Still Not Back To Business As Usual
My habit of watching movies and TV shows has been severely disrupted recently, and it doesn’t look to be getting back to normal any time soon, so I’m going to just give you a few more thoughts related to the 50lbs or so that I lost in the past few years.
I completed my first 5K run yesterday - it was the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, so I ran with my company team shirt and ended up keeping pace well with one of my coworkers which was nice because in a crowd of about 12K people, it would have been difficult to try to find anyone after the run if I’d been by myself. It was a good run and I’m very glad I did it. Having no previous record and not running for time (but running the whole way), I did it in 37:41 which makes my split time a bit over 12 minutes a mile. 
Something that recently came up when talking to a friend about how I changed the way I eat is that I tend to eat the same things most of the time. That is, I eat the same breakfast 5 days a week and most weekends I make food to take to work through the week and it’s always the same thing, so I usually end up eating the same lunch 3 days a week. There are exceptions to all this (for instance, this week I ran out of my homemade cereal and, because I’m too lazy to crush hazelnuts to prep more, I’ve been eating cereal, and I decided to not cook for lunches this week, so I’ve been having salad bar at work every day), but for the most part I have no problem with this kind of repetition.
And this is where I lose people - there are a lot of people who can’t or won’t accept eating the same thing over and over. I’m not a particularly picky eater (anymore), and I don’t avoid change. I do have moments where I get sick of whatever it is I’ve been eating regularly and I switch it up, but I can eat the same thing for breakfast five days a week and have no problem with that whatsoever. The fact that some people view that as a superpower or a crime against the nature of personal freedom means that maybe this is an unfair advantage in the realm of ‘losing weight’ or ‘getting healthy’.

Still Not Back To Business As Usual

My habit of watching movies and TV shows has been severely disrupted recently, and it doesn’t look to be getting back to normal any time soon, so I’m going to just give you a few more thoughts related to the 50lbs or so that I lost in the past few years.

I completed my first 5K run yesterday - it was the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, so I ran with my company team shirt and ended up keeping pace well with one of my coworkers which was nice because in a crowd of about 12K people, it would have been difficult to try to find anyone after the run if I’d been by myself. It was a good run and I’m very glad I did it. Having no previous record and not running for time (but running the whole way), I did it in 37:41 which makes my split time a bit over 12 minutes a mile. 

Something that recently came up when talking to a friend about how I changed the way I eat is that I tend to eat the same things most of the time. That is, I eat the same breakfast 5 days a week and most weekends I make food to take to work through the week and it’s always the same thing, so I usually end up eating the same lunch 3 days a week. There are exceptions to all this (for instance, this week I ran out of my homemade cereal and, because I’m too lazy to crush hazelnuts to prep more, I’ve been eating cereal, and I decided to not cook for lunches this week, so I’ve been having salad bar at work every day), but for the most part I have no problem with this kind of repetition.

And this is where I lose people - there are a lot of people who can’t or won’t accept eating the same thing over and over. I’m not a particularly picky eater (anymore), and I don’t avoid change. I do have moments where I get sick of whatever it is I’ve been eating regularly and I switch it up, but I can eat the same thing for breakfast five days a week and have no problem with that whatsoever. The fact that some people view that as a superpower or a crime against the nature of personal freedom means that maybe this is an unfair advantage in the realm of ‘losing weight’ or ‘getting healthy’.

My Love Letter to Del Taco

My hometown is a small city (incorporated in 1989, I remember when it happened) in Southern California. Growing up there, I ate a lot of fast food, but many of the places we went were not actually in the city. Yet we had two Del Tacos - the upper Del Taco was about a strip-mall away from my elementary school/family’s church, and the lower Del Taco was a stone’s throw from the local high school. 

The city didn’t even get its own McDonalds until after the year 2000 - I was away at college when it happened.

But you could choose which Del Taco you wanted to go to based on their relative merits. Seriously. I don’t eat fast food much anymore - maybe a few times a year - but every time I visit SoCal, I make sure to go to Del Taco. It’s gotten to the point where, when I fly in, my family knows that we’re stopping through the drive-thru.

I bought my own meal for myself for the first time in my LIFE at the upper Del Taco. In fourth grade, my class took a (short walk) ‘field trip’ there and I bought myself a meal. I remember it well because I didn’t know what to order and ended up with a burrito full of sour cream and back then I hated sour cream. 

What I like best about Del Taco is that they serve french fries with whatever you’re getting - burrito, tacos, tostada, whatever - it comes with fries. They even have a burger option on the menu. This I respect, as opposed to Taco Bell, which tries to use Spanish language catch phrases and serves chips with cheese sauce instead of fries and makes commercials saying you’re gunna ‘run for the border’ because they’re trying to pretend to some degree of ‘authenticity’ when it comes to their fast Mexican food. Ummm. Not Del Taco - they’re like ‘Fuck it, FRENCH FRIES’.

AND HAVE YOU HAD DEL TACO FRENCH FRIES? Like the fingers of the potato god, my friends. The best fries ever, anywhere.

Which brings me to the reason I am writing this - the loss of Bay Area Del Taco locations. When I first moved to the East Bay in 2005, I used to drive out to San Leandro all the time to visit a friend and there was a Del Taco in the ‘dro and I would go through the drive thru and get my Del Beef burrito and my french fries - and I even had my crappy Oldsmobile (RIP) break down in that drive thru once. But it closed. I think it was in 2008 or so. Gone. 

So I resigned myself to the San Francisco Del Taco, which was not even a real Del Taco in my opinion. The first time I went there I wasn’t really hungry, but I wanted to get some fries because FINGERS OF POTATO GOD - and you know what they were out of that day? Fucking french fries. How does a fast food place allow itself to run out of fucking french fries? It’s like the grocery store running out of milk and bread. The literal fuck. But still, it was there - and when I would go to events at the Yerba Buena Center, I’d go over there for a Del Beef Burrito and a vague sense of being back home.

Last night I went to a show at the Warfield. I was frustrated because a stupid situation at work was making me late and I wanted to stop by the Del Taco and grab a burrito on the way to the show. Earlier that day I had looked up the Del Taco on Google Maps just to make sure I would be able to walk to the Warfield from there pretty quickly. That evening when I stepped out of the BART station and brought up my Maps app on my JesusPhone and searched ‘Del Taco’, though, it zoomed the fuck out and was showing me pins in Antioch and shit. ‘The literal fuck?’ I thought to myself and brought up a browser, searched ‘del taco sf’ and was hit full force in the face with the Yelp! page. 

CLOSED.

So now if I want Del Taco and I’m not visiting my family in So Cal, I have to schlepp my ass down to Campbell or up to like fucking Vacaville or something. First world problems, yes, but dude, when you need a shitty little burrito and some Potato God Fingers - this is a sad situation.

But so long as I can go back to my hometown once or twice a year and load up Del Taco, that’s going to be enough. It’s gunna have to be. But, please, Del Taco, don’t close down any more locations. Please, everyone, if you have a Del Taco near you, give them your business. I’m not asking you to go out of your way to eat there and I don’t generally approve of eating fast food, but if you were going to go to Taco Bell or something, please go to Del Taco instead. Please. Keep this company in business.

Media Consumption Report 9/5/14

THE ONE I LOVE (screening at work) - I really love Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss (her I have loved since seeing that WITCH MOUNTAIN remake she did back when I was a kid) and I was super excited to see this because of that. Also, Mark Duplass and director Charlie McDowall (son of Malcolm McDowall and Mary Steenburgen) were present at the screening for a Q&A which was wicked awesome. This movie was not what I expected at all and was very entertaining - I also really like mind-fuck endings and this one sure has that going for it. Ultimately this is absolutely a must-see for fans of the cast members, because they turn in excellent performances, and it’s an engaging watch that may stay with you for a while after. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again sometime. 4 outta 5 stars.

TWELVE O’CLOCK BOYS (DVD borrowed from work) - I really loved the hell out of this movie. It’s not perfect, but it’s really great for what it is and there are some really amazing shots done with a high-res slow motion camera that are really incredible to watch. I read a self-important review on rogerebert.com that whined about all the things the movie was not and was clearly written by someone who was prejudiced against the material and using that as a catalyst to critique the movie’s style and delivery. I prefer to focus on what a movie IS and only dwell on what it ISN’T if it was SUPPOSED to be something else. This absolutely delivers on what the trailer sells - an enthralling glimpse (certainly not critical or in-depth) into a world. And what else could you possibly ask of any movie, really? I was left with so many questions, though, and I wish that there was more information available about the movie online. I’d like to see a followup at some point. I will absolutely watch this again someday. 5 outta 5 stars.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (DVD) - I was surprised to find myself enjoying this movie. I don’t care for watching organized sports and I particularly don’t care for football, but this movie brushed aside most of this things I find alienating about the whole hot mess of sports and I found myself invested in the characters and the plot. Not my favorite, but definitely a solid piece of cinema, I’ve decided to keep the DVD so I may be watching it again. 4 outta 5 stars.

THE WIND AND THE LION (DVD from Netflix) - Early John Milius movie featured Sean Connery. It sounds much more impressive than it actually is and I wouldn’t watch it again. If I need a Milius epic, I’ll take CONAN every time except when I get RED DAWN fever. I have been consistently underwhelmed with all his other work. Indifferent 3 outta 5 stars.

THE BOOK THIEF (DVD borrowed from work) - To his credit, I was halfway through the movie before I realized why I was so amused by Geoffrey Rush in this movie. It’s because he is doing the Casanova Frankenstein accent in this movie. Except he’s not doing it for the yucks, it’s supposed to be his accent. *stifled laughter* But this is not a comedy. It’s a very well done drama and the child performers are really top notch. But it’s a 4 outta 5 star movie and I don’t know as I would watch it again.

TIN MEN (DVD from Netflix) - I read this on a list of underrated comedies or something and… it’s OK. I really like Richard Dreyfus and he was good. I am pretty ambivalent about Danny DeVito and he’s OK in it. It’s probably just not my kind of movie. 3 outta 5 stars.

PACIFIC RIM (BluRay & DVD) - I watched this while packing before my vacation and then again while on that vacation with the friends whose home in which I was staying. I fucking love this movie forever. The end. 

I also rewatched a number of other old favorites in the past two weeks, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, and JOHNNY MNEMONIC among others.

215 to Tough Mudder

On August 16th I did Tough Mudder in Tahoe (technically it’s in Truckee). I completed the course - I failed on one obstacle and skipped 2/3rds of another, but otherwise I fucking did it. I was covered in scrapes and bruises and my everything was sore and aching for days after. If you’d told me ten years ago that I would be able to do Tough Mudder, I’d have laughed at you - probably choking on soda and junk food in the process. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to do Tough Mudder on a whim. I wasn’t born with a metabolism and body naturally suited to that kind of competition. I played soccer for six (non-consecutive) years during childhood/adolescence and I was the only one of my siblings to even participate in a sport outside of required PhysEd classes in school - but I have never really been ‘athletic.’ I’ve always seen myself as the fat friend.. 

But today I am basically the size that I was when I graduated high school in 2000 - wearing pants size 32W and, finally in the past month or so, making the transition from wearing shirts size Medium to Small. After topping out at pants size 38W in college and steadily wearing 36W and Large size shirts for almost ten years, in 2010 I dropped to W34 and Medium shirts. In high school I was able to maintain my size primarily by not eating breakfast and lunch during the school week. Seriously. I gained well over 50lbs my freshman year of college and I let myself go - I was undergoing a gender transition (basically a second puberty) and gave up on trying to take care of myself in terms of nutrition health as a result. In the years before I had surgery it was hard to work up the motivation to work out or do much of any physical activity while wearing a tight compression shirt. So I didn’t work out. I didn’t make any effort to eat well or take care of myself. Though I will never claim to have had an ‘eating disorder’, my eating has always been disordered.

I finally freed myself of the excuses of binding in early 2007, and later that year I took up the one physical activity I have ever maintained in my life. Indoor rock climbing. It took me months to work my way up to climbing at the level that most of my friends would start at. I still remember completing my first 5.7 climb - I was shaking so badly from the effort that it was at least five minutes before I could untie myself. But I stuck at it and slowly got better. Though climbing never helped me lose weight, I became more active and began to feel better about myself. About a year after I started climbing, as a favor to a friend I went to a student medical clinic and had a physical done. I hadn’t stepped on a scale in years. I always said ‘I don’t care what I weigh, it doesn’t matter’. But I learned that day that I weighed 215lbs. I’m (generously) 5’4”. Even taking into account my genetic tendency to be heavier than I look, that’s way heavier than I’d even thought I might be.

But what could I do? I saw the scale, I knew the problem, but you can’t just magically lose weight overnight and there’s no ‘lose weight fast’ solution that is sustainable. I also refused to police myself, I would not start eating ‘diet food’ and be miserable. What I did, on that day in 2008, was simply decide this: I’m going to change - I’m going to turn this around and I need to start somewhere. (Do Something)

At the time I was working in retail and since eating in the break room was a joke (you had to move out of someone’s way every 3-5 minutes, it was quite literally not possible to take a relaxing break in that room), I ate out at restaurants for lunch every single day. So what I did, as my first step in the fall of 2008, was this: I stopped getting sodas and fries with my lunches. If I was getting a sandwich or burger or something, that was all I got. A few months later, in early 2009, a friend showed me one of those calorie counting apps on their iPhone. I got myself one of those apps and I spent the next year calorie counting. By the spring of 2010 I finally had a handle on it and stopped using the app. By that fall, I was down a waste size in pants and down a shirt size through portion control alone. I backslid a bit the next spring - it probably would have been worse if I hadn’t begun to take my lunch to work four days a week at the same time. Despite the setback, I maintained my newly achieved clothing sizes. And though I didn’t lose any more weight, I wasn’t gaining again. I would guess that during that time I was hovering around 195lbs - about 20lbs down from where I had started three years before. This was strictly through portion control - I was still eating the same crap food, I just wasn’t eating as much as I had been.

I made a few attempts after that to eat healthier and to establish a workout habit, but nothing stuck. I would go to the gym and do an hour on the elliptical, I’d do P90X workouts after work - both turned out to be murder on my bad knee, so I eventually gave up on both. I was still climbing, but I had plateaued.

I broke the plateau in February of 2013. I try to use the month of February, every year, to establish a new or break an old habit. I figure it’s the shortest month of the year, if I’m going to form a new or break an old habit every day for a month, I stand the best chance of success with February and I had seen success in the past with things like ‘Take my lunch to work every day for the month of February’ turning into ‘Take my lunch to work 3-4 days a week’, so I decided to spend that month not drinking soda. I had made many attempts over the years to kick my soda habit - I’d even once tried to spend a past February simply not drinking soda, but I hadn’t made it then. During college, I used to buy cans of Coke by the crate at Costco and chain drink them (popping open new cans before finishing the old one). I had gotten my habit down to one soda a day at lunch during the week, but I was still buying bottles of soda on the weekends. But I didn’t drink any soda for the month of February last year - if I felt myself tempted to drink soda, I would ask myself ‘Well, is it still February? Yes? Then no, not today. In a few weeks if you still really want it.’ And though I’ve had the occasional soda since then, they are few are far between. I had finally broken my sugar addiction - no easy thing. I also began to buy vegetables and less food with added sugar. I stopped stocking my apartment with junk food.

In June of last year, Dr. Rose from Foodist came and gave a talk at my work. Inspired by her talk (and book, which I highly recommend), I bought a FitBit and made another change to my eating habits - rather than just focusing on less junk food and more vegetables, I began to cut out most processed (pre-packaged) food. I eventually started making my own sugar-free breakfast cereal and salad dressing. I still eat processed foods, but I’m mindful about it now. I read the ingredients of everything I buy. From June to September of last year, I dropped down to my current (approximate) weight of 165lbs. I say ‘approximate’ because, though I religiously weighed myself for many months after I plateaued at 165lbs, I had not weighed myself for many months. I am no longer concerned about my weigh as a number. I am concerned only about remaining healthy and active and focusing on what I’m eating and doing (in terms of active time). Weight is just a number to me now and that is a huge privilege, hard earned.

But even with my weight no longer a concern, I felt like I could still improve myself - I wanted a challenge. I needed something to push myself to the next level, I needed to shape up. Aside from climbing, which was becoming more and more infrequent, and making sure I hit my daily step goal with my FitBit, I wasn’t getting any regular exercise. Then, at the beginning of May, an email came through at work, inviting anyone interested to join the Tough Mudder team. The email said they would be doing trail runs and team climbing trips. I read up on Tough Mudder and knew that this was it - my challenge. Perfect, too, because there would be a team and a goal in mind. I thought to myself “I can do this - I’ve been climbing for seven years now, I just need to start running.” So I began to run. I plotted out a progression plan, but basically I just decided one morning to wake up and fucking run. The first run I did was about a half mile out, then I was going to walk back, and I did walk back most of the way but I ran about half of it because I felt like I could. I slowly increased the distance I was doing, I didn’t run every day, and about three weeks later when I went on my first Tough Mudder training trail run, I had worked my way up to running about 2.5 miles about three days a week. That first trail run was 5 miles total - 2.5 miles out and then back. I did fine on the way out and suffered hard on the way back, but I made it. And I kept going. The longest trail run we did in training was probably a shade over 9 miles. I can fit in about a 6.5 mile morning run if I get up early enough (though I’m more likely to do between 2 and 5 miles). Running isn’t always easy, but the high I get out of it brings me back again and again. I’ve had to stop for shin splints, for runners trots, and for just feeling shitty. But even if I took a day, two days, three days, a week off, I was still coming back to it and running again.

Early on in my running, I was also trying to cross train by adding in some Focus T25 workouts, but I didn’t have the energy for it. I was continuing to climb whenever I could also. As Tough Mudder got closer, I was getting super excited. And then, not quite two weeks before the event, doing nothing unusual or even training related, I sprained my left foot. I don’t know when exactly it happened - I was climbing in the morning and after climbing, I noticed that it really hurt to walk. I spent a few days not walking much (which was difficult for me, I usually try to do about 20k steps a day) and, after it hadn’t hurt for two days and I hadn’t limped for almost a week - two days before Tough Mudder I did a slow and easy 2 mile morning run. My foot hurt for a few hours after the run, but by the end of the day there was no pain and the next day it didn’t hurt at all. So I was all systems go for Tough Mudder.

Before signing up for Tough Mudder, I had read up on all the possible obstacles. The day before, they posted the course map and obstacles. I read up on each one again and watched at least one YouTube video of each obstacle included. Most of them I knew would be challenging, but I was sure I could do them (crawling through mud, though not comfortable, is not something I shy away from). What concerned me the most were: the final obstacle, ElectroShock Therapy, where you are pretty much guaranteed to get electric shocks, and the one called the Funky Monkey, which is inclined monkey bars high over a deep pit of water. Most of the other upper-body intensive obstacles didn’t really concern me - Balls to the Wall where you use a rope and your feet to climb over a high wall, and Ladder to Hell where you climb up and over a high slatted wall - I knew that, though these would come late in the course, I was more than capable of doing them. And I did and they were fine - challenging but fun. The Funky Monkey, though - that came after the rest and really had me worried. I’d been hanging and doing pull ups on my door-frame pull up bar at home to help prepare for the entire course generally. But I had not successfully crossed even a short span of monkey bars since I was 5 years old. Back then, I had practiced hard and was able to cross the monkey bars on our backyard swing set. One night after dinner I was practicing in order to be ready to show off for my grampa, who had come over for dinner. I fell off the monkey bars and landed on my arm, breaking my wrist. Though in the past few months I had done a few monkey bars here and there at various parks I’d take my niece and nephew to, I hadn’t really done the monkey bars since 1987.

The Funky Monkey was in the last mile of the course - I had already done over 9 miles of running, up and down hills, and doing various obstacles that had left me with bloody knees and elbows, as well as a cut up left hand (though all cuts on my hand were outside of the zone engaged by hanging on the bars, thankfully). I stood waiting my turn and knew that I couldn’t overthink it, I just had to grab those bars and fucking go. It was my turn, I stood on the platform and looked up at the bars. The guy said ‘Go!’ and I swung out, taking the bars one at a time, knowing that I had to keep my momentum up - I kept my eyes locked and focused on the next bar, never looking down. I chanted to myself ‘Just Keep Going’ as I went. At least two or three times I almost lost momentum, but I kept going and when I did stop to look down, I was well over the platform on the other side and everyone was calling out to me that I’d made it, I could let go and land. I was shaking for minutes after I landed. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t have the strength - I still had to make it up Everest (which I did on my first try, with assistance). 

Though I ate shit hard on Electroshock Therapy - and I would not do that one again - I finished the course. Aside from falling off just shy of halfway along on the Pole Dancer obstacle, and skipping the last two of the Berlin Walls, I did every obstacle successfully (many with help). I earned that headband, (small!) shirt, and beer.

Today, all my scabs have come off and healed nicely. I’ve been running and climbing a few times since finishing - I have my first 5K coming up in a few weeks. This isn’t really a story about how I ‘lost weight’, though I did do that. Weight is just one number that doesn’t necessarily reflect your overall health - just as calorie counting can be helpful but is not the definitive measure of health either. Though I spent three months training for Tough Mudder, I spent about five years prior to that making small changes to turn my life around. I wasn’t happy, not only because I was heavier than I wanted to be, not only because I didn’t think I looked good - I didn’t have confidence. I didn’t have my health. I was often sick, had indigestion, would cycle through comfort eating and guilt eating and hating myself. Now, if I want ice cream, I eat some fucking ice cream. If I want a treat, I’ll have a treat. But I don’t want them nearly as often or in anywhere near the volume that I used to. And I know that I’m going to keep running. And I know that I’m lucky to enjoy running - I didn’t always enjoy running, but I’ve always loved the feeling of exhilaration that it brings. And I’m not really writing this as an inspirational message, but if that’s what you’re looking for, I have this to say - you don’t have to start where I started, you don’t even have to start trying to make changes in your life. But if, like I was, you’re not happy with yourself, you can start off with the smallest of changes and end up with huge results. It took me years and it hasn’t been easy. But it happened. And is still happening. I didn’t follow a fad diet or workout program. I made permanent changes to my life (on Foodist she calls it your ‘healthstyle’) and, as much of an asshole as it makes me sound, I’m pretty fucking happy about where I’ve ended up.

PHOTOS: A ‘Before and After’ photo of my weight/size loss - the first was taken at Angels Landing in Zion, Utah in 2007. The second was taken at the top of Mission Peak in Fremont, CA in 2013. Then there are the ‘Before and After’ team photos from Tough Mudder last month.

With the past few weekends overtaken by Tough Mudder and a short vacation on the opposite side of the country, I haven’t been watching many movies and I got lazy about posting. Obviously.
I hope to get back into the swing of posting next week. 

With the past few weekends overtaken by Tough Mudder and a short vacation on the opposite side of the country, I haven’t been watching many movies and I got lazy about posting. Obviously.

I hope to get back into the swing of posting next week. 

Media Consumption Report 8/15/14

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER (DVD borrowed from work) - Indie post-apocalyptic movie written and directed by and starring Brea Grant. It follows two best friends going on a road trip to Texas on the eve of the end of the world and it’s a very fun movie. I liked it and I think it’s one of the better apocalypse movies I’ve seen. The balance of humor and drama is well done and I’d absolutely watch it again sometime. 4 outta 5 stars. If you can find this somewhere, you should watch it. Oh, also it has a comic book/comic art thing going on - Grant’s character works as a comic book inker. Anyway, that part is extra awesome.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS (DVD borrowed from work) - I should start by saying that I once tried to read On The Road and couldn’t get 20 pages into it. My entire experience of Allen Ginsberg was David Cross’ performance in I’M NOT THERE, which I was thinking about as I started watching this movie and then when I had to pause the movie to verify that, yes, that was David fucking Cross playing his father - I was so tickled I was immediately won over. I like the unusual opening and how they did the title. While far from a perfect movie, I felt like I was watching the DEAD POETS SOCIETY of this decade and I can even forgive the kind of awkward and unnecessary buttsex scene because, in a way, that’s all that was really missing from DPS and I like having the privilege of awkward and unnecessary buttsex scenes to complain about. Also, let’s all just take a moment to appreciate Daniel Radcliffe and his mega acting chops. And Ben Foster’s William S. Burroughs is one of the best things I’ve ever fucking seen. Michael C. Hall’s character is kind of like a mashup of low key Dexter and David from SIX FEET UNDER and you’d think that he was getting typecast, but I forgot that I was watching Dexter/David - he’s really good and just disappears into the role. As for the validity of this as a representation of the ‘true’ story, I doubt it very much - but as a fiction film it’s pretty good. I wouldn’t seek it out to see again, but I wouldn’t object. 4 outta 5 stars.

BIRD ON A WIRE (DVD from Netflix) - After reading Stephen Tobolowsky’s story about being in this movie and shooting his death scene in the piranha pool, I added it to my Netflix queue, and when I saw that it had a ‘Very Long Wait’ I bumped it to the top. It sat there for about two months before the DVD shipped. It was a really fun, super 80s (though released in 1990) movie with a flimsy premise and Mel Gibson with a power mullet-tail hairdon’t and Goldie Hawn using a butt double for an upskirt thong shot. Tobo, as one of the baddies, saves data to a FLOPPY DISK and this is a major plot point. As a result of this movie I have decided that any time I watch a movie with floppy disks featured in any way, I will text someone ‘FLOPPY DISKS’ with floppy disk emojis. I have gotten some good reactions. This one is worth checking out for the nostalgia if nothing else. Remember back before Mel Gibson was Tom Cruise crazy? Yeah. 4 outta 5 stars, I wouldn’t object to seeing it again.

INGENIOUS (Netflix Instant) - This 2009 indie is one of the few Renner films I had not seen - because it took a long time to be available. It’s a story of two friends who are struggling as salesmen until one of them invents a novelty gift that gets really popular. Renner is fun to watch as always, but if you’re not a fan of his, skip this one. It’s OK. 3 outta 5 stars.

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (DVD from Netflix) - This was a Jennifer Jones movie I added to my queue after seeing THE SONG OF BERNADETTE and I moved it to the top since it was a Very Long Wait movie. It came along pretty quickly though. And fucking jesus you guys, this fucking movie. I should have watched a Jennifer Jones movie next where her character was more different than what she was doing in SONG OF BERNADETTE. She’s not playing a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but she seems to be doing something similar - maybe… Vague and Flighty Dream Girl? Whatever it is I’ve decided I don’t like it. This was worth seeing, though, for Ethel Barrymore. I am fascinated by the Barrymores - particularly the weird, generation-spanning practice of using last names for middle names and first names. It’s like every Barrymore is either a John, a Blyth, or a Drew, or some combination thereof. And even Drew Barrymore - both her kids have the same middle name: Barrymore. Anyway, I would never watch this movie again and I’m not the least surprised it was a bomb. 2.5 outta 5 stars.

THE PUNISHER (DVD borrowed from work) - Apparently I completely missed this movie’s existence as a legitimate big-deal action movie. The first I heard of it was seeing the box on the shelf when I worked at Blockbuster in 2005. I assumed it was some low budget action fare since I didn’t see Thomas Jane or John Travolta as big names at the time and I’d never heard of the Punisher comics. I saw PUNISHER: WAR ZONE - apparently in 2009 - and I fucking loved that one, gave it 4 stars and I usually say “PUNISHER: WAR ZONE? Oh fuck yeah, Ray Stevenson punches right through a guy’s head! It’s fucking awesome!” whenever it comes up. Which isn’t very often. But anyway, I decided to give a shot at this one and ew, no thanks. I found it boringly mediocre. Nothing stood out. And maybe I was just a little too high or something, but about twenty minutes into the movie I had to pull myself out of it, mentally, and try to remember what movie I was watching. That never bodes well for a movie. I won’t watch this again and I’m actually a little sorry that I bothered watching it. I’m going to go with a half-hearted 2.5 outta 5 stars.

TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (DVD) - I was surprised to learn from Wikipedia that this movie was generally considered a success, both financially and critically. The word that kept going through my head as I watched was ‘perfunctory’. When a movie works, it almost defies explanation. When a movie doesn’t work, it can be hard to put your finger on what exactly the problem is. Watching T3, I was able to come up with a running list of what was wrong and only a single item that works. The only thing about this movie that works is Claire Danes performance. Every single other thing about it - the writing, the direction, the color palette, the framing of shots, the static camera, the casting of Nick Stahl, the painful one liners that they clearly were hoping would catch on like ‘I’ll Be Back’ did… Everything about this movie was chosen incorrectly and that makes me sad because clearly a lot of people worked on making this movie happen, and it plays out completely flat. Roger Ebert said it was one big long chase and fight scene and, yes, it is that. But it’s not even a very good or interesting one. 2 outta 5 stars. I have clearly decided to not keep the DVD. I honestly cannot understand why anyone would want to own this movie or watch it a second time.

RIP Robin Williams

I’m not the first to point out how hard a year this has been for celebrity deaths - particularly the ones we did not see coming. And in this I’m referring to two of the top billed stars of PATCH ADAMS: first Philip Seymour Hoffman and now Robin Williams (and when I was finding images for this post, I stumbled across a photo of Phil with Glenn Close from a screening of THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP). I hadn’t intended on posting about Robin Williams this week. But he died this week, and now here we are. I wasn’t even going to write about him then, but then I realized that my password for all systems at work is a reference to a Robin Williams movie. Every time I type my password (which I have to do about a billion times a day, five days a week), I am invoking Robin Williams. Then I saw someone post a gif from DEAD POETS SOCIETY and I knew I had to talk about this.

I recently gave my autographed Robin Williams photo (which I am 95% sure was signed with an autopen and not actually signed by him) to a friend of mine who loves him. I know that she visited the set of MRS DOUBTFIRE as a child and I believe she got to meet Sally Field. This friend is also named Sally and I know that the experience had a lasting effect on her, including her love of Robin Williams. I once went to a comedy club up in Marin county with this friend. She had been talking about going to the show for months and kept mentioning how local celebrities, such as Robin Williams, were known to drop in unannounced. He did not show up the night we attended and though neither of us expected him to, I could tell that she had kind of hoped he would. 

And he has been a local celebrity in the Bay Area. I remember standing in line for SF Sketchfest events and listening to yuppies talk about ‘running into Robin’ at various locations.

Like my work password, I feel like Robin Williams has left fingerprints all over my life, some more obvious than others. Of course I saw ALADDIN all the time as a kid. Of course I watched HOOK over and over and over. When I got to high school, it was DEAD POETS SOCIETY. About three years ago, when I was still living with Sally, we sat down to watch THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP together. I remember having the revelation at the time that Robin Williams had been about my own age (at the time, just about 30) when he made that movie, which was released the year I was born. I felt, at the time, that an important circle had been completed. Robin Williams had entered his 30s and I had entered the world with GARP and then I entered my 30s with GARP (which remains a favorite movie). 

Thank you for the memories, Mr. Williams, I hope you’ve found yourself in a better place.

Media Consumption Report 8/8/14

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (screening at work) - I really enjoyed the hell out of this movie. The cast is great, the story is fun, the visuals are consistently awesome, and it’s very funny. I hope to watch it again in the future, though I don’t know if I’d watch it a lot. I mean, it’s not PACIFIC RIM after all. But it’s very fun and I liked it a lot. 5 outta 5 stars.

OF MICE AND MEN (DVD from Netflix) - Growing up in California, I read a John Steinbeck book every year from the 7th grade until I graduated high school. Aside from Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men was the only one of them I really liked. And that was mainly due to the Sinise/Malkovich film (which was also responsible for Malkovich being my favorite actor for many years). This movie was also a very good adaptation of the novel (and in some ways it was superior - they gave Curly’s wife her own name, after all, and a bit of back story). I also enjoy seeing Burgess Meredith in things because I grew up watching him as The Penguin so to me, he is The Penguin more so than Danny DeVito. I wouldn’t watch this one again (whereas I own the Sinise version on DVD), but I’m glad I saw it. 4 outta 5 stars.

DONNIE BRASCO (DVD) - I’d seen this movie back in college at some point, but didn’t remember it very well. Upon rewatching it, I can guess that I probably would have rated it 3 outta 5 stars before (though I hadn’t actually rated it on Netflix) and I stand by that rating now. This is not my kind of movie - I tend to get bored by Mafia and mob movies (depending on the movie, of course). But this is a solid 90s drama and worth seeing if you’re into that kind of thing. There are parts that kind of hurt like you’re watching a deliberate Oscar clip, but all told it’s basically entertaining. I’ve decided to not keep the DVD though.

TOP HAT (DVD borrowed from work) - Cited as one of the most definitive Rogers/Astaire pictures, TOP HAT was great fun to watch and has some really awesome dance numbers. But this isn’t really my genre either. I’m glad I saw it, but don’t see myself watching it again. 4 outta 5 stars.

Autographed DVDs: A Series
Signed in two tone Sharpie by Crispin Glover (at one of the screenings of his movies that I attended at the Castro in SF) and signed in pen by director Tim Hunter. Tim Hunter attended a screening of OVER THE EDGE at the Roxie Theater in SF and I approached him after the screening and asked him to sign it. He almost didn’t - he was trying to escape because some raging fuck of an asshole was trying to engage him in personal conversation and monopolize his time, but I hadn’t brought my RIVERS EDGE DVD cover all the way to that screening to miss out on getting his autograph on it next to Crispin’s. 

Autographed DVDs: A Series

Signed in two tone Sharpie by Crispin Glover (at one of the screenings of his movies that I attended at the Castro in SF) and signed in pen by director Tim Hunter. Tim Hunter attended a screening of OVER THE EDGE at the Roxie Theater in SF and I approached him after the screening and asked him to sign it. He almost didn’t - he was trying to escape because some raging fuck of an asshole was trying to engage him in personal conversation and monopolize his time, but I hadn’t brought my RIVERS EDGE DVD cover all the way to that screening to miss out on getting his autograph on it next to Crispin’s. 

Media Consumption Report 8/1/14

LUCY (screening at work) - I really don’t understand why people are letting this movie polarize them so much. I have heard nothing but whining about how the science isn’t ‘accurate’. It’s a good thing I watch science… wait for it… FICTION… and somehow manage to enjoy movies in spite of the stuff they depict being somewhat less than believable. You know, like a group of super beings saving the universe from evil aliens, maybe. Cuz I’m sure the scientific accuracy of that might be up for debate a little. Why let it piss you off? Just don’t fucking see it if it makes you that angry. It reminds me of some Comic Book Guy at the screening of DOOMSDAY who was harassing Neil Marshall about whether the movie would ‘accurately’ depict how a disease might travel and spread. Really? Cuz that’s why you’re going to see the movie? Because you want it be like a fucking documentary about how real life works? I wanted to see LUCY because I figured that spending over an hour watching Scarlett Johannson kick some ass sounded like a good way to spend a Friday night. Turns out - I was fucking right. It was entertaining and I had a lot of fun watching it. Was it high art? Was it a deep, meaningful message movie? Did I learn a lot about science? Nope. But did I have fun in spite of many things making no sense? Oh fuck yes I did. And Julian Rhind-Tutt shows up as a bonus! Though I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again, but it was fun and I give it 4 outta 5 stars. People who get pissed off by this movie really need to examine their values because seriously, the junk.

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (BluRay) - I need to write a few Proust-level novels about how I feel about this movie. OH MY GOD I LOVED IT. And David Lynch’s DUNE is my Favorite Movie Of All Time Forever Amen. And I love the DUNE I have even more now that I’ve seen this movie about the DUNE that never was. Seriously, lots of words will come in the future telling you more details about how much I love this movie. This is the first movie I have bought without seeing it first in about 10 years. And I have no regrets. 5 outta 5 stars. I will be watching this again.

REWIND THIS (DVD borrowed from work) - Awesome documentary covering the role of VHS in American life today. Well, mostly in the lives of collectors and enthusiasts. I really enjoyed this movie and - most surprisingly - I learned about a great deal of movies I’d never heard of and have not seen. Sure, there were lots covered and mentioned and posters displayed behind people - lots that I know and love (and the Frank Henenlotter interview excerpts were absolutely among the best, I especially loved the showcase of the FRANKENHOOKER VHS box). The cover art for this movie is epic and very fitting with the material covered in the documentary. Any movie fan worth their salt must see this movie. 5 outta 5 stars.

BIG WEDNESDAY (DVD from Netflix) - I had to see this after watching MILIUS. I know I must have seen the title around, but before seeing that documentary I had no idea what a big deal this movie was supposed to be. And after seeing it, I’m not surprised that it wasn’t as big as JAWS and STAR WARS. Not the least bit surprised. It’s still well worth seeing, but it really lacks that spark - which is surprising given the level of talent involved. It just didn’t take off. I will never watch POINT BREAK the same way again, though. I hadn’t realized the significance of having Gary Busey in it - after he appeared in this landmark surfing film. I don’t want to watch it again, though, and can only give it a solid 3 outta 5 stars.

RONIN (DVD) - I gave this 3 stars back in college when I first saw it. I’ve bumped that up to 4 outta 5 stars now, but I decided not to keep the DVD. I really like the chase scenes and the fights. I like this movie, I think it’s clever and entertaining, but I don’t feel any compulsion to watch it again, though I am glad I rewatched it.