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. 


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.