Yes. Yes I know that it's Tuesday. But I always have to juggle the last Bullet Sunday of the year around so I don't mess up my year-end Best Lists. But don't despair... because a special New Year's Bullet Sunday (on Tuesday) starts now...
• Resolute! My New Year's Resolutions are the same every year. 2012 was a piece of cake...
And what am I looking forward to this year?
• Travel! Where am I going in 2013? No clue. I want so badly to return to Australia so I can visit the Southern half of the country and New Zealand. I have yet to visit India, someplace I have been longing to see. I have tentative plans to return to Singapore, but don't know if I'll make it this year. Antarctica has got to be checked off my list one of these days. Hopefully, no matter where I go, it will be someplace interesting.
• Movies! So many potentially awesome movies to look forward to in 2013. Star Trek: Heart of Darkness, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Oblivion, Despicable Me 2, Pacific Rim, The World’s End, and lots more. So many promises of amazing movie experiences.
• Music! Macintosh Braun's album never came, so I guess that's dropping this year now. Depeche Mode, Adam Ant, Johnny Marr, and OMD have new releases planned for 2013... and I think Foster the People might be planning something... just to name a few.
• Fiction! Despite the odds stacked against new publications, Thrice Fiction Magazine continues to forge ahead. Really looking forward to what RW is going to find for our three new issues this year (our third!). Hoping to get another B&W Annual out in the Spring.
• Comics! Thanks to Comixology, I'm discovering and buying more comics than ever. I'm very excited to see what Snyder & Capullo have planned for Batman. Am dying to know what's going to happen in Invincible #100. Hoping to see something new from George Pérez and Arthur Adams this year.
• Apple! And, of course, there's whatever my fruit-adorned computer company has planned this year. What's next? Will the Apple Television finally appear? Will they finally get off their asses and let people delete shit from their iTunes download queue without having to send in a support request? Who knows. All I know is that I'm waiting...
I know a lot of people who did not have a good 2012. Mine was okay, as I thought it probably would be. This year? Not a clue. 2013 is the Big Unknown for me. I suppose that's just as it should be.
Hope yours is a good one.
I would like to send a big "thank you" to Congress, The President, and all our elected officials for their hard work on coming to a deal to avoid the so-called "Fiscal Cliff." Totally excellent work, guys. You completely lived up to my lofty expectations. That extra money coming out of my paycheck each month? Totally fucking worth it. I'd recommend that everybody involved get a raise, but you've already given yourself one.
Who says that the American government is filled with useless pieces of shit who are more interested in salvaging their cushy careers and getting their hands on special interest money than serving the American people? Not me! My confidence is running high that we're on the right track now, and everything's going to be just awesome as we barrel forward into the future...
Thanks once again to the best government money can buy! You guys rock!
Way back in the early days of this blog (as in, eighteen months into this blog) I did one of those "Fifty Things To Do Before You Die" that was published by the BBC. This morning I got an email from a friend who stumbled across it and wrote to tell me that a couple things on that list that I wanted to do I actually did.
I thought that was pretty cool, so I went back and pulled those items where the status had changed to see how many I had left that I wanted to do (here's a link to the rest of the original list, if you're interested)...
THINGS I DONE DID...
• Scuba dive on Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Wanna do it! Done it!)... I would want to re-up my certification first (it's been a while), but I would absolutely do this. Finally made it to Australia in September 2011, and diving the Great Barrier Reef was on my must-do list. Unfortunately, thanks to massive Cyclone Yasi that struck in February 2011, much of the beautiful corals were wiped out, and environmental factors mean they probably ain't coming back. Such a shame. But it was still a terrific experience.
• Walk the Great Wall of China (Wanna do it! Done it!)... Absolutely want to do this one. And I absolutely did do this one when I went to China the year after I completed this list!
• Catch sunset over Uluru (Ayers Rock) , Northern Territories, Australia (Wanna do it! Done it!)... And, again, when I finally get to Australia I probably will. Went to Australia, and absolutely fulfilled a promise to myself to do this. Truly an amazing experience.
• Hike up a glacier (Done it! Really done it!)... My home state of Washington has glaciers as well. Nothing like Glacier Bay in Alaska, but still. When I said "nothing like Alaska," I didn't realize how true that was until I actually went there, then took a helicopter to the top of a glacier and hiked around. Epic!
CHANGED MY MIND...
• Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia (Wanna do it! Probably not!)... And when I finally end up making it to Australia, I probably will (despite my fear of heights!). Ummm... yeah... after seeing the climbers actually climbing the thing as I was walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I don't think there's any way I would want to do this.
• Explore Antarctica (Probably not! Wanna do it!)... Uh, why? I might consider it if they built an authentic Hard Rock Cafe but otherwise no. I have no idea what I was thinking. This somehow went from something I didn't want to do... to something I obsess about. I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out how to make this happen.
• Explore the Galapagos Islands (Probably not! Wanna do it!)... This is a preserved area, and only scientists, researchers and such are given permission to visit. Boy do I feel stupid. It's absolutely possible for ordinary citizens to visit the Galapagos Islands, it's just really expensive. Of course I want to go there.
• Ride a camel to the Pyramids, Egypt (Wanna do it! Probably not!)... Absolutely something on my list to do. Uhhh... yeah... went to see the pyramids in 2007 and felt absolutely no need to ride a camel there (I've ridden one before). Instead went inside The Great Pyramid of Giza, which was awesome.
STILL WANT TO DO...
• Walk the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, Peru, South America (Wanna do it!)... My brother and I were going to do this, but he decided to get in an accident and nearly blow his face off instead. Oh well, maybe one day.
• See elephants in the wild (Wanna do it!)... Since I'm sure the elephants at Disney's Animal Kingdom don't count, I do think it would be cool to go to Africa or India and do this one.
• Fly over a volcano (Wanna do it!)... While on the Big Island of Hawaii, I walked over a volcano, which seems much more impressive, doesn't it?
• Gallop a horse along a beach (Wanna do it!)... My riding skills are crap though.
• Watch mountain gorillas (Wanna do it!)... Who wouldn't?
• See tigers in the wild (Wanna do it!)... But don't tigers EAT you in the wild?
• Do the Cresta Run, Switzerland (Wanna do it!)... Heck yeah I would do this! Probably die while trying, but what a way to go!
• See orang-utans in Borneo (Wanna do it!)... Why not? Boy, sure a lot of wild animal watching on this list!
• Go polar bear watching (Wanna do it!)... Why not? Boy, sure a lot of wild animal watching on this list!
So that's like... eleven things from the list I still want to do. Half of them, I probably have a shot at. That's not so bad.
If only I have the time and money to get started...
Five days in, and I can't say that 2013 is shaping up to be much of an improvement over 2012. But, then again, 2012 ultimately turned out okay for me, so I suppose this isn't a bad thing.
Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I sat down and tried to figure out what I have to do to make this year something better. A lot of things were written down... people... places... goals... changes... but, in the end, everything kept coming back to one thing...
If I had more money, I could do this.
If I had more money, I could change that.
If I had more money, I could have those.
If I had more money...
...well, everything would be better, wouldn't it?
Some people say money is the root of all evil. And it's been said that money can't buy happiness. But if there is one thing I'm sure of, it's that money has no conscience and money can indeed buy happiness. And much, much more...
So, if you have a couple million dollars you're not using...
Pretty tough to write a Bullet Sunday when hardly anything has happened all week.
But there's a blog questionnaire that somebody tagged me for a couple months ago, so don't you fear... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
And... that's too many bullets. See you next week.
One of my all-time favorite books from when I was a kid was Curious George Goes to the Hospital.
Recently I was needing to add a cheap item to my order to push my order total above the FREE SHIPPING threshold. For some reason I remembered this Curious George book, so I ordered a copy.
I am happy to say that it totally holds up, even after all this time. If, for no other reason, than to see Curious George get high on ether fumes (turns out this is from an earlier George book, sorry!).
My review on GoodReads...
After re-reading Curious George Goes to the Hospital I am convinced that it is the peak of literary perfection, unmatched by any other human accomplishment. The entire spectrum of drama is fully represented in a tale so filled with wonder and delight as to make all other books redundant. The fact that the story's wealth of knowledge and inspiration is so remarkably accessible to persons of most any age is surely a testament to the unarguable brilliance of Margret & H.A. Rey. I loathe to attribute something as mundane as a "Star Rating" to such a transcendentally significant work which redefines the boundaries of human/primate existence, and so eloquently conveys the folly and ultimate triumph of monkeykind... but if forced to do so under the GoodReads review standard, I offer TWENTY-SIX STARS (of which only five are be visible for some reason). You owe it to yourself... nay, you owe it to ALL HUMANITY... to read this literary masterwork and thrill to the sublime illustrated artistic triumphs which accompany it. Curious George Goes to the Hospital is, quite simply, the most profoundly perfect book ever created, and shall undoubtedly remain so until the end of time.
Obviously, I give the book my highest possible recommendation. If you haven't read it yet, I'd get on that.
Look, I fully realize that food manufacturers have to exaggerate how great their stuff looks on their packaging. I realize this because I make a living creating perfect photos for food manufacturers to use for just that purpose. The idea is that the photo is representing the absolute best-case scenario for the product. Everybody knows to lower their expectations, so no harm no foul, right?
The problem is that sometimes the packaging photo so grossly over-exaggerates the look of the product as to be complete fiction. I wrote about this before when I posted my IN-DEPTH SPECIAL REPORT for Hello Kitty Pop Tarts...
Not only is the pink frosting on the box not even remotely the same color as the putrid magenta glop that's been smeared on the Pop Tart, but they grossly exaggerated the number of kitty sprinkles you'll get. In cases like this, it's not a "best case, idealized scenario"... it's an outright lie.
But it's a fucking Pop Tart, so what can you do?
When shopping at the grocery store, I saw that Kashi had added a new Four-Cheese variety to their pizza line-up. I kind of like their Mediterranean flavor, so I thought I'd give the new pizzas a shot and bought three of them. The picture on the box just looked so darn appealing!
Unfortunately, reality had to come along and fuck everything up...
So... you tell me... Four Cheese Pizza... or BARELY Cheese Pizza?
Other than the three badly-distributed slices of Provolone, the other cheeses are nowhere to be found. Just a tiny sprinkling of assorted shreds scattered around the crust. The pizza was mostly sauce, not cheese at all. So I'm chalking this one up as a BLATANT LIE. And, unlike a Pop Tart, it's not like you can so easily write off.
I don't know if this is a design-issue or an implementation-issue, but I'd appreciate it if Kashi would actually put a half-way decent amount of fucking cheese on their Four Cheese Pizza. I shouldn't have to have to deal with this kind of disappointment when it comes to pizza-related life choices.
Happy Birthday iPhone!
Can you believe it's only been six years? I can barely remember my life before iPhone. Probably because I don't want to imagine a time when I didn't have my iPhone.
Thank you Steve Jobs.
Last Sunday I did a blog questionnaire meme somebody had given me that I have been putting off forever. After posting it, I was told that if I was really ambitious about killing a blog meme, I should answer this Hundred Questions Meme.
And since it was a different hundred questions than I had answered before, here it is...
The totally awesome Mobile Exploration Lab from Question #3.
I love toys. Or, I suppose I should say "I still love toys," since adults aren't supposed to play with toys. And my toy of choice? LEGO!
When they came out with LEGO Star Wars sets and games, I was ecstatic. It was a match made in heaven. Then came LEGO Batman sets and games, and I was in Toy Nirvana. Two of my most favorite things in the world together at last!
And now LEGO has gone retro and combined a childhood favorite with their latest line of sets... LEGO Chima...
Looks kind of like Lizard Men vs. ThunderCats... Go Lion-O!
But it's not Lizard Men or ThunderCats that I'm talking about. It's what you can do with the LEGO Chima characters that has me all nostalgic...
The zip-cord pull that makes the LEGO Chima Racers go is the same technology used on a toy I loved as a kid called SSP Racers (which you can read about at Retroland)...
They were a lot of fun because everybody on the block had one, and we'd all get together to race. Mine was the purple "Laker Special"...
Photo taken by Mr. F.M. on Flickr
I don't have any plans of buy the LEGO Chima sets, but this walk down memory lane sure has me wanting my old SSP Racer back. I could probably play with it for a full 15 minutes before getting bored.
Good luck tomorrow, guys!
Stop staring at those Golden Globes... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Good. If you have a passing interest in astronomy... or even if you just like staring at beautiful stuff... then you have got to check out Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog over at Slate. I've been a fan of his for years when he was at Discovery, but he's really been be posting some amazing images lately...
You'll probably want to look at the Big Picture over at Bad Astronomy.
No shit, go check out the hi-res on this one. Mindblowing.
And in-between, Mr. Plait is still dishing up fascinating facts about the universe... and cool stuff worth knowing about our home back here on earth. Be sure to check it out.
• Cookies. Look, if a site requires me to enable cookies in order to use their shopping cart, that's fine. If I want to shop there bad enough I'll enable the stupid cookies, even though I don't want to. However... I am NOT going to be forced into enabling cookies just for looking at your website. And if you go to Target.com, that's exactly what they do ON PAGE ONE...
All I wanted to do was to find a local Target store at a given address. Why in the hell does that require cookies? Stupid. Stupid. STUPID!
• Backlog. Being a man and talking about rape and violence against women can be a tricky situation... even if you are condemning these reprehensible acts of brutality and cruelty. I've learned the hard way how just one misinterpreted word can get you verbally eviscerated, regardless of your good intentions. Even trying to be sympathetic can sometimes get you smacked down. Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing... "You're a man. You'll never know what it's like."
And women are, of course, correct. Men can't know what it's like for a woman to deal with rape... or even the fear that comes from the threat of rape.
So this is a subject I shy away from, even though I have strong feelings about it. Namely, that rape is an unforgivable criminal act which should result in the rapist being evicted from humanity. Permanently.
But, back to reality...
Certainly preventing rape should be goal #1. But if rape occurs, then making sure the rapist pays for his crime and ensuring he can't rape again is imperative. Thanks to a post over at SueBob's blog, I've learned that there exists a massive backlog of
And if you're looking for a place to donate some money, Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation "helps survivors of sexual assault heal their minds, bodies and spirits and reclaim their lives," and is deserving of your support.
• Accused. Of course, being a man, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that being falsely accused of rape can have consequences every bit as horrendous. You. Can. Lose. Everything. Your family. Your wife. Your children. Your friends. Your neighbors. Your job. Your livelihood. Your life. And, even if the truth eventually comes out, your life will never be the same because the original accusation never goes away. People may learn that you're innocent, but you'll always be that guy who somebody accused of rape. And don't get me started on how damaging false accusations are to actual rape victims trying to build cases against the bastard who violated them. Every lie that comes to light makes it that much harder to prove a truth.
So, yeah. If you are a rapist, you deserve everything you get. And more. But if you're innocent? That's the stuff of every man's worst nightmare. Case in point? Nancy Grace's relentless, ruthless public persecution of the Duke Lacrosse Team for gang rape. Day after day she poured on the outrage, pronouncing them GUILTY despite the three accused players' repeated denials (not to mention inconsistencies from the accuser). And when the guys were found innocent? Not even an apology from that fucking publicity whore, Nancy Grace (may she burn in hell for all eternity).
All I'm saying is that the consequences of falsely accusing somebody of rape should be so severe that it's not a viable option when a woman wants to deal damage to a man. Or when she wants to escape the consequences of a consensual act. Or for any reason, really. But it's a scary area to tread because you don't want to make it so that women who have been raped are afraid to come forward. I don't pretend to know what the answer is here, but when working to make sure rapists are punished, I'd hope that the accused innocent will be considered in the conversation.
• Guilt. "A New Hampshire lawyer who works with a virulently anti-gay Christian-right organization has been found guilty of child pornography charges after videotaping her own daughter having sex with two men on multiple occasions." —Salon
I am done being shocked by fucked-up news like this. These assholes ruthlessly vilify consenting adults over their sexuality... and it always seems like those who yell the loudest are the most guilty of doing horrendous shit...
"My favorite book is The Bible!"
This piece of crap worked overtime to persecute and deny equality to innocent people... but then spent her off-hours forcing her FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER to repeatedly have sex with TWO MEN while she filmed it. Apparently she felt her professional life was somehow "compensating" for the fucking atrocious stuff she did behind closed doors. Which begs the question... what's going on with all these other anti-gay bigots who are screaming to the rafters with their less-than-righteous fury? I am sickened at the possibilities. But no longer surprised when it shows up in my newsfeed. How sad is that?
And... I really, really wish I had another day in this weekend.
In the 1992 movie The Distinguished Gentleman, Eddie Murphy plays a con artist who figures out that the most profitable con jobs of all can be found in American politics, so he bluffs his way into Congress.
The movie was widely panned by critics. They just couldn't say enough bad things about the film, and most movie-goers seemed to feel the same way. Not me. Yes, it felt like Eddie Murphy was making the shit up as he went along, and the movie would have benefitted greatly from a tighter script... but, overall, it's a pretty funny film.
And a very disturbing film as well...
Early in the movie Eddie's character, Thomas Jefferson Johnson, has just arrived in Washington and is meeting with a lobbyist representative named Terry Corrigan who matches lobbyists to politicians who share their views. Terry asks Thomas how he feels about sugar subsidies. Thomas doesn't know how he feels about sugar subsidies, so he asks Terry whether he should be for them or against them. Terry says something like "Shit, it doesn't matter to me... I can get you money on both sides." This kind of shocks Thomas, who says "Terry, tell me something. With all this money coming in from both sides, how does anything ever get done?" Terry's reply? "It doesn't. That's the genius of the system!"
The rest of the film is how Eddie and his friends try to maximize the money they can get out of the system, all while being in a constant state of shock at just how fucking easy it is for a Congressman to rake in absurd amounts of cash. At the end of the movie, Eddie's character makes a statement about how all his con-jobs in the past are nothing compared to the massive cons going on every day in the US government, except with Congress it's all perfectly legal.
The movie is as relevant today as it was when it was made twenty years ago, and I still think it's worth checking out. And here's why... As crazy and as exaggerated and as outrageous as the situations are in The Distinguished Gentleman, I am absolutely certain that what goes on in real-life Congress is a thousand times worse. And the more I read about what's happening with the assholes we elect into office today, the more I'm convinced that has to be true.
At least in the movie version I can have a laugh while getting fucked by Congress. Reality is not quite so entertaining.
And... something unexpected just came up.
Instead of blogging, I have to hop in my car and drive a lot.
Picking up from yesterday's unexpected journey...
The 3-1/2 hour drive to Spokane is not one of those awe-filled journeys that you look forward to. It's pretty much 30 minutes of civilized nothing followed by three more hours of nothing nothing. The Columbia Basin is vast, flat, and uneventful, with only a few farms and a lot of road to distract you from the tedium. Not to say that there can't be some pretty moments in the summer when the crops are out... I've seen some amazing sunsets, for example... but mostly? Not a lot to look at.
And now it's the middle of winter, which means there's even less to look at than usual...
The truth is that I never minded the drive that much, because there was always the best pizza on earth waiting for me when I arrived in Spokane at David's Pizza. But then this happened...
Needless to say, my trips to Spokane are not quite what they used to be. The owner of what was once David's Pizza is co-owner of a bar/restaurant called Famous Ed's where they claim to serve the same pizza... but not so much. The crust at David's was crispy with a nice snap to it when you took a bite. The Famous Ed's crust is tough like shoe leather and has to be torn off the slice. There's also something different about the sauce, but I can't put my finger on it. David's just had a better flavor profile somehow (though I'm sure it's the same recipe). The biggest problem is that Famous Ed's is always changing the toppings for "The Da Vinci"... last time they added clove garlic and salt... this time they added green peppers (which totally overpowered the feta and pesto notes that make this pizza so amazing). Oh well. They were running a special where you could get a large for the price of a small, so at least I'll have something for breakfast tomorrow...
For those who have never been here, Spokane is an interesting place. It's more like a humongous town than a big city. It stretches for absolute miles, but it never seems densely populated because it's so spread out. Even the downtown area, which is fairly cosmopolitan, never really seems like you're in a modern metropolis. The end result is actually kinda nice... you have most of the stores and services of a big city, but without the massive crowds and craziness.
Meaning "Children of the Sun" in the Native American Salishan language, Spokane (the second-largest city in Washington State), has a few claims to fame that I know of. It was the site of the 1974 World's Fair Expo. It was the setting for the Johnny Depp movie Benny & Joon and the Madonna-soundtrack-fueled film Vision Quest. It's the city where future Ted Mosby (from How I Met Your Mother) designs his first skyscraper (though, honestly, the idea of a skyscraper in Spokane is ludicrous, as I had previously talked about). Spokane is also home to the Lilac Festival in mid-May, which is kind of a notable event. At least it is here in the Pacific Northwest. And then there's the Bloomsday Run, which claims to be the largest timed race in the USA. And, of course, Bing Crosby grew up here and this is the city where Father's Day was invented.
Most important of all, Spokane is home of Gonzaga University Basketball, which is all kinds of famous. Oddly enough, some out-of-staters have asked me where the "City of Gonzaga" is, not realizing that the college is named for a Jesuit saint and not a city (the university itself having been founded by the Roman Catholic "Society of Jesus").
The geography of Spokane is also worth mentioning, because that massive blob on a map of Eastern Washington is not really all Spokane. It's divided into two parts... Spokane and Spokane Valley...
The city of Spokane Valley picks up at the eastern edge of Spokane proper and extends almost to Idaho. If you ever question which city you're in, all you have to do is look at north-south streets. In Spokane, they're labeled as "streets" but in Spokane Valley they're labeled as "roads." The distinction between the two cities is kind of important, and some Spokane Valley locals will be offended if you say they're from "Spokane" (just as a Spokane resident might be offended if you were to say they live in the "Spokane Valley," which has a specific meaning in this part of the state). It's not quite so contentious now, but decades ago it was kind of a "West Side Story Jets and Sharks" situation where Spokane kids and Valley kids did not mix. Even today, both cities have separate ecosystems for living, shopping, and eating... they're just not so isolated as they once were.
And that, as they say, is that.
Probably more about Spokane than you wanted to know, but that's what you're paying me for.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BETTY WHITE!
And so I didn't get to leave Spokane yesterday as planned.
In an attempt to make the best out of the situation, I decided to go to Pita Pit for a falafel sandwich last night. It was delicious. Back home, most people don't even know what the heck "falafel" is, so I don't pass up opportunities like this.
On the way back to my hotel, I passed two guys fighting over change on the sidewalk. One of them screams "MY DARK SIDE IS COMIN' OUT AND YOU DON'T WANNA FUCK WITH MY DARK SIDE!" The other guy pushes him away, grabs the quarter off the sidewalk, then runs off screaming "I'M THE JEDI MASTER, BITCH!!"
How cool was that? Witnessing this exchange made me feel better about not being able to go home.
Sadly, this moment of happiness was fleeting. Lately I've been having an even worse time sleeping than usual, and last night I got no sleep at all. Methinks it may be time to revisit my insomnia with a new doctor. Not that doctors have been much help in the past, but I suppose I owe it to myself to keep trying.
Breakfast this morning was the same as yesterday morning... leftover pizza from my dinner two nights ago. Since I don't have any plates, I had to get a little creative in finding something for my pizza slices to sit on while heating...
The drive home was pretty uneventful.
Normally, that's a good thing when traveling... but on such a long, boring drive, a little bit of "eventful" would have been nice. Especially since I was working on no sleep.
Oh well. I survived it. I'm home. Anything on top of that is gravy.
I fly a lot.
And flying a lot means that I get benefits and privileges which help to make my constant flying suck less. I've laid it all out here before but, in summary, it involves things like First Class upgrades, early boarding, free luggage allowances, etc. etc.
For as long as I've been flying, these perks have been earned by flying a certain number of miles within a airline partner program. For example, to earn "Platinum" status with the Delta SkyMiles program, I have to fly 75,000 miles. That's pretty easy for me to do, because I can add up the miles from Delta, Alaska Air, Korean Air, Air France, or any other SkyMiles partner airline.
But all this changes in 2014.
In order to qualify for Platinum status with Delta I not only have to fly 7,500 miles, but I ALSO have to spend $7,500 on Delta flights that are in my name as shown on the following chart...
Which means none of the money spent on Alaska Air, Korean Air, Air France, or other partner airlines means shit (well, unless they are Delta-coded flights, and most of the ones I fly are not).
The upshot of all this is that I'm fucked.
I don't spend $7,500 on Delta flights because Seattle isn't a very big Delta direct-flight hub, which means I will be lucky to make Gold status in 2014.
UPDATE: After complaining about the "Million Miler" changes (which I talk about below) to a Delta rep, I was told that the $2,500 does not apply to Million Miler Silver status, and I would enjoy Silver benefits no matter how much (how little?) I would spend. I sincerely hope this is true, as it really is the right thing to do... but the below information was posted to a frequent flier forum after another SkyMiles flier had asked a Delta rep, so I dunno which is true. I guess we find out in 2014.
But the bigger problem for me is when I reach Million Miler status... probably in 2015. Once I fly a million SkyMiles, I get permanent Silver status, which I was looking forward to using in my later years when I'm not flying as much. But now that permanent Silver status ain't worth shit unless I spend $2,500 each year. And that probably won't be happening when I've retired and am living on a fixed income.
Which means the goal I've been working towards for decades is now practically useless.
Over the years I've flown with Delta even when other airlines were cheaper because I thought I would be rewarded for my loyalty down the line. My million mile payday. But companies just don't give a fuck about their customers any more. The only thing they give a shit about is how much money they can squeeze out of you right now. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Delta screwed me... that's all companies do any more.
Now we get to sit back and wait for all the other airlines to follow suit.
They are, after all, companies too.
I'm so happy I could just shit because I only had to work a half-day today. Of course, a "work day" for me is 16 hours long, which means my half-day is the same as most people's full-day, so I guess I should be as excited as I think I am...
I miss animated GIFs. They seem to be a dying art in the age of YouTube videos. If you're reading this in a feedreader, then odds are that it dropped support for displaying animated GIFs because nobody cares any more. I can only guess web browsers will eventually follow suite.
I was thinking of that this morning when I found a box of VHS tapes filled with awesome television shows that cannot be found on DVD. The VCR I had been saving to play them wouldn't even turn on, so I guess that's the end of that since the alternatives are pretty terrible. Kind of makes me nervous to try turning on my LaserDisc player.
I remember when records gave way to 8-track which, in turn, gave away to cassette tapes. Those, of course, gave way to CDs. Now all music is digital, so I guess it's only natural that video catch up.
The shame of it all being all those terrific television shows and movies that get left behind.
Like animated GIFs in the wind.
There's a grave disturbance in The Force, but never fear... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Rancor! My love of all things LEGO Star Wars is well documented. But LEGO has stepped it up a notch by releasing a new version of the cool Gamorrean Guards that I'm only just now seeing. As ugly as the old version was, this new version is cute as hell..
Photo from Warehouse 19, Sweden
Awwwww! You can get one in the "Rancor Pit" set, which conveniently interlocks with the Jabba's Palace set (how sweet is that?)...
Now that Disney owns Star Wars, I don't know how worried I should be about the license that LEGO had with LucasFilm to make awesome sets, video games, toys, and such. Since most of the cool stuff that's happening with Star Wars is coming from LEGO now-a-days, I hope that Disney is smart enough to keep a good thing going.
• Infinity! Speaking of Disney... they unveiled their mysterious "Project Toy Box" gaming universe at long last. And it's not anything quite like anybody expected. Called Disney Infinity, it copies the whole Skylanders concept from Activision where players collect real-life toys and play with them inside a video game. The result is somewhat... muddy. In order to have characters from all kinds of different animated styles plus live-action characters be able to interact with any semblance of sanity, a brand new common "Disney Aesthetic" has been created. In some cases it's very good (characters from The Incredibles look great)... in some cases it's a pleasant surprise (characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean films look pretty cool in their animated form)... and in some cases it's pretty bad (my beloved Sully from Monsters. Inc. looks like shit). Overall, I guess I'm just "meh" over the whole idea...
©Disney and ©Disney/Pixar
©Disney and ©Disney/Pixar
Where things may become interesting is when Disney starts leveraging more of their vast array of properties and licenses. They've got LucasFilm, which means you could theoretically have Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker playing along with Captain Jack Sparrow and Perry the Platypus. They also have Marvel Comics, which means Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, and the entire Marvel Universe may eventually drop in. They've got all the various Disney Channel properties available... which means we could finally get that Hannah Montana vs. Darth Vader deathmatch battle we've all been dreaming about...
And don't forget all the Buena Vista movie characters and ABC Television characters that Disney has in their pocket. With that in mind, you can see where Disney's gaming universe might become something monstrous and huge.
I'm not sure that it's something I'm going to buy into... especially since Mickey Mouse isn't even available yet... but I will be following Disney Infinity with no small amount of interest.
• Ads! I hate television commercials. Partly because they interrupt the shows I'm watching... but mostly because they're all annoying, stupid, and just plain suck. Which is why when a GOOD television commercial comes along, I nearly die of shock. It's so rare that this happens... especially outside of the Super Bowl... that I feel compelled to congratulate the people responsible. The latest commercial I'm loving is this very clever ad from TD Ameritrade...
Clever. And smart. And effective, if theirs is a service you're looking for.
• LIES! I really hate Subway® because of their Subway® Sandwich SpokesWhore, Jared Fogle®. And now I find out that they LIE about the size of their shitty sandwiches! It's probably been happening for years, but somebody finally called them on it...
Footlong® Photo by Matt Corby
And Subway's® lame response? "With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong®, 'SUBWAY FOOTLONG®' is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway® Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length." This is despite the fact that in their annoying commercials there are people holding their hands up to indicate that a "Footlong®" is INDEED a unit of measure that's a foot long (as noted by BuzzFeed)...
I wish there was some way that Jared Fogle could be blamed for this scandal so he could be brought to trial and sentenced to death. Justice has been denied us long enough!
• Stream! I don't know how it is that I've never heard of "Can I Stream.it?" before, but what a frickin' amazing service! You type in a movie or TV show, and it will tell you if you can rent it, buy it, stream it, or otherwise get it over the internet from a variety of services (including the iTunes Store and Amazon)... or even purchase it on DVD or Blu-Ray. As if that weren't enough? If it's not available, Can I Stream.it? will even notify you when it's released in the format you choose...
How handy is that? If you're looking to fill in your digital library or find out if something you want to see is available for rental, "Can I Stream.it?" is worth checking out!
And that's all she wrote for Bullet Sunday. This week. Don't worry... Bullet Sunday will be back next week. I promise. So don't leave angry comments... or threatening comments... or weepy comments... Bullet Sunday is still going strong, never fear! See you at next week's Bullet Sunday for sure. Totally.
I started today the same way I start every Martin Luther King Jr. Day... by listening to his brilliant and beautiful "I have a Dream" speech in its entirety. In my humble opinion, it's probably one of the best-known speeches that most people never bother to listen to. That's a real shame, because it's famous for a very good reason.
I get MLK Jr. Day off, so I really, really didn't want to go into work today. But it ended up being unavoidable. Now I'm back home where it's 4:00pm, all my energy has been sucked dry, and I don't feel like doing a damn thing. Except watch Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country which is playing on television.
And it's while watching it that I've suddenly realized something I never knew...
Scotty is one badass motherfucker and a stone-cold killer!
For reals. Let me walk you through it. SPOILERS AHEAD!..
At the end of the film, Captain Kirk discovers a massive conspiracy to destroy a peace conference which involves Starfleet, The Klingons, and The Romulans. To foil the conspiracy, he beams down to the peace conference with his crew. The first thing he does? Tell Scotty to check out the back...
Meanwhile, a Klingon assassin is going to kill the President of the Federation of Planets...
But Captain Kirk saves the President, no problem...
One of the conspirators is Lt. Valeris, who is caught by Spock...
Another conspirator is held by Chekov...
Dr. McCoy captures a Romulan conspirator...
Then Sulu captures Admiral Cartwright, yet another conspirator...
As for Scotty?
That's a different story.
Mr. Scott finds the assassin hiding in some kind of balcony... so he kicks the fucking door down...
The assassin turns his head to see what the ruckus is...
While his gun is still pointing in the opposite direction out a hole in the glass...
Does Scotty then say "Drop the weapon!" and take the assassin prisoner? No. No he does not. Even though he's not in any immediate danger, he pulls out his phaser and shoots the guy...
Which blows him through the fucking window...
Plunging him to his death...
What does Scotty do then? He marches to the front of the crowd like a boss, gun in hand...
Then stands in front of everybody to soak up the applause for a job well done...
Everybody else on the Enterprise takes prisoners. But Scotty don't play that. If you're up to some crooked shit, Scotty shoots your ass dead and pitches you out the fucking window. Making him one of the baddest motherfuckers in the galaxy and a stone-cold killer...
Who knew? Sure he could get a little excitable from time to time, but Scotty's the quiet one of the group! Just goes to show that you never know who the true badass motherfuckers are.
Even in outer space.
Live long and prosper, everybody.
Let's see how many 16-hour workdays I can manage before I die... shall we?
This afternoon I made a call for work and got confused when the other party suddenly said "IT'S BACON!" in the middle of our conversation. Not knowing what was going on, I paused and said... "uhhh... okayyy..." The guy then said "Sorry, it's an inside joke." I assumed it had something to do with those stupid "Beggin' Strips" commercials, but couldn't figure out what I said to get that response. All afternoon my mind was kind of distracted by the notion of "inside jokes"... mostly because I no longer have any.
All the inside jokes I had evaporated when one of my best friends died.
Howard and I had dozens, and they've been running through my head all evening. Here are a few of my favorites...
Howard and I used to go to Star Trek conventions because we were geeks who led boring lives. Once we had checked into our hotel rooms the night before the convention, we decided to find a restaurant for dinner. After washing up I went to Howard's room and knocked on the door. When he opened it he was laughing so hard he was crying. I kept asking him what was up, but he was laughing too hard to tell me. Eventually he picked up the phone book Yellow Pages and handed it to me. Under the "RESTAURANTS" category, one of the first places listed was "Black Angus," but somebody had scratched out the "g" so it read "Black Anus." Needless to say, this was a never-ending "in-joke" between us from that point on. Anytime we met up to eat, Black Anus was always on our list of possible restaurants. And heaven help you if we happened to actually drive by one. The longer it went on, the funnier it got. Years later we went to a technical conference and decided to actually eat at a Black Angus because we thought it would be the funniest thing ever. Turns out it wasn't as funny as we thought it would be, and the whole "Black Anus" joke died a quiet death.
Back in the good ol' days of computing, Apple had a voice recognition technology called "PlainTalk" which was about as bad as you would expect 1990's voice recognition technology to be. But it was new and exciting so I installed it on my old Mac Quadra and wrote a bunch of AppleScripts for the "Speakable Items" folder that could perform simple tasks. At the time, Beavis and Butt-Head had just become The Next Big Thing, and Howard was obsessed with the show...
So, naturally, when Howard dropped by my place to check out my PlainTalk installation, the first thing he said to my Mac was "Fire! Fire!" And what did my Mac do? It spoke back and said "Hot!" To this day, I have no idea how or why it did what it did. We could never repeat the response. But from then on, ANY time we heard the word "fire" we would shout out "hot!" Things went terribly wrong when a co-worker was telling us how her mother just lost her house in a fire. Both of us instinctively started to say "hot!" but managed to stop ourselves. But we didn't manage to stop ourselves from laughing. Awkward...
A mutual friend of ours was married to an absolute jerk that neither one of us could stand. For years we wondered why in the hell she was married to the dumbass. One day we were talking to another friend of hers and the subject came up. It was then that the bomb dropped... apparently this guy we hated had a huge penis. For some reason, we found this hysterically funny. Since his name was Fred Hershberger*, we would say "Fred Hershberger" instead of "penis" from then on. My last words to Howard on his wedding day were "Try not to wear out your Fred Hershberger on your honeymoon."
Needless to say, I miss those inside jokes. Though I suppose it's not really the jokes I miss, but the person I shared them with.
Heh. Black Anus.
*Obviously his name was not Fred Hershberger. I just made that up to protect the identity of the well-endowed.
The geek news of the day has been burning up the internets, so everything there is to be said about it has probable already been said.
Not that it's going to stop me from adding my two cents over J.J. Abrams directing the next Star Wars film. As somebody who has been obsessed with the films and the culture surrounding them for most of my life, it would be impossible for me not to say speak my piece because I've never been one to hold my peace.
In many respects, J.J. Abrams is a no-brainer to helm the next generation of Star Wars movies. He very successfully relaunched Star Trek, so he can obviously handle a special-effects laden sci-fi film... even if his annoying over-use of stupid fucking lens flare was such an amateurish style choice as to be laughable...
To be completely honest, flare aside, I loved the Star Trek reboot. It was respectful to the source material as much as it could be (for what it was). It had really good pacing. It had excellent structure with a definable beginning, middle, and ending. Characters were multifaceted and interesting (despite the fact that they were retreads of television icons). The threat was viable and felt dangerous. But, most important of all, it was just good Star Trek and a lot of fun.
But that's just one film. What about the rest of his work?
As a "Television Guy," Abrams has a pretty big body of work there with writing, directing, and producing. Of his shows, Alias is my clear favorite... for the first couple seasons. After that, it just spiraled out of control in a gradual slide towards an unsatisfying conclusion. Which is pretty much the story of most his stuff, including Felicity, Lost, and Fringe. His other major works... Undercovers, Alcatraz, and Revolution, never managed to grab me at all. A truly mixed bag.
But it's his film work that tells the tale. Since Abrams' projects always start strong, a movie would seem to be the ideal format for him. There's no room for that slow decline that plagues his television projects. Mission Impossible III is a good example. I thought it was a fresh and interesting take on the franchise that was really well thought out. It also ended with a satisfying bang that capped it off perfectly. Just like Star Trek. And while I thought that Super 8 was a whiny, corny, disastrous mess, there's no denying it was a well-made film. The true test, of course, will be when Star Trek Into Darkness comes out, because that will tell us if the first film was a fluke.
In the end, about all I can say for certain is that J.J. Abrams can't do any worse than the shitty Lucas prequels.
For one thing, he can write dialogue that's not cringe-worthy.
And he seems to put things like "story" and "characters" above special effects.
I also get the feeling that he won't dumb everything down to a 2-year-old level by accenting the film with burp and fart jokes.
And it feels like he might have the cojones and integrity to stand up to Disney and not turn his movie into a 2-hour toy advertisement filled with stupid shit like Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks.
As a huge Star Wars fan, I want so very badly for J.J. Abrams to get a fantastic script from Oscar-winner Michael Arndt and turn it into the most mind-bogglingly amazing Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. This is an impossibly high expectation but, after what I've been through, I deserve it! We all do. And the wait is going to be torture.
Flipping through my photos often results in my find two shots that would be better if they were spliced together. Sometimes it works out better than others.
Totally drawing a blank tonight.
Having a blog about nothing in particular means that sometimes nothing in particular shows up.
Don't pop that viagra just yet... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Credit! I pay for everything with my credit cards, because both my VISA and American Express earn me air miles and travel perks. So long as I pay my credit cards off at the end of each month, it's a winning scenario. At least is was until now. Because now stores are allowed to pass along the credit card fees they pay on to their customers. Which means any store not willing to absorb the fees are going to be adding 1.5% to 3% onto the total of your bill. Pile $25,000 onto your card for the miles each year and that could reach $750 annually. Suddenly those "free" air miles just got really expensive. So expensive that it's not longer worth it. If a "free" roundtrip domestic ticket is 25,000 miles (which cost $750 in fees), it's cheaper to just pay the $250-$400 it would cost to buy it outright. This really sucks, but I guess we need to wait and see how many companies start charging a fee before we know how bad it sucks.
• Sin of the City. The horrific nightclub fire in Brazil which killed at least 233 people is a sad reminder of how life can imitate art which is imitating life. Duran Duran's incredible "Wedding Album" features a song called Sin of the City which pretty much spells it out...
Kind of makes you wonder if you're taking your life in your own hands when you go out for a night on the town. Safety code violations are so commonplace and so rarely enforced in many places on this earth that it can be like playing Russian roulette. Eventually the tragedy will strike... it's just sheer chance that it will be on the day you are the one experiencing it.
• Asteroids! All this talk about companies wanting to send ships into space to mine asteroids makes my mind zero-in on one thing every time...
Of course, now that Atari is in bankruptcy and finally set to die once and for all, I suppose I should stop clinging to the past and look to the future...
I wonder if these companies remember that the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are 3,720 to 1?
• WTF?! I guess marriage equality opponents are finally starting to realize that more and more people want their gay friends, family, and neighbors to be able to have the same right to get hitched as everybody else. This has resulted in some of them abandoning their absurdly ridiculous arguments against same-sex marriage... for even more absurdly ridiculous arguments?!? You know, I honestly try and respect views and opinions that are different from mine... but this has to be the stupidest fucking thing I've heard in ages: Only straight couples should be allowed to marry because only they can have a child unexpectedly, where gay couples have to plan for it? Seriously? THIS is what passes for a logical argument now-a-days? It's witnessing this level of idiocy that is eventually going to be the death of me. My brain simply cannot process this fucked-up shit, and one day it's going to hemorrhage... just you wait. When the blog entries stop, that's when you'll know I've finally had too much.
• WTF?! Part Two You know that you've been blogging too long when you get an email criticizing you for using a split infinitive. What fascinates me most here is not that somebody decided to go all grammar nazi on me, but that they thought I was unaware of what I had done. As if it were impossible for somebody to intentionally ignore a grammar rule that they feel is stupid (see what I did there?). I suppose that I could invite them to kindly go fuck themselves, but I wouldn't want to mistakenly cause their brain to forcibly hemorrhage. I can so relate.
Annnnd... tomorrow is going to be a long day, so I am going to regretfully take my leave of you now.
I once told a woman "You're only beautiful on the outside," because it was the meanest thing I could think of saying. She had hurt me, you see, and I really wanted to hurt her back. Unfortunately, she completely misinterpreted the comment and took it as a compliment. On the surface, it seemed like a total insult failure. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had scored a crushing victory. Not only did I call her an ugly human being, I apparently did it in a way that this vain moron wasn't aware... thus sparing me from the regret and bad feelings that inevitably follow after I say something mean to somebody.
Except, in this case, any regret would have been short-lived.
This woman went on to do some pretty heinous things to a surprising number of people. She truly was an ugly witch, regardless of how nice she looked on the outside.
This had me facing regret of an entirely different kind. I regretted that I hadn't clarified my insult when I had the chance. Opportunities missed and such.
That was years ago.
This weekend I discovered that she had eventually become as ugly on the outside as she was on the inside.
As in, yikes.
So do yourself a favor, kids... have a good heart so you can stay beautiful at your core and not be eaten up with ugliness from the inside out.
Oh yeah... and stay away from drugs. Because, holy crap can they do a number on your looks.
Tonight I finally got around to the massive amount of mail that's been piling up. Thanks to internet banking, I pay all my bills online, so any mail that comes in isn't critical (it's usually junk mail) and can be safely ignored.
Amongst the crap was a new credit card for an account I had closed over a year ago. At first I was mad that I was probably charged some kind of annual fee for something I had canceled and wasn't using, but there was none of that. Just a friendly reminder to activate the new card and destroy the old card. Well okay then... no harm, no foul... I'll just call and cancel the account again.
Which, of course, was easier said than done.
The Customer Service Representative was sorry to learn that I had received a card I didn't want, but she could find no record of the account being closed. "Ah." I said. "That explains it then. Can we just go ahead and close the account again?"
The answer? "No."
"Uhhh... no?!??????" I replied, trying my best to make sure my disbelief was evident.
"No. I am unable to close this account. For that I need to transfer you to a Relationship Specialist."
Before I was able to say "Relationship wha-?!?", I was clicked-over to another line and listening to music-on-hold designed to make one think very hard about whether they wanted to live another day.
Not only was I in a relationship I never knew about, now I was being fed a mix-tape guilt-trip for wanting to end it.
And so there I sat as the minutes ticked by... listening to sad music and feeling guilty. Rehearsing what I was going to say over and over in my head so I could end the relationship gently and avoid all the usual screaming, biting, and punches to the face that tend to happen. "I'm sure you're a wonderful card with a lovely interest rate... and some guy will be really lucky to have you... but... I've found another card that gives me what I need in a way you never can. I'm so sorry, but I'm just in it for the air-miles." I thought that was the perfect approach, but then realized I would hate if somebody used me for air-miles, and decided that the classic It's not you, it's me! approach was probably safer.
She took it pretty well.
But then things turned nasty. It was kind of a "I was there for you when you needed me... and now I'm being discarded... ON THE PHONE!" kind of vibe. This was punctuated at the end of the call when I was asked to destroy all evidence of the relationship. Usually, this involves texts, photos, emails, and such... but this relationship was different. "Please destroy any cards, PINs, cash advance checks, or any other material associated with this account." And by "account" I'm sure she meant "relationship."
I was feeling pretty bad as I was read the riot act. Then, out of the blue, things turned sunny again...
"If your needs should change in the future, please think of us!"
How nice was that?
It would seem that I am finally getting the hang of this relationship stuff, and can actually get out of one amicably for once!
Unless another card randomly shows up because "there's no record of the cancelation." Then I guess I have a stalker. A stalker who has all my personal information, my Social Security number, and my financial records.
When did relationships get to be so hard?
My love of animation knows no bounds.
And while a part of me will always believe that the hand-drawn stuff will never be eclipsed as the ultimate expression of the art-form... there is no denying that the miraculous work being done by Pixar and others in the realm of computer animation bodes well for the future.
And then today I see that John Kahrs and Disney has come up with a way of making CG look very much like traditional hand-drawn animation with a beautiful and touching short film called Paperman...
I've lost track of the number of times I've watched it.
No, it's not in the same league as a Hayao Miyazaki film. And I wouldn't say that it reaches the heights of Disney classics like Snow White and Jungle Book or even The Lion King and Lilo & Stitch. But the technology is young. And the results are mind-blowing. And there's no telling where this might lead...
My only worry being that this will be the final nail in the coffin for hand-drawn animation. And as great as this new technology might one day be, I think there will always be a place for putting a pencil to paper... then putting your heart into making something come to life, frame by frame...
Ones and zeroes has a hard time competing with that. But it's getting closer every day.
Uh. Yeah. About that blog post...
Usually I just bang out my Blogography entry at the end of the day once I've caught up on work and life. I have no idea what I'm going to write about, I just fire up MarsEdit and away we go. Most of the time this works out okay, but not always. Today was kind of different though, because I had an idea for a post that had been brewing all day long. It came to me in the morning, then kept building and building. By the time I was driving home from work, I pretty much had the entire thing composed in my head, and was quite pleased with myself for having such a great post idea during the usually-boring days of winter.
But then I decided to catch up with the world during dinner, which turned out to be a big mistake.
Because that's when I saw this...
And it's been all I can think about ever since.
On May 3rd we're getting another Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man movie.
Written and directed by Shane Black!
What else is there to blog about?