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.

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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.

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.

What’s Up? (10/1/2017)

  1. Lingering. After a fantastic week with my family in Pittsburgh, I need to hit the reset button on my apartment, there’s some lingering differences. Guests have been gone for a week, but there are still guest towels in the bathroom. Small things like that.
  2. End of Summer. I get the feeling I’m surrounded by people who are like “I love fall” or “I love autumn.” Like, sure. I like autumn things as much as the next — foliage, apples, pumpkins… etc, but I don’t live for this season. Halloween? Yes. Cold temperatures? No.
  3. New Retro Arcade: Neon: Again. Next to Pokemon, there’s probably no game I’ve talked about here as much as New Retro Arcade: Neon. On some level, that’s because NRAN is almost more about the games inside of the game. (I can talk your head off about SEGA’s OutRun… and I just might.) On another level, the amount of work I put into NRAN outside of the game, is what makes me want to spend time inside of the game. 40 in-game hours are probably matched by 20 hours spend in Photoshop, creating, arranging, and fine-tuning arcade cabinet art so that it is exact to real-life cabinets, or at least visually appealing. Sharing that effort with the NRAN community, so others can enjoy my cabinet art, is also a nice bonus.
  4. SEGA’s OutRun. For the first time since picking up OutRun back in February, I made it to a third level. OutRun can be both extremely relaxing, and extremely tense. I’d say for the first few hours of playing, I was casually cruising through its pixely beaches without caring much whether I saw a second level. Now, I feel like any run where so much as a single mistake is made on the first level, might as well be trashed. There only so much that’s under your control though, and that’s probably what makes OutRun such a good quarter-stealer. You can be great at lifting on the gas through corners, you can be great at driving and all of that, but the traffic on the road is different every time, and sometimes, brutal. Still, celebrating a small victory in making it to a third level after months of on-and-off practice.
  5. Signing Off. Look how close the end of the year is approaching. Soon enough, I’ll be recapping my year in movies again. The end of the year makes me melancholy in a way that the summer never does. The end of the year is loaded with expectation and tradition. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years; things you have to get right because they only come once a year, and family, and all of that.

What’s Up? (9/6/2017)

  1. I ran to Southside early in the morning on Labor Day. Early enough to see waitresses from Hofbrauhaus step out of their cars in full dirndl uniforms (think Oktoberfest) and walk into work. It was like seeing Disney behind the scenes.
  2. I made that run to Southside in under 40 minutes. Really pushed myself to do it, but it was good.
  3. Logan Lucky was a good time, with a unique genuine wholesome-ness that I rarely feel in movies anymore.
  4. I rewatched the Mayweather/MacGregor fight, and it’s kind of nuts how much leeway they gave MacGregor since he didn’t 100% grasp the rules of boxing… I guess? I wish I wasn’t sucked into the extravaganza the first time around; I lost my head, and a few bucks, over nothing. On top of all that, a serial abuser did make a lot of money.
  5. Logan Lucky has me listening to John Denver, what the f-
  6. On this full moon, I’m going to be thinking about the autumn and winter to come, and how I can best end 2017 on the best possible note. What do I do at home to make me happy? How do I dress to create happiness? How do we keep summer vibes around after the summer is gone?
  7. For years I’ve thought about participating in NaNoWriMo, this thing where people practice writing by cranking out a whole novel during the month of November. Sounds like a lot of work that could be therapeutic.
  8. Hoe gaat het met uw? Met mij, ga het goed.
  9. The ending of Twin Peaks has my heart in a knot. If you love 90% of a thing, but you can’t reconcile with the final 10%, then I don’t know if the other 90% matters all that much.
  10. I wish I had more to say at this time.

What’s Up? (8/8/17)

Where the hell have I been?

Downtown Run

June (6/11/17) marked the first time I ran from my home in Squirrel Hill, to the neighborhood of South Side. A straight run from Point A to Point B? No, but I’m running a good 75-80% of the way. July (7/30/17) marked the first time I took that run a bit further, stretching all the way to The Point, Downtown. I suppose that makes it all a 5 or 6-mile adventure. Maybe more.

Altogether, it’s really amazing to sit by the huge fountain at The Point after such a long run. To stick your tired feet in a freezing cold pool, and get misted by this geyser shooting water two stories in the air. To be in an entirely different place than you’re used to because your body carried you there.

Change in a person is so gradual. I know people can tell I’ve lost weight; heck I can tell I’ve lost weight too, but I don’t look the way I imagined a runner to look.

Battlegrounds

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds lives up to the hype. Quickly put, this game is Battle Royale / Hunger Games on a huge scale. 100 Players enter, only one gets the chicken dinner. I’ve made the Top 10 a few times in my 7 hours; but even the matches where I die early are exhilarating, and each match memorable in its own way.  If I die in the first 5 minutes because I bring a pistol to an assault rifle fight, or my fists to a gun fight, that’s fun. If I smoke 4 dudes with a shotgun, and run over 2 with my car, that’s fun.

But the fun is mostly in hindsight – in the moment of playing the game I am anxious, alert, and really trying my best not to get murdered and sent back to the lobby. I think that’s why, for a game I love, I’ve only played 7 hours; I’m almost afraid to boot the game up because I know my heart will be pounding, my hands sweating, and my ears perked trying to listen for footsteps.

It doesn’t help that the game’s bugs and quirks sometimes lead to serious frustration. Murdering some fool for his jeep gives me an intense rush; dying because I jumped out of that moving jeep then completely ruins it. Killing someone who has better armor and guns then me through sheer tactics makes me feel amazing; dying because I couldn’t escape the force field makes me feel like an idiot.

It’s worth playing, I think the whole of the internet knows that now, and everyone who isn’t playing is experiencing the fear of missing out – I know I was. But while I can appreciate Battlegrounds for the narratives it spins just by playing it, I don’t think I have an appetite for the white knuckle “kill or be killed” gameplay. I do and I don’t… I guess what I’m trying to say is I love this game, but man do I “hate” playing this game.

Mid Century Modern

Someone once said, “where did you get all this Mod furniture?” I think that was the first domino. The furniture I had was the furniture that fell into my lap, hand-me-downs and things my parents bought for me. I never noticed how heavily it leaned into a certain style; the Mid-Century Modern look. Noticing was damnation, because once I noticed what fit the style, I noticed everything that didn’t. If it was Mid-Century it belonged, but everything else had to go.

For months now I’ve been caught in a sort of shopper’s hell, spending dozens of hours shopping on Etsy, Ebay, Wayfair, Overstock, etc. for Mid Century Modern furniture, decorations, knick-knacks and junk. Hours that normal people probably spend watching TV, you know? Or reading a book. But I can’t get over how stylish, garish, or kitschy some of the stuff made in the 1950’s-1970’s was. And I think it makes me happy, surrounding myself with this aesthetic like a blanket. “Look at me, I’m surrounded by Mid-Century things! I know what I like and I’m sticking to it!”

But this also scares the hell out of me. Maybe just a little bit… because my apartment looked nothing like this in May. And I keep telling myself “once I get this one last thing, then the apartment will be complete.” But where is that line? Am I ever going to stop and be satisfied with what I own?

It’s an overreaction to an overreaction. Redecorating my apartment is not hell, it’s not a problem like an addiction, and I’m being responsible about it — but I also didn’t need to do it so quickly, cutting out the old furniture root and stem in a month or two. Change should be gradual.

What’s Up? (6/18/17)

South Side Run
Panther Hallow. Junction Hollow. Eliza Furnace. Three Rivers Heritage. Hot Metal Bridge.

Two weekends in a row this is the new path I’ve been running, and it’s hard, tiring, and incredibly rewarding. Last Sunday, (6/11/17) I ran to South Side, probably 4ish miles, and snacked up at Crazy Mocha, grabbing a banana and monkey mocha before going on another run which added a little over 1 mile. Ran all the way out to the 10th street bridge! I also made stops to an H&M that was sadly going out of business, and the Hofbrauhaus which opens its doors at 12PM on Sundays. After a significant amount of running and sweating, let me tell you, some beer and pretzels really hits the spot.

This Saturday (6/17/17) I repeated the first leg of the run, but this time I called it a day after getting breakfast at Crazy Mocha. I’m not going to do myself any favors if I get beer and pretzels after every 4-5 mile run.

Still, this is such a rewarding trail to take. Running the Panther Hallow Trail brings you to a small “Panther Hallow Lake” which is quaint, and you can also catch the Cathedral of Learning over in Oakland. Running all the way out to the Hot Metal Bridge is such a bigger reward though… it’s like you break out of these thin woods and BAM, there’s the Pittsburgh skyline, and you’re running over the Monongahela River. In time, I’ll make it all the way downtown on a run. That probably requires an early morning start though. You probably want to get out at sunrise before peak heat and all that.

A part of me still can’t believe this is part of who I am now. Running.