By Monday I’ll be floating in the Hudson with the other garbage

Wednesday – is it really Wednesday? There’s a reason that I have post-it notes with the days on the week stuck to the wall above my desk in my bedroom with a smaller post-it that I move to mark which day of the week that it is. When you not only aren’t on the standard Monday-through-Friday that is reinforced as the temporal norm but also do scheduling as a large part of your job (meaning that your brain is often working on a day other than the one that you’re in), there’s a non-negligible risk of losing your place, so to speak.

My current disorientation, and tardiness, however, is due to a more specific occasion: starting a new show.

A stage manager is generally involved in the rehearsals and performances for a show. The week of lead-up to the first rehearsal is quite the busy one, as one might expect for the launch of a new project. The last couple days before starting (and the morning of), in particular, tend to be very full, as in an ever-evolving work, you want information to be as up-to-date as possible (which means that front-loading or evenly distributing the workload isn’t always best), and oftentimes the physical rehearsal site is not yours until the day before (or even the day of), so all preparation of the space must happen then.

And, of course, I need to have my standard miniature nervous breakdown the day before.

I am a professional stage manager. I have a terminal degree in my field. I’ve accumulated, if I do say so myself, a respectable resume. And yet in most instances as I approach the first day of rehearsal for a project, I am seized with the panic that I have forgotten how to stage manage.

Having discussed the feeling with a couple other friends (a director and a translator), I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not an uncommon aspect of the freelance experience. Although I’ve been fortunate enough not to have many gaps in between projects, when it comes to theatre, the job changes dramatically depending where you are in the process. The job that I’m doing at the start of a rehearsal process is very different form the job that I’m doing at the end of a run of performances. And if it’s a long-ish run, with maybe a small break afterward, it could have been a couple months since I was last in rehearsal. Not only that, but the nature of the work can vary greatly from project to project. (Is it a physically-challenging large classic musical, with almost everything set and mostly a lot of people wrangling? Is it an experimental art piece with a lot of non-traditional problem solving? Is it a straight play with a small cast but a very intense emotional toll?) And going from employer to employer, the organizational environments can differ greatly as well. (What is the budget like? What is the scale of expectations?) Given all of these variables, even though the position may technically be the same, it actually is not dissimilar to starting a new job… every couple months.

Being the professional that I am, I generally go absolutely neurotic for the 36 hours preceding the first rehearsal, frantically switching back and forth between being obsessively focused on my job and obsessively focused on anything but my job.

My kitchen looks amazing right now. And the writing that I planned on finishing one day late is now instead two days late, due to my collapsing into uselessness on Tuesday night, after two days of insufficient sleep.

For all of this rigmarole, the job that I started yesterday is lighter than many for me, as it’s just a two-week workshop for the writers – there isn’t any performance, and thus no production elements (props, lights, etc.) to manage. However, it was an instance where we did not have our own office space (so printing had to be done via Staples and picked up the morning of) and got our rehearsal room only two hours before starting for both all of the room set-up and all of the assembly of the aforementioned printing. Did I mention that this is a music theatre piece? There was music printing. Those who have been there know what I’m talking about.

None of this was unreasonable on the part of the producers. The theatre is based outside of the city, and for a short development workshop, you want to work in a central location to most of the team rather than shipping everyone out somewhere. And real estate in NYC is not cheap, so it would have been nonsense for them to have rented the rehearsal hall, which is now completely ours straight through to the end of our workshop, starting any earlier. But it was simply a set of circumstances to be tackled. Were the results a textbook-perfect example of stage managing? Hell, no! Especially since I hecked up understanding our printing capabilities within the room and, as a result, small-batch printing didn’t get done until after rehearsal actually started. But was it a disaster? Did the world end?

No. No, it did not. The planet spins, and the world goes ’round and ’round.

The needs of and expectations for this project are vastly different from what has become my usual. But I still have the foundational skills. And most of all, I still care about things being done correctly and well. I still value people being treated with courtesy and compassion. I still believe in the importance of creating good art.

I don’t know many people, and especially not many stage managers, who enjoy making mistakes. But I’ve said before that I feel like knowing how to make mistakes is one of the most important skills for a stage manager to develop. Because no matter how hard you try, you will make mistakes. Knowing how to recover, how to make things right, how to learn, and how to move on are invaluable. Like when you’re at the piano and giving a concert, the worst thing you can do is get hung up on a mistake. Of course don’t fucking make it again. Life isn’t going to stop moving forward because you made a mistake, though. So you have to let it go and just be better. You don’t win points by punishing yourself. Anyone for whom punishing yourself earns points isn’t someone worth earning points for.

I heard that it rained today. As lovely as our rehearsal space is, there isn’t any window access, so the stories of weather happening and time passing seemed strangely distant.  (“It’s raining,” one person commented. “Where?” another asked. “Outside,” the first replied.) After rehearsal, I tried to get part of my work to-do list done tonight, but the person ahead of me in line at Staples turned out to be buying about 20 gift cards and I had a dinner reservation with friends. So I moved it to my to-do list for the morning, and I left. I had a delicious meal with a couple of friends (one of whom I was meeting in person for the first time – the excitement of internet-based hobbies!) at The Eddy And on my way home, with two cocktails charming me (the Sherry O’Cherry and the Honey Badger, both highly recommended), I encountered three darling friends playing as a portion of The Good Morning Nags in the 2nd Avenue F train station.

There are times when “I’ll do it tomorrow” is procrastinating. And there are times when “I do it tomorrow” is absolutely the right answer.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. But all the more reason to take the time to enjoy a song tonight.

Work up a new appetite

We live in such an interconnected world now. Progress speeds forward at a dizzying rate. It’s wondrous, but sometimes we must ask ourselves: have we pushed the boundaries too far? Have the wheels of change spun out of control, unraveling the threads of civilization? Do we sit here dumbly as Rome burns to the ground around us?

IMAG2855

I picked those up at the grocery store the other day. I haven’t tried them yet because I’m actually not that big of a snacker, but I simply couldn’t let them pass without judgment. Truth be told, it was also a moment of pause for me as I can’t not think about how things have changed. There these were in just a regular old display with all of the Normal Stuff, while it was just a few years ago that grocery stores in this area still had an “Oriental” shelf, which is where you’d need to grab your small bottles of sesame oil and soy sauce.

Times used to be that you’d need to head to Kim’s grocery for anything much beyond that. Fortunately, Kim’s did exist as I was growing up, even if it was the only option and did require a special trip that was a half-hour drive into the city. While I believe that it did close at one point, it has now reopened. That’s more than could be said of the rare Korean restaurants in the area. I can recall a total of two existing during the first two decades of my life, and neither lasted more than a handful of years.

But change has been reaching even the most average city in the U.S.. Over the past few years, Korean restaurants have been popping up and actually not shuttering immediately. I’m already looking forward to lunch tomorrow, where I’ll be meeting a friend at Sunhee’s Farm & Kitchen in Troy, a hip fast-casual Korean place that’s about positive food culture and immigrant empowerment and all that jazz. I’ve been mostly trying to avoid eating Japanese and Korean food in anticipation of eating all of the things during my trip, but it was suggested to me when we were making plans and I’m only human.

This will be my second time eating there, as the restaurant had recently opened the last time that I was visiting home near the end of 2016, so we went there to try it out for my mom’s birthday —and ended up with an embarrassing white people story.

We’d had a rather sizable order and had to wait a bit for our food, so I wandered around to check out the place’s hipster decor. There was a second room, which had their not-yet-open bar, and I went in there and poked around like the nosy person that I am. As I loitered under the archway connecting the two spaces, a white couple headed out and the man, spotting me standing around, waved to me and said, “Thank you!”

Well, my grandmother was sitting right across from me and had a front row view of the whole thing, and she started cracking up while I stood there frozen with a zombie smile of awkward politeness. The others at the table began asking what was happening and my grandmother was so openly entertained that I figured the couple had left at that point, so I pushed out a strangled, “I don’t work here.”

…as it turned out, the couple hadn’t left yet and they heard me, so they hurriedly turned back, with the man exclaiming that this was their first time here, they had just been so excited to try it, and they proceeded to talk to my family about how good the food they’d had was, presumably to prove that they were really nice people, while my grandmother continued to choke herself with laughter and I just kept on standing there in the archway with a twitching eye and no way to extricate myself.

So yeah, you decide whether “embarrassing” is an adjective or verb up there.

I’ve gotten somewhat spoiled now that I live in NYC, where I can easily shop at an actual H Mart and pick up pre-made Korean dinners if I’m feeling lazy and have to choose which Korean BBQ restaurant we should go to. But even if I now live a life where my refrigerator is constantly stocked with kimchi and gochujang, that doesn’t dim my amazement at the changes I see growing back in the land of my childhood. Even if, clearly, not everything has changed.

…and maybe some things shouldn’t change, but you’ve still just got to give those Korean Barbeque potato chips a try.

Oh god my mouth has no idea what’s happening to it.

I remember the time I knew what happiness was–

There are spans of time when I get hungry. So hungry. “My lunch on Friday was a quarter-of-a-dinner-plate pile of brown rice, a half-a-dinner-plate pile of collard greens and onions, and two pork chops” hungry. “My dinner Saturday night was six slices from an eight-inch radius pizza pie” hungry. The latter was made even more hilarious by the fact that my dining companions (who had been the ones to suggest getting pizza after getting groceries after work — we’re working on a project out of town and I’m the one with a car) apparently hadn’t been aware of the fact that I’m a, shall we say, heavy eater.

I’ve always been a small person with a huge appetite. I won’t lie — I’ve sometimes played it up for laughs, I’ve sometimes gone further than I should out of a macho impulse. But while I might occasionally give it an extra push, it’s not faked. And while it’s a great ice breaker, a fun thing to be known for, and actually makes all-you-can-eat buffets good value meals for me, it’s not always easy. I’ll be the last to complain about having a high metabolism, but when you’re hungry all the time? It’s not cheap. All that food don’t come for free.

And you know the word “hangry” — hungry + angry, anger stemming from hunger? It’s not a joke. What other people usual describe as the monster that is born from their not having had their morning coffee is what takes me over as my hunger grows, like a full moon rising to pull forth a rabid werewolf. And what that means is that I have to plan a lot of my life around food, the ease of which varies widely depending on where I’m working, when I’m working, etc.. It’s also interesting being in a field where it’s common for people to, at least during certain phases of a production, work rather than do things like eat, sleep, or shower, just in order to get the work done. I’m at the point in my life, however, when I don’t apologize for needing to eat. I know what I need to function as a professional and just as a human being — trust me, you won’t like me when I’m hungry — and I don’t feel a need to apologize for that.

Anyhow, that’s all to say… Here’s another restaurant round-up! New York City this time, from places I’ve eaten within the past few months. Again, these aren’t so much reviews as recollections and recommendations.
Continue reading “I remember the time I knew what happiness was–”

Food, glorious food–

This past fall, I worked on a show that was co-produced by theatres in New York City and Minneapolis. The Minneapolis production took place then, and the New York production is in tech now. I’d never been to Minneapolis before — never been anywhere in the U.S.A. longitudinally between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, in fact. So I cut myself some slack in my budgeting, deciding to seize the moment by constantly asking myself when the next time someone would pay my travel to and housing in Minneapolis for a month and a half, and treating the time as a working vacation of sorts.

It really was a lovely place to visit. The company of the show was very friendly and well-bonded, and we did things like have apartment-parties and go to the Walker Art Gallery together. We took the light rail to the Mall of America. I spent a long afternoon with an internet friend in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts museum. I walked the streets and saw the grand Mississippi. But mostly… mostly, I ate. I ate a lot. And man, it was good. So if you happen to find yourself in Minneapolis, particularly in downtown, here’s a brief overview of my experiences.
Continue reading “Food, glorious food–”

If you put me to the test, if you let me try–

And so the summer season is closed, all of the detritus of production — sets, props, costumes, electrics — struck, and I would like nothing more than to sit here and with a stare as blank as the repainted walls and floors of the theater. With an almost comical predictability, I’d been feeling a little off by the time I closed my own show on Saturday night and had that sense of foreboding during the closing party on Sunday night, where I forewent getting ritually smashed by choosing instead to binge eat on two cupcakes, probably half a bag of potato chips and an unquantifiable amount of tortilla and lavash chips that served as vehicles for guacamole, spinach dip, salsa and Trader Joe’s five-layer dip on their journey into my mouth. Because let’s face it, I have alcohol around all the time, but I don’t really keep snacks in the house, especially not carbs. So that night? Yeah, stuffing my face. And the others didn’t need my help in demolishing the rather sizable amount of alcohol, so let ’em have it.

I was also probably just not feeling the urge because my body knew it was coming down with something. I began feeling a bit under yesterday afternoon during strike, with that stinging feeling creeping into the sinuses and a general weakness, and then I just crashed when I got home at the end of the day. Shuffled around the apartment for a few hours and had my ass in bed a bit after ten… and slept for eleven hours. It was one of those sleeps where you dream about waking up only you’re so tired that you physically can’t open your eyes. I actually didn’t feel so bad when I woke up this morning and texted my technical director that I was sick, but after she told me to stay home from strike, the wooziness began to set in. Thankfully, I haven’t been feeling too miserable, but my head has been floating around with the Curiosity rover somewhere on Mars. I did go in for the post-mortem at work this afternoon, but all I’ve accomplished since getting home is watching Beyoncé and Rihanna music vidoes. Which is worthy in its own right, but not what I’d been hoping to get done. Hopefully, I’ll be able to be more productive in the next couple days, when I have a sizable amount of thesis reading to get done.

Thinking about it, the oncoming change of the seasons probably helped push along this sickness. The nights have started to take on that deliciously refreshing autumnal coolness, but changes in temperature always can wreak such havoc on the body. Admittedly, some of that might have been self-inflicted. I’d scored a Groupon for a four-person pass to a local year-round ice skating rink, so a crew of us went on an outing on Friday.

It was a huge amount of fun. I took figure skating lessons as a child, and though I’d switched to dance by the time that I reached junior high and have never been able to keep it up regularly since then, I can still keep myself upright passably well and enjoy it a great deal, not the least because it’s a highly physical activity where I can actually not overheat.

I am, however, out of practice to the point of not being able to do any “tricks” — spins, footwork, jumps. At least, not without a good hour of ice mostly to myself, where I can feel free to fall on my ass as much as necessary. For one thing, it’s about the safety of others, as a public skating session like the one we attended on Friday often felt like a game of reverse Frogger, with you as the motor vehicle and the swarms of small children as the frogs that you needed to somehow avoid turning into roadkill. It simply takes a lot of focus, skill and energy to keep track of oneself and all others when all others aren’t keeping track of either.

But also, something that those little frogs seemed to have that I’ve come to lack is a complete and utter fear of falling. It is true that my body isn’t quite so cavalier in its recovery from gravity as it used to be. That doesn’t let me off the hook for my attitude, though. As I said in only the paragraph above this, if you gave me an hour when no one was looking, I’d fall on my ass the entire time, to hell with my ability to walk the next day. What I’ve always lacked, and do so now more than ever, is the ability not to give a fuck about falling in front of others. Because those kids? Could not have given less of a fuck. And I think that’s just something that I need to remember — that sometimes, the only person of note who actually gives a fuck about your ass hitting the ice is yourself. Sometimes, staying upright out of fear is the greatest thing holding you back.

Anyhow, that’s all that my brain can summon for today. I keep spacing out and clicking on more music videos. So I might as well go the easy route and dish on some things I recently threw money at.

First up is Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker. I had received a small rice cooker as a gift when I graduated from high school, presumably to keep myself from starving as a college student, but as I ended up on a full board plan, it just got shoved into the back of a closet back home. When I embarked on the first internship of my stage management career, however, I wouldn’t have survived without it. After a few years of dedicated service, it finally died, not owing me anything. I then bought myself a larger rice cooker, like the type you see at the end of the rows in all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets. It was awesome — until it died on me a few months later. So I bought another one. Which also died. And then another. Which also died.

At that point, I resigned myself to stove-top rice cooking, at which I was decent but not free of imperfectly cooked rice, which is kind of a terrible thing. So when I happened to spot this little item on sale at Ideeli, I figured, hey, why not.

Continue reading “If you put me to the test, if you let me try–”

Everybody find confusions in conclusion he concluded long ago–

My dreams lately have been of the dead. Earlier this week, I was accompanied by the pet dog with whom I spent most of my formative years as I settled into a dorm room (renovated to the state of something I wouldn’t mind having as a studio apartment) at my undergraduate alma mater. Last night, I went on a very strange mountain hiking trip through varying light and dark, eventually meeting my father at a stop along the way.

In an unsurprising trajectory, the funk into which I’d been slowly slipping over the past week or so culminated in a neurotic existential panic a few days ago, at which point I took a few days off from life (excepting my employment obligations), avoided whatever social interaction I could and indulged my menu-reading habit. It’s a thing that I do, reading online restaurant menus in the same way that you picture a drugged-up fifty-something housewife in bunny slippers with pink rollers in her hair compulsively watching QVC. It’s worse than porn. Porn, at least, wants to give its viewer a good end. My menu-reading habit is just torturing myself with food that I’m not actually going to eat and from which I really can’t get any vicarious enjoyment. There is zero satisfaction involved. It’s a problem.

So anyways, it was a few days of not accomplishing much of anything. Until, that is, I started cleaning out the apartment. I find that cleaning — going through everything, throwing out what I can, reorganizing what remains — helps to set my mind straight when things get stuck in a rut. And I figure that as I will inevitably be moving when I graduate in less than a year and will also inevitably be extremely busy with school and work, why not start the process now?

In other news, the Chick-fil-A cluck-up continues to be frustrating. Another sum-up essay that I found is probably the last that I’m going to use someone else’s words to say on the subject, but no guarantees:

“The narrative was framed as, Dan Cathy is asked how he feels about gay marriage and gives his honest response. When he expressed his opinion, gay rights activists got angry and decided to boycott his business. [. . .] It’s not about Dan Cathy’s opinion – which I do not give a flying fuck about – it’s about the fact that Chick-Fil-A donated over $5 million to anti-gay hate groups. Hate groups which have been listed next to the KKK, hate groups which try to cure gay people like it’s a disease, and hate groups that have disseminated information claiming that gay people are pedophiles. [. . .] But no, the national media went with the “freedom of speech vs. mean gay people trying to silence them” narrative because it was shiny and pretty.”

It’s also reached the point where people are sick of hearing about it, which is the dangerous time. “Ugh, I can’t believe that we still have a problem. Clearly, what we should do is proceed to ignore the problem because we don’t want to deal with it anymore and we also have the attention spans of fleas.” Which isn’t to say that I don’t understand issue fatigue — the picture of a woman holding a sign reading “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit” comes to mind. It really is wearing. But there are different sides of being tired of an issue. There are those who can get tired of an issue and just let it drop. Then there are those who can get tired of an issue and still have it impact their lives whether they want it to or not. Going back to the previously linked essay:

“Which brings us to the last kind of people who decided to wade into the Chick-Fil-A debate for no other reason than the fact that they own a computer and can read. [. . .] These are the righteous people who take it upon themselves to be the peacekeepers and try to reconcile what they see as simply two sides who can’t seem to come to an agreement.

And I’d like to thank them.

Thank you, straight person who is completely unaffected by anything Exodus International, Focus on the Family, or the National Organization for Marriage will ever do. Thank you for reminding me that gay rights and LGBT acceptance is, for most of America, just a “hot-button” issue that causes controversy and is better to be avoided all together. I don’t think that’s a privilege enjoyed solely by non-LGBT people at all!

Except that it is.”

Making less of a splash than Chick-fil-A, Amway has also been making some minor headlines, with news that
“Doug DeVos the owner and CEO of Amway had given $500,000 to a known hate group, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)”
. The linked article also includes a list of Amway’s subsidiary businesses, for those interested in no longer sending any of their money that way.

Something disturbing that had caught my attention a few days ago through a Science Daily article has also been getting more mainstream press, as there has been a report released that details dangerous experimentation on pregnant women and their fetuses that has been aimed as decreasing “behavioral masculinization” in the resulting babies — i.e., reducing the propensity toward lesbianism, bisexuality, intersexuality and just females with general masculine tendencies. While there is an actual harmful condition (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) for which the off-label synthetic steroid is supposedly aiming to treat, the drug must be administered before the doctors even know if the fetus is of the target type for the condition — only one in eight of those exposed is even in the at-risk group. And that’s not even touching the horrifying, are-you-sure-this-is-right-now-in-the-United-States-and-not-some-dystopian-sci-fi-story aspect of shooting drugs into a fetus to attempt to “normalize” it into mainstream social acceptance.

Continue reading “Everybody find confusions in conclusion he concluded long ago–”

That chicken is thin and meaner than sin and uglier than Bamboo Jack–

You know what’s been missing from this blog for a while? Chicken, that’s what. This was mostly due to my having been out of town almost as often as not over the past three weeks — Williamstown, then New York, then Williamstown again — so I haven’t been cooking as much. But I picked up some beets, tomatoes, corn, scallions, sheep’s milk cheese and a jalapeno pepper at the farmer’s market last week, and I ended up turning most of them to the service of some chicken.

There’s been some chicken out there more famous than mine, though.

I’ve eaten at Chick-Fil-A twice in my life, back in the year that I was interning at a theatre in Orlando, where I learned a lot of things, including that I never wanted to lived in Orlando. Their food was pretty good for a fast food chain, but I also learned in the course of that year that the company was aligned with and financially supported some principles that I found to be morally disagreeable, so I decided that an easy right action would be not to spend my money there. Over the past weeks, Chick-Fil-A and the publicly professed principles of its president Dan Cathy have gotten a lot more press, and the issue has moved far beyond the questionable quality of life in central Florida.

If you want a coherent, comprehensive summary about what this ridiculous outcry — let’s face it, guys, the central images of this are fried chicken sandwiches and advertisements with barely literate cows — really means, I’d like to direct you to this articulate essay on this issue. If, on the other hand, you’d just like to read me being angry, please do continue on here.

One of the reactions to Chick-Fil-A’s declaration of opposition to marriage equality was, of course, the statement by Boston Mayor Thomas Merino that Chick-Fil-A had no place in Boston and that that he’ll make their license process “very difficult” unless they backpedal. He also sent an open letter to Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy. These actions have gotten a lot of kneejerk liberal rejoicing, conservative backlash and moderate hedging. I’m usually camping out in the moderate hedge club, but I have to say that I’m finding myself pitching my tent with the liberals on this one. Do I want Mayor Merino to violate the Constitution in order to keep a fast food chain out of a city? Hell, no. But do I think that he was out of line for what he did? Based on what I’ve heard reported about his words and actions: no.

Nowhere have I seen Chick-Fil-A being outlawed from Boston. I saw a company being told that they weren’t welcome in a place because they conflicted with the values held there. It was a statement of principles. And it was, in a representative government, the representing of a city’s character and ideal and of its citizens, particularly those citizens who are often marginalized — not the representation of dollar signs and business deals. Do we need those dollar signs and logistics to run a city? Of course we do! But we also need the other side of it, the reasons that we’re running those dollar signs in the first place, and that’s the side that seems to get lost so often. And maybe that representation didn’t represent the view of all citizens. In that case, by all means, get up and let it be known that you’re not being represented — that’s what the rest of us have to do, after all.

As for the conservative backlash, I’ll just link to The Least Subtle Tweets From Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. While not something to be read on an emotionally fragile day, I believe it to be important to occasionally give myself a wake-up call about what’s really out there. The world is not a friendly place. There is a lot of work to be done.

So was Mayor Merino confrontational? Yes. Was there a backlash? Yes, apparently. You know what? I don’t care. We definitely need cool heads and tactical action, but there is also something galling and tiring about always having to play nice with those who see you as being lesser and even actively work to keep you in a lesser place. It brings to my mind the image of a dog being made to sit up and beg for a treat: “That’s it… that’s it… good boy… just a little higher… wait for it… wait for it… Ah-ah, not yet, I’ve still got it…!”

The essay I referenced earlier has it: “All your life, you’re told to stand up to bullies, but when WE do it, we’re told WE are the ones being intolerant? Well, okay. Yes. I refuse to tolerate getting my ass kicked. “Guilty as charged.””

Continue reading “That chicken is thin and meaner than sin and uglier than Bamboo Jack–”

In the dark of the night just before dawn–

So last night, I went with some friends to see the midnight showing of Inception: I Know What You Did Last Summer, more popularly known as The Dark Knight Rises. I promise that there aren’t any spoilers, as not only would that be incredibly discourteous, but it would probably lead to my being drawn and quartered by the remaining portion of the population who isn’t already primed to do so after I express what I fear might be some minority opinions about the movie, at least among the geek milieu.

And so first: Batman. After that: chicken.

Overall, I found the The Dark Knight Rises to be pretentious, slow and predictable. But I think that it speaks to the movie’s strengths that I also was very entertained and enjoyed it a lot. It sure was a long-ass movie for which to attend a midnight showing, let me tell you that. But despite the length, the movie never felt long. It did feel slow, though — but in a very tense, simmery sort of way. For better or for worse, the vast majority of the movie felt like lead-in, build-up.

When the story finally pulled the trigger, however, it was entirely worth it.

It’s actually pretty difficult to really talk about the movie without spoilers, I feel, as its strongest points are the content of its twists and reveals. I mentioned that it was predictable, right? Yeah, it was. But because the movie didn’t depend on the “a-ha!” or “gotcha!” of its twists, it actually didn’t hurt it. I can’t recall any other movie that I’ve seen — and to be fair, I haven’t seen a lot of movies — that have had such a satisfying slow-burn of a gradual character back story reveal.

The one purely negative part of my movie-going experience was that I never really got absorbed into the movie. I am seriously really, really easy when it comes to willingly suspending my disbelief and I get embarrassingly emotionally invested in whatever it is that I happen to be watching at the moment, but I always felt a little bit outside of this movie. Part of it might be that I’m not the biggest Batman fan, or at least not the biggest fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. The Dark Knight for me is dominated by the Joker and Harvey Dent. The Dark Knight Rises is an incredible showcase for Catwoman — well, Selina Kyle, who is actually never explicitly called “Catwoman” and — of all people! — Bane.

It’s something that differentiates the Nolan Batman movies from most of the other comic book-based movies that have been being produced lately. Usually, we get stuck with a bland, forgettable villain — hey, can you remember anything about the villain in the Star Trek reboot except that he was played by Eric Bana? — but that’s all right because it gives us more time to pay attention to the heroes. The Avengers? Who cares about the villain! The intra-team squabbling and hijinks are where it’s at. Recent exceptions that I can think of include Watchmen and possibly X-Men: First Class, depending on how we decide to place Magneto on the hero spectrum in that specific movie. The Nolan Batman movies, however, somehow manage to entrance me with the villains/antagonists and have the hero leave me cold.

It’s a large part of why I have absolutely no interest in watching Batman Begins. I know the information that is provided by the film and my head hasn’t particularly been turned by any exclamations of masterful narrative artistry, so there’s nothing much that interests me about it. An origin movie that focuses on the Batman himself? I feel like I have better ways to spend my time.

(Speaking of Batman Begins, Ra’s al Ghul is invoked in Dark Knight Rises, which also kicked my brain out of the movie experience. It just always sat a little oddly with me that Ra’s al Ghul was played by Liam Neeson. Don’t get me wrong — I love me some Liam Neeson and I’m not commenting upon his performance. But it seems like a dude named Ra’s al Ghul from the Arabic peninsula asks, just a little bit, to be played by an actor of Middle Eastern descent. And despite my love for other actors, as well, given the back story that was presented, as much as I would sincerely like to be able to just watch a movie and not be distracted by systematic societal white-washing, well, you can’t always get what you want.)

But back to the subject of seeing The Dark Knight Rises, I remember being completely engrossed by The Dark Knight, so I think it’s fair to say that my failure to be absorbed wasn’t entirely my own apparently Batman-deficient fault.

My laughing really loudly and really inappropriately when Bane executed a classic line and action, however, was entirely me just being an inherent asshole.

Continue reading “In the dark of the night just before dawn–”

I see fireworks, I see the pagaent and pomp and parade–

For the first time since unofficially starting this little Blog Everyday project of mine — it’s a project now, evidently — I’ve felt that nagging voice rising up inside of me. The one that whines “But writing everyday is haaaaaaaaaaaard.” Well, tough cookie, crumbles. Not writing is no more an option than not exercising physically. I’ve found myself rather liking Jillian Michaels’ vaguely D/s style of instruction, so I’m giving it a go and brutally yelling at myself about how I need to give it all up for me and how I have no tolerance for failure and how I should endure the pain because won’t it feel so good when I finally succeed.

Aside from that, though, I took today as mostly a vacation. By which I mean that I made no efforts to graduate from grad school but otherwise carried on mostly as normal. Which included avoiding the fuck out of anyone I know. For a while, I had assumed that I would be spending today with friends, but when the day itself arrived, I found the prospect of spending the entire day on my own, without the necessity of interacting with people whom I enjoy greatly but whom I constantly see in the context of work and school, to be much more enticing. To hell with dealing with crowds; I’ve seen fireworks before and felt no urge to go out of my way to see this little New England city’s display. Why spend Independence Day among my fellow citizens when I could instead spend it dicking around on the internet and improving my Spanish?

In other news tangentially related along the lines of things I supposedly learned in high school, The Economist has reminded us that math is actually important and that we consumers are often pretty dumb, which leaves us vulnerable to having advantage taken of us. “Consumers often struggle to realise, for example, that a 50% increase in quantity is the same as a 33% discount in price. They overwhelmingly assume the former is better value. […] This numerical blind spot remains even when the deal clearly favours the discounted product.” So while fine, make your argument that the average person doesn’t need calculus, but please! Remember your fractions! Don’t let yourself be a passive sucker in our capitalist jungle! Especially my national compatriots — how much more American can you get than refusing to let yourself get screwed over by people who are trying to take your money?

Independence Day actually isn’t so much my holiday. Catch me again in September, when Constitution Day/Citizenship Day rolls around, and then you’ll be subjected to the full force of my estadounidense-ness. True story, there are two books that have a permanent home on my bedside table, and those an old family Bible and the Federalist Papers.

Anyways, it’s not as though I let the day go by without some sort of celebration. Today deserved a special meal, something that I had been idly contemplating since the farmers’ market last weekend.

As a side note, all of this food talk is rather amusing to me. Once upon a time, I actually wasn’t quite welcomed in the kitchen, being viewed as a hazard to myself and others. While the former had changed, the latter retains some truth, as evidenced by my managing to throw mustard all over the kitchen floor today. Not spill — throw. Twice.

It was worth it, though. The result: porterhouse steak with honey-mustard and shiitake reduction, rainbow chard with shallots and goat cheese, and quinoa. And a cold beer.

Continue reading “I see fireworks, I see the pagaent and pomp and parade–”

That stranger he has found, this man could be my chance–

Day two of Project: Actually Graduate From Grad School. I think that I’ve actually found a method that works for me. Rather than trying to work as much as possible, I’m limiting how much I’m allowed to work. When I get to that time of day, I set the time on my cell phone for one hour, start it ticking and then set it down next to me and let the screen go dark. At that point, it’s a race against a clock, since I know that when that timer goes off, I have to stop working, no matter how little I’ve accomplished.

Golly, but it seems to be working so far. Rules, limitations and punishment! Oh, yeah!

I’ve been being a pretty distressingly responsible, well-rounded person in general lately. Start the day with a workout! Read the New York Times and Merriam-Webster Word of the Day while eating breakfast! Practice piano for an hour and a half! Do an online Spanish lesson because I bought six-month’s time with a Groupon and I’m going to get my money’s worth, by tarnation! Get other stuff done in the time in between! Don’t touch those online recreational activities until any earlier than 9:30pm!

And keep writing those fucking blog posts!

Speaking of fucking blog posts, I’m sure that a lot of people have Anderson Cooper fatigue by now. I don’t care. More on that later. But first…

Breakfast for lunch! A grilled sweet sausage (store-bought), homemade home fries and a leftover homemade buttermilk biscuit. After having picked up the sausage because it was discounted, I’ve been looking for a reason to use it, and having a bowl of rendered bacon grease, pairing it with home fries seemed like the natural way to go. I love a good hot breakfast, but damn, I am so not into actually cooking a breakfast that takes more than 10 minutes to prepare. Breakfast for dinner is great, too, but I prefer to have relatively light dinners, with my mid-day meal being the largest. And so: breakfast for lunch.

Continue reading “That stranger he has found, this man could be my chance–”