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Ripped

Posted on Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Dave!This morning I made the heinous error of starting work at 4:00am.

So I was pretty much done by noon. Except I couldn't be done by noon, and so I pushed through for another six hours.

I have nothing left for this blog. So I offer this...

Monkey Kitty!

   

Have a nice evening.

   

Bullet Sunday 370

Posted on Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Dave!No more bitching about how your favorite movie/actor/director didn't win an Oscar, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Oscar! First of all, I just have to say that Ellen DeGeneres did an amazing job as host. Funny, entertaining, yet still nice to everybody. And now my take on the big awards...

  • BEST PICTURE: Should have won: 12 Years a Slave. Won: 12 Years a Slave. This was an incredible movie that was painful to watch. Totally Oscar-worthy, even though I doubt I will ever watch it again.
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Should have won: ? Three-Way Tie ?. Won: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity). This was hard. I honestly felt that David O. Russell (American Hustle), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), and Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), all had a claim to the prize. That Russell both wrote and directed American Hustle made me want him to win a bit more over the others, but the technical challenges that Cuarón had to rise above were legion, so I get it. McQueen is a solid choice too, so I just don't know.
  • BEST ACTOR: Should have won: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). Won: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club). McConaughey was good, but I just didn't see his role (or the film, in general) to be riveting enough to grab the prize. Ejiofor on the other hand?
  • BEST ACTRESS: Should have won: Sandra Bullock (Gravity). Won: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine). I fucking hate Woody Allen and, even though I'm sure Blanchett was her usual incredible self, I'd rather any other picture win. Bullock managed to overcome a lot of technical challenges to pull out a very good performance, so I'd probably give her the nod.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Should have won: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave). Won: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club). Leto was the best thing about Dallas Buyers Club, but the sheer volume of emotional wreckage that Fassbender had to claw his way out of to deliver his performance must have been epic.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Should have won: Lupita Nyong'o, (12 Years a Slave). Won: Lupita Nyong'o, (12 Years a Slave). A complete no-brainer. Nyong'o had the performance to beat (even though I love Jennifer Lawrence so much that I probably wouldn't complain if she won it for her awesome turn on American Hustle).
  • BEST ANIMATED PICTURE: Should have won: Frozen. Won: Frozen. Animation god, Hayao Miyazaki, had his final feature film (The Wind Rises) in the running and I would have loved for him to have won... but Frozen was the film to beat.

   
• Marshmallow! And speaking of Frozen... there's a lot of things I could say about this brilliant Disney animated feature. Maybe that will happen later in the week. In the meanwhile, how much does everybody love Marshmallow? Probably my favorite animated character since Sully from Monster's Inc....

Frozen Marshmallow

If you love Marshmallow too, be sure to keep watching past the Frozen credits.

   
• Ark! As I mentioned a year-and-a-half ago when I visited The Creation Museum, the group behind it all (Answers in Genesis) is working on a second museum... ARK ENCOUNTER! Apparently it's going to be a life-size replica of Noah's Ark (or something like that). They were in a bit of financial trouble but, after their leader Ken Ham had a much-publicized debate with Bill Nye The Science Guy, it apparently garnered them enough attention that they got their money after all. Personally, I can't wait to go... even though I believe absolutely none of it...

Ark Encounter Drawing

There's some pretty harsh criticism of Bill Nye for giving Ken Ham a platform to "legitimatize" his beliefs... but that seems kinda lame. I may vehemently disagree with Ken Ham, but I find value in understanding what he (and countless others) believe to be true, so I was happy to have a chance to see him actively debating it. And I'm looking forward to ARK ENCOUNTER as well... if it's as nicely done as The Creation Museum, it'll be worth a stop.

   
• About! Nick Hornby's About a Boy is a remarkable book that I've read at least three times. Much to my shock, the movie adaptation starring Hugh Grant was quite good... though very different in parts (and with a crappy Hollywood ending slapped on). So when I heard NBC was creating a television series for About a Boy, I was intrigued...

About a Boy TV Poster

And so I watched it only to find out it was TOTAL SHIT. As an adaptation of the book. As a television show though? Not terrible. Not good, but not terrible. It seems to be based more on the movie adaptation than the book, but it fails pretty badly there too. The concept is the same, however. Will Freeman's dad wrote a hit Christmas song that set him up for life. Since he doesn't have to worry about money, he's living a self-absorbed life that revolves around fun instead of responsibility. Enter Marcus Brewer. He's an odd kid (mostly due to his mother, Fiona, who has severe emotional problems), and he's ruthlessly bullied at school. Will and Marcus cross paths, and both their lives are forever changed. The movie, while not entirely faithful to the book, does get a number of things right. Most importantly, they very clearly show just how miserable a life that Marcus leads and how terrifying it is to not know from moment to moment whether his mom is going to survive her depression. The TV show? Pretty much none of that. They focus more on Will being an idiot than the boy in About a Boy. And that's the biggest problem. The kid playing Marcus is good, but you never feel for him or his situation. And that leads to the entire premise of the show falling apart. And who knows if we'll ever see Ellie, a critical character from the book who was glossed over in the film and seems to be absent from the TV show entirely (so far). I dunno. I guess I'll give it a shot for a while, but my love of the book and movie is kind of killing me here. Maybe if I play the absolutely amazing movie soundtrack while I watch the TV version it'll be more tolerable?

   
• OREO! So Marshmallow Crispy OREOs and Cookie Dough OREOs happened a while back, but I've only just now gotten around to trying them...

New OREOs! Marshmallow Crispy OREO Cookie Dough OREO

Love the Marshmallow Crispy version. They're very sweet, but the crap actually tastes like a Rice Krispies treat in the middle! The Cookie Dough? Not so much. The flavor is vaguely there, but it actually seems more like coffee(?) (which I hate) than cookie dough. Doen layik it.

   
Sorry to end on a down-note, but I do proclaim this Sunday's bullets ended!

   

Dazeem

Posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Dave!There's some irony that my copy of the Kickstarter-backed book project I wonder what it's like to be dyslexic shows up the day after John Travolta transformed "Idina Menzel" into "Adele Dazeem" while introducing the singer at the Oscars.

I, for one, don't know whether or not John Travolta has dyslexia. It doesn't show up in his Wikipedia profile, and a cursory Google search doesn't reveal an interview where he discusses it. When people talk about John Travolta having dyslexia, I think they are confusing him with fellow Scientologist Tom Cruise, who has stated that Scientology helped him to overcome his dyslexia. Honest mistake, I guess.

However... as somebody who lives with a mild form of dyslexia, I can say that mangling "Idina Menzel" into "Adele Dazeem" certainly feels like something which can be attributed to dyslexia. But not everybody with dyslexia experiences it the same way, so the only person who can say for sure whether it was a factor is... John Travolta.

All I can do is speculate based on my experience, which would go something like this...

For the most part, seeing words as being made up of letters is not how I read. The Roman alphabet upon which English writing is based has letterforms that easily transform or flipped around when viewed individually. Thus my mind can play havoc with "p" and "q" and "d" and "b"... all of which can be mistaken for each other. And that's just the beginning. English has numerous complexities that make understanding words from letters no easy chore.

Nope. How I seem to read is to recognize words by their shape... as most people do, to a certain extent. But since I ignore the letters, which can be confusing, the shape alone is critical to comprehension. Which is why there are many factors that lead to how easily and how quickly I can absorb something. The contrast between letter color and the background color... the size of the text... how far apart the letters are... how wide the letters are... how tired I am... etc. etc. etc. But the biggest factor by far? The typeface (or font) used. If things get too fancy or deviate too far from the standard letterforms I read 96% of the time, my reading speed takes a dive and things get a bit difficult...

Dyslexic Shape

As illustrated above, cursive fonts are the worst. Unlike "standard" serif and sans-serif fonts which maintain a distinct shape... cursive writing just degenerate into a mess of lines to me. There's no "form" for me to pull out of the words, so I have to struggle through the actual letters to try and figure out what I'm reading. As you can imagine, things like wedding invitations, fancy poetry journals, and the like can be a real bitch.

Which brings us to Adele Dazeem.

Reading by shape pretty much requires that most of the words you're reading are words you're familiar with and can recognize.

"Idina" and "Menzel" are not such words. Beautiful as it is, John Smith it ain't. Enter the dyslexic swapity-do, where syllables get shuffled in your head as you strugle to make sense of the letters and what they're spelling to you...

Dyslexic Shuffle

Now, I'm not making excuses here. I don't even know for sure if Travolta is dyslexic. If he is though... the pressure of presenting an unfamiliar and difficult name live in front of a bazillion Oscar viewers is going to be rough-going no matter how much you've prepared. Even if he memorized the intro, it's not a guarantee of success when words are a struggle for you. All I can say for sure is this: If John Travolta is dyslexic, I very much admire the guts it takes to put yourself in a high-pressure situation (like live television) where words are involved.

And while I think it's a bit harsh to make fun of someone who is challenged with something as fundamental as reading... having a sense of humor over stuff like this is kinda essential.

Thus I, Dawid Shunter, give you... The Adele Dazeem Name Generator!

Here's hoping your Monday was better than John Travolta's.

Unless you ARE John Travolta, in which case... I LOVED YOU IN PULP FICTION!

   

King

Posted on Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Dave!IT'S FAT TUESDAY, PEOPLE!!!

I know I've posted this DaveToon before, but it's one of my all-time favorites. Just like New Orleans. Happy Mardi Gras, everybody...

DAVETOON: Baby Dave on a King Cake!

   

And now I want a piece of King Cake.

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The VCR

Posted on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Dave!The video was recorded on an old VHS tape which had been in service far past the point it should have been discarded. Carter's annoyance with the badly degraded image caused his right eye to twitch, but nobody in the room seemed to notice.

"Look! Look at this!" Carter said as his finger punched the rewind button yet again. Then, for what seemed like the fiftieth time, he pressed play.

The VCR lurched into action with a heavy "clunk" as the tiny television came to life.

A nondescript convenience store materialized out of a wash of video noise. The image was so bleached of color that it might as well have been black and white. The camera was focused on the service counter where a young man was ringing up purchases into a cash register. His customer, a middle-aged man in a full business suit, stood waiting with his wallet open.

There was no sound, but everybody's imagination was filling in the blanks. A 2-liter bottle of Coke. Beep Beep Beep. A bag of OREO cookies. Beep Beep Beep. A roll of mints. Beep Beep.

The image began to shudder as a blast of jagged white lines started rolling through the picture. Then, just as suddenly as it had been obscured, the image cleared again. The store clerk had finished ringing up the man's purchases and was dumping everything into a plastic bag. The customer tossed a wad of bills on the counter as a woman appeared behind him holding a six-pack of beer in her left hand.

"Here it comes!" Carter whispered.

The woman, who had very dark skin, closely-cropped hair, and was wearing a magenta mini-skirt that burst out of the muted display like a signal flare, was talking to the man now. It was impossible to know what she was saying, but the man appeared calm and relaxed.

At least he was until she pulled a gun out of the breast pocket of her heavy black leather jacket and shot him twice in the heart.

Carter laughed with a high-pitched squeal and started rewinding the tape again. "Just look at you there with your big gun and stiletto heels! What a mess you made!"

"I know, I was there."

The woman from the video sat bound to a high-back chair. Her jacket was now splattered with blood that had dried to a dark carmine color. One of her eyes was swollen and her lip had been split. This time the blood was fresh and glistened a bright crimson.

"Yes. Yes... you... were," Carter said with a grumble as he pressed play for what seemed like the fifty-first time. The woman's eyes rolled back in her head as the scene started yet again.

"Tell me, Monica, because I truly am curious... who got to you? Who convinced you that betraying me was in your best interest? Who was it that deluded you into believing this was survivable?"

On the display, a store clerk was ringing up a 2-liter bottle of Coke. Now, in the recorded past, he's reaching for a bag of OREOs.

The woman tried to shift her position to something more comfortable, but the tubing that tied her to the chair was too tight. She tried twisting her torso to loosen her bonds, but was defeated. With nothing better to do, she began to speak. Carter stopped the tape and tossed the VCR remote on a nearby table.

"Your interdimensional friends, of course," Monica said, her voice eerily flat and expressionless. "They told me everything. They spoke to me from a beam of sunlight and told me that you were going to destroy the world."

If Carter was surprised, he didn't show it.

"But you're wrong about one thing. They never told me this was survivable. I have no delusions."

Now something changed on Carter's face. Fear?

The woman began to speak again, but her voice was drowned out by a high-pitched squeal. Carter and his assortment of hired killers were all covering their ears. Monica would have covered hers if she could, but she was tied to a chair and couldn't move. It didn't matter. The sound was growing louder, and nothing was going to stop it.

Despite the deafening audio assault hammering into her skull and the brilliant white glow clawing its way out of her chest, the woman smiled. She had sacrificed herself so that the whole world might live. She had atoned for her many sins and, if there were a heaven, she was guaranteed entry. After a decade of despair, she finally had something to smile about. She finally understood.

And then Monica exploded in ball of light, taking six city blocks with her.

Carter died wondering how things had gone so terribly wrong.

Sixteen dimensions away, a sunbeam quivers in amusement. Tomorrow he will shift back through the time stream and find something new to play with. But today? This refraction is over, and he's hungry. He wonders what frequency of photons will be served for dinner. There are no shadows in his world.

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Weeks

Posted on Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Dave!Two weeks.

Two weeks until I blow this popsicle stand for twelve whole days...

Vacation Countdown: 14 Days!

   
Guess I should really start making plans and stuff.

   

MH370

Posted on Friday, March 7th, 2014

Dave!Every time there's a mishap, problem, disaster, or close-call with a flight, I'm inevitably asked something along the lines of "You fly a lot... don't you worry about this happening to you?"

To which I always answer "No. Not even a little bit."

And every time I say it, I realize that people must think I'm lying... or dismissing them... or saying whatever I have to say to convince myself that I'm invincible. But I'm really not. And this is why...

Flight Radar World Map

That's a FlightRadar24 map of all the commercial planes in the air right now. Thousands of them. And here's a close-up look at what's flying over the mainland US alone...

Flight Radar World Map

That's pretty much going on all day long, though things shift a bit as some parts of the world go to sleep and other parts wake up. With this kind of traffic in the air 24/7, it's easy to see how flying truly IS one of the safest activities you can do. My drive to the airport is a far, far more dangerous journey than my upcoming flight to Europe.

And so no, I don't worry about flying.

Not even a little bit.

If it happens, it happens. But the odds are so mind-bogglingly low that it's just not worth fretting over.

Getting trapped in a middle-seat between a smelly person and a crying baby however?

   
My deepest sympathies to everyone affected by the disappearance of Malaysian Flight MH370.

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Cranky

Posted on Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Dave!Today was a piece of crap smothered by a pile of shit kind of day.

As if that weren't bad enough, everybody in North America living where Stupid Fucking Daylight Saving Time is observed has to "Spring Forward" with their clocks tonight. Which means there's one less hour of sleep tomorrow morning. Which means that everybody's internal clock is going to be fucked up for a couple weeks. Which means everybody's cranky and unproductive. Which means everybody is angry and nothing gets done...

DAVETOON: Bad Monkey on Springs!

Stupid Fucking Daylight Saving Time. I MEAN, COME ON! PICK A TIME SCHEME AND STICK WITH IT! SERIOUSLY, EITHER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE OR JUST FUCKING PICK ONE. I DON'T EVEN GIVE A SHIT WHICH ONE... STANDARD TIME... DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME... AMERICAN SAMOA TIME... WHATEVER TIME YOU WANT. JUST STOP DICKING AROUND WITH THE DAMN CLOCKS!

Okay then. I'm good for six months now.

   

Bullet Sunday 371

Posted on Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Dave!Hope you're fully functional on one less hour of sleep today... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Persecution? My very first bullet of the day got a little out of control, so I'm saving it for an entry of its own tomorrow. Don't you love it when that happens? I'm a blog entry ahead for once!

   
• No Sale! Ke$ha has exited rehab... and celebrated the occasion by dropping the dollar-sign from her name! Say wha-?!? So now Ke$ha is Kesha and I'm not sure what that's going to mean for the future. Hopefully it still includes her working a metal plate on her crotch with a metal grinder, because isn't that what we all expect out of Ke$ha... errr... Kesha?

<nobr>Ke$ha</nobr> Dances

Whatever she calls herself, best of luck as she gets out of rehab and moves on with her life and her music.

   
• Enlisted! This show is so much better than it has a right to be...

Enlisted On FOX!

Seriously. I had -zero- hope for this series. The ads all looked stupid-horrible. The concept of three brothers in the Army sounded lame. The only reason I bothered to tune in at all was because I liked Geoff Stults in The Finder. After the first episode, I was in shock that I liked it. The show was more smart than stupid... more funny than not. After the second episode, I was upset that I ended up liking it even more. Now I've just given up all pretenses of hating Enlisted and enjoy watching it. If you haven't given it a try, and you like comedy, it might be worth a look.

   
• Wenatchee! The valley in which I live is abuzz over this pretty new promo video that was released this week...

What's odd... or maybe it's not odd at all... is that the video barely touches on the City of Wenatchee itself. They fly above it. They explore around it. They look at it from afar. But I'm guessing only 5% of the footage actually takes place there. City streets, buildings, parks, public spaces, services, and all the other stuff that someone visiting Wenatchee proper would recognize and see... it's all condensed into a few seconds. Growing up in this area, I used to think that Wenatchee was a boring shithole in the middle of some nice scenery. And while the city has grown and changed since those days... along with my attitude towards it... it seems as though the filmmakers felt the best thing about Wenatchee was getting the hell out of it. So I guess I can relate. I've been there. And I've been to Wenatchee too.

   
• Quark! For a hefty amount of time in computing history, desktop publishing was owned by a single company, Quark, and their software solution, QuarkXpress. It was a majestic mess of a program that I always hated... so much so that I would often-times use Adobe Illustrator for page layout, even though it was ill-equipped to handle that task. I didn't care. I'd rather juggle 50 separate Adobe Illustrator files than a single 50-page document in Quark because it was ultimately far less hassle. Even their "competition," PageMaker, which was woefully underpowered for serious DTP was a better choice. Quark was a buggy, crash-prone mess that ate up so much time, money, and resources that anything was a better solution. Then Adobe came out with InDesign, which was sheer nirvana compared to shitty Quark, and I never looked back. Even when somebody sent me a Quark file to work with, I'd inevitably recreate the entire thing in InDesign from scratch because it would be less work than having to fire up Xpress to deal with it.

Whether that's your experience with Xpress mimics mine... or whether you loved it with a passion that InDesign could never match... anyone who has been touched by QuarkXpress should read this terrific article over at Ars about the rise and fall of a giant.

   
• HBO! And lastly? This fan-made mash-up trailer for Game of Thrones... as if it were airing in the 1990's... is pure genius, even if you know nothing about the show...

Seriously. This is a flawless victory so far as tributes go.

   
And now? Bullets be gone!

   

Persecuted

Posted on Monday, March 10th, 2014

Dave!And here's that missing bullet from yesterday...

When it comes to the politics of religion, I generally remain silent because the fallout just isn't worth it. Even when I make a simple observation on the topic with no opinion whatsoever, it seems I end up with hate-mail or nasty comments. And it's not just here on Blogography. I once made the following comment on Facebook...

"Separation of church and state only seems to work one way, and that's to the sole benefit of the churches. They are given tax-exempt status so that their financial operations are kept separate from the government, as interpreted by the First Amendment, and that's fine. That's the law. But more and more we are seeing churches being actively involved in politics and government. They use their monies to sponsor candidates for public office, back legislation, contribute to lobbying efforts, and otherwise influence or control matters of the state. They are clearly not maintaining a separation from their side of the bargain. And yet there are no repercussions for them doing so. Get caught stepping over the line and you should be getting your tax exempt status revoked. But how often do we hear of that happening? Our government is tasked with upholding The Constitution and protecting the religious freedoms of the people they serve. Apparently this doesn't include protecting a person's freedom from religion. Which is why I want to vomit every time I see somebody claiming that they're being persecuted because they can't put Jesus on top of a post office... or same-sex couples can get married... or somebody says "happy holidays"... or whatever. Clearly, they have no fucking clue what "persecution" even means. Some churches have evolved into tax-free political action committees operating outside the law, and nobody does shit about it. The truth is that the only people being persecuted in this scenario are people wanting to live their lives free from religious rule and have a government free from church influence."

I ended up having to de-friend two Facebook "friends" and completely blocked a third over it.

And so I try to avoid the subject entirely, even though I think things are far worse now than they were when I wrote that five years ago. As churches and people of faith... namely, the Christian Right... feel more and more threatened by things they don't like (e.g. marriage equality), they've stepped up the persecution rhetoric to an all-time high. Many times I've wanted to write about this grotesque mockery of people who are enduring actual religious persecution... and the height of hypocrisy fueling it... yet I have resisted.

But now I don't have to write about it because somebody has written about it for me: News Flash to Christian Right: Religious Freedom Doesn't Give You the Right to Control Other People. So thank you, Robert Boston.

The only reservation I have over endorsing articles like this is the same one I always have... it does not apply to all Christians. I'm guessing it doesn't apple to most Christians. Not only that, but it could equally apply to any religious organization which feels their beliefs should dictate how other people live their lives in a society built on freedom of religion.

Or Freedom from Religion, as the case may be.

   

Unbeliever

Posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Dave!I am watching a new show called Believe off my DVR. It seems to be a "girl with special powers on the run" rip-off of Steven King's Firestarter, except it's total shit... which is surprising given the fact that it was created by Alfonso Cuarón and is being produced by J.J. Abrams. Right now a little girl just started screaming her head off which is exactly the kind of thing I go out of my way to avoid in real life. Why somebody would think I want to listen to this crap as entertainment is beyond me. What's next? A man stares at the camera while chewing with his mouth open and clipping his fingernails?

HELPFUL HINT: If You are creating a television series, try not to actively annoy the ever-loving-shit out of your viewers. And if you do, don't expect them to hang around.

Which is advice I should have given myself when it comes to writing in this blog.

But at least I don't make my viewers sit through a bunch of commercials. That's gotta count for something, right?

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2400

Posted on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Dave!Ever since the time change, I've been sleeping worse than ever. I never thought I'd look back on insomnia with longing, but at least then I was getting 4-5 hours rest a night. Now? I don't sleep at all. Even sleeping pills fail completely. I nap for maybe 20-30 minutes, two or three times a night. That's it. To be honest, I don't know how I'm conscious... let alone how I'm managing to type coherent sentences.

At least I'm guessing they are coherent.

I'd check, but there's a chocolate alligator blocking my keyboard and I won't be able to get rid of him until this bag of potato chips lands in my toothbrush. Or the taco bar beams me up again. Which would be great, because I'm really craving carpet tape. The kind with extra 2400 baud modem... not the kind that swims with toilet paper.

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Futurism

Posted on Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Dave!The cornerstone of my life-philosophy is to "Live In The Now."

But that's proving extremely difficult given that the long-awaited Veronica Mars movie is finally being released tomorrow. As if that weren't enough distraction, in a mere seven days I'm off to Europe. So I don't want to live in the now. I want to live in the future...

Vacation Countdown: 14 Days!

...but after I finish my chocolate pudding.

   

Mars

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2014

Dave!Veronica Mars is my second favorite television show of all time. Coincidentally enough, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas (not the singer) is also responsible for my first favorite television show of all time, Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original, not the shitty remake). Given my adoration of all things Rob Thomas, I had zero hesitation in joining 91,584 other fans in supporting his highly successful Kickstarter campaign to bring Veronica Mars to the big screen.

As part of my "reward" for being a backer, I get a digital copy of the film so I can watch it on the day of release. Which is today. Much to my horror, the code to access the film wasn't through iTunes, but instead via UltraViolet, which is one of the single biggest technological pieces of shit of all time. But I'll get into that in an extended entry. Meanwhile, back to the movie...

Veronica Mars Movie Poster

I'm just going to come out and say it. The central "whodunit mystery" around which the story revolves is pretty lame. A few red herrings, but none of the twists and turns or shocking revelations that made the television show so compelling. This is hardly surprising. The movie has the rather daunting disadvantage of having to educate viewers new to the franchise plus showcasing enough insider goodies to satisfy die-hard fans as well as having to catch up with an entire cast of characters people haven't seen for seven years.

To be honest, I'm surprised they managed to fit a mystery in there at all.

But squeeze it in they did, and the result is a love-letter to everybody who put up their hard-earned money to get the film made. Which is to say it's a total success story, and I don't think anybody who's a fan of the show is going to be disappointed.

The plot is fairly straight-forward. Veronica's bad-boy ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls, has been framed for murder, which results in Veronica dropping her new life in New York City so she can return home to help him out after nine long years away. Once back in Neptune, which is even more deadly, ruthless, and corrupt than ever, we catch up with all her old friends and enemies. Well, not all of them... but most of them. The laundry list of cameo appearances is shockingly long.

Where the movie shines is in the way the Rob Thomas manages to get everybody on that list involved in the story. Yes, a few of the cameos are just quick distractions (hey, Corny!), but the bulk of them are carefully interwoven into events so they are appearing for a reason. Not many writers could pull that off without everything degenerating into a pile of crap, but Thomas seems to excel at it. And that's the fun. That's what makes the movie so darn good. Yes, your appreciation of the murder mystery is deeper if you know that Carrie Bishop put herself in the firing line to seek revenge for her best friend Susan Knight getting seduced and knocked up by their history professor. Yes, Piz's familiarity with Wallace and Mac makes more sense if you knew that Piz was Wallace's roommate in college. Yes, Veronica's relationship with her father is more meaningful if you know that she destroyed his chance at a career, but he still loves her unconditionally anyway. Yes, there are scads of moments in the film that only pay-off fully if you're intimately familiar with the Veronica Mars universe. But, much to my surprise, it's still perfectly watchable even if you've never seen a minute of the television show.

But totally watch all three seasons of the television show if you plan on seeing the movie. It's so much sweeter if you do, and the original show is required viewing anyway.

So two thumbs way up and no spoilers from me!

And my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell, and everybody else who worked so hard to get the movie made. It was worth the wait. And if there's a Kickstarter campaign for a sequel... TAKE ALL MY MONEY, PLEASE! Heaven only knows the ending to the movie leaves that door wide open (perfect for the forthcoming line of books).

BONUS FEATURE! I was very happy to hear that one of my favorite bands, Mackintosh Braun, has a great new song on the Veronica Mars soundtrack. Here's their lyrics video for Don't Give In for your listening pleasure...

And now, for anybody who wants to read a rant about my efforts to plow though the pile of shit that is the "UltraViolet" digital video service, that's in an extended entry...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Smert

Posted on Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Dave!You often hear "Youth is wasted on the young."

Less often you may hear "Wealth is wasted on the rich."

Something you don't hear very often is "Intelligence is wasted on the smart." And that's probably because smart people are smart enough to put their intelligence to good use.

But not always.

I've seen a lot of stupid people do a lot of stupid shit.

Most times it's relatively harmless... like when somebody gets drunk, decides they can fly, then jumps off the roof and breaks their leg. So they end up in a cast for a while and learn a valuable lesson. Which they will immediately forget the next time they get drunk. Because they're stupid.

Sometimes it's tragic... like when somebody gets drunk, decides they can fly, then hijacks a plane and crashes it into a football stadium during playoffs. So they end up dead for a while and learn a valuable lesson. Which, unfortunately, took their life and the lives of thousands of other people to learn. Because they're stupid.

But whatever. There's no sense getting too worked up over it because it's stupidity and that's what stupid does.

No, it's when I see smart people doing stupid shit that I fly into a rage. They should know better. They're smarter than that. They have the ability make better choices.

Today I had to deal with the consequences of somebody who is incredibly smart doing something mind-bogglingly stupid. They made a horrible decision which is not only going to destroy their own life, but is going to affect a lot of people in a bad way for a long time. And the more the situation sinks in the angrier I get and the more I want to know why. Why did you do it? What could you have possibly been thinking? How could you let this happen? Why? WHY? WHY? WHY?

And so, against my better judgement, I asked them.

Their answer?

"I don't know."

You don't know?!? Really? BZZZZZZT! WRONG ANSWER! That's the answer a stupid person gives. That's the answer that comes from somebody who never bothers to think about what they're doing or what the consequences might be. That's the answer from a person who just doesn't give a fuck and has resolved to live their life free of responsibility. That's the answer you get from idiots who "don't know" because they never know anything. They don't know and they don't care that they don't know, so they never make the effort to know, and THAT'S what makes them stupid.

You often hear "Even smart people make stupid decisions".

I know first-hand that this is true.

But if you're a smart person making a stupid decision that's going to ruin lives, you'd better damn well come up with a better answer than "I don't know."

The people who cared for you and trusted you deserve better than your playing the stupid card.

   

Bullet Sunday 372

Posted on Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Dave!Stop digging out that old bomb shelter... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Cold? "Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash." — Kremlin-backed television presenter Dmitry Kiselyov, host of a weekly current affairs show in Russia. Behind him was a backdrop of a mushroom cloud following a nuclear blast. (from Reuters)

You wanna know what bothers me more than the thought of being turned into radioactive ash? I really, really, want to visit Russia. I always have. Ever since I first saw a photo of Saint Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. For most of my life, the idea of it has been an impossibility. But then the Soviet Union collapses, the cold war thaws, relations normalize, tourism becomes more and more common, and suddenly... but not really suddenly... the impossible becomes possible...

Saint Basil's Cathedral

And now I'm asking myself... Are current tensions going to blow over? Are current tensions going to escalate? What happens if they do escalate? Have I waited too long? Am I too late?

Last year I ultimately decided to visit Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. But also in the running? A river cruise through the Ukraine, including a couple stops in Crimea...

Ukraine Cruise

I guess that ship has sailed... for a while. Or forever. You just never know. How shitty is it that we can't all just get along?

   
• Flash! The first two comic books I ever bought were Green Lantern/Green Arrow #121 and The Flash #277. Not coincidentally, they became my favorite super-heroes for quite a while...

Flash and Green Lantern

At least until I discovered The Legion of Super-Heroes. And Batman, of course. But even so, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for those first heroes. Green Lantern finally made it to the big screen with a fucking horrendously shitty movie that I hated. Then Green Arrow got a very good television show I'm currently enjoying called Arrow. Next up? The Flash!

The Flash

It's a spin-off from Arrow, so my hopes are high. The costume is certainly a step in the right direction.

This isn't the first iteration of The Flash on TV. The first was a show starring John Wesley Shipp back in 1990. It was surprisingly good, but limited by the technology of the day. To say I'm anxious to see what we'll be getting in the year 2014 is an understatement. The pilot is filming now. I'm assuming we'll be seeing it this Fall. Assuming the show is picked up. That's a lot of assuming.

   
• Drop. Apple has a terrific bit of tech called "AirDrop" that allows you to share iPhone/iPad photos, contacts, files, and whatnot pretty much effortlessly. Open what you want to share, activate AirDrop, and you can beam stuff to other AirDrop users...

Air Dropi OS

Cool!

Apple has a terrific bit of tech called "AirDrop" that allows you to share Macintosh photos, contacts, files, and whatnot pretty much effortlessly. Locate the file you want to share in the Finder, activate AirDrop, and you can beam stuff to other AirDrop users...

AirDrop Mac

Cool!

BUT YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S NOT COOL?!? EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE BOTH CALLED "AIRDROP," THE iPHONE AND MAC TECHNOLOGIES ARE NOT FUCKING COMPATIBLE! This is outrageously stupid and, for the life of me, I just don't get it. I keep thinking "It's coming any day now, I'm sure!" But then it doesn't, and I get pissed off all over again. Why bother naming them both "AirDrop" if they are so different that they can't even talk to each other? How is it that Apple can be so smart in so many ways but so stupid in others?

   
• Stick! I promised myself that I wouldn't start in on the new video game, SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH, until I finished LEGO MARVEL SUPER-HEROES, but I just couldn't resist any longer. I'm a massively huge South Park fan, and the trailer looked amazing (warning, NOT safe for work)...

And you know what? It IS amazing! It looks exactly like you're "playing" an episode of the TV series. As if that weren't enough, it is frickin' hilarious. As in laugh-out-loud-funny. Not only because it's South Park, but because they've managed to create a fully-realized RPG game that's actually a parody of RPG games... with humor built into practically everything you see and do. I'll want to play it a bit more when I get back from vacation before I write a review... but, if you're a South Park and video game fan, it's pretty much a no-brainer. You simply must own this.

   
• Mars 2. The Veronica Mars movie (which I reviewed here) has only been out for three days, and already the sequel talk has started. Here's creator Rob Thomas Himself..

“With the first movie, because it was crowd-funded, it was a love letter to the fans,” he explains. “I put every character they loved back into the movie. There are a lot of inside jokes. With a second movie, I would build it from the case out. In the first movie, I feel like I did just the opposite. I put all the dessert, all the frosting on there, and then put a detective case in the middle. On the next one, I would want the detective case to be the driving force of the movie.”

It's as if he read my blog post and is answering my prayers!

Needless to say, I would be positively thrilled to get a sequel. Especially if we get a fantastic Veronica-Mars-style mystery on-par with what we saw in the first and second seasons of the show. NOW SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

   
Annnnnd... the end.

   

St. Pat’s

Posted on Monday, March 17th, 2014

Dave!I had an incredibly difficult day today.

Which wouldn't have been so bad... it's a Monday, after all... except I worked all weekend to get caught up so I would have an easy Monday.

All for naught, it would seem.

And now? I just want it all to end. St. Patrick's Day or no...

Monkeyclover

One of these years I really need to draw a new DaveToon for the holiday.

   

Tomorrow

Posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Dave!Most of my day was spent thinking "One more day. Just one more day. One. More. Day."

One more day until Winter is over. One more day until Spring is here.

One more day until I leave. One more day until I'm on vacation.

I can't fathom what tomorrow is going to be like. I can only guess I'll be skipping down the street while singing "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love yA, tomorrow. You're only a day awaaaayyyyyy!"

Dave Annie

Which would be pretty odd considering how much I hate that song.

Well, unless it's being sung by little Quvenzhane Wallis. How adorable is she?

And now... packing.

   

Penultimate

Posted on Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Dave!I had planned to catch up on work over the weekend so I'd have an easy three days leading up to vacation. Instead I worked 16 hours every day and will be up working until at least midnight tonight.

I had planned on having my suitcase packed and everything ready to go yesterday so that I could spend a night relaxing before driving over to Seattle to catch my flight. I think we all know that didn't happen. I'll be lucky if I manage to grab a handful of clean underwear as I'm running out the door tomorrow morning.

I honestly don't know who I manage to get myself into this same situation every single time I go on vacation...

Vacation Countdown ONE DAY LEFT!

Oh well. After tomorrow I suppose it won't matter.

Until I end up in Europe with no pants.

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Tripper

Posted on Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Dave!I woke up.

I finished packing.

I drove over to Seattle.

Pass Drive Glory Mountain

I made my way through SeaTac Airport (barely, as it was torn to shit as usual).

Busted SeaTac Shit!

Then I caught a flight to the Netherlands.

The end.

Or... the beginning?

   

DAY ONE: Leiden

Posted on Friday, March 21st, 2014

Dave!The flight over The Atlantic was a non-event. Which is the best kind of flight to have, really.

The plane was one of Delta's latest Airbus A330-300's which feels like the seats are even narrower than usual. It was uncomfortable for me... so I'm only guessing it must be downright miserable for at least half the passengers on the plane. I suppose it's only a matter of time before airlines do away with seats altogether. They'll just stack everybody in the plane like firewood.

On the bright side, the new entertainment system features Picture-In-Picture...

Plane PIP

After landing, I took the train to Leiden so I could kill some time until The Dutch Bitch got off work. Back in 2012 I walked around the city to see the sights, but this time it was pouring rain...

Leiden

To escape the weather, I went to Leiden's National Ethnology Museum, (Museum Volkenkunde)...

Volkenkunde Leiden Ethnology Museum

It features artifacts from peoples around the world (outside of Europe), with sections devoted to North America, South & Central America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania...

Volkenkunde Buddha Room

Volkenkunde Museum Leiden

Volkenkunde Day of the Dead

Volkenkunde Clay Figure

Volkenkunde China

The museum is incredibly well-done and has a surprisingly deep collection. The only problem is that everything is suspended in glass cases with no background, so it can be tough to focus on the artifacts. A few times I experimented with angle-shifting to see if I could add some separation, but it wasn't terribly effective...

Volkenkunde Artificat Angle-Shifting

The display spaces are pretty amazing, and full-wall projections are used to put you into the place where the artifacts are from...

Volkenkunde Oceania

Volkenkunde Oceania

And then? It was time for PATATJES MET!!!

Patatjes Met!

And now I could really use a nap...

   

DAY TWO: Rotterdam

Posted on Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Dave!I've been meaning to get to Rotterdam for years now, and today it finally happened.

The reason I most wanted to visit was so I could see the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. It's one of those places that comes up in conversation from time to time when discussing art. It totally lives up to the hype...

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

From the minute you enter and see how the coat-check room is a series of cages for your belongings and a rope-and-pulley system for your coat, you know you're in for something good...

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The collection is varied and excellent...

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

After I managed to pul myself away from the exhibits, I saw that I had plenty of time to walk to the waterfront and see Erasmusbrug (the Erasmus Bridge... also known as the "Swan Bridge" or the "Harp Bridge), then take the metro back to the train station...

Erasmus Bridge

As most of Rotterdam was destroyed in World War II, the city has a modern aesthetic, with a lot of new architectural and artistic structures...

Rotterdam

Rotterdam

Rotterdam

ANYWAY...

I had about 25 minutes to get back to Rotterdam Centraal, which was no problem since the metro only takes 10 minutes.

EXCEPT...

When I went to purchase a ticket, I found out I couldn't buy one. The machine only refilled chip-cards. No problem, I'll just buy a chip-card. Except they don't fucking sell chip-cards. No ticket window. No attendant. No Assistance. Nothing.

So I had to run as fast as I could to get back to the train station.

I hauled ass.

Which was not easy because I don't run very often. At least once along the way I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

But I made it to the station with two minutes to spare, so it's all good, right?

No. My train was running 14 minutes late and so I ran all that way for nothing...

Rotterdam Schedule

Note how my transfer time is 0 minutes. But not really... if you do the math, it's actually -7 minutes. Yay.

After all that bullshit, I decided I deserved PATATJES MET...

Patatjes Met

Well, I always feel that way, but still...

   

DAY THREE: Glasgow – Bullet Sunday 373

Posted on Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Dave!Unleash the haggis... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Prayers. Truly horrible news from back home... a massive mudslide has devastated a residential area east of Arlington in my home state of Washington. All my hopes go out to friends who have family amongst the 18 people still missing... along with everybody else affected by this tragic event.

   
• Air Yet another excellent flight on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines... this time from Amsterdam to Glasgow. My only disappointment was that they didn't hand out landing cards for non-EU citizens during the quick 1-1/2 hour trip, which meant I had to fill one out at the airport. But that's hardly worth complaining about. Oh, a bit of advice... when offered a choice between "sweet snack and savory snack," go for the savory snack, it's a packet of incredible Gouda cheese biscuits.

   
• Immigration. When you arrive at passport control there's a big sign telling you that tougher border control laws in the UK will cause a longer wait. Since I was at the front of the plane I didn't have many people ahead of me... but the sign wasn't lying. I've been to the UK many times, but on this trip I really got the third degree. They wanted to know absolutely everything about me, my job, my past travels, and the purpose of my visit. Usually I just say "tourist" but, given the level of detail they were drilling for, I literally said "I am a Hard Rock Cafe collector and I am here to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow." Then I had to explain what I collected and what else I would be doing while in the UK. And then... then... because I am such a shifty-looking character, I had to go through it all over again with a police inspector. Despite the hassle, everybody was friendly and welcoming, so I guess there's that.

   
• Cash. I never bother getting local currency for my destination ahead of time, because I usually get a better exchange rate by using a cash machine when I land. The only problem being that Glasgow's airport only has a pitiful four ATMs, all of which have insanely long lines. Since I had to have cash for bus fare into town, I was forced to wait. So lesson learned. I'll be going home with a few quid in my pocket for my next trip to the UK, as it would seem cash machines are a rare and elusive creature in these lands.

   
• No. 153. And, now, the reason for my visit... The Hard Rock Glasgow. Like many of the UK properties (both current and past), the cafe is located in a beautiful old building. This particular cafe is in a great location, directly across from the Queen's Street train station on Buchanan Street, a popular shopping district in the city. It's not at all flashy, and would be easy to miss if you weren't looking for it...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow on Buchanan Street

The interior is truly bizarre... in the best possible way. It's equal parts classical architecture and starship Enterprise...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

The bathrooms are located off a spiral staircase that's filled with silver guitar sculptures...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

The surprisingly-spacious Rock Shop is at the front of the building, and you pass right by it coming and going...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

All in all, a terrific property. Alas, sadly, the rock memorabilia adheres to the new "hipster lounge" aesthetic so it's badly displayed and there's not much of it, but at least the building is interesting. Oh... and if you're not a vegetarian like myself, you'll be happy to know that the specialty burger for this Hard Rock is a hamburger smothered in haggis with cheese on top!

   
• In A World... I was saddened to learn that one of the most famous voices on the planet, Hal Douglas, passed away. If you've ever seen a US movie trailer, odds are you know who he is... even if you didn't know his name...

One of kind. You will be missed, sir.

   
And now I must say cheerio, as I am falling asleep as I type this.

   

DAY FOUR: Edinburgh

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2014

Dave!When I learned that there was a new Hard Rock in Glasgow, my idea was to fly into Edinburgh (my favorite city on earth) and hop over and back for a quick visit. But when it came time to book my tickets, I realized that this was a risky prospect. Odds are I'd arrive in Edinburgh and never leave. So I decided to fly into Glasgow after all.

But there was no way I was going to pass on the opportunity to spend my birthday in the one place I love more than any other. No way at all. And so I took a 50-minute train ride across Scotland just because I can. But, before I go... an egg and fire-roasted tomato sandwich from Pret-A-Manger (my favorite breakfast on earth)...

Breakfast at Pret

Because the weather was so amazing,* I decided to do something I've always wanted to do when visiting Edinburgh: climb the extinct volcano there (named "Arthur's Seat") so I could look out over the city...

The Climb Up Arthur's Seat

Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

The panorama view is pretty incredible (click to embiggen)...

Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

I had photographed the city to death on my last trip here back in 2009, but I just can't help myself when it comes to the majestic old buildings, so I ended up taking a boat-load of new photos...

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Since I've been to Edinburgh many times, I'm always looking for something new to see and do. This trip, that ended up being a visit to Camera Obscura. It's a kind of museum filled with optical oddities and illusions...

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Which is all well and good, but the main attraction for me was the rooftop view...

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

And, yes, as the name implies, there is indeed a camera obscura at Camera Obscura. It's an old-school attraction that was probably a lot more impressive back in the day... but it was still interesting since I had never seen one before (you can read all about the device at Wikipedia). Basically, a lens on the roof of the building captures light and beams it down onto a big white table in a darkened room. Everybody stands around this circular "screen" as the operator pans around the city while pointing out things of interest.

Not wanting to ride the train back to Glasgow during rush hour, I said goodbye to my beloved Edinburgh after all too short a visit...

Edinburgh Castle from the Train

Once back in Glasgow, I rushed out to the famous Kelvingrove Museum so I could take a look before it closed. Part art gallery and part natural history exhibit, it was well worth the effort...

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow, Scotland

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow, Scotland

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow, Scotland

Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow, Scotland

Across the parking lot (and a creek) is the University of Glasgow. I wandered up to take a look before heading back downtown for dinner...

University of Glasgow, Scotland

University of Glasgow, Scotland

After a quick dinner (and a nap) I headed to George Square to try and get some photos without tons of people around. The beautiful Apple Store was on the way...

George Square in Glasgow, Scotland

Apple Store in Glasgow, Scotland

And that was that for my short visit to Scotland. I leave tomorrow morning on a very early flight, so off to bed I go.

   

*Dear Apple... while I love Siri, and use this miraculous feature often on my iPhone, there are times I have to wonder just how idiotic technology can be. I am in SCOTLAND. My iPhone is LOCATION AWARE. I am asking what the weather is like IN EDINBURGH. But I am given locations in the USA? Oh well... I'll just clarify that I mean the Edinburgh IN SCOTLAND then...

Stupid Siri

Nope. No matter how I pronounce it, Edinburgh is not in Scotland. Holy crap does this make Siri look like a fucking moron.

   

DAY FIVE: Rome

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Dave!I've already been to the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome several times. The only Italian property I haven't been to is the new cafe in Florence. But if I flew directly to Florence, I wouldn't have the opportunity to eat at my favorite restaurant on earth.

So I got up at 3:30am. So I could get to Glasgow Airport by 4:30am. So I could fly to Rome at 6:40am.

This meant skipping breakfast, but that's okay. By the time I got to The Eternal City I was starving, which meant I had room for the city's signature dish for lunch: Cacio e Pepe ("Cheese and Pepper" on spaghetti pasta)...

Cacio e Pepe in Rome

It's a classic dish that's deceptively simple. The trick is getting the pasta cooked to a perfect al dente texture, which is tough in the USA because everybody overcooks their noodles. So you either have to go to RW's house or fly to Italy to get it done right.

Now, the prudent thing to do when you are in Rome is to run around and see all the sights. But I've already done that. And I've been up since 3:30am, so I took a nap instead.

But no worries, I was sure to wake up in time for a late dinner at my most favorite restaurant in all the world: Alfredo alla Scrofa, where Le Fettuccine Alfredo was invented...

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

A heart attack on a plate, gloriously mixed to order right at your table...

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

After dinner I decided to wander over to the Spanish Steps so I could climb to the top and visit the cafe where I first tasted Stracciatella Gelato, my all-time favorite...

Spanish Steps Rome

Gelato in Rome

Gelato in Rome

And, because this is Rome, the walk back to your hotel is filled with incredible sights...

Barberini Fountain

Roman Building

Buona Notte!

   

DAY SIX: Milan and Florence

Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Dave!With the exception of one horrendous problem, today was a pretty great day.

My plan was to head up to Florence to see the new Hard Rock Cafe there, but I had a long-time friend (and fellow Hard Rock fan) who had wanted to trade a few pins, so I decided to visit him in Milan, a city I have never been. For some reason I had thought the city was quite close to Florence, but it's actually two hours by train farther... which meant I started my day with a three-hour train ride out of Rome.

It was all worth the trip though, as Milan is a beautiful city. I started with a visit to Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)...

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

After the cathedral, I was going to visit a small church called Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro, but I walked right past it and ended up finding Tempio civico di San Sebastiano (The Temple of San Sebastiano), which is a rather unique and beautiful round church...

Tempio civico di San Sebastiano

Tempio civico di San Sebastiano

I did a quick back-track to Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro (no photos allowed) but couldn't spend a lot of time because I would be late for visiting Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Library of Ambrose), which is home to Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus, a massive set of books containing anything and everything from the mind of one of my all-time inspirational heroes, Leonardo da Vinci. You enter through an art gallery that's connected to the library. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to browse the collection of art here, but it's a very nice collection...

Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus

The Codex itself consists of over 1,100 pages, but only a fraction of those are viewable at any one time. Usually the rotating collection on display centers around a theme which, in my case, ended up being music. Included in the display I saw were pages with Leonardo's sketches for an automated drum machine, various instrument ideas, acoustic architecture studies, and much, much more. It was absolutely fascinating, and I could have spent hours pouring over those few pages available. No photos were allowed (of course) but I found a sample page on the internet to give an idea of what they look like...

Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus

Fantastic stuff.

After a visit with my friend to exchange some pins, it was time to head to the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, for what is arguably Milan's most famous attraction.

But first... a cookie break while I waited for my ticket reservation time...

Milan Cookie

The Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a rather unassuming building that's almost boring, when compared to the many other religious buildings in the city...

Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie

It's what's inside of it that makes it worth the effort of visiting, Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper...

Last Supper of Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie
One of you bitches is going to betray me!

No photos were allowed, of course, this is just an image of an image I found on the internet. But it's not like any photo could do the work justice anyway. I had always thought that it was an interesting, but not terribly inspiring work, and didn't have much of a desire to see it. But that opinion was formed by looking at photos of it in a book.

And then I got to visit the painting in person, and now I know what all the fuss is about.

It is an awe-inspiring work of art. Both artistically and technically, it's mind-bogglingly beautiful. Definitely worth a visit. But, as with most exhibits of this importance in Italy (or most any other country), MAKE TICKET RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE! Tickets are guaranteed to sell out, and if you just wander in hoping to see it, you're going to leave disappointed.

And here is where disaster occurred. I left myself one hour to get back to the train station to catch my ride to Florence. As always, I consulted Google Maps to get me there. The instructions were quite simple... take the Malpensa Airport Express Train two stops to Bovisa, then take the S2 train to Milano Porta Garibaldi railway station.

Easy, right?

So I ran to the train and hopped on just before the doors closed. I grab a seat just as the train leaves. And then I notice that the train didn't stop at its first stop. Much to my horror, the train didn't stop at the Bovisa stop either. We just kept on going...

Google Maps FAIL Milan

Turns out Google has the train information wrong. This particular run of the Malpensa Airport Express IS FUCKING NON-STOP! And so I ended up having to ride all the way out to the airport (35 minutes), wait for the next train back to Milan (15 minutes), then ride all the way back (35 minutes). Needless to say, I missed my train. Which means I would also miss my train to Rome. Which meant I had just wasted one hour and 25 minutes plus $120 in non-refundable train fare.

THANKS, GOOGLE!

Oh well, I made it to the Hard Rock a bit late, but I did make it. And Florence has a great property that was made from an old movie theater building...

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

On my way back to the train station, I passed The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) or, as it is better known... Il Duomo di Firenze (Cathedral of Florence)...

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

Even more beautiful at night, I think.

Back in Rome, I went for a late dinner at Alfredo's, of course, because I just couldn't help myself. And... my short visit to Italy is done.

   

DAY SEVEN: Nice

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Dave!I've been around Nice when visiting Monaco and Eze, but have never actually been to Nice proper. Now that there's a Hard Rock in town, that had to change.

Well, that and the movies shot in the city always make it look so amazing. Like that car chase in Ronin... or that car chase in The Transporter... or the car chase in Never Say Never Again (well, not a car chase per se, but that would have been an excellent addition to the film, wouldn't it?).

And so... on to Hard Rock No. 155...

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Beautiful views. Lovely restaurant. Kind of boring for a Hard Rock.

After lunch I headed to the beach. The weather was not great beach weather, but it was still a beautiful day on the Côte d'Azur...

The Beach at Nice

Lovely turquoise water, but something seems... off...

The Beach at Nice

Wait... that's not sand... it's... ROCKS?!?

The Beach at Nice

Yes. The famous beach at Nice is covered not with sand, but with rocks? All this time I had no idea. And yet there were people laying around with beach towels and the whole bit. Which can't be comfortable, can it? As I stumbled across the "beach," attempting to keep my footing while walking on cascading stones, I admit to being a bit disappointed.

Until I stopped for a second and listened to the rocks rolling in the surf. It was totally hypnotic...

Nice itself is quite a lovely city. Especially back at their main square, Place Masséna, which features the "Fontaine du Soleil" (Fountain of the Sun) in the southern half. From a distance, it looks quite impressive with a giant statue of Apollo standing in the middle...

Fontaine du Soleil

It's when you get closer to the fountain that things start to get disturbing. Apollo has freaky bulging eyes staring at you. And the crown of horses on his head look more like those baby chest-bursters in Alien. Not to mention his dick... swinging...

Fontaine du Soleil

And the statues in the fountain basin? Utterly bizarre...

Fontaine du Soleil

Clockwise from the upper-left...

  1. Nude Woman Flying with Buffalo While Holding a Baby?
  2. Nude Pipi Longstocking Riding a Giant Ugly Carp?
  3. Nude Man Shielding His Eyes from the Sun While Walking a Bull?
  4. Nude Man Directing Traffic with a Horse?

The northern half of Place Masséna is wide open... except for these poles that have nude men (covered in bird shit) kneeling on top of them...

Place Masséna

Place Masséna

No idea what that's all about.

Walking back to the train station, I passed Nice's version of the Notre Dame Cathedral...

Notre Dame Cathedral Nice

Which looks better with a little HDR magic...

Notre Dame Cathedral Nice

My original plan was to take a train to Cannes or Monaco for dinner, but I was just done traveling for the day. I was actually done with traveling for the week. Tomorrow's flight back to Amsterdam at 6:30am will be hard enough.

So an early night to bed it is.

   

DAY EIGHT: Lisse and Amsterdam

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014

Dave!"We have arrived!" announced the hotel shuttle driver to myself and another passenger as we pulled into the Nice Airport around 4:30am. And so I climb out and ask the driver to open the back of the van so I can get my bag. He says "This stop is not for you," and so I start to climb back on the van... only to have the driver slam the gas pedal to the floor as I am half-way in. The van lurches forward, causing the sliding door to smash into my side and send me flying 20 feet. My head crashes into the pavement and, as I lay there bleeding and trying to breathe, the driver stands over me and says "I said this stop was not for you!" — which is why I was climbing back on the van, of course, but let's not apply logic to the situation. You would think that A) The driver would make sure everybody is actually ON the van before hitting the gas, and B) He would start out slowly just in case the first passenger was still standing near... or the second passenger was in the process of boarding... or a pedestrian is crossing the street... or whatever. But, alas, no.

Blood pouring down my face and hunched over in pain, I somehow make my way inside the airport (at the next stop, natch) so I can try to clean myself up in a bathroom. Much to my horror, my glasses are destroyed, so I have to fish for contact lenses in my suitcase. But I can only put a lens in one eye because blood is pouring over the other one. A package of antibiotic wipes and 20 minutes of direct pressure later, my second lens is in and it's time to head to the gate for my flight.

The wonderful KLM cabin crew gave me ice for my head on the flight back to Amsterdam. This made the swelling die down a bit, and also caused the pain to subside. As for my chest where I was hit? The pain became searing, so when I got off the plane I started pressing around and... SNAP... I think I had a fractured rib, because now that it's been set back in place I feel totally fine... just a little sore now.

In other news... I have never felt so fucking macho in all my life as to snap my own fractured rib back in place! I'd go to the doctor, but all they would do is wrap me up and give me pain meds, so I'm just going to put on a tight T-shirt and self-medicate. Same difference! A-fucking-right... this is one macho bitch right up in here.*

Anyway...

My plans to visit some work colleagues in Amsterdam had to be abandoned so I could recuperate back at Casa de DutchBitch for five hours until she got off work. At which time we decided to visit "Europe's Garden"... the Keukenhof. I was there back in 2012 and loved it, so I was looking forward to another visit on this beautiful day, even if I was loaded with pain-killers...

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

The Keukenhof

After a wonderful afternoon looking at flowers, it was time for dinner at one of my favorite places on earth, Restaurant De Kas. It's a beautiful eatery outside of Amsterdam that resides in a greenhouse where they grow their own food. It's pretty special.

Restaurant De Kas

But it's at night that this place becomes really special...

Restaurant De Kas

The menu is a surprise, built around what came from the garden that day, and they accommodated my vegetarian diet beautifully...

Restaurant De Kas

Restaurant De Kas

Restaurant De Kas

An absolutely wonderful evening. After an absolutely wonderful day. After a terrible morning.

And now? Having experienced first hand what it's like to get run into by a car, I'm going to take some heavy drugs and go to bed. So good night to you! And (hopefully) a good night to myself.

   

*Unless, of course, it wasn't a fractured rib at all... in which case I have no idea what snapped inside there. Maybe I'm the moron who just cracked his own rib? I dunno. Playing doctor is a lot harder than it looks on television. Still, I'm feeling 1000% better than I was, so you can't argue with the results.

   

DAY NINE: Harlingen and Leeuwarden

Posted on Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Dave! Fryslân (Friesland) is a region in the Northern Netherlands I have long wanted to visit. Partly because I want to visit all regions of the country... but mostly because it was home to some of my ancestors. My family name of "Simmer" is from the word "Summer" in the Fresian language, and my father has traced our genealogy back several generations to the area.

There are a number of routes you can use to get to Fryslân from South Holland, but The DutchBitch decided to take us the most direct (and interesting!) route... across The Afsluitdijk, a massive dike constructed from 1927 to 1933 which has a roadway over it. The dike completely enclosed a saltwater bay (known as Zuiderzee) which eventually became a giant freshwater lake called IJsselmeer. The 20-mile long dike also allowed for the reclamation of the land masses Wieringermeer, Noordoostpolder, and Flevoland, which added considerable area to the country. On a map, The Afsluitdijk (marked with a red arrow) looks like this...

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Amsterdam is in the lower-left there. The areas I've shaded green are lands reclaimed from the sea.

When looking at a map, any time i saw The Afsluitdijk, I thought of it looking like the Øresund Bridge or something...

Oresund Bridge

Which is absurd, of course, because a dike is nothing like a bridge. I guess in my mind it would just look cooler if it was. The reality isn't quite so glamorous, but still interesting...

The Afsluitdijk

Obligatory iPhone panorama shot (click to embiggen)...

The Afsluitdijk
Stopping at the half-way point.

After an hour-and-a-half drive, we arrived at our first stop... the city of Harlingen. It's a beautiful old fishing town that's the birthplace of my great-great-grandparents...

Harlingen

Harlingen

Harlingen

Stopping at the tourist office, we learned that the area where my great-great-grandparents were born was the poor part of town and a real shit-hole, which is why it was eventually torn down. Which is to say that it was undoubtedly a beautiful and incredibly desirable area of the city to live until my family left, at which time it became a detestable shit-hole, I'm sure. Today, it has once again become a premium, expensive neighborhood to live, so I guess things have come full circle.

Because this area had been completely torn down, the street where my great-great-grandfather was born no longer exists. It has become a private dead-end alley to the right of this cool little house here...

Harlingen

The place where my great-great-grandmother was born has been torn down and divided up into different lots, so I just walked around the block to see the area where she had lived...

Harlingen

After a nice lunch downtown, The DutchBitch and I walked back through the city where she spotted this...

Pirate Virginia Cigarettes

PIRATE brand Virginia Cigarettes... made in the Netherlands?

From Harlingen, we headed to Leeuwarden for more family history. Our first stop was just a block up from our hotel, which is the former location of the Galileërkerk, a church where my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Johannes was interred. The original building was demolished in 1940, but it's location was just north of the former post office, which would be in the vicinity of the building to the left there...

Leeuwarden

The weather was incredible, and we weren't the only ones taking advantage of it...

Leeuwarden

Our next stop was the church where both my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Johannes and his son, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Frederik were married. It's now some kind of local performing arts center, but it still looks vaguely church-like. And it has some kick-ass door decorations...

Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden

From there it was onward to Oldehoofsterkerkhof, the church where my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Frederik was interred. In what I can only describe as a "Leaning Tower of Pisa Moment," I finally realized that the reason the tower looks so strange is because it's falling over...

Oldehoofsterkerkhof

And the closer you get, the more fucked-up things become. There doesn't seem to be a single perpendicular line on this entire building except the windows and doors. I was getting a headache trying to photograph it because my brain kept trying to straighten things out and line stuff up...

Oldehoofsterkerkhof

Oldehoofsterkerkhof

Like Harlingen, Leeuwarden is a rather nice city with a pretty downtown area...

Leeuwarden

Which you walk through in order to get to the part of town where my great-great-great-great-grandparents Hendrik and Catharina lived... and where my great-great-great-grandfather Willem Frederik was born in 1817 (he moved to Harlingen with his wife Geertje in 1845). Though, I'm sure back then it wasn't quite the boarded-up, graffiti-strewn mess it is now...

Leeuwarden

Our last stop was Blokhuispoort, a former prison where The DutchBitch thought I would feel right at home because my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Johannes was convicted of being drunk and insulting a widow named Dieuke Berents. Wrongly convicted, obviously, since the woman must have totally deserved it. I can only hope that grandpa Johannes gave her a nice bitch-slap for having the nerve to piss him off...

Leeuwarden

And thus ended my tour of the lands of my ancestors. Now it's time to dope up on pain-killers and see if I can get some sleep before tomorrow's adventure.

Boy, getting hit by a car is not all it's cracked up to be.

   

DAY TEN: Schiermonnikoog

Posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Dave!Our final day in Fryslân was spent taking the ferry over to Schiermonnikoog, a kinda resort island that's home to a massively huge beach.

Cars are only allowed for registered residents, which means that visitors have to either ride the bus, arrange for a resident taxi driver, or rent a bicycle. The DutchBitch opted for the bicycles, which was an interesting prospect considering I haven't ridden one in over 30 years. With this in mind, she rented bicycles which feature "Electric Assist"... a small motor that helps you along as you peddle. Turns out that this was a very good move, because my crushed ribcage left me needing all the help I can get...

Schiermonnikoog

Turns out that riding a bike is... errr... just like riding a bike, and I managed just fine. The only problem I had was getting off and on it, but that was thanks to getting run into by a car more than anything else.

Our first stop was a World War II bunker that oversees much of the island...

Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog

In the same area is Vredenhof Cemetery, which is a peaceful little place where we spotted soldiers buried from France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Germany...

Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog

Then it was time to cycle to the massive beach that covers the north-side of the island...

Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog

It's an impossibly huge beach, as this pano shows (click to embiggen). This is but a small section of the waterfront, and those dots in the distance are people...

Schiermonnikoog

From there we rode around town a bit, then went to a cafe for drinks while we waited for the ferry back to the mainland...

Schiermonnikoog

Pretty much the perfect end to my brief adventure in Fryslân!

Now to spend some time resting up for my trip home. Which I am most certainly not looking forward to.

   

DAY ELEVEN: Bullet Sunday 374

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014

Dave!Don't go checking your calendar just yet... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...

   
• Skuttle. The plan was to head into Amsterdam today... the reality is that I'm laying around on a big red couch trying to rest up my aching rib cage for a ten-hour flight home tomorrow morning. I tried feeling sad about it, but this has been such a great vacation that I just can't muster the pity.

   
• Heart. Did you know that the seven red shapes on the flag of Fryslân are not hearts?

Frisian Flag

They're pompeblêden... the leaves of yellow water-lily! But in blood red for some reason. Probably because that's more scary to their enemies than if they were yellow-green...

Frisian Flag Wrong!

No. Yeah... red is definitely more bad-ass.

   
• Smurftastic. And so the Netherlands has Smurf-flavored gelato...

Smurf-Flavored Gelato

There was no ingredients statement, so I don't know if it's made with real Smurfs or not...

The Smurfs

In any event, I'm guessing Gargamel won.

   
• Tagged. While I don't necessarily condone defacing public or private property, I have to say the graffiti in Leeuwarden was some pretty impressive stuff...

Leeuwarden Graffiiti

Leeuwarden Graffiiti

But what would you expect from Wom the Hipster-Killing Zombie?

Leeuwarden Graffiiti

   
• Chickens. And, just when you think that beautiful hand-painted signage is a lost art, also in Leeuwarden...

Leeuwarden Graffiiti

You almost don't notice that the building is crooked and all the windows are jacked up. Perhaps Wom the Hipster-Killing Zombie has a day-job?

   
• Cheese. My biggest regret in leaving the Netherlands is that I can't bring a big wheel of cheese with me. They had it for sale at The Keukenhof, but it weighs 20-30 pounds and costs around $120-$200 (depending on how aged it is and how much your wheel weighs). You do get to buy it from a wooden cow, however...

Cheese Cow

I'm guessing 30 pounds of cheese would last me about a week.

   
No more bullets. No more vacation.

   

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