Movie review: Meru directed by Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi


I am not afraid of heights. I’ve always had a hard time understanding what skeeves people out about being up high, or seeing things from a tall perspective. Sometimes I take my ability to deal with heights to the next level and think about what it would be like to be a mountain climber. Meru proved to me that I probably don’t have what it takes.

The film follows Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk as they attempt to be the first to reach the Shark’s Fin peak of Meru, a 21,850-foot mountain in the Gharwal Himalayas of India. It’s not the tallest mountain in the world by a long shot, but the Shark Fin is one of the most difficult peaks to summit.

The first part of the film covers their first attempt in 2008. A storm kept them off the top of the mountain, and they decided to go back again years later. A series of accidents before the second attempt even started almost derailed the entire thing. I don’t want to give away too many details to ruin the story so I’ll just say that it’s amazing they even made a second attempt after what happened.

The most wonderful part of the movie was its discussion of death and the risks these climbers take. They are out there in some of the harshest and most unforgiving places in the world — day in and day out. And they love it. There was no shying away from reality during the interview scenes of the documentary: They knew death was always just above the next handhold and they embraced it.

It takes a special kind of person to climb mountains, so I think I’ll just continue to enjoy from afar. The stunning imagery and bravery on display vie for a spot in the place I keep my favorites, but in the end I think the terrible and wondrous hubris of the human race wins out.

Meru rates 8 out of 10 stars. You can see it in theaters now. If you don’t share a love of heights with me you might have to suffer through sweaty palms throughout (I’ve heard that’s a thing that happens to you other types). It will be well worth it.

Other movies I saw this week

Running from 9/7/15 to 9/13/15

I ran to two extremes this week. During the work week I felt slow, with leaden legs dragging me down. This weekend I decided to combine two days of running into one. The decision was partly to address my fatigued legs, and partly because of a hankering for a truly long run.

I ran for 4 hours today and it was glorious. The weather did me a favor and gave me a starting temperature in the 60s and and ending temperature in the low 80s. You can’t ask for much better than that in early September in Austin. I followed up the run with a proper ice bath consisting of about 40 pounds of ice and some cold water. It was painful at first but my legs feel great now. We’ll see if it helps stave off the DOMS any more than a “typical” ice bath, where I’m just using what’s in our freezer.

Here’s what my week of running looked like:

  • Monday: No run and 8,301 steps total.
  • Tuesday: 32-minute run after work in the neighborhood. I ran too fast but couldn’t seem to keep my pace down.
  • Wednesday: 34-minute run on Town Lake after work. I ran a bit too fast again and it felt rough the entire time.
  • Thursday: 31-minute run on Town Lake in the rain after work. The rain was great.
  • Friday: No run and 5,034 steps total.
  • Saturday: No run and 6,004 steps total.
  • Sunday: 240-minute run on Town Lake. I felt like I could have run another couple of hours, but that might have just been my desire talking instead of reality.
  • Total active time of 337 minutes with an average heart rate of 143.5 beats per minute. Total steps this week: ~97,000

Book review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’m going to tell you something important up front: I rated Ready Player One a measly 2 out of 5 stars. I normally don’t review books with such a low rating, but there’s a method to my madness. I think a lot of people should read and enjoy this book. I’m just not one of them.

Ready Player One is the debut novel from Ernest Cline, a fellow Austinite. The book is about Wade Watts, a teenager in the not-so-distant future year of 2044. Wade jacks into the OASIS, a virtual world where reality can be anything you want, on a daily basis. The OASIS is the brainchild of a man obsessed with 1980’s pop culture and video games, and he has hidden an “easter egg” inside the simulation. Whoever finds the egg will inherit the creator’s massive fortune. Wade is on a quest to find the egg, and the story unfolding on the pages of the book is his.

There are a couple of quotes that illustrate the story well:

OASIS — It’s the greatest videogame ever created and it only costs a quarter.


It was the dawn of a new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a videogame.

I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way first. The plot is not great. I’m not going to ruin it in case you want to read it – and I really think many people should. Suffice it to say that everything to do with plot and characters was shrouded in a certain clunkiness. It wasn’t terrible by any means. It was just bad enough that my mind kept pulling itself out of the story to think about how the book was failing.

Now to the good stuff. The strengths of the book are absolutely featured in the pop culture references. If you grew up in the 80s, love videogames or even just enjoy nostalgic descriptions you’re going to love this book. I enjoyed exactly two of the references: Blade Runner and Johnny Five from Short Circuit. Everything else was lost on me.

This is where I have to imagine the great divide between people who love the book and those who merely tolerate it is defined. If you “get” the majority of the references, you’ll like the book. If not, you’re out of luck. Apparently many people, including Steven Spielberg, like the references just fine. The movie is slated for sometime in the next couple of years, and I’ll likely go see it just because of Spielberg alone.

I hope all of you who fit into the “read it” category can identify yourselves and get the book. You can buy Ready Player One on Amazon if you want to take the plunge and find out for yourself.

Other books I read this week

I’m making my way through Dracula and am enjoying it so far.

On breaking habits

Regular readers of the blog know that something has been amiss since Monday. That’s right, this is the first post since I wrote a review of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. So much for daily blogging…

I managed to write every single day for 48 days in a row. In my original blog post I said I was going to give it 3 months before I switched to anything other than a daily schedule. I missed that by almost half.

I’m still going to be writing daily, but I’ve decided not to publish everything like I have been. The reason I didn’t publish anything on Tuesday or Wednesday is because I wasn’t satisfied with what I wrote. So here’s the plan:

  • On the days when I have something ready to publish, I’ll publish it. I still plan on writing based on the daily categories, but I won’t necessarily have something for every day.
  • On the days when I don’t have something ready to publish, I’ll write a short post giving some stats about the writing I did that day. Nothing crazy, just what I worked on and how many words/pages/whatever I managed to drag out of my brain and onto the screen.

Sound like a plan? Well that’s what I’m doing, so it better. See you soon!

Movie review: Lolita directed by Stanley Kubrick


I love Stanley Kubrick. I’m sure that bias comes into play when rating/reviewing, but I don’t care. What’s not to love? Kubrick started out as a photographer, and it’s the visual splendor of his films I love so much. Couple that with his meticulous attention to detail in everything and you can see why so many consider him one of the best of all time.

I could go on, but we’re here to talk about Lolita. The movie follows Professor Humbert Humbert, played by James Mason, as he lives out his infatuation with the young woman Lolita, played by Sue Lyon.

The movie opens with a scene between Humbert and a man named Clare Quilty, played by Peter Sellers. Quilty is quite drunk, and keeps making light of the situation even when Humbert pulls out a gun. Humbert eventually accuses Quilty of corrupting Lolita and shoots him to death through a painting of a young woman. The film then moves to a flashback to four years earlier and tells the story from there.

Humbert first sees Lolita when he is considering renting a room from a widow named Charlotte Haze, played by Shelley Winters. It’s clear that Humbert is annoyed and isn’t interested in spending any more time with Charlotte than he has to — until he sees her young teenage daughter Lolita lounging in the garden in a swimsuit.

Even if you don’t know anything about the film or the book by Vladimir Nabokov it’s based on, you probably have an idea of where this is going. Humbert ends up taking the room and even marries Charlotte so he can be near Lolita. He suggests to Charlotte that she might be too liberal with Lolita when it comes to boys, which prompts the decision to send Lolita to Camp Climax for girls. The name is hilarious, and was one of my favorite comedic bits in the film.

Humbert finds himself forced to spend time alone with Charlotte, a task he can only manage with the help of a stiff drink. He is miserable without Lolita. Humbert is a professor of literature so he considers himself a writer, which all professors of literature are wont to do. Of course he can’t help but write about his fancies for Lolita. Charlotte finds his diary and runs into oncoming traffic — and her death — in her grief, just after Humbert considered murder by way of the late Mr. Haze’s pistol.

Humbert visits Camp Climax to pick up Lolita, telling her that mother is simply sick and they will go to the hospital to see her. They end up at a hotel in the same room with a single bed because of a police convention. Humbert goes off to see if he can find a cot to sleep on, even though it’s clear he would prefer not to. This is followed by one of the best scenes in the movie, where a untowardly stranger acts like he is a policeman and keeps bringing up how he considers Humbert to be “normal” in a way that makes Humbert nervous about what he is contemplating in his relationship with Lolita. We know the man from earlier in the movie: he is Quilty.

The scene is amazing because of it’s randomness, and because it sets up the relationship Humbert has with his eventual nemesis quite well. Humbert makes it back up to the room just as a cot is being delivered, so they don’t sleep in the same bed. It doesn’t take long for them to start their sexual relationship, however, as it is intimated that they have sex the next morning. This is one of the areas where I wish the film was more explicit because I think it would have been more striking. As it was the film was already dealing with censorship issues because it was shot in the early 60s and dealt with the touchy subject of a sexual relationship between a young teenager and a much older man, so that’s probably asking too much.

Humbert and Lolita continue the relationship, although it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The best scene in the film comes when Quilty shows up again, this time playing a German psychologist from the school. The scene foreshadow’s Sellers’ performance in the future Dr. Strangelove and it is wonderful for that alone. Quilty is there to convince Humbert to allow Lolita to perform in the school play as an extracurricular activity. He threatens to have a team of psychologists come to the home to address the “issues” that young Lolita is having, so Humbert acquiesces.

As it turns out, Quilty is producing the play and just wants to have time with Lolita so he can have his own tryst with her. The rest of the movie leads us back to the first scene, where Humbert murders Quilty because of the “improper” relationship he had with Lolita. It’s quite the sarcastic twist, considering the relationship between Humbert and Lolita.

Lolita is a hilarious and dark look at teenage sexuality and middle-age lust. I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy Kubrick for his wonderful cinematography and photographic eye. Lolita rates 9 out of 10 stars. You can buy Lolita on Amazon if you want to start or add to your Kubrick collection.

Other movies I saw this week:

Running from 8/31/15 to 9/6/15

I dropped back into the swing of things this week and it was glorious. There’s nothing better than the steady state of bliss I feel when I’ve run on a regular schedule.

Here’s what my week of running looked like:

  • Monday: No run and 5,449 steps total.
  • Tuesday: 30-minute run in the morning with the dogs in the neighborhood. It was fun!
  • Wednesday: 32-minute run in the morning with the dogs in the neighborhood. More fun!
  • Thursday: No run and 4,312 steps total. I was going to run today but I stepped off a curb and tweaked my ankle on my run with the dogs the day before. I decided not to push it.
  • Friday: No run and 4,919 steps total.
  • Saturday: 125-minute run split across two activities, the first with Travis on Town Lake and the second with Mac the Border Collie at McKinney Falls State Park. He did great and I really enjoyed running with him on the trails.
  • Sunday: 120-minute run on Town Lake in the morning. This run felt good and it seemed like I could have gone about double the time without tiring myself out. That’s the best way to injury, however, so I stuck to the schedule.
  • Total active time of 307 minutes with an average heart rate of 142 beats per minute. Total steps this week: ~90,000.

In a world…

So it looks like it’s actually Series-Of-Snapshots-With-Sound Saturday on the blog.

Book review: American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis

I’m late to the American Psycho party. I’ve had intentions of reading it going back a decade (wow I feel old) but I just never got around to it. I started reading it on a plane to San Francisco and finished it that weekend.

Most people are probably familiar with the plot, either from the ridiculous amount of press it’s gotten over the years or from the film starring Christian Bale. If you’re one of the few that has no idea, it goes a little something like this:

Patrick Bateman (Pat Bateman when he’s introducing himself) is living the American Dream on Wall Street. He was born with money, and he makes more of it than he knows what to do with. He has a group of friends, colleagues, and lovers. Bateman is a serial killer. He knows every designer and piece of clothing on earth, and he’s happy to tell you everything you wanted to know about proper style. He dines at the finest restaurants and only snorts cocaine from the most exclusive nightclub bathrooms. Bateman is the 1980s, through and through.

In case you glossed over it in the previous paragraph, Bateman has a wicked side. Here’s a (very) tame example of what you’re in for when it comes to his madness:

I tried to make meat loaf out of the girl but it becomes too frustrating a task and instead I spend the afternoon smearing her meat all over the walls, chewing on strips of skin I ripped from her body.

As disturbing as that may seem to some, that is one of the tamest descriptions of Bateman’s violent habits. As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of horror fiction so I have plenty of experience with violent, scary and off putting stories. I still wasn’t prepared for the wanton violence on display throughout the book. It’s over the top and so, so masterfully told.

The book is a deep and cutting indictment of American culture. Bateman is the result of capitalism run wild, concerned with how much money his peers are making one second and treating women like goods to be enjoyed and discarded the next. I’ve never seen such a violent parody that’s still on point in its criticisms in my life. Bateman is the classic unreliable narrator, but you can’t help but wonder how in the hell he is getting away with everything without anyone treating him any differently.

The novel is incredibly graphic, so much so that it was dropped by the original publisher Simon & Schuster. Unsurprisingly it’s been banned and vilified in many areas of the world as well. Luckily, we don’t live in one of those areas and you can take my advice to read the book.

American Psycho rates an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars for me. You can buy American Psycho on Amazon if you’re interested. Thank you in advance if you purchase a book through one of the Amazon links on this site. It helps pay for my reading and movie watching habits.

Other books I read this week:

The power of journaling

I listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast regularly. I’m somewhat tired of the similar answers that seem to pop up all the time (yes, I read Meditations and stoic philosophy is interesting Tim). There’s probably something to be said for any answer or habit that occurs regularly though. That’s why I still listen.

One thing that comes up over and over again is journaling. A bunch of people do it, and they all seem to get something out of it.

I recently took up notebook journaling and it seems like a habit that’s going to stick around in my life. I’ve done other kinds of journaling for a long time. I use the Day One App on my phone every day and have for more than 2 years. I only use it for basic journaling, however, because I find typing on the tiny keyboard difficult. Instead of writing out paragraphs of details, I tend to write a simple sentence about how the day went. Sometimes I’ll include a photo from the day as well. I don’t look back at it often and I don’t have any plans to in the future. I like to have the data though, because there’s always an idea about some all-powerful dashboard of Logan that I could have in a distant future, one where I could pull up any day and remember exactly how it was through the magic of the quantified self and data visualization.

Anyway, I’ve tried to keep a paper journal a few times in the past and it hasn’t stuck. I’ve been journaling in my notebook for about a month now so there’s no guarantee that it will continue. I’ve found it incredibly useful in focusing my efforts on a daily basis. I’ve also looked back to find important information on a couple of occasions. Those two data points alone are enough to tell me it’s worth my time.

This is what my journaling looks like

  • I use a black large hardcover Moleskine Classic Notebook with squared paper and a blue ballpoint pen. I like the squared paper instead of lined because it plays nice with lists. I’ve tried Rhodia notebooks in the past for their superior paper, specifically so I could use a fountain pen instead of a ballpoint. I simply can’t justify the extra cost for the small perceived benefits to the process, however.
  • I write a couple pages in the morning, usually shortly after I wake up. I’m not great at keeping a perfect schedule. The morning journal tends to be more about the day ahead, although I don’t have any set requirements for myself. I do try to set a few specific goals for the day so I can write about my progress at night.
  • I write two pages in the evening whenever I can find time. It’s 7:30 as I’m writing this and I will probably wait until after dinner to write my journal entry. I’m not as good about writing in the evening, but I find it just as useful as writing in the morning. I usually review my goals and write about any important situations or people I had interactions with during the day.
  • In both the morning and evening journaling I use the Evernote mobile app to save a digital copy of the journal. I simply open the app, tell it I want a new note in my Daily Journal notebook, choose the photo option and point the camera at the notebook. The app has a great document recognition feature so it just automagically snaps the page without any input from me.
  • The image is transferred into searchable text by Evernote because I’m a paid subscriber to the service. I can search by keyword, although with my terrible handwriting the optical character recognition isn’t always the greatest.

Like I said, I’ve already looked back into the journal to remind myself of something I knew was in there, which is incredibly useful. Probably more important is the way it forces me to order my thoughts and goals and put them out on paper every day.

I’m going to continuing journaling. I can already imagine a future with an entire bookshelf dedicated to the black Moleskines. They will, of course, be filed by date with labels on the spines to aid in my information retrieval. Maybe I’ll even do something interesting enough that someone will want to read them in the future. If not, there’s always family. They’re obligated to be interested — or sell the notebooks as kindling in a garage sale.