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Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

In Criticism & Review on July 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm

More than anything else, I absolutely hate spoilers. So I feel obligated to give you this warning in the most visibly obnoxious way possible.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE YET, STOP READING HERE.

Though theThe Dark Knight Rises was far from perfect, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Though it understandably could not live up fully to the expectations The Dark Knight set forth, Rises manages to bring the saga of Bruce Wayne full-circle in a way that feels complete.

The film picks up 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight. Having taken the fall for the murders committed by Harvey Dent, Batman (Christian Bale) has gone into hiding. Gotham City’s streets are safer than they’ve ever been, and it seems there’s no longer a need for the Caped Crusader.

But as Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle / Catwoman warns, a “storm is coming.” And when that storm arrives, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been for the Batman.

Coming out of his seclusion to face the villainous Bane (Tom Hardy), Batman is put to the ultimate test, both physically and mentally, as he struggles to protect Gotham and become the hero he once was.

There wasn’t much that struck me as wrong with the film, though there are certain aspects that felt underdeveloped. The clean energy reactor/nuclear bomb, for example, felt a bit like a forced plot device.

Also, the reveal of love interest Miranda Tate’s (Marion Cotillard) true identity as Talia, the daughter of Batman Begins antagonist Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson), came about a bit too late in the game. As the true mastermind of the plot against Gotham, I would have expected Miranda to be more of a central character, and would have liked to have seen more of her as a villain. But in the brief time we got to see Miranda’s true colors, I thoroughly enjoyed Cotillard’s performance.

Until that key reveal, a central theme of the movie, the legacy of Ra’s Al Ghul, could not be fully explored. Talia’s whole plan to destroy Gotham was intended to do what her father had failed to.  As the man who trained Bruce, Bane, and Talia (and made a cameo appearance in Bruce’s dream), it seemed that Ra’s legacy was intended to have played a larger role.  I think the film could have benefited from more emphasis on the fact that both Batman and his foes had been trained by Ra’s, and examining where their ideologies diverged. It would have played up the two-sides-of-the-same-coin dynamic that made the Joker such a perfect foil to Batman.

But the things the film didn’t do are minor compared to the things it accomplished. As with most of Nolan’s projects, Rises was cinematically impressive, especially the action sequences. The fierce combat between Batman and Bane, and the fantastically-choreographed scenes of Batman and Catwoman fighting side-by-side make the film worth seeing on their own.  No scene felt more epic than when the police joined with Batman to take Gotham from the criminals, except for perhaps Bane’s destruction of Gotham’s football field.

The cast delivered fantastic performances all around. Christian Bale, stepping into his hoarse bat-voice once more, was at the top of his game as both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Hardy’s Bane receives nearly as much screen time as Batman and, though he’s no Joker, I found him very compelling.  Towering above Batman and assured in his total superiority, Bane was a villain worthy of facing the Dark Knight, played charismatically and intimidatingly by Hardy.

As the wry and seductive cat burglar Selina Kyle, Hathaway stole every scene she was in, pun unintended. And Gary Oldman continued to prove himself as an indispensable part of the franchise as the ever-vigilant Commissioner Gordon came to grips with the lie he had perpetrated about Harvey Dent.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character John Blake proved to be more central to Rises than I had anticipated. The reveal of Blake as Robin, though made painfully obvious for any comic fan early on in the film, still managed to give me fanboy-chills.  As the film progressed, Blake learned that right and wrong are never as simple as they seem, and in order to do what’s right, sometimes you need to work outside of the system. It was clear that the character was building towards that pivotal final scene, in which Blake discovers the Batcave and begins his own journey towards becoming a hero.

Of course the most important character arc of the film, and the part the narrative handles best, is the journey of Bruce Wayne / Batman. Crippled mentally and physically after his years in exile, Batman comes out of the shadows only to be broken and left for dead at the bottom of a pit. From his very lowest, Batman rises, both literally and figuratively, to once more become the hero Gotham needs him to be.

Forced to put everything on the line for his cause, Bruce rediscovers what made him a hero. When the battle is won, and we see that he has survived and has made a life for himself with Selina, it is clear that his journey has come full-circle. He rose as Batman, and for his ceaseless sacrifice and dedication to Gotham, was allowed to finally be Bruce Wayne. Now “Robin” John Blake, inspired by Bruce’s legacy and the symbol of the Batman, can take up the mantle. Gotham’s new champion rises.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has created a worthy bookend to his Batman trilogy. We’ve seen the full journey of Bruce Wayne. Batman began, he fell, and he rose.

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Can A Digital Security Breach Ruin Your Company?

In Criticism & Review on June 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

City College of San Francisco Computer Virus Transmitted Personal Data For Over A Decade (HuffPost)

A story like this can kill any organization, and higher education is no exception. In an age where digital reigns supreme and serves as the primary source of communication—to transmit information, especially—there’s little more important than security of said information; [Because] a university is similar to a finance firm in the sense that they compile massive amounts of sensitive information, with realistic consequences if in the wrong hands.

Can students, faculty and the public trust you after a decade of unbridled digital contagion?

(Sounds apocalyptic, but in a way: it is. A knowledgeable hacker or network can compromise data and cause significant damage in one day. Ten years? Whew.)

This puts the entire organization in question, specifically with concern to:

  • Knowledge and Awareness
  • Innovation
  • Quality
  • Safety

I’m sure you can come up with a few examples where these qualities are important when selecting a University or higher education institution. Who is to say this reputation stops at digital?

The City College of San Francisco suspects virus and criminal activity present in their system for over a decade. And they cannot determine whether or not personal information has been compromised. It’s a fairly safe assumption that there has been a data leak. This begs the wrong question. Why or how is this data significant to the hackers? And only the insiders can speculate what the potential is for the compromise of private information.

How would you feel if your college or university has a data leak for more than ten years? What would you think of this institution? I’m unsure I could let this pass.

Background Info: I recently read Adopt the cloud, kill your IT career at InfoWorld. In this article, Paul Venezia links to City College of San Francisco Computer Virus Transmitted Personal Data For Over A Decade, which is where the story begins (above).

How Facebook Will Crash and Burn

In Criticism & Review, Digital Communications on June 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm

View Hudson Walking Bridge Poughkeepsie NY If social networks are not fluid, people abandon their core functions. Yesterday, I was taking pictures on the Hudson River and came across a fancy idea.

We saw it happen with MySpace. They were hot, hot hot! Myspace didn’t have their own verb like Google it! and Facebook me but people still said: What’s your Myspace? Then … They crashed and burned, now characterized mostly by talentless bands, spam bots, and pedophiles. But why?

Answer: All of the smart people moved on.

Jeff Jarvis and Mark Zuckerberg both speak of adding to the value of a community, for reasons why a network lives to see another day, and this is important and very clearly true. But I think there’s a hidden trend at work here, too.

Trend: You need to keep the smart people.

Remember: you don’t own them, they own you. But you need to keep them. All the smart people left Myspace for better communities like Facebook and Twitter. Myspace didn’t change. (They tried to and failed.) A fixed object can only stand still in an ocean for so long, without reinvigorating its energy.

Recent discussions with “smart” people have revealed the [above] trend. Here are common responses:

  • I am using Facebook much less than I used to
  • I use it to share my work only
  • I stopped using it all together

The “smart” people are either becoming niche-y and picky with how they use Facebook or have stopped using it all together. This is important. Why does this happen?

Less tech-savvy people are still bickering with one another via Facebook over plagues that haven’t affected forward-thinkers in new digital culture for a couple decades. This is where the gaze is now; this is where they focus their attention–They are distracted by each other.

We either find things we don’t like or we get bored with their use. After you have provided “elegant organization” to a community, you need to figure out how to keep pushing that envelope to create a sustainable business / social network.

The U.S. is trending toward a Freelance World which I think shifts attention of Facebook users, indirectly. I’m finding that I–along with people I interact with in new media and tech industries–cannot afford to spend time promoting Facebook. (E.g. Feeding them content.) These kinds of people are busy doing our own things.

The collective “we” gives away a lot of our life to things like Facebook in exchange for connectivity. And that’s not a bad thing, except when it affects workflow and productivity. I have decided …. Y’all just need to do the same, to determine if it’s worth it.

If enough smart people reconsider Facebook, the premier social network will crash and burn because intelligence has found a new home. (It’s a good thing they had enough cash to buy Instagram.)

Rejected Content: My First Submission to Digital Pivot

In Criticism & Review on June 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Context
Here is a letter that I wrote, as a first post for Digital Pivot. The top dogs said it did not fit with the content and style at Digital Pivot. It’s cool. I get it. This isn’t the first time my writing has been rejected. I thought this was a great way to connect with the reader, to capture more than the 25 word text box can offer.

Here is my first un-official post, to begin my writing at Digital Pivot. My Digital Pivot portfolio will be here. Thanks y’all!


Greetings Digital Pivot!

This is my first post here, and I have great aspirations for this opportunity. (Big ups to Talent Zoo!) Before I begin, I would like to share with you my story … And for you to share your story in the comments, below.

S'mores with Homemade Graham Crackers and Dandies Wherever I write, I consider the space to be a digital campfire to huddle around and swap tales. So, let’s get cozy and chat—I’ll bring the S’mores. But please bring your own shtick! I need you, and your passions and ideas more than anything because, “I’m a social dude.” (See: Baratunde at SXSW.) Everyone knows that writers need an audience, but for me it’s about something more:

We are creating culture. That’s exciting! Have you ever thought about that? Our culture blossoms in idea sharing and collaboration, to move forward. Let’s move forward together.

Who is Christopher Ryan?
First, you can call me by my full name, but I also have two nicknames: Chris and Topher. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Upstate New York is beautiful, especially during the warmer seasons. In my travels, I fell in love with the Internet, business and marketing, and digital lifestyle design. For me, these three niches are especially attractive because they always involve people. Collaboration is inherent to the work culture and what’s more: I liaise with others to achieve their goals and dreams.

What’s more rewarding than this?

I welcome you to my digital home, which I hope you will find wonderfully designed and easy to navigate. If you can’t find the bathroom, don’t be afraid to ask. Click the Connect with Christopher button in my portfolio to see where I am on the web. Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to name a few.

I have three wishes in mind for this blogging adventure—most of which cannot be granted without you, the genies:

  1. Meet new people, shape warm relationships, and grow together
  2. Offer insight into the world of technology and culture, digital social, and new media
  3. Create a collaborative space to share ideas and perspectives to push culture forward

Stay tuned for my second post that will highlight the WordPress platform. I will showcase WordPress’ greatness by way of exposing their Achilles heel. Think you know what it is? Take a stab at it in the comments. And while you’re there, tell me about yourself. This is an ‘us’ thing. Thanks for reading.

I Almost Created a Journalism Infograph…

In Criticism & Review, Golden Nuggets on June 9, 2012 at 1:35 am

Fact: Information transmits and transpires much more rapidly and freely today than any point in history (as we know). Think about technology and the human experience. And the so-called “battles” between grassroots movements and big business in journalism.

Here’s a math equation to represent the flow of information in digital culture:

This is about as close as I get to making an infograph.

Colloquially: Citizens divided by Journalism, minus the press equals…

What’s the answer?

The Verge: Creating Kick-Ass Culture (x 2)

In Criticism & Review on June 6, 2012 at 11:35 am

Photo Credit: The Verge / Vox Media

The Verge: Follow us on Twitter! by Laura June was released on 19 May 2012. There is a great list of creative talent here, to explore. Apropos: I recommend following users on Twitter that make-up your news diet.

Why am I sharing this?

Firstly, I like Laura June’s name. It’s badass. Laura June sounds like the name of a tomb raider–an unabashed mover and shaker. The bottom line is: she produces great content for The Verge. And she reminds me of Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs). All great things. You can check out how long June’s been On The Verge* by clicking her name [above, P1].

My main point
The Verge and their organization’s culture is dank (#12). Look at their post! It’s clean and neat and sharp. And the photo op is very durable and posh, like a modern day Mad Men. If you stumbled upon this post–even if you didn’t know who or what these people were doing–it would still make for a kick-ass desktop background.

How many people can say that about their job or work culture?

Related: Vox Media

* Note the writer-profile copywriting as an insignia to represent their culture. (Very detail oriented.)

Binghamton’s Four Noble Truths, revisited

In Criticism & Review on May 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Thank you Brandon for stirring the pot. He writes:

To clear the air a bit: I don’t think writing needs to serve a higher moral purpose—morality isn’t everything, nor is this my concern. But I think we can agree (without making concessions) that all expression has purpose regardless of the source, scale, how it develops, etc. This includes writing, and this is a contribution to our culture. We huddle around news and networks like digital campfires to discuss this purpose.

The genuineness and thematic tension never develops and I’ll explain why through these four noble truths:

(1) The lead statements and closing remarks are OK and pair like Hansel and Gretel—no major concerns here. The remaining composition, however, vis-à-vis Hansel and Gretel pretends to address the journey and environment. (Next time leave a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow)

(2) The writer collects vain representations of the Binghamton college experience (e.g. drinking on a budget) ad nauseam and loses the reader. Failure to use literary devices effectively encumbers her rhetoric (e.g. The Hills Have Eyes, 10th paragraph), which is lazy at best. Hemingway is rolling over in his grave and if I find Chekhov’s Gun I’ll join him, earnestly.

(3) The only genuineness and thematic tension I can submit to is limited to Alyssa, herself, and not her writing. The writing is blunt and abstruse, defined by its unbridled pretense, not genuineness. The reader can view Binghamton’s Four Noble Truths as a criticism, bildungsroman, or Fodor’s Travel Guide to Binghamton—it doesn’t matter || you arrive at the same point: travelers with closed minds can tell us little except about themselves (Achebe).

(4) Her voice reaches for understanding concepts like nostalgia and reflexive schadenfreude in an attempt to find meaning as a BU Student but noble truths 1, 2, and 3 get in the way of this. Miss Mercante treats these concepts like petty possessions rather than using them to illustrate her quintessential Binghamton.

You don’t need to agree or disagree with her perspective of Binghamton (this is only one form of measurement). However, I would like to point to a larger issue: SUNY Tunes (BU Kids) and the City struggling to close the relationship gap, which is an issue of consciousness. When you don’t allow people to participate in social ways, they behave in anti-social ways.

I am from Long Island
I am from Binghamton University
I am great friends with people you call creatures
And they don’t hate me because I’m not an asshole,
And I don’t shit where I eat.

I have high standards for Binghamton University senior English majors, who supposedly possess intimate knowledge of the human experience. What is your expectation?

For more on this discussion:

Anthony Fiore writes there’s more out there than State Street, from May 4th 2012.

Here is my original post: BFNT Response.

Binghamton’s Four Noble Truths Response

In Criticism & Review on May 9, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Binghamton’s Four Noble Truths, the way I lived them was published yesterday, May 8th, at bupipedream.com. There’s a lot of local traffic targeting this post. Some love it, and some hate it. Read the article here–it’s a quick read. Below is my take.

A callow criticism of a culture that is misunderstood, and a coming of age story, that lacks merit as well as insight, to grok one’s place in the grand scheme of things. I’m a strong advocate for free expression in the j-world but I’m appalled the Pipe Dream approved this article mostly because I’m unsure what the message is and what is trying to be accomplished.

Hello Alyssa–this isn’t an attack. I’ve learned to find value and understanding in a contradiction, not stress or pressure. It’s important to step back and consider her perspective. But I don’t understand what Alyssa’s perspective is which leads me to consider this a “rant”. You’re waiting for the words to coalesce but this never comes.

Alyssa’s take on Binghamton and the university, and social media appears foul from the lack of clarity. You could say her writing is as cloudy as the Binghamton skies (and as banal as this simile). When her prose needs to flourish or thrust through it doesn’t. The article leaves the reader with a bad taste in their mouth.

Greek Life: The Commodification of Student Rights

In Criticism & Review on May 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm

The benevolent ‘Greek’ hand and academia aside, Josh’s main point—being a force for good–sticks to the wall, but this issue is a moral quandary, [concerning policy and process], the University needs to take a firm stance on, regardless. They can’t view this case in terms of pluses and minuses.

Somewhere in the middle I lose interest because of the article’s vagueness and limp dissection (e.g. “Yes, some organizations on this campus haze” and “some of the things that happen during pledging are disgusting…”). It’s public knowledge this happens, and we’ve admitted it. Greek needs to move past this. Apparently we can’t judge fraternities all we want–these blanket ‘statements’ are judgements.

I think Greek Life, in an attempt to be diplomatic, tainted the perception and the presentation of Greek Life. What was our strategy in addressing the University’s claims? How are we getting involved? And how will we create our own future? These are not new issues. It’s a current problem the Internet faces: people want their rights and organizations to be ‘free’ but they aren’t fighting for them. Instead, we keep new policy in check when censorship or Big Brother steps in. This is lax; it’s time to be proactive.

I’m unsure if Greeks should be upset others slander our name—what have we done to change this? Students and Binghamton University know we are philanthropic and academic statistics support themselves, but this isn’t the particular strain of our identity that is in question. Binghamton University asks for transparency as a call to action, but this should be a requirement by all if we play ball. The common Greek is left in the dark, submissive to the IFC and BU. We need representation that is going to be transparent. The slogans–that fraternities pawn off especially–like ‘All for One’ is a critical example. It’s best to marshal all your resources and act as one. All Greeks should know everything about this issue and should be involved. It’s time to step up, IFC.

Social Responsibility as a Mode of Governance

In Criticism & Review on February 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It aired in the New York Times yesterday, February 11th. Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff, sharing the byline, critique America’s increasing dependence on government aid and the public’s dogged disposition to neither curb government spending nor decrease aid. It’s a social Catch-22. Society should provide welfare, but we also need to be accountable. Instead, we’re cooking the books.

I gather, from Appelbaum’s dissection, we are witnessing a veiled equilibrium. Medicare pays out approximately $3 for every American dollar invested, according to a New York Times analysis. Americans are getting more than what we are paying for. An elderly Chisago County Minnesota resident tells Appelbaum, “My generation has always known what our bills were and we’re not asked to pay them anymore. And that’s wrong.”

What is the Tipping Point?

Perhaps there is one tipping point that can inspire a chain-reaction of subsequent tipping points. Let’s consider social responsibility and government conscientiousness as a call to action. Both of these qualities seem to have reached a critical mass.

The difficulty concerning this concept is: America must tighten its belt somewhere, and at sometime. When we will change is an equable quality of the solution. Americans aren’t cognizant of this dynamic and the tepid trepidation of sociopolitical issues and economic concern ensues. Commonly proposing the question how are we going to get out of this?

Instituting greater controls and accountability in public policy is an exceptional place to start. There is a considerable difference between promoting social welfare and causing social stagnation to escalate.

My co-worker has an interesting take on government funded benefits. She was previously a Delaware resident and has recently moved to the Southern Tier in Upstate New York. She’s a single parent working a minimum wage job to support three children. What’s most striking about her story is: the accountability in Delaware benefits programs contrast greatly with similar programs in New York.

From her anecdote, I gathered people in Delaware receiving benefits are trying to change the quality of life rather than sustaining poverty. Delaware benefits qualifications and eligibility requires achievement and advancement, rather than, as Appelbaum discovers, making a career out of it. There is no room to applaud handouts. We should be responsible to provide for others but there is a gross sense of entitlement associated with this construction.

Ideally, Americans need a government that insists on being transparent. During John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address in 1961 he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” With a twist, here’s what you can do for your country: get involved and be proactive, to ensure openness and productivity are mutual values rather than sweeping current issues under the rug. Productivity is a vague sentiment but the point is: the goals and aspirations of the government and public should be aligned, not in confrontation with each other. Social Security, Medicare, and the government safety net are not ephemeral problems; rather they are on pace to crush our future. If government conscientiousness is not intrinsic value, society must make it a requirement.

Social responsibility, as a movement, requires a knowledgeable and informed public. You can’t ask questions without knowledge or thought. Americans should consider what is important, as an individual and nation. (Do we even know?) Realized ubiquitous social accountability to stanch excess government spending and further debt is a healthy start, but this is only the beginning. Expecting others to allay current conditions isn’t enough. This is how we got here in the first place.