Resolutions 2017 Check-In

Happy Independence Day, to those celebrating the Fourth of July! Please be sure to observe this holiday safely, as it is a very scary holiday for many of our loved ones, like vets and pets. 

As strange as it seems, we have officially passed the halfway mark of the year. I thought now would be a good time to check in on some of my resolutions, especially because I specifically wanted to check in and adjust some of the goals I set in January at this time.

Let’s start with the concrete resolutions:

I resolve to read at least 15 books in 2017, as I believe I can find the time to read more than one book per month given my success this past year.

According to Goodreads, I am on track to meet this goal, as I am currently working my way through my 12th book this year. I was actually a little bit concerned about reaching my reading goal because I spent so much of the first half of the year working laboriously through the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Each volume is so thick and took me so long to read that I was worried I’d fall behind and spend most of the year reading them. I forgot how voraciously I read when I’m really engrossed in a serial story like Martin’s!

I resolve to maintain this schedule. At the very least, I am trying to go one full calendar year on this schedule, so let’s hope I make it to February!

With the exception of my mental health hiatus, I haven’t done too badly with the schedule this year! And I did make it to February and the full calendar year of posting on schedule, so I’m really glad for that. I’m jumping back into the posting schedule right now and I hope I can stick with it.

I resolve to put my pride aside and seek help learning to lift, whether that means asking one of my friends/coworkers to teach me or investing in a personal trainer.
* Halfway through the year, I’d like to have a specific goal weight to be lifting.

Ah, the resolution that I knew would give me trouble. I haven’t quite gotten around to hiring a personal trainer yet, but I think it’s because I’ve been adjusting this goal mentally. I am much more interested in just… doing good form push-ups than lifting a barbell right now, so I’ve shifted my energy over to that as my goal. I am still strength-training, and that does involve weights, and I do often have people helping me check my form, but lifting as a primary strength-training activity is no longer my goal.

I resolve to run one mile, without stopping or walking.
* Halfway through the year, I’d like to have a specific time to be running.

I actually achieved this a few months ago! I don’t run very often, and given that I wanted to increase my stamina via cardio, I do need to run more. However, back in March, I managed to run an entire mile without stopping to walk, and that was a huge accomplishment for me, even though it took me almost a full 10 minutes (literally it took me 9:59?). Then, I did it again just a few days later, and I was faster then. It was one of the little ways I could feel myself getting into better shape. Unfortunately, I had a small hiccup in my fitness routine (wherein… I wasn’t doing much of it at all…), so I probably cannot currently run an entire mile without stopping. I’ll have to get back to it but I think I want to put a realistic goal of an 8-minute mile and a more ambitious goal of 7 minutes? (The 8-minute mile, while not particularly impressive, would be a big feat for me, so that’s what I’ll be aiming for!)

I resolve to be able to perform a full split.

OOPS I have definitely dropped the ball on this one. While I stretch when I work out and feel myself getting a little more flexible, I am not in splits territory at all yet, so I need to refocus on this goal so it doesn’t get left in the dust for another year.

I resolve to cosplay at a fan convention this year.

I DID THIS! My AwesomeCon recaps are coming right after this, so stay tuned for those, but I am so so so happy to have accomplished this. It was even better than I thought it would be.

I resolve to give a present a full-length talk to a large tech audience.

This is going to be really tricky. I still don’t know what subjects I am confident enough to talk about to a tech audience for an hour. It would be good for me to try to figure this out, as I really would like to start speaking at tech events more. However, this was a super ambitious goal so I’m not extremely confident I’ll achieve it by the end of this year.

I resolve to buy lunch no more than twice during the work week and dinner no more than three times a week – including weekends. I also resolve to have at least one or two evenings per workweek where I am home by 6PM.

Admittedly, this has not been going great. I can only chalk it up to poor planning, as far as the meals go, as well as just a bit of a lack of energy after a long work day and a hard workout. I’ve started getting myself back on track with this lately, so hopefully things will be better for the second half of the year! However, I am staying home more days this year, and I’m really relishing it. While I don’t come home at 6PM very often, as I try to put in a few extra hours when I am able so I can take other time off, it is still nice to come home from work, instead of stopping at another event first. The FOMO is slowly fading away.

I resolve to not let my piles live in my home for longer than one week at a time, even more preferably no more than four days.

Okay so… this has kind of been a failure, my piles have gotten a bit out of control. I plan to take advantage of the federal holiday today and sort them out, and I really hope I am able to follow through with that plan. I still have a pile (contained in a storage box) of my birthday party supplies that I really need to sort! And I don’t want to talk about my clothing pile, aka The Pile. Ahhhh I need to get that sorted out, it stresses me out.

… and that wraps up the concrete resolutions! You know, I’m doing better on these than I thought I would be, and I think that this post is just what I needed to kick my butt into gear to try to achieve the rest of them before the year is over.

Now, onto those wibbly-wobbly abstract resolutions:

I resolve to push myself to continue trying, even when I am not improving as quickly as I’d like, and to be more strategic so that I can improve faster.

Sigh… I don’t think I’ve really been pushing myself to do this, and it’s disappointing to acknowledge and admit that. I push myself with fitness now, but I don’t think that’s any excuse for me to not push myself in other areas of my life. It seems like it is, because I am tired afterward, but it’s not. I need to do better here.

I resolve to work to improve the quality of the art I put into the world as a service to myself and to others.

Unfortunately, I haven’t really felt like I’ve done this either? What are the arts I’m even putting out into the world? (I haven’t gone to karaoke at all in 2017?!) This is something I don’t know how I feel about, but it’s not a good feeling, so I will have to take some time to think about how I can turn this one around.

I resolve to make my health a priority by scheduling healthcare appointments with the necessary providers when needed and for checkups.

2017 is the first year I’ve been fully in charge of my own healthcare, having switched over to my employer insurance and getting off my family plan. But I have tried to take this in stride and this has meant a lot of doctor’s appointments. Luckily, nothing bad so far! A lot of follow-ups but that’s not bad either. I am just making sure I’m healthy from a lot of different perspectives. I do have some concerns and I’m not quite sure how I’ll feel if I get those checked and followed-up and there isn’t something diagnosable. It just means… I feel unwell and the doctor can’t tell me how to feel better? But there is nothing serious going on, it’s just small visits and a lot of little bills. I still procrastinate scheduling things (and sometimes paying the bills) for days or weeks but, in general, this has been a bigger priority for me.

I resolve to make myself heard when necessary and not to let potential discomfort and disagreement prevent me from having a voice.

This is so hard. I found myself facing how hard it is yesterday at work, because things were being said that I wasn’t comfortable with and I had to be really un-fun to address it. In the workplace is the hardest place to do this, and unfortunately it just seems to be getting harder. I’m also trying to do this in little ways like speaking up when I’m at a restaurant and the food is straight-up bad, or if someone shoves past me in a line. A lot of times when things like the latter happen, I am too shocked to say something fast enough, but I am working on voicing it. (So that lady who used two hands to push me aside on the escalator the other day? I have words for you!)

… the abstract goals are the hard ones. Because it’s hard to check them off a list on December 31, but it’s very easy to feel that you haven’t achieved them at all. Still, I make them every year because it’s important to keep in mind what kind of person I want to be and what kind of mindset and intentions will help me become that person.


It was a little harder than I thought to take a hard look at my progress with these resolutions, but it was good. I feel reinvigorated to achieve my goals and to become the person I want to be.

How are you doing on your goals and resolutions?
Do you have any tips for me on the ones that I’m slipping on?

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The New York Times: Footsteps

If you enjoy dreaming of visiting the places whose beauty and spirits inspire some of literature’s great authors, you may love The New York Times‘s “Footsteps” column. Their newest book is a collection of a few of these columns, if you want to keep a physical copy of these little bursts of literary travel to flip through. After all, it makes sense that someone who wants to see the physical spaces that inspired stories we have only lived in our imaginations might relish the physicality of flipping the pages of this book.

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I’ll admit that The New York Times: Footsteps was not the best book for me to read during my subway ride. Normally, I think anthologies of short stories are good for my commute, as I only get about 15 minutes each way (20-25 minutes if I decide to read while I walk!) and it can be very frustrating to have to break up my reading time if I’m reading a very addictive book. (You don’t want to put it down!)

Additionally, I found that this wasn’t as enjoyable for me to read because:

  1. I wasn’t familiar with all of the authors referenced throughout.
  2. I wasn’t familiar with all of the destinations referenced throughout.
  3. The differences in writing style sometimes felt a bit disjointed.

The columns I enjoyed most were, of course, about authors whose work I am familiar with and/or with travel destinations I am familiar with. Columns about a place I haven’t heard of that inspired a poem I’ve never read were difficult for me to feel any connection to. That being said, some of the columnists used their words to craft a beautiful image of a destination that drew me in, and/or they were able to describe a piece of literature in such a compelling way that I want to read an author for the first time.

I’d recommend having a look at the list of authors and destinations and seeing if any are of interest to you. I love the idea of retracing the footsteps that inspired a piece of literature or an entire body of work and looking at that destination through this lens.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Baby Driver (2017) + Edgar Wright Q&A

Thanks to Sony Screenings for allowing me to see Baby Driver before its release and to Edgar Wright for a great Q&A session afterwards!

Movie poster for Baby Driver starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza Gonzalez Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend a really special advanced screening for Edgar Wright‘s latest film, Baby Driver, made special because the director himself was available afterward to answer questions! I’ll go into more detail about the Q&A after I talk about the movie itself (spoiler alert: Jake Tapper moderated!) so let’s get right into it!

Honestly, the reason this movie was on my radar was because I follow Ansel Elgort on Instagram and he promoted the movie. When Ben and I first saw the trailer, I was like “???” and Ben was very interested until the title appeared on the screen, at which point he went, “Aw, what, the title is Baby Driver are you serious I wanted to watch this movie, too…”

Baby Driver is about a getaway driver named… Baby, and he’s played by Ansel Elgort, whose incredible charm I had somehow underestimated despite following him on social media. (The boy has a great smile.) He listens to music on a variety of iPods virtually constantly because the car accident that killed his parents also left him with debilitating tinnitus – the permanent ringing in the ears that, in some people, can drive folks mad. He helps Kevin Spacey‘s Doc drive in his various heists because he owes Doc money from stealing from him in the past. The other members of the heist crews always change, leading Baby to meet characters like Bats (Jamie Foxx), the batsh*t crazy one eager for a fight, Buddy (Jon Hamm), the cool and easy-going one who is in love with Darling (Eiza González), the beautiful and troublemaking member of the lovebird duo.

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I’ll just say outright that the story and its progression are just okay, but it is very easy to forgive because this movie is not a movie.
It is an incredibly fun, nearly 2-hour-long, beautifully-styled music video.

Baby getting ready to drive in Baby Driver

The movie does not exist without the soundtrack. We listen to whatever Baby is listening to and that frames our experience of the film, just as it frames Baby’s experience. There’s a great one-take long-shot of Baby walking down the street to get coffee while listening to music, but of course, and the sounds in the background begin to sync up with the instrumentals and beat of Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle”. During the Q&A, I actually learned that this scene is a bit of a lyric video, where the lyrics of the song playing can be seen in the background! I hadn’t noticed at all, but there is graffiti that shows the lyrics, and when Baby walks back over, the graffiti has already changed to reflect the new lyrics.

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That’s the way the entire movie feels. It is how the movie was written in fact: Edgar Wright listened to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” and imagined a car chase scene every time he listened to it, praying for years and years that it wouldn’t be used in a car chase scene by another director before he could use it as the soundtrack for the opening heist scene.

Awesome car chase scene

The moments of the movie hit the beats of the songs. High-action moments come with high-action beats, and slower, more intimate moments are accompanied by slower jams.

So don’t get caught up in the dialogue. Don’t get caught up in “why would they do that”? Don’t get caught up in the things that usually break a movie.

This isn’t just a movie. It’s a highly-stylized, super fun series of music videos that tell a large story. And it was so much fun. And it was so well-done.

Baby and Debora tapping their feet listening to a song
You’re free to attempt to not do this while watching, but it’s much more enjoyable if you let yourself have fun.

Baby Driver is in theaters June 28. I’ll talk about the great Q&A session with Edgar Wright and Jake Tapper after the trailer.

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Short Break

Hi all,

I’m going to be taking a short break in my posting schedule. I’ve been experiencing a pretty low mood for the past 3 weeks and I feel like it is reflected in the poor quality of my posts over here. Plus, I find myself really forcing myself to update twice a week, so to be fair to you and myself, I’m just going to take some time off and try to work on getting my spirits back up.

I do really hate to interrupt my schedule, because the schedule is sort of the only thing that really keeps me consistently posting, but I need to take some time to work on my mental health.

In the meantime, if you want to share anything that usually gets you back in a better mood, please do share! I’m partial to cute animal videos but am open to anything 😀

Thank you for your support and understanding,
Starr

Wonder Woman (2017) // review

[ NOTE: This review is in-progress but my wifi is spotty so I’m putting it up now for you to enjoy. Thank you for your patience and support! ]

Thank you to Hotchka DC for inviting me to view Wonder Woman early and to the Spy Museum for helping me win my 2nd-ever in-person raffle!

At. Long. Last. After actual decades of a Wonder Woman movie being discussed and passed from studio to studio, director to director, actress to actress, we finally have our first-ever live-action Wonder Woman feature film! Can you believe it’s taken so long? It has taken decades of pressure on studios to convince them that yes, a female standalone superhero movie is not even a gamble at the box office. People are interested in the character and her being a woman will not hurt your profit margin. In fact, women, who are also in possession of money to spend at the movie, are eager to buy tickets to see a movie starring a strong female superhero, THE strong female superhero.

TL;DR: Wonder Woman is a pretty standard Marvel movie with Zac Snyder’s visual signature and a female superhero.

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Quick confession: I have not been keeping up with the DC Extended Universe movies. I begrudgingly watched Man of Steel and found it as meh as friends’ reviews indicated, and I had almost no interest in watching Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. So, admittedly, my comments about the rest of the DCEU aren’t entirely fair, since I don’t have firsthand experience of seeing those films.

I say that Wonder Woman felt like a standard Marvel movie because it is very familiar, both with its positive and negative qualities. Even the structure and basic premise is quite familiar: Diana, aka Wonder Woman (although no one calls her that in the movie), is a bad-ass and optimistic character who does not understand the strangeness of our human ways and finds herself fighting in a world war with literal brute force. Many critics are saying that her origin story is like a mix of Thor + Captain America. (My faves! Chris Squared!)

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However, I think it has similar pitfalls to many superhero movies now. I’ve complained about it here before and I probably will never stop but I found the villain(s) to be poorly developed and lacking of compelling characterization and motivations. “Because he’s a bad guy” doesn’t cut it anymore as the answer to “Why is the bad guy doing the bad things?” We have several antagonists in this movie and I found myself not knowing very much about them at all. Just some menacing looks and vague ambitions of prolonging World War I in the face of an armistice and for what? Because! (I’ll discuss more of our villain characterization in the spoilers below the trailer.)

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One of my favorite, too-short, parts of this movie was the scenes on Themyscira, not least of all because they are uncharacteristically sunny for a DC movie! (Don’t worry, the rest of the film remains very blue-grey with spectacular flashes of yellow+orange for effect.) While the slow-motion that Zac Snyder often gets criticized for now gets tired, I liked watching the Amazons be bad-ass in slow-mo. Themyscira seemed very beautiful, if poorly protected from outsiders. (It’s an island in the middle of the ocean that is always a sunny paradise but around it is dark and cloudy and the seas are rough. Which means that, as per the trailer, a plane can just fly in. But also boats can basically just cruise on through. Whatever, it was refreshing to see a bright and sunny scene in this cinematic universe and all these amazing women doing awesome stunts. (Don’t fret, most of the movie is filmed in the dark or on suspiciously overcast days, as per the other DC films.)

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What’s not to love?????

Gal Gadot was a pretty good choice to play Diana, Princess of the Amazons. It goes without saying that she is incredibly beautiful. (My boyfriend and I became fans of hers when Fast Five came out.) She is also very bad-ass, as someone who trained in the Israeli military. While I did find myself wishing she was a little more expressive, she was very good at being naive and finding little pleasures in things like snow and babies. She also pulled off subtle comedic moments quite well. Her chemistry with Chris Pine, who always plays a charming guy with differing levels of douche-baggery (see: Star TrekInto the Woods), was great. I really have to commend Chris Pine on playing Steve Trevor as a charming hero who recognizes that Diana is amazing and does not go hypermasculine in response to that. (It is unfortunate that this very basic demonstration of decency is commendable, but it is.) I felt that almost every other actor was… underutilized.

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Robin Wright gets top billing as the greatest Amazonian warrior of all time, Antiope, but she is so stoic and doesn’t have much depth, as with most of the characters in this movie. She is a general, she fights, she trains. She trains Diana to become an Amazon warrior against her sister, Queen Hippolyta’s, wishes. Why does Hippolyta, played by Connie Nielsen, think that she can get away with just sheltering Diana away forever, anyway? It doesn’t look like Amazons age (and I mean, we know Diana doesn’t age at all between World War I and when she meets Bruce Wayne so I mean…) so trying to just wait it out seems foolish. That is never made very clear and, in the context of the events in the film and the very little circumstantial context we are given, it seems dangerously unreasonable.

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I must say that this movie is… not the kind of feminist movie I think I was expecting it to be. There’s a reversal of the male gaze trope where Diana walks in on Steve Trevor emerging from a bath. There really is no reason for him to be naked in this scene, or for him to be naked for as long as he is, but he is naked because nude Chris Pine serves as eye candy, both for the audience and for Diana, who has to ask if the first man she has ever laid eyes upon is “average for his sex”. Even with so many awesome Amazonian women, I feel like maybe there were scenes cut out of the film that would have fleshed some of them out more. For example, at one particularly emotional scene near the beginning of the movie, one of the Amazons runs forward in tears. I have no idea who she is or why she is moved more than the rest of the Amazons? She is visually differentiated from them when she runs forward but I don’t have a clue who she is, she doesn’t even look familiar to me, don’t even ask me to tell you her name. While looking for the movie poster for this post, I wondered if she is the mysterious 4th Amazon woman on some of the posters that feature the powerful women of Themyscira but, again, I just don’t know? And there is a severe dearth of women with depth throughout the movie, aside from Diana. Etta Candy, Steve’s secretary, is sassy and loyal. Doctor Isabel Maru, aka Doctor Poison, is……. uh… she likes poison gas? I don’t know?? It’s a similar problem that we encounter with the villains.

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Before I forget, I also was bothered that, while Wonder Woman and Sameer speak a few lines of a few different languages in one scene, the Germans are all speaking English. (Some with German accents…)  Steve Trevor does, however, put on a German accent when acting as a spy and talking to Germans. (???!) We know that we aren’t simply suspending disbelief because Steve Trevor remarks that Diana and the other Amazons speak very good English. Not perfect English, as everyone on Themyscira speak with a variation of Gal Gadot’s accent, but very good. I think if that line was left out of the movie, I wouldn’t be as bothered about the language thing but it is what it is.

(Also, I’m not sure I like Wonder Woman’s musical theme. It just doesn’t seem quite in character for her, and it plays several times throughout the movie and is featured prominently in the trailer. Not a fan of it, personally, for Wonder Woman.)

I liked this movie. It was a lot of fun and I think it will send the message that Hollywood can stop avoiding making films with female protagonists and should especially stop making excuses to not make female superhero movies. (How long have we been begging for a standalone Black Widow movie???) It isn’t a perfect movie and I don’t think it deserves all the hype it has been getting. Criticism that the fight scene at the end ruin the tone and pacing of the movie is valid, as is other criticism about what about Diana is actually valued by other characters. (Has she been reduced to a token female? Eye candy? The girl who men want to bang because she acts a bit outside of her gender role?)

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Still, this movie is important. It’s so important for young girls to see a character like Diana on the big screen because it’s astoundingly important to see yourself represented in the media. So to see Wonder Woman, a beautiful woman who does not compromise on who she is or the things that make her a woman, a person who does not fully understand why wars happen and the complicated nature of mankind, is extremely powerful. And it will be similarly powerful for movie audiences to use their ticket purchases to show Hollywood that this movie is overdue and that we want more like it.

Wonder Woman is in theaters everywhere today. Discussion of some spoilers after the trailer.

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