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If you find yourself wanting to head to the movies to have a great time, go see Kingsman: The Secret Service. I’m hard pressed to think of a better time I’ve had at the cinema in quite a while.

The trailer, back when it was released, was enough to intrigue me, but it also left me worrying this would be another hastily rendered spy movie that was at best mildly entertaining. The way the trailer was edited made me wonder if the main character would be hard to like, and if Samuel L. Jackson’s super-villain would be more irritating than not. As it would turn out, it was just an instance of misleading trailer editing, an all too common problem. Taron Egerton’s turn as our protagonist ‘Eggsy’ was wildly likable, and Samuel L. Jackson’s lines were actually perfect when allowed the proper pacing for humor or tension, or both in most cases.

Taron Egerton truly was great. His performance had the perfect mixture of cockiness and vulnerability that is so coveted in roles like this, but can be really hard to get right. He made it look effortless. He has all the makings of a star, and the higher than expected opening weekend for Kingsman is going to speed his ascension.

Anyone who has read this blog at all knows that a contemporary take on a genre that is at once a sendup and a celebration is a quick way to my heart when done well. Kingsman is so very much that. It’s hilarious, dark, and violent, not to mention risky with it’s solid R rating for a movie that would often have been watered down to increase the box office with a PG-13 sticker. Instead, it pulls no punches (and throws in some dirty extra jabs), and does to the gentleman spy sub-genre what Kick-Ass did to capes and tights. Unsurprising, since both films are adaptations of Mark Millar comics.

Best of all, this is just the world-building and table setting for a franchise that could bring joy to audiences for some time. Especially because it leaves more possibilities for future installments than Kick-Ass did, which is a part of what led to that horrible sequel.

© 2014 Twentieth Century Fox


ode to regulars.

Here I am getting in another post well after midnight following a bartending shift. My bar is not what you would call a Valentine’s Day destination, so after making the hell out of some pan-seared steak and a butternut & shrimp risotto for dinner (if I do say so myself), I proceeded to go in and work behind one of the only bars in Seattle that wasn’t slammed tonight.

The primary takeaway after a slow night like this one: regulars are what make my job great.

I love most parts of my job. I love making cocktails, learning more and more about spirits and drinks, and being a part of a tribe that I’ve usually experienced as generous and accommodating. Yet, it’s still my regulars that I would take with me if I could only pick one of the aspects of my job. They make my shifts worth working, especially on a slow night.

Sure, there are a small handful of folks that I wish would lose our address and never come in again, but the vast majority of the folks who visit me on a regular basis are people I plan to be friends with long after I leave my current employer, or bartending altogether. The laughs and good chats I have with these folks makes me feel damn lucky that I get paid to hang out behind a bar and make conversation.

I hope that, at whatever job you do, you have the equivalent of my regulars. At the end of the day, it’s about the people around us. A great job can get awful fast when the people around you are terrible. Likewise, an otherwise shitty job can be redeemed pretty significantly if the people we get to interact with make it so. I hope that you have people like the latter as part of your job, be they customers or coworkers or whatever.

Here’s to my regulars, who so often turn a bad night into a good one.



five things, valentine’s edition.

When I’m in the middle of a writing challenge with a friend in which I need to come up with something else to write about every day for four weeks, it probably isn’t a great idea to do a post where I fire off five topics at the same time. Good thing ‘itprobablyisntagreatidea’ is my middle name.

It’s Valentine’s weekend, so here are movies you could watch to make the best of a generally stupid holiday.


1. What If

This is the straight-up traditional V-Day movie recommendation. Romantic comedies live and die with chemistry. If you like the main what-if-daniel-radcliffe-zoe-kazan-01-636-380characters, and genuinely enjoy watching them interact, many other sins can be overlooked. That’s the beating heart that makes What If a winner. It’s easy to want to watch these characters interact, in particular the repartee is winning and natural.

If you want to watch a traditional Valentine’s Day movie that doesn’t suck (and is actually pretty great), you could do a lot worse than this one.



2. Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight


Maybe what you need for your Valentine’s Saturday this year is a movie marathon. And what better marathon could there be than the smartest, most satisfying relationship in the history of cinema told over the course of three films?

Even if you’ve seen these before, you can never watch them too many times. Fantastic filmmaking that is fresh, intelligent, experimental, and honestly engages all the complexities of relationships and identity.



3. The Lunchbox

I’ve already written about this lovely epistolary film. You should watch it some time, and Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to make this weekend that time.


4. They Came Together

they-came-together-paul-rudd-amy-poehler1Like Wet Hot American Summer and The Baxter before it, They Came Together is a few folks from The State throwing ridiculous movie clichés into one over the top sendup, and bringing some of the funniest people around along for the ride.

If you’re more in the mood this V-Day to watch a skewering of all the dumb shit mainstream rom-coms try for force down our throat every year, and laugh your ass off, this is the choice for you.



5. The Secret in Their Eyes

Another film I’ve already written about, The Secret in Their Eyes is a great option if you want to go in a different direction altogether, but keep romance in the mix. An Argentine thriller about a retired detective looking back on his life, haunted by a murder case he could never solve, largely because of the political upheaval and corruption in Argentina in the 1970’s. Moving between past and present, the film masterfully unfolds both the story of the case, and the story of the man’s unconsummated love for the judge he worked on the case with for decades.




the running man.

I didn’t expect it a few years ago when I started, but running has become a centralizing metaphor for my entire life. At this point I only run three times a week, and I have had huge spans since I started where I stopped running altogether. Still, when I am getting runs in I have a mental language to help me organize and motivate in all the other areas of my life.

I started running because I was getting really fat and unhealthy. I don’t want to die in my 50’s of a heart attack like my grandfather did, but I knew the chances that I was going to permanently curtail myself from eating the foods I love were hovering right around zero. Running seemed like a way I could only moderately change my diet and yet still get healthier, lose weight, and feel better.

What happened was that I found much more than just weight loss and more energy.

Running taught me that the only bad run is the one I don’t do. I can go out a few times in a row and have the shittiest runs ever, runs that feel terrible, that are slow and discouraging, and then I go out there again and have my best run ever. Those terrible runs were working toward the great one. The only thing that is genuinely bad for me is when I make excuses and skip my runs altogether. Doing the work: the dull, grinding work of shitty runs, is what gets results that make me feel proud of my effort and then spurs me on to keep going.

As someone who struggles with cripplingly severe insomnia and pretty serious depression and anxiety issues, everything can feel difficult sometimes. Leaving the house, cleaning, taking the garbage out: the smallest things can feel overwhelming. I often have a useless form of perfectionism coupled with pride, which instead of inspiring me to work harder and strive to do better, just keeps me from doing work until I know all variables are stacked in my favor… so almost never. The mentality in running, where I just do the runs no matter what and take pride in getting my ass out when I’d rather put it off a day, bleeds over into those difficult places. Force myself to do the stuff that feels overwhelming, and sometimes it gets a little easier. Force myself to write every day no matter what, and know that the lousy times where my writing is awful and I can’t get anything worthwhile down is part of the muscle and stamina building that makes the good writing possible.

Running is what reminds that I just need to put one foot in front of the other, one run at a time, and progress and growth takes care of itself.




let’s leave today.

Em and I decided to watch The Trip to Italy tonight, and now I want to travel even more than I normally do. Watching two men drive through the Italian countryside, eating their way from location to location, drinking wine while staring at beautiful scenery and watching beautiful women. It makes me want to rob a bank so Emily and I can take off with no return date. Well, I guess not rob a bank, but whatever the 2015 equivalent of robbing a bank is, since actual bank robbery seems like a high risk, low reward sort of venture these days.

It would be so wonderful to have that sort of adventure. Emily and I did a seven week road trip when we moved to Seattle, and there is something special that happens when a trip goes on for that long, when your brain flips into nomad mode and you’re more ready than normal to take in the remarkable variety that life and culture has to offer. It was even more exaggerated for us, since we were leaving behind the state of our births for something mostly unknown, in a more permanent sense. I think that trip still has echoes in how we live now, how we approach our city and our world, how we thirst for new experiences.

Traveling for extended bouts to do nothing but write would certainly be a pretty great life. The dream, to imagine myself as an expat writer wandering Europe like I was one of the many real life characters from A Moveable Feast. If only. Instead, I’ll just have to recreate it at home as best I can, without the exotic locales, the insane friends (can’t say I’m disappointed about that one), or the talent. Wah-wah.

I suppose all I can do is work to make those travel dreams come true, one shiny nickel at a time.





a good day, and a brief thought about kanye.

For this 28 day writing challenge with Wes, as always, I post during my days instead of calendar days. My days operate at very different hours than calendar days. Last time I posted this late in my day, it was because I’d spent the whole night working. Tonight it was for the opposite reason. I’ve spent my day picking out the first pair of glasses I will ever wear, getting a haircut, running 8k, cooking dinner, drinking good rum, taking Wes’s advice to watch John Wick, eating too many chocolate chip cookies, and hoping that with Marvel in charge they get it right this time and cast Donald Glover as Spider-Man (can you imagine?!?). All in all, that’s a hell of a good day. I try never to let the good days pass without being grateful for them. To quote Kenneth Parcell, “We’ve eaten our share of rock soup and squirrel tail, but we’ve also known lean times.”

You have to enjoy the good days because there’s no guarantee you’ll ever have another.

Kanye note: I don’t closely read people’s opinions about Kanye West, aside from scrolling past them when they pop up on my Facebook feed. Mostly because I’m a supporter and no one is ever saying anything new about him, yet still they act like they are handing out gold nuggets of wisdom by pointing out his readily observable flaws. He is clearly an insecure, self-conscious man who has a pretty huge immature streak and some impulse control issues. The fact that people still write entire stories about him being nuts seems like digging up the dead horse you’ve already beaten, blending it into a smoothie, and force feeding it to your loved ones. We get it, he’s crazy and unpredictable, call me when he actually harms someone or does any real damage of any kind.

But what confuses me most is that no one ever seems to point out that his insane rants, his stage storming, his bizarre interjections on VH1 telethons are almost always on behalf of someone else. Now, for transparency’s sake, I still wouldn’t give a shit and would still think he was a brilliant force in music if he was just jumping up and down on stage because he lost an award, but he wasn’t. He was angry at what he perceived as unfairness toward others. In his mind, he was standing up for people he cared about. He wasn’t doing it well, or in a way that was helpful in those situations, but his most talked about insane moments were on behalf of Beyonce (twice), Pusha-T, and more importantly, the predominantly black city of American citizens who were without housing, food, or clean water after Katrina. I’m certainly not saying he’s entirely sane, but if I ever lose the rest of my mind, I sure hope that’s the kind of crazy I become.




john oliver returns tonight!

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver makes its triumphant return to HBO tonight.

As I write this, I still haven’t watched tonight’s premier, but I can’t wait to watch it later as a reward for an evening of getting shit done. There’s something beautiful about an intelligent, funny, well-articulated rant against unfairness, injustice, inaccuracy, and all their ilk. John Oliver and his writing staff do it as well as anyone I’ve seen, and he is a necessary balm on the irritating rash of nonsense that is constantly clogging the airwaves, campaign trails, corporate offices, advertising, and general conversations (I can vouch for the conversation part based on the inane things people say on the other side of my bar). Someone needs to call bullshit what it is, and comedians like Stewart, (formerly) Colbert, and Oliver seem to be the only ones willing to take the job most of the time, or at least they are the only ones any of us seem to listen to when they do. It makes what they do a pretty important job.


Too often we seem to forget that things don’t become true just because we wish they were, and conversely don’t cease to be true because we wish they weren’t. Convenience isn’t a precondition for facts. Thus, a man waving his arms and yelling is exactly what you need when what he is communicating to you is that your house is, in fact, on fire. If he can be funny while he does it, all the better.

One of the things I love most about Last Week Tonight is that I genuinely learn something most episodes, things I probably never would have learned anywhere else. They do a brilliant job of breaking down situations and educating viewers about insane things happening under our noses, while still remaining entertaining.

Here’s to hoping this season is the second of many to come, and that the quality and fearlessness continue!


the boy who watched the water.

Wes recently wrote about this daily writing challenge, and his desire to write ahead a bit to get some wiggle room. That would be pretty great right now, because after a long night tending bar I don’t really want to sit down and churn out 300 words. Yet, that is exactly why we are doing this challenge, to get some momentum, and to remind ourselves that even when we don’t feel like it we can still get the work done.

So here I am getting the work done, as my brain continues to shut itself down in increments.

I had an idea for a story the other day, about a little boy who always has to go out with his family on their boat most days during the summer. He hates it, being trapped on a boat all day with a family he doesn’t feel he belongs to. He can’t read on the boat, it makes him seasick, and he wishes he was inside somewhere with a book. He doesn’t swim or play in the water, he doesn’t fish like his older siblings. He sits at the stern, staring into the reflection of the sky in the water. He imagines that what we all think is just a reflection is actually a window into another world, that he isn’t seeing the sky mirrored back, but is seeing another world’s sky under the water. He watches for things moving in the reflection, and then quickly turns and looks back to see if the object is moving on his side as well. He knows that if he catches a moment where the two pictures don’t match, it would be the perfect moment. Finally, he catches that instant, a bird reflected in the water isn’t actually in the sky of his world. He smiles a sad smile, knowing he will miss his family even though they don’t understand each other, and he dives beneath the surface, never to return.

There it is, some writing. Take it or leave it.




everyone is doing quotes wrong.

Hey everybody, can we all stop attributing quotes from characters in books to the author who wrote that dialogue? It’s just nonsensical! I don’t care what the rules are for different forms of citation, we need to change them so that they aren’t completely asinine.

There seems to be a concerted disregard for quote accuracy. For example, every time someone wants to add gravitas to a quote, they throw Hemingway or Lincoln or a Roosevelt at the end of it, regardless of whether or not it had anything to do with that person. I’ll see signs and things with a quote on it attributed to Lincoln and think, “That doesn’t seem right at all.” Then, with a shallow internet search I am able to discover that the quote is in no way connected to Lincoln. That bugs me.

Yet, what bugs me so very much more is that people will take a character’s line from a book that they like, put it in quotes, and then attribute it to the author. That’s erroneous. I may not always be against citation rules, but I can confidently say it’s stupid and people should stop doing it. Putting someone’s name at the end of a quote means that you are attributing the sentiments therein to that person. So, if I were to say “I wish people would stop being idiots.” You could very accurately put Scott Small underneath it when you throw that shit on an inspirational pillow or whatnot. However, if I were to write something on trigger fiction where a character says, “I don’t know how I’d get through the day without crystal meth,” you could not reasonably think it’s ok to attribute that quote to me personally. The sentiments clearly aren’t mine, they are those of a character in a story I was writing.

If an author writes a character who is racist, or a serial killer, or a 900 lb. wizard gorilla, you can’t use that character’s quotes to reveal some genuine belief the author holds. Yet, it’s what we do all the time when a character says something inspirational and then we throw it up on the internets as a direct quote from the author. It’s just inaccurate, and I’m so tired of how blasé we are about accuracy. And if the rules allow for it or even encourage that inaccuracy, we should change the rules.

It’s even more common for people to misquote when the author is writing as the narrator of a book. If you remember your high school English classes at all, you’ll remember that the narrator and the author are not necessarily one and the same. Actually, they very rarely are.

For example, this: “It was a pleasure to burn.” – Ray Bradbury

Now, this would be appropriate as a citation on a list of greatest opening lines in novels. Then it would be attributing it to Bradbury as an opening line, not as an idea. However, to just randomly put it on a sign or pillow or quote site would be attributing that actual sentiment to Bradbury.

How hard is it to do something like this instead?: “It was a pleasure to burn.” -Guy Montag, from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Six more words, none of the incorrectness.

Obviously, the examples I’m using here are overdrawn. No one really gets confused when they see that Bradbury citation. No one actually thinks I need crystal meth to get through the day (because I am very good at hiding it). However, there are countless times where it is actually confusing and/or ambiguous. I see it most every day on Facebook and Goodreads and Tumblr (when I still went on Tumblr). Even worse, it can be used that way to misrepresent an author’s thoughts and ideas for the purposes of ideologues and those who want books banned.

Accuracy is important. Facts are important. Reason is important. We should collectively start acting like it.


john wick.

I’m a sucker for revenge flicks. We’re talking shamelessly violent, reactionary anti-hero shit. Have you ever met someone who actually enjoyed Mel Gibson in ‘Get the Gringo?’ I have. He’s been staring back at me in the mirror ever since the first time I saw the film.

If I were ever tasked to pitch a movie script guaranteed to be seen and celebrated by millions, it would go something like this:

Posthumously gifted a puppy by his deceased wife, a retired hitman with nothing to lose seeks revenge on the gangsters who kill his new, four legged friend.

If I was feeling particularly ballsy at the pitch session, I would require that the part of the retired hitman be played by Keanu Reeves and that we make Willem Dafoe and John Leguizamo play a couple of his friends.

Why? Because I fucking say so, that’s why.

I realize that this sounds crazy, but this is EXACTLY what I think happened when two of Keanu’s stunt doubles from the Matrix trilogy created, and pitched, John Wick.

Don’t believe me? See the trailer for yourself:

Not only is this film clearly the most important film of 2014, but there’s apparently already talk of a sequel. And if it’s not titled ‘John Wick 2: No Kill Shelter,’ I’m going to lose my damn mind.