Posted on Thursday, January 1st, 2015
Happiest of New Years to you!
When it comes to New Year's resolutions, I'm pretty boring because I have the exact same New Year's resolutions every year. The same five goals going on for heaven only knows how long. This year is no different, so here we go...
I should probably add "keep blogging" on there somewhere, but that's pretty much a given at this point.
And what am I looking forward to in 2015?
• Travel! It's going to be really difficult to top Africa, so I'm not even going to try. Where that leaves me for my Fall vacation I have no idea. Maybe if I try something a little less ambitious this year I'll be able to afford a trip to Antarctica or India next year?
• Movies! Well, new Star Wars: Episode VII is obviously topping my list of films I want to see this year. And lest we forget, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant Man are dropping in 2015 as well. And then there's the long delayed Jupiter Ascending that probably won't live up to my expectations, but I'm wanting to see it anyway. I don't know how to feel about Terminator: Genisys, but am onboard with Jurassic World. Also on my radar... Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible 5, Ted 2, and Seventh Son. And then there's The Fantastic Four. Sony's already screwed up the property twice, so I'm holding out little hope that third time will be a charm... but who knows?
• Music! Topping my most anticipated list would be Macintosh Braun's Arcadia, which has been teased for far too long. Interested in seeing what Imagine Dragons come up with for Smoke + Mirrors. Rumor has it Duran Duran, Drake, and Garbage are going to released something this year, which would be welcome. As would a new album by Slayer, but talk seems to have died down as of late. Lastly, Ludacris is going to be dropping Ludaversal this year after a five year wait... definitely looking forward to that. Meanwhile, rumors that Depeche Mode were heading to the studio this year turned out to be false, which is sad because I so want them to redeem themselves to me after their disappointing past two releases. And finally, from the Hope Springs Eternal Dept., please, please, please, let Tom Bailey make a new album this year. His set of Thompson Twin calssics on the Retro Futura Tour was so mind-blowing that I'm dying for new material.
• Fiction! One of the definite highlights of the past four years has been working on THRICE Fiction. I can honestly say that neither RW nor I had any idea what this would become when it started, and we're so very grateful for the successes we've had. None of which wouldn't have been possible with the wonderful writers and artists who contribute to each issue. Big plans are afoot for 2015, and I couldn't be more excited for where we're headed. As always, you can download every issue for FREE on our website.
• Apple! Please oh please let this be the year we get Apple TV.
• Ink! Last year I got two new tattoos. This year will probably be the same. I am hoping to finally find time to get my upper-right arm worked on this year, as that's been a long time coming.
As always, wishing everybody only good things in 2015. Something tells me this is going to be another year to struggle for me, but hopefully not as awful as most of 2014 was.
Posted on Friday, January 2nd, 2015
Hey! Did you know there's a brand new issue of THRICE Fiction out?
Well, there is... and it's totally FREE! Click here to download a copy!
As usual, I'll be discussing the artwork that went into our latest issue. This may or may not include spoilers for the stories, so I urge you to please read it before proceeding.
All done? Then off we go...
This issue's beautiful cover was created by Allen Forrest. The guy has created a lot of covers for lit mags, and we're very lucky to have him gracing ours...
I try to make sure there's artistic variety in our collection of cover art, and am rather embarrassed that we didn't have any impressionistic pieces yet. To have that oversight rectified with such a great painting is icing on the cake. Thanks so much, Allen!
And now, for a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, read onward in an extended entry...
→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015
Welcome to PART TWO of a discussion about the art that's running in the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
If you haven't read PART ONE yet, you should do that first.
And if you haven't downloaded a FREE copy of our December 2014 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!
Last issue I talked about how assembling an issue of THRICE Fiction is like putting together a puzzle. And how I moved things around over and over and over again before I'm happy with how everything fits together. But I glossed over exactly how that happens, which is like this...
After inputting the stories into Adobe InDesign, I print out half-size pages that I can then move around a big table until I'm happy. Sometimes, if things get too difficult to keep track of, I'll print a second round of pages with color-coding to keep stories and spreads together.
The finalized layout has never come together without a struggle. I change my mind at least a dozen times as I read through the complete magazine over and over trying to make sure that I have created a rhythm from one story to the next, and that everything looks good together. I'll then change my mind a couple more times as I try to figure out which artist would be a good fit for each piece.
This issue came together easier than most, but still took days of working and re-working until I was happy.
And that's how it's done. Low-tech, but effective!
Anyway... to read about the art in the second-half of issue No. 12, click onward to an extended entry.→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Sunday, January 4th, 2015
Time for a new beginning... because the first Bullet Sunday of 2015 starts... now...
• Back! Anybody who's a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy knows that it's the year 2015 that Marty travels to in the second film when he follows Doc Brown to do something about his kids. The result is a funky look at what the future has in store... as envisioned by filmmakers in 1989. Though, to be honest, I think they were more concerned with entertainment value than actually attempting to predict what was coming down the pipe in 25 years...
Newsweek interviewed some futurists to take a look at what Back to the Future II got right... and what they got wrong... and the result is worth a read.
• Snoopy! Usually, I'm dead-set against "improving" old animation techniques... especially with a property as beloved as Peanuts, but this looks amazing...
Nothing like what's come before, and yet oddly in-tune with the Peanuts aesthetic. I am hopeful that eventually there's a "making-of" which explains how they're achieving this perfect compromise of old and new.
• Remastered! Back before the original Star Wars hit theaters, Marvel Comics had an adaptation in the works... written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Howard Chaykin. It didn't even hit my radar until I saw Star Wars, at which time I was obsessive about tracking down anything and everything that even mentioned the film. Including Marvel's over-sized movie tie-in. Since it would be years before home video would happen, it was about as good as I could get in re-living the movie. Flash-forward to today, and the adaptation of Star Wars is being remastered for release as a hardcover graphic novel this March. The "remastering" is basically cleaning up the original pages and then recoloring them using today's computerized technology. The original looks something like this (which I've muddied a bit because the paper back then was far from white)...
And here's the new hotness...
Nice. I guess. I mean, the Death Star is no longer day-glo yellow and Darth Vader is no longer day-glo blue which is good. But I think they went a bit too far. The intro panel, for example, doesn't look much like the original Chaykin art... it's all coloring. They even colored over the text panel for crying out loud! While I like the idea of having an updated edition of these comics, I just wish they hadn't gone quite so over-the-top gradient air-brushy with everything. More flat colors and a little more respect for the original linework would have gone a long way towards a better looking updated book.
• Giving! Taylor Swift, who seems to have a genuine appreciation for her fans, decided to celebrate her hugely successful foray into pop music this year by sending presents to some of the people who made it possible...
It's a sweet video, and I would have thought that anybody seeing it would love Taylor just a little bit more. And most people did. Except, of course, her haters, which were quick to point out that the millionaire country/pop star spent a mere couple hundred dollars of her massive fortune on this obvious publicity stunt.
So I'd like to point out that even if you're this cynical, there is one thing you can't deny: Taylor Swift doesn't stop at a couple hundred dollars when it comes to giving back. In fact, she topped the "Most Charitable Celebrities" list for 2014... for the third year in a row. Say what you want about her music or how she interacts with her fans but, when it comes to charity in the world of celebrities, it would seem as though few people are doing more than Taylor Swift.
• Connectivity! When my Mac displayed an incoming call at work, I couldn't find my iPhone so I accepted the call through my Mac. After the call was over I tore my office apart trying to locate my mobile (which was obviously on silent mode) and couldn't find it. Finally I realized that my Mac was connecting to my iPhone out in my car. I parked close enough that Bluetooth could still reach. Wonderful and bizarre at the same time. Which is how new technology should be, but often isn't. Most of the times now it's just frustration. Like trying to get a file from my iPhone to my Mac using "AirDrop" only to find that it only works half the time. Why? FOR THE LOVE OF JOBS, WHY?!? WHY CAN'T IT WORK EVERY TIME? You got me. And, while I should be happy for the times that this stuff "just works," the fact that you can't count on it is enough me make me want to light my Mac on fire.
• Devil! Back when I was at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, I posted photos of insane people on the Zambia side of the Zambezi taking a dip in what's known as "The Devil's Pool"...
Yesterday I was searching YouTube for people who might have actually filmed the event, and was surprised to find all kinds of videos. Here's just two of them...
Given the opportunity, would I partake in this craziness? I really don't know.
And there you have it. Don't forget to use "2015" when you write the date!
Posted on Monday, January 5th, 2015
And so... updating WordPress ended up being a very bad idea, because Blogography done broked real good last night.
Which happens from time to time, I know, but it's no less irritating. Usually I would just stop the world and re-install everything from scratch, but that's not an option right now. Maybe come the weekend...
Sorry if you're one of the thousands of people who can't start their day without a dose of Blogography. Guess you'll be taking the week off then?
Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
This is the first post in a two-part entry that will be discussing digital photo storage. Not a topic that most people will be interested in, but I very much want to document my process just in case somebody else out there on the interwebs is in the same boat as I am.
But, before we begin, a disclaimer.
I am a huge, huge, massively huge Apple Aperture fan. When it comes to working on photos, it's lagged behind Adobe Lightroom for years... but, when it comes to cataloging photos, it's pretty much the cat's meow. And since it's the cataloging that's of primary importance to me and my tens of thousands of photos, that's where my heart has been since Aperture debuted back in 2005. I will never, ever forgive Apple for canceling the app, and consider it just one of several stupid moves for the company as of late. But anyway...
Apple did cancel Aperture, so I am forced to migrate elsewhere.
My choice ended up being Adobe Lightroom. I am still not convinced it was the best choice, but I do think it's the right choice... for me anyway. Yes, I preferred the way photos looked using the RAW import on Capture One Pro better than Lightroom... and there were features in Darktable (among others) that were appealing... but it just seemed easier all the way around to go with Adobe since I know they're not going anywhere. The last thing I want to do is to have to go through this crap all over again if another app closes up shop. On top of that, the tight integration with the Adobe apps I use every day (Photoshop and Illustrator in particular) is too alluring to ignore. As if that weren't enough, I get Lightroom as a part of my Adobe Creative Suite subscription at no extra charge. Sure I could wait and see what Apple's replacement app, Photos is all about, but it looks unlikely to include the professional features I need.
So here I am.
And now a little background so you know who that is...
I have been into photography for as long as I can remember, and I've loved it all that time. So when it came time for a high school graduation gift in the mid-80's, all I wanted was a professional camera. My parents got me a Canon A-1, which was the most advanced camera of its day. The "Killer Feature" being the first SLR camera to have a digital autoexposure controller. Something I took advantage of frequently as I was learning how to properly use shutter and aperture settings. The A-1 was both a joy and a revelation over the fifteen years I used it as my primary camera, and I shot as much film as I could afford to have developed.
Then in the mid-90's the digital age was upon us. I was an early adopter, buying an Apple QuickTake 1 the day it was released in 1994. By modern standards, it was a pretty shitty camera. 640x480 pixels max and, unless you had flawless lighting, the images were pretty terrible. But... it was new. And it was cool. And I kept investing in digital technology despite not taking it very seriously. Why should I when what I was getting from my film camera was so much better?
Then the year 2000 came along and I got a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-D700.
Suddenly, my digital photos were getting close to what I was getting on film, all without the pain (and expense) of developing the images. All summer long I went back and forth, testing and re-testing, contrasting and comparing. I was lugging around two cameras everywhere, not fully trusting the Sony after over a decade with my trusty Canon. But then the moment of truth arrived... in October I took a trip to Asia and the only camera I brought was my DSC-D700. The results were so encouraging I went ahead and did the same for a trip to Rome that December. By 2001, I was 99% digital, only dusting off my film camera when I had a project that required it.
Cataloging my photos in 2001 was a pretty simple affair. I stored all my photos on a Zip Drive, making two copies each on separate cartridges, one of which was kept in a bank safe. As image size kept climbing, I would eventually switch to Jaz Drive cartridges. Every project had a separate folder, which got a bit complicated after a while, so I then started creating Master Folders titled by year to sort them into. It worked just fine, and I didn't even think about the need for cataloging software until that infamous day in 2005 when I purchased Apple's Aperture.
And it was glorious. Especially during those heady early years when Apple was updating the thing. They added "Places" so you could tag all your photos with a location (if they didn't have one already). They added "Faces" so you could automate tagging the people appearing in your photos. And then there were the Vaults... dead-simple ways of backing up your catalogs and precious photo information which was quickly becoming every bit as important as the photos themselves. Everything in Aperture was so convenient, easy, and powerful. I quickly organized all my photos into Projects by year and Folders by project, since that mimicked the file structure I had been using for five years. Apple's amazing app made dealing with my huge library of images almost effortless.
Until they decided they didn't want to any more.
At first I thought the migration would be a piece of cake, because the Aperture import plugin I had been waiting for was finally released. It was a huge relief to know that all the hours/days/months of inputting photo data into Aperture wouldn't be lost. Except I could never get the plugin to work. It would hang after a while no matter what I did.
And so I gave up and decided I would just start over completely from scratch. The first step was to extract all my images from the Aperture catalog and convert them to "managed" files so I could access the individual, original photo files, which subsequently transferred to a spare 1TB drive I had laying around.
I then purchased a new 8TB Thunderbolt RAID unit from Western Digital which would give me 4TB of mirrored storage to work with. The old Aperture RAID drives were removed and popped into my bank safety deposit box just in case I ever need them.
And then the horrendous chore of importing all my images into Lightroom began.
The first years were easy. In the year 2000 I had a measly 250 photos, and they were all JPEG files that were either 2048×1360 or a tiny 1600×1200 pixels in size. NOTE TO YOUNGER SELF: Always shoot at the maximum resolution of your camera. I know that 1600×1200 seemed like a huge amount of pixels back in the day, but in the future that will be insanely inadequate for just about every purpose.
As we move forward in time, the number of photos increases considerably from year to year (especially when I decided to start bracketing most of my shots). And, because the size of the photos keeps going up as well (especially when I started shooting RAW), the storage space needed (hence the amount of time to import them into Lightroom) increases exponentially. NOTE TO YOUNGER SELF: Always shoot RAW. I know they're a lot bigger files, but if you could experience the pain of having to look back at your trip to the pyramids of Egypt with all that JPEG artifacting, you'd know the extra size is well worth it. And it's no small amount. In 2007 I shot one trip RAW. In 2008 I shot half of them RAW. In 2010 I was shooting all RAW all the time. Just look at what happens...
Now, to be honest, most of the photos I took in later years are not keepers. As memory cards kept getting bigger and cheaper, I was a lot less selective in what I shot... and I would shoot the same thing several times so I could pick the best image and delete the rest... except I never seem to delete anything. Perhaps one day I'll have the time to purge all the bad/redundant shots, but it ain't happening any time soon. Good thing hard drive space is getting so cheap!
Okay then. Now you know about me and what I shoot... I guess it's time to start importing everything into Lightroom!
Which I will be talking about in tomorrow's entry.
Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Since the Aperture import plugin didn't work and I was starting from scratch, there really was only four decisions to be made in building my Lightroom catalog and new photo library...
To DNG or not to DNG?
When you shoot RAW, odds are your camera is saving the "digital negative" in a proprietary format. My Nikon D90, for example, saves them as .NEF files, which is proprietary to Nikon. My Sony A7, for another example, saves them as .ARW, which is Sony's version of RAW. I shot on a Canon for a while, and they use .CR2 for their RAW format. I also have .RW2 files from a Panasonic underwater camera I used and .ORF from an Olympus that I borrowed. What a mess. Unlike JPEG which is standardized, RAW formats rarely are. Which is why Adobe created the .DNG format. But, unlike what's used by camera companies, it's not proprietary... it's open, and anybody anywhere can read the specs that Adobe provides for free. This does two very important things...
There are other advantages to .DNG as well... my favorite being that it doesn't use external EXIF sidecar files, but instead stores the information internally. The fact that the files are also validated by an internal checksum means that you can tell when bits of a file go missing or are corrupted. The list goes on and on (did I mention that .DNG files are also smaller?).
So, ultimately, I totally embraced .DNG and had all my RAW image files converted upon import. Yes, this adds significant time to your import, but the benefits are worth it.
Alas yon Preview, What Size Art Thou?
When my 8TB external hard drive is connected to my laptop, all my photos are available to me at full resolution. When it's disconnected and I'm half-a-world-away, however, my photos are not available, and all I have to look at is whatever preview Lightroom has available in the catalog of my local drive. Lightroom's "Standard Size" preview is 1024 pixels along the image's longest side. That's fairly decent for looking through your images and won't take up too much space. Except Lightroom stupidly doesn't default to "Standard" but instead renders "Minimal" previews which are pretty much worthless (so be sure to switch to "Standard" in the Catalog Preferences or else you'll have to re-render all new previews!). You also have the option for 1:1 previews, which will speed up your workflow and look great on-screen... assuming you have room on your hard drive. As for me? I compromised. I changed the "Standard" size preference from 1024 to 2048 pixels and left the quality on "Medium." That's double the size of what you usually get, but generally ends up smaller than 1:1. My reason for taking the hit to my hard drive is twofold... 1) I have a Retina Display, and larger images display better... and, 2) If my library drive AND both backups are lost for some reason, I can probably live with 2048 as my only image size, but would be devastated if all I had were 1024 images. In the end, it's up to you... but with display resolution climbing and hard drive sizes escalating, it seems as though the bigger you go the better off you'll be.
If Thee Be Smart, Where Be Your Brains?
A couple versions ago, Adobe came up with "Smart Previews" which opened the door to all kinds of cool things. Primary of which is that you can EDIT images with Smart Previews... even if you're not connected to your library (usually, you can't do this). Once your library gets connected, the edits will be written to the original photo file's dataset, and it's just as if you had changed the original all along. As if that weren't enough, Smart Previews can also be viewed and worked on with an iPad via Creative Cloud. Pretty cool stuff, right? Except... "Smart" Previews are not exactly "smart" in that you are still required to have "regular" previews as well. So, effectively, you've got an entire catalog of previews taking up valuable hard drive space... twice? Or at least that's how I understand it to work. I don't have that kind of space available on my laptop's SSD, so I skipped stupid "Smart Previews." Hopefully one day they'll make it so you are only required to have ONE preview per image. Until then, it's nice to know that I can build Smart Previews for those times I plan on editing photos on the go.
But Soft! In What Organization Through Yonder Library Breaks?
With Aperture I never had to worry about the physical organization of all my image files. I created projects and folders within the app and let Aperture worry about where the files went. With Lightroom this is not possible. So what I ended up doing was mimicking the structure I was used to... a folder for each year and a sub-folder for every event/trip/session that was preceded by a date. If you take a lot of photos, it's a pretty good idea. The drawback being that if you've visited Milwaukee twenty times and want that photo you took of the Milwaukee Art Museum, you have to know when you visited in order to track down the photo. If that's a concern for you, might be better to not organize by date... but to instead organize by subject. Regardless of how you choose to organize your images, it's critical to keep organizing the same way. Once you get tired of the effort and just start dumping your photos wherever, you never be able to find them unless you spend a lot of effort applying keywords to each image. That takes considerably more time than organizing from the get-go... though, if your import groups are small enough, you might be able to apply keywords when you import to save time. Still, given Lightroom's inability to manage your photo files, you really need to come up with something yourself and stick with it.
Now that I've made my decisions... we're ready to import.
Getting your photos into your local Lightroom catalog and writing out your .DNG files to your external library is pretty easy. You click the "import" button, choose what you want to import... choose where you want them to go... add your settings for previews, keywords, and such, and away you go.
Since I was converting to .DNG and rendering rather large previews, my later years took a very long time. Five hours or more. And the bad news is that there's no way to pause the import and resume it at a later time... at least not that I've found. Yes, you can cancel and then re-do the import (Lightroom will run through everything again and skip the images it's already worked on) but this is a far from ideal solution. Even worse, absolutely no estimate on how long the import will take is given. You get a progress bar and that's all. Thankfully, you'll (hopefully) only have to do massive library imports once in your life, but it would sure be nice if Adobe were to allow you to pause the process. My suggestion? Break your imports down into more manageable chunks. You can uncheck folders you've already imported to keep Lightroom from doubling up (though, inexplicably, Lightroom will still go through all your photos if you have "Don't Import Duplicates" selected... whether you've checked or unchecked the folder in question).
It took me five days to get everything cataloged/imported. Usually I would import a chunk before going to bed and find everything completed when I woke up.
So how am I liking it now that I'm a Lightroom guy?
To be honest, I'm not liking it at all.
Lightroom is a massively confusing program that makes practically no sense. Compared to the elegance and ease of Aperture, I'd go so far as to say that Lightroom is crap. I hate just about everything about it. The interface is a complete mess and takes up way too much of the screen. Even simple things are difficult. Want to zoom in on a photo? I still don't understand how it works. Click once you zoom. Click again and you don't zoom in further, you zoom back out to some totally random percentage? Crazy. Instead of an intuitive, fluid zoom tool that operates like every other zoom tool in every other program (including Adobe Photoshop!), with Lightroom you have to click on a drop-down menu and choose 1:4, 1:2, 1:1, 2:1, 4:1, etc. etc. in order to get closer to/further from an image. It's about the stupidest fucking thing I've ever seen. I'm trying to use gestures on my trackpad for zooming, but it's so clunky and spastic that I can never end up where I want to be. And that pretty much defines everything you do in this program... clunky and spastic. There are times I make adjustments to an image... increase the saturation or sharpening or whatever... and nothing happens, even though the sliders are showing I've made the adjustment. WTF? It's enough to drive me insane. There are times I have to step away from the program because I'm getting so frustrated and angry that it feels as if my head is going to explode.
I'm hoping that eventually I'll get used to the shitty way Lightroom works, but I sincerely doubt it. The program is a hot mess of epic proportions, and I simply don't understand how anybody manages to get anything done with it. Yes, it's usable and I can (eventually) figure out how to do what I need to do... but it has a long, long way to go before it's as beautifully intuitive as Aperture is. Was. Whatever.
But, thanks to Apple being complete assholes and canceling one of the most wonderful apps for organizing and working on photos ever made, this is where I'm forced to be.
Maybe there's a better solution out there... maybe I should take a second look at Capture One... but the thought of having to go through all this mess again makes me want to stick my head in an oven.
I'm probably better off not using a photo cataloging program at all. I'll just go back to files and folders on ZIP drives and call it a day.
So much for progress.
UPDATE: More problems popping up every day. The worst of which is that Lightroom crashes... a lot.
Yeah. Definitely don't understand how people are using this thing.
Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2015
Every year for the past decade I've been sending in bunched of old photos to be scanned. I finished with my own photos after a couple years. My mom's photos took an additional four years. After that, I've been going through my grandmother's extensive photo collection, which will keep me paying for photo scanning services for years to come.
It's a lot of money.
But it's well worth it.
Mostly because there's hundreds of gorgeous shots of my mother when she was little that are more artistic than anything you'll find in any museum...
And by "artistic" I should say "accidentally artistic" since they were never intended to be art... they were just everyday snapshots that happened to turn out incredible.
Not everything is accidental art though.
Like this photo of me with my hand down my pants...
Some things never change.
Posted on Friday, January 9th, 2015
Yesterday I mentioned that I've got another batch of family photos that are getting scanned.
This morning I started reviewing the scans in process at ScanCafe. As these are my grandmother's photos, I don't know most of the people that are showing up. I assume they're mostly images of my extended family, but they could be anybody.
All I really know for sure is that there's some crazy-interesting stuff popping up...
And it only gets stranger from here...
Posted on Saturday, January 10th, 2015
When Blogography broke down (again) on Monday, I was half-way tempted to just leave it broken.
This was just the excuse I needed to hang up blogging once and for all, as lately it seems more like a chore I have to do rather than an activity I want to do. But I've gone through rough patches like this before and have always cone around, so I thought it best to get things running again. If I'm going to quit, it should be a decision I make instead of a decision I'm forced into.
So here I am.
Guess there's no better reason to do a meme than that...
See you tomorrow, I guess.
Posted on Sunday, January 11th, 2015
No, this isn't shaping up to be the worst year ever... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Rain! The best thing I've seen all week is this wonderful photo that was entered in the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards. It doesn't get much more adorable than this...
Photo by Andrew Suryono for Sony World Photography Awards
One smart primate right there.
• People's Choice! I loved Betty White long before it was the cool thing to do. Moments like this are why...
I don't know what's better... Betty White accepting her award with such genuine surprise and appreciation... or the fact that Captain America himself, Chris Evans, escorted her to the stage.
• Vegetarian? I can't wait to try it!
• Back! In Thailand, male friends hold hands all the time. They think nothing of it, and they find it strange that people find it strange. The Thai people are amused by Western hang-ups that make something so innocent and natural be looked upon as scandalous. I, on the other hand, can't be amused, because I know in some areas this simple act could get a guy severely beaten or even killed... gay or not...
Insanity. This society we've build is just plain nuts.
• Carter! After the disaster that ended up being Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, I admit to being a bit pessimistic about Marvel's Agent Carter. Yes, it stars the divine Hayley Atwell and is being produced in the style of the brilliant Marvel One-Shot that was attached to the home-video release of Iron Man 3... but there was just so much going against it...
And then I watched it and it was wonderful in every way. It's beautiful to look at and the story means something. And it looks like it's going to be tied to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in terrific ways. We're probably going to see the fallout between Howard Stark and Anton Venko... fathers of Tony (Iron Man) Stark and Ivan (Whiplash) Vanko, respectively. And I'm sure there's going to be an appearance by the Howling Commandos... maybe even Arnim Zola? (please! please! please!). If you're not watching, you should be...
And that's a wrap! Only seven days to go until your next Bullet Sunday fix...
Posted on Monday, January 12th, 2015
I usually don't buy into the whole "MONDAYS SUCK" scenario, but this particular Monday was full-on absurd in just about every way.
And since I'm feeling particularly stabby about the situation, I'll just spare you an entry today...
Hope your Monday was better than mine.
Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
It would seem the decades spent abusing my body are finally catching up to me.
Turns out that by not eating healthy, avoiding regular exercise, and forgoing critical concepts such as "sleep," I've set myself up for a serious reckoning later in life.
And here we are.
Last week I threw my back out setting my pack on the floor.
Yesterday I spent fifteen minutes trying to remember what I had for lunch when somebody asked three hours later. I still don't know.
Tonight I at a chocolate bar that put me in such gastrointestinal distress that I thought I was going to pass out from the pain.
So it's all downhill from here, I'm guessing.
2015 is not the year I was hoping for, and we're not even out of January yet.
Posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015
Posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015
I'm not much into health food.
Posted on Saturday, January 17th, 2015
Happy Betty Day!
That would be 93. She's 93 years old today...
Posted on Sunday, January 18th, 2015
I don't mind that it's a cold, wet, miserable day... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Super! I am not much of a Seahawks fan, but I suppose congratulations are in order even though I don't understand overtime rules. Looks like I've got two more weeks of insane 12th Man shenanigans to endure...
• Maroon! Not a fan of Adam Levine or Maroon 5, but have to say this was an awesome idea for a music video...
Apparently, the grooms were informed about the crash (the band had to get permission somehow, I'm guessing), but the brides were not. Clever.
• Turing! Necessary reading...
• Picture! A while back there was a terrific Instagram photo of a gay couple getting their daughters ready for school that went viral in all the right ways...
Now Nikon has gone and built a really great commercial around it...
A beautiful family. Lucky kids.
• Star-Lord! My totally obsessive man-crush on Chris Pratt continues. The more things like this surface, the more I think this is more than an act... he's a genuinely nice guy who is using his fame for something good. And he's married to Anna Faris...
This devotion to kindness deserves every success...
2017 and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 can't get here soon enough.
• TED! Everything you know is wrong.
The disturbing news being that chimps have a better understanding of the the world than most people... even if by accident. I, for one, welcome our new simian overlords.
• Trews! Russell Brand is a polarizing force of celebritydom whom most people either love or hate. I don't feel strongly enough about him to go to those extremes... and heaven only knows I don't always agree with the guy... but his "The Trews" podcast is essential listening. If nothing else, he's going to get people thinking about current events in a way that may challenge their perceptions. Which is the entire point...
And tomorrow is yet another day that people don't have to work. See you at work.
Posted on Monday, January 19th, 2015
This morning I started out the same way I begin every Martin Luther King Jr. Day... by listening to his beautiful I Have a Dream speech in its entirety.
And then I went to work.
As I do on every day that ends with a "Y"... holiday or not.
Then I celebrated by watching Animated Batman cartoons.
Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Posted on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
Posted on Friday, January 23rd, 2015
Posted on Saturday, January 24th, 2015
Posted on Sunday, January 25th, 2015
Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015
"We can't do that."
"There's nothing we can do."
"We can't help you with that."
Reasons I won't shop my local JC Penney ever again.
And, believe it or not, this was all while I was trying to PAY THEM MONEY on behalf of somebody who is no longer able to handle their finances for medical reasons. Very sad medical reasons. I even have a Power of Attorney document in my hand which allows me to take care of things like this when needed. Like now. But they don't give a shit. "YOU HAVE CALL THE NUMBER ON THE BACK OF THE CARD!!!"But I don't have the card. And they won't even go get me the number so I CAN call.
Needless to say, I'm fuming.
What kind of customer service is that? If your damn job is to help customers, then get off your ass and help the customer! Had somebody come to me with a horrible situation like this, I would have done everything I could to help them. Need to pay a bill for somebody who is medically unable? I'm sorry I can't help you with that... but let's go find somebody who can place a call for you. You drove all the way down here, so let's get this taken care of, okay?
I get sent away with literally nothing.
I tried web-chat at the JC Penney website, but they tell me billing issues must be handled by phone. Okay. At least the chat agent actually GIVES ME THE FRICKIN' PHONE NUMBER.
So then I try to call customer service. But you can't get through to a REAL PERSON without an account number or social security number for the card holder. Well, I don't have any of that, and the automated answering system provides no way to explain the situation. I kept saying "help" and "customer service" and pressing "0"... but the phone robot goes in a loop and insists that I give the information it wants. After eight minutes (I checked!) of trying every option available, I manage to confuse the system enough that an operator finally picked up.
Who treats a customer like this?
JC Penney, apparently.
I managed to keep my cool while explaining the situation to the very nice phone agent, but it's rough. The guy apologizes for all I've been though and seems sincere, so I pay the bill, thank him, then hang up the phone.
How in the hell has customer relations degraded to this sorry state?
I became a JC Penney fan when the company made a big effort to be inclusive in both their philosophy and advertising. Who can say no to Ellen DeGeneres? Not me. I started shopping at Penney's because I support companies who embrace diversity, treat all people with kindness, and want their customers to feel good about supporting them with their hard-earned money.
Now I don't give a shit if the local JC Penney burns to the ground.
Boy, it sure doesn't take much for a company to turn a good customer into a bitter enemy now-a-days, does it?
Oh well. It's not like there aren't other places to spend my money.
Posted on Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
A week-and-a-half ago I was bending over to set my backpack down when something went "boink!" in my back. There was an odd tingling for a split second that was (assumably) some kind of warning that I was twisting wrong, but I wasn't able to twist back fast enough. I ended up pulling a muscle that made everything excruciating for the next five days.
Then my back, though tender, was healed enough that it didn't feel like a knife was lodged there. I aimed to keep it that way, so I started really babying myself for the next several days. Bending with extreme care... keeping twisting to a minimum... not lifting anything heavy... walking with minimal movement... that kind of thing.
It worked. My back got better day by day.
And then I slipped on some ice while walking to my car.
I was so concerned with wrenching my back again that I ended up straining against the fall. Which saved my back as planned... but ended up pulling something in my groin.
For the past four days I've been unable to raise my right leg.
This makes simple chores... like walking and climbing stairs... difficult. Slightly more complicated chores... like putting on clothes... became near impossible. The morning acrobatics required to wear pants necessitated careful planning and a working knowledge of elementary physics.
Driving a car was the worst. Just the act of getting in one was torture. I'd have to lay the seat all the way back in an attempt to keep my leg as straight as possible. "Uncomfortable" doesn't even begin to describe it. After 10 minutes behind the wheel it felt as though something was going to snap.
Fast-forward to tonight as I was sitting in the couch working on my laptop while The Flash was playing on TV. I pushed myself up to get a glass of water when something strange happened... I realized I wasn't in pain. Not even a little bit. Whatever I had done to mess up my leg had disappeared. Evaporated. Vanished as if it had never been.
I don't know what I did to fix it.
Maybe it fixed itself.
But without a trace of residual pain. It feels as if it never happened.
I took my pants off and put them back on just to be sure.
Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
It suddenly occurs to me...
...every day is hump day at the Giza Plateau!
Posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015
And... my back went out again, just as it was finally finished aching from last week.
This time not from something as stupid as setting down my backpack.
This time it was from lifting my backpack.
It's fairly obvious I need to get rid of this damn backpack.
Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2015
My favorite television show of all time bounces between Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original, not the shitty 2009 remake) and Veronica Mars. Interestingly enough, they were both created by the same guy... Rob Thomas (not the singer from Matchbox Twenty).
Cupid has never been released on home video, so the only way I get to see it is to watch digital recordings I copied from VHS tape. Needless to say, "crappy" doesn't even begin to describe their quality (or lack thereof), so I am always on the watching for an officially release on iTunes or something.
It never comes.
The good news is that over the past decade we've seen a number of shows I've been waiting for finally get a release. Once I noticed the fantastic Now and Again was out last Fall, I decided to see what else was available...
And here's a list of shows I'm still waiting for...
And I don't get why they haven't been released. The process for converting old TV shows to digital video is undoubtedly fully automated by now. I can't imagine it costs very much to do... especially since you don't even have to press DVDs any more.
I dunno. Maybe television studios don't want the money?
Because I'd be happy to pay.
And so would a lot of other people, I'd imagine.
Posted on Saturday, January 31st, 2015
I hope all you East Coasters have dug your way out of the blizzard by now... because Bullet Sunday on Saturday starts... now...
• Blog! Turns out the reason my blog keeps failing is because database tables are being locked, rendering me unable to post anything. I don't know exactly how to keep it from happening... yet... but at least I know how to fix it without reinstalling everything.
If you want to take a look at some of the clever jingles Burma Shave came up with over the years, there's a repository for that.
• The Pox! It doesn't matter that the whole anti-vaccination movement is bullshit and the people who have been most vocal in claiming vaccinations are harmful are lying assholes... people are buying into it, which means dead diseases, like measles, coming back with a vengeance. There's loads of material online to support vaccination as a critical protection for all society... but Night of the Living Dad has one of my favorite takes on the subject. Here's another...
Too bad people can't get vaccinated against insanity.
• Lost? Lost was one of the best shows to hit television. For the first season or two. Then it became an idiotic mess of stupid shit that was piled on top of more stupid shit where nothing was resolved and nothing made sense. I maintained again and again that the writers had no clue what in the hell they were doing and that there could be no pay-off for such random idiotic bullshit. And now? Yep, yep, yep.
• Park! "Nara Dreamland," Japan's answer to Disneyland that opened in the 60's, was eventually closed in 2006. Probably because Japan ended up with an "authentic" Disneyland of their own. Since closing, Dreamland has been left abandoned. I was curious to know if anybody had managed to take photos of the empty park, and was surprised to find some incredible shots on a blog by photographer/writer Michael John Grist...
Well worth your time to visit, if you're into this kind of thing!
• SkyMall! As a frequent flier, I was very sad to learn that SkyMall has filed for bankruptcy. Not that I would ever buy their crazy, overprice crap... but it made for some much-needed entertainment on more than a couple flights...
After all, who wouldn't want a suitcase scooter?
And... I'm spent. New bullets in five days.