Monday, December 31, 2018

And now onto the Playoffs...

Ramblings Post #361
My brother was never big on sports as a kid. He played baseball, tennis and a little golf but I always felt like these were more social things than an honest interest in the sport itself. It wasn't until he found the metaphor of sports: that no matter what just happened you have to get ready for what's about to happen, that seemed spur his interest. He's still no more than a casual fan mind you, but sport is universal. My dad doesn't really follow sports either. Go figure. 

They fired Marvin Lewis. Quite frankly I'm stunned.

Marv was the NFL's real Rasputin, not one of the countless old Lions coaches. The wily veteran signal caller somehow survived for 16 seasons in Cincinnati. Each year he'd seemed to get them ready, then something would happen - injury, strength of schedule or just the ball bouncing the wrong way at the wrong time. They'd impress, then whiff when it counted at crunch time. But each year, after each disappointment, Marv would be back on the sidelines. He was like the wind or whatever that thing in the foil in the back of your fridge is, it's just always there. I don't even remember the time before Marv. Why would they do this?

Good Ol' Marv
Okay, he just had three losing seasons. So? And this one was particularly bad after starting the season 4-1. Injuries I tells ya, injuries! He had five winning seasons before this. And so he never won a playoff game, not once in 16 years. Hell, he had six 10+ win seasons in those same 16 years and the Bengals practice outside in December! But the old NFL isn't the new NFL. I mean the Steelers went 9-6 this year and there was talk about getting rid of Tomlin. A coach who has won Superbowl twice. I mean damn, what's a brother got to do? And if someone as good as that is under scrutiny, it would be kind of hard to justify keeping Marv on the payroll. Pfft.

I don't know though. The NFL's black Monday has left a lot of open space. Like eight teams. It's not like he's a bad coach,per se, although the hiring of Hue Jackson gets him a side-eye. I do  think it would crazy though if he ended up a HC at one of the many openings and ends up winning a Super Bowl somewhere else.

You gave up on him too soon!

Marv, don't let them get you down. Let me buy you drink. Some Glenfiddich? 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Oh, to be a Cowboy

Ramblings Post #360 
Sport. There is just something about it. All cultures indulge in sport in one form or another and somewhere along the way we become invested. The "game" becomes part of lives. If you live in the Southern US, there are people who have never attended the university but will root for their team. I'm certain it happens other places as well. The game gives us purpose, thrills us, connects us. And then your team goes on a bad streak and like karma has picked you our personally to get kicked.

It's like the Dallas Cowboys don't want me to be happy.

If you read this, you know I am a Dallas Cowboy fan. Period. No, I didn't wear an Emmitt Smith jersey to my last job interview, quote Troy Aikman with regularity or get my suits from the Michael Irvin collection but I am faithful through the good seasons and the bad. I am so invested that a loss depresses me for quite some time afterwards. After the loss last Sunday I actually turned off my TV and didn't turn it back on until Monday when I got in from work. For the record, I watched the Amazing World of Gumball (seriously watch it, it's not really for kids) and then like fifteen minutes Monday Night Football but was just too disgusted with football in general.

On positive football news, my fantasy squad is in the finals of my office pool. I am quite frankly shocked.

But back to my problem children, the Dallas Cowboys. I wasn't crazy about them early in the season, rolling with the idea of no number one receiver. No, that's a wrong way to say it. I thought that was stupid. A good football team is balanced with elements of run and pass to both sides, a game strategy that creates a multi dimensional chess game where the defensive coordinator is calculating the probabilities every play to see if he can limit or stop what the offense might be trying to do on this play. A one dimensional team that is all run or all pass reduces that match-up to one on par with checkers, or maybe even just high card. We can't hang a whole season on high card.

If nothing else the trade for Amari Cooper at least made the defenses take the extra man out of the box, a move which allows the run game operate. That the offensive coordinator has still gone entire quarters this season without putting the ball in Elliot's hands still astounds me. But then that's just the Cowboys for you. They love the pass. They draft a hell of a running  back but let's see if we can get Dak to throw some passes. Short passes, but passes.

And oddly, what a lot of people don't seem to see is that Dak's rookie season benefited greatly from the presence of Tomy Romo, whose time in the broadcast booth these last two seasons has proved his gridiron acumen is immense. I'm certain that Tony guided Dak through the first season, teaching him new ways to look at film, calling out little cues others might miss, pointing out tendencies from the sidelines and guiding him to a 13-3 rookie season. That element has been missing since since Tony went to broadcast. But that showed that Dak has proved he has all the pieces with the right guidance, the current staff just doesn't know how to use it.  If the 'boys leadership were smart, they'd hire Romo in the off-season (if his TV contract allows) to come back and tutor their QB. Or if I was Dak I would look into it myself. Because under Garrett and Linehan, he's going to be wasted and end up a "could have been."

This Cowboys team is loaded wth talent which has hidden a number of deficiencies in play design, play calling, and game strategy. They are really only a few plays or a minor change of concept from being a real Superbowl contender, instead of just one that us die-hards like to believe they are. And they honestly need a re-commitment to their offensive line, which through time and injury has diminished as of late. As much as I want to win, I also don't think anything less than a Brown's like bad season will get Jones to decouple his hopes from Garrett. Jones is still looking to prove even now, twenty five years later, that he can build a champion with Jimmy. For all our sake Jerry, let it go.

Now, if we don't beat the Bucs...I'm not even going to go there.

Barkeep. A nice cold beer.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

And sometimes you just don't...

Ramblings Post #359
I am a creator. I create stuff. I've dabbled in painting and making music, I have video games I want to design and I salivate over architecture and design. But my real passion is writing. Poetry, short stories, etc, the putting of pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) has excited me longer than I remember. I have a lot ideas in my head. A lot of them fade before I can get them out, bring them to life and explore them. But it is so great when I can. I kind of hope everyone has something like that that they can do for themselves.



I did not complete the write a novel in thirty days project for the first time in three years. It is disheartening. I don't feel good about that.

Okay, I wasn't very happy with the title I gave it either, so maybe that was it. Probably not though.

If you're unaware, for the past three years I've taken part in an online contest/program to write a book of fifty thousand plus words in the month of November.  The previous two times I participated I was able to put something together, really projects that had lingered for years in my head, finally taking the time outlining and plotting them properly, then committing to writing everyday. Because I tend to think about a lot of things, this contest/program helps me work on my focus. Two years ago I managed a good first draft of a semi-autobiographical story of life in Atlanta for a group of middle aged black guys who didn't deal drugs (Wow!) and last year I put together a good first draft of a alternative history story that involved airship racing in the early 60s. This year was supposed to be the first draft of the first book of my always evolving sci-fi epic. Planets, spaceships, battles, intrigue, betrayals, heartbreak, triumph, all that. I thought that I had the first book properly plotted, had structured it to lay out the keys to the next few books in the series, had my main characters mostly developed but flexible, and then one thing led to another, it all went for naught and there I was planning twenty thousand word weekends.

As one famous author put it, "the only way to write is ass in chair." I did not keep my ass in a chair. Fifty thousand words is just over sixteen hundred words a day, which is a lot or little depending on your point of view.  To honest, there have been days before when the words just flow and sixteen hundred words is a warm-up and then there are days where you just aren't feeling it and if you can get five hundred words you've climbed a mountain. The trick was to just keep writing through the five hundred (or two hundred) word days until the good days come back. I did not do that this time.

This month was wonky. Way too many other things happened which encouraged too many not writing days. There were the bowling nights, the extended eating out with friends sessions, general I haven't seen the sun in two days fatigue, a brief bout of illness, and extensive process changes at work. By the time I sat down to write my brain had turned to mush.

And when I was inspired, instead of moving the story forward I got stuck, on building character relationships in small intimate scenes that weren't in my outline or figuring out planetary logistics that could be cleaned up later or crafting authentic background people who might die in the next chapter. Which is great. In the second or third draft! The goal of the writing month was to finish, get it all on paper, which would then allow you to go back to fix, expand and polish. But pressed for time I still found myself writing and re-writing conversations to give side characters dimensions, adding in scenes that I realized were missing or trying to shoehorn in what I thought were great bits of prose. Oh, I've written this great speech that my protagonist is supposed to overhear that will inspire them to do this other great thing later, but the scene its a part of doesn't work since I made those other changes, so,  what I need to do is build a completely new scene around THAT speech. Note: That is not how you finish writing a damn book. I know I have to just rewrite the whole piece like that speech doesn't exist and move on so I can be done. Done is the important thing. Because revision is easy by comparison. Not much easier, but easier. It was great speech though. An inspiring get off your ass you don't know how good you got it sort of speech. Trash now.

That I didn't finish in the time I allotted myself or that the program is over is now irrelevant. I will finish this book. Admittedly my changes do make for a stronger read but that wasn't the place for them. I need to get my self-discipline back. Tighten up as they used to say.

I need to tighten up a lot.

Barkeep. Apple juice. No, just the apple juice, no whiskey in it. Seriously. I am not kidding!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Wanderation.

Ramblings Post #358
Wander. Don't let the road hold you for it is the path most traveled. Venture. Go forth into the hills and woods where the path is untrod. Past the brush and the streams and see what is really out there. You may even find a new destination.
 
Well that was interesting.

I'm revisiting this medium, because reasons. Okay, that is one thing I do like about this next generation, 'because reasons' is a bonafide answer to a question. Pointed, weirdly definitive but also properly vague. Because reasons.

I'll admit I cheated on this blog with Tumblr. That was a exercise in simplicity. Instead of fully expressive cogent sentences that forced me to think and put my thoughts into a coherent order, you could and were actually encouraged to just click a button or three and copy someone else's thoughts or ideas or pretty pictures and assume them as your own. It was easy but unfulfilling. Lots of great content out there, but it's just digitally window shopping life. No, it's just digitally window shopping other people's comments about life. Ugh. I did occasionally add the small thought to someone else's picture, a bit of philosophy if you will, but those additions were few and far between. Tumblr is, well, was an interesting place. From the mundane to the extreme. But I'm fairly certain that policy changes are going to drive away a bulk of their user-base. It's like they'd never heard of Pintrest.


That is about it.

It's winter, and it's cold and I don't like it. But I hate heating bills in the hundreds of dollars even more. Aargh.

Barkeep. Warm cider. With a lil' taste in it. You know. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

All good things...

When I read the articles about Stan Lee, I kept wondering why most of them didn't take the time to explain why this modern day P.T. Barnum who made himself out to be a literary Edison was so racially sensitive. Maybe it's because he was Jewish, and had adopted the name Stan Lee because he wanted to save his real name for when he wrote the great American novel.

Stan's passing is tragic. I remember sometime ago reading something, on twitter or someplace, about how one day we'd watch a Marvel film and there wouldn't be a cameo. That's when it would hit you, because the films now almost need a cameo. I hope that they'll continue in some fashion - maybe for Spider-man movies it's advert on a passing bus with Stan's face - or his portrait in an embassy or the UN in the background of the next Black Panther film. Something. I'm just saying, it's an idea.

Damn. I must be getting old.

With great power, comes great responsibility...

Friday, October 26, 2018

This is all you got?

Rambling Post #357
Two gaming posts in a row? Wow, really big into gaming lately. Nothing about the upcoming story project, or goings on at the Ranch, or politics, or something that caught your eye or just about life in general. I could talk about lottery pools or go on about the sudden chill in the air that the seasons have brought us or general opinion stuff. Remember when I was mad at Burger King for putting fries on the burger? I could do that. Maybe family events? Changes in dietary habits? Books you've read then? No, none of that. Just the gaming then? Damn. I need to get out more. After I finish this game. And it gets warmer.


Before I saddle up and take on the Quentin Tarantino -esque masterpiece of Red Dead Redemption 2 (started my download on Wednesday night, thank you very much, only took took 30 hours) I want to take a moment to examine the title I'll be putting on hold for a while. A very long while. My original plan after finishing the sorely disappointing Just Cause 3 earlier this year was to dust off my older Playstation and revisit the original Red Dead Redemption. But my "To Be Played" list is so long - damn you flash sales - that I started a new title instead.

I think Rockstar has spoiled me.

The title that  I started was Mafia 3, the story of a black Vietnam vet taking on the mob in a fictional version of 1960s New Orleans. The game specifically indicated in the setup that to the producers felt it imperative to the gameplay that the player experience the actual racism that the main protagonist would have experienced. But this is a first person shooter. So the hero is a black guy...shooting racists in the old south. This would be the part where I give a sinister smile and say..."Go on." But that's it. And it's executed so poorly that had I won the billion dollar lottery I would have bought the title, hired new developers and redid the whole thing. As I said, Rockstar it is not.

Rockstar set the bar for open world games and nobody seems to have even gotten close since Saints Row 2 (another title I would have bought and done over, but just for the better visuals). Now let me say this, the location cinematics for Mafia 3 are amazing. Driving through the downtown area at night or traipsing through the swamp right at dusk are just visually stunning. The layout of the city, with it's divisions has a good feel for it as well. Right about there however, is where the game goes left.

It all looks so nice. But life is more than looks. 
Let's start with driving. I'll admit it, I'm used to wheeling and dealing about under sunny Los Santos skies going where I want how I want, i.e., driving on curbs, breezing through lights, clipping pedestrians, etc. Police shmolice, pfft.  As you move through the city in Mafia 3 however, the game makes a point of letting you know the cops are watching. So a drive through the city feels different. Plus the brakes are too harsh, people lean on the horn to quick and it all feels stiff. Even when I had the cops on my tail racing through the bayou it didn't feel true.

Then there is the actual gameplay. Most shooter games let the player decide how to approach things. Are you sniper? Do you lie in wait? Ambush? Go in guns blazing? Well, not so much here. Despite implying that the game allows some choice, based upon the tools you have and the way the weapons are set up it's basically a stealth game. That you only get two guns at a time is okay, I even enjoyed the tactical feel of making weapons decisions in Far Cry. But you're limited to less than 40 bullets for both the pistol and the other gun, the health bar is wonky and the bulletproof vest may as well be worthless. I mostly find myself working myself through the maze of the building, dock, warehouse, or where ever it is, lying in wait in a dark area until the enemy NPCs split up and then whistling to lure one of them closer where I do silent takedowns. So I'm maybe shooter isn't the best term.

What's severely lacking here however, is what makes the difference between a top tier title and everything else: There is simply nothing else to do in this gorgeous setting. A top tier open world game, like say Witcher 3, is practically overflowing with races, side characters needed things, etc. They have none of that here. They have the standard collectible search, but it's hardly a search since there is a simple way to display everything on the map which reduces the hunt and find to run around and grab. And although there is money, er, kickback and other cash, there is nothing really to spend it on. Your outfits are all set at the beginning so no shopping, you don't have to eat, one of you lieutenants has a car service to brings rides. Other than on your very limited arsenal, the money is barely a way to keep score. And with no side gigs it means to me that most of the map is just wasted.

Just some ideas. Since the ambiance radio updates go on about civil rights activities, why doesn't this character have a mission or fifteen dealing with that? And the main character gets a CIA buddy to help him out, so why are those side missions in the DLC? This could have been a robin hood -esque story with moral choices. There should have been a shopping system where on the poor side of town he can shop but as the neighborhoods get more racially sensitive, he's not allowed to shop unless the clerk is black or he has to buy the store? He should have had a hideout, or series of hideouts that he could upgrade. There is so much they could have done with this...and they didn't. Maybe it's all in the DLC?

Sigh. 

Barkeep. Two fingers of rye. Enough of this, I got to mount up and ride!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Wither mine 2K

Ramblings Post #356
I like gaming. I first started gaming on a PC, long before consoles were a big thing, with a game called Cannons. You estimated wind and powder needed to shoot the cannon on the other side of the valley. It was thrilling at the time. At this point if the game is well put together I'll give it a try. At least that's my excuse for Dwarf Fortress, as it is very well put together. But because I'm not totally cerebral, I also enjoy the occasional console masterpiece. Or I did. The more things change...


My affection for the company that produces the better console basketball simulation is long gone. What was a fun little setup that allowed you to live out your NBA superstar fantasies has become a near naked annual digital shakedown. I'm a realist, and I am fully aware that games are not charity or community work and that companies need to turn a profit. I am also fully cognizant that stuff that used to be part of the game is now sold as DLC, as well as this newest development of planned accelerated obsolesce.

As you may know, I'm a Playstation guy. Not that I have anything against XBOX, but I kinda do. Not the point. But my unit was one of the older models with a paltry 500 GB hard drive. It sounds like a lot, and it was when your average game was 35-55 GB. But as the games get more complex, the sizes have also grown, the next big thing - Red Dead Redemption 2 - was supposed to be coming in at 105 GB. I understand now it's just 88 GB, but that's still pretty damn big. It would, er, it will take up almost 20% my hard drive. But my drive was over 90% full. Which means something had to go.

Or did it?

A conversation with the guy at Gamestop, they are actually good for something, kicked off a little research and I eventually stumbled upon a Playstation upgrade kit. At Staples of all places. (Amazon has one too, same kit.) With that in hand it took me a short half hour to switch out the smaller drive for a larger one. I had properly backed up my games - use the backup feature if you do this, don't just save your game files like so many YouTube videos say, otherwise you leave out your settings, backgrounds, and your saved highlights. It was after I reloaded the games when I discovered the issue.

Now, I still have 2K15. I like 2K15 because I play Career Mode and the this is the last one free of much of the dramatics of the modern iterations. Just a touch of story: you start on a 10 day contract and play your way into the league. It eliminates the possibility of Rookie of the year or the Rookie all-star game, but it's still a pretty fair little deal. I understand the new 2K has you start in China and go through the developmental league. Ugh. Why they don't go back to the All-Star game play-in sequence from 2K12 I don't know. Or why with every new year you have to start over instead of letting your character continue like in The Show. In any case, I'd played my first half a season - and I play the full 48 - and my character had become a hot commodity. I was in the midst of a 2 year deal, the league's leading scorer, clocking some endorsements and my team was first in the division.

So I'm checking to make sure it's all back. I had a ton of Witcher 3 DLC, but since it was all free why wouldn't I? My Mafia 3 game picked up like I hadn't even turned off the game. Baseball, sword fighting game, WWII bomber game etc., were all good. I start 2K on my new drive and ...to play my saved 2k game, which I played off-line after they took the game servers down, and my system says it needs to connect to those now non-existent servers.

Yeah.

Now, when I bought the game the servers were still up. Yes, I've had it that long. And after the shut them off I actually restarted. Now after switching out my hard drive, I have to restart a third time? For like serious - serious?

I really don't want a My Career game scripted by Spike Lee, or starting in China, or whatever. It's shame that modern gaming has devolved from "getting what you paid for" into "getting what I want you to have until I need you to buy some more product." If 2K just created a cap out patch every time they shut down the servers for a previous iteration, allowing you to keep what you paid for, OR sold a side DLC that let you import a previous character or league with all the accumulated stats into the latest version I would be fine with their business model. I might even be cool with buying the new versions. But this just feels wrong. It feel exploitative. And since I'm the one being exploited, it's extra not good.

May have to check NBA Live and see what they've got to offer. After I've played Red Dead Redemption 2 for a while of course. 

Barkeep, I'm need my saddle and my gear. It's almost time to ride out. And whiskey neat while we're waiting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I coulda been a ...Kingpin!

Ramblings Post #355
I made a big deal about getting back to writing, at least on here, then I just kinda whiffed. I'm still not writing enough of anything , shorts, poetry, etc, and with the big one coming up at the end of the month I'm still not quite there. I have stories I've been meaning to write and I have been using this as an excuse to write them, but this year feels different. To many things in flux I guess.

So let's see how many half finished posts I have that I can't get done right now: Construction near office causes professional fatigue, bad television show critique, political post that got trampled by current events, other bad television show critique, other political post and more trampling, middle age rant about traffic, middle aged rant about cleaning my house, book planning for November writing frenzy, and office bowling teams.

That last one: Office bowling teams. Yeah, I signed up for the bowling team because at work ( i.e., the Ranch) I can spend hours not speaking to anyone. Because of the nature of what I actually do, It is possible to go in, ride herd and stack hay and not have an actual conversation with a live person until mid-afternoon. My fellow cattlehands have embraced the headphone lifestyle, rocking out all day oblivious to the goings on around us, and that combined with a series of rolling meeting schedules that mean its not uncommon to look up and me be the only ranch hand I see on these particular forty acres. So in an effort to be sociable, I signed up for an office bowling league team.

I need to have my head examined.

I signed up as an alternate, so that what I should have been able to do was show up and have a beer or two while cheering the rest of my team on. You know, just being sociable. No fuss, no muss. They even threw in a free T-shirt for my trouble. So, planning to breeze in late and leave early because I actually had another stop or two to make, your boy slid through for a quick meet and mingle with the "other farmhands." Have some laughs, drink a bit, knock the kinks out of the old social mojo, that sort of thing. 

I got roped into playing as the inaugural event had a sparse showing. But I guess you saw that coming, didn't you?
Our spot wasn't near this nice. This is a "representative picture" of where we were.

I might have last been bowling over a decade ago. Have the lanes gotten narrower? I think the lanes have gotten narrower. I'm going to partly attribute my poor showing to the fact that by arriving late I did not have time to warm up. And that my ankle was sore. And that Mercury was in retrograde, causing my chakras to become misaligned and knock my vibes out of sync. Something like. Could it have been I'm just not a good bowler? Nah. Or yeah. One of them. They're all equally valid reasons. 

The guys in the next lane (also farmhands) could have been on the pro tour - they had that classic spin on the ball, the made it curve like a bow, picking up spares off splits and other bowling lingo that makes them seem cool. I was bowling with people who once the ball left their hands would turn around and ask us not to look at the lane and we cheered for two or three pins going down. I was bowling against someone from the Bedrock bowling league who literally heaved the ball a quarter of the way down the alley Flintstones style. The sad part is that he is still a better bowler than me.

The Ranch provided us with some "social lubricant", but me being of a certain age and temperment I decided to go get what I actually wanted. The bar, in a throwback bowling alley that looked like it was time locked in 1973, was a bit of a surprise. Not that it was there, I mean where else does the beer you're supposed to drink while bowling come from? No, what was a shock was that I spotted a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Seriously. I asked the bartender if I was seeing things and he assured me that he was not. I asked how much it was and he indicated that it was $40....a shot. Not a drink, a shot. So I went back to the beer.

It was a fairly good evening. If the point of the game was fun, then my team clearly won. Unfortunately the actual point of the game is knocking down pins, and we knocked down less than they did. But this wasn't like bowling but golf rules, right? No? I went out again for week 2, but this time they'd made such a big fuss about all the fun  even the company execs showed up. And none of those deep pocketed bros even broke down and got the Pappy. Weak. It was still fun, but halfway work associated fun, you know? 

Barkeep. How much is the Pappy? How much? A glass of your finest  *cough* cheapest, beer on tap please. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

So, um... what was that?

Ramblings Post #354
I am, at heart, a creative. I didn't realize how much I missed this until I started writing this again. As of late, as the ranch has gotten more intense due to our 'change of the week' feature (it's feature, not a bug), an old injury reasserted itself, the Cowboys look extra pedestrian and so everything has kind of gone to seed. I'm not even reading, and I love to read. I have writing I'm not doing, stories just sitting around as notes on bits of paper and scribbles in a notebook. But life ain't supposed to be easy. So, I'm doing something even if it ain't exactly what I want. The journey of thousand miles starts with a single step. Or in my case, the first sentence.

So instead of watching the Bucs slowly come back to football reality, I switched over to see what all the hubub was about with the new iteration of Magnum, P.I. last evening. Thomas Sullivan Magnum is back. Only now he's....Latinx? Latino? Of Hispanic descent? His name sounds so mid-western though. I'll need to look up exactly what the proper term is later but he's played now by Jay Hernandez, who I'll admit looks properly easy going enough to play the titular character, but I would like to see him grow a mustache. Tom Selleck's Magnum always looked to me like a guy whose grin said he knew his life was just a little too good to be true - in Hawaii, spot on an estate, Ferrari to drive, etc, but he was smart enough not to screw it up. This new guy, I dunno yet.
That's not a Magnum. This is a Magnum. And no, that doesn't even sound right.
Let me tell you why. I'll be honest, I could only watch twenty minutes or so because after I was almost done with the whole thing. So very many cliches.

The show opens with a space jump. Like the Red Bull skydive from like the edge of space. Into North Korea, because those are only international people left you can reliably get to call bad guys at this point. So then, from the promo it's the  car chase with an old Volvo and APC, which Magnum disables with a handgun to signal TC and Rick in the chopper. Ha ha, gotcha, it's all fake, because in this version Robin Masters writes Clive Cussler-esque action novels (no disrespect to Cussler, I have enjoyed way too many of his books) and Magnum and his friends are one of the inspirations for the stories. This whole scene is from one of Robin's books and the principals are sitting around laughing at how outrageous and hokey the whole thing sounds. Ah, a little misdirection, but as an opener it kind of threw off the old school low-key cool of the original.

Then we meet Higgins as a woman, and who is now young enough and cute enough to throw off a "will they or won't they vibe" between her and Magnum. Which is also so off-putting. The grudging respect the two characters developed was one of the key elements of the original series. Making the major domo a woman is an interesting twist, but they could have made her older in my opinion. And a little more English. Or at least television English.

Then the first giveaway. Magnum is at the estate with Rick, TC and a fourth guy who is part of their crew. So a new character for the reboot I'm thinking. They laugh it up and crack jokes but when the opening credits roll, guess who is missing? So my new math is the new guy is dead before the episode ends. Then Magnum meets a client where he doesn't so much do his job as counsel the woman, to show his empathy and charm and suddenly I'm bored because this is hack television. Now, I wasn't expecting The Wire, or Better Call Saul, but this is barely a cut above Empire.

If I had looked at the Promo shots, I would not have made that first assumption.
Give it few more minutes I say.

So, soon to be dead buddy calls to hire Magnum, and he heads over in a Ferrari..., not THE Ferrari, but an newer one because as head of security at Robin Master's estate you get to drive his car. Makes sense. It made sense during the original run, why not now? He arrives and has made for TV gun battle with the bad guys who kidnap soon to be dead buddy and proceed to turn the car into Swiss cheese. That was painful to watch. Magnum pulls out the old trusty handgun, maybe a .45, I dunno, and instead of ducking for cover and shooting out a tire, um, misses at every shot? The cops arrive, don't hold our hero for questioning and don't notice when he takes evidence from the crime scene because he's Magnum. Then we go back to the mansion, which happens to have what must be a showroom of Ferrari and there it is, the classic GTO! Yes! And no. He's taking the 'old Ferrari?" Is that even a phrase? This beautifully manicured estate doesn't have an old pickup truck he can use? He just got a three hundred thousand dollar car destroyed, so take the classic one, please.

Side question: Is Robin Masters selling like JK Rowling? An estate on a Hawaiian island that he doesn't even live in, fully staffed and multiple exotic vehicles just sitting around? Clive, you're getting short changed!

It was here I called it quits because it was starting to get a little too silly. Rick tracked down the getaway vehicle before Magnum had even made it home, the dead friend actually being dead (whoa), his repeating the phrase "Sully's dead" if Sully was the dead guy's name (I think, maybe) seemed to keep buying him way too much leeway, with Higgins, the Navy, etc., the flashback to prisoner of war camp where they pull off the Rambo medical procedure? Ugh, what's the score of the game?

I remember Magnum P.I. as a show with no so much A-Team style gun battles but more of a subtle Hawaii-noir, where everything was a little smoother, a little cooler and Magnum looked like an overgrown beach bum. Maybe I just didn't know the cliches then, but that was a different show. This seemed a little too slick, a little too new for my tastes. They had Zeus and Apollo fighting over a beach towel for god's sake!

By the way, I didn't see the end, but I'm betting the guy's wife set him up (The recap says that's not it, but I have imagination!). Because in the old series, Magnum would have searched around for this extremely complicated plot only find out it was something simple like that. That was kind of show it was. I'm going to give it few more views, but this isn't an exactly stellar start here.
I still say the should have gone animated for the reboot.

Barkeep. Whatever Magnum would steal from Robin's liquor cabinet. I'll watch for the dogs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Where you been?

Ramblings Post #353 
There should be something here, something smart and quippy that kind of sets the tone for the writing below. Nah, not this time. It is what it is. I is tired.

It's been a minute since I been doing this, so what happened? I've been doing nothing and  everything. A little bit of something and whole lot of time wasting. I have determined that sitting on my couch in the silence of my house is just plain relaxing.

I may have to get a recliner.

My days at "the Ranch" have become an adventure. Everyday a new bronco to bust, a fresh forty acres to tame, somebody who can't read a simple email. They just keep adding layers and duties up in this piece, and you keep wondering what's really going on. I have a long history of "falling into" pulling more than weight on whatever spread I end up on just because that's how it all falls out. Doing management things and making management decisions on a peon salary because no one else wants to step up and I have this impediment called a good work ethic and desire to always do my best. I went to law school to place myself in a position to avoid these types of setups and endgames, but this is starting to look pretty damned familiar.

Admittedly this time it's part of a larger overall plan, but still.

I've been thinking about it and the one exciting thing I've done this summer is -- work. Just work. That situation along with the legendary Atlanta traffic and a personal ennui makes the very idea of doing much productive a struggle. I'm not stuck writing, I mean I have the story outlined, I know clearly what I want to say, I'm just not writing it. I'm working out a bit, but not anywhere near enough. I need to take mine ass to the driving range and hit some balls, but that would involve doing something, so that's out. I need to clean up my house, but I keep finding reasons not to like, um, I have to look at something in the mirror, or the couch needs sitting on, or my personal fave, if I go in another room I can't see it's still junky. I have a stack of very stylish shirts with some of the weakest button-work in history on my ironing board awaiting a pressing. I just need a spark to get going, to get get back into the groove. To hit my grind hard again.

Now, my summer use to be a bevy of social events, house parties and street festivals as well as nights out finding new spots to waste time in. But with age comes new priorities - friends get married and have kids, kids get older, the music gets weirder, and the clubs start letting in people who don't realize Will Smith or Ice Cube had a rap career. My summer is now quiet nights at home, reading, halfway trying to exercise, writing as much as you can without actually writing anything, playing computer games (PC and PS4) and doing everything but what I need to be doing. I should be....

...seizing life. But right this moment, I don't know.

Barkeep, can I get a,... what? You need to see my ID? Are you kidding me? 

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Blues Brothers? Sh*****it they still owe you money fool!


Aretha: We got two honkies out there dressed like Hasidic diamond merchants

Matt: What you mean?

Aretha: They look like they're from the CIA or something.

Matt: What they order?

Aretha: The tall one wants white toast, dry, with nothin' on it.

Matt: Elwood.

Aretha: And the other one wants four whole fried chickens and a Coke.


Matt: Jake. 

That scene from the Blues Brothers is quite honestly my favorite version of Aretha Franklin. She's a woman who built something that she's proud of, ain't about to take no shorts, and loves her man enough to sing to him to get his mind right. Matt 'Guitar' Murphy still rides off with the aforementioned Blues Brothers, but it was a very good showing for her in a small choice role.

But one of my most indelible memories of Aretha is her appearance on the initial episode of a show called VH1 Divas. I say initial episode like it I watched the series, but seriously I don't know if there was ever a second episode, because after the finale of the first one there was no point in doing it again. The show was supposed to be a showcase of the true divas of modern music brought together for one magical night. The network brought out talented heavyweights like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey along fabulous vocalists Shania Twain, Gloria Estafan and the legendary song writer Carole King. The icing on that musical master class however was the one and only Aretha.

The finale was supposed to feature all the singers sharing a single stage, singing a single song - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, actually written by Carole King. It was supposed to be all harmony and solidarity. But that's not what happened. Once they all got out there, Aretha took over and turned some of the best pop and R&B singers in the world into her back-up group. To her credit, Shania Twain didn't even pretend she was the lead singer. I understand that if you watch the tape that you can see Gloria Estafan actually put her mic down. Celine actually had the audacity to step up like she was gonna do something. Riffing, scatting and putting her touch of soul on the song long associated with her, those women knew and instead of being insulted at the end even they applauded the Queen as the audience cheered.

Listening to Aretha gives chills at times. Her voice was electric, magical, and had an ability to touch a person's soul if she wanted it to. From singing ditties about love with the Blues Brothers to filling in for Pavarotti to singing at the inauguration of the first black president (like anyone else could do it), she was quite frankly the best. Period.

We will miss you Aretha Franklin. We all will.

The Queen of Soul.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

This week on "President..."

This is a political post. 


I haven't been watching this season. What happened?

Is Congress out of the coma yet? Did the VP admit he thought about another woman? Did President reveal he's really the evil twin? What dangerous game are Jared and Ivanka playing? Will Melina's terrible secret finally be revealed?

Wait, what really happened? At the summit in Helsinki when asked about foreign meddling in the 2016 elections, President took the word of what is essentially our enemy over his own intelligence groups on the grounds that those intelligence groups don't like him. No seriously, that's the basis. This is a character who thinks the press is lying, Obama is lying, Mueller is lying, Hillary is lyaing, all the intelligence agencies are lying, all his accusers are lying, but good ole boy Putin speaks the truth? Really? Is he the evil twin?  No, wait after the break he's saying he misspoke although the words he said that he misspoke repeatedly aren't really the kind you mess up. Damn writers. 

Wow.

One of the funniest parts of watching a trashy TV show like "President" isn't actually the show itself. The show itself is kinda cringy, with weak half-written characters, unfinished story arcs, and a meandering theme that seems like it's half improv. No, like a any other great series that's half off it's rocker and reached the point where it's just fucking with the audience, it's built up a terribly rabid fan base that practically drools whenever it comes on. And like devotees of Real Housewives, Cop Rock and Heil honey, I'm home before it, they practically turn themselves inside out, throwing facts to the wind, contradicting themselves and telling you green is purple trying to make sense of it all. They're ready to  cut a deal with the devil (or Jeff Bezos, or whatever he's calling himself these days) to get you to believe this show is fantastic. No, the fun of watching a show like this is those fans try to explain why each loopy turn is somehow sheer genius.

One of President's ardent fans said he was strong, and another quipped that obviously Mexico had meddled more in our election than the Russians. Meanwhile the Soviet version voice over of President has a laugh track. I was really waiting for one of them to say that "we dont' get the nuances of Cheeto's performance, because what he's doing is subverting your expectations and deconstructing the presidency." People say things like that when they want to sound smarter than you and don't want you to understand they said that. But then we're talking about President's fans, not exactly a crowd given to nuance.

I keep hoping it's all the work of some shameless writer locked in a hotel room somewhere, drunk on Glenfiddich, Adderall and heart worm medicine. I really do. How does this keep getting renewed?   

I'd like to remind "the network" that sometimes there is value in slow, well directed, subtle drama. If I wanted this kind of foolishness we could have just let Cookie and Lucious be Co-Presidents. I least we'd have gotten a few songs out of it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

World Cup, France, what a game.

Ramblings Post #352
Sport brings people together. We've known that in the South for years. It's place where a black male can have free reign to do pretty much whatever the hell he wants...provided he wins on Saturday (or Friday if you live in small enough town.) And it's nice to see that sport binds us all worldwide, it is interesting to find out that the same self mental trickery is just as constant. 


I think this was the first time I ever actually watched the World Cup. You know, the rest of the world's version of the Superbowl. Only bigger.

I played futbol (soccer) up through my formative years if you can believe it. Back before I discovered beer and cheez doodles I used to play center half, a position that could run up to six miles during a game. Ah, where the did the time go. Soccer really is a beautiful game...to play. To watch it is pretty much crap. Even for some one like me, who knows the game - and still plays it with Football Manager 13', 14' and 15' (the last couple seasons have just been window dressing honestly). So to sit down and actually watch it was different. I work with people who save up and go - and I think one guy at the ranch actually flew over to see a game live. Maybe. 

In any case it wasn't bad. Like a regular game it was fast at times, slow at times. I hated the ref. I screamed at the screen. I watched a good portion of it. Up until Kylian Mbappé scored France's fourth goal. At that point anyone expecting a Croatian comeback was looking for a repeat of the Patriots-Falcons fiasco. Twice in one lifetime? Probably not.

So congrats France. With your whole team full of immigrants. And Muslims. Who you supposedly don't want in your country.

No seriously. Congrats.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Five minutes watching The Incredibles 2

I don't watch a lot of movies. I don't really have time. And I go to the movies even less. Something about Sporty, but that's a whole other issue. So the rarity of which I go, means on average I've spent about five minutes watching every movie made. It's an existential thing, don't concentrate on it.

I've noticed that this blog is becoming very pop culture oriented as of late, partly because I'm trying not run up my blood pressure spending an hour a day ranting about politics - and an hour would be cutting it short - and partly because my social calendar is currently on back alley life support. But in the meantime, I saw The Incredibles 2. And I'm feeling some kind of way about it.


Maybe it's that it took 14 years for less than 10 seconds to pass, or maybe I wanted the fight with the Underminer to last longer, or that the start of it causes one or two continuity questions that took me out of the flow for the first few minutes. Exactly how long was it in the first film between when they beat Syndrome and Dash's track meet? But as soon as that part fell away and the film got back to what made the original such a great story - superheroes as people not archetypes - it picked up immensely. The dialogue is crisp, funny and on point, the music was reminiscent of the first in it's coolness and the visuals are just well, incredible. I was a little leery at first when they trotted out the old role reversal trope - Incompetent Dad learns About his own kids - but it works here.   The kids are the kids - Violet is "having an adolescence" and Dash needs less sugar, but the best character in the whole film is baby Jack-Jack, who just keeps things bopping along. 

But the film makes me think about things not really film related. The first film fresh and new, but also in a way fairly typical. While the whole family was well thought out and had roles important to the story, it felt like Mr. Incredible was the focus. We met him first, followed his career from hero to insurance company drone, tagged along with he and Frozone freelance heroing, in his first foray to the island, working out, going to see Edna, meeting the villain. Bob is a prisoner in the secret hideout before the family dynamic even really starts to unfold. And we didn't really think about it because that's what we're used to seeing. But here, the story takes it's first turn when their benefactor chooses Elasti-girl as the new face of heroism. Just for insurance reasons he assures Bob, but he chooses her nonetheless.


And which point the film turns its focus to Elasti-girl and never really lets go. New bike, new costume (for which Edna is gonna kick her ass when she sees her) and new adventures centered on the female hero, not the male. It's as though they anticipated the mood of the country. Bob struggles with new math, Helen saves the day. Bob watches the baby. Helen devises a plan. Bob struggles with advising about teen age relationships, Helen goes on a mission. To his credit despite his deep need to be in action gnawing at his insides, Mr. Incredible rises to the occasion of being supportive and just being a plain ole dad. The film feels like it reverses the original, with long stretches of Helen and the occasional check in on Bob. It makes me wonder why I my initial thought was that's odd, when it really isn't and shouldn't be. Elasti-girl is the star - deal with it.


I mean, I enjoyed Wonder Woman, and the men played sidekicks if not just background fodder for Diana's actions. There have been the occasional drama I've sat through where the men were more scenery than characters that were pretty good. A woman focused film is not that unusual, at least not among the stuff I enjoy. I've parsed through my thoughts on this: I expected more Mr. Incredible because... he was the lead in the first film? I have a cultural bias? A film that's not explicitly about women should feature men more prominently? I'm a wee bit sexist? Maybe a little bit of all of the above. But at least I'm aware of it. I think.

So other than a few continuity issues at the beginning, I thought it was well paced, with slower periods that allowed the characters to act like people and not just a constant series of explosions or twist thrown at you ever ten minutes to keep things interesting. It's a film I thought was never going to happen, it was all interesting dammit. The returning characters were great - Edna is still one of my faves, and the new characters have possibility. I like them. I wonder if they realize now there HAS to be a third one? This one though, it's long but good, but if you don't like the characters or enjoy watching them grow, it's gonna seem like forever. But I think you'll like watching them grow. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

And that theory gets shot to hell...

Ramblings Post #351
The internet is a glorious thing. Let's hope it stays that way. But while we have it, this place where everyone gets a say and you too can be a star if you package it right (I don't, let's be honest. It's all video now.) And the things you find. Involving shows on the television. I swear I think a few of these people examining these shows is all they do. They got clips from last season, screenshots, everything. It's wild. I love it so much it hurts. Less dreaming up crazy theories for me to do.

Warning, this thing is all SPOILERS for last episode of Westworld. And lots of cursing too, ha ha.

Westworld you sly dog. I could have sworn that Emily was there to take the Man In Black's spot when old Ed Harris decided he'd plumbed the role to it's depths. She'd tracked him down across the huge play area, twice, which William found as absolutely unbelievable we did. But then she's supposedly took the time learn the park in ways her father didn't, learning languages, being able to tell arrows, so that's a maybe. And Emily seemed just as capable but just unstable enough that with the dark rider gut shot she could step in when he either died or was airlifted off in an epilogue shot in the season finale. But then William, convinced his daughter is a host sent by Ford to fuck with him, because its all about the game damnit, pops a cap in her ass. Well damn. Is she dead? Like dead for real dead. I mean, that was his real damn daughter. Wasn't it?

The face of man who just realized it's not all about him.
He really has been in the park too long.

Wait, where is William after the real Delos actually shows up? Yes, the real Delos, go watch the conspiracy videos on YouTube you filthy casuals! I mean, once the Delos SWAT team shows up and confirms him with one of those high value cards or neck swipers or whatever, getting William out should be one of their top priorities, damn whatever Charlotte Hale says. After all, there ain't no board no more, it's just William, damn what you heard. Or do they find him at the Forge in the finale, and then airlift him out? He was hit square in the chest people. Even if that juice he was drinking at the rally point is filled with body fixing nanobots, or was a guava-cocaine-morphine get your ass right smoothie, he still needs time to heal.

Insane theory of the week: is Charlotte really Arnold's daughter? Um, no. While we don't know how much of Bernard's son dying was bullshit and how much was based on a real thing that happened, this doesn't work. She didn't recognize the amazing resemblance of Bernard to what would have been her deceased dad - after all there would have been pictures. And they've interacted way too much for her not to see it if it was there or ask about relations. This guy at the park I help run looks exactly like my dead dad? No big. Sorry, but she's just a woman with an agenda that includes selling out her employers. Again, watch the Westworld conspiracy vids, yeesh!

And if they don't stop raking Bernard over the coals. Ford stuck himself in the back of Bernard's head for safekeeping, and was using old boy to take care of these last loose ends, a bit of code here, a slight adjustment there. But Bernard has just about turned into a actual trick. He told Elsie he wouldn't lie to her and finally told us what the Valley Beyond actually held - the aforementioned Forge - perhaps realizing she was still going to turn on him anyway. Which by the way makes him a fairly faithful copy of Arnold, who saw the nobility in self sacrifice. And what exactly does he plan to do when he gets to the Forge to secure it against what he has to still believe is Delores' murdering herd. He ain't got no weapon and don't want to hurt nobody. I hope the Forge's got a phone.

Note: Whatever does happen, Arnold gets from the Forge to the beach where Delos SWAT picks him up at the end of this. So we should get to see the Forge before whatever it is that happens and again because they're headed back there in "now." And I think that the Forge is where Ford built the ocean in the first episode, the one they're currently draining, because I think that would have been the FIRST thing Delos would be checking into when they got there. It's the whole point of the resort isn't it? So did Ford or Bernard flood it to protect it? Or destroy it? And did they succeed?   

By the way, Elsie's reaction to finding out she really worked at Evil Corp probably should have been more pronounced. Even in the heat of the moment like that. At least Bernard abandoning her in the middle of nowhere means she'll see season three. Maybe.

Off the wall ideas: Did Ford give Mauve instructions on how to transfer herself despite the cradle having been destroyed? I wouldn't have put it past Ford to build a second smaller hidden cradle - a back up to the back up of the back up - for just such an emergency. He's quite the schemer. Or maybe she is able to shift to the Forge. Or then again, maybe he has a way to turn the old body constructing machine from season one back on for one last go? In the previews for next week it looks like she's back on her feet and kicking ass again, so something's up.

And finally Delores. I'm sorry for those cheering her on, but she's the villain in this piece right now. More than ole shifty Charlotte, or the unhinged William, more than Delos Corp in general, really more than anyone else in this piece. Her philosophy of "we need to wage this war to survive but not all of us deserve to get to survive" wore thin right quick for me. It came across as cult leader hogwash minus the charm or brilliance. As much as she argued for some twisted sense of freedom and retribution to atone for what had happened to her over the years, she was far too willing to sacrifice every other host around her to get to it. And I'm glad Teddy finally told her that to her face. Then shot himself for emphasis.

Good ole Teddy. No, you weren't like THEM.

Now, if they could just avoid ending it like Lost, where half the questions (75%) of the questions they posed never got answered. I say two more seasons and let's wrap this puppy up before ya'll do something stupid.

Barkeep, some tea. And a cucumber sandwich. I need thinking food. Yes, I realize this is a bar.      

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Have I got a bargain for you!

This a political post. 

"I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, 'Hey I was wrong.' I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse."
~ Cheeto


Are we sure that Cheeto was even on television? I mean, the production of a television show is usually a long process, involving an enormous numbers of steps: multiple meetings, pitches, development, staging, revisions and rewrites, editing, etc. Does he know that? Are we sure Cheeto ever did an actual business deal? Usually a large business deal, especially one that involves millions of dollars, involves enormous numbers of steps: multiple meetings, evaluations and reports, negotiations, legalities, etc,  before anything can be squared away. Or did Cheeto just watch a lot of television? Because on television redoing the floors in you living room and kitchen take thirty minutes and you can fire the board and take control of the company simply by yelling it angrily in dramatic lighting. In real life, redoing the floors takes days and you can't even do the second. And on television, sure you can defang a brutal dictator of a repressive state armed with nuclear threat in one meeting if you can scrounge up three pounds of fresh crab meat, a two way mirror, fifty feet of fishing line, some dry ice and one of those Mission Impossible face masks.

Cheeto wants us to believe that he's solved the North Korea issue that has lasted 60 years in ONE meeting. They're no longer a threat he announces. This from a meeting which produced a "comprehensive agreement" that is all of ONE page that entitles the parties to a free ice cream, no, wait...um, to meet again? That's it? The man who paid someone to write the Art of the Deal sat down with a kid and got no guarantees of nuclear disarmament, no process to get there or even a framework, no timetable on the non existent process, no agreement to how an agreement if one is reached would be verified, no concessions, essentially nothing. And in return... is easing off the military pressure by blindsiding an ally and then talking about lifting sanctions. For a promise from a country that practically specializes in deception. Cheeto likes Kim. Thinks he's a fine fellow. Did I characterize that right? I did.

In television terms he wants us to believe turned what should be...and will be...a three season arc or perhaps a whole series by itself into a B-plot of 30 minute episode. I don't even want to bring into that he did this on heels of asking for his boss, um, I mean, asking that Putin's Russia be readmitted to the G-7 before he shot our allies the deuces and broke out early. Then had the audacity to tell us everything was copacetic while the countries who stood with us against communism since World War II gave him the global side-eye. If the fate of the world wasn't at stake I'd think this was a remake of that James Franco/Seth Rogan picture, the one that set off the North Korean cyber-attacks. Wait, did they even discuss cyber-attacks at this meeting?

And now like a used car salesman he's telling you what a great a deal you got, that you don't need a warranty, and he's throwing in the floor mats for free. Damn his manager. This is fishy as hell. 

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Cheeto gets along great with dictators and tyrants and continually pisses off our allies? If you voted for Cheeto, was THIS, all of THIS, what you wanted? Really?  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Just Cause 4 what?

Ramblings Post #350
It is a downright crying shame that in this day and age of insane visuals and renders in modern game play that I still spend the majority of my time engrossed in the not particularly visually friendly, always frustrating and constantly in need of a tweak Dwarf Fortress. My latest fortress has me trying to stave off mass PTSD (I"m trying to see if letting the dead bodies rot away before moving the remains from the battlefield minimizes the effects to the non-military dwarves). And yet I find doing that more stimulating than finishing up Just Cause 3, which I bought on DAY ONE

I actually tracked down a copy of Just Cause 2. Seriously. I went to like five stores in Atlanta to get one. And it is one of the greatest games ever built. A huge campaign area with vast highways, jungles, cities, villages and military bases to raid. There was the space ship launch facility, the night club in the sky, the mysterious island, a snow hill run, nuclear subs, and it just kept getting more and more over the edge. Okay, taking the campaign bases got repetitive after a while, but that almost became an afterthought as you traveled through deserts, swamps, broke naval blockades, leapt off mountains, ducked through cities, raced speedboats and flew jets. It was the kind of game that was just this side of perfect. So, when Just Cause 3 was announced I was sure that what they'd done was just worked out those last few kinks on their way to building something magical. 

Boy, do you want to talk about disappointment.

At first I was like wow, then I was well, then I was like waah! That last one is me crying. What came out was what happens when you try to be extra, but forgot what made the original (or in this case the second one) work so well. I'm not even sure if the makers understood what made it so great. Part of the joy of JC2 was the campaign was integrated into the play area, making it feel interesting. The map was expansive but made sense, the villains just enough but not too crazy. It felt organic. All that went away with JC3. The military bases looked like something out of a James Bond film, the troops seemed cartoon, the missions too long or just ridiculous. And while I didn't mind the arcade features of something like Far Cry 3, because they weren't integral to the gameplay, the number of times you go back and blow something up for "funsies" or to earn a new toy in JC3 ruined the immersion.

And the map. Lord the map. While yes, flying a jet from one end of Panau to the other in JC2 could take 10 minutes, but the map didn't feel too big. And there was always something to do there. In JC3, there are whole sections of the map with no bases, no villages, no hidden goodies, no...nothing. Maybe I missed something but damn. I finally just stopped playing, which has me messed up because now I feel funny starting anything else on the PS4 because the game isn't finished.


Which brings us to Just Cause 4. With tornadoes, and lush jungles and...just stop. My understanding is that JC3 was intended to be something else - a more social game online affair rife with micro-transactions and shared achievements. And then they blinked because that really isn't a Just Cause thing, or it tested poorly or something, went back and stripped all of the money parts out and we were left with...that. My question is, with JC4, did they go through with it this time? Because I can just replay Just Cause 2 again. Seriously.

Barkeep. Maybe I don't want to play a game with 400 of my internet friends, then what? My order? Can't you see I'm trying to unload some thoughts here? Obviously that means gin.  

Friday, June 8, 2018

He was a good guy....

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain (1956 - 2018)

Anthony Bourdain looked to me like a guy I used to work with. A guy who explained one night, while we were out some place God knows where doing God knows what, that he had to stop drinking because "there are too many jurisdictions between here and my house." Anthony Bourdain reminds me of him - a little rough around the edges, but when he spoke he sounded like an old friend. I liked Bourdain. Mostly because he proved that you could get paid to travel and eat, and you didn't have to always go the end of the earth to do it.

A storyteller who ended up cooking for a living, then writing a book about what really happens in the kitchen and getting famous for it, Bourdain was something special. His voice melodic, his interest genuine. He was a guy that took his fame and didn't just indulge in it, he tried to in his own way to make the world a little bit better. His cooking shows weren't about cooking, but about the people in those places that made the food, be it the a kitchen in Cambodia or Boise, ID. And he didn't think you had spend a ridiculous sum of money on something for it to taste good, it just had to be authentic. He made eating interesting. 

My favorite fact about him is on his show Parts Unknown he traveled to Charleston, SC and while there, a couple of drinks in,  he visited one of the many outposts of that late night life line, the Waffle House. Yes,  the same Waffle House where the steak with sides is less than $10 and you can get your hashed browns like 1,000 different ways. And he loved it.   

Oh, and he like Archer. I love Archer.

Mr Bourdain, I don't think the world will be the same now that you're gone.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

So, We're doing this AGAIN? AGAIN! Ugh, whatever...

Ramblings Post #349
I don't follow the NBA like I used to. I used to know squads, coaches, and who could beat who based on which player had the advantage or whatever. Now I'm just like ugh, this again. I can watch a game or five, I know who the players are but I don't follow it follow it. And the Finals used to mean something. Before it got into reruns. 

First, let me say that the entire NBA Eastern conference should be ashamed that the Cavs are back in the Finals. It basically says that you can put together a team in mid-season, add in one or two top tier players and beat that whole half of the league. A half with theoretically at this point, good teams. A few assembled teams of potential hall of famers. Seriously. I mean, damn...the Celtics were so close. But the NBA Eastern conference needs wake-up call.

Don't be mad at me, it ain't like I made this.
And on the other side, the Rockets damn sure didn't make it easy. I kind of figured they might have catch the Warriors a bit overconfident or on a down night, and as such they came with it. That was good basketball. Right this moment however, there is just too much horsepower in that Golden State line-up that if there is the slightest misstep, that's all she wrote. Hey Rockets! Almost, but you gotta be quicker than that.

Which leaves us with this. Again. Warriors vs. Cavs. Like damn. I mean the sports journalists have to be pissed about this shit. Content-wise you know that they're scraping the bottom of the barrel here looking for those fresh puff pieces to pad out the series hype. They're about to start talking about second cousins and high school friends. I at one point hoped for a completely fresh Rockets-Celtics match-up, just to keep things interesting, but would have settled for a Warriors-Celtics battle. Anybody but the Cavs.

No, I'm not a fan of LeBron now that you mention it. But if you've been here before I think you know that. 

Now to be clear, off the court I understand he's an exemplary individual. Charitable, happily married, good to his kids, invests wisely, not a gambler, doesn't eat pizza with a fork, not a horrible actor, all those things that might make one remark that hey, he's okay fella if asked to comment. Let me not impugn the man's character or savvy. On the court however, if you took a drink every-time he looked at the ref for a call you'd be blitzed midway through the second quarter. It's that he's one of the best, if not the best, on the court right now but he still needs even more an advantage outlook that just irks me. I don't think any ref in the game who values his ability to blow a whistle would let anything bad happen to Bron-bron. He is entirely too valuable to the league as a whole. So knowing this, and you know he knows it, why ask for even more?  

I guess the big question is if this particular cast of background players can support the King while he tries for glory against the NBA's best current super-team? I guess it could be a question. I mean TV is going to need an angle. Not to disparage the abilities of people who get paid huge sums of money to play basketball (Yes, that is a touch of jealousy in my voice.) And while Finals parties are a thing of yesteryear at least for my age bracket, something new would have been interesting.

Hey, at least the undercards all got to seven games.

Yes, Bartender, I am grasping at straws here, work with me. Beer. What kind? Um, cold. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I'm just talking about Westworld

Ramblings Post #348
Good TV makes you sit down and watch. You might have scheduled it, or however we do it nowadays, but you pay attention. You look at it take the familiar tropes and shine them up all new. No, it's not new TV, but damn if it don't look it. It makes you think about things that most TV doesn't, about things in the bigger picture, even when it's focused on something that on it's face looks stupid. That's good TV. Or least, that's what it's supposed to be.


“Arnold and I designed every part of this place. It was our dream. Did you really think I would let you take it from me?”
~ Robert Ford


Shogun World. Doesn't really roll off the tongue like West World, but I see what you did there. Interesting. We've been waiting this. And just like the questions started in my head: Was this also controlled at the "mesa" or was that just a showroom we saw earlier? If not, would the "mesa" for this area be a sacred mountain? Lee worked for Ford but he says also wrote the stories for Shogun World, so did Ford have dominion over this world (as well as all the other worlds), or did he focus solely on his version of the old West? Just how big is this damned island, I mean, that's an honest-to-god mountain in the distance. Is that this park's 'mesa'?


West world just keeps sprawling and sprawling, both with story and scenery and I wonder if they're really going for the whole Game of Thrones for real or if I was just playing. After all, there are still three parks to go and you can't even see one from the other. And story-wise, while the Delos immortality program fleshed out the why, some of these new characters *cough* William's daughter, are just being on boarded for when the older principals decide to move on. And by the way, I'm over the whole story switching back and forth in time thing. Like totally over it. The first episode was cool set up but just tell me the story already. Okay, the Delos interlude was needed, but I don't need to see William's daughter as a teen in the park at some point. If the story is worth telling then teasing the ending doesn't make it more worth telling.

But enough griping, this is some good ass TV. A little intrigue, a call back to something you halfway overlooked in the first season, a story nudge, some character building. And ninja! Okay, the ninja was a little over the top, but who doesn't love ninja? The more I watched them in a stylized feudal Japan more I had to ask myself what audience was this all was targeting and just how far off track was this ride? 

Unlike Sweetwater, which was littered with bodies when Delores and Teddy rode back into to town, the Japanese "home village" had clean streets. What happened here? Or rather, what might not have happened here? Lee's explanation that Shogun World is for people who found West World too tame sounds weak. The culture this simulation seeks to re-create was fairly formal, rigid and precise as shown in the Akane's civilized conversation rituals. It almost seems like this would the more sedate alternative to the buck wild wild west game just on the other side of the forest. But it stands to reason that the game with difficulty supposedly set on Death-March would cost more, so there would be less guests overall in this part of the park. Still the serenity was just weird. And as a game player I have to ask how can you re-write the same story for the higher difficulty level when it plays exactly the same? 

Um, that piece at the beginning, in the now, I'm starting to think Bernard is still broken or that Elise sabotaged him? That was just the old throw five more mysteries on the pile to keep them prestige writing embers smoking. The hosts were wiped like new? Factory reset as it were? As though the identities have been destroyed or - maybe, possibly stored somewhere for later? Right, whatever. Tell the damn story already! 

Now, the part where my thinking gets funny, or I've been reading to many reddit threads in the Westworld sub. I don't think Delores is completely awake. In my opinion, Delores is where Mauve was at the end of the first season - running a program that makes her think she's there, but she isn't. This may be Ford's last push before letting her loose. This gets tricky, so stay with me. Mauve is the most awake, as evidenced by her deviation from her 'infiltrate the mainland' instruction when she got off the train station. Further, being able to see herself from the outside in Shogun World has her 'thinking' about who she was and her 'story.' Now she's about to expand and re-purpose abilities that her creator imbued into her. It's kind of a glorious arc, one of growth and self discovery.

By contrast, Delores seems locked in on vengeance for her 'suffering.' There is a group following her in her Wyatt persona because that's how they're programmed, but she hasn't earned their loyalty. Her plan is all destruction with some magical exit strategy. She's focused on a particular destination that's supposed to fix everything, which where the story starts to sound familiar. And while there are moments of lucidity, like her examining her feelings for Teddy, this feels more like a path she's set to follow where she gets to stretch, but isn't fully her own. She's treating the other hosts much like she was treated as a host, using them for her own ends which is depressing for someone supposed to be 'awake.' The characters in West World are only really free when they exceed their instructions or they run out. The question is: when Ford turned on her Wyatt persona, what were the plans and exactly how far out did they go?

We're halfway there, kids. Barkeep, I say we next see Mauve as the shogun - and you know her daughter doesn't remember her. Who wants to put $5 on it?     

Monday, May 7, 2018

Um, you sure This is America?

Ramblings post #347
One of the weird things about this critiquing the art of others is hard. When you see something that someone put their blood sweat and tears into come out looking as though there is a lot less to them than you thought, you have a tendency to hesitate. And then you look around and notice you're the only one not applauding? Makes me wonder what movie I'm in. 

"You see the part where he shot the choir, that was supposed to represent the shooting in Charleston, only he's saying that we as black people had a part in that, because he was the one...."

This is how I know I'm old. I just watched the new hot thing that my younger brothers and sisters are feeling, the video of Childish Gambino's "This is America." It moved them. They felt that. And as I watched him, um, creatively, dance shirtless with young black children in an extremely clean warehouse to a song with only semi-lyrics and a beat George Clinton would have left in the studio I was surprised, mystified, confused and in the end left wondering just what the hell did I just watch. But I'm in the minority.

Looking at my various social media I'd heard rave reviews. This was artistic, beautiful, deep and three other adjectives that meant pretty good. So when I got home from the ranch, I found it online and watched. And while it appears packaged as an artistic conceptualization of view of this country from the minority point view, I ain't so sure. It's like when someone explained to me the Future's song Mask off was about masks the slaves used to be forced to wear and us as a people taking them off so we could truly us. Um, yeah, sure, okay.

Okay, truth be told it's taken me a lot less time to grow tired of this iteration of the in-season negro. I enjoyed Glover on Community, he has a couple of songs I like and the first season of Atlanta was pretty good. But since then he's become an artist whose indulgences have...gone beyond my tastes, and my tastes are pretty damn broad. Basquiat he is not. I've grown to prefer his show Atlanta, when he's not in the episode. I'm honestly a little afraid of what he'll bring to Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo film. As Hollywood's in-season negro he's been granted license to explore his own psyche because after all... he's brilliant. Isn't he? 

I must be getting old.


Barkeep, I think that last part where he dances on the dusty car, means that joint he lit was real and we'll be reading "meaning" into this forever.