This is new, isn’t it?

“Remember swine flu?” we asked each other, like those were better days.

This was last Thursday, the day before restaurants, bars, movie theaters, parks, and other public spaces would be closed indefinitely. In group chat, a few friends and I somberly wondered when grocery stores and other essential retailers on Maui would close (god forbid), or when the statewide lockdown order would come. Our days becoming an endless news scroll and waiting for the next shit to hit the fan, a friend replied like an anti-Steve Rogers:

I can’t do this all day 😩

I casually suggested a Target run (the late 20s version of “hanging out”) if only to see the last-minute frenzy for ourselves. A side effect of the digital age: often what we see on our phones may be larger than they actually appear. Which isn’t to say we were making light of the pandemic, just that it was hard to grasp the impact from press conferences and social media. A proposed day-trip, then, was almost too curious to pass up, because it truly felt like this would be our last group hang for a while.

“I don’t remember the swine flu being this serious,” one said, all of us piled into a car.

“I remember the jokes,” said another. Somehow, he dug up the exact image from memory. They weren’t called memes then.

What did I remember? It was senior year of high school. I was worrying about which college I wanted to go to, the job that awaited me after, and whether I’d still be on Maui. (Oh, to be 17!) I remembered everything but the swine flu.

And that’s what made the Coronavirus pandemic so markedly different. You could feel the urgency, the panic.

We headed to Costco and saw the long lines running down the exterior. We couldn’t pull into the parking lot completely because there were too many people trolling for parking. We went to Target, to Walmart, and it was the same story of piled carts and plundered stocks of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

We then diverted to the malls. My sister posted this vid at Pentagon City Mall. This was Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center that same day.

Those who were there were only there because they had to be. Stores deemed essential for the time being, and customers (10 at a time) paying their bills while adhering to social distancing. The only “busy” places were phone retailers. This was a Thursday and kids were technically on Spring Break. The theaters had already closed ahead of the mayor’s address, and Fun Factory – a.k.a. my daughter’s favorite place in the world – was empty.

A month ago, the Coronavirus seemed as serious as an artillery threat from North Korea. Possible? Sure. But worth the stress? Hardly. Then it became a pandemic, and we watched the ripple from national news to local headlines. Fast forward to widespread pleas to wash your hands, event cancellations, social distancing, and temporary closures. My daughter’s school had sent students home with study packets and login instructions in case their Spring Break was extended. Their break has been extended twice through April 30.

Wandering near-empty public spaces, we tried to remember all the health scares that happened in our lifetime – Ebola, Swine flu, SARS, Mad Cow Disease – and re-remembering what little impact they had on island life. It certainly wasn’t on this scale. Then a friend laid it bare: “This is new, isn’t it?”

We are so used to false alarms in Hawaii that it’s become its own insular joke. Constant hurricane and tsunami watches that eventually peter out, encouraging no more than a trip to the store for supplies— for those of us who take the warnings seriously. Add idle threats from hermit kingdoms, or the previous Ebola outbreak (we had 1 screening case). We’re told to brace for storms that may never actually reach our shores.

We’re grateful to not have had an island-ending disaster, but the cautions and alertness are so integrated into island life that you become numb after the 34th hurricane watch. The only recent scare that comes to mind was the false missile alarm of 2018. And I kid you not, we just had a tsunami watch on Tuesday.

But this Coronavirus pandemic was indeed new. Washing hands, maintaining social distance, no gatherings of more than 10 people (there were 5 of us), and staying home whenever possible. Our day venture suddenly felt irresponsible. We drove past half-empty beach parks, local businesses shuttering, and restaurants desperate for any in-house patrons before 8PM.

We stopped for a bite at Fred’s Mexican Café – a place that would normally have hour wait times on a good day – and were seated right away. One last meal and frivolous expense before the storm. We found ourselves wondering aloud what the hell happened? How did COVID-19 turn from trending meme topic to blindsiding pandemic? It happened so terribly fast that I couldn’t recall what life was like 2 weeks ago.

Our appetite slowly dwindled as we browsed the menu.

“You know the early part in Endgame where they’re all sad…”

“Another Marvel reference and I swear to god,” I said.

As millennials, it wasn’t lost on us that we were currently being blamed for going on Spring Breaks that we’re not even on. (Though we did order margaritas so, touché?) We were fretting over jobs, health insurance, student loans, rent, and lastly, exposure to the virus. There’s definitely a comment on work-grind capitalism here.

Among us job-wise, 2 work at the hotels, 1 at a surf shop and another at a mass retailer. As for me, the writing job I was gearing up for has been unduly put “on hold.” Any self-respecting freelancer knows to dread the term, and I’ve since been panic-applying for any gig that will have me. I am simultaneously too tired to keep applying for remote work, yet too panicked not to.

We told ourselves we wanted to see the island-wide panic like it was some kind of attraction. Really, we were there to commiserate, to panic together. It felt good to do that in person rather than hide behind another round of memes and emojis and pretending we’re okay. It’s freeing sometimes, admitting that you’re scared.

A lot has changed in the days since we’ve been holed up in our homes. Testing is underway, airlines are winding down operations, hotels are closed through April, and stricter rules have dictated what’s essential across the county. It’s eerie to see barren beaches and borderline apocalyptic to no longer hear airplanes humming above. All of us in that car are no longer working and have no idea what to do with ourselves. It’s existential to feel non-essential.

We’re back to our phones. Our usual group chat of sarcasm and movie quotes has turned into a bulletin board of the latest updates. We share news articles we’ve already read 5 times over and spend our days party watching the Coronavirus case count. The FOMO has reached critical levels. We don’t want to miss a thing on our phones because none of us wants to be the last one to hear that the world had ended.

All of this is so completely unprecedented and I think we all need a moment – whether it’s an afternoon, an entire day, or a week – to acknowledge this. Every single one of us is collectively wondering how the bills will get paid, if we’ll still have our jobs, how our kids will stay on track with their education, etc.

If there’s a time to cut ourselves some slack— it’s now, and I mean that sincerely. Stop scolding yourself for not being omniscient or hyper-vigilant. Have a moment and for goodness sake JUST. BREATHE. You’ve been scrolling the news for 5 hours and holding it all in. It’s okay to detach for a bit. Take all the time you need. Everything’s uncertain right now and none of us have ever dealt with anything like this before. Breathe.

A few days ago, a friend fell into a spiral after the unemployment site crashed on her, again:

How the fuck are we gonna get thru this lol 😅

Together 🤙 🤙 🤙

Then came the what-if game.

What if we get the rona and end up like Kate Winslet in Contagion 😷

And a proud Marvel reference made its way into the group chat once more.

Then we’ll do that together too.

The Ten Commandments of Working From Home

I worked from home for 2 years as a freelance writer. That’s usually not something I brag about and never will. But partner, I’ve been inundated with questions about remote work these past few weeks as more and more family and friends are being asked to telecommute where they can. Fielding questions and trading notes isn’t a cherished pastime, but admittedly it has been gratifying to help others get situated and to demystify what working from home really means.

I didn’t realize how much I had to say about it until my conversations became pseudo TED Talks. Now, I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I thought I’d pass along a few work-from-home mantras that helped me succeed. Also, this will make things much easier for me as I can now direct others to this page and people can finally (hopefully) leave me alone. I’ve got work to do too you know… Continue reading

‘Adrian vs. the World’ Is Expanding

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m incredibly excited to announce that ‘Adrian vs. the World’ will undergo some major changes this month. Now, I’ve taken a lot of pride in being a movie blogger since this whole thing started. I’m happy to have found my niche, but I’m happier to say that I’m expanding this blog’s writing to topics like television, video games, music, even books— that is, if I ever finish the 3 novels I am currently reading because my attention span suuuuuuuccckks.

I’ve written on all of the above before, but a cursory glance at my last 10 posts will show that my content has been strictly film-based. I’d be lying if I said movies were my only obsession, or the only interest shared among my inner circle. Turns out I’m an even bigger dork than you could possibly imagine. Like, this isn’t even close to my final form!

Why the change? Well, I will be unemployed starting this Friday, but I’m sure that’s got nothing to do with this. 😬 (You don’t understand, I need to keep busy or I’ll turn into Ben Wyatt.)

Truth is, last year I experienced something I never thought was possible for me: movie fatigue. The American Psychiatric Association has yet to respond to my queries, but this was a rare condition where I was simply, utterly uninterested in media following the release of giant IPs like Avengers: Endgame, Joker, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and yes, even Game of Thrones. The coverage and ensuing discourse (myself included) was exhausting to the point that I had to take an unexpected break in movies, and this break allowed for other obsessions to take hold.

My interest in (other) TV shows, music, books, and video games were always there, mind you. But it wasn’t until my little movie sabbatical that I realized how passionate I was in other things, and how much more I had to say. I tinkered with writing game reviews last Fall, which I elected to shelve due to plans of starting a separate gaming blog. Why start another when I’ve got a perfectly functioning one right here? I’m also paying for this domain so…

It’s safe to say video game reviews (along with my first full book review) will be among the new content rolled out this month, and hopefully from here on out! Try not to think of this as a pivot. Though, if this site ever turns into a politics or sports hub then you’ll knowww I’ve sold out.

I’ll of course continue to write about films, that will never change. Movies just won’t be the main focus of ‘Adrian vs. the World’ anymore. I’ve entered a stage in my writing where I’m actively shopping around film essays (which would normally find a home here) as I seek to expand my byline. Any successful publications will be updated on the “Publications” tab above. Who knows, I might even dole out further writing advice for aspiring bloggers and freelancers out there.

My mantra in starting this blog was that as long as one person was reading, I would keep on writing and contributing to this space. Personally, I don’t know why you weirdos have followed me and are still clicking each week or perusing my archives. Nonetheless, I feel very lucky. I’m branching out as a freelancer, but I’ve decided to branch out as a blogger too and thus, I’ll still be here to entertain. Thank you and stay tuned! 🤙

I Love Fleabag

Hello, my name is Adrian Manuel and I am addicted to Fleabag.

After weeks of seeing Phoebe Waller-Bridge pop up in a rolling stream of gifs, hearing endlessly about “that menopause scene,” and reading thirsty reactions concerning a “Hot Priest,” all with zero context whatsoever, I finally decided to see what the fuss was about— if only for context.

I was sold by the first cold open. (And, as of writing this, I have ordered a copy of Fleabag: The Play and am looking up various ways I can get “Phoebe Waller-Bridge” tattooed on my person. HELP) Continue reading

My Top 5 MCU Films

ENDGAME IS HERE, Y’ALL. This is not a drill.

Now, I have A LOT of thoughts on the movie, but in the interest of everyone going to see Endgame (and me going again twice, probably three times), I’ll refrain from posting until after opening weekend. In the meantime – and in the spirit of the mammoth Marvel celebration this weekend will undoubtedly be – I’d like to zero in on my 5 favorite MCU movies.

As Marvel Studios churns out excellent fanfare year after year, a list like this gets harder to pin down. *I had a version of this last year prior to Infinity War, but I was SO indecisive about what made the cut and what didn’t that, ultimately, I elected to shelve this list.

Dawn of Endgame and I have FINALLY settled on my clear picks. This of course is subject to change as time passes— because time, I believe, is the true determiner of a film’s greatness and impact. But I’m getting ahead of myself. (*Deep sigh*) Here they are, finally: Continue reading