Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2020
It just sucks. It sucks so hard.
Posted on Saturday, May 2nd, 2020
When it comes to feedings, I've had to develop a specific routine in order to keep the peace.
Jake wolfs down his meals as fast as he gets them. Jenny takes her time, and will wander away and wander back as she eats. Which means if I just feed them their dinner all at once, Jenny will eat a bit then leave. While she's gone, Jake will eat his food, then her food. Which is why that's not really possible.
And so it goes like this...
By spacing out their feedings, Jenny gets all of her food and Jake doesn't get more than his. It also makes sure there's no binge/purge that can come from eating too much too fast.
You'd think that all this would mean that Jake is the one who makes feedings difficult, but that's not the case. As I mentioned last month, Jenny won't bite wet food, so hers has to be pureed so she can eat it by licking. Also? She needs strong-smelling foods or she won't eat them. Which means both of them get fish-based meals whether or not Jake would rather have something else, because fish smells the strongest. And sometimes Jenny isn't satisfied because it's not smelling strong enough and will be upset. For those times I have to mix in some horribly-stinky dried fish flakes to get her eating. And, here's the part you won't believe, Jake never begs for food. Jenny absolutely does, and will go running to the kitchen any time I'm there in the hope that she'll get a snack.
In other Jenny news... it seems there's something besides Rick from Rick and Morty that will cause her to come running... Ray Charles. He was on an old 1977 Saturday Night Live repeat tonight and she came running in to watch while he was singing... then left shortly after he was done...
In many ways Jenny has changed the most over the years. Used to be she would run away terrified if another cat was within sight. Then she got to the point where she wouldn't run... but instead observe from a distance. And now? She will actively run out to the catio to confront them, pushing Jake out of the way to get there first. A black cat came walking by and she was on it..
Earlier this week she ran out to confront a GERMAN SHEPHERD that wandered into the yard. I knocked on the window to scare the dog away because I worried he might bite her if she stuck a paw out or something. This was her reaction...
Jake is probably least happy with Jenny's changes. Used to be he could terrorize her and she wouldn't do anything about it. But now? Jenny knows exactly how to get her revenge... steal his favorite toy. Jake is so paranoid about it that he drags Mufasa with him everywhere and looks around nervously when he has to drop him... like here when he wants to groom his belly...
And speaking of Jake, now that the weather has gotten hotter, he's catspreading again. Especially on my bed when I have the ceiling fan on...
But he'll do it anywhere...
Still not happy about me photographing his catspreading though. I get a look...
Sorry, Jake... if not for photos, Saturdays wouldn't be as exciting.
Posted on Sunday, May 3rd, 2020
I'm bored out of my mind without being able to hang out with my friends, but excitement awaits me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Nadiya! One of my favorite Great British Bakeoff contestants, Nadiya Hussain, has a new Netflix series out... Nadiya's Time to Eat. Not all of it is vegetarian, but I've gotten some good ideas from her show. Including this gem...
Sounds amazing, right? And how charming is she with her lovely British accent? Nadiya's got some cool ideas for quick and easy meals that makes her show a great thing to watch. Just keep in mind that the British terms for certain foods can be different ("caster sugar" there is "fine baker's sugar" here), and sometimes products (such as Double Cream, which is 48% milkfat, for example) may not even exist where you live (the thickest I can get is Whipping Cream, which is only 36% milkfat. Also? Nadiya provides all oven temperatures in Celsius, so you'll need to convert to Fahrenheit.
• Facebook "Standards!" It's gotten to the point where I can't understand the point of Facebook any more. They are so wildly inconsistent with the posts they ban that you can't really know what is acceptable or not. Take for instance this tweet I reposted that is clearly a joke on all the "5G causes the Coronavirus" conspiracy theorists...
Meanwhile, some of the anti-vaxers and homeopaths and flat earthers and other morons are posting shit that is ACTUALLY MISINFORMATION THAT CAN CAUSE HARM and have free reign? Dafuq? I have posts taken down more and more lately, and in no case did I agree with the decision or even see why they took it down in the first place. Facebook has no concept of context or humor and are acting like total dipshits with this ban-hammer crap.
• Love Is Love! One of the members of my "Bible Study for Non-Christians" group brought up the movie Road to Edmond, which they decided to watch because it sharply divided Christians who saw it. None of the rest of us had heard of it, but it was free to watch on Amazon Prime Streaming, so we all agreed to take a look so we could have a discussion about it. I honestly don't know what my takeaway is. I almost stopped watching 20 minutes in because one of the characters was driving me crazy and the non-budget and amateurish acting was almost too much to take. But I stuck with it because I didn't want to be left out of the conversation with my group. Turns out that everything was building to something, not everything is what it seems, and it's actually a fairly remarkable film. I definitely understand why some people are completely incensed with it... heaven only knows there's enough to provoke that reaction. But I also understand why some people have fallen in love with it too. As I said, I honestly don't know how I feel about it... maybe I'll have more perspective once I've discussed it. All I definitely know is that I love the closing credits song as much as I could possibly love any song... it's Love is Love by Trey Pearson.
Trey Pearson has a lot of great songs, this one is called Silver Horizon and is every bit as good...
And if not for Road to Edmond, I likely never would have found it.
• Download! Boo! BOOOOOOOO! AMAZON'S GREAT NEW SHOW, UPLOAD, ENDS ON A HUGE CLIFFHANGER! And what are the odds that they won't renew it? Fuck all the television studios who refuse to show a complete story in a season. All this does is fuck over fans of the show when they cancel it.
BOOOOOO! And what's so frustrating is that they didn't need the cliffhanger. It's just lazy writing, and NO show should end a season on a cliffhanger unless they have the next season already started. So rage-inducing. If Amazon cancels Upload I'll be more furious than usual when this happens.
• After! Somebody edited together the underlaying narrative of grief that runs through one of my favorite shows so far this year... and it's almost unbearable to watch. What makes After Life so amazing is how it tempers the grief with humor. Without the humor though? It's a serious exploration of the human condition. Spoilers, obviously...
Ricky Gervais really knocked it out of the park with this show. He's already said that he's been so touched by the outpouring of love for the show that he's working on a third season. And, oh well yeah, HE DOESN'T END HIS SERIES ON A FUCKING CLIFFHANGER BECAUSE HE KNOWS THERE'S NO GUARANTEE THAT THERE WILL BE A NEXT SEASON! He's talented enough to come up with a way to start a new season without cliffhangers.
• Suess Raps! These videos of a guy rapping Dr. Suess over Dr. Dre beats is total genius...
I hesitate to guess how many times he had to practice these before getting this good.
• Better! TIME IS JUST A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT TO KEEP YOU FROM DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WHEN YOU WANT TO DO IT! WELL SCREW THAT! I AM IN CONTROL OF MY OWN DESTINY! SO... MORNING DRINKING at 9:00AM IN MY UNDERWEAR WITH CHEETOS AND TELEVISION, BABY! — MY DAY IS BETTER THAN YOUR DAY!
So how was your day?
And that's that for bullets on this fine Sunday in quarantine.
Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2020
Look, if I end up contracting the Coronavirus and die, so be it. I've been as cautious as I can be. I've had a decent life. Shit happens. I'm good to go.
But if I end up dying because I was attacked by a murder hornet? Yeah, just kill me now. I have no desire to wait around for that.
As you have undoubtedly read, so-called "murder hornets" have reached the United States and... in what I can only describe as a fucking horror story and just my luck... where they've landed IS RIGHT HERE IN MY HOME OF WASHINGTON STATE!
Disturbing photo by Yasunori Koide via Wikipedia Commons
My reaction to the news?
You know that moment in Galaxy Quest where Sigourney Weaver finds out they have to run through "The Chompers" in order to keep the ship from being blown up? And her line is "Well fuck that!" but they changed the film from an R-rating to a PG-rating, so she ends up saying "Well screw that!" but her mouth is still saying the original line?
It was like that.
Murder hornets (which actually aren't called that anywhere but here in the USA where absolutely everything has to be sensationalized) are 2-inch long death-bringers from the sky who get their kicks ripping the heads off of bees and pulping their thorax to feed to their baby murder hornets.
Considering that a huge chunk of our food supply either directly or indirectly comes from bees polinating flowers and crops, this is insanely bad news. I hope that once everybody studying the Coronavirus comes up with a vaccination or cure or whatever... they turn their attention to finding a way to kill every last one of these bastards before I have to worry about running into them when I walk out to check my mailbox.
I tell you... the way things keep going on this planet, the more I am hoping for alien abduction.
Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020
I've been spending a couple hours each day puttering around my flower beds. A neighbor was kind enough to pick out some new plants for me, so I've been working hard to create a home for them.
One of the things I've been meaning to do for years is pull out the irises in the front of my house. I've never understood these flowers. They're pretty for a few days, sure...
But they are top-heavy and fall over... many times before they even bloom, which means they bloom on the ground. Then the yard care team runs over them with the mower and they look horrible until they finally die. Then it all repeats next year. I try to move them off the lawn so they at least don't get torn up by the mower, but they still look pretty bad and have to go...
And yesterday was the day. I ripped out the two plants in the front of my home. But those flowers got their revenge, let me tell you.
The pollen got all over me and I had an allergy attack unlike any I've had in years. It was so bad that I had to take a big dose of Benadryl, then have a nap.
When I woke up an hour later, I was covered in blood.
I ended up with a nosebleed that would not stop, though it did slow to a trickle when I finally fell asleep around 3:00am. I was expecting to wake up and have to slog to the clinic to get it cauterized, but it had miraculously stopped overnight.
The irises on the side of my house can stay right where they are. I'm afraid of these flowers. I missed a half-day of work because I had to catch up on sleep because of these flowers.
Today I tried to take it easy and definitely not sneeze or blow my nose. Instead I laid on the couch and watched television, including a clever movie called The Great Seduction which is not some period romance bullshit as you would expect from the title...
I love it when I happen across a movie I've never heard of and actually end up enjoying it!
Kinda a nice way to end a day that started out so badly.
Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020
I cannot catch a break this week.
I should have known better.
This morning my long-time blogging friend, Jester, posted this to my Facebook wall...
After failing to find an apropriate amount of barf emojis for both the concept of adding raisins to potato salad AND the fact that people think a "French tuck" doesn't look like ten bags of stupid (I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS MR. TAN FRANCE!)... the first thing to pop into my head was "Say, don't I have some leftover potato salad in the refrigerator?"
I had forgotten about that! Turns out that, yes, indeed I did.
Breakfast is served.
Except it tasted funny, at which point I remembered it's been there for a week and was probably overrun with bacteria or whatever. And so... I set it next to the bathroom sink so I could take a shower before headed down to the kitchen to toss it.
Likely no surprise to anybody what ensued...
"Jake. What are you doing?"
"Jake. Please don't eat that."
At which point I had to get out of the shower soaking wet and put the bad potato salad on top of the bathroom cabinet.
What happened next will shock you...
"Jake. What are you doing?"
"Jake. Please don't climb up there."
I know better than to think tomorrow will be much better.
It's all raisin-filled potato salad for the foreseeable future.
Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2020
YOU YIELD TO TRAFFIC IN THE CIRCLE. It's that simple. That's the only rule. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand it. If there's a car already in the traffic circle, you wait until it's passed before entering. And yet...
25% of the time... at least 25% of the time... I run into somebody who doesn't yield.
Like yesterday when I was driving home. And of course the guy is pissed at me even though he was 100% in the wrong for cutting in front of me instead of yielding like he should have. And I honestly don't get the mentality. I'm supposed to just slam on the brakes in the middle of the traffic circle and back up traffic to let people in? That's the complete opposite of how it's supposed to work.
I continue to wade my way through the massive list of movies and shows I've flagged to watch so I can see if there's anything good on TV. My latest obsession is Plan Coeur (aka The Hook Up Plan) on Netflix. It's a French romcom that has its fill of stupid moments, but is otherwise fantastic. The characters are all beautifully realized and you want to care about them even when they aren't at their best.
Because it's French, I have to watch with English subtitles, which adds another level of amusement to the show...
Most of the time, the show is smartly written and has clever one-off lines throughout to bring the funny...
And, of course, it's French, so the romantic moments are flawlessly orchestrated...
What really took me by surprise is the music, which is haunting and beautiful. It's practically another character in the series and makes even mundane moments something to be savored...
I was compelled to track down the composer, which is Frédéric Magnon, and became an instant fan. When Elsa shows her sister her new apartment, I had to rewind the scene and play it over and over because it's just that good...
The entire soundtrack is fantastic and worth hunting down (Amazon Prime Unlimited has it).
So... if you're looking for a show to binge while you're stuck at home, I highly recommend giving The Hook Up Plan a try. Both series of the show are available on Netflix...
As much as I loved the show and want to see a third series, I almost think I'd rather they left things where they were at in the finale. It was the perfect way to end things even though you'll definitely be wanting to know what happens next.
Which is what makes great television, isn't it?
Posted on Friday, May 8th, 2020
I'm not "running out of things to watch," but I am getting bored with the massive amount of stuff that's available to watch. Binging Plan Coeur (The Hook Up Plan) yesterday really made me want to revisit some of my favorite French films, but it's tough to work and read subtitles at the same time, and I can't afford to lose the hours like I did yesterday. I thought that I would instead put on some of my favorite Japanese anime since I was once fairly fluent in the language and "it's just cartoons," but that didn't work out at all. My Japanese comprehension is so out of practice now that I have to stop and think about what's being said, which is actually more distracting than reading subtitles.
I was lamenting the idea of starting in on another Netflix series when a friend in a Zoom meeting mentioned that they've been watching a lot of YouTube videos. This seemed like an excellent idea, because that's somewhere below mindless entertainment, and the YouTube app for my AppleTV will just keep playing them one-after-the-other all night long!
When I asked for suggestions, the first one out of their mouth was Mr. Beast. I was going to take a pass because the only thing I had ever heard about the guy was that he drops a lot of homophobic slurs, but my friend said "He's done so many good things," and I was intrigued.
At first I was just going to start at his first video and run through them all, but he's been doing this for six years(!) and most of his earliest videos are just him playing video games and stuff. He then made a slew of videos speculating on the wealth of other YouTubers and making fun of other YouTubers. Then he went through a phase of counting to really high numbers... reading the entire dictionary... and doing other time-consuming and inane stunts.
Yeah. No thanks.
But then things started getting interesting about two years ago.
Mr. Beast started giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars (which he gets from sponsorship and branding deals). He'd give somebody $10,000 for winning a video game challenge. He'd tip a server $20,000. He'd give random subscribers to his channel huge amounts of cash. And he also started doing crazy stuff like trashing his friend's car then give them a new car... buying every billboard in his city... spending 24 hours in prison... and having his friends do random challenges for huge cash prizes.
I began to see his appeal. His stunts are genuinely interesting.
My favorite stunt he pulled was buying a house then ordering a pizza from Dominos. He offered the pizza delivery guy $2,000 if he would help them go shopping for stuff to move into the house "for a friend," then he gave the fully furnished house to the delivery guy after they were done. Watch the video. It's pretty great...
After a while you start really getting invested in the lives of his friends. Poor Cameron kept losing challenge after challenge and never won anything. You really started to feel sorry for the guy because he was constantly made fun of. Then, finally, he won one and I was far more happy for him than I had a right to be...
Yeah, this is not highbrow entertainment, but it is entertaining. I've certainly seen worse uses of time and money on YouTube.
After my Mr. Beast marathon, I started catching up on all the YouTubers I follow but have neglected over the past several months. Like Unbox Therapy, who unboxed Apple's SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLAR WHEELS for their MacPro computer so you don't have to. It looks to be an oddly unsatisfying experience...
Don't worry. Eventually he made a skateboard out of the wheels.
Yahtzee at Escapist's Zero Punctuation took a look at Animal Crossing: New Horizons and it's oddly comforting in its raw predictability...
John Kirkwood made cheese & onion pasties... something I am dying to make and will attempt soon, because it's like a gorgeous blend of some of my favorite things...
Ryan at ScreenRant unleashed another hilarious pitch meeting...
Two amazing thinkers (who just happen to be brilliant comedians) discuss atheism and other deep topics in a fascinating conversation...
And lastly there's Johnny Harris, who actually spent his valuable time looking into flerfers (insert eye-roll)...
After all that, I was ready to start watching regular ol' television again, and started in on Ryan Murphy's latest... Hollywood... which is currently airing on Netflix. Not exactly sure this is going to be my thing, but it sure looks like it was expensive to make.
Posted on Saturday, May 9th, 2020
I know I keep mentioning how Jenny keeps getting more demanding, but it bears repeating because there seems to be no limit to how much she'll pile on. This morning, for example, she stood by the water fountain and started meowing. I went to see what was wrong and... the water level was too low for her highness's liking. She doesn't actually drink from the flowing water like Jake does, she wants to drink out of the well. So she sat there until I went and got a glass of water to fill it to a more acceptable level.
Earlier in the week she was upset that I was taking too long in the bathroom and she wanted her morning pets and sat outside the door and meowed and meowed.
And before that SHE WAS UPSET THAT THE TELEVISION WASN'T ON! Seriously. Sat there in front of the television meowing until I turned it on.
I'm getting really good at interpreting what she wants. Thankfully.
Jenny spends most of the day and a good chunk of the night out in the catio now. In daylight she naps in the sunshine. At night she... stares out into space? No idea what she's looking at. Or for...
I planted some flowers outside so that she has something to look at while she's out. I don't know that she appreciates them, but the bees sure do...
And then there's Jake.
Who is also becoming more demanding.
When I got home yesterday, Jake went running around the house and stopped long enough to scratch on his post. He got a claw stuck but, instead of working it free as he normally does, he just sat there squawking for help until I came and freed him. Methinks I spoil my cats a bit too much...
So... it's nice to be needed... I guess?
Posted on Sunday, May 10th, 2020
XXX, but XXX... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• TAIKAAAAAAA! And lo did an angel descend from the heavens and declare that Taika Waititi will be writing and directing a Star Wars movie, and it was good. I frickin' adore Taika. What We Do In the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok (Korg!)... everything the guy touches turns to gold whether he's writing, directing, or acting. As if that's not enough, he just seems like a genuinely smart, talented, funny, interesting, and exceedingly nice person...
We got a taste of Taika in the Star Wars universe when he directed an episode of The Mandelorian (and provided the voice of IG-11). Now he's bringing us more Thor (Thor: Love & Thunder), a new Flash Gordon, a new Time Bandits, plus a new Star Wars. Naturally, I couldn't possibly be more thrilled that he's working on projects I desperately want to see.
• Swoop! I love stories like this...
Birds are awesome.
• BMO! I had no plans... none to invest any more money in television. Especially HBO Max, which has nothing to offer me. Well... almost nothing...
BMO is one of the best parts of Adventure Time and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see where they take the character.
• PATATJES MET! I found this article on A Global Taxonomy of French Fry Dips to be especially enlightening. I, of course, choose fries with Dutch mayo. It's the only way to fry.
• Wood! Watching Netflix's Hollywood left me mildly entertained, but I can't stop thinking that they're trying to do a good thing badly while missing a bigger opportunity. Revisionist history is a fine line to walk. You either go for broke, rip up the rulebook, and grab your reimagining of history unapologetically by the throat... or you float through history making random changes that are all rainbows and cotton candy but ultimately don't mean anything to anybody but you. Quentin Tarantino *IS* revisionist history cinema, and Inglourious Basterds is a genius-level event of just how powerful a tool it can be. Ryan Murphy's Hollywood is just whispy fluff in a genre wrapper that "what-ifs" real events to mild effect. The final episode is just ridiculous with its pie-in-the-sky over-the-top goofiness. THAT BEING SAID... holy cats is Jim Parsons good in this thing! His character is a predatory monster which perfectly illustrates how power in the wrong hands can lead to a nightmare of a human being. I am guessing his take on Rock Hudson's manager is based on a real person who did these horrible things, and that's a really scary thought...
Good on you, Mr. Parsons. I'm excited to see where you take your post-Big Bang Theory career next.
• Advice! I generally roll my eyes at all these "lists of life advice" that make the rounds of the internet a couple times a year. But this one, titled 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice is pretty great and some of them (such as "A vacation + a disaster = an adventure" are exceptional. Well worth a read.
• Monk! Okay... this is pretty cool. I kept hoping and hoping that we'd get a Monk movie or two so we could see what he was up to now...
And now I just want a Monk movie even more than I did.
• Remember! And, lastly, just read this. There are some remarkable people doing wonderful things in the middle of our current crisis. They should be recognized and appreciated.
And that's a wrap on Bullet Sunday. At least for today.
Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2020
I finally watched First Lady Michele Obama's Becoming on Netflix.
Love her or don't love her, there's no denying that she's a fascinating person...
I really enjoyed the show (and her book) even though I've not always been a fan. Some of the things she's been party to I've vehemently disagreed with, as I think they've been an attempt to do a good thing badly. Take, for example the new "Nutrition Facts" label. It's meant to help people eat healthier. But ultimately it's just another expense and hardship for small business food manufacturers who have to invest a rather large chunk of money into something which is ultimately not worth it.
The calories font is bigger. How does that help? They tweaked a few values. How does that help? People who want to eat unhealthy foods already know that they are eating unhealthy foods, and they're not going to change their mind because the calories font is bigger. Stuff like this is what Democrat detractors can point to and, with good reason, say that they make things harder on American businesses.
But then she also worked very hard to get kids healthier meals in school and a bunch of other wonderful things, so you gotta have perspective. In the end I can say that, if nothing else, I believe that Michele Obama was a patriot who honestly thought that she was doing what's best for the people she served. Can't say that about too many political figures.
Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2020
I've finally reached my potato salad nirvana.
It's been a long road to get here. I've experimented with dozens of recipes and married that to the way my mom and grandma used to make it. My biggest breakthrough occurred when I didn't have any eggs so I decided to add small cubes of Dubliner Cheese as a substitute.
It was sublime.
Hard boiled eggs are squidgy and don't add any flavor that isn't already well-represented by the mayo. They also add a stink to the salad that's a bit off-putting.
This is my current recipe, and I think I'm done now because it's exactly where I want it to be and I've reproduced it a half-dozen times now...
Mix above together and put in refrigerator to chill. Cook 1 package of Simply Potatoes dices in a mesh basket in an Instant Pot with 1-1/4 cup of water for 6 minutes, then quick-release. Put potatoes in the refrigerator to cool for 10-15 minutes. Fold potatoes into dressing mixture, then chill for 20 minutes or more before serving (I usually can't wait and end up eating it while still a bit warm, and it's delicious). Garnish with paprika (or, if you have it, smoked paprika) and chopped fresh dill or green onions sliced thin. Because I can't help myself I always add more little cubes of Dubliner on top. Sometimes I like crushed potato chips on top too!
After refrigeration, the potatoes soak up a bit of the mayo and sour cream so things can get a little dry, I just stir in a tablespoon of mayo and everything is good again!
Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
Every year I do a little more to make my home my own. I figure I might as well because, more likely than not, it won't be my home forever.
Most of the things I do are on the inside. That's where I live. That's what I see the most. That's where my experience is. I didn't have to do much on the outside because the woman who lived here before me did a really lovely job so I left as much of it alone as I could. The only thing I really had to do... and do most reluctantly... was tear things out. Because of my travel schedule, I am not always home to water and weed and take care of the things that require that kind of time and attention.
The first thing to go were the flowers out front, most of which were in planters that had to be manually watered. I wasn't here to do it and so they died. When I planned out what would replace them, I had two things in mind...
And so I wanted two flower beds. A large one where most of the drip-lines were, and a second smaller bed on the corner where there was less water available.
The large flower bed I created back in 2018...
My mom died twenty days after I completed it. I couldn't find the motivation to care about flowers after that.
Nearly two years later, and I finally decided to finish what I started...
It's hard work for an old guy like me... shoveling rock and digging up dirt! Especially when my job is to sit at a computer all day.
It turned out okay though...
It will take a week or two of watering before I can tap the border bricks level and get them positioned correctly.
The purple thing in the back is supposed to get three feet tall, and so I tried to give it a little more space to grow. You can't tell from this photo because the lens is distorting things, but the rock border is equal in the front and the sides.
And so... I am done with flowers for the year.
Well, mostly done with flowers for the year. There are two of the plants that don't look to be surviving their relocation, so I'll probably have to replace them.
One of my favorite tech vloggers is Marques Brownlee. He has a clarity of focus and some really good insights which he presents flawlessly. In a time where there is just so much video out there, I regularly make the time to watch Brownlee's videos twice. Like this video on Apple's $700 wheels, which I just watched again before adding it here...
The more I delve into theories as to how Apple works, the more I can't help but appreciate how genius they are. Look at all the press and exposure they're getting... OVER WHEELS!
Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2020
I don't know which I detest more... Kool-Aid Drinking Conservatives or Kool-Aid Drinking Liberals. At least with Kool-Aid Drinking Conservatives they can usually point to That One Thing which makes them a Kool-Aid Drinking Conservative. Let's pick abortion as an example. They are against abortion, everything else is secondary, so they live and die for their Republican candidates and the GOP no matter how big of a stupid Republican asshole ends up in office. Mitch McConnell has built his entire existence as a career politician relying on exactly this kind of idiocy. He can literally do no wrong and get away with as much hypocritical fucked up bullshit as he wants because his base will support him and believe him no matter what he does or how obviously he lies.
Whether it's abortion, guns, lower taxes, or the right of Christians to persecute people they don't like, Conservatives know exactly which hot-button issues sends them to the voting booth over and over again. And that's regardless of all the other issues Conservatives saddle them with that are against their best interest. There's always That One Thing which keeps them loyal. "Sure I can't afford health care, the water is poisoned, and I have to work three jobs just to scrape out a living, but at least my local hospital can refuse to treat queers!"
That's fucked up, but I can kinda respect it. I feel the same way about Daylight Saving Time. I fucking hate it, it's fucking stupid, and I am so fucking sick of it that I often joke about voting for whichever candidate promises to get rid of it forever. Asshole politicians come and go, but dicking with the clocks twice a year is (apparently) forever.
But it's not the same for Kool-Aid Drinking Liberals, is it?
Some of them have That One Thing... like a woman's right to choose, perhaps. But most of the liberals I know can't boil it down like that. They can't point to a single issue and say "THAT'S WHY I'M A BLEEDING HEART LIBERAL!" Their reasoning is usually far more complex and esoteric. Ask them and you'll end up with something like "I'm a liberal because I believe in human rights and equality!"... and then they will yammer on for hours to rationalize their blind devotion to the DNC. And I get it. Honestly I do. I usually vote for Democrats now-a-days because even though they are bought and paid for by lobbyists just like Republicans, at least I know that social issues which favor regular people over billion dollar corporations and favor oppressed minorities over religious persecution will (hopefully) be addressed.
I feel you on all of that.
But it's still horribly frustrating for me to understand drinking the DNC Kool-Aid and believing that Democratic politicians are above reproach and can do no wrong.
Take for example, Senior Senator Patty Murray from my home state of Washington.
Public domain photo provided by the United States Congress
I fucking despise her.
Well, I should clarify... I despise all politicians, but I really despise Senator Patty Murray.
I've disagreed with her on several matters. But my true loathing started after she voted against affordable drug re-importation from Canada. She offered up all kinds of fucking bullshit to excuse her stance... like questioning the "safety" of allowing drugs coming from Canada... but it was all crap. I mean, where are all the news stories of Canadians dying by the thousands due to bad drugs? You won't find them. What you will find is hundreds of stories of thousands of Americans who can't afford critical drugs and have to go without, damaging their health and ending their lives. No, the real reason that Patty Murray voted against drug re-importation was because she takes piles of money from Big Pharma and has a vested interest in protecting their profits.
Just like all the other politicians, Senator Murray has her price, and is willing to sell out herself and the State of Washington to anybody who will pay it.
And Democrats don't fucking care.
I've heard all the excuses, but this is my favorite: "She's a senior politicians with lots of power in the Senate! We can't lose Patty Murray because then Washington State will lose the power that we get from having her entrenched in office! We need her fighting for us!" To which I can only respond "What good is all that power if she uses it against us from time to time? Shouldn't we vote in a politician who won't sell us out for lobbyist cash?" But then Democrats just take another sip of the Kool-Aid and smile. They don't care. "Vote Blue No Matter Who isn't just a catchy slogan, it's a way of life. But why can't it be a different blue than Patty Murray?
And that brings us to good ol' Mitch McConnell and his love of taking a shit on The Constitution. Yesterday the US Senate voted to allow the feds to grab your online history with NO WARRANT and NO DUE PROCESS. They can essentially spy on you online with absolutely no oversight whatsoever.
Now, don't get me wrong here... I fully support our government agencies doing what they can to fight terrorism and keep us safe. And they should absolutely be given the tools to do that. No question there at all. But to have such sweeping power without oversight? To be able to intrude on our personal lives without cause or due process? Who the fuck supports that? Who the fuck thinks this is enforcing our right to privacy and freedom?
Senators Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) and Steve Daines (Republican, Montana) asked this same question and came up with the same answer I did. We absolutely don't support warrantless intrusions on American citizen lives. And they drafted an amendment to prevent it from happening. 59 out of 100 senators agreed with them and voted to support it. But because you need a 60 vote majority to pass anything, the legislation failed.
Four senators... Patty Murray (Democrat, Washington), Bernie Sanders (Democrat, Vermont), Lamar Alexander (Republican, Tennessee), and Ben Sasse (Republican, Nebraska) didn't bother to vote. Had Patty Murray showed up to do her fucking job... the job we fucking pay her to do... the amendment would have passed.
Or maybe it wouldn't. Maybe the behind-the-scenes manipulations that go on in American politics would have still set up the amendment to fail because secretly all our senators want it to fail. And all of this bullshit is just a dog and pony show that endangered politicians can point to when they run for reelection. Who can say? All I know is that worthless piece of shit Senator Patty Murray who represents me didn't bother to go on record saying that invasions of our privacy should have oversight and warrantless invasions of American lives should not stand.
Which is why the cynic in me is thinking "God only knows what skeletons the FBI dug out of Patty Murray's closet to make her sit out the vote like this."
As you might have guessed, I am fucking livid.
Because as more and more of our lives is digitized and put online, we lose more and more control over what we choose to share of ourselves. Now the feds can LEGALLY perform a search WITHOUT a warrant and WITHOUT due process. They can break into your life on a whim whether you have done anything wrong or not. Your right to online privacy is gone. So what’s next? Senator Patty Murray sits out on a vote for legislation which says we can be dragged off to prison without cause as well?
Fuck that and fuck her.
We need to find somebody new to represent us who is serious about serving the people of Washington and supporting the legislation which preserves our right to privacy. Find somebody who will actually show up to vote on legislation which affects our lives. Find somebody who will actually do their job. That "somebody" sure as hell is not Patty Murray, so let's get her out of office and find somebody new who will show up for us. President Trump is constantly railing against "Do-Nothing Democrats," which is a laughable and provable lie (most of the stuff Democrats are trying to do gets blocked by Mitch McConnell, natch) but it turns out sometimes it's true. And we deserve better.
As I close out this rant on the horrors which pile on the "new normal" for American citizens, I'd like to leave you with this clip from the film The Pelican Brief (copyright Warner Bros. Pictures)... assuming it hasn't been taken down for copyright infringement...
Julia Roberts is right. They are wrong.
UPDATE: The Patriot Act reauthorization bill passed the Senate today in an 80-16 vote. Senator Patty Murray voted "no," but fat good that does us when she fucking knew it was going to pass. And that's awful. But it could have passed with an amendment to prevent warrantless invasion of privacy when it comes to our online lives. Whether this is due to Patty Murray's incompetence or indifference is anybody's guess. All she gives a shit about is that she can point to the Patriot Act and say "I opposed that!" when it's time for her to be reelected. And, while technically true, it's actually a lie. But what else do you expect from a politician?
Posted on Friday, May 15th, 2020
Nobody was more surprised than I was how much I loved the new Star Trek: Discovery series that CBS All Access unleashed on their streaming platform. The first season was beautifully realized, deliciously twisty, and featured some of the best acting to ever appear in Star Trek. It truly felt like something fresh and new, and I was thrilled to experience it (even if I had to pay extra money to see it). I hadn't loved a Star Trek series this much since the original.
The second season was a bit of a disappointment to me. It featured a convoluted time travel narative instead of the shocking turns we got in the first season. Even so, I still found a lot of things to enjoy about it. And by far the biggest thing? We got to see Spock before his tenure under Captain Kirk. It was when he was serving as First Officer to Captain Christopher Pike... which Trek fans know from the fantastic two-part Original Series show: The Menagerie. Pike was wonderfully realized by Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn turned in a fantastic appearance as Number One.
But it was Ethan Peck as Spock that made me desperately want to see more of their adventures aboard The Enterprise...
Courtesy of ViacomCBS and CBS All Access Television
And today we got the news that we actually will be seeing more of them...
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will pick up with the crew where their appearance on Star Trek: Discovery left off.
And so... a great time to be a Star Trek fan. We've got a third season of Discovery on the way... along with the Michelle Yeoh spin-off Star Trek: Section 31. And if that wasn't enough, the intriguing Star Trek: Picard has been renewed for a second season and we're getting a new animated show called Star Trek: Below Decks. And now Strange New Worlds too!
I dunno about you, but I'm thrilled to be getting some good news for once.
I think we're due.
UPDATE: And, just like that, we're back to the Twilight Zone as President Trump's "Space Force" unveiled its new flag...
I mean, it's not my imagination... that's the Starfleet logo on the Space Force flag, right?
Bad enough this country is going into even bigger debt over something so stupid... but to steal the logo from Star Trek? The insanity of it all makes my head hurt.
Posted on Saturday, May 16th, 2020
My cats have never really responded to catnip regardless of how many times I try. When they were kittens I would buy catnip toys and sprinkle it on scratching posts to entice them, but it never really did anything. Eventually I just gave up. They were happy to scratch on their posts without it (thus saving my furniture) so why bother?
The last thing I bought them were a few toys filled with Maine Organic Catnip. They would chew on them and toss them around, but it didn't seem the catnip was doing its thing.
Then this past week somebody was singing the praises of "From The Field" catnip, so I thought I would give the 'nip one last shot. When it arrived I could smell it through the bag. Heck, I could smell it through the shipment packaging!
I sprinkled it on Jake's favorite toys... Mufasa the lion and Moose the mule... plus the Maine lobster roll that already had catnip in it. He rolled around on them for a bit, but then he wandered off...
Jenny wasn't interested at all.
And so... I guess my cats just aren't genetically disposed to catnip then. I read that can happen. Oh well. At least now I know for sure. Because if they weren't going to respond to this skunk, nothing will do it.
I tossed the bag on the kitchen counter, fed us all dinner, then plopped myself down in front of the television and started working.
TELL ME. TELL ME THAT NOBODY SAW THIS COMING!
So there I am working away when I hear the cats in the kitchen goofing off. I worry that they've gotten into the garbage. But nope! THEY GOT INTO THE CATNIP! Hopped on the counter where they knocked it to the floor, then put a bunch of teethmarks in the bag before slicing an opening and getting it all over the kitchen floor. THEN they decided to roll around in it, fight in it, and go nuts in it. And then there's Jenny picking up Mufasa and throwing him at Jake at the 1-minute mark. So apparently I was making a bad assumption that they were not affected by the stuff. Because clearly...
And so I guess I just wasn't using enough of the stuff or something? The good news is that now I can throw them a 'nip party from time to time.
It's legal to get high in Washington State now, after all.
Posted on Sunday, May 17th, 2020
The weather is finally warming up, but the hottest place to be is right here... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• More Brothers! One of my favorite films to pop up in my foreign film binges is Kardeşim Benim, a really charming and funny Turkish film about two estranged brothers on a road trip after their father dies. A subtitled version is available on Amazon Prime streaming and for sale on iTunes...
I loved it and was happy to see that they made a sequel. Alas, Kardeşim Benim 2 was not available anywhere... even without subtitles... and all I could find was a trailer, which looked every bit as good as the first movie...
Fast forward to this past week and I saw that Amazon Prime Streaming finally had the sequel available to watch... with subtitles! It was darn good, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first film. It was a bit confusing, however, because the female lead from the first one has mysteriously disappeared. I was left scratching my head while thining "Wait... what happened to Zeynep?!? Who is Didem and where did she come from? Hakan is marrying her? Did I miss Kardesim Benim 1-1/2?!?" Still, well worth a look, especially if you saw the first one.
• Mow Your Tuna! I love languages and have studied more than a few of them. The only language I ever felt fluent enough to hold a conversation in was Japanese, which has long-since escaped my memory. Languages I studied just enough to blunder my way through when traveling have been Swedish, Thai, Portuguese, and Italian. The first language I studied was German and I studied Spanish in high school. Neither stuck. I did attempt learning French before my second trip to the country. It did not go well. Which is why I had a good laugh over this...
Now, I am the first to admit that English is no better. There are loads of homophones that make zero sense and can easily confuse anybody attempting to learn the language. But when it's the language you grow up with, it just makes sense.
• Casting! QUEEN LATIFAH AS THE EQUALIZER?!?!? SIGN ME UP, PLEASE! I am absolutely fascinated at how a show like that might work. I am so happy to have some really different television to look forward to and this fits the bill nicely.
• Electoral Math! "Democrats and losing elections is like Princess Peach and getting kidnapped by a lizard. At a certain point it starts to seem like y'all like this shit." — Oh... here we go... a total breakdown of how politics work where I live and how Democrats are 100% fucking it up. AGAIN...
He's not wrong. About any of it.
• Mo Betty! NEWSFLASH: Betty White to star in new Lifetime holiday film at 98 years old. — Squeeeeee!
• Magic! As we remain locked down in quarantine, I've been incredibly impressed with how much Disney has been doing to distract us from it all. On their blogs they've been releasing a slew of amazing recipes for some of their most popular dishes and desserts at their parks. As if that wasn't enough, theyve been posting videos to their YouTube channel of all kinds of things... from fireworks displays to attraction ride-throughs, like their latest and greatest: Rise of the Resistance...
• Hugs! And because I want to end today on a happy note, here's a video of people hugging animals hugging people...
Doesn't get much sweeter than that.
And that's all the bullets we have for today.
Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2020
This past weekend was about as unproductive a weekend as I've had in a very long time. I didn't do much of anything. I think the long weeks of not being able to hang out with friends or, you know, enjoy life, are starting to get to me.
What also gets to me? Going to watch The Abyss and finding that my DVD will no longer play despite still being in flawless condition. The good news is that HBO has it playing, so I was able to watch it after all. The bad news is that I was sent into a total panic at the thought of my massive DVD and Blu-Ray collection deteriorating into unplayability.
I've re-purchased or converted or as much of my collection as possible into digital. But so many things... so many, many, things aren't available digitally. Some movies (like The Abyss and True Lies) inexplicably never made it past DVD. So if you want to own them, that's all you got. As for television shows? Forget about it. Can't be converted, and a huge number of them not only never made it past DVD... but they are out of print and unavailable.
If my old television DVDs become unplayable, then that's all she wrote.
And so I've taken a dip into the quasi-legal arena of backing up my irreplaceable DVDs with digital copies. I say "quasi-legal" because technically breaking the DVD encryption is legally discouraged. But what the fuck else can I do? I can't buy them digitally. All I can do is buy yet another DVD copy that's likely just as old and deteriorating as the one I already own because it's gone out of print.
Like one of my favorite shows, Kitchen Confidential.
I can't believe that the show was canceled after 4 episodes. All 13 that they filmed were dementedly hilarious and featured a stellar cast (including Bradley Cooper, John Cho, and Frank Langella). It's a total bargain at $15 on DVD, but if the DVDs are becoming unplayable, it's a waste of $15.
And so I've ripped digital backups of DVDs I already own because it's all I can do to preserve what I purchased. And if FOX eventually comes to their senses and releases it digitally? Of course I'll re-buy it. I love the show and want to support everybody who worked on it.
Even if I am a bit bitter about supporting the studio which canceled it.
And speaking of bitter...
Like they always say... if you can't stand the heat, don't go into the volcano.
Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
This morning I had to stay home from work so the pest control guy could do his annual spraying around the condos... and so a delivery could be made... and so friends could drop off a chair they had borrowed back in February. And I mean literally drop off, because they waved and drove away after leaving it in my driveway so we could maintain proper social distancing.
They would have returned it much earlier but... well... you know... pandemic and all that.
Usually I would have invited them in for a chat.
Then again, usually they would not be returning furniture on a Tuesday morning because they would be at their respective jobs.
Then again-again, usually I would have invited them over for beers and dinner when they returned the chair after work or on a weekend.
But we are living in unusual times in an unusual situation, so I spent my morning cleaning my kitchen and talking to my cats while I waited.
Or at least what passes for "usual" now-a-days.
Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
The latest meme making its way around social media is people sharing photos from their "last day of normal." I don't even know what that means, but I do know the last day that I did something normal with my friends before lockdown was when we all got memorial tattoos on February 28th.
But things in my life were far from normal, even back then.
My volunteer work had been shut down 11 days earlier. Usually by late May I'd have already taken anywhere from four to six trips for that. This year I haven't been anywhere. The last time I traveled was December 26th. I have no idea when I'll travel next.
Given I have no idea when my normalcy went away, I try to create it by slipping into comfort meals I like. Up near the top of that list is heating up a bag of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Whole Grain Medley, toss in a handful of almonds, and call it dinner. When I was at the store last month, I was sure to grab a couple bags.
Then tonight when I finally cooked it I noticed that it looked funny. It smelled funny. It tasted funny.
I dug the garbage to see if I purchased expired rice only to find that it wasn't what I usually buy... my local grocer replaced the "Whole Grain Medley" I get (which was apparently subtitled "Brown and Wild") with a new blend that's "Quinoa & Brown with Garlic." I didn't notice because the packaging had been changed...
So much for my comfort food. This is not comforting at all. QUINOA ISN'T EVEN A FUCKING RICE!
AND ON CARB APPRECIATION DAY, NO LESS!
I might have been able to overlook gross quinoa if it actually had garlic as advertised, but the garlic was barely there. Uncle Ben's? More like Uncle Bullshit! They even got rid of the guy's awesome bow tie on the package!
Just one more sign that things will never go back to normal again.
Posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2020
The Empire Strikes Back is one of the greatest movies of all time. Easily the best film of the entire Star Wars franchise. It's an epic sci-fi adventure story that doesn't pander or self-sabotage with kiddie shit like we would get out of Return of the Jedi and the awful prequel trilogy. We wouldn't see anything like it in the Star Wars Universe again until Rogue One and The Mandalorian.
And today is the 40th anniversary of Empire hitting theaters...
So naturally I had to watch it for the hundredth time.
As if I need an excuse.
The difference being that I watched the original film and not the "Special Edition." Sure the re-release is prettier and the effects are more polished, but it has some idiotic changes that are beyond bad. Greedo shooting first... that hilariously clumsy and inexplicably redundant scene with Jabba (didn't we just go through this conversation with Greedo?)... they're jarring in the worst possible way. What would be great if we could just get the original movie with the updated effects, which is all you really need.
Obviously, The Empire Strikes Back totally holds up despite being 40(!) years old.
After viewing the film I ran to my bookshelf to grab the epic The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back book by J.W. Rinzler...
If you haven't already read it, the book is well worth tracking down.
I wanted to re-read the movie novelization, but my copy has long-since fallen apart from use. It's a shame, because it adds some depth to already memorable scenes. Like when Lando is walking Han and Leia to dinner, the door opens up, and Darth Vader is there. In the novel they talk about how Han draws his blaster fast... maybe the fastest he's ever drawn it... which is a cool detail that you can't get from the movie. I'm pretty sure that I have the comic book adaptation somewhere, but that would take more digging than I'm prepared to do.
Oddly enough, watching The Empire Strikes Back doesn't make me want to forge onward with The Return of the Jedi, but it does make me want to watch Solo: A Star Wars Story. The movie was severely underrated, and Donald Glover's take on Lando Calrissian is pretty great.
So I guess I've got the rest of my evening planned out then.
Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2020
My house is a total disaster. Which leads me to believe that the only reason I've been keeping everything obsessively clean all these years is because I had people dropping by and regular houseguests staying with me. Now that there's nobody here but me and the cats, I just don't bother. And it's getting completely out of hand.
This morning I noticed a smell coming from the dishes piled in the sink and finally decided to (begrudgingly) do something about it. Then I looked over at my pile of dirty clothes and decided to do something about that too. But that's as far as I managed to get before running out of motivation. Again.
It's all psychological of course, and that's something I've been trying to get sorted. Mostly it comes down to acknowledging that I took a great many things in life for granted.
I never really thought of myself as a social person, but apparently I'm far more social than I realized. Now that I can't just hop in my car and go visit my friends. It makes my world feel very, very small. Which is ironic considering the entire world is literally at my fingertips every time I open my computer.
That's not the same though, is it?
I've decided to keep my grocery store visits to once a month. I live in an area where masks are considered "a violation of American freedom" and people are overtly assholish towards you when you wear one. Never mind that it's for their protection in case I've been exposed... I still catch crap for looking out for others. And the fact that they can't extend the same courtesy to me is disheartening, to say the least. Apparently they've bought into all the idiotic nonsense about "masks cause carbon dioxide build-up that will kill you" and "Bill Gates wants to insert microchips in everybody" and whatever else wing-nut anti-science propaganda bullshit is out there being force-fed into social media. Guess it's more fun to believe the stupid shit than the simple reality of it all.
Not that I wouldn't rather skip out on reality, mind you.
I try to do exactly that every chance I get.
This month it's by watching movies from Central and South America that have been piling up on my watchlist. One of the better ones I've seen is a movie from Venezuela called Azul y no tan rosa (which translates to My Straight Son)...
I very nearly stopped watching because there's a horrific violent scene in the beginning that I really didn't need right now. The world is depressing enough. But man am I happy I kept watching. What a fantastic movie. Highest possible recommendation if you're looking for a sweet film to hunker down with over your Quarantine Memorial Day Weekend.
When I needed a break from subtitles, I happened upon an interesting art-house sci-fi film run amok called Infinity Chamber...
I avoided it for the longest time because there were some bad reviews and people were saying that the acting was amateur. This was bizarre to me because I thought Christopher Soren Kelly, upon whose talents the entire movie hinges, was fantastic. Sure the movie went on too long and the ending was a bit meh, but I liked it well enough.
Beats cleaning my house, that's for sure.
Posted on Saturday, May 23rd, 2020
The Mufasa paranoia continues.
Poor Jake is still dragging his favorite toy everywhere for fear that Jenny will hide it if he lets it out of his sight.
The bad news is that half the time he'll get distracted and leave Mufasa unattended. The good news is that Jenny seems to be over it. For whatever reason she isn't hiding the stuffed lion any more. Whenever Jake is wandering the house crying because he can't find it, I'll see it in some totally obvious place. Like sitting on the stairs...
Which is where he will often drop it on his way up or down...
Jenny is far more clever than that. If she wanted to hide it, she wouldn't be leaving Mufasa on the stairs.
But Jake still thinks that she's taking it, and will freak out when Mufasa is missing and Jenny is available to blame. Here he is waiting for her to come downstairs so he can force her to tell him where Mufasa is, even though he was the one who dragged it upstairs just a half-hour earlier...
Note that poor Jenny is all WTF?!?
Which, as you can imagine, is her default state with a brother like Jake.
Posted on Sunday, May 24th, 2020
You may be stuck in the house, but you won't be lacking for televised entertainment... because a very special Streaming Video Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Big Eden! For better or worse, small-town rural America has been saddled with a shiny veneer of down-home values and a sense of strong community. And, having lived that my entire life, it feels an accurate way of looking at things. But this image kind of glosses over the general bigotry and specific homophobia that seems to permeate it all. Big Eden is a movie which shows what happens if it didn't permeate it all...
This is such a warm, charming, and wonderful movie. I don't want to spoil a thing, but suffice to say that it's flawlessly realized cinema. After finishing it, I had to watch it all over again because there are dozens of tiny moments happening in the backgrounds by actors performing at the top of their game. This won a slew of LGBTQ awards, but I'd hardly call it a "gay movie." It's just a movie about a place that you wish existed.
• The Ultimate Gift! I had ZERO expectations for yet another "spoiled rich brat loses his fortune and turns his life around" movie... but The Ultimate Gift was a really good take on the genre...
James Garner is a multi-billionaire with a truly horrible family. This includes a spoiled grandson who spends money like it was water and hasn't worked a day in his life. Everybody gets short-changed in the will when James Garner dies, but the grandson is given a second chance at an inheritance. All he has to do is complete a series of challenges which will win him gifts... ending with "The Ultimate Gift" after all the challenges have been met. But the challenges are not easy and are designed to push him into being a better person. Yes, there are some over-the-top moments to create artificial angst and drama but, overall, I walked away really enjoying this one.
• Hide Away! (Josh Lucas, James Cromwell • 2012) — This movie has polarizing reviews. Some people hated it. Some people loved it. I absolutely loved it. Josh Lucas shows up at a small coastal town and buys a beat up old sailboat to refurbish. The entire movie is a metaphor for rebuilding your life after tragedy, and has been filmed beautifully. I mean really beautifully...
Some of the reviews were screaming "NOTHING HAPPENED IN 85 MINUTES OF RUN-TIME... NOTHING!!!" To which I can only respond "Maybe everything happened and you just weren't paying attention?" The movie 100% relies on Josh Lucas selling it, and he does not falter. From beginning to end, his nuanced performance and commitment to the story were pretty incredible. The ending takes a little thought to process, but was well-handled, I think.
• Kid Brother! This was one of those films where I pretty much had to trust Amazon's recommendation because I would have never given it a second look had I just seen the poster on the Prime Streaming page. A reclusive janitor's life takes a very different turn when his kid brother comes to stay with him...
Do not let the trailer fool you, there is some really good subtle humor and great performances. Where did Alan Longstreet come from and why hasn't he been in like A HUNDRED MOVIES by now? Clever, charming, and some real heart, Kid Brother is worth a look.
• The Lovebirds! Amazon doesn't have an exclusive on enjoyable movies. Netflix just dropped The Lovebirds, starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjani. I'm big fans of both, so I was planning on tuning in even if it looks kinda slapsticky and goofy...
And, don't get me wrong, it's absolutely slapsticky and goofy... but it's not without its charms, and I thought Nanjani and Rae did an incredible job of selling it. When all is said and done, it's a cute, sweet film that manages to overcome its weaknesses. It also take place in New Orleans, which is a definite plus.
• Mythic Quest: Quarantine! And, lastly, a lot of television shows are doing "quarantine" episodes or finding other imaginative ways to carry on. Late-night talk shows are thriving in the age of COVID-19. But none of them... none of them... can compare to the sheer brilliance that they came up with for an all new episode of Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet...
The trailer shows none of the ingenuity which makes the episode so bloody brilliant, which is actually pretty great because it doesn't spoil anything... including an amazing finale. I really enjoyed the first season of the show from Apple+... this is just icing on the cake.
And that's all the movie bullets I got. Stay safe, everybody.
Posted on Monday, May 25th, 2020
It may be a holiday Monday, but it's still a Monday.
I worked a little bit today, but not much. Even worse, I didn't get to the dozen chores I've been meaning to get to. Considering that in pre-COVID-19 days I would have been hanging out with friends all weekend and getting nothing done, I shouldn't beat myself up over it.
The one thing that hasn't changed is taking a moment to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy. Freedom isn't free, but it is something we take for granted. Maybe more-so this year than others.
Posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
Today was not a great day.
The brain rewiring I've had to learn in order to deal with my dyslexia falls apart when I'm tired or stressed or upset, and today I was all three. This makes reading a challenge... but also creeps into my ability to speak properly when things get really bad. Today I had multiple times where I couldn't find my words, something that hasn't happened in years. It's frustrating. It's embarrassing. It's just plain tough to deal with.
It's the pandemic. It's the easily debunked conspiracy theories. It's the politics. It's the uncertainty. It's the inhumanity. It's the lack of empathy and kindness.
It's a woman in Central Park weaponizing her white tears in a staged 9-1-1 call in an attempt to "kill via police" a Black man who had the audacity to ask her to obey the law and please leash her dog.
It's all of it. It's everything.
The world we have right now is not conducive to my living in it, and I honestly don't know what I can do about it. Probably nothing.
But I gave it a try when I bought Minecraft Dungeons from the Nintendo Switch eShop.
After all things LEGO, my favorite genre of video game is dungeon crawlers. I love the exploring and discovery and secrets and, of course, battling monsters for loot. The Diablo trilogy... the Baldur's Gate games... even the cutesy RPG crawlers like Fire Emblem, Trials of Mana, and (of course) the myriad of Final Fantasy games... I enjoy them all (and it's thanks to the first one I played, Dungeon Master on my Atari ST computer).
And while I don't play Minecraft, I was intrigued when I found out we were getting Minecraft Dungeons because I could use a fun dungeon crawler right about now.
The game starts out pretty simplistic. Exploration is curbed as you learn to fight enemies and follow the linear path laid out before you. At the mid-point of the game, things become more challenging and, if I'm being honest, a lot more fun. There's more to see, explore, and do, and the enemies no longer roll over and die at the sight of you. I've likely got another hour or two of gameplay left, but right now I'm digging it because I'm having to put a little more thought into how I'm approaching a level. Would have been nice if they started here, but it's all good.
I'm not anticipating things getting absurdly difficult, but I'm guessing the end won't be a cake-walk either. Apparently once you beat the game you can replay it at a higher difficulty, so that might be fun. And since the maps are (reportedly) procedurally-generated, it might be a slightly different experience, which is nice.
If you've played Diablo, you've pretty much played Minecraft Dungeons. The similarities are striking, even if the visuals are radically different. Mojang Studios used the same 8-bit blocky graphics they used for the original Minecraft, but they're really pretty and polished in this game. Sure, sometimes it can be annoying because it can be tough to get a bead on things quickly, but overall I really enjoy the aesthetic they dreamed up (and would probably appreciate it even more if I was more familiar with Minecraft).
Another departure from this Diablo clone is the class and weapon enhancement system. As in, there isn't classes and weapon enhancements can be recovered and redistributed as you upgrade your weapons. Being able to define and change your play style by not having to commit to a character class is simplistic and unrealistic (in context) but I rather like it. And you're not going to hear me complain about being able to transfer enhancements (or "enchantments" as they call them) to new weapons I like.
Right now I'm playing solo, but Minecraft Dungeons allows for 4-player co-op, which is something I'd really like to try. It seems like the entertainment value from multi-player would probably allow me to more easily gloss over the shortcomings of a simplistic game like this. The problem is that I can't cross-play with my friends who are playing on a platform other than another Nintendo Switch. This blows and, when I searched for it on the internet, I found that Mojang Studios is planning on providing a free update that will allow it. Since the only other people I know playing this are not doing so on a Switch, I guess I just have to be patient and hope that they aren't bored with the game by the time cross-play is released.
Ultimately I like this game. It feels like it's going to be a bit short and lacking the complexity I usually enjoy in a dungeon crawler, but it's also just $19 so at least it's priced accordingly. The fact that it's essentially a LEGO video game with different visuals is the real draw for me, however. In a time when the Real World seems like a void of despair from which I can never escape... being able to escape into Minecraft Dungeons is a welcome distraction.
Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2020
Last night I stayed up until 1:30am working, so I decided I deserved to leave work early today. So at 1:30pm I gathered my things... I hopped in my car... I screamed at the world... I sucked it up... and went grocery shopping.
This is most decidedly not something I wanted to do. If you remember last time I did this one month ago, it did not go well. I could have probably held out for another week... perhaps two... but I didn't like the consequences of doing so. At the end of that second week, I'd be eating saltines with ketchup or something.
As an added incentive? My Safeway Monopoly Instant Winner prize tickets expire tomorrow, and I will absolutely risk COVID-19 (and dealing with assholes) for $44 in free stuff.
Little did I know that 2/3 of my tickets could not be redeemed. So many of the things I was supposed to get for free or at discount were out-of-stock. Free bottle of hand-sanitizer? Don't make me laugh. Discount on Vlassic pickles? Nope. No Vlassic pickles to be had. Discount on chocolate milk? Denied. What I estimated to be $44 in savings ended up being... $17 total. Wheeee. My biggest score was a bottle of aspirin that I will never use. I only take Ibuprofen. But it was free, and who knows? Maybe one day I'll need it.
One hour and $200 in groceries later, I escaped no worse for wear.
That I know of, anyway.
I'd estimate that less than half of the people shopping with me were wearing masks. Which is not surprising. A lot of people here still think that the pandemic is a hoax, masks will kill you with carbon monoxide poisoning, and a litany of other nonsensical things. Logic has gone right out the window.
Which is why I'm more than a little worried about Washington State starting to open up again. Don't get me wrong, I certainly hope that we can reopen safely and not get a second bigger wave of COVID-19 infections, but it wouldn't surprise me after observing how some people are acting. If everybody was observing proper distancing, wearing masks, and generally giving a shit about other people, I'd feel a lot better about it.
Oh well. Not much I can do about it... except protect myself as best I can, look after others as best I can, and listen to people calling me names because of it.
Posted on Thursday, May 28th, 2020
The two days it took to build flower beds, fill pots, and plant flowers seems to be paying off. From what I can tell, only one plant died and all the rest of them are doing really well. I should probably weed everything again, but I'm in no hurry for that. All I know is that my yard doesn't look like a disaster area any more, and that's probably a good thing... even though I won't be having guests to appreciate them any time soon...
The irises on the side of my home are in peak bloomage, which is to say that they're all falling over because the flowers are too heavy for the stalks holding them up. I propped them up where I could and took photos so they can at least be appreciated before they all start dying...
I think I mentioned that I'm in the process of backing up all my DVDs before they rot to unplayability. But I'm also looking into the best way of backing up my 8mm cassette tapes. For quite a long time all my shows were recorded on 8mm because the quality was better than VHS and they were much smaller and easier to store. Over the years as the shows have become available to purchase digitally, I've been tossing the tapes out... but there's still quite a few shows which I can't purchase and will have to digitize. Including two of my favorite shows of all time... Cupid (1998, starring Jeremy Piven) and Oh Grow Up! (1999, starring the late Stephen Dunham). I cannot for the life of me understand why television studios don't just release their entire catalogs to scrape up some cash, as there are many shows I'd gladly buy if only I could.
Including some shows I never even knew existed.
Yesterday I became aware of a 2016 show from the UK called Hooten and the Lady when a friend let me stream it from his Sling DVR. Apparently The CW acquired the USA rights and broadcast it in 2017. He thought I might like it... and I absolutely do...
I liked the first three episodes so much that I went to buy it so I could see the five remaining episodes. Alas I can't buy them. It isn't available here in the USA in the iTunes Store, nor can I purchase it on DVD or Blu-Ray because it's region-encoded and won't play on my machine. Which is a pity, because it's really, really good. Kinda Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone. Or something like that. It's got action and has some funny moments to it. Guess I'll have to see when my friend will let me schedule some time with his Sling Box again so I can finish it up. Alas it never got a second season, which is inconceivable to me. It's such a great show.
Except it actually is totally conceivable to me because all the good shows seem to get premature deaths.
Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2020
"It is impossible to build one’s own happiness on the unhappiness of others. This perspective is at the heart of Buddhist teachings." — Daisaku Ikeda
Like a lot of people, I'd imagine, I have been looking towards my faith to find comfort in and make sense of this world we find ourselves living in. To which people are all "Awww, me too!" Until they realize that the faith I'm talking about is not Christianity, which leads to an uncomfortable silence as my imagination has them adding me to their okay-to-hate-list.
Because that's pretty much how it goes, doesn't it? Your interpretation of a special book says that it's okay to hate certain people, so you ignore the larger message of love and forgiveness and focus on the hate because it's so much easier. And since your interpretation serves as justification for your hate, you've got some kind of divine permission which makes it all okay no matter how ugly it may be.
I'm sure I've been hated for a lot of things. I came to this conclusion early in life thanks to being smart in a world that prefers ignorant, unremarkable in a world that prefers beautiful, sickly in a world that prefers virility, and willful in a world which prefers submissiveness. Somebody feels I fall short of an idealized goal, so I get hated for it. And, yeah, it can hurt. I've bought into the brainwashing as well... because how could anybody not... and I've spent plenty of time hating myself too. No need to point out where I don't measure up because, honestly, I'm right there with you.
Attacking on my masculinity (or lack thereof) is the go-to way that people have been hating on me for decades. I've been called "faggot" more times than I can count. I'm not gay... but that doesn't matter because I'm not masculine. And since masculine guys (and masculine-worshipping guys and gals) think that being masculine is everybody's ultimate goal in life, it's easy to throw a little hate my way.
When I was younger, it bothered me. I may not have even fully understood what the word meant, but it must be something terrible if it was being directed at me, right? I'm a nerdy weak kid, so the strong perfect people pretty much had no choice but to bully me. It's my fault for choosing to be a nerdy weak kid, after all. I deserve it.
Then I grew up, stepped out of my bubble, went out into the world, and started meeting actual gay people, for whom the slur had been created. I quickly learned that these were some of the strongest people I had ever met. They had to be in order to survive a society which had been designed to persecute and hate them. — And yet I'm supposed to be upset that somebody wants to count me amongst their ranks? Holy shit, what an absolute honor. Of course I've met people in the LGBTQ community that are total assholes who are happy to bully me right along with the rest of society's toxic elements... but, by and large, the LGBTQ community has been far more kind and accepting of me than any other, which is why most of the people I love, respect, and admire make their home there.
So, yeah, people call me a "faggot" whether it's intended to be imasculating or because they think I'm gay. And the whole time I'm laughing because I see it as such a huge compliment... all while being angry and sad that such an ugly word has been created to hurt people I love.
All of this came crashing down on me this morning when I read the latest news concerning Brian Sims, a Representative from Pennsylvania. Yesterday he posted a live melt-down video because Republican House members tested positive for COVID-19... but only told other Republicans about it. People who had been in contact with those testing positive were still showing up to chambers... unmasked, and Democrats were never told a thing. They only found out because a reporter found out. Representative Sims disclosed that the reason he's so angry is that he's high-risk for infection because he donated a kidney, and it was a horrific scenario for his fellow representatives and staff who might have taken the coronavirus back to their families unknowingly.
Fast-forward to today when Representative Sims showed up to voice his renewed disgust at how horribly Republicans had acted throughout this entire ordeal... only to have Republican Representative Jerry Knowles yell out that Sims was "a little girl" as he was finishing up his speech.
There it is...
That's manly masculine man Jerry Knowles on the left and little girly girl Brian Sims on the right.
You wouldn't think "little girl" of Brian Sims because he's outraged that he was willingly exposed to people who were exposed to the coronavirus and it's risky for him to contract it because he answered the call to go under the knife and donate a kidney... would you?
I mean, holy crap, they have to practically rip you in half to get at the kidney and it's far from a cakewalk. There's significant risks during and after you donate, and if your remaining kidney fails for some reason, you are in some serious shit. You have to be made of pretty tough stuff just to consider donating a kidney.
You wouldn't think "little girl" of Brian Sims when you look at him because, let's face it, the guy is fire and just about any man on earth would be happy to look like this ruggedly handsome individual... would you?
I mean, holy crap, the guy even pals around with his big fucking manly dog...
So what could it be? What could it possibly be as to why Representative Jerry Knowles was screaming "LITTLE GIRL" across chambers while Representative Brian Sims was speaking? What?
Oh. I see.
He was called a "little girl" because he's gay, thus not at all masculine. Yes, I recognize it all too well.
Fortunately, just like I've come to understand that people calling me "faggot" is actually an incredible compliment, Brian Sims was basking in the honor of being called a "little girl" because he knows what it actually means. Not what some bigoted old fart thinks it means... what it actually means to be a little girl growing up in the world. Having to look a certain way or act a certain way or else being told she's not a girl. Having to work harder to achieve success only to be rewarded with less. Having to deal with non-stop harassment and intimidation yet still be expected to smile. Being made to feel unsafe because "boys will be boys" somehow excuses everything, no matter how horrific. And that's just a taste of the gauntlet that little girls have to navigate. The list goes on and on. This is supposed to be an insult? Representative Knowles should be so lucky to have somebody call him a "little girl." Little girls are tough. They have to be. And a pathetic coward like Knowles wouldn't know tough if it sat on his face. What a fucking embarrassment.
Representative Brian Sims has been an interesting political figure to watch over the years. Interestingly enough, I wrote about him here on my blog a decade ago before he ever ran for office. It all started with this inspiring video...
Since then, Sims has not been without controversy. Some of it was inevitable. He's an out and proud hardcore liberal gay man in public office. There are people who are vehemently opposed to any and all of this, and I'm sure the Representative has to wade through their vitriol daily...
His responses are sometimes shocking and controversial... sometimes surprising... sometimes funny. Sometimes, they're all three...
Other controversies are a bit more complex, but not at all surprising. He is, after all, a politician. And apparently you can't be a politician without being party to some shady shit. Politicians and shady shit go together like peas and carrots. He posted videos of himself confronting praying Planned Parenthood protestors that were cringe-inducing even to Planned Parenthood supporters, then issued a "non-apology apology" after the fact. He's been the subject of an ethics investigation after accepting speaking fees in violation of policies which forbid it. He regularly says and does things that are inappropriate for his office... like posting a photo of himself flashing a middle finger saying that it's his "welcome message" to Vice President Pence when he visited. I mean, come on, take the high ground so people don't have to make excuses for voting for you. If a Republican were to flip the bird as a "welcome message" to Vice President Biden, Democrats would lose their damn minds.
Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, mind you. Vice President Pence and everybody party to the Trump Administration can absolutely fuck right off. But you're a public servant and supposed to be held to a higher standard than that of a vile asshole such as myself. And hey, I'm trying to be better. Really I am. Building my happiness on the unhappiness of others is not what I'm supposed to be about. Daisaku Ikeda was not wrong when he says that it's an impossible thing to do. Every structure has to start with a strong foundation or what you build on top of it is likely to crumble.
That being said, I suppose you kind of have to cut some slack to Brian Sims and people like me for going off the rails from time to time. Just look at the horror story of the world we have to live in.
Well, okay, I deserve a little more slack than Brian Sims does. Because at the end of the day, he gets to look like Brian Sims and I... well... I most definitely do not...
I'm allowed to be a little bit bitter about that.
Posted on Saturday, May 30th, 2020
Usually, my cats like to be wherever I'm at when I'm home. And I've tried to accommodate that by having places for them. If I'm in my bedroom, they hang out on the window perches I put up. If I'm in the living room, they are either laying on the cat bed I put on the coffee table... or hanging out in the cat tree. But now that I'm home all the time? They are starting to tire of hanging around me. They're either out in the catio or sleeping in the bedroom.
I kind of miss it though. My cats are entirely entertaining... even when they're doing nothing. Jeny flopped down in some water that leaked into the catio when it rained and was sporting a mohawk for a while. Eventually I managed to mostly get rid of it by petting her with damp hands, so it's almost gone now...
But don't think that they avoid me entirely. I took some shirts out of the wash to hang up... turned around for a second... and suddenly Jenny is there on one of my shirts...
... and would not let it go. I pull on it, and she pulls it back.
I even tried to distract her with chin scratches...
Rather than risk battling it out and getting claw marks on a pricey shirt, I decided to just let her keep it. And she did. For over fifteen minutes! Amazing that my cats are now getting hair on my clothes before I even get them dried!
In other news, the Mufasa drama is still in effect, even though Jenny seems to have lost interest. What seems to be happening now is that Jake misses chasing his sister around for his toy, so now he's taken to throwing Mufasa around...
This is really worrisome, because I don't know that this toy can take that kind of punishment day in and day out. And, much of the time now, it's like Jake is literally daring Jenny to take his favorite toy.
Jenny hears Jake running down the steps and waits to see what's up...
Jake come down, carrying Mufasa as usual...
Then Jake will drop Mufasa right in front of her, pretty much inviting her to grab it...
Jenny, not one to pass up an invitation like that, reaches down to pick him up...
At which point Jake immediately freaks out and chases her away which, I'm guessing, was what he wanted all along...
At some point a pair of my boxes was dragged out of the laundry bag I didn't have time to run upstairs, so this is what greeted me when I got home...
Cats. Wouldn't want to do quarantine without them!
Posted on Sunday, May 31st, 2020
I don't even know what to say... but here's a new Bullet Sunday anyway...
• BLM! Despite being so crestfallen about the state of politics in this country that I'm trying not to blog my rage on a daily basis... something needs to be said. I fully believe that an unarmed citizen should not be dragged from their car by the police and get choked out on the street... all while crying out because they can't breathe as other citizens are telling the officers they they're killing somebody. For nine minutes. That's not law enforcement, it's murder. And when the murder disproportionately targets Black Americans? Well, that's why people are protesting. And I support the protesters 1000%, because this shit has got to stop. And, quite honestly, I don't understand why everybody can't support the protesters. I mean, my God, Black Americans have been trying to get attention to their plight via peaceful protest forever now. And no matter how they try to protest and bring awareness, they get criticized for it. Can't kneel at a football game (even though a veteran advised you it was a respectful way to protest) because people don't like it. Can't try to mention what's happening in an award speech because people don't like it. Can't have a sit-in. Can't have a march. Can't hold a rally. Can't carry a sign. Can't write an article. Can't make a movie. Can't do anything without pissing people off who don't want to be reminded of the horrific systemic racism which plagues us (and from which they likely benefit). Well, too fucking bad. Your "inconvenience" is what's going to lead to change. That's how shit gets done in this country. Just ask those who took part in the Boston Tea Party.
And, lastly, for the love of everything holy, STOP EQUATING PEACEFUL PROTEST TO LOOTING! The vast, vast number of people protesting are not looting a damn thing. As more and more information comes to light, the looting and violence are being started not by protesters, but by others for their own ends. Which include Far Left Anarchists, Far Right White Supremacists, and The President of the United States of America. They want to watch the world burn so they can start something new. Black Americans just want to be able to walk down the street and not get shot by the people sworn to protect them. Don't get me wrong... I support the idea of a police force. And I believe that officers on the front lines should have the tools they need to do their job and stay safe. But the grotesque militarization of our police has only served to escalate violence, and the lack of training for de-escalating situations before they turn violent is woefully inadequate. Instead we've got rogue police officers acting like judge, jury, and executioner. That's heinous. That's wrong. That needs to stop. Today. And a lot of police officers agree, which is why they are joining up with the protesters. It's their community too, and any officer true to their mission should be supporting peaceful protest of law enforcement abuses.
And now I'm going to go scream for a half-hour.
• Predictable! And meanwhile, this is happening...
I’ve been called a lot of names & accused of a lot of things by ER patients but it’s surreal to have a patient accuse me of falsifying their COVID result - bc they don’t believe the virus is real - as I’m actively trying to keep them from dying from multi organ failure from COVID pic.twitter.com/gyv9HQfL0F— Ryan Marino (@RyanMarino) May 20, 2020
• Misbehavin'! One of my favorite TV shows from 2019 took me completely by surprise... it was The Righteous Gemstones starring John Goodman as a mega-church televangelist pastor. And one of the best bits to come out of that show was the performance of a song called Misbehavin' by the wife of John Goodman's character and her scheming brother...
I've watched that video at least a dozen times. And if your curious about how the song came about, here's an article for you.
• From My Ranch To Your Kitchen! I've not been cooking much lately because I just haven't felt up to it. But yesterday I decided that I really need to start using the ingredients I've purchased while they're still good, so I started looking for ideas. Then somebody on Facebook reminded me of one of my favorite cooking channels on YouTube... De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina. Sure, she cooks most everything with meat, but it's fascinating. And, thanks to Google's auto-translation subtitles, you can actually follow along fairly well when you turn them on (CC button) and select "auto-translate" in the settings (gear button)...
Great stuff. Love her. It was this channel that convinced me to give a recipe with tomatillos a try with my Martha Stewart recipe box subscription.
• Armchair Traveler! So many museums and cool places are putting up virtual tours and I'm absolutely loving it. But the best one I've seen so far is the Statue of Liberty, which is sensational. You can go around and inside of it and look around 360°. Here's just a sampling of what I saw when I virtually-visited...
In the day time. But there's also night views from the exterior...
Having been up the Statue of Liberty a couple times, I fully admit that the dizzying heights and cramped quarters aren't something you can reproduce virtually, but at least you can get a taste of it. This is a view inside the crown...
The photos I just posted (courtesy of the National Parks Service) really don't do the experience justice. Head over to their site to see for yourself.
• Dates! One of my favorite vloggers, Johnny Harris, has yet another cool video up. This time he's exploring the International Date Line and why it's the way it is...
This wouldn't be the first time Google Maps has screwed up. A decade ago there was an error which caused Nicaragua to invade Costa Rica. So even though Google Maps is often viewed as a definitive source of information because it's so heavily used, it really shouldn't be. Always check your sources. And if you can't get enough Johnny Harris, check out this fascinating video about Swiss neutrality.
Stay safe, everybody.