing Tatum does it.  Maybe where I saw honest respect and an internal struggle, you just saw bad acting.  That’s understandable.  But realize there might be a different interpretation.  It’s all about the jaw twitch.

Comparison to the bad acting of Natalie Portman as Princess Amidala in Star Wars is uncalled for.  I love Natalie Portman and I’ll be the first to say that was some horrible acting.  She’s ruler of a nation, meaning she’s got some back story, yet only manages to show one emotion?  That’s just bad.  Whereas Milo Kunis as Jupiter doesn’t have a back story and she manages to show at least three emotions.  :)

Also keep in mind she’s nothing.  She’s a poor serving wench suddenly become princess and thrust into intergalactic intrigue.   She’s Cinderella.  Does anyone expect good acting from Cinderella?  No, and I’d be worried if there was because she’s not a complex character.

Also keep in mind that editing changes things.  I had the sense they edited a lot of the emotional bits out of the movie.  Like, the whole wedding scene happened way too fast.  One scene he’s proposing and almost immediately they are standing at the altar?  That’s editing.  It didn’t really happen like that.  I assumed that days or weeks had gone by.  The same thing applies to character reactions.  Just because they edited out the reaction shots doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

Which brings me to the pacing.  Certain bits of the movie felt rushed, I’ll give you that.  That does *not* mean the Wachowski brothers did not know what they were doing, or that it makes the movie a sloppy mess.  If you compare it to other Hollywood movies, sure, I can see how it felt sloppy.  You don’t just rush into a wedding either in real life or in telling it.  So it’s understandable if you think the director made a mistake.  I did not.  I saw it as a deliberate choice.  The reason, in my opinion, is that they didn’t want the movie to be too long.  It easily could have been three hours long.  Five if Peter Jackson were directing it.  They didn’t want that.  So they edited.  They cut.  The other choice was to rewrite the story to make it simpler, so less happened, less action, less talking, less everything.  I felt the creators made an artistic choice to keep all the ideas, cut anything that wasn’t exciting or original and keep the movie to about two hours, and hope their viewers were intelligent enough to handle the rapid scene changes and understand there’s more going on that they didn’t see.  I’ve seen too many tedious movies, and so it’s refreshing to find a movie that is willing to err on the side of intelligence.

People who don’t like Jupiter Ascending don’t realize that the Wachowski brothers (sorry, siblings now!) are attempting to combine a lot of nerdy fanboy ideas into something legitimate.  You have to know the world of nerdy fanboy stuff to get this movie.  You have to know things like: Shooter Anime (yes it is its own genre), superheros (Caine was pretty original I thought, sorta a Wolverine with hover boots), a world of unlimited technology, the speed and techno soundtrack of first-person-shooters (Unreal Tournament!), the Protoss ships from StarCraft,  the detail of Lord of the Rings, the political machinations from fantasy books (I was reminded of the Reymond Feist books), slightly altered physics (Final Fantasy series), plus some funny characters from Star Wars and the lovable bureaucracy of the Harry Potter world, and all with a side of ‘cool’.   All these concepts in one live-action mix, and I think it’s a success.  So the Wachowskis probably never grew up.  So the movie is probably going to be a hit with fifteen-year old boys.  So what.  It doesn’t negate the beauty of the accomplishment.  And that’s just the big picture.  There were a lot of little artistic things I liked, like you never saw anyone die except those creepy spider-like ET things and the one evil talking dinosaur.  The one shot of them slowly rising up the teleporter the height of the Sears Towers took my breath away.  If you accept that Jupiter Ascending at least tried to blend all these strange, disparate elements into one original story, regardless of whether they actually did it, the mere attempt, combined with the fantastic visuals, makes this a great movie that I will be watching again in the theaters.

American Sniper

Lets get the meta-analysis out of the way. This is a war movie. Stop analyzing it. It’s a bunch of idealists with guns going to a foreign country, killing a lot of people, and then wondering why they don’t feel good. Like I said, a war movie. Lets move on.

It’s a good war movie. Undoubtedly the best one about the Iraq War. But does that make it a good movie? A movie, just like any story, is good because it tugs on your emotions. American Sniper does not tug, or snipe. It takes a machine gun and blasts them apart. There’s a lot of death, and blood splatters, and shock value, and slow-motion flag waving with a lone bugle playing in the background. You will cry. Maybe you like that. I didn’t. Crying is fine, emotional manipulation I accept, but when it’s done by killing a lot of Iraqis, there I have a problem. The mere fact this sort of movie is seen as entertainment, I find offensive. And yes, American Sniper is entertainment, or at least tried to be. It’s big budget Hollywood fluff. He doesn’t even have a cover on his scope. It’s absurd to the point of comedy.

I wanted to like it, I really did, but American Sniper is so full of shock value and horror and death it’s impossible to use critical analysis. As soon as you start thinking, any value disintegrates as into a sandstorm. There’s a scene where a Bad Guy uses a drill to kill a little kid. It’s awful. Bad Guys (capitol G) are swarming out of a van directly into enemy fire, and people in the audience started laughing. Laughing. At guys getting machine gunned down. Is this a video game? The mere fact that some people treat it as such negates any respect I might give it. Those same people cheered when the opposing enemy sniper died. Cheering. At death. They were probably thinking “America, Fuck Yeah!”. I was thinking “How do you make a 2,000 yrd shot in an approaching sandstorm?”

As for the Oscar nod, I don’t see it. The directing, that is, the technical aspects of telling a visual story, was atrocious. It was supposed to be a sniper duel. Instead its endless scenes of people running around yelling and blood spatters and soldiers with Predator comic book symbols on them. Now someone is dying in surgery. Then suddenly we are in America and she’s telling him he’s got something wrong with him. Telling. Not showing. It’s George W. Bush era propaganda, a war movie about what we want a war movie to be. Shock for subtlety. Ambushes for angles. No cleverness, or originality, or the things that an Oscar should be.

Yes, Bradley Cooper did a great job acting. But when he dramatically takes off his helmet front-and-camera-center in a war zone, or pulls out his satelite phone in the middle of a firefight and makes a tearful call to his wife, I don’t really care how good the acting is when what you’re doing is ridiculous. Yeah, there was one good scene at the end where he’s crying in a bar. It doesn’t make up for the banality of his character who honestly seems like a simpleton. To quote him when asked to explain his motivations: “God, Country, Family”. Give me a break.

Yes, the visuals were impressively realistic but A) this was Hollywood big budget meaning they just hired a thousand extras and rented out a real bombed-out city somewhere in the middle east and when you think about it that way its not so impressive and B) when you’re talking about blood spatters or a desert or a city in ruins, it doesn’t matter how realistic it is, it’s still terrible or tragic or uninteresting.

American Sniper would have been good if it hadn’t been about Chris Kyle. If it hadn’t pretended to be realistic. If it had just been about some fictional sniper having some fictional sniper duel in some fictional war, and everyone watching it took it as a blood-spattered horror movie, it would have been fine. I would have given it an A-. Instead, people confuse it with the real Chris Kyle who sounds like he was kind of psychotic. They confuse it with the immoral Iraqi War. They confuse two minutes of crying or staring blankly at the TV as Post-Traumatic Stress. And because of that, I have to hold this movie to a higher standard.

Grade: B-

Daximation official launch

Official Launch of my pet project, Daximation! (*lame noisemaker sound*). I signed up and put links to it on sports forums until I got tired. Check it out. (www.daximation.com, duh).

Consider this a beta version. I need/want beta testers and feedback. If you know any coaches feel free to spread the word to them.

Thank you from the Daximation Team (me)

Pretty dynamic webpage backgrounds

Ever since I wrote this post on dynamic backgrounds, I’ve been trying to accomplish the same thing with javascript, automatically, for a webpage.  It’s now possible thanks to a new css tag in town – blend-mode!  Firefox supports it, and Chrome does if you turn on experimental features.  Here’s pictures.

dynamicbackground2

dynamicbackground1

Here’s a fiddle: http://jsfiddle.net/bn8v5afa/1/

 

Here’s the code (I have got to find a better ‘show code in wordpress’ plugin


 
function dynamicbackground(repetitions){
 var repetitions = repetitions || 5;
 var thebody = document.getElementsByTagName("body")[0];
 var i;
 for(i=0;i<repetitions;i++){
 var randdeg = Math.round(Math.random() * 360);
 var randcolor = "#"+Math.random().toString(16).slice(2,8);
 //randcolor = "#f00";
 var randcolor2 = "#"+Math.random().toString(16).slice(2,8);
 randcolor2= "#fff"; //black
 //randcolor2= "#000"; //white
 var randstart = Math.round(Math.random()*30);
 var randend = Math.round(Math.random()*70) + 30;
 console.log(randdeg+", "+randcolor+", "+randstart+", "+randend);
 //create overlapping divs with blend mode 'difference'. looks really nice
 thebody.innerHTML += "<div class = 'generatedgradient' style='background-image:linear-gradient("+randdeg+"deg, "+randcolor2+" "+randstart+"%,"+randcolor+" "+randend+"%);'>&nbsp</div>";
 }
}

And a live page at: http://johnktejik.info/Portfolio/programming/blend3.html

Movie review time!

I’ve seen a movie most tuesdays this month.

Into The Woods:

Knowing nothing about this except weird people like it, I went into this movie with high expectations. Sadly, I was disappointed.

The acting was great, the story was interesting, the sets were beautiful, but a musical needs MUSIC. There wasn’t any. The songs were not really songs – as a friend put it, they were “sing-songy”. It was more chanting, not singing. The lyrics were more like poems full of two-word rhyming couplets. The instrumentals and melody were repetitious and darn near banal. I also felt the director didn’t have much inspiration – the songs took place on one set, the singers not moving. It had the feel of a broadway play, meaning it did not take advantage of the medium of film.

Halfway through the movie, there was a huge plot twist and most of the singing stopped and it became more like a typical movie. I’m curious to see if it is true to the broadway version. I will have to go see it when it plays at the Rhode in Kenosha in a few months.

Don’t get me wrong, none of it was bad, and if you’re a fan of musicals I recommend it, but with such big name actors and a large budget, I expected a lot better.

Grade: B

Wild

The book was in my estimation rated PG, maybe PG-13 for a brief sex scene, and was more about the Pacific Coast Trail than the character. In the movie, it’s rated ‘R’ and ‘wild’ refers to Reese Witherspoon’s life and story, which they made as crazy as possible. This is Reese Witherspoon like you’ve never seen her before. You’ll get to see Full Frontal Nudity Reese Witherspoon, Swearing-with-every-step Reese Witherspoon, Ripping-off-my-toenail Reese Witherspoon (Warning, its how the movie starts and it is graphic), Heroin-stoned Reese Witherspoon, and last but not least, Thrusting-Moaning, Back-alley-sex Reese Witherspoon. The Pacific Trail takes a back seat to the person. There’s some pretty scenery and a snake but this is a character piece, not a nature walk.

It’s worth seeing for one main reason – because its a gender piece, centered around her experiences with men, and what it’s like to be, to quote the hunter, a “pretty girl alone in the woods”. She screams and runs from caterpillars and snakes alike, but she’s never really afraid until she meets men. There’s several moments in the movie (that were not in the book FYI) that emphasize how scared she is of men. There’s nothing in the dialogue. The fear is communicated by body language and tone of voice. It’s subtly done. I appreciate the realism at the same time hating it. What’s she so scared of?

So there’s this guy with a bow stalking her, right? He’s crass, she’s terrified. But why? She’s pretty and a novelty and is his lack of manners really that scary? I appreciate that scene for showing me how making personal comments will be interpreted as a threat, but at the same time hating the guy for being so crude and the girl for being so afraid. Same with when the guy in the pickup truck gives her a ride to get some food. He comes across as bad, music cues and all – until he mentions his wife. At that point Reese Witherspoon visibly relaxes and the rest of the scene is friendly and calm. It’s accurate yet cringe-worthy. Even a less-dramatic scene where a Ranger brings her coffee and calls her pretty is laden with implications and debate, because she just ignores him! She ignores the nice guys and gives attention to the creepy ones.

Why is life like that? Why all the tension and fear and miscommunication? I tried to mention these concerns to both my sister and my friend Sarah and they didn’t seem to get where I was coming from. I felt sorry for the guys and they had no idea why.

Grade: A-

The Hobbit, Battle of the Five Armies:

Typical Peter Jackson/Lord of the Rings fare. Have you seen ‘The Two Towers’? It’s like that – one big battle – except smaller (dwarfs, you know). The atmosphere was grey and cold, and the amount of one-on-one battles were excessive. I realize they were trying to mix it up with extra characters, and supposedly some of them were based on other ‘lost tales’ written by JRR. Tolkein and published by his son, but point is, it was excessively long and violent. I want more Smaug and his silky voice, and less dwarfs!

Like the first Hobbit movie, this story could and should have been told in half the time. The Thorin going crazy bits were boring. The funny dwarfs were more or less absent. The most interesting character was the Regent’s servant, who wasn’t even part of the book. And sadly, my favorite scene in the entire book, the scene where Gandalf appears with a flash in the middle of the armies to stop the fight, was not included.

Grade: B-

Hunger Games 3, part 1, Mockingjay

Everyone’s seen this, so I’ll keep it brief. It’s okay. Jennifer Lawrence carries her weight, but unfortunately they didn’t give her much to do. It’s all wandering around battlefields and bunkers, listening. Typical Hollywood big-budget fluff. My biggest disappointment was that it did not copy the style of the book. The book was bad, but it at least tried something the movie did not – to be original.

Grade: B

Interstellar:

Already reviewed it. If you like sci-fi (or Mathew Mcconolly – he did good), its worth seeing because of some of the fantastic ideas like time warping near a black hole or a planet full of nothing but shallow water, or that totally kick-ass transforming robot – but beyond that, I don’t really recommend it.

Grade: C+

Introducing Daximation

With the end of soccer season, I have found myself with a lot of free time.  Well, I always had a lot of free time, but I occupied my mind with next practice, or game, or upcoming refereeing.  Physically I would just read (Demanding, I know  :)
But reading isn’t cutting it any more. So I decided to start a new project.  The goal was to animate my website (the one you are reading).   Researching various animation techniques led to javascripts built-in animation, and the canvas element.  So I decided to create an animation program.  Something simple.

Turns out canvas is great for drawing, but not so much for animation, as there is no ‘state’ of a canvas.  It cannot contain or keep track of what you’ve already drawn.  The only way to animate is laboriously erasing the screen and redrawing it each frame (yes I know thats what animation is but canvas did not have that functionality built in).

This led to reading about SVG.   SVG = Scalable Vector Graphic.  The standard has been implemented for at least ten years, and I remember reading about when it was introduced.  Even as a kid on my old windows 95 machine I tried loading a SVG on my website and it didn’t work.  But as of 2013, SVG is working on today’s browsers.  If you had firefox during that year (with automatic updates turned on), you saw the version numbers jump from 5 to 20.  Why all the major releases?  Some of them were for SVG.

Bottom line is, the new <svg> tag in HTML provides for a rich and flexible way to draw and animate (with the <animate> tag) right on a website.  It uses the inbuilt graphics chip on the motherboard (Finally) to provide smooth and interactive animations, something that was never possible before without the use of Flash.  But now, anything that you could make as a regular program can now be written in javascript and used online.  Google has realized this for a while now.  :)

And so, I created an SVG on a website.  I had code from my <canvas> attempt that let me draw shapes, and the logic was the same, so it was easy to copy that over to SVG.  A day or two of poking around with the <animate> and <animateTransform> tags (Another guide here) and I had some animation going.

The idea then occurred to use this to draw tactical diagrams for my soccer team.  I had looked for diagrams for doing Goal Kicks but they were scarce.  I downloaded a program that made tactical diagrams and thought “I can do better than this!”

Two weeks later I had something that might possibly pass as a sports-animation program.  My task was done.  Time to quit.  But… I still had heaps and heaps of free time.  So I kept going, now with the idea of creating a professional-looking piece of software that I could maybe possibly sell.  I wanted it online, but no one pays for software online.  So it would have to be free, and run by donations.  First step: get a domain name.

I was puzzling over possible names, each one more boring than the last, when for whatever reason my soccer team’s pre-game cheer sprung into my head:  “Dax em!”.  They came up with that on their own.  It sounds a little bit like ‘imagination’ or ‘animation’, and so my new title was born.  Daximation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: www.daximation.com

Right now its still in beta.  I don’t know how to make it look good.  I also just spent the last week trying to get it to work on Internet Explorer, eventually to abandon the attempt when I realized the most basic of basic javascript commands, innerHTML, was not implemented.  After hours of puzzling it through (using innerHTML is at the core of my code), I didn’t see an easy way around it so I just said ‘screw it’ and now if you access the site using internet explorer it will redirect you to download google chrome.  :)

I will be working on Daximation on and off as the mood strikes me.  I need to go back to pen and paper and draw something that looks good.  Right now it seems too crowded, too amateurish.

To Be Continued…..

End of soccer season musings – take nothing here seriously :)

It’s the end of the season at St. Joes.  I have bittersweet thoughts.  Bitter because it was the worst season of my career as a coach, with a 2-5-5 record and a dearth of goals.  I also spent too much time yelling for my comfort (Thanks Nico), and the sweetness of having my own team did not materialize.  Previous teams seemed very animated.  St. Joes just didn’t.

Then I realized I’m not very animated. The excitement wore off years ago.  Why was I doing this?  To score some goals?  Seeing some kids blossom?  It seems that can’t happen if I’m not super-excited.  If I’m treating this like a job, the kids are apathetic.

I think about these things every freaking night.  It’s the usual ‘whats the point’ we all go through.  I don’t mean to complain.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to coach.  Its  ‘something to do’.  Getting outside, running around a little, maybe a sense of importance from bossing kids around.  That’s something, right?

Sadly, I can’t stop my thoughts.  They get petulant.  I start feeling sorry for myself – my team isn’t athletic, the mores of the school inhibit ambition, or it’s the other coach’s fault.  I think “If only I had been able to coach them from the start” (I only had four complete practice sessions of my own – what can anyone do during four practices?), or if I had been given more authority, or if Coach Berman hadn’t done all those lines and laps, my team would have run harder.

But aren’t those just excuses?  The bottom line is, if I were a good coach, I would have made those four sessions count, I could motivate them, I should have won dammit!  In all my years coaching KASL I only had 2 losing seasons, and both were very close to winning seasons – a difference of one goal.  Yes, one game, one goal.  Both years.  And now I get a ‘real’ team (a high school team) and I seemingly fail.  What happened?  What went wrong?  Are the kids just that bad?  Did I overestimate my abilities?  Am I not cut out for ‘the big leagues’?  Or is it my or Dave Berman’s coaching?

These questions keep me up all night.  I thought about it every day during the season, at every game, every practice where I had a moment free for introspection, and I’m still thinking about it.  I can’t figure it out, and it’s driving me nuts.  Maybe this isn’t healthy.  Maybe I should stick to basic drills, technique, stop pushing, stop trying so hard.

At this point in this post I’m just recording my thoughts.

Now a new chain of thoughts – Am I arrogant for thinking I can turn any team into a winning one?  Am I crazy for thinking about this so much?  Am I stupid for thinking there is an answer?  How do other people deal with these questions?  Do they even deal with them?  Other coaches I observe don’t seem to beat themselves up.  If anything they seem more arrogant.  Just today I had a coach give me a hard time about “How was that push a foul but the other one was not?”  Don’t they realize how human I am, how human they are, how human everyone is?  Where’s the introspection?  How can they ever learn?  Am I that way, failing to see obvious answers to simple soccer problems?  Am I just the oblivious coach yelling at the referee in my head?  Excetera, excetera, excetera.  An endless loop of endless thoughts ad nauseum.

I shove it away.  Maybe shoving these deep thoughts away are causing me to avoid simple questions!  For example, the problem of swinging at the ball and missing.  (It happened last game – the other team got an easy goal because our sweeper swung and missed at what should have been an easy kick).  The obvious answer is “Get your body behind the ball.”  Obvious, right?  So obvious something is wrong.  Kicking the ball, almost by definition, requires leaning to one side.  Do I really expect someone to throw their body into the ball when they can just as easily kick it at their side?  When its easier to kick a ball at your side?  I think of all the times I haven’t ‘got my body behind the ball’.  I think of the times I did and still missed – the ball bounced under my foot.  Does the simple saying “Get your body behind the ball” lead to people not controlling the ball?  To them not kicking the ball?  To the other team stealing the ball?  Is this why my team sucks!?  Omg have I been teaching it wrong all these years?!  Am I teaching everything wrong??  Arrrrggg stop stop thinking so much!

There’s much more, so much more about formations and enthusiasm and the role of tactics vs hustle in a team; is there such a thing as a sucky team, is their speed a fixed thing, are they always going to be slow; is motivation the only thing a coach can bring to the team, is that related to enthusiasm; and more.  But the catharsis that is writing shall sate the thought demons, at least for now, and so I bid you, dear blog, adieu and good night.

Drawing on SVG element

I could not find any tutorials on how to do this, or examples, and the only thing I could find that did the same was a huge program with tons of code to wade through (SVGedit). It’s very easy to draw on an SVG element, right in your browser.

You will need:

JQuery
An SVG element in your HTML

The basic idea is:

Get the SVG element.
Get the Mouse Coordinates.
Create a PATH element dynamically in the SVG.
Then use getAttribute() and setAttribute() on the path.

Here’s the code:


var isdrawing = false;
var currentpath;

function getlocalmousecoord(svg, evt){

  //calculate mouse coordinates
    var pt = svg.createSVGPoint();
    pt.x = evt.clientX;
    pt.y = evt.clientY;
    var localPoint = pt.matrixTransform(svg.getScreenCTM().inverse());
    localPoint.x = Math.round(localPoint.x);
    localPoint.y = Math.round(localPoint.y);
    console.log("mouse at " + pt.x + "," + pt.y  + " (global)  "+ localPoint.x + "," + localPoint.y+" (local)");

    return localPoint;
}

var svg = document.getElementsByTagName('svg')[0];
$( document ).ready(function() {
    console.log( "Jquery ready!" );

//grab the first SVG element on the page
var svg = document.getElementsByTagName('svg')[0];  /*http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4850821/svg-coordinates-with-transform-matrix  */

//Mousedown event handler
$('svg').mousedown(function(evt){
   isdrawing = true;
    var localPoint = getlocalmousecoord(svg,evt);
    var newElement = document.createElementNS("http://www.w3.org/2000/svg", 'path'); //Create a path in SVG's namespace
    currentpath = newElement;
    newElement.setAttribute("d", " M " + localPoint.x + " " + localPoint.y ); 
    newElement.setAttribute("fill", "transparent"); 
    
    newElement.style.stroke = "#f00"; //Set stroke colour
    newElement.style.strokeWidth = "5px"; //Set stroke width
    svg.appendChild(newElement);



  });
$('svg').mouseup(function(evt){
   isdrawing = false;
  });
$('svg').mousemove(function(evt){
   
  if(isdrawing == true){
  //calculate mouse coordinates
      var localPoint = getlocalmousecoord(svg,evt);

      var pathstring = currentpath.getAttribute("d");
      pathstring = pathstring + " L " + localPoint.x + " " + localPoint.y ;
      currentpath.setAttribute("d",pathstring);
  }
  });
});  //end of .ready

(Someday I will figure out how to preserve line breaks yet not wrap in wordpress)

 

Here is the working example:

http://johnktejik.info/Portfolio/programming/drawonsvg.html

 

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