The ‘Fate of the Furious’: how did we end up here?

As I’ve grown up and started to appreciate the insignificance of trivial matters, I’ve tried to reflect that changing worldview in my everyday life.

The evidence lies right here in this blog. For better or worse, I no longer talk about my grievances with social media, or my pet peeves concerning female behavior.

It’s not that these things have gone away. It’s more that I’ve gained more perspective in life and tried to focus my attention towards things that really matter.

And that’s an evolving process. For the better part of 2016, I was so zealously tuned into the minutia of the election and the coverage surrounding it that it actually began to make me angry on a regular basis, and affected the way I communicated with others.

Months later, I’ve realized that there is certainly a healthy balance one can maintain, even when trying to stay informed. It benefits you not only from preventing an information overload, but also by protecting your sanity.

That all being said, sometimes I have no choice but to revert my attention back to a certain topic of very little real-life consequence that I’ve been dwelling on for quite some time now. (See here and here).

The Fast and the Furious film franchise.

Fate of the Furious

This year will see the release of the eighth movie in the series. The eighth. Meaning that after this summer, there will officially be as as many Fast and the Furious films as there are Harry Potter. And that is highly disappointing.

In isolation, there’s nothing wrong with any of the movies. It’s hardly the first time Hollywood has exploited fast cars, pretty women and muscular movie stars who have simply given up their dream on ever winning an Oscar.

But who asked for eight of them? Show me that person.

And I enjoyed the first Fast and the Furious film. It was seriously flawed, but it was a highly entertaining popcorn flick. And from what I gathered, it stuck to trying to realistically simulate the underground street racing scene.

Since then, realism officially jumped ship. I tapped out at Fast Five, when the ending chase scene involved a car driving 100+ miles per hour down a freeway while towing an entire bank vault. 

There’s suspension of disbelief … and then there’s that. The talking lion in the Chronicles of Narnia was more believable.

And I know that there’s a level of sentimentality that now surrounds the films since the tragic and untimely death of Paul Walker in 2013. Which is why I gave Fast and the Furious 7 a pass.

This time? Not so much.

This new installment is called “The Fate of the Furious.” Which would lead you to think it’s the last one, since the title basically tells us that we we will learn how all the characters’ lives end up. Hence their “fate,” and thus eliminating the need for any more movies, right? Right?

Wrong. We are due for at least two more, and there is talks of possible spin-offs.

Furthermore, Paul Walker’s character may be included in future movies.

What in God’s name is happening?! When will this madness end???

If you’re all wondering, a nor’easter swept through New York today, and it’s 7:30 p.m. and I’m hours deep in cabin fever. But I still stand by this post.

And yet, deep down, I know that the Fast and the Furious franchise will outlive all of us.

Maybe the next one will be called “The Fake and the Furious.”

Sad!

How I missed the biggest mix-up in Oscars history

It was supposed to work our perfectly. I booked my work-related flight from New York to Phoenix on Academy Awards Sunday through Jet Blue, where I could watch the ceremony live on the plane.

Indeed, it would make the Oscars that much more memorable. When I look back on the 89th Academy Awards in the future, I’d always remember that I watched it live in the air. It would make my nearly six-hour flight go by that much quicker, and pending technical difficulties, I wouldn’t miss a second of the action.

So it was with deep befuddlement when I first sat down in the plane one hour before show time, when I realized that my in-flight television got basically every channel but ABC, which was broadcasting the ceremony.

But I didn’t become alarmed just yet. After all, it made no sense. Why would ABC not be there? Not only was every other basic cable channel available, but there was also some secondary channels like NBC Sports, MTV, TNT. So why not ABC? I figured maybe it was listed under another channel name or something.

moon-la-la-light

That’s when the flight attendant informed me that ABC is one of the few channels that has not given permission for JetBlue to use.

Still, I didn’t start panicking. I had my laptop and JetBlue had Wi-Fi.

Then I discovered that the live feed on ABC.com was not accessible from my flight.

No worries, though, the Oscars website has a live stream … which redirected to ABC.com.

In a last-ditch effort, I searched Google and Twitter for live streams, which probably weren’t licensed by ABC or the Oscars, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. Finally, with about 15 minutes to spare, I found a live YouTube stream. It was a bit grainy, but it was live and perfectly watchable. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Come 8:30 p.m., we were comfortably sitting at cruising altitude, Justin Timberlake was opening the show with his summer hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” and I had a cocktail in hand. I was perfectly set for the next four hours.

Then my live stream cut out due to copyright infringement.

A few unsuccessful searches later, I resigned my fate. I would miss the Oscars. Fortunately, though, it’s 2017, and I was able to get up-to-the-second updates on the awards, and then able to find a clip on YouTube minutes later to see the actual footage. I was basically watching the Oscars on a delay, with no suspense whatsoever.

But for most of the broadcast, the show was very enjoyable. Jimmy Kimmel filled the spacesCasey Affleck nicely with some great gags involving tourists and Matt Damon, and while politics did not dominate the event, there was still some powerful moments, highlighted by the Best Foreign Film-winning director Asghar Farhadi’s decision to boycott the show in protest of Trump’s previously-struck-down travel ban.

Furthermore, I was on a roll. With the exception of Best Leading Actor going to Casey Affleck — much to the dismay of many females — I had predicted almost every major category correctly.

All that was left was for me to correctly predict Moonlight for Best Picture.

The following text message conversation ensued shortly after midnight between a friend and I:

Me: Tell me when they’re announcing Best Picture.

Friend: Right now.

Me: Moonlight plz

Friend: La La Land

Me: *sad cat emoji*

Friend: It won seven awards in total.

one minute passes…

Friend: Wait

Friend: Moonlight won

Friend: There was a mistake. Wtf

Me: Are you being serious lol

Friend: Yes. You need to watch that clip.

Me: Did they pull a Steve Harvey?

Friend: They were halfway through the speeches.

Me: I AM MISSING EVERYTHING.

emma-stoneOf all the Oscars to miss live, it had to be this one.

For the viewer, it was obviously a very entertaining sequence of events. And while I am glad that justice was wrought and Moonlight ultimately won, I couldn’t help but be saddened that the people involved with the film didn’t get to have the full experience of winning the industry’s biggest award. It really would have been a memorable moment.

Instead, we got a circus.

We now know what happened amid the chaos, thanks largely to Jimmy Kimmel’s late night monologue the next day. It wasn’t Warren Beatty’s fault. Wasn’t really Faye Dunaway’s fault. Wasn’t Matt Damon’s fault.

It was the accounting firm that tallies the votes.

When in doubt, blame the accountants.

All in all, as bad as that snafu was, you’ve got to hand it to the La La Land crew for how graciously they handled the situation. And as a result, I think Moonlight and La La Land should now be made into one movie.

In fact, I’m working on the script now.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Moon La La Light.

It probably won’t be the next Hamilton.

Adele, Beyonce and … John Oliver?

North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Sunday in what some officials said was an attempt to challenge Donald Trump’s policy towards the nation. Iran demonstrated its might on Friday in a dramatic parade to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s revolution and diplomatic break from the United States.

But none of that matters because …

QUEEN BEY.

Last night’s 59th Grammy Awards exhibited its usual glitz and glam as the nation’s most recognizable pop stars joined together to celebrate all the music that dominated radio waves in 2016. Plus Sturgill Simpson.

And while I’m increasingly convinced that Grammy officials choose nominees by getting drunk and googling “Top Musicians 2016,” I will admit that the show did provide a nice distraction from the usual doom and gloom news surrounding our current administration and the world’s response to it (see: first paragraph).

chance-the-rapper

Because the Grammys are so largely watched and even serve as many people’s refresher course to today’s music scene, it does fortunately provide some deserving artists with the necessary platform into national, if not global consciousness.

Artists like Chance the Rapper.

I’m admittedly ignorant towards hip-hop because it simply just doesn’t appeal to me, but Chance the Rapper won me over during his ESPYs tribute to Muhammad Ali last summer. I learned that, despite his stage name, Chance the Rapper is as much a singer as he is a rapper. But most of all, he is a lyricist.

Chance won two major Grammy Awards and showcased his abilities in an energetic, soulful show-capping performance. The average music listener knew who he was, but now everyone witnessed his talent.

Other than that, we watched Adele boldly stop her live tribute to George Michael to start over after a dysfunctional start.

Beyonce

We saw the members of Twenty One Pilots remove their pants before walking on stage to accept an award, and then share an endearing story about how they pledged years ago while watching the Grammys to go pants-less if they ever ended up winning anything.

We saw CBS severely overestimate the universality of the lyrics of “Sweet Caroline” in a Carpool Karaoke sketch that fell flat.

And we saw Beyonce do … something. While I like to think of myself as verbally creative and imaginative, I’m severely lacking an artistic gene, and thus any symbolism behind 21-pilotsBeyonce’s performance completely went over my head. But it was visually stimulating, and she sounded great.

So, in conclusion, Beyonce’s the queen, we’re all inferior, she probably should’ve won Album of the Year over Adele, and I’ll leave it at that.

At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that Adele and Taylor Swift will spend the next 20 years alternating who wins the most Grammy Awards annually. Next year, it’s all T-Swizzle.

But the evening couldn’t be completely devoid of politics. Around the same time the Grammys neared its end, HBO saw the welcome return of John Oliver and his brilliant show Last Week Tonight.

His segment, focusing on Donald Trump’s clear disconnect from reality, is a must-watch for any American. It’s been extremely evident to see how much Trump lies, but John Oliver has a way of condensing a topic to make it so bright-as-day that you can’t possibly deny it. It’s the 30-minute release that Trump opponents have been waiting for, and it’s objectively insightful.

I guess that means if Beyonce is the queen for music lovers, than John Oliver is the king for us political nerds?

My life clearly needs more excitement.

Perhaps I’ll go to work tomorrow pantsless, Twenty One Pilots style.

That’s it. I’ve decided. I’m doing it.

And by pantsless, I mean wearing corduroy pants and an argyle sweater.

Bad Boy 4 Life.

The Weinblog goes to the tropics

There’s a new rule of thumb for 2016 — if you go away for a few days and block yourself off from the news, you are going to miss a lot of shit.

Last week I joked that I came back to the second coming of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. That is likely an exaggeration (I hope), but this time, I came back to events that more closely resemble a lead-up to another World War. I hope that’s an exaggeration too.

Between assassinationsterror attacks and deadly fireworks explosions, it’s safe to say that the world is a tumultuous place right now. And historians were not slow to point out that the murder of Russia’s envoy to Turkey on Monday bore similarities to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which directly led to World War I.

I could spend the rest of this post opining about the craziness we are living in right now and how these events might affect the global spectrum as we enter a new year, but I won’t. Mainly because I have no freaking clue how things will play out from here, and secondly, I just don’t feel like it.

Instead, I’d rather tell you about where I spent the last four days.

Drumroll please…

*complete silence*

I packed my bags, gathered up my passport and flew down to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Now, anytime you spend time in an all-inclusive resort on a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea at a point when your hometown is experiencing its coldest weather of the year, you are going to have an incredible time.

But I must tell you that if you’ve never been to Punta Cana … go.

And if you do go, I highly recommend you stay at the Presidential Suites on the northern part of the island.

If you like friendly and attentive staff that treat you like royalty; clean and expansive rooms; delicious food; an excess of outdoor activities; and an inclusive environment where everything is spread out yet close enough where you’re basically guaranteed to meet a significant number of people at the resort — then you’ll want to go there.

There was one mistake on my part. When people visit all-inclusive resorts, they tend to stay for several days. Having booked this on a whim with a friend as an end-of-year bonus, we only stayed three nights.

Having to leave a tropical resort mid-week when everyone else you’ve met is just gearing up to let loose for the second half of their stay … well let’s just say it’s quite depressing and that I am in full withdrawal mode right now.

If you go, then stay for a while. Believe me.

But between the serene views and the abundance of friendly people I met from all over the world, it was an unforgettable experience. When you approach the beach and stare out into paradise, it’s pretty hard not to appreciate every moment.

And what was even more refreshing was being in an environment where no one had even the slightest interest in talking about politics. That’s a difficult thing to escape these days.

Punta Cana, you will always hold a special place in my heart.

At last, it’s Christmastime.

I was having a sluggish day at work this past Tuesday. Not because anything was going wrong, but I just felt tired and lethargic. Basically, I felt how we all feel on a Tuesday afternoon.

So I decided to head to a nearby mall for pick-me-up beverage at Starbucks. Within minutes of being inside the mall, my mood instantly changed. Christmas reefs were hung all over the walls. Holiday music was playing. Santa was probably lurking somewhere. It was a very festive environment. And to top it off, I purchased a Gingerbread latte.

But I probably could’ve made it through the rest of the day without caffeine; Christmas spirit was the boost I needed to raise my energy level.

Even today, at work, while exiting my office I broke into an ear-to-ear grin when I saw our building super setting up the annual Christmas tree in our main lobby.

There’s just something about Christmas that makes me so happy. Because for one full month, we get to at least pretend that the world is one big happy place. That the snow globes you see, of glittering snow falling upon quaint little villages full of log cabins, is an actual reflection of what the world really is.

christmas-village

If there is ever going to be a real-life miracle that brings everyone together for the sake of hope and happiness, it will be during this month. And just sensing others share that same naive mindset is enough to make me a jolly man.

And mind you, I Identify myself as Jewish, but I stopped pretending years ago that Hanukkah even comes close to competing with Christmas.

Especially after this year’s election, Christmas offers us a time to finally take a deep breath and return to normalcy. Yes, Trump won, and there is a lot of uncertainty in our nation right now, but with Christmas comes a feeling of familiarity that we all crave.

And this holiday season, let’s challenge ourselves to retain these feelings of hope and optimism even after the calendar turns to 2017. And even after President Trump (it’s going to take a little bit of time to type that without gagging) is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Because after all, even though many of us share different ideologies and worldviews, we all have more similarities than we think, and what better time than Christmas to realize that? We all like having snowball fights. We all like the song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and we all like candy canes and Peppermint Mochas from Starbucks.

Let’s start there.

After Christmas is over, we don’t have to necessarily be best friends. But we could all coexist and be happy.

trevor-noah-tomi-lahren

If you are still skeptical, then take the time to watch a video that has been widely shared on social media today — an interview of Tomi Lahren, an ultra-conservative 24-year-old Hayden Panettiere lookalike who has gained a large following on the right-wing website The Blaze, and Trevor Noah, the liberal South African host of the Daily Show.

It’s easy to watch it and say Noah was by the far the most sensible person (which, he clearly was), but let’s also keep in mind that, as the interviewer, he was able to steer the conversation while being reaffirmed by his own audience.

But it really is a great and fascinating conversation between two people of completely different mindsets. And it should teach us that we all really need to get out of our own ideological bubbles and talk to people who think differently than us.

And as was the case with Noah and Lahren, you might still end up maintaining a cordial relationship with the person that you were just disagreeing with.

Just some food for thought.

Have a holly jolly Christmas everyone.

What I learned from my Jamaican Uber driver

We are closing in on one week since Donald Trump became the president elect, and needless to say, I am still trying to wrap my head around how exactly how we got to this point.

It’s very easy to say right now that we made a mistake. It’s easy to joke about how terrible of a president Donald Trump will be. But by doing so, we are completely discrediting and ignoring the more than 60 million people who voted for him.

I understand that people are angry. I understand that people want to take to the streets to voice their disapproval of the ideologies that have been expressed by the man we elected.

But we also must be pragmatic. Protesting only deepens the divide that has already been exposed. And doing it violently only sends the opposite message of the cause you wish to further.

election protest.jpg

Yes, we must remain vigilant. And yes, we must look out for each other — which has been nicely symbolized by people who are wearing safety pins on their shirts as an act of solidarity — but we also must understand one another.

Go home and talk to your family members. Talk to your friends. Talk to strangers on the street. And in my case, talk to your Uber drivers.

While visiting the swing state of North Carolina (which was a planned trip … I didn’t travel there post-election to yell at people for tilting the election), I was driven back to the airport on Sunday by a man who immigrated from Jamaica a few years ago. And for 15 minutes, we had a very thoughtful conversation about why so many people voted for Trump — and why so many chose not to vote at all.

Needless to say, this election has been a wake-up call for young white liberals. To us, Trump is the biggest threat to the ideologies that we want to see championed across the nation. And in our mostly privileged lives, it’s one of the first time we didn’t get our way.

But for young black voters, a Trump presidency is not an existential problem, especially when you consider how much hardship they have endured — and continued to endure — throughout their long history in this country. To them, Trump is simply another inconvenience towards their path to equality, and one of many.

dave-chappelle

On a racism scale of 1 to 10, my Uber driver pegged Trump at “about a 3,” which caught me a bit by surprise. When I asked him to elaborate, he said Trump preaches the sentiments of most people who were born during the Baby Boomer era, who long for the good ole days days of their childhood when nationalism was high and, consequently, segregation was the status quo. Trump’s not trying to be racist, he told me, he just doesn’t know any better because he’s never associated with black people, like most Americans his age.

This was a very similar sentiment expressed by David Chappelle in his cuttingly poignant monologue on Saturday Night Live. “We’ve been here before,” Chappelle lamented. In other words, a roadblock towards progress for African-Americans is nothing new.

Systematic racism has always been there, my Uber driver told me, but now, with Trump as president, it’s more out in the open than ever before. We the people, as well as the media, are on high alert for bigotry. And that, he said, is a good thing.

In other words, it might have to get a little worse before it gets better.

Amazingly, this was the first time I had spoken to a non-white person about the election results. And it just showed me beneficial it is to gain different perspectives.

You can’t stand up for something until you fully understand what the problem is.

I am just as unhappy with this election result as the people who are out there protesting on the streets. You can say that racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hate won in the end.

But instead of simply accepting that and disregarding all other possibilities, I’d rather focus my energy on learning what cultivated the emotion that led to this result.

Until we understand one another, we’re not getting any better.

That Uber ride cost me $13.20.

But the life lessons I learned along the way were priceless.

The worst part of this election is how nasty it’s made us

With six days to go until the election, we can at least distract ourselves this one night with Game 7 of the World Series.

As a sports fan, it’s what you live for. One game to take it all. This game will be recorded in history books until the end of time. It’s where sports heroes are made and legacies are forged. Just sit back and enjoy.

Now back to the election! Yay!

I found myself in an unexpected political debate earlier today while I was getting lunch with a coworker. I say ‘unexpected’ because it was a colleague who I hadn’t really even heard express any political opinion since I’ve known him.

But today he was voicing his deep vitriol for Hillary Clinton, and as someone who fully intends to vote for her, I found myself on the defense.

If nothing else, I pride myself in not being ignorant. Even if it’s not something I want to know, I try to make sure I  have a base knowledge of all the facts of the pertinent political story lines. And thus, the argument basically became us having a back-and-forth arguing which candidate is worse.

elephant-v-donkey

Shockingly enough, the world did not stop spinning on its axis. After a few minutes, we both stopped and agreed that it’s a sad state in America when, one week before the election, we are basing our political arguments on who is less bad.

And it’s an offshoot of the negativity that’s surrounded the 2016 election. Rather than discussing which candidate can inspire and help more people, and how they can change America for the better, it’s become a debate about which one comes with the least amount of baggage.

I’m proud to report that our lunch then went about its usual course, and we gladly continued our days after that without thinking any less of each other. Which is how political arguments should be.

No matter what happens in this election, we’ve already shown the worst of ourselves. The divisiveness and bitterness that has spread like a disease throughout our country is completely out in the open. There’s no hiding from it anymore.

In other words, we have very little to be proud of after Nov. 8.

It doesn’t mean we’re a lost cause. But it certainly means that there is some healing that needs to take place. And weirdly enough, my cordial argument with my colleague today gave me hope that it can happen. Because it proved to me that two people with differing beliefs can have a disagreement and still coexist quite peacefully.

A lot of people are going to be unhappy after the vote. But this talk of refusing to accept the result, or of starting of a revolution — it needs to stop. We need to move on and do it as a united force.

I’m not going to say I’m confident it will happen. But I know we are at least capable of it.

Maybe one day we will all learn to put country over party. Like Bill Weld, the Libertarian vice presidential candidate, who during an interview with Rachel Maddow on Tuesday essentially advised people to vote for Hillary Clinton because, in his opinion, Donald Trump is not an option.

Perhaps we can follow Bill Weld’s lead and weld together as one.

#BillWeldPun