2012: A Year of Extremes

Excuse me while I blow the dust off this blog like an old N64 cartridge. Speaking of which, let me go on an IMMEDIATE tangent: My friend was over the other night and said his mom was planning on throwing out some of his old videogames (NES, Sega Saturn, N64 etc.), to which me and my roommate FREAKED OUT and told him to make sure she did no such thing. I regretted trading in my N64, original GameBoy, and assorted games for basically one and half original Xbox games almost immediately after I did so. Not only because I didn’t think I would ever want to play them again (What I would give to play Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye, Diddy Kong Racing, any of the San Francisco Rush games, or Perfect Dark right now…) but also because I could have gotten a thousand times more for them on eBay versus the pittance I got from GameStop when I originally sold them. We assured him that if he didn’t want to keep them, we would gladly take them off his hands, or if he did want to keep them he could probably make a good chunk of change selling all that old school gamer swag on eBay. So here’s a lesson for all you cash strapped kiddies out there: If you’re desperate for the new Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, Dance Dance Revolution, or whatever you’re all playing nowadays, sell a kidney but don’t sell your classic games to GameStop for a fraction of what they’re worth. Throw those gaming treasures on eBay > ??? > profit. You can thank me later.

It’s been a casual five months since my last blog post and clearly that “post every other week” thing didn’t work out so well. Like I hypothesized in August, the last thing I want to do after staring at two computer screens all day is come home and stare at my laptop screen for another hour or two. Pretty much all I want to do when I get home from work is drink, sleep, play videogames, or go to the gym. Oh and remember that blog post where I was super excited about getting Fallout 3 for $10? I just finished it and it’s DLC on Sunday…76 in-game hours later. Oh the problems of being a videogame completionist… Now onto Batman: Arkham Asylum, Fallout: New Vegas, Halo 4, & Black Ops II…eventually. Not a lot of time for videogames now that I’m (sort of) a grown up.

Anyway… Now that 2012 has come and gone, I figured I should sort of wrap up how ridiculous of a year it has been for me. I’ve gone from being more broke than I’ve ever been, to having more money than I’ve ever known in my life, to buried under a pile of student debt from which I may never recover; from being so depressed that I didn’t even want to leave my apartment, to being happier than I’ve ever been in my life; and from working as an Economic Development & GIS Consultant and attending graduate school for City & Regional Planning to working as a Social Media Manager and Consultant. I bought…well, financed…my (realistic) dream car, a 2004 Infiniti G35, moved into a new apartment with two of my pals, posted back up in the gym for the first time in a year and a half (EAT BIG TO GET BIG), started going to grown up bars, and thanks to Don Draper and Roger Sterling graduated from boxed wine, Captain Morgan, and Four Lokos, to scotch, bourbon, and martinis. 2012 was a year of self improvement and refinement, and all in all my life is considerably better than it was a year ago. But although I’m thankful, I’m certainly not complacent.

“The only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it.”
– Roger Sterling, Mad Men

Exactly six months ago today, when I started at my current position, I was thrilled at the opportunity to build my company’s social media presence from scratch. I developed our accounts, I collaborate with our graphic designer on our branding, manage our social advertising, campaigns and engagement strategy. Very few social media managers have full reign over their company’s accounts. But being a one man social media team at a company where few, if anyone else even knows what Twitter is can be pretty lonely, and the environment can be creatively stifling. Without saying too much about my company, let’s just say the industry is very slow to embrace new technology and media. I feel like I haven’t even begun to tap my potential as a Social Media/Community/Account Manager, and my New Year’s Resolution is to move into a role that will both challenge me and help me learn from the people around me. I know this term is played out, but hustle is the word of the year for 2013. I’ve also had the fortunate opportunity to gather a few social media consulting clients, and if I find out the agency route isn’t for me, a small business social media consulting venture might be another possible career path.

Oh and wow 2012 was an unreal year for movies. And since I love ranking things, let me rank the ones I saw:

1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. Skyfall
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4. Lincoln
5. The Dark Knight Rises
6. Silver Linings Playbook
7. Looper
8. Django Unchained
9. Argo
10. The Avengers
11. Taken 2
12. Cloud Atlas
13. The Grey
14. Total Recall

Any year where a Christopher Nolan Batman movie is released and it isn’t my favorite movie means it must have been an outrageous year for movies. Daniel Day-Lewis deserves to win Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom might have been Wes Anderson’s best offering yet, and after Silver Linings Playbook I now have a full blown celebrity crush on Jennifer Lawrence (ugh and Bradley Cooper).

I also think I went to more professional sporting events in one year than I’ve ever been to as well. In 2012 I attended a Yankees – Tigers game, Jets – Panthers pre-season game, the U.S. Open, and an Eagles – Panthers game. Hopefully I’ll have the means to attend even more in 2013, but only time will tell.

Hey…you know, this felt kind of good to blog again, but maybe that’s the scotch talking? Anyway, I’ll try to do at least a post a month going forward to keep you all on your toes. Oh, and Kevin Youkilis is dead to me.

The Coug abides.

Marvel’s The Avengers: First Reaction + Batman Rant

Captain America and…those other guys. Captain Falcon or something? They’re in the Avengers right?

Last night I finally saw Marvel’s The Avengers and it was pretty much exactly what I thought it was going to be, nothing more. But maybe a little less. When it first came out people were freaking out, and calling it the greatest superhero movie ever. I mean how could a movie with Tony Stark, Thor (come on, even I have a little crush on Chris Hemsworth), Captain America, and Mace Windu disappoint? Well aside from the first Iron Man, none of the individual Avengers movies were anything spectacular. Truth be told I haven’t watched the newest Hulk with Edward Norton, but since they recast him I can only assume it wasn’t that great. But Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man 2 were all very entertaining, plus I really enjoyed the Avengers tie-ins. In fact I had pretty low expectations for Thor and CA, so they were both pleasant surprises. The Avengers was just that: fun. But I’m still glad I didn’t get all amped up to see this at midnight on opening night like I did for the abomination that was Spiderman 3.

WARNING! | THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m a big Batman/DC Universe guy. I read the comics and watched the Batman cartoon religiously when I was a kid, and have even been watching some of the newer Batman animated shorts. I have zero prior knowledge regarding The Avengers or any of their members. The extent of my Marvel Universe knowledge other than recent movies lies solely with the X-Men.

One issue I had with this 2 hour and 45 minute epic was that it took way too long re-introducing all of the characters. A prerequisite to seeing The Avengers should have been to see each member’s individual movie. Especially Captain America and Thor, since they included the introduction of the the Tesseract and Loki. However I feel as though these were the two that most people didn’t actually see. I was seeing this movie with someone who had only seen Iron Man 1&2, so I had to give him a long rundown of back story before the movie. By the time they had reintroduced all the characters and given unnecessary flashbacks to remind people who they were, I was already losing interest. This may have been coupled with the fact that I saw it at an AMC Fork & Screen, so after two 23 oz beers I was struggling to not break the seal.

The banter in this movie was top notch. Maybe my favorite part, since I can pretty much get the same over the top action from The Expendables 2. You have Tony Stark the wise-cracking, billionaire, playboy, smartass, coupled with a demigod from another world, a super soldier who’s been frozen and in isolation since World War 2, and a suspiciously soft spoken and laid back Bruce Banner, recast for the third time in eight years by the always talented Mark Ruffalo (Wild Wings). The nerd love between Stark and Banner is great, since they both seem to be in awe of each other’s research. I also really loved that when he’s not in Hulk mode, Banner is portrayed as the exact opposite;  calm, cool and collected. Almost as if he has The Hulk so under control that nothing could phase him. Excellent contrast. One criticism I had was that when he first shifts from Bruce Banner to The Hulk on the SHIELD ship, he goes nuts, attacking anything and anyone in his path, but when he turns into The Hulk in New York, he carefully targets only Loki and the Chitauri. I assumed that when he shifts on the ship, it was his first transformation in some time and he was having a hard time controlling it, or maybe he was pissed at SHIELD and Nick Fury for having that cell for him on the ship. Regardless, I was a little miffed about that.

Now to HawkEye and Black Widow. This is where Marvel fanboys are going to jump all over me. Actually let me look up who the actual Avengers are so I kind of know what I’m talking about….okay. It seems to me like there have been almost 100 different members of the Avengers since it’s creation in the 1960s (the original members being Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, The Wasp, and The Hulk, with Captain America joining shortly after). Now you’re telling me that out of these nearly 100 members, which includes Spider-Man, Venom, and FREAKING WOLVERINE (my second favorite superhero after Batman), the best secondary Avengers members Marvel could muster up were HawkEye and Black Widow? While listed as “a pair of killer assassins,” they’re really a dude with a crossbow and a flexible chick. How exactly did they get thrown into the mix to fight alongside actual super heroes? Chewbacca would have been a better Avenger than HawkEye. At least he had a bowcaster, HawkEye doesn’t even have a gun. He even runs out of arrows during the movie. What is he going to do then? Deadlift some dudes? Flex at them? At least Black Widow realized she was basically a secondary character and tried to utilize her super spy skills. Every scene HawkEye was in, he seemed to be trying way too hard to fit in with Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America. There were honestly scenes that I couldn’t stop myself from laughing over how ridiculous HawkEye and Black Widow looked next to them. A friend of mine reminded me that they didn’t have the rights to any of these other characters, and thus couldn’t use them in the movie, which makes perfect sense. But I still think they could have picked some better secondary Avengers.

Another pet peeve of mine was the scene where Iron Man re-directs the warhead to the Chitauri mothership, which Joss Whedon basically ripped off from Star Wars: Episode I. Anakin destroys the Trade Federation control ship, which deactivates the droids on Naboo, rendering them useless. In The Avengers, Iron Man destroys the Chitauri mothership, causing the aliens forces to deactivate on the surface of Earth. I guess when you think about it though, George Lucas probably stole that idea from Independence Day. C’est la vie.

When all is said and done, Marvel’s The Avengers is a really fun movie. I would still choose any of Nolan’s Batman films over any of the recent Avenger films 100 times out of 100, but sometimes you just need a movie where superheroes blow stuff up. As my one friend said, it’s spectacle not substance. I guess not every superhero movie can be The Dark Knight, but the dialogue was great, all the actors did a phenomenal job, and the special effects were well done. And I take back what I said before. The banter wasn’t my favorite part of the movie, the extra extra hidden scene was. If you didn’t stay til the very end of the credits you missed out. Mmmm…shawarma. All in all I give Marvel’s The Avengers a respectable 7 out of 10.

 END SPOILERS

Alright now it’s time for me to go on a Batman rant. I apologize for this post being monstrously long. While at the movies for The Avengers last night, I told my friend that I bought tickets for the AMC Theaters Dark Knight Trilogy, where you’ll be able to watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight at the theater prior to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. I’m really looking forward to this since it should be the ultimate Batman experience, and if you’re as big of a Nolan Batman fanboy as I am, the trilogy showing is a must. Needless to say I expected him to call me crazy, since nine hours of Batman is a little nuts, but instead he was dumbfounded since he had no idea that Batman Begins was even a movie, let alone that TDK and TDKR were both part of a trilogy.

Is this notion commonplace? Do people not know that Batman Begins is the first film in Nolan’s Batman trilogy? If this idea is more widespread, people desperately need to be schooled. This is unacceptable. I understand that most people hadn’t seen Begins prior to seeing TDK, but how can you watch it in a vacuum? It can’t be watched without realizing that there are clearly connections to a previous movie. Not only does TDK need Batman Begins to set up Batman’s eventual fall from Gotham’s good graces, the movie would be severely lacking in character development without the ability to reference Begins. That should cause some people to have almost no idea who the characters are or what is going on. Inside jokes are lost. There should be confusion on a massive scale.

Another troubling fact is the idea that people did know about Batman Begins, either before or after The Dark Knight’s release, and still haven’t seen it. In the name of all that’s holy, how could you watch the masterpiece that is The Dark Knight and not want to see the movie that led up to it. I’ve spoken with a number of people, including friends that are as big of movie buffs/Batman fans as myself and many argue that Begins is even better than TDK. For me it’s a close one, but I still have to go with The Dark Knight. While I love the soundtrack, the rise of Batman and his motivations, and the R’as al Ghul backstory, Begins can get a little campy and I think TDK is the single best superhero movie ever made. R.I.P. Heath Ledger.

If you plan on seeing The Dark Knight Rises next month, you have to watch Batman Begins (and The Dark Knight if you somehow haven’t seen it). From what I can gather, there are going to be a lot of allusions to Begins, as well as a story arc that ends where Begins started. If I could, I would personally screen Batman Begins for everyone who hasn’t seen it (I’m forcing my one friend whether he likes it or not), and make it mandatory to have seen the previous two trilogy pieces before you’re allowed to enter the theater for TDKR. I’m the kind of person who wants to educate people about amazing films they haven’t seen, both for their own benefit, and to put my mind at ease. Batman Begins is one of those movies.

And before you go all like “Wait! Coug! I never said thank you.” I’ll turn around and be all like “…and you’ll never have to.”

Stranger In a Strange Land

First off, Merry Half-Christmas to all you Workaholics fans! I hope the egg nog is flowing and your sweater is nice and festive.

Three weeks ago I had to move back to my parents house for the first time in over two years. I had been a full time grad student with off and on employment in the planning & economic development field, but none of those jobs materialized into something full time. Unfortunately, my apartment lease was up at the end of May (Pro tip: be sure to read through your entire lease just in case your complex throws in some clause like you have to give them 60 days notice that you’re moving out. Otherwise, you’ll probably lose your entire security deposit…Not that it happened to me or anything.) and I’ve been unable to find a full time job in either social media or planning. Not for lack of trying though, since I’ve sent out over 70 applications since the end of April. Out of those seventy I’ve gotten seven phone or in-person interviews (ironically all in social media related positions, none in planning). That works out to a .100 batting average, so if I were playing baseball I’d probably be optioned to AAA, unless I was Adam Dunn. So like the Dunnkey, the idea is for one of those seven hits to be a home run. Maybe I just can’t fake enthusiasm for a planning job, since the prospect of landing a job in a field I’ve grown to dislike depresses me. Plus, I don’t have to fake anything in my social media cover letters or interviews since I’m sincerely passionate about it.

Honestly, I’m very confident in my ability to land a job soon (maybe delusionally so), and I guess you could say that I’m too proud to take any part time job in the mean time (especially if it meant crawling back to TD Bank). Needless to say money is tight. Anyway, being back home I sort of feel like a stranger. Being an only child, but never really spoiled, I have to say that my parents and I don’t always get along. The fact that our house is very small probably doesn’t help either. In addition, the majority of my friends no longer live at home. Most have moved to New York or other far off locations, and the ones that are home I don’t end up seeing all that often. Because of this I spend a lot of my time trying to stay out of my house and keep sane. It’s not easy. For instance, my mom has been teaching art classes out of our house for about ten years now. Normally she teaches several one hour classes a week, which means on any given day there are kids coming in and out of my house. Over the summer it’s even worse, since she teaches week long art camps for 3-4 hours a day. So during these camps, my house is overrun by children. It’s like Lord of the Flies up in here. I’m considering organizing some sort of Hunger Games to weed out the weak ones. To make matters worse, a couple years ago my father found out he could basically work from home, despite our house not having any sort of office. I don’t think he’s been to his actual office in over a year, and instead has taken over our dining room. Because of how small our house is, it has pretty much been monopolized by my mother’s art classes and my father and his conference calls for the majority of the day, driving me into my room or out of the house for some sort of sanctuary. Luckily my friend is letting me use his roommate’s MLB.tv, plus Wimbledon just started (Novak repeat!), so I can fill a lot of the void with sports.

On days I can’t fill with sports, I’ve been shacking up at the local coffee shop (try the Iced Matcha Green Tea) and pretending I’m writing the great American screenplay. Today I’m trying to stay out of the house until at least 4 PM. So until then I’ve been managing my social media, turntabling in the Coug Lounge and following up on some job applications. I actually followed up with some on Friday at around 4:30 PM, as if anyone would be checking their e-mail on a Friday at 4:30 PM. I’m pretty excited to finally be seeing The Avengers tonight, since I haven’t really had anyone to see it with. I might try to watch Thor, Captain America, or both before I go as a refresher. Both of which were much better than I had expected, but I went into both with pretty low expectations.

Banana & Almond Butter Stuffed French Toast

My friend Kenny and I had a delightful, totally hetero, non-bougie brunch at The Garden Gourmet in Clinton. It’s a pretty new breakfast spot/cafe that I’ve been meaning to try out, plus it’s right along the river and you can eat outside. It’s pretty much the most Brooklyn thing we have in Clinton. I ordered french toast stuffed with bananas and almond butter, which obviously I spotted on Foodspotting. It was pretty delicious, minus the fact that the french toast was a little chewier than french toast should probably be, but that might have been the bread they used. Also, the service was pretty slow for only having us and one other table. That wouldn’t have been a problem, other than the fact that my friend only had 45 minutes for his lunch. I’ll definitely be stopping by again though. The menu looked delicious.

That’ll be all for now. I guess I’ll try to get some real work done before my Avengers marathon. Have to pick up a Mike & Gian sticker from Sub Base too.