What’s Up? (5/30/2018)

Solo
I saw Solo on Thursday, May 24 — I didn’t think I’d be seeing it on opening night, but thanks in part to MoviePass, there I was. I was shocked that Solo wasn’t a complete disaster or a mess, and in fact, it was actually pretty good for what it was. It was the first of a handful of pleasant surprises that I would encounter on my birthday weekend.

Cider
On Friday I enjoyed some apple cider with the S.O. at Arsenal Cider House. Beautiful weather, pleasant live music, and the company of birds in the cider garden made Friday evening especially relaxing. Fresh margherita pizza from Piazza Talarico also hit the spot; it made a really strong first impression, considering I’d never gone before. (+1 Pleasant Surprise).  

Formula One
The Monaco Grand Prix always falls on my birthday weekend, and is always a weird affair. I love it, but the races aren’t that exciting, however, I get really invested in rooting for my drivers. This year was no exception, as I was on the edge of my seat nearly the entire race hoping Daniel Ricciardo would win, as he almost did in 2016 — and thankfuly he did. (+1 Pleasant Surprise).

Pirates
After the Monaco Grand Prix, I planned on going to a Pirates game on Sunday afternoon — except the weather forecast all week long called for rain, thunder, and clouds. On game day though, we had none of that — basically clear blue skies with a fair mix of clouds, but nothing bad. (+1 Pleasant Surprise). Too bad the Pirates lost, no surprise there I guess. It was still a brilliant day for ballpark snacks, beer, and cheer.

Cake
I capped off my birthday weekend with an unplanned double-birthday party, with my S.O.’s 4-year-old niece. It was really cute, and honestly such a nice, casual thing to do on your 25th birthday — I can’t remember the last time I had cake on my birthday, but I’ll remember having cake on my 25th.

Advertisements

What’s Up? (5/10/2018)

I’m Turning 25

This is something I can help to think about, and with increasing frequency as my 25th birthday approaches nearer and nearer. It’s a multiple of 5, it’s the halfway point of my 20’s… and it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

And yet, there have been a few choices I’ve made this year that I think I can attribute to an underlying desire to meet that age, 25, with a renewed or reinvisioned sense of self. Such as; starting a new wardrobe of “professional” clothes for a job with no dress code, trying to be more financially independent and responsible, trying to introduce some variety into my cooking, closely tracking how often I drink, exercise, read, write, practice dutch, etc.

I’m demanding more of myself. This isn’t a bad thing, but the origin of the demand is mysterious. Do I really want to be more productive simply because I’m turning 25? Do I think 25 year olds are supposed to be more productive? I suppose with age comes maturity, and to an extent I would believe that someone who is 25 should be able to cook more meals than I’m capable of.  

As I describe it out loud, I think it’s more likely that this is a natural extension of trying to improve myself year-over-year. If I do a little bit of running in 2016, I’ll want to do more of it in 2017, and then even more running in 2018 (maybe even a 5k or two). The wardrobe change is perhaps harder to explain, other than the fact that a wardrobe should always be changing and evolving with a person, right?

If I trace my evolution from graphic tees in early college, to fancier graphic tees with infinity scarves late in college, to even fancier all-over print tees and basic v-necks post-college, I can clearly see a pattern. I’ve been trying to cultivate a more mature look for years. (So no, the new wardrobe isn’t about turning 25, it’s just about getting older in general, I guess.)

I have to thank myself for writing this, otherwise I might have believed in my own quarter-life-crisis, which would have been a bit over-dramatic.

What’s Up? (4/15/2018)

Alien

This past March I saw Alien 3 for the first time. As someone who could talk a big game about loving Alien (79) and Aliens (86), it was a little strange to me that I had never completed the original quadrilogy. Little did I know that watching Alien 3 for the first time would just completely set me down a path, on in which I watched the entirety of the original Alien franchise, plus some extras.

On March 4: I sit down to watch Aliens, almost like a comfort food movie. I know it’s good, I’ve seen it before, and watching it again instead of something new erases the anxiety of choice. 5 out of 5 movie, no question.

On March 8: I watch Alien 3 for the first time — and it’s so, so flawed — but in a way that I can’t help but imagine what it could be. And like, this movie came out in ‘92 right, so I’m officially the last Alien fan to discover how disappointing the third entry in the series is, but I’m still reeling from that. It’s a 3 out of 5 movie, that I really, really wish could earn that extra star.

On March 15: I watch Alien: Resurrection for the first time. The movie is definitely the worst of the bunch in terms of writing, but I have to say, at least it wasn’t such a downer like Alien 3. The film’s unrelenting and goofy “Tude” kept me in a positive mood through it all, but given some time to think about it, I realize that I probably liked Resurrection more than 3, even if I recognize that 3 is so much better. It’s a 2 out of 5 star movie.

On March 17: I watch Alien: Covenant for the first time and it’s fine. But since I’m a sucker for the Ridley Scott aesthetic established in Prometheus and continued here, I gotta give it 4 out of 5 stars.

On March 20: I watch Alien for the third or fourth time, just to tie a nice bow on this experience. Actually, it was my first time seeing the Director’s Cut of Alien, and I actually think the scenes it adds are a bit too much. That one towards the end just kinda ruined the pacing, I think.

See? That’s a lot of Alien to watch in one month, and I didn’t even fit a screening of Prometheus in there! So yeah, that’s What’s Up, I’m getting into movies.

What’s Up? (1/31/2018)

2018 Resolutions

I don’t like to go too long without journaling here. The act of putting internal reflection into words, and publishing that, publically, can be pretty cathartic. Early January, when people are executing on New Year’s Resolutions, is both a great and dangerous time to commit thoughts to paper. Sometimes people come up with loft resolutions with no plan of execution — heck, I’ve been there. I’ve probably, definitely, declared a resolution on this blog that I’ve never followed through on, but I like to think I’ve learned how to come up with achievable goals.

For instance: Let’s say I want to work on my running. Running more miles this year vs. last year is an unknowable goal. I can only guess how many miles that would be, and putting a number on it needlessly complicates things.  But I do know that I ran downtown three times last year, so, running downtown five times this year would be a measurable goal and realistic, if low, goal.

If I want to lose some kinda weight, that takes even more work to measure. For instance, last year I believe I said “I want to weigh less than 170 lbs at least once” – and there were occasions where I weighed myself and got in at 169, which I’ll take as a win. If I want to improve on last year’s goal and say “I want to weigh less than 170 lbs for a week” I’ll have to keep track of my weight over time. Not only that, but it’d take significantly more work — I couldn’t just hit 169 once and call it a day, I’d probably have to get down to 165 to account for normal fluctuation.

Do you see how much trouble a resolution like that could cause? I’d much rather just run downtown five times a year, and maybe lose weight in the process, but in the end that doesn’t matter as much to me.

Pick Up Guitar

One of my resolutions this year is to simply pick up the guitar again. I have three guitars; one acoustic slide, one acoustic, and one electric. They could all use a little work before I get back into the hobby. The acoustic slide just needs a little tuning and we should be good, the regular ol acoustic needs to be brought to a local shop and repaired, but it will be worth it to get that up and running. And then there’s the electric guitar, which probably needs a full-on factory repair, because the pickups aren’t working.

I feel like I have a funny relationship with guitar. Yes I have 7-8 years of experience with it, but I’m probably still no better than your average intermediate student. I spent a lot of time messing around, improvising, learning this song and that song, but I seriously lack practice in some of the basic fundamentals. Not that I’m looking to change that this year — that may be too lofty a resolution — no, I’m just looking to pick it back up and start playing once a week.

Learn Dutch

So get this. In 2016 I stumble on an ASMR video that is a basic lesson in Dutch, teaching the colors, rood, oranj, geel, etc. I find it kinda cute (because ASMR) but also satisfying to repeat. The J’s and G’s feel particularly nice.

So on June 30, 2016 I downloaded Duolingo and, on a whim, just started some Dutch lessons and never looked back. So what started as an experiment is now something I’d like to finish in 2018. I feel like, with enough time and effort, I should be able to finish all of the Duolingo lessons in the Dutch language. This might be the most demanding of my 2018 resolutions.  

Travel West

This resolution is incredibly short and simple: I think I’d like to travel west of Pittsburgh for something, sometime this year. Probably a concert. This isn’t a matter of improving something in my life, or bettering myself, it’s just a thing I think would be fun to do.

Get A Tattoo (Design)

This resolution is more “unfinished business” than anything else. In the summer of 2014 I commissioned a design for a tattoo that I never got. On some level, I’m glad I didn’t go through with the original idea, and I had time to think about it. In 2015 me and the artist re-aligned on a new idea that also never came to fruition. I don’t think I’ve been ripped off as a much as he’s simply busy or has completely forgotten, but I’ve also had no luck in hearing back from him, which is a little scary. If I can at least get the commission drawing in my hands by this summer, than this four-year-long journey will be over, and the journey of actually getting a tattoo can begin.

Pair Down My Cocktail Bar

Oh geez, this will probably be my longest entry in a long, long time… but another thing I want to do in 2018 is trim down some of the excess liquor in my kitchen. There are a lot of bottles in my posession that were purchased and rarely touched. When you get into cocktail culture, I think it’s easy to buy things thinking you *need* them in your bar, or you *need* them to make this particular drink. When you get to where I am, I think you start to realize what you like and what you don’t, and you can start focusing on having ingredients solely for your favorite drinks rather than having a little bit of everything.

For my sake, there’s probably only two categories of drinks that I want to be ready to make at a moment’s notice: classic Gin cocktails, and tiki drinks. For me, pairing down my cocktail bar doesn’t mean throwing out the liquor I don’t want, but rather, testing myself to use unwanted liquor to make good “farewell” drinks. Excess vodka can be used for mules, Cherry Herring for Singapore Slings, etc. Once living with a well-stocked but “minimal” bar, I shouldn’t be tempted to pick up random bottles anymore — I should only replace the necessities once they’ve been used up.

The irony that my first goals were all about being healthy and running, and that my last goal was about being a more efficient connoisseur of alcohol, is not lost on me. Believe me, I’m aware how polar-opposite some of my favorite things are, but that’s just life.

2017 In Movies

Every December for the past two years I’ve recapped all the movies I saw that year in Tweet-sized reviews. So without further adieu, here’s my 3rd-Annual year-in-review for movies.

Honorable Mentions: Movies that came out in 2016 that I didn’t catch until 2017.

 

  1. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
    BvS is a boring superhero movie, which is worse than it being “too dark,” “too rainy,” or “too joyless” even though it is also those things. (1/5)
  2. La La Land
    This movie managed to make me care about Mia and Seb’s romance, even if I didn’t care for Seb. Beautiful shots throughout the movie. (4/5)
  3. Moonlight
    2016’s Best picture is a tear-jerker with fantastic performances. Better romance than La La Land; loved that beach scene. (5/5)
  4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    I wanted to like Jyn and company, but their motivation was shaky, and their mission was undermined by eye-rollingly bad cameos. (3/5)

  5. Hidden Figures

    I thought this was going to be a cheesy family film, but it kept the cheese to a minimum (mostly K.Costner) and dished a lot of real drama. (4/5)

    And now onto 2017 proper…

  1. John Wick: Chapter 2

    While not as strong as the original, JW2 expanded the lore without breaking it, and created a lot of memorable, entertaining moments. (4/5)

  2. Kedi

    Do documentaries belong here? Kedi is about cats in Istanbul, but it’s also about humans who love cats, and therefore, amazing. (5/5)

  3. Get Out

    I’m normally too scared of horror movies to even see them, but thankfully Get Out kept jump scares to a minimum and got psychological. (5/5)

  4. Logan

    Logan was praised for being dark and violent but it really didn’t do much for me. I wasn’t emotional about the end of Jackman as Wolverine. (3/5)

  5. Ghost in the Shell

    Aesthetics is all this movie has. I can’t believe they made whitewashing part of the plot. I’m sad to see good source material wasted. (2/5)

  6. The Fate of the Furious

    This is the worst F&F movie they’ve made since ‘09. They took a popcorn-flick-franchise into a dark direction, fridged a woman, & it sucked. (3/5)

  7. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

    I didn’t care for the original GotG, but this one’s themes about family resonated with me. I got emotionally invested this time around! (4/5)

  8. Wonder Woman

    Wonder Woman juggled three things, and did it well somehow! It did 1) origin story, 2) fish out of water rom-com, and 3) war drama. (4/5)

  9. Baby Driver

    Ansel Elgort & Lily James stand out in this heist movie with a focal twist. It looks great, and sounds great, as standard for Edgar Wright. (5/5)

  10. Dunkirk

    I was underwhelmed by Dunkirk. I heard over and over about how tense it was, but, I didn’t really feel it. At least it was short. (3/5)

  11. Atomic Blonde

    This is a super stylish movie with an awesome 80’s soundtrack tailored for me specifically! Unfortunately the plot was convoluted. (4/5)

  12. Logan Lucky

    Not an amazing heist movie, but this movie really worked as a comedy, made me appreciate John Denver, and had southern accent Daniel Craig. (4/5)

  13. Battle of the Sexes

    I was pleasantly surprised at how much this movie dove into BJK’s sexuality! Emma Stone was perfect, and S.Carell made Riggs sympathetic. (5/5)

  14. American Made

    I will keep seeing Tom Cruise in action movies, and while this was marketed as one, it’s actually just a clunky-comedy bio-pic. It’s okay! (3/5)

  15. Blade Runner 2049

    No movie this year demanded a rewatch like Blade Runner 2049. This movie has a lot of things to say, if you have nearly 3 hours to listen. (5/5)

  16. The Florida Project

    I couldn’t stop thinking about this movie. It combines poverty and the dangers of childhood, in an uncomfortable heartbreaking nightmare. (5/5)

  17. Lady Bird

    Lady Bird perfectly captures the feeling of being in your last year of high school. Saorise Ronan is great & Laurie Metcalf brings it home. (5/5)

  18. Murder on the Orient Express

    This movie’s a “whodunit” that doesn’t give the audience the chance to solve the mystery. The more I think about it, the less I like it. (2/5)

  19. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Thematically, I think Rian Johnson has done something great with Star Wars. That said, I’m deducting a point for everything at the casino. (4/5)

  20. The Shape of Water

    This is a wonderful, science-fantasy romance, that almost functions on a family-movie level of logic, but deeply explores sexual themes. (5/5)

 

What’s Up? (12/12/2017)

New York, New York

So, it’s been 2 weeks since I’ve been back in Pittsburgh after about 12 days in New York. I meant to write this immediately upon my return, but, a little time away to think doesn’t hurt. I do struggle when thinking about New York conceptually; it is where I’m from, it is my first home, but I don’t want to gush about it too much. My friends and family there are great, and it’s really easy to be surrounded by the sights of the city and become infatuated by them, but then there’s Pittsburgh, my chosen home. And when I’m away from Pittsburgh and I’m in the house I grew up in, I don’t know, it feels wrong. It feels too much like coming home from college, only different, like I went to college and never came back and that’s resented. It’s weird being a stranger in the house you grew up in — you can’t help changing while you’re away, and you spend enough time away from everyone that they’ve changed too (like, when did your brother get into Kendrick? I wish I was there for that).

Every visit to New York brings feelings like these; you’re glad to see everyone, but the ways in which you’ve changed sometimes leads to unexpected results. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad, and the whole thing feels very melancholy.

Cleaning Haus

In the 12 days I spent in New York, I spent a pretty significant amount of time just cleaning my old room. It’s unrealistic to expect this room that hasn’t been mine in 6 years to reflect who I am, but I can at least bring a few touches of the new me to the room. Something the Pittsburgh version of me is really into is tidying, and in tidying I probably threw out 2 garbage bags worth of old crap. Old drawings, notes from as far back as my sophomore year of college, and useless trinkets were all over the room, scattered and taking up space. It gave the impression that someone lived there, with all of this media lying around, but whoever it was hadn’t lived there in quite some time.

The room went from wearing the trash of my past, to accessorizing my past, fashionably. Some good drawings from high school are now propped up, some decorations my dad purchased, and even some toys from childhood make an appearance. With another round of cleaning in December it might start to feel more and more like my room again (or something I at least had a hand in designing).  

Focus

I will say this about being in New York — every second that I’m not in Pittsburgh reminds me of who I am and what I want to do in Pittsburgh. It gives me a focus and a drive. I long to return to my work, to return to my apartment, and to work hard to improve both.

Obit. for a Tree

Today when I returned to work, a four-story tree that stood outside my apartment all three years that I’ve lived here, was cut down. I didn’t even get to say goodbye, so I’ll write my farewell here.

That tree gave me front-row seats to so many birds, from tiny chickadees and hummingbirds, to red-tailed hawks. That tree and I went through the seasons together, and I’m going to miss seeing it outside my window. Peace out tree, it’s been good.

Soul Swapped: 2017 Edition

Every now and then, I love to sit down and play a randomized Pokemon game. I’ve written about this a lot over the years. In fact, The Nuzlog may have been one of the first things I tried writing on this blog. As far back as 2013, there are entries where I write notes, detailing out the play-through in an immersive, role-playing fashion.

Why?

Well, I think that’s just one way to keep the memory of the play-through alive. I’m not the type to record videos of every randomized run, though I’ve done that in the past. I’m not a streamer, I don’t talk over videos, so writing has always been how I tried to infuse some character into my notes.

Okay, but why Pokemon?

Randomizing Pokemon games breaks down the human design and structure, and replaces it with chaos and mystery. As a child, I never knew what was around the corner in a Pokemon game. As an adult, even if I’m not actively spoiling myself, I can read the signposting to figure out what’s going on. As a result, the games feel easier and easier as I grow up — they’re still fun, but not because they’re challenging. But in a randomized game, the chaos and mystery I experienced as a child is still there. It’s so much fun to see what’s around each corner, who’s in the gyms, what Pokemon trainers use, that randomizing a Pokemon game is practically an annual thing for me.

Which brings me to the last run I did, a randomized Pokemon Silver run for the GBC, played on legit GBC hardware —  no accelerated emulation, it had to be played in real time, so grinding out levels would take hours, not minutes. Since Pokemon Silver was remade as Pokemon Soul Silver, I affectionately call these randomized runs “Soul Swapped” — again, there’s a history there spanning back to 2014 on this blog.

PokemonKrystal2

The game presented me with Grimer, Kadabra, and Dugtrio as possible starters. I love the purple poison types introduced in Gen I, as they were always the villain’s Pokemon, so Grimer was the obvious choice even though it was disadvantaged against Kadabra and Dugtrio. What followed over the next 20 hours and 21 minutes was a nostalgic, but fresh play-through of Pokemon Silver, which was one of the first games I really enjoyed as a child (if not the first).

I’ve left a record of each of the gym trainers and Elite Four members encountered during the initial Johto leg of the adventure. My trainer, Krystal, would go on to train that Grimer, Slimey Gal, until the very end, along with a Magneton, Magnetique, a Blastoise, Kaiju (named so because he knew Fire Blast, which reminded me of turtle-Kaiju like Gamera), a Starmie, Beast II (named so because they replaced Entei as a Legendary Beast), a Raichu, Blackthorn, (named so because she was received as a gift Pikachu by the Dragonmaster in Blackthorn City), and finally, a Pupitar named Reptar.

I don’t know what to say. I have an urge to record the results of these randomized runs because they are truly unique. I have had that urge since 2013. I have no intentions of stopping. Pokemon got into my system when I was a six-year-old kid, and boy, I still love this.