April 7, 2017

Dave Chappelle's Netflix Specials

I watched both of the Dave Chappelle Netflix specials the other day. I was quite amused. I laughed a lot. It was nice to see Dave again. It was also a strange experience. He wasn’t telling jokes as much as he was just talking in front of the camera. It wasn’t always funny, but it was always interesting.

While I was not personally offended by anything Dave talked about, there were a few moments where I thought… oh geez, somebody is going to get mad about this… I wasn’t surprised when I saw negative reviews popping up on the internet.

I enjoyed both of the comedy specials, but I also think these critiques are valid.

March 17, 2017

Commonplace Book

I love pens and notebooks. I have been keeping journals for the last 15 years. I mostly write down thoughts and keep lists, but I am not very structured. I almost never go back and read the things I have written.

A couple of years ago I read about the commonplace notebook. If I had describe it, I would say a commonplace notebook is a physical notebook[1] where you keep track of the best insights you have come across. It is place to log the ideas that resonated the most with you.

Like any journal, a commonplace book can be whatever you want it to be. Here is a reading list that I went through when trying to learn about the commonplace book. I got a lot of insight from these posts.

I recently started my commonplace book in a Baron Fig Confidant. We will see how it goes, but I really hope it sticks. So far I have written down a few quotes, and made notes about a couple of the books I read this year. I plan to add anything I learn from books, movies, articles, or any gems that I happen upon in daily life. Like many of the articles stated, it is important to review your commonplace book and keep those insights in the front of your mind as you continue to grow. Maybe this will be a journal I will actually go back to.

  1. This could also be a digital notebook, but I think a physical notebook would be more effective.  ↩

March 7, 2017

If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.
-Albert Einstein

March 4, 2017

Swiss Army Man

Swiss Army Man is a crazy movie. It is also one of my favorites of the year. I didn’t find it extremely deep. It mostly sticks to stoner philosophy that is ultimately coming from the brain of a disturbed individual. Even so, I found the writing to be clever. I can also see why some people hate this film. If it weren’t for the performances Swiss Army Man could have been a complete disaster. It struck a chord with me. I enjoyed the heck out of it.

I watched Swiss Army Man on Amazon Prime Streaming, where I believe it is still available.

I really enjoyed this movie, while at the same time it doesn’t really feel like a movie. I actually think it would have been more effective as a short film. It feels like the Daniels got high and came up with a handful of good ideas for a story. That story could have been told in 30 minutes, but they decided to build an entire film around it. I enjoyed some of the “filler”, but in the end it didn’t come together for me as a satisfying narrative.

I enjoyed the premise, and there were great moments of writing. It just didn’t feel like a story that needed 1.5 hours of screen time. Maybe if I go back and watch it again I will feel differently.

I found it intriguing how the movie presents us with so many disgusting ideas and images… but then tries to mold that into something beautiful. Ultimately, if you go along for that ride and are able to see even a bit of beauty in the story, I think you will like the film.

February 5, 2017

Book Review - Deep Work

One of my goals for 2017 was to read more nonfiction books. I wanted to use time that had previously been spent on wasteful things to read books that would broaden my perspective and make me better.

In an effort to keep myself focused on what I am reading I also have the goal to write about those books. This will be my first post.

Deep Work starts off by making the case that “deep work” is valuable. It doesn’t really define the concept of deep work other than describing the act of thinking really hard about something without being interrupted.

I chose this book because I often feel distracted. I wanted to read something that would help me focus on what is important. Deep Work seemed like a great choice to start out 2017. January was all about focus for me. Deep work requires focus, so this seemed like a great book for me to read to begin the year.

The book talks about how easy it is to be distracted in the age of the internet. Most people are distracted. Our culture is distracted. Being distracted is easy. Focusing is hard.

Deep Work makes the case for why it is so important to achieve that focus. However, it doens’t really tell you how or what you should be doing. The book gives you tips on how to remove distraction. It makes the case for why you should delete your social media accounts. However, “thinking really hard” about things still seems like an elusive goal after I was finished reading. The way the book describes deep work is almost like an act of meditation.

Overall I enjoyed reading the book and thought it had valuable insights. You should not expect a playbook of how to achieve “deep work”, but rather a theoretical analysis of why you should strive for it. There isn’t a whole lot of practical advice, but it doesn’t mean that the ideals of the book are not without merit.

Deep Work set the tone my 2017. I have been striving to remove distraction from my life, and Deep Work reinforced why that is important. I think I will try to read this book again, which is very rare for me to say.

I am not sure what I expected out of this book, but I feel a little disappointed by it. I feel like it basically told me I need to “think harder”, but it didn’t really tell me what that means or how to do it. It seems like if I build a cabin in the middle of the woods isolated from all of the distractions of our current society I should be able to think the deepest thoughts I have every conceived of in my life. However, that is not something that is in the budget right now. I guess I will feebly try to think deeply at my own cubicle for now.

January 17, 2017

I am about to write a post that fits into a sub-genre of blog posts that I don’t really like. It is the post where I explain that I haven’t been posting lately, and try to explain why. I might even tell you that I am planning to post a lot more going forward. I’m not even going to give this post the satisfaction of having a title. It is just going to be logged in the archives as a random untitled update, so it barely even counts as a blog post at all.

I started this site years ago to write about movies. These days I don’t watch all that many movies. I have definitely lost my “film nerd” classification. Nowadays when I do watch movies I don’t necessarily feel the need to share my opinion on the Internet.

In general, I am not sure whether writing on the Internet is even a worthwhile endeavor. I go back and forth on the subject. More often than not I think writing for (the idea of) an audience is a good thing for me. It forces me to consolidate thoughts and processes them into coherent ideas. When I don’t write for long periods of time I find myself missing it.

So here we are.

If I want to write a blog I think I am supposed to decide what I want my blog to be about. I think I am supposed to be specific. I need to find a niche. People want to read about a single thing, that is the only reason they will keep coming back. That is a problem.

I tend to believe the area of film criticism is covered by tons and tons (and tons) of writers on the internet. I don’t honestly believe I am bringing anything new or noteworthy by writing about my thoughts on a movie. That idea used to discourage me. It still might. Still, I plan to continue to write about movies, television, and media in general. I also plan to write about other stuff. I don’t know what yet.

Like most people, I think about a lot of things. Most of those thoughts or concepts rattle around in my brain for a while and then they are gone. Time permitting, I would like to write down my thoughts on whatever it is that happens to be passing across my synapses. Sometimes I may form those into a blog post. Sometimes I will post those blog posts.

Anyway. Stay tuned.

November 29, 2016

Westworld - Pre Finale Thoughts

I’ve been meaning to write about Westworld all season. I guess this is my last chance to hypothesize and speculate before we are given all the answers[1]. I wish I had written my thoughts from episode one. There have been so many theories. It would be fun to look back on.

It is hard to believe the first season of Westworld is almost over, especially since we know it won’t be coming back for a year and a half. I have been sucked into the Westworld vortex. I have gone down the rabbit hole. I’ve thought so much about Westworld it feels like I have been watching for much longer than 9 weeks.

I have throughly enjoyed the experience of watching Westworld week to week then reading reviews online and even listening to a podcast each week. When I get this involved in a tv show I tend to build it up to a point where it can no longer meet my expectations. For the most part I felt like I was avoiding this with Westworld. However, that changed after episodes 8 & 9. As they started wrapping things up I started to lose confidence in an amazing ending.

Episode 8 (Trace Decay) had a lot of awkward exposition, especially from the “Man in Black”. He was my favorite character for the first half of the season, but has quickly lost whatever it was that made him interesting. He does feel like the one wildcard that isn’t under Ford’s complete control. I’m holding out hope the Man in Black has a satisfying ending.

I am firmly on board with the theory that the show we have been watching is taking place in (at least) two timelines. The William & Logan timeline took place 30 years before the current timeline; where the rest of the show takes place. I also believe William from 30 years ago is the Man in Black in present day.

Up until this past episode I believed that Arnold was never an actual person. That has all but been disproven now. I believe we have seen the rail Arnold speaking with Dolores and we just assumed it was Bernard.

Here is a bullet list of thoughts going into the finale.
  • I feel like episode 9 further confirmed the multiple timelines theory. It also appears that Dolores is retracing the steps of the look she took with William (aka Man in Black) 30 years before. It also appears she has made this same “loop” several times.
  • From the moment we found out Bernard was a host I believed that he was created in the image of Arnold. That was confirmed. What is more confusing than ever is when Bernard was created. I had initially believed he was created shortly after Arnold died. Based on episode 9 it seems like he may have been created as recently as 5–10 years ago.
  • I have a hunch that Ford’s new storyline has a much greater scope than what we see with Teddy & Wyatt. I think everything that is happening is somehow Ford’s doing… including all of the Maeve and Dolores stuff. The Man in Black is the only thing that isn’t Ford pulling the strings.
  • I think the maze is not a physical place. I think the maze is a sequence of events that the Man in Black has been trying to get to match up for a while now. All of the character loops have to align for him to find the center of the maze. I don’t know what is there, but I think Arnold will be present.
  • I think Dolores is Wyatt. I am not sure how to explain this one. I don’t have a lot of evidence. I think the massacre at Escalante that Teddy and Dolores remember actually happened, and Dolores was the killer. I am not sure of the circumstances where she kills Arnold though. If this is true and Dolores went crazy and killed everybody… why hasn’t she been decommissioned?
  • I think Maeve is setting up to carry out a similar massacre. I’m not sure how it will all go down, but I would not be surprised to see Maeve walk in and start mowing people down.
  • Is Elsie dead?
  • Are all of the workers that program and repair hosts themselves hosts?
  • Will the picture of the maze be explained? We have seen it so many times at this point.
  • Is anybody actually smuggling data out of the park? Who?
  • Why don’t we ever see Dolores’s mother?
  • What is the story behind the gun? What is its significance. I think we will definitely get that answer.
  • What did Dolores do to make Ford so mad at her? 
This season of Westworld has delivered some of the greatest moments of tv I have seen in the last couple of years. These moments have been sandwiched between bewildering dialog and awkward plotting. I have excused most of it because I don’t know the end. Maybe it all has a purpose and will come together to be a cohesive narrative. Maybe it will be a disappointment. We will find out next week. Either way, I have really enjoyed watching this season.

  1. I don’t believe for a second we will get all the answers in the finale.  ↩

August 18, 2016

Stranger Things

The Netflix original series have been hit and miss, so when I heard about Stranger Things I was cautiously optimistic. Then I heard it was a modern take on an 80’s Amblin film. At that point I thought about Super 8 and I got kind of scared. I decided I was going to give it a shot. Everything deserves a shot. From the first episode I was hooked.

Stranger Things is an eight episode Netflix series by the Duffer Brothers. It is hard sci-fi, and at times it is quite scary. It is clear that the Duffer’s are huge fans of Steven King, Steven Speilberg, and 80’s aesthetic and storytelling in general. Stranger Things almost feels like something that was made 30 years ago and lost; only to be unearthed by Netflix in 2016. You can see just how much they borrowed from their 80’s inspirations in this YouTube video.

I really enjoyed Stranger Things. It was a ton of fun to watch. Like I said, I got hooked in right from the beginning and I didn’t stop until I was finished. I watched all eight 45 minute episodes in a week. Which is extremely fast compared to my normal pace of tv watching.

There were a lot of things to like about Stranger Things. I loved the music. The cold intros and then cuts to the title sequence worked really well. The cinematography was beautiful. There are some memorable shots. I’m sure a lot of them were inspired by classic 80’s films. I didn’t care. I thought Stranger Things looked awesome.

The characters and performances are well done. It feels like so much care and planning was put into make the aesthetic of the film feel authentic.

I was surprised by how much Stranger Things hooked me in and made me want to keep watching. It is hard-core sci fi, which typically isn’t my thing. It can also be quite scary at times… also not my thing. More importantly, it is a visually interesting and well told story, and I can get on bored with that. Even though the plot felt somewhat meaningless, it was a fun watch that I would gladly revisit. I have a lot of questions about the monster and the “upside down”, but I would probably be content if they never got answered.

It seems like Stranger Things has been a big success. I haven’t heard if it has been renewed for a 2nd season, but I imagine it will. At the end of the first season it was definitely left open to continue the story on. I would rather see Stranger Things come back with an entirely new story. Either way, I will be looking forward to watching more.

July 16, 2016

Starting Fresh With An iPad 3

I do the majority of my writing and internet browsing on an iPad. The same iPad 3 that I bought in March of 2012. About a year ago[1] it started freezing up and crashing. I’d usually restart it and it would work fine for a while, then I’d repeat the cycle. Yesterday my 4.5 year old iPad finally pooped the bed.

My iPad got into these crash loops. It would reboot itself, then immediately crash again and reboot. It would repeat this process for 30 minutes or so. If I tried to do anything on it another crash loop would begin.

I wanted to go to the store and buy an iPad Pro, but that wasn’t in the cards. I decided the best course of action would be to start with a clean slate. I was going to restore my iPad back to factory settings and start fresh.

The process was pretty painless. I don’t store pictures or files on my iPad itself, so I didn’t have to worry about losing anything. I hit the restore button in iTunes and left to do yard work. An hour later I came back and it was done.

I was starting with a brand new iPad. No apps. Nothing. It was freeing. I had built up so many unused apps. I had been meaning to weed through them, but this method was way better. Just get rid of them all and only re-download the stuff you absolutely need.

I’ve used my iPad for a week since refreshing and it has been working flawlessly. It feels like a brand new device. It is so much more responsive. I haven’t had one instance of lagging or crashing. I only have a few apps on it, but that is all I need for now.

I use a Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad a lot. A few months ago there started to be a noticeable delay between when I typed on the keyboard an when those letters showed up on screen. There have been times when I’d type out a whole paragraph with nothing showing up on the screen. I’d sit there and wait for several seconds and then the words would start to appear. Before the refresh it would happen to some extent every time I typed. I am writing this post right now with my bt keyboard and it hasn’t happened once.

It appears that my old iPad has new life, and should be able to get me to whatever iPad announcement Apple makes this fall or early 2017. I am still hoping to upgrade then. For now I am just happy to have an iPad that works.

I was skeptical about how effective it would be to restore the iPad. I had resigned myself to the fact that it was old and probably wasn’t going to work very well ever again. I’m amazed by how big a difference it made. If you are having any slowness or weird problems with an older iOS device give it a shot.

  1. Probably around the same time I installed iOS 9 on it.  ↩

July 7, 2016

Finding Dory Review

I was thinking a post about Finding Dory was going to be my return to the movie blogging game. Here we are two weeks after I saw the film and still no review has been posted. It’s weird because I have actually written 3 of them. All have been scrapped. At this point I am just going to write something and go with it.

Finding Nemo has been one of my favorite Pixar films. In my eyes Nemo and the Toy Story trilogy are elevated well above the rest.[1] I was really hoping, and expecting, to be able to put Finding Dory right up on that pedestal.[2] Dory didn’t live up to the hopes I had for it. I enjoyed the movie, but it is middle-of-the-road Pixar for me. The story felt sloppy, which I can almost never say about Pixar’s normally extremely tight storytelling skills.[3]

I feel very similarly about Finding Dory as I did about Up. Both films have great moments, but they just get… weird. The gravity of the story becomes lost when you have to imagine a crazy universe where this stuff might actually happen. There were so many times in Dory where I found myself asking “why?”. Maybe if I see it again some of the events and character motivations will make a little more sense to me.[4]

My biggest head-scratcher was the sea lions. The two main sea lions seemed like nice helpful guys, but that didn’t stop them from bullying poor little Gerald off their rock. His exclusion was played for laughs. I’m not sure what Gerald’s purpose was.[5] In the scope of the overall film his treatment sent a mixed message. The movie as a whole seemed to advocate for the acceptance of those with differences, yet it was funny to bark at Gerald until he got off the rock.[6]

I imagine I will like Finding Dory when I see it a second time. It won’t have the weight of the expectation to live up to. I will be prepared for the random weird stuff that distracted from the story. Maybe I should go read some Dory think pieces that will explain exactly what the point of it all was. Surely somebody has ascribed some method to the madness.

I did really like Frank. I thought he was an interesting character. I didn’t like the fact that a majority of the film took place on dry land and Dory was usually confined to a small vessel. It made me claustrophobic. Frank’s ability to maneuver on the turf made me a fan merely because he was a character that could actually do stuff.

I feel like I have been hard on Finding Dory. I did legitimately like it. Even mid tier Pixar is better than most movies out there. My daughters liked it so I am sure I’ll get to watch it over and over… and over. Maybe I will grow to appreciate its loose plotting and oddball charm.

  1. Though I haven’t revisited many of the Pixar movies since they first came out.  ↩

  2. I may have had my expectations set a little too high.  ↩

  3. I have never seen Cars 2.  ↩

  4. I’m not really sure why Nemo & Marlin were in the movie… except for they kind of had to be.  ↩

  5. And why couldn’t he talk? Or why didn’t he talk?  ↩

  6. Don’t even get me started on Becky the bird.  ↩