Thursday, January 17, 2019

What's Next On My List? Rocky III

Welcome to the fifth installment of #StalloneMonth, which I have to say, is my favorite time of the year! In this period, over the span of four or five weeks (depending on the dates), I review Sylvester Stallone movies. This has been a fun project, and I will keep on going until I run out of movies to review! So here comes year five!

Third installment of the iconic story of an underdog boxer who went the distance.

Monday, January 14, 2019

What's Next On My List? Walk The Line

I decided to remain on the track of old movies that had an impact on my life. The next one was the first biopic that made me interested in reading up on the life of major celebrities and their impact on 20th century popular culture.

The life of Johnny Cash, from when he lost his brother in his childhood, to his comeback tour when he and June Carter decided to get married. His life was a roller coaster, and just like every big rock star out there, it involved a lot more than a couple of cans of beer after a tour across America. Divorce, betrayal, drugs, but something stronger over comes it: music. This biopic might be about the romantic side of Cash and Carter's relationship, but that is what most of us wanted to see.

I do not know what attracted me to this movie so much, but I know that I had to see it. It was one of the first movies that wasn't just playing in the background on TV, nor did I wanna see it because of an actor I liked. I was amazed, but the arch of the story, the frame of it was very well thought out. Not only was his life amazing, a real rock star, country star, every single star you can think of, but it was at a time when music was thriving in America and it is a chapter everyone is interested in. I find that this movie is exceptionally well made because of the pacing: what needs to be detailed was, and the montage scenes conveyed still enough emotions that they did not feel as fillers to make the movie two hours long. When you think about it, there are moments in our lives that pass by without us noticing, and the way this movie told the story felt similar to how we perceive real life.
Moving on from that, the casting was so wonderful, I don't want to be mean, but I think this was the best work I have seen from both actors. And I ended up liking their covers of these songs far more than the originals (but don't tell that to anyone). I can always be persuaded to watch this movie, and I catch myself singing Cash tunes at least once a week or so. Even now, I put it on in the background, to listen to the songs and the dialogue in my favorite scenes. What I also like, which to me is the indicator of a good biopic, that I want to know more: I am not assuming that is all that there is to see. I want to read up on these people, listen to their songs, look at the lyrics, the tour dates, see how they discovered and conquered all the hearts in America.

Watch it? Please do. I don't think you understand how great it is. This is one of those few movies where I agree with every single Oscar nomination, because I don't think they did the movie to get all those awards. You can tell when a movie is simply designed to thrive in the award season. I like underdogs. I find that most actors get Oscars when they nail the interpretation of an existing person, and here every nomination was well deserved.

Until the next time on my list!
_ _ _ _ _

John R. Cash - Joaquin Phoenix
June Carter - Reese Witherspoon
Vivian Cash - Ginnifer Goodwin
Ray Cash - Robert Patrick
Sam Phillips - Dallas Roberts

Monday, January 7, 2019

Blogger: 365 Days of Digital Decluttering

When we click and share and save, we end up collecting clutter. This isn’t some technological essay on what is the actual result of you using your computer, I am just stating objectively that digital clutter is just as much clutter as hoarding every issue of The New York Times amidst skeletons of cats. But simply because we cannot bump into in the middle of the living room, we pay less attention to it. You see, my OCD extends to computer files as well. I only have one “messy” folder, which is subject to cleaning the same way my apartment is every other week. And the way I declutter physical things yearly (I love throwing stuff out, that is how I know that hoarders have to be mentally ill, because saying goodbye to old things is just liberating!), I also clean my computer.

At the beginning of 2018 I decided to put in order my digital foot print. I don’t even know if this term exists, but it sounds like it should, and well, it was really liberating again. The first thing I did was I looked through my blog of seven years, starting its eight year run now in 2019. I had to admit that I did not know the direction I wanted to go with when I started, but small title corrections and page revisions (although a lot of work) was very rewarding in getting the shape that I now know my blog needs. My heart goes out to all those pages that have been interrupted because their authors believed that it would be too much work to put the blog back into its proper shape… But there was something else I did all year round, and that was the main reason I want to call this process cleaning my digital foot print.

Over a year ago I set out to put everything in order on my facebook profile, for various reasons. I can already say that it was the best and weirdest experience of my life. I got to learn a lot about myself and for that reason alone it was worth it. Each morning I would click on my memories and go back to the very bottom and see everything that happened. It became such a routine that I miss not doing it while drinking my coffee after waking up. 

First of all, the privacy settings have changed more than one might think. Back when I was in high school, for example, messenger did not work at all. Having only your real buddies and classmates as your friends, and maybe some younger cousins, ended in all of us writing things onto each other’s walls instead of sharing them privately. As I get older, as far as I can tell, I too want to select more what I share and what I deem “funny” nowadays, on the inside joke department. (No, people will not care for you more after the knowledge of you having friends and sharing your inside jokes online). So much so that I want to go back and tell myself to stop posting… but more on this later. On top of that, almost everything was by default set on public for everyone (another reason why stalking your crush was so much easier in high school!). Along the old posts that were public I've found the ones to my class about payments for prom, or substituting teachers, and so on, so I had to go back and change all of those privacy settings (or just delete them, I deleted a lot of things!).

Second, I have to say that my life is really repetitive. I noticed that on the same day of the year I posted the same song for over five years. Even if not my actions, my feelings are repetitive. My mind remembers things not as randomly as I might have thought (which is very scary). I made a habit out of listening to every song I shared on my wall over the years and was a great way to start the day, I then saved quotes from my friends and teachers that previously I only had written online, into a word document. My university years were filled with wonderful moments that could have gone forgotten, but thanks to this feature, even if people walked in and out of my life, the good moments, those little ones that made me sometimes smile for a whole day, could stay with me forever. I know people who passed away and their families kept their facebook profiles... I don't want to be one of those people. The reason I can think of digital clutter as such, is that it is always physical to me: the memory of something I shared online, the feeling I had while listening to a song, the anger of reading certain articles and the joy of looking at puppy videos is something that I believe I can touch. And if I can touch it, I can also through it out (or pass it on) when it is part of a past lesson that I have already learned.

Third, ... the whole World is repetitive two. The other morning I stopped myself from posting about snow, because I noticed that I did so three years in a row. It is amazing to my how my brain managed to completely erase the fact that it snowed at the same time last year, instead I complained to someone about how it never snows lately in the winter season... This made me understand why, I remember the same songs at the same time of the year: something in the air is the same every 365 days.

The most important lesson I have learned that, and this is a secret, but nobody really cares. Funnily enough, we all have clicked on the unfollow button, and that is something I can see from the likes I used to get and I get now. We all use facebook differently, and well, anybody passing judgment on what you should or shouldn't post online is ludicrous to me. I have always thought of facebook as an online journal, you see, my personal journal is not private either, I mostly take note of hangouts with friends and a couple of small things I do want to remember, or have data of (funny how that is ambiguous), like the name of my university teachers, or the Christmas presents my best friend got me. And as I am a living breathing open book, so is my journal, and my facebook. I understand that this might be a bit aggressive to some people, but it is literally impossible to make all of my 300+ friends happy all the time, so I stopped trying. The only reason I would go back and make myself stop, is that I have found a pattern: if I have the chance to talk about my day to my parents, my partner, or my best, I am less inclined to fall pray to the "What's on your mind?" question facebook asks me. And as a teenager, I just had to share it with an interface available to hundreds, instead of someone close. I wish I could go back and tell myself to look for someone to talk it out with, instead of posting it. But that is the only regret I have, and I feel that too was a lesson I learned because I took the time to go back and get familiar with my timeline.

But why is it good to keep in check your digital clutter? 
Well, you might end up writing things onto discs (I do, yes, I am a 100, leave me alone!), or store them on hard-drives, endless number of hard-drives, with folders that need renaming and organizing and we all know nobody is going to do it... but what remains is the fact that these are already physical forms of your clutter. I have 437 DVDs worth of clutter, that takes up quite the space in my living room! And had my techniques of cleaning been more efficient years ago, I wouldn't perhaps have all these discs that I am now afraid to throw out.

I have advices for myself, as in, save less images, delete emails, make copies of photos in your cloud, revise once in a while folders, see if you really need everything, and make lists of the important materials (movies, ebooks, music, etc.) that you need quick access too. If you wish to follow these, please do, but more importantly, remember that your computer can only handle so much...

As strange as it may sound,  if you are a fun of physical decluttering, you are bound to enjoy it technologically too, as long as you give it a try!

Do you have any resolutions for 2019 regarding your digital foot print? 
Leave them in the comments!
_ _ _ _ _

(If you feel the need to tell me that facebook keeps things that I delete, don't, I know already and I don't care. I am not hiding things from the FBI, but just looking through my life with the help of a mouse and organizing it to my viewing pleasure.)

Monday, December 31, 2018

What's Next On My List? (Games) Assassin's Creed: Black Flag

All year long I have wanted to play this game, and I loved it soooooo damn much that I decided to finish it with 100%, I mean... both Brotherhood and Revelations had this effect on me, and I terribly hated ACIII because there was no way to lower my wanted level and I couldn't do any of the side missions and it was just plain frustrating... and I love these games, honestly, even if I have to replay a mission a hundred times, I don't mind, the madness of not being successful at first try fuels my wish to play more and more and more. Is that just me? I don't know. Anyway, I played this game for days, getting every assassin contract, every single chest box and post-its and animus fragments BUT then I decided to hurry up and finish it before the year ends so I could review it as the last thing for this year, so here we go:

The story: Our main character is Edward Kenway, a nobody who becomes one of the most notorious pirates of the Caribbean, by realizing that his actions caused the direct danger on the life of the assassins. As just six years of his life pass, he realizes that all he has worked for isn't good for anything if there is nobody left alive to be there with him when he finally gets it. In the end, he helps the assassins according to their creed in order to walk away with a sense of dignity and self-respect.
Game play: This was a very weird experience, because I was not into steering my ship in the beginning... I needed to be a couple of hours in to let myself enjoy it, while with the other games I was on board right away. I actually preferred being on land at first, but as I equipped my ship with more and more things, and I was fishing and actually defeating other ships it just got so entertaining. I believe that is the main reason I enjoyed doing side missions, because steering my ship around was simply fun. Now, I was told that they worked on this because of the success of ships in ACIII, well... I hated them there! That one mission was simply terribly done and I succeeded without knowing how I did it. So that is why I was not a fun right away, but I have to admit, that it was very well done here. I also loved, that in the end, my second in command was a woman. This game took the rules that society had at the time and let go of them in a heartbeat. Women take a major role in this game, and I loved the little things between the missions and I have to say that the dialogues in this game were just simply amazing. I find myself tearing up towards the end and I don't think any other AC game has ever had that effect on me.
Mini-bosses: Helping the other assassins was actually very entertaining. In previous games I was part of the Creed, here I liked that I had to earn my place, I liked how there were others and I wasn't recruiting them but my actions caused mistakes that I had to fix. In this story, the mini-bosses were a result of the main character being irrational and impulsive. Seeing other skilled and well trained assassins from all around the Caribbean was a wonderful treat. Helping them resulted in fighting smaller bosses, they were not a big deal. That is all I can say, as the major bosses evaded me until the end of the story, and there were four of them. The smaller bosses came from all around, since as a pirate everyone was my enemy: Spanish ships, English ships, other pirates, pirate hunters, often Templars and assassins too.
The Boss fight: Obviously in each game I look forward to the end, and this was a bit different from the others. Having at least four people to kill I got more and more excited about getting them out of the way, but in the end, the last person who remained was simply too easy to kill. One good jump and its over... I just remember how I used the last string of my life to kill Cesare Borgia and I missed the excitement of that. That said, I am not really complaining in the end, because it was still satisfying, but I would not call it boss fight, unless we take the last four battles as four iterations of the ultimate boss. It was just different, but not necessarily bad, is all I wanted to say.

What didn't work? First, I missed that there was no 'Sequence completed' signs during the game... I have to say, that even if I know the set up of the game I recognize when one chapter is over, I still missed being told that I am going forward OK. I do not know which board meeting decided on the elimination of that, but I did miss it. Second, my copy had a couple of bugs, and I don't know if that is just the PS3 version, or mine in particular (we did buy it used), but I did not really think that was a major issue that requires more than this one sentence.
There was, altogether, just one segment that was badly made: after I get my ship I kept getting my ass kicked and couldn't advance in any way. I then bought just one upgrade and it made all the difference in the world: now the game keeps giving you suggestions, but there was not a single 'equip your ship now!' suggestion and I did find that very weird. You learn everything pretty fast, and still, at the very end of the game I am still being told about the leap of faith, but the ship shops were only available after I get the Jackdaw and there were no hints for it. I found that very weird... but that is literally the only criticism I can think of right now.
What worked? Oh my god, everything. I love these games, really, that is why it hurts so much when they don't do them right. I find something I love in all of them, but if the criticism says that it isn't as good, I believe them, because that has been my experience too. My friend complained about the lack of Desmond, but I was completely fine with how they changed the main character, after all, others have interesting ancestors as well.

And that is it for my blog entries for 2018. Thank you everyone, well, anyone, who stuck by me and make sure you join me for year eight of my blog. Have a great year everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2018


I have finally seen the movie I have been waiting for all year long, and as fortune would have it, I could time it to be this year's Christmas review!

It is Christmas time in Whoville, but one mean creature is not in the spirit of the holiday, the Grinch even plans to ruin it for everyone else. In an attempt to cure a pain in his heart he thinks that the way to get over it is to try and defeat it, but when he learns that he is the only one who doesn't get the true meaning of Christmas, he apologizes for what he has done.

First off, I have not read any criticism and I refuse to do so still. There is a very simple reason for that: there is no rendition of How The Grinch Stole Christmas that the Americans are going to be OK with. This is a beloved children's classic and you all out there have your own memories of how it is and you prefer the 30 minutes cartoon with the original Dr. Seuss writing recited over it. Second, I did not grow up with that, so to me the childhood favorite was the Jim Carrey version from 2000, and most people who did not enjoy it as much at first, have claimed that it is one of their guilty pleasures over the years, mostly because of the dialogue and the visuals. I adore that movie, and I knew that any story that dealt with this character would be good - and so I went into the movie not knowing anything and keeping an open mind.
I have to say: I loved it. This is a great children's movie that teaches one very important lesson, and it is that of the necessity for apologies. In the end the Grinch obviously learns his lesson, and I find that the most important scene was when he tells everyone that he thought hurting others would fix something in him, but it didn't. We are likely to lash out at others more often then they would deserve, but I do not think many of us take the time to apologize after we realize that we might have been wrong. The lesson of this story was said out loud, but I applaud it for that, because learning to apologize for our mistakes is very important. I loved the design of the town, the voice acting, the Grinch's relationship with his dog Max, Cindy Lou's kindness and overall the small but significant characters of this little town that is so fond of Christmas.
If I had to be critical, there are things that I could bring up that were not to my liking. The new versions of the classic songs I think were terrible... the songs about the Grinch are also Christmas songs, but making them into something you would find as the last track on a 90s RnB album is not festive. Second, the makers put an extra emphasis on one song in particular, where carolers surround the Grinch as he goes into town. I did not agree with the fantastical town of Whoville singing "Remember Christ our Savior/Was born on Christmas Day" because I do not fuse the religious background to this fantastic holiday, especially because the story is about learning that material belongings don't matter! If they already knew the religious meaning, there would be no point in learning the lesson... My brother said that perhaps the reason it was annoying to him, was supposed to symbolize that it is annoying to us too, but I don't know if I buy that. And I think that is all the criticism that I can recall.

Watch it? This is not an adult Disney movie, that is for every ages, it is more for children, but we found with my family that it is perfect mash-up of the original cartoon and the live action version. This movie is for everyone, but you might encounter criticism that says otherwise. I personally adored it for what it is and encourage everyone to see it with their loved ones!

Until the next item on my list!

_ _ _ _ _

The Grinch - Benedict Cumberbatch
Cindy-Lou Who - Cameron Seely
Donna Who - Rashida Jones
Groopert - Tristan O'Hare
Mr. Bricklebaum - Kenan Thompson