#579 – May You Live In Interesting Times

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And boy, was today interesting.

Algebra class went off without a hitch, although it was a close thing – I used the last sheet of notebook paper I had taking my final notes, so once class was over I had to go buy another pack. While I was at Office Depot I perused laptops for school and got some fairly good information on a few. And then I headed home.

The afternoon passed fairly quickly and I went to go pick my wife up from work. We came home, ate a dinner that we’d cooked yesterday, and then I headed off to biology, giving myself my usual hour to get there and get settled before class. I always arrive 15-20 minutes early to avoid being rushed.

And that’s when things started going off the rails.

I take back roads to get to campus, rather than chance getting caught in interstate traffic and being late. If there’s traffic – and there always is – it’s usually pretty consistent. Not today. Today started a construction project on my usual route, and for over a mile five lanes were reduced to two, one in each direction. The backup was horrendous, but despite this I managed to get to campus and park pretty much as class was starting, so if I missed anything it wouldn’t be much.

Come to find out, when I walked into the classroom my instructor was sharing the last touches of a recipe for some Italian dish he’d made over the weekend, and I didn’t miss a thing.

So class went as class usually does, and as I was pulling out of the parking lot I noticed a familiar and unwelcome sensation – my blood sugar was crashing, and I didn’t have a thing with me to counter it. I called my wife to tell her I was stopping to get something in my system, and she stayed on the phone with me as I picked up something to immediately counter the crash and something else to smooth things out in the longer-term. I stayed in the parking lot and ate and waited until I felt the crash subside then drove home, talking with my wife the whole way.

Once home, we queued up our newest movie purchase – Wonder Woman – and enjoyed an impromptu movie night to close out the day.

All in all, not a bad day, just full of little things to make life interesting. Sometimes those are the best days.

Out in Meatspace

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Meatspace is a term that my wife and I use for interacting with friends in the real world, as opposed to online interactions. When we lived in Illinois, most of our socialization was through the computer with people in all reaches of the globe, but now that we’ve moved to Austin we have a lot of friends that are local and who are genuinely happy to see us.

Today we went to go visit a dear friend of mine and her son. While she and my wife did crafty things together, I was on baby detail, and he and I sat and watched Moana, which is apparently his favorite movie.

I’d seen Moana before and really liked it, but it was still fairly new to me, and so I got sucked into it pretty heavily, to the point that I wasn’t paying attention when I was being talked to from the kitchen. I apologized and said, very accurately, that this is one of the reasons that we don’t have cable and I don’t spend much time at all on our various streaming services – I lose myself in the story and could spend hours just blindly watching whatever popped up on that screen.

I became a little more social once the movie was over, but that’s also about the time that I realized I had a pretty bad headache, and my wife realized that her back was really bothering her, so we sat and chatted for a little bit longer and then headed home to try and kick our various pains.

I had a great time, though, and really hope that we can do it again soon.

Back to Business As Usual

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My wife went back to work today. This is the first day in a week that I haven’t spent at least a good portion of the day with her, half the day on Thursday because of the strep diagnosis, and Friday through Tuesday because of already planned vacation time.

I have to admit that I’d grown accustomed to her being here, and having the place to myself for hours at a time was a bit of a challenge today. It’s always just a little bit harder on Mondays because of the weekend, but six days in a row of having her at home was a bit of a luxury that I’d gotten used to.

I didn’t do much of anything today. I spent the morning going through stuff on the computer, the afternoon watching a movie, and the evening watching another movie (actually, the same one twice in a row). I cooked dinner tonight instead of cleaning up afterwards. I largely goofed off to while the day away.

This is starting to concern me. For the last several days, I’ve been essentially phoning in my blog posts, because there really hasn’t been that much to report on. I’m currently giving The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook a once-through reading before coming back through it to really start in on the exercises, so there’s not that much to report on that front. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything exciting. I’ve been putting off my daily blog post until the end of the day just to see if there will be anything worthwhile to write about, and most of the time there’s not really anything noteworthy about my days. Hopefully that pattern will lift soon. In the meantime, I’m keeping up with full marks on my daily checklist.

What I Did With My Saturday

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Today’s been a good day. Started the day with another viewing of Doctor Strange. Being able to watch it at my leisure has left me very impressed with the director and visual effects coordinator. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t give anything away, but the movie has absolutely stunning visual effects. In several scenes, the very fabric of reality is dynamically fluid and ever-changing, so much so that tracking which way is up in a foot chase is nearly impossible. (If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

Being the person that first visualized the storyboards for these scenes takes a kind of creativity that I just don’t have and never will. It’s one thing to combine existing terrain and actors and stunt people to create an exciting scene, but it’s a whole different matter when that terrain doesn’t follow the laws of gravity and physics. This movie is unique in its visual effects and creates something that I’ve never seen on film before. It is truly breathtaking. Plus, the acting is solid and the story is well-written, dramatic and action filled with just the right dash of comedy. I really enjoy this film and I’m glad that I own it.

We were supposed to be at an SCA event this weekend, but my wife’s strep throat kept us home. I’ve been fine with this decision up until this evening, when I found out that a friend of mine received an exceptionally prestigious award that I’ve long believed that he deserved. I really hate that we missed being there for that. It would have been magnificent.

We’re ending the evening with another comic book movie, one that we’re greatly familiar with at this point – Deadpool, another brilliantly written movie. It’s a background movie at this point, one of several that we own.

Short, Sweet, and To the Point

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I put off writing today until something exciting happened. We bought Doctor Strange this evening and started watching it, and that was going to be my exciting thing, but about 50 minutes in I looked at our radio station’s website and noticed that there was a very unexpected DJ on the air, someone that hasn’t done a show in nearly a year, so we interrupted the movie and quickly turned on the stream and logged into the station’s IRC channel to say hello. (Breathe.) And that’s what I’m going to be doing for the rest of the night, I think. We own the movie now (on sale!) and can watch it at any time. Catching this DJ is a rare thing indeed and we’re very happy to change gears midway through the evening.

Movie Day

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Today I have had no real agenda for anything, other than just staying home and keeping my mind busy. I’ve played a couple of computer games off and on throughout the day, and I’ve been keeping up with my checklist well enough, but the silence in the house is a little overwhelming. So the day’s consisted of a barrage of movies.

V for Vendetta started the day, and after that it was Guardians of the Galaxy. Then came Deadpool and The Force Awakens. After that came The Lego Movie, and I’m wrapping up the day with Wanted.

As a result, I don’t really have that much to report for my day. No big revelations, no fascinating adventures. Just a lot of talking to my wife in Arizona while she’s looking after her dad. On that note, he’s improved dramatically, so she’s going to try and get an earlier flight home tomorrow. That would be a good thing for us both. This has been a trying time, especially for her, and we could use the grounding that we provide for each other. Plus she’d be home to help celebrate my birthday tomorrow evening, so there’s that.

On the down side, it means that I can’t make plans for my birthday tomorrow since I may or may not have to drop what I’m doing and get to the airport on just a couple hours notice. On the plus side, though, it means she’ll be home. I miss her and can’t wait to see her again.

A Night at the Movies

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This post contains no spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Had a fairly productive day today, and even went to the store with my wife to pick up a couple things, when she turns to me and starts going through the budget and what surplus we have. We were in the alcoholic beverages aisle contemplating getting a new cider from a local company to try (it’s a blood orange cider) and I thought she was planning to pick up the six pack and head for the exit. No, she had other plans in mind. She was apparently tired of waiting to see Guardians Vol. 2 and so we made hasty plans to head up to our favorite theater and see the movie.

We’re glad we did. It was a great movie, lots of action and lots of laughs, and surprisingly lots of cameos. One of the focal points of the movie was one of the songs from the soundtrack, which is, again, superb. It just happens to be one of my wife’s favorite songs, so she had extra reason to enjoy this movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it. Be sure you sit through the entirety of the credits, as per usual for a Marvel movie.

And as an added bonus, the theater that we went to – full food and alcohol service at your seat in the theater – had the blood orange cider that we were debating getting in the store. The cider is recommended too, if you can get your hands on it – Austin Eastciders Blood Orange Cider.

 

 

Dichotomy

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I haven’t written in almost a week because I’m not sure what to write about.

My lethargy has finally reached the breaking point. I had an appointment with my psych med manager that I’ve now had to postpone twice because I was just too tired to get behind the wheel. I’ve called my general practitioner’s office to get a referral for a sleep study, and at this point the referral is over in the hands of the sleep center waiting insurance approval before calling to make the appointment. I’m almost certain that sleeping with a CPAP is going to be helpful, but I don’t know how helpful it will be.

Pokémon Go has become a bigger part of my life. I’m up to level 9, I’ve caught over 100 Pokémon total, and have a few fairly high powered ‘mons to do battle with, though I still haven’t picked a team or gone to a gym. We’ve been going out to hit a series of PokéStops – these are locations that you can resupply at for free – at night and catching whatever we can along the way. (Tonight, it’s my turn to drive so my wife can play over in the passenger’s seat.) I admit that I haven’t been getting the exercise that I should be getting playing this game, but it’s getting me out of the house on a regular basis, and that’s a good thing. Last night we went to the store and I got a little exercise there. Also last night we met a couple that was out playing just as we were, and had a nice conversation with them. It’s our first social interaction with another player, and it was a good experience. It seems silly to admit that this little game is succeeding where almost nothing was before. (Although I have to admit, I very willingly left the house to go see the new Ghostbusters movie on Sunday, and was very glad I did – I enjoyed it very much.)

That parenthetical statement reminds me – apparently I helped make this past weekend very memorable for my wife. She thanked me multiple times for making her weekend so good, and I didn’t really do much except be willing to watch a few movies with her and go out hunting Pokémon. But I’m very glad that I did it because she was obviously overjoyed with how her weekend went, so there’s that.

Today’s been kinda low key. Got some housework done, got my main three daily tasks done (well, done once I hit publish, that is), and also have been taking short little naps in between. It hasn’t been a spectacular day, but it’s been good, and I’ll take that any day of the week.

The Third Option

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Usually this blog deals with my dealings with mental illness, but today it’s going to take a small thematic break to go to the movies.

First off, let me stress that, while this post deals with Star Wars, there are not any real spoilers in here, unless you’ve never watched any of the seven movies. In fact, The Force Awakens is irrelevant to this post entirely – though I have seen it, and enjoyed myself immensely. This post talks about something called Machete Order.

Traditionally, there are two ways of viewing the original and prequel trilogies. Both are logical. The first is Release Order, or IV-V-VI-I-II-III. The second is Episode Order, or I-II-III-IV-V-VI. But there’s an issue here in that many people are not fans of the prequel trilogy and some – including one friend I discussed this with yesterday – deny the prequels’ existence altogether. They just simply don’t tell a good story, and you’re stuck with either starting or ending your viewing experience on what many feel is a sour note. (Full disclosure: I thought each of the prequels had their strong points despite their weak points, and don’t mind watching them, although I don’t generally do so as often as I watch the original trilogy movies.) Machete Order is IV-V-II-III-VI. Episode I is omitted from Machete Order for a number of reasons, the biggest being that it adds nothing to the overarcing storyline of the other movies. It takes the focus of the story off of Anakin and puts it on Luke instead. In Episodes IV and V, you’re introduced to Luke’s story, culminating with the revelation that (UNNECESSARY SPOILER ALERT) Darth Vader is his father. Then in Episodes II and III, you get Anakin’s backstory in an extended, two-movie long flashback sequence. Finally, in Episode VI, the two stories come together for a neat conclusion to both.

A blogger named Rod Hilton introduced Machete Order in November 2011, and in the four years since it’s gone viral, to the point that it’s recommended by many fan circles and even got a mention on The Big Bang Theory. I’m not going to repeat his explanations for Machete Order (named after his blog, Absolutely No Machete Juggling) beyond what I’ve given and will instead link you to the original blog post for you to read when you have a spare few minutes, but I will tell you what Machete Order is, and what my impressions are from watching it in its entirety yesterday.

First, let me set the scene for you. On Thursday night – Friday morning, actually – my wife and I went to go see The Force Awakens. We were planning to brush up on the previous six movies beforehand, but ran out of time, and so we agreed that on Sunday, after watching Episode VII, we’d dedicate the day to an extended date night and watch them all. We had learned about Machete Order recently and so decided to try this viewing order and see what we thought of it. We woke up, ate breakfast, and then started in. We planned a special menu for the day that was reminiscent of what we’d get from a concession stand at a theater – popcorn and candy, hot dogs and hamburgers, along with soda, a rare treat in our house.

It wasn’t until we started our third movie that we began to see the wisdom of Machete Order. Gone are so many complicating, superfluous story elements. Obi-Wan is always a master; Vader is Sidious’ only apprentice. The uncomfortable age difference between Anakin and Padmé is no more, and the only mention of Anakin as a young boy is made by a girl that plausibly could have grown up with him. When we got to Episode VI, our last movie of the day, the similarities and parallels between Luke and Anakin are fresh in the mind of the viewer, and thus sharper and more easily discernible.

Viewing the Star Wars saga in Machete Order does something that neither Release Order nor Episode Order seem to be able to do – make the prequels relevant to the storyline. Release Order makes the prequels feel disjointed from the overall story; Episode Order puts an awkward generation-long gap in the middle and raises the question of what happened during that time, a gap that – while covered in the television series The Clone Wars – is not addressed in the movies. Machete Order makes the overall story feel fuller, more complex, and leaves open the option to view Episode I separately from the Machete storyline as a true, stand-alone prequel. (I like to include this option because the climactic duel pitting Darth Maul against Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is one of the more impressive lightsaber battles in the entire saga, plus it has what I feel is the best song of the whole score – though that’s an extra bonus, as Duel of the Fates makes another appearance in Episode III.)

For a fuller explanation of the benefits of Machete Order, I would point you to Mr. Hilton’s original blog post, with the statement that I agree with every point he makes. Machete Order, in my opinion, is the way to view the movies to the greatest effect.

I am curious, however, how what will undoubtedly be called the sequel trilogy will fit into this creative retelling of the Star Wars saga. We can speculate as much as we wish, but until the saga is complete with the release of Episode IX in 2019 we won’t know for sure. I hope Mr. Hilton readdresses Machete Order once all nine movies are out and available for home viewing. It will be interesting to see what creative spins can be made with the full story.

NaBloPoMo Day 5: 365 Days of Movies

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Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

To the English, these words are a reminder of their history, the first words of the folk verse entitled “The Fifth of November,” which was written around 1870 about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, where English Catholic Robert Catesby and his co-conspirators planned an elaborate plot to kill King James I of England and invest his nine-year-old daughter Princess Elizabeth on the throne as a Catholic monarch. The primary act of this plot was to blow up Parliament during the State Opening on November 5, during which the King, his nearest relatives, members of the Privy Council, and both Houses of Parliament, which included the senior judges of the English legal system, most of the Protestant aristocracy, and the bishops of the Church of England as members of the House of Lords, would be present. One of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was arrested beneath the House of Lords guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes was tried, convicted, and executed along with seven of his fellow conspirators (Catesby himself was shot and killed while making a stand against the pursuing Sheriff of Worcester and his men). Today it is Fawkes, not Catesby, who is immortalized in remembrance of these events, as November 5th is now alternately known as Bonfire Night, Fireworks Night, or Guy Fawkes Day.

To many Americans, however, these words are better known as the opening words of V for Vendetta, the movie based on the Alan Moore/David Lloyd graphic novel starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman. The Gunpowder Plot is the starting point and inspiration of the events of the movie, set in the London of the near-future.

It’s tradition in our house to watch V for Vendetta every November 5th, as the date is pivotal to the plot of the movie, just as it’s tradition every October 31st to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. Some dates are integral to some of the movies we watch, like the ones above; some dates are incidental details in others, like May 25th (the date of the climactic battle scene in The Last Samurai), but it’s my belief that most of the dates on the calendar can be represented by at least one movie.

I’ve long had the idea of researching this to see how well it would pan out, curious to see if an entire year’s worth of movies can be found. I’ve uncovered a few, but I know there are a lot of obvious ones out there that deal with historical events that can be added to a cinematic calendar (for instance, Pearl Harbor for December 7th). I might spend the next year or two trying to do research and then write a book about my findings if I can successfully complete the calendar.

As for tonight, however, I’ll be curled up on the couch with my wife, enjoying V for Vendetta, and keeping our tradition alive.

Incidentally, for the curious, I’ve included the remainder of the poem that started this post below. Many of us, for whatever reason, know that part. I would wager few of us know the whole thing.

Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!