When You Never Watched The Movie…

You write a DVD cover blurb that sounds like this utterly ridiculous one from the Melody DVD:

An excellent musical score by the Bee Gees adds appeal to this curious little movie about two ten year olds, Daniel and Melody (Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde) who are completely taken with each other and announce to their parents, in all seriousness, that they plan to get married. This marriage is not planned for the distant future, but as soon as possible. The uproar that is caused when their seriousness becomes clear is not too surprising. Their best friend Ornshaw (Jack Wild) is not too thrilled with their plan either. What makes the film work is that the entire story is told from the children’s point of view in which the grownups’ objections, since they have no relation to the truth of what the children are feeling, come across as silly or inconsequential. This film is a reunion of sorts for Oscar-winning Oliver! co-stars Mark Lester and Jack.

My aim is to rewrite this using the same amount of words/space, so my text could be used in the same spot on a DVD case. Or as a brief description that might actually make the film sound like something you might enjoy seeing. I transcribed from the case to help with that end, but that allows me to post and critique it her. This is vastly more annoying than the reviews you see by people who sound as if they never saw the film.

The music not only adds appeal, but also was incorporated into creation of the story concept and the writing of the script. That phrasing sounds like damning with faint praise.  That gets worse when it is described as “this curious little movie.” That tells me the writer found the movie odd at best and is warning people that there is a good chance they won’t like it.

The kids are not ten. They are eleven. While their age is never outright stated, the school year and time of year makes them 11 or so close as not to matter. This also fits with the ages of the actors, though that is moot in that Jack Wild was 17 and Lesley Roach was 16, yet they were playing kids who were also 11. It’s possible that kids in the grade level could be as old as 12, but few would be lower than 11 by late in the equivalent of American fifth grade. Not that it matters. My equivalent crush with some surprising similarities was around the time I turned 10.

Why do we need to mention Mark Lester’s name twice? Why do we cut off in the middle of Jack Wild’s name, at the end, so he is mentioned one and a half times?

At no time do the kids announce to their parents that they intend to get married. It is probable that both sets find out, but the only ones we see knowing and doing a poor job of talking her out of it are Melody’s. The closest we see Daniel coming to announcing it (which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen off-screen) is when his mother finds the note saying that they are eloping.

Melody and the love between the two kids is central to the story, but not remotely the only part of it. If you could say it’s about one thing, that would be love. But it’s love between friends as well.

About the only thing in the description that is accurate is that the story was told from the point of view of the children. I’m not sure it’s the objections to the marriage idea that come across as silly and inconsequential so much as it is the general incompetence of the adults that makes them come across that way in general.

I might never have paid enough attention to this to tear into it, except my oldest used the description as the basis for her decision not to watch the movie. That was what cause me even to read it. I was horrified.

What If

It’s not just a genre for alternate history SF any more. It’s a 2014 2013 (the latter per IMDB, the former per Amazon, which owns IMDB) romantic comedy, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, and Adam Driver. Fantastic! Zoe was just gorgeous, and amazing. Daniel makes you completely forget he was ever Harry Potter. Adam is tall. Very tall compared to Radcliffe. I don’t think I had noticed his height as the rogue Skywalker. He made a great Ornshaw-like friend, whose cousin is actually the girl in question.

Weird! I just discovered that the original title was “The F Word.” I had heard of that one. Just never saw it, though the trailer looks familiar.

Megan Park was Zoe’s sister and was also great. I would be attracted to the looks plus quirkiness of Chantry (Zoe), but would be attracted probably more at sight to Dalia (Megan), if I knew nothing but how they each looked.

The film was delightful, funny, quirky and different. It was somewhat a modernized variant of When Harry Met Sally, which to its credit is something I didn’t catch until well into the movie. On the negative side, it’s about being soundly friend zoned, and could bring out bad memories of Daphne. On the positive side, it’s a look at how important being that close as friends can be to a relationship.

Daphne didn’t ruin things by wanting to be just friends after cuddling with me and being my first kiss. She didn’t really even ruin things by dating my best friend and ultimately having casual sex with my other best friend. She ruined things by coming along later and teasing me with the possibility of something that was never going to happen and spending some nights platonically in the same bed as me. At that point, much later in our lives than our high school and immediate post high school years, she lectured me about the evils of casually having sex, rather than “making love.” Yet that was just what she’d done with one of my friends who had zero interest in her but was having a dry spell just then. He thought of it as lowering himself shamefully. But this is supposed to be about a movie I just watched and loved.

I still find it funny to watch these things and see people in, say, their twenties or so being so free, enthusiastic and open about sex. That’s not the world I grew up in, or at least not a part of the world I ever saw personally. It’s how it ought to be, but it still boggles me. I probably would have been better off to have been the guy in Hello I Love You, working and working and working, never making the slightest attempt to be social, and being 29 with no dating experience or friends but 200k in the bank. No way I’d have stayed “living at home” as he did to help save money. I moved out about as soon as possible, never went back to my mother’s, and still feel somewhat shamed I moved to my father’s to make it possible, or at least easier, to go to college. One of these days I might remember to write a post about how I’ve always identified with my work to an irrational degree.

Maybe that’s why I like romantic comedies. They connect with something I wanted and never had. Which reminds me how great it was that The Princess Bride had a cameo in What If. One of the best movies ever.

Watch The Orville?

Every Friday after a new episode airs Thursday night while I’m sleeping, I watch The Orville on the web.

This is the first new episode to air since Disney took ownership.

Unless it’s some crazy oversight that happened when they changed the site unnecessarily because reasons, they have changed it so Comcast customers are not accepted. Comcast did vie with Disney for the purchase of Fox, after all. So let’s punish Comcast customers? Who may have little choice who to use for internet because of the history of localities thinking they had the right to grant monopolies for cable TV service, which was always nonsensical at best.

I didn’t really have time to watch it all before taking the kids to an appointment, but I figured I’d catch part of it. Alas, there will apparently be no commentary from me this episode, and no encouragement of everyone to watch it because it’s awesome. If I won’t be able to watch it, I won’t be able to care. If this is how Disney is going to be, I’m even less likely to want their streaming service than I wasn’t in the first place.

Update:
I looked at this again when I should really have been going to bed, and found they had modified things to acknowledge the “corporate transaction” and changes to Fox TV, and to offer the ability to create an account or log in with Facebook. I did the latter and was excited. Then I agreed to create a password in case I ever wanted to watch something where the FB login wouldn’t work.

Instead of playing the episode, it started a 2 minute and change preview timer for how much you could see before logging in with your cable provider. Comcast remains not an option. Bastards. I’m not going to move onto some paid service just to get the one show. If this isn’t resolved or it doesn’t become available through a service I’d use anyway, they’ll lose an avid viewer and as annoyed as I may sound, I won’t lose sleep over it.

People Are So Gullible

That’s all. Otherwise I’d be saying too much. It’s sad to watch someone otherwise admirable being awesome and then at the end have them reveal themselves as a dupe.

Of course, my father would say I’m gullible. My wife never forgave him for that. But being taken for a ride by a fraudulent local repair shop is minor league.

Went Clothes Shopping

I mentioned clothes shopping recently. This morning I went after work. I grabbed three different pairs of jeans: George, Rustler, and Levi’s. All we size 40. Two were “regular” fit but both seemed to tout that as being roomy. The other was “relaxed” fit, the designation I would normally expect to mean roomy and forgiving. The two fit well enough to buy. The one was too loose. I didn’t bother to go back and get regular fit or whatever in Levi’s, or try 38 relaxed in that brand. I’ll try the the two I tried on and a third that I grabbed in one of them. That’ll let me know how they are after the machines in the cellar shrink them, and how they seem to wear. The recent cheap pairs showed obvious unnatural wear within a couple wearings. The thing is, the two brands I bought are not much more money. Levi’s would have been more than double.

I also grabbed a couple T-shirts, one of which may end up being too tent-sized to wear to work. If it’s too big, I’ll know to get a size down. One of them is intentionally tall sized, so more money than the typical pocket tee. The other is even lower than the traditional Fruit of the Loom collection that lines a whole display wall each spring. On the plus side, cheap. Possibly on the plus side, thin and soft. That might be a negative, though. I ended up not liking FotL’s new “Platinum” weave shirts as much as the old ones that are thicker, sturdier, and don’t stain as instantly. We’ll see. Work really beats on them.

Time for a Reread?

Someone on the Wheel of Time group on Facebook posted a question about the consequences of something that happened near the end. I didn’t remember that thing happening. That might mean it’s time for a reread.

I read the first five so many times it’s ridiculous, since when I first read those books, they were all that had come out. I’ve read the sixth one a lot, but after book 8 I no longer did a reread prior to each new release. That made “the slog” even worse. The slog is when you get to books 9 and 10, and arguably 8, and it… just… drags… while the pieces move around the chess board. In book 11, Jordan’s last complete one before he died, I said “Jordan’s back!” It was classic Robert Jordan, back in good form.

What I found when I finally did a reread of the entire series was that the slog isn’t as much of a slog when reading start to finish without waiting for the next book. There actually are super exciting and consequential things that happen even in the worse of the books, since – and this has to be hard when writing such a series – each volume has a climactic conclusion, even if nothing seems gripping before that.

It has been a couple years or so since my last reread. I think I have read the final book twice, but maybe it’s been three times. That one needs it more than normal, and if nothing else, it’d be worth my picking that one alone up. Since then, being largely broke and hating what publishers have done to book prices, I have been reading mostly indie books on Kindle. Great discoveries, that way. For instance, I’ve never read a Christopher Nuttall book I haven’t liked, and mostly more than that, even when I go into it thinking I’m not so sure this is my thing. That reread, of all the books I have in paper format, took something like six months. The complete thing is a big commitment. I’m tempted to get them all in Kindle format, but they are one of those things where you don’t save much money by saving the publisher  100% of their marginal cost of publishing a book.

Anyway, even when I read the first ones, I sometimes see something I missed, and I always find I forgot the exact order of events or little details. It also changes it to have read to the end of the series, since there is a crazy amount of foreshadowing.

It’s a shame I was unable to get though even the first Song of Ice and Fire book, Game of Thrones. I love the series and the idea of the books, and appreciate the rabid fandom and the details I learn about the books from YouTubers, but to me GRRM just wasn’t a very good writer. It’s better to be a writer who’s as “not very good” as him and wealthy from your work than it is to have nothing more than ideas that may never make their way to print. That doesn’t make it any easier to slog through it, and it doesn’t make it any easier to pick up the book, open it, and recognize whether I have read a given passage or not on my last attempt. I’d drop it without marking my place and not be able to tell where I was. I could open it to later in the book, start reading, and not recognize that I had missed anything. I’ve never experienced anything like that.

Perhaps next winter, when I’m especially broke unless the pattern changes, I’ll reread all or some of WoT again.

As for the TV series, I am worried. I love the idea that it’ll be brought to life, but it could be a disaster so easily. It just feels too much like it’s being done to be done, by people who may not love or understand the books. It requires massive condensing, and it would be easy to mess that up, just for starters. We’ll see. I’ll be watching and no doubt commenting vociferously.

Clothes Shopping

I hate it. Generally. During part of the time I did Microsoft support, we were required to wear ties. Guys would cope by getting the catchiest or most outrageous ties they could find. It was fun finding cool ties. I still have a big collection hanging in the closet that’s mainly devoted to storing things that aren’t clothes, and is usually blocked with stuff that must be moved if I want to remind myself what’s in there. Like a few weeks ago when I pulled out the prints and painting I bought years ago at science fiction conventions, but never got framed and hung. Showed them to the kids and told them whatever there was to tell. The oldest is artistic, so it was mainly for her benefit. Also handed over my Michael Whelan art books for her to look through for a day or two. Speaking of art, as I recall, one of my ties is inspired by Starry Night. Love Van Gogh.

Winter is always lean at my job, so I’ve been limping along with an increasingly small number of jeans that both fit and don’t have holes too large for me to be willing to wear them. They tend to develop worn spots and then holes right around the bottom of where the pocket is inside the pants. That’s from leaning or rubbing against the metal bar that runs along the side of the conveyor belt. The extent of it depends on the exact nature of the work at the time. For a long time, I was working off of rollers, scanning and stacking packages onto pallets, wrapping them, and putting the pallets into a trailer to go on a ferry. Then for a while I was working mainly inside a trailer with rollers on the floor, floor loading packages as someone else took them off the conveyor and sent them down the rollers. We no longer do that particular location, and I subsequently spent a lot of time mostly standing against a conveyor and a slide going down either to rollers or another conveyor, splitting packages to the appropriate place. That started the wear pattern happening heavily. When I loaded the trailer, I sometimes had to be out at the conveyor to put in my own packages, then go up a couple steps into the trailer, stack before anything got by or rely on others to catch them, then pop back down the steps, rinse and repeat. Broke a rib and got whiplash falling down the stairs and against the conveyor structure a couple years back. Fun. It took six months for it to stop hurting completely. Never missed a day of work for it, and only knew I broke the rib because of an unrelated CAT scan a month afterward that happened to show the unhealed rib.

Now I still split from the middle of a conveyor down to the only remaining stretch of rollers in the place, where someone scans and puts packages onto pallets rather than loading them directly into delivery vans. However, I also scan and load packages into two or three vans at the same time. So it might be 300 packages I load, give or take, and 400-600 packages I send down to the rollers. I move around a lot and don’t lean against the metal support along the conveyor so much, but the damage was done.

I had been buying the cheapest Walmart jeans for many years. $9 and change a pair. If they wore out I bought more. I knew what size fit and could reliably walk in and buy them. Then they stopped carrying my style, so I had to order them. Good thing I knew exactly the size and style to order.

At the same time, the pants got super sensitive to abrading, and the newest pants ended up with the worst wear and the biggest holes. They also seemed to shrink more easily. I stopped ordering them and braced myself to find something else, but that had to wait for the tax refund or for an increase in income. It’s both that time, and getting critical in terms of what is available to wear. I was keeping enough pants to get me through variability in laundry processing.

The thing is, no matter what Walmart might say on the labels of the cheap jeans to flatter me, I am not a 38 waist. 30 inseam, sure, but an old pair of Dockers I wore recently for the first time in years is a 40 waist and would barely button. I will have to pick a likely brand or two and – ugh! – try them on in sizes ranging around where I expect them to fit. Then I will have to try a pair or two in each size and brand long enough to see how they shrink and such. Whatever passes, I can then buy more, maybe make a habit. If I find the size in better brands is a reliable indicator, I might even be able to risk ordering online in a brand I haven’t tried. We’ll see.

In the meantime, it’s the first day on which it would be viable and appropriate to shop. It’s about the last thing I want to do.

Dear Walmart

Thanks so much for discontinuing cheese bread and pepperoni cheese bread. I used to buy it almost every time I went in. At least when I went to Paramount Drive. Other stores either didn’t carry it in the first place, or didn’t make it correctly. It turns out it was so popular in the Paramount Drive store that the bakery kept ordering the stuff and making it after it was initially discontinued, up until they couldn’t even order the ingredients any more.

My kids are not amused.

Dear Dove

After trying other shampoos, my daughter discovered Dove Absolute Curls. It was perfect for her hair.

After buying it a few times, I went to get it again and it was gone. It has apparently been discontinued.

Thanks a lot! Between companies like you, Utz (discontinued their amazing Salt & Pepper chips), and Walmart (discontinued their yummy cheese bread and amazing pepperoni cheese bread), the kids are becoming as used to this happening as I have over a lot more years.

Update:

This ended rather well. I went looking for something that was for curls and bought an Aussie product made for curls. She loves it. It works at least as well, and “smells better.”

I Seldom Dream About Work

That’s a bit odd, after having been at the same place for more than ten years.

I woke up from one that incorporated a combination of current and past employees, and had me seemingly doing two different jobs in different places. At least one of them requires having a radio, but I didn’t have one. When I woke up, I was crawling along the conveyor belt, moving packages around, planning to crawl all the way through the system to where trucks would be unloaded. Suddenly the belt was going to be turned on and I had no way to tell them I was on it so don’t. Since we’re not supposed to be on it, that’s a huge safety violation.

Earlier in the dream, we had a meeting in the conference room. My boss was talking about riding the bus to work. I interjected a couple times to clarify things, then she yelled at me for interrupting.There’s no such thing as bus service you could use for getting there in the middle of the night. It’s actually kind of amazing that there’s very limited bus service you could use during the day. Years ago, I’d give someone a ride in the wee hours and if she was going to be there late enough she’d go hail the little bus going by at about 8:30 or 9:00 AM.

As usual in a dream like that, the place didn’t look the way it does in real life. It also seemed to be a scenario in which things weren’t right, including there being too few people.

If Facebook weren’t still down, I’d be posting this there. I always hop on FB while drinking coffee before work, so it cramps my style having an outage. If that keeps up, there will be a lot more randomness from me here.

Milk Men

When does the joke “same mother, different milkman” stop making any sense to people?

This was sparked by my realization that one of the earliest scenes in Melody, pyrotechnic breakfast at the Latimer house, involved bottles of milk that had been delivered, presumably by a milkman. It also featured what, to modern, American eyes, is a tiny refrigerator. That would make the small bottles, delivered at regular intervals, sensible. It’s pure background, just the way it was at the time, one more way it’s historic archive captured on film.

The year that was released, 1971, would have been still firmly during the timeframe when we had a milkman where I grew up. I always felt bad for them, though. We were on a long dirt road, the only house a third of a mile in, and it could get extremely bumpy. It’s amazing my father was ever successful running a business that was a tenth or so of a mile past us on the same street, up to around the same time Melody was released. I am forbidden to mention what happened to the business, though I might have mentioned it here anyway in passing, but after that it operated out of another building, toward the other side of town, and was later in a new building, all the way on the other side of town. I digress. There had to have been a lot of broken bottles for our benefit, and a lot of time wasted driving extra slowly. My father had gone to school with one of the kids in the family that owned the dairy, and had actually suggested to her that they should start an ice cream stand. They did, and it’s locally renowned to this day.

We didn’t get tiny bottles, but half gallon ones, made of glass and returned for cleaning and reuse. But we didn’t have that “green thing” back in my day. Just economics. It seems odd to me now that milk would be left sitting out beside our steps for hours, sometimes, before coming in and going in the fridge, but it was apparently never a problem.

Eventually the dairy eliminated our town from the area their deliveries covered. That aspect of their business was getting overwhelmed by ice cream anyway. I seem to recall we figured the problems of delivering to us were a factor, be we are always me-centric. It couldn’t have been too much longer, since the road eventually was paved. On the other hand, when it was paved, it got some nasty speed bumps. I don’t remember them delivering after it was paved, and that was probably not later than 1973.

My youngest brother, who delights in using the “different milkman” phrase to describe himself, was born in 1971, appropriately enough. The milkman thing reminds me of a great grandfather I never met. He was an electrician, but he installed electricity in a lot of houses in and around his town in the early days of electric service, when the men would be off at work. Apparently we will never know just how many relatives we have from the town where my grandmother grew up. But that’s another story.

Marriage

It’s super ironic that the wife and I got married in the first place. When she was a blogger and I was a blogger and we met as a result, along the way she wrote a post about marriage. I was the only one who seemed to understand and agree with it. It’s been so long, I don’t remember exactly how she put it. I don’t recall it being all that clear, but I’d had the same thoughts. It’s long gone from the interwebs.

I’ll revisit the topic. I believe I have done so over the years, but it’s been a long time and much has happened over the years.

Marriage as we know it is a legal shortcut that helps you get things that governments can give you, or recognize, or steal from you differently. How rich is it, then, that there was such a push to make same sex marriage legal? You’re petitioning the government to let you have the same tax advantages as traditional marriages. You’re petitioning the government to grant you social security survivor benefits and such. You’re petitioning the government to save you legal costs of making arrangements that would have relatively the same results as automatic inheritance or next of kin rights and duties. You can give anyone your power of attorney, living will, or your possessions in event of your death. Marriage makes it easy. Heck, it even makes adopting a new surname or hyphenated surname easy, without getting a legal name change, which you certainly could do if you were committed and wanted to have the same name and have children with the same name as both parents.

That’s basically it. That’s why people seek it. Anything else is ritual, as I know was explored in Moonrise Kingdom and, less overtly, Melody. Not that the power and emotion of that is to be dismissed lightly, but anyone could “marry” you with no legal weight attached if that were all it was. In fact, if marriage has its origins mainly as a religious ceremony, it has origins as a ritual, a rite that might not have anything to do with government, but gives you the recognition of the church if you or enough others around you care about that. If a religion purports to have power over your reproduction, calling it a sin or an evil if not sanctioned, marriage is a powerful rite indeed. It’s always about power, about control. That’s how some people roll if we let them and don’t teach them well or worse, if they are beyond teaching. Religion and government fit naturally together, when they are not instead competing.

Freedom of association is one of those things that simply exists. Putting marriage in a box of how it must be is a restriction of that freedom.

In reality, there is no reason any person or people cannot form a bond with any one or more others, in something that looks a bit like marriage or like something we might not recognize, to achieve the same things marriage can achieve apart from the legal automation above, in practical and emotional spheres.

My favorite example is Heninlein’s line marriage concept. It’s a form of polygamy, which is not even a little bit wrong. It’s stable, has economic strength, is long lasting, and provides a wonderful framework for raising children.

Sex is just a small part of marriage, and it doesn’t even require sex. It just creates a socially acceptable construct for that to take place, historically. Lots of marriages turn entirely sexless, or mostly sexless, but they don’t end. I might not have gotten married if I’d expected that to happen. On the other hand, my reaction was “that’s it, that’s what all the fuss is about?” Perhaps I should have taken that to mean I was about to marry the wrong person and needed to have gotten around more, rather than being mystified that this was the driving force of civilization and culture. And not that it meant I wanted to sit out the last ten years, either. When it’s bad it’s good or something? But who is to say that you have to restrict yourself to a marital partner for that? The local priest? Please. Maybe one of the other spouses would work out well for that. Heh.

Even without tax benefits, marriage is about economic stability and mutual support. It’s about a stable environment for children. It’s beyond hard to raise children alone. I wanted children and got them, with a partner who is absolutely on the same page when it comes to raising kids. We knew that ahead of time. It might be as important, no more important, to know where you stand on that before marrying. That would be hard for 11 year olds to have a grasp of, even if they knew that eventually their relationship would involve sex. The thing is, if you’re stepping outside the marriage for sex, it potentially puts kids outside the marriage, and you need to be willing to deal with that possibility. They are as much yours as any you had with spouse(s). If nobody minds any of this, that makes it a de facto nontraditional marriage anyway, even if you’re officially in the traditional government construct of two spouses.

When I got married, part of the impetus was that I was having trouble affording the apartment and bills by myself, and maintaining housekeeping by myself, though at least it was just me to pick up after. I was thinking I’d have a partner on the home front, a booster encouraging me to go get ‘em at the business, and an economic contributor to help even things and make paying everything easier. Two people cost less than double. The reality was gaining a dependent and then kids when I was barely covering myself, but the concept still stands, and kicked in later. That was almost eleven years ago, less than a year before the ten years ago thing. A group marriage might give more potential dependents, but it also gives more hands. Something of a tribe, more than a traditional man and wife. I’ve known people you could call “heterosexual life mates” who have some of the benefits of a marriage, economically, without there ever being sex or a legal marriage, same sex or not. You can’t always know those two women who have lived together for many years are lesbians, or that one or both wouldn’t be thrilled to have their way with a man. In ways that matter, they are family.

How would I explain marriage to Melody and Daniel? Well, it might be time for them to know about sex in more than a vague way, if they don’t already. I would tell them it’s more about mutual support, about a stable environment, all that. I would tell them that having romantic love for each other is wonderful, and is how marriages often start, but that there is more to it than that, and those feelings might not survive, or remain so strong. Just having those feelings and wanting to be together all the time is not reason to be married, even if it were legal at that age. But marriage is a legal vehicle anyway. People can be together without ever being married, and be perfectly happy. Perhaps even happier. Live, be together as much as you can, continue growing up, and see what happens in a few years.

Politically, things went the wrong direction. Instead of forcing government to recognize more marriages, which has slippery slope potential for those who hate the idea of things like legally sanctioned polygamy, we should have been backing the government out of marriage. Why should it be licensed? Why should it have special treatment?

Well, I can answer that last one. You give special treatment to what you encourage. Encouraging people to make more people and be able to raise them in a stable way is what a government does to subjects when it wants to ensure more subjects without simply importing and, ideally, integrating them. If we aren’t subjects, why treat us as such? The government here is us, not a king.

Marriage shouldn’t exist as a legal vehicle controlled by government. People should be able to have any arrangement they want that is marriage-like or family-like without permission, so long as nobody is harmed. Actual harm, not pretend harm. That doesn’t mean there can’t be religious rites, or private purveyors of registration or contractual arrangements that are ready made for common scenarios. It’s just an odd thing to do with government, even if it goes back millennia.

That Was Fun

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a party at Naomi’s mother’s house and I went with the middle child, who was interested in trying the expected Middle Eastern food. The youngest was upset when we got home that I hadn’t invited him, which I did weeks ago to a firm no. He assumed we’d had awesome food, which we did, but not from his perspective. He felt better when I listed off what we’d eaten. The one who went loved it. Bonus, there was lemon cheesecake! She loves cheesecake more than almost anything. She had to spend a couple hours being bored while Naomi, Sally and I gabbed, though she enjoyed watching the little kids and tiny dog playing. She also  got a piece of lava rock to bring home, from Naomi’s stepfather, who was enthusiastic about her interest in science generally and geology particularly.

There were a bunch of assorted relatives there, and some adorable little kids. A late arrival, no idea the relation, had a couple more, but older, like first grade. My eyes locked on that woman before she was in the door, and I had to make a point of not staring, she was so stunning. Basically a ginger. She seemed super nice to boot. If I were younger and prone to those serial crushes, she’s exactly the sort of scenario where her walking into a room might change everything.

I ate way too much, mostly because of the shrimp someone brought, with a dip based on mayo and Greek yogurt, seasoned with wasabi and I forget what else. There were also pita chips, pita pieces, amazing spinach dip, awesome cheese spread, hummus, feta cubes, olives that were actually good – my second encounter ever eating an olive and finding I liked it, crackers, cheese, baked ziti with sausage meat included in it, and fantastic salad. Besides cheesecake, there were good chocolate chip cookies, and squares with chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts. The kid who thought he’d missed out *might* have tried the pasta dish and not much else. Well, there were potato chips, so he could have had those.

It was actually hard to leave because the conversation really got rolling, about books and such. But it was time to go so they could wind down and we could settle in for the night. I could be later, but there’s school in the morning.

One thing that’s funny is Naomi still thinks of me as the go to person for computer questions, even though she is pretty clueful herself. She’s gone through more computer antics in the past ten years than I have. Mostly I have things that work or don’t, and if they don’t, I somehow get something that does. Since we went broke, I spent a lot of time using hand-me-down machines. This one is a $239 refurbished Dell compact desktop, sort of thing I wouldn’t have been caught dead using back in the day. The old machine is a hand-me-down laptop that I retrieved files from for someone before the hard drive died. That was over 10 years ago, and it sat for a long time before I confirmed they didn’t want it back. I had to replace the drive and, it turned out, a bad memory stick. It got full and slow enough I needed better. I’d used it as a clamshell with keyboard, mouse and monitor all attached. Before that I had an old laptop someone else gave me. It had no disks and was kind of a mess, but I couldn’t reinstall it or fix some of the deep down settings. My last good computer I built died before that and I couldn’t keep anything I had around working reliably enough. So we talked about some of the stuff she’s been through and things she’d told herself to ask me about. Her best computer was her first one, which I’d helped her get from what turned out to be a local dealer at a computer show, back when those were a thing. We later used that dealer to supply computers for the business, until I started building them all myself.

When the Pedestal Goes Away

Original title was Shower Thoughts, but since that’s the name of a site or whatever, I figured I’d go with the other one. It is, however, where I had the train of thoughts.

I ended up thinking about what it must be like to be a celebrity and to need or want to protect your safety and privacy. Rebecca Schaeffer came to mind. It must be especially weird when you aren’t a big name, but are nonetheless a name to some.

Melody was essentially a commercial flop, as delightful and well made as it is, and was saved from complete obscurity and financial ruin for the production company’s first film by runaway success and a favorable distribution deal in Japan. So the film was always huge in Japan and a few minor markets, so Tracy Hyde, not already a big name like Mark Lester and Jack Wild, was an idol regionally. She went on to do some other roles through her twenties, but nothing huge. Melody went on to become, increasingly to this day, a cult classic.

Thinking of her life was a trigger to this. You’ve been moderately famous. You’re not hugely sought after, but in some circles there’s still demand. You were paid fairly modest amounts for the roles you did. Now you have to cope with staying private, the possibility of being stalked, the possibility of being more in demand by fans than you’d prefer. Perhaps paid appearances now and then are a boon, but it’s not the same as having been on a series that gets you steady employment as a convention guest for decades. You have a life.

That made me think of Keanu Reeves, who is an amazing human being, quietly humble, charitable, and an ordinary guy. He reportedly simply goes ahead and rubs shoulders with everyone, riding the subway and so forth. Reading about him makes you want to be more like him. He’s just a guy, who just happens to act for a living. Perhaps we ought to see actors more like that.

All of this, which took far less time to think about in the quick shower before work than it takes to write and expand slightly upon, reminded me of my revelation of the past few years (it’s been around five or so since the provocation and probably between 3 and 4 or so since I worked this out) that I have tended to put people on pedestals in my life. I make them, in my mind, something they can’t ever be. I did this to my friend Zack, but never to my friend Frank. Two very different people met at two different times. If anything, I was the one on Frank’s pedestal, but not the same problematic way.

Being seen by me as falling off the pedestal, or not having belonged there in the first place, was messy. The mess was made and can never be unmade, but I made the breakthrough of recognizing that Frank Zack is and always was just a guy. A good guy. A guy with strengths and foibles like any of us. Which gives me an inverse thought I should address, if not in this post. (Typed the wrong name, though the same applies. Or did, since Frank died several years ago.)

I generally did the same with girls. Those I crushed on, anyway. But if I saw things I didn’t like, that already created cognitive dissonance. Anyway, the more the pedestal, the more difficult for me to see her as approachable and act accordingly. If the wasn’t a pedestal, or it was countered too greatly, I’d go the other way, and be talking myself out of it. I recognized the pedestal problem with girls before I ever recognized the harm it had done to that friendship over the decades, and before I ever saw Zack once and for all as a mere mortal. And figured out that being a mere mortal in not a bad thing!

This also made me think about the way I have always looked at authority figures, which includes teachers/professors and bosses. I have no idea how I developed it. It has to go back to an extremely young age or be somehow inherent to me. I always had a fear of authority figures. I was the last kid who would ever have gotten in trouble with the police. I had no dealings with them. Yet they terrified me.

With bosses, I would either be afraid of them or, if I saw them as stupid or incompetent, not take them seriously at all. Neither thing works very well. Usually they are just people doing a job, and have strengths and weaknesses. Usually they are not in fact out to get you, and do not want you to fail. That’s the opposite of what they’d be after. Duh. Arguably this also intersected unhealthily with my perfectionism problem. Forget bosses. I never thought did a good enough job at anything. Except sometimes I knew I was great, and it would be times like that when I’d know a boss was stupid for not realizing it. Then I’d not take them seriously, rather than being afraid of them. Seldom have I ever realized later that I wasn’t as good as I thought, in those cases. Usually, though, I assume I am awful unless regularly and vehemently told otherwise. I’ve gotten better about this. Assuming you don’t take the state of my employment as an indication that, no, I have not, which could be. If you’re awful, who would hire you, and why would you go trying to get a job you can do better than most people that you’re sure you can’t possibly do as well as they’d expect? Why go there? So maybe not.

But I digress. I know I always do, but these are topics neither thought of in the shower nor contemplated for inclusion when I thought of writing this.

I think my point was to compare my realization about my friends just being people, and girls just being people even if they give me elusive butterflies, to the fact that celebrities are just people. People who sometimes need or want to cope with the potential problem of other people not seeing them as such. Of course, fame can be a rush. I’ve had a minor form of it in the past. It really was kind of a kick. So maybe that’s the price of that rush, but you’re still just people. If you were a kid when the fame started, maybe it’s nothing you ever sought or could have known the price of before you started paying.

Dear Utz

It was kind of rude to discontinue your best variety of potato chips a while back. Salt & Pepper Chips were the main flavor, of any brand, that my fussy oldest child would eat. Every time I think about buying your excellent honey barbecue chips, I tend to remember the discontinued chips and skip it.

Cooking, Blogging and Tech, Oh My

Or: Pay attention to your sites, dude.

Once upon a time, Jeff Soyer started a food blog called Single Guy Cook, which I hough was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it ran out of steam quickly, given limited funds and repertoire.

That inspired me to start one called Married Guy Cook, since I used to post frequently about what I’d cook, and I’d gotten deeply into cooking since getting married. Unfortunately, it hobbled along, given limited funds and repertoire, and I trailed off due to that and other issues. However, it was a popular and lucrative site, for a time, for earning money.

That and being even more broke than ever (I’d never realized while I was self-employed just how low my income was, though I did know that it was incredibly rocky – impossible, technically – to live on it) were part of the inspiration for starting Frugal Guy Cook, to which I ported the posts from Married Guy Cook.

Then I all but abandoned it, despite all my plans to make money from it, and to expand the focus to being frugal in this ridiculous economy and to handling our son’s multiple allergies and sensitivities. That meant it didn’t build much content or garner page rank, and never became a potential source of income. Granted, that was partly the reperoire thing, and the money thing goes without saying, but that was part of the schtick. Only so many things you can tout doing with dried pinto beans, cheap burger on sale (OK, that’s an oxymoron these days; burger that is sometimes on sale for less epensive enough to justify its purchase, if only because we have to eat), cheap beef on sale, cheap chicken on sale, rice, and what vegetables we can afford, or buy regardless. I never buy fish, for instance, because $5/lb and up is “rich people food.” Indeed, my current conundrum is that since my stents, I am supposed to eat healthier, and while there have been steps in that direction, going whole hog means money. And if I do spend more on food, it ceases to be “frugal,” at least by my standards. The next couple weeks will test my frugality. We have a freezer relatively full of meat, which helps, and are well stocked in other things, but I expect to have maybe $60 or so to spend through November 9th (maybe more, but there’s also gas, and I have to plan low rather than optimistic). Bread alone is $6-7 a week. Anyway, I digress.

I slacked off on that site so badly that I have yet to fix the weirdness that porting from the old one caused, or adjust the theme to look less funny as a result (or replace the theme).

On my last big shopping trip, I got a sugar pumpkin on sale for 29¢ a pound. Cheap and I love making pumpkin bread or other things from the source, though canned is easier. Yesterday I went looking for a pumpkin bread recipe. I may have had one saved on my computer, but my computer, and the spare one into which I put the till working drive from the dead one, is dead. I thought I might have written about making pumpkin bread, and if so, it might have made it onto the food blog. Otherwise it’s a matter of finding a likely looking recipe and trying it, rather than using one I knew was good from past use. Not that there’s much you can do to mess up pumkin bread. Besides, I can always make pumpkin cake, which is a matter of using pumpkin as the liquid in the egg and dairy-free cake recipe and adding appropriate seasoning.

In the course of checking whether I’d ever posted it, I found that every picture in every post I looked at had been replaced by a square graphic saying “SHOPWIKI.” Clicking the picture, rather than bringing up a larger version, took me to a site not my own.

“How was I hacked,” I wondered.

Well, I wasn’t. I allowed the old domain to expire, an unusual thing for me, but sometimes there’s reason to let go. The posts I had ported still pointed to graphics (and sometimes internal links) on the old domain. Which now belongs to someone else. My experience with lapsed domains, even if they have no page rank, is that someone snaps them up and makes them page full of ad links, such that they will generate at least something over the cost of registering and hosting the domain. It’s what my old business partner would have called “yawn money.” Make money while you sleep. Even if it’s a little, even if it’s some tiny form of arbitrage, it will add up and be something you wouldn’t make otherwise. I could go for some of that.

I still had all the graphics, mind you. The folder the old domain had been in was totally intact. So I copied it to the new location and modified each wrong URL directly in the database. Easy, but a bit embarrassing, given that it should have been done at the time of the port.

The moral of the story, I’d say, is pay attention. If you’re going to have a blog empire, mind your blog empire. If you’re going to write, write. If you’re going to maintain places to write, maintain them. Don’t be surprised if neglect leads to decay.

At the moment, I am only posting here, trying to do it regularly, building back up a blog we should never have left fallow in the first place. If it weren’t for the difficulty in porting Expression Engine to WordPress, the entire original content would be here, rather than archived. The conundrum is that topical blogs are lucrative. That was part of the reason for Frugal Guy Cook in the first place. I’ll probably post food-related stuff here now, but it’s an opportunity missed. Same for tech blogging and business blogging. I fell out of both, tech in paricular, since I all but stopped doing it for a living, and I lacked the money to keep myself up to date, which feeds the no doing it for a living and vice-versa. We’ll see what happens. For the time being, writing and maintaining this stuff is de facto a job for me, so all the more reason it should get caught up and get done routinely. Income, however speculative and lacking in direct connection to the effort, won’t be possible at all otherwise.

Either-Or

Yesterday I saw Atlas Shrugged Part 2. This time around, it was playing at a nearby Regal theater, which also showed Obama’s America, so I didn’t have to drive to a far-flung, unfamiliar theater, as I did for Part 1.

Of the two, Part 2 is unquestionably better, and not merely due to the meatier, more exciting material. It also did not suffer from the cast changes as I thought it might.

If there was ever any question that Atlas Shrugged falls in the science ficion genre, this movie, even more than the book, argues that it does. Simply being future/alt-history suggests it, without some of the futuristic technologies or elements.

If there was ever any question that John Galt was inspired by Nikola Tesla, this movie, even more than the book, makes clear that he was. Among the special effects are those associated with efforts to get Galt’s “motor” for drawing unlimited power from the air to work without Galt around to help.

As an aside, such a device represents the ultimate intellectual property challenge. Obviously, if anyone can build such a device, can know how, have access to it for reverse-engineering, then selling electricity generated from it would not be lucrative for long. The very reason Tesla lost backing for the very device he allegedly had working or near to it. As such, it would have to remain a black box, unable to be accessed to reverse-engineer. At that, simply knowing such a thing was possible would set others on the path of figuring out how to create their own. On the other hand, one might accept it quickly falling into public domain or generating competition, given what it would do to the world, and given the other ways its inventor could then make money.

Anyway, I liked the movie a lot. The script was pared down from the source material skillfully, with inclusion of key points, some of which I might have expected to suffer. What it could not convey was Reardon’s internal guilt and thought processes that made blackmailing him successful. I am not sure this would have been clear to a viewer who’d never read the book, despite being subtly implicit.

The flash forward opening was a nice touch, drawing us in with excitement and adrenaline. The fact that it is set in near future modern times actually helps Reader’s Digest things. All the action regarding the tunnel disaster and the buck-passing is distilled into the central control room and the scene itself.

The root of money speech was there, briefer but more than adequate. The breakout was there. The cabin was there, but barely, and wasn’t it in New Hampshire originally? And not sitting on a flood plain, immediately beside water? The wet nurse was well done, and well acted, in that you could see the character developing and thinking without a word.

Most of the casting was good, even great. Esai Morales, whom I knew from the ill-fated Caprica, was a better Francisco. Lillian was equally good, perhaps better, even if the original was the one to fit my mental image. This one was at least as good at portraying that form of evil. I could see Cheryl’s gears starting to turn before the movie was out. I couldn’t remember if she had her final scenes in 2 or 3, but must be 3. Dagny was better. Reardon was as good or better, though he could have supplied the voice of Batman in the most recent films. Robert Picardo rocks anyway, and did in this. Even having read about Teller’s small speaking role, I almost missed who it was, and there were faces like that of Michael Gross that looked familiar but I didn’t place at the time. Wyatt wasn’t in it, but they showed his picture on the news as the guy from Part 1. I’d love to see him back, even if he is not as described in the book.

On an unexpected note, I loved the soundtrack, or score, if that’s the better term. I don’t usually even notice a soundrack. I stayed through the credits mainly for the music.

I’m still amused by DB Sweeney as Galt! And we still haven’t seen his face, even at the end, when he finally becomes a person, not a question. I will forever think of him as Doug Dorsey from The Cutting Edge, one of my favorite “good bad movies” of all time. I’ve watched it at least six times. In Part 3, seeing him in the actual role may allow me finally to picture him otherwise.

There was one point when I thought we might actually see Danneskold, who has been almost entirely left out of the movie adaptation, but it proved instead to be the scene when Reardon calls his lawyer and finally orders up a divorce. About time.

The times depicted are worse and yet shockingly similar to our current ones. The actions of government are familiar, as are the consequences. The use of consequences of government to justify even worse actions of government are familiar. Even timeless.

Could someone see it without Part 1? Absolutely, if they’ve read the book. Probably, even if they haven’t. It doesn’t start with one of those total recaps, but you get enough of an idea the circumstances and background. Perhaps I am biased.

Overall, it’s a better adaptaion than we might have had cause to expect, considering the density of the source.

Don’t Call Us…

Introvert’s view of phones, which sounds exactly right to me.

Speaking of which, after being a Verizon customer for 13 years, straight pone, then DSL, then FiOS for the last 6 or so, I am cancelling today. We have Comcast for internet and we have cell service through Verizon Wireless. The land line exists as a number that bill collectors know, and is archaic and unused. Well, except when I can’t find my cell that I set down somewhere unexpected in the house in which case making it ring is a good locator. Since Verizon effectively refused to eliminate the phone service from our plan, and has gone up and up, the best way to eliminate the unwanted phone service and save money to boot was to invoke the competition.

What Verizon doesn’t seem to grasp yet is that they are now an internet connectivity company, which just happens to generate marginal added revenue/added value for customers in the form of phone and TV service. I suppose it would be easier to grasp that if FiOS or the equivalent were rolled out everywhere they service.

Comcast seems to have arrived at that realization to a greater degree. They are internet, and also they offer TV and phone. Perhaps easier to make the leap, having not started as The Phone Company.

Wireless companies face a similar struggle with recognizing what they are. They are wireless data (internet) services, which happen to be more closely associated with phones than anything, since that is the primary small device through which data services are accessed. Personally, I don’t have a smartphone, but even for me my cell phone is for texting first, calls a distant second. I’d love more capability, but I’d also love to be able to see the screen… oh, and afford it. Which is ultimately what the Comcast switch is about. For a year, we save upwards of $70 a month. We always have to option of switching based on new customer deals – for internet service alone – from Verizon once the initial rate expires, but we’ll see.