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December 29, 2017

This is the year!… proclaimed one article.

UFOs are real!… proclaims a “highly placed government official.

They’re heeeeeerrrrrrr… proclaimed another article.

OK, part of this is the websites I hang out on, but I’m amused by the hard-core science guys who claim they believe aliens have visited Earth…Image result for ufo

The problem with this, of course, means a lot of our science is wrong. They’d have to admit that the Theory of Relativity is incomplete (shhhh, don’t tell them that it never passed all the tests that Einstein himself created for it).

Unless…. a generational ship.  Hmmm. A species who abandons their planet to take hundreds of generations to reach Earth. That might end badly.

Or a species who lives for thousands of years, who would see us as short-lived mayflies. That would probably end badly, too.

Perhaps we shouldn’t hope for visitors from the deep blue, after all.


Anthropomorphism as Bribery

December 16, 2017

Thirteen years ago, I bought my first brand-new car; a cherry red PT Cruiser. I loved the retro look and room interior. I kept it in the garage for years, until I had to build an office in there, thus relegating the Cruiser to the driveway.

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She even weathered a hurricane and kept her shine!

It has been a wonderful car, despite neglectful maintenance. I’ve had to replace the radiator and transmission once, battery several times, but all in all, my 14 year old car is wonderful.

The last couple years, though, she’s been struggling. The warning light comes on (something to do with the catalytic converter), the door chime sounds when everything is buttoned up (thankfully, it’s stopped), and now the brake light flairs even though it isn’t on.

In it’s younger years, it was a car. A machine. Not a person, not a boy or girl, just a car. But the older and crankier she gets, the more I anthropomorphize her. I speak encouraging words, pet her dashboard, beg sometimes.

Sure, it’s bribery; we can’t afford to replace her right now. But it’s also gratitude. She is hanging in there, even in the cold. She works diligently, under harsh conditions, when she’s hurt, and sure she sends up flairs, but doesn’t really complain, and she’s dependable. If that isn’t female, I don’t know what is.

Justice League of… ah, okay…

December 2, 2017

I didn’t have high hopes for Justice League, and in some ways it was better and in some ways worse than I expected. I got to see it with my sister and brother-in-law, which made it great, but…

SPOILERS! Read Ahead At Your Own Risk!

Things I liked:

  • Aquaman’s character. Surprise, I liked it.
  • Barry Allen
  • Batfleck. sort of
  • Casting was good for the most part
  • Overall, it was impressive action, with a brisk flow

Rating: Solid C (understanding that C is average, not bad)

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Things I did not like:

  • Aquaman’s display of powers. He moved fast through water without moving. Flying through air is cool; flying through water is weird. He looked like he was holding his breath. I mean, he was, but there should be some hint that he was breathing water. Gills? Not sure; Aquaman is tough to do live action. And he didn’t talk to fish… Mostly, I did like Aquaman, though, so it’s a technical thing.
  • Henry Cavil as Superman. Doesn’t work for me and I don’t know why.  Big guy, but he looks goofy, especially with the CGI upper lip.
  • Flash. Didn’t really care for the costume (what were the wires for?); slow motion running; okay, and Superman watching him in slo-mo, cool, but he looks goofy running.
  • Cyborg’s clunky look, but otherwise, he was great (the last bit where he was smoothing out the armor is a better look).
  • No Darkseid? What’s with that? Parademons = Darkseid
  • Overly dark movie; I get it, Darks… uh, I mean Steppenwolf is a dark guy. I think it was too early for this movie.
  • Batman asking for help? That’s where they went wrong with this movie (that, and killing off Superman in the last movie).

What would I do? Glad you asked.

Batman should be the last member. Wonder Woman gathering everyone makes sense, but Bruce? No, no, no. Batman does not ask for help.

I could see WW deciding it’s time to end the growing fear of heroes. So she begins to collect them for a team to promote transparency and PR, and in the process, we see Cyborg’s origin, Flash screwing up, Green Lantern giving away his weakness (yellow), Aquaman scaring people on land and sea. They’re all in, or reluctantly so,  and then when she tries to recruit Batman, he refuses. End of the dream. They are all dangerous, and he points out what each could have done to quickly end their iconic battles. And he’s right. Batman knows how to use their powers better than they do! Even Diana weirds people out with her insistence on the Greek gods. If Batman wants partners, he’ll train them first. Nor does an alive Superman need them; he has too many people to protect without adding them to the list.

Until something happens that requires all of them. An alternate-Earth invasion that began a long time ago (and out-Skrull Marvel with Earth 2 doppelgangers replacing the Earth 1 counterparts), who were fomenting hero hatred and fear. Batman and Superman put it all together, and they take the lead of the new JL and pull the team together, orchestrating the team’s movements and driving the strategy, coordinating two-man teams to address issues across the globe (maybe they run into other heroes; Atom, Plastic Man, Black Canary). Someone knows all their weaknesses, someone is Batman’s equal, and that someone is Alfred, replaced by the Earth 2 version, the Outsider. His crew are in need of a new earth. Until the JL triumphs through brains, guts and everyone using their powers skillfully.

Thus keeping it lighter. In comics, DC is lighter and Marvel is grittier. Even the heroes are loopier. Flash should run during the day (running in the dark is a bad idea), a guy who swims and a guy with a ring and weird sense of imagery, another guy who dresses as a bat. I don’t want campy, just enjoyment. Who isn’t in heaven when they have a magic ring?  DC should make being a hero FUN, not just funny.

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Greedy Me

November 9, 2017

I heard a speaker last week proclaim Greed is Bad (agreed), Profit should not the Driving Force for Every Endeavor (agreed), The American Dream is Bad (could not disagree more).

We can all agree that greed is bad. An unholy pursuit of profit is also bad, but the American Dream has been so misunderstood for so long that it causes otherwise intelligent men and Millennials to do backflips in decrying it.

The pursuit of profit is only bad if it edges into greed, but the American Dream isn’t about greed or even profit. It’s about the God-given right to pursue your dreams; to determine how you do business, and to do with your earnings what you wish.

Sure, dreams can be greedy, but many aren’t. A Millennial mindset that should be applauded is the desire for their money to mean something; for companies to give a percentage of revenue to worthy charities (even though it can be done cynically to increase sales by some companies… who cares? The money still goes to charity).

What the American Dream does not do is absolve you of responsibility for yourself. By all means, pursue your passion, but don’t expect other people to pay for it. Cut expenses to the bone, work a flexible job, and pursue, pursue, pursue. You should NOT, however, be taking government assistance to finance your dream. I may be happy to help you by choice, but not by fiat, which is what taxes are.

That’s why most actors have restaurant service experience. It’s flexible to allow for auditions to be crammed in, but pays at least meager bills. For most artists, a second or even third job is necessary. There’s nothing wrong with this American Dream.

Yet the speaker was right; it is far too easy for greed to drive us.

Part of greed is working yourself to the bone to support a comfortable lifestyle; to be so busy paying the bills that we have no time for other worthwhile endeavors, like volunteering, charity, or church involvement.

I’m guilty of this. Very guilty. And now trapped until we can dig out from my own stupidity (though it keeps us here in Florida, which isn’t all bad; I have amazing friends).

I am so guilty, that a prophecy said over me concerning many spigots to be turned on was interpreted by me as revenue streams, for which I’ve been waiting years to come true. But if I realize those were ministry opportunity (and loosen my idea of what ministry is), it was fulfilled a long time ago and continues to this day.

The speaker’s chiding did make me rethink a few things, and it’s opened the door to a new sorta-business opportunity (sorta, because I won’t make much from this and it will require a lot of work, but it will benefit me in other ways and hopefully a lot of others). More details when it’s built out a bit more.

So, greed is more than just money; it’s comfort, it can be pleasure, overwhelming desire for experience with places, people or food… and greed distracts you from better things. I firmly believe that anything bad is just a counterfeit of something good. Greed is love of something that benefits me at the expense of others, so the real thing is love of God (unbelievers would say Love of your Fellow Person and Society as a Whole – believers get all that, as it all falls under God).

What does greed look like to you?

I am a Serial Kindler

September 19, 2017

I come from a long line of bibliophiles. My parents were, my sisters are, my children and wife are all bibliophiles. We love books. The feel of them, the smell of them, and most definitely the words on them. Story lives between the covers.

My Dad and I, though (oh, how I miss him)… gadget guys, or as I prefer, technophiles, all the way.

When e-readers first came out, I bought a Nook (I’m sure it’s still around here somewhere). But B&N didn’t have the selection, so when Kindle came out, I bought one. Loved it. Then I bought my wife and kids one each.

Ooo, but then PaperWhite came out. My wife and I had to have those! The light-up screen was my go-to reader for a long time. (OK, I lied about my wife. I wanted it and figured she should have it, too. She would have been happy with her old Kindle).

I know, I know, Kindles don’t have the heft of books, the pages, the wonderful smell. But it’s lightweight, and it isn’t a single book, it’s a library of books.

I’ll be honest, and may have to turn in my technophile card, because I don’t like tablet computers. Oh, I have one, but it doesn’t replace a computer, and it’s too big, even with the Kindle app so it can be used as a big, bulky Kindle.

But Amazon even fixed that. When the Fire came out, my technomouth watered. Seven inches, lightweight, and a full-blown tablet of good size and best of all, dirt-cheap (like my dear old Dad, I’m also thrifty (my wife is laughing as she reads this)). There were slightly more appealing sizes, but the small one was $45 and the big ones were several hundred dollars. The small one was just fine. I liked it so much I got everyone in the family one.

As a member of BookBub, I get daily emails of discounted and free books on Amazon. Originally, the free ones were flat-out bad, but they’re pretty good now. I’ve got dozens of books I haven’t read yet, but they’re waiting!

Then Amazon got sneaky. I was happy with my Fire, but then they came out with an 8-inch, higher definition Fire. I missed the Prime deal that bundled four Fires for $120, and the regular price of $75 was just enough to hold me off from buying.

Then they halved the price for Amazon Prime users. That’s me (love my Prime account). I caved and bought it. Love, love, love it! Even the speaker is pretty good. I admit I mostly read on it, but with Alexa (you push a button to activate her, so no constant recording), sometimes I’ll use it for music. And ma-jong, solitaire, a few other games, and Stargazer (my favorite app other than books). Have I said I love it? I do!

Did I mention that magazines on the Fire 8 are much better than on 7?

What I find embarrassing, though, is when I look at devices on Amazon and I have a list of Kindles for the family that clearly displays my avarice. I have more kindles that most people have books.

I know what you’re thinking, but no, I don’t feel guilty for cheating on my first love of books. I really don’t. Really.

Irma be Going Now

September 13, 2017

I’ve been taken to task for posting about a TV show rather than the hurricane we just experienced. So, okay, fine.

This post may be offensive or maddening to people actually harmed by the storm. My apologies up front.

I enjoy hurricanes.

There, I said it.

I’ve got competing beliefs in this matter. For one, I love watching people go out of their minds. “A storm’s coming! Buy water! And more water! And more water!”  At Publix they had sold out of water while I stopped in for some mainstays. A woman was horrified that she couldn’t buy water.

“Your faucets still work. We’ve got a week. Fill up jugs and pitchers and coolers at the tap.”

She actually said, “I can’t do that; it’ll go bad!”

Second, I believe the media blows everything out of proportion. Normally I divide the media hysteria by two. OK, Irma even at half hype-strength was big, but…

Three, I don’t believe in getting scared of things I can’t do anything about. Don’t mistake this for bravery, it’s just emotional laziness.

As plywood and water was scarfed up, I dithered. Because four, I believe if I board up my house, a tree will fall on it. Better to throw myself completely on the mercy of God and the insurance company.

And five, I believe it’s better to sleep through scary things.Image result for irma

Don’t get me wrong. We had plenty of water, and sort of enough food (I didn’t take into account the evacuees we took in, but God was good and we had plenty to feed everyone. Note: God would be good if we didn’t, too, but that’s another story).

OK, I admit to a little trepidation when we walked around the neighborhood and almost everyone had their windows boarded up. I took comfort in the fact that we’d be able to see when the storm was done…

We monitored the wagging tail of the path projections. We moved stuff outside to undercover (there’s a story there, too, but that’s Lynette’s to tell and she doesn’t have a blog, so you’ll have to ask her why she’s limping).

And then it hit. And the power went out.

So I went to bed.

Typically, I sleep like a deep-sounding whale, that night it was more like a dolphin blipping in and out of the water. I heard the branches hit the roof and odd sounds outside before rushing back to the depths. If there was a serious problem, someone would tell me.

When the sun came up, I went outside to check what had happened. The winds were still brisk, but people were already cleaning up.

This is the other reason I like hurricanes. The neighborliness is overwhelming. We had a couple of giant branches in the front yard, smaller branches two feet deep everywhere else. Yet no damage to the cars or the house.

Our evacuees and my daughters pitched into the effort to clear the branches to the front of the property. While I cleaned up our side yard, our very-bestest-neighbor-ever, Al Kubik was already chainsawing the giant branches. We helped our neighbors, they helped us.  Five giant piles out front will probably be miraculously gone by the weekend.

We did a walk around the block. Trees were down, branches were down. One neighbor had a giant branch the size of tree drop in his backyard, and another that was caught by other branches so while it was mushroomed on his roof, there was no roof damage. Other trees had fallen within inches of a house. Of the 70 houses in our development, one was badly damaged (a tree through the middle of the house), and another had the corner of the roof nibbled off.

We were all marinating in our own sweat and it was cooler outside than in. That’s a miserable feeling, but so much better than picking wood out of our things.

Then, just as we were about to grill chicken on Al’s grill (I did feel bad about that. I didn’t expect to lose power for long. We never had before), as I was lifting the poultry from the counter, the lights came back on and we heard cheering from around the neighborhood.

The next day, I drove around a bit and saw time after time of trees down miraculously beside houses; very few damaging anything other than fences.

Orlando is good about coming together to help after crisis. We have great utility crews, businesses and just plain folks taking care of their fellow man.  Irma ain’t got nothin’ on that.

It’s good to be alive. And have AC.

The Orville – Bad but Understandable

September 13, 2017

As a fan of Star Trek and comedy, I was looking forward to The Orville. I knew it would be sophomoric due to Seth MacFarlane’s involvement, but a quality ST satire is apparently only achievable by Galaxy Quest.  The Orville lived down to everything MacFarlane represents.

Obsession with innuendo is one thing, characters devoted to it is another. The helmsman is a talented slacker, but too old to be anything other than a loser.  The black guy (sorry, no one sticks out enough to recall their names) is a stereotype. The doctor is played by a talented actress who left her talent at home. The Data Robot will eventually have more screen time. The concept for the character is interesting in a lovable Data of STNG meets The Doctor from STV sort of way. The alien 2nd officer is uninteresting. I like the security officer.

MacFarlane is on record calling this a “new” genre of both comedy and drama (though dramedy is already a thing), stressing there will be serious parts. Um, no, Seth, the hallmark of a comedy is that no one is actually hurt. In drama, they are. In The Orville, even the stuff that could have been “drama” wasn’t because there was no real pain or threat of pain.

The concept is vastly superior to the execution.

Perhaps there was an attempt at making fun of tropes, but it fell flat. Krill can’t hit anyone they aim at, but crewmembers always shoot true. Ha ha. ST has primary color uniforms, TO has primary AND secondary color uniforms.

And yet…

I get it. Yes this is fan fiction of the worst kind, but… what fan wouldn’t take the opportunity? I’ll be the first to admit that if I had a platform where I could get anything produced, I’d put my own spin on Star Trek. I even have a script treatment or two (seriously, one is a rework of Enterprise launched by a dysfunctional attempt at a one-world government, and the other is a Jr. Officer perspective for a ship devoted to 2nd contact, who vets new species before inclusion in the Federation, set between Kirk and Picard time periods. See? Ubergeek here, too.)

It’s really weird in that the production staff is highly skilled, but they seem stuck in fan-boy mode. Jon Favreau has his goofy fanboy side, but is capable of top notch work. He seems to phone it in here.

And a quick aside on Adrianne Palicki, the executive officer: I like the actress, but someone in TVland is desperately trying to make this lady a star. What do Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Most Wanted (Mockingbird), and several other roles have in common? Attempted shows that start Palicki. Now this. Weird.

Star Trek had the excuse of low budget and needing to invent video technology, so they get away with a lot. They built a world full of complex choices; in The Orville, neither condition applies. They have money and high-tech, but this comes off as little more than a cartoon.

Their probably very true excuse is that because it is so heavily influenced by Star Trek that to properly execute the concept would make it directly derivative (and subject to copywrite infringement) rather than protected satire, but it fails on the satire level, too. It is neither sharp, witty or a biting reflection of the original.

If instead of aping the characters and starship set up of Star Trek, what if it was based on something other than a Navy structure? Redesign the bridge and stations, refocus the world-building, change the look and feel and make it *gasp* real.

That is not to say The Orville is a complete loss. This was just one episode. Perhaps they’ll find their footing and continually improve. It’s only 45 minutes on Hulu, so let’s see if it gets better.