Zootopia: A Positive Look Into Diversity and Minority Rights

I know, I know. I’m about as late to the Zootopia party as most political pundits were to Trump’s victory last week.

Bad simile? Still hurting from last Tuesday? I feel you.

It’s been a full week since the Republican Armageddon on all three branches of our government (the judicial branch will be red before we know it, it’s inevitable) and the vibes around major cities are solemn and strange. It feels like the youthful, beating heart of the country has been locked away in a box and put on a shelf to collect dust for at least the next four years.

In this political climate, which is affecting the country’s psyche in a larger way than any in the last two decades, many of us are looking for a way to feel positive; it’s not easy when the stories around the country popping up on Facebook displaying the hateful speech and violence now rearing its ugly head hound you every time you open your phone.

Which is why I made the choice to take a break from the interweb and decided to watch a movie. And not some highbrow shit that I usually go for like There Will Be Blood, Chinatown, or Moonlight (all incredible movies that you must watch, by the way; I’d forgive you if you stopped reading to binge on those three now). At this moment, with the way I’ve been feeling about the country and life as I know it, I didn’t want to sink lower down the hole of grim reality and pain whose edge I’d been clinging onto for dear life.

hopps2
Det. Judy Hopps

Today wasn’t going to be the swan song of my sanity. So, I found a little animated happy pill called Zootopia that came out earlier this year, a film about anthropomorphic mammals living in harmony, predators and prey, in and around the mega-metropolis Zootopia. If you’re like me, you’ve been living under the same rock as me and have not watched this $1 billion grosser.

What a fantastic choice of film for escape, at a time when I really needed it.

The film follows a rabbit named Judy Hopps, a young dreamer who aspires to become the first police-rabbit in Zootopia to keep people safe and defend the weak. The usual suspects. Along the way, she, joined by her reluctant fox companion, takes on a case of missing mammals in Zootopia’s 1st district, specifically an otter that the ZPD haven’t been able to track down for two weeks. What she uncovers is a horrifying retread of predators to their more savage natures; the missing mammals have regressed to hungry, hunting beasts caged in a mysterious laboratory.

What followed these discoveries was an ironic, and sobering, moment that closely mimics the emotions and problems of today’s America. Hopps, without proper training and nervously answering questions without malice of forethought, in front of a crowd of mammal press after the capture of their suspect (the city’s mayor, Leodore Lionheart), is asked a series of questions that set off a string of events, shocking the city into prejudiced action:

Reporter 1: Okay, so what is the connection [between the victims]?

Det. Hopps: W-well…all we know is that they are all members of the predator family.

Reporter 2: So, predators are the only ones going savage?

Det. Hopps: Y–…that is…yes, that is accurate. Yes.

Reporter 3: Why? Why is this happening?

Det. Hopps: We still don’t know. Uhh…it may have something to do with biology. A…biological component, you know? Something in their DNA.

Reporter 4: In their DNA? Can you elaborate on that?

Det. Hopps: Yes, what I mean is…thousands of years ago, um, predators survived through their aggressive hunting instincts. For whatever reason, they seem to be reverting back to their primitive, savage ways. It is possible, so we must be vigilant. And we at the ZPD are prepared and are here to protect you.

Watching this scene, I may have gasped once or twice in horror. Reminding myself that this was an animated film (that it was a film, period) wasn’t enough for me to settle my mind after what I had just heard.

ZOOTOPIA
Hopps and Wilde learning the ropes

The way Hopps, not knowing fully what her words had meant to those reporters and the people in the area at the time, described a select group of mammals as malicious and violent due to their history as being malicious and violent. And, well, predatory. All she was trying to do was explain what she thought to be true. Sound familiar?

That’s essentially how President-Elect Donald Trump described Mexicans.

Now, in Detective Hopps’ defense, she wasn’t intending to put on her best animated, fake-tanned, xenophobic face on for the press for personal gain. She was suddenly an unprepared public figure in the face of hundreds of questions she wasn’t remotely capable of answering. Hopps is a cop, not a political machinist. She thought she was making a specific statement about a small group of mammals, but her words carried through to a broader scope of generalizing groups of mammals.

hoppsWhat we find out by the end of the movie is that the new mayor, Dawn Bellwether, of the city was running an operation of poisoning predators with a serum that reverted her victims to savage tendencies, all in an effort to put enough fear in the hearts of the majority prey in her city to gain all-powerful control over all citizens in the “utopia”.

The events that followed the press conference, though, were something out of an Orwellian dystopia novel (pun probably intended by the filmmakers). Predators began to experience prejudice and social outcasting for their backgrounds as predators, much like the stories of hate and violence we’ve seen in the last week towards minorities. Some lost their jobs, some lost their homes. Peaceful protests outside of one of the city’s landmarks was met with fierce opposition by groups of prey calling for their removal and imprisonment for protection. And finally, Hopps resigns as an officer with the ZPD when she’s told by mayor Bellwether that they wished to make her the new face of the department to unite the…wait for it…90% prey living in the city.

Watching all of this unfold on screen was almost too much reality to be channeled through the faces and limbs of foxes and water buffaloes to be a children’s movie. It was so of-the-moment, even more so than when the film came out earlier in the year before Drumpf was elected. This felt like watching what could be the reality of Trump’s America and the way minority, LGBTQ, and women’s right might be taken away to create a “greater” America, in Trumps words.

And Trump has the same idea of control as mayor Bellwether: control through fear. By playing on existing, and sometimes instilling new, fears into their citizens’ hearts of unreal threats to their lives, they control the emotions and minds of the assumed majorities in their zone of command.

But let’s end that negativity here. The whole point of this post is positivity.

By the end of the movie, Mayor Bellwether’s plans have been exposed in all of their ugliness. The people of Zootopia decide not to retaliate against each other for the embarrassing treatment of their fellow mammals, but instead forgive each other for their actions. Before you jump all over the, “but that’s how kids movies work”, argument: it wasn’t so simple.

hoppswilde2
The pair take a breather

Det. Hopps’ companion, Nick Wilde, a red fox and predator, has a tortured past. As a young fox, he was bullied by his peers simply for being a fox, associated with being con artists, cunning, untrustworthy predators on the weak. He and Hopps’ seem to have developed a friendship despite their differences. But her press conference changed something back in him:

Nick: [saddened] Clearly there’s a biological component? That these predators may be reverting back to their primitive savage ways? Are you serious?

Det. Hopps: I just stated the facts of the case! I mean, its not like a bunny can go savage.

Nick: Right. But a fox could, huh?

Det. Hopps: Nick stop it! You’re not like them.

Nick: [getting angered] Oh, so there’s a them now?

After hearing Hopps’ statements at the press conference, Wilde decided that enough was enough and returned to his life of con artistry, choosing not to become Hopps’ partner

wilde2
Wilde watches as Hopps reaches for her fox repellant.

after the initial arrests. Hopps is heartbroken that her words affected him so, which plays
a part in her resignation from the force.

When a new break in the case comes her way, she goes to find Nick, who is now living under a bridge. She pleads with him to join her on her mission to find the real culprit behind the crimes. Finally, the words of apology spill out of her, not for his being a fox, but for the way she generalized Nick and so many others with her words:

Det. Hopps: Wait, uh, wait – listen! I – I know you’ll never forgive me! And I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t forgive me either. I was ignorant, and… irresponsible… and small-minded. But predators shouldn’t suffer because of my mistakes. I have to fix this.

[Her voice shakes]

Det. Hopps: But I can’t do it without you.

[Nick still refuses to turn around]

Det. Hopps: [Judy begins to cry] And… and after we’re done, you can hate me, and that’ll be fine, because I was a horrible friend, and I hurt you. And you… and you can walk away knowing you were right all along.

Of course Nick forgives her! How can he not? She knew very well how what she said affected him. She has enough compassion in her heart to realize that suppressing people because of who they are, human or mammal, is wrong. Especially when they’ve already been told all their lives that who they are is wrong and they’re not worth more than the stereotypes that define them in society.

They go on to save the day together and become the most kick-ass couple of detective partners ever seen on screen. I can’t wait for the sequel with these two.

ZOOTOPIA
Zootopia

Ultimately, Zootopia is a kid’s movie, aimed to teach children that prejudice, hate, and intolerance are wrong; that love and acceptance of people who come from all forms of backgrounds, genders, races, and mindsets deserve the right to be happy in this world as much as they do. It gives me hope that the film industry, especially in animated film, is still fiercely leftist in their beliefs and choose to sprinkle the youth of this world with messages of kindness and love.

But it speaks to something larger than just educating the youth of America to ensure that mistakes like Trump aren’t repeated (though that is a MAJOR issue that must be approached with the utmost care and thought; the young children of the country, as well as millenials, are our future). We must stay vigilant and steadfast in our fight for civil liberties and not become complacent in our fight to protect the minorities of America. We cannot allow a Trump presidency to take away women’s rights to their own bodies by banning abortion. Muslim-Americans, no matter what generation, should be allowed the right to the American dream as much as anyone else, and not turned away simply because of what Gods they choose to believe in. We have to protect our closest family and friends from oppression.

ick
*sigh*

And of the utmost importance is that we not fight between each other simply because our priorities differ between Republicans and Democrats. If we’re to be united, a more perfect union, we have to stop simply yelling at each other calling one side or the other names and spewing rhetoric of “uneducated voters” and “liberal wusses”, or “homophobes and racists” and “terrorists and rapists”, and instead have calmer and more civil conversations about the America we can choose to live in. The voices unheard deserve to have their say as much as anyone else, no matter the percentage they make up in the population. And that goes for ALL citizens and residents in this country.

If you have a chance, check out Zootopia. It’s a beautiful film, and will take you on a journey that will give you hope for a better tomorrow. As Detective Hopps said at the end of the movie:

“I thought this city would be a perfect place where everyone got along and anyone could be anything. Turns out, life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes. Which means, hey, glass half full, we all have a lot in common. And the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try. So no matter what kind of person you are, I implore you: Try. Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you.”

Let’s all continue to try.

.

.

.

.

ZooZoo3.png

Sick of This Game

election-2016

I’m so sick of politics.

I could sit on Twitter for hours trying to defend one side or the other, flinging responses at everyone as visceral and with the same vitriol that some do in the safe confines behind their computer monitors and keyboards.
But I’m so tired. Like, physically exhausted.
The Republican majority in Congress stalemating on a number of issues as simple as nominating a new Supreme Court Justice for no reason other than to oppose Democrats and a Democratic president, Donald Trump throwing out hate rhetoric like it’s candy on Halloween, and Hillary being investigated for months by the FBI for these emails…I’m done.

In 2014, the House of Representatives and the Senate seats were voted on. What did we do? We elected the most lazy, stonewalled, lame duck Congress in history, proven by polls. We had so many candidates to pick from in the primaries on both sides, and what did America do? We picked a racist, sexist, unintelligent potential sex-offender and a woman who, though experienced, is proving to have so many skeletons in her political closet that even her most fierce supporters are starting to question their allegiances.

trump
He even looks like cancer.
Before today, when the FBI announced that they are to continue investigating Hillary Clinton for whatever emails, I was sure of one thing: Donald Trump being sworn in as POTUS would be the first malignant cells to begin the metastasizing of a political cancer in American society and government. Trump as president gives me pause to fear the possibility that, with all of his xenophobic and racist rhetoric, even MY citizenship would come under question. I still believe Trump is not remotely right for the job. Intelligent Republicans have denounced him, and that should have been enough.
Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Attends Meetings With Legislators  On Capitol Hill
Explain away, Hillary.

Hillary was the better candidate in the general election from the moment she was nominated. Yes, her record isn’t spotless because she’s a clever and whip-smart political player (like Frank Underwood in House of Cards). Whatever you may say about her appearance, speaking ability, or potential ability as President, she is perhaps the most experienced and capable politicians to run (even more so than our excellent incumbent). Yet, even I don’t know whether I can trust a politician so experienced in the game. It’s like asking Gordon Gekko to be your stockbroker: one day, they’ll stop pretending that they’re doing this for you.

On top of all of this, the same Congress that was voted for in 2o14 isn’t vying for the American population’s betterment…they’re fighting for self gain and power.

<> on September 21, 2016 in Washington, DC.
A moment of silence for our incompetency.

Mitch McConnell (or Mc-Chode-l) and Paul Ryan don’t care if you have enough money to feed your family, that the US continues to economic growth, or whether the justice system works for all Americans. They just want a Republican frat party in all branches. If they did their jobs at all, President Obama wouldn’t have had such a difficult time creating a universal health care system, bringing unemployment down to it’s lowest figure in 30 years, and essentially ending the war in the Middle East.

In fact, if politicians truly worked for the people, then we would have health coverage for all citizens and student loans wouldn’t be at an all-time high, the poverty line would be lower; the handling of the national debt wouldn’t be a hot topic of debate, instead being reduced through a compromise of ideals and an effort to stabilize continue the growth of our economy to compensate.


All of this is idealism. But politics doesn’t care about that. Politics are all just a game to keep your mind occupied while the issues are debated and never truly dealt with. A lot of talk goes a long way to almost no action with the current political climate.
I believe the email investigation won’t uncover more than what the FBI already didn’t last time, but the idea that politics and politicans, government and government-agencies, and Congress are more interested in tearing down their contemporaries than actually running our country and caring about the American people has completely disillusioned this voter.
I want to vote for a candidate who can create radical change and move the country forward in a political scheme that aims for the betterment of American citizens’ conditions and to ably improve our relations with our allies; one that ensures that domestic policy is less sculpted to preserve our traditions and rather in favor of cultivating a country that continually leads the world in technological advancement, cultural trends, societal harmony, and equal rights for all.

But that candidate doesn’t exist in this two-horse race. Right now, all we have is this do-nothing Congress, a pussy-grabbing reality star, and a former Secretary of State who could potentially lose this election for emails sent from the wrong address…all representing America and Americans all over.

I can’t defend anyone one way or another. But I’m so tired of being exasperated by political scandals, stonewalling, and skirmishing without results. People say that the beauty of a democracy is that everyone has an opinion that can be heard from even the corner-iest of corners, that it creates a more perfect union by allowing the voices of all to influence the direction of the nation.

And somehow, here we are. Fuck this.

Is Apple’s Empire in danger?

Is Apple starting to lose it? You may have already heard about the company’s first reported dip in sales since 2003. This is not quite reflective of their newest release, the iPhone 5SE, but it could make it worse for the makers of the most popular gadgets on the globe.

Could this be the beginning of the end of their long reign as the biggest tech manufacturer in the world? Yeah, I get it, it’s a bit of a leap. Lay off, I’m making a point.

It’s very possible at this point that, with mounting competition and a ridiculous amount of component copycats, Apple may have reached its apex in sales. There are only so many people in the world, right?

Samsung’s latest releases of their 7th generation Galaxy line and the Note 7 have shown to be miraculously Apple-like. They’ve reduced their penchant for saturating their consumer market with 3 or more different models of the same phone in different screen and storage sizes, and instead are focusing more on perfection of one model with a maximum of one variation.

In this case, we’re talking specifically about the S7 and Note 7. Previously, they came out with the S6, S6 Edge, and S6 Edge+, the latter of which was slightly larger than it’s little brother. It was a start towards what they’ve begun doing which is following Apple’s business model. But not the model we currently know to be Apple-y with the 6, 6+, 6S, 6S+, and the 5SE.

Has anyone realized that Apple is selling 5 different models of their phone now, with another new generation coming in September? Somehow, if trends continue the way they have, I don’t imagine CEO Tim Cook will look to get rid of the 6 just yet, their biggest selling unit in the entire line.

Apple has become the phone manufacturer that their late former CEO, Steve Jobs, feared becoming: the producer of a million different options. That thinking was the antithesis to what Jobs saw Apple as. His held belief was, that by giving people less options and making their one option a universal piece of technology that anyone can operate with simplicity and modesty, their standing on the market would never diminish and always be growing. That’s how Apple became the numero uno name is mobile phones by the turn of the decade, if not before that plainly on reputation.

Three years have passed since their Great Creator himself passed, and the company is doing everything the way that, even after Jobs’ first firing, brought them to their knees and forced them to beg Jobs to come back. Before he died, the iPhone 4 came out and made a killing. There were no variations of that model, and from what we know, Jobs wouldn’t have done such a thing. He would have jumped right into development for the iPhone 5. On top of everything, anytime a new iPhone would come out, it wouldn’t be without major, noticeable upgrades from the previous model.

Two weeks after he died, the 4S came out, and Siri became the new hot thing. This may have been the last major upgrade Jobs wanted on an iPhone to move the ground on the tech industry again, and its had a profound effect on the way other smartphone giants develop their phones for their customers.

Of course, later the iPhone 5 came out and finally, the screen was bigger, going with the trend of bigger-is-better in the smartphone world. But, barely a year later, they came out with two variations of the same phone on top: the 5C and the 5S. The 5C came in different colors. Woop-de-friggin-do.

And, yes, granted the 5S was the world’s first fingerprint-locked smartphone, and the processor was a slight upgrade on its predecessor, for a lot of consumers it was the first time that some didn’t feel the need to upgrade. There wasn’t a massive movement of people on the scale of the 4 or 5 where people needed the newest iPhone ASAP. A small group of consumers would say, “Yeah, nah, I’m sweet.” Personal reference, the sheer amount of 5’s that come to The Core is still amazing, just realizing how many people stopped making the switch at some point. We rarely, if ever, see 4’s or 4S’s, but 5’s are still used by heaps of people.

Okay, let’s settle back down. Apple has, for a long time, been a company that makes their consumers’ phones easier to operate, and making touch and voice control a staple to people’s lives along with a myriad of other revelations. But more recently, their model has been less to think ahead, but rather think big. Sure, thinking big is a great way for your products to have better screen resolution, processor speeds, screen sizes, storage space, etc. But that was what companies like Samsung, LG, and Huawei had been doing for years. They ended up holding on to Apple’s coat tails to try and keep up with how Apple tirelessly developed new and unheard of advances to their phones that wove themselves into the daily lives of their customers.

Apple has lost that spark of innovation and it’s been replaced with a petty sense of “we’re Apple, they’ll always buy from us”. That’s breeding a bad business model where the company can literally say or put anything into their products that’s even marginally superior to the last version, and then rely on their name to promote the product and generate sales.

Meanwhile, other companies like the aforementioned Samsung are making a killing on the market floors by minimizing the variables (multiple versions of one flagship phone), standing pat on a system (OS and business model-wise), and giving users a system that’s universally operable.

Which, if you’ve been sticking with me on this, was Apple’s model. Companies are wising up and cutting in on Apple’s action by using their own abandoned objective against them. How do you stop a juggernaut? Do as they do. Give people reason to doubt the supreme ownership of an entire market by submitting your own product with the same model. Even better if the behemoth company you are chasing decides that they’re on cruise control, because you’ll catch up to them and find them sleeping at the wheel.

Cook is a smart man, one of the smartest in the world. That’s not what’s in doubt. You have to be hyper intelligent with that extra X-factor to rise up the ranks of a company richer than a handful of small countries. But if what I’m arguing as his vision for the business is correct, then Apple is an empire on the decline, and they’re not going to recover easily unless something big happens.

If the company intends to continue being the main name in smartphones, then the iPhone 7 has to be a major release with critically acclaimed specs and features. Rumors have been scurrying all around the internet at lightning (HA!) speed about the potential for getting rid of the headphone jack, losing the screws at the bottom of the phone to keep it closed, the Wi-Fi antenna bands being moved to the top and bottom edges of the back frame, etc., and they’re fuelling the fervor for the newest model.

What happens if this release ends up a flop, though? The company’s smartphone division is reliant on their yearly releases to keep sales stable. It’s a tower of alphabet blocks stacked one on top of the other. It takes one rogue block to kill the balance and knock the whole thing down. If the phone doesn’t end up being a significant upgrade on the 6S, we’re looking at another down year for the company.

These next few months are going to decide Apple’s future. And I don’t imagine they’re taking that for granted.

But what do I know? Maybe it’s not the 7 they’re releasing. Maybe it’s the 6S SE.

 

What do you guys think? Is Apple following a path back to the middle of the pack of competitors in the smartphone market? Has Samsung taken the steps necessary to get even with Apple? 

Pokemon Go Review: Right after I catch this Dratini

PokeGo Header

Pokemon Go is the Game of Thrones of smartphone games: your friends are all loving and consuming it at all hours of the day and night, sometimes at 4am, and won’t stop saying, “HOW ARE YOU NOT INTO THIS STUPENDOUS THING???” while staring intently into their glowing LCD on the top of Mount Eden. No, wait, that last bit was only relevant to Pokemon.
Since you obviously haven’t heard about this new thing called Pokemon Go, aside from the fact that it has invaded your Facebook news feed and is following you like a lost puppy hoping for your affection everywhere you go, let us delve into what this whole thing is.

In sum, Pokemon Go is the newest installment in the legendary Pokemon franchise from Nintendo, in association with Niantic Inc., that makes you get up out of your chair at home and become a world traveling Pokemon trainer. The app, using Google and Apple maps, takes your location and helps you search for and catch all of the Pokemon from the original 151. It puts what are called Pokestops, veritable landmarks around you, that you can get items like Pokeballs and potions from, and virtual gyms where you can train your Pokemon and battle other trainers.

So that’s the skinny. But let me tell you, just explaining the game in a few short sentences doesn’t do the justice of actually capturing the essence and magic of the game itself. Talking about it is one thing, but playing is entirely another.Horsea Go

The app is still new and, for all intents and purposes, in its testing phase. As many know, the servers have consistently been crashing at Niantic headquarters due to the colossal user activity of the app in its first week here in New Zealand. The game constantly glitches and stalls, and you have to close and restart the app multiple times within 60 minutes. You want to catch that Blastoise? Sucks to be you, we’re freezing you out. WHO’S A TRAINER NOW???

Sorry, unresolved issue from a couple of days ago. I’m good now.

In addition, there have been a large number of reported injuries and other dangerous encounters because of the game and how sucked in a player gets, disregarding their surroundings. Every time you open the app, the loading screen shows a warning to players to always be aware of where they are and what’s going on around them. Which, to be fair, isn’t really doing much since people are more inclined to help themselves to that next Pokestop than making sure to look left and right before crossing a busy intersection.

One fix for this might be the rumoured GoWatch for the game, a wearable piece of tech that would vibrate whenever Pokemon are near. This would keep users’ eyes on the footpath or road, not down at the concrete or asphalt itself. Then, when your watch vibrates, you can decide where it’s best to stop and then pull out your phone. It’ll be great for safety, but by the looks of the actual prototype, not so good to have on your wrist when trying to get a girl’s number.

PokeGo Watch
Potential Pokemon Go watches that, when your phone screen is off, would vibrate when Pokemon are near.

Despite the flaws though, the layout, gameplay, battle style and graphics surpass all expectations for the newest installment in the single most successful game franchise Nintendo have ever had. Their numbers put competitors to absolute shame. Locations services make it easy for you to follow your character as you walk, bus, and NOT DRIVE while you’re playing (seriously everyone, your life matters more than a Pidgey, high CP be damned), and the game uses distance traveled to award you with medals, helps you crack eggs and hatch new Pokemon, and is a part of how you level up as a trainer. Perhaps most importantly, that aspect of the game gets players out of the house and moving around, walking from destination to destination and finding new Pokemon to catch instead of the older generation of games that allowed players to sit in one spot and battle their way to the Elite Four and catch every species of Pokemon, all while charging through a bag of Doritos and that now non-fizzy, half-filled L&P. This gets you moving and shaking like no other Pokemon game before. You’re walking, being active, seeing places you don’t always go to, and talking to others in the community of PokeNerds (no, not the ones from the old games that always tried to hit you with a Slowpoke, end up losing the battle, and then start making some weird guffawing noise spelled out with English letters. You know the one, “Fufufufu…” What even was that supposed to be?)

Pokémon Trainers crowd in a corner of Queens Wharf to catch a Tentacruel
Pokémon Trainers crowd in a corner of Queens Wharf to catch a Tentacruel

There’s a nostalgic attraction and investment in Pokemon Go for users over the age of 20. We grew up playing Pokemon Red, Gold, and Sapphire for hours on end, walking as fast as we could to the next gym, training our little PokePets to new, higher levels to become to strongest trainers around. I still remember my mum screaming at me every evening to shut the damn game off and wash up for dinner, to a point where it almost became a ritual. It was what you talked with the kids at primary school about, trading Pokemon, arguing about your best ones, what gyms you beat, helping each other through the maps and booby-trapped Rocket Power basement puzzle and honestly so much more. It was a cultural phenomenon on a scale never seen before in the gaming world. I admit: I never believed that a game would ever come out again that would so unify a generation of kids and adults and bless them with the magical experience of this imaginary world where power and play combine, hard work and effort are rewarded, and being the best meant earning the title of the “greatest in the world”.

You know, aside from that whole thing with Gameshark and cheat codes. Any kid who used that crap is disqualified from that last paragraph.

If you hadn’t figured it out by now, I am not exempt from the current re-up phenomenon that this game has become. I’m a Level 12 with a kick-ass Lapras that was hatched out of a 10km egg. Yay for effort!

World PokeGo
There’s a whole WORLD of Pokemon out there!

Now? Story time. Another technician from The Core and I went on a little Pokemon hunt on Sunday night around 6:30pm. We were both, as millions are, still very new to the game and testing how everything works. We began our journey in Wynyard Quarter, walking around the docks and catching Poliwags and Ponytas as friends do. Our levels went up, our bag of items grew too big to handle, and our sights were set on bigger and rarer pocket monsters as we went along. As we walked around, we encountered anywhere between fifty to one hundred other players just in Wynyard Quarter, and many of them would look up from their phones for a quick glance at the other nerds that were on the same youthful buzz as they were, giggling at the realization that they were not alone in the endeavor. We’d pass trainers who would have helpful advice to finding certain rare types of Pokemon, because they were “just around the corner, Bulbasaur is kind of like near that water fountain”. We’d pass the same information to anyone looking distraught and hopeless, but never too low to concede to the defeat of losing a one-of-a-kind Magmar that doesn’t pop up every 2 meters.

The Auckland Domain packed with trainers, at 9:30 PM, on a Sunday night.
The Auckland Domain packed with trainers, at 9:30 PM, on a Sunday night.

Eventually, we found ourselves walking all the way around Victoria Park, back towards the Quarter. I, myself, was on the hunt for a magical Dratini that seemed to have been evading us for a solid two hours. The footprints on my tracker would increase and decrease like the steady winter wind that whipped at us on the docks (G.O.T. REFERENCE! Nailed it). We would get close, then she would escape. My prize! Come back! (A tear rolls over this author’s cheek in memory of that night). Finally, we took a break and had some dinner…then finished and immediately drove to the Domain where 3o cars were parallel parked in one central location where some Lure Modules (items that attract Pokemon and benefit all players in the area) had been installed to bring those little creatures into our loving grips. Random strangers, all glued to the screen of their phones, were crawling around the far reaching grass of the massive park to catch that ever-elusive Growlithe or Rhyhorn. More advice from fellow walkers, more cars driving through around the museum on the high hill, and SO MANY ZUBATS. UGH.

We did eventually end our night (since we had to work the next day helping you wonderful people repair your screens and batteries), but not before taking a long detour from the Domain to Newmarket and a good distance down Remuera Road, then doubling back to head home…at 10:30pm. We had walked 10km each, and caught dozens of new Pokemon.

And the next night, my compatriot went out for another spin at the training game while I rested my weary hamstrings. He’s better than me now. I am sad. I’m going to go train some more now. I’d say goodbye, but there’s a Vulpix outside of Burger Fuel Queen Street. Hopefully management doesn’t mind.

Back In My Day…

I’m not normally a nostalgic person…

Ok, no, that’s a lie. I dwell on the past like a retired football player who’s heyday was 1984.

Recently though, my nostalgia has been more focused on a specific period in my life that I never had. I know that sounds strange, but if you know me personally or have read my blog previously, then you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.

My family and I moved out to New Zealand around six years ago. Since then, things have been less than ideal, but I’m incredibly lucky to have seen two completely different worlds in my just under 23 years of living. But when we moved, I was smack in the middle of my junior year of high school in Seattle. By that point, I had known most of my best friends since the 3rd grade and my roots were deeply dug into the ground in little Redmond, Washington.

Life was a beautiful mess of insecurity, crushes, puberty, and stories that I carry with me today, good and bad both. I remember the little tree house we discovered hidden deep in the forest behind thorny blackberry bushes in my neighborhood, and all the days that came with that place. I remember too-early mornings waking up for school to go to Jazz Band an hour before classes and the sun rise. And there was always driving home from soccer practices on a small red brick road in the dying evening heat of August in my sixteen-year-old, grey-with-peeling-paint ’92 Dodge Caravan with the oil stain in the back, listening to the mix CD I had burned with Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind, Rock Kills Kid, and Lifehouse blasting out of the overused speakers that sung so sweetly.

618_tv_sexy_shows_the_oc

All of those memories have been flooding into my conscious thoughts because of two recently discovered loves of mine. I started binging on The O.C. Yeah, that’s right, I’m watching teen drama trash in the midst of my over-thought, critically acclaimed drama as a break from the latter. Judge me all you want, it’s thoroughly ridiculous and entertaining.

I am definitely enjoying shouting at my laptop at 3 a.m. in bed like a potato four hours before I start work because Ryan just needs to fucking make it work with Marissa. Seth is hilarious at every turn, and his parents are pretty great (I’d say on par with Eric and Tammy Taylor from Friday Night Lights as the greatest portrait of a marriage on television). And Mischa Barton is the apple of my teenage eye long past. What a babe.

Watching the show has been a roller coaster of memories and old raging emotions that I hadn’t felt or thought about in a very long time. As tough as high school was sometimes, I miss the hell out of the days when we were care-free and completely unhinged from the atrocities of adulthood.

Because I moved away at the worst time as a high schooler, I’m constantly reminded of the fact that I never really got to come into my own while I was in Redmond. I didn’t start to hit my stride as a person until early in the final year of my high school career out in Auckland. The thought that I could have been that new person back home, surrounded by the people who I had loved so dearly in the town I called, and still call, home has my heart breaking all over again.

Now, I know: The O.C. is the worst possible platform to stand on and look back at what could have been. As I recall, my time at Redmond High wasn’t plagued by cheating and gunfire. I’m lucky to have lived an upper-middle class life in Eastern Seattle, one where I was truly protected from harm and innocence-breaking tragedy. We were far removed from the real issues that were just half hour drive away from us. But the thoughts of how different my life would be cloud my present. It shouldn’t, and dreaming is always better than the reality. I suppose it’s a reflex to the stresses that envelope life now: having to worry about jobs, money, paying the rent, maintaining social circles, and all of that.

But still, I’m guided by the idea that deep down, I still want to have had the All-American high school/college years. It was a strange turn when I came to New Zealand because the culture was so different. There wasn’t any prom or school dances, no real high school sports following (even for the rugby team), and people were generally less concerned about what happened at school. Everyone was ready to leave already. It’s probably me having moved there around that time when everyone was on their way to move on to college anyways, but it was still jarring to me that those conventions from back home were not to be mine. I did enjoy those last years in high school, yet I was never able to shake the Breakfast Club values and stories out of my head. The depression that came with all of the events following the move have guided and moulded me into my present self.

I’m convinced that, being on the outside looking in, life seemed like it would have been a lot better stateside. And maybe I’m right. I think I’ll start watching The O.C., less as something I don’t know about, and rather as it should be watched: as stories that happened at some other high school than my own. Television will suck you in and make the characters into friends of yours, and it’s interesting that the show’s created such a deep resonance with me that I’m blogging about it to get it all sorted out in my head. Say what you want, The O.C. is creating its desired effect on my fried cranium.

The other thing that’s been making me want to go all Back To The Future on the days gone by is this new song I’ve quite literally replayed about 80 times since Thursday. The song is REALiTi by Grimes. She remembers her young love and how she’s never had the same feeling that she had since that time. It’s one of the most sonically gorgeous and lyrically heartbreaking songs I’ve heard in so long. You see where I’m going with this.

grimes

There’s one line that gets to me every time. I hear it, and I can already imagine the John Hughes-esque film whose title sequence I see being laid on top of this song, with this line killing me each successive time I’d hear it. This line puts my entire teen-hood into perspective. It literally explains everything that I ever thought about, felt, knew, or was too naive to understand.

“When we were young, we used to live so close to it
And we were scared and we were beautiful…”

That line destroys me. It makes me reflect on every memory, every feeling that I had growing up. I’d think, “Yeah, we were all still half-baked, fearful young kids. But it was beautiful. WE were beautiful, all of us, because we weren’t complete yet.”

I can’t stop listening to it, because, every time, it simultaneously saddens me and fills my heart with joy and love. It’s so weird that this particular period in our lives, while so short, was the turning point for all of us in some way. We all started to become real people with fully formed ideas and dreams to lead us forward, while still being completely in love with the world with innocence that still remained in us.

I know, this is getting really sappy. But it’s been such a difficult few years that it’s wonderful for me to harken back to a time that, for all its craziness, were some of best years of my life. And I know that I can’t get them back, which is what makes them so much more valuable. I’m reminded over and over again that to value those years is just as important as having lived them. I’m more than happy to be where I am now because I know that a scared, young Arneet had started to put together the pieces that would come form the man writing this little piece that you’re reading today.

I’m not living in the past, I trust you believe me on that. The ships have sailed, and I’m so hopeful for my future. I’m working hard with my dreams and goals still visible through the thin fog that lingers less and less as I travel the road further and further. And, hey, maybe life didn’t exactly turn out the way I thought it would, with an Oscar in hand at age 25, my own production company, and a range of designer coffee mugs.

But I like where I am, I love where I’ve been, and I can’t wait to see where I’m going.

The Cycle of Self-Inflicted Mind Games: A Hopeful Essay

cropped-we-see-what-we-want.png

When I was 15, I couldn’t have cared less what the world saw me as. My style was mine (though, now admittedly I see why I never got dates). My mind was mine. My interests, my dreams, and my passions were entirely up to how I saw them, not influenced by anyone else’s thoughts about me and who I was “supposed to be”. Allow me to be slightly immodest when I say that I was wonderful to be around. I was happy, energetic, incredibly positive about life. Of course, I made mistakes that everyone makes as they grow up that turned people off every now and then, but I wasn’t a bad kid. I was inherently as good as I knew how to be. Like my beating heart, I never needed to tell myself to be good. I just was, as well as I could be. But that version of me is now a distant memory to my almost-23-year-old self.

When I was 17, my family moved to New Zealand. We were in a country where we knew few and whose social landscape we knew even less about. It was a difficult time that I was nowhere near emotionally prepared for. My parents split up (I knew it would happen one day, but not before I was in college), I would continue to have problems adapting to new surroundings, and my late bloomer body finally started exhibiting damaging examples of crippling insecurities. Unsureness of my standing as a person amongst my friends and family.

I don’t know that it was anxiety or mild depression, but rather a sign of some late stage puberty that hadn’t decided to infect me with its cruel hands of change. Puberty’s a dick.

With so much going on, coupled with the fact that, at age 19, I had just been fast-tracked into managing the family-owned (now Dad-owned) cafe that I had worked at since we had gotten off the plane, and my psyche was cluttered by thoughts of being too young to know how to deal with anything that was going on around me at the time. I was still a kid in my own eyes, and I had at least that much intelligence in my noodle to acknowledge that. Initially, I began questioning every decision I made in the cafe as the manager, and then even began to ask the staff if I was doing a good job. And I asked a lot.

I began to wonder what being good was, and always tried to consider all of the way-too-many variables to any situation before doing anything. I became overly careful and self-conscious, and considered anything that was really done to a good standard with the utmost negativity. I was so hard on myself that I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough.

Insecurities inhabit everyone’s mind. What I have to remind myself all the time around other people is that they’re too busy thinking about themselves to think about you. It’s not a shallowness thing; it’s literally remembering that everyone has the same fears in this regard that you do. I know now that I’m not alone in the struggle to maintain a balance of humility and confidence amongst my fellow humanoids. It’s a vicious cycle of self-inflicted mind games that we play with ourselves at a young age and allow to bring us down to a place where we think is impossible to leave.

Fun fact: in our 20’s, we’re still in the late stages of who we are going to become for the rest of our lives. We’re not little baby birds learning to fly anymore, but we’re still trying to figure out how to get the other birds to accept us, or even just like us, even though many of us think that we have an awkward looking wing that those asshole birds will make fun of.

I thought I’d be over being so self-conscious by this stage in my life. That, at 22-ish, I’d be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, “Kid, you’re doing alright,” or, “Everything will be alright.” But it’s still not happening. In that same mirror in the real world, I’m still looking at the guy looking back at me with those piercing, unwavering eyes, and he’s saying, “You’re not doing it right.” It’s not anxiety or depression, but it’s still something I’d consider a formidable foe.

It’s the understanding that I have a LONG way to go to becoming someone whom I can be proud of.insecurity-meme

For years, I’ve been put into positions professionally and personally that make me feel like I’m becoming an adult faster than I can catch up. Conversely, I’m still yearning to do things that make me feel more adult-y, like having my own apartment, making the choice to get ultra-fast broadband because I’m my own man, and having a job that helps me save multitudes of moolah in the bank. But it’s not the moment and its contents that make the man. Rather, it’s what the moment means in the grand scheme of growing up and achieving great things that make the man. I have hopes, I have goals, and I have dreams. I just need to start giving myself more credit for being the person that I really am.

I’ve been told over and over again by so many customers at the cafe that I have great service. They appreciate my sincerity and my humor, and they tell me to “keep it up”. I shouldn’t just let that roll off my shoulders, but rather take it in and let it fill my heart with the juice I deserve to push even further in my quest to do better. I’ve been told by friends that I have a real talent for writing, and they tell me I should “keep doing it”. And yet, I barely write in my blog anymore, but I should take those words of encouragement in and really, truly, deeply believe that they’re not just saying it for the sake of being nice. With that said, can you see me making progress here?

The truth to the whole matter of having both confidence and humility working within you in unison is this: remember that you’re always going to be good at the things you love doing as long as you remember that you can never stop growing.

Watching my mother struggle with being on her own for the first time, and the great strength and bravery that she’s handled it has given me an appreciation for the fact that we never stop learning. We never stop growing up, because we’re always experiencing new things and with those new things come new problems to learn how to deal with and overcome. Those insecurities and fears don’t leave you, but definitely listen to them less as you grow up.

I know for certain that things I was worried about four years ago are, like After Earth to Will Smith, now dark remnants of the past (why Will? WHY?). Without the pursuit of happiness, humans would be without a path (yeah, I just made a double-Smith reference). If we were given happiness and emotional security at every turn in this increasingly judgmental society we live in, we would be without challenges and competition. Put it this way: in video games, if you’re not coming across enemies in your path, you’re not going in the right direction. Life is like that, too.

So, the things that make you feel terrible about yourself, make you question your goodness as a person, and/or create impossibilities in your head about how to grow up are all but chapters in the story that create the finished product that readers are searching for when the struggle is over. We’re never going to stop finding reasons to doubt ourselves in the face of adversity, because it’s just the way we learn. When you get your first late fees letter from the power company and see that you do actually have to pay that, you learn that that stuff is real (ugh).

So, as I continue writing my blog posts every week (and this time, it will happen), I will continue to work on being as observant as I can to educate myself on the ways in which I can one day achieve my dreams of…whatever I fucking decide, thank you very much. I will persevere, I will fight, and I will continue to make my own happiness wherever I choose, because I’m going to be alright. Internal or external, my insecurities will guide me, never own me.

After all, what’s a good movie without some conflict?

Diary Entry of an Overly Analytical Male

I’m not the first, nor is there any way in which I would be the last dude to over-think life. I’m 21, I’ve only had two real relationships in my life, and I’m constantly thinking about why I have no success with women. And seemingly, no success with people either. Other would probably say otherwise, but I think I’m right because it’s my brain.

Sure, there have been other, still-important-yet-less-significant times in my life that one could argue (don’t know why they would argue anyways) are times that show that I actually have had successful points. That’s true. But what I know is what I feel, and I’m starting to feel that point of the walls of my social life falling in.

You know that feeling when you have a string of days that just go right? Everyone seems to want to talk to you. Conversations are fun, natural, and unforced. And no one has a bad thing to say. Even the girl you’ve had a thing for is texting you off and on.

And then, it all comes to either a slow, or a screeching halt. Either way, the fun is over. You feel like everyone’s too busy (which they are), your crush isn’t texting back, and you can’t seem to hold a sentence together without apologizing to whoever has the displeasure of having to make your acquaintance. In your head, it’s all because of you.

Now, back to women. It’s crazy how many little details tend to escape me in moments of thought with girls. Whether it’s me thinking on my own, or actually hanging out with the girl I have a crush on. Every word I’ve read, heard, or thoughtfully came up with on my own about how to stay mentally balanced with women goes flying out the door when the good times are rolling. It’s intoxicating, that feeling of being totally at ease with whoever you’re chasing. And there are so many times when you feel like no matter what you say or do, that person is going to find you amazing.

That, dear diary, is false confidence.

There isn’t a moment in my life where I’m not wishing that I had natural confidence. And I have to remind myself that no one is exempt from wishing that as well at some point. But you can only think about you in the moments when you’re most insecure. I’m not confident without my insecurities, because that’s what keeps me grounded, but to what end? I wish I had some magic juice that just made everything go well. But that’s why life is life.

Luckily, I think I’m starting to realize more and more what I’m doing wrong when I’m single. I fixate. I adore. I get hopelessly attached, exaggerate in my mind, and set myself up for disappointment all the time. What’s the problem there? Well, it’s a mixture of limiting my social scope as well as filling myself to the brim with false hope.

The social scope thing is just a fancy way of saying that I’m constricting my ability to look at a bigger picture of people who I can talk to and communicate with. My friend circle isn’t massive; it’s just the right size. But outside of that, I don’t know that I step out of my comfort zone enough. I really try, but I can’t always just walk up to someone and strike up any old conversation. I end up being that guy at parties who drifts between talking to people and letting them come to him. The latter rarely ends up working unless alcohol is involved.

Same thing with girls though. I know I need to step up, but it’s not easy when your mind is scrambled eggs like mine. There’s just no sense in me going up to a person that might not respond the way you think. But who cares? Who does it really affect in the end? It shouldn’t affect me. All I need to do is learn and move on. Take one, examine it, pass it down. Short, sweet, and simple. That way there’s no extra thought that needs to go into the process of new connections. But you end up lingering on the experience.

Most importantly, I really can’t afford to think so far into the future about things that haven’t even happened yet. Not just socially or romantically, but career-wise etc, as well. If you can’t make it happen now, whatever ‘it’ is, it can’t happen later either. It’s not something that you can help at any other time except in the present. There’s no secret: it’s just effort.

She’s not going to love you instantly. She isn’t even necessarily interested. She probably has the same insecurities as you. Even if she’s been told her entire life that she is fine, she’ll still think about her flaws.

Because we know ourselves better than anyone else, and that’s the scariest part.

We tend to forget that no one knows the back of our hand better than we do. People are programmed to believe that there’s someone out there who, one day, will know you just as well and understand you better. They will make you wonder how you ever thought you weren’t good enough. But the problem isn’t about effort or looking for this person. The problem is that we aren’t patient. We look outside and we see happy couples, happy people, and satisfaction in smiles that look honest and real, and we want that.

But we don’t know where those smiles came from. We don’t know how close two people on the street talking really are. And even if we know their relationship, we don’t know how much they truly know about each other. But we invent the story in our head that we know exactly who they are, what they’re feeling, and how that compares to this moment of us watching the world.

I for one can’t help but think about other people’s happiness before mine, but I know on the inside, I’m still burning out of my own, self-declared insufficiencies as a person. But how do I know that my friends and family don’t feel the same about themselves? What about your acquaintances who you know even less about thinking the same way?

And what about that girl you like, who is sitting across from you at a cafe with a hot latte, staring at the steam like it’s more than just evaporating water?

I feel a little bit more like I understand what my problem is. I look too far inward, and I fail to observe what really counts: feeling these crazy, misunderstood emotions that aren’t just mine. I still haven’t grasped the fact that everyone, at some point and throughout their lives, feel these same infuriating thoughts. But until I really understand how to make it right in my head, I can’t hope to achieve anything other than an understanding when I’m with others. It’s a fear that, like all others, can’t be overcome by anyone except the fearful.

There’s something about fear that’s so…complex. It’s not just fear of the world and the things that you do to shape yours that creates your understanding of yourself.

It’s the fear of being fearful, and of other people knowing it, that will make you understand yourself and how to be the best version of you.