January 1, 2018
Looking Back at 2017
2017 was a very strange, interesting and amazing year.
So much happened this year, it’s hard to even sum it all up. I feel like I have been kind of shell-shock from the strain of the changing times.
I’m now a news/twitter junkie. There is so much happening in the world, and it’s become so easy to stay connected to it all. It can feel overwhelming, as if it’s constantly spinning faster and faster.
From the beginning of the #resistance movement to the #MeToo movement and every #movement in-between, this certainly is an interesting time to be alive. It was such an unusual year. 2017 was literally a year where when the government actually handed over credible evidence of UFOs to respectable news outlets it was not enough to get more than a “meh” from society. It was that kind of a crazy year. But despite the struggles (and regressions) we have faced, I’m feeling more optimistic about our future. People are more engaged now, and I believe that will lead to progressive change, even as we stumble along the way.
On a personal note, my oldest niece got married and I performed the officiation of the ceremony. She requested that I do this, and it was truly the honor of my life to have that job. That was certainly the highlight of my year by a long shot. It was also a little stressful (to put it mildly) getting ready for it, having never done anything like that before, and with everything going on at work, and on top of that trying to get ready for a vacation with my parents to see national parks immediately following the wedding. The location of the wedding was gorgeous, along the shores of the Colorado River just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. It somehow thankfully and possibly miraculously all turned out pretty great. It went off without a hitch, and if there were hitches they seemed to be meant to be. It was a lovely event, and I think transformative for many of our family members gathered. Sheesh, I guess I can add wedding officiant to my list of professions :)
I’ve written a little about the national parks trip here. This trip was my first time to really experience the American West. After experiencing it, I am in love. Our country is blessed with majestic natural wonders, and every citizen should get a chance to experience them. The National Parks are special indeed. There is a feeling when you are there that is difficult to put into words, its a kind of reverence that fills your heart, maybe similar to the way a religious person would feel upon visiting a holy land for the first time that they had heard about often. I noticed that each place we visited had it’s own unique charms, unique smells, unique feeling. Bryce Canyon was my favorite of the parks. The pines that grow there have a unique rich smell. It was raining which didn’t bother me and gave me some privacy while I walked around the edge of the Bryce Amphitheater. Looking at the rocks I felt like I could see faces from the past. (Later I read that the inderiounous people of the area often saw the faces of their ancestors in those rocks). I tried to take photos of the faces, but all I ended up with were photos of splotches of rain on the rocks.
The total solar eclipse came through South Carolina and I was fortunate enough to have friends who convinced me to go with them to see it (in the “path of totality”, the only place where it’s meant to be seen). It truly was a life-changing spectacle. I’m so glad I saw it and grateful to my friends who planned the trip. When I try to describe how amazing it was just nothing I say does it any justice. Imagine being outside with a bright glowing sun overhead on a hot summer day, and then gradually it begins to get ever so dimmer, with stars beginning to shine, and street lights turning on. The animals know something is up. Then after a little while the light rapidly goes out, and in the sky where before it was filled with an intense fiery sun, it is now stark darkness with a brilliant glowing ring in a night sky. (That sounds cool, but believe me, you just can’t get how cool it really was). You can’t take a decent photo of it with your iPhone because Steve Jobs didn’t plan for this specific scenario. You go online and see some decent photos of the eclipse taking by decent photographers with decent camera lenses, but you think this just isn’t as cool as seeing it with your own eyes, in the same kind of way that a photo of the Grand Canyon doesn’t do it justice. It’s just not the same. If you didn’t see it, you have my sympathies. There will be another one in 2024.
Anyway, happy new year.
Labels: national parks
My Favorite Movies and TV of 2017 (and What I’m Looking Forward to in 2018)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The eighth episode in the Star Wars main cannon of films got mixed reviews with critics liking it more than fans, and fans being very split. Judging by reactions of fans on twitter, it was very passionate in either loving or hating the film. I would fall into the former group. It thought it was almost as good as The Force Awakens, and the story was more interesting overall. The aesthetics of The Force Awakens are what give it a slight edge in my opinion. Where TFA reintroduces us to Han and Leia, TLJ brings in Luke who is the main star of the movie. I feel certain that the director Rian Johnson must have been a huge fan as a kid. I can imagine him playing with a model of the Millennium Falcon containing all of his favorite characters escaping off into the galaxy from the imperial forces.
(As mentioned last year I also really enjoyed Rogue One, which is outside of the main cannon of films, but part of Disney’s expanded universe of Star Wars films. Rogue One surprised me because I found it to be better than most Star Wars films. It’s gritty, it’s dark and it takes you to places you’ve only heard about in the franchise.)
The Disaster Artist: James Franco and created a masterpiece in the telling of the creation of one of the worst movies ever filmed. Franco directs and stars in the film about The Room, a notorious indie film. Ironically The Disaster Artist gives
Logan: the last film to feature Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is also the very best film in the X-men series. It’s much darker, and more violent. Logan brings the director of the also excellent The Wolverine (the previous solo Wolverine film) back but this time with a license to make an R-rated film that reflects the true nature of the character. The story is one that is stripped down and raw, and much more emotional than anything else in the X-men franchise.
Get Out: Get Out is one of the most interesting horror films I’ve ever seen. Using horror as a story-telling mechanism, it examines modern race relations. It blends comedy with the horror that
Logan Lucky: imagine a country-version of Oceans Eleven — that would be Logan Lucky, which tells the hilarious story of two West Virginia brothers who make an attempt to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway with the help of some friends.
Alien: Covenant: After Prometheus came out there were still a lot of unanswered questions about the origins of the Zenomorphs from the Alien film series. Although a lot of folks didn’t particularly love Prometheus I really enjoyed the film.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: One of the movies I was most looking forward to was the follow up to Guardians of the Galaxy (one of my favorite sci-fi films ever). The sequel just was underwhelming. It felt like the producers were really trying to play it safe, which is exactly the opposite of what made the original so great. Still I’m excited that we’re moving closer to a merging of the Guardians with the Avengers next year with Infinity War.
Blade Runner 2049: From the director of last year’s amazing Arrival, comes the sequel to Blade Runner which has to be my favorite film of the year, and maybe the decade. I just loved it. It’s vibrant and beautiful, and contains a deeply moving story, much more so that even the original. (I blogged about it here.) It bombed in the box office but maybe that’s just an indicator that it’s a film that appeals to the more thoughtful in our society.
Stranger Things 2: the sequel season to Stranger Things (which was very intentionally created as a sequel to the first season) is pretty great if not quite as awesome as the original. Still very worth watching. I love it for the 80s nostalgia.
Mr Robot: I’ve only recently gotten into Mr Robot so I’m pretty behind. But I can say without question it’s one of the best shows on TV.
Comrade Detective: I’ve tried to tell everyone I know to watch Comrade Detective. Its one of the funniest hidden gems to emerge on Amazon. The concept is a cold ware era buddy cop show set in Romania. Filmed with Romanian actors in Bucharest, the show dubs the voices with fairly well known American actors.
Castlevania: Netflix released a short anime version of the classic video game Castelevania, which is brilliant. It focuses mostly on the story of Castevania 3 (my favorite game of the series) which was an original NES classic.
Glow: Glow tells the story of aspiring actresses in the mid-80s trying to make it in show business by performing in an all-women wrestling program. Its pretty hilarious, and just like Stranger Things, it brings you back to a version of the 80s.
The Good Place: one of the creators behind the American version of The Office and Parks and Rec came out with a new show about the afterlife. It is brilliant and has plenty of hilarious twists and turns that are bit unusual for broadcast comedies. It’s also a show that has fairly universal appeal.
What to look forward to in 2018
Here are some of the shows and movies coming out in 2018 that I am excited to see…
A Wrinkle In Time: one my all time favorite kids books is being turned into a film, with a pretty substantial budget and cast behind it. I read most of the books by L’Engle when I was young.
Ready Player One: a book that I immensely enjoyed recently is being turned into a movie, and by Spielberg. The story is a bit of Charley and the Chocolate Factory meets Mortal Kombat. I have some concerns because it really is the kind of story that is nearly impossible to bring to the big screen. Legally speaking there are so many intellectual properties in the story I just can see how it would be possible to license all of those properties. If too many of them are sacrificed the nostalgia factor is lost. It will be a tough one to pull off right, but since Spielberg is direction, it has a decent chance.
Altered Carbon: a friend at work recommend this book series to me and I’ve only just started. But I can say it’s one of the more interesting cyberpunk stories I’ve experienced. Netflix is turning it into a series and they have been on a roll. I feel pretty confident this will do well.
Westworld (season 2): Season 1 of Westwold was outstanding. There were so many intricate clues placed throughout the series. Who knows what will happen in season 2. I’m hoping they expand into other worlds suggested in the original film, and sequel Futureworld, which was somewhat hinted at in the season 1 finale.
Cloverfield 3: apparently there will be a third Cloverfield film. But there has been no viral marketing scheme thus far (which is my favorite part of the franchise).
The Predator: Shane Black who played a roll in the original Predator has written and is directing a fourth predator film (not including the Aliens vs Predator films) that is set to take place after Predator 2 in the series. Interestingly Jake Busey will have a roll that appears to be the son of the character his father played in the sequel. This movie has the chance of being pretty great. I really hope we get a Schwarzenegger and/or Glover cameo.
Infinity War: the big collision of all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films is set to occur in Infinity War. Here we will witness the Guardians interacting with the Avengers. Interestingly Disney has since acquired the rights to the Marvel characters that were owned by Fox which means at some point the X-Men could get interwoven into the MCU. As awesome as that would be, I am sad that Hugh Jackman has retired from his role as Wolverine.
Mission Impossible: 6: a sixth Mission Impossible is coming out. They are always pretty good.