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QNAP if You’re NASty

Posted on January 22nd, 2020

Dave!For years now... a decade really... I've been experimenting with setting up a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) media server that's connected to the internet. There are a lot of reasons I'd like to have such a thing, but the big one is that I want to be able to access my vast photo library from anywhere on earth. If I'm in Germany and want to show a friend a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Yokohama (something that actually happened) it would be great if I could do that. Sure I have the option of paying for a photo service, but then I have to convert all my images from RAW format and lose the ability to access/edit the original photo remotely if I want to.

So I purchased a 1 Terabyte single-drive, internet-enabled "WD My Book Studio" NAS back in 2010 with that in mind. Everything ended up being a total mess and didn't work at all like I was hoping. It's been sitting in a drawer ever since.

Fast forward to 2019 and I decided to try again. I used money I had saved in 2014 for a trip to Norway's fjords with my mom (that we never got around to taking) and purchased a QNAP TS415+ NAS and two Western Digital 8 Terabyte RED drives to put in it. The drives are mirrored in a RAID configuration so I don't lose any data if one of them dies. Note that there's a television remote. That's because this model has an HDMI port so it can hook up directly to a television...

Today I finally set it all up. It was fairly straightforward, though not the most user-friendly thing to do. It spent hours doing a "RAID resync" (whatever the hell that is), which makes zero sense. The drives were empty and freshly formatted. How can it take over 24 hours to "resync" NOTHING? Note that QNAP doesn't bother with beta testing their apps. If they did, somebody might have noticed that the displayed percentage overwrites the text label, making it tough to read its progress...

Before you can do anything, you have to set up a "Storage Pool" from your drives. I maxed my pool out at 100% of my available drive space, because why only use part of your drives? QNAP is pretty brain-dead when you choose to do this... it will endlessly pester you with alerts because it defaults to a threshold of 80% usage. Insanity. If somebody sets their pool to 100% of drive space, why not ask if you want to disable the threshold alerts? I had to do it manually. Sadly, after setting things up, my 8TB mirrored drive resulted in only 7.1TB of space available. No idea what happened to nearly a FULL TERABYTE of storage (this seems high for overhead), but whatever.

Anyway...

Rather than have to install a third-party app, I decided to give the QNAP "Qmedia" app a try on my AppleTV since it's the "native" application from QNAP. It is complete and total shit. Despite "pretending" to remember where you left off when viewing videos, it doesn't. You can't even fast-forward the video you're watching, which is mind-blowing. I have no fucking idea why they even bothered. Qmedia is useless.

I'd rather not have to switch television video input sources from my AppleTV every time I want to watch something off the NAS, but apparently that's going to be how this goes. So I grabbed the QNAP remote and went for it. First I had to install an app (of course) but no big deal. Then I actually tried to use the thing and it's a total clusterfuck. The "VideoStation" app is just a fucking web browser interface. It's difficult to read because it's not sized for a television. It's impossible to use with the included remote because the remote doesn't do anything. You have to plug in a mouse and keyboard to make it work.

There's an "HD Player" app that looks like it's geared more towards television displays and using the remote control but it's fucking useless too, having many of the same problems as Qmedia. It goes non-responsive constantly, doesn't allow fast-forwarding (pressing the up arrow to skip forward is not the same thing), starts at the beginning of a video even if you tell it to resume from where you stopped, has a shitty interface that makes sorting through a large number of videos a nightmare, has crap video quality that you can't adjust for brightness or anything else, and is an overall steaming pile of fail.

I swear, QNAP is the most ridiculous fucking company. Why bother to make claims of being a multimedia center that can connect directly to your television if it does THIS shitty of a job of it? The whole thing is a fucking joke.

Fortunately there's plenty of options for serving your media from a NAS if it has a computer onboard like the TS451+ does. The "big two" are Kodi and Plex. Kodi is open source and free. Plex is free, but you can support the project by paying to subscribe to "Plex Pass" for additional features (like being able to download media on your phone for local playback instead of streaming it). Most people I know who started on Kodi ended up with Plex, so I just skipped a step and installed Plex Server on my NAS.

For what it is, Plex Server is pretty sweet. It transcodes just about anything you throw at it. Including the RAW Digital Negative photo format from Adobe (DNG) that I use. Which means I don't have to save out JPEGs in order to access my photo library remotely. Nice! I need to work on settings for this, however, because Plex compresses things pretty heavily for transmission. This results in some ugly visual artifacts, banding, and color shifts...

A visual comparison of an original photo of a sunset vs. the version Plex serves up.

Video works brilliantly from Plex BECAUSE YOU CAN ACTUALLY FUCKING FAST FORWARD THROUGH IT ON APPLE TV! Plex does a really good job of cataloging it as well. Thank heavens, because I'd light my QNAP NAS on fire if I had to suffer through their shitty apps. The only problem I've run across is having the video stop and tell me that my connection isn't fast enough, which is absurd because AppleTV is literally plugged into the same high-speed hub as the NAS! There must be some kind of setting for that I'm missing. Fortunately, it's a rare event.

I don't steal media. All the movies and television shows I have are on DVD/Blu-Ray or purchased on Digital. Well, with two exceptions... Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original) and Oh Grow Up! (one of my favorite shows of all time)... are not available to purchase. Lord only knows I wish they were, because my digitized versions of VHS tapes are really poor quality. I've used Vudu's Disc-To-Digital service to convert the bulk of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection to Digital legally. But not all of my stuff is available for conversion. Now I have the option of ripping them to the NAS and viewing them digitally no matter where I am via Plex Server. Technically, any time you break the protection on a DVD you are breaking the law, but that's a bullshit law. I would happily pay to convert them to digital if the studio who owns them would allow them to be converted. What I'm not going to do is buy the same movie all over again. Fuck that. I already paid for it, I should get to pay a small fee for a new format, not have to buy it all over again. And so... I have a small collection of DVDs ripped to my NAS temporarily until the studio allows them to be converted and I can pay for that. Plex does a great job of streaming from my living room to remote locations in HD. No, the video quality is not as good as what comes off of iTunes... especially if the iTunes version is 4K... but it's plenty good enough for my iPad or iPhone. I'm sure if I didn't have tons of security cameras flooding my bandwidth I could set the quality higher, but it's really not necessary.

Music streaming (local and remote) is handled quite well through Plex, and my SONOS system can address Plex directly. This means I can download all my music from iTunes, put it on the NAS, then drop iTunes Music Match and iTunes itself with no problem.

And so... bravo Plex.

I'm going to try out "Plex Pass" for a month and see if I want to upgrade to the lifetime membership for $120. Something tells me that's a purchase I will end up making. I certainly can't do without Plex if my alternative is the QNAP crap.

UPDATE: Yeah. Easiest decision to make to get the Plex Pass... the apps for streaming are included and you're helping the team behind it to keep developing the app.

So okay... the QNAP multimedia is bullshit. What about the NAS itself? Well, I'd love to report on that, but the minute I login, it either immediately disconnects me...

Make sure the NAS can be reached and refresh the page!

...or it allows me in but gives me a shitload of error messages. My favorite? Telling me it's running out of memory. If 2GB is not enough memory to do even the most basic tasks, then why ship with just 2GB memory? QNAP has their own version of Microsoft "Clippy" to break the bad news, which is a weird choice...

QNAP Robot Assistant

Even better? If you choose "optimize" he does a happy dance when he recovers 0MB of memory! Once I can log in again, I'll turn off and uninstall absolutely everything except the bare minimum I need (which includes Plex Server, of course), so I'm hoping that will fix these problems.

My NAS can act as a Time Machine backup for my Mac, but I really don't need that any more. All my data is stored in the cloud, so the only thing that would need to be replaced on my MacBook if it were destroyed are the apps, which I can just download from the developer again.

QNAP provides Apple File Services so I can access my NAS over my local network easily. Weirdly enough, you are required to install Windows File Services in order to install Apple File Services, but (luckily) you can kill the Windows File Services after installation to save precious memory and everything seems to work fine.

Speaking of memory... QNAP is happy to sell you more, but they charge outrageous pricing for the stuff. I mean laughably outrageous pricing. Far better to buy it yourself (which I'm guessing I'll have to do sometime soon if killing apps don't work).

Remote management and access to my files is a breeze thanks to QNAP's tools and a service they call CloudLink. The NAS talks with QNAP so even though its IP address may change, you can still reach it with no trouble.

And so...

  • I fucking hate the fact that QNAP doesn't really work as a media center as advertised. THAT'S WHY I PAID EXTRA FOR THIS MODEL!
  • Their video apps are worthless garbage that can't even do rudimentary shit like fast forward video.
  • They don't include enough memory to do even basic tasks.
  • Their HDMI television output can not be altered for settings like brightness, contrast, color, etc., which is no big deal considering it's fucking useless without decent apps for it anyway.
  • The included remote control doesn't control shit. And what it can control is garbage and doesn't work.
  • Their web interface is brain-dead idiocy that confuses even the most simple things.
  • Nothing about operation of the QNAP unit is even remotely intuitive. Nothing is easy to find and the byzantine menu system is difficult to use. The fact that they don't have an abstraction interface for moderately-experienced users makes zero sense. They ONLY want to serve the professional market? How strange.

I am still relatively new to the QNAP TS451+ NAS and the Western Digital RED drives, so I can't comment much about them. I can say that Western Digital are the only brand of hard drive that hasn't disappointed me so I'm hoping that trend continues. Also, despite the shitty media center aspects and overly-difficult controls, QNAP is highly respected in the IT industry. I just wouldn't bother paying extra for an HDMI port and remote that you will probably never use because their software is shit. Put that money towards a Plex Pass where it will do some good.

   

Audio19

Posted on December 29th, 2019

Dave!While I'm sure there's plenty of new music that I didn't find in 2019, I wasn't really looking for it. More and more I find myself retreating to old favorites rather than seeking out new stuff to enjoy. 80's pop, classic old-school rap, and 80's metal were all reminders of easier times, and that was where my refuge lay. So here is what's sure to be a very thin list, but it's what I managed to think of when asking myself what my favorites of 2019 were.

   
#1 Lover by Taylor Swift
I tend to ignore Taylor Swift, only becoming aware when one of her songs grabs me while listening to internet radio or something. But then Taylor performed the song ME! At the Billboard Music Awards with Brendon Urie, and she instantly became impossible to ignore. Not only was it a great pop song, but the spectacle which accompanied it was fantastic. Then she released You Need to Calm Down, along with a star-studded video that completely delivered as a follow-up. Taylor’s reign over 2019 was sealed. Filled with pop songs that kept me asking Alexa to play the album over and over again, this was my favorite of 2019 and I make no apologies for it.


   
#2 Work by Holy Ghost!
The self-titled debut album from Holy Ghost! Was almost too good to be true. It came along at the right moment with the right pop sensibilities and struck a chord that has infused the album on my psyche. I thought for sure the second album would be a disaster because isn't that the way it always goes? But it wasn't. I loved it just as much. And here we are with album number three... and it's a darn good effort too. The duo have found their groove and seem to be content to stay there, which is not the bad thing you'd think it should be. Yeah, all three albums could have been released at the same time and don't really show us anything new, but at a time where I was grasping for something older and familiar, Work fit the bill perfectly.


   
#3 Dedicated by Carly Rae Jepsen
It's premature to say that she peaked with her previous album, E•MO•TION, but Carly Rae Jepsen's latest effort fell slightly short of my lofty expectations (seriously, E•MO•TION is a phenomenal pop album!). Sure, some of the tracks are what I had been missing in my life, but some of them kinda fall kinda flat for me too (I detest Everything He Needs with its repetitive hook and wacky synth bends). If I had to analyze things, I'd say that she's gone with a slightly more mellow/weird vibe on those songs? Even so, I had this album playing an awful lot throughout Summer 2019 and since it has 15(!) tracks, it's still got a heck of a lot of terrific music to offer.

   
#4 Saves the World by MUNA
I played MUNA's debut album to death. So to say that I was looking forward to their follow-up is an epic understatement. And while I was happy to have more from the band, they took a bit of a departure that kept me from loving the entirety of Saves the World. Maybe it's a touch too introspective and brutal for my tastes? I dunno. Still, the band proves that they're not fading away any time soon. They know how to craft lyrics, marry them to a beat like nobody's business, and keep me coming back. I just wish it was back to this album more than the first, which is still the one I am playing all the time.

   
#5 Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend
Many a time I'll find myself thinking "What the heck ever happened to Ezra Koenig?" 2019 finally answered that question after a six year gap from the previous album. It's filled with all the things you could want from Vampire Weekend including that one track that you have to skip every time the album plays (ironically, this time it's the title track and first song). In some respects, this is my favorite of four albums Koenig has blessed us with... though it could be I've just been so starved for them for so long.

   
#6 Fine Line by Harry Styles
While former One Direction boy-banders Liam Payne and Harry Styles both released an album in 2019, Liam's kind of went off the rails (he needs a stronger producer to figure out where he's going)... whereas Harry's had actual direction that was shaped to fit his talents perfectly. While his is not my favorite type of music, I did greatly appreciate what came out of Fine Line and found myself listening to it more than I ever thought I would. That surprise is why this ranks so high on my list. I just wasn't expecting this... not from Harry Styles (the redundant awfulness of the title track excepted, because holy crap is that bad).

   
#7 Hurts 2B Human by P!NK
I like P!NK best when she embraces pop music and unleashes the songs that play to that genre. Unfortunately she is "maturing" and these last two albums seem more interested in having something angsty and dramatic to say instead of being the big poppy fun I love her for. This time around we get a lot of duets, which is fine but, unlike her collaborations with Nate Ruess and Lily Allen, her tracks with Wrabel and Khalid bored me (holy crap, the angst!). Precious few tracks stand out from her oeuvre in any meaningful way, but when you're talking about P!NK, that's not a tragedy. She still knows how to craft a really good song.

   
#8 Inflorescent by Friendly Fires
Ask me to name a song by Friendly Fires, and the only one I can guarantee will enter my head is Skeleton Boy from their debut album. Everything after that is a blur, including this album, and it's perfectly fine. I'm in the mood for their brand of mellow pop sensibility far more often than I feel is healthy.

   
#9 Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande
Theoretically speaking, I should love Ariana Grande's music a lot more than I do. Alas, while I've liked all her albums just fine, they never quite take me where I need to go to "stick" with me. Thank U, Next does a better job than most, however. Her voice is as good as ever and the lyrics are well-crafted. As if that wasn't enough, her video for the title track is nicely self-aware, parodying Clueless, Bring it On, and Legally Blonde, to flawless effect.

   
#10 Cause and Effect by Keane
What's funny is that when I happened upon Cause and Effect, my excitement was over the moon at the idea that the BAND Cause and Effect had released new music! I love their stuff, but we haven't heard from them in nearly a decade. But anyway... this was a new album by Keane, which has been a band that I lose enthusiasm for with each passing album. They peaked with songs off of Hopes and Fears and there hasn't been another Somewhere Only We Know or Everybody's Changing since. Not that I want them to keep repeating themselves, but none of their later stuff seems to grab me (and yet I will happily listen to their first effort over and over). This, their fifth studio album, I enjoyed more than the previous two, but it still feels like they are relying on soaring vocals to sell the songs instead of catchy hooks and interesting melodies. I dunno. Maybe in time I'll appreciate Cause and Effect more, but for now it's a happy distraction from time to time instead of the obsession it should be.

   
FAVORITE VIDEO OF 2019 • Thinkin' Bout You by Ciara
Not only is the song fantastic, Ciara's video for it really makes it memorable for obvious (and not so obvious) reasons.

   
FAVORITE MISSING IN ACTION OF 2019 • Chasing Stars by Postiljonen
Apparently this song was released in late 2018, but I never heard it until early 2019. I fully expected it would be followed by a new album this year, but it was not to be. I have no idea if this is a leftover song or what, but a new album from one of my favorite bands can't get here soon enough.

   
FAVORITE ANTICIPATION FOR 2020 • Hotspot by Pet Shop Boys
One of my all-time favorite bands seem to churn out albums every three years like clockwork (give or take). Since Super dropped in 2016, it was only natural to expect that we'd see another hit in 2019. Instead it's coming next month, which is more-or-less on schedule. Problem is... I haven't been able to fully embrace a Pet Shop Boys album since Yes (which is likely my second favorite after Please). It seems like I have been able to take half the songs off of one album (like Elysium) and combine it with half from the follow-up (like Electric) to get a full album's worth of songs I love. Since Super was essentially in the same boat, I'm guessing I'll be loving half of Hotspot as well. Still, even the worst tracks from Neil and Chris are going to be leagues above most songs released in 2020, so I'm understandably excited about it.

   
Here's hoping I find a renewed passion for new music in 2020.

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Bullet Sunday 643

Posted on December 22nd, 2019

Dave!The holidays are nigh but there's still something to be happy about, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Movies? Does anybody at Apple actually use their shit? Because not a damn day goes by that I don't find bugs or serious problems. Just now it's trying to find a movie in the TV app. But everything is so fucked up that you really can't. Even worse? When you try to browse for it by selecting "movies," they show you a bunch of shit THAT ARE NOT EVEN FUCKING MOVIES...

Apple TV menu for movies showing mostly NOT MOVIES!

Such a waste of time. iTunes may have sucked, but at least it wasn't a useless pile of shit.

   
• Remember. It's weird watching this and knowing EXACTLY what's happening. Not remembering, but not wanting to admit you don't remember. Not understanding, but being polite and pretending anyway. Not having any clarity of who, what, when, and where, but dismissing your confusion. Then an occasional moment where the dots connect and there's a spark of... something... in their eyes...

Hardest days of my life.

   
• a-ha! No, it's not as refined as the version that came after... but it's still a brilliant, beautiful, haunting song here...

It's so sad to me that a-ha is considered a one-hit wonder when they had so many remarkable songs following Take on Me. That first album is brilliant. But so are the ones which followed.

   
• Cuteness. I could spend hours watching raccoon videos on YouTube. I'm trying to cut down, but... man... BABY raccoons...

Nature is so amazing that it hurts.

   
• Retirement? Reality is a harsh mistress...

The future is scary, yo.

   
• Transcript? I'm just... it's just... I mean...

WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK?!? The transcript LITERALLY PROVES THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP IS GUILTY. If everybody willing to testify says he is guilty... and everybody who says he's innocent refuses to testify... doesn't that say ANYTHING about what's happening here? Does the truth even matter? Talk about reality being a harsh mistress. The future is terrifying, yo.

   
• Mystery. How Wrabel manages to keep churning out such beautiful work song after song after song is a mystery. This is a Christmas song for heaven's sake!

Happy Christmas, if that's your thing!

   
Have a great holiday...

   

Bullet Sunday 642

Posted on December 15th, 2019

Dave!The end of Watchment may be nigh, but Blogography will carry on, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Who's... Well, that was special. I was a little disappointed that the pre-ending was telegraphed so far in advance that there wasn't much of a surprise there. Though the end-ending was wonderfully in the spirit of the graphic novel ending, and that was appreciated. So... not so much a knock-it-out-of-the-park finale, but one that left me happy. At least Lindelof didn't completely shit the bed as he is wont to do.

Watchmen poster with masked pollicewoman Sister Night standing in front of the iconic Watchmen yellow clock face.

Easily my favorite television program of 2019. Congratulations to Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, and everybody else involved.

   
• ...Watching... According to an article in Variety, showrunner Damon Lindelof doesn't have an idea for a second season. Which I find hilarious, because that didn't stop him when he was working on Lost...

Dr. Manhattan walking through Vietnam with a mask on, his back towards us.

But, yeah, Watchmen was a major success for HBO, so I'm guessing somebody will come up with an idea. Even if it's a bad one. And while that would be a pity... or possibly something actually great... it doesn't matter. This "first season" will endure in greatness.

   
• ...The Watchmen? In preparation for the finale, I re-watched all the prior episodes this past week. I will likely re-watch them all again sometime soon into the new year. I'm fairly certain that I caught all the connections and groundwork and Easter eggs and nods to the original... but you never know...

A carton of eggs, with only one egg remaining... a still from the finale of Watchmen.

Everything was so well planned, thought out, and initiated that I'm sure there's more depth to be found. That's the joy of the series.

   
• Tracking. So... I really didn't think that I could be surprised by my new MacBook Pro. I was wrong. This weekend I cut my finger trying to get a piece of potato out of my fry chopper. It was bleeding pretty bad, so I had to double-bandage it so I wasn't bleeding over everything. And then I attempted to click on my trackpad. But couldn't. BECAUSE THE NEW TRACKPADS DON'T ACTUALLY MOVE WHEN YOU PRESS ON THEM! That "click" is just haptic feedback which gives you the illusion that you're clicking on something. Naked finger? Click. Bandaged finger? No click. Weird. When I Googled how it works, I got this. Keen!

   
• Nugget. HEADLINE: Roxette Singer Marie Fredriksson Dies at 61...

Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle of the band Roxette looking very 80's and staring into the camera.

This cuts me to the core. I love, love, LOVE Roxette. Not just the debut album, EVERY album. I still have their music in regular rotation to this day. I was so happy when Marie recovered and was able to bless us with her magic again. She had a tough road, but was always positive and loving towards her fans. What a remarkable woman. What a remarkable talent. What a remarkable VOICE. You will very much be missed by me... and your legion of dedicated fans. Rest in peace, Marie.

   
• Nugget. HEADLINE: Chuy Bravo, Chelsea Handler's Chelsea Lately Sidekick, Dead at 63...

A photo of Chuy Bravo on the Chelsea Lately show wearing a cap and smiling.

Yes, he was the butt of many jokes... but he was also very funny in his own right. He was a huge part of what kept me watching Chelsea Lately. You will be missed, sir.

   
• Once You Pop... IT'S PRINGLE RICK!!!

A can of Pringles with Pickle Rick from Rick & Morty on it.

I love Rick and Morty more than the vast majority of programs on television. Watching them sell out like this fills my heart with joy. It's just so Rick and Morty!

   
• Hallmark Channel Update. "Hallmark is, and always has been, committed to diversity and inclusion – both in our workplace as well as the products and experiences we create. It is never Hallmark's intention to be divisive or generate controversy. We are an inclusive company and have a track record to prove it. We have LGBTQ greeting cards and feature LGBTQ couples in commercials. We have been recognized as one of the Human Rights Campaigns Best Places to Work, and as one of Forbes America's Best Employers for Diversity. We have been a progressive pioneer on television for decades – telling wide ranging stories that elevate the human spirit such as August Wilson's The Piano Lesson and Colm Tóibín's The Blackwater Lightship, both of which highlight the importance of tolerance and understanding. Hallmark will be working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands. The Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials."

I am not willing to forgive and forget just yet. I am still boycotting because this is far, far too important to ignore. But I am totally overjoyed at the thoughts of bigoted heads exploding over at One Dozen Moms. The piece of shit fucking assholes. Priceless. We shall see if Hallmark has learned anything. We shall see if GLAAD is satisfied. We shall see if they live up to their promise of inclusion. We shall see. In the meanwhile? Fuck them. I am just fine doing without Hallmark in my life until they have shown that they are worth supporting again. Promises get broken every day.

   
Until next Sunday then. Because nothing ever ends...

   

Bullet Sunday 641

Posted on December 8th, 2019

Dave!Don't let the prelude to holiday madness get your down, because an all new Very Special Video Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• WW84. My first instinct is to trust that Patty Jenkins will deliver an awesome sequel to her amazing Wonder Woman movie. But this new trailer... I just don't know. Apparently this is not actually a "sequel" but instead "the next iteration" of Wonder Woman. Which seems like a cop-out... especially since Steve Trevor looks to be alive(?) after dying in the first movie. Or, if not alive, a figment of Diana's imagination? Or something. And while I'm excited at the prospect of Kristin Wiig playing long-time Wonder Woman adversary The Cheetah, I'm a little less thrilled at the idea of Maxwell Lord factoring into all this as some kind of maniacal infomercial villain...

The music and action scenes look stellar. I guess we'll find out if this is a Wonder Woman worth watching when the movie is released on June 5th, 2020.

   
• Guy. I had heard absolutely nothing about Free Guy until I saw this trailer...

The concept is great. Casting Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi is fantastic. The visuals are amazing. I hope all that adds up to a really good movie. I guess we'll find out on July 3rd, 2020.

   
• Life? And... tonight was yet another bizarre (yet completely watchable) episode of HBO's Watchmen. And with just one episode left, I am anxious to see how everything comes together at the end. And yet... I'm willing to be that the haunting version of David Bowie's Life on Mars by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from last Sunday will still be stuck in my head...

Because nothing ever ends.

   
• LEGO! Two guys after my own heart with their LEGO groom & groom decorations! Their story reminds me of the movie Yossi & Jagger. WHY CAN'T WE HAVE THIS AS A HALLMARK MOVIE?!?

I mean, come on... how sweet is this...

Maybe one day nobody will give a crap what other people want for their marriage since it has absolutely no bearing on their life. But, until then, I guess the needle keeps moving.

   
• Masters. Speaking of LEGO... how in the heck is a competition show like the only just now happening?

It's kinda a no-brainer concept. But that doesn't mean it will make for good television even though it should make for great television.

   
• Ad Aware. I love a good advertisement, and am always amazed when somebody creates a truly great ad without the help of an ad agency and a lot of money. Case in point...

The ad was created for £100 by the shop owner, his kid, and his best friend... in one day. I've seen million-dollar ads which were far less memorable and even less effective.

   
And that's probably enough videos for one day. So until next time...

   

Bullet Sunday 629

Posted on September 15th, 2019

Dave!I had to add a blanket to my bed last night but it's still toasty warm up in here, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Since You're Gone. I was saddened to learn that Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars died. I first became acquainted with the band after their second album, Candy-O, was released in 1979. The Vargas pinup art on it remains one of my favorite album covers. Apparently Vargas came out of retirement to paint it because his niece was a fan of the band...

The cover of the album Candy-O by Vargas as performed by The Cars. It depicts a red-haired woman laying across the hood of a Ferrari 365 GTC/4 dressed in a sheer black body suit.

It was from Candy-O that the track Let's Go came, which is still one of their best songs. Two albums later they would come out with Shake It Up and explode in popularity all over again. Thanks to some innovative videos on MTV (at a time when MTV still played music videos) their fifth album, Heartbeat City, was the peak of their popularity. One album later we got Door to Door and The Cars would disband. They came back together in 2011 for the album Move Like This, and then it was all over. Through it all, there was Ric Ocasek. He had a solo career, sure, but it was as the voice of The Cars that I knew him and loved his work. Interesting to note that nobody knows his real age. According to conflicting sources, it's either 70 or 75. Not knowing for certain seems about right when it comes to Ric! Thanks for the music, sir, you shall be missed.

   
• Staten Island Funtime. CGP Grey has, without a doubt, my favorite YouTube channel. I anxiously await every new video he posts. Awesomeness like this is why...

If you haven't watched every single one of his videos, what are you waiting for?

   
• Count on It. Time until this deranged individual gets caught in a bathroom stall with an underage male prostitute? 5... 4... 3... 2...

   
• Phone Problems Well this is pretty sweet...

Cool Catch, Bro.

   
• Filibustery. So the Senate wasn't designed by the founding fathers to be a dysfunctional shithole after all. We made it that way...

Is there any doubt... any at all... that we need to scrap the idiotic institution that is our government and start over with something that actually works and truly represents the people of the United States of America? Something without all the stupid fucking waste we have now which exploits our time and money to ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT? What we have now is just people elected to nothing and being extremely well-paid for doing it.

Tonight John Oliver took an interesting look at "legal immigration"...

And so... "legal immigration" is actually another phrase that politicians use for "no immigration"... unless your daughter is married to the President of the United States of America, of course. Hope The First Lady's parents enjoy picking crops, cleaning houses, and working the brutal, thankless jobs which are customarily filled by immigrants. Thanks to mass deportations and constant threats, those jobs are readily available. Oh... wait a second... never mind.

   
• Dumb Dumb DUMMMMMB. And speaking of this dysfunctional government... could it possibly get any more stupid than these absurd Democrat "debates?" They make the party look like its run by idiots. Which, let's be honest, it probably is. Though, in their defense, they're no more stupid than the Republicans propping up the dumbass that's currently occupying The White House for re-election, so I guess we're all fucked. Again. Democratic leadership will manipulate things to pick whomever they hell they want to run... and Republican leadership will continue to endorse a total fucking lunatic who only gives a shit about his own personal interests. Try not to be shocked by the predictability of it all. Though, odds are, you don't have the money it takes to get to decide how this country will be run, so being shocked is about all you have left. Sorry for ruining that for you.

   
See you in a week, sports fans.

   

Bullet Sunday 627

Posted on September 1st, 2019

Dave!Labor Day may be tomorrow but the party starts now, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Hurrican Dorian. The images coming out of the Bahamas have been terrifying. And now parts of the Georgia coast are under mandatory evacuation...

A map shoing category 5 hurrican Dorian off the coast of Florida looking scary.
Map from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Dorian is tied with a hurricane from 1935 for the highest wind speed at landfall... a staggering 185mph. I hope that's the only horrible record that ends up being broken.

   
• Lover! A lovely video for the very pretty title track off of Taylor Swift's latest album...

And I'm not the only fan of the song. Keith Urban did a beautiful cover while performing at the Washington State Fair...

I think 1989 is still my favorite T-Swifty album, but Lover is a close second. Tracks like this make it so. I know I'm late to the party here (1989 was the first time I had even heard of her), but I never cease to be impressed with her talent, wit, charm, and intelligence...

Such a remarkable person. Continued success to you, Miss Swift.

   
• Parade! A true leader celebrates all the people they represent. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes that to heart, as you can see from his taking part in this Pride parade...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marching in a Pride parade with rainbow flags, fun, and confetti.

Meanwhile, our leadership is doing everything they can to strip rights from our citizens. A depressing state of affairs for the so-called "Land of the Free."

   
• Rowl! Exceptional production values, gorgeous cinematography, beautiful costuming, and mind-blowing sets don't mean shit when your story is bloated and boring. It's like they took a 90 minute movie and stretched it out to 8 mind-numbing episodes. That's Carnival Row for you...

A poster for Carnival Row showing an industrial Victorian background with Orlando Bloom in formal wear being confronted by a woman with dragonfly wings hovering before him.

Guillermo del Toro, who was originally going to be working on Carnival Row, dropped out because of his movie obligations. Don't know if it would have made any difference, but his impeccable pacing and storytelling were much needed here. It's like they had the sets and all the costumes and such and wanted to get as much use of them as possible even though there wasn't enough story for that. Pity.

   
• Frexit! NOT AT ALL REDUNDANT! Unless France pulled a Frexit and is no longer a part of Europe?

A brown bag wrapped which says Artisan European Style French Bread on it.

I have yet to try any of that Asian style French bread, but I'm sure it's delicious.

   
• All The Gs! The advent of 5G wireless is going to be a huge game changer once the mesh that's required to have it work seamlessly has been built. That's a long ways away, but it's still an intriguing technology in its infancy. If you don't know what that even is, here's a fantastic video from Marques Brownlee just for you...

Pretty amazing stuff. Imagine having blazing internet available everywhere for all things... and what will come from that.

   
• Another Day, Another Mass Shooting. My first thought used to be "How many people?" But now my response has evolved to "Where did it happen this time?" Once I realized that this was how my brain was wired to react, I was disappointed in myself. It feels dismissive and disrespectful to those who just lost their lives. I could excuse it by saying "There's already been so many people killed, does it really matter how many more are added to the list?" But the answer is "yes." Every fucking one of them matters. It's when we start viewing the deaths as statistics instead of people that we lose ourselves. Unfortunately for all of us, those who can actually do something are long lost already.

I remember when the NRA was for responsible gun ownership and wanted to make sure that guns didn't get into the hands of people who shouldn't have them. I also remember when President Reagan was an advocate for that ideal. This was before the NRA was overtaken by gun manufacturers with lobbyists who buy politicians and give them an agenda to encourage as many gun sales as possible... regardless of consequences.

I support the 2nd Amendment. I also support the right of people to go through life without getting randomly shot by some toxic asshole with a gun. Going back to the original mission of the NRA... gun safety and responsible gun ownership... would go a long way to help these two things coexist. Alas that ship has sailed. We don't even pretend that human lives are more important than gun manufacturer profits anymore. What's worse is that people don't even seem to care.

   
Only 23 days of summer left... make 'em count!

   

Miss Jackson, If You’re Nasty

Posted on August 14th, 2019

Dave!Like most of the world, I'm a big Janet Jackson fan. So when a friend from work asked me to fill in for him... and the job came with his ticket to see her Metamorphosis tour... I did not need much convincing. Sure I'd be headed to Las Vegas in August, which is essentially a hellscape of sweat, heat, and sunburn... but, hey, JANET JACKSON!

The good news was that she burned through a massive number of her best-loved songs, so you were sure to hear some of your favorites.

The bad news was that in order to keep the concert from being six hours long, most of the songs were abbreviated or worked into a montage. This was perfectly understandable and mostly fine, but for my very favorite songs I was left wanting more. Especially on When I Think of You, which is such an awesome fun song to hear live.

If there was a problem with the concert, it wasn't the performance... it was the venue. The Park Theater stage is massive. It's absurdly wide. Because of that, Janet was completely overwhelmed by any attempt to fill up the space. Janet Jackson and her music is larger than life. But on the stage she just looked so tiny. A lot of time was spent trying to find her. Like here, where she's all the way to the left...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Most of the time she was with dancers though, which made her easier to spot...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

And of course they had giant screens on either side of the stage so you could get a good look from anywhere in the theater...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

But looking at the stage? Yeah... unless you were on the floor, good luck with that...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Most of the show was really quite good. Janet put her all into her performance from start to finish. Not that there weren't some bizarre parts. At one point they brought a guy on stage, tied him to a chair, then had Janet and her dancers run their hands all over him...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

She had plenty of costume changes to keep things interesting...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Assuming you could see the costumes when the lasers were trying to fill up the theater to keep things interesting for those of us in the cheap seats...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

The Rhythm Nation section of the show managed to get everybody on their feet...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Until it was time to close out the show...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Good night, Miss Jackson.

Oh... interesting aside here... Hello Kitty has her own pop-up food truck cafe now...

Hello Kitty Pop Up Food Truck Cafe in pink.

And that's a wrap on my last night in Las Vegas. Stay safe, kids.

   

She’s Madonna

Posted on June 24th, 2019

Dave!I have a vivid recollection of when Madonna first started entering public consciousness. My brother was a fan and started buying all her singles and maxi-singles (in retrospect, I think he liked her look more than her music). I didn't think much of her self-titled debut album when it dropped in 1983 and told him that she was a flash-in-the-pan who couldn't possibly last. She'd be yet another forgotten pop-star wannabe on a pile of forgotten pop-star wannabes.

Who knew?

Over the years Madonna has reinvented herself numerous times. Some of her iterations are ones I actually enjoy. I've seen her in concert twice. I own several of her concert films because she puts on a good show. I am one of the few who really liked her song for the Bond flick Die Another Day. I thought she was perfect in A League of Their Own.

And through it all... love her or hate her... the one thing that's been consistent when it comes to Madonna is that she never stops being Madonna.

Never has this been more clear to me than with her recent interview on Graham Norton. There she was, all arogant and detached from reality with her jeweled grills on her teeth and her eyepatch that's not actually covering her eye being all Madonna and stuff, when it occurred to me just how far gone from the rest of humanity she has become...

Except...

The first single Medellín (with Columbian artist Maluma) from her new album Madame X is pretty great (I skipped past her weird minute-long intro)...

This time around, Madonna seems to have reinvented herself as a cross between a naughty pirate and a dancing headmistress at a Catholic school. Or something.

But who am I to judge? She's the one who's Madonna.

   

Swiftly Calmed Down

Posted on June 17th, 2019

Dave!I tend to ignore Taylor Swift, only becoming aware of her when one of her songs grabs me on internet radio or something.

But then Taylor performed the song ME! At the billboard music awards with Brendon Urie (from Panic! At The Disco), and she instantly became impossible to ignore. Not only was it a great pop song, but the spectacle which accompanied it was fantastic...

The actual video for ME! (on which the Billboard performance was based) was equally amazing, using CGI to excellent effect...

And then today she released the video for her follow-up single, You Need to Calm Down, featuring a star-studded cast that completely delivered...

   
Yes, haters, please... have several seats and just shut the fuck up. Your shade ain't going to make anybody less gay, and your homophobic bullshit is tired to people just trying to live their life...

You Need to Calm Down Video

A few things...

• And so I guess the feud between Taylor and Katy Perry is over...

You Need to Calm Down Video

   
• Trailer Trash Taylor is my favorite Taylor...

You Need to Calm Down Video

   
• I really hope that Laverne Cox finds a new show to land on post Orange is the New Black...

You Need to Calm Down Video

   
• Oh hey there, Hannah Hart...

You Need to Calm Down Video

   
• Oh hey there, Tan France...

You Need to Calm Down Video

   
• And there's Ellen DeGeneres getting a tattoo from Adam Lambert which says "CRUEL SUMMER," assumably the name of Taylor's next single...

You Need to Calm Down Video

   
• Oh hey there, Ryan Reynolds...

You Need to Calm Down Video

   
• And, lastly... oh hey there, RuPaul...

You Need to Calm Down Video

   
I'm sure that there will be those who say Taylor Swift is merely cashing in on affiliating with LGBTQ Pride Month, but I think that's a bit of a reach. Far safer for her to just keep on doing what she's been doing and not rock the boat so she doesn't endanger her revenue stream. But instead she's proclaiming herself an ally and trying to use her fame for something good. If nothing else, she's setting a good example for her legions of young fans.

So bravo, Miss Swift.

   

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