What An Opportunity

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

The Good Guys

In Life on May 7, 2015 at 12:09 am

Disclaimer 1: The reader must be willing to entertain the notion that art imitates life. If not, this post may not be your cup of tea. Just FYI

Disclaimer 2: There may be spoilers below for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and the CW’s Supernatural. Not trying to ruin anything for anyone. Proceed at own risk


So I have to say this upfront, I’m a DC guy. For those of you who don’t know (or really care), in comic book vernacular, I like DC Comics. DC Comics has characters like Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, etc. I use “etc.” because with each reboot, reincarnation, “death”, and so on, I could name characters for a long, long, time. The other immensely popular comic book enterprise is Marvel Comics. Marvel is home to Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor, X-Men, Spiderman, etc. (same rule applies here) You could say DC vs. Marvel is a friendly rivalry. Something akin to Playstation vs. Xbox, Red Sox vs. Yankees, or Bunchers vs. Folders. Your decision doesn’t matter either way but I promise, you will lose the respect of strangers if they find out one way or another.

So I’m a DC guy. I love Superman and the idea that fictional characters can be tangible conduits of certain morals and tenets. I love that in many ways, art imitates life. However, I was beyond excited (you can ask my friends) about Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. I saw the movie the day it came out and I loved it. I loved the heroes back together, the depth and fleshing out of individual characters (including the big baddie), the meta-references throughout, and the very subtle rebooting of the cinematic universe. Still, I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling.

See, the Avengers are ostensibly the good guys. They want to save the world and protect it from threats that may arise throughout the planet and the galaxy. Even if they can’t save the world, in the words of Tony Stark, they will avenge it. When is life ever that simple? When are the lines ever that clear? If art truly imitates life, the answers to the previous questions are the same: an unequivocal “No”.

Tony Stark truly believes that one day, the Avengers will not be necessary. There would be a program that could stop conflicts, and save lives, before the conflicts arise. It is this thought process that leads Stark to create Ultron. In a bit of foreseen irony, Ultron decides the best way to protect Earth is to remove those who enjoy living on it. The Ghosts of Summer Blockbuster Big Bad Past are seen in Ultron’s arrogance and desire for world domination but there is a disheartening twist: Ultron quotes Tony Stark. No, not out of context. No grammar semantics here. Ultron takes Tony Stark’s actual words and behaviors and shapes its identity and pursuit after its creator’s demeanor. Is the real villain of ‘Age of Ultron’, an Avenger?

This is not the first time that good intentions have had disastrous results. None of us are perfect but we try to do good. It only makes sense that we would mess up from time to time. As I said before, art imitates life. For example, I loved the TV show, ‘Scrubs’. It is #3 on my favorite TV shows of all-time (so far). Yet, I am not sure if there is one character that is a true hero. Heck, even the main character J.D. goes out of his way to find a mature, nurturing, and caring hero who he can emulate and has no luck. Instead, he finds his mentor in a narcissistic, alcoholic, and immature rage monster whose combination of self-loathing and arrogance is barely palatable in fiction. (By the by, Dr. Cox is my favorite character on Scrubs. Don’t judge me) Still, Dr. Cox is a phenomenal doctor, a wonderful husband, a loving father, and a surrogate father/mentor/therapist to J.D. throughout the show. Simultaneously, Dr. Cox is the best and the worst person for J.D. to look up to at Sacred Heart Hospital. Putting that another way, Dr. Cox is human.

This all brings up the whole reason I am writing this post. I was watching Supernatural tonight and a character died in the show. For a show like Supernatural, people die all the time. I am pretty sure every opening scene of the show has shown someone dying for some reason that will drive that episode. However, this death was a little more sad because I had grown to enjoy the presence of this character. Just like every season of Supernatural so far, this character was fiercely loyal to the Winchester boys and lost her (sorry) life trying to help them.

She was trying to help the Winchesters because they are good guys. Sam and Dean are the good guys. “Saving people, hunting things, the family business.” Yet, I am sure that they have hurt almost as many people as they have saved in their time. Close friends, family, angels, demons, monsters, etc. have lost their lives protecting Sam and Dean. All of them have lost their lives because Sam and Dean are the good guys. Sam and Dean placed them in harm’s way and they paid the ultimate price because Sam and Dean are the good guys.

The Supernatural episode left me thinking: Who are the good guys anymore? Then again, does it even matter?

The heart of the human condition lies in the foremost knowledge, and abject denial, that we are mortal. With each passing breath, we are drawn towards the inevitable. Therefore, we are continuously striving to reject our fate through feelings, moments, and other devices that capture time even for a second; in order for us to taunt eternity with our disregard for its strength.

Art accomplishes this goal. We empty our vision for existence into various mediums and draw conclusions and morals from stories we created based on our experiences and ideas. Perfectly circular logic at its best. Art cheats the most basic rule of life because we all know the ending.

The disclaimer at the top asked the reader to entertain the notion that art imitates life. However, a crucial detail has been forgotten in the message. See, we created art as an expression of the multitude of nuanced activities that surround the human experience. Further, art challenges the will of mortality. Therefore, art accomplishes what we never can. Art flatters life but truly, life wishes to imitate art. No matter the unclear lines, we all want forever.


You say I’m picky like it’s a bad thing.

In Culture on April 21, 2013 at 2:18 am


Oh Fraulein Maria, why can’t every movie I watch be nominated for 10 Academy Awards, be one of the highest-grossing film of all-time, and also a classic? An actress I love, a genre I love, and a plot that I…love. Sigh…

I’m a picky movie watcher. I have had others tell me and I have noticed it myself. I am a picky movie watcher. I don’t know if there is an incredibly deep reason behind it but I am a picky movie watcher.

It’s weird being a picky movie watcher. People will rave about movies that I think are ok. On the other hand, there are movies I love that people don’t care for in the slightest. I feel like some species of a hipster.

*Animal Planet voice-over guy*: Look what we have here, folks. It’s the Picky Movie Watcher, Hipster Cinema Disdainious as biologists call him, in its natural habitat: sitting at its laptop on Rotten Tomatoes. The Picky Movie Watcher is easily distracted by films with rave reviews from critics. Careful though, while the Picky Movie Watcher seems unassuming, most people who stay around it enough come away with the stink of condescension.

And here’s the kicker, I actually like movies people have heard of before. Action movies, comedies, romantic comedies, musicals, sports movies, cartoons, etc. Love love love. I also have actors/actresses/directors that I’ll watch almost anything that they make, including but not limited to (and in no particular order mind you): the Dame Julie Andrews, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Carey Mulligan, Emily Blunt, the Dame Judi Dench, Leonardo Dicaprio, Edward Norton, Hugh Laurie, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Connelly, Bryan Cranston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Anna Kendrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, James McAvoy, and Emma Stone. I think that’s as random as that could possibly be. Good.

Moving on…I like stuff that people have heard of. I love the Toy Story franchise, Argo, the Bond franchise, The Artist, The Harry Potter franchise, any movie based on comic books or any book for that matter, any cartoon for the most part, the Star Wars franchise, etc.

I like stuff. And after seeing that list, you might wonder how I am so picky. Well here’s the rub: it has to be right combination of any number of factors such as cast, trailer, writing, characters, setting, etc. If I’m not feeling it, I won’t watch it. And I am typically not feeling a lot of things.

Moreover, I like movies that ask awkward questions. Some can be awkward funny but mostly, they’re awkward serious. Like,

What would happen if you wanted to date someone who is a professional matchmaker?

What would happen if a man who served our country returned home to a family that doesn’t recognize him anymore?

What would happen if you were a guy, with no guy friends, who was trying to make guy friends?

What would happen if we delved into the history of racism in the United States?

What would happen if you were pregnant in high school?

What would happen if you could erase your memory of past relationships?

What would happen if a pilot saved hundreds of lives while he flew a plane drunk and high?

What would happen if two kids decided to run off together because they didn’t like their lives?

What would happen if your life was just a dream and you’ve been refusing to wake up?

What if you could talk to Death and convince him to give you more time?

What if you had been raised by a surrogate father, who turned out to be a psychotic mobster, and you grew up to be a cop?

Those are some awkward questions. And if we’re perfectly honest, no one really knows the answer. Some of these questions are things we have dealt with in our own lives or seen how someone else dealt with them; most are not but some are. We may not know the answers but we know that these questions are real. We agree to sit and view how the director, writers, actors/actresses etc. choose to answer these question.

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t watch popular movies that are just fun to watch and enjoy. I am also not saying that popular movies do not ask awkward questions that leave you with something when you leave the theater. I’m just saying that I typically trend towards movies that try to answer awkward questions because my mind asks awkward questions. I really don’t know any other way to be.

How do you solve a picky person like me? I really don’t know.

An easier question might be, how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

Everything in transit.

In Culture on August 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm


You matter.

You matter. Your feelings matter. Your opinion matters. People care about you. You matter to someone and something. You matter.

Sometimes it feels like everything moves so fast. There are thousands of voices that seem to drown out whatever was going to escape your lips. And sometimes, it seems like those voices are coming from inside of your own head.

So we try to scream above the noise. We try to show how individual and unique we are. Yet, we seem to do that in the same way everybody else is showing they’re an individual. We get further lost in the shuffle. Like life is a game and we are losing.

Maybe this is because we want to matter. We want to know someone cares. On the basest of levels, we want to know that the things we do have an effect. That we had an impact on something. That in a world that can seem like an arbitrary existence, we controlled something. And other people noticed.

But if that’s all a game, what would happen if we just walked away from the board? We are so blessed. If you are able to read this, you have been blessed with internet access or a means of getting to internet access. You are blessed to have a computer, or any other electronic device, in front of you. There are so many things in your life that you know are truly amazing. They may not be overly significant to the masses but they are important and sufficient in your life. We are blessed. And not just with stuff. We are blessed with people.

Why does the focus have to be on us? How we feel? And why do we feel so bad about almost everything that pertains to us and look at almost everything else with such cynicism and trepidation? Would it be so bad if we told people we appreciate them and thank them for just being themselves? Would it take too long to listen to another point of view before voicing our opinions? Life moves quickly. The greatest human invention was a means of keeping time and somehow we don’t seem to have enough. Why don’t we change that? Does respect take too long?

Because when it’s all a blur of self-centered “individuality”, everything gets lost in whatever we want others to see us as. So please, let’s all take some time out to just look at life. Slow down. Take a step back and survey the life that you are blessed to have. Think of five things you are thankful for and find a way to show some appreciation. Take everything in transit.

Because the people in our lives matter. The things we have matter. The blessings we have matter. And maybe most importantly, you matter.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated.



8 (not so) simple rules…

In Culture, Life, Women on April 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Haven’t been on earth for a long time but I have noticed some things:

Uno: Waking up on a Saturday morning with nothing to do that day is one of the best feelings on the planet.

Dos: Conversations with someone where there isn’t an awkward pause in the natural ebb and flow of words except to laugh or ponder is something you should never let go of

Tres: Holding back a fart is really not (read: never) worth it in the end

I have also noticed some “rules” that go into any relationship with the opposite sex. I will admit that I have not always been the best, and I have multitudes of things to work on, but there are certain things a young man should remember when being with a girl:

#1: Listen.

Listen. Actively listen. Listen with the purpose to contribute. For no other reason than to listen. Do it. Seriously. Moving on…

#2: Remember.

Remember the little things. Remember the big things. It shows you care.

#3: Forgive.

She’s not perfect. Moreover, you’re not perfect. Take the time to forgive. Take some time to yourself and remind yourself of why you are here.

#4: Be sincere and honest.

Be who you are. Not what she wants or what she needs but who you are. This might be the hardest because who we are is not the projections of what we want others t0 see. But sincerity can go a long way. Sincerity in all things allows you to see the whole picture. With sincerity comes honesty and with honesty comes truth. Isn’t truth a good foundation for love?

#5: Be a loser.

Don’t be afraid to lose. Don’t be afraid to lose a fight, lose some pride, or lose something you want. Sometimes we think that we just need to stand up this one time, and sometimes you do, but most of the time it’s an excuse to win. To be known as the winner. And all that gets you is a very hollow victory.

#6: Talk.

For some reason, it’s a true measure of masculinity not to talk. As if you really don’t have something on your mind. Talk to her. She should be willing to listen. And talking makes listening a million times easier.

#7: She likes you.

She likes you. Say it with me: “She likes me.” Now say it slowly: “She…likes…me.” Now say it in an English acc…I’m getting off-track. Look, she’s into you. Don’t forget that.

#8: Treat her with respect.

This can manifest itself in many ways. From her mind to her body and everything in between. Treat her with respect even when you disagree and it gets really hard not to.

We all mess this up. In fact, it’s inevitable no matter how hard you try. But one of the measures of a healthy relationship is a desire by both parties involved to work at all of these things.

God Bless.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

In Culture on April 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm




Often, as I sit in movie theaters, I find myself wondering why movies have to try so hard. Are we as moviegoers really so boorish that we cannot enjoy anything that isn’t sensational, overdramatic, or altogether unrealistic? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Transformers and superhero movies as much as the next guy, but I like to think of my tastes as developed. As a result, I sometimes find myself craving something that caters to a little deeper part of my sensibilities, moves me to feel beyond my base urges, or even (gasp) makes me think. I think these inclinations are the reason that I really enjoyed the movie I saw this weekend – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The film is pretty well explained by its title. There aren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles to it, and no special effects to speak of; it’s just a straightforward human interest story (maybe this has something to do with it being British… I’m not sure). After it ended, I was not moved to stand up and applaud, or exclaim “That’s the best movie I’ve ever seen!” to anyone, but my friend and I looked at each other, nodded, and just said, . It wasn’t anything grandiose, and it didn’t move fast. But I think movies often move at such a breakneck speed that we miss the characters. Salmon Fishing does the opposite, playing to its strengths by emphasizing its characters. Emily Blunt is great – I consistently walk out of her movies thinking she’s one of the most talented young actresses I’ve seen – and Ewan McGregor plays a remarkably endearing, nerdy biologist. Amr Waked is lovable, and Kristin Scott Thomas is a dynamic presence onscreen. In my opinion, these performances make this movie worth seeing. Don’t take my recommendation to go see Salmon Fishing, then complain that you were bored; know in advance that to really enjoy this movie, you have to open up your mind and be ready to engage. And I contend that maybe there is a certain beauty in that.

Twisted politicans, even on the smallest scale

In Culture, Life on April 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

"We're honest, I swear."

I often struggle with defining the line between student journalist and actual journalist. Oftentimes student journalists – those writing for collegiate newspapers – interpret their perceived credentials, which are in reality not legitimate journalistic credentials, as a license for arrogance, while the real journalists – those writing for a local daily or, in some cases, a national paper – tend to be more grounded. After all, it’s our job to tell other peoples’ stories. They’re the ones doing great things, not us. We just put it on paper.

I promise I’m going somewhere with this. It’s not a rant or personal “dear diary, this was my day” story. Just bear with me.

I’m currently the Senior Life Editor of the University at Buffalo’s independent student newspaper, The Spectrum, and I’ll be the 2012-13 Editor in Chief. The newspaper is easily the biggest in the SUNY system, publishing 7,000 copies three times a week, and has won three prestigious national awards so far this year.

With that in mind, I guarantee if you surveyed 100 students on campus, at least 60 would say: “The Spectrum sucks.” I think I’ve finally accepted that nothing will reverse the negative stigma, so I’m not complaining, just trying to set the stage: this campus is notorious for students’ apathy. It’s not cool to like your student newspaper, or to care about much of anything UB does (other than the occasional bad concert lineup) for that matter.

This is an unfounded belief, but I have a sense that this I-don’t-care attitude is prevalent on many other U.S. campuses.

So once in a while (not often, as most students just glance at the giant stack of papers in the Student Union and keep walking), The Spectrum gets attention. In today’s paper, there is a detailed investigation of the Student Association – UB’s elected undergrad student government – and its treasurer’s apparent attempt to embezzle $300,000 of student funds. Serious foul just in theory, but especially when you follow through and your plan is so poorly-formed that you get caught red-handed.


The weirdest part of this madness is that the SA President had no idea what was going on. The treasurer and VP signed the contract, behind the president’s back and after she’d said she was against it, with what looks like a fake company (if you read the story you’ll see a ton of crazy connections that indicate this whole thing was a giant scam put in place by the treasurer and some of his friends, all UB alums – none of this is proven, but they’ve all lawyered up). It looks like (again, not yet proven) he was trying to take some student funds – money added to undergrad tuition – to put in his own pocket and possibly pay for law school. Strange as this is, every time I talked with the treasurer in the past – even on the record – he repeatedly said: “I am dishonest. You can’t trust me.” Ironic, considering he was so upfront and honest about his dishonesty. It was like he was proud of it.

At this point, an informed UB student would go “daaaaayum.” But on the real, students will probably glance at the story, think “he took my money? that’s dumb,” and forget about it in a day. Frustrating but likely.

Anyway, here’s the real objective of this post, and I applaud you for making it this far: late last night (I think it’s safe to say pursuit of this story made almost every editor lose sleep at some point), as we were putting the final touches on several weeks of intense reporting and writing, Senior News Editor Luke Hammill made a judicious point. “The crazy thing about all this,” he quietly laughed, “is that this is just UB. Imagine the stuff real politicians do.”

What an interesting theory: If people are corrupt at this level, just imagine the kind of unethical, undivulged nonsense that goes on regionally, state-wide, nationally. Is there a line between student politicians and bona fide politicians? Or all they all corrupt?

I realize this isn’t a bold epiphany for most, but it never really hit me until now: the vast majority of politicians are crazy, dishonest, and immoral. You must sell your soul pretty far down the river to deceive so many people.

– A.C.M.