As anybody who has read this blog for any length of time knows... I am obsessed with Luc Besson's The Fifth Element. In some ways, it eclipses sci-fi greats like Star Wars and Star Trek for me because it was just so damn fresh when it was first released in 1997.
I've spent many days pining away for a sequel that never came.
So you can imagine my anticipation level when I learned that Besson's new film was being touted as the "spiritual successor" to The Fifth Element... even though the source material for the film actually served as the original inspiration for sci-fi films like The Fifth Element.
Thus the French comic book Valérian and Laureline becomes the movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets...
And... well... it's no Fifth Element.
What Valerian is can be summed up as "visually breathtaking and sublimely imaginative." Everything about the film is beautiful to look at and exciting to behold because it's just so fully realized. You get the impression that Besson must have spent insane amounts of time figuring out even the tiniest details of the Valerian universe... and it shows.
Unfortunately... there's too much else lacking for me to fall in love with the movie.
First of all is the casting. Dane DeHaan (Valerion) is certainly doing his best to be charming and interesting amongst the lavish scenery, but he never quite pulls it off. He's supposed to be head-over-heels in love with his partner in the Space Police (or whatever), but it never feels real. Instead of the roguish charms we got with characters like Han Solo, Valerian comes across as too stiff one minute, too detached the next, and downright wooden the next. I could never get vested in him at all. Slightly better was Cara Delevingne as Laureline, but it was hard to buy into her character when the sparring with Valerian feels so forced. The whole "Oh we hate each other, but the whole time we were actually falling in love" trope falls entirely flat, even though Valerian professes his feelings from the get-go.
Where the casting most decidedly did not fall flat was when we got to Rhianna playing a shape-shifting exotic dancer called "Bubble." She gave her performance everything, and the nature of her character's abilities lit up the screen. Sadly, near the end of her screen-time, Bubble condenses into tired platitudes of love that never came across as convincing, thus sabotaging my favorite character in the movie.
As I mentioned, the CGI work is mind-bogglingly good and, if there's a reason to see this film before it leaves theaters, this would be it. The reason would most certainly not be the dialogue that Besson came up with. Encrusted with enough corny lines about the nature of love to make you cringe, it's an even heavier ham-fisted effort than we got from Leeloo in The Fifth Element... which is to say that it was horribly distracting. Too many lines fell flat either by construction or delivery ("Time flies when you're having fun!" - groan, really?).
As for the story?
I don't even know.
Decades ago a peaceful race of beautiful beach-dwelling aliens on planet Mül are wiped out during a battle between two forces above their world. The small group of aliens that managed to survive are trying to get their world back by getting their hands on an adorable alien pet known as a "Mül Converter" who can shake out duplicates of everything it eats... including "pearls," a powerful energy source needed by the aliens. What follows seems to involve the aliens taking over a growing section of the massive space station, Alpha, which causes the Space Police (or whatever) to call in two of their best operatives, Valerian and Laureline, to solve the mystery of what's happening in there... because all other soldiers sent in have disappeared.
I'd hate to say that the story then becomes boring... the wild special effects are anything but boring... but it kinda does. It's also wildly inconsistent. One minute Valerian and Laureline's sentient ship ("Alex") is essential to explaining story elements... then it is completely forgotten and ignored the next. When Valerian enters the "mystery section" of Alpha, Alex loses contact. Then she gains contact. Then she drops off the face of the earth again. These kind of "deus ex machina" interludes drive me insane. If you can't be fucking consistent with a "character," or offer a clear arc for their time on screen, then it's probably best to not have that character screwing up your screenplay with inexplicable drop-ins that are more frustrating and intrusive than anything else.
By the time things finally wrap up, I was almost relieved that I wouldn't have to suffer through it anymore. There's only so far that incredible CGI effects can take you. This isn't "Star Wars Prequels Bad," but it could have been much, much better if there was something... more... to support the visuals.
So... overall? A disappointment. This was not The Fifth Element I was looking for. That being said, I'd still recommend seeing it in theaters just to experience the jaw-dropping beauty of it all the way it was meant to be seen.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is tanking hard at the box office. As I'm writing this, it's barely cleared $60 million against a production budget of $172 million. This is a real shame, because I think there was room for some very interesting stories to be told in that universe. Given a sequel, I'm confident that Luc Besson could have taken the criticism of what didn't work, fix it, then give us something that truly delivers on everything that Valerian could have been. Alas, it's probably not going to happen.
And now I'll just be sitting over here... still pining away for my sequel to The Fifth Element... something else that, alas, will probably never happen.
Yesterday was fairly uneventful. Woke up hideously early to make my flight out of Boston... changed planes in Seattle... and... eventually made my way home to Redneckistan. Easy!
Thanks to wildfires in British Columbia and the Okanogan, things here have become quite dire. Smoke is so thick that the entire county has been declared a hazard. THIS was my view of the valley after pulling over on the way home...
When the total eclipse happens later this month, I'm supposed to be able to see the moon obscuring 92.1% of the sun from my house. I bought viewing glasses and a filter for my camera and everything...
But, if this smoke keeps up, I won't be able to see much at all.
It'll be a real bummer if that happens.
I had an appointment over on The Coast, which meant an early run across the mountains. Thanks to WSDOT and their endless construction at numerous spots, it wasn't the smooth sailing that I had hoped for. Thank heavens I left an extra hour early.
The trip back was much of the same.
Except I made the mistake of logging on to Facebook before leaving, where I received some gut-wrenchingly awful news. I decided to stop at Denny's for lunch rather than risk driving while in a state of shock.
It didn't help.
But I did get fries and a Coke out of it, so I guess that's something.
As going to movie theaters gets more and more annoying with assholes texting on their phones and smacking their popcorn and talking non-stop, I've spent a goodly chunk of money building a decent home theater. My setup is not extravagant by any means, but it is nice enough that I don't necessary miss the theater as much as I thought I would.
The cornerstone of my set-up is an Ultra HD 4K HDR television and Blu-Ray player plus a decent stereo A/V receiver capable of processing it all.
But that's only half the battle.
The other half being Ultra HD 4K HDR movies to play on it all. It's the only way you're going to get the fantastic picture clarity and high dynamic range color that the format offers.
And so I've been buying 4K movies from time to time... especially when they go on sale.
Almost too good. The picture is more like what you'd get from a hi-def cam-corder than what you'd see in a movie theater. It looks... fake?... kinda. Not necessarily in a bad way, it just takes some getting used to. It also takes a lot of futzing with your television picture settings to get the best possible visuals. For me that meant upping the brightness, lowering the contrast, and finding a saturation level that works.
What you see, thanks to the 4K Ultra High Definition picture, is even the tiniest details of everything happening on-screen. Every stray hair... every spec of dirt... every line and crease... there is nothing that can hide from such a ridiculously high resolution.
What you also see, thanks to the High Dynamic Range, is a color pallet that's jaw dropping. You only thought that Leeloo's brilliant orange hair was bright... until you see it in HDR. It's so vivid and bright that it almost takes on a life of its own.
So... is Ultra HD 4K HDR worth it?
Yes, because it's the absolute best way to watch movies at home... assuming you have a system that can take advantage of it and a television big enough to do it justice. Newer movies (like Kingsman: The Secret Service) are mind-blowingly beautiful with their stunning color fidelity and clarity. Even older movies (like The Fifth Element tend to be gorgeous, though be forewarned that film grain will be perfectly preserved and on vivid display if you get too close.
No, because I am not entirely convinced that the cost is worth it. My 65-inch television is great, but in order to get any benefit from a 4K picture, I have to be sitting a maximum of 8-1/2 feet away, with the ideal distance being 4-feet, 9-inches. This means I have to push my coffee table out of the way and slide my couch forward every time I watch a 4K movie.
In this respect, the resolution isn't as big a selling point as the high dynamic range color, which is great at any distance.
If you can afford a massive screen on your television... or just want color that's next level... it might be worth a look. Otherwise? Probably not. For most people 1080p is plenty.
My long-time friend Howard died today and I am lost.
We first found each other through blogging a decade ago, but our friendship went far beyond that. Last night I was sifting through hours upon hours of texts, messages, emails, and comments, and realized that we have been in near-continuous contact since we first found each other. Our taste in music, movies, anime, and so many things were in perfect sync so there was always something to talk about.
And I guess sometimes you just know, you know?
We met in person a half-dozen times, usually when I was in Denver for work. The first was at my "Daveorado" event back in August of 2009...
Tug, Me, Hot Doctor's Wife, and Howard at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver!
And then there was that time we flew to L.A. so we could catch a rare US appearance by anime god Hayao Miyazaki, truly one of the best moments of my life.
And then there was the time we went to see Duran Duran at Red Rocks.
And then there was the time back in May when I flew to Denver to celebrate Howard's 50th birthday.
But most of our contact was just everyday stuff. Like when I first got Jake and Jenny and he decided to make them into a meme...
He was forever sending me stuff like that.
And forever talking about music. We have text conversations that go on for hours that are nothing but Pet Shop Boys. But it wasn't just our love of 80's tunes that made for good music talk. Every once in a while he'd turn me on to new music too. Most notably Holy Ghost! and Postiljonen. One minute I'm reading an innocent text... the next minute I'm obsessing over a band I'd never heard of before...
Along with music was the movies we loved to talk about. All kinds of movies... but mostly our shared love of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films. Back in February a new one was released, The Red Turtle, and I got more than just his thoughts on the film...
And then this past Monday, Howard and his "understanding guy" got married! I will be forever grateful for Josh bringing light and love into Howard's life these past six months.
Another thing I'll be forever grateful for is that Howard always knew how I felt about him. I loved him dearly, and told him so...
I could write volumes about how much Howard meant to me, but that text probably does a better job of it.
He was a soul mate.
It's as simple as that.
What's not simple is trying to find a way to carry on with life after a chunk of your heart has been ripped out. But I will find a way, because anything less would be an insult to somebody who fought so bravely every day to carry on...
Goodbye, my friend. I will always love you. I will always miss you.
And you don't have to be embarrassed about liking that Katy Perry song in heaven.
I've done absolutely nothing all weekend... but all that's about to change, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Domino! I loved Ryan Reynold's Deadpool movie, finding it to be the most authentic and faithful adaptation to come out of FOX's Marvel mutants shit-hole ever. Naturally, this left me very excited over the sequel plans, which include Cable (Josh Brolin from Men In Black 3 who is also Thanos in the Marvel Studios Universe!) and Domino (Zazie Beatz from Atlanta). Both were flawless casting...
As somebody with ever-increasing amounts of vitiligo, I have to say that whomever came up with the idea of making the cinematic version of Domino be an inverse image of the comic book and use vitiligo to create her distinctive eye mark is a fucking genius!
How cool is that? Coming to a big screen near you sometime next year!
• GAME OF THRONES!!! Finally...
I've been waiting seven seasons for this moment!
If you've already seen Season Seven's fourth episode, here's a fascinating look at the thinking and special effects that went into the episode...
Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.
• Congressman Search and Rescue! It's funny because it is 100% dead-on balls accurate (click to enbiggen)...
Fucking politicians. But you can't really blame them. Our entire system is built to encourage corruption, so they're just playing the role we've created for them. And nothing is going to change until the system changes.
• It's a Poo! If I gave up being a vegetarian after 30 years... then ate half-dozen loose meat sandwiches... then took a massive shit... this is what I'm guessing I'd see when I looked in my toilet...
What a fucking pile of garbage. But is there anybody in the Trump Administration that isn't a fucking pile of garbage? Rather than me typing cuss-words for the next dozen paragraphs, here's John Oliver...
If you go on to watch the entire interaction between Steven Miller and Jim Acosta... go with God... because Miller's pathetic attempt at spin is so laughably idiotic as to raise genuine concern for his mental health. Apparently a requirement to govern now-a-days?
• Eagles! As a long-time fan of the American Bald Eagle, I am always touched when a new video surfaces of an eagle being rescued. Which got me to thinking about the number of times I've seen an eagle rescue video pop up, and I became curious... exactly how often does an eagle need to be rescued? A quick search on YouTube shows that it happens ALL the time! "About 608,000" hits? Insanity! It's so wonder these birds aren't extinct!
• Looking! A while back I blogged about Jake escaping from the catio the day before I was heading to Las Vegas. A surprising number of people have asked me what I would have done if I couldn't have found him before my flight. I'd think the answer would be obvious, but here it is... I'd have canceled my flight and stayed to look for him. There is no way... none whatsoever... I could have gotten on a plane knowing that Jake was outside alone. Work can be shifted. Flights can be rebooked. That's not even a blip on my radar compared to the thought of Jake getting lost forever.
Until next Sunday, then...
The smoke-filled air has become so bad that going outside for even a minute is like painting my lungs with glue. Most days now the haze is so bad that I can't even see the surrounding hillsides. The paper said air conditions would be improving, but that hasn't happened at all.
Which has resulted in my cats being upset at me for limiting their time out in the catio.
I only let them out when I can see through the air... and even then just for an hour. Any more time than that and I worry what might happen to their little lungs.
Needless to say I really worry about the animals (like Fake Jake) that are out in the smoke all day and night. This cannot be good for their health.
Ironucally, my Solar Eclipse viewing glasses and camera lens cover arrived today. Don't know if things will be cleared up enough for that to matter, but here's hoping.
So... it's now a race.
Will President Trump's idiotic, ill-informed, and ignorant handling of North Korea doom me to nuclear extinction before the ultra-massive volcanic engine that's just been found hiding under Washington State buries me in a tsunami of molten lava?
I just don't know.
Crossing my fingers for a massive, world-ending meteor strike...
I don't know what it is.
But he's a cat, so...
The smoke pouring into the valley since I got back has made breathing increasingly challenging. Even worse, the Flonase that gets shot up my nose so I actually can breath is now causing nosebleeds. As if that weren't enough, all the above is making it impossible to sleep.
Now I'm home from work just laying here... waiting to die...
Come, come, come, nuclear bomb...
I took a sick day today and, thanks to a drug-induced coma, spent the entire day in bed.
I didn't even watch television. I just... slept.
Now that I'm semi-awake, I decided to eat dinner and catch up with Forged in Fire while I wait for the people I hired to come install gutters on the catio.
Your blade... will kill...
Thank heavens for cats.
Although it's not always sunshine and roses. Jake and Jenny are still evolving in their personalities. And their brother/sister relationship. Which is not always great. Now that Jenny has been more and more enthusiastic about hanging out with me, Jake has occasional fits of jealousy where he'll chase her off so he can have all the attention. Nothing violent... yet, and they are still mostly happy together... but it's a growing concern. Jenny can definitely take care of herself, but Jake is a big bruiser of a cat that has some pounds on her.
She makes up for it in attitude though. Just look at this grumpy face...
Jenny dragged Lion all the way upstairs as her morning tribute, then had to meow so I was sure to see it. Unfortunately, it was still an hour until breakfast time, so my ignoring her did not sit well. She started ripping into poor lion, then getting upset when the fur from his mane got stuck in her mouth...
She was triumphant in the end though...
As for Jake? Still loves being Jake. Which means every day when I come home from work, he's all over me...
Fake Jake has been hanging around more than usual, which provides endless entertainment for the cats. Jake is no longer afraid of his doppelgänger, which means they actually kind of "hang out" together from time to time. Though I know if the fencing were removed, Fake Jake would likely be on the attack, so catio containment is still critical. This often results in a "Cat Watching Cat Watching Cat Watching Cat" scenario...
Ugh. Unfortunately, they just power-washed the gutters and concrete, so my windows are even dirtier than usual. Such a pity that window-washing is not including with the HOA fees!
And that's it for Caturday Saturday... now I'm off to the other side of the mountains.
It's not just another day in America, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Fuck It! Fuck white supremacy. Fuck the Alt-Right. Fuck neo-Nazi assholes. Fuck all of this anti-American bullshit...
The final point is the most important... if you are silent on this horrendous shit, you are complicit with this horrendous shit.
• Trump! Called it. Though even I didn't anticipate it would happen this quickly...
Only 8 months into the Trump Presidency we are on the brink of nuclear war and Nazis are in streets of an American city. Seems about right— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) August 12, 2017
Further reading at GQ: Charlottesville Is the America That Donald Trump Promised
• Fire! If you hate me now, you'll be happy to know I'm totally doomed.
• Pierced! Food for thought...
I have yet to visit a tattoo/piercing shop that wasn't the epitome of cleanliness and professionalism.
• Defenders! Five days... five days away...
My expectations are probably too high, but here's hoping...
• Toys! It's the little things...
And, on that note, Blogography out...
In a time where a woman is killed by Nazis on American soil, I am finding myself at a loss to deal with the evil that assaults us day after day. In a time where our president condemns Nordstrom for discontinuing his daughter's purses in two minutes but waits two days before he is shamed to condemn the white supremacist cancer eating at the heart of this country, I am finding myself at a loss to want to try.
Now, more than ever, I understand why some people just want to watch the world burn.
It would seem we deserve nothing better.
It's tough to shake the feeling that people in general... humanity, as it were... has a potential for goodness that makes us something worth saving.
Despite it all...
And the Red Sox beat the Yankees 2 games out of 3. If that doesn't make you believe in the power of good triumphing over evil, I don't know what will.
Keep hope alive, everybody.
The movie review compendium site Rotten Tomatoes is both a good thing and a bad thing for the movies I love. Good because movies that critics like which might be missed are getting some exposure and hype they deserve. Bad because movies that critics hate which aren't necessarily "rotten" will dissuade movie-goers from seeing something they might otherwise enjoy.
My movie tastes are all over the map but, in general, I tend to agree with the majority of critics.
But not always.
And apparently I'm not alone, because last night I saw this article pop up: IGNORE THE CRITICS! 10 ‘ROTTEN’ MOVIES YOU SHOULD TOTALLY WATCH ANYWAY. As I read through the films in their list I was all "Yes! Yes! ZOMG, YES!" and so I thought I'd post the link and offer up a short comment on why I agree some of these films are not actually all that "rotten." Though some of them, like To Rome with Love, a film by asshole Woody Allen that stars Roberto Benigni and Jesse Eisenberg (two actors I don't care for at all)... I'll take a pass on.
Anwyay, here we go...
So... if you're ever looking for a movie to watch and you skipped one of these because of poor reviews, you might want to take another look!
Well, the world may be going to shit, but at least I have cats to keep me sane.
Just like when they were kittens... but not quite so compact...
Rather than focus on the hideous events from another tragic day in this country, I thought I'd search for something positive about the good ol' USA that doesn't fill me with overwhelming dread and embarrassment.
I didn't have to go far.
I recently got a notice that Rob Decker is having a killer sale through the month of August on his incredible US National Park posters. There are many people/companies creating these, but Rob's are my hands-down favorite (he studied under Ansel Adams!). He bases the designs on his own photography, and crafts them in the style of the old-time WPA Federal Art Project posters that were made in the 30's and 40's. They are magic...
Artwork © Rob Decker
Artwork © Rob Decker
Artwork © Rob Decker
All of these gorgeous 13×19 posters are signed/numbered limited editions and usually retail for $30 each (which is a total bargain)... but with his sale, you can pick them up for as low as $20 each!
Talk about something Americans can be proud of... our incredible 59 National Parks are national treasures and truly showcase America the Beautiful. I visit them whenever I can, and have plans to visit more in the near future. Here's my list with a check next to the park posters I own (click on a National Park to visit its Wikipedia Page)..
|National Parks I've Visited (17)||Planning to Visit 2017-2020 (10)||Have Not Visited Yet (32)|
|Acadia ✓||Death Valley||American Samoa|
|Arches ✓||Glacier ✓||Badlands|
|Bryce Canyon ✓||Joshua Tree ✓||Big Bend|
|Canyonlands ✓||Kings Canyon||Biscayne|
|Capitol Reef||Pinnacles||Black Canyon|
|Crater Lake ✓||Sequoia||Carlsbad Caverns|
|Everglades ✓||Shenandoah ✓||Channel Islands|
|Glacier Bay||Wind Cave||Congaree|
|Grand Canyon ✓||Yellowstone||Cuyahoga Valley|
|Great Smoky Mountains ✓||Yosemite ✓||Denali|
|Haleakala ✓||Dry Tortugas|
|Hawaii Volcanoes ✓||Gates of the Arctic|
|Mount Rainier ✓||Grand Teton|
|North Cascades||Great Basin|
|Olympic ✓||Great Sand Dunes|
|Zion ✓||Hot Springs|
Just for fun, I mapped them all out in Google Maps here...
Rob plans on eventually releasing posters for all 59 National Parks, so hopefully Hawaii Volcanoes, North Cascades, and Redwood will be added to my collection soon!
In the meanwhile, I rearranged my stairwell wall so I can fit my recent purchases into my collection...
Annnnd... my wall is full now! As I visit more National Parks, I guess I'll have to add any new posters to my office the cat's room walls.
A terrorist attack in Catalonia.
Including Barcelona, a city I love and have visited multiple times.
You'd think I'd have found the words to properly express my sadness at these ongoing tragedies from terrorism by now, but I don't think they're ever coming. It just continues to break my heart, and it always hurts to know there is such evil in the world.
But it hurts worse when places I love suffer for it.
And I love entirely too many places on this earth.
Thank you to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for your statement on the terrorist attack. It's nice to know there's a true leader left in North America.
My inability to sleep has nothing to do with my cats. They've always been oddly respectful of sleepy-time. On those rare occasions I do manage to fall asleep, they leave me alone. Even if I just pretend to be asleep, they'll walk in the room, take a look, then walk right back out. It's weird them being so unselfish while being cats and all, but I'm not going to complain.
Every once in a while...
Something happens and they go all "cat" again.
Like last night when I woke up to armageddon happening downstairs. The cats were freaking out over... something... and the commotion was nuts. Is there a big bug in the house? Did a mouse climb through the cat door? What could it be?
Nothing showed up on the security cameras.
Until I reviewed outside footage.
A family of five raccoons decided to visit the catio, which caused quite a stir. I've sped-up the footage to double-speed...
Here's a zoom-in on the above footage to see them better...
I especially love the little raccoon at the end who is desperately trying to make friends with Jake, who just isn't having it...
Guess I need to look into getting some Raccoon Chow.
There actually is something interesting happening before the eclipse tomorrow, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Defenders! How is it that Netflix can be so damn flawless when casting every single character in every single Marvel series and in writing every single character in every single Marvel series... except when it comes to Iron Fist? Danny Rand is written horribly. The actor playing him is a terrible fit for this character. I could barely make it through the Iron Fist series, and now the character made it tough to get through the newly-released Defenders series too...
Every single time Iron Fist appears in The Defenders, everything that's moving forward so beautifully grinds to a halt and turns to shit. I mean... holy crap... they got Sigourney Freakin' Weaver, who elevates absolutely everything she appears in (including The Defenders), but even she is not going to be able to save this show when such a key piece of it is shit. There was a scene between Luke Cage and Danny Rand... fucking "Heroes for Hire" that we've been dying to see... and Mike Colter is just killing it as Cage while Finn Jones can't seem to deliver a single line with any conviction or semblance of skill. It's like he's trying to channel Keanu Reeves, which wouldn't be horrible... EXCEPT HE'S CHANNELING KEANU REEVES FROM BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. GAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!
Look, I'm sure Finn Jones is a capable actor in other roles, but his take on Iron Fist sucks. The character takes a solid 5-star show and knocks it down to four. I hope they end up doing another Defenders... the idea is too good not to... but diminish, eliminate, or replace Iron Fist with something that's a better fit. Please.
• Trolls! This. Is. Fucking. Genius.
I hope it catches on.
• Fake President! Making America... uhhh... great?... again?
So... Trump actually is accomplishing more than any other president! Finally, a truth!
• Ahnold! Just as an FYI... THIS IS HOW YOU FUCKING DO IT...
.@Schwarzenegger has a blunt message for Nazis. pic.twitter.com/HAbnejahtl— ATTN: (@attn) August 17, 2017
• Punch It! Seriously. I'm sick of this bullshit. We fought a fucking WORLD WAR over this. There are not "two sides" to this position. There is no "just as bad" when it comes to this. There is no confusion as to the appropriate response. We have memorials... history books... and a shitload of movies that make it quite clear...
Nothing less than 100% unapologetic, uncompromised, unconditional condemnation of white supremacists and Nazis is ever acceptable. If you don't fucking get that, then you have no business being president. Hell, you have no business calling yourself "human."
I mean, Jesus Christ... IT'S THE FUCKING NAZIS HERE!!!
• Dropt It! In a feeble attempt at ending on a positive note, this is must-see TV...
Annnnnd... I'm spent. No more bullets for you.
And so... The Great Eclipse is upon us!
I've decided to "liveblog" the event, and will be updating this page throughout the morning as I document my triumphs and failures in trying to capture it for posterity.
If you're here late, you'll have to scroll to the bottom and work your way back up to see things in order.
Annnd... I think I'm out. Until next eclipse, everybody!
I have to say... the very best part of staying home for the eclipse has been hanging out with my kittehs. They toughed it out to the very end, and have been incredibly sweet the entire time...
Just noticed that Carl the Robovac has gone silent. I hunt him down and find out that he never made it out of the guest bedroom. The dipshit choked on a rug...
While waiting for the never-ending eclipse to... errr... end... I noticed that I still had flowers in bloom in my back flower bed. I hardly ever go in my back yard, so it was kind of surprising since all my other flowers have long-gone...
And... still going...
Seriously... is this ever going to end?
One of the things I remember most from my first eclipse (which was total here in 1979) is the funky moon shadows that appear in tree leaves. Thankful that I remembered to document the phenomena...
This eclipse is lasting forever! Cats are so not impressed...
Never got very dark. Just kind of overcast-looking... but with blue skies and sun. If that makes any sense...
After futzing around with my camera settings, I finally figured out how to get the best possible shot. Kind of a letdown, but at least I got it. Here's at the peak for my location (92% coverage)...
10:00am The solar filter for my lens is a total bust. It looks exactly the same as the uneclipsed sun... just a bright blurry ball of light. Bummer.
9:35am And, here it is... my first shot of da sun (uneclipsed)...
9:15am Look who decided to visit... FAKE JAKE! He inspected my gear, then decided to visit with the cats. Jenny, who always runs in terror when Fake Jake shows up, was a brave kitty. Maybe because I was standing beside her? Even so, I'm a proud cat-dad right now...
This is my setup. My Sony a7R Mark II with the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lens (and solar filter) attached...
Waaayyyyy back before there was an eclipse glasses shortage, I ordered up a "Celestron Eclipse Kit" from B&H Photo that includes a nice pair of "approved" glasses with a solar lens filter. The filter is meant to be held over the lens, but I don't want the distraction as I'm maneuvering for a shot. I decided to cut around the filter, then tape it to my lens...
The cats decided to inspect my work...
I've read various opinions on pets and the eclipse. Some say that my cats will get their eyes burned out and should be kept indoors. Some say that cats don't look at the sun normally, and they won't start now. I was going to take the precaution of locking them out of the catio, but it seems they can't get a full view from there anyway. Will be nice to have some company.
After scrolling through the eclipse-related news of the morning, I decide to take a shower. Nobody wants to have a stinky eclipse! I've decided to wear my artfully "distressed" American Eagle jeans and my favorite short-sleeve Wolverine-brand shirt.
Reading up on eclipse "best practices." I'm taking the morning off work, so there's no hurry. Three hours until eclipse time. TIME magazine has a handy eclipse tool so you can know what to expect (or know what you're missing if your skies are overcast. I'm supposed to get an eclipse at 92% coverage, like this...
I've been awake for hours, of course, but the cat's breakfast finally drags my ass out of bed. In honor of Eclipse Day, I'm having a chocolate cupcake for breakfast. I felt I had to, because there's an astronomical event and Redneckistan actually has CLEAR SKIES, which almost never happens. My cats are celebrating by dumping their breakfast on the floor and chasing dry cat food kibble around the dining room. Carl the RoboVac hums in anticipation...
It was an article talking about how Antarctica is a fraud. It's not a "continent" at all... instead it's just a wall of ice around the edge of a FLAT EARTH DISC to keep the oceans from spilling off the side. The sun and moon are much, much smaller than the earth and rotate above the "disc" like yo...
Image attributed to The Flat Earth Society. Really. It exists.
This is not the first time I had heard of such a thing, but I always thought that stuff like "The Flat Earth Society" was a joke. I mean, how could it be anything except a joke? We have visible, reproducible evidence that the earth is a globe which can be witnessed with our own eyes! Astronauts have been off the planet and have seen the earth is a globe! We have actual science that proves how the earth globe works! We have frickin' satellites orbiting the planet to give us technology magic like GPS and shit!
And yet... it's no joke. An increasing number of people are tossing reason right out the window and actually believe this crap.
Then I started seeing flat earth dumbfuckery pop up again for the eclipse yesterday. To some people, the eclipse was seen as "irrefutable proof" that the earth is flat. They don't take time to understand how reality works, so they come up with stuff like "THE SHADOW IS MOVING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!" and "NASA IS TELLING YOU TO WEAR SPECIAL GLASSES SO YOU CAN'T SEE THE TRUTH!" as their "evidence."
What's most fascinating to me is the flat-earther's blinding hatred of NASA.
Over and over and over again I read how NASA is lying to us and everything they produce has been faked and photoshopped. Of course they think the moon landing was a complete hoax. How could they not? The reason they think NASA is faking everything is that they get tons of money from the government to explore stuff in space, and if they told the truth... that there is no stuff in space to explore... they would be defunded and shut down. No explanation as to how NASA manages to keep their thousands of employees on a leash... or why Russia, Japan, China, and other countries are cooperating with the NASA 'lie" when there's no reason for them to. But it's not like reasonable thinking is going to get you anywhere with somebody who thinks the earth is flat.
Aside from the common sense of a globe-shaped earth given all we know, observe, and study, I have yet to figure out how flat-earthers think that eclipses can be predicted by science if they reject all the science that allows eclipses to be predicted. I mean, seriously... how can NASA tell you in advance when and where an eclipse is going to occur if they are faking the science that gives them the information?
Here's a segment of a list maintained by Time and Date that lays out eclipses for all of 2019...
Scientists are able to release stuff like this because our solar system has been modeled. It's not some wild guess that they're making... if you go to the places they say there will be an eclipse at the time they say there will be an eclipse, you will see an eclipse. It's that simple.
I have scoured the internet trying to find an eclipse schedule as released by a flat-earther, but it doesn't look like there is anything. You're just supposed to take their word that the earth is flat even though they can't explain how astronomers are dead-accurate about the science of eclipses... and offer no explanation or "predictions" as to when eclipses on their pancake earth are going to occur.
Oh well. When I set sail towards Antarctica this December, I'll be sure to take photos of the giant ice wall.
And if you never hear from me again, you can assume that the flat-earthers are right and I've fallen off the edge.
It's been one of those weeks.
Fortunately, it's half over.
Can't get this coming Sunday's Game of Thrones season finale out of my head.
Something to look forward to, anyway.
I'm amazed by the statistic that only 25% of parents with deaf children learn sign language.
My friends have a deaf child and they started learning sign language right after he was diagnosed so they would be up-to-speed by the time he was old enough to communicate. They make a habit of signing all their conversations, even when speaking to each other, so that their son would never feel left out or feel that signing was abnormal. Looks like they deserve an incredible amount of credit for how hard they worked!
In other news... Kyle DiMarco is so beautiful that I am starting to re-think my sexuality. Where did he come from?
You can learn more about the Nyle DiMarco Foundation on his website.
I've gotten to the point where I've given up on expecting people to do the right thing. Far too many times I end up disappointed.
Right now, I'll just settle for people not being evil.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my cats' behaviors continue to evolve.
It used to be that my cats would happily share my affections... climbing on me or next to me at the same time. Usually when I was n the couch trying to work while watching television...
This hasn't been the case for several months. Now if one cat is near me, the other one will avoid me. And they seem to have come to some kind of mutual agreement as to who gets to be where.
Jake gets the couch. Jenny almost never jumps on my lap while I'm sitting there anymore...
Jenny gets the bed. Jake will still hop on the bed next to me from time to time, but only if Jenny hasn't gotten there first...
Jenny is still claiming the stereo receiver as her personal space. It's a great spot to satisfy her television addiction...
For whatever reason, Jenny is particularly fond of Rick from Rick and Morty. When she hears his voice, she perks right up.
My efforts at cat-proofing the cupboard where I keep the cat food and cat toy supply has met with failure. My first attempt was a latch that adhered to the doors. It took Jake all of one night to figure out how to move the latch so he could get inside. My second attempt was with a plastic clip that added resistance to pulling open the doors. Jake just pulled harder and opened them right up.
Since he can't open the cans and pouches of food, he settles for stealing toys. I'm forever finding them... still attached to their cards... scattered around the house...
Ever since the eclipse, Fake Jake has been visiting with increasing regularity. He stops by at least once a day now, usually more. This is a source of great excitement for the cats. Especially Jake, who watches for Fake Jake out the side window, then goes tearing towards the catio whenever he spots Fake Jake headed in that direction. After visiting for a while, Fake Jake gets bored and wanders off. Jake will then come tearing back inside so he can follow Fake Jake to the guest bedroom window. Whenever I hear kitty claws running at top speed on my wood floors, I know exactly what's happening...
Jake is obsessed with Fake Jake encroaching on his territory, and will follow him from window to window to window to keep an eye on him.
And now it's time for me to set Caturday aside so I can see how big of a disaster the Netflix Death Note adaptation is. The original manga and animated series were pretty great, so my expectations are at an all-time low.
The seventh season of Game of Thrones is over... but all is not lost, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Thrones! Welp... that was a riveting finale. At the very end, I mean. Despite having some great moments (I LOVE YOU ARYA!), it was actually kind of slow until that point.
I was disappointed we didn't get more Beric in this episode. He is my favorite character on Game of Thrones by a wide margin, and it was this scene that made it thus...
The fact that he can ignite a sword in flames with his blood is just icing on the cake...
Here's hoping he somehow manages to survive the show. Because...
• Grrrace! I never watched "Will & Grace" when it was on TV because Deborah Messing plays characters that are neurotic messes, and this looked to be more of the same. Then I saw the Election Special, liked it, and decided to buy the first three seasons when they went on sale at iTunes to prepare me for the return this Fall. Karen Walker is one of the best comedic characters to ever appear on television. Without Karen and Jack, this show would have been a total bomb.
I despise Will and Grace, finding them selfish and uncaring... yet seemingly unaware of how horrible they behave. They think themselves to be better people than they are. Karen and Jack are selfish and uncaring too, but have no illusion about it. Hard not to respect that. Especially when Karen is so damn funny.
• Never Gonna Give You Up! Probably the best thing I've seen all week...
As if I didn't have enough reason to already love The Foo Fighters.
• Assholery! If I don't know somebody's gender or how they identify, I use "they" and "their" and "them." It's not hard, it's not a big deal, and I'd rather be unspecific than be wrong. If your way of referring to people in this situation is to use "he-she" then you're an asshole. What do you get out of being an asshole to people you don't even know? Seriously, I'm dying to know. People are just trying to get through life as best they can with the cards they were dealt. They don't need your bullshit assholery heaped on them too.
• Rich and Powerful! HEADLINE: A Federal Judge Put Hundreds of Immigrants Behind Bars While Her Husband Invested in Private Prisons. This should surprise absolutely nobody. This is the way our corrupt system works. Wealthy, powerful people continue to exploit their privilege and position at the expense of everybody else. Just as they've bought our government, they're buying our freedoms, our liberty, and our justice. Because if we actually HAD justice, this judge would be FUCKING EXECUTED and her husband IMPRISONED FOR LIFE. But, by all means... continue to buy into the system that gives ZERO SHITS for you and allows people like this to prosper. This hasn't been a country "of the people, by the people, for the people" for a long time now. It perished from the earth the minute money became more important to us than ideals.
• Still More Assholery. Even if you are willing to put aside his many, many atrocities against people... Joe Arpaio is still a fucking inhuman piece of shit that deserves a hell of a lot worse than jail.
For Nat'l Dog Day let's remember the time Joe Arpaio's Deputies set a puppy on fire, laughing at its sobbing owner as it died a ghastly death pic.twitter.com/4bGuwUIR9u— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) August 26, 2017
And here's Trump pardoning him from a mere six months of jail time. HE WON'T EVEN DO SIX FUCKING MONTHS.
• Violence! I really do try not to advocate violence... but sometimes you need to take out the fucking trash, know what I'm sayin'? "A racist lady made some disparaging comments about black people and Colleen, who has a biracial child, decided to beat the brakes off her..."
Garbage is as garbage does.
And enough of that mess. See you next week!
Thanks to things like "blogging" and "social media," I've made friends around the world. I know somebody who lives just about anywhere. In many ways, this is a very cool thing. Especially when it comes to travel, since there's a friendly face I can visit with no matter where I go. But there's also a down-side.
Because when disaster and tragedy strikes, odds are, I know somebody affected by it.
Such is the case with Hurricane Harvey. I have three blogger friends in the Houston area. I have a friend from work just east of there in the Beaumont/PortArthur area. I know other people in East Texas that could ultimately be affected too.
There's few things worse than watching the news and feeling helpless while seeing what's happening to people I care about.
Well, there's one thing.
Destruction from events like Harvey are terrifying and worrisome... and living with disaster looming in an uncertain future is a horrible thing to suffer through... but at least people understand what's happening.
Abandoned animals do not...
Photo by Ruaridh Connellan ©2017 Daily Mail (UK)
Photo by Ruaridh Connellan ©2017 Daily Mail (UK)
All animals know is to be hungry, scared, and confused as incomprehensible things happen to them. This poor girl was left tied to a telephone pole as the floodwaters started to rise.
I hope it was an accident.
I hope the dog was tied temporarily, and some emergency called the owner away temporarily and they couldn't get back.
I hope this is just a cruel twist of fate that has the owners as upset as I am that this could happen.
Because anything less than that makes me about as upset as I am capable of being.
Luckily the photographer, Ruaridh Connellan, has a heart and rescued the puppy from her plight...
Photo by Alan Butterfield ©2017 Daily Mail (UK)
Photo by Ruaridh Connellan ©2017 Daily Mail (UK)
I know the majority of people have kindness in their hearts for animals. I know there are a lot of people like me who would risk their lives to save their pets. But I also know there are people who would leave their animals to die if it was inconvenient to do otherwise, and that's pretty hard to take.
You can read the whole story of "Lucky" at the Daily Mail site.
I know that my LGBTQ friends cannot ignore the heinously vile and bigoted "Nashville Statement" (much as they'd probably like to) which seeks to deny them rights, divide them from our communities, and cast them out of our society. What I hope you cannot ignore is the ever-growing number of people like me who love you, value you, cherish you, and know that our lives are better because you are a part of it.
For those not in the know, The Nashville Statement (which does not reflect the opinion of Nashville, the city) is written by "Christian leaders" and sets out to define a sexuality "world view" that is based solely on Christian beliefs (as they interpret it) to the exclusion of all other viewpoints. It also directs those who call themselves "Christian" how to act and think when it comes to their sexuality. And... bonus... other people's sexuality too!
And, lucky for you, I read the statement so you don't have to!
Article 1 says that marriage was invented by the Christian God and only His followers get to define it. Which is fine. For you. Please feel free to define your religious constructs any way you wish, but you need to accept that this is The United States of America, and our religious freedoms allow others to do the same... whether within the confines of a "religion" or not. Your personal beliefs do not get to dictate everybody else's beliefs in a country which was built specifically to avoid exactly this kind of thing. Besides, "marriage" existed long before Christianity came along, so stop fooling yourselves.
Article 2 says no sexy-time before marriage. Which is fine. For you. But your personal morals don't get to rain shit and (judgement) down on those who do not accede to your definition of "sexual immorality." You don't get to decide what television programs, magazines, and movies can or cannot show. You don't get to decide what other people do in their bedrooms. The only decision you get to make is for your own damn genitals and what you choose to do with them.
Article 3 says that the Christian God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, and fully rebukes any and all other creation myths or science which does not fully endorse their position. Which is fine. For you. But religion and faith in this country are up to individuals, which means you don't get to force your beliefs in public schools, nor do you get to define your beliefs as "science" to force it into public schools when no scientific evidence exists to support your claims (unless you're Ken Ham and define your own "science," of course).
Article 4 says that you need to revel in your biological sex, because that's who you were created by God to be... and that the differences between man and woman are not a design flaw that needs to be "overcome." And that's fine. For you. But you cannot speak for people who feel that what's in their head doesn't match up with the biological sex they were born with. You don't get to decided what others can or cannot do with their own bodies to live a healthy, happy, fulfilling life. Live your own damn life and be happy you don't have to live in a society that condemns you for who you are like you're doing right here.
Article 5 Restates Article 4 in stronger terms... thou shalt not mess with the biological sex you were assigned. Which is fine. For you. But, again, your personal beliefs in no way get to dictate what others do with their lives and bodies, nor do you get to shame those who choose a path you don't agree with.
Article 6 states that any persons with biological incongruities regarding their genetalia (i.e. "God wanted you to be born a hermaphrodite") are not excluded from God's love, nor are they "incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ." Which, I guess is trying to say that if God designed an incongruity in your physical biological sex, praise Jesus. But if God designed an incongruity in your mental sexual identity, you need to deny it or go to hell? Uh huh.
Article 7 says outright that if you are a homosexual or transgender that you are in violation of the Christian God's "holy purpose," and if you continue living thusly, you're incapable of redemption. Which is juuuuust fine. For you. But don't think for one damn minute that you can use this personal position to turn society against those who have fought to find themselves and emerged victorious as a part of the LGBTQ community. You don't define them. You don't own them. You do not get to decide what rights they receive, what positions they can hold, or what standing they have in society. All your condemnation does is cost real people their happiness... even their lives... and no society, especially one designed for personal freedoms and religious independence, will tolerate your garbage.
Article 8 declares that same-sex attraction is a-okay with them... so long as you never, ever act on those feelings. Which is fine. For you. But not everybody can "live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ" while denying who they are. And for those people who choose to serve Jesus and act upon their same-sex attraction? You hold no dominion. None. Zero. Faith in Jesus and identifying as a Christian are not dependent on your approval.
Article 9 seems to harken back to Article 2, saying that any sexual desires that lead you away from marriage are bad. Like, really bad. And that there's no justification for sexually immorality leading you to immoral behavior. This is surprising given how many times that Christian "religious leaders" are caught in major scandals, only to pull out their "I AM FORGIVEN card" and carry on as if nothing happened. Apparently that's a path which is exclusively Christian, as other faiths seem to be denied such a grand loophole. Oh no. Their perceived sins are forever.
Article 10 states outright that even if you yourself are not a homosexual or transgender, that you do not get to approve of somebody else being homosexual or transgender. So, basically, if you consider yourself to be a "faithful Christian" you are commanded to be a homophobic, transphobic bigot... or lose your "I Love Jesus card." And that's... that's... that's NOT fine, I don't give a flying fuck who you are. Be a fucking bigot in the confines of your home or church if you absolutely must... but don't drag that pathetic, disgusting bullshit to where people are trying to create a loving, accepting society built on kindness and mutual respect. You know, like Jesus would want.
Article 11 is a "feel-good" affirmation of Article 10, but dictates that you are to speak your homophobic, transphobic, bigoted "truth" from a place of love. As if Articles 1-10 make such a thing even possible.
Article 12 endorses the horrific and abusive notion of conversion therapy. Because, apparently, the only way for a gay person to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" is for them to deny how God made them. Never mind that the notion of "choosing to be gay" is as stupid as "choosing to be straight"... the only option is literal torture. And if you elect to do this to yourself? That's, fine... I guess. For you. But to torture children so you can warp them into who you want them to be instead of who they actually are? Fuck that. Yes, they are your kids. You get to raise them as you wish and explain your interpretation of your faith to them as you wish. But you don't get to torture them into being what you want them to be. Even if it "comes from a place of love."
Article 13 says that transgender "sinners" must forsake "transgender self-conceptions" and accept their biological sex as their sex... so help you God. And... whatever. For you. But what you see as "self-conception," transgender persons see as REALITY, and you don't get to dictate a reality for them that is contrary to their experience and feelings. It's not your life.
Article 14 Jesus is Lord, accept no substitutes. And that's great. For you. But He is YOUR Lord. In a country founded on religious liberty, you don't get to force other people to accept Him as THEIR Lord. And while you "deny that the Lord's arm is too short to save, or that any sinner if beyond His reach," that's something you get to believe for yourself. Stop trying to force your beliefs on everybody else. You look like an idiot who believes your omnipotent, omnipresent, all-powerful God is too weak to enact His will as He sees fit. That kind of power doesn't need you. You're not that special.
And that's it. Some of the original text is very confusing, so I can't claim 100% accuracy on my interpretation here. But, hey, I can't claim that these bigots have a 100% accurate interpretation of The Bible, so I guess we're even.
But at least I know to capitalize God, Jesus, and Lord... and know that any reference to Them (such as He, Him, and His) are supposed to be capitalized. Apparently whomever transcribed this crap in the PDF does not.
I hate the taste of chicken.
I didn't like eating it before I became a vegetarian, and I'm certainly not going start eating the crap now. Even the veggie stuff that tastes like chicken is a big ol' PASS for me.
So guess what I ended up buying totally by accident at the grocery store yesterday?
Yes "Chik Patties."
I'd like to say that it's my fault, but it's really not. The fault is 100% on Morningstar Farms for having shitty packaging which does nothing to distinguish the various products they make. All of them are green bags with purple stripes. And they dress the photos of different products in the exact same way so it's easy to get them confused...
Especially since the bags are just laying in a pile in the grocery freezer. I grabbed three packages of "Grillers Prime" and had no idea that the store put a "Chik Patties" in there (or, more likely, a shopper looked at it and put it back in the wrong place)...
This is a categorically bad design flaw that any designer worth their salt works very hard to avoid. Well... any designer except the one working for Morningstar Farms.
Helpful hint to not being a total dick to your customers... come up with packaging that uses color and design language to distinguish your products so people can get what they're wanting to buy. Look at your products from six feet away and see if you can tell them apart. Look at your products as they will be displayed and see if you can tell them apart. If you can't in either case, your design is a failure. Go back to the drawing board and come up with something that works.
Otherwise you end up with pissed off customers like me.
Huh. I wonder if my cats will eat "Chik Patties?"
Good news, everyone!
The twentieth issue of Thrice Fiction magazine has been released... just in the nick of time for the August cover date to still be in August! And you can read it online or download it for FREE at our website!
This time we are honored to feature a gorgeous cover illustration by Chilean artist Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo, who does work for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Wired, Rolling Stone, New Republic, Forbes, Harper's Bazaar, and other fine publications. Many thanks for his kind generosity in allowing us to feature his artwork in this issue...
If you'd like to see more of Alvaro's stunning work, head over to his website and prepare to be blown away!
And now... what are you waiting for? Go take a look at the latest issue of the best fiction 'zine you're not reading: Thrice Fiction!