Sunday, January 27, 2019

What's Next On My List? Star Wars Episode IV-V-VI

January is my Star Wars month. Every year we take my dad to see the new movies after Christmas, and it was in this period that I started binge watching Star Wars Rebels, and after each movie I feel the need to re-watch all six previous episodes. This was fueled in me after I saw Rogue One, because the amount of accuracy they put in that prequel still amazes me. I made no secret of the fact that I enjoy the prequels as well, I don't want to get into it here, you can read my reviews here, but for now I decided to write about this beloved classic because I am not alone in feeling that it is one of the most influential things in my life.

I don't want to go into long plot summaries, since most of you know what they are about, and if you don't, you don't want me to spoil it for you in detail, trust me. There is an empire that feeds off of its people, and a restless rebellion manages to get a hold of two great pilots, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo, and with their combined help, they manage to get the upper hand for a while. Luke must train to become a Jedi, and their link to the rebellion, Princess Leia, ends up being the most important thing in the life of the two.

When I was tiny I saw the original trilogy, but not much stuck with me, I was too young obviously, until the prequels came out - got me in the mood -, and I spent a whole Sunday just watching them, one after the other. And here I have to admit, that I add a new layer of interpretation every time I put them on and watch them. I noticed, even back then for example, all the new CGI things they added on the DVD version and I was not very happy about it... the best thing this movie has done was construct everything by hand, without any green-screens and I was really mad that I kept seeing Lucas go back and ruin things... I am 100% sure that if he had the technology back then to make this movie they way he wanted with the CGI it would not have gained the following that it did. For that reason, I have noticed that I enjoy everything Star Wars related, that was not written by George Lucas. And this is important, because the original trilogy was not all directed by him. This feature is something they also kept in the newest trilogy and I am very grateful for that.
When it comes to the originals, I need to re-watch them simply because I do want to be in a galaxy far far away. These movies gave me something that I have long lost in real life, in a political sense: hope. You see, every story plays with the definition of good and evil, and especially the new series highlights how not everything is black and white, but I have found that to be one of the most important things in the original as well. Just look at Han: his motivations are quite questionable, even if he is a good boy, he wants to be desperately bad (something that the extended universe has a filled day with). Not to mention my last and favorite scene from Return of The Jedi, where Luke, who was not supposed to be blinded by his feelings, yells out "NEVER!" at the thought of losing his sister, and just, quite literally, beats the shit out of Darth Vader. If that was not anger, I don't know what is. He is supposed to be the epitome of what a Jedi can accomplish, yet all of his decision, from losing Ben Kenobi, to leaving his training, to then defeating the Sith (and almost trying to kill his nephew...) were all moves that were fueled by emotions. Positive, or negative, you can debate me, but I find that these movies made it clear already that there is more than just light or dark side.
If I have to be completely honest though, despite the fact that I find Darth Vader to be one of the best designed villains of all time, and that Luke is the ultimate fairy tale hero, the reason I go back to the movies always is the love story. Romantic stories are either boringly straightforward, or trying to hard to be deeper than needed. On the one hand, Leia and Han's relationship is so simple and honest, that it always reminds me that there is hope for good writing out there yet. There is no need to confessions every five seconds, but there is need for trust, and embrace. I like that in the midst of the action there was no need to keep winking out to the audience to make sure they are on board with what is happening! (I find that perhaps that is one of the main reasons people had issues with the prequel trilogy, as the audience was treated like children.) And talking about love, Luke's wish to save his father was truly embracing as well. The fact that he tried to kill him, well... if my father threatened my sister, I don't know what I would do either. But despite it all, even in his rage, I do not think he ever gave up hope.

The Skywalkers are quite important for the galaxy, of course, but I didn't mind the fact that we are told that they are crucial to the story. And by this I mean, that when you have movies about war, the main character is a nobody, and we have to care, that he is dying, that he lost his family, that there is a war that he does not want to be a part of, bla-bla-bla. Same way, if you think about major stories, like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and such, you have a main character who does not want to be the main character: accepting their role in a larger picture is part of the story. Here, on the other hand, it's like, "Hey Luke, you wanna go on an adventure? Sure!", and he did. These three movies tell a great story, no matter if they are based on folk tale/mythology, because they elevated it enough to build a whole universe around them. Comic books, books, stand alone films, cartoons, prequels, sequels, and any and all mediums you can think of for story telling. We try desperately to bring closer to us this galaxy that is so far far away. I for one enjoy those stories that give me more about Leia and Han, but understandably, there is far more out there then this family, and that is what Star Wars Rebels, games of the old Republic, comics and now the new trilogy series is emphasizing, very successfully, I might add.

Watch them? You mean, should you put them in right now and re-watch them all? Heck yeah! Make January your Star Wars month too! And don't forget that the last episode of the trilogy is coming this year - I am blown away. I still remember the day Disney bought Lucasarts (I even wrote about it, click here to read!), and looking at how much we were given... I am blessed to be alive to see it. And re-see it again and again.

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

Luke Skywalker - Mark Hamill
Han Solo - Harrison Ford
Princess Leia - Carrie Fisher
Darth Vader - James Earl Jones
Lando Calrissian - Billy Dee Williams
R2-D2 - Kenny Baker
Chewbacca - Peter Mayhew
Anakin Skywalker - Sebastian Shaw
Ben 'Obi-Wan' Kenobi - Alec Guinness
The Emperor - Ian McDiarmid
Yoda - Frank Oz

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Blogger: ... And That is Why I Recycle

Everyday when I look out of my window, while sitting at my desk, I am greeted by the sight of that plastic bag on a high branch of the tree in front of my building. I hate that bag with every inch of my body. It is too high up for me to reach, and it has been there for over a month. Despite the strong winds, snow and rain of the past weeks, nothing will take it off.

The other day somebody asked me why I keep posting about 'boring' plastic pollution, and this is my answer: that one effing plastic bag that not only ruins my view but suffocates the tree too.

This little piece of goddamned plastic is enough for me to feel furious, to feel angry, to want to do something, to want to reduce the waste and pollution that surrounds me. I have been following The Ocean Cleanup project, and have donated and bought two bracelets of the 4Ocean project as well. You might come up to me and tell me that Hungary has no oceans, and although you'd be right, I will tell you that you are turning a blind eye to the problem. The ocean still surrounds us, and your plastic waste ended up there too, that is the problem. Every bottle, every bag, every plastic plate or container, that is not disposed of properly ends up somewhere where it causes damage. Of course, years back we did not separate our garbage and as such it makes sense, that some things are a result of unwanted effects. But today we know what happens. So TODAY we should care. 

Plastic is just one of the many things that we don't dispose of properly, and I didn't notice how much of it surrounds us until I started washing everything and putting it out in the right bin. From childhood toys to earphones, not just containers, but pens, discs, old broken rulers, cutlery, chords, and every little fold and box within a single pack of cookies. I find it to be an incredible waste, but there is no money in green, at least not as much as there is in plastic. But hopefully, as we are running out of oil, maybe plastic products will decrease as well. What continuously revolts my stomach about these stories is all that plastic that is found in the stomach of animals. Suffocation is the single worst way to die, it is the only thing I am afraid of, maybe even irrationally, but I am terrified of choking to death. Then I see a picture of a whale that has over 200 plastic bags ingested in its stomach and I feel the urge to puke my guts out. If, by disposing of plastic properly, I end up saving the life of just one fish, then it will have been worth it. Of the two bracelets I got from 4Ocean, one was to help sea turtles, one to help the endangered Hawaiian Monk seals, because the death of all these animals will have terrible effects on our habitat one day. Water is key, but all who live thanks to it should be of the same importance. And that is why I recycle.

Recently I read a list of things we can all do to make the Earth a greener place and I found that I do almost all of them, and those that I didn't, I have started to implement since the beginning of 2019. I would like to pass on these smart and easy tips to make sure you leave behind a better world for your children and old You.

Turn down your thermostat. I have five radiators in my apartment, and two are situated in such a stupid place, that they do not really help the room temperature at all. For that reason I turn them off the minute they turn on heating in the apartment. Unfortunately, they are not that strong even on the highest level, but I do recommend those who can regulate it to turn it down to the proper level. You all have sweaters at home, I personally put out my favorite blankets for my guests and they use them gladly.
Turn the water off while you wash your teeth. Actually, the idea of the little water filled cup next to your toothbrush is older than I can recall. That is the amount of water you actually need, or perhaps twice of that, but that is all.
Use tote bags while shopping. I have like seven, and depending on my moods, I always put another one in my bag to take with me, almost every other day I have to run into the shop for something, and I am always happy to have it with me.
Bring water with you in a reusable bottle. I am still looking for the perfect one, because they all seem to leak, but nonetheless, I think we all forget to drink the proper amounts of water daily, and having your own bottle helps with that. You can always fill up your bottle during the day.
Turn off and unplug the electronic appliances that you are not using. I religiously turn off my wifi and modem the minute before I step out the door. I am not home, why should it be going? Same with every appliance that has a little standby light going even if you don't use it, it just bothers me.
Put things out to dry, don't use a dryer. I don't have one, so that is the easiest. Also, a lot of times humidity is good for you and your apartment as well. Drying your clothes in the open in the apartment is actually one of the best things possible. You don't need any of your clothing dried that bad...
Wash things on a more medium temperature. If you can check the temperature of any water in your kitchen/bathroom, please do. That said, set the temperature of the cooler, freezer and boiler well. There are user manuals online as well, even if you inherit something or you threw out the guide by mistake, there are ways to fix that mistake if you just try to.
Collect trash separately. Every time when I decide to declutter my apartment, I go with three trash cans: plastic/metal, paper and everything else. I make sure to get rid of everything properly, because it is not nearly as hard as one would think. Help yourself, have trash cans for everything and look up how and were to dispose of them.
Once you don't need it, recycle it, rethink it, re-gift it. I have re-gifted hundreds of things, from clothing items to toys, of course, not without letting the others know that these are hand-me-downs. Still, just because I don't want to wear a shirt anymore, doesn't mean someone out there cannot make great use of it.
Don't use straws. Just don't. Or get reusable ones and wash them with the dishes.
Change your light bulbs to led. It is really in the little things that can then make the big differences.
Shop from local markets. First, they might be expensive, but they don't put everything in plastic bags/boxes. If you help local markets, prices will change, the consumer society has to change. (As a university student I know, that money sometimes is hard to come buy, and we are likely to buy cheaper options. That is OK. The aim is to spend your money correctly once you have it. Not to mention, that you can help markets in other ways as well, what you need is the willingness!)
Change to environmentally friendly cleaning products or make them yourself. I do not know how many DIY videos are out there help you to get on track with this, or just learning how much can be resolved with just a bit of lemon juice, but this might be easier than all the other steps.
If you have a garden or terrace, collect rain water and use it. This is something I haven't done before, but I do go and clean my terrace when it is raining, so I don't have to use it from the tap. Nonetheless, to water your plants and so, it is perfect.
Lower your meat consumption. Beef in particular is really bad for you. Now, I personally hate vegans, so I wouldn't want to go as far as removing meat completely, we are, after all, animals. But some meats more than others have bad effects on the environment once they pass through our bodies, so reducing the quantity, or changing it, to whiter meats is a great option. I loved this part of my life particularly because I learned tons of new recipes.
Drive less, instead cycle or walk. I am not big on cycling, I do love to walk. Knowing how to drive is a great advantage, but it is not the same as having your own car and using it all the time. You can have a license and still choose to use it only when necessary. Walking is, the most beneficial, and you won't sweat as much as you would with cycling. Still, scooters and roller blades are also an option.
Don't print out everything. The minute they told us at the university that they cannot print things for us, I got myself an ebook reader. It has been my best friend ever since. Some things are good to print out, but mostly because you do need them in that format, not just because you like wasting paper. And if it has a purpose you should print it out, the emphasis is on the fact that it can and should be reduced.
Use rechargeable batteries. We are running out of things that require batteries, but if you do, not having to throw out batteries is a good thing.
Stop using paper towels. Admittedly, this one is the hardest for me, but I promise to work on it.
Plant trees. Even if you don't have a place for it, there are hundreds of charities you can send money too, or help physically if you don't have the money.
It's best, if you don't buy it at all. I have a terrible spending problem, and quite frankly, there is only one thing that I could come up with in order to ensure that I don't spend money for no reason: I sleep on it. If I wake up the next week still wanting it, I do buy it. If I go back and they don't have it at the store anymore? That is a sign too. If after a week I cannot think of anything but that one thing, I buy it. That easy. This technique helped me in saving a lot of money, as I have ended up sometimes finding the same thing for half the price, just because I looked around.
Take short showers. Done. I only treat myself to a big bath once every month.
Switch to water-saving taps and shower heads. Ask your local store. The guy always asking you if he can help will be thrilled!
Help the thermal insulation with curtains and blinds. In addition I bought a bunch of warm blankets that brighten the colors in my apartment.
Use mulch beneath your plants, so it dries the ground slower. It is my mission in life to master gardening, this will be the first thing I do.
Unsubscribe from mail-ordered catalogs, write it on your inbox that you don't want fliers. I have, on a nice pink paper, they are still putting them in there, but I won't stop making signs until they do.
Don't ask for paper based monthly bank statements. Become friends with your online banking application or website, and if you do need a copy of it, go to your closest bank. Those people are there to help you. Unless you have a specific use for them, it is better to cancel those letters.
Teach your children and relatives, or friends how to live a greener life. Yes, they hate my facebook posts already, but I won't stop, because I feel the need to do my little part to ensure a better life for those I love.

Governments are against greener ways because it isn't profitable right now, it might be in 10+ years, but politicians cannot think for more than a couple of years ahead, because of reelections. They need results NOW. But if we both get together and showcase that we want a greener life, we cannot go unnoticed, because we are after all the voters that they want to please.

As long as I live I will try and make better decisions and not try to avoid things just because I might be lazy. Every solution is out there, just waiting to be found. If you do just one of the things listed above, trust me, it will matter in the long run. Even if it wasn't the horrifying images of a whale's stomach that drove you towards wanting to do better, I can still tell for sure, that something out there is going to piss you off too enough to want to say no to plastic. And when you do, start spreading the word. For me, I know, that the piece of plastic on the tree I see from my window will forever be a reminder.

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.)