After Jake got back from his procedure to get his urinary tract unblocked, he was peeing a dozen times a day. You could tell he was frustrated and upset about his many, many trips to the litter box, but the medications we tried didn't do much to help. Rather than put him through even more torture of shoving medicine down his throat, I decided to be patient.
Two months after I first took him to the vet... and he's finally back to peeing normally. For the past week the Litter-Robots have been reporting 7-8 cycles per day. When dividing that between two cats, it's 3-4 times a day per cat, which is right where it had been before all this drama started.
To say I'm relieved is an understatement because I'm leaving for a short trip tomorrow. Yes, I've got a cat-sitter checking in and, yes, I've got a security system to keep them safe and cameras to look in on them... but it's not the same.
A part of my cat separation anxiety comes from feeding them. My original auto-feeder, the Feed-and-Go, was bricked and became non-functional when the monsters who made it shut down without warning anybody. Despite how it all ended, I liked the Feed-and-Go because it allowed me to remotely feed my cats if I noticed that Jake ate all of Jenny's food before she got to it or something. I've been looking into other internet-enabled feeders, but haven't found one I like. I bought a timed feeder ages ago as a backup, and decided to try that. I was going to order a second one, but apparently there's no way to sync their clocks which means you end up with one activating before the other. The solution was to buy a "splitter" that will feed two cats from the same feeder...
Problem is that the bowls are too close together, and sometimes Jake can block Jenny from getting to her meal. Also, the drop to the bowls is so high that food was bouncing out of the bowls and onto the floors. My solution for that was to build little chutes to transfer the food farther away...
All it took was cutting the drip well from a couple black plastic paint roller trays I found at Home Depot and taping them to the splitter. Not only does it allow the bowls to be farther apart, the change of angle slows the food pour so it ends up in the bowls instead of bouncing out onto the floor.
In other cat news, I noticed that Jenny has a floopy whisker that curls up. I think it might be due to her digging her face into the edge of the warming pad and laying there for hours. And she sleeping in the same position every day...
I've tried curling it back down, but it doesn't stay. She doesn't seem bothered about it so I guess it'll be that way until it falls out.
Jake, on the other hand, flops around every-which-way when sleeping, so he's floopy-whisker-free...
And so... guess I'd better be packing my suitcase.
December is here and you shopping days are numbered. But don't despair... because the greatest gift of all is here! Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Cap! I didn't think it was possible for me to want to see Captain Marvel more than I already did... but then this poster was released...
UPDATE: And then the second trailer was released...
And holy crap am I dying to see it now!
• SO CUTE! And now I want kittens! Again!
But... Jake and Jenny are plenty of cats in my house, so I'll just have to keep watching YouTube videos like this.
• A Catch! Speaking of cats and YouTube... my current obsession is watching cats catching fish videos...
Amazing. I don't know why I always thought that fish were an unnatural food for cats. Something that we humans got them addicted to. Maybe because most cats don't like water? But now that I've seen it? Makes perfect sense.
• Becoming! I purchased the audiobook of former First Lady Michelle Obama's Becoming because I wanted the experience of having her read it to me. I'm half-way through and it does not disappoint...
Of course Obama-haters were going to crap all over her no matter what she wrote... and people hoping for dirt will be better-served elsewhere... but I enjoyed going behind the scenes of her life from her own perspective. Mrs. Obama's ability to advocate for hope is inspiring, and I found her words was a welcome distraction.
• IN THE NEWS! "REPUBLICAN SENATORS WHO TRIED TO KILL YEMEN WAR RESOLUTION WERE PAID BY SAUDI LOBBYISTS" — We truly do have the best government money can buy. This is fucking disgraceful. For the life of me, I don't understand why Americans aren't rioting in the streets over this bullshit.
• A Man Called Ove! I've seen this remarkable Swedish film four times now. I think I love it more with each viewing...
I honestly don't know how to feel about Tom Hanks doing an American remake. Usually Americanizing a foreign film doesn't bode well, but... Tom Hanks. I want so badly for it to be good. If, for no other reason, that Americans who don't like watching films with subtitles will get to see this terrific story.
And that's the end of that. Fun times await me, as I'm flying out tonight.
When traveling in the winter... especially a place with the possibility of a notorious winter like Maine... I always add a day before and after my work dates so I can be sure I'll still make my start-time if there's a weather delay. This time I got my start-date too late to have much choice in my flights. This means there was no getting here a day early. If a problem pops up then I'm probably screwed.
So of course air traffic into Seattle last night was slowed down, which meant I'd be landing late and might miss my connecting flight to Boston. Then they moved up the flight to Boston, which made it even more likely I'd miss it.
Lucky for me, my arrival gate was right next to my departure gate and I managed to make it onboard ten minutes before they closed the door. Thankfully I didn't have to check any luggage.
After landing at Boston Logan International Airport, I retrieved my rental car so I could drive 2-1/2 north to the job site. But first? Breakfast.
Usually I just stop at McDonald's for an egg & cheese biscuit. They aren't great, but they are edible (unlike Burger King's shitty Croissan'wich). My biggest problem in eating at McDonalds is that most of them don't know how to ring up an egg & cheese biscuit. They ring up a bacon, egg, & cheese biscuit and remove the bacon. This is hardly fair because I end up paying for meat I don't eat.
But here in New England, Panera Bread restaurants are plentiful. This means I don't have to eat at McDonald's and can get one of Panera's "Egg Over Easy with Cheddar on a Brioche Bun"...
So far as breakfast sandwiches go, I've found nothing better...
All-in-all, my highest possible recommendation if you're near a Panera and are hungry for breakfast!
I had a few hours before work started, so I took a nap. Or, more accurately, I tried to take a nap. It was one of those bizarre situations where I was so exhausted that I was having trouble sleeping. No idea how that works, but it's incredibly frustrating.
And now... I'm at work.
Where the internet is broken, which means that this will have to be posted when I get back home.
Five hours down, eleven hours to go...
Originally I was to fly home on Thursday. This "buffer time" was in case weather caused me to arrive late or there was a problem at work that delayed my leaving by a day or two. Well, there were indeed problems at work (we started four hours late) but, fifteen hours later, I was free.
Exhausted to the point of feeling like my brain had melted. But free.
So instead of waiting until Thursday night to fly home, I rebooked my return trip for tonight. I lost my premium seat, but I'll take getting home two days early in a coach seat any day.
After two days without sleep, I managed to sneak in a four-hour nap at my hotel before they kicked me out. Then there was a 45-minute drive down to Portland for dessert for lunch...
Followed by shopping for new Dr. Pussum's Organic Maine Catnip toys that my cats go crazy for...
And, no, I decided against buying a President Trump toy. If Jake and Jenny want to play with something like that, they can dig in the litter box.
The remaining 100 miles to Boston Logan International Airport blew by in two hours and... viola... here I am flying home... TWO DAYS EARLY! Can you believe my luck?
Sure I'll get home after midnight and still have to go to work in the morning, but still... home.
When Jake got sick, I turned off Carl the RoboVac because I didn't want him running through puke and smearing it all over the house. Now that Jake has been puke-free for two months, I'll likely turn Carl back on. Because there's nothing quite like having your floors vacuumed when you come home after a hard day at work. Especially if you have pets shedding all over the place.
While Carl has been hibernating, I've been using my cheap cordless Hoover to pick up all the kitty litter and cat hair. For what it is, the thing does a pretty good job. Not so good that I can use it for my monthly deep-clean... for that I have to pull out the Shop-Vac (which my cats hate more than just about anything)... but for day-to-day cleaning it's fine.
But Hoover has been acting up lately so it was time to find a newer, better, stronger, faster vacuum. The only requirements being that it had to be cordless and it had to be lightweight. So when Black Friday rolled around, I did my due diligence Google research and found that Dyson came out on top every time for the things that were important to me. I loathed to get in bed with Dyson again (which was explained here), but they had a deal that was very good and so away I went.
Believe it or not, the two features I was most looking forward to were these...
Being able to clean baseboards and above door-frames without getting on my hands and knees or climbing on a stool is a pretty big deal. And so I've been counting the minutes until my Dyson V7 Absolute would get here. And today was the day.
Overall? I like it. But it's not perfect...
Compared to what I have, the Dyson V7 Absolute is a dream. Sure I wish it had more power in "regular mode" but it still does a very good job of making quick work of dirt, cat hair, and random cleaning tasks. Though there is an up-side to the lower power... the thing is so quiet! That goes a long ways towards my liking my new vacuum. If you can get it on a good sale, I wouldn't hesitate picking one up. But, once again, if you have hardwood floors you must get the "Absolute" version that comes with the fluffy cleaning head! For me, the V7 would be half the vacuum it is without it.
It's Jake and Jenny's birthday today! And, miracle of miracles, I'm actually here for once. Last year I was in Antarctica. The year before that I was flying to Maine. Today I was supposed to be in Maine, but got to fly home early.
Since Jake and Jenny were feral rescues, I'm not quite sure how the Human Society came up with their birth date. Maybe the person who found them saw when they were born? I dunno. But December 6th is what's on their adoption papers, so that's what it's been.
It doesn't seem like it's been three years.
But since 3 cat years is about 30 in human years, maybe it seems longer to them? Next year they'll be 35 human years old. At this rate they'll be older than me in 2023!
Jenny spent her birthday terrorizing her brother.
Jake spent his birthday chasing after his sister for terrorizing him.
Typical Jenny. She sneaks up behind Jake and waits...
Then when she's sure he hasn't heard her, she pounces...
At which point Jake jumps four feet in the air...
And a chase ensues.
You can watch the video below. It's pretty spectacular...
I don't know why Jenny feels the need to act this way toward her brother. Maybe it's because he's always invading her sleeping space? I dunno. Sometimes she seems happy to have the company...
And so... happy birthday, cats!
Adopting you both is still one of the best decisions I've ever made!
As I mentioned a while back, I wanted to have my driveway light turn blue when it's recycle day. Since recycle day happens every-other-week, it's easy to forget whether or not it's the right week to drag the big blue bin to the curb with my regular trash.
To make this happen, I purchased one of the cheaper "smart bulbs" available, because A) It was cheaper, and B) It didn't require me to purchase a hub.
Turns out that you get what you pay for.
The bulbs kept disconnecting from WiFi despite having a hub less than six feet away. They refused to respond to IFTTT commands. And, despite constant assurances from tech support that the issue could be resolved, I eventually gave up.
Then on Black Friday Philips had a killer sale on their "Hue" smart bulb kit that came with the hub they require. With nothing to lose except my precious $80, I went ahead and ordered it because $80 is better than $150...
Turns out that there's a reason that Philips Hue is the créme de la créme of smart lighting.
They work exactly as advertised.
The app which controls them is brilliant. The bulbs are smarter (in most ways), brighter, and more saturated. And they work with IFTTT precisely as you would expect them to.
Every night at 10pm I have IFTTT make sure that the light automatically came on at sunset and is "green" for Greenlight a Vet. Then, on recycle days (which I have as a repeating event on a Google Calendar) I have the light turn on and change to "blue" before I get home so I remember to put out the big blue recycle bin. Then that evening, at 10pm, it will be changed back to "green" by the previous IFTTT routine...
Pretty cool, right?
It is cool! And I love my Hue bulbs so much that I bought one for the lamp on my bedroom nightstand. Every sunset I have it automatically turn on and set to "Tropical Twilight" (a kind of purpley-white color). If I go to bed and want to read, I tell Alexa and she brightens things up. And when I'm ready for bed, I tell Alexa and she dims the Hue to a faint blue color like a nightlight. It's exactly what I've been wanting all along.
Not everything is perfect.
If power goes out (or you accidentally flick the switch off), the lights don't remember what their previous color was and they default to white. Not the end of the world, but it's kind of crazy that these expensive lights can't frickin' remember what color they were... when my old, cheap smart lights were able to do this! Apparently Philips has a solution that they're going to roll out by the end of the year called "Power-On Behavior" but this sounds like a new default, not a way to remember what they were set to.
The other problem is that, technically, the bulbs I bought aren't for outdoor use. But they're in light fixtures and they are covered by my roof overhand, so I just went for it. They seem to be working perfectly (but probably won't last as long with the cold of winter and heat of summer). Philips has a huge range of growing Hue products, but the only bulbs rated for outdoor use are floodlights unless you want to replace your entire light fixture (which my HOA won't allow). This is crazy. How many people just want to put a smart light in their existing outdoor fixtures? Build regular bulb for outdoor use already!
And then there's the matter of that hub...
For me, it's not horrible now that I've got Google's Mesh WiFi system installed. There's a node right by my front door, and all the nodes have an ethernet port. I just plugged my Hue hub into it, hid it in my cabinet, then I was done. The hub reaches to the Hue on my front porch... then the front porch links to the Hue for my driveway. I thought for sure that my bedroom light all the way upstairs wouldn't reach the hub but, much to my delight, it does. Which means now I can use it extend my Hue lighting mesh even further away without having to purchase a second hub. That's nice.
But I'm still raw that smart lights which don't require a hub are cheaper than Hue lights which do. This makes no sense, since the internet coordination and WiFi drama is handled elsewhere. I mean, yes, there's something to be said by the higher quality lighting you get from Hue, but the pricing is insane. I noted that some Hue products have lowered their pricing to near-Black-Frida levels, so maybe Philips is attempting to address this puzzling disparity? I dunno. I do know that I'm mighty glad that I already have INSTEON switches controlling all my recessed house lighting so I don't have to spend the insane cost for Hue there (even if Philips made can lights, which they currently do not).
I am very happy with Philips Hue lighting despite some initial concerns and a few caveats. I am undoubtedly going to continue to buy Hue products in the future now that I own the hub... when they are on sale as something I can afford. I would like to invest in their strip lighting, which looks very cool for under my kitchen cabinets, behind my television, and on top of my bookshelves. They also have a "Signe floor light" which looks fantastic... but not $250 fantastic.
But for all my home's built-in recessed lighting? Not until things get a heck of a lot cheaper... and Philips actually makes it.
The day before yesterday was Jake and Jenny's third birthday and it was a day-long celebration. For breakfast they got the horrific stinky sardines that they love so much. For dinner they got even stinkier fish stew plus kitty treats for dessert. I also gave them the two Maine catnip toy presents I bought while I was in Other Portland. So... not a bad day to be my cats.
Though, let's be honest, every day is a good day to be my spoiled kittehs!
Seems like just yesterday they invaded my home...
Which brings us to my favorite photo of Jake and Jenny ever...
Adorable, aren't they?
They're just as adorable today... but a bit bigger...
Way back in January I listed my nicknames for my cats. As I was reminiscing over the past three years, I thought to go back and revisit them. Surprisingly, they've changed quite a bit. Though Jake is still "Jakey Bear" 90% of the time, I still mix it up a bit for him. Jenny is almost always "Jenny" and I rarely use nicknames for her anymore. No idea why.
Nicknames for Jake:
My Little Vet Bill
The Six Million Dollar Cat
Thank God I Have Insurance
Nicknames for Jenny:
And, on that note, it's their dinner time in three minutes, so I guess I'd better wrap this up. Heaven only knows I wouldn't want to keep them waiting!
I may have been to Maine and back this week, but that just means I'm locked and loaded... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Endings! Obviously the news of the week is that the Avengers 4 trailer finally dropped. It's everything it needed to be, with plenty to unpack. If you don't want to hear about it, best skip to the next bullet...
Okay, first of all, the name... Endgame is lame as shit. For months we've been told that the name was being kept secret because it revealed the plot and gave too much away. But does it really? No. Not even a little bit. LAME!
It's not much of a leap to figure that Ant-Man is going to be the key here. The Quantum Realm and its time-bending properties is an obvious way to undo what was done and bring back all those dusted characters so they can continue to print money for Marvel Studios (and Disney). I also wouldn't be surprised to find that Hawkeye (who looks like he's in his Ronin persona in the trailer) will have a major arc. Odds are his entire family was dusted and that's going to be the push to answer the question: "Why in the hell is he an Avenger?" No sign of Captain Marvel, but we know she's going to be kicking around...
April seems a long, long ways away...
• Pet Shop Christmas! This week I received an email from The Pet Shop Boys wishing a Merry Christmas to their fans. Which is nice, I guess, but it's the way they did it that was so cool...
Now, if you're a fan, you'll immediately "get it." But if you're not... does this help?
Seriously, how cool is that?
• MIB4! This week we finally learned the title of the fourth Men in Black movie... Men in Black International. It stars Chris Hemsworth as Agent H and Tessa Thompson as Agent M...
The spinoff film will not have Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K) or Will Smith (Agent J) in it, but it will have Emma Thompson reprising her role as Agent O.
• Outlook! As I prepare my home for winter, I ran across something interesting...
Apparently my region of the country will be "much above average" when it comes to temperature this winter. I'm not quite sure what to think about that, because the nighttime temperatures seem as though they're the same as they've been for years now (which is not as cold as it was a decade ago, I can tell you that). I took a look at weather averages for the past couple years and it reads similar to what's been recorded lately. And while we haven't had any snow yet, I'm guessing it will be on its way any day now? While I'm happy at the idea of saving on heating costs, we really need good snow pack in the mountains or else we'll end up in drought conditions in the Summer. That's something we absolutely do not want.
• NHL! Good news, everybody! Something I've been waiting for... for a very long time, actually... is Major League Hockey coming to Seattle! I became a hockey fan when I got into The Milwaukee Admirals while working in the Mid-West. From there it was a short hop to the Chicago Blackhawks, which has been my team ever since...
I've been to a couple local games here at home, but love the idea of escaping to an NHL game from time to time. Earlier this week they finally gave Seattle an expansion team, which will debut in 2021. But what will they be called? It's a big mystery. I was greatly amused to find that Bovada is running Vegas odds on it...
Oh dear Lord. The odds favorite is the Totems?!? Now, I get it... that's the historic name for the team. It's a name which has emotional appeal to those who have been fighting to get a team here for a very long time. BUT COME ON! Are we really going to go down the cultural appropriation route again? My team, the Blackhawks, was named in honor of Black Hawk, a real-life Illinois historical figure. The team has kinda gotten a pass on this because it's not an offensive stereotype (like "Redskins") but it is still mired in controversy...
In 2010, for instance, Joe Podlasek stated that, "The stance is very clear. We want the Chicago Blackhawks logo to change. For us, that's one of our grandfathers. Would you do that with your grandfather's picture? Take it and throw it on a rug? Walk on it and dance on it?" John Blackhawk, Chairman of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, has suggested that the change in position for the American Indian Center may be connected to contributions the Blackhawks organization has recently begun making to the center: "We all do contributions, but we don't do it for the sake of wanting to be forgiven for something we've done that's offensive."
So can we please just not this time? Personally I'm really liking the Sockeyes. There's a lot of logo potential there, and it's a fish that has cultural significance to Seattle both past and presence. The Emeralds isn't bad, but what do you do with it for a logo? And tying the name to The Wizard of Oz is kinda silly. Rainiers is already tied to a crappy beer. Kraken might be fine, but it's too abstract since it's mythological and all. Renegades, Cougars, and Eagles are boring and done to death. Sea Lions, Seals, and Whales just sound silly. Evergreens would give us a frickin' TREE as a logo? I dunno. Might work in the right hands? Firebirds isn't bad, but it's within spitting distance of Totems for me.
So... can we just be the Sockeyes and be done with it? Please?
• So Long, Fuckers! I finally managed to transfer everything away from my previous web hosting company, Media Temple. After being a loyal customer for over a decade and putting up with their broken promises and bullshit, the last straw was the horrific way I was treated when I tried to get an issue resolved. No help, shitty service, and a bill for $38 that they wouldn't reverse. Seriously, what a bunch of assholes. If you're looking for a place to host your stuff, keep looking.
And that's the end of that. See you next week.
Today was the day I switched to my new WordPress 5 template for Blogography!
Then, after three hours of trying to make it work, I switched back to my old template again!
I don't know why I am having so much trouble getting what I want. It's really not that difficult to code these things. Especially when you are starting from an existing template (which I am) because you are woefully inept at coding a "responsive" site (which I also am). I'd skip all this and go back to coding what I know, but being "responsive" is a huge part of why I'm doing all this in the first place.
"Responsive" meaning that Blogography will be responsive to how you're viewing it and adapt accordingly. If you're in a web browser with a lot of screen real estate, you'll get an expansive experience with sidebars and menus and such. But if you're surfing on a smaller device, like your phone, it will automatically become more text-based so that it's easier to read. That's key, because an increasing amount of my traffic is from mobile devices. Eventually I expect it will overtake desktop browsers as the main way that people are reading my crap.
Hence the reason I'm switching over.
When I can figure out what in the hell I'm doing.
Which, hopefully, will be before my 16th blogiversary in April.
In the meanwhile I've put a sticky post at the top of my home page to explain why things might look messed up for a while.
My mom was an avid Teddy bear collector. She had tons of them. So many that she ended up donating a bunch of them to a firefighter drive. Apparently when firefighters respond to an emergency where a child has lost everything, they will give kids the bears in order for them to have something of their own from which they can start rebuilding their lives. It's a pretty incredible concept. But, then again, firefighters are pretty incredible people.
When my mom couldn't stay with me any more, I packed up some of her bears and took them to her new home. The rest of them I boxed up and stuffed in a closet because I couldn't bear to give them away.* Now that she's gone, there's not much point in hanging on to them.
Last month, I decided I would start donating her massive bear collection to the annual "Toys for Tots" drive. Almost all the bears are brand new, have never played with, and still have the tags attached. I'm sure mom would be happy to know that her bears are making kids happy for the holidays instead of sitting in a closet collecting dust, so it really is the perfect solution.
And so... every weekend I've been unboxing another crate to make sure they're in good shape, give them a vacuuming, then bag them up for the Marines...
There are a couple bears I've run across that I'll probably hang onto. Sunday I found the first bear of her collection which, coincidentally enough, I bought for her. Then there's her Teddy Ruxpin, which I also bought for her. I don't know that I want to keep it, but I'm interested in selling it if I can get a good price! Probably a long shot since there's no box for it, but you never know.
I was told that getting rid of mom's stuff is good therapy for accepting that she's really gone.
That's a therapy I don't need. I know she's really gone every single day.
*See what I did there?
I've taken a break from Hallmark Christmas movies to watch other Christmas films I like. Though, technically, most of them aren't "Christmas films" they just take place around the holiday.
But they totally count!
Here's a list of the movies I'm making my way through...
Over the years I've removed movies like Batman Returns that haven't held up well enough for me to want to bother. But the rest of them? Every year. Especially movies like The Long Kiss Goodnight which totally hold up.
Ho Ho Ho.
My fourth favorite show of 2017 was Star Trek: Discovery. If you want a sneak preview of this year's list, the second half of the first season will be making an appearance. It's that good.
As the only "Star Trek" television show I've enjoyed since the original series, I was thrilled to fall in love with Star Trek again. The cast was amazing. The stories were brilliant. And the special effects were beautiful. It was the total package and I was hooked right up until the final two episodes, where it kind of drifted off. Even so, fantastic television.
The second season will be starting January 17th, and the trailer that CBS All Access released for it looks to be more of the same...
Not only are we getting the return of Ash Tyler and what looks like lots of Spock, we're also getting... MORE MICHELLE YEOH!! Evil Philippa Georgiou is back! Easily one of the best parts of the show, I was worried that she had moved on.
Something to look forward to in 2019.
If Facebook has a redeeming quality, it's their "Memories" feature where they give you a run-down of what you were doing on this day a year ago... two years ago... three years ago... and so on.
Well, kinda redeeming. I find that much of the time there's at least one painful memory which you'd just as soon not re-live, but that's life I guess. In general, it's a good thing though.
And that got me to thinking...
I should be able to do something like that for my blog!
I started writing out the code I would need, then remembered that there's nothing new with WordPress, and surely somebody else had already done this. Sure enough, there's a bunch of plugins available.
Alas, none of them work for me.
And so... I'm back to coding.
How else would you know that a year ago today I was returning from my Antarctica trip?
Or two years ago I was wishing you a Happy World Monkey Day?
Or five years ago I was saying goodbye to Peter O'Toole?
Or twelve years ago I accidentally smacked myself in the balls with a shampoo bottle?
Heaven only knows your life isn't complete without reading all about that!
When I was in my late twenties and into my early thirties, my only goal was to get married and have kids. And while I knew I'd make a great dad, I didn't know about being a good father. How was I going to deal with the pooping and puking and crying and screaming and all the gross stuff that goes along with having a kid?
Then Jake got sick and was puking all over the place and I was so out-of-my-mind worried about his health that I didn't even think about having to clean up the mess. It wasn't even on my radar. And that's when I had an "ah ha!" moment and realized that it would be the same with a human child instead of these fuzzy ones I ended up with after my life goals changed...
Now the last thing I want in my life is kids... but I've adapted well to having cats, so I guess everything turned out as it was meant to.
I was reminded about this (again) when Jake started gnawing away on a slice of cheese pizza I left out while I was taking clothes out of the dryer last night. Then, as expected, he was puking his guts out. No idea how he went from being able to eat anything to having such a severe reaction to dairy, but here we are. Poor guy.
My proximity to a tourist town means I have a steady stream of houseguests... especially from October through December when there's a lot going on there. Up until now it's been one or two people. But last night it was three, which meant I had to convert the cats' bedroom to a second guest bedroom. This was fairly easy because I had the bed frame and mattress already...
All I had to do was steal an end-table from another room, then pick-up a comforter set from JC Penny which, thanks to a coupon from a wrapper off a chocolate bar they handed me, was darn cheap because it had already been marked down on clearance (how JC Penny can stay in business when they can mark things down so much is a mystery). The comforter I found was perfect and the design was exactly what I needed. When I got home, I found out why I liked it so much. It was the same comforter I had already bought for the first guest bedroom...
And, just like that, the cats had a second bedroom to claim as their own. Which is only fair, I suppose, since this was their room to begin with...
A bigger challenge than creating a guest room in a day was figuring out how my cats were going to deal with their space being more invaded than usual.
My guest room is downstairs so, when I have people over, the cats just confine themselves to the upstairs. They have their own bedroom with a litter box and water fountain, and I just serve their meals up there as well. Not a big deal. But this time there was a person staying in their room, so the only place for them to confine themselves to was my bedroom! But it all worked out in the end. They hid while my guests were here, snuck downstairs to goof around while they were sleeping, then everything was back to normal when my guests had left. Easy.
But I still slept with one eye open.
Cats have killed for a lot less than losing their bedroom.
The weather outside may be frightful, but there's warmth to be had... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Stranger Strange! It was announced earlier this week that Scott Derrickson will be returning for the sequel to Doctor Strange, which is fantastic news considering how amazing the first one turned out...
There are dozens of different directions that a new story might take. Baron Mordo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) is almost certain to be the villain. Or one of the villains anyway. Since magic-based characters in the MCU are scarce, they wouldn't necessarily have to go off-earth in order to come up with something wildly different, but some kind of inter-dimensional aspect to the plot is probably a safe bet. But what else? Will we get to see Mephisto? Clea? Umar? Nightmare?
• Julia Sans Julie! Did you know that somebody edited out all the horrible Julie Powell parts from Julie and Julia? Well they did! And it's so much better...
Makes me wish that they would have just made a Julia Child movie from the start. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were magic, and Julia's story is a fascinating one. Thanks to Run Jen Run for the tip!
• Musical Guest! Talk about lighting in a bottle. Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus (along with Sean Ono Lennon) performed the classic John Lemmon track Happy Xmas (War Is Over) on Saturday Night Live last night...
I've been a big Miley fan since I first saw her on Hannah Montana. She has an incredible voice... in and out of the studio... and, crazy antics aside, she knows how to sing. She's especially great at interpreting other people's music (as the above video shows). One of my favorites remains her beautiful take of the Crowded House song Don't Dream It's Over with Ariana Grande...
Can't wait to see what she's got lined up next.
• Echo! "Alexa, what song is this?"
"This is Good Time featuring Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson from the album Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson."
"HOLY SHIT, ALEXA! ENOUGH WITH GOOD TIME FEATURING OWL CITY AND CARLY RAE JEPSON!"
"Now playing Good Time featuring Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson from the album Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson."
"Well played, Alexa. Well played."
• Don't Look Here, Look There! It's always the people with fucked up shit in their closet that goes after the LGBTQ community. Always. You can set your clocks by it. Whenever I see somebody "railing against the gays" I just set an egg-timer until the news drops about them going to prison for something heinous. Then a Facebook friend shared this...
There's a reason that there are people who are virulently attacking people who have nothing to do with them. Set your egg timers.
Stay warm there, buckaroos.
The thing about life is that your "normal" is always changing. Just when you think you've got things figured out, BLAM! Suddenly what you thought you knew goes out the window and you're scrambling to figure out what your new normal is and how to live there.
When I look around, my life has remained relatively steady (comparatively speaking). I've lived in the same valley for 47 years. I've worked at the same place for 35 years. I've had my closest friend for 32 years. It goes on and on. Most of the significant factors that make up my life are unchanging. I've had three "major" relationships (and a few not-so major relationships) but even my being single feels unchanging and consistent.
Then my mom dies, everything changes, and I haven't been able to find my new normal since.
It all hit me like a ton of bricks on Thanksgiving when I realized that I wouldn't be hauling my ass over the mountains to get turkey take-out from Denny's so I could have dinner with her this year.
Or any year ever again.
I had plenty of places to go for Thanksgiving, but decided to stay at home this time and let that sink in.
Except it didn't, and I was no closer to normal than I had been for the past five months. Apparently sixteen years of prioritizing my mom in my life doesn't leave quickly. Nor should it, I suppose. Howard once told me that a breakup takes twice as long as the relationship to get over. Technically, my relationship with my mom has been 52-years long, so I guess I'll finally be back to finding normal when I'm 104.
Something to look forward to.
Jenny was no more impressed at all the idiotic artificial drama blowing up the Ink Master season finale than I was. 90% yelling and screaming vs. 10% actual tattooing going on. I can only guess that Oliver Peck and Chris Núñez are getting paid serious money to be associated with this total embarrassment of a show.
Maybe one day there will be a tattoo competition show that dispense with all this bullshit and focuses on actual ink, but apparently that's not tonight...
Oh well. Yet another reason I'm happy to have a DVR that allows me to fast forward through how terrible television has gotten lately.
Happy Birthday, Mom.
The idea of "deep pixel" images is a fascinating one. You take thousands of photos, align them, stitch them together, layer them, then create a virtual environment where you can pan around, zoom in and out, and otherwise have free reign to explore every aspect of a scene.
Probably the most famous company doing this is Gigapan, which I've mentioned before.
But I recently saw another company in the deep pixel arena... Bigpixel Technology. They've got a number of terrific images. To truly experience them, you'll have to visit the site. But here's a static taste...
When last I checked, the entry price for deep pixel photography was nearly $1000. Looking at the GigaPan site now, I see they have an entry model at $340. Still out of reach... but that's a massive drop. When it gets to below $200, I'll be taking a serious look.
When I was a kid I wanted to be a chef (also a fireman, airline pilot, doctor, and astronaut). I loved cooking and would goof around in the kitchen whenever the mood struck me. But that was decades ago. With the exception of an occasional falafel, I haven't done any serious cooking in a very long time. But recently all that's been changing.
It all started when I saw the frozen burritos I used to buy for $1 were costing me $3 to $4, which is absurd. And so I started making my own. They ended up tasting far better than the frozen burritos I had been buying (and were far cheaper), so I started wondering what else I might be able to cook better for less money.
Bread was the easy answer. Before I moved, I was flirting with different kinds of bread-making, and found it tedious fun. But to start saving money, I'd have to branch out and start making my own hamburger buns and sandwich rolls too. That will take some research, because I'll want the same light-and-fluffy buns I get in the store and the same crusty rolls I get from the bakery.
Next up is pizza. I loathe every frozen pizza I have ever purchased, so coming up with my own recipe for the perfect crust, sauce, and seasoning is something I'm anxious to try.
Then there's pasta. This is one area where it would undoubtedly taste better, but I'm doubtful it will save any money.
Last up? Baked sweets. I'm not supposed to have them any more, but I do like an occasional cupcake, cinnamon roll, or sticky bun. This type of baking isn't that difficult once you find a recipe you like.
The trick is finding a recipe you like.
A Facebook friend sent me this video...
And so... sticky buns it is then!
I watched the complete video, wrote out the recipe, then I was off to the races. It was all fairly easy. Except for patting the dough out into a 15 x 18 rectangle. The stuff was springy and kept snapping back. Eventually I kinda managed it by scraping the flour from the edges so it would stick a little bit. Then it was time to rise...
They looked pretty great out of the oven...
And on the plate...
I cut the amount of pecans in half because I didn't want too much crunch intruding on the fluffy texture. It was perfect. I wouldn't want any more than half the nuts.
The flavor was really good. Not orgasmically good like they lead you to believe... but incredibly tasty. What lead me to try the recipe was the light, airy texture (I don't like dense sweet breads), and on that front it totally delivers.
Not sure how they'll freeze, but I'll be testing that out. There's no way I can (or should) eat an entire pan of these before they start to turn stale.
And... next up? I'm thinking hamburger buns.
Jake and Jenny are scared of most everything, with people being number one on the list. It takes them hours before they'll even show themselves when other people are in the house. Days before they'll come close. Minimum a week before anybody new will be able to touch them. I keep hoping that having a steady stream of houseguests will encourage them to be less afraid, but it never happens.
But people aren't the only thing.
Jenny is afraid of movement. Unless I'm moving slowly, any step in her direction sends her running. It has to be her idea to approach me.
That's not Jake at all. Jake will sit right in my path and not budge unless I shoo him out of the way or trip over him.
What Jake is terrified of is... aluminum foil.
If I have a can of cat food that needs to be refrigerated and the lid is in the wash, I have to wait for Jake to finish eating before I grab the box of foil. Just opening the cupboard where the box is stored will make him nervous. If I pull out the box, he will run away. I have to go to the garage to tear off a sheet, because he will run away from that noise no matter where he is.
I'm guessing it's sound-related, because he's never had a box accidentally fall on him or anything like that. He's too busy laying around being handsome to be in that kind of danger...
Well... most of the time he's laying around. There are times he runs around like he's on fire though.
When Jake or Jenny is in a hurry, they will charge at the cat door at top speed and smash through it into the catio without hesitation. But when they're not in a hurry, Jake struggles with how to best squeeze past the flap. Jenny is the same. Except Jenny with try to push aside the flap with her paw, where Jake will kind of wedge his face along the side and push on it with his cheek.
I guess the cat door is only a struggle when they have to stop and think about it.
Except right now Jenny thinks it's time for dinner...
And so off I go...
Let the yuletide merriment begin... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Chain Me Up! My drive over the mountains this morning took 3 hours and 40 minutes instead of the 2 hours and 15 minutes it usually does. Partly because traffic was insane, but mostly because chains were required and the max speed was 30 mph. You'd think that my frequent drives over the passes would mean that I've had to chain up a lot. But that's not the case. The last time I chained up was over a decade ago because my studless winter tires have been sufficient. Other than slowing things down, the chains themselves are no big deal. I bought these easy-wrap "chains" a few years ago that are crazy simple to apply...
This was the first time I used them and it was a total piece of cake. So much easier than the old-style chains that are a nightmare to apply and ride so rough.
• Google Trips! When I last looked at Google's answer to TripIt, I was not impressed. Now? Pretty darn impressed...
This is an ideal arena for Google to play in, and I'm absolutely going to give it a shot in 2019.
• Ad Man! I do love me a good ad. Especially when it's so wonderfully inclusive as this one...
Way to step it up, Macy's!
• Roxette! After Pretty Woman was on for the hundredth time, I had Alexa play Roxette's Must Have Been Love from the soundtrack. It's a beautiful song and was responsible for my buying the Pretty Woman CD. Much to my surprise, the Must Have Been Love that played was different than the one I was used to, having the lyrics "And it's a hard winter's day" instead of "And it's a hard winter's day"...
At first I thought that they must have changed the line to make it a Christmas song, but it turns out it's the other way around. It was originally a Christmas song and was altered for the Pretty Woman soundtrack. The more you know...
• Super Intelligent! There are some articles that make their way around the internet in cycles. They'll find you. You read them. And then every time they come around you read them again. One of my favorite articles like this is The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence by Wait But Why. It's all at once very exciting and terrifyingly scary.
• Dyson! One of my favorite science fiction concepts has been beautifully imagined by Kurzgesagt...
This is quickly becoming my favorite YouTube channel on the internet.
Happy Christmas Eve Eve, if you celebrate that kind of thing!
Apparently squatting down to apply and remove chains to my car for the drive over the mountains yesterday worked some muscles I haven't used in a while... because my gluteus maximus is all kinds of sore today. Guess I need to look into assercize or something like that. Or, I dunno, just exercise at all maybe?
And speaking of chains...
Yesterday after I made my way through Tourist Town, there's a sign before you head into the mountains advising you as to road conditions and closures and such. If the roads are impassable, there's also an arm-block that drops down to keep people from going any further.
This was the sign which warned me that chains were required over the pass... 21 miles ahead.
Some people decided that they didn't want to wait 21 miles and were pulling over to apply chains for driving on bare roads. Since the roads were bare, everybody with chains was driving way too fast. And so... chains were flying off tires and being busted to shit left and right. Which meant that some people wouldn't have chains for the pass and would be ticketed if caught.
Welcome to the hazards of winter driving.
But it was worth it to spend the holidays with friends...
Bring on the jolly fat man!
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about Christmas now that both my grandma and my mom are gone. For my entire life, they were Christmas. Even once I decided I didn't need to celebrate the holiday, it still meant something to me because it meant something to them.
But now? Forever more, it's just another day without them here.
Which is to say that it's just a day like any other day.
Might as well see a movie?
We ended up seeing Vice which I was a bit excited about because Adam McKay wrote and directed it. Having his wit turned towards the steaming pile of garbage that is former Vice President Dick Cheney...
Didn't care for it.
It was funny in spots (and really funny in one particular spot), which was entertaining... but it was a kinda slapped-together documentary-style movie that didn't expose or enlighten. And while it did present some of the horrible shit Cheney unleashed... it didn't show it in any real context, nor did it really explore the consequences. It's just laid out the stuff we already knew.
Dick Cheney is a fucking monster.
I want to see a movie that takes what he did and follows it through to what happened because of it. Not with a title card at the end of the movie, but with and actual exploration of just what a heinous blight on all humanity he has been.
All that being said, the performances in this flick are phenomenal. Christian Bale... Sam Rockwell... Amy Adams... they all deserve their Golden Globe nominations, and are a shoe-in for Oscar nominations as well. Truth be told, Steve Carell was brilliant as well. But best picture?!? Seriously? Nah.
Have a happy Christmas, if that's a thing you celebrate. Otherwise? Happiest of Tuesdays to you.
Driving in the snow and ice is not that tough if you have experience and good tires.* I've been driving in this stuff for decades and my tires (which I originally purchased for my mom) are the best money can buy... so not such a big deal.
What is a very big deal is other drivers on the road. A significant portion of which are total idiots and raging assholes.
They drive too fast for conditions. They drive way too aggressively. They follow too close. They don't pay attention. They pull out in front of you. They cut you off. All of which is bad when the roads are perfect and dry... but when they're covered in ice and snow? Disaster. You may be able to drive in the stuff, but your ability to do so safely depends on how others are driving.
I was fairly lucky on my way home today. Had a dumbass pull in front of me once and had somebody following way too close, but it was a pretty easy drive because the plows were out keeping things clear.
Here's a short 30-second video of me at the top of the pass...
And now I'm home safe and sound where I have two cats who are very happy to see me.
Though Jake is slightly more interested in the snow that's been dumping down in buckets. After making sure it was really me, he bolted outside to watch the flakes fall...
And that's that. My last trip of the year.
*Want to know what is tough to drive in? Slush. Especially deep slush, which can easily suck you in and pull you off the road in a heartbeat. I'd drive in just about anything before I'd drive in slush, and 90% of my driving horror-stories have slush involved.
Christmas is such a weird holiday. All this drama build-up to one day... then, just like that, it's all over and you're expected to return to Real Life. I worked for a little while before I drove home yesterday. Then worked a little in the office once I got back. Then today I only worked a half-day. So I guess I'm kinda easing my way back into Real Life.
What I'd like to do is ease my way into a new tattoo so I have some fresh ink for 2019... but my artist is in San Francisco,* so that will have to wait a bit.
Instead I've decided to set my top ten goals for 2019...
That aught to keep me busy. Assuming I can manage to live through 2019.
*For which I'm thankful. If my tattoo artist was local, I'd be covered in ink and broke.
And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year.
Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of movies I saw that came out this year." As always, there's a bunch of movies I never saw that would have probably ended up on my list (we'll get to that later). And here we go...
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw.
#1 Black Panther
My two favorite Marvel Comics characters are Doctor Strange and Black Panther. Both got terrific movie adaptations. But Black Panther is next-level greatness that went beyond my every expectation. You can read all about my unabashed love for the movie here, but suffice to say that making T'Challa into the Marvel James Bond and crafting a beautifully-realized African world for him to inhabit makes Black Panther not just a great comic book film... but a great film period.
#2 Avengers: Infinity War
When I first saw Infinity War it was so much... everything... that I left the theater in a daze. There's just too much to take in, and made for a less than perfect experience. But then I watched it on home video... again and again and again... and came to appreciate just how spectacular a job that The Russo Brothers did given all they had to achieve. Now I absolutely love the film, and can't wait for the conclusion in 2019. My original review is here.
#3 Ant Man & The Wasp
The action sequences and humor have been ramped up to eleven, but it's the performances by Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly that make the sequel work so well. And it was a pleasant surprise that they had Ghost as one of the villains, because her power-set is completely different (breaking the "villain has the same powers as the hero" trend that's getting so boring). The whole deus-ex-machina lameness of giving Michelle Pfeiffer magical quantum powers at the end kept the movie from being flawless... but it was darn close.
#4 Deadpool 2
The first Deadpool was a life-affirming love-letter to the character and proof that not all of Fox's X-Men-related movies have to suck ass. I liked the sequel even more. Partly because they just amped up everything that made the first film work... but mostly because they introduced Cable and Domino in a way that had you praying for an X-Force movie. Hilarious, bloody fun.
#5 Love, Simon
The first coming-of-age-love-story with a gay lead character from a major studio was going to be a landmark film regardless of how good it was. Or how terrible. The fact that Love, Simon turned out to be something great is just icing on the cake. One can only hope that more films like this entering mainstream culture becomes a step towards more acceptance and less bullying in our schools. Because isn't high school hard enough? A big shout out to Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel who made for the best movie parents ever.
#6 Mission: Impossible — Fallout
It's a mystery how the Mission: Impossible franchise keeps getting better with each new installment... but it totally does. Fallout is easily my favorite of the lot, filled with mind-boggling stunts, incredible action, and a story that is actually interesting and completely works. I can't believe that I'm dying to see a seventh installment of any movie, but here we are.
#7 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I've seen plenty of animated comic book movies and TV shows. And while some of them are very good, they never seem to reach the epic level of greatness you would expect. And then Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse comes along and blows the doors off the entire concept. It's visually stunning and has a story that is brimming with heart and humor. More please.
#8 Ocean's 8
While extending the George Clooney franchise with a cast of women is not a terrible idea, it was ripe for disaster if it weren't the right cast of women. Fortunately, they got that part exactly right and everything else fell into place perfectly. Entertaining from start to finish... with a few surprises along the way... I am hopeful that the film makes enough money to get us Ocean's 9 with an even bigger caper to pull off.
#9 Crazy Rich Asians
This is an old, tired story but told in a way that was interesting and fresh. It's also lavish, lush, and beautiful to behold. Fortunately, it didn't 100% rely on making the female protagonist be a total embarrassment in front of her rich boyfriend's family (typical for these things), but merely touched on it. Surprisingly, the standout for me was not Constance Wu (whom I love in Fresh Off the Boat and was excellent as always), but Awkwafina in yet another scene-stealing role (her first being in
#10 The Incredibles 2
I've long felt that The Incredibles was one of the best super-hero movies ever made... and easily the best interpretation of The Fantastic Four to hit the screen. The sequel was fantastic adventure and had more of what made the first one so good... but it also adds layers of complication that kept it from being as good as it could have been. Still, Pixar magic at its finest and a movie I really enjoyed.
#11 Isle of Dogs
It's Wes Anderson, so of course I liked it. And while I appreciate the viewpoint that the entire film is cultural appropriation (stealing from Japanese culture for entertainment value) I don't know that I agree with that. The film very much feels like Anderson just wanted his story to be set in Japan. I am, however, going on record to blast him for cultural insensitivity. I hate hate hated the fact that we had to have the "Tracy Walker" character be yet another white savior in film. Seriously, what the fuck? Why does there always have to be a white hero? The film is set in JAPAN, for heaven's sake. But who leads the fight against injustice?
Last year I dropped Hidden Figures from my Top Twelve because the story of Black women making the moon landings possible was hijacked by Kevin Costner "defeating racism." This kind of crap categorically stupid, and I am sick to death of it. LET. PEOPLE. OF. COLOR. BE. THE. HEROES. OF. THEIR. OWN. DAMN. STORIES! When it came to Isle of Dogs I very nearly dropped it for the same reason. But ultimately I felt it wasn't quite the outrageous blunder that assaulted me when I saw it in the theater. Upon tonight's repeat viewing, this is much more a movie about Akira searching for his lost canine than Tracy's revolution. On top of that, the film is a wonderful, jaw-dropping spectacle to behold (be sure to watch the cast interviews in the Special Features). And yet... holy shit. Enough with this white savior bullshit.
#12 Solo: A Star Wars Story
This is going to be a controversial pick. Partly because it was not a great film... but mostly because it was completely unnecessary. And told a story we honestly didn't need to see. But then again... it did have some good action sequences and a better story than we've seen in any of the shitty prequels (and probably Force Awakens or Last Jedi). Plus? Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover, who were perfect. And I loved L3-37 and Chewie in it.
HAVEN'T SEEN YET, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...
It goes without saying that 2018 was a terrible time to be me. Too much of the year was spent grieving, and escaping into movies and music were about all I had (other than my cats, of course). To be honest, I didn't spend a lot of time seeking out new music. In terrible times I usually sink back into that which I already know. In this case, it was a lot of old-school rap, 80's favorites, and whatever I happen to catch in music soundtracks or internet radio.
So while I'm sure there's plenty of new stuff that escaped my notice in 2018, here's the music I found which I liked quite a lot.
#1 Indigo by Wild Nothing
You'd think that I'd become accustomed to stumbling across a band that's been around for years that I never knew existed. There I was watching To All The Boys I've Loved Before (it's on Netflix and you should definitely check it out) when I hear a beautiful track playing. A little Google research reveals it's Chinatown by Wild Nothing from their 2010 debut album. That day was August 18th... the same day that Wild Nothing released their latest album, Indigo! It took me all of five minutes to completely obsess over Jack Tatum and everything he's ever done. Thoughtful lyrics, beautiful vocals, and a mellow sound all come together to wrap you up like a warm blanket. I've been listening to the album many, many times over the last several months.
#2 Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves
This album took me completely by surprise when I had Amazon Music Unlimited Radio playing and Oh What A World came oozing through the speakers. At first I didn't know what to make of it. Is it pop? Is it country? Is it folk? What in the heck am I listening to? Who is singing this magical mashup? Turns out it was Kacey Musgraves, and her album Golden Hour was a new kind of wonderful landing in the middle of my Springtime. I am not a country music fan AT ALL, but there's something incredible about what she's doing here that can't be denied. Achingly beautiful music at every turn, I'm head over heels in love with Kacey Musgraves.
#3 Science Fiction by Tom Bailey
There has been a trio of bands that have become the bedrock of my love of 80's music. Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, and Thompson Twins. The latter being the only band to stop making music. Until Tom Bailey decided to ride a nostalgia wave and tour with old Twins' hits. After that was a success, he came out with a new album that feels very much like what I had hoped for. A brilliant 80's throwback with a bit of a contemporary edge.
#4 Great Big Blue by Geowulf
Like everybody else, I was swept away by the lovely dreamy pop stylings of Saltwater (aka that Corona commercial song). It feels like it's been around forever, but was only released in 2016. Two years later, the song shows up on Great Big Blue along with other magical tracks. Perfect music for a sleepy Sunday, there's a lot to love on an album that sounds like Summer (even if some of the tracks were released well before 2018).
#5 A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by The 1975
While this album was a step down from the previous two (very nearly making it to my "Disappointments" section) there was enough going on that I ended up listening to it quite a lot. Not surprising considering that The 1975 is one of my favorite bands.
#6 EP by Silhouettes
So there I was watching an ad for the excellent Shoshannah Stern dramedy This Close which has this awesome track playing in the background. I spent forever trying to track down who sang it and where it comes from. Eventually I fell down a YouTube comment rabbit-hole and found out it was called A Home To Come To by a band called Silhouettes. Fine. Except the only band called Silhouettes that showed up anywhere was the Yip Yip Yip Yip Sha Na Na Na Get a Job band from the 50's. Months later I gave it another shot and found that the (new) Silhouettes released an EP on iTunes that was fantastic. I bought it immediately and, for the longest time, that's the only place you can find it. Now it's on Spotify and Amazon Music as well. Hopefully you have one of those, because they have nothing on YouTube. All I can get for you is the This Close ad that started it all...
P.S. This Close was finally released to the iTunes Store if you're not a Sundance Now subscriber.
#7 Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe
I don't know how to say this without offending a great many people... but Dirty Computer sounds more "Prince" to me than some of Prince's later albums where he found religion and turned his back on the nasty side of pop that he defined. Never one to leave a good idea laying on the ground, Monáe picked up that baton and took it in a fresh direction that had me singing "You fucked the world up now, we'll fuck it all back down! Let's get. Let's get. SCREWED!" while the song is blasting on my stereo. Her latest effort is inventive, imaginative, and all Janelle Monáe. What more could you want?
#8 Black Panther (Soundtrack) by Kendrick Lamar & Various
My favorite movie of 2018 got a killer soundtrack to go with it. Orchestrated by Kendrick Lamar (whose Damn made my list last year), the standout track would have to be All The Stars (with SZA) which so flawlessly closed Black Panther over the end-credits. Lush, haunting, and beautifully realized by not only the best video of 2018 but one of the best videos of all time. The rest of the tracks are suitably catchy (even though not all of them were in the movie). Notably Pray for Me (with The Weeknd).
#9 Bloom by Troye Sivan
I have never been a big fan of Sivan's stuff until I heard My My My! burning up the airwaves and realized he was the one singing it. The album that spawned it ended up being played far more than I thought it would throughout the Fall (especially Dance To This, his magical duet with Arianna Grande). Will be interesting to see where he goes next.
#10 FM! by Vince Staples
This was my go-to album as I worked through the holidays. Raw lyrics married to dirty beats that confront all the shitty frustration that life rains down day after day. People don't understand how somebody like me can find solace in rap... especially rap like this... and I'm hard-pressed to explain it myself. All I know is that every last track on FM! was like mana from heaven at a time I needed it most. Brutally brief in length, you can burn through the entire album in 20 minutes and come out the other side feeling like you've run a gauntlet. Only the best rappers can manage something like that.
#11 Walk Between Worlds by Simple Minds
I'm just going to be brutally honest here... Jim Kerr sounds like he's sleepwalking his way through this album. Maybe it's the 40 years he's been fronting the band. Maybe it's the sound he was going for. I don't know. But the bright, fresh vocals that pounded through such seminal Simple Minds tracks like Don't You (Forget About Me) and Alive and Kicking have left the building. Sure there's an occasional glimpse of what was, but Walk Between Worlds is a totally different animal. I still like it though.
#12 Expectations by Hayley Kiyoko
Kiyoko's debut is pretty spectacular. Poppy goodness with a slight edge to it and terrific vocals. On top of all that, she's got something to say. Built around LGBT themes, her music and videos serve as the ultimate form of self-expression, and that's always a good thing.
Scorpion by Drake
The latest Drake album dropped the day my mom died and I was quick to give it a listen. All these months later, I still don't know what to make of it. 25 tracks. There's rap. There's R&B. There's even a semblance of pop. If I'm being honest, it's a bit of a mess. And yet... it's Drake, so there's gems to be found in them thar hills.
SINGLES TO LOVE...
All the Ways by Meghan Trainor
Meghan's latest album TREAT MYSELF was due this year, but got pushed into next year because she wanted to add more tracks. But Amazon Music and iTunes has a partial album up, leaving us to live with tracks 1, 2, 3, 12, and 13. It's that 13th track, All The Ways which got stuck in my head for months thanks to those dang Target commercials. I do love it though (as I do the other tracks)...
My guess is I'll be seeing TREAT MYSELF on next year's BEST list.
Party For One by Carly Rae Jepsen
As a mega-huge fan of her last album (EMOTION) I have been waiting on pins and needles for her new album. That didn't happen in 2018, but we did get a taste of what's to come.
My guess is I'll be seeing Carly Rae on next year's BEST list.
Without Me by Halsey
Like Robyn, I have tried to get into Halsey but just can't seem to grab hold. Then she unleashes Without Me, easily one of my favorite tracks of 2018, and suddenly wonder where she's been all my life.
VIDEOS TO WATCH...
The best video of the year, hands-down, is All The Stars (see above). But a close second would have to be The Carters (aka Beyoncé and Jay-Z) RENTING OUT THE LOUVRE to shoot a video for Apeshit.
I JUST DON'T KNOW...
Pray for the Wicked by Panic! At the Disco
While the album isn't necessarily bad (some of the tracks I like quite a lot) I can't seem to take Brendon Urie's vocals in anything more than small doses. And then there's tracks like Dancing's Not a Crime where his screeching makes me want to jump in front of a bus. This is a band I should like, but can't seem to buy into because it feels like my ears are bleeding if I listen to more than two songs.
Jake Shears by Jake Shears
After getting completely hooked on Scissor Sisters just after they broke up, I was happy when I found out that Shears had more music on the way as a solo act. The resulting album is kinda Scissor Sisters but mostly not. And I honestly don't know what to make of it. I like a couple tracks, but was left mostly disappointed.
And now is that special entry where I wrap up MY FAVORITE TV SHOWS OF 2018!
Like the past couple years, it's not as easy as it used to be to keep track of "television." Everything is so scattered that I feel I'm missing most of it. New series and old favorites appear without my ever knowing they existed. Some shows I am aware of, but never had time to see. This list is made from those I actually saw...
THE TWELVE BEST...
Consistently one of the best shows on television, it was just so fitting that the third and best season of the show would be its last. Fox cancelled it with stories still in progress. I was furious, but it's something I've gotten used to. Then... a miracle. Netflix stepped in and saved the show. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen, but I will absolutely be tuning in to find out. Lucifer is a devil of a show... about the actual Devil. Or a fictional equivalence thereof.
The first season of Donald Glover's turn at television was remarkable. The second season went next-level by pushing the envelope even further. My favorite thing about Atlanta is that it is constantly moving from one show to the next. Comedy? Drama? Caper? Horror? There's just no telling what you're tuning into. The only thing that's assured is that it will entertain you.
#3 Young Sheldon
I keep telling myself that the party has to end sometime. They're going to run out of stories. They're going to run the concept into the ground. They're going to run into a dead end. Something's gotta happen to bring Young Sheldon to a screeching halt. But it ain't happened yet. If anything, the characters are just getting more charming and the scripts getting more entertaining. At this point, I'm beginning to think that the only thing that can sink the show is puberty.
#4 This Close
I wasn't exactly sure where this show should fit into my list. I really enjoyed the series... I felt like I was being given a wonderful insight into the deaf community... but it was also so problematic. Kate works at a PR firm and has just gotten engaged to her boyfriend. Michael is an artist who met great success with his first graphic novel, but is struggling to find a follow-up. They are deaf and best friends. But where Kate has her life pretty much together, Michael's life is a non-stop parade of drug and alcohol abuse, random sex hookups, and an ex-boyfriend that he can't get over. It's a fascinating dynamic, but it never feels like Michael is moving forward as a character and it gets tiring. I hear the show has been renewed, so hopefully they will let Michael get his shit together at least part of the time. Though after what happened in the finale, that may not be possible.
#5 The Good Doctor
When the show focuses on Freddie Highmore playing autistic surgeon Shaun Murphy, it's fantastic. Unfortunately, we are constantly getting sidetracked by Toby Ziegler (or whatever his character's name is) being only slightly less annoying than he was on The West Wing. And I'm not entirely thrilled when we have to spend time with the other characters' lives outside of the hospital either.
#6 The Last O.G.
Tracy Morgan is hit or miss with me. Most of the time I love what he does... other times it feels like his humor is a poor fit for the project. When it comes to The Last O.G., Morgan is flawlessly cast and at the top of his game. I loved this show. It's hysterically funny while being totally charming and touching at the same time. The story revolves around Tray, an ex-con who was just been released from prison after 15 years. He returns home to find that not only has Brooklyn changed, his ex-girlfriend and his kids are living new lives as well. Hilarity ensues. And so does a second season, thank heavens.
#7 Magnum, P.I.
When the series began, I was most definitely not impressed. The new Magnum has none of the charm as the original. Rick and TC kept getting shoved aside. And Higgins went from a fussy major domo male character to a bitchy borderline-abusive female character. And then... everything started to settle. Still not as much Rick and TC as I'd like... but Higgins quickly became my favorite part of the show. She's capable, brilliant, and is often accompanying Magnum on his exploits. Plus... Hawaii.
#8 The Rookie
I tuned in because Nathan Fillion always brings his A-game, and I was interested in seeing what would follow Firefly and Castle. A series about a guy who decides to change his wrecked life by becoming a police officer sounded a bit tired. But making him an older guy added another dimension to the whole "police show" concept, so I was onboard. Then the stories started getting really good and I was completely invested. The only thing I hate is that all the rookies are forever being referred to as "boot" and it is fucking insane. Please, for the love of all things holy, let that end if the show gets picked up for a second season.
The hilarious insanity of this show makes it good. The writers' willingness to completely change things up from season to season and episode to episode is what makes it great. A lesser show about plane wreck survivors would have just strung out the status quo until everything became a horrible mess (ala Lost). But not Wrecked. It just gets funnier and fresher with each new outing. And the characters aren't standing still either. They are growing and changing as well. All I can do is hope that TBS gives us another season, because I'm dying to see where they go next.
#10 Trial & Error: Lady Killer (R.I.P.)
In many ways, trying to follow the first season of one of the most wonderfully wacky shows to ever appear on television was folly. How could they possibly make it better? How could they make it funnier? The answer was to not get hung up on that and just make the best show they could. This time with Kristin Chenoweth taking over from John Lithgow, which is about the most brilliant decision they could have made. Her effortless hilarity coupled with some really smart writing allowed the show to hold its own. Unfortunately NBC decided to cancel the show before we had a chance to see who would be the next defendant.
#11 Doctor Who
While I'm not quite "there" with the current incarnation of The Doctor, I am loving everything that Jodie Whittaker is bringing to the part. She's got a fantastic energy and sensibility about her which has done wonders to revitalize the franchise. I was completely open to the idea of a female Doctor, but dreading what that could mean. Were they going to make the entire show revolve around the fact that the Doctor is a woman? Or would they build a fantastic show around a Doctor who just happened to be a woman? Thankfully it was the latter and we ended up with something entertaining and watchable. What I'm hoping for now is a new season where she gets more entrenched into the mythology that makes Doctor Who be Doctor Who. Fingers crossed.
#12 The Good Place
Everybody else seemed to love the third season as much as they ever have. I just cannot seem to get into it. Everything feels disjointed and confused... like they had no idea what to do when they picked up from the sublime second season. Even so, there are incredible moments that keep the show from dropping completely off my list. Most notably? D'Arcy Carden brought her character "Janet" to new heights, culminating with Janet(s) which had her playing the other characters brilliantly. I am hopeful that they can do something interesting to wrap up the season, but I'm not overly confident.
THE BEST SHOW YOU'RE NOT WATCHING...
Schitt's Creek. Such a great show. I always have to watch it late because I didn't get the channel, so I'm always "off" when it comes to my list because I'm watching on Netflix. Season 5 is January 16th, I think? I'll be rewatching seasons 1-4 to prepare myself, then buying a season pass on iTunes so I don't have to wait this time.
ANIMATION WORTH WATCHING...
The imagination that permeates every episode is more than you get from a lot of animated fare now-a-days, which is why I was so sad to see the show go. But they did give us a worthy send-off, which made the entire series worthwhile.
If there's one thing to say about BoJack, it's that the show is consistent. Consistently brilliant, real, depressing, enlightening, and always moving forward. I'm not always in the mood for it, but I can count on the show being good for an uncomfortable laugh when I need one.
I was hoping for Dungeons & Dragons meets Futurama with Matt Groening's latest, but ended up with something... not that. It's more of a slow burn through comedic storylines in a medieval setting than a series of quick laughs. It's also gorgeously animated and has some of the most beautiful backgrounds you're likely to see in non-feature animation. I enjoyed it quite a bit... especially Luci, the demonic imp whose only job is to lead Princess Bean into temptation.
Yeah. You're on your own here.
I honestly can't decide if I like the show... or loathe it. I detest the new "Murphy in the Morning" concept. It's just so damn lazy, and doesn't allow for the political bite that the original series did. So now all the political rants are completely out of context, making them kinda stupid. What's so lame is that the writers realize this and are constantly trying to inject heavy politics into a morning show? It makes no sense. But the characters are good and some of the stories are well-done, so I keep watching.
God Friended Me
I have really been enjoying this show. The cast is phenomenal and the stories are really well done. But there are a few things that have been driving me batshit insane. First is the podcast stuff. It makes no sense that people would tune into this inane bullshit and it always serves to interrupt and distract than to enlighten. Have him talk this stuff out WITH OTHER CHARACTERS instead of a faceless audience, because it's just bad television. Second is the number of times we hear the words "God Account" in a single episode. Holy crap... can your writers stop being so damn lazy on this? And lastly... FOR FUCK'S SAKE, STOP WITH ALL THE IMPLAUSIBLE HACKER BULLSHIT! I can't believe that Facebook is happy with the fact that they are REGULARLY PORTRAYED AS BEING HACKED so that the "team" can have access to IP addresses and other private information. Just stop. Again, this is lazy. You shouldn't need to do impossible shit to make your stories work! With some fixing, this could be an amazing show.
I Feel Bad
The casting for this show is amazing. I love everybody involved and was excited to see where they would go with it. But the stories! Holy crap! The writers are so trapped by the whole concept of building a show around something the mother feels "bad" about each episode, that we end up with toothless, meandering mess. It was a foolish plot device from the start, and the fact that things just keep getting worse and worse as they continue to enslave themselves to a doomed plot device makes the show virtually unwatchable. If they get a second season, they need to cut this dead weight plot device and let the stories breathe so the actors can shine.
FOR GOD'S SAKE... YOU HAVE ONE OF THE BEST ACTORS ON TELEVISION ON YOUR SHOW! JAMES SPADER IS AN ABSOLUTE GENIUS! STOP WITH ALL THE STUPID DISTRACTIONS AND GET BACK TO THE DAMN BLACK LIST! YOU KNOW, WHAT YOUR SHOW IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT! And, while you're at it, give Dembe more to do. The dynamic between Red and Dembe is far more compelling than any Red and Elizabeth crap you've been shoveling.
Where to start. On the plus side, I like the characters quite a lot. Ryan Eggold is a compelling actor who knows how to sell a scene. He makes even the corniest plot devices workable because he has the skill and conviction to make them work. But that strength is also the show's greatest weakness... the writers keep coming up with corny bullshit knowing that Eggold will save them from themselves. But there comes a point where there's so much bullshit that nobody can save you. And we're past that point. It's like the concept for the show was to take everything people hate about hospitals and attack them so that they'd have the audience on their side. Everybody be like "Yeah! I hate waiting at the hospital! So good on you, Dr. Max for telling the hospital to not make people wait any more! Why don't real hospitals do that?" Well, the reason they don't is because it's fucking bullshit. So just stop. Stop and come up with compelling stories that actually make sense in the framework of fictional television instead of idiocy so outlandish that you're destroying an otherwise good show.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
This is a great concept show with a fantastic cast. But the whole Satanism angle, which was an interesting plot device at the start, became an absurd crutch. Okay. We get it. The witches get their power by serving Satan and Sabrina is starting to question that. But you don't have to go running to Satanism every damn time you need to move a story forward. It's just so tired and lazy. The shock value has long since run its course, and you need to find more interesting and inventive ways to move your narrative forward. I mean, come on, even The Church Lady didn't have this big of an obsession with Satan.
I was able to find entertainment in the show for seasons 2-3, but this current season has been a disaster. First of all, I'm sick of "Team Supergirl" trouncing all over what should be interesting stories revolving around The Girl of Steel. Second of all, the whole "aliens are a threat to the country" arc is stupid as shit. For the love of Pete, ditch the squad, find good stories, and make this show what it should be.
Same problem as Supergirl. "Team Flash" is annoying as shit and is destroying the show. Any time something remotely interesting starts happening, some idiotic drama has to start up with one of the "team" and it drives me absolutely bonkers.
The House on Haunted Hill.
I had such high hopes for this. Ended up being a total snooze-fest that bored the crap out of me. Sure, there are great moments to be had, but they are sandwiched by asinine stories that just aren't worth the investment. I know I'm in the minority here, as many people seemed to love the series, but I found it a disservice to the book and a big failure.
Manifest The old "Airplane Goes Missing And Magically Reappears" plot device was really interesting this time around. At first. But then it became clear that they were going to drag out the mystery forever, at which point it became boring, redundant, and stale. Unless you are bringing something new and interesting to the table, don't play the game! You just end up wasting everybody's time.
This was bound to be bad because the ads had Matt Czuchry dumping a steaming load of overacting all over everything, but I gave it a try because I like Emily VanCamp. Turned out it was as awful as it looked and I gave up 15 minutes in. Not willing to let a bad thing go, I tuned in again this year and couldn't believe that it was even worse. I may not love New Amsterdam, but at least I can watch it.
Originally, this was a slightly annoying show that was made watchable because the "white neighbors" were so charming. Josh Lawson and Dreama Walker were perfectly cast as the well-meaning but clueless couple who move into a Black neighborhood. But then they were replaced by frickin' Schmidt from New Girl and Caroline from 2 Broke Girls? The result is something completely un-funny, and the show is borderline unwatchable. I can only guess this was a network decision to tie up two actors from previously successful shows rather than what was actually good for The Neighborhood. Hard pass.
This is Us
Everybody and their dog keeps telling me that this is must-see-television and I have got to start watching. I don't get it. I find all the characters to be kill-me-now annoying. The stories are all so transparent and manipulative. It's manufactured drama for the sake of being dramatic... not interesting.
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
As you can imagine, 2018 was the worst year of my life so far. Just surviving it feels like a major accomplishment. All I can do is hope that 2019 is better.
• This year was largely about my cats and the hijinks they got into. So... no change from last year...
• Found out that Google thinks I look like Ryan Reynolds when I have the right haircut...
• Another year, another traumatic trip to the vet for Jake and Jenny...
• Saw the best movie of 2018: Black Panther.
• Finally bought into the SONOS smart speaker ecosystem...
• Said good bye to long-time blogging friend Kelly "Hot Coffee Girl."
• Took my new macro lens to The Keukenhof in the Netherlands...
Another day of Keukenhof wonderment at macro level...
• Finally made it to lovely Budapest...
• Finally made it to lovely Vienna...
• Returned to St. Louis and its Gateway Arch...
• Headed to Jefferson City to hunt ghosts at the old Missouri State Penitentiary with Coal Miner's Granddaughter and the Tennessee Wraith Chasers...
• Jake gets a new favorite toy...
• Saw another amazing P!NK show in Seattle...
• Had to rescue another bird from my savage kittehs...
• Started organizing my souvenirs from around the world...
• Spent my weekend building a flower bed in my front yard...
• Upgraded Jake and Jenny's catio with a ramp and a massive climbing pole...
• Had the worst day of my life when I said good bye to my mom...
• Remembered my many travels with mom...
• Took a look back and wrote about The Elephant Out the Window...
• Wrote about finding inspiration amongst the heart-crushing tragedy of dementia...
• Built my cats an indoor feeding station...
• Another trip to Maine... this time with a torrential flood of rain.
• Saw an amazing show by one of my long-time favorite bands, Erasure...
• Installed a mesh network with Google WiFi.
• Remembered back to the AIDS crisis, which wasn't that long ago.
• Flew to Salt Lake City to catch a show by The B-52's, Boy George, and Tom Bailey with Marty from Banal Leakage...
• Wrote an obituary and buried my mom when her marker finally arrived from the VA...
• Was gutted when Jake got seriously ill...
• Had to make a short one-day trip to Hawaii and back...
• THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT! THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT!
• Was forced to remodel my remodel.
• Remembered my trip to Antarctica on my one year travelversary...
• Happy birthday, Mom...
And there you have it... my 2018 year in review.
Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through the not-so-great times.
Here's to a better 2019, everybody.