Thursday, December 25, 2014

Yes or No

There is a category of moment I encounter, and I need a name for it.

Moments when I am faced with two clear options, and everything in me knows which one is a better option, though it's clearly the tougher choice. And so I simply sit with myself and see if I can muster the courage to pick that better option. And I sometimes do, but I sometimes also fail.

Does that ever happen to you?

(from July 2014)

I'm a Hufflepuff, but I wasn't always

For awhile I knew about the Pottermore sorting hat, but I didn't bother to try it. Was it because I wasn't curious? No, not at all. It's because I was so sure I'd be a Hufflepuff, I didn't think to bother.

When I finally took it, I tried to clear my head and approach each question alone with no bias. I told myself to welcome any house. I even turned the lights off and went into fullscreen. Yep, I was committed.

Big surprise: I got Hufflepuff. And when I read the welcome from J.K. Rowling, it matched up. Patience and acceptance and all that—bring it. I'm happy in my new home.

But here's the thing.

When I got up from the computer and was walking through the night toward the laundromat (where most epiphanies occur), I realized something. I think I've been trying to become more of a Hufflepuff for nearly 5 years now. No, not in the "please let me be in the house of Cedric and badgers" sort of way. But rather, I realized somewhere in high school that these Hufflepuff traits—loyalty, kindness, justice—were what I admired most.

Growing up I wouldn't have felt that way. I remember being fiercely competitive. I thought that wisdom and notability was the best way to go. I valued test scores and talent and popularity and skills and knowledge. But somewhere along the line, I realized that maybe wasn't me.

The change is probably less dramatic than I make it seem, but if you were to ask teenage Joel what Hogwarts house he would've wanted to be sorted into, I doubt he would have said Hufflepuff. But I feel halfway certain that this new me does. At least for now.

Are we too complex to fall into four categories? Yes, a million times over. Is it fun anyways? Yes, of course.

(from December 2013)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

'Gravity' and 'American Hustle' lead 86th Oscar nominations with ten

(article for Neon Tommy, USC's digital news)

As every critics' association and guild deals out awards recognizing the best in 2013 cinema, one opinion is still held above the rest. On Thursday morning, the nominees for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 86th Oscars were announced live on ABC.

The nomination totals were unsurprisingly led by three films that have continued to dominate the Best Picture discussion. Gravity and American Hustle each scored ten nominations, while 12 Years a Slave came in with nine.

The event itself goes by very quickly. While the Oscars ceremony in March will give as much attention to spectacle as to the winners themselves, the Nominations Announcement presents itself as all business. At precisely 5:38 AM this morning inside the Academy's Wilshire headquarters, Rush-star Chris Hemsworth and new Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs walked onto stage and read the names to a lone camera. The timing of the announcement is such to catch Good Morning America viewers on the east coast, so the entire day remains for analysis and speculation.

As always, the story is found in the films that are snubbed. This year's surprise omission was the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, which only picked up nominations for cinematography and sound mixing. A number of other contending films were left out of the nominations altogether, including Lee Daniels' The Butler, Enough Said, Monsters' University and Fruitvale Station, while Saving Mr. Banks was only nominated for Original Score. Actors that were left out of the mix included Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Robert Redford (All is Lost), and the late James Gandolfini (Enough Said).

Films that made a stronger-than-expected performance included the British film Philomena, which picked up four nominations including ones for Best Picture and Supporting Actress Judi Dench, and Her, which gathered five nominations despite speculation that it would feel too new-age for Academy voters.

The acting categories brought a number of familiar names, with American Hustle stars Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence all repeating from last year. Lawrence is now the youngest three-time acting nominee at age 23, and Meryl Streep extended her all-time acting nomination lead, receiving her eighteenth nod for August: Osage County. Surprises in the acting categories included a second nomination in three years for both Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Christian Bale (American Hustle).

The 86th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 2nd at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

Monday, December 30, 2013

My hopes for you in 2014

These are hopes that I have for you in the new year. Who are "you"? Well, you are, stranger.

1. I hope that you will realize that a door you think is closed, is not really closed at all.
2. I hope that you will see you have the strength to move past whatever is hurting you.
3. I hope that when you're sad, you will allow yourself to just feel sad.
4. I hope that you will keep your expectations from getting in the way of the beauty of what actually is.
5. I hope that you will look up from your phone long enough to realize what you're missing in front of you.
6. I hope that you will know you're worthy of all the love people offer you.
7. I hope that next time you're put down, you will find the words to speak up.
8. I hope that instead of just hearing, you will try to listen.
9. I hope that you will Say yes more.
10. I hope that you will raise your arms up and scream with joy, and mean it.
11. I hope that this will be the year that you can take that one thing (you know, that one thing you tell yourself is holding you back from living the life you want) and face it. You know the thing I mean. Make this the year.
12. I hope that you will not wait.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lessons from 2013

While looking back through some old notes, I decided to write down a list of lessons that meant something to my life this year. Some have been recurring, while some I'm very much still learning. Maybe one will mean something to you, too.

1. The timetable by which you move through life is very personal to you. No one else can define that.
2. If you manage to make just one lasting friendship each year, you will live an incredibly rich life.
3. It's important to have a hobby that's completely unrelated to your career.
4. It's not going to be good the first time. You'll probably even look back and laugh. But you have to start somewhere.
5. If you want to go on 20-mile runs, you're going to lose a few toenails.
6. It's okay to do nothing sometimes. It's important to do nothing sometimes.
7. If you don't like Diet Coke, you won't like rum and Diet Coke either.
8. Working more does not equal more happiness. Working more often does not even mean more success in work.
9. Someone who takes a personal interest in your well-being is rare and special (and should probably be taken out for ice cream).
10. Everyone's going through something. Be kind always.
11. A list about the year '13 is allowed to have only 12 items.
12. Just because something ends doesn't make it any less special.

Friday, November 8, 2013

More Than Me

Katie: Is anyone here good at math?
Me: What do you need?
Katie: Okay, so I'm trying to figure out the difference between 200,000 and 10 million. Like how many times.
(I pause to think.)
Me: 50 times.
Katie: Yeah?
Me: Yeah.
Katie: How did you know that?
Me: Well, 200,000 into one million is five times, and so 10 million... Is that, like, money?
Katie: Yeah.
Me: That's a lot of money.
Katie: I have a charity, and our operating budget is $200,000, but others have $10 million. They spend $50,000 on advertising. We spend $5000.
Me: $50,000 on operating alone?
Katie: Advertising.
Me: That's what I meant. What kind of charity?
Katie: We take young girls in prostitution in Liberia and take them off the street and educate them. I actually just won $1 million on national television.
Me: You did? That's great! 
Katie: Well, not just. It was almost a year ago. I screamed louder than I ever have.
Me: I would too.
Katie: Except for when I met Bono.
Me: Wow, you met Bono?
Katie: One time when I went to Liberia, he was just there playing with my girls. Wearing leather pants and sunglasses and everything.
Me: That sounds like Bono alright. So why are you in New York?
Katie: We have an office in Brooklyn. I went through a time without much money, and I'd sleep on benches and end up talking to a lot of homeless people. Would you read that?
Me: Read what?
Katie: I'm writing a book. It's a memoir. I'm worried only women will be interested.
Me: I'd read it. Why only women?
Katie: Because of what it's about. It seems that men only want to read books written by men.
Me: It doesn't have to be that way.
Katie: I don't know.
Me: But even if only women do, that's still a lot of people. I'm glad you're doing that. You really won a million dollars?
Katie: Yes, it was amazing!
Me: This is my stop. What's your name?
Katie: Katie. And look up More Than Me.
Me: Best of luck to you Katie. I will.

And you should too:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why I Run

Tomorrow morning my alarm will go off at 8:27, or maybe 8:13 if I plan ahead to snooze. Fridays are an hour later than every other weekday, but it'll still feel early. And when that alarm goes off and I lie deep within my warm cocoon, my mind—suddenly the great debater—will list off reason after reason why I should stay in bed for 45 minutes longer. But just like every other day, I'll roll myself out of bed (quite literally), strap on my shoes, and hit the pavement.

I run not because I always want to, though I often do. I run not for some time goal or distance goal or race goal, though those things do make it fun.

I run instead for the rhythm. For the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other beat on the sidewalk, and the symphony that forms with my heart and my breath. I run to feel the cold air rushing into my lungs and the morning sun warming my skin. I run to get lost, then to get found, and to find something else along the way. I run for the little extra spring I get when scaling the subway steps later that morning, and for the bit of soreness that reminds me self-reflexively why it's there. I run to make the world seem brighter, and to brighten myself for the world.

I choose to run because it reminds me that I have that choice.