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Everyone is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You)

Posted on April 19th, 2021

Dave!If you know even a little bit about me, you'll know that my musical tastes are a bit... um... eclectic. I love pop. I love electronica. I love dance. I love classic rap and hip-hop. I love hard-core rap. I love metal. I love punk. I love grunge. I love dream-pop. The only music I loathe is opera. The only music I avoid (but have listening to more and more lately) is country.

But there is one genre that I love more than any other: 80's Pop.

And it's not just a small segment either... I love everything from the 80's. And, in particular, 80's Euro-Pop. Thompson Twins, New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths... I could listen to it all day every day and never tire of it.

Which is why I was absolutely thrilled at the latest episode of The Simpsons (titled Panic on the Streets of Springfield) because they parodied that genre flawlessly... coming up with a character that typified some of the more angsty artists like Robert Smith and Morrisey. But especially Morrisey. You can see him all over the episode, and the incredible parody song Everyone is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You) which I adored...

Flawless.

I rewound my DVR and played it again and again and again. I loved it.

But boy did somebody running Morrisey's official Facebook account not enjoy it...

Surprising what a “turn for the worst" the writing for The Simpson’s tv show has taken in recent years.
   
Sadly, The Simpson’s show started out creating great insight into the modern cultural experience, but has since degenerated to trying to capitalize on cheap controversy and expounding on vicious rumors.
   
Poking fun at subjects is one thing. Other shows like SNL still do a great job at finding ways to inspire great satire.
   
But when a show stoops so low to use harshly hateful tactics like showing the Morrissey character with his belly hanging out of his shirt (when he has never looked like that at any point in his career) makes you wonder who the real hurtful, racist group is here.
   
Even worse - calling the Morrissey character out for being a racist, without pointing out any specific instances, offers nothing. It only serves to insult the artist.
   
They should take that mirror and hold it up to themselves.
   
Simpson’s actor Hank Azaria's recent apology to the whole country of India for his role in upholding "structural racism” says it all.
   
Unlike the character in the Simpson’s “Panic” episode...
   
Morrissey has never made a “cash grab”, hasn’t sued any people for their attacks, has never stopped performing great shows, and is still a serious vegan and strong supporter for animal rights.
   
By suggesting all of the above in this episode…the Simpson’s hypocritical approach to their storyline says it all.
   
Truly they are the only ones who have stopped creating, and have instead turned unapologetically hurtful and racist.
   
Not surprising... that The Simpsons viewership ratings have gone down so badly over recent years. — Peter Katsis

This is just stupid. When you're in the public eye and phenomenally famous, you're going to get parodied in places like Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons. It's just part of the game. And while, yes, it can be painful to see... the simple fact is that it's incredibly flattering that you're somebody famous enough to be parodied in the first place. People understand that this is a frickin' cartoon PARODY, and the fact that his handlers feel that the real-life Morrissey is so different pretty much proves that.

The character of Quilloughby (from "The Snuffs, as played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch) is not Morrisey. If The Simpsons wanted to have ACTUAL Morrisey on an episode, they would have called up Morrisey and asked him to be a guest on the show. They do that all the time. But that's not what the episode called for, so they came up with the stand-in they needed to tell the story they wanted to tell and get the laughs they were trying to get.

And the episode is hilarious to anybody like me who loves the genre. I mean, come on, my parents once got contacted because a teacher noticed that I was listening to Morrissey and The Smiths. The music was considered by some to be "psychologically dark and damaging" and parents were concerned that kids who listen to it would commit suicide. For me it was the complete opposite. On the contrary, knowing that there was music which so adeptly captured what I was feeling made me feel less alone in the world.

So... holy shit... RELAX about it! Morrisey has done some crazy shit over the years (he canceled two of the shows I was supposed to see... then cut his show short when I had to FLY ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO SEE HIM because he didn't like the energy of the crowd!). Plenty of crazy shit. So it's not like there was no material for The Simpsons to draw from. With Morrissey, it's a frickin' gold mine.

My love for all things Morrissey has dwindled over the years because he can be such an asshole. But watching Panic on the Streets of Springfield actually made me like him again. But even more surprising? The Simpsons is better than it's been in years this season.

And it goes without saying that I had The Smiths and Morrissey playing all night and all morning after the episode. Dang they had some amazing, amazing music.

   

Captains, Princes, and Rappers

Posted on April 9th, 2021

Dave!Last night I stayed up until midnight to watch the latest episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier but ended up going to bed instead. The middle part of a story is usually the lull in the storm before the build-up to the finale, and I figured I'd be better off catching up on my sleep.

This morning I woke up early to watch it and was not shocked by anything in the episode. I was happy with the way that it filled in the blanks as to the philosophical differences between Sam Wilson and John Walker. And I want to reiterate again that Wyatt Russell is absolutely killing it as the "new" Captain America. People have been unloading a lot of hate towards the actor and I just don't get it. As I've said all along, the character of John Walker has a specific purpose in the story. And watching Russell build out that purpose is thrilling to watch. He knows exactly where New Cap needs to go and is taking him there perfectly...

Wyatt Russell as the new Captain America: John Walker.

I sure hope that fanboys start to understand this so they stop sending death threats(!) to Wyatt Russell. I mean... holy shit. The guy is a very good actor just doing his damn job.

It's been interesting to see Marvel Studios actually treating the show like they billed the show: as a six-hour movie. Now instead of 30 minutes of build-up and world-building followed by 30 minutes of development followed by a 30 minute race to the finale, we get more time to better flesh-out the story and characters while still having all the action beats of a big-budget film. All the subtleties that make The Falcon and The Winter Soldier such a good television show are the first things that would be cut when making it into a theatrical motion picture.

tl;dr... I like what's happing with this series because it's different. It's not just "made for television movies of the same old things.

But enough about super-hero television.

Back in The Real World, Prince Phillip has died at 99 and DMX has died at 50.

Prince Phillip, husband to the longest ruling monarch to ever exist, was a dutiful public servant who was also highly problematic. His history of saying abusive, misogynistic, racist, and bigoted crap is legendary. But of course the tabloids are already blaming Meghan Markle. Never mind that he was 99 years old and in declining health, it was an interview with Oprah that did him in. I swear... people will find a way to blame Black women for anything, no matter how absurd, because that's the default of a society built on systemic racism and misogyny.

DMX, a celebrated rapper and actor, was a hugely successful and talented musician that was also highly problematic. Some of his music was shockingly homophobic... often violently so. And then there were his lyrics promoting misogyny and rape which were roundly (and rightly) condemned. And yet... some of his tracks were brilliantly honest and raw, changing the course of music history in their wake. I practically wore out my CD for his debut album It's Dark and Hell is Hot when it was unleashed upon the world in 1998. It was a great album to listen to when you were mad at the world and wanted to vicariously unleash through DMX's rage. And I was a mad at the world quite a lot back in those heady pre-politically-correct days. In more recent times, I've been reading story after story of what an incredible human being he was. Stories of kindness towards total strangers. Stories of him just being a decent person to all he met. It's as if the PERSON he strived to be was the best of humanity... while the PERSONA he portrayed in some of his music was the worst of humanity. It makes him difficult to figure out, but also makes me happy to know that he was a genuinely decent guy beneath it all.

And now I'm headed for a nap in the hopes that the raging headache I've been battling all day will give me a break. It's tough to blog when it feels as though your eyeballs are being pushed out of your skull.

   

Mad About MAD Being Mad

Posted on April 1st, 2021

Dave!I am glad to see that the number of April Fools jokes online have plummeted. This is just not the time. I wish people would drop it completely, because it's never really the time for me. But I'm no fun like that.

This morning I found some of my old MAD magazines and books when I was looking for a certificate I needed. Boy did that take me back.

One day when I was in Middle School on my way to class, a friend returned a MAD book that they had borrowed. I didn't think anything of it and threw it on top of the books I had under my arm. After taking my seat, the science teacher saw the book and snatched it off the table. I wasn't looking at it... it was just sitting there. Apparently that was offensive enough to him that he was compelled to take it. After class I asked him for it back and he turned all red-faced and said "NO!"

He was always a bit of an asshole, but taking my personal property for no reason? Fuck him.

A month-and-a-half later it was the last day of school. I didn't want to risk asking for my book back and having him refuse, so I had my mom write me a note asking him to return my property. After class was over, I handed it to him. He threw it on his desk and ignored it.

So I asked him to read it now.

And he did.

At which time he was consumed with rage.

"I THOUGHT IT WAS A NICE NOTE THANKING ME FOR BEING A GOOD TEACHER OR SOMETHING... BUT INSTEAD YOU WANT YOUR BOOK BACK?!?" He then pulled open a big drawer on his desk that was filled with confiscated crap. "IS THIS THE BOOK?!?" It wasn't. "WELL HOW ABOUT THIS ONE?!?" Yes. That's my book.

He threw it at my face. I was THIS close to telling him to go fuck himself and the last thing I would do is write a note praising him when he was a bargain-basement teacher at best, but instead I said "Thanks so much! Have a great summer!" because I knew that would piss him off more. And what did I care? I was off to high school.

It was at that moment I wondered if he would fail me or lower my grade. He didn't... probably because he knew I would call him on his bullshit... but I am fairly certain that he wanted to quite badly.

And speaking of people getting mad about nothing...

The beautifully-crafted Lil' Nas X music video for Montero (Call Me By Your Name) is causing quite the uproar. Probably because Lil' Nas X takes a stripper pole down to hell in his Calvin Klein underwear and gives the devil a lap dance...

Lil Nas X on a stripper pole.

Lil Nas X sliding down to hell.

Lil Nas X giving the devil a lap dance.

Lil Nas X killing the devil and becoming the new king of hell.

While I was eating lunch I logged on to Facebook where people are talking about it. One of the posts said "What do you think about all this?" to which I commented "I think that if 'well-meaning Christians' hadn't constantly told Lil' Nas X he was going to hell for being gay, he wouldn't have been compelled to make a video throwing it back in their faces."

From there it went to the inevitable "But this is harmful to children seeing it!" to which I replied "I dunno. I've listened to metal since I was a kid, which can be far more satanic than this, and I turned out okay." I was half-way expecting somebody to reply with "BUT DID YOU THOUGH?!?" except nobody took the bait. Oh well.

It's always something, isn't it?

When I was a kid it was Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeath, Slayer, Venom, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Motley Crüe, and the rest. Today it's Lil' Nas X which, if I'm being honest, is relatively tame by comparison. He gives the devil a lapdance. Whoop-de-doo.

The song is a banger though. Reeeeeally catchy.

But if it offends you, I guess you could always move to North Korea where they censor everything. Pretty sure you won't find Lil' Nas X playing there. For one thing, I don't think the long red braids he wears to hell is one of the 28 approved haircuts you're allowed to have.

   

Bullet Sunday 702

Posted on February 21st, 2021

Dave!The weather may be hitting hard here in these United States of America, but I will not be deterred... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Ingenuity! I am still in awe of NASA's latest mission to Mars. I have spent hours upon hours pouring over the NASA documentation, briefs, reports, and news about it. One of the things that blows my mind even more than the fact that we can land something on the surface of Mars is how they actually do it. It's actually a sky crane which gently lowers the Perseverance rover to the surface like so...

Artist rendition of the lander lowering the rover to the surface of Mars from NASA.
Artist rendering from NASA/JPL - Caltech

The landing modules that did the heavy lifting... er, landing... sent back a photo of it actually happening...

Photo of the Perseverance rover being lowered to Mars from the viewpoint of the lander module looking down at it.
Photo from NASA/JPL - Caltech

NASA even managed to get an orbital view of it happening...

Photo of the lander module plummeting towards Mars, it's parachute deployed.
Photo from NASA/JPL - Caltech

But the big surprise here is that Perseverance didn't land alone. He brought a little buddy with him... the Ingenuity test copter drone!

Artist rendition of the Ingenuity copter on the surface of Mars.
Photo from NASA/JPL - Caltech

This little helicopter bot is just a test project. It's not really on Mars to do anything except experiment with the concept of using helicopters on the red planet. Not the most mind-boggling thing to happen on this mission, but every journey begins with a single step. What IS a bit mind-boggling is how Ingenuity hitched a ride to the planet's surface. It's snuggled underneath the Perseverance and will be popped off, rotated right-side-up, then placed on the ground as the rover drives away. NASA tested it here on earth, as you can see from this cool video...

The engineering required to make all this happen... and happen under Mars' brutal temperatures and a much thinner atmosphere... is truly a testament to human ingenuity. Oh... wait a second... is that why the little helicopter bot was named Ingenuity? NASA will be holding another press briefing at 2pm P.S.T. tomorrow, and you can bet I'll be watching!

   
• Help! So much attention is (rightfully) being directed towards the human crisis happening in Texas, and my heart aches for all those who are suffering. But what keeps me up at night are the animals who are caught up in the cold weather danger as well. They are mostly overlooked, and it's gut-wrenching to see the reports coming out of the Lone Star State. A friend has been sharing links where people can donate, and I've done what I can, starting with these three organizations...

  • Austin Pets Alive! — Trying to keep up with the influx of animals as a result of the storms.
  • Primarily Primates — Rescue primates organization in need of funds to keep doing the work they do.
  • Sea Turtle, Inc. — Images of rescued sea turtles being stacked in cars in an attempt to save them is just the start... organizations charged with housing them are in desperate need.

Anything you can donate... no matter how small... will be much appreciated.

   
• Social Media Reporting! United Airlines Flight 328 suffered catastrophic engine failure and was forced to land. And the way I found out about this major news story? It appeared on TikTok as a trending video...

@dogthatkills

Y’all I just saw a plane fly over my house with a blown engine. Hoping everyone is okay! ##plane ##ohnoo

♬ Oh No - Kreepa

What's even more amazing was the footage of the blown engine from within the cabin...

Planes can fly on one engine and are built to accomodate a blown engine. However... this flight was on its way to Hawaii from Denver. This would have been a very different story if they were 1,000 miles over the Pacific Ocean. I'm just happy it happened so soon after takeoff and that nobody was hurt. The interior video above was shot by Bretty Guy who, ironically ennough, posted this back in 2013...

Tweet from Brett Guy saying A few years later and still clueless as to what the point of twitter is...?

After having his video viewed millions of times and being picked up by every possible news organization, he probably gets it now. Social media is how we communicate. It's how information (and, disinformation, natch) gets seen.

   
• NEWSFLASH! Womans Wants Apology After Tom Brady Trophy Toss — Apology? Are you shitting me?!? Because your feelings were hurt over an object you don't own? It wasn't even fucking damaged! It got tossed by somebody WHO TOSSES SHIT FOR A LIVING...

Tom Brady tossing the trophy to fans in Tampa.
Photo captured from video by WFTS via WCVB.

Good Lord. Nobody... absolutely NOBODY... gives a shit about your stupid-ass feelings over the fucking Lombardi trophy, and absolutely NOBODY owes you shit. Your dad got paid to do a job and he did it. Your ownership... or rather any ownership by your your father... ended the minute the trophy left left Tiffany & Co. — If I bought a Tiffany baby rattle that your dad made and shoved it up my ass, would you be acting this stupid? Oh probably. Because self-important pieces of shit ALWAYS act just this stupid. I am getting so damn tired of the entitlement people feel when it comes to nonsensical bullshit like this. Save your outrage for something that matters... like the current flavor of the month ice cream at Baskin-Robbins or which kitten video is trending on YouTube or some shit like that. If anybody should be dishing out apologies, it should be your pathetic ass for acting like Tom Brady melted the fucker down and took a shit on it while you were holding it. I mean, there's a pandemic going on that's killing people... but Tom Brady tossed a trophy to somebody, so let's all shed tears over that. Jesus Christ.

   
• Loser! This appeared in my Facebook feed. One of those few times I don't mind seeing an ad because this is hilarious...

A T-shirt showing a human being beamed aboard a flying saucer saying GET IN, LOSER — WE'RE DOING BUTT STUFF!

If only there was an apropriate place I could wear such a thing. If you do, you can pick one up (in several designs) right here at TeePublic.

   
• Cheese! There’s a meme going around TikTok which originated with a man going to his refrigerator and asking "Doesn’t everybody have a drawer in their fridge that’s completely dedicated to cheese?" The joke being that he has DVDs stored in his refrigerator...

@.ceoofdadjokes

Cheese 😆##heybree ##ceoofdadjokes ##cheesedrawer ##heretoembarassmykids ##marylandgang #

♬ original sound - Jonathan Kung

Since then people have been making their own version of the meme where they have increasingly weird stuff being stored in their refrigerator. — And this whole time I’m like "BOTH DRAWERS IN MY FRIDGE ARE DEVOTED TO CHEESE!!!" And also a third draw which has my snack cheeses in it. My refrigerator is all cheese all the time and it's no laughing matter!

   
• Va Va Voom! There are two sides to TikTok that I absolutely love and would rather watch than most television shows or movies... Black TikTok and Gay TikTok. Both can be entertaining as hell, and I laugh out loud more often than I'd ever admit. I also end up learning more than I'll ever admit. And while there's some overlap from time to time, they are two very different entities. UNTIL TODAY, THAT IS. I've run into the song Va Va Voom by Nicki Minaj on both sides. It's a song that I've never heard of before. And it ended up being 100% my jam for the weekend...

Banger! Thanks TikTok!

   
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, bullet fans...

   

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.

→ Click here to continue reading this 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.

   

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