Posted on Sunday, January 12th, 2020
The world may be cold and bleak right now but there's a bit of warmth to be had, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• WWDD? I am very late to the party with What Would Diplo DO? but am very glad that Hulu recommended it to me. James Van Der Beek plays a parody of real-life DJ Diplo and the result is some of the funniest television I've ever seen. I can't believe that Diplo signed off on this (as well as produced it). I hesitate to link to this (NSFW) trailer because the show is so much better than this would indicate, but here it is...
It seems impossible we haven't seen a second season since the show was originally released in 2017. Since there's only five episodes available (which I've already watched twice), I need more Diplo in my life.
• Deeply Faked. I was disappointed by The Irishman... everybody involved has done better work elsewhere and I was bored by it all. But I did watch it. And a big part of the movie is the fact that the story is told over a long period of time. So Netflix had to pony up a big chunk of money for computer FX to de-age the characters. It was done well enough that it wasn't distracting... nor did it stray too far into uncanny valley territory. But it wasn't terribly convincing either. Which is why I find the fact that some guy used free "deep fake" tools to do a much better job of it for zero dollar so amusing...
These are the same free tools that did a far superior job of replacing Superman's face after Henry Cavill couldn't shave his mustache for Justice League. I wonder how long until Hollywood gets smart about these tools. I also wonder how long before faked video is indistinguishable from authentic video... and how that's going to change the world. What happens when you can't tell what's real any more?
• HEADLINE: 32-year-old Medford man fighting severe flu case. I stopped getting the flu vaccine because it never seemed to make a difference. I started again when I became a granduncle because I wanted to take every possible precaution that I wouldn't get him sick. My doctor once asked me if I had gotten my flu shot and I told him that I stopped doing that. His reply? "Well, 50,000 people a year die from the flu, but it's your call." That didn't change my mind, but I see this story and what he said is stuck in my head. 32 years old. Man, I wish this poor guy the best of luck and hope he gets better soon. Get your flu vaccine, people. And if you want to know more about it, the CDC has a page for that.
• Front and Center. Holy cats! This $3 utility restores MacOS X window functionality so that clicking on one window will bring all windows for that app to the front. I have NO idea why Apple changed this behavior from all the MacOS's before X, but it drives me insane. And now it's BACK, baby. No idea how much I've missed this. 100% critical app.
• WAKANDA FOREVER! Yo, Marvel Studios... what is it going to take to get an M'Baku series on Disney+? The guy steals every single scene he's in! He lives in one of the most magical places on earth! He's a character everybody loves! Winston Duke is a cinematic treasure! It's like... how many pieces need to click together before you do what needs to be done? Is Kevin Feige asleep at the wheel?
And who wouldn't guest star in THAT piece of awesome? Black Panther? Shuri? Okoye? Nakia? They could all make an appearance. This is a show that's begging to be made.
And now for some hot chocolate.
Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2020
When I got home from work I burned through thesecond season of Fleabag. Don't ask me why it took me this long to get around to it. Maybe it's because I didn't freak out over the first season like everybody I know did. Sure I liked it, but it wasn't better than sliced bread, I tell you what.
No, it's the second season of Fleabag that's better than sliced bread.
And speaking of better than sliced bread...
Nice to see that Marvel dumped some serious money into giving Black Widow the movie she deserves. Taskmaster is the perfect opponent, so something to look forward to (as if I weren't already).
Posted on Thursday, January 16th, 2020
Ugh. NBC just released the details of their new "Peacock" streaming service and it's not good news for me.
I have been ditching online streaming services right and left in an attempt to save money. I've decided that I'm just going to rotate between them so I have no more than two active at a time. Hulu and Netflix are getting temporarily dumped in favor of CBS All Access so I can watch Picard later this month. Then it looks like I'm going to have to dump that when all the Picard episodes have aired so I can switch to NBC's "Peacock" service for Will Forte's new MacGruber series. I loved the shorts on Saturday Night Live and really loved the MacGruber movie, so there's no option for me to avoid "Peacock" as I had planned...
I hope hope hope that Kristen Wiig will at least do a guest-shot as Vicki St. Elmo on MacGruber... but she's got so much going on with movies and such that it's probably a long shot.
So let's take stock of where I'm at with paid streaming services, shall we?✓ Fubo (My main service for television)
Such a load of crap. The pricing almost ensures that people will not keep their subscriptions year-round but will instead rotate between everything like I'll be doing. They would be a lot smarter to drop from $6 a month (average) which will likely net $18 from me annually to a pre-paid yearly plan of $40 which would get them double the revenue. But oh well. I'm sure there will eventually be some kind of shakeup and consolidation, because there are likely even more streaming services on the way.
The biggest losers? Cable and satellite companies who have fucked over their customers for decades by forcing expensive massive packages with channels people will never watch. Had they gone à la carte ages ago, they could have survived this. As it is? Good riddance.
Posted on Sunday, January 19th, 2020
I'm still sick and dying, but the show must go on, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• HDR. I've had a 4K AppleTV since the day it was released. The 4K part isn't a massive improvement over 1080 because my television isn't big enough (or rather I'm not sitting close enough) for it to make a big difference. When I get up close, fine details do look also nice... especially fine lines like strands of hair and the like. And so I just left the settings to the default of 4K because my TV can do that. Sometimes if it's a really beautiful movie that's being displayed in 4K I'll pull up a chair so I can see all the incredible detail up close. In discussing this, I was told that the default 4K is in Standard Dynamic Range and I should check to see if my television can display High Dynamic Range. A quick look at the specs and... my television CAN display HDR. I thought my AppleTV was already set to HDR, but I went into my AppleTV settings and, sure enough, it was set to SDR instead. So I made a quick comparison by switching back and forth while watching Captain Marvel. SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
The glow when Captain Marvel uses her powers alone is worth the switch. But where it really makes a difference is in the black levels. Any time people are in shadow you can see much more subtlety in their presence. Even more important, Agent Fury and Maria Rambeau's gorgeous skin tone is far better defined and doesn't get lost when they're in shadow. Just watch the scene where Fury and Carol are washing dishes and you'll see what a difference it makes... far more of a difference than going from 1080 to 4K. Another movie that just luxuriates in HDR? Blade Runner 2049. If you've got a television that can display HDR, then that's the most important setting you can make.
NOTE: The Marvel movies are not... I repeat NOT... in 4K or HDR if you purchase them on iTunes. You have to watch via a different app which has them in Ultra-High-Def HDR. If you purchased with MoviesAnywhere, you're good. The Disney+ app looks like it's HDR, but I haven't done a lot of testing.
NOTE: The "Movies" app on AppleTV stupidly does not seem to tell you when movies are encoded in HDR. You have to look them up on the shitty AppleTV desktop app on a computer to know that. So lame.
NOTE: Just to say... I've been running through the movie purchases I have which are in HDR and the picture quality is stunning. Even movies like Crazy Rich Asians which don't seem like they would be affected have a delicious richness to them. Seriously, wow.
NOTE: After watching a while, I am relatively confident that the AppleTV app for Disney+ is showing 4K HDR. Yay! So even if you only own the crappier iTunes versions, you can still watch in HDR with Disney+, I guess. Boy is Thor: Ragnarok disappointing. I thought once they got to Sakaar the color would be off the hook. Alas, not as often as you'd think, just in certain scenes. But the lightsaber fight in Star Wars: The Force Awakens nice.
• Reprisal. I suspended Netflix a couple weeks back, now I've also suspended Hulu so I can reactivate CBS All Access for ten weeks to watch Picard (unless CBS is a total dick and skip weeks like they've done with Discovery, the assholes). For the two days left I've got Hulu I've been watching it non-stop to get my money's worth. The last show I had on my list to watch was Reprisal...
A cross between all those revenge movies and Sons of Anarchy, this show is one of the most drawn-out, uneventful, dull, and overall boring series you'll ever see. Long stretches where absolutely nothing happens. Characters that have loads of screen time yet are somehow one-dimensional. There's also moments of real stupid which pad runtime just because there were ten episodes to fill. And yet... it was a fascinating, stylish, twisty, interesting ride that accelerated to the finish line. And had some great moments. I don't regret watching it. I do regret that I spent so much time watching it. So if you've got time to kill, here's a show to check out. You'll need to tough it out those first five episodes though.
• Kindness. It's not that difficult, really. If you can't be supportive of people living their best life at zero cost to you, you can at least be kind. So be kind. Offer kindness to those who are being treated unkindly. Stand against those who are treating others unkindly. As a fellow human, it’s the very least we can do.
• Dietary Sadness. Quaker rice cakes are a staple of my diet. I love them. They are high in carbs (7g to 11g ea.), but it's a far better option for dessert than say... three Chips Ahoy cookies (22g) or your average cupcake (40g). I have a Plain or White Cheddar or Popcorn cake with my lunch and a flavored cake with my dinner for dessert. My favorite for dessert, by a wide margin, is Caramel Chocolate Chip. Except you can't get them any more. You have to choose either Caramel or Chocolate. Caramel Chocolate Chip has been replaced by Tomato Basil.
I decided to try them and I can't make up mystery mind. The first bite and I'm like "Tastes like crackers in tomato soup!" The second and I'm like "Tastes like pizza sauce!" Then things start to go wrong. The flavor powder accumulates on your taste buds and suddenly it's awful for some reason. I am so very, very sad that my Caramel Chocolate Chip rice cakes are gone.
• Pantone. There is beauty to be found in diversity. And this is amazing.
• Help. And before I go... I read this week that there's now a hotline specifically for caregivers... "Depression. Exhaustion. Burnout. Stress. Those are just some of the words people are using to describe their experiences as caregivers. Helping care for a family member or loved one can be hard work. People don't often talk about the emotional toll it can take on the actual caregiver. Now the Caregiver Action Network is trying to provide help by launching a hotline specifically for caregivers." — Had this existed, there were days I would have totally called this number.
And now... probably time for a nap considering I'm about to pass out anyway.
Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020
For years now... a decade really... I've been experimenting with setting up a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) media server that's connected to the internet. There are a lot of reasons I'd like to have such a thing, but the big one is that I want to be able to access my vast photo library from anywhere on earth. If I'm in Germany and want to show a friend a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Yokohama (something that actually happened) it would be great if I could do that. Sure I have the option of paying for a photo service, but then I have to convert all my images from RAW format and lose the ability to access/edit the original photo remotely if I want to.
So I purchased a 1 Terabyte single-drive, internet-enabled "WD My Book Studio" NAS back in 2010 with that in mind. Everything ended up being a total mess and didn't work at all like I was hoping. It's been sitting in a drawer ever since.
Fast forward to 2019 and I decided to try again. I used money I had saved in 2014 for a trip to Norway's fjords with my mom (that we never got around to taking) and purchased a QNAP TS415+ NAS and two Western Digital 8 Terabyte RED drives to put in it. The drives are mirrored in a RAID configuration so I don't lose any data if one of them dies. Note that there's a television remote. That's because this model has an HDMI port so it can hook up directly to a television...
Today I finally set it all up. It was fairly straightforward, though not the most user-friendly thing to do. It spent hours doing a "RAID resync" (whatever the hell that is), which makes zero sense. The drives were empty and freshly formatted. How can it take over 24 hours to "resync" NOTHING? Note that QNAP doesn't bother with beta testing their apps. If they did, somebody might have noticed that the displayed percentage overwrites the text label, making it tough to read its progress...
Before you can do anything, you have to set up a "Storage Pool" from your drives. I maxed my pool out at 100% of my available drive space, because why only use part of your drives? QNAP is pretty brain-dead when you choose to do this... it will endlessly pester you with alerts because it defaults to a threshold of 80% usage. Insanity. If somebody sets their pool to 100% of drive space, why not ask if you want to disable the threshold alerts? I had to do it manually. Sadly, after setting things up, my 8TB mirrored drive resulted in only 7.1TB of space available. No idea what happened to nearly a FULL TERABYTE of storage (this seems high for overhead), but whatever.
Rather than have to install a third-party app, I decided to give the QNAP "Qmedia" app a try on my AppleTV since it's the "native" application from QNAP. It is complete and total shit. Despite "pretending" to remember where you left off when viewing videos, it doesn't. You can't even fast-forward the video you're watching, which is mind-blowing. I have no fucking idea why they even bothered. Qmedia is useless.
I'd rather not have to switch television video input sources from my AppleTV every time I want to watch something off the NAS, but apparently that's going to be how this goes. So I grabbed the QNAP remote and went for it. First I had to install an app (of course) but no big deal. Then I actually tried to use the thing and it's a total clusterfuck. The "VideoStation" app is just a fucking web browser interface. It's difficult to read because it's not sized for a television. It's impossible to use with the included remote because the remote doesn't do anything. You have to plug in a mouse and keyboard to make it work.
There's an "HD Player" app that looks like it's geared more towards television displays and using the remote control but it's fucking useless too, having many of the same problems as Qmedia. It goes non-responsive constantly, doesn't allow fast-forwarding (pressing the up arrow to skip forward is not the same thing), starts at the beginning of a video even if you tell it to resume from where you stopped, has a shitty interface that makes sorting through a large number of videos a nightmare, has crap video quality that you can't adjust for brightness or anything else, and is an overall steaming pile of fail.
I swear, QNAP is the most ridiculous fucking company. Why bother to make claims of being a multimedia center that can connect directly to your television if it does THIS shitty of a job of it? The whole thing is a fucking joke.
Fortunately there's plenty of options for serving your media from a NAS if it has a computer onboard like the TS451+ does. The "big two" are Kodi and Plex. Kodi is open source and free. Plex is free, but you can support the project by paying to subscribe to "Plex Pass" for additional features (like being able to download media on your phone for local playback instead of streaming it). Most people I know who started on Kodi ended up with Plex, so I just skipped a step and installed Plex Server on my NAS.
For what it is, Plex Server is pretty sweet. It transcodes just about anything you throw at it. Including the RAW Digital Negative photo format from Adobe (DNG) that I use. Which means I don't have to save out JPEGs in order to access my photo library remotely. Nice! I need to work on settings for this, however, because Plex compresses things pretty heavily for transmission. This results in some ugly visual artifacts, banding, and color shifts...
Video works brilliantly from Plex BECAUSE YOU CAN ACTUALLY FUCKING FAST FORWARD THROUGH IT ON APPLE TV! Plex does a really good job of cataloging it as well. Thank heavens, because I'd light my QNAP NAS on fire if I had to suffer through their shitty apps. The only problem I've run across is having the video stop and tell me that my connection isn't fast enough, which is absurd because AppleTV is literally plugged into the same high-speed hub as the NAS! There must be some kind of setting for that I'm missing. Fortunately, it's a rare event.
I don't steal media. All the movies and television shows I have are on DVD/Blu-Ray or purchased on Digital. Well, with two exceptions... Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original) and Oh Grow Up! (one of my favorite shows of all time)... are not available to purchase. Lord only knows I wish they were, because my digitized versions of VHS tapes are really poor quality. I've used Vudu's Disc-To-Digital service to convert the bulk of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection to Digital legally. But not all of my stuff is available for conversion. Now I have the option of ripping them to the NAS and viewing them digitally no matter where I am via Plex Server. Technically, any time you break the protection on a DVD you are breaking the law, but that's a bullshit law. I would happily pay to convert them to digital if the studio who owns them would allow them to be converted. What I'm not going to do is buy the same movie all over again. Fuck that. I already paid for it, I should get to pay a small fee for a new format, not have to buy it all over again. And so... I have a small collection of DVDs ripped to my NAS temporarily until the studio allows them to be converted and I can pay for that. Plex does a great job of streaming from my living room to remote locations in HD. No, the video quality is not as good as what comes off of iTunes... especially if the iTunes version is 4K... but it's plenty good enough for my iPad or iPhone. I'm sure if I didn't have tons of security cameras flooding my bandwidth I could set the quality higher, but it's really not necessary.
Music streaming (local and remote) is handled quite well through Plex, and my SONOS system can address Plex directly. This means I can download all my music from iTunes, put it on the NAS, then drop iTunes Music Match and iTunes itself with no problem.
And so... bravo Plex.
I'm going to try out "Plex Pass" for a month and see if I want to upgrade to the lifetime membership for $120. Something tells me that's a purchase I will end up making. I certainly can't do without Plex if my alternative is the QNAP crap.
UPDATE: Yeah. Easiest decision to make to get the Plex Pass... the apps for streaming are included and you're helping the team behind it to keep developing the app.
So okay... the QNAP multimedia is bullshit. What about the NAS itself? Well, I'd love to report on that, but the minute I login, it either immediately disconnects me...
...or it allows me in but gives me a shitload of error messages. My favorite? Telling me it's running out of memory. If 2GB is not enough memory to do even the most basic tasks, then why ship with just 2GB memory? QNAP has their own version of Microsoft "Clippy" to break the bad news, which is a weird choice...
Even better? If you choose "optimize" he does a happy dance when he recovers 0MB of memory! Once I can log in again, I'll turn off and uninstall absolutely everything except the bare minimum I need (which includes Plex Server, of course), so I'm hoping that will fix these problems.
My NAS can act as a Time Machine backup for my Mac, but I really don't need that any more. All my data is stored in the cloud, so the only thing that would need to be replaced on my MacBook if it were destroyed are the apps, which I can just download from the developer again.
QNAP provides Apple File Services so I can access my NAS over my local network easily. Weirdly enough, you are required to install Windows File Services in order to install Apple File Services, but (luckily) you can kill the Windows File Services after installation to save precious memory and everything seems to work fine.
Speaking of memory... QNAP is happy to sell you more, but they charge outrageous pricing for the stuff. I mean laughably outrageous pricing. Far better to buy it yourself (which I'm guessing I'll have to do sometime soon if killing apps don't work).
Remote management and access to my files is a breeze thanks to QNAP's tools and a service they call CloudLink. The NAS talks with QNAP so even though its IP address may change, you can still reach it with no trouble.
I am still relatively new to the QNAP TS451+ NAS and the Western Digital RED drives, so I can't comment much about them. I can say that Western Digital are the only brand of hard drive that hasn't disappointed me so I'm hoping that trend continues. Also, despite the shitty media center aspects and overly-difficult controls, QNAP is highly respected in the IT industry. I just wouldn't bother paying extra for an HDMI port and remote that you will probably never use because their software is shit. Put that money towards a Plex Pass where it will do some good.
Posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
I am a massive fan of the original Star Trek series. And the original cast movies too.
I did not like Star Trek: The Next Generation because it was just so boring. Aside from an occasional good episode, the lack of conflict on the ship and Gene Roddenberry's "new vision for the future" was a massive downgrade from where he started. Then Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came along and, while beloved by critics and fans, was somehow worse. Odo the non-shape-changing shape-changing alien? Quark comic relief? The Prophets? I mean, sure there was Avery Brooks, but holy crap. AND THEN, just when I thought things couldn't possibly get worse... Star Trek: Voyager. I was totally excited for it. At first. Enemies on the same ship? CONFLICT! Biomechanical ship? COOL! Stranded across the galaxy where survival is a constant struggle and no allies in sight? EXCITING! But then they ended up doing the same old Next Generation shit all over again and boring the heck out of me. Star Trek: Enterprise was a step in the right direction, but they burdened it with a "Temporal Cold War" that was a boat-anchor tied to the show in a horrible way.
Naturally, when CBS announced they were coming out with Star Trek: Discovery, I was skeptical. The cast was amazing (seriously amazing) and they looked to be doing something new, but the ship looked like shit and the early previews with engine spores and stuff looked like crap.
Boy was I wrong.
The first season of Discovery was phenomenal.
The performances and characters were incredible. The stories were cool as all getout. And the "big twist" was about the best thing to come out of Star Trek in decades. I loved just about everything about it. Critics said it "wasn't Star Trek" and hated on it terribly. This made me laugh my ass off, because it was easily the most "Star Trek" thing to happen since the original series! People who said it "wasn't Star Trek" were saying it wasn't "NEXT GENERATION Star Trek." Which, of course, was my favorite thing about it. The second season wasn't as good, but it was still worth watching.
And now there's Star Trek: Picard...
Obviously I was not enthusiastic about the continuation of a show which I feel is the point Star Trek went terribly wrong. I like Patrick Stewart... like him a lot... but more Star Trek: Next Generation was not something I was interested in. Paying extra for CBS All Access to see it was the nail in the coffin. Except... I read more than a couple interviews with Patrick Stewart and other people working on the show who promised that it was not going to be more of the same old thing. They were doing something new.
Well, sign me up! Even though I was certain it was going to suck.
Boy was I wrong.
First of all, Patrick Stewart is phenomenal in this. He's playing up the age of his character rather than trying to act like he's twenty years younger. Second of all, my mind was completely turned around when Picard said the words "Starfleet was no longer Starfleet!"
Finally somebody understands what the show needs to be interesting. The story being set up feels like it's going to be entertaining. The cast they've assembled is great. The guest-stars from the old new generation seem like they will be used to good effect. And, oh yeah, the special effects are fantastic...
I have high hopes that the talent behind the show have an ending that's going to be worth it all.
CBS sure seems to think so... they renewed the show for a second season AND invited Whoopi Goldberg back, who's "Guinan" is one of the most interesting characters to come out of the old new generation. So fingers crossed.
Something else that was new today? Jay & Silent Bob Reboot...
I'm a huge fan of Kevin Smith's "Askewniverse" films... Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, and (to a lesser degree), Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. And now we're getting the sequel, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot. To me it was a mixed bag. Sure it was great seeing all the characters again and it was pretty funny in spots (though a lot of the humor relies on the viewer having seen all the previous films), but it's almost reached a parody of the parody it was parodying and priority is put on famous cameos and injecting his wife and daughter into things rather than humor, insightful commentary on pop culture, and the characters that made me love the movies so much.
I was glad I saw the movie (worth the $10 price tag), but couldn't help but think that half of it was wasted. I am really, really hoping that Smith goes back to form with Clerks III instead of sabotaging himself again.
Kevin Smith needs to Picard himself instead of giving up more Voyager.
Posted on Sunday, January 26th, 2020
I may be ankle-deep in sawdust, but here I am... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Push Back. The impeachment trial is absurd. There is overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing in a number of areas, and it's clear the president is exploiting his office for personal gain at every possible opportunity. But because Republicans in The Senate are 100% willing to enable his abhorrent behavior, he's going to remain in office. Which is why This post from Dan Rather is so important. "As many of us focus on the news out of Washington, let us not forget on these cold, winter nights, many are struggling with hunger and hopelessness. There are the lonely, the homeless, the sick, and scared. Service to others is a way to push back at the cynicism of our times."
• TEMPORARY! OH MAN! TIME TO STOCK UP MY FREEZER! YOU SIMPLY CANNOT BEAT THESE SAVINGS!!!
As I've made known many, many times, I rarely buy anything at the grocery store that's not on sale. I build my meals around what I can find that's inexpensive. I very nearly grabbed these for taco night until I was like "Wait a minute! Aren't these usually about $2?!?" Stores are pretty devious. They expect people will grab something on sale without looking for how much it's on sale.
• Dance Dance Dance. A new bird has been discovered. It's feathers are like a black hole, absorbing most light. This results in a very cool mating dance you gotta see...
It's amazing that we keep discovering new animals as scores of others are going extinct.
• Scraps. It's hard to complain about working on the weekend when I get to set up my wood shop and build displays! I cut the pieces for a rack display I will assemble tomorrow, and now I am building a half-dozen little fruit-crate-inspired booklet displays. They will have a small standee sitting next to them with info and pricing...
As thrifty as I am for my own projects, I've doubly so when spending money for work. The stands had to be heavy so they wouldn't move... and deep so they wouldn't tip over. I made the tray part look nice, then used whatever scraps I had laying around for the back-stops since they don't show. Works like a charm, and they ended up costing a whopping $2.20 each. =sigh= Designing and building displays is the best part of my job. Wish I got to do more of it.
• Peanut Hell. Killing time until 10:00 so I can fire up the power tools... I'm watching SNL from last night with Adam Driver. The cold open takes place in hell where Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials is visiting. She sold her soul to the devil so she could be on television forever. THEN can you guess what commercial comes on? Just guess! I hope that was planned and SNL contacted Progressive to have it happen, because that's genius.
In other news... POOR MR. PEANUT! Guess he shouldn't have killed all those kids with peanut allergies!
• Art. I recently read a Facebook post by Rachael Eliot Barker that's so important to me that I am reprinting it in its entirety...
"Recently, there was a dust-up over The Comedian, a piece in which Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan taped a banana to the wall of a gallery and sold it for $120,000. A gallery patron made additional news by pulling the banana off the wall and eating it. Interviews made it clear that everyone involved was trolling. The saga was catnip to people who believe that conceptual art is full of shit.
Maurizio Cattelan is clearly full of shit, but his work begs the question: could an artist ever walk into a gallery with some snacks, say 'This may look like something I picked up at the bodega on the way here, but it is in fact my Art, behold my Art,' and NOT be full of shit?
In my opinion, the answer is yes.
My opinion is heavily informed by this 1991 piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) is a pile of free candy. Visitors are invited to take one piece of candy. Frivolous, right? The piece may be staged in any gallery that follows a few simple rules. The most important rule is that the pile should weigh 175 pounds.
175 pounds was the healthy weight of Gonzalez-Torres’ partner Ross Laycock, who died of AIDS.
González-Torres had a Roman Catholic background, and taking the candy is meant to be an act of communion. The patron partakes in the “sweetness” of Ross while participating in his diminishment and torturous death.
The decision to use candy has political significance. In 1991, public funding for the arts and public funding for AIDS research were both the hottest of hot-button issues. HIV positive gay male artists were being targeted for censorship. González-Torres was desperate to be heard, and part of the logic of Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) was that you can’t censor free candy without looking ridiculous. The replicability of the piece makes it indestructible; González-Torres had an intuitive, ahead-of-its-time understanding of virality that came from dealing with an actual virus rather than the internet.
I’ve never seen this piece staged, but I think about it all the time. The artist, sadly, is no longer with us. But we will always have the most brilliant, heartbreaking free candy to ever be heaped in a corner. The key to conceptual art is storytelling — how well can you tell a story without words OR a “proper” picture? The banana on the wall sucks because it doesn’t tell a story about anything but attention-seeking and greed. I can’t stand Banana Guy or the media coverage surrounding him because stunts like that make people close their minds to unconventional art and storytelling, which can be just as sophisticated and moving as conventional art and storytelling."
I always assume that there's a story like this behind every artistic endeavor. I may not understand it... I may dismiss it... I may not like it... I may disagree with it... and all that is okay. So long as it means something to the artist and not just a stunt, I can at least respect them putting themselves out there like this.
And that's it for Sunday bullets.
Posted on Sunday, February 2nd, 2020
It's National Football Day, but it doesn't matter much to me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• NED... NED RYERSON! I honestly don't care about the Super Bowl. I am not invested in football even a little bit. But I do like that companies are willing to spend all kinds of money creating commercials that I actually want to watch...
And, holy cow, would you look at this awesomeness...
After the Big Game is over, all the remaining commercials will be released. It's like Christmas for advertising nerds like me.
• Pringles! And then there's this, which I love for obvious reasons...
The second half of the new Rick and Morty season cannot get here fast enough.
• Happy Endings. One of the best shows to come along in quite a while for me is The Good Place. At least for the first two seasons. I watched the first couple episodes because I love Kristen Bell, didn't care for them, then said goodbye. Then one evening a number of weeks later I needed some background noise while I worked, landed on the show, and quickly became obsessed. Then they dropped one of the most mind-blowing season finales I've ever seen, left you wondering where the show could possibly go next, then topped themselves in the second season. I maintain that The Trolley Problem is one of my favorite episodes of all time of any show ever. And it's because it's filled with hilarious and brilliant moments like this...
Sadly, things started to fall apart in the third season. Then it all went to shit in the fourth and final season. I couldn't even watch it any more. But I tuned in to the final episode to see how it all wraps up... and was reminded of how good the show could be. That final moment which shows what becomes of you after The After was poetic and beautiful. Not enough to make me run back and watch all the fourth season episodes I missed... but pretty darn special. Really happy for shows that get a proper ending.
• iPad × 10. This past week the iPad turned 10 years old. It doesn't seem as though it's been that long since Steve Jobs introduced it to an unsuspecting world...
I remember the criticism vividly. A lot of people hated the name, equating it to a maxi-pad. A lot of people thought it would never sell because it was just a big iPhone that lacked any serious computing power. I was on the fence, but bought one anyway. Mostly because I liked the idea of it for travel. If there was even a chance that I could leave my laptop behind and carry the much smaller and lighter iPad with me, why wouldn't I? Sadly, the iPad didn't end up being the laptop killer I was hoping for. Not for my work anyway. It's getting closer and closer every day though. The first release of Photoshop for iPad was a grave disappointment, but I'm sure that's temporary. They'll get there eventually. I guess we shall see. Right now the only thing I use my iPad for is digital drawing and painting. And it's pretty great for that. My trial run at blogging worked okay, so perhaps in a year or two when the apps are right it will be exactly what I need it to be.
• BAYHEM! Some may question the wisdom of Netflix backing a dump truck full of money up to Michael Bay's house and asking him to make them a Michael Bay movie. I am not one of those people. Sometimes you just want to watch stuff exploding and things getting blown up in the most unrealistic and insane way possible and that's what Michael Bay delivers...
Doesn't hurt that they got Ryan Reynolds to star, and then let him totally be Ryan Reynolds. Or that they totally put the time, effort, and money into the epic location shoots or making the special effects look so good. For all the obvious reasons, the general consensus between critics is that they hated it. For even more obvious reasons, I loved it. Sequel please!
• Frozenless. Last night's Saturday Night Live had some moments. But this was the one that I had to rewind and watch over again...
But the best sketch of the night was the cold open...
No rational person thought that the Republicans would get behind an actual trial with witnesses and evidence and anything that makes a trial a trial... so color me unshocked that this is exactly what happened.
See ya next Sunday... when we won't have to worry about football again for 8 months.
Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2020
There’s a difference between "I really connect to your lyrics"... and "I’m going to break in."
I never gave much thought to Taylor Swift. Her music was originally Country, which I don't listen to. Then she dropped into the world of Pop music with 1989 but I wasn't "in that place" at the time, didn't like the single Bad Blood at all, and ignored it. When Reputation was released I didn't much care for the first single, Shake it Off and ignored that album too.
Then I heard the song Mean while shopping in a store somewhere and didn't know who sang it, but Shazamed it even though it was Country because I was hooked by the lyrics...
Someday I'll be living in a big ol' city
And all you're ever gonna be is mean
Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me
And all you're ever gonna be is mean
I made a mental note to take another look at Taylor Swift because that one song impressed me so much.
When I finally remembered to pull up her catalog on Amazon Music Unlimited while brushing my teeth one morning, the first song to come up was New Romantics...
Cuz baby I could build a castle
Out of all the bricks they threw at me
And every day is like a battle
But every night with you is like a dream
I remember just standing there, toothbrush in hand, toothpaste dribbling out of my mouth, trying to really listen to the lyrics, which were pretty great. From there I blew through all her music, consistently impressed with her songwriting, even if I didn't always like the song itself. But most of the songs from 1989 and Reputation I did like quite a lot.
Then the singles from Lover started dropping and I was suddenly full-on fan of Taylor Swift... putting Lover in the top spot of my favorite albums of 2019.
And now, just when I didn't think I could love Taylor any more than I already do, a documentary dropped on Netflix called Miss Americana...
I enjoyed it quite a lot. The film is an intimate look into the highs and lows of Taylor's life and gives a glimpse into her songwriting process (which is worthy of a documentary all on its own). There's also a good chunk of time devoted to Swift's decision to unleash her political beliefs, even though she knew full well what the consequences might be for her life and career. The scene where she's about to unleash a political tweet that changes everything was almost a hold-your-breath moment.
It would be really easy to watch her struggles and think "Oh boo hoo! Go cry into your millions of dollars because nobody cares!"
But any such snap judgements are made out of ignarance. Swift built herself a castle out of all the bricks that were thrown at her and earned her millions of dollars with hard work and talent. The fact that she uses her popularity and fame to speak out against bigotry and injustice when her life would be a lot easier if she just sat quiet and smiled is what makes Taylor Swift be Taylor Swift.
Even though she all too often gets burned for it.
And so... Miss Americana is recommended for Taylor Swift lovers and haters alike. If you have Netflix, give it a look.
Posted on Sunday, February 9th, 2020
It's Oscar Sunday but I just don't care, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Crapple! Given my longstanding rant against Apple being complete and total assholes by sticking their customers with shitty butterfly keyboards for years before they FINALLY thought to replace them with something not-quite-so-horrible, this one's for you. It's at the 2-minute mark...
People think this is funny... but, but I'm the biggest Apple Whore I know, and even I was seriously shopping for PCs before the 16-inch MacBook Pro was released. I hope Apple is fucking embarrassed at this, because they should be.
• Gold! I used to do a big thing on the Oscars, but I stopped giving a shit when they kept rewarding the same old crap. This year it looks like things are on a better track. Here's my list...
The love for Parasite, which would usually be thrown in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category (it still was and won there too), was a breath of fresh air. I didn't see it until last week or else it surely would have been one of my favorite movies of 2019.
• Mythical! If you haven't been watching Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet on Apple TV+, it's worth a look. Especially if you love video games. Apparently Rob McElhenney (who is at his most Rob McElhenneyist here) and Charlie Day consulted heavily with Ubisoft to get some semblance of accuracy even though this is a comedy about what goes on behind the scenes at a video game company. It shows. The show is absolute gold, and will easily make my list of favorites for 2020. It's not quite The Office or The IT Crowd, but it kinda draws from both...
The jokes come fast and most of them land well. I cannot believe that they got F. Murray Abraham. He has the perfect amount of gravitas for his part. But this is Rob McElhenney from start to finish and he's absolutely perfect.
• Starch! Wow. How come nobody told me that adding corn starch to scrambled eggs makes them taste like they've been slow-cooking for 30 minutes? This is reeeeeally nice. So creamy and rich. If you haven't tried it, these are pretty great. Also works wonders with omelettes. I will never cook scrambled eggs without it.
• NEWS: Antarctica logs hottest temperature on record with a reading of 18.3°C. That's 65°F, people. When I visited, there were many times I took off my jacket because Antarctica was too warm to have it on. I worry for the wildlife which calls this continent home. How is this going to disrupt their habitat and can they survive it?
Penguins are already having a tough time of it, and things look to be getting worse. And then there's polar bears starving in the Arctic. Troubling times for our planet.
• trAIn! Apple has put Artificial Intelligence "Machine Learning" in their iPhone and are making good use of it (especially with the camera). As time goes on, it's just going to be surreal how it changes our lives. Take for example this footage from Denis Shiryaev, which upscaled the video to 4K with machine learning and resounded it... Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, by Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1896...
Looks old, but almost new. Here's the original footage...
We are really close to the unreal easily being mistake for the real, if we're not there already.
• Netflix Fix! And, lastly, apparently there is a God... you can finally tell Netflix to STOP AUTO-PLAYING FUCKING PREVIEWS WHILE YOU ARE TRYING TO SEARCH FOR SOMETHING TO WATCH! People have been complaining about this bullshit FOR YEARS and Netflix did nothing. Apparently somebody finally figured that customers were worth listening to... or maybe it's because many other streaming services are treating customers with a lot more respect by not irritating the ever-loving-shit out of them...
Apparently you set it once in your preferences and it goes into effect everywhere. I haven't yet verified this, but I sure hope it's true.
And that's a wrap, little golden statue dude!
Posted on Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally addressed the omission of Luke Perry from the "In Memoriam" segment of The Oscars telecast... tl;dr, they only have a limited amount of time so he got bumped to their website instead.
Now, far be it for me to tell The Academy how to run their low-rated shitshow, but they can shove one of those little gold statues straight up their collective asses.
First of all... Perry appears in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, nominated for Best Picture in the same fucking telecast. And he was glorious in it. Totally held his own against Leonardo DiCaprio in a fantastic, critical scene. You can't claim that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a great movie without acknowledging his part in it. Of which Quentin Tarantino said this...
“It was really fun,” says the director. “I had a couple of different roles I could have put Luke in. Luke was like, ‘I want to be on the Western show!’ Because he’s just a really great rider and he loves doing Westerns. When we did one of his big horse scenes, Luke slides the horse to the front of the saloon and all the other riders fall in alongside him. I was like, ‘Luke, do you want us to help you out? Do you want me to put a mark on the ground?’ He was like, ‘Quentin? You could take a dime and throw it in the dirt and I will land on that dime. The take you’ll use is when everyone else gets it right.’”
Second of all... THIS WAS LUKE PERRY'S FINAL FILM ROLE!!! How the fuck do you use "we were short on time" as an excuse when the guy's last film is a Best Picture nominee at the time of broadcast? Insanity.
Third of all... did I mention that he was in The Fifth Element? Only like ONE OF THE GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME!
I'd like to end this diatribe on a good note, so here we go...
As you may or may not be aware, I am a Hallmark Movie fanatic who has seen hundreds of them. If you go to the main screen of Dave's Hallmark Movie Page and scroll down to FAVORITE MOVIES you will see Love in Paradise (2016) listed there. This is essentially "The Luke Perry Hallmark Movie" and I reviewed it thusly...
✓ Favorite Love in Paradise (Winterfest • Emmanuelle Vaugier and Luke Perry • January 2, 2016)
Okay, come on, it's a Luke Perry movie! Say what you like about him, he's a surprisingly good actor and can make even the smallest parts something special (remember him in The Fifth Element?). In this one he plays a former Western movie star who's having to do TV commercials for beans in order to make a living. But when a family ranch in Montana calls him away from his pampered New York City lifestyle as a publicity stunt, both parties get more than they bargained for. This one is funnier than you'd think... mostly because Luke Perry has never been one to shy away from poking fun at himself and is just plain funny. As a fake cowboy trying to keep up with a real cowboy's routine, he plays it note-perfect. And you really can't discount Emmanuelle Vaugier as the straight-man, because she's terrific too. The romance is a bit forced, but the chemistry between the leads is flawless. I didn't even mind that this was yet another SAVE THE RANCH FROM EVIL DEVELOPERS story.
In the movie a big point is made about Luke Perry's character being a fake cowboy star who didn't know how to ride a horse. On his movies he had people to ride the horses for him, and he just pretended to mount and dismount. But, by the end of the story, he's a darn good rider and it made me wonder if Perry had to learn how to ride for the movie.
— queue the laugh track —
After Googling for an answer, I found out exactly what Quentin Tarantino was talking about. Apparently I missed the riding movie
And so... yeah... Luke Perry didn't get an on-broadcast mention in the "In Memoriam" section of The Academy Awards, but he was a dedicated and beloved actor for decades who ended his career in an Oscar-nominated movie. If that's not a qualification, I don't know what is.
And don't ask The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because they apparently don't know either.
Posted on Saturday, February 15th, 2020
What in tarnation is happening here? There's no need to check your calendar... because an all new Bullet Sunday on Saturday starts... now...
• Red Sox! And so it begins... the team is converging on Fort Meyers for Spring Training, which begins full-squad workouts on Monday. Well, full-squad except Mookie Betts, who got traded to L.A. for some stupid reason (okay, it was probably to fall under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for 2020, but still stupid)...
Photo from NBC Sports
I sure hope Boston has a better season this year than last year.
• 1917! If you know me, you know I love maps. This is so frickin' cool.
• You Better Work! As somebody who loves RuPaul, there was no way I was going to miss his new 10-episode series on Netflix...
From the trailer I expected it to be entertaining and funny. I did not expect it to be as deep, smart, and genuinely sweet and touching as it. Bonus: There's a lot of familiar faces popping up throughout, including many, many contestants from Drag Race. What sabotages the show is two things. 1) The kid is irrationally bratty and shitty at random times, screaming her head off for no reason. I have no idea why Ru and Michael Patrick King felt it necessary to go that far. And, 2) It doesn't have an ending and absolutely everything was left in the air with no resolution whatsoever. If Netflix doesn't give it a second season, viewers are screwed. Still, worth tuning in for.
• Miss Jackson! Janet Jackson Herself has announced that her new album and tour, Black Diamond, will be dropping this summer.
• Great Scott! These deep fakes are just getting more and more frightening...
Frightening because they are looking more and more realistic.
• Goo! If you did any kind of graphic design work in the 1990's, odds are you know of Kai Krause. His design tools allowed you to create some truly wondrous stuff... but had the absolute worst possible interfaces to get there. I never understood why they were so utterly wacky and nonsensical. Apparently, it was to spur creativity... to get people to just "play" with things until they were intuitively doing what they wanted to do. It never worked like that for me. I'd much rather have proper menus and tools that made it clear what was happening. Kai's Power Goo, for example, was just a mess. But it was Photoshop "liquify" before there was Photoshop liquify, and you have to respect that...
I owned absolutely everything Kai ever released. Used his tools all the time, even as I hated the way they worked. Even so, I found the story of his interface design an interesting read.
Sunday Saturday Bullets.
Posted on Thursday, February 20th, 2020
If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that humanity as a whole is on the decline.
Today reeeeeeally drove that home for me. Vividly. And so I decided to go home and turn off the world for a while. Which would usually mean that I'd clean house, play video games, or build something, but I didn't feel like doing any of that.
Fortunately Netflix decided to tell me that there's a new offering called #CATS_THE_MEWVIE, which is a documentary about cats on the internet...
Yep. That did the trick.
Even if some of the people on this are nuts. Or assholes. Or both.
Ready to face the horror show that we call "Reality" again.
Posted on Sunday, February 23rd, 2020
It's possible that I'm too busy to blog, but I just can't seem to say no, so welcome to a Very Special Edition of what I've been watching lately... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• The Witcher! I actually watched this when it was released and, thanks to having played the video games, mostly knew what I was watching despite the confusing timelines. But I wanted to watch it again so I could just absorb it for the amazing Dungeon's & Dragons spectacle it is. Seriously... even better the second time around. The casting is sublimely perfect. Henry Cavill is doing an uncanny Geralt of Rivia impersonation and 100% looks the part. Anya Chalotra is an even better Yennefer, whose story is actually one that required the smarter acting chops. What's surprising is just how beautiful the series looks. No expense was spared because Netflix knew what they had... and also knew the show would be compared to Game of Thrones. They apparently didn't want to lose that contest. And so long as they don't fuck up the ending, they'll easily win. All in all... The Witcher is well worth your time.
Showing on Netflix.
• Avenue 5! Comedy in sci-fi is a tough nut to crack... despite what amazing television like Red Dwarf, and fantastic movies like Galaxy Quest, and phenemenal books like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy might lead one to believe. So I was understandably cautious when the promos for Avenue 5 started floating around, but it has Hugh Laurie in it, so why not? Turns out, it's one of the funniest things I've seen on my television in a while. When a pleasure cruise on a starship ends up falling into a course that will extend the journey by 3-1/2 years, a fake captain and a fake crew have to manage the very real crisis to hilarious effect. The jokes fly fast and furious and almost all of them land. If you have HBO and want to get your funny on, here's the show for you...
Showing on HBO.
• Ragnarok! The only Ragnarok I care about is the Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok, so I was going to take a big ol' pass on this Norweigian high school drama built around characters from Norse mythology. The result is mixed. There's a good idea here... and it will be interesting to see where they go with it... but having the spirit of Thor land in a kid so he can battle a modern incarnation of immortal frost giants (who are not-so-giant) is a bit of a snooze, and it feels like they are building it up to be more than it actually is. But who knows? If they dump enough money into this thing, then maybe it can be salvaged as things heat up in a second season...
Showing on Netflix.
• Hunters! Like I would miss an Al Pacino series. This Jordan Peele series features Nazi hunters who track down hundreds of Nazi officers back in 1977 who are hiding in the USA and intent on starting a Fourth Reich. Obviously a highly-fictionized story, I found myself drawn to the characters (and a fantastic Pacino performance) but left a bit cold by the story. I've only seen the first episode, but will likely tune in as more are released. But if I want to watch a violent alternate history involving Nazi hunters, my first instinct will be to watch Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds again.
Showing on Amazon Prime.
• Twice Upon A Time! This French sci-fi series is about a man who gets a cube delivered to his home which somehow allows him to go back in time prior to his break-up with his girlfriend when he crawls through it. The concept is a good one... kind of a romance-oriented version of Primer... but profoundly plodding and boring. Not until the very last scene is there any sense of excitement, and it's the beat which leads to a cliffhanger. Which may or may not be resolved depending on whether or not they get a second season. Regardless, I'll likely take a pass. I just don't seem to care enough to tune in again...
Showing on Netflix.
• Dracula! Steven Moffat forever became a favorite television creator thanks to the hilarious series Coupling for the BBC. He then sealed the deal with some really good episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who. So when it was announced that he would be tackling Dracula in a three-episode series spanning olden days right up until modern times, I was intrigued. And today was the day. It's a fascinating series in the first and second episodes... building on all the myths that make up the legend... but ultimately falters a bit when Moffat jumps ahead in time to deconstruct all that. Still... there's some good stuff here, brilliantly anchored by performances from Claes Bang and Dolly Wells. Next up? Moffat is tackling Jekyll!
Showing on Netflix.
• Star Trek:Picard! I've already raved about how this show is defying my every expectation (and this coming from somebody who didn't like Star Trek: The Next Generation). But this latest episode where Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine finally truly arrives just kicks things up to an entirely new level. Partly because she's just so dang good... but mostly because the surprising twist at the end which changes the lame-ass, pansy-ass boring "utopia" of the Next Generation universe that always bored me... into something really interesting and great to watch. Cannot wait to see where this is all going.
Showing on CBS All Access.
• Visible: Out on Television! This series about the history of LGBTQ characters on television was bound to be good just because it's a story that needs to be told. But Bruce Vilanch doing an impression of Paul Lynde was the best thing I saw all week. It's surprising... but not really surprising... just how recent LGBTQ characters are to television programming. Which makes this a fairly short but no less interesting series.
Showing on Apple TV+.
And that's what I've ebeen watching this week.
Posted on Sunday, March 8th, 2020
Its... THE SHITTIEST DAY OF THE YEAR, but help is on the way... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Lose an Hour! There are many people who don't like the time change to Daylight Saving Time. Not me...
And yet politicians won't do a damn about it. They've got bigger things to do... like fuck us over for lobbyist cash. I mean, holy shit. This is the ONE THING they could do to better our quality of life that wouldn't cost them a fucking thing, and yet here we are. JUST PICK A FUCKING TIME AND STICK WITH IT! And now I get to do my taxes.
UPDATE: Annnnd... my effective tax rate went up AGAIN under the "tax-you-less" president. How nice. And now he wants to cut the Social Security I fucking PAID INTO my entire working life? Oh well. At least we're getting a brand new tennis court at the fucking White House.
• Women! On the bright side, it's International Women's Day! Which is kind of silly because shouldn't every day should be International Women's Day?
• Guardians! James Gunn confirmed that he'd like to see a Drax & Mantis movie. Which I'd love to see too but, let's face it, the ideal home for such a project would be Disney+ streaming...
If James Gunn were to pitch a Disney+ series for Drax and Mantis to Kevin Feige that he would write and direct, Marvel Studios would be falling all over themselves to say yes. First of all, without Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, the cast budget is a fraction of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Second of all, without Rocket and Groot, the special effects budget could be a fraction of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. This makes good sense. This makes phenomenal sense. And I'm willing to bet that Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff would 100% be up to do it. These are some of the most fun characters they could possibly play, so why not?
• Just Watch It.
• Sirens! There are plenty of television shows that I'm sad they canceled. One of the biggest is Sirens, which I love beyond all reason. I was rewatching them this weekend while working and started missing it all over again. Especially Billy, which is one of my favorite television characters of all time...
He was a reoccurring character in Season One... but they (wisely) made him a regular in Season Two. There was no Season Three. But oh man do I wish there was. Both seasons are on sale for $4.99 on Apple's iTunes, if you want to check them out.
• Kern It! OH MY SWEET LORD! STOP ALLOWING PEOPLE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT TYPOGRAPHY AND KERNING TO MAKE TITLES FOR YOUR TELEVISION SHOW! If this is not the worst I've ever seen... it's certainly in the top ten. SCRIPT TYPEFACES ARE MEANT TO BE CONNECTED! STOP SPACING THEM APART!!! And holy shit! THAT "B" IS SO FAR AWAY IT'S IN ITS OWN FUCKING ZIP CODE!!! GAH! GAAAAAAHHHH!!! My eyes are bleeding...
I simply do not understand how these kind of blaring typography errors flourish. Proper kerning is not rocket science. Watch a fucking YouTube video or something.
• NO TIME TO DIE! Daniel Craig was on SNL this weekend and, just like his previous hosting gig, it's surprising just how good he is at this. Of course he parodied his upcoming Bond flick, No Time To Die ...
I am sad that it's his final James Bond film, but if it means he's going to do more movies like Knives Out, which he was also great at.
And that's a wrap. Enjoy your higher taxes and losing an hour of your day!
Posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
For many, many years, I had Max von Sydow staring down at me.
Well, Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. but, yeah, that guy who has been in so many cool sci-fi movies. The guy who was in Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, Dreamscape, Dune, Judge Dredd, Minority Report, and, of course, he was the Three-Eyed Raven from Game of Thrones (before it turned to shit). Amongst others.
But to me he was mainly Ming from Flash Gordon because this poster was hanging in my bedroom. A poster I still have, by the way...
Unfortunately Max von Sydow passed away yesterday. Given the number of awesome films he's been in over the years, he will be sadly missed but fondly remembered. He even played Blofeld in the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, for heaven's sake.
You can tell that you're getting old when the actors from all the movies which defined your childhood start to die.
Rest in peace, sir.
Posted on Sunday, March 15th, 2020
We all may be in social distance, self-quarantine exile, but you're in good company... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Rise? I both liked and hated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when I first saw it. On one hand, seeing many of the original trilogy characters come back one last time was pretty great, and the special effects were visionary and sublime. On the other hand the script was complete and total shit. JJ Abrams perverting The Force into whatever he wanted it to be in order to fill in a few of the many, many plot holes in his crap story was embarrassing and insulting. And the fact that almost nothing in the movie made sense, had past precedent, or was ever explained, was ten buckets of lame. Nowhere was this put into such vivid relief than in a reply by Elijah Wood(!) to one of several expositional chunks of story left out of the film, but dropped in fucking tweets...
On Friday I got an email from Apple telling me that my digital copy of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was available to watch (a few days early because Disney is doing their part to keep people home). I ordered it when I didn't think I'd make it to the theater to see it... then forgot to cancel after I finally saw it. And so I watched it again. Now I've totally changed my mind on the film, I just outright hate it now. What a shitty, SHITTY way to close things out. My only consolation is that the shitty sequel trilogy was marginally better than the horrendously shitty prequel trilogy when taken as a whole...
Thank God that whole mess is over. Now just let the Skywalker crap finally die like it should have done after Return of the Jedi. As the excellence of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian has shown us, there's far better things to do with the Star Wars Universe than continuously rain shit upon it.
• Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Along with the digital release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney also released Frozen 2 three months early. I guess they figured they might as well try to drive up subscription numbers for their streaming service since they've had to shutter most all of their movie/television productions...
I'm going to be perfectly honest... I am not a fan of musicals. Some of them I like more than others, such a The Lion King, for instance. Live-action is more difficult, but tolerable if I like the soundtrack (like Grease and Xanadu, for example). The first Frozen was annoying musically, but I loved the character of Kristoff (wonderfully brought to life by Jonathan Groff). And so I tuned into Frozen 2 to see what his character was up to. Turns out he's acting weird and being made to play the fool while a really tacked-on story unfolds. It's not that this was a bad movie, it's just that I didn't get what I wanted out of it. Still, better than nothing, I guess? Or is it? I can't help but feel that things should have been left alone after the first one. Except... the animation and design is phenomenal, beautiful, mind-blowing stuff.
• Joy! In addition to crap Star Wars and an unneeded animated sequel, I've been delving back into all five seasons of Killjoys. The show always amazes me. It has fairly good (but not extravagant) production values which are complimented by complex stories and multi-faceted, highly interesting characters. Every episode feels as though they made the best possible use of budget and resources while never losing sight of the big picture of the universe they were building...
Smart, funny, violent, serious, disturbing, and all-around good sci-fi, this is the whole package. My amazement only grows as I rewatch it from the beginning (the fifth and final season ended last September). The series follows three "killjoys"... bounty hunters... as they work through their personal demons while trying to skate a moral divide between doing good and doing their job. It started strong. Got better. Kinda dropped off a bit at the end, even though I can't really complain about how it ended. It probably was good to cancel it before the show bottomed out, but I can't help but think there were more stories to tell. And could be more stories still if we get some movies or specials or something.
• MAR10! March 10th is known in Nintendo circles as MAR10 (MARIO) because a number of games and Mario products end up with a discount. One of the games on sale was Yoshi's Crafted World for $20 off, so I snatched it up. The game itself is a simple, fun, and clever platform puzzler which has a cool "handcrafted" look where everything is made from paper, cardboard, and other crafting junk...
Yoshi games have always been fairly easy to play... slightly more difficult to complete at 100%... which makes it a perfect choice for a casual gamer like me who wants a distraction instead of a serious challenge. Oh yeah... it's adorable too.
• Go West! And so... the third season premiere of Westworld is finally here. I had read some seriously mixed reviews of the first four episodes that were made available to the press. I, of course, have only seen the first episode. It was... interesting? I mean, they've completely jettisoned what made the show be the show... i.e. Westworld... so it's pretty much just fake people on a murder-spree in Futureworld, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing...
Watching Delores go full-on Terminator in a wonderfully-imagined future is pretty great... so even if that's all we get, I'll keep watching. The thing about the first season which made it so fantastic is that it was so beautifully plotted and deep in concept. The second season was far shallower, but attempted to compensate by going non-linear with the story to poor effect (the first season played with the timeline amazingly well, so I don't know what happened there). It looks like they are not bothering to play with the timeline this time around... unless this really IS Futureworld and Delores is a GUEST? How mind-bending would that be? Well, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright are phenomenal, regardless, so I'm hoping this reduced 8-episode season is worthy of their talent.
• FIVE! Tonight was also the finale of Avenue 5, a fantastically funny space farce starring Hugh Laurie. I have been loving the show, even when it took a decidedly dark turn last week (in a way that was actually still pretty darn funny). The ending isn't an ending, which would have me furious if not for the fact that HBO has already renewed it for a second season...
It's surprising that HBO is fostering such a delicious series when I know that the twisted humor is not going to appeal to the masses. But it very much appeals to me, which is all I care about. I am really hoping that they can manage to expand on the show for next season instead of retreading what they've already done (something that was already starting to happen at the end). And thank you to HBO also for giving the show such a massive special effects budget. I mean that... the sets are expansive, beautiful, and look like they cost a fortune. Worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.
And that's enough of that... keep washing those hands, everybody.
Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
I am doing as well as can be expected given everything that's been going on. I occupy my time with lots of work, lots of television, lots of movies, lots of video games, and lots of time with my cats. Basically anything to keep my brain focused on anything except the outside world. Because if I start paying attention I would probably end up with a brain hemorrhage. Especially when our president is going 180º on the coronavirus. First it was a Democratic hoax that's been overblown by the media and going to disappear any day now because he's doing such an amazing job... now it's him knowing it was a pandemic before it was even declared a pandemic... all while none of his followers are calling him out on his crap. I don't expect our government to ever be truthful about anything. We know they're fucking incapable of such a thing. But I don't expect people to roll over and not call politicians out on their bullshit, regardless of which political party they support.
Oh well. I'm getting used to being perplexed by blind party loyalty.
And getting used to getting this crap out of my head by re-watching my favorite entertainment. Last night it was What We Do In The Shadows, which is a movie I love beyond all reason...
Followed by a marathon of the television series, which is SO good because the original creators are still involved (and even make an appearance in an episode!)...
A second season is dropping on April 15th, and I cannot wait to see it.
Tonight I will be watching my second-favorite Hallmark movie of all time, A Winter Princess, which was just released on home video...
Hallmark movies are cheesy and ridiculous to extreme levels which is what makes them so entertaining. I particularly like this version of the holy-shit-it-turns-out-they're-royalty trope because the actor playing the princess (Natalie Hall) actually looks like a frickin' princess. I mean... damn is she brutally gorgeous. The story in this one is tired, but the movie is actually pretty good. Interesting to note that they filmed it at the Big White ski resort (outside of Kelowna, BC) doubling for a ski resort called "Snowden Peak" in Colorado. It is an amazing location and they (surprisingly) make pretty good use of it. From a design perspective, I loved how they made the "Snowden Peak" logo an exact duplicate of the "Big White" logo so that they didn't have to change it out in the long shots. Smart, smart production team there. Anyway... worth a look if they are playing it on the Hallmark Channel, which I have started watching again since they've been working with GLAAD to not be such homophobic idiots.
Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020
Food has gotten so incredibly expensive that I do everything I can to not waste it. Wasting food is literally burning money. But now that trips to the grocery store could come with a COVID-19 bonus and shelves are bare, it's even more critical to not waste any edibles.
Late last night I pulled everything out of my cupboards and organized it by expiration date. Then I pulled everything out of my refrigerator and arranged it by expiration date. Then I worked up a meal plan to try and use as much of it as I can before it goes bad... and freeze everything else. It's making for some eclectic meal planning.
Potato salad with applesauce.
Veggie dogs with yogurt.
Macaroni and cheese with beans.
Tacos and summer salad.
Veggie burger and cheese sticks.
It's like a 5-year-old is creating the menus up in my house. Not that I'm complaining. I'm grateful that I have food to eat. And, one thing's for certain, it will really help me clean out my cupboards and refrigerator/freezer from stuff that's been sitting there for months.
Eventually... when (if?) things ever get back to normal... I'd like to do more meal planning in advance. Right now I go to the store and buy anything I can eat that's on sale, then just do whatever I can with what I end up with in my cart. That's how I end up with these weird orphan ingredients that don't really go anywhere and just take up space for months at a time. Perhaps if I could think about what meals I can make from what's on sale at the moment, I can stick to buying only the stuff I need to be getting.
In other news... yet another childhood hero has left this cold, cruel world. Lyle Waggoner passed away at age 84. I, like oh so many others, remember him as the lucky bastard who got to star opposite the incomparable Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman... my childhood crush and the most phenomenally perfect woman to have ever existed...
Photo from Warner Bros. & DC Comics
How many times did I dream of being Steve Trevor getting wrapped up in her magic lasso as a kid? Entirely too many to be healthy, I'm sure.
Even though his time on The Carol Burnett Show came before Wonder Woman, I didn't see it until it came to reruns years later...
Photo from CBS Television
The series was more memorable to me for Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman... but Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner were excellent supporting characters and it's hard to imagine The Carol Burnett Show without them.
The remainder of his career seemed to consist of appearances on shows of the day like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder She Wrote, and even a spot on The Golden Girls. I don't remember him doing a regular series after, but he must have been keeping busy.
And speaking of keeping busy...
If you're in isolation and looking for something to entertain you, then a good place to start would be visiting the Great Big Story channel at YouTube. It's filled with cool and interesting videos that will lead you down a rabbit hole several hours deep. Here's a few to get you started...
Any of these Great Big Story videos could lead you to Google for more information. I end up there after every new video they release. The last video on the Kryptos statue is something I actually keep up with because I'm interested to see it get solved. Especially since clues are released from time to time, with the latest clue having been dropped back in January. I'll save you from having to Google it by pointing you to a very good Wikipedia article on Kryptos right here.
Stay vigilant, viral warriors!
Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2020
As I probably mentioned once or twice... or a hundred times... I have killer seasonal allergies. They are pretty harsh in the Fall when all the vegetation is rotting. Summer is marginally annoying, but I don't notice it any more. Winter is my least favorite season, but the absolute best time for my allergies.
Spring... what's happening right now... is my favorite season. I love Spring.
But my allergies are at their absolute worst.
I survive it by taking more Benadryl than is probably healthy. It's the only thing that works despite it making me drowsy. Every day at work it's a fight between the allergy meds putting me to sleep and the caffeine in Coke Zero keeping me awake. At home I stop taking pills and happily cough my head off.
Today I left the office early to work at home because I was already tired, and taking another Benadryl would have done me in. I managed to work through the coughing for a couple hours before my lungs ached and I finally took a Benadryl and a bunch of cough syrup...
...and fell asleep.
Until the alarm to feed the cats... as well as the cats themselves, of course... woke me up at 6:00pm.
After making sure they had their food, I sat down with a grilled cheese sandwich to tide me over until my pizza dough defrosts for dinner. I turn on the television and this commercial is playing...
Isn't that an amazing ad? It's like a Hallmark movie in 30 seconds... but less sappy and more sweet. Man, I love great advertising!
And speaking of Hallmark... I see that they are airing a Christmas movie marathon so people who are self-isolating can re-live memories of a happier time. I've already seen them all, of course, so I'll spend any free time I have playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which releases tomorrow. OR... at midnight tonight, I'm guessing? Yeah, no. The last thing I need to do is become addicted and stay up until 3am playing a game.