Happy New Year

If you only listen to one year in review show, this is the one to listen to. It’s just six minutes. This is the tl;dr version of a review show, set to music:

Vox. com – Today, ExplainedThe Year in Review – December 30, 2020

Now, if you are in for more of a marathon, take a look at Netflix’s Death to 2020:

Netflix – Death to 2020

Bring spirits to this one, and be prepared to laugh and groan your way through the crazy attempt to bring humor to a year that is definitively beyond the ability to satirize. But they do try.

There there is Amazon Prime’s Yearly Departed:

Amazon Prime VideoYEARLY DEPARTED

It too is a respectable entry into the annals of the shitshow that was the year 2020. Stay for the credits. How they put the comics together digitally is a thing of beauty.

The Wife and I sat up drinking until midnight, watching both these shows before tuning in to the creepy-assed feed from an empty Times Square on Youtube to watch the ball drop for Central Standard Time, before they hauled that sucker back up again to drop it again the next hour.

NBC NewsNew Year’s Eve Celebrations – Dec 31, 2020 (Times Square NYC pulled down their video)

Or maybe they just put the video of the ball drop on on a loop and replayed the one-hour loop twenty-four times? Who can tell? What I can tell is that the official feed did not have the sad CST drop that I saw as part of my New Year’s celebration. Everyone had cleaned up and left aside from some holdouts who were still braving the cold at one am EST. NYC needs to break with tradition and embrace the universal time code (UTC) they should celebrate the new year at 7:00 pm EST and call it done. It’s no more midnight in NYC at 12:00 am than it is noon (as measured by the sun) at 12:00 pm. Tell those railroad barons what they can do with their time zones! Throw off the yoke of the tick-tock man!

Anyway, fuck you 2020. Your next of kin might well be worse, but I’m well done of you no matter what happens later.

Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day, fritter and waste the hours in a off-hand way.

Pink Floyd, Time (The Dark Side Of The Moon, track 4)

Bag Man

The story of the downfall of Spiro Agnew, Tricky Dick Nixon’s Vice President. He was insanely popular with American conservatives of the time, just as Richard Nixon was popular with the majority of Americans of the time. They were both popular when they were elected. Spiro Agnew had a secret that wasn’t much of a secret in Baltimore where he had come from, and that secret would lead to some strange twists and turns in the near future as Richard Nixon broke laws in his attempts to stay in office.

It was the conjunction of these two popular people on the office of Vice President and President, two popular people who had both committed crimes that they could be removed from office over, that lead to the memo from the Justice Department that advised that a President can’t be indicted (the Atlantic) as Rachel Maddow discusses in this segment of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

The Late Show with Stephen ColbertWhat Mysteries Does Rachel Maddow Hope Are Solved Once The President Is Out Of Office? – Dec 10, 2020

Without that advisory from the Office of Legal Counsel Donald Trump would have been indicted for his crimes before he was impeached, and his impeachment and removal would have been a foregone conclusion because you can’t be President of the United States and conduct the business of the United States from prison. Well, Mitch McConnell and the cult-like followers of QAnon would have said he was railroaded and that the superhuman Donald Trump could easily do the country’s business from prison, but they wouldn’t have represented a majority. They would have been an even smaller minority than the one that came out and voted for Donald Trump in the November election.

Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House by Rachel Maddow 

I’ve mentioned the podcast that spawned the book she is out stumping for three times on the blog over the past few years. Unfortunately all the links that were in previous articles now lead to non-existent feeds as far as I can tell, so I will have to re-edit them eventually to point to a new feed location (Done. However the feed was restored when I started editing, so I left some of the old links in. Fingers crossed that the feed stays up this time. -ed.) In the meantime, the podcast is also on Youtube just like the segment of LSSC that I linked above.

MSNBCBag Man Podcast – Apr 10, 2019

If you love a good yarn, especially a true tale of intrigue, check out this podcast and book. you’ll definitely enjoy the story. I did.

Normal Saline Causing Vertigo?

I learned something new. I love it when that happens. When I was hospitalized for the night after having my angioplasty last year,

…I started to experience vertigo. I didn’t think too much of it, other than the irritation that I felt while trying to wheedle a Xanax out of the nurse because of the vertigo. The stress of having to argue with the nurse about a medication that the hospital could see on my charts as being a medication I have been prescribed adding to the anxiety of an approaching vertigo spell. Yeah, that was fun.

But still. I couldn’t figure out why I had that sudden bout of vertigo. No warnings, none of the normal patterns (not that surgery is normal) But then I remembered that they had me on an intravenous drip of normal saline for most of the day and the night, about 16 hours of normal saline by the time I started to feel the spinning. For a lot of Menerieans salt=vertigo and saline is definitely salt. I have been on a reduced sodium diet for decades now because reducing salt is also what they recommend for people with hypertension, another chronic illness that I enjoy.

Sixteen hours of saline fluid introduced into my system. Surely that wouldn’t cause vertigo, right? I mean, normal saline is the same sodium levels as blood, right? Why else call it normal saline? It turns out that this is not the case. Normal saline just means the saline solution most frequently used in hospitals, and the salt levels are not the same as the levels in the blood.

Each bag of saline contains the same amount of sodium as 20 snack-sized bags of potato chips.

webmd.com

I haven’t eaten an entire bag of salted potato chips in… well, it has to be at least a decade. I occasionally (once a month or less) get a snack bag of air-fried chips from Schlotzsky’s (another Austin original) along with my regular original sandwich (hold the cheese and add the guacamole, please) and unsweetened iced tea, and that is almost more salt than I need in a day. I know they changed that bag at least twice while I was there, which is a lot more salt than I needed.

The assumed harmlessness of introducing normal saline into the bodies of all of their patients has been a point of worry for many doctors. So much so that there have been trials conducted using other replacement fluids than saline solution,

For more than a year, the emergency room and intensive care units at Vanderbilt rotated the IV fluid used to hydrate patients. On even-numbered months, they used saline, and on odd-numbered months, doctors could choose between either lactated Ringer’s or Plasma-Lyte-A. Both Ringer’s and Plasma-Lyte have less sodium than saline, along with other electrolytes. Most of the patients on balanced fluids in the study got lactated Ringer’s.

webmd.com

When I read the phrase lactated Ringer’s I heard it in one of the voices from the show Emergency! from way back when. That was the show that first got me interested in medicine and emergency care. My mother would probably be horrified to learn that I was indoctrinated into the evidence-based medical system by a TV show that she let me watch as a child.

Facts VerseEmergency! Behind the Scenes Facts & Secrets – Aug 26, 2020

Lactated Ringer’s or the Plasma-Lyte appears to be the better way to infuse fluids into patients. Not world’s better, but statistically measurable improved results from not relying on normal saline for all the patients admitted into the hospital. If you also need lower saline you might ask for one of those two the next time you find yourself needing surgery. Here’s hoping that time isn’t in the near future.

Amazonian Elf Sex

…even the provocative director of the X-rated film Fritz the Cat, Ralph Bakshi, managed to keep it in his pants. His ambitious yet incomplete 1978 animated Lord of the Rings stays in the right lane, true to its high fantasy trope, even though the film is wildly psychedelic in its visual flair. Such a great contrast to his other fantasies Wizards and Fire & Ice which was R-rated Adult Swim fare decades before Adult Swim existed! Instinctively and thoughtfully, Bakshi knew that Tolkien’s story didn’t need all the Tits & Ass that had previously made the animator the darling of 70’s arthouse cinema. He kept that out of Middle-earth, indulging it elsewhere more suitably for his other films.

theonering.net
Facebook – TheOneRing.net

I am commenting on the content of the live stream and the quoted article above, so some of this will probably seem to be a little disconnected. But, here goes.

15:45 minutes. The #TORnTuesday hosts discuss Arwen being present at Helm’s Deep in the movie version of LotR, and how theonering.net and it’s fanbase stopped those scenes from being in the final cut. Arwen being at Helm’s Deep would have been perfectly acceptable to me if a) she was dispatched as the leader of the group from her grandmother and b) women were equally welcome in the fighting troops with men and so her presence was unremarkable. This would have required a major rewrite and a re-explaining of why the plot evolves the way it does. Specifically? Eowen showing up at the battle in front of Minas Tirith and everyone being surprised, especially the Witch King (the subtleties of ingrained systemic misogyny are hard to parse sometimes) If women were commonplace things in battle, why wouldn’t anyone have thought about Eowen being in the battle of the Pelennor Fields? I mean, Arwen glowed with the light of the two trees in the first film, she can do just about anything else in the story after that. Considering what else was done in the Two Towers that varies from the book, Arwen being at Helm’s Deep makes complete sense to me. I would love to see those scenes, that version of the film, right next to the final version. I mean, why not? Other than, of course, that wasn’t how J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the scene. It would have been nice to see the Helm’s Deep battle filmed as it was written. I’ll take the parts of it that I did get, I guess.

56:00 minutes. There is the description of the John Boorman scene of the fellowship coming upon the waters of Galadriel. I cannot describe precisely how overjoyed I am that Ralph Bakshi got to do his version of Lord of the Rings rather than John Boorman, who went on to make Excalibur instead. A great movie, but definitely not high fantasy.

Anyone who thinks LoTR, or this Unnamed Amazon Production (UAP) needs more sexing up doesn’t understand what Tolkien was trying to say with his work. Explicit sex scenes shouldn’t be part of Tolkien’s work simply because Tolkien wouldn’t have dwelt on the prurient in that fashion. It is contrary to his vision of what high fantasy was and is.

It’s like telling me that Star Fleet has been subverted is a plotline of a film (Into Darkness) when Gene Roddenberry specifically forbade that storyline in the Trek writers guide. You, the modern interpreter, can certainly go there. Once you do, the film cannot be part of the canon for that created universe. If you insist on including contrary things like storylines that aren’t in the text or scenes that are contrary to the sense of the work, you risk destroying the social groupings that form in fandom around the platform that the work represents because the work no longer presents a uniform vision of itself.

What is a Bad Film?

Ask Paramount how much they like their new Trek that the Abramanator created for them. Sure, that first movie made money. Forget ever making money with the universe after that point.

Elf sex may not be the one thing that breaks the Tolkien fandom groups, especially since slash fiction is what most people create in their own heads (apparently) but if they are going there in the series, it won’t take Amazon long to completely abandon the rest of the lore that Middle Earth is supposedly based on, in the name of drawing more viewers to the show.

Here’s a thought. Why not create a new thing and get people to watch that, rather than pretend that the new thing is somehow related to something you feel nostalgia for? Nostalgia is overrated.

I have little interest in watching what Amazon does to Tolkien’s second age elves; even if Jeff Bezos does embroider the life of Galadriel, a strong female lead character, so lacking in Tolkien’s work. I am loathe to sound off about entertainment that I do not want to feel obliged to watch. If I sound off on the subject, and they cite my words as some motivation for changing their work, I would feel obliged to spend quality time evaluating the resulting product.

I have little trust left for the corporate creators of entertainment. I am way beyond reticent when it comes to promising my time in this fashion. I’ve written off many of my most treasured memories of youth at this point in my life, as well as abandoned new infatuations when they betrayed what they supposedly were about in the beginning. I’ve written them all off because some corporate stooge somewhere wanted to make a few more bucks off of my nostalgia one more time.

So I am prepared to pretend that Amazon’s elf stories don’t exist just like I pretend that other entertainment that doesn’t entertain me doesn’t exist, before I’ve seen one second of the work as it is intended to be seen. It is my feelings being used to motivate me here. The only way that I can stop them from being used to manipulate me is to compartmentalize those feelings and lock them away where they can’t be abused by the unscrupulous. It is up to Amazon to produce some work or other that motivates me to watch it based on it’s own merits. Gratuitos elf sex isn’t going to be considered meritorious. That statement can stand in for anything else I might say on this subject.

…it should be ‘high’, purged of the gross, and fit for the more adult mind of a land long now steeped in poetry.

J.R.R. Tolkien (goodreads)

Featured image: Frodo, Gollum and Sam looking over a ledge, scene from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. I googled the article title trying to find an appropriate image to feature for the article. DO NOT Google the article title. Just don’t do it. The blog oneroomwithaview.com has a series of articles titled Best Films Never Made that includes an article about Boorman’s attempt to make his version of Lord of the Rings. Paul McCartney was who he wanted to play Frodo. Frodo having sex with Galadriel. There’s an image you can’t unsee.

Grant Imahara

I liked the challenge of designing and building things, figuring out how something works and how to make it better or apply it in a different way. When I was a kid, I never wanted to be James Bond. I wanted to be Q, because he was the guy who made all the gadgets. I guess you could say that engineering came naturally.

Grant Imahara, dead at 49
Twitter – Adam Savage
Twitter – Kari Byron

Television was never the same without Mythbusters. Mythbusters would never have been Mythbusters without Grant. We’ll miss you.

Remembering Grant Imahara – Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – 7/14/20

Two Steps Forward

When this is over this country is going to need more than bandaids. It’s going to need fucking surgery. Things need to change and not go back to normal. Ctrl-Z us back to how we were in 2016 is simply not going to cut it, and honestly it shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to prove our unemployment system is a mess, that we need universal healthcare and that workers need benefits, the right to organize and wages that reflect how essential they really are.

John Oliver – Apr 12, 2020
HBOCoronavirus IV: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Apr 12, 2020

S’all Good Man

The fourth season of Better Call Saul dropped on Netflix recently. This event inspired me to skim through the past seasons of the show, and then watch all of the fourth season in a two-day marathon. I don’t want to reveal any spoiling events in this little blurb. I just want to say that it has been a hell of a rollercoaster ride getting to the end of fourth season.

I find I don’t like Saul Goodman or Jimmy McGill that much. I liked Charles McGill, Jimmy’s brother, portrayed by Michael McKean. It was his appearance in the pilot episode that got me interested in continuing to watch the show in the first place. In the fourth season I find that I am still watching the show mostly for Mike Ehrmantraut and Nacho Varga. Those two characters had long runs on Breaking Bad, the series that this TV series is a spin-off of.

We have gotten to the point in time where events that are portrayed in the middle seasons of Breaking Bad are about to occur. Gustavo Fring‘s meth cooking bunker is under construction. The conflict between the various criminal gangs that control illegal drug trafficking in Breaking Bad are heating up, leading to the crisis point that finally explodes at the end of season four of that series.

What season five will offer is still unknown to me, even though it is available to rent on Amazon Prime. I pay for Netflix in order to be able to watch streaming media. I am hesitant to bite the bullet and subscribe to another service to watch other media, and I’m not willing to pay rental fees to watch television programs that I should be able to watch with commercial interruptions without having to pay any other price than spending my time watching them. So season five of the show will have to wait until Netflix gets it. If it ever gets it.

Save the OA?

A snapshot of my comment spam from today.

Spam Screencap

Among the still-present faux-spy messages there were four of these #SaveTheOA comments sequestered in the spam folder. I had to go look up what The OA was.

Netflix canceled The OA, a science-fiction melodrama with a small fan base so devout it’s bordering on a religious order. Cancellations are relatively rare at the streaming behemoth, so at first fans suspected that the kibosh was a PR stunt.

…After reality set in, fans began a campaign to reverse the decision, petitioning Netflix and plastering pleas on social media.

While the show’s future is uncertain, the intensity of its fan campaign has showcased how much the relationship between fandoms and the stuff they love has changed. This isn’t about simple appreciation anymore; it’s about full-throated advocacy, about the conflation of self-care and entertainment, about the fact that even if Netflix doesn’t renew The OA it now almost definitely has to have internal meetings addressing how to respond to someone staging a hunger strike. It’s a plot twist so bizarre it’d fit right into the canceled show in question’s narrative.

The Ringer

Their spam will keep me from watching the show. Thanks for saving me some time, spammers!

Rewatching Babylon 5?

We tried rewatching Babylon 5 on DVD and then on Amazon recently, only to discover that the computer-generated imagery (CGI) didn’t upscale correctly for the high-definition format. Every scene involving CGI has jaggies in it, discernable pixelation that draws you right out of the show.

They’ve also been talking about this problem on the Babylon 5 Facebook group recently, so I took the time to go looking for an explanation of the problem and ran across this article on Engadget.

Unfortunately, the CGI and composite elements only existed in 4:3, and so Warner Bros. decided to crop and stretch those sequences. That involved chopping the top and bottom off every frame in a scene, and then increasing its width to fit the aspect ratio. The issue was explored in detail by Henrik Herranen from Finland, who published How Babylon 5 Is Transferred to DVD in 2001. Herranen described himself as a “professional in signal processing and a video technique enthusiast.” Unfortunately, attempts to find and contact Herranen failed.

engadget

In other words, Warner Brothers did another version of pan and scan.

RAnt(hony)-ings

…except they did it in reverse. And they did this because people like me insisted that widescreen was the way we wanted to see the show since it had been filmed in widescreen originally. Nevermind that they didn’t film the effects sequences that way, and they also screwed up the upscaling for the CGI sequences in other ways, as the article goes into. I really wanted to rewatch the show, but now it looks like it will have to remain a memory. Here’s hoping that the 35mm record copies of the show are one day released by Warner Brothers so that new digital transfers of the show are made possible, even if it is only in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

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