The Summer of Jos: Reflections

At the outset of May, I declared to my friends and family that the Summer of 2015 was to be the Summer of Jos. A confluence of truly unique circumstances have allowed me to do something that I have not been able or willing to do since I was in my mid-teens: to live in the present.

For the first time since Grade 8, I’m not losing sleep about an uncertain future. I’m here, in the moment of where I am, using this time to take stock of the incredible, almost unbelievable series of events that have influenced my life, to reconnect with parts of myself with which I’d become somewhat estranged, and gain some new insight as to who I am and what makes me that person.

I’m going to share some of those reflections.

Four years ago, I began reading Homestuck, a webcomic story whose current length (>1.2 million words) is estimated to be longer than every novel ever written save one. For four years, I have steadfastly read every new page as soon as it was available to me. For four years, this story has been single-handedly sustaining my not-so-inner fangirl.

Also four years ago, I stood on the precipice of the single largest and most significant change in my life. I know that young people tend to overemphasize the importance of the things that happen to them relative to what happens to them for the remainder of their lives, but I think that the benefit of hindsight allows me to be justified in such an appraisal. In all but the most literal ways, the summer of 2011 shaped whom I was, whom I would become, and whom I would continue to be. It was at this time that I made the choice that would allow me to take agency in my life, rather than simply be carried along for the ride.

The four years since have been, without question, the most transformative years of my life. And through the whirlwind of all of those changes, for the first time in a long time it feels as though the end is in sight. Fittingly, for the first time in a long time, it feels as if the end of Homestuck is finally looming on the horizon.

Homestuck is, in many ways, a coming-of-age story about finding one’s place and becoming the person you’re meant to be. How appropriate, then, that the story has been a constant companion for me as I’ve been finding my place and becoming the person I was meant to be. I look forward to the resolution, look forward to seeing how it all works out, for both Homestuck and for myself. And when it’s finally over, it will feel like a bittersweet goodbye to a friend that helped me through the most trying times of my life.

A counselor I was seeing at the University recently told me that it was evident to her that I was a generally happy person. This surprised me, because for the bulk of my life people have always been telling me that I seem sad, that I have unresolved anger, that I’m really anything but happy. But, taking inventory of myself and all that I’ve done, I can see that she’s right. And this is the ultimate result of this transformative time in my life; I’ve become happy. Truly, honestly, unreservedly happy, and at peace with myself.

Not that it’s all been positive, of course. Finding confidence and conviction in my beliefs has brought about something wholly unexpected, but in retrospect, fully inevitable: I’ve made enemies. Back in my days of trying to be aggressively inoffensive, the idea of people actually having it in for me seemed….improbable.  I have never been universally liked, of course, but the people who didn’t like me never really moved beyond a passive, “eh” sort of attitude. Not so anymore; this past year I learned the truth of that old Churchill quote, how having enemies means that at one point in your life, you stood for something. People I once called friend have chosen to no longer speak with me, and complete strangers whom I’ve never met in person have expended considerable effort to my professional and academic sabotage. And still I find myself facing situations where I feel I must choose between a friend and a desire to stand up for what I believe in. In the past, I’d have almost universally chosen friend. Now, the choice is less obvious.

In the wake of it all, however, I’ve also found new friends, strengthened existing relationships, and found support and compassion in places both likely and unlikely. Seasons change, times change, and I change. And as I change, I find that people willing to help me are in no short supply. 

The summer’s not over yet. There is still plenty of time remaining to explore, to discover, and to embrace the present. Thank you, dear reader, for sharing this journey with me in your own way.

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I’m too old to be cool.

Hello, everyone. I come to you today with a deeply personal confession: my name is Joselyn, and I like things.

To many, this may seem like an odd sort of confession. After all, it is a fairly well-known fact that most people, by and large, like things. Indeed, it is the habit of liking things that fuels much of the economy, particularly in this continent. And so this may seem like a fairly mundane “confession”. Of course I like things. Who doesn’t like things? But let me tell you, the Me of 10 years ago would be absolutely mortified if she knew I was going to admit to liking things, and on the internet, of all places!

It’s not that I didn’t like things at that age. On the contrary, I lked many things, perhaps even more things than I would profess to liking nowadays. But perhaps some history is required to put all of this in context. Strap yourselves in, folks, because we’re about to take a trip down memory lane, unearthing some memories that I’ve gone to somewhat absurd lengths not to disturb for the past while. We’re going back to the point in my life I decided that “writing” was a thing I wanted to do, if not as a career than at least as a hobby for the rest of my life.

In my teens, I was WAY into the Digimon anime. I never really grew out of my fondness for cartoons and the like, and Digimon happened to hit the scene at right around the point in my life where the idea of vanishing from the corporeal world into a world of fantasy, danger, and monsters the size of skyscrapers shooting missiles at each other was of particular appeal to me. More than that, though, is that Digimon, while ostensibly a show about and for children, had a surprising amount of depth about its characters and their relationships with one another, showing me that a story can feature explosive action and meaningful character arcs side-by-side, to the exclusion of neither. I loved it.

And so it was, that I eventually began to write fanfiction. I will never forget the first piece I finished and published to Fanfiction.net. It was crap. Like, absolute trash. It was a fluff piece in which one character takes another character out on a date and is killed in a car accident, and then a year later the surviving half of the date meets the deceased half in a dream, tears are shared, emotions are felt, and people with diabetes reach for their insulin test kits. Saccharine tripe appealing to the lowest common denominator of romance stories with all the emotional depth of a shot glass filled with water. Room temperature water.

That terrible story consumed me.

While I was writing it, it was the first thing I thought about every morning when I woke up, and it was the last thing I thought about before going to sleep every night. I never put as much care and attention into anything I had ever done previously, and the finished product is something of which I was extremely proud. Sure, the content may have been adolescent in its emotional sensibilities, but I am proud to say that its mechanics, pacing, and narrative voice were quite competent for having been writing by a teenager. That fact, and the popularity among the fans of the couple depicted, entailed that it received rave reviews and earned me recognition from some of those whom I considered to be Fanfiction.net’s finest.

The problem was, of course, that I was no longer at an age where it was considered acceptable for me to like cartoons. And anime occupied a particularly nerdy subset of cartoons within the public consciousness, making my passion for Digimon even less acceptable. I couldn’t even find refuge among those among my peers who were into other anime, as Digimon wasn’t considered “serious” anime, particularly not the dubbed version with which I was most closely acquainted. For me, it was another in a long list of things I felt I wasn’t allowed to like, or should feel ashamed for liking, particularly to the degree that I do.

The issue was exacerbated further as I became a denizen of the internet, frequenting websites known for their snark when examining other parts of the internet. These places would make fun of the easy targets, of course; furries, juggalos, what have you, but they would also prey upon creators of bad fanfiction and fanart as well, and because the Internet has no tolerance for nuance, it wasn’t long before anyone who liked a thing that had bad fanfiction or fanart associated with would immediately be conflated with the bad stuff. Soon, everyone seemed to be in a race to care the least about anything, and demonstrating any kind of affinity or affection for anything – ANYTHING, even these communities – was liable for potential mockery.

In short, liking stuff wasn’t cool. And in many parts of the internet, it’s still not cool. And let me tell you, that translated VERY cleanly to real life. I couldn’t show you my Digimon fanfiction even if I wanted to, as I have since purged any trace of my Fanfiction.net account, and the original drafts disappeared 5 computers ago. Anything to prevent people from thinking I actually liked stuff.

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday. I won’t specify exactly how old I am, so suffice it to say that I feel as though I have reached an age where my liking things makes them less cool with younger folks by association, solely because of my age. And it’s taken me this long to realize: I’m too old to give a shit about what other people do that makes them happy, as long as nobody’s getting hurt.

That’s not to say that I like everything, or that I don’t dislike anything, but I resent the attitude that every person who likes a thing automatically embodies the worst qualities of that thing and the people who like that thing. Yes, the Twilight Saga reads like some one wrote out a nonsensical dream about vampires without any filter between dream-world logic and real-world logic. So fucking what? I’ve got better things to do than congratulate myself for liking literature that I have arbitrarily deemed superior by no one’s rubric but my own.

Now, that isn’t to say that we can’t think critically about the things we consume or that there isn’t room for criticism of these things. By all means, criticize and scrutinize to your heart’s content. Write scathing reviews, make analytical youtube videos, rip it to shreds via podcast, speak critically about the larger social ills to which it contributes! That’s all good stuff that should continue to happen indefinitely. Just do so with the understanding that at the end of the day, people can like/dislike whatever they want to like/dislike, and they’re not wrong for doing so.

Fan art and fan fiction are how artists and writers cut their teeth in the craft. Yes, a very large percentage of it is not very good. But so what? They get people creating, working, and developing the skills necessary to one day BE very good, all the while allowing them to explore the favourite aspects of the things they love and that resonate with them.

I’ve made allusions recently to having gotten back into writing prose. What you may not know is that I’m doing so via fanfiction. In a world where Transformers movies continue to gross hundreds of millions of dollars domestically, I refuse to be embarrassed by that.

Oh, and if any of you respond to what I’m saying with a reminder that many fanfiction writers and fan artists choose to create smut, I direct you to this fantastic bit of slam poetry (tw: rape).

~Joselyn

17 Things Only Jos Will Understand – #11 is so accurate it hurts!

1. Heheh. Butts.

Am I right, me?

2. Axe Deodorant Body Spray Kills Kids

Disclaimer: Not insofar as any other aerosol spray applied so liberally in a poorly ventilated bathroom, but nonetheless

3. When You Almost Kill Your Roommates By Setting Your Underwear On Fire

Ugh, the most annoying thing!

4. All Your Reeds End Up Curved Because You Lost Your Mouthpiece Covers Ages Ago

Which dovetails neatly into…

5. Having Professional-Grade Mouthpieces To Play Your Student-Grade Horn

Berg Larsen or not, there’s only so much you can do to make a Yamaha sound good.

6. Dropping Manufacturer Names To Make Yourself Sound Learned About Saxophones

I am literally the only person who does this.

7. Having An Anglican Father, An Alliance Mother, Attending A Baptist Church, Then Choosing Buddhism In Adulthood.

Three churches, one God, and I end up following the teachings of a guy whose legacy to the world was intentionally confusing and contradictory stories and poems.

8. No One Knows What You’re Talking About When You Mention That Christian Extreme Sports Video From When You Were In Grade 7

Seriously, NO ONE KNOWS.

9. You Were Weirdly Into The Manhattan Transfer In The 90’s

…And I did not understand why none of my friends liked “Gentleman With A Family” as much as I did.

10. You Know That ‘Glee’ Is Just A Cheap Rip-Off Of ‘Kids, Incorporated’

I knew about Martika, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Mario Lopez and Fergie BEFORE they were cool. Also Ryan Lambert, but not THAT Ryan Lambert.

11. Having An Older Sister And Best Friend Who Were Subject To Severe Psychological Abuse At The Hands Of Missionaries Who Were Teaching Them A Lesson About Faith

This one’s kind of fucked up. While they were preparing for a Mission to build a house in Tijuana, the leaders staged a raid to kidnap a bunch of Christian teenagers under the premise that they were now being persecuted for their faith. The details are a bit vague this many years later, but as I recall, this happened in Los Angeles, and my sister ended up in a fake holding cell, while my best friend escaped among the refugees. Where was I when all this was happening? In Edmonton, learning how to play saxophone better.

12. While Your Friends Were Getting Kidnapped By Christians, You Were Learning How To Play Saxophone Better

Seriously, as an adult studying psychology, that is FUCKED UP.

13. When You Pick An Arbitrary Number For Your Dumb Satire Column’s Title Before Actually Writing Said Dumb Satire Column And Find Yourself Spinning Your Metaphorical Tires Just To Fill The Gaps

Weirdly specific problems that only I can relate to. That’s what we’re here for, right?

14. Your Mother Had Her Gall Bladder Removed And It Cured Her Lactose Intolerance

My family’s bodies are weird.

15. Watching Your Young Adult Friends Become Aunts/Uncles And It Blows Their Minds But It’s No Big Deal To You Because You’ve Been An Aunt Since Age 3

But even THAT pales in comparison to…

16. You Were Babysat By Your Neighbor Whose Youngest Daughter Was A Year Younger Than Her Granddaughter, Both Of Whom She Also Babysat

All those other Me’s know what I’m talking about!

And finally…

17. You Break A Multiple-Week-Long Hiatus For A Dumb Joke Column That You’re Mostly Writing To Spite Buzzfeed And Its Readers, Many Of Whom Are Good Friends Of Yours

And I don’t even get paid for this low-effort crap!

~Joselyn

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve been babbling about social justice issues and spirituality for so long (you can rest assured that in periods of low activity on this blog, I’m just as busy with these sorts of discussions in the corporeal world), I think today I’ll just talk about anime lawyer video games.

So, Phoenix Wright. Or, rather, the entirety of the Ace Attorney series.

If by some miracle you DIDN’T arrive at this blog from my personal Facebook page, then you may not be aware that the latest entry to the series, subtitled “Dual Destinies”, was released today for download from the NIntendo eShop on the 3DS. For those of you that ARE Facebook Friends with me, then I offer a completely insincere non-apology for posting about it all day and especially after I started playing it. Look, folks, these days the only media I shamelessly fangirl about in social media is Homestuck. Ace Attorney games are an especially rare specimen, with only 6 recorded appearances in North America since their first sighting in 2005, so you only have to endure this from me less than once a year or so. LET ME HAVE THIS.

The Ace Attorney series began life as a quirky Japanese Game Boy Advance title called Turnabout Courtroom. The game was decidedly different from most of what characterizes the industry, but it managed to find enough success to warrant a couple of sequels. Eventually, the first game was ported to the DS, given an English translation, and ported to North America as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Capcom, who published the series, did not anticipate that this bizarre game about lawyers arguing in court would find much of an audience in The Land That Colonialism Built, so the initial print was limited to a few select retailers and not very many copies. Imagine their surprise when the entire first print sold out almost instantly. The second and third shipments also sold out completely, which seems to indicate that people in this continent REALLY like to argue.

I happened upon the series almost completely by chance; though I had heard about it and was curious about the first game, I never saw a copy of it in any of the stores convenient to me. Then, unexpectedly, I found the game’s sequel, subtitled “Justice For All”, sitting completely innocuously on a shelf in Wal-Mart. These were the days where I had a job and something called ‘disposable income’, so taking a chance on something whose quality was not assured to me was something I was much more willing to do. I picked it up, took it home, popped it into my DS, and proceeded to suspend all meaningful interaction with the world for the ensuing few days (I worked retail – no one noticed). I was hooked. Before I was even finished with the second game, I tracked down an errant copy of the first on eBay (the first and thus far only eBay purchase I’d ever made), and submerged myself in all things Ace Attorney.

Yes, I was THAT hooked.

Over a year later, the North American release of the third game “Trials and Tribulations” was released, and by then I was in so deep that I would spend every coffee break dashing off to the nearby EBGames to see if the game had arrived since my last coffee break, taking time before and after work to check other retailers (a limited, non-major release meant that pre-orders were effectively useless, especially where I lived). This diligence was not unwarranted; I finally got the game on the last coffee break of the day two Thursdays after the launch date, and it was sold out by that Friday afternoon.

So all that, to establish this one premise: I LOVE this series.

The gameplay is a unique blend of Hidden Object Games and Adventure Game-style dialogue options, whereby your character investigates crime scenes, interrogates witnesses and other persons of note, all for the purpose of proving your client’s innocence. The puzzles usually come down to analyzing witness testimony, comparing statements with all the evidence available in the court record, and presenting inconsistencies. The stories are incredibly well written, the tension and drama extremely palpable, and the characters a lot of fun. As a fan of good writing in games, this series and I are a match made in heaven. The rush I get from shouting ‘Objection!’ at my DS (because it supports microphone input, naturally) after carefully poring over every statement to find the hidden, subtle, but undeniable contradiction is unlike anything any other game has been able to offer. It’s incredibly satisfying, and the reason why I’ve followed this series through its highs and its lows.

“Lows, you say?” I can hear you through anachronistic spacetime. Yes, sadly, the Ace Attorney series of games has certainly faced trials (heh) over the years. The whole reason the first three games were ported to the DS in the first place was in promotion of the series’ fourth installment, developed from the ground up for the DS to take full advantage of the system’s unique hardware, known in English-speaking nations as Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. What happened to Phoenix Wright? Disbarred. Boom. The plucky defense attorney we’d spent three games falling in love with was stripped of his license to practice law without so much as a whoopsie-daisy. Though Phoenix does appear in the game, the familiar faces begin and end there, for the most part. The rest of the cast, who had earned just as much of a following, are nary to be seen, replaced with a bunch of forgettable jerks that no one had any reason to care about. The only compelling character of the whole lot was the new detective character, but almost fittingly, she’s not a ‘new’ character in the strictest sense, as she was first introduced in a bonus case exclusive to the DS port of the first game. Combine that with four cases whose respective experiences range from ‘wow, this is tedious and repetitive’ to ‘I think they forgot this was supposed to be an interactive experience’, and you have what was considered to be the worst entry of the series to date.

But the woes didn’t end there. Following Apollo Justice, a spinoff series called Ace Attorney Investigations (Turnabout Prosecutor in Japan) was created, starring Phoenix Wright’s main rival (and, if fanfiction is to be believed, True Love) Miles Edgeworth. Though the people behind this game seemed to realize that fans were still fond of the supporting cast for the original trilogy, this series did away with the courtroom segments, universally believed to be the best parts of the games, instead placing focus on Everything Else. Worse still, the second game in the series would never see an English translation, as the development team was quickly disbanded after the Japan release. Truly, the series had entered some dark times.

Still, I was completely in love. This series was one of the key influences that inspired me to go back to school and finish my degree. As embarrassing as it is to admit this as an adult, I had planned on pursuing a career in law myself, even though I was fully aware that the law in the real world is nothing at all like the law as it’s presented in the games. It was this inspiration that eventually drove me to finally quit my dead-end job and pursue the life I was always meant to live, even if I had a mistaken idea of what that was at the time. As silly as it sounds, Ace Attorney is one of the things that inspired me to turn my life around (appropriate, for a series where the word ‘turnabout’ is practically ubiquitous)., and so it occupies a very special place in my heart.

So you can imagine my excitement when the fifth game was not only announced, but revealed to be getting the full localization treatment. Up until that point, I had resisted picking up a 3DS (that launched after I quit my job to pursue the calling of a broke-ass student), but that changed less than 7 days after the announcement hit.

Everyone has their vices. Anime lawyer video games are mine.

~Joselyn

The Inevitable Consequence Of Everything You’ve Ever Done

Seeing as this blog literally has “zen” in the URL, I should probably write about Zen in a non-flippant way at least once.

So, Zen. All is one. No past, no future, no present, only the beauty and perfection of what is. As is generally the case with eastern religions, a lot of western folks have an odd, idealized conception of what it means to be a Buddhist, so let’s get a few things straight right off the bat:

  • I have never shaved all of my hair off.
  • The only robe I wear is my bathrobe.
  • It is possible for me to experience anger, in addition to various other strong emotions, both constructive and otherwise.
  • I do not believe that the soul of my great grandfather currently inhabits my cat.

Are we clear on that? Good.

My fascination with Zen began when I was browsing an alternative bookstore in my hometown. The guy who owned this store (he might still own it, I’m not sure), who is also the proprietor of a local hemporium, is an interesting sort of fellow; allegedly, he’s as nutty as a fruitcake. An avid conspiracy theorist, believer of Scientology-like religions and cults centered around alien intervention with life on Earth, all kinds of nonsense. As is generally the case with such individuals, more than a few rumors and urban legends have circulated about the man and the way he operates his businesses. The legend behind this bookstore, as people tell it, is that he buys all the books at retail, reads them cover to cover, then resells them at the price he believes to be their “actual” worth. Sometimes this is higher than the cover price, sometimes this is lower, depending on some unknown criteria of which only he is truly aware. Doesn’t strike me as a particularly viable business model, but that’s how the stories go. Regardless, the store has a charming atmosphere about it, and it’s a great place to find books that are a little ways off the beaten path. It was here that I found the book Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth about Reality by Brad Warner. The book is an autobiographical recount of a bassist’s progression from having beer bottles thrown at his punk rock band in country bars to receiving his rites as a Buddhist Priest in Japan.

Hardcore Zen is a refreshingly candid take on what he feels is the true nature of Zen. Far from the flowery, pretentious depiction of Buddhism that a lot of other books offer, Warner speaks openly about how frustrating it is to study Zen, how self-contradictory so much of the doctrine is, and how crushing his experience with his teachers was. Like a lot of people, I don’t enjoy feeling as if I’m being pandered to, so his brand of brutal honesty was especially appealing to me, in spite of (and, indeed, because of) his unpalatable-at-times presentation. After reading this book, I became a Buddhist.

The mythic origins of Zen are about as bizarre as what you might expect from any mythic origin stories. Long after the virgin birth of Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BCE, a Buddhist teacher named Bodhidharma was visiting a powerful king, who was showing off his newly constructed, lavish and elaborate Buddhist temples. Bodhidharma, upon seeing this, is all like “yo, WTF is this shit??” and the king is all like “yo, I thought you’d be psyched, what’s your damage?” and Bodhidharma’s all “…shit, man, I don’t know,” at which point he crawls into a cave at the base of a mountain and meditates until his legs atrophy and fall off.

At this point I would like to point out that Chan Buddhism, the Chinese tradition upon which the Japanese Zen is based, is also known as “Crazy Buddhism”.

One of the central elements of Zen is the beauty and perfection of the world as it is, and that separation between people, objects, and the world are merely illusory. Consider: the act of preparing a cup of tea is a fairly mundane thing that millions of people do hundreds of times a day. When you prepare that tea, however, you are using dishes crafted by another, based on designs inherited from others, using a mixture of herbs and ingredients based on traditional recipes reaching back thousands of years, with other tools and implements constructed by others based on inventions and traditions stretching into eternity. All of those objects, all of those people, all of those lives, all of that existence came together to bring you that cup of tea, and now all of that is an irrevocable part of who you are and your life’s story. This simple act of boiling some water and steeping tea connects you with so much of the universe in ways you can not even begin to fathom, and your actions today shape the universe in ways you can not even begin to conceive. According to Zen, the way to understanding is through recognizing these supposed “mundane” things as intricate, beautiful, and perfect.

Of course, there’s a hell of a lot more to it than that. And my understanding is still quite limited. Next time I post about Zen, I’ll talk about why, specifically, it appeals to me.

~Joselyn

Dumb and Stupid Things

The original idea for this post was to review the last movie that I’ve seen, but when I sat down to write it, it occurred to me that the movie I’d seen most recently was the English dub of Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva. It’s not really a movie that lends itself to being reviewed, at least, not in a traditional sense. It’s a video game movie, and like all video game movies, it doesn’t really stand on its own too well, and the majority of its charm comes from its integration of the games’ set pieces into a film narrative structure. But to do that requires a suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience that will be a taxing demand for non-fans. Is it a good film? No. Will you like it if you’ve never played the games? Hell no. Do I like it anyway? You’re god damned right I do.

I have noticed, over the years, that my tastes in movies are extremely hard to define. I love movies that everyone else hates, and hate movies everyone else loves. But it’s not really a case of being deliberately contrarian or counter-culture, because all the favourites I can name are extremely popular and extremely well-liked (The Truman Show, The Shawshank Redemption, Wall-E). It’s also not really a case of the current trend of “ironically” enjoying bad things, though I’m certainly no stranger to that concept either (Shadow Warriors: Assault on Death Mountain remains one of the most satisfying moviegoing experiences of my life). There’s just something about dumb, stupid, honest things that really speaks to me, on a very strange level.

What do I mean by ‘honest’? I think the best illustration I can come up with comes from an episode of King of the Hill, in which Bobby starts a sketch comedy troupe whose material is based solely on jokes about propane and propane accessories. They find a receptive audience among propane retailers, but when they take the act on the road and perform in a shopping mall, they bomb horribly. Turns out, people who don’t sell propane for a living don’t see much humor in a Gas Cop arresting a homeowner for heating his house with butane. Hank, however, is just eating it up, and Bobby can hear his laughter from the back of the largely uninterested audience, so he keeps going. He knows he’s lost the audience, he knows the material’s no good, but his dad likes it, so by god he gives it his all anyway.

I’m not going to claim that this preference is exclusive to me, and me alone. On the contrary, I suspect that this type of honesty is recognized and appreciated by a lot of people. It’s the reason why Napoleon Dynamite was such a hit, whereas the director’s followup, Nacho Libre, was a flop. It’s the reason why Nicholas Cage has such a huge following in spite of almost all of his movies in the last decade being godawful. It’s why, among Arrested Development fans, everyone hates the episode S.O.B.’s, which was essentially a half-hour long fourth-wall gag about the show’s pending cancellation. People should hate these things, but they don’t, because of some intangible appeal that is intrinsically detectable.

I just wonder if, sometimes, I take it too far.

Here’s an example of a movie I like that everyone hates: Fantastic Four. The 2005 one with Jessica Alba. Now I’m not going to sit here straight-faced and tell you that it was a good movie. It’s not. Are you kidding me? It was terrible. The script was revolting, in service to a ridiculously contrived plot, and above all, it’s just not really good. But when I think about that movie, what I recall most of all is Michael Chiklis’ performance as The Thing. Chiklis read a lot of comics as a kid, and was a really big fan of the Fantastic Four in particular. As such, getting to play the Thing was a childhood dream come true, and you can tell from every aspect of his performance that he was having the time of his life in that role. This, from Michael Chiklis, an actor so intense and so intimidating that he managed to shake up a guy who once claimed (in jest, I know) to be the antichrist. Part of me likes to imagine that halfway through production, Fantastic Four’s producers knew they were sitting on a bomb and were ready to halt production, but not one of them had the heart to look Chiklis in the eye and tell him this movie was a stinker. Add to that the fact that Ioan Gruffudd was working his Welsh arse off to turn his accent American to play Mr. Fantastic, and you can tell that there was some genuine thought and talent put into the performances of a soundly poor film. And because of that, I really, really like this dumb, stupid movie.

Compare that with Juno, an Academy Award-winning film that I just thought was fake as hell. Presented as an indie flick, it stars such nobodies as Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and JK Simmons, all of whom had established careers in Hollywood prior to Juno. You know, a bunch of real unknowns, perfect for an independent film. Ellen Page plays Juno, who is crass and quirky and different from everybody, but is also just like a real teenage girl (the stated intention of the writer) who does things like set up an entire living room suite in her friend’s front yard to tell him she’s pregnant with his child. You know, like all teenage girls do. All those other jokers play Boring People whose essential purpose in the film is to juxtapose just how crass and quirky and different Juno is from all of them. In the end (again, like all indie flicks), everyone gets exactly what they want to the surprise of no one. Wheee. Everything about this movie, from the stilted dialogue, to the intentionally muted performances from actors desperate to underplay Page, to the dreary soundtrack, to the indie presentation, is just. so. fake. At the end of the day, however, the biggest problem with this film is that all the non-Juno characters didn’t wear monocles so they could pop every time Juno did something crass and quirky and different, to the exclamation “My word!” in a posh accent.

The rules by which I love Fantastic Four and hate Juno are not universally applicable to my choices of entertainment. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds was chock-full of earnest performances from talented actors and haunting special effects, but the script was so sloppy that it took me right out of it. Most critics and fans agree that the Matrix sequels were unnecessary cash-ins on the Matrix brand that ultimately cheapened the original movie, but my appreciation for Reloaded and especially Revolutions has only increased over time, and it was pretty high to begin with.

So what’s the point I’m driving at with all of this? Is it the startling, groundbreaking revelation that “opinions are subjective”? Or is it an incredibly roundabout way of saying “I like the Professor Layton games and also the movie”? Is it setting the tone for future movie reviews (and I intend to write movie reviews in the future), a warning that I might give a glowing review to a turd, and a scathing review to a masterpiece? Or is it just me talking about weird things I like and don’t like?

It is all of those things. And it is none of them.

You just got Zen’d, mothafuckas.

~Joselyn