My last post in my 20s

One of the cool things about writing a daily blog is to look back at earlier posts and see how you have evolved over time.

While this venture has been very different than a journal, where you divulge your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis, a quasi-pop culture/news blog such as this still allows me to see what was at the forefront of my mind at any given day over the last seven-plus years.

And the evolution is startling.

In the first couple of years of this blog, I was basically talking about Jersey Shore and recapping my drunken nights. I had yet to start my first full-time job when I created this thing in late 2009.

Now I’m foraying into European politics and talking about the Supreme Court.

I guess it speaks towards the evolution of all young men and women, though. I started this blog as a 22-year-old.

And tomorrow, on April 7, I will become a 30-year-old.

I always assumed you’re supposed to feel a certain way when you turn 30. TV shows and movies often dramatize it as being a major turning point in a person’s life, when they finally figure out what exactly they are meant to do in this world.

30.jpg

But as I write this, in the final hours of my 20s, I don’t really feel any type of emotional catharsis. Who knows, perhaps it will sink in after the fact, like the first time I input the number “30” in the gym treadmill when it asks me my age. I don’t know.

I’ve never been a believer in setting age-oriented milestones. Everyone moves at their own pace. Anything that I wanted to accomplish in my 20s can also be done in my 30s.

Will I miss my 20s? Sure. You do feel a bit of youthful exuberance when your age starts with the number 2. But will I miss the late-nights staying out until 4 a.m. getting drunk? No. Will I miss the indifference I had towards starting a career? No.

Even now, I reflect on how I behaved for most of the last decade. I was a dope. I acted as if I could do anything and get away with it. To this day, my past recklessness terrifies me.

If I had the ability to push a button and suddenly become 25 again, I don’t even think I would. I like the person I’ve become. I enjoy spending hours immersed in a book or news articles, trying to enhance my knowledge or understand a complex situation. I enjoy enlightening myself to new experiences and different cultures that I didn’t bother to concern myself with in my 20s.

Over the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve undergone a transformation, and it’s made me a better, well-rounded person. I feel like I’ve done a better job gaining empathy for people who are different than I am.

And that continued evolution is what I see defining the next chapter of my life — my 30s. I want to keep filling gaps in my knowledge. I want to continue to travel and experience new things. I want to be a better person. And I plan to do just that.

I find that exhilarating. I’m not dreading my 30s. I’m thrilled for the person I am going to become over the next 10 years.

There’s so much that this world has to offer. And I’m just one person trying to figure it all out.

That’s my mission for my 30s. And I won’t accomplish it.

But that won’t stop me from trying.

I’ll see y’all on the other side.

Let’s talk about sports

Let’s talk about sports, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sports
Let’s talk about sports

OK, so that’s the PG-13/Jock Jams version of the classic Salt-N-Pepa song.

But the excitement that the female hip-hop trio had for fornication in their early ’90s hit is the same excitement I feel right now for sports.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. March Madness is reaching its climactic end. The NBA and NHL are gearing up for the playoff season. And most importantly, baseball season is just days away.

There’s something about the great American pastime that invigorates me. The fresh-cut grass, the dirt spraying into the air when a batter slides feet-first into second base for a double, the mental chess match between a pitcher and hitter before a 3-2 pitch, and the arduous grind of a six-month, 162-game season where your team hopefully ends up on top.

When baseball is happening, it feels like natural order is being restored. It’s the only major American sport without a clock, which, in turn, has been a source of controversy as of late due to the increasing length of game times (an issue Major League Baseball targeted this year when they eliminated the need for pitchers to actually throw the baseball during an intentional walk).

Mets

I can’t help but think of the quote uttered by James Earl Jones in the movie Field of Dreams, as the character Terence Mann, whenever I want to describe what it is that makes me love baseball so much:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

When James Earl Jones talks about baseball, you listen.

Last year, I predicted my beloved New York Mets to win the World Series. Unfortunately, injuries derailed their season and they fell short, despite their best effort.

This year, they have nearly their full complement of young pitchers ready to go, and things look much more promising.

And even if things didn’t look bright, I’d pick them to win the World Series anyway. I will do it every year until they do. Hopefully, one year I will be right.

Baseball starts on Sunday. For many, Sunday is already a day of worship and reflection. For sports fans, it takes on extra meaning.

In other semi-sports related news, the North Carolina Legislature voted to repeal the controversial House Bill 2 today, also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” which required men and women to use public bathrooms that align with their gender at birth. Human rights advocates (and any one with any human decency) considered it egregiously discriminatory towards transgenders, which number more than 37,000 in North Carolina.

Tar Heels

The bill basically cost Republican Governor Pat McCrory his job, and cost the state from hosting the 2016-2017 NBA All-Star game, several NCAA March Madness games, and many other high-profile events.

The newly passed bill is not a straight-forward repeal, however, and as a compromise to right-wing hawks in the Legislature, it maintains a stipulation from the original bill that places a moratorium on local nondiscrimination ordinances through 2020, and thus leaves the regulation of bathrooms to state lawmakers.

LGBT activists say it still does not provide the protection needed to safeguard an already vulnerable population of people.

They’re probably right, but with Republican and Democrat ideologies being as divergent as they’ve ever been in the modern political era, sometimes a compromise is a victory. Even if it’s just in the short term.

The timing of the repeal is even more significant given that the North Carolina Tar Heels are one of four teams left in the NCAA Tournament, where they will face the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. The other game is between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks.

They promise to be some pretty damn good games, and as an added bonus, if South Carolina beats North Carolina in the finals, I win $650.

Go Cocks!

…I stand by it.

Attention: I am initiating the Bloxit process

At approximately 8:37 p.m. on Tuesday, the Weinblog™ held its long-promised referendum to decide if we wanted to remain a member of the United Union of Bloggers.

Over the years, the Internet has grown increasingly volatile. The rise of social media has only highlighted that trend.

A major consequence of the Internet’s expansion is the deterioration of the English language: when experiencing a certain emotion, people invent acrostic behavioral terminologies, like FML or YOLO, because they’re too lazy to express how they truly feel.

Last year, fake news became an Internet epidemic.

And recently, the Republican-controlled Congress repealed Internet privacy protections preventing Internet service providers from sharing your data without permission.

It has gone far enough.

So, finally, on Tuesday, March 28, we held our long-awaited referendum to vote if we should leave the United Union of Bloggers – UUB for short – which I officially anointed as Bloxit.

The electorate comprised two people: myself, who voted with a resounding ‘yes,’ and my cat Marbles, who stared at me, licked his paw, and then rushed to a nearby window to stare at what I presume was a bird. I took those actions as a declaration of assent.

And with that, I initiated the process. I stood on my front lawn wearing a bandanna, while somehow equipped with a walking stick akin to the one carried by Gandalf in Lord of the rings, and yelled, ‘BLOXIT!” And then I went inside and ate a cheese sandwich.

OK, so this was a dramatic representation of what it would be like if individual websites were able to declare their own sovereignty from the Internet, not unlike the current trend of European countries deciding whether they wish to remain as a member state of the European Union.

Brexit

As we all remember, the United Kingdom voted last summer to leave the E.U., and this week, nine months after 51% of voters chose to support ‘Brexit,’ Prime Minister Theresa May has formally initiated the exiting process.

In the meantime, many other European countries have flirted with the idea of holding their own referendums, and Scotland is deliberating whether to even stay in the United Kingdom.

Theresa May accomplished the start of the Brexit process by triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, also known as the Lisbon Treaty, meaning Britain must officially be out by April 2019. Think of it as your parents telling you that if you don’t get a job within two years, you’re kicked out of the house, whether you like it or not.

May sent a letter shortly before 12:30 p.m. local time to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, signaling the initiation of Article 50. And if you think the instructions provide an extremely complex and detailed protocol for an unprecedented departure from a continental geopolitical and economic union, you’d be wrong – it’s five steps. Monopoly comes with more instructions.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, there’s no such thing as Bloxit. I made it up. And if it did exist, my departure from the also-made-up UUB would be far less consequential than the UK’s forthcoming departure from the E.U.

But hey, it’s fun to joke about things that could cause real-life economic turmoil as well as deep uncertainty in the futures of young British people for decades to come.

Cheerio!

Listening to music the way it was meant to: 33 RPM at a time

If I like a particular artist or band, then I make every effort to see them live.

It’s not only a great way to show your support for their work, but I’ve long contended that being in a live musical setting — where you can let yourself go with a few drinks while singing and swaying along to some of your favorite tunes – surrounded by fans who share your enjoyment for that particular artist is a soul-cleansing experience.

I always leave a concert feeling better than when I arrived.

Just think about when a song you like comes on the radio while you’re driving, and how happy it makes you. Now imagine that happening at a live show, with the band directly in front of you performing it. It’s awesome. And to share that experience with thousands of other fans makes it that much more special.

When I first became musically conscious around 7 years old, the dominant listening format was compact discs. I still remember the first three CDs I ever bought: Weird Al Yankovic’s “Bad Hair Day,” Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” and Third Eye Blind’s eponymous debut album, all released between 1995 and 1997.

By the time I entered high school, CDs were starting to phase out, and MP3s were becoming more and more accessible. I built up my MP3 collection, priding myself in downloading by the album, and not the single. By the time I graduated college, my iTunes library surpassed 10,000 songs.

Now, downloading is no longer necessary – programs like Spotify and Apple Music offer the entire musical universe at your fingertips. The idea of “owning” your own music no longer exists. It’s all streaming.

And while it’s much more convenient, it still felt unsatisfactory to me.

Vinyl.jpg

There’s something purposeful about picking and choosing what artist and what album you want to listen to, and manually taking the time to add it to your musical library. In a way, it helps you compartmentalize what artists you prioritize over others. But with streaming, that’s gone. The Beatles are as accessible as Selena Gomez and it takes no extra effort to listen to one over the other.

So recently, I decided to take things into my own hands and reclaim that feeling of control and ownership: I started a vinyl collection.

Until now, I usually go out of my way to defend myself from being called a hipster. But once you start a record collection, there’s no escaping it anymore.

To date, I have 11 record, comprising a nice mix of new music and classic rock. And while I’ve quickly learned is that vinyls are not cheap, it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I now get to be one of those guys that seeks out indie record shops, and stumbles in on a Sunday afternoon sorting through their shelves looking for hidden gems.

I proudly showcase my records. I pick my next purchase very carefully, deciding which artists are worthy of being in my possession, and in what chronological order.

(Hipster, remember?)

Lastly, and this is something that only fellow record collectors can attest to, there is something indescribably soothing about removing a record from its case, carefully placing it on the turntable, lifting the pin, and watching that record spin as sweet, sweet music echoes through the room.

The last step is to figure out if One Direction released their albums on vinyl.

Did I just say that out loud?

 

The Weinblog™ record collection:

Ryan Adams – Prisoner (2017)
Eagles – Hotel California (1976)
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007)
The National – High Violet (2010)
The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt (2010)
White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)
Chuck Berry compilation album
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Night Moves (1976)
Bruce Springsteen – The River (1980)
Foo Fighters – In Your Honor (2005)

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.