Life Update at 35

So I guess I should make the obligatory joke about being eligible to serve as President of the United States now… but wouldn’t I make a better President than any actual President in my lifetime?

Today I turned 35 years old. I read my blog post from my 34th birthday and boy was that depressing. I’m definitely in a better place now. I don’t want to talk too much about it right now, but I’m more or less independent now and doing my own thing, and that has done wonders for my spirits and overall outlook on life. I still often feel like I’m stuck in limbo, but nothing close to how I was feeling last year.

I can’t write too much more right now, but even though it’s kinda scary thinking that I’m 35 now, I’m glad that I’m at least a little better off than I was at 34.

94th Academy Awards: My Choices

Writer’s Note: I had to type this out in a hurry. At some point I will go back and make minor edits and changes.

My Academy Awards record has taken a hit in recent years. Starting with the 86th Academy Awards (for movies released in 2013) I was watching every Best Picture nominee before the ceremony itself. Then, with the 92nd Academy Awards (for 2019 movies), for a number of reasons, I only got through five of the nine Best Picture nominees. The 93rd Academy Awards were for movies in 2020 and we all know what happened to movie theaters, the movie industry in general, and freakin life in general that year; I didn’t watch a single one of the Best Picture nominees.

And now here we are at the 94th Academy Awards. I really did want to get back in the game with the 2021 movies, and I made sure to get an early start this year, kicking things off with Belfast (with an in-person introduction by Kenneth Branagh!) on November 14. In the end though, I voluntarily restricted myself to seeing eight of the ten Best Picture nominees. The two I did not see were Dune and West Side Story. I did not see those because I haven’t seen the older film adaptations and I want to see those first; also, in Dune’s case, I want to read the novel first. I’m still pretty proud of what I accomplished, especially given that I have no real way to watch movies at home so I have to rely entirely on movie theaters, which made for a bit more legwork for some of those older released movies (especially CODA). Being in Los Angeles did help with that, as one can find just about any movie in current release here. The Landmark movie theater in particular got a lot of business from me, as I saw five of the nominees at that theater, three of those five in the same auditorium.

There’s no point in me doing predictions anymore when my opinion won’t be any more accurate or informed than those of professional prediction makers like GoldDerby, so you can just look them up. Also I’m a bit short on time, since the Academy Awards ceremony started more than an hour ago. So here I will just list my ranked preferences for the big eight Academy Awards.

Best Picture

Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest (the titles with asterisks were the ones I watched before the nominations were announced on February 8)

Don’t Look Up*
CODA
Drive My Car
Nightmare Alley*
King Richard
Belfast*
Licorice Pizza
The Power of the Dog*

Haven’t seen:
Dune
West Side Story

Wow, if you had told me a year ago that my top choice for Best Picture would be an Adam McKay movie, I would’ve thought you had confused me for a completely different person. McKay’s previous Best Picture entrants The Big Short and Vice were… bleh, both ranking at or near the bottom of my lists for their years. But Don’t Look Up is different and it works. While it still has some of the McKay trademarks, I think McKay toned down some of his previous excesses and managed to put together a very thoughtful story with an important message – and no, that message is not about climate change; it’s about the inexorable stupidity of human nature.

CODA and Drive My Car are two very beautiful movies at complete opposite ends of the happiness spectrum; CODA being one of the cheeriest movies I’ve seen this past year and Drive My Car being one of the dreariest. It was hard to decide which of these two should be on top. While my own preferences and personality leans towards the grim bleakness of Drive My Car, in the end I decided to give CODA the very slight edge because it’s so much more watchable. CODA is like a slightly sweet and balanced cocktail, while Drive My Car is the bitter but necessary quinine of the sorrow that is the human experience.

Nightmare Alley and King Richard were enjoyable movies but ultimately didn’t feel particularly special or powerful (though Nightmare Alley did make more of an impact on me which is why I ranked it higher). Belfast was too cheesy and the dialog was nigh unintelligble at times. Licorice Pizza is… well let’s just say that after the relatively grounded and comprehensible Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson has unfortunately gone back to his roots of making movies that don’t seem to mean anything or say anything.

And then there’s The Power of the Dog. If this movie wins Best Picture – which it’s predicted to do – it will easily be my most disliked Best Picture winner since 2005’s Crash. This movie is slow, BORING, mindnumbingly abstract, and loaded with a bearing of self-importance that far exceeds its actual intellectual weight. A big no from me for The Power of the Dog.

Best Director

Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest

Ryusuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car
Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog
Kenneth Branagh for Belfast
Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza

Haven’t seen:
Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

I know I just got done trashing The Power of the Dog, but it’s actually pretty well-directed; Campion’s direction isn’t what’s wrong with it. I’ll give Hamaguchi the slight edge for putting together a very layered movie (with actors speaking/signing multiple languages to each other! What was that!) and Branagh’s direction was pretty good too. Really, those three are all pretty clustered together and I’d need more time and less of a rush than I have now to really fine-tune out who is on top of who. Anderson is normally a good director who brings out great performances from his actors, but he felt worse than usual in this respect with Licorice Pizza. I thought the acting was weaker and less convincing than in his other movies and, in the absence of further information, for now I’m going to attribute this to both the actors and the director.

Best Actor

Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest

Will Smith for King Richard
Benedict Cumberbatch for The Power of the Dog

Haven’t seen:
Javier Bardem for Being the Ricardos
Andrew Garfield for Tick, Tick…Boom!
Denzel Washington for The Tragedy of Macbeth

Yeah this is an easy one; between the two I’ve seen I give it to Smith. Cumberbatch is fine in The Power of the Dog; he’s not bad but he’s not as good as everyone seems to be making him out to be.

Best Actress

Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest

Haven’t seen:
Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman for The Lost Daughter
Penélope Cruz for Parallel Mothers
Nicole Kidman for Being the Ricardos
Kristen Stewart for Spencer

Well I guess there’s not much for me to say here! It’s kinda cool, and rare, for none of the nominated performances being from a Best Picture nominee, but the consequence for me as someone who concentrates on Best Picture nominees is that I’m going to see few or none of them. I guess the uninformed side of me is sort of unofficially rooting for Stewart as she’s the only one who hasn’t been nominated for an acting Oscar before and I’d love to see her show up all the haters who ignorantly judge her (and Robert Pattinson) based solely on the Twilight movies.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest

Kodi Smit-McPhee for The Power of the Dog
Troy Kotsur for CODA
Ciarán Hinds for BELFAST
Jesse Plemons for The Power of the Dog

Haven’t seen:
J.K. Simmons for Being the Ricardos

Kotsur and Hinds were both great in their movies, but to me the clear stand-out here is Smit-McPhee. I think his performance is easily the best in the movie. Oh and speaking of that, I don’t know why Plemons was nominated here. I think he did fine but I wouldn’t say he did an Oscar-worthy job, and besides that he wasn’t in the movie all that much.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest

Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard
Kirsten Dunst for The Power of the Dog
Judi Dench for Belfast

Haven’t seen:
Jessie Buckley for The Lost Daughter
Ariana DeBose for West Side Story

Ellis definitely turned in a powerful performance in King Richard. Dunst, much like her lover? boyfriend? fiancé? Jesse Plemons, did great, and maybe I would give her the Oscar in a much weaker field, but no it’s not enough here. I swear, Dench is like the queen of getting Oscar nominations for performances that are decent but not spectacular or just barely even there. If anyone from Belfast was getting a Supporting Actress nomination it should’ve been Caitríona Balfe.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest

Don’t Look Up
King Richard
Belfast
Licorice Pizza

Haven’t seen:
The Worst Person in the World

Yeah this is an easy one. Don’t Look Up might be the most important movie of the year and its script gets the lion’s share of the credit for making it so. King Richard’s script is fine; Belfast’s has its moments but at too many times it feels trivial. And then Licorice Pizza… ugh, no.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest

Drive My Car
CODA
The Power of the Dog

Haven’t seen:
Dune
The Lost Daughter

Ack, you’re gonna make me choose between CODA and Drive My Car again! Actually, this time it isn’t so hard. If CODA is the very slightly better movie overall because the whole package is more watchable, Drive My Car is clearly the better movie in its writing because of the weight, the seriousness, the very real-world applicability of it. CODA’s script is well-written and is really emotionally touching, but it doesn’t quite have the same power that we get with Drive My Car. You know what movie’s script isn’t weighty, powerful, OR emotionally touching? The Power of the Dog.

September 14 2021 California Gubernatorial Recall Election

For the September 14 2021 California Gubernatorial Recall Election, here is how I plan to vote.

Question 1: Yes on Recall

Question 2: Joel Ventresca for Replacement Candidate

I have opposed Gavin Newsom for his entire political career, ever since I first learned who he was, when he was running for Mayor of San Francisco all the way back in 2003.  At that time he was the slick, pro-business, Care Not Cash, “sensible” moderate establishment-groomed-and-backed Democrat, who needed Democratic big names like Bill Clinton and Nancy Pelosi to come in and campaign for him, to save him from a humiliating defeat at the hands of Green candidate Matt Gonzalez (my choice in that race).

Fast forward 18 years, and he’s the slick, pro-business, crumbs for the people and French Laundry for the wealthy donors, “sensible” moderate establishment-groomed-and-backed Democrat, who needs Democratic big names like Barack Obama and Joe Biden to come in and campaign for him, to save him from a humiliating defeat at the hands of Yes on Recall (my choice in this race).  You know the saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ve never wanted to help Newsom at any point in his career.  The two times I had a chance to vote for him, to even the relatively innocuous post of Lieutenant Governor, I said “nahhh” and voted for “None of the Above” (as a write-in) in the primary and Peace and Freedom candidate C.T. Weber in the general instead.  And now I have a chance to help end his career?  Why would I not vote Yes on that?

Why do I want Newsom gone from political life?  He’s the archetype of the Democratic elite figurehead: a status quo maintainer who cares more about helping those who already have wealth and power than transforming the system to ensure everyone else has a chance at controlling their economic and political destiny.  He’s been this his entire career: supporting Care Not Cash to constrain the homeless, supporting big developers over small businesses, making sure nothing threatens the precious power structure the wealthy elite have built up for themselves.  In terms of keeping Newsom as Governor, it’s not like he’s been doing great things with that office anyway.  He’s been blocking much needed policy goals himself, like ranked choice voting and single-payer health insurance.  As far as COVID-19 policy, I’m more of a moderate when it comes to mask and vaccine mandates and lockdowns.  I don’t agree with how far Newsom has taken things, especially when it comes to how his lockdowns favored – once again – the powerful elites like the film and television industry over small business owners.  And of course, let’s not forget his morally bankrupt ideology of market-driven government he outlined in his book Citizenville, like wanting to cure diseases by offering large monetary rewards. <cue eye roll> That tells me everything I need to know about how he views the role of government in society, and it’s really bad.

And yes, I’m getting annoyed by how the entire Left is defending Newsom.  This includes, sadly, Bernie Sanders, who is reduced to appearing in ads pleading for voters to save a neoliberal corporatist tool who’s everything Sanders has fought against.  Though a few of Newsom’s defenders are gamely trying to argue in favor of Newsom’s COVID-19 policies, most are just doing Lesser Evilism again, once again propping up a Scary Republican Bogeyman to cattle prod us into voting for the unappealing Democrat.

The lesser of two evils argument falls laughably flat for this election.  I’m not terribly concerned about who might replace Newsom.  Veto-proof Democratic supermajorities in the state legislature will keep a check on how much damage any Republican governor could do (and indeed, could even still pass legislation without their consent!).  We’re having another gubernatorial election next year anyway.  Whoever replaces Newsom could be gone in 16 months.  Who knows, maybe getting rid of Newsom this year will pave the way for some progressive to run and win next year, whereas they wouldn’t have a chance if Newsom was still there and running for reelection. (But this is still California, where progressives go to be assimilated by the Big Money Democratic Machine, so good luck.)

The most laughable argument I’ve seen going around is that we can’t let a Republican become governor because then if California’s elderly and senile Senator Dianne Feinstein dies, the Republican governor will appoint a Republican replacement, who in turn will turn the Senate over to Republican control.  I see that and think: wow how many logical rings of fire do you have to jump through to buy that argument?  This argument strikes me very much as one that Democratic politicians came up with for regular citizens to repeat on social media as an argument against the recall, rather than one they actually believe in themselves.  How do I know?  Because if they were REALLY so concerned about this possibility, they would’ve pressured Feinstein to resign now and then Newsom could appoint a nice young Democratic neoliberal to take her place and carry on her pathetic legacy for another 30 years.  But they haven’t, she won’t, and he won’t, because then that would take away this little talking point and they can’t have that, now can they.  Clearly, this argument is only for suckering progressives into saving a corporatist Democrat’s political ass.

The worst a hypothetical Republican governor could do is try to unilaterally block localities and schools from enacting mask mandates.  But yeah, good luck to that hapless governor.  If the veto-proof Democratic supermajority doesn’t codify the right to enact mandates first, the Democratic-appointed judicial system in California will.

So, no.  It’s not up to me or any other self-respecting leftist to save Gavin Newsom’s miserable career.  I see all the pleas to vote No on the Recall and I immediately think of Rorschach’s line from Watchmen: — all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll whisper “no.” —

As for the replacement election for the recall, I received an email from the League of Pissed Off Voters, a San Francisco-based progressive group, and their recommendation was 1. No on Recall (ugh) and 2. Joel Ventresca for the replacement election (unofficially; this was not an official endorsement).  I looked up all 26 replacement candidates who aren’t a Republican, a Libertarian, or an American Independence Party member – so this is 11 Democrats, 2 Greens, and 13 independents.  After having done so, I have to agree with their choice of Joel Ventresca as the replacement candidate.

Not unexpectedly, most of the candidates just didn’t seem serious.  Their writings came off as simplistic and amateur, even if they were okay on the issues (with varying degrees of vaguery in their issue positions).  Democrat Jacqueline McGowan and Green Daniel Kapelovitz looked decent but they are saying No on Recall.  That’s not a dealbreaker for me, but I prefer someone who’s a Yes or who will at least criticize Newsom.  Independent Michael Loebs also could be good but he’s a part of the California National Party, a California secessionist party, and I’m not for that.

The best choice to me is Joel Ventresca.  His platform looks pretty solid, and while he doesn’t explicitly say Yes or No on the Recall, he does criticize Newsom, and in appropriately harsh terms.  He also seems more serious about politics in general, and he has relatively more experience with political activism and campaigns, including running for Mayor of San Francisco in 2019.

I would be thrilled to have Joel Ventresca as my governor instead of Gavin Newsom.  I’m voting Yes on Recall, and Yes on Joel Ventresca.

Life Update at 34

Today I turned 34 years old.  What a strange place I find myself in on this birthday, and of course I mean that in a bad way.  A year ago I was suffering from depression from seeing everything that gave me meaning in life being wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.  In the time since, my spirits lifted with the pandemic’s ease in fall 2020, only to fall back down once I moved in with my parents in Irvine, California to help care for them.  Now I’m depressed like I was a year ago but for somewhat different reasons.  This time, it’s more the impasse I find myself at, and the feeling of powerlessness and inevitable lack of control over the course of my life – results of my own choice.  As much as I hated to do it, moving away from Austin to be with my parents was totally the right decision to make.  But the tough truth about having to decide between two undesirable courses of action is that even choosing the “right” one can unavoidably lead to negative consequences.  And that’s where I find myself now.

I feel like I won’t be going anywhere in terms of personal growth and healing over the next year.  I was better off in 2019 than I was for many years before that, only for 2020 to undo that.  I and many others around the world certainly want 2021 to be the year that we all get back to 2019, and get back to where we want to be and the direction we wanted to be going in.  But I’m not confident that will be the case for me, and I don’t dare to hope for all that at this point.

I feel quite dead inside these days.  I lost all my motivation for self-improvement with the pandemic and the move, and more recently I find myself losing interest in the activities and hobbies that once gave my life meaning.  They don’t excite me anymore, in large part because I don’t feel like I have a reasonable chance of doing them anytime soon.  I feel like I’m an audience member watching my own life as a long-running television show, and I can tell that the show is running out of steam well before it actually ends.  If I can get back to where I was in 2019, both in terms of my actual location and in terms of what I was doing then, I think that will go a long way towards lifting my mind back to a level where I can function and live out an actual life.

November 3 2020 General Election

On November 3 2020 at approximately 610 PM, at GAMA Event Center in Austin, Texas, I voted in the 2020 General Election.  Here is how I voted.

President/Vice President: Howie Hawkins/Angela Walker (Green)

I haven’t gotten around to writing up why I refused for Democratic nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and I probably never will.  Suffice to say they are far, far too centrist, corporatist, and neoliberal for me to be comfortable casting my vote for them, regardless of who else is on the ballot.  On the other hand, I agree with Hawkins on virtually every issue.

United States Senator: David B. Collins (Green)

This was a case where I could actually be okay with, albeit not enthusiastic about, casting my vote for the Democratic nominee, Mary “MJ” Hegar.  But Collins’s positions are just so much stronger than Hegar’s weak sauce.  Unlike my vote for President, this was a case where if the Green nominee wasn’t on the ballot, I would vote for the Democratic nominee.

United States Representative District 10: Mike Siegel (Democratic)

This was the vote I was most excited to cast; it was the fifth time I voted for Siegel over two election cycles.  Siegel is actually a strong champion of liberal beliefs, values, and policy positions and a model Texas Democrat.  I wish all Democrats running in Texas and across the country could be in the same mold as him.

Railroad Commissioner: Katija “Kat” Gruene (Green)

I had voted for Democratic nominee Chrysta Castañeda in the March and July primaries.  Again this was a case where the Democratic nominee was okay and I could’ve voted for her in the absence of a better candidate on the ballot, but the Green nominee was just so much better.  The main issue that separated them for me was a ban on fracking – Castañeda doesn’t support it and Gruene does.

Chief Justice, Supreme Court: Amy Clark Meachum (Democratic)

There wasn’t a whole lot of information to go off for this race (or any of the judicial ones really).  Meachum sounded fine.

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 6 – Unexpired Term: Jane Bland (Republican)

So one of the biggest issues I could go off of for deciding on these judicial races was the issue of voters electing judges, which I’m against.  In this case, I voted for Bland because, while she hasn’t said she opposes popularly electing judges, she at least supports the commission to study judicial selection, whereas Democratic nominee Kathy Cheng is blissfully supportive of the current system of electing partisan judges.

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 7: Staci Williams (Democratic)

Again, not a lot of information and Williams seemed fine.

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 8: Brett Busby (Republican)

As with Supreme Court Place 6, I voted for Busby because he at least supports the commission to study judicial selection, whereas Democratic nominee Gisela D. Triana is blissfully supportive of the current system of electing partisan judges.  Another candidate in the race, Libertarian Tom Oxford, supports conflict of interest rules for elected judges, but on the other hand he seems completely dismissive of anti-bias training, so I ruled him out.

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 3: Elizabeth Davis Frizell (Democratic)

Frizell seemed fine.

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 4: Tina Clinton (Democratic)

Clinton seemed fine. (This Clinton, not the other two.)

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 9: David Newell (Republican)

I voted for Newell because he supports medical treatment for non-dangerous mentally ill criminals, and increases in availability and standards of public defender representation for indigent defendants.  His Democratic opponent Brandon Birmingham did not have as strong public statements on those issues.

Member, State Board of Education, District 10: Marsha Burnett-Webster (Democratic)

Burnett-Webster seemed fine.  This was another race where I didn’t see a whole lot of important issues at stake.

State Representative District 49: Gina Hinojosa (Democratic)

Hinojosa has been my State Representative for almost my entire time in Austin so far and I haven’t had any cause for complaints.

Chief Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals District: Darlene Byrne (Democratic)

I defaulted to Byrne as the Democrat because there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of differences between her and Republican nominee Jeff Rose.  They both supported partisan elections of judges, which was disappointing.

District Judge, 53rd Judicial District: Maria Cantú Hexsel (Democratic)

District Judge, 98th Judicial District: Rhonda Hurley (Democratic)

District Judge, 126th Judicial District: Aurora Martinez Jones (Democratic)

District Judge, 167th Judicial District: Dayna Blazey (Democratic)

District Judge, 200th Judicial District: Jessica Mangrum (Democratic)

District Judge, 345th Judicial District: Jan Soifer (Democratic)

District Judge, 353rd Judicial District: Madeleine Connor (Democratic)

District Judge, 390th Judicial District: Julie Kocurek (Democratic)

District Judge, 427th Judicial District: Tamara Needles (Democratic)

District Judge, 450th Judicial District: Brad Urrutia (Democratic)

District Judge, 460th Judicial District: Selena Alvarenga (Democratic)

For all these District Judge races except for the 460th Judicial District one, there was only one candidate running and they were a Democrat.  Because they were Democrats, I just went ahead and voted for them without knowing who they really were (though I have actually met Maria Cantú Hexsel, running in the 53rd Judicial District), and then I voted for Democrat Selena Alvarenga in the contested 460th Judicial District race.  I felt less guilty blindly voting based on party affiliation than I do for other races, because of how difficult it is to make a truly informed decision on judicial races – which is precisely one of the main reasons why I’m against judicial elections in the first place.

District Attorney, 53rd Judicial District: José Garza (Democratic)

I was proud to support Garza in the March and July primaries based on his positions on various criminal justice issues, including ending cash bail and curtailing civil asset forfeiture, and I was happy to vote for him again.  Like Mike Siegel, Garza is a model of what a Democrat should be like.

County Judge – Unexpired Term: Andy Brown (Democratic)

Brown seemed to be a decent candidate to me.

County Court at Law No. 9: Kim Williams (Democratic)

Lacking sufficient knowledge to make an informed decision (in fact, lacking the knowledge that I would even be voting on this race until I was actually at the polling place), I defaulted to voting for the Democrat.

Sheriff: Sally Hernandez (Democratic)

Hernandez has been a decent Sheriff so far.

County Tax Assessor-Collector: Bruce Elfant (Democratic)

Insofar as there are even salient issues to be discussed for this office, Elfant did seem to be better on them.

Austin City Council, District 4: Greg Casar

Casar has been my City Council member for almost the entire time I’ve been in Austin so far and he’s been a strong voice on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged, and has been consistently calling for rent and eviction relief and greater funding of social services during this COVID-19 pandemic.

City of Austin Tax Rate Election, Proposition A: For

This was the proposition that would launch Project Connect, which would revitalize Capital Metro by adding badly needed light rail lines (including one that goes to the airport, thank god!) and new bus lines, among other major upgrades.  It’s funny because one of these past years I’ve been in Austin (I forget which year it was), I was going to the airport through RideAustin (R.I.P.) and me and my driver got around to the subject of how hard it was to get to the airport because of the lack of rail servicing it, and the consequent reliance on ride-hailing services like RideAustin.  And he was saying that it would actually be pretty easy to drill rail tunnels under Downtown Austin because of the local substrate being relatively soft limestone.  Lo and behold, along comes this ballot proposition that would add new light rail tunnels under Downtown.

Quite frankly I get embarrassed as an Austinite that we don’t have a real rail system and especially one that connects to the airport.  When outside visitors arrive at the airport they don’t have a handy rail line right there that they can just jump on, like what San Francisco’s and Atlanta’s airports have.  Instead they have to call a ride-hail or take a bus (I think there’s just one bus line that provides frequent service to the airport).

Project Connect is what Austin has needed for years and it’s what should’ve been done years ago.  And the arguments in opposition have been hilariously clumsy.  “It’s too expensive!”  “MORE taxes!!”  “No one wants to ride in a train after having been through a pandemic!!!”  “Just call an Uber instead!!!!”  Come on.  The strongest argument I saw in opposition to this was that poor people would have to leave their neighborhoods adjacent to the new rail lines, that were either removed altogether or gentrified.  This proposition conscientiously addressed that through $300 million in “anti-displacement” funds, though I’m not totally sure if that will be enough money.  But it’s a good start and I’m glad people are thinking about how to reconcile the equally vital needs that are good transportation and affordable housing.

I love Austin so much and it’s long past time Austin gets a public transportation system it needs and deserves.

City of Austin Bond Election, Proposition B: For

This was a proposition that would raise and direct money for infrastructure like roads, sidewalks, trails, drainage, and so on.  As a big believer in more government spending on public infrastructure, of course I supported it.

Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees, District 3: Abstain

Kevin Foster was running unopposed and I had no information about him, not even what party he identifies with.  So I abstained from voting for him.

Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees, At-Large Position 8: Abstain

There were four candidates running for this position and I didn’t know any of them from Adam.  No party affiliation even to go off of.  So I abstained from voting in this race.

A Pandemic Life Update: July 22 2020

Am I the only one who’s actually staying at home and not seeing anyone during this COVID-19 pandemic?

I ask because I see people on Facebook and other social media sternly lecturing others to “stay at home”, “don’t go out to anything”, “why are you being so irresponsible and selfish”, and then some of those same people post Facebook Stories or other posts of them happily walking around outside, hanging out with friends, going to a protest (for the causes they approve of, of course; protests for causes they’re against are completely irresponsible), and so on.

As for myself, I have not had any kind of in-person contact with anyone besides service employees (so, all strangers) since March 18 2020, so more than four months now.  In that same four-month time period, I have not left my apartment to do ANYTHING besides go to work and run errands.  My already precarious mental health has suffered immensely.  My mental state has declined to the lowest point in at least two years, and possibly in my entire lifetime.  Well, it was even lower a few days ago, but has recovered enough now that I can sit down and write this entry.  It feels rather pathetic to admit this, but as I have no remaining professional or social endeavors to live for, most of my animating impetus in life comes from just enjoying diversionary pleasures like restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and music venues, the latter three of which are closed now.  In theory I could be using this freed time to be taking care of life business and exploring my movie and music hobbies at home (as I stated in my May 10 post), but in practice I’ve not done this nearly to the extent that I would like, because it’s really hard to even get out of bed these days.

It’s bad enough to see this trend of everyone getting on their High Horses on the Internet and talking down to others.  What annoys me even more is that everyone is acting like the only problems right now are COVID-19 and police brutality.  Those are obviously serious problems, but no one is talking about the financial devastation and mental health impacts (including a likely increase in suicide rates) this pandemic has brought about.  It makes me wonder if everyone just happens to be financially comfortable right now, and are able to mitigate mental health issues by, ahem, going out and seeing friends contra their own admonitions.  Meanwhile, I’m cutting myself off from doing what little I have left to enjoy in life, keeping me and others “safe” from COVID-19 while plunging me into deep mental illness.  Great.

I write all this to just put on the record that I am preparing to break this long period of abnegation by going to (gasp!) a restaurant, in the hopes that it might help me once again feel, even a little bit, what it’s like to be alive.  And if I do go out and try to have some pleasure again, I don’t want any shit from these sanctimonious quarantine hypocrites, especially because I’ve done my duty these past four months, at great cost to my own mental health.  But don’t worry, I have not the money nor energy nor will to make going out to restaurants (which, along with (maybe?) coffee houses, are pretty much the only “fun” businesses open right now anyway) a regular habit.  And I could hardly get most of my friends to meet me in person even before the pandemic started.  So I’ll still be mostly suffering in isolation at home, much to the approval of the oh-so-sage Online Covid Police.

The End of a Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday Era

In 2016, when I was looking to leave Oklahoma and deciding where to live next, I wanted to move to a city that had great film programming – and by great, I mean unique and diverse.  Something besides just the usual gamut of the latest first-run blockbusters.  I wanted events that would introduce me to “old” movies that I had never heard of and would never have heard of if it hadn’t been for those events showcasing those movies.  I had visited Austin, Texas early in that year and as I learned more about Austin and, in particular, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain that had six locations in Austin, I decided that Austin had what I was looking for, so I moved there in July 2016.

Once I had moved to Austin and looked more into what the Alamo Drafthouse had to offer, I learned about two long-running film series in particular that offered a weekly fill of cinematic exploration.  Terror Tuesday was a series that played horror movies every Tuesday night, and Weird Wednesday was a series that played “weird” movies every Wednesday night.  As I would come to find out, both “horror” and “weird” are used very broadly, as I’ve seen movies as tame and fun as Teen Wolf at Terror Tuesday and as seemingly conventional as Black Caesar at Weird Wednesday.

As it turned out, the events weren’t just rote screenings of the movies.  Each movie was preceded by trailers for upcoming specialty programming (including future Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday shows) and then an introduction by one of the specialty programmers.  Those introductions are some of my favorite things ever.  They’re usually about ten minutes long, and they explore the history behind the film’s production and distribution, stories about the filmmakers and cast, the response to the film, both contemporary and retrospective, a description of the film print being shown (more often than not a 35 mm print from either the movie’s distributor or the Austin-based American Genre Film Archive), and a brief selling pitch for the movie being shown for the series the next week.  The knowledgeable excitement coming from the programmer seems to always transmit onto those of us in the audience and get us jazzed up for both the movie we’re about to watch and the one coming up next week.

My first Terror Tuesday was Terror Tuesday: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, on September 27 2016, at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. (Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays were originally held at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, before switching to Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar starting in January 2018.) I subsequently went to Terror Tuesday: Plan 9 from Outer Space on October 4, and Terror Tuesday: The Deadly Spawn (one of my all-time favorites!) on November 1, out of being interested in seeing those movies.  I hadn’t originally planned on going to one or more Terror Tuesdays every calendar month, but it had turned out that way, and by November I decided to keep the streak going and see how long I could do it.

I also wanted to see what Weird Wednesday was about, and my first Weird Wednesday was Weird Wednesday: Conquest, on October 19 2016, at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.  I didn’t initially think of going to at least one Weird Wednesday a month the way I thought of doing it for Terror Tuesday, so while I did go to Weird Wednesday: School of the Holy Beast (also one of my all-time favorites!) on December 14, I didn’t go to any Weird Wednesdays in November 2016, January 2017, or February 2017.

But by March 2017, the two film series had become such an enriching and important part of my life in Austin, and I became enamored with the idea of keeping attendance streaks going for them.  Having already gone to at least one Terror Tuesday in every month since September 2016, I decided that I might as well set a goal of going to at least one Terror Tuesday and at least one Weird Wednesday every calendar month going forward, and I started that streak that month, with Terror Tuesday: Castle of Blood on March 28 2017, and Weird Wednesday: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (another all-time favorite!) on March 29 2017.

And for the next 36 months in a row, all the way through February 2020, I managed to keep that streak going.  In some months, I only saw one of each.  In other months, I saw multiple ones of each, in some cases going multiple weeks in a row.  There was just one month – December 2018 – where I managed to attend every Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday that month; it helped that there were only five events total that month due to the holiday season.

I saw so many movies during this three-year time period; some great, many others… well, terrible, but all of them made for worthwhile outings that more than satisfied the movie lover part of me.  Most of them were eye-catching titles that I probably would not have seen or even heard of if it hadn’t been for the film series.  And that’s what I love most about Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday: they introduce me to all these movies I wouldn’t have known about otherwise and I wouldn’t have even thought to search for.  Going to Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays quickly became an integral part of my life.  Planning my upcoming outings, including learning what movies were coming up and figuring out which ones to go to and which ones to skip, was one of my favorite things to do.  And Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays became – at least! – 50 percent of the entire reason I wanted to stay in Austin. (There are Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays at the Brooklyn and San Francisco locations of the Alamo Drafthouse, but I have no desire to live in those cities.)

Alas, all good things will eventually come to an end.  The last calendar month where I went to at least one Terror Tuesday and at least one Weird Wednesday was February 2020, when I went to just one of each: Terror Tuesday: Candyman on February 4 and Weird Wednesday: Polyester on February 12.  As of this writing, those were also the last Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday I went to, period, and I can fairly say those were good ones to end on (for now).  I long had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before I would inevitably have to end the uninterrupted streak, and I always figured it would be because I would have to leave Austin due to the frustratingly ever-rising cost of living.  I could have never imagined the actual reason for the streak ending.

For March 2020, I was not able to go to the Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays in the first three weeks of that month, but I was set to go to Terror Tuesday: The Blob (1988) on March 24, and Weird Wednesday: Seeds (with a special appearance by Andy Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough) on March 25.  Those would’ve been my Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday quota for the month.  I even had my ticket for Terror Tuesday: The Blob (1988) purchased already online.  And then came the COVID-19 pandemic.  I had been nervously watching the ongoing fast-moving developments surrounding businesses’ responses to the pandemic, seeing the Alamo Drafthouse in particular try to keep things going by introducing more vigorous cleaning procedures and spacing audience parties apart.  As restrictions tightened around in-person gatherings, I kept my fingers crossed that the Drafthouse could at least stay open until March 25.  But no, all too soon, movie theaters could no longer hold out against the tide of the inevitable, and on March 16 Alamo Drafthouse announced that it would be closing indefinitely in response to the pandemic.  I was very dismayed, especially about the fact that I would not be able to end my attendance streak in March 2020 so it would neatly reflect having started the streak in March 2017.  Later I realized that, having ended in and included February 2020, my streak still lasted an even 36 months, or three years, because the starting and ending months were both counted.  Still, it would have been nice to finish on the same month of the year that I had started on.

With physical events suspended indefinitely, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is gamely trying to keep the fire burning by offering “Virtual Cinema” virtual screenings of Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays, where they send customers the movie selections digitally, complete with pre-recorded versions of the pre-show content and programmer introductions.  They started this with a virtual Terror Tuesday: Centipede Horror on March 31 and a virtual Weird Wednesday: Godmonster of Indian Flats on April 8. (I have noticed that many of the titles are repeats from ones shown during my three-year attendance streak; for example, I saw Godmonster of Indian Flats at a previous Weird Wednesday on July 18 2018.) I have declined to participate.  Not only do I lack a good movie-watching setup at home, it’s just not the same as going to the actual physical events.  I would rather wait until the theater reopens and the two series start back up with regular in-person screenings, and maybe I’ll get a new streak going then.

It’s been four months now since I’ve been to a Terror Tuesday or a Weird Wednesday, and I really do miss them and the Alamo Drafthouse.  In keeping with the trend of “this has been the longest I’ve gone without doing X” that all of us are experiencing during this shutdown, this really has been the longest time I’ve gone without going to these two series, since I started going to these two series.  While it’s unquestionably sad that I won’t be able to make new memories for now, I do feel like my memories from the past are all I have to hold on to in these dark times.  And there are plenty of good ones: for example, almost a year ago today, on June 5 2019, I went to Weird Wednesday: Can’t Stop the Music and I had so much fun.

My three-year attendance streak going to both Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays every calendar month started with Terror Tuesday: Castle of Blood on March 28 2017 and ended with Weird Wednesday: Polyester on February 12 2020.  In that time span, my personal world really expanded tremendously and I learned so much about cinema.  All this new knowledge and these fond memories from this three-year time span are truly gifts that have indelibly made my life all that more interesting and culturally rich, no matter what happens going forward.

Life Update at 33

Today I turned 33 years old.  I started writing yearly life updates on my 30th birthday back in 2017.  2016 and 2017 were horrible years – two of the worst years of my life.  On my 31st birthday in May 2018, life was still pretty bad, though I had started to pull myself out of the ditch of 2016 and 2017.  Things continued to turn around over the course of the rest of 2018 and into 2019.  2018 and especially 2019 turned out to be two of the best years of my life, and definitely my best years since I left graduate school and moved to Austin in 2016.  I was still very much unmotivated and poor and struggling with the basic functions of being an adult, but at the same time, I was really trying to enjoy the cultural and recreational aspects of life that I had moved to Austin for.  I continued to go to wonderful movie events and great restaurants and bars, and most notably, I took advantage of Austin’s rich local music scene and started going to electronic dance music shows and events.  Turned out that this musical aspect of the world that I had previously left mostly unexplored opened up a huge new part of my life that was both culturally and socially enriching.

 

Of course, a good thing can’t last forever and while I left 2019 on a high note, come 2020 and my life started going downhill again.  First, I experienced a series of setbacks in my social life that left me feeling very weak and emotionally isolated.  It’s a lot to explain but the short version is that, from what I sense, I have a much harder time making meaningful friendships than most other people.  Then, as I was preparing a new effort to get back into the social world, along comes the COVID-19 pandemic and everything that I was depending on to find meaning in the world – eating at restaurants, attending movie events and music events – gets wiped out.  It’s amazing how much the loss of these things could really plunge my life into a new period of bleary emptiness and lack of meaning.  As of this writing, I have not seen any of my friends in person for almost two months.  The disconnection from my social world and new but familiar financial stress plunged me into a series of debilitating depressive episodes, the last of which started two weeks ago.  I think I’m a little better now… I’m hoping to come out of it over the next few days so I can be productive again.

 

All in all, 2020 is shaping up to be a pretty bad year, my worst since 2017.  I’m trying to not get too mired into negative feelings and I really should just focus on getting by and saving money.  One of the few bright spots about this pandemic is that the lack of events has facilitated staying home and saving money.  I’ve also coped by using my newly freed time to discover new music and start catching up on writing movie reviews.  I’m hoping to use the rest of my 2020 to catch up on life business and try to put my life back together again.

2020 Democratic Presidential Primaries Predictions: February 11

Here are my predictions for the Democratic Presidential primaries and caucuses on February 11 2020.  I will add actual results and post-election commentary later.

New Hampshire

RealClearPolitics Polling Average Predictions Results
Bernie Sanders: 28.7 percent Bernie Sanders: 30 percent  
Pete Buttigieg: 21.3 percent Pete Buttigieg: 20 percent  
Amy Klobuchar: 11.7 percent Amy Klobuchar: 15 percent  
Elizabeth Warren: 11.0 percent Elizabeth Warren: 12 percent  
Joe Biden: 11.0 percent Joe Biden: 11 percent  
Andrew Yang: 3.7 percent Andrew Yang: 4 percent  
Tulsi Gabbard: 3.3 percent Tulsi Gabbard: 3 percent  
Tom Steyer: 1.7 percent Tom Steyer: 2 percent  
Deval Patrick: 1.0 percent Deval Patrick: 1 percent  
Michael Bennet: 0.3 percent Michael Bennet: 1 percent  
All others: 6.3 percent All others: 1 percent  
I actually think the results will largely reflect the polling averages, with some shifts in the most recent trends that will enlarge the differences between the various candidates.  For Sanders, he’s getting a late but modest bump that pushes him away from second-place Buttigieg.  Buttigieg enjoyed a surge after his kinda-win in the Iowa caucuses but it has tapered off since the February 7 debate where he took a lot of incoming fire, so I foresee a slight dip for him.  Klobuchar is having a surge (which baffles me personally, but oh well) and she’s probably picking up some support that’s leaving Buttigieg, so she will probably outperform her polling.  Everyone else is just sort of languishing – does anyone even remember that Warren is running, and are people still taking Biden seriously as a contender?  Yang and Gabbard were probably counting on New Hampshire as the high-water marks of their campaigns as they were polling around the 5 or 6 percent area a few weeks ago, but their support has also dipped down a bit, probably from voters leaving them for Sanders.