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Distraction

Posted on Friday, November 1st, 2013

Dave!I started work at 4:00am, which was two hours later than I should have started.

Ultimately, it's not the long hours of work that's wearing on me day after day. it's that I'm having to miss my favorite television shows to do it. My DVR was already full from when I was on vacation, and now old stuff is being deleted to make room for new stuff.

In the case of shows like Grey's Anatomy, I don't find myself minding very much. The show has been spinning its wheels for a while now, and I just don't care. Delete. Delete. Delete.

But in the case of shows like Elementary and Sons of Anarchy? I care quite a bit. Those shows are actually entertaining, and provide a necessary distraction from Real Life. Which is why it's upsetting to see that my DVR is dumping episodes I haven't seen.

Not that it matters. At this rate, I won't have time to watch the newer episodes either.

I suppose that I should just give up on television entirely.

Except...

Holy crap my life would suck if I couldn't escape into the much more exciting lives of the people who live in my television.

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Categories: Television 2013Click To It: Permalink  1 Comment: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Clocks

Posted on Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Dave!Meh.

As this is the second-most stupid day of the year, I'm just going to take a pass. I'm all ranted out.

Do Not Disturb

   

Except to say... holy shit haven't we had enough of this idiotic fucking around with the clocks yet?

   

Bullet Sunday 353 – Movie Edition!

Posted on Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Dave!With nothing but work to write about, I've decided to take a look at some films I've seen recently.

So grab your popcorn... because a Special All Movie Edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...

Movie Review Posters

   
The Way Way Back (B+). Every once in a while you tune into a movie on a long plane ride simply because it's the least unappealing option out of the crap you haven't seen. In this case, I picked The Way Way Back because the cast included Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Steve Carell, and the amazing Sam Rockwell. Turns out it's a really good "coming of age" story about an awkward kid named Duncan who is forced to accompany his mom, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's spoiled daughter to a summer resort town. There he meets the slacker manager of the local Water Wizz theme park, learns what life is really about, and has his life forever changed. Yeah, it sounds like a movie you've seen a hundred times before, but it's surprisingly fresh (despite the ending, which falls back to more familiar territory). The great cast and smart performances were just the icing on the cake.

Now You See Me (D+). Holy crap what a stupid, stupid film. The movie begins as four D-list magicians are recruited by a mystery man to band together to become the hottest magic act in the world, "The Four Horsemen." Of course, absolutely no explanation is given as to how they actually become the hottest magic act in the world... all of a sudden they just are. With their fame escalating, they perform their biggest show yet (or one would assume, since you don't see a single magic trick before the finale), where they proceed to "magically" rob a bank. Thus begins a tedious game of cat and mouse between The Four Horsemen and a special investigator (Mark Ruffalo), his Interpol collaborator (Mélanie Laurent), and a famous magician de-bunker (Morgan Freeman). With each new show the foursome become inexplicably more famous... and understandably more wanted by the law for the crimes they perform on stage. Along the way they perform elaborate but unnecessary magic tricks which make -zero- sense to the plot (why in the hell pretend to rob a vault and come back later for the money when you can just JUST TAKE THE FUCKING MONEY IN THE FIRST PLACE?!). And that's the problem... nothing here really makes sense. Even the things that might make sense go unexplained, which doesn't make sense. Regardless of whether or not the magicians get away with their crimes... they're still going to be wanted by the law. And for what? To join some secret society that nobody gives a shit about except them? And the ending is about as stupid as it gets... the nonsensical "trap" set for one of the characters can be defeated in five minutes if the character calls a lawyer... or ANYBODY... to explain who set the trap and what happened. Dumb. SO dumb. I'm embarrassed for everyone involved.

Monsters University (B). Make no mistake, Monsters, Inc. is my favorite Pixar film by far, and the idea of getting to revisit that world had my expectations running high. And I wasn't let down. Mike and Sully were just as funny and appealing as ever, and Pixar's attention to detail was shining through stronger than I've seen in years. So why did this feel like a sorry retread of Revenge of the Nerds via a made-for-TV animated special? Probably because it didn't really break any new ground. Since it's a prequel to Monsters, Inc., characterization actually takes a big step backwards so you can start from the beginning. Not that it wasn't cute to see a young Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan pal around, but I'd rather see what they're doing now instead of looking back at where they were. Still, the story isn't all bad. After starting out as rivals, Mike and Sully team up with the nerds of a forgotten Monsters University fraternity to prove they have what it takes to become "scarers" at Monsters Inc. Except they don't, which means the entire premise of the story was moot. Oh well. It had funny moments and was beautifully imagined... that alone from Pixar is better than most movies you'll see.

World War Z (B-). Anybody expecting that this film will in any way resemble the brilliant novel by Max Brooks (or the even more brilliant audiobook of the same novel) is in for severe disappointment. This is an action flick which just happens to share a name with the afore-mentioned book, and that's all. However... if you are able to put that behind you, it's a pretty good action flick. Gone are the lumbering zombies of old, these zombies are shockingly fast and virtually unstoppable. Lucky for us, Brad Pitt arrives on the scene to save us all as a United Nations investigator intent on scouring the globe for a cure. What ensues is an intense and dark thriller that relies on really good special effects and some surprisingly good acting talent. At times the combo proves lethal, sucking you in and suffocating you with a plague that never seems anything less than overwhelming. It's for this reason that I enjoyed the film so much, despite fully expecting to hate it. As if that weren't delicious enough, there are scenes that won't leave your head any time soon, and I can't offer bigger praise than that.

Enough Said (C). I went into this film with high hopes given the 95% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It was painted as a romantic comedy, which I generally hate, but the previews featuring James Gandolfini and Julia Louis Dreyfus looked as though it was a rom-com that was thinking outside the box. Unfortunately, the exact opposite proved to be true. This movie is so far inside the box that it simply didn't work for me. I go to movies to escape my boring life, and Enough Said was so pedestrian that it had me longing for the more exciting things I experience every day... like sitting on the toilet. What's worse is that the big "twist" at the center of the story (Julia Louis Dreyfus finds out that she is dating the man her new best friend divorced) is something right out of a bad Seinfeld plot, but not as funny. Not even a little bit. It's actually painful to watch, and the predictable outcome is so unsurprising that you'll wonder what the point of the movie was in the first place. From what I can tell, it was to prove that James Gandolfini is a gifted actor who has unexpected range. And he does. He's easily the most enjoyable part of the film, and about the only thing I enjoyed in it. Which makes his passing all that more painful.

Man of Steel (F-). When I first saw the latest Superman re-re-boot, I loathed the film so much that I didn't even want to think about reviewing it. Instead I decided to wait until it hit video so that I could look at it with fresh eyes and see if I would revise my opinion. Nope! If anything, I hate the movie even more upon second viewing. This is incredibly painful to type given that I love the character of Superman, felt the cast assembled was top-notch, and had such high hopes for the film. Instead I was disappointed at every turn. I hated just about everything to do with Man of Steel, and am horrified that this abomination is the cinematic future direction for the character. The is not Superman. Not the Superman I know, anyway. This imitation origin story begins on planet Krypton where scientist Jor-El is predicting doom and gloom for the planet, and decides to salvage the legacy of his people by stealing "The Codex"... a wholly unnecessary plot device masquerading as some kind of genetic program that breeds Kryptonians. This raises the ire of General Zod, though who knows why. Anyway, Zod is exiled to the Phantom Zone, Krypton goes boom, and baby Kal-El is rocketed to earth where he is raised as human Clark Kent by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (easily the two best things about the film). The death of his father results in Clark wandering the earth... saving lives and trying to find his place in the world. Meanwhile intrepid reporter Lois Lane tries to track down this "mystery man" and stumbles upon one of the worst-kept secrets ever. But that's not Clark's only problem, as General Zod has escaped and returned to Earth to reclaim The Codex and remake our planet into a new Krypton... destroying everything in the process. Loads and loads of laughable super-battles and disaster porn ensues. None of it even remotely worth watching. The controversial moment in the film comes when Superman chooses to kill General Zod because humans are too fucking stupid to run away when somebody is trying to vaporize them with heat vision, at which point I didn't give a shit if Superman, Lois Lane, Perry White, or any other idiotic characters in the film lived or died. And why should I? The people behind this atrocity aren't writing about Superman and don't give a flying fuck about maintaining the integrity of the characters. Next up? Imitation Superman vs. Ben Affleck Batman. Oh how thrilling. Praise be to Odin's raven that Marvel's new Thor and Captain America films are coming to rescue us.

And now it's time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance Scorecard" as follows...

The Amazing Spider-Man... B-
The Avengers... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Blade... B
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Catwoman... F
Daredevil... B-
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Elektra... D
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy... A
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Hulk... C-
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Kick-Ass... B+
Kick-Ass 2... C
Man of Steel... F+
Punisher... C+
Punisher War Zone... C
R.I.P.D.... C-
Spider-Man... B+
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... B
Superman Returns... C+
Thor... B+
Watchmen... B
The Wolverine... B
X-Men... C
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B

   

Regretful

Posted on Monday, November 4th, 2013

Dave!This past weekend I got into a forum discussion about purchases we regretted having made. Popular choices included the Apple Newton (I loved mine!), Sony MiniDisc (which was awesome!), and Microsoft Windows Vista (okay, I totally get that one). Stuff like that. Initially I started out with little things that I had purchased recently... like the Pebble Smart Watch. But once the ball got rolling, I came up with all kinds of things I regretted spending my hard-earned cash on. So did everybody else. Thus it was decided we would each make a list of the "Top Five" worst offenders. And this morning I did just that. And since I don't have anything better to blog about, I'm going to post it right here...

#5 - PowerComputing PowerCenter Pro
Looking to save money on my next Macintosh purchase, I bypassed Apple's offerings for one of the new "Mac Clones" from Power Computing. I was suckered in by the fact that they had a faster machine with more powerful hardware for less money. Sold! Except... it wasn't up to Apple quality standards. At least not the one I got. Mine had issues with the video, which required numerous calls and two failed attempts at replacing the video card. Eventually, I ended up having to ship the machine back to Power. When I got it back, it was not the same machine (different serial number) and had less onboard RAM than the original machine I purchased. This required another half-dozen calls to get sorted. Eventually I got a working machine and was happy enough with it... but the amount of time it took to get there made me regret the purchase quite a lot.

#4 - Panasonic ANYTHING (but mostly their Recording DVD Player)
I have never had good luck with any Panasonic product. Televisions? Crap. Phones? Crap. VCRs? Crap. Everything I've ever purchased has been total crap. But then Kevin Smith was in an advertisement for the new Panasonic RECORDING DVD player! And how awesome would it be to record your own DVDs? Sweet! So I ignored all past experience and placed my order. Only to find that it would not record a DVD... no matter what I did. And every time I called Panasonic, it was my fault. I didn't buy Panasonic brand recordable DVDs. So I bought Panasonic brand recordable DVDs and it still didn't work. I didn't have the right quality cable. So I bought a new cable. I was overheating the unit by not giving it enough air space. So I moved it to its own table. The list went on and on and on. Finally, they agreed that there was something probably wrong with it... BUT I WAS EXPECTED TO PAY TO SHIP IT TO THEM FOR REPAIR! That's right, PANASONIC sells a DOA DVD player, but I have to pay to get it serviced! So I paid the shipping. Finally, a month later, I got it back and nothing had changed. Then when I called back, Panasonic refused to believe me... literally called me a liar... and said that the unit worked perfectly when it left their shop so I must have broke it. So I fucking smashed the pricey piece of shit non-recording DVD Player/Recorder and threw it in the garbage. Then vowed to never buy another Panasonic piece of shit product ever again. And I haven't. I fucking HATE the company. That should be enough agony but, unfortunately, there's one company I loathe even more. Hello, Hewlett-Packard...

#3 - Hewlett-Packard Photosmart B9180 Printer
Even though the Macintosh drivers were crap, I really liked this printer. Partly because the print quality was so nice... but mostly because HP had a "satin-matte" paper which you could peel from the backing and glue to different surfaces. And it was glorious. The pigment inks didn't crack when you folded it... the paper held color well... and it looked like a million bucks. But then the printer started failing within three months of having bought it. The printhead would randomly start scraping against the page, ruining your print. The head would randomly get "stuck" and refuse to finish a job, ruining your print. The printer would randomly decide to skip a color, ruining your print. As time went on, I was getting more ruined prints than good prints, which was a huge expense. That special paper and pigment ink cost a fortune. But that's not even the worst part. HP support was atrocious. They never had answers and said it must be my computer because the many problems were not reproducible. They promised to send me replacement ink and paper, but it never came. They promised to get back to me with answers, but they never did. At one point I was on the phone with HP and the customer service rep actually laughed at me. Eventually I ended up buying a second B9180 because I had a supply of paper and ink that I couldn't afford to throw out. Thinking I just had a lemon, I was optimistic the replacement I bought would be better. But it wasn't. This time it was the print head cartridges that kept failing AND the prints would be scraped up at random. To add insult to injury, they discontinued the special paper that convinced me to buy the stupid thing in the first place (twice!). Eventually the paper came back, but it wasn't the same, and refused to release from the backing. Now completely frustrated and hating HP with the fury of a thousand suns, I bought an Epson. I have never bought another HP product since.

#2 - 1999 Saturn SC2
When my old car was totaled while saving my life (it was between my office and a runaway heavy-duty work truck from the railroad), I didn't have time to shop for a new one. Then I saw a television commercial that explained how you could order a new Saturn online, so I fired up my laptop... picked the car I wanted... added way too many expensive features... and, just like that, my new car was ordered. Sight unseen. No test-drive taken. While on a trip to New York I got a call telling me that my car was ready to pick up, so on a layover in Seattle a salesman came and got me. Almost immediately I hated the car. The turning radius was huge. The visors were badly designed. The window controls were stupid. The dome light seemed to work at random. It was not much fun to drive. It wasn't even that comfortable. Ultimately, it was a terrible purchase and I fully intended on taking Saturn up on their 30-Day Return Policy. Except I was traveling the entire duration and never made it back to the dealership. So I've been stuck with the pile of crap for fourteen years. And things continue to go wrong. Despite ONLY having it serviced at Saturn, the "Check Engine" light has been coming on (even when reset) since 2009. The front license plate holder has fallen off, and it's a bitch to get back on. It's burning oil and doesn't even have 100,000 miles on it. And that damn turning radius... you never get used to having to make three and four point turns all the time. I hate the car. I really, really do. But since Saturn went under and my SC2 is pretty much worthless, I'm going to drive it until it explodes. Or I light it on fire and push it off a cliff.

#1 - Radius VideoVision Studio
Back in the good ol' days when I was doing video editing, I'd have to rent out a pricey studio whenever I got work. The problem being that video editing suites were incredibly expensive, the nearest shop was three hours away, and I never had the money to rent studio time to truly learn the system. Add it all together, and I often-times lost money on projects. The good news is that this lead me to create my own scores for videos so I could save cash by not hiring a "real" musician. Ultimately I ended up making a lot more money on the music than the video stuff, so it ended up being a blessing in disguise. But then VideoVision Studio came out and promised pro video editing on your Mac at home for the fraction of the price of renting a studio! Never mind that I had to spend thousands of dollars on tape decks, mixing boards, and VideoVision itself... I could have my own video editing studio and get rich! Except VideoVision never worked like it was supposed to. Even after I spent thousands more dollars on a faster Mac to run it better. Audio dropped or was out of sync. Video capture was glitchy. Output was marred by noise. It was a disaster. I never completed a single project on it, and ended up having to work two jobs to pay for all the useless crap I bought. All in all, this was the most expensive mistake I've ever made... even after I managed to sell some of the equipment I bought. For that reason alone it takes the top spot in my Most Regretted Purchases List. But somehow my regret goes much deeper than money. A career I was really interested in was completely destroyed, as I had to give up my dream to pay for its failure.

   
And there you have it... my most regretted purchases of all time.

Though, now that I think about it, I should have gone for a "Top Ten" because there's certainly been a lot of other purchases I've regretted. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, VANILLA MILKSHAKE POP-TARTS!

   

Scuzzy

Posted on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Dave!Back in the "good ol' days" of computing... before USB... before FireWire... before Thunderbolt... the way you hooked up peripherals like hard drives, scanners, and such was with a SCSI port. Which most everybody called a "scuzzy port."

The Small Computer System Interface was pretty much shit. You just never knew which magical combination of device IDs, cables, and chain termination would result in a working system. And once you figured it all out, there was no guarantee that it would stay working the next time you booted up your computer. In which case you'd have to start all over again. And heaven help you if you added a second peripheral to the chain. That only doubled the amount of work you had to do to keep things running. It was horrible.

Thank heavens those days are over, right?

Except...

I just spent three hours trying to get my new cable modem to work.

In the end, I can't even tell you how I got it running. Some magical combination of resets for the modem, my Time Capsule router, and my MacBook. I just kept resetting and turning things off and on until... BLAM! My cable modem was connecting. Then I kept resetting and turning things off an on until... BLAM! My Time Capsule would connect to the modem. Then I kept resetting and turning things off an on until... BLAM! My Time Capsule could reach the internet. Then I kept resetting and turning things off an on until... BLAM! My MacBook was connecting to the Time Capsule. Then I kept resetting and turning things off an on until... BLAM! My MacBook was able to reach the internet through the Time Capsule.

Three hours of that bullshit.

It was SCSI all over again.

And now, just like in times of yore, I dread the inevitable horror of having everything randomly fail so I have to start all over.

I'm just dumbfounded that tech companies can't figure this shit out. The nonsensical problems never go away. Not really. They just change to a new generation of interfaces.

Which is why I'm sure that when my brain implant appliance is trying to send video to my holographic cornea display from my sub-etha internet connection sometime in the future... I'll be resetting and turning things off an on over and over and over again to get the crap running.

It's just the way technology works.

Or doesn't.

And I'm sure it always will.

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GMO

Posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Dave!Before I get to the part of this post where everybody starts hating me, I just want to say that I think Genetically Modified Organisms (better known as "GMOs") are a horrible idea for our food supply.

Life on this planet has evolved over millions of years to create a delicate balance between we animals and the food we need to survive. To go mucking around with this balance by modifying the gene sequence of a crop so that it's stronger, more virile, tastier, and bug-resistance, is reckless, dangerous, and probably immoral. I don't care what the FDA says, we simply do not know enough about GMO foods to declare them "safe"... and the consequences of consuming such products could have dire health consequences that won't become clear for generations. The fact that numerous countries outside the USA consider GMOs to be unhealthy and have restricted their use (or outright banned them) should be a serious wake-up call to Americans about the foods we eat. Especially considering that a shocking 80% of processed foods in this country are estimated to contain GMO ingredients.

To put it another way, if you live in the USA and are not at least a little concerned about the GMOs that are plaguing our food supply with unknown consequences, you need to pull your head out of your ass.

Given my serious objections to the use of GMOs in our foodstuffs, you would think that I would be a big supporter of Washington State's Initiative 522... which would require all (non-exempt) GMO foods to be clearly and conspicuously labeled on the front of the package.

And yet... I am not.

Or rather I was not, because it looks like the initiative failed to get the votes it needed.

There are a lot of reasons I think that 522 is/was a bad piece of legislation.

First of all, have you actually read the thing? I have. It's just so absurdly written that after trying to parse my way through it... three times... I was left looking for the benefit to consumers. It's so inconsistent and incomplete as to be laughable. Genetically-modified fruits and vegetables would require labeling. But a steak coming from a cow that has been fed nothing but a diet of genetically-modified foods from birth to slaughter would not. This alone makes 522 a complete joke. If consumers believe everything GMO is labeled, and their meat choices were not, they would naturally assume that the meat had no GMOs. But here's the rub... if GMOs are so horrible for the health of people that it should be labeled, wouldn't it also be so horrible for the health of cows that any product coming from that cow should also be labeled? And what about fast food restaurants, arguably one of the biggest movers of GMO foods in existence? Oh... never mind... they are exempt from labeling laws! I mean, come on! This is absurd. Unless everything is labeled, then labeling a selected subset of our food supply renders the whole idea of forced-labeling for "The Public's Right to Know!" useless. And don't hand me this bullshit about "Something is better than nothing" and "It's a good start" because that is the stupidest damn response I've ever heard. That's the equivalent of saying "THREE OF THESE FOUR FOODS WILL KILL YOU! But we're only going to label ONE of them BECAUSE THE PUBLIC HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW!" And yet people buy into this crap hook, line, and sinker every time. Well, helpful hint... IT'S ALL OR NOTHING OR IT DOESN'T WORK!

Next up, the labeling is categorically unfair to manufacturers. And I'm not talking about the giant conglomerates like Kraft or Coca-Cola or Unilever or whatever... they manufacture such massively huge quantities of processed foods that making a packaging change would hardly cost a thing in the grand scheme of things. No, I'm talking about the thousands of small companies who sell food products in Washington State. To them, the cost of changing all their packaging (or adding a label to their existing packaging) is a pretty big expense. First of all, if they did go to the expense of changing their packaging (because it's cheaper than adding a label), odds are they would not be able to afford packaging exclusively for Washington State. Nope, the new packaging would be what they have to use to sell to all fifty states. So they would either A) Have to stop selling in Washington... or B) Have to splash "THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS GENETICALLY-MODIFIED INGREDIENTS" across their packaging, which would then have to sit on the shelf in California next to a competitor's product which doesn't say a damn thing about the GMOs in its contents... how is that fair? Well, it's not. I am sick and tired of people who consistently paint all food manufacturers as these massive corporations when it's decidedly not the case. Again, helpful hint... IT'S ALL (FIFTY STATES) OR NOTHING OR IT DOESN'T WORK!

And then... ultimately GMO labeling laws do nothing to help a significant portion of our society. Namely poor and elderly people who have to buy cheap food or they're not going to eat at all. Let's think about this for a minute. Say 522 gets passed, so a canned spaghetti manufacturer is forced to label their product because the noodles are made from GMO wheat and the tomatoes in the sauce are from GMO tomatoes. Now some 85-year old woman on a severely restricted income goes to the store and sees a can of friendly organic spaghetti at $2.69 sitting next to a can of scary GMO-laden spaghetti at $1.89. Do you honestly think she gives a flying fuck about GMOs when she barely has the money to buy food at all? But hey, at least she can make an informed buying decision! The process required to grow organic crops ain't cheap. And do you know why? Organic foods are ineligible for federal subsidies! That's right... apparently "organic" is categorized as some kind of "luxury" instead of a necessity... so organic farmers get no federal monies to help them out. So what they sell is actually the real cost of growing food. Take away the subsidies from Big Farm so they have to pay real costs, then make them responsible for the environmental impact of their business, then sit back and watch as GMO food prices increase to organic price levels. Hey, I have an idea! WHY DON'T WE ELIMINATE THE SUBSIDIES SO THERE'S A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD? Or, if we're going to do the whole subsidy thing, why not allow organic farmers to get a piece of the pork pie too? Then perhaps GMO labeling would actually mean something because consumers on fixed incomes would truly have a choice. Of course, taking on the demonic Special Interest Groups which work 24/7 to exclude small farmers from federal funding so Big Farm is consistently at an advantage won't be easy... and it sure as hell won't be cheap. Welcome to American politics!

Up next... GMOs, while certainly the subject of considerable concern, do not automatically make manufacturers, suppliers, or especially the farmers producing them... some kind of evil bastard out to kill you. Genetic modification is not something that is done for fun. There's a reason behind it. One significant "advance" (assumably) to food production was modifying plants to survive drought conditions. Questionable? Yes. Unhealthy? Possibly. But evil? Every time I see somebody play the "Evil Card," my eyes roll so far back in my head that they are in real danger of getting stuck there. Sure, I can buy into a corporation like Monsanto being evil... hell, they are beyond evil for the heinous shit they do... but using such inflammatory words to turn public opinion against farmers who are just trying to make a living by using seeds they are told are perfectly safe by the FDA? That just makes you an irresponsible asshole, NOT some kind of champion of the people.

And now, for the big gun... GMO labeling is completely unnecessary. Shocker, I know, but it's totally true! Do you know why? Because non-GMO and organic products are super trendy and hot right now. It's the fastest growing segment of food production by far because consumer demand is growing by leaps and bounds every day. Which means manufacturers who sell products without GMO ingredients would be insanely stupid to not make that claim as huge as possible on their packaging. And guess what? Manufacturers who sell products without GMO ingredients are not insanely stupid. THEY ARE ALREADY LABELING THEIR PACKAGING AS ORGANIC AS HUGE AS POSSIBLE! There's even symbols for organic certified products and non-GMO products to identify them. Hell, even pet food manufacturers let you know when their products are organic! There's so much "green" in the supermarket now-a-days, there's no way you can miss the organic bandwagon everybody is hopping on...

Organic Foods!

Organic Non-GMO

So, seriously, think about it. IF SOMETHING ISN'T LABELED AS "ORGANIC" OR "NON-GMO" THEN IT'S GOING TO CONTAIN GMO INGREDIENTS! This is all the information that shoppers need to make an informed buying decision if they are concerned about GMOs in the food they buy. But if this is the case, and people already know how to identify non-GMO foods, then why the big push to label products containing GMO ingredients? Because information by omission is just not good enough for the anti-GMO advocates. They want to scare people into buying organic, non-GMO foods with labeling laws because fear is the easiest way to manipulate the masses to supporting your agenda. It always has been. "But wait!" you may be saying, "Isn't that a good thing? GMOs are bad, right? So scaring people into eating healthier is okay!" Except... no. It's not. Leading people to make informed buying decisions is what's okay. Scaring them into doing your bidding... no matter how altruistic... is not okay. Should not be okay. Which brings me to the most damning condemnation of Initiative 522 yet... if you are so fucking concerned about GMO foods, then spend the money to educate people instead of manipulating them. Granted, there are going to be people too damn stupid or ignorant to get the message, but it's not like they were candidates for using mandatory labeling in the first place. Which brings us to...

Lastly (well, not "lastly"... I could go on and on here), Initiative 522 was destined to fail, so wasting millions of dollars trying to pass it is/was categorically stupid. Seriously, who thought that GMO abusers like Monsanto were just going to sit on their hands and do nothing while their bread and butter was being challenged? Anyone? Anyone? Of course not. Monsanto pumped millions of dollars into a counter-campaign, completely dominating the political landscape with their limitless funds. There was no question... none... that Monsanto and its confederates would spend whatever money necessary to smash Initiative 522 to pieces. And, given how incredibly badly the legislation was written, it's not like there wasn't boatloads of opportunities to turn public opinion to their favor. Initiative 522 was just a colossal waste of time and money and that's my biggest problem. Just think of what could have been done with all that cash wasted on an unwinnable battle!

  • Spend the money fighting to equalize the playing field so that organic farmers can compete with Big Farm and all that government money they get.
  • Spend the money educating people about how to read food labels and cut through buzzwords like "Natural Ingredients" which do not necessarily mean a product is GMO-free. Run commercials that have meaning instead of wasting time with "VOTE YES ON 522!" nonsense that doesn't really educate people.
  • Spend the money on organic research to develop farming methods which make organic crops more appealing and realistic to farmers.
  • Spend the money to encourage political reform so companies like Monsanto don't create an environment where their GMO shit is the only viable option for food producers.
  • Spend the money writing legislation that isn't full of holes to advance the cause of organic foods. This may seem like a no-brainer but, apparently... not so much.
  • Above all, DON'T SPEND MONEY MANIPULATING PEOPLE! The backlash is always going to damage your cause more than it will ever advance it.

   
And now is where you are probably saying to yourself... "Wow, Dave... if you were so dead-set against Initiative 522, why didn't you write this BEFORE the ballots were cast?"

Simple... I just didn't want the drama. There are many, many, hard-core advocates of GMO labeling (some of them good friends of mine), and dealing with the fall-out of writing an inflammatory opinion piece (no matter how unintentional) was more than I wanted on my plate. In my heart, I knew that 522 was going to fail (too much was at stake for Big Farm for it not to) and so what would be the point?

In closing, I'd just like to say that my opinion about genetic modification in our food supply still stands... we should not be doing it. Recklessly defying the millions of years of evolution and adaptation it took to get where we are is the height of hubris, and the possible consequences are just too dire. We need to spend more time and money trying to figure out how to get our food back to the natural state our bodies have evolved to consume instead of trying to solve our food supply problems with potentially hazardous genetic modification. We also need to spend more time and money educating people as to why this is important. Initiative 522 was never about either of those things. It was a mis-use of funds for a campaign of manipulation, unfairness, and inevitable failure that distracted people from what is truly important. Even worse, once all the cards have been counted it probably set back the cause of the pro-organic foods movement.

That's a shame, really. But it's not like politics ever aspire to be anything more than that now-a-days.

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Cage

Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Dave!On my recent flight from Da Nang to Hanoi, I spotted an ad for Montblanc watches in the in-flight magazine...

"In acting as in real life, Nicholas Cage pursues perfection, a value he shares with his Montblanc Star Classique Automatic."

And the price for such perfection? $3340.00 cash! Cheap!

Mont Blanc Nicholas Cage

   
Now I'm trying to reconcile Nicholas Cage in Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance as "pursuing perfection."

Unless you consider his $7,500,000 salary for appearing in that turd of a film as perfection.

I know I do.

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Disco

Posted on Friday, November 8th, 2013

Dave!Disco became self-aware 40 years ago.

36 years ago, Disco was approaching the height of it's dominance thanks to the movie Saturday Night Fever and the soundtrack by Disco icons The BeeGees.

34 years ago, Disco died a horrible death. Most people were not sad to see it go.

For years after, Disco attempted numerous revivals, yet never managed to come back from the dead.

Earlier this past summer, Daft Punk unleashed the hit track Get Lucky and I feared that Disco might be coming back in zombie form, but this too was short-lived.

For now, it would seem the world is safe from the Disco threat.

Monkey Disco

But we must remain vigilant.

We must never let down our guard.

Because the spirit of Disco is still out there... somewhere... plotting to return and enslave the world with its evil.

And now tha... tha... OH MY GAWD...

Lady GagGag FartPop

KILL IT NOW! — KILL IT WITH FIRE!

KILL IT WITH FIRE BEFORE IT DESTROYS EVERY ONE OF US!

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saTURDay

Posted on Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Dave!Well this was a crappy day.

Remember when Saturdays were fun days and you actually looked forward to the weekend? Neither do I, but somehow a rumor got started, and it's been propagated enough times that people actually believe it. Much like an "honest politician," the idea of a work-free weekend has receded into the myths of modern society. In the darkest recesses of your mind you think you remember it... but the truth is that it's a fantasy that dissipated somewhere in your childhood, never to be seen again.

And speaking of fantasies lost in time...

Today I accidentally overwrote a file that I needed. Usually, this would be a huge concern, but I'm on a Mac that's continuously backed up on a "Time Capsule" by an app called "Time Machine" so it's all good, right?

Well, no, as it turns out. When I "enter Time Machine" to go back to previous versions of my files, everything is blank and all my files are missing...

Time Machine Empty

The "space" metaphor that Apple has going on here is ironically apt, as my Time Capsule has become a black hole from which nothing can escape.

Or so I feared.

Fortunately, ignoring Time Machine and manually accessing my backup drive allowed me to retrieve the file. So it would appear that the Time Machine backup engine is working as intended... it's just the spacey interface that's borked.

I'm trying to stay positive and just be thankful that my file could be saved... but seriously? Oh well. Maybe some third-party software developer will take this opportunity to write an app that can restore from Time Machine backups without the douchey interface messing things up.

If they can also write an app that will restore my Saturdays from the drudgery of work, that would be nice too.

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Bullet Sunday 354

Posted on Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Dave!Stop pondering how many licks it takes to get to the middle of a Chicken McNugget... because Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Blacklisted. As a James Spader fan, it was a no-brainer to add his latest television effort, The Blacklist to my DVR. But the previews and ads for the show kind of led me to believe that it was a bad Silence of the Lambs rip-off with Spader as a poor man's Hannibal Lecter, so I kept putting it off (there's already a television version of that running). Well, yesterday I finally got around to watching it... and am completely hooked. Yes, there are familiar elements here, but the show itself is so much more...

The Blacklist Poster

But the highlight is Spader, of course. Very few people could pull off this role in a way that's so darkly entertaining yet somehow likable. This... this... is everything the Hannibal television show should have been, but doesn't quite reach. Highest recommendation. If you've been missing it, the iTunes Music Store currently has a Season Pass for the show on sale for $35 so you can start from the beginning (and I recommend you do).

   
• Lion. If you haven't yet read about the lion cub that was rescued by two guys from the Modisa Wildlife Project in Botswana, here you go!

Lion Hug

The TED Talk by the Modisa Wildlife Project's Mikkel Legarth is also worth a look.

   
• Faith. I... do not... have the... words... God exists, and he's working at Taco Bell...

Taco Bell Cinnabon Bites

I'll be trying these bad boys post-haste!

   
• Visits. Most "States I've Visited" maps are a binary "yes or no" type affair. Jeremy Nixon has come up with an alternative that provides a much better picture...

Defocus Visits Map

Red states are those you've barely visited. Orange states you know a little better. Blue states you've spent quite a lot of time in. Green states are those you know extremely well. Cool, huh? You can make your own map over at Jeremy's Defocus Blog.

   
• Dyslexic. I was very lucky that I was diagnosed early and got help when I was young enough to make a difference in my life. I'm also fortunate that my form of dyslexia is mild and I was able to train my brain to cope with it relatively easily. Still, dyslexia is something I have to deal with every day, so I was really happy to see this amazing project on Kickstarter called "I wonder what it's like to be dyslexic" which features a book that attempts to illustrate what it's like to struggle with reading. They've reached their funding goal, but such a beautiful and educational book deserves to be seen by everybody, so here you go!

More information can be found on Kickstarter.

   
• Storm. My thoughts are with everybody in The Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the region this past week. The devastation looks horrendous, and they are estimating the dead could top 10,000 people across the country. As I type this, the storm has landed in Vietnam, and is expected to cause heavy rains and flooding in the northern part of the country... including Hanoi, where I was visiting just last month...

NOAA Haiyan Map
Haiyan chart image taken from NOAA.

As if these storms aren't frightening enough, scientists are projecting that things are only going to get worse. Severe storms are going to form more frequently and be stronger than ever before. If science is right, life on this planet is going to have to change quite dramatically over the next century. Whether we like it or not.

   
See you in seven days.

   

Geography

Posted on Monday, November 11th, 2013

Dave!Happy Veterans' Day, everybody! And thanks to all who have served (or continue to serve).

For as long as I can remember, I've loved maps. And every once in a while I get a reminder of why that is.

This past weekend I had somebody write to me with a Hard Rock Cafe question that led me to the property that used to exist in Queenstown, New Zealand (which, sadly, closed before I could visit). Since the city was unfamiliar to me, I consulted the internet to find out where it was located in relation to the cities I did know. While rummaging around, I saw this...

Beautiful New Zealand Map
Map taken from (where else) Google Maps.

Beautiful, isn't it?

But here's the strange thing... this is not some wacky geographic phenomena that's out in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles away from civilization. This incredible formation is just minutes outside of Christchurch, the biggest city on New Zealand's South Island...

Google Map Christchurch
Map once again taken from Google Maps.

That's pretty nifty.

But not uncommon, really. There's beauty in geography everywhere you look.

Just 300 miles from where I live is this marvelous spectacle across the border in British Columbia...

British Columbia
Fractally goodness courtesy of, you guessed it, Google Maps.

But I don't even have to go that far. Directly to the West of my home you can find some pretty amazing stuff...

Central Washington Map
This was taken from... well, you know...

This is a small part of the vast Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area including the Western half of The Enchantments trail region (named after a group of lakes by the same name). In this photo you can spot...

  • Eightmile Lake
  • Horseshoe Lake
  • Jack Lake
  • Lake Stuart
  • Aasgard Pass
  • Colchuck Lake
  • Coney Lake
  • Shield Lake
  • Earle Lake
  • Mesa Lake
  • Temple Lake
  • Lake Viviane
  • Leprechaun Lake
  • Sprite Lake
  • Enchantment Lakes
  • Inspiration Lake
  • Perfection Lake
  • Isolation Lake
  • Tranquil Lake

I'm not much of an outdoorsman, so I've explored very little of it. What I have seen is pretty spectacular though. I wish I was as into photography then as I am now... I'd probably have some incredible shots of the region. Like this guy...

Colchuck Lake
©2011 by Ethan Welty... check out his awesome Flickr feed!

   
But I guess that's what the internet is for.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to explore this lovely planet a while longer...

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Transitional

Posted on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Dave!The weather here has reached a transitional phase between Fall and Winter. It's not cold enough to snow so you get this kind of dreary, cold drizzling rain that makes your days depressing and grey. Add that to the fact that it starts getting dark around 4:00, and it's not a happy time of year for me. Today was even more of a bummer than usual because there was a fire somewhere that filled the air with smoke.

Not a great start to my Tuesday.

Dave Rainy Cold

But don't worry. Things got much worse.

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Mahalo!

Posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Dave!Congratulations, Hawaii!

You've joined my home state of Washington and just became the 15th State to legalize marriage equality!

Hawaii Equality

It's amazing that my gay and lesbian friends can now tie the knot in one of the most beautiful places on earth!

Thanks and much mahalo for recognizing that love is love... and everybody deserves to marry that one person who makes their life complete!

   

Ketchup

Posted on Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Dave!This morning I stopped by the mini-mart so I could get a bean-n-cheese burrito for breakfast.

I know that sounds odd, but it's not really the burrito I'm after at 8:00am... it's the ketchup. And since I don't like ketchup on breakfast burritos, scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, Captain Crunch cereal, or any other "traditional" breakfast foods, a bean-n-cheese burrito it is.

Alas, much to my horror, they were out of bean-n-cheese burritos.

And you know how hard it is to get something out of your head once you've got a taste for it.

So most of my day was spent trying to concentrate on work while my head didn't want to think about anything except how I was going to satisfy my craving for ketchup. I thought about running to get French fries at lunch but, when it comes to condiments, I'd rather have mayonnaise on my fries.

That I ended up eating a packet of ketchup left over from the last time I had a bean-and-cheese burrito is neither here nor there.

The important point is that I was finally able to focus on work.

   
At least until my craving for saltwater taffy kicked in.

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Work

Posted on Friday, November 15th, 2013

Dave!And so it's Friday.

My entire day... from 4:00am to 8:00pm... was spent working. I have a number of projects coming due, and I've been killing myself trying to stay on top of everything.

Then, at long last, tonight I finally reached my breaking point and decided to set aside my work.

For different work!

  • I finished unpacking my suitcase from my past three trips.
  • I filed away my souvenirs from Helsinki, Estonia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Disneyland, and Pittsburgh.
  • I backed up my photos for the first time in seven months (holy crap was waiting this long stupid).
  • I renewed my expiring internet domains.
  • I went through my mail that's been piling up for six weeks.
  • I wrote out my annual thank-you cards to all my friends who are participating in our AnySoldier.com care package group.
  • I went through a half-dozen boxes of junk sitting in my closet and ended up throwning most of it in the trash.

Well that's four hours of my life I'm never getting back.

I could have spent it eating ice cream and playing video games, but nooooooo!

Except... it's never too late for ice cream is it?

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Stub

Posted on Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Dave!I fully admit that I'm a total hoarder when it comes to my travel. I save pretty much everything... receipts... ticket stubs... boarding passes... maps... brochures... everything. My thinking has always been that saving all this crap would make it easier to reconstruct my travels so I can remember where I was and what I did while I was there.

Then Blogography came along and all my travels were suddenly being documented.

At least for the past ten years that I've been blogging.

Yet I've still be saving everything out of habit. The problem is that all this stuff has been taking up space and I'm running out of room. And so I've been going through all my boxes of travel crap and throwing out most of it. There's no need to keep a receipt so I can remember the name of that pizza restaurant I like in Cologne, Germany... I just have to Google my blog, and there it is. I don't have to save the ticket stub from the Pet Shop Boys' first concert in Seattle to remember when that was... I just have to Google my blog, and there it is. Having your travels indexed on the internet is just so handy.

But what about my travels before I started blogging? I can't Google a box of crap, so what to do?

One of the ideas I'm toying with is creating blog entries for my earlier travels, then back-dating them. I'm not sure how I feel about the idea though. Is it cheating to have a blog with entries that pre-date blogging? Do I really care? I suppose I could start a second blog for my early travels, but I can't help but think that having everything in one place would be a better way to go.

I just don't know. Guess I'll think about it for a while and see where I land.

All I do know is that I'd love to throw out all this crap I have piled up which covers my travels from 1983 to 2002.

   

Bullet Sunday 355

Posted on Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Dave!Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars... because Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Disaster. First a typhoon in The Philippines, now tornadoes in the USA Midwest outside Peoria. Again, my heart goes out to everybody affected by these tragic events.

   
• Cornetto. After thuroughly enjoying the first two movies of the "Cornetto Trilogy" (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) I was really looking forward to seeing the final film of the trilogy, The World's End. And I wasn't disappointed. It may very well be the best of the lot...

The World's End Poster

Alcoholic loser Gary King sets out to recapture the heady days of his youth by assembling his old schoolmates for a trip back to the town they grew up in. There he wants to complete "The Golden Mile," which means drinking a pint at all twelve pubs in the town. His mates reluctantly agree and everything is going fine... until they discover that the town has been taken over by space robots. Hilarity ensues. What really surprised me with the film is how great the visual effects were. Not once was I taken out of the story by some random shot where the effects were off. Everything was seamless, which was a pleasant surprise. In the end, the movie was almost too good... it left me wanting a fourth movie in the Cornetto Trilogy.

   
• Frank. I wasn't terribly impressed with the Warren Ellis comic Red when it debuted back in 2003. So imagine my surprise when I ended up really enjoying the movie that was inspired by it starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman. It was a smart, funny, action-packed film with an impeccable cast and a really good script. Willis plays Retired Extremely Dangerous ex-black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses. One day somebody decides they want him dead. Hilarity ensues. Three years later, and here comes Red 2...

Red2 Poster

It's pretty much more of the same... but bogged down by some unnecessary complications and an astounding body count that makes it less fun than the original. And yet, it's still a really good film and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The movie picks up where the first left off, as Frank Moses is trying to lead a normal life with girlfriend Sarah. Unfortunately for them, Frank is framed as a participant in a secret op called "Nightshade." Because of this, a lot of people want him dead. Hilarity ensues. Kinda. It's not as funny as the first one. But Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones have joined up this time around, and that counts for something (but it's still Mirren and Malkovich that steal the show). If you liked the first one, the sequel is worth checking out on video.

   
• Gondola. Venice is one of those cities that really leaves an impression. There's simply no confusing it with any other city on earth, and exploring it has been a highlight of my travels. Which is why I was very happy to learn that Google has gone above and beyond their "Street View" technology to create "Canal View" for the floating city of Venice...

Google Venice

So now, thanks to Google Maps, not only can I walk the crazy maze-like route from the Rialto Bridge to the hotel I usually stay at... I can also explore the city as seen from the canals. It's pretty nifty, and I don't even have to leave the comfort of my own home... or put on pants. If you want to have a little web holiday in Venice, Google has an info hub that's a good place to start.

   
• Coin! Ever since I started carrying a wallet again, I've been looking for ways to make it slimmer. But no matter which brand I buy and how thin the wallet may be, it's the stack of cards I have to carry that thicken the thing back up again. A big part of that is the four credit/debit cards I carry. Now a company has come along with a product that may be able to help. Introducing Coin...

If you'd like to get a Coin at 50% off the $100 retail price, just follow this link they gave me and pre-order your own for $50! They aren't shipping until next summer, but it looks like they'll be worth the wait!

   
Annnnnnd...scene. Take care of yourself out there.

   

Promises

Posted on Monday, November 18th, 2013

Dave!The "Things You Don't Know About Me" meme is going around yet again, and so here's my list.

Hopefully I didn't repeat stuff from the old lists I've made, but there's been so many of them that I make no promises

  1. I trained to become a certified skydiver. A long time ago when we were bored, a friend and I decided to go tandem-skydiving (where a professional is hooked to you for the ride down). My family was pretty freaked out, so I didn't tell them when I went back to take classes so I could become a licensed skydiver... but I did. I went through all the classroom training, did my static-line jumps, then completed my first solo freefall skydive... then decided I was done. I toy with the idea of jumping again from time to time, but never have. Travel is my adventure now.
  2. I have a complete set of INFOCOM "grey box" packaging for every one of their text adventure games. If you don't think this is a big deal, you weren't a computer geek in the 1980's. You also don't know how expensive these games were for a kid in high school.
  3. When I was a kid trying to earn summer spending money, one of my many jobs was mowing the lawn of an elderly couple in town. For the three years I did his yard work, the guy would pay me to accompany him on occasional trips up to the mountains so I could help him collect water for making pickles. He was convinced that you couldn't make pickles with tap water, which was great for me because it was easy money. A couple years after he died, I read of a drowning that took place where we used to go for water. When I mentioned it to somebody at work, they told me that people die or get hurt there all the time because there are undercurrents in the swift water that suck people under when they fall in. If ever there was a shining example of money not being everything, here it is. Lesson learned, and all that.
  4. There are a lot of things that I want to learn to do before I die. Learning how to blow glass is at the top of my list. Learning to create stained glass is a close second. I'm mesmerized whenever I visit a church with beautiful stained glass in it.
  5. I have spent years researching world religions because I find the best way to understand the people I meet around the world is to understand what they believe when it comes to matters of faith. This has led to numerous awkward conversations when it turns out that I am more knowledgeable about somebody's religion than they are. With this in mind I can state with complete confidence that the people who know the least about their religion are the people who are most likely to use it as a tool of bigotry or hate. They may be familiar with the words but the true meaning and historical context of those words are missing.
  6. I have designed graphics for many, many, many things over the years. The one thing missing from my resume that I most want to design is a map for a theme park or museum.
  7. I can add "professional musician" to my resume even though I can't sing worth a crap, can barely read or write music without a computer, and have long-since forgotten how to play an instrument. Despite all that, I compose music for video projects and have been in a band (where I "sang" backup vocals and played keyboard... which I do by smashing on all the keys until I figure out which notes sound closest to what I'm supposed to be playing, then memorize which keys to hit). In my heart, I think I probably have a talent for music... but any hope of making use of it was crushed years ago.
  8. In high school band I wanted to play the saxophone. Bad. But my band teacher said he really needed talented people in the clarinet section, and promised that I could move to saxophone after a year once he got the arrangements figured out. I hated the clarinet, but wanted to be a good student, so I agreed. After a year of clarinet where I was in first-chair more often than not, the band teacher said I was too good in clarinet to give it up, and he'd really appreciate it if I stuck it out one more year. I wasn't going to agree, but he promised that he would spend extra time with me after class to get me caught up with the saxophone the next year. Encouraged, I finished year two on the clarinet, then rented a saxophone and practiced all summer. On the first day of year three, I sat in the saxophone section... only to have the band teacher say "I notice you're in the saxophone section, David... I need you to move back to the clarinet section!" I was going to argue the point, hold him to his promise, and refuse to move... but ultimately decided that I didn't want to spend one more minute in a class run by a lying piece of shit. So I packed up my sax, said "No. I quit" then walked out the door. It is possibly the most angry I have been in my entire life, and yet I'm really proud of myself for handling it so well, which was not typical at the time. The hard lesson I learned about how some people keep their promises was more valuable to me than my desire to learn to play saxophone ever was, and I am really grateful I learned it before I graduated and entered "The Real World." So thank you very much, Mr. Johnson, you lying asshole.
  9. Over the years I have become a much less angry and vengeful person thanks to my study of Buddhism. Sure, I still have my moments (seriously, don't do something to really piss me off), but I can honestly say I am a completely different person than I was fifteen years ago. Looking back, however, I think I was on the path towards Buddhism long before I even knew what it was.
  10. Back in the mid-to-late-80's I volunteered to teach adult computer literacy classes for people in danger of losing their jobs (or unable to get a job) because their work was being computerized. Many of the people I trained had used typewriters and filing cabinets for years, and had never even turned on a computer before. It was a job requiring a great deal of patience and calm because PCs were nowhere near as friendly back then as they are today. Unfortunately for me, I had neither patience or calm, and it was a horrible struggle to endure two hours without screaming at people for being idiots. All that changed when an older woman approached me after class and thanked me for my efforts, but said she was going to have to quit because she felt stupid that everything was going over her head. Without even thinking about it, I said "That's not your fault, it's my fault... please come back for a few more classes and I'll see if I can do a better job, because you're not stupid." She agreed, and I congratulated myself on being so clever. Until I was driving home and suddenly realized what I had said... and how every word was absolutely true. It was my fault. My class wasn't filled with idiots... they were people so desperate to keep their jobs or find work that they were giving up their free time and trying their best to learn something new and challenging. I needed to figure out a different approach to teaching the material that actually worked, and so I did. This was a defining moment in my life, and accepting the truth of it all has paid off again and again... both professionally and personally.

   
Now, granted, that's probably all stuff you didn't know about me that you didn't want to know about me... but you'll have to blame the people who keep reviving this meme for that!

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Choices

Posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Dave!When faced with a decision between two equally unpleasant options... when there's no "lesser of two evils" and all you have is "two evils"... when you have to make a choice where there's no real choice at all... how do you deal with it? Close your eyes and do an eeny-meeny-miny-moe kind of thing? Pin your options to a board and throw a dart? Flip a coin? What?

I don't have an answer. I wish I did.

It would sure make it easier to make impossible decisions.

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Illinois

Posted on Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Dave!Every time another giant piece of ice breaks off Antarctica, I feel a pang of regret that I haven't yet visited the continent. This time the piece was "only" 252 square miles... which is slightly smaller than the massive 278 square mile chunk that calved off the last time I blogged about it back in July. That's over 500 square miles within a four-month period, which is pretty scary when you consider this is only going to accelerate from here on out.

As will my regret, I'm sure.

Which is a difficult concept for somebody who tries to live without regrets.

In other news...

Congratulations to Illinois!

You've joined my home state of Washington and just became the 16th State to legalize marriage equality!

DaveToon Illinois Equality

Hmmm... didn't I just do this a few days ago? Why, yes. Yes I did!

34 to go.

   

Flight

Posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Dave!Oh hell no!

As if having to deal with annoying assholes on planes wasn't already a big enough problem... the FCC is proposing that mobile phone calls be allowed in flight.

Needless to say, I think that this is a terrible fucking idea. If people need to be in contact with people on the ground, let them send an email or use an internet messaging service. Don't make me listen to somebody's stupid shit for hours on end every time I fly...

Mobile Phones on Planes

   
Apparently, airlines would have to install equipment to make this all possible.

Here's hoping they don't.

Otherwise I'm guessing the homicide rate on airline flights will get to be a real problem.

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Cinematic

Posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Dave!As a life-long comic book geek, the influx of comic book movies over the years has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes when a comic is faithfully adapted to the screen and you get to live out your geek fantasy by seeing characters you love come to life on the big screen.

For me it all began in 1978 when the super-hero to end all super-heroes was unleashed on an unsuspecting world and Richard Donner made you believe a man could fly. There had been other super-hero movies, of course, but it was Superman... followed by Superman II... that defined what it meant to make a comic book movie work.

A decade later, Tim Burton would give us Batman. While lacking the darker elements that made Batman be Batman, it nevertheless was a decent interpretation. Unfortunately, like Superman, it was a franchise doomed to degenerate into idiocy after its second outing.

What followed was a murky period filled with a few highs (Spider-Man, Spider-Man2, and Blade come to mind), a few disappointing lows (the Fantastic 4 and X-Men franchises), and a few epic disasters (Elektra, Catwoman, and Superman Returns were all soul-crushingly awful).

But then the current cinematic super-hero renaissance began.

Christopher Nolan finally gave us Batman.

Robert Downey Jr. was flawlessly cast in a series of brilliant Iron Man movies.

Captain America and Thor were given fantastic films, then Marvel owned the cinematic universe when The Avengers brought everything together.

Even 20th Century Fox finally got their shit together when they rose above their X-Man disasters by releasing X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine, both of which were excellent.

DC Comics has fared less well, unleashing turds like Green Lantern and Man of Steel, but I remain hopeful. More or less. Time for a look at ten upcoming super-hero film projects...

  • Thor: The Dark World. Haven't seen it yet. Hear it's great. I expect it to be great.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Previews look amazing, and it looks like we'll finally get to see S.H.I.E.L.D. the way it was meant to be seen and the way the boring-ass television show will never reach.
  • Amazing Spider-Man 2. I thought the reboot was okay, but wasted a lot of time retreading old territory. This should be a much better film.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past. Despite being helmed by Bryan Singer, who fucked up both the X-Men and Superman franchises, the previews look pretty darn amazing. Hopefully Singer finally has material so awesome even he can't screw it up.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy. I just don't know. This is one wacky property (Rocket Raccoon!), but Marvel obviously knows what they're doing given their flawless run of films, so I'm trusting it will be worth watching.
  • The Fantastic Four. The past two F.F. films were tragically bad, but I am very hopeful that 20th Century Fox's recent turn-around will knock the reboot out of the park. This is one franchise that really deserves a great film.
  • Ant-Man. Beloved director Edgar Wright has been working on this film a very long time, and I had no doubt he would come up with something brilliant and unique. Now it seems he is re-tooling the material to fit better into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which gives me pause. And yet... I hear rumors that Paul Rudd is being considered for Hank Pym, which would be perfect. So I keep positive.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron. There's no movie I am anticipating more than this one. If, for no other reason, to see more Iron Man.
  • Batman vs. Superman A version of Superman I hate and Ben Affleck horribly miscast as Batman. Oh well, here's hoping.
  • X-Force. Since 20th Century Fox is limited to the X-Men/Mutant and Fantastic Four franchises, it's kind of smart to expand in new directions within those territories. Whether or not this is the way to go is anybody's guess, but the introduction of Cable (who happens to be the future-son of Cyclops and Jean Grey) and his X-Force could be a logical follow-up from time-traveling Days of Future Past.

But what's missing? Time for a look at ten super-hero projects I want to see happen...

  • Wonder Woman. I mean, holy crap. COME ON ALREADY! I dare say that no other character has a more fascinating, movie-ready, cinematic story to tell than Wonder Woman, and her film could be positively epic... assuming somebody steps up to the plate and actually tells it that way.
  • Catwoman. Despite the flaming pile of excrement we got with the Halle Berry crap-fest, The Dark Knight Rises gave us Anne Hathaway as a Selina Kyle so flawless that she demands her own film.
  • Black Panther. The back-story for the Black Panther is the stuff movies were made for. This has all the potential to become Marvel's answer to Nolan's Batman, and the fact that they can't seem to see that blows my mind.
  • Green Lantern. Ryan Reynolds was perfect casting, but the movie they built around him was a pile of heinous shit with an idiotic story and horrible special effects. Despite it all, Green Lantern remains one of the best possible comic book characters for the movie treatment. Sadly, the odds of that happening any time soon are slim.
  • Doctor Strange. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe keeps edging ever closer to the realm of things magical, Doctor Strange becomes a necessity. The fact that he has some very interesting story possibilities is just the icing on the cake.
  • Death. Neil Gaiman's Death: The High Cost of Living is ready-made for a movie. It could be a great one.
  • Daredevil. I never thought that the Ben Affleck movie was that bad, but there was absolutely room for improvement. A great flick for the Man Without Fear is worth persuing.
  • Namor. The New 52 version of Aquaman shows that DC's premiere underwater super-hero can actually work without being lame. Yet the odds of him getting a movie outside of some kind of Justice League effort are crazy-small. But on Marvel's side they have Namor, The Sub-Mariner, which has no such baggage to sabotage things, and there's little doubt his story would make a compelling film. But something tells me his introduction might better be served as conflict material in an Avengers film? I dunno. But he needs to be on the big screen.
  • Black Widow & Hawkeye. Well, mostly Black Widow. But since female leads in a film are shunned by Hollywood, I guess Scarlett Johansson can bring her boyfriend along. Black Widow's brilliant efforts as a supporting character have shown she's totally deserving of her own movie.
  • Alpha Flight. Canada's answer to the Avengers could actually be a more interesting take on a super-hero team for movies. The characters would certainly provide for some deep material to draw from. And the fact that most people have never heard of them could make defying expectations less of a challenge.

There are loads of other properties I think would make good films... The Hulk, The Flash, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Deadpool, Power Pack, Luke Cage, and Doom Patrol, to name a few... but the above ten would probably have the best chance. If they're handled correctly.

And that's the trick isn't it?

Assuming studios keep getting it right more than they get it wrong, there's no reason that the success of the super-hero film genre has to end any time soon.

And now, just because this entry wouldn't feel complete without it, my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance Scorecard" is in an extended entry...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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Doctor

Posted on Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Dave!I have never been a big Doctor Who fan.

Not for lack of trying, mind you. My friend Howard was a massive fan, and was forever trying to get me interested in the show. He could never understand why I wasn't a fan given my love of science fiction and British television. Indeed, Doctor Who seemed as though it were custom-made for somebody like me. But, alas, it never made much of an impression...

Tom Baker as The Doctor

When the show was rebooted in 2005, I decided to give it my best shot. Christopher Eccleston made for an excellent modern incarnation of The Doctor and the stories were okay, but enjoying it seemed impossible given that Howard was no longer around to watch it. And so I passed.

But then it was announced that Steven Moffat (creator of one of my all-time favorite shows, Coupling) would be taking over Doctor Who with the fifth series and I was compelled to give the show another try. Wanting to prepare myself, I watched the entire fourth series. I ended up really liking David Tennant's take on The Doctor, so I had to go back and watch him in the third series. Then the second. And then I figured I might as well watch the Eccleston reboot series that restarted it all. At this point, I was enjoying the show quite a lot.

At last.

When Matt Smith took over the role of The Doctor in series five, I didn't care for him as much as Tennant. He was a bit too scattered and goofy for my tastes, but ended up being a part of my favorite Doctor Who episode of all time... Vincent and the Doctor. Over time, he grew on me, and I think his quirky demeanor ended up giving us an excellent Doctor.

And now tonight, after three series' worth of episodes and specials, we get Matt Smith's penultimate swan song on the character with a 50th Anniversary Special... The Day of the Doctor, guest-starring David Tennant!

The Day Of The Doctor

Given the time-traveling nature of the show and the fact that The Doctor "regenerates" into a new body when he dies, the concept of Doctor Who meeting himself is not new. Heck, for the 20th Anniversary Special, five incarnations of The Doctor appeared in the same episode. But in this case the meeting is far from from a marketing gimmick... it's intrinsic to the story. It's also part of Steven Moffat's effort to bridge the original series with the reboot series via a mysterious "War Doctor" (John Hurt!) while re-writing Doctor Who history at the same time.

The result is one of the best episodes of Doctor Who yet.

Well, kinda.

The special effects are stellar and the story is good, but things got a little goofy and slapsticky along the way which pulled me out of the show. Given the importance of this episode it would have been nice if they would have kept the silliness down to a minimum, but Moffat seemed to be going for laughs more than anything else and that's a shame. The serious stuff happening on-screen is trivialized in a way that undermines the entire plot.

I'm not going to recap anything here... because if you're a Doctor Who fan, you undoubtedly already know it... and if you're not, you probably don't care. But I will say that if you aren't familiar with the show or have been avoiding it for one reason or another, The Day of The Doctor may be worth your time. Sure, you may be confused (I know I was), but it's a pretty good way to see what all the fuss is about. And to understand why Doctor Who has endured for fifty years...

Who? All The Doctors!

You can get the 50th Anniversary Special... The Day of the Doctor on iTunes by following this link.

If you are new to The Doctor, I also recommend watching Doctor Who Explained, which will get you caught up.

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Bullet Sunday 356

Posted on Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Dave!Don't give another thought to your impending doom... because Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Einstein. You know how somebody comes out with a product you just love, so you buy and buy and buy... fully expecting to get sick of it, but all that happens is you end up loving it more? That was me when it came to Kraft "Bagel-fuls." These delicious bits of amazing are pre-cooked bagels wrapped around cream cheese (and other fillings) then frozen. You keep them in your refrigerator, then pop them in your toaster when you have a bagel craving. The brilliant part? The outside is deliciously crispy while the cream cheese stays cool. Truly an amazing product, and I ate them constantly...

Bagel-fuls

Until they were discontinued. I couldn't find them anywhere.

Then, like a miracle, Bagel-fuls mysteriously reappeared in my grocer's freezer... but now they're branded as coming from Einstein Bros. Bagels. Regardless, they're the same thing and taste as amazing as ever. Now everybody needs to go to their local grocery store and buy every box so that they don't get discontinued again. Thanks!

   
• LEGO. At long last, the follow-up to LEGO Batman 2 has arrived... LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes!

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

If you've played any of the LEGO video games before, this is pretty much more of the same... but with some nice upgrades in play mechanics and graphics. For the most part, it's an amazing game that's just as good as Batman 2... featuring the same easy puzzles, massive list of playable characters, adorable story-lines, clever cut-scenes (that now TALK!), and open-world play. All is not perfect though. LEGO still has shitty flying and targeting controls, and it drives me nuts from time to time when the pressure's on. Still... the Xbox 360 version I bought is an awesome and fun game that even an adult can play. Highly recommended.

IMPORTANT... I should note that the reviews for the Nintendo 3DS version of LEGO Marvel Superheroes are really bad. I bought a copy because I love LEGO on the go gaming... but I returned it unopened the minute the reviews started pouring in. This is really sad given the quality of other 3DS LEGO games (save Lord of the Rungs, which is a rare exception), and I wonder how something like this happens given how great Batman 2 was. Oh well. Money saved and all that.

   
• Kermit. I admit that I am not a big fan of the post-Henson Muppets... but holy cow does this look like fun...

Count me in!

   
• LAIKA. Speaking of fun... the stop-motion animated film ParaNorman was on sale for Halloween and I had heard good things about it, so I grabbed it. For reasons unknown, I only got around to watching it now. It's absolutely beautiful. Between this and films like Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, stop-motion-animation just keeps blowing me away. Bravo LAIKA Studios...

Interestingly enough, this cartoon was considered "controversial" when it was released because one of the lead characters ends up being gay. I kept waiting for the kid-inappropriate graphic gay sex scene, but it never came. All I saw was one quick throw-away joke about a character's sexuality at the end, and that was it. So, apparently, just the fact that gay people are acknowledged to exist in a cartoon is enough to spark controversy. The only thing controversial to me is that idiots who find this controversial n the year 2013.

   
• Hunger. And, while we're on the subject of movies... THIS has to be the funniest movie review I've ever seen...

The Onion strikes again! When it comes to The Funny, they consistently knock it out of the park.

   
And... another Bullet Sunday slides into the sweet abyss.

   

Goodbye

Posted on Monday, November 25th, 2013

Dave!Damn. I'm not going to lie. Few moments in television history have shocked me so badly or hurt me so badly as watching last night's episode of The Family Guy (so, yeah, spoilers and stuff are ahead).

   

   

   

   

The show is recorded on my DVR every Sunday, but I usually save it for later in the week. Last night I had to stay up until midnight for a time-sensitive bit of work, so I watched it shortly after it had aired... with no warning and no internet spoilers.

Today, of course, the story is burning up the internets.

Which, I suppose, was the entire point of what happened... though I'm sure it wasn't the only reason. And while it's entirely possible that events will eventually become undone, I'd hope that the writers would respect the show too much to actually undo it.

And yet...

Brian Hugs

I sure will miss one of the best characters ever to air on television.

Animated or otherwise.

   

CinaTacoBoniBell

Posted on Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Dave!I finally made it to Taco Bell so I could try their new "Cinnabon Delights"... which are little balls of dough that are filled with Cinnabon frosting, then rolled in cinnamon-sugar. Kind of a faster-food version of a fast-food version of a cinnamon roll.

When I first heard of them, my reaction was to say "God exists. And he's working at Taco Bell. I love stuff like this... totally bad for you, yet utterly delicious. Much like so many things on Taco Bell's menu (Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, anyone?).

Here is what got me so excited...

Cinnabon Delights by Taco Bell

Even the photo is orgasm-inducing.

But how does reality stack up?

Meh.

First of all, none of my bites were filled with hot frosting goo as shown in the ads...

Cina-Taco-Bon-Bell

They were kind of mooshy inside... like the frosting goo had been absorbed or something. Maybe they had been sitting out too long? But they did taste like there was Cinnabon frosting inside, so I guess that's what's important.

But the bigger problem with these things is the texture. The sugar crystals are a bit big, so they add a grainy gritty feeling when you take a bite. Do not like. If they could fix this, I'd probably enjoy them a lot more because the flavor is pretty decent.

In the meanwhile, I'll just track down a Cinnabon shop when I have a craving for cinnamony goodness.

Of course the nearest Cinnabon is just over two hours away, so maybe time constraints or desperation will have me cruising Taco Bell after all.

Such is my lot in life.

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Grey

Posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Dave!First there was "Black Friday."

And now, because the holidays simply aren't consumer-driven enough, tomorrow we're getting "Grey Thursday," formerly known as "Thanksgiving." Stores will be opening up for "pre-sales" so people can go shopping instead of having to spend time with their families. This has sparked a massive outcry from a lot people who think the holiday is sacred or something.

Personally, I don't give a shit. I try to be thankful for everything I have every day and I don't need a day set aside to remember to remember. My plans for tomorrow are to fly out on a work trip, which is nothing new. I've worked on Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember... even in the good ol' days of big family dinners and Thanksgiving celebrations.

But that's my choice, and I'm not alone. Most people I know who work on the holidays just arrange their celebrations and family time around their jobs. This includes people who work at hotels... restaurants... gas stations... and other service-oriented businesses that typically stay open for Thanksgiving. It's just the way it is, and has been for a very long time.

But now that Wal-Mart and Target doing it, people are losing their fucking minds?

A hotel clerk works on Thanksgiving and fuck 'em. But a Wal-Mart cashier works on Thanksgiving and the world is ending. I'm trying to wrap my head around the logic there, but am coming up empty.

All I know is that so long as our society continues to respond to the consumerism of the holiday season, retailers are going to accommodate them. There's money to be made, after all.

And this being America, that's something to be thankful for... isn't it?

   

Thankfully

Posted on Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Dave!Not a good day to be a tasty bird.

But is there a good day to be a tasty bird?

   

DaveToon: Turkey Peace

   

   

And, to my Jewish friends... Happy Hanukkah!

Stay safe out there everybody.

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Soup

Posted on Friday, November 29th, 2013

Dave!My original plan yesterday was to drive over to Seattle for my flight to Atlanta today.

But crazy weather patterns across the country convinced me fly to Seattle instead. If a freak storm were to hit in The Cascades, I'd be screwed. By law, you have to carry chains for your car here in the winter... but my piece-of-shit Saturn can't actually wear the chains I carry in my trunk (something I didn't find out until after I bought it). And so I avoid mountain travel if I can.

Also... it was nice not to have to drive the 2-1/2 hours.

Alas, my plan seemed doom to failure. Because while it was blue skies and sun in Wenatchee...

Wenatchee Sun

Across the mountains it was a different story entirely. Low-laying fog had flooded everything...

Seattle Fog

Seattle Fog

Seattle Fog

The pilot warned us that we may face delays or possible cancellation, which is nothing new. From November through February, a lot of flights get cancelled around here.

But, luckily, not today. Even though it was like soup at SeaTac...

Seattle Airport Fog

Hooray.

And speaking of reasons to celebrate... I was shocked to find that, back in Wenatchee, the Fancher Heights Bypass project had finally opened!

But let's back up a minute...

The Wenatchee Airport at Pangborn Field is not actually in Wenatchee. It's in the city of East Wenatchee, which is a different place altogether (it's even in a different county). Natives like to remind people of this by referring to their city as "Eastmont" instead of "East Wenatchee." All the schools are named with "Eastmont"... a lot of businesses are named with "Eastmont"... it's all Eastmont all the time. Even though the official name of the city is still, in fact, "East Wenatchee."

The problem with East Wenatchee is that the main thoroughfare (which is apparently called "Sunset Highway") that connects Highway 2 to the airport is heavily residential and has lots of side-streets. With all the traffic and stop-lights that run its length, getting through it can be quite a chore. Which is why they decided to build a bypass running just below the pricey Fancher Heights neighborhood like so...

East Wenatchee Route

Today I got to drive it for the first time.

Since the new route connects with Eastmont Avenue... they named the entire thing "Eastmont Avenue" which is not the least bit surprising because, well, you know... it's Eastmont, and all.

The road is great. Traffic was fairly quiet on Thanksgiving, so I only saved about 5-7 minutes getting to the airport, but I can see where you could easily pick up 10-20 minutes during peak traffic hours.

And when was the last time you heard good news concerning traffic? Probably never.

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Kinky

Posted on Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Dave!I had written a long, drawn-out entry about the absurd reactions I've been reading regarding the cast of Kinky Boots performing at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade... but even I didn't want to read it, so I trashed it and moved on with my life.

Suffice to say that I just don't get it. What is so terrifying about drag queens in shiny boots?

Kinky Boots Macys

I especially don't get the "BUT WHAT AM I GOING TO TELL MY CHILDREN?!?? reaction, which has to be about the most incredibly stupid thing to say in ANY situation. Tell them whatever the heck you want. If you're hugely offended that drag queens exist, just channel your inner bigot and say something to that effect. They're your kids and you're the one raising them, so be a fucking parent and do your damn job.

Years ago I was at my friends' house where we were watching The Bird Cage while their kids were out playing in the pool. When one of the kids came in for a snack, he saw the television and said "Why is that man dressed like a girl? To which his mother replied "Oh he's just being silly and having fun."AND THAT WAS THE END OF IT. The kid shrugged his shoulders, finished his sandwich, then went outside to play some more. Nobody ever gave it a second thought. Nobody was scarred for life. Society didn't fall. Humanity endured. The universe soldiered onward.

And yet, to read some of the reactions by "parents" whose kids were   =gasp!=   exposed to men wearing women's clothing during a parade... you would think that the world had ended.

Which, naturally, means that they're training their children to think the world is ending. Because of the clothes somebody was wearing.

These are sure going to be some well-adjusted kids when they grow up.

In other news... the Broadway show Kinky Boots (which I have not seen) is based on an awesome movie of the same name starring Chiwetel Ejiofor...

Kinky Boots Movie Poster

If you haven't seen it, it's worth a look.

Unless, of course, the idea of seeing a man in women's clothing is so traumatic that you'll get the vapors. In that case, I don't know what to tell you.

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