The Most Bizarre Summer Festival Ever, and 7 Other Movies You Should See (or Not)

30 Jun

Thumbs up, Spider-ManIt’s summer, and if you’re like most people, you’re looking for a good movie to see in a cool, air-conditioned theater. Thankfully, I’ve seen a bunch in recent weeks and I want to tell you about them — starting with one that probably isn’t on your radar, but should be. Continue reading

I May Be 45 Years Old Now, But I Intend to Stay Young for at Least Another Year

7 Jun

Martin is turning 45I recently read an article about a man named Nobuaki Nagashima, who, at age 33, was diagnosed with Werner syndrome. Werner, if you don’t know, is a disease that causes the body to age too fast. So, for example, when he was just 25 years old, Nagashima had already developed cataracts. At 28, he had pains in his hips. And at 30, he had skin problems on his leg. All of this was before doctors even knew what was wrong with him and had diagnosed him with Werner.

According to the article, people with Werner syndrome typically develop wrinkles, experience weight loss, greying hair, and premature balding. Werner is also known to cause a hardening of the arteries, heart failure, diabetes, and cancer.

Yikes.

The universe works in mysterious ways, so I suspect it wasn’t a coincidence that I discovered this story a couple weeks before my 45th birthday (which is today, by the way). After all, like Nagashima, I, too, have felt like I’m getting old prematurely. Sure, I’m already in my mid-40s. And I don’t have the same symptoms Nagashima did. But I do have others. Continue reading

The 2019 Happiness Project

2 Jan

Photo credit: Jessica Noel/fabcocktail.com

In November 2017, a live-entertainment producer named Jared Paul opened a venue in Chicago called the Happy Place. Dubbed “the most Instagrammable pop-up in America” by Urban Daddy, the bright, colorful, and yes, photogenic playspace was “a themed immersive experience designed to help you escape for a very short time and immerse yourself in happiness,” Paul explained.

The Happy Place sounds like it was a lot of fun. I mean, who wouldn’t love an interactive “exhibit” filled with balloons and gumballs and confetti and rubber duckies and rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches? I was in Chicago twice last July, and I’m sorry I didn’t know about it then. Otherwise, I surely would have checked it out. (Following its nine-month engagement in Chicago, the Happy Place opened in Toronto in November 2018. It has also been in Los Angeles.)

Of course, actual happiness is a bit more elusive. I mean, it’s not exactly a subtle metaphor that Paul’s pop-up is just temporary; I suspect the high from experiencing it is also short-lived. Further, as researchers often point out, the more you try to be happy, the less happy you’ll actually be. In fact, as a recent study revealed, a constant pursuit of happiness can actually increase feelings of loneliness and disconnection. And you can’t really study how to be happy — though apparently, a class does exist (at Yale University, of all places).

On the other hand, there are small things you can do to boost the hormones that lead to happiness, that have a legit, longer-lasting effect on your well-being. One of the most oft-cited by some of those same researchers is regular expressions of gratitude — in a “gratitude journal,” for example. Continue reading

Here’s to My Future. But First, Here’s to My Yesterday!

31 Dec

I have no idea where the time went, but as the calendar reminds us, December 31 means we’ve come to the end of another year.

Americans can’t seem to see eye-to-eye about much these days, but suffice it to say, 2018 was … a year. It was 12 months long. (Those are facts we can all agree on, right?) And as with any year, a lot of good stuff and bad stuff happened, locally and nationally. There’s no need to rehash it all; we all lived through it.

I’m excited for 2019, and all that the next 12 months will (hopefully) bring with it. But, as the Imagine Dragons lyric says, “No tomorrow without a yesterday.” So in that spirit, I’m going to use this last blog post of 2018 to take another look at some of my yesterdays. Specifically, some of my favorite highlights from the past 12 months. Continue reading

My Soundtrack for 2018 Brings Back a Lot of Memories

18 Dec

Every year has its own soundtrack. It’s the collection of songs and sounds that, when you hear them, they remind you of times gone by.

My soundtrack for 2018 does exactly that, recalling the times I spent lazing by the pool aboard a cruise ship, watching the Olympics, celebrating my birthday in New York City, enjoying live music, driving around in the summer with the volume up and my car windows down, and much more.

I like compiling this kind of “time capsule” playlist instead of writing a top-10 (or whatever number) list of the year’s “best” songs and albums because music tends to play such a large role in my life, and I often can remember certain events by what I was listening to at the time. Besides, taste is so subjective, so when looking back on the year gone by, I’d much rather call attention to more music than less. Because tracks wouldn’t have been added to this playlist if I didn’t like them, anyway. Continue reading

The Best Movies of 2018 Scaled New Heights

13 Dec

We’re definitely living in a time of resistance (political and otherwise), so it feels like my favorite films of 2018 arrived at the perfect time. Indeed, this year, the best movies I saw pushed back in their own ways against the forces that have been trying to minimize, marginalize, silence, and reduce the impact of those who actually make us great. They are a collection that celebrates diversity, inclusion, truth, familial bonds, our obligations to the world around us, risk-taking, and great storytelling. They are films that will stay with us. And their influence will be felt long after the calendar turns the page to another year.

Which is not to say that every one of this year’s releases had the state-of-the-state on their minds. After all, 2018 was also the year of movies like Game Night, Uncle Drew, and, especially, Tag, three comedies that were better than they had any right to be. It was the year that Michael Myers (the silent killer), the Incredibles, and Mary Poppins all returned to the big screen after long absences, as if not a day (or subpar sequel) had gone by. Yes, of course, Mike Myers the actor was back, too, in Bohemian Rhapsody. There were plenty of superhero movies this year, and that includes not one but two movies about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In fact, speaking of RBG, documentaries about a variety of subjects were legit box-office hits. And one movie, A Quiet Place, even got people in theaters to stop talking and eating popcorn for two hours. A miracle!

Suffice it to say, 2018 was a memorable year for the movies. Of the nearly 85 films I saw (see below for a full list), these are the ones that had the biggest impact on me and left the most lasting impression. Continue reading

Giving Thanks for What Makes My Life Better

20 Nov

Fun fact: Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s right up there with the Fourth of July, Patriots Day, and yes, my birthday. I love the good times with family and friends, the Macy’s parade, the big football games, and the turkey and gravy — especially the turkey and gravy. I still love Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song.” And yes, I also have a soft spot for that corny Nicole Westbrook song, “It’s Thanksgiving.”

But in all seriousness, I appreciate that Thanksgiving gives us the chance to hit the pause button on all that’s going wrong in our country and the daily annoyances and obligations, and to reflect on what we’re thankful for. With so much going on in the world, it’s easy to overlook the people, places, and things that make life better — the aspects of life that make us happy. Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to give them some much deserved attention.

When asked “What are you thankful for?” most people probably cite their family and friends, and their health. I know that’s what I say. But if we take a step back to think about it, there’s so much more to mention.

So in that spirit, here is a partial (and definitely incomplete) list, in no particular order, of some of the other people, places, and things I’m giving thanks for this year.

Continue reading