Week 23 – Beach.

This week was spring break, so I went on a small trip to Galveston Island; a small island at the bottom of Houston. I went with a small group of friends; we spent time playing card games, making food, going to the beach, and just having a fun time. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to actually go in the water, due to a runoff from the meat industry contaminating the water, but we still found things to do, like making sand castles, and throwing frisbees against torrential winds — honestly, that one was quite a bit of work for anyone downwind. I went for a jog on the beach with my friend, I basked in the sun and listened to music, watched the sand blow down the paths, and the seagulls floating along up in the air. One of the things I liked looking at was how different the layout of this small beach town was compared to the bigger cities I’ve been to, everything just felt calm, and peaceful. After a few days, we packed up and headed home, saying goodbye and going back to our families.

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Week 22 – Painting.

This week I’ve been learning to paint with acrylics. Previously I’ve worked with some watercolors, so I was interested to figure out the difference between the two. I started off just figuring out how much of two primary colors to mix to get the correct secondary, and then a little later I was painting small pictures and objects, like a boat on a sandy shore, a vase of roses, or a butterfly. It’s a very enjoyable past time. A few days later I went to my friend’s house, they said they were going to be painting, and having been painting all week, I asked if I could join them. They gave me a small canvas and said I could use any of the paints or brushes they had. Up till then, I had never actually painted on a canvas, only posterboard, so I was slightly eager to see if it would be any different – I took a large flat brush and some blue and just started dragging it across the canvas, getting a feel for it, I accidentally put a little bit more blue than I was hoping so I tried to spread it out with a large curved brush across the white, and in that slowy steady movement I noticed how the direction of the paint curved with the brush stroke – to me it looked like a familar scene, a wave, so I decided that’s what I would set as my end goal. I mixed colors, blues with black, blues with white, different hues to try and capture the many shades in the ocean, and learned as I went along how small things could have such a large impact on the overall image. By the end, I had a large magnanimous wave reaching from the bottom of the canvas, all the way to the top, I was happy with it and the things I learned by doing it.

Week 21 – Pizza.

This week I taught myself how to make pizza. I homemade the dough; mixed it, kneaded it, and stretched it. My Uncle was to be my guinea pig when it was out of the oven. As far as first attempts go, it was a success, though it leaned a little bit more towards the style of a Chicago deep dish than the traditional thin New York style. My Uncle who had previously volunteered himself to eat was so hungry, and or eager, possibly a mix of both, that he burned his mouth by eating it too soon.  There were some changes I planned on making after that first attempt, one such being that I would use fresh Mozzarella cheese, so the next day I went to the store and just did that. I decided I would make my family two pizzas for Valentine’s day; one I decided to be a little artistic with and shaped the dough into a heart, the other was a regular as-round-as-I-can-make-it Pizza. These ones were less deep dish than last, but still rather large crusted, so I noted that I would have to stretch it thinner next time. Next time turned out to be about a few hours later when I went to a friends house to make their family a pizza. This one was the Magnum Opus of my pizzas, everything was perfect. The crust was thin and wide, the cheese covered it all, the pepperonis were proportionately placed, and to top it off I sprinkled some basil on top. The responses were ecstatic, they were saying things like it was the best pizza they’d ever had, and how they wished there was more. I was happy, and can safely tuck another well-done recipe into my hat.

Week 20 – Wedding.

This week my brother got married; I had the honor of being apart of being one of the groomsmen. They couldn’t have had a better wedding, surrounded by friends and family, it was the quintessential wedding. Everybody was filled with emotions, many tears were shed out of joy, many laughs were heard out of excitement. I’m overjoyed to have the other family conjoined with our own, though they already had been in essence for the past few years. It was one of the happiest days of the year, so far, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavors through life.

Week 19 – Play.

Earlier this week I went to see a stage performance of little shop of horrors; one of my closest friends was playing the role of the dentist, so I decided to go see it. It was a wonderful show, with some very talented actors, but saying this from a completely unbiased standpoint my friend did an out of this world performance. I was surprised how good he was, as someone who doesn’t really explicitly show excitement in things all the time, watching his show made me feel proud and excited to watch how far he’s come. Watching someone who you grew up with, and care about like a little brother, go on to do great things – I don’t really feel that sense of excitement for many others.

Week 18 – Family.

My sister is in town this week; it’s been a few years since I’ve seen her, so I’m excited she’s here. It’s always nice when a family member who you haven’t seen for awhile comes around. As someone who grew up with a house of six people, I enjoy when the house feels more full. She was showing me some small tricks on the guitar, and how to play certain chords, later on, that night, we played a game and stayed up far too late. I’ve been cooking a little more as of late, one of those the things I’ve been cooking is burgers, and I can happily say I’ve figured out what my ideal burger consists of. It includes lettuce, jalapeno, avocado, caramelized onions, a mixed sauce of mayo and sriracha, and swiss cheese, oh and also toasted buns, that’s an important key factor.

Week 17 – Movies.

I watched The Godfather the other day and was asked to give a review of it, so these are my thoughts, though I think I may have gone a bit off track somewhere along the way.

The Godfather is a movie about the Corleone’s, a powerful Italian-American family in the 1940’s, who publically are in the business of olive oil, and privately have their hands in gambling and other criminal activities. The Corleone’s are one of five powerful families in new york, with them being the most powerful they have ties to politicians, newspapers, restaurants, and just about every section of the city. A comparison can be made to other well-known families, such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and Bush families. The family and business are run by Vito Corleone, who’s priority above all else is his family and their well being — The movie also get’s its title from this character, who is the godfather to many friends and families children, the title of godfather is a very important and respected privilege to the Italian-American community. Everything that Vito does is justified in his eyes as being for his family, whether it be threatening the head of a studio to boost his godson’s career, or refusing to deal with drugs because he believes that it would tear apart the eco-system between the other four families.

I could continue talking about the machinations of the movie, and my interpretations of the characters and the plot, but I’m going to shift a little to talk about the technical side of the movie. There was some very incredible lighting that I took note of whenever Vito Corleone was conducting Business; the lighting was set up to cast shadows on his eyes so that you couldn’t see them, it creates a menacing look, this could be partly in due to the fact that like a mask, when people are not able to see someone’s eyes they become a little less human, and it put’s the mind on alert. You can tell that the movie was shot on film partly because of the slight noise on screen if you watch closely, but largely because if you watch, the colors at times can seem a little washed, this is because the film itself is washed out and slightly damaged, causing certain scenes to have more offset look. They also really liked fading when changing scenes, but I’m sure that can probably be attributed to the fact that they were limited by the technology they had available at the time; where you didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to making a cut, or scene change, not like today where everything is digitally edited and you can make some absolutely gorgeous scene changes. Another thing was the flow of the movie, I thought that it did a very good job of keeping a steady rhythm, never really dropping in pace.

There’s the mark that this movie has left in modern cinema, iconic elements that have become a part of pop-culture, such as the voice of Vito Corleone, the sort of respiratory breathing, coupled with a low scratchy Italian-accented voice – the line “Make them an offer they can’t refuse” coupled with the implied innuendo has also become a staple remark when talking about making a “persuasive deal” with someone.

On the use of narrative devices and getting the point across, it is conveyed from the first five minutes of the film just about everything you need to know about the presence Vito Corleone has, and that he is, in fact, a powerful individual – you can see that he’s surrounded by consul’s and bodyguards, while an associate asks a “favor” which is implied to hold a lot of weight. I think it’s impressive how much world building and information there is to take in from that short amount of time. The use of deaths can feel heavy, but I think that’s because unlike your modern action/crime movie, the deaths have an impact on the story. Look at a James Bond movie; plenty of people die, but they’re unknown entities, or they’re chalked up to as “grunts” or “bad guys”, but killing and deaths in those movies are more romanticized, they have you rooting and cheering for the protagonist as he creates enough bodies to fill a cemetery at his feet, versus a movie where deaths are used sparingly and are not handed out like candy on Halloween. It makes it feel important since you know these characters, and have watched them it feels more tragic to see them leave the screen, but if you break it down the moral ambiguity disappears, because if you strip them away of all their features, characteristics, and individual traits, your left with a death, which is from a moral standpoint equal to everyone, that is to say, nobodies death should be held above another.

So why is it that we have audiences cheer for characters who are almost like death incarnate? Because from a literary standpoint it is a biased point of view. You’re looking at things from that character’s point of view, you see things from their perception as they’re presented to you; in turn, you befriend their opinion and choose to agree with it, because they’re the familiar character – In fact we are willing to go so far as to ignore and justify detestable actions made by a character in order to accommodate the present bias.  However, if you were to take a step back and look at both sides of a story you might see that things are not as straightforward as they seem. You might see that the views of the main protagonist are in fact corrupt — some movies take note of this and actually use it as a narrative device to create a conflicting turmoil in the mind of the viewer because it is clear that the main character is acting in a more heinous way, but they might be charismatic, or charming. But does that justify their actions? One thing that is used to nudge the viewer to sympathize with a character like this is to have a traumatic backstory, something to justify why they are like this, to in turn justify their actions. It takes a lot of skill to successfully pull this off, to have a “bad” protagonist that the viewer agrees with. That’s my view on things anyway.