Belated Birthdays

It’s been a busy couple of days so I haven’t found the time to get a birthday blog post written out.

Ok, let’s talk about my year. When I turned 25 last year the reality was that I was not in a really good place. Turning 25 was a point where I made a realization that I really wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing with my life. I felt creatively stunted, burnt out, and easily worst of all totally unmotivated to even bother trying to change things.

Luckily this didn’t persist. I got back into writing with a determined focus to find my voice in words. I still think there’s a lot of room for refinement, but I think this whole informal, conversational tone I’ve been doing lately has been a really good fit for me and it’s shown itself in the outstanding improvements to my writing over this past year.  I’m honest to goodness stunned with how much progress I made as a writer in the past year, and also with how much room I still have to grow. I’m really excited to keep improving this blog and the rest of my writing in general.

Life didn’t change just in terms of writing through this last year either. I’ve made it abundantly clear in my blog that my relationship with religion, for the most part, has been pretty casual, there was a brief moment where I took it real serious and it didn’t pan out well so for a very long time I kept it at arms distance. Maybe enough time had passed and my heart had softened, or maybe living in Utah for two years has just worn me down, but religion has taken a much more prominent role in my life again. I’ll never be one of those Peter Priesthood types that really push religion out of every orifice of my body but it definitely matters to me in a real way again. Weirdly enough it was all the little social things the church does that got me actually taking my religion seriously again. So even though I like to make fun of things like FHE, Ward activities, Break the Fast, etc. (sorry if you’re not up on your Morm… Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint’s lingo)  I have to admit that those things played a big role in actually getting me back to church on a regular basis.

Combining with a newfound sense of focus and pride in my writing and a renewed faith, I also found it in me this year to actually try and be a social human being again. I felt like I actually had the confidence to put myself out there, I mean I’m still pretty introverted so it really worked out more like I fell into a social circle but hey, take those W’s where you can find them. I did actually put myself out there in the world of dating and experienced legitimate success. What the F… That still strikes me as utterly and totally bizarre. Maybe I’ll get used to that at some point, but it’s probably more likely that I’ll continue to be in total bewilderment for the time being.

So long as I remember to take deep breaths and not act like a total weirdo I should be fine. Wait I do act like a total weirdo like all the time… oh boy…

Weird rambling about dating that I’m definitely going to get flak for aside, my 26th year on this planet turned out pretty great. I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. I’m not satisfied though, I need to build on the successes I had last year and continue to refine myself and what I do. That should be a lot of fun. Later!

Split

I swear this is the last one of these things, we’re going back to random stuff like movies real soon.

Going through the message my uncle sent me several weeks ago and taking the time to think through some of the ideas presented in it has got me thinking about identity. How do we see ourselves? For a lot of people, it’s a really tough question, not because we don’t know how we see ourselves, but rather that we can’t be totally sure that the way we see ourselves is accurate.  Do we overexaggerate our strengths and underestimate weaknesses in character? Do we do the opposite and consistently underestimate our own abilities whilst downplaying personal failings.

Are we at times delusional about who we are at our cores?  Do we think we’re really funny when that’s just not the case? Do we think ourselves bland and basic when in reality we’re fascinating and unique individuals? Who knows?

Here’s what I know about my identity. For most of my life, I’ve felt very clearly split into two separate identities.  Not in like a mental disorder kind of way where my whole personality shifts. It’s more like I can pretty clearly see that based on what decisions I make I can go down two radically different paths in life.

Let me elaborate.

On one hand, is JonnyT the entertainer. He thinks only at the moment and never about what path his life might take. He’s creative, he’s funny, and he loses his mind every day sitting through lectures for classes he has no care for at a university he doesn’t really want to be at. Every day he dreams about dropping out, moving to LA and making a go of it in entertainment. He knows full well the odds of that working in his favour are well below 1%, but he still really really wants to do it. He’s decided that it’s ok to work random jobs for the rest of his life so long as he gets to keep expressing himself in a creative way. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in God, it’s just that he doesn’t think about it ever. It just doesn’t matter to him.

On the other hand is Jonathan Tollestrup, member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He’s a deeply religious person who can relate just about everything that happens to him to the gospel. He goes to BYU because he wants to get a degree that will allow him to get a 9-5 job so that one day he can provide for a family. He does this because he knows that’s what he’s supposed to do and its definitely what his parents want him to do. He knows that he’s about to turn 26, and if he’s not careful he might end up being that weird uncle that lives on his own forever. He looks constantly to the future, and he worries about if he’ll measure up to his potential. Religion is the absolute center of his life and even though sometimes the culture of the church frustrates him he loves being a part of it.

Together there is Jonny Tollestrup. He still identifies as a member of the Church, though he’d have to admit he doesn’t think about it as much as he ought to. He’s pretty sure he could make a gospel comparison for just about every situation but opts to make jokes instead usually. He does attend BYU but holy does he not like it. He knows what he wants to do with his life and he knows that there isn’t much room for him to work on it at school. It’s not like there’s a major in stand-up with minors in blogging. He’s there because he’s too afraid to take the plunge and really shoot his shot at his dreams. He doesn’t really want to drop everything and move to LA either though. He just wants to have more time to actually try out all the whacky ideas in his head, but he worries people won’t see it as an authentic expression but rather a desperate plea for attention.

He’s all too aware of his age. 26 isn’t old for most people, but for an unwed fellow in Utah is concerning to him.  also knows that being able to provide for a family is important to him because at some point he does want that. Not in the immediate future, but definitely at some point and if he’s going to do that he’s probably going to need a degree of some sort. He also realizes that he might be downloading his own insecurities onto a blog post at this very moment and that he should probably not be mentioning this stuff out loud. Too late. Later.

 

Why Even Write?

A few weeks back (way longer than I wanted to take for this, sorry about that) I got a message from some family responding to another blog post: Fiji to Provo. (Gah I still hate that title)

I don’t think they’d have any problem with me using their name in here but I didn’t check with them so I’ll just play it safe. Their response started a lot like several other responses I got, they thanked me for sharing my story, let me know that they cared and supported me, all that stuff.

After that, they asked some questions. Big questions that are tough to answer. I like these questions though, I tend to be a pretty heady person so having big questions I can mull over in my mind for long periods of time is actually a lot of fun.  Today I’d like to start responding to some of those questions. The first of them is probably the easiest, “Do you know why you started blogging? Or reviewing movies?”

I do know why I started blogging when I first started doing it in late high school and just after graduating it was honestly out of arrogance. I really believed that for some absurd reason that what I had to say was just so important that I needed a platform to do so. I also had a compulsive need to write/create and blogging was the easiest outlet for that. As time went on and my life experiences humbled me (to say the least) the reasons for writing changed. It stopped being about thinking my opinions were better than others and therefore deserved a platform and an audience, but more about being an outlet for my struggles, and a way to achieve some sort of satisfaction in my life because good lord was I not finding that in any other area of life.

This naturally led to me talking more and more about movies because as life continued to pound me into the ground I retreated more and more into the stories of film. I couldn’t find love to save my life, but I could watch a romantic-comedy and feel some semblance of the happiness those characters were feeling. So I just watched more and more movies and just like anything in life as you do it more and more your perception starts to shift. I started building a tolerance like someone learning to hold their liquor. The same basic movies that had previously kept me perfectly entertained were no longer able to do so, little problems with a performance that most folks would totally overlook became glaring errors because I had seen lots of other people get it right. Then I would talk to people about these movies and become frustrated about how they just weren’t seeing what I had been seeing, so much so that I thought I needed to start using blogging as a way to fully explain my position on movies. What I quickly learned when I first started reviewing movies is that I had neither the expertise or vocabulary to even begin giving useful criticism of the film. I have some of it now, but I always feel a little vulnerable that someone with real knowledge might come along and explain in detail just how wrong I am though. Although I think I’d enjoy that just for the wealth of knowledge it would expose me to.

Beyond talking about movies though I really felt my writing kind of “stall out” so to say. It always felt like I was just going in circles talking about the same things over and over and never really having anything new to say.  That was until I discovered what is the current goal of blogging for me. To achieve transparency in my life. The goal now is not to arrogantly flaunt my opinion, but rather to simply explore the question of “what does it mean to be Jonny Tollestrup?” (GAH that sounds so cliche and pretentious doesn’t it? oh well like I care.) Fiji to Provo was the first in what I hope to be a series of steps that actually achieves that goal. I also hope that I can find a way to use movie reviews to answer that question as well. How a person reacts to the stories we’re told says an awful lot about who we are and so when I talk about movies I want to now try to totally avoid trying to be objective about the film. It’s a silly thing to pursue anyway, we can never fully divide ourselves from our subjective interpretation so why not lean into it?

Okay, that actually kind of went ok, I guess that means I can keep going through these questions and trying to answer them as best I can. Also, I just wanna throw this idea out there for the like 2 people that actually read to the end of my blogs, it’s been a while since I talked about dating and gave some of my more out there theories on the subject. Perhaps it’s time to go into that again? I actually think I have new stuff to say now beyond, “holy crap I suck at this.” so that might be neat. Later

Personality

Boy oh boy was it a slow day at work today. So slow that I opted to take one of those Myers-Briggs personality tests, even though I’m pretty sure I read somewhere about the actual science of this being pretty dubious at best like it’s little better than those quizzes in magazines, but we all gotta find ways to categorize each other don’t we?

As it turns out I’m INFP or “The Mediator”. Sure. What secrets about my personality does this reveal though? What does that say about me? (told you it’s just like a magazine quiz!)

Let’s see… I’m always looking for the good in people and events. I mean sometimes, but there are also times where I can get pretty pessimistic. (Usually whenever politics gets brought up, but I think that’s pretty universal.) I’m apparently at a high risk of feeling misunderstood as well. Aight I’ll give it to them there, I do worry about that a lot, mostly that some sarcastic jab is going to be seen as a full-on insult or something like that.

What else do we have here… Mediators are guided by principles rather than logic. What does that even mean? I’d like to think that I am guided by principles, but that a lot of those principles are rooted in pretty sound logic. That big seems like a good bit of nonsense if you ask me.

Not everyone understands the drive behind my feelings and that can lead to isolation.

Oh shoot that’s me to a T, isn’t it? Gah now I have to keep reading, don’t I?

“Listen to Many People, but Talk to Few” Yup Yup Yup, I love hearing people’s stories but good heavens 95% of the time I don’t want to ever converse with people I don’t already know.

“INFP’s often drift into deep thought, enjoying contemplating the hypothetical and philosophical more than other personality types. Left unchecked, INFPs may start to lose touch, withdrawing into “hermit mode”, and it can take a great deal of energy from friends to bring them back into the real world.” I think I would extend this to my love of movies like I just love to sit back and watch movie after movie thinking about all of its aspects and sometimes I do just want to be that hermit doesn’t have to interact with people at all.

Oh hey here’s another fun insight, Mediators spend more time listening to music than any other personality type. 100%, did you know that last year I listened to over 140000 minutes on Spotify? That’s roughly 26% of the entire year. Top that nerds.

Ok, the next section is strength’s and weaknesses, and then I’ll stop because I don’t want to drag this on too long. According to the Meyers-Briggs test I’m open-minded and flexible (yup), very creative (uhh… maybe?), I value harmony (who doesn’t?), and passionate (ladies?). I’m also overly idealistic (maybe earlier in life, I’m pretty jaded about some things now.), I dislike dealing with data (I know data is good and more concrete but it is really boring a lot of the time), I take things personally (yes and no, definitely at first I do, but I’m pretty good at lettings those sort of things go quickly now), and difficult to get to know. (Again dead on, most of the time I avoid getting into too personal of topics like the plague.)

So, in general, I think this personality test did a pretty good job of describing me, but only in very broad strokes, and that’s really the downfall of all tests like this, they’re meant to try and boil unique individuals down into just a few categories, when in reality everyone has like a mix of these personalities and there really isn’t a way to nail down exactly who a person is in a questionnaire that can be done on a whim. Still a good way to kill some time on the job though.

Image and quotes taken from 16personalities.com

Hollywood Here I Come

Fun fact: Last week I got to act in a movie. Not a major blockbuster obviously, but in a student film directed by a friend of mine, Sam.

“But Jonny, you have like 0 acting experience! Why would anyone seek you out for their movie?” Well, I happened to be available. Right place right time sort of thing. The actor Sam had previously asked to play the role had dropped out on short notice or something like that, I didn’t get a full briefing on what happened and needing to fill the role quickly Sam contacted me and I readily accepted for a number of reasons.

First obviously was that I thought it would be fun and it certainly was, but I also really wanted to do it because by participating in the filmmaking process I could gain valuable experience that could inform and enhance any future reviews of movies I make. ( yes, I haven’t done a review in a while I’m lazy and I’ll get to it.) Even just taking a small part in a student film took me right into the belly of the beast of film production. Getting to watch Sam making directorial decisions about what he wanted me to say, how things should be lit up, what angles he wanted things filmed at. Also when there were scenes I wasn’t directly involved in I got to help out on the production side doing simple stuff like holding a boom mic in place. I was dressed in a full suit for it so I think I might have been the most well-dressed mic operator in history. Holding the mic was just as much fun as acting to me though, so I guess that reaffirms that I am just a huge dork for movies.

The point I’m trying to get at here is that I had a lot of fun working on Sam’s movie, but I also learned a fair bit about the film, not about terminology or technique, but about what the decision-making process looks like for a filmmaker and that’s something I think will help me be better at reviewing movies as I take that sort of thing into consideration. It also emphasized that there really isn’t a limit to how much you know about film and filmmaking so I should be taking more opportunities to work on movies even to just hold mics and watch the process unfold.  Also, I need to get way more books on film and filmmaking and delve into them… Ya know I really thought summer was the time of year you took a break from learning, but I guess that’s over now. Later.

Bad Smashers

I love to Smash.

I mean that I love to play Nintendo’s classic beat-em-up Super Smash Brothers of course. I’m also absolutely fascinated with people who are exceptionally bad at Smash Bros. Like the only played it a handful of times in their entire lives, don’t know how their characters work or even what all the buttons on the controller do bad. Watching people like that play this game that I’ve dumped a sizable number of hours into is both heart-wrenching and inspiring.

The heart-wrenching part is easy enough to understand for anyone who is good at something and had to endure those who are embarrassingly bad at whatever it is. You’re just watching them do things that you know deep down are totally wrong, but you’ve told them how wrong it is too many times so now they won’t listen to you anymore. Nah, wait that’s just me when I try to explain Smash Bros to my siblings. You get the sentiment though, watching people make bad decisions when you know the correct choice was just in front of them is a difficult experience, but you gotta let them make those choices sometimes. I’m sure I’ll make a great parent one day.

Really bad Smash games to be inspiring in a way. I think it’s really cool because usually at least once every game you’ll see someone figure out a concept, combo, or technique that elevate their gameplay. Smash is one of those things where you can watch people move along the learning curve in real time. At least at first you can, once you get good (I’m not saying I am btw) it becomes less obvious, everything you do just looks a bit cleaner rather than you’re gameplay dramatically changing. Early on though the changes are like night and day and they happen all the time.

Like for example, most Saturday nights I head over to Five Sushi Brothers here in Provo for their “happy hour”. Basically, they just sell all their sushi for 5 bucks a roll, it’s a pretty good deal and while you are waiting for your order they have a Smash setup that you and whoever else that’s in line can play. It’s a Smash 4 setup which isn’t ideal version, but I’ve been playing some version of Smash for like almost two decades now, (The first one came out in 1999. Yes, we’re all getting very old, that’s how time works) I have a solid understanding of what’s supposed to happen in any version of the game. Now some nights I sit down and play/wipe the floor with the aforementioned bad players, and some nights I just sit back and watch. Me watching vs playing is usually dependant on if I saw a cute girl in line that doesn’t have a ring on her finger or not. Not relevant to the rest of this post, but I thought you should know. Anyways the last time I was there I was watching a game being played and I saw a guy figure out shield grabbing all on his own. (For those of you unaware when you have your shield up in Smash and press the grab button, your character will drop their shield and instantly begin a grab, it’s an essential component to playing safe and will level up your game instantly if you start doing it.) I couldn’t see his face myself, but you could tell just through his gameplay that he had realized something big. Mostly because he proceeded to do it constantly for the rest of the game and came away with a clean victory, I think I even heard one of his opponents mutter something like, “that’s so cheap”.

I was so proud of that guy at that moment though. I couldn’t let him know though because I was also trying to chat up a girl at the same time. Turns out she has a boyfriend though, so I should’ve just lectured her on the intricacies of the shield in Smash, would’ve been a better way to spend my time. Later.

Sweatpants

Alright, here is the deal. I had originally planned to make a review about a newly released movie for today, but I unfortunately made the choice to go see Gringo, a dark-comedy action movie and holy guacamole was it ever bad. A complete dumpster fire of a film and I really don’t want to talk about that, so instead here is this.

I don’t like wearing sweatpants in public. Within my own home I’ll rock sweats harder than models at the Met Gala. When I’m outside and other people can see me though, hard pass.

It’s really simple for me. Wearing sweats in public makes me feel lazy, grimy and apathetic. It’s silly to think that something you wear can have such a big effect on you, but it does on me and I have a theory as to why. Actually it’s not so much a theory as it is a story.

This story takes place when I was in High School, or what I know refer to as ye olden days of yore. At this time I had a friend (Yes I hear you making the obvious joke of “What happened” it’s not appreciated.) and this friend of mine was going through a bit of a hard time. She had been through a rather rough break-up, at least as far as Magrath High School goes and it had kinda put her in a rut so to say. She came to school in sweats, no make-up hair just thrown in a ponytail with little to no effort put in. I think it’s important to note that normally she had a pretty professional look going and clearly took some pride in how she presented herself. She’s a tough cookie so at the time I figured she’d just shake it off after a couple of weeks. No biggie, happens to everyone.

Cut to like a month or two later. This girl is still coming into school everyday with this no effort style. Me basking in my glorious intellect summarized that she might just need a little push to get her out of this rut. This was high school though, so I couldn’t just walk up to her and ask if she wanted to talk about things or if she needed anything. No No I had my precious manhood to think of, I couldn’t be seen acting sensitive in any way shape or form or my testosterone would simply leak out of my body.

So instead I devised a bet with this friend of mine. If she could come into school everyday for a month like she put a genuine effort into her look I would give her 20 bucks or something, I don’t remember the exact amount. With almost no effort at all she crushed this bet. I weaseled out of the bet because I was too cheap/broke to pay up and again, I had my manhood to consider? Losing a bet to a girl? How disgraceful. (I actually thought these things at one point in my life. Blunder years indeed.) I honestly still feel bad about that to this day.

So that’s why I hate wearing sweats, at least in public. Because nearly a decade ago (AHHHH IM OLD AND DYING) I had a friend that was going through a hard time and I associated her apathy and struggle with the clothes she was wearing so closely that I begin to feel down and apathetic when I leave the house with sweats on. Brains are weird folks. Later.

Being More Fair to Movies; Goals and Purpose

Let’s talk about High School Musical, Ideally I would like to use the fact that I’ve only just recently, (this week) actually got around to seeing any of the three movies (not counting the spin-off here.) all the way through to contextualize why I’m using this particular movie to make the point that we need to better understand what the goal of a movie was before we judge it.

This is because despite everything that High School Musical (HSM from here on out) isn’t, one can’t deny that it is actually kind of great at being what it is. A relatively care-free story about teens trying to figure out who they are and navigating through life in the lens of High School society and fun musical numbers.

Actually, when you think about it, HSM is very similar to the teen dystopia movies that have been all the rage in these last few years. In both HSM and teen dystopian films the core is the struggle of being “different” and trying to fit in or change a society that rejects individuals who are different and overcoming an authority system that tries to suppress them. Right? For Divergent  it’s literally a personality test that eventually leads to a coup, Maze Runner features a unique genetic trait that makes them immune to an apcolyptcitic disease and in HSM they sing a song titled “Stick to the Status Quo”. None of these movies are at all subtle about what their message is, and that’s fine really.

Except when a movie tries to convince their audience that they’re more than meets the eye and they so clearly aren’t. This is where HSM separates itself from the teen dystopian franchises and it’s why I can honestly say it’s a good movie and the other ones I mentioned are not, but I’m not here to bash on those movies more since I’ve beat that horse to death a long time ago.

Keeping the focus on HSM let’s go back to “Stick to the Status Quo”. This song in my mind at least is really clever. It takes the very ideology that opposes the main characters, that they should just be who society has currently dictated them to be and presents it in the naturally absurd setting of a musical number. I felt like this really highlighted how silly the film thought this line of thought was. Maybe that’s just me, though. The musical numbers are a key part of the movie as well. Like I mentioned at the beginning, HSM  has a moral to teach, but arguably, more importantly, its there to entertain you with it’s over the top performances and fun numbers.

HSM is really good at being what it sets out to be. There are lots of movies like that and I find it odd that we seemingly arbitrarily assign them as either “good” or “bad” (I’ve totally done this by the way.) without taking a second thought to think if the movie accomplished its own goals or what those goals actually are. Not every film is Citizen Kane nor do they set out to be, and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. We don’t give the more recent Fast and Furious movies flack for being exactly what you think they’ll be, Chick Flicks get an almost universal pass despite the fact that the plots of ALL of them are forced. So before you sit down to view your next movie, remember High School Musical and what its goals were, then think about what your movie might want to accomplish before you pass judgment. Peace out.

 

 

Taking the L

I recently expirianced a setback at a new work enviroment and wanted to share some thoughts I had on the importance of failing/losing and the introspection it leads too. Peace out everyone!