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Not a Newsletter 004: Empathy and rigorous preparation

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Happy Thanksgiving (weekend)! Maybe this wasn’t the case for everyone, but the holiday seemed to arrive sooner than expected this year. Is it because we’re so rarely in a holiday state of mind these days, even when we probably need a break and diversion more than ever?

To stop and consider what we’re thankful for right now feels like kind of a trite exercise when nearly every day seems to be a fight with something. But maybe it’s more important than ever to think about such things.

For most of this year, I’ve been trying to prioritize what I truly feel is important and accept that I let some things in my life become more oppressive than I should have. I am most certainly thankful for the opportunity to take time to look inward and outward, and try to become a better person for it.

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Yet the impulse to jump back into bad habits — taking a job that would’ve been bad for me, not showing enough empathy and patience, expecting too much from others, not accepting what I can’t control, to name a few — and forget what I’ve tried to accomplish over the past five months is a recurring struggle.

I hope I don’t write so much about trying to find a balance that it comes off as whining,  me being some kind of headcase, or any sort of self-help speak. I might not be writing as much professionally as I’d like, but I do feel like I’m in a better place — both for myself and the people around me. And I have to believe that I’ll yield some benefit from that eventually.

In the meantime, you stopping by to read this helps tremendously. And I am definitely thankful for that.

Reading to Go With Your Pie

** How many people had salad on their Thanksgiving tables? According to this diagram, virtually the entire Western part of the United States goes that way. (Although I wonder if “salad” means greens, etc., rather than some gross Jello-based “salad.”) We did not have mac and cheese, despite living in the South. [FiveThirtyEight]

** Why wombats have cube-shaped poop probably wouldn’t have been appropriate Thanksgiving dinner conversation. (But if anyone tried, please let us know!) I enjoy imagining the engineer studying this having to explain what she does to family and friends while making small talk. [Popular Science]

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Not a Newsletter 001: Don’t become some background noise

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Here we go again with a “I haven’t written anything for a while” post. But with the calendar turning to November, it seems like a good time to turn up the output here and provide some proof of (writing) life.

(I said the same thing to myself going into October, of course. Probably at the beginning of September too.)

I don’t get to write as much as I used to (though I almost took care of that with a job I was offered — but had to turn down — this past week), so I’d really like to take care of that with the blog and website that I put the effort in to set up. That includes the Amusement Park Podcast, where I intend to put most stuff on genre and geek subjects. I feel like writing holds me accountable somehow.

(Recently, I’ve written movie reviews for A Star is Born, Halloween and The Old Man and the Gun. Bohemian Rhapsody is soon to follow. I want to do a lot more of them now that we’re in movie awards season.)

And I want to do these Not a Newsletter posts regularly. Newsletters are kind of the new blogs these days (actually, podcasts probably are) and if I thought I could assemble a decent subscriber base, I might do one. (Did I sound really old right there?)

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Not a Newsletter: Workin’ hard to get my fill

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Hello from the end of the 4th of July holiday weekend! Did a Wednesday July 4 help create a five-day weekend?

The calendar turning to July reminded me that I haven’t accomplished nearly the amount of reading I’ve intended to this summer (yet I still keep buying books; it’s a problem). It doesn’t help when getting sidetracked by a book I didn’t expect to read, like Don’t Stop Believin’, a memoir by Jonathan Cain, the keyboardist for Journey.

Journey was my favorite band as a kid, something I remember taking a lot of shit for, but is apparently cool in a nostalgic way now. (As with comic books, it took 30 years for culture to be accommodating.) So reading Cain’s accounts of how songs like “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Open Arms” were written was really fun, providing a dose of nostalgia right in the vein.

Particularly amusing was the revelation that “Don’t Stop Believin'” refers to “South Detroit” (something that plenty of Detroiters will tell you doesn’t exist) because Cain thought that line needed an extra syllable.

Songwriting has always fascinated me. Composing melodies and writing lyrics to fit in (or vice versa) just seems ethereal. Even bad songs are the result of that. Getting a glimpse into that process — why isn’t the chorus of “Don’t Stop Believin'” until the end? — just pulled me right in. It was the pleasant surprise of my week.

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Not a Newsletter: 03/10/18

ronan_reading

Rather than gripe about the things that got on my nerves and made me angry this week, which has become the favorite intro during the short life of Not a Newsletter, I thought I’d try to tell a story instead.

Timehop is one of my favorite apps, providing a daily social media nostalgia trip. I often enjoy seeing photos I took on that day, links to tweets, or even links to articles I wrote years ago that sometimes seem as if they were written by someone else who was more talented.

But this photo from five years ago popped up this week:

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Of all the junk currently cluttering my desk to plant my geek flag and reconnect with my inner child, my Ron Swanson bobblehead is probably my favorite. My niece, then two years old, often enjoyed looking at it (surely entranced by the mustache) and making that head bobble.

But five years ago, she accidentally knocked Ron off my desk, causing his head to snap off. I wasn’t mad. It was an accident caused by a two-year-old. It was just a goofy keepsake. I knew some Gorilla Glue would fix it.

Little did I know that my niece was upset. She didn’t show it by crying or anything like that, though she was surprised when the doll broke. Maybe she expected me to yell at her. But later in the day, she was laying on the floor watching TV and holding Ron’s headless body. Ron’s head was right next to her.

I had to chuckle, but it kind of broke my heart too. I had no idea she was so attached (unlike Ron’s head). Or maybe she just felt bad. Two days later, Ron was restored and she was happy (maybe relieved). Everyone’s been OK ever since.

It showed me how much of a soul this kid has. Five years later, that’s still absolutely true.

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Not a Newsletter: 03/04/18

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Hello from the mountains of North Carolina! Last week’s Not a Newsletter was a bit whiny, as I was hit with a surprise cold that had me feeling lousy and thinking burnout. I’m not sure that was totally accurate, but it’s on my mind and I put it out there. But plenty of us are working a lot and slogging through.

As I finish this up, the Oscars are hours away. It’s one of my favorite events of the year, though I don’t think that interest is shared among many friends, except for a close few. Yeah, the Oscars are self-important and probably silly. But for those of us who love movies, it’s the culmination of the past year. And maybe some of us like knowing we have good taste; our favorites were named “The Best”!

Due to feeling sick for a few days, it wasn’t the most productive writing week here at Casselbloggy HQ. That probably meant more reading. But I did manage to pound a few articles out, including a ranking of the 2018 Best Picture nominees.

Here’s what we have to show from the past seven days. Be excellent to each other.

Read This

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** So Trump was having a bad day and because he was in a pissy mood, he decided to put tariffs on steel and aluminum. Yeah, that seems rational. [NBC News]

** Jordan Peele is only the fourth African American to be nominated for Best Director. Could he be the first to win that Oscar? The Hollywood Reporter gathered those four filmmakers for a roundtable discussion. [THR]

** I’ve been a Detroit Tigers fan all of my life (or since my adolescence when I first took an interest in sports). It’s astounding to me that I didn’t know who the public address announcer at Comerica Park is. His name is Bobb Vergiels, and he drives from Central Florida to Detroit 12 times a year for that job. [Detroit News, hat tip Mike McClary]

** My pooping habits are quite normal, thank you very much. [Men’s Health]

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Not a Newsletter: 02/25/18

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Hey, we’re back! I really need to get my weekends under control. Working too much (and the results don’t necessarily show below, which is its own frustration), and I’m on my way to reaching out and touching burnout again. And I’d been doing pretty well with setting boundaries and taking better care with my personal life.

All right, that’s starting to sound a little whiny. February felt much more like 2017 than young 2018. But I’ll get it back. Strength. Power. Chill.

I apologize in advance if that Adam Rippon GIF is driving you crazy. But I wanted to put a GIF in this post, man. And I thought the thing I wrote about Rippon this week would draw more interest, but I don’t think the audience for that post gives a shit about figure skating.

Lesson learned. Onward. Here’s how the past week went at Casselbloggy HQ.

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Not a Newsletter: 02/18/18

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Once again, posting Not a Newsletter later (much later) than I wanted to. But it’s done, so I’m counting it as one of this week’s small victories during a week that felt like it didn’t have many. Yet I do have to consider myself fortunate for much of the stuff that’s linked below.

Hey, how was your week? You good?

Here’s what we have to show for the past week at Casselbloggy HQ:

Viewing

Once in a while, I’d like to include a video I enjoyed here. Not like a meme or something that’s gone viral. You’ll probably already have seen those.

With Black Panther coming out and director Ryan Coogler doing press, this was an intriguing moment from an interview with Yahoo! Movies in which Sam Ashurst passed along admiration from Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino.

Coogler seemed genuinely flattered and then praised a contemporary’s work and showed what a fan of filmmaking he really is. With the success of Black Panther (my review is below), he should be able to make any kind of film he wants (maybe he was already there after Creed), which is really exciting to see with a great filmmaker.

Is it worth listing what I watched in a given week here? Probably not. A lot of stuff I watch is for work or something I want to write about, so that’ll be listed here anyway. My TV viewing has really hit a (self-imposed) wall in recent months, much to my frustration.

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