Back-to-School Thoughts

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Tomorrow is the start of my senior year of college. My schedule looks great, I’m excited for my classes, I have some great opportunities and projects I’m finalizing, so this year is going to be great.

And I am honestly terrified for tomorrow.

This summer has also been amazing. I stayed down in SoCal, so I was able to have a ton of fun and do some incredible things with people I’ve grown incredibly close with. We just got back from a road trip up to the Bay Area and it was one of the best experiences of my life, hands down. I’m really happy with where I am right now and there’s a lot I want to do with the people I’m with, but there’s only so much time left in the year before everything changes.

If starting college was like jumping off a diving board, leaving it is going to be like cliff jumping. I can prepare for as long as I can, but eventually, my feet are gonna leave that cliff and I’m gonna splash into that water and have to swim. I guess I just hope the people I really care about don’t drift too far away when we all splash down.

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Gather Around and I’ll Tell You a Tale

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I’m gonna say it was in around April or May of last year when my friend, Wyatt, asked me if I was interested in joining a tabletop campaign he was going to be running with some of our other friends. Now, I wasn’t too close with a lot of the people in there, they were pretty casual friends for the most part, but I had heard great things about Wyatt as a DM and the campaign did sound interesting, so I said, “Sure, why not?”

Well, exactly one year ago today, we had the play session that honestly kind of changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. It started me on the longest campaign I’ve ever been on with our current arc ending this coming Sunday. It’s been an incredible creative spark for me and an inspiration in character building and storytelling. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, bringing the actor in me out in a big way and forcing me to deal with some interesting mental issues that I otherwise might have ignored. And, without a doubt, it has created some of the closest and most important friendships I have had to date. In order to commemorate this special day (seriously, one year for a campaign!), I wanted to share with a brief story of how we found friends where we least expected them.

As some of you might remember, my family and I went to Europe for a few weeks this past winter break. We had a lovely time over there, but the process to actually get to Europe was an ordeal. Our flight on American was delayed getting out of San Jose and while we were assured we’d be at a close enough gate to make our connection in Dallas, we landed at a different terminal entirely, causing us to miss the last flight to London and have to stay in a hotel in Dallas. On Christmas night, no less.

Throughout this whole process, I’d been Snapchatting and texting my friends to let them know how the trip was going, because how often do people go to Europe, right? (Little did I know that summer, like, everyone would be going to Europe, but shhh). I’d also been texting our Skype group for this campaign. See, while most of us in the group went to Chapman, a few of our players were the DM’s friends from back home in Dallas. One of them, Tayler, joked around with me about meeting up when I was in town, though I didn’t expect to be actually in Dallas for more than a couple of hours, max.

Now, tired and hungry and frankly pissed off as we waited and waited and waited for our bags to come out, the prospect about tossing us Whataburger through security sounded a lot more appealing. It also didn’t hurt that we found out the hotel we’d be staying at was pretty close to their town. A lot of texting back and forth, because hey, we had some time to kill, and Tayler agreed to bring Nate, another one of our campaign buddies, and some food to the hotel.

When I got the text from them that they were in the lobby, it was almost as exciting as being in Europe would have been. We had only met maybe four months ago over Skype, but not in person. We had plans to all meet up a little later in winter break, but this random meeting was going to be my actual first time meeting these Internet friends. A lot of older people don’t understand how you can have such strong connections with people over the Internet. The thing is, even though we’d never met before in person, I felt almost like I knew these two better than I knew some friends I’d known since kindergarten. There’s something about coming together over a mutual love and experiencing things as a group that really bonds you. Running through the lobby to give them both a massive hug was maybe the perfect unexpected Christmas gift I could have received.

As a fun little addendum to this story, Tayler and I actually wound up going ice-skating in London not three weeks after then. It’s crazy how things pan out, isn’t it? Anyways, here’s to the whole crew of this crazy little Star Wars game. Happy one year and here’s to another one full of bad jokes, epic fights, and more emotional turmoil than you can shake a therapist at.

Mulan (2020) and the Problem of Disney Remakes

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Disney just released the first trailer for their 2020 film, Mulan. While ostensibly a live-action adaptation of their 1998 film of the same name, fans were upset by the news that large elements of the film would be missing, such as the musical numbers and characters like Mushu and Li Shang. With this trailer, we see that Disney’s vision for the film seems to be much more action-oriented, possibly in the vein of popular Chinese productions like the 2009 film starring Zhao Wei.

The history of Disney’s attempt to remake their animated classics into live-action is an interesting yet complicated one. I wanted to just get some brief thoughts out on why I, among others, think this trailer bodes much better for this film than some of Disney’s recent offerings.

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Earthquake Updates

Some of you may have heard that in the past few days, Southern California was hit by a couple of earthquakes. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) is currently calling the 6.4 earthquake that hit the morning of the 4th a “foreshock” for the 7.1 that hit last night, with seismologists saying there’s a chance that more will hit in the same area soon in the coming days.

I just wanted to let folks know that I’m doing okay down here. I’m in Orange County which is far enough away that all we really felt was some light shaking. The most damage I’ve seen down here was at my work last night, and that just knocked some books off shelves. This will probably seem weird to people outside of California, but while earthquakes are kinda scary, they’re something you just have to get used to. They’re unpredictable and chaotic, so it’s best to just have a plan in your back pocket so you know what to do in the event you do need to evacuate.

If you are in California and you’re nervous, I found a lot of helpful information from the USGS and other geologists and seismologists on social media. Vet your sources before going crazy over any information. A 7.1 is very big for California, so take comfort in the fact that, if you felt it, you made it through one of “the Big Ones.”

Anyways, I know I haven’t been super active on here, but I wanted to let y’all know the situation with this. Hopefully, I’ll have more to write about very soon that doesn’t involve natural disasters.

Why Do We Have Pride?

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I was debating for a while on whether or not I should actually write this article. But then, some folks out in Boston decided they’d propose a “Straight Pride” parade and, you know what? On the most superficial level (and the whole idea with a massive grain of salt, mind you), I can kind of see why some people would want such an event. Gay Pride in its modern incarnation can be a lot of fun. Why wouldn’t we want to hold similar events year-round?

The thing is, there’s a lot of history behind Pride that I’d wager most straight and cis folks and even a fair amount of LGBT folks don’t know. Let’s dig a little deeper into the history of Pride and discuss why it exists and why it’s still necessary in this day and age. Most of this is going to be focused on the U.S. fairly exclusively, so heads up for my international readers.

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The Fruit Tree – BEAUTY

Hello everyone!

I’m am beyond excited to announce that I am a part of the most recent issue of “The Fruit Tree” literary magazine. The work produced by the writers and artists in these issues is incredible, the staff who puts these together are thoughtful and wonderful people, and I am just so blessed to be a part of something that just keeps getting better each issue.

You can find the June 2019 issue of “The Fruit Tree” at this link. You can read the whole thing for free by clicking “Open PDF” or you can help support them even more by purchasing a physical copy.

Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy all the incredible work that everyone put in to make this a reality.

Opening Night – Fiction

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Hey all! I wrote this piece for a literary magazine that, unfortunately, didn’t get accepted. No hard feelings towards them, I’m super excited to read the next issue, but I also thought this piece was too good not to share with you all. It combines some of my favorite things: theater kids, classical references, relationship dramas, and soft endings. I hope you all like it!

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Why the World Needs More Dungeons & Dragons

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I’ve been back home for a few days for spring break. That means seeing people you haven’t in a long time and swapping stories with your friends and, as I’m getting older, increasingly your friends’ parents. As I’ve been catching people up on my life in the past few months, it’s really dawned on me how important tabletop games have been to me this past year.

This post is going to be really freeform, just me talking about my experiences with TTRPGs and why I think more people should at least give them a shot. It’s also my subtle way of seeing if this is a direction people might be interested in seeing this blog go, so if you are, keep reading and let me know in the comments down below. If not, that’s understandable and I promise there’ll be more film and writing stuff in the future as well. This is just me trying to see if I can get some more content flowing from me to this blog, which seems to bloom and die as my schedule permits.

Okay, with all those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get started.

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Making TV a Better Place, One Season at a Time

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The highly anticipated third season of my favorite show, Netflix’s One Day at a Time just dropped and I binged the entire thing in a night, so I thought I’d do a little write-up to explain why this season is amazing and why, if you’re not watching one of the best shows on TV right now, you should.

One Day at a Time is a reboot of the classic 1970’s sitcom of the same name created originally by Norman Lear. Under the lead of showrunners Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce, the show has been modernized to fit contemporary sensibilities while still keeping the hallmarks of Lear’s original work. The show follows Penelope Alvarez, played by Justina Machado, a single mother and Army veteran trying to keep her family, consisting of Isabella Gomez as outspoken social justice heroine and daughter Elena, Marcel Ruiz as cocky but well-meaning son Alex, and the untouchable Rita Moreno as melodramatic and completely fabulous Abuela Lydia. Rounded out by Todd Grinnell as dorky hipster landlord Schneider and Stephen Tobolowsky as the human embodiment of a sad puppy dog Dr. Berkowitz, the show follows the daily exploits of these characters as they try to live their lives one day at a time. Cue the amazing theme song sung by Gloria Estefan herself.

This show does what all good sitcoms should. It is hilarious, first of all, in the classic sitcom fashion. Jokes can range from topical humor to physical gags, but pretty much every one lands. The cast’s comic timing is wonderful and makes every episode thoroughly enjoyable. On the other hand, the show’s stories are able to tackle relevant topics in today’s world and spin them in some interesting ways. Subjects like mental health, racism, homophobia, addiction, and more get treated with the respect they deserve. The cast deserves all the credit for being able to switch between the comedic and sometimes intense dramatic notes of the series and still back and still feel like natural characters.

Now, enough about why this show is great. Go watch it if you haven’t already. If you’re all caught up, let’s talk a bit more about why Season 3 was some of the best TV out there.

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Matthew Pinkney, Writer’s European Vacation

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Happy 2019 everyone!

Is it February already? It has been a while since I’ve posted. For those of you who don’t know, I spent a couple weeks at the beginning of the year on a study abroad course in Europe. Now that it’s been nearly a month since I got back, I think it’s high time I posted the pictures I took while on the trip.

My family and I left on Christmas Day and, after some unexpected delays, we finally made it to Amsterdam. Our first day, we started off at the Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands, home to Rembrandts, Vermeers, and other treasures of the Dutch Golden Age. We then went to the Van Gogh Museum and learned all about his life through his numerous letters and varied works. We stopped at the Diamond Museum and learned about the Dutch diamond industry, then went out to Dam Square and walked around the rest of the night.

Day two in Amsterdam, we went back to Dam Square and toured some more of the historical sites: the Old Church built in the 1200s and the Royal Palace overlooking the Square. On day three, we went on a tour of the whole city by canal boat, which gave us a beautiful new look at the city.

After three lovely days in the Netherlands, we boarded a plane and jetted off to London. We started our first day with a walking tour of the Royal Family hotspots, then explored the city before enjoying an amazing New Year’s Eve dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s The Narrows. For the next few days, we toured a lot of the highlights of London: the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the Churchill War Rooms, the National Gallery, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It was an incredible experience, but inevitably, our time together was over.

But my time in London was just getting started! The class I took looked at Harry Potter through various different critical lenses. For my group, we looked specifically at the adaptation from book to film. Of course, there were readings and discussions while we were abroad, but there was mostly sightseeing.

Our first day started with a Harry Potter walking tour of London, ending at King’s Cross Station. Our second day took us to Oxford to check out Christchurch College, which served as a huge inspiration for Hogwarts. Speaking of which, day three took us to the Warner Bros. Studio, the Mecca for Harry Potter fans. They had basically every set, costume, and prop you could imagine from the films, and the tour ended with a full-size model of Hogwarts Castle. Not going to lie, I did tear up a few times.

On day four, we went to Greenwich and saw the observatory and some fabulous views of London. Day five took us to the Tower of London, and then a few friends and I went to the Tate Modern and tea. Day six took us to the House of Minalima, the graphic design firm that has worked on every Harry Potter movie, and then to go see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I wasn’t a fan of the script when I read it, but after watching it, I can definitely say that it needs to be seen to be believed.

Day seven took us back to Westminster Abbey, while day eight took us to St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its more than five hundred steps to the top. And yes, I did climb them all. Our last day was a free day, which I spent hitting the last few things around London before the eleven-hour flight back to the states.

After almost three weeks in Europe, I can honestly say that this was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my life. Being on my own for the most part and having to learn the rules of a new culture was fun and exciting, and it was great to be able to do something different and experience new weather, new cultures, and new people. It will definitely be an experience I will cherish forever.

Now that I’m back, there are a lot of projects I want to work on. I’ll try to keep you folks updated. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures!