2018 Midterms Guide to Guides

Hey you, procrastinator!

The midterms are tomorrow and you need to vote, rather than opting out and pleading ignorance, here are some guides for you. NOTE: These lean heavily on information relevant to Southern Californians and then more specifically North Orange County folks.
For prop info: 
Ballot.fyi – Creative and semi-humorous bipartisan explainers.
KCET Ballot Brief – Bipartisan explanations in written form and short 1 – minute explainers. 

LA Taco Voter Guide – A little more partisan, but deeper explanations regarding the propositions.
State Government:
LAist Voter Game Plan – Bipartisan looks at those running for state office (like Attorney General, etc…). Doesn’t have everything but is informative.
LA Podcast Voter’s guide – Has a specific perspective, but cuts through a lot of the BS in giving you who they think you should vote for.
Just for you!
KPCC Voter’s Edge – Enter your address and it will give you information about all of the races specifically for you.
For my Fullerton friends: 
Fullerton Observer – Has transcripts of debates, outlines positions by those running for local government.
Early October issue: Covers those running for Fullerton city council
Early November issue: Covers OC Board Dist. 4.
Flip through other recent issues to find some other local elections info. https://www.fullertonobserver.com/services
Now that you know, go vote!

Pop Cultural and Shallow Goals for 2014

happy-new-year-2013

Well we’re already half way through the first month of the new year, but we’re still at the point where it feels a bit weird to write 2014, so I argue that it is okay to write about resolutions for the new year. This is something I did last year for funsies and it is kind of fun to look back and see what you accomplished. As it states in the title, this is purely shallow, otherwise I would include things like ‘be more loving’, you know? I think while these things are shallow by nature, obviously I see something important in them and they help to shape you, hopefully in good ways. Here is my list of goals for the year, enjoy.

One of my new web site staples has been social media film web site Letterboxd. I have campaigned for this thing over the last few months and have finally gotten some of my friends to join. It’s a great way to keep track of everything you’ve seen as well as see what others are watching. This year’s goal:

-Start and engage in more conversations about movies on Letterboxd with friends or internet pals.

On my Letterboxd account, I have a watchlist that includes 60 films. These are mostly classics, things I have never seen before. This year’s goal:

-Watch 10 films from my Letterboxd watchlist

Last year my podcast, The Rankings Podcast, took a break for like 5 months due to both of our busy schedules. This year I would like to commit to putting out the best content we’ve ever done. The goals:

-Put out at least a podcast a month

-Start a new podcast (this is one for which I already have an idea brewing)

I’ve always been a big reader, but due to laziness and the distracted nature of our generation it has become a struggle to read. Last year’s list included high-minded goals like : READ MORE which I really ended up failing despite my best intentions. So this year I am transitioning this goal into a new form. Most of the books I try to read are classics that I feel like I need to read in order to hold any weight amongst my reading peers. This has lead to mental blocks, trying to convince myself to read Dostoevsky or other 500+ page Russian novels. Instead of putting the classics on my must read list and then failing to actually read them and then wallowing in how unread of a person I am, I am going to change the nature of the reading material. This year’s goal:

-Read more mystery novels, because I always loved those as a kid.

2013’s box office top 10 results include 7 films that are sequels or prequels to other movies, 1 that is a franchise starter (Man of Steel), a Disney movie, and Gravity. For someone who likes to see film as somewhat of an art form, I find this kind of sad. Not that there is anything wrong for liking these movies, if you want to see Despicable Me 2 and when it comes out and the inevitable Minions television show and buy all the toys and tee shirts and DVDs then be my guest. However, it does feel or seem to me that we as a moviegoing public are being manipulated by the corporate heads of entertainment studios into paying millions of dollars for easy to manufacture products (the most obvious of these is in the making of “The Hobbit” into a trilogy, though the splitting of “Mockingjay” into two parts is pretty horrendous as well). This year’s goal:

-Don’t watch sequels/prequels/franchise films at the theater.

(I know I will break this goal, there are some that are worth watching, but my new rampage, in a fit of slacktivism, is to campaign against people going to see these movies, in the hopes that intelligent, artful films will be crafted without the hope or need of franchising it. It’s just a hope, that’s all)

It’s really easy to be a consumer of pop culture nowadays. We have feeds on multiple social media web sites updating us with the latest in everything. Netflix streaming automatically goes to the next episode to ensure the ease of binge watching. Youtube, Spotify, and Rdio make it simple to find any song you could ever want to listen to. What’s harder is finding time or energy to be creative. The goal:

-Be intentional about creating things (writing, cooking, podcasting, etc…).

I always try to push myself into broadening my tastes and interests, always looking for discovery. Last year’s goals featured a lot of that. I think I was fairly successful and grew in all sorts of ways. This year I can only think of one thing or area in which I would really like to expand myself. I’ve heard that these can be very artful and profound. The goal:

-Read a graphic novel (suggestions are welcome for what to read)

I am always eager to learn and I am sure as the year goes on I will find more ways in which I am eager to grow my interests. Maybe I’ll develop a huge interest in silent films or classic ballets or miming, but for now I don’t have anymore specific things to put down as a goal. I will instead put something vague, but something that I would hope to be true of myself.

-Stay open to the world

2014 FTW!

Reflecting On 2013 (Pop Culturally)

At the end of last year I made myself a list of pop culture and shallow goals to strive for in 2013, this is that list as well as my commentary on how I did.

Listen to more jazz – I had just started getting into the genre with albums by Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus and I definitely grew more interested in it throughout the year. I can easily rattle off names such as John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, etc… and I can even recognize songs that the hired jazz band is playing at events. This was definitely a success and one that expanded my knowledge and taste.

Listen to more of these albums: http://www.besteveralbums.com/overall.php – One of the definitive lists of the best music ever, Best Ever Albums is a great place to start to discover the classics and I definitely did, but also got distracted by all the year’s new music. I got around to listening to Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, “Blonde on Blonde”, and more Radiohead.

Finish The Wire and Battlestar Galactica – Two shows that I had started in 2012, but hadn’t finished. Well this remains true of today. Though, I am over halfway done with season 4 of The Wire, 2014 will definitely see my completion of it! As for Battlestar… I, uh, got the board game; that’s got to count for something right?

Start watching Mad Men – Definitely started this, definitely. In fact I have almost finished season 2! I do love the show though. From the very opening scene I fell in love with it. I just don’t know how all you people have time to binge-watch things. To me, binge-watching is watching 5 episodes in a week! My goal now is to catch up to the show by the time it finishes which I believe is set to be summer 2015.

Write more serious stuff – Check out the tag Serious Stuff, there was definitely an increase in my writing productivity this year. Points for me.

Write more non-serious stuff – Had a couple of pieces where I tried to be funny: here and here, as well as some list-like material.

Watch as many as these films as possible: http://artsandfaith.com/t100/ – I saw The Seventh Seal, The Three Colors Trilogy, Magnolia, Wild Strawberries, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Spirited Away thanks almost entirely to the DVD section of my school’s library which I am pretty sure %1 of the student body takes advantage of.

Read more novels – Well…

Read MORE – I read a lot of school books!

Read a new John Steinbeck novel – See above two.

Eat more bread and cheese – Nailed it, gouda, brie, romana, you were all mine!

Try new vegetables – Not sure actually.

Learn about new ethnic cuisines – Working with refugees this summer was fantastic for this. Tried various Persian and Pakistani foods, ohhh yeah. For a foodie who studies culture this was amazing.

Go to at least one play – I’m a terrible connoisseur of the arts.

Go to at least one art show – See above.

Listen to more comedy – Didn’t do this in the form of albums or anything, but got into more comedy podcasts as well as some stand-up specials. Even went to a stand-up open mic night at a local coffee shop.

Appreciate other art forms more (such as photography, paintings, architecture, sculptures, etc…) – I definitely appreciated these types, in my heart. Actually I find paintings and photography to be more moving than I ever have before, so I think I’m on the right track. I tend to be drawn toward storytelling forms of art, but I think my scape is being widened.

Go hiking more – Ohhh boy.

Spend more time outside – Still working on this. Maybe 2014 will see a giant breakthrough. I did go birdwatching once. And they were beautiful.

Such a Hipster

In one of my classes we had a discussion about the culture of my school. We talked about what insiders would know and what those on the outside are ignorant about. My professor then asked us if there was a style of dress that was most popular. People raised their hands: “hipster” was their answer.

The perception of hipsters befuddles me. It is a common word, used by teens and their parents alike, but its really undefinable. It even seems to be used as an insult of sorts. Nobody wants to be a hipster and thus they call others hipsters. They defend themselves when the ‘h’ word is thrown their way.

My classmates were probably right in their assertion. The hipster style is probably most common on my campus. Their style has become widespread. After all, Urban Outfitters occupies spaces next to American Eagle and you can buy this deer fronted sweater at your local Target.

 

 

This style is pervasive in chain clothing stores (likely) throughout the nation, so most people probably dress like this on campus. It came into popularity at the same time as the word hipster and so it is probably appropriate to call it hipster. 

However, this style, while once the dress of hipsters, has probably been removed from its namesake. Hipsters are those who at a time pushed the boundaries forward for popular culture, arts, fashion, and style. And like the elusive nature of cool have moved on from what is now seen at your local clothing store.

Hipsters are merely a snapshot of the cool. They once actually existed, but as the word has grown in popularity, they, like the style itself, have moved on. They have subtly enveloped a new look and a new mindset. While you are pointing your finger in every which direction crying ‘hipster, that’s so hipster’ they will walk by hardly noticed.

They are always pushing the boundaries forward. They’re the ones who you think are weird. They’re the ones who don’t quite fit in; who don’t settle into the nature of broader culture. They’re the ones who you will be copying in five years…

Contrarianism

I feel as if I have been abundantly contrarian the past week. I wrote a post that attempted to take down the beach. I posted an article on my Facebook that was anti-Breaking BadI am offending people’s sensibilities left and right, but I don’t want to be a contrarian. I’m a normal guy too! They say the proof is in the pudding (and I like pudding) so here it is, things I like that you probably like too:

I like Disneyland! I agree with their “happiest place on Earth” statement!

I think Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” is a pretty rockin’ song!

If I had to rank all of the holidays, Christmas would likely be number one.

I think pizza is pretty fantastic (though I can’t fathom how pepperoni inexplicably became the go to pizza topping in America)

I both enjoy and despise Kanye West which seems to be the general consensus surrounding him.

I have a Facebook account and think I spend too much time on it.

I like football and baseball! I’m a red-blooded American!

Chocolate chip cookies are probably the best cookies out there (but pies>cakes).

I like Starbucks (for milkshake-y, sugar loaded dessert type drinks).

I too get into swimming and beach volleyball every four years.

I read all the Harry Potter books and found that I quite enjoyed them. I also read and liked the Hunger Games.

I get pretty mouth watered over a steak.

See, really when it comes down to it, I’m just a normal guy. Maybe I don’t like the beach, think hot chocolate isn’t good, and disliked Braveheart, but underneath this rough contrarian exterior I’m really just an average Joe!

What Kind of Music do You Like? (A Guide)

In the never ending world of small talk and social formalities, simple get-to-know you questions are always asked. It starts with the necessities, gradually deepening either to the point that you realize you have no interest in speaking with this person on a deeper level or to where a genuine relationship is formed. In the midst of this social sparring, right at the point when your cheeks are starting to hurt from overemphasizing reactions to the other’s answers, is when the question is often asked. This question has haunted me for years. It is one that camouflages itself as an ally, but stabs you in the back in its near impossibility to answer. Yes it is posed after “where are you from?” and much before “what are you doing tomorrow?”, it is one that is specific, but general; it is “what kind of music do you like?”

For some of you, this may seem like nothing at all. A quick “oh a little bit of everything” or “whatever’s on the radio” or “everything except country and screamo” may suffice and this thread will be over. But for those of us who are music fans, pop culture fiends, who have paid less than 50 bucks for a concert ticket, or actually bought music at a store, this question becomes the 8 ball just waiting to be knocked into a pocket.

As soon as the last word of the question is uttered, panic floods into the mind. It’s like that scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie has finally reached Santa’s lap and has been asked what he wants for Christmas; his mind goes blank and he screws the whole thing up! You want to say something, anything, but every single band you ever liked has been locked away and the key has gone missing. Only the easiest answers come to mind, “uh… rock. Yeah I listen to a lot of rock” (ROCK!?!? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! ROCK!?!?)

Once you’ve gotten around the panic attack of again being asked this question and again not having an answer for it, the tricky part comes; figuring out how to shape the best answer for maximum impact. Does this person have a genuine interest in music and is looking to discuss your tastes with you? Is this person just asking you as a conversation starter? Is this a kind of person you should be vague with?

Discovering their intention is the best way to figure out your answer. If they don’t really like music all that much then starting with a broad answer and describing more specific artists and genres is usually a good way to be engaging without being snobbish. If you want to be snobbish then go all in with whatever you are most knowledgeable about, whether it be Christian emo bands, 60’s jazz, or psychedelic rock and you are sure to scare them off. 

The most important part about this is getting the desired amount of engagement out of the conversation with the other person. Again, gauging the intention is an important first step, next is testing the waters. For our purposes we will assume that the other is someone who is fairly interested and knowledgeable about music, but certainly not the experts like we are. You want throw out something and see the other’s reaction to it. If you throw out “I like hip-hop” and the other person just goes “oh”, then there is no real reason to keep talking about it and it is probably best to change artists or genres. If they pull out a “like who?” or a “which era?” or even a “really?” (though they are certainly judging you at that point, but hey no shame) then you are ready to go deeper.

At this time, you probably want to throw out some more well known artists that you like to listen to. It’s best to do this in 3’s, getting vaguer and to the core of what you like with each artist listed (if you don’t like vague, lesser known artists, you’ve probably stopped reading). Here are some genre examples:

Jazz: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus

Hip-Hop: Kanye West, Drake, Killer Mike

Emo: Jimmy Eat World, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jets to Brazil

R&B: Usher, Frank Ocean, Miguel

Indie Rock: Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Tame Impala

Punk: Blink-182, The Ramones, The Descendents

If any of these ring a bell to your conversation partner, expanding on albums or concert experiences becomes appropriate. If not, other genres or artists can be named. 

In order that you don’t get stuck in the previously mentioned rut of not being able to think of any sort of music there are a couple of other quick potential go-to’s: consistents and new faves. 

The consistents are bands or musicians that you can listen to at almost anytime. These tend to be broad, crowd pleasing artists though not necessarily bad ones. The Beatles or Beach Boys are always safe ways to buy yourself more time to think of more specific people. 

New faves is self-explanatory and can be introduced by saying “Oh, lately I’ve been really into…” this allows you to be able to list whatever has been on your iPod or record player last before this conversation. This can even be combined with consistents and our genre rule of 3 like this:

“I love Bob Dylan, he’s one of my all time faves, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of folk music like The Avett Brothers…Fleet Foxes…Kurt Vile”. 

Probably the most important thing is throwing bait out for the other person to grab and continue the conversation, going deeper into the meaning and memories that music inspires. Perhaps the relationship will grow, the rhetoric will change; “what kind of music do you like” evolves into “hey, I really think you’ll like…” as mixtapes and playlists are swapped, really, isn’t this what we all want?