Posted on Saturday, April 1st, 2023
I never get mad at my cats for any reason under any circumstances. Because everything they do is adorable to me. They could burn the house down and I'd be all "Awwww... so cute!"
And now that my cats know that there's no punishment for anything they do, they have turned into little brats.
But adorable little brats.
Jenny who, unlike Jake, can actually meow, just starts meowing her head off whenever she
wants demands something. And she with keep meowing... changing her tone each time... until she gets what she wants. Which is usually getting me to move my laptop off the arm of the couch so she can lay there and get petted. Or stop paying attention to my computer or television because she wants attention.
Note that she doesn't make demands of her brother when he uses her for a pillow or crawls over her head while she's sleeping...
Nope, this kind of contempt is saved exclusively for me...
Jake, who can't meow at all, just kinda squeaks until he gets what he wants. Which is usually whatever food I'm eating. Most times I try to find a tiny portion of what I'm eating that isn't harmful to cats. For example, he just loves tortilla chips. Which is not great, because salt can cause problems for cats. So I brush off the salt the best I can, chip off a small piece, then let him go to town. Like I did this morning when I was having salsa and chips in bed...
Love how he pushes at me on the window at the end there. Dude... you know what a window is.
Posted on Sunday, April 2nd, 2023
Spring has been one cold day after another for me on this 800th run at the bullets, but I am undeterred... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Invasion! When Secret Invasion was unleashed in the comic book world, it made for a wacky, weird, and wonderful story. Shape-changing Skrulls had been impersonating some pretty major players, and as everything unfolded you really didn't know who was going to be next. It's highly doubtful that the MCU will be able to go in this direction... it would be a massively expensive series if they did... but I'm still anticipating a few surprises along the way...
This has very much the feel of a Cold War thriller... except the deep-cover spies are Skrulls. And just look at the cast they got! Very excited to see where this leads... and what comes of it. If there are long-term consquences, it could make for some sweet stories later on.
• Singer! John Singer Sargent is one of my favorite painters... bridging the gap from the impressionists I love and the realists I admire. This short video gave me a new appreciation for his work, and is worth your valuable time to watch...
I love videos like this.
• Fun with Flags! And speaking of videos I love, CGP Grey makes some of my favorites...
I have no idea how he comes up with his ideas, but he has never released a video that wasn't fascinating. Even when they're as short as this one.
• Behind the Scenes! If you love the movie Arrival as I do, this is a real gem. But... spoilers... if you haven't seen it. Definitely watch the movie first...
The process that happens from story to screen is sometimes as fascinating as the film itself. Arrival is all kinds of interesting even without this. But with it?
• ZOMG! ZOMG! ZOMG! ZOMG! New Wes Anderson! This looks fantastic...
All of his films have a similar look and similar quirks to their characters. What makes them well worth watching is that all the stories are so different.
• Scotty! They are making a Scott Pilgrim animated series for Netflix... and all the actors from the movie are returning to voice their characters! I love it when massive stars like Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman, and Aubrey Plaza signs on to do little projects like this. Obviously not a cash-grab for them... they just wants be a part of it. Very much looking forward to this, even though I thought Michel Cera was miscast in the original film.
Interesting to note that Young Neil is not so young any more! None of them are! The movie was THIRTEEN YEARS AGO!
Back under the blankets I go.
Posted on Monday, April 3rd, 2023
The point of this post is in the title... AppleTV is shit. But it's the best shit you can buy for streaming.
I'm not going to run through my many complaints. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you've probably already heard it all. If you haven't heard it? The GUI (graphic user interface) is fucking horrendous. If you own more than twenty movies or television shows, scrolling through all of them is a nightmare. Apple provides no alphabetical index on the side so you can at least jump to the first letter of the title you're looking for. It's fucking stupid.
Since the quality of the picture is so radically better when viewed through the AppleTV device instead of the GoogleTV app for AppleTV, I decided to ditch my AppleTV 4K (2017 Revision 1) for the newer AppleTV 4K (2022 Revision 3). And because I want to be sure that I get the smoothest possible playback, I purchased the "better" version which has Ethernet and 128GB.
The difference between Rev. 1 and Rev. 3 are slight at the start. Both support 4K DolbyVision HDR10 UHD playback. Both support Dolby Atmos. You have to pay extra for Ethernet now, but my Rev. 1 had Ethernet as standard. But then there's the improvements which really count... my old AppleTV was a slow mess with its A10X chip. It's radically snappier with the new A15 Bionic chip. I'm also working with the 128GB vs. the 32GB I used to have. And then there's the fact that Apple finally future-proofed their tech by using the HDMI 2.1 standard instead of the old 2.0. I am using Ethernet instead of WiFi, but if I were to use wireless, the new model comes with WiFi 6. The new one is also smaller and feels lighter than the old one too. As if all that wasn't enough, it contains a Thread mesh networking radio to become a border router for your HomeKit shenanigans and Matter Smart Home devices.
But the most welcome change? The controller...
Apple ditched their shitty fucking touchpad controller for a new controller that has a good heft and actual directional buttons. Which means that navigation doesn't randomly jump all over the place like it used to. I have no idea why it took them this long to replace that technology FAIL. But look how long it took them to replace their heinously shitty "butterfly keyboard" on their laptops. And... oh yeah... you can charge with USB-C instead of the ten-year-old Lightning connector that nobody else in the industry is using. Yay. Alas no charging indicator... you have to look up the battery level on your AppleTV.
The navigation buttons surround a select button to form a "clickpad" that's also touch-enabled, which is very cool for whizzing through video. You also have a dedicated power button(!) and a mute button(!). It almost as if Apple is listening to what their customers want! Color me shocked. Regardless of why they did it, Apple has gone from my most hated remote ever to my favorite remote ever.
I dare say that the remote upgrade is reason enough to upgrade. Mostly because I am actually using it instead of avoiding it and using a 3rd party remote.
When compared to Amazon FireTV, Google Chromecast, and Roku, AppleTV is way ahead (except for the navigation GUI, which is still the absolute worst). The only competitor they have in this space is probably the NVIDIA Shield, which offers more flexibility and connectivity, but looks like absolute ass. I borrowed one from a friend who tested it and ended up preferring it to my old AppleTV, but not the new AppleTV Rev. 3.
So... yeah... my home theater setup is now complete.
Over the next couple of days I'll be talking about the DolbyVision and Dolby Atmos that I'm getting through my AppleTV box. If that's not for you... then I guess I'll see you on Thursday!
Posted on Tuesday, April 4th, 2023
In the right hands, I'm convinced that anything can become good entertainment.
But Barbie? As a feature film?!?
Well... yeah, apparently. It looks as if Greta Gerwig and an endless cast of stars may actually have managed to find a way to make it work. The new trailer looks visually exciting, and they have really leaned into what makes Barbie be Barbie. I mean... have you seen this?
Interesting how they are leaning hard into Magic Earring Ken, the gayest of all Ken dolls...
I tell you what... my respect for Ryan Gosling just keeps growing. The guy is fearless.
I'm not saying that I'll be running to the theater to see Barbie... but I will absolutely give it a rent on home video.
How could I not?
Posted on Wednesday, April 5th, 2023
Building a truly great home theater is expensive. Over the years I have tried to create the best that I can afford. Which decidedly does not involve building a custom theater room. I just do the best I can with my living room. That, paired with the fact that electronics tend to get cheaper over time, has helped.
My sound recently got a major upgrade with a pair of Sonos Era 300's. Their ability to render a pretty good height channel for Dolby Atmos out of my Sonos Arc may not be as incredible as actual dedicated height speakers, but it's cheaper than ripping apart my walls to wire them in.
I wanted a cool $3,000 OLED TV when my old TV died, but that's way, way out of my budget. Instead I bought a mid-range Sony 65" KD65X80J for $780 on sale. It's far from perfect, but it has decent brightness, HDR color fidelity to display DolbyVision, and can pass-through Dolby Atmos sound. Which makes it worth paying $300 more than a cheaper model (until I check my wallet... then I'm all "What was I thinking?").
Which left me to my media source.
Early streaming efforts were pretty crappy. Color fidelity was awful. Motion artifacts were terrible. And resolution was abysmal. So I invested in a Samsung Blu-Ray 4K UHD player. The picture quality was outstanding. So sharp and saturated. But I could never get the advanced audio to work. Sonos couldn't handle DTS, it can only process Dolby Atmos. But some discs only came with DTS, which meant that I had to rely on conversion by other components, which usually didn't work and got me Dolby 5.1 instead. Rather than wasting money on Blu-ray Discs that may or may not give me the audio I was paying for, I abandoned it. And was thrilled about it, since most discs had a STOP PIRACY warning which you were forced to look at and couldn't fast-forward past (which is fucking stupid... I bought your fucking disc, didn't I?).
Then Apple came out with AppleTV 4K. It could stream much, much better quality 4K video in full HDR10 DolbyVision color, complete with Dolby Atmos. Which is to say that every movie I purchase from the iTunes Store which supported spatial audio would be in Dolby Atmos format for my Sonos system. Yay. When comparing the two visually and audibly, it's darn close to Blu-Ray UHD video quality. The only time I could tell was if I paused the video and compared it frame-by-frame. And so I started buying all my movies digitally, which is cheaper and easier than Blu-Ray anyway. Even if it does mean that I'm always under threat of the stuff I buy getting jerked from the iTunes Store and having nothing to show for it (which should be illegal... at the very least I should get my money back). It's a pity that the user interface for AppleTV continues to be incomprehensibly shitty, but I guess nothing is perfect.
So now I only use my Blu-Ray player for old movies that I am not able to re-purchase as digital, and it's not worth the hard drive space to rip them.
As for DolbyVision? Here are some of my favorites which are taking advantage of the HDR color gamut and video quality...
Posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2023
UPDATE: Ironic to note that after I wrote this entry, I was watching a movie when all of a sudden my Sonos Arc soundbar made a loud POP then the sound cut out. It was seriously loud. I thought that the dresser fell over in the guest room or something. I thought it had blew out, which seemed impossible given that I didn't even have the sound up that loud, but after unplugging and plugging back in, it was find. Until it happened again! After some Googling, I found that this is a KNOWN ISSUE and Sonos hasn't done shit about it. Apparently it has to do with several audio sources, including Xbox and newer-generation AppleTV 4K. Like the one I just bought. So, yeah, not sure where I go from here. I guess I call Sonos and complain (as everybody else has done) and hope they get off their fucking asses and fix the problem. Though this has been an issue for over a year and nothing's been done, so who knows. In the meanwhile, I've gone back to my original AppleTV 4K in the hopes that the Sonos problem will abate until it's resolved. If it gets resolved.
UPDATE-UPDATE: Two days running off the old AppleTV 4K, and no pops. I switch back to the Rev. 3 AppleTV 4K and they start up again. WTF?!? I am assuming that Apple is using HDMI and Atmos standards to make their little box... so what's the deal with Sonos? Frustrating. Am I never going to be able to update my media sources now?
When it comes to the Dolby Atmos spatial audio on my Sonos Arc soundbar, I was less than impressed. Despite buying a Sonos mount, positioning the soundbar 4-inches below my television as instructed, and cranking the height channel to maximum, I just wasn't feeling it. I'd watch scene after scene of the best Atmos mixes available, confirm that Sonos was receiving Atmos sound, and never heard anything of any substance. It was a heck of a punch to the gut after paying the money it cost me.
Then Sonos released the Era 300 (which I reviewed here) and all of that was supposed to change.
And so I bought into their game, fully expecting to return the speakers when they let me down as the Sonos Arc had done.
But then they actually ended up worth being the price of admission. Once I adjusted the rear speakers to point slightly inward... increased the height volume to maximum... increased the treble by a lot... increased the bass by a bit to compensate... and increased the surround audio a touch... it all kinda came together. The only thing I could do to improve it further would be to add a wall in my open living space so that the left channel could reflect instead of drift towards my kitchen. Something that's not in the cards, alas.
But still... darn good. Mostly for spatial audio music, because the Atmos mixes we get for home video is lacking. Though the situation is improving, some movies are more impressive than others. Below is a list of my favorites. My top two are films by Denis Villeneuve, who seems to take spatial audio very seriously.
What surprised me most was the Atmos mixes I liked the least. I read over and over and over that my favorite movie of 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road had some of the best Atmos work to date. And yet... I was seriously underwhelmed by the overhead effects, which were so random as to be distracting (unlike John Wick 2 where you can forget about it). The height channel would pop up when it wasn't needed... then be missing when you'd expect them to be there. It's bizarre. But still an incredible movie. I just think it sounds better with a 5.1 mix.
Which is rare.
Most times, the Dolby Atmos mix is incredible... even when it's not consistent. And finally... finally... I can hear it in my home theater thanks to the Sonos Era 300's.
Posted on Friday, April 7th, 2023
I save a lot of stuff throughout the week, then choose the top six or seven items for that week's Bullet Sunday post. But with this one I just can't wait.
I saw this video which shows how the book Dune compares to the movie Dune: Part One and was so frickin' impressed that I re-watched it on my television. I've read the book at least a dozen times... watched the movie a half-dozen... and this video flawlessly shows how smart choices have to be made when filming an "unfilmable" novel.
Dune: Part One leaves a lot of stuff out, because you pretty much have to, but the stuff they jettisoned built a movie that honored the spirit of the original in a way that you could only dream of...
So many movies fail... badly... by either keeping too much or keeping the wrong stuff... or making changes that ruin the story. Dune: Part One is an example of how you do it right, even though the video points out that some things get lost that changes how you perceive the story.
But hopefully if people enjoyed the movie they'll read the book to get all that stuff back. The movie adaptation really doesn't change anything in a way that no longer makes sense when you experience the source material, which is exactly how you should do it.
Posted on Saturday, April 8th, 2023
HAPPY REX MANNING DAY, EVERYBODY!
Okay... if you don't want your image of me as the perfect cat dad shattered, turn away now...
I'll give you a Rex Manning Day interlude as a buffer...
I screwed up huge last night.
A black cat showed up around midnight. I did my best to care for it with food and a dry place to lay down, but I couldn't get near it.
Jake was absolutely fascinated with the cat... not being aggressive towards it or anything... but sitting out in the catio staring at it. This unnerved the mystery cat, so I finally went back downstairs at 2:30am to get Jake out of the catio so the mystery cat could have some peace.
So after I checked on the mystery cat, who still wouldn't let me get near it, I saw that Jake wasn't in the catio, so I closed the door and blocked the cat door so he couldn't get back out.
Fast forward to this morning Jake didn't come greet me when the breakfast alarm went off. This is highly unusual. So I went downstairs to put the food out... and Jake was nowhere to be found.
And now you're thinking what suddenly occurred to me. Had I locked Jake out in the catio for 4-1/2 hours?
I ran to the door and, yep, that's exactly what I did. My poor kitty. I opened the door and Jake came in very upset. And who could blame him. I gave him extra pink salmon so hopefully he would forgive me. And I think he did.
But there's a bigger problem. Jenny didn't recognize his smell for some reason. She was freaking out. When she wasn't chowing down on her breakfast, she was hissing at poor Jake, who didn't know what he had done.
And so I've spent all morning petting Jake... then letting Jenny smell me before petting her... then going back and forth until Jenny was normal again. And feeling like an asshole the entire time. Thank heavens it's Spring... and maybe that's why it had to happen. Now I will be 10,000% sure that there's not cats in the catio if I ever block it off again. So maybe this had to happen so that I wouldn't do this in the dead of winter? I dunno how the universe works.
I was exhausted last night and not as careful as I should have been. But I still blame myself for being reckless. In the end there's no (longtime) harm, and no foul... but it feels awful just the same.
Posted on Sunday, April 9th, 2023
It's freakin' freezing this Easter Sunday, but there's warmth in my heart... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Christianity! Given that this is Easter Sunday and a day devoted to celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, I'll be sharing this interesting video which explains the different denominations of Christianity...
But only the version of Christianity you believe in is the correct one.
• Shrinkflation! Man. Not only is food getting more expensive, but it just keeps getting smaller and smaller. I usually make my own burritos, but lately I've been buying El Monterey frozen burritos so I can have them on-hand when I don't feel like cooking. This latest bag I bought... the... the burritos look tiny. Almost comically so. No longer are they burritos... they're almost more like taquitos or something! It's crazy. I am having to actually adjust my cooking time so I don't incinerate them!
Shrinkflation has gotten ridiculous. Just give me 7 regular sized burritos instead of 8 mini burritos!
• Click! I have never heard of Cookie Clicker before watching this video...
And thank heavens. This is horrific. And the longer it goes on, the more horrific it gets!
• Unstable! Okay... I'm loving this show. Rob Lowe has this weird talent for delivering insane dialogue in a way that seems totally natural, and this series exploits that to its fullest...
As if that wasn't enough... Rob's real-life son plays his son in the show! How cool is that?
• Spacey! Why is it that Canada gets a frickin' gorgeous logo that's flawlessly executed and beautifully simple while still being very Canadian... while the US gets a rip-off retread from Star Trek that's been complicated to the point of absurdity while having tiny nonsensical "stars" details that will be completely lost when it shrinks down for actual use AND doesn't have any graphic language which tells you this is for the USA?
You literally have to READ it to GET it, which is THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT A LOGO IS SUPPOSED TO DO! And it's not like you can immediately blame the designers, because you just don't know how much of it is them and how much of it is from client demands.
And do not get me started on the idiotic "MMXIX" (2019) detail, WHICH DOES NOT EVEN BELONG THERE! WHO GIVES A FUCK?!?? Also... has anybody seen the Space Force logo in Black and White? Oh yeah... THEY FUCKED THAT UP TOO! Space is black... NOT WHITE...
And that "swoosh" doesn't have a hold-out against the black Star Trek logo, so it looks very disturbing coming out the other side. Yikes.
• Home Owner Associations are Awful! John Oliver did a story on HOAs in his latest episode of Last Week Tonight. And I love how people are all "If HOAs are a problem for you, then don't buy a house in an HOA!" — And it's like... in many communities, you may not have much choice for one reason or another. To get a house in my old neighborhood so my mom with dementia had a safe place where people would know her, the only option was an HOA. Now, my HOA is just us four owners, and they've been incredible to me (from allowing me to skirt their 55+ rule since I was buying for my mom... and allowing me to build a catio... and other stuff), but it's entirely possible I would end up in an HOA that was a draconian monster like they're talking about...
And there wouldn't be anything I could do about it if that's what I got. At the very least, there should be a way to appeal an HOA when they are being grossly unfair or unreasonable. But since they are unregulated, they ain't. And since many times you don't get to know the rules until you buy... well... YA FUCKED!
• Breadly! How my Easter Sunday began (HE IS RISEN!)...
How my Easter Sunday ended (HE IS BAKED!)...
He was also delicious!
And now I'm going to gorge myself on freshly-basked bread.
Posted on Monday, April 10th, 2023
To say I love CGP Grey videos is a gross understatement. That's like saying "Cheese is okay" and "I guess baby kittens might be a little cute." His videos are frickin' EPIC!
And today he unleashed one SO good and SO true that I cannot bring myself to save it for Sunday bullets.
No, you're getting it right freakin' now...
Couldn't possibly agree more with his assessments.
And the fact that he made it hysterically funny is just S-tier work. Keep it up, Grey.
Posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2023
We have to wait until NOVEMBER to get to see The Marvels, which is many months too long.
Especially when you look at this incredible new trailer that just dropped...
They came up with a great way to make this crossover happen, and Kamala Khan is adorable.
But it's seven+ months away.
An even bigger bummer is that Disney is dictating that Marvel slow down its output. "Quality over Quantity." And yet... in my mind it's not the movies that are suffering. Granted, I haven't seen Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania yet, but there hasn't been many missteps (only Eternals comes to mind, because it was a bit of a mess... but it's also a fun watch). No, for me it's the television shows that aren't up to the quality they should be.
But I haven't hated any of them.
I thought WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier were okay. Loki was good. Hawkeye was fantastic. Moon Knight was a disappointment. Ms. Marvel didn't live up to its potential. And I thought She-Hulk was good, but the ending leaned too hard into the whole fourth-wall-breaking stuff and short-changed the emotional stakes of the show.
Of the upcoming shows... Secret Invasion looks fantastic. Loki will likely be good. Ironheart could be great... if the story is worth watching. Echo I don't care about... unless it is guest-star heavy. Agatha: Coven of Chaos will likely not be my cup of tea (although I will absolutely watch it). And then there's Daredevil: Born Again... holy crap am I excited for this series. Charlie Cox's Netflix show was amazing, and his guest spot in She-Hulk was as good as it gets. I love the idea that he might be a little more upbeat and fun rather than the never-ending gloom of the Netflix show. She-Hulk shows that he can be serious... but also fun and exciting to watch. I hope they give him an overwhelming villain to really show off his abilities.
Marvel has done a great job bringing their comic book characters to live action. I seriously hope that their "stepping back" doesn't kill the momentum they've been building. Because we've got Secret Wars coming up, and that has such exciting possibilities that the potential for success is extremely high (assuming they really take advantage of what Secret Wars was and could be).
Posted on Wednesday, April 12th, 2023
I have been following Adobe Photoshop's efforts in "Neural Filters" for a while now. As you'd expect, they keep getting better and better.
Some... like remapping colors are interesting, but I don't see much use for them for me.
But there are two which have really caught my interest, and that would be "Restore Old Photo" and "Colorize." They show some incredible promise right now and will only keep getting better as AI models and sample data get better.
Take this shot of my grandmother helping baby me eat watermelon...
First I restored the photo, which added clarity, sharpness, and balance... then I colorized it. The result isn't perfect (watermelon is red), but it's utterly remarkable when you consider that absolutely no work was involved! This happened with a click.
The filter can do more than just clarify and sharpen in a smart way, it can also do things like remove scratches and fingerprints with just a click. In this photo of me and my dad, there's a nasty fingerprint in the upper-left corner. Now, I can remove this easily, but it will take some time. But if I don't have any time, I can just run a filter on it. Neural filters don't remove it completely, but it's a very good start. I would spend a heck of a lot less time getting rid of what's left after the filter was run than doing it all from scratch...
Colorization is really hit-or-miss. Sometimes the color assignment seems to be random. Fleshtones always fare the best, but other things are inconsistent and strange. In the photo above, you get objects changing color in different places...
This colorized photo of me in my awesome first car didn't do well at all. My car's grill is pink. The car behind me is half grey and half pink. My family named it the "Grey Ghost" but it's not quite that here...
So colorization isn't always something you'd want to do, but just look at how great the above photo looks when it is restored in black-and-white. The clarity is jaw-dropping. Just look at how it pulls detail out of the hair that wasn't really there...
Here are some other examples of colorization gone wrong...
But every once in a while you hit paydirt. Look at this photo of my grandparents with my mom and her brother. This took one click... ONE CLICK...
It's not just Black & White photos that can benefit. Color photos can be restored as well, and the result is no less striking. It sharpens without weird artifacts and smooths skin without making it look plastic...
Even color photos can be colorized. It doesn't always work very well, but sometimes you get lucky and have better results than if you used "regular" filters (like auto-levels or auto-tone or auto-color). Here's me eating chocolate pudding as a kid that's been restored then colorized...
You can't really see it, but the sharpening and restoration is stunning...
Neural filters and AI are already putting a lot of power in the hands of non-professionals. And will be putting a lot of professionals out of work as time marches on. There was a time that I made a lot of pocket money doing photo touch-up in my spare time. I don't even know if that would be possible today.
For better or worse.
Posted on Thursday, April 13th, 2023
I like to keep on top of cinema. I belong to a number of forums devoted to film... both foreign and domestic. I follow a bunch of movie news sites on social media. I pore through streaming sites to see what's been released that looks interesting to me for one reason or another.
But every once in a while something comes along which takes me completely by surprise. It's a movie or TV show that I most definitely should have heard of, but didn't for some reason.
And that pretty much sums up Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel...
It's science fiction. It's British. It stars Chris O'Dowd and Anna Faris. It has an indy vibe. ANY of these factors mean that it should have crossed my radar, because all of these factors are things that I enjoy. And yet... here it was... just popping up on HBO like it's been there all along. AND IT'S FROM 2009?!?
It has very mixed reviews. And I get it. This is not a big-budget time travel flick with a massive budget and simple story. It's more intimate and complex than that. But I loved it. Very smart and clever with good ideas and a phenomenal cast. And it's funny. Very happy to have happened across it when I brought up HBO Max tonight.
After watching Frequent Questions About Time Travel, HBO recommended a film by Martin Scorsese that I have never heard of before... The Big Shave. And I thought "Well that's an odd title for a movie, I had better watch it!"
THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST DISTURBING THINGS I HAVE EVER SEEN AND IT IS ONLY SIX MINUTES LONG! WTF?!? It's from 1967... and I am now traumatized. Apparently it is a commentary on the Vietnam War. And because trauma loves company, I found it on YouTube to share with y'all (they don't allow embedding, so you have to click this link).
At first I was all "THIS is how Scorsese started filmmaking?!?" But then the more I thought about it, the more it makes perfect sense.
And then I fell through a rabbit hole on this film, Googling everything I could find out about it.
Life is weird, in general. The internet is weird, specifically.
Posted on Friday, April 14th, 2023
As I've mentioned more than a couple times, I'm a huge fan of advertising. GOOD advertising. Bad advertising sucks and is just torture while you're waiting for your TV show to come back on. Good advertising makes you forget that your show has been rudely interrupted.
Good advertising has to have some kind of emotional connection. For me that's usually animals. If you can work animals into your advertising then I'm probably going to like it.
Something else that works? A really good jingle. Which doesn't necessarily have to be a good song. Case in point...
Kind of atrocious, but infinitely memorable. Thus incredibly effective as a jingle.
But when the song is actually good?
A current commercial that surprises me with just how much of a banger the song is comes along with Daisy Sour Cream. I mean, seriously, just listen to this...
Genius. There's a moment where the song catches itself... then forges forward even harder. For sour cream!
And it works. All other things being equal (meaning there's not a massive sale on another brand), the sour cream I always buy is Daisy, and every time I pick it up at the store, this jingle is running through my head.
So hats off to the advertising team that managed to come up with this. I'm not saying that I rewind to rewatch the commercial when I hear it... but I don't fast forward past it either.
That's about the best you can hope for in advertising.
Posted on Saturday, April 15th, 2023
Jake is still hopelessly addicted to his stuffed lion toy, Mufasa.
He carries him around everywhere, and gets upset when Mufasa can't be found. Fortunately, Jenny has long since given up punishing her brother by hiding his little stuffed buddy, than heavens. I grew very tired of combing the house so I could find Mufasa and Jake would stop crying about it.
Here's Jake bounding down the stairs with Mufasa just yesterday...
A few days ago I was on a Zoom meeting when Jake wandered up with Mufasa. Which he almost immeiately tossed down the stairs. I rolled my eyes and went back to my Zoom.
Only to have Jake start whining and crying over and over and over until finally I excused myself, ran down and grabbed the lion, then set it next to him, then went back to my call...
Jake decided to ignore Mufasa then walk on my keyboard. When I gently moved him away, he climbed back up on the banister shelf to have a face-off with his plushy...
Then he immediately threw Mufasa back down the stairs...
By the time I was done with my Zoom, he had already started crying again. I went and took a shower to get ready for work. I was going to grab Mufasa off the stairs on my way down, but Jake had already taken him.
Cats. What can you do?
Posted on Sunday, April 16th, 2023
After Easter Sunday we're back to just another Sunday. BUT NOT REALLY... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Supertramp! The other day I was reminded of one of my favorite album covers, Supertramp's Breakfast in America from 1979. On top of having a great cover, the album had some great tracks on it. Tracks I haven't listened to in years. So I decided to play it. After iTunes displayed the album art, I wondered whatever happened to the woman who was in the photo. A quick Google search later, and I found out her name was Kate Murtagh and she passed away in 2017. Something else I found out? The album cover is one of those wild-ass conspiracy theories where there are people claiming that it predicted 9-11 because when you reverse it, 9 11 appears behind where the World Trade Center is at...
And it's like... whatever. Every coincidence has to mean something to people who don't have anything else going on, I guess.
• Perspective! This is a little bit of genius thinking (here is a link in case TikTok is being a dick)...
@ianisfun Weird how time makes things easy or unattainable. #wellbeing #gratitude #psychology #mindfulness #happiness ♬ original sound - Ian Slater
Trying to be grateful for everything and anything is something to strive for. And this is a good reason to believe that.
• Johnny Reb! You're Probably Wrong About Confederate Monuments...
Or, maybe you're right.
• Defensive! Holy shit. This video is an hour. But it's worth your valuable time. Jon Stewart is an actual journalist. And getting to the truth is his only goal... and he will roast anybody, of any party, and of any position... to get to it. This is a master class in what journalists will strive for. Dang. You'd have to be very brave or very foolish to agree to be interviewed by Jon Stewart...
Good to know. Good to know.
• Chatty AI! This video explaining AI is 5 years old. From what I can tell, it was renamed to mention ChatGPT so that it would become relevant again. Despite the fact that it never was irrelevant...
We are moving towards a truly wacky time in human history.
• Easter is a Shade of Orange! I missed this last week, and I'm dead now...
It's like... he's more Trump than President Trump!
• Mindblowing Proteins! Holy crap!
The miracle of life is truly a miracle.
Enjoy what's left of your Sunday.
Posted on Monday, April 17th, 2023
It's no secret that Batman is my favorite comic book super-hero. Mainly because he's not "super" at all, but is instead a mere mortal with an amazing skill set that is able to hold his own with god-like beings. A good writer can make that interesting. A great writer can make that phenomenally entertaining.
At his core, Batman is a detective. The best Batman stories utilize this in one way or another. When I first started reading comic books, there were two titles devoted to him... Batman and Detective Comics, the latter being more detective-oriented than just a guy dressed as a bat pummeling bad guys.
Bringing the character to film has been a mixed bag over the years. Some efforts are good. Some efforts are very good. And a few are extraordinary.
And here's how I rank them out...
Posted on Tuesday, April 18th, 2023
The television shows from my youth are entertainment that I don't revisit very often. By and large, they just don't hold up. Special effects were not that great and the acting was pretty bad all the way around. At least by today's standards. Back in the 70's though? Magic.
One of my favorite shows? The Six Million Dollar Man...
Sure it was hokey even back in the day, but looking at it now I was shocked at just how bad it is. The earliest episodes are incredibly boring. Agonizingly boring. They put 20 minutes of show into an hour episode and I just can't get into it. Later episodes picked up the pace a bit, but were still nowhere near exciting enough to be worth my time. Certainly not as exciting as I remember. At first I thought it was because they didn't have the money for special effects, but what special effects? Filming in slow motion?
Even the episodes I remember best (the ones with Sasquatch and Fembots) were awful (despite the fact that Fembots are still incredibly cool)...
Oh well. I have plenty of shows to watch without having to suffer through this one.
Another childhood memory crumbles to dust.
Posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2023
The latest episodes of Ted Lasso is incredibly frustrating while being achingly beautiful to watch.
This is (apparently) the final season, so what in the hell are they doing? Every episode is just spinning out of control with these stories that never seem to coalesce with anything worthwhile. Zava came and went, which was likely inevitable given how they hammered home that the team was capable without a ringer.
The latest episode... Sunflowers... is more spinning. But then you see these incredible moments with characters you love... and it's everything you want to see in the show.
I never not want to be able to find these characters on television, and this episode just hammered that home. Whether or not Jason Sudeikis is actually in Ted Lasso or not... Apple TV must find a way to continue. They MUST. I don't care if they rename it Roy Kent or AFC Richmond or whatever. This season just can't be the end.
And now is where I look at the latest episode as a huge fan of the show. If you haven't seen Sunflowers yet, some serious spoilers are going to follow... so watch before you read.
A Friendly Without Curfew in Amsterdam. I know that we have to see AFC Richmond at their lowest before they can climb... and I'm guessing that this half-way point is where things turn around (that seems to be the formula that the writers lean into every season). I laughed my ass off at Roy Kent and Jan Maas getting interviewed, because Roy is surly and Jan is... Dutch. They're the perfect match. And then there's Keeley heading off with her girlfriend. It bothers me more than a little bit that she's in a relationship with somebody other than Roy... it bothers me even more that this is the best thing they could figure out what to do with the character.
Heaven Knows I've Tried. Surely I'm not the only one who never, ever fast-forwards through the Ted Lasso theme song?
No Holiday from Training. I welcome absolutely any opportunity to see Roy Kent being his most Roy. But this season I'm almost as excited seeing Jamie getting to be his most Jamie with Roy Kent. Their history has them intertwined in ways that neither of them will ever truly understand, and it's a joyous thing to see.
Rebecca Swims the Canals of Amsterdam. It is wonderful to see how Rebecca and Sassy are friends independent of Keeley. Kudos to the stuntwoman who took a tumble off that bridge, but it's PHENOMENALLY stupid how Rebecca can't look at the little "bike lane" icons liberally painted on the bike path to understand that she's walking in the wrong place.
Beard's Got Plans. I gotta say... if "Yankee Doodle Burger Barn" doesn't exist, it should exist. How amazing is that for an American restaurant in a foreign country? And how great is it that we see such tiny little snippets of Coach Beard's odd lifestyle? His character is choice, and the fact that he's so consistent means it's not by accident.
AFC Richmond. I've been to Amsterdam many times. There's so much to do in the city that it's kinda of funny watching the characters run through the touristy stuff that defines it to foreigners. Jan Maas being on his home turf and coming up with something so genius is perfect for his character. And there goes Colin. I think we all know what his plans are for the night.
Water Pressure. Rebecca exploring this Dutch man's gorgeous house boat is one of my favorite moments. As is the fact that the Dutch guy was so gentlemanly as to leave and give her privacy while she took her shower (the note for the tea... It's not drugged, I promise). Interesting to note that the guy has a bedroom for his daughter, which could very well be the child that Rebecca is longing for. Just sayin'.
Leslie Knows His Jazz. Nobody thought that Higgins was heading to the Red Light District for sex... but it was hard to tell what it might be. Jazz. Makes perfect sense.
Coach Beard's Magical Tea. Beard is so delightfully weird. And he's brilliant on top of it all, which is what makes him such a great character. Ted not being able to drink tea is a part of what makes him great too.
AFC Richmond. Oh Dani. He's incredibly genuine and sweet under any and all circumstances, and you love to see it. Zoreaux's obsession with seeing a sex show is an odd aspect for his character, but also an interesting one.
Colin's Night Out. Trent Crimm is an outsider to the team, but not really. As a journalist (and now writer) he's getting to know them in a way that they probably don't know themselves. I was terrified that his secretly following Colin was going to be a way of gathering dirt on the poor guy... which would be so awful... and this scene certainly painted that picture.
Dinner on a Houseboat. Where did this Dutch gentleman come from? REBECCA'S DREAMS, THAT'S WHERE! It's so nice to see male characters on a show that are just genuinely nice by nature. It's a great contrast to what most guys are like in Real Life. And his kissing her foot after bandaging it (out of habit for his daughter, I'd imagine) just drove that point home. Doesn't hurt that Rebecca is absolutely gorgeous having just stepped out of the shower.
Roy and Jamie Training at Midnight. =sigh= Roy could do nothing but complain about life for hours, and I'd still want to watch.
Colin is a Prik. Ah yes... one of my favorite songs! Boy by Book of Love. Prik must be a gay bar (as if the name wasn't a big enough clue) because I've been told many, many times that my musical tastes are "gay." Can I ask... do you know who I am? Colin getting to go out to a gay bar... something he could never do back in London... is a nice thing for his character. But the fact that he still worries about getting recognized is profoundly sad (although... contrast and compare that Roy Kent didn't care at all that he ended up at G-A-Y in London with his over-60 yoga group... he didn't have to because he's not gay). If only the public at large could sympathize. Hopefully seeing it in Ted Lasso will change minds. And then in walks Trent Crimm! Colin having to immediately do a 180° makes this moment even more sad. But it turns out Crimm isn't there to cause a problem. On the contrary, he seems to be there as a... friend? And I gotta hand it to Billy Harris, he managed to go from being very scared to letting the relief show over every inch of his face. But not in a way that seems artificial. I have no idea if the guy is gay in Real Life or not, but the way he inhabits his character is admirable. And what a marvelous gem James Lance is! Trent Crimm is, by nature, an enigma. But you always know what's going on under the surface because you can see the gears turning. My favorite Trent Crimm moment is when he explained A Wrinkle in Time to Roy. This is a close second.
Ted on Magical Tea? I gotta say, seeing one of Keeley's infamous hotel ads dubbed into Dutch is hilarious.
Rebecca and Her Dutch Gentleman. Holy crap is Hannah Waddingham gorgeous. And I cannot believe how incredibly talented an actor she is. This kind of casual banter flowing so naturally is something that actors would kill to be able to do with such perceived ease. And then we get to hear her sing for a moment on top of it all. One of the things I love about Ted Lasso is how genuine wisdom is dropped like pearls scattered amongst the episodes. And here's one of my favorites being dropped out of nowhere "I realized that this thing didn't happen to me, but for me."
Roy Learns How to Ride a Bike. After that game-changing moment last season where Roy hugs Jamie after Jamie's father unloaded abuse on him, I still never saw them becoming close. But now that it's happening, how amazing is it? Brett Goldstein's comedic chops here are just beyond funny. But the real heavy lifting is being done by Phil Dunster. He has a very fine line to walk... showing genuine care and concern for Roy, but also being the character we've come to know. And hearing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head all the while Roy is chasing Jamie with a bicycle once again shows that the writers at Ted Lasso know how to pick musical queues!
Higgins and Will on a Pilgrimage. Will was defined for the longest time as the object of Nate's abuse. It is so nice to see him in any other context than that, because I think there's a lot unsaid about his character. He has a line right here about being made fun of that cuts very deep. That's his life. Not just from Nate, but everybody. That he gets to have a better go of it with his Richmond AFC family is wonderful.
Colin and Trent on Coming Out. So Trent is also gay. And now we know. This is so utterly heartbreaking for Colin. "My whole life is two lifes, really." (the closed captioning says the proper "lives" but it really sounds like Colin is saying the grammatically incorrect "lifes" which adds another level to what he's saying). Colin doesn't want to be a gay spokesperson or fish for apologies. All the guy wants what everybody wants... to be accepted for who he really is, and to be allowed to be who he really is. Being gay in men's sports is still a very hard thing to do, and understandably Colin isn't willing to risk it, even though he'd like to think that his teammates would accept him. They tempered this genuinely heartbreaking moment with Trent's hilarious response to Colin wondering how he knew... then drop right back into melancholy by bringing in Anne Frank, then rebind beautifully with the pink triangle bit. That is some very deft writing. And a huge shoutout to Doctor Fieldstone! I love that she wasn't just an accessory to the show. She had genuine purpose, and what we thought we knew what she did for Colin ending up being something different is wonderful in all the right ways.
Ted and Vincent VanGogh. My favorite artist of all time making an appearance on my favorite television show of all time was nice moment for me. And the fact that they managed to roll Vincent into Ted's narrative so flawlessly... "Where I'm from... Kansas, my home... this here is our state flower"... made an already Emmy-worthy episode cross the threshold for me. And this is where we get the title of this episode from.
Team AFC Richmond. It would have been criminal if we never got to see Kola Bokinni truly bring Isaac to life. After his episode-centric turn last season, I can't get enough of him. And here he is being Ultimate Isaac.
Jamie on Amsterdam. Roy Kent is my favorite character ever to hit my television screen. And it's the fact that Goldstein manages to never lose sight of Who. Roy. Is. that makes him so compelling. In this scene he is mainly just listening. But the performance goes deeper than that, but not in an obvious way. Brett Goldstein is Roy Kent every time he appears. And that throw-away line... "I think Keeley has a girlfriend"... has double-impact considering that Jamie dated her too. They really needed something to tie them together for these scenes to hit as hard as they do, and here it is.
Ted at Yankee Doodle Burger Barn. This scene is hilarious from start to finish. Ted's disbelief as he attempts to tell the host where he wants to sit is gold. But it's the restaurant set itself that is the funniest thing of all.
Rebecca Goes Gezellig. I already knew what "gezellig" means... it's one of those words that's inherently Dutch, and beautifully encompasses the feeling of Dutch people in a way that no English word ever could. It's fantastic that the show managed to throw that in without hammering it with a sledgehammer. And note how this scene flawlessly echos when Rebecca loses her phone in the canal, so this Dutch guy throws his in... and now he follows her lead again by throwing water in the clothes dryer. If you didn't want Rebecca and him to end up together before this, you most certainly do now. Again, this is Emmy-worthy writing. I'd be shocked if it wasn't nominated. I'd be more than a little angry if it doesn't win.
Barbecue Sauce. They have been telegraphing Ted's endgame for this final(?) season since Season 03's first episode. Seeing him being at home in a foreign country because of the food (Freedom Fries!) and atmosphere of an "American Restaurant" is just one more log on this fire. His revelation of how AFC Richmond can compete via the Try-Angle is likely how things will finally turn around for the team. But in the most Ted way possible. There's a lot to unpack from the TSA's* graphically-enhanced monologue, but note that God's voice ("Woopsie!") is a woman's voice, which builds on what's come before so brilliantly. And how about that birthday song in the background? LOL. What I love most is how the employees muster such enthusiasm for it.
Higgins is Jazz-Worthy. Will Kitman getting some screen time is gold. Charlie Hiscock has got his nervous energy down pat. Nice that Higgins gets to put his bass playing to good use again. The random scenes of everybody's night out is terrific, and the way it advances their stories without trying too hard is the kind of writing that Ted Lasso excels at. And, Lord, how I want to see more of Will Kitman.
Rebecca Skips Breakfast. I gotta say... if Rebecca doesn't end up with this Dutch guy at the end of the season, it would be a real shame. This is exactly the kind of gentleman that she's been trying to find her entire life. And he's got a dark sense of humor that she can appreciate. What more could she want? So why not? Splitting their time between London and Amsterdam would be so easy with her money... and could be worth it to them both. Especially when the guy kisses her like this.
Heading Home. I love love loved the Coach Beard episode last season. And here's Beard back from exactly the kind of night he apparently falls into all the time. The fact that he speaks Dutch doesn't surprise me... but I died when he told Will "Don't tell Jan.". Then I died again when we find out that Will had a three-way with the couple from the jazz club... and told his mum about it. I like that it is Ted who figures out how to coach the team. The American who knows nothing about football. That will be a great crescendo to his finale. And, I have to say... seeing the featured characters get their story moments only makes me wish that every last one of them got the opportunity. Richard Montlaur is the playboy sports star living the life we would most associate pro football players having... I want to see it. Thierry Zoreaux (sorry, VanDamme!) has hinted at something far more interesting than what lays at the surface we've seen. And what about Jan Maas? Bumbercatch? Reynolds? Sassy? Phoebe? Sharon? Mae?!? And what I wouldn't give to see more of Beard, Isaac, and Dani!
Ultimately this episode was fantastic because we got to spend real time with everybody in a way we don't see very often. A diversion, certainly, but not in a bad way.
And with that, we're half-way through the season.
*Interesting to note that talented cartoon voice actor Corey Burton was the voice of the "True Spirit of Adventure" this episode!
Posted on Thursday, April 20th, 2023
As a huge, huge, massively huge fan of all the Marvel Studios films, I was understandably looking forward to Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. The first two Ant-Man films were a blast, Scott Lang was fantastic in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame, and Paul Rudd can literally do no wrong in my eyes.
It was finally released on home video, so I paid my $20 and tonight was the night...
The movie was good. I was entertained. But it was a huge step down from the previous two movies in every way but one.
First of all... the fun was gone. There were humorous bits, but everything was far more serious than what I was expecting, and not in a good way. I think that Marvel put the setup for their upcoming Avengers: The Kang Dynasty movie ahead of letting Ant-Man be Ant-Man. And I don't understand why. The only thing I can guess is that this was the only way Marvel would agree to make the movie, and they ultimately didn't care about making sure the tone of the film was Ant-Man driven. And that's a shame, because yeah... the movies aren't making a billion dollars at the box-office... but they do make money, so why not let them be who they are?
Second of all, the Quantum Realm is 97% of the film, and Ant-Man (as created for the Marvel Cinematic Universe) works better in the Real World. The wacky, weird, bizarre, large stakes stuff can work when the character is surrounded by heroes able to make it work, but alone? Not so much.
I love Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer but they kinda took over the movie. I like the idea of Stature (Cassie Lang) joining the MCU, but she kinda took over the movie too. There just wasn't enough Ant-Man and The Wasp Ant-Man and The Wasp, and that was a bummer for me.
And now to that one thing that was better than the previous two... the villain.
Jonathan Majors is so incredibly talented. Easily the best thing to come out of the film. His every scene is tangibly menacing... while still still being fairly subdued. That's not easy to achieve. This has me really, really excited for the direction that Phase 5 is taking since he's the new Thanos...
BUT THEN Major's domestic abuse charges happened. The woman who filed them has recanted... and his lawyer says there is video evidence to clear him... but his talent agency dropped him and he's been evicted from upcoming movies, which leads me to believe that there's something to the charges after all. I guess we'll find out after his trial. Depending on what happens there, Disney may drop him from all the upcoming movies he was set to appear in, at which point I guess he would be recast. Which would be a darn shame for Kang... but it's not like you can't not cancel the actor if there's evidence he's an abuser.
Ultimately, I'm not sure what this movie was supposed to achieve. I guess it was to introduce Kang, but Loki already did that. And the Kang that was introduced here didn't really tell you anything about Kang except he's a power-mad villain whose a very serious threat. And there are a lot of him coming down the pipe. But that could have been done in ten minutes in a more appropriate film. Devoting an entire Ant-Man movie to it was just way off base and a major misstep.
So... it is what it is.
But it could have been so much more.
Posted on Friday, April 21st, 2023
A couple years ago when the pandemic was in full swing, I spent a lot of time having Zoom meetings with old friends I hadn't spoken to in ages. What else was there to do?
One of my friends is a golf nut, and we somehow got to talking about it, which is a disaster for me because I don't play it, watch it, or care about it. The closest I get are those rare times I play mini golf. But he had such passion for it that the subject was made interesting to me. Somehow we ended up talking about the time he got to go see the Augusta Masters Tournament. Which is like the Super Bowl of golf or something. Coincidentally enough, the Super Bowl is the most difficult sporting event to get tickets to... the second most difficult is The Masters. So getting to attend is a seriously big deal.
But I digress.
The one thing that really stood out about our conversation is him talking about the World Famous Master's Pimento Cheese Sandwiches at the tournament. He told me they cost just $1.50, and the recipe is a closely guarded secret. I nodded my head politely and made a mental note to search the internet for the recipe, because there are no secrets in the Information Age we live in.
Months later I thought to Google it.
And holy shit was I completely unprepared as to what a rabbit hole it would be.
There is more drama surrounding this fucking sandwich than you could possibly guess. The original recipe of 20 years was ditched when a new supplier was hired. This supplier, Rangos, is the one most closely identified with the sandwich... and was making them for 45 years. When Rangos was, in turn, also replaced, the owner took his recipe to his grave, so the replacement had to do their best to recreate it. Then it happened all over again in 2013 when the replacement for the replacement was replaced and, yet again, the secret recipe was not shared. The story is fascinating, if you care to take a look.
Many, many people have come up with their own version of the recipe. And the ingredients vary widely. But one seemed to be more widely accepted as "genuine" as the rest... Gina Dickson's version (sorry about her shitty fucking website plastered with ads, popups, and auto-play videos assaulting you).
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when The Masters was going on and I decided to buy the ingredients so I could make me a sandwich. But I forgot the bread! All the recipes say you have to buy just cheap-ass white bread, but I usually eat a whole grain or oat-nut bread. But yesterday I remembered to get me some white bread, and today was the day...
And... eh... it's okay. It has a little cayenne in it so there's a nice kick. But I think the sharp cheddar should have probably been more of a medium cheddar and I would eliminate the salt because it's just not needed. Also I would likely use onion granolas instead of finely-diced onions because even though I went seriously fine with the dicing, there's kinda of a texture mismatch going on.
In the end? It's just a fucking sandwich. I'd have rather have just had a grilled cheese.
Posted on Saturday, April 22nd, 2023
There are two warming pads sitting on my sofa and loveseat for my cats to lounge on. I put them out before/after the Summer months because my cats just love to lay on them. Even when it's not cold. And this is how it usually goes. Jenny will pick one. Usually the one on the sofa closest to me, but not always. Regardless of which one she picks, that's the one Jake decides he wants. He'll literally crawl over her and plop down beside and fall asleep. Jenny is not thrilled...
Though sometimes he wants to have his head lick first...
When Jenny gets some alone-time, she spends it sleeping in the weirdest positions possible. Like with her foot in her face...
Speaking of Jenny... I finally found something that SHE will eat, but JAKE will not. It's these "squeeze-tubes" of treat goo. Neither will eat them from the tube. But squeeze it in a dish and Jenny is all over it. Jake, who will normally eat absolutely anything won't touch it. So Jenny will eat his as well. Except with her half-paralyzed tongue, she makes her usual mess...
Jake, meanwhile, has decided to critique my television choices by trying to change the channel from my programming choices...
Hope you're having a happy Caturday.
Posted on Sunday, April 23rd, 2023
The weather can't make up its mind lately, but I'm not letting grey skies ruin my weekend... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Ghosty Mc Ghost Ghost! I was SO looking forward to Ghosted on Netflix. The film didn't disappoint. Ana de Armas is frickin amazing... and the fact that Chris Evans could play absolutely ANYTHING he wants, but chooses to play the damsel in distress in this movie just makes me love him all the more (he had already completely changed my mind about his career trajectory with Gifted, which I also loved)...
This is a great action flick, and the performances are everything you'd hope they'd be given how outrageous the story is. There's also some notable cameos to watch out for, if you're interested in giving it a shot.
• Mrs. Davis Loves You! There's a new show on Peacock called Mrs. Davis. I'm loving it, but am having a hardtime putting into words why I'm loving it. Maybe the trailer will help?
Jake McDorman (from Limitless) is in it, which doesn't hurt. Also in the series? A very cool edition of Bristish Knights shoes...
Alas, you can't actually buy these, which seems like a hugely missed opportunity.
• Edna! Comedian Barry Humphries died this past week. He is most known for playing a character which I obsessed over for the longest time...
In one of those sublime ironies, Humphries grew famous for a drag performance, but was a noted transphobe. I always looked at him differently after that. Fortunately most of the time I knew of Dame Edna was well before he outed himself as a bigot. But still...
• S'more! I won't go so far as to say that I hated The Menu... but I came very close. It was a film based on manipulation and shock value which had no value. At least not to me. It also dragged on to the point of tedium once the plot had been revealed. This was a painful conclusion for me to draw, because I loved the cast and the performances were amazing. THAT BEING SAID... the end game was brilliant. From Anya Taylor-Joy's little monologue to Ralph Fiennes's response to Anya's last request to the final shot of the film. It's flawless and haunting. I have fast-forwarded the movie to the end to watch it at least six times. Including just now today...
It makes me want to re-cut the movie down to a 15-20 minute short which is nothing but that which could have been a great flick.
• Pricey Taco! I swear before the pandemic that I was able to walk into Taco Bell and get my usual Two Chalupa Supremes (substitute rice for beef), a side of Fiesta Potatoes, and a bottle of water for under $10. But now? SEVENTEEN FIFTY-SEVEN?!??
WTF?!? And what's worse? NOBODY TAKES YOUR ORDER! YOU HAVE TO INPUT IT YOURSELF ON A BACTERIA-RIDDLED TOUCH-SCREEN! Good thing I travel with hand sanitizer!
• Hey Siri! The fact that Siri has become so fucking useless for home automation shouldn't really surprise me, but it totally does. Lately when I ask Siri to play a song, all I get is "There's a problem with Apple Music." Ask to unlock the door... The front door is not responding (though I can unlock through the app just fine). Even turning on a frickin' light is hit-or-miss. And when you call Apple they don't know shit. About a music service I PAY them for. And HomeKit has always been useless, so I don't even bother to try and get support for that. And so... no idea what I'm going to do. Amazon and Google are pulling resources from their digital assistants, so I don't know if they'll even be around to switch to. Thank heavens I made sure that all my new devices are Matter compatible. Maybe some enterprising company (or individual) will come up with a localized voice assistant for Matter that I can buy to run locally. Then I get a small computer and some kind of Matter-compatible microphones and call it a day. Why is it that companies have failed so miserably with a technology that's supposed to be our future? It started out so promising... now this.
• Taters! I bought a bag of luxury potatoes because I wanted to make potato salad this weekend. But when it came time to do it tonight... I looked at the bag... and thought "ZOMG! I WANT CRISPY-FRIED SPICY POTATOES FOR DINNERRRRR!!" I love them, but they take SO long to make properly. You have to cook them on low under a cover to get them softened. Then you have to add oil and fry at a higher temperature. Then you have to keep micro-dosing oil on them and turning not too early and not too long so they brown up nicely. Then you have to taste continuously so you can add just the right amount of freshly-ground black pepper, salt, harissa spice, cayenne, and Central Street blend. BUT OH SO WORTH IT! So crispy! So spicy! So hot!
Most restaurants won't put in the time and effort. But I'm patient and have very good flipping skills with a skillet.
Now it's time to eat those beautiful taters.
Posted on Monday, April 24th, 2023
I am not a hardcore gamer by any stretch of the imagination. I have a Nintendo Switch. I have an Xbox S. I play games from time to time when I need a distraction from the horrors of the world. Usually it's games that are challenging without being frustrating, though all games become frustrating to me eventually since I always reach a threshold where I my skills just can't carry me through.
The latest game to occupy my time is the "Early Access Package" to Disney Speedstorm, a Mario Kart style racing game featuring Disney characters. Disney Kart, if you will. It looks amazing on my Xbox S. The music is great. The racetracks are well-designed. The game is a lot of fun to play. At least right now it is...
And here's a taste of the gameplay...
To gain early access, you'll have to pay for a package. They start at $30, and there's really no reason to pay more than that because you'll eventually get everything in the bigger packages just by playing the game. Upon final release, Speedstorm will be Free-To-Play. Which is to say that you can play for free, but you'll be NAGGED TO DEATH to pay for micro-transactions to unlock things you need to keep advancing and be competitive in multi-player. So... if you have any aspirations to play the game, I'd do it now when you just have to pay once instead of paying small amounts over and over and over and over AND OVER. They don't have these micro-transactions enabled yet, but the path to do so is painfully obvious. There's a boatload of in-game currencies along with special tokens and credits, each of which unlocks something or another...
There's a super-special kind of in-game currency called "shards" which "star-up" your racer characters and Pit-Crew characters. In the example below, I got a single "Mickey Mouse Shard," which is 1/10th what you need to get the next star... at least to start... after you have one star the amount needed escalates to 1/20th (2 stars), 1/35 (3 stars), and so on, making it much harder to level up the higher you go...
If you don't want to wait to randomly earn the shards from racing, you can purchase them randomly in "boxes" or purchase them outright in the online store "Daily Specials" section (which change every day). Here I can buy 5 Mickey shards for 49,500 Season Coins...
My favorite racers to play are Mike Wazowski and Donald Duck, so I wait for those characters to be on offer, because there's only so much currency to go around. Along with a character's "stars" there's also their "level" which requires special general tokens along with token specific to a character's "collection." In the example below, I have to have 9 General Wrenches, 4 Turbo Boosters, and 5 Boo Doors to get him to Level 17...
Characters and their supporting Pit-Crew characters are specific to different "collections" of characters. Some races can only use characters from a specific collection. It's best to pick your favorite out of each collection to star-up and level-up...
All characters are dropped into one of four character classes... Brawlers, Speedsters, Tricksters, and Defenders. The character's stats, hit bonus, and boost all shift depending on which class they're in, and affects how you play. Donald Duck is a Brawler, so he has better car handling, stuns when you hit, and gets manual boost power any time you stun. Mike Wazowski is a Speedster, so he has a higher top speed, gets an automatic speed boost when you hit, and gives power to your boost bar when you run over an auto-boost. Eventually I'll try and level up Elizabeth Swan as my Defender and Mulan as my Trickster so I can get a handle on the different kinds of play that's offered.
Characters have generic abilities that change effect depending on whether you fire them forward, charge them to fire forward, or fire backwards. They also have a unique special ability. Mike's "special ability" is Hold the Door (HODOR!) which allows you to teleport-jump ahead on the track by summoning a magical door. The more stars you have, the further ahead you appear...
As mentioned above, each collection of characters shares a "Pit-Crew" and the more stars you have the more Pit-Crew characters you can assign. Each of your Pit-Crew varies in rarity and adds to your stats in some way(s). For the Monsters Inc. collection, one of the better Pit-Crew options is the CDA Agents which add a bit to your Top Speed, Acceleration, and Bomb Skill. The more shards you collect, the higher their star level and the better their bonus...
The highest class of Pit-Crew is "Epic Level" but their shards are incredibly hard to get, thus they're very hard to unlock, and even harder to "star-up"...
Each racer has their own car. You can change car appearance with various cosmetic changes (like paint) and different accessories (like wheels). I honestly don't know if changing your wheels or adding a spoiler (called "wings") or repainting your car actually does anything except allow you to make your car look unique, so I don't really focus on them...
Actually playing the game is done by choosing your "Game Mode"...
The racetracks that are included are so good. Each is based off of a Disney location that come out of each collection. You've got tracks set in places, like Mount Olympus from Hercules and The Great Wall from Mulan... plus tracks inspired by themes, like pirate ships from Pirates of the Caribbean and jungle ruins from The Jungle Book. There's even tracks which are themed off of an idea, like "The Silver Screen" which is in black-and-white. Within each track are various courses. "The Castle" (from Beauty and The Beast) includes options like "Main Hall" and "The West Wing" and "Time for Tea"...
Controlling your racer is insane. At least for somebody like me who started out with Night Driver and Pole Position. There's so many buttons and combinations to remember, that this game will be a challenge for young kids (or old kids like me)...
I suggest turning steering assist and auto-acceleration on so you have two less things to worry about, then focus on mastering one skill at a time. I started practicing how to launch attacks and use my manual speed-boosts. Then spent time learning how to drift, which is essential because drifting fills up your manual boost meter faster (essential to winning races). Then I focused on dashing, which allows you to bump other players as you approach or pass, hopefully stunning them enough to get ahead. Then I practiced rear-view so I can look behind me. Then rear attacked so I can hit what I see behind me. Then jumping so I can hop up on grind-rails or reach ramps and such. It's a lot.
Whether you are blazing through the Starter Circuit or working your way through the Season Tour, you have a map of the races you need to play along with what goals have to be met to win experience or coins or whatever. This could be using a certain number/kind of skills, placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, or even just completing the race...
After the race you're told the results and how many of the goals you met. Most of the races can be played as many times as you want to get a better time or meet all the goals (some races are special and can only be played a limited number of times)...
Certain races are special for some reason. Maybe the track is foggy. Maybe there's a guest boss you have to beat. Maybe the boosts and skill power-ups are floating. Maybe to win you have to be the Last One Standing...
If there's a flaw, it's that there doesn't seem to be any surround sound despite my having 7.1 turned on and surround sound enabled. It would be very cool if cars went whizzing past you audibly as well as visually. That's partially compensated for by the music. They got funky electronic versions of Disneyeque tracks that really adds to the atmosphere of the game...
Ultimately, there's a lot to like about Disney Speedstorm. Above all, it's fun. At least for now. I'm very glad that I bought the Early Access before the micro-transactions kick in and everything becomes a "He Who Spends The Most Money Wins the Race" kind of situation. Or, in some situations, "He Who Doesn't Spend Money Can't Access The Full Game" because parts of it like Speedstorm's "Golden Pass" will also likely require your money to get.
Given that this is a Disney game, I was surprised at how brutal it can get. Ramming into other players is a big part of what makes it so dang entertaining (at least when you do it... not so fun when it happens to you), which isn't the nicest way for young children to spend time in a game. Zooming up on poor Meg from Hercules and shoving her into the rails is nasty business, but given the complexity of the controls, maybe they won't be playing it? I dunno. It seems like kids have a better shot at being good at modern games than I do anymore.
So, yeah. If you're into Mario Kart and want to play as Disney characters, this is your ticket (so long as complicated controls and the incredibly complicated array of currencies doesn't scare you away). But if being financially bled to death by micro-transactions is not your idea of fun, then eventually when the free-to-play goes live you will be pretty miserable indeed. The frickin' ridiculous number of in-game currencies make this abundantly clear. My guess is that there will be a monthly package you can buy to get a set number of various tokens, coins, rewards, credits, and whatever at a discount, but regardless of how they bundle things up, having to keep paying to play really sucks. Which is to say that the future of all gaming sucks, because this is the future we're headed towards.
And oh what a crappy future that will be.
Posted on Tuesday, April 25th, 2023
My favorite YouTuber is Marques Brownlee (MKHD). He has a way of talking about tech and reviewing products that is on an entirely different level from his peers. He isn't just out there regurgitating marketing spin, he's speaking from a place of knowledge and has an easy manner to deliver his thoughts that makes his videos a joy to watch.
So imagine my surprise when his latest video dropped... and it was him talking about the new shoes he designed...
This is the ultimate form of "Putting your money where your mouth is," and you love to see it.
If I had $189 burning a hole in my pocket, I would absolutely buy a pair. But that's more than double the cost of what I usually spend (at the Nike Outlet Store, natch) so I'll just have to admire them from afar.
In a bit of marketing genius, Atoms and Marques sent pairs to a bunch of YouTubers, and the videos of their unboxing are showing up everywhere. Including other favorites like Tyler Stahlman...
And Zack over at JerryRigEverything...
And even Linus got in on the action... in his signature style, of course...
Ugh. I want these more than is rational and certainly more than I can justify financially. Maybe this is one of those rare times that I throw fiscal responsibility to the wind and just spend money I don't have!
Posted on Wednesday, April 26th, 2023
I don't understand people who don't find space exploration utterly fascinating.
The United Arab Emirates has a Mars probe (named Hope) that sent back one of the most amazing shots I've ever seen. It's of the moon Deimos above The Red Planet, and the image composition is so amazing that you'd think it was Photoshopped. Or CGI. Or a painting. Or anything except a photograph...
Photo from Emirates Mars Mission
The mission was originally set to end by now, but the UAE just extended it another year. The probe's wide orbit of the planet allows study of the planet and its moons in a way we haven't had before.
My fascination with Mars is directly attributed to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels...
Incredible painting by Michael Whelan shown the Martian moons of Barsoom for Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Burroughs had a fascinating take on the moons Phoebus and Deimos, which Barsoomians (AKA "Martians") call Thuria and Cluros. Because the moons are very small... just 17 miles and 9 miles across, respectively)... people shrink when they approach them. John Carter visits Thuria in the book Swords of Mars only to find the surface area was similar to that of Mars, relative to his tiny size.
Phoebus and Deimos are notable not just because they are so small, but also because their orbits are really close to Mars. Phoebus is just 5,800 miles away... Deimos 14,500. Earth's moon, for comparison is 238,900 miles! But it gets worse. Phoebos's orbit is decaying 6 feet every hundred years. Which means it's likely to break apart (Mars gets a ring!) or crash into the planet in another 50 million years.
Thanks to NASA's Perseverance rover, we actually know what a solar eclipse looks like on Mars...
I could go on for pages writing about Mars and its moons. The exploration of our neighboring planet is a fascinating subject on which there are volumes of research, photos, speculation, and fiction available. It's a bottomless pit from which I'm happy to keep falling.
Posted on Thursday, April 27th, 2023
And the critics aren't wrong. Siri hasn't gotten much smarter in years. Maybe a decade. Marry this to the absolute fucking travesty that is
HomeShit HomeKit (which is largely controlled by Siri) and Apple has fallen so far behind the curve that they can't even see the curve. It's all flat to them.
And, as I always do, I am going to blame this totally on Apple CEO Tim Cook. Apple needs a complete and total bastard like Steve Jobs in charge, and Cook isn't even close. Jobs was a ruthless taskmaster who obsessed over user experience and made absolutely sure that bugs got squashed and Apple was constantly moving forward. Cook seems to content to coast right off the racetrack and get lost in the woods.
Nope. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and everybody else is jumping on the AI bandwagon to make smart assistants... um... smart... and Apple, as usual, doesn't give a fucking shit. They do whatever the hell they want whether it benefits their customers or not... whether their customers want it or not... whether it makes sense or not.
I fucking hate it, but what's the alternative?
Look, I am not expecting the world here. I don't necessarily want (or need) for Siri to be as smart as HAL 9000 or the computer on Star Trek or whatever. But I would like it to actually fucking work for the things it advertises it can do. But I've lost track of the number of times it fails with even the simplest request... like playing a song I ask it to play. And not from some third party service... from Apple Music! It's like, that's the ultimate softball request. Play a song from a service YOU control. And yet... well... good luck with that.
More than a few pundits are saying that Apple's complete lack of interest in making Siri competetive could ultimately sink the company. This could be hyperbole. But it's not outside the realm of possibility that it's dead-on accurate. When everybody else allows you to have a smart assistant that's actually keeping up with the times and, you know, useful... when Apple is still banging rocks together, how can they possibly survive?
Posted on Friday, April 28th, 2023
I often wonder what it would take for me to love a television show more than Ted Lasso.
I dunno. But it's far and away my favorite right now.
Posted on Saturday, April 29th, 2023
Jake's obsession with his stuffed lion, Mufasa, started when we was a kitten. It was a toy that my mom and I initially brought back from Africa for Spanky the Cat. He latched onto it and never stopped. Many, many, many toys have come and gone over the years, but Mufasa has never stopped being his favorite.
Lately, I've begun to think that he's not so much lugging it around for himself... but for me. Because there are times in the middle of the night that he's dragging Mufasa around and crying his guts out trying to get my attention.
Earlier this week I was on a Zoom call and Jake came wandering in with Mufasa crying. Because of course he did. Then... something surprising happened. Because I ignored him, he dropped Mufasa down the stairwell...
When I didn't pay attention to his drama, Jake started wailing. The people on the other end of my Zoom called me "heartless" and insisted I go get his toy for him. So I did...
He was not thrilled that I set it next to me instead of him, but I wanted to let my Zoom callers see that I actually ran down and got it.
Disgusted, he jumped down and went into my bedroom to sulk.
But then, a few minutes later he wandered back in, jumped up on my keyboard, then hopped on the banister to... I dunno... have a staring contest with Mufasa...
Eventually he grabbed Mufasa and wandered downstairs to wait for treats.
As I type this, Mufasa has been sitting on the coffee table for two days. Who knows when Jake will want to hang with him again.
Posted on Sunday, April 30th, 2023
Spring has sprung and the local orchards are killing me with allergies, but I am not dead yet... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Williams! John Williams is one of the... if not the... greatest movie composers of all time. A lot of people may debate this, but anybody who can take a pile of shit like Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and make it even a little tolerable has earned the honorific. Duel of the Fates is an incredible piece of music. CinemaStix does a shallow dive into "The Best Decision George Lucas Ever Made, and here it is...
Williams was due to retire. But then we found out he was composing for the final Indiana Jones movie... Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny... and now it sounds like he has something cooking with Steven Spielberg too. Lucky us!
• Wes! And speaking of Star Wars... these Wes Anderson parodies just keep getting better and better. My previous favorite was the parody of what an Anderson X-Men film would be like. But this is my new favorite...
Wow. I would pay serious money to watch this film.
• ROBOTS! There are movies that I am completely hooked on before the trailer even reaches the halfway mark. This is 1000% one of them. It looks hilarious...
Since it's by HBO films, I'm guessing it will end up on "Max" eventually. We'll see if I can wait that long... or whether I'll be paying the on-demand price to see it before that.
• Hate System! Former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger has long been speaking out against bigotry, and on Friday this CNN interview was posted...
Say what you want about the guy but, in the grand scheme of things, he is a force for good in this world. We need more people like him.
• Beautification! This video is not for everyone. But if you're an architecture nerd like me, it's a wonderful, wonderful deep dive into reversing a horrible trend of turning cities into prisons. It's long, but I watched it twice because it was so interesting to me...
We need more of this happening in our cities. We need it.
• Puppers! This past week I saw a flood of "reaction" videos from people talking about the latest video from Lewis Capaldi. People bawling their heads off. People breaking down completely. And I was like "Whatever!" because I'm not a very emotional person, and just dismissed the "overreaction" outright. But then I watched it...
Then I was like "Yeah, I get it now." Humans and their antics may not often put a lump in my throat... but animals can do it quite easily. Couple the song with the video, and you can't be human and not react in some way to it.
• Undiplomatic! The Diplomat (Netflix) was very good television. It's dense and smart without being boring. It spins its wheels a bit, but ultimately moves ahead at a good clip. It also has fantastic performances that make it all the better. BUT THEN THEY END IT ON A MASSIVE CLIFFHANGER. Not about some small aspect of the story... BUT THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE STORY. It's like the story was cut in two and you only get the first half. Which is just fine if you've already been renewed for a second season. But, so far as we know, no second season has been ordered. Which means that the writers of the show are hacks of the fucking worst kind. They're too lazy to complete a story and then come up with a big idea to open the second season... instead they drop a bombshell so that they can just continue with what they've already done. No need to figure out a way to forge forward in a new, exciting direction... just roll onward from where you've already been. And if you get canceled? You don't care! Fuck your audience!...
I am so sick of this shit. IF YOU DON'T KNOW IF YOUR SHOW WILL CONTINUE, WRAP IT THE FUCK UP! STOP WITH THE UNWARRANTED CLIFFHANGERS YOU ABSOLUTE PIECE OF SHIT HACKS. This crap is fucking embarrassing, and I'm tired of it. — UPDATE! The show has been renewed for a second season. Which does nothing to stop my raging, because they could just keep doing this same shit each season until they're canceled and we're left hanging.
If I'm still alive from allergies next Sunday, you know where to find me.