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'm not sure what 2016 holds for me. Some pretty big changes are happening in my life, so I may need to focus on things other than Pop Tarts, Travel, Hard Rocks, Beer, and Apple stuff. Or maybe I need to focus more on them? I dunno. New challenges await!
Just in time to start your New Year right, there's a brand-spanking-new (and FREE!) issue of Thrice Fiction out today!
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. Okay? Okay!
This issue was a bit strange for the way it came together so very quickly... and then proceeded to fall apart with equal rapidity.
And throughout the entire ordeal of trying to get our latest issue out the door before the end of December, I kept thinking what an incredible honor it is for writers to trust us with their works... and how mind-bogglingly easy it would be to drop the ball and have have that trust be misplaced. Which is why every time we run into a new problem, I keep saying to myself "Better late than crappy!" and that somehow gets me through.
The biggest challenge I faced was my grandmother's sudden illness and eventual passing. Time spent with her became more precious to me than anything else on earth, including everyone's favorite fiction magazine. A big part of who I am was formed by her example, and dedicating Issue No. 15 to her memory seems only fitting as I... and by extension the magazine... wouldn't be here without her.
One of the last problems to face me was also the biggest... what to do about the cover. I had lined up an artist which I had been trying to work with for over a year now, but things fell apart at zero hour. Looking back at the last several covers of our past issues, they all had a "cold" look to them, so I was trying to come up with a "warm" color idea to break things up. That's when I remembered a beautiful "fiery" piece that frequent contributor Chad Roseburg had shown to me. I didn't know if he'd be willing to let me butcher it with a new crop for the cover, but it didn't hurt to ask. Lucky for all of us, he was happy to let me use it, and this was the amazing result...
Chad says "That painting was one of those combinations of pure luck and a tight deadline. I never paint as confidently and fluidly as this painting might suggest. Usually I over-think and over-paint." Which sounds like a stressful process, but you can't argue with the results! The left half of the piece was cut off, which was a truly interesting bit, so I placed it opposite RW's notes for the issue...
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...
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 August 2015 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!
It's a forgone conclusion that not all writers are going to be happy with the art that gets paired with their work. And while the idea of such a thing is upsetting to me, I've pretty much made my peace with it. Artwork is highly subjective to begin with, and then you've got to take into account all the possible pitfalls that come with trying to interpret the written word for a visual representation. And it doesn't seem to matter how much detail the writer puts into their story. On the contrary, the more specific the writer is, the more difficult it can be to meet expectations. "I said the main character had a big nose... but I didn't mean THAT big!"
But if the alternative to sometimes getting it wrong from the author's perspective is to have no artwork at all, I think it's a risk worth taking.
Because I can't imagine THRICE Fiction without the art.
And, on that note... on with the show...
→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
A new year, 52 new opportunities for bullets, because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• STRANGE! As a huge, huge, massively huge devotee of the Marvel Studios films, I'm ecstatic that The Powers The Be are finally getting around to exploring the mystical, magical side of the Marvel Universe. I've long been a fan of Doctor Strange, and everything we've been teased with shows that they're doing it right. Starting with the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch...
Will be very interested to see how they integrate magic into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That's going to be a delicate line to walk.
• ARETHA! Watching Carole King's reaction is almost as entertaining as watching Aretha Franklin flawlessly belt out her song at age 73. Almost.
Talent like that don't come along every day.
• WEESA GONNA DIIIIE! I loathe the Star Wars prequels with the burning hatred of a thousand suns. And then there's this...
Not that it would make me hate Jar Jar Binks any less, but it would certainly make me feel better about his presence in those shitty films.
• Grapes! "I sold Star Wars to white slavers?" Really? Sour grapes are sour. Geroge Lucas is just pissed that people loathe his shitty prequel movies with a passion reserved for explosive diarrhea while JJ Abrams unleashed the Star Wars film everybody wanted. The Force Awakens is on target to becoming the most successful movie in the history of the universe, and that's gotta hurt. Though I'm sure the billions of dollars Lucas got for selling off Lucasfilm to the "White Slavers" at Disney is some small consolation. Time to go count your money and shut the fuck up, George.
• ZONE! I'm the mayor of The Friend Zone...
It's funny because it's true.
Thanks, internet, I needed that.
Welcome to the first installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
First up? The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens...
I liked The Force Awakens okay, and will review the film in another couple weeks (once I'm sure most of the people who want to see it have seen it). If you are one of the billions of people who has already seen the film and also enjoyed it, the Art Of... book is worth a look.
Like all of these type books, it's a compilation of a shit-ton of pre-production art that was used when developing the look of the movie. What makes this one a little different is that it's not organized into sections (locations, characters, props, vehicles, etc.) but is instead presented chronologically. This is very cool in the case of Force Awakens, where the story, concepts, and characters changed quite a lot as the movie what coming together. Seeing how things evolved in relations to each other is fascinating, and it's interesting to learn how changes in one part of the film influenced changes in another.
A lot of times, these books are only as good as the talented people creating the art and, since this is Lucasfilm, you're getting a great many people who are the absolute best in the industry being showcased. This would all be all for nothing if the images of their work were cut down to tiny sizes, but a lot of the time it's occupying full pages... and double-page spreads. And since the book is a nice size, you really get a good look at the painstaking detail that went into every piece.
Overall, this is a beautiful book with a lot of interesting information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you're a fan of the film... or just a fan of the Star Wars universe in general, this is pretty much essential reading.
RATING: A • DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $24 at Amazon.
Welcome to the second installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
What did I buy this time? The Ring WiFi Doorbell
Call me anti-social, but there's two things I really don't like... 1) Talking to people on the phone, and 2) Having uninvited visitors drop by my home. And when the person calling or dropping by is a salesman or political organization or somebody wanting me to convert religions? That's even more annoying.
When it comes to the phone, I just don't answer it when the caller ID is somebody I don't want to talk to or the identity is blocked. But what can you do when it's somebody ringing your doorbell? My door has a glass panel on it... it's not like I can sneak up and see who's disturbing my peace.
Ring is a "smart" doorbell with a camera, a microphone/speaker, and a motion sensor... all wrapped up in a package that's connected to the internet.
This means that you can get an alert on your phone when somebody approaches your door... see who it is... then talk to them to find out what in the hell they want. And you can do that whether you're in your living room... or around the world. Couple Ring with a connected door lock, and you can also let them in your home if you want...
The main reason I got Ring was because of UPS deliveries. They say your package is out for delivery and will be delivered by 5:30 so you wait until 6:00 just to be safe... then leave because you've got better things to do than wait for a package that never showed up... only to have it ultimately be delivered at 6:45 when you're not there. And then you've got a package sitting on your doorstep that could get stolen before you even realize it's been dropped off. With Ring I can be alerted when UPS approaches the door, see that they've rand my doorbell and run off, and know that I've got to run home and get it before somebody steals it. Neat, huh?
And, for that purpose, Ring works exactly as advertised.
Where you run into problems is when you want to interact with somebody. I called a neighbor and asked them to go ring my doorbell so I could see what happens when somebody presses it. Since I had motion detection enabled, I knew they were approaching before they even pressed the doorbell, then received another alert once they did. Problem was that the alerts were not instantaneous like it is with my INSTEON and Nest devices. The first time I was playing around with Ring, the delay was so long that I wondered if I had set it up wrong. My worry is that somebody will ring your doorbell then leave before you are alerted they were there. Subsequent tests were a mixed bag. Many times it was pretty quick... other times it was a bit slower. I don't know if it's the doorbell, my internet, or Ring's messaging service that's the problem, but it could be problematic if you have an impatient caller. Not a deal-breaker for me, but something to be aware of.
And now for a run-down...
Camera: When it comes to optics, Ring isn't bad at all. The 180° wide-angle lens gives you a clear view of everything happening around it in 720p resolution (1280 x 720). Even better, it has night vision so you can see in the dark. For $30 a year, any video your Ring captures is stored in the cloud. This way if somebody steals your UPS delivery off your doorstep, you can retrieve a video for the police. Ironically, this also allows you to have footage of somebody stealing your Ring, in which case they mail you a replacement for free. One pitfall that surprised me is that you can't access the camera whenever you want just to take a look outside your door. In order to see what's going on, Ring has to detect motion or sense a press of the doorbell button before the camera activates. I guess this is to save battery, but it seems a no-brainer of a feature to have, and should be up to the purchaser what's a good use of battery power.
Microphone/Speaker: Works pretty much as you'd expect for a Voice Over Internet application. I was able to hear them. They were able to hear me. They advertise "active noise cancellation," but I didn't have any noise going on to test that.
Motion Detector: Surprisingly sensitive. My doorbell is off to the side (not facing the street), yet it was still alerting me to cars driving by. Fortunately, you can reign in the sensitivity and choose which areas to monitor, so this isn't a problem at all. As mentioned above, the only issue I've run across is that there can be a bit of a delay between when motion is detected and I get an alert.
Cloud: As mentinoed, Ring records video every time it detects motion or somebody presses the doorbell button. This video is then uploaded to the cloud as it's shot so you can retrieve it from your phone whenever you want. I believe I read somewhere that they store 6 months of footage. You get a 30 day free trial with purchase, then have to pay $3 a month or $30 a year to keep using it. A small price to pay given how handy it can be to have access to your video events.
Power: Ring has batteries inside of it that can be charged over USB. This means you can stick your Ring wherever you want. Unfortunately, you have to remove the unit from your house and let it charge overnight every time it runs out. According to Ring (the company) the battery can last up to a year. Reviewers were saying it was a lot less, depending on how much activity your doorbell experiences. This wasn't an issue for me, however, as I used the power from the wiring of my old doorbell to power my Ring.
Installation: Attaching it to my home wasn't a big deal (drill bit, screws*, and screwdriver included!), and setting up the device with my iPhone was fairly painless. If you get stuck, there are step-by-step videos available for everything.
Doorbell: As expected, Ring passes a signal to your doorbell chime when somebody presses it. If you don't have a chime, you can purchase a WiFi chime that plugs into an outlet and connects with Ring to give you one.
And that's pretty much it. Except to say that it comes with a 1-year warranty.
Ring has solved a problem I knew I had... solved other problems I didn't know I had ... and increased the security of my home. If I could rely on the notification delivery speed and had the ability to view a live feed from the camera whenever I wanted, this would be a solid "A" product.
RATING: B+ • DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $199 at Amazon.
* Helpful hint... the screws they give you are shit. Very soft metal that broke on three of the four screws when I attempted to drive them into the siding of my home... AFTER I HAD DRILLED PILOT HOLES! Do yourself a favor and pick up some good-quality wood screws when you pick up your Ring so you don't have to make another trip to Home Depot like I did.
Welcome to the third installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
What did I buy this time? Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System Speakers.
When watching movies at home, there's really no substitute for a good set of surround sound speakers. Without them, everything is forced into two channels (left and right) which means all the dialogue, audio effects, ambient noise, and other sounds are fighting each other as they travel to your ears. This results in you having to turn the volume up and down and up and down as you try to hear what people are saying in quiet moments, but don't want to have the volume blow you out of your chair the minute something loud happens.
As that weren't bad enough, when you have only two speakers... whether they be in your television or outside of it... the sound is blasting towards you in one direction rather than being the immersive experience it was designed to be.
Enter surround sound.
A typical 5.1 Surround Sound speaker setup works like this...
CENTER CHANNEL: This is where all the main spoken dialogue comes from. Sound engineers separate out people talking because (in most cases) it's the most critical audio in the film, and they want to be sure it's not trampled over by other sounds in the scene. It's critical that the center speaker be put as close to your television as possible so that voices seem to be coming from the mouths of the people speaking it.
LEFT & RIGHT FRONT CHANNEL: Most everything happening in the camera that's not dialogue (plus all sounds recorded to the sides of the camera's view) comes from these speakers. If you watch a car zoom past the screen from left to right, the sound should start in the left speaker, then travel to the right speaker.LEFT & RIGHT REAR CHANNEL: These are the speakers that provide sound for what's going on behind the camera, and are critical for an immersive audio experience. When you're watching Star Wars and a TIE fighter screams into the scene, you hear it coming from behind you before you see it, then the sound moves to the front channels as it becomes visible.
SUBWOOFER: That deep, rumbling bass that accompanies sounds from explosions, thunder, and other massive-volume audio is supposed to be something you feel when you hear it. A subwoofer is built to do just that. And since low frequencies like this are non-directional, you can put the subwoofer anywhere you like... though placement next to objects can affect the sound, so it's always good to experiment when choosing a spot.
There's also 7.1 Surround Sound, which adds two additional channels to the rear of the room to further distinguish audio cues that are placed behind you. It's nice if you've got the space for it, but not essential if you don't. Other sound setups which add additional channels for high sounds and side sounds are also out there, but you need a pretty high-end room with space to spare in order to best make use of them.
As if all that weren't enough, companies have developed even more sophisticated sound technologies (such as Dolby Atmos) which do away with the channel model altogether and have the ability to create spatial sounds within a matrix of specially-designed speakers in a 5.1.4 or 7.1.4 configuration (definitely a topic for another time).
This surround sound stuff is all well and good... but if you have a smaller room (like I do), where are you going to fit all those speakers? Using typical stereo speakers would not only be overkill in my 11-1/2' square living room... but they would take up a considerable chunk of space. Smaller speakers that are worth a crap tend to be very, very expensive... so what to do?
Enter Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System Speakers. Small speakers engineered to have big sound for smaller spaces at a great price.
And boy howdy are they nice.
After I took the time to get everything balanced and optimized the levels on my amp, I'm getting pretty remarkable sound out of these babies. All five speakers are the same size (despite the center channel having a different enclosure) and provide clear, crisp sound that's perfect for a terrific surround experience. The subwoofer has really good low-frequency response and pushes bass you can feel with minimal distortion.
Surprisingly powerful for their size, the Energy speakers have no problem filling my small room, and can even fill my entire home at higher volumes. I bought this set to replace my faithful Pioneer speakers that I've had for decades after I decided they were just too big for the space available. Even though they are a tiny fraction of the size, I honestly don't feel I've sacrificed anything. If anything, I've gained quality by going from stereo to 5.1 surround.
The speakers come with a screw-hook mount to hang them against a wall, but it's really recommended that you buy speaker stands so they can breath a bit (I like the Atlantic Satellite stands). The plugs are nice enough... don't know that they're gold at this price, but they do have pop-outs if you use banana plugs like I do. I wish they weren't angled weird and were a little more spaced apart so my stand brackets weren't so tight between them, but these aren't deal-breakers.
If I have a complaint it wouldn't be anything related to the sound... but the look. The speakers are enclosed in high-gloss black cases that attract dust like a magnet and show every smudge and fingerprint. It's really tough to keep them looking their best, and I really wish there was a textured matte option for people who don't want to dust their speakers every day.
Overall, a good set of speakers for a home theater system that will also do a decent job with music if space is at a premium. Fairly priced too.
RATING: B+ • DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $316 at Amazon.
Welcome to the fourth installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
What did I buy this time? The Hunter 1.2 gal. Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
I needed a new humidifier. I wanted one that didn't use heat and had a large water reservoir. I saw this one at Home Depot for a reasonable $30 and bought two of them.
It's a hard-working, easy to maintain product and does a good job of adding moisture to the air. I'd rate it an "A" if not for one thing... IT'S A HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS TO FILL BECAUSE THE THREADS ON THE SCREW FOR THE CAP ON THE RESERVOIR ARE JACKED UP FOR NO GOOD REASON...
WHY DO THIS?!? Every other humidifier I've used knows how to thread a screw...
Sometime the cap for the Hunter unit goes on easy. Other times it takes try after try after try to get it to screw the cap on. AND IT DRIVES ME FRICKIN' INSANE!!! There's been more than one occasion when I've very nearly grabbed a hammer and beat the shit out of this stupid, stupid design.
If you don't mind having to fight a fucking screw cap every time you fill the damn thing, this could be the humidifier for you. It's cheap and works well.
But I would never purchase another one of these.
RATING: D+ • Currently selling for $30 at Home Depot.
Welcome to the fifth installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
What did I buy this time? The Denon AVR-S910W Dolby 7.2 Channel 4K Receiver.
I loathe having to buy new stereo equipment.
But receivers are handling a heck of a lot more than just audio now-a-days... receivers are the hub for both audio and video. So whenever video standards change, your equipment has to change with it. When we went from RCA jack video to composite video and optical sound? New receiver. When we got S-Video? New receiver. When we went to HDMI? New receiver. And now that HDMI has been improved with a new version 2 at 4K and shitty fucking copy protection has been unimproved with HDCP 2.2? New receiver.
I mean, sure, you can always use old inputs on an old receiver... I've been doing that for years and living with the lower quality picture... but it's time to upgrade.
I've been a huge fan of Pioneer equipment over the years, but they don't seem to be pushing the envelope now-a-days. My next favorite brand is Sony, but it was a more expensive option for what I wanted. So I spent days researching which receivers were getting good marks now-a-days and settled on Denon. The have a number of different models, but the AVR-S910W was on sale for a great price and did more than I needed, so here we are.
Aesthetically, the unit could easily be confused with dozens of other receivers since they're all looking the same now-a-days... though this line seems to be a bit more minimalistic, which I like. It has a fraction of the buttons of the old Pioneer it's replacing. Since most HDMI electronics can talk to each other via CEC (Consumer Electronic Control), you rarely need to press anything anyway. Turn on your AppleTV and CEC switches the receiver for you. It's mostly automatic and entirely awesome. What's crazy, however, is that the buttons you most need for non-HDMI devices (because they can't be automatically controlled) ARE MISSING. Want to switch the audio source to Bluetooth so you can play music off your iPhone? Hope you have the remote handy, because there's no button for that on the receiver itself.
And speaking of the remote... it's yet another button nightmare where you have to go hunting for what you want. Which sucks to be sure (why is it only Apple can minimize crap on remotes?) but it is fairly well organized, so there's that.
In addition to the afore-mentioned HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 compliance on all 8 of its HDMI ports (nice!), the 910 can also handle the forthcoming HDR picture spec and upscale signal from your old video equipment to full 4K. It's this last feature that sold me on the 910 over the cheaper 710, as I have old 8mm decks that will benefit from the upscaling technology. Since the 910 has an $80 instant rebate in effect, the price difference was $0, which is money well-spent.
For gamers out there worried about video processing lag, I couldn't detect any. But, then again, I'm playing everything on a Wii U now-a-days, which isn't quite so demanding compared to next-gen consoles by Sony and Microsoft. I'm assuming it won't be a problem, as the 910 has plenty of processing power to get the job done.
But enough about the video... what's going on with the audio?
Since I prefer to listen to music in headphones, the primary function of my new Denon receiver will be for home theater surround sound. Support for 7.1 surround is a given, but the unit can also handle new 3D spatial sound technology like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X... which seems a cool idea, but there's nothing really available in the consumer space encoded with those technologies yet and it requires adding more speakers than I want in my small living room. Still... nice for future-proofing the unit, I suppose. Surprisingly, you can run two subwoofers off this receiver, which I didn't even know was a thing. Since low frequencies are non-directional, I thought this was a one-and-done, but apparently two subwoofers provide a richer bass experience.
The sound itself seems very good. I'm no audiophile, but everything I've listened to is well-defined and separated out perfectly on my speaker system. Since my setup is small and fairly undemanding, the 910 is massive overkill in the power department, but it's nice to know I've got the ability to run some serious speakers at 185w per channel if I ever need to.
Denon has its own proprietary system for wireless speakers called "HEOS" which is meant to be direct competition with SONOS. If I could afford a wireless speaker system, I'd bypass HEOS because it has to share your WiFi network instead of creating a separate mesh network like SONOS does. This is a serious deal breaker, because most WiFi networks are close to saturated given all the crap we keep connected to the internet in these modern times. So while HEOS support is nice, I supposed, I have a feeling most people won't bother with it.
If you sacrifice 2 channels from a 7.1 system and can live with a 5.1 surround setup, you can repurpose those two channels as a different speaker "zone" which can be placed in another room and play from a completely different audio source. I honestly think this is kind of silly, but I guess there are some scenarios where it might be useful.
Like most receivers today, the Denon has built-in Bluetooth and WiFi for live streaming. It has support for Pandora, Spotify and Sirius XM on-deck, and can also interface with Apple Airplay-enabled devices like iPhones, iPads, and Macs. There's also support for internet radio, but the "stations" are kind of clubky to access, so I probably wouldn't. Thanks to Denon's apps for mobile devices, you can control the receiver with your iOS and Android devices. It seem capable, but also overly complex and cluttered. Still, it does easily allow you to control functions and tie into media servers as sources fairly easily, so worth the free-fitty-free pricetag.
When it comes to set-up, the AVR-S910W is dead-simple. You can use your iPhone to grab all the WiFi settings via Airplay which is super-sweet (no WiFi? Ethernet is also available). Then it's just a matter of following the on-screen instructions displayed on your TV to match your speaker setup. Thanks to the Audyssey Bronze calibration system being built-in, you can optimize your levels with ease. Just place the included microphone on a tripod in the middle of the room and the 910 will play tones to measure your speakers. The system them creates a custom profile based on room acoustics to give you optimal sound at every volume level. I know this reeks of silly gadgetry that usually ends up being useless... but can honestly say I noticed an immediate quality improvement after running through the Audyssey program. Pretty cool.
The on-screen user interface is serviceable enough, but kind of pathetic by today's standards. Mostly a bunch of text staring at you, it looks badly dated. Why Denon would invest money in all the latest bells and whistles only to choose to saddle it with a 1990's wrapper is more than a little inexplicable.
Something I've never seen before is Denon's "Eco Mode" which attempts to save electricity by restricting power to each channel based on the volume you've set. I notice no difference on my tiny speakers with Eco Mode on, so I've just left it there.
If there's a flaw to be found with the AVR-S910W, it's this... THERE IS NO SWITCHED POWER OUTLET ON THE BACK! Which means your subwoofer gets to be powered on all the time unless you want to get up, walk across the room, and manually cycle the power off when you aren't using it. Which begs the question... WHO FUCKING DOES THIS?!? Seriously, what idiotic excuse could they have for leaving off a switched outlet for your subwoofer from the feature list? Every fucking receiver I've ever owned has had a switched power outlet until now. It's senseless bullshit like this that takes great products and sabotages them utterly. This is such a moronic oversight that I am compelled to drop a grade from my score even though the unit is otherwise perfect. I just naturally assumed I'd have my outlet and was dumbfounded when I went to plug in my subwoofer and saw there wasn't one. Somebody at Denon needs to pull their head out of their ass on this one, because it makes the company look like complete idiots. Had I known about this inexcusable flaw, I don't know if I would have purchased it. But probably. There's just so many great things about it compared to the competition in this price range.
RATING: B • RELUCTANTLY DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $479 at Amazon.
Your cold, boring January day is about to get better, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• AUTOMANIMAL! If you're a child of the 80's like I am, you're a massive fan of Glen A. Larson's two epic masterpieces of cheesy television perfection... Automan and Manimal... NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD!
Really cool that these shows are available again. Something tells me that they won't hold up... but that just makes them all the more perfect.
• CLOSED! Macy's has announced that they're closing 40 stores. Our local Macy's isn't on the "close" list... thankfully... but there's two Macy's on the list I'll be sad to have go. Downtown Spokane, which has been open since 1947 (94 people losing their jobs) and Downtown Pittsburgh, which has been open since 1946 (170 people losing their jobs). Shopped at both of them. The Spokane location had an amazing men's department... the Pittsburgh location had a great sports shop... and I will miss them both.
• COLBERT! While I am not a fan of the music that Jon Batiste and Stay Human blast through commercial breaks over at The Late Show, their opening credits song is probably my favorite late-night theme ever. Melodic, playful... beautiful, really... it fit the tone of the show perfectly. As if that wasn't awesome enough, the opening credit visuals by Fernando Livschitz are amazing. Lucky for us, they released a "director's cut" with tons more footage for our viewing pleasure...
• JUSTICE? Well isn't that cute. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is overruling the Supreme Court. Um... yeah... me no think that works like you think it works. How small of a penis do you have to have in order to be waving your gavel around with this kind of delusion of grandeur? I mean, clearly he's compensating for SOMETHING. I dunno. Maybe he's scared to death that marriage equality will be too tempting and he's going to end up marrying the pool boy? The mind boggles.
• POOL! I have to say... this is looking very faithful to the comics...
In many ways, I'm glad that Deadpool is not a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is stuck over at 20th Century Fox. That way he gets to be his insane self in a contained environment.
Annnnd... time to go play in the snow.
A very sad goodbye to one of my favorite musical artists...
David Bowie's album Let's Dance was an amazing pop reinvention that I've played to death...
But my favorite Bowie is from his work on the film Labyrinth in which he managed to turn in incredible performances for both acting and music... including the song As The World Falls Down, which is about as good as it gets...
So many amazing works. You will be very much missed.
Virginia Delegate Mark Cole has filed legislation which requires schools to be certain that kids are using the bathroom which corresponds to their "correct anatomical sex."
...IF YOU'RE A CHILD-MOLESTING PERVERT!
I can only guess that Mark Cole will also be volunteering at schools to take a look at a child's genitals before allowing them to enter a restroom? What a disgusting piece of work.
Note to dumbass politicians... we all know that there is some fucked up shit going on in your bathrooms... which is why you're always getting caught there with prostitutes or doing cocaine or soliciting for a blow job or whatever... but you can't apply your personal shit to the general populace. Most normal people go to the bathroom TO GO TO THE FUCKING BATHROOM. It doesn't mater what their sex or how they identify, they don't equate going to the bathroom with anything sexual... they just want to piss or take a shit, (hopefully) wash their hands, then trip the fuck out the door. Which means the only perverted person in this scenario is PEOPLE LIKE DELEGATE MARK COLE.
You know what law I want to see on the books? A law banning these fucking idiots from using public restrooms. Their obsession over what's between my legs is bordering on psychotic, and I don't feel comfortable being trapped in closed quarters with transphobic, homophobic, bigoted assholes who are more interested in my junk than TAKING CARE OF ACTUAL FUCKING PROBLEMS!
Just when you think we're making progress, there's always some troglodyte crawling out of the ooze to be a dick.
I'm not a big fan of Adele's music... but I am a seriously huge fan of Adele herself.
Every time she appears on a talk show or gets interviewed, she's so genuinely charming, funny, smart, beautiful, and down-to-earth that you can't help but love her.
And now she's joined James Cordon for an episode of Carpool Karaoke, and it's everything you could ever want...
I really liked her James Bond theme, Skyfall... and there's some tracks on her new album that I do enjoy... so maybe I'm finally coming around to becoming an Adele fan?
And so one of my favorite actors has died. And so soon after one of my favorite musicians.
Alan Rickman is probably best known for his role of Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies... or for his awesome performance as Hans Gruber in the original Die Hard... but there are three roles which I will forever associate with him that, in my mind, defined his genius...
Metatron from Dogma.
It only makes sense that Kevin Smith would cast Rickman and his golden voice to play The Voice of God in Dogma. As the angel Metatron, Rickman was at his snarky, sarcastic best, and most all of the reasons I like the film are because he's in it...
Marvin (voice) from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Like anybody else could have given life to the terminally depressed robot, Marvin. The movie adaptation of one of my favorite books of all time wasn't all I was hoping for, but one thing is for sure... Rickman did not disappoint...
Alexander Dane as Dr. Lazarus from Galaxy Quest
By a wide, wide margin, my favorite Alan Rickman role is his brilliantly hilarious turn as classically-trained actor Alexander Dane who has to endure life inhabiting his most famous part... Dr. Lazarus from the cheesy television series Galaxy Quest. The level of disdain and self-loathing that Rickman has to generate for this character is beyond what any other actor could dream of achieving. And yet, he has to dig even deeper than that for one of the most touching scenes ever found in a science fiction or comedy film...
You can't watch Galaxy Quest and not become a huge Alan Rickman fan...
Truly, he will be missed.
And now I'm off to watch Galaxy Quest for the hundredth time.
I like to think that I'm pretty well informed as to what's coming down the animation pipeline, but this trailer for Anomalisa came out of nowhere.
And it looks amazing...
Something new to look forward to!
I really had no plans to vote Bernie Sanders into The White House, but this is such a compelling argument as to why I should that I may just have to reconsider...
Bill O'Reilly gone? Will he take his dipshit show to Ireland with him?
Yeah, that's totally worth becoming a socialist.
Don't shovel that driveway just yet, because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• ALIAS! Much to my relief, Marvel's Jessica Jones is getting a second season on Netflix. The show is more than a little groundbreaking in the superhero genre, and it will be very interesting to see where the showrunners go with such a fascinating and multi-faceted character. And dare we hope to see Patsy Walker, Hellcat next time around?
• ISTANBUL! Kindness to animals is such a noble virtue. I love stories like this...
Cats are a revered animal in Islam, and strays are everywhere in Istanbul, so it's nice to see some of them get shelter from the cold...
• AXE! Finally. A commercial for the rest of us...
Though drenching myself in Axe is not something I see in my immediate future.
• X! Ha! Jimmy Kimmel had a flawless parody of the upcoming The X-Files revival...
Reeeally looking forward to The X-Files when it returns at long last on next Sunday!
• Betty! But before I go... a very happy birthday to Better White!
Still amazing at 94 years old!
Annnnnd... I'm empty.
Turns out MadTV had a handle on the current state of the Republican Party all along.
Not bad for a show airing twenty years ago...
Preach it, sister!
And, seriously, this wasn't written as parody yesterday... it's from nearly twenty years ago...
Darlene McBride really needs to come out of retirement.
Of course, we've already got Mike Huckabee, so she's almost redundant... but still...
Nobody wants DC to succeed with their movie efforts more than I do. I love superheroes. I really love superhero films. And it would be great if DC could churn out movies for their characters that are on-par with the amazing stuff that Marvel's been doing.
But their record has been utter shit. With the exception of the Nolan Bat-films, there's been too much terrible lately. Green Lantern was gut-wrenchingly awful. Man of Steel was one of the worst comic book films I've ever seen... and I'm including turds like Jonah Hex and Catwoman (also DC character films, by the way). For whatever reason, DC just can't seem to get their shit together. Even though they've got some fantastic characters to play with.
And then there's Suicide Squad. Which finally got a full trailer. And it looks like total shit...
And don't even get me started on what they've done to The Joker.
I'm not a huge fan of Adele's music, but changed my mind when I ended up really liking her James Bond theme for Skyfall. Then she released her latest album with the amazing single Hello and I began thinking I was on my way towards becoming an Adele fan.
And now comes this reggae version of the track by Rosie Delmah and Conkarah...
Okay then. Done!
More of Reza Farazmand's amazing toons can be found over at Poorly Drawn Lines.
New Pet Shop Boys in April!
It's pretty amazing how quick the albumas have been coming...
That's four albums in eight years. Super!
Every time Sarah Palin shows her stupid ass in public, I pray that it will be such an epic disaster that it will entice Tina Fey to make a return appearance on Saturday Night Live.
So when Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump came along, which is pretty much the definition of "epic disaster," I was counting the minutes until Saturday.
I was not disappointed...
What's amazing is that Tina Fey didn't really have to embellish the sheer lunacy that is Sarah Palin in order to capture the hilarity of somebody this idiotic being popular enough to endorse a presidential candidate and have people pay attention.
Such is 'Murica.
You haven't struck gold... but you're getting the next best thing, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Boss! One of the funniest things to come out of Saturday Night Live in a while was Undercover Boss: Kylo Ren with Adam Driver reprising his role from Star Wars: The Force Awakens...
And now they've released some behind the scenes clips...
• Vax? So this is what it takes.
• J-Law! I'm obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence... and her appearance on Graham Norton takes it up a notch...
• GHOST! BUSTERS! LEGO Dimensions is the gift that keeps on giving... thanks to new Level Pack releases that take the game in entirely new directions. The latest? Ghostbusters!...
Looks epic. Can't wait until I have time to play it.
• Blake! Nothing quite like "discovering" a new song you like... eight years after it was released...
Apparently Blake Lewis was an American Idol winner. Since I don't watch that show, I never knew he existed until my Amazon Echo played one of his songs a couple days ago.
And... that's a wrap.
Blogography may be on strike, but your day isn't ruined, because Banana Sunday starts... now...
Hope that was as good for you as it was for me.
Blogography may still be on strike, but all is not lost, because Banana Sunday starts... now...
Wasn't that a-peel-ing?
Blogography has been a frequent target of hackers, which has left me little choice but to lock it down as tightly as I possibly can. Part of the security I have set up is that the back-end can only be accessed from a specific IP address. Problem is that my new place does not yet have its static IP set up properly, so I stack up a week's worth of posts, unlock the system, post everything very quickly, then lock everything back down again.
Hopefully by the end of the month my old IP will be set up at my new installation and everything will be good again.
Mattress shopping has to be the worst shopping there is.
The last time I bought a mattress was in the late 80's. I visited a showroom, flopped down on every mattress in the place, and still couldn't decide what I wanted. All I knew is that I didn't care how much money the perfect mattress cost me, because getting a good night's sleep is worth just about any price. If $1200 got me a better night's rest than the $400 I had budgeted, then so be it ($400 is $835 in today's dollars, so you can tell I was serious about getting a good mattress).
Ultimately, I decided to get a Spring Air mattress that clocked in at what I think was $650 (around $1350 in today's dollars)... the deciding factor being that a cut-out of Vanna White was endorsing it. Because, hey, if you can't trust Vanna White, who can you trust?
It was a horrible purchase.
Thanks a lot, Vanna."
The mattress was sagging noticeably within a year. After two years, I had to fold an old comforter and prop up the middle of the mattress so I'd have a level sleeping surface. Needless to say, I was beyond perturbed to have blown past my budget for a premium product only to get something that was pretty shitty.
And I suffered with it for 25 years even though I knew mattresses should be replaced after 10 years because the thought of investing another chunk of money in something that's going to fail me was more than I could stand.
But then something changed.
New mattress manufacturers popped up that cut out the middle-man... selling direct to consumers without the heinous markup that is involved when you go to a furniture store or a showroom.
The first one I became aware of was Tuft and Needle. A queen-size mattress out of premium memory foam was just $600, and thee product was getting rave reviews. I was going to order one, but decided to wait until I could see one in person. Since their showroom is in Phoenix, I ended up visiting a friend in Seattle who had one back in 2014. And it was a darn fine mattress. The only issue I had, as a side-sleeper, is that it felt a bit too firm. So I hemmed and hawed, then forgot about it.
Then after Christmas last year, I was so done with my sagging, crappy mattress that I decided to pull the trigger... only to find that a bunch of competition had arrived. In addition to Tuft and Needle, there was Casper, Loom & Leaf, YogaBed, and others... all selling direct at good prices. Another such company was Leesa, which I ended up ordering sight-unseen because review after review said it was softer than a Tuft and Needle, which was my biggest concern...
It's a great mattress, though I don't think it's considerably softer than Tuft and Needle.
That being said, it is very comfortable, and the quality is high. The cover alone is a work of art... it looks like a single piece of fabric, which means there's not a lot of seams to rip open. The mattress is composed of a 2" layer of Avena foam on top to keep you cool (as memory foam tends to retain heat and sleep hot). Under that there's 2" of memory foam followed by 6" of dense foam for support. I don't know if the foam is dense enough to sit on top of a wire-mesh platform bed like mine... so I put a layer of cardboard under it... but it definitely doesn't feel like it's lacking support, so there's that. And I have yet to overheat on the thing, which is everything (I can't sleep when overheated).
After a month of sleeping on Leesa, I don't know that I'm quite used to it yet. When I lay on my back or front, it's absolutely perfect. But when I lay on my side, which is how I usually sleep, I feel like I get "stuck" in positions that are a little uncomfortable... especially on my hips. I don't know if that's because I'm not heavy enough to sink into the mattress as I should or what, but it can be annoying. The good thing is that this is an issue that feels like it's disappearing the more nights I use it. I certainly seem to be able to get more comfortable faster now than at the beginning. Which is probably why Leesa makes you sleep on it for 100 nights before deciding if you want a refund (at which point they have it picked up and donated to a worthy charity). Something tells me that I will be fully transitioned well within the 100 day trial period, so that's a wise move.
Other than this "break-in" bump in the road, I really love the mattress. It's quality from top to bottom, there's no weird smell, it's not so firm that I can't sleep on it, and shipping is included in the (very!) reasonable price.
Which is $890 for a queen.
Except Leesa is having specials going on all the time, often offering $100 off or a gift card or something.
If you can't find a special... or want a better discount than what's offered... you can use the promo code they gave me to get $75 off:
It is no secret that I love LEGO Star Wars.
The video games, the TV shows, the building sets, the books... all of it. Given how the absolutely heinous prequel trilogy nearly destroyed all things Star Wars for me, it was the coming of LEGO Star Wars stuff that brought me back from the brink. What LEGO was doing was smart, fun, beautiful, imaginative, and highly entertaining... basically everything that the three shitty prequels were not.
And yesterday I learned that a new cartoon series is coming set in the LEGO Star Wars universe...
The Freemaker Adventures sounds fantastic...
Told in the whimsically-charged style that audiences have come to expect from LEGO Star Wars entertainment, the series stars the Freemakers, a family of scavengers who build and sell starships from the scoured debris of space battles strewn throughout the galaxy. When their youngest discovers a natural connection with the Force through an ancient artifact – the Kyber Saber – his world is turned upside down, and he and his family are thrown into an epic struggle against the Empire to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy. Throughout their adventures, the Freemakers explore new worlds, meet new and familiar characters, and learn the true value of what it means to be a family.
Needless to say, I hope and pray that we'll be getting a video game out of the franchise.
Of course, I'm still waiting for a game adaptation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which is supposed to be coming in June?), so patient we must be...
In the meanwhile... I finally had a chance to sit down and play LEGO Marvel's Avengers for a while. It's pretty great in all the right ways, despite being another mediocre port to the Wii U (why in the hell Traveler's Tales have been unable to work with the technical limitations of the Wii U when they did such an amazing job with LEGO City Undercover, I have no idea. LEGO Marvel's Avengers certainly has more laugh-out-loud moments than usual, which is great.
And... speaking of LEGO Marvel's Avengers... I should have time to get through another level before bedtime!
As the possibility of a Trump presidency starts to get all too real, it's only natural to stop and try to figure out how we got here.
A good part of it... and the part I fully admit to embracing... is the fact that he's a complete political outsider. Who doesn't dream of a country where their politicians aren't so far up the ass of lobbyists and billionaires that they vomit shit every time they open their mouths? The vast majority of our "public servants" don't give two shits about the people they "serve"... they only care about maintaining power and getting re-elected. That takes money. Lots and lots of money. And so our politicians gleefully sell themselves to the highest bidder, fucking over the American people while they do so. That's how we end up with things like outrageous health insurance premiums that go not to maintaining our heath... but to keep the private jets for billionaire insurance company owners flying. It's how we end up with toxic chemicals in our water supply. It's how we end up with jobs being shifted overseas. It's how we end up with new net-neutrality killing bills being introduced again and again and again. Politicians simply do not give a fuck if the laws they make completely screw over average Americans trying to make a decent living. They've got their political careers to think about.
But not Trump.
At least not in ways that really count.
He's got money. It doesn't matter how he got his money, he just has it, and he doesn't have to pony up to the lobbyist trough for political survival. Sure, he's probably had to make some shady deals happen with some shady people... you don't amass that much wealth without having some skeletons in the closet but, politically, he's about as independent as you could hope for.
It's what he chooses to do with that independence that's the problem.
While he may actually do some amazing things... like breaking up insurance monopolies and weakening pharmaceutical cartels... it's the other half of the equation that makes a Trump presidency possible.
Appealing to bigotry, racism, hatred, and the general stupidity of the population at large.
Trump proudly runs with all of it right out in the open. And his supporters love him for it. "He says the things people are thinking!" they say.
Which would be great, except for all the bigotry, racism, and hatred.
But that's not even the worst part about Trump. At least with him all the bigotry, racism, and hatred is out in the open where we can see with it and deal with it honestly. This would certainly be a refreshing change from the closeted bullshit that is going on behind the scenes now.
No, the problem with Donald Trump is that he's Donald Trump.
At this point, I don't even care about the embarrassment factor. I got through the non-stop humility of George W. Bush representing the US on the international stage, I can certainly survive Trump. And it's not even about the stupidity factor. Trump may be a fucking idiot, but he's leagues above the dimwit dumbfuckery that defined Bush. Leagues above.
No. No. It's the fact that Trump is such a pathetic, gaping asshole.
Just imagine it.
Any semblance of tact and decency is out the fucking window. Trump does what Trump wants and to hell with everybody else. So what if he calls President François Hollande a pussy on his first diplomatic to France? Who cares if he drops his pants and takes a shit on the table in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while negotiating trade agreements in Canada? What does it matter that he grabs Chancellor Angela Merkel's breasts at a summit in Germany? He just doesn't care enough about what people think about him to be at all restrained... or even remotely presidential.
Which is exactly what his supporters seem to want, regardless of how such assholery is going to reflect on our country.
And that's the thing that bothers me the most. Not necessarily that our country is going to be a laughing stock in the global community... we've been down that road... but that people are okay with that.
I'm not a fan of Bernie Sanders. He's a massive con-man who is somehow convincing people that the president actually has the power to do all the things he's been promising on the campaign trail. As if "President of the United States" is like a king that makes laws by royal decree instead of having to assemble of bipartisan coalition to get anything done. Are we really supposed to believe that a Republican-dominated Congress is going to let President Bernie unleash his brand of democratic socialism? Of course not. Even if the Republicans weren't in power, he'd have a hard enough time getting all his fellow Democrats to support him. Hell... how many of his fellow Congressmen are supporting him now? Two? Maybe? It doesn't matter if enough people buy into Bernie's vision for America to get him elected... he has nowhere to go when he occupies the White House, and I remain dumbfounded that his supporters don't seem to realize this. Still, in a contest between Pie-In-The-Sky-Sanders and Asshole-Trump, I'll take the delusion of any day. Meaningful change ain't going to happen... because it can't happen like this... but at least Bernie won't set back social change a few decades.
I'm really, really not a fan of Hillary Clinton. I loathe her on so many levels that my teeth grate just typing her name. Why I feel that way I've gone into many times. But in a contest between Hypocrisy-Is-My-Agenda-Clinton and Asshole-Trump? Hillary 2016, baby.
On the Republican side, things are a bit more difficult to measure.
Would I rather have Ted Cruz as the nominee over Asshole-Trump? Oh fuck no.
Would I rather have Marco Rubio as the nominee over Asshole-Trump? Probably not.
Ben Carson? BWAH HA HA HA HA HAAAAA! Um. No.
I might prefer Jeb! over Asshole-Trump, but he's going down faster than a lead weight and has no chance.
I dunno enough about John Kasich, but it's not like he's a factor anyway.
If I had to make a prediction now, I'd put money on a Clinton 2.0 presidency. She ultimately comes down to the lesser of all evils, and I think that's what is going to carry her to victory. Obviously not my ideal presidential scenario.
But it beats the hell out of President Asshole-Trump, and that's what I'm trying to focus on.
Romance is not dead, because a special Valentine's Day Edition of Sunday starts... now...
• Valentine's Day 2016...
• Valentine's Day 2004...
Until next year then...
Yes. Yes indeed...
I probably should have waited until the renovations on my new place were complete before adopting, but there are some things that can't wait.
Say hello to Jenny (orange) and Jake (grey)...
They just got out of surgery to be fixed, so they're a little groggy and ruffled (especially poor Jenny... getting spayed is no picnic)... but still totally adorable.
"South Dakota Is The First State To Pass A Transphobic Student Bathroom Bill."
I'm just mortified by this. ALL PEOPLE WANT TO DO IS USE THE DAMN BATHROOM! THE ONLY PEOPLE SEXUALIZING THIS ARE THE PEOPLE PASSING LAWS LIKE THIS!
So yeah... send the trans woman to the men's bathroom where South Dakota rednecks will beat the shit out of her just for wanting to pee. Lovely.
"Jenny, don't smack your brother in the head while he's trying to poop." — About the tenth thing I've said today that I never thought I'd be saying.
Well, I just made a huge parenting mistake.
Jenny still had her surgery tag collar on and it was so tight that I worried she would get caught on something and hang herself...
Calm Before the Storm.
All attempts at sneaking up on her and cutting it off failed, so this morning I finally grabbed her so I could remove it. Now I'm covered in lacerations (she even bit my nose!) and now they are hiding under the couch terrified. Won't even come out to eat. Probably set back any progress I've made by a week.
But at least I can sleep at night knowing she won't get caught and choke to death.
Ever since Howard introduced me to the magic that is Postiljonen and their stunning debut album, I've been waiting for a followup.
And yesterday was the day.
If you enjoyed Skyer (and why in the hell wouldn't you?) then Reverie will be a welcome addition to your music collection as it's pretty much more of the same...
Filled with lush, gorgeous soundscapes that carry you away to a better place, Reverie is going to be serious competition for my favorite album of 2016...
If you're looking for and escape, here's your album.
Since my new kittehs were feral, they're not quite as social as you'd hope. They are a little accustomed to people and pet living, as they were in foster care until they were old enough to be spayed and neutered. But most of their day is spent hiding under the couch. Any attempt to get too close to them when they venture out results in a (literal) hissy fit. But they're getting better bit by bit, and I can play with them from time to time... so... eventually. I hope.
The one thing for which I'm very grateful is that they arrived potty-trained. They have no trouble at all using their litter boxes. I know this because I have to clean their toxic deposits two to three times a day. I have no idea how such little kittens produce so much poop, but there you have it.
And now for photos.
It's Jenny! Being all adorable and stuff. She is bouncing back from yesterday's "trauma" much faster than her brother... and she was the one it happened to. The vet sure took off a lot of fur when she was spayed. I wonder if it's itchy? Poor thing.
Jake isn't the climber that his sister is... she can get anywhere and climb anything to get there... but he gives it his best shot.
From talking to the foster parents, it seemed as though Jenny would be the meek, reserved kitten and Jake the more rambunctious, adventurous one. It's turning out to be the opposite. Jenny is the one who goes balls-out while Jake kind of lays and waits for her to make the first move. And when it comes to play-fighting, she just loves to pounce on her brother any chance she gets. He is rarely the one to go after her.
Always nice when they are on the couch instead of hiding under it, as usual.
And... enough kitties for today. But keep tuning in. Something tells me there might be more photos in the future!
I wish I could get excited for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie.
Batman is my favorite super-hero. I've always been a Superman fan. This should be the movie event of 2016.
But it's not.
After the heinous pile of shit that Man of Steel turned out to be, Zack Snyder has made me lose all confidence in his ability to bring super-heroes to the screen.
Even if the trailer is a bit intriguing...
But not necessarily in the right ways?
I'll probably go see it just because I feel I have to.
Hopefully I'll even enjoy it.
Although it doesn't much look like it, I am still posting to my blog daily... I just can't get it there until I've got the whole Wordpress security thing settled with my new IP address.
The fact that it's taking so damn long to get it resolved is probably a sign to just give up, but I'll choose to ignore that.
I can honestly say there's no movie I'm looking forward to more than this one now that this trailer has dropped in my lap...
And is totally appealing to my current mindset because: KITTEN!
Once I can access my blog security again, I may have to create a second blog dedicated to my cats' litter box. Jenny took a dump so mind-alteringly horrific that the smell should be declared biological warfare by the U.N. It's a cross between burning tires, raw sewage, and a rotting corpse at low tide. She spent five minutes trying to cover it up, which is the very definition of futility. That smell ain't going anywhere.
Until I shovel it out, then run to the garbage bin as fast as I can.
It's almost enough to make me regret having invited the little monster into my home.
In all the articles I read about socializing feral cats, food is always given as the first way to win them over. Once you're associated with food in their tiny brains, they eventually warm up to you.
Unless you're Jenny and Jake, in which case food isn't associated with much of anything except eating.
So I resort to winning them over with the runner up... play.
They seem to forget all about hating humans when you play with them. They'll roll all over my lap and feet np problem... at least until they realize where they are and decide to run under the couch again...
Bit by bit...
Bit by bit...
This kind of artistry makes my heart ache...
Everything about these cookies is mesmerizing. I can only guess that they taste amazing as well...
If you're looking to be completely blown away... here's her Facebook page.
Not a big fan of the Oscars.
The movies and people behind the movies that I feel most deserve to win so rarely do... if they even get nominated at all.
This year that was made vividly clear to me as the Worst. Fucking. Bond. Theme. Ever. won best song. This kind of whiny shit masquerading as "music" drives me insane. But use it as a James Bond theme? Sacrilege. It doesn't help that Sam Smith is sounds like crap live. If they wanted a song called "Writing's on the Wall," they should have called OK Go!
Yeah. I know. I already said this.
FURNITURE, ASSEMBLE! Because a Very Special IKEA Review Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• IKEA! IKEA furniture has a lot of fans. IKEA furniture has a lot of detractors. I'm kinda in the middle. What I love most about IKEA is the prices. And the Swedish Fish. And those Illeana Douglas shorts, of course. But mostly the prices. When I moved into my new place, I needed to buy pretty much everything, as my old furniture was trashed. I couldn't afford real furniture, thus... IKEA. I figure I'll buy IKEA for now and get new furniture as I can afford it. And, mission accomplished... I bought stuff for practically every room in the house for a grand total that was about the cost of just a frickin' dining room table I liked at another furniture store. By Grabthar's hammer... what a savings! Even if I did have to buy it all sight-unseen.
All images stolen from IKEA's website...
• LACK SHELVES! The thing about wall shelves is that they are supported by ugly-ass shelving supports. But LACK shelves are different. They're FLOATING shelves. Which means there's no supports. Which also means they look awesome, but you can't put heavy stuff on them...
Installing the shelves is no easy task. Mostly because they don't come with anything to attach the shelf to the wall. I ended up having to go to Home Depot for a combination of "lag bolts" (where I had wall studs) and "drywall anchors" (where I had none). Since I bought 43" shelves, it was easy to find a couple wall studs to bolt them to, but they didn't always end up in places I felt would secure the shelf very well, so sometimes the drywall anchors were added on the ends as well. Installation involves fixing a metal frame to the wall, then sliding the shelf on it, then screwing it in place. Easy. Mostly. Unless you are trying to line up a bunch of shelves like me, because they inexplicably don't always line up... even when you've been very careful to align the frames to each other. Still, they do look very nice and, so long as you're not putting anything heavy on them, work well.
PRICE: $6.99-$19.00 (depending on size) • DAVEKEA SCORE: B
• HEMNES BOOKSHELVES AND GLASS DOOR CABINET! Most cheap furniture is made from sawdust that has been mixed with glue then pressed into boards. I hate that crap, so I was happy to learn that IKEA has a line of furniture called HEMNES that's made (mostly) of real wood. Sure it costs a little more, but at least it has a chance of holding together for a while. I needed a couple of bookshelves for my bedroom and a cabinet for my dining room (preferably with drawers for placemats and stuff). Luckily, there are many variations of the HEMNES bookcases when it comes to doors and drawers, so I was able to find exactly what I needed...
The bookshelves were fairly simple to assemble, even if the top board didn't line up properly on one of them and had to be hammered into place. Surprisingly, they were very easy to level and match up side-by-side thanks to the screw-adjust feet. I did have a quality control problem where one of the backing board pieces had a dinged corner that made an obvious divot in the back of my shelves, but I colored it with some stain and put books in front of it, so you'd never know. They seem fairly sturdy and are currently holding a lot of books without issue, but I admit to hammering nails through the sides to make sure the shelves wouldn't fall off the support knobs once I determined where they should go (recommended, as I hear the shelves can pop out easily). The cabinet version adds glass-panel doors and three drawers to the bookshelf for an additional $230, which doesn't seem like a lot... but really is when you consider the bookshelves alone are just $330. Like all IKEA drawers, these are cheap as hell, and won't support much weight. I will probably end up reinforcing them with another board, eventually, as it seems the sawdust board they use will eventually warp and fall out. I glued everything in place, so hopefully that will buy me some time? The glass-panel doors are cheap and clunky and have weird-ass hinges that were a pain in the ass to install, but boy do they look nice. Actually, both the bookshelves and the cabinet look very nice. They certainly don't look cheap... until you open a drawer or door. HINT:You absolutely want to follow IKEA's advice and affix these to a wall so they don't fall over.
PRICE: $160 (bookshelf) or $330 (cabinet) • DAVEKEA SCORE: B+
UPDATE 5/14/16: DAVEKEA SCORE: F Just as other people have experienced, my shelves collapsed because they're not deep enough and somehow work their way loose from the pegs (which are too short, I guess). Looks like I'll be screwing all the shelves directly to the unit so they're not falling out and scaring the shit out of me in the middle of the night. EPIC FAIL!
• HEMNES COFFEE TABLE! There are two different coffee tables in the HEMNES line, and I went for the rectangular one over the square one. It assembled very easily, seems sturdy, and is nice enough to look at...
The only problem is that the table-top finish is uneven. It's dull in some spots, glossy in others (usually over the knots in the wood) and doesn't look that great. Given how cheap it was, it's tough to complain too hard... but it does look like I've spilt something on it or damaged it somehow, which is a bit of a bummer.
PRICE: $140 • DAVEKEA SCORE: C
• HEMNES BENCH! My living room is rather modest in size, which means my furniture arrangement has to be fairly rigid to make any use of the space I've got. This meant that the HEMNES end-table was out of the question, and I ended up buying "benches" to use as end-tables. They work perfectly... coming in at the right shape and height...
For all I know, they make great benches as well. Probably the easiest assembly of all the stuff I bought, which was icing on the cake.
PRICE: $80 • DAVEKEA SCORE: A
• HEMNES TV UNIT! If there was one thing I regret purchasing, this would be it. The HEMNES TV Unit is complete shit anyway you look at it. It's meant to act as a media center, and yet basic stereo components don't fit in it (my mid-size receiver has to sit on top). It was a complete bitch to assemble (NOTHING lined up properly, the shitty little screw-discs kept breaking, and the first shelf-bay has a shelf that doesn't match the support holes... no matter which of the three shelves I put there)...
This is a complete disaster, and I pretty much hate it. Will probably be the first thing I replace when I can afford it. Helpful hint to IKEA... I dunno if stereo components are smaller in Europe, and I really don't give a crap. If you're selling a media center here in the USA, you'd better make something that our shit can fit into. Having all the shelves fit properly into the holes you drilled would also be a big help.
PRICE: $200 • DAVEKEA SCORE: D
• HEMNES DRAWERS! As I mentioned above, IKEA drawers are pretty cheap and, apparently, people have problems with the drawer bottoms warping and falling out all the time. Even so, I needed cheap drawers for my bedrooms, so this is where I landed. I did glue all the drawer parts together in the hopes that will keep them from falling apart. And I'm trying my best not to overload them, so hopefully that will help. But, eventually, if I don't end up replacing these soon, I know I'll have to reinforce the drawer bottoms with some kind of actual wood, which kind of sucks...
For my bedroom, I bought the three-drawer version and a 2-drawer unit to use as a nightstand. For the guest room, I bought the six-drawer version and a couple 2-drawers for nightstands... but the guest room stuff is in "white stain" instead of the brown-black I bought for everything else. Since the wood is a cheap pine, the whitewash effect is less attractive than it would be with a prettier wood, but I guess it's okay. I probably would have stuck with the brown-black if I had seen it first. Ultimately, these drawer units look okay... but they "feel" cheap, were not so easy to assemble, and don't seem built to last.
PRICE: $100 (2-Drawer), $150 (3-Drawer), $200 (6-Drawer) • DAVEKEA SCORE: C
• STORNÄS TABLE! Easily my favorite IKEA purchase from the bunch. It's a beautiful, sturdy table that doesn't look or feel cheap at all. Yes, it arrived with a small damage mark in the table-top, but it's still a wonderful purchase at a shockingly low price. I bought the version with one extra leaf, but there's also a version with two extra leaves if you have room for a long table in your dining room...
Assembly was easy as pie and I couldn't be happier with its elegant simplicity. I wish that IKEA made other items in the STORNÄS series, as it's clearly top-of-the line at a bargain cost...
PRICE: $330 • DAVEKEA SCORE: A
• KAUSTBY CHAIRS! There were a few options for chairs to go with my STORNÄS table, and I waffled between the KAUSTBY and INGOLF models, as they both looked like they'd accompany it perfectly. Ultimately I thought the KAUSTBY slot-back chairs looked a bit more contemporary, and decided to go that route... even if they were $10 more a piece...
Overall, they are quite nice chairs for the price. Plenty wide. Maybe a little too wide, as the standard cushions I bought don't seem big enough to cover them. Assembly is not overly difficult, but could have been better. For one thing, they don't pre-drill the holes that attach the seat to the frame (with small, cheap, plastic fixtures), so it's up to you to make sure you've got it centered. But the worst part is that the chairs are not perfectly level, and I didn't know how to adjust them so they'd sit flat. Adding FIXA felt floor protectors helped a little bit... and it's by no means a massive problem, as the legs are off by only a small amount... but it is a bit frustrating. Then again, you get what you pay for, and I'm willing to bet this could be a problem with chairs costing a lot more.
PRICE: $50 • DAVEKEA SCORE: B-
And there you have it. All in all, I'm happy with my IKEA purchases. Less than $3000 to fill my living room, dining room, bedroom, and guest room is pretty nifty. And shipping was a cheap $165 for the 26 pieces of furniture I bought, which is awesome. What's not awesome is that there's no way to track your order progress, so any updates have to be requested via email to customer service. But, then again, IKEA ended up delivering everything on exactly the day they said they would when I checked out, so I really have no cause to complain. If you're on a budget and looking for furniture... IKEA is worth a look. And I do mean look, as buying sight-unseen like I did is a little crazy.
Double your Bullet Sunday, double your fun! Because a Very Special SHOPPING Make-Up Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• SUNDAY? I wasn't able to get a Bullet Sunday together for the 21st, so that had to be made up yesterday. Then this last Sunday got bumped to today. At which point I think I'm caught up with Bullet Sundays again. At least so far as I can be given how far behind I am getting my entries posted. My internet situation at home is dire, with the cable-based service dropping constantly while I wait to see if I can get fiber installed. I may just bag it and stick with shitty cable... assuming they can ever get it to work consistently.
• FREE? I no think that word means what you think it means...
It's not that their free shipping and handling cost me $45... it's that it's so "free" that they actually said "free" twice! Maybe they're hoping to say "free" so much that you won't bother looking at the actual cost? I dunno. But this is probably the best attempt at bad marketing I've seen in quite a while.
• BARGAIN? And then there's Amazon, who should really know better given how massive they are, but still makes goofy marketing blunders all the time. Like this twofer price structure which is pretty much genius... if you're looking at the fact that you get "free" Prime shipping for $13.75?
Sign me up! If I buy three does the price go up again?
• LOBBYIST! The problem with living in the wilds of Redneckistan is that your shopping options are limited. Most of the time this problem is solved via Amazon and their Prime 2-Day shipping, but what if I don't have two days? What if even ONE day is too late? That means making a lot of phone calls to a lot of stores and running around from one end of the valley to the other trying to track down what you MUST HAVE IMMEDIATELY. In my case, that was plain silver foil wrapping paper. Nobody had it. Nobody. Not any drug stores. Not any card & gift stores. Not the party store. Not Shopko. Not Target. Not the art store. Not the craft store. Nobody. Except, of course, Hobby Lobby.
The fucking assholes whom I swore I would never give a single dime of my money.
But what else can I do? Drive three hours to Seattle then three hours back for my emergency project that's due right now?
Nope. I bit the bullet and shopped at the only option I had after exhausting every other possibility. Knowing full well that my money would be used to further their heinous agenda of forcing their religious beliefs on their employees, choosing allowed methods of birth control for their insurance coverage, supporting bigotry, and being overall assholes towards anybody who doesn't hold the same beliefs as they do.
Luckily a Facebook Friend came to my rescue when I was lamenting about having to shop at Hobby Lobby... they suggested I make a donation in Hobby Lobby's name to Planned Parenthood in the amount of what I had to purchased. Genius!
I don't feel any better about giving money to Hobby Lobby, but I sure feel a lot better about (hopefully) offsetting some of the damage that comes from shopping there.
• PETCO! Since adopting two kittens, I spend a lot of time shopping for kitty food, kitty toys, kitty litter, and everything else kitty-related. My favorite store to shop at? Peptic! I love the selection. The prices are decent. And the staff is generally cool. But they're nearly a half-hour away, and I don't have time to make the trip as often as I need to. So the solution is easy, right? Just shop at Petco online! Except... no. Their website is complete shit. I tried to shop on Valentine's Day because they had a coupon code that could save me some money... except when it came time to check out, EVERY ONE OF THE EIGHT ITEMS I HAD IN MY CART were conveniently "out of stock" and they wouldn't let me place an order. Haven't they ever heard of a backorder? And, of course, everything was back in stock the next day when the coupon expired. But that's not even the worst of it. Every time I try to shop at Petco.com, I always have all the items in my cart disappear at least once. Sometimes when I've tried, I've had my cart turn up empty so often I just give up. How in the hell do they expect people to shop with Petco when their online shopping experience is bordering on useless? It's hard to fathom how a company this big could afford to piss people off like this in a day and age where most stuff they buy is online, but here you have it. Guess I'd better work an hour into my schedule to drive to the local shop in person. Again.
And that's more than enough shopping for this week. See you next Sunday.
It's probably too early to declare The 1975's i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it as my favorite album of 2016, but I can't fathom anything coming along to move this breathtaking work out of my top spot. The album is a bit eclectic, with some musical numbers injected between the songs, but it's a full volume of awesome, even when they're skipped over...
Probably my favorite track on the album is Change of Heart. Remarkably, it's lyrically a direct sequel to the song The City on their previous album. In a very cool, yet heartbreaking way. The band played this at the concert I went to with Aaron back in December, and I'm glad I finally get a studio version to listen to...
And then there's Somebody Else, which is a hauntingly beautiful track that hasn't left my head since I first heard it. I could probably listen to this on repeat for days before getting tired of it...
For a pure 80's flashback episode, look no further than the bouncy This Must Be My Dream...
The song Paris is one of those melodic masterpieces that drifts into your consciousness when you least expect it...
A song that's bound to cause a bit of controversy for dissing a big chunk of The 1975's fans comes in the form of She's American. It's a bit over the top, but is speaking to a point, I suppose...
I could just go on gushing over all the tracks on the album, but I'll probably stop here and wrap up with the last video the band released for The Sound, which addresses the band's critics in a way that's more thought-provoking than antagonistic...
And so... as if it weren't obvious... I give the album my highest recommendation. It doesn't stray too far from what made them an instant favorite with their first album, but isn't a clone that would just be boring.
The thing about my feral kitten rescues is that they have spent most of their time in hiding. Everything is scary. Everything is dangerous. And getting accustomed to the fact that not everything is out to kill them seems to be a difficult concept for them to wrap their furry little heads around.
But, more and more, that's been changing. Just last Friday I posted about them crawling all over me to play, which was a huge step.
Yet there was still one lingering problem I had yet to resolve... any time I took out my "real" camera (as opposed to the iPhone shots I've been posting), the sound of the shutter would send them scurrying. I switched to a silent shutter, but that didn't help much. Just pointing the camera in their direction was enough to make them run for the hills.
But yesterday all that changed...
Apparently I've whipped out the camera often enough that they're no longer scared when they see it.
Sorry for the deluge of kitten photos that are sure to follow...
So very, very small...
But scary. So very, very scary.
Double your Bullet Sunday, double your fun! Because a Very Special SHOPPING Make-Up Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Sam. Anybody saying that women don't have what it takes to bring it in a hard-hitting comedic "journalism" show aren't watching Samantha Bee in Full Frontal. I'd put her up against Trevor Noah, Larry Wilmore, or John Oliver any day. Hell, I'd put her up against Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. Samantha Bee is made of awesome...
Mondays at 10:30pm on TBS.
• Free! Well, this is new...
A free house is quite a deal. Which is why I imagine it's the "U-HAUL" part that makes this some tricky business. After Googling the costs associated with relocating an actual house, the money involved seems absurdly high. Approaching the cost to buy a house! And I can't imagine that the house will ever be as structurally sound as it was originally, which means that the costs are just beginning. Still, it looks a decent house. I might have taken them up on it if somebody hadn't spray-painted "for sale" graffiti on the front of it.
• Vampyre! Turns out one of my new kittens is a vampire...
Here's hoping he stays satisfied with kitten blood and doesn't move on to humans.
• Five! And, speaking of cats... high-five, Chris Hardwick... HIGH FIVE!
My cats like to watch television and participate as needed.
• Con. And... my local comic convention, the Emerald City Comicon apparently didn't get the memo about trying to expand the audience for comic books in a positive way. I find this infuriating. A lot of the time I think people overreact to stuff like this. But in this case? I don't think people are reacting ENOUGH. Take your daughter to Comicon on "Kid's Day" and she gets to wear a badge featuring an illustration of a woman being molested by a monster? Really? And their fix for this bullshit? YOU have the option of trading in your badge to get a different one. Yes, the burden is on YOU. Insanity.
• Patriotism. Sometimes... not often, but sometimes... justice wins out.
Learning that freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences is a tough lesson. Though, I have to say... a part of me does feel badly for this kid. Is what he did wrong? Absolutely. Is this the kind of person we want representing the United States of America in our armed forces? No. Did he get what he deserves? Sure. But history has shown time and time again how mob mentality can sway even a good person to do reprehensible things. I know nothing about this guy or where his heart is when he's not being swept up in a wave of hatred. Apparently the forces of evil were so strong that he proudly posted a photo of him verbally assaulting someone on his Facebook page. Maybe that's who he really is, I don't know. But the heinous amount of hate that keeps building and building and building which makes sad events like this possible has been weighing on my mind a lot lately. We, as a society, are far weaker finding our strength from fear and hatred than courage and mutual respect. But that's the way it is. I'm truly happy that justice was served here. I can only hope that it will result in some deep soul-searching that leads to reevaluation and a newfound kindness. But it could just as easily lead to an escalation of the hate that's already taken hold. And we just can't afford any more of that.
And there's yer bullets, pardner!
Ever since I received a Canon A-1 SLR camera as a graduation present, photography has been the hobby that will not die. Other activities come and go, but this is the one that's always there regardless of circumstances. The artistry that comes into play when composing a shot is every bit a creative endeavor for me as painting a picture or shaping something from clay or pushing pixels on a computer. And the more I move away from "automatic" camera settings and start making my own choices as to how an image will be recorded, the more I'm left craving a better tool set.
Not to say that I don't already have a pretty stunning array of tools in my photo bag. When I prepped for my Africa trip, I sunk a huge chunk of cash into some impressive hardware and went home with some pretty amazing shots to show for it.
But, as with most hobbies, even "amazing" is never enough.
Ever since Sony unleashed the NEX-6, which took every advantage of mirrorless camera technology to deliver stunning DSLR quality in a portable package that was perfect for travel, my allegiance to Sony gear was set. So much so that I took an even deeper plunge when I bought the Sony a7S because of its full-frame sensor and a miraculous ability to shoot in low-light situations. And then I dropped a chunk of my savings on the Sony FE 70-200 zoom lens, which gave me an entirely new appreciation for an aspect of photography I rarely explored.
And yet... as much as I love my NEX-6 and a7S, I'm starting to hit boundaries of where I can go with them.
Time to take a look at Sony's second generation of a7's. Starting with the a7 Mark II, which I was all set to buy when it was released a year ago. It's a big step up from my NEX-6, and has a lot of room to grow. Except... I didn't have any big photo opportunities coming up, so I decided to wait for the inevitable release of the more feature-packed variant, the a7R Mark II. Which finally happened back in August. I wanted one immediately, of course, but the price tag was double what I had saved up for the a7ii, so I'd have to wait until I had the means to do it. In other words, I had to wait for my tax refund to happen.
It did, and now I have my dream camera...
The a7R Mark II has a dizzying array of "professional" features for me to salivate over, mostly justifying the stupefying $3,200.00 price tag. Primary of which is the new sensor, a full-frame marvel that has amazing 42MP resolution. Though, to be honest it's not the whopper pixel-count that made me buy into the hardware (more pixels don't necessarily translate into great photos, and you have to have a subject and lenses that will make it worthwhile). No, what I was obsessed with in the sensor specs was the BSI (backside-illuminated) CMOS construction, which allows for more light to reach the sensor and provide much better ISO performance. Which means less noise and more detail in less light. Not to the level of my Sony a7S (which only has 12MP), but jaw-dropping performance just the same. In other words, The Camera Holy Grail.
But that's just marketing hype. Does Sony deliver?
Well, obviously they did, or I wouldn't have bought the camera.
I read many, many reviews before my tax refund came in, and it really does seem like the camera that's too good to be true... for me and what I do anyway.
And how did that pan out?
I'll get into that with Part 2 tomorrow.
I'm not really sure how to best review a camera that has already been reviewed countless times since its release last year. I think its easiest to just go through the things I like, then go through the things I don't like. I don't know if that will provide any new insights that haven't already been talked about... but perhaps coming from the perspective of a hobbyist who likes travel photography and has to shoot for art photography from time to time will be of use to somebody.
Here's what I'm liking about the Sony a7R Mark II...
Build. Sony claims the a7R Mark II has a magnesium alloy shell. Which I take to mean that it's metal, which is a big step up from the plastic on my other Sony E-mount cameras. I'm sure this adds weight... but the camera is already heavy from being so densely packed that it probably doesn't matter much. All I can say is that it feels substantial and well-made, which I like.
Handling. The thing about Sony's alpha line of mirrorless cameras is that they're small. Tiny even, when compared to a traditional DSLR. I've never had a problem with that (despite having pretty big hands) but will admit that my a7S could be a little cramped to use. The a7R Mark II has a bigger grip with a good depth to it, which improves handling quite a bit... without adding much size. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this camera is as comfortable as a Nikon or Canon DSLR, but it's plenty comfortable for a full day of handheld shooting.
EVF. Out of necessity, mirrorless cameras rely on Electronic Viewfinders to provide a look at what you're shooting (often in tandem with a screen on the back of the camera). On one hand, this gives you the ultimate "What You See is What You Get" feedback you need to construct a scene. On the other, EVFs usually suck. Even the "good" ones have a hard time accurately showing you what's happening. Until now. I can honestly say that the EVF in my a7R Mark II is just as good as the optical viewfinder in my Canon and Nikon cameras. And nowhere is this more apparent than using the "focus assist" (otherwise known as "image magnification") when manually focusing your lens. The guess-work that comes from too-big-pixels providing a poor picture that isn't accurately showing you sharpness is gone. It's just gone. This alone gives me nothing to regret when it comes to the jaw-dropping price I just paid for this camera. Seriously amazing. Even if you have no interest in the Sony line of mirrorless cameras, you owe it to yourself to drop by your local camera shop and take a look at this. One caveat that will get mentioned tomorrow, however... the sensor to activate the EVF and cut out the rear display is way, way too sensitive.
Apps. I'm not going to lie... getting apps is an unbelievable nightmare. Sony's "app store" and method of downloading/buying stuff has always sucked, and nothing is improved with the a7R Mark II. But once you have the apps? Boy-howdy is it worth the stupidity you have to endure to get them. My favorite is "Bracket Pro" which allows bracketing not just with shutter speed... but with aperture, focus, or flash as well. So handy (not-so-great example of aperture bracketing is below, but you get the idea). There's also stuff like "Time-Lapse," "Motion Shot," and "Star Trail" which are fun... plus a lot more. Some are fluff, yes, but there's a lot of jewels in there that are worth having. If only Sony would invest in a way of buying/managing/downloading apps that didn't make you want to set your camera on fire.
Sensor. If there's anything that's been proven over and over again, it's that more pixels don't necessarily translate to better photos. So I had no illusion that the massive 42MP was going to substantially change my images for the better. Heck, I regularly get amazing shots with my a7S's mere 12MP. If anything, I figured it would make things worse compared to say... 32MP... because bigger pixels absorb more light. Sony got past this by back-lighting the sensor, which apparently increases light sensitivity. All I know is that, while it's nowhere near the amazing shooter my a7S is in low light, it does a really amazing job. And then you get to the benefit of having 42 megapixels in your photos... your ability to crop into them and still have impressively detailed photos. At 7952 x 5304 pixels, you can print 26.5" X 17.7" at a full 300dpi. Which means you can discard 2/3 of the image and still get an 8" X 10" print out of it. That's pretty crazy. But so very cool in that your lenses automatically have extra reach to them if you ever need it (what I wouldn't give to go back in time and have this camera for my Africa trip). Color fidelity and sharpness are exceptional, as I've come to expect from Sony, but you'll need quality glass to make use of it.
Focus. Sony pulled out all the stops with 399 phase detection focus points on-sensor that's backed up by through-the-lens contrast focus. The combination of the two can provide blazingly fast, deadly accurate focus... assuming you've got a lens responsive enough to take advantage of it. At least most of the time (every once in a while it fails for no discernible reason, which I'll talk about tomorrow). Of course, all this focus ability means nothing if the camera doesn't provide an easy way to access it. I don't know if it's as easy as it could be... but the a7R Mark II definitely gives you a wide variety of focus modes to play with. Rather than list them all, I'll just say that pretty much whatever the situation, there's a focus mode you can use to handle it, and they all work very well (Continuous Auto Focus with Face Detect being my favorite).
Optical Steady Shot. Until now, the a7 line has relied on in-lens stabilization. This was fine... until you buy a lens like the 35mm f/2.8 that doesn't have it. This hasn't been a problem for me... but, as the light falls, it could be. Then along comes the a7R Mark II which has 5-Axis Optical Steady Shot stabilization built into the camera. And since it works with your lens to come up with the best combination of stabilization between the two (assuming your lens has anything to work with), it's pretty impressive. To test what the new "5 Axis Steady Shot" capabilities bring to the table, I took a number of test shots with OSS on/off on the lens. As expected, having OSS set to "on" gives a much clearer image when going handheld. From what I understand, when shooting with an OSS lens like the 70-200m f/4 zoom, the lens OSS handles pitch and yaw (up/down and side/side)... while the camera adds roll (round and round). I couldn't figure out how to turn lens OSS "on" and a7R Mark II OSS "off" so I had to shoot those tests with my a7S. I never realized that I was adding roll to shots, but the results show that the 5-axis stabilization definitely makes a different when comparing them. If you shoot with slow glass, low light, or with the aperture closed-down, the 5-Axis OSS is providing you a couple of stops to work with... which can make all the difference.
Dynamic Range. For quite a while now I've been shooting "important" shots using HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. It's tedious, but the results can be great. They can also be terrible. In a nut shell, I bracket a shot with three (or more) exposures... dark/medium/light and then use an HDR program on my Mac to "average" them together in a way that pulls detail out of the highlights and shadows...
As you can see, it can make quite a difference. Most times in a good way... unless you go overboard, in which case it looks too fake and pretty bad. But anyway... what if a camera sensor had such fantastic dynamic range that you didn't need to take three shots to get the details you wanted? Well, camera sensors are getting better and better at just this kind of thing, and the a7R Mark II has the ability to capture a range so impressive that I'll probably not be doing as much HDR shooting since I can just shoot in RAW and recover what I want from the highlights and shadows during import. This is a pretty amazing concept for me to wrap my head around, and will fundamentally change the way I take travel photos. It will also fundamentally change the amount of memory cards I need to carry, as I'll be shooing anywhere from 1/3 to 1/5 the number of shots! Time will tell whether the impressive dynamic range will be enough to make me happy in all conditions, but test shots have me feeling pretty optimistic.
Silence. My a7S had the ability to shoot with no shutter noise at all. That ability has worked its way to the a7R Mark II, and I couldn't be happier. Whether it's because you don't want to startle your subjects or are shooting in a place where silence is required, this is a feature that, once I've had it made available, I can't do without. Yes, there are apparently some drawbacks, but none that matter to me when you need to shoot without any noise.
That's a pretty good list... and it's not even that comprehensive. The a7R Mark II offers so many amazing features and knock-out capabilities that I'm sure I'll keep finding more to love about it the longer I use it. In the meanwhile, I'm very happy that my creative options have opened up to a new level. I spend less time with settings and more time getting shots I can work with... and that's no small thing.
After two days of praise for the A7R Mark II, I'll now be turning to the things that are not so great.
Auto-Focus Errors. The massive number of focus points and several focus modes gives you a wildly easy system for locking on to exactly what you're wanting to focus on (once you get it all memorized, that is). Problem is... there have been several times when I can't get a lock. And there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason behind it. I thought it depended on the lighting. It's not the lighting. I thought it depended on the lens. It's not the lens. I thought it depended on the shooting mode. It's not the shooting mode. So what is it that causes these auto-focus fails? You got me. And apparently Sony is stumped too. I'm getting really accustomed to manual focus lately.
Buttons. Everything from the shutter to the function buttons and directional-pad are tiny and mushy. In the case of the shutter, you never feel anything physical and the actual tactile feedback is weak. The buttons have minimal "click" and lack the crisp punch that makes it so much easier to register when you've pressed. This is amateur hour bullshit. How many cameras has Sony made over the years? Hundreds? And they can't get the frickin' buttons right? Inexplicably disgraceful. And don't get me started on the "movie button" which is the most uncomfortable, difficult to activate buttons in the history of DSLRs.
Lock. Sony is infamous for not putting wheel locks or switch locks where they're desperately needed (the manual/auto focus switch on my 70-200 lens comes immediately to mind). But, with the a7R II, they actually took a first step... and put a wheel lock on the shooting mode dial... WHEN I HAVE NEVER, EVER, EVER ACCIDENTALLY SWITCHED MODES! This is about the craziest damn thing I've ever seen on a camera. Was this ever even a problem? Why? Being able to instantly switch shooting modes is pretty critical, which is why they let you custom-program them. Except it's just been made exponentially more difficult on the a7S II because of the addition of a wheel lock nobody wanted or needed.
Menus. Sony's menu system is a byzantine nightmare that is not even remotely intuitive or easy to navigate. They attempt to "organize" things into tabs, but the organization makes no sense what-so-ever. Red-Eye Removal Assist is a "Camera" menu function. Silent Shutter Release is a "Settings" menu function. ON THE FIFTH PAGE. OF EIGHT PAGES!!! With every new camera I hate Sony a little more because they simply refuse to improve the menu system. It's categorically bad and universally panned in every review I've ever read. So WTF?!? Is nobody at Sony able to design a proper user interface? If not, HIRE SOMEBODY!
Battery Life. On one hand, I appreciate the fact that the A7R Mark II uses the exact same battery as my three other Sony cameras... but when you can completely drain the battery in a couple hours of shooting? Time to come up with a more robust battery... even if it has to be a bit bigger. The camera comes with two batteries, which you will definitely be using. I'd have three or four on hand just in case, because I can practically burn through one in two hours with heavy use..
Database. I've lost count of the number of times I've gone to do something... only to have a message pop up telling me that the camera can't access the database for some reason. Luckily, you're given the option (ONLY option, really) to repair the database when this happens, but can't the camera just do a better job with this so you don't have to?
Electronic Viewfinder. The EVF in the A7R Mark II is stunning. The best I've ever seen. But, as mentioned previously, it's overly-sensitive and activates many, many, many times when you don't want it to. Hell, I've had the display cut out because a finger got too close to the viewfinder WHILE IN THE MENU SYSTEM. It's just so asinine. Obviously the EVF only needs to activate when your eye is ON the sucker... so why not have its sensitivity adjusted apropriately? Hugely frustrating. Hugely.
Touchless. For reasons that completely escape me, Sony doesn't put touch-screen displays on hardly any of their cameras. Including this one. And it's insane. Their heinous menu system is made ten times worse because of it. Navigating your photos in playback is twenty times worse than it should be. I don't know if it's because Sony designers don't like fingerprints on the display or what, but that should be up to their customers. Maybe one day we'll know why Sony doesn't have touch-screens on their cameras when other manufacturers find them essential... in the meanwhile, all we can do is bitch about it.
Bus. The images that come off a camera with a 42MP sensor are going to be huge. And, if you are crazy enough to shoot uncompressed RAW, bigger than huge. Which is why the slow internal data bus is kinda hard to understand. I attempted to bracket some uncompressed RAW shots just for fun... and didn't get very far before the buffer was maxed out and I had to sit there waiting for it to clear. Even worse? The camera goes non-responsive while clearing it. With a camera generating such massive files, Sony really needs to do something to speed up transfers. Or at least let the camera playback controls remain active.
WiFi. You would think that having built-in WiFi would make it absurdly easy to transfer photos from your camera to your laptop. NOPE! I mean, yeah... you can do it... but only if you want to transfer the whole damn card. Which is stupid because transferring an entire card over WiFi is something nobody would want to do. If you want to transfer a single 42MP image to your mobile phone, however? THERE'S A DEDICATED BUTTON FOR THAT! Which, I guess is useful, but why can't I reprogram it to send a single image to my computer, which would be far, far more useful to me?
Apps. Every time I review a new Sony camera, I end up bitching about Sony's shitty app handling. Which wouldn't be a big deal if the apps were crap, but they're not. There's actually some real winners with fantastic functionality you'd be crazy to ignore. But just try getting any of them. Rather than provide a dedicated portal for apps, Sony uses a horrendously shitty built-in web browser to access their online store. It's shitty because most of the damn time it doesn't work. You'll try to load it again and again and again and again... getting failed connection after failed connection despite having a solid connection and perfect signal. And once you get connected? It means nothing because logging into the site fails most of the time. I've lost count of the number of times I've crashed out of the store when attempting to access the apps I've paid for. Oh... and don't even bother checking "remember my login" so you don't have to type it over and over... it doesn't work. All this wouldn't be so bad if there was another option that worked well, but using my computer and a USB cable to install apps HAS NEVER WORKED ON ANY OF MY SONY CAMERAS! Including this one. Sony's app store desperately needs a complete revision that dumps the shitty browser and is much, much more robust and reliable.
Are any of the above deal-breakers? Not for me. Not really. Are any of the above annoying? Absolutely. Some of them inexplicably so, as Sony keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. It's like they're learning-impaired.
Anyway... my review continues tomorrow.
The issue with Sony's E-Mount cameras is that the lens selection has been less than stellar for a long time. Since it's all relatively new, you just aren't going to get close to the vast, vast library of lenses amassed for Canon and Nikon shooters.
Yes, there are adapters which give you access to an entire world of lens options, and a great many Sony photographers go that route... but I'm not one of them. For the past couple years I've just limped along with whatever offerings Sony deemed fit to send our way. But, in recent months, their offerings have improved immensely. Yeah, there are some glaring holes in their lineup that may never be filled... but, for most people, there are lenses to fit whatever comes your way.
I own two Sony FE (full sensor) lenses. An absurdly expensive (for what you get) $800 Carl Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f/2.8... and a $1,500 70-200mm f/4 G zoom. I also own a 10-18mm f/4 wide angle zoom that is not full-frame, but the 15-16mm span on this lens works perfectly fine on full-frame cameras, so I still use it.
In addition to those lenses, I've rented the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 55mm f/1.8 lens (stunning clarity and sharpness... but a little crazy at $1000) and the Carl Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 lens (absolutely amazing, but a bit heavy and bulky for 35mm at $1600).
My newest lens (which was purchased with the camera) is the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G. Just like long-range zooms, macro photography has been an area that I haven't explored much, and I figured now was the time. The lens itself is pretty spectacular and a lot of fun to shoot with.
My next lens will be the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM zoom. It's insanely expensive at $2,200, but it bridges the gap between my 10-18mm to 70-200mm lenses perfectly. It's also gotten rave reviews from early testers which claim it's worth every penny. And that will probably be my last lens for a while. The only thing that might change my mind is one of the upcoming Voigtlander Ultra-Wides (in 10mm, 12mm, and 15mm flavors), which are smaller and lighter than my ultra-wide zoom and are full-frame lenses. With the light sensitivity and 42MP sensor of my a7R Mark II, the 12mm f/5.6 would probably be about perfect... assuming I could live with a manual focus lens. I'm not entirely sure about that.
What have I actually been able to shoot with these things?
I'm saving that for tomorrow.
Unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of time with the Sony a7R Mark II yet. I did rent one for a project back in January, which is where most of my experience comes from, but all the shots I've taken with my own camera have been from just three days of experimentation.
The first lens I took a look at was my brand new Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G. Technically, it's my first macro lens. And when it comes to macro shooting, 90mm at an 11-inch range is a pretty good combination for getting the 1:1 reproduction ratio you need. Though I admit a part of me would like to be a bit closer/tighter. While getting used to shooting with it, I kept wondering if I'd be happier with something in the 60mm at 6-inch range. Regardless, this is a pretty great macro lens that would also work very well for portrait photography, I think.
Shooting at f/2.8 with this lens is pretty magical...
The sweet spot for me seems to rest at f/3.5...
As expected, the bokeh is amazing...
Even with the aperture set at f/4, noise is minimal in good light...
Once you get to f/7.1, it starts to get a bit noisy, but nothing terrible...
The crisp optics of the FE 90mm pair well with the awesome sensor of the a7S Mark II to give you sharp details easily...
Needless to say, if you're a flower or insect photographer, this lens has your name all over it...
I spent a lot of time trying to nail down the focus falloff. Not having much experience with macro photography, it's difficult to wrap my head around just how quickly f/2.8 blurs out...
So. Yeah. If you are a macro shooter (or am interested in becoming one) you could do a lot worse than the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G.
Given the heavier weight of the Sony a7R Mark II from earlier models I've had, popping on my tiny Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f/2.8 was a bit of a relief. Very comfortable as a walk-around lens. Very good results with little effort. The in-camera 5-axis Optical Steady Shot stabilization is handy to have in low light since this lens doesn't have stabilization of any kind. The bigger/heavier f/1.4 model would undoubtedly shoot nicer, but not enough to justify the price you pay, methinks...
Cropping into the photo reveals terrific, crisp details...
As good as the clarity is on the above shot, to really test how well the a7S Mark II is at recording sharp features, I need to get my hands on the Zeiss Sonnar 55mm f/1.8, easily the sharpest lens I've ever used. Something tells me that's a dream combination for travel photography.
My 70-200mm f/4 G was great for testing out the in-camera 5-axis "Optical Steady Shot" stabilization. As mentioned previously, I believe the camera lets the lens take pitch/yaw stabilization and contributes internal roll stabilization to the game. Regardless of which part is doing what, the results are great, even at 200mm. Not as crisp and deep as you're going to get from a shorter lens with Zeiss glass, obviously, but still very respectable for a jittery handheld shooter like me...
My Sony 10-18mm f/4 is hobbled by not being a full-frame lens, but still does very nice set at 15mm in full frame. Very very nice, actually...
Interestingly enough, the a7S Mark II will automatically put your camera in "APS-C/Super 35 Mode" (which I prefer to call "Cropped Lens Mode") to compensate for the lesser coverage of non-FE lenses. This lets the camera shoot with the 10-18mm f/4 as if it were my NEX-6. Here's what I get at 10mm, 15mm, and 18mm in "Cropped Lens Mode"...
Take a look at the middle photo above. That's 15mm in "Cropped Lens Mode" at 5168 by 3448 pixels. Now take a look at what happens when I turn "Cropped Lens Mode" to OFF and shoot at 15mm...
Surprise! That's as much coverage as 10mm in "Cropped Lens Mode!" Maybe even a little more! And that's at 7952 x 5304 pixels! Which means by making sure "Cropped Lens Mode" is OFF when shooting with my 10-18mm lens I have enough pixels to crop in to 18mm if I wanted. Which means I pretty much have the full 10mm to 18mm range that I have with my NEX-6. Sure, there's vignetting on the corners, but that's a two-second fix in Photoshop...
Pretty incredible. Especially when you consider this lens is just $850 new.
What's frustrating is that the "Cropped Lens Mode" isn't smart enough to automatically know that cropping isn't necessary at 15mm. If the camera were to know when to crop and (more importantly) when not to crop based on focal length... now that would be impressive. Even if I had to set it manually, this would still be a great feature. Until the day that happens, I'll just continue to happily shoot at 15mm and make sure I have "Cropped Lens Mode" set to OFF.
And, that's a wrap. I'll review my new Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens whenever it gets released.
My brain is melting.
Marvel continues to blow past my expectations with each new film.
Cannot wait for this.
Don't jigger that googly-widget! Because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Directly. To add a channel to your DirecTV, just click here!
To remove a channel, call a phone number, make your way through automation hell, wait for a representative, answer a bunch of questions, give a secret code, ask for a deletion, review your bill, confirm the deletion. Thirteen minutes of your life down the drain.
Fifteen minutes if you count the compulsion to write a blog post about it.
Apparently, AT&T/DirecTV wants to make it as difficult as possible to delete channels under the absurd assumption that people will somehow change their mind and give up if you make it difficult enough? Asinine and backwards. This isn't the 1980's. Just let me manage my channels online. I might be more inclined to ADD channels if I knew it wasn't such a hassle to remove them later.
• Dyslexic. Ever wonder what it's like to read when you're dyslexic? Here you go...
Image by Victor Widell.
Well, for me it's not like everything is jumping around everywhere as shown in this image... it's more like the letters are switching around as you read them. But. Yeah. Kinda this.
• Hart. If I were Jonathan Hart (from Hart to Hart), I'd handle these idiots who fuck with me or kidnap my wife by shooting them in the dick. Maybe people would stop fucking with him or kidnapping his wife if he got a reputation for shooting people in the dick. Would you risk getting shot in the dick by Jonathan Hart? I sure wouldn't...
What I wouldn't give for an Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, and Horatio Sanz reboot!
• Whheat. In an attempt to eat a bit healthier, I bought "Hint of Salt" Wheat Thins instead of the usual "Box of Salt" Wheat Thins. Who knew that the thing that made Wheat Thins taste so good was the box of salt? These Wheat Thins are absolutely disgusting. It's going to take a shit-load of chip dip to salvage this mess...
It doesn't pay to eat healthy, I'm telling you.
• Growth. Orchard Grown Apples? Where else would they grow?
McDONALDS! PLEASE EXPLAIN!
And... that's enough googly-widget for this week.
Wait a second.
Our military spending already outpaces Mexico FIFTY TO ONE.
Our military is larger than any other country on earth by a vastly huge margin.
Our stockpile of weapons could destroy this planet a hundred times over. And yet here comes Drumpf saying he needs to "rejuvenate" our military so he can go to war with Mexico... OUR ALLY... if they won't build a wall?
Who the fuck would vote for this dumbass after listening to this absolute lunacy? I'm just beside myself here. I loathe Hillary Clinton with every fiber of my being... but if it comes down to her and this piece of shit? How is this even a contest? Why not just threaten to NUKE Mexico? The result would be the exact same in the international arena. The US would lose every ally we have. A country would have to be fucking insane to ally with us after we strong-arm a current ally possessing a military 2% the size of our own over a fucking wall THAT WON'T EVEN WORK!
A Drumpf presidency would mean the end of us.
The literal end.
There is nowhere to go after that.
Everything we are would be gone. Everything we stand for would be gone. Even worse, we would deserve it. That this asshole can even be considered a candidate is unthinkable. That he's most likely going to be the GOP nominee is unthinkable. But I guess that's how we got here. People refuse to think any more.
Why every nation on earth isn't considering a first-strike scenario against the United States if President Drumpf becomes a reality is beyond me. It wouldn't even be considered an act of war. It would be self-preservation.
See what I mean. It's Godwin's Law in action...
So much for America.
I love a good television ad.
Putting Cookie Monster in an iPhone ad is about as good as it gets.
Putting Muppets in anything is about as good as it gets.
You know how when you're little and magic is real and the world is ripe with possibilities?
Even impossible possibilities?
But then you grow older and more cynical and the magic dies and you'd give anything to go back to a time when you could believe again?
The look on the monkey's face is priceless. That's what happens when you can believe that anything is possible.
Even the impossible.
Where is the party of the fiscally conservative, socially liberal American?
Every election is a punch to the gut. This one is going to kill me.
Republicans profess to be "conservative" but are only "conservative" about governmental reach where it suits them. Everything else is draconian overreach into our personal lives at unprecedented levels. Democratic candidates don't fare much better. They may be the heart and soul of this country, but are brain-dead in areas we desperately need some smarts. I thought that the Libertarians would be the answer for me, but they're so grossly naive and unrealistic in global policy as to be laughable.
My vote for President of the United States of America is likely going to have to be "Not Trump." Which means I'm voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? I cannot fucking believe this shit.
I DON'T FUCKING BELIEVE IT!
Guess I've offended everybody now. Move along. Nothing to see here.
Worked all morning.
Came back to work on my home all day but am already at my limit.
Replaced a GFCI outlet in the kitchen and now both GFCI kitchen outlets work... but neither of the bathrooms are getting power. So... there's still that to sort out.
Then went to hang bedroom blinds. The clips that you hang the blinds on are so badly engineered and idiotic that I want to hunt down the moron who invented them and bitch-slap them so hard their face falls off...
But it gets worse... two of the clips are missing. And neither Home Depot or Lowes carry them. Now I want to shoot myself in the face. Guess I get to search the internet for brackets I hate. Yay.
If anybody knows where I can buy these abominations, please let me know.
Take time to make time, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Panther. Could not possibly be more excited for the Brian Stelfreeze illustrated version of Ta-Nehisi Coates' BLACK PANTHER comic! It looks like the book will pay homage to the origins of the character, but also give us something new and different to enjoy... hats off to Marvel for giving one of my all-time favorite super heroes a creative team that's knocking it out of the park...
If you're interested in a behind-the-scenes look at how the book is shaping up, there's a Briam Stelfreeze Fan Page on Facebook. The book launches on April 6.
• Encryption. And, leave it to John Oliver to explain the current situation with Apple and encryption...
Forget everything else. Safeguarding our privacy is the threat of the future today.
• Dumbfuckery. And, speaking of John Oliver. Today being DAYLIGHT DUMBFUCKERY TIME seems like the perfect opportunity to repost this from last year...
And the idiocy continues.
• Prince. After Paramount dumped one of my most anticipated releases, The Little Prince, I was pretty bummed. Turned out Netflix has picked up the ball so badly dropped by Paramount...
Really looking forward to seeing this film. Whenever that might be.
• Humans. If I weren't such a foul-mouthed asshole, this is probably along the lines of how I'd respond to the idea of a Trump presidency. Alas...
And... no more bullet-time.
Welcome to the first installment of CAT WEEK here at Blogography.
My first cat was a beautiful black cat that I named Midnight. He was incredibly sweet, but didn't have much personality. Any time not spent sleeping or eating was spent trying to be alone. He didn't really want to play or even hang out. So when he passed away, I wasn't compelled to get a replacement.
Forty-some-odd years later, I hadn't changed my mind. I still wasn't interested in having a feline companion. But then I ran across a starving cat that was hanging out at the old apartment complex where I was living, and fell in love with the little guy. I wasn't allowed to have pets, but I did my best to take care of him and "bent the rules" when I could to make sure he was kept safe and warm. I named him Spanky the Cat, and he was awesome...
Spanky was a very social cat, and eventually moved on to a home where he could hang out with other cats. This was a heartbreaking turn of events after having cared for him for the past three years, but I was happy if he was happy.
When I decided to move out of my pet-restricted apartment to a new home, I knew that a new cat was in my future.
After getting settled once I'd moved a little over a month ago, I ended up with brother & sister kittens that I named Jake and Jenny...
I haven't said much about them since then, so I decided to devote a week here at Blogography to get everybody caught up. Starting tomorrow...
Neville and Ginny were two of three feral kittens brought into the Wenatchee Humane Society that I found on their website. They were in foster care until they were old enough to be spayed/neutered. When I went down to take a look at them they were on their way back surgery, but I was lucky enough to speak with the foster parents who were there waiting for them to see how things went. They were very kind to talk to me about the kittens and how terrific they were and how close they had become... and I knew that I would be adopting all three rather than breaking them up. But one of them was "on hold" so I ended up taking the brother and sister. The boy I knew I wanted to be named Jake. The girl I wanted to name Roger but, when I told my mother of my plan, she refused to let me name her thus, so I changed the "G-i" to a "J-e" so they have matchy brother-sister names. Jake and Jenny. Both had been through a lot and were very timid... not wanting to come out of the carrier. But when I put food out, Jake was an animal. Charging out to gobble down every bite in his bowl... and then he started in on his sister's food. I moved her bowl into the carrier where she thought about eating... but ultimately scampered to the back of the carrier to hide without taking a bite...
I honestly didn't care what the cats I was adopting looked like. I actually like homely/odd looking animals that nobody else would want. Missing eye? Three legs? Ratty fur? Bring it! But these kittehs are adorable and perfect in that heart-melting way that makes me want to photograph them for sappy greeting cards. The fact that Jake looks a little bit like Spanky is just the icing on the cake.
Their first week was spent hiding under the couch, only coming out to eat.
Eventually they started staying out a bit more, but then I had a setback in cutting off Jenny's hospital collar (I was afraid she'd get it caught and choke to death) which sent them back under the couch for days.
I spent the second week attempting to socialize them a bit. They were still sleeping under the couch, but most of their day was spent exploring their new home.
As we entered their third week, I was able to spend extended time playing with Jake and Jenny without them freaking out. This led to more trust, which led to them spending most all of their time running around instead of hiding.
And that was my last update, which was a month ago...
Now things are both very different and much the same.
Different in that they no longer run under the couch at the slightest provocation. It used to be when I so much as sneezed that they'd hide away for hours. Now I can be pounding nails into the walls and they'll come see what's happening. Even better, they've become brave enough to be crawling all over me...
But they're also the same in that they only want to be touched if it's on their terms. If you walk up and try to pet them, they're off like a shot.
Maybe. Possibly. Eventually... they'll come around and be a little more accepting, socially.
Jake is usually a very mellow cat. But if there's ONE THING that will set him off... it's Jenny trying to take his toys. Especially his lion or his monkey, both of which he refuses to share. If he sees her with one, he'll come tearing into the room and take it away. And if she tries to take it while he's playing with it? It's go time.
For quite a while, Jake was hiding his stuffed toys on top of the dining room table because Jenny couldn't figure out how to get up there...
That lasted for two days when Jenny managed to figure it out.
Recently Jenny was playing with Jake's monkey. As expected, he ran up and took it from her as soon as he saw her with it. She chased him around for a while, but eventually gave up and found a blue mouse to play with...
Jake charged up and teased her with the monkey... then ran away. I'm guessing he was wanting her to chase her, because he did it four or five times...
Jenny was having none of it, so Jake gave up and left her to her blue mouse.
There's also an orange mouse and a green mouse. Jenny loves all of them...
Jenny's favorite toy is a "cat dancer"... which is a fabric streamer attached to a plastic wand. She'll chase anything string-like, so this is right up her alley. Jake doesn't get the concept. He grabs ahold of the streamer and tries to take it away with him, not seeming to realize it's attached to a stick...
I tried getting them interested in cat games on an iPad, which was a lot of fun for them... but ultimately a bit frustrating, I think...
Of course, the toy that cats love best is the toy they can't have. Like my camera strap. If I take something like that away from Jenny, she'll just move on to something new. If I take it away from Jake though? He will scowl and glare at me for what seems like an eternity...
I did a lot of research on what foods are best for cats and was surprised to see how passionate people get. After weighing all the opinions out there, I decided to formulate my own plan. I am focusing primarily on birds... chicken, duck, turkey... as it seems like that's closer to what cats actually eat when left to their own devices. I've never seen a cat take down a cow or lamb, so I'm avoiding those. Fish worries me because of all the mercury that's in seafood, so I'm feeding them fish sparingly. I am, of course, going grain-free... at least while I can afford to. I am also trying to minimize vegetables, since I've never seen a cat dig up a carrot and eat it. But an argument could be made that the animals they eat in "the wild" have vegetables in their stomaches, so I'm not militant about it. Purchasing food with minimum ingredients and carrageenan-free is pricier than I thought... and can be more difficult than I thought... but will hopefully be worth it in the end.
The wet vs. dry debate is insanely intense with vets landing on both sides of the fence. Wet is apparently better in some respects while dry is better for others (like keeping their teeth clean). I wanted to focus mainly on wet food and offer dry as a dessert but, as you'll see, that's not working out as planned.
The next step is trying to introduce some raw food into their diet. I really like the idea of making my own, but it seems to require a lot of trial and error (and an expensive grinder) to work... so I'll probably wait until they're older. Apparently going raw helps keep them out of the doctor's office to fix expensive health problems, which is always a goal.
I have the kittens on a strict feeding schedule (7:00, 12:30, 6:00) and they both know it. As breakfast approaches, they've taken to coming in my room each morning to act all starving...
The first thing they get is a bowl of wet food. Which Jake attacks right away...
I was told to feed kittens as much food as they will eat because they need lots of food for their growing bodies and will regulate their food intake on their own. But Jake doesn't seem to be doing that, even though he's as active as Jenny is. He LOVES to eat. And any invitation to eat guarantees he'll stick his face in the bowl for a chow-down. Guess he's the exception. Jake is growing noticeably bigger than Jenny, and I'm guessing it's because of his voracious appetite.
Jenny hems and haws about the wet food, but eventually relents and eats some because she knows after she eats some of it, I'll break out a plate of the dry food she loves so much.
At least she used to eat it.
Lately I noticed how her bowl would still be full after devouring the wet food.
After watching her for a while, I realized that she's not devouring it after all. She's just licking it to make me think she's eaten it so I'll bring out the dry food for dessert. The trickster!
She loves dry kibble so much that she often purrs while eating it!
Fortunately, Jenny drinks plenty of water throughout the day to compensate for her diet of mostly dry food...
Though sometimes how she drinks it is a bit... odd...?
You have to be careful any time Jake's around, as he'll chow down on any food that he can get his paws on. The scavenger!
In an attempt to offer a healthy snacking alternative, I grew some cat grass!
They both like nibbling on it throughout the day... though I don't know how much they're actually eating. Most of the time it looks like they're just playing with it.
Next step? Going to continue researching raw food. Not only is it supposed to be the healthiest way for cats to eat... it's supposed to cut down on the heinous smell of their poops, which would be a nice bonus.
Jake and Jenny have been inseparable since they came home with me. They eat together, sleep together, groom together, and play together. In the rare occasion that they get separated and one of them realizes it, they'll start walking around looking for their sibling... squeaking in despair. If it goes on too long, they'll get more frantic and vocal, which means I usually have to start looking for them too.
Jake is such a good brother. I think Jenny has bad dreams from time to time, as she'll wake with a start and seems troubled. When this happens, more often than not she'll hop up on Jake's perch and snuggle up next to him, then go back to sleep. No matter how irritating it is, Jake never kicks her out or leaves. He'll shift position if he has to... often several times... then try to go back to sleep... but he doesn't abandon her...
As entertaining as the kittens are to me... I'm even happier that they are so entertaining to each other.
Wrapping up Cat Week with some random kitty pictures on Caturday...
BASK IN THE ADORABLE!!
At first I tried keeping them off the dining room table... but it seems kind of cruel. Because they're so tiny, they can't see interesting stuff going on from floor level. One more thing to add to my morning disinfection routine.
For having started out so afraid and shy, they sure are brave and adventurous now! Anything new is cause for investigation... which means I never have to be alone when assembling IKEA again.
At first I was terrified that the kittens would somehow knock my beautiful new television off the wall, but after a few tries at interacting with the picture, they gave up. I guess that's what happens when Chris Hardwick doesn't high-five back.
You would think that this is an invitation to rub her belly. You would be wrong.
Just when you think that they couldn't possibly do something to be more adorable than they are...
...they prove you wrong.
Sleeping is their most favorite pastime. They nap after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner... then sleep through the night. Thank heavens.
Compact kittens are the best kittens.
Jenny's favorite spot is the window sill. She can stare outside for a half-hour or more and not get bored.
Jake just wants outside. Guess it's time to build that catio...
And that's it for Cat Week. But don't despair, you'll probably be getting another one soon.
Ignore that Easter Bunny, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Gary. Gary Shandling passed away, and I'm more than a little sad about that. There's been some great tributes by his fellow comedians, my favorite being from Jimmy Fallon when he sang It's Gary Shandling's Show theme song on The Tonight Show... I was surprised that I still remembered all the words...
You will be missed, sir.
• FREE! I've used the Nik filters for years. They're amazingly useful and powerful tools that were eventually purchased by Google. And now they're FREE! If you are a Photoshop or Lightroom user, run... don't walk... and click right here to get 'em. The only sad thing is that this is probably the end of development for the set.
• Jailed. Sorry... but I'm kinda siding with North Korea on this one. If you are so stupid as to not familiarize yourself with the laws and customs of a country before stepping foot on their soil, then you get what you deserve. The guy even tried to conceal his identity by wearing a hoodie... so don't tell me he didn't know what he was doing was wrong. I mean, holy crap, this is NORTH KOREA... the entire country is a human rights violation, and their history is replete with examples of even the tiniest offense resulting in harsh punishment. This was no accident that landed him in jail, it was intentional violation of their laws. Pity he didn't seem to grasp the consequences for his actions but, again, not North Korea's fault that he's an idiot.
This reminds me of the stupidest fucking movie I've ever seen called Born American where some drunken frat boys cross over into The Soviet Union on a goof during The Cold War. As the consequences of their actions escalate and a small town is decimated while the Soviet army is after them... they, of course, end up captured. And the whole movie is them whining about their horrible treatment and how they don't deserve it because THEY'RE AMERICAN, DAMMIT! Never mind the damage, death, and destruction they caused... BECAUSE: AMERICAN!!!
Well fuck you. All the dumbasses like this do when being dumbasses is make it more difficult (and more risky) for other American travelers who DO follow the rules and customs and want to travel abroad. And here we are, once again reinforcing the "Ugly American" stereotype we so richly deserve. And now I'm supposed to feel sympathy for you because you're a moron? Oh do go on. Do I feel sorry for the friends and family who will miss and worry about this tool? Of course I do. I feel sorry they came to care about somebody who ended up being dumber than a box of rocks.
• Balls. Well. This is new. Woke up to the cats grabbing their spongey ball, taking it up the stairs, then pushing it off so they can chase it down the stairs... over and over and over and over and over and over again. They are still doing it an hour later...
• Easter. I thought I'd be all cute and give the cats an Easter Bunny for Easter Sunday. Set it next to Jenny while she was sleeping. She woke up and was so freaked out that she grabbed it, drug it upstairs, then ran back to her perch and fell back asleep...
• Thanks. To all the wonderful people who posted birthday wishes on the 24th, THANK YOU. I am truly blessed to have friends that would take the time to say such wonderful things as I inch ever-closer to death. It would be better to have friends that would take the time to send money, but I am grateful just the same. Love you guys. Love you guys and your cheap, cheap hearts.
Enjoy those eggs, everybody!
You know how when you dig into a big bowl of cereal how the first two or three bites are utter perfection? The cereal crisp... the milk cold... and no sogginess to be found?
Then, like the inevitability of death and taxes, the milk starts to permeate your Cocoa Puffs and they grow increasingly less crunchy with each new bite and you'd give anything to get back to those glorious moments of cereal perfection?
"Only every single morning!" you say.
Well, there's an invention called Obol that aims to fix all this...
As you can see in the above photo, your cereal is kept high and dry in the top portion while the milk is safely waiting in the lower section. When you want to take a bite, you just push a spoonful of kibble into the milk and chow down with crunchy perfection.
And while Obol doesn't have a cooling unit to keep your milk cold, it does have kind of a "handle" on the bottom so you don't have to wrap your hands around the bowl and have your body heat warming your milk.
If you are a cereal fanatic like me, Obol is a must-purchase. It's a little pricey, but oh so worth it.
Unfortunately, I think Obol is going out of business or something, because most of the colors/sizes are out of stock and the pricing is weird at Amazon. If you're interested, I'd act sooner rather than later...
Medium Single Serve obol: $14.95, Large Double Serve Obol: $14.99
My new home has an utterly bizarre design choices. It's a nice place but, logically, rooms are positioned strangely, walls don't align as they should, and absolutely nothing is centered. Some of this I was able to address in the remodel, but other things ended up sticking around because there's just not enough remodel money to deal with all my ADD issues.
One of the areas that my new home's quirks made especially challenging was decorating. Since nothing is lined up and nothing is centered, placing pictures on the walls is a maddening struggle.
Take, for instance, my upstairs hall.
I decided I wanted to decorate it with movie posters. One wall has two small windows above a stairwell (off-center, of course), another wall has bizarre angles cut into it, another wall ends in a desk nook that's off-center from two bedroom doors. And, as if that wasn't bizarre enough space to try and align some wall hangings, the far wall comes out of a stairwell and has the HVAC vent return! It's enough to drive you crazy.
For this wall I decided to put a couple Star Wars posters (A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back... the only two that matter) and have them line up with both the stairwell and the upstairs hall. This left a big gap in the middle that needed filling.
I decided a light saber might be cool.
Only to find out that replicas are insanely expensive.
And then I happened across a "science kit" from "Uncle Milton" that featured a "Build Your Own Lightsaber" style room -light... for just $25! SOLD! I liked the design of Darth Vader's lightsaber best, so that's what I went with.
Opening the box had me bust out laughing, because it's not actual-size. It's a mini-saber that's tiny, tiny, tiny...
As if that wasn't funny enough, the "Darth Vader" lightsabers come in a box with a picture of Kylo Ren!
Even though it's billed as a "room light" it sure doesn't glow bright enough to light up a room... even in total darkness. But it does make a lightsaber sound when you turn it on, so I guess that's something. It comes with a remote control, but the remote doesn't turn the thing on, so I have no clue what the hell it's for (you have to push the button on the hilt to get it to "activate"). The description at Amazon said that the blade changes to eight colors with the remote, but the Darth Vader blade only glows red.
Ultimately, a big disappointment, as this is not the lightsaber you're looking for... move along.
Eventually maybe I can find a decent FULL-SIZE replica with a glowing blade that's affordable. Until then, a mini-saber it shall be.
May The Force be with you.
The thing about cats is... they're cats.
Cats... and especially the two kittens I have... are curious by nature, and want to get into anything and everything they can. They're always looking for adventure, which can be problematic when it comes to keeping them safe.
If there's one room I don't want them adventuring in, it's the kitchen. Too many opportunities for them to get into trouble once they're able to jump high enough to get on the countertops. Also... that's where the front door is, and I don't want them running out into the street.
The first thing I tried was putting "Scat Mats" in front of both entrances. These are plastic sheets with conductive wires running through it. They're hooked up to a battery and deliver a small shock when your pet (or you!) make contact with two wires...
The mats seem to work as advertised. It just took a few attempts before Jake and Jenny stopped trying to go into the kitchen. When I make their breakfast in the morning, they stop short of entering and wait patiently.
At least they did.
Maybe my cats are geniuses or something, but they just started jumping over the mat on day three...
Not the best solution for keeping cats out of a room. Probably works great for keeping cats off of something though. If that's what you're after, then they might be worth picking up. The only thing that really bothered me with the product (other than them not working for my intended purpose) was that they tell you to store your mat rolled up... but it arrives folded. Which puts big-ass creases in it. They say you can use a hairdryer to smooth them out, but not even an industrial hairdryer would remove mine (as you can see in the above video). Kind of stupid they don't come rolled, as suggested in the instruction book!
After the failure of Scat Mat, I turned to another solution... Ssscat!
This is a can of compressed air with a motion sensor on top. When something triggers the motion detector, it releases a blast of air that scares any cats (or humans) who come within range...
It's a great idea.
Except mine doesn't work.
Even with two changes of fresh batteries, it doesn't activate when you get near it as it should. Sometimes it will go off with motion, but there's no rhyme or reason to it and it's worthless 99% of the time. I don't know if I got a bad one or what, but it's an even worse failure than the Scat Mat.
Hopefully a solution will come along that actually works.
Until then, there's always "NO!"
For decades I've been vowing that if I were to ever get my own place, I would never have carpeting again.
This was only confirmed when I pulled out the carpeting in my new home only to find that massive amounts of dirt were sitting beneath... belying the clean appearance of the carpet from above. It's pretty heinous... even if you're got a power vacuum like a Dyson.
The problem with hardwood is that it makes for some slippery stairs... especially if you have kittens that struggle to climb them and need something to grab onto. This means buying some stair treads, which is easier said than done, as there are a number of hurdles to overcome. First of all, decent stair treads are really expensive. I've seen them as high as $50... per stair! Second of all, I am picky in that I want something which blends in with my flooring as much as possible... but still stands out enough so people know they're there. Since I couldn't find them local, I had to best-guess while shopping online, which is always dangerous as the color you see on your display rarely matches reality.
Amazon here I come.
There were a few options that caught my eye, but the one that really stood out was the treads by casapura...
So I ordered them with my expectations kept in check.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found that they were absolutely perfect. The quality. The color. The shape. The size. Everything. They look far more expensive than $89, and work perfectly for my kittens to navigate the stairs safely...
If I have one complaint, it's that quite a few treads didn't have the pattern perpendicular to the edge. It's not hugely noticeable, but for somebody ADD like me, it does drive you a little crazy. Other than that, I'm very happy with the casa pura stair treads... and even happier that I only had to pay $89 for them.
When it comes to installation, it's pretty straight-forward. There are adhesive strips on the back which keep the tread securely positioned. Some people in their Amazon reviews complained that it wasn't strong enough, but mine have been holding just great. I was sure to carefully clean and dry each step to get the best adhesion, so maybe that's all it takes. I did remove a tread to see if it comes off cleanly, and it did, but I don't know if that changes over time.
A helpful hint: After measuring my treads and stairs, I found that they centered with 4-1/2" gaps on each side. In order to make sure they all lined up perfectly, I found a small box that was 4-1/2" wide to set them against...
This made installation a snap.
You can find the casa pura treads over at Amazon... though, ironically enough, the "chocolate brown" color I purchased is no longer listed.
As I become more and more invested in woodworking and building stuff, I've accumulated a lot of tools. At first I kept them in a plastic Ziploc freezer bag. Then I moved on to a cardboard box. Then a plastic bin. After having my tools keep dumping out of the bin, I finally decided to invest in a toolbox. There were quite a few to choose from, but I'm kind of addicted to Milwaukee brand stuff, so I decided to take a look at their offerings.
Turns out they have two.
The classic 26" rectangular box was nice... rugged and comfortable to carry... but there wasn't a tray to organize stuff. So I ended up getting the 13" Jobsite Work Box instead. It had a tray and a caddy insert that looked handy...
It's a tough box and works great as a stool. There's a slot on top if you need a surface to cut pipe or something that might roll off a table.
In theory, it's a great design.
In practice? Not so much...
Overall, this is a regretted purchase. The design makes it difficult to use, and I don't think it's very efficient or handy for storing tools. I'll probably replace it soon and just use it to carry power tools from one place to another.
Milwaukee really needs to come up with a more tried-and-true box that makes tool storage and access easier instead of more difficult.
When Apple came out with the iPad Pro, I was intrigued. Not because we were getting a giant iPad... but because it was accompanied with "Apple Pencil," which is what Apple calls their touch stylus.
So I went to the store to give one a try and ended up taking a pass. Not because of Pencil, which was amazing (as you'll see), but because the iPad Pro was just too big. I like drawing/painting/sketching while laying on the couch watching TV, and the big iPad felt like it was more of a table-top tool.
Fast-forward to earlier this month, and Apple announced that a smaller model of the iPad Pro would be released on March 31st.
And it's glorious...
There are a lot of iPad reviews out there, so I'm just going to give a quick run-down on what matters to me...
For the most part, I am very, very happy with the iPad Pro... and ecstatic when using it with Apple Pencil and an app like ProCreate that can take advantage of it. This is easily, hands-down, no-bullshit the best stylus tablet experience I've ever had. The fact that it's not tethered to a computer is just icing on the cake. If you're an artist who is considering going digital... or are already a digital artist looking to upgrade, stopping by an Apple Store and checking out the iPad Pro is a no-brainer.
Put down that leftover Easter Egg Salad Sandwich, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Peanuts! As a long-time Peanuts fan, I was not especially looking forward to seeing Schultz's strip and classic cartoons butchered for modern audiences, as is so often the case (see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jem, and and just about every other cartoon translation). Turns out I needn't have worried. The Peanuts Movie was pretty amazing...
Very faithful to the source material and lots of hidden gems for Peanuts fans to find. And it was just beautiful. It LOOKED like "Peanuts" and had plenty of nods to the classic Schultz style that was the hallmark of both the strip and the animation. Loved it. Purchased it immediately on iTunes so I can watch it many times.
• Yes. Oh yes...
Heckling a good comic is about the stupidest thing you can do.
• Entitlement. An iPhone app developer announced a new app they had just released. I wish I hadn't read the comments, because they pretty much went like this...
Better be good for $2.99!
Should be free.
The entitlement generation makes me want to put my head in the microwave. Assholes will spend $5 for a cup of fucking coffee without thinking twice... but doesn't believe an app developer deserves $3 for their efforts? How in the hell do you make a living from free?
• Miitomo. And so Nintendo released their long-awaited iPhone app called Miitomo. It's a senseless time-waster, like most of these things... but it does allow you to get creatively absurd with your wardrobe, so there's that...
Those fishnet tights are the gift that keep on giving. Davetomo FTW!
• Youth. I was entirely too adorable as a child...
You can tell I'm old because, unlike today's fruit, watermelon had seeds when I was a kid.
And... that's it for bullets this week. See you in seven days!
It's actually not that hard being green. Home Depot has green LED bulbs for sale!
I usually pass on the "color your porch light campaigns," but when I heard about Green Light A Vet, that was one I couldn't help but get behind...
Thank you for your service, veterans!
I'm on my fifth run-through of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I love the movie more with each viewing. Not because it's the greatest film I've seen... it definitely has its problems... but because after thirty-five years of waiting for a Star Wars film that didn't suck balls, here it is. Sure it's a complete re-tread of Star Wars, didn't break any new sci-fi ground whatsoever, and lacked the imagination and risk that a truly great Star Wars film should have... but maybe re-telling the Star Wars story over again in a new way is what we needed to reset everything? A re-starting point that reminds everyone why the Star Wars universe is so amazing?
So let's talk about the film shall we? But first... a warning...
Yeah, spoilers follow. So if you're one of the three people on earth who hasn't yet seen The Force Awakens, you might not want to proceed.
Since everybody has seen the film, it's pointless for me to recap the story, so let's skip that part.
The thing that strikes me most about Episode VII is the spaceship battles... in that so few of them take place in space. Much like The Empire Strikes Back melted my brain with Snow Speeders bringing a space battle down to "earth" (so to speak), The Force Awakens has all kinds of amazing shots which make the battles considerably more grounded. And they do it so beautifully. Shot after shot of stunning interactions between ship and environment provide a thrill much more personal than the cold emptiness of space. I mean, sure it makes no sense that Rey can fly the Millenium Falcon at expert level when she's never flown it before, but look how beautiful that shot is! And... MILLENNIUM FUCKING FALCON, BITCH...
Even when there's no battle, you can't help but be impressed. I could watch the Millennium Falcon fly across the water to Maz Kanata's palace over and over again without getting tired of it. It's just so gorgeous...
As are all the special effects, which are about as flawless as it gets.
Granted, Abrams has the benefit of better technology than Lucas did for the shit-fest that was Episodes I-III, but it was Abrams choice to do practical effects whenever possible that truly made Episode VII a vastly superior movie. The actors were able to inhabit their environments in a way that elevated their performances. And it shows. Instead of being stuck in a big green room trying to use half their brain to figure out what the hell is going on while the other half tries to make their character's lines convincing, Episode VII actors could focus on their performance. Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor are exceptionally gifted actors... but just look at the half-baked performances they turned in for Episodes I-III. The fault isn't really theirs, and I can't help but wonder how much better they would have been with a director who understands how acting works.
And then we get to the cast. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are superb in The Force Awakens. There's not a moment where they falter, and to see them light up the screen is what makes the movie so compelling. Hell, even fully-CGI characters like Maz feel authentic, and it's all thanks to unparalelled special effects coupled with the perfect casting of talented people like Lupita Nyong'o...
I hate to keep trouncing all over Lucas, but he anchored his entire pre-saga around horrendous performances from Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen. No amount of acting talent surrounding such horrors can make up for that. Abrams made sure the people anchoring his movie could deliver the goods. And boy did they. Having original cast members show up was just the icing on the cake. Especially Harrison Ford, who gave us the funniest scene in the film...
Of course, it wouldn't be a Star Wars film without lightsabers... and The Force Awakens gave us some memorable saber action. But in a good way. Not in the comical, farcical, over-the-top way that the prequels stunk up the screen. I still laugh my ass off at "The Battle of Genosis" (Episode II: Attack of the Clones) where we finally get the chance to see an entire batallion of Jedi in battle... only to have Lucas shit the bed by conveniently forgetting that the Jedi are capable of stunning acrobatics. No no... let's not have the battle be cool as fuck... let's just have the Jedi sleepily, randomly swing lightsabers around and occasionally "force push" a robot away so he falls down and goes boom...
And that's about as exciting as the "battle" got. Holy shit was that movie lame.
But Force Awakens takes a different tact. Even if it doesn't make sense that Rey could take on Kylo Ren when she's probably never even touched a lightsaber before. I don't care how hurt Kylo Ren was... or how "in-tune" with The Force that Rey was, it was a bit ridiculous. I mean, Kylo Ren can stop a fucking laser blast in mid-air, but he can't kick the shit out of an untrained saber newbie because he has an owchie on his side? Please. But, ooh... look how beautiful it looks!
A big nod to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill here. His battle at The House of Blue Leaves between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu made for great pre-viz...
Though putting a lightsaber fight in the snow is genius. I love how Kylo Ren and Ren are accidentally chopping trees in half and boiling snow when their sabers touch it...
And, speaking of lightsabers, about that twist everybody saw coming...
Harrison Ford has been asking for Han Solo to be killed off for years. At least Abrams found a way to make his death mean something. The pity being that the heart and humor of Star Wars is gone. Forget Luke Skywalker, it's Han Solo that encapsulated the awesomeness of the franchise. At least all my best Star Wars memories are of Han Solo. Maybe Darth Vader. But he's already gone. I will miss Han Solo in future installments.
Ultimately, this next iteration of the Star Wars saga will live or die on the second act: Star Wars Episode VII: Echoes of the Dark Side or Star Wars Episode VII: Space Bear or Star Wars Episode VII: Return of the Return of The Jedi... or whatever. Will it be a retread of the best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back? Or will they strike out in a more inventive direction?
But so long as there are spaceships and lightsabers and George Lucas is nowhere near it, I'll be there.
Once I was hanging out at a bar with friends that featured live music. The band, which wasn't bad at all, was being badly heckled by a couple tables. For the first couple of songs, the band ignored the chants of "FREEBIRD!" and "NOW PLAY SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T SUCK!" But eventually the lead singer stopped the show and said something like "Hey, I get it. You don't like our music and that's fine. But, believe it or not, there are people who DO like our music and they've come here tonight so they can listen to us play. And you're ruining that for them. There are plenty of other bands out there and some of them probably play music you will enjoy, and you should probably go see them instead of us. But if you're going to stick around, be quiet and let us play. We'd do the same for you and your band... if you had a band. Which you obviously don't. If you did, you'd know how tough it is to get up in front of a room full of people to perform for them, and show us some fucking respect."
And it worked. One of the tables finished their drinks and left. The other stopped being assholes. And the reason it worked was because the band was able to confront the hecklers face to face. The hecklers couldn't hide from the consequences of their actions.
And then we get to the internet, where most of the people most of the time are hidden from the consequences of their actions. Why should they be quiet and respectful when their online "identity" is "BigLukeThe Exploder?" (or whatever... my apologies to BigLukeTheExploder if you actually exist).
Well, I want in on that.
Removing consequences from my actions sounds like a lot more fun than what I'm doing now.
So the next time you see an anonymous troll being a total fucking asshole on the internet... be kind.
It might be me.
If you haven't been inundated by the teaser trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, you haven't been paying attention. Or you're dead. Better get that looked at...
On Facebook I saw where there are people complaining that the lead character will be a woman for two Star Wars movies in a row. This is a little unbelievable to me, as there didn't seem to be complaints when the first six films had male-centric leads. I mean, sure there was Princess Leia (Star Wars: damsel in distress. Empire: love interest. Jedi: sex slave.) and Queen Amidala (Menace: damsel in distress. Clones: love interest. Revenge: lovestruck idiot baby-maker.) but does that really count? Not really. I say it's about damn time.
And the cool thing here is that we don't have long to wait. Rogue One is being released this December!
And the exciting this here is that we're going back into The Original Trilogy! Whether or not they actually exploit the awesomeness that could result from that remains to be seen (VADER, BITCHES!).
But I am hopeful.
The pain of betrayal from The Phantom Menace still hurts.
One of the main reasons I wanted to move to a condo is that the groundskeeping stuff is covered by my monthly HOA fees. That's things like lawnmowing, showshoveling, and such that I DON'T have to be bothered with. But the woman who lived in my condo before me loved flowers, so she had lots... lots... of pots and planters scattered around. I started throwing them all out because the groundskeepers ignore them and, apparently, they're my responsibility to maintain... which I Do. Not. Want. But things started looking pretty stark at my place, and I didn't want my neighbors hating on me, so I put half of them back. But then I had to fill them.
So this past weekend I bought a bunch of flowers and dirt and garden tools and crap. It was way, way, WAY more expensive than I thought it would be. And I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I just picked out things that had colors I like. No clue if they're appropriate to plant together or how big they get or what. So I guess we'll see. I didn't research the proper way to plant stuff, so I just ripped out the dead junk, dug holes, then popped in the new stuff. Fingers crossed. Otherwise? Money down the drain...
There were some bulbs planted that I left. I'm a bit concerned that they haven't produced flowers yet when everybody else's bulbs in the neighborhood have...
I ran out of money for purchasing actual plants, so I bought some seeds for the larger planters. They're already sprouting!
If this goes well, I might factor more plants into my plans for next Spring. Otherwise? A rock garden is still a garden, right?
Now that I have awesome cats, I take a lot of awesome photos.
Rather than post them every day, I'll wait until "Caturday" rolls around and see if I have anything worth posting.
This week, I do. Lucky you!
Jake and Jenny spend a lot of time wanting to go outside...
It's not worth the worry and the risk to me, so I've decided not to let them out.
I'm drawing up plans for a "catio" enclosure so they can get a little taste of what it's like to be outdoors...
I just need to find the time to build it.
It's going to be a lot of time and money I don't have, but I think the kitties are worth it...
Yeah. Definitely worth it.
Taco Tuesday let you down? No worries, because it's now Sunday, and Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Peanuts! The Peanuts Movie was pretty amazing. Very faithful to the source material and lots of hidden gems for Peanuts fans to find. And it was just beautiful. It LOOKED like "Peanuts" and had plenty of nods to the classic Schultz style that was the hallmark of both the strip and the animation.
Loved the film. Kind of disheartening to hear that there's no plan for a sequel.
• Hunger. We're all in this together, people...
One person can always make a difference.
• SATAN! Lucifer renewed for a second season?!? But... but... but... One Million Moms boycotted the show! Because: Satan! How can it possibly survive?
Oh... that's right... people can just change the channel if they don't like a show. And, in this case, people decided a fictitious interpretation of Satan was something they wanted to watch. NOTE TO ONE MILLION DUMBASSES: THIS IS NOT A SHOW GLORIFYING SATAN! IT'S A FICTIONAL CHARACTER... NOT ACTUALLY SATAN!
• SATAN? Ann Coulter is saying that Donald Trump is the only one who can protect us from "Latin Rape Culture!" Really? WHO IS GOING TO PROTECT US FROM THE SYSTEMIC RAPE CULTURE ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES? Oh... that's right... college campus rape is committed mostly by white men, so that's perfectly okay. Not at all scary. Not even worth talking about. And what the fuck is "Latin Rape Culture" anyway? Some new scare tactic designed to frighten women into voting for a misogynistic asshole who will make things even harder for them? I'm just dumbfounded that people are buying into this crap. Maybe I shouldn't be. Drumpf is on his way towards being a presidential candidate. Anything is possible.
• #RealMenLoveHearts. Amazing people can't like what they like and not be hassled for it in this day and age...
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!
Welcome to Remodeling Week at Blogography!
This time, we'll be taking a look at my guest-room remodel, which didn't require moving walls or tearing anything apart or anything extreme like that, so it was actually the easiest to work through. Kinda. The problem being that I've never had a guest room before, so it required all new furniture and stuff. In the end, the guest room actually ended up being one of the pricier expenditures I had.
The room itself is oddly-shaped, has one off-center window, and is kinda small, which left me limited options. I wanted a queen-sized bed, and it couldn't go under the window because I'd only have room for one nightstand, and I wanted two. So here we are...
The overall color theme for the room is white. In order to make things interesting, I went with as many shades and style of white as I could find. Then added dark blue to keep it from looking stark.
And now... on to the furniture...
The bed is just a metal frame because I didn't have room for anything extravagant... also, I wanted to put the money where it counted by getting a great mattress (Bellagio at Home by Serta). I did try and dress it up a bit with a pricey headboard from Target though...
Nightstands are IKEA. Originally I didn't want drawers, but ultimately thought they'd be less effort to dust than shelves...
Originally, I wanted to have a desk and chair in the room with the dresser in the closet. But the desk wasn't tall enough that both people could see the television while laying in bed, so I swapped them around, which works really great. Except there's no outlet in the closet, so I mounted an extension cord to a hook on the side of the desk. Both desk and chair are IKEA...
I had the chair by the door, but it looked like it would be easily tripped over, so I put it with the desk in the closet and bought an IKEA stool there...
I should mention that I don't usually allow cats in this room in case my guests have allergies or something... but the minute they hear the door open, they run to get in. It's apparently their favorite room in the house. Probably because it's the one place they can't normally go.
Meanwhile, back at the dresser...
The television is at the perfect height on top of the dresser, so adding the DVD player underneath wasn't working. I decided to remove one of the small drawers and see if I could make a space. I started by attaching some wood strips to the center support, then secured them to the side of the dresser...
Then I whitewashed a thin piece of wood to match and secured it to the strips with carpet tape...
After drilling a hole in the back of the dresser for the cords to pass through, the DVD player (and AppleTV) fit perfectly...
And... that's it for furniture. Thank you, IKEA.
Welcome to Remodeling Week at Blogography!
After the guest room furniture had been purchased, the next step was to figure out what I wanted to do for the textiles. Eventually I settled on a Liz Claiborne bed set that had a pattern I didn't hate. The matching window valance was incredibly expensive, so I found a Liz Claiborne solid that matched (I needed two because the window is apparently wider than average)...
The pattern on the bed cover is called "Arabesque" but it's reversible to a paisley kind of design I liked better...
The bed looked a little plain, so I took a cue from my sister's guest room and added pillows. I found them on close-out at Fred Meyer, and they worked perfectly...
When it came to the rugs, this time I went back to the "Arabesque" pattern for inspiration and found some nice-looking options at Shopko that weren't matchy-matchy blue, but a darker grey-blue...
Yes, the cats decided to get in the way everywhere I pointed the camera. The hams.
In addition to the blanket across the base of the bed, I bought a comforter and some cotton blankets in case my guests get cold. IKEA has nice "under-bed" scooters that work perfectly to store them...
And that's that for textiles.
Welcome to Remodeling Week at Blogography!
Rooms are made more homey and comfortable by adding some art and photos to the wall, so I worked hard to find picture frames that were interesting, but not overpowering. Shades of white that would work with the walls and furniture seemed the way to go.
I started with a vertical frame to fill the space between the dresser and the closet. Pier One (my favorite place for frames) had an option in cream that was perfect. I filled it with pictures of my kittens...
The centerpiece of the room is one of my favorite paintings, The Flower Bearer by Diego Rivera. It has a black frame, so it stands out from everything else in the room...
The two photos on the sides I took while visiting Barcelona Cathedral in Spain. The frames I found at Fred Meyer had cream mats to play off the cream vertical frame on the opposite wall...
To tie into the Diego Rivera, I had two postcards also by Rivera framed on both sides of the window. I think they came from Pier One as well...
To tie into the photos of Barcelona Cathedral, I framed photos of the geese in their courtyard on the opposite wall...
The frames I found at Target, and are my favorite in the room...
I needed a full-length mirror for my guests to get dressed in, and I found an interesting one at Fred Meyer. It was pricey, but the detail was pretty cool...
The wall with the TV was boring and needed something, but I didn't want anything too distracting, so I got the matching mirror from Freddy's to stick back there...
And... enough with the expensive wall decorations.
Welcome to Remodeling Week at Blogography!
I wanted some kind of "theme" with the decorative junk I wanted to add to my guest room, but no idea what that might be. Then, while trying to find the right rabbit for an image I was working on for Thrice Fiction magazine, I found myself knee-deep in bunnies and thought I'd give that a try.
Not bad at all.
I started on the nightstand with this cool ceramic bunny I found in Fred Meyer...
That didn't work for my Thrice project, so I found a smaller vintage bunny at an antique store which ended up on the opposite nightstand...
That rabbit didn't work either, so I found another antique store rabbit plus a tall fellow that was on sale at Pier One. They're on the dresser behind the television..
When neither of those rabbits worked, I finally struck gold with bunnies that did work. Those ended up on the other side of the television...
With all my rabbit decor needs met, I ended up buying a plush bunny for the bed to tie everything together...
The cats like to attack the thing every chance they get...
And that's it for bunny rabbits.
Welcome to Remodeling Week at Blogography!
After jamming bunnies everywhere, I considered getting bunny pictures to add to the walls, but that seemed like entirely too much rabbit.
After tossing around ideas for a couple weeks, I was at an antique mall when the solution jumped out at me... vintage license plates!
Not only are they very cool-looking, but they are available in dark blue to tie into the textiles I bought. I found five great ones for above the closet...
One of the plates I bought was so worn there were no letters left on it... and it was pre-embossing... so I could barely make out that it was an Ohio plate from 1914. I wanted a companion plate, so I went hunting on the internet and found that the 1915 Ohio plates were dark blue... perfect!
The main wall has my Diego Rivera print on it, which has rich reds in it, so I found a license plate to match that I could put it above the mirror on the same wall...
Overall, I'm really happy with the license plates. The only down-side to acquiring them is that all the coolest ones are also the most expensive.
Welcome to Remodeling Week at Blogography!
After buying the furniture and textiles, then decorating the place, all I had left was to add all the things the room needed to feel like home for my guests.
I started with an alarm clock. I was going to go with white or blue to match everything else in the room, but the Diego Rivera print above the bed had some yellow in it, so I decided to mix things up a bit...
I live in a relatively quit neighborhood, but there's barking dogs and other distractions on occasion, so I got a Marpac white noise machine in case a guest needs a way to block sounds so they can sleep...
Nightstand lights are simple chrome models with white shades...
To camouflage the screws I used to secure the DVD player shelf in the dresser, I bought a chrome hook bar that guests can hang their keys and stuff on...
The top drawer is for guests to use, but the bottom three I used for a selection of DVDs... divided into Action/Drama, Comedy, and Kids. If a guest can't find something they want to watch, they can go to the main collection in the garage...
For fun-time reading, I bought some antique magazines. I also found some inspirational phrase books in my collection from Richard Bach and Deepak Chopra...
And thus ends Remodeling Week at Blogography!
Can't get no satisfaction? You've been looking in the wrong place, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• STRANGE! I love love love love Dr. Strange in the comics. Other than whitewashing The Ancient One from Tibetan to a white English woman (to appease the massive Chinese movie market, I'm guessing), this looks very promising indeed...
November can't get here quickly enough. But first? Captain America: Civil War, baby! This film is getting amazing pre-release reviews and I cannot wait to see it.
• Representative? Congratulations North Carolina! The homophobic asshole politicians you elected are fucking up your state real good. But you probably don't need all those billions in jobs and visitor cash... I'm sure North Carolina is sitting on piles of money to make up for what you're losing. Oh? You're not? MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER THAT WHEN YOU'RE IN THE VOTING BOOTH NEXT TIME!
Only hope now is a full-on repeal of this horrendous law, I guess...
THAT'S NOT A REPEAL, YOU ASSHOLE! Congratulations, North Carolina, you're getting exactly what you deserve for electing this homophobic, transphobic piece of shit. Might want to think about a recall.
• Whores! While looking around at the local antique mall, I spotted these Bible-toting dolls that made me laugh...
• Nacho Cheese My new favorite snack: over-cooked nachos. Why oh why didn't I discover that over-baking the cheese made nachos ten times more delicious?
All those chips and cheese wasted.
• Funny Not Funny. I laughed over this for about ten minutes...
No, I'm not proud of myself.
And... that's all the bullets we have or today. Move along. Nothing more to see here. Move along...
I've never given much thought to being "a morning person." Since I am constantly battling insomnia and am already awake well before it's time to get up, there's nothing much to think about. Would I like to stay in bed all day watching TV and surfing the internet? Sure. Is it sometimes difficult to get motivated to face the day? Of course. But getting up at the ass-crack of dawn is no big deal to me. Which, I'm told, makes me a "morning person."
And I suppose that's even more true now that I have cats.
Kittens are supposed to be fed 3 or 4 times a day so that they have all the food and energy they need to grow up healthy and strong. I settled on 3 times a day out of necessity (I only get one lunch hour!) and that seems to be working just fine because Jake and Jenny are growing up alarmingly fast.
The trick to making a feeding schedule work is to stick to it like glue. Which means feeding the little monsters promptly at 7:00am, 12:30pm, and 6:00pm. Which, for me, is Before Work, Lunch Hour, and After Work.
That first feeding is a routine that the cats are very much accustomed to, and deviating from it is tantamount to The Apocalypse. It goes something like this:
Then I get ready for work and am out the door.
On those rare mornings where I am slow to get out of bed... usually because I'm in the middle of composing an email or something... the cats will come get me if it strays too far past 7:00am. Usually they'll make their food demands known in as passive-aggressive way possible... like flopping themselves on the floor and staring at me...
If that doesn't work, they'll climb up on the bed and start chewing on my toes or something.
Which is fine. I deserve that if I'm getting off schedule.
I'm a morning person after all.
Despite complaining about bad drivers like... ALL THE TIME... and getting angry a lot at people who choose to focus on texting or eating or video games or anything except driving when on the road... I'm usually able to let it go.
Not today, baby...
So there I was waiting to turn onto the street where my office is at. An old man was making his way across and I was waiting until he got all the way to the sidewalk so as not to scare him. And also... because it's the law! Any guesses as to what happened in this scenario?
The fact that I used the "c-word" when I absolutely abhor the "c-word" should be your first clue...
Got your guess?
THAT'S RIGHT! The asshole decided to not wait until the old man reached the sidewalk... hell, she barely waited for him to clear the lane... instead she gunned it so she could cut in front of me (WHEN I HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY, MIND YOU!), cutting me off and scaring the shit out of the old man.
What a fucking cuntwaffle.
Things like this? Impossible for me to let go.
If I had a gun and didn't believe in non-violence as a precept, I would have run her down and shot her in the face.
IN THE FACE!
And so, yeah... road rage. I get that. And, in this case, totally justifiable on my part, I think.
On a side-note... anybody have any guesses as to why the old man crossed the road?
Long before I became an actual certified diver, I had longed to dive The Great Barrier Reef. It was just so beautiful... full of color and life in a way that defied reality. Once I became a certified diver in 1986, diving The Great Barrier Reef was at the top of my bucket list.
Twenty-five years later, I finally got to check it off my list.
And it ended up being a bit of a disappointment. Thanks to Cyclone Yasi blowing through eight months earlier, there was significant damage to the reef and, while still beautiful and amazing, it didn't live up to the pre-Yasi splendor I had seen in photos and video.
I chalked it up to bad timing and promised myself that I'd return to Australia one day after the reef had recovered.
Except that isn't happening.
If anything, the reef has only gotten worse since I visited.
In an article I read today, 50% Of The Great Barrier Reef is now dead or dying and 93% is bleached.
I don't know if there's any chance of this horrible situation reversing itself, so I guess I should be thankful that I got to see what I saw when I saw it.
Because you just never know.
So now I'm starting to think I should start being thankful for everything that I got to see when I saw it.
And I try to be.
It's the places I haven't yet seen that's terrifying me now.
Will they even exist when I finally get around to going?
Very sad to learn that Prince has left us. He was a remarkable artist whose influence will not soon pass from this earth.
Just thought I'd post a smattering of things I like about His Purpleness today rather than try and do any kind of retrospective on what his music has meant to me all these years.
Probably my most favorite thing Prince-related is Kevin Smith's story about his attempt to work with the guy. Yes, Prince was strange, but he could be. Because he's Prince...
I am certain that I'm not the only one who is dying to know about the mountain of Prince material stacked up in his vault. We could be getting new stuff for decades, assuming his heirs choose to share it with us.
And, of course, Questlove has a story to share...
If you haven't seen Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Story on playing basketball with Prince (played by Dave Chappelle), then you owe it to yourself to click over to iTunes and buy the fifth episode of the second season right now. It is one of the most hilarious things you will ever see (and, unfortunately, gets lost because everybody focuses on Charlie Murphy's Rick James story, bitch). If you can't get iTunes episodes, here's a handheld recording...
Prince, of course, reacted as only Prince can...
And Queen Latifah on Fallon (who are both huge Prince fans) show how even the stars are starstruck when it comes to Prince...
David Spade shared an awesome Prince story on Fallon too...
Prince did an episode of The New Girl that was so Prince it hurts. Liz Meriwether, the creator of the show, has an awesome recap of the experience that's a must read. And, in case you didn't see the episode, here's a mashup of his appearance...
I love too many Prince songs to count, but my favorite has to be Raspberry Beret. It's such an amazingly clever song in so many ways... musically, lyrically, creatively... it's everything you expect from Prince in one amazing video...
The story around the video is equally interesting. Up until this point, Prince had been in a self-imposed exile from music videos for a while. I don't know what made him change his mind to appear in Raspberry Beret, but it made the video a pretty major event at the time. Also... I read somewhere that Prince coughing at the beginning was real and he, as director of the video, decided to leave it in. The Purple One is human after all!
"Overcast days never turned me on. But something about the clouds and her mixed..." For the longest time, I had those lyrics wrong. I always thought it was "But there's something about the clouds in her midst." Then one day I was actually listening (as opposed to singing along... badly) when I realized there was no "there's" in that lyric. Then I had to reevaluate what he was singing over and over until I figured it out. Now every time I look out my window and see an overcast day, those are the words that enter my head. Hopefully I haven't got them wrong. Again.
And, lastly, Prince being Prince... the ultimate performer...
So much more could be said.
Goodbye Prince. You are gone but definitely will not be forgotten.
Can you believe it? They make Dr. Suess cat toys!
As a huge, huge, massively huge Dr. Suess fan, this was big news. They had all kinds of toys, but I gravitated towards Mouse Thing 1 and Mouse Thing 2...
They're super-cool, and the cats seem to like 'em...
I'll definitely be buying the Cat in the Hat cat charmer and Mouse in the Cat in the Hat next trip to Petco. Great job to whomever came up with this genius bit of cross-marketing!
Like reading stories and looking at art?
You do? I'm not surprised. Did you know that the latest issue of Thrice Fiction is now available? And did you know you can download it absolutely FREE from our website?
If you didn't, now you do! Go check it out, won't you? We're now sixteen issues strong, and every issue is available absolutely FREE for immediate download...
I'll be back next week to discuss the works that appear in the issue. In the meanwhile, enjoy!
Seriousness is overrated, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Anchor! Every dresser, shelf, and storage unit I have that's over two feet tall is anchored to the wall. I'm trying my best to insure that no visiting child... or resident kitty... or even an adult... is going to be hurt by a piece of furniture in my home. This is a very, very important read... especially if you have little ones in your home... furry or not. Make time to read it.
• Space-Muppets! Farscape movie confirmed! When it comes to episodic science-fiction television, you can't beat the original Star Trek. But Farscape came close. I loved the show for it's creativity and imagination from the very first episode, and remained a fan right up until the last show (and The Peacekeeper Wars mini-series that followed).
I am such a fan of the show that I have autographed photos of the entire cast of Farscape (except for Rigel because he's a puppet) from when I attended the very first Farscape convention in Burbank. In order to attend the convention, I had to cut short a trip to Japan, which is why my autograph from the beautiful Farscape character Aeryn Sun says: "To David. Thanks for choosing us over Japan - Love, Claudia Black."
Yes, the show lost its way quite a bit in the last season, but it never lost its ability to entertain. I am hopeful that the movie will give us the very best the show has to offer and remind everybody why it has such a rabid fan-base in the first place.
• Spend. The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans Living Paycheck to Paycheck is a fascinating read. I had a hard time getting past the fact that 47% of "Middle Class" Americans would have trouble coming up with $400 for an emergency. But then I think back to the medical expenses that were overwhelming me two years ago... and that was me. There were months I'd have trouble coming up with 40¢ for an emergency. Today? Yes, I could do it, but with my savings going towards a remodel and a chunk of my paycheck going towards mortgage and all that... it would not be a piece of cake by any means. Especially if it's a month I've visited Home Depot. As a follow-up, the lovely Bluegrass Food posted another powerful article: Parents are Bankrupting Themselves to Look Adequate.
• Save. Seems like a good time to re-post this timeless SNL gem...
Logic can be so logical sometimes.
• Redneckity. Nails it...
Trae Crowder is a comedian, but says he's speaking from the heart in these videos. I don't doubt it. His YouTube channel is essential viewing material.
And that's all she wrote for this week. Whomever "she" is. She's not me, or so I'm guessing.
And so Harriet Tubman has been chosen to replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill.
Even a cursory examination of her story reveals that she is the epitome of American spirit (and, I'd argue, American values), and I think she is a fantastic choice for the honor.
But, of course, she's Black and a woman, which means the controversy over her selection is already unloading all over the internet. Most of it is almost comical in its ignorance. My favorite being "SHE WASN'T EVEN A PRESIDENT!" as if that's a requirement (which begs the question of how Benjamin Franklin and Sacagawea ended up on our modern money, but whatever). And then there's the "YOU'RE CHANGING OUR TRADITIONS AND HISTORY!" brigade (I'll just leave this link right here), which is equally telling in ignorance about how far back some people consider "history" to go.
Rumor has it that Viola Davis has been working on a Tubman biopic for a while now. Something tells me that she's going to have no problem getting it off the ground now. Which is awesome news, of course. There's a lot of ignorant people in need of a history lesson.
As always, it's just a matter of whether they choose to listen to it.
Okay... my new Blu-Ray player can play 3D movies... and my TV can display 3D movies... but I've never bothered to watch a 3D movie because I don't like them much in the theater. They're dark. They're blurry. They're most-often not filmed in actual 3D so the separation sucks. All told, it's just a miserable experience. The sole exception being Avatar, which was something I could really plug my hair into because the 3D was so well done. And because it featured giant blue kitty people...
Anyway... I bought the Blu-Ray 3D version of Avatar when it was on sale a while back, and I finally decided to dig out the 3D glasses this weekend and take a look. The 3D was absolutely spectacular... better even than the movie theater! Sure, it looked like a video game, but it was... different. So now I'm anxious to try more 3D films at home, but I don't want the 2D to 3D conversion crap that looks terrible. So I'm trying to track down films that were actually filmed in 3D with 3D cameras. And there just so happens to be a terrific website for that called Real 3D or Fake 3D!
Now it's just a matter of which movie to watch next. A lot of Pixar movies look promising. And I'm happy to see that Dredd was shot in actual 3D... so I guess that's a start.
And now for a quick look at my Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra-HD 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player...
I bought this player not for the 3D... there are plenty of cheaper options for that... I bought it for the HDR Ultra-HD picture to match up with my HDR-capable Ultra-HD television. To anybody familiar with this blog, the fact that I would buy into another shitty DRM-infested physical format may come as a surprise, but there's really no other way to get this kind of picture digitally, so I bit the bullet.
The UBD-K8500 player itself buys into the dopey "curve" aesthetic that has been plaguing Samsung as of late (I still don't understand the appeal of their curved TVs), which looks silly in your media center, but oh well. It's what the thing can do that I cared about, and there's actually two parts to that...
With four times the resolution of 1080p, the new 4K format is a sight to behold... if you have a television that can display it! If you don't, this player is good for future-proofing and not much else. Otherwise? Well, it depends. First of all, you need a big TV. Second of all, you need to sit close enough to the television that you can actually appreciate the picture quality. Have too small a display or sit too far back, and you might as well stick with the much cheaper 1080p options out there. I have a 65-inch screen and sit approximately 9 feet away. This is the outer fringe of what's recommended to get any benefit out of the increased resolution but, when running a comparison between 1080p and 4K there is a definite difference you will notice. I sure did. It's not vastly huge since my television upscales the lower resolution quite nicely, but enough to make me want to purchase Movies That Matter in the Ultra-HD 4K format. To truly get the best bang for my buck, I move some furniture and sit 6 feet away from the screen. That's when the Ultra-HD really shines, and the extra money suddenly becomes worth the cost.
If there were a "killer feature" to the UBD-K8500, it's the ability to send a High Dynamic Range picture to a compatible television. I have such a television, and can say with no hyperbole whatsoever that it's stunning. The expanded color gamut looks great when viewed alone... but it looks jaw-dropping stupendous when compared to a standard HD source. As I switched from 1080p to 4K HDR sources for The Martian and Kingsmen: The Secret Service it was like a hazy veil was being pulled from in front of my eyes, even though the image didn't look as bright. The color fidelity was just fantastic. Everything looks deep, rich, defined, and saturated... all without looking fake and bleeding all over the place. In a dark room on a high-quality display, I dare say that the image you get from the Samsung UBD-K8500 is better than any theater.
So... great picture quality. But what about the many, many, many pitfalls that plague Blu-Ray players of the past? Especially when it comes to speed? Blu-Ray players have historically been absurdly slow to respond... especially through the klutzy menu systems. Is the UBD-K8500 any different? Yes. And no. Yes, it's much faster than my previous 1st generation and 3rd generation Blu-Ray players, but it can still be infuriating when attempting to navigate through long menus or while attempting to jump around the disc. A lot of this undoubtedly has to do with the shitty DRM encoding (which punishes paying customers instead of the criminals seeking to steal content), but it's not like you can expect movie studios to give a shit.
The only real down-sides to my purchase were A] The price ($350!), B] The remote (once again Samsung shows that they have no clue what they're doing), and C] The lack of Ultra-HD HDR titles (no Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, alas). Other than that, I'd recommend the thing if you've got the television/set-up to take advantage of it.
The bulbs that were left by the previous owner of my home are finally starting to spring. And they're irises... which are kind of a freaky flower. Freaky in that they can't support the weight of the flowers and most of them end up on the ground.
But they're pretty even so... especially when they're still upright. The berry-colored flowers are my favorite...
There's some peachy-colored stuff too...
Not a huge fan of the yellow color, but they're interesting...
The white flowers are probably going to pop tomorrow...
If I had any kind of ambition whatsoever when it comes to the flowers around my house, I'd probably rip everything out and start over, but... meh... good enough.
Where has civility and respect gone in our society?
I dunno, but I ran across a video that vividly illustrates how it's quickly becoming a thing of the past.
This disgusting crap just boggles my mind. Don't these assholes have mothers? Sisters? Grandmothers? Daughters? Any women they remotely give a shit about? How do they justify this behavior to themselves?
Their mothers must be so proud.
Twenty minutes from my doorstep is a rather nice, large park in a neighboring city that I enjoy walking through when I have a chance. The last time I was there was to take my new camera lens out for a spin back when we had our last snow of the season.
Yesterday I wasn't feeling well at all and decided a walk in the woods might do me some good. I took my camera, of course...
And discovered a new love of dandelions...
Now that tourist season is rapidly approaching, I probably won't make it back to the park until Fall.
So there I was... reading through some work at 11:10pm... when I heard a commotion going on downstairs. Not knowing what the cats might have gotten into, I go running to see if anybody is hurt or in danger or whatever.
But when I get downstairs, both cats are lounging on the couch doing nothing at all.
It didn't sound like your typical chase around the house, so I was genuinely curious to know what in the heck was going on. Luckily, I have security cameras everywhere, so it was a piece of cake to go back in time and take a look...
Okay... there's Jake... looking out the window. Jenny is on the right but obscured by the coffee table...
WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN...
GAH! It's that big black & white cat that wanders around! I'd shit my pants and run away too if he popped up in my window!
Note that Jenny didn't move. I'm pretty sure she could take him.
Don't despair over your impending march to Monday, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• HASTURD! What happens when a complete piece of shit holds political power?
Apparently they get away with being child-raping garbage. God bless America.
• Jack! And so it looks like John Krasinski has been cast as Jack Ryan in a new Amazon series based on John Clancy's books. In all honesty, I think he may end up being the best Jack Ryan yet. Baldwin wasn't physical enough. Ford was too old. Affleck not cerebral enough. Pine was just (surprisingly) plain bad. They all lacked something essential to the character. Krasinski, on the other hand, is the whole package. If they get the story right, I think he'll knock it out of the park. And if he can get his wife to make a guest appearance, so much the better! The only thing that gives me pause is that Carlton Cuse and Graham Richard are developing the series. Given the way they took an amazing concept and flushed it down the toilet with Lost, my confidence in them delivering with Jack Ryan is very low. Fingers crossed though.
• English! If you're into linguistics, here's a video for you...
Of course, there are dialects within dialects on both sides of the pond, but this is a pretty great encapsulation of the differences.
• Shame. This is the America we're building...
PEOPLE. JUST. WANT. TO. FUCKING. PEE! As they've been doing in bathrooms for centuries! And yet, here we are... people being terrified by asshole politicians taking a non-problem and blowing it up so as to distract from what's really going on...
Again, the people most responsible for doing heinous shit in public bathrooms... ARE ASSHOLE POLITICIANS, ASSHOLE RELIGIOUS NUTS, AND ASSHOLE CRIMINALS... not transgender persons! And if you buy into the lies, guess what, you're the problem!
• Pop! Amazing how I'm still discovering excellent 80's pop music that I somehow missed in the actual 80's. This time? A Good Heart by Feargal Sharkey...
And, just to show that I'm not above missing out on current pop music, I recently heard Cake by the Ocean by DNCE, which is awesome...
And, yes, that's a Jonas Brother on the mic there.
Alrighty then... the time has come to say goodbye to another edition of Bullet Sunday. Until next week...
As it should come as no surprise to anybody, cats are weird.
My cats Jake and Jenny seem weirder than most, as they do inexplicably crazy crap a dozen times a day. And while it's impossible to know exactly what is going on in that fuzzy little head of theirs, TED has released a video which attempts to explain some of what's going on...
I dunno. That just makes cats even weirder to me.
And because I just can't get enough TED, here's another video that's worth a watch...
And now I'm feeling sick. THANKS, TED!
You know, it's one thing to raise your children in your own image and teach them your personal brand of morality... that's a parent's job. But it's quite another to teach your children to ambush other children over something of which they have no control.
As made abundantly clear from this moronic video courtesy of the Jehovah's Witnesses...
"Well... people have their own ideas about what is right and wrong..." Yes. And some people's "ideas" are bullshit that destroys lives, but whatever.
After watching this primer on homophobia, I'm dying to know what happens next... this little girl confronts Carrie and tells her that her moms are going to hell unless she convinces them to change their "evil ways?" What's that do for Carrie? If her moms don't split up and marry men like she tells them "Jehovah intended" is she supposed to bail on them at age 6? Is this wacky family going to adopt her and every other kid whose lives their "ministering" destroys? Or at least pay for the funeral expenses when Carrie can't take the badgering anymore and kills herself?
This video is everything wrong with American society today. It's not enough that you have the freedom to believe whatever you want to believe for yourself and your family... you have to force your views on other people too? Well fuck you. This being America and all, each family gets to decide for THEMSELVES how they want to live their life. If you don't agree with that, then feel free to "minister" to THEIR PARENTS if you must... but leave the fucking kids alone. It's hard enough for children to survive in a world where they are ridiculed and persecuted for who their parents are... they don't need your self-entitled little shits making their lives worse.
It's Star Wars Day! May The Fourth Be With You!
Interestingly enough, Star Wars has been on my mind a lot lately because I'm finally getting around to looking at all the cool books I bought when The Force Awakens was unleashed. By far my favorite has been Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections.
I've long been a huge fan of cross-section illustrations. It all started when I bought a cross-section poster of the USS Enterprise when the movie franchise was started. It was glorious, and made the ship (thus the show) seem more real to me...
It was around that time that I discovered the incredible books by Stephen Biesty. He did many amazing illustrations of both fantasy, history, and contemporary places and things. I spent hours looking through as many as I could find...
Biesty led me to a love of all things David Macaulay, who isn't so much a cross-section artist, but an illustrator who excels at explaining things. He even had his own TV show which supplemented documentary-style looks at cool stuff like the pyramids with his illustrations...
But I digress...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections is a book filled with exactly what you'd think it would be filled with... amazing illustrations of all things Star Wars cut away to show inside and how they work...
And yes, this is the infamous book that showed how Han Solo installed a kitchen for Princess Leia that had the internet up in arms a while back. Though, to be honest, I never saw this as sexist... I just saw it as Leia refusing to live like savages...
Anyway... even if you're not a massive cross-sections fan like myself, if you're a Star Wars fan, this book is still definitely worth a look...
You can get your own copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections for pretty cheap... it's just $14 at Amazon.
In case it hasn't been glaringly apparent, I fucking loath Ted Cruz.
In all the worst possible ways.
Thus the complete implosion of his presidential ambitions (along with the entire Republican Party) has been a source of great amusement to me. Especially the commentary from Samantha Bee on her show Full Frontal which you should absolutely be watching...
And then there was her epic take-apart from the show...
Yep, we certainly side-stepped a bullet with Ted Cruz for president.
You know you loathe Ted Cruz when you can't even bring yourself to like him a little bit as he drags Donald Trump through the trash. No mention of Trump's UNDENIABLE PROOF that President Obama wasn't a US citizen that we're STILL waiting to see... oh no... couldn't miss the opportunity to get in a dig at Obama, even in defeat...
So long, Cruz, please just go away now.
Every since I got an infection after an accident in the Costa Rican rainforest, I've been plagued with problems with my eyes. My vision goes blurry. My eyelids develop cysts. I experience shooting pain. They get tired easily. It's just a parade of misery that won't go away. And this past week I developed more cysts that my body couldn't eliminate, so say hello to my fifth surgery on my eyelids.
The surgery itself is fairly simple. They shoot hideously painful drugs into your lid to numb things down. They put a metal clip in your eye. They flip your lid. They slice it open. They cut the offending material out. They stitch you up. They unclamp your eye. They put a patch on you. You drive home.
Not entirely horrible, so far as things go, but irritating. I was completely wiped out when I got home and went straight to bed. Jake, who was apparently glad to see me, gave me mad hugs...
He was a little freaked about the appearance of my eye, however...
And the reason I knew this is that I looked up once he changed position and saw him doing this with his eye...
And lest you think Jenny wasn't supportive... she took over when I moved to the couch. Like Jake, the freaky appearance of my eye was something she had to investigate...
It's nice to have cats to help(?) with the recovery process.
When last we left Jake and Jenny, little Jake was being cruised by a horny lady-cat in heat in the middle of the night. She runs into the windows. She rolls around on the patio. She meows and hollers. Jake finds it amusing but, having been neutered, wants nothing to do with it. So as to not encourage whores on my patio, I've been closing the blinds at night.
In addition to the nightly display of eroticism, there's been a rather big breakthrough with Jenny.
Since I first got her months ago, she has refused to be touched. At first she would hiss at you in total fear if you even attempted it. Later she would just dodge you and run away. It's been terribly frustrating, especially since Jake has warmed up to the idea of being petted. He loves belly rubs...
He especially likes my mom, and will throw himself in her path to get a belly rub from her...
But not Jenny.
The only time I've been able to even touch her is while she's distracted eating. Any other time has been exceedingly rare, even when she's snuggled up on me watching television.
Then one day I'm finishing up some emails so I can take my mom to dinner. I look over and nearly fall off the couch when I see she's sitting there petting Jenny... and had been for ten minutes!
And that was that.
Now Jenny is crawling all over me to get petted. And if my laptop is in the way, she'll roll around on the coffee table until you pay attention to her...
If you turn up the sound, you can hear her purring away like an engine. It's as if she's never had a problem being touched at all.
In other cat news, Jake has gotten too fat for the window sill. He still likes to sploot (lay down with his legs flopped out), which is impossible in such a narrow space. So I built him a ledge to lay on...
As you can tell, Jenny likes it too. Which means I should probably build another one for the other side. Especially since they use it to hunt flies that end up in the window...
Other than that, they're inseparable as ever...
See you next Caturday!
The weekend may be ending, but there's still some awesome to be had, because a Very Special SUPER-SIZED Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Red Up! Trae Crowder has released another video and it's starting to look like this is not a fluke... he's funny as hell, dead on target, and the real deal...
"Now I don't know much about Kasich... apparently that somebitch eats the hell out of some sketti." — And in case you've now got a hankerin' for some redneck sketti, I'll share a video with the recipe (a tub of margarine microwaved with a bottle of ketchup and poured over spaghetti) courtesy of Mamma June...
Now that's some fancy cookin' right there.
• Mac-N-Cheez! And while we're on the subject of delicious pasta dishes, the college where this drunk kid attends must have the best mac-n-cheez on the planet, because... damn...
It's not often you see a man go to jail over mac-n-cheez! Oh, one last thing, apparently he's sorry now...
I hope he eventually managed to get that mac-n-cheez. It would be a shame to go through all that for nothing.
• Apocalypse! Apparently we're experimenting with reanimating the dead now. BECAUSE WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? Have these morons seen, like, ANY ZOMBIE MOVIE EVER? No? Well carry on then. Carry on.
• Rex! No way. NO. WAY!
Purplesaurus Rex Kool-Aid is back! Better run to the grocery store and stock up before Kool-Aid changes their minds and discontinues it again.
• GWEN! James Cordon's "Carpool Karaoke" just doesn't know when to quit! In case you missed it, another episode has dropped...
I hope James starts doing this with more esoteric artists in the future... it's just too good to be restricted to major pop stars.
• Judgement! Sometimes... not often, but sometimes... the humanity that's been lost in our justice system turns up in the most unexpected of places. Bless you, Judge Olivera.
• Problem? There's been an article by the Washington Post circulating which states that Republicans have a massive electoral map problem that has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Actually, I disagree. This has EVERYTHING to do with Donald Trump... and the candidates like him that end up on the Republican ticket. We're in an election where I will be forced to vote for Hillary Clinton, whom I loathe, just to keep the bat-shit craziness that is Trump the hell out of The White House. And Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves. GIVE US AN ELECTABLE CANDIDATE! One we can vote for without setting back human rights, social progress, and decency & compassion for our fellow citizens (and the rest of the planet) by five decades. Half my kingdom for an election where I won't feel like blowing chunks after casting my ballot.
• Suckerpunched! On top of making unbelievably shitty movies, here's yet another reason DC Comics needs to take Zack Snyder the fuck off their films. This asshole has no concept of what makes a good flick... let alone a good super-hero flick... and it's driving me insane. First he utterly destroys Superman, then he takes Christopher Nolan's terrific take on Batman and turns him into a psychotic moron. If, like me, you're waiting for video rental to see the horror that is Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, AND you don't give a shit about the movie being utterly spoiled, here's all you need to know about it.
And there you have it... more bullets than you can shake a stick at. See you next Sunday.
Okay then... finished my home cooking for the month.
Because nothing tastes as amazing as a freshly-baked biscuits... and it's one of the few things I can make that always turns out great no matter how badly I try and screw it up...
The recipe was given to me in a travel forum, so I have no idea who came up with this bit of genius...
Mix Bisquick, sour cream, and 7-Up. Dough will be very, very soft, but don't worry. Knead and fold dough until well-mixed (I spoon on some extra Bisquick after mixing until it's not quite so sticky). Pat dough out on Bisquick-covered board and cut biscuits using a round biscuit cutter (or cookie cutter). Melt butter in bottom of cookie sheet pan or 9x13 casserole dish. Place biscuits on top of melted butter and bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes or until brown.
Now, if you'll excuse me, biscuits, butter, and jam await me.
The minute I heard that Sony was releasing a professional-grade 24-70mm lens, I was intrigued.
For oh so many reasons, this is the perfect lens for general photography, but the biggest reason is that it fills a gaping hole in my lens line-up.
Which is currently like this...
See? It's a perfect fit! And the lens sounds too good to be true...
Of course, it actually is too good to be true when you consider the following...
This is the lens I need. Once it's on my camera, I can use it for 90% of my photography. For quick trips, it could very well be the only lens I take with me.
Of course, needing something and being about to afford it are two very different things. So I ended up selling some gear (including my amazing Sony A7s camera) to get it.
Totally worth it.
Yes, the size and weight are a bit of a bummer. But you can't have a feature-set like this without trade-offs. A few quick test-shots have confirmed that it is definitely fast and exceedingly sharp (bordering on what you get from a prime lens)...
I'm sure I'll have more to say when I've had a chance to really put it through its paces. But, for now? Amazing, amazing glass.
When I was contemplating adopting Jake and Jenny (and their brother Nick), I was able to speak with their foster parents, who were at The Humane Society waiting for the kittens to come back from surgery. After hearing what great cats they were, I didn't even wait until I could see them in person... I filled out the papers and paid the fee while I was waiting for them to come back.
Today the kittens' foster parents dropped by to see them
Unfortunately, Jake and Jenny decided to hide under the couch most of the time... Jenny doesn't seem to like strangers, and Jake follows her lead most of the time... which was a bummer, but it was still a wonderful visit because they were kind enough to share some early photos and videos of the kittens when they were fostering them.
Here they are on Day One...
Seeing how inseparable they were, it makes me even more sad that I didn't know I could "reserve" the kittens so I could have kept them all together...
Hopefully little Nick is happy and healthy in his new home.
Apparently Jenny, who purrs like a diesel engine for any reason at all, but especially when you pet her... has always done that...
Jake may look quite a bit different now, but he acts exactly the same as he did when he was a kitten...
I swear I have videos of him now that are practically the same as this. He still loves to play with stuffed animals just like that!
Hopefully the kittens' foster parents will be able to come back again when the kids are feeling a bit more sociable. It's great that they are so wonderful and caring as to take in kittens before they can be adopted. That can't be easy work, and yet their hearts are big enough to make it happen.
And so the reprehensible piece of shit George Zimmerman is auctioning off the gun he used to murder Trayvon Martin.
Yes, you read that right.
I remain convinced that the evidence did not support Zimmerman's story. I am steadfast in my belief that Zimmerman is a lying, violent, psychotic asshole, and his history after he escaped justice backs that up. And even if none of that were true, the fact remains that this is entirely his fault. Had Zimmerman called in his racial profiling of Trayvon Martin "walking while Black" into the police... AS HE WAS SUPPOSED TO DO AS A NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH VOLUNTEER... instead of grabbing his gun and playing vigilante lawman... Trayvon Martin would still be alive for daring to eat Skittles and drink a Snapple with a hoodie on.
AND NOW THIS? Fuck this heinous blight on all humanity and may he burn in hell for all eternity. There remains NO JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN, and anybody who doubts the need for the Black Lives Matter movement need look no further than this. Indeed, Trayvon's life matters so little that respect for his life is non-existent to Zimmerman and anybody who supports this disgusting turn of events in an incomprehensible chain of events.
And now bring on the Rednekistan rhetoric of me "hating my own race" as opposed to demanding justice for all races. I'm getting used to it.
As a huge, huge, massively huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, you would think that I'd have seen Captain America: Civil War on opening day. And heaven only knows I wanted to so as to avoid spoilers that plague the internet... but work got in the way. Today I had to run an errand for work, and decided to see the film on the way back home.
And it. Was. Spectacular...
I'm putting my full comment in an extended entry so people who haven't seen it yet can do so... but, suffice to say, it's absolutely everything you want in a comic book movie. Go see it immediately.
For everybody else? Continue at your own risk...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
And here's yet another random sampling of cat-related incidents to occupy your Saturday...
Both Jake and Jenny are getting more angular and "feline-looking" as they get older. It's especially apparent with Jake and the dark shading he has around his nose...
Jenny continues to have bad dreams from time to time, whic always results in snuggling with her brother. This time he actually put his arm around her...
Which she appreciates...
They usually sleep on their Kitty Condo Tree, but a couple times a week they sleep on my bed...
Jenny's biggest struggle each day is deciding whether or not to ambush her brother...
And... she did.
And, oh yeah, the kitty whores in heat are still dropping by...
Jake always seems to enjoy the show.
And that wraps up another Caturday!
Don't fret about the future, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Finale. The Ambulance Wish Foundation is a Dutch company that helps the terminally ill realize their last wishes...
What would your wish be? Mine? Well... a trip to see the sunrise from the top of Haleakala on Maui would probably not be possible... it would need to be something local... or maybe I could make it to Seattle? So perhaps I'd ask to see the sunset over Seattle from Alki or something like that. Something with the sun rising or setting would be nice.
• Hemnes. Last night the thing that everybody said would happen... happened. My IKEA Hemnes bookcase had shelves collapse. I thought people were exaggerating about the problem, but now I find myself having to unload everything, screw the shelves in permanently, then load everything back up. I thought it was isolated incidents by people who assembled the bookcase wrong, but no. What a load of crap. People have been complaining about this forever, and IKEA has done nothing... nor have they made any changes to the design.
• Typical. Anti-gay pastor faces 70 counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing child pornography. Why am I not surprised? It seems that the people so hot to tell us who we need to be afraid of are all too often end up being the people we need to be afraid of.
• Roses! My bush sure is pretty now that it's in bloom...
Fortunately, the previous owner had a green thumb... and my regular thumb hasn't killed everything yet.
• Cap? Oh man. Saw Captain America: Civil War JUST IN TIME... an ad just played on television which gave away the biggest surprise of the movie. And for what? Why? Why would they do that? I guess to entice the millions of people who've already seen it to go again, because it's certainly not doing people who haven't had a chance to see it yet any favors.
• Freedom? And speaking of America... In Tennessee, a kindergarten teacher says a Latino child — told by classmates that he will be deported and trapped behind a wall — asks every day, “Is the wall here yet?” This is the America we are building Guess this great experiment is coming to an end.
No more heart for Bullets today.
The previous owner of my place loved flowers, so I was very lucky to inherit her hard work. I've got planters in the front, irises on the sides, and a pretty flower garden in the back (along with even more planter boxes). This weekend the flowers finally started to bloom, which means my back yard is looking better than the front right now...
The planter boxes I over-planted, badly, have completely taken over...
...hopefully one of these days there will actually be flowers there.
I'm a huge fan of rice cakes.
When you eat as much unhealthy crap as I do, you'd learn to love them too. They make a nice alternative from unhealthy crap when you feel the need to lay off the unhealthy crap.
And if that's you, I've decided to rank all the Quaker Rice Cakes flavors for you...
And there you have it. All my favorite rice cakes.
Keep healthy-snacking, people!
The cats want to be fed around 5:00-5:30... well before their 7:00am feeding time... and to show their displeasure with my insistence of starving them to death for an hour or two, they will hang out in my bedroom until I haul my ass out of bed and make them their breakfast.
I'm usually up around 4:00-4:30 working, so this doesn't bother me in the least. But, as Summer comes and more and more birds make their way to my neck of the woods, it's gotten more and more irritating. Because Jake and Jenny see the birds out the window, but the window sill is too narrow for them to jump onto from the bed. So instead they sit there and cry or chatter at the birds they can't see too well...
A couple days ago I decided to remedy this by getting a cat shelf at Petco. I would have made one (like I did for the living room window) but I just don't have the time. It seemed a bit pricey at $29, but it works. Jenny took to it right away, while Jake was a bit wary...
But he finally came around yesterday afternoon...
Good thing it's big enough for two... kinda. Jake's fuzzy butt usually hangs off a bit when they're both up there. Now they spend their mornings bird-watching instead of driving me crazy. Perhaps $29 wasn't too much to pay after all.
Oh dear. Trae done got his red up again.
I don't consider myself a liberal (despite being liberal-minded) nor a redneck (despite living in Redneckistan)... but I want to have Trae Crowder's babies. He is so flawlessly on-point in his videos that nine months of suffering would be worth it...
Give this guy a TV talk show. In character. Seriously.
Today in "smaller government" and "fiscal conservatism"... piles of money was wasted on an unconstitutional bill that puts The State in control of your vagina in Oklahoma.Look, my faith is such that I'm not a supporter of abortion. There are exceptions, of course... if the mother's life is in danger or if the mother will be harmed mentally or physically by bringing the baby to term... things like that. But you know what? THIS BEING *AMERICA* AND ALL, IT'S MY FUCKING CHOICE TO DECIDE WHAT I GET TO BELIEVE! And... oh yeah... IT'S NOT MY FUCKING VAGINA! Which is why I firmly believe that it's not the government's job to force my beliefs on other people. For me, a life begins at conception. For others, a life is a soulless collection of cells that has no life outside the mother's womb. For still others, an embryo is devoid of life until a certain point of development. It goes on and on, and who can say what the ultimate answer is? Which is why I'm steadfast pro-choice and find this kind of heinous legislation anti-American, anti-woman, and even anti-human. Fuck you and your fascist bullshit, Senator Dahm. You've made lives substantially worse for women having to make one of the most difficult decisions of their life... by writing a law which forces them back to coat-hanger abortions and back-alley surgeries. You're not saving lives... you're endangering them.
UPDATE: It's not that I expect sanity from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, but sometimes miracles happen.
For the past month or so, I've noticed that Jake and Jenny occasionally gets so wrapped up in something out the window that their jaws start shaking. For the longest time I've been terrified that it's a prelude to epilepsy or something equally terrible, but have been ignoring it for my own sanity. Recently Jake did it again and it freaked me out so bad that I took to Google to see what might be wrong with him...
...and found out it's perfectly normal when some cats get excited about possible prey.
When I'm not available to give Jake a belly rub, Jenny steps in...
Now that I'm switching from thrice a day to twice a day feedings, I thought I'd move breakfast from 6:30 to 7:30. But it's impossible to resist the kitties when they come in at 6:45 and demand food. And by "demand" I mean "be so adorable that I just can't stand to deny them anything."
Now that Jenny has decided she likes to be petted, she's been running to greet me whenever I return home...
It's the best part of my day!
When I'm laying on the couch working, Jenny has been laying on the floor next to me. I put a kitty bed near me against the wall because I was worried I'd forget she was there and step on her. Worked like a charm three days running!
And... somebody is reminding me to take a break from blogging...
Until next Caturday...
Sunday is as Sunday does, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• 1975. When it comes to music, The 1975 is my current favorite band. Somebody Else is my favorite song of their latest album. Probably in my top ten of favorite songs ever. Recently Matt Healy and Adam Hann stopped by a radio station to perform the song live...
Pretty incredible considering half the band is missing and they are recording under less than ideal circumstances!
• Banzai. When it comes to cult favorite cinema, Buckaroo Banzai is at the top of my list. I've seen the film dozens of times and even have a quote from the movie tattooed on my arm...
As you can imagine, I have mixed feelings after hearing that Kevin Smith is helming a television series based on the film. On one hand... more Buckaroo Banzai! And by a filmmaker I really enjoy! On the other hand... this could be a complete disaster. The original movie was like lightning in a bottle, and the chances of lightning striking twice with material this bizarre is incredibly slim. Of critical importance is getting the right cast, and I really hope Kevin Smith is up to the task. If he's just going to toss in his roster of regulars, I'd be very surprised if the show has a chance. Fingers crossed.
• Dance. This video is pretty great...
The guy has moves! And insane pants!
• Logo. As somebody who does graphic arts for a living and has created more than his share of logos, it's tough for me to be critical of what other people do... I know just how tough the work can be. That being said, the logo revision for DC Comics is just so busted and weak that I can't stay quiet...
Seriously, look at how wonky the "C" is with that upper serif curving out of nowhere for no reason at all. And those back-cuts in the counters are such a laughable way of trying to "customize" a traditional typeface... especially given how badly they compromise the integrity of the letterforms. When it comes to logo designs, this is about as bad as it gets. I mean, it doesn't even have symmetry across the center-line...
But, then again, this is the company that has Zack Snyder shitting all over their movie properties like piles of putrid stank, so I'm hardly surprised nobody at DC stepped up and said something. Blergh.
• Bustin'. As a massively huge fan of the original Ghostbusters, I was more than a little upset at the prospect of the franchise being rebooted. But then the new trailer dropped...
And now I'm starting to have a little faith.
• Rights. I have been waiting for The Daily Show to post this, because it's just so dead on-point...
I am getting so sick of this ridiculous crap.
And away I go...
It wasn't that I didn't like Star Trek Into Darkness... it's just that any movie which attempts to remake the best of the best Original Series films (namely: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) is doomed to fail. I spent most of the film remembering back to the original instead of focusing on what was in front of me.
Ultimately I enjoyed, Into Darkness, but left the theater thinking "Why in the hell couldn't they come up with their own story instead of recycling what's already been done?
Lucky for all of us, it looks like they're back on Trek...
I will be very interested in seeing how this shakes out.
So... a really good day to be one of my cats.
Long-time blogging friends Poppy and Dawg sent a Kitty Care Package for Jake and Jenny that came filled with all kinds of stuff they quickly became obsessed with...
Jenny is especially obsessed with the soft rainbow toy...
And, no surprise, Jake has laid claim to the Crunchy Monkey stuffed toy (he loves stuffed animals!)...
Thanks so much to Poppy and Dawg for making my cats' week!
It's expensive keeping up with the Joneseses.
My neighbors have been stepping up their gardening game lately and the neighborhood is awash with flowers.
Except for me. My irises have all died off, the spice tub has gone to seed, the pots of roses are done, the dogwood is back to leaves-only, and the planters are pretty much finished. I got nuthin'.
Which necessitated my pulling out the spice garden (which I would never use anyway) and a pot of dead stems so I could plant petunias... on sale at Home Depot 6/$6...
The spices got their revenge, however, as my hands smelled like rosemary(?) for the rest of the day.
That helped a bit, but my yard still looked a bit bare, so I decided to go for a hanging basket. It's nice, I guess, but I didn't notice the plastic pot was cracked when I got it (FOR TWENTY-SIX FRICKIN' DOLLARS!) so I'm sure it will be falling through the bottom any day now...
My back yard, on the other hand, is just now starting to bloom. The previous owner has all kinds of roses and stuff in the back flower bed, which is pretty sweet...
I wish I could have swapped the front and back of my home... it would have been a lot cheaper than having to buy a bunch of new pretty junk.
Okay then... three days in a row... I guess it's become a routine. Every morning Jenny will present me with her morning kill (in the form of a toy), meow a couple times, proceed to crawl all over me for pets until she's sufficiently purry, then start waving her butt in my face when she's tired of my not getting up and unleashing the food bag...
And here I thought waking up with a dead hooker in your bed was the worst way to start your day... I think cat butt has it beat.
It would seem that DC's not-a-reboot reboot Batman has a super-power now... IN HIS PANTS! Apparently DC is now hiring porn artists for its new books? Batman's dick looks like it could punch through steel. Or possibly... A MAN OF STEEL? Talk about the ultimate Batman vs. Superman scenario. What in the hell is going on with REBIRTH?
Yeah. Taking the opportunity to just dump all my DC reads now. Haven't enjoyed them in ages, and this ain't making me change my mind.
Jenny and Jake are still crazy about the big box of toys that Poppy and Dawg sent them.
A surprise hit has been Cat Crazies. They're kinda like the rings on a plastic milk jug... but with waves and ridges that the kitties can grab onto and cart around in their mouths...
Pretty much how I wake up every morning...
The two kitty whores in heat are still putting on performances for Jake most nights...
I wonder how long cats stay in heat? This is getting a little crazy.
Until next Caturday...
Don't let the depressing lack of Saturday get you down, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Tarzan. As a massively huge fan of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, I'm pretty much done with the Tarzan movie adaptations (if that's what you can call them). The number of times I've seen The Lord of the Jungle reduced to a grunting ignoramus is legion, and has nothing to do with the actual character. Tarzan is a literal genius who speaks dozens of languages and, when he's out of the jungle, highly cultured as well. So you can imagine my eye-rolling reaction to the news that there's a new Tarzan movie coming out...
Except... apparently the movie starts out with Lord Greystoke (aka "Tarzan") in London's high society, his jungle adventuring days long behind him. Sooooooo... maybe? Heaven only knows that I'd love to finally see a half-way decent Tarzan on the silver screen. The special effects are sure up to the challenge. Alas... the heinous memories of the John Carter movie (Edgar Rice Burroughs' other famous creation) still linger...
• The Force. If you're a fan of Star Wars, then here's the site for you...
Amazing. Keeeeeeep scrolling...
• Uhhhhhhhhhh. ZOMFG! YOU CAN'T HAVE GUNS IN JAIL? WTF?! So much for "American freedom!"
I cannot believe these stupid assholes. We have sterilized the entire Bundy clan after this idiocy so they can no longer breed, right?
• Taco! IT'S PEOPLE! THE TACOS AT TACO TIME ARE MADE WITH PEOPLE!
Delicious people! Totally rethinking my stance on vegetarianism...
• Picard! Captain, let's beam down to Rigel for some whores and blow!
Always good to be a starship captain!
And... on that note of ultimate Trekiness... I'm out of Bullets for this week.
To all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I should probably leave this Memorial Day entry just there out of respect for those brave souls, but...
With each new Memorial Day I look at the sorry state of the USA and feel as though those who gave their lives for it may have died in vain. And I take no pleasure in saying that.
Everything we are... everything we've built... everything we stand for... all of it... seems as though it's come to nothing except divisiveness and hatred. And it drives me insane. We can be so much better than this. But inclusiveness and mutual respect have become a thing of the past, and we're on a course of destruction that has me thinking we're never going to get them back.
But could we if we really wanted to?
It undoubtedly has to start with electing politicians who give a flying fuck about the people they're supposed to represent instead of electing politicians who only care about sucking special-interest dick to keep the money flowing. Re-election is an expensive business, after all, and thats the only thing our politicians truly give a shit about.
It certainly isn't us.
And so the Powers That Be who actually run the country keep us at each other's throats to distract everybody from their real agenda.
Which definitely isn't us.
So how do we convince "the people" to change the system and start giving us a government that's of the people, by the people, for the people... once again?
I have no idea.
But it should probably start with reminding them of those who sacrificed their lives so we even have the opportunity to have a government that's of the people, by the people, for the people.
Happy Memorial Day.
The best show on television... most of the time... is no more.
Of COURSE Limitless gets canceled so CBS has room to stink up the airwaves with more idiotic crap that appeals to the lowest possible common denominator. We can't have a show that requires a little thinking and imagination. That just doesn't sell.
So many great shows get shoved by the wayside. I don't know why I even bother.
Just got the bill for my first eye surgery.
Thank heavens my insurance deductible is so huge... I was worried I wouldn't find anything to do with these piles of cash I've got laying around.
And to think I was actually considering building my savings account back up! How silly of me!
For those who were asking... yes... Jenny still brings me a "kill" every morning in exchange for me making her breakfast. Every. Morning.
If I'm asleep, she drops it on my chest. If I'm awake, she drops it on the floor and announces it with some meowing. It's usually something different every day. This morning it was Tan Mouse...
She's so adorable when she's demanding food.
As anybody who has read this blog for any length of time already knows... I love movies.
I love all kinds of movies. I love everything from stupid stoner comedies to directorial masterworks. I love sci-fi. I love documentaries. I love animation. I love mysteries. I love historical dramas. I even love romance films from time to time. And while I don't like all the movies I see... I do like the majority of them. Film enriches our lives and expands our imagination, and I cannot fathom what my life would be like without the movies.
I also love people who love movies like I do.
I especially love people who can add depth and appreciation to the films we love so much.
One of these people is Lewis Bond from Channel Criswell.
I became aware of him last Fall when he did an analysis of Hayao Miyazaki films called The Essence of Humanity. Being a massively huge fan of Miyazaki's works, it could have been made just for me...
Lewis's admiration for all the things that go into a Miyazaki film were brilliantly on-point, and I instantly became a fan. The guy knows how to look at films. His entire YouTube channel is a love-letter to the movies, and his videos have become an important voice in my appreciation of them.
Then today I find out that Lewis is being sued...
This is absolutely horrifying. Copyright infringement? Really? I cannot for the life of me understand this. He uses clips from the films that he is analyzing or exploring... in the case of this lawsuit, the films of Stanley Kubrick... to support his thoughts. In no way has he ever been "malicious" with the material... at no point was he exploiting the material or damaging the legacy of Stanley Kubrick. If anything, his efforts are keeping his legacy alive by encouraging people to take a look at Mr. Kubrick's work.
I am sickened and saddened that somebody at Kubrick's estate is choosing to make money off of a Kubrick fan like Lewis in such a way. Especially considering that they went straight to lawsuit instead of contacting him directly to resolve the matter. This just shows exactly what kind of people they are.
People who don't love movies.
For all those who wrote me emails or sent me texts or even called me... wondering what the heck happened that I had disappeared off my blog... thanks!
The explanation is both simple and complex. But let's start with what it is not going on...
I'm not sick.
I'm not dead.
I'm not on the lam.
I have not been abducted by aliens.
I have not given up blogging.
Here is what is going on...
As mentioned previously, the security I have on Blogography has been keeping me from posting. I can't disable the security, because I keep getting hacked (apparently having 15 years of Google-indexed entries makes you a desirable target). It has something to do with switching internet when I moved house, but in order to post now I have to log in to my blog, turn off the security, log out of my blog, log back into my blog, restart blogging services, post my entry, log out of my blog, then log back in so I can turn security back on.
It's quite an ordeal, and I really don't have time for it.
So I took to posting a week's worth of entries all at once in an effort to deal with it all.
That worked for five months.
And then it didn't.
No matter how many hoops I ran through, I couldn't get to the point where I could post. Not that this stopped me from writing entries. On the contrary, I was still writing every day like I always do...
I just couldn't do anything with them because I could never find the time to fix my blog.
I finally backed up the database, uninstalled everything, reinstalled everything, then restored everything. And it seems to be working.
Which leaves me in a quandary. Do I just flood post a month's worth of entries as if nothing ever happened? Or do I chalk up the month of June as a loss and start up fresh? Who wants to back-read a whole month of the stupid crap that I post? Is this stuff even relevant after all this time?
My inclination is to summarize my month tomorrow on the 3rd. Then resume posting on the 4th... exactly one month from when I stopped. Then I can swipe some old material I wrote... refresh stuff that's no longer relevant... and get back to all new musings that my legions of Blogography fans demand!
As much as I loathe the idea of there being a month-long chunk of missing entries in over a decade of daily posting, I think this is the best way to move on.
Hope you enjoyed your vacation from me.
Worried about missing out on a whole month of Dave's life? Well don't be, because an all new SPECIAL CATCH-UP EDITION of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• MY HEALTH. The bill for my first eye surgery arrived. Thank heavens my deductible is so huge... I was worried I wouldn't find anything to do with these piles of cash I've got laying around. The good news is that my eye seems to be doing okay now. The only remaining damage is a bump from where the anesthesia was injected into my eyelid. Hopefully it will disappear in time.
• MY DIET. I've inexplicably become a milk drinker again. I haven't had a glass in years, but recently had one with a slice of chocolate cake and fell in love with the stuff. I no longer have to worry about my milk expiring... which is cool because even though non-fat lasts forever, I was regularly having to throw it out.
• MY DISCOVERY. Laughing Cow cheese has never been a favorite even though I love spreadable cheeses. But recently they came out with an Asiago-flavored version that's just fantastic. I eat the stuff piled on Ritz Crackers constantly...
Laughing Cow Spicy Pepper Jack is worth a taste as well.
• MY SHOPPING. For much of my life, I've not been an antique fan. Why by old stuff when you can get brand new stuff that's cooler? My view has softened since renovating my guest room, so now I actually stop by antique shops from time to time. Which lead to my paying $28 for this cookie jar...
...and let me tell you why. 1) The bear looks like Ted! 2) Whomever made this didn't fire it properly, so it's sagging on one side and it looks like he's falling over drunk . 3) The lid is also misshapened, so it doesn't really fit the jar. 4) They misspelled "cookie" as "cookey" which is frickin' adorable. 5) It looks awesome next to my gelato machine! How many more reasons did I need? I was forced to buy it! Antiques FTW!
• MY SCHEDULE. My cats have turned me into a morning person. I now do my grocery shopping at 7am?...
Oh well. The nice thing is that the store is a ghost town that time of day.
• MY CATS. They're still adorable. Still wonderful. And I still love having them around. Such amazing animals...
Don't know how I managed without them.
• MY DISAPPOINTMENT. I skipped seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in the theater but finally caught the "Ultimate Edition" on digital. My thoughts are below, but beware of SPOILERS for Captain America: Civil War (yes, you read that right)...
At the end of Captain America: Civil War where Bucky and Cap have beat down Iron Man and are walking away, Tony Stark says "That shield doesn't belong to you! My father made it!" and it's just crushing because of Robert Downey Jr.'s performance. You can feel that Tony is trying to stay proud in the face of defeat, but his heart is breaking on two levels, so there's a tremor in his voice. At that moment... when you are made to feel in the middle of a funny book film... you know that Marvel has completely figured it out. They put the humanity into their cinematic characters in a way that transcends the genre.
Which is why watching Batman v Superman was such a horrendous fucking ordeal. Zack Snyder thinks that taking everything dark and brooding is what adds character to the characters, but he's missing the target so badly as to be... comical. Heaping artificial drama on characters again and again and again just distracts from whatever humanity they might have. It buries it. He has zero sense of what makes a comic book movie reach past the funny books, and that's a huge problem for DC. Their movies are just dark, boring, artificial piles of shit that don't make you *feel* anything. It's the disaster-porn school of filmmaking and people are tired of it. They've seen it all before. Many, many times.
Between DC and Marvel, the one who has the most potential and the easiest road to completely slaying the genre is DC Comics. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are the most beloved and recognizable super-heroes in existence. Everything else pales by comparison. And yet by hiring a hack like Zack Snyder to helm their films... somebody who could give a fuck about the source material and changes things just because he can... somebody who doesn't want to bring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to the screen, but his "vision" of them... it doesn't matter. You go to a film called Superman v Batman expecting to see Superman and Batman... but they're not there. It's just Zack Snyder shit piled on something that vaguely resembles them.
I hated this movie even worse than Man of Steel, if that's even possible. Add another F- to my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard
• MY ENTERTAINMENT. Was thrilled beyond all reason that Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's Jupiter's Legacy: Volume 2 has finally, at long last, been started up...
This is my favorite comic book series in a long, long time. Apparently they are already working up a movie... here's hoping they get somebody better than Zack Snyder to helm it.
And... that's all the catch-up bullets we have today.
There is no way I could come up with a Fourth of July post better than the one I came up with last year.
And this year it's more appropriately Murican than ever, so I'm just going to dump it all here again.
Celebrate safely, my fellow Americans!
Truth! Justice! Captain America!
You're a Wonder, Wonder Woman!
REAGAN, bitches! Trickle-Down America!
Jessiqa Pace... Land That I Love
Too... Much... America...
I Pledge Allegiance to America...
'MURICA! from USA News First!
Fuck the Pepsi Challenge... take The America Challenge!
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, COMMIES! And God Bless Holly Fisher
American Jesus (the ONLY Jesus)... Artist Unknown
America... One Nation Under God by McNaughton
BOSTON RED SOX AMERICA!... by Matt West, Boston Herald
AMERICA PIE TASTES LIKE FREEDOM by Max Faulkner, DFW.com
Stephen T. Colbert... The Spirit of America
"American Pride" (with Waffles the Cat) by Justin Schwab
Jordan Carver... God Bless America
So. Much. America.
I. Am. Tired.
While my blog was broked, I wrote two entries addressing terrorism and violence and I'm tired.
Tired of what keeps happening. Even more tired of the certainty that it's going to happen again.
When it came to Orlando, this is what I wrote to my friends on Facebook...
I am so horribly selfish in times of crisis. Every time I try to grapple with the evils that men can do and the horrific cost that comes with it, I can only think of how crushed I would be if it were one of my friends that were taken from me. You mean everything to me, I love you, and I can't imagine my life without you. And then I remember that there are people right now facing exactly this, and my heart goes out to them. It's tough not to be blinded by hatred for those who make this world such a horrible place, but the love of my friends gets me through. If that's true for you too, I thought you should know what you mean to me. I don't say how much I love you often enough. None of us do.
Then, before I could even catch my breath, I was writing a blog post about Istanbul...
The terrorist attack on Istanbul's airport hit me hard... all the senseless violence hits me hard... but this one in particular was difficult for me to take. Back in 2007 I was flying out of Istanbul and was pulled aside for secondary screening at the airport. This is nothing new... I'm taken aside for secondary screening all the time. But this time I had horror stories of Turkish prisons filling my head, so it was a little different. There I was, being taken to a small dark room by three guys in uniform, all the while wondering if somebody had snuck something into my bag or if I was going to end up in jail for some reason. But it turns out to have been no big deal... all they did was pat me down and check my shoes. The room was more for my benefit than theirs, as I think they just wanted to spare me any embarrassment from public scrutiny (which was actually kind of considerate). The door was open the entire time, they were really nice and apologetic about the entire ordeal, and it took less than 5 minutes. I've had a lot worse from American security screenings.
And now I can't help but wonder if these three guys who were just showing up to do their job were injured or killed when the bombs went off.
I'm just so tired.
The first time I visited New York City in 1995, you know the first landmark I visited? Not the Statue of Liberty. Not the Empire State Building. Not the Twin Towers. Not The Met. Not any of those things. My top priority in NYC was to visit TekServe. There was no Apple Store back then. If you were into Mac, this was it.
And now they are closing. Very sad news for tech geeks everywhere.
And so there I was with an Alaska Air credit burning a hole in my pocket (because it was expiring soon) and nowhere to go. Rather than lose it, I decided to make a quick trip... somewhere... and get away for a bit.
But where? I dunno.
At least I didn't until Book of Love... an 80's band that was on my bucket list to see live... announced they were playing a gig in New Orleans at The House of Blues...
As if I ever need an excuse to visit one of my favorite cities on earth. My flight was booked the minute tickets went on sale.
The good news is that Alaska Airlines now has direct flights to New Orleans out of Seattle. The bad news is that I have to leave home at 4:00am to make the 5:40 flight to Seattle to take it...
The good news is that once I got to Seattle, Russell Wilson was onboard!
While I was in the air half-way to New Orleans, I got an email from The House of Blues asking if I wanted to upgrade from General Admission to VIP with reserved seating and club perks. The cost? $25. Considering my airline ticket was $520 and my hotel is $160 a night, that seemed like quite a bargain, so I jumped on it.
After a perfectly uneventful journey, I dropped my crap off at the hotel and headed off to my favorite restaurant in the city... Carmo! Their vegetarian Rico open-face sandwich is a taste of heaven on earth. Pair it with their banquette bread, and it's the meal of my dreams...
I was absolutely exhausted after dinner, having gotten no sleep the night before, so rather than head out for some bar-hopping, I decided to go to bed.
At least that was the plan.
First problem was that the toilet kept making noise. A seal must have been broken or something, because water was running out by the gallon. Even with the bathroom door closed I could hear it. The water running was annoying enough that I had to MacGyver a solution to make the noise stop...
That should have been the end of it.
But, of course, it wasn't.
Something... some thing was in my room with me. I don't know if it were paranormal activity or what, but an odd, shifting mass was dancing in my peripheral vision as I laid in bed. I kept looking in different places to make sure it wasn't my eyes playing tricks on me, but it appeared consistently in the same spot no matter what I did, so I chalked it up to ghosts. Or whatever. Unfortunately, it didn't appear in-camera even though I could still see it in the corner of my eye behind my iPhone...
Eventually it went away... or dissipated... or vanished... or whatever. But it was not forgotten. I was so pumped at the paranormal activity that I could not get to sleep and decided to go out.
Where I proceeded to drink way too much while staying out way too late.
After staying out until midnight last night, you'd think that I would have slept in until noon.
Except this is one of my favorite cities on earth, and I was having none of it. I can sleep when I'm dead.
So I woke up at 7:00am so I could have Bananas Foster French Toast at Restaurant Stanley...
So much cool stuff is always showing up in French Quarter windows... MAKE IT SO, KYLO REN!
Despite the smell of urine, I like an early morning meander to Latrobe Park. A little peace and quiet in the city before heading back to the hotel so I can shower. Again...
Since I flew 8 hours to get to New Orleans, I reached out to a work colleague in Houston to see if they'd fly the 1-1/2 hours to meet me. This would save me a trip later in the year. Turns out they drove instead of flew, so it was 5 hours for them. I still won.
Because I upgraded to the VIP package for the concert tonight, I had to go buy new shoes to fit the dress code...
Then I decided to have a late lunch and not stop drinking until the show at 8:00. I had been craving falafel for ages, so I ate at Attiki...
And drank at Attiki. A great beer called Hoegaarden...
And then drank up and down Bourbon Street until it was time to drink at The House of Blues exclusive "Foundation Room" before the concert. The place is kind of a cross between a gay porn set and a Buddhist retreat...
And now? It's time to get on with the show...
...which I will wrap up tomorrow when my brain is back in my head.
The Book of Love concert last night was pretty darn great... even though, technically, it was only half the band. Ted and Susan were there, Lauren and Jade were not. This was problematic on some tracks... like Alice Everyday... where Lauren sings a fairly critical part of the song. But it was filled by audience participation, which was actually kind of nice.
Song selection was pretty much what you'd expect. Boy was there...
And their biggest hit, I touch Roses, was there for an encore as well.
All in all, a pretty great show, and one more 80's band I've seen live that I can scratch off my bucket list.
After dinner I went to Coop's Place for an amazing veggie burger and some Jägermeister, which is a pretty good way to end a day in New Orleans, I think.
And when it comes to starting a day in New Orleans, it doesn't get much better than beignets at Cafe du Monde...
Which is how I started my day at 6:30am.
From there I spent my time wandering around The Quarter until I had to check out of my hotel. After checking out of my hotel, I spent my time wandering around The Quarter drinking...
And then... it was over.
I picked up my backpack at the hotel... hopped a ride to the airport... climbed into my First Class seat upgrade... then proceeded to keep drinking until landing in Seattle.
Where I somehow managed to find my flight home.
Where my cats were glad to see me.
Lose not your faith in Blogography, fair human! Because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Broked. As if it weren't painfully apparent, my blog wasn't as fixed as I had thought it was. I honestly don't know what to do about it short of a complete re-install, and I ain't got time for that. But anyway...
• Book. As a massive fan of the original cartoon, I anticipated hating The Jungle Book live-action remake. Well, I watched in on the plane ride home and loved it. Just incredible stuff. Where did they find the kid who played Mowgli? Amazing young actor. The fact that they got Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo is just icing on the cake...
It's my understanding this was filmed in "real" 3D and is not a converted 2D movie. Looks like I have another 3D Blu-Ray to add to my shopping list.
• Umbrella. Before I got on the plane, I wandered through the French Quarter yesterday and had to hide under some trees in Jackson Square when a downpour started. That's when I saw a group of ladies caught in the rain who were squealing. A guy passing by handed them his umbrella. After several rounds of thank you's, this happened...
"Oh we gonna have to keep you now!"
"Sorry ma'am... Im already taken."
"Well I can see why. God bless you young man!"
And off he went into the rain without his umbrella. Then this...
"He was just like Batman!"
If I wasn't in New Orleans, one of my favorite places on earth, that would have made my day.
• Wrong. Kim Davis Asks Court to Dismiss Marriage License Appeal. Looks like somebody doesn't want to go down on the wrong side of history as a hateful bigot that refused to do her job. Well, I have news for you... that's ALL you're going to be remembered for as long as people remember who you are you pathetic farce. You'd think that this would serve as warning for other bigots out there, but I think we all know that's not true.
• Sodium. A friend of a friend closed his restaurant last December. Recently when he was asked if he would share some of his favorite recipes and he did. Then somebody asked him how in the heck he made his burgers taste so good. His answer? Butter and salt. Saturate the buns in butter before grilling them. Just before flipping, salt and pepper the patty (his restaurant had a touch of garlic powder in the mix) then flip and add more salt. Sodium nightmare? Yes. But restaurants don't have to post Nutrition Facts, so that's how he made his burgers taste great. And so I gave it a try with my Boca Burger patties. *AMAZING* The abundance of butter and salt totally takes them to the next level. High blood pressure, here I come!
• Doloris. When you're watching every episode of The West Wing for the hundredth time and you've JUST gotten over the fact that Mrs. Landingham died... only to have her pop up in a flashback in the episode Bartlett for America. Gets me every time. Boy do I miss this show.
And I'm outta bullets.
Who doesn't love cookies? My favorite cookies are freshly-baked oatmeal-raisin cookies. Which is a pity, because I so rarely have the time to bake and they don't make any oatmeal-raisin cookies you can buy in the store that I will eat. So what cookies that you can buy in the store do I like? Glad you asked...
And that's cookies for you.
If you're like me, once you were out on your own, you just grabbed whichever toothpaste was cheapest and damn the consequences. I continued doing that for years. Until I got a free sample of The Good Stuff and had my life turned around. Then I became a bit of a toothpaste connoisseur and started trying every brand I could find. Here's the results...
Everybody maintain healthy dental hygiene, now!
OH YEAH!Is there anything more magical than Kool-Aid? You dump a little bit of powder and a cup of sugar into a container... fill it with 2 quarts of water... and BOOM! Out pops a colorful explosion of delicious flavor in drinkable form! Here's my favorites...
INSERT QUARTER, PLAYER ONE!
When I was in High School I played a stupid amount of video games. Both at home and the arcade. And while they improved greatly from their humble beginnings, when I think of "arcade games" my mind always goes back to that era. Here are the games that make me feel that way...
Arcade wishes and 8-Bit dreams!
As I mentioned yesterday, I was a huge video game whore when I was a kid. I'm not going to lie... I still am, but only for Nintendo and LEGO. The difference being that when I was a kid I didn't do anything but play video games... whereas now I have things like "responsibilities" that keep getting in the way. Doesn't keep me from loving video games though. Here's a list of consoles that I love most of all...
HONORABLE MENTION: ColecoVision.
This is a gaming system that rarely appears on people's lists of favorite game consoles. Yes it was underpowered. Yes it had one of the shittiest controllers ever. But it brought home a lot of great arcade games that Atari or Intellivision couldn't match... including the best home-port of Donkey Kong, my all-time favorite arcade title. I spent a huge chunk of my childhood playing ColecoVision, and am more than a little disappointed that it's forgotten by modern gamers.
Sorry. Nothing to see here.
For at least a month. Probably more.
X-Men: Apocalypse was utter garbage. Fairly decent special effects couldn't save the beyond-stupid plot that featured one of the lamest villains in movie history (a complete 180 from the awesome comic book original). As usual, Bryan Singer can't direct his way out of a paper bag, and continues to randomly assign super-powers to characters and rearrange history just because he needs to fix his crappy "story." So sick of people who obviously don't give a shit about honoring the source material continuing to make comic book films that suck...
The X-Men has perhaps the best potential for a comic book movie that is continuously squandered... over six films now. Seven if you count the beyond-shitty first Wolverine film. Of the entire X-franchise, only X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, and Deadpool gave us a glimpse of what's possible.
I didn't think any modern comic book film could suck worse than the last Fantastic Four abomination, but here we are. It's incredibly frustrating, and one can't help but wonder how amazing an X-Men film could be in Marvel Studios' hands. We may never know.
I had been to New York City four or five times previously for work, and had done all the "touristy" stuff I wanted to do. Then one trip I decided to take my mom with me so she could see the big city, which meant I ended up doing all the touristy stuff all over again. Since I was not a Broadway fan, I had never seen a show and had no plans of doing so... but my mom thought a trip to New York would be incomplete without "The Broadway Experience" and so I relented. Problem was... good seats at a show were expensive, and I didn't have the money for good seats. I fretted a bit about my mom's first Broadway show being seen from the back of the theater, and mentioned it to a co-worker. She told me about TKTS, a place where you could get half-off same-day shows that had seats left. I was also told that the Times Square location could get a bit nuts and I should try the location at The World Trade Center. And so the next morning, off we went... where I got us third-row seats, center-stage for "Miss Saigon." Since we were already there, I suggested we visit "The Top of The World"... which I hadn't planned on doing since we had already been up The Empire State Building. It ended up being a pretty great day... got to see NYC from the top of the Twin Towers... went to a couple cool museums... ate lunch at the Stage Deli... visited Central Park and the world-famous FAO Schwartz toy store... all topped off by the lavish stage production of Miss Saigon.
Years later, 9/11 would happen and I'd be forever grateful that fate took us to The World Trade Center for theater tickets so my mom got to see The Top of The World. She wouldn't have another opportunity.
And this is why I can't think of The World Trade Center without hearing "Last Night of the World" from Miss Saigon in my head, and the irony of it all is not lost on me.
Fifteen years later. The song still haunts me.
And so, after months of waiting to upgrade my MacBook, Apple unleashed their latest and greatest pro laptops at a special media event yesterday.
Except they're not. Not really.
They're not the latest or greatest. They're woefully underpowered. Embarrassingly underpowered compared to the cutting edge releases in Windows World laptops. The CPU is a marginal improvement in power and speed over previous models... but who gives a shit about "marginal" in a "pro" machine? The Radeon GPU is borderline ridiculous compared to Nvidia's more powerful mobile chips, so why is Apple using them in a "pro" anything? And memory is still maxing out at 16 gigs, not 32? Seriously? In 2016? I regularly work on files larger than 16 gigs! The idea that these are "pro" laptops is laughable to a humiliating degree for Apple. Remember when a MacBook was the absolute king of laptops? So badass that even Windows developers were buying them? Well, those days are over.
But, ooh... you get a "TouchBar" at the top of the keyboard! And, ooh... it's really thin!
Two things I could give a flying fuck about. I need... NEED... a beast of a portable machine that will allow me to work at peak performance with spec-crushing apps like Photoshop.
And while it would be nice to have an array of ports to handle all my peripherals without another fucking dongle... or, hell... even being able plug in my fucking iPhone without another fucking dongle... that's not a deal-breaker for me. And while it would be nice to have Apple's MagSafe power port that has saved my laptop from taking a header more than once when I tripped over the power cord... that's not a deal-breaker either.
I NEED A FUCKING MACBOOK PRO LAPTOP!
And giving me this "pro" machine that hasn't got cutting-edge performance IS a deal-breaker.
There is no reason whatsoever for me to trade in my 2012 MacBook Pro Retina for the new machine. Certainly not at the premium price tag Apple has slapped on the high-end 15-inch model (my preferred configuration runs $3099). And certainly not with a bezel on the display that is not even all the way around the screen... what an OCD nightmare.
Which leads to a question for Tim Cook, Jonathan Ive, and everybody else in charge at Apple... What in the fuck am I supposed to do now?
Switch to Windows so I can actually buy the tool I need to get my work done?
The MacBook Pro IS Macintosh. It has been for a while. So does Apple even give a shit that they are essentially killing off the Mac with what has to be the stupidest fucking move they could have made for the pro users who actually buy their OS X shit? I just don't understand. Did nobody working at Apple stop for two fucking seconds to think about what they were doing, then turn to Tim Cook and say "This is not what our pro users are needing"... nobody?
Apparently that's the case, and it speaks volumes as to just how badly Apple has lost their way. From all appearances, they haven't the slightest fucking clue what they're doing with OS X anymore. While this was somewhat apparent when they released their bizarre Mac Pro "tubes" that aren't really built for pro needs... it's deathly apparent with the release of their latest "pro" laptops.
When Steve Jobs died, I was never one of those people saying "Apple is doomed! They will never survive without Steve!" But more and more I'm thinking that I was wrong. Everybody at Apple seems to be obsessed with making things thinner and lighter with no regard whatsoever as to what that actually means to the end-user. Pro power requires a bigger, heavier form-factor to accommodate the chips, ports, and battery required. What good is a super-thin, super-light "pro" laptop if it's not powerful enough to do the job? Does Apple even give a fuck? Or is thin and light truly all they care about, even though it's not the top priority for their customers?
I am one of the biggest Apple Whores you will ever meet. I live and die by their products. A good chunk of my life is defined by their products... the Mac, in particular. Nobody wants to see Apple knock one out of the park more than I do. Nobody wants to spend money to buy the latest Apple laptop more than I do. Nobody loves the Mac more than I do.
And that's the problem.
I love the Mac more than Apple does.
Look where that's gotten us.
Halloween is one of those holidays that I've been able to safely ignore for the past two decades. I don't have kids to take trick-or-treating, I haven't attended a Halloween party in years, and the neighborhood I used to live in never had trick-or-treaters stopping by. Sure I'd buy candy just in case... but the only person eating any of it was me.
All that changed when I moved into my new neighborhood. Which actually used to be my old neighborhood.
What's also changed? Kids with restrictive diets. Can't have peanuts. Allergic to gluten. Will die if they consume artificial colors. That kind of thing. So in addition to KitKats and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, I also purchased "Yum Earth Fruit Snacks" that were naturally flavored, no synthetic colors, certified organic, gluten-free, fat-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, vegan, no soy, no egg, non-GMO, no dairy, no high fructose corn syrup, and no animal products. I figured that would cover all my bases. Last year I bought toys for kids that couldn't eat candies, but lost them in the move. Thus my Teal Pumpkin Project banner didn't get put out this year. I'll be sure I'm better prepared next Halloween... even though I've never had a single taker. Probably because I never had any trick-or-treaters.
Anyway, my 2016 Halloween in bullets...
And now I'll be over here eating Halloween candy and trying not to go into a sugar coma.
It's tough coming back from my self-imposed blog sabbatical and know what to talk about. Much of what took me away from blogging is a personal matter and won't be discussed here. Sure, there were other things going on, but it's all become a blur that I'm probably better off not revisiting. There are exceptions, however.
The biggest one being my cats, so let's get caught up on that in PART ONE of a THREE PART SERIES, shall we?
First of all, they're doing great. Jenny has become a pretty, petite young lady...
And Jake... well... Jake is still Jake, just a little more grown up...
He still spends a lot of time laying spread eagle for some reason...
The siblings still adore each other...
And do most everything together...
Even more important than that, they have become more and more comfortable hanging out with me. At one time I was afraid they'd never even let me touch them... now they've turned into cuddle buddies that can't get enough petting...
Rescuing two feral kittens has turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done. I love them more than I could love just about anything.
Now if I can just keep away from the Humane Society so I avoid adopting ten more of them.
Hey! This is PART TWO of THREE PARTS updating everybody about my cats.
Way back in April, I mentioned that I was planning on building a "catio" (cat patio enclosure) so Jake and Jenny could go outside while still being safe. My original intent was to design and build it myself, but work got so busy that I ended up hiring a contractor to build the exterior part plans I made, then I could build the interior pieces myself as time permitted..
After a few days, it was time to unleash the kittehs!
The cat outside is named "Fake Jake." That's because when my brother was cat-sitting, he thought she was Jake and brought her inside. Hilarity ensued. Fake Jake is kind of crazy-aggressive, and likes to terrorize my cats from time to time...
The contractor ended up putting in four window panels instead of the three I had drawn up in my plans for some reason. This meant having to change my concept for the inside shelves, but it all worked out in the end. I made them to have removable panels so I could use heat-trapping rubber-backed mats in winter to keep them warm... and a mesh floor in summer to keep them cool...
Going from three panel windows to four meant that I didn't have room for a ramp to the top shelf. Instead I devised a narrow "catwalk" that would allow Jake and Jenny to navigate the upper-level and have a shelf to be able to see out of the narrow end...
The finished shelving...
Pretty nifty, huh? Needless to say... a ton of work. But a good project for a novice woodworker because I learned a lot. I also discovered the joys of owning a pneumatic brad nailer, which is about the handiest thing for light construction projects you can imagine.
But the best part of it all?
The cats love their catio.
They are out there all the time...
In the Spring I'll start PHASE 2 of construction, which includes adding a ramp next to the house... adding a log climber in the narrow end... adding a cat-ladder on the opposite narrow end... putting in a cat grass tray... and tiling the floor.
Something fun to look forward to!
When the Red Sox finally broke their "curse" in 2004, I was on a cruise ship. I was wearing my Boston jersey the whole time, and kept running into a couple who were also wearing Red Sox jerseys... we'd give a "GO BOSTON" wave whenever we passed. The final game of the series was a "sea day" and I remember sitting in a bar on the starboard side of the ship watching the game. When the Red Sox won, I let out a yell and heard another yell coming from the port side. I ran to the banister to look across, and the couple I kept running into did the same. We were yelling across the ship and waving our arms like crazy people. Heck, we WERE crazy people. It was kind of a special way to celebrate a win that some Red Sox fans had waited 86 years... a lifetime, really... to see. So, if it couldn't be Boston, I'm happy for the Cubbies winning the World Series after waiting 108 years! Congrats to the team and all their fans!
Hey! This is PART THREE of THREE PARTS updating everybody about my cats.
While I love Jake and Jenny and wouldn't trade them for the world, there's one small problem that becomes a big problem when it comes to them allowing me to have them live with me. And that would be when I'm not at home. Travel is something I cannot avoid, which means there are stretches of time that food won't be put out and litter boxes won't be cleaned.
The easiest solution is to have a friend or neighbor drop by twice a day to take care of things. But it's kind of a burdensome thing to have to ask somebody. And so I went looking for automated solutions that would cover me for short trips away. Longer trips would still require a cat-sitter, but those are far and few between.
IMPORTANT UPDATE! AS OF OCTOBER 1, 2018, FEED-AND-GO HAS CEASED OPERATIONS. THEIR CLOUD SERVICES HAVE BEEN SHUT OFF. THESE FEEDERS NO LONGER WORK! Bad enough that the company had to close AND shut down their servers, rendering the feeders useless. But it's reprehensible that they didn't bother to notify their customers... or keep their website up with a message to warn their customers... or push out an app update which warns their customers. Because otherwise there is NO WAY TO KNOW that the cloud service has been shuttered. The blue network light on the units still glows blue! Luckily I test the units every time I haul them out, otherwise my cats wouldn't have been fed FOR THREE DAYS. What a bunch of pig-fuckers. They are perfectly content to let YOUR PET STARVE rather than warn you their product no longer works. I can only hope that some genius electronics expert out there will come up with a circuit board replacement that will allow the feeder to be programmed directly, instead of relying on a cloud service that's been shut down.
The first thing I looked at was an automated feeder.
There are "gravity feeders" that are basically a never-ending buffet of food that keeps replenishing itself until it runs out of kibble. This would be problematic for Jake, because he would eat and eat and eat all day long. They also have gravity feeders that are portion-controlled and timer-driven... but when I bought one for Spanky at my old place, it would clog up and a neighbor had to keep checking on it. I wanted something that wouldn't jam and also allow me to verify that the feeding took place.
Enter the Feed-and-Go automated, web-enabled pet feeder...
I bought two. They work flawlessly. There are six compartments that rotate through the feeding window. That means you have five days (in addition the day you leave) to be gone with once-a-day feedings. If I'm gone for three days or less, I put half-portions in the cavities and set it up for twice-a-day feedings so there's some variety. I had concerns as to what happens if the internet goes down... but each feeder stores a schedule locally, so it's all good. Pricey as hell... but good.
FEED-AND-GO SMART PET FEEDER: $199 from Amazon.
But what about the litter box?
I did a lot... and I mean a lot... of research. But every time I read the reviews on those litter trays that essentially drag a rake through the kitty litter to clean the box, there were always horror stories. Rakes getting jammed. Rakes getting clogged with poop. Rakes bending out of shape if two clumps of pee were fused together or if a clump fused to the bottom of the tray. They just didn't seem very reliable.
And then I came across the Litter Robot...
This thing is frickin' magic.
Because it uses gravity to do its dirty work, there's no rake to clog or break. The bottom floor of the unit is a flexible rubber sheet that pops out of place as the dome rotates, so even if a clump gets fused to the bottom, it's still getting cleaned out. I had some problems with the weight sensor at first... but after dumping the litter and re-calibrating, Litter Robot has been operating flawlessly ever since.
And my cats love the thing. They took to it immediately. All I had to do was put the Litter Robot in the same spot where the old litter tray was located, and boom goes the dynamite. Which was a pleasant surprise, because they are generally fearful of entering a space where they can't see a way out. I was more than a little worried that they would be too afraid to jump in. But, hooray, that was not the case. I have two other litter boxes in the house. I took one out, but left the the one upstairs so there's a box on each floor. They hardly ever use it, preferring to go downstairs so they can use the Litter Robot instead. I guess they like the privacy of the dome... and the fact that the box is always clean and ready to go.
The best part? Even with two cats, it only needs to be cleaned every five to six days. In other words, its schedule is the same as my Feed-and-Go pet feeder! Changing out the bag is easy, and I always dump in a Red Solo Cup of fresh kitty litter to replace the litter that was clumped and removed. So far, the litter inside looks like its staying clean. But, for sanitary reasons, I'll probably replace it anyway every two to three months.
The not so best part? Magic comes at a price.
I bought the larger "Open Air" model to accommodate my cats' claustrophobia. It's also the most expensive model (which I recommend it because I think it's how a cat would be most comfortable). So prepare to chop off an arm and a leg. But... damn... I could never... and I mean never go back to scooping out a litter box again. This product is just too perfect. I recommend buying direct from the manufacturer because you get free shipping and a 90-day money-back guarantee.
LITTER ROBOT OPEN AIR: $449 from Auto-Pets.
After I ended up being so thrilled with the Litter Robot, I ordered a few accessories. First was the Litter Robot Ramp, which will make it easier for the cats to reach the box when they're older ($50 from Auto-Pets)... next was the Litter Robot Fence, which helps keep the kitty litter in the box (and should come with the unit instead of being an add-on ($25 from Auto-Pets). And, of course, you'll need replacement drawer-liner bags ($50 per 100 bags from Auto-Pets). You can use any clumping litter in the Litter Robot, and I top off with Arm & Hammer brand litter because it's always on sale at Safeway. But I ended up buying the "official" Litter Robot litter too, as it comes pre-measured to perfectly fill the tray when starting out or when replacing old litter. Pricey, but very convenient ($46 for two, 10-lb. bags from Auto-Pets).
And there you have it. An automated solution that can cover my being gone for up to five days! It ran me around $1000 for both Feed-and-Go feeders, the Litter Robot, and Litter Robot accessories... but that's a small price to pay for the peace of mind I get when having to leave my Jake and Jenny at home alone. Luckily I already had security cameras installed so I can check in on them as well.
And did I mention that the Litter Robot is frickin' magic?
I was tempted to resume blogging after Election Day so I wouldn't have to comment on the dumpster fire that is the United States presidential race... but here we are.
I would like to say that my feelings towards the candidates are nuanced, complex, and well-formed, but that's not the case. I loathe all the candidates... I especially loathe the Republican and Democrat candidates... and knowing that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to be my president makes me want to vomit until I die.
My disdain of Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with all the idiotic rhetoric over current or past scandals, or her moronic email missteps, or her husband's indiscretions (?), or even Benghazi (of which a Republican-lead committee found no wrongdoing by Clinton). The simple truth is that Republicans have spent millions upon millions of dollars trying to hang her with something, but nothing ever sticks. Probably because Hillary Clinton is no more or less guilty of the crap that usually goes on with our corrupt politicians. So whatevs.
No no... my problems with Clinton have to do with actual stuff she's done as opposed to all the crazy accusations that plague her. And while there's a lot of examples I could provide, I'm going to limit myself to the two that boggle my mind most because they are almost never brought up.
And then there's this fucking asshole...
Photo credited to Newsweek/Photographer unknown
If the prospect of a Clinton 2.0 presidency is something that makes my stomach churn... the prospect of a Trump presidency has me borderline-suicidal.
Forget that he is a horrible businessman who regularly cheats hard-working people out of their livelihood to make a buck. Forget that he is a notorious liar whose dishonesty is so massive in scope and count that he makes Hillary Clinton look like a choirboy. Forget that he a vile excuse for a human being who gets off on demeaning others. Forget that he changes his mind on major issues at the drop of a hat and has no real plan for anything he promises (much of which is impractically impossible). Donald Trump is a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, foreigner-bashing, non-Christian-hating, ignorant, unstable, narcissistic, intolerant, bigoted piece of shit. And electing Trump is the equivalent of hanging a giant banner outside the country advertising the fact that we're a nation of racist, homophobic, misogynistic, foreigner-bashing, non-Christian-hating, ignorant, unstable, narcissistic, intolerant, bigoted pieces of shit. And that doesn't even address the embarrassment factor of having this ridiculous buffoon representing Americans on the global stage. You think we were the laughing stock of the planet during the Bush years? Try 1400+ days of Toxic Cheeto Jesus.
"President Trump" is the stuff of nightmares and goes against everything this country was built to be. So when I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton, a person I pretty much despise, it's not because I am "voting for the lesser of two evils"... it's because I am voting against the Ultimate Evil.
The United States of America cannot survive Donald Trump as leader of the free world.
But it may have to. For we are a nation not of the people, but of the Electoral College...
This map is an average of projections showing how each state is expected to vote. Blue States are for Hillary Clinton, Red States are for Fuckface von Clownstick. Note that any flip from blue to red of 5 electoral votes or more spells Trumpageddon. That's not a lot of wiggle-room. New Mexico decides they want fascist America, and that's what we are. One nation under Drumpf.
Brace yourself. I am of the opinion that no matter who wins, we all lose.
It's just a matter of how big.
SUNDAY BEGAT SUNDAY AND SUNDAY IS SUNDAY, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Butter. A friend of a friend closed his restaurant last December. A while back he was asked if he would share some of his favorite recipes and he did. Then somebody asked him how in the heck he made his burgers taste so good. His answer? "Butter and salt." Saturate the buns in butter before grilling them. Just before flipping, salt and pepper the patty (his restaurant had a touch of garlic powder in the mix) then flip and add more salt. Sodium nightmare? Yes. But restaurants don't have to post Nutrition Facts, so that's how he made his burgers taste great. Tonight I gave it a try with my Boca Burger patties. *AMAZING* The abundance of butter and salt totally takes them to the next level. High blood pressure, here I come!
• Voter. Just sayin'...
Why American's aren't rioting in the streets for an end to our fucked-up two-party system I will never know.
• Wierd World. Oh Lord, Really? Pat Robertson's crazy shit is hilarious, yes, but there are people who actually believe the words he's saying! I mean, the gays are going to force me to like bestiality? BUT I DON'T WANT TO FUCK A GOAT!!! THANKS, THE GAYS!!!
This guy is bat-shit crazy. Genuinely certifiable. Scary insane.
• OH IT IS ON! Heinz starts making yellow mustard... SO NOW FRENCH'S IS MAKING KETCHUP! =BOOM!=
Which one is making mayonnaise next? And will Hellman's start making ketchup and yellow mustard of their own in retalliation?
• Dipshit Pie! Trae Crowder has become one of my favorite vloggers. His unique take on politics is comedy gold, and this was one of my favorites these past months...
Oh noooo.... where are we going to get our meth and pontoon boats?
• DNCE. While I was on sabbatical, I got hooked on DNCE's album Swaay for my "Album of the Summer." Their first video, Cake By The Ocean was catchy as hell and I was instantly addicted...
When they released their next video for Toothbrush, I was baffled by people calling lead singer Joe Jonas "brave" and "progressive" for featuring a plus-size model. IT'S ASHLEY FUCKING GRAHAM!!! She's one of the hottest women on the planet! I mean, seriously, there are guys who would take a look at ASHLEY FUCKING GRAHAM and say "No thank you?" It's not like he put a regular human woman in his video... IT'S ASHLEY FUCKING GRAHAM! Oh how brave of him! He was progressive enough to make out with ASHLEY FUCKING GRAHAM in his video! Give me a break.
The last video was for Body Moves, which was another catchy, high-energy track...
I have no idea if this was just a side-project for Joe Jonas or what. It will be interesting to see if the band stays together for another album. I sure hope so.
And... as good as it feels to be shootin' bullets again, this here Bullet Sunday is at an end.
Remember... you can always vote fourth party tomorrow...
Now just please let the madness end.
I wish I could say I'm surprised.
Even when Hillary Clinton was projected to win by a comfortable margin, I was cautious. The people who made a difference this election were not the people who pollsters pay attention to. President Trump spoke to a large chunk of the population who feel that their values and way of life are fading away, and they are so desperate to hang on to all they hold dear that they elected the candidate that promised them the world. Even though deep down they know that many of those promises will never happen.
And, as I've said more than once, the Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves.
They could have run just about anybody against Trump and won. But they picked a career politician drowning in scandal (real or imagined) who many, many people do not like and would never vote for. You can play up her lifetime of community service... her experience... her famous friends... her popularity with the younger generation... whatever... in the end there are just too many people who don't care about any of it. They are "Never Hillary Voters"... and, apparently, a large enough number of those were casting votes for Democrats in previous elections. This time they sat out, went Trump, or voted third party candidates to grave effect. Sadly, some of those were undoubtedly "Never Hillary Voters" because she was a woman (as difficult as that may be to accept). I am hopeful that wasn't a deciding factor but, make no mistake, it was a factor. I am convinced that a woman candidate could have won against Trump... but this woman was always a gamble.
And, just to be fair, I would have said the Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves if they had lost. Ironically, both parties picked candidates that could only lose against each other.
And soooooo... what's the worst-case scenario that comes from electing President Trump?
The Supreme Court Goes Hard Conservative. This is probably the biggest change for the USA. It is very likely that, in addition to the open seat that's there now, another seat or two will go to a Conservative judge. The ramifications are vast. Abortion will most certainly be made illegal. Money equated to "free speech" will become even more entrenched, meaning even more money in politics. Same-sex marriage and other LGBT protections could be overturned. It's likely that women's rights will take a hit. And what progress we've made in opening up voter's rights will be buried (disenfranchising voters and making it more and more difficult for anybody but Republicans to get elected). This could be a very different country four years from now... and since Supreme Court appointments are a lifetime deal, it's not something that ends when the Trump presidency ends.
Health Care Dismantled. Since Trump was so vague when it comes to his plans for replacing The Affordable Car Act, it's tough to know exactly what's going to happen here. It's likely that a lot of people living in poverty will lose any option they might have for health insurance. Could denials for preexisting conditions come back? Yep. Could lifetime limits in coverage come back? Yep. Even if you get your health care from your employer, you may be in for some shocking changes as insurance companies, free from restraint, attempt to squeeze even more profits out of the people they insure. We've been promised that competition will make for cheaper rates. But collusion between insurance companies makes this seem unlikely, because there is money to be made... lots and lots of money. Why compete when you can work together to screw everybody over and get rich? Past precedence has shown that the insurance lobby is a ruthless force in government. And now there will be nothing to stop them.
Medicare Dismantled. It's hard to know which system Republicans hate more... Social Security or Medicare. If they end up still existing at all, it's likely they will take a very different form once they've been filtered through a Republican gauntlet. My guess is that Social Security will be given some thought because the elderly are a huge voting block that Republicans can't afford to lose. And that's assuming the funding can be found with all the tax cuts Trump has promised. But Medicare? The system gains Republicans almost nothing. It will be privatized as quickly as possible. Which is to say it will die a slow death because there's not enough money in it to make it worthwhile. Whatever you do... don't be poor, unlucky, and unhealthy in America.
World on Fire. Given Trump's disparaging statements towards Muslims (specifically) and persons of foreign nations (in general), there's bound to be an escalation of hatred towards us. This will have disastrous results when it comes to galvanizing terrorists to attack The United States. Foreign relations will likely suffer as well... even when it comes to nations we're friendly with. Contrary to what Trump has been telling us, our standing in the world has taken a dramatic, unfathomable notch downward. Several notches. That's what happens when you shelve diplomacy and cooperation all in the name of "winning." The long-term consequences of this country being seen as a global bully are incalculable. Our allies in Muslim countries may no longer be allies, and that alone is a very scary thought.
A Nation of Bullies. As I said three days ago, electing Donald Trump is the equivalent of hanging a giant banner outside the country advertising the fact that we're a nation of racist, homophobic, misogynistic, foreigner-bashing, non-Christian-hating, ignorant, unstable, narcissistic, intolerant, bigoted pieces of shit. I honestly believe that. And so will the people empowered by the fact that our president embodies all those traits. I genuinely fear for anybody who's not a white, straight, Christian male in this country. Depending on where you are and who you are, your very life could be in danger (or in even more danger). Which means we're all in danger. Electing Trump is like igniting a powder keg that will blow us even further apart as a country. And we have nobody to blame but ourselves. I have no idea what Trump means when he says he's going to "bring law and order to this country," but it may very well mean martial law. For our own protection. From ourselves.
Big Issues That Never Made It to The Debates. And then there's all the stuff that Republicans have been battling over the year for which victory is now possible. I'm a firm believer that Net Neutrality will be killed off in short order. The ramifications of which are absolutely terrifying for a free and open internet. Environmental protections are going right out the window in favor of big business interests. Which means battling climate change isn't even going to be on the radar (it's just a hoax invented by the Chinese anyway, right?). The list goes on and on. I'm betting there are a lot of things that we never imagined being affected that are affected. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing I just don't know. My guess is that it's a very bad thing in most cases. If wealthy people are in control of this country now, they will own this country come January. What they'll do with their new property is anybody's guess. But, unless you are one of them, odds are it's not going to favor you.
The Great Unknown. Will Trump, in fact, have Hillary Clinton jailed? Is he in league with Russia? What happens to all the lawsuits against him? And what about that wall he's going to build on our Mexican border? There are so many unknowns when it comes to President Trump that it's impossible to say what's going to happen.
And the best-case scenario for President Trump? The United States of America endures.
There are people I know who were so invested in the Clinton campaign... so certain of victory... that I am more than a little worried about their reaction to last night's election results. As you might guess, I am not so much upset by a Hillary Clinton loss as I am horrified by a Donald Trump victory. She was never my candidate. I never wanted Hillary Clinton as my president. But I was compelled to vote for her to prevent what's happening from happening.
So where do we go from here?
President Elect Trump by word or by deed has painted himself to be a racist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, and an all-around asshole.
That's a huge problem.
Electing Donald Trump sends a number of messages that have me fearful for my country. I honestly believe that some dear friends of mine are less safe now than they were yesterday. My gay friends. My Muslim friends. My poor friends. My Black friends. My Hispanic friends. My women friends. I worry about them. Which in turn makes me worry about all my friends, because we are all interconnected in a very real way.
And I'm worried about myself. I'm not a Christian. Is that going to be a problem for me? I have no illusion that the forthcoming legislation supporting "religious freedom" is a Christians-only club. What is that going to mean? I'm not gay but there are people that think I'm gay. Is that going to be a problem for me? The hatred and violence seen in some Trump supporters makes me wonder. This win for Trump has certainly given strength to the more dangerous elements of our society.
And so I worry.
I'm guessing I'll worry a lot over the coming days.
And I'm a straight, white, male!
That's not even the worst of it. For everything that Trump is and as worried as his presidency might make me... it's the fact that Mike Pence is one heartbeat away from The Oval Office that puts me in a full-blown panic. He is scary on a level that I can't even wrap my head around.
Seriously... Google that shit.
If you pray, pray for the health and safety of President Trump while he's in office.
You might also want to pray that President Trump finds the wisdom, the compassion, the patience, and the sanity to govern us well.
That would be great because I'd really like one less thing to worry about.
I bought a 2-liter bottle of grape soda at the store today because it sounded good when I saw it on the shelf. And it's purple. And it was on sale for 88¢. I fully expected that I'd drink one glass of the stuff then toss the rest out. Things like this usually don't live up to expectations and often taste a lot worse than your brain is telling you they do. Except... turns out I'm really digging it. I never knew that grape soda was something I've been missing in my life.
And suddenly I'm reminded that the US vernacular I'm using won't make sense to some people. Even people here in Washington State, since the word "soda" is a California/Northeast thing.
So here's for you, West and Mid-Westerners...
I bought a 2-liter bottle of grape pop at the store today because it sounded good when I saw it on the shelf. And it's purple. And it was on sale for 88¢. I fully expected that I'd drink one glass of the stuff then toss the rest out. Things like this usually don't live up to expectations and often taste a lot worse than your brain is telling you they do. Except... turns out I'm really digging it. I never knew that grape pop was something I've been missing in my life.
And here's for you, Southerners...
I bought a 2-liter bottle of grape Coke at the store today because it sounded good when I saw it on the shelf. And it's purple. And it was on sale for 88¢. I fully expected that I'd drink one glass of the stuff then toss the rest out. Things like this usually don't live up to expectations and often taste a lot worse than your brain is telling you they do. Except... turns out I'm really digging it. I never knew that grape Coke was something I've been missing in my life.
And here's for you, Judgmental Pricks That Like To Point Out To Everybody That Everything They Like Is Bad For Them...
I bought a 2-liter bottle of grape CARBONATED DEATH at the store today because it sounded good when I saw it on the shelf. And it's purple. And it was on sale for 88¢. I fully expected that I'd drink one glass of the stuff then toss the rest out. Things like this usually don't live up to expectations and often taste a lot worse than your brain is telling you they do. Except... turns out I'm really digging it. I never knew that grape CARBONATED DEATH was something I've been missing in my life.
And... you're welcome.
This post ended up being a lot more work to write than I thought it would.
This country doesn't treat their veterans as well as it should. It's been true for a very, very long time. President Obama made some nice progress when it comes to taking care of those who take care of us, but there's still a long ways to go. What will happen under President Trump is anybody's guess, but here's hoping he lives up to at least some of the promises he's made to the men and women who have served this country.
Thanks to everybody who has put their blood, sweat, and tears into defending this great nation... today and every day.
(Apologies to the Coast Guard. You'd think I'd draw that up after all these years)
If you'd like to show your thanks and have a few bucks to spare, may I suggest a donation to Stop Soldier Suicide? This is a wonderful organization trying to stem the tide of the horrific number of suicides that plague those who serve or have served in our military.
And if you're a veteran who finds themselves in crisis, please don't face it alone. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at
My cats are not adapting well to the end of Daylight Saving Time.
Jake and Jenny have an internal clock that is eerily accurate. Plus or minus ten minutes, they will let you know when it's feeding time. So when you change a clock that conflicts with their internal timing, they just don't give a shit. Which means now they are wanting food at 6am instead of 7am and 5pm instead of 6pm. This despite my best efforts to gradually shift them an hour later.
My refusal to give in to their demands (as logical as they may be) has resulted in acts of civil disobedience.
And outright theft.
This morning, after having the cats hop on my bed at 6:05 wondering why the hell I haven't fed them yet, I came downstairs to see this...
One of the cats (I KNOW IT WAS YOU, JAKE!!!) went into the kitchen where they know they're not supposed to be, opened the cupboard where they know the cat food is kept, then dragged out a bag of cat treats they know they're not supposed to have, and ultimately had to give up because they apparently don't know you need opposable thumbs to open the zipper lock.
Let's go to the security cameras, shall we?
I KNEW IT WAS YOU, JAKE!
I cut out the five minutes he spent rummaging around in the cupboard. Note how Jenny is being a good girl by staying out of the kitchen and observing from afar. She could have come up tattled on her brother, but I'm rather glad she didn't seeing as how the attempted theft took place at midnight.
Well, what can you do?
I tell you what... if President Obama wants to do something great before leaving office that would help unify the country... he could make the next Daylight Savings Time be permanent. No more dicking with the clocks while we have the Trump Administration dicking with our freedoms.
Just a thought.
If nothing else, he'd have the gratitude of pet owners from sea to shining sea.
Hold on to your freedoms, fellow Americans, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
Here's my favorite reaction videos to the US Presidential Election. All of them were chosen carefully and each one is worth your valuable time to watch. But if you just want to go for the jugular, skip down to Jonathan Pie.
• Russell Brand. The title of this video is a bit misleading. This is actually quite insightful and more introspective than reactionary...
• Dave Chappell. God I've missed Chappelle...
I hope this truly is a comeback. We need his voice and his humor in the world... now more than ever.
• Samantha Bee. Still one of my favorite commentators on television...
Anybody who thinks a woman can't be funny... anybody who thinks a woman can't bring it... anybody who thinks a woman shouldn't be given a political soapbox... well, you can shut the fuck up now.
• Jonathan Pie. And then there's this bit of ass-kicking...
So much agreement. If only Democrats had this kind of clarity.
• John Oliver. And the one I've been waiting for...
Which pretty much sums it all up.
• And Because It Can't ALL Be Shitty. This may very well be the closest we ever get to The Fifth
Nice! Though, oh man would I love to revisit The Fifth Element universe one more time.
And, speaking of time, mine has run out. See you after the anarchy begins.
Apple deleted my AskDave! app.
I haven't been able to get ahold of the guy who helped me develop it for years, so I guess it's gone gone gone. Who knows though, perhaps one day when I have some spare time (ha ha ha!) I'll take up iPhone app development and re-do it so it is acceptable to Apple's latest standards.
Until then... a moment of silence for the passing of an app never truly appreciated in its time...
If you have it one your phone, it still seems to work okay. Just don't delete it or you may not ever see it again.
Last night was Ultra Mega Super Moon night. As usual when celestial events are going on here, it was rainy and overcast. Fortunately, I can still bask in the glory of last year's Regular Super Moon that happened on a rare clear night.
Today was more of the same. I've been buried in work and struggling to see daylight just as I was struggling to see the moon last night.
And speaking of things I long to see... have you seen the trailers for Moana? Some of the most gorgeous computer animation I've ever seen. There have been several clips released already, all of them jaw-droppingly beautiful...
The hair dynamics are beyond amazing...
And THE WATER!!! HOLY CATS!
It doesn't hurt that it looks funny as all getout...
And it's got a chicken in it...
Moana is in theaters on November 23rd.
When I woke up this morning I immediately grabbed my laptop so I could take a look at the weather in the mountains. Last night the forecast was for snow, and I didn't know if this would affect my trip over the mountain passes.
The top of the pass webcam was completely obliterated by snow...
Fortunately, the drive over wasn't bad at all. The roads were bare and wet and no trouble to drive on...
Here's hoping I have this kind of luck for the drive back.
One of the first things on my agenda while in San Francisco was to see Doctor Strange in IMAX 3D. Apparently it's filled with trippy visuals that make this the only acceptable way to see it. So I drop off my stuff and rush to one of the best IMAX theaters in the country... The Metreon... only to find out that their last ever IMAX showing of Doctor Strange was 40 minutes ago. From now on they're only showing the latest Harry Potter film (Fantastic Beasts?) in the IMAX theater.
What a bummer.
Then I remembered that there was a "Mini IMAX" up on Van Ness, and decided that was probably the next best thing. So off I went...
The movie was pretty darn close to perfect.
Painfully faithful to the comic book character in all the most important ways... with a few minor changes that didn't spoil it for me.
Arrogant surgeon Dr. Stephen Strange is at the top of his game... wealthy, powerful, brilliant at his job, and able to pick and choose where his talents will be used. But then one night he's texting while driving, gets into a devastating car crash, and his hands are ruined in the process.
Desperate to become a surgeon again, he wastes away his fortune looking for a cure for the severe nerve damage that makes his hands shake uncontrollably. Then, when all hope is lost and he's on his last dollar, he travels to Kathmandu in Nepal to chase down a mystical cure he stumbles upon.
There he meets The Ancient One who trains him to save lives not with a scalpel... but with the mystic arts. Thus magic has come to The Marvel Universe.
Awesomeness across the dimensions of the multi-verse ensues.
The biggest controversy in the film was changing The Ancient One from an older Chinese man to a younger Celtic woman (wonderfully played by Tilda Swinton). This was done partly to sidestep some stereotype landmines, at which it was mostly successful. The other elephant in the room was changing the location from Tibet to Nepal... a move which was made to appease the film board in China so it could be cleared for release in their country. This was a change that bothered me more than The Ancient One, because Tibetan mysticism is at the core of the character. But, oh well... when your budget investment for a film is this massive, I guess you can't afford to cut yourself out of a profitable market.
Marvel adjusted their filming and release date for Doctor Strange specifically to accommodate Benedict Cumberbatch's schedule. This was an incredibly smart move, because he is flawless as the character. He IS Dr. Strange. This seems to be something that Marvel excels at. Could anybody but Robert Downey Jr. play Tony Stark as Iron Man? Chris Evans as Captain America? Paul Rudd as Ant-Man? Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow? Chris Hemsworth as Thor? Hell, I even have a hard time seeing anybody but Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye! Cumberbatch inhabits the character with a near-unsettling ease, and it's incredible entertainment to watch.
If you have the opportunity, see the film in IMAX 3D. It's worth the effort, as the visual effects are mind-blowing to behold that way.
Right now I can't decide whether Doctor Strange or Captain America: Civil War is my favorite super-hero film of 2016. It's a very close race. I rate Civil War higher, but Strange could leapfrog after being so brilliant and fresh.
Time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard with another brilliant Marvel effort...
The Avengers... A+
Avengers: Age of Ultron... A
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice... D
Big Hero Six... A+
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Captain America: Civil War... A++ Catwoman... F
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Doctor Strange... A
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Kick-Ass 2... B-
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher War Zone... C
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... D
Amazing Spider-Man 2... D-
Superman Returns... C+
Thor: The Dark World... B
The Wolverine... B
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: Apocalypse... D+
I love tattoos. LOVE them.
Had I started getting tattoos earlier in life, my arms would already be covered and I'd be starting in on my back and (probably) my legs. We have no choice as to what genetics are going to deal us in the card game of life, but being able to permanently make visual changes with tattooing is a wonderful freedom I'm fully onboard with.
Today I got my seventh, thanks to the unparalleled line-work talent of Michael Dematty at Black & Blue Tattoo in San Francisco. My right arm tattoos are all Buddhism-inspired designs I've drawn up.
So I took a cue from the culinary world and deconstructed me as a Buddhist monk on a lotus into separate pieces... which ended up fitting the space perfectly and turned out exactly as I had hoped. Which I knew it would, because that's what you get when you hire somebody as talented as Michael Dematty to ink your work...
As with all my tattoos, I drew them up in DaveToon black-and-white style. The "om" enlightenment at the top was written in Tamil (one of the oldest languages on earth) so it would look different from the om in my more traditional "om mani padme hum" tattoo that's already on my inner arm...
Annnnnnd... guess it's time to start thinking about my next tattoo...
Live music is a treat I don't get to experience often enough. Mostly because I almost always have to travel to get to it. This trip to San Francisco was all about getting to finally see a Mustache Harbor show... of which my long-term friend, Jester, is a part.
Last night was the first of two sold-out shows at Bimbo's 365 Club, and it was glorious...
Jester as "Ace Fontana" singing to a legion of Mustache Harbor fans on SPACE NIGHT!
Fantastic show. And a pretty great way to spend an evening. Needless to say, if Mustache Harbor is ever playing in your neck of the woods, they are well worth checking out.
Because who wouldn't want to experience a band brought together by their astrological signs and a love for vintage soft rock and sweet staches?
Guess Bullet Sunday is just going to have to wait, because I've got one last day in San Francisco...
Which started rather late, because I was wiped out from a late night of enjoying the smooth, soulful, vocal stylings of Jester and Mustache Harbor for their second sold-out show at Bimbo's 365 Club last night.
It was every bit as awesome as Friday's show, where we were once again transported to OUTERRRRRRR SPAAAAAACE...
WE LOVE YOU, ACE FONTANA!!!
Jester as Ace Fontana as Ace Frehley — ©2016 by Tananarive Aubert Photography
I had two things left on my San Francisco agenda, which Jester was willing to accommodate... 1) A FALAFEL WRAP SANDWICH... and... 2) FORTUNE COOKIES FROM GOLDEN GATE FORTUNE COOKIE COMPANY...
After that it was off to the airport so I can rest up before tomorrow's early morning flight.
Thanks a million times to Jester for making everything in my San Francisco holiday possible!
Your eyes are not deceiving you... because an all new Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• #TrumpsAmerica. Hey everybody! Are you tired of not being able to get through a single day without seeing yet another example of the horrendous level of racist bullshit that is inundating our Black youth? Do videos like this make your blood boil?
Might I suggest a donation to my long-time blogging friend Kelly Wickham's amazing organization: Being Black at School so she can help make a difference? She's doing the work to effect change and could use your help.
• Certified Pre-Owned. I love creativity in advertising. Especially when it's for such a great cause...
I'd adopt ten more if I could.
• Snowline. Welp, winter is coming. Confirmed as I was driving back home today...
Hopefully it can hold off going full-on winter until next week. I've got another trip over the mountains coming up.
• Soul. I was very saddened to learn that the amazing Sharon Jones died. Her performances with the Dap-Kings was a show I have long wanted to attend, and I'm more than a little upset I never got the chance...
Rest in peace, Miss Jones.
• Hamiltoon. The cast of Hamilton respectfully asked that Vice President Elect Mike Pence "...uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us..." at the close of their show and President Elect Trump loses his fucking mind, as usual. But that was only the beginning, because crazy-ass Jeanine Pirro of FOX "News" went full-on bat-shit insane... (I'm paraphrasing here)... "HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE THE STATE AND OUR FUTURE SUPREME LEADER! YOU'VE RUINED MY ENJOYMENT OF HAVING WATCHED YOUR PLAY WITH ALL THE BLACKS AND ALL THE LATINOS AND ALL THE HIP-HOP! BOW BEFORE PRESIDENT TRUMP, YOU INSOLENT SWINE! AND MAY HIS GLORIOUS REIGN LAST A MILLION YEARS!" — I swear... it is only a matter of days before we start hearing "uppity negroes" come out of the mouths of these racist pieces of shit. It is so blatantly obvious EXACTLY what they are thinking... and the team of racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, bigoted trash that will soon be running this country has emboldened them to become utterly transparent. They're not even hiding it anymore. I am disgusted to my very core. Oh... and PS... REVERSE RACISM IS NOT A THING YOU FUCKING MORON!
Me bullets be gone. See ye next week.
I guess we're doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.
Even in The Land of Couldn't Happen Here...
Good luck this time around, citizens of planet earth.
I should have known better. I really should have.
Did I leave the television on? Has my dryer finished running? How much electricity am I using to heat my home? Good questions all.
These are things I'd like to know, so when I saw there was a new device was coming out called "Sense" that could answer these energy questions... and more... I was intrigued. And once I watched the promo video, I was completely onboard...
After a long wait my Sense ($250) finally arrived and I hired an electrician to install it ($120). Turns out I could have easily installed it myself, but the Sense instructions said I had to go online to get info if I didn't have a breaker free... then provided absolutely nothing online... so I took their suggestion to get a professional to do it.
Unfortunately, since my electrical panel was embedded in the wall and not surface-mounted, the electrician had to add a break-out box for the antennae. Not a big deal, but not exactly elegant. Would have been nicer if the antennae could have been inside the box, but I wasn't sure it could get signal there...
And so... all that was left to do after sinking $370 into this project was to download the Sense app which, fortunately, was free. And, oh yeah, there's one more thing you have to do... you have to wait. The idea is that Sense will "listen" to your electricity usage and eventually learn to recognize your various electrical devices by their "signature." The process takes days to weeks depending on whether Sense has your particular signatures on file.
After a week, my Sense was recognizing absolutely nothing, so I wrote to Sense Support to find out what was wrong. I was told I had to be patient. Eventually it will start to "get it" and devices will pop into place. Until then, I get to stare at two "usage bubbles" for "Always On" stuff (things like clocks and devices in "standby mode") and "Unknown" stuff (things that Sense doesn't yet recognize)...
With nothing else I can do, I decided to be patient.
Now my Sense recognizes exactly three things: my microwave, my garage door opener, and my water heater. It thinks it recognizes other things, but it calls all of them "Unnamed Heat" even though none of them are my heater. I try to figure out what they actually are so I can inform Sense, but I can't for the life of me figure it out, even though Sense tells me what time they turned on and off...
What's so fucking stupid here is that my ACTUAL HEATER should be dead-simple for Sense to figure out. It's the only thing in my home that causes the "Unknown" bubble to blow up like this...
But no joy. It's the most obvious thing using electricity in my house, but Sense hasn't a fucking clue.
Needless to say, I'm pissed off. Partly because this is not what I was promised, and certainly not what I paid $370 for. But mostly because Sense is stupid as a box of rocks... and there's no way to train it to be smarter about what it's sensing.
Take this morning, for example.
I turn on the garbage disposal. On the Sense app, I can see that it has the same "signature" every time you turn it on. It's right there on the screen...
You would think that I could tap those spikes and tell Sense "Hey, that's my garbage disposal!" but you can't do that. All I can do is scream "IT'S MY FUCKING GARBAGE DISPOSAL, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!!" at my iPhone because Sense has the garbage disposal lumped in with all the "Unknown" crap and there's no way to tell Sense anything about the "Unknown" crap. But what about those "Unknown Heat" devices?
I turn stuff off and on in an attempt to see which "Unknown Heat" it might be... but that doesn't help. My television? Lumped in with "Unknown." My oven? Lumped in with "Unknown." My washer and dryer? Lumped in with "Unknown." My stereo? Lumped in with "Unknown." My iron? Lumped in with "Unknown." My Litter Robot? Lumped in with "Unknown." Everything I could possibly want to know about is lumped in with "Unknown" which means it's useless.
And so... for now anyways... Sense is junk.
Unless I want to know if I left my microwave or garage door running.
And I really should have known better.
Just like the Kickstarter crap I've bought which turned out to be garbage, I should have waited for Sense reviews to come out before investing in it... even though I saved $50 by pre-ordering. Turns out the Sense I really needed was Common Sense. Typical.
The plan was to get up at 7:00am, take care of the cats, get cleaned up, then drive over the mountains to spend Thanksgiving with family.
All of which was scrapped when I checked the weather report for Stevens Pass...
Winter Storm Warning for East Slopes Northern Cascades, WA. Several rounds of snow for the mountains through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Heavy mountain snow will pummel the Cascades today into Friday morning. Snow accumulations will make travel very hazardous or impossible over mountain passes like Stevens Pass on Highway 2 and east towards Plain, Sherman pass on Highway 20, and Blewett pass on Highway 97. Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 6 AM PST Friday.
If I had four-wheel drive? I probably would have risked it. But I don't. I don't even have snow tires on. Just some all-weather radials with an old set of chains in the trunk.
And so? Thanksgiving ruined.
Though I did try and be thankful for what I did have: A day home from work.
Thanksgiving breakfast was tacos, because that's all I had to eat. I wasn't supposed to be here, so I never went to the store. They were pretty awesome. Thanksgiving dinner was a plate of butter with some microwaved potatoes...
Jenny and Jake sure liked having me home. They followed me around everywhere all day long. Starting when I took a shower and went to brush my teeth...
Jenny kept running out to the catio, getting cold, running back inside to steal my body heat, then running right back out again...
That's something to be thankful for, I suppose. It's nice to be useful.
Hope your Thanksgiving was equally eventful.
There is no amount of savings that would encourage me to shop retail today. None. Even if they were giving shit away for FREE, I'd still be going into work then hiding at home the rest of the day. Buddhism has taught me not to get caught up in "stuff" and focus on more important things, so fighting over a bunch of "stuff" is about the last thing I'm inclined to do.
That does not, however, mean I won't be shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales online.
Every month I put aside $50, which comes out to $600 of funds that I spend on clothes come Black Friday. With careful shopping, you can easily turn that $600 into $1200 (or more!) worth of buying power, and 90% of my clothes for the entire year are bought during this time. I especially love that I can buy pricey brands that I could never afford otherwise.
$100 denim being sold for $40? Yes please.
$80 shirts for $25? I'll take 'em.
All underwear is Buy One Get One Free? Alrighty then.
Jackets half-price? I could use that.
Nothing quite like getting a pile of designer clothes at cheap-ass prices. This is literally the only time I enjoy shopping. This year I actually went overboard... spending closer to $700 than the $600 I had saved... but I lost some weight and ended up needing smaller sizes, so it was still a bargain.
This is the time of year I always take my spare change jar to a CoinStar machine, so I'll probably make up that $100 in no time to stay on budget (last year I had accumulated $136 in coinage!).
Which is good, because I also found Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Wii U on sale for $17 (Regular $39.99)...
Doesn't get much better than that!
Happy Black Friday, everybody!
My back door was glass, which meant I couldn't install a pet door so the cats could go out to the catio whenever they wanted. So I saved my pennies and bought a new fiberglass door, then had a cat door installed in it. After a day of training them, Jake and Jenny figured out how to go in and out as the pleased... without my having to leave the door open and lose heat.
I've decided to hold off until Spring to finish up the catio but, in the meanwhile, I think I'm going to try my hand at making my own cat tree. The cats love the carpeted thing I bought, but it's just so darn ugly. Surely there's a way to make something that's fun and functional, but looks more like furniture than a fuzzy monolith?
Something to think about.
In other cat news... I found some wicker baskets that had a fabric liner while I was cleaning out the garage. Jake just chews on them, but Jenny seems to think they are some kind of impenetrable fortress. Whenever she is being chased or wants to feel safe, in she goes...
Kinda funny how that works in her head.
But, then again, most things that cats do are funny in my head.
Fight through that leftover turkey tryptophan food coma... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• More. As a fan of the show Gilmore Girls, I was naturally curious about the Netflix revival, Gilmore Girls: Year in the Life. The show kind of lost its way in Season 6, then really lost its way in Season 7 after creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and writing/directing partner Daniel Palladino left the show. But now they (and the entire surviving cast) is back for another go in four 90-minute "films" entitled Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall...
For the most part, I was happy to see all the characters again and felt the stories for all four episodes were solid... even though many of the mistakes I thought were made in Season 6 & 7 were, oddly enough, repeated all over again. As if that weren't enough, we finally got to hear those Four Final Words that Amy Sherman-Palladino had wanted to end the series with all along. And though the words make perfect sense and took the series to a logical place, I had two problems with how things ended. 1) It pretty much begs for more episodes. And 2) I don't know that the words mean as much now when Rory is in her 30's as they would have had they been spoken when she was in her 20's back when the series ended.
All that being said, boy was Edward Herrmann missed as Richard Gilmore. He was always such a big presence in the show, and his death left a huge void. That the Palladinos used this as an exceptional opportunity to move Emily Gilmore's story forward is to their credit.
Here's hoping Netflix will bless us with another series in the future.
• Watching. Speaking of television shows... my favorite show going right now is No Tomorrow...
Girl meets boy. Boy thinks the world is going to get hit by a meteor and be destroyed. Adventures in life ensue. And it's funny to boot. Give it a shot if you have some free time in your television schedule!
• Strange? Doctor Strange has the best "Art of the Movie" book from Marvel yet. So much thought went into the bizarre visuals, and you get a terrific look at how the filmmakers agonized over them. A very cool companion to a very cool movie...
If you're a fan of the film... or even the comic book... this is a book worth checking out.
• LEGO. As if the upcoming LEGO Batman Movie isn't super-awesome enough...
LEGO has just announced that the next series of MiniFigs will come from the film!
Am dying to own them all, but here's the one that I can't live without...
Fairy Princess Batman! Classic!
• Scream. Pretty much the theme song for my life these past weeks...
And... there's your bullets for the week.
Unless I am very unlucky, my life is more than half over.
This realization doesn't come cloaked in sadness or despair. Nor does it fill me with depression or fear. If I were to be completely honest, the fact that it's all going to end some day is more... comforting?... than anything else. More and more I am just "done" with life in general, and am ready to move on to whatever is next.
Even if that ends up being nothing.
Not that you need to put me on suicide watch, mind you. I've got cats depending on me and all that. It's just that there's a certain peace that comes from making peace with your life.
And eventual death.
If pressed, I could probably come up with all kinds of regrets, but I've worked very hard not to live with regrets so I can make the best of what is. Because that's all you can really do, isn't it?
After having moved house earlier this year, I can honestly say that I seriously regret all the senseless crap I seem to have accumulated over the years. Well, senseless now, but it undoubtedly meant a great deal to me at the time I acquired it. Like my massive comic book collection. Sure it's fun to look back through them from time to time, but right now I'd just like to find somebody with a stack of cash to make me an offer and haul it all away. One less thing to worry about. One less thing to burden whomever is going to be stuck disposing of my possessions when I shuffle this mortal coil.
It doesn't end with comic books. I've got a staggering load of DVDs, CDs, albums, books, gadgets, travel souvenirs, and other garbage piled up in my bedroom, office, closets, and garage. And for every box I get rid of, there are dozens upon dozens more to work through.
So... note to Younger Self...
Don't be so obsessed with acquiring crap.
It's just going to hold you down and be a pain in the ass to your Future Self.
And none of it is as important or necessary as you think it is.
None of it.
Yesterday I talked about the regret I have in accumulating so much "stuff" in my life. There's just entirely too much crap piled around my home, and most of it... the majority of it... I really could have done without ever buying in the first place.
And yet there's still stuff I have to buy. Even in the middle of culling my possessions. Which is kind of counterproductive... and a a bummer. But not nearly as big a bummer as having to shop for the stuff. Because I really, really don't like shopping.
Which is why I hold off as much shopping as possibly for Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Because the only thing I love more than not shopping is a bargain. And this year I found a lot of bargains. Just ask my credit card. Which probably won't be paid off until February.
Still, it's all stuff I needed. And it was pretty great that I ended up paying half (actually less than half) of what I would have paid any other time of year for the same stuff...
And there you have it. More crap to clutter my life.
How much of it will I be wanting to throw out five years from now? Probably all of it.
I first visited Gatlinburg around my birthday in March of 2000. There was a Hard Rock there I hadn't visited yet, and I had some time to drive through the region after a work trip took me to Memphis. So far as places go, The Great Smokey Mountains is a beautiful part of the country. Gatlinburg itself is fairly touristy, but a perfectly charming and lovely town.
And now it's engulfed in flames...
Which is heartbreaking in so many ways... especially when you see families losing everything in the devastation. Fires like this are commonplace where I live, and we've had major fires here the past two years (The Carlton Complex Fire of 2014 and The Okanogan Complex Fire of 2015). I've been through a fire myself, and have come close more than once (the most recent close call being in 2004).
It's hard to know who to trust when it comes to all the charitable organizations that have popped up around the Smokey Mountains fires, but Dolly Parton (who was born in the area and has a theme park there) has stepped up to help...
If you can't trust Dolly Parton, who's giving a huge chunk of her own money to help, who can you trust? If you'd like to help Dolly help others, here's a link to donate to her My People Fund.
Stay safe, everybody.
I wish I had a nickel for every time Jester redefined my love of music.
I'd blog about something, but the only thing in my head right now is the lyrics to this hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking song by Wrabel.
Probably the best lyrics video I've ever seen. Magical.
His Twitter feed is filled with magic too.
Back in September of 2004, I posted the BBC's Fifty Things To Do Before You Die List. For some reason it popped in my head this morning, so I thought I'd revisit it 12 years later and see how things have changed.
Boy howdy. I've been busy.
I marked the updated places in blue and added new comments in italics...
Of everything left on this list... walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru is probably the most likely after my Antarctica expedition has been checked off next year. Something I've always wanted to do... but it probably won't happen until after I've been to India.
Last night as I was loading my car trunk with some cardboard to recycle, I saw a gallon of milk sitting there. I must have missed it when I was unloading groceries four days ago. Don't ask me how.
I was going to dump it down the drain... but it's been cold out, it's non-fat, and milk is expensive, yo... so I decided to pop it in the refrigerator and give it a shot.
If you never hear from me again, please inform the coroner that it was the milk that did me in.
Now that they've gotten older, I am very fortunate that my cats sleep through the night. They crash downstairs around 7:30-8:00, then follow me up to my room when I retire for the evening. If I turn off the lights to go to sleep, they'll climb on the bed with me. If I leave lights on and work in bed, they'll climb into the kitty beds at the foot of my bed and fall asleep there.
Sounds great, right? Except when I have to get up and pee in the middle of the night. Jake and Jenny think this means I want to play. So when I go back to bed instead of playing with them, they are very, very unhappy I woke them up for nothing.
If you never hear from me again, please notify the police I was eaten by my cats.
Amazon's "Echo" device (called "Alexa") is tied in with my home automation system and controls everything. I can't remember the last time I physically touched a light switch in my home... I just ask Alexa to turn on/off the light I need. At first it was only when I had my hands full. But then... well...
The coolest thing about Alexa is that she can activate "scene" controls and perform numerous functions with a single command. For example... when I say "Alexa, Turn on Night Mode", the following happens:
That kind of thing.
It's absolutely awesome, and I love having Alexa around. She's become so ingrained in my life that when the internet goes down (which Alexa requires to operate) I kind of forget how everything works. When you never use light switches, your head kind of fogs over what to do when you want the lights on. It takes me a minute. In another couple of years, I probably won't even know where my light switches are.
If you never hear from me again, it's either because I'm trapped in the dark in my house... or trapped on the toilet screaming for Alexa to wipe my ass because she does everything else around here and I've forgotten how. Please call 9-1-1.
The mindsets of foreign countries... particularly those in Asia... are radically different from ours. Relations between nations there can be based on cultural differences few Westerners could possibly understand... or on events that happened hundreds of years before the USA even existed. To not understand these circumstances when building foreign policy is to invite disaster. Even the slightest misstep can set events into motion which could have catastrophic consequences. Because of this, it is beyond critical that our leaders be well-advised by people deep into foreign mindsets before making even the smallest decision.
Unless you are President-Elect Trump. Then you just do whatever the fuck you want, no matter how idiotic or dangerous the consequences.
India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. They are also blood enemies. Keeping them from unleashing mass destruction upon each other is a balancing act that has the entire world on edge. So when Trump has a terrifyingly ill-advised phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as if he's running Pakistan when, in fact, it's the military that is actually in control of the country... you can see how this could cause a frightening shift in the structure of Pakistan, which could ultimately lead to problems with India. You do not want that.
Then you have Trump accepting a call from the president of Taiwan... which is tantamount to the United States officially recognizing Taiwan's independence from China... which is something that will send China through the fucking roof. This one phone call could set into motion events that have China taking military action against Taiwan in order to make it clear they consider Taiwan to be a part of China. Not to mention making The United States an enemy of China. Which, needless to say, is also a nuclear power. All because Trump wants to build a hotel in Taiwan (or whatever), and he has no fucking clue what in the hell he is doing.
Trump's actions are rushing nuclear powers to conflict in a way he'll never comprehend, and he's not even in office yet.
Can you imagine what happens when he's actually president?
Trump doesn't seem to want to listen to anybody. He acts like a petulant child. He doesn't seem to give a shit what the consequences are for his actions. He is willfully ignorant when it comes to foreign relations and is seriously clueless as to how critical it is not to be making the mistakes he's been making. He is very obviously putting his personal interests ahead of this country. He is inflaming foreign nations with nuclear weapons.
And I'm not saying that to be funny or dramatic.
If you never hear from earth again, it's because President Trump destroyed the planet. Please tell any alien life with time travel capabilities to go back into the past and abort this abomination before he's even born.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!...
for behold! An all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Groot! There can be no greater news on the internet right now than the new teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2...
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn't open until May and I already want to see Guardians of the Galaxy
• Less. Having a mortgage wouldn't be so bad if nothing would ever break down and require expensive repairs. But it does. About every two months. And just when you think everything that has broken down has broken down and been fixed? Along comes something new. Which is why a letter for my lender was cause for excitement...
LETTER: "Congratulations! Your mortgage payment has gone down!"
ME: "No way!"
ME: "NO! WAY!"
LETTER: "YES WAY!"
ME: "Dude, sweet!"
LETTER: "We're deducting $4.15 from your payment starting next month."
ME: "Fuck you, Letter."
• Fixed? I love the HGTV series Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna's design aesthetic and rapport makes for a great show... especially if you're into home renovation like I am. And while I am able to mentally divide my entertainment personality's personal life from their work... it's really tough to watch the show knowing that they attend a church which would happily push conversion therapy on their four kids should any of them be gay. How can you support that?
Even if the Gaines's don't advocate conversion therapy or aren't opposed to marriage equality... they (assumably) financially support a church that does. They are a part of the segment of society persecuting LGBT persons and, more specifically LGBT youth, just for being who they are. And it's this part of our society which is responsible for the toxicity behind the epidemic of suicides among our gay youth. They listen to the idiotic rhetoric of a church like this and think nobody... including God... will accept them as they are and see no way out. No amount of Texas charm or design sense can compensate for that.
• Our Dolphin. Here it is... the first book out of Thrice Fiction Magazine's Thrice Publishing. It is a wonderful, wonderful novella by Joel Allegretti that I'm incredibly proud to have had a small part in unleashing on the world...
Order a copy for your holiday reading list... or order a dozen for gifts that are sure to be appreciated! Click here to get Our Dolphin at Amazon.
• Crazy. I don't know what's more shocking. That Fake Jake pounded into the catio at a full-on sprint across the back yard... or that Real Jake just sat there at the point of impact and watched it happen without even blinking...
Jenny is still scared of Fake Jake's crazy antics... but Jake is all "meh" about it now.
• DST. Global humiliation, domestic devastation, and the threat of nuclear war would all be worth it if President Trump abolishes clock changes and makes Daylight Savings Time permanent this coming Spring. Just sayin'.
Well, I guess that's it for bullets. Probably. I dunno. Maybe in an hour I'll come back and add ten more.
President-Elect Trump's total ignorance when it comes to other nations (in general) and China (in particular) is catastrophic. But unlike J. Robert Oppenheimer (one of the creators of the atomic bomb), he doesn't possess the self-awareness to realize he has become Death, The Destroyer of Worlds.
Or does he?
As I said earlier, the Chinese mindset is completely different than ours. You cannot apply Western thinking and treat China as if they are another United States. Or, in Trump's self-felating head, a "lesser" United States. They are not. Not by a longshot, and this frighteningly inept "Twitter attitude" of his towards The Sleeping Dragon leads to nothing but ruin. Showing strength is one thing... strength is good. But if it doesn't come from a place of mutual respect and understanding, it's a strength that's going to be turned against you. And shouldn't The President of the United States be smarter than that? For heaven's sake, man... nuclear weapons are involved. Find an advisor who knows what the hell they are doing AND LISTEN TO THEM. Beg someone like Jon Huntsman to join your team so your first act as president isn't fending off conflict with a nuclear power.
Or is this exactly what the President-Elect wants?
I am flabbergasted that people don't seem to comprehend how serious this situation is. It's all "Oh... it's just Trump being Trump!" When, in reality, it's the next President of the United States actively looking for a fight he cannot possibly win... and dragging the rest of the world with him. Everybody knows he's a great deceiver. But maybe he is THE Great Deceiver? The Christian Antichrist come to destroy us all? The Christian's Bible says that the Antichrist will come from ancient Syria (which is parts of modern-day Syria, Lebanon and Turkey). But maybe that's not literal? Maybe it's that his policy will come from ancient Syria? Walid Phares is on his foreign policy advisor team, wouldn't this qualify? And there's a Trump Tower in Istanbul... just sayin'. Any Biblical scholars checking on this? Or maybe he's not the Antichrist at all. Maybe Trump is the lynch-pin which brings about the Antichrist? Who can say. I'm just assuming that the Antichrist is going to be involved in his presidency somewhere. It's just too perfect a fit.
Assuming that Trump isn't party to trying to bring about our total destruction, something needs to change. Immediately. He once said that "acting presidential is easy"... well he'd better damn-well start, because right now Trump's ignorance and stupidity is going to doom us. And don't think just in terms of nuclear war. China doesn't want that any more than we do. There are many scenarios, including economic collapse, that can doom us just as effectively as any bomb. The US is a part of a global community. We are inexorably tied to the rest of the world in complex and incalculable ways. You can't just be all
We all are.
Because the end of the world as we know it may be nigh and people are too stupid to see it.
Not that this is surprising. It's the same kind of stupid that got Trump elected in the first place.
Best of luck, everybody.
Traveling for work is something that people who don't travel for work will never truly understand. It's not like going on vacation where you excitedly pack your bags and skip off the the airport looking forward to fun and adventure. It's more like a necessary evil that inconveniences your life as much as possible. A drudgery in repetition that you endure over and over and over until you're numb to the horrors that a life of travel dumps on you.
Something I had forgotten about. Probably because this past year I haven't been able to travel much, and had blocked it from memory.
And now I have cats.
Cats who can sense when I'm getting ready to leave, and decide that's the perfect time to go bonkers on me.
Knowing I had to get up this morning at 3:00am, I went to bed last night at 8:00. Usually the cats follow me up to my bedroom, pass out on me or the floor when I close my eyes, and that's the end of it. But not last night.
Earlier in the day Jenny had caught a bug out in the catio and brought it in the house. Not my favorite thing, but it makes her happy, so I resist my urge to go running up with a paper towel, put the bug out of its misery, and flush it down the toilet. She batted it around for five minutes or so, happy to have something new to do. At which point Jake came sauntering in the room and ate it.
Jenny did not take it well.
She cried because the bug was gone, then ran back out to the catio to catch another one...
Alas, after over a half-hour of waiting, no bug came. So she decided to come in from the cold and cry about it. A lot. She cried as she laid on my lap to get warmed up. She cried as I got up to go to bed. She cried as we climbed the stairs. She cried as I crawled into bed. Then she sat next to me and cried as I turned off the lights to try and get some sleep...
After I didn't cough up another bug for her to torture, she wandered off. Jake decided to take her spot since she kindly warmed it up for him. Thinking all the problems in Cat World were solved, I closed my eyes.
For all of twenty minutes.
So there I am in bed dozing off at 8:30 when all of a sudden BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING! Jenny has discovered one of the few door-stops left in the house. Apparently she decided if she didn't have a bug to play with, this would do. Jake hears it and goes running to investigate. Now they are taking turns BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING!
I think I finally managed to fall asleep around 10:00.
Five hours later I'm getting ready to head to the airport. Snow had been falling, so the drive was a bit more treacherous than usual. But I make it with plenty of time to spare. Here is my view at 5:00am from my seat on the plane...
Exhilarating, is it not?
Once in Seattle, I have my morning Qdoba burrito and wait for my flight to Reagan National Airport in Washington DC. As we leave, I am thrilled to be parked next to the one plane I really want to fly on before I die... Alaska Air's Salmon Thirty Salmon!
The flight is okay, despite my ending up in a middle seat because I had to book with the plane mostly full.
While I have flown to Washington, D.C. many times, I have never changed planes there. Turns out that Reagan National Airport is just fine if that's your final destination. But a total pile of shit if it's not. In order to get from B Concourse to my next flight on C Concourse, I HAD TO EXIT SECURITY, WALK A MILE, THEN GO THROUGH A SECURITY CHECK ALL OVER AGAIN. Which is buckets full of stupid in a day and age when security procedures are such a major cluster-fuck. Come on, Reagan National, get your shit together.
And then... one additional plane-ride later... here I am in Portland, Maine.
Where it's cold.
Which makes the fact that I am tired and hungry that much worse. But at least my luggage arrived this time. After getting to my hotel, I decide to eat at the restaurant there so I can have some fries and Maine blueberry pie before turning in. The waiter asks if I want my pie with my fries or after. I answer "Definitely after, thanks!"...
I'm guessing this is indicative of how the rest of my trip will go?
How's Maine? Maine is cold.
I didn't have a car until noon, so I skipped breakfast at the hotel and decided to have pizza at Otto in downtown Portland. They make a Butternut Squash and Cranberry pie that is one of my favorite things. And it totally delivered...
While eating I got to watch a woman let her baby stab the wood table repeatedly with a fork. When she noticed me watching, she took the fork away.
Then gave the baby a knife to stab the table with.
I don't know that it was an improvement, but okay.
On my way back to my car I saw two pumpkins on the sidewalk, assumably waiting to be tossed in the trash...
I guess the magic of pumpkin spice has passed. They look to be in great shape, so somebody should totally save them and make pie.
The hour trip north was boring, which is the best you can hope for when driving in Maine during winter. After checking into my hotel, I look out to see that the Androscoggin River has once again closed down for the season.
Here was my view from last year, around this time...
And here we are now...
Exciting, I know.
Since there's not much to do while I wait for my job to start, I've been getting some work done and catching up on Facebook. It was while looking through the latter that I ran across a video of Christmas tree shearing. It's fascinating to watch. Relaxing even. Very zen...
Depending on size, these guys can shape 2,000-2,500 trees per day! They don't say how many ninjas they could slash their way through. Oh well.
As exhausted as I am, I suppose I should take a nap before starting work at midnight.
Or search YouTube for more Christmas tree shearing videos.
One of those two things.
When traveling for work in winter, I have to take precautions that I usually wouldn't when traveling in not-winter. Primary of which is arriving early and staying late.
You arrive early in case there are weather delays so you will still get to the job on time. You stay late in case work runs late and you don't miss your flight. It's a bummer because it means your travels are extended, but it beats the consequences when things go wrong. The consolation I have is that if the job finishes on-time (ha!) or early (ha! ha!) you can always catch an earlier flight.
Except when you can't.
Which is me today.
I'm done with work so I can fly home tomorrow. This is great news because I had been planning for it all along. The nice thing is that catching an earlier flight, which can be quite expensive for infrequent travelers, isn't such a big deal when you have status with the airline. But all of that means nothing if they can't find a flight to put you on. Since I've got three flights home this time, it just proved too difficult to get all of them lined up within a reasonable time. My best option had me leaving a day earlier, but arriving home only five hours earlier. Nineteen hours stuck in airports? No thank you.
And so now I'm majorly bummed that I can't go home. Usually I'd try to make the best of it, but I just don't feel like going out into the Christmas shopping crowds of Portland or driving anywhere in the snow. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow... but, in the meanwhile, it looks like I'm stuck.
< Insert Frowny Face Here >
The first thing I do when I get up each morning is check my security camera footage so I can see what the cats are up to. I have no idea how many other times during the day I check on my cats, but it's a lot. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I know that Jake and Jenny are still alive and haven't burned the house down. On the other hand, I miss them and am powerless to fix any problems that come up.
Like Jenny seemingly not being able to decide where to sleep last night. Usually, she sleeps with me. But since I'm not there, I have to watch her wander from spot to spot all around the house for hours. Eventually I thought she had settled on a donut bed I leave by the stereo...
But she gave up on that too. Eventually, after more wandering, she headed upstairs. She must have found somewhere to sleep there, because she didn't come back downstairs all night.
And now she doesn't want to come back downstairs at all... even when the pet feeder activates. Jake heard it this morning and came bombing down to eat. Jenny peeks around the stairwell corner at the top, but doesn't come down. I set a motion alert, which texts me 40 minutes later that she's finally coming down. Except she doesn't. She stops at the bottom...
Eventually she turns around and runs back upstairs.
Not knowing what's going on... I scrub back through all the security camera footage. Nothing. Then I check the exterior cameras to see if somebody is outside making noise. Indeed there is. The snow plows are running. And Jenny is apparently scared of the noise they make.
Tonight I checked at feeding time again, and it's the exact same story...
She made it down an extra step, but still runs right back up before she hits the floor. The snowplows weren't running then, so I can only guess she's still scared from this morning.
I'm assuming eventually she'll get so hungry she overcomes her fears and makes it to the feeder.
Until then I'll spend my time being sad that I can't fly home tomorrow.
I wish I could say that my ambition showed itself today but, alas... I still had no desire to drive anywhere or fight the Christmas shopping crowd, so most of my day was spent catching up on sleep and working. An entire waste, I know, but this was never a vacation trip.
I did venture out for lunch and again for dinner though. So I guess that's something. For the walk back to my hotel I had my camera with me, which is always fun...
And now... I pack. For tomorrow I take the long journey home.
I didn't have to be at the airport until 12:30, which meant I could wait to pack my suitcase this morning and relax a bit before taking my three flights home.
It also meant that I had time to stop by The Maine Mall for lunch. Which would usually be at Johnny Rockets... but they changed their buns to these small crusty things (even when you ask them to ditch the shitty "healthy wheat" bun that now comes on their veggie burger)... so this time I ate at Qdoba. Never thought that would happen.
Flights were uneventful. Even if I did have a layover at shitty Washington Reagan National Airport, which makes you exit security to change concourses. Landed back home at 12:10, got my suitcase by 12:30, cleaned off my car by 12:45, was at my house by 1:20am.
Where my cats were happy to see me. So happy that I had to distract them with treats so they'd leave me alone long enough to unload the car.
Needless to say I was exhausted and decided to go straight to bed.
Which is where I stepped on this...
It's... a rabbit foot?!
I rush back down to the guest room and, sure enough, this happened...
Okay then. The cats knocked one of my rabbits off the shelf. Sad... but nothing super-glue won't fix.
The question is... how?
I was careful to not have any tall furniture near the shelves that the cats could climb up. The headboard is under the shelves, so they can't be using that. Or can they? Hell if I know. Obviously I don't have security cameras in my guest room... but I'm tempted to put one in there temporarily so I can see what in the hell they're doing in there.
Besides scratching up my new chair.
Welcome home, me.
Don't go shovel that driveway just yet, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Does Whatever a Spider Can! I've always been more a Batman guy than a Spider-Man guy, but Marvel is looking to change that with their first Spidey film, Spider-Man: Homecoming...
I mean... seriously. Marvel seems incapable of fucking up a movie. They respect the source material and give fans exactly what they're dying to see. This is the complete opposite of what DC does, which is rewrite everything that makes the characters great and give fans what Zack Snyder wants to see... which is always a pile of shit. Couldn't be happier to be getting what looks like an amazing Spider-Man movie. The fact that Tony Stark is in there being Tony Stark just makes it too good to be true.
• The Artist Formerly Known As... If you're a Prince fan, GQ has a long, but highly entertaining look at his life from the perspective of people who knew him best. As if that wasn't enough... another genius, Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, was interviewed over at Glixel. You're welcome!
• No Toys for Tots. After coming across this sorry story, I have concluded that it's probably the stupidest fucking thing I've read in a long time. A charity that collects toys for children won't accept toys raised by a tavern because they prayed on it and decided that toys coming from a bar is a bad thing? Who did this idiot pray to? I mean, she did read The Bible and know who Jesus hung out with, right? Yet another case of Faux Christians following in the footsteps of Jesus... just so long as those footsteps don't lead to conflict with their moral superiority and false virtue.
• Can I Be a Lesbian? This had me laughing out loud in the middle of the night at my hotel...
Fortunately, I must not have disturbed my neighbors because nobody beat the door down and strangled me.
• Kitty Homebody. Ever since I got back home in the early AM, the cats have been all over me. When I sat down tonight to work and watch Wedding Crashers, Jake came running in and attached himself to me then fell asleep...
After a bit he ran to get a snack and I thought I was free... but then Jenny came running in and took his place...
Then she ran to use the Litter-Robot and I figured that was the end of it... except Jake came running back to take her place...
Eventually they must have decided I wasn't going anywhere tonight, and went back to life as usual. Until next time. As if I didn't already feel bad enough about having to leave them...
• Paranoia and Smoke Alarms. Just before my trip to Maine, I started getting paranoid about a fire in my garage. That's where my electrical panel is. That's where my furnace is. That's where my whole-home humidifier is. Any of those things could burst into flames and I wouldn't know about it until it burned through the walls and into the house. To set my mind at ease, I ordered another Nest Protect (smart smoke detector) to put in the garage. Now I'm wondering why smoke detectors in garages isn't a thing. Shouldn't they be? Sure it's $100 down the drain, but that's pretty cheap if my electrical panel caught fire while I was in Maine and unaware. Now my house will send me a text if the garage is on fire. So... yay? I suppose now I need to find out how to call a fire into my local fire department so I can actually do something about an alarm when I'm across the country and 9-1-1 won't connect me to the right place.
• A New History for Humanity. I whole-heartedly approve of this calendar. A simple change that adds loads of perspective...
Too many people think that all of humanity didn't begin until Jesus came along. This fixes the problem without completely disrupting everything. Until scientists decide that
• Trump Diplomacy. This pretty much sums it up...
And anybody still calling me "alarmist" for posting end-of-days scenarios around President-Elect Trump's ignorance and stupidity can go read this and then go read this and fuck off now. You'll note that I linked to a FOX "News" story the second time since the people who love Trump and are not taking this shit seriously seem to think that FOX is the only "news" source that matters. Guess we don't have to give a shit about Trump cutting Social Security and Medicare since we're all probably going to be dead by the time he gets around to it. In the meanwhile... this is how Republicans are saving American jobs?
And... the bullets have flown. Until next week then.
I don't know that I got sick, per se... but the effects of all day travel just to go through all day work and then cap it off with another bout of all day travel has taken its toll.
This morning when I got to work I had trouble sitting at my desk. It always felt like I was about to fall over. So I caught up as best I could then ran home to sleep. But couldn't actually get to sleep, of course. That would be too easy.
Welcome to my day of doing nothing.
When I've so much to get done that doing nothing is the worst thing I could possibly do.
Great news for the cats though.
Jenny loves playing fetch. She'll grab a toy (her favorite being Pink Mouse) and drop it on me so I'll toss it out. Then she'll go pounce on it with all the fierceness she can muster and bring it right back...
After about 20 minutes I accidentally threw Pink Mouse under the entertainment center where she couldn't get to it. I thought I was too lazy to go get it, but then Jenny started knawing on my wallet...
So I drag myself off the couch, move the furniture, retrieve Pink Mouse, put the furniture back, then give the toy back to Jenny...
Who promptly falls asleep...
Which is exactly what I've been wanting to do all along, the pooper.
Huh. Just noticed something.
Jenny spends a lot of time out in the catio where it's cold... and look at how fluffy her coat is getting! Now I just need to train her to fall asleep across my feet at night.
And, my day of nothing continues...
The situation in Syria has been terrifying for years, but the world has been turning a deaf ear. And, despite the horror of it all, I kinda understand why. It's an all-out civil war in the country, and trying to sort through the different factions vying for power is no easy chore. There's the Syrian government in alliance with Russia and Iran and supported by China and Iraq. There's anti-government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Then there's the Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava) which is supported by the USA, the UK, France, Australia, and many of their allies.
Not to mention, surprise, there's also ISIL.
And that's not all. There are other groups and alliances stirring the pot as well. Which may sound odd considering the country is quickly becoming a massive wasteland of ruin and despair, but this brings us to the question of why Syria is such a complicated mess.
My guess is that oil has a lot to do with it.
Which should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody because oil is responsible for fucking up a lot of things in this part of the world. Admittedly this is a grossly simplistic summation of all that's going on... there are religious conflicts, territorial conflicts, historical conflicts, and ruling families not wanting to lose power that need to be factored into the mix... but ultimately the continuation of the war itself likely comes down to outside intervention and the quest for oil, making this a proxy fight by nations like Russia, the USA, and China over the spoils.
This is not to say that I am minimizing the religious interests of countries like Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Quatar, and Lebanon which are also in the fray... or that I am dismissing the atrocities committed by President Bashar al-Assad's government forces who slaughter the civilians who protest against them... it's more complicated than just shouting "OIL IS TO BLAME!" and I know this.
I find it impossible to believe that all countries everywhere can't agree on how best to help innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. It shouldn't matter how or why a nation supports one faction over the other. Surely we can all agree that children dying by the thousands is a horrific travesty that needs solving... independent of everything else that's going on... right?
And how could that possibly be?
I guess nobody wants to risk offending their allies in the war. Because if their allies are the faction that comes out on top... well... oil.
And so we now face the fall of Aleppo where people there are sending out their final goodbyes... not knowing if they're going to be alive in the morning...
I don't pretend to be an expert on the Middle East or the violence that is ongoing there. All I know is that what should be a no-brainer for the entire world... active relief for the civilian population of Syria... isn't happening.
In the end, isn't that all you really need to know?
Photo from Amnesty International
Sadly, there's not a lot that can be done now. But Amnesty International has set up a page for signatures to demand action, and you never know.
Given the countless monkey lives given to science in the name of improving human lives... it's the least we can do, really.
It's gotten to the point where I should just be numb to the crazy-ass appointments that President-Elect Trump is making to his administration, advisory board, and transition team. But then one of them has to go and open their mouths, and I'm in full-reverse out of numb and back to despair at the horror of it all.
Like today when I saw this video of Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci making the rounds...
This follows Trump's McCarthy-esque demand to know all the Department of Energy scientists who work on climate change. Something that is already unthinkable and terrifying.
If this interview was meant to make people feel better about the Trump Administration's notably anti-science bias, Scaramucci did a shitty job of it. Not only is he in serious climate change denial despite the scientific evidence of it all... he's also a Young Earther who believes that the planet is only 5,500 years old.
These are the people who will be making decisions for this country.
I've said numerous times that we're all fucking doomed because of this bullshit. I mean it every time. Because when somebody is drunk and playing with matches while standing in a pool of gasoline, you have to say something.
Problem is that the people who can do something about it are apparently looking the other way.
This morning I woke up in a coughing fit so severe that something... snapped?... inside of me and now I'm in horrible pain. Probably just pulled a muscle, but it feels as though I've been stabbed. Getting old sure does suck.
Something else that sucks?
A bunch of stupid fucking bigots are looking to pass anti-transgender "bathroom bill" legislation here in Washington State.
Putting aside the horrendous discrimination that's driving this bill, did none of the assholes who dreamt up this shit learn anything from what happened to North Carolina when they passed a similar bill? Apparently not.
Look, I don't know what kind of freaky shit that dumbass Representatives Taylor, Shea, McCaslin, Young, Klippert, Walsh, Haler, Short, Manweller, Hargrove, Pike, Holy, Rodne, and Buys do when they use the bathroom... but the vast majority of us just want to pee or take a shit, then (hopefully) wash our hands and get the fuck out. And the fact that transgender persons will be doing their business BEHIND A CLOSED STALL DOOR means that it doesn't really matter what the hell genitals they have. Unless you're some kind of pervert who will be looking under the stalls while people are using them... THEIR GENITALS DON'T AFFECT YOU! So pull your minds out of the gutter and stop dragging the rest of us into your fucked up shit.
In truth, I know precious few transgender persons. But when it comes the one I know best (and have talked about previously), I can't help but wonder what the hell she's going to do if this horrendous legislation passes. She may have been born with a penis, but you would not know that to look at her. All you see is A WOMAN, because that's who she is. If she were forced to use a men's bathroom, it would be a woman using a men's bathroom. And can you imagine how dangerous that is for her? Coming across some bigoted piece of trash in the wrong bathroom could end up with her beaten to death. All because she needs to pee.
You may not understand transgender people. You may not agree with who they are. But if you feel they need to die because they have to pee, you're a special kind of asshole. Obviously they are going to be using a stall, so you (or whomever you're concerned about) aren't going to be exposed to anything that might disturb your delicate sensibilities. Which means supporting this absurd legislation is nothing more than hating something for no good reason.
Which is not surprising. That's the way this country seems to work now-a-days.
What's doubly disappointing is that Representative Maureen Walsh, whom I've supported over the years because she's a progressive Republican who spoke so eloquently about marriage equality in my state, is one of the dumbasses supporting a bill THAT'S COMPLETE NONSENSE. Apparently she only gives a shit about equality when it affects her lesbian daughter. A pity she doesn't have a transgender child so she can "speak her heart and mind" and empathize what they go through...
Always amazed when state REPRESENTATIVES don't feel they have to REPRESENT all the people in their care.
You can learn more about how your tax dollars are being used to discriminate against your fellow citizens at Washington Won't Discriminate.
My cats are weird, wonderful creatures. Which is to say that they are cats.
Personality-wise, they are very different. Jake is a sweet, lovable lump who eats too much and plows through life head-first. Jenny is a sweet, petite bundle of affection who is cautious and calculating. Both are curious to a fault, but Jake is the one who will inevitably let it lead him into trouble.
The most serious Jake will ever get is when he is pooping. It is a grave and somber affair which he gives profound consideration. The least serious Jenny will ever get is waiting for Jake to poop, then run up and smack him in the face right in the middle of it. Which she does often.
But that's not the only time Jenny will plan an attack. Ambushing Jake is her most favorite thing, and she'll happily take the opportunity any time she has the advantage. Like this morning when she was giving herself a bath and noticed Jake laying on the floor chomping on a toy mouse... while facing the other way...
Annnnnd... she pounced on him with happy abandon.
Jake never knew what hit him.
Jenny had a snack and then fell asleep in the window...
Don't worry about Jake though. He somehow manages to muddle through...
I'm dashing through the snow over the mountains... but fear not, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• No It's Not Equivalent. I swear... it's getting worse every day. Every time I see false equivalency being applied to an issue in the interest of being "fair and balanced," I want to punch somebody in the face. This time it's The Los Angeles Times unleashing this crap when they published letters saying that US internment of its citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II was justified. Clearly there is no "other side" to Japanese internment being totally unjustified and a horrendous blight on humanity (in general) and the USA (specifically). Unless you are a psychotic asshole. And yet here we are. Thanks, L.A. Times... I needed a reminder that psychotic assholes are everywhere!
• New DuckTales! I'd like to say that DuckTales was one of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid... but it didn't start airing until I was three years graduated high school, so that's not quite true. In any event, it's getting revived with a bit more star power than the original behind the voices...
You can bet I'll be watching. Let's face it, I still act like a kid.
• Sandcastles in the Sand. While I was never a fan of Growing Pains (Kirk Cameron was always a fucking asshole), I was a fan of Alan Thicke's Canadian talk show and his subsequent American talk show, Thicke of the Night. Which is why I was sad to see he had died this week. Later in life, he was cast as himself as often as he played characters, which is a testament to his effect on North American culture. One of my favorites was when he appeared as Robin Sparkles fictional dad in flashback videos of How I Met Your Mother...
You will be missed, sir.
• Emergency! Come Right Away! Another sad passing... Bernard Fox has left us. He'll forever be known as Dr. Bombay on Bewitched...
Here's hoping he's having cocktails with Uncle Arthur in the Great Beyond.
• Animal Welfare? Inhumane, cruel, and horrifying. But nobody will care and nothing will be done because everybody wants their 99¢ McChicken McNuggets...
If people want to eat meat, more power to you. But I can't fathom the person who doesn't care about the pain and suffering of those animals that end up on their plate. The health risks are just icing on the cake.
• Driven! I'd say that winter driving is the worst, but the unprecedented number of assholes on the road makes all driving "the worst." Winter just makes it even worse...
Over the mountains I go...
Annnnd... wish me luck.
Today I had to make a last-minute trip to San Diego for a quick work project happening tomorrow morning. I'll essentially be in San Diego for nine hours to do 15-20 minutes worth of work. But it's very important work which will end up benefitting people who could really use it, so I don't mind so much. I've gone much further for much less.
I took this as an opportunity to test the new "download" feature for Netflix, which allows you to view programs and movies without an internet connection. It works in that I could view downloaded content offline... but it's kind of flakey. Siri kept activating over and over and over again, even when I turned her off (iPhone just switches to Voice Command) and the video kept pausing randomly, even though I never touched my iPhone to make it happen. I have no idea if this is a problem with Netflix, or possibly my headphones somehow sending commands, but it was incredibly annoying.
I'd be beside myself if I didn't have anything to complain about while traveling, so I guess this is as good as anything.
And... I'm home.
Except I almost wasn't, because when my plane landed one of the mountain passes was a complete disaster with chains required and the other was closed. This would have meant adding 1 to 1-1/2 hours to my trip... except the pass miraculously opened up ten minutes before I reached the turn-off.
While there are many ways to get in and out of Redneckistan, there are only two that really make sense when heading to the coast are the two main mountain pass routes.
Stevens Pass (2-1/2 hours) is usually very well maintained in the winter because there's a big ski resort at the summit and they want people to be able to get to it. You're deposited quite a bit north of Seattle, but it's a quicker run so you can usually arrive in a similar time-frame. The major downer is that Highway 2 is a 2-lane affair with not a lot of opportunities to pass slower traffic. Get behind a truck driving 10 miles per hour under the speed limit and you'll be stuck for a while...
Blewett and Snoqualmie Passes (2-1/4 hours) create my preferred route to Seattle. Once over Blewett (a 2-lane highway), you merge onto I-90, which has a 4+ lanes of traffic and a speed limit of 70mph...
Quincy/Vantage/Snoqualmie (3-1/2 hours) is an alternate route you can take when Blewett Pass is closed (which happens surprisingly often). This was the route I was going to take today... until Blewett opened back up at the last minute...
Portland/Central Basin (7-1/2 hours) is the grueling route you take when all hope of getting over the mountain passes is lost. Yes, there are White Pass (5-1/2 hours) and Crystal Mountain (4-1/2 hours) routes you can take, but the odds are very good they'll be either closed (or more trouble than it's worth) if the main passes are closed. I'd rather just bite the bullet and drive home free and clear if it seems that's a better option than waiting out the weather (you can read about one of my times traveling this route right here)...
You can, of course, always fly in/out of Wenatchee (assuming the airport isn't closed) if you don't mind having to abandon your car in Seattle until you can find a way back to it. I've done this at least twice, because sometimes not driving at all is the best option.
UPDATE: Delta Airlines has released a statement about the two guys who claim to have been kicked off the flight because they were speaking Arabic... "Upon landing the crew was debriefed and multiple passenger statements collected. Based on the information collected to date, it appears the customers who were removed sought to disrupt the cabin with provocative behaviour, including shouting. This type of conduct is not welcome on any Delta flight. While one, according to media reports, is a known prankster who was video recorded and encouraged by his traveling companion, what is paramount to Delta is the safety and comfort of our passengers and employees. It is clear these individuals sought to violate that priority."
Since this guy has a history of pranking airlines (and also lying about it), it's very likely that they were kicked off the flight for cause. Which is really too bad, because lying about being a victim of racism and bigotry only makes it harder for those who are actual victims of racism and bigotry to be believed. And heaven only knows we've seen enough of that in recent years.
Regardless as to whether they deserved to be kicked off... and, to be clear, if they were disrupting the flight they absolutely should have been... I can't help but wonder if they would have been treated differently (pranks and all) if they were white.
I was once on a post 9-11 flight out of LAX where some kind of evangelist dressed in a suit and tie was screaming about Jesus as he boarded the plane. While the flight took off, he was praying... loudly. He was asked more than once to lower his voice so he wasn't disturbing other passengers. Which lasted all of ten minutes before he started loudly preaching about Jesus again. Nothing happened to him. He was mostly left alone. He walked off the plane without incident. He was white. But if this had been a Middle-Eastern guy screaming about Allah and talking about Mohammed? He would have probably been restrained... at minimum. Then likely arrested upon landing. Assuming they didn't make an emergency landing and have him arrested before he even reached his destination.
So... food for thought.
Horrible racist, bigoted crap was happening before Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America.
I'm betting it will be happening a lot more often now.
Two guys were kicked off a flight because one of them was speaking Arabic to his mom. Apparently it made a woman and her husband in the row ahead of him "nervous" and he was told he should be speaking English. In Trump's America, this kind of stupid, xenophobic bullshit is justification for swift action.
Action Delta Airlines was apparently happy to engage in...
We got kicked out of a @Delta airplane because I spoke Arabic to my mom on the phone and with my friend slim... WTFFFFFFFF please spread pic.twitter.com/P5dQCE0qos— Adam Saleh (@omgAdamSaleh) December 21, 2016
If people speaking a different language upsets you... THEN DON'T GO OUT IN PUBLIC, ASSHOLE! If being around other people on a plane upsets you... THEN DON'T FLY, ASSHOLE! This is just the tip of the iceberg. If I were there and saw what happened, they'd end up kicking me off the fucking plane too.
Hope you're prepared for the day only people with blonde hair are allowed to fly.
In other Delta Airlines news, this landed in my in-box...
Delta partnership change
As of April 30, 2017, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members will no longer be able to earn or redeem miles on Delta flights. Don't worry, though–thanks to our acquisition of Virgin America and ever-growing list of global partners, it's easy to get where you want to go.
I may die of un-shock.
Delta was never a true "partner" to Alaska Airlines. They shit all over Alaska every chance they got, then decided to set up camp in a Seattle hub in an attempt to force Alaska out of our airport. Interesting to note how they employed this same strategy in Memphis circa 2013... setting up a hub to drive other airlines out, then pulling the hub once the deed was done. After all went down getting in and out of Memphis became difficult and expensive, and the city still hasn't fully recovered from the damage Delta did.
And speaking of damage...
No word yet as to whether Delta is going to allow only English to be spoken on their flights.
I've been thinking a lot about cooking lately.
Partly because it seems like a good creative outlet now that my woodworking has been suspended for the season... but mostly because I want to eat stuff that I can't buy the way I want it made.
For example... I bought a frozen apple crisp last week. It was terrible. Way too much spice and the apples were cut too large. I also didn't like the topping, which seemed more spongey than crispy. And so I've been researching recipes online, which is a bottomless pit of confusion. Apparently there are literally hundreds of ways to make the stuff, and everybody has an opinion as to what makes a perfect apple crisp. The only thing that makes it a little easier is that I can automatically discard the recipes which include raisins (WTF?!?).
My concern with trying to make stuff myself is that I always end up with more than what I can eat because recipes seem to feed a dozen people, on average... also the ingredients are usually expensive... and the actual cooking never seems to go as well as I hoped.
Like the time I tried to make potato salad...
I suppose I'll give it a shot after the holidays.
I'm thinking I'll cut the ingredients in half and hope that it won't affect the cooking time. I don't think I've ever burnt anything before, but there's always a first time.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've narrowed my recipe choice down to eleven options and I've got to decide on nuts or no nuts in order to get to the next elimination round.
"Sorry there's no gas station for 200 miles and you're running on fumes, but I don't sell to faggots because of my firmly-held religious beliefs... now get the hell off my property."
If the First Amendment Defense Act is turned into law, such a horrific statement will be a perfectly valid form of discrimination in Trump's America. Except something tells me that bigoted pieces of shit are not "sorry" about anything.
What bothers me most about this bullshit is not that a bunch of politician assholes are looking for ways to write discrimination against people they don't like into the law of the land. That's just par for the course. What bothers me is that they are presenting it as a way to make things "fair" for those businesses who want to discriminate.
Still haven't figured out how it's "fair" that a tax-paying citizen can have their hard-earned money go toward supporting such businesses with roads, utilities, fire and police protections, and such... only to have them be able to turn around and deny service to the people who made it possible... but, hey... it's not like bigotry ever makes any fucking sense.
To anybody who's not a bigot, anyway.
And... today is my last trip of the year.
Let's get this show on the road...
UPDATE: Roads were in terrific shape. Getting over the mountains was a piece of cake.
Happy holidays, everybody.
Hoping you're having a Happy Christmas if you're into that kind of thing, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Faith. I was saddened to hear that yet another of my pop artist favorites from the 80's had passed away... this time George Michael. As half of the duo WHAM!, and later a solo artist, he had an entire catalog of hits that influenced a generation of musical artists and pop culture at large...
Rest in peace, sir. Your music will live on and on.
• LIVE FROM NEW YORK! I've watched this behind-the-scenes video three times now. Absolutely fascinating how Saturday Night Live can time things down to the wire like this on a live show...
I wish SNL would release more of these. Sometimes, they would be more entertaining than the actual show.
• BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR! This is epic...
This guy should totally do audio books.
• IT'S NOT MINE! For those who think I'm paranoid for having two complete camera security systems at my house... I give you this IMGUR thread about a guy who found that somebody was living in his home while he was at work. Holy. Crap.
• The 1947. I always love behind-the-scenes videos of manufacturing processes and this one from my favorite ball-cap manufacturer, '47 Brand, is pretty slick...
A lot of work goes into creating a great cap!
• The 1975. And now, for the best Christmas present of all, here's The 1975's full concert from The O2 in London. Don't know how long they'll keep it posted, so enjoy it while it lasts...
Amazing. And the only contender for my favorite album of 2016.
Here's ho ho hoping Santa treats you kindly tonight.
The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was check the mountain pass reports to find out if I will be able to get home. Much to my surprise, Stevens Pass was bare and wet, though the afternoon forecast was for snow. So I made plans to leave at 11:00, thinking that my drive back would be a piece of cake.
And it would have.
If the hundreds of people also wanting to get back over the mountains weren't all leaving at the same time to beat the snow.
Which meant that even though the roads were perfect, I still had an additional 40 minutes of travel time. Which was crappy, yes... but at least I didn't have to chain up.
And thus ends my last trip of the year.
When I finally got home the cats were ecstatic to see me. I was ecstatic to see a bathroom.
And speaking of cats...
And now? Bed.
"Alexa, play George Michael..."
To say that Princess Leia was a game-changer for me is an understatement of epic proportions.
Until having seen Star Wars, I can't recall a "movie princess" being little more than a set decoration in need of saving. Yes, Princess Leia started out that way... she was every bit the damsel in distress for the story's two male heroes (and a walking carpet) who set out to retrieve her from The Death Star... but once Princess Leia actually hit the screen, all that went out the window.
This princess wasn't taking any shit, and the fact that she could hold her own against Vader and Tarkin was pretty amazing. But the moment I totally fell in love with her was when the door on cell 2187 opened...
What I was expecting: "Oh, thank goodness you've come to save me!"
What I got: "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?"
And Leia's sarcasm, strength, and wit didn't end there. As anybody who's seen the Star Wars films (which would be everybody, I'm guessing), Princess Leia was kick-ass whenever she made an appearance.
A great deal of this can be laid on the doorstop of George Lucas who first wrote her that way.
But it was Carrie Fisher who made her that way.
And now Carrie Fisher gone.
Despite some incredible contributions to writing and cinema that went well beyond Princess Leia (she wrote Postcards from the Edge and was a highly-in-demand "script doctor" for a surprising number of films), it's this legendary fictional character to which she will be forever remembered.
My guess is she made her peace with it. Even those times she was wrapped in chains and wearing a metal bikini... something she had strong feelings about.
For which I'm grateful. Because she'll always be royalty to me.
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." As always, there's a bunch of movies I never saw that would have probably ended up on my list (we'll get to that later). And here we go...
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw.
#1 Captain America: Civil War
Shocker. My love of comic books was rewarded in two fantastic Marvel films, and it was really tough to decide what should come out on top. I ultimately went with Cap because the movie was just so damn good at giving comic book fans everything they dream about in a film. Hero angst? Check. Cap and Iron Man draw the line over a super-hero registration act that leads them inexorably to conflict. Fresh characters? Check. Not only do we get the debut of one of the most awesome characters in the Marvel Universe, Black Panther, we also get a brand new Spider-Man that's more faithful to the concept than anything that's come before. Super-battles? Check. In what has to be the single best super-hero fight ever committed to film, Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man was flawlessly realized. Having a massive surprise come from Ant-Man in the middle of it all was just icing on the best-tasting cake ever. Granted, the plot was a bit flimsy and filled with coincidence and inexplicable story beats... but I just didn't care. I watched Civil War three times in the theater and another half-dozen on video. I cannot fathom how The Russo Brothers could possibly top this in Avengers: Infinity War, but I'm dying to find out. You can read my review of this epic blockbuster right here.
#2 Doctor Strange
After Black Panther, my favorite Marvel comic book hero is probably Doctor Strange. This year I got to see them both on the big screen, and I was not disappointed. This film is an origin story, yes, but it's not like it could have been anything else. Unlike Batman or Spider-Man whose origin has been told to death, Strange is a bit unknown to the general movie-going public. Fortunately, what we get is anything but Yet Another Formulaic Pile of Origin Garbage. Stephen Strange is compelling in all the right ways before he becomes Master of the Mystic Arts. And he's even more compelling before he becomes Sorcerer Supreme. On top of that, we get some mind-boggling special effects that makes Doctor Strange fresh, exciting, and new compared to all the Marvel films that came before it. Yes, I too am a bit flustered by the whitewashing of The Ancient One as a Celtic white woman (deftly played by Tilda Swinton), but I get why. Yes, I am disappointed that the location was shifted from Tibet, but I get why. Avoiding stereotypes and having to be mindful of global box office means that there will be compromises when putting a ton of money into a film of this magnitude. That Marvel did so without completely destroying it is admirable in the face of realities they had to confront. Much of what they got right has to do with the flawless casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Strange... whom Marvel wisely postponed filming to get. He had absolutely everything the character needed to succeed in a movie, and Cumberbatch held nothing back. Doctor Strange will be appearing in future Marvel films (including Infinity War) but I want a new solo flick that's unfettered from an origin story. Badly. Here's my review of Doctor Strange.
Given how utterly shitty 20th Century Fox treated the character of Deadpool in the utterly shitty X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I fully admit that I was skeptical when it was announced a new solo movie was on the way. But when Ryan Reynolds (who was "Deadpool in Origins as well) promised that we'd be seeing something faithful to the outrageous character we knew from the comics, I became hopeful. It was a hope that paid off in spades. This is the fast-talking "merc with a mouth" that every Deadpool fan who suffered though Origins deserved. Mercenary Wade Wilson is diagnosed with inoperable, terminal cancer after finally finding the love of his life... and agrees to experiments meant to unleash super-powered abilities that will cure him. Unfortunately, things go terribly wrong, and the rest of the movie is Wilson trying to get a cure for the cure while also exacting revenge on the guy responsible. Absolute hilarity and fantastic action sequences ensue. Even in its quiet moments, Deadpool delivers... featuring perfect secondary characters played by TJ Miller and Leslie Uggams(!!!). Rated R for a reason... many reasons... but totally worth your time.
#4 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
It's a Star Wars film. It has mind-boggling special effects. It has a return of characters you love and a new character that's destined to be a classic (new favorite droid K-2SO!). It features a plot that doesn't suck. The story is rough... even boring in parts... but serviceable. And, yes, I agree it's the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. So if you're a Star Wars fan, it's a foregone conclusion this movie is going to be on your "Best of 2016" list. That's why it's on mine.
#5 Kubo and the Two Strings
My love of animation embraces all its forms... hand-drawn... computer generated... cut-out... whatever. But the form that consistently blows me away is stop-motion animation, and Kubo is probably the most mind-bogglingly beautiful expression of it yet. Every frame is gorgeously orchestrated for scenes that are a dream to watch. It's just a bonus that there's a really great story behind it all. I will do you the favor of not disclosing anything about the plot. It's enough to know that this film is sheer magic and a must-see. Preferably on the big-screen (and, believe it or not, in 3D)... but if you missed it, home video will have to suffice.
#6 Star Trek Beyond
Rebooting the Star Trek franchise has been met with mixed feelings, and true fans either seem to love it or hate it. I absolutely love it. From the casting, which is a note-perfect nod to the original cast, to the beautiful special-effects, the films soar even when there is a misstep (of which Star Trek Into Darkness probably qualifies). Star Trek Beyond is yet another entertaining entry in the series, this time with an over-abundance of action filling the screen. But there's some real character moments scattered in there too, which is what makes the film work so well. Sadly, Anton Yelchin passed away after filming, which means this is the last time we'll see his perfect take on Pavel Chekov.
Walt Disney Pictures has been on a roll lately, and Moana is probably my favorite film of theirs since Lilo and Stitch (though Big Hero Six deserves a mention here). The film tells the story of a young woman, Moana, who sets sail on a mission to save her people. Along the way she meets the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and a fantastical adventure follows. The action is bold, beautiful, and larger than life... all animated to stunning effect with lush, sweeping visuals... but it's so much more than just a pretty flick. It's got great music, plenty of magic, and characters with actual depth. If you love computer animation, you owe it to yourself to see Moana on the big screen.
#8 Finding Dory
Revisiting the Finding Nemo universe was a risky gambit. But Pixar completely nailed it. I hesitate to say that it's a better film than the original... but Dory is a jaw-dropping, beautiful, overall joyful effort that will not disappoint Nemo fans. Having Sigourney Weaver drop in (as herself!) on the flawless voice cast was just perfection on perfection. If you love Pixar animation, here's your film.
#9 The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge)
Gorgeous animation from Studio Ghibli that's a warm blanket in visual form. The story is a gripping tale of survival that unfolds like a classic fairytale... but ends up being so much more. I truly hope that this overlooked gem makes a return to theaters after the festival circuit so people can see it as it was meant to be seen.
#10 The Nice Guys
Where in the hell did this come from? I completely missed it in the theater, but caught it on a boring cross-country flight. Boy was I glad to have discovered it, because The Nice Guys everything you love in a Shane Black film. And then some. Russell Crowe hasn't been this compelling since Gladiator. Ryan Gosling hasn't been this compelling ever. If you want to see a smart, funny, sophisticated 70's buddy flick that won't bore you (except when it does)... here you go.
Color me shocked. Smart, cerebral, original sci-fi getting green-lit for a feature film? Whatever is Hollywood coming to? Oddly enough, I had read the original short fiction on which this film is based, Story of Your Life, and was not expecting that it would translate well to film given the time-bending aspects of the story. I was pleasantly surprised that they managed to get it right. Or... as close to "right" as they probably could. When aliens land on earth, world governments race to communicate with them so that they can unlock their secrets before other governments get a technological edge. The movie focuses on the American team (of course) lead by genius linguist Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) and fellow scientist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner). As Banks gets closer and closer to deciphering the language of the alien visitors, she finds that her perception of time is being altered. An ambitious adventure in cinema follows that's a true treat for sci-fi fans.
#12 The Jungle Book.
If you had told me that a live-action remake of Disney classic The Jungle Book would hit my "best of..." list for 2016, I would have laughed in your face. But here we are. Filled with incredible CG visuals that bring the story to life like never before... and featuring one of the best "young actors" ever to appear in a movie, The Jungle Book is incomprehensibly great. And the voice cast! Bill Murray as Baloo? Ben Kingsley as Bagheera? Idris Elba as Shere Khan? It never ends. I cannot fathom how Jon Favreau managed to pull off such a feat, but I was completely engrossed in the film and truly didn't want it to end. If you skipped it because you were skeptical, now you know.
This is the film that ranked very high on a lot of critic's lists... and it's easy to see why. The characters are beautifully crafted and the world they inhabit feels fully realized. Everything is wonderfully animated and the voice cast is flawless. As if that wasn't enough greatness, it has a real story filled with humor and heart that's brilliantly told. I loved the film... a lot... but it just didn't have that sweeping, all-encompassing wonder that I got while watching Finding Dory and Moana. I struggled as to whether Zootopia or Jungle Book belongs in the final spot of my list, but settled on the latter because it was such a big surprise.
I was a bit let down by the ending, but everything up to that is funny enough that I didn't care. Surprisingly original with perfect casting.
This is why people go to the movies... a beautiful story that looks stunning and has a dynamite cast. Yes, there were problems along the way and the ending could have used some work, but this sexy, violent gem gets so much right that it's easy to overlook its flaws.
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl
YES, I LIKED IT! A remake of the Sid and Marty Krofft live-action Batman spoof featuring YouTube stars Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart. It's a funny distraction that respects the source material, but is fresh and new at the same time.
Popstar: Never Stop Stopping
A complete take-down of the Justin Bieber stereotype that somehow manages to be funny and entertaining. There were some parts that didn't work which kept it from being a new This is Spinal Tap, but is overall a terrific effort.
Was it as good as the original? Oh hell no. It's not even as good as Ghostbusters 2. But it had some funny moments and excellent special effects to make that made it watchable.
DIDN'T SEE, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...
Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy? Sign me up.
Naughty and animated. A great combination I never got around to seeing.
This is the movie that has been most-recommended to me this year. Can't wait to finally see it.
The Edge of Seventeen
Completely off my radar, but I've heard amazing things.
A film starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence? Can't help but be worth watching.
Everybody Wants Some
Richard Linklater's follow-up to Boyhood. Who wouldn't want to see that?
NOT AS BAD AS THEY SAY...
Gods of Egypt
Yes, they whitewashed the cast. Yes, the special effects were all over the place. Yes, the story was a mess. But at least they tried to do something different. And for that alone, I was entertained. There were some big ideas here that were actually kind of cool and fun to watch... things just didn't come together in a way to make this compelling cinema.
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
I don't even know where to start. This shitty, blasphemous, idiotic take on two of the most beloved super-heroes in the world was a continuation of Zack Snyder's horrendous Man of Steel. But since it fucked up Batman, it was probably an even worse movie. And while SvB's greatest sin is that it is just no fun (I was bored to tears despite the action beats, which were confusing and senseless)... we did get Wonder Woman on the big screen at last. Gal Godot was perfectly cast and they gave her a look that was amazing. Sadly, she wasn't enough to save this awful, awful mess.
This unbelievably tedious movie featured a forgettable assortment of villains forced to be heroes that fight an endless horde of magical zombies. In-between all that is some of the most boring, shitty dialogue you'll find. And, as if that weren't bad enough, Jared Leto's "Joker" was a fucking embarrassment.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Clearly a case of "We're making a sequel to a popular movie, but we haven't a fucking clue what to do, so... SPECIAL EFFECTS IT!" This would probably be the stupidest, blandest, dullest, most unbelievable shitty film of any year... lucky for Roland Emmerich, Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad stepped in to take the punches. I'd discuss the story, but not one bit of it was worth remembering, so I can't.
And now is that special entry where I wrap up MY FAVORITE TV SHOWS OF 2016!
Which was kinda difficult to narrow down because alternate programming from studios like Netflix and HBO are changing the game.
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 No Tomorrow (The CW)
Girl falls for boy. Boy believes the world ends in eight months. They learn to live like there's no tomorrow while falling in love. Easily my favorite show currently on television, it's not just the central romance that's worth watching. The secondary characters are all fully-realized and equally interesting.
#2 Luke Cage (Netflix)
Sweet Christmas! After the genius of Netflix's take on Marvel's Daredevil and Jessica Jones, I was expecting that Luke Cage would be good. But not this good! It's just so wonderfully fresh and different... largely in part to the strong presence of its Harlem location and a jazz-appropriate soundtrack. And don't get me started on the flawless casting... Mike Colter IS Luke Cage! Adding Alfre Woodard to the mix is just gravy.
#3 Stranger Things (Netflix)
I ignored this show when it first appeared... until everybody and their dog started telling me I should watch it. The fact that it's so 80's nostalgia perfect would be reason enough for me to love it, but the story is actually pretty darn entertaining... kind of a cross between ET and The Goonies with spooky overtones. How the Duffer Brothers managed to get a team of young actors this good is almost a bigger mystery than the show. Then they added Winona Rider, which is all you really need to know.
#4 The Good Place (NBC)
I fully admit that I did not warm to this show quickly. But I stuck with it because Kristen Bell is a national treasure and everything she does is entertaining. Then the show found its footing and I fell in love with it. The humor of Kristen Bell's character ending up in "heaven" when she really should have gone to "hell" is fluid... almost ethereal in spots... but then it turns a corner and it's punching you in the face. And that's what makes the show so special. No show made me laugh in 2016 more than this one.
#5 Atlanta (FX)
Is there nothing that Donald Glover can't do? I didn't really understand what the show was about, but tuned in just to see what Glover was up to (he was half of my favorite thing in Community). So glad I did. Atlanta is seriously good television that has some of the most amazing, depth-filled characters you'll find. It's got humor to it, but it's a stabbing kind of funny that doesn't detract from the story. If you haven't given the show a try, just watch that first episode and try not to get hooked.
#6 Westworld (HBO)
When I found out that Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris were attached to HBO's Westworld remake, I was intrigued. Actors of this caliber do not tend to gravitate towards shit. Then I saw that other terrific talents such as Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Tessa Thompson were onboard as well. What was going on here? I had to know. Turns out that HBO got a fantastic, mind-bending, thought-provoking story that is worth watching. Beautifully shot and having true depth to it, Westworld opens the discussion about whether man can be destroyed by his own creation... and whether that's actually a bad thing. But then adds enough twists to insure you'll never quite know the answer.
#7 Black Mirror (Netflix)
Kind of a Twilight Zone for a modern era, Black Mirror is a collection of thought-provoking stories of the near-future. If you take my advice to watch, I have a suggestion. Start with Episode 2 of Season 1 (skipping Episode 1), watch the remainder of Season 1, THEN watch that first episode before proceeding to Season 2. The reason is that the first episode is so freaky and "out there" that you will probably get the wrong idea of what the show is capable of. But once you've seen the other episodes, you'll be able to appreciate the first one for what it is in the grand scheme of things.
#8 The Night Manager (AMC)
A John le Carré adaptation that is firing on all cylinders. If you're into spy thrillers, this is a mini-series that's worth a look.
#9 The Crown (Netflix)
As a royalphile who's fascinated by the British Royal Family, I often find myself watching documentaries and series that are informative but boring. This is something different entirely. Following the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, The Crown is a beautiful mini series that will be broken down into six series of ten episodes each. If successive seasons are as terrific as this one, I'm set for the next five years.
#10 Lucifer (FOX)
I'd call this show a guilty pleasure," but I'm not feeling much guilt for being a fan. Especially with this latest season where "Mom" comes to town, which has been some of the best fun you can have with a television show.
#11 The Americans (FX)
This is a show that flows in and out of my "Best Of..." list, but is consistently great television and is always worth watching. The opening of Season 4 this year blew the roof off the show (again) and upped the intensity to a whole new level. Given its complexity, I don't know that I would advise jumping in the middle... you really need to start at the beginning... but it's such a great show that you'll be glad you did.
#12 London Spy (BBC America)
And now for something completely different! When Danny has a random encounter with Alex, it's love at first sight. But then things start to go terribly wrong when Alex turns up dead and it's revealed that he wasn't who he claimed to be. This plunges Danny into a rabbit hole of espionage as he tries to find out the truth about what's happened. The resulting story is a slow-burn thriller that is entertaining despite its flaws (of which there are many). In the end I don't know that the show was particularly great, but it was memorable in a way most shows in this genre are not. This is most likely due to the haunting talents of Ben Whishaw.
FIVE MORE WORTH WATCHING...
As a fan on the comic book of the same name, I didn't have much confidence that Seth Rogan would do it justice as a television show. He was the one who screwed up The Green Hornet, after all. So imagine my surprise when the adaptation turned out to be pretty darn good! Dominic Cooper has a handle on Jesse Custer, which was essential... but Joseph Gilgun and Ruth Negga as Cassidy and Tulip O'Hare is what pushes the show to the next level. Disturbingly funny with just enough horror to keep things interesting, Preacher should appeal to even non-fans of the book.
Spoofing the epic shit-show that Lost turned out to be seems like it would be an easy chore. In reality... not so much. But then comes along Wrecked, a comedy centered around a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island... and it kinda works. By no means a "smart" comedy, it relies on easy laughs and situations that are far from brilliant, but the characters manage to make it worth watching. Especially Todd (Will Greenberg) whose selfish and eccentric nature are gold.
Game of Thrones (HBO)
This past year is kind of wearing me out on the whole show, but it's still incredibly compelling television. Apparently it wraps up in two more seasons, which will be a welcome alternative to things being drawn out to tedium, but it's anybody's guess as to whether we're going to get a satisfying conclusion. Will it all be worth it in the end? The series of books are still far, far from being finished, so we're heading into unknown territory.
This modern take on Sherlock Holmes is still going strong. Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu still have amazing chemistry. The mysteries are still well-written. And, if anything, this latest season has been one of the best yet... stripping away distraction to focus on what makes the series so good. Could have easily made my top-twelve if there wasn't so much excellent fresh programming being released.
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America)
To be honest, I'm not sure if I liked this series or not. It's quite different from the Douglas Adams books, and not always in a good way. Still, it's bizarre, fresh, and overall interesting enough that I'm glad I watched it. And it was rather smart how it all came together at the end, which is always a good thing. If "regular" television is boring you, this might be the ticket.
ANIMATION WORTH YOUR TIME...
The show that never disappoints. The fact that we only get three more seasons before Adam Reed packs it in is terrifying.
Hands down the most bizarre mix of comedy and tragedy you will ever see, the third season of BoJack was its most ambitious yet.
CANCELLED BUT NOT FORGOTTEN...
My favorite show from last year started the second half of its first season strong. Indeed, Stop Me Before I Hug Again (airing in January) is one of the best episodes of the entire series. But then things went terribly, inexplicably wrong. A trip to Russia started a spy arc that disappointed. We got more of Brian's stupid, stupid family. And then the writers lost their minds completely when they had NZT (or a knockoff of it) go public in the last two shows. How in the hell they planned on recovering from that serious misstep we will never know, because CBS performed a mercy killing and cancelled it. From how things ended up, I'm not sure this was a bad move... but I will still miss the show. When it was good, it was the best thing on television.
MY MOST OVERRATED...
The OA (Netflix)
Holy shit what a disaster. After a non-stop barrage of people telling me to watch, I finally relented. And hated most everything about it. From the plodding, never-ending boredom that stretches out over eight long, grueling episodes (seriously, they could have done this in three) to the wacky interpretive-dance insanity that injects itself into the tedium, I slogged through every episode while wishing death would take me. Any time I complained about the show, people were telling me "you just don't understand its genius" which is code for "don't question this incomprehensible bullshit." Yeah, I get what they were attempting to do... and kudos for trying to put an original spin on a show that was far better (Stranger Things), but no thanks.
A critical darling that is firmly cemented in the top five of most every critic in the known universe, I just could not get into this show. I don't like any of the characters and didn't find the humor to be all that entertaining.
This is Us (NBC)
There is nobody I know who isn't head over heels in love with this show. I just don't get the appeal.
South Park (Comedy Central)
A show that's been on my "Best Of..." list since I've been making "Best Of..." lists completely shit the bed this year. Rather than concentrate the funny on individual episodes, this year we got an inexplicably crappy multi-part epic centering around internet trolling, Denmark, and the presidential election. Of course there were funny moments (this is South Park, after all), but this entire season has been a horrific disaster that never seemed to crawl out of the wreckage.
What a total and complete pile of shit. The original show was a romp of ingenuity that was held together by the charms of Richard Dean Anderson. The revamp is a dumbed-down wankfest headed by a character so unlikeable that I can't fathom how I am expected to root for him. On the contrary, I spent the entire show hoping MacGyver would die so the supporting cast could be the focus.
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
After bitching endlessly about how unremarkable and dull this show is when it has potential to be slaying week after week, I was given renewed hope when it was announced that Ghost Rider would be making an appearance this season. Didn't help. Still mired in talking-heads-we-have-no-budget-for-what-counts tedium that has me racing to fast-forward through the bulk of each episode. Just give it up already. I'd rather have Coulson back in the movies where he was far better utilized.
My favorite song of 2016 is Somebody Else by The 1975. My second favorite song is Eleven Blocks by Wrabel. And had this song been on an album, it would have made my "Best Of..." list for 2016 even if the rest of the album was shit.
That's how awesome a song it is...
Anyway... here's my list of favorite albums from this past year...
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it by The 1975
This should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, as I've been raving about it this whole year. Just as I raved about The 1975's previous album non-stop since I first heard it. This is easily my favorite band going now, and seeing their live show last December made them a serious contender for one of my favorite bands ever. I just can't stop listening to their music, and their latest album dropped a slew of new songs that made that a truth throughout 2016. Hands-down my favorite is Somebody Else, which is a beautiful, haunting tune that has permanent residence in my head. I'm also loving Change of Heart, which is a direct song-sequel to The City. Rounding out my favorites are Paris and This Must Be My Dream.
#2 Reverie by Postiljonen
More haunting magic from the Swedish overlords of dream-pop. I love every song on this album but, if forced to pick, Blood Flow is a song that feels like a romantic warm blanket enveloping you, and it's tough to top that. If that song grabs you, Wait has a slightly more ethereal edge and is worth a listen. And if you want something a little more pop-forward, give Are You Thinking of Me a spin.
#3 E•MO•TION: Side B (EP) by Carly Rae Jepson
The original E•MO•TION (released 2015) should have ended up in my top five last year, but inexplicably didn't make my list at all. In an effort to rectify this, I'm putting Carly Rae Jepson's EP of songs that didn't make the cut as my No. 3 pick (thanks, Howard!). Given how these tracks are every bit as good as what did end up making the cut, you have to wonder if she's capable of making a bad song.
#4 Super by Pet Shop Boys
One of my favorite bands of all time, Pet Shop Boys has been releasing new music at a frantic clip, and I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Good, because it's more PSB music. Bad, because the best tracks from the past three albums would have made one of the best PSB albums of all time. Still, if your favorite PSB songs are their infectious dance tracks, Super has a lot to offer. Oddly enough, my favorite song is not one of those tracks, but the flawlessly-constructed The Dictator Decides, which sports some terrific lyrics over electro-pop accented tones of despair. Equally haunting is Sad Robot World, which is a track that drags you through a slow-moving tale of desolation... exactly the kind of thing Pet Shop Boys excel at.
#5 DNCE by DNCE
No, I have no clue how I ended up liking an album from a group headed up by one of the Jonas Brothers, but here we are. A great deal of my liking this album has to do with their breakout hit, Cake By The Ocean, which is pop genius (and originated when a friend of the band couldn't remember the phrase "sex on the beach"). They followed that with a video for Toothbrush (starring ASHLEY FUCKING GRAHAM!) and I was hooked. Then DNCE dropped a video for the infectious Body Moves and suddenly I was a fan of Joe Jonas & Company.
#6 Oh My My by OneRepublic
OneRepublic often feels like a band that's been spinning its wheels. Their songs (and albums) just kind of blend together in a homogenous blob. Except... what a great blob it is to listen to. Yes, Oh My My is more of the same, but that's not always a bad thing because it keeps me loving the band. A standout track is Kids, which has a kind of M83-infused hook to it. Note that the video for Wherever I Go is one of my favorites of 2016.
#7 Blackstar by David Bowie
For me, Bowie will forever be enshrined in an alter devoted to his 1983 album Let's Dance. Anything outside of that can be appreciated, but my love was reserved for that one album (come on, it's perfect!). Which means I've largely been ignoring his work for 33 years. Then Blackstar drops and my love of all things Bowie is renewed in a huge way. Two days later, Bowie dies and the world starts falling apart. I am convinced this is not a coincidence. Recorded as he was battling liver cancer, Blackstar is yet another example of Bowie being ahead of the pack, the album sounding like some kind of experimental leap of brilliance we're not going to hear again any time soon.
#8 Moth by Chairlift
In my humble opinion, Chairlift's best song is Bruises. It's lyrical, smart, and fun, and nothing else that's come out of the band has reached that height. It hasn't kept them from trying. Moth is another nicely subdued pop release that, unfortunately, will assumably be the band's last since they recently announced a breakup.
And now, just because I love it so much, here's Bruises...
#9 Junk by M83
Much like OneReublic, M83 just keeps slogging through more of the same. And, just like OneRepublic, I find myself being secretly grateful so I don't end up discouraged when a band I like heads in the wrong direction (see: Depeche Mode). Junk doesn't stray to far from formula, but it's a listen I enjoy just the same.
#10 Run the Jewels 3 by Run The Jewels
My being a fan of Run the Jewels confuses a lot of people. Probably because my love of music fits nicely into the pop genre (with emphasis on synth-pop and the 80's) and that's what I'm listening to 95% of the time. But then... then... there are times I need something else. There are times I need metal. There are times I need electronica. And, yes, there are times I need rap. And when that time comes, there's something about Run the Jewels that hits the spot. Their past two albums were fantastic... this third one was released early just last week, so I haven't quite settled into it yet... but I love what I'm hearing.
#11 Version Of Me by Melanie C
My favorite Spice Girl was Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham). My favorite singer of the Spice Girls was Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell). But lurking in my consciousness was always Mel C, who has been just plain solid both in and out of Spice World. Version of Me isn't breaking any new ground, but it's eminently listenable and one of those "in the background albums" I play often while working. That may not seem like a glowing endorsement, and maybe it's not, but the album gets played enough to earn a spot on my list for 2016.
#12 Perfume by Cosmic Explorer
My interest in J-Pop is firmly planted in the past, but every once in a while something new comes along to sink me into that world once again. Perfume was just such a ticket. Something about having Cosmic Explorer's sweet melodies and heavy synth playing at full volume while driving provides a calming effect... even though my grasp of the Japanese language has long-since faded.
And, that's a wrap for 2016! As always, I'm sure I missed something. If I think of it in these coming weeks, I'll be sure to add it here.
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 customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
I suppose I should preface this year's entry with a disclaimer that 2016 was, without a doubt, the worst year of my life. The reasons are personal and I can't go into them here, so you'll just have to trust me. Suffice to say that any other year where I thought I was having a bad year only goes to know that I had no clue what a "bad year" really was.
And now I do.
• Had something terrible happen, then went on a blog strike...
• Had something terrible happen, then adopted my Jake and Jenny (two feral rescue kittens) in an attempt to cheer myself up. Pretty much the only awesome thing to happen all year...
• Had something even more terrible happen, but having two amazing kitties to care for kept me from killing myself...
• Terrible continued to happen, so I bought a new camera and a new lens to distract myself from the shambles my life was quickly becoming...
• Had something terrible happen (I turned 50), but was strangely okay with it because: kittens...
• Thought my life was improving, then had something terrible happen, then decided to remodel my guest room so I wouldn't keep dwelling on just how gut-wrenchingly awful things were...
It was a big job, but I had plenty of help...
• Didn't think things could possibly get worse, but then something terrible happened when an eye infection I got years ago in Costa Rica came back to haunt me...
Don't worry, I had round-the-clock care...
• Things went from terrible to tragic, so I bought another camera lens to distract me from the new level of hell I was consigned to...
• Hit rock bottom, but was able to hang on when my kitten's foster parents paid a visit and shared some early photos of my reason for living...
The third kitty was a brother who was adopted before I arrived or I would have adopted all three of them.
• Made it three days into June before my blog broke down. Then something beyond terrible happened and I had to take the rest of the month off from blogging to recover.
• In an effort to escape from my terrible life while I could still function, I went to New Orleans for a concert.
• The trip to New Orleans was nice, but it didn't make my life any better. Something newly terrible happened when I returned and I decided to take a blogging sabbatical because there was nothing left to say.
• Still on sabbatical. Continuing to explore new levels of terrible.
• Still on sabbatical. What was left of my world fell apart when the worst day of my entire life came and went.
• Found myself longing for the good ol' days when my life was merely "terrible" and spent the second half of September wanting to die.
• Still on sabbatical. Spent the month of October trying to find a new "normal" that I could cling to so I could escape the demons that returned after a 25 year hiatus.
• Returned to blogging as a way of clawing my way out of The Pit of Despair for the second time in my life.
• Caught everybody up on the past five months. Starting with my cats, who were my reason for living while absolutely everything in my universe was going to shit...
• Told everybody about building a catio back in September, which allows my kitties to go outside safely...
• Started rethinking not killing myself when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America. Ran through the Worst Case Scenario becoming reality.
• Took a much needed trip to San Francisco so I could hang out with one of my bestest friends, who happens to be a rock star...
• Got Tattoo No. 7...
• No, seriously, we are totally and completely fucked.
And there you have it, the worst year of my life. I still don't know how I survived it (but I'm guessing it was the cats).
I'd say that I'm hopeful for a better 2017, since things couldn't possibly get worse than this... but we elected a total fucking lunatic to run the country, so there's no such guarantee.
Best of luck, everybody.