Posted on January 23rd, 2020
I am a massive fan of the original Star Trek series. And the original cast movies too.
I did not like Star Trek: The Next Generation because it was just so boring. Aside from an occasional good episode, the lack of conflict on the ship and Gene Roddenberry's "new vision for the future" was a massive downgrade from where he started. Then Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came along and, while beloved by critics and fans, was somehow worse. Odo the non-shape-changing shape-changing alien? Quark comic relief? The Prophets? I mean, sure there was Avery Brooks, but holy crap. AND THEN, just when I thought things couldn't possibly get worse... Star Trek: Voyager. I was totally excited for it. At first. Enemies on the same ship? CONFLICT! Biomechanical ship? COOL! Stranded across the galaxy where survival is a constant struggle and no allies in sight? EXCITING! But then they ended up doing the same old Next Generation shit all over again and boring the heck out of me. Star Trek: Enterprise was a step in the right direction, but they burdened it with a "Temporal Cold War" that was a boat-anchor tied to the show in a horrible way.
Naturally, when CBS announced they were coming out with Star Trek: Discovery, I was skeptical. The cast was amazing (seriously amazing) and they looked to be doing something new, but the ship looked like shit and the early previews with engine spores and stuff looked like crap.
Boy was I wrong.
The first season of Discovery was phenomenal.
The performances and characters were incredible. The stories were cool as all getout. And the "big twist" was about the best thing to come out of Star Trek in decades. I loved just about everything about it. Critics said it "wasn't Star Trek" and hated on it terribly. This made me laugh my ass off, because it was easily the most "Star Trek" thing to happen since the original series! People who said it "wasn't Star Trek" were saying it wasn't "NEXT GENERATION Star Trek." Which, of course, was my favorite thing about it. The second season wasn't as good, but it was still worth watching.
And now there's Star Trek: Picard...
Obviously I was not enthusiastic about the continuation of a show which I feel is the point Star Trek went terribly wrong. I like Patrick Stewart... like him a lot... but more Star Trek: Next Generation was not something I was interested in. Paying extra for CBS All Access to see it was the nail in the coffin. Except... I read more than a couple interviews with Patrick Stewart and other people working on the show who promised that it was not going to be more of the same old thing. They were doing something new.
Well, sign me up! Even though I was certain it was going to suck.
Boy was I wrong.
First of all, Patrick Stewart is phenomenal in this. He's playing up the age of his character rather than trying to act like he's twenty years younger. Second of all, my mind was completely turned around when Picard said the words "Starfleet was no longer Starfleet!"
Finally somebody understands what the show needs to be interesting. The story being set up feels like it's going to be entertaining. The cast they've assembled is great. The guest-stars from the old new generation seem like they will be used to good effect. And, oh yeah, the special effects are fantastic...
I have high hopes that the talent behind the show have an ending that's going to be worth it all.
CBS sure seems to think so... they renewed the show for a second season AND invited Whoopi Goldberg back, who's "Guinan" is one of the most interesting characters to come out of the old new generation. So fingers crossed.
Something else that was new today? Jay & Silent Bob Reboot...
I'm a huge fan of Kevin Smith's "Askewniverse" films... Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, and (to a lesser degree), Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. And now we're getting the sequel, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot. To me it was a mixed bag. Sure it was great seeing all the characters again and it was pretty funny in spots (though a lot of the humor relies on the viewer having seen all the previous films), but it's almost reached a parody of the parody it was parodying and priority is put on famous cameos and injecting his wife and daughter into things rather than humor, insightful commentary on pop culture, and the characters that made me love the movies so much.
I was glad I saw the movie (worth the $10 price tag), but couldn't help but think that half of it was wasted. I am really, really hoping that Smith goes back to form with Clerks III instead of sabotaging himself again.
Kevin Smith needs to Picard himself instead of giving up more Voyager.
Posted on January 22nd, 2020
For years now... a decade really... I've been experimenting with setting up a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage) media server that's connected to the internet. There are a lot of reasons I'd like to have such a thing, but the big one is that I want to be able to access my vast photo library from anywhere on earth. If I'm in Germany and want to show a friend a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe Yokohama (something that actually happened) it would be great if I could do that. Sure I have the option of paying for a photo service, but then I have to convert all my images from RAW format and lose the ability to access/edit the original photo remotely if I want to.
So I purchased a 1 Terabyte single-drive, internet-enabled "WD My Book Studio" NAS back in 2010 with that in mind. Everything ended up being a total mess and didn't work at all like I was hoping. It's been sitting in a drawer ever since.
Fast forward to 2019 and I decided to try again. I used money I had saved in 2014 for a trip to Norway's fjords with my mom (that we never got around to taking) and purchased a QNAP TS415+ NAS and two Western Digital 8 Terabyte RED drives to put in it. The drives are mirrored in a RAID configuration so I don't lose any data if one of them dies. Note that there's a television remote. That's because this model has an HDMI port so it can hook up directly to a television...
Today I finally set it all up. It was fairly straightforward, though not the most user-friendly thing to do. It spent hours doing a "RAID resync" (whatever the hell that is), which makes zero sense. The drives were empty and freshly formatted. How can it take over 24 hours to "resync" NOTHING? Note that QNAP doesn't bother with beta testing their apps. If they did, somebody might have noticed that the displayed percentage overwrites the text label, making it tough to read its progress...
Before you can do anything, you have to set up a "Storage Pool" from your drives. I maxed my pool out at 100% of my available drive space, because why only use part of your drives? QNAP is pretty brain-dead when you choose to do this... it will endlessly pester you with alerts because it defaults to a threshold of 80% usage. Insanity. If somebody sets their pool to 100% of drive space, why not ask if you want to disable the threshold alerts? I had to do it manually. Sadly, after setting things up, my 8TB mirrored drive resulted in only 7.1TB of space available. No idea what happened to nearly a FULL TERABYTE of storage (this seems high for overhead), but whatever.
Rather than have to install a third-party app, I decided to give the QNAP "Qmedia" app a try on my AppleTV since it's the "native" application from QNAP. It is complete and total shit. Despite "pretending" to remember where you left off when viewing videos, it doesn't. You can't even fast-forward the video you're watching, which is mind-blowing. I have no fucking idea why they even bothered. Qmedia is useless.
I'd rather not have to switch television video input sources from my AppleTV every time I want to watch something off the NAS, but apparently that's going to be how this goes. So I grabbed the QNAP remote and went for it. First I had to install an app (of course) but no big deal. Then I actually tried to use the thing and it's a total clusterfuck. The "VideoStation" app is just a fucking web browser interface. It's difficult to read because it's not sized for a television. It's impossible to use with the included remote because the remote doesn't do anything. You have to plug in a mouse and keyboard to make it work.
There's an "HD Player" app that looks like it's geared more towards television displays and using the remote control but it's fucking useless too, having many of the same problems as Qmedia. It goes non-responsive constantly, doesn't allow fast-forwarding (pressing the up arrow to skip forward is not the same thing), starts at the beginning of a video even if you tell it to resume from where you stopped, has a shitty interface that makes sorting through a large number of videos a nightmare, has crap video quality that you can't adjust for brightness or anything else, and is an overall steaming pile of fail.
I swear, QNAP is the most ridiculous fucking company. Why bother to make claims of being a multimedia center that can connect directly to your television if it does THIS shitty of a job of it? The whole thing is a fucking joke.
Fortunately there's plenty of options for serving your media from a NAS if it has a computer onboard like the TS451+ does. The "big two" are Kodi and Plex. Kodi is open source and free. Plex is free, but you can support the project by paying to subscribe to "Plex Pass" for additional features (like being able to download media on your phone for local playback instead of streaming it). Most people I know who started on Kodi ended up with Plex, so I just skipped a step and installed Plex Server on my NAS.
For what it is, Plex Server is pretty sweet. It transcodes just about anything you throw at it. Including the RAW Digital Negative photo format from Adobe (DNG) that I use. Which means I don't have to save out JPEGs in order to access my photo library remotely. Nice! I need to work on settings for this, however, because Plex compresses things pretty heavily for transmission. This results in some ugly visual artifacts, banding, and color shifts...
Video works brilliantly from Plex BECAUSE YOU CAN ACTUALLY FUCKING FAST FORWARD THROUGH IT ON APPLE TV! Plex does a really good job of cataloging it as well. Thank heavens, because I'd light my QNAP NAS on fire if I had to suffer through their shitty apps. The only problem I've run across is having the video stop and tell me that my connection isn't fast enough, which is absurd because AppleTV is literally plugged into the same high-speed hub as the NAS! There must be some kind of setting for that I'm missing. Fortunately, it's a rare event.
I don't steal media. All the movies and television shows I have are on DVD/Blu-Ray or purchased on Digital. Well, with two exceptions... Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original) and Oh Grow Up! (one of my favorite shows of all time)... are not available to purchase. Lord only knows I wish they were, because my digitized versions of VHS tapes are really poor quality. I've used Vudu's Disc-To-Digital service to convert the bulk of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection to Digital legally. But not all of my stuff is available for conversion. Now I have the option of ripping them to the NAS and viewing them digitally no matter where I am via Plex Server. Technically, any time you break the protection on a DVD you are breaking the law, but that's a bullshit law. I would happily pay to convert them to digital if the studio who owns them would allow them to be converted. What I'm not going to do is buy the same movie all over again. Fuck that. I already paid for it, I should get to pay a small fee for a new format, not have to buy it all over again. And so... I have a small collection of DVDs ripped to my NAS temporarily until the studio allows them to be converted and I can pay for that. Plex does a great job of streaming from my living room to remote locations in HD. No, the video quality is not as good as what comes off of iTunes... especially if the iTunes version is 4K... but it's plenty good enough for my iPad or iPhone. I'm sure if I didn't have tons of security cameras flooding my bandwidth I could set the quality higher, but it's really not necessary.
Music streaming (local and remote) is handled quite well through Plex, and my SONOS system can address Plex directly. This means I can download all my music from iTunes, put it on the NAS, then drop iTunes Music Match and iTunes itself with no problem.
And so... bravo Plex.
I'm going to try out "Plex Pass" for a month and see if I want to upgrade to the lifetime membership for $120. Something tells me that's a purchase I will end up making. I certainly can't do without Plex if my alternative is the QNAP crap.
UPDATE: Yeah. Easiest decision to make to get the Plex Pass... the apps for streaming are included and you're helping the team behind it to keep developing the app.
So okay... the QNAP multimedia is bullshit. What about the NAS itself? Well, I'd love to report on that, but the minute I login, it either immediately disconnects me...
...or it allows me in but gives me a shitload of error messages. My favorite? Telling me it's running out of memory. If 2GB is not enough memory to do even the most basic tasks, then why ship with just 2GB memory? QNAP has their own version of Microsoft "Clippy" to break the bad news, which is a weird choice...
Even better? If you choose "optimize" he does a happy dance when he recovers 0MB of memory! Once I can log in again, I'll turn off and uninstall absolutely everything except the bare minimum I need (which includes Plex Server, of course), so I'm hoping that will fix these problems.
My NAS can act as a Time Machine backup for my Mac, but I really don't need that any more. All my data is stored in the cloud, so the only thing that would need to be replaced on my MacBook if it were destroyed are the apps, which I can just download from the developer again.
QNAP provides Apple File Services so I can access my NAS over my local network easily. Weirdly enough, you are required to install Windows File Services in order to install Apple File Services, but (luckily) you can kill the Windows File Services after installation to save precious memory and everything seems to work fine.
Speaking of memory... QNAP is happy to sell you more, but they charge outrageous pricing for the stuff. I mean laughably outrageous pricing. Far better to buy it yourself (which I'm guessing I'll have to do sometime soon if killing apps don't work).
Remote management and access to my files is a breeze thanks to QNAP's tools and a service they call CloudLink. The NAS talks with QNAP so even though its IP address may change, you can still reach it with no trouble.
I am still relatively new to the QNAP TS451+ NAS and the Western Digital RED drives, so I can't comment much about them. I can say that Western Digital are the only brand of hard drive that hasn't disappointed me so I'm hoping that trend continues. Also, despite the shitty media center aspects and overly-difficult controls, QNAP is highly respected in the IT industry. I just wouldn't bother paying extra for an HDMI port and remote that you will probably never use because their software is shit. Put that money towards a Plex Pass where it will do some good.
Posted on January 19th, 2020
I'm still sick and dying, but the show must go on, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• HDR. I've had a 4K AppleTV since the day it was released. The 4K part isn't a massive improvement over 1080 because my television isn't big enough (or rather I'm not sitting close enough) for it to make a big difference. When I get up close, fine details do look also nice... especially fine lines like strands of hair and the like. And so I just left the settings to the default of 4K because my TV can do that. Sometimes if it's a really beautiful movie that's being displayed in 4K I'll pull up a chair so I can see all the incredible detail up close. In discussing this, I was told that the default 4K is in Standard Dynamic Range and I should check to see if my television can display High Dynamic Range. A quick look at the specs and... my television CAN display HDR. I thought my AppleTV was already set to HDR, but I went into my AppleTV settings and, sure enough, it was set to SDR instead. So I made a quick comparison by switching back and forth while watching Captain Marvel. SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
The glow when Captain Marvel uses her powers alone is worth the switch. But where it really makes a difference is in the black levels. Any time people are in shadow you can see much more subtlety in their presence. Even more important, Agent Fury and Maria Rambeau's gorgeous skin tone is far better defined and doesn't get lost when they're in shadow. Just watch the scene where Fury and Carol are washing dishes and you'll see what a difference it makes... far more of a difference than going from 1080 to 4K. Another movie that just luxuriates in HDR? Blade Runner 2049. If you've got a television that can display HDR, then that's the most important setting you can make.
NOTE: The Marvel movies are not... I repeat NOT... in 4K or HDR if you purchase them on iTunes. You have to watch via a different app which has them in Ultra-High-Def HDR. If you purchased with MoviesAnywhere, you're good. The Disney+ app looks like it's HDR, but I haven't done a lot of testing.
NOTE: The "Movies" app on AppleTV stupidly does not seem to tell you when movies are encoded in HDR. You have to look them up on the shitty AppleTV desktop app on a computer to know that. So lame.
NOTE: Just to say... I've been running through the movie purchases I have which are in HDR and the picture quality is stunning. Even movies like Crazy Rich Asians which don't seem like they would be affected have a delicious richness to them. Seriously, wow.
NOTE: After watching a while, I am relatively confident that the AppleTV app for Disney+ is showing 4K HDR. Yay! So even if you only own the crappier iTunes versions, you can still watch in HDR with Disney+, I guess. Boy is Thor: Ragnarok disappointing. I thought once they got to Sakaar the color would be off the hook. Alas, not as often as you'd think, just in certain scenes. But the lightsaber fight in Star Wars: The Force Awakens nice.
• Reprisal. I suspended Netflix a couple weeks back, now I've also suspended Hulu so I can reactivate CBS All Access for ten weeks to watch Picard (unless CBS is a total dick and skip weeks like they've done with Discovery, the assholes). For the two days left I've got Hulu I've been watching it non-stop to get my money's worth. The last show I had on my list to watch was Reprisal...
A cross between all those revenge movies and Sons of Anarchy, this show is one of the most drawn-out, uneventful, dull, and overall boring series you'll ever see. Long stretches where absolutely nothing happens. Characters that have loads of screen time yet are somehow one-dimensional. There's also moments of real stupid which pad runtime just because there were ten episodes to fill. And yet... it was a fascinating, stylish, twisty, interesting ride that accelerated to the finish line. And had some great moments. I don't regret watching it. I do regret that I spent so much time watching it. So if you've got time to kill, here's a show to check out. You'll need to tough it out those first five episodes though.
• Kindness. It's not that difficult, really. If you can't be supportive of people living their best life at zero cost to you, you can at least be kind. So be kind. Offer kindness to those who are being treated unkindly. Stand against those who are treating others unkindly. As a fellow human, it’s the very least we can do.
• Dietary Sadness. Quaker rice cakes are a staple of my diet. I love them. They are high in carbs (7g to 11g ea.), but it's a far better option for dessert than say... three Chips Ahoy cookies (22g) or your average cupcake (40g). I have a Plain or White Cheddar or Popcorn cake with my lunch and a flavored cake with my dinner for dessert. My favorite for dessert, by a wide margin, is Caramel Chocolate Chip. Except you can't get them any more. You have to choose either Caramel or Chocolate. Caramel Chocolate Chip has been replaced by Tomato Basil.
I decided to try them and I can't make up mystery mind. The first bite and I'm like "Tastes like crackers in tomato soup!" The second and I'm like "Tastes like pizza sauce!" Then things start to go wrong. The flavor powder accumulates on your taste buds and suddenly it's awful for some reason. I am so very, very sad that my Caramel Chocolate Chip rice cakes are gone.
• Pantone. There is beauty to be found in diversity. And this is amazing.
• Help. And before I go... I read this week that there's now a hotline specifically for caregivers... "Depression. Exhaustion. Burnout. Stress. Those are just some of the words people are using to describe their experiences as caregivers. Helping care for a family member or loved one can be hard work. People don't often talk about the emotional toll it can take on the actual caregiver. Now the Caregiver Action Network is trying to provide help by launching a hotline specifically for caregivers." — Had this existed, there were days I would have totally called this number.
And now... probably time for a nap considering I'm about to pass out anyway.
Posted on January 16th, 2020
Ugh. NBC just released the details of their new "Peacock" streaming service and it's not good news for me.
I have been ditching online streaming services right and left in an attempt to save money. I've decided that I'm just going to rotate between them so I have no more than two active at a time. Hulu and Netflix are getting temporarily dumped in favor of CBS All Access so I can watch Picard later this month. Then it looks like I'm going to have to dump that when all the Picard episodes have aired so I can switch to NBC's "Peacock" service for Will Forte's new MacGruber series. I loved the shorts on Saturday Night Live and really loved the MacGruber movie, so there's no option for me to avoid "Peacock" as I had planned...
I hope hope hope that Kristen Wiig will at least do a guest-shot as Vicki St. Elmo on MacGruber... but she's got so much going on with movies and such that it's probably a long shot.
So let's take stock of where I'm at with paid streaming services, shall we?✓ Fubo (My main service for television)
Such a load of crap. The pricing almost ensures that people will not keep their subscriptions year-round but will instead rotate between everything like I'll be doing. They would be a lot smarter to drop from $6 a month (average) which will likely net $18 from me annually to a pre-paid yearly plan of $40 which would get them double the revenue. But oh well. I'm sure there will eventually be some kind of shakeup and consolidation, because there are likely even more streaming services on the way.
The biggest losers? Cable and satellite companies who have fucked over their customers for decades by forcing expensive massive packages with channels people will never watch. Had they gone à la carte ages ago, they could have survived this. As it is? Good riddance.
Posted on January 13th, 2020
When I got home from work I burned through thesecond season of Fleabag. Don't ask me why it took me this long to get around to it. Maybe it's because I didn't freak out over the first season like everybody I know did. Sure I liked it, but it wasn't better than sliced bread, I tell you what.
No, it's the second season of Fleabag that's better than sliced bread.
And speaking of better than sliced bread...
Nice to see that Marvel dumped some serious money into giving Black Widow the movie she deserves. Taskmaster is the perfect opponent, so something to look forward to (as if I weren't already).
Posted on January 12th, 2020
The world may be cold and bleak right now but there's a bit of warmth to be had, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• WWDD? I am very late to the party with What Would Diplo DO? but am very glad that Hulu recommended it to me. James Van Der Beek plays a parody of real-life DJ Diplo and the result is some of the funniest television I've ever seen. I can't believe that Diplo signed off on this (as well as produced it). I hesitate to link to this (NSFW) trailer because the show is so much better than this would indicate, but here it is...
It seems impossible we haven't seen a second season since the show was originally released in 2017. Since there's only five episodes available (which I've already watched twice), I need more Diplo in my life.
• Deeply Faked. I was disappointed by The Irishman... everybody involved has done better work elsewhere and I was bored by it all. But I did watch it. And a big part of the movie is the fact that the story is told over a long period of time. So Netflix had to pony up a big chunk of money for computer FX to de-age the characters. It was done well enough that it wasn't distracting... nor did it stray too far into uncanny valley territory. But it wasn't terribly convincing either. Which is why I find the fact that some guy used free "deep fake" tools to do a much better job of it for zero dollar so amusing...
These are the same free tools that did a far superior job of replacing Superman's face after Henry Cavill couldn't shave his mustache for Justice League. I wonder how long until Hollywood gets smart about these tools. I also wonder how long before faked video is indistinguishable from authentic video... and how that's going to change the world. What happens when you can't tell what's real any more?
• HEADLINE: 32-year-old Medford man fighting severe flu case. I stopped getting the flu vaccine because it never seemed to make a difference. I started again when I became a granduncle because I wanted to take every possible precaution that I wouldn't get him sick. My doctor once asked me if I had gotten my flu shot and I told him that I stopped doing that. His reply? "Well, 50,000 people a year die from the flu, but it's your call." That didn't change my mind, but I see this story and what he said is stuck in my head. 32 years old. Man, I wish this poor guy the best of luck and hope he gets better soon. Get your flu vaccine, people. And if you want to know more about it, the CDC has a page for that.
• Front and Center. Holy cats! This $3 utility restores MacOS X window functionality so that clicking on one window will bring all windows for that app to the front. I have NO idea why Apple changed this behavior from all the MacOS's before X, but it drives me insane. And now it's BACK, baby. No idea how much I've missed this. 100% critical app.
• WAKANDA FOREVER! Yo, Marvel Studios... what is it going to take to get an M'Baku series on Disney+? The guy steals every single scene he's in! He lives in one of the most magical places on earth! He's a character everybody loves! Winston Duke is a cinematic treasure! It's like... how many pieces need to click together before you do what needs to be done? Is Kevin Feige asleep at the wheel?
And who wouldn't guest star in THAT piece of awesome? Black Panther? Shuri? Okoye? Nakia? They could all make an appearance. This is a show that's begging to be made.
And now for some hot chocolate.
Posted on December 31st, 2019
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
Last year losing my mom was the worst year of my life. This year couldn't help but be better by comparison. But I lost one of my oldest, dearest friends right off the bat, so now I'm horrified at what 2020 may have in store. I guess I've reached the stage of my life where it's all tragedy and loss from here on out? Lord, I hope not.
• Took a look at Schitt's Creek, one of the best TV shows ever...
Took a look at the Seattle Tunnel... and the horrible design of the new spaces it will allow.
• Built a magnificent photo wall in my stairwell...
• Experienced Poster Raising with the Amish...
• Converted another batch more DVDs and Blu-Rays to digital... and explained how you can do it too.
• Wished Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one of my favorite ball players, a happy retirement...
• Dedicated a post to Mufasa, Jake's toy lion, his favorite thing in the universe...
• Lamented the fact that SeaTac International Airport is still a shitpile of fail, even when they build something new.
• Watched as my home keeps getting invaded by trash pandas.
• Spent my 101st Caturday taking inventory of the cats in my neighborhood...
• Watched the funniest stand-up of the year with Nate Bargatze's The Tennessee Kid (highest possible recommendation if you have Netflix)...
• Took Jake back to the vet after he ended up sick again. Still amazed that the little guy can't meow ever... EXCEPT when he is in distress...
• Found out the reason Jake was sick was because he fell off the stairwell banister. Absolutely heartbreaking (and more than a little scary), but he recovered like a champ...
• Built a bannister ledge tray to keep my cats from falling down the stairwell again...
• Talked about the series of travel books I made for my mom to commemorate each of the trips we took together...
• Shared my thoughts on the fucking disaster that was the Game of Thrones final season...
• Once again shared a video on how tax brackets work because I am sick and tired of people believing the bullshit lies that are being propagated. I honestly don't know if this is the best way, but if we're going to discuss tax brackets let's at least be informed as to what they are. And with that in mind, here we go again...
• Said goodbye to Grant, an internet friend who will be sorely missed.
• A visit to the Chihuly Garden of Glass, a magical place crafted by one of my favorite living artists...
• Spent my lazy summer days floating down a river...
• Finally cut the cord and got rid of the toxic mess that my satellite television had become.
• Ooh... Upgrades (a process that is ongoing, by the way!).
• I have opinions. And they get me in trouble by all sides.
• Back in Vegas for the third? Fourth? time in 2019 and decided to take stock of my one-time Planet Hollywood obsession...
• Got to see Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty...
• Discovered the total magic of my favorite new thing... THE IMPOSSIBLE WHOPPER at Burger King...
• Got myself an Apple Card... an interesting beast to be sure.
• My obligatory Apple Card unboxing entry...
• Total outrage that Hallmark can't seem to ever get the details right.
• Jake and Jenny's cat personality analysis...
• Hell of a Day, Isn’t It? Talked about what happens when you lose that person you share an inside joke with.
• Impressed the internet when I joined in on the SHOW US A PHOTO OF YOUR KITCHEN CABINET meme...
• Shared my brief attempt at being a home designer.
• Put my iPhone 11 Pro through it's paces... and shared my thoughts in it's incredible camera capabilities...
• Took my iPhone 11 Pro camera for a spin in my favorite American city.
• Ranting against changing the clocks because it fucks up my cats like nothing else... and the quail are back...
• Flew to Minneapolis so I could experience Avengers: Damage Control in real-live kinda virtual reality...
• Caring for somebody with dementia involves telling lies and making decisions.
• Disney+ finally debuted with a slew of watchable stuff to occupy time I don't have.
• Get Angry, Then Laugh... same as it ever was... same as it ever was.
• And, oh yeah, I joined the Instant Pot cult!
• Finally replaced my dying MacBook Pro... with a MacBook Pro...
• Let's take a Very Special edition of Caturday to talk about how technology helps Fake Jake survives the winter!
And there you have it... my 2019 year in review.
Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through even the worst of times.
Here's to a good 2020, everybody.
Posted on December 30th, 2019
And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of TV shows that came out this year.
Or, more accurately, a "wrap-up of TV shows I saw that came out this year." As always, there's a bunch of shows I never got around to watching that might have ended up on my list. And here we go...
THE EIGHTEEN BEST...
These are my favorite television shows from this year that I actually saw.
#1 Watchmen (HBO)
Wonderfully faithful to the comic book in a way that the movie adaptation wasn't, Damon Lindelof's "Don't-Call-It-A-Sequel" sequel is sublimely complex and worthwhile. Absolutely everything comes together at the end like a puzzle which has defined a complete story instead of something incomplete because it's setting up pointless sequels. Which is how all television should be handled. Story? Perfect. Cast? Perfect. Cinematography? Perfect. Special effects? Perfect. Music (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)? Perfect. Television doesn't get much better than this. But, then again, this isn't television... it's HBO.
#2 The Mandalorian (Disney+)
The best thing to happen to Star Wars since Rogue One, this was a launch title for Disney+, and the only excuse you need to subscribe to the service. Taking a member of the elite corps that spawned Boba Fest, pairing him with a "Baby Yoda" and other interesting characters, then treating the whole thing like a lone gunman Western in space is sheer genius... and I am esthetic that Disney let Jon Favreau play in their sandbox like this because it absolutely paid off... especially at the end. Here's hoping Season 2 is just as good.
#3 Barry (HBO)
I liked the first season of Bill Hader's dark comedy about an assassin trying to go straight... but I loved the second season. So many delicious moments, and a cast that knows exactly what to do with them. This show is absolutely nuts and willing to take risks that other shows wouldn't touch. The ronny/lily episode was entirely too good and could only happen here.
#4 Bob (Hearts) Abishola (CBS)
I had absolutely no hope for this show. I am not a fan of Billy Gardell and the idea of Chuck Lorre being adept enough to handle a comedy featuring cultural differences between the US and Nigeria was dicey at best. But... it has Christine Ebersole in it and had Gina Yashere writing (and appearing) for the show to add some authenticity... so I gave it a shot. Surprisingly, it all works really well. It's funny, smart, and doesn't rely on stereotypes for the bulk of its comedy. Folake Olowofoyeku as Abishola completely owns the role and it feels more authentic than half the crap on television. Go figure.
#5 Magnum P.I. (CBS)
This is just a fun show with a great cast telling (usually) entertaining stories in a pretty location. I was hugely resistant to the show when it debuted, but warmed up to it pretty quickly given the dynamic between Magnum and Higgins... and the critical role of Detective Katsumoto. Toss in Amy Hill and I'm all in. The second season is not as tight as the first, saddling us with truly terrible "theme" episodes foe Halloween and Christmas that absolutely did not work, but most of the episodes so far have been darn good and something I look forward to week after week.
#6 After Life (Netflix)
Ricky Gervais is an incredibly polarizing talent (currently involved in some social media conflict which does not look good on him at all) and I can pretty much take or leave his entire body of work. But then along comes After Life which manages to be funny, sad, heartwarming, and life affirming all at the same time... all the while exploring what it means to be alive with an interesting bunch of characters. Easily my favorite thing by Gervais, I hope for even more good things out of Season 2.
#7 Stumptown (ABC)
After one of the strongest series opener I've ever seen, there was an adjustment period where things dropped several stories in my opinion of the show. Now I'm comfortably settled and enjoying it for what it is... an opportunity for Cobie Smulders to be one of the biggest badasses on television in stories that are generally a lot of fun to watch. And while usually I like over-reaching show arcs that let each show build to an interesting finale, that isn't really working here and I'm not sure why. It's almost like it's distracting from the "story-of-the-week" in a way that sabotages them both. It's likely that the writers are still trying to find a balance, and they just need time to get it right. A second season should help with that immensely.
#8 The Boys (Amazon)
The hyper-violent comic book world of The Boys seems like something that would be impossible to adapt. But Amazon went ahead and gave it a shot and was mostly successful. Some of the changes from the source material were smart moves... some of them were just plain weird... and their idea for closing out the first season was something I'm not entirely sure worked all that well. And yet... I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish and anxious to see how they forge into new territory when it debuts next year.
#9 In The Dark (The CW)
I did not see this show when it first aired since I had been ignoring The CW once I ditched all their DC Heroes shows. But eventually Netflix picked it up and the show landed on my radar pretty quick. A blind woman who stays intentionally distant from people manages to make friends with a young drug-dealer who saved her life. Everything else is just a blur of one-night stands and alcohol abuse. Until her young friend is murdered and she makes it her mission in life to track down his killer. It's compelling, compelling stuff that's brilliantly realized right up until the end. I have no idea how they are going to approach a second season, but I will absolutely be tuning in to find out (even if I end up having to buy it to watch).
#10 The Orville (FOX/Hulu)
This remains nothing more than a classy reimagining of Star Trek: The Next Generation with jokes, but it's done really, really well. The second season wasn't as strong as the first, but still had some really good stories to tell. Next year the show switches from FOX to Hulu which is likely its death-knell. I hope that Seth MacFarlane realizes this and goes for broke... because that is a show I'd like to see.
#11 Living with Yourself (Netflix)
Despite my love of all things Paul Rudd, I did not go rushing to watch this one. I honestly thought it would be yet another clone effort that relied more on special effects than story. And... I was 100% wrong. This was a smart and insightful show that took full advantage of Paul Rudd's talents to turn in a really good show. Wisely, they didn't go full-on crackpot and ruin things... choosing instead to go more of an Arnold Schwarzenegger's The 6th Day route, but with less guns. It totally works and might have ranked higher on my list if they had edited it to be more moment-to-moment for the perspective flashbacks instead of episode-to-episode which got a bit tiring after the first time.
#12 Schitt's Creek (Pop TV)
I don't have access to Pop TV, so I always miss getting Schitt's Creek on my list. This time I ended up buying the series so I could watch in real-time with the rest of the world. Sadly, the fourth season was a pretty big step down from the third... but still wholly entertaining. As we head towards the fifth and final season, I can't help but wonder if they will mire the characters in the same-old same-old... or if they will really take a chance and try to do something new and interesting. We've seen what the same-old got us last season, so here's hoping for the latter.
#13 Young Sheldon (CBS)
I loved the first season, was tired of it all the second, but have fallen in love with it again this third season. It's like they decided to take real advantage of the times that Sheldon and his family are living so they have a unique take on the stories they can tell... instead of just deciding to make Young Sheldon do all the same stuff they had Original Sheldon do when he was on the Big Bang Theory. This makes for a far stronger show, and allows Zoe Perry to have more interesting places to goo with her character than yet another "I'm exasperated because Sheldon is so trying" episode.
#14 The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
As an adaptation of the comic book, I wasn't entirely thrilled with how The Umbrella Academy turned out. As an entertaining show in its own right, however? I think they did a really good job with it all. Smartly cast and written, there are a few too many wasted moments that make for an uneven first season, but I was entertained for most of it. You certainly can't say that about most television now-a-days.
#15 The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)
The series went out of its way to show that hypocrisy and corruption by churches ultimately ends with punishment, so why are so many Christians going bonkers over it? Unless they feel their church is hypocritical and corrupt and they don't like being called out on it? You got me. All I know is that John Goodman and crew made an entertaining show with some truly hilarious and priceless moments to savor.
#16 The Imagineering Story (Disney+)
As a kid, I was far more fascinated with how Disneyland works more than anything else. The magic of the place for me was not in the characters and the stories but in the miraculous way that Disney made it all work. And here comes a series which celebrates exactly that! My only complaint? It didn't last long enough. While they did a fine job of presenting a scattershot view of a number of things, so many avenues were glossed over or ignored entirely. I have no idea if Disney is planning on another set of episodes, but they really should. For people such as myself, that's the magic.
#17 Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
The first series of the past-future Star Trek series was fantastic. The story was shocking, smart, and superbly handled. There were some confusing aspects to how this fit in with the continuity of the bigger picture, but it was so good I didn't ask too many questions. Then the second season comes along and tries to answer those questions and all of a sudden we're shitting the bed with a massively convoluted storyline that had me lose interest in the show. Except... we also got an appearance by Spock, Pike, and the gang from the original Enterprise which was sublime. So good that it covered for a multitude of sins that made me dislike everything else so strongly. And now I really, really want a new Star Trek featuring the Enterprise crew... even more than I want a third season of Discovery. Here's hoping that Michelle Yeoh's spin-off is more interesting that what we had here.
#18 The Conners (ABC)
If you had asked me if Rosanne could continue on without Rosanne, I'd have said "no." But then it arrived and worked just fine. Then a second season came and seemed to be even better. Now I'm convinced that what we're seeing is better than the rebooted series ever was. If there's a flaw, it's focusing way too much on Harris and her annoying problems. Yes, I know she's supposed to be the payback for Darlene being Darlene back in the original series... but Sara Gilbert always managed to play her character with a sense of heart and honesty that made her endearing. Harris is just overt awfulness and a drag on absolutely everything else being done so well. My hope is that she will either mellow the hell out or disappear entirely, because I'd love to enjoy another season.
MUST SEE COMEDY...
#1 Nate Bargatze: The Tennessee Kid (Netflix)
The fact that Nate Bargatze is this dang funny is remarkable. The fact that he manages to be that funny without using any swear words is bordering on a miracle. Trading on expectations for The South, this is a far, far smarter and funnier than anything you'll see come from Larry the Cable Guy. Or, dare I say, Jeff Foxworthy. Not only my favorite standup special of 2019, probably my favorite in years.
#2 Ellen Degeneres: Relatable (Netflix)
Thank heavens for Netflix backing up a dumptruck full of cash to Ellen's house so she'd bless us with yet another hilarious bit of standup. It's been far too long, and seeing this just makes me regret that her daytime talk show occupies such a major portion of her time. Ellen really needs to be doing more standup, and all the reasons why are right here.
#3 Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward (Netflix)
Look, not everybody is going to "get" Anthony's comedy. He works overtime to be offensive, owns that he's offensive, and builds his entire routine around being offensive. This time he's bringing it just as hard as he always does, but I have to admit it's getting a little tired. But I will gladly keep watching everything he does because I know I'm sick enough to find it hilarious.
#4 Ramy Youssef: Feelings (HBO)
Ramy, AKA "That Muslim comedian that's not Hasan Minhaj" has a show on Hulu that's darn good. But I had never heard any of his stand-up until Feelings. As expected, it's darn good. Really smart, blisteringly funny, and wonderfully relatable. The ever expanding diversity of voices which make us laugh is no small thing. Our humanity is what binds us together despite our differences. What's more human than to laugh? And feel how you want to feel about it, but his final thought in his special is the most powerful thing to happen on your television this year.
#5 Wanda Sykes: Not Normal (Netflix)
Wanda's earliest specials were like dynamite and quickly propelled her to one of my favorite comedians working. I bought every special she released and laughed over them again and again. As time has marched on she hasn't gotten any less funny, but I am not as enamored with her material. Motherhood and marriage are just not as funny to me. And yet there's a whole lot of hilarity to be found in Not Normal.
#6 Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones (Netflix)
Yeah, I put it on my list. No, it's not as smart or insightful as his previous works. Yeah, a lot of people were offended. No, I don't think the material was as horrific as people were saying. Yeah, I respect people's opinion and 100% believe in their right to express their opinion. No, I still found it funny.
TELEVISION HONORABLE MENTION...
SHITTING THE BED...
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN...
And, on that note, here's to all the crap shows that will end up replacing good shows in the new year.
Posted on December 27th, 2019
Winter in the Northeast is not as nice as Winter in the Northwest for some reason. For one thing (and I honestly don't understand how this happens considering I live farther North than I am right now) it seems to get darker sooner. Our 4:00pm is their 3:30. Maybe the weather patterns hold the overcast in tighter so it just feels that way? I dunno. But it's pretty depressing.
This morning my entire life was put on hold so I could watch the season finale of The Mandalorian (AKA "That Baby Yoda Show"), which was actually quite good...
It's strange how this 8-episode television series felt more "Star Wars" than just about anything which followed The Empire Strikes Back. Perhaps Rogue One is the exception for me (I loved that movie)... but I'll definitely take The Mandalorian over Episodes 1-3 and Episodes 6-9 of "The Skywalker Saga." And I haven't even seen Episode 9 yet.
Hopefully we'll get something a little more ambitious for Season Two. As great as Season One was, it still dragged quite a bit in the middle.
After that was over it was time for my 2-1/2-hour drive north. Which sounds bad, but I'll take it over the 3-1/2-hour drive that I get to make in the Summer when the roads are swarming with tourists. That's travel torture right there.
And speaking of travel torture... now it's time to decide if I want to eat questionable hotel food for the second night in a row... or brave the cold and try my luck at a restaurant.
Either way, it's likely I'm setting myself up for disappointment.
Posted on December 15th, 2019
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.
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...
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...
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...
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...
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!!!
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...