Posted on Sunday, December 1st, 2019
Snow may have arrived here, but Blogography will go on as usual, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Who's Watching... ... the Watchmen? Welp, tonights episode was genius. As was every episode prior. So long as Damon Lindelof doesn't screw this up at the end (as he has a history of doing) this will easily be my favorite show of 2019...
I love a show that's able to jerk the rug out from under you with each new episode. Watchmen excels at this. Probably because HBO doesn't force a 21 episode season and is happy to let the creators determine how many episodes they need to tell the story they want to tell.
• Mando! And then there's The Mandalorian over on Disney+... which is vying for the No. 2 spot in my "Best of 2019" list. I love that Disney spent the money and got all the right people to make this show work. Friday's episode was filled with action and, of course, more scenes with the terminally-adorable Baby Yoda...
Interesting to note that there's this massive social media explosion going around where Werner Herzog saved Puppet Baby Yoda from going CGI. The truth it more interesting. But, then again, the truth usually is.
• Asshole Implosion. On behalf of my friends and co-workers who died from AIDS/HIV-related illnesses... and all those persons, INCLUDING CHILDREN, who have perished thanks to the inaction of those who came before you... those who wrote off AIDS as "a gay disease" while laughing in the face of all who were left behind begging for action to be taken... fuck you, Donald Trump Jr., you inhuman piece of shit...
You and yours are absolute garbage with no redeemable qualities. Nothing more than a blight on all humanity possessing neither compassion nor empathy while recklessly using your power and influence to diminish, discard, and persecute people... all in the name of drumming up book sales. If there is any justice in this world or the next, then you'll be burning in a hell of your own making. I hope I live to live long enough to see these kinds of people in power implode with their homophobia, racism, bigotry, and general assholery. This reprehensible bastard has had every possible privilege handed to his worthless life and this is what he chooses to do with it? Disgusting.
• Festivo Doble. This year Hallmark is introducing a new Christmas movie which also has Hanukkah in it called Double Holiday. Needless to say, the "Real Christians™®" are having a field day. How dare Hallmark acknowledge other beliefs at Christmastime!! HOW. DARE. THEY! DECEMBER BELONGS TO CHRISTMAS AND NOTHING ELSE!!! My favorite comments are not the outright hate... those are too easy... it's the passive aggressive "Über Christians" who have Jesus as their profile picture. THOSE comments are priceless. This one is my favorite so far. The movie is Double Holiday so they say "We are looking forward to Christmas Holiday!" Just to let you know that they will not so much as acknowledge that other holidays could possibly exist and have no plans on watching a movie that implies otherwise...
How weak these people's faith must be that they feel the need for this kind of nonsense to prove just how "Christian" they are. Well, don't worry. Hallmark developed the movie for a year where Hanukkah is late enough in the season that they'll barely have time to repeat it. This year, anyway.
• Sweetness. And speaking of Hallmark Channel... every once in a while I am completely knocked back by how good some of their movies can be. While eating my Thanksgiving dinner of bread stuffing, cranberry jelly, mashed taters with butter, steamed green beans, baked butternut squash with maple brown sugar, and chunky applesauce crumble, I put on the movie Like Cats & Dogs (from 2017)...
You can read my write-up on my Hallmark Movie Page for 2017, but suffice to say that I enjoyed it quite a lot.
• Later, Tater. And speaking of Thanksgiving mashed taters... that $35 Instant Pot Clone mis-mark that I got makes pretty amazing mashed taters...
Two Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered with a cup of water. Pressure Cook 12 minutes. Drain. Add a half-cup of sour cream and a quarter-cup of butter. Mash... then whip... with a table fork. Add a pat of butter, a little ground salt, and a lot of freshly-ground pepper. Cost me under $1 and is fantastic. The only mashed potatoes I've ever made have been those dehydrated boxed flakes. These are a magnitude better. And cheaper! And, to be honest, easier. Seriously, no need to drag out the hand-mixer. All you need is a fork to mush them up!
And so the snow goes on...
Posted on Monday, December 2nd, 2019
My boots and half of my Black Friday shopping spree bounty showed up today.
I have to say I'm more than a little sad to let my old boots go. I've literally been around the world in them (and the bottom of the world as well), so I am thinking of taking them to the local shoe shop to see if something can be done (they've been around these parts for 99 years!). With exception of the badly-worn soles they're in perfect shape and still look great. My new boots are nice too, I just think it's a genuine waste to toss out something if they can be repaired...
I gave up on wearing tennis shoes decades ago, much preferring a light hiking boot. They're more comfortable, easy to slip in and out of when you tie the laces low, and can be quickly laced up for those times you need good protection for your feet. For a traveler who can end up anywhere and everywhere they're everything I need. The last pair of non-dress-shoe shoes that I bought 25-30 years ago sit in my closet barely used.
As I mentioned, I had a few bucks left over from everything I was saving to buy, so I got a copy of the LEGO Jurassic World video game. I was surprised to see that when you order something LEGO, Amazon will put it in a cool LEGO Star Wars box...
In sadder news, the world received notice that BUB had passed.
She was such a sweet cat who faced a difficult life with an optimism that inspired a lot of people... and raised a lot of money and awareness for homeless pets. It was so very hard to follow along with her latest health crisis knowing that she was probably nearing her end... but, as always, she was doing her best to be happy and live her best life...
I cannot fathom my life without Jake and Jenny, so my heart goes out to Mike Bridavsky and the loss he is suffering. I find it amazing how he was so dedicated to such a special cat, and grateful for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he worked tirelessly to raise in support of animals.
Rest in peace, BUB, you will be missed by a great many people.
Posted on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
I bought a SONOS One smart speaker with Alexa integration for my bedroom. I watch quite a bit of television while working in bed, and the poor speakers on my cheap Sony television make it difficult to hear some conversations unless I crank the volume way too high. The SONOS with its superb sound quality provided the perfect listening environment right out of the box.
When it worked.
The problem with the SONOS One is that there is no "line in" jack... so I had to connect my AppleTV to it via Apple's "AirPlay 2" technology. I have no idea who is at fault, but this was glitchy as hell, and I had all kinds of drop-outs and sound sync errors most every time I watched television. Even worse, at least twice a week I'd turn on the television and AppleTV would "forget" to play through the SONOS One, meaning I had to stop my show, go to the settings menu, switch the audio to AirPlay 2, then start my show again. Incredibly frustrating. Half the time I found myself just leaving it because I didn't want to be bothered with all the futzing around.
And so... I decided to investigate wired speakers. I could probably get a cheap one that was "good enough" for around $30, which seemed a small price to pay.
Around the time I was looking, Amazon released their 3rd Generation "Echo" device which, unlike the old Echo 1st Generation I have in my bathroom, has a 3.5mm line-in jack. This is in addition to improved speakers and sound. Problem was? It was $100. $70 more than I had to spend. Except... Amazon always puts their Echo devices on sale for Black Friday at really good prices. So I added it to my list of stuff to buy... then waited.
Sure enough, the price plummeted to $60. Double what I wanted to spend. But then I saw where I could trade-in my old Echo for $25... plus get a $15 discount for purchasing a new Echo with an Echo trade-in... bringing the net price of the Echo 3rd Gen. to $20? That's under my budget! SOLD!
The new speaker arrived yesterday and I set it up when I got home from work.
Or at least I tried to.
The speaker has a single 3.5mm audio jack that's both line-in and line-out... configurable via the Alexa app. But every time I tapped on the Audio AUX setting I got an error telling me that the page was unavailable...
I went to the Alexa web interface, but the one setting you can't configure from there? The audio AUX setting, of course! I wrote to Amazon for support and they eventually got back to me with an email when, naturally, the page then popped right up for me. And so... I now have an Alexa-enabled speaker for my television. Just like I always wanted!
The sound is pretty darn good for such a small speaker. Not SONOS-level good... not by a longshot... but better than I needed it to be, that's for sure. The cutaway render that Amazon provides shows how the speaker array is fitted in such a compact size (smaller than the SONOS, which means it's short enough to fit under my TV)...
In the default, I found the midrange to be lacking. Fortunately that's an easy fix from the Alexa app. For television show conversations I got the best sound compromise from boosting the midrange a lot, the treble a little, and decreasing the bass a touch..
The sound is a bit "artificial"... I guess is the word I'm looking for? The SONOS unit has a warmth, brilliance and overall cohesiveness that just sounds better to me. This is not a big deal for television, but I absolutely prefer the sound of music on the SONOS as opposed to the Echo 3rd Gen. — No contest there at all. And yet, the Echo is perfectly good for music when viewed in its own right instead of comparing it to a speaker that's considerably more expensive (especially when I got it for $20 compared to the SONOS One $200!).
My SONOS One is now happily set up in my bathroom (where the original Echo was) so I can listen to a couple songs while I get ready in the morning. That's a huge bit of overkill in a small bathroom like mine, so I might relocate it to the upstairs hall where it can be enjoyed in the stairwell and guest bedroom as well.
So... overall, I'm pleased. $20 well-spent!
The new $38 AKASO dash cam Black Friday deal I ordered arrived as well (regular $66). Installation was tough compared to my original $20 dash cam because the cord was thicker. I had to dismantle panels instead of just poking the cable in a seam. Also? The cord was shorter as well. I barely had enough to get to my console cigarette lighter port (no idea how somebody with a big rig like a truck can have enough cord). This is a far cry from the extra two feet I had coiled in my glove box last time! And speaking of the cigarette lighter port, the plug on this camera was far nicer than the old one. Guess that's what the extra $18 gets you. Fits snug instead of wobbling and breaking connection like the old one. After installing I turned on the ignition and... IT MAKES THE EXACT SAME STARTUP SOUND AS MY CHEAP OLD UNIT! I can only guess this is because they are made by the same company, then a bunch of different manufacturers use the same component in each of their designs...
But the big deal here is the WiFi connectivity, meaning I can download footage directly to my iPhone instead of having to remove the tiny SD card, find the adapter for it, find the USB stick for that, then import through the photos app.
And yet... the WiFi connectivity is far from ideal.
First you have to push a button on the unit... then you have to switch the WiFi source on your iPhone to the WiFi for the unit... then start the app... then download. Ugh. I guess the truly easy connectivity options are in much pricier cameras.
Image quality is not stellar. But it's not tragic either. A little better than my old camera... though both were 1080p, so that could be a lens issue not a sensor issue. This unit has GPS but it's not as accurate as my phone and the satellite acquisition is sometimes longer than it should be.
My new dash cam is not nearly the bargain that my new Amazon Echo 3rd Gen. is... but at least I have something in my car. Thanks to distracted drivers, I'm terrified to drive out of my garage without a camera to prove that some idiot drifted into my lane and nailed me because they were playing Candy Crush or eating spaghetti or texting their kids or whatever. Thanks to today's idiot culture, they would likely blame me for their mistake if I didn't have proof.
Until Black Friday 2020, stay frosty.
Posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
I have been working a crazy amount of hours and it's thrown my sleep schedule off.
Last night I worked until a little after 1:30am, woke up at 6:00am to answer emails and feed the cats at 7:00am. Then decided to take a nap. I figured if I could just get an hour or two I'd be rested enough to take on the rest of my day.
It was a good plan.
But one which was doomed to fail.
At 7:28am my phone starts sounding alerts from a web security camera. I figured I could ignore it since the wired cameras weren't setting off any alarms, but the alerts kept coming. So finally I took a look...
Last night I set up my new Nest Outdoor Cam, but it was too dark and cold outside to install it. So I just set it down in the box and forgot about it.
Apparently that was a mistake. Curious Jenny decided to be all curious, so no sleep for me. She kept coming back to take another look at the camera and was setting off an alert every time. Which meant I ended up installing my new camera this morning instead of taking that nap.
My guess is I will be falling asleep at my desk sometime today.
But, hey... at least I don't have to install a security camera when I get home!
Posted on Friday, December 6th, 2019
Yeah, yeah... I know it's Friday. But I have to run with Caturday a day early because it's Jake and Jenny's 4th birthday today!
I was away working for their first three birthdays so this is kinda a big deal for me. This morning I fed them their breakfast, had them completely ignore the new toys I bought for them, then watched as they ran out to the catio because they heard something interesting outside.
So... not quite the exciting birthday I had planned. But... cats. What can you do?
Tonight they will get stinky mashed up sardines in fish gravy for dinner, their favorite treat. It's also a rare treat because I gag while prepping it every time. It's SO gross. But if I don't mash it up then Jenny will just lick the chunks and Jake will pull the chunks outside of the bowl to eat them (getting fish sauce on my floor).
The things I do for love.
It seems like only yesterday I brought them home. But it wasn't yesterday it was February 16th, 2016...
It was a tough time for me. I had just moved into my new home because my mom's apartment was no longer safe for her. The dementia was getting worse by the day and I was completely lost trying to cope with it all. Originally I was going bring Spanky the Cat with us (the stray cat I had been caring for at mom's place) but he had run off just a couple weeks before moving day. And so... I waited for cats to become available at the local shelter so my mom would have some company while I was off working. She loved hanging out with Spanky so it seemed the perfect solution.
Alas, Jake and Jenny were feral rescues and not very sociable at all. They spent the first week hiding under the couch, only coming out to eat and use the litter box when the coast was clear. Eventually I was able to coax them out with a cat charmer, but I wasn't allowed to get too close or touch them...
It was incredibly frustrating having cats I couldn't touch. But mom was entertained by their running around, so that was all that mattered. Then one day I'm working on the couch while we're eating dinner and look over to see this...
Jake and Jenny were interested in her dinner, and she was talking to them and petting them like it was no big deal. It would be days before they allowed me to touch them.
And so... achievement unlocked.
I felt a lot better about leaving my mom alone now that she had cats, and they would be a calming influence amongst the chaos right up until mom had to leave.
And after I was forced to move mom to a facility, having to feed Jake and Jenny their breakfast was sometimes the only reason I had to get out of bed in the morning. Cats, as it turns out, are excellent therapy...
And amazing companions. They're there for me to make even the worst days better...
So happy birthday to Jake Ryan Reynolds Simmer and Jenny Elizabeth Hurley Simmer! You've literally saved my life, and bringing you home has easily been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Every day with you is my best day.
Posted on Saturday, December 7th, 2019
My houseguests bought me an Instant Pot Duo Crisp!
While we were talking on the phone last week, I mentioned that I had an imitation Instant Pot so we could have mashed potatoes when they came. They said that they had the new Instant Pot DUO CRISP which also air-fries and bakes (as well as pressure cooks) and they love it. Apparently they thought I needed one too, so they got me one. You just switch lids depending on how you want to cook...
How sweet is that? In the span of a week I've gone from having no Instant Pot to having two?
I already know what pressure cooking does. I was interested in the air fryer. So I chopped up a Yukon Gold potato; rinshed vigorously; soaked for 15 minutes; then tossed with a little oil, some fresh-ground pepper, and seasoning salt...
...dumped them in the cooker...
...air fry for 22 minutes at 360° (stirring after 11 minutes) and there you go...
I was amazed that they tasted as good as they did. They're beautiful too...
Fantastic! I mean, they're not going to take the place of deep-fried, but they were still excellent. Easier to make, faster to cook, far less clean-up, and they are different enough from the deep-fried version that they are one more option for me when planning my meals.
Next up? I want to try cooking up an apple crisp. Thanks to the air-fryer/baking lid, I wouldn't have to transfer from the pressure cooker to a baking dish in order to get the top of the crisp... errr... crisp!
And I also need to get some lemon juice so I can try dehydrating some fruit. I prefer freeze-dried, but a freeze-dryer costs thousands, so dehydrated will have to do. In any case, it will be a deliciously healthy snack to take to work.
Guess I need to start looking for recipes.
Posted on Sunday, December 8th, 2019
Don't let the prelude to holiday madness get your down, because an all new Very Special Video Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• WW84. My first instinct is to trust that Patty Jenkins will deliver an awesome sequel to her amazing Wonder Woman movie. But this new trailer... I just don't know. Apparently this is not actually a "sequel" but instead "the next iteration" of Wonder Woman. Which seems like a cop-out... especially since Steve Trevor looks to be alive(?) after dying in the first movie. Or, if not alive, a figment of Diana's imagination? Or something. And while I'm excited at the prospect of Kristin Wiig playing long-time Wonder Woman adversary The Cheetah, I'm a little less thrilled at the idea of Maxwell Lord factoring into all this as some kind of maniacal infomercial villain...
The music and action scenes look stellar. I guess we'll find out if this is a Wonder Woman worth watching when the movie is released on June 5th, 2020.
• Guy. I had heard absolutely nothing about Free Guy until I saw this trailer...
The concept is great. Casting Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi is fantastic. The visuals are amazing. I hope all that adds up to a really good movie. I guess we'll find out on July 3rd, 2020.
• Life? And... tonight was yet another bizarre (yet completely watchable) episode of HBO's Watchmen. And with just one episode left, I am anxious to see how everything comes together at the end. And yet... I'm willing to be that the haunting version of David Bowie's Life on Mars by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from last Sunday will still be stuck in my head...
Because nothing ever ends.
• LEGO! Two guys after my own heart with their LEGO groom & groom decorations! Their story reminds me of the movie Yossi & Jagger. WHY CAN'T WE HAVE THIS AS A HALLMARK MOVIE?!?
I mean, come on... how sweet is this...
Maybe one day nobody will give a crap what other people want for their marriage since it has absolutely no bearing on their life. But, until then, I guess the needle keeps moving.
• Masters. Speaking of LEGO... how in the heck is a competition show like the only just now happening?
It's kinda a no-brainer concept. But that doesn't mean it will make for good television even though it should make for great television.
• Ad Aware. I love a good advertisement, and am always amazed when somebody creates a truly great ad without the help of an ad agency and a lot of money. Case in point...
The ad was created for £100 by the shop owner, his kid, and his best friend... in one day. I've seen million-dollar ads which were far less memorable and even less effective.
And that's probably enough videos for one day. So until next time...
Posted on Monday, December 9th, 2019
And so I have a new MacBook Pro. At last.
My joy from the new machine's arrival is tempered by the horrific treatment I've experienced from Apple's "support" lately (more on that long story later), but I've needed a new machine for so long that I'm trying to stay positive here.
There’s a lot to love about this laptop. In many ways, it’s everything I’ve been waiting for to replace my aging 15-inch 2012 MacBook Pro (which has been falling apart for years). And it’s so sexy in Space Grey color...
All is not perfect, however.
First of all, there’s no MagSafe power adapter. This magnetic plug (which would break away if you tripped over the power cord instead of pulling your MacBook off the table) was such a wonderful and revolutionary feature that Apple ran ads to announce it. Why they couldn’t have just one of the four USB-C ports be MagSafe is beyond me. I dread the idea of accidentally tripping over a cord and banging up my laptop so much that I bought a protective case for it. Something I have never done before. As if that wasn’t insult enough, the power brick doesn’t come with a power cord extension like every other Apple power brick has done. Irritating, but I think I have a few laying around from old power bricks, so no terrible loss. But wait... it gets worse! Not only does a new 96W USB-C power adapter also NOT come with an extension cord ($19 extra) it also DOESN’T EVEN COME WITH A CABLE! ($19 extra). This is categorically absurd, and further proof that Apple is intent on nickel-and-diming their way through your wallet.
Second of all, the laptop doesn’t have a “standard” USB-A plug nor does it have an SD card reader. And, of course, no adapter for either. All you get is four USB-C ports and a headphone jack (oh the irony). Period. Which means you’re carrying a pocket full of dongles (which Apple is happy to charge you for). Even more nickel-and-diming.
And now that the ugly is over... on with the show...
Much to my surprise, the physical size is identical to my MacBook Pro 15-inch from 2012 (14.35 x 9.82 x 0.6 inches). The weight actually drops from 5.5-lbs. to 4.3-lbs. but, to be honest, it doesn’t feel a pound lighter.
The Geekbench benchmark score for my old 2012 MacBook Pro (Intel i7 4-core at 2.7GHz) is 746, my new 2019 MacBook Pro (Intel Core i7 6-core at 2.6GHz) has a Geekbench score of 1033. This seems a disappointing bump after nearly 8 years, but when you consider that I bought the most expensive model available in 2012... and the cheapest model available in 2019... I’m actually quite happy with the increase I got! The RAM and SSD storage are the exact same specs (16GB, 500GB) which I am also happy about. I paid a lot more money for my 2012 MacBook Pro than this one I have now... so the fact that I have the same storage is pretty remarkable! I resisted the urge to max out my new laptop with 64GB RAM and 8TB of SSD storage. It costs over $6,000 (I checked).
Unlike the shitty and fragile “butterfly keyboards” that App forced on us for far too long, the new (old?) scissor keyboard is actually typeable. Yes, I wish there was just a touch more “travel” to the keys, but at least I can type at full speed without making more errors than correct words! If I'm being truly honest, I'd prefer the keyboard from my 2012 MacBook Pro. It's just so much more comfortable. But compared to what Apple was using prior to this? World of difference.
The “Touch Bar” is something I’ve been resistant to. Yes, the more I use it the more I love it, but I would honestly prefer to have my function keys back. That being said, for the apps which use the thing, it is very nice. So handy (Photoshop’s Touch Bar is ever so dreamy!). For apps where I need the function keys, I am slowly adjusting to having to hold down the “fn” keys to get them back. Maybe there’s a way to make function keys stay showing on an app-by-app basis, but I haven’t found that. Maybe there’s a 3rd party app for it.
Touch ID is something I was looking forward to. I hate, hate, hate typing passwords, so this should be a huge deal for me, right? Well... not really. For some functions, yes, Touch ID pops up and asks me to put my finger on the sensor. But a great deal of the time I am still being asked to type my password. In the past 6 hours of setting up this new machine, I've typed my Apple password dozens of times. So what the f#@& good is Touch ID then? When companies like Apple make a big showing of encouraging security by suggesting complex passwords, but then you have to actually remember and type those passwords, THEN NOBODY IS GOING TO USE COMPLEX PASSWORDS! Such bullshit. I thought Touch ID would be a very cool thing to have. For the most part it hasn’t been. This sucks. Once again Apple is saying one thing to appear like they have our interests at heart, but then doing something completely opposite.
Why Apple thinks that a trackpad this huge is necessary is a mystery. I am seeing no benefit to it. The smaller one on my old MacBook Pro was better for me. This big one feels "mushy." Click-dragging (and two-finger tapping), which I can’t imagine anybody living without, is still an “Accessibility” feature. It really should be with the rest of the trackpad options (or in both places). Alas, until I get used to the larger size, my hand has been “soft-clicking” for me and it’s really annoying... I may have to turn click-dragging off, which would be awful. And, if I can be all nitpicky, natural scrolling is still enabled by default... ugh.
Display resolution scales nicely... which is critical for people like me with aging eyes! My old MacBook Pro was set to a resolution of 1440 x 900. I have the new one magnified a bit at 1536 x 960. Visually it looks similar to what I was using, I just get a little bit extra real estate thanks to less bezel and more screen. Nice! Not only that, the display is frickin’ gorgeous! The best I’ve ever seen. And it’s bright too! This is the first Mac that I don’t have to put at full brightness in order to view the display comfortably.
The sound on this thing is really sweet in all the right ways. The bass is out of this world for a laptop. The difference in quality from my old MacBook Pro is really noticeable. There's nothing quite like blasting The Sun Always Shines on TV by a-ha and having it fill the room. Interesting to note that there’s a “popping sound bug” that Apple has acknowledged. I haven't noticed it, but apparently they are releasing a fix any minute now (or so I’ve read).
This laptop has a massive 100 watt-hour battery. It is rated 11 hours for regular tasks (ie not running massive Photoshop chores). After installing all my apps, I have been mostly just writing and surfing the internet. It's been about 4 hours. I have about 70% of my battery left, so this is probably accurate.
The cooling system is supposed to be robust. That may be the case, but I find the fans are running on high speed often enough to be noticeable. A lot. Like a lot a lot. More than even my 8-year-old MacBook running modern applications! This is a bit surprising. Is the processor really stressed this bad all the time? I mean, sure, some intensive operations in Photoshop I get... but typing an email? I think that all of my files have been indexed by Spotlight, so I’m not getting what’s happening. Hopefully it’s just some other background process from setup that will eventually calm down.
Setup is as easy as it gets. Seriously, if there’s one thing that Apple never stops improving on, it’s setting up a new Mac. iCloud settings are finally working like they should. Accounts transfer over effortlessly. Settings are all migrated. With the exception of waiting for my apps to download, Dropbox to sync, and email to load into Mail, I was up and running very quickly. So nice. Except... email account settings in Apple Mail don’t transfer over the Advanced Server Settings so you can establish a root folder. You have to adjust it yourself. Why? If everything else transfers over, why not this one simple setting? Regardless, I sure wish 3rd party apps would utilize syncing. It’s frustrating to have to import my spam database corpus for SpamSieve manually... load my MarsEdit settings manually... etc... etc... etc...
And that's that.
So far, anyway.
Without the noticeable downgrade of the keypad and the trackpad (and, to a lesser extend the upgrade of the display and the sound), this is essentially a repeat of my existing 8-year-old MacBook Pro. And that's the point. That's exactly what I wanted.
How often can you say that now-a-days?
Posted on Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
A while ago I was at the store and saw that the University of Washington Tree Fruit Program's hotly anticipated new apple, the Cosmic Crisp, was available! How exciting! And then... the price tag... THREE DOLLARS AND FORTY-NINE CENTS A POUND?!? This was so outrageous a cost for an apple that I was looking to see if it came with a free gold brick or something. But nope! THREE DOLLARS AND FORTY-NINE CENTS A POUND!
Too rich for my blood. I think 88¢ a pound for apples is extravagant. I took a pass.
But when I went to the store yesterday, they were "only" $2.99 a pound. Which is insane. But I bought one... a single apple at a $1.52 cost... just to give them a try.
As I was walking out to the parking lot it occured to me that they probably released them at a crazy $3.49 a pound so that everybody would think that $2.99 a pound was sane by comparison and buy them. Genius. It sure worked on me.
Here is what the Cosmic Crisp looks like, from a glamorshot photo on the University of Washington website...
It's pretty. A deep red, but not so deep it doesn't register as red.
There are a few things I've learned about the apple...
But whatever. How does my $1.52 apple taste?
Pretty good. Though I don't get Honeycrisp out of it. It has more of a Winesap slant. Tart with a bit of sweetness... with a really crispy snap to it. For snacking I don't like it as well as the Pink Lady (AKA Cripps Pink, an Australian import) or Honeycrisp, but it's a shit-ton better than crappy Red Delicious apples, which are not so delicious (I'd argue they're mostly tasteless).
I have no idea how Cosmic Crisp cooks up. I can't afford to make a $10.50 apple pie. I'd guess they're fine. For pies I prefer Pink Lady (when they are on sale) or Granny Smith. For apple crisp I prefer Braeburn. For applesauce I like Golden Delicious or Gravenstein. Yet I almost always end up with Fuji because they are generally the apple that's on sale. And that's fine. Fuji are good for snacking and make decent pies and dessert.
I won't buy Red Delicious for 5¢ a pound. I have no clue why they are still grown.
And I sure as heck won't buy Cosmic Crisp until the price drops way, way lower than it is now.
Posted on Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
I have been working day and night to complete a project by my Friday deadline. It hasn't been easy because my brain has turned mooshy and it's difficult to think when you have a mooshy brain.
One consequence of concentrating everything I have on work is that I am completely ignoring the outside world. To be honest, I'm probably better off. When I was flipping through channels so I could get to Hallmark, I landed on some kind of news program discussing some people's desire for a "second civil war" if President Trump is impeached, and that was enough. I mean, come on. He did it. There is overwhelming evidence he abused the power of his office for personal gain and should be impeached... and quite possibly removed. Cases like this is why impeachment exists! And yet... there are people who say this should be ignored because they are so caught up in the non-stop lies of the Trump Administration that they refuse to listen to the truth. Seriously, if President Obama had done even the tiniest fraction of the crap Trump has done, these same people would be calling for him to not only be impeached and removed, they'd want him to be executed. It's complete madness.
But oh well. Such is the world we live in.
I had my nose in my laptop and didn't look outside all night. When I did, I was surprised to see that it's snowing out...
Only time will tell if it will last. Tomorrow's forecast says it will be sunny skies through the afternoon with the temperature gettiing up to 42 degrees... which then has a 70% chance of leading to rain in the evening. In which case, bye bye snow. Personally, I would be happy if the snow didn't stick around and hold off until I'm done traveling on the 31st.
But since when do I get what I want?
Some little kid who is much more pure of heart than I is probably wishing for a white Christmas and we all know who Santa is going to listen to.
Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2019
On Friday I was walking through a parking lot to the mini-mart when a car came bombing around a corner and hit me. I was knocked down and my keys and iPhone went flying. They weren't driving terribly fast... but it was way too fast for a parking lot and totally fast enough to knock me off my feet.
The screen protector on my iPhone was shattered. But when I removed it the iPhone was in flawless condition. Since nothing was broken (including me) I told them to be more careful and slow down, then went on with my life.
Alas, the next morning my iPhone display was "banding" (there were dark stripes going across the display). Later in the evening my display was getting progressively dark and when I woke up on Sunday it was completely black.
I am still traumatized from the heinous fucking treatment I had to endure courtesy of Apple "Support" when I attempted to make a claim on my AppleCare+ insurance plan... so it will be a while before I'm ready to blog about that bullshit. But I absolutely will. Suffice to say that Apple "Support" is made of 100% asshole, still, and the number of times I heard "There's nothing I can do!" from "support" leads was staggering. Which means either A) They are lying for whatever reason, or B) Apple management doesn't empower their leads with the power to do
Eventually I did FINALLY manage to get my phone replaced and it arrived today.
Setting up a replacement iPhone is blissfully effortless. You log in to iCloud and restore from a backup. BLAM! You're done.
Except... not so much.
After my email accounts transfered over, I had the same error THAT I HAD A YEAR AGO when I got a new phone. The same error THAT I HAD THREE MONTHS AGO when I got a new phone.
A message pops up which says "CANNOT VERIFY SERVER IDENTITY"...
You click "Details" and the pop-up disappears but nothing happens.
You click "Cancel" and the pop-up disappears but nothing happens.
Then the dialog box comes back over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over AND FUCKING OVER AGAIN! And it simply will not stop no matter what you do. Every five seconds it comes back.
When you search through Apple's knowledgebase, you'll see that this bug has been discussed SINCE TWO-THOUSAND-FUCKING-SIXTEEN! It's been around and been reported FOR THREE DAMN YEARS! And Apple won't do fucking shit to fix it. Your ONLY option is to delete your email account and start over. Which means that migrating your email accounts is essentially useless. How damn hard is it to have the "Details" button bring up a sheet where you can choose to "trust" the server?
I guess Apple has bigger fish to fry.
Like ensuring that their "support" team treats their customers like shit.
Posted on Friday, December 13th, 2019
It's Friday! Which would be great except I'm working all weekend.
This post is a spoiler-laden discussion of the movie Passengers from 2016 which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. If you haven't seen the film, then go watch it (or not, it's up to you) before proceeding (or not, it's up to you)...
I put off seeing Passengers despite being a big fan of Chris Pratt and a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence because I read a couple reviews on Rotten Tomatoes which said it was problematic, so I passed. The review that sticks in my mind most was called Passing Jerks, which I just Googled... it was by Ryan Syrek at The Reader. His review was particularly harsh, because he essentially boiled it down to a "love your abuser" flick. Something I had no interest in watching.
Fast forward, and...
A while back I saw that Passengers was on, and decided to see just how awful it was.
Except I actually liked it.
Jim Preston is on a space ship that's on a 120-year journey to a colony on another planet. Thanks to damage to his sleep pod by an asteroid strike, he wakes up 90 years early and, because reasons, it's impossible for anybody to go back into hibernation for the rest of the journey.
It's at this point I am going to agree with Ryan Syrek on one thing... Pratt's character of Jim Preston is pretty awful when he decides to wake up a woman named Aurora from sleep because he fell in love with her writing (and looks, I'm sure). Since she can't go back into sleep, he does this knowing that he's dooming her to die on the journey... then lies to her and tells her that her sleep pod must have been damaged too.
But to all of Syrek's other points? Not so much.
Ryan Syrek reads like one of those movie reviewers who considers themself to be a morally superior social justice warrior who is so far above any possible failing that they can completely omit pertinent information about a film which doesn't support their narrative. If he would have at least acknowledged that the film addressed his problems... but still failed to win him over... I could at least respect his critique. As it is, I cannot help but go back to his first paragraph...
"What’s that, Chris? You want to be a super-duper, dimple-chinned movie hunk? Bend over and bore us while your once-charismatic baby blues go fully dead inside."
First of all, Chris Pratt's eyes are green.
Second of all, saying that Chris Pratt "bent over," thus using a homophobic slur to say that he sold out his career to star in this movie, makes the only passing jerk here Ryan Syrek. Talk about somebody who must be dead inside. Because, just like J-Law, Chris Pratt is one of the biggest movie stars on earth and doesn't have to sell out a damn thing.
As for me? Yeah. The movie is highly problematic... at first. But I cannot ignore that there were explanations for why the characters acted the way they did. Jim did a horrendous wrong not just for fun or because Aurora was pretty... it was because he was horrendously lonely and couldn't stop himself after reading her words which felt as though they were speaking just to him. Aurora didn't forgive him because she didn't want to die a lonely spinster, she forgave him because that was the choice which was least painful to her after she had fallen in love with the guy. She chose to forgive him. She chose to rescue him. She chose to stay with him. Far from being a victim, Aurora could have gone right back to her life the way it was going to be at the end of the movie... but all the choices were hers and she made her choice. Then, as we find out from her book, she didn't regret the choice she made and the life she lived.
Like I said, I enjoyed the film. I thought it had a lot to say about redemption and forgiveness that many critics overlooked in a rush to be politically correct. The special effects were pretty great too.
And I really liked the ending where they show the tree that was planted and the home that Aurora and Jim built together... plus a maintenance robot who has apparently been harvesting vegetables...
So... I don't know if I recommend this movie or not. I can see where people might have serious problems with it, and that's okay. To me it worked, and the film itself addressed many of the criticisms that were dropped on it. But don't listen to me... or the critics... if the film looks interesting to you, judge for yourself.
Posted on Saturday, December 14th, 2019
UPDATE: "Hallmark is, and always has been, committed to diversity and inclusion – both in our workplace as well as the products and experiences we create. It is never Hallmark's intention to be divisive or generate controversy. We are an inclusive company and have a track record to prove it. We have LGBTQ greeting cards and feature LGBTQ couples in commercials. We have been recognized as one of the Human Rights Campaigns Best Places to Work, and as one of Forbes America's Best Employers for Diversity. We have been a progressive pioneer on television for decades – telling wide ranging stories that elevate the human spirit such as August Wilson's The Piano Lesson and Colm Tóibín's The Blackwater Lightship, both of which highlight the importance of tolerance and understanding. Hallmark will be working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands. The Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials."
I don't know about being a "progressive pioneer"... as I mention below, they barely... and I mean barely... acknowledge that LGBTQ persons even exist in the movies which play on Hallmark Movie Channel. Perhaps now that they will be working with GLAAD, that will change.
All I do know is that I am overjoyed at the thought that bigoted heads are exploding over at One Dozen Moms. The piece of shit bigoted fucking assholes. And here is my original post...
And so... I guess I'm done with Hallmark.
As has been widely reported on the news, Hallmark Channel stopped airing a commercial featuring a same-sex couple getting married once the hate organization "One Million Moms" decided to stage a boycott. Never mind that "One Million" is more likely just a dozen hateful fucking dumbass bigoted pieces of shit with a Facebook group and a website... this was just wrong on Hallmark's part. In their complaint, One Dozen Moms said that Hallmark Channel is "usually safe for family viewing. But unfortunately, that is not the case anymore." Because two people are kissing... something that happens all the fucking time in Hallmark movies... is somehow "not family-friendly" when it's between two women...
Well fuck that. You accepted the commercial for airing. To backtrack now is cowardly and shows the entire world that you buckle to hate organizations.
It's insane shit like this that creates a toxicity which causes LGBTQ youth to kill themselves.
And I will not be a part of that.
As you might have guessed from the section of Blogography devoted to my obsession with Hallmark movies, there's no bigger fan of trashy Hallmark movies than I am. Even so...
Seriously. Fuck Hallmark and their culture of bigotry and support of hate organizations.
It's one thing to not feature LGBTQ characters in your fictional movies and programming... it's another thing entirely to say that LGBTQ persons in Real Life are "not family-friendly."
What hurts the most here is not that I won't have Hallmark movies as background noise while I work any more... they're all the same story, so who really gives a shit... it's that there are numerous LGBTQ persons in front of the camera and behind the scenes at Hallmark that deserve better than this. Peter Porte, one of my favorite Hallmark actors (who is in one of my all-time Hallmark movies, Love at the Shore), is gay. He was married to his husband last year...
But now his employer is essentially saying "Your marriage and relationship is not family-friendly."
This kind of bigotry and discrimination is fucked up and disgusting. Same-sex marriage... or MARRIAGE, as I call it... is legal and recognized in this country. But even if it wasn't, it's still pretty fucked up that you would treat the people in your employ, people who are responsible for your success, with this kind of hate.
In all honesty, I thought that Hallmark might be changing. That they had a secret agenda to redefine their antiquated idea of "normal" and slowly... oh so slowly... change the perceptions of their viewer base.
In Road to Christmas, Jessy Schram is trying to assemble the adopted sons of her boss for a television show. One of Chad Michael Murray's brothers is "David" who co-owns a pet shelter with his partner. It is not explicitly stated that they are a gay couple. But you know. In this year's Valentine in the Vineyard, Rachael Leigh Cook and Brendan Penny are at a couple's relationship-building workshop... and one of the couples at their table were two guys. It was such a tiny acknowledgement, but it was an important step for Hallmark. My hope was that eventually LGBTQ representation would gradually creep into more and more movies until we finally got a LGBTQ couple as leads. But having Hallmark cave to a hate group like they have puts any of that in serious doubt.
Fortunately there are other networks producing trashy romance movies I can watch. Netflix has no problem at all acknowledging that LBGTQ persons exist, so that's where I'll get my background noise now.
Because until Hallmark leaves bigotry behind and stops contributing to the toxicity which is responsible for our LGBTQ youth killing themselves... which is responsible for the inequality of LGBTQ relationships... which is responsible for our fellow LGBTQ humans being persecuted and treated like second-class citizens... I won't be supporting them and the hate they support.
Hallmark claims to be "The Heart of TV."
But they've just proven that's not the case at all.
Posted on Sunday, December 15th, 2019
The end of Watchment may be nigh, but Blogography will carry on, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Who's... Well, that was special. I was a little disappointed that the pre-ending was telegraphed so far in advance that there wasn't much of a surprise there. Though the end-ending was wonderfully in the spirit of the graphic novel ending, and that was appreciated. So... not so much a knock-it-out-of-the-park finale, but one that left me happy. At least Lindelof didn't completely shit the bed as he is wont to do.
Easily my favorite television program of 2019. Congratulations to Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, and everybody else involved.
• ...Watching... According to an article in Variety, showrunner Damon Lindelof doesn't have an idea for a second season. Which I find hilarious, because that didn't stop him when he was working on Lost...
But, yeah, Watchmen was a major success for HBO, so I'm guessing somebody will come up with an idea. Even if it's a bad one. And while that would be a pity... or possibly something actually great... it doesn't matter. This "first season" will endure in greatness.
• ...The Watchmen? In preparation for the finale, I re-watched all the prior episodes this past week. I will likely re-watch them all again sometime soon into the new year. I'm fairly certain that I caught all the connections and groundwork and Easter eggs and nods to the original... but you never know...
Everything was so well planned, thought out, and initiated that I'm sure there's more depth to be found. That's the joy of the series.
• Tracking. So... I really didn't think that I could be surprised by my new MacBook Pro. I was wrong. This weekend I cut my finger trying to get a piece of potato out of my fry chopper. It was bleeding pretty bad, so I had to double-bandage it so I wasn't bleeding over everything. And then I attempted to click on my trackpad. But couldn't. BECAUSE THE NEW TRACKPADS DON'T ACTUALLY MOVE WHEN YOU PRESS ON THEM! That "click" is just haptic feedback which gives you the illusion that you're clicking on something. Naked finger? Click. Bandaged finger? No click. Weird. When I Googled how it works, I got this. Keen!
• Nugget. HEADLINE: Roxette Singer Marie Fredriksson Dies at 61...
This cuts me to the core. I love, love, LOVE Roxette. Not just the debut album, EVERY album. I still have their music in regular rotation to this day. I was so happy when Marie recovered and was able to bless us with her magic again. She had a tough road, but was always positive and loving towards her fans. What a remarkable woman. What a remarkable talent. What a remarkable VOICE. You will very much be missed by me... and your legion of dedicated fans. Rest in peace, Marie.
• Nugget. HEADLINE: Chuy Bravo, Chelsea Handler's Chelsea Lately Sidekick, Dead at 63...
Yes, he was the butt of many jokes... but he was also very funny in his own right. He was a huge part of what kept me watching Chelsea Lately. You will be missed, sir.
• Once You Pop... IT'S PRINGLE RICK!!!
I love Rick and Morty more than the vast majority of programs on television. Watching them sell out like this fills my heart with joy. It's just so Rick and Morty!
• Hallmark Channel Update. "Hallmark is, and always has been, committed to diversity and inclusion – both in our workplace as well as the products and experiences we create. It is never Hallmark's intention to be divisive or generate controversy. We are an inclusive company and have a track record to prove it. We have LGBTQ greeting cards and feature LGBTQ couples in commercials. We have been recognized as one of the Human Rights Campaigns Best Places to Work, and as one of Forbes America's Best Employers for Diversity. We have been a progressive pioneer on television for decades – telling wide ranging stories that elevate the human spirit such as August Wilson's The Piano Lesson and Colm Tóibín's The Blackwater Lightship, both of which highlight the importance of tolerance and understanding. Hallmark will be working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands. The Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials."
I am not willing to forgive and forget just yet. I am still boycotting because this is far, far too important to ignore. But I am totally overjoyed at the thoughts of bigoted heads exploding over at One Dozen Moms. The piece of shit fucking assholes. Priceless. We shall see if Hallmark has learned anything. We shall see if GLAAD is satisfied. We shall see if they live up to their promise of inclusion. We shall see. In the meanwhile? Fuck them. I am just fine doing without Hallmark in my life until they have shown that they are worth supporting again. Promises get broken every day.
Until next Sunday then. Because nothing ever ends...
Posted on Monday, December 16th, 2019
Yeah, yeah, I know. It's Monday. But I wanted to get my Hallmark post up as soon as possible, which was Caturday... then it was Bullet Sunday... which leaves us Caturday on Monday. Everybody will just have to deal, I guess.
As I've mentioned a few times, there is a stray cat in my neighborhood whom I named "Fake Jake" after my brother was housesitting and let him in thinking that he was my Jake who had gotten outside somehow. He is a very sweet cat... but also an overly-enthusiastic cat with very sharp claws, so you kind of have to watch out when you're petting him.
Fake Jake belonged to a family down the street. When they moved, they took him with them... but he obviously didn't care for his new digs because he would keep running back to us. For a while there I was trapping him and calling them to come get him. But eventually they stopped coming so I stopped calling. Myself and my neighbor have been feeding him and watching out for him, so I guess it's all good.
I would have brought him inside long ago except... he is very much an outdoor cat. And he is highly aggressive towards other cats. Many a time I have caught him lunging at Jake and Jenny when they are out chilling in the catio...
And so... he gets to remain an outdoor cat.
Though that's tough for me to stomach when it's raining or cold out. Especially when it's cold out, and I see him trying to hunker down and conserve body heat...
When I got back from my Antarctica trip, I couldn't take it any more. I purchased an "igloo" cat shelter. To make sure it was warm enough, I built a berm out of pipe insulation to help keep heat in. I tried to make a door flap, but he felt trapped and wouldn't stay inside...
Fake Jake took to it right away...
I installed a camera on the roof so I can check to make sure he's doing okay...
As winter dragged on, the weather was getting unbearably bitter cold. I worried that he would not be able to stay warm enough, so I found an electric "warming pad" to help him out. It doesn't actually get "warm to the touch"... it's designed to rise in temperature when something is set on top of it. Basically to keep the animal from freezing. He really liked that. Now he was in the shelter throughout the day when he got cold instead of only at night.
Eventually I bought a second shelter and warming pad for the back-side of the condos (where he is fed) so he could choose where he wanted to sleep. For a while he was swapping between them. Then one day he stopped using the back shelter. Knowing that the cold weather is harder on cats as they get older, I thought that maybe a heating element in the ceiling would help to keep him warm on both sides. So I cut a removable panel, installed a ceramic element, then fixed a grate over it so Fake Jake wouldn't get burned. In freezing temperatures, it stayed at a cozy 62° which seemed perfect...
The shelters are under the eaves of the roof, so they are kept free of snow... but I wanted to cover up the electronics just the same. But before I did, I thought I would test it to make sure Fake Jake was okay with it. Turns out he was not. He would jump in, enjoy the warmth for a bit, then hop out and leave. He would not sleep there. So at 10:00 at night I finally went out and restored his old shelter. Then, as I was bringing in his newest shelter, I notice that it reeked of cat pee! So that's why he stopped using the back shelter! Some other cat came along and peed in it! Can't say that I blamed him.
I tried scrubbing everything with soap and water, but that did nothing. So now I'm trying different urine-enzyme-killing cleaners to see if I can get the smell out that way.
In the meanwhile, I was being kept up at nights worrying that the warming pad might die and Fake Jake would end up freezing because now he had only one place to go. I couldn't afford to buy the parts for a third shelter, so instead I bought a WiFi temperature sensor on sale on Cyber Monday. I sliced the berm underneath and set the sensor inside of it so it's in contact with the warming pad. I also put it on the side of the shelter where Fake Jake prefers to sleep. I then set an alert that would be sent to my iPhone if the temperature ever drops below 38°, which is way too cold for a shorthair cat to be sleeping in.
What I've found (thanks to the temperature data that the unit collects) is a bit surprising.
No matter how cold it gets... even down to 24° so far... the temperature when in contact with the warming pad hovers around 60°. If Fake Jake is sleeping where the temperature sensor is, it records temperatures over 70°!!! In fact, you can literally see when Fake Jake is in the shelter or out of the shelter just by looking at the temperature!
This morning around 1am, Fake Jake hopped into the shelter for a nap when the outdoor temperature was 27°. The sensor was reading 61° from being on top of the pad... but increased to 72° when Fake Jake was there! Then apparently he left at 2am because the temperature started falling...
Now, seriously, how amazing is that?
Not only do I not have to worry about the warming pad failing because the sensor will alert my phone when it gets too cold... I have also been way too concerned about how cold Fake Jake gets in severe weather. Because, wow, 72°?!? That's what I have my thermostat set to inside my house! Sure, I am still a little upset that the part of his body not on the pad is getting cold... but when I look at the timelapse footage of him sleeping, it looks like he's just flipping over every 10-20 minutes. So he's seriously doing just fine!
Which is a relief, of course, but I still want to see if I can get the cat pee smell out of the second shelter with the heating element. That would be cat paradise for Fake Jake, and he'd go back to having two places to stay warm and dry throughout the winter.
Posted on Tuesday, December 17th, 2019
It is no secret that I am a massive, massive fan of the films of Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli. I own all the DVDs. I have the VHS and DVD imports. I have all the "making of" books. I even managed to get tickets and attend a rare American appearance by Miyazaki-san himself when he was in Los Angeles. There is just no end to the respect, admiration, and love I have for these animated masterpieces.
So naturally I jumped at the chance to purchase them digitally when iTunes finally had the films for sale this morning. There goes the iTunes Gift Cards I bought on Black Friday.
Surprisingly, there's no "Master Collection Bundle" to purchase all the films in one go. The closest you can get is a $100 "Six Films Collection" which includes some of Studio Ghibli's most popular animated classics...
All the other movies have to be purchased individually. This is a bit odd considering that three of his more critically renowned works (Only Yesterday, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and Grave of the Fireflies) don't get a bundle treatment.
I must say... it was worth the wait. Because every dubbed film purchase also gets you a subtitled version with the original Japanese actors! Don't get me wrong... the English-speaking casting is always good (Phil Hartman as Jiji in Kiki's Delivery Service is sheer genius), but I really enjoy hearing them as they were originally intended. The films are animated to the voice track, and sometimes the English dub doesn't quite get to where the original performances were at.
I have no idea why Miyazaki-san finally relented to digital distribution. I believe that he's gone on record more than once about wanting his work seen in theaters first... and perhaps television if a theatrical viewing is not possible. I think he bristled at the idea of the sublime subtlety of his animation getting lost on a tiny phone screen. And, to be honest, you can hardly blame him.
Studio Ghibli struck a deal with HBO Max to distribute all their films for streaming (starting next May, I believe). Given their long association with Disney, this was a bit shocking... but I guess Disney+ didn't want to pony up enough money to make it happen. The iTunes announcement came afterwards and was a bit of a surprise. I thought perhaps the films would never be released digitally... certainly not while Miyazaki-san is alive.
But here we are.
Even more exciting is Hayao Miyazaki's final film... an adaptation of 君たちはどう生きるか (How Do You Live?), which is a hugely famous 1937 novel in Japan. It is hoped that this movie will be released next year, but I haven't seen an official release date yet.
Posted on Wednesday, December 18th, 2019
Aquiring a mortgage and other massive expenses makes it so that I really have to watch where my money goes. One of the best tools I've found for that is the "pro" version of the TrueBill app on my iPhone. For $3 a month, the app helps me to track my spending and plan for expenses, all while keeping me on top of my bills and credit cards. It also makes it easy for me to squirrel away the money I save for my Black Friday Shopping day... and my vacation. It's surprising just how helpful it's been and I wish I had started using it earlier.
One of the things that surprised me most after tracking expenses was how much I was spending on groceries. I knew they're expensive every time I end up at the store. What I didn't expect was how much it was all adding up to. The monthly total was staggering and caught me off guard when I saw it. A trip here... a trip there... the amount going towards groceries was absurd.
That's when I started buying generic or store brands instead of name brands... making my own meals instead of buying prepared... and, of course, only buying something when it was on sale (unless I had no choice). In short order I had cut my grocery bill by 30%. After a while I was pushing 40% because I got smarter about buying ahead, freezing, not buying stuff I don't need, and hunting down sales and specials.
And then there was eating out at restaurants.
I used to eat out at least twice a week. Sometimes much more when work was piled up. Which, this time of year, is often. I never gave it a thought. I never kept track. I never kept a total. But TrueBill put the expense in vivid relief. If the money I was spending on groceries was surprising, the money I was spending on restaurants was downright shocking. Once I had it spelled out for me, I stopped eating out.
From there it was only a short reach to canceling magazine subscriptions, cutting cable, and reducing the amount of money spent on entertainment.
So now, all these months later, I've gone from having absolutely nothing at the end of the month and wondering where all the money went... to not having to stress so much and being able to set aside a few bucks for when unexpected expenses come up. Which is almost certain to include a new water heater or (shudder) a new HVAC system one day all too soon.
It's a far better feeling than I ever got from the money I was tossing at things I didn't need to be spending it on.
All it took was finally taking a look at what I was spending. And finding an app to help me do it.
Posted on Thursday, December 19th, 2019
I woke up this morning, grabbed my laptop to start my work day, noticed the date, then had the wind completely knocked out of me. Maybe one day I won't feel completely and utterly crushed on my mom's birthday, but it's not today. The second birthday without her is no easier than the first.
After feeding the cats I thumbed through a few of the travel books I made for her, then felt a little better. I'm so overwhelmingly grateful for the time we had and the many, many amazing memories from our trips together that it seems selfish to stay sad.
...it's the little things which happen day-today that keep destroying me.
Running across a note with her handwriting in the glovebox.
Finding small wooden elephant she bought in Laos while looking for a paperclip.
Seeing a potholder she bought from Disney World while baking bread.
Getting a Christmas card addressed to her in my mailbox.
Having somebody ask how she's doing while buying groceries.
The list goes on and on and on. Every day. All the time. In places where I'm least expecting it.
Happiest of birthdays to you, mom. I love and miss you every day.
Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2019
Yesterday is was overcast but generally pleasant weather. Then the next thing I know it's snowing. It's snowing a lot. I generally accept that the location I live at is going to be filled with snowy winter days, so it's not the actual snowfall that bothers me. It's the people driving in it.
My five minute drive home took closer to 20 because everybody in Snow Central has forgotten how to drive in the snow. Once I got home, the garbage and recycle cans were put away, Fake Jake got a snack when I checked to make sure his shelter was snow-free, and I shoveled a path for him so he can get to the places he likes to go. Though most of his time was spent sitting on my sidewalk runner waiting for the snow to stop...
Alas, it was not to stop any time soon and he had to trudge through a little snow to get back to his warm and comfy spot.
A quick look at the forecast said that it would be stopping and turning to rain in the evening, but it never did. It just kept snowing and snowing and snowing.
When I finally turned in at 1:00am, there looked to be a foot accumulated. Which means Fake Jake will be running up and complaining that his path is blocked when I get home tonight. I'm really getting too old for shoveling all the way around my house, so perhaps it's time to invest in one of those "power shovels." I didn't like that they had a power cord and had to be "scooped," but now they have cordless models from Earthwise with wheels that look pretty well-constructed and have decent reviews...
Guess that will be what I'm saving up for in the New Year. Assuming it continues to dump snow like it has been.
The last thing I want is for a cat who knows where I live to be mad at me.
Posted on Saturday, December 21st, 2019
Jakey-Bear is a big kitty. Which has always been a mystery to me. My cats have never been over-fed. They don't get nearly the amount of food recommended on the package (cat food companies want to sell more cat food, so that's not surprising). Early on I would catch him eating Jenny's food when she would walk away, but I solved this by serving smaller portions throughout the day so that Jenny wouldn't fill up and walk away before her portion was eaten. So why?
Did you just call me fat?!?
Jenny is the opposite. She begs me for food whenever I get near the kitchen. And every time I have to gently tell her "Noooo... you just had your food." It's like she's hungry all the time! But she's far from starving. She's at a healthy weight. Which I guess makes her a normal cat.
Are any of these crumbs edible?
Jake is now permanently attached to me at night. I've woken up and found him on top of me... I've woken up and found him on my head... I've woken up and found him glued to my ass...
I move a lot while sleeping. Jake doesn't seem bothered. Jenny is bothered, but still likes belly rubs...
Lastly... funny story. I keep catching Jake grooming his claws the same way Jenny does. He starts out fairly gentle with the pedicure but then really starts ripping into them..
Happiest of Caturdays to you!
Posted on Sunday, December 22nd, 2019
The holidays are nigh but there's still something to be happy about, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Movies? Does anybody at Apple actually use their shit? Because not a damn day goes by that I don't find bugs or serious problems. Just now it's trying to find a movie in the TV app. But everything is so fucked up that you really can't. Even worse? When you try to browse for it by selecting "movies," they show you a bunch of shit THAT ARE NOT EVEN FUCKING MOVIES...
Such a waste of time. iTunes may have sucked, but at least it wasn't a useless pile of shit.
• Remember. It's weird watching this and knowing EXACTLY what's happening. Not remembering, but not wanting to admit you don't remember. Not understanding, but being polite and pretending anyway. Not having any clarity of who, what, when, and where, but dismissing your confusion. Then an occasional moment where the dots connect and there's a spark of... something... in their eyes...
Hardest days of my life.
• a-ha! No, it's not as refined as the version that came after... but it's still a brilliant, beautiful, haunting song here...
It's so sad to me that a-ha is considered a one-hit wonder when they had so many remarkable songs following Take on Me. That first album is brilliant. But so are the ones which followed.
• Cuteness. I could spend hours watching raccoon videos on YouTube. I'm trying to cut down, but... man... BABY raccoons...
Nature is so amazing that it hurts.
• Retirement? Reality is a harsh mistress...
The future is scary, yo.
• Transcript? I'm just... it's just... I mean...
WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK?!? The transcript LITERALLY PROVES THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP IS GUILTY. If everybody willing to testify says he is guilty... and everybody who says he's innocent refuses to testify... doesn't that say ANYTHING about what's happening here? Does the truth even matter? Talk about reality being a harsh mistress. The future is terrifying, yo.
• Mystery. How Wrabel manages to keep churning out such beautiful work song after song after song is a mystery. This is a Christmas song for heaven's sake!
Happy Christmas, if that's your thing!
Have a great holiday...
Posted on Monday, December 23rd, 2019
Early this morning I got an alert that there was a person in my back yard. Since nobody has any business being there at 4:10am, I grab my phone to investigate. But all that's there is a cat sitting on the porch. Since Jake and Jenny are with me, I decide to ignore it and go back to sleep. But since it's a cat I've never seen before, I make a mental note to take a better look once I've actually woken up. I want to make sure that Fake Jake isn't being bothered by it.
I fell asleep angry that my security system thinks a cat is a person, but it happens so rarely I make my peace with it and drift off to SlumberLand.
Naturally I completely forget about it until I'm in bed tonight. I just took a look and now I know why surveillance thought the cat was a person... the feline was climbing the catio walls trying to get in! Motion that high up registers as a person, apparently.
I can't for the life of me understand what the cat is on about. Until I take a look at the catio camera. Then everything becomes clear.
The strange cat chased a bird into the catio.
And the noise eventually made Jake curious enough to investigate (I've sped everything up so you only have a minute and a half to look at)...
Of course eventually Jenny also got in on the action, though I think the bird must have managed to climb through the fence to freedom before she arrived. There was no trace of it on any camera after the initial mayhem. I feel bad when birds get trapped, but I'm not sure what I can do. So far only two birds have lost their lives due to the catio... which is far, far less bird deaths than if my cats were roaming free outside. So I guess it's a worthy trade-off? I dunno. Maybe when the weather warms up I will look into some fine mesh wire to tie to the exterior so birds can't get in at all. But I bristle at the idea of creating an even bigger barrier between my cats and the outside world. The reason I think they love it so much is because it feels like an entirely different environment. If I close the sides in further so they feel more like walls instead of a fence, then that kind of defeats the purpose.
I may be able to design some sort of shelf-spouts that a bird could get through but my cats are physically unable to reach.
Man. There's at least two months of Winter left and I've already got projects for Spring.
Posted on Tuesday, December 24th, 2019
Unlike last year when I had to chain up and drive through a snowstorm, this year it was a piece of cake to drive over the mountains.
It always surprises me how there are people who must not drive except that one time of the year when they have to... because Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the absolute worst. People just have no clue and I'm surprised that there aren't more accidents than there are. Because ideal road conditions just means that people pay even less attention to what they're doing.
Oh well. I survived the journey, so I guess now I just get to relax and settle into some holiday meriment...
Hope everybody has a good pre-holiday holiday.
Posted on Wednesday, December 25th, 2019
I may not celebrate the holiday now, but when I was growing up Christmas was a huge deal. And because of that, my childhood Christmases are well-documented. There are many, many photos from over the years. Thanks to them being digitized, I can look at them any time I want. And what better day than today?
Here is just a tiny sampling...
Christmas Day was always the same routine when I was young...
My brother and I wake up way too early and wait for mom and dad to wake up so we can open presents.
We'd tear into the mountain of gifts under the tree.
Mom would pull out a tray of Svenhard's Swedish Bakery "Horns A Plenty" sweet Danishes, slather them with butter, then heat them under a broiler. Then serve them up with hot chocolate. Best breakfast ever.
We'd play with our Christmas loot until it was time to pack up the car and head to grandma and grandpa's house.
More presents followed by Christmas dinner at the grandparents.
Back home to play with new toys until we'd pass out.
As I got older, Christmas was increasingly more sedate, but Svenhard's "Horns A Plenty" for breakfast never changed. Except eventually we got a microwave, so mom would nuke them instead of broiling them. A couple years ago I bought some for nostalgia's sake and was shocked at how sweet they were. I remember them being more "buttery" than "sweet" and now it's the opposite.
But the memories themselves are pretty sweet.
And so... to all those who celebrate it... have yourself a happy Christmas!
Posted on Thursday, December 26th, 2019
My last trip of the year is usually in early December. This year it's the week after Christmas. AKA the worst possible days to travel. I know this from personal experience, having done this twice before. Once because I was stranded by bad weather while traveling. And once because I didn't know any better.
I stopped my Christmas drinking early and went to bed early so I would be able to wake up early this morning. Neither helped, because I was still completely exhausted when my alarm rang at 4:30am. Fortunately I was already on the coast so I only had to drive a half-hour to the airport instead of 3-1/2 as I usually would.
It was foggy at Seatac which meant the plane sat on the tarmac for an hour while traffic cleared.
The flight was completely uneventful once we finally took off, which is the best kind of flight to have.
And now I'm eating questionable airport hotel food so tomorrow morning I can drive to my worksite. Not really sure what the traffic will be like on a Friday after Christmas, but I'm preparing for the worst.
Like I always do when I travel.
Posted on Friday, December 27th, 2019
Winter in the Northeast is not as nice as Winter in the Northwest for some reason. For one thing (and I honestly don't understand how this happens considering I live farther North than I am right now) it seems to get darker sooner. Our 4:00pm is their 3:30. Maybe the weather patterns hold the overcast in tighter so it just feels that way? I dunno. But it's pretty depressing.
This morning my entire life was put on hold so I could watch the season finale of The Mandalorian (AKA "That Baby Yoda Show"), which was actually quite good...
It's strange how this 8-episode television series felt more "Star Wars" than just about anything which followed The Empire Strikes Back. Perhaps Rogue One is the exception for me (I loved that movie)... but I'll definitely take The Mandalorian over Episodes 1-3 and Episodes 6-9 of "The Skywalker Saga." And I haven't even seen Episode 9 yet.
Hopefully we'll get something a little more ambitious for Season Two. As great as Season One was, it still dragged quite a bit in the middle.
After that was over it was time for my 2-1/2-hour drive north. Which sounds bad, but I'll take it over the 3-1/2-hour drive that I get to make in the Summer when the roads are swarming with tourists. That's travel torture right there.
And speaking of travel torture... now it's time to decide if I want to eat questionable hotel food for the second night in a row... or brave the cold and try my luck at a restaurant.
Either way, it's likely I'm setting myself up for disappointment.
Posted on Saturday, December 28th, 2019
And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year.
Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of movies I saw that came out this year." As always, there's a bunch of movies I never saw that would have probably ended up on my list (we'll get to that later). And here we go...
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw.
#1 Avengers: Endgame
This should shock absolutely nobody. Easily one of the greatest super-hero movies of all time, and even more easily one of the biggest cinematic spectacles ever created... but also managed to have real heart and some eye-popping entertainment value. My extended review is here, and there's not much more I can add to it except that no other film came close to changing my mind as to what movie deserved the #1 spot on my list.
#2 Captain Marvel
As perhaps the single most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe, bringing Carol Danvers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was like dancing around a keg of lit dynamite. How in the heck do you manage it in a way that doesn't drastically overshadow everybody else? In Avengers: Endgame you do it by having the mother of all-powerful villains. In her solo movie you do it by greatly reducing her powers for the majority of the film. I have no idea what they will do for future appearances. And while the "youthification" CGI for Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg was far from flawless, it was surprisingly good. Good enough that Sam was on-screen almost as much as the lead character! But what really makes this movie a critical touchstone for the future of Marvel's film slate is that they introduced the Kree and the Skrulls. They are both a massive presence in the comics, and I can only imagine that they will be a big part of the MCU going forward.
#3 Knives Out
Rian Johnson is tough to pin down. He gives us a spectacular movie like Looper, follows up with something completely off-the-mark like The Last Jedi (SPAAAAACE LEIAAAAA!), then rises to even greater heights with Knives Out. As impressive a take on the murder-mystery as this is, the phenomenal cast is where it lives or dies. Smart, funny, and about as stylish as a movie gets, the twists and turns do not stop until the very end. I would say absolutely nothing on this film out of fears of spoiling it... but I will say to go see it.
#4 Jojo Rabbit
Taika Waititi is the gift that keeps on giving. Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok, and now this. There is no subject, no genre that's safe from his incredible talent and I couldn't be more happy about it. This is a comedy which features a young boy who's imaginary friend is... Adolf Hitler?!? What kind of filmmaker does that? Well, Taika Waititi does, and he completely knocks it out of the park. Good, silly fun with an innate sweetness that never goes too far, Jojo Rabbit is not without its problems, but the way it rises above them when taken as a whole is pretty darn inspiring.
#5 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
As a massive fan of everything Quentin Tarantino has ever done, this was the movie that I had the least expectation for. A washed-up actor and his stunt-double wandering around L.A. during The Manson Family murders? Really? Except, as usual, Tarantino has a lot more to say than the subject might otherwise suggest. This alternate-history of Sharon Tate is filled with great characters all having great character moments... and has an ending which was worth every minute of screen time it took to get there. Some of the detours were less successful than others (the Spahn Ranch scene went on way too long and the Italian wife came out of nowhere) but they are all parts of a whole, and the "whole" in this case is pretty great.
#6 Spider-Man: Far From Home
Whereas the first MCU Spider-Man finally... finally... treated us to a Spider-Man that was actually a kid like in the comic books (and found a story which took full advantage of it), the second outing is a step backwards. Using the idea of an international school trip (seriously, who bought that premise?) which takes students on a random (and changeable!) series of locations across Europe, there were just too many bad coincidences for this thing to hold together. Even worse, the fatherly presence of Tony Stark in the first film was badly missed this time around, even though they tried to cram him in via a magical pair of glasses. And yet... if you can ignore all the wacky coincidences... there's a lot here to love as well. Mysterio was reinvented for the MCU in a way that was actually quite clever. We get more Agent Fury, Happy Hogan, and Maria Hill. The action sequences were fantastic. And Tom Holland is still the best Spider-Man yet.
#7 John Wick 3: Parabellum
Look, there's no other way to say it except to just come out and say that this is the movie to see when you just want to see a lot of stylish violence done really well. It's a fun flick that doesn't aspire to be much more than a fun flick, and that's why it works so perfectly. I am totally ready for John Wick 4.
This movie is about Thailand more than anything else. Which, given my love for the country, would be enough for me to enjoy it. But that's only on the surface. If you take a minute to look under the surface, there's actually a lot going on. When a guy finds out his wife is having an affair, he invites his childhood best friend (the criminally underrated Breckin Meyer) to go on the trip he was surprising his wife with. And then you just kinda follow them along their journey as stuff happens... some of it pretty funny. Seth Green wrote, stars, and directed this gem, so full marks there. But I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to Patrick Ruth, who is the cinematographer. Every scene is beautifully shot, and that atmosphere is a major character in the film.
#9 Dolemite is My Name
I expected this to be funny with Eddie Murphy starring. I didn't expect it to be so touching. The fact that it's based on a real guy and the very real films he made makes this bizarre Blaxploitation story all the more entertaining. Perfectly presented and perfectly cast, this is Netflix at its finest: producing really good movies that major studios would likely pass on.
#10 The Farewell
Proving once again that everything Awkwafina touches turns to gold, this is a sweet, touching, and wholly remarkable film. Not a lot happens... and yet everything happens... as a family has to deal with a Chinese matriarch being diagnosed with precious little time to live, and everybody knowing about it except her. Apparently this very real situation exists in China. It allows the family to say goodbye without upsetting the person who's dying. The performances are all fantastic, which is essential for a movie like this. The moral and ethical wrangling are just icing on the cake.
If you're Jordan Peele, how do you follow Get Out? Apparently just like this. It's a less subtle effort, going more for outright horror than having an overreaching message (though it does). If there is a flaw, it's leaving too many points ambiguous or not very well fleshed out. And yet... it's a compelling movie even so, which could mean that Peele was smart to stick to the broad strokes and let the details remain unexplored. And yet...
#12 Late Night
This was a good story, not a great story, but the performances by Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling are what make this film appear on my list. As a behind-the-scenes look into late-night television shows it's less successful, but as a character piece for amazing talent it doesn't get much better than this.
DIDN'T SEE, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...
SHIT THE BED...
PROBABLY SHIT THE BED, BUT I WOULDN'T KNOW...
Posted on Sunday, December 29th, 2019
While I'm sure there's plenty of new music that I didn't find in 2019, I wasn't really looking for it. More and more I find myself retreating to old favorites rather than seeking out new stuff to enjoy. 80's pop, classic old-school rap, and 80's metal were all reminders of easier times, and that was where my refuge lay. So here is what's sure to be a very thin list, but it's what I managed to think of when asking myself what my favorites of 2019 were.
#1 Lover by Taylor Swift
I tend to ignore Taylor Swift, only becoming aware when one of her songs grabs me while listening to internet radio or something. But then Taylor performed the song ME! At the Billboard Music Awards with Brendon Urie, and she instantly became impossible to ignore. Not only was it a great pop song, but the spectacle which accompanied it was fantastic. Then she released You Need to Calm Down, along with a star-studded video that completely delivered as a follow-up. Taylor’s reign over 2019 was sealed. Filled with pop songs that kept me asking Alexa to play the album over and over again, this was my favorite of 2019 and I make no apologies for it.
#2 Work by Holy Ghost!
The self-titled debut album from Holy Ghost! Was almost too good to be true. It came along at the right moment with the right pop sensibilities and struck a chord that has infused the album on my psyche. I thought for sure the second album would be a disaster because isn't that the way it always goes? But it wasn't. I loved it just as much. And here we are with album number three... and it's a darn good effort too. The duo have found their groove and seem to be content to stay there, which is not the bad thing you'd think it should be. Yeah, all three albums could have been released at the same time and don't really show us anything new, but at a time where I was grasping for something older and familiar, Work fit the bill perfectly.
#3 Dedicated by Carly Rae Jepsen
It's premature to say that she peaked with her previous album, E•MO•TION, but Carly Rae Jepsen's latest effort fell slightly short of my lofty expectations (seriously, E•MO•TION is a phenomenal pop album!). Sure, some of the tracks are what I had been missing in my life, but some of them kinda fall kinda flat for me too (I detest Everything He Needs with its repetitive hook and wacky synth bends). If I had to analyze things, I'd say that she's gone with a slightly more mellow/weird vibe on those songs? Even so, I had this album playing an awful lot throughout Summer 2019 and since it has 15(!) tracks, it's still got a heck of a lot of terrific music to offer.
#4 Saves the World by MUNA
I played MUNA's debut album to death. So to say that I was looking forward to their follow-up is an epic understatement. And while I was happy to have more from the band, they took a bit of a departure that kept me from loving the entirety of Saves the World. Maybe it's a touch too introspective and brutal for my tastes? I dunno. Still, the band proves that they're not fading away any time soon. They know how to craft lyrics, marry them to a beat like nobody's business, and keep me coming back. I just wish it was back to this album more than the first, which is still the one I am playing all the time.
#5 Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend
Many a time I'll find myself thinking "What the heck ever happened to Ezra Koenig?" 2019 finally answered that question after a six year gap from the previous album. It's filled with all the things you could want from Vampire Weekend including that one track that you have to skip every time the album plays (ironically, this time it's the title track and first song). In some respects, this is my favorite of four albums Koenig has blessed us with... though it could be I've just been so starved for them for so long.
#6 Fine Line by Harry Styles
While former One Direction boy-banders Liam Payne and Harry Styles both released an album in 2019, Liam's kind of went off the rails (he needs a stronger producer to figure out where he's going)... whereas Harry's had actual direction that was shaped to fit his talents perfectly. While his is not my favorite type of music, I did greatly appreciate what came out of Fine Line and found myself listening to it more than I ever thought I would. That surprise is why this ranks so high on my list. I just wasn't expecting this... not from Harry Styles (the redundant awfulness of the title track excepted, because holy crap is that bad).
#7 Hurts 2B Human by P!NK
I like P!NK best when she embraces pop music and unleashes the songs that play to that genre. Unfortunately she is "maturing" and these last two albums seem more interested in having something angsty and dramatic to say instead of being the big poppy fun I love her for. This time around we get a lot of duets, which is fine but, unlike her collaborations with Nate Ruess and Lily Allen, her tracks with Wrabel and Khalid bored me (holy crap, the angst!). Precious few tracks stand out from her oeuvre in any meaningful way, but when you're talking about P!NK, that's not a tragedy. She still knows how to craft a really good song.
#8 Inflorescent by Friendly Fires
Ask me to name a song by Friendly Fires, and the only one I can guarantee will enter my head is Skeleton Boy from their debut album. Everything after that is a blur, including this album, and it's perfectly fine. I'm in the mood for their brand of mellow pop sensibility far more often than I feel is healthy.
#9 Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande
Theoretically speaking, I should love Ariana Grande's music a lot more than I do. Alas, while I've liked all her albums just fine, they never quite take me where I need to go to "stick" with me. Thank U, Next does a better job than most, however. Her voice is as good as ever and the lyrics are well-crafted. As if that wasn't enough, her video for the title track is nicely self-aware, parodying Clueless, Bring it On, and Legally Blonde, to flawless effect.
#10 Cause and Effect by Keane
What's funny is that when I happened upon Cause and Effect, my excitement was over the moon at the idea that the BAND Cause and Effect had released new music! I love their stuff, but we haven't heard from them in nearly a decade. But anyway... this was a new album by Keane, which has been a band that I lose enthusiasm for with each passing album. They peaked with songs off of Hopes and Fears and there hasn't been another Somewhere Only We Know or Everybody's Changing since. Not that I want them to keep repeating themselves, but none of their later stuff seems to grab me (and yet I will happily listen to their first effort over and over). This, their fifth studio album, I enjoyed more than the previous two, but it still feels like they are relying on soaring vocals to sell the songs instead of catchy hooks and interesting melodies. I dunno. Maybe in time I'll appreciate Cause and Effect more, but for now it's a happy distraction from time to time instead of the obsession it should be.
FAVORITE VIDEO OF 2019 • Thinkin' Bout You by Ciara
Not only is the song fantastic, Ciara's video for it really makes it memorable for obvious (and not so obvious) reasons.
FAVORITE MISSING IN ACTION OF 2019 • Chasing Stars by Postiljonen
Apparently this song was released in late 2018, but I never heard it until early 2019. I fully expected it would be followed by a new album this year, but it was not to be. I have no idea if this is a leftover song or what, but a new album from one of my favorite bands can't get here soon enough.
FAVORITE ANTICIPATION FOR 2020 • Hotspot by Pet Shop Boys
One of my all-time favorite bands seem to churn out albums every three years like clockwork (give or take). Since Super dropped in 2016, it was only natural to expect that we'd see another hit in 2019. Instead it's coming next month, which is more-or-less on schedule. Problem is... I haven't been able to fully embrace a Pet Shop Boys album since Yes (which is likely my second favorite after Please). It seems like I have been able to take half the songs off of one album (like Elysium) and combine it with half from the follow-up (like Electric) to get a full album's worth of songs I love. Since Super was essentially in the same boat, I'm guessing I'll be loving half of Hotspot as well. Still, even the worst tracks from Neil and Chris are going to be leagues above most songs released in 2020, so I'm understandably excited about it.
Here's hoping I find a renewed passion for new music in 2020.
Posted on Monday, December 30th, 2019
And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of TV shows that came out this year.
Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of TV shows I saw that came out this year." As always, there's a bunch of shows I never got around to watching that might have ended up on my list. And here we go...
THE EIGHTEEN BEST...
These are my favorite television shows from this year that I actually saw.
#1 Watchmen (HBO)
Wonderfully faithful to the comic book in a way that the movie adaptation wasn't, Damon Lindelof's "Don't-Call-It-A-Sequel" sequel is sublimely complex and worthwhile. Absolutely everything comes together at the end like a puzzle which has defined a complete story instead of something incomplete because it's setting up pointless sequels. Which is how all television should be handled. Story? Perfect. Cast? Perfect. Cinematography? Perfect. Special effects? Perfect. Music (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)? Perfect. Television doesn't get much better than this. But, then again, this isn't television... it's HBO.
#2 The Mandalorian (Disney+)
The best thing to happen to Star Wars since Rogue One, this was a launch title for Disney+, and the only excuse you need to subscribe to the service. Taking a member of the elite corps that spawned Boba Fest, pairing him with a "Baby Yoda" and other interesting characters, then treating the whole thing like a lone gunman Western in space is sheer genius... and I am esthetic that Disney let Jon Favreau play in their sandbox like this because it absolutely paid off... especially at the end. Here's hoping Season 2 is just as good.
#3 Barry (HBO)
I liked the first season of Bill Hader's dark comedy about an assassin trying to go straight... but I loved the second season. So many delicious moments, and a cast that knows exactly what to do with them. This show is absolutely nuts and willing to take risks that other shows wouldn't touch. The ronny/lily episode was entirely too good and could only happen here.
#4 Bob (Hearts) Abishola (CBS)
I had absolutely no hope for this show. I am not a fan of Billy Gardell and the idea of Chuck Lorre being adept enough to handle a comedy featuring cultural differences between the US and Nigeria was dicey at best. But... it has Christine Ebersole in it and had Gina Yashere writing (and appearing) for the show to add some authenticity... so I gave it a shot. Surprisingly, it all works really well. It's funny, smart, and doesn't rely on stereotypes for the bulk of its comedy. Folake Olowofoyeku as Abishola completely owns the role and it feels more authentic than half the crap on television. Go figure.
#5 Magnum P.I. (CBS)
This is just a fun show with a great cast telling (usually) entertaining stories in a pretty location. I was hugely resistant to the show when it debuted, but warmed up to it pretty quickly given the dynamic between Magnum and Higgins... and the critical role of Detective Katsumoto. Toss in Amy Hill and I'm all in. The second season is not as tight as the first, saddling us with truly terrible "theme" episodes foe Halloween and Christmas that absolutely did not work, but most of the episodes so far have been darn good and something I look forward to week after week.
#6 After Life (Netflix)
Ricky Gervais is an incredibly polarizing talent (currently involved in some social media conflict which does not look good on him at all) and I can pretty much take or leave his entire body of work. But then along comes After Life which manages to be funny, sad, heartwarming, and life affirming all at the same time... all the while exploring what it means to be alive with an interesting bunch of characters. Easily my favorite thing by Gervais, I hope for even more good things out of Season 2.
#7 Stumptown (ABC)
After one of the strongest series opener I've ever seen, there was an adjustment period where things dropped several stories in my opinion of the show. Now I'm comfortably settled and enjoying it for what it is... an opportunity for Cobie Smulders to be one of the biggest badasses on television in stories that are generally a lot of fun to watch. And while usually I like over-reaching show arcs that let each show build to an interesting finale, that isn't really working here and I'm not sure why. It's almost like it's distracting from the "story-of-the-week" in a way that sabotages them both. It's likely that the writers are still trying to find a balance, and they just need time to get it right. A second season should help with that immensely.
#8 The Boys (Amazon)
The hyper-violent comic book world of The Boys seems like something that would be impossible to adapt. But Amazon went ahead and gave it a shot and was mostly successful. Some of the changes from the source material were smart moves... some of them were just plain weird... and their idea for closing out the first season was something I'm not entirely sure worked all that well. And yet... I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish and anxious to see how they forge into new territory when it debuts next year.
#9 In The Dark (The CW)
I did not see this show when it first aired since I had been ignoring The CW once I ditched all their DC Heroes shows. But eventually Netflix picked it up and the show landed on my radar pretty quick. A blind woman who stays intentionally distant from people manages to make friends with a young drug-dealer who saved her life. Everything else is just a blur of one-night stands and alcohol abuse. Until her young friend is murdered and she makes it her mission in life to track down his killer. It's compelling, compelling stuff that's brilliantly realized right up until the end. I have no idea how they are going to approach a second season, but I will absolutely be tuning in to find out (even if I end up having to buy it to watch).
#10 The Orville (FOX/Hulu)
This remains nothing more than a classy reimagining of Star Trek: The Next Generation with jokes, but it's done really, really well. The second season wasn't as strong as the first, but still had some really good stories to tell. Next year the show switches from FOX to Hulu which is likely its death-knell. I hope that Seth MacFarlane realizes this and goes for broke... because that is a show I'd like to see.
#11 Living with Yourself (Netflix)
Despite my love of all things Paul Rudd, I did not go rushing to watch this one. I honestly thought it would be yet another clone effort that relied more on special effects than story. And... I was 100% wrong. This was a smart and insightful show that took full advantage of Paul Rudd's talents to turn in a really good show. Wisely, they didn't go full-on crackpot and ruin things... choosing instead to go more of an Arnold Schwarzenegger's The 6th Day route, but with less guns. It totally works and might have ranked higher on my list if they had edited it to be more moment-to-moment for the perspective flashbacks instead of episode-to-episode which got a bit tiring after the first time.
#12 Schitt's Creek (Pop TV)
I don't have access to Pop TV, so I always miss getting Schitt's Creek on my list. This time I ended up buying the series so I could watch in real-time with the rest of the world. Sadly, the fourth season was a pretty big step down from the third... but still wholly entertaining. As we head towards the fifth and final season, I can't help but wonder if they will mire the characters in the same-old same-old... or if they will really take a chance and try to do something new and interesting. We've seen what the same-old got us last season, so here's hoping for the latter.
#13 Young Sheldon (CBS)
I loved the first season, was tired of it all the second, but have fallen in love with it again this third season. It's like they decided to take real advantage of the times that Sheldon and his family are living so they have a unique take on the stories they can tell... instead of just deciding to make Young Sheldon do all the same stuff they had Original Sheldon do when he was on the Big Bang Theory. This makes for a far stronger show, and allows Zoe Perry to have more interesting places to goo with her character than yet another "I'm exasperated because Sheldon is so trying" episode.
#14 The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
As an adaptation of the comic book, I wasn't entirely thrilled with how The Umbrella Academy turned out. As an entertaining show in its own right, however? I think they did a really good job with it all. Smartly cast and written, there are a few too many wasted moments that make for an uneven first season, but I was entertained for most of it. You certainly can't say that about most television now-a-days.
#15 The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)
The series went out of its way to show that hypocrisy and corruption by churches ultimately ends with punishment, so why are so many Christians going bonkers over it? Unless they feel their church is hypocritical and corrupt and they don't like being called out on it? You got me. All I know is that John Goodman and crew made an entertaining show with some truly hilarious and priceless moments to savor.
#16 The Imagineering Story (Disney+)
As a kid, I was far more fascinated with how Disneyland works more than anything else. The magic of the place for me was not in the characters and the stories but in the miraculous way that Disney made it all work. And here comes a series which celebrates exactly that! My only complaint? It didn't last long enough. While they did a fine job of presenting a scattershot view of a number of things, so many avenues were glossed over or ignored entirely. I have no idea if Disney is planning on another set of episodes, but they really should. For people such as myself, that's the magic.
#17 Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
The first series of the past-future Star Trek series was fantastic. The story was shocking, smart, and superbly handled. There were some confusing aspects to how this fit in with the continuity of the bigger picture, but it was so good I didn't ask too many questions. Then the second season comes along and tries to answer those questions and all of a sudden we're shitting the bed with a massively convoluted storyline that had me lose interest in the show. Except... we also got an appearance by Spock, Pike, and the gang from the original Enterprise which was sublime. So good that it covered for a multitude of sins that made me dislike everything else so strongly. And now I really, really want a new Star Trek featuring the Enterprise crew... even more than I want a third season of Discovery. Here's hoping that Michelle Yeoh's spin-off is more interesting that what we had here.
#18 The Conners (ABC)
If you had asked me if Rosanne could continue on without Rosanne, I'd have said "no." But then it arrived and worked just fine. Then a second season came and seemed to be even better. Now I'm convinced that what we're seeing is better than the rebooted series ever was. If there's a flaw, it's focusing way too much on Harris and her annoying problems. Yes, I know she's supposed to be the payback for Darlene being Darlene back in the original series... but Sara Gilbert always managed to play her character with a sense of heart and honesty that made her endearing. Harris is just overt awfulness and a drag on absolutely everything else being done so well. My hope is that she will either mellow the hell out or disappear entirely, because I'd love to enjoy another season.
MUST SEE COMEDY...
#1 Nate Bargatze: The Tennessee Kid (Netflix)
The fact that Nate Bargatze is this dang funny is remarkable. The fact that he manages to be that funny without using any swear words is bordering on a miracle. Trading on expectations for The South, this is a far, far smarter and funnier than anything you'll see come from Larry the Cable Guy. Or, dare I say, Jeff Foxworthy. Not only my favorite standup special of 2019, probably my favorite in years.
#2 Ellen Degeneres: Relatable (Netflix)
Thank heavens for Netflix backing up a dumptruck full of cash to Ellen's house so she'd bless us with yet another hilarious bit of standup. It's been far too long, and seeing this just makes me regret that her daytime talk show occupies such a major portion of her time. Ellen really needs to be doing more standup, and all the reasons why are right here.
#3 Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward (Netflix)
Look, not everybody is going to "get" Anthony's comedy. He works overtime to be offensive, owns that he's offensive, and builds his entire routine around being offensive. This time he's bringing it just as hard as he always does, but I have to admit it's getting a little tired. But I will gladly keep watching everything he does because I know I'm sick enough to find it hilarious.
#4 Ramy Youssef: Feelings (HBO)
Ramy, AKA "That Muslim comedian that's not Hasan Minhaj" has a show on Hulu that's darn good. But I had never heard any of his stand-up until Feelings. As expected, it's darn good. Really smart, blisteringly funny, and wonderfully relatable. The ever expanding diversity of voices which make us laugh is no small thing. Our humanity is what binds us together despite our differences. What's more human than to laugh? And feel how you want to feel about it, but his final thought in his special is the most powerful thing to happen on your television this year.
#5 Wanda Sykes: Not Normal (Netflix)
Wanda's earliest specials were like dynamite and quickly propelled her to one of my favorite comedians working. I bought every special she released and laughed over them again and again. As time has marched on she hasn't gotten any less funny, but I am not as enamored with her material. Motherhood and marriage are just not as funny to me. And yet there's a whole lot of hilarity to be found in Not Normal.
#6 Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones (Netflix)
Yeah, I put it on my list. No, it's not as smart or insightful as his previous works. Yeah, a lot of people were offended. No, I don't think the material was as horrific as people were saying. Yeah, I respect people's opinion and 100% believe in their right to express their opinion. No, I still found it funny.
TELEVISION HONORABLE MENTION...
SHITTING THE BED...
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN...
And, on that note, here's to all the crap shows that will end up replacing good shows in the new year.
Posted on Tuesday, December 31st, 2019
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
Last year losing my mom was the worst year of my life. This year couldn't help but be better by comparison. But I lost one of my oldest, dearest friends right off the bat, so now I'm horrified at what 2020 may have in store. I guess I've reached the stage of my life where it's all tragedy and loss from here on out? Lord, I hope not.
• Took a look at Schitt's Creek, one of the best TV shows ever...
Took a look at the Seattle Tunnel... and the horrible design of the new spaces it will allow.
• Built a magnificent photo wall in my stairwell...
• Experienced Poster Raising with the Amish...
• Converted another batch more DVDs and Blu-Rays to digital... and explained how you can do it too.
• Wished Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one of my favorite ball players, a happy retirement...
• Dedicated a post to Mufasa, Jake's toy lion, his favorite thing in the universe...
• Lamented the fact that SeaTac International Airport is still a shitpile of fail, even when they build something new.
• Watched as my home keeps getting invaded by trash pandas.
• Spent my 101st Caturday taking inventory of the cats in my neighborhood...
• Watched the funniest stand-up of the year with Nate Bargatze's The Tennessee Kid (highest possible recommendation if you have Netflix)...
• Took Jake back to the vet after he ended up sick again. Still amazed that the little guy can't meow ever... EXCEPT when he is in distress...
• Found out the reason Jake was sick was because he fell off the stairwell banister. Absolutely heartbreaking (and more than a little scary), but he recovered like a champ...
• Built a bannister ledge tray to keep my cats from falling down the stairwell again...
• Talked about the series of travel books I made for my mom to commemorate each of the trips we took together...
• Shared my thoughts on the fucking disaster that was the Game of Thrones final season...
• Once again shared a video on how tax brackets work because I am sick and tired of people believing the bullshit lies that are being propagated. I honestly don't know if this is the best way, but if we're going to discuss tax brackets let's at least be informed as to what they are. And with that in mind, here we go again...
• Said goodbye to Grant, an internet friend who will be sorely missed.
• A visit to the Chihuly Garden of Glass, a magical place crafted by one of my favorite living artists...
• Spent my lazy summer days floating down a river...
• Finally cut the cord and got rid of the toxic mess that my satellite television had become.
• Ooh... Upgrades (a process that is ongoing, by the way!).
• I have opinions. And they get me in trouble by all sides.
• Back in Vegas for the third? Fourth? time in 2019 and decided to take stock of my one-time Planet Hollywood obsession...
• Got to see Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty...
• Discovered the total magic of my favorite new thing... THE IMPOSSIBLE WHOPPER at Burger King...
• Got myself an Apple Card... an interesting beast to be sure.
• My obligatory Apple Card unboxing entry...
• Total outrage that Hallmark can't seem to ever get the details right.
• Jake and Jenny's cat personality analysis...
• Hell of a Day, Isn’t It? Talked about what happens when you lose that person you share an inside joke with.
• Impressed the internet when I joined in on the SHOW US A PHOTO OF YOUR KITCHEN CABINET meme...
• Shared my brief attempt at being a home designer.
• Put my iPhone 11 Pro through it's paces... and shared my thoughts in it's incredible camera capabilities...
• Took my iPhone 11 Pro camera for a spin in my favorite American city.
• Ranting against changing the clocks because it fucks up my cats like nothing else... and the quail are back...
• Flew to Minneapolis so I could experience Avengers: Damage Control in real-live kinda virtual reality...
• Caring for somebody with dementia involves telling lies and making decisions.
• Disney+ finally debuted with a slew of watchable stuff to occupy time I don't have.
• Get Angry, Then Laugh... same as it ever was... same as it ever was.
• And, oh yeah, I joined the Instant Pot cult!
• Finally replaced my dying MacBook Pro... with a MacBook Pro...
• Let's take a Very Special edition of Caturday to talk about how technology helps Fake Jake survives the winter!
And there you have it... my 2019 year in review.
Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through even the worst of times.
Here's to a good 2020, everybody.