2020 Almost In The Rear View Mirror…

What a year.

Seriously. What a year.

I’ve been around a very long time now and truly, there’s almost nothing that compares to what we’ve been through this year and, for the most part, it revolves around one thing: COVID-19.

This was the year of the pandemic and because of it, also the year where we saw the limits and ineffectiveness of the body politic, especially when its being buffeted by misinformation, conspiracy theories, and general stupidity and laziness.

There have been serious outbreaks throughout the world but there have been places where proper cautions have resulted in control over this virus. Specifically, we’re talking about Japan and New Zealand, where the rate of COVID-19 is almost negligible and the people there -who took the virus very seriously- have managed to get on with their lives while so many other countries -our included- are still wallowing in denial, neglect, and (here’s that word again) stupidity.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of vaccines, but so far there have been a little more than 2 million people who have gotten it and we were promised by the current administration we’d have some 20 million vaccinated by now.

Yeah. We’re only 18 million short.

It’s been noted that if we keep this pace (I doubt we will) it will take 10 years to vaccinate enough people to create the desired herd immunity which will allow us to return to our more normal lives.

Next week we have the certification of Joe Biden’s election and we have one Republican in the Senate, Josh Howley of Missouri, will join the firebrands in the House of Representatives to protest the certification which will lead to some delay but ultimately no results for Trump.

Yet Trump, if nothing else and while damaging the Republic, keeps charging this particular hill. Like the spoiled child he is, he cannot accept that he was defeated in the election (twice if you count the votes he lost by to Hilary Clinton!) and, I very strongly suspect, he realizes that once he’s out of power the legal floodgates open wide against him.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the rest of his life is spend in one litigation after another and his fortune suddenly looking very shaky.

Meanwhile, however, his administration is botching the vaccinations and he’s devoting no energy toward issues regarding COVID or the bombing in Nashville (its rather startling he hasn’t mentioned this at all so far!), instead continuing his infantile and seditious attempts to overturn a legitimate election while playing golf at his resorts.

January 20th can’t come soon enough.

But enough about that.

One great thing about the New Year is that mentally many of us feel like we’re starting fresh, with another 365 days ahead of us to do better for ourselves and others.

I’m optimistic about the New Year, partially because it seems like we may -at least toward the middle of the year- finally make great strides against this virus and perhaps… maybe… hopefully reclaim the life we’ve had before.

It’s been a crappy year but there’s no reason to think things might not get better.

A lot better.

Let’s hope it does and, even more importantly, let’s work to make it so.

Have a Happy New Years!

We’ll see each other again in 2021!

The Snowman (2017) A (Mildly) Belated Review

I vaguely recall there was some excitement regarding the 2017 release of the film The Snowman.

Based on a novel by popular mystery/thriller writer Jo Nesbø, the film featured Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J. K. Simmons, and Val Kilmer. The movie was produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In; Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy).

And yet, when the film was released, it was met with almost universal scorn from critics and Mr. Alfredson went on the acknowledge his film was a failure, even stating that because of budget cuts, he was unable to film some 10% of the script (!).

The film, needless to say, didn’t do too well at the box-office and was soon gone, if not forgotten.

Yet I was intrigued by the stories regarding the film and its final release. It isn’t often that you get what seems for all intents and purposes a very high profile “A” film with a great cast, director, writer, and producer which turns out to be -if the critics are to be believed- a near complete disaster.

Yeah, I was curious to see this film. I had to see for myself.

I’ll start with the good, which I think is pretty apparent from the above trailer: The film looks gorgeous. The snowy Norwegian setting is both beautiful and, when needed, creepy.

And that’s about all that’s good about this film.

This is a fragmented film whose story is at times difficult to follow because we have things happening here and there and often one sequence doesn’t even seem to be related to another. For example, the entire political subplot involving J. K. Simmons amounts to almost nothing in the context of the rest of the film. And Mr. Simmons isn’t even the only recognizable actor to appear in a nothing subplot. Perhaps one of the most head scratching sequence, a very small cameo appearance by Chloë Sevigny, has her play a victim of the serial killer and her twin sister!! Why? To give Ms. Sevigny three minutes of screen time instead of a paltry two?! Because that’s her entire story arc, victim then twin sister who shows up seconds later to say her sister was a good person, and that’s that.

Perhaps the saddest thing to see is Val Kilmer, who at the time was dealing with health issues and who looked, to be blunt, pretty sickly. Every bit of his dialogue was dubbed, quite badly, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he looks alarmingly frail, you’d laugh at the pathetic attempt to dub his lines in.

Michael Fassbender, a usually reliably good actor, is not terrible but is relegated to playing a one note character, your morose, brilliant, yet alcoholic/burnt out protagonist. His character’s alcoholism has him on the outs with the police department but he latches on to a promising young detective (Rebecca Ferguson) who has secrets of her own and is involved in what may be a case involving a serial killer.

Of course, it turns out that they are indeed dealing with a clever serial killer, one with mysterious motives and possibly years of hidden activity.

While the movie is a mess, in the end one does put the pieces together enough to understand the plot they were trying to present. Unfortunately, even with that knowledge one feels the story was underwhelming.

I suspect in the novel the movie was based on the many weird characters and scenes that seemed to go nowhere mattered a lot more than they do on screen. By the time we reach the movie’s climax and the serial killer is revealed, he turns out to be pretty much who we thought and afterwards wonder why he bothered with many of the actions he took.

As I said before, based on the stories I read about The Snowman, I couldn’t not see it. The curiosity alone made it irresistible.

But the movie is every bit as disjointed and disappointing as the critics said, with the only redeeming element being the wonderful cinematography and winter setting.

Too bad.

The Equalizer 2 (2018) a (Mildly) Belated Review

Back in 2014 Denzel Washington starred in a remake/reworking of The Equalizer TV show starring Edward Woodward which ran from 1985 through 1989. Here’s a bit of the TV show, for those unfamiliar with it…

I was a fan of the original TV series which was basically a clever variation on James Bond… had the venerable agent grown older and retired to New York and decided to continue helping people who needed his “unique” skills.

When the Denzel Washington film came out, I reviewed it (you can read my review of it here) and I thought it was an “ok” film. Not terrible by any stretch of the imagination but neither did I feel it was particularly memorable.

I also questioned why the film was made as a remake of that particular show. To wit: Why take away the one thing that made the TV show so unique, the idea of an elderly James Bond type in New York, and get rid of that completely by having Denzel Washington play an agent who others thought was dead but, through the course of this original movie, ends up where the Edward Woodward show began, with him offering his “unique” services to those in need. Only he wasn’t a “fish out of water” James Bond in a New York milieu.

When The Equalizer 2, the sequel to this film, was released in 2018, I didn’t really care to see it. Again, I didn’t hate the original movie but I was leery of the changes made to the original concept and didn’t feel particularly compelled to go watch the sequel.

A couple years passed and the film showed up on a cable channel and, for the heck of it, I DVRed it. It sat there for a few months and yesterday, for the heck of it, I decided to give it a try.

Though my expectations were low, I found the opening hour or so of the film quite interesting: It took its time to establish the various characters and their situation(s), drawing me as a viewer in to the world of Robert McCall (Denzel Washington, natch) and the machinations that ultimately lead to him having to deal with a group of killers… a group of which he was once a part of.

I don’t want to get into SPOILERS and I won’t, but it was refreshing to see this opening and to see director Antoine Fuqua, who directed the original film, take his time showing us the various characters who play a role in the story to come.

However, as good as it was in the early going, it felt like this went on a little longer than it should have. Still, once the pieces were set and the action really started, it was interesting and tense, even if I would also say it wasn’t necessarily spectacular.

The best part of the film, IMHO, was the way it presented the idea of a hurricane -yes, the weather system- slowly coming in, scene by scene. I really like the way that the weather deteriorates subtly as the movie goes along, symbolically showing the fury of McCall building. Once we reach the climax, the hurricane -and McCall’s fury- is quite literally all around us. We see McCall at his deadliest against the bad guys as the full force of the hurricane buffets them.


The bad guys, like in the original film, are unfortunately once again not all that well defined. I practically moaned when their leader explained his evil actions with the cliched “we worked for X so and so number of years and then they just put us out to pasture… we’re not going to let them!”

…but still…

Despite this I enjoyed this movie. In fact, I’d say it was far better than the original Equalizer. While it may not be the best action/adventure film evah, its kinda nice to see one with a lot of thought behind its story and structure and a not insignificant amount of heart.

While The Equalizer 2 does not reinvent the wheel and I’m still not sold on the idea of re-doing a TV show while removing almost everything that made it unique, if you’ve got a free evening with nothing much to do, spending a bit of time with The Equalizer 2 is far from the worst thing you could do.


Coronavirus Diaries 25…

…Christmas edition…!

Our family usually does our Christmas gift giving on the 24th but this year, over an abundance of caution, we’re not meeting up in too large a group and doing one visit to family yesterday, with today being the other visit.

In both cases we’re talking about 10 people max and we know what we’ve been doing/where we’ve been and we’ve all been very careful whenever going out so while we probably shouldn’t have the get togethers, we’re reasonably sure we’re all clear…


My sister-in-law, who is a nurse who works with terminally ill patients, called to let us know yesterday that she tested positive for COVID-19. She is usually very careful, wearing masks and washing her hands frequently. Because of the nature of her job, she is also frequently tested for the virus. She took three tests in the past two weeks and the first two were negative but the last one, taken two days ago, came back positive.

She’ll test herself again to verify if indeed it is a positive result and not a false negative. However, she says she has felt a sore throat, which indicates she has something, but is otherwise -thankfully!- so far fine.

Nonetheless, that ended our family visit intended for today. We’ll likely not see that side of the family for at least a week or two, depending on what the subsequent test results indicate and until my sister-in-law tests negative.

Over on my side of the family, my father had an appointment with his doctor earlier in the week and he did a blood test and, wouldn’t you know it, he came back positive for COVID-19 anti-bodies.

Which means he had the virus.

I’ve written before how I suspected several people -including myself- in our family business contracted the virus in mid-late January, early-mid February.

At that point in time, COVID-19 was something which was supposedly only in China’s Wuhan province. It wasn’t yet thought to be in the U.S. and it wasn’t until March, nearly a month later, that we began to realize it was indeed with the United States. And it was in March, the second week or so, that many businesses in our area were forced to shut down to contain a possible spread.

It’s incredibly scary to realize that my father’s illness way back then, which lingered some two weeks, was more than likely COVID-19. Thankfully, he recovered fine. He was the one, of the three or four of us who were sick at the same time, who had it the worst and everyone subsequently recovered. I myself had two or so weeks where I was so exhausted at the end of each day, beyond the normal exhaustion of a busy week, and practically collapsed on my bed afterwards.

Yet I too have had blood test, the last one quite recently, and there has been no indication of COVID-19 anti-bodies within me. Having said that I don’t know if I was indeed checked for that.

Regardless, my wife, who works in the care field, has an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine this Saturday. She will be the first person in our family -and extended family- to get it and, unfortunately, neither my daughters nor myself can get it until its available to the general population.

As I’ve noted before, I’ll be getting it as soon as I can, but its a relief that at least one of us will have the first half of the vaccine and therefore, will half the chances of her getting this terrible virus.

I’m hopeful with the incoming administration there will be a stronger push to get the vaccine not only out there, but to have people get it.

If you can, please do so.

Hopefully one day very soon, we’ll return to something of a normal life.

Merry Christmas…!

Now, enjoy this article by Aletha Adu and found on thesun.co.uk…

GHOST OF XMAS PAST: Creepy Santas pictured hunchbacked, skinny, and with the Devil in vintage cards from the 19th Century

Weird stuff and shows how certain concepts -such as Jolly Old St. Nick!- change over time. Not all of them are super creepy, but some certainly are!

Here’s one of my favorites in that respect, from the article…

Saint Nick looks like he’s had a reaaaaallllyyyy long night!

Coronavirus Diaries 24

Another weekend nears its end.

Not just any weekend, but the second to the last weekend of the year 2020. Next weekend will be the last one of December and the following weekend will be the first of 2021.

It shouldn’t come as any big surprise that people will very likely, in looking back at this year, call it one of the very worst ever and the reason is obvious.

COVID-19 likely began sometime in 2019, toward the end of the year, and most likely in China. It spread from there, the first cases believed to have made it to the United States sometime in December of 2019 and by March of 2020 it was clear we had a big problem, worldwide, with this virus.

There were worries, certainly, early in the year. There was plenty of downplaying by the Trump administration of the seriousness of the virus and, even today and even after Trump himself -and many, many in his cabinet- contracted the disease, they continue to try to minimize the situation.

Won’t matter all that much in another month as Trump, and the nightmare of his administration, is out on January 20th.

That’s the other big thing that happened this year: The election.

Despite the many protests issued, Trump clearly lost the election and it wasn’t even close.

While I welcome the end of the Trump administration and the beginning of the Biden administration and am certain it will restore a sense of normalcy that for many of us is desperately needed, let’s be clear: a change in power won’t suddenly make everything “right”.

Meanwhile, in the past couple of weeks we’ve had two COVID-19 vaccines approved, first the one created by Pfizer and on Friday the one created by Moderna. My understanding is that there’s a third vaccine in the pipeline ready to be considered for approval and, further to that, vaccines have already been administered.

However, in a typical Trump dysfunctional pattern, there is word that Pfizer hasn’t been told where to distribute some of the vaccines.


Still, I’m hopeful each day that passes we’re going to get more and more people being vaccinated and, in time, we’ll finally move on from those who are “high priority” to get the vaccine to regular folk.

I’ve read that when some 70% of the population gets the vaccine, we’ll have effectively reached the level of “herd immunity” and should return to a more normal time, where we no longer have to keep our distance from people and wear masks and wash our hands.

The estimates are that we could get there by late Spring and/or early Summer.

It’s still a ways away, some six months maybe, but at least we have a target and that’s something we haven’t had for way too long.

I’ve written before that I believe I and several people in my family and employees in my family business had COVID-19 way back in late January and/or early February of 2020.

Even if I did, I will get the vaccine as soon as I can.

If indeed things “go back to normal” by the middle or so of next year, I have a strong suspicion the world, as a whole, will erupt.

In a great way.

I suspect we’ll see the economies of many countries -maybe all!- will have a sudden burst. Hopefully, jobs will quickly return and businesses, those who survive these harsh months, will have an incredible rebound.

I hope so.

2020’s been a hell of a bad year.

Maybe 2021 will be far better.

We deserve that much.

Oh, This Isn’t Worrisome… Not At All…

Just stumbled upon this article by Kevin Liptak and Pamela Brown and presented on CNN.com…

Heated Oval Office meeting included talk of special counsel, martial law as Trump advisers clash

Yeah, we’re getting political again, so if that’s not for you, move along.

For everyone else, here’s the story’s first paragraph:

President Donald Trump convened a heated meeting in the Oval Office on Friday, including lawyer Sidney Powell and her client, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, two people familiar with the matter said, describing a session that began as an impromptu gathering but devolved and eventually broke out into screaming matches at certain points as some of Trump’s aides pushed back on Powell and Flynn’s more outrageous suggestions about overturning the election.

For those who aren’t familiar with Michael Flynn, he is a former Army Lieutenant general who advised Trump a brief time before leaving the office. He eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and, before he was sentenced, Trump gave him a controversial pardon. Lately, he’s been stating -alarmingly- that Trump should invoke martial law to retain his presidency and negate the results of the election.

Welp, it seems he brought this idea of martial law craziness into the Oval Office and its alarming as hell that Trump appeared willing to listen to this.

I get this mental image of a wild animal that knows the walls are closing in on him and is looking for any way to remain in power.

Given this article, it worries me what other sorts of craziness he may try from today to January 20th to preserve his power.

The irony is that since the election, Trump no longer seems to be engaged in any sort of actual governing, instead going on twitter and claiming all kinds of conspiracies involving the election and repeating, ad nauseum, that somehow Biden and his campaign “cheated” in its win.

By seven million more votes? And, if the Biden folks did manage such a massive voting cheat, how come they were ineffective in getting rid of the likes of Mitch McConnell?

Still, this article worries me.

January 20th, as I’ve noted before, can’t come soon enough.

Getting Serious? Cyberpunk 2077, Redux

A few days ago I wrote about Projekt Red, the company behind the magnificent Witcher 3, problems with the release of their next game, Cyberpunk 2077. (You can read about that here)

I noted that the game, which has been in development for some seven years and which was heavily promoted and anticipated, was released last week and… things weren’t all that pretty.

My understanding is that the game works well on high/medium high level PCs and is pretty good on the XBox One X (which I have) but with “lower end” gaming machines like the Playstation 4 and XBox One it has a lot of problems.

While these issues are worrisome and one can’t help but think the company ultimately released the game to try to take advantage of the holiday season, I feel like many of the bugs and glitches will eventually be dealt with over the next few weeks/months and the game will stabilize.

However, due to all those problems, Sony has pulled Cyberpunk 2077 from their download store and offered refunds to those who bought it…

Sony Removes Cyberpunk 2077 From PlayStation Store After Complaints

I’ve heard that Projekt Red has also offered refunds and, frankly, the whole situation has moved from one of anticipation and hope for a game that is great to frustration with the company -though not in all parts- with releasing a game that clearly wasn’t ready yet.

As the saying goes, you have one chance to make a good first impression and Cyberpunk 2077 seems to not be doing this.

At all.

But as I said in my original post, I feel like the annoying -and often hilarious- glitches and bugs in the game will get smoothed over in time.

What worries me more are people who say the game itself isn’t all that great to begin with. Even those I’ve read in various posts here and there over the internet who haven’t experienced many glitches and have positive feelings regarding the game seem to agree that the game itself isn’t all that incredible, that it feels like what was promised was more than what was delivered.

As I said before, on the basis of Witcher 3, I had no problem pre-ordering Cyberpunk 2077 and have it already installed -but have yet to play it- in my machine.

I’m in no hurry to play it so maybe I’ll wait until more patches are released and the game’s bugs are better dealt with.

At this point, though, my hopes for the game have been considerably tampered.

A true shame.

Tenet (2020) a (Very Mildly) Belated Review

I watched the film yesterday and, honestly, it feels like maybe I should wait until I see it again before offering a review.

However, given the film runs 2 hours and 30 minutes, I don’t know when I’ll get that chance. Besides, I think I got most of what the film was about but will acknowledge it is quite deep and it does, like the best of director/writer Christopher Nolan features, ask the audience to think and not just passively watch what goes on screen.

Having said all that, the film is essentially a James Bond movie -specifically the 1965 film Thunderball– mixed with time travel elements.

Indeed, as the hours passed following seeing the movie, the more and more I realized the movie’s basic plot was indeed a variation of Thunderball. Just for the hell of it, here’s the trailer to that film:

While not one of the best of the Sean Connery Bond films and perhaps the first one (it was the fourth made) to start showing a little wear on the whole Bond formula, Thunderball nonetheless is an entertaining large scale Bond film involving the theft of a nuclear device and Bond’s attempts to get it back before its used to start a nuclear war… and possible Armageddon.

The film’s villain, Largo, is essentially duplicated in Tenet’s Sator (played with menace -and an at times silly Russian accent, by the very British Kenneth Branagh). Sator, like Largo, is very rich and spends plenty of time on his very large and luxurious yacht. Like in Thunderball, Sator is intent on getting a device which could spell the end of the world, only in his case its something that affects time itself.

The movie features John David Washington as “Protagonist”, a no-name hero who, after showing he’s willing to die for his the right cause, is “recruited” into a shadowy world where time is fluid and can run backwards. The fate of humanity is on the line, and with the help of his right hand man Neil (Robert Pattinson in a sorta/kinda Felix Leiter role), they navigate the current situation and devise a way to stop Sator from ending the world.

To do this, they have to go through his wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki, quite good) who is being held on a leash by Sator and suffers greatly from this.

The movie certainly has a Inception-like quality along with its James Bond theme, and there wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t enjoying myself.

However, after the film was finished, there were certain problems with the plot that, at least for me, reared their head. Sadly, when you deal with time travel, especially where various characters are able to do so at will, one begins to wonder why the hero or villain don’t just go “back” to where they can fix things so they succeed and their nemesis fails.

I don’t want to get into SPOILERS, but this is increasingly the case toward the film’s ending. While Mr. Nolan tries to explain away these discrepancies with talk of the Grandfather paradox and fate and history being “set”, the reality is that until time travel is a reality, there is no reason to think we can’t go in time and “reset” the past.

The Grandfather paradox, for example, involves the idea that if we can travel back in time and kill our Grandfather before he conceives one’s father, how is it possible for you (the grandson/daughter) to even exist to go back in time to then kill your Grandfather? Wouldn’t you cease to exist if you were to kill your Grandfather before your father/mother was conceived? But then how did you exist to be able to go and possibly do this to your Grandfather?

It’s a philosophical question, one which has no answer, but I would argue that if time travel were possible (which is an open question, to say the least!) then the idea of multiverses and alternate timelines has to be considered. Thus, you could kill your Grandfather which would change the timeline and mean you now come from a timeline where your Grandfather lived but now, in this new one, the lineage stops yet you can theoretically continue to exist.

I know I’m probably botching the explanation, but its the best I can do off the top of my head.

So, if i do believe that timelines can change, I obviously believe that nothing is set in stone once you move from one time to another. You therefore can murder Adolf Hitler as a baby and, while WWII could still happen, it will do so without Hitler’s presence.

Similarly, some of the things which happen toward the end of Tenet, to my mind, don’t have to happen the way they do. We could simply go back to other points in time to resolve or screw them up worse!

As I said, Nolan movies sure can make you think.

Overall, Tenet is an easy recommendation, a film that borrows the best of James Bond and marries it with some brain twisting time travel. It moves like lightning and is filled with surprises and big set pieces.

Yeah, an easy recommendation.

The Long Election of Joe Biden

Beware… politics!

Yesterday, December 14th the electoral college formally certified Joe Biden’s win. There was no monkey business -though there were attempts!- and the process moved smoothly.

In the evening, Joe Biden, who has been remarkably restrained to this point, gave a speech following the electoral college win becoming official wherein he pointed out the fact that this was it.

It is.

Remarkably, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, hardly a friend of the United States, formally congratulated Joe Biden on his win.

Meanwhile, Kevin McCarthy, the head of Republicans in Congress, and Mitch McConnell, the head of Republicans in the Senate, have yet to do so.


(POST-SCRIPT: Today, in the morning and the day after the electoral college made it official, Mitch McConnell finally announced and congratulated Joe Biden’s win. I suppose he’ll justify this delay by saying he was waiting for when the electoral college results were “official” but one wonders why he couldn’t do it yesterday, before Vladimir Putin. I guess its one of those things, right? On the plus side, for the most senior member of the Republican Party and head of the Senate to make this declaration all but puts the final nail in Trump’s re-election fantasies)

Further, Bill Barr, the head of the Justice Department and a man who has, in the opinion of many, disgraced himself for his multiple instances of seeming to be a defender of the President rather than a neutral party to justice, was either fired or resigned from his post, effective December 23rd.

Rats abandoning ship?

Given that Joe Biden won’t be officially the President of the United States until January 20th, I have to admit while it pleases me Bill Barr is gone, one worries about who may follow and what monkey business Trump will try to engage in with what will surely be another sycophant.

Given all that’s occurred to date regarding Barr, one wonders if maybe his resignation/firing might have been due to not wanting to do whatever new bizarre things Trump wants.

Trump, many suspect, is terrified of the day he loses power. He knows that when his Presidency is over, the floodgates may well open and he will be facing his many past transgressions, from shady financial dealings to possible tax dodging to rape.

While he can issue pardons -and there are those who expect a flurry of them- its unclear if he can pardon himself. Further to that, some of the legal issues he faces, particularly the financial/tax issues, are coming from New York and would be state charges. Presidents can issue pardons for Federal Charges, but not State Charges.

Needless to say, I think it’ll be an interesting month to come.

I think Trump will keep flailing and I suspect there will be those who will continue to try to help him out.

But come January 20th -which can’t come soon enough in my opinion- all that nonsense stops.