The Mandalorian S01 E01 An Auspicious Start

I finally watched The Mandalorian S01 E01, and I have to say I liked it. As a first episode, it does a lot of heavy lifting, and quite fluidly. The episode introduces quite a bit of information, but it doesn’t explain much of it. In an era where so many pieces of entertainment explain things to their audience, this is refreshing. Sure, the jargon might put people off, but this is Star Wars, and Star Wars has always had weird jargon. You just have to go with it.

The image shows the title card from the Mandalorian S01 E01

In fact, that was something else I really enjoyed about The Mandalorian S01 E01: It felt like Star Wars. Sure, it looked sleeker than the original trilogy, having that Disney sheen. But the feel of the storytelling, and the characters felt very much like Star Wars. I can’t express how much I appreciated that. This type of Star Wars story has been a long time coming.

I like the films, though the original trilogy will of course always be my favorite. But the problem is, most of the movies focus on the same story and characters. Even Rogue One (the best of the Disney films in my opinion) was too connected to the OT. If The Mandalorian S01 E01 is any indication, this series is going to grow the scope of the Star Wars universe, and that is a good thing.

Sure, there are callbacks and easter eggs, but we can expect that. Just because it’s forging new ground, doesn’t mean it’s leaving everything behind.

So far though, everything is working really well. I know, only one episode, but it’s off to a great start. There is humor, but not too much. And lot sof action.

The Mandalorian S01 E01 Is Full of Mystery

As is befitting a Western style story with a Bounty Hunter at the center, there is plenty of mystery in this episode. The Mandalorian himself is mysterious. He has no name. We know he is an orphan, but beyond that, we know very little. Oh, we know he’s a badass and he doesn’t like droids. All of these are good threads the storytellers set up, and I hope they follow through.

Beyond the main character, other mysteries abound. The Mandalorians have returned, but who are they? Who were they? As a fan of the franchise and someone who read a lot of the legacy works, I have an idea. But casual fans, or people relatively new to Star Wars might not. And that’s okay. It all adds to the feeling of the show. As for what the over arching story will be, I have no clue. But, I can’t wait to find out.

Clearly, there is something special about who he finds at the end. Speaking of the end (don’t worry, no spoilers) I am not sure how I feel about it. Sure, it adds to the sense of the galaxy as a larger place. But at the same time, it shrinks things. I don’t know why it had to be that species, though I am sure we will find out.

This Episode Had Nearly Everything I Wanted

We got action, excitement, and some cool locations. There wasn’t a space battle, but I am holding out for hope on that. We also got to see some disturbing scenes perfect for Star Wars.

Crispilicious Crumb?

And there were some good strange creatures and supporting characters. Nick Nolte’s Ugnaught was a highlight for me. “I have spoken.”

Overall, I really liked The Mandalorian S01 E01. While there is room for it to grow, this first episode did everything it needed to do and more.

My only real complaint is there were a few times the CGI looked a little silly: the ice attack, and riding the Bluurgs. But even those weren’t too bad. I eagerly anticipate watching episode two.

Have you watched this episode? Did you like it. Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

Dryvember Day Sixteen Wrong Socks

Anyone who walks for long periods of time knows the importance of good shoes and socks. Well, on Dryvember day sixteen I had the right shoes, but I had the wrong socks. And it’s totally my fault. I know these socks suck and I should just throw them away, but I always forget. Why am I talking about socks? Because I have blisters on my feet after my long walk today. These blisters are the result of wearing the wrong socks.

What makes these socks wrong? Well, they’re too thin. Basically, I might as well wear toilet paper instead of socks. That’s how effective they are. In fact, I am throwing them away now before I forget. How do I know it’s the socks and not the shoes? After all, isn’t it the shoes that usually cause blisters? Or is it the socks? Well according to the University of Utah it’s actually friction. This friction seems to be from how our feet slide against our shoes. And thin socks can cause more friction. So there, you go. It was the socks that helped these blisters come into existence. Stupid thin socks. I hate them.

Aside from the blisters, today has been better than yesterday and the day before. I got some good sleep last night, and had a relaxing morning. Sure, I put off doing grading papers, but that’s what Sundays are for.

And the walk was lovely. The weather was cool today, and misty. It had the character of one of those days where rain approaches but never actually comes. Furthermore, the air quality was good; it’s been pretty foul recently.

The picture shows a statue of Ant-Man from the movie that I saw on Dryvember day sixteen as I cried about wearing the wrong socks.

Plus, I came across this statue of Ant-Man, and I couldn’t resist taking a picture. So yeah, not a bad Dryvember day sixteen despite the the wrong socks.

Dryvember Day Fifteen Anxiety Paralysis

On this Dryvember Day Fifteen, I find myself suffering from anxiety paralysis. I have a lot of stuff to do. Yet, I just can’t start. There are a few reasons for this that I can think of. One, the semester has reached its midpoint, and that is always a stressful time. I have papers to read, and the students are starting to feel the crunch. It’s a stressful and awful time for everyone involved.

Secondly, I am still in the process of trying to book my flight home. I can’t do it myself because I can’t use my Chinese bank card for such things. To further complicate things, I haven’t been able to transfer money to my US account. However, I can have my work book the ticket for me, which they are. The problem, though, is waiting for them to do it. And Tom Petty said it best when he said ‘The waiting is the hardest part.’

Beyond those things, though, there is a spelling bee happening at the university. We’ve known about it since before the semester started, but the school hasn’t been very forthcoming with details. I’ve been trying to prepare my students the best I can, but it’s been like shooting in the dark. Well, today, they finally gave us some real information, and for that I am appreciative. However, the competition is next week, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to prepare. Plus I have to coordinate with a colleague to create the list. All of that is fine, but it would be nice to have a little bit more time.

What really bums me out about the spelling bee, though, is I have to be there for the final round.

Dryvember Day Fifteen Breathing Through Anxiety Paralysis

See, the first round takes place in class. That’s great. I love it. I mean, I hate this whole spelling bee business, but I can handle having to do it in class. But, I hate the idea of having to co-moderate it in front of the whole school, or at least a large portion of it. My students embarrassing me doesn’t concern me. I’m sure they’ll do fine. I just don’t like the whole idea. It freaks me out. Anyone who’s had to stand in front of a large crowd of people who barely speak your language can understand what I’m talking about. Hell, anyone who’s had to stand in front of a large crowd can understand it.

It would be one thing if I just had to be there to watch and support my students. I would happily do that. but, having to moderate and judge gives me a sinking feeling in my chest. I know it will be fine, but until then I will just keep breathing.

The anxiety paralysis I’m feeling on Dryvember day fifteen has me fully in its clutches. I have one more class to teach today, and then it’s off for comfort pizza. I should work on grading papers tonight, but that will wait until tomorrow. My headspace is barely in a spot for me to think about teaching my class. And, I already taught a version of it earlier today.

Deep breaths, Ian. And pizza. Those will help. As will finally watching The Mandalorian.

Dryvember Day Fourteen: Doing Our Best

So yeah, I missed a day on this blog, but I didn’t miss a day of sobriety, meaning Dryvember day fourteen is fourteen days sober. Why did I miss yesterday? I’d like to say I had some great reason like I was being intimate with someone. Or, that I won a million dollars and was poring over how to spend my money. Sadly, it was neither of those things, or anything more interesting. No, I missed yesterday because I was tired. And, a little angry.

I don’t know what I was angry about, but it I was. Probably because I was tired. Yesterday wasn’t a bad day, but I did feel lightheaded. In fact, for a moment, I thought I ‘d caught some bug from my students. Dizziness and vertigo followed me throughout the day. Thankfully, after getting some sleep, I no longer feel that way. Oh, and I finally took a picture of this lobster statue I walk by almost every day. It’s so cute and weird. A perfect thing to help me smile on Dryvember day fourteen.

The image shows a weird lobster statue with big cartoon eyes that made me smile on dryvember day fourteen

Something else that probably contributed to my mood yesterday was something I saw on Twitter. As 2019 winds down, many people are asking “What have you achieved over the decade.” Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this question. I hope everyone feels that they have achieved great things, and are proud of their accomplishments. However, I also think that questions like this have a built in shame factor, intended or not.

Dryvember Day Fourteen: We’re All on A Different Journey

By posing this question, people are automatically setting up comparisons. We immediately engage imposter syndrome and feelings of inadequacy. This leads to responses like, “I don’t know what I’ve accomplished,” and “Nothing, this decade has been a waste.” Neither of those responses are healthy or helpful.

I do think it’s important that we take stock of ourselves and reflect. But, I also think that there are healthier ways to do it. If you want to look back on a time frame to see what you’ve done, do it. Shine the light on your accomplishments and failures. But, don’t feel bad for not reaching as many goals as you would have liked. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t where you want to be, but it seems like others are.

We are all on a different journey. Life is hard enough without comparing our successes to others’ and vice-versa. And you know what, if you’re alive right now, that ain’t nothing. Seriously. The past decade has had its ups and downs, but the past few years have been full of shit. If you’ve somehow managed to get through the daily slog of Trump and corruption and kids in cages and everything else, you deserve a pat on the back.

We’re Alive and That Ain’t Nothing

You’re alive, and that’s HUGE! It also means that you can keep working and striving. It’s tough. You won’t always succeed. Sometimes, you’ll fail spectacularly. We all do. Hell, I failed this week.

I wanted to finish a story for submission, but I missed the deadline. That upset me, which is maybe another reason why I was mad yesterday. But, I will learn from this failure, and keep trying. I’ll finish the story and then I’ll have one ready when the next opportunity to submit comes along.

Stress runs our lives a lot of the time, and stress is a killer. There are ways to beat stress, but there are also ways to increase it. One of the most effective ways to increase stress, and therefore your chances of an early death, is the Internet. The Internet loves to make us feel shitty and small. It feeds off our anxieties like vultures on a corpse. And it will always do that if we let it. Sometimes we will let it, but if we focus on limiting those times, we’ll be happier. More than that, we’ll have more time to work on accomplishing the things we want.

Dryvember Day Fourteen: The Effort is Worth It

Reaching our goals is not easy. If it were, everyone would. However, the effort is worth it. So, keep striving. Keep creating. Keep learning. Look at what you’ve done and be proud. Tell people about it. Sing your own praises, and sing the praises of your friends. But, please, don’t let others make you feel bad because it seems like they did more than you. So what if they did. We’re not the Grasshopper and the Ant. We’re humans.

Anyway, I love you and hope you had and continue to have many successes, and that you learn from your mistakes. That’s really all any of us can do. Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

Disney Vault Has New Material to Hide

When the House of Mouse bought Fox film studios, I was quite upset, and with good reason apparently because now the Disney vault has new material. To be fair, I didn’t consider that they would hide some of their newly acquired goodies, but I am not surprised.

Image shows South Park's Mickey Mouse with some new material he has for the Disney vault
South Park knew Mickey was evil long ago.

I remember people being super happy about this merger because it meant that the X-Men and Fantastic Four and other comic book properties could all join the MCU. And, sure, that’s fun. But, I didn’t care so much about that then, and I care even less now. I understand why people were excited. Lots of possibilities to see characters they love done right. I get it, I really do. However, I don’t know if that’s good enough reason to give one company so much power. Sure, Disney already had a lot of power, and now they have more.

I don’t think whatever great X-Men show or movie we’ll get is worth it, considering how much new material Disney now has for its vault. As the article above cites, movie theaters often show old films to keep their bottom line afloat. Additionally, these showings help people discover and experience films in a different way. Disney is all about making money, sure. But, they are also all about scarcity. They have been for quite a while. The vault isn’t something new. I’ve always hated it.

Thus far, their vaulting isn’t widespread. However, there is nothing to stop them from making it so. Beyond ensuring that Disney has new material for its vault for a long time, the merger is harmful in other ways.

New Material For Disney Vault Means Fewer Risks

Mass entertainment is already fairly homogeneous. To an extent, that makes sense. Companies want to make money, so they produce what people buy. It’s been that way for a long time. Now, however, it’s easy to see just how much further than concept can go. Disney now has the power to control which films the majority of theaters have access to. This limits small and independent film makers. Also, it diminishes the possibility for mid range budget films. It’s either go big or don’t go at all.

Sure, I have no evidence for any of this, but it all makes sense. Create scarcity by vaulting films. Ensure profits by betting on known franchises. Don’t take risks because they might hurt the bottom line. As a lover of entertainment, and many Disney films, I hate this. Alas, there is no way to stop it. So, some advice, buy physical media while you can. I know, digital is more convenient, but unless you are willing to take illegal roads, it is impermanent. What is available today, may not be tomorrow. That’s what the Fox/Disney merger gives you. Well that, and the potential for good X-Men films.

Dryvember Day Twelve Still Not Chugging Along

Dryvember day twelve was probably my best day so far this month. What made it so good? I’m not sure I can explain it, so I won’t even try. Suffice to say, it was good and for that I am grateful. One thing that probably helped was the fact that all my classes went well, which is always nice. Another thing that made today good was laughter. Not that I was laughing at anything in particular, but I did have quite a few good laughs today. It’s as if it were some kind of weird mirror image from Saturday when I couldn’t stop crying for no reason. In case you were wondering, laughing for no reason is better then crying for no reason.

Something else that was good about today was the fact that at no point did I feel like drinking. Sure, I’ve had that before, but it’s nice to feel again. I’m almost halfway through the month, so to have a day where booze wasn’t occupying my mind feels good. Hopefully typing those words out won’t jinx me on Dryvember day twelve.

In other, less happy, news: I still haven’t cleaned my room. Also, I still haven’t finished a short story I want to submit for publication on Friday. I am about halfway done, so that’s good. What’s no so good is I this is the third time I have written the story. The first time, it was too long. The second time, I wrote it by hand. That time, it wasn’t too long, but there was too much navel gazing. Hopefully, third time will be the charm. I would really like to have it done so I can submit it. Even if the result is a rejection letter.

I leave you with this signage from my university.

The image shows a picture from my university, where I taught today and had a wonderful Dryvember day 12

Dryvember Day Eleven: I Don’t Like Mushrooms

I have never liked mushrooms, but in the interest of trying something new on Dryvember day eleven, I decided to cook some up. Actually, I decided a few days ago that would give mushrooms another go. Why? Well, in my spare time I like to look at recipes for food I will never make or eat. Shut up, we all have our weird past times. Besides, I know I’m not the only one who does this.

As I was scrolling through a variety of recipes, I stumbled upon a mushroom and garlic one. It sounded pretty good, so I figured I’d give something like it a try. Now, to be clear, I didn’t make this recipe. I just used it as a base guideline. See, the thing I dislike about mushrooms is the sliminess, so I was looking for a way to avoid that. Over the weekend, I bought some mushrooms and butter, but forgot the garlic.

Today, I went back to the store and got some garlic for the purpose of adding it to my butter sauteed mushrooms. Well that, and it’s just nice to have garlic in the house even if it doesn’t keep vampires away.

But, I hear you asking, why bother with mushrooms if you don’t like them? That’s a good question, and the only answer I have is our tastes change. I didn’t use to like curry and now I love it. I figured I may as well give mushrooms another chance.

Following the basic instructions of the recipe, I heated them up and listened to them sizzle. Then I added some onions and yellow bell pepper. All of these I cooked without oil or butter. I was a little worried about the onions and bell pepper due to the moisture.

Dryvember Day Eleven I Do Like Mushrooms (Kind of)

Mushrooms are like sponges: They soak everything up. But, I figured if I cooked them long enough at a high enough temperature I could overcome that. After the peppers and onions and ‘shrooms had started to caramelize, I added the butter and garlic. Again, I was worried about adding moisture, this time in the form of butter. However, it worked out and the mushrooms weren’t slimy. After cooking all the veggies together, I set them aside and heated up a tortilla. Then I put the mushroom mix on the tortilla, added cheese, and made a quesadilla.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with my convection. The mushrooms weren’t slimy, but they still tasted like mushrooms (of course). The cheese and the garlic helped, but then cheese and garlic usually help. I won’t say I created my new favorite dish on Dryvember day eleven, but I didn’t hate it. So, now I can say that I am starting to gain an appreciation for mushrooms, even if I still don’t really enjoy them.

I would probably make it again, but only once in a blue moon. I meant to take a picture of it before I ate it, but I forgot. And that’s why I don’t have an Instagram account.

After the meal, I had a Bundaberg Blood Orange sparkling drink because I was craving something sweet after all that savory food. The drink was delicious. I got two of them at the store this weekend, but I should have got more.

The image shows a bottle of Bundaberg blood orange sparkling drink, which I drank after eating my mushroom concoction on Dryvember day eleven.

What are your thoughts on mushrooms? Like em? Love em? Hate em? Let me know in the comments. Oh, and if you have any good or interesting recipes to share, drop them as well. They don’t have to be mushroom related.

Dryvember Day Ten: Lazy Day of No Drinking

And now marks Dryvember day ten, a day on which I did very little. More importantly, I felt good about doing very little. Of course, I’ll probably be singing a different tune tomorrow. But for now, I am happy to have wasted my day watching the San Jose Sharks play their best game of the season. And, I am happy to have messed around on the Internet, done some writing, and taking a me day.

While I was a blithering emotional wreck yesterday, today was much more serene. I’m not sure if that was a product of all the cathartic crying I did yesterday, or something else. If I had to guess, I would say it was all the crying. I didn’t sleep much last night, so I know it’s not that I felt well rested. Whatever caused it, I’m glad I felt better today, and I hope the feeling continues.

Now, when I say, I felt better, I don’t mean I felt great. There was still some residual emotional drainage from yesterday, and there were a few moments today where I beat myself up for not being more productive. But, I told those thoughts to go to hell and leave me be. And in a happy, if rare, turn of events, it worked.

I’m sleepy today, and look forward to getting lots of good sleep tonight. I hope I can. My plan for tomorrow morning is to wake up early, do some lesson planning, and enjoy my time before going to work. Keep your fingers crossed that I can make it happen.

All in all it was a relaxing day, even if I wasted most of it and didn’t go outside I deserve to treat myself right, and that’s how I spent Dryvember day ten. Thank you for reading.

Dryvember Day Nine: My Emotions!

Let me tell you, dear readers, Dryvember day nine has been emotional. It started fine. I slept in, had some real coffee, and watched some old Penny Dreadful episodes. Then, at around noon a little bit of creeping malaise began to settle in. I figured it was probably because I was just lounging around in bed not doing anything. So, I decided to get up and get moving. That took a little bit of time, but eventually I was out of the house and listening to the Film Reroll. For those who don’t know, it’s a podcast where they role play through movies and it’s delightful.

Today’s episode was Practical Magic, a movie I’ve never seen. And you know what, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen it because the cast is so skilled and entertaining that I knew what was happening. Besides, they always change the movies anyways, so even if I had seen it, it wouldn’t have been the same. Well, let me tell you, this episode was quite the emotional roller coaster. More than a few time, I found myself crying as I wandered down the streets of Jinan. These weren’t tears of sadness, or of joy, really. Rather, they were tears of release. I think I’ve been keeping in a lot of stress lately without too many places to put it.

Feeling the Stress on Dryvember Day Nine

Sure, I talk about it here a little bit, but there’s only so much catharsis blogging can offer up. Part of the problem, I think, is that many of my days begin at 8am and finish at 6pm. Granted, I don’t work those hours straight through, but they do limit the amount of free time I have. It’s hard to go for an afternoon walk when you work 2pm-6pm. And yeah, I could go for an evening stroll, but by that time I’m hungry and have to start getting ready for the next day.

Now, I know I am not special in this regard. Everyone works too much and doesn’t have enough time. So, on one hand I am sorry for complaining, but on the other I need to get this out. It is what it is, and I hope it doesn’t make me sound whiny or entitled or anything. I have it relatively easy compared to a lot of others. I know that.

Also, I think I’m just feeling lonely. I don’t really have any friends here. You think it’s hard to make friends after you reach a certain age? Try it in a country where you don’t speak the language. Again, this is what I signed up for, and I am not complaining. I am, however, just explaining what’s on my mind.

But, got some cheese from the foreign goods store, and that makes me happy. And, I found a “Pocket Park” in Jinan, which put a smile on my face. I must have looked quite the sight to anyone who saw me, smiling with tears in my eyes, looking at this little park. Oh, emotions are such strange things.

The image shows a pocket park, which I saw on Dryvember Day nine as I wandered through Jinan, crying.
Click image to make bigger

Homer Simpson Said It So I Won’t

All of these feeling probably have something to do with Dryvember, not just day nine. Funny thing, that alcohol: it acts as a depressant when you use it, but hey when you aren’t using it, too!. Awesome. Why would anyone ever start/stop it?

I joke, but only a little. I realize I probably sound down in this blog post, and I am a little. But, I’m doing all right, really. In fact, I’m doing pretty well. And now I am off to work on revising a story I hope to submit to a contest on Friday.

Wish me luck, and thanks for reading. Have a wonderful period of waking.

Dryvember Day Eight Too Much Coffee, Dudes

Dryvember day eight will be a a short post? Why? Well, not much happened today, it’s late in the evening, and it’s my post. First things first, I’ve had too much coffee today. In the form of sugary 3 in 1. I am not the biggest fan of 3 in 1 instant mix because they are too sugary and lack a kick.

Case in point:

The image shows Arabus, a  3 in 1 coffee drink I had five packets of on Dryvember day eight.

I had give 100 grams packets of this stuff today, and I’m barely feeling it. I don’t feel wired or jittery. Hell, I don’t even feel the need to rush to the toilet to attend to some business. No, all these things did for me on Dryvember day eight was ensure an increase in my sugar intake.

Why was I drinking 3 in 1 coffee? Well, because I went to the bank yesterday, I didn’t have time to go shopping. This is relevant because I was out of regular coffee. So, when I bought those wasabi chips I ate last night, I picked this up, too. Lesson learned; I won’t be buying these again anytime soon. Never fear, though, I got some real coffee today. I mean it’s still instant, but it’s just coffee, and soon I can be back to acting like Too Much Coffee Man.

I felt good today, though. Sleeping nine and half hours last night had me feeling refreshed and invigorated. The only real bummer of the day was when some foreign teachers (white like me) kind of shamed me for buying Pizza Hut. They saw me coming home during the lunch break and commented on my Pizza Hut bag. I don’t know if they were being dicks, but it sure felt like they were. Whatever. I’m not going to let it bother me.

That’s Dryvember day eight. Thanks for reading.