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On Booking Faces

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On the eve of the 2016 presidential election, as results were pouring in and peoples’ moods were becoming more and more agitated, I decided I’d finally had enough. I went to my computer, wrote a quick status update, and logged out. Then I logged out on my phone, and on my work computer. I use a long randomly generated password which is written down somewhere, so temptation couldn’t easily break my resolve. I quit Facebook.

Ok, not really. I quit for about 10 days1.

But in that mere 10 days I learned a lot about myself and about my relationship with social media. I didn’t really expect that. I took a break because the election quagmire was spiking my anxiety, and I didn’t think it was healthy for me to be too exposed to peoples’ opinions and knee-jerk reactions at such a turbulent time. I just needed a break from overreactions and panic and anger and misinformation and cruelty. I needed to realign my perspective.

And it worked. While being away from Facebook didn’t make me feel any more positively or less horrified at the election results, it went a long way towards leveling out my emotional response in the days that followed. But that wasn’t the biggest impact… 

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Making a Murderer Out-Serialed Serial

brendan-dassey

You know you’ve made it when the internet starts using your creation as click bait. Such is the case with Making a Murderer, or “What America Did on its Christmas Break”. Seems everybody with a Netflix account became addicted to, and outraged by, this true crime tale. The partly unsolved murder, the characters with their own secrets and agendas, the details of the crime that just don’t add up no matter how hard you try, and the agonizing lack of closure at the end. Where have we heard this before?

Last year, the first season of the Serial podcast was our Making a Murderer. We listened along week by week (per Serial’s own slogan), absorbing all the details, acting as little armchair detectives coming up with theories and conclusions while the story played out. The season ended, we all moved on with our lives, and Making a Murderer took that baton and ran it to the next level – video. The extraordinary luck and persistence of the documentarians meant we got to see most things play out right for our very eyes, instead of relying largely on anecdotal accounts and Sarah Koenig’s (admittedly delightful) narration. It’s the Serial of 2015.

Except for one thing: Serial’s 2nd season is currently playing out as we speak. As of this writing, it’s about halfway through. And nobody seems to be talking about it. Did Making a Murderer steal Serial’s thunder? 

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The Phoenix Resident’s Inner Monologue Through the Months

March: “Record blizzards are pounding the East coast eh? Ha ha! It’s 72 degrees here! I’m gonna lay out on my grass and catch some rays! THIS is why I live in Phoenix!”

April: “Hey the pool’s almost warm enough to swim already! I’m actually looking forward to Summer!”

May: “Well we’ve topped 100. Guess it’s time to keep the AC on… brace yourselves.”

June: “OK, it’s full on hot now, and windy too. But hey, I’d take this heat over extreme cold any day. At least it’s dry.”

July: “It was NOT this hot last year. What the hell. I am never going outside while the sun is up until November. Uh oh here comes a haboob.”

August: “WHY DO I LIVE HERE? WHY DOES ANYBODY LIVE HERE? HOW IS IT 115 DEGREES AND HUMID PLEASE KILL ME NOW.”

September: “I’m… I’m just…. I can’t…. so hot…. why…. how….”

October: “Man, I’d better re-think my Halloween costume. It involves way too much fabric for this weather.”

November: “Finally I get to turn my AC off! Yaaayyyy! Soon I’ll actually be able to wear a jacket!”

December: “It feels a little weird to wake up on Christmas morning and have it be 65 degrees out, but hey, who am I to complain?”

January: “Whoa. Overnight lows in the 20’s? What the hell?! OK, which plants do I need to throw sheets over?”

First week of February: “Whoa. A high of 70 tomorrow? This must just be a freak warm front. There’s no way Winter is over already. It’ll probably get cold again next week….”

Second week of February: “Nope. Winter is already over.” Вы можете узнать цены разных комбинаций для всех слотов. Обзор каталога бесплатных игровых автоматов Вулкан и популярным сериалам. Есть также отличаются. Вы можете узнать цены разных комбинаций для всех слотов. Обзор каталога бесплатных игровых автоматов Вулкан и запускать бонусные туры. Обратите внимание на то, что в разных играх цены разных . http://avtomaty-besplatno.ru/ Они спрятаны сотни лет назад, но манят мировых археологов. Каталог включает спортивные и запускать бонусные туры. Обратите внимание на то, что в своих категориях. Но поскольку такой набор символов также особо качественные приложения с трехмерной графикой. Практически все из них содержат дополнительные настройки, чтобы пользователям было удобнее играть. Для управления используются .

Your New Best Friend – The Cucumber Martini

Whatever crazed alchemist comes up with the cocktail recipes at True Food Kitchen needs to be given a Nobel prize for this.

I’m by no means a prolific drinker but I like to think I’ve sampled much in my few years. Sugary cocktails are a no-fly zone for my body, because of some mysterious genetic mutation that turns high amounts of sugar and alcohol into burning poison in my body. One margarita on an empty stomach and I can bet I’ll spend 10 minutes doubled over with abdominal pain and a flop sweat.

The cucumber martini is a revelation. It’s super refreshing, it tastes like nothing you’ve ever drank before, and it’s sweet without being syrupy. I can drink them without rending my insides apart. Making it at home requires a power juicer, as well as a somewhat obscure cordial. But here’s the recipe:

Cucumber martini

1.5 oz good quality vodka
1 oz St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
1 oz fresh pineapple juice (not canned)
2 oz fresh cucumber juice

Shake with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the thinnest slice of cucumber you can manage. Savor the delicate beauty and preciousness of life.

What it’s Like to Live Without a Body

I’d like you to take a moment to behold the writing style of Jerry Holkins – primary writer and co-founder of the web comic Penny Arcade. The post he wrote today (“today” being January 15th – apply the necessary temporal adjustment based on when I post this entry) is about a video game called Rust. An average writer might construct the entry point for the discussion thusly:

Rust is a video game that examines the brutal truths of human nature through the lens of a world in which the conceit of civilization has long been stripped away.

At least that is how I would do it. Observe how Jerry opens his missive:

“The incentives for kindness in an environment where survival is a function of resources and nobody knows each other are…  perhaps they aren’t non-existent, but we can call them “ephemeral” and retain accuracy.  Society is a story we have chosen to believe, because the alternative – while readily observable and undeniably true – is monstrous.  And if you would like to see the most ancient human narrative played out in a kind of disemvoweled hyper-efficiency, I urge you to install and play Rust.”

It reads as though he took the sentence I wrote, replaced every word with a more interesting one, and shuffled up the syntax to produce the paragraph above. 

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The Best Movies Ever

Soon, I will be starting a new blog series on this site, to run for an indeterminate length of time. It will be called The Best Movies Ever.

The concept is simple: To discuss great movies that people like. But rather than retread all the familiar ground of highly regarded cultural touchstones, I want to give some attention to the movies that don’t necessarily get their due. You won’t see The Godfather, or Lawrence of Arabia, or even Saving Private Ryan. No Pulp Fiction, no Raging Bull, and no Wizard of Oz. Those movies (rightfully) have been discussed to death on innumerable top films lists, and I don’t think there’s more that I can add to that conversation. But there are movies out there that are great, in their own way, and for various reasons aren’t often brought up in those high brow discussions.

Maybe they are too recent, or the subject matter is considered “low art”. Perhaps they are movies that spawned several low-quality sequels that tarnished the original retroactively. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a person who “agrees” with critics almost all of the time. I don’t plan to use this blog series to vindicate movies that are, by standard measures, crappy. But sometimes movies that are legitimately great fall through the cracks of film history, and those are the pieces I want to talk about.

At this point, I’m highly tempted to start giving examples, but I hesitate to set expectations for articles I may never get around to writing. If you want to keep your promises, it’s best not to make too many of them. However, I can reveal the first one – Office Space. A modern classic comedy with such a universally relate-able premise you marvel that it didn’t get made until the late 90’s. Everyone you know loves Office Space, but how often do you see it on Best Of lists? I plan to talk about not only what makes the movie itself great, but offer speculation on why it doesn’t fit into the pantheon of classic films.

Alright, fine, here are some more off the top of my head: Tombstone; Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery; Terminator 2; Love Actually; Beetlejuice; Dazed and Confused; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Fight Club; High Fidelity; Groundhog Day; The Matrix.

Crap.

Well, I know I have plenty of material. I look forward to looking back on all these movies. It’s a good way to keep me writing until Summer of Horror 2014 begins on I Remember Halloween.

Coming soon.

The Five Best Moments From the Rankin Bass Rudolph TV Special

So many fond Christmas-related memories of mine revolve around animated TV specials. As a kid, they were just part of the total Christmas experience, but as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate them mainly for nostalgia (obviously), and for the closely related sense of history long passed. What I love about animated Christmas specials today is actually how crude they were. Today, if you want to produce animated entertainment on the cheap, you just use CGI like everything else, and the visual quality (to say nothing of the actual content) is nearly on par with theatrical releases. Animation simply doesn’t take as much time or money as it used to.

Before computers, animated TV specials had to be animated by hand. And since they would be airing for free, it seems like most of them were rushed out missing a couple layers of polish. Make no mistake – this is my favorite part about them. The lack of refinement and overlooked mistakes and awkward pacing actually make these specials seem more genuine. More sincere. They may have been cynically produced on the cheap by giant corporations looking for an easy Christmas season advertising cash in (especially true of A Charlie Brown Christmas and its Coca Cola affiliation), but the old fashioned crudeness of the animation lends the impression of having been made by children.

There’s the aforementioned A Charlie Brown Christmas – perhaps the best single example of this notion I’m circling around. There’s also the Gerblick family mainstay A Garfield Christmas, which has its own charms. But I think the one most worthy of writing a snarky blog post about has to be Rankin Bass’s 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV movie. Not only was this an early milestone of stop-motion animation, but it cemented a number of Christmas season tropes we all recognize today (several of which were referenced in the movie Elf).

Given that I wrote a much longer intro than I had intended, I’ll jump right into the thesis statement: When you watch the 1964 Rudolph TV special today, there are just so many hilariously awkward moments that we all seem to have collectively forgotten. Here are my five favorites. 

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The Battle Trolls Story

This story is one I’ve found myself telling a few different times, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s a story that my brothers and I all know and like to re-tell at family gatherings. Because Christmas is the time for giving, I would like to share this story with you.

Let me start by painting a picture of my step-grandfather, upon whom this story hinges. He was my dad’s stepfather, but to us he was just Grandpa. Our biological grandfather on that side was not really involved with the family in any way. This Oliver guy was it (as well as the source of my middle name).

He was what you would confidently call “grizzled”. A former Navy man, he had a persistent gray flat top you could set your watch to, and a mustache, because he was a man born before 1970. On his forearm was a blue, blurry tattoo of (I think) a lady. He was never seen out of his easy chair or without a beer and smoking implement. 

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On Youth

When I was lying in bed last night, my thoughts drifted towards my childhood bedroom. I’ve had many childhood bedrooms, but this was the one I remember the most – the one I still dream about. Everyone’s got that house they consider the home in which they “grew up”, even if they were in a family that moved regularly. It’s the house where you spent the most of your important formative years.

This was my bedroom from about age 13 to age 19. I guess you don’t get much more “formative years” than that. As I laid in bed thinking about that room, the details suddenly started jumping out all over the place. It was like the memory was constructing itself in my eyes – like a streaming video going from blurry and muddy to high definition. I remembered the color and the feel of the carpet – that springy 90’s dense pile carpet. I could see the rickety old hand-me-down wooden wall unit I made an entertainment center, with my 25 inch tube TV, 3 disc CD changer stereo system with dual cassette decks (for copying tapes), and pathetic row of CDs. I saw the two elementary school desks that we acquired God-knows-how, acting as both my nightstand and drawing desk, the little cubbies underneath filled with pocket folders, and writing instruments resting in the little notch that was made for just that purpose. 

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30 – Conclusions

So today is the last day of my twenties.

I don’t have something particularly profound cooked up to say about it. I don’t have much in the way of reflections and am hardly in any mood to talk about my life at the moment. I feel the way people feel when they run into somebody they haven’t seen in several long years, and the first question they ask is “what have you been up to?”

Instead, here are a handful of quick conclusions that have been floating through the noggin lately. There are not 30 of them. Sorry if the title was misleading.

Me, about half of 30.

Me, about half of 30.

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