The Overwhelming Era…

Keza MacDonald offers a fascinating article, posted on, regarding his frustrations with so many really, really, REALLY big/multiple-hour-killer games being available seemingly all at once:

How Are We Supposed To Play All These Enormous Video Games?

I’ll go Mr. MacDonald one better: It’s not just video games.  We live in an era where we are being absolutely crushed by the amount of recreational material we have available to us.

I know, I know, first world problems.

Still, they’re there.  We have too many TV shows, too much music, too many books, too many DVDs/BluRays, too many (yes) video games, etc. etc. etc. screaming for every single second of our free time.

Used to be that the choices for entertainment weren’t all that many.  When I was young, there were something like five or so channels on TV and the major networks didn’t air all that many first run shows, at least compared to now.  You pretty much had to see these shows when they aired or, a little later, when they were rerun.

There was so little “new” programming available for all the hours of the day that it wasn’t unusual for the local networks to replay old TV shows on “down” times such as the weekends or early afternoons.

Thus it was that I’d discover shows cancelled long before I first saw them.  Shows like the original Star Trek.  The Wild, Wild, West.  Perry Mason.  The Twilight Zone.  The Outer Limits.

Cable came and grew and suddenly you had hundreds of channels and the need to fill the time with something.  So many new shows appeared that it became impossible to watch everything you were even mildly interested in.

A confession: I’m one of the very few people out there who hasn’t watched a single full episode of what is arguably the most popular show on TV today, Game of Thrones.  It’s not that I don’t want to, its just that I never got HBO and, when the episodes were finally available to me via video release, so much had been written/talked (and spoiled) about the various plot points that it was pointless -by that time- to try the show out.

But early on I was damn curious about it and even bought the first couple of books of the series.  These books sit unread on my bookshelf, given up for the same reasons I gave up on watching the show.  Granted, its my fault I was spoiled regarding the show’s plot.  I could have resisted checking out the various spoilers, yet having seen a few -even one!- there became no need for me to play catch up on the rest.

Getting back to Mr. MacDonald, I too have video games I’ve purchased fully intending to play them but getting sidetracked and eventually letting them go, sometimes without playing even a minute of them.

With whatever free time I have I’m nearing the completion of the latest Batman game (XBox One version) but waiting in the wings are The Witcher, Forza, and a few others I may never get to.  And that’s not counting the current Grand Theft Auto game I’ve got on my computer!

By now I think I’ve made my point: We live in an era of oversaturation and we have to be more and more picky about what it is we decide to spend our free time doing.

While it is a good thing we have so many options available for entertainment, I worry about all those things we might have missed while pursuing the new and shiny.  Used to be that certain works, with the passage of time, would be given second or third looks and, over the years, people would realize these sometimes forgotten works were special.

For example, the writings of H. P. Lovecraft.  Never successful in his time, his works were re-assessed over the years and became viewed long after Mr. Lovecraft’s death as truly great works of horror fiction.

Could that happen today and with so many works competing for our time out there?  Could anyone find the free time to re-assess an older work and realize they are holding something truly special in their hands?

For better or worse, I fear that is no longer the case.

Politics 24/7

It’s been all politics all the time it appears of late.  I skipped the latest Republican debate and, based on what I’ve read about it, I couldn’t be happier.  The Republican Party has degenerated, in my opinion, to such a strange, comical-if-it-weren’t-so-damn-frightening extreme that its hard to take them seriously.

Perhaps the best example of the (let’s be kind) oddities current Republican candidates display can be found in the below, a question asked in this latest debate about which woman they would put on the $10 Bill.  I found the article, written by Ben Mathis-Lilley, on

GOP Candidates, Asked To Name Iconic American Women, Cite Foreigners and their Relatives

You read that right, the answers by many of them were, to say the least…silly.

For those who don’t want to hit the link, I’ll post the candidate replies below:

  • Rand Paul: Susan B. Anthony.
  • Mike Huckabee: His wife.
  • Marco Rubio: Rosa Parks.
  • Ted Cruz: Rosa Parks (but on the $20; he’d keep Hamilton on the $10).
  • Ben Carson: His mother.
  • Donald Trump: His daughter or Rosa Parks.
  • Jeb Bush: Margaret Thatcher.
  • Scott Walker: Clara Barton.
  • Carly Fiorina: Wouldn’t change the bill.
  • John Kasich: Mother Theresa.
  • Chris Christie: Abigail Adams.

So basically three of the eleven candidates chose relatives (Huckabee would put his wife on the bill, Ben Carson his mother and Donald Trump his daughter…or Rosa Parks).  Frankly, I find these answers shameful.  If the three were trying to be “funny”, the joke is pretty damn weak.  Regardless, one gets the feeling their answer displays more about their ignorance of famous American women than any actual humor.

You would think that would be the worst type of answer, but then you have the very bizarre responses from Jeb Bush and John Kasich.  Jeb Bush chooses…former British P.M. Margaret Thatcher?!  John Kasich wants to put Calcutta’s Mother Theresa on a U.S. bill?!?!  As with the relative answers above, I can’t help but think these responses show their ignorance of famous American woman.

Three of them chose Rosa Parks: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump (but as noted above, he said either Ms. Parks or his daughter!).  I find the choice of Rosa Parks, especially with regard to Ted Cruz, a curious one.  Considering some of the philosophies he -and the others- espouse, I wonder if they’re not just mentioning a name they’re familiar with rather than what she’s most known for.

Scott Walker’s choice of Clara Barton, the nurse who founded the Red Cross, is actually a rather neat choice, in my opinion, though it doesn’t warm me at all to his candidacy.

Susan B. Anthony, a feminist involved in the woman’s suffrage movement, was Rand Paul’s choice and is also not bad at all, though we did have her already appear on currency, albeit a coin…

Chris Christie chose Abigail Adams.  I think she’s an interesting choice though if I were to go with a First Lady, I might be more inclined to pick Eleanor Roosevelt.  Given Mr. Christie’s party, it would have been quite shocking had he -or any of them- chosen her.

Finally, and most curiously, the only female candidate at the Republican debate, Carly Fiorina, stated she wouldn’t change the bill at all.  I’ll give her this much, that’s a very conservative answer.

So…what have we learned by this little exercise?




I have no idea.


24 Horrifying True Stories…

…Behind the Scenes of Huge Movies:

Though I was familiar with some of them (Vic Morrow and the children he held being ripped to shreds -literally- by a falling helicopter’s blades while filming a scene for the Twilight Zone film is one of those horrifying things that make you realize stuntwork within films can sometimes be a very haphazard thing), many of them were unfamiliar to me.

Perhaps one of my favorite “horrifying” behind the scenes looks can be found on the bonus sections of the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die.  The film featured plenty of stuntwork, including the very famous “jumping over a pit of crocodiles” escape bit that has to be one of the most clever cliffhanger escapes ever committed to film, IMHO…

Anyway, what horrified me wasn’t so much this stunt (which, let’s face it, required some major stones from stuntman/owner of the crocodile farm to do) but rather some of the other stuntwork present in the film.  Specifically I’m referring to those involving the car/motorcycle chase.

Again, if you’ve seen the bonus material on the Live and Let Die BluRay, you find that many of those stunts had the stuntmen doing the work with little preparation or anticipation of what might happen.  One stuntman, for example, jumped with his motorcycle into water and, as it so happened, there was coral where he landed and he banged himself up badly.  And that was just one of the stunts!

As I watched that making of material, I got the impression that the stuntmen hired to do the work within this film were told to do this or that and they just said “Sure!”, not bothering to see if the stunt was doable or if they might get hurt doing it.  Perhaps that’s the way things were back then…

A crazy, crazy business!

On being a successful writer…

Laura Miller for Slate offers the following interesting essay regarding British novelist Scarlett Thomas and the hard road to become a successful novelist:

Did Scarlett Thomas Miss Her Chance?  What Happens When Stars Don’t Align For A Gifted Novelist

I wrote a comment after this article, which I’ll reproduce here:

An interesting article, though I can’t help but wonder about the desire to hit it “big”.  With so many, many novels released in the course of a year (including my own!), if one manages to make an impression with even one of them you’re doing good, in my opinion.

Audience tastes are fickle and it isn’t too surprising that a person who hits it big with one novel sometimes doesn’t replicate that achievement with their next.  In music, this is an almost too common event (for those old enough, do you remember how popular Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album Jagged Little Pill was?  Her output since that point hasn’t exactly captured audiences as well as that album, to say the least).

As I said, at least the authors mentioned in this article managed to capture the audience’s attention at one point which is certainly better than many other authors have in the course of their career.

And don’t get me started on people like H. P. Lovecraft or Stieg Larsson or Robert Howard or Herman Melville or Joseph Conrad etc. etc. etc., authors who during their lifetimes achieved minimal success yet after they died their works were suddenly red hot.

Such are the vagaries of “good” fortune!

Hmmmm….(now with an update!)

So last night the 2015 NFL season began with the Pittsburgh Steelers playing at/against the New England Patriots and…

What Exactly Happened With The Steelers’ Headsets?

As any NFL fan knows by now, the New England Patriots have a…reputation…for underhanded activities.  Cheating, for those who prefer less florid descriptions.

One thing New England has been accused of before is hooking into or interfering with the headsets/communication systems of the opposing teams.

Given all the scrutiny New England is getting at this point in time, it would be truly stupid or collosally arrogant for them to try to do any of that on opening day?


Yet during last night’s game the Steelers experienced periods of interference on their communication systems where the New England radio transmissions of the game were broadcast through their headsets, thus impeding the Steelers’ coaches from calling plays from the sidelines.  Theoretically, whenever there is a problem with one team’s communication systems, then all communication systems are supposed to be shut off, thus assuring both team remain of equal grounds.

in the article above, written by Timothy Burke for Deadspin, he notes one of the more intriguing quotes from the Steelers’ clearly irate coach, Mike Tomlin, regarding the communication problems his team experienced and the possibility there was of shutting the New England communication system off during the game:

…whenever an NFL representative proceeded to the New England sideline to shut down their headsets, the Steelers headsets cleared. Then as the representative walked away from the New England sideline, the Steelers’ headsets again started to receive the Patriots game broadcast.


Could they?  Would they?  Do they really have the b*lls to do this?

I suspect it’ll be an interesting season, if nothing else…

PROMISED UPDATE:  Looks like the NFL has investigated the situation and determined the communication problem was not created by the nefarious New England Patriots but was an electronic/weather glitch…

NFL Clears New England Patriots of Headset Suspicion; Electrical Issue, Weather At Fault

I’m actually glad to hear that.  Assuming everything bad said about New England were true and they knew all eyes were on them on opening day, for them to be involved in messing with the opposing team’s communication equipment right off the bat…well, we’d be dealing with a truly, massively arrogant organization if that had been the case.

I suspect New England is going to try to play it “straight” from here on in.  They have to know that all eyes are on them and therefore any attempt to do anything outside the lines will likely be caught.

That being said, I’m curious to see, when the season is done, how their statistics measure up compared to other years.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) a (mildly) belated review

There has been much scorn heaped upon this past summer’s big hit Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Having missed the film when it was in theaters (not a big surprise) and despite the many complaints I read online, I was nonetheless eager to watch it and, when it finally arrived, I purchased it via VUDU (you can also get it through Amazon.  The physical disc version will be out soon).

Going into the movie, I wasn’t sure how I’d react.  I liked the first Avengers film despite some pretty big plot problems (why did the aliens need to arrive right over New York?  Why didn’t they just materialize, say, behind the Moon and, when an overwhelming amount of their forces was already through the wormhole, then invade Earth?).  I also liked several of the Marvel films that came before while I hated some others.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is probably my favorite of the Marvel films while for the life of me I can’t understand what anyone found good about Guardians of the Galaxy.

With Age of Ultron (I’ll call it AOU from here on), I liked the actors playing the various superheroes.  I also really liked the idea of getting James Spader to play Ultron, the film’s big baddy.  He’s got one of those great voices that just drips evil when he wants it to.  On the other hand, the movie featured one hell of a lot of characters and, as mentioned, it appeared many fans who otherwise loved Marvel films turned away from this one.

So I watched the film and, incredibly, I found myself siding with those who complained about several aspects of the film…and yet I enjoyed it nonetheless!

Yes, the film was awfully long.  Yes, Ultron wasn’t the be-all end-all villain he should have been.  Yes, the whole Thor goes to that mythical waters scene made no sense (the video release includes a “deleted” extended version of that scene and I’m here to tell you…it still makes no sense).  Yes, writer/director Joss Whedon tried a little too hard to include more “heavy” concepts (check out how many times he tries to shoehorn in the concept of everyone in the film being a “monster” of some sort).  Yes, and paradoxically, the dialogue is at times too cheeky and “jokey” and this diminishes the threat levels the protagonists face…

And yet…and yet…

I still enjoyed the film.

Not, however, at first.  The film’s opening minutes, featuring the Avengers attacking one of Hydra’s last strongholds, was a computer generated mess, never more than cartoonish looking at best.  This was a real surprise…and disappointment…considering the much higher level of CGI that came afterwards.  I can’t help but wonder if that opening bit was created at the last minute.  Considering it is what sets up the rest of the movie, though, that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Yet once the opening attack is over, the film proper began and, again, I enjoyed what I saw despite the enumerated problems mentioned above.

In AOU, the Avengers have a crisis of faith with each other that threatens to tear them apart yet through the course of the film they slowly regain their shattered trust before finally confronting their nemesis head on.

Along the way we’re introduced to a trio of new (to the Marvel movie universe) characters.  Again, one would worry that with so much going on and so many faces flashing by that several would inevitably get the short shift.  Yet to Mr. Whedon’s credit, everyone gets a decent amount of screen time and are able to strut their stuff.  Other than the already mentioned nonsensical Thor scene which was the only complete story misfire, things moved along well and I was never bored or at a loss as to what the heck was going on which was quite an accomplishment in and of itself!

No, AOU is not the “best” superhero movie ever made and yes, it has several flaws.  In spite of that, it is an enjoyable romp with a group of charismatic actors in their prime having a blast playing superheroes and villains.

What’s wrong with that?

Apple watching…

Hilarious (and foul mouthed) article by Kyle Wagner regarding yesterday’s Apple extravaganza:

A Layman’s Guide to the new iPhones, and Apple’s Other Crap

Perhaps its because of all these years of people genuflecting before the almighty Apple, but I get a chuckle whenever the proverbial worm turns (I suppose that’s a pun?).

Seriously, I use Apple products and see their value but I don’t get the crazed, breathless love some people have for the products.

Political quiz…

Who do you side with in the upcoming presidential elections?

The quiz found in the link below allows you to go through a series of questions and, once answered, you will find which of the 2016 candidates most fits your worldview:

I wasn’t too shocked to find that I sided with the Democratic Candidates.  In order, I sided with Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, then Hillary Clinton.  I agreed with Mrs. Clinton 89% and my agreement with the other two candidates moved up from there.

As for the Republican Candidates, I agreed the “most” with Rand Paul at only 37% and things went downhill from there.  I agreed with both Jeb Bush and Donald Trump at a mere 21%.  The only surprise is that I agreed with them that much! 😉

A fascinating poll, should you be interested in seeing where your allegiances might/should lie.

From Spygate to Deflategate and beyond…

I’m a “squishy” football fan.

Love the sport.  Love watching it and love rooting for my team.  Yet I can’t help but wonder how long it will continue given the research and reality of what happens to the human body -and especially one’s brain- when participating in this sport.  The reality is that we now have a bunch of very big and muscular people at the peak of physical conditioning essentially running as fast as they can into each other.  How long will it be before we have an on field fatality?  I hope it never happens, but I can’t help but wonder…

Be that as it may, I’m fascinated with the controversy swirling around the Patriots organization.  A few years back, the organization was accused of spying on opposing teams.  Last year, Patriot Quarterback Tom Brady was accused of being behind a scheme to deflate the balls he used in games and was handed a four game suspension.  It appeared the punishment was a “make up” for the ineffective punishment given out for the spying done by the Patroits before, at least based on this fascinating article by Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham for ESPN:

What I find most remarkable is the attempts by Patriot fans to brush these rather severe allegations aside.  “If you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying”, some quote while others attempt to diminish the importance of the examples presented.  Still others will use something along these lines: “You’re just jealous of our success.”

Of course, there is no resolution here between fans and fanatics.

What I suppose almost everyone can agree on, if they look at the facts impartially, is that the Patriots have been without much question one of the best teams in the NFL ever since Tom Brady’s arrival.  One can further state that they obviously work hard and are a smartly led team.

Where the debate starts and ends is with this: How much of their success is due to cheating?  5%?  10%?  30%?  50%?  More?  Less?

It’s an impossible thing to quantify yet for those who so quickly diminish the cheating this team obviously engaged in I would only say this: Coach Belichick and company wouldn’t be doing these things if they didn’t feel it helped them in some way.

Anyway, while on the subject of sports…

Kansas State Marching Band Made a Giant 50 Foot Penis

Perhaps its me but…what a lot of nothing.  Do people really see a giant penis is this formation?  Seriously?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar….

The case of the jailed country clerk…

Anyone following the news must have at least some knowledge of Kim Davis, Country Clerk for Rowan Country, Kentucky, who refused to give out marriage certificates (any marriage certificates) because of what she described as her deep religious beliefs being in disagreement with the now legally settled issue of same sex marriages.  So, rather than give gay people marriage certificates, she would not give anyone marriage certificates.

She (or rather her attorneys) took the case to court(s) and were defeated at every turn.  Her last chance was to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in and, when they refused, it essentially ended whatever legal recourse she had left.

Despite this she continued to refuse issuing marriage certificates and last Thursday was brought before a judge for consideration of being held in contempt of court.  She was indeed found to be in contempt and, somewhat surprisingly, the judge sent her to jail…

I say “somewhat” surprisingly because although this was certainly one of the judge’s options, the defendants asked she be fined until she complied.  The judge, however, viewed her continued flaunting of law as more serious and therefore took the more punitive measure.  Plus, some speculated, the judge was aware that anti-gay marriage groups might collect money to pay whatever fines he might issue against Ms. Davis, therefore rendering that form of punishment null.

Predictably, there are many on the conservative side of the coin -and even presidential candidates!- who reacted negatively to the whole affair…

Twitter Conservatives Lose It After Kim Davis is Jailed

What to make of all this?

I suspect in the long run people like Ms. Davis are a dying breed.  Societies and their mores inevitably march on, and things that were not allowed/forbidden/illegal years before can be scrubbed away and society isn’t necessarily the worse for it.

There was a time, after all, when it was illegal to sell and consume alcohol.  This was the law of the land!  The law was, of course, repealed and I highly doubt we’re ever going to see any such law reappear ever again.  Quite the contrary, it now appears we’re starting to loosen laws dealing with illegal drug use.

What is also clear is that with regard to Gay Marriage there has been a shift in tolerance and acceptance and that has, somewhat predictably in some parts, led to a blowback among those with more conservative leanings.

This explains someone like Ms. Davis.  But given the fact that the country hasn’t descended into Mad-Max-ian anarchy since the Supreme Court formally allowed Gay Marriage, I think its safe to say the majority of people in this country have little to no big issue with this ruling.

A vocal minority, therefore, is left to cling to the pre-Gay Marriage ruling and try to fight to somehow retain the previous status-quo.

It has been pointed out that Ms. Davis is hardly a great example of squeaky-clean Americana given her past marital history and there is more than a wiff of hypocrisy to her stand against Gay Marriage.  While interesting fodder, it is irrelevant to the bigger issue.

The bigger issue, to me, is that the fight is over.

Ms. Davis and the conservative foundation lawyers who I strongly suspect are the real “brains” behind her stand are like Hiro Onoda, the Japanese soldier who, along with a trio of companions, hid for years and continued fighting a war they would not accept ended in 1945.

Unlike abortion, which still divides this country, I suspect the issue of Gay Marriage will eventually become an afterthought.  It’ll be one of those things that when people are asked about they will shrug and wonder why there was so much fighting about it in the first place.

As with so many other things…we’ll see!