Posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2018
This evening it snowed a little bit, but that quickly turned to rain and everything melted away.
It's the first day of February, and it's feeling very much like late March. Possibly even April. Which okay, I suppose... but we sure didn't get much winter this season. So now it's time to start worrying about drought for this coming Summer.
Turns out that if you live in my neck of the woods and want to build a snowman, your time is running out...
Note that the only reason my yard has this much snow on it is that Mr. Plow deposited everything from the driveways onto it (and took a chunk out of my lawn again).
Guess it's a good thing that my snowman-making days are behind me...
The good news to come out of all this? Pretty soon I'll be able to park my car outside and turn my garage into a wood shop again.
Posted on Friday, February 2nd, 2018
This past week a guy from Berkeley died while snorkeling off the Southern coast of Maui. The ninth such tragedy in two weeks. It happened off Maluaka Beach, which is in front of the (former) Maui Prince Hotel, which became the (former) Makena Beach Hotel, and is now condos or something. Back when I was traveling to Hawaii for work, I stayed at the Maui Prince many times. I've snorkeled off Maluaka Beach many, many times. In fact, it was off Maluaka Beach where I learned to SCUBA dive.
It's one of my favorite beaches on earth...
Needless to say, hearing about people dying someplace you've been to many times gets you thinking.
The Boston Marathon bombing was on a street I've walked down many times.
9/11 happened in a building I've been up many times.
The Vegas shooting was in an area I've been through many times.
The list goes on and on. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, terrorism... it's all happening somewhere, and sometimes it happens in places you know. Having to reconcile happy memories with tragic events is a struggle.
As is life, I suppose.
Posted on Saturday, February 3rd, 2018
Seventeen days and counting.
Seventeen days and counting until Jake and Jenny have their annual vet appointment. Something that has been stressing me most every day since their last vet appointment. Now that they're two years old (25 in human years), it would be nice to think that they've matured enough that we won't be having a repeat of that insanity that permeated their first trip... but I know better. They are still very much feral cats at heart and not at all accustomed to adventures outside the house or seeing other people.
In order to help ease them into their appointment, I bought Feliway diffusers last month to get them in a more calmed state of mind. I've purchased calming treats for the week before and pulled some of their favorite toys.
And then today I pulled out the kitty carriers for them to get used to. My hope is that, being cats with tiny brains, they've forgotten about anything negative to do with them so I'll manage to lure them in when the time comes...
Just the thought of having to drag them to the vet again...
But, for now... it's business as usual. Sleeping, pooping, and trying to stare me into feeding them early...
Seventeen days and counting.
Posted on Sunday, February 4th, 2018
Looking for a Super-Bowl-free Sunday? Then you're in luck, because a Very Special Wish List Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• G Master! Once Sony released their FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens, I was pretty much done with collecting lenses for my photography. It perfectly filled a gap that I needed, and 90% of the photos I take are with it. About the only thing left would be to purchase a better super-wide-angle to replace my aging 10-18mm f/4, which is not full-frame. Alas, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G $1600 on sale. And I just don't take enough photos to justify the cost...
Still, it sure is a pretty lens.
• Curtains! My home is filled to the brim with home automation. Everything from my lights to my locks to my security cameras to my roof heat tapes to my thermostat to my alarms to my vacuums to my television to my frickin' garbage disposal are automated and can be controlled via my iPhone or by voice thanks to Amazon's Alexa. There's still things left I can automate, but the one highest on my list are my window blinds. I'd like to be able to have my home automatically open and close them based on weather and time of day... and it would be great if I could close them all on command when I want to watch a movie. Alas, automated blinds are hideously expensive. Hundreds of dollars per window. And that doesn't include the interface box and installation. To outfit even just the windows in my living room would probably approach $1000. Alas, that's an absurd amount of money to spend on something fairly frivolous.
Still, they sure are a pretty piece of tech.
• Speaker! Apple's delayed "smart speaker"... the HomePod... is up for pre-order. From the early review, it features the best sound of any device in its class. It can play music from Apple Music (which I don't subscribe to), interface with Apple's HomeKit (which I fucking hate), and has the Siri digital assistant built-in (a pale imitation of Amazon's Alexa, which I vastly prefer). And yet... I still want one because it can pull my music off of iTunes Match, which is where every piece of music I own is located. Alas, the HomePod is $350. And I just don't want to spend that kind of money on something that basically does what my stereo already does with a little effort...
Still, it sure is a pretty speaker.
• Super Carl! One of my all-time favorite tech investments is Carl the RoboVac. It's the thing I never knew I needed until I had one. Thanks to my two cats, my dark wood floors are never clean. Cat hair and kitty litter along with crumbs and dust don't get camouflaged like they would on carpeting, and coming home to dirty floors drives me nuts. But, thanks to Carl (my Deebot N79 RoboVac), my floors are remarkably clean when I get home. And now EcoVacs is coming out with an super-upgraded version, the Deebot Ozmo 930. Not only does it have far better room navigation tools, room mapping, and a built-in mop, you can also define areas you want to clean on your mobile phone. But these cool features come at a price. A whopping $599. Which is actually pretty reasonable compared to Roomba RoboVacs. Alas, it's not worth it when the $150 Carl I have now does a very good job already...
Still, it sure is a pretty robot.
• Cool! When it comes to future tech, appliances are late to the party. But they've been slowly trickling out... ovens you can control with your phone... washing machines and dryers that can send you notifications... that kind of thing. But the one that intrigues me most is Samsung's "Family Hub" refrigerator. Not only does it have a bunch of cool apps which bring functionality to the space taken up by your refrigerator, it also adds a number of cool (heh heh) features... like being able to see what's inside when you're at the grocery store. The starting price for all this? $3000. Alas, there's no way I'm dropping that kind of bank for refrigerator tech that's going to be obsolete in a year...
Still, it sure is a pretty refrigerator.
And there you have it... Bullets on a Sunday that are too rich for my blood.
Posted on Monday, February 5th, 2018
I don't watch the Super Bowl. That's probably because I don't give a crap about football. Most years I still have the game on while I work because I want to see the commercials, but this year I figured I'd just watch them all on YouTube after the game. That way I don't have to add to the NFL viewer numbers since I feel that any sport which allows owners to shit all over The United States of America with it's mandated faux-patriotism can go fuck themselves. Colin Kaepernick did not disrespect this country, its people, or our troops when he respectfully took a knee in protest during the National Anthem... and yet he was treated as if he did, and is now paying the price for what became of it. So much for freedom.
Anyway... the one commercial I was wanting to see more than any other was the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War. A movie I am very, very much looking forward to come May...
Pretty great, right?
Everybody and their dog will be rushing to analyze every frame of the trailer, so I'm going to take a pass on that. Instead I'm just going to run through the eighteen scenes found therein and offer up my commentary.
And this is how you do it... lead off with the true promise of this movie: all the various Marvel Studios franchises are coming together in interesting ways. Here Technology, science, and magic are converging in a single shot.
The romance between The Scarlet Witch and The Vision is a major staple of the Marvel comic book universe. I'm very, very happy that they've been advancing this in the cinematic universe as well. Though I'm not sure what's going on here. Vision is projecting a human form, which is great... but what's the deal with the stone? Weirdest foreplay ever?
Though Thanos had been hinted at in the first Avengers film, he really didn't become a "thing" until Guardians of the Galaxy. There it was revealed he was as the father of both Gamora and Nebula. This firmly cemented Guardians as a part of the narrative build-up for this film, even though it took place in a galaxy far, far away.
"It's all been leading to this." Yes. Yes it most definitely has. Interesting to note that Bruce Banner somehow made it back to earth ahead of Thor, which is a little surprising considering they were last seen together in space. As an aside... what's with Tony Stark having an Arc Reactor in his chest again? that was removed in Iron Man 3.
One can only guess that the post-credits scene in Thor: Ragnarok has Thanos destroying the space ark with all the Asgardians on it, and only Thor survived to be picked up by The Guardians. That would suck, considering the destruction of Asgard itself has already punched Thor in the gut. But even more so because that means Korg probably perished with them. It's strongly hinted that time travel is going to play a part in the movie, so maybe dead isn't dead, just like the comic books. If so... dare we hope for a Quicksilver appearance?
If there's anybody who should be worried about Thanos showing up, it's Loki, who failed to secure The Tesseract for him way back in the first Avengers film. Maybe the fact that he managed to swipe it from Asgard before it went boom will be enough for him to be spared being killed?
Spider-Man, once again biting off more than he can chew. No telling how he managed to get up to the big dimensional portal device(?) that appeared above NYC, but it's weird to think that he would think there's anything he could do about it. But, that's what makes him a hero... he has to try. And, thanks to his Spider-Sense, he knows it's a bad, bad thing.
Black Widow was originally Team Iron Man in Civil War, but switched to Team Cap at the end. The Vision was always Team Iron Man, which means this is undoubtedly a scene from later in the movie when everybody has become friends again?
For anybody wondering if Thor losing an eye at the end of Ragnarok would be carried over to this film, here's your answer.
Fanboys are up in arms over Cap's new "shield" being this thing. I can't help but agree it's a shitty move. One of the coolest thing about his shield (other than being indestructible, of course) is that he can toss it like a Frisbee thanks to its saucer-like aerodynamics. Hopefully he gets the shield back somewhere along the line.
And so Tony Stark now has armor that chika-chika-chikas into place like Black Panther? More practical, of course, but not nearly as much fun. Until now, it's been a mechanical process that very much comes down to him donning a suit of armor to do battle. This is a lazy cop-out when it comes to storytelling.
Is it sad that I want Teen Groot to be blown to pieces so we can start over with Baby Groot again? Oh how I loved Baby Groot!
Nebula wants Thanos dead more than anybody else in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. She also probably knows Thanos better than anybody else in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm really hoping that she gets thrust into the spotlight in this film as she deserves to. Keeping her in the background can't possibly service the story they are telling. But, comparatively speaking, she's small potatoes amongst the cast, so who knows.
Not a fan of Black Widow as a blonde. Yes, they've changed her hair in every movie she's appeared in. Yes, she's a spy and it's feasible she was undercover as a blonde just as events of the movie open. But dammit, Black Widow is a red-head! And, while we're here, I'd just like to say that the rumors of Black Widow finally getting her own movie after being a guest in like... every other movie... had better be happening.
Well, it's Bucky. Awakened from his deep-freeze and fighting for Wakanda. Best of luck there, Buck.
And here's the money shot for me. Dr. Strange, Wong, and Iron Man teaming up in battle. THIS is what Avengers: Infinity War is truly about... having all the various Marvel Cinematic Universe pieces coming together in cool ways. I am all fangirling out at this point.
Remember... before you get all sucked into the Infinity War hype... Black Panther is coming out in a mere eleven days. WAKANDA FOREVER! — And, can I just say one more time how utterly silly and stupid Cap's "arm shields" look? No? Okay.
Thanos! Why U mad, bro? Black Panther scratch your face? Seriously, I'm asking... I don't recall seeing those scratches before.
Annnnnnd... scene. See you in May, Avenger!
Posted on Tuesday, February 6th, 2018
And so... it would seem that Black Panther is going to kick ass in more than just the writing, directing, acting, visuals, and special effects.
The songs from the soundtrack released so far have been incredible and, as if that wasn't enough, the video for All the Stars by Kendrick Lamar and SZA has dropped, and it is absolutely mind-blowing beautiful...
Seriously, the artistry here is nothing short of feature film worthy, and I cannot stop looking at it. Every frame is a sublime work of art...
Stunning work by Dave Meyers and the little homies.
Posted on Wednesday, February 7th, 2018
"Come of Baby Girl, time for bed."
"Yes. Yes. You can get scratches on your head."
"Give me a minute! I have to go to the bathroom."
"Oh stop. You're not dying. I have to wash my hands."
"I have to change into a T-shirt... just wait a minute!"
"Meow. Meow. Meow."
"Okay. Okay. I'm coming..."
I've never seen a cat get into belly rubs like Jenny does. She goes nuts for them, and is very, very impatient when it comes to her nightly rub-down.
Posted on Thursday, February 8th, 2018
Remote control clutter is one of those things that most people just accept. One remote for the TV, one for the Blu-Ray player, another for the stereo receiver, another for Apple TV, another for the cable/satellite box... it's annoying, yes. But still better than having to actually get up off the couch to change the channel or change a setting. The horror.
Universal remotes have been around for a long, long time. Manufacturers have been shipping them with their A/V components for ages. My old Sony TV came with a remote which also controlled my Sony DVD player. Nice. I had a Pioneer receiver with a remote you could program for other manufacturer's gear as well as its own. Even nicer.
But ultimately just being able to control one device at a time can be a bummer. Especially if your remotes aren't multi-function where you have to use multiple remotes to do one thing. Grab the remote to turn on the TV. Grab the remote for the cable box. Grab the remote for the receiver.
Which is where the Logitech "Harmony" series of remotes comes in.
These "smart remotes," which have been around for a dozen years, can be taught how to control a vast multitude of devices. On top of that, they are also programmable, so you can chain remote commands together under a single button-press. Press the "Watch TV" button and Harmony will fire up the TV, cable box, and stereo receiver for you. It will then know to use the channel up/down buttons for the cable box and the volume up/down buttons for the stereo receiver. It's all pretty cool, and I've owned three Harmony remotes in the past decade.
But my latest one is a little different. It's comes with a "Harmony Hub" which can not only control your A/V equipment... it can also interface with a lot of your other home automation. Like, for example, Amazon's Echo, AKA "Alexa."
Depending on your devices, the Harmony Hub can eliminate the need for remotes completely... which is the whole reason why I bought it last year.
When I get home, I just say "Alexa, turn on the TV" and I'm done. From there I can have Alexa change the volume... change the channel... switch devices... whatever I need. The only time I'm scrambling for the remote is if I want to access shows stored on my DVR or to select something from a menu somewhere (like Apple TV). Sure, it would be nice if Harmony Hub would allow me to navigate menus via Alexa, but it really seems to be more trouble than it's worth right now. Though I'm sure that will change in the future.
There's a lot to talk about when it comes to Harmony Hub, so let's get started, shall we?
And there you have it. The ugly truth about some really cool tech. It's a real shame that there isn't better software, because I enjoy the end result very much. It's the getting there that sucks. I do know that there are other companies who have similar devices, but I didn't research them since I had such great luck with my previous two Harmony remotes. Had I known then what I know now, I might have investigated a few other options before pulling the trigger.
Posted on Friday, February 9th, 2018
Thor: Ragnarok was my favorite movie of 2017 by a wide margin. It was smart, imaginative, and funny in a way that most films never reach, and the fact that they somehow got that out of a super-hero movie is pretty remarkable.
Ragnarok hits home video on February 20th (DVD and Blu-Ray in March, I think). Needless to say, I can't wait. Especially when I saw this deleted scene making its way around the internet where Jeff Goldblum is being his most Jeff Goldblumiest...
Scenes this good have had entire movies built around them. In this movie, it's a deleted scene. Unbelievable.
Posted on Saturday, February 10th, 2018
Jenny's brain works differently from most cats.
Given how smart she is, just figuring out how to get a toy out of the puzzle box is too boring for her. I found this out as I saw her goofing around with it tonight.
At first I couldn't figure out what she was doing...
Then I saw she had found a toy mouse and was apparently trying to put it into the cat puzzle box...
When she couldn't get it into one hole, she walked around the box and dragged the mouse to a different hole...
She managed to poke it through the hole into the box, but then decided she wanted it back. She couldn't reach where it landed, so she had to circle around to snatch it...
I've never seen a cat who plays with toys the way that Jenny does. It's as if just batting them around is beneath her somehow, and she has to find other ways to amuse herself with them.
I amuse myself by watching her try.
Posted on Sunday, February 11th, 2018
Spring is just around the corner... so better prepare yourself, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Priced to Move! And... Blade Runner 2049 just dropped to $15 on iTunes. Knew it wouldn't stay at $20 forever given how badly they need to make up for the poor box office showing. Such a shame. I loved this movie. Yes, it ran a bit too long in parts and was in desperate need of further editing, but it ultimately pays off I think. Beautiful film...
The sound mix on Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best I've ever heard. Completely immersive, and all channels are beautifully distinct or blended as required. My cats are more than a little confused by the effectiveness of the spatial sound.
• No! Got a call from the Democratic party this past week wanting donations. My response? "Democrats representing my state are running off lobbyist money and obviously don't need my help. Why don't you go ask Patty Murray's Big Pharma friends for money and leave me the hell out of it. Take me off your call list and never, EVER call me for money again." Hopefully that will scare them off, just like I've already scared off the Republicans. Since I am not party-affiliated and vote for /donate to both of them, I have double the bullshit to deal with. I will never allow a political party to send my money to corrupt assholes in the pocket of lobbyists... from now on, I donate to specific candidates I feel are worth it. Not that there's many of them left.
• Good! Despite the fast that The Good Doctor was created by David Shore, I held off watching it because I have a friend whose son is autistic, and I don't like the idea of the struggles that autistic persons go through being exploited for entertainment. Then this past week I finally decided to take a look and was just amazed...
It's a very good show and didn't seem exploitative at all. I binged all 14 episodes I had. If you're not watching and like medical dramas, it's worth a look.
• Bio! And speaking of good television shows... iTunes has a free preview of A.P. Bio which stars Glenn Howerton (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and That 80's Show) as a teacher who is stuck in Ohio once his Harvard dream job passes him by. The result is actually funny... but also smart and even touching...
These things always look so stupid. When they turn out to be more than that, it's such a pleasant surprise. Patton Oswald is just the icing on the cake.
• Jones! And it seems as though Netflix will be keeping my monthly fee for.a while longer... new Jessica Jones is coming next month...
It's been revealed that Disney has no plans to take over the Netflix Marvel shows and move them to their new streaming service. Thankfully. Don't fix what's not broken. The Netflix shows are mostly awesome, unlike the ABC Television shows which suck ass.
• Unmolded! When I had my home renovated, I hired a fairly pricey contractor because I didn't want crap falling apart after a year. For the most part, I think it was a smart move... though there are some details of their work that pisses me off. Primary of which is the shitty molding installation.
My home has rounded "California Corners" which I hate hate hate. Mostly I just don't like how they look. But also because it made finding molding so difficult that I had to have it all custom made to get the clean and simple look I wanted. It was more money than I wanted to pay, but whatever.
Except... the installation was shitty. The corners were just slapped on there with no attempt made to blend the seams. I caught some of them before painting and sanded them a bit, but most of them had already been done and looked like this...
What chaps my ass is that it would have taken minutes to fix this before painting. But, since it wasn't fixed, that means I have to spend considerable more time sanding them out while making sure I'm not damaging the wall or floor...
But the result is worth it. I'm just one more coat of leveling paint (after the first coat dries) to the seamless molding I should have had from the beginning...
One down, eight to go.
Until next Bullet Sunday, enjoy winter's last gasp...
Posted on Monday, February 12th, 2018
The Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russel film "Overboard" is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures. I've seen it dozens of times because I cannot bring myself to turn the channel any time it's on and I need background noise running. Now I see they are remaking it. They've swapped the genders of the original story... but it's the same damn movie...
Look, I like Anna Farris and all, but she's no Goldie Hawn. And I don't know who the actor is, but he is absolutely no Kurt Russell. And if you're not going to bring anything new to the table, why do it? Is Hollywood really so bankrupt on ideas that this is where they want to sink their money?
Posted on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018
As I've mentioned more than a few times, I'm a huge, huge, massively huge fan of Kehinde Wiley's work. When he had his first solo exhibition in Columbus, Ohio... I flew there to see it and was not disappointed. I also attended his 2013 show at The Jewish Museum in San Francisco, which was equally amazing.
So imagine my surprise when President Obama's presidential portrait was unveiled and it was painted by... Kehinde Wiley!
It's just as glorious as I knew it would be before I even laid eyes on it...
This tiny photo will not do the actual painting justice. Wiley's works are vivid, powerful, and larger than life in a way that simply cannot be captured unless you are viewing it in person.
I am also familiar with Michelle Obama's portrait artist, Amy Sherald, and find her work to be beautiful as well. And while I do think the First Lady's painting is perfectly lovely, I wish it had a bit better resemblance to her...
Needless to say, the fact that these portraits... and their subjects... are a departure from what has come before means that the Hate Brigade is out in full force.
And I get it. If you don't like the paintings, fine. If you think that the paintings stray too far from what you feel is acceptable for presidential portraits, fine. That's your opinion and you're welcome to it.
But opinions on the work was not where most of the hate was leveled.
FOX "News" personality and professional piece of shit, Sean Hannity, posted some bizarre crap to Twitter about President Obama's portrait... which was subsequently deleted and blamed on somebody else (of course). And, speaking of racist pieces of shit, a South Carolina resident who is on a city's transportation committee took the opportunity to call our former president a Muslim and the N-word.
And of course we also had to endure the whole "Reverse Racism" myth because Kehinde Wiley reimagines classical-style subjects and paintings with the Euro-centric subjects swapped out with Black men and women. This included a reimagining of the biblical tale of Judith beheading Holofernes which, despite Wiley having spoken about it on more than one occasion, was used to call President Obama a "racist" because of his portrait artist choice.
I'm seriously running out of eyerolls at this point.
Anyway, if viewing Kehinde Wiley's stunning works compells you to learn more about him, I highly... highly... recommend watching the PBS documentary Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace. It's a fantastic look into his art, his process, and his world, and you can see a preview of it here...
The full documentary will probably be playing on your local PBS channel sometime soon because of this added exposure, but you can also rent it for $4 or purchase it for $10 on iTunes.
And now... time for me to revisit my exhibition guide from his Columbus art show.
Posted on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018
My day started with the mother of all paper cuts and went downhill from there.
Yet another school shooting, this time with 17 dead in Florida. That this will do nothing to deter budget cuts for mental health programs is a given... but, hey, this is our normal now.
Happy fucking Valentine's Day...
There was a bright spot, however.
A while back I saw that Shoshannah Stern's webisode series Fridays had been picked up as an actual television series by Sundance Now. Stern has appeared in shows like Weeds, Jericho, and Supernatural... but her new show, This Close, which was co-created with Joshua Feldman, is something entirely different...
The first two episodes were released today, and I was happy to see that the show everything I had hoped it would be... touching, funny, smart, and entertaining. So many brilliant small moments that add up to something greater. In many ways, it's a shame that This Close is not appearing on a major network, as this kind of representation needs to be seen. But I suppose that's the point. A show like this isn't going to be picked up by a major network.
Maybe one day.
Anyway... if you'd like to check out the series, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial of Sundance Now at their website. You can watch with apps they have for various devices, including Apple TV. If it were rated, I'm guessing it would probably be a light "R" for language and sexual situations.
Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2018
I've made no secret about how much I loathe the current crop of DC Comics movies. With the exception of Wonder Woman, they are bad films that take a massive shit on the original source material. Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League were all gut-wrenchingly awful and only get worse upon subsequent viewings. How DC can fuck up this badly when Marvel is nailing it film after film is a complete mystery to me. It's as if the people in charge of DC movie production have taken what made their characters so popular for so long, and then just done the opposite of that.
Fortunately, the people running DC's television shows are on an entirely different level. Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl are consistently good, and now we get Black Lightning, which may be saddled with a lame disco costume and sub-par villain... but is otherwise fantastic. I'm not particularly fond of Legends of Tomorrow, but it's still a watchable show. Bravo to The CW Network showrunners who totally get what they need to be doing with DC characters to make them work.
What fans need is for The CW to be given rights to a Superman series and a Batman series. Hell, turn the network into The DC Network and give us Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Legion of Super-Heroes shows too! If there's one thing that Tyler Hoechlin's amazing turn as Superman guest starring in Supergirl has shown us, we need these shows.
In the meanwhile though?
I've been completely hooked on the LEGO DC Comics movies. They are not all home runs, but they are great entertainment and totally watchable in a way the Zack-Snyder-infused movies will never be...
And so... If you're a DC Comics fan who hasn't checked out the movies that LEGO is cranking out, you might want to give them a try. Sure they're filmed with toys, made for kids, and aren't at all serious... but, until Patty Jenkins becomes showrunner for the DC Cinematic Universe, it's about as good as it's going to get.
Until Wonder Woman 2 comes along, of course.
Posted on Friday, February 16th, 2018
One of my all-time favorite Marvel super-heroes is coming to the Big Screen. I have never been so ready to see a movie.
It's time for The Black Panther...
No idea when I'll have time to go see it, but hopefully sooner rather than later.
Posted on Saturday, February 17th, 2018
When I bought a house, I truly was not prepared for how much work it would be. My HOA fees cover the yard care and the snow removal... what else is there?
Turns out there's a lot.
Tons of little tasks that add up and overwhelm you day after day. For the longest time I just ignored them until forced to deal with them, but then I started writing all the little things down on a "Daily Chores List" and tackle a new task every day. Sometimes it's something quick and easy... like washing the bathroom mirrors. Other times it's something more involved like fixing the toilet handle or replacing the washers in my kitchen faucet.
Today's chore was three-and-a-half hours of cleaning out my toolbox and organizing my screws/nails/fasteners/etc. storage chests.
It would have probably gone faster, except I had "help" from my cats...
They simply would not stop "helping." They'd climb in any open box or bag. They'd root through every container and bag of garbage. Half my time was spent wrangling cats.
Jake and Jenny just loooooove to "help." Like when they "helped" with my taxes...
And, of course, they were right there to "help" when I was cleaning out my dresser and end-table...
When a new order of food and toys arrives from Chewy, the only "help" they're interested in is composting the packing paper...
I suppose I should be grateful that I have such kind-hearted and helpful cats?
Posted on Sunday, February 18th, 2018
I was lying last week when I said that Spring was just around the corner, because Winter reared its ugly head again this weekend... so better really prepare yourself, because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Camera Historica! As somebody who loves photography, loves cameras, and loves history, the story of Sean Flynn's Leica M2 camera is an amazing read. It's a short read, and you should stop reading this and go take a look right now...
After reading this article, I started Googling Sean Flynn because he sounds like such a fascinating person. Turns out he absolutely was. The son of Errol Flynn and Lili Damita, he had an interesting life, a mysterious death, and everything in-between was an effort to forge his own path and find his own way. If you'd like to read more, this article is a good start.
• Black Panther Fever! If you're playing LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes 2 (and why wouldn't you be?) then you must get the Black Panther DLC immediately. If not sooner...
I was hoping for an actual Black Panther movie LEGO game, but I guess this will have to do.
• Pneumatic! Well this is scary. If you only knew the number of times I've rested my pneumatic nail gun on somebody's head... I never thought that it might be dangerous! You learn something new every day!
And, as an aside... ZOMG! DID YOU GUYS KNOW YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT TIDE PODS? IT SAYS SO RIGHT ON THE PACKAGE!! WHO KNEW?!? So much is coming to light now that I've started reading stuff!
• Chaotic Neutral! Every once in a while I fall down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos. And it's not always just cat videos I'm watching. I stumbled upon this one, which is pretty epic...
This is one of those situations where I'm not sure exactly how to feel after having seen it. I definitely agree that it's the perfect way to explain "Chaotic Neutral" to somebody who isn't familiar with Dungeons & Dragons.
• Netflix Binge! I had to work this holiday weekend, but while I was working at home I had Netflix running. Every once in a while I feel the need to watch the service between Marvel shows and seasons of One Day at a Time so that I don't feel bad about paying the monthly fee. Here is what I watched...
• Skippy! And speaking of Chris Evans in The Losers, this scene is pretty much perfect...
Such a great character from such a great movie... I wish they would make a sequel.
Later, bullet gators!
Posted on Monday, February 19th, 2018
After I finished mopping all my floors as my Chore-of-the-Day, I decided to get to work and turned on my television for some background noise. Then, once again, I got a "Cannot Communicate with the Satellite Dish" message. I assumed it was the cable to my DVR that was dying, because I can usually wiggle it and get things working again. But not today.
And so... I had to postpone work and go buy a new cable.
That was the easy part. The hard part was replacing the cable because I have all my cords wrapped up, and replacing one of them means having to unravel others too...
Since I was already having to wade through all my cables, I decided to just disconnect everything and start over. I've made several changes since I first organized everything, and the mess has gotten a bit out of control. Also... I wanted to relocate my stereo receiver because the cats like to lay on it for warmth, and I worry it's not getting enough ventilation and might blow out...
Unfortunately this is a much bigger project than it may first appear. The IKEA media center I have is a really poor design because the shelves don't have enough space to fit my receiver. I decided to modify the unit by taking out the middle drawer, building a shelf there, cutting out the back so I can run cables, then moving the center shelf up an inch-and-a-half...
While I was at it, I decided to see if moving my router off the top would interfere with the WiFi signal. Turns out it did not, so I decided to move it along with the receiver. This is nice, because now all I have on top of my media center is the center channel speaker and Alexa. Much cleaner, and my living room looks less cluttered.
Once the noise from drilling and sawing was done and the cats came out of hiding, I was surprised at how quickly Jake noticed that his favorite sleeping spot had vanished...
When Jenny finally noticed, she was not happy. Not happy at all...
The cats then tried to find a new "favorite sleeping spot," but nothing seemed to make them happy...
And now I realize that I should have waited a day to do all this since tomorrow is their visit to the vet, and that's going to be traumatic enough without them losing their stereo receiver napping spot.
Probably more traumatic for me than for them. Which is why I've been dreading tomorrow all year.
Posted on Tuesday, February 20th, 2018
Living with cats has been a joyous experience every day... save one day. My visit to the vet with them last February. It was equally traumatic of all three of us, and I've been dreading having to go back for an entire year.
As I mentioned a while back, I had brought in the cat carriers in early so I could get Jake and Jenny used to being around them.The difference being that last year I was able to trick them into the containers with treats. This year? Not so much. They didn't want to go in under any circumstances. Even by bribing them with treats.
Here's Jenny hanging out with me five minutes before I would betray her...
In order to trick them into the carriers this time, I essentially had to starve them, then dangle food in front of them so I could shove them inside and lock the door behind them. It worked, of course, though I felt so awful about having trapped them...
The 20 minute drive was almost exactly the same as last time. Jenny went catatonic. Jake cried and howled the whole way there.
Once I got to the vet, the challenge was to get them out of the carriers that I had struggled so hard to get them into. Jenny had to be pulled out clawing and meowing... Jake had to be shoved out... then Jenny proceeded to hide in the sink and Jake tried to camouflage himself...
Half-way through the visit Jenny just went flat?... I guess the term would be? Like she was trying to melt into the table or something.
It was kind of freaking me out... but then Jake noticed his sister in distress and stepped up to try and comfort her. I was doing a pretty good job of holding it together, but just then I nearly lost it. Such sweet kitties. And such a good big brother...
Just like last year, Dr. Bonnett at Cascade Veterinary Clinic was amazing with my cats. So kind and caring about taking his time to make sure Jake and Jenny were as comfortable and least traumatized as possible.
Turns out that Jake lost a half-pound, but is still a little overweight. Jenny is at her target weight still. Both of them are healthy and have no issues, so I'm feeling more than a little blessed about that. They handled their annual vaccinations like a champ and, just like that, they were done and I was $200 lighter.
After the doctor wrapped up and it came time to get them into the carriers again, they were only too happy to run into them this time.
The drive home was more of the same. Jenny zoned out with an occasional whimper... Jake howling and crying wee wee wee all the way home.
Last year they went screaming from the carriers, hid under the bed for a while, then got all clingy on me. This year they meandered out of the carriers, so I went ahead and fed them... this time without any tricks...
Instead of being clingy on me, they were fairly clingy with each other, which was nice...
And so... all good for another year (knock wood). Now I need a drink.
Posted on Wednesday, February 21st, 2018
My addiction to home renovation shows has reached critical mass. My list of woodworking projects I want to do has gotten so long now that I would have to retire if I even wanted to make a dent in it.
Right now I'm excited for Spring to come so I can turn my garage into a woodworking shop again and get started on two (well, actually three) projects...
That's months of work given that I can only work nights and weekends.
I've got another project I'd really like to tackle.
I want a pergola on my patio.
Well, a pergola over the part of the patio which remains after I built a catio out there. It might also be cool to build a cat run into it with seating on top, like yo...
That way I could sit outside and read a book under a little bit of shade while my cats run around. Big Fun for all of us!
By far, the biggest project I've ever tackled, if I end up doing it... but it looks like a lot Big Fun to build too!
Posted on Thursday, February 22nd, 2018
This morning I was working from home when I hit a snag and needed to be in the office to finish up. I was hurrying to get out the door when I noticed that something was on my floor. Too small for a mouse, so I was guessing it was some kind of hideous bug trying to get out of the cold. So I went to get a glass and piece of board to trap him and... it was a hairball. A Jake hairball.
Jake has, on rare occasions started hacking like he had a hairball, but he's never puked one up. I guess there really is a first time for everything.
So, after cleaning that disgusting mess up, I tracked him down to the pad on my media center (formerly the stereo receiver) to make sure he was okay. I asked him about the hairball, but all he did was demand belly rubs...
So my fears that Jake might have hairball inducing PTSD from his vet visit are apparently unfounded. If it was a problem, apparently it's all fixed by belly rubs.
Jenny never seems to have hairball problems but, then again, she's more into getting brushed with THE FURMINATOR, so I suppose that's to be expected. So as to avoid any further hairball incidents with Jake, it looks like I may have to start insisting he gets FURMINATED whether he likes it or not.
Because the first time I step in a hairball I will totally lose it.
Posted on Friday, February 23rd, 2018
My cats don't play with toys much, despite having dozens. That being said, they definitely have favorite toys when they do decide to play with them. Jake's favorite has always been a stuffed lion named "Mufasa" that I brought back for Spanky from Africa.
Jenny's favorite toy changes from time to time, but for the past couple months she's been obsessed with Blue Rag Mouse. She will run around with it, chase it, throw it, and otherwise abuse it whenever she's in the mood to play.
Then last night, tragedy occurred.
Jenny brought me Blue Rag Mouse with his guts spilling out everywhere. The fabric had been well-chewed, which didn't give me much to stitch up. I set Blue Rag Mouse on the counter, tracked down Lime Rag Mouse and gave that to her instead.
She looked at me like I was insane.
(Jenny, not Lime Rag Mouse).
I don't know if cats can shake their heads in dismay. Something tells me that they can't, because otherwise Jenny would have been shaking her head as she walked away. How dare I try and fool her with Not-Blue-Rag-Mouse?
So I shook my head, then went off to bed.
This morning I was having some toast and jam while working on a spreadsheet when I heard a meow. I looked up from my laptop and saw this...
Apparently she is not willing to let go of this Blue Rag Mouse situation.
I was pretty sure I purchased the toy from Petco. I thought I'd just go to their site and order a bunch of Blue Rag Mice...
Oh good... I found it! And apparently it's not Blue Rag Mouse, it's Blue Moppy Mouse. But then I see this...
So, unlike when you order stuff for people and get to select which color you want, stupid animals won't know the difference? Obviously, Petco doesn't know Jenny at all.
And so... I guess I'm running to Petco this weekend to see if they have another Blue Moppy Mouse.
They should tell you this kind of thing will happen when you go to adopt a cat.
Posted on Saturday, February 24th, 2018
For comic book geeks, this truly is the golden age of cinema. On the Marvel side of the aisle, they have been killing it over and over and over again. This time it's with one of my most favorite Marvel heroes, Black Panther.
Given my passion for comic books, this is going to be a long one, so strap yourself in.
From the time I first started reading comic books, I was mostly a "DC Comics guy." This was undoubtedly because of DC being the home of Batman, probably my favorite super-hero. Batman doesn't have any powers except being absurdly rich, and yet he can hold his own on any super-team against even the most powerful villains. He made me think that I could be a super-hero too one day... all I needed was millions of dollars and a butler.
When I branched out into Marvel comics, it was a very different world. Sure their stories happened in a real place like New York City and not a fictional one like Metropolis or Gotham City, but that was just geography. To a kid in central Washington State, New York might as well have been the moon (home of The Inhumans!). The fact that Marvel tried to give larger-than-life heroes mundane problems was kind of lost on me. Spider-Man has all these amazing powers where he could earn hundreds of thousands of dollars as a body guard, but he chooses to be a struggling photographer? What sense does that make? Superman may live a mundane life as Clark Kent, but at least he had the sense to pick a career where he could pay the rent.
It went on and on like that for me with Marvel, the X-Men being the most perplexing of all. They never got tired of being persecuted as mutants, even with all the powers they possessed. I mean, yeah, many of them had human parents that probably made them sympathetic to the plight of mere humans... but come on. That's a plot point that gets really old, really fast.
There were two exceptions with Marvel, however.
Doctor Strange already had his own fantastic movie, and now it's Black Panther's turn.At last.
For those who have not yet seen the film, my spoiler-free review would have to be "It's faithful to the source material with plenty of nods to the comics... along with being wonderfully written, superbly cast, beautifully filmed, and fully realized... all while being painfully socially relevant." I seriously loved every frame of it, and Ryan Coogler, his team, and his cast deserves every bit of praise being sent their way.
For everybody else?
Prior to seeing Black Panther I pretty much knew what to expect. King T'Chaka was killed in Captain America: Civil War, his son T'Challa returned to Wakanda to become king... and somewhere along the way Killmonger shows up to ruin his day. And since we all know that Black Panther and many characters from his film will be showing up in Avengers: Infinity War, it's a forgone conclusion that T'Challa comes out on top. The hero wins. The villain dies. End of story. Right?
Surprisingly? It's not quite so cut-and-dry at that.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. You'll find my thoughts on Black Panther in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Sunday, February 25th, 2018
Prepare yourself, because a Very Special BLACK PANTHER EDITION of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Art! One of the best things about Black Panther is the production design. A lot of what went into that is explored in yet another wonderful edition of Marvel Studio's Art of the Movie books, which somebody on YouTube was kind enough to thumb through...
There's very little of the book that's not fascinating... or gorgeous...
I own the entire series and love them. You can pick up the absolutely beautiful Black Panther edition from Amazon.
• Trevor! The detractors for Black Panther have been pretty stupid about it. I mean, if you don't like the movie, fine... to each their own. But the whole "This movie is racist because it's mostly Black people" is laughably stupid. My favorite commentary on this was by Trevor Noah from The Daily Show...
Speaking of Trevor Noah, if you haven't read or, better yet, listened to the audiobook of his Born a Crime, then it is absolutely worth your valuable time to do so. While interviewing Lupita Nyong'o for Black Panther, it was revealed that she will be producing and playing his mother in the movie adaptation...
• Mother! Speaking of audiobooks, a momentary aside... I am just now finding out that Jenifer Lewis released a book last month called The Mother of Black Hollywood. Whether you know her as Ruby from Blackish or one of her many roles over nearly 30 years in Hollywood, it is so good...
Here is Jenifer Lewis being Jenifer Lewis... while plugging her book (and other things)...
If you want to be entertained for hours, search for "Jenifer Lewis" on YouTube and prepare yourself. This video is an hour of amazing...
I have only just started listening to the audiobook, but it is fantastic already. If you are a member of Audible, it's worth a credit. If you are not a member of Audible, you get a FREE credit when you sign up! Go do that and get this book!
• Comics! If you've seen the movie (and I'm assuming you have), there's a lot more to the story in the original comic books. Here's my four favorite series...
I would be remiss if I didn't add Jack Kirby's work on the Black Panther, which is also an important read.
• Wrong Panther! It'll be reiterated below, but I think it important to state it here: There is NO relation between the Black Panther of the comic books and the Black Panther Party. And yet... I've seen this pop up more times than I can count online.
• Panther Facts! Let's wrap up this Bullet Sunday with a list of interesting Black Panther bullets, courtesy of Kevin E. Ross, who has asked that people share it...
Until next week... WAKANDA FOREVER!
Posted on Monday, February 26th, 2018
Since this past Caturday was spent discussing a cat of an entirely different kind... Black Panther... I am picking up the slack by posting my crazy cat lady stuff today.
One of my best finds in the cat toy arena is a new scratching post that the cats have been loving because it's really tall. Unlike most posts, they can stretch out as much as they want and not run out of pole. On top of that, they can climb it like a tree, which is something they both love to do. But Jake is a little more enthusiastic about making a game out of it. Set a toy on top, and he'll jump and climb his way up to grab it and throw it off...
He's kind of violent about it, so you have to be sure that your hands and other protruding body parts are kept clear...
It's all fun and games until Jenny makes noise jumping up on the couch and scares him just as he's reached his goal...
The reason Jenny is jumping up on the couch is because I set my freshly-laundered pants there. For whatever reason, that's always an open invitation for her to jump up and use my jeans as her personal scratching post. Or, as in this case, bite the crotch out. Which is exactly what I want her to do if somebody ever tries to grab my pussy...
As I've previously mentioned, nobody appreciates a good belly rub like Jenny does. Every night when I go up to bed, she sprints up for her nightly belly rub. And she will stare at you until she gets her way. Or, if she's really impatient, she'll start meowing at you...
Since Jake got a video this time, here's Jenny's...
When it comes to using the litter box, Jenny has gotten increasingly insistent on having a clean place to poop in. She loves a clean box so much that if something goes wrong with the Litter-Robot and she has to wait too long for it to cycle, she has zero problem waking me up at 4:00am to fix that. Last night I noticed her sticking her head in the litter box acting like she was scared to go in...
Then I saw that the red light was on, which meant that Jake must have beat her there, and Litter-Robot was waiting five minutes before it cycles, which allows the waste to clump and be disposed of more easily. This is no big deal, because Jenny is perfectly content to wait for it to clean itself. I've seen her do so many times.
But this time?
This time she started meowing for Litter-Robot to hurry up.
I started laughing because just when I think my cats can't surprise me... they go and do something like this.
Jenny was watching television, but I had to pause in order to take care of something and the cityscapes screensaver activated. Jenny was not please about this. Not pleased at all. In fact, I think she was quite cross.
I don't know why. That's one beautiful screensaver. I've not been to Dubai yet, and that Blade-Runner-esque view makes me want to visit real soon now.
And that's all I got. See you next Caturday... which is a short five days away!
Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2018
My cats are not pukers. I think I've cleaned up just one puke and one hairball the entire time I've had them. And the puke wasn't really puke at all... Jake was in the middle of eating when he got distracted somehow and left a spot of half-chewed food on the floor. That's as bad as it's ever gotten.
Tonight I get home and cleaned up three piles of puke... each hardly anything but water. Looking back through video footage, I see that it's not Jake like I expected... it's Jenny...
As I was writing this, she just puked a fourth time. Poor thing has an upset tummy for some reason. I'm worried that she's eaten something she shouldn't have, so I've been scrubbing through security camera footage trying to figure out what it could be. But there's nothing. She goofed around for a while, but was mostly sleeping in different places around the house. All household cleaners and anything dangerous are always kept secured from my cats, so I can only guess it's a bug or a bad pouch of food (just to be sure, I threw the rest of the carton in the garbage). Since what she puked up was mostly water, I took apart the fountain for a thorough cleaning a few days early (I rinse it weekly and deep-clean every other week).
Whatever it was, I've been following her around with towels to clean up after her. The poor little girl is so small that when a bout hits, her whole body is convulsing all the way from her stomach. The good news is that the "attacks" have gotten less severe each time... with a smaller amount of water coming up. I just laid with her for an hour on my bed giving her a belly rub and I think she's done. At dinner she didn't eat a lot, but she did eat... and she's kept it down for 15 minutes with no more puking. After her light meal, she climbed on top of the cat tree and is acting like nothing happened... so fingers crossed.
UPDATE: Well, I'd say all is definitely well with Jenny. She just made a spectacular 6-foot leap off the cat tree, had more to eat, then went outside in the catio to be on lookout for the dog that's running around out there...
UPDATE: I'm betting that Jenny has been sick for longer than just today. Tonight she wanted to be fed FOUR times. After the third time, Jake... who will eat anything forever, stopped wanting more food, and she ate his food too. She's been drinking a lot of water all evening. She's also gone to the bathroom twice tonight, which she's never done before. I feel awful that I didn't notice she's been ill until she was puking... my guess is that she hasn't been eating much for at least two days, and now she's making up for lost time. I need to pay closer attention to my cats.
UPDATE: Well, it's the next morning and Jenny is getting sick again. Not a lot... and not the severe convulsions she had yesterday... but enough that I'm going into work late so I can lay down with her and make sure she's okay.
UPDATE: And... she's back to 100% again, it would seem. Odds are that I probably was more upset over her getting sick than she was.
Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2018
My love of movies runs the gamut. There's something in just about every genre that I have found to like. Science fiction, animation, and comedies are my favorite, but I have favorites in action, mystery, drama, musical, adventure, fantasy, romance, spy, thriller, horror, biography, Western... even period dramas and (my least favorite) war.
There's a number of underappreciated films that I obsess over which I have no earthly idea why they're underappreciated. I mean, some of them, I get. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a brilliant film that I love dearly (hell, a quote from it is tattooed on my arm). It is also one of the most bizarre mainstream releases ever, and it's no surprise that it's been relegated to cult classic...
But one underappreciated movie I absolutely do not understand why is underappreciated is the 1995 film Strange Days...
This future-noir film (bordering on cyberpunk) which takes place in the final days of 1999 should have been a blockbuster. It was written by James Cameron, who is responsible for The Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar (among others). It was directed by none other than Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow, who is responsible for The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. It stars Oscar-nominated Ralph Fiennes, Oscar-nominated Angela Bassett, and Oscar-nominated Juliette Lewis. It also features revolutionary camera work which shouldn't have been possible in 1995. As if all that wasn't enough, it's just a really good movie.
And yet... Strange Days was a huge flop. A massively huge flop. It grossed $8 million against a budget of $42 million.
Recently while talking to a friend, I was reminded of it and decided to watch it again.
Which isn't as easy as you'd think, because Strange Days is not available domestically on Blu-Ray or any digital format. This is due to conflicting studio distribution rights or some stupid crap. And since it stunk up the box office, the desire to spend money and effort getting it all straightened out is minimal, I'm sure. It's only available on VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD. I own all of them. I also own a German Blu-Ray import, but I have no idea where my region-code-free Blu-Ray player is at.
DVD it is...
Strange Days is surprisingly relevant 22 years after it was released... and 18 years after it takes place.
Much of the plot involves the future of how we consume entertainment, but there are significant story elements which revolve around police corruption and racism. It's a movie designed for the times we live. Which is to say it was most definitely a movie ahead of its time despite the fact that police corruption and racism are hardly new.
If you haven't seen it and can find a copy somehow, it's definitely worth a look.
Anyway… as if all that wasn’t enough, the soundtrack still holds up and is pretty great. One of my favorite tracks is a collaboration between Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest called While the Earth Sleeps that plays over the closing credits…