You Should Be Watching VICE!


Have you heard of the hit new HBO show VICE? Well, now you have. Trust me when I say that this show is important. It’s also fucking nuts.

VICE is a fitting name because I’m hooked.

Each week I set myself down in anticipation of the awful truths the VICE team will reveal about our deranged planet. The premise of the show is simple. The team visits various conflict and hot zones around the world (e.g. Iraq and North Korea) and shows you a world you never knew existed and stories you’ve never heard.

Take for example the first episode where the team visited the Philippines. This country takes politics to a whole new level. Candidates and their families are murdered left and right. Militias are formed and roam around in broad daylight. Guns are built and sold freely making America’s gun culture look like an obsession with BB Guns.

If that doesn’t whet your appetite, then VICE’s exposé on how children are being misled by Islamic fundamentalists into committing heinous act of terror will move you to your core.

I’m not naive to the fact that we live in an ugly world. Still, I find the show to be an edifying and humbling experience. Of course, there is a lot of shock value involved and this is not a sanitized experience. How many media outlets would show the freshly dismembered head of a suicide bomber laying in a pool of innocent blood?  Images like this appear harrowing to us because our psyches are severely sheltered and our assessment of the world at large is underdeveloped. It is ironic that the inter-connectivity afforded to us by the digital age has in many ways disconnected us from the harsh and sobering realities of the world.

In an age where journalism is reduced to gossip, pandering and a race for ratings, I applaud VICE for taking risks and pushing journalism to extremes where so few dare to tread.

Still, I feel that at the heart of all this VICE is a story of human tragedies. Some are self inflicted and others brought about by interlopers and despots. There is the story of the girl who tries to escape North Korea only to end up being forced into  life of prostitution. Equally heartbreaking are the malformed children who are destined to die because of the after effects of the war in Iraq. This is very real stuff. I refuse to run a comparative analysis on the plights of different individuals because we all have our cross to bear. However, from the comfort of my armchair it’s hard not to think that some are heavier than others.

You can check out VICE on HBO here

You can watch the first episode free below

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Movie Review: Oblivion


What I Liked:

  • The strength of good Sci-Fi is that it tells a poignant human story within the parameters of the world it creates. I went in thinking this was an alien invasion Sci-Fi epic with brilliant visuals, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it wasn’t that simple. There is a strong story of struggle, survival, perseverance and love at the core of all the science fiction around it. It was handled delicately and kept the film grounded instead of getting lost behind the science fiction clutter. . More importantly, I thought the twists and mystery made the film stronger and kept my jaw hitting the floor. It all connected in the end in a cohesive way and made it a heck of a lot more enjoyable. 
  • The special effects are other worldly. I would hazard to say that they look even better than Avatar. This is because the entire film looks painstakingly realistic.  The effects do a stellar job of investing you in the world through the visuals. It’s a beautiful desolation and a very original take on a post apocalyptic world. The environments are also dazzling as you’re taken from coastlines and mountain ranges to frozen wastelands and deserts. I felt the bubbleship fight sequence was directed very well and stood out. Sometimes in effects laden film the action gets very muddy and incoherent. That’s not the case here, and it’s actually a treat to experience it in IMAX.
  • Tom Cruise is fantastic as always. He looks great, acts great and at 50 is still pulling off all of his own stunts. The characters of Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko are also well done. You can sense the quiet emotions underlying their actions and they both do an admirable job. Olga does a great job of conveying the confusion of being brought into a world that has changed since she last closed her eyes. Furthermore, you understand the struggle and pain of a man whose memories of Earth and all that he loves remain “undimmed by time and unbound by death”.
  • The music by M83 complements every scene and action in the movie. I’m glad that it didn’t turn out to be another Hans Zimmer-esque score where everything is bombastic. M83 created a stirring kaleidoscope that can stand on its own. Each piece is evocative and drenches each scene with a complexity and emotion that is hard to convey through the camera. I imagine the film would have suffered were it not for the score adding another layer of mellifluous beauty to the dramatics.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Morgan Freeman was wasted. He was clearly collecting  a paycheck.
  • Dialogue wasn’t particularly great. It wasn’t atrocious and I didn’t expect it to tackle existential quandaries, but you can do better than “You look like shit”. Also, the final line that Tom Cruise delivers to the villain was just cringe worthy and really killed the immersion for me. At least people don’t say or do things completely outside the bounds of their character. I just felt that it could have been brushed up in certain places to really make an impact.
  • As good as the story, script and acting are I never felt invested in the characters. This might be because the film tackles too any Sci-Fi concepts and is trying to express them all in a cogent manner. If you’re a fan of movies or Sci-Fi, then you will recognize many iconic shots resembling those from other films (e.g. entering the mother ship looked exactly like Independence Day). This isn’t really a bad thing because the film tackles them all admirably and rises above them. In particular, I appreciated the film making the aliens truly alien. Still, I felt that cutting down on a couple of them might have helped the character development to make this a truly iconic and original film.

Final Verdict 4/5

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Why Should You Care About What’s Going On In Venezuela?


Among the several news stories roaming the world this weekend was the presidential election in Venezuela. The election was energetic, colorful and full of the idiosyncrasies common in Latin American politics. However, for the first time in 14 years, the results were too close to call.

Why does Venezuela matter? 

For starters, the country had been under the ‘democratic’ rule of Hugo Chavez since 1998.  Chavez died from cancer on March 5th following a painful and exhausting battle with the disease. After a circus like funeral, which included a parade with Chavez’s body through the capital of Venezuela and a 10 day wake (Chavez’s body has still not been buried), elections were called for April 14th. Chavez’s confidant, the former foreign affair minister and current vice-president Nicolas Maduro, had been elevated to the status of candidate. Now, Maduro is a man that inspires doubt internally and externally, specifically in terms of his capacity to unite Venezuela while following in the footsteps of a charismatic man like Chavez. Like it or not, Chavez forever altered the landscape of the Latin American region. The opposition, a 40 year old lawyer by the name of Henrique Capriles, is a member of the private sector and an avid politician. He was able to survive in a regime that exiled all opposition. On this man’s shoulders rest the hopes and dreams of millions of Venezuelans that wish to see their nation prosper.

March14th: Election Day

After a painstaking 4 hours of counting the votes, Venezuelans finally heard the official results: Nicolas Maduro (appearing on the voting ballot 14 times) beat Henrique Capriles (appearing once on the ballot) with 50.66% of the vote. Immediately following the results, Twitter and Facebook were inundated with allegations of discrepancies in the voting. Capriles screamed what everyone was thinking: FRAUD! Moreover, Capriles called Maduro the biggest loser of the electoral process.

As Maduro failed to retain power he ended up dividing the nation. This was crucial because it was something that had not occurred in Venezuela since Chavez came to power.  Acting quickly, Maduro proclaimed himself President of Venezuela amidst the protests occurring around Caracas. After two days of protests, seven people were reported dead and several more arrested.

Venezuela stands on the brink of civil war as its population demands change.

 

 

Vote

Is this Democracy at its best? Official candidate Nicolas Maduro appears 14 times in the ballot, whereas the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, appears once in the bottom left corner.

 

Here’s Why You Should Care About Venezuela? 

If you live in the US or Canada, then chances are that you’ve met someone from Venezuela. With over half a million Venezuelans living outside their nation, the odds are that there is a Venezuelan in your community. They can recount the painful journey of having to leave family, friends and their entire life behind because they’ve lost all hope in their country. The sad part is that the majority of these displaced Venezuelans are youths. They have had to abandon their parents and siblings because there was only enough money to send one person abroad. Sometimes, the Venezuelan immigrants are parents that have had to leave their family behind to begin building a better future in another country. Leaving behind all that you hold dear is never easy, but it’s even more difficult when escape is a matter of survival.

For those lacking in empathy here is another reason: under Chavez’s rule, the Venezuelan government has been directly tied to drug trafficking. The porous and ill-secured border between Colombia and Venezuela has allowed drug cartels to move operations to the latter. According to the article “Cocaine is Unchecked in Venezuela” by the New York Times, as much as 24% of the cocaine coming from South America goes through Venezuela. In fact, as of 2010 about 200 tons of cocaine was being exported from Venezuela to the United States. Why is that important? Drug trafficking not only devastates the consumer, but it also spreads violence and corruption along the entire drug route.

Drug consumption affects not only Venezuela but the entire Latin America region; increasing violence, poverty and inequality in all these nations.

Drug consumption affects not only Venezuela but the entire Latin America region; increasing violence, poverty and inequality in all these nations.

 

Far Reaching Consequences

If you still think this  doesn’t concern you, then consider that Chavez’s Venezuela had been funding extremist groups in Iran. Venezuela is not culpable in any way for exporting oil to Iran. That’s just business. Instead, Venezuela’s real contribution to the destabilization of the Middle East comes in the form of money laundering for extremist groups through the state owned oil company PDVSA. The most recent incident of this occurred this year in Germany, where the ex-finance minister of Iran, Tahmasb Mazaheri, was arrested for money laundering with a cheque valued at US$73 million from the Venezuelan Central Bank.

Now do you see why you should care about what’s going on in Venezuela? If Chavez’s regime is allowed to subsist through his cronies and nepotism, then the culture of violence and hate will continue to spread through Latin America and other world regions. It already has affected me and my beloved nation of Honduras. I pray that the heightened awareness about these issues in Venezuela bring about much needed change. The buck should stop here before it draws others into its downward spiral towards personal and international calamity.

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How Tall Can A Person Get?


It would appear that there is an upper limit on human height. Factors such as gravity, buoyancy, diet, genetics and our surrounding environment all play a part in keeping us from eating plants off the tops of trees.

More importantly, the human body is presented with serious challenges the further it grows outside the bounds of what is considered “normal” or average height. For example, the heart would have to work overtime to pump the blood around the body. Similarly, our bones would have to grow to abnormal sizes to support the weight and frame of gigantic humans.

At the moment, there is no evolutionary reason for us to be 10 or even 12 feet tall. However, if our environment were to change drastically, for example if we lived on Mars, then we would likely see significant differences in human anatomy.

Of course, creatures of all sizes are still able to do amazing things in spite of their vertical limitations. In that sense, size doesn’t matter. Yao Ming might tower above others on the court, but a dog has a a sense of sound and smell that extends much further than most other creatures. Maybe that’s why Air Bud was so damn good at basketball.

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Oblivion: Extended Behind The Scenes


I am a huge fan of Sci-Fi and the pure escapism and imagination that can be found in depictions of future and alternate worlds. As such, I am incredibly excited for this movie. The trailers have already left me salivating, and this featurette is only making me more impatient. It offers a fantastic look at the backstory and how this vision of Earth came to be.

The visuals look phenomenal, the story is appropriately mysterious, and Tom Cruise looks great in the lead. M83 produced the soundtrack as well, and it’s like listening to a painting come to life. The aural kaleidoscope  of the soundtrack has to be heard to be believed.

 

 

Early reviews of the film have been tepid, but I will reserve judgment until I have seen it myself. I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be Prometheus levels of bad.

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