I Lost 200 Pounds, Made Friends, And Overcame Agoraphobia — All Thanks To Pokemon Go!

I was pumped to see lot of geeks outside playing Pokemon Go today. Who knew that forcing us nerds outside — exercising — would be so successful?

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For those of you who don’t know, Pokemon Go is an app. As you walk, when you walk past landmarks, parks, art, or points of interest, you can collect trinkets, animals (Pokemon), etc. Your phone buzzes, and you catch the Pokemon in real life. Certain areas are dense with Pokemon and drops, such as parks, cities, and college campuses. There are people catching Pokemon in hospitals, finding corpses, and committing crimes.

Here are the 3 best things about the game:

The game incentivizes exercise. I predict that people are going to lose a lot of weight playing this game. Walking and running can be sweaty and dull. It takes a long time to see results.  But if you’re collecting things, you feel a sense of accomplishment. You’re triggering feel-good hormones in association with something you hated before. Just today, for example, I went on a 3-mile run to grab some trinkets, then walked with my husband around campus to get more. Then, after dinner, we had to walk to a park to experiment with another feature of the game.

The game puts you near other people. Video games typically happen in the privacy of the home — alone. This game’s nature involves leaving the house and going to hotspots where other people might be. This afternoon, my husband and I ran into tons of people playing the game. People were exchanging tips, instructions, and locations of different areas to catch certain Pokemon. Because everyone was playing the same game, there wasn’t that socially awkward “what should we talk about?” moment. There was at least one common denominator. Talking to new people felt easy.

The game helps you discover new features of your town. One of my friends stated that this game would revolutionize the public’s interaction with public art. It’s true: my husband and I have found new parks, sculptures, murals, and dedicated benches all over town.  I’m not sure how they’re determined, exactly, but there are some awesome spots embedded in the game.

The game gets you out of the house. There’s a lot to be said for just leaving sometimes. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise are all great for you; but sometimes one can’t be bothered. This game makes you bother, and, I suspect, will help people with agoraphobia get out of the house. It’s a project.

The game isn’t the solution to the world’s problems, but I do think that making dull things fun and rewarding is something that should be pursued further. Turning onerous tasks into games helps get them done.

I, for one, am exhausted. This Pokemaster is going to bed.

A Few Good Mensch: How The Jews Saved Earth, Again, in Independence Day Resurgence

The original Independence Day was about a lot of things: stinky alien corpses, Will Smith hitting things, the White House exploding, Data from Star Trek getting possessed, unspoken words between lovers, families reaching across distance, and nerdy Jews.

The two main characters were a studly action star and… geeky, scraggly, hairy, fussy, introverted Jeff Goldblum.

Independence Day was mostly considered “Will Smith’s summer movie this year.” People said “Did you see the new Will Smith movie?”, not “Did you see the new Jeff Goldblum movie?”

It’s surprising, therefore, that Independence Day: Resurgence is a Jeff Goldblum movie. While there is a “Will Smith” character (a similar-looking actor who plays his adopted son from the first movie), he’s hardly on screen at all.

The franchise’s sequel-switcheroo changes everything. It even changes the way I think about the original. 

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To briefly summarize Independence Day Resurgence:

On the 20th anniversary of the attack, the aliens return. They want to kill us again.

The aliens blow up our satellites and most of our defenses. They wreck our landmarks. The odds look bad.

The president gives a rousing speech. Humans rally. There’s a fight. Some live. Some die. The aliens win. The end.

Just kidding.

After watching the movie, my husband was confused about the huge part that David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum)’s father, Julius Levinson, played in the film. This time around, he doesn’t have any brilliant ideas. He just putzes around and uses a lot of Yiddish. He could have been removed from the movie entirely and not affected the plot a whit.

Mr Levinson is the comedic relief,” I said. “This movie is basically a Jewish comedy with aliens.”

And I realized, after I’d said it, that it was true.

In my heart, David Levinson had always been the protagonist/mastermind. Will Smith was a pawn in Levinson’s game of mental chess against the aliens.

This was the movie version of Garry Kasparov (who had a Jewish dad!) vs Deep Blue — humanity versus the Other.

What’s interesting here is that humanity typically treats Jews like the Other. They’ve historically been treated like second-class citizens, yet they’re the ones spearheading the campaign against the aliens in these films. Their oddness — their unconventional approach — is what usually makes them loathed. But it gives them the intellectual edge here.

Jews are the underdog of humanity. Humanity is the underdog of this fight.

The Independence Day series is a David and Goliath battle, maxed out. 

It’s basically Bible storytelling.

With aliens.

Which makes the plot really simple and archetypal.

Depending on your point of view, that makes Independence Day 1 & 2 either classic or stupid.

Most critics agree that the movie didn’t need to be made twice. Independence Day 2 was a re-hash of the first, with a deluge of callbacks and references. Though it doesn’t break any new ground, it did make me re-consider the first movie in a new light.

And also? It was a shit-ton of fun.

Corpses, Anatomical Models, Bullet Wounds, and Paintings

Death, disease, tumors, and pustules peppered my family’s dinner conversation as I grew up.

“Pass the salt,” my parents said, as well as: “you wouldn’t believe what I found inside a body today.”

And also: “honey, never go into medicine.”

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I only dabble in the macabre on weekends.

My latest morbid jaunt was the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Maryland.

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The museum was chock-full of samples, specimens, illustrations, replicas, prototypes, and tools. The most beautiful and horrible things hopscotched across the line between medicine and torture.

Life-sized dolls that look like diseased humans.

Flash cards of skin lesions.

Orderly rows of scissors, saws, syringes, and knives.

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Don’t forget tidy kits for exsanguination.

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I didn’t become a doctor, but I have a stomach of steel.

Bring on the corpses.

My Application to The Avengers Initiative and/or League of Justice, Whichever

Batman vs Superman blew chunks.

It’s time we all admitted that Superman needs to go — and I should replace him.

Behold my lovingly illustrated application.

Backstory

The hottest fires forge the strongest steel.

Intelligence

This spatial memory also assists with directions. Sometimes.

Strength

I am very dedicated to self-improvement. (That’s Falcon up there.)

Struggle

I can be undone by pollen, dust, cats, hay, cold, and exercise. This makes my character well-rounded. Nobody loves a Mary Sue.

Charisma

I may not always be riveting, but some of my competition is weak sauce.

Finale

In the end, the Avengers and the League of Justice admitted me to their ranks.

What does your superhero self bring to the table?

How I Handle Sketchbook Anxiety: 10 Tips

Sometimes, when I open my sketchbook, I feel a sense of dread. Do I deserve to be wasting this paper on my stupid doodles? Why is everything so ugly? Who is going to want to look at these?

Welcome to the world of Sketchbook Anxiety. It’s that thing where you slap your beautiful notebook — and your brain — shut and watch TV instead of doing the thing you love. Sometimes playing Candy Crush seems like a better alternative than failing at drawing.

Sketchbook Anxiety happens to everyone. Even people who are, like, super-good. I’ve met some. They talk about it, too.

I’ve come up with a list of things to do when Sketchbook Anxiety strikes! Let’s go:

1. If the niceness of your sketchbook is keeping you from using it, get a cheaper one. A cheap sketchbook you will actually use is better than an expensive sketchbook sitting idle. It’s a bunch of paper bound together. You can get another one at the store for under $20.  Sometimes it helps to have another sketchbook waiting in the wings so you can recognize how disposable they are.

2. Get over First Page Terror by writing a phrase there. Worried your first page will have a Bad Drawing? Don’t put a drawing there. I had a friend who wrote “I Invoke The Muse” on his first page. I tend to use that too. I also think “Here Goes Nothing” or perhaps “Strap In And Feel The G’s” might work nicely.

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3. Start a page with a closed-eyes left-handed scribble. Blank pages are daunting. Sometimes when I don’t know what to draw, I scribble for a bit in a lighter color, then “find” something in there. Whatever you draw on top of the scribble is going to be better than the scribble.

4. Ironically, limitations can be freeing. Picking a theme or medium at the beginning eliminates The Paradox of Choice. If you know this is your Ballpoint Pen journal, or your Watercolor journal, or your Collage journal, you won’t freeze up trying to figure out what to use. Or, if you’re using your journal to practice facial expressions, or draw landscapes, you already have a starting point for your next page.

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5. Drawing the same thing over and over again is okay. There might be certain things you like best. It’s okay to have a Thing. Georgia O’Keeffe liked flowers and bones. Frida Kahlo liked self-portraits. Andy Warhol had soup cans; Jasper Johns had bullseyes. Sometimes drawing the same motifs feels right.

6. Stuck? How about a little fanart? We won’t tell anyone what you’ve been watching. Doodle your favorite celebrity or a scene from a TV show. Do your own version of your favorite painting. The picture above left (page 102) references Season 2 of Penny Dreadful. Sometimes you’re expressing a grand, original vision — and sometimes you’re just doodling. You can fret about your magnum opus later.

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7. The drawings can totally crash into each other. Sometimes it works out. Like “Marcella,” above, wearing a mighty fine teacup hat.

8. A sketchbook is a fine place for stray lists and thoughts. The page above left (100) has a note “I went to the bathroom. Be right back!” When I look at that, I remember the nice guy in the coffee shop who agreed to keep an eye on my sketchbook while I was gone. (I live in a small town. It’s okay). The page below left (98) has a list of things I’ve been watching/reading so I’m not caught out when people ask.

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9. You don’t have to show everybody every page. Or any page. This page (below, 106) was a disaster. I was playing with a fountain pen — and ink dripped all over the place. Even before the ink spill, the page featured an anteater dragon and a guy with upside-down cats-eye glasses. This was never going to be a good page. If you want to pick and choose what you’re putting on your Instagram feed, that’s fine. Show yourself in your best light. Or don’t show anything at all. Nobody’s entitled to your sketchbook. 

10a. When you’re done, feel free to save your sketchbooks, light them on fire, or chop them up for future collages. Knowing that I’m going to wind up recycling my work into future collages makes me worry about the sketchbook itself less. I can snip out and reassemble the things that I like best. I can transfer the pages that work into one portfolio. If I want, I can just use my illustrations in a bonfire to heat up s’mores. That lazy attitude toward the sketchbook itself makes me freak out less about what to put down.

10b. However, for your own peace of mind, I do recommend photographing or scanning up the pages you like every once in a while. If you lose or destroy a sketchbook, you’ll always have the thoughts/ideas/shapes/inspiration on hand. It’s also nice to see how far you’ve come.

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A sketchbook is a great place to keep your life experiences, shapes, dreams, grocery lists, and more.

But it won’t work unless you open one up.