Posted on Monday, July 1st, 2019
Okay... you've all seen my refrigerator.
There's nothing in it except soda, beer, salad dressings, condiments, and tons of cheese. I don't have a lot of food-stuffs in there because there's only myself and my cats in the house, and I usually end up freezing stuff instead so it doesn't go to waste. If I refrigerate something, it just sits there until it eventually spoils, because there's only so much food I can eat...
And yet... when I opened it this morning it smelled like a fish had died in it. Which is odd, because I don't eat fish. Tonight when I got home it was STILL reeking like low tide. And so I took absolutely everything out and did a smell test. Perhaps one of my cream cheeses went bad? But no. Everything smelled fine. UNTIL I GOT TO THE BAKING SODA! YOU KNOW, THE STUFF YOU PUT IN THE REFRIGERATOR TO KEEP IT FROM SMELLING?!? HOLY CRAP! Arm & Hammer are on my list now, buddy!
It's weird how this could happen because I buy baking soda in bulk (it's useful for SO many things) and my house reminds me to change the baking soda in my refrigerator every four months!
The stuff that started smelling awful was just under 3 months old!
Which begs the question... can baking soda go bad?
I changed out the Arm & Hammer in my refrigerator, so I guess we'll find out.
Posted on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019
I've been consumed with work for the past week and will continue to be consumed by it until the holiday. It's just that time of year.
This is tough for a number of reasons, but mostly because I have no life outside of work for the month of June. About all I get to do is occasionally look through my Facebook feed and see how the other half live.
Today as I was waiting for a project to render so I could move on to the next project, I was scrolling through Facebook and happened across a photo of David Farrier and a cat...
Photo by David Farrier on Facebook
Somehow this awesome cat staring back at me was just what I needed after yet another very bad day. It also inspired me to revisit David Farrier's Netflix show: Dark Tourist.
I mentioned a while ago that Dark Tourist has my favorite opening credits of all time...
If you're interested in the show (and you should be!), here's a trailer...
At least now I have something to watch as I work through the night tonight.
Posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019
I think I've finally taken care of all the donations from my friend Grant's estate. Medical supplies dropped at a shelter. Bandages and medical tape put in storage so I can add them into AnySoldier.com care packages. And some of Grant's stuff that was going to his friends has been shipped.
My inheritance from Grant consisted of three 2-liter bottles of Coke Zero (since drank) and a cash box (cash not included). Grant's executor was kind enough to give me the box so I could store my foreign currency collection in it... and it works great! Much nicer than the cardboard box I was keeping it in!
So thank you for the box, sir. I still miss you muchly.
Interesting to note that inside that cardboard box was something I was not expecting to find...
My very first earring!
Back in the 80's I wanted my ear pierced in the worst possible way, but my parents wouldn't endorse it... AT ALL. So I waited until I went skydiving. I figured they would be so happy that I survived that they wouldn't mind that I had an earring! Not so much. But they were pretty good about ignoring it for the seven(?) years I had it.
This replaced the stud you get when they shoot your ear with that piercing gun (something I would never use again, now that I am smarter about piercing). Little golden hoops were what the style was at the time (circa 1986 I think?) so that's what I got. This was a cheap-o hoop that came in a set of two for $5 or something. I didn't want to spend a lot of money because I didn't know how long I'd want my ear pierced.
I wore it for probably a year... maybe a year-and-a-half... until I replaced it with a better quality hoop. By then I figured that I'd have my ear pierced forever, so why not invest in something that wouldn't turn my ear green?
Eventually the tiny little hoops went out of style. Which means I probably wore it for another 3 years after that.
Then one day I woke up, decided I was done with it, and threw my earring in the trash.
I've toyed with the idea of getting my ear(s) pierced again just for the hell of it. But I think I'm good. After I started getting tattoos, it just felt like it would be redundant.
That's okay though. I'm undoubtedly too old for this kind of stuff anyway.
Posted on Thursday, July 4th, 2019
I'm finding it even harder than last year to find something to celebrate today. Lately it seems that everything I love about my country is in our past.
And just when I think The United State of America has reached rock bottom, our government finds new depths to sink to. The latest? Our dictator wannabe president and his stupid-ass military parade. Which was always pathetic and sad, but reached new depths of heinousness when it was revealed that our National Parks had to pony up $2.5 million out of the entrance fees they collect to maintain the parks. Which means we're giving up much needed maintenance of parks that everybody can enjoy to roll out our big guns and stroke the ego of one man with a tiny, wee little penis...
"Military displays like this are a favorite tactic of those who want to wrap themselves in the symbols of who we are rather than really celebrating who we are. This fits into this larger, troubling trend of identifying America itself as a military state. The Fourth of July in America should be about so much more than our military and our ability to fight off the rest of the world.” — Army Major Jason Dempsey (retired).
And you just know that this $2.5 million isn't the end of it. Millions more will be spent for something so unfathomably asinine as to be fucking laughable.
But what's really disgusting is the idea that Clownface VonFuckstick will be passing out V.I.P. tickets to big Republican Party donors...
"This looks like it’s becoming much more of a Republican Party event — a political event about the president — than a national celebration of the Fourth of July, and it’s unfortunate to have the military smack dab in the middle of that.” Army Lt. Gen. David Barno (retired).
“The president is using the armed forces in a political ploy for his reelection campaign and I think it’s absolutely obscene” — Army Maj. Gen. William Nash (retired), a veteran of Vietnam, the Gulf War and peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.
And that's where we're at. The United States of America is a for-profit enterprise for the sole benefit of its insecure leader who needs a big parade to feel loved. A leader who idolizes the likes of Vladimir Putin. Kim Jong Un, and Mohammed bin Salman... a horrific collection of murderers known to commit grotesque human rights violations.
How the fuck am I supposed to be celebrating my country when those who run it are garbage? People who claim to be celebrating our military... but then dictate what our military is allowed to say on a holiday celebrating our freedoms...
From Mother Jones... Pentagon Guidance to Troops in Trump’s July 4th Event: Say I Love My Tank
Perhaps I can celebrate that 565 days from now... 13573 hours from now... 814401 minutes from now... 48864067 seconds from now... President Trump's term will be over and somebody else can fuck up the country for a while. Hopefully somebody who won't need to spend millions upon millions of dollars on a fucking parade so they can feel special.
Or, more likely, the Democrats will be fucking idiots again and we'll have four more years of Trump bankrupting the country like he's bankrupted everything else he touches.
And I won't be the least bit surprised.
Just disappointed. Again.
Posted on Friday, July 5th, 2019
I just finished a big project at work that's been consuming my every waking moment for weeks. A part of me is anxious to move on and start on something new (heaven only knows there's enough to be done), but there's a part of me that wants so badly to do nothing at all. Just for a little while.
Good thing I'm on vacation for a week...
Maybe if I wasn't so exhausted I'd be motivated to do something, but I'm really just not.
Posted on Saturday, July 6th, 2019
Apparently I had some motivation in me after all?
Today was so beautiful out that I ended up floating the river with friends instead of lounging around the house doing nothing.
Though laying on a floatie drinking booze and letting the river take you is pretty close to nothing...
At the end of our float, there was a couple with their too-cute dogs out enjoying the sun. One of the pups was tuckered out and decided to take a nap under a cap...
But this is Caturday and not Dogurday, so back to the usual feline madness that Saturday brings...
I ended up having to leave the post-float party early because I have ghosts...
Asking Jenny to go close the door had no effect.
Behind my house is a big field filled with dandelions that have gone to seed. So leaving the door open like that will guarantee that dandelion fluff will fill my living room if I don't take care of it, so off I went.
Whenever I have guests staying over, my cats cower upstairs in my storage closet until everybody goes to bed... then they come out and goof around until everybody wakes up and they hide upstairs again. This morning poor Jake was lounging in the catio and didn't make it upstairs before we were all awake. This is the look on his face when he realized he was "trapped" in the catio until we all left for the day...
He didn't have to wait long, but enjoyed staring at us from behind the safety of my massive pole...
I have tried many, many times to get my cats so they are not afraid of people. It never works. After a few days Jake might come wandering out for a minute if it's quiet and calm, but he's completely scared and on edge the entire time. Jenny won't even think about it. This makes me terrified as to how my cats will manage if I'm in some kind of horrible accident. Will anybody want to adopt them if they are this frightened? Are there kind souls who are patient and caring with a feral rescue who's terrified of people? I sure hope so.
Of course, just getting ready for guests is an adventure unto itself. I try to get everything cleaned up and organized, but this is never easy. "Oh, you just made the bed? Here, let me get on that, even though I haven't been on the bed in weeks...
And now, as I retire on this fine Caturday, I leave you with this...
Oh. And this...
Cats are the best.
Posted on Sunday, July 7th, 2019
It's a glorious day to be alive... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
Seeing as how Mississippi ranks 49th out of the 50 states in education. Perhaps it's understandable that their state government thinks the populace is TOO FUCKING STUPID TO KNOW THAT A VEGGIE BURGER ISN'T MADE FROM A COW. But are they smart enough to know that a veggie dog isn't made from a dog or do hot dogs confuse them too?
• Ski! Somehow I missed this excellent short video on Jim Niehues, the guy responsible for painting so many of those ski run posters you see at all the resorts...
• Dreaming! Any comic book series is going to have its ups and downs. A series which had less downs than usual was Neil Gaiman's Sandman. A complete reimagining of the cheesy DC Comics character...
My favorite thing to come out of the series was Sandman's sister, Death, as she appeared in the mini-series spin-offs by Gaiman Chris Bachalo...
Death: The High Cost of Living is easily one of my all-time favorite comic books.
And now comes the news that Netflix has commissioned a Sandman TV show. Despite the fact that Gaiman himself will be involved, I am more than a little nervous. The series seems all but unfilmable given the visual language of Sandman's world. And the stories are wildly tied to the medium they were created for, and I question how well they will translate to television. I hope it's good. I hope Death makes an appearance...
"A wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades. After his escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power."
• German! I ran across one of my favorite Trevor Noah's Between the Scenes the other day...
I mean, they're all good... but his wit is at its sharpest here.
• Mermaids! Disney has found their latest live-action princess when they cast Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid. She's incredibly talented and I know of her from appearing in Grown-ish (the TV spin-off from Black-ish)...
Photo by Evan Agostini
Disney, being the savvy company they are, cast who they felt was best for bringing the character to life... regardless of race. She's a Grammy nominee, for heaven's sake. But of course the bigot brigade is all #NotMyAriel because the idea of a fictional half-fish girl being played by a Person of Color is just too much for their tiny brains to process. Time will tell If Bailey will make a good Ariel. Personally I am trusting Disney on this. But holy crap... give the young woman a chance! They haven't even started filming yet! I sure hope she isn't bothered by all this nonsense.
• Plus Plus! Speaking of Disney... as if the Marvel and Star Wars series in development weren't enough reason to compel me to subscribe to the Disney+ streaming service when it debuts later this year, now they've got a new series called Life and Deaf in development with one of my all-time favorite actors, Marlee Matlin. Somebody at Disney is very, very serious about competing with Netflix!
Have a great Sunday!
Posted on Monday, July 8th, 2019
I have had Hinterland on my Netflix watch-list for a long time. Tonight I finally watched the first episode of the first series.
It's fantastic. Mostly due to the remarkable performance of lead Richard Harrington. You can feel the wheels turning any time he's on screen...
Granted, I'm only half-way through the first season, but I'm sure liking this show. The atmosphere they've created permeates every scene so the series feels more "real" than most.
What's interesting about this show (other than how good it's been) is that every scene is filmed twice... once in English and once in Welsh (which is called "Cymraeg" in the Welsh language). I did a YouTube search to watch some of the Cymraeg scenes and it's amazing how all these actors have to essentially perform the same show twice. And since Hinterland looks so grueling and demanding of the actors, I can't imagine how difficult that must be...
I'm sure they use all kinds of tricks to make the show affordable. In the scene above where he destroys a kitchen, for example, they were careful to make sure there was no dialogue so they only had to shoot it once. If he had said "I hate my life!" while smashing the dishes, they would have had to buy all new dishes, clean the set, then reset the scene so he could say "Rwy'n casáu fy mywyd!" for the Welsh version.
Here's the trailer in Welsh...
I first learned about Wales and the Welsh language in anticipation of my visit to the beautiful Hard Rock Cafe in Cardiff (Caerdydd). Cymraeg is a fascinating language which is estimated to be spoken by less than a million people around the globe. Most people have probably only ever heard of it on viral YouTube videos where people are pronouncing very long Welsh words...
Before wrapping up this post, I'd be remiss if I didn't post a link to one of my favorite comedy bits by Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert...
Happy Monday, everybody!
Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2019
Yesterday morning I spent my vacation working.
Clearly I am doing my vacation all wrong and need to change things up.
So yesterday afternoon I spent my vacation drinking blueberry margaritas...
...then making an impulse decision to go floating down the river with friends again. It's just such a relaxing way to spend a lazy summer day...
The river is getting really low in spots, so I spent a good chunk of my time lifting my butt so I wasn't dragging on the riverbed...
It was a nice day, and ducks were out everywhere...
As the sun started falling, it got to be pretty shivery. Having your butt in cold water with cool breezes is fine when the sun is warming you... not so fine when it's not. By the time we made landfall, I was a popsicle.
And then my cold, dead heart was warmed watching a momma duck with her four babies...
The little ones move so fast they were almost impossible to photograph...
That poor mom had her wings full, I tell you. Two of her babies would go one way... two would go another way... then she'd have to run back and forth until she had them all corralled. It's a tough job. But she was up to the task.
That's pretty good vacationing, isn't it?
Which is why I didn't feel quite so bad that today I spent half the day working, then cut my hair, cleaned my house, and paid my bills.
I did go swimming in the late afternoon though, so I guess it's all good.
Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
I cannot seem to catch a break on this vacation thing. This morning a full city maintenance crew started working in front of my house AT SIX FORTY IN THE FUCKING A.M.! At the time I have no clue what in the hell they are doing, but it's so noisy that the cats wouldn't even come out to eat breakfast.
Why do I even bother taking a vacation if I can't sleep in and have to go to work all the time?
After me and my houseguest got up to start our day, we quickly figured out why The City was making so much noise so early in the morning.
The water was out.
Yes, please feel free to make noise at any time of the day or night to restore water service. I am perfectly okay with that!
Especially since I had a doctor's appointment today. I spent yesterday afternoon in a pool and would prefer not to smell like chlorine, sweat, and laziness while I'm being examined by a doctor who deserves much better than that.
Lucky me, the water was restored in time for me to take a shower, wash some clothes, and get on with my life.
And now? A drive over the mountains so my real vacation can start...
Happy hump-day, everybody!
Posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2019
Today was the first day I've felt like I'm actually on vacation. I mean, sure I answered a few work emails and made a few work calls... but I didn't do any actual "work" the entire day. That's exceedingly rare.
One of the things I did do was accompany my grand-nephew to Everett's Imagine Interactive Children's Museum. Sometimes these things end up being pretty janky, but this one was actually very cool. Plenty of imaginative exhibits to keep kids entertained for hours. Like an air-tube exhibit where you can see how air-flow can be used to push a scarf through some clear pipes...
Young kids won't get the air pressure science that's being demonstrated... but they sure have fun chasing down those scarves! Pretty slick. Though I guess nobody at the museum has ever heard of a fart before...
It's a museum built for kids, but no worries... the adults were able to have fun as well...
I got to be a chef with plastic food...
I got to play with glow-in-the-dark puzzle pieces...
I got to milk a giant plastic cow...
I got to shoot water-guns at balls...
I got to play with wooden monkeys...
I got to build some interesting architectural structures...
And I also got to watch kids go nuts at the rooftop play-space, which is pretty great...
They even have a dinosaur dig!
Kids absolutely love this place and, if you've got young ones and are in the Snohomish County region, it's worth a visit.
An aside here... I was surprised that they allow you to take photos inside the place. I was careful not to get kids in my shots and, for those photos where kids were in them, to never photograph their faces. I'm pretty sure most people who were snapping away with their mobile phones were not so careful, and this raises some privacy concerns. Yes in this day and age you can pretty much be photographed anywhere at any time but, in a space that's exclusively meant for children, you'd think that it would be in everybody's best interest if photography was not allowed? I dunno. Perhaps I'm just overly paranoid.
Though the paranoia may not be entirely my fault.
There are statues with creepy eyes right out in front, so the museum kinda puts you in a paranoid state before you even step inside the place...
It's a nice enough artwork, but the white eyes make grandpa look like a pervy child predator or something. And is it just me, or does the little girl look like she's possessed by demons?
Probably just the paranoia again. I should probably look into that.
Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019
And so there was an earthquake near me early, early this morning. I was semi-awake at the time and thought that somebody had dropped something heavy in the kitchen above me. I didn't really think much of it until I woke up and saw the news.
The epicenter of the 4.6 magnitude quake was at Three Lakes, which is about 15 miles from where I'm staying...
Earthquake Map by the USGS
This should probably be cause for concern, given the earthquakes that have been hitting California lately. Maybe the Pacific Ring of Fire is getting ready to blow? I guess we're all doomed.
Of course I checked on my cats to see if they noticed.
I don't know if they were able to sense it, but they were definitely active. At the time of the quake, Jake went running to the stairwell and started staring up there...
A couple minutes later, Jake left and Jenny ran downstairs...
After that they just kinda wandered around until sunrise. This is fairly odd, because usually they're sleeping...
But no worries. I'm sure they will make up for it by sleeping all day.
Unfortunately the West Coast is not alone in natural disasters. I've been gutted seeing the photos of the flooding that has hit New Orleans due to Tropical Storm Barry. My favorite American city can't seem to catch a break.
And neither can I. I'm Heading back home a day early to get to an appointment I had to make yesterday. For my next vacation I'm hoping to be air-dropped into a place with no internet and no mobile phone service.
No people would be icing on the cake.
Posted on Saturday, July 13th, 2019
I was only away for two nights, but my cats seemed more bothered than usual by my absence. This has me a bit concerned for my upcoming travel. Fortunately, I have security cameras everywhere to look in while I'm gone and can call a neighbor if they need help... but since they are so afraid of strangers, that would probably just add to their anxiety.
Which is the reason I don't hire a cat-sitter any more. Jake and Jenny just run and hide, so what difference does it make? Unless I'm going to be gone long enough that the Litter-Robot will need emptying, it's probably better to just let them be.
Heaven only knows I wouldn't want to interrupt their busy day of sleeping and lounging in the catio...
Surprisingly, despite how hot it's been out, bot my cats are still spending a lot of time in the catio. During the day, it's for napping and bird-watching...
Or just watching me while I work...
As the sun sets, it becomes all about catching bugs (yuck) and eating bugs (double-yuck).
Here's Jenny observing a bug before Jake literally pushes her off the perch...
It's hard to tell from the camera angle... but I was watching it happen, and Jake absolutely put his paw around her and shoved her off while she was leaning over.
Jake seems to like poking and pushing Jenny for no reason other than his own amusement...
Fortunately, Jenny is not shy about poking back when she's had enough of Jake's crap. You can see in the above photo what she looks like juuuuuuust before she's about ready to snap.
Fortunately, my cats mostly get along, so the poking is kept to a minimum.
And so long as they're not poking me, it's all good.
Posted on Sunday, July 14th, 2019
I'd rather be anywhere else today, but escape is not in the cards... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• MADness! It was announced this past week that MAD magazine will end its original-content run with the August 2019 issue. After that, it's all reprints with new covers that will only be available by subscription or in comic shops. Despite not having picked up an issue in years, this is more than a little sad to me, because MAD was a huge part of my past. I bought occasional issues in the latter-half of the 1970's, but became a MAD addict after the December 1978 issue (the Star Wars musical parody issue)...
I purchased every single issue from No. 203 through No. 250, at which time I went back to only buying issues that had material I was interested in. I also purchased every reprint book I could get my hands on, scouring the local News Agency to obtain as many as I could find by my favorite MAD contributors... like Al Jaffe, Sergio Aragonés, Don Martin, and Dave Berg... and, of course, Antonio Prohías, who was the guy behind Spy vs. Spy. It's not just my favorites that are burned into my brain... contributors like Mort Drucker, Dick DeBartolo, and Jack Davis did a huge amount of work for the magazine and were a big influence on how I saw the world.
• Mushu? A gorgeous trailer dropped for the live-action version of Mulan...
It looks like Disney put some serious money into this remake! But where's Mushu? Is Eddie Murphy coming back to voice Mulan's dragon? Is Mushu even going to BE in the film? I will be sorely disappointed if he is not. Characters like that are what make it a Disney movie.
• Blown Away! I've never blown glass myself, but I love the art of it and I've been to many, many glassblowing shops. Including my idol Dale Chihuly's shop in Tacoma (and many of his installations) plus I've traveled to the "glassblowing island" of Murano in Venice so I could see the famous shops there as well. I love glass and have circled the globe to see the best of it. So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that Netflix was developing a show called Blown Away...
Fortunately it's a show like Forged in Fire where the focus of the series is on the artistry rather than the shitty manufactured personal drama (ala Ink Master), which makes it fun to watch. The contestants are pretty great... the massive 10-furnace facility they built to host the show is amazing... some of the pieces are truly remarkable.... and the tension and drama from breakage is high. I do have some problems, however... A) Why aren't there enough tools for everybody that they have to wait for somebody to finish at a critical juncture? Also find it strange that they have to share hot-boxes. B) I don't get how the host got this gig. What experience does he have in order to be qualified to weigh in on the judging? According to his site, he's a professional rollerblader and organic chemist? WTF? C) Why can't we hear the judges deliberate? This would go a long way towards understanding their decisions. D) Why the time limit for a GLASS art competition? I'd much rather give them enough time that they can take risks and not be finished if they break late in the game.
Despite all that, Blown Away is still a great show if you love glass... or art... or demonstrations of skill.
• Blank! Netflix keeps blowing up their original entertainment, and Blown Away is not the only thing that's new this week... we also got a movie called Point Blank, a remake of a French film starring Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo...
The concept is good. Mackie and Grillo are good. And money was spent on getting the action scenes right. Which is why I'm kinda puzzled as to why I feel so "meh" about the film. Perhaps because the most memorable thing about it was some truly bizarre 80's music choices. I guess I'm glad I watched it, but it didn't really grab me as I would have expected.
• Aziz! And Netflix isn't done there! They also released a new stand-up special by one of my favorite comedians, Aziz Ansari...
I'm not going to lie, it was an awkward show to watch. Aziz addressed the sexual misconduct allegations which were brought against him at the very beginning. But not really. He more "acknowledged" it than really "addressed" it. But he does seem sincere about having regrets and having learned something, so I guess that's better than nothing. From there Aziz goes on to deliver a varied set covering a range of topics, and most of it is pretty funny. What's not so funny is his delivery, which is subdued and kinda sad as he sits on a stool and sometimes speaks so quietly you can barely hear him. This is a wild departure from his previous stand-up specials which were crackling with energy... but he has moments of poignancy which wouldn't have worked otherwise, so I guess it was necessary. If you're a fan, Aziz Ansari: Right Now is worth a look. But don't expect what you've been conditioned to expect from him.
• Tacumentary! Last up on my parade of new Netflix shows? Las Crónicas del Taco. A documentary film on one of my favorite dishes... tacos! This trailer is in Spanish, but the documentary series has subtitles in English and French available...
Even though I'm a vegetarian, I still found this meat-based-documentary series to be fascinating. And depressing at times when brief glimpses of the animals are shown, because the conditions they are kept is not ideal. And with six different episodes exploring the history and preparation of six different style of tacos... Pastor (shepherd-style pork), Carnitas (slow-cooked pork), Canasta (basket-stacked tacos), Asada (grilled beef), Barbacoa (barbecue pit-style), and Guisado (stew)... there's more than enough taco here for your viewing pleasure. Worth a look if you're a foodie... or even if you're not, really.
• IN THE NEWS: TRUMP TAX PLAN LEADS TO $54 BILLION DECLINE IN CHARITABLE GIVING. "Many Americans want to give generously to charities, but they may not be able to afford to do so now with the changes implemented in the 2018 tax law." — The charity I work with knew that there would be a hit. Nobody had any idea it would be this bad. What's so horrible is that many charities fill in the gaps for people who are just trying to survive. As more and more people lose government assistance thanks to Trump Administration cuts, the number of people who will rely on charities increases... all while donations to these charities decreases. It's a recipe for disaster. But, hey... billionaires got tax cuts so they could gold-plate the toilets on their private jets, and that's what's important, right?
• Boys from the Dwarf! If the truth be told, Red Dwarf went on longer than it should have. Things started to go downhill with Series VI, and everything that came after that was really hit or miss. But, man, those early seasons are some of my most favorite television ever, so I'm always glad to see "The Boys from the Dwarf" again... even if it's just in a commercial...
And now I want to go back and watch the show all over again.
Bon Voyage, my Sunday bullets.
Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019
Growing up I was plagued with allergies and ended up sick constantly because of it. If there was even a hint of a cold going around, I'd catch it. I had horrible growing pains that were so bad I could end up incapacitated. I was always battling some kind of infection, and ended up having my adenoids cut out twice. I was on allergy shots for years. It was a non-stop parade of awful, and I sometimes wonder how my parents managed to deal with it all.
I'm pretty sure if I were my kid, I'd have abandoned myself.
Then one day, as if by magic, all my health problems started to disappear. Before I knew it I no longer needed allergy shots and had a fairly healthy life (Accutane side-effects aside).
Fast forward to today...
Given the rise of nasty preventable diseases (like measles) which have come roaring back thanks to all the anti-vax idiocy, the charity I work with is requiring those of us of a certain age (ahem) who travel for the organization to get re-vaccinated. Fortunately my mom kept detailed records of all my various health-related issues from childhood so I have a reference point to discuss things with my doctor...
Reading through all the crap I had to endure as a kid is a sobering experience.
Partly because I was so accustomed to being sick from allergies that I didn't truly realize how negatively they impacted my life. Partly because I'm so incredibly lucky to have outgrown all the health problems that plagued my youth. But mostly because I'm so grateful that my family had insurance and could afford to care for me. More and more it seems that this is increasingly rare as US healthcare continues to deteriorate into a pile of shit.
But hey, billionaires got tax cuts that are bankrupting the country, so at least we're focusing on what's important.
Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019
Ask any blogger what the bane of their existence is, and they are certain to answer "Broken links." Well... not really... if you were to ask me what the bane of my blogging existence is, I'd answer "Hate comments and death threats," but I blog about politics and cats and stuff, so I bring that on myself.
But a close second would absolutely be "Broken links," and it's such a massively annoying problem for long-term bloggers such as myself that I'm tempted to never link to anything ever again. NEVER EVER EVARRRRR!
Some of it is understandable. Fellow bloggers shut down their blogs... companies go out of business... websites are lost... that kind of thing. So when I find a broken link on an entry I wrote fifteen years ago, I'm honestly not surprised. The internet is ever growing and changing.
But when I find a busted YouTube link in an entry I wrote TWENTY-THREE DAYS AGO?!?
THAT'S LESS THAN A MONTH!!!
This was from a Bullet Sunday entry where I was talking about one of the best new shows on television: Alternatino with Arturo Castro. I absolutely love this sketch comedy series, and want as many of my readers as possible to know about it.* And so I linked to the premiere episode that Comedy Central posted on YouTube.
And now Comedy Central has decided to take down the video for some reason. Which is pretty fucking stupid no matter how you cut it... YouTube is a massive platform for exposure of the show... but what makes it go BEYOND fucking stupid is that they left a broken link. Okay... you don't want to have the entire first episode available for people to watch. Whatever. But why not just overwrite the episode with an advertisement or a promo piece or something so people who shared your stuff don't end up with a broken link from your deleted video?
Some "social media consultant" making six figures probably doesn't understand how social media works and came up with this brilliant decision.
And when I scroll through my archives, I see tons of busted YouTube links. Even for advertisements! Why would you delete an advertisement for your product? I guess I can understand it if the product no longer exists or was canceled or was discontinued... but the vast majority of the time, that's not the case.
I'm not really sure how to deal with this.
For links, there's not much to do except delete the link and try to have my entry make sense without it.
For YouTube, there's not much I can do there either. I suppose I could scrape the video, re-upload it to my own YouTube account, then stream from that... but there's two problems there. ONE is that I'd probably get hit with a copyright violation. TWO is that I feel bad denying valuable clicks to the original content creator.
So I dunno.
Perhaps I just find ways of talking about the things I like without linking to them. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of The World Wide Web... but short of spending my entire life monitoring links on my blog, what else is there?
*Seriously. You have no idea. The fourth episode just aired and it is epic. If you are not watching Alternatino with Arturo Castro, you absolutely should be!
Posted on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
I've taken to blogging in the early mornings before I go to work instead of late evenings when I'm done with work. It's not been working out for me. How am I to comment on my day's events when I have barely started the day? And so... I will probably go back to late-night blogging, even though I'm usually so tired that all I want to blog about is how tired I am.
In the meanwhile though? Here was my yesterday!
Last year when I learned I needed to keep my blood sugars intact, I started walking to work so I can still eat bread and pasta. It's a short walk... 7 to 9 minutes... and I've come to really enjoy it. It's a chance to plug and clear my head, which is something that's kinda rare these days. The good news is that switching to Coke Zero and walking has been working for me. I had a great checkup with my doctor, and everything is going well. And so... more bread and pasta.
On yesterday's walk I was assaulted by a rose that was reaching outside its garden fence...
You don't get nice surprises like that driving a car.
But the bigger surprise was later that evening when I made guacamole for the first time. It was Taco Tuesday and a nice chunky guac as a topper was exactly what I needed...
It was phenomenal. And perfectly chunky enough for tacos (and chips!). And easy.
But not as pain-free as I was expecting.
In order to eliminate waste, I've been making a lot of changes in my house. Instead of buying single-use products like plastic wrap, I've been using something more sustainable or learning to live without it. I have one roll of Saran Wrap left and, at the slower rate I'm using the stuff, it should last me the rest of my life. And I've not stopped there. I've bought my last box of plastic straws. I've switched to reusable grocery bags. I'm transitioning from poly to paper wherever I can.
And I've eliminated single-use latex gloves from everywhere except my emergency kits.
The latex gloves I used to wear while chopping jalapeño peppers.
I (foolishly) thought that if I just washed my hands after cutting the peppers for my guac that everything would be fine.
As I found out later that night while falling asleep watching television, things did not turn out fine.
I reached up to rub my eyes and... ZOMG! THE BURNING!!! From the level of pain I was experiencing, you'd have thought that I squeezed a full jalapeño in my face. I can safely say that now I know what it feels like to be doused in pepper spray. It hurt a little bit when my eyes were closed... it was excruciating when my eyes were open. I have no idea why washing my hands didn't prevent this, but now I know better. I had tried some reusable kitchen gloves but they were too thick to work easily, so I guess next time I'll use a towel or a piece of wax paper or something.
One other thing that happened yesterday? The 2019 Emmys nominations were announced. For some inexplicable reason Game of Thrones, on its worst season ever, managed to rack up 32. As you can probably tell from the wrap-up I wrote, I totally don't get it. Seven seasons of brilliant set-up that was rushed to a shitty, mind-bogglingly bad conclusion deserves 32 nominations? INCLUDING BEST WRITING?!? Um. No. About the only category I think they should win is Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, because Peter Dinklage was still exceptional. He was making all the stupid be entertaining right up until the very end. He won last year, so I'm not sure he'll get it, but I sure hope so.
There was a pleasant surprise, however. Schitt's Creek, long one of the best shows on television, was nominated for Best Comedy Series. And the awesome Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy were nominated for respective Best Actress and Best Actor in a Comedy Series. Of course I think they should win, even though this season was not as good as the previous two seasons (when they really should have been winning all the awards). Alas, Emmy voters will probably give it to Fleabag (which probably deserves it) or Veep (because it's the final season) or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which I don't like at all). If Schitt's Creek can't win it, I'd hope for Barry or Russian Doll, but those seem like longshots too.
I was happy to see My Dinner with Herve got nominated for Best Television Movie, even if Peter Dinklage wasn't nominated for Lead Actor in it (which he deserves).
If anybody is interested, I've put my picks for the major awards in an extended entry. If you're not interested, I'll see you tomorrow. Probably tomorrow evening.→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2019
It's the little things that tear you apart, you know?
Last night I headed to bed around 10:00pm. That's earlier than usual, but I'm on the Left Coast trying to adjust to Eastern Daylight Time before I head to the Right Coast.
My plans were thwarted as I was falling asleep around 11:00pm because I noticed there was no glow coming from my comic book storage closet*. This is where Jake and Jenny like to hide out, so I wanted to make sure that I replaced the nightlight before I fell asleep and forgot. Otherwise it's pitch black in there, and even cats with their awesome eyesight need some light to function.
So I headed downstairs to the hutch drawer where I keep the batteries and small lightbulbs to see if I had something.
Right next to the pile of lightbulbs I bought for my mom's nightstand lamp.
As she started sliding deeper and deeper into dementia, trying to keep everything exactly the same from day to day became a full-time job. But it's something I had to do because even small changes could result in confusion that would spiral out of control. One minute her blanket isn't on her bed where she expected it to be... the next minute she's in a full-blown panic thinking that she "left it at the lake" (wherever or whatever that was).
One of the worst nights came when the bulb for her weird nightstand light burned out. It was weird because it was meant to look like an oil lamp with a chimney, but it had a second light in the base where the "oil" was supposed to go. Depending on how many times you rotated the switch, it would illuminate the upper light, the lower light, or both lights.
When things first started to go wrong she began insisting that the upper light always be on while she's sleeping. I think she felt safer that way. You can see her lamp in this great photo I took of Spanky laying on top of her while she slept...
The lamp was small, top-heavy, and prone to being knocked over. I spent a lot of time worrying that she would knock it off her nightstand and break it. The fallout from that disaster would have been catastrophic. I'm not sure where she got the thing, but probably from her mom, and so I'm sure she would notice if it went missing.
One night as I was getting mom ready for bed, I went to turn on the upper lamp and it wouldn't turn on. The weaker bottom light wasn't acceptable, so I had her get dressed so we could go to the grocery store for a replacement bulb. Unfortunately they didn't have the right bulb (it was small and round and weird... just like the lamp itself). Once we got back home I tried explaining that we would have to wait until morning to get a new bulb.
Complete and total meltdown.
She thought somebody broke into her room and stole her lightbulb. This made her inconsolable because she thought they were going to come back and kidnap her. Then she wanted to go to her parent's house (long since gone) because she was convinced that people were going to break into her room and kill her. She was screaming for the police. It... was... awful. Eventually I took her out to the living room and had her watch television until she fell asleep.
The next morning before work I packed her up and took her to Home Depot for a new bulb. They had one left. Not wanting to go through this ever again, I went home and ordered four more from Amazon.
Then something weird started happening. Bulbs that were lasting years were suddenly lasting just a couple months. Not knowing what was going on, I ordered three more bulbs from Amazon. Better safe than sorry.
Eventually I caught her taking the bulb out of the lamp, smacking it repeatedly on the nightstand, then putting it back in. At that point she started having trouble using a fork, so I have no idea how in the heck she managed to disassemble the lamp (which had multiple pieces to it)... let alone put it back together again. Like so many things at the time, it made no sense.
When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she was "fixing it" because the bulb was too bright and hurting her eyes.
The weaker bottom light still wasn't bright enough for her, so I ordered a bunch of different bulbs in the hopes that one of them would be a little less luminous...
Turns out it was these weird plastic bulbs from Korea that she wanted, so I ordered a pile of them.
• • •
Once I had moved my mom to a memory care facility over the mountains and was able to accept that she was never coming home, I started getting rid of everything in her bedroom. I hired a junk hauler to take away her dresser, her chest-of-drawers, her nightstand, her shelves, her bed, her mattress... everything. I didn't want the reminder. I didn't want to spend weeks trying to sell or donate it. I just wanted it gone.
As for that stupid lamp?
I threw it in the trash and smashed it to pieces with a hammer.
The lamp had become a symbol of all the horrors my mom had to endure way too soon in life, and I thought it would be therapeutic if I were to take out my anger and frustration over her fate by destroying it. This didn't end up making me me feel better about anything, of course. And it would be just my luck that it was some kind of heirloom worth thousands of dollars. But I didn't care then. I don't care now.
Apparently I never threw out all those bulbs I bought though.
And so here they are haunting me.
Like all the things in my life that remind me of her.
Which is pretty much everything, I think.
• • •
*My house is strange. It essentially has two master bedrooms. The one on the main floor was for my mom and is now a guest room. It's big, has a massive picture window, a bigger closet, and a changing area. Upstairs there's a small bedroom (which my cats have claimed) with a regular closet... and a larger bedroom (mine) with a regular closet and a large storage closet behind the regular closet. That's where I keep my worthless comic book collection in case I ever want to read them again one day...
When my kittens were brave enough to come out from underneath the couch after a few weeks, I tried to keep them from going upstairs by blocking off the stairwell. I was not successful. Eventually they had explored every nook and cranny in my home, including the comic book closet (which I keep open all the time because I don't want the paper smell to accumulate).
This quickly became their favorite hiding spot, and remains so to this day. Whenever I have company over, this is where Jake and Jenny are at.
They hop on the vacuum canister, then leap up onto the stacks at the end, then hide behind all the stuff I've got stacked up on the very top (my stereo and old photography stuff). They love it there, even though it gets way too warm in the summer.
I should probably start calling it "the cat closet" instead of the comic book closet.
Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019
As I previously mentioned, the organization I work with keeps insisting that I have my measles vaccination verified. Given the way the disease has come roaring back, they don't want us volunteers ending up with it while we're out trying to do good. Since I very much don't want to get measles at this stage of my life, I'm all for it.
So I got my childhood health records together and asked my doctor if I needed to worry. He suggested a measles titer test which will check for antibodies in my blood. Cool.
Yesterday afternoon I dropped by the clinic to get a cost for the test in case my insurance won't cover it (I was told by the charity it may be as high as $60). After I make my request they have to run and get billing codes (5 minutes) then I have to take a seat while they figure out how to bill it out (10 minutes). They then hand me the quote and it's THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE FUCKING DOLLARS!
So I call my insurance and ask how much of that will be covered. They won't even speak to me unless I have a "diagnosis code" and an "NPI code." So while I'm waiting for my tires to be changed, I go online to see if there's a testing lab nearby that might be cheaper. Google presents an ad for a $12.95 test...
So when I message my doctor and ask for the two codes my insurance is wanting... I also ask if he thinks that a $13 online test would be accurate. He said "The online tests are accurate and if you can get that done for $13 I'd do that."
And so I did.
There's an $8 blood draw fee I have to pay... and there's no draw center near me. But there's one near the airport in Seattle for when I fly out next week, so no big deal...
And there you have it. The test is going to cost me $20.95, which means that the actual cost of the test is probably around $10 or less. Which means that my local clinic has a minimum $365.56 markup on it. And I believe this calculates out to a THREE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE PERCENT MARKUP!
And it's shit like this that makes my blood boil when it comes to the American "health care" system.
Our health... our very lives... are not in the hands of doctors any more. They're in the hands of insurance companies. Hospitals have to charge insanely high prices to cover the shitload of costs involved in getting their money out of insurance companies... and then add cost on top of that because they know that insurance companies are so powerful that they'll never agree to pay for the full amount it costs the hospital. If hospitals don't charge a shit-ton of money, they'll end up losing money.
Health insurance companies are massively, massively profitable. They are so profitable that they are able to spend billions buying off our politicians to keep our "health care" in the incredibly broken state it's in now... and has been in for a very long time.
So if you're saying to yourself... "Wow. Sounds like if we'd just eliminate health insurance companies and have hospitals bill patients directly for the actual fucking cost of what they do, we'd all be better off! And that's a fair assessment. Except if you end up with a health crisis that's so incredibly expensive that even fair direct pricing is more than you can afford. Hence insurance can be a good thing.
And it's the fucking monsters at our insurance companies that took us there.
In the case of my measles antibodies test, I am grateful that I have options. Far, far, far more affordable options. But my next health-related expense likely won't have many options. Possibly even zero options. And, even though I have health insurance now, I could still end up bankrupted if the problem was serious enough. Because health insurance company profits must be protected at all costs, after all.
And what if I end up losing my health insurance one day? What then?
It's questions like this which have me advocating for a single-payer health care system. Despite the lies we're told, it works well for many other countries. Countries which have health care rated better than ours. And I am done buying the lies of politicians who would tell us otherwise when their asses are bought and paid for by insurance company lobbyists...
Our health care system IS shit. And getting worse. But we don't seem to want it fixed badly enough to do anything about it, so we get what we deserve.
And for some of us... that's a preventable death because we aren't profitable enough to live.
UPDATE: Oh here we go. This is from the UK side of the issue, but it has a scathing commentary on the lies which are being forced on Americans. Thanks to Jan for the video link...
Posted on Saturday, July 20th, 2019
Tonight I went to see the 4:00 showing of Spider-Man: Far From Home. It was a darn entertaining flick, but it was TWO HOURS AND TEN MINUTES LONG! Which means I didn't get home until 45 minutes after their dinner time at 6:00.
They were not happy.
Jake wouldn't even let me get my shoes off before he was all over me... squawking and fretting and glaring at me for daring to delay his dinner...
Jenny was a bit nicer about it. She had the manners to sit on the kitchen table and meow from a distance.
After dinner, Jenny ran upstairs. I thought Jake might be up for some belly rubs, but he ran away from me and hid in his scratcher-lounger...
Guess I'm in the dog house for a while with my cats.
Which is the opposite from how it's been lately.
For one thing, both my cats want to be in the same room I'm in. Jenny comes after me every morning and every night to get petted and scratched...
She really gets into it...
Jake is actually sleeping with me now. He likes to find space around my legs after I fall asleep and wedge himself in-between. Many times I wake up to find him there, which is odd because I'm not a still sleeper. I'm all over the place. Which means he adapts as I move around...
We'll see what tonight will bring. Hopefully he'll be over hating me by then.
Hope you had a good Caturday!
Posted on Saturday, July 20th, 2019
Hope you like comic book super-hero movies... because a Very Special Marvel Cinematic Universe at Comic-Con Edition of Bullet Sunday (filled with post Avengers: Endgame spoilers) starts... now...
• Black Widow — May 1, 2020
The crowd at Hall H at Comic-Con were treated to actual footage of Black Widow's solo movie (AT LONG LAST!). Since she's, like, um... dead... the film takes place in the past, but that's better than nothing, I suppose. It's a spy-action thriller featuring Captain America villain Taskmaster and promises lots of the cool hand-to-hand combat that Natasha is famous for. As with every other Marvel film which delves into the MCU's past, there's bound to be a motherlode of clever back-story surprises for stuff that's happening in current movies. I love that. But I sure hope it doesn't detract from Black Widow, since this is likely her last major MCU appearance. I would definitely be okay if Hawkeye shows up so we can finally find out what happened in Budapest!
• The Falcon and Winter Soldier — Fall, 2020 (Disney+)
Look... the minute that John Wick’s Derek Kolstad signed on as a writer, I didn't need to hear anything else. I love Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in their roles, so everything else is gravy. And it looks like Marvel is serious about the flavor of that gravy because Kolstad knows how to write kick-ass action and they're bringing back Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo. I'd pay for six months of Disney+ just to see this show.
• The Eternals — Nov. 6, 2020
All the rumors proved to be true when Angelina Jolie walked out on the stage, confirming that she would be headlining the film about Marvel's god-like beings, The Eternals. The comic book has revised the characters so many times that I've lost count, but their astounding power is sure to make them interesting cinematic material. The cast announced was as follows... Angelina Jolie as Athena, Richard Madden as Icarus, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makari, Brian Tyree Henry as Fastos, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Don Lee as Gilgamesh, Lia McHugh as Sprite. I was never a huge fan of the comics, but I am interested to see how the characters will be fit into the MCU. This being Marvel, I'm guessing characters from the current movies will make an appearance, but I'm not quite sure how that's going to work. Could be that Marvel is just going to keep them entirely separate, but I doubt it.
• Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings — Feb. 12, 2021
What began as a comic book rip-off of the television show Kung-Fu (which was called Master of Kung-Fu), Shang-Chi was gradually worked into the Marvel Universe proper. Unfortunately, most times he was shoe-horned into stories in ways I didn't think worked very well. Like him showing up and training Spider-Man how to fight better or something silly like that. For the movie, it looks like Marvel is working hard to not have the character seem silly. First of all they are bringing in the real Mandarin as the villain (as opposed to the fake Mandarin from Iron Man 3). Second of all, they've added Awkwafina to the cast. That alone guarantees I'll be watching.
• Loki — Spring 2021 (Disney+)
When it was announced that Loki would be getting a series for Disney+, there was a lot of speculation as to how that would happen... seeing as how he's dead and all. But then Avengers: Endgame comes along and shows how the Loki from the past (immediately following the first Avengers movie) escapes with the Space Infinity Stone. This means the Loki we'll be seeing in this series has never experienced the events in Thor: The Dark World, Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, or Avengers: Infinity War. He's just been defeated by Thor and likely still hates him. A lot. That should prove interesting. Especially if Chris Hemsworth is kind enough to make an appearance.
• WandaVision — Spring, 2021 (Disney+)
Yet another show with a dead main character... this time The Vision... who perished in Infinity War. In the comics Wanda went insane when the children she conceived with Vision were erased and used her substantial powers to create an alternate reality. That could be what we end up with here. Wanda somehow creates a new reality where The Vision was never killed by Thanos. Whether Vision will be back for good at the end of the series is anybody's guess (I hope so!) but the big news to come from Comic-Con was that Teyonah Parris was cast to play an adult Monica Rambeau, and she'd be a big part of the show. Monica is the daughter of Maria Rambeau, Carol Danvers' best friend in Captain Marvel. Since that film took place in the past, she'd be all grown up in the present. Cool.
• Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — May 7, 2021
Now this is interesting. Apparently the events of WandaVision will lead directly into this movie, and Scarlet Witch will be a big part of it. Sooooo... perhaps Wanda pulls a new Vision from an alternate universe which causes a big multiverse problem that Doctor Strange has to deal with? Hopefully Wong will be back. And Mordo (I want my Chiwetel Ejiofor!). Apparently this time it's a full-on horror film, which could be very interesting. If nothing else, it will be different! What I love here is how Marvel Studios is so tightly integrating the Disney+ shows into the MCU... this won't be a Netflix situation where the shows are kinda-maybe-sorta-possibly in the MCU.
• Hawkeye — Fall, 2021 (Disney+)
The Matt Fraction and David Aja Hawkeye comic series is one of my favorite comic books of all time. When they announced that Disney + would be giving us a Hawkeye series, all I wanted... ALL I wanted... was to have them adapt the comic book... or at least draw inspiration from it. Well... wish granted. Not only are they using the logo from the comic book, it was announced that Kate Bishop (a character from the comics) would be in the show! They also said that we'll see more of Clint's time as Ronin between Infinity War and Endgame. Assumably a huge part of the series will be Clint dealing with the guilt of Black Widow's death, which is important. A lot of people hate that Hawkeye wasn't the one to die, so hopefully this series will change their mind as to why Hawkeye needed to live.
• Thor Love & Thunder — Nov. 5, 2021
Of all the bombshells dropped in Hall H at Comic-Con, here was the big one. We knew that Chris Hemsworth was coming back as Thor... we knew that Tessa Thompson was coming back as Valkyrie... and we knew that Taika Waititi would be back to helm the whole thing. But the big surprise? NATALIE PORTMAN appeared on stage when it was announced that not only would Jane Foster be returning... she would be the new Thor! This storyline was a very good one for the comics, so I'm excited to see it happen in the MCU. In many ways, it makes sense. Chris Hemsworth has said that he wants to take time off for a while to be with his family, so this allows there to be a new Thor movie where he can play an (assumably) smaller part. It also opens the door to Original Thor appearing in Guardians of The Galaxy: Volume 3, something I'm dying to see. How great was that team-up in Endgame?
• What If? — Date Unknown (Disney+)
All we know is that this will be an animated series on Disney+ which features the voice talents of the actors who originally portrayed the characters... but since this is an alternate reality "What if this happened...???" kind of show, they won't be the characters we know. They'll be altered versions of those from the movies. In addition to Jeffrey Wright narrating the show as Uatu The Watcher, the cast announced so far has been: Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Josh Brolin (Thanos), Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), David Dastmalchian (one of Scott Lang's friends from the Ant-Man films), Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Jeff Goldblum (The Grandmaster), Sean Gunn (Kraglin), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola), Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Michael Rooker (Yondu), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier), Chris Sullivan (Taserface), Stanley Tucci (Dr. Erskine), and Taika Waititi (Korg). No idea where they're going to go with this, but I'm interested in finding out!
• Blade — Date Unknown
At the end of the event, MCU Mastermind Kevin Feige said he was sorry he didn't have time to get into Fantastic Four, mutants (X-Men), and all the rest... but he did have one final surprise... Mahershala Ali walked out and put a Blade hat on, so apparently they're rebooting that series! Ali is a phenomenal actor (he was Cottonmouth in Luke Cage!) and is memorable in everything he does (even in small parts like in Hidden Figures). He's a fantastic successor to Wesley Snipes for the role, and I will be interested to see if they go with an R rating or drop down to a PG-13. I am really hoping for the former.
And that's all she wrote from Marvel. I was disappointed that we didn't get any information on Black Panther 2, Ant-Man 3, Captain Marvel 2, Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four, and Guardians of the Galaxy 3... but I guess you can't have everything. I'm guessing all of these will be released in 2022 and beyond, which seems like a long, long time away.
The surprising thing here is that there are only two new Marvel movies for 2020, and they're far from heavy hitters (Black Widow and The Eternals). This feels like a misstep, but maybe everybody has to catch their breath after Infinity War/Endgame? Oh well. Looks like Disney+ will be taking up the slack. I was really hoping that once the FOX acquisition was finalized that Marvel Studios might move from three movies a year to four movies a year, which would still be less super-hero flicks than when both studios were actively producing them.
And that leaves Iron Man. Obviously they're going to have a new one at some point. My guess is that they will let the character rest for a while first. But seeds will have to be planted. Pepper Potts is pretty much out now that Gwyneth Paltrow wants out. Will they make it be Riri Williams as Ironheart?
As for what's still missing in the MCU that I want to see?
• Alpha Flight. Canada's super-hero team, which was done so very well in the Scott Lobdell and Clayton Henry run.
• Moon Knight. This is essentially Marvel's Batman. If they got the right actor, this could be a really interesting addition.
• Namor. This is essentially Marvel's Aquaman... with arguably a more interesting take on an undersea hero.
• Ms. Marvel. Might be a better fit for Disney+ but I still want to see Kamala Khan in the MCU.
• Power Pack. Super-power kids? The perfect animated series for Disney+ methinks.
• Captain Britain. And if he wanted to bring along Excalibur, Britain's super-team, that would be great!
• Longshot Another perfect property for Disney+, this is a really fun character and one few mainstream audiences seem to know about.
Eventually they need to reboot The Defenders back into the MCU as well, don't they? At the very least Daredevil and Luke Cage!
And that's a wrap. So many Marvel bullets to look forward to, but I'm always wanting more.
Posted on Monday, July 22nd, 2019
I was awakened by leg cramps so painful this morning that I honestly think I passed out screaming. I don't remember. I just know that when I was awakened by the alarm to feed the cats, I could barely walk. The rest of my day was spent downing painkillers in an attempt to be able to work.
This is not a good time to be incapacitated. I've been trying to get ready for my impending travel and there's a strict schedule of events that needs to occur...
When I got home from work today I tried to pack my suitcase but my right leg is still having random spasms, so I thought I'd just give it a rest for a while. Besides, packing is so much more fun when you are throwing everything together as you're rushing out the door, isn't it?
Probably not, but that's reality for you.
I've been thinking a lot about reality lately.
Not reality-reality, but the carefully-constructed "reality" that's been crafted for idiots which the rest of us are forced to live in. I think what got my brain working on the subject was a map that I saw hanging up while I was waiting for a friend to get her hair cut last week...
I found it fascinating that they had to put a disclaimer in the title informing you that, while it may look as though it's a "relief map"... it is, in fact, not a relief map but, in fact, a relief-LIKE map.
Which is to say that whatever "relief" you are experiencing from looking at this map is artificially induced. There's no actual depth to it. Things just look that way because it's painted to produce the illusion of depth.
Which begs the question... why the fuck did they need to explain this? Were the relief-map-making companies incensed that people might get confused and accidentally buy a "relief-like" map instead of an actual "relief" map as they intended?
You may laugh at that, but you shouldn't.
Remember a while back when I mentioned that Mississippi is making it a jailable offense to call non-meat-based burgers "veggie burgers?" This is a primary example of creating a reality which caters to the lowest common denominator. People too stupid to comprehend that a "veggie burger" isn't made from beef... almond milk doesn't come from a cow... and a map with no physical depth isn't a "relief map."
I'd weep for the future but, reality is, the future is now.
I don't mind living in the future, I just wish it wasn't this one.
Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
I've somehow reached an entirely new level of exhaustion.
I went to bed at midnight expecting to get seven hours sleep before Alexa chimed for the cats' breakfast. I didn't manage to fall asleep until sometime around 1:00-1:30, so I was already off to a bad start.
Then the thunder and lightning started lighting up the sky and booming through my morning.
Surprisingly, Jake and Jenny were not phased, even when the thunder was so loud it was shaking the house. They were in the window ledges of my bedroom watching the lightning and trying to figure out where all the noise was coming from (when, basically, it was coming from the entire valley). This was a bit confusing for them. I mean, just look at the lightning strikes hitting Washington State today...
Lightning Strikes Map from Lightning Viewer, National Interagency Fire Center
I'm kinda in the middle of all that. Which meant I just lay there in my bed not sleeping while the world exploded.
Usually it takes 2-1/2 hours to drive to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. But this being summer and all, I have to allow an extra hour for multiple road construction stops. Then I had to add a half hour to that so I could get my $13 measles antibodies test blood draw. Then I thought I might as well add another half hour for lunch.
So basically I ended up getting no sleep and barely had time to check all my home security cameras and alarm sensors before walking out the door.
Three hours driving through road construction (which never fucking ends... NEVERRRR!) followed by lunch at Fatburger followed by a blood draw followed by a quick trip to IKEA to get a glass topper for my second guest bedroom nightstand followed by a two hour wait at the airport followed by a five-and-a-half-hour flight followed by a thirty minute ordeal getting to my hotel followed by fifteen minutes writing this blog entry.
And... I'm so done.
Here's hoping that all the lightning fires that got started were quickly contained and put out.
Posted on Wednesday, July 24th, 2019
I'm in the future! This post is for Wednesday but I'm writing it on Thursday because stuff happened.
My flight to Boston was great (thanks, Alaska Airlines!). My hotel at midnight was nice. My drive up to Maine was painless. My lunch was very good. My hotel is great as always. But work was pushed back several times over many hours, so I'm kinda in that limbo state that happens when you're sleep-deprived yet having to concentrate on the job.
Somewhere in all that, I needed a snack so I grabbed a bag of Mango Pineapple Mix. I love dried pineapple and mango, so it was an easy choice.
When I started chowing down, I noted that there was hardly any mango or pineapple taste to be found. As you chew it, it tastes more like peanut butter and raisins...
INGREDIENTS: PEANUTS, RAISINS, SUNFLOWER KERNELS, MANGO, PINEAPPLE, CASHEWS.
Here in the USA, ingredients must be listed in order of volume. But they don't have to tell you the percentage of each ingredients. For my "Mango Pineapple Mix" my guess is that it's something like this...
So... not really a Mango Pineapple Mix after all. The ingredients might as well have read...
Mango, pineapple, and cashews are expensive, so they are used sparingly. Peanuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds are cheap, so they are used as filler. Which is fine, except in this case the filler is so overwhelming that you never really taste the ingredients that the mix was named after.
The product is a lie.
Which is nothing new. Companies lie to sell their crap all the time.
Just like politicians.
As the presidential race starts heating up, you quickly realize that all the threats and promises the candidates are making are just filler. Cheap lies they say so they can get elected. Promises, after all, cost nothing. If I were to break down the ingredients for a politician's motivations when running for office, it would probably go something like this...
Yes, I realize that all adds up to 500%, but you've seen how politicians operate... tell me that I'm wrong. And don't kid yourself, that 2% is very much dependent on whether having "concern" will jeopardize their bigger priorities.
The product is a lie.
Which is nothing new. Politicians lie to sell their crap all the time. Their "ingredients" might as well read...
Why American citizens don't give a shit about this obvious scam is beyond me. I see the headlines and marvel at the fact that people aren't rioting in the streets. Take this one, for example...
You work your entire life so that one day you can retire. Significant chunks of your paycheck are taken for Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, with the expectation that this money will come back to you so that you don't have to spend your "golden years" living in disease and poverty.
And yet here we are.
If you're one of the wealthy individuals benefitting from the money being stolen from working-class America, congratulations, you got the country you paid for. If you're not one of those individuals, then I hope you enjoy your "golden years" living in disease and poverty. You voted for it, after all.
Change your mind? Here's a checklist for a good start...
That last one is the ballgame. It's also complex and interesting. Fortunately, CPG Grey has you covered. Watching these videos is well worth your time if you're at all concerned about just how badly fucked you are by our current political system...
And... back to work. And my shitty trail mix.
Posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2019
The people of Maine are truly a gem. They are a lovely combination of Canadian courtesy, Southern hospitality, and Midwest sensibility... all rolled into some of the nicest people you will ever meet.
Until you put them behind the wheel of a car, that is.
Every time I come here (and I've been doing it for a while now) I am in utter shock at just what aggressive assholes Maine drivers are. They are brutal, unforgiving, ruthless, and just overall mean.
Take today, for example.
I was driving back to my worksite after lunch at one of those weird Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken hybrids*. The speed limit is 30. I am driving about 42 because that's the pace that the cars ahead of me are setting. They are about ten car-lengths ahead, but I'm going the same speed that they are.
Then, out of nowhere, some woman comes blazing up behind me. She's revving her engine. She's swerving from one side of the lane to the other as if she's trying to see what could possibly be slowing me down to a mere 12 miles per hour over the speed limit. She is driving so aggressively that I become genuinely worried that she's going to crash into me. And that's the point... she is trying to intimidate me into going faster even though I'm already well above the speed limit.
And then it occurs to me.
I am driving a rental car with full LDW (Loss Damage Waiver) coverage.
So when I see a man limping across the street, having just cleared my lane, I use it as an excuse to stop. Then I'm all Let's see what happens, shall we? as I brace for impact.
She didn't hit me, but she did have to slam on her brakes and swerve off the road where it looked like she was having a heck of a time regaining control so she could keep her car on the shoulder and not slam it into the guardrail.
I can only guess that she was not happy.
But I sure was. Next time don't be such an asshole, you fucker!
Except she didn't learn anything, because she caught right back up to me, then illegally used an exit lane to burn past me at 50+ miles per hour. In a 30 mile per hour zone. I didn't look at her as she passed. I assumed there would be hand gestures I was not wanting to see. Because I'm the asshole in this scenario, apparently.
What's so stupid is that after she made all that effort to pass me, she was immediately stuck behind a whole string of cars going 40-42 miles per hour, so she was being a total asshole and almost wrecked her car for nothing. Eventually she pulled into the center lane for a left turn. I did look at her as I passed that time. Everything normal. She was focused on finding an opening so she could turn... no ugly glaring at me at all.
Look, if there's an emergency and she was trying to get her kid to the hospital emergency room because it's dying (or whatever), then fine. You should be driving like somebody's life depends on it. But then you'd be honking your horn and having your emergency flashers on so people would know to move, right? You wouldn't zoom up on somebody's bumper and act like a psychotic fucking piece of shit.
I miss my cats.
I look in on them several times during the day (and night) to make sure nothing is amiss, and it's all good. But it's still tough. This morning Jenny had an itchy ear. She keeps stopping to scratch it. She doesn't have fleas or mites or anything, this just happens sometimes with her. When I notice it, I usually step in to scratch it for her real good. There have been a couple times when I review security camera footage of her while at work that I've dashed home for a couple minutes to scratch her ears. But when I'm 2,400 miles away? All I can do is watch in frustration...
Generally speaking, my cats are very good about not jumping up on my dining room table... which I appreciate, because it saves on disinfectant cleaner from having to wipe it down all the time. But when I'm gone? Jenny seems to live on top of my table. I don't know if it's because she is always looking for me and thinks it makes a great spot to see everything... or whether she does it because she knows she's not supposed to be up there, and it's some kind of revenge for me having abandoned her. Eventually I gave up on trying to think of ways to keep her off, and just slapped a pair of my jeans down so at least she's not sitting directly on the table (because... ewwww... cat butt table). For whatever reason, Jenny absolutely loves sitting and laying on my jeans, so I never throw them out anymore. Any time they get damaged or torn beyond repair I just wash them and set them out as cat beds. Problem solved...
All day and all night...
At least she's content this way. Or as content as she can be when I'm not home, poor thing!
Jake seems to handle my absence better.
Until I get home. Then he wants me to know exactly how he feels about it.
*I like Taco Bell. They have great vegetarian options (7-Layer Burrito, Swap Black Beans for Refried beans... and their Cheesy Potato Griller is sublime) even though they may not be the healthiest options. But, when you're on the road and need vegetarian in a hurry... well... thank heavens I can "Make a Run for The Border." Though it's weird at the Taco Bell's with KFC inside, because then you are staring at weird stuff like this...
Methinks The Colonel may be reconsidering where his "chicken" comes from.
RUN, MICKEY! RUNNNNNN!!!
Posted on Friday, July 26th, 2019
I love television. And I watch a lot of it.
Though "watch" is probably an overstatement. For the most part I have television on while I work or do chores or write in this blog or whatever. It's just passive entertainment that gets a small portion of my attention while I focus on something more important. I record shows like this to my DVR, but don't care if I miss them. If my DVR gets too backed up, I'll delete them.
There are a few shows, however, which deserve every ounce of my attention... these are the shows that I am devoted to and don't want to miss a thing. Computer off. Center of the couch. Fully engaged with my television. I won't miss these shows for anything, and my entire world stops so I can enjoy them.
One of those shows is Penn & Teller: Fool Us.
I've loved magic since I was a kid, and seeing magicians try and fool celebrated magicians like Penn & Teller is everything I want in a television show. And on those rare occasions where a magician actually can fool them? That's my joy. If you've never seen the show, here's one of my favorite segments so you can get an idea about it...
Love love love it.
This past week I remembered that the latest episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us was recorded on my DVR. I put away my laptop. I sat on my couch. I turned up the volume. I was ready to be amazed. I pressed the "play" button. And...
Needless to say, I was enraged. One of the handful of shows I need to see, and there's some kind of price dispute between CBS and DirecTV making it "unavailable."
It's at this point that I realize how these blackouts are happening more and more often. And if it's not blackouts, it's threats of blackouts. Remember back in March when Comedy Central was on the chopping block?
And so... I'm done with this shit.
Not because there's a blackout. Again. But because every time this happens, DirecTV isn't paying the networks who are withholding their channels... BUT THEY ARE STILL CHARGING ME THE FULL AMOUNT OF MY BILL!
So I call DirecTV to cancel my service and the first thing they tell me is that I can get local channels "over the air" with an antennae they'll send me. I explain that I live in a remote area surrounded by mountains and don't get many channels "over the air" and the channel that Penn & Teller: Fool Us is on is NOT a local channel anyway.
DirecTV: "So is there anything I can do to get you to keep your service? Offer you a lower rate? Upgrade your channel package?"
ME: "Short of going back in time and crediting me money on every bill I paid when a channel blackout was in effect... since I wasn't getting everything I was paying for? No. There's nothing you can do."
Of course DIRECTV wants to offer me all kinds of discounts now that I'm cancelling. Where were they with their apology money the LAST SEVERAL TIMES there were channel blackouts? It's insulting that they want so badly to treat me right now that I'm leaving, but not when I was a customer. I will never understand why companies won't work to keep you a happy customer until you want to walk away. What business sense does that make?
I have Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu already. I will still get HBO free with my AT&T wireless package. I will be adding Disney+ the minute it becomes available. I just signed up for Sling "Blue" service (with the "Lifestyle Extra" add-on so I can have DIY Network and Hallmark channels). Penn & Teller: Fool Us can stream for free on The CW app for my Apple TV. That will cover 90% of what I watch. I will add CBS All Access when there are shows I want to see. So I'm good. And I'm paying $25 less a month than I was with DirecTV.
Oh... and get this... if I pre-pay three months in advance for my Sling "Blue" service, they'll send me a FREE over-the-air antennae plus an AirTV Player! This allows me to integrate what few over-the-air channels I do get with my Sling service. The player alone is usually $120, so that's pretty sweet, even if I can't really take advantage of it because of where I live.
And so... the magic was gone, but now it's my satellite TV that's gone and my magic is back.
I guess that's a win? I'm gonna take it as a win.
Posted on Saturday, July 27th, 2019
So happy to be home.
And my cats seem happy to have me home. As usual when I get back from a trip, they don't want to leave the room I'm in. Unless they are running around chasing each other, because they gotta work off all that excitement somehow.
When I sat down to check email, there was Jenny making biscuits next to me...
When I turned in for the night, I thought they would be all over me, but they just plopped down on the floor next to the bed and that was the end of it. But this morning when I woke up and turned on the television? There's Jake, watching with me...
And after I took a shower and was getting dressed?
But it isn't all perfect.
I thoroughly cleaned my house before I left. My cats went nuts while I was gone and there's toys, cat hair, and kitty litter tracked everywhere.
And a few half-eaten bug?
WHY?!? Why are my cats bringing in bugs from the catio and eating them inside. WHYYYYY?!? IF YOU MUST EAT BUGS, JUST EAT THEM OUT IN THE CATIO!!!
And speaking of their catio...
Before I left I glanced out my window and thought for a moment that Jenny had murdered Jake...
Fortunately, Jake was just sleeping.
And speaking of murder...
I am currently traveling to Maine twice a year for work... once in the winter when it's cold and miserable... and once in summer at the height of tourist season when it's crowded and miserable. I'd love to come in Spring or Fall when it's calmer, but it hasn't happened yet. That's a shame, because Maine is an amazing, amazing place. And I've only scratched the surface.
But at least this time I didn't have to make the drive from Boston to Maine on a weekend. It's a frickin' parking lot the entire way and, after hours of it, you definitely get in a murdery kinda headspace...
And speaking of a murdery headspace... Amazon's anxiously-awaited adaptation of The Boys, one of the most insane comic book series I've ever read, is on now... so... see you next Caturday!
Posted on Sunday, July 28th, 2019
The world may be turned up-side-down, but there's at least one thing you can still count on... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Moon! The 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing was July 20th. As a build-up to this amazing event, NASA unleashed a flood of images from their archives. The photos are stunning...
The scanned resolution is quite high, so you can zoom in for some great detail...
But the real gold here? NASA has also posted some panoramas they've stitched together. They're huge...
To see them in all their glory, you'll need to head over to Flickr. Well worth your time.
• Emoji! As I mentioned previously, I question Apple's emoji strategy. Most times what they come up with is beautiful when seen at large sizes... but fall apart at smaller sizes. Which is crazy, because the vast majority of the time emoji are displayed tiny. Google, on the other hand, creates more simple, easily identifiable emoji that read well at small sizes. Their cartoonish style just works SO much better...
That's Apple on the left and Google on the right.
With the upcoming emojis for 2019, Apple seems to be shitting the bed. Their emoji for falafel looks like a plate of turds... even at large sizes! Google, on the other hand, has captured the spirit of falafel with their gorgeous, more cartoony take...
But the one that REALLY bothers me? Apple's take on the new waffle emoji...
Arguably, the Apple waffle looks more delicious. But no butter or syrup? Who eats a waffle like that? Google's waffle doesn't look as appetizing, but at least they gave us a little butter! Step it up, Apple!
• Hey Boys! And so... Amazon's adaptation of The Boys has been released. It's faithful to the idea of the original comic book series in many ways, has incredible acting by a terrific cast, and is pretty entertaining (assuming you're not opposed to violence and gore)...
There are some negatives, however. First of all, the editing is weird. Scenes are made confusing by cuts or appear in an order that seems backwards. Second, it ends on a massive cliffhanger (fortunately the show has already been renewed for a second season). And, of course, there have been some massive changes from the comics which I found bothersome. Yeah, I know, that's par for the course, but the changes made were kinda self-defeating. Even so... it's an interesting look at the super-hero genre that might be worth a look if you're into that kind of thing.
• Just the Equifax, Ma'am! In case you haven't heard, odds are highly likely that your private information was leaked by Equifax, a consumer credit company. In a hilariously inadequate punishment, they agreed to a direct payout settlement with the FTC for up to $425 million in order for citizens to help clean up the mess they created (when Equifax earns $877 million per quarter... and rising). If you want your part of this absurd slap on the wrist, the FTC has a page for that. But before you go running... you should know that the amount of money they have to pay out is capped. The $125 you think you're applying for is not a guaranteed amount you'll receive. It's the maximum amount you'll receive. If one million people make the request, you'll just get $31. If all 147 million people who were affected make the request, you'll get a whopping 21¢. So when I had to choose between the "$125" and the free credit monitoring, I went with the free credit monitoring. It's pretty much nothing compared to the damage Equifax has done. But I'll take "pretty much nothing" over actually nothing any day. The good news is that I can cancel the $10 a month service I have been using, and that adds up to real money.
• Keyboard Katasrophe! Oh wow. Maybe Apple isn't as stupid as I thought. They're apparently going to finally replace their shitty "butterfly keyboards" with something that (hopefully) won't suck shit through a tube. Except they are pretty damn stupid considering they waited far, far longer than they should have to ditch these crappy, horrendously evil keyboards, didn't they?
• Schadenfreude! Mitch McConnell is a festering pile of crap, and I'll take my moments where I can...
This is before the vote where the Senate approved legislation to permanently fund care for 9/11 survivors and first responders who suffered health issues. Something PIECE OF FUCKING SHIT MITCH MCCONNELL has been fighting against since day one. Which is business as usual for a GAPING ASSHOLE LIKE MCCONNELL, who is perfectly fine letting our 2020 elections be hacked, has no problem breaking the law if it means he can make money, and wastes no opportunity to forward the agenda of the lobbyist handlers who have bought and paid for his ass. He is the epitome of corruption in government. He is the best ever example for why we need congressional term limits. He is garbage who profits off of the misery he is elected to relieve. I try my best not to hate people. Hate consumes you. Hate destroys you. But I fucking hate Mitch McConnell to such an extremely illogical degree that it doesn't even register as "hate" on my psyche. When this fucker is finally dead and rotting in hell, I plan on celebrating like I won the lottery. Because his death is apparently the only thing that will keep him out of office given how Kentucky keeps sending his heinous ass back to "represent" them. I guess they like getting fucked, and he's happy to keep fucking them. Over and over and over and over since 1984.
• Divine Voice! Because I'd like to end on a positive note today... here's a really cool video of Simu Liu telling the story of how he found out that he was cast as Shang-Chi in Marvel's upcoming movie...
I've only seen Liu in a few things... but he's crazy-talented and I'm sure he's going to do a great job.
And that's the end of that. See you next Sunday.
Posted on Monday, July 29th, 2019
I started publishing regular updates to a website in the mid-90's (first called DaveWorld then DaveSpot then DaveBlog). Back then it was simply an "online journal" that was manually created and updated. By the year 2000 "weblog" (eventually "blog") was an increasingly commonplace term, and online publishing tools became available which made it easier and easier to do. My first blog was started in 2002, but was eventually scrapped in April of 2003 when I started Blogography.
Being a blogger in 2003 was a different world (wide web).
Most people had much slower connections to the internet and there were wild concepts like "bandwidth throttling" which could severely dampen your visitors' online experience (and will likely dampen it again if our pig-fucker politicians kill net neutrality). On top of that, disk space and bandwidth were precious commodities for which your hosting company made you pay dearly. More than once I'd end up with a massive extra fee on my monthly statement when a photo I posted went "viral" (a term than didn't even exist back then) and slaughtered my bandwidth quota. Because of the expense, bloggers had to be really careful about publishing images on their sites. Photos were rare. When you did post them, they were tiny and compressed to death. And back then they were likely scanned from paper photos or shot at really low resolution, so they looked pretty bad.
Looking back, it was a primitive time. But back then it was just they way things were (unless you were made of money) and we accepted it because we didn't know any better. Or have any other option, really.
A couple weeks ago I was searching through my old entries for something and started noticing how bad my early photos were. To save as much disk space and bandwidth as possible they were saved at 210×160 pixels then displayed at 420×320 pixels, like this shot of the Hard Rock Cafe Osaka Universal Studios in 2003...
Once bandwidth costs started dropping and people had faster connections, I upgraded to photos which were actually cropped to the full 420×320 pixels they were being displayed at, like this...
Not a ton better, but a bit easier to look at, which is why I went back through all my old images and "upgraded" them to the 420×320 size.
In 2010, I got a new camera and my images were "widescreen," so I switched to a full resolution of 500×330. This time I didn't go back and upgrade all my old photos because the size ratio was different (and I had so many entries that it seemed like it would be a lot of work).
In 2012-2013 I transitioned to bigger images, this time 600×400. If I linked back to an old entry with smaller images, I would usually "upgrade" the image (again) if I still had the original photo, like this...
Then on June 29th, 2012, everything changed. That's when I got my first "Retina display" MacBook Pro. It had a much higher pixel-density than previous laptops, and photos looked so much better on it. Unless you were looking at a website with standard-resolution images. So on July 10th, 2012 I switched to 1200×800 pixel images, but still defined them as 600×400 pixels so people with high-density screens would have far nicer images to look at. That's been my "default" ever since.
A couple weeks ago I decided to start upgrading my old images (again-again) assuming I still had the original photo available. I wasn't expecting much improvement but, even on those old paper photo scans, the images ended up looking much nicer...
A far cry from what I started with...
A part of me was wondering if I shouldn't go even higher... 2400×1600 pixels... because you just know that eventually we'll have VR displays or direct brain-implants to take us there. But these earliest photos wouldn't benefit from that much, so I've decided to hold off. Odds are some revolutionary new tech will come along to upscale lower-res photos anyway, so 1200×800 is probably good enough. For now. Maybe in the future I'll start uploading dual files for all my new photos. Just to save me time for when the inevitable happens? Worth a thought, anyway.
But image quality isn't the only upgrade I've been working on...
When I was in the "middle-period" of blogging where images were cheaper to host... but could still be expensive if I posted too many of them... I would sometimes host half of the images on an external service to share the load.
As these image hosting services disappeared (or started charging money!), I’d just delete the links to the images they held. This made early entries even skimpier than they already were, so when I started upgrading again-again, I also went back and added some of the missing images. On my post about Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, for example, that meant my photos weren’t just increased to 1200×800 pixels, the count went from two photos back to the five photos I had original posted. Pretty sweet.
I have a LOT of entries left to upgrade. Too many. Which is why I'm not going to kill myself in the attempt, I'm just going to do a couple dozen every week and see where that gets me.
Probably nowhere. Why do I blog again?
Posted on Tuesday, July 30th, 2019
As I mentioned a few days ago, I got a free over-the-air antennae and an "AirTV Play" unit when I pre-paid the first three months of my Sling TV service in advance. I received the unit today and, as expected, I couldn't get any channels to show up. I live in a valley surrounded by hills and mountains, and the odds of picking up anything were slim. No big loss... it's not like the channel report I ran gave me even a prayer of getting a major network like ABC, NBC, or CBS. Just some weird local channels like "NCW Life" which I would never watch anyway, or a FOX affiliate that wouldn't give me anything I can't get streaming...
Oh well, the stuff was all free, so it was worth a shot.
So I guess I'm set.
Some shows on CBS I'm just out of luck on. I will have to wait until Star Trek: Discovery or The Good Fight or Star Trek: Picard is released so I'll be subscribing to CBS All-Access and can binge the archives then. Or perhaps they can be streamed from CBS online for free, I'll have to check...
There's also a few shows I can't seem to get on Sling Blue, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, but think I can stream online from the official websites.
The majority of my shows I can watch via Hulu or Sling Blue (with a couple coming free from the HBO Now which is bundled with my AT&T Wireless). Sling is preferred because I have their "Enhanced DVR" where I can fast-forward past commercials. But Hulu is just fine with commercials (because I don't want to pay extra to watch without them)...
Yesterday I had to make a trip to The Big City to return some things for work... and to drop off my DirecTV receiver at FedEx. As I feared, they completely brick the thing once your service is canceled, so when I checked to see if the last show I had on my DVR was still there, I couldn't even get to the menu. I guess that's only fair. I was renting the box, and my rental contract ended Sunday at midnight, so I shouldn't be able to use it. But... damn. That's cold. You'd almost think it was MY fault that I had channels missing and was forced to cancel.
I guess there's no going back now!
Not that I'd want to. I'm still bitter over the expensive packages that cable companies and satellite companies have forced us to buy for decades... because more often than not they're filled with shitty channels you'll never watch, which means you're forced to pay more than you should. Thanks to the internet we're finally to the point where channels can be purchased individually... or at least in smaller packages... which make more sense. Hopefully in the future our television programming will get to the point where it's 100% ala carte, and you can pay for exactly the channels you want.
We can dream, can't we?
Posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2019
But when it was released on digital earlier this week, I decided to give it another look... then another look... so I could comment on it in a bit more linear fashion.
I still feel it's an amazing movie.... and even more amazing accomplishment...
Obviously there's going to be an abumndance of spoilers, so you've been warned...
The opening of the movie acts as a good recap of where we left off in Infinity War but, thankfully, isn't repetitive. Then Captain Marvel shows up, you realize that the Avengers she met in the Captain Marvel mid-credits scene ("Where's Fury?") must have sent her to find any off-planet Avengers survivors, and we're off to the races. The idea that the Earth Avengers and Space Avengers have no idea which of their teammates survived "The Snap" is pretty gutting. Especially when you get to Rocket comforting Nebula. And watching Rocket in these opening scenes just boggles my mind. You simply do not question that he's an actual character on-par with everybody else in the film. And he's a raccoon! Talk about movie magic.
Right from the start of Endgame you can tell that the entire purpose of the film is to wrap up everything which came before it. There's never-ending echos to past movies, and true fans are constantly being rewarded. This is pretty wild when you consider that Captain Marvel, easily the most powerful character in the entire film and the lynchpin for dealing with Thanos, hadn't even shot her solo movie when Endgame was being made. How everybody collaborated to make her appearance here sync up power-wise, visual-wise, and tone-wise with the Captain Marvel movie is the true marvel of Marvel Studios. There are single films which lack this kind of consistency. But here's Marvel making it look (relatively) effortless across 22 films (23 if you count Spider-Man: Far From Home).
Nowhere is Marvel's cohesiveness more visible than when Nebula is on-screen. She is a bit-part villain from a D-List comic book which has now become a central figure in the biggest super-hero team-up in cinematic history. It's so jaw-dropping amazing that I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Yes, Marvel had a master plan to use Infinity Gems as MacGuffins in all their films from very early on with the intent of somehow tying them all together in the end, but the fact that they managed to pull it all of this well? Thank you Kevin Feige.
Back to Captain Marvel... it's fairly easy to see how her off-the-charts power level is going to be challenging going forward. The current solution seems to be to have her be "off-planet and unavailable" but that's going to get really tired really fast. I mean, come on... just look at her when they're off to attack Thanos! How many problems couldn't she solve in five minutes? Sure it's cool how totally confident she is, how kick-ass she is, how powerful she is... and her glowing aura is giddy-inducing wonderful... but I'm more than a little curious to see how she's going to play out in the future of the MCU.
Killing Thanos in the first twenty minutes is pretty ballsy, but it definitely leaves you wondering where they're going to go from here if the main villain of the movie is gone. And little did we suspect...
And lo did a rat activate the Quantum Tunnel which freed Ant-Man from being trapped in The Quantum Realm! It's funny to think about how Ant-Man ends up being the key to absolutely everything, but that's how Marvel rolls. They find surprising ways to make small characters have big impact in the grand scheme of things. Fortunately, they've got the ample acting chops of Paul Rudd behind the character or these scenes of "life after The Snap" would have rang hollow (ditto for Scarlett Johansson, who has a handle on somebody being haunted like nobody's business).
At the 30-minute-mark, Scott Lang shows up at Avengers Compound and the movie starts for real.
It also shows its hand.
Because the minute that I saw how much time they were devoting to Tony Stark's happy post-Snap life, I knew... knew... he was a goner. Luckily, Robert Downey Jr. gives the performance of a lifetime and totally sells it. Watching him interact with his daughter... with Pepper... with his former teammates... it's all so... beautiful?... I guess is the word I'm looking for? Tony's character arc over the past decade has totally come full-circle, and it's everything you could hope for. And speaking of story arcs...
Here we are introduced to Smart Hulk... the merging of The Hulk and Bruce Banner. It's a wonderful coda to Bruce Banner's arc through all the Marvel Studios films. Finally, at long last, Banner and Hulk are at peace and living in harmony. It's also a terrific starting point for new Hulk stories (should we be lucky enough to get them). What's even more remarkable than Smart Hulk is the absolutely mind-blowing computer graphics which brought him to life. Flawless. His every facial expression is realized to such a degree that the whole "Uncanny Valley Effect" is minimized. At no point did he take me out of the story. It's just... all Mark Ruffalo all the time.
If there's a scene which illustrates just how deftly Marvel manages to work humor into their stories, it's the time travel experiments with Scott. It's funny, but it's not just being injected at random for the sake of being funny (like the horrific Joss Whedon "humor" that was shoe-horned into DC's Justice League after the fact). Marvel's humor feels like it has purpose and is there to advance and serve the story. And that's why it succeeds. Plus we get Smart Hulk handing out tacos!
If you didn't think that Tony Stark was going to die after watching his family scenes, you definitely knew it when he handed Cap his shield back.
The reunion between Hulk and Valkyrie, completely cementing Thor: Ragnarok even further into the MCU grand narrative, is one of the rare moments in the film that had me scrambling for an explanation. In Ragnarok, Bruce didn't remember anything about his 5 years as The Grandmaster's "beloved champion." But here he does. Which means that when Banner and Hulk merged, the result has memory experience of both? That's gotta be the stuff of nightmares.
I read more than a few comments about how Thor's weight gain was just a way to make fun of heavier people. I didn't see this at all. The result of Thor's PTSD actually seemed like it was handled with great thought and care... even if there were some comments made by other characters which were pretty mean and played for laughs. What did bother me was the whole "shake it off and move on" attitude that was leveled at poor Thor. That seems deliberately cruel and unjust. After what he's been through, you'd expect a bit more empathy from his friends. On the bright side, this is yet another remarkable performance by Chris Hemsworth which has me dying to see more Thor.
Clint Barton's descent into a murdering vengeance-seeking bastard seems a bit forced but, seeing as how the guy lost his entire family, perhaps it's not such a stretch. This "Ronin" persona is kinda-sorta from the comics, but it makes even less sense in this film. Why in the hell would Hawkeye give up the bow and arrow with which he reigns supreme? Obviously the ramifications of Endgame will be explored in the Hawkeye series on Disney+, so I guess they can afford to short-change his character here... but it still seems wild how his character could change so much with so little explanation.
And here's where we get to how time travel works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I'm saving my thoughts on how it works for further down the page, but suffice to say I really like what they've done here. It makes perfect sense. Regardless, we get current Avengers going back into earlier Marvel Studios movies, and how cool is that?
And here's where the fun begins...
ANT MAN, IRON MAN, & CAPTAIN AMERICA: The "behind the scenes" of what happened after the Battle of New York was kinda cool... but hands-down the best moment was how Cap managed to secure the scepter from Hydra. Right before Robert Redford makes a guest appearance! I was even more surprised by this than I was at seeing The Ancient One! And of course this is where Loki from the past becomes the new Loki, allowing him to appear in his Disney+ series while not negating his death in Avengers: Infinity War. Clever that. Almost as clever as "America's Ass."
SMART HULK: The amount I died when Smart Hulk was "smashing" to impersonate his more rage-fueled earlier self was pretty huge. Then he goes to retrieve the Time Stone and the first of many guest-appearance bombshells is dropped... The Ancient One is back! Mainly as a way to explain how time works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Again. Which, again, I will comment on further down the page.
THOR & ROCKET: Frigga coming back to help Thor in the way only a mother can was exceedingly sweet. Finally, here's somebody not making fun of Thor for being traumatized by what he's experienced and genuinely trying to help. At least until she told him to eat a salad. We also get the tiniest of appearances by Natalie Portman's Jane Foster, which was nice. And was probably due to her coming back for Thor: Love and Thunder.
NEBULA & RHODEY: They could have easily come up with a way to remove the Power Stone without stripping the shell off of Nebula's robotic arm, but it's actually a genius move because it will be an easy visual cue for distinguishing "good" Nebula from her "bad" past-self. Out of all the teams, this is the one that gets a lot complex in a little amount of time thanks to Thanos of the time finding out what The Avengers are up to.
IRON MAN, & CAPTAIN AMERICA: Well this was an added bonus. We get guest appearances not only by 1970's hippie Stan Lee and Farrah-hair Hank Pym... but Howard Stark and Peggy Carter as well! Seeing as how Tony dies and Steve ends up retired, I suppose it's only fitting that they get to reconcile the relationships which most haunt them.
BLACK WIDOW & HAWKEYE: I realize that the only way to make victory ring true would be for some sacrifices to be made along the way... but Black Widow? Like Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, she's the glue that holds all the movies together. Unlike Nick Fury, Natasha has been pretty much shafted over the years. She exists only to forward other characters' stories without getting much of story of her own. Sure they are remedying that by finally giving her her own film, but she's forever stuck in the past now, and that's lame. She deserved a future in the MCU after how she's been there for literally everybody else, and now she ain't got one. Still, given how The Soul Stone works, I guess somebody had to die. I don't know that Hawkeye would be a better choice, so maybe this was the right choice. I certainly feel it more than if it had been Clint. But I'm still bitter about it.
I'll try to ignore the question of how The Milano (ship to The Guardians of the Galaxy) has evaporated only to appear again at the end of the film... let's just assume that Clint shrunk it again before he went forward in time. And it seems weird it is that The Infinity Gauntlet conveniently courses with gamma radiation just like The Hulk, giving him the ability to wield it... whatever. What I'd like to focus on is how Ant-Man has the ability to shrink... then grow into Giant-Man... when it was made abundantly clear that he was out of Pym particles? This gaping plot hole is ridiculously easy to see, and yet it was totally ignored. And Janet VanDyne was absolutely not wearing The Wasp suit when she was dusted (I checked) so where did she get her Pym Particles?
The final battle was pretty phenomenal, all things considered.
Even when you give a pass to Captain America being able to lift Thor's hammer. There's plenty of comic book history precedent for Steve being able to wield Mjölnir. Heck, the MCU hinted that it was possible back in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was a smart way to give Captain America the ability to take on Thanos which was believable. What I don't understand is how he got to control lightning with it. As explained by Odin in Thor: Ragnarok, Thor himself is where the lightning comes from, and Mjölnir merely allows him to focus it more easily. Perhaps Mjölnir has some kind of residual lightning charge which makes this possible, but it still seems an odd thing to have happen. How does Cap even know how to make the lightning work? How does he know how to summon Mjölnir in the first place?
No other point in the movie hit more of an emotional note with me than when Cap is facing horrific odds all alone against Thanos and his entire army... than when he hears Sam say "On your left" through his earpiece. That's yet another nod to a past MCU film (Winter Soldier). It's the turning point of the entire movie, and any fan of the past decade will be cheering.
Back in Civil War when Hawkeye is facing off against Black Panther, an opponent for which he's badly outmatched, he buys time by saying "We haven't been introduced. My name is Clint." Black Panter says "I don't care." and proceeds to start pummeling his ass. During the Endgame final battle, Black Panther wants the Infinity Gauntlet and says "Clint, give it to me," at which point I got the warm fuzzies. Awwwwwww. T'Challa remembered his name! He must care a little bit after all!
Poor Wanda. She has to deliver the same line to Thanos that she gave to Ultron. Lucky for her, she's definitely got the power to back up any threat she makes, and having her battle Thanos was pretty sweet.
Spider-Man bringing back "instant-kill" from Homecoming was an LOL moment for me.
Captain Marvel gets the entrance to beat all entrances, and watching her decimate Thanos's ship all by her lonesome was pretty epic. Though not quite as epic as it would have been had we not already seen her so that in Captain Marvel. Still, having her be the only one who can truly go toe-to-toe with Thanos via brute force was more than enough.
The "Ladies of the MCU" moment may have been artificial and manufactured, but I just don't care. We've come a long way from when Black Widow was the sole female super-hero in the MCU.
And then we reach the end of the battle when Doctor Strange tells Tony that this is the moment.
I really, really, wish somebody had laughed at Thanos as his shit faded away.
Rumor has it that Tony originally had dialogue as he lay dying. Robert Downey Jr. felt it would be more powerful if there was nothing left for him to say... his actions and sacrifice speaking more than words ever could... and he's absolutely right. Watching as the beginning of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe from the very first film has his life fade away was about as powerful way to close out The first decade as we could have hoped for.
The reactions from the characters at Tony's service are interesting... as is the order which they appear. His family is first, of course. Followed by his closest friends. Followed by Captain America, who has seen many, many soldiers die in battle, and you kind of get that perspective on his face... stoic, but showing loss. Since Peter Parker is just a kid, I'm glad they had Aunt May there for him. Thor has experienced loss that nobody else here could possibly fathom, so Hemsworth gave him an unease that is perfectly fitting. Smart Hulk's more emotional response was exactly what was needed to drive home that this Hulk is very different from the early days of the character. Doctor Strange is in the unique position of knowing that he essentially sent Tony to his death, but also knows there was literally no other possible way to win this. The Ant-Man "family" had little to do with Tony Stark, so they appear a bit more detached, as they should be. The Guardians of the Galaxy have the most interesting response. All but Quill are aliens, and their perspectives on death are undoubtedly far removed from ours, which is smartly reflected. Note that Gamora is gone, her character having reverted back to a more raw state (something confirmed in the deleted scenes). Also note that Nebula gets a longer shot than most, which is apt considering how she is closest to the entire Infinity Saga and crucial to how it played out. Black Panther, Okoye, and Shuri's presence representing Wakanda is appropriately stately and reserved. Clint and his family here are a bit more affected than you'd expect... until you realize that this goodbye is more about Natasha to them than Tony Stark. Sam and Bucky, who have done nothing but fight since they met, have common ground here, leading directly into their upcoming Disney+ series, I'm sure. Wanda, likewise, is probably thinking more about losing Vision than Tony, but that too is leading into a Disney+ series. The young guy standing alone confused some people, but I recognized him immediately as Harley, the kid from Iron Man 3, and I'm glad they thought to add him here. I completely missed Maria Hill and General Ross when I saw the film in theaters, but it makes sense they're here. Captain Marvel is the one character who feels a bit out of place, yet it would be strange if she weren't here given her impact on the final battle. And then there's Nick Fury, the glue that holds the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe together saved for last. Perfect.
It was nice at the end to acknowledge that Tony wasn't the only one who sacrificed his life. Black Widow and Vision are gone as well. Though Black Widow has a movie coming up, and Vision is assumably a part of the WandaVision Disney+ series.
Valkyrie becoming queen of New Asgard is absolutely fitting, and sure to be explored in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. Having Thor rejoin the "Asguardians of the Galaxy" should have interesting consequences going forward for both these franchises.
And... here's the end-end-end of the movie. Cap heads back with the Infinity Stones to prevent new realities from ever forming, Hulk acknowledges that he misses Natasha, and Falcon is given Old Cap's shield (from an alternate reality, see below) so he can become the new Captain America. Of course Bucky is there, which is a jumping off point for the new Falcon and Winter Soldier Disney+ series. Neat!
After the movie debuted, fanboys immediately got their panties in a bunch because of Steve Rogers' decision to go back in time and lives a life with Peggy Carter that he would have had if he hadn't been frozen in ice for decades. "THIS CONFLICTS WITH PEGGY SAYING THAT SHE MARRYING SOMEBODY STEVE RESCUED IN THE FIRST MOVIE!" and "STEVE ERASED PEGGY'S LIFE WITH HER HUSBAND AND KIDS! WHAT AN ASSHOLE!" Except... he didn't. As the movie went into meticulous detail explaining, that's not what happens with time travel disruptions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As explained by Hulk and Nebula to Ant-Man and Rhodey before they experiment on Clint... any change to the past creates an alternate reality...
This was such an important point for the story that they had The Ancient One re-explain it to The Hulk. The writers literally provided visuals to make it crystal clear...
Which is why I go crazy every time I hear a new diatribe on Captain America's time travel being a plot-hole. Let's break this down one more time, shall we? If you go to the past, the future becomes your past, so the future can't be changed. So when you change something in the past (like take an Infinity Stone), a new reality is created where that Infinity Stone has disappeared from existence. In order to fix this, Captain America went back in time and returned the stones to a point before any changes would create a new reality. Namely, he returned them to immediately after they were taken in the first place. This closed the loop and the new reality which was created then fades away because it never existed...
It's an incredibly simple concept.
And it applies to Steve Rogers' journey back in time as well.
At the end of Endgame, Steve returns the Infinity Stones and all the new realities created by their removal no longer exist. He then goes back in time to the late 40's or early 50's... before Peggy Carter got married and had kids... to live out his life with her. As clearly stated, this change creates a new reality where Steve is the one who marries Peggy. His original reality... the reality of all the Marvel Studios movies... where Peggy got married to some other guy, had kids, got dementia, then died... still exists because, to Steve, it's the past. And after Peggy died and Steve was ready to return to his original reality, he traveled back into the past BEFORE the new reality was created... then traveled into the future of the original reality as an old man (which is what we see at the end of the movie)...
So does this mean that other reality where he married Peggy was erased? NO! because now that is in Steve's past! That reality is still there too. An alternate reality which may or may not be revisited in future Marvel films.
It all makes perfect sense, and everything works exactly as it was spelled out in the movie. If there's a plot-hole here, it's that the objects which the stones were encased were forgotten...
I love that YouTube Channel. And, no, I have no clue as to what happened in the new reality which was created when Loki escaped with the Space Stone. Perhaps that will be addressed in his Disney+ series? Because unless he crosses back over into the primary reality, that's where he is now. Our Loki is still dead. I guess I'll just ignore it all until we actually get the series.
WHERE DID OLD CAP'S SHIELD COME FROM?!? If he brought it from the new reality he created when he went back to be with Peggy... if he found his other-dimensional-self in the ice there, then dug up the shield, but left himself frozen... does that Captain America not get a shield when he is rescued from the ice in the future? Or maybe Old Cap waits until New Reality Cap wakes up, then asks himself for the shield so he can take it back to his original reality, leaving New Reality Cap with nothing? Or did he go to New Reality Wakanda and convince them to make him a second shield so he had one to take back with him? That would have been interesting to see. Or... best theory... New Reality Captain America dies, and Old Cap retrieves the shield? Who the heck know? Regardless, it's incredibly lame that this gaping plot hole was left dangling. One can only hope that the New Reality Steve created will be revisited in future MCU films so we can have an answer... or ten.
Given the nature of comic books, there's nothing to say that Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Natasha Romanoff can't return in future movies, even though somebody new will undoubtedly be taking up their super-hero mantles (ala Sam becoming Captain America). They could come back in dream sequences... flashbacks... resurrections... alternate reality versions... whatever. Black Widow's movie takes place entirely in the past, so that's yet another way to have them come back. Though, to be honest, it's probably more powerful if their characters aren't brought back. That kinda cheapens their sacrifice and will diminish their legacies.
So... good flick. Impossible flick given the complexities of juggling so many Marvel Studios franchises, a decade of history, and dealing with the astronomically high expectations of Marvel fans. For the most part, it feels like they succeeded. I certainly had no complaints walking out of the movie theater... or turning off my AppleTV.
As for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, if Spider-Man: Far From Home is any indication, it's going to be just fine. Hopefully Kevin Feige will find a way to pull another rabbit out of the battered old hat with weak series like The Eternals and Shang-Chi in the pipeline. Hey, he sure managed it with Guardians of the Galaxy!
Here's hoping the next decade is even half as exciting as the first.