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Infinity War: Revisited

Posted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Dave!Of course I rushed to the theater when Avengers: Infinity War was released. I saw it twice, just because it was such a huge spectacle that I had a tough time absorbing it all. I liked it much better the second time around.Now that the film has been released on digital home video and I've had some distance between my last viewing... I like it even more.

Everything I said in my first review still holds true. But I wanted to revisit it now and figure out just why this film keeps growing on me...

Avengers: Infinity War Movie Poster

   
But, before we go there... an aside about those extras you get. They are pretty lame. At least what I'm finding in the "iTunes Extras" you get on the digital release...

1) The directors/writers commentary doesn't really add a huge amount of insight to the film. Not that it's bad... just that so much of what's discussed is obvious. This is fairly understandable though. If they went into much depth, they'd spoil the second part that's coming in the fourth Avengers film.

2) That being said... there is a "Director's Roundtable" with eight past Marvel Studios directors (Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Peyton Reed, James Gunn, Ryan Coogler, The Russo Brothers, and Taika Waititi via FaceTime... sadly, no Kenneth Branagh, Shane Black, Alan Taylor,Scott Derrickson, Jon Watts, or Joe Johnston) which is fantastic. Listening to these people talk about their films made me want to go back and watch every last one of them all over again. If only it could have gone on longer.

3) The featurettes are okay but, again, don't add a heck of a lot to the film. Strange Alchemy touches on my favorite thing about the film, which would be the mixing up of the characters. The Mad Titan talks about Thanos from comics to film. Beyond the Battle: Titan and Beyond the Battle: Wakanda reveals the FX and stunts that went into the ultimate super-hero battles ever seen on film.

4) The deleted scenes are all worth watching. In the case of the extended scene between Thanos and Gamora... well worth watching.

5) LOLOLOL! As I was watching Infinity War tonight and Thanos starts speaking, Jenny immediately goes running for the television. And she was transfixed! "Jenny... are you in love with Thanos?!??" She turns and looks at me like "DUH!" — I think that Rick from Rick and Morty will be jealous. He's the only other character that Jenny reacts to this way...

Jenny Loves Thanos

Jenny Loves Thanos

Jenny Loves Thanos

   
And now? Do not proceed unless you've already seen the movie.

Spoilers await in an extended entry...

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
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Categories: Movies 2018Click To It: Permalink  1 Comment: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Cat Bites and Iron Man

Posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

Dave!When it comes to cats, I truly lucked out. Jake and Jenny are wonderful animals and rarely give me any trouble. They don't chew on my stuff. They don't scratch anything they're not supposed to. They rarely puke. They leave me alone when I sleep. They're affectionate but not too clingy. They don't meow constantly. They're just the greatest most perfect cats.

99.9% of the time.

Every once in a while though...

I've been bitten three times.

When I first got my cats, they came with hospital collars from having been fixed. My cats were absolutely terrified of me, so I couldn't get close enough to cut them off...

Kittens!
Calm Before the Storm.

After a few days, Jake would be distracted enough while eating that I was easily able to cut his off. Jenny though? Not on your life. And it was scaring me. They spent a lot of time hiding under stuff, and I was worried the collar would get caught and she'd hurt herself. Finally I managed to grab her and cut it... except she was not having it. She clawed my arm so badly I still have marks. And she bit my nose repeatedly, resulting in blood gushing down my face. Not fun for me... and Jenny hid under the couch for two days.

The second time I got bit was when Jake escaped from the catio. Eventually he made his way back to the door, but he wouldn't come inside. So I grabbed him...

Jake Rescued from Outside!

Jake, who is usually a very mellow cat, went full-on psychotic. He was a Tasmanian devil of fury... biting my arm and clawing at my abdomen so deep that I thought my guts were going to spill out Hannibal Lecter style.

And the latest time I got bit? TODAY.

With the heat we've been having, my cats have been shedding their fur constantly. It's so bad that I've been brushing them with The Furminator every day. Jenny loves it. She rolls around while getting brushed and purrs like a diesel truck. Jake, however, merely tolerates it. Most times he doesn't mind so much, but there are other times you can tell he's annoyed. He'll "fake bite" me a couple times, but that's as far as it goes. Today was no different. He was irritated, he pretended to bite me a few times, I ignored him as I always do... and then he lashed out. With a real bite. It wasn't all that painful, but it was shocking.

And so...

Lesson learned. From now on when Jake acts perturbed while being brushed, I'll wait for one "fake bite" and then stop brushing.

Because I like having the greatest most perfect cats.


As I mentioned yesterday, watching the "Director's Roundtable" extra from the Avengers: Infinity War digital home video release made me want to watch all the Marvel Studios movies all over again. And so I am. Starting today...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 1: Iron Man
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
   
At the time it was released, it was impossible to comprehend just how revolutionary Iron Man would be, nor what it would lead to. In retrospect, it should not be as surprising as it is. All the elements were there. Robert Downey Jr. inhabiting Tony Stark in a way that was beyond flawless... painstaking faithfulness to the source material... exceedingly good special effects... a story that was highly entertaining, laced with humor, and had no wasted moments... and... did I mention Robert Downey Jr. being beyond flawless? As impressed as I was with this film back in 2008, I am doubly impressed today because it holds up so damn well. It was the perfect beginning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I love it as much now as I did then. Of particular note is the raw mechanical nature of the suit, which literally had to be bolted around Tony. This was incredibly cool to see and, though the process was streamlined with each new appearance, it always maintained its awesome brute-force physically mechanical nature. Until Infinity War where the suit was "nanite enabled" which completely ruins what makes Iron Man be Iron Man. Bummer.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: So many. But when Tony first dons the finished Iron Man armor and takes out all the bad guys in Afghanistan... it's movie magic. And when he returns home and Pepper catches him doing "not the worst things she's caught him doing?"... it's LOL funny too.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: While Jeff Bridges makes the perfect Obadiah Stane, I question why the villain always has to be a slightly more powerful duplicate of the hero in these films. Iron Man vs. Iron Monger? Sure. But it set a lame precident for too many Marvel Studios films which followed. So much so that they're only just now breaking free of of that trap.
   
SIDENOTE: Nick Fury showing up in the post-credits scene to discuss "The Avengers Initiative" is the icing on a very delicious cake. When I saw this movie in the theater, I was leaving during the credits when some guy started shouting to everybody "DON'T GO! THERE'S MORE AFTER THE CREDITS!" and so I stayed. I was already thrilled with the film. After that scene I was downright giddy leaving the theater.

   

Berries In Bed and The Incredible Hulk

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2018

Dave!I've never been a really big dessert person. My vice has always been chocolate pudding, but once I had to start limiting carbs and go sugar-free, it got scratched from my list (sugar-free chocolate pudding is heinous). I like an occasional chocolate cupcake, but those had to be dropped too. So now I have an occasional cookie and call it good.

Except...

I have a real tough time passing up on berries.

My favorite berries are Maine blueberries. There's really nothing like them. They are smaller than the blueberries I can get here and the flavor is unreal. I will gladly chow down on Maine blueberries on any occasion I can get them. But any berry will do, really. I love strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, Marionberries, boysenberries, blackberries, huckleberries... so many berries to eat.

But... berries have sugar... and so I try not to eat them too often. The fact that berries are so insanely expensive makes this easy. I bought a tiny container of fresh blueberries and raspberries for $8 to eat at breakfast with some poundcake. I managed to get three servings for my money...

Berries in Bed

And yet my $8 will buy me 8 shitty burritos at Taco Bell or 8 shitty hamburgers at McDonalds off their dollar menus. Fresh, healthy foods are out of reach for so many people, but crappy unhealthy food is abundant and cheap. Crazy.

But typical of what government lobbyists can achieve when they put their mind and money towards something.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 2: The Incredible Hulk
Original Grade: B • Today's Grade: B-
Coming out a mere month after the summer blockbuster that was Iron Man, the second movie in Marvel's lineup falls short when you you drop it in the mix. Still... this is not a bad movie, and if you judge it on its own merits instead of comparing it to the rest of the Marvel Universe of films, it fares far better. Unfortunately, I can't do that, so it just doesn't hold up for me. The special effects are good for the day. The story is good enough. The acting is better than good. But it doesn't feel like a Marvel Studios film and I mostly forget about it. Especially after all the amazing stuff that followed. With that considered, I have to drop it a point.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: Can I say the pre-credits scene where Tony Stark walks in the bar to talk to General Ross, thus starting the long trend of all the movies being stitched together? No? I can't? Okay. Well, The Hulk tearing apart anything and everything is worth watching... but I love the scene where General Ross is in the gunship chasing down The Abomination over rooftops at sunset and The Hulk grabs hold. The aerial battle and subsequent crash is a visual and audio treat.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: General "Thunderbolt" Ross's near maniacal obsession with tracking down The Hulk borders on ridiculous and William Hurt badly overplays it. Doesn't help that he's so damn stupid. Leave The Hulk alone and nobody gets hurt. Fuck with Banner and The Hulk destroys everything. So why not just let him be? And while I really like Edward Norton's body of work and appreciate what he brought to this film, it's tough to overlook just how much better suited Mark Ruffalo is for this particular role. He has an easy charm about him that Bruce Banner needs in order to play against the non-stop angst he lives day to day. Without it, things are just too serious and bleak.
   
SIDENOTE: Is Betty Ross ever mentioned again? Like ever? I know they eventually paired up Banner with Black Widow, but it still seems odd.

   

Caturday 71 and Iron Man 2

Posted on Saturday, August 4th, 2018

Dave!This morning I grabbed my phone and delayed Alexa's breakfast alarm because Jake was industriously cleaning his butt, and the last thing I wanted to do was interrupt that. Every once in a while he lets his butt-grooming go, so if he's paying that much attention to things I figure he must need it.

The Alexa alarms I have set for breakfast and dinner are always a great source of amusement. And a smart move on my part, because my cats have been trained to not bother me for food until they hear the alarm. When it gets close to 7:00am/6:00pm, Jake and Jenny will assemble and wait. Then they go nuts when the alarm goes off. I've recorded it these past couple mornings...

Butt first...

XXX

And now? My turn for breakfast.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 3: Iron Man 2
Original Grade: A- • Today's Grade: A-
I have never understood why this movie was so poorly received. Yeah, the story had some problems. Yeah, there were scenes that didn't hang together right. But it was still an enjoyable outing. The acting and visual effects were great. Sam Rockwell was perfect. And Mickey Rourke was not nearly the problem that critics made him to be. On top of all that? The debut of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow! I enjoyed the film then. I enjoyed watching it again now. And the credits scene with Thor's hammer in the dessert still gives me chills.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: The opening where Iron Man jumps out of a plane and lands on the Stark Expo stage only to be robotically disassembled to reveal Tony Stark... being Tony Stark, courtesy of Robert Downey Jr. firing on all cylinders. The Iron Man dancers are just a bonus. A close second? Black Widow mowing through a bunch of security guards at Hammer Tech. Amazing.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Whiplash is just another guy in a suit, following Iron Monger in the last movie... a different guy in a suit. It's a missed opportunity trap that so many Marvel Studios movies would fall into.
   
SIDENOTE: One of the most famous Iron Man comic book arcs was the Demon in a Bottle storyline where Iron Man became an alcoholic. That they did a quick nod to it in this film at Tony's party was an interesting choice. I think it was a mistake, but... better a quick nod than an entire movie dedicated to alcoholic Iron Man.

   

Bullet Sunday 473 and Thor

Posted on Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Dave!This Sunday is 17% more lethal than usual... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Vote! Voting in the August Primary was fairly easy for me. If you're a Republican, I Google to see how hard you've worked to disavow President Trump and his entire cesspool of an Administration. If you haven't... or, heaven forbid, you support the assholes... you get no vote from me. I then look at all the Democrats and research who is in a best position to defeat the Trump-enabling Republican running. Because right now? That's all I give a shit about. Making sure that every last fucking Republican who isn't whole-heartedly disavowing Trump goes down in fucking flames. I don't want Republicans to LOSE in the upcoming election... I want them to be UTTERLY DECIMATED AND DESTROYED. I used to vote with no regard to party affiliation and ended up with both Republicans and Democrats on my ballot. Not any more. After Trump, Republican politicians don't deserve air to breathe, let alone my fucking vote...

Of all the problems in the world, Trump used his presidential authority to call LeBron James stupid last night. LeBron just opened a school for at-risk kids, providing them free tuition, bicycles, food, counseling & guaranteed tuition to the University of Akron if they graduate.

Has there ever been so petty a piece of shit president in this country? LeBron has done more for education by opening up ONE SCHOOL than Trump, DeVos, and their entire administration has ever done.

   
• Shit! Late-night television is really something else. SexToys followed by Larry King? Seems about right...

Larry King and Sex Toys

And after that? More shit, along with some other program before it...

Larry King and Poop

Larry King is one of those people who I can't for the life of me understand how they got famous. He has to be one of the worst interviewers of all time. He has no fucking clue what he's talking about and always seems woefully unprepared and completely ignorant as to the person he's interviewing. At least now he's putting is "talent" to appropriate use by hawking senseless shit in infomercials.

   
• Cool! This week I took the "What I have in my refrigerator" challenge...

  • Coke Zero, Sprite Zero, original Coke (for guests).
  • Various sugar-free sodas (which I don't like).
  • Leftover Vitamin Water (from the plane).
  • Atkins shakes (for high blood sugar days).
  • Pickles.
  • Emergency water jug.
  • Six kinds of cheese.
  • Sugar-free jellies (strawberry & blackberry).
  • Ketchup, mustard, pizza sauce.
  • Spreadable butter.
  • Trader Joe's slivered almonds.
  • Four kinds of mayo.

What's in my Refrigerator?

YES! FOUR KINDS OF MAYO!!! I use the cheap stuff for salads, Best Foods for burgers, Kraft for egg salad, and Dukes for fries (I use it when I'm out of Dutch mayo, like now). If I had to give them all up, I'd eat only Dutch mayo.

   
• Big Gunn Two! Another take on where we are now...

Twitter... memories that never really go away...

   
• Failure to Launch! Johnny Rockets, where I first discovered Boca Burger patties years ago in Santa Monica, has now replaced them with a Black bean patty. Which is stupid as fucking hell. People go to Johnny Rockets for a BURGER. Even vegetarians go there for a BURGER. They just don't want to kill a cow to get one. And what's really stupid? THEY'RE ALL FUCKING FROZEN! They could have had both of they wanted a black bean burger so badly. And so... after decades of visiting Johnny Rockets around the globe... no more Rockets, bitches. No more Rockets for me.

   
• Liberty! And, lastly, here it is for those eating paste right from the jar...

   
NEWS: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces "Religious Liberty Task Force."

This is the most insane, fucked-up bullshit yet. We now need a task force to protect Christianity?!? Because it should be painfully obvious that they are NOT doing this to protect Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, or any other NON-CHRISTIAN religions. Since when are Christians a minority in need of protection? Last time I checked, they weren't fucking BURNING CHRISTIANS IN THE STREETS. Last time I checked, you could still go in a fucking UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT POST OFFICE AND BUY NATIVITY STAMPS FOR CHRISTMAS. Last time I checked, CHRISTIANITY WAS THE LARGEST RELIGIOUS GROUP IN THE COUNTRY. Make no mistake... NO MISTAKE... this is nothing more than a full-on attack on gay, lesbian, and transgender persons... and any other American who doesn't fit into the mold that these fucked-up assholes feel is acceptable. Disgusting. Task force? Horse shit. Nothing like your own government spreading fear and persecution to keep their power. I wonder if they'll be required to wear uniforms? Brown shirts, perhaps? No... probably more like white hoods...

Larry King and Sex Toys

   
Until next Sunday then...


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 4: Thor
Original Grade: B+ • Today's Grade: B+
I was never a huge fan of the Thor comic books. Sure I read them off-and-on... sure I loved what Walt Simonson did with the character in his run... but he never got to the level of Doctor Strange or Black Panther or Fantastic Four or Iron Man for me. But then this movie dropped and I became a pretty huge Thor fan. Partly because the movie was done so well... but mostly because I could see just how Thor would work as another piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A lot of the credit can be given to Kenneth Branagh for bringing a majesty to the character and to Asgard that the film needed to sell the story. Asgard was epic in scope and beautifully designed. Silly concepts like Bifröst, a "rainbow bridge," were given perfectly believable representations that worked. And though his full potential wouldn't be seen until Ragnarok, how frickin' perfect is Chris Hemsworth in the role? Not anybody else was a slouch in the acting department. Anthony Hopkins is about the best possible Odin we could have hoped for. Tom Hiddleston brought so much energy to playing Loki that the character has been as much a lynchpin for the MCU as its heroes. Idris Elba, Natalie Portman, Renee Russo, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings... anybody and everybody was so wonderfully, thoughtfully cast. And a standing ovation to Patrick Doyle for the score. Soaring and beautiful, it was a tangible presence throughout the film. Overall, Thor was a crucial step on the road to Avengers that could have been a disaster. Instead it's a worthy addition that totally holds up.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: The frost giant battle puts a pin in what makes Thor be Thor.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: There are two problems with this film that I have a tough time getting past. 1) The entire span of the film happens over like... what... two... three days? Yes I love the movie, but if you stop a minute and think about how insane the timetable is, things get a little ridiculous. 2) They bleached Hemsworth's eyebrows and it looks crazy distracting. Thankfully they gave up on this absurdity in future movies.
   
SIDENOTE: When they decided to do away with the whole secret identity nonsense in Iron Man, I honestly thought that would be the end of it. But then along comes Thor, and Dr. Donald Blake was brought up, then dropped like a hot potato. It was a fantastic decision which has been carried forward (more or less) with each new movie. So smart. Given the rather short runtime of a major motion picture, there's just not time to waste on the whole idea, so why bother? It was cute in the original Superman movies, got tired in the Batman films, and is downright silly now. Sure special effects are so economical and amazing that we can show Superman doing all kinds of crazy awesome stuff... but let's blow precious screen-time having Clark Kent investigate a story. And while Hawkeye is the butt of a lot of jokes when it comes to the Marvel Studios films, I have to say they gave him a really good cameo here as we ramped up for Avengers.

   

Smoke, Fire, and Captain America: The First Avenger

Posted on Monday, August 6th, 2018

Dave!I've been in two fires.

The first one was at a friend's house. He asked for help packing up he and his family's stuff because they were in the path of a wildfire that was out of control and advancing too quickly for them to evacuate on their own. I drove a rental truck up to their place, helped them pack it up, then drove it to his parent's house. By the time I had retrieved my car and headed back, they were told to leave and had evacuated. They ended up losing their garage and a chunk of their roof.

The second fire was at my home (well, the one before last) and it was terrifying. I spent eleven hours on the roof of my apartment building keeping the roof wet and putting out so many small fires that I lost count. Once I climbed down to go to the bathroom because I couldn't hold it any more. When I finally got back on the roof everything had caught fire. Fire on the bushes. Fire on the lawn. Fire on the shed. Fire on the roof. From then on I peed off the roof. Not that it mattered... everybody else had left. When the police came to force me to evacuate, both buildings to the side of me had caught fire. I had no idea if I would ever see my home again as I left.

Luckily, thanks to an amazing group of firefighters, my home was spared while everything around my apartment was burned to the ground or badly damaged. I was told that it was because I stayed behind when everybody else had left that the firefighters decided to hold the line at my building and save it. I was... and still am... incredibly grateful. Everything I owned was in there except the clothes on my back, my car, my hard drive, and the two photo albums I managed to grab as I evacuated.

The price being that I still wake up from time to time in a blind panic because I think I smell smoke.

And on days like today where there are wildfires burning and I smell actual smoke, I have a tough time of it. Apparently that's all it can take to send my head back to the roof of my old apartment when the whole world was burning around me.

The difference being that if I were caught in another fire, I wouldn't worry about losing everything I own as much as I used to. All my photos are stored in the cloud and backed up on a hard drive I keep at work. Everything else is just "stuff" and can (mostly) be replaced.

All I need out of life is underwear and my cats.

And the underwear are optional, as always.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 5: Captain America: The Last Avenger
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
Even as Marvel Studios was pulling all the pieces together to assemble The Avengers I had no idea how Captain America was going to fit into it. Developed in 1940 as a pro-America response to the rise of the Nazis, Cap was kept relevant in the comic books by constantly reinventing him in the face of modern times. But that's in comics. How would they translate a star-spangled antique to the movies and not have him look ridiculous? Well, this movie is how. An origin film through and through The First Avenger stripped away decades of jingoistic baggage to create an every-man hero who wanted to fight for the little guy by standing up to the bullies of the world. Taking place almost entirely during World War II, the story was everything you could hope for in a super-hero movie, and there were zero missteps in how it was laid out. Steve Rogers desperately wants to save people by joining the war effort but he's physically incapable of doing so, and branded 4F for service. But his heart and courage land him in the US Super Soldier Program where science turns him into the most celebrated hero of the war. Along the way he battles classic Cap villain The Red Skull, and absolutely everything about it was flawless.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: When Cap is leading back all the soldiers he rescued after his first outing, you get to see exactly who he is and how he will work in the MCU.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Seriously. Nothing. There's nothing that could have made this a more perfect introduction of Captain Rogers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
   
SIDENOTE: At the end of the movie Cap sacrifices himself to save New York and ends up frozen in the Arctic ice shelf. Fast forward to modern times and he's dug up from the ice to become a founding member of The Avengers and one of the most famous comic book super-heroes of all time. That tracks pretty closely to what we got in the comics, and the movie is painstakingly faithful to the source material. What's interesting is just how closely the events of this film lead into The Avengers. Black Widow came from Iron Man 2, Loki and Hawkeye came from Thor, and The Tesseract came from Captain America: The First Avenger. Everything up until now has been moving the football forward, all in preparation for the home run which was to come. The patience and planning it took to have such a plan in place is absolutely mind-boggling, and Marvel producer Kevin Feige was: The One in charge of keeping it all together. That he's still in charge just goes to show how successful he's been at his job.

   

Deadpool 2 and The Avengers

Posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

Dave!After fucking up just about every single Marvel film they've ever made, 20th Century Fox finally got it right when they unleashed Deadpool on an undeserving world back in 2016. It was shockingly good and easily slid into my third favorite film slot of the year.

Needless to say, my expectations were rather high for the sequel. My fear was that they would just take Ryan Reynolds off the leash, substitute jokes for story, go full-on stupid, and destroy everything that made the first film work so well.

Instead they did the exact opposite of that and I think I might actually like it better than the original...

Deadpool 2 Poster

First of all, Deadpool is just as ruthlessly violent and hilariously funny as ever. This is the role Ryan Reynolds was born to play and he completely owns it in every possible way. But like the poster says, he doesn't come alone. Cable and Domino are with him, and Josh Brolin and Zazie Beetz are everything you could possibly hope for. Domino was particularly surprising, possessing a joy that lights up the screen. She comes dangerously close to stealing the entire show and an argument could be made that her scenes are the best in the film. Zazie could easily carry a solo film, and I hope somebody is seriously investigating it.

If there's a fault(?) in Deadpool 2 it's that the film is so dense with story and jokes that it demands repeat viewings to get it all. It was my intent to see it a second time in the theater but I didn't make it back to the multiplex in time. Now that it's been released on home video I can watch it as many times as I want.

And I will watch it a lot, I'm sure.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 5: The Avengers
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
And here is what we've been leading up to these past four movies. And it did not disappoint. The trick in team-up films like this is always going to be balancing screen time between multiple characters and balancing the power levels of everybody involved so heavy hitters like Thor don't obliterate weaker characters like Hawkeye. Joss Whedon did a superb job of that... and managed to make a witty, fun, and entertaining movie to boot. As if that wasn't achievement enough? The Battle of New York was eye-candy on a level yet unseen. But the best part? The groundwork has just been laid for the next 15 films.
   
MOMENT TO BEAT: Hulk smashing Loki.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: The first ten minutes of the film are spent not with The Avengers but with SHIELD. And while I understand the need to set things up with Loki and The Tesseract, it seems a lot of time (relatively) to invest. I would rather have had half of that cinematic indulgence used elsewhere because a lot of time was spent with SHIELD as it is. There's also the matter of timing, where Captain America and Black Widow can get from New York to Germany in minutes. Other than that, I really hate what they did with Cap's uniform. The helmet is goofy-looking and the nonsensical metallic shoulder cuffs look stupid. And speaking of questionable design, whose idea was it to put the Subway sandwich logo on Stark Tower's helipad? But the thing that bothers me most is how nuking the alien mother ship somehow causes every last Chitauri warrior, transport, and ship to suddenly keel over dead. Talk about lazy writing.
   
SIDENOTE: In the tradition of comic books since the dawn of time, super-heroes end up fighting when they first meet. And the battle between Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor is a good one.

   

International Cat Day and Iron Man 3

Posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Dave!Oh look... it's International Cat Day! As well it should be. I love my cats more than just about anything, so they should have their own day.

My cats decided to celebrate their holiday by eating and sleeping. Though they also decided to walk all over my kitchen counters, which means I have to scrub everything down now. Fun...

Jake and Jenny on the countertops

Oh... and they also put a nice big scratch in my coffee table. Fun...

Jake and Jenny Sleeping by a Big Scratch

The fact that I didn't strangle them today should perfectly illustrate why every day is International Cat Day around my house.

Well, not my house, really. I just pay for everything... I'm pretty sure it's their house.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 7: Iron Man 3
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A
Being the one to helm the film which followed The Avengers must have been a daunting task. In their infinite wisdom Marvel decided to hire Shane Black to write and direct. This was an interesting move but not an altogether bad fit. As writer of the Lethal Weapon movies and the genius that was The Long Kiss Goodnight, he knows how to create an action beat. Many of Black's decisions were questionable. Retooling Iron Man's long-time villain, The Mandarin, as a Ben-Kingsley-enabled decoy for Aldrich Killian from AIM was a bit weak. The modular armor was fun, but was handled poorly (if the parts were 832 miles from Miami, how did they arrive in 10 minutes?)... not to mention that the suit, which has always been powered by the ARC reactor in Tony's chest, suddenly needs to be recharged with electricity? The whole Extremis angle was lifted from a famous reboot arc from the comics, but used entirely differently... not necessarily in a bad way, though it was certainly a step down. And yet... this was a highly entertaining film with fantastic special effects and an awesome finale (Iron Legion!) that makes for good repeat viewing. I love the movie almost as much as the original, though it kind of falls short in the grand scheme of things these five years later so it gets dropped a half-grade.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: I usually hate whiny child actors ruining films that aren't about children, but Ty Simpkins (who plays Harley Keener) is fantastic. IMDB says he's making a Marvel Cinematic Universe return with The Avengers 4 which is kinda cool. Anyway, despite some great action sequences, all the scenes between Tony and Harley are my favorite. With the possible exception of when Tony chops Killian's arm off and says "Yeah, you take a minute." I LOL every time.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Other than the villain being able to magically take over television sets, a trope I absolutely loathe? And the Oracle product placement that's not at all subtle? There are times that seemed as though Tony's dialogue was too scattered and improvised. It didn't come off as natural, and it felt as if Shane Black wasn't sure how to handle it.
   
SIDENOTE: Probably the last Iron Man movie with Robert Downey Jr. which is a darn shame. Seeing hom pop up in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming (not to mention Avengers: Infinity War) is better than nothing, but boy would I like to see another solo Iron Man flick.

   

Berries and Thor: The Dark World

Posted on Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Dave!Ooh! Strawberries and blueberries were on sale!

I've been eating them morning noon and night in an effort to get through them all before they rot. Because the only thing worse than having berries be absurdly expensive is having affordable berries that you end up throwing away...

XXX

Now I'm on the hunt for marionberries, blackberries, or (if I've very lucky) boysenberries on sale.

Thought it's probably better if I don't find them, because those suckers would end up going in a pie, and I don't need that kind of carb load this late in my life!


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 8: Thor: The Dark World
Original Grade: B • Today's Grade: B+
Often seen as a weak link in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon, I actually liked this film very much. Not necessarily for the story, which feels slapped together and disjointed... nor the villain, since Malekith looks more silly than threatening... but for all the parts that work so well. Hemsworth and Hiddleston are totally on their game as Thor and Loki. Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, and Kat Dennings are perfectly inhabiting the roles of Jane, Selvig, and Darcy that they created. But my favorite part is marveling over the sheer adventure of it all. The battle at Vanaheim... the Dark Elves attack... the escape from Asgard... every minute on Svartalfheim... Thor's hammer finally acting exactly like Thor's hammer should... so many cool comic book moments. Marry all that to lush visuals, stunning production design, and epic special effects, and it was a much better movie than some critics made it out to be. This is one of the Marvel Studios films I've only seen a couple times and I hadn't watched it in years. I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would so I'm bumping it up a half grade.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: Loki becoming Captain America. Bless Chris Evans for being such a good sport and making appearances like this!
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Malekith and the Dark Elves were just awful as antagonists. And it drives me bonkers how Jane and Selvig could "science" their way out of a situation they have practically zero knowledge to combat. The result being Jane's "science box" which inexplicably transports exactly the stuff needed for the story? And Selvig's "science poles" which save the day in the most deus ex machina way possible? Beyond lame.
   
SIDENOTE: "The Aether" MacGuffin actually being the Reality Stone in liquid form was just one more step to Avengers: Infinity War... and giving it to The Collector in the mid-credits scene beautifully set up Guardians of the Galaxy. Loki becoming Odin seemed like such a tired decision at the time, but was so wonderfully wrapped up in the third Thor movie, Ragnarok, that it turned out to be a great twist.

   

Art and Captain America: Winter Soldier

Posted on Friday, August 10th, 2018

Dave!This was one of those days.

I compensated by hiding in my bedroom and reading through all the of "Art of the Movie" books from the first eight Marvel Studios films. Except... it's actually nine books because I bought the art book for the Peggy Carter series that was on ABC, which I love (there's also books for the Agents of SHIELD series, but I don't love that show even a little bit). It made me want to watch Agent Carter all over again, but that will have to wait...

Art of Marvel Studios Books

The only book I'm missing is the one for Agent Carter: Season Two, which was an okay-not-great-series, but I'd still like to have it because the production design was fantastic for it. But... $48. Yeesh. That's a chunk of money considering I wasn't a big fan of the show.

And now It's time to re-watch one of the best movies ever so I can finish up this entry!


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 9: Captain America: Winter Soldier
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
There's a part of me that wants to call this my favorite Marvel Studios film. It gives us a flawless portrayal of Captain America, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Nick Fury, Agent 13, and also? Robert Redford(!) as Alexander Pierce! But the real beauty of this movie is that it defines Captain America in a way that makes his 1940's mentality painfully relevant to the modern world, and positions him as the definitive conscience of the entire MCU. And speaking of relevant... how cool is it that a film set in 2014 managed to continue story elements of the first movie set in 1942 so amazingly well. Bucky, Zola, and Hydra were old ideas made fresh. And not in a way that rang hollow or was contrived. Even Cap's original uniform (which is far superior to what he got in The Avengers) was dusted off and came back. Genius.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: Pick one. There are no wasted moments in this entire film. The action sequences are all brilliant. But that scene where Steve goes to visit a dying Peggy Carter... yargh... a lump in my throat every time.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Not a damn thing. If a perfect comic book movie exists, this is a contender.
   
SIDENOTE: The way they updated Falcon is, as with everything else in this movie, perfect. By the way... that's Jenny Agutter as the lone woman on The World Security Council and the one that Black Widow impersonates to infiltrate SHIELD. Many Americans probably won't know who she is, but anybody familiar with British Television knows that this is just as cool casting as Robert Redford!

   

Caturday 72 and Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted on Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Dave!I fell asleep on the couch last night while watching the Marvel Studios movie for today. Not easy to do when it's Guardians of the Galaxy, which is one of my favorites of the bunch. Guess it just goes to show how exhausted I was.

I woke up again when I got an alert that the security camera in my driveway had gone down.

This is the email I got...

Your Security Camera is Down!

And... look closer...

XXX

I'm thinking that Fake Jake might be behind my camera going down? The rascal.

I have two more cameras out front, so I was in no hurry to fix whatever it was that was wrong. Instead I finished up my movie and went to bed.

As for Real Jake? Just helping me open my mail this morning...

Fake Jake Opens Mail

Fake Jake Opens Mail

Fake Jake Opens Mail

The rascal.

Jenny would rather lay on the floor for some reason...

Jenny on the Floor

When I went to Petco for kibble, I saw that the low-carb Tiki Cat dry food was on sale. This was cool... until I noticed that one of the flavors was marked as "clearance," which scares the hell out of me. I really, really hope that they aren't discontinuing this stuff. It's the most affordable food I've found that doesn't overload on carbs. In the meanwhile though, I snagged all eight bags and my cats are set for the rest of the year...

Jenny Investigates Tiki Cat

I can probably replace the dry with... something... I guess. But nobody makes the Tiki Cat Velvet Mousse that Jenny eats. And I seriously don't want to have to go back to blending my own. So gross.

Fingers crossed I won't have to.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 10: Guardians of the Galaxy
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
I re-watched this movie for the fifth?... sixth? time back in June, so I didn't really have to watch it again to jot down my thoughts. But I did it anyway. And I am hooked from the opening scene of Star-Lord dancing through a dead planet every time. If that doesn't sum up my feelings about Marvel's first "sci-fi" entry into the MCU, I don't know what will. The humor... the characters... the settings... the story... the music... all perfect. And perfectly executed, with amazing casting and brilliant special effects (which are so crucial to a film like this). I've admitted that I laughed when I first heard they were bringing this comic book to the big screen, because characters like Rocket and Groot were just an absurd thing to try and translate. But how wrong was I? And after watching Avengers: Infinity War, I'm even more impressed, because they were able to seamlessly mix Rocket and Groot with everybody else to amazing effect.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: Escape from the Kyln? Escape from Knowhere? The battle at Xandar maybe? I dunno. There are entirely too many good scenes to pick from. I can't even single it out to scenes with one character, because I love them all.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Ronan the Accuser is a powerful Kree warrior, but I don't get how he was able to wield the Power Stone. I understand that he only touched it for a few seconds, which is why he didn't die... but how was he able to command it after he smashed it into his Universal Weapon hammer? He's an important Kree but, in the end, he's just a Kree. Not a god or ancient being. Or, in Peter's case, the son of an ancient being. It's a puzzler. And I still think the whole "holding hands" at the end was kinda silly.
   
SIDENOTE: It's amazing how critical this film was to everything that came after it in the MCU. Thanos... Gamora... Nebula... The Collector... and, looking even further forward for next year's Captain Marvel, The Kree. This was also the first time we got a full explanation on The Infinity Stones as well. Doesn't seem possible that such important stuff was set up in what's essentially a comedy, but there's Marvel Studios being all brilliant again.

   

Bullet Sunday 474 and Avengers: Age of Ultron

Posted on Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Dave!Time to be cruel to be kind... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Birdfeeding! I used to feed birds only in the winter, but started feeding them in the Summertime as entertainment for my cats. Problem is, when I hang the feeder in front of their window, the birds stay away... unlike in winter where food is scarce and they don't care. Apparently having predators staring at you while dining is unappetizing if you have other options. So I moved the feeder to the corner of the house where there are no windows so I could get rid of the feed I had bought. Problem is... I felt bad when there was no more food, so I kept on buying it because they kept hanging around. The little scroungers run through loads of the stuff, and I'm refilling it three times a week now...

Insatiable

Probably wouldn't be so bad if they were content to eat the cheap seed... but their favorite is thistle seed, AKA nyjer seed. The stuff is crazy expensive. I've tried mixing it with the cheap seed, but they pick it out and drop it on the ground... along with loads of thistle seed shells. I can't seem to win when it comes to birds.

   
• Bears! So there I was... flipping through channels... when I ran across We Bare Bears, which is one of the best things I've ever seen...

It's in its fourth season. No idea how I've missed it for this long, but I'm kinda obsessed with it now.

   
• Bears Again! What makes me love We Bare Bears even more? A storyboard artist from the show created an animatic of Ice Bear punching a Neo Nazi...

Bear Punches Neo Nazi

The tiki torch is a nice touch. You can see it over at Cartoon Brew.

   
• Unsatiable! When internet controversy was unleashed against the new Netflix series Insatiable, calling for it to be canceled before it even aired, I was intrigued. Rather than jump on the bandwagon I decided to take a look. It was funny as hell and, though it was pretty crude, I didn't understand what the fuss was about...

Insatiable

UNTIL THINGS TURNED TO SHIT IN THE TENTH EPISODE. Holy crap. I have never seen a show completely turn a corner like this. It's as if they had no idea what to do for an ending and just slapped some stupid crap together. EXCEPT THERE WASN'T AN ENDING! Blargh. The only way I was offended by this show was that Netflix greenlit it when IT HAD NO ENDING!

   
• Potato! Netflix kinda redeemed themselves after the disaster of Insatiable by recommending The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I don't go much for period films... and especially not period romance films... but this one has really beautiful atmosphere to it...

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Taking place in the days after World War II, author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a reading club. Curious to know more about the society, Juliet writes back... and a story unfolds. It's a nice escape, if you're looking for that wort of thing.

   
• Agatha! I've read most of the Agatha Christie novels. My mom loved them, and they made for good reading. My favorite has always been Death on the Nile, followed by Five Little Pigs and probably And Then There Were None. Amazon Prime is now showing an adaption of Ordeal by Innocence, which is one I remember...

Ordeal by Innocence

After having watched all three parts while I was working this morning, I was a bit taken aback that they had changed the story. Which is to say that they changed the murderer. I'm sure other details were altered as well, but I don't remember things well enough to list them. It seems strange to me that they would adapt a book and change it so significantly. If they didn't want to tell the story Agatha Christie had written, why wouldn't they have just written their own story? Setting all that aside, the series is pretty good and has a great cast lead by Bill Nighy. If you've got three hours to kill, there are worse things to watch. Like Insatiable, for example.

   
Time to regroup and reload. See you next Sunday.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 11: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Original Grade: A • Today's Grade: A-
I'm just going to get this out of the way... Ultron was not nearly as horrifying a villain as he should have been. The absurdity of it has me dropping Age of Ultron a half grade, just because it's even more jarring on repeat viewings. While casting James Spader as Ultron's voice was genius, he should have been an unstoppable, unhinged murder-bot instead of the philosophically-bent loon they made him into. That being said, it was great to see The Avengers back in action... even if this was a disjointed mess of a movie which wasted too much time on nonsensical diversions. Oh well. The fight scenes are amazing. The Vision has some serious design issues (WHY PUT DRIBBLE ON HIS CHIN?!?), but is as cool as you'd hope. Wanda's powers are all over the place, but it was great to get the Scarlet Witch onboard. Ultimately it's a heck of an entertaining film that still makes an A grade. It's just that this should have been an A+ movie and it wasn't.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: That opening attack on Baron von Strucker's fortress in Sokovia was pretty great. It was a fight that was very well balanced between our heroes so that nobody was left out. Oh... and I loved the scene when everybody was trying to lift Thor's hammer and Captain America nudged it a bit. The look on Thor's face? Priceless.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Ultron. Holy shit what a boring waste of what should have been a ruthlessly scary super-villain. And his design sucked too. Thor's sidequest was silly.
   
SIDENOTE: It's fairly obvious that Joss Whedon did not get to make exactly the movie he was wanting to make... and he has confirmed as much. If the studio knew that they were going to be dictating a bunch of crap to be worked into the movie, they should have known better than to force it on Joss Whedon who is at his best when he works alone and can fulfill his vision for the project. What's interesting is that Whedon said "never again" after the movie wrapped... but then ended up taking over for Zack Snyder on the abhorrent Justice League where he was even more at the mercy of the studio. I can only guess that Warner Bros. paid him a shit-ton of money.

   

Wildfires and Ant-Man

Posted on Monday, August 13th, 2018

Dave!Whenever a fire siren goes off in town, my heart stops for a second. When you live in a city as small as mine, there's a good chance that somebody you know has their home on fire. Not that it's any less sad when it's a stranger losing their home, but it does hit you harder.

Right now it's especially terrible when the siren sounds because a fire happening when there's wildfires all around us just seems cruel.

Today the smoke was so thick in the air that I could barely make out the nearby hills. If you look at this map...

Washington State Fire Map

...that huge red dot in the middle is just North of where I live. It's a wildfire that's currently 29,186 acres in size and only 5% contained. When the winds blow South, the smoke comes with it. For me that means a day of burning eyes and difficulty breathing.

But that's not the worst part.

The smoke is a constant reminder that hundreds... thousands... of animals are losing their homes and living in terror. And many of those may not survive it. Unlike people, they don't understand what's happening, and that has been weighing heavy on me.

Our local animal shelter has had to stop taking in owner surrenders because they just don't have room. They have to shelter animals from people under evacuation with what little space they have available. And this also weighs heavy on me. I try and think of how terrified Jake and Jenny would be in a shelter... trapped in a small cage with nowhere to hide from the noise and people. I can't imagine how traumatized they would be. I can't imagine that they would ever be the same. I just can't imagine. It's just too awful.

A part of me wants to run down and adopt another cat... do my part to free up some space. But I don't think that's for me. Jake and Jenny are perfect. Life with Jake and Jenny is perfect. We've adapted to each other very well and I think they are happy here. If introducing another element in any way disrupts that, it wouldn't be fair to Jake and Jenny. Or me.

And yet...

I cannot say that I won't give in and take a chance.

I really need to unsubscribe from the Human Society newsletter and Facebook feed. Too many animals need homes.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 12: Ant-Man
Original Grade: A • Today's Grade: A
I knew I would love this movie the minute that Paul Rudd was attached to star. Then they went and made it into a caper flick so it would stand out from the pack, which was about a brilliant a move as they could have made. I ended up really loving it. Still holds up today. I'm having to really restrain myself from bumping it up to an A+ here, because I have a tough time seeing how the first Ant-Man movie could have been much better than this.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: That opening scene where SHIELD's headquarters (as seen in Captain America: Winter Soldier (three movies ago) are just being built... and we get a de-aged Michael Douglas interacting with Peggy Carter and Howard Stark... thus immediately cementing Ant-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe before he even appears on screen! Genius! But... yeah... the fight in Cassie's bedroom was pretty great. They played with the size altering abilities in interesting ways, which was a lot of fun.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Once again... the villain has the same powers as the hero but is a little stronger. It gets so old. And yet... from a story perspective I get it. Yellow Jacket kinda fell out of Scott Lang's origin story, so it was a logical choice. Fortunately, we got Ghost in the sequel, which was something entirely different.
   
SIDENOTE: With every viewing I remember how upset I was before the movie came out when I heard that Scott Lang would be in the suit instead of the original Ant-Man from the comics. Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne were founding members of The Avengers, and it was a real slap in the face they were being side-stepped. And then I saw the movie and the way they so brilliantly integrated Hank Pym into the history of everything the MCU was building. It was a brilliant move and made perfect sense. It was at this point that I finally just stopped questioning what Marvel Studios was doing until I saw the full film. In most every case they end up nailing it, so why waste the energy?

   

Erasure and Captain America: Civil War

Posted on Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Dave!Today I headed over to Seattle to see Erasure with my long-time internet friends Matt and Scott. It was my third time seeing the band, and Andy and Vince were amazing as ever.

If I had a complaint, it was The Moore Theater Seattle has no air conditioning. I was in the front row and had (relatively) few people next to me and I was dying. Poor Andy Bell was dancing and singing his guts out and I thought he was literally going to die. But he was a total trooper...

Erasure Seattle 2018

Erasure Seattle 2018

Erasure Seattle 2018

Erasure Seattle 2018

Erasure Seattle 2018

The set list was as follows...

  1. Oh L'Amour (One of two tracks from Wonderland, their first album)
  2. Ship of Fools (One of four tracks from The Innocents, their third and most popular album)
  3. Breathe (One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums, Nightbird... their eleventh)
  4. Just a Little Love (First of four tracks from their seventeenth and current album, World Be Gone)
  5. Chains of Love (Second of four tracks from The Innocents, their third and most popular album)
  6. Sweet Summer Loving (Second of four tracks from their seventeenth and current album, World Be Gone)
  7. Victim of Love (One of two tracks from The Circus, their second album)
  8. Phantom Bride (Third of four tracks from The Innocents, their third and most popular album)
  9. World Be Gone (Third of four tracks from their seventeenth and current album, World Be Gone)
  10. Who Needs Love Like That (Second of two tracks from Wonderland, their first album)
  11. Atomic (a Blondie cover)
  12. Love to Hate You (lone track from Chorus, their fifth album)
  13. Blue Savannah Song (first of two tracks from Wild!, their fourth album)
  14. Drama! (second of two tracks from Wild!, their fourth album)
  15. Love You to the Sky (Fourth of four tracks from their seventeenth and current album, World Be Gone)
  16. Sometimes (Second of two tracks from The Circus, their second album)
  17. Always (lone track from I Say, I Say, I say, their sixth album)
  18. Stop! (from the Crackers International EP... or album 3.5, I guess)
  19. A Little Respect (Fourth of four tracks from The Innocents, their third and most popular album)

They skipped tracks from Erasure (their seventh album), Cowboy (their eighth, and probably my favorite, album), Loveboat (their ninth album), Other People's Songs (their tenth album), Union Street (their twelfth album), Light at the End of the World (their thirteenth album), Tomorrow's World (their fourteenth album), Snow Globe (their fifteenth... a Christmas album), and The Violet Flame (their sixteenth album).

Songs I would have liked to have heard? Heavenly Action, Weight of the World, just about anything from Cowboy plus Don't Say You Love Me, and I Broke It All in Two.

Not that I can really complain though... nineteen awesome songs was above and beyond!

If you ever have a chance to see them live, Erasure is worth the ticket of admission.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 13: Captain America: Civil War Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+ Holy crap... what if Robert Downey Jr. had said no? What would this movie have been then? Chris Evans has made no secret of the fact that he never really wanted to sign on for Captain America because he had his fill of super-hero movies with the two awful Fantastic Four flicks. But he was talked into it, and signed a contract for a set number of appearances as Cap. And that was smart. Get the big money while he could, then move on to the directing career he wanted which would pay a lot less. He later extended his contract to include Avengers 4 when Avengers: Infinity War was split, but it's assumed that's the end of it. What's so cool is that Evans is such a stand-up guy that he agreed to cameo appearances in Thor: The Dark World and Spider-Man: Homecoming outside of his contract. Marvel Studios, in its infinite wisdom, decided to make the most of the original Captain America while they had him, and essentially created another Avengers movie instead of a Cap solo film. Taking the general idea from the comic book event of the same name, Civil War was a way to tear everything apart before bringing it back together again. And they pulled out all the stops doing it. In addition to getting the first appearances of Spider-Man and Black Panther, we also get Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Black Widow, The Falcon, Agent 13, Ant-Man, War Machine, Hawkeye, The Vision, and Scarlet Witch. When you consider that this could have easily been a movie with Cap as its only hero battling some random villain, that's beyond incredible. It was, of course, just a warm-up. I don't know that this was a better film than Winter Soldier, but it was a comic book fan's ultimate dream movie at the time. It was certainly mine. Kinda still is.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: Wow does Marvel Studios have the whole de-aging thing down! Seeing young Robert Downey Jr. at the front-end of the film was so cool. And it wasn't just for kicks... it actually had real relevance to the story being told. But, of course, the scene to beat would have to be the airport battle. Finally. Finally! After spending most my life waiting for a live-action super-hero battle that wasn't a pile of shit (I'm looking at you, X-Men 3) we got it. It didn't hurt that Spider-Man and Black Panther were in the mix, and absolutely everybody was used to their full potential. Including... Giant Man!
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Wanda accidentally blew up part of a building when she levitated an exploding Crossbones who was in the middle of exploding. Sure some people got killed because of her inexperience. But the alternative was a lot more people on the ground getting wiped out? Including Captain America? I don't get how that pertinent fact was never raised in the entirety of the film. It bothers me because it's the whole turning point for The Accords being enacted, and it doesn't really make much sense.
   
SIDENOTE: Still hilarious to see Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei in a movie together again (I'm a big fan of Only You). Red Wing, which was a real-live falcon pal to The Falcon in the comics was made a drone in the movies. Once again we have Marvel being faithful to the source material... just updating it in a way that makes perfect sense! The Incredible Hulk is a movie largely ignored from the Marvel Studios canon, even though it was firmly established to be a part of it. And every once in a while, they drag out General Thunderbolt Ross to remind people of that. This actually makes me happy, because though Mark Ruffalo is better-suited to the role, the hulk movie was not a bad film at all. I expected that there would be a good reason for Thor and The Hulk being left out of Civil War, I just didn't expect it to be as good a reason as we were handed in Thor: Ragnarok. Once again, Marvel Studios knows exactly what they are doing.

   

Bird TV and Doctor Strange

Posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Dave! I decided that I didn't want to spend money on bird seed if the birds didn't want to entertain my cats, because the seed they want to eat is expensive stuff. And so... I moved the feeder back to the window with the cat tree, figuring that this would be the end of it because the birds are afraid of the cats looking at them... except... not so much any more. If the feeder has the nyjer seed they love, the birds are more than happy to put fear aside. Darnit. Now I guess I have to keep buying the stuff because Jake and Jenny go nuts over their new television station...

Bird Feeder Shenanigans

Bird Feeder Shenanigans

Bird Feeder Shenanigans

Bird Feeder Shenanigans

I suppose it beats a catnip addiction.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 14: Doctor Strange
Original Grade: A • Today's Grade: A+
The two Marvel heroes I love above all others are Doctor Strange and Black Panther. To see The Master of the Mystic Arts hit the screen in such a spectacular way... and know that Black Panther was coming a little over a year later? Comic book Nirvana. That Doctor Strange ended up being so amazing was just icing on the cake. I don't know why I didn't give it a top A+ score when I first saw it, but upon repeat viewings there's no question it deserves it. The visuals were stunning. The story was an origin story, but it was a good origin story. Some changes they made to get here were terrific... Wong becoming an important character in his own right instead of a manservant stereotype, for example. Some changes were both good and bad... The Ancient One becoming a Celtic woman was good in that it broke another stereotype, but erasing a major Asian character was not good. Other decisions were bad (see below) but not enough to ruin the movie. When taken as a whole, Doctor Strange not only gave us a look at the mystic side of the MCU, it was just a really great movie. I think I love it more every time I see it.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: The battle in Mirror Dimension New York was flawless. To distinguish itself from other super-hero battles, Doctor Strange needed to do something entirely different. The trippy nature of this fight fit the bill perfectly.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: It still irks me that Marvel Studios eliminated Tibet from Doctor Strange's origin. Yes, yes, I understand that China is a big market and they were being politically "sensitive" to make sure that the film would be shown there... but still. It sucks.
   
SIDENOTE: I didn't think it could get much better than seeing Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation act as a supporting character in the film. Little did I know that it would go on to even greater importance in Avengers: Infinity War. Imbuing it with a certain level of sentience was genius.

   

Loneliness and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Posted on Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Dave! I've recently run across the Campaign to End Loneliness.

At first I thought it was kind of a crazy idea... I like being alone most of the time. What's so bad about being alone? But then I watched a couple of their videos and realized that being alone is not the same as loneliness...


Thanks to my cats, the internet, and being able to travel, I don't have to be lonely if I don't want to be. The campaign is primarily concerned about elderly people who have difficulty leaving the house may not even be able to use the internet to stay in contact with other people.

Now that would suck.

And any one of us could be there one day.

Something to think about. If somebody you know might be lonely, might want to take a minute and check in.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 15: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Original Grade: A • Today's Grade: A
This was a wildly entertaining movie with some genuinely touching moments, and I wouldn't dream of saying otherwise. But it was also somewhat problematic, which becomes more and more noticeable upon repeat viewings. Ego's whole end-game... his "Expansion Plan" to convert the universe into him... is really silly. I'm not saying that Peter's father shouldn't have been a Celestial, but I wish the cornerstone of Marvel's sci-fi side was more... science fictiony... instead of fantasy (a side of the MCU we haven't seen yet). Even so, I loved the movie and am happy at how well it folded into the larger picture of where the Marvel Universe was headed.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: The opening credits. I mean, seriously.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: In addition to Ego feeling like the wrong approach, the film seemed like it needed to be a bit more streamlined. Between The Ravagers and The Sovereign and Nebula and Starhawk/Original Guardians being tossed in the mix, it felt like there could have been a stronger narrative if things were simpler.
   
SIDENOTE: Baby Groot has to be one of the more genius creations to come out of the MCU. Adorable, but more than just an ornamental. He was both effective as a character and useful as a story element. The skill to make that work makes me glad that Disney is keeping with James Gunn's script even as they fire James Gunn as a director. Time will tell if his replacement can do justice to his ideas. I certainly hope so.

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Smoking and Spider-Man: Homecoming

Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2018

Dave!It's Friday! And I'm heading over the mountains again! Where, hopefully, there will be a lot less smoke than there is here. I'm having a hard time understanding how there's anything left around us to burn. We've had fires every summer for years now. Is it too much to hope for just one summer where I'm not having to struggle to breathe?

I need a vacation from smoke. But that's just over six weeks away. Hope I survive that long.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 16: Spider-Man: Homecoming
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
I thought that the first two Tobey Maguire /slash/ Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies were good. Then it all turned to shit in Spider-Man 3, and I was kinda done with the character. Then came The Amazing Spider-Man and its awful sequel and I was really done. At least I was until Captain America: Civil War came along and showed that Spider-Man could not only work in a movie... he could be exceptional in a movie. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the solo film to drop. Say hello to Spider-Man: Homecoming. So many things were perfect about it, but the biggest thing they did to get me onboard was make Spider-Man a kid. That's how he started, it's what made him unique, and the comics went off the rails when they had him getting married and all that. Here we are at the beginning, which is the best part, and it made for a fantastic entertainment. It's also good to see Spider-Man look, move, and act like you'd imagine Spider-Man would look, move, and act. Giving the film an A+ almost seems inadequate.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: Every scene between Tony and Peter is gold... especially the first one. But when Peter opens the door to Liz's house and you get that reveal? Then the follow-up drive to the prom? Sinister.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: I question turning the Spider-Man suit into Iron Man suit light. They address this in the film when Stark takes it away, but it still seems to go against the character. Not nearly as much as the suit he gets in Infinity War, but still.
   
SIDENOTE: Having Tony Stark be Peter Parker's mentor was yet another stroke of genius from Marvel Studios. What I was unsure about was turning Aunt May from a decrepit old woman to Marisa Tomei in Civil War. But once you see how it works, it's actually really smart. And now that she's found out that Peter is Spider-Man? Well... no old woman having a heart attack. Instead we've got Aunt May saying "What the f#@%?" more genius. Aunt May is fun instead of a wet blanket on the movie. That's a good thing. An observation... I noticed that the principal in Peter's school is the same actor who played one of Cap's Howling Commandos, so I Googled it. Sure enough, it's the same guy: Kenneth Choi. Relative? Descendant? Another observation... When Happy Hogan is loading up the transport plane he talks about a new shield prototype for Captain America. Why would he be making a new shield for somebody he took the original shield from? Weird. One last thought... Michael Keaton's The Vulture was far better, scarier, and capable villain than we got from Ultron, which makes me appreciate this film even more. The great soundtrack was just icing on the cake.

   

Caturday 73 and Thor: Ragnarok

Posted on Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Dave!The bird feeder outside the window continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.

The cats are happy to spend hours watching the birds come and go. Jake spends the most time watching Bird TV... pawing at the window and chattering at them, but Jenny is a bit stealthier about it, preferring to hide like the hunter she is...

Jenny the Bird Watcher

No doubt in my mind that both my cats would be massacring birds by the dozens if they could get at them. Just one more reason to keep them indoors, I suppose. Poor birds.

And poor bugs.

Any time a bug finds its way into my house, Jake and Jenny are all too happy to hunt them down. Like the poor cricket which Jenny was kind enough to bring in this past week. I saw she had something in her mouth... feared the worst... then watched as she spit him on the floor so she could chase him. Jake also decided to run up and get in on the action...

Jenny the Bug Hunter

Jenny the Bug Hunter

Jenny the Bug Hunter

As much as Jake likes chasing an occasional bug, he seems to prefer his toys. In addition to Mufasa, his stuffed lion, he loves his Peeps Bunny...

Jake and Peeps Bunny

And he really loves Catnip Lobster...

Jake and Catnip Lobster

Every once in a while he plays "Watch the Dummy" and will throw it on the bed and wait for me to pick it up and hand it back...

Jake and Catnip Lobster

Jake and Catnip Lobster

Jake and Catnip Lobster

Toys are far preferable to bird corpses, I'd think.

They're definitely preferable to bug vomit.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 17: Thor: Ragnarok
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
Easily one of my favorite Marvel Studios films... perhaps my very favorite... I love this film now as much as I ever did. Deciding to take Thor in a more comedic direction and deconstruct everything he was to this point was absolutely brilliant, and made the character more cinematically interesting than he had ever been.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: All of them. I mean, yeah, the Hulk reveal and subsequent fight is awesome... as is Valkyrie's... and any scene with the incomparable Cate Blanchett's Hela was gold... and Jeff Goldblum was too perfect as The Grandmaster... and that gorgeous battle between Hela and the Valkyrie... and the battle on the Rainbow Bridge with Thor at full power... and Thor meeting Doctor Strange is the stuff that comic book dreams are made of... and... and... and... it goes on and on and on.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Though I still think it was shortsighted and selfish to kill off The Warriors Three.
   
SIDENOTE: Could there have been a bigger love letter to the art of Jack Kirby than this movie? With every new viewing, I'm even more amazed at just how beautiful and faithful Sakaar is to Kirby's work.

   

Bullet Sunday 475 and Black Panther

Posted on Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Dave!Attempting to battle my way through the smoke... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Fires! The weather over the mountains was a bit hazy, but the skies were clear much of the time which was a nice change. Looking towards home this morning revealed what was awaiting me. At the top of the pass it was socked in and it never let up all the way home...

Smoke and Fire Summer 2018

Supply trucks are on the road, headed towards the fire front...

Smoke and Fire Summer 2018

And... I'm home. Such as it is...

Smoke and Fire Summer 2018

The largest of the fires, Cougar Creek (currently 36719 acres), is just 16 miles north of me. It's spread a bit since I last checked, but is now 35% contained, which is pretty impressive work by our firefighters considering it was just 5% contained on Monday...

Central Washington Fire Map Summer 2018

Central Washington Fire Map Summer 2018

I guess now is the time we pray for rain. But no lightning, which is what started this fire in the first place.

   
• Entertainment! Turns out the best toy for a cat is still a cardboard box...

Jake and Jenny in a Box

Anything I can do to keep the cats entertained inside the house instead of out in a smokey catio is a good thing.

   
• Soul. Aretha Franklin passed away which means the Queen of Soul has left us. There are many songs she's given us which put her on the throne... but my favorite is her duet with George Michael for I knew You Were Waiting...

Too many classic artists are leaving us too soon. Rest in peace, Miss Franklin.

   
• Bears! This video came across my newsfeed and I had to watch it multiple times...

I always feel bad for animals who have their territory encroached on by humans. The least we can do is let them take a dip in our pools from time to time.

   
• Outrage! Oh... I am outraged alright, Pat. Don't you worry your foolish old head about that.

Lock children in cages and separate them from their parents perhaps never to return because of a line on a map = God's work.

Reading to children = Work of the devil and the end of all humanity.

Just die already you vile, worthless, repugnant piece of shit.

   
• EnChroma! Instead of spending billions on a stupid wall that won't work... and a military parade to compensate for a tiny, tiny penis on a fucking lunatic... why not buy these EnChroma glasses for everybody who needs them? There are literally thousands of things that are a better use for money this country doesn't have...


And yet... here we are. Getting exactly what we deserve.

   
And that's a wrap on bullets for this week. Tune in again in a mere seven days...


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 18: Black Panther
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
"Hey Auntie." =sigh= As I had mentioned, My favorite Marvel heroes have always been Doctor Strange and Black Panther. To get movies this amazing for both characters was a dream come true. Though calling Black Panther "good" is an epic understatement. This film was sublime. Steeped in African culture, we got something truly different than the Western super-hero fare which had come before. The fact that they were so painfully faithful to the source material is just a bonus. It was all here. The vast hidden wealth and mind-boggling technical superiority of Wakanda. The Dora Milaje. Character references old and new. And then they went and made T'Challa into a super-hero James Bond!
   
SCENE TO BEAT: That casino fight and subsequent car chase in South Korea was pretty spectacular.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Not a dang thing.
   
SIDENOTE: I want sequels to all the Marvel movies. All of them. There is not a single film that's left me thinking "Well, that's enough of that." But when it comes to the sequel I want to see right this minute... it's Black Panther. Things could head in a hundred different directions and almost all of them are going to be fascinating. And then there's the Wakanda outreach program, which has fascinating implications for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Surely another movie is coming soon, right? The first one made like... a billion dollars!

   

Future MCU and Avengers: Infinity War

Posted on Monday, August 20th, 2018

Dave!Since this is the last day of my re-reviewing all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies until Ant-Man and The Wasp is released on home video, I thought I'd do something related to that.

Here's a list of Marvel Studios movies I'd like to see that are not sequels...

  • Black Widow. Come on already. This is a literal no-brainer. Natasha has been an anchor for the entire MCU for years, and it's insane that she hasn't been given a story of her own. And, let me tell you, she had better get some major guest stars to cameo.
  • Alpha Flight. Canada's version of The Avengers has long been one of my favorite Marvel teams. And it's a movie which could easily be taken into a supernatural direction, expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a new area. Or just create a straightforward super-team and tie it heavily to Canada in order to keep it unique. Either way, it's a book with characters who would work great as a movie.
  • Fantastic Four. All three previous Non-Marvel-Studios Fantastic Four movies were total shit. First of all, not one of them got The Thing right, which is key. Second of all, the take has always been all wrong. The way to approach this franchise is to go with the idea of them being "Imaginauts" and the first family of adventure.
  • Namor. This is kinda a tricky property given that he is basically a cooler version of Aquaman. But given the right "launch" in a Fantastic Four film, he could easily fall out into a solo movie which would be incredible in the right hands.
  • Moon Knight. This is essentially Marvel's "Batman," and if he were handled right he could make for a very cool movie. Or a Netflix series.
  • Captain Britain & Excalibur. This is kinda a no-brainer, in that he's a popular character tied to a location that's not New York. And while Excalibur is essentially a team of X-Men-type characters, they wouldn't have to be.
  • Vision & Scarlet Witch. Seeing these two characters work so perfectly in Infinity War really had me thinking how amazing a film would be. Their powers are visually interesting which makes for very cool fight scene potential. Their romantic angle makes for an interesting story element. And their comic book history has a lot to draw from.
  • Wonder Man. Simon Williams as a character could make for a fun movie for a dozen different reasons... but if they were to capitalize on the time he was a Hollywood stuntman it would be an excellent setup for comedy gold.
  • Hawkeye. To be honest, I think this would be much better as a Netflix series. And yet, it could also work as a movie that's entirely different than anything that's come before. The direction that Matt Fraction and David Aja took Clint in the comics was sublime, and I think it's a story that needs to be told.
  • Nova. We've already gotten a look at The Nova Corps in Guardians of the Galaxy, so a Nova movie would already have a base to build from (assuming Xandar could be restored after getting destroyed by Thanos).
  • Longshot. This series had it all... a really fun character thrown into bizarre situations with a fantastic villain to keep things interesting. Could be total cinematic eye candy and highly entertaining if they stuck to the comic book roots.
  • Power Pack. Even though this was a comic book geared towards children, I found it to be highly entertaining. This could be one of those films that's made for children but can be appreciated by adults... like so many films that Disney has already made. This is the perfect franchise to turn into a movie.

Not included in my list, but obvious contenders, are The X-Men... which has been hopelessly fucked up in past films and deserves an official Marvel Studios treatment at last. From there it's just a short hop to Avengers vs. X-Men. Also? Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) needs to shake out of all this somehow... though I'm not exactly sure how. Despite being an amazing character, her powers are kinda goofy, and I'm not sure how they're going to A) depict them in a realistic way on the big screen and B) make sure there's no confusion between her and Captain Marvel.

Needless to say, I am hugely interested in where Marvel Studios will be going after Captain Marvel, Avengers 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 are in the can. My guess it we'll start hearing about some of it early next year.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 19: Avengers: Infinity War
Original Grade: A • Today's Grade: A+
The more times I watch this film, the more I love it... hence it jumping to a perfect A+ score. It seems impossible that a movie so epic in scope holds together this well. Still, it's a dense story, which is why I think it needs repeat viewings to be appreciated. I first reviewed this film just four months ago... all the things I love about it have grown stronger while the things I didn't seem to fall away. That's the mark of a great movie.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: Any moment where Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation is treated as a character. Making it sentient was total genius, and I absolutely love the way it interacted with Iron Man and Spider-Man on Ebony Maw's ship.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: I still think that Peter Quill getting all emotional and being responsible for Thanos winning on Titan was stupid. I don't care how much he thinks he loves Gamora, it was just ridiculously out of character to have him check out and be an idiot. They could have fixed this by just having Thanos overpower the heroes and leave. End scene.
   
SIDENOTE: As of this film, the only one of The Nine Relms we haven't seen is Alfheim, home of the Light Elves. Maybe eventually?

   

Lock… Her?… Up

Posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

Dave!Love? Love is not forever. Love dies every day.

Diamonds? Diamonds aren't forever. They're tough, but can be crushed and even burned.

Tweets though? Tweets are here for all eternity. We see the ramifications of it constantly. Tweets come back to haunt people on an almost daily basis.

Take for example...

XXX

I don't use Twitter much.

I've got a blog to come back and haunt me forever.

   

Puddles Near Midnight

Posted on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Dave!Being allergic to the wildfire smoke that fills the air means that sleep is rare for me. So when I was awakened by a big crash downstairs at 11:48pm, I had zero ambition to run downstairs and see what happened. The alarms weren't going off, so I was relatively certain that it was just the cats goofing off and not somebody breaking in to steal my air purifier.

Thanks to sleeping pills and antihistamines, I feel back asleep in short order.

When I woke up I ran through the security camera footage on my phone and saw that the crash was Jake knocking a stack of DVDs off of my dining room counter. No big deal.

When it was time for the cats' breakfast I went downstairs, picked up the DVDs, filled bowls with food, then went to set them down at the feeding station and...

...STEPPED IN A BIG PUDDLE OF WATER!

What the heck?

Back to the security camera footage, where I saw that Jenny was getting a drink at the same time that Jake knocked the DVDs to the floor...

Jenny and the Water Dish

Jenny and the Water Dish

Jenny and the Water Dish

The amusing part happened after Jenny spilled water everywhere. Both cats decided to go to the feeding station and sit there at the edge of the puddle... just staring at a wet floor, I guess...

Jenny and the Water Dish

And what weird cat antics await me tonight?

Only Jake and Jenny know for sure.

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Science Fiction

Posted on Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Dave!Tom Bailey's post Thompson Twins music is a nostalgic tour de force for 80's fans, and I am totally in love with his latest: Science Fiction. Yes, he has never been a lyrical genius as he pulls entire songs from cliches and sometimes feels like he comes up with rhymes just for the sake of rhyming, but there's some terrific stuff here.

The guy definitely knows how to write a hook that slays...

My thoughts on the album...

  1. Science Fiction. This song is actually kind of brilliant. Bailey takes the idea of "The Book of Love" and gives it a twist. The "feel" of the song is 80's but has a modern pop sensibility about it.
  2. What Kind of World. My favorite track off the album. Took me a while to pick "¿En que tipo de mundo vives?" out of the lyrics, but this is everything I could have possibly wanted out of this album.
  3. Shooting Star. Such a pretty track. The guitar accents are great, and Tom's vocals are in fine form. If it weren't for the lush production giving it a modern flair, you'd never know this wasn't recorded circa 1985.
  4. Feels Like Love to Me. This is kind of an odd duck on the album... like it was retro-fitted with a couple lines to make it fit a science fiction theme when it just wasn't necessary. Still, it's a nice song and doesn't really suffer because of it.
  5. Blue. And here's what happens when Bailey just writes a really good song.
  6. If You Need Someone. Musically, this feels like the biggest departure from The Thompson Twins, but lyrically it's probably the closest to a Twins song. Probably why I like it so much.
  7. Ship of Fools. You know an album's good when even its weakest link is still totally listenable. It's catchy as hell and the music is beautiful, yes, but that sea-shanty beginning? Yikes.
  8. Work All Day. This feels very much like a song that could have come from the Twins post-breakup with Joe. It's probably my least favorite song on the album.
  9. Bring Back Yesterday. Feels like a very Beatles-inspired song that's somehow been crossed with a Howard Jones mashup. Don't laugh. I'm totally serious. It's a great track.
  10. Come So Far. This early release (the first release off the album, I think?) had me worried about what we'd be getting off the album. It's a nice song, sure, but it's just not what I was hoping for. That being said, I really do like it in the context of the album. It's the last track, and kind of wraps everything up perfectly.

If you're a Thompson Twins fan, the album is definitely worth a listen.

Less than a month until I see Tom Bailey in concert!

   

The Magic Hat

Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2018

Dave!As a kid, I was obsessed with magic. I saw all those David Copperfield specials on TV and dreamed of being a magician just like him. Whether he was walking through the Great Wall of China or making a Learjet disappear or vanishing the Statue of Liberty, he made the magic of magic entirely too cool.

My attempts at becoming a magician were not terribly successful (as you probably guessed). My parents were really supportive about it... ordering magic sets from the Sears & Roebuck catalog for Christmases and birthdays... but all of the mass-produced toy crap in the world wasn't going to turn me into a master magician.

Don't tell that to me at the time though.

I was convinced that all I really needed to be successful was the latest and greatest magic set. It all culminated with "The Magic Hat," which was a fairly expensive toy that I was certain would get me my own television special when I saw it in the catalog...

The Magic Hat
Photo Credit: thargoids/eBay UK

But when it arrived, it was pretty shitty. The "hat" was hard plastic... and heavy. There was no way you could ever actually wear it. The tricks were crap as well. There was a hidden compartment for a wand in the sides that was obvious... a hidden swing-door compartment in the bottom that wouldn't fool anybody who bothered to look at it... and it had a tank in it so you could pour in a glass of water which would "disappear" that you could then pump out with a hidden bladder under the band. Awful, awful stuff.

Eventually I graduated to more professional tricks. Most of which were purchased from a magic shop hidden away in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Well, I say they were professional, but they were pretty much crap as well. You'd get a plastic baggy with some kind of prop inside that came with instructions mimeographed on colored paper. Perhaps tons of practice would make the investment pay off down the road, but I guess I wasn't patient enough.

Eventually my obsession with performing magic died out (as most obsessions do) and I went on to whatever was next. I still enjoyed watching magic though.

At least I did until Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed started airing in 1997. It revealed how all the most famous tricks were done and all the magic kind of died after that.

But magic was always in the back of my mind. Whether it was seeing a Penn & Teller show in Las Vegas or seeing their television show Fool Us... or watching shows like Deception (now canceled) which had magic at its core... there was always something magical going on somewhere.

The latest is a Netflix show from Justin Willman called Magic for Humans which is pretty great...

Another show on Netflix that approaches magic from an entirely different angle? Magicians: Life in the Impossible. It's actually a bit depressing, but interesting as well...

What I really need right now is not magic... it's some kind of miracle to save us from all this smoke. Two weeks of feeling sick and not being able to sleep is more than enough.

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Caturday 74

Posted on Saturday, August 25th, 2018

Dave!I won't lie to you, these past couple weeks have been tough. My cats, who are unaccustomed to being told "no" have suddenly found themselves being told "no" quite a lot. They can't go in the guest bathroom because I'm repairing my contractor's shitty renovation work. They can't go into the storage closet because I'm temporarily storing some tools in there. And they definitely cannot go outside because the wildfire smoke has been dangerously unhealthy...

Jake Wants Out

I'm still doing my best to keep them entertained indoors. The bird feeder has been the gift that keeps on giving. Except for my wallet, because the critters consume huge amounts of seed. The cats love it though. Especially when the birds land on the window to get at the food which lands there...

Birds on a Window

Birds on a Window

When not watching birds, Jake likes to wander around squawking to go out. Jenny, on the other hand, has resigned herself to her fate and prefers to stare at me with sour looks all day...

Jenny Sour Face

Earlier this week I had set some jeans down so I could fold them. Jenny took this as an opportunity to crawl around in them. Happy to have found something new for her to do, I just left them there...

Jenny in Blue Jeans

And while my cats have been trying to get out, it seems as though every bug in town is trying their best to get in.

Yesterday after feeding the cats I look over and see that they have stopped eating. I wasn't sure what that was all about, so I walk over and... THERE'S A GIANT SPIDER ON THE FEEDING STATION RIGHT BY JENNY'S FOOT!

Jenny and the Spider
Yes, I realize the spider looks like a speck in this photograph,
but you can't see his GIANT LEGS!! He's at least 2 inches across!

Jenny ignores it and goes back to eating. THEN THE SPIDER CLIMBS ON HER DISH!!! At this point, I'm dying (again) but she carefully eats around the spider until she's done with breakfast. Then I get to TRAP A GIANT SPIDER. GAAAHH!!

The smoke did end up tapering off enough yesterday that I finally let them play in the catio when I got home. Which they did. And they were so happy to be out there that they stayed out there all day.

From morning...

Cats in the Catio in the Daytime

Until night...

Cats in the Catio at Night

Hopefully the smoke is under control for a while so they can spend time outside having fun instead of inside wanting to go outside and have fun.

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Bullet Sunday 476

Posted on Sunday, August 26th, 2018

Dave!Time to make the donuts... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Mars Investigations! In what can only be described as the best news I've heard all week, Hulu is apparently developing a new 8-episode season of one of my favorite television shows of all time: Veronica Mars...

Veronica Mars

And now I want to watch both television seasons and the movie for the hundredth time.

   
• Globalization! Oh how cool. When you zoom out on Google Maps now, it backs into a globe! No more misrepresenting the size of land masses! Africa is now that massive continent it actually is... whereas the US, Europe, and Greenland are proportionally correct!

Google Maps

This is hugely important. The traditional Mercator projection is a grotesque distortion of the world we inhabit...

If you want to play with The True Size of Things... here's a link for you.

   
• Nothing! Heard Chinatown by Wild Nothing while watching the Netflix Original To All the Boys I've Loved Before (which is excellent) and am now obsessed with it. Such a pretty track...

This track is from their 2010 album Gemini, which sounds like it's straight out of the 80's.

   
• Expertly Paired Cheese! This. Stuff. Is. AMAZING!!! It's awesome on tacos, but I have been putting it on everything. Eggs. Veggie Sausage. Sandwiches. Even STRAIGHT OUT OF THE BAG. Where has this been all my life?

Expertly Paired Cheese

They have a Swiss/Cheddar blend that I'm going to have to try too. Not that I couldn't shred the stuff myself and make my own blends... but convenience!

   
• Enchanting? I was anxiously awaiting the new Matt Groening series from Netflix: Disenchantment. From the looks of things, I was guessing it was Game of Thrones meets The Simpsons...

This week it was finally released and I binged the entire series. It was... okay? The background art is beautiful and full of sight-gags that had me pausing my DVR more often than I care to admit. But the story? It's entertaining. But the funny did not come as often as I was expecting. Every episode seemed a little... slow. Even so, it was clever enough to keep me watching. I was more than a little upset that they ended on a cliffhanger. What if there's no second season to conclude it? Oh well. Wouldn't be the first time a show left me hanging because it was canceled.

   
And... that'll have to be enough bullets for today. See you next Sunday!

   

Window Dressing

Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2018

Dave!Like most cats, Jake and Jenny just love looking out windows. Their favorite window is the one behind the cat tree because the bird feeder is out there. This makes for hours of funtime entertainment... despite it costing me a fortune in bird seed.

I used to keep my blinds lowered to help save energy, but my cats were having none of it. They know there's a window back there, so they will climb under or over or through any obstruction which keeps them from looking outside. And so... I have all my blinds raised to keep them from being inadvertently destroyed.

All the blinds except one.

The middle window on the side of my house gets full sun. The sunlight causes the prints I have on the opposite wall to fade, and so I keep it closed. There are windows on either side for the cats to see out so it's no big deal, right?

Of course it is. These are cats we're talking about.

This morning I investigated a security camera alert I received and saw this...

Cats in the Window

The ONE window in the ENTIRE HOUSE which has the blinds closed... and that's the one they want to look out. Two feet to the right and to the left is an open window. So why? WHY?!??

Because they're cats, of course.

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Sowing the Seeds of Love

Posted on Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Dave!Today after work I ran into The Big City so I could pick up more bird seed. Not that I really have money to be throwing at birds, but they have been so dang entertaining for my cats that I pretty much have to.

Birds are weird in my neck of the woods. During the summer, regular (cheap) bird seed gets me nowhere. The birds that are looking for food are little things and I guess it's just too big for them. And so I buy "nyjer seed" (aka thistle seed) which is tiny stuff that's five times more expensive. In the winter the little birds have gone, and it's only the bigger birds that stick around. That's when I can pull out the cheap stuff and everybody's happy.

I thought I'd be smart and see if the feed store had bulk nyjer. Turns out they did, but at $2.09 a pound, it was actually more expensive than what I can get at Lowe's. My favorite seed is their "Nyjer Plus" which is cut with bits of sunflower seed. The birds don't seem to mind that at all, and it makes less of a mess. Alas, that's almost always out of stock, but today I got lucky...

Nyjer Seed!

Weird how my entire day can be made by bird seed being in-stock at the hardware store, but there you have it. Maybe this is a sign I need to start a new woodworking project? Probably.

The entire time I was looking for bird seed, this was going through my head...

Interesting side-note... apparently we're getting the first new album in 14 years from Tears for Fears this Fall!

One more thing to look forward to...

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Fifteen Years of Blogging

Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Dave!Back in April, I had my 15th blogiversary. And I totally forgot about it.

I don't know that I would have done anything special to celebrate putting my life on the internet for fifteen years... not like the old days where there were a week of contests and travel involved... but it would have been nice to at least acknowledge it. I guess that writing every day has become so automatic that I don't even think about it any more.

It feels more than a little strange that I keep it up considering how blogs are pretty much dead now. People are Facebookers or Instagrammers or YouTubers... but so rarely "bloggers." At least not any more. Social networks are owned by massive conglomerates who have displaced blogging with money-making machines that exploit our lives for cash. As was inevitable, I guess. That's just the way our world works. And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. Centralized spaces for human interaction make it easier and more convenient to make friends around the globe, and I do love my global online community. But there's still room for blogging in my life so here's to another fifteen years, I guess.

All those cat photos have to go somewhere.

Anyway... if you want to read a history of Blogography, I wrote it up back in 2005 for my second blogiversary here.

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Two Months Past Passed

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Dave!It's been two months since my mom died. It seems like it was years ago. It seems like it was yesterday. Sometimes it seems like it was just a bad dream.

Most days I come through it just fine. Her mind was gone long before she passed, she's no longer suffering, and I have so much to be grateful for in the time I got to spend with her. Whenever a wave of despair comes crashing down on me because I don't have a mom any more, I remember this and manage to keep from being overwhelmed. It doesn't mean I miss her any less, however. My heart still aches and that's something that's never going away. But my life seems less and less defined by her passing as time goes on, so I guess I'm going to survive this.

What's been going on with all that over these past months...

   
ASHES.
Funeral planning was pretty easy. My mom wanted to be cremated and buried in the plot next to her parents which they gifted her many years ago. I had bought her a funeral insurance policy, so most everything was set. Two weeks ago I drove over the mountains to pick up her ashes, which were kindly placed in an urn I bought to match the one I got for my grandma back in 2015. My mom said that a graveside service was all she wanted, but I decided against it. The last thing I needed was her piece-of-shit ex to show up. I figured mom would be okay if I didn't end up going to prison for murder over a service she didn't even care about, so that was that. The next time there's a family reunion, I'll show up with all my mom's travel books and that will be a better way to remember her anyway.

   
MARKER.
Because my mom was a veteran, I was able to get the VA to provide a memorial marker for free. When you order the marker, you get to select a "symbol of belief" to put on it. Since the Catholic Church didn't seem to give a fuck about providing her last rites, I was not going to put a Catholic cross on her marker. I thought I might compromise and choose a Catholic Celtic cross, since she absolutely loved the cemeteries in Ireland we visited, but I didn't feel comfortable with that either...

VA Marker Symbol of Belief

I briefly toyed with the idea of putting the Hammer of Thor on it, but I don't know that mom would find that particularly funny so I decided to leave it blank...

VA Marker Symbol of Belief

Then I noticed that the form said you could go online and find an updated list of emblems. So I visited the site and saw that they had added a heart to the options...

VA Marker Symbol of Belief

How perfect.

Interesting to note... my mom served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. When I filled out the paperwork, you can check a box for wartime service if the person qualifies. I checked the box and didn't think anything of it... until a week later when it popped into my head and triggered a panic attack. Should I have checked that box? So I called the VA and asked if it was disrespectful to veterans who fought in the war to be having her war service added to her marker since she was a state-side doing paperwork. Turns out that it's not. All parts of a war effort get recognized, and he encouraged me to leave it on her marker order. So I did.

And so now I wait for the marker to arrive so I can bury her ashes under it on the day they cement it in.

   
NOTICE.
I decided to not post a notice in the newspaper until after mom's been buried. I have, however, written her obituary already. I wrote it the night she died.

   
TIMING.
My mom died with only one day left in the month of June. I did not realize how significant this timing was until I started dealing with the paperwork. Since there was just the one day, everybody is content to just write it off. No repaying of benefits. No weird requests for pro-rated reimbursement of coverage. No letters to cancel stuff. Pretty much no anything. I closed her bank account the next day and everything else just took its course. Insurance companies could just be ignored and, after a month of pestering, they went away on their own because there was no money in it for them. Ditto for her various memberships and such. Given time... they just... disappeared. This is a massive change from the nightmare I faced when my grandmother died. She passed with a little over a week left in the month and that drama went on for months. So... note to self: when it's time to go, be sure to die on the last day of the month. It's easier for everybody. I mean, it really shouldn't be... but it is.

   
MAIL.
I don't get much physical mail. All my bills are paid online and the vast majority of what shows up is junk mail. Once I had to start checking my mom's post office box to get her mail, I changed my address to the same box so I'd only have one spot to worry about. Now that she's passed, I've switched my address to my house and will close down the post office box when it runs out in December. In the meanwhile I have the key to the box around my neck so I don't forget to check it. This morning when I woke up the key was gone from my nightstand and could not be found, even when I moved everything to search for it. When I went to feed the cats, I saw that the key was laying on the stairs. Sure enough, checking the security cameras revealed that Jake had hauled it off at 2am. And he was so stealthy about it that I didn't even wake up.

   
KITCHENWARE.
My mom was not a foodie, nor was she overly-fond of cooking. She cooked when she had to, but most of the meals we preferred were ready-made canned or frozen that got microwaved. I took her out to eat as often as I could because it offered a bit more variety over the soups and peanut butter sandwiches she would usually end up eating. I would love to eat out every day myself, but A) I don't want to drive 20 minutes into The Big City just for myself, and restaurant options in my small town are minimal... and B) I can't really afford to eat out very often anyway. So I cook a lot. Which is difficult given that all my mom's kitchenwares are so old that they're falling apart or worn so badly that they're tough to cook with. And so... I've been slowly buying all new stuff. Muffin tins... cookie sheets... bread pans... that kind of thing. My latest acquisition? Mixing bowls! I splurged and bought stainless steel bowls with non-skid bottoms and lids. They are so much nicer than the beat-up old warped plastic bowls I've been living with. And while I would much rather spend my money on new power tools, my next purchase will be a nice set of new pots and pans. Really looking forward to that.

   
PHOTOGRAPH.
As I mentioned previously, I bought loads of photos of my mom and her travels to put up around the house so she would understand that she lived there even if she didn't recognize the place. It worked so well that I transferred them to her memory care facility when she moved out. Once she died, I ended up getting them all back. Some of them I've got hanging in my kitchen and hallway. All the rest I've decided to hang in Jake & Jenny's bedroom... which I may end up turning into a combo cat bedroom /slash/ second guest bedroom. They are some awesome travel photos, so they would make for a nice decoration for a houseguest to look at.

   
BELONGINGS.
After I had to move my mom out of my house, I managed to slowly work my way through most of her belongings... tossing or gifting or donating them as appropriate. After a while it got to be too hard to keep going through her stuff, so I packed it all up into cardboard boxes and shoved it in the closet that's in Jake and Jenny's bedroom. My plan was to go through them this weekend. But now I've changed my mind. I'm just not ready. Maybe in another two months. Maybe never.

   
MEMENTO.
I had already given mom's best clothing (jackets, sweaters, and stuff) to family. Anything that was left got donated. When she died, the memory care facility said I could leave anything I didn't want and they would go through it all... giving anything worth saving to residents in need. Which leaves two items hanging in my closet. 1) Her high school sweater, and 2) A Mickey Mouse sweatshirt I bought decades ago that she loved so much that she wore it only for special occasions to keep it in good shape. I think I might build a shadow box for the sweater. Like what they do at Hard Rock Cafes for their memorabilia clothing. That would be kind of cool. I'm not sure about the Mickey sweatshirt. I might just leave it hanging in my closet. Maybe I'll build a box for it as well one day. It's strange to be so indecisive about "stuff." This goes against the Buddhist concept of detachment that I strive for, and I'm not sure how I should feel about it. Maybe I shouldn't feel about it at all? About the only thing I'm certain of is that I don't want to part with it. At least not yet.

   
I wish I had something insightful to say in order to wrap up this post, but I don't.

I just really miss my mom.

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Beto

Posted on Friday, August 31st, 2018

Dave!Every once in a while I need a reminder of why I love my country. Well, if I'm being honest, now-a-days I need a reminder almost daily... but you know what I mean.

Everything I think The United States of America should be about can be found right here...

I sure hope that Texans vote for this guy over heinous piece of shit Ted Cruz.

But don't take my advice about Ted Cruz... here's what our president thinks of Lyin' Ted...

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

Trump Tweets on Lyin' Ted Cruz

I don't always agree with President Trump, but boy did he hit the nail on the head here!

   

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