Monday, July 25, 2022

After Lunch | Mystery Movie Night: Mausers, Mutara, and Monsters

Erik asks Michael, Dave, and David to guess the secret connection between the James Bond classic From Russia with Love, "Space Seed" sequel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Pixar's Monsters, Inc

If you haven't seen one or more of the movies, feel free to skip to the discussions of your choice:

00:01:49 - Review of From Russia with Love (1963)
00:21:55 - Review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
00:42:40 - Review of Monsters, Inc. (2001)
01:05:59 - Guessing the Connection

Monday, July 18, 2022

After Lunch | After Dinner Lounge – Save My Farts

Rob, Evan, Pax, and I convene for one last (with this configuration, for now) conversation about what we've been watching and thinking about. Topics include Moon Knight, the Jurassic Park series, fatherhood, and a special announcement from Evan. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Pop Quiz, Hotshot

My online pal, author Kelly Sedinger, recently found a new example of the best blogging tool ever: one of those blog quizzes. I've always loved these things, whether they were passed around in a notebook in middle school or a super easy way to create blog content. So, I'm doing it, too.

1. Do you like your handwriting? 

I like it when I slow down and make it legible. I tend to write quickly in a dumb attempt to keep up with my thoughts, but that never turns out well. If I slow down and actually draw the letters, I have a nice style.

2. Do you like roller coasters?

They aren't my favorite kind of ride and I'm not trustful of them in cheaper amusement parks. The issue isn't that I think I might get seriously injured, but just with how jerked around I'm going to be. A roller coaster can have a relatively smooth ride and also be exciting. Those are the ones I like.

3. Do you like scary movies? 

You bet. The thing I always feel like I have to explain though is that I don't find gore or cats jumping out of closets scary. When people ask if I'm a horror fan, I say that I am, but with a big old asterisk. I love old dark houses and sinister ghosts. It's even better if there's a mystery to uncover. A well-told ghost story is truly scary to me and I'm into it.

4. Do you like shopping? 

It's necessary and I don't hate it, but I don't get any actual pleasure from it either. Most of the time, I shop with a list and I'm just working the list to get done as efficiently as possible.

There are exceptions though like shopping for presents at Christmastime. I love going to a shop with only a general idea of what I'm looking to get for someone and then surprising myself.

A similar circumstance is shopping bookstores. I love browsing a big used bookstore and seeing what kind of treasures pop up. Or even at a new bookstore, I like just looking around at tables and staff recommendations and seeing if anything jumps out at me.

5. Do you like to talk on the phone?

Not so much anymore. Phone calls are in a weird, seldom used territory for me. If I just want to exchange information, a text is great. If I want to spend time connecting with someone, I prefer a video chat. Sometimes... rarely... I need to exchange information that's too complex for a text, but can still be done quickly, so that's where the phone comes in.

6. Do you sleep with the lights on or off? 

Off, but I'm not especially picky. I've always been able to sleep pretty much anywhere. It's my superpower.

7. Do you use headphones or earphones?

I have headphones for recording and editing podcasts, but I always wear a pair of wireless earphones that I can plug into my head whenever. They're the kind that are wired to each other and form a necklace when I'm not using them. Love those things.

8. Do you have tattoos? Do you want any?

I don't and I don't. This might be a generational thing, but the permanency is a turnoff. I have a strong suspicion that if I were to get one, I'd change my mind about it later and then what was the point? There are other forms of self-expression that I like a lot more.

9. Do you wear glasses?

I have since I was eight. I hated it for years and years, but have long since gotten used to it. At some point I tried contacts, but hated how high maintenance they are, so I went back to glasses super quickly. My current pair are lightweight and I love how I don't even have to think about them. 

10. What is your strangest talent?

I drive away all supernatural beings with my mere presence. I would love to be proved wrong and learn that this isn't an actual talent, but that I've just led a boring life because all the ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot had better things to do than bother me. But so far nothing has challenged the theory that it's actually me keeping them away.

11. Have you ever been in the hospital? 

I mean, aside from the countless times visiting other people, the one time I was there for myself was when my gall bladder went bad. I spent a few hours in the emergency room discovering the joys of morphine, and then went back a few days later for the actual surgery.

12. What color mostly dominates your wardrobe?

Black. Blue is a close runner up, but purple has been making more of an appearance lately.

13. What’s your most expensive piece of clothing?

I don't know. None of my shirts are cheap, but I don't have a single, really expensive shirt anymore. I like cool colors and patterns on shirts, but I'm pretty no frills when it comes to fabric. I just want it to be comfortable and easy to clean. My pants are mostly blue jeans.

14. Have you ever had braces?

Nope. Glasses was trauma enough as a kid, I guess.

15. Have you ever been on TV?

Not that I can remember. I've participated in some vox pop stuff for local news, but I don't recall if my part made it to air. Same with any crowd shots I may have been in at a convention or something. Seems like I remember being places where TV cameras were present, but I don't have a specific memory of seeing myself on TV.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Hellbent for Letterbox | The Ox-Bow Incident (1942)

I picked a classic that Pax and I have never seen. It's swift justice versus sure justice in William A Wellman's The Ox-Bow Incident, starring Henry Fonda, Harry Morgan, Dana Andrews, and Anthony Quinn.

Pax also reads Dead West by Rick Spears and Rob G, while I watche The Renegade Ranger (1938) starring Rita Hayworth and Tim Holt.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Seven Days in May | Week of 3 July 2022

What I've Been Listening To

I'm still listening to the same Ocean Blue album from last week, but this week I started a new Echo and the Bunnymen album: Reverberation. It was a surprise.

As much as I love Echo from younger days, I wasn't familiar with their career after around 1987, including that lead singer Ian McCulloch left the band for several years. While he was out, the remaining members recorded Reverberation with new singer Noel Burke. Burke's voice is intentionally different from McCulloch's, so it caught me off guard when I started the album, but he has a cool, gothic quality of his own. And it still has Will Sergeant on guitar, so there's some continuity there. 

I like the album and would have listened to more from the group; it's just jarring that they called themselves Echo and the Bunnymen. I get why from a marketing point of view; but it raised questions for me about when is it okay for a band to retain its name after a lineup change. Is the band a collection of specific, particular individuals? Or is it like a corporation that keeps going under its legal name regardless of who's in it? Are some members more exchangeable than others? 

What I've Been Reading

I made progress on the couple of novels I'm currently reading, but the only book I actually finished this week was Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Volume 1. After David Petersen finished his Mouse Guard saga (or the first couple of volumes in the trilogy anyway; I forget the exact timing), he brought together some of his favorite cartoonists for an anthology of stories set in the Mouse Guard world. 

Petersen wrote and drew a framing sequence about a storytelling contest in a tavern, which is an effective, simple frame to put these stories in. I like how it gets around the question of whether or not the stories are canonical since the rules of the contest are that each story has to contain some element of falsehood as well as an element of truth. Like with any anthology, I didn't love each story equally, but I love how curated the collection feels. Petersen clearly invited artists whom he liked and respected and several of them are favorites of mine, too: people like Mark Smylie, Guy Davis, Ted Naifeh, Jeremy Bastian, to name just a few.

What I've Been Watching

The second season of Rutherford Falls dropped all at once, but it was only eight episodes and I binged through them in a couple of days. The first season came out around the same time as Reservation Dogs, another comedy show focusing on American Indian characters. It was impossible not to compare them and I loved Reservation Dogs while enjoying Rutherford Falls a bit less. 

Reservation Dogs is about life on the reservation as seen through the eyes of a group of teenaged friends who've been through a recent tragedy. It's hilarious, but also eye-opening and heart-breaking. The first season of Rutherford Falls tells its story mostly from the perspective of its white lead character, Nathan Rutherford, played by Ed Helms. It's still trying to do the honorable work of giving its audience insight to the lives of American Indian characters, but it's Nathan who's holding the spotlight on these lives and the issues important to them. It's a well-meaning show, but Reservation Dogs is better (and funnier).

Rutherford Falls Season 2 makes a couple of needed adjustments, starting with decentralizing Nathan himself. It does this very intentionally and organically, which is great. Nathan learned some things in Season 1 that put him into listening mode rather than always trying to make himself understood. I love that growth as much as I love that it gives some of the other characters a chance to do more. 

Most of the time that works. I love non-binary character Bobbie Yang who gets a major plot arc this season. I also feel like we get to know Michael Greyeyes' Terry Thomas better this season. He went from being a nicely layered villain (or at least antagonist) in the first season to being just a plain ol' complex character in the second. Unfortunately, the one character that's not working for me is the other lead (besides Nathan), Reagan Wells. I enjoyed her in the first season when she was a history nerd trying unsuccessfully to get a cultural center going, but this season she's achieved most of her goals and is annoyingly perfect. She needs some new flaws to make her fun and interesting again.

I'm enjoying the show and think it's headed in the right direction, but I'm really looking forward to the second season of Reservation Dogs starting next month even more.

I finished Obi-Wan Kenobi and didn't love it. I actually don't have a lot to say about it. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that I enjoyed seeing some familiar characters and the action was all pretty good. But the story was unnecessarily convoluted. Characters seemed to be making decisions not because they were smart or even made sense, but based on what surprise revelations or other cool moments they would eventually lead to.

What I've Been Recording

Planetary Union Network
took the week off for US Independence Day, so we'll be having a double episode next week to catch up. The only other podcast I was on this week was an After Dinner Lounge episode of After Lunch. This time, highlights of the rambling conversation included Henry David Thoreau's Walden, the history of the Nerd Lunch podcast, Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury, and Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.

What I've Been Thinking About

Our Fourth of July holiday was pretty low key this year. My parents and one of my brothers came over and we grilled some steaks, but that was pretty much it. I've never been super celebratory about the Fourth, but was feeling it even less than usual this year. I love the ideas that my country was founded on, but we've never figured out how to make them reality and we still have so much work to do. I'm optimistic that we can do it. It's just that this year's anniversary came so very closely after some disappointing setbacks.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Return of 7 Days in May

I'm getting bored with using this space only as ads for various podcasts, so I want to try something different. More exactly, I want to bring back something that I tried a while ago and lost interest in. Which is a weekly recap of what I've been doing the previous seven days. Putting the 'log' back into blog, so to speak.

I like the format of the discussion on After Lunch's Lounge episodes, so I'll follow that for these recaps, too (which will also let me use them as reminders when preparing for Lounge discussions). I expect the blog will mostly be what I've been watching, reading, listening to, and recording, but I hope to also include personal thoughts when I have them. I'm making an effort lately to lead a more integrated life. I've always been fairly open with stories about my family and whatnot, but there are topics that I've purposely held back on - politics and religion, for instance - and I'm going to try removing that barrier. 

My thoughts on politics and religion are complicated and I don't want to spend a ton of time each week trying to explain myself perfectly, so it's going to be a bit of a struggle for me to find the balance between brevity and clarity, but I'd like to try. And I won't have something to say about every hot topic of the day. A foundational belief for me is that people and issues are complicated and nuanced and conversations about them are best had in person and with as much specificity as possible. I'm not a fan of hypothetical situations or trying to extrapolate someone's entire character and motives from a contextless quote. So when I don't think I have enough information to talk about something, I'll keep quiet about it. But I'm also going to try to be braver about expressing opinions that I'm pretty confident in.

What I've Been Listening To

I mentioned on the Lounge a couple of times that I'm going to see a couple of my favorite bands in September: The Ocean Blue and Echo and the Bunnymen. To that end, I've made a schedule to let me relisten in depth to both bands' discographies by concert time. I'm listening to an album from each band every day, repeating Ocean Blue's album for a couple of weeks while changing out the Echo and the Bunnymen album every week.

Ocean Blue's album this (and next) week is See. It's a departure from their first three, which were made while the band was under contract with Sire. See is the first album from Mercury Records and the band is experimenting a bit. It still has David Schelzel's beautiful vocals and clear guitar that I love, but some of the tracks have a harder, fuzzier sound that would worry me if I wasn't already familiar with where the band headed from here.

The current Echo and the Bunnymen album is their self-titled release, which was their fifth studio album. A lot of bands release self-titled albums as debuts, but it takes guts to do it later in the band's career. Naming an album after the band is a statement: 'This is us. This is who we are.' That kind of bravado is expected right out of the gate when the band is working to be noticed. Making that statement later on suggests (at least to me) that everything that came before was more or less practice. Now we've arrived. And in Echo's case, that's absolutely correct. I love individual tracks from their previous four albums, but Echo and the Bunnymen is perfect. Every song is great and memorable. Every song sounds like what I think of when I think of the band.

What I've Been Reading

I haven't read at all this past week, sadly. Been trying to catch up on TV, which leads me to...

What I've Been Watching

I went on a week-long road trip with my family over Memorial Day weekend just as new seasons of both Stranger Things and The Orville dropped. And that was only the first drops from a firehose of new TV and movies that I've been struggling to catch up with the past month. In addition to things I needed to watch for various podcasts, I really wanted to rewatch the first three seasons of Stranger Things before starting Season 4. I didn't rewatch Seasons 1 and 2 before watching 3 back in the day and I think it affected my opinion of that season. I wanted to go into Season 4 with the rest of the story fresh in my mind.

And I'm so glad I did, because it reminded me how much I love the show and El in particular. Millie Bobby Brown can put me in tears with just a look. It took me a long time to catch up, but I did and now I've seen all of Season 4, too. Without spoiling anything, I'll say that I mostly love Season 4. We can talk spoilers in the comments, if anyone wants to, but I do have gripes. The fourth episode though, 'Dear Billy'... I watched that thing three times and it wrecked me all three, in the best way.

Saw this week what is currently my favorite movie of 2022. I loved Downton Abbey: A New Era. Way more than the previous Downton film and I think that's only partly due to seeing this one in the theater (I watched the earlier one at home). But that is a factor, I'm sure. I teared up just seeing the estate on the big screen as the theme played. That wasn't the last time I wished I'd brought a tissue, though. I had a bit of a headache by the end from trying not to audibly sob.

The dual plots work great. Half the cast goes to a villa in France to uncover a mystery there, leaving the rest of the characters to work with a film crew using Downton as a shooting location. Both plots are charming and dramatic and more believable than the royal visit of the previous movie.

I had an issue last movie, too, with Tom's new love interest coming out of nowhere, but now that that's been established, I love her. I love every character in this thing and they all get their due. Big sigh.

I also watched a documentary called Bitterbrush about a couple of women who work as hired hands on various ranches. The movie covers mostly their time on one, especially remote ranch and I loved spending time with them; getting to know them and what their lives are like. The loveliness of the relationships is second only to the beauty of the film's photography.

I spent a little time early on confused about the actual work and business of what they were doing, but the film reveals enough about that by the end that I felt up to speed. Just an exquisite piece of work.

Finally, I checked out The Bob’s Burgers Movie. I've only seen one episode of the show, because Evan picked the 100th episode to watch in After Lunch's 100th Episode celebration, but that one episode was enough to make me want more, including seeing this in the theater. And what a delightful experience. It's sweet, funny, mysterious, thrilling, and a great musical to boot.

What I've Been Recording

After Lunch welcomed back old friends Carlin Trammel and William Bruce West to discover who the Ultimate Fictional Musician is in a Battle of the Fictional Bands. We each nominated four bands or solo musicians to face off against each other, Sweet-16 tournament-style. It was a super fun episode and I especially loved editing in musical samples from each artist (huge thanks to Rob for tracking most of those down). 

I'm caught up on the current season of The Orville, but didn't mention it above because all my thoughts are captured on the Planetary Union Network podcast where we're commenting on each episode as they come out. TV episodes are released on Thursdays and our podcast discussions come out usually the Tuesday after. So this past week's podcast was on 'Gently Falling Rain' and its humongous revelation. 

Finally, the latest episode of Seriously Felicity came out on Friday, about the Season 1 episode, 'Happy Birthday.' This is such a personal, passion project that I don't ever really even imagine that we have much of an audience, but I'm learning that we do. As I was finishing editing this one, I got a very nice email from a listener telling me that he likes the show and wondering when the next episode was coming (the release schedule has been pretty sporadic, especially lately). And then once I released it, I noticed that we got a lovely Apple Podcasts review from a fan. I'd be doing this one even if we had zero listeners, but it's so great to hear that people are listening and connecting with it. 


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