‘Ad Astra’ Review: Let Yourself Wonder

Ad Astra is a look into a mirror that our culture has needed for a long time. We love to watch Star Trek films or other stories that portray our future as this utopian society.

We love it because we feel like we are seeing what we will someday become. We delusionally believe that we might eventually abandon all of our competitive, capitalistic, primitive, and domineering nature in exchange for equity and peace.

We tell ourselves that that future is full of fast spaceships and one benevolent, peaceful society. Ad Astra is not utopian; it is full of harsh, painfully realistic truths that we all need to confront about the direction of our culture.

What it also has, however, is wonder.

“What I found in this movie was so much more than I expected.”

Starring Brad Pitt, this film is based several decades in the future. There are colonies on the Moon and on Mars. These are not heavily populated colonies, but there are plenty of people that have been born and lived their lives on other worlds.

In this story, earth has become obsessed with finding evidence of other intelligent life in the universe. A mission led by Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) set out for Neptune to try and be able to get a clearer view of the cosmos; the mission, however, had gone silent. Nearly 30 years later, shock waves of antimatter are resonating from where Clifford McBride’s mission was headed, and threaten all life on Earth. Now Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), Clifford’s son, has been asked to try and make contact with his father to try and save mankind. So that’s the synopsis.

What I found in this movie was so much more than I expected.

First of all, I need to tell you: this movie is not for everyone. It is a slow burn movie. There are plenty of suspenseful moments along the way to the climactic finish, but not as many as some people would hope. If you are looking for an action packed science fiction film, this might not be the one for you.

That said, I absolutely adored this movie.

I felt like a young kid walking through the local space museum again, or laying on my Grandma’s front lawn looking at the stars.

When I was a child I would find myself utterly overwhelmed with wonder and awe when I thought about the cosmos. That didn’t necessarily stop as I grew older, but I just don’t have time these days to sit around and think about space.

“This movie exposed space travel for what it truly is: unnatural.”

For the duration of this movie, I was that little kid again. I was that boy lying in the grass, gazing towards the stars and trying to contemplate just how grand — how entirely colossal and immense and unimaginable our universe really is.

Most science fiction movies minimize this reality by introducing loopholes like “light speed.” The reason this movie is slow burn is because the majority of the movie is spent traveling. They are certainly able to move much faster around the solar system than we can today, but it isn’t instantaneous by any means.

Space travel in Ad Astra is hard to watch at times. The astronauts are constantly being subjected to psychological evaluation. Some of them choose to take drugs to cope with extended periods in space (they call themselves “long haulers”). There are resource wars on the moon and territory wars on Mars. The astronaut’s heart rates are constantly monitored to make sure they aren’t about to have a nervous breakdown.

All of this is to say that this movie exposed space travel for what it truly is: unnatural. It felt wrong to see humans subjected to these conditions. It was unnerving to consider people growing up on Mars and living their entire lives in the uncomfortable concrete bunkers shown in the movie.

It was all eerily unnatural.

I won’t spoil the end. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out what is really happening at Neptune. What I will say is that if you watch this movie: let yourself be amazed.

I cannot stress this enough: this movie was beautiful — absolutely awe-strikingly beautiful. Every frame is a painting ready to be hung in a gallery. This movie moves the whole “cinema is literature” conversation forward. It is intentional. It is thorough. It is realistic and painful and heartfelt (and it has Brad Pitt).

If this movie sounds like something you might enjoy, and you chose to go see it, my best piece of advice is to let yourself be overcome with the wonder of space. Let yourself feel like a small, insignificant part of something greater than our brains could ever hope to understand.

“It is OK to feel small in our cosmos because we are.”

Abandandon our egocentric view of the world, and let yourself feel humble. We should feel humble, and this movie helps us get there.

Let yourself wonder.

Four Ways that Bitcoin is Similar to Traditional Currency

Bitcoin is new, and that can oftentimes mean that it is also rather confusing. This new subversive currency is unlike any other traditional form of money.

It is entirely digital, traded very publicly, and is not backed by any material good.

Despite these nuances, however, Bitcoin is surprisingly similar to our regular notion of money. Here are four ways that Bitcoin is just like the bills and coins in your pocket

1. There are a limited number of Bitcoins.

Although it lives entirely in the digital world, Bitcoins are limited to only 21 million. How is this possible? Well, the answer is actually rather simple.

The creators of Bitcoin wrote the algorithm, or rules by which the currency can function, that defined the possible number of Bitcoins.

In other words, once the public amount reaches 21 million, there will be no more legitimate Bitcoins created. 

Remember: every Bitcoin transaction is entirely public. It is traceable to you.

That data is then permanently stored on the blockchain (or public database) of transactions.

The world knows where each Bitcoin is, and once all 21 million are available, the public won’t allow anymore to be introduced into the market. If they did, the value of Bitcoins would essentially be meaningless.

2. Bitcoin Miners

For hundreds of years, dusty Americans would spend their days deep below the surface of the earth. They picked away at the dirt, day after day, driven by the hope — the nearly impossible chance — that one swing of the pickaxe would expose a valuable resource (gold, diamonds, etc.).

For decades now, this way of life has been a thing of the past — OR SO WE THOUGHT. Bitcoin miners are real, they are working hard, and they are, at times, striking gold. 

In simple terms, each time a Bitcoin transaction occurs, an increasingly difficult math problem must be solved before the transaction is approved.

This isn’t a math problem that would show up on your high school geometry quiz, though. These problems require thousands of dollars of computer equipment to solve.

Here is the catch: whoever solves the problem gets to keep a portion of the transaction, and anyone in the world can participate. 

Essentially, each of these math problems requires billions of guesses. Yes, billions!

Everytime a transaction occurs, thousands of computers all over the world start guessing. At some point, one of them is right.

The transaction is approved, and the person that got the answer is given a small portion of the profit. 

Each incorrect answer is like a pickaxe swinging at the dirt. Usually nothing happens. But one of those times, after thousands of swings, you might strike gold.

3. The value changes over time.

I don’t know about you but my grandpa has always told me about the days when “you could buy an ice cream cone for a nickel.”

Well, sorry gramps but that just isn’t the case these days.

Inflation is real, and, overtime, decreases the value of money. What we once bought for a few cents now runs us at least several dollars.

Bitcoin is the opposite (usually). 

To say that the value of Bitcoin is growing wouldn’t do it credit — it is exploding.

Only five years ago, a single Bitcoin was worth $500, and now they run for TWENTY TIMES THAT MUCH.

That’s right, I said twenty times.

If you invested $50,000 into Bitcoins five years ago, you would be a millionaire today. I don’t know how to stress this enough: almost nothing else could have this level of return. And it isn’t going to stop there. 

The value of a single Bitcoin could be as high as $300,000 by 2025.

This is according to predictions — obviously this is not any sort of guarantee.

But if the math checks out, it would be a good time to invest in Bitcoins.

4. The more you invest, the more you get.

The American economy (and similar markets) is remarkable for a lot of reasons, and despicable for some.

It is remarkable because any joker with a few extra dollars can invest.

It isn’t hard.

These days apps like Robinhood have made it easier than ever to invest your own money into serious businesses on the stock market. 

A few dollars won’t get you very far, though. If you want to make it big, you need to invest big.

Perhaps this is one of those “despicable” things I mentioned earlier, but if you want to make money on the market, you first have to have money — and a lot of it.

Bitcoin is no different. 

As of writing this article, a single Bitcoin is worth well over 11 thousand dollars.

Now, thanks to apps and online services, you can invest in Bitcoin at a smaller amount (like buying a chunk of one coin).

But if you want to make real money, you need to invest real money — again, a lot of it.

Times are changing.

We are no longer carrying around bills and coins. Even without Bitcoin, most transactions are done with cards and smartphones. 

Cryptocurrency is the future, and for now, Bitcoin is leading the way.

The future will be different, but not too different.

Four Tips on Maintaining Your Sobriety During COVID-19

Recovery is one day at a time — and occationally one moment at a time. 

In 2020, those moments have, for many of us, become more challenging than they ever have before. 

From job losses to local lockdowns, men and women in recovery have been struggling. 

Here are four tips on maintaining your sobriety during COVID-19

1. Online Meetings (Zoom)

Listen, I know online meetings aren’t ideal, but there is a reason that it is the first item on this list. 

The first step towards a relapse happens long before you actually drink or use. The relapse begins when you quit going to meetings, calling your sponsor, or working the steps. 

At some point in our sobriety, we face the fact that things are going better. We may think, “I don’t need a meeting today.” 

It is especially easy to miss a meeting when it is held online. 

Don’t listen to this voice. There are no excuses.

Here is a link to an online directory of Zoom meetings. Just a click away. Do the right thing. 

2. Sober Routine

At meetings, we hear our fellow alcoholics and addicts discuss their “sober routine.” 

A “sober routine” looks differently for each of us. For many it is as simple as taking a few minutes in the morning to read the “Daily Reflections.” 

Sobriety, in many ways, is founded on routine. When COVID-19 arrived, very few of us were left with our routines unchanged.

Despite this, there are always five spare minutes in the day. 

Find those five minutes. 

They may be more important than you realize. 

Here are routine ideas to get the most out of your five minutes: 

  • Read the daily reflections and spend a few minutes writing down what comes to mind. 
  • Write a list of what you need to accomplish that day, and try to recognize what could cause additional stress. 
  • Call your sponsor or a loved one that supports your sobriety. Tell them that you love them and how much they have helped you. 
  • Take a personal inventory from the previous day. Recognize mistakes and plan on how to do better. 

3. Advocate for Yourself

Some of us are stuck at home with roommates or family members that do not share our lifestyle choices. 

Setting boundaries are important. 

Take yourself and your sobriety seriously. Advocate for yourself in your shared living space. 

I know it might be awkward, but you need to tell your roommates or loved ones where the line is, and then hold them accountable for not crossing it. 

You deserve to feel confidently sober in your own living space. 

4. Self-Care

After a 14 hour work day, I found myself telling my wife that I needed some self care. She chuckled and asked if I was going to start doing more yoga or drinking green smoothies. I shook my head and said that right now I need some very basic self care — like eating lunch, or drinking water, or sleeping for more than four hours each night. 

I know that so many of you are in the same situation. 

We often forget to take a few moments during the work day to give ourselves the basic necessities. 

Take yourself off of autopilot, recognize what you need, and do it.

Once you have the basics, you can graduate to some legitimate self-care. 

Here are some basic ideas for self-care: