The Wolfpack Files

My Life in My Words

Friday, December 31, 2010

My Life on the Big Screen

Movies have always been a big part of my life.  My earliest movie memory is seeing The Empire Strikes Back in the old East Hartford Showcase Cinemas.  The reason I remember it however is because I fell asleep.  OK I realize I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan around, but still, in my defense, I would have been around 7-8 years old at that point.  I'm pretty sure I've seen it a few times since then, without falling asleep, but that is my earliest memory of seeing a movie.  I remember we were in the back of the theater.  And I remember waking up.  I don't actually remember much of the movie but again, I was pretty young.


My next movie memory was seeing Rocky III in theaters.  I remember my parents and I going - I don't think my little sister went because she would have been under 6, but it's possible - and I remember as we were walking towards the entrance my father asking if I wanted to see E.T. instead, and me going 'no way!'  I stayed away for all of Rocky III and when I left the theater, I was ready to fight and big black guy with a mohawk that got in my way.  Yeah, I was a pretty tough kid back then, especially hopped up on Coke and a boxing movie.  I did see E.T. at a drive-in later that year.  A friend of mine from school invited me to go and it was him, me and another kid.  This other kid was, let's say, not the most popular kid in school so I had my doubts about going.  I mean, what if someone saw us together?  I was a gangly kid at that age and one of only two Indians at my elementary school, so add in my less-than-ordinary name, and I stood out like a sore thumb.  Being seen with the least popular kid in school wouldn't have helped matters much.  But what could I do?  I didn't know he was coming along until the car came to pick me up, and my lying skills hadn't come along at that point.  Umm, not that they're here now of course.  So I went along, figuring we'd at least be in the dark.  We got to the drive-in and my friend's mom turned the old station wagon around so the back of the car faced the screen.  Me and my friend sat in the back while the other kid sat on the roof.  But, I noticed that on the other end of the drive-in, facing the front of the car, albeit a long ways away, was another screen that was showing Rocky III.  So even though we were there to see E.T. - which, as you might know, went on to become the highest grossing movie of all-time - I kept turning around to watch Rocky.  It was years, and the advent of renting VHS tapes, before I saw E.T. in its entirety.  But I'll never forget going to that drive-in.


The last drive-in I went to was in New Jersey sometime during college.  Besides being memorable for going to a drive-in, that day was memorable for a couple of other reasons.  A group of us had gone to Action Park during the day and during one of the rides, I lost a contact lens, so I was half-blind.  Then, there was this water ride where we were on jet skis or something like that.  During the day, with the sun shining brightly overhead, it was a fun ride to go on because even if you got wet, the sun dried you out pretty quickly.  My mistake was going on it one last time before we left.  Half-blind, and with the sun setting.  I got soaked and never dried up.  So as a group we decide to go to the drive-in and I'm still wet as we drive up to the theater.  I think we were there to see... Super Mario Brothers?  Yeah, I know, but there wasn't a lot of choice.  The only other movie playing was Made in America, and I bet less of you have any idea what that was.  What was funny is that I was in a car with a friend of mine who was driving a Mitsubishi Precis and as we drove up the attendant asked 'Made in America?' and my friend, a little puzzled by the question, replied 'umm, no, made in Korea.'  At which point the attendant looked at us like we were nuts before I realized what he was asking and I said 'no, no, Super Mario Brothers.'  We didn't sit in the car like I did for my last drive-in and instead sat out on the grass, me still soaking wet.


I think my real love of movies started a few years earlier when I was working in a video store over the summer.  We had the ability to rent whatever we wanted for free and so on any given day I could watch 2-3 movies (my record for a single day is 5 - 2 in theaters, 3 on tape) and in the back of the store we had set up a little recording area so we could copy anything we wanted too.  I still have probably a hundred or so VHS tapes sitting at home - some copies, some actual films.  At one point someone said to me that I watch so many movies, I should write them down.  And so for a few years, I did.  The first year I wrote down everything I saw, I ended up with 251 films.  I wanted to end with an even 250, but in the last couple of days before New Year's, we were skiing with some friends and my father wanted to go see The Bodyguard.  So yes, the all-star casting of Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston was my 251st movie that year.  I don't think I've come close to topping that year, and after a while I stopped writing all the films down because really, what was the point?


A couple of years later I was in New York when I saw what would become my favorite film of all-time, Braveheart.  The film had been released the previous summer, and then released a second time in the late fall.  But it was only after it got nominated for a slew of awards that I ended up seeing it in February of 1996.  I don't recall which theater I went to here in the city, but I do remember that it was one of the smaller screens, almost like watching it on a really large TV.  There were only 5 of us in the theater, and it was only the second time in my life I was completely mesmerized by what I was seeing.  Since then I've seen  Braveheart maybe 3-4 times but for some reason I save it for special occasions - the first could of times because I saw it with someone who hadn't seen it before.  The last time because I got it on DVD.  And the next time will be because I now own it on Blu-ray.


Oh, the first time I was truly mesmerized by a movie?  The Lion King.  As many people know, I'm a big Disney fan, especially Disney movies.  But amazingly, the first Disney film that blew me away wasn't one of their earlier films (at the time) but The Little Mermaid.  I saw it back in high school with 4 other friends.  All of us were movie fans and we were wandering around the video store trying to find movies none of us had seen.  We ended up with The Little Mermaid and... Scarface.  And yes, I was probably the only one out of the five who came away liking The Little Mermaid more.  After Mermaid came Beauty and the Beast, which holds the record as the film I've seen more than any other - probably around 40-50 times at this point.  And so when The Lion King came out, I was there, opening day in the back of the theater.  I chose the back because I was there by myself, and I had a feeling all the parents there with their kids would stare at me if I sat in a decent seat, wondering what I was doing there alone.  But as soon as the movie started, with that tremendous opening sequence and the Elton John music playing over it, I was hooked.  I will admit, when Simba got held up for all the other animals to see, I got goosebumps.


Since then the only other movie I remember feeling truly mesmerized by was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  I'm arguably the biggest Harry Potter fan I know, and a few months before the first LOTR came out, the first Harry Potter came out.  As much as I love the books and the world of Harry Potter, the movies haven't lived up to the visions I have in my head, so I went to see LOTR hoping that it would suck, because I didn't want another famous book property to be better than Harry Potter.  A strange jealousy yes, but there you have it.  To say I was blown away by The Fellowship of the Ring would be an understatement.  It was easily one of the most beautiful looking films I've seen and though I was loathe to admit it, a much better film series than the Harry Potter series has been.


And now, here we are at the end of 2010.  The last full movie I've seen this year was only a few hours ago - Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It will not go down on any list as a memorable one, and chances are a year from now I'll have forgotten all about it.  But I suppose it could be a parallel to 2010 in general.  A year that had some interesting moments, some more memorable than others, but chances are nothing that will really stand out years from now.  Here's hoping 2011 brings me at least one story I can add to my collection.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My top 10 favorite movies of the 2000s

This is not a list of the 10 best films of the decade, but simply a list of my favorite films. I don’t get to see every movie that comes out (although I do see a lot) so it’s possible that in the future I may see a movie made in the 2000s and it’ll end up cracking this list. But for now, out of the thousands of movies I saw in the last decade, these are my favorites.

#10 - The Wrestler (2008)
All the other films on my list were big blockbusters (except maybe for A.I. which did well, but underperformed at the box office). The Wrestler was a small, almost criminally overlooked film that should have gotten a better response from mainstream audience. Unfortunately, wrestling will never get a fair shake and it's a shame, because Mickey Rourke's performance was tremendous. He got robbed of an Oscar (losing to Sean Penn's Harvey Milk) for no good reason other than he's a little out there.

#9 - The Departed (2006)
Martin Scorsese finally wins an Oscar and it was well deserved for this mob story that took it to another level. Filled with amazing performances from Leonardo Dicaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon and even Mark Wahlberg, this may not be Scorsese's best film, but it was his most commercially appealing one.

#8 - Borat (2006)
Who knew that a small British TV character could be so damn funny? Out of all the movies I've ever seen in my life, this may be the most jaw droppingly funny. Sasha Baron Cohen's send-up of American morals and values completely destroyed the line between real and fake. Cohen was willing to do anything to get a laugh and it worked.

#7 - AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Steven Spielberg's beautifully directed piece about a robot who feels all too human. The movie was originally supposed to be directed by Stanley Kubrick, but upon his death, Spielberg took over. It was one of those films that people either loved or hated, but I was entranced the whole way through. It may not be Spielberg's best film, but to me, it was his most touching.

#6 - Finding Nemo (2003)
Pixar has a way of making movies so amazing you kind of forget they're animated. Nemo was one of those films. Both sweet and extremely funny (especially Ellen DeGeneres' forgetful Dory) I don't know of anyone who doesn't love this movie. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

#5 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
I love all Harry Potter films, but Prisoner of Azkaban was by far the best of the bunch. For me, it's the best story and with Alfonso Cuaron directing, it was also the best looking. The Potter films may be the best cast films ever, and this film introduced Gary Oldman's Sirius Black into the mix as Harry's Godfather, a character who would leave a huge impression on Harry even after his passing.

#4 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
Probably the movie that was the most fun to watch out of all the ones I have on my list. Johnny Depp's wonderfully wacky take on Captain Jack Sparrow was eye-opening, because who knew he could be so fun? After crashing the party with Curse of the Black Pearl, Depp and company took it to another level with Dead Man's Chest. This movie has one of my two favorite film scenes of all time, where Depp, Orlando Bloom and Jack Davenport engaged in a tremendous swordfight, while Keira Knightly is battling demons of her own.

#3 - Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Quite simply, it might be the best film of the decade (even if I liked a couple of other ones a little more). Robbed of a Best Picture Oscar by Crash, Brokeback was, at its heart, a love story beyond all love stories. Heath Ledger, robbed of a Best Actor Oscar by Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, gave the performance of a lifetime (no disrespect to The Joker). And the final image of the movie, with Ledger's Ennis del Mar staring at a shirt and a postcard, with the beautiful score in the background, broke my heart and left me haunted for days.

#2 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The entire trilogy is astounding. As a Harry Potter fan, when the Fellowship of the Ring came out, I wanted it to tank, since I didn't want another fantasy film based on a bestselling book to take anything away from my beloved Potter, but within the first few minutes, I was hooked. Return of the King was my favorite of the three films simply because you got to see Frodo finish his quest and live happily ever after.

#1 - Wall-E (2008)
For years if someone asked me what my favorite movie was, my immediate response was Braveheart. Later, I added LOTR: Return of the King to that answer. Now, Wall-E may very well top them both. This is PIxar's second film on my list and easily their best of all-time. I was mesmerized from the moment the movie started and it never let me go. For a movie that had little dialogue and featured an abandoned robot, it was the sweetest and most beautiful love story I've seen. Words can’t describe how much I love Wall-E.


And these are the 10 worst films I saw in the last decade (in no particular order):
Eye of the Beholder (2000)
The Watcher (2000)
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
Dominion: A Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)
Ask the Dust (2006)
Black Christmas (2006)
Norbit (2007)
I Know Who Killed Me (2007)

Monday, September 15, 2008

City Chase a.k.a. The Amazing Race - NYC Style

This past weekend my friend Sarina and I entered an event called City Chase. As one of the quotes on the web site says, it’s like Fear Factor meets The Amazing Race. Basically teams of two run around the city trying to complete challenges. The first team to finish 10 of them and get to the finish line wins. I’m still not 100% why we entered, but it sounded like a nice way to spend a Saturday.

We arrived at the starting location around 8:30am on Saturday morning. We checked in, looked at the competition, and decided that we weren’t trying to win, just finish all 10 tasks in the time allowed. After watching other people warm up, the race was on. The first point we got was actually completed the day before when we got over $40 in donations to a charity (we actually ended up with $80 – so thanks to the people who helped us out!) The second point involved a scavenger hunt that basically took place right on 11th street here in Manhattan. We were given a list of 10 items and we had to either find or answer 9 of them. A couple of them were easy since we were given the list the day before. Find the architect of Webster Hall. What was the current temperature in the World Championship city (Marrakesh). The rest were a little harder/stranger. Find a tan line. Find a team wearing their shirts and pants backwards. Find a non-competitor who was the same height as one of your teammates. Luckily, you didn’t have to actually do all this, you just had to take a picture of it. I’d say in about 10 minutes we were done.

At that point we were given a sheet of paper with 30 clues from which we’d now have to complete 8 of them. The top 6 clues were broken into 3 segments. We had to do 2 of the 6, but from at least 2 segments. So we spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out the clues and get some idea of what we might be doing. Once we sort of figured that out, we took a look at the other clues as we started walking in a general direction. I spotted that one of the clues took us to a Kaplan Center nearby. When we got there we took a GMAT-esque test of 15 questions from which we needed to get 10 right. It had been a long time since either of us had to do questions like these. We each started working and after 10 minutes decided we’d just hand it in. Luckily we agreed on about 5 answers, I got a few more and then as I was walking to hand in the sheet, I literally started randomly circling answers. We ended up with 11 right. Point #3, done.

We left and continued walking West since that seemed to be where most of the tasks were being done. But almost immediately upon walking out we spotted that one of the clues was on St. Marks and Avenue A. While it was in the opposite direction, it was also pretty close so we hoofed on over there. That was the first of what turned out to be a few uncomfortable challenges. We, along with another team, had to go up on a little stage and sing. Well, not exactly sing… see, there was a guy in charge and we had to do whatever he wanted us to do. I ended up having to become a human beat box. I wasn’t all that bad. Sarina on the other hand… the guy asked her to breathe heavy. No seriously, that was it. As soon as he said that I looked over at her and tried really hard not to laugh. It was like she was auditioning to be a phone sex operator (don’t kill me for writing that!) After the other team was given their assignments, off we went, rapping and breathing upon command. Luckily it lasted only a couple of minutes and the crowd of other competitors that were watching seemed to enjoy us. Point #4, done.

We left and went back towards the West side. On our way there we crossed Lafayette street and I suddenly remembered one of the clues had mentioned Lafayette. I kind of wish I hadn’t because the tasks was as Crunch Gym. Those of you that know me know that I’m not really a gym person and I was afraid of what was going to happen. This particular location has a Pilates room with some exercise equipment that I had never seen before. Essentially what we had to do was work out on these machines for 10 minutes. It wasn’t all that bad I suppose, but not really something I’d want to do again. Point #5, done.

Once again we left and headed West. This time we were going to one of the mandatory challenges at a billiards hall. Here what you had to do was play ping pong and to win you had to get five points. Here’s the catch. One team member stood in front with their hands on their hips while the other one stood behind with their arms through the front person’s. Then you had to try and play. I was watching the teams ahead of us to get an idea of the best way to do this and well… we won our five points in about 30 seconds. Point #6, done.

We left and headed towards the Piers. It was at Pier 42 I believe where we had to go hand in our donation sheet to prove we had gotten the $40. But there was also another challenge there that I did NOT want to do. It involved cheerleading. Sarina of course threatened and mocked me and forced me to do it. So yes, for a short couple of minutes, I was a cheerleader. The task was, you and another team had to pair up and do a cheer that had 5 phrases in it (the 2 team names, New York City, City Chase and The Big Apple). You also had to include a kick, a life and a jump. One of the teammates had to wear a cheerleader skirt (thank God I had a girl as a teammate) while one of the other team’s people had to wear a cheerleader skirt. The other two of us had to hold pom-poms. So we came up with the following rhyme (for reference sake, the other team name was The Tex Pats and we were That’s What She Said):

We are the Tex Pats

Here in New York City

We’re doin’ the Big Apple City Chase race

Shakin’ our asses

Yeah, That’s What She Said!

As you can tell, we are skilled writers. So during the first three lines we were doing a Can-Can kick, then on ‘Shakin’ our asses’ we jumped and did a 180. And then turned back around so on the last line Sarina jumped in the air and the three of us caught her. After a few tense moments (because the judge could have said we needed to do it again) he asked us whether we did a jump. Sarina quickly demonstrated ours and he passed us. Point #7, done.

The next task was down at Pier 40 so we walked on down there. Let me tell you that around now I was starting to wear down. It was 80 degrees, sunny and muggy and the heat was getting to me. But Sarina was her usual cheerful self and kept prodding me to go on and just finish it. So we get down to Pier 40 for the eating challenge. Here each teammate rolled a die and depending on what it landed on, that’s what you had to eat. The possibilities were: Wasabi; an Anchovy; a live mealworm; a live cricket; nothing and I never did find out what the 6th choice was. Why? Because we both rolled a 4 – a live cricket. Let me go back a few minutes and let you know that once we got there Sarina said there was no way in Hell she was eating a live anything… it took a little prodding but thankfully the judge allowed me to eat for both of us. So I had to reach into a bag full of live crickets and pull them out, one at a time and eat them. With people watching. I have to say, they weren’t that bad. I felt a little fluttering in my mouth before I chomped down. They were like little Rice Krispies. Point #8, done.

From there we finally were able to take a short break and hop on a Subway down to Battery Park. Here we were going to do the second of our mandatory challenges. It took a little while to find where the challenge was… this time one of us had to wear a Statue of Liberty crown and hold a barbell over our head like a torch and sing the National Anthem. On the streets of New York on a beautiful sunny day. Sarina doesn’t know all the words… I, after having gone to hundreds of hockey games in my life, had memorized it. So I got to sing. I’m sure Francis Scott Key was spinning in his grave at my seriously off-key (pun intended) rendition but I muddled through it. Point #9, done.

The final challenge was only a couple of blocks away and I was ready to pass out. This time were given Palm Centro’s and had to videotape 4 out of 5 things written down for us. The first one we did was, find a non-competitor and have her ride piggyback on one of the team members around the bull. In downtown Manhattan there’s a large brass (?) Bull sitting in the middle of the road where a lot of people take pictures. I have to say I wasn’t keen on this challenge at all since it involved finding random people to do random things for us, but Sarina was insistent we could get someone and I’m thankful I listened to her. She ended up getting one girl to do 3 of the things on the list. So first this girl got on my back as I walked around the bull. Then this girl had to play leapfrog with one of us, and Sarina took her on, although apparently this girl’s butt hit Sarina in the head twice. Then we had to have the girl do three cartwheels or three somersaults for us. She was a trooper and quickly did three cartwheels. That left one more thing to do. Either a) we had to get video of one of us riding in a rickshaw or b) find 3 non-competitors and get them to join one of us in singing the National Anthem in front of a Statue of Liberty. We didn’t see any rickshaws nearby so that left the last choice. Luckily in that area, since we were near where the boats leave to take you to the Statue, there were a few street performers dressed up at the Statue. So Sarina managed to find a foreign family who had NO idea what the National Anthem was and the four of them stood in front of a street performer (after paying him $10!) and sang the first 15 seconds of the National Anthem. Well, Sarina sang, the other 3 just stood there. We ran back to the check-in point and gave them our video and we passed. Point #10, done!

At this point I was hurting in all sorts of areas. Sarina didn’t complain once throughout the entire day even though she’s the one with actual injuries to both her feet. I have to say that if I had anyone else as a partner I would have quit a long time earlier or at the very least, we’d still have 2 tasks to do. But Sarina’s never ending enthusiasm kept me going. Which came in handy because for some reason the first three subway stations we found had no trains running! We finally got on the train and made it back to the finish line and we finished in a time of 5 hours, 8 minutes and 53 seconds.

We didn’t win, but I’m still waiting to see what the final results are. Because we finished in a decent time (an hour before the deadline) and because we actually did all 10 tasks (a lot of teams didn’t) I think we may have done pretty well. There were around 500 teams and even 30 minutes later after we ate and drank and headed home, I passed a lot of teams who were still walking to the finish. It was quite an experience, one which I would gladly do again (but only if Sarina was my partner) if I manage in the next year to get into shape because man, Saturday night I couldn’t move. Once I see the final results I’ll post them here…

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Notebook

I've been a member of Netflix since April of 2000. I was one of the first people to join up and I've been a member so long that my membership agreement is different than most. Netflix has been very nice at keeping to the original contract so that while the current membership allows 3 out at a time for $16.99, I still get 4 out a time for the same price. I've watched hundreds of movies through Netflix and it has truly been one of the great web site creations in my life time.

On February 28th of 2005, I had The Notebook shipped to me. While today I can get a DVD overnight, back then it took a couple of days to arrive and I got it March 2nd. 3 years, 5 months and 6 days after I got it, tonight, I finally watched it.

Once upon a time I had a friend who I cared for very much and when I got The Notebook, we promised we'd watch it with each other. We didn't see each other much and when we did, it was with a group of people or for a very short time and so as the days and months slipped away, we never watched the film. I haven't spoken to her in about a year now. I can't believe the time has passed so quickly. I guess I knew a few months ago that there was a good chance I would never really speak to her again, but I held on to the movie. I've erased emails, hidden pictures and all thoughts of her have been pushed to the back of my mind. But I could never bring myself to return The Notebook. It was like it was my last link to her. That maybe one day, by some twist of fate, we'd end up in the same place at the same time and we'd finally get a chance to watch the movie together. But tonight, as I shuffled through the other movies I had from Netflix, it was there looking at me like it has for the past three and a half years and for some reason, I knew it was time to watch.

The movie turned out to be almost everything I expected. It was a pure and beautiful love story with a final scene that will break the hearts of even the toughest person. It's strange how something as simple as round disc can have so much emotion attached to it, but as I took the DVD out of the player and put it into its sleeve, I felt very sad. I almost put it back in the nice DVD holder Netflix sent me a few years ago because I didn't want to send it back. It's been a single constant for so long that not having it there is going to make me feel a little empty inside. But, I did finally put it into the red Netflix envelope and tomorrow, it will at last be returned. I'm guessing Netflix probably thinks I lost it a long time ago and just didn't want to pay for it. Little do they know that a movie about a story in a notebook, has a story behind it as well.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Politics

As we head into the big 2008 political season, I think back to my brief venture into politics. I'm not generally one that feels strongly one way or another. I tend to lean towards the Democrats and nothing this year makes me feel like I'll be changing that. I haven't watched any of the debates this year, although I tried to record the Democratic one last night. Of course I set it to record on the wrong channel so instead I recorded a Morgan Freeman/Ashley Judd film. But based strictly on the physical, I would have to say Huckabee, Romney or Obama will win. They just look Presidential to me. Anyway...

Back in college I was a member of the Student Government Association for a year. It may have been two years now that I think about it, but only one year was memorable. My senior year I was the co-chair of the Health and Public Safety Committee. Did I get the job because I was the most qualified? No. Did I get it because I cared deeply about the health and public safety of my fellow students? No. Did I get it because I asked for it? Yes. See that year two of my closest friends ran for, and became, President and Vice-President of the SGA. I remember standing in someone's dorm room after they won and jokingly asking if they had any cabinet positions for me. Pete, the President, laughed and said, yes, Health and Public Safety. I asked if I could have the position and he said, sure, why not? And thus I entered politics.

Before you think it was just that easy to become the co-chair of a highly influential and important committee, it wasn't. I had to be confirmed by the Senate. The Senate was made up of mostly people I didn't know nor cared about. And there was also another co-chair, although I don't recall his confirmation hearing. So anyway, I get to the confirmation hearing and am fairly confident it would be an easy process. Most of the time these chairmanships are rubber stamped and everyone is confirmed unanimously. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a story if that happened. I sat there and the President asked if anyone had any questions for me. One girl, who was extremely serious about her position, looked at me and asked me if I had a working relationship with either the head of Health Services (whose name I didn't know) or Public Safety (lead by Chief Evans). I looked her square in the eye and said that while I didn't have a relationship with the head of Health Services, I had met with Chief Evans many times in the past and had a good relationship with him. She seemed a little wary of my answer (as she should have been - more on that in a second) but didn't ask any follow-up questions. No one else had anything to ask so there was a vote. I got 13 votes for confirmation and 3
abstentions, including one from the question-asker. Of all the votes for confirmation that day, I was the only one who got more than one abstention. Of course there's no way I should have been confirmed knowing what a slacker I am, but what can you do?

So, that 'relationship' I had with Chief Evans? Well that basically boiled down to one incident I had had the previous year. I don't remember if I've blogged about this before, so I'll just tell the story. It's my junior year of college and my friend Pete (remember him? He became President) had just gotten back from Israel and had brought me some incense. It wasn't like any incense I had ever seen - it was more like a foam triangle, about the size of my hand. It burned nicely and smelled good so I didn't question it. Anyway, as I'm burning it, a friend of mine walks into my room and asks if I could give her friend a ride to the train station. As I am a fairly nice person, I agree and we leave. Now normally, I'll leave incense burning because the smoke it creates isn't enough to do any damage. Unfortunately, it seems this Israeli incense was different in more than just looks. When I returned from the train station, I walked into my room and immediately noticed that my trash can had moved into the middle of the room. I thought that was rather odd, and then I noticed I had a voicemail. I checked my phone and it was from one of the Public Safety officers. She said that while I had been away, the incense had set off the fire alarm and they had to break into my room. While there, they had noticed two street/parking signs handing from my window.

Which leads to another brief side story... earlier that year I had taken two parking signs from one of the lots behind one of the dorms. For some reason I had a fascination with street signs (and in fact still have a couple at my parent's house) and so I took them. Needless to say (but I shall anyway) I hadn't planned on getting caught with them. But since when you walked into my dorm room they were pretty much staring you straight in the face, Public Safety had seen them when they came to put out my incense. And now I was being asked to come see Chief Evans to explain the parking signs.

I made an appointment and later that week went into his office. Chief Evans was a very nice, calm guy. He welcomed me and I sat down. He looked at me and asked "why did you take the signs?" I looked back at him and lied. I said that I had been walked through one of the dorms and seen them lying in the hallway and I took them from there. Meaning, I hadn't been the one to take a screwdriver to the back of the metal post and removed them. I simply took them from someone else who had done the dirty work. He looked at me and I'm not sure if the believed me, but he simply said "don't do it again." I looked at him and said "OK," and that was the end of our meeting.

And that was my working relationship with Chief Evans.

I don't remember really doing much in the SGA, much like I didn't do much during my two-year tenure as Vice-President of the A.S.I.A. Society. It was a nice thing to put on my resume however. Considering I was a Political Science major, you'd think I'd care more about politics, but it's rare that there's a politician that gets me interested. Most of them say the same thing, just in slightly different ways. I'm more of a showman and I like someone that captures the imagination. I like reading stories of J.F.K. for instance, since he became President at a very young age and captured the nation in a way no other President ever had or has since. Yes, it helps his legacy that he died in office and there's a chance he'd be seen just like anyone else had he done his two terms and gone home, but I'd like to think he'd have changed the way the office was seen in the public's eye. And looking at the current crop of contenders, the only one who really has the chance to change the nation's way of thinking is Barack Obama.

I honestly don't know enough about anyone's policies to know if he really is the best person to lead the country from a political point of view, but from a social point of view, he would shake up this country - this world - like no one has in decades - possibly ever.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hobbies

If you take a look at various Facebook/Friendster/MySpace pages (as well as the random resume) you'll find that everyone has a hobby. One definition of hobby is: "An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure." So you'll see people list skiing or listening to music or collecting stamps as a hobby they enjoy. My hobby is collecting keychains. To those of you that know me, you know I've been doing this for quite a while. For those of you who don't know me - I've been collecting keychains for quite a while. I don't know when I first started, but at the moment I have about 225 hanging on my walls, and at least that many in various bags, as I've run out of places to hang them.

Collecting keychains may seem an odd choice for a hobby, but the way I look at it, they're usually fairly easy to find wherever you travel and they're rather inexpensive. And when people go away on vacation an
d say 'can I bring you anything' I can always say, 'sure, bring me a keychain.' Is there an airport in the world that doesn't have a gift shop with keychains for sale? I think not. So over the years I've gotten a lot of keychains. I can't say that I have a single favorite one, but there are a lot that I enjoy. I've got one that's a fake chicken's foot, which a friend sent from China. I've got one that looks like a piece of sushi, which a friend brought back from Japan. I've got a couple in the shape of feet with sand from the city it came from. I've got Popeye, Frankenstein, Homer Simpson and the Loch Ness Monster. I've got this cool one of a dog with a working clock in the middle. I've got keychains that talk (including one that has the 2004 Red Sox LCS and World Series championship final outs.) I've even got one with my name written on it, in Korean. I'm pretty sure I've got one from every continent, except Antarctica (and if my parents ever go on that cruise, I'm set.)

The reason I started collecting anything... now there's a story I'm betting no one knows. It all started, as a lot of my stories do, back in elementary school. I don't remember exactly what grade, but I'm thinking somewhere in the 4th-6th range. We had a Hobby Day in school where all the kids were supposed to bring in their hobbies to share with the other students. Me being the stellar student I was, I remembered the morning of Hobby Day. So my mother and I quickly scanned the house to find something collectable. Having traveled a little bit back then, we had coins from a few countries. So we rounded up different coins from Canada, India, England, the U.S. and maybe a couple of other places, put them into these plastic coin holders that you could get in Fruity Pebble boxes, and off I went to school.

As soon as I stepped into the classroom, I knew I was in trouble. People had all sorts of things on their desks. But the worst was this kid named... Chris Eastwood I think. Chris had a coin collection. But his was a real collection. He had coins from every place imaginable, and he had them in these official looking cardboard coin holders. Since my coins were in my bag, no one had seen them and I decided I was going to do the honorable thing and lie and say I left my hobby at home. So when my turn came up, I mumbled something about forgetting my collection at home. I didn't feel that bad because as I had sat down, I noticed that two other people didn't have anything at their desk. Gail and Steven if memory serves. So I figured I was OK - I wouldn't be the only loser. But something curious happened. As the teacher went around the room, she skipped over Gail and Steven without asking them anything. I thought maybe they had spoken to her earlier and said they had left theirs at home, so she was being nice and wasn't going to make them say it aloud.

We got to the end of Hobby Day (which was about an hour in the morning) and the day went on. I felt embarrassed, but since I wasn't the only person without a hobby, I didn't feel too horrible. Then gym class came and our teacher came with us. This didn't normally happen since there was an actual gym teacher, so I couldn't figure out why our regular teacher was there. Then she said "OK class, now Gail and Steven are going to show us their hobbies." I was mortified. It turns out Gail's hobby was gymnastics, and Steven's was basketball. They proceeded to show us a few moves and everyone clapped and blah blah blah. I ended up being the only person without a hobby.

From that day I was determined to collect something. I never considered playing baseball or tennis or soccer a hobby because it wasn't something you could show someone easily. I needed to collect something. My first collection? I shouldn't say this because it's completely ridiculous... but my first collection was the insert cards you get from magazines. Yes, those cards that let you sign up for other magazines. I had a ton of them under my mattress at one point. I'm not sure when I realized it was ludicrous to collect these things, but one day I came to my senses and tossed them out. The next thing I remember trying to collect was bookmarks. That didn't go so well since, while they could be cool, there weren't a lot of places to get them. That one re-emerged briefly in the early 90s when I was in London and found that they had a lot of nice bookmarks.

I also collected shot glasses for a while, and still kind of do, although not as seriously as before. They're nice to look at and all, but there was something odd about being someone who didn't drink and collecting shot glasses. And then the keychains came up. I don't know exactly what my first 'collecting' key chain was, but I think it was from a cruise we went on when I was younger. It's from Norwegian Cruise Lines - the M/S Sunward II. It's in the shape of those circular life preservers. I remember actually using it for keys for the longest time before I realized that I didn't want to eventually break it, so I put it aside and it now hangs in the center of one of my keychain squares.

So there you have it, the story of my keychain collection. It all started one fateful day in elementary school because Chris Eastwood (I hope that's his name) had a better coin collection. I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had shown my coin collection that day. Would I have ever bothered to try collecting anything? Or would my keychains have been sold to 500 other people around the world? In closing I'd like to say, if any of you reading this happens to be travelling somewhere and sees a cool keychain or two... I'd be more than happy if you sent them to me :-)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Karma

This past week at work has been simply ugly. The power-that-be feeling the need to micromanage things they don't really understand since they're not involved in day-to-day activities. This of course causes large groups of people to have to scramble to make the higher powers happy for a couple of weeks before they crawl back into their offices and forget about us lowly people for a while.

In the midst of all this, we had a couple of massive downpours last week. It made life a little more miserable than it already was. One night I walked for 15 minutes in the rain which lead to me having to dry my shoes for two days before they got back to normal. The next night, as I walked in the rain from the subway station to my apartment, I decided to swing by McDonalds to get some dinner. McDonalds is normally busy and the people working there - well, let's just say they're either not very smart, or are so annoyed and depressed at having to work at a McDonalds, have stopped caring. Lines were long, people were wet and on the edge. I try to understand how people feel and give them some leeway, so I stood there, quietly waiting my turn.

I place my order, pay for it, and then stand aside to await my food as the next person in line orders. I didn't hear what he asked for, but it must have been a lot because his total came to $20.06. He handed the cashier a $20 and said something to her I didn't catch, and neither did she. She looked at the money and looked at him and said, "It's $20.06." He then repeated what I imagine he said earlier which was, "Can you give me a break on the six cents? I only have another $20." He held up the other $20 bill to show her. She looked at him and said "It's not my money" meaning, it wouldn't be her giving him a break on the six cents, it would be McDonalds giving him a break on six cents. Now, there are a couple of ways of looking at this. One, chances are all registers at the end of the night are counted and people have to explain why something is over or short. This happened to me when I worked at a video store. If it's under, by a reasonable amount, it comes out of your pocket. So I can understand the cashier not caring if it was only six cents. That kind of thing can add up. The other way of looking at it is, its six cents to a multi-billion dollar company. Considering the amount of times I've gone to McDonalds and not gotten correct change, I think they can afford it.

So anyway, upon hearing this exchange I reached into my pocket and fished out a dime and handed it to the guy. He looked at me and said thanks, and handed it to the cashier. While we both sat waiting for our orders, the guy kept talking to me, saying thanks and whatnot. Then he said "Karma man, it's all about Karma. See, I did something nice earlier, and now you're doing something nice for me. It's raining right? And I stood in the rain and held the door open for a woman before, and now you're doing something nice for me. Trust me man, something good is going to happen to you." I smiled politely and said I hoped it would. I got my order and turned to leave, and as I did I could hear him still say, "Karma man, Karma." Before you start imagining what this guy looked like, he wasn't a hippy. He reminded me more of a frat boy, only one who wasn't all that good looking.

As I walked out of McDonalds and crossed the road to go home, I kept thinking about what he said. He did something nice for someone; I did something nice for him, so that meant something nice would happen to/for me. It wasn't that I felt I deserved something nice to happen (not that I'd complain if it did of course) but I wondered if the world really worked that way. All I did was something I hoped someone would do for me in the same situation. I knew how I'd feel if I had to break a $20 bill for six cents. It would be a little annoying. So I handed a stranger a dime. I can afford a dime here and there. It was such a small little thing to do, but he seemed so touched by this that he felt the need to tell me over and over that something good would happen to me. And I started to hope that maybe he was right. I walked into my building and into my apartment. I went to the fridge to pull out a drink, then went and sat down on the couch and opened my bag of McDonalds. As I pulled out my food, I thought about everything that had happened in the last few minutes and smiled to myself. Then I looked down at my food and realized something...

They gave me the wrong order.

Karma man, it's a bitch.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hyde & Sikh

Recently I've discovered that whenever I'm in the elevator in my building and someone else is on with me, I start to think about my breathing. And for some reason whenever you think about breathing, it's harder to breath. I'm not sure why I notice my breathing when someone else is on the elevator with me, but now that I know I think about it, I can't stop thinking about it. But that's neither here nor there. On to the story...

So as many of you might know, I've made a few short films in my life. The one I'm most proud of is one called Hyde & Sikh. A few years ago a couple of friends and I entered a film competition where each team had 64 hours to write, shoot and edit a 6.4 minute film. Every team had the same theme, which was "hide and seek" but spoken aloud, not written down. So, as you can probably tell, my team went in a slightly different direction and made a pretty decent romantic comedy. Although this may be disputed by one teammate, I came up with the idea and wrote the script. As a team we directed and shot the film, then one of us edited it in a 24 hour editing marathon. Due mainly to our ability to think outside the box, we took 2nd place in the competition. We didn't get much out of it, but it was nice that people liked our film that much.

As it turns out, someone may have liked our film more than I thought. A couple of days ago one of my teammates was on Facebook and he was uploading some of the videos he had made. It got me thinking about Hyde & Sikh and how both of us had independently uploaded the video onto YouTube. For some reason his copy has more hits than mine. So I decided to Google 'Hyde & Sikh' and 'Hyde and Sikh' and see which one of ours showed up in the search results. As it turns out, the version of Hyde & Sikh I uploaded onto Google Video is the first one that shows up in both searches. As I scrolled down the search results however, I came across this site: http://www.sikhnet.com/sikhnet/news.nsf/NewsArchive/36F7E49AB65E6D9687257209007947B1 which mentioned our film. It seems that someone somehow decided to show our film at a Sikh film festival last year. If you go here: http://jagomiami.org/filmfestival.html you can see our film listed. I immediately wrote to my friend and asked him if he knew anything about it and he said he didn't. And I know I never got contacted about it. So now we're sort of wondering how our little film got chosen. And did they use the crappy online version or did they someone get a DVD?

I know I made a bunch of copies for various friends and families, but you'd think if they lent it to someone and it made a festival, someone would have contacted me. I'm even listed as a director on the web site (sort of, they spell my name wrong.) It's not as if we're upset about it. It's just one of those things where it would have been nice to have known about it. Maybe we could have gotten some friends or family down in Miami to go see it. Maybe we could have gone down to see the audience reaction. So before I track down someone connected with the festival on my own, I thought I'd see if anyone out there happened to know anything about the festival, or knew someone associated with it. I just want to find out how this all came about.

Oh yeah, and if you want to see the video, go here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5854716159956251111

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The American Dream

When I was in grade school, the year 2000 felt like it was a long time off. Which in fact, it was, having been in grade school in the 80s. Back then whenever someone would ask me (or I’d just think about) where I wanted to be when 2000 hit, I never said what you expect a normal boy to say. I didn’t say, oh, I hope to be playing 3rd base for the Red Sox; or, oh, I’m gonna be a movie star! When the year 2000 came around, I was going to be 27 and my dream was that I’d be married with two kids, living in the suburbs in a white house and, to finish off the American Dream, we’d have a white picket fence. I couldn’t see who I was married to, but I could see two young kids - one boy and one girl. The house was small, but it was in a very nice neighborhood. There was a tiny front lawn with extremely green grass. I have no idea what job I had, but I knew that it got me home when it was still daylight outside, because I could see myself walking down the sidewalk and opening the picket fence, and my kids are playing in the front yard. When the actual year 2000 came around, I spent it in a friend’s house in Massachusetts, in freezing cold (since my friend didn’t like turning the thermostat up) surrounded by half a dozen friends. No wife, no kids, no white picket fence.

When I worked in a video store back in high school, I used to be able to rent movies all the time. Needless to say, that’s about when I became the movie junkie I am today. I watched so many movies that someone told me I should write them all down, just to keep a count of exactly how many I saw. So I started doing that. I think to this day my all-time record is 251 (theater and video) in 1992. And in case you’re wondering the 251st movie that year was The Bodyguard. Back then I used to write down all the movies I saw in a small notebook. A year or so later I started using a date book to keep track of, well, important dates. So then I would write down in the date book every movie I saw, along with when I saw it and where I saw it. I was recently going through a box I had here in my apartment, looking for some Indian clothes I had stored away, and I found an old date book from 1996, the year I started law school. I have no idea how a 10 year old date book ended up in a box in an apartment I’ve only been living in for 4 years, but there it was. I sat down on my bed and started looking through the days and saw all the movies I watched that year. That was the year I first saw Braveheart (even through it was released in 1995.) It was a nice trip down memory lane. I got to the end of the year and kept turning the pages and there was a section in the back entitled “Goals for this year” and I had written 2 words in that entire section. Although I was in my mid-20s and had my whole life ahead of me I had one single goal for that entire year. The words I wrote back then are the words that still consume my life today. “Find someone.” Obviously, that never happened. I remembered, as I looked at the words on the page, that I had written those exact same words in every date book I ever used. And not once did I manage to fulfill my goals for that year. I stopped using a date book a few years ago.

And so now we sit in the year 2007. Y2K is a long forgotten memory. But when I close my eyes really tight, I can still see the white house with the white picket fence. I can still see the green grass in the small front yard. Now I can even see some flowers planted under the window sill. There are still two small children running around the front yard, and my wife standing in the front door as I walk down the sidewalk and open the fence. When I open my eyes however, I see nothing except an empty apartment.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Habits

As I ran into another wall today, I started to think about strange habits I have. Bumping into walls for one. For some strange reason, I have this habit of taking corners as close as I possibly can, while walking, which leads me to run into corners a lot. Not like I come to a complete stop when I run into them, but more like I brush into corners. But sometimes I cut the corner so tightly that it hurts. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why I do that. I know I do it, I've told people I do it, I'm writing to you about it now, yet I can't stop myself from taking corners really closely. I could understand if I was in some kind of race and cutting those precious few milliseconds meant the difference between winning the gold or taking second. I could understand if I was being chased by a homicidal maniac and I needed to escape. But to go from my desk to the bathroom, I have to go around 4 corners, and each time I brush up against the wall. What's the point? I wish someone could explain this strange phenomenon.

When I was in college I took a summer or Jan term class in creative writing. For one assignment I wrote about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I'm not sure what the overall point of the paper was, I just remember that I wrote how when I eat a PB&J, I have to eat it with the peanut butter side on top, and the jelly side (obviously) on the bottom. To this day, I still eat them that way. Why? How would my life change if I ate one of them 'upside down'? The other thing I remember about that class is being introduced to a little band called Pearl Jam.

When I go to the movies, I have to sit on the left side of the theater looking right. If I sit even dead center I feel like something is off. That's not to say I haven't sat on the right side of the theater. If I'm assigned a seat there, I'll sit there. If the theater is crowded I'll sit there. Or if it's a movie I don't really care about or have seen before, I'll sit on the right. But if I have my way and I can manage it, I will always sit on the left side. And more importantly, if I'm with someone, they have to be sitting on my right. I feel really backwards if I'm with only one person, and they're on my left.

I also have to go to the bathroom when I go to the movies. Even if the theater is 5 minutes away, and I went to the bathroom before I left, as soon as I walk into the theater, I have to go. I think after all the times I've gone to the movies, I've just developed a Pavlovian response to the smell of popcorn or something. Or maybe it goes back to the time I was watching Dances With Wolves, and after 30 minutes I really had to go, but I was so afraid of missing something I figured I'd wait until the movie was over. Not realizing the movie was something like 3 hours long.

Those aren't all the strange quirks I have. Although I do suppose everyone has a few things about them that are odd. I just really hope I can figure out why I cut corners so hard so I can stop scraping my shirts against walls. I actually have a hole in one of them now and it's a little troubling.