Posts Tagged ‘Lara Croft’


James Bond knows his way around computers, high-tech killing devices, and just about any state-of-the-art gadget thrown in his path.

Lara Croft may have computer and tech genius Bryce working for her.  But she too could program, hack, and out-tech her way around a villain.

craig bond

The same seems to go for any action hero.

My own Layla in The Compass Master probably knows her way around computers and programming, even though her adventures are pretty low tech.

So I’m kinda embarrassed to admit that today I paid a nice young guy to set up and program my new TV along with my DVD player.

See, until today I had a very old (22 years) TV, a heavy but reliable clunker.  Then I finally decided I could afford a cheaper version of a flat-screen TV (they’ve only been around for what, a decade?), one that, unlike my old TV, would be compatible with the on-sale DVD player I bought a few months ago.  So I ordered one and it arrived days ago.

I didn’t open the box until today.

bryce lara croft

And I didn’t pull the flat screen out and screw its stand together and assemble the few parts.  I did not even think of hooking it up to my cable box and DVD player, or figuring out where to insert the CD so that I could program the TV and see how the three remotes functioned.

Could I have done all this?  Sure.   But I…  just…  couldn’t…  bring myself to do it because…

… I am so burned out on technology.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve worked in an office most of my life.  I started on computers when they were DOS, learned Windows in its earliest incarnation, and can’t even count how many software programs and operating systems and their endless upgrades I’ve had to learn.  I have survived what seems like a hundred phone systems and overseen their installations at least a couple times.  I have programmed gadgets that were obsolete within a year.  I have spent a large portion of my life working with technology that has gone the way of the carrier pigeon.

See, much as computers and entertainment systems can be wonderful for me to use, there’s only so much of my life I want to spend on them.  For some people, programming the latest and greatest stuff is fun.  But for me it isn’t a game anymore.  I’d really rather just pay someone to do it for me.

How about you—is technology still fun for you?  Any burn-out cases out there?

So here’s a weird observation I just made today…

Ever notice how action heroes never seem to have any pets?

The villains they fight might have them. Heck, some villains have animals they adore.  But the heroes?  They’re pretty much all pet-less loners who are so preoccupied with saving the world they can’t be relied on to feed a feral cat.

The only exception I could think of was Lara Croft, who has a black horse she gallops around on while practicing target shooting.  But do we see her feeding the horse, affectionately grooming it, actually taking care of the animal?  Nope.  Seems a servant does that for her.

Indiana Jones doesn’t have so much as a bowl of goldfish.  But a villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark had a pet monkey that doubled as a spy.

Of course James Bond, the ultimate commitment-phobe, doesn’t have a pet.  I doubt that he has a plant.  But one of his worst adversaries was forever petting and holding a fluffy white kitty and also enjoyed looking after man-eating piranhas.  Another villain had people-killing dogs, but hey – at least he HAD dogs.

What about Kate Beckinsale or Mila Jojovich?  I don’t recall any puppies frolicking around them.  Nikita?  They’d get pet hair all over her black leather outfits.

What about Iron Man or the other Avengers?  Too busy being manly to cuddle with a pooch?

Still I myself have to admit I’m not much better because when I created Layla Daltry I didn’t even think to give her a pet.  On some subconscious level I must’ve know she couldn’t handle one because she travels so much.

Then again, while rambling on like this I just now remembered there’s ONE famous action hero who is often surrounded by animals and who has a pet of his own…

Harry Potter.

How brilliant was J.K. Rowling to create a world where animals are characters too?  Where pets are part of the story and part of the lives of the characters.  Just as in real life.  Funny how some YA books with magical themes can get this right.

Anyway, it’s late and I’ve got to get to bed.  Here’s hoping my cat doesn’t throw up on my bed tonight.  Or on the floor between my bed and the bathroom where I might walk barefoot in the middle of the night.  Oh well.  I still love my pain-in-the-butt kitty.  Even if she doesn’t make me feel like an action hero.

 

My job review is coming up pretty soon.   That’s nothing to get excited about ’cause I have an office job, and you know what that means.  I sit at a desk and work on a computer and with papers and files.  Just like a gazillion other drones.  And I’m grateful for my job.

But what I’d much rather do is sit in on a job review for an AGING action hero.  ‘Cause if I hafta get older, then so does Jennifer Garner-Alias/ Jane Bond / Lara Croft / Nikita/ Mila.  I wanna see how those ladies perform when they get well into middle age, comme moi.

PERFORMANCE REVIEW FOR FEMALE AGENT

Per usual, employee has exhibited exceptional execution of duties in most situations, particularly in execution of designated villains.

Able to utilize martial arts, parkour, and gymnastics training to full effect.  However, the employee’s visits to a chiropractor and physical therapist have increased significantly, adding to firm’s overhead expense.

Employee is still maintaining high body count in shoot-out situations with multiple attackers.  In fact, employee often shoots more of the enemy than is strictly necessary.  We may wish to consider psychiatric review of employee for possible latent hostilities or PMS symptoms.

Employee is still capable of handling any firearm with keen marksmanship.  However, it appears that she must now wear reading glasses when using a scope in a sharpshooter situation.  This might become a liability.

Employee is still capable of handling all makes and types of vehicles.  However, rather than riding assigned motorcycles or racecars “full throttle” as directed, she has visibly “slowed down” and complains about “reckless” younger drivers in the firm.

Employee has been requesting that the firm pay for “minor” plastic surgery and laser treatments in order to appear younger and more seductive when on assignment.  She has been informed that, rather than relying on her appearance and sexual allure to manipulate male targets, she may now be better suited to missions in which her physical attributes are irrelevant.  Employee did not take this suggestion well.

On at least one occasion the employee had been directed to slip several sleeping tablets into the drink of the male enemy target.  However, the employee was overheard as describing the target as “hot” and instead “accidentally” slipped him tablets of Viagra.  The employee later claimed that she had simply failed to wear her reading glasses when choosing the tablets from her supply.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS:   Continued employment of employee is recommended, but with the caveat that she be “eased” into less physically strenuous missions and given more oversight.  Also, we believe the firm would be well advised to restrict her access to firearms and medications.

Pump Action

on March 21, 2011 in Misc 2 Comments »

You know what they don’t show you in a lot of action hero movies and TV shows?   How pump action shotguns can really mess up your shoulder.  Especially when you fire that heavy sucker about twenty-five times in an hour.

I should know.  Today my upper right arm and shoulder hurt.  I mean just plain hurt, even if I move my arm only inches in any direction.  That’s how much recoil those babies have.  Once you pull the trigger, the gun slams back against your body like a battering ram and you feel your flesh bruising and muscles screaming even as you try to focus on blasting little fluorescent orange/pink clay pigeons out of the sky.  After a while, the pain becomes distracting.

And the worst part of it was I didn’t hit a single damn clay pigeon.

Yes, this was my first time handling not only a real gun but one with ammo powerful enough to take down a charging bull – hence the extra kick in the recoil.  But not one freaking clay pigeon?   I mean, I’d always wanted to do some trap shooting.  I LOVE the scene in Second Hand Lions (one of my fave rave movies) when the two super crusty old uncles decide not to shoot a traveling salesman but instead buy his trap contraption and ever after have fun shattering clay pigeons out of the sky.  Of course they’re crack shots.

So is my friend Alonzo.  I told you in a recent post that he’s in town so we’re hanging out.  Besides occasionally doing some mountain climbing, Alonzo likes trap and target shooting, which he hadn’t done in about fourteen years.  On top of that he had new shotgun he had never before fired.  So how was his aim?

He was shattering clay pigeons right and left like there was no tomorrow.

He even repeatedly blasted double pigeons, and remember this was pump action so he had to rack the gun between shots.  That meant split second aiming but he still hit them.  From what I could see, he was out-shooting everyone around us, and that meant people who acted like regulars on the range and Civil Air Defense soldiers in fatigues.

“A couple more times out here, and you’d get a lot better,” Alonzo promised me.  Trouble is, once he leaves town I won’t have the opportunity for such practice.  Even after my arm and shoulder heal.

At least I did better with his handgun.  (We were, of course, at a highly controlled, highly regulated shooting range in a state park overseen by people wouldn’t let anyone sneeze in the wrong direction).  The weapon had a hell of a recoil too (40 caliber), but I did much better.  My best shot was about three inches from dead center over about 33 feet.  But again, if I hadn’t had an extremely firm double-handed hold on that gun it would have recoiled back into my face.

This is what I mean about movies and TV shows being unrealistic (shocker!).   So often in them even powerful handguns or rifles or shotguns don’t recoil or jerk backwards or upwards.  They don’t show you how DEAFENING multiple shots from multiple guns can be (I swear every person at that shooting range who went there even a few times must have some kind of hearing damage).

When it comes to action heroes, I’ve got to say that in this category Lara Croft is the biggest offender.  Yes, she’s more of a cartoon figure than most others.  But when she pulls out two HUGE handguns from thigh holsters and fires away with single-handed action but yet no discernible recoil and spot-on aim all I can say is…

Get real.

Lara Croft is who I should be,
Very wealthy and sexy and free.
I would live in a castle,
And have no greater hassle
Than to rescue the world before tea.

For adventures I’d fight and get grungy
With a gun and a knife and a bungee.
I would solve ancient mysteries
And rewrite their histories
While evading guys big, bad, and mangy.

For a lover I’d take Daniel Craig
Who in Raider Croft treats like the plague.
I would make him get naked
And do nothing sacred…
But here I had better get vague.

Still, Lara and I aren’t the same.
She’s a lady, while I’m just a dame
With a regular job
A mere face in the mob
Without glamour or romance or fame.

But this doesn’t mean that I’m bitter,
As a matter of fact I’m no quitter.
I’ve got a grand plan
To be all that I can
I just won’t have Craig cash or glitter.

After all my hard work, you’d think that by now I’d have developed SOME skills that set action heroes (like wannabe me) apart from mere measly mortals.

You know what I mean.  Like how Jennifer Garner in Alias can go undercover in fabulous disguises, climb buildings with her bare fingers, and has a martial arts-honed body.  Ditto for Lara Croft, who also races a motorcycle across China.  And Nikita in the new TV series (which reader Ben and I wisely watch) can do it all PLUS is a hacking and tech whiz.

I, on the other hand, have only one innate action hero skill:

I am superb at the quick comeback.

Yes, you heard me right.  I am one of those rare people who, if someone dares to utter a nasty or vaguely insulting remark to me, can swiftly inflict on said offender a quick-witted, cleverly humorous verbal retort.  I can render my opponent undone with a deft parry-riposte, as we say in fencing.  One that sparkles with a brilliant turn of phrase while leaving the offender momentarily stunned.  One that destroys any chance at a counter-thrust because I skewered him or her with such a perfectly-placed joke or innocent-seeming remark that saying anything in return will only come across as snarky or dumb.

But say that he or she dares, merely DARES to attempt a counter-attack – that’s when I don’t hesitate to go in for the verbal kill.  Usually I rely on my own wit (and I don’t have half of one); still I’ve been known to pull out the big guns by quoting Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, half a dozen comedians, or – at my classiest – Shakespeare.   I also speak my mind with just enough of a smile to make my opponents think they’re in on my joke, when they’re really not, which disarms them yet more.

So there you have it.  I, the action hero of the quick comeback, have seldom thought, “I wish I’d said…(fill in the blank)” after being verbally whacked by someone.  Pretty much 95% of the time, I fill in the blank.  No, I couldn’t computer-hack or karate chop or climb/leap/dive my way out of a dangerous situation.  Afterwards, however, I can give the best possible follow-up line.

Aerial Action

on January 19, 2010 in Misc Comments Off on Aerial Action

aerial_action_layla

Who knew that aerial dance could be a great way to learn action hero stuff?

It’s true. The irony is, I was only checking it out ‘cause like I’ve said, I want to be like Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft Tomb Raider when she does that somersaulting, ballet-like dance one night in her pajamas while strapped into a bungee-supported harness. That’s a great way to relax before popping off to bed, I always thought – just gracefully bounce about in the massive entrance hall of your castle.

Well, it turns out that bungee-whirling is in the repertoire for aerial dance. Even if you don’t know the term, you’ve seen such dance performed in venues like Cirque du Soleil when sylph-like creatures twirl and climb and spiral down to earth and up again while wrapping themselves in hanging strips of fabric or in rings or other do-dads. Of course, if you ever see these sylphs up close you realize they have muscles like bowling balls.

Now personally, I’m not a performer. I’m not interested in tangling myself up in mid-air while striking artsy fartsy poses. I only want to do the much easier bungee bouncing.

And to that end I signed up for a Fitness Conditioning class with the local troupe Aerial Fabric Acrobatics. For a mere $16 I could get a one-on-one workout preparation with gymnast guy Eric.

Damn, did Eric work me over.

Yes, soft spoken, very nice Eric gave me what the website promised, “… a chance to work specifically on core strength utilizing aerial equipment, gymnastic equipment, and methods from Feldenkrais, Pilates, dance, and Yoga… If you want to start learning aerial, this class is an excellent prep to help boost your core strength.”

Oh, I’ve been strength boosted, alright. It’s been over 48 hours and my shoulders and arms and upper chest still hurt. On the bright side, my abs now merely feel bruised.

Unlike Parkour, Eric didn’t maintain a boot camp atmosphere. That would have been difficult to do anyway in the bright, colorful gym of Dardano’s School of Gymnastics. Most of the time the place appears to be populated with little girls in pretty tights. Quite a contrast to the funky, tough, uber masculine Parkour gym I suffered in last summer. Anyway, Eric had me do one exercise after another as we moved from a long trampoline strip to mats, the floor, a balance beam, and bars on the wall. I did the works, and I did them pretty well.

gymnasts
In between the routines, I stole glimpses at the teenage girls and women who were working out on the fabric strips and aerial hoop and trapeze bar that hung from the ceiling. As they climbed up, hung upside down, and generally pulled off some cool stuff, I had an epiphany…

This aerial stuff is just what Layla might do!

I mean, on occasion Layla simply has to hang like a bat while going in upside down through a window from a roof’s overhang. And old castles and mansions often have massive drapes and tapestries she’d need to negotiate to get up and down some walls. Being a second story antiquities hunter, she’s got to have all-around climbing chops.

So you know what? I’ll just plain have to do more aerial dance training than I’d originally planned. For one thing, it turns out that I can’t do the bungee stuff until spring when the weather is warm because the rig is outside. So I might as well get into better shape in the meantime.

Besides, there’s the continuing problem of my (lack of) upper body strength.

At the end of class, Eric wanted me to climb a rope that hung from the high ceiling. “Go all the way up and ring the bell at the top,” he said. “I want you to do it twice.” He even held the rope taut for me and there were knots in it every couple of feet. But by then my arms and shoulders were shot, and try as I might (and I tried three times), I only got up a few of those knots before collapsing back down to the mat.

Layla would have scampered to the top like a monkey.

So you know what this means: I’ve got to take more conditioning classes with Eric and learn the basics of climbing fabrics. And one day very soon I’m going to climb all the way up that rope and ring that damn bell.

And I’ll climb it twice.

Half Year Review

on January 6, 2010 in Misc Comments Off on Half Year Review

Becoming_Layla_Review

With the New Year now underway and my one-year plan almost at the halfway point, it’s time for a review of my progress.  I’ve already talked about the mental and emotional changes the plan has made in me.  Now here are reviews for my progress in the areas of physical prowess and knowledge.

First up:  Parkour

My nine classes last July/August/September got me into shape more quickly and painfully than any other activity I’ve ever attempted in my life, and the boot camp atmosphere taught me that I could push my endurance much farther than I thought possible.  The stunts – from jumps to cat hangs to swinging by my hands along high bars – revealed niggling fears lurking within me which I was unaware of and had to overcome.  I also discovered I’ve got almost zilch upper body strength.  Since the classes ended I’ve kept up the sit-ups, push-ups and squats we did in class.  On the downside…

I have not maintained the same high standard for strength and endurance.  Yes, I’m generally in better shape, but out of a combination of laziness and crappy weather (this is Denver’s coldest winter in years) I haven’t been running in the park two blocks away nor have I been practicing chin-ups on its kids’ Jungle Jim.  Over the Christmas holiday my brother helped me by showing what muscles I have to develop if I ever want to do chin-ups.  He also laughed when I referred to my shoulder muscles.  “You don’t have any shoulder muscles!” he crowed.

One interesting side-effect of the parkour training:  I’ve developed the odd habit of sizing up the exteriors and interiors of buildings around me to figure out how I could climb them should the need arise.  It’s almost a compulsion.  How would I climb up over those elevators?  Could I get up to that balcony?  Anyway, once my upper body is stronger, I’ll start climbing the wall at REI before making a fool of myself around buildings.

Billiards

My pool/billiards skills have languished because I haven’t practiced them outside the two classes I took.  Being gone over the holidays and again the bitter weather haven’t helped.  But I’ll be taking another class in a few weeks from The Viper, and I resolve to head to the Wynkoop for practice sessions.  I mean, how hard can that be?  Buy myself a beer and practice for an hour or two.  Maybe I’ve kind of blown off billiards because it’s entertaining and not arduous, and there’s a puritanical part of me that tends to put off pleasure when I could instead be working at something.  Yet one of the most important aspects of my Layla plan is to have FUN.  Which brings me to….

Paragliding and Skydiving

The weather is still too damned cold.  I’m hoping that maybe in March or at least April there’ll be a warm enough day to make paragliding possible.  As for skydiving – a bunch of friends have decided they want to try it with me, and since they’ll be gathering from a couple of different states, we’re all aiming for one week in June.  But I think I’ll go ahead and learn to jump on my own first, and in April or May if the weather permits.  Then I’ll really have fun when I go with them.  I am afraid, however, that I might fall in love with skydiving, and the trouble is the sport ain’t cheap.

Languages

Damn.  I mean it.  Like, double damn.  I’ve really been lazy.  I’ve been studying French or Arabic only on an irregular basis.  When I’m in any kind of class I tend to be much more disciplined, so what I’m going to have to do is create some kind of similar structure.  Hence I’ve decided to write short entries in this blog much more frequently in order to document my almost daily progress with my plan.   Sometimes I might just list what I’ve done in the last couple days much as if I’m writing in a diary, but that should do the trick.  For me, making my private behavior public can be a powerful motivator ’cause I embarrass easily.

Lock picking

See description of my language studying.  Resolve here and now to be super diligent at learning how to pick locks.

And now for some good news.

I can FINALLY get back into fencing and get to REI and take an upcoming four-part session of aerial dance (à  la Lara Croft’s bungee dancing scene in Tomb Raider) and other Layla stuff because I’m about to become the proud owner of a hot little used red Chevy Aveo.  No, it ain’t no fancy sports car, but it beats my old Nerdmobile, especially because it’s hot red and can run and doesn’t smoke like the engine is on fire when I drive it.

In summation…

Will I meet my one-year goal to become like Layla after the coming six months are up?  I believe so, although the last few weeks of my plan might be a real crunch time.  Will I be happy if I reach my goals?  You know, I’m not sure.

The truth is, I’m beginning to feel that my original goals weren’t as ambitious as they could have been, that I could have set the bar even higher.  Hell, now that I’ve started on this path I want to achieve and do much, much more than I’d first planned.  In the last couple days I’ve also seen how my becoming Layla is forcing a kind of liberation on me.  I hadn’t thought that I was in a rut, but that’s how deceptive ruts can be:   sometimes they get wide and deep when we’re not looking, until one day we wake up and realize we’ve settled into a place we just don’t want to be anymore.

Does that mean there’ll be a Becoming Layla Level II and maybe Level III?  And if so, what will such plans entail?

Stay tuned for further developments.  I’ve got some pondering to do.

Reality Sucks

on December 9, 2009 in Misc 1 Comment »

Damned Cars!

I totally resent reality.  It’s screwing up my plan.

Just a couple weeks ago I decided that I wasn’t going at my one year transformation-into-Layla aggressively enough.  I resolved to set aside a lot more time for French and Arabic.  I should practice much more at lock picking, too.  Going to the parkour gym on some Saturday afternoons was certainly called for, since I very much need to work on jumps, pull-ups, tic-tocs, you name it.  And of course I should head to REI to learn how to scale their indoor climbing wall.  And what would really be cool would be to plot out some kind of made-up mission where I could combine several of my new skills.  Both physically and mentally, I long for the challenge.  I need to know that I’m making measurable progress.

So what happens?

I’ll tell you what happens.  My car dies.  I gotta get a new used one I can barely afford and have no time to hunt for one.  The weather has turned frigid.  And some days my job can be so tiring I go home and slap-dunk myself flat out on the sofa.

Take the last twenty-four hours.  Yesterday we had a deadline at work, which meant I was busy from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. with nary a break.  (I went to the restroom twice.  That’s it.)  That doesn’t sound too bad, but the last couple hours were an adrenaline rush of top-speed production followed by a race to the local Fedex office.  I went home feeling like a zombie and did diddly-squat all evening.  This morning I woke up with a headache and eyes stinging from staring too much at a computer screen the day before.  The temperature was about 10 below zero, which made waiting at the bus stop loads of fun.  The good news is my toes and butt eventually warmed up.  (WHY my not-exactly-miniscule behind can get so cold, I’ve no idea.  I thought fat makes for natural insulation.)  Between the brutal cold and another (but easier) deadline, I’m not getting to my credit union today either to find out about getting a car loan.

Lara Croft never has these problems.  She’s a fabulously wealthy aristocrat who lives in a castle.  She has servants.  She bungee jumps before bed.

Yes, Layla is much more of a real-world woman.  Still, she could buy a new car cash down.  She goes home to a penthouse filled with expensive furniture and antiques, not stuff from Cost Plus marked down to half price.  And she doesn’t work in an office and she’s her own boss.

Oh, and I’ve decided that Layla has a cleaning woman come in once a week.  Because that’s I want.

Sadly, my track record for getting what I want ain’t so hot.

The Plan

on July 7, 2009 in Misc Comments Off on The Plan

I’ve decided that the best way for me to start my plan is by asking two questions.  The first one is:  If I am to become like Layla  Daltry, am I using a realistic model?

As characters go Layla is pretty believable.  Certainly she’s no cartoon-like Lara Croft or Indiana Jones or James Bond.  It even seems that she’s evolved to become something more than fiction:  a creature woven from the bone shards of my own long buried desires and set-aside ambitions, a flesh-and-blood woman emerging from the better than average angels of my nature and my too infrequent adventures, a glamorous avatar who in her youth did almost everything right hence unlike me did not have to settle for a fallback life.

The second question is:  How do I compare to Layla Daltry right now?

The answer hurts.

Layla picks locks and gets into places she doesn’t belong, scampers across rooftops, climbs up and down buildings, and finds hidden and lost rare ancient manuscripts and other antiquities in exotic places — for a price.  I don’t.

Layla lives in a penthouse in Dublin, Ireland, worthy of Architectural Digest.  I live in Denver, Colorado and my place is nice but should not be photographed for any earthly reason.

Layla can get around in a couple modern languages and is fluent in Latin and ancient Greek.  My French has deteriorated into near non-existence and I’m struggling to teach myself basic Arabic.

Layla is a graduate of the University of Chicago and holds a master’s in the literature of early and medieval Christian history with an emphasis on archeology.  I only have a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Colorado that I pretty much never used.

She also once had a lover who was in the British SAS and taught her special forces skills that help her lead a danger-edged life.  Me?  I wish.

Now for the most glaring differences between us . . .

Layla Daltry is still relatively young — about thirty — while I’m well into middle age.  Damn.

She’s beautiful and I’m not.  Double damn.

Worse still, I’ve become aware of how over the years a part of me began to shrink into the confines of my resume, my job description, the petty demands of my daily life.

I mean, I’ve certainly done some exciting and even outrageous things.  Like Layla I’ve flung caution to the winds and gone on a few risky jaunts to different parts of the world (Pakistan, Bosnia, etc.).  But for some years now and without really being aware of what I was doing, I downsized myself and my life so that now even my perception of myself has diminished into a melancholy blur.

Layla would never, ever do that.  And now I must stop doing it.