I like what I wrote in 2012.
So rather than come up with something that's sure to be worse, you can read my post of World AIDS Day here.
You're a typical American teenage girl who just wants a normal teenage life where you do typical teenage things and deal with typical teenage stuff. But your dad is the President of the United States, so that plan goes right out the window. Instead you lead a life that's anything but typical. Instead of going to the mall to hang out with friends, for example, you're dragged to some boring press event where your father will be... wait for it... pardoning a turkey. You don't want to spend a chunk of your day listening to dad make groan-inducing cheesy one-liners over a big bird, but you do it anyway because you're told to. Ironically this actually is a "typical teenage experience," because every teenager has to do stuff they don't want to do because their parents tell them to do it.
The difference being that typical teenagers don't have to do stuff in front of the entire country.
So you resign yourself to the fact that you have no choice but to attend the turkey thing and once again set aside your typical teenage dreams so you can live up to the unforgiving expectations of an entire country, if not the entire world. You check to see that your hair is presentable... you make sure you haven't spilled anything on your clothes... and you damn well cover up that zit that mysteriously appeared last night... this is going to be televised nationally, after all.
And then you show up to the stupid turkey event that you didn't want any part of from the very beginning... the same boring turkey event that you've had to go to for the past five years.
Hopefully your friends aren't watching this embarrassing situation.
Hopefully you remember not to pick your nose.
Hopefully it will be over with soon.
Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Photo by... I don't know photo by because Daily Caller doesn't credit people for their work?
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press
Whew. Thank God that's over.
Six down. Two to go.
Now back to your efforts of being a typical teenager try... trying... t...
Wow. That was kinda harsh. You did your duty to show up. Your clothes were clean. Your hair was presentable. You covered up that zit. You didn't pick your nose. You clapped in all the right places. Sure, you looked bored in spots... you were making bored faces... but this turkey thing was boring as hell. Who can blame you? You did your best to make lame jokes with a big bird look interesting, even this isn't really your thing. You'd rather be at the mall with your friends, right?
But haters gonna hate... so what can you do?
If some staffer for a Republican politician with an axe to grind wants to pathetically unleash her vendetta on a rival politician's kids, That's the way it goes, isn't it?
That's the game you signed up for, right?
Hey! Wait a minute... you didn't sign up for this! Your mom and dad did.
Oh well. You get to live in a really great house. You get to travel the world. You have opportunities that other kids can only dream about. It may not seem worth the trade-offs now, but I'm sure you'll come to appreciate it some day. Maybe.
And maybe... just maybe... next time you're forced into some boring-ass press event you will learn from your critics and live up to the lofty expectations of "class and respect" that people like Elizabeth Lauten expect of you.
Wow. That Elizabeth Lauten is really something, isn't she?
You're guessing that Elizabeth Lauten must have been a model teen, right? To be an authority on "class and respect" for teenagers, she must have been a regular Doris Day for crying out loud! Donna Reed could take lessons from Elizabeth Lauten! If only you could be like that! Perfect in every way at every moment like Elizabeth Lauten was as a teen. Forever having that perfect smile on your face like Elizabeth Lauten must have had. Always knowing the classy thing to do like Elizabeth Lauten did. Consistently ma... making... m...
So this is what she meant by "class."
Or do the rules only apply to teenagers who have a parent that's the president?
It doesn't seem right that the crazy stuff you did as a teenager should be tied around your neck for all eternity. Sure Elizabeth Lauten was busted when she was a juvenile, but should that be her defining attribute for the rest of her life? When your family has left The White House and you've grown up and started your own life, is the media going to dig up photos of you being bored at the turkey pardoning event every time you make a public attack on a couple kids whose dad you hate? Because that would be awful.
Despite her being a total hypocritical ass, you kind of feel sorry for Elizabeth Lauten now, don't you?
I mean, all she did was say some mean things to a couple of kids. Now she's out of a job.
Probably not for long though... I'm sure there are plenty of people who will make her out to be the total victim she is and give her a new job. After they let her down from that cross they've hung her from, of course.
Perhaps she'll be a new FOX "News" personality.
Because if there's anybody better at pardoning turkeys than your dad, it's FOX "News."
Best wishes to you. Hopefully you'll get a few days off before some other adult who hates your parents decides to pick over your every move and crucify you on the internet because they don't like what you're wearing or how your face looks when you're bored (SUCH a classy thing to do, by the way... I wonder how Bristol Palin dealt with this stuff?).
Oh... and good luck with that whole "typical teenager" thing you're shooting for. Let me know how that works out.
Sixteen years or so ago, when I really started traveling lots for work, I actually kind of enjoyed it. I was seeing new places... meeting new people... experiencing cool stuff... it was a whirlwind of wonderment that made life fresh and exciting.
After a few years the excitement wore off (as it was bound to do) and I had gone from "Yay! I get to go to Milwaukee!" to "Argh. Milwaukee AGAIN?" But I still enjoyed it. The more miles I traveled, the more perks I got as a frequent flier. Travel had become a chore, yes, but not a terrible one. I got bumped to first class most of the time. I had access to private airline lounges. I had premium support problems popped up. Free handjobs in the first class lavatory.* The list goes on and on. Unlike the horror story most people experience when traveling, mine was a fairytale.
For the most part.
I mean, yes, there were delays, lost luggage, missed connections, and spending hideous amounts of time away from family and friends, but it was mostly better than a poke in the eye.**
But then the perks started to fade away.
I can't pinpoint the exact time they began vanishing... I want to say five years ago... but I honestly don't know because it seems like forever.*** I can, however, tell you when they died out completely.
That would be today.*****
For me at least.
After Delta Airlines decided that the amount of time you spend in the air with them didn't mean shit compared to how much money you spend... my days were numbered. I always fly the cheapest fares I can find out of obligation (to my day job) or necessity (for my charity work) so my importance to Delta went from being huge to practically zero. It didn't help that Delta started screwing over their partner airlines by making it so that you earn way less miles (or nothing at all) for non-Delta flights.******
And that was just the beginning. It seemed like Delta was devaluing their frequent flier program more and more with each passing week. So I switched my mileage plan from Delta to Alaska Air at the beginning of the year. Meaning this is my final year as a Delta Platinum (and former Diamond) flyer. And given how expensive it is to fly Delta now... and how little I get in return... this will be my final trip with them as a willing participant. From now on I fly Delta only when it's my only option left.
Which means next time I need to go to Portland, Maine like today (a city that Alaska Airlines does not serve) I'll instead be flying to Boston, Massachusetts (a city they do serve) and taking a two hour drive up the coast. I may not have huge status with Alaska Air, but they seem to value the time I spend with them a bit more.
And so on.
Which will be fine... until Delta buys out their SkyTeam partner Alaska, which is obviously their goal. Delta is adding so many flights out of Seattle that pretty soon you'll be able to fly direct from Seattle to Peoria. It's their way of squeezing Alaska out of their very own hub city, and Delta is getting pretty ruthless about it.
Oh well. It will be good while it lasted.
Delta must think so too, because this was my upgrade status flying out of Seattle this morning...
Missed it by this much.
My thanks to the many, many, many Delta employees who took such excellent care of me all these years. You will be missed. Though I'll still see you from time to time. Alaska Airlines doesn't service Amsterdam, for example, so I'll probably see you again in the Spring.
When I'll be earning a pathetic 50% of miles flown now.
Damn. Shouldn't we have Star Trek transporters by now?
* I may be exaggerating about the free handjobs. But I did get warmed nuts and free alcohol, which is almost the same thing.
** Unless you're a person that likes getting poked in the eye, then it's better than a Justin Bieber CD.
*** Not literally forever. I'm trying to be illustrative here. More like the time it takes to get through the line at the DMV.****
**** Also forever.
***** Actually, it's probably more like next Thursday... I'm getting ahead of myself here.
****** Even when purchased through Delta! For my trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos last year, I flew Delta "SkyTeam" carrier Korean Air. At the time of my reservation, I was told I had to pay a higher fare in order to get any miles credited to my account. So I did. Then they changed their mind and said I'd be getting no miles at all. It took a month of arguing before they gave in, and even then they shamed me for making them do it... even though they made me pay extra for exactly this purpose.
During the winter months I always try to arrive at a job site a day early because you just never know. This week the New England weather is supposed to be okay, but last week Maine had a winter storm attack that left a lot of people without electricity. So... just in case weather delays or power outages happen to me, I plan a buffer day so I have time to get everything straightened out.
Today was that day. Except it turns out I didn't need it.
And so I worked in my hotel room until they kicked me out at noon then went to the Maine Mall so I could have lunch at Johnny Rockets. While eating my Streamliner Veggie Burger (no mustard, no grilled onions), I saw this...
That's pretty awesome. Babies need to eat too, yo.
After a drive up to the fine city of Auburn and an uneventful afternoon working I was going to go explore the area for a while... but decided I'd be better off seeing if I could find out where I could get some falafel. Turns out it could be found just down the street from my hotel. That almost never happens! Dinner was served...
Dessert from from the hotel gift shop and looked something like this...
Party in my room!
Well that was a grueling 16-hours.
But any day you get back to your hotel from work before 3:00am is a good one, amiright?
At the tone the time will be 2:56am.
Yep. Good enough.
I left Auburn at noon and was back in Portland by 1:00... just in time for lunch.
But first I had to spend a half hour scraping snow and ice off my rental car. This included the tires, which had frozen to the ground...
The Ford Focus I rented is a pile of crap for many reasons. Primary of which is the horrendous gas mileage. Driving the 80 miles to Auburn and back killed... I shit you not... A HALF-TANK OF GAS! As if this wasn't bad enough, the car is just awful design-wise. Massive, glaring blind spots. A driver console that has no place to put your mobile phone. Uncomfortable seats. Utterly shitty "Sync by Microsoft" computer system that's as intuitive as a nuclear reactor to control. And then you get to the outside where you have this fucking huge gap between the hood and the windshield that is so cavernous and deep that it's extremely difficult to dig all the snow out of it. Even if you have a brush, there are ridges in there that makes it much more trouble than it's worth...
No wonder everybody wants a foreign car... their designers actually think about shit like this.
For reasons completely unknown, Portland, Maine has some really excellent pizza restaurants. This is nice because it takes the edge off the misery you experience when visiting in the cold, snowy, wet, days of Winter. A place I had wanted to visit but never got around to last time I was here was OTTO Pizza...
They are kinda famous for their Butternut Squash, Ricotta & Cranberry pie...
Sounds weird, I know. But it is pretty wonderful. Creamy with subtle flavors that taste amazing together...
It's important to eat it while it's hot though. As soon as it gets cold the texture gets kind of rubbery and weird.
OTTO's itself is a nice enough place. Kind of eclectic in a rustic way. Service is pretty good too. The only thing I hated is that somewhere in the restaurant there's a piano that kids are, apparently, welcome to bang all over. This makes an ungodly racket that completely ruins the experience of eating here. And I cannot fathom why in the hell they allow it. They must know that it's irritating as fuck to listen to that shit... so why put your customers through the agony? Stupid.
After some various errands, it was my plan to get some sleep.
I made the foolish mistake of checking my email only to find a problem that required me to head back out into the cold, snowy, raining, wet misery I had just escaped from. At least I was smart enough to bring my camera along with me. I didn't have it on my previous trip, and really wanted to take a shot of the Harbor Fish Market (which proved impossible with my iPhone). It's a beautiful building with amazing lighting that has a steady flow of customers pulling up all day...
From there I wandered around for a while to see if I could find anything else interesting to shoot...
I finished up my evening at my favorite restaurant in the city... Flatbread Company. I was still stuffed with OTTO pizza, so dinner was out of the question. But Flatbread Company makes some of the best desserts I've ever had, so I decided to try their Apple Crisp...
Not as jaw-dropping amazing as their wild blueberry desserts (which are out of season, darnit!), but still fantastic. Fortunately their chef is smart enough to know that RAISINS HAVE NO PLACE IN APPLE CRISP EVER!!! I frickin' hate it when somebody ruins a good apple crisp by dumping raisins in it. BLECH!
And now, at long last, that sleep I've been trying to chase down all day...
The Plan was to fly out today since my work ended yesterday so I could have more time on my upcoming Hard Rock adventure. But to follow The Plan would cost four times the money than a hotel stay, so I'm instead flying out tomorrow morning. Early.
The rest of this entry should be prefaced with the understanding that cold Maine is cold. Very cold. Biting cold. Cold with a side of cold and a scoop of cold on top.
It's really f'in cold.
And it's Sunday in the off-season, so there's not much to do in Portland, Maine. Thus my incentive to go outside is not very high. So I didn't until the hotel kicked me out at noon. At which time I checked into my airport hotel, returned my rental car, then took a taxi back into the city because pizza and apple crumble was calling at Flatbread Company...
To say I love this restaurant is a gross understatement. The location is great. The atmosphere is great. The service is great. The beer selection is great. The food? Beyond great. Especially the desserts, which are worth a trip to Portland all by themselves.
Did I mention it's cold?
Yet I went wandering downtown anyway like the fool I am. Despite wearing a T-shirt, thermal henley, hoodie sweatshirt, and a coat, I was still freezing. But I wanted to get a shot of the fence with locks on it in daylight, so off I went...
To profess their undying, never-ending love, a couple will write their names on a lock, attach it to the fence, then throw away the key. I have no idea if you come back with a bolt-cutter if things don't work out, but it's a nice idea.
I decided to explore somewhere new this time around, and left the Old Port area for downtown. That's when I saw... MAINE LOBSTERMAN!
Sculpted for the New York 1939 World's Fair, this piece has an interesting history (which you can read about here). At first I thought that the guy was giving first aid to a lobster with a hurt claw, but that's apparently not the case at all...
He's actually "pegging" the poor thing... which is to say he's shoving a wooden peg in the claw joint so it can't be opened (so he can't pinch anybody). This practice has mostly been abandoned, and now they just wrap a plastic band around the claw. Still a bit cruel, but I'm guessing it's not as painful to the lobster. At least until he gets boiled alive.
As I was walking, I saw a really cool painting on the side of a building that was meant to mimic a giant blueprint being laid over the structure...
Just across the street is a giant postcard painting that's also pretty cool...
If you look closely, the "lighthouse" is actually a spray-can...
At this point I was so cold that I could barely move, so I called a taxi while taking a few last photos as the sun set...
And that was that.
Back to my airport hotel room where I can (hopefully) get a few hours sleep before my early morning flight.
Don't say it's over... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• 161! This evening I net up with two local bloggity internet friends, Chris & Kyle, for a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America... which has been built into the middle of the USA's largest shopping complex. For a "new school" property, it's not bad. Certainly not as great as the former Minneapolis Hard Rock since it's a douchey hipster-lounge "new school" property... but at least there's some decent memorabilia to be found...
Oh... and the location is pretty good. Right next to the LEGO Store...
And that's Hard Rock property no. 161.
• Pub Night! After drinks at the Hard Rock, we headed to Ward 6 in St. Paul for dinner. I had the fried egg sammy (sans the bacon) and loved it. They actually put TWO fried eggs on there, which makes for an especially gooey delicious mess. Fantastic fries to boot. As if that wasn't enough, it was PUB QUIZ NIGHT! Our table was #1 for three of the four rounds, so we probably would have devastated the rest of the players... but we left before round 4 because it was taking really long to get through the questions. Still, great place for food if you're in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
• Thomas! This guy is genius...
While funny, am I the only one who thinks that this will one day lead to his death?
• UPS! This is too adorable...
Now I can't help but wonder if this kid will grow up to become an actual UPS driver.
• THANKS, OBAMA! Love him or hate him, this was pretty dang funny...
Cue the asshole brigade with cries of "Shouldn't he be running the country? And by 'running' I mean 'ruining"?!?"
And... tomorrow I'm in the air yet again, so I bid you goodnight!
And so today I flew into Sioux Falls so I could rent a car and drive down to Sioux City... home to the latest US Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It's nothing overly-fancy, but it does have some nice pieces of memorabilia and pretty good theming throughout.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
As you can tell in that last photo, the hotel part and the casino part are two separate buildings. The hotel was the former Simmons Hardware Company Warehouse (which you can read about here)... then they plastered the casino building right up next to it. You can see that they used the original exterior wall as the new interior dividing wall when you use the rear entrance...
The lobby is beautiful and decorated nicely for the holidays...
Interestingly enough, the reception desk has a full bar behind it. I don't know that I've ever seen that before!
The rooms are great, but not terribly "Hard Rock." With the exception of a guitar painting and a strip of photos next to the toilet, there's just not much to distinguish this from a "regular" hotel room... albeit a very nice one...
Hallways are pretty mundane and memorabilia-free, except for the carpet and door art...
Memorabilia is fairly good once you get to the casino portion. Not so much on the casino floor, but all the way around it...
A shirt worn by Elvis Presley!
Not wanting to spend all my time in a casino (I'm not much of a gambler), I decided to head out into the city and see what museums could be found in walking distance from the Hard Rock. The first I ran across was the Sioux City Art Center... which is not an actual museum, but they do have a small collection. The building itself is one of their best works of art, however...
Much to their credit, they had a beautiful Dale Chihuly seaform vase in their collection...
And a series of paintings focusing on cornfields. I couldn't really tell if they were painted to be faded and tough to make out... or if they were badly faded from sun damage or something. Still interesting. Though I found it impossible to photograph them well...
Much to my surprise, they also have a Jackson Pollock on loan...
Not one of my favorites by him, but Polock's works are alway great to see in person... the way the paint layers up is an interesting effect that gets lost in photos.
From there I walked to the Sioux City Museum, which focuses on the history of (you guessed it) Sioux City...
There's a lot of history in a relatively small space... almost too much at times, because it gets so cluttered you don't know where to look...
A nice museum, really... and totally free (though you can make a donation).
After a while I decided to head back to the hotel... disappointed that both cities I visited bearing the name of the Great Sioux Nation didn't actually have a museum dedicated to the Native Americans which inhabited (and continue to inhabit) the region. A teepee and a few crafts in the City Museum were about it. Perhaps one of the Indian reservations would have a museum, but they're so scattered I wouldn't know where to begin looking. I've done some cursory Google searches and came up empty. Guess I need to find a book.
Oh... and I found this cool shot along the way...
Dinner was an interesting side journey.
Three days ago, Blogography reader "Omaha Carl" left this comment...
As always, just LOVE it when you share your travels.
If you ever get to fly-over country. i.e. the Omaha region, consider me for a guide, or at least for suggestions.
(NOT the country singer from the 50s and 60s)
Smartass that I am, I replied with this...
I’ll be in flyover country day after tomorrow… see you then! :-)
It was a joke... but then I got to thinking about how Omaha couldn't be more than an hour-and-a-half south of Sioux City. So I Googled it and, sure enough, an hour and thirty-four minutes...
So... a couple emails later and I was off to Omaha for a terrific dinner with Carl...
If you're ever in Omaha, Anthony's makes a mean bowl of pasta (and it's way more than I could eat!). I'm just sad that I didn't have room to eat a salad with some Dorothy Lynch dressing (which is apparently a very Omaha thing to do given that it was invented in the city of St. Paul, due East of the city).
Thanks so much to Omaha Carl for the great evening!
This morning I woke up early because I had stuff to accomplish.
I wasn't going to visit Eastern South Dakota without seeing The Corn Palace... and I wasn't going to visit Sioux Falls without seeing the replica of Michelangelo's David.
But first? Breakfast. Which was going to be the TWIN BING candy bar that I bought at the Sioux City Museum yesterday!
I say "was" because it turns out the "BING" in a TWIN BING bar is for BING CHERRY! Cherry being a flavor that I loathe. So... no breakfast for me!
The hour drive back to Sioux Falls was uneventful... except for the roadside billboards that keep popping up. Unlike Washington State which has banned billboards, in South Dakota they are very much alive. Half of them are telling people to visit the famous Wall Drug Store, which is odd because it's located five hours away. The other half? Well... anything you can think of, really.
One of the best billboards I saw was the one that said "EAT BEEF!" and had a photo of a steak on it with nothing more. Direct and to the point.
But my favorite billboard? The one that said "Eat Steak. Wear Furs. Keep Your Guns. The American Way." My biggest regret this trip is that I didn't pull over and take a photo of it. Lucky for me, a YouTuber caught it...
Still from a video by Dumbface Tour... you can watch their video here.
Stuff like this is hysterical in its idiocy. For me, the "American Way" is having the freedom to NOT eat steak... to NOT wear furs... to NOT have a gun. The American Way is not having to conform to some redneck's moronic ideal of what it means to be an "American." But whatever. Expression of stupid shit is also The American Way.
After blowing past Sioux Falls, I headed west on I-90 towards Mitchell, South Dakota... home of THE CORN PALACE!! I've wanted to visit this place after I first learned about it years ago. I mean, come on, it's a sports venue COVERED IN CORN! Every year the corn murals are different, but they all kind of look like this...
Photo from WikiMedia Commons by User Parkerdr
The Corn Palace is undergoing rennovations just now, so what I saw was this...
The building may be a mess, but the murals are still intact...
The inside is just as good...
And of course I crossed the street to visit the gift shop and meet Cornelius, the Corn Palace mascot...
Hopefully I'll get back one day when everything is put back together.
There was just enough time to head back to Sioux Falls and hunt down David before I had to be to the airport, so off I went.
Fortunately, he was pretty easy to find...
And off I go...
An early morning flight from Minneapolis back to Seattle.
Where Delta was kind enough to upgrade me to first class... so I guess today is the day the perks die, not last Wednesday after all. Still... again... it was good while it lasted.
After several delays out of Seattle, my flight finally boarded... but on a Weather Advisory... which means there's a chance we won't get to land, but will instead have to turn around and head back to Seattle if the weather is too bad.
Fortunately that never happened and I made it home just fine.
I guess that means the last trip of 2014 was a success. Plus I get to update my "States Visited Map"...
South Dakota and Nebraska make 49.
North Dakota is the only state I haven't visited yet.
I'll try to get that taken care of next year.
Home for a month.
I've started taking a couple months off during the winter because I really hate travel this time of year. I've spent the past two decades being trapped in airports because of snow and ice, and I'm just done with it. At least that's the plan.
Which is subject to change at any moment.
This post is scheduled to publish at 9:10:11 12/13/14.
Since that ain't gonna happen again for a thousand years, I felt obligated to play along.
No more holiday shopping for you... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• Little! One of the most wonderful books ever crafted, Le Petit Prince has inspired a new animated motion picture of the same name...
Yeah. Definitely going to make time to see that.
• TURN IT! So there I was... freaking out because yet another video had been shot in vertical and posted to my wall... when I run across THIS...
YES. FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE... TURN YOUR DAMN PHONE!
• Last Days of Ivory. An elephant is murdered every 15 minutes...
• Petty Assholes! Take, for example, genocide...
Yeah. Somebody definitely needs to focus on The Big Picture here.
• Peace? And Greenpeace moves to the top of my Stupid Assholes list. Not only did they not give a crap about preserving a glorious WORLD HERITAGE SITE... it's obvious they did this idiotic stunt because they're self-serving pieces of shit. They made this perfectly clear... WHEN THEY SIGNED IT WITH THEIR LOGO!
Image front Reuters
Their subsequent non-apology apology only makes them even worse... not sorry we did it... sorry you're offended. Yeah, take your "message of hope" and shove it straight up your hypocritical asses.
And... Bullet Sunday out.
I know I just wrote about the Greenpeace desecration of the Nazca lines yesterday, but I've only grown more enraged over the issue, and can't seem to let it go. This is outrageously disgusting on every level, and all those involved should be fucking shot. They have caused serious damaged to an artifact of massive historical significance and just don't give a shit. Greenpeace apologizes for "offending anyone" but seems to think they are above apologizing for the damage they've done to this cultural treasure...
It's stuff like this that makes me crazy.
And it's not limited to Greenpeace... plenty of other organizations who proclaim to advocate causes with "peaceful protest" do this kind of stupid crap all the time. And they feel fully justified because their "message" is more important than the destruction they cause. Well fuck that. No matter how important their message or how just their cause, Greenpeace made it perfectly clear that the real reason they fight for their environmental issues is for self-glorification and self-promotion. In the end Greenpeace only really cares about... Greenpeace.
But, unfortunately, probably not the definition of "resist" that kids are going to be needing...
re·sist verb \ri-ˈzist\
: to prevent yourself from doing something that you want to do.
: to try to stop or prevent (something)
: to remain strong against the force or effect of (something)
: to not be affected or harmed by (something)
: to fight against (something)
They're gonna get you.
They won't forget you.
Oh you know I know.
Ooh! Thursday is Memesday!
This particular set of questions is running through Tumblr, so I thought I'd steal it for my blog since there's not much going on with me today.
And... I'm spent.
A couple years ago, I pledged $58 to a Kickstarter project by Peter Molyneux's "22 Cans" so they could complete a new game called Godus. It was to be inspired by the game Populous, which is one of my favorite computer games of all time. In it, you are playing a "god" who uses their ever-escalating abilities to control the lives of your in-game "followers."
At first, things were good. 22 Cans provided regular updates, often videos with Peter Molyneux himself. As the weeks turned into months, I was quite pleased to follow along with their progress, and thought everything was coming along beautifully. When the beta was released, I played around with it for a while... but didn't have time to devote to something that was still pretty rough. Eventually I deleted the game and thought I'd wait until it was finished.
But it hasn;t been finished. They're still working on it.
Nevertheless, I wanted to see what was happening with the $58 I paid, so I downloaded the Mac and iPhone versions to see what was happening.
As expected, the game looks beautiful. I love the design aesthetic, and am very impressed with how things are working...
The game is also kind of touching, as using your god powers can have terrible consequences for your followers... like when you destroy somebody's home so you can clear the land for bigger and better things...
Things eventually turn to shit.
Because Peter Molyneux and 22 Cans aren't creating a complete game. They're building a half-baked piece of shit that contains "in-game purchases." Yes, the game is free to download (thanks to the money I and a lot of other people donated) but, in order to get the most out of it, you have to pay real money to get ahead. Dubbed "freemium" games, these horrendous blights on gamers are fucking awful because you don't own the whole game. In order to play the way it was meant to be played, you have to keep paying for it. And paying and paying and paying...
In Godus you're buying gems. The gems can then be exchanged for things like "follower flags" that increase the happiness of your followers. Because if your followers aren't happy, they'll leave. You can also buy things you need to keep the game moving... like wheat. Because if you don't buy it, you'll be waiting days to make progress and keep playing.
I'm sure Molyneux will argue that you don't have to keep paying extra money... but he'd be full of shit. Because any time you try to do anything where you don't have enough power, Godus will literally keep wagging an invitation for you to buy more gems in the corner of the screen...
And it's annoying as shit, as you might imagine.
So how do I feel after paying $58 for a complete game and getting this bullshit?
Betrayed. Lied to. And very, very angry.
I don't buy "freemium" games. They're moronic crap and I have no interest in being jerked around like this. If 22 Cans had been honest from the beginning with their intent to nickel-and-dime their supporters, I would have never donated the money.
So lesson learned. Guess I won't be Kickstarting games any more.
Jesus, what assholes.
UPDATE: And it just keeps getting better. Godus requires you to be online while playing. If you don't have internet access, you don't play. If you do have internet access, but Godus servers are down, you don't play either...
It's almost comical just how shitty this app is. I've reset my iPhone more times since installing Godus than I have in all the years since I bought my first iPhone. So much for Apple's Editor Choice awards meaning a damn thing.
When I went to bed last night, I felt great.
But when I woke up this morning, I felt bloody awful
So now, instead of spending the day getting caught up at work, I'm trying to work from home while feeling nauseous. Needless to say, it's tough getting much done when you feel like you're going to throw up all day long... but can't.
And I don't even know what's wrong.
I don't think it's food poisoning.
It doesn't feel like the flu.
I hope it's not kidney stones.
Don't let that crazy solstice celebration get out of control... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Goodbye! After nine years of being a huge fan of The Colbert Report, I was saddened that the show had to come to the end this past Thursday...
Best of luck to Stephen Colbert when he takes over The Late Show next Spring.
• Primate! It was only a matter of time before we figured out how to translate monkey-speak... and Scientific American says we are there...
I wonder how you say "GIVE ME THE BANANA AND NOBODY GETS POOP THROWN AT THEIR HEAD!" —?
• Wrench! BEHOLD THE MAJESTY OF SCIENCE!
Photo courtesy of NASA.
When the commander of the International Space Station needed a specialty wrench, NASA emailed it to him for printing on the lab's 3D printer. The future is now, people.
• Leia! Just because I want to keep the internet adorable...
"It's actually a pretty good look for her."
• Trek! Over at Playboy they have an article that ranks ALL THE STAR TREK! And that includes the animated episodes! For the Star Trek fan, it is must-read material. I agree almost completely at the bottom of the list... disagree a little at the top... and disagree a lot with the middle (but I'm not much of a fan of the non TOS episodes, so shoot me)...
Many of my differences with the list are debatable, but the one episode that just baffles me beyond all reason is the Enterprise episode Carbon Creek at THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY-TWO?!?? WTF?!?
• OBAMA! Thanks to my laptop and the internet, I can work anywhere in the world where I have access to both. But apparently The President of the United States can't work from Hawaii (despite being one of the most well-connected people on earth) since every moron with a lifeline to FOX "News" is shitting all over him for spending the holidays away from the White House during the "North Korean Hacking Crisis." Stupid shit like this drives me insane. What... is the president's desk MAGICAL and he loses all his "Leader of the Free World Powers" whenever he's away from it? Hackers IN NORTH KOREA can run the film industry from half a world away, but The President of the United States can't gather information for a response because he's back home? Do the idiots who say this moronic crap actually listen to the words coming out of their mouths? Even if President Obama DID cancel his trip, the same dipshits would STILL lambast him because they he'd be "letting the terrorist win" by not keeping to his schedule. The ultimate irony being that a job like "President of the United States" doesn't actually get ANY vacation days, because the world doesn't stop, there's always a crisis somewhere, and your job as president never ends... no matter where you are.
Annnnd... back to your solstice celebration.
Modern-day Doritos with their beautiful rounded corners are the equivalent of a sandwich filled with dreams that have the crusts cut off. I love them, and now when I have to eat "regular" tortilla chips with their pointy corners it makes me want to cry.
And speaking of crying...
The only thing that makes me want to cry more than pointy tortilla chips is eating Doritos with salsa while wearing my favorite shirt. Somehow... no matter how careful I am... I always spill salsa on myself when my favorite shirt is involved. If I'm wearing a shirt I hate, however, it's as if a magical force field protects if from stains.
And speaking of stains...
I was shopping for some props at an antique store last week when I ran across a small pile of three white children's briefs. Neatly pinned to the top of the pile was a note which read "Stains NOT Urine!" Putting aside my curiosity as to who might purchase stained, used underwear from an antique store, I said aloud to myself "If the stains aren't urine... then what?" A woman shopping behind me said "I'm guessing it's rust."
And speaking of rust...
My dash was illuminated by the "Check Oil" light on the way to work yesterday. After Googling "Does Motor Oil Expire?" and finding out that it does not, I pulled a decade-old bottle from the trunk and popped the hood so I could add some. Much to my horror, it looks as though there's a bunch of rust and grime built-up in there, and I immediately regretted my do-it-yourself gumption. Had I not looked, my engine would still be shiny and new as it was in my memories. Guess that's what I deserve after not having bothered to gander at my engine for ten years. Since I know pretty much nothing about cars, there seemed no point in it. I've got more important things to store in my brain.
And speaking of brains...
While lost in a Wikipedia spiral, I somehow ended up on the page for hemispherectomy. In case you've never heard of it before, a hemispherectomy is a rare surgical procedure for children where half of their brain is removed to help eliminate life-threatening seizures. Remarkably, the human brain (fascinating organ that it is) can "re-wire" itself to replace the functionality lost by the missing half, so patients can grow up to live a fairly normal life despite experiencing such massive trauma. This got me thinking about the many times I've used the phrase "If they had half a brain, this wouldn't have happened!" when hearing about somebody doing something stupid. Now that I know about hemispherectomies, I realize it isn't quite the damning condemnation I had previously made it out to be. Guess it's time to come up with a different insult for the criminally stupid.
And speaking of stupid...
As I was wandering around the Mid-West a couple weeks ago, I noticed that the radio in my rental car was playing the best station ever. They kept playing amazing song after amazing song, and there were no commercial interruptions. Some of the music was terrific esoteric stuff by bands I didn't think anybody but me remembered, and my mind was sufficiently blown. Dying to know the name of this fantastic radio station that was too good to be true, I reached past the USB cord charging my mobile and pressed the "DISPLAY" button to find out. The readout said "iPhone."
And speaking of iPhone...
Yesterday while I was busy working away, my iPhone rang. Usually I ignore calls at work... especially when I don't know the number (like this time)... but I decided to answer for some reason. The elderly woman on the other end was attempting to call her daughter and was pretty upset that she got me instead. After figuring out that she dialed a "6" where she should have dialed a "3," she started sobbing for having made such a careless mistake. I assured her that it was no problem, at which time she thanked me through her tears.
And speaking of tears...
Have I mentioned how sad it makes me to have to eat non-Doritos tortilla chips with their pointy corners?
Virtual desktops have been around for a very long time. But it wasn't until Apple unleashed their version of the virtual desktops in 2007 (called "Spaces") that it became a seamless experience on Macintosh computers.
And essential. At least to me.
By creating multiple desktops using Apple's "Mission Control," you get clutter-free workspaces that you can switch between with a flick of the mouse or trackpad...
Being able to give each of your Spaces a different background image so you can tell which desktop you're looking at is pretty cool. But the killer feature that makes Spaces so compelling is being able to anchor different apps to a specific desktop...
So now when you click on an app icon in the dock, you are sent to the associate desktop automatically without having to keep sliding between all your Spaces. Nice. I've become so accustomed to using Apple's "Spaces" desktops that I don't even think about it anymore... it just The Way Things Are.
Until this morning when they stopped functioning for some reason.
I tried working without virtual desktops, but was quickly driven insane. Instead of effortlessly switching between Spaces I was having to hide and unhide apps... sort through piles of windows... constantly resize app panes... it was a nightmare of inefficiency and trauma. So much so that I wasted precious time Googling a solution (had to kill some prefs) so I could get back to work.
And now I'm a little paranoid... wondering which technology I take for granted every day is going to be the one that gives out next. We've let tech take over our lives bit by bit, and now it has become so integrated into how we function that we don't even notice it.
Until it's gone.
Holy crap don't let Angry Birds be next.
Merry Christmas to me from AT&T!
When I signed up with them, there was no mention of restrictions on my "Unlimited Data" plan. Now, for the first time ever, I'm approaching 5GB of use, so they're going to throttle my data speed.
No credit for the years of months I've barely used any data at all, I guess...
Whatevs. I've pretty much come to expect treatment like this any more.
It's only surprising now-a-days when you don't get screwed.
To all those who celebrate...
Time for two of my annual Christmas traditions!
First... breaking my Little Drummer Boy Challenge fast with Grace Jones...
And then... checking to make sure Alex Honnold is still alive (he is).
Yeah, yeah, it's Friday and I'm two days early... but I can't mess up my end-of-year lists, so... Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Box! Ooh... look... it's the day after Christmas!
Assuming you celebrate that kind of thing.
• Monkeymedic! When a monkey was badly shocked by an electrical line, a monkey friend did their best to revive him...
Monkey buddies for life!
• Land! One of the gifts from Cards Against Humanity's Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa ended up being one square foot of an island in Maine that they renamed Hawaii 2. My piece is here...
Looks like I'm going to have to see if there's a way to get there for my next trip to Maine!
• Cute! There's an article titled 25 of The Cutest Parenting Moments In The Animal Kingdom that's totally worth a look. Though I'd say a photo I took when I was at Mana Pools in Africa of two elephants teaching a baby elephant how to wash grass is just as cute as any of them...
And a photo I took of a mother lion giving her reluctant cub a bath when I was at Hwange National Park is equally sweet...
Doesn't get much more adorable than nature.
• Horrifying! And now for something that's the exact opposite of cute. I was playing Godus (quite a trick when the pile of crap crashes all the time) when a rival tribe, the Astari, started having a celebration. If the celebration makes their people happier than my people, some of my people will defect. I didn't want this to happen, so I used my god powers to call down a meteor strike. I was hoping if I busted some of their buildings they wouldn't be quite so happy. Unexpectedly, all hell broke loose. Before I knew it, all the buildings... and all the little people... were on fire...
The whole scene was just awful, and I felt terrible all day for the horrific destruction I unleashed. I was going to call down some rain to extinguish everything, but the population plummeted to zero and the entire tribe was gone. Guess this is what happens when people try to play god.
• Quest! I'm a bit obsessed with Questlove, best known as co-founder and lead drummer for The Roots (the house band on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon). He absolutely mesmerizes me with his musical talent... especially when he sits in on drums with a guest band at the last minute (always flawlessly). He can play drums on A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Despite being a fan, I never knew he had a memoir out until last week when I discovered... quite by accident... the book "Mo' Meta Blues." It is fantastic. The guy is even more brilliant than I imagined. Highly recommend checking it out...
If you need convincing, here's a terrific excerpt over at Salon.
• ASSHOLERY! One of my favorite internet services is DropBox. It's a storage space in the cloud that allows me to share files and keep my work handy no matter where I am or which computer I'm using. I've been paying for DropBox space for years, and have come to rely on its ease and convenience. At least I did until the last update when the fucking assholes moved the buttons to open the DropBox folder and open the DropBox website... replacing them with a "Pro" button...
And since I am so accustomed to where the buttons used to be, I'm forever accidentally clicking on that stupid-ass "Pro" button, opening up their idiotic "PAY US MORE FUCKING MONEY" website which I DON'T WANT. And I am absolutely livid. First DropBox trains everybody where to click to get what they need... then they trick you into clicking on an ad? terrific way to treat your customers.
UPDATE: I do have a "Pro" account that doesn't expire until April 2015 and has PLENTY of space available. So I have no idea why I am being told I have to go Pro Pro?
And... that's the last Bullet Sunday of 2014!
Since switching to digital comics, I've been more ambitious in trying out new titles. If somebody even hints that they've discovered a great new comic, I'm all over it.
That being said, my list has a lot of the same titles as last year because I'm still digging the same stuff the most.
THE TWELVE BEST...
Matt Fraction and David Aja continue to crank out brilliant issue after brilliant issue of my favorite comic book. Not only do the stories and art continue to be compelling in a way that other comics can only dream of obtaining, there were some genuine surprises along the way that kept me interested. Truly super-heroics at their best.
Just when you think that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have peaked with their Batman run... the blow past your expectations. Endgame is shaping up to be even more amazing than Court of Owls and Zero Year, and I couldn't be more thrilled that my favorite super-hero is in such great hands. All the reasons I love Batman so much are right here.
#3 Black Science.
I alternatively love everything about this book... and am frustrated for all the things the book is not... but still enjoy it enough to have the title jump to No. 3 on my list. If you're looking for high adventure in the darkest reaches of the universe on bizarre alien worlds, then Black Science is what you've been waiting for. I was hooked with issue No. 1, then completely obsessed by issue No. 5. My enthusiasm has wavered a bit after that, but we're at issue No. 11 now, and I'm as big a fan as ever. Worth your valuable time to check out.
#4 Sex Criminals.
I would have bypassed this book without even looking at it if it weren't for the fact that Matt Fraction (writer of Hawkeye, may favorite book two years running) was behind it. So funny. So wrong. So worth picking up.
#5 Ms. Marvel.
This comic was solicited thusly: "Kamala Khan is just an ordinary girl from Jersey City—until she is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the all-new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm, and prepare for an epic tale that will be remembered by generations to come." Needless to say, I was completely indifferent, as it seemed an obvious attempt at creating something new from something old in the most contrived, forced way possible ("I know! Let's make her a teenage Muslim!"). That never goes well. Right? Well, in this case it not only went very, very well... it quickly became one of the best books on the shelf month after month. A fantastic comic in most every way, It would not surprise me if Ms. Marvel climbs even higher on my list next year (fingers crossed).
#6 The Multiversity.
DC Comics ended up with a comic book universe that was such a huge mess they unleashed Crisis on Infinite Earths to gut everything and make sense of it all. After streamlining everything to a single, coherent universe, they've subsequently devoted a lot of time to screwing it up with needless complexity all over again. Sometimes for the better... most times for the worst. One of the better moments was Grant Morrison's series of one-shot comics that started this year, collectively known as The Multiversity. Here we're meeting comic characters of alternate earths who only exist to the other earths as comic book stories (Holy Flash of Two Worlds, Batman!). In lesser hands, this concept could have floundered badly, but Morrison has given us 52 parallel universes worth exploring, and it's been a joy to read. I can't wait for the finale come April.
#7 Moon Knight.
Warren Ellis took a character I've enjoyed for decades and revitalized him for modern comic book audiences in a way that made me love the character all over again. And, for the first half-dozen issues, it was vying for my favorite comic book month after month. Alas, Ellis left after six issues, and the book (while still pretty darn good) never recovered for me. Still, it's gritty, delicious fun... and as close as Marvel's got to Batman in their corner of the comic book world.
#8 Adventure Time.
I expected that my rabid love of the cartoon show would damn the comic book version to the trash pile, but that's absolutely not the case. If anything, the comic book just makes me love the cartoon even more, and that's about as high praise as I can offer. If you are even a small fan of the TV show, here's the book for you.
The fact that this title has dropped two spots from 2013 is no reflection on the quality of the book... only that there was a lot of good material released this year. Because, I'm here to tell you, the past couple issues (No. 44 in particular), John Layman and Rob Guillory have churned out some of the best issues in the history of the book. Cibopath Tony Chu is having adventures even more bizarre and surreal than ever, and if you're not reading this book (and have the stomach for it) you need to get onboard.
#10 Wonder Woman.
This book has ranked very high on my list since it first debuted, and it was all thanks to the imaginative new take on an old standard by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. They put a heavy mythological slant on Princess Diana that I never liked as well as George Pérez's take, but it all worked well. Very well. Until Azzarello and Chiang's run came to an end this year... not with a bang, but with a "meh." And then they bailed on the title. Leaving us with newcomer writer Meredith Finch, who seems determined to drag the title back to disjointed mediocrity after only two issues. Something tells me that Wonder Woman isn't going to make my list next year, and nobody is sadder about that than me.
Robert Kirkman never seems content with the status quo when it comes to his signature comic book super-hero. Just when you think things are going to calm down, Kirkman takes a hard right into some bizarre new territory that shouldn't be unexpected... but always is. 2014 ended with a bigger bang than usual, which should lead to an even more interesting 2015. For anybody who thought the book had nowhere to go but down after issue #100, the creative team of Invincible spent all year proving you wrong.
DAMMIT! I spent all year enjoying each new issue of Shulkie only to find out that it's being canceled with issue No. 12 (which comes out next month). This book truly had it all... not only a fun, smart take on super-heroics, but also terrific courtroom wrangling via She-Hulk's alter-ego Jen Walters (including a face-off with Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil!). How in the heck this book never caught on is just beyond me. It's everything you read comics for.
ALSO WORTH LOOKING AT...
I snapped up this title on opening day because Mark Millar has a track record of books I enjoy... and was hooked immediately. A larger than life pulp sci-fi hit, this galaxy-spanning tale of Duke McQueen is well worth your time.
My #3 book from last year dropped completely out of my top twelve because of endless delays. Instead of six bi-monthly issues, we were lucky to get two, and there's no telling when/if any more books are even coming. Still, an awesome take on super-heroics by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely.
A very smart take on a timeless sci-fi hero, this book is a joy to read from cover to cover. It kind of took a dip during the summer months, but the last couple of issues for 2014 were fantastic, and things are looking great for 2015. Flash! Ah Aaahhhhh! He'll save every one of us!
Wicked + The Divine.
Every ninety years, twelve of the old gods are reincarnated as teenagers for two short years. The result is pop stars for a new era, and the story takes that concept to strange places.
Batman scribe Scott Snyder's tale of survival horror is still a mind-bogglingly good read.
East of West.
This excellent series has stumbled a bit as of late, but is still a really good read. Jonathan Hickman knows how to create great comic books, and this ultimate battle of Death vs. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a great example of his talent.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...
Holy crap. Robots vs. aliens has never been like this. A digital comic so good that it's being turned into a printed book as well. No explanation I could give would do the title justice, so I recommend you check it out for yourself.
Alex + Ada.
A sci-fi drama that is surprisingly human... considering it's about androids. This series is very slow and deliberate, so it's not going to appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy your comics with a bit of soul-searching it's worth a look.
A critical and fan favorite, Saga is the best book I can't seem to get into. Yes, it's imaginative and very well-written, but it's more fantasy than fiction, which is just not my thing. Still, I continue to enjoy it enough to keep reading, so here we are.
And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year.
Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of movies I saw that came out this year." Every time I write one of these things, there's always a bunch of movies I never saw that would have ended up on the list (last year it would have been Twelve Years a Slave, The Square, and Fruitvale Station, for example). But I can only do what I can do, so here we go...
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw.
#1 Guardians of the Galaxy
Hands-down my favorite film of 2014 in every possible way. After his mom dies, Peter Jason Quill is abducted by aliens for a life of adventure beyond his wildest dreams. Skating through life as an intergalactic thief, Peter makes the ultimate score... only to find out that the fate of the galaxy is literally in his hands. Banding together with an odd assortment of criminals, "Star-Lord" faces a powerful evil none of them might survive. Hilarity and jaw-dropping special effects ensue. INTERESTING ASIDE: A Marvel movie has topped my list every year since I've been doing this... Iron Man 2 in 2010, Captain America and Thor in 2011, The Avengers in 2012, Iron Man 3 in 2013, and now Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. My guess is that Iron Man would have topped my list in 2008 (if I had one), and it seems inevitable that Avengers 2: Age of Ultron or Ant Man will top it next year. That's quite a feat!.
#2 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
So good. Where do I start? The very concept of "Captain America" is dated and cheesy, but Anthony and Joe Russo turn this weakness into a strength by cutting to the core of what "America" even means in this day and age. And completely knock it out of the park. Captain America stumbles upon a plot that puts our very freedom at risk and teams up with Black Widow to find answers to a political mystery that reaches back to World War II. Along the way we are introduced to Falcon, a staple from Captain America's comic book history, and a welcome addition to the team. As if that wasn't enough, we also get... Robert Redford? Yet another flawless comic book translation by Marvel Studios.
#3 Kaguya-hime no Monogatari
An absolutely mesmerizing film that is an animation fan's hand-drawn dream come true. For a good taste of the stunning, mind-blowing artistry this movie has to offer... YouTube to the rescue.
#4 Veronica Mars
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. Even so, the film was a dream come true for this fan, who ranks Veronica Mars as the "second-best television show of all time." Not only did it finally give closure to the non-ending of the series, it also brilliantly opened up the possibilities of more films. Which I would absolutely welcome, because anything new for Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell is bound to be good stuff.
#5 Big Hero 6
The third Marvel Studios film on my list also happens to be a Disney masterpiece. After a young genius watches his older brother head to his death trying to help people, he seeks revenge on the person responsible by assembling a team of heroes for the impending battle. That alone is a concept worth experiencing, but Disney didn't stop there... they created BayMax, my favorite cartoon character since Sully on Monsters Inc., and I loved his every second on-screen. If we're going to see more Marvel/Disney collaborations like this, count me in.
#6 The LEGO Movie
This seriously could have been my favorite movie of 2014... if it weren't for the horrendous detour it took at the end which I absolutely hated. HATED! But everything up to that point was gold. The film is funny in all the right spots and a total blast to watch. Not only that, but the animation is sublime and the voice talent flawless (particularly Chris Pratt as Emmett and Will Arnett as LEGO Batman). If you haven't seen it, you really owe it to yourself to submerse yourself into the world of LEGO like you've never seen it before. EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!
#7 Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson was everywhere this year, including this sci-fi thriller that's almost too good to be true. Stylish, disturbing, and haunting, the film defies description and is probably best experienced without knowing anything ahead of time. That being said, this is definitely a movie that's not for everyone. It requires a real mental leap to appreciate, and if you're not able to make the jump you're probably going to dislike it. Maybe even hate it. As for myself? I can't decide. All I know is that Under the Skin hasn't left me since I saw it, and you can't say that about many films now-a-days.
#8 Edge of Tomorrow
I had -zero- hope for this film, but gave it a shot because it's an adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's epic All You Need Is Kill (also adapted to manga by Ryōsuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata). So imagine my surprise when it ended up being a fantastic movie with amazing visuals and a darn good story. In the near future a disgraced military officer has a mishap that results in him re-living the same day over and over again every time he dies. This allows him to attempt to find a way to repell an alien invasion on the brink of humanity's defeat. Great performances by Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt sealed the deal.
A film that was shot over an 11-year period that shows the life on a young boy as he (and his family) grows to adulthood. It's a very brave idea that paid off big-time. The only down-side being that the story was fluid and tended to wander around. This resulted in some dead spots that ground things to a halt from time to time. Still, it's hard not to appreciate what a feat this was to film and how amazing it turned out. Props to Richard Linklater for having the vision to see it through.
#10 X-Men Days of Future Past
I enjoyed this film a lot despite it being a steaming pile of shit, and I don't know why. Probably because I love comic book movies... even when they take a massive dump over both the comic book source material and the continuity of the film franchise. It's like "We need to send Wolverine's mind back in time into the body of his younger self but we're too lazy and stupid to figure out a logical way, so... KITTY PRIDE HAS A NEW POWER SHE'S NEVER HAD BEFORE FOR NO REASON EXCEPT IT SERVICES THE PLOT!" And, once they committed to that utter stupidity, everything else was fair game... no matter how absurd. And yet... there was plenty of entertainment to be found, despite Bryan Singer's best efforts, so it makes my list.
While not in the same league as Kaguya-hime no Monogatari, Disney managed to craft a beautifully-animated feature with great characters, a terrific story, and addictive music. But I don't need to tell you that. This movie was a massive box office success, and the inevitable sequel is undoubtedly already under way. One of my favorite parts of the film is Kristoff, who managed to hold his own against two Disney princesses in a way that was more about him being himself rather than becoming somebody new so he was "worthy of a princess." Bravo Disney.
This movie came completely out of nowhere to blow my mind into itty-bitty pieces. A group of friends are having a dinner party when a comet flies overhead and knocks out the power. Adventures in quantum physics ensues. As if that weren't bizarre enough for you, the film was shot without a script. Director James Ward Byrkit simply handed out character notes to each actor every day of the five-day shoot (which was in his own home) and let things unfold from there. Once you've seen the film, you'll marvel that this gambit actually worked. To understand the goings on a little better, here's a SPOILER-FILLED interview with the director (which you don't want to watch until you've seen the film, obviously).
I read the book and enjoyed it, but was going to pass on the film adaptation... until I found out David Fincher was behind it. Surprisingly tight and well-crafted film that did the novel justice.
Now this is a documentary. Hobbyist Tim Jenison attempts to discover how 17th-century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer managed to get near photographic realism in his paintings.
I did not see this in IMAX and which I had, because the visuals are excellent. Wish I could say the same thing about the story, which I found hokey and mediocre. Still entertainment as you'll rarely see it in the cinema, so worth your valuable time to see.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A terrific film with a flawless cast that's yet another feather in Wes Anderson's cap. The problem is that the quirky films that Anderson makes are starting to lose their luster for me. They've gone from being charming and unexpected to merely more of the same.
Finding Vivian Maier
A Chicago nanny spent her days capturing life around her with a collection of over 100,000 photographs that went undiscovered and unseen until they were purchased at auction after her death. The discovery of Maier's impressive catalog of work propelled her to the spotlight and had critics hailing her as a master of street photography. Not always a flattering take on her life, the film is a fascinating look at photography and art.
The life and times of Roger Ebert, both professional and personal. It's a surprisingly compelling work.
While I was not as enamoured with this movie as the critics seem to be, it was still a pretty darn good film about the life of an independent crime photographer.
This was a pretty tight action film that was beautifully realized from the French comic book... but the ending was utterly insane. My take? SPOILER ALERT! Any survivors surely perished within days of the final frame.
The Skeleton Twins
This was a really well-written, well-acted film about a suicide attempt bringing together two siblings who are living far from perfect lives. It dragged a bit in places, but was ultimately worth the ride.
A documentary that looks back on the making of the greatest movie never made! And, by the end of the film, you really wish it had been...
DIDN'T SEE, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...
The Strange Little Cat
The trailer is utterly bizarre and more than a little annoying, but the critics won't shut up about it, and it's supposed to be based on Kafka's The Metamorphosis. How can I refuse that?
Two Days, One Night
A character piece that looks unlike anything I've see... in a very good way. A woman has to convince her fellow employees to give up a bonus so she can keep her job.
A Turkish film examining the class divide against a backdrop of winter at a mountain hotel. Looks dramatic... but without the drama. If you know what I mean.
Listen Up Philip
Jason Schwartzman and Jonathan Pryce. I'm intrigued already.
As an art lover, a documentary about the goings on of the National Gallery in London is too tempting to ignore. Can't wait to see it.
An obsessive instructor teaches his student how to become a world-class drummer using intimidation and fear. Doesn't sound like my cup of tea, but the critical acclaim is hard to ignore.
I have no idea if this is something I will enjoy, but the preview certainly seems like it could be. A Catholic nun learns she's Jewish just as she prepares to take her vows. A journey of discovery ensues.
I just can't tell if this is going to be brilliant-brilliant or stupid-brilliant, but I'm happy to spend the time finding out.
British historical-based comedies are my weak point, and this film telling the story of gays and lesbians lending their support to striking coal miners in 1984 Wales sounds like an entertaining concept.
A Million Ways to Die in the West
How in the hell Seth MacFarlane went from the total genius that was Ted to this painfully un-funny turd is a total mystery. I can't believe I wasted my valuable time on this dud.
From the previews, I was ready to love this film. Scarlett Johansson gets mind-bogglingly awesome super-powers and proceeds to kick ass? Fantastic! But that's not what we got. Instead of escalating the cool super-human action to a grand finale, the film takes a massive detour into some kind of metaphysical artistic statement that is really unsatisfying and senseless. Lucy was ultimately disappointed to me because the ending sabotaged the whole movie.
Given the high-caliber cast (George Clooney, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett), I expected this was going to be a killer film. But it turns out that the cast was about the only thing I enjoyed. There just wasn't much of a story... the characters broke up into pairs and wandered around Europe trying to save art during the final days of World War II. The End. I was told this was a "caper" film... kind of like Ocena's 11 or something. But other than trying to blow a mine open before the Russians arrive, there wasn't much of a "caper" to speak of. Even worse, it was just so horribly boring.
And now is that special entry where I wrap up MY FAVORITE TV SHOWS OF 2014!
Which looks a lot like last year with a few new programs mixed in to keep things interesting.
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 The Blacklist
No surprise here. James Spader continues to craft one of the most compelling characters ever to grace television, and the stakes are running higher than ever this year.
It's not that I hate this year's new character, Kitty Winter, it's that she takes time away from Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu on screen... which is the entire reason I watch the show. I have no idea what purpose she serves (other than distraction?) but I hope there's a payoff down the line. In any event, the chemistry between Holmes and Watson is flawless as always. I just wish there was more of it.
#3 Jane the Virgin
Nobody is more shocked than me that this show made my list... let alone ranking so high. But I just can't help it. This Americanized take on a Latin Telenovela is funny, smart, charming, and everything you watch television for. Shockingly entertaining episode after episode. But for how long?
#4 The Flash
Who knew? This offshoot of Arrow is so well done that it even eclipses the original from which it spawned. The one thing I could do without is the "Team Flash" idiocy... it's just so unnecessary. The Flash never needed a "team" behind him in the comics, and he really, really doesn't need them here. They're just a massive distraction that waters down the show.
#5 Orange in the New Black
I liked the show in season one. I loved it in season two. The very definition of "engaging television," everybody's favorite prison drama went for broke and succeeded wildly. Everything felt deeper and more intense at every turn, but the characters never seemed more grounded.
The fifth season of Timothy Olyphant's triumphant portrayal of Raylan Givens is stronger than ever, cementing the show as one of televisions best dramas with one of the best casts going. I honestly don't know how they manage it, but it's impressive as hell.
I was hoping and praying that the needless flashbacks would finally cease now that the island drama was over. But they're back... and this time in an even less compelling Hong Kong location. Sigh. Still, the show remains cool and entertaining... unlike Marvel's Agents of SHEILD which I can't even watch any more.
#8 How to Get Away With Murder
And here we go... it's as if Shonda Rhimes said "Oh, you think Scandal is messed up? Well get a load of this! Viola Davis and cast effortlessly glide through this legal thriller that quickly exceeded my expectations.
Color me shocked. Despite a terrific cast, I really thought a series based on the movie would be a mistake. Instead we got smart writing, compelling characters, and one of the better new shows of 2014.
#10 Orphan Black
I wasn't sure how second season was going to pan out, but the show certainly lived up to my increasingly high expectations. Easily one of the most intelligent series on TV, it just keeps getting better and better. Where it's all leading to I have no idea, but it's a journey I'm definitely going to keep taking.
#11 Hawaii Five-0
Still can't believe that this show is keeping my interest, but it just keep chugging along. One thing I wish they'd get rid of is Jorge Garcia's character of "Jerry," which is getting more annoying with each new episode. The chemistry between the rest of the characters is about as good as it gets... even if the stories are starting to feel a bit repetitive.
If Shonda Rhimes and Co. hadn't messed up the show for entirely too many episodes this season, the series could have ranked much higher. Instead we've got characters that took heinous stumbles into stupidity... primarily Mellie Grant and Olivia Pope herself... that left me flat as the season ended the year.
SIX MORE WORTH WATCHING...
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
I wouldn't have thought it was possible to eclipse The Daily Show at their own game, but here we are. John Oliver could not possibly make current events more engaging, and my only complaint about the show is that it only airs once a week.
The Walking Dead
The show has gotten a bit mired in distraction this season, but is still worth watching.
Game of Thrones
It's fantastic television. There's not much more I can say than that.
House of Cards
One of my favorite shows from last season kind of lost itself in season two... but mostly thanks to jaw-dropping performances (headed by the always-amazing Kevin Spacey), it remains a must-see affair.
I was sure that Castle and Beckett getting married would be the death-knell for the show. Instead, it oddly energized it somehow. Still think they managed to get one of the best supporting casts on network television... which elevates the show to be more than just another Murder She Wrote clone. Sadly, however, we're just not getting the energy that Castle had during it's second and third seasons, which leads me to believe the show's best days are definitely behind us.
I never read Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on which this mini-series is based, but now I kind of want to. Frances McDormand is in top-form here as we explore the life of a woman in a small Maine town, and it will be a gross injustice if she's overlooked come award season.
ANIMATION WORTH YOUR TIME...
A complete repeat of last year...
Still brilliant. Still relevant. Still must-see-television for me.
The most bizarre show to ever air on television is still going strong.
Couldn't possibly love this show more than I do. They just kill it each and every episode.
Plus three more...
Rick & Morty
Dan Harmon toon series that came out of nowhere to dominate Adult Swim. Back to the Future gone sideways.
I was late to the party with this show. When I finally started watching, I became obsessed with catching up with the older episodes. A binge-worthy show to be sure.
Bee & PuppyCat
Gorgeous and utterly bizarre, this is a Kickstarter-funded online cartoon that defies description. You'll just have to watch.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN...
The Colbert Report
Entertaining, informative, and funny as hell... Stephen and the character he created will be badly missed. Here's hoping his Late Night hosting duties will be worth losing such a consistently fantastic show.
Sons of Anarchy
The final season was a major let-down to me... and the ending was pretty lame... but the show was entertaining for seven seasons, and that's worth recognizing.
There were several times in Season 6 that I thought this show had outstayed it's welcome, but all was forgotten as the series finale played out. A terrific end to a show that deserved nothing less.
And here's the last of my "Best Of 2014" lists for the year. Which was a surprisingly good one given that none of my most favorite bands had releases this year!
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 All That We Had is Lost by Postiljonen
Had I heard Postiljonen's debut album Skyer when it was released last year, it would have topped my list for 2013. But since Howard didn't tell me about Postiljonen until this year, I had to find a way to get them on my list. Hence, their All That We Had is Lost remixes album in my #1 spot. I love this band. Their beautiful dream-pop music has been playing constantly since the first day I heard it, and no band has consumed me like Postiljonen in a very long time. So... after you buy Skyer, you'll want to pick up All That We Had is Lost (a stunning re-work of Whitney Houston's How Will I know) so you can get the new track When All The Wild Things Die. Magical stuff.
#2 The City Below EP by Mackintosh Braun
As previous years will attest, I have -zero- problem putting an EP on my list. Especially when it's an EP that contains my favorite song of the year... the hauntingly sublime In Reverse. My guess is that The City Below EP was released to satisfy fans who were upset that Mackintosh Braun's long-promised album, Arcadia, was delayed until March 31st of 2015. It worked. The four tracks are all fantastic, and definitely left me wanting more.
#3 Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters
It's always surprising to me that Dave Grohl and Co. haven't made a single misstep in their entire catalog of work. They seem incapable of disappointing me, and everything they release gets played to death. Sonic Highways is no exception. It's a tight album of only 8 tracks... but each one is flawless. Foo Fighters are the face of modern rock in a day and age where rock music seems to be a dying breed. Pray to whatever rock gods ye may that they keep blessing us with new music for years to come.
#4 Take Me When You Go by Betty Who
Having playing both of Betty's EPs into the ground, it was hardly surprising that I'd fall in love with her all over again with the release of her first full-length album. Take Me When You Go is filled with melodic 80's-style pop that I can't seem to get enough of, and Betty's lovely voice bounces through each track with such effortless enthusiasm that it can lift me up even when I'm at my lowest. If you haven't jumped on the Betty Who train yet, there's no better time than now.
#5 Hungry Ghosts by OK Go
I often feel that OK Go's actual music is eclipsed by their amazing, mind-bending music videos. Yes, the videos are fantastic, but they wouldn't be nearly as compelling if the music sucked... but it really doesn't. OK Go has a knack for cranking out inventive, thoughtful songs that deserve the awesome music video treatments they get. The first single, The Writing's On The Wall is by far my favorite track, but there's a lot of pop magic happening on Hungry Ghosts that makes it worth listening to.
#6 Talking is Hard by Walk the Moon
Having friends who get me musically is an incredible blessing, because I'm always being exposed to terrific new music I would have otherwise missed. Many, many thanks to Jester for turning me on to Walk the Moon which is exactly the kind of pop music I obsess over. Talking is Hard is about as good as an album gets. Each track builds on the previous track to keep you moving from beginning to end. Sure, it's only been out for a month, but I've listened to it so much that I've probably played it more than half the other albums I bought this year.
#7 Sheezus by Lily Allen
Lily Allen never really registered for me, even though I very much enjoyed the occasional single I'd happen across. But then she made a guest appearance on P!nk's fantastic song, True Love, and I became obsessed. An obsession was rewarded when she dropped Sheezus back in May. It's an album of chirpy pop classics that never cease to make me smile.
#8 Ghost Stories by Coldplay
As someone who felt that Coldplay's best days were long past, I was taken a bit by surprise with Ghost Stories. It's a haunting album of love and loss that kinds of sticks in your head with each new listen. I don't know that the band will ever reach the marvelous heights found on A Rush of Blood to the Head, but if they keep hitting us with albums like this one, I'm happy to tune in.
#9 1989 by Taylor Swift
When a country artist as successful as Taylor Swift abandons her bread and butter for a stab at pop music gold, it would be understandable to think her insane. But 1989 was a gamble that totally paid off, and is responsible for two of my favorite songs of 2014 (Style and Blank Space). Sure it wanders in places, but it's an overall success story that has me hoping Taylor will abandon her country roots a few albums longer.
#10 White Women by Chromeo
While there are some inexplicably missable tracks on Chromeo's fourth album (I'm looking at you, Sexy Socialite!), the preponderance of vintage beats that make up White Women is too good to deny. This is unapologetic classic pop at its purest, and filled a void in 2014 that needed filling.
#11 Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
While I've always been a Weird Al fan, his albums always seem so uneven that I hesitate buying them. Most of his parodies are dead-on, relevant, and funny as hell... other times they miss the mark so badly that you're left wondering why he even bothered. Al seems to have a bit better luck with his original songs, but they too can degenerate into a polka disaster from time to time. Fortunately, Mandatory Fun is much more gold than lead, and easily my favorite album in his discography so far.
#12 The Violet Flame by Erasure
I just can't seem to get into Erasure's newer stuff. The last album of theirs that I really liked was Nightbird back in 2005. Everything that followed doesn't feel very "Erasure" to me at all. With The Violet Flame they took a step back in the right direction, but it all feels so... I dunno... disco?... to me. The "snap" of their pop origins is just missing, with Andy Bell trying to go all operatic or something. Why they can't just give their fans the straight pop album they want I don't know. In the meanwhile, I guess this is better than nothing. And better than a lof of music I heard this year.
ALSO WORTH A LISTEN...
Sucker by Charli XCX
Had this album been released earlier (it just dropped a couple weeks ago) it might have made my list. As it is, I enjoy it, but it hasn't grown on me as much as I had hoped. While Boom Clap feels well-polished and repetitive, too many other tracks feel rushed out the door and repetitive. I'm hoping that Charli matures a bit with her next release, because she certainly has potential.
Singles by Future Islands
So there I am watching Letterman on my DVR and a band I've never heard of takes the stage and proceeds to blow the doors off the joint. The band was Future Islands and the song was Seasons (Waiting On You). Sadly, the rest of the album never reached that high, but many of the songs ended up in steady rotation on iTunes nevertheless.
Voices by Phantogram
It seems like an eternity since Eyelid Movies was released, but apparently Phantogram has put that time to good use, because Voices is one beautifully crafted work of synth-pop art.
Clark by Clark
Nothing makes me happier than being able to work while some deeply atmospheric synth music is lurking in the room to keep me company. Clark is filled with exactly that, and I find it playing more often than I intended.
Run the Jewels 2 by Run the Jewels
My music is all over the map and, given my pop music leanings, most people are surprised to find out that my tastes includes everything from metal to rap. And when it comes to rap, the second release by Run the Jewels was my go-to album for those times I needed a fix these past few months. What I love about Run the Jewels is that rappers El-P and Killer Mike play off of each other so damn well. Apart they're good... but put them in the same room and let them build off each other, and they elevate each other to new heights. The first album was packed with those deep throbbing beats that keeps me coming back to rap... this follow-up is even stronger.
Indie Cindy by Pixies
Consistently labeled as one of the most influential bands in music history, the Pixies never consumed me like they did so many of my friends during their formation in the late 80's. Then, just as I was appreciating the band for their inventive stylings that pulled me back to my punk rock days, they disbanded in 1993. Game over. Except... not so much. They got back together for a tour in 2004, and new material followed nine years later in the form of three EPs. This album collects all three into a single work that feels much larger than the sum of its parts. While I'm still not the Pixies' biggest fan, Indie Cindy is a terrific album that has me finding a new appreciation for the band.
Crush by 2NE1
I first became aware of South Korean girl-band 2NE1 with their release of 2nd Mini Album, featuring the amazing track Hate You (seriously, you've gotta watch this insane music video). Three years later they released Crush, their second full-length album and it's everything I could have hoped for. Bouncy pop tracks tempered with a hint of rebellion that few other bands have been able to pull off so convincingly.
My Everything by Ariana Grande
This album was one of those pleasant surprises that came out of nowhere. There I was minding my own business when I heard Love Me Harder drifting from the speakers of a restaurant, inundating the place with pop magic. I found out who and what it was thanks to Shazam on my iPhone, and was pleased to find that Ariana's album was filled with more of the same.
Mr. Twin Sister by Mr. Twin Sister
Another atmospheric synth album that gets a lot of play while I'm working, Mr. Twin Sister never feels quite as deep as Clark, but it has a delicious moody vibe I love. I play this album a lot while driving, as it stems off the road rage that inevitably grabs hold.
And that's my music jams for 2014! Here's looking forward to an even better 2015.
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As usual, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
This year presented me with some harsh struggles, unwelcome challenges, and a lot of bad news. But there were some good moments in there that kept 2014 from being a complete disappointment, so here we go...
• Explained why I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana even though I don't use marijuana...
• Jester and I visited the Walt Disney Family Museum at long last, then saw the amazing Betty Who in concert...
• Made time to add another section to my forearm tattoo.
• Got angry.
• With much sadness, I had to say goodbye to a friend.
• How I read.
• Flew to the Netherlands for PATATJES MET!
• Visited Glasgow, Scotland for Hard Rock No. 153...
• Revisited Florence, Italy for Hard Rock visit No. 154...
• Then went onward to Nice, France for Hard Rock visit No. 155 and nearly got killed in the process...
• Visited Friesland, the land of my forefathers, with The Dutch Bitch... then continued to the resort island of Schiermonnikoog.
• Back to San Francisco for work and the same old routine, which means... MINI DONUTS!
• Can't go to San Francisco without another tattoo...
• Visited the new Palm Springs Hard Rock Hotel, which is No. 156 for me...
• Discovered the best damn veggie burger ever while in Chicago...
• And so... Apple is definitely broken.
• TILTED WITH HOT COFFEE GIRL... ZOMG!
• Finally saw Morrissey in concert on a trip to Tampa... AND HE DIDN'T CANCEL! WOO-HOO!
• Ate the world's best potato salad with Certifiable Princess then explored Ybor City where we found... THE BAD MONKEY BAR!!!
• Once again flew to the amazing city of Pittsburgh and got to spend time with HelloHaHaNarf Becky, one of my most favorite people on earth... LET'S GO BUCS!
That's right... bask in our adorableness!
• Becky and I drove to Ohio so I could visit the Northfield Park Hard Rock Casino (No. 157) and Hard Rock Cafe (No. 158)...
• Thanks to my sister, I got to watch a Mariners game with field-level seats!
• It's over.
• Fuck you, you fucking fucks.
• Managed to live through another fire seasons in Central Washington...
• Visited Pigeon Forge, Tennessee so I could check off Hard Rock No. 159...
• Visited some lighthouses in Maine and ate the best blueberry crumble I have ever had in my life...
• Saw my favorite movie of 2014... Guardians of the Galaxy.
• If you've never suffered from severe depression... if you've never stood by helplessly as somebody you care about battles depression... if you've never made an effort to understand what depression is or what it does to you... then please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up about it.
• Bought a new camera lens... my first telephoto glass in many years.
• Flew to Salt Lake City and got to meet one of my childhood fantasies... ERIN GRAY!
• Went to the Retro Futura Tour with Marty from Banal Leakage to see TOM BAILEY OF THE THOMPSON TWINS LIVE IN CONCERT!
• Added Hard Rock visit No. 160 to my list in Johannesburg, South Africa...
• Fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Africa and go on safari with a trip to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe...
• Photographed lions while visiting Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe...
• Accidentally discovered a love for astral photography...
• Flew to Victoria Falls to see the largest falls by volume on the face of the earth...
• THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT A SAFARI VACATION IN AFRICA!
• Took a short vacation from my vacation with a trip to New Orleans... and tattoo No. 6...
• Had the extreme pleasure of attending a reading by my favorite living author, David Sedaris...
• God bless America? If this is what we've come to, I sincerely doubt it.
• Try showing a little class...
• Took some time to do some night photography while I was in Portland, Maine...
• Stopped by Minneapolis to meet up with some blogger friends and visit the Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America, which would be No. 161 for me...
• Flew to Sioux Falls so I could drive down to Sioux City and see my last Hard Rock of the year... a hotel and casino No. 162...
• Closed out my travel year with a stop at the World Famous Corn Palace.
And that was my adventures in 2014.
Here's wishing everybody a terrific 2015!