Disney+ and Marvel Studios debuted Hawkeye last week with two episodes. And while they were great, I was a little disappointed that they were dragging out the series with such a large amount of build-up. I know that Kate Bishop and her world has to be established since we've never seen her before... but come on. They could have easily done that in a single episode! Instead 1/3 of the series was pretty much over before we got to what we're wanting to see.
And then the third episode dropped today and, yep, now we're EXACTLY where the second episode should have started. This is everything I was dying to see from the Matt Fraction and David Aja comic book series come to life...
Echo, who appeared at the end of last episode is given some back-story this time around. And yet it's not drawn out so it infringes on the absolutely wild action we get to see. Seriously, watching Clint Barton escape from the mess he's in is thrilling. Jeremy Renner has nailed the character so thoroughly that I seriously hope that he doesn't disappear entirely after the mantle is passed to Kate Bishop. It's entirely possible for her to go on to do her own thing while still giving us a second season of Hawkeye.
And now is the time that I implore you to check out the comic book series upon which this television series is lifting from. It is, in all honesty, in my top ten comic book series of all time, and I've read through the Fraction/Aja run at least a half-dozen times now...
Well, well worth your valuable time.
On Monday I sent my old Intel MacBook Pro back to Apple to fulfill my trade-in agreement.
The first thing Apple tells you to do is back-up your data so you can transfer it all to your new machine. Well, I never do that any more because all my data is either in the cloud or on my local NAS drive array. I prefer to start fresh on a new machine, which easy to do because all I have to do is re-download all my apps (which is probably a good idea regardless since it assures you that you're running all the latest versions.
I had already been using my new M1 MacBook Pro for a week and nothing was amiss, so when it was time to pack up the old laptop, I just wiped the drive and that was that...
And then today I opened up Adobe Lightroom, which is where my tens of thousands of photos are catalogued.
My original photos are all safe on my NAS. But the actual catalog with all my previews and corrections and such wasn't there. I had forgotten to transfer it to my new laptop. It could all be recreated no problem, but the previews alone would take many, many hours to regenerate. It would take days to get back to where I was.
I can't be certain, but I think I stopped breathing for a minute.
But before I shit a brick over being so stupid, I remembered that I transfered my Adobe Lightroom catalog to my new iMac when I got it (a process that I documented here).
So... crisis averted, apparently.
Until the next time I open an app and find something missing.
Next time I think I'll make that backup. Just in case.
It's Friday night and I am not going to bed until I fix all the stuff that got busted on Blogography!\p>
Okay. That may have been a presumptuous statement. Four hours later and it seems like I'm causing more problems than I'm fixing. Which seems to be par for the course when it comes to the technology in my life. And I do mean ALL the technology in my life! Heck, even Alexa has betrayed me... as she's now failing to control my Hue lights for some reason!
But the biggest problem for me right now is my home WiFi.
For a while now I've suspected that I have some unauthorized devices on my network. Usually what I'd do is temporarily lock down my internet to known devices until I figure out what's going on. Either the unauthorized devices will drop off and I'll get a note they tried to connect... or there's aome internet "thing" around here that I forgot to write down which will stop working and I'll know what it is that way. Either way, the problem is solved.
But, alas, my THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FUCKING DOLLAR ROUTER... the AmpliFi Alien from Ubiquiti... is a steaming pile of shit that lacks even the most basic features that my cheaper Google Wifi mesh network had included. Hell, you can't even see the IP addresses and MAC addresses for your device list. You have to click on them twice to get that. Insanity. And don't get me started about the complete lack of features on the router itself. For THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FUCKING DOLLARS I'd expect the absolute bare minimum... like a persistent list of devices that attempted to connect... or MAC address blocking... or separate passwords when you separate out the different bands into their own SSID...or ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING that helps you with basic WiFi functionality or security.
I ended up ordering a "Fing Box" to add the basic security features that Ubiquity doesn't feel the need to add to their pricey shit. From what I can tell, neither the app or the router has gotten any kind of features added since I've owned it. Which has been what... two years now?
I'm sure there's purchases I've regretted more than the Alien... but this has got to be in the top ten. Probably top five.
So let this post get indexed by Google as a warning to others looking to buy it. You can thank me for saving you the anguish later.
Believe it or not, Jake and Jenny's sixth birthday is this coming Monday!
Two kittens I got to keep my mom occupied while I was at work have become more of a fixture in my home than my furniture! It seems like just yesterday that I brought them home from the shelter... little confused and terrified balls of fuzz that hid under the couch for weeks... only coming out to eat after we'd gone to bed.
Now they're still terrified of strangers... and sometimes terrified of me... but they own the place, and they know it. Just look at the adorable little assholes that run my life...
I wouldn't have it any other way. Happy birthday!
It's snowing! But don't worry about losing me in a winter wonderland... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• X-Anderson! As one of my favorite filmmakers, it's oftentimes a fun mental exercise to imagine what it might be like for him to interpret different characters and ideas (for the longest time I was seriously hoping for a Wes Anderson take on Madman. Now somebody has gone and actually brought the idea of Wes Anderson X-Men to life. The result is glorious...
Not joking when I say that I would 100% pay good money to actually see that movie.
• Big Yam's Hair! Sometimes you just need something so wonderfully wholesome that it makes your entire week. This is what made mine (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
My clients love me😂 ##barber ##barberlife ##northjerseybarbers ##bergencountybarber ##barbershopconnect ##barberprank ##barberjokes ##barberpranks ##fyp♬ Isn't She Lovely - Stevie Wonder
Awww... tell me you didn't smile at that!
• Minus Two Percent! With Petco you used to earn $5 for every $100 spent (5%). In January you will earn $5 for every $167 spent (3%). And the points expire so you have to spend more money faster in order to get that measly $5 reward. So... I guess the only reason I have to shop at Petco now is for their bulk kitty litter. Everything else will be bought online from other places that offer more for my loyalty. There's simply no reason to continue wasting time and gas money to drive to Petco if I'm going to struggle to get enough points before they expire to get a pitiful 3%. return. — If they wanted to drop from 5% to 3%, fine. But they don't really want to even pay you that much, or else they would have given you more time to spend the extra $67 before the points expire. Well, good luck with that. I have two small cats, not six Great Danes. And apparently that's the customer they're going for now.
• Шитье в России! While I work I have Russian Tube videos playing so I'm immersed in the language. Occasionally I catch words and phrases I know, which is fun. But now I'm completely addicted to this woman's channel. She does beautiful work and has really good ideas...
The subtitles can be turned to "auto-translate" into English, which is pretty cool..
• Boner Alert! Every time this pops up, I laugh as hard as the first time...
What's even more astounding than them getting Jon Hamm to appear is how amazing Rihanna is in this. I mean, it's a parody, but she completely made it a real song. They tried to recreate the magic six years later, but it didn't quite land as hard.
• Pray! This guy likes to torment his gay brother on TikTok. The results are always hilarious (Here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@utahbromos Gay jokes. 😂 #lgbt #lgbtq #brothers #gay #gays #equality #love #gaysoftikok #mormon #family ♬ original sound - UtahBromos
I swear, TikTok never gets old because there's always clever content creators releasing great new stuff.
• Boner Alert 2! Anti-vaccine Christian broadcaster Marcus Lamb dies at 64 after contracting COVID. Your prayers were answered. God gave you doctors, scientists, vaccines, and a drive for knowledge to understand His creation. If you choose to take a pass on all of it... then encourage people to do the same in His name... then it's not surprising that your God decided you shouldn't be here any more. And here comes Omicron to weed out more of those who deny the blessings they've been given. We're going to get to heard immunity one way or another... it's either by getting vaccinated and following the advise of doctors and scientists who are tirelessly studying COVID... or it's when the virus eventually mutates into a variant that wipes out the ignorant masses who choose to follow false prophets like this. Choose wisely..
And there's the end of my Sunday right there.
Given that I worked over the weekend you'd think that I'd be off to a good start for my Monday. But not so much. Most of my work issues were technical (yes, the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien is still a bag of shit), but I also had a pre-work run-in at the mini mart parking lot (of all places) with somebody who took issue with my masking up on the way to the door "AWWW, COME ON WITH THE MASK, BUDDY! YOU'RE NOT EVEN INSIDE!" Well, yeah dumbass... but I'm six seconds from being inside, so it seemed prudent to just mask-up on the way rather than having to stop at the door, mask-up, then go inside. Of course this idiot wasn't wearing a mask at all, so it's not like anything I could say would make a difference. So I didn't bother. Gee. I sure hope that he doesn't get Omicron.
And speaking of Omicron... they now have a timeline of three-to-four months before a specific booster is available for it. Am I going to get it even though I just got a "regular" booster back in October? Oh fuck yes I am... hopefully in time for my birthday. Because Omicron is so new, there are conflicting reports at how well the existing vaccination protects against it. Some say it does a pretty good job of diminishing COVID symptoms if you get it... others say it is not as helpful as had been hoped because it's mutated more spike proteins than the original vaccine taught our bodies to recognize. As with all things science, only time... and more data... will tell. I suppose if hospitals start getting overrun (again) we'll have our answer. All I know for sure is that I would happily get a new vaccine every quarter if it means I have a better chance of not getting seriously ill.
In the meanwhile? Masks actually work.
Even though apparently there are people who would rather not let you know that.
My comic book news day started with good news... Shang-Chi 2 is a go with Marvel Studios. But then I read the gut-wrenching news that brilliant comic book artist George Pérez has inoperable pancreatic cancer with months to live and there was no amount of good news that could compensate.
So many comic books I bought simply because George Pérez was drawing them. I bought every magazine I could find where he discussed his art and career. Every book, every special, every interview, every everything. His revival of Wonder Woman remains my favorite version of the character. His interpretation of The Scarlet Witch remains one of the best super-hero costumes ever created (and the sexiest). And nobody draws a team book like George. Absolutely nobody. There are many comic book artists whom I enjoy... but there's only one George Pérez. And while I am sad to hear of his latest setback, I temper my sadness with the knowledge that his work will live on. He has left us a legacy so amazing that it cannot help but endure.
In other comic book news, The AV Club ranked all the Marvel TV shows. It's kind of hard to take any list seriously that doesn't have The Inhumans in dead-last place... but a lot of their reasoning is sound (except with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which I can never understand how people actually enjoyed). Just for kicks, here's my ranking...
Still trying to wrap my head around The AV Club thinking that Helstrom was somehow worse than The Inhumans.
I am very quick to cut people out of my life which is a detriment to my living it. I have zero problem and less than zero hesitancy. It doesn't matter how much I like a person. It doesn't matter who they are to me. It doesn't matter what history we have together. It's a protection mechanism which has served me, so I ain't changing my ways any time soon. Forgiveness? Not me, baby. Not who I am.
And while I have no regrets or cares about who's been cut loose, I care very much when they make it into something it's not to other people. I'm not saying I'm always blameless for the falling out (I have zero problem admitting it when it's on me) but I am tired of having to eat a shit sandwich over things I am not responsible for.
Exploiters are the people who were in my circle solely for what they could get out of me... and are still trading on that with people we share long after we were through with each other.
Liars are the people who completely misrepresent what happened and why we're no longer friends.
Martyrs are the people who take the blame that's rightfully theirs, but act like the saint for saying "I don't Dave for not wanting to be my friend," like I am a terrible person who should be forgiving them for their bullshit.
Dumbasses are the people who know full well why they're no longer in my life but play dumb to mutual people we know rather than cop to anything they might have said or done.
Assholes are people who continue to punish me for wanting nothing to do with them when their abusive shit is why I cut them out in the first place.
Conquerers are people who do whatever they can to take the mutual people in our lives away from me (which, technically, is not a problem because those people were never my friend to begin with if they fall in line like this... but it can still sting).
Annoyers are people who still try to stick to you like glue after you've made it clear you want nothing to do with them, usually by using other people to try and weasel their way back in.
Delusionals people who refuse to accept that it's over and act like nothing happened, carrying on like they didn't stab you in the back and you're still besties.
Today was an extraordinarily difficult day. Just writing this blog post will undoubtedly lead to more drama that I never signed up for and don't want. But for my own sanity I just can't sit here and be content to eat that sandwich.
That's not who I am either.
There's a documentary on "the automat" (called The Automat) that I really want to see. In pre-COVID times I might have even flew to one of the film festivals where it will be playing in 2022. I don't know why I'm so obsessed with the idea of an automat, but it probably has to do with the movie Dark City, one of my favorite films. "The City" has an automat, and it just looked to cool...
The fact that they are making Dark City into a television series is something to get excited about. Especially since director Alex Proyas is involved.
No idea if the film is playing near you (there's a few dates for 2022, and you can find out here) but I'm sure we'll see it on some streaming service eventually. Until then, here's a taste...
Automats never came out West. The closest I have come to seeing one was a similar concept in Japan, but they didn't have all the little doors like the US Automats had.
If there's one thing I'm sure of, we'll eventually see an automat again. It's just too fantastic a concept to ever truly die.
Doubt they'll have pie for a nickel though.
When I went though my Facebook feed this morning, I saw that a Hard Rock Cafe had opened Yerevan. A wave of sadness hit me as I remembered my former life of travel. I've always wanted to visit Armenia, and five years ago I'd just add Yerevan to my list of places I want to go and try to make it happen on my next trip to Europe. Now I seriously wonder if I'll ever visit Europe... or much of anywhere... ever again.
A part of it is COVID.
A part of it is not missing hours on a plane and waiting in airports.
A part of it is not wanting to leave my cats.
A part of it is just my being tired.
But... boy did I love seeing the world. I miss it so badly that it hurts sometimes. I get nostalgic, look through my thousands of travel photos, and am ready to book a flight so I can get back to the life I had.
In the past two years I've had one trip to Maui for a funeral. I currently have no plans to go anywhere else.
But I can dream, can't I?
Since Jenny was little, she's always brushed up against my leg as I put her food down... like she's thanking me or something. Jake is too busy scarfing his meal to thank me, but I'm sure he's grateful. Last night my phone fell out of my pocket as I was bending over and it scared her so bad that she ran off and hid. Eventually she came back to eat, but this morning at breakfast she kept her distance until I left. I felt pretty bad about it and was wondering if she'd ever trust me again. But then tonight she was back to rubbing up against me, so I guess she's forgotten about the Friday Dinner Disaster.
And before I go... here's a gem to make your holiday brighter! (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
##MacysGiftTok ##catsoftiktok ##voiceover ##christmas ##funnycat ##catdad ##santa ##impressions♬ original sound - Drennon Davis
Yeah, I think we're done here.
Snow has finally come to Redneckistan! But will it last? Doesn't matter... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• MACGRUBER! This coming Thursday. Four more days. I love, love, loved the MacGruber movie. I've watched it an embarrassing number of times and have been wanting a sequel forever. But a TV series will do just fine...
It looks like it's going to be even better than the movie. Can't wait!
• Beautiful! Flawless...
Dumbass bigots self-own so often that I just accept it as their default.
• Enter the Matrix! I'm intrigued...
Though I remember being excited for the two shitty sequels we got last time, so I'm cautiously optimistic.
• Crossed-Stitched! This made my entire morning (here's a link if TikTok is being a dick)...
This. Took. So. Long. 😢 ##pleasehitlike ##myfingershurt ##TubiTaughtMe ##crossstitch ##xstitch ##summer ##foryourpride ##shecamedowninabubbledoug♬ original sound - Collecting Weekly Clips
• BACON! In general, not buying Kellogg's products has been easy for me... except Morning Star Farms fake bacon. I eat this stuff by the truckload. I put it on sandwiches. I eat it for breakfast. I crumble it and put it on everything... E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G... because it's such a great product. There are few alternatives in my area, and the ones I've tried have been awful. I seriously hope that Kellogg reconsiders their abhorrent behavior so I can start buying it again... but... oh well. I refuse to buy any of their products now, and may never buy them again. Hopefully stores will replace Morning Star Farms "Bacon" with Lightlife "Smart Bacon" or something I like.
It's so weird. I've been buying shitloads of Morning Star Farms since I first became a vegetarian in 1986. In many stores where I live, they were the only option. And many of their products remain a favorite... Grillers Original Burgers... Sausage Patties... OH LORD, THOSE GLORIOUS CORN DOGS... and, of course, the bacon. At most, it's been an inconvenience for me. I dipped and fried my own Lightlife corn dogs and they were every bit as delicious as the Morning Star Farms (better even!), but a hassle to make. I will have to see if I can made 100 of them and hope they freeze well? I dunno. Fingers crossed..
• Happy Holidays! The irony is not lost on me that it may very well end up that my favorite Hallmark Christmas movie of 2021 is actually a Hanukkah movie...
Maybe it's because they only get one Hanukkah movie each year that they get to put all their good ideas in a single movie... unlike Christmas where all the ideas are split between 40 movies... but this is another winner after an equally good flick last year.
• Interview! I met Anne Rice twice at book signings. When people ask me what she was like, I had the same response both times... "She was nice. But disconcerting because it felt like she could see right through me." And it's true. Nice as can be... made some sweet chit-chat with me... and made me feel like she had supernatural eyesight that was more than a little intimidating.
Which is why I was very sad to hear of her passing. I liked some of her books. Was less enchanted by others. But ultimately enjoyed the entertainment she generously offered me. But I'm more upset because I feel that a total stranger who knew me better than I knew myself has gone. And, yeah, I know that doesn't make much sense. But it does to me.
And I guess that's all I got to say about that.
Outside of my home state of Washington, the city I've been to the most times is Las Vegas. I don't even think it's a contest. Thanks to my volunteer work, I was in Vegas three or four times a year for nearly a decade. And had been several times before that as well.
Visiting Sin City with a group of friends is about the best there is. There's so much to do as a group in Vegas that you can't help but have fun. I have many, many fond memories of visiting with a group of people and just having a blast day and night.
But it's a different story when you're there alone.
As somebody who's traveled the world quite alot alone, I can honestly say that Las Vegas may very well be the lonliest city on earth when you're there by yourself. A world of experiences is at your doorstep, but it's not much fun when there's nobody there to share it with you. Fortunately I had my work to distract me. I would never go to Vegas on my own for no reason. Vegas doesn't work that way.
And today it was announced that Hard Rock International purchased The Mirage hotel.
The Mirage used to be one of my favorite Vegas hotels... but the last couple times I was put up there it wasn't so great. Selling it off to the Hard Rock isn't terribly surprising. MGM has been focusing more attention on The Park, and unloading it for a cool billion is a good deal for them (they have PLENTY of other properties in Vegas). Also? It's no secret that Hard Rock has been trying to secure a Strip location after closing down their old off-strip hotel. Hopefully they do something interesting with it. I am so tired of the mediocre renovations with minimal theming and effort. This should be THE signature Hard Rock Hotel property. And with enough money poured into it, it certainly can be! FLOOD IT WITH MEMORABILIA! STOP WITH THE SHITTY SPARSE MEMORABILIA LOOK! NOBODY WANTS IT!
Maybe if COVID has let up enough that I'm comfortable traveling again, I'll have to take a trip back to the city I love to hate to check another Hard Rock property off my list.
Hopefully with friends, but maybe on my own.
If there's one thing I learned from volunteering there, it's how to survive in the lonliest city on earth by myself.
If you're a Disney Parks fan, the video posted below is fascinating (AND HAS A TWIST!).
I've been to Disneyland and Walt Disney World a disproportionate amount of times because my work took me there quite a lot (for six years I was at both parks at least once a year... usually two or three). Ultimately, I think the whole "FastPass/FastPass+/MaxPass" thing makes the parks worse for most people. But, as somebody who was put up at the park hotels (and got all the perks that this entails) and who learned very quickly how to game the system, it worked out great for me.
Ultimately it all comes down to money. If you spend a lot of money, you can pay to game the system. But if you can't afford to pay extra to stay at pricey Disney hotels and pay for access, you're basically screwed. And Disney is fine with that... so long as attendance keeps rising.
A vacation to any Disney Park for a family of four is bank-breaking. The fact that a family could save for years to be able to afford to go... only to have a miserable time because they can't afford to pay extra so they aren't spending most of their time in a line... is heartbreaking.
But boy is the science behind what Disney does interesting. This video is an hour and forty minutes. I did not notice the time fly by because I'm a math and Disney whore like that...
In some ways, I'm not opposed to the idea of charging more for a better experience. Maybe you save your money for three years instead of two years to get a better vacation. But in more ways, this is abhorrent. A vacation to Disney parks is already hugely expensive. Making it even *more* expensive rewards wealthy people by having them give more of what they already have in abundance... but punishes people who have to struggle to take the family to begin with.
Life is already starkly divided by wealth, and taking away an affordable vacation to Disneyland just makes things so much worse. But what else is there when more and more people want to vacation there?
The solutions they've tried haven't been working.
The answer would seem to be limiting tickets for entry. But they don't want to deal with the outrage of people showing up and tickets being sold out. They also don't want to miss out on that money. But they should really go with "Advance Purchase Only" and just tell people that IF there are any tickets left over, you can buy them at the gate. Otherwise they are just turning off people from a return visit because they don't want to spend a ton of money and not get to do anything due to overcrowding. I sure have no desire to go back any time soon.
They need to build another Disney Park in Texas or something.
The penultimate episode of Hawkeye was released at midnight last night and of course I had to stay up for it (I was working late anyway). It's incredible. And it pisses me off. This should have been Episode 04, not Episode 05... because this is where things are getting good, and you just know that the conclusion is going to be rushed if it's all crammed into a single episode. I can only guess that the story is going to be badly truncated or it's all just setup for other series. Which is definitely is. But it shouldn't be that in a way that short-changes Clint Barton, which is the guy we're all here to see...
The last thing I want to do is spoil the show for those who haven't seen it yet, but I do want to get into this episode. So... if you're not up to speed on Episode 05, here's your chance to bail before some serious spoilerage gets dropped on your head.
And if you're not watching Hawkeye? I can't recommend it highly enough. You may remember that I ranked all the Marvel television shows a few days back. Well, this series is now in my #1 spot by a wide margin. It is easily the best of the Marvel Studios shows, and worth getting a Disney+ subscription just for this (but there's a lot of good stuff on there, so it's a price I'm happy to pay for each month).
My spoiler-filled commentary is in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
The next season of Ted Lasso is likely 9 months away. It's an agonizing wait. But I'd rather they take their time and do it right than rush it to a bad conclusion. If, in fact, it's actually the end. It may be contracted for three seasons, but it's hard to stop a success train like this. Even if Jason Sudeikis decides he's had enough.
In the meanwhile... there's this...
Yeah. They could create this as a series and I'd totally watch it as well.
Being born in 1966 puts me in a unique position in time... technologically speaking.
I was there for the birth of computing. I was there for the birth of personal computing. And the internet. And MP3 players. And video games. And mobile phones. And smart phones. And so-on and so-on. In many ways, this is a very cool thing, because people born after me don't know of a world without the stuff we have today. It's also a bad thing because I'll be dead before the unimaginably cool stuff is ever invented.
Looking back I can remember outlandish pre-modern-technology shit that kids today would completely balk at. People existed without a mobile phone? Without internet ON your phone? That's crazy!
Recently I saw a video about the ol' PDA days and it all came rushing back to me. Personal Data Assistants were a huge deal when they debuted (computing in your pocket!) and I was an early adopter. I had the Apple Newton, the Palm Pilot, the Handspring Visor, the iPaq, the Treo, and even the Sony CLIE (my favorite of the bunch, which was PalmOS-based) and the Sony MagicLink. And the minute a new one would debut with even cooler features I would sell my old one and get it.
Eventually they didn't really go anywhere so I gave up on PDAs. I just wasn't using them.
Then the iPhone came along, and the rest is history. Bye bye PDA, hello smart phone.
Two companies that have been mostly lost in the tome of modern technology I remember fondly. And there's some cool videos on YouTube that will give you a taste why I feel that way.
The first is General Magic (the people behind the Sony MagicLink)... sorry the music trounces over the people speaking, it's annoying as fuck, but this documentary is awesome...
And the second is a new interview doc about Handspring (the people behind the Visor and Treo...
Now we're at that lull stage where technology is coasting. My iPhone gets faster and has a better camera every year, but nothing truly new is happening. But that next leap is coming soon. Maybe it will be Apple's wearable glasses? I dunno. But I hope I'm alive to see it!
Because I look forward to the generation who cannot comprehend a time before computer chip brain implants. YOU HAD TO TYPE STUFF ON A SCREEN TO ACCESS THE INTERNET?!? THAT'S CRAZY!
Indeed it was.
But I had a fun time watching all that technology happening in Real Time.
It's amazing how I'm strong as steel through most everything that's thrown at me... yet there's a few things that will send me spiraling like I was made of wet paper towel. This morning I looked at the calendar, saw that tomorrow is my mom's birthday, and was a wreck all day long. It's been three-and-a-half years now since she died. There are days that it seems as though she passed a few days ago. Then there's days I feel like I've been without her for decades. Today it felt like the latter, and I had to do the mental calculation because I can't believe it... 2019... 2020... 2021. Yep, that's only three years.
And for the hundredth time I feel guilty for being so very grateful that she died before COVID got here. I have no idea how she would have dealt with it. Since she couldn't make any memories, maybe it wouldn't have been so terrible for her? But it would have been a living nightmare for me. Having to visit her at the care facility and only getting to look at her through a window. Worrying that she doesn't understand why I can't come in (assuming she would even recognize me). Feeling like it would be better if I didn't try to visit at all. I get anxious just thinking about it. I have absolutely no idea how people going through this during COVID keep their sanity. I would be in a horrific mental state.
Which is not too far off the mark when it comes to my mental state right now.
On a most decidedly sad day for me (my mom's birthday) my cats have been working overtime to distract me. They've been chasing each other around the house ALL. MORNING. NOW. and it's driving me a little crazy. No idea what's gotten into them, but I'm glad they're getting their exercise in, I guess. And so it's Caturday a day late today.
Thanks to my electric blanket, both cats are spending any time I'm working in bed (the warmest spot in the house) laying next to me. Jenny, who is usually majorly annoyed when Jake intrudes on our morning time seemed all to happy to have one more warm body around. Even though Jake literally walked over her to lay down...
Jenny is unhappy, however, when Jake arrives first...
Jenny gets upset a lot this time of year. She's very upset when I am taking a Zoom call instead of working in bed, for example. Fortunately, she's just fine with it is I'm giving her some attention while I Zoom...
Amazing how Jenny's adorable little sour face still hasn't changed after six years...
Just like Jake's appetite hasn't changed. He still investigates every single meal I make... even if he just finished eating minute before...
Oh well. Consistency is a good thing when it comes to cats, I suppose.
There ain't many shopping days left until Christmas, but here's a gift you don't have to unwrap... because an all new Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...
• BEWARE! Geez. Be careful out there. I got an email from Chase about irregular activity on my credit card. I clicked the link to verify... but just as I was going to press “Sign in” I noticed that the “S” was in lower case. I thought it was upper case previously. Then I noticed that the “U” in username was also lower case. Then I looked at the site address and, sure enough, it’s a scammer trying to collect my password. The site is almost identical...
ALWAYS go directly to the site for stuff. Don’t use email links… as even the return address can be spoofed!.
• Wings! Paul McCartney could just make up anything. He could take SO much credit for himself since John Lennon is gone and couldn't dispute anything. But he's so frickin' talented that he's never has to do that. He can be as generous as he likes and still come across as a frickin' genius. Which is why these stories are so much more interesting than fiction...
Watching this just makes me want to go back and listen to every Beatles track ever made. Yet again.
• EVERYTHING! ZOMG. I am more excited for this Michelle Yeoh movie than I've been for a film in a while. Looks wonderful and bizarre...
Michelle Yeah is in everything and I couldn't be more happy about that. Even though I worry about her working herself to an early grave.
• Merry Christmas! Since it's once again going around that "people weren't saying Merry Christmas any more until Twice-Impeached President Trump brought it back"...
It's astounding the absolute fucking bullshit people will believe just because they read an idiotic lie on Facebook or Twitter or wherever.
• Superhero Movie! I got home and turned on the TV for background noise while working. A movie I never knew existed was playing. It's SO bad. But I can't stop watching. EVERYBODY is in it... and some of the moments are LOL...
Seriously, it's got Kevin Hart, Leslie Nielson, Christopher McDonald, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Pamela Anderson, Charlene Tilton, Marion Ross, Keith David, Ryan Hansen, Brent Spiner, Robert Hays, Nicole Sullivan, Jeffrey Tambor, Dan Castellaneta, Craig Bierko... plus starring DRAKE BELL?!? — How?!?
• NEWSFLASH: Minnesota hospitals beg people to get vaccinated! — At some point, doctors and nurses are just going to give up and fucking close up shop. They've been living through hell these past two years and entirely too many people don't give a fuck. The only way this might change is if they deny admittance to unvaccinated people with COVID. "You didn't think of us, so we're not going to think about you." Except... they can't do that. So I guess we just run them into the ground until they drop or quit and then face the consequences..
• NEWSFLASH: Pfizer says COVID-19 pill near 90% protective against hospitalization, death! And yet I have every confidence that there will be people who still insist on taking horse dewormer designed to treat a parasitic infection on a virus... because they're just that fucking stupid. Which is fine. I've completely given up on caring about them. So long as this can help the people who are doing the right thing, trying to stop the spread, yet still get infected because other people are assholes, I'm good.
Now for the rest of your holiday shopping...
And so the finale of Hawkeye aired at midnight tonight. And because I wanted nothing spoiled, of course I stayed up to watch it.
Suffice to say that this was everything I could possibly hope for. The finale was fantastic stuff, filled with all the action you've been dying for all along. Yeah, things seemed a little rushed... I remain convinced that had they combined the first two episodes and split this one into two parts it would have made for a much better series overall.
Not that there was much room for improvement. In a shocking move that I never saw coming, Hawkeye will undoubtedly take the top spot in my annual list of favorite television shows. It was just that good. It took liberally from the Matt Fraction and David Aja comic book series I love so much... but was firmly rooted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a way that neither WandaVision nor The Falcon and The Winter Soldier really managed...
If we could just get more series like this, I would be ever so happy.
In discussing the finale (in an extended entry) of course there's going to be loads of spoilers. If you haven't watched the series yet, then you should do that right away and look no further.→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
And so I am packing up my suitcase so I can head over the mountains for the holiday tomorrow.
It would be perfectly fine if I didn't have a shit-ton of work to do... a house that desperately needs to be cleaned... and piles upon piles of laundry I've been neglecting. Oh well. I'm sure it will all be waiting for me when I get back.
Unless Santa decides to take pity on my and handle it while I'm gone!
But before I go... everybody needs a Floofy Baby Chonky Sea Pupper today!
Doesn't get much more adorable than that!
Thanks to climate change, driving over the mountains for Christmas has been less and less of a problem with each passing year. But every once in a while... well... Mother Nature happens.
Between the time I left my driveway and arrived to the mountain pass highway start, they had closed the pass. So I had to turn around and try a different mountain pass. Or rather two passes.
The roads were pretty messy, with high piles of slush making the trip quite hazardous. Cars were spinning off the road left and right. Some of them because they think that 4-Wheel Drive makes them invulnerable... some of them because they don't think that they needed to chain-up even though it was posted as required... and still others because they were just dumbasses who were driving like maniacs. I managed to make it over without incident because I chained-up and took my time. LIKE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO!
What a mess.
And how was your Thursday?
Today was a perfectly lovely day from start to finish.
I should really be grateful... but there's a feeling of dread that's come out of trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve when the entire world is going to shit. Fortunately there was a new Jägermeister to try, so I'm not totally falling asleep on my own vocation...
It's not bad. Even if it is entirely too expensive. I'll probably stick to regular Jäger, because I'm a cheap drunk that way.
Thanks for spending another year with me here at Blogography! Wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons for what's been a rather awful year. Again.
I'd wish for a better Christmas next year, but I did that in 2020 and look what happened!
Christmas pushed by Saturday and Bullet Sunday posts... again this week.
Today's drive over the pass to get home was a little better than my drive over on Thursday. About 50% less terrifying maybe? Though there were still plenty of emergency vehicles and ambulances blowing past me in both directions thanks to numerous asshole drivers out there driving like maniacs... going way too fast for conditions and spinning out of control.
Still... kinda pretty though...
The cats were very happy to have me home. Mostly because I decided to give them some treats to hold them over until dinner. But which one? I currently have six different flavors...
I ended up going with Salmon, which is their favorite I think. It's the least I can do since I abandoned them for the past three nights.
Time to start those post-holiday blues... because another all new and delayed Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Happy! I watch a lot of TikToks. Like a LOT a lot. And though I've seen some really good ones this past year, I think this is the one which has stuck with me the most (here's a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
It's not always an easy journey, but it really does get so much better. #grateful #myfamily #gaydads #fyp #itgetsbetter #gay #comingout #pride #love♬ Paradise - jason_gibbs
It's so important that kids see something hopeful at a time when they may be struggling. This doesn't just apply to LGBTQ kids, but any kid wondering if there's a place for them in this cold, cruel world.
• Dino Brau! And then there's this bit of TikTok science fact which everybody should know...
#stitch with @rainbowfrogbiscuits it doesn’t take much training to be able to do this yourself #dinosaurs #dinofacts #misinformtion #acedemic♬ original sound - The Kamoka
I mean, come on.
• It Ain't All Fun & Games! The sad truth in a single TikTok...
How Joe Manchin Killed Build Back Better (and why Biden let him) ##biden ##joemanchin ##buildbackbetter ##democrats ##politics♬ original sound - BreakThrough News
In the end, this is most politicians, alas.
• HRC Down! VERY sad to learn that the Hard Rock Cafe Oslo has closed. That was a darn good cafe. It's also where I met up with fellow blogger Karla before exploring the city!
For those of you who can't read Norwegian fluidly like myself (and Google Translate, of course!) it says "End for Norway's only Hard Rock Café — Hard Rock Café on Karl Johans gate in Oslo has its last opening day on Saturday. Thus, the only Norwegian branch of the international restaurant chain disappears.".
• COVID Electric Boogaloo! Omicron was just becoming known three weeks ago. THREE WEEKS! And look where we're at. It's the dominant strain of COVID now. Hospitals begging people to stay safe and get vaccinated, and their pleas being ignored. Well, I can only guess that Christmas will result in another explosion. What's it going to take for people to get serious?
• If You're Not a Rocket Scientist! I mean, it's just willful ignorance at this point...
@justlydeserved Reply to @mr_play90 Do not pass go, do not collect $200. #getvaccinated #covid #covid19 #vaccine #covidvaccine #covid19vaccine #science ♬ abcdefu - GAYLE
And speaking of which...
• Again! Looks like they finally found Washington State Senator Doug Ericksen after he's been missing for weeks. Or found his body, that is. This is the same genius who wanted our governor to be fired because Jay Inslee enacted mask mandates to keep us safe during these trying COVID times. Maybe if he had gotten vaccinated and masked-up in El Salvador, he wouldn't be dead now.
No more bullets this year. Sorry. Something to look forward to in 2022, I guess?
Welp, you know what time it is... my annual wrap-up of my favorite films of the year! Or, to be more accurate, my favorite films that I actually saw. Which is not as many as usual, thanks to COVID, but here we are.
Interesting to note that my Number One is not a Marvel Studios movie. Last year it couldn't be because Marvel didn't release any movies... but I'm pretty sure that there's been one of their films in the Top Spot for the previous decade I've been doing this! Shocking, I know!
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw.
#1 Dune (Warner Brothers)
I'm one of those rare people who actually liked the David Lynch Dune effort in 1984. No, it wasn't "Real Dune" but how could it be? For what it was, it was entertaining and visually interesting, and that was enough for me. Then along comes Denis Villeneuve with his version of Dune and I was hopeful. He split the impossibly complicated novel it into two parts, which seems like it gave him a great start. Then I saw it. And saw it again and again and again. Because I was in disbelief that he actually pulled it off. And the way he pulled it off was to do something I never thought that I'd endorse... he cut out a lot of stuff that seems critical... but was actually not so critical after all. By streamlining the story, he let the parts he kept truly shine. And it was the most important parts, which is what makes this adaption so bloody brilliant. Cannot wait for the second part. And the third, if we get so lucky.
#2 Spider-Man No Way Home (Sony & Marvel Studios)
I fully admit that I was expecting to not like this movie. I thought the appearance of the alternate universe villains would overwhelm the story and take the focus off Spider-Man all in the name of fan service. Well, this movie was all about fan service. One could argue that this was the only thing it was about. Much to my surprise, it actually worked. The villains were an accessory to Peter Parker's story, as they should have been. And getting Doctor Strange to appear was icing on the cake. I could have watched Spider-Man battle Doctor Strange for hours. So clever. So well-constructed. So very, very comic book! In fact, this is probably one of the most "comic booky" of the Marvel Studios films so far. And it's for that reason that it's landed in the #2 spot for 2021. Even though I can't even touch on much of what really makes it so good out of fear of spoiling stuff. Suffice to say that every single person who appears in this movie is beyond exceptional in their roles. If you saw it, you know. If you don't know, you should know. What's truly exciting is what comes next. We're left at a very interesting place for Peter Parker in his next trilogy of movies.
#3 Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Marvel Studios)
What can I say? They utterly and totally nailed it. That's not surprising. What is surprising is that two movies edged out Shang-Chi on my list! The film provides super-heroic thrills in a way that Marvel excels at... but gives us something new by steeping it in Asian culture and Chinese traditions. The result is magic (and it doesn't hurt that Michelle Yeoh is in it!). Simu Liu and Awkwafina are unassuming valets at a hotel who get dragged into a mystery (with plenty of action) once Shang-Chi's immortal father comes calling. From there we get epic battles with fantastic special effects that run the gamut. One minute we're getting Jackie Chan style kung-fu... the next minute mystical action that is beautifully realized. But the flawless action is tempered with some very nice quieter moments that make you completely forget that this is yet another origin story. Instead it's a really good story that's executed very well. And Michelle Yeoh is in it!
#4 Black Widow (Marvel Studios)
What bothers me so much about this film is that it feels as though Natasha Romanov is a supporting character in her own film. She's not... not really... but it feels that way. Taking place prior to her death in Avengers: Endgame (Spoiler Alert!) but after her turn in Captain America: Civil War, this is pretty much a set-up for her sister Yelena Belova to take her place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe of today. Which is most certainly not a bad thing. Yelena is actually a truly great character who was flawless in the Hawkeye Disney+ series... but was it too much to hope that we'd get a little more Black Widow in her first (and likely last) solo film? There's so much going on... Yelena, Red Guardian, Dreykov, Melina Vostok, The Widows, and a weird adaptation of the villainous Taskmaster from the comics... when it would have been nice to just get more Natasha out of it all. We did get a peek at her past (and finally get some questions answered about Budapest and Dreykov's daughter) which was nice though. Ultimately this was an entertaining film that had some terrific action and introduced some memorable characters. But as a send-off for Black Widow it was merely adequate.
#5 CODA (Apple TV+)
I don't know that the story synopsis grabbed me (the sole hearing member of a deaf family tries to live her own life while still trying to live up to the expectations and obligations of her family)... but the fact that Marlee Matlin and Eugenio Derbez star in it certainly made me take notice. And then I watched it. At which point I wondered for a millionth time how many gems like this are buried or go unnoticed by me every year. Because if not for Apple picking it up and promoting it heavily during episodes of Ted Lasso, I likely would have never knew it existed (which reminds me of last year's #3 film, Uncle Frank). The title, CODA, means Children Of Deaf Adults, and this coming-of-age tale stuck with me long after the credits rolled. There's just so many wonderful moments that are sublimely acted, and it's almost too good to be true that the film ever came together in the first place. Because that's all you really all you get... wonderful moments that are sublimely acted... which, in this case anyway, is more than enough. No fights or explosions. No hokey plot devices that seem tacked-on. No absurdly over-the-top dramatic moments. No yelling passed off as drama. No badly-shoe-horned plot devices. It's just a story that neatly sidesteps all the things I usually hate about movies like this. Just a story. But a really, really good one.
#6 Free Guy (20th Century Studios, now Disney)
This movie shouldn't have been as good as it is. It really shouldn't. A regular, every-day, boring guy discovers that he's actually a character in a video game? Who watched Tron and decided to reimagine that? Well, much to my surprise, the result is darn funny and has some seriously good action beats. Ryan Reynolds is the least "Ryan-Reynold-sy" he's been in a while, seamlessly meshing into a role that seems a bad fit... but one that he manages to pull off exceptionally well. And I'm most grateful that he got the chance. This film merges pop culture with video game culture to give us something special in a way that Ready Player One failed miserably at achieving (though I still enjoyed the book quite a bit). And just when you think that the movie has peaked... you're proven wrong. And you'll be happy to keep being wrong as everything piles up to a satisfying conclusion that makes you happy to have invested time in "just another video game movie."
#7 Luca (Disney Animation)
This film would be amazing even if the story was lacking because it just looks so incredible. Animation so beautifully realized that I couldn't take my eyes off of it, and ended up watching three times in two days because I wanted to pore over every scene. The story takes place in the Italian Rivera, and the animators put the time in to capture it flawlessly. And, oh yeah, this story of a sea monster wanting to live a life outside of the water is wholly wonderful, combining heartwarming story beats with genuinely funny moments in a way that almost seems to have a Hayao Miyazaki Studio Ghibli feel to it instead of a Disney Animation feel. I can't possibly offer more praise than that.
#8 The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (Amazon Prime Streaming)
So there I was blazing through the streaming services I subscribe to looking for a movie to watch while I work. Amazon Prime recommended this film. And because Prime has an uncanny ability to recommend films I like, I decided to give it a shot. And was rewarded with this wonderful story that so totally absorbed me. Which was great from a movie standpoint... but truly terrible from a productivity standpoint since I didn't manage to get a lick of work done while I'm watching it. Twice. And what's so surprising is that this is yet another attempt at Groundhog Day where people are caught in a repeating time loop. But, like Palm Spring before it (my #7 film of 2020), they actually brought something new to the table and had something to say. The story is fun and sweet. The performances are all brilliant. And the way it comes together at the end really made me feel something. A treat that took me by surprise and was a total treat from start to finish.
#9 Pig (Al-Film)
Nicholas Cage in a masterful performance that's as challenging as it is beautiful. So much so that no movie surprised me more than Pig this year. Throw your preconceived notions out the door, go into it with an open mind and heart, and prepare yourself for something great. This is a thinking person's action flick in all the best ways, and the less I say about it before you indulge the better.
#10 The Suicide Squad (DC & Warner Brothers)
With James Gunn involved, I was hoping for the best. And that's pretty much what we got. This sequel/reboot of the franchise was a bloody good time and actually fought to live up to the title. Super bad guys get recruited to save the world on a "suicide mission" that will probably kill them, but will reduce their prison time if they survive. If there's a fault for me, it's that the character I most wanted to survive did not, and the character I most wanted to die did not. But, oddly enough, this probably made me like the film better because of it? It's tough to know. It's difficult for me to discuss the story in a way that doesn't spoil it all... but suffice to say that it's got some hilarious beats over some amazing action that made it worth my valuable time to watch.
#11 Eternals (Marvel Studios)
It's not that this movie is bad. It's just that it could have been so much better than what we got. It's tough to lay all of this on director Chloé Zhao's doorstep... she was offered a story entirely stuffed with too many characters trying to do too much and had to run with it. And because it's Chloé Zhao, everything certainly looks fantastic. But it's just not enough. These ancient beings who have been hidden amongst us humans finally realize their true purpose when the earth and all of humanity is threatened. Eternals Assemble. Or something. I guess. What's so sad is that they could have streamlined the character list, dropped the unnecessary diversions, and ended up with a movie that would have seriously kicked ass. But alas... we end up with unnecessary set-ups regarding The Black Knight. Characters who were superfluous and there for representation or death fodder only. And characters that I fucking hated so hard that they very nearly sabotaged the movie entirely (I'm looking at you, "Sprite"). But even so... Gemma Chan's Sersi, Mukail Nanjiani's Kingo, Brian Tyree Henry's Phastos, Don Lee's Gilgamesh, and most of all... Angelina Jolie's Thena... were enough to carry the film for me. Had we just focused on them and jettisoned the rest as the padding they were, we might have gotten yet another Marvel Studios classic. Instead it was a minor disappointment and the first true stumble to come out of Marvel.
#12 No Time to Die (MGM Studios)
This film barely makes my list. And it does so when, in my heart, I know that other movies from my Honorable Mentions list should probably he here instead. And yet... it's a Daniel Craig James Bond film, which guarantees a certain level of entertainment that's tough to dismiss. The problem is that this film is ultimately... boring. Truly shocking is that Rami Malek, an actor I adore, was woefully underutilized as the villain. Had they truly invested in him, we could have gotten all kinds of devious scenery-chewing scenes. But instead he's kinda boring as well. In the end I can't say that this is a bad film (because it's not) but I will say that it's a huge missed opportunity given that Daniel Craig is retiring from the role.
DIDN'T SEE, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST...
OVERRATED BUT STILL GOOD...
TOTALLY SHIT THE BED...
#1 Silver Crane by Fly By Midnight
Here's yet another case of a band that I never knew existed somehow ending up reaching me and I become consumed with their music. Not only did I listen to Silver Crane over and over and over again... I had Alexa playing through their entire catalog for many, many days in 2021. There's few missteps in their body of work and I love most everything they've released. But focusing on my favorite album of 2021 (by a wide, wide margin) for a minute... there's a well-crafted pop sensibility that threads its way through every track, starting with the mellow beauty of Borrow Your Time... working it's way through lush tracks like Be Right There, Tomorrow, and When She's Dancing... then ending with the wonderful North... a dozen fantastic tracks that made my 2021 a little more bearable.
And because, like me, you may never have heard of Fly By Midnight before, here's more tracks that aren't off of Silver Crane, but might encourage you to look at their back-catalog...
And here's the first song I ever heard from Fly By Midnight the day after my birthday in the Year of Our Lord, 2021... originally released back in 2015!
#2 = by Ed Sheeran
It was Overpass Graffiti that got me. Lord what a beautiful song. — I have never been able to get into Ed Sheeran. I like a few tracks here and there, but his albums just don't appeal to me for some reason, even though he builds the kind of music I should like. But then I took a ride on = and ended up digging it. No idea if this is because he's changed... or I've changed... but there's an old-school pop undertone that's gone through a modern filter that hit just right for me in 2021 (and Overpass Graffiti is such an amazing track).
#3 Star Crossed by Kacey Musgraves
And she's back. One of the biggest surprises (to myself) when it comes to these lists was the fact that her previous album Golden Hour ended up being my second favorite album of 2018. I don't know that I like this album more... it's difficult to replace your first love... but it's sure got some beautiful tracks on it. Taking a page out of Taylor Swift's book, Kacey seems to be working through her divorce and taking us along. Or maybe I'm just reading that context into it, but regardless of where it came from, the music here is every bit as lovely as Kacey herself.
#4 Good Things by Dan + Shay
Country pop is not exactly a genre I seek out... but after hearing Dan + Shay provide the incredible Christmastime track Take Me Home for Christmas to the film Dashing in December last year, I've been all over their music... including their latest release, Good Things, which is exactly what the name implies. Track after track of good things. Highly enjoyable hopeful music that is just what 2021 needed.
#5 Times by SG Lewis
Disco is not dead, apparently. And maybe if it stayed as creative as this album, it wouldn't be dead at all? Interesting to note that while SG has been sneaking around for a while... releasing EPs and collaborating with, well, everybody... this is his first full studio album. Once again collaborating with a who's who of music (including Nile Rodgers, Robyn, Lucky Daye, and more!) this welcome release is a total treat from start to finish.
#6 Screen Violence by CHVRCHES
CHVRCHES was the opening act for a couple tours I saw, and it was always a pleasure to listen what they were up to... even if I didn't play their music when I get home. All that changed with Screen Violence. Lauren Mayberry rips through track after track with a sublime dedication to the lyrics that you can feel. The songs are an eclectic mix of pop-rock with a bit of an edge, and listening through the album is a rollercoaster of feels that you don't want to end.
#7 Montero by Lil Nas X
Nothing quite like an entire album of "fuck you" to all the people who made your entire life hell, and nobody did it better in 2021 than Lil Nas X. People told him he was going to hell for being gay? Fine, he'll take you to hell in a banger track with a video to match. People told him he belongs in jail for his subversive music and videos? Find, he'll take you to prison in all the ways they fear. But the album isn't just a kiss my ass dis release, there's some really good songs to be found that stay with you in the best way possible. And to those people mad about his success? GOOD!
#8 Music Of The Spheres by Coldplay
Say what you will about Coldplay, but they know how to construct a song that gets stuck in your head. They also know how to create killer videos that take what you think you know about their music and push it into a different direction entirely. Music Of The Spheres isn't revolutionary... it isn't even evolutionary... for the band, but it's filled with one terrific song after another, including a banger collaboration with South Korean sensation BTS (no idea how in the heck that happened!).
#9 Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! by Aaron Lee Tasjan
Weird. Eclectic. Interesting. It's really hard to come up with a way to describe exactly what this album is. So I won't even try. I'll just say that it's a highly listenable mix of cool tunes that seeped into my playlist many, many times in 2021.
#10 Future Past by Duran Duran
I struggled as to where this should fit on my list... or whether it should even be here at all. On one hand... it's freakin' Duran Duran. But on the other hand? Hardly their best effort. But even a middle-of-the-road album by the band is something I like better than most of what got released in 2021. There's certainly some tracks that work better than others here... Beautiful Lies is a wonderful return to form, for example... but something is lacking when compared to their previous two albums (All You Need is Now and Paper Gods) which were both amazing.
HONORABLE MENTION: Firebird by Natalie Imbruglia
It's interesting how "The Torn Girl" is so much more than that one great track, but she doesn't seem to be able to break free of it. There are worse things, I guess, but she's such an amazing artist that I wish people would give her other music a try. Firebird is a perfectly lovely album that's all the things you love about her best-known song.
HONORABLE MENTION: You Signed Up For This by Maisie Peters
If I were to sum up You Signed Up For This it would have to be something like "eminently listenable pop." Great tracks that are nicely constructed and wonderfully performed that you can just listen to on repeat while working, cleaning the house, or talking to your cats. That probably sounds like a dis, but it's really not. Maisie Peters can effortlessly engrainin herself into your everyday life in a way that it feels like it could be a soundtrack to your existence or something. Even if that doesn't apply to you, this album is well worth your time to explore.
ALSO WORTH A LISTEN: Planet Her by Doja Cat
Welp. If anybody knows how to inject their music into the social consciousness by exploiting social media, it's Doja Cat. She was everywhere, and I was hypnotized into addiction so badly that I was listening to Her even when social media was nowhere to be found. So many fantastic tracks dripping with her delicious voice. And then she put some real money into her videos that were worth a look many times over.
ALSO WORTH A LISTEN: Fast Idol by Black Marble
Gotta love it when an album is released that feels like it was dropped into a black hole in 1986 and has only now emerged! I don't know exactly where Black Marble gets their influences, but it feels like it must be a smorgasbord of 80's synth-pop acts, which is exactly why I love Fast Idol so much.
ALSO WORTH A LISTEN: Human by OneRepublic
One Republic is one of those bands that is nothing if not consistent. They have a formula. It works. And they revisit it with each new album. In many ways, I appreciate that because their formula totally works for me. On the other hand... boy it would be nice if they would push into new territory, because I'm not sure how many more albums of the same thing will keep me interested (see: Imagine Dragons, who also released an album this year). In the meanwhile though? This is another good album by a band I really enjoy.
ALSO WORTH A LISTEN: Voyage by ABBA
I've been a huge ABBA fan for as long as I've been listening to music. And just when it seemed that we would never hear anything new from them as a band ever again, here comes this gem. What I would have loved is an album that burns through a dozen dance tracks that they do so well, but that's not what we got. Sure there are tracks like Don't Shut Me Down that are great, and sweet tracks like When You Danced with Me and No Doubt About It that I played more than a little bit... but Voyage is stuffed with slow, plodding tracks that are a nice listen, but not really what I hoped for. All I CAN hope for is that ABBA isn't done yet and will give us another album so I can combine the best of both for the album I've been waiting for.
FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEO OF 2021: One Right Now by Post Malone and The Weeknd
It came out on November 15th and I still haven't stopped listening to it almost daily. My appreciation for both Post Malone and The Weeknd just keeps growing, and it's because of tracks like this. As if that weren't enough, the video is pretty epic...
FAVORITE SURPRISE SINGLE OF 2021: STAY by Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber
I discover a lot of music on TikTok, and one of the most inescapable in 2021 was a snippet of STAY which, much to my surprise, is actually a darn good pop single...
FAVORITE THROWBACK TRACK OF 2021: Cold Heart by Elton John and Dua Lipa
Some songs will never get old. A great many tracks by Elton John fall into this category, and when he dusts them off for a modern take like this, I'm all ears...
FAVORITE PREVIEW OF 2022: 23 by Sam Hunt
My fifth favorite album of 2020 was a rare Country artist who knows how to craft some really nice songs. This September he dropped a preview track from his upcoming album and it's exactly the kind of thing that makes me love his music.
And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of my favorite TV shows that came out this year.
Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of TV shows that I saw which 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 (more likely) shows I loved but have forgotten about. And here we go...
#1 Hawkeye (Disney+)
If you had walked up to me and told me that my number one show of 2021 would not be Ted Lasso just last month, I would have slapped you across the face. Mostly because you aren't wearing a mask, but partly because it's just so inconceivable. But here we are. After getting off to a slow start, Hawkeye managed to go out with a bang and seal that top spot. The series takes so many of the things that I love from the original Matt Fraction and David Aja comic book series then blends them seamlessly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe we know and love. Though pretty much flawless, I maintain that had the first two episodes been merged into a single episode... and they split the final episode into two parts with more Yelena in them... we would have got more of what made everything so darn good. Like that cast! Jeremy Renner is at his best yet as Clint Barton. Hailee Steinfeld is sublimely perfect as Kate Bishop. Alaqua Cox nailed it as Maya Lopez. Florence Pugh is hilariously great as Елена Белова. And we also get some new characters that are all perfectly cast... along with the return of a character that was better than could have been hoped for. The best Disney+ series from Marvel Studios yet and my favorite show of 2021.
#2 Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Following up one of the most flawless seasons of a show ever created had to be a daunting task. There was literally nowhere to go but down. But darned if the people behind Ted Lasso didn't manage to come darn close. Even if they had to utterly destroy one of my favorite characters to get there. And speaking of favorites? Roy Kent... my favorite television character ever... had a run for his money thanks to Sarah Niles playing Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. If I have a criticism it's that the season was all build-up to the endgame coming next season. The conflict came very late and it was just feel-good moments piled on top of each other. But they were such good moments, weren't they?
#3 The Mandalorian (Disney+)
If anything, Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and Crew elevated their game to give us something that may be better than even the first season. Partly because they worked hard to push things into new directions... partly because we got a mix of terrific new characters and a return of old favorites... and partly because they know exactly what the fans want to see, then they 100% deliver on it. One has to wonder if they had been in charge of the movie prequels and sequels... would they have ended up as shitty as they were? I'm willing to bet not. Though Book of Boba Fett just started and is not exactly blowing my socks off, so perhaps. Oh well. So long as Disney keeps pumping out amazing content like Mando Season 02, Star Wars will be just fine. And just think... Obi-Wan, Andor, Ahsoka, Lando, and more are coming. Oh happy day.
#4 Resident Alien (SyFy)
I knew I was going to like this show the minute I saw the trailer. Any time you wind up Alan Tudyk and let him run wild you're guaranteed terrific entertainment... and this time they put him in the wacky world of a comic book series that he actually elevated to something even better. Tasked with destroying the Earth, but then crashing into it instead, an alien has to assume the identity of a doctor who died while attempting to repair his ship, avoid being spotted by a boy who can see his true identity, and burying his growing affection for earthlings. The result is hilarious television that has me eagerly anticipating what we're going to get in the second season.
#5 What We Do In the Shadows (FX)
I honestly anticipated that this show would burn through whatever good ideas they had after two seasons then deteriorate into something that's a shadow of what we started with. Well, thank heavens that's not the case, because the third season was every bit as great and sets things up for yet another spectacular season. Or maybe I'm just in love with Nandor. But who isn't in love with Nandor? Consistently one of the funniest shows on television and they haven't had a bad episode yet.
#6 The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (Disney+)
This show was badly hampered with having to deal with the ramifications of half the planet being blipped into existence after five years dead from Thanos snapping his fingers. Had they been able to just work towards Sam taking up the mantle of Captain America without spending so much time being distracted, we would have gotten a better show. But it is what it is, and there was enough on-screen magic in the Sam/Bucky love/hate relationship to make this series far more entertaining than it had a right to be. The Flag Smashers weren't great as a threat. Counterfeit Captain America was just a way to set-up future shows (and did not deserve the hate he got online). And the arc for Sharon Carter is something that's likely going to either be forgotten... or hung around the neck of a future Marvel Studios series.
#7 Acapulco (Apple TV+)
I have quickly become a major fan of Eugenio Derbez. His performance in the Overboard remake was classic... he had a fantastic bit part in one of my favorite 2021 films, CODA... and he's done a load of fantastic voice work for various animation. So when I heard that they were building a series around his character from How to Be a Latin Lover AND he would be reprising the role? I had no idea what to expect. But it wasn't the sweet, charming, funny, and wholly entertaining show. There's no word on if we're getting a second season, but I sure hope so.
#8 The Other Two (HBO Max)
In their first season this show was so horribly demented and wrong... but all the more hilarious because of it. This time around they did not back down, going to even worse places to mine for laughs, and striking gold more often than not. A part of me is embarrassed that I like this show so much, but it just can't be helped. It's so very, very funny. But also so very, very wrong.
#9 Reservation Dogs (FX/Hulu)
All I had to hear was "Taika Waititi is producing" and I was in. But in for what I had no idea. A comedy about indigenous teens who want to move from Oklahoma to California, but have to commit petty crimes in order to earn the money they need to do it? Okay then. The result is a lot of subtle, deadpan humor that always seems to land perfectly. The show is funny and painfully relevant, making it must-see television for anybody who appreciates shows like that.
#10 Modern Love (Amazon Prime)
You know how I found this show? I heard a song, liked it, then found out that it was the theme song for this show which is now in its second season. Based on a popular column from The New York Times by the same name, each episode is a stand-alone story which talks about love in all its forms (BONUS: in the first season all the episodes end up tying together at the end). Charming, funny, awkward, heartbreaking, uplifting, painful, and wonderful... this series is all the things that love can be.
#11 Lupin (Netflix)
Netflix really hurt the show by splitting the first season into two parts because the second half was not as good as the first. And yet it's hard to get too caught up in all that when Omar Sy's gentleman thief is so compelling a character. Revenge stories are as old as time, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one done as stylish as this. At the end of the season Lupin is essentially forced to cut off some dead weight that was dragging the show a bit. What I hope that the writers do is have the guts to leave it be so they can focus on Lupin alone, which is when the show absolutely shines. Of course I have no idea if it will even get a second season, but given how it was Netflix's most-watched non-English program before Squid Game came along, it's likely pretty likely.
#12 Loki (Disney+)
I'm just going to get this out of the way... the Loki variants like Gator Loki and Thor Loki and Female Loki were not something I thought worked very well. What did work exceedingly well was everything else. The writers wisely decided to snap Loki out of his element and comfort zone so he has to evolve past the merry prankster he was before he "died" in Avengers: Endgame. And it was handled so beautiful. After getting apprehended by the TVA (Time Variance Authority) AKA "The Time Police," Loki thinks that all his problems will be solved if he can just get The Tesseract and its Infinity Stone back after the TVA took it from him. Then he will have the power to do whatever he wants. Again. But very quickly he finds out that the Infinity Stones which Thanos used to eliminate half of all life in the universe are mere trinkets to everybody working at the TVA. That "The Power" he's been chasing since Avengers was never what he thought it was. And at that moment when you can see it dawn on him (holy shit is Tom Hiddleston an amazing actor) is when you realize that this series is not going to be what you thought it was. And the story was darn good... if not a bit meandering.
#13 The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime)
Historical fiction is a tricky business. When you stray too far from the real events, you might very well diminish the things you are trying to tell your story around. And here we have a series where the Underground Railroad is made into a literal railroad?!? It's like... why would you do that? And I very nearly skipped out until people started telling me how good it was. And while I'm ultimately glad that I saw it, I'm the first to admit that it's difficult to watch at times... a boring slog at times... and challenging to the viewer always. It ain't going to be for everybody. But what makes it so worth it is how beautifully the series is crafted. When you get to those bright spots, the show's epic scope unfolds and reveals itself. This show is the very definition of "powerful television." If you think you can handle it, you really should.
#14 For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
There's something to be said for how this series coasts on the sheer quality of it all. It's not the best thing on television. But everybody working on it treats it as if it is, and that goes a long, long way. In my opinion, For All Mankind is often times as good as it was the first season, but there are still issues that pop up which have me scratching my head. They're 100% invested in this being an alternative history series one minute... then it feels as if they're scrambling to fill in the gaps the next, and it makes for an uneven ride. Like they come up with really great ideas in the broad-strokes, but don't know where to go with the details from time to time to get there. But it's still a very good ride. Thrilling even. And one that I'm happy to keep taking.
#15 Magnum, PI (CBS)
This series started so brilliantly, but then kinda lost its way after the first two seasons. The chemistry was there. The cast was still amazing. And Higgins was so great that she could carry her own show. But it just wasn't working as well as it once was. Then they kinda earned something back in this, their fourth season. I still find myself hoping for more Rick & T.C. because they are woefully underutilized too much of the time, but am glad that they're still around at all. Their job is to ground the show more often than not, and they excel at that.
#16 WandaVision (Disney+)
For a Marvel Studios fan like myself, WandaVision was a tough sell. Because it was The Vision and the Scarlet Witch from the Avengers... but not really. Told through the lens of old television shows and exploring Wanda's trauma over losing The Vision, I understand why the show was so critically acclaimed. Honestly I do. I'm just not one of the people who was able to buy into it. I wanted to see the characters have some cool super-hero stuff to do, but we didn't really get that.
#17 Hacks (HBO Max)
Jean Smart completely caught me off guard with her performance in HBO's Watchmen series. She was absolutely glorious and pushed that role in a direction that not many other actors could. I can't even say if she knew the material she was a part of... but she knew her character. She had a handle on that much from her first moment. And now she's done it again with Hacks. As an aging comedian in Vegas who is forced to take a look at herself and her world after taking on an assistant (who has problems of her own, let me tell you). I don't think that every episode is a home run. But overall as a series I was digging it. And that was mostly thanks to Jean Smart, who I am paying very close attention to for whatever she decides to do next.
#18 Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)
The first season was exceptional. I loved every minute of it. And their COVID special was one of the better ones. But this second season, while still pretty darn good, is no longer must-see television for me. It's more of a "I like it... but when I get around to watching" kind of show. Maybe it's because the whole "behind the scenes of a video game company" blew through so much funny in the first season that it's running out of gas? Maybe I've grown tired of it already? That very well could be, because I know people who think that the second season is better than the first. So I dunno. I still love the characters and what they're trying to do... I'm just not as hyped for the result as I once was. Still made my list though.
MUST SEE TELEVISION SPECIALS AND DOCUMENTARIES...
This year was a weird one in comedy because one of my all-time favorite comedians was cancelled... or is getting cancelled... or is somebody people want canceled... or whatever. In an effort to clarify the material he used in a previous special about the trans community, Dave Chappelle actually dug himself into an even deeper hole. And it's pretty cringe because he devoted so much time to it. But even worse? It wasn't very funny. The ultimate comedy sin. He would have been better of saying nothing, but instead we get a huge chunk of an entire special prefaced with "I can't be transphobic because I have a trans friend who died." A horrible take to be sure. I don't think the actual material was as bad as its been blown up to be, but it's my least favorite of his specials, so there's that. What were my favorites this year though? Glad you asked...
TELEVISION HONORABLE MENTION...
ANIMATION TO WATCH
HAVEN'T SEEN, MIGHT HAVE MADE MY LIST
OVERRATED BUT OKAY
TOTALLY SHIT THE BED
It was announce the Betty White died and I am devastated.
It would be easy to dismiss the above sentence as hyperbole. "How could you be devastated over somebody you never knew?" And I'm sure many people would say I'm a "psycho" or a "baby" or whatever put-downs are currently in vogue to describe people who have emotions.
But I did know Betty White. I've been getting to know her most of my life.
And, as I'm fond of saying, "I loved Betty White before it was cool."
I first became aware of Betty White on game shows (something I watched a lot of in my early years). Whether it was Match Game or Password or Hollywood Squares, Betty would show up and be the funniest person in the room. And the smartest. And the sweetest. I was captivated immediately.
Then our town got cable television.
This brought about dozens of channels made up of nothing but reruns, which is how I started watching Betty's character "Sue Ann Niven" on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was about as delicious role for a supporting character there could be, and Betty went for it with gusto. Eventually I struck gold with reruns of The Betty White Show. Suddenly it was all Betty all the time for me. Because in addition to the reruns, she was also popping up on The Love Boat or Mama's Family or talk shows or game shows or celebrity roasts. And so many guest appearances on dozens of shows (she was on Who's the Boss, for heavens sake). She never went away. She was always somewhere on my television.
Then 1985 happened...
If I didn't already love Betty White, the debut of the mega-hit The Golden Girls would have sealed the deal. As it did for most of the country, I'm guessing. Rose Nylund was one of the most unforgettable characters to ever appear on television, and Betty knew exactly how to play it. Her monologues about life growing up St. Olaf were hilarious and delivered as only she could do it.
Betty's renewed popularity was not wasted. She was in constant rotation on the late night talk shows being her hysterical charming self (Craig Ferguson must have been a favorite because she was one of his most popular guests, and she was joyous when she'd drop by). She was in commercials, naturally, (her most famous being that classic Snickers Super Bowl commercial). And, as people found out about my love for all things Betty, they'd send me videos and tapes and DVDs and magazine articles and such. My life was a constant parade of everything Betty, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
But her celebrity was also used to advance human rights... including her staunch support of the LGBTQ community and equality for all persons. But she was likely most famous for her charity work on behalf of animals, and her surge in popularity was a big opportunity for her to become even more visible in supporting them. Plus she started appearing in even more TV shows (like Bob and Boston Legal) and movies (like her expectation-crushing turn on Lake Placid which cemented her legendary status). She never stopped. Her Saturday Night Live guest hosting gig is widely viewed as one of the best to ever appear on the show. And even when it was too difficult for her to act, she was still charming us with her voice, showing up animated shows that culminated in Toy Story 4 where she played "Bitey White." And of course I've read her books. Her memoir If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) is essential reading for any Betty fan.
So, yeah... unless she had a secret life of kicking puppies (which, let's be honest, is something Betty White would never, ever, do)... I know the woman. And she's so worth knowing, as this small sampling of her best moments will attest...
That's a mere 20 moments. But let's face it... ALL of her moments were best moments.
I am not one for celebrity culture (unless I'm mocking it) or hero worship (with the exception of Steve Jobs, who will always be my hero and left us ten years ago). I see famous people as just people. People who do things that benefit or harm us. People who entertain or annoy us. People who have a voice that's louder than most of us, but likely less important because of the bubble in which they live.
But all that went out the window with Betty White. I adored her as much as any other important person in my life. She was a constant source of light and laughter, and will continue to be with me every time I pass by the infinite loop of Golden Girls reruns while channel surfing... or something she said pops into my head... or one of her many hilarious performances flashes across my brain... or any other time her legacy is remembered by the world.
Which I'm guessing will be a lot.
Because the only thing that can fill the void left by Betty White is Betty White.
Fortunately there's plenty of that to be had. She was in the business for 76 years and, with so many people loving her work, it ain't going away any time soon.