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Review: Short Term 12

Sunday 30 March 2014 - Filed under film

Short Term 12 (2013)
Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz. Written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

shortWriter-director Destin Daniel Cretton (who’s from my home state of Hawaii), worked for a time after college in a group home for at-risk youth. He had to have, because the authenticity of the film whose setting and name are Short Term 12 and the authenticity of the characters who live and work there can only be explained by either employment or actual residence in such a home, which I explain now as a disclaimer for my really, really liking this film. My bias is strong (I have worked in such homes), and I was sold by the time seventeen minutes of film had spooled.

termThere is an awkward early moment provided by Nate (Rami Malek) on his first day as a counselor in the home. My own first days weren’t exactly like Nate’s, but they had their own awkwardness, which I remember with some embarrassment, and I have witnessed the same from many others on their first days. The movie’s not even secondarily about him, so deep does the realness of this movie go.

It’s about Grace (Brie Larson), who runs the daily operations of the house, and kind of about Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a new resident who resists the structure of the residence. Grace’s skill at managing the home are obvious and kind of amazing, and she demonstrates it in one scene after another, from the beginning of the film to the end. What makes someone so good at handling a workplace with such fragile, vulnerable clients and with the potential at any moment to explode from the pressure that seems always to be mere seconds from seeking release? There isn’t merely a single answer for this, aand Cretton gives us a few suggestions by showing us how Grace and the counselors make it happen.

12Although its name suggests this is a short-term residence for kids awaiting placement in foster homes or reunification with biological parents, most of them call it home for under a year and a few have been there for nearly three years. Each has his or her own story, of course, and we get to know a few of them as they are talked off the ledges (mostly figuratively) of the daily perils of their lives.

st12I’m sticking to descriptions of setting because to summarize the plot will either make it sound like a teen-problem-of-the-week movie or give away more about its primary characters than I would like, because this is not a movie about the kids, as great as the kids are. It’s about Grace, and it’s about her relationship with Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.), one of the counselors in the home, and it’s about what makes them and the others good at what they do and still maybe not so good at managing their own lives.

I should probably let this one settle in for a few days and then see it again before rating it, because I’m infatuated with one particular aspect of this movie, the kind of thing that tends to warp perspective, but with my disclaimer fully in place and my bias explained probably more than is necessary, I’m going ahead and saying I really, really like Short Term 12 and might grow to love it after another viewing or two. Highly recommended.

8/10
88/100

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-30  ::  me

Check Your Head

Sunday 30 March 2014 - Filed under body

(I originally titled this “License to Ill” but then I looked it up and I used that title in 2008. So I changed it to “Ill Communication,” but I used that in 2006. So now even though it’s not relevant, I chose the title of a Beastie Boys album I just like)

One specific I can get into with my shifting work situation is my teaching a couple of non-credit classes in MS Office at the school where I work. It’s not part of my job, but a sort of second job at the same place. Three-hour classes, three days per week, seven weeks. Two classes. The hourly pay is better (by two or three times; that’s still being worked out) than the primary gig, and I’ve already gotten permission by my boss to do it. I’ve taught MS Office (and similar stuff) for most of my teaching career, so I step into it with utmost confidence. The only question marks are (a) doing it on Windows 8 machines which I’ve never messed around with, and (b) teaching Outlook, a mail client I’ve never used and will advise my students not to use unless forced to by the employers who are paying for this training. I’m not too worried about either, but it means I’m going to have to spend a little bit of my own time in the lab at school so I know what I’m doing.

I’ve been without health insurance for longer than I should. It’s a stupid, messed-up situation that I’m mostly responsible for, but now that I’m forced by law to have it, I finally tightened the belt in a few areas and dove in. In this state, full-time employees are entitled to health care paid for by employers, but my current situation at work, ‘though a full time gig, doesn’t provide it because it’s not a permanent job (I have to reapply every eighty-nine days, effectively resetting the clock on the state of Hawaii’s responsibility for my health insurance). I was paying for COBRA benefits for quite a while; I let them lapse when it looked like that situation was about to get cleared up.

It didn’t! What the heck? How do I always seem to find these weird in-between spaces?

I was paying just over three hundred bucks a month for COBRA coverage. Obamacare was probably going to run me $150 to $200, so after much thought and some hair-pulling, I just re-upped with my previous provider, paying $240 myself, opting for a more expensive plan than required by law because I have a few conditions that need regular attention, and with the copay plan I selected, I’ll be motivated to get medical attention as often as I need it just to get my money’s worth. I do not know what the optical situation is; I’m going to have to ask once my application is approved.

Plus, I can’t justify skimping on medical care when the difference between the minimum plan and the plan I purchased is about what I spend at Starbucks every month.

Coverage takes effect May 1, and you can believe I’ll be making appointments on that date for multiple things. Ha. Weird how when it was paid for by someone else, I just about never went.

Until I start getting a little more pay each month, it’s going to be kind of a scrape, but I’ll live. Which is sort of the whole point, right?

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-30  ::  me

Review: In a World…

Saturday 29 March 2014 - Filed under film

In a World… (2013)
Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Robb Corddry, Michaela Watkins. Written and directed by Lake Bell.

inCarol Solomon (Lake Bell) is a vocal coach, but what she really wants is to do movie-trailer voice-overs, like her legendary father, Sam (Fred Melamed), who is set to receive a lifetime achievement at the Golden Trailer awards for work in voice-over movie-trailer work.  One of Carol’s obstacles is that women are seldom given these jobs; another is that her father favors another male movie-trailer voice-over actor and recommends him for the trailer work in a coveted multi-part film series.

aSam is an enormous presence, not only for Carol, who is trying to move into the same professional space, but for her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins), a concierge in a local hotel, who shares Carol’s disapproval of their father’s thirty-something live-in girlfriend.  He appears to have been a pretty lousy father, incapable of encouragement or praise, and maybe it’s too easy to blame one person for two women’s issues in a ninety-three-minute movie, but he does seem to be the primary culprit.

worldI know I get a bit repetitive about this, but it doesn’t seem too difficult for a writer to give his or her secondary characters enough personality to be as interesting as the central characters, yet when it happens, you realize how seldom you actually see that.  I think of movies like Notting Hill and Ulee’s Gold as examples, and am hard-pressed to list very many more.  The strength of Lake Bell’s script is not in its different take on the make-it-big-in-Hollywood story, but in the attention she pays to her secondary characters, such as Dani’s husband (Robb Corddry), Sam’s girlfriend (Alexandra Holden), and Carol’s admirer Louis (Demetri Martin).  Except for one sorta villainous character and maybe Sam, everyone in this movie seems admirable in some way, and when two romantic sub-plots come into play, you really want things to work out because by now you really kind of care about everyone involved.

Bell as writer does make a few missteps which keep me from loving this film.  There is a musical montage sequence involving two characters on a first date, and if that weren’t bad enough, contained within that cliche are two more: bonding by karaoke and bonding by Dance Dance Revolution.  There’s also a rather heavy-handed speech by Geena Davis in a ladies’ room that probably had to happen the way it happens, but it would have been nice to see something slightly less predictable.

iawAs director, I admire Bell’s visual approach, presenting Los Angeles the way I remember it, as a kind of depressing, ugly, flat, polluted, sprawling nothingness whose only appeal can be that this is somehow the entertainment capital of the world.  There’s a kind of mumblecore sensibility in the visual backdrops of this movie’s exterior shots.  The visuals change slightly as the film goes along, but I’ll leave that for the pleasure of other discoverers.  There are also some interesting feminist takes lying beneath the more obvious feminist messages that give the movie a little more richness than might be expected.

Bell as an actress has undeniable charm, like a slightly less obnoxiously cute Zooey Deschanel, and her interactions with most of the other characters, especially with her sister and brother-in-law, make it almost impossible not to like her.

Although I wouldn’t fall over myself to see In a World…, it’s a good view for people who appreciate the indie vibe a smart actor/writer/director can sustain when she’s got a good idea and a good cast.

7/10
75/100

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-29  ::  me

Power Rankings for Week 13

Friday 28 March 2014 - Filed under power

Power rankings for the week of March 26 to April 1.

Comment This week Last week Weeks on Peak
The Tony Kornheiser Show Interviewed Dave Barry and it was hilarious. 1 1 13 1
The Dan Le Batard Show When it’s good it’s good; when it’s bad it’s better. 2 2 13 2
Minus the Bear Gave the whole discography a listen-through and my goodness. 3 7 2 3
iTunes The “”add to up next”” feature is one of the best things ever. 4 11 6 4
Kindle Paperwhite Read an interesting hack that lets you send highlights right to your Evernote. Haven’t tried it yet but could be a game-changer for me. 5 3 12 1
Spotify Thinking of making a gigantic enormous ridiculous 80s playlist. 6 4 12 2
Twitter I’m handling someone else’s social media, so more focused attention on Twitter. 7 15 13 7
Facebook More FB time isn’t necessarily a good thing, but I’m getting paid. 8 16 13 8
Baseball * Purchased the whole season’s worth of radio broadcasts (every team; every game) for twenty bucks and so far it’s already almost been worth it. 9 25 5 9
Diet Pepsi Might be upping the dose if I think the headaches might be DTs. 10 14 7 10
Scramble with Friends Ooh, looks like I might have my mojo back. 11 21 13 8
Words with Friends This was the first app I downloaded, once upon time. 12 20 13 7
Starbucks App Not really digging the new app so far. 13 18 12 9
Secrets Traffic’s a little slow, but maybe I like it that way. 14 13 2 13
Mom (TV series) Got a new episode but haven’t watched it yet! :( 15 5 13 3
The Big Bang Theory No new episode. And my TiVo’s not picking up reruns as much. 16 6 13 3
U2 Am deciding that Boy is better than October. 17 8 6 8
Parks: Seasons Stuck on some hard ones. 18 12 6 5
Anna Kendrick Holding steady in eager anticipation of SNL. 19 19 4 5
Pardon the Interruption Two days of Whitlock is ALWAYS a good thing. 20 22 12 11
Highly Questionable Argh. I think I missed the episode that Jon Weiner guested on! My TiVo didn’t pick it up! 21 23 5 18
Kaley Cuoco Low ranking because decreased exposure. 22 17 13 9
Scrivener Been neglecting the novel; need to get back on track. 23 9 11 7
Five Thirty-Eight Nate Silver moves to Grantland. And there is joy in the land. 24  – 1 24
Ology Walgreens store brand is more expensive but I like the earth-friendly concept. 25  – 1 25

*Biggest jump

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-28  ::  me

Review: Gimme the Loot

Tuesday 25 March 2014 - Filed under film

Gimme the Loot (2012)
Ty Hickson, Tashiana Washington. Directed and written by Adam Leon.

gimmeMalcolm and Sophia are best friends, partners in graffiti who steal spray paint together, critique each other’s sketchbooks, bomb rooftops, and dream of the kind of fame street artists haven’t truly known in decades. When a friend of Malcolm’s tells him he knows a security guy at the New York Mets’ Citi Field (which Sophia insists on calling Shea Stadium because she’s a true fan) they begin a desperate twenty-four hours trying to come up with the five hundred dollars needed for bribing the guard, so that they might spray-paint the gigantic apple that rises behind the stands whenever someone on the home team hits a home run.

theSophia tries to collect money owed her from a heartbroken friend who commissioned some original work. Malcolm tries to deal some marijuana from some guys he sometimes works for. As each encounters obstacles in coming up with the cash, we see a small world where verbal aggression is fierce, and physical violence appears to be just one bad mood away, where everyone seems to be skirting the law in some small (or big) way, and where two friends seem to learn a new way to be truly intimate when such intimacy would seem to be threatened by a crassness and vulgarity that would choke it to death in a way similar to graffiti artists’ defacing others’ work with f-words and cross-outs.

lootIt would be easy to see this as another life-in-the-hood movie, but Adam Leon’s focus is on the relationship between these teenagers, and the film either works or doesn’t on the strengths of the dialogue and actors. It’s not as compelling a story as one might expect, and I have to admit that the verbal exchanges that punctuate every scene make me feel slightly uncomfortable, so different are its rules and customs from my own world’s. The dialogue’s authenticity is pretty much for anyone but me to judge, and it sort of blankets the entire film with a feeling I can only interpret as threatening. Because one of the primary participants is a teenaged girl, and because I’ve been a high-school teacher for most of my professional life, I have a hard time not feeling rather stressed-out for her safety from beginning to end, and that’s just not pleasant for me.

gtlBut the characters are likable and the actors are believable, and there are a couple of moments that are handled delicately and confidently, one between Malcolm and an older male friend as they discuss the friend’s possibly putting moves on Sophia, and another where Malcolm and Sophia discuss, possibly for the first time, what their relationship really is.

People who know me really well know that I’ve always fantasized about being a street artist, so I’d rather have seen a bit more graffiti, or heard more conversation about graffiti, but this movie is more interested in showing us this neighborhood and the people who live in it, and it’s probably the right choice, ‘though it’s one of the things that makes it easier to see this as a life-in-the-hood movie.

At seventy-nine minutes in length, Gimme the Loot is a pretty tight, economic film, and the duration seems just about right. It’s unlikely that this will become a classic on anyone’s list, but it’s fairly well done. I’d kind of like to recommend it to high-schoolers so we could unpack it together.

7/10
71/100

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-25  ::  me

I Hope the Pacific is as Blue as it Has Been in My Dreams

Monday 24 March 2014 - Filed under body + friends + work

I have kind of an important phone call tomorrow.  I worked really hard to get it; and it could be a step to some better things for me.  At the very least, it will be a little more work on the side, which will be nice.  Not sure what the best-case, eventual scenario might look like, but I’m actually allowing myself to get my hopes up for a better near-future.

I’ve been having headaches lately.  They’re beginning to concern me.  The most recent hit me mid-day Sunday and has been with me through Monday night.  It was bad enough to cause me some nausea on the drive to work; I was pretty sure I was going to vomit in my lap while on the freeway, but thank goodness I managed to get the retching under control.  I had just put down three ibuprofens on just a few bites of food, and I think my stomach was unhappy with me.  I got to work early enough to put my head down for an hour before the start of my workday (it’s spring break for the students, so that term is blessedly even more flexible than usual this week) and after the nap I knew I had to bring myself home.  I wasn’t going to get anything done.

I keep a bottle of naproxen sodium on my desk at work, so I threw down two of those and ate half a musubi before the drive home.  I was reminded by a friend, via Twitter, of something she’d read about how brain-freezes might get rid of headaches.  I had a similar experience a few weeks ago.  I got into my car to get some painkillers from the Safeway near my campus (I’d forgotten that I had the naproxen sodium) and on the way, saw that Waiola Shave Ice was open.  I parked the car and had a huge bowl of shave ice and my headache was gone.

So on the way home this morning, I stopped at old standby John’s Grocery in Puunui, site of many shave ices in my first year of teaching when I was still a part-time teacher and didn’t have to be at school until just before lunch (my alma mater, the first school where I taught, is a very short walk from John’s).  I don’t really know how to get a brain-freeze, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced one, but I think speed is a factor, so I ordered a large and just basically inhaled it.  By the time I was done, the headache was mostly gone, but now I don’t know if it was because of the ice or because of the drugs.

There was a guy in a US government truck parked in front of John’s.  He was checking this weird-looking plastic contraption in the tree that gives the store shade.  I asked him about it, and he told me he works from the USDA and was checking it for rhinoceros beetles, something that’s been in the news a bit since last December.  They destroy coconut palms, so the USDA has been aggressive in trying to get rid of the bugs.  I asked the obvious question: what was he using for bait?  He explained that it was a pheromone that seemed to be pretty effective; then he gave me a flyer.

That seems like a pretty interesting job.  I wonder what the qualifications are.

My friend Cathy was in town a few weeks ago, and I got to spend some alone time with her on her last day.  We spent a lot of time together when we were teaching together, then a lot less when I switched schools.  We’ve gone years between conversations in the time since she moved back to Oklahoma, and it seems fine, the lack of contact, but then she drops back in and it’s like we pick up right where we left off.  We had a great couple of hours over coffee.  She seems to be okay where she is, but seems also to be looking forward to new possibilities as she’s about to defend her doctoral thesis.  There’s a nice, comfortable optimistic vibe she’s carrying around that I allowed to rub off on me a little.  There are a lot of ways my current situation could bring me down, and I admit I’ve let it on occasion recently, but the prevailing feeling is one of optimism, even in the depths of my self-imposed misery as I try to get certain other parts of my life straightened out.

Thank goodness there’s a Starbucks in my neighborhood.  It really helps to have someplace to go every night where I can do some of the side-work, or read, or just sit and journal, that’s away from the crib but close enough for comfort.  I brought some work today but all I wanted to do was eavesdrop on conversations, read a bunch of blogs, and spend a little time letting my fingers type out whatever’s on my mind today.

I’m still feeling the edges of the headache.  It’s disturbing, but at least it’s not especially achy.

Tonight, when this cafe closes in about eight minutes, I need to do a few chores (I did a TON of chores this past weekend and even got to a few of the things I’ve been backed up on, but I also did a lot of cooking, which means a few extra things that need taking care of), then I have to do some work related to the side-gig, a rare kind of work that I can actually do at home.  I might watch a little bit of television too, or maybe part of a DVD.  I’m trying to delay going to sleep because the headache actually gets worse when I sleep.  Ugh.  I don’t know if it’s being asleep or lying down that does it, but I can’t lie down and not fall asleep.  Might try sleeping while sitting upright.

I think I’ll watch Shawshank again.  Because hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.

 

Edited to add: I have been a caffeine fiend for most of my adult life, and I’ve been blessed to be able to go cold turkey with no ill effects.  I wonder if that’s still true.  Until the latte I had a couple of hours ago, I hadn’t had any caffeine since Saturday night.  Seems like if I had the DTs, Sunday mid-day is when they might strike.  Darn it; one more possibility to consider.

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-24  ::  me

Power Rankings for Week 12

Thursday 20 March 2014 - Filed under power

Power rankings for the week of March 19 to 25.
Still in hermit mode, but there are still two decent debuts.

Comment This week Last week Weeks on Peak
The Tony Kornheiser Show They were dark for a few days so I should really drop this a few rungs,but when it’s not on all I do is yearn to hear it. 1 1 12 1
The Dan Le Batard Show I don’t know if I would have predicted this, but it seems to be finding its footing with the national audience without changing (too much) its irreverent style. 2 2 12 2
Kindle Paperwhite It’s becoming as critical a tool in my professional life as my laptop computer. 3 3 11 1
Spotify Speaking of tools, I’m finding it more and more difficult to get through a day without the help of Spotify. 4 4 11 2
Mom (TV series) Someone goes to jail. Someone alienates a granddaughter. Silly but dark. 5 6 12 3
The Big Bang Theory So-so new episode this week. 6 5 12 3
Minus the Bear * Aaaaaaa. Just discovered they (last year) put out a sequel to their Acoustics album, and my ears have been in happy joy since. I had a few credits to burn on eMusic, so I completed my collection of their recorded work. So, so, so, so good. 7  – 1 7
U2 Today on the drive home, I listened to “”Invisible”” on repeat. Such a great song. 8 8 5 8
Scrivener It’s half price at appsumo. Go get it. 9 7 10 7
Divergent I finished the series. It was okay. Reviews for the new film have been pretty lackluster. 10 9 10 2
iTunes I usually work with the ambient music and noise when I’m writing at the cafe. This past week, though, it was almost all iTunes. 11 18 5 10
Parks: Seasons Not sure what happened, but I’m getting my mojo back on these puzzles. 12 21 5 5
Secrets New social media app is a place for anonymous confessions. It’s strangely poetic. 13  – 1 13
Diet Pepsi Don’t get it, but lately I much prefer it from a fountain in a huge cup of ice. 14 14 6 14
Twitter It’s coming up on its 8th birthday. 15 12 12 13
Facebook I really had some nice interactions this week. No love on my InDesign problem, however! :( 16 13 12 12
Kaley Cuoco She so fine. 17 10 12 9
Starbucks App New version is intriguing. Not sold on it yet. 18 11 11 9
Anna Kendrick She’s hosting SNL soon! 19  – 3 5
Words with Friends I think someone who’s been beating me is cheating. He says he’s not. Hm. 20 16 12 7
Scramble with Friends I may be slowing in my old age. 21 17 12 8
Pardon the Interruption I don’t know why but I feel my love cooling. 22 22 11 11
Highly Questionable See comment for PTI above. 23 23 5 18
eMusic It’s so stupid that purchased booster credits have expiration dates. Also: the friend I referred still hasn’t taken the leap, so neither of us has the $50 bonus credit. 24 24 2 24
Baseball Haven’t had much time to think about it, and that stresses me out a little. 25 15 4 15

*Biggest jump

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-20  ::  me

Review: The Garden of Words

Thursday 20 March 2014 - Filed under film

The Garden of Words (2013)
Voices of Kana Hanazawa and Miyu Irino. Directed by Makoto Shinkai.

garden_of_words_10The Garden of Words (言の葉の庭, or Kotonoha no Niwa) is a Japanese animated movie that, to its great credit, continues one Japanese cinematic tradition and, to its great discredit, follows another.  The animation is almost mind-blowingly beautiful, at times startling in its realism and at others so pretty and perfect that it has to be the work of an imaginative, artistic hand.  Even for Japanese animation, it’s visually outstanding, and a worthy continuation of Japan’s animation traditions.

Takao Akizuki is a fifteen-year-old high school student, living with an adult brother and a single mother who disappears for days at a time and leaves her sons to fend for themselves.  During his mother’s absences, and (one assumes) even when she’s around, Takao assumes many of the household responsibilities, including preparing dinner for the family.  Yet he is a far less conscientious student, choosing to take the long way to school on rainy mornings so he can enjoy the beauty of a large public garden (The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, according to Wikipedia) and work on sketches of shoes he plans to make someday.

garden_of_words_5Takao dreams of being a shoemaker, a fantasy that distracts him from classroom lessons and the drudgery of his home life.  When he encounters Yukari Yukino, a pretty twenty-something woman, in a gazebo in the garden on one rainy morning, Takao at first barely acknowledges her presence, focusing on his sketches while she, in this early morning hour, makes a meal of beer and chocolate.  As they share the shelter of the gazebo on subsequent rainy mornings, they get to know each other, in a way, as Takao shares his dreams and Yukari shares an encouraging word, a sympathetic ear, and very little of her own life.

garden_of_words_2The first forty minutes of the film is dedicated to the exploration of this friendship, and it is beautiful and poetic and possibly inappropriate, and colored with so much sadness and bittersweetness that, like so much great Japanese art, it made me want to weep for my own loneliness and impermanence.  There is a predominant Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty in the fleetingness of every moment: a black bird on a high-rise is bathed in red light for a moment, is seen as its natural self the next moment as the light blinks out, then takes flight, circles the building, and is not seen again.  A raindrop clings to a green leaf, then trickles slowly down its length until it clings to the leaf-tip, growing in size until its weight pulls the leaf slightly toward the muddy earth before letting go and splashing into the puddle below, releasing the leaf that springs back to its former position to await the next drop.  Director Makoto Shinkai takes the time to share these moments and a hundred others, leaving it to the viewer to interact with them however they will, and it’s a beautiful experience.

garden_of_words_7At forty-six minutes in duration, it is about as long as a one-hour television episode, minus commercials, and is structured very much like one, except that it is a self-contained story, and those first forty minutes are the stuff of halls of fame, so wonderfully are they sequenced and framed.  But those last six minutes are a baffling continuation of another Japanese dramatic tradition: my people (I’m half Japanese) have an embarrassing flair for melodrama, at least in television and cinema.  Japan’s is such a reserved society that perhaps it needs exaggerated, comical catharsis in its popular media just to keep itself functioning normally, the way teenaged boys need to joke about sex in order to have any conversation at all about it.

Whatever the reason (and of course I’m willing to be told I’m completely wrong about this), the resolution of this film is just kind of awful, and it is followed by a closing-credits song whose lyrics tell you how to feel, just in case the melodrama doesn’t explain it blatantly enough.  Endure the terrible song, though, if you want to feel better about everything: the director gives us a post-credits sequence that’s much more like the raindrop and the leaf.

7/10
72/100

 ::  Share or discuss  ::  2014-03-20  ::  me

Gettin’ Down (to business) on Friday

Friday 14 March 2014 - Filed under home + work

About a year and a half ago, I went through a life-change I neither wanted nor anticipated, one which I still have not detailed in this space, ‘though I have every intention of doing so once the entire thing is resolved, which it still isn’t.  Just over a year ago, it looked like things were finally settling down in that one huge area of my life, but there was just one little detail that needed finishing up before I could exhale.  It was anticipated by those around me who’d know that this resolution should come at any moment.  They kept saying that, and it kept not happening, and I kept waiting, hanging around in this limbo I’ve referred to on multiple occasions here.

Then at the end of last year, while one piece of the resolution seemed to be appearing, the ground shifted beneath me again, completely out of my influence or desire, and not only was the ground I stood upon still in the midst of a strange limbo, the rest of the atmosphere was too, from the air surrounding me to the sky above me.  It was all a bit strange.

I imagine apparating (ask a Harry Potter fan if you don’t know) to be kind of like this, minus the one-and-a-half years part of it.  The whirling seems to be slowing, and I’m getting a glimpse of where I’m landing, but I’m not ready to stand up yet, and there’s still a chance (albeit a slim one) that I’ll find myself yanked somewhere else.  On the other hand, if this ground will stop spinning for a moment, I may just step away from it and walk to wherever I’m going next.  Other options are presenting themselves, some of them more secure than others, some more exciting than others.  And for once, the more secure (which is still not really that secure) possibility is also the more exciting one.

I’ll continue to be vague until things settle down, as I’ve been saying for the past year and a half, but I do expect to emerge from this limbo within six months.  Three, if I can swing it.  Nine as a probable worst-case scenario.

I feel like that video game character who has to make a huge leap to safety, but has to time it just right.  The ground I’m standing on is about to dissolve, but the ground to which I hope to spring hasn’t swung into reach yet.  I know I’ve got a lot of leeway on this end, but the window of opportunity on the other end seems tiny.  Just gotta pick my spot, I think.

My job has turned into something I haven’t had much of as a college graduate: just a job.  I know how to have just a job; I’ve had several during my career as a teacher.  But the just-a-job job has always been a second, side-job.  Now my primary job is just a job, and I’m not sure how to feel about it.  On the one hand, I have the time and mental energy to pursue a few other things, things I’ve neglected because my teaching gig was both a major timesuck and energysuck.  This has made my life better in multiple ways, not the least of which is that it’s satisfying a long-back-burnered part of my soul.  On the other, it’s not a very satisfying way to spend a third of my life, five days a week.

Thank goodness it doesn’t suck, and thank goodness I like the people.  In fact, there’s really nothing bad about the job or the workplace itself.  It’s just the peripherals.

This weekend is all about that paid writing I’ve been doing for the past few months.  I’m trying to get ahead of schedule (yes, I know I keep promising details; I’ll continue to promise them), at which point my responsibilities will be added to, something I welcome whole-heartedly.  For now, it’s a lot of my away-from-work time, including most of my weekend time, plus several nights during the working week after my regular work.  I feel it getting easier, though, which is a most welcome sign.

I will also squeeze in time to catch up on some house-cleaning, and I’m going to start an enormous crockpot of beef stew, which I did two weekends ago as well.  I can make ten meals out of twenty bucks worth of ingredients, usually, and in these lean days, this is key.  Plus, my stew is delicious.  @aipohaku sent me some DVDs and I’m hoping to watch at least one this weekend too.  Netflix delivered Tiger Eyes, a film directed by Judy Blume’s son based on her very best novel.  Can’t wait to give that a look, too.

And Allegiant.  I don’t think I’ll finish it (I have about a third left), but I would like to indulge just a little while I’m not researching these articles I’m hoping to have done by Sunday night.

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Power Rankings for Week 11

Wednesday 12 March 2014 - Filed under power

Power rankings for the week of March 12 to 18.
Not a lot of movement, and no real debuts this week as I’ve gone into hermit mode for a little while.

Comment This week Last week Weeks on Peak
The Tony Kornheiser Show They’re backing away from the hilarious emails of the past few weeks, but man that was funny while it lasted. 1 1 11 1
The Dan Le Batard Show This week’s shows weren’t as good, but a Kornheiser day off meant I did a lot of catching up. 2 2 11 2
Kindle Paperwhite I’m loaded up with business-themed books. Yay? 3 3 10 1
Spotify This week it looks like nothing but Billy Joel. 4 4 10 2
The Big Bang Theory Signed for three more seasons; I don’t know if it’s got that many good ones left. 5 8 11 3
Mom (TV series) No new episode,but the repeat was a good one. 6 6 11 3
Scrivener * Increased writing time this week has been fairly encouraging. 7 21 9 7
U2 October is starting to worm its way in. 8 14 4 8
Divergent Only a few chapters deeper. 9 5 9 2
Kaley Cuoco Added five more photos of her to my laptop’s rotating wallpapers. 10 7 11 9
Starbucks App Drinking less coffee nowadays for financial reasons, but this thing saved my sanity today. 11 9 10 9
Twitter Had a few nice exchanges this week. 12 22 11 13
Facebook My alma mater used to have this cool activity called affirmation notes. FB is like a daily version of that, if you play it a certain way. 13 23 11 12
Diet Pepsi Less Starbucks means more Diet Pepsi. 14 20 5 14
Baseball Working on a plan for reviving my fandom. 15 18 3 15
Words with Friends On a slight roll. 16 12 11 7
Scramble with Friends More lagginess from the phone = arrrrrr. 17 13 11 8
iTunes Less TV = more iTunes. 18 10 4 10
Frozen soundtrack The songs that didn’t make the movie are pretty good too. 19 11 2 11
Amy Adams Uh-oh. Looks like someone needs a dose of Junebug soon. 20 16 11 1
Parks: Seasons Ack. I’m really stuck now. 21 17 4 5
Pardon the Interruption March Madness really couldn’t come too soon. 22 24 10 11
Highly Questionable I’m getting a little tired of it. 23 25 4 18
eMusic Going on eight years of membership. Recently referred a friend for a $50 credit…maybe. 24  – 1 24
Tenkaippin Haven’t actually eaten there in weeks, but thinking about it is a kind of consumption, yes? 25  – 6 4

*Biggest jump

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