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Audio20

Posted on December 29th, 2020

Dave!In 2020 more than ever I found myself listening to old favorites rather than seeking out new stuff to enjoy. 80's pop, classic old-school rap, and 80's metal were all reminders of easier times, and that was where my refuge lay. And yet... there was some new stuff which crept into my listening, so here we go...

THE TEN BEST...

#1 Plastic Hearts by Miley Cyrus
I have made zero apologies of my love of all things Miley Cyrus. I loved her through her Hannah Montana years. I loved her as she went full-on rebel mode to escape Hannah Montana. I loved her when she dipped into country. And I love her now that she's taking a welcome plunge into classic rock with a pop edge to it. You can feel her influences for Plastic Hearts which is free of missteps but definitely has a stronger set of tracks to it. And if you don't think I lost my mind when she performed Blondie's Heart of Glass at the iHeart Music Festival, then you don't really know my musical tastes very well, do you? In any event, she's still got that million-dollar-voice that I'm completely addicted to no matter what form it takes.


   
#2 Shore by Fleet Foxes
Playing right into my dream-pop-loving hands, Fleet Foxes decided to craft an album that comes dangerously close to the sublime dreamy headspace that sends you to another world so effortlessly. I am scared to look at the play count for Shore but I'm sure it's substantial, as it inevitably gets requested when I'm sitting down to work. I work quite a lot, and so...


   
#3 What's Your Pleasure? by Jesse Ware
I am not really sure if this dance-pop miracle is reaching so far back that it's got disco in its DNA, but it sure feels as though that's the case. Filled with one great track after another, Jessie clearly had a vision for this album which paid off beautifully. Nothing here is going to blow you away lyrically, but the tracks transcend any failing by compelling you to move while you listen to them.


   
#4 Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa
And speaking of disco DNA, look no further than Dua Lipa's latest to hear exactly how pop tracks can plunder pop hits from the past to create songs built for heavy radio rotation (not that there's anything wrong with that). This is dance-pop wrapped up in everything bright and pretty but somehow still satisfies.


   
#5 Southside by Sam Hunt
As Country music starts adopting a pop sensibility, I find it popping up in my music more and more (Kacey Musgraves's album Golden Hour was my second favorite album of 2018). Sam Hunt not only has a great voice, but he is really inventive in how he crafts his songs. Some of it could almost be described as contemporary Country blended with 70's soft rock blended with 80's hip-hop blended with 90's pop, and I'm here for it. I remember that the single Downton's Dead actually dropped a long while back(?) but was apparently a single release until it found its way onto this album.


   
#6 Fun City by Bright Light Bright Light
Rod Thomas has blessed us with another retro dance-pop creation that sounds as if it was lifted wholsale right out of the early 1980's and, though it is a pretty great album in its own right, much of the time it had me reaching back for 2016's Choreography immediately after listening. I don't know that it's because I prefer the earlier album... or if it's because this album just isn't enough. Regardless, I found myself addicted to Bright Light Bright Light most of the year. As if that wasn't enough, Rod dropped what has to be one of the gayest mainstream music videos I've ever seen. And I mean that in a good way. No, seriously, it's super-cute.


   
#7 Notes on a Conditional Form by The 1975
Their first two albums, The 1975 and I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, cemented the band as one of my all time favorites. Track after track after track they were powering through some of the most brilliant pop I had heard in ages. But then... A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships gave me pause. It was enough of a departure from formula as to be jarring, and I wasn't sure I liked it. Sure there were tracks that fit nicely into what I love about their music, but it just wasn't enough. With Notes on a Conditional Form it's like they took a half-step back maybe? Still not capturing the magic of their first two albums, but there's enough within this 22-track(!) release once the introduction, musical interludes, and faux Marilyn Manson track People are deleted to keep me happy.


   
#8 Hotspot by Pet Shop Boys
Add another album to 2020's disco album train. I have long since accepted that I will never again get a Pet Shop Boys album where Every. Single. Track, is my favorite song ever. The last one of those was Yes in 2009, and before that was Very in 1993. And yet... this hasn't kept them from continuing to be one of my favorite bands of all time. Fortunately they are prolific enough that I can pretty much just smoosh the best of two releases together and come up with enough tracks to create an album I enjoy (I did this with Elysium and Electric from 2012 and 2013). And here we are again. By combining the best of Super (2016) with the best of Hotspot, I once again have another great release from Pet Shop Boys (though this one took a while to complete given their timing).


   
#9 RTJ4 by Run the Jewels
Every time Rap or Metal hits my list, people are somehow still surprised to learn that I listen to it, let alone like it. Probably because it's the complete opposite of the pop musings that dominate my musical habits. Well, what can I say, there are times I want to have my utter contempt and disgust of this fucked-up world attacked with a viscious melodic beatdown, and that isn't coming from any pop album. Run the Jewels remains one of my favorite groups, and every reason why can be found on RTJ4. Socially relevant commentary rarely sounds this good.


   
#10 folklore/evermore by Taylor Swift
My favorite album of last year... by a wide, wide margin... was Taylor Swift's Lover. The woman just knows how to craft a pop song that knows how to push every one of my buttons. So imagine my delight when she unloaded folklore as a surprise album release in July! Then imagine my actual surprise when she released yet another album this month! But, alas, they are not what I'm really looking for from Taylor Swift, so neither of them really did much for me. I mean, sure, there are some tracks that I enjoy (see below) but folk and folk-pop are just not something I enjoy, even when they're really pretty and well-constructed like this. Oh well. Maybe after the pandemic is on its way out she'll resume her "pop reinvention" phase and I can go back to hanging on her every lyric. In the meanwhile, I deleted half of the tracks from folklore and half the tracks from evermore and got an album strong enough to still make my list.


   
FAVORITE VIDEO OF 2020...

Take Me Home for Christmas by Dan + Shay
Being barely familiar with Dan + Shay (they're the "Tequila song guys" to me), you might as well have knocked me over the head with a snowman when I was watching the holiday rom-com Dashing in December only to have this infinitely catchy Christmas track pop up. I've listened to it at least a hundred times in the span of a month and love it more with each new listen. AND THEN I found this really great video, which is about the sweetest thing ever. I really have to remember to look up more of their stuff, because if this is any indication I've been seriously missing out...

   
ALSO WORTH A LISTEN...

A few more albums I found myself enjoying in 2020 can be found in an extended entry.

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Giftmas Part 4: Google Nest Hub Digital Photo Frame

Posted on December 11th, 2020

Dave!In the war for smart assistant domination... Amazon Alexa vs. Apple Siri vs. Google Google, I'm firmly in the Alexa camp. I was so impressed with what Amazon had done that I built my entire "smart home" around devices which were compatible with Alexa. And it's been mostly glorious. I have Alexa-enabled SONOS speakers everywhere and can tell Alexa to control anything and everything just by talking to her in any room in the house.

Then Apple dropped Siri and I figured that it was all over. As a massive fanboy of Apple's computers and smart devices, switching over to Siri was inevitable.

Or was it?

Siri wasn't even a fraction as capable as Alexa was at the time. Siri relied on "HomeKit" to control your home, and it was so utterly bad that I dubbed it "HomeShit" and gave up. I tried once again to get Siri and HomeKit working for me when I bought a HomePod speaker, but that was such an epic disaster that I returned the speaker and gave up a second time.

Google's smart assistant which, from what I can tell, is also named "Google" was never on my radar. I had a Google WiFi router mesh network that left me cold when Google dumped IFTTT. The only smart devices I have are Nest cameras which Google bought out. But I was fine using my phone and MacBook Pro to interact with the cameras and nothing further was required, so getting into the Google ecosystem wasn't in the cards. The only thing I didn't like about this was that the Nest Cam integration with Alexa is awful, and telling Alexa to display a camera feed on my Alexa Fire TV rarely worked.

Enter the Google Nest Hub Digital Photo Frame which was on sale for $50. Down from its regular price of $90. I don't really have $50 to kick around, but I ended up taking it out of my Black Friday money just to have a look. If I hated it, I could always return the thing.

Yeah, this ain't being returned.

My only regret in buying it was that I didn't buy two of them.

The Google Nest Hub Digital Photo Frame is designed to display photos which means the screen is of pretty good quality. And while it's nice to see photo memories from my Google Photos account flash by, but that's not why I bought it.

"Hey Google! Show me the front yard."

The Google Nest Hub Frame showing my front yard on it's screen... which is sitting in my living room window frame.

Now instead of scrambling for my phone whenever I get an alert, I can just glance over at the photo frame and Google will display the camera feed I asked for. Immediately.

That alone would have been worth the $50. But it gets better. Google Assistant is faster and more accurate than Alexa. I have thrown every ridiculous command I can think of at Google, and it simply does not falter. Compare that to Alexa, which has been getting increasingly finicky. I honestly don't think that Google misunderstood a command or query in the near-two weeks I've been using it. The difference is so nice that I'm seriously thinking about looking into how to bridge my INSTEON smart home devices to Google, convert all my SONOS speakers to Google Assistant, and train myself to say "Hey Google" instead of "Alexa."

The problem is my music.

I go with Amazon Music Unlimited which is ridiculouly easy to control with Alexa. Needless to say, Google doesn't play well with Amazon because the two companies hate each other. Which means I would have to switch to Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, or something. Since Amazon Music Unlimited is just $6.60 a month because I have a Prime membership, I don't know that it makes economic sense to switch. Apple Music, for example, is $3.40 more a month. In which case I'd probably just buy Apple One to keep AppleTV+ when my free subscription ends in February (gotta have my Ted Lasso!) which also gets me Apple Arcade and a bump in iCloud storage.

So I dunno. Something to ponder in March, I guess? Or in May when my Amazon Music Unlimited runs out.

All I do know is that I wish I had a Google Nest Hub Digital Photo Frame on my bedside table. And in my kitchen. Maybe next Black Friday when they go on sale again?

   

Giftmas Part 3: Apple AirPods Pro

Posted on December 10th, 2020

Dave!Now that Apple has released their $550 AirPods Max, it seems fitting that I review my new AirPods Pro. I had done some work for a friend this past Summer who kindly showed their appreciation with an Amazon gift certificate. I never knew what to do with it until I bought a new heated mattress pad and had some left over to buy AirPods Pro. I wasn't going to get them because I didn't like the original AirPods, but they were on sale for $180 and reviews claimed that all the things I hated about the originals had been solved... and then some. And since I may end up traveling again one day, they seemed a handy thing to have. The sound, while nothing great, is good enough when you're traveling and don't want to cart around a big pair of headphones.

So let's get to it, shall we?

PROBLEM: AIRPODS FALL OUT OF YOUR EARS CONSTANTLY
This was my most hated flaw of the originals. It got to the point where I was afraid to travel with them because they would never stay in my ears. Fart with your head turned and you're guaranteed that at least one of them would pop right out, and I was furious that Apple screwed the design up so badly. Eventually I "solved" this by purchasing silicone cups to put over them, but it was a crap solution because I had to take them off in order to fit the AirPods back in the charging case. AirPods Pro, on the other hand, have silicone cups already on them (in your choice of sizes) and stay in my ears perfectly fine. In addition, the seal they make provides better sound.

PROBLEM: WIRELESS CHARGING CASE COSTS EXTRA
AirPods Pro come with a wireless case included, thus saving me from trying to track down the stupid-ass Apple "Lightning" cable with a USB-C connector. Considering I have ONE USB-C charging brick that I can never find (amongst a hundred USB-A bricks), I usually end up having to charge from my MacBook Pro. What kind of life is this? JUST SWITCH EVERYTHING OVER TO USB-C ALREADY!!! Holy shit. The dream scenario of just having to lug around ONE charger for everything will always be out of reach when Apple keeps forcing us to suck on their shitty, antiquated, idiotic Lightning port. But NOPE!. Fortunately the MagSafe puck I'll be traveling with can also charge these wirelessly, so at least there's one less thing to forget at home.

PROBLEM: NO NOISE CANCELATION
When traveling... especially on a plane... having noise cancelation is essential unless you want to blast the volume to insane levels. I really missed it when I upgraded(?) to AirPods, and am happy that AirPods Pro have remedied this. Not surprisingly, Apple did a great job and it works well. And when you don't need the cancelation, there's "transparency mode" which allows outside sound to come through.

PROBLEM: POOR CONNECTIVITY
The original AirPods used the W1 chip which had wonky connectivity problems which popped up at random. Apple then developed the H1 which improved on this greatly in their second generation AirPods. This was carried over into AirPods Pro and it is a far better experience. The H1 also features "Always On Siri" which means she's always listening and can respond to commands.

PROBLEM: SEALED, DISPOSIBLE DESIGN
Of course Apple hasn't solved this problem... they are in the disposable design business! Like previous versions, AirPods Pro are glued together so you can't replace the battery when it won't hold a charge any more, essentially making them landfill poison. About the only thing you can do other than toss them is take them to Apple for recycling. Apparently there's a battery program at Apple, but they don't actually replace the battery, they just give you a new pair and recycle the old ones for a price.

PRO EXTRA: SIZE
AirPods Pro are slightly smaller, but in a way that makes them look a lot smaller when you're wearing them... a good thing.

PRO EXTRA: SPATIAL AUDIO
And here's what convinced me to pull the trigger on the AirPods Pro... spatial audio. This weird, magical technology somehow simulates a kinda "surround" style sound where the speakers know when you turn your head in relationship to the multi-channel audio coming from your late-model iPhone or iPad. And it totally works! Turn to the left and your right AirPod has the center channel directed more towards it. The effect is actually best when your head is turned than when you're looking straight ahead... but it's still pretty good even so, because occasional head movement you're not even aware of keeps the illusion intact. I sincerely wish that this was a feature on the Beats Solo Pro cans I reviewed yesterday.

IN CONCLUSION...
I would not have bought AirPods Pro if it weren't for the gift certificate balance I had. And I certainly wouldn't have paid the full price of $249 for them. But for "free" (relatively) and $180 (on sale)? They're still way overpriced, but ultimately worth it for travel or even just walking to work given that these ACTUALLY STAY IN MY EARS. These are what Apple should have released the first time, design-wise. On the plus-side, the sound is better than other wireless earbuds I've tried (but still not spectacular), pairing with Apple devices is effortless and the way everything works together is magical and seamless, the wireless charging case is great, the spatial audio is fantastic, and they work as advertised. On the minus-side the built-in disposability is awful.

Once I'm able to travel again, I guess I'm set for audio now.

Assuming I ever get to travel again.

   

Giftmas Part 2: Beats Solo Pro

Posted on December 9th, 2020

Dave!I didn't really do much for Black Friday despite it being the most important shopping day of the year for me in past years. But I did make a purchase on Cyber Monday that I had been wanting to make for a while now... new wireless over-ear headphones.

While I live alone and can blast music as loud as I want to, I don't actually end up doing this because it is tough on my cats with their sensitive ears. Sometimes I watch a movie with the sound loud and they don't seem to mind... or run upstairs if they do mind... but I generally don't do that because it's not really fair to them since they can't escape the noise.

Enter the Beats by Dr. Dre Solo Pro WiFi Headphones which were knocked down to $170 (from their usual $300 price tag). And since I had $50 in reward certificates piled up at Best Buy, that knocked the price down to a reasonable $120...

My beautiful new Beats Solo Pro headphones!

Sexy, aren't they?

Not in the same league as Apple's incredible new AirPods Max headphones, but those cast $550, which is half a mortgage payment, so they're out of my league.

Probably the easiest way to review these is to just run through the pros and cons, so that's exactly what I'm going to do...

PROS:

  • The WiFi pairs effortlessly with Apple products. My iPhone recognized them immediately and, now that my iPhone knows I have them, I'm told that the firmware will be kept up-to-date automatically. Likewise, my iPad, AppleTV, and Mac can all have their sound sent to the Beats Solo Pro cans with minimal effort. This is how wireless should work.
  • No matter what music source I'm listening to... iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, or AppleTV... if I get a phone call, the Beats Solo Pro will ring through. That's a nifty feature, and why staying withn the Apple ecosystem has a payoff.
  • The sound is top-notch. Really well balanced without the horrific bass fuzz overload that plagued the older Beats I had tried.
  • Very good wireless range. I can listen uninterrupted everywhere in my home except the garage (though, admittedly, my house is fairly compact).
  • Stylish to the last detail as only Apple can manage. I love love love the red model I bought because it (mostly) matches my Product(RED) iPhone case.
  • They feel like a quality product... not at all cheap and weak.
  • The sound cancellation is phenomenal. Seriously good. Puts the BOSE and Sony sound canceling models I tried to shame.
  • "Transparency mode" (which allows outside sounds to permiate the headphones) works really well, but is not going to make a difference when listening at high volume.
  • Invoking Siri with a long-press of the Beats right-side plate controller is a flat-out cool feature. And since it is getting info from your iPhone connection, you can literally ask Siri for just about anything.
  • Includes a soft case that's not going to offer much protection, but it's better than nothing and will at least keep them clean.
  • Battery life is very good. I was only down to 50% after about 10 hours of off-and-on listening in "transparency" and "noise cancelling" modes. If you run out of juice you can get a 10-minute quick charge that will last you 3 hours.
  • To turn them on, you unfold them. To turn them off, you fold them. This is elegant and smart because you'll always know whether your battery is draining just by looking at them... but I do wonder if it will cause more wear and tear on the hinges this way. In any event, it's smarter than a switch, which I always seem to forget to turn off and drain the battery. It's habit after only three days to "fold them off" when I'm done listening.
  • The packaging is gorgeous.

CONS:

  • Despite being a Product(RED) color Or close enough to it), from what I can tell no money from my purchase actually went to Product(RED). Absolutely no idea why Apple, who has been such a big supporter, didn't go all Product(RED) with these?
  • I disregarded the complaints in reviews from people saying they are "too tight" because I have a thin head. Didn't make a difference. These are tight on my pin-head and definitely lead to fatigue. This is categorically absurd and I have no idea what the hell Apple was thinking. If you have a normal size head, they're going to be uncomfortable. If you have a large head, these are going to be painful. And thank heavens I have thin wire frames on my glasses, because if I had regular frames these cans would be excruciating. I hope that they loosen up over time.
  • Not only do they get uncomfortable after a while because they're so tight... they also get hot. There's absolutely no breathability with the vinyl ear pads, and you'll be taking a break after a couple hours or it just gets too warm to be comfortable because of how tight they are pressed against your ears.
  • Does not support Apple's new "spatial audio" feature. At all. It's just stereo and nothing but stereo. But wait... it gets worse! While most movies played the sound in stereo as expected, some shows... most notably Ted Lasso on AppleTV+ played the center channel through the right-side and the rest on the left-side? Likely an Apple problem, which leads me to believe that it will happen on others as well. If Apple can't get it right 100% of the time, what hope do I have for others?
  • The sound doesn't auto-switch between Apple devices. Listening to music on your iPhone then turning on AppleTV does not switch the audio to AppleTV... in fact, your AppleTV won't even remember that it was last playing to your Beats Solo Pros and will have to be told. Again. Even worse? Sometimes the connections are janky. My work computer recognizes them immediately and I can manually route the sound to them, but on occasion no sound will play even though they are confirmed to be receiving a stream.
  • While the sound, as noted above, is excellent overall... there are times I feel the treble is a bit too crisp, and since you don't really get equalizer controls out of most apps, that's what you're stuck with. Not terrible, but could be better. I wish there was a way to adjust this globally in the headphones themselves.
  • There's no obvious way to tell whether you're holding them with the right side on the right and the left side on the left because these look identical however you hold them. I thought that maybe Apple had devised a magical way to know which way they were situated on your head and adjusted the stereo feed accordingly, but nope. You have to be sure to look for the tiny "R" or "L" to make sure you have them on correctly. This is a serious design flaw.
  • They get plenty loud for me, but I'm surprised that they don't get louder than they do. There are a few tracks that I really want to crank, and these headphones are not having it. Probably a good thing because it will save my hearing.
  • The microphone for talking to Siri or answering phone calls is pretty good... but not great. I made a test call to a friend who said that I sounded okay, but they could tell I was not using the handset microphone.
  • You can invoke Siri hands-free by saying "Hey Siri"... but if you have other Apple devices (like my MacBook Pro) running, it will intercept the command and force you to do a long-press on the Beats plate to get Siri to listen.
  • The charging is via Apple's proprietary "Lightning" port because of course it is. Everything else in the world has gone USB-C (including Apple's own iPad) but because Apple doesn't give a fuck what's logical or convenient, they have to go with the cable that's dying and will soon be discontinued (as I'm sure iPhones will be going wireless-charging-exclusive any day now). Lord how I fucking HATE this bullshit. But it's Apple, and this is the kind of crap that Apple does.
  • The controls are kind of janky. The right ear-cup has a "Beats" logo plate on the side. Pressing on the top increases volume... on the bottom decreases the volume. Pressing the plate in the middle will pause/play or answer the phone... but you have to hit it just right or else it doesn't work. You have to push dead-center to get it to play/pause and it took me a while before I was able to get it to hit every time.
  • The controls for skipping forward or backwards (double/triple clicking on the Beats plate) doesn't seem to work outside of Apple's apps. When listening from the Amazon Music Unlimited app, for example, it does nothing. WTF? Likewise, telling Siri to skip a track outside of Apple apps doesn't work either.

And that's a wrap. Most everything I have in the "cons" column can be overlooked or dealt with except the tight fit. And I cannot for the life of me fathom what Apple was thinking here. Surely they had people try them on before releasing them to manufacturing? If I were to return these, it would be for that reason alone. It's absolutely infuriating that this is a huge concern and outright complaint on these cans by so many people yet Apple has chosen to ignore the feedback. Infuriating but not surprising... just look at Apple's idiotic "butterfly keyboard" that they stuck to like glue despite years of massive outrage by customers telling them it was shitty. Apple always does what they want and doesn't give a crap about how it affects usability or comfort. You either live with it or you don't. And what a shame.

I guess we'll see if having my head squeezed is a dealbreaker and I end up returning these. In the meanwhile, I sure do like the sound I'm hearing.

   

Bullet Sunday 681

Posted on September 27th, 2020

Dave!September may be coming to a close, but not everything has to end... because an all new Special Video Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Yikes! Need to be filled with awe and wonder today? Need to be filled with awe and wonder while shitting your pants? Well here you go...

There are some places you'd swear that man was not meant to go. Which is why they go, I suppose.

   
• Panda! Think wrangling kids is tough? Try looking after pandas...

It's the cutest kind of mischief, I suppose.

   
• Circles! I may not like a lot of Posty's music... but this song and video are sublime...

That he had a hand in writing it as well just makes it all the mor impressive a track.

   
• Hello! "912, what's your white emergency?"

If. Only.

   
• Enola! Looking for something good to watch? Netflix has a movie about Sherlock Holmes's teenage sister, Enola Holmes...

Really, really hope that we will be getting a sequel.

   
• Ted! Dang. Apple TV Plus is finally releasing shows compelling enough that I may actually want to pay for it when my free subscription runs out. Mythic Quest, Central Park, and Long Way Up are great television. But Ted Lasso is next level. Funny, sweet, and surprisingly deep... it's sure to make my Best of 2020 list...

And to think... Foundation is still on the way!

   
There it was... that was the last bullet for September.

   

Bullet Sunday 679

Posted on September 13th, 2020

Dave!The world may be on fire, but don't let that dissuade you from pulling out the marshmallows... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Transplant! I've written a couple times about my favorite show of 2020, the Canadian medical drama Transplant. It's just fantastic television and deserves a look. If you're heere in the US, NBC is airing it on Tuesdays and on their Peacock streaming service. Today I found out that Apple iTunes Store is offering a Season Pass for all 13 episodes for $25. It didn't take me even one second to purchase it, even though I already have Canadian recordings of all the episodes. I support shows I like by purchasing them whenever I possibly can. This was a no-brainer.

   
• Farmer! In an age where laughs are getting harder to find, this was exactly what I needed...

Almost makes me want to get on TikTok to keep up with him.

   
• HEADLINE! Face masks could be giving people Covid-19 immunity, researchers suggest. Not that anything wil ever dissuade the dumb-fuck anti-mask brigade, but any news is good news, right?

   
• Float! Apple sure does know how to create amazing retail spaces. Every store I've visited around the world... even the most basic... is incredible. My favorites are those which take classic old buildings and turns them into jaw-dropping shops. But there's something to be said for their mind-blowing original creations...

Apple Stores are practically destination-worthy. If we were in different times, I'd take a diversion to Singapore to see this marvel.

   
• New New Order! One of my all-time favorite bands has released new music!

It's different. But as a huge fan of dream-pop, this half-step in that direction is not something I hate. I actually rather like it, even though it's not what I was expecting.

   
• Lunch! Yesterday I was going to get up at 7am, get some bread started, clean the kitchen, put another coat of paint on the cabinets, then cook up a vegetable bake with dumplings for lunch. But then I took one look out my window as smoke was pouring into the valley and decided I'd sleep until noon. This was lunch...

Now-a-days, you do what you can do and try not to feel like a failure for not doing what you feel you should be doing. Just getting up in the morning to feed my cats was doing good during a pandemic. But while the world is on fire during a pandemic? Vodka Coke and frozen veggie corn dogs is a frickin' miracle.

   
And now... once more into the breach.

   

Bullet Sunday 675

Posted on August 16th, 2020

Dave!Six months in quarantine and dumbass idiots just keep our pandemic going strong, but at least there's something to read... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• So Very COVID! U.S. Coronavirus Outbreaks Are Increasingly Tied to Small Family Gatherings, according to this Vice article: If You Love Your Family, Stay the Hell Away From Them. This pandemic is never going to end. This is why.

   
• WOMAN, CAMERA, TV! Sarah Cooper has just been given a comedy special deal by Netflix. After her many hilarious videos and this monologue for Kimmel, it's easy to see why...

Good on you, Miss Cooper.

   
• JAJA DING DONG! If you saw the Will Ferrell Netflix movie, Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga, you know that he plays an Icelandic singer who dreams of competing in the Eurovision song competition. A joke in the movie is when he sings a song called Jaja Ding Dong, which is about exactly what you'd think it would be about. Well, the real-life Iceland Eurovision contestant, Daði Freyr, is constantly being asked to cover the song, and he finally relented...

Awesome.

   
• Puppies! When I was in Zimbabwe, I was very, VERY lucky to see wild dogs. They are rare to spot, and there was a group of people that flew in a couple weeks prior to my visit who came specifically to photograph them... but never saw a single pup after a week of searching. They are really remarkable creatures, and it's cool that they have found ways to help restore the wild dog populations of Africa...

They're beautiful creatures, to be sure.

   
• Cats! Tell me that you don't think of Jake and his beloved toy Mufasa when you see this...

Cats are the most incredible creatures.

   
• Cohen! Michael Cohen's new book is coming, and it promises to be a doozy. I won't give the piece of shit a single cent of my money no matter how much dirt he's dishing... and there's really no reason to. I'm sure all the tea will be spread far and wide without me having to buy a thing. If nothing else we'll finally get confirmation that the pee pee tape exists...

I believed it all along.

   
And that's they way it goes. Enjoy your pandemic.

   

Buy a Sad Song on a Monday

Posted on June 8th, 2020

Dave!As I mentioned a while back, I had a DVD stop working and decided to backup my massive CD/DVD/Blu-Ray collection to computer files that I can import into my Plex Media Server. It's been going great so far, and I've been ripping through everything as fast as I can. Then I'm boxing all the physical media up and storing it in my garage. That way I have proof that I bought it in case anybody wants to accuse me of piracy. I don't steal content. On the contrary, I'm proud to support the artists who make the media I enjoy.

But CDs and DVDs aren't the only thing I'm attempting to back up.

For those TV shows I have recorded on VHS and 8mm tape which are not available to purchase, I'm converting them as well.

One of the shows I was going to convert from 8mm tape was My Boys because iTunes didn't have it for sale. But then I thought to check Amazon and managed to get DVDs of seasons 1-3 for just $17! How sweet is that?

Such a great show. Alas, the final 9 episodes of the series that made up Season 4 can't be found anywhere. Everyplace I've found which has DVDs for sale end up being bootlegs. And since I don't steal content, I certainly don't support people stealing content.

I've still got many, many shows to convert over but, as of today, all my music has been ripped or re-purchased digitally. Re-purchasing is easiest, but so many things I only have on mix-tapes or cassette singles or LP singles just aren't available. I keep checking through.

The only thing I cannot figure out how to purchase is some of the short films I've saved over the years. Some of them I've actually found on iTunes to buy. But others? No clue.

Plex got confused between two of these short movies I love... Sign and Signs. After separating them and telling Plex that they are not the M. Night. Shyamalan movie Signs, I had to watch them again, of course. This first one is entirely too sweet. I've seen it a dozen times and love it more with each viewing ❤️...

Here's the other short film that Plex got confused on. It's absolutely wonderful. More happens here in 12 minutes than you'd find in most movies that are 2 hours long ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜...

I sure do wish I could support these filmmakers and actors by buying these films on iTunes... or anywhere, really, so if anybody knows where they're for sale, I'd appreciate a heads-up.

   

Bullet Sunday 665

Posted on June 7th, 2020

Dave!My thumbs may be numb from too much gaming, but that won't stop me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
Last Week, Every Week! John Oliver doing what John Oliver does best...

I don't pretend to know what the answer is. But something has got to change. The time for people joining the police force so they can legally be violent towards their fellow humans with hyper-militarized hardware is over. Time to get back to the original mission of our officers in blue... to serve and to protect.

   
Support Our Troops! For the LAST FUCKING TIME... rubber bullets were NEVER designed to be fired directly at people and never at close range. Especially unarmed, non-threatening people with their arms up. They were designed specifically for times when an officer's life is in imminent danger from an approaching crowd, AND ARE TO BE FIRED AT THE GROUND SO THEY RICOCHET INTO THE CROWD AND DISPERSE THE DANGER!!! The kinetic energy of the projectile must be diffused or else the force of a rubber bullet can be LETHAL...

Support the troops? This guy served as a fucking Marine, but ends up getting shot up right here at home by the very people charged with protecting him.

   
Trumpism Unmasked! To say that I am disgusted and disappointed in our president right now is a grotesque understatement. Not just in his horrific response to protests which, by and large, are non-violent and have nothing to do with the opportunistic looting going on, but his being a terrible leader in general. Take his latest appearances where he is shown touring factories and going everywhere unmasked... despite the CDC telling us that wearing masks is the easiest way to help slow the spread of the virus and overwhelming our medical care system. Even if he did nothing else but set an example by just wearing a fucking mask, he'd at least be doing something presidential.

And if he could do that and just come out and say something like... "Scientists have said that wearing a mask in public is the easiest way to get this country back on track after the pandemic which has ravaged the world. Masks stop the droplets that carry the virus from infecting other people but do nothing to those who are already infected. Some of you may heard that masks trap carbon dioxide and are unhealthy. But the masks they are talking about are high-filtration masks, not the simple fabric masks which can stop the droplets, but easily allow carbon dioxide to pass through. Cloth masks causing hypercapnia is 100% untrue. I know they're uncomfortable. I know they feel awkward. I know it's not an ideal thing to have to do. But it's a simple kindness towards your fellow Americans, and we all have to do our part to prevail against a virus which doesn't care if your Democrat or Republican. Whether you're young or old. Whether you're a man or a woman. Whether you're healthy or sickly. And doesn't discriminate based on our faith, sexuality, or the color of our skin. I ask that all my fellow Americans join me in following CDC guidelines set to protect us. Wear a mask in public. Respect social distancing. Be kind. Be patient. And above all be united. May God bless all of us, our great country, and peoples around the world as we do whatever we can to prevail against the threat of COVID-19. Thank you and good night."

But instead we get his dumbass tweets about stupid shit and conspiracy theories which do nothing to help anybody except his ego. I don't like Joe Biden... at all... but I would vote for a pile of dog shit knowing that it would be a better leader and a better example than Impeached President Cadet Bone Spurs. I blame him for his terrible response to the coronavirus costing tens of thousands of American lives, but I emphatically condemn him for everything that followed... including the inevitable second wave of deaths which is almost a certainty thanks to his complete lack of "leadership." At which point I am obligated to remind you that a Twitter account which did nothing but tweet the exact same thing as the president was suspended after only three days. If only that applied to the president himself, maybe we wouldn't be quite so bad off as we are now. Because don't even get me started on his repugnant attempt to use the death of George Floyd to endorse fucking job numbers.

   
FOX "News!" I agree that there's a clear and present danger to this country from "fake news." Unfortunately the fakest of all fake news, FOX "News," mostly gets a pass from our impeached leader (except when they lob a rare criticism his way, at which time they're garbage too!). Their nonstop parade of falsehoods, exaggerations, and outright lies are bad enough... but they insist on being racist fucks on top of it all.

Sane Humans: You can't put a price on a human life!
FOX "News": Sure you can! We do it all the time! Well... we do for Black men...

FOX News screenshot comparing S&P market data increases after the death of prominant Black men.

FOX "News" is doing stupid racist shit like this all the fucking time...

Laura Ingraham on Black players: "Shut up and dribble."
Laura Ingraham on white players: "They are allowed to have an opinion.. they have worth as people.... and speaking against them is Stalinist!"

FOX "News" doesn't even pretend they're not racist pieces of shit. Their agenda is full-on white supremacy, and people like Laura Ingraham who dismissed peaceful protest and encouraged everybody to persecute peaceful protesters is exactly why shit is going down right now. But of course they blame everybody but themselves. And note that Drew Brees ultimately realized he was acting like a privileged piece of shit and apologized. You won't get that from FOX "News." That would go against their agenda of praising straight white Christian men and demonizing those who are not straight white Christian men. This is apparently what they're talking about when they say "All Lives Matter."

An operating room with many doctors and nurses trying to save somebody's life... a man says THEY'RE HAVING A HEART ATTACK! A woman replies ALL ORGANS MATTER!

The utter trash that is FOX "News" having viewers believe and support everything they say perfectly encapsulates how sick we are as a country and how totaly fucked we are.

   
Do Better Democrats! And don't think for a minute that my political ranting is over and Republicans get all my attention... because wait, there's more! THE ROOT: NY Rep. Eliot Engel Caught on Hot Mic at George Floyd Press Conference: "If I Didn’t Have a Primary, I Wouldn’t Care."

Democrats claiming moral superiority over Republicans is laughable when y'all have dumbass garbage like this representing your party. Outright saying that he doesn't give a crap about the people he represents? I may die of unshock. Where is Democrat leadership in this? Oh... I know... they're nowhere... he's a powerful long-term incumbent, so I guess he gets a pass? Fuck that. And fuck this piece of shit. And if you want to make excuses for this? Fuck you too. We are way, way past the time when career politicians should get a pass on their heinous behavior and actions just because they're entrenched and have power. This repugnant do-nothing Democrat (who admits he only shows up when he has to) is on his 16th term in Congress. Where are our fucking #TermLimits?? Still waiting. And I'll keep waiting because trash like this are the ones writing the rules. We see you NY District 16. You elected him with 74% of the vote in 2018. Are you going to continue to support him knowing he doesn't give a shit... just because you find him "comfortable? You get what you vote for. Do better.

   
Led Zep! And just because I want to end this on a positive note... I've been following Luca Stricagnoli for years. This is his latest, in which he is playing Led Zep on a single-neck guitar... a little different from how he usually performs...

Amazing what he's able to get out of an instrument.

   
And now... back to hacking and slashing monsters in a dungeon, I guess.

   

[ woman sings in French ]

Posted on May 7th, 2020

Dave!YOU YIELD TO TRAFFIC IN THE CIRCLE. It's that simple. That's the only rule. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand it. If there's a car already in the traffic circle, you wait until it's passed before entering. And yet...

25% of the time... at least 25% of the time... I run into somebody who doesn't yield.

Like yesterday when I was driving home. And of course the guy is pissed at me even though he was 100% in the wrong for cutting in front of me instead of yielding like he should have. And I honestly don't get the mentality. I'm supposed to just slam on the brakes in the middle of the traffic circle and back up traffic to let people in? That's the complete opposite of how it's supposed to work.

=le sigh=

I continue to wade my way through the massive list of movies and shows I've flagged to watch so I can see if there's anything good on TV. My latest obsession is Plan Coeur (aka The Hook Up Plan) on Netflix. It's a French romcom that has its fill of stupid moments, but is otherwise fantastic. The characters are all beautifully realized and you want to care about them even when they aren't at their best.

Because it's French, I have to watch with English subtitles, which adds another level of amusement to the show...

A woman is at a desk pretending to type, her fingers randomly slapping keys.

The subtitle appears FAKE TYPING.

Most of the time, the show is smartly written and has clever one-off lines throughout to bring the funny...

A woman is leaving the room and turns to a man and says HAVE FUN MASTURBATING, MORON and he replies YEAH, THANKS... YOU TOO.

And, of course, it's French, so the romantic moments are flawlessly orchestrated...

A man is passionately kissing a woman and the subtitles say WOMAN SINGS IN FRENCH.

What really took me by surprise is the music, which is haunting and beautiful. It's practically another character in the series and makes even mundane moments something to be savored...

A man is walking away from the camera and the subtitles say JAZZY ELECTRONIC MUSIC CONTINUES.

I was compelled to track down the composer, which is Frédéric Magnon, and became an instant fan. When Elsa shows her sister her new apartment, I had to rewind the scene and play it over and over because it's just that good...

The entire soundtrack is fantastic and worth hunting down (Amazon Prime Unlimited has it).

So... if you're looking for a show to binge while you're stuck at home, I highly recommend giving The Hook Up Plan a try. Both series of the show are available on Netflix...

As much as I loved the show and want to see a third series, I almost think I'd rather they left things where they were at in the finale. It was the perfect way to end things even though you'll definitely be wanting to know what happens next.

Which is what makes great television, isn't it?

   

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