Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 mixes

Past mixes: 20082009201020112012201320142015, 2016

It feels like lately I go one year heavy into discovering new music and then one year off, and this was an off year. So fewer songs than in other years and there's an awful lot from about four albums. C'est la vie.

Disc 1a

1. Up Around the Bend - CCR. Thanks, American Gods!

2. S.O.B. - Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. Thanks, Fargo!

3. Kiwi - Harry Styles. Hey, I liked a Harry Styles song. Will wonders never cease.

4. Green Light - Lorde. Maybe my favorite song of the year. (But CCR is a better start with that riff).

5. Let 'em talk - Kesha ft. Eagles of Death Metal

6. Ascension - Gorillaz ft. Vince Staples. Seeing them live this year was awesome.

7. Queen of the Bored - Brian Reitzell & Shirley Manson. Thanks again, American Gods!

8. Lover to Lover - Florence & the Machine. Not sure how I missed this song before, but I think the video is particularly appropriate for having been 2 feet from Ben Mendelsohn last month.

9. Diamond Heart - Lady Gaga

10. Charger - Gorillaz ft. Grace Jones

11. Bodak Yellow - Cardi B. Obviously.

12. Erupt & Matter - Moby & the Void Pacific Choir.

13. The Way You Used to Do - Queens of the Stone Age. I'm still pissed at them for pulling out of Outside Lands. Also, I had not seen the music video before and it is ridiculous.

14. Revolution Rock n Roll - Low Cut Connie

15. Restart - BNQT

16. Uh Oh - Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits. I met Kat at a halloween party, totally missed her name, and only put two and two together later. Oops. (Side note: I love this video.)

17. Fun - Blondie. So thrilled to get to see them live for the first time this year. (Hey! Surprise music video.)

18. Supercut - Lorde

Disc 1b

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Packing for 16 days in Borneo

I'm off to Borneo for 14 days! (Plus an additional 2 days on planes) I had to take photos of what I was taking with me for insurance, so I figured I might as well stick them up on a blog in case they are helpful to others. (I love that top orang photo - it's from a Nature Conservancy scientist who works on saving Bornean Orangutans in Kalimantan. Yay us.)

[Updating post trip with some notes!]


First up, my trusty backpack, which spent 14 months on the road with me 11 years ago (!!!). This particular bag (the Eagle Creek TransContinental Journey Travel Backpack) has long since been discontinued, and I no longer have the day pack that zipped to it. I believe it's 65L, which is a bit on the large size, but at one point I was carrying a backpacker tent and mosquito net in it, plus a sleeping bag strapped to the bottom. As it is, I have enough room to comfortably maneuver things inside (even wth drybags, which are new to me for this trip), and carry back a few small souvenirs. Plus a new lock, since my last one died on my trip to Vegas and REI had to break it off with a screwdriver and hammer. 

[Bag was great. I forgot to mention it has a steel cord that you can use to lock the bag to things. Pack light!]


I'm splurging this trip. Yes, I made it around the world with two pants and three shirts, but since I have the room, and most of what I'm doing will be active/dirty, I'm going with three pants (Columbia & REI) and four tops (all REI sahara tops). I like the sahara tops - they're moisture wicking, have vents, collar and wrist protection. I've worn them in India just before the heat broke in monsoon season, and they worked well. The pants are likewise all technical hiking pants. The hope is to keep one change of clothes as camp clothes to change into for dinner/between safaris, but we'll see how that goes.

[It was definitely better to have the extra clothes. There was just no keeping anything clean in the jungle. Of the pants, the Columbia pants were the best - they had drawstrings around the ankles and I was able to wear them on one hike instead of leech socks. The shirts were also pretty good, although I'd switch the red one out for something neutral if you have the option. Also the tan color went somewhat see-through after a couple hours of hiking in 95% humidity.]

1 pair light weight pjs, a rashguard for snorkeling/kayaking (I sunburn like crazy out on/in the water, so full coverage is for the best), and a swimsuit for the hot springs and waterfalls I'll be visiting (one piece, just to be conservative).

[Didn't end up using the rash guard because I didn't go snorkeling, and used the swimsuit once and it was annoying to dry. Hindsight being 20/20 I'd just use my bra and undies.]

3 pairs cycling shorts; recommended by my guide for leech protection.

[NEVER WORE. Don't bother.]

Normally I take a bandana to pull back my hair on days between showers (particularly on long drive days), but I splurged on a fancy hot weather/moisture wicky/anti insect thing. Is it a good idea? Who knows!

[This was the best impulse purchase I've ever made. So great for keeping sweat out my eyes (which was SO necessary.)]

My old tevas for not being barefoot in said hot springs/waterfalls.

[I wore these waaaay more than expected. And I saw a couple of pairs of flip flops bite the dust going to Libaran.]

A fleece. Mostly for the plane, but in case it ever gets chilly (NOT BLOODY LIKELY)

[Great for the plane. Padded the bottom of my bag the rest of the trip.]

Drybags for clothes, toiletries bag, and day bag

[Never needed these, but you know my bag would have been soaked in a monsoon if I hadn't had them.]

Sun hat. This is a fairly ugly hat, but it's lightweight, squashable, and with a very large brim for sun/rain.

[Only wore this a couple of times, but it was really great to have.]

Speaking of... rain coat.

[Important to have; totally failed. When it was seriously raining, this wasn't long enough, and I ended up being gifted ponchos by two separate guides. Take a poncho.]

3 sports bras, 7 pair ex officio moisture wicking undies

[Undies were great. The sports bras were not fantastic, but they were serviceable. I wonder if anyone makes bras out of moisture-wicky pants material?]

6 pairs smartwool/REI wool socks (I find wool the best for hiking); eagle creek packits for clothes

[Yay good socks.]

Boots. My old boots finally bit the dust last year after 10 years and 4 continents. I got these in the spring and have been wearing them to docent, as well as taking them hiking and camping in the spring.

[Yay good boots. My knee is even doing better that it was before the trip. That said, it didn't quite have the tread I would have wanted for the crazy mud there. Get good gripping treads!]

Day Bag/ Miscellaneous

Day bag. Unfortunately doesn't zip onto my main bag, which means I get to do the fun backpacker double-sided turtle walk when I'm carrying both. But! On the plus side - this holds more stuff (great for carrying a raincoat/hat on treks, or using as a one night overnight bag). Plus this particular bag has venting at the back, compression straps, a platypus/headphone port at the back, and lots of pockets (a minus on my other daypack). This bag comes from Australia, and is 30 litres. 
Also pictured: my trusty .9L nalegene that went around the world me. Secured with a carabiner from my brother

[Yay for a good backpack and nalgene.]

Guidebook & printed itinerary with the old backpacking trick of cutting the unnecessary bits out. 

[Yup. Important.]

Day bag: extra dry sack (for kayaking), sunglasses, keys, gum, lock for large pack (to secure in a room), kleenex, passport with yellow fever/immunizations card and extra visa photos, 75L platypus bladder, 1L katadyn water filtration bottle, wallet with extra cards removed, immodium/sudafed pills added, and ID/debit/credit cards/a few business cards kept. Plane tickets not pictured.

[Never ever used the filter water bottle. Don't take gum! It melts in the heat/humidity. Didn't need the extra dry sack (didn't kayak). Left the glasses on a beach on Libaran and need new sunglasses now. Used the platypus SO MUCH.] 

Camera (Canon PowerShot SX60 HS; new to me, but my old camera was also a PowerShot. A friend loaned me a DSLR two trips ago, and I didn't enjoy it. I like the PowerShot for a fast/strong zoom, being fairly quiet, and having lots of megapixels.), camera bag, USB cable (just in case), extra battery, 3 memory cards (two 32 GB and one 8GB. I'm shooting raw for the first time ever, so I just want to be sure I don't run out of memory!)

[Used SO SO much. Shoot raw. Make sure you don't leave it on the Macro setting. And buying a second memory card was the best thing I've ever done. Definitely take an extra giant card.]

Insurance policy with important numbers written down (plane tickets, bank phone number, etc.), prescription info, and emergency USD $20 in a zip lock, tucked in large bag

[Uneeded, thankfully.]

Silk sleep sack. My old one (inherited from my dad) finally got a tear last year, so brand new one for this trip! I swear by these. They're warm or cool as need be, and pack super small. Perfect for hostels, warming up a sleeping bag, or hopefully for sleeping in a hammock? I'll report back. 

[Used a lot, but I SO miss my old one, which was longer and had a section for putting in a pillow. If you can get a longer version, that's great.]

Extra pack-it for laundry

[Super important.]

Dessicant packs (no idea if these will be helpful, or will need to be thrown away), doorstop (also a new addition, but given that I'll have a private room the first three nights, I thought I'd take the suggestion), rubber clothesline (traveled around the world with me - never used it. May or may not use it on this trip!), inflatable pillow, and odor absorber/freshener satchel. (I couldn't find the pack freshener that I took around the world, but this one seems to be a nice scent.)

[Didn't use the laundry line. Used the door stop a LOT and was super glad to have it. The satchel was great. I don't know if the desiccants did anything? But they certainly didn't hurt.]

A couple of extra ziplocs gallon freezer bags just in case

[Probably could just use these instead of dry bags. Used these for the extra books I bought.]

Money belt. Keep my passport, tickets, and usually extra funds in here till it's time to replenish my wallet. Also if I fill up a camera memory card. This lives on me and doesn't leave my sight from the time I pass customs till the time I'm back into airport security. 

[This started to give me heat rash part-way through the trip, and I abandoned wearing it at all times like usual. But then I never let my day bag out of my sight. I started wearing it again once I went through my first SD card.]

Face travel towel. I can't figure out what happened to the one I used to have. But I restocked in this size for sweating out in the jungle. 

[The one I used to have was hanging on my treadmill. I'm a moron. But this was SO super helpful. The little tie let me secure it to the outside of my day bag during hikes. This was so great for hiking in that heat and humidity.]

Electronics bag: old unlocked phone from Australia with charger, usb charger, flashlight, headlamp, camera battery charger, voltage converter with plug adaptor, iphone lightning port splitter, travel alarm clock, packit, and drybag. Not pictured: iPhone (the plan is to keep it on airplane mode and only use wifi when I'm in the cities. I'm probably better off not taking it, but... well. I can't really imagine being without it/my music for so long. Plus I've got some travel apps on it that work without connection, some podcasts, and a basic international plan just in case of emergency need.)

[Ugh. Just get the international plan. SO much easier. Definitely put new batteries in your headlamp before venturing out; I ran through an entire new battery. The little flashlight was okay, but if you can bring a super strong light for night walks, I'd recommend that. {Night safaris will have spotlights). Glad to have the extra battery for my phone, but a heads up that Chinese airlines are VERY WEIRD about lithium rechargers. They won't make you get liquids out, but they will make you get batteries out. One thing I didn't bring and wished I had brough. was my little travel speaker (similar to this one).]

Book for downtime. Debating taking Birute Galdikas' book with me, too.

[This was a terrible choice. I read it in one day and needed to go buy a bunch more (which were so expensive!), and it features an apocalypse in an airport, which I thought about a lot the next time I was in the Shanghai terminal. But its a great book. Read it! You won't be able to put it down.]

Lots of extra tissue packs. For pit toilets.

[Didn't need this many, but went through about half. Many places are half pit toilets and half western toilets.]

The traveling hedgehog. My aunt gave me this hedgehog before my first international trip when I was 13, and he's been to every country with me since (this will be #18 and, sadly, our first trip since my aunt passed away.)


Toiletries/First Aid
More than a third of what I'm taking falls in this category. 

First Aid kit: packit, gauze. blister treatment, various sizes of tough waterproof bandaids, callus cushions & moleskin, small scissors, toe bandages, peptobismol, ib profin, vaporrub inhaler, ace bandage, antihistamine pills, immodium pills, sudafed pills (for wallet), oral rehydration packs (half), caffeine pills (in case coffee is unavailable), azithromycin (in case of need for traveler's tummy - fingers crossed it will not be!), malarial pills (malarone - what I've usually taken and find easiest - only taken for a day before and seven days after travel), probiotics (the kind that don't require refrigeration. I've never carried these before, but I figure they can't hurt.)

[No traveler's tummy, thank god, but two bouts of indegestion and the pepto bismol was great. Malarial pills obviously used, as were the rehydration packs. Didn't need the caffeine. Took the probiotics off and on, and I don't know that they helped, but I don't know that they hurt? Used the bandaids, and used the benadryl on the plane to try to fall asleep (didn't work on the plane, but DID work back in SF on my jetlag.)  Happy to have the rest unused.]

Also: micropur tablets. I never used the water purification tablets I carried when I was traveling around the world. However, the guides I'm going with recommended a water filtration bottle or water purification tablets. So I got both. I figure the filter on the katadyn (above) will filter particulates, and I'll have the purification tablets for viruses/crypto. I think mostly I'll be filling up with boiled water in the evenings, but I'm covered if we do refill at a stream somewhere.

[USED THESE. There were times when the water was supposedly filtered, but somewhat suspect.]

Not pictured: adhesive tape, which had somehow wandered off, but I found another roll and replaced it. Yay for catching something while blogging!

Toiletry kit: My lovely old eagle creek shower caddy - it has an elastic inside that loops over the hook to stay open in showers, plus a tiny mirror. 

Non-liquids: Travel towel (10 years and going strong!), folding hairbrush, the other half of my oral rehydration packets, tweezers, nail clippers, diva cup, toothbrush, hair band for washing my face, throat lozenges, face/body bar and soap dish (this was a last minute switch to be able to remove my normal facewash from my liquids bag. It's a goat's milk/activated charcoal bar that I cut in half (for weight) and that I've used for a few nights. I'm not used to bar soap for my face, but it's worth it to get some extra room in that ziplock), bar of sunblock (I swear by Neutrogena UltraSheer - I have bottles in every bag and purse, but again, to save room in my liquids bag, I'm going to try their bar form (70spf, which I figure has to be at least 40spf in real testing). I'm wary of missing spots when using a clear bar, rather than a white liquid, but I'm hoping this will be easier to reapply in the humid, sweaty jungle, and reapplication is really the most important thing. I've tested it out and it feels alright. I probably wouldn't switch up from my norm when traveling to the equator, but I'll be wearing long pants and sleeves and often a hat most of the time there, so I feel okay about trying something new in these conditions.)

[All important. The charcoal bar was okay. Lots of places I went had shampoo and body gel provided (as well as towels), but important to have for the rest. The sunscreen bar worked, but felt weird. I didn't wear it every day (yay for the canopy providing the best protection.) I'm torn with either taking my normal liquid or not. Either one works.]

Liquids: super-wash (for washing clothes), spf chapstick, tiger balm (recommended by my guide and other backpackers), travel shampoo (the super wash apparently *can* work as a shampoo, but I'll use some real shampoo for as long as I can since I can fit it), anti-perspirant (MUCH GOOD IT WILL DO ME)/deodorant, toothpaste, aloe vera, hydrocortisone, prescription sample of neo-synalar (happened to have this from my dermatologist, and I figure it's good to have on hand in case of contact dermatitis), neosporin, anti-fungal cream (new to me, but... jungle), purell (again, for pit toilets), crazy bad for you deet (my dad slathered this stuff on us as kids, so I figure the harm is already done and I might as well go super-strong while in malarial areas), nyquil/dayquil tabs (I wouldn't normally take so many, but I've been SO exhausted from work the last three months, and three of my coworkers came into work with colds this week, so I'm over-preparing. I always worry about the end-of-term, finally-able-to-relax cold.)

[The super wash really didn't work well. It doesn't lather much, and I used most of it on just a few washes. I started using shampoo and shower gel as laundry soap. Barely used the tiger balm hardly at all. Hydrocortisone was important. The jungle juice failed me - I was totally eaten alive in Sepilok. Even for the space/weight, a spray might be a better idea. Ended up giving half my dayquil/nyquil tabs to my guide, who was coming down with a cold at the end of our time together. Luckily I didn't get sick! Didn't use the aloe much. Maybe I'd take less and liquid sunscreen? And then maybe dry detergent packs?]

With room to spare. I'm so good.

And last, but not least: I screwed up my knee a few months back. I've been rehabbing it (ish. As much as I could while still training for jungle trekking.) But I'm taking a brace just in case of need.

[Didn't need. Yay!]

To get there: leech socks, Malaysian sim card, souvenirs, photos of wild animals, new travel stories. Fingers crossed for a binturong sighting. 

[SAW A BINTURONG!!!!!!!!!]

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Giant SFFilm Fest Roundup post

I don't think I've done one of these round-ups for the past two years (here are 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011).

From roughly 'definitely see' to 'skip', here's what I saw (shorts at the end). And this is after a couple of weeks ruminating; rather than my instant star reactions. All the films below can be found on this list:

It's perhaps not surprising that the two best things I saw were my two classic screenings:
Man with a Movie Camera
This was delightful, and DeVotchKa's accompaniment was perfect.

Citizen Kane
It's true! It *is* terrific!

God's Own Country
In the continuing theme of gay romances kicking heteronormative ass. (My one quibble is that Alec Secareaunu is too perfect. Also, he looks like Oscar Isaac.)

A Dragon Arrives
I'm not entirely sure how to describe this film. It starts out as a 1960s thriller/genre film about a secret policeman investigating the possible suicide of a political prisoner in exile on an island. On which there may or may not be a dragon. Then it pulls back and becomes a documentary ("documentary") mystery about how the filmmaker came to be in possession of the footage and whether or not he can piece together what "actually" happened. The whole thing is a fun mystery/thriller pretzel and it's beautiful.

El Mar la Mar
I loved this. It's a tone poem about the Sonoran Desert. The stories from those out in the deserts (often immigrants or those living out there who encounter those crossing the border) are never presented in frame which, as the fest guide pointed out, gives the impression of stories being told around a campfire.

Lady Macbeth
This was introduced as a modern feminist victorian chamber piece, and I think that's right.

Casting Jon Benet
I liked this much more than I was expecting to. Director Kitty Green cleverly takes the format of auditioning and uses it to explore a notorious unsolved crime had on a community.

I wasn't 100% sold on this immediately, for a few reasons, but it's the film I've thought the most about since watching it. And not just because of how pretty young Rupert Graves is:
I mean, goddamn.
It is also *hilarious* to me that they initially try to hide him in the background like an extra. There's no hiding someone that pretty.
I think it's because I was expecting a slightly different film. My understanding of it going in was that it was a love story between two students, and for one it's a phase and for the other it isn't. And that's not really accurate. [Spoilers] I don't think Clive is ever really in love with Maurice, if anything, he strikes me as aesexual. Plus, I was confused during the University part of the storyline; I thought the filmmakers were being chaste and keeping their physical relationship offscreen, I misunderstood that they truly didn't have one (that becomes very clear once Alec shows up). Plus, it was hard not to compare that section to Brideshead (which was better; and I maintain that the pacing during the university section of the film is a little odd). My other issue was that I didn't really like Maurice for most of the film, and I think it's because he doesn't become a fully realized person until he embraces his homosexuality. Anyways, it's very well done, the second part is fantastic, I'm looking forward to seeing it again, I kind of want to go on a Merchant Ivory binge, and it's easily the best thing Hugh Grant has ever done. 

Let it Fall: L.A. 1982-1992
This is another very cleverly constructed documentary. I probably wouldn't have chosen to go see a documentary about the LA riots (it was one of the secret screenings), but I'm so glad I saw this. John Ridley did an amazing job talking a diverse array of community members and simply giving them space to tell their stories.

Another one that I may have skipped were it not a secret screening, but it was enormously well done. It's about the lengths a father will go to in order to secure his daughter's future in a corrupt society.

I'm always suspicious of feel-good documentaries, but this one was SO FEEL GOOD. Ostensibly about a step competition, it's more about educating young black women, and their trials and tribulations on the way to becoming the first members of their families to attend college.

It's a sweet old man who walks around with his donkey! What's not to like?

Buster's Mal Heart
So it turns out that Rami Malek is eminently watchable.

The Force
A fly on the wall documentary on the Oakland police force. What started out as a film about reforms to get out from under federal oversight, happened to capture the department as the Black Lives Matter movement started and then the sex scandal broke.

The Green Fog
This was Guy Maddin and his collaborators roughly recreating the plot of vertigo using found footage of San Francisco, with an original composition played live by the Kronos Quartet. I love watching shots of San Francisco from the past, so it worked for me, but I fully expect it wouldn't have been anyone else's cup of tea. It didn't really hang together. But hey! San Francisco! My city is so great.

This film did exactly what I had hoped it might: give me more of an appreciation of Psycho, which I'm not super fond of. Really entertaining and informative.

The Transfiguration
My favorite kind of horror film; one in which the premise itself is horrifying.

Incredible Jessica James
It's Jessica Williams dating Chris O'Dowd! With Lakeith Stanfield thrown in for good measure. And Jessica is obsessed with the theater! Basically, it's all very charming.

The Stopover
And it's at about this point where we get into the films I wasn't thrilled with. This one had a climax that really bugged me.

Lost City of Z
This so should have been my film - long languorous shots of the Amazon. But the film managed to make jungle exploration boring. Charlie Hunnam is just not a charismatic lead.

Paris Opera
I really liked seeing these amazing artists at the top of their craft, but I didn't like the construction of the film. It did make me really want to go to the Paris Opera, though - they do crazy innovative things there! Not just the same old ABCs (Aida, Boheme, Carmen).

Score: A film music documentary
Like the above, I liked the material more than the film itself. The best bits are the actual studio sessions (I had no idea that musicians don't get the scores ahead of time to rehearse! They have to sight read all those soon-to-be iconic themes.)

House of Tomorrow
I found this really uneven. Some parts were fabulous, while others fell flat. Mostly a good cast, though, and they use Ellen Burstyn's actual footage with Buckminster Fuller, so that was cool.

Beach Rats
I had such high hopes for this one coming out of Sundance! It's about a closeted Jersey bro, and it just left me cold.

Walking Out
This has some gorgeous scenery, and the actors are good (once Matt Bomer settles into the role/ it stops being weird to see someone as pretty as him as a homesteader.) I just see how the plot would play a lot better as a short story.

Half Life in Fukushima
The problem with watching someone live a half life in a ghost town is that it is boring. I like slow paced films, but this one just wasn't interesting enough to captivate me.

Mister Universo
A loose film built around actual circus performers in Italy. It's pretty unfocused.

The Cinema Travellers
For a film that is supposedly an ode to cinema, this was decidedly uncinematic.

Heaven Sent
Some comedy just does not translate (the film is from Lebanon). This was awful.

A good crop this year! The animated films were particularly strong.
Second to None
It's an Irish black comedy. Of course I loved it.

A Brief History of Princess X
This was a hilarious meditation on the above sculpture.

The History of Magic: Ensueno
I really liked the visuals in this one.

Meaningless Conversations in Beautiful Environments
My final film of the fest! And so apropos!

Everything (online at that link)
I really love David O'Reilly's work (this makes me laugh every time.)

American Paradise
Apparently this is based on an actual story? It's a about a desperate man planning the perfect crime. These trailers are pretty great, too.

Summer Camp Island
Again - I really like Julia Pott's work. This one is more child-focused than some of her other pieces, but I still really enjoyed the sensibility. (Here's a clip:

In the Wake of Ghost Ship
This was a really well done look at the wave of evictions of artist work/live spaces after Ghost Ship, focusing on the punk space Burnt Ramen in Richmond.

Red Apples
This was really well done and really lingers after the fact (trying to be vague and non-spoilery).

Edge of Alchemy
Magical collages of silent film stars!

Victor & Isolina
This was a cute and funny animation about the directors divorced grandparents.

Happy Birthday Mario Woods
A short reflection on Mario by his mother.

A fable romance set in Marseilles. I didn't love all of it, but it is beautifully shot.

Real Artists
What if Pixar... were evil? (This was well executed, but the concept makes me giggle.)

Hot Dog Hands
I didn't like this animation style, but the plot was well-paced.

The story of women political prisoners in East Germany. Really interesting animation.

And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow's Eye
Magical realism. It had some interesting shots, but I didn't love it as a whole.

The Rabbit Hunt
A family hunting rabbits when crops are being razed. That's it.

The Convention
I didn't love the style of this one, but it's an interesting look at an annual conference of (mostly older) transgender women.

[no images that I could find!]
Break of Day
Somewhat formulaic abortion story.

Gut Hack
This dude attempted to change his bacterial lode by himself. I'm really not sure why an NYTimes video was included in the lineup, other than the guy came to speak at the Q&A.

This was about goats. I should have enjoyed it.