Brandon's Journal

A personal blog about life, movies, books, and a little bit of everything else.

Negativity

I'm struggling with dealing with all the negativity that seems to prevail these days. It seems everyone wants to lean into their dislike and hatred of just about anything. They no longer celebrate the things they like, but instead spend time shitting on the things they don't.

I have one friend who I text with almost daily and 95% of the texts involve negativity. This sucks, that sucks, look at how ridiculous this, etc. Almost every bit of it fueled by things found on social media. That outrage culture is just as bad as the cancel culture in my eyes and it makes me wonder how any relationship can last when "everything sucks."

My stepdad is also like this. He spends all day with the news on and he spends every free moment discussing the terrible state of the world. Then he complains about his beautiful house, his huge camper, his new truck, his swimming pool, etc. etc. Nothing is ever good enough. Nothing is easy enough and nothing is excessive enough and it's exhausting to be surrounded by this 24/7.

I give up on my podcasts that I end up finding for this exact reason. I'm excited to see the topic they pick, but then when the podcast is mostly trashing the topic, I just don't understand what should compel me to listen? Because someone else likes trashing something? Because a forty year old movie doesn't fit into today's social values?

The Gottmans famously discovered the "magic ratio" for a marriage to work: 5 to 1. This means that for every negative interaction during conflict, there has to be five (or more) positive interactions to overcome the damage the negative one does. I'm beginning to wonder what the magic ratio is for friends, websites, social media, and news sources.

Spotify

Recently, I lost my patience with YouTube and it's aggressive advertising, today I finally snapped on Spotify.

I've been a fan of Spotify for a very long time. I was an early adopter of Google Music, but Spotify was a service I grew to love. I liked the simple and sleek UI in contrast to the early Google Music UI which was incredibly resourceful but hideous. And sometime around 2018, I finally made the change to Spotify and have used it for my streaming services ever since.

But over the past few months, I've grown increasingly frustrated with it. First, there are the constant advertising of podcasts, which seem to get worse every day. Then there are the constant suggestions, which are sometimes accurate and sometimes way off base. And then there is the horrible changes to the UI which make it difficult to use. There is just so much crap on the screen at any given moment, it's hard to sort between what you are looking for and what you are being advertised.

I don't mind advertisements, if it's a free services, but I'm paying for a family plan. I don't like that every time I boot up the app I have a screen I have to swipe advertising something on Spotify.

I also hate that the playlists I search are increasingly full of crap. The thing I loved most about streaming music were handmade playlists. I loved that someone took the time to sort through an entire season of Burn Notice and found every song and linked it all in one place. That's fun for me and I love revisiting late 90's WB shows for their interesting and unique soundtracks.

But now, it's almost impossible to find an accurate soundtrack. Instead, you'll find a soundtrack that is 80% accurate and then some band (or fan) who are trying to promote themselves insert their music in the midst of all the actual songs. It's frustrating at hell to enjoy a good playlist and then hear a song that doesn't fit at all or lacks the same quality. It wouldn't be so bad if I found a good song here or there, but I never do. It's always crap, which is probably why these bands are resorting to this bullshit guerrilla marketing.

I've been trying to be patient but I think I'm done. I'm over Spotify. I'm going to continue using AntennaPod for my podcasts and I'm going back to mp3s. Why does the internet just seem to get progressively worse ever single year?

Introducing Middle Aged Fat Kids

In the fall of 2008, my friend Jimmy and I started a podcast. It was a originally titled Fat Kids in the Basement, but was shortened to Fat Kids Radio. We recorded nine episodes over a couple of months and co-ran a small blog where we discussed movies, music, video games, wrestling, and life. It was a very fun time that ended way too soon.

Over the years, Jimmy and I have talked about Fat Kids Radio fondly. It was a long time ago, and we've obviously both grown and matured over the years, but the love we have for our interests have never died. In fact, I'd say over the years, it's only gotten stronger.

So, a couple of weeks ago when Jimmy texted me and mentioned that we should start a blog and call it Middle Aged Fat Kids, I was all for it. Work together with one of my oldest friends just chatting about all the random things that we love? Heck yea, sign me up.

Over the weekend, I put together a blog, bought a domain and now I'm ready to formerly introduce Middle Aged Fat Kids.

Middle Aged Fat Kids (MAFK from here on out) is a light website where we will geek out and have fun. I've decided to pull all my media reviews and entertainment discussions from this blog and solely share them on MAFK. Brandon's Journal will now be dedicated to just discussing life, tech, philosophy, religion, etc and the fun pop culture stuff will take place over on MAFK.

I hope you'll check us out and be sure to add us to your RSS or bookmark us. There will be more content in the future.

More Thoughts and a Response to Permanent vs Temporary Writing

I've had some time to digest some of my thoughts regarding the concepts behind permanent writing and temporary writing and the role it plays in my blogging/journaling/writing future.

But first, I want to highlight some articles that were sent to me by Dino. He was reminded of them after reading my post and I was grateful to see some different perspective tackling the same subject.

How the Blog Broke the Web by Amy Hoy discusses the evolution of homepages into blogs and finally into social media. The article explores how we went from writing information that was made to exist indefinitely to trying to check off dates on a calendar.

Dates didn't matter all that much. Content lasted longer; there was less of it. Older content remained in view, too, because the dominant metaphor was table of contents rather than diary entry.

This is exactly what I was talking about the other day. Sure, some Web 1.0 websites might have an "Updated" date/time at the top or bottom of the page, but that wasn't all the important. It was the content on the page that was important. Not the date it was created.

For some blog readers, this might not be an issue, but I think for most casual readers it is. They only skim the most recent content and even then they might not actually consume it. And why should they? There will be more next Monday or Wednesday or whenever the posting schedule occurs. I would argue that not that many even use the tags or categories to explore related content.

This disappoints me because it devalues the older content. It's almost like saying, any book not written this year isn't worth my time to read anymore. And part of this is very much because of the way we update and the chronological order we present our content.

The second article he sent to me was Stock and Flow by Robin Sloan which looks at web content in economic turns. I'll allow Ms. Sloan to properly describe what stock and flow is:

Flow is the feed. It's the posts and the tweets. It's the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It's the content you produce that's as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It's what people discover via search. It's what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

What an amazing way to break down web content. I'm obviously trying to lean into more stock writing vs flow, but I do think there is a place for the flow as well.

Some folks, such as Dino, have been creating digital gardens which act as archives and personal exploration devices for their various interests and hobbies. Dino mentioned that the stock writing would be what "what I would call a permanent note in digital garden terms. It's something that will stand the test of time."

I love the idea of using something outside of your blog as a way to archive the important and quality writings. Some use digital gardens and I went old school with a retro designed website. Speaking of that website, I've decided to rename it Brandon's Homepage (at least I will in the near future), because I think it's more fitting of the title. The site is to serve as a landing pad for myself, but will also link out to everything else I'm working on. You can see on my Pro Wrestling page, I've taken an old WCW website, converted it into somewhat of a tribute and then linked to all of my recent articles and recaps from The Wrestling Insomniac. I'm basically archiving content and organizing it a static stationary type of page.

So, after a ton of deliberation her is how I've decided to proceed with my blogging and writing.

  1. Brandon's Journal - This will be my day-to-day blog. Some posts will be in-depth though processes others may be basic life updates. The site will be true to it's name and act as a journal.

  2. Brandon's Homepage - This will be the site that ties everything together. A one stop shop to get to whatever I'm doing and a way to enjoy a lot of what I've written in the past. This is my permanent record, my own take on a digital garden, 90's style.

  3. Middle Aged Fat Kids - Okay, so this is a new site that I'm planning on writing a whole post dedicated to in the next day or so. In a nutshell, back in 2008, I had a podcast with an old friend called Fat Kids Radio. Recently, we discussed starting up a low stress website where we could just share our interests and have fun. I got the website up and running this weekend and I'm quite excited about it. I plan on sharing my pop culture thoughts, movie reviews, video game impressions, and so forth on Middle Aged Fat Kids so that it's separate from the more serious discussions found on my journal.

For some, managing three different avenues for writing may seem extreme, especially when I still contribute to The Wrestling Insomniac on ocassion as well as Retro-Daze. But I'm thinking if I can separate my personal thoughts on life, philosophy, the internet from my more fun and goofy thoughts on pop culture it will create for more comfortable writing environments. It will also allow people to choose what sort of content they wish to read from me while avoiding the other. Then of course, I'll have the Homepage to just link everything together and a place to share my curated posts that are worth saving.

Hmm...

Last night, I found myself back on Archive.org, digging around and looking at old blogs of mine. Previously, I discussed some thoughts on my digital past and the growth that I've had in my writing since then. It's very easy to feel embarrassment when reading rants and immature musings, but last night I ran across some stuff that didn't fit into that category, specifically, a post I wrote the on my birthday in 2015.

Years ago, I would try to reflect on my year near my birthday. It was a way for me to monitor growth and practice gratitude. Somewhere along the line, I've stopped recapping my year and that's disappointing, because both my recaps in 2015 and 2016 were quite enlightening to read in 2021.

As I read through my revelations from just a few short years ago, I found myself eyeballing the rest of my old deleted blogs. Was it all rubbish? Was the way I shared myself, my interests, and the things I liked all that bad? Did it truly matter if the content was temporary and permanent?

The foundation of my beliefs regarding blogging in today's world was rocked. I looked back at this frustrated younger version of me and I felt myself get envious. Here was a guy who just wrote, had no problems revamping, and just kept writing. He put forth his love of nostalgia and the personal details of his daily struggles. I read through posts about job loss, therapy, depression, video games, and movies and I kinda missed that guy.

Have I over thought this whole blogging thing? Have I preoccupied myself with templates, designs, and even privacy? Is there part of me who feels that I need to mature in my writing? Because if I'm honest, some of the stuff I was reading last night is eons better than what I've been shoveling out as of late.

I've got a little thinking to do.

Permanent vs. Temporary Writing

Last year, I wrote a blog post that is very similar in content to what follows. That blog post has since become a prime of example of what I'm talking about in permanent vs. temporary writing. Allow me to elaborate.

Back in the 90's, when the web was young, folks spent hours tweaking their websites. Some of them were a single simple page, while others contained dozens of interlocking pages covering a variety of subjects. I used to love checking out a fan page for a popular TV show such as The X-Files. It wasn't uncommon to see someone run an X-Files page, Buffy page, Roswell page, etc. All of these pages were chained together with banners or links. Here is a great example of someone promoting all of their various pages Angel Fan's Buffy and Angel Home Page .

I mention this because people spent a lot of time curating and crafting what one might call a piece of art. It wasn't a cookie cutter template or a single text box, it was a canvas that one used to promote, share, inform, and geek out on.

One of the things I remember fondly about that time is that when I wrote and worked on those sites, I wrote like what I created would last a millennium. It was permanent, every single word. Each page was crafted and there was no thought of hiding it or forgetting about it. Compare this to modern blogs, where people tend to read the latest blog after finding the article linked/shared and if you are lucky, they might scroll through some of your archives. But it's very much a cafeteria style web browsing, you just take what you want and dump the rest.

I believe because of the nature of blogs, the writing we do on them feels more temporary rather than permanent like the websites of yesteryear. I know that this post will be lost in just a matter of weeks and if you didn't see it while it was new, you'll probably never see it. That frustrates me, because something shouldn't lose it's value just because it isn't new and shiny.

Because of this feeling that everything is fleeting and temporary, I've ran dozens of blogs over the years, abandoning them with relative ease. It's much easier to garner attention to a new shiny blog then try and convince someone to come check out a blog with hundreds of posts. People want to get in on the journey from the beginning and checking out the backlog just isn't cool in a society where news comes by the minute and Tweets by the seconds.

But I think I did this because I knew deep down that what I wrote wasn't for the test of time. It was for the moment, just like the post I reference at the beginning of this article. I wrote out similar feelings last year and since then I've reset this blog twice and that post is now lost. It was part of the problem, it was only meant to be read temporarily.

Maybe writing in a temporary style makes the writing more valuable or maybe it feels temporary because less effort goes into it because we know it won't last. Blog hosts will close or change and become less user friendly. Domains will expire and at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, "Is this really all that important?"

I spent hours combing over archives of my old posts so I could pull out some of the best and put them together on my new HTML site: My Favorite Posts. It's far from complete and I hope one day to go back and clean up some of them since they are quite old, but when I posted them into my HTML code I felt like I was preserving them for the future. I knew that my format wasn't going anyway. I knew that I wasn't relying on Wordpress, Blogger, or Write.as. I knew that the file would be small, the words would look good, and maybe just maybe someone would take the time to explore my site and come to appreciate these little stories I shared oh so many years ago.

I think we ought to try and make some of our writing more permanent. I know complaining about the newest movie release or the latest sport score isn't something you may want to reflect on ten years from now, but there are those good stories that come from your heart, soul, and memory that deserve a more permanent home. And as much as I love blogging, I just don't think it's right avenue for archiving.

Going Back to the 90's... Web Design

Well, I've been teasing it over the past month, but I'm finally ready to reveal my new homepage: Brandon's Journal.

The site was designed with HTML and is/will be in constant construction. I think for the longest time, I've felt like I had to be finished with something in order to share it, but I realize when working on a site like this the work is never done. There's always something to add or tweak and maybe I won't work on it daily, but I've been tinkering and rebuilding this site for over five years now. It's time to allow the world to enjoy it.

The idea is that Brandon's Journal will act as a home page that hosts various articles, old blogs, and stuff I'd just like to keep. That way I'm free to blog all that I want with no distractions.

I hope you'll check out the site and maybe even bookmark like we used to do back in the day. Check back and visit from time-to-time and see what new I've added. Just be sure to hit refresh whenever you pop on by so that you get the latest updates.

Strikes and Gutters

2021 has been one bitch of a year. Starting around March, everything fell apart. I don't want to go into all the details, because I've definitely spent way too much time complaining and processing those feelings and thoughts throughout the year, but let's just say it was tough.

Then almost like the skies opening up, things have gotten better. Slowly... one thing at a time, things have been improving. Things aren't back to the way they were say in February, nor do they look like they will get that way anytime soon, but things are on the up. It feels like our luck has finally taken a turn for the better.

Earlier today, I was journaling when a quote came to mind from The Big Lebowski.

The Dude is asked how he's doing and he replies:

“Oh you know, strikes and gutters, ups and downs.”

I always loved this quote and its such an interesting way to respond to such an effortless question that is asked over and over throughout the day. And as I was journaling about the change in the things outside of our control, this quote emerged.

I could easily say we've been bowling gutter balls the past few months. It's been tough and our scorecard has been low, but it seems like we are throwing a few more strikes right now. Our average is going up and in doing so its bringing our general uneasiness into contentment and I like that.

So, I guess I'm writing this for anyone who is going through a tough time. Just remember strikes and gutters. Sometimes its totally out of your control and you just gotta go with the flow.

-The Wannabe Dude Out

Babylon 5 - The Gathering

Watching The Gathering so many years removed from watching Babylon 5 has been an interesting experience. I see the groundwork for this magnificent story as well as the seeds of these incredible characters, but there is also some stuff that feels so alien. For example; the lack of Ivanova and Dr. Franklin. And while, those characters were missed, I gotta say I did enjoy Tamlyn Tomita's portrayal of Lt. Cmdr. Laurel Takashima and I feel like the character had great room for growth.

I won't comment on the special effects, because that story has been repeated several times over, but obviously they leave a lot to be desired. I think the most startling thing to me was how some of the more lit scenes looked like they were shot on video. It reminded me more of an old Dr Who episode at times than say Star Trek.

Some of the makeup, especially on G'kar and Delenn, is pretty startling since it's different from what the finished product would end up being. Some of the performances are a bit wooden, if I'm honest, had I watched this when it originally aired, I probably wouldn't have continued watching the show. It's not terrible, it just doesn't really have all the elements of Babylon 5 that I love. It lacks the cinematography, the music, the lighting, and the pacing of the show to come. It very much is a pilot made to craft a universe and hopefully sell a show.

I should note that the version on HBO is the TNT Producer's Cut, which is supposedly superior to the original movie that aired. It's put as the first episode on HBO Max and I feel like that is a huge mistake. As I mentioned earlier, I don't know if I would have kept watching the show following The Gathering and it lacks some of the main characters we all grow to love. It also helps that the first episode works as a sort of a pilot and you don't need to have seen The Gathering to appreciate and dive into the story.

What The Gathering does do well is setup the mystery of why the Minbari surrendered and what happened to Michael Sinclair while he was unconscious. The untrustworthiness of both G'kar and Lando is established. People question Garbaldi's decision making and the world of psychics are made known. All of these things play into the storyline that permanents through five seasons and a series of movies. So, in a way, The Gathering is a novel way to look back a the very basic beginnings of Babylon 5 that I think is best watched after you know what is to come.

I spent quite a bit complaining about The Gathering but it was fun going back to Babylon 5 after so many years. It's still a wonderful world that I love to be immersed in. I normally despise television shows with politics, but there is something about the way Babylon 5 handles it that I enjoy. Maybe it's the disconnection I have from the alien species that makes it less jarring than say human on human political discourse.

I've forgotten a lot of the story of Babylon 5. It was actually a recent listen to the Alienating the Audience podcast that really fired me back up about watching the series. The co-hosts were so enthusiastic and explained the history and backstory of Babylon 5 so well, they pretty much sold me on watching it again.

Greenlights

Earlier this week, I ran across a reddit post mentioning Matthew McConaughey's book, Greenlights. This book has been on my radar since it's release last year, but I've been hesitant about reading it. After a glowing review of the audio version, I decided to use up one of my wife's Kindle credits and give it a listen.

The book is only about six hours, which was much shorter than I was expecting. I finished it up today and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it as it's been on my mind all week.

I've been a huge Matthew McConaughey fan for some time now. I was the guy defending him while he was taking it easy in the rom-coms and I'm the guy whose seen Fool's Gold at least a dozen times unironically. What appealed to me about McConaughey was his chill attitude. I've always been fascinated and attracted to people who truly let life come and go, because that is what I'm always striving for. It's who I want to be. The guy who let's all that truly does not matter slide.

I was enamored with his tales of RV living, traveling the world, and being a genuine person in Hollywood. I loved his taste of music when he launched his JK Livin Records, and went and saw his sole signie Mishka in concert twice. I also rocked a JK Livin shirt and even went as far as having a custom license plate. I loved the concept of just keep living and for a period in my life it truly defined me. One might call it a phase, but I see it as a chapter in my life.

McConaughey's career took back off, I got to hear a lot of "Damn, we were wrong" comments from my co-workers, and McConaughey's life changed quite a bit. He went from living in various Airstreams to buying a house, getting married, having kids, and settling down. I wasn't able to relate quite so much to his simple family life, so I stopped following his career as much and moved on with my life.

With that being said, a book written by the man who once idealized the lifestyle and free spirit that I desire to have sounded like it would be perfect for me. So why was I so hesitant to read it? Well, I'm less naive now and I knew there would be things in that book that would break the image of McConughey and the JK Livin lifestyle I once adored.

Early on in the book, Matthew (who you will come to know him by), mentions this is not a memoir or a self-help book, but an accumulation of stories he's pulled from journals he's kept over thirty years. He's putting together this book as a sort of bookend to the first fifty years of his existence in preparation for the next fifty years. This is important to keep in mind, because once he get's started, it's hard to tell what and who the book is actually for.


The Good:
-The audio book is well read but a bit overacted. With that being said, I felt connected with author in an incredible way. His accent really helped bring the story to life and I'm not sure I would have finished the book if not for this.

-Within the book are some incredible stories. One of my favorites was how he got his role in Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Next Generation. Another great one discusses his time in living in trailer parks and the pros and cons with doing so. Although, the best story is about his time spent as a foreign exchange student in Australia with a unconventional family.

-He doesn't make excuses. As you'll see in "The Bad" section, there are some troubling stories about his family, particularly his parents. While I do feel he hero worships them too much, it's nice to see he doesn't dive into a pity party or spends half the book complaining about his upbringing. Then again, if I had his upbringing, I might spend half the book doing so because it would feel justified.

-His use of the word greenlights represents the various things that occur in our life that we like. The things that help us get to where we want to go. I do enjoy him applying the word to various situations and even showing how red lights or yellow lights ultimately can become green lights.

The Bad:
-His authenticness is often offset by his pretentiousness.

-Many of the stories come across like fisherman's tales, where the details have been exaggerated in order to enhance the story. Unlike a fisherman's tales where the size of the fish is the only thing exaggerated, Matthew's stories tend to be so outrageous and outlandish I found myself muttering to myself often, "Yeah, right."

-There is an inconsistency in his messaging. For example: he spends a lot of time discussing how much his father valued honesty, but then spends just as much time discussing what a crook/con his father (as well as himself) was. It's hard to hold space for this "virtuous man" who fights his kids, gives beer to his eight year old kid, gambles, robs trucks, etc. etc.

-The first story in the book is about his parents and his mother calling his father fat because he asked for more mashed potatoes. The fight goes from verbal to physical and involves knives, broken bottles, and then them having sex on the kitchen floor. It's that absurd and horrifying, yet McConaughey seems to honor his parents throughout most of the book.

-The stories are broken up by random philosophical ideas he's come up with or bumper stickers, which I think are also mostly made up. You pretty much tune out of the reading during these points because it feels like an excuse to cram as many big words into a small place as possible.


By the time I reached the end of Greenlights, I hated it. In fact, I definitely left thinking less of Matthew McConaughey after reading it, but I can't lean into completely disliking it. I think the reason for that is because the book is not a memoir or self-help book, as he explained before he started. It was just one man going through his notebooks and making them public.

I guess, the one thing I pulled away from Greenlights is that Matthew McConaughey is who he is. He's not a well adjusted member of society and deep down, I'm not even sure he's a good person. But he has some interesting stories to tell and an intriguing outlook on life and that itself made my listen to Greenlights not a total waste of time.

A Reflection On My Digital Past

I've been dabbling with the before mentioned HTML site as of late, and it got me thinking about the various blogs and websites I've ran over the years. I decided to put together a Junkyard page that would consist of old banners and screenshots of forgotten blogs of mine that I was able to retrieve via Archive.org.

I spent about an hour and a half trying to remember old web addresses and flipping through the various days that were archived. It was both delightful and enlightening. Delightful in a nice trip down memory way and enlightening at how much I've grown over the past twenty years.

I look back at some of the stuff I wrote with pride but I equally look back with disappointment. I stop short of calling it shame but the ideals of a 23 year in comparison to a 38 year old are vastly different. Sure, I may still love many of the same elements of pop culture and have an affection for the past but I do not miss the arrogance or crassness I once wore like a badge of honor. I do not miss the pandering or desperate pleas for attention. Quite frankly, its downright embarrassing.

But that is part of maturing, I suppose. You shouldn't look back on every element of your life with great pride. By doing so, I would think you haven't shown any growth and since none of us are born 100% emotionally mature I think we all have room to grow. Heck, I feel miles away from the guy whose writing I recently re-read and I feel like I still have plenty of room for improvement.

Come and Visit Me Again Soon

I've been working on a project over the past several weeks. It's not something that is going to bring me any sort of success, but it is something I feel that I need in today's world. I've decided to utilize a basic HTML static site which is very Web 1.0 as my sort of main hub into the internet. One might argue that it's a homepage. Remember those?

For almost ten years, I've been tinkering with this website. It's undergone several names and designs, but it wasn't until earlier this year that I finally put it online. I mentioned it briefly in a blog and there it sat until a few weeks ago when I started working on it some more.

I realized, especially after my issues with Wordpress and my webhost, that I missed the simplicity of just writing some basic HTML and having the site react the way I wanted it to react. I also missed when sites were written with more permanence in mind and not something as fleeting as say a blog. When you made a website in the 90's, you made it to last (although they were quickly abandoned). The pages that went up took so much time and effort you just added onto it, like creating puzzle, linking one piece to the next. I miss that. You could learn so much about a person and their interests by exploring this puzzle of pages they created and put online.

I realize that Web 1.0 is not coming back. We traded creativity for capitalism and it's here to stay. There are some small communities popping up that are attempting to resurrect a more simple web, but I also saw dozens of these pop up alongside hundreds of blogs last year when COVID began and they too are now abandoned. But I for one, would like to have a little spot on the web that is my own and is totally under my control. I want to be creative and I want to tap into nostalgia with the occasional ugly background and scrolling text. I want the internet to be more fun, like it used to be.

I realize that not everybody will care about this, and that is why I've made a choice to keep my blog on an actual blogging platform so that people may subscribe and keep up with RSS feeds. I'm still bouncing between Listed.to and Write.As, but I will hopefully figure out where I want to plant my feet by the time I officially launch the website.

I was reading a great little Webzine called the Yesterweb Zine that is dedicated to old school interneting. There was a great quote that reminded me of what I loved so much about old school websites. It was the authenticity and personal connection that people attempted to make.

It was "Come and visit me again soon!" rather than "like and subscribe".

I hope you'll choose to visit.

Alright YouTube

Sometimes, when I know I don't have enough time to really watch something that's very long, I turn on YouTube. I like to utilize the app on our Apple TV or my Playstation 5 and well... I don't use it all the often. In fact, I only have a handful of subscriptions and none that I have just “have to watch.” I don't care of streamers or YouTube commentaries, so its mainly things like wrestling, Angry Video Game Nerd and well... yea, that's it.

But I do use YouTube for watching trailers. So, when I got home today, I decided I wanted to check out all the cool trailers that were released during Playstation's Showcase last night. I started up Spiderman 2 and I sat through a fifteen second ad. I got to around the ten second mark when I realized that I was watching an ad just to watch an ad. I was letting some random company advertise to me, so I could see the advertisement I wanted to see. Then, right as the ad hit fourteen seconds I backed out of the entire app and deleted it from my Playstation.

I don't mind watching an ad for some homegrown content like the stuff over at Cinemassacre. I have a couple of Patreons of bloggers and podcasts that I like that I donate to. I have no issue what so ever with folks getting paid for their work. Where I do have an issue is giant companies making advertisements like the ones I mentioned beforehand common place.

I've noticed YouTube ads have gotten longer and more frequent and I cannot express how much I hate having a video interrupted with an ad. So, today, I had a decision to make:

1. Do I shut up and tolerate it?
2. Do I pay for YouTube Premium?
3. Do I decided to no longer play the game?

I think folks who know me, know what I chose.

I'm done. I can't say I'll never visit YouTube again, but I will not utilize it without an ad blocker installed or with NewPipe. This is not okay and I'm not going to sit back and participate. My life would probably be a little better if I didn't feel compelled to watch advertisements for video games that I then in turn go spend money on.

Blogging Woes

On Thursday, I purchased a new hosting plan with my provider that would help me consolidate my websites and hopefully save some money in the long haul. Immediately, I began the process of moving Brandon's Journal onto this new host and well... it didn't go well. I spent almost all of Friday night trying to make things right. Then I stayed up extra late trying to get the site up somewhere and that's how I ended up on Listed.to.

Listed.to is the blogging service created by Standard Notes and works in conjunction with Standard Notes. When I originally set out to start blogging again early last year, Listed.to was the first privacy respecting option I ran across. Ultimately, I decided to go with Write.As for all my needs, then when I wanted a little more control of my site I moved everything over to Wordpress. I've actually been very happy with all of the services I've tried and I love the customization of Wordpress, but something went wrong with my latest install. No matter what, I cannot get over some issues with Wordpress on this new host. I've even tried new domains and everything, but fundamentally, it seems my issue lies at Wordpress' insistence on pushing their "Block" designer and my insistence on using the Classic Editor.

After realizing I spent an entire night trying to get something to work just to write, instead of actually writing, I decided I need to reorganize my priorities. I'm not designing websites or blogs for money or to show off. This is just my little corner on the web where I like to chat. It's supposed to be fun and I love everything about it, with exception of managing the backend. So, I'm done with that. I'm gonna take some time over the next week or two, to make a decision where to host my blog going forward. It'll either be on here at Listed.to or back on Write.As. I need a place where I have less distractions and I can focus more on writing. There will be no name change or anything like that, everything will stay be found at BrandonsJournal.com, you may just need to resubscribe via email depending on where I end up.

The Filmmaker

Growing up, I didn't aspire to be much. I had a short phase where I wanted to be a Navy SEAL and another one where I wanted to be an NBA player. I had a fantasy about becoming a professional wrestler in middle school and I spent my high school years thinking about joining the ministry. But once I reached the end of high school, there was no doubt in my mind what I wanted to be: a filmmaker.

I had grown up with a love of film cultivated by years of hanging out in video stores and collecting various movies. The 90's independent scene was red hot with names like Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino breaking out and making the type of movies they wanted to make, not the normal stuff the Hollywood machine churned out. Even better, all three men were film geeks like myself, and that gave me something to aspire to.

The earliest origins of my film making dream can be dated back to sitting in study hall my freshmen year of high school. It was here that I spent my free time writing scripts for the movies I wanted to see which were mostly sequels of the films I loved. I wrote a sequel to The Rock as well as Ghostbusters (the opening scene was pretty awesome with the Ghostbusters fighting off the ghost of Andre the Giant in Madison Square Garden.) I dabbled with some of my own original ideas and eventually decided it was time for me to break out my dad's old camcorder and make my own short. I wrote an Evil Dead inspired script that would take place in the shed in our backyard that sadly I never made.

It wasn't until I found myself working at Blockbuster and dreaming with my buddy Matt did my dreams of film making begin to come true. With his unrelenting support, I found myself standing in a Black Friday line at Best Buy at 4:30 AM hoping to get my hands on an entry level MiniDV camera. I did not freeze my gonads off in vain, as I walked out with a camera and I immediately got to work at writing a script.

I took some advice from Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew, a book I read over and over again. I thought about what I had access to and then wrote my script around that. I knew I had my buddy Matt, my friend Anthony was coming into town for Christmas, and two females. I had my house, my girlfriend's apartment, and a park. I started crafting a story around these people and locations and what emerged was a short film titled Skin Deep. It was quite progressive for 2004, as it was the story of a black man who falls in love with a white girl online, but she has no idea he's black until she shows up for their first real life date. She rejects him and afterwards we see the fall out her actions in both of their lives.

I'd be lying if I said it was amazing. It wasn't. It was written quickly and I had one meeting with Matt to go over some notes and then we started putting things into motion to get filming as soon as possible. I assembled a home made steadycam, bought a MiniDisc player to record audio on, and started loosely putting together some props. It was a practice film and it was what would hopefully be the first in a long list of films that Matt and I worked on together. We were already bouncing ideas around for the next film and we had high hopes that we would learn all that we needed to on Skin Deep so that we could get serious the next go around.

Sadly, it just wasn't meant to be. The production was hindered by all sorts of issues. It took some significant sweet talking to convince Anthony (who never wanted to act) to join our little movie. My girlfriend was even less enthused about possibly taking part. Then once we began filming, a freak ice storm hit Memphis and production grinded to a halt. Even worse, my father who did not approve of my hobby/career of choice, did just about everything he could to discourage me including shutting down our production the day of.

We ended up with 40 minutes of useless footage that we got alot of laughs out of. I cut together a blooper reel that was quite funny and Matt and I recorded not one, but TWO commmentary tracks for the DVD. We also recorded intros ala Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier on all of his early DVD releases. As much as it was disappointing to not have a finished product worth watching, it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed every minute of the process and I had hope the next go around would be even better.

Life got in the way, yet again, when my father's alcoholism got the best of him and I found myself crashing in the corner of a bedroom trying to make ends meet. Eventually, I gave up and moved to North Carolina to be near family that could assist me in finishing up school and getting back on my feet. Matt and my dream died when I left Tennessee, and despite a few starts and stops over the years, I had pretty much given up on the idea of ever filming something again.

In fact, the reason I've focused so much on my writing is because it's such a solitary act, I knew I wouldn't be reliant on anyone else, nor could I let anyone down with it. I could just craft a story as I seemed fit, and then walk away when I was done with it.

The couple of times I put together some script outlines or even discussed the possibility of shooting something I let people get into my head. Unfortunately, I'm not surrounded with folks who support the creative arts, so I gave up deciding that this was just one dream that wasn't meant to be.

Recently, however, I've been giving a lot of thought to dying and what I might regret. It was during some of this self-reflection that I remember something I used to say, "I don't want to be forty and have never made a movie." This thought rattled me as forty is just over two years away for me and well... I haven't made a movie.

As fate would have it, I found myself watching a lot of Kevin Smith films recently, my original muse. I also discovered Mr. Inbetween, that was spun off a documentary created by one man, who wrote, directed, produced, and acted in his film. Then this past weekend, I was attempting to finish Stuart Gordon's Space Truckers which has been a bit of a struggle for me. I decided to search and see what people thought of Space Truckers on reddit when I ran across a post that recommended watching Space Trucker Bruce, an extremely low budget film shot over a several years inside a man's house where he built all the sets out of cardboard.

It dawned one me then that neither Anton Doiron (director of Space Trucker Bruce) and Scott Ryan (creator of Mr Inbetween) did not let a lack of people, support, or money stop them from telling the stories they wanted to tell. Sure, there movies may look a bit amateurish or "B movie" style, but the went out there and did it, something I've failed to do after all these years.

I found myself researching no-budget/micro budget film making and exploring what options might be available to me. I quickly began formulating a story concept in my mind for a short film starring just two people. My research led me almost down the dangerous road I've been down before of too much information and too many people tell what to do and what not to do. There is so much information out there its easy to become a student of it all and a dreamer and not an actual doer. So, I've decided to only research specific topics I need advice on (gear, sound recording) and try to allow my own common sense get me by.

I'm not sure when I'm going to get a chance to shoot my movie. Obviously, in the midst of moving right now is not the best time, but a seed has been planted. I'm going to get something done before I turn forty, even if it's a two minute film about nothing. But for right now, I'm going to seek out no budget inspiration, begin experimenting with getting good shots with my phone, and allow this dream to come back into my life.

The Potential to Make Yourself Better

A few nights ago, I sat down to write this blog. It ended up going a little sideways, but there was still a message inside here that I wanted to talk about. It's the potential to make yourself better, or more specifically, the potential inside me to make myself better.

It took a me a long time to realize that any given moment is an opportunity to change the way I think, live, and aspire. Every morning, when I wake up, I make conscious decisions that aren't always easy. About a year ago, I read this interesting article on StarTrek.com about Anson Mount's portrayal of Captain Pike in Star Trek: Discovery. The article, goes into detail on why a good, righteous character seems to refreshing in a world of anti-heroes. As the tagline to the article states, "It turns out that the story of a good man is still one that's worth telling."

One of the aspects of the article that stuck with me for so long is the concept that it's difficult to choose to be good. Everyday, you wake up and make a choice on whether to be good or bad. A choice of being rude of polite. A choice to love or hate. We make hundreds if not thousands of these choices everyday and it's an accumulation of those choices that make up the very being that we are. I like to think that there are always better choices to be made deep down inside, it just takes courage and effort to make them.

When I realized my mental health was declining far quicker than I could handle, I made the decision to purchase a book called Mind Over Moods. It not the most revolutionary book I've ever read (like the reviews promised) but it gives me something to work on everyday or every couple of days, which keeps me focused on improving my mental health. I think that sort of consistently is what garners the most results. Ya know, the whole practice makes perfect idea.

Somewhere around fifteen years ago, I read a book on Wicca. I like learning about different religions and cultures, and this book was pretty enlightening. It helped rectify some of my false beliefs about the religion/lifestyle/philosophy but what I took most from it was the idea of casting a spell. See, in my mind, I assumed that Wiccan's casting spells closer resembled cosplay or wishful thinking than anything that would actually be helpful. But I remember the example the book gave for a money spell. It was simple, everyday when the person came home from work, they'd place a dime in a dish next to a green candle (to represent money) and then light the candle. That was it, that was the spell.

Now, this isn't near as interesting as anything I've ever seen on television, however, I saw where it could be useful. The idea of  keeping up with a dime daily and making an intentional act in placing the dime and lighting the candle, meant that how you handled money was always on your mind, or at least it was once a day. This sort of daily reminder could easily guide into making better choices, which could in return, help grow your bank account. I see it as a sort of WWJD bracelet for Wiccans.

Those daily practices may not make perfect, but they do making improvements in your life. So, I've been attempting to utilize as many as I can to help me better myself.

Another daily tactic I'm using is listening to podcasts that can inspire or teach me better ways to handle the struggles of daily life. I recall a few years ago when I had a much longer drive to work, I'd rotate out the podcasts I listened to almost daily, but I always kept a Buddhist teaching and What's This Tao All About in my rotation. It was almost as if I was attending church during those drives and it gave me new tools in my toolbox to manage everyday life.

As my commute shortened, the amount of time I spent listening to podcasts or talks of this nature dropped dramatically as did my interest in these topics. I stopped making time for them and in result, I stopped feeling the positive effects from them as well.

Nowadays, I listen to podcasts while I'm working and I like smaller podcasts that get right to the point. So, I've been listening to the Stoic Coffee Break amongst a few other Stoic philosophy based podcasts. These short bite sized lessons are easy to consume and almost always gives me something to think about in regards to my own reactions in life. Most importantly, because the lessons are short, I'm able to listen to them on almost a daily basis which like the green candle and dime, it helps keep my mind focused on being present and working through my emotions.

Things aren't perfect in my life, nor will they ever be, but I feel like I'm working towards being a better person and being the type of person who can handle adversity a little bit better. I plan on talking about the role of hope in a future blog and how that has played a positive role in helping bring me out of this funk.