There’s a gag I do every so often in the spring where I include the number of days since a specific life moment happened. Of course, every year that I do it (which isn’t every year), I have to add 365 or 366 days to the tally.
This year, I realized that I was going to hit 5,000 days. It was bit shocking that so much time has passed since this original milestone in this facet of my life.
At the same time, it is just _one_ element of my ongoing experience. It’s not something I can be fixated on because it ultimately isn’t very productive — it is what it is.
Although we scarcely need another reminder that time is fleeting, the milestone offers a bit of perspective especially because I certainly don’t want another 5,000 days to go by. I’ve made some steps to change the situation, but I haven’t been very successful (and if I’m being honest with myself, I could’ve certainly worked harder at this conundrum).
I think about the person I was those many years ago. I hope I’ve changed for the better since then, but I know there are many areas where I can improve.
Hopefully, this will all add up to something … someday.
The Los Angeles skyline as seen from the Getty Center in December 2014.
I’ve seen “La La Land” twice, so I think it’s safe for me to venture an opinion. It’s interesting that jazz plays such a interesting role in the film as one of the life passions that one of the lead characters pursues. If I were to compare “La La Land” to a jazz piece, I would say that there are some interesting themes, but the ensemble relies on the same beat too often.
The film contains a lot of enjoyable elements, but it doesn’t necessarily gel — especially at the end, when such cohesion is needed.
The film, being set in Los Angeles and providing several fun, brightly colored musical numbers, inevitably draws on artificial constructs of filmmaking. Unfortunately, writer and director Damien Chazelle seemed to lean on these constructs too often and it became distracting.
For example, it’s not an uncommon staging technique (especially in theater) to isloate people by placing them in a spotlight and fading the lights around them. Although there are other ways to reproduce the same effect more naturally in cinema, it’s not a bad way help heighten an emotional moment.
Unfortunately, repeating the technique about 10 times in a two-hour film greatly diminishes its impact and ultimately takes the viewer out of the story.
It may be that Hollywood-centric stories generally draw from a general pool of cliches and expectations that other L.A. films have established, built upon and distorted over the decades. “La La Land” draws on these expectations, but doesn’t seem to exceed them.
This was especially clear when Stone’s actress character is called into an audition reminded me of the end of “The Muppet Movie” where Kermit and the gang finally gain audience with a studio exec and sign “The standard rich and famous contract.” While Stone is winning in that scene, it doesn’t really go beyond ground tread by frogs and pigs about 40 years ago.
Chazelle can have a deft hand behind the camera. That’s readily apparent in the showstopping opener, “Another Day of Sun,” which was shot in a single, flowing take over two rows of stopped cars on a Southern California highway interchange. The selection of shooting locations is also a fun trip around an idealized Los Angeles, including the Griffith Observatory and the currently closed, but fondly remembered Angels Flight funicular railroad.
The energy of the opener and the subsequent song helping to establish the female lead lend the film a tremendous amount of energy. This energy seems to fade gradually as the film progresses into the story between Emma Stone’s Mia and Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian.
Although music remains a present campanion through the film, if often takes a backseat to the drama of Mia and Sebastian’s courtship and the ultimate fate of the relationship.
In the climax of the relationship storyline, music plays in the background until it suddenly stops on a critical beat of the dialogue. The song’s sudden silence adds a unique texture to the scene in a way that feels more natural than the camera blocking for the scene.
The camerawork during these scene — an argument — plays up a common filmmaking technique. The scene starts with the two characters in the frame together — even when one character is speaking and facing the camera, the other character is still in the frame.
This shifts as the argument builds tension. The couple stops sharing the frame as Chazelle isolates each character — helping to signify the growing distance in the relationship. I think it was a fascinating decision to show close-ups of Mia and Sebastian’s faces, allowing the emotions on each of the actors’ faces to unfold in grand scale.
Ultimately, I don’t know how effective the scene is because of relying on a standard technique.
I love that Chazelle deploys different camerawork depending on the scene, although I wonder if it wholly comes together. The final number, a medley sequence recounting the events of the film if they had gone differently, is exhiliarating. It makes a play for the viewer’s heart, but it didn’t quite work for me. It relies on there being a great love story at the core of the film and I don’t think that ever fully took root.
There’s enough to “La La Land” to make me want to visit, but I’m not looking to stay.
As seen on Instagram, I debuted a new yellow UCSD T-shirt on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, as the UC San Diego Tritons took on the Brigham Young University Cougars in Provo.
I’ve been a pretty vocal opponent to the possibility of UC San Diego moving to Division I. Despite my past reservations about D-I (which seems highly likely at this point), it was a total blast to once more cheer on the UCSD Tritons in men’s volleyball tonight against Brigham Young University.
This was a match I had been looking forward to ever since I moved to Provo last May — men’s volleyball is the only Triton team that regularly competes against a team in Utah. When I was in Chico, UCSD and Chico State were in the same conference, so there were always a couple of opportunities every year to cheer for the blue and gold in sports like basketball, baseball, softball and women’s volleyball.
Although I hoped to be loudly cheering for the Tritons on Friday, I knew that there would be a lot more people rooting for the Cougars. Watching some past volleyball matches on BYUtv, I knew that the Smith Fieldhouse can be a loud atmosphere but I wanted UCSD to have a voice there as well. I also bought a new, bright yellow Triton T-shirt for the occasion. All of my previous shirts were shades of blue, which would probably blend in with the Cougar blue that was sure to fill the stands.
When it came to buying the tickets earlier this week, I was a bit at a loss — I didn’t know if there would be any Triton supporters in attendance and where they might sit (and the reserved seats weren’t necessarily cheap). The box office staff at the Marriott Center was friendly, but they didn’t know either. Eventually, I just settled for the $5 general admission ticket and decided to take my chances.
On game day, I donned my new shirt and made my way north to the BYU campus. Parking was super-easy as the expansive fieldhouse lot is available to the public after 4 p.m. or so.
The fieldhouse itself was a quirky older building, with a narrow indoor track ringing the court and seating area. I made my way past the clearly reserved seats to the opposite side of the court. I asked a man handing out programs if this where the general admission seats were. He said yes and commented that I was brave wearing that shirt inside the fieldhouse.
As I made my way into the arena, I saw blue, plastic hard-backed bucket seats. The aisle seats were all marked “reserved,” and I assumed that only _those_ seats were reserved. That was an erroneous assumption, but I wouldn’t find out about that until later.
I found a great seat about five or six rows up near center court (but not on the center line because it had the “reserved” sign on it). I picked the side that I knew the Tritons would be on and settled in. I noted that the playing area on the court was smaller than it looks on TV. I’ve attended dozens of volleyball games, so I’m used to the court dimensions but the difference in perspective was fascinating.
It was about 30 minutes before the start of the match, so I took a self-portrait to post online. I also dashed to the concessions stand for a couple of waters because I knew it was unlikely that I would be able to leave my seat once the match began (a prediction that generally proved correct). The crowd slowly trickled in. I looked about several times to see if there were any other Triton fans in attendance, but I wasn’t having much luck.
All too quickly, the countdown clock wound down and it was time for the match to begin. After singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” along with the crowd over a very loud recorded instrumental version of the song, it was game time.
Writing in a journal at the Chipotle on Mangrove Avenue in Chico.
I’m trying something new on my blogs. For years, I haven’t done a great job of keeping things up to date, letting months go by between updates. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. I have had plenty of things to write about — and now’s the time to write about them.
Starting today, I’m launching a daily item called The20. Every day, I want to set aside 20 minutes to write anything on any topic that catches my fancy. It could be a review of a TV show or move that I’ve seen recently, it could be some thoughts on the weather outside, recapping some recent adventures or taking a deep dive back into some events that I would enjoy recounting. To maintain impartiality and professionalism, I’ll stay away from politics.
As you can tell, the topics will be pretty random, but I hope it will be enjoyable. I know it will be for me (and I seem to be the primary reader on these sites). A while ago, I re-read some old blog posts I wrote about karaoke when I first moved to Chico in 2005. They’re nothing earth-shattering and they didn’t follow the time limits I’m proposing for this column, but it was interesting to review my brief chronicles of an activity that I still have a lot of fun doing.
That’s the other component of The20 — it will contain everything I write in 20 minutes. It will be interesting to get a sense of how much I can write within the time limit. I may break some topics or subjects into multiple part essays to help bridge them over multiple days. There are journeys that I’ve taken or moments in my life that I don’t think can fit into a single, 20-minute chunk.
While I’m worried that I won’t be able to get everything out in 20 minutes, the opposite may be true. After 15 minutes today, I’m finding that I’ve written most of what I want to say on this subject and I’m largely just editing my post at this point.
None of these are going to be hard and fast rules — I’ll probably do some editing and adding photos after time is called. There will also be some topics where I will go long (Monday’s essay on Lake Oroville is an example).
I’m excited about this new project. Everyday, I spend so much time away from work just randomly reading websites or watching TV. I eventually reach a point where I feel I’ve read or seen everything I care to for a day. It will be nice to focus some of this energy on actually creating something.
There are a lot of things I’d like to share with others, but I need a plan. Although I can be slow to pick up the pen or start typing, I can get totally engrossed in the process.