News of the weird…

Growing up in the 1970’s and early 80’s was an odd experience. There was incredible intrigue around the notion of “unexplained” mysteries. You had popular books like…

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Which theorized aliens visited Earth in ancient times and built all kinds of things those primitive humans simply could not.

There were plenty of other mysteries out there to explore. How about…

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…or perhaps UFOs? How about Bigfoot? Or the very mysterious fate of hijacker D.B. Cooper?

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Yes indeed, a weird, entertaining time to be an armchair detective, sorting through the half-truths presented in various books/magazines and, yes, even TV shows hosted by… Leonard Nimoy?!

Yeah, a fun time to be around, even if many of these purported mysteries were likely far less mysterious than the presenters would have us know.

Welp, now and again certain “mysteries” bubble up. Some are relatively new (the chupacabra!).

With great amusement I found this article by Julia Hollingsworth and found on concerning…

“Yeti” footprints sighted claims Indian Army tweet

I can see the upcoming documentary now…


Avengers: Endgame…

Out this weekend and breaking a ton of box office records is Avengers: Endgame, the culmination of some ten years of Marvel Superhero films. (You can read about the mind-boggling monetary take here. The article is by Julie Muncy and is presented on

It is clear that audiences absolutely love the Marvel universe and its movies. Captain Marvel, the previous Marvel film release, earned decent -but not superb- reviews from critics and audiences nonetheless made a mint as well. It stands to reason this latest Avengers film, featuring the big hitters (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, The Black Widow, etc.) was bound to draw even more interest. Indeed, in one single weekend its blown out many a box-office record and critics and audiences appear equally ecstatic with the end product (currently over on, the film has a 96% positive among critics and a nearly as strong 92% positive among audiences).

And me?

I will likely not catch it while its in theaters. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ll catch it when it inevitably comes to home video. I have yet to see Black Panther, Ant Man and The Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Infinity War. The later film, by the way, I have a digital copy of yet haven’t found the time or desire to see it.

As it turns out, I’m kinda sour on Marvel’s films.

Now, before you get out your pitchforks and come after me, let me quickly say this: I’m incredibly happy about the success of the these films and I absolutely have no desire to put down anyone who enjoys them.

To those who love the hell out of these films, have yourselves an absolute blast!

I sincerely wish I could feel the same levels of joy you guys obviously have with these films.

But… I don’t know if I can. Not anymore.

The last batch of Marvel films I saw were Civil War, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarock. I’ve seen pretty much every Marvel film other than those I mentioned further above and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

I loved the first Iron Man. Captain America: Winter Soldier is my all second all time favorite superhero film. My favorite? The original Richard Donner directed, Christopher Reeve starring Superman.

So its not like I didn’t like the Marvel films from the beginning. Quite the contrary, there was a time I was very much into Marvel films. But over the past few years I’ve grown weary of them. Their stories are more and more formulaic and, frankly, not all that interesting. Or good.

And then there’s that overbearing, IMHO, snarky humor.

While there was certainly humor present in earlier films, I suspect the original Guardians of the Galaxy started my downward sliding opinion of these latest Marvel works.

That movie was met with incredibly good reviews and ecstatic audience reactions… and I distinctly recall being bummed when, for one reason or another, I couldn’t catch it in theaters during its original run. When the BluRay was released (in those *brrrr* pre-digital copy days), I picked it up and, along with the wife and my eldest daughter, we sat down to watch it and…

…we hated it.

Hated it.

My daughter bailed after some twenty minutes. My wife hung on with me, perhaps hoping, like me, it would get better. It didn’t. Not for us.

Again: I don’t question everyone else’s love for the film. You guys loved it but for us, it was a wiff.

A big wiff.

The story, to me, was a blatant rip off of Star Wars, and the humor I felt was way overdone, to the point where there didn’t feel like there were any stakes.

Dr. Strange, similarly, I really didn’t like. It took the original Iron Man movie’s plot and plopped it on top top of Dr. Strange. Oh, and also added all those snarky bits of humor at the most inappropriate (again IMHO!) times.

Yet I was still willing and hoping for things to get better. I think the next Marvel film I caught (on digital, of course) was Captain America: Civil War. The film was actually more of an Avengers film than “just” a Captain America film, but given it was the follow up by the directing duo of Russo Brothers to Winter Soldier, I was hopeful it would be a great follow up.

It wasn’t.

Sure, there were some really cool things in the film, but the movie’s plot was a mess. Worse, we once again couldn’t take any menace or threat seriously because of the snarky humor. Indeed, whatever tensions we as an audience should have been feeling were wiped out.

The best example of this in Civil War involved what is arguably the movie’s best sequence: The airport fight. It was big and effects heavy and it was genuinely exciting to see on screen the equivalent of a massive superhero fist-fight. But that sequence was, I felt, supposed to be the point where the heroes painfully decided to take sides. It was, again I felt, supposed to be a very serious point where very good friends had to choose to fight against each other, perhaps to the death…

…yet there was absolutely no seriousness whatsoever to the fight. Each landing fist or flying kick was followed by snarky, “humorous” comments.

Were they actually fighting or what?!

Over at they have a second article concerning the various heroes in the Marvel cinematic universe and their… beards. It’s a tongue in cheek article, of course (you can read it here if you’re interested) and they presented the below graphic at the header of the article:

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This couple of seconds long gif perfectly illustrates this undercutting of tension with silly humor: You have what appears to be a serious scene and in the background we have what looks like people fighting to their bloody deaths…

Yet our two heroes, in the middle of all that bloodshed, take a moment to make this joke.

Imagine something like this presented during the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan! (OK, I know that’s an extreme example, but still…)

Again: I know I’m in a very small minority with respect to this. I know many of you will tell me to lighten the hell up and not take these things so seriously.

I get it.

But sometimes, even in a “silly” superhero film, you want there to be action sequences with genuine consequences. I can’t help but think the Marvel films owe a great debt to that Donner/Reeve Superman film. It managed to balance humor and action, suspense and nostalgia, wonderfully.

And, yes, Lex Luthor, the film’s main menace, had daffy assistants who often provided jokes and laughs.

But the laughter stopped when the nukes detonated. Suddenly, everything was very serious. Could you imagine a snarky joke presented the moment Superman finds Lois Lane in the desert?

But enough whining. I will stop raining on your parades. Go out, enjoy the film. If I find the time, I promise I’ll see them with as neutral a mind-set as I can.


POSTSCRIPT: Yesterday various networks were running various Marvel films, including the first Avengers film. I caught the second half of it, the first time I’d seen it in many years, and I was surprised by how serious most of the action was presented. Yes, there were these snarky humorous moments, but I’ll be damned if director Joss Whedon didn’t keep the action sequences grand and tension filled.

The helicarrier attack, in particular, was extremely well staged, and Loki’s presentation in the film may well have been the best of that smooth-tongued villain. I couldn’t help but think that film was so very much better for those reasons than, for example, Civil War.

Which proves that the snarky humor in these films has followed a progression from movie to movie, appearing more and more until its become very much a part of the whole.

I wish they would tone back on it!

Tesla: Endgame

I know, I know. I’ve been writing about Tesla an awful lot lately. I promise and unless something interesting comes up, this will be the last time I do so for a bit.

First off, I’ve mentioned before that it seems Elon Musk and the Tesla company are one of those love ’em or hate ’em propositions. There are those who are absolutely enamored with both the man and his company, just as there are those who hate, hate, hate both. There are also a few, granted, who may love or at least be curious of the product but aren’t thrilled with Mr. Musk and his personality.

I’m basically somewhere there. I think the hatred directed at Mr. Musk is overblown even though I do believe he should tamper down some of the tweets (he’s nowhere near the obnoxious level of Donald Trump, though). As an owner of a Tesla Model 3, I’m also firmly in the camp of “love” with regard to the product.

After posting yesterday’s thoughts on Tesla’s losses, I found myself thinking about not only the company, but the future of cars in general. As I was thinking about that, something occurred to me and I figured I’d present it for what it’s worth, and all due apologies to a certain highly anticipated Marvel movie opening this week.

Tesla, and Mr. Musk’s, Endgame

In a nutshell: The self-driving feature.

As the cliched expression goes, car companies, and the public at large, are playing checkers while Mr. Musk is playing three-dimensional chess.

To be very blunt, when Tesla perfects the self-driving feature, I think its going to be game over for the auto industry as we know it and, just maybe, Tesla will become the one and only car company.

Sounds ominous?

How about this: I suspect Mr. Musk and Tesla’s goal is to eliminate the need for people to buy and own cars, period. At least in all medium to large cities.

Sounds… paradoxical? Perhaps nutty?

A car company that wants to eliminate the need for people to buy cars?

Envision this: If the self-driving feature is perfected and used exclusively in Tesla vehicles, then the company can create its own version of Uber/Lyft, with electric vehicles moving about in big cities picking people up and dropping them off wherever they need to go, then picking them up later on to return them to their home.

Because we’re dealing with an electric self-driving vehicle, we already cut two major bills down: The need for a driver and the need to pay for gas. Therefore, Uber/Lyft will be undercut, price-wise, and we know people who use either service will go to the cheaper self-driving Tesla vehicles.

But wait, there’s more!

With prices so low to be picked up and driven to wherever you need to go, why bother buying your own pricey vehicle? Why bother paying insurance on said vehicle?

Oh, and by the way, did you notice the news that Tesla plans to create their own insurance? (read about it here)


I think not.

What Musk is doing with Tesla is essentially the same thing Steve Jobs did with Apple: Create a self-contained system, only in this case for vehicles.

Let’s return to the scenario I presented above:

You’re a youngish person who lives in an apartment/house and pays your rent/mortgage. You may be single, you may be married. You may have kids.

You’ve got bills and, at least now, one of them is a car. You buy/lease a car, you have to pay for gas, oil changes, general maintenance, and insurance. In the mornings, you and/or your spouse rush out to work. Or feed the kids and get them to the bus. Or rush out a little earlier to drive the kids to school before you go to work.

Now picture a future with Tesla’s self-driving cars roaming around your city.

You wake up not quite as frenzied. You get yourself/your spouse/the kids up and ready. You reach for the Tesla app and call a vehicle to come pick up and take your kids to school. You then us that same Tesla app to call another vehicle to take you/your spouse to work.

The cost to use the Tesla self-driving vehicle services wind up being less per month compared to paying your lease/loan on your vehicle along with the maintenance and gas. You’re no longer as rushed.

As you take the ride to work, you read a book or listen to music or read the latest news and don’t have to worry about focusing on your drive.

You get to work. Your kids get to school, the Tesla self-driving vehicle is on its way to the next client it needs to pick up. Or, if its battery is low, it heads to the Tesla center to get re-charged and, afterwards, is once again on the streets getting new clients.

By the end of the day, your kids can summon a Tesla self-driving vehicle to take them back home. At the end of the work-day, you can summon your own car to take you to work.

On weekends, you can summon a Tesla self-driving vehicle to take you to the mall. Or perhaps the beach. Or to the grocery store. When you’re done, you summon another Tesla self-driving vehicle to take you back home.

The costs, again, are far less to use this service than buying a car. They’re far less than using Uber/Lyft. And there’s little hassle. The cars on the road are increasingly/exclusively Tesla vehicles (though there will be “real” drivers out there, at least for a few years upon implementation of this system).

And Tesla will make buckets and buckets of money without having to sell even a single one of their vehicles.

Does that sound possible? Does that sound likely?

Perhaps not in the next couple of years, but how about five years from now? Ten years?

Is this indeed Tesla’s Endgame?

Tesla… pro and con…

At the risk of beating a dead horse (I suppose it could be worse, I could be getting into politics), humor me as I again delve into the whole electric car/Tesla topic. Specifically, those for the car and those against.

Yesterday it was reported that Tesla lost a considerable amount of money in the first quarter of the year (Erik Shilling at writes about this here).

I couldn’t help but comment (if you look around the commentary you’ll find some of my musings) when someone pointed out that there are those who are tap dancing to this news. A person on the commentary board wondered why there are those who have such invective for this company.

However, even the most neutral of fans must wonder, based on last quarter’s losses, whether Tesla is in trouble.

I suspect not, even if this quarter’s losses were indeed grim. The technology and the product are so good, IMHO, and it appears the company/Musk are focusing on getting the car out to the world and having success getting other countries interested in it, that I suspect we’ll see the company stabilize and make money, especially when it releases the Model Y, the Semi, and their upcoming new Roadster model and Pickup Trucks (the later might well turn some heads but, as with so much else, we’ll see).

Humor me a second while I put on my Tesla fan hat: What is there to hate about the cars?

I can totally understand people being unhappy/uncomfortable with some of Musk’s antics. I can totally see people asking why they should spend their hard earned money on a company with Mr. Musk as its head.

Which again leads me to the product itself: The cars.

Henry Ford, the man who founded the Ford Motor Company, was anti-semitic and worked with Germany’s Nazi government prior to World War II (you can read about that here). While it may be unfair to compare Ford with Musk given the different epochs in which they lived, can you seriously feel the sometimes silly things Musk has done are in any way comparable with Ford?

And again I return to the main point: The Product.

Ultimately, Tesla will sink or swim based on how good its product is and how potential buyers react to it.

So far, reviews of the various models of their cars have been almost uniformly positive and, as I’ve mentioned, I love my Model 3 and feel it may well be the best car I’ve ever had (and I’ve been driving for many years now).

I suspect many people out there don’t know much about Tesla cars other than seeing them here and there on the streets. They may also know about Musk and some of his antics but otherwise don’t have a strong opinion of the company and its head one way or another.

Yet there clearly are those who are aware of the company and Musk and hate, hate, hate them. Frankly, I can’t get my head around why there is such animus. While I know there are investors out there who are betting on Tesla failing, other than these folks why do so many others hate Musk/Tesla? Are they leery of the idea of moving from a gas to electric vehicle? Are they gas fanatics? Are they so personally repulsed by Musk that they can’t stomach even seeing these vehicles?

I don’t know.

If you have no skin in the game, why do you hate Musk/Tesla so much? Why have you taken this so personally?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again to those who hate Tesla: If you can, try to put aside those negative feelings and take a test drive of one of their vehicles.

If you come away still hating Tesla and its vehicles, then at least you gave them a try and legitimately found they weren’t for you.

But I suspect, strongly, that even the biggest Tesla haters, if they give the car a test drive, will come away realizing the vehicle is incredibly good and, yes, worthy of all the positive opinions given by so many.

A little more on Tesla Self-Driving…

The other day Elon Musk had one of those promo things with audiences/the media regarding Tesla’s self-driving function. A video was played (and which is available on YouTube) showing the “full self-driving” as it will soon appear…

Color me impressed.

I’ve written before about my own Tesla and how I like using the current auto-pilot even though I know it has plenty of limitations. Where I live, the roads are generally very straight, so the auto-pilot as it currently exists works quite well for my area. However, you should always, especially if you live/drive in areas with plenty of hills or curves, use the autopilot feature with the greatest of care. You need to be very cognizant of what goes on around you as the autopilot feature may lose track of the road and/or other drivers might try to merge into your lane and could hit your vehicle.

Don’t think that just because the autopilot feature exists, its perfect.

Returning to the above video, this is clearly an updated autopilot that can either “read” or already knows about the locations of stop signs and traffic lights, which the current version of autopilot (at least the one I have) does not. Seeing this makes me optimistic in time we will have some form of this type of full self-driving, at least through Tesla vehicles.

But one should also note that the ride presented in this video is in relatively light traffic. Yes, the trip is long and the car goes through off ramps and encounters traffic lights and stop signs but at least in this video the car handles them magnificently.

But because this is a promo video, even a fan of Tesla cars (and, trust me, I’m a HUGE fan of them) has to be leery of what they’re seeing.

I’m not saying Tesla is somehow “cheating” with this video, but clearly the car has far more information on the trip than your regular Tesla vehicle has.

So as much as I want to jump up and down and as much as I hope that I’ll be seeing this “full self-driving” software update arrive to my vehicle (I paid for the advanced full driving option when I ordered my Tesla), I suspect one must remain patient.

I drive in location X, you drive in location Y. Still others will be in A, B, C, D, etc. etc. etc. To have a “full self-driving” software installed and functioning in your car, I suspect one’s car (Tesla or whatever) will require plenty of new data. Perhaps even as full up-to-the-minute data on all traffic lights and stop signs in the general area one drives in as well as road conditions. One’s vehicle, I’m certain, will “see” and interpret things through its many cameras just as the additional data will allow the car to understand/“see” the traffic lights and stop signs.

Easy enough to say, right?

This of course means mountains and mountains of traffic/road data. Given that most people live/drive in certain areas most of the week, each vehicle doesn’t need a complete entire United States roadmap with all that information downloaded into their vehicle, only the relevant areas usually traveled. This will, obviously, change as better and better computers/chips are developed and the vehicle can store and use more and more information.

I know all that I’ve written above is me thinking out loud, but I’ll repeat: I remain very impressed with the forward thinking of Tesla/Musk with regard to their vehicles and hope that what we’ve seen in the above video does indeed translate into something usable by everyone.

Unlike me, there remain a contingent of people out there who are very leery about and/or hate Musk and feel whatever pronouncement/announcement he makes amounts to snake oil salesmanship. To them, I would again say: Why don’t you take a Tesla for a test drive?


If Musk/Tesla are nothing more than smoke and mirrors, explain the good reviews the vehicles get from both critics and owners. And while you’re at it, explain my own joy each time I get behind the wheel of my Model 3. Explain the grin on my face when this past weekend my wife and I traveled some 50-60 miles of highway using nothing but the current autopilot… without any issues at all.

Yeah, I know. Changing other’s opinions is a difficult thing, especially if one is set in one’s ways.

Me? I’m curious to see what’s next.

A Simple Favor (2018) a (mildly) belated review

When A Simple Favor was released last year, I knew absolutely nothing about it. It was one of those films that, quite simply, weren’t on my radar. But I recall reading plenty of good reviews and became intrigued.

I wanted to see the film with my wife but a couple of weeks passed and the film, by that time, left theaters and, therefore, we had to wait until it was available on home video to see it. A couple of days ago, we did just that.

A Simple Favor, directed by Paul Fieg (The Heat, Spy, Bridesmaids), stars Anna Kendrick as Stephanie Smothers, a geeky single mom whose entire life seems to revolve around her son and her video blogs. She meets Emily Nelson (Blake Lively in an absolutely terrific turn) one day and things change for her in all kinds of bizarre ways.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

As I mentioned above and need to repeat, Blake Lively is incredible in this movie as the enigmatic Emily, a woman married to a one-time best-selling author who works for a high flying talent agency. She is as beautiful as she is enigmatic, a classic noir blonde that you just know is all kinds of trouble.

Anna Kendrick’s Stephanie, on the other hand, is the meek and impressionable type, though she too has her secrets and skills, and when she’s asked to do a “simple favor”, pick up Emily’s son from school, and Emily subsequently disappears, an eerie mystery develops and the police become involved. What follows is a serpentine story that throws plenty of curves at you… along with a healthy dose of laughs.

Yes, laughs.

For Paul Fieg, known mostly for comedy, isn’t about to let the film become too dark and gloomy. The tone is generally light and, if I have any particular criticism, its that perhaps there should have been a point where it did get a little darker, especially during the film’s final act.

But I won’t get into details. To say much more would be a crime!

A Simple Favor is a very easy recommendation, a film that uses certain well worn tropes to create a noir-like mystery film but which is also a pretty damn funny and, therefore, quite creative.

And Blake Lively… jeeze. I never had strong feelings for her as an actress one way or another, but she’s so damn good in this role.

If nothing else, see the film for her!

Tesla’s Self-Driving…

Given that Tesla’s main claim to fame is that their vehicles are electric -no gasoline use at all- one can be forgiven for forgetting another very big element in their arsenal: Their self-driving feature.

I must admit, when I did the test drive of the Model 3, the Tesla employee showed me how to use the self-driving feature and for a very, very short time I clicked it on before clicking it right back off.

It’s an unnerving thing to try this technology!

The Tesla employee assured me the self-driving feature was quite good, that he uses it to make long treks, but I was rather skeptical.

Welp, I’m not so skeptical anymore.

I will say this: The autopilot currently available in my car -and all Teslas which have that function- is far from something one should completely trust, especially when driving in the city. It doesn’t recognize traffic lights or stop signs and essentially “follows” street lines as well as the cars in and around your vehicle.

In other words, it senses the lines on the road around you and, if there are cars to your side, behind you, and especially in front of you, it will allow distance between you and them while maintaining safe speed limits. You are able, by the way, to manually increase the speed beyond the speed limit.

I find the best use of the auto-pilot is when you’re on the highway. No traffic lights to deal with and only the other traffic for your car to deal with. Further, no pedestrians!

Having said that, I’ve used it within the city as well but here you must be far more cautious. Again, the current software doesn’t “see” traffic lights or stop signs. If you’re behind a few cars and they come to a stop before a red light, the autopilot will stop -safely!- well behind them. However, if you’re traveling with no car before you and you see the upcoming light turn yellow, prepare to hit the breaks because the car will continue through the intersection, at least at this point and with the software I have in my vehicle.

Also, be careful about pedestrians. The other day I was on autopilot and a couple were making their way across the street. The Tesla “saw” them but when they stopped -waiting to see if I’d let them cross- the car would have gone on and, given the pedestrians and I made eye contact, they assumed I was going to stop and let them through, so they were inching forward. I hit the brakes and motioned for them to cross but the autopilot would have gone on.

So if you’re using the autopilot feature, please please please note that while its quite good in many ways, this is still a more rudimentary version of the autopilot and requires the driver keep their hands on the wheel and are alert to anything that happens around you.

I’ve seen video of people sleeping in their seat while allowing their Tesla to move on the highway and this is alarming as hell.

I suspect in a couple more years the self-driving software will become better refined and far more “sensitive” to things like traffic lights and stop signs as well as pedestrians.

But it isn’t quite there yet.

Will it ever end…?!



Today, the Mueller Report will be sorta/kinda released.

From the look of things, William Barr, the recently installed Attorney General, is trying to put his thumb on the scales, first releasing a very positive summary of the Mueller Report, which he subsequently said wasn’t a summary, to today releasing a redacted version of the same but not before coming before the cameras (in approximately 30 minutes) and, many suspect, trying to put a positive spin on the findings before, hours later, actually releasing the same.


Here’s the thing: I’m getting vibes of the whole “drip… drip… drip” of the release of information that will stretch out way beyond today.

In other words: If you’re releasing only some of the stuff, do you really expect people to be happy with that? Do you expect all questions to stop at that point?

This much I’m certain: It won’t end today.

Holy cow…

It’s been two full weeks and finally –finally!– I’m feeling like my old self.

How debilitating this illness was!

A flu? Strep throat (as I thought originally)? A severe cold?

I was prescribed anti-biotics but they didn’t seem to do much of anything so it was up to the ol’ body to take on this illness with the help of Advil and some cold medicine I had.

The symptoms were plenty of phlegm, bronchial/sinus issues, and, at times, fever.

The first week of the illness was easily the worst, including two days where I literally felt I couldn’t do anything and mostly stayed in bed feeling miserable.

The second week, the recovery week, I felt better but still had coughing fits/phlegm to deal with.

When I started to feel better and took my new car out for a spin, I suddenly realized I had gotten the car and almost immediately got so ill I couldn’t use it. So I got to use it more and more and enjoy it for truly the first time this past week.

Now that I’m feeling much better, its back to the grind.

Time to work on that next novel!

Larry Cohen (1936-2019)

Not familiar with the name?

He created many fascinating works, both as director and writer. Some of his bigger/most famous works include It’s Alive (1974)…

The movie proved popular enough to merit two sequels! He also directed Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)…

But Mr. Cohen wasn’t just a director, he also wrote plenty of material. He is listed as the creator of the paranoid alien invasion TV series The Invaders (1967-68)…

He was the screenwriter for the pretty bonkers Armand Assanti starring Mike Hammer film I, The Jury

Mr. Cohen passes away at 82 late last month. Looking over his IMDB listings, I’m impressed with the amount of material he had his hands on/in. True, some of the works have lost the edge they once had, but still, what a fascinating career!