Farewell to a Favorite Podcast

In March, one of my favorite podcasts ended. And I’ve been trying to understand why it hurts so much. Here’s what I came up with.

I am fully aware that I am far from alone in experiencing the worst of times. For me, one of the worst parts of the pandemic, early on, was the all-encompassing silence that swooped in last year – especially after my Dad passed away on April 1st. At night, after a phone call disconnected, while cooking a meal, after I’d turn the TV off, even while I was working. As an editor, my work is not silent, but only up until recently, I needed some sort of wordless ambiance running in the background; ASMR, usually. It was almost like being afraid of the dark. I was tuning out my grief and my worry over friends and loved ones. I was scared to even move. So many of us were turning to tv shows, movies, books, and podcasts. For me, it was Downton Abbey, the Six of Crows Duology, and the “Hey, Do You Remember…?” podcast.

Wearing my very own “Cool Kid” HDYR merch.

I can’t recall how exactly I stumbled onto “Hey Do You Remember…?”, but I’m glad I did. I became a fan of the trio (sometimes quartet) of people talking, laughing, bantering over films of various genres because their dialogue reminded me of the way I talk film with my own friends. It felt familiar in a way few other podcasts do.

In the Before Times, I looked forward to every new episode and once 2020 walloped us all, I ventured back to the podcast’s backlog frequently. Despite listening for several years, I’ve been reticent in my appreciation towards the show and didn’t engage much as a listener. I now regret not reaching out to the hosts, Chris, Donna, and Carlos, and also to the other fans as well. Something to learn from, I suppose.

What I’m getting at here is that the media we all clung to, amidst the chaos, fear, and bereavement of the past year – the same media that we will likely continue to rely on in the days ahead, even with flickers of hope on the horizon – it’s valid. It’s important. The laughter, the honesty, the community, it’s what’s keeping a lot of us afloat. In my experience, no hyperbole, it’s one of the key things that kept me sane, kept me going, kept me me.

HDYR was incredibly inspirational and influential for me in starting my own podcast and will likely continue to inspire as I move forward with other personal creative projects.

So: I want to express my gratitude for this podcast in particular, as the HDYR gang switch off their mics (at least on this pod, and at least for now). I’m thankful that the backlog of episodes will remain active for the time being and I’m grateful that, while the podcast is ending, the friendships are not (Carlos said so!).

So, to whoever may read this: whatever it is that’s kept you going, kept you as healthy and grounded as could be expected through 2020, I’m glad you had it.

Film Review: “Shoplifters of the World”

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Shoplifters of the World offers an intentional, unique approach by focusing not on the [80s] decade itself or its aesthetic, but on the shocking breakup of British band The Smiths. Turns out, though, being a Smiths fan is not a prerequisite to enjoy this film…

A coming of age story at heart, Shoplifters of the World threads the needle well between shifting relationship dynamics, a foundational fracture, and surrender to innermost truths… lone teenager Dean … holds DJ Full Metal Mickey ag gunpoint, forcing him to play nothing but The Smiths while his friends gallivant around town, mourning the band’s breakup and partying before one of them departs for the military…

Read my full review on Film Festival Today!

“Shoplifters of the World” Offers a Specific, Yet Universal, Viewing Experience

Having Way Too Much Fun

One of the unexpected delights of working on a podcast has been creating the audio previews. I enjoy making captions anyway – even for my professional video work – and mining each episode for snippets, choosing backdrops, and creating these little sneak peeks is way more fun than it should be.

Our listenership is small at this point, but I’m having a blast with the project, and it’s proven to be a healthy distraction during such a turbulent year, which, in my estimation, deems it worthwhile investment.

That said… [shameless plug incoming]…if you haven’t checked out the podcast but have even a smidgen of interest in Stranger Things, 80s pop culture, nerdy stuff, or intellectual tv/film analysis, wander over and check out Coffee & Contemplation!

New episodes of Coffee & Contemplation drop on Fridays!

“Mornings are for Coffee & Contemplation.”

I’m a podcaster! The first episode of my new podcast, Coffee & Contemplation is now live. It’s a journey back through the world of Stranger Things from a post-season three perspective. Expect spoilers, in-depth, close readings of the story and technique behind the series, and gushing over our favorite moments and characters.

You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more, and join the conversation on Twitter and/or Tumblr.

“Stranger Things 4 Will Not Be the Show’s Final Season”

ScreenRant Article by Rachel Gibson: 
Matt and Ross Duffer…announce they are not ending the series after season 4 and know how it will conclude.


If you know me at all, you know how much I love this show. Including season two, unlike the rest of the world, apparently. However, I did not love season three (also unlike the rest of the world). The seasons have grown steadily less restrained; from season one’s cool, austere tone and brilliant efficiency in its storytelling, to season three’s broad humor and presentation. Personal preferences may vary, but from what I’ve gathered, the general response from both the fandom and casual viewers alike seems to be that season one continues to reign supreme among the three. I’m left to wonder if the show overall has strayed into “too much of a good thing” territory. That said, when the credits rolled on the final episode of season three (prior to the post-credits scene), I was a bundle of mixed feelings.

*minor spoilers ahead*

The thought of never seeing the characters again – leaving most of them suspended in circumstances that ranged from bittersweet and sad to disheartening and inconclusive – the idea of never returning to wrap up certain arcs? It stings.

At the same time, I also found that the massive reveal in the season four teaser trailer did not generate excitement or relief, but frustration. I’m glad that a certain character will make a return – that he’s not, yanno, dead – but I feel unnecessarily emotionally manipulated. Almost resentful over the emotional turmoil we were put through last season, just to have it get magically undone. Somehow. Because reasons. Meanwhile, I  can also appreciate the difficulty the creators were faced with because it’s been my belief that the show had neither reached a natural conclusion nor has it struck an organic flow to continue.

So, the ScreenRant article’s headline may have induced a heavy sigh from me, but the content therein actually led me to be cautiously optimistic. I still think the sentiment of “know when to walk away,” is called for, but this specific quote jumped out at me:

Ross [Duffer] went on to explain that the Covid-19 pandemic has given them the time to reflect on the direction they want to take the show in. They have been able to fill out more of the story’s plot and have discovered just how long they will need to finish the story while giving the series the best possible ending.

I personally felt that season three felt uncharacteristically rushed, even a bit bloated. There were definitely aspects that I enjoyed – I continue to be impressed with Steve Harrington’s growth as a character, I’m completely on board for more of his friendship with Robin (not to mention Robin as a character overall), and the scenes between Karen and Nancy Wheeler are some of the best scenes in the whole series. I loved getting to see Lucas land some seriously impressive blows with the wrist-rocket, Alexei was a delight, as was Murray speaking Russian and his eventual bonding with Alexei, Dustin calling Erica out for being a nerd was super satisfying, and – separate from the “Neverending Story” sequence – I love Suzie and hope to see her return in the seasons to come. 
 
Still, those positive pieces felt outweighed by the bigger missteps, where it seemed to lose focus, lose the emotional connection with some of the characters (namely with Mike and Hopper). So I’ve got my guard up. Reading the SR article, though, if the Duffers really mean what they say, if they’re sincerely taking advantage of this forced pause in the proceedings and they’re actually building towards a deliberate conclusion rather than just keep barrelling on ahead without any clear finish line, then I’m on board to at least give it a chance.
 

This Was 2018

MAG Fest.
Releasing my book – 
my book – into the wild and selling more copies than I could have imagined.
A massive haircut; from waist-length locks to an asymmetrical long bob.

Joining a writing group; which has become a highlight of each month.
Coffee journeys and road trips.  Book releases and signings; conventions without cosplay.

Examination of prophecy, the Arthurian myth, and developing a new novel.
Film sets; sawing a witch in half and suspending a heroine on the side of a cliff.
Company growth; a new video production office.
Making new friends and finally meeting old ones face to face. 

The Ode to Joy.  Steve Harrington and Luna Lovegood.

Robots in San Francisco.  Excalibur casino –– stranded –– in Las Vegas.  Surreal.

Black Panther, your name., A Wrinkle In Time, Infinity War, Ocean’s 8, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Christopher Robin, Into the Spider-Verse, Mary Poppins Returns.

NaNoWriMo…however short lived.  New characters, new stories, new world building.
Watching friends return to themselves; rekindle their old spark and starting creating again.

Journeys and realizations and changes.
Making spiritual choices and finding a home at Collective.
A self-publishing rollercoaster.

Exhaustion and political anxiety.
Walking out on new branches.

A Wrinkle in Time, Sourdough, The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills, The Night Circus, American Street, Fawkes, Uprooted, The Wicked Deep, Stardust, The Queen’s Thief, and Labyrinth Lost.

This was 2018.

NaNoWriMo

I can’t remember when I decided that this year, 2018, I would finally tackle NaNoWriMo.  For most of the year, I have been developing, outlining, and crafting a new story, a new novel, and I was certain it was in perfect shape for the National Novel Writing Month challenge.  It’s an idea, a premise, and a cast of characters that have been circulating in my creative mind for over ten years – at least high school – and I had completed the outline  (for the most part) by August, leaving me to basically just finesse a few plot points, transitions, etc., and then sit down to write the prose proper, come November 1st. 

Except that a new idea, a variation for this story, hit me at the end of October, and if I incorporated it, effectively 80% of my outline would be rendered null and void.

Fighting back panic, I tried to ignore the new development and heed NaNo advice from authors both in person and online (“don’t think, just write!”) and so, when November arrived, I rolled up my sleeves, placed fingers over the keyboard…and knew within four days that I wouldn’t make it.

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Full Circle

What an amazing start to the day!  My friend and awesome teacher, Sara Jacobs, brought my attention to an Instagram post (by @archers_all_stars); three photos with a group of students viewing my first film, an adaptation/fan film of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Stranger.

Original post: “Every year when the weather starts to get cold, I read aloud The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg!! Then, I let them watch a short 18 minute video based on the book!! Talk about 30 minutes of pure engagement and discussion!!! Love it!!! ❤️❤️…”

Moments like this make my heart sing. The book remains magical to me; it sparked my draw to storytelling and crafting narrative, which led me to filmmaking, writing a novel, and working in media production. So it’s wonderful to see the story continue to reach new students, and I couldn’t be happier to be a small part of that through the film.

Shout out to the rest of the “Stranger” team: Jenna MillerJustin MoeDevin Connor, Rob Engels, Katy Cox Engels, Brendan Biondi, Elizabeth Anne Taylor, Lorrin Rodgers, and Shane Hann.

Watch the film below:

Out of Books! A Recount of Baltimore Comic Con 2018

While I wasn’t able to manage cosplaying at Baltimore Comic Con this year, I did sell every remaining copy of my novel. For the first time, I have to order more copies from the printer because I have completely run out! The exciting thing is, I have one (possibly two) more scheduled book events for 2018.

Baltimore Comic Con holds an especially significant place in my heart; it was my first convention. It was the first place that I cosplayed as Sethera, a lead character from Genre Wars – as in, I wore the costume we’d used for filming the web series, but beyond the set, beyond the safe, close-confined walls of our own universe. I’m not much of a comic book reader, but I have an affinity for the space comic book conventions allow, and even more now for the opportunity for me to share my work with attendees in a whole new way.

I was beyond nervous for this event. For MAGFest (the biggest convention at which I’d participated until Comic Con), I was surrounded by friends who were an unbelievable help in finding and setting up my table, giving me chances to get food, and – most important – calming my nerves. This time, though, I was on my own. Thankfully, I got amazingly lucky with great neighbors and we looked out for one another’s tables when we stepped away.

I rearranged my display and actually got both posters on the table – a first!

What does this mean? Well, after reviewing my sales and orders through the publisher, I’ve calculated that 115-120 copies of Resistance Rising are out in the world. This includes the copies purchased through the crowdfunding on Indiegogo, the paperbacks living on local library shelves, and those I have sold since at various events, including MAGFest 2018, the Rukundo Wine Tasting fundraising event, local coffee shop signings, the Maryland Renaissance Festival, the Greencastle Fall Seasonal Marketplace and, finally, Baltimore Comic Con.

So…what’s next? For the immediate future, I’m going to catch up on my rest. Again, my disappointment was not being able to cosplay (just too much to take on while also selling the book), but with October finally arrived, I can now shift focus to rocking multiple Halloween costumes.

The Incredibles

I emerged from the theatre cheering after seeing The Incredibles for the first time.   I loved it.  It was the most openly fun I’d had during a Pixar film thus far and it remains one of my personal favorites.  It’s always a joy to watch and when I think of Pixar, this is one of the first ones that springs to the forefront of my mind.

However, with this rewatch, I found it surprisingly difficult to articulate why I enjoy it so much.  What is it, exactly, that makes The Incredibles so . . .  well . . . incredible?

From the jump, story and tone strike just the right balance between quiet, wild, imaginative, witty, sweet, and speculative. I could break down elaborate, nitty-gritty examples of why this movie is so effective (Michael Giacchino‘s score, the style and art direction, homage v. originality, etc.) but, truthfully?  This film demonstrates an unusually solid example of “movie magic”; when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (for me, at least).   A lot of that comes down to the team behind it; if Pete Docter is my favorite Pixar director, then Brad Bird comes in at a very close second.  I’ve been a fan of his style since I first saw The Iron Giant (oh, how I love that film, too).  In Bird’s films, I most appreciate the dialogue, pace, and – like with Docter – the ambition.  There are blurred moral lines here.  We may not sympathize with the villains, but we understand them.  While their decisions and reactions to their circumstances may be wrong, the points they make are very often sound. 

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