What’s Up? (1/30/2019)

I gotta say, 2018 was a great year. Me and my significant other made a lot of amazing memories, went to a lot of Pirates games, and wrapped it all up with a great dinner on New Year’s Eve. Personally, while I might have gone running more often in 2017, I ran two 5k’s in 2018, and made longer-distance runs to South Side more of a staple and less of a special event.

There aren’t a whole lot of areas where I look back at 2018 and wish I did things differently. Maybe wish I saved more money, made some smarter decisions financially, but there were also some purchases that will probably turn out to be smart, in time. (Feel like I spent a good chunk of money on updating my professional wardrobe, dress shirts, vests, pants, etc. which is more a long term investment rather than something useful in my day-to-day). I also wish I read more often… there’s a lot of books on my shelf and it’s about time I got to reading them.

Being content / perfectly happy with how your 2018 went makes the whole “Resolutions” thing hard. When people ask, “what’s your New Year’s Resolutions” you can’t exactly say “keep doing more of the same, it’s been working out for me.” Physically, 2019 will be more of the same, with yoga maybe being more of a staple… maybe three 5k’s this year, small incremental changes. I’d love to be able to say “I’ll make time to read all the books in my apartment” but that might be a bit of a stretch. I will invest more time into DuoLingo, mixing Spanish and French into the mix this year. That’s all I gotta say though–what’s up is… I’m doing fine in 2019.

2018 In Film

For the 4th year running, here is a complete recap the films I saw in theatres in 2018… in Tweet-sized reviews.

  1. Call Me By Your Name ★★★★★
    This movie really did things for me, emotionally, aesthetically, as a fan of the 1980’s and summer in general? Beautiful film, Michael Stuhlbarg is amazing, and I would have been happy to see this win Best Picture.
  2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ★★★☆☆
    At the end of the day, I don’t know what Three Billboards wants me to feel about the police, violence, and the search for justice, and I don’t care to know either. The blunt writing is not really good enough to warrant a re-watch.
  3. Black Panther ★★★★★
    Another ‘fun’ Marvel movie, greatly elevated by splendid actors, thumping soundtrack, and an opening-weekend-audience that made this feel more like an event than your average comic-book movie.
  4. Annihilation ★★★★★
    Annihilation is deeply creepy, with elements of body horror and man vs. environment. The shimmer will linger in your mind for hours after seeing this. Great women in this movie too (Tessa Thompson, Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh!)
  5. The Death of Stalin ★★★★☆
    Death of Stalin was up my alley in more ways than one. I expected to be amused by a farcical depiction of historic events, and while the movie is darkly funny (but not in an edgelord way) I also found myself somewhat educated.
  6. Avengers: Infinity War ★★★★☆
    I was surprised that Infinity War managed to walk that fine line between MCU ‘fun’ and life-or-death stakes that these movies rarely deal with. Infinity War only works if you feel, in the moment, that things are dire–and it accomplishes that.
  7. Solo: A Star Wars Story ★★★☆☆
    Alden Ehrenreich is far from the worst thing about Solo, and honestly, I think he’s fine in it. Were it not for the surprise appearance of a certain prequel character, I could have given Solo 4 stars, but alas, another spinoff movie weighed down by cameos.
  8. Won’t You Be My Neighbor ★★★★★
    WYBMN squeezes 30-40 years of Mr. Rogers history into a well-paced documentary that covers the highs and lows of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the surprising amount of self-doubt he faced, even in the final days of his life.
  9. Hereditary ★★★★☆
    Hereditary is fucked up, y’all. But I love it. Toni Collette should collect a Best Actress nomination for her work in this messed up family horror. The final act may be polarizing, but when the movie goes off the rails is where I found myself most enjoying it.
  10. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ★★★☆☆
    No movie in 2018 felt more like a personal obligation than Fallen Kingdom. “Welp, I have MoviePass might as well see this right? It’s dinosaurs, how bad can it be?” The answer? Meh. Dinosaurs in a haunted mansion should have worked better than it did.
  11. Incredibles 2 ★★★★★
    Incredibles 2 does more than just invert the formula from the original, it forces Mr.Incredible to grow in ways he hadn’t in the original, while giving Elastigirl the chance to shine on her own (and drink two Negronis in the process). The mid-century aesthetics too, damn!
  12. Mission: Impossible – Fallout ★★★★★
    Six movies in, you think the Mission: Impossible formula would stop being entertaining, right? Except this series continues to be a delight! So sit back, enjoy some popcorn, the practical stunt work, and the inevitable “I’m wearing a mask!” twists. It’s still fun.
  13. Sorry to Bother You ★★★★☆
    Boots Riley’s directorial debut is strange and absurdist, while also maintaining a clear thesis? Like, even when the movie makes you ask “What the fuck?” deep down, you know what the fuck. I loved it, can’t say the same for the others in my theatre!
  14. The Meg ★★★☆☆
    Oh boy! This movie was some of the best, silly, fun I saw all summer. It’s no Jaws but if you need your shark fix, The Meg should do the trick. The Chinese-co-production also brought in some talented actors, like Li Bingbing, without which the movie would be more forgettable.
  15. Mandy ★★★★☆
    I went into Mandy expecting something John Wick-esque, but what I got was better. Rather than emulating other revenge fantasies, Mandy does its own, weird, horror thing, using Nicolas Cage to full effect, and giving the title character (Andrea Riseborough) defiant strength.
  16. Halloween (2018) ★★★★☆
    David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s ode to the original 1978 film is damn-near perfect, with Jamie Lee Curtis delivering a perfectly broken-but-strong modern Laurie Strode, and John Carpenter adding new, great music like “The Shape Hunts Allyson.”
  17. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ★★★★★
    I don’t think a single movie made me laugh as hard, or as frequently, as Spider-Man. At the same time, this movie had so, much, heart! AND at the same time this a beautiful looking movie!! Don’t miss Miles Morales film debut while it’s still in theatres.

What’s Up? (10/12/2018)

Wii Fit
It’s been 80 days since I first stepped on the Wii Balance Board to try out Nintendo’s virtual fitness trainer and, though my experience has varied in quality, I have more positive things to say about WiiFit than negatives. A lot of its shortcomings are a direct result of being 10-years-old, and relying on even older technology like the Wii Nunchuk controller for some of it’s best exercises. My goal each session is to burn 115 calories, which WiiFit presents visually as being one piece of flan cake. That can take anywhere from 25-35 minutes using WiiFit’s aerobic exercises, yoga poses, and various games. There are faster ways to burn 115 calories, but the thing I appreciate about WiiFit is that it gives me an incentive to try exercises I normally wouldn’t do. Jackknifes, for example, I find really rewarding–and I’ve never heard of those before trying WiiFit.

If there’s one shortcoming to WiiFit, it’s that 80 days later, getting to 115 calories can feel like a chore. If you were to try and burn that by only doing their yoga poses, it could take over 40 minutes, where 115 calories could easily be burned in 10 minutes or less on a stationary bike. That minutes-to-calories conversion leads to me trying to focus on WiiFit’s more intense programs, which have their own sets of problems. “Rhythm Boxing” for instance, can burn about 65 calories in 10 minutes, which is great, but since it uses the Nunchuk controller to score how well you time your left-hand punches, it leads to about 1 in every 4 of my left punches just not counting because the technology isn’t great. Since the tech doesn’t work 100% of the time, it’s hard to be consistently excited for a WiiFit session — but it works well enough that I’m happy to have it as an alternative to biking, running, and yoga. We need diversity in our exercise routines, and for that, WiiFit gets the job done.

When my parents come to Pittsburgh, I know I’m in for a good time — lots of sightseeing, bar-crawling, restaurants. This year’s visit was a little extra special, since my brother is in town, so we pulled a lot of stops. A tour of a Whiskey distillery; a Steelers game, a Paul Simon concert. It was a lot. And it was good, and if I had some free time last month I may have dedicated some time to write about it in full. Instead, I’ll bank those memories in my head; how the best tasting thing at the Whiskey distillery was actually their rum, how the Chiefs fans at Heinz Field were so funny that they made losing to them a little easier, and how Paul Simon—at 76 years old—can still put on a beautiful show of sonic composition. By the way, happy birthday Paul Simon! (He’s about to turn 77 tomorrow).

Bullet Journaling
This February I tried out bullet journaling, which is basically just a method of keeping track of daily activities like biking and running, or goals like “no alcohol” or “no money spent.” Problem was, in February, I was trying to track too much—almost two dozen items—from “eating fruit” and “flossing” to “no dishes left in sink” or “used Duolingo.” Bullet journaling is supposed to show you a record of accomplishments, and on some level I think, show you where you need work. But when you track almost 20 different aspects of life, it becomes more of a burden than a tool for self-improvement. Under that burden, I stopped bullet journaling in April—after two months I was tired of feeling bad about how often I had “blank space days” where I did nothing that I was tracking in the journal. I also found myself doing things just so I could check them off my list—which should not be the prime motivator for things like exercise.

In August I restarted my efforts to keep a bullet journal and I’m glad to say that it’s working so much better. Instead of keeping track of two dozen different things, now I’m only tracking ten; biking, running, yoga, WiiFit, squats, Pimsleur, Duolingo, sobriety, mediation, and reading. Five physical goals and targets, five mental ones. Two and a half months later, this stripped-down version is working for me. It provides a visual aid that makes it easy for me to notice “Hey, I haven’t run in a week, I should go running” or “Hey, I’ve drank alcohol the last three or four days in a row, time for a sober day.” I can also leave myself notes and reminders in a to-do column. One of those notes for the past week or so, has been to update the blog with some new entry after another long-ish hiatus. So there you go.

What’s Up? (7/23/2018)

New York
I spent a week back in New York, from July 14 to July 21, and it was a much-needed vacation. Time to rest my brain from work, time to rest; period, by banking in some sleep hours, and I would say time to rest my body — except I did get some good exercise in. On Tuesday, July 17, I rode 8 miles on a bicycle out to Jones beach for breakfast at the beach — an egg bagel with butter, which tasted delicious on this cloudy, foggy morning at Jones Beach. Only problem was, just 2 miles on the ride back my front tire popped, and I had a very bumpy ride back home.

Still, this visit to the beach, and another one with my friend on Friday, July 20, were really good for me. I love the beach, even if the reality of beaches are very, very different from the fantasy of them. “Beach vibes” reduce the beach to a certain type of music, with perfect blue waves and white sand – and I surround myself with music and art that remind me of beach vibes. But the reality of Jones Beach is less ideal, and all the more beautiful for it. The sand at beaches isn’t all white, it’s brown and tan and filled with seashells and dead things. The water at oceans isn’t all blue, on a cloudy day it can get green, grey, foamy, all that good stuff. So thanks, beaches, for bringing the sound of relaxing waves, squawking seagulls, salty air and, occasionally, fishy smells. The good and the bad.

On August 7th, 2015, I made my first of many visits to Silky’s Sports Bar and Grill after moving to Squirrel Hill. When I went there on June 23, 2018, I did not know it would be my last visit to Silky’s. Upon coming home from my vacation on Long Island, I found my favorite bar – or at least my most frequented bar, was closed. I can’t say I’m incredibly shocked, as Silky’s could get quite empty when there wasn’t a Steelers or Penguins game on TV — but still, not getting to give Silky’s a proper goodbye hurts a little.

What was my last beer there? A lager, an IPA? I know I was watching Germany play Sweden during the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, and it was the day before the Stride for Pride 5k, so I didn’t want to drink too much. What will happen to that bottle of Bacardi 151 they had lying around? Will anyone miss the Cherry Master video slot machine that sat largely unplayed on the bar counter?

You create a lot of memories at your local bar, no matter what that local bar is, no matter where you live. I didn’t get a chance to actually give a toast to Silky’s, so, here’s what I’ll say instead. You could always count on Silky’s for a few things: 1) Sports, 2) Good beer, 3) Waffle fries to die for, and 4) Jay Bird.

What’s Up? (6/18/2018)

Greenfield Glide 5K
It’s already been two weeks since I ran my first 5K on Sunday, June 3rd — the Greenfield Glide — which was somewhat familiar as a good half-mile was on park trails that I run on regularly. The big takeaways for me was, first of all, that I’m capable of running 3.1 miles in at least 35 minutes (probably less, if I hustled more) and two: that running a 5K with hundreds of people is FUN and gives you motivation. So that being said, no surprised that I’ve signed up to run another one this Sunday, June 24 — the Stride for Pride.

Another recent first for me — this past Sunday, June 17 I attended my first Yoga class, a 75-minute Vinyasa Flow session in a 85-degree room that was dripping with humidity. It kicked my ass, in a good way. Not the same workout as a run, but different in a valuable way, as parts of my body got a workout that wouldn’t have been worked out otherwise. I also learned a lot from the amateur mistakes I was making as a first-timer, and I look forward to improving my Yoga game in future classes.

Lucfier is a weird show that refuses to die, and I can’t help but appreciate that. The buddy-cop procedural crime show about the LITERAL devil getting paired up with a homicide detective to solve murders got renewed for an okay Season Two and then somehow, a Season Three (which was pretty disastrous, even alienating the few fans that stuck around that long). After getting the axe from Fox, #SaveLucifer became a trending topic, however forced by the desperation of the Lucifer community, who never quite got what they wanted out of the show. I mocked the Save Lucifer movement, and yet, and yet, the show got picked up for a Season Four by Netflix.

Back in 2016 I wrote “With any luck the show’s writers will spend less time in Season Two reminding us that the devil likes to fuck, and more time bringing these two [Lucifer and Chloe] closer together and giving Chloe definitive proof that she’s working with the real devil.” While Season Two continued to develop Lucifer’s whole “Ladykiller In Love” trope, as a man-child playboy with a fixation on his partner, Chloe Decker, it continued to flip-flop on the will-they won’t-they story. As TV Tropes puts it: “Lucifer, who has charmed and slept with possibly thousands of women, realizes in Season Two’s “Homewrecker” that he’s in love with Chloe.”

Season Two’s cliffhanger ending had Lucifer on the verge of confessing his love for Chloe before being mysteriously interrupted, and then Season Three only further taunted fans by teasing out their relationship even more by turning it into a love triangle, and ending the show with the most tantalizing cliffhanger the fans could imagine — Chloe finding out that her partner, Lucifer, is ACTUALLY the devil.

After an awful Season Three, even by Lucifer’s cringe-worthy standards, I can’t help but admit that I am totally here for Netflix’s Season Four, and I hope the show can go out on a nice 10-episode swan song. And then please, let this show die. Or reach 100 episodes. I don’t know.

What’s Up? (5/30/2018)

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.