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The End

Damn, its finally over. In a strange way, it feels like this semester just started and has been going on for about ten years. My apartment probably wasn’t designed with the intent that it would double as a classroom for all of my eighteen credits, but here I am.

Do I wish things had been different? Yeah. A lot.

Would I change it if I could? Absolutely. (Anyone who says no to this for “the experience” or something corny like this is either lying to you or lying to themselves.)

Did I gain nothing? Hard no. In a weird way, this was almost my most informative semester. Obviously, I learned a great deal about Little Women, the basics of lit theory, Shakespeare, the history of the motion picture, writing fiction, and astronomy, but I also learned a great deal about dealing with bullshit. And god knows that this semester was filled with a lot of upsetting, disheartening, and angering moments. But I would also be lying to you and lying to myself if I said that I gained nothing from it.

I’ll spare the all of the corny “I found myself” nonsense that you’ve heard before because I’m sure that none of you want to read it. You know what I mean. I should also say that I have nothing but respect for the professors who went above and beyond to make this strange transition a little easier (thanks Dr. C.). If you “taught” my astronomy class and decided to make something as difficult as astronomy almost entirely asynchronous and composed wholly from TopHat and Packback with no recorded lectures, only a bundle of five minute videos and your own textbook that was only on TopHat and that I had to pay for in addition to already paying for the same TopHat subscription? Grrrrrrr…..

Anyways, this was a weird one but I hope that you all were able to get on as okay as I was. Good luck to all of you and maybe we’ll meet in person next year!

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Home is… interesting

I went home this past week for the first time in almost three months. That may not seem like much, but after being forced to spent eight months at home following the COVID shutdown, this was a big deal. And…..

It wasn’t so bad.

I was a little uncertain about it at first. I enjoy spending time here in Richmond and living on my own. Its honestly been really nice to have developed a real feeling of independence and responsibility. With that being said, I’ve also been the most depressed in my life over these months. Its a bit of a mixed bag, I suppose.

So I went home, mostly to vote. Which I did, and thank god for how that turned out. Words honestly can’t quite express how nervous I was for the results of this election. I did not trust the polls or the frightening confidence that so many had going into this election. Again, thank god it turned out alright but damn… nerves were taught to say the very least.

The rest of being home was honestly really nice. I really missed that kind of communal nature of living with other people, even my own family. Bickering with my siblings, fighting over wifi, and complaining about minor things really brought me back down to earth which I needed. I’ve been so in my own head about literally every possible facet of my life recently and it was the perfect way to get away for a bit. I really did miss my family, perhaps more than I had cared to admit.

My mother was absolutely fascinated with how my coursework was going and aside from having to tell her that I am doing absolutely terrible in my astronomy class, things are going well. I’m trying to pull my grade up in this class and I think that my latest paper grade will help. Its a small thing, but getting a positive result on this first scene analysis paper felt like a major victory. There is nearly nothing more nerve-wracking than having to take a shot in the dark and pray that your professor likes the way you write.

Last night, before getting dropped back off here in Richmond, I sat with my Dad out on our porch and sipped on some bourbon and gingers (his favorite drink.) We are close, which I am very thankful for, but this week was a little bit awkward between us because of the election. I love my Dad, but we do not by any means share the same political beliefs. In an age where everyone is increasingly divided and angry, myself included, it felt really nice to get to sit down and share a drink with him. We both know that we’ll never agree and he’ll always try to tell me that I’ll turn conservative when I’m older, but the part of me that has always been a little disappointed in his stances lightened up a little bit. It was nice, in a strange way.

In a similar yet completely different direction, I could not be happier that that piece of trash is going to be gone from the White House in just a few months. The most sadistic part of me cannot help but smile seeing him squirm under pressure and come to the realization that he really did lose. Honestly, I would pay good money to get to see that bastard shot in the ass with a tranquilizer dart and carried out of the oval office by his ankles. A boy can dream, right?

I know this was a very rambling reflection, but that’s just kind of how it feels. Everything is a little bit nuts, and so maybe this should be a reflection of that same energy like it is a reflection of my own experiences over the week. Or maybe I’m just overanalyzing a little.

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God, everything is so freaking scary right now….

Its Halloween time and everything is really scary. I feel as though I do nothing but whine on these reflections, and perhaps that’s the case, but when I look back on my weeks and the weeks coming up, I find myself filled with the kind of dread that far surpasses even my favorite horror movies. I suppose with that in mind, I might as well take this time to also talk about my some of my favorite dread-inducing scenes in some of my favorite movies.

I think the first scary movie that I ever loved was The Shining. I’m not quite sure what it was about it, but I ate that movie up like it was my job. It was at that perfect time when I was just starting to get into movies that I first watched it and it still remains one of my favorites, despite being slightly tainted by far too many viewings. Man, that scene with the guy in the bear costume still puts me on edge though. I love that moment especially because that is when the film finally leaps over the edge from spooky to totally surreal.

The first time that I watched The Babadook, I had to take several breaks to keep my poor heart from exploding in my chest. That creature still haunts me for some reason and I really think it has to do with its exploitation of our own childhood fears. Everyone has read a book or watched a movie that was a little bit too scary as a child and had to face up to every shadow and hanging coat looking like the most horrible creature imaginable. In the case of The Babadook, the horrible creature really is horrible and that is the scariest part.

Although not necessarily a horror movie, Lynch’s Mulholland Drive contains one of the scariest and most nerve-wracking scenes that I have ever seen. Watch for yourself to see what I mean. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yusKlHgtvIE

Its just the perfect horror scene in every way and I love it so much.

In more class-related news, I re-watched Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women, and once again, it is completely fantastic. You just can’t help but fall completely in love with everyone involved and each and every frame is so packed with love and care that you just have to adore the film. It may not be a Christmas movie, but I am certainly treating it like one.

 

 

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Having a Great Time

I’m sorry if this blog is especially dry tonight as I am struggling a little bit to come up with anything especially resonant or interesting to say. My last week has been largely uneventful, but not exactly in a good way. School continues to beat me with a lead pipe while my anxiety and boredom pump me full of more lead than James Caan at a tollbooth, but more than anything I just feel listless and that is what’s making me miserable.

But this blog is not therapy, as much as I wish that it was and it is instead a reflective statement on my week. So how really has my week been, objectively? Could have been worse.

I’m proud of how I ended up doing the first scene analysis. I challenged myself a little bit and really tried to get into the nitty gritty of what makes a powerful moment, regardless of medium. I didn’t want to simply point out the flaws in a certain scene, and I instead opted to show how a film adaptation could do it right. I think it went well, but I suppose I’ll really see when I get the grade. Gotta bring my grade in this class up somehow.

I watched Leon The Professional today and it really is one of my favorites. Its by no means perfect and iffy, sexually charged scenes between Reno and Portman aside, it is a really heartwarming movie, at least to me. I see a small bit of myself in Leon, mostly in the way that he is content to be lonely, despite his obvious subconscious need for company. I feel the same way a lot of the time, living by myself and enjoying the freedom until I don’t anymore and the emptiness is crushing. Something I need to fix, I suppose.

On the brighter side, my plants are all doing well, and that is just about all I could ask for. I love them with all of my heart and in the silliest way, they sometimes feel like company. My apartment has a no pets policy, so I might as well make do with half a dozen green friends.

I keep waiting for a moment or an epiphany of sorts where things come together and the world makes sense to me again, but I really just don’t know if that will happen. Here’s to hoping though. Have a great week.

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Paper Time

I kind of can’t stop thinking about this upcoming paper. I’m not quite sure what it is, but the enjoyment that I usually get from writing papers has been hitting me a little bit less hard this time around. Its probably because of the whole pandemic thing but I do genuinely feel as though I had a better time with longer and more work intensive papers that I wrote last year even after we had all transitioned to an online format. There’s just something different about this semester rather than the last one. Perhaps its because of the obviously different COVID situation. By the way, this reflection gets the teensiest bit rant-y, but then again when do they not? And they probably should too considering how big of an impact this has on our lives and considering that this is in fact a reflection of my personal thoughts, but damn… sometimes it gets a little tiring constantly feeling down. So, I’m now thinking that maybe I’ll table my bitching for a different blog post and try and think of the few things that are actually going pretty great right now. Lucky you, this blog post has gone from a Three Days Grace song to a Hallmark Movie. Strap in.

Firstly, I’m currently re-entering into a oft-recurring Pearl Jam phase. They’ll always be my favorite band, but every so often I find myself re-immersing myself in everything they do. I start binging their bootlegs and revisiting my favorite ones. I actively listen to a Pearl Jam podcasts that discusses any and all things Pearl Jam related. I even, of course, just listen to their music a lot more and try to find little moments or pieces of songs that I’ve never really appreciated. They mean more to me than just about anything.

On a completely different note, I recently traded an older guitar pedal of mine for an almost brand new ZVEX Fat Fuzz Factory, a wild and ridiculously volatile germanium fuzz pedal. It really just sounds badass and I am able to make myself a little bit of a better player because of just how abrasive and difficult to tame this effect can be.

On a smaller note, I recently watched the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which I personally found to be completely fantastic. I don’t quite know what happened, but I found myself so completely wound up and invested in this world and these characters that I immediately walked to the bookstore and picked up a copy for my own personal consumption. This is especially surprising for me because I usually really do not enjoy these kinds of novels. There still remains a copy of Wuthering Heights that I am too afraid to touch.

And, finally, I am less nervous about this paper. Writing these things out has sort of help me to re-contextualize everything. As long as I can simply find a good scene to compare, I know that I’ll be able to, hopefully of course, do well and if nothing else, try my very best to make an honest and informative assessment of a scene. At the very best, which I am currently hoping for, I’ll be able to write something that I’m really proud of and am happy to call my own. Here’s hoping for door number two.

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Figuring Some Stuff Out

Midterm week(s) are generally that point in the semester when I feel like curling up in a small hole and paying someone to slowly but aggressively fill it with dirt, ball bearings, small rocks, and a dash of glitter on top for show. Its that wonderful time of roughly every four months where my slack-assedness, anxiety, and my unhealthy idea of what my parents expect of me collide spectacularly, causing me to spiral into a vortex of existential dread and relentless worry about just how I could possibly fix the flaming trash can that is my academic life. And then, magically, it somehow all comes together. I don’t get kicked out of school and subsequently shot in the gut as I walk out of my apartment, gleam in my eye and hopeful disposition shattered like a fine, yet intensely sensitive and needlessly anxious china plate. Life continues on, the hero gets the girl, and your dad still fails to understand that you can’t pause an online game. Business as usual. But for now, I’m still in that middle part between Luke kissing his sister before he murders some poor, nameless, minimum-wage servants of the Empire and me personally funding my own live burial with the seven dollars in my bank account.

Class is class and tests are tests, but it must be because I’m stuck inside, slowly creating a me-sized imprint on my couch and cycling between the same four apps while I wait for my next Zoom lecture, mental collapse, or discussion board assignment that it all feels so much harder than before. Pandemic during an election year aside, everyone has been through stress. High school alone is enough to prove that you can do pretty much anything if you can just make it through four years of that kind of disaster. I mean, we all really used to wake up at seven am or earlier, sit in class for eight hours a day reading The goddamn Crucible and barely passing chem quizzes, only to go home, collapse into bed, and whip out ye old planner to either meagerly attempt homework or leave it all to the next morning in between chomping down on some crock pot dinner of ambiguous beef and carrots with the density of a small, collapsing star. So maybe things could be worse.

And still, I find myself folding inward like a fourth grader’s third attempt at a construction paper crane once my mind returns to my classes, my grades, and my future. So, you may be asking, what could possibly be the cure to this kind of dread? Well, I don’t quite know if there is a “cure” and I don’t quite know if its that simple. Sometimes, the hard stuff has to be hard before the fun stuff can be fun. If there is a “cure,” it has more to do with a mindset and an ability to see the light at the end of the ridiculously long tunnel than any one action or one thing. Just kidding, the answer is Snowrunner.

Ever seen Ice Road Truckers? Its like that, but in video game form. So far, I have spent hours in this game world hauling loads of lumber and steel across treacherous snowy and muddy terrain at a snails pace just to watch a tiny cutscene of a bridge being built with the materials I helped to deliver as I sat on my couch and screamed at my in-game Mack truck to get up the f*cking mountain and not stall in the middle like the last four times. Its an acquired taste to be certain, but something about it just itches that part of my scattered brain that needs a good scratch from a grizzled truck driver, hopped up on black coffee and amphetamines. There’s just something special about watching your truck finally finally finally make it up that steep-ass hill and reach its destination intact and ready for more.

There’s probably a lesson in there, but for now I have a discussion board to finish.

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Escapism

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Not only is this phrase an incredibly cliched way to open any kind of longform writing, it also acts as the opening lines to the first mission of Call of Duty Modern Warfare Two. I mention this only because I have been playing a lot more video games than usual for the last week or so. Not Call of Duty specifically, not also not not Call of Duty specifically. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the classics.

In that same vein, I have also re-opened the gaping maw in my heart that can only be sealed by my favorite video game of all time, Skyrim. This is nothing special, everyone and their Daedra loves Skyrim and I follow suit. Its always special for me to return to the game. I only revisit it every several years or so because I am well aware of the hold it has on me. I play a new character each playthrough, and yet, I still find myself re-entering the game like opening a door to a room that I have been inside dozens of times and still am unsure of what lies on the other side. Simply, I love it more than just about any other piece of media that I can conceive of.

Its beyond corny to admit, but I did find myself in talking to no one, “What on earth did people do before video games?” Aside from sounding like a twelve year old hopped up on Mountain Dew Code Red and Doritos Locos Tacos, greasy, wired, LED Xbox controller in hand, ready to take full advantage of Double XP weekend, I did genuinely think this, at least for a moment. Naturally, after about three more seconds of thought, I understood that I was an idiot and they had books, of course.

Despite being a bit less visually striking, a book is, in a sense, a much more linear video game. Maybe? That sounds a lot dumber now that I’ve typed it. I suppose the same thing could be said about films as well. It seems to me that an escape is an escape, regardless of the medium. What would past me have been doing to drive away “sad head voice?” Probably reading Little Women, or something of that ilk, at least. In the end, words on a page, books in a leaf, and leaves bound in leather and gold isn’t all that different from thousands of lines of code that allow me to slay virtual demons, crawl virtual dungeons, and pet my virtual dog, right?

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Way to Go

Things are getting better, I’d say. With the exception of a few router mishaps, internet is stable and that’s the important part in this painfully online world. My girlfriend and I just recently had our one year anniversary which makes me beyond happy. I’m feeling better about my position in my classes and I even wrote something that I thought was pretty solid.

Do you know what else is getting better? Not the state of modern editing in popular movies, that’s for certain. I know that there is a certain amount of fan rancor concerning the abysmal editing in the new Mulan remake. Those people would be right, of course, but I can’t help but still remember the atrocity that was the editing in Bohemian Rhapsody. My feelings on this biopic aside, its editing raised a number of eyebrows in the cinema world.

Its cuts are a bit like your tongue. Its no problem when you aren’t actively thinking about it, but once you feel it and are aware of it, your mouth feels completely strange and uncomfortable. There are so many cuts in this movie that I would genuinely put money on the average shot length being sub ten seconds.

There is a fine line between good editing and bad editing, and to the average consumer, the line may be much greater than for others. That being said, the line for Bohemian Rhapsody must have been on the floor.

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Two Weeks

I’m not quite sure why, but two weeks, as a phrase or concept, seems to carry with it a strange sense of finality or solidity. When one begins something new or unexpected, two weeks usually seems to be a kind of benchmark. Have I succeeded? Am I still doing okay? What can I do better? Where have I been in the last two weeks and where will the next two take me? In my mind, if I can survive the first fourteen days of anything then I have a pretty solid shot at being able to take the rest with some amount of satisfaction and ease. I suppose we’ll just have to see how that theory turns out in another two weeks.

The first two weeks of my sophomore year at a public university are proceeding well. Or, decent, at least. I’m starting to regain my sense of individuality once more which is beyond refreshing. Months spent at home within the confines of my small home in my small town have a weird way of making one feel small as well. My first year, or at least the first three-quarters of it were such an important time for me in terms of my intellectual and personal development. No more was I just a sum of my environmental parts. I didn’t just go to school in Newport News or run cross country or walk around Walmart when I got too bored anymore. Now, I could do whatever I damn well pleased, at least within the confines of my parents and my own academic expectations.

And then suddenly, I’m back home. Indefinitely. And with that, I am back to exactly who I was before. My room feels like a prison that I am completely institutionalized in and the idea of leaving is somehow both the best and the scariest thing I can think of. But, leaving had to happen eventually and now I am a million times happier, despite the strangeness of trying to return myself to the mindset of seven months ago without denying myself the fact that these seven months did happened no matter what else I’d like to think. That was probably a run-on. Oh, well.

Let’s just say I’m taking it in stride.

The one thing that I can say has been a net positive is the stuff that I have been choosing to occupy my time with. I am annoyingly indecisive when it comes to how I want to spend my free time because I am always trying to balance the pieces of media that are entertaining and the pieces of media that are good. I wouldn’t call scrolling on TikTok for an hour a good way to spend time, but neither is spending all of my spare time consuming media that is heavy. That being said, our most recent conversation on mise en scene (as well as the current racial climate in the United States) keeps making me think about Do the Right Thing.

I cannot think of another film that does heat so well. Every shot in the movie feels positively drenched in humidity and punishing sun. The few shots from within Mookie’s room make the heat feel inescapable. The room is sparsely lit, but the light that creeps in from between blades of the shutters is a bright orange that coats the room in harsh shadows and intense contrast. Outside, everyone sweats and it almost seems as though the buildings and stress do too. Bright, warm colors often fill the screen making shots that are both beautiful and HOT.

Shameless plug time! Last summer, my good friend and I created a short film called But I Wanted to be a Cowboy. I can vividly remember us trying so hard to make several of our scenes feel hot. There was plenty to fool around with in the editing stage, most importantly color grading, but we knew that we were still missing something. The key ended up being not in the visuals but in the audio. Five minutes spent out in the buggy woods with a microphone picking up the cicadas was all we needed and the effect was sealed. I am still so proud of what we made.

I feel like when I write without a lot of guidelines I just word vomit. Maybe this is a little close on that end, but still it feels good to express something to someone. Or no one. But, I’m making this my commitment to staying on top of myself to try and be better. No more slacking and no more bullshit. I’m done being sad and frustrated, now is the time to explore and dream again. There’s a really great Burroughs quote that goes, “There couldn’t be a society of people who didn’t dream. They’d be dead in two weeks.” Perfect.

 

 

 

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One Week Down, a Lot to Go

Its strange for me to think that this is the very first blog that I have really had. My dad has always told me that I should run a blog. I think that my interests in turn also interest him. Not because he appreciates books and movies in the exact same way I do. Moreso, he finds what I’m interested in interesting. And for that, he’s always said I should write about it. I guess that, in this way, I can say that I’m doing that. Even if it may be for school. Regardless, I said interesting way too many times and should reflect considering that this is meant to be a reflection journal.

I remember being struck by the first trailers that I saw for Greta Gerwig’s newest adaptation of Little Women. My mom has always professed her love for the book. She read it young, and it stuck with her forever. I can specifically remember her proudly telling me about how one of her English teachers in gradeschool was a direct relative to Lousia May Alcott. Its been a powerful force in her life and, I suppose, in mine as well. One’s favorite things have a tendency to not only entertain but inform character. I’d be absolutely lying if I said I didn’t take a small piece of character from all my own favorites.

My mom adored the movie when I went and took her. It was fun in a depressing way for me because we were also returning to my previous place of employment- YRC Cinemas in stunning Gloucester Point, VA. I got to see some of my younger coworkers look at me like a king and so after a semester of feeling like nobody, this was a corny bit of self-inflation. But she loved it. And I loved seeing her love it.

With that, I’m pretty excited to finally read it. After probably twelve of my nineteen years filled with pleas to consider it, I’m doing it. It’s probably not that great a deal as I’m making it, but it feels like it at the moment. I mistakenly bought the Norton Critical edition of the book and quickly grew disappointed in myself after seeing the proper textbook. Nortons are great on content, but the presentation value leaves a lot to me desired. That’ll be on the way soon.

My initial fears about online learning were quickly assuaged by our first Fiction Into Film class. It seemed more personal and less forced like many of the impromptu online courses we took last semester. Maybe things won’t be so different. I find myself saying that a lot to a varying degree about a lot of things that I used to take for granted. But this time, I’m thinking I’m right. I love books and I love movies so, theoretically, I should love this too.

I’m growing more and more excited to get a chance to study film more. My senior year in high school, I got very invested in movies and the film industry. I watched movies at an alarming rate, trying to expose myself to as much as I could. This was aided by a film elective course that I was able to take that year, but as I grew more busy with work over the summer and going to college, I lost my time and a lot of my dedication.

So, I really am just excited to get started. I’m looking forward to reading and studying and just trying to come to grips with a strange new normal.