Ratings Systems

For my own sanity, I feel that I need to say something about ratings systems and how to rate entertainment fairly. Specifically, rating movies fairly, although the descriptions for the basis of giving a particular rating can be broadly applied to more than just movies. But it’s movies that I’m going to be talking about here.

Full disclosure. The Wife’s latest film project has just been released. It is the fourteenth film she’s worked on, the second that she has produced. The title of the film is Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains. No, it is not that kind of movie. It is a horror-comedy with strong female leads, a reasonably well-known director and a reasonably well-known leading actor. I give the film a solid eight out of ten stars on IMDB, four out of five everywhere else.

Why did I give it this rating? There is a logic to it that most people should recognize. First off, I liked the film. When I got to the end of it, I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time, and I didn’t feel like I had been sitting there for too long. If you look on Netflix you can see that logic reflected in their star rating system. For those who don’t have a Netflix account, I’ll go through the generic descriptions using my own language.

One star – I hated it. A one star rating goes on films that you can not even sit through, or that if you do sit through it is simply to grasp the full extent of the filmmakers crimes so that you can testify to them later. If your eyes aren’t bleeding after fifteen minutes of viewing, the movie is probably not a one star experience.

Two stars – I didn’t like it. I made it to the end and for whatever reason, the movie didn’t make me feel the way I expected to feel at the end. This is not to be confused with feeling sad when the film is a sad film (See Schindler’s List) paranoid when the film induces paranoia (see the Matrix) Or angry when the film wants you to be angry (pick any work by Michael Moore) If you need happy endings, stick to solid hollywood releases. They are the movie creators that will feel compelled to leave you with a happy ending.

Three stars – It was OK. There was no particular reason why I couldn’t watch the entire film. It didn’t feel too long, it worked the way I think the creators wanted it to work, but it didn’t make me want to recommend it strongly. Most films are going to rate a solid three stars because most films are made by people who want the average moviegoer to feel like they weren’t wasting their time watching the movie.

Four stars – I liked it. The movie spoke to me in a way that was unique to the movie. A four star movie is one you can remember, and you can remember it fondly. A movie you might even watch again with a friend so that they can experience it too. This is perhaps the most unambiguous rating because most people know when they like something. Either they do or they don’t, there isn’t any uncertainty about it.

Five stars – I loved it. The film is near-perfect in execution. The soundtrack adds to the film, the cinematography is beyond reproach, the subject matter is something that people will relate to in later generations. You feel compelled to tell people to watch the movie, because it is just that good. For me, it’s hard to rate a movie five stars that I don’t feel was a singular experience. Few movies will rate five stars in my estimation. The vast majority of them simply do not measure up to that high standard, not even films made by a lifetime companion who could kill me in my sleep if she wanted to.

For a ten star system like IMDB, you double the star rating you would give it on a five star system, with some added granularity. Five instead of six stars because I really did feel like the movie lost me somewhere. Seven instead of eight stars because there were some technical flaws that I just can’t get past (see the duplicate droid scene in the original Star Wars) nine instead of ten stars because you don’t think the film will be that timeless, but it was damn good all the same.

You don’t, for example, give a film a one star rating and then offer a wishy-washy description of why the film was so bad that you felt like you had to gouge your eyes out rather than watch it. Either you hated it, and you can describe why, or you are trashing the film because the mood struck you and you went for it. Or you are simply an idiot that doesn’t understand what the correct star rating for the movie you just watched was. For those of you who made it to the end of this short guide, you can now be excused from the class of idiot that doesn’t understand what the star ratings mean. You are welcome.

I’m just sorry that I wasn’t in time to save the idiots that gave Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains a one star rating and then said I thought it was meh. Meh is three stars, moron.


I half-jokingly tell people that it’s kind of autobiographical. I had written a script called Creature From Blood Canal, which was an entry and official selection at the NoLa film festival screenplay competition, and that’s where I met [director Paulo Biscaia Filho]. Now Creature was a $100 million script, and I couldn’t get anyone to read it, and Hollywood wouldn’t read it, so basically that’s the same thing that Shane says in Virgin Cheerleaders.

Gary Ganaway in the Austin Chronicle the author of Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains.

Not Bedazzled. GroundHog Day.

I’m here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between those who want power only to benefit themselves and those who seek power for the betterment of us all.

Stonekettle Station, Hunting the Unicorn — to Extinction

That take home line from Hunting the Unicorn to Extinction is worth including in the blog based on its own merits. But the subject of that Stonekettle Station article is something that is at the core of all politics and one of the reasons I find myself restless in the Democratic party right now; uncomfortable but determined to see this thing through to the end.

Jim was telling liberals and progressives that claimed they could not vote for Democratic candidates to stop it. Conservatives, we know you won’t vote Democratic. You proved that when you held your nose and voted for the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) instead of Hillary Clinton. As I’ve said many, many times, first saying it in Hillary for President? the Republicans were going to nominate a nutjob in 2016 because the Republican party is certifiably insane. They don’t know what they want and they just couldn’t vote for that woman. So they voted for a serial-philandering, money-laundering tax cheat instead when they could have had John Kasich, a perfectly reasonable fellow, someone that is quite demonstrably sane if a little preoccupied with eating. The Republican party has grown more and more dysfunctional as the Tea Party and Religious Right exert more and more control of the process of selecting its candidates, wresting control from traditional Republicans who find themselves ill at ease in the presence of so much openly expressed white nationalism and Christianist dogma. The current state of schizophrenia that the Republican party is experiencing is also proof positive that plurality voting does lead to the worst candidates rising to the top of the ticket and attaining office. Never argue with math.

So when the Democrats nominated Hillary, and why not, she was the most admired woman in the world more than once; and the inevitable misogynistic blurring of the lines between Bill Clinton’s actions and her still being married to him occurred, creating this illusion of taint on Hillary that the media was more than happy to feed on, a distinct vein of fear of Democratic corruption emerged. I see most of this as sour grapes. You never get the candidates you want, and if you do get the candidates you want, most of the time they can’t win anyway because you are not we and we elect leaders. That simple phrase is politics in a nutshell. But this dissatisfaction with Democratic business as usual persists. How much of it is real and how much of it is counter-intelligence operations by Russian disinformation services is entirely open to question.

Olga Yurkova, TED2018 Inside the fight against Russia’s fake news empire

The same people who refused to vote for Hillary, but were not Conservatives or Republicans, are still insisting that they can’t vote for Democrats who won’t swear an oath to support every, single, thing that these people think are important. They’d rather stay home and pretend they are doing us all a favor than to participate in the process and maybe be responsible for some candidate or other that they might disagree with getting elected. The point, as Jim makes several times in his essay, is that even not voting is a choice and if you don’t vote then you voted for the OHM and all his supporters anyway. And you did this because even not choosing is a choice with consequences which you cannot avoid. The current administration is a poster child for the fact that not voting leads to outcomes which are every bit as undesirable as any other you can possibly imagine. A textbook case for mandating voting and participation in the process at all levels, but that is an argument for another essay.

This essay is about the allusion that Jim chose to make in order to relate his point. He picked Bedazzled. He made a pretty decent case for it. But everything that applies to Bedazzled as an allusion goes just as well with a different, better film. The movie he should have drawn comparisons to is Groundhog Day. In Groundhog Day the title character doesn’t even know what he wants in the first sequence that he is doomed to repeat for years of time during the film’s duration, just like more Americans have no clue what it is they want. It is only after he has dallied with every other distraction in the terrifyingly small world he is stuck in that he seizes on the one thing that might save him, the wholly genuine character of the producer he’s been stuck with for all these years, all those years one repetitive day at a time, a character beautifully played by Andie MacDowell. It is at that point that he begins to move in positive directions, finally able to leave the hell of Groundhog Day that he’s been stuck in for much longer than the audience that watches the film is. He gets to leave because he finally becomes worthy of moving on from that place and time. Is the universe interfering, saving him from wasting his entire life on pursuits that were beneath him? Who knows? What we as the audience know is that the criteria set out for Phil have been met. He is more than he was. He can appreciate others for what they are.

It is true that the protagonist does learn his lesson by the end of Bedazzled as Jim outlines. Maybe the plotline of Groundhog Day is too highbrowed for beer swigging average joes. Maybe Jim has it right and Bedazzled is the film that the people he’s trying to appeal to prefer. I’ll happily step aside and let the parade march on. But the journey of Phil Connors is demonstrably the exact same journey that the malcontents who refuse to make themselves better citizens need to take. If you want better government, you have to be better citizens, Jim’s mantra for several years now. They have to accept that the problem is them and not every around them. Hopefully they manage to do this before killing themselves more than a score of times and spending a purported thirty-four years stuck in a time loop. In the meantime I’ll still be here repeating what I’ve been saying for the better part of two years now myself. There is no way forward until we acknowledge and atone for the mistakes that were made that brought us here. Caveat Emptor.

Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.

Phil Connors

I am a Patriot, and I Love My Country

“The first round of explosions has started.”

A July first Facebook status post

I’m hoping the people who try to burn down our neighborhood every 4th of July will finally make friends in the country so they can go out there and frighten the wildlife. Either that or get someone to drive them downtown for the city’s fireworks display. My dogs hate the explosions and I haven’t celebrated independence day for almost a decade now. Between the dogs and my own disabilities, there is little sense in mucking up the air with burnt offerings to the gods of independence. All of us are dependent on somebody. Some of us are just more cognizant of this fact than others.

The episode of On the Media that was playing in my headphones when I started writing the reply to the above status post was topical for the looming July 4th holiday. A similar holiday also happens on July 1st in Canada. Canada is celebrating 150 years as a nation. Except they really aren’t. Celebrating, that is. Not in the way Americans would recognize.

On The Media Happy Birthday, Canada? June 29, 2017

“Canadians kinda don’t need [patriotism] we have hospitals”

Stephen Marche

Snark aside, there is something about the July 4th holiday and the near-manic manner in which it is celebrated that leaves the outside observer and likewise the cynic wondering “what do they have to celebrate?” With incomes at all-time lows for the average American, with poverty on the rise and the mega-rich in ownership of the entire US government; with popular denial of science leading to defunding of scientific ventures like the SSC, the international space station and the space program which in turn has led to Europe breaking new ground in science exploration over the last decade, one really wonders what it is about America that we really are celebrating.

I mean, we aren’t the free-ist. We aren’t the happiest. We aren’t the richest. The one thing you can put your finger on that we do better than anybody is build an impressively large military, spending more on our military than the next 8 countries combined. We pay a lot more for healthcare than any other country, and we get some of the shoddiest results from this overspending. We  consume the most. We throw away to most. We throw away so much usable stuff that there are countries whose economies are benefitted by buying our cast-offs and putting them to use.

I set this piece up with the chorus from Jackson Browne’s song I am a Patriot several years ago. Before Trump. Before Obama’s second term. That is how long I’ve been stewing on these ideas I’m putting down here, the conflict at the heart of America’s need to scream their love of themselves at the world. There is something really, horribly wrong with this picture.

I am a patriot
And I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
The people who understand me
I’ve got nowhere else to go

Jackson Browne – I Am A Patriot

This observation is at once achingly true and laughably simplistic, which is why this song rings true with me. Most people are patriots because, what else would you want them to be? Hate their lives and where they live? Who lives long in that state of mind? Not too many people. Consequently, everyone is a patriot and no one is, simultaneously. This is a truism just as everyone is as free as they want to be is a truism. Absolute freedom is to be released from constraint, to not have to eat or sleep or breath. Not have to feel pain or feel anything at all. Absolute freedom is death, to not know constraint of any kind. Are the enslaved then to blame for their own enslavement? Only if you believe death is a preferable state of being. Of non-being. Embracing freedom as a concept that can unite all people in the third verse is an acknowledgement of the universal appeal of these fuzzy concepts, and yet freedom is as indefinable as patriot in the real world.

So I don’t hate my country anymore than the next fellow. I just don’t understand why it is we in the US feel compelled to try to burn the whole place down every 4th of July. If I had to pick one thing, just one thing, that I thought was superior about the US, about America, I can give that answer without much thought. The best thing about our country is the first amendment to the constitution. Freedom of speech makes everything else possible, because the ability to form concepts and communicate them to another is possibly the most human thing we do. The most distinctive thing about us as living creatures. It is the first of the four freedoms for a reason.

That is why when the US fails to live up to the promise of the First Amendment, it can be so devastating to those caught in the crossfire. People like Aaron Copland.

The United States of Anxiety Episode 4: Music, McCarthy, and the Sound of Americana May 23, 2017

“Copland’s scores and recordings were banned in hundreds of overseas libraries. Access officially denied.”

Sara Fishko, Fishko Files

I recognized Fanfare For The Common Man as the inspirational music for Air Force One almost immediately. But then, I’m a movie buff as even a cursory reading of this blog should illustrate.

Every Independance Day for the past decade and more I have sat down and watched movies with The Wife. My go-to film is 1776 on laserdisc. I like this version better than the streamed or bluray offering because it is actually a statement on the divisive nature of American life.  Visible across the length of that film are splices and ink-marks and scissor cuts where Jack Warner at the direction of the Nixon White House cut scenes and whole songs from the film. Nixon didn’t approve of the apparent cowardice of the conservatives as portrayed in the play. Their stated willingness to allow others to risk so that they could preserve their wealth and security. The words may be placed in the mouths of the actors on the stage, but the sentiment of the time is beautifully captured in the verse of the songs, the fervor of John Adams, the melancholy of the (real) dispatches from George Washington in the field. Franklin’s open pragmatism. The feeling that America must be free to find her own destiny, not ruled over by Europeans intent on subjecting it for the purpose of profit for themselves, no matter the cost. This version speaks to me in my soul, the tension and conflict then and now. The pulls in different directions, to risk for the sake of principle, to recoil at the prospect of loss. This is life in the US and possibly life as it is throughout the world.

The Wife watches either ID4 or Live Free or Die Hard sometimes both of them. Over-the-top explosions, hammy one-liners and the good guys winning in the end. I think she shares more with the sentiment of the average American than I ever could just in her choice of movies. Nothing in life has ever been that simple for me, and maybe that’s the point. She seeks escape in her movies. I seek new ways of looking at the world and myself, insights that have never occurred to me before. That I haven’t driven her screaming mad in 30 years of life together is more a testament to her strength than it is to my willingness to compromise on what movies I will sit and watch repeatedly.

Bullshit is Bullshit.

Think Nice – Bullshit! Featuring Harry Frankfurt – June 15, 2016

A story related by d’Ancona clinches the point. One day, Trump’s butler Anthony Senecal read his boss’s book The Art of the Deal. It detailed how the tiles in the nursery at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s West Palm Beach club, had been personally made by Walt Disney. Is that really true, the butler asked the billionaire. “Who cares?” replied Trump. Who cares indeed: if truth is a commodity, it is one that has crashed in value, but not before Trump astutely dumped his shares in it.

The Guardian, Bullshit is a greater enemy than lies

Since January 20th I’ve been keeping a passing eye and ear on the news. Not really paying attention, just waiting for the talking heads and pundits to start clueing in on the new reality. Waiting for the former gatekeepers and news creators to understand the landscape in front of them. I’m beginning to think I am wasting my time. Every newscast, every podcast, every article I run across with few exceptions falls for the tasty bullshit offered rather than dig into the fabrication that they are being asked to consume and regurgitate for the public’s consumption.

The Muslim ban was one of the first things out of the gate 6 months ago, and it’s still being discussed. Removed, reissued, struck down again, and now the Supreme Court will be asked to weigh in on this xenophobic floating turd in the public drinking water. They’ll couch the destruction of Trump’s attempt to institute an unconstitutional ban on a specific religion in flowery rhetoric, or they’ll debase themselves before the power of the mob that His Electoral Highness is assembling to inflict his will on the unsuspecting public, but in the end the Muslim ban is bullshit just like everything that has been said about it is bullshit. Six months of bullshit about a policy that never had a chance of being real American law. It is a religious test. A muslim ban imposed by christians and their anti-christ Trump, just more of the christian persecution complex that has been on display since Reagan invited them into politics in 1980.

This is how demagogues rule. This is how democracies and republics dissolve. Listening to His Electoral Highness’ bullshit and reporting on it as fact is facilitating the dissolution of the country we have known and, from the perspective of the doddering old fool of the religious right agenda we should know so well by now, ushering in the theocratic government they are convinced will secure god’s blessing for America. But that is just one facet on the polished turd of Trump’s bullshit.

The border wall he announced after descending the flowing golden escalator to proclaim his candidacy, the border wall that will keep out the brown-skinned menace to the South of the US? That bullshit still isn’t a thing, either. It isn’t a thing because it can’t be done and the people along the border don’t even want it done. The Republicans in Texas, ever anxious to keep Tejanos subjected and divided, have embraced the xenophobic fear of the brown-skinned other that Trump embraced as a candidate, only to be stabbed in the back by the rogue force they got elected to the presidency. Texas cities aren’t even sanctuaries according to the Trump justice department. So the sanctuary cities fear mongering that the governor and the legislature spent months on and will spend millions defending amounts to exactly bullshit. Meaningless bullshit clogging up the airwaves, obscuring the real news.

For six years, six years, the Republicans have campaigned on repealing Obamacare, the moniker they hung on the ACA that Obama in one of his moments of wisdom embraced. Trump said they’d fix that day one. It didn’t happen day one, hasn’t happened yet six months later. The Republicans can’t agree on just how to hang themselves with their own rhetoric, so they fidget and hesitate and refuse to do much of anything of measurable impact. They passed a bill through the House that they know won’t pass the Senate, and the Bullshitter-in-Chief threw them a party on the White House lawn to celebrate their victory in doing absolutely nothing at all. Just the kind of thing a lover of bullshit like Trump would celebrate, of course. It doesn’t even matter that the non-plan doesn’t do any of the things he’s forgotten he promised on the campaign trail. It’s the celebration that counts.

Trump promised jobs? How is that lying, cheating scumbag going to create jobs? The only people who stay with him and make money are family and household staff. The only business partners that make money are the criminals who give him money to launder; and they only make money because he knows they’ll kill him if they don’t. Every single word I’ve heard him utter since he declared his intention to build casinos in Atlantic City and then shafted every single person who dared believe anything he said about the project has been bullshit. Look at them, the scattered carcases in his wake. The thousands of people he trickled down on as he was being golden showered himself. The people who are afraid to admit they fell for his bullshit all these years. The people who thought they’d get rich as part of the scheme only to be left holding the bag, paying the bill, after all the important people have checked out. Look at them, the wannabes still following him even now just hoping for a droplet of his time so that they too might be as lucky as he is, to be apparently worth billions all while truthfully being in hock to the eyeballs, afraid of his own shadow and spied on by his Russian bride. Risking everything on this one big final scam, running for president, hoping against hope that it just might turn out alright.

Every single media personality who reports on Trump secretly wants to be Trump. That is the thing they only admit to themselves when they are alone with their thoughts at three am wondering what they did wrong in their lives to end up where they are. They want to be famous like Trump. Charismatic like Trump. Able to pull crap out of their asses like Trump and have total strangers eat it up like cake. The lure of fame so commonly mistaken for infamy, especially in the world of reality television. It is a mark of pride for me, never having seen a single episode of the Apprentice. Never listening to Howard Stern or any of his thousands of imitators and so never consequently being trapped listening to Trump talk about himself. Never being a fan of David Letterman and so also missing him there. It was a blessing, when I could tune out the bullshit so easily.

Inequality Media, Know Your Trump Syndrome

So it goes, round and round and round with no end in sight. This is the goal of the bullshitter. They want to keep people distracted, try to wear out their attention so that when they finally look away in exhaustion the real goals can be pursued. Those goals vary from one bullshitter to the next. Most of them are selling something, and His Electoral Highness was one of those when he was a real estate developer. His bullshit serves a different purpose these days, but bullshit remains bullshit, and anything coming out of that mouth is bullshit, has always been bullshit. The mistake is in listening to what he says in the first place. Listening beyond the necessity to realize he needs to be removed from office and gathering the evidence to achieve that goal. All the reporting and amusement and outrage and even the disaffection and denial all serve the greater purpose that the bullshitter wants achieved so long as the media and his future prosecutors do not realize that ending his bullshit career is the only goal of merit. As long as he remains in play, in office and free to manipulate and profit, his bullshit serves the purpose he creates it for.

Yesterday Robert Reich posted yet another in a series of posts detailing how the president is clearly unhinged and needs to be removed. Today Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station brilliantly detailed how Trump’s Twitter bullshit remains without substance (he’s still doing it two years later) I understand that it’s important to convince the people who support him to stop, but I really don’t think that his supporters are vulnerable to reasoned arguments from any quarter. It is far, far too late for that to be effective. We have white power being motivated to violence in the streets across the country, and no one is prosecuting them as we did the Black Panthers and Malcolm X in the 60’s . White supremacists are more powerful and more visible than they’ve ever been in my lifetime and I’ve been paying attention to politics from the inside and the outside since the mid-seventies. We are in a crisis point and I doubt there are very many people reading this that don’t already know this.

When His Electoral Highness intoned “The Media is the Enemy of the People” anyone with an understanding of history and the manipulation of society should have perked up and taken notice. This is a well-known tactic of demagogues and dictators. Discredit the press, make people uncertain of the truthfulness of what they read and hear,

Part of his purpose there (attacking the press) is to make sure the news source they (his base) accept about Trump is Trump. If the press can’t find a way into that circle, then it really doesn’t matter what a ball they are having as they report on this playground of a White House.

Jay Rosen, On The Media, Shiny Objects, May 11, 2017  (press think blog)

He is still speaking directly to his supporters, what the media calls his base and what I would refer to as preaching to the choir. He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks as long as his alt-right people stay loyal to him, his brownshirts in waiting. The equivalent to the Reichstag fire hasn’t occurred yet, but His Electoral Highness, the demagogue who serves as a stand-in for Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mussolini, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum has been inducted into a leadership position he isn’t capable of executing in a legal fashion. His troops are marshalling now and it only remains for the catalyst to be introduced for the violence in his name and defense to start.

None of this comes as a surprise to me. I recognized the patterns if not the person quite some time ago. Wanting to avoid a Trump presidency is why I voted for Hillary Clinton, not that it did much good since everyone else appears to have stayed home.  Avoiding a Trump presidency is also why I warned everyone who read my blog at the end of last October about Trump and his backer’s true threat level. Apparently I wasn’t clear enough about the kind of violent, uninformed malcontents backing the con artist that was running against Hillary and the system itself, so I explained it more succinctly in a post and with a moniker I gave to Trump when he didn’t burn out as I (and he also) expected to – The Orange Hate-Monkey. Following that I explained the job of the electoral college, to the electoral college and then compared the GOP to their historical predecessors and then, when all else had failed, I explained why we as the owners of this entire mess should act to clean it up as quickly as possible, summed up in the archaic phrase Caveat Emptor. Caveat Emptor, a phrase everyone should be required to understand in this day and age.

I haven’t written much since then because, frankly, I’m waiting for everyone else to catch up. I’m beginning to get tired of waiting. The media still report on every bit of bullshit that passes his lips. They follow his Twitter feed slavishly. Parse his every utterance as if they contain pearls of wisdom. Why do they report these things as news? Surely after years of having to correct what he says, then he says differently, and then changes again, a journalist trained to verify facts would realize that the source is not reliable and find another source. But they don’t. They can’t stop themselves.

Economist: “Beyond that, it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?”

Trump: “It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll . . . you understand the expression ‘‘prime the pump”?”

Economist: “Yes.”

Trump: “We have to prime the pump.”

Economist: “It’s very Keynesian.”

Trump: “Have you heard that expression before, for this type of an event?”

Economist: “Priming the pump?”

Trump: “Yeah, have you heard it?”

Economist: “Yes.”

Trump: “Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just . . . I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.”

Earth to Trump: The expression “priming the pump” has been used to refer to government spending that stimulates the economy since at least 1933. If you never heard it before your grasp of economics is below that of most Americans. If you think you made it up, your narcissism is fabulous. “Fabulous” is a word that has been used since 1658. You didn’t make that up, either.

Robert Reich, Facebook, May 12 at 3:41am

He knows these things didn’t come from him. If he doesn’t then he really is as unhinged as most people think these days. It is bullshit; and all of the reporting on what he says simply promotes it. Dr. Reich is flabbergasted that Trump would admit he fired FBI Director Comey because he refused to end the Russia probes. Of course he fired Comey because of Russia. I didn’t believe he’d admit it himself initially, but why shouldn’t he? His base doesn’t believe the Russian conspiracy is real (and it may not be) but why should he care what he admits or what anyone reports? He knows he isn’t going to be hindered by what the media says or doesn’t say. He rules with the support of the mob at his back. The ever more violent white supremacists and malcontents, what we would call terrorists if we were being honest with ourselves. They put him in office and they intend to keep him there.

Waking Up With Sam Harris #79 -The Road to Tyranny – With Timothy Snyder and his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because the world reacts to what you do”

This is why the media needs to go cold turkey on their Trump addiction. This binge they’ve been on since almost two years ago now. They need to report facts instead of the touchy-feely bullshit that Trump spews every morning. Facts like his demonstrable theft of service business practices, just waiting to be revealed to the researcher willing to dig deep enough. Where are his tax returns? Now he’s going to release them after he leaves office? Who believes this bullshit? Show of hands? Nobody. He’s never going to release them, they will incriminate him and he knows this. Someone please produce them, so we can get on with the prosecution.

Facts like his complete allegiance to Putin and Russia. He dropped missiles on a Syrian airbase? Where is the outrage? Where are the official state protests? Where is Russia and Syria holding us to account for his act of war? What you hear instead is the sound of crickets chirping. Has the media grown so fatigued they don’t even notice the echoing chasm of a lack of quid pro quo, tit for tat, the kind of behavior that has historically always followed a strike like that? You won’t see it, because it was bullshit executed by the military at Trump’s request. No real effect, planes took off the next day from that base to strike the same targets they’d been striking the day before. In the end, the missile strike simply proved that even the things he does are bullshit, which is quite a feat in and of itself. To be ineffectual even when blowing things up and killing people. You have to be a world-class bullshitter to be able to pull off that level of bullshit.

On June twentieth we’ll have officially hit the six month mark in the Trump presidency. He has already gone on more vacations in 6 months than Obama did in 6 years. He’s produced less work than any other president at this point in his presidency, and his only successful acts have been to undo most of the progress made by President Obama in his last 6 months in office. His congress is on the path to produce less legislation than the last congress, which was the least productive congress in the history of the nation. This is what a constant stream of bullshit earns you. Lots of effort simply to lose ground. He’s made a lot of money over this past six months, though. That I can guarantee you without having to look at his ledger sheets, all of it at the expense of US citizenry and US international standing. Forfeiture of the American hegemony, the end of US international leadership.

I’m going back to Netflix now. I have House of Cards to catch up on. Yes, it’s tame by comparison to His Electoral Highness’ court intrigues, possibly even more believable, but I prefer distraction to watching the slow torture of the American spirit into something that I’d rather not be associated with. Someone wake me when the impeachment hearings start.

Not even being president could give you any class.

Elizabeth Hale House of Cards “Chapter 40”

The seed of this post was first written here.

Dead Again Should Have Stayed That Way

Dead Again (1991)

I really wanted to like this film. I don’t hate it, but it really isn’t that good. It was so forgettable I forgot it and mistakenly rented it a second time thinking I hadn’t seen it. Not even Robin Williams’ (the reason I queued it up a second time) brief appearance is enough to save it from its mediocrity. It delivers what the trailer promises. If you are into these kinds of stories and haven’t seen it, you won’t be disappointed. Still, it could have been better. Maybe.

Rotten Tomatoes, IMdb

In Defense of the Supporting Actor, An Ode to Bill Paxton

We lost Bill Paxton last Saturday and it was quite a blow to me as a film buff. I remember pretty much every movie he’s been in, and his characters in each film. What I found surprising going through my traditional (morbid?) ritual of watching something that featured the recently deceased, I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to watch that he starred in as a leading man.

Everyone remembers Twister, obviously. I probably remember it a little differently than most people. I grew up in tornado country. As good as the rest of the film is, I can never get past the final sequence of the two lead actors running uphill to lash themselves to a pipe in a wooden shed, with horses calmly ignoring the digital storm they couldn’t see around them. This poorly thought out and executed sequence pulls me right out of the film and worst of all, ruins the whole thing for me. The rest of Twister deserves the kind of tribute that the storm chasers gave him upon learning of his death. I hadn’t known it was such an inspiration to young kids of the time, motivating them to go into the field of meteorology and storm chasing in particular. Any film that inspires young people to do something good with their lives has to get a passing grade no matter what its other failings might be.

Similarly I wanted to like the film A Simple Plan but was put off by the fact that it was sold to us as a comedy in the trailers and promotional material, but was so definately not a comedy in viewing. It is a tragedy and a drama and worth watching. No matter how good it is it’s not going to be remembered in a kind light when The Wife wants a comedy and she’s mad and crying. That doesn’t bode well for the film ever being rewatched in this household.

We settled on Apollo 13 and Tombstone for our tribute to him, two excellent films in which he plays positive if lightly comedic supporting characters, which was actually what Bill Paxton was the best at.

This shouldn’t be seen as a slam or a put-down. The leading actor or actress in a film or play is only as good as their supporting actors allow them to be, and he was a consummate artist at playing the comedic foil or the well-intentioned loudmouth. My favorite film features him in a role he was essentially made for as an actor, the role of PFC. William L. Hudson in Aliens. It was just one more in a series of great supporting roles that enabled the top billed names to shine through his artistry off-screen as well as on it, but the stars were right in that film.

My favorite director combined with my favorite actor and actress of the time, with hands down one of the best supporting casts ever assembled. Case in point. I stumbled across this interview in my teary-eyed path down memory lane, and marveled at how these two work the interview together.

FANDOMSigourney Weaver and Bill Paxton Talk about Aliens – Jul 28, 2016

My favorite actress and one of my favorite supporting men, just naturally continuing the leading lady / supporting actor relationship established in the film; him laying up subjects for her to embroider as a leading lady should. Just a gentleman and the support that he should be, happy to be part of the interview.

I’ll have to sit down and watch his directorial efforts Frailty and The Greatest Game Ever Played just to confirm for myself that they are as good as my friends have said they are, but he will always be Hudson to me. I hope he doesn’t mind if I remember him that way.

It’s shocking and sad that American film and television creators won’t be able to rely on Paxton’s rough-hewn decency, his game sense of humor, and his canny ability to steal a scene. Paxton was dependably watchable in projects that weren’t as good as he was, and great in roles that gave his characters the scope and depth to display their irreverent and essential humanity.

Variety –Remembering Bill Paxton, Hollywood’s Scene-Stealing Everyman

Sleep Apnea, Anxiety Dreams, Cpap Experience

Allergies have been kicking my ass for the last month. The Mother-in-Law has been declining in health for the last three months, requiring The Wife to be away for weeks at a time coordinating her care. This development has laid more burdens on my shoulders, more responsibility than I have had to maintain stress levels under than I have had to endure since going on disability.

The Son is a senior in high school, The Daughter has a job and neither of them drive yet. I have to train them to drive in one direction, getting them to their respective appointments on time in the process, and still be able to drive myself back home without triggering Meniere’s symptoms.

ascending to 15,000 feet

With all of this going on, health of relatives, my health, my children’s demands on my time, etc, I’ve still written more in the last few months than I have in years. You may well ask “why is that?” because I’m writing this article to tell you why that is, even though this is starting to feel like an infomercial from the inside, my writing of this piece. I’m three months into my CPAP experience and I credit my clearly improved outlook to my much improved sleep patterns.

To start from the beginning; I don’t think I’ve ever slept right at any point in my life.  I have never gotten up in the morning on my own. It takes me hours to wake up (still does sometimes) to feel as if I am present in the world. Mornings have always been my enemy, and early arrivals have almost always been impossible to attain. The crime here is that I never thought to ask why this was.  Not one time.

I accepted the blame for attendance problems, all my life. You are lazy. You need discipline. You need to do this or that fad thing. More light at different times of the day. Take these sleep aids, take this wake up pill, drink coffee in the morning, etc, etc, etc. The list is never ending  and all of it has been wrong. All of it.

I used to get by on 4 hours of sleep a night, pretty routinely. Go to bed at 2am, wake up at 7am, go to work. Usually driving in the morning while not really feeling awake, having had to be shaken awake by The (ever faithful) Wife and pushed out the door with a cup of go juice after the mandatory wake up shower. I have always hated naps. I never feel like I wake up from a nap. The lethargy just continues until I succumb to sleep for several hours.

Weekends were sleep catch up times (something which has been demonstrated not to work) we would sleep well into the afternoon most Saturdays and Sundays, and still not feel well rested come Monday morning when the process started all over again.

Then the Meniere’s symptoms got worse, expanding from the Fall and Spring weeks of suffering to the months of suffering to almost every other day suffering. Rotational vertigo every week, sometimes more than once a week. I had to stop working. I had to figure out what went wrong. Why was this happening to me?

When I started paying attention to how I felt, when I started allowing myself to follow my own rhythms rather than the imposed rhythms of modern society; sleep when I was tired, eat when I was hungry, expend effort when I felt strong enough, I started noticing something about my sleep.

I slept way, way too long.  I’m not talking about 9 or 10 hours. Sixteen hours was common, sometimes as long as a full 24 hours. At first we chalked this up to the side effects of the anti-nausea drugs for vertigo symptoms.  I’ve always been easy to medicate. I’m a lightweight drinker, and generally another person’s half-dose of medication will have the desired effect on me. But the long sleep wasn’t limited to days when I had been taking medication. I also had very, very long periods of intense dreaming sleep. I’ve written about a few of these in the past.  Most of them were unintelligible upon waking, but I really enjoyed them while in them.

Finally this year I decided to start looking into my sleep patterns to see if there was something that could actually be done to get me to sleep something like normal hours. Normal in a modern sense, not a historical sense, which is different.

I went to see a sleep specialist on the advice of one of my doctors. The sleep specialist said sleep apnea before I was even scheduled for a test. Well, that wouldn’t do. I’m not going to a doctor to be sold a treatment without a diagnosis. I was raised by a car salesman, I know when I’m being sold something, and this guy was a salesman and a half. Definitely not a doctor. So after getting another doctor, a real doctor (second opinion time) to understand that I actually wanted to be tested first, I did the sleep study. Eight hours of misery with hardly a wink of sleep from my perspective, trussed up like a turkey with wires and monitors the whole time. The technician swore to the fact that I actually did sleep, and that I stopped breathing just under 30 times an hour while I was asleep. Well within the range of needing a CPAP machine to help regulate breathing during sleep. So a second study wearing the CPAP mask was scheduled.

I was very anxious about sleeping with a CPAP mask.  Sleeping with a mask on has always horrified me, in an Alien stuck to your face kind of way.  Don’t believe me? This was the nightmare I had while waiting to be tested.

May 19, 2016 2:52 pm – Just woke up from another intense dream. Another architecture dream. But the dream wasn’t architecture, the dream was a video game. The particulars of the dream, the game, the architecture in the game, are not important.What is important is the meaning of the dream, the game, the architecture. I awoke with a profound sense of loss.  A future fraught with anguish. Is this what my life is now?  Am I defined by my abilities to play a game? It’s been 8 years or so since I picked up World of Warcraft. On the one hand it has kept me attached to people, given me a reason to get out of bed even if I didn’t feel like doing anything besides stare at a screen. On the other hand it consumes a lot of time that I increasingly feel should be devoted elsewhere, if only I felt well enough often enough to do something else.

If that is true, that I am defined by my abilities to play a game, then even by that limited measure I’m not doing too good. I cannot see the game well enough to follow the various bits on the screen and know where to move in time to keep myself alive. As a raid healer, that is a serious problem. I not only have to stay alive, I have to keep others alive. When they start telling you “your job is to stay alive” they are including you in their raid out of the kindness of their hearts and not much else.

My health is deteriorating further. The dreams are a signal. They have become more intense and lengthy as my health has worsened. I can fall asleep one day and wake up almost a full day later and not feel as if I have rested. How is this even possible? The notion that someone who used to brag about being able to get by on 4 (and one half. Most important bit that last half) hours of sleep a night could sleep 9, 10, 12, 16, 28 hours and not feel rested is baffling.

So I’m seeing sleep specialists now. Sleep specialists who are hinting that my sleep has probably never been normal. That I have a problem with sleeping that they can fix. Should I let them fix it? The dreams are all I have anymore. If they make the dreams go away, what will be left that is mine?

So the anguished dream I just woke up from?

I know I am real, but the characters in the dream, they are movie characters even though they stand in for caricatures of my bosses from the past.  Frank Gaffney is in charge of the firm.  Grace Ripley (blonde in a blue wig?) runs all the operations. The game is part of the business, the architecture of the story.  The game mirrors the events that occur in the ‘reality’ of the job, serving as an oracle for what happens next. Except that the dream, the reality, is coming to an end. The game is bugged and can’t be completed.  It has to be reset.  It resets reality. The characters reform in different roles and the game/reality starts over.

Without my dreams, what am I? If my dreams directed me to take up architecture, informed my designs and my goals, will fixing the sleep problem I’ve apparently had all my life destroy the creative side of my life? Will I finally fully wake up and discover all of it was a dream? The certificates and licenses? The rolls of drawings? The wife and children? What is real? What is the dream? I don’t think I can tell anymore.

I am stuck. Stuck in a cycle that has to be ended. I have to figure out what is ailing me so that I can get back to some sense of normality. I cannot continue to sleep for extended periods and marvel at the texture of the dreams. I guess it is time to really wake up. Hope I see everyone on the other side of treatment. Would hate to lose anyone to a reset.

Trussed up like a Christmas turkey

These were my thoughts about the dream, and the dream itself, before going in for the CPAP test. You are being over dramatic, The Wife objected. Don’t publish that right now. Do the test first. See what happens. So I decided to quash my fears until after the test was completed.  Let them remain unvoiced for the time being. But I did vow to start this article at the time. I would record my thoughts about my CPAP experience during and after the diagnosis and treatment. I wanted to at least do that much. Record my fears. The facehugger nightmares. The vague fears that life is passing me by and I can’t do a thing about it. But also to record my experiences with the treatment just as they occurred.

The weird part is, once I tried sleeping with the mask on, I knew I was hooked. Right away. The first test was torture. The wires woke me up. The sensors woke me up. I tossed and turned all night. The second test, the test with the mask on, was the best sleep I had had in years. Years.  Longer than I could even remember. Never even noticed the wires and sensors until the next morning. Breakfast was ecstasy. My mind bounced everywhere.

I quite literally could not wait to get a machine for the house so that I could try it out regularly in an environment that I felt was comfortable.  That process took a few weeks. Medicare pays, but it isn’t fast about doing it. Eventually I did get a machine for the house and that is when the actual work with the machine, the company that supplied the machine, started.

From the first night I realized that I needed to get something to hold my mouth closed at night. I would wake up with my mouth dry as a bone. The chin strap they sent me was of cheap manufacture, but The Wife is the granddaughter of a seamstress, so there was a remedy for that cheap chinstrap that fell apart problem.

Getting the supplies from the machine supplier is probably the most worrisome part of this process. They are completely unwilling to give you extra parts just in case you might need to swap out straps or masks or filters or anything.

Other than that process, dealing with insurers and medical aid suppliers, the experience with the machine has been pretty smooth sailing so far. I put on my flight mask at night and “ascend to 15,000 feet.” I am in my third month with the machine and although I still sleep as much as twelve or 13 hours on occasion (especially when the allergies trigger Meniere’s. Like today) I can get up in the morning when I need to, for the first time since early in my career as a draftsman. Get The Son to school on time with more regularity than we’ve probably done in his entire life.

I haven’t had time to play many games, what with all the other problems that have had to be dealt with this summer.  I think I only managed to go swimming one time, which is a record for me. I generally spend days at a time in the pool. Not this summer. There was definitely no time to start the new version of World of Warcraft, even if I had wanted to (luckily I didn’t) and I still haven’t finished the one game I wanted to play, Skyrim.

I have done some writing though, a lot more writing than I really felt I could pull off. I’m still working on some other articles that I have to publish before the election ends, but I have little fear I’ll get to those too, as well as pick up some articles I’ve left laying around for far too long.

Best of all, the dreams continue. I don’t know why I have these extended dream periods, but I am thankful for them. They are more hopeful these days, at least. Not fraught with horrors and endings like they had been for the last decade or so. Still pretty grim, but a better shade of grim. I’ll take that.

Abramanations Multiply

I have a confession to make. I’ve seen Star Trek: Into Darkness.

It doesn’t matter if it premieres the resurrected Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, I won’t be going to see this film in a theater. This will be the first film in Star Trek history that I’m actually hostile about before I’ve even seen it, and one of three that I loathe ever having been created (FYI, it’s the last three) I cannot express the level of revulsion that I feel when I contemplate what kind of depraved acts will be enacted on the corpse of one my most cherished memories from another time. Better to just pretend it isn’t happening, I guess.

I did catch a edited for television version recently. It was every bit as bad as I imagined it would be, and then some. Somehow the internet haters really failed to communicate just how ridiculous this farce of a film was. I’m not sure how this is possible, but it is. Magic blood. A Khan that isn’t South Asian. Starfleet officers engaging in conspiracies, taking the lives of their own people when they fail to submit to aggression.

That Khan failed to pervert the crew of the Enterprise in the TOS episode Space Seed because future man is no longer susceptible to terroristic threats of this kind is a philosophical achievement lost on the creators of nutrek and the Abramanator himself.

The number of violations of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future are almost uncountable. They will remain uncounted by me. It was enough for me simply to confirm that the film was bad and not just bad Trek.

My apologies to the ghost of Gene Roddenberry for having witnessed this narrative of depravity.

My review for Star Trek: Into Darkness on Rotten Tomatoes

I give the film half a star on the Rotten Tomatoes 5 star rating system. I can’t rate it lower than that or I would. Having failed to keep up my end of the bargain and actually never watch the film as the first paragraph of the review goes into, I felt I had to come clean and admit to my transgression after having watched Abramation II. However, this article isn’t just about Star Trek: Into Darkness. I haven’t been a Trek fan for quite a few years. I quit following the show or hanging around with fans of Nutrek ages ago, not long after declaring Star Trek dead in 2009. I have no interest in being an internet hater. I have even less interest in spending time in the presence of people who like things that I think are unforgivable violations of the intellectual property of a long-dead inspiration.

I am quite happy sitting here alone in my office. I am forced to revisit this subject because the abramanations continue, and the general movie-going population remains vacuously enamored of J.J. Abrams’ tripe. I sat down and watched Star Wars VII a few weeks ago with the Wife. We had planned on watching that film on the big screen and we missed it because it left theaters within a month of coming out, it left screens and moved to video release quicker than any other Star Wars film in history. When it was announced that J.J. Abrams would write and direct Star Wars VII I distinctly remember saying that “Given what George Lucas has done to Star Wars, I can hardly imagine how J.J. Abrams could fuck it up more than he has.” Having now watched Star Wars VII I can honestly say I owe George Lucas an apology.

I owe George Lucas an apology because Star Wars VII is just Star Wars IV told even more poorly as a story, while millions upon millions more are spent on meaningless effects sequences. It is a marvel to watch from an effects standpoint (much like Mad Max 4) while being almost incomprehensible from a plot and story perspective (also like Mad Max 4) And since George Lucas filmed Star Wars IV with less money and with no example to script by, I have to conclude that his is the superior intellect when contrasted with the abramanator.

It is nice to be proven wrong on occasion, even when the proof takes a few hours out of my life and a few yards out of my intestines due to the indigestion caused by stress. Stress caused by having to watch bad filmmaking being rewarded so lavishly.

I blame LOST.

I never did do a post series write-up on that show, even though (as the link illustrates) I was quite the fan, following all the crumbs and clues and waiting for the next episode and the next season with breathless anticipation. Until the story stopped making any sense at all, sometime during season four. I doggedly continued to catch every episode even then, and bought the DVD collections for each season, trusting that somehow it would all make sense in the end.

Except that it never did make sense. LOST is singularly the worst written story arc ever to be completed in a television show. It is the only show that, having gotten to the end, I really wanted all my invested time back. Not only does the story not make any sense, but the finale attempts to make every possible fan prediction about what the island was, and how the characters survived, be true simultaneously. It is the series that best manifests the truism trying to make everyone happy is the surest way to piss everyone off.

Every season following the third season became harder and harder to watch. Far from being the finale that ruined the show for me, it was the reliance on tropes and heuristics to ‘sort of’ move the show along to the conclusion that most of us saw coming years before the confirmatory finale; the finale which so deflated everyone’s expectations about the meaning of it all.

Why season three? Remember the season three cliff-hanger ending? (I despise cliff-hanger season endings. Loathe them. What happens if the stars die or back out of their contracts? Just pretend the viewers weren’t left hanging?) Charlie’s big sacrifice? Didn’t mean anything. It might have meant something if the Oceanic 6 hadn’t then gone on to… What? Go home, become helpless invalids? Fail to raise children and then return to the island? Return to the island in the past (a past that the smart guy in their midst says can’t be changed) Return to the island and be blown up by a nuclear explosion (an event that historically didn’t happen) which traps them in a time bubble. For all eternity. With people they hate as well as the friends they love.

I hate to break it to this guy, but if you have to explain what the ending meant in order for people to get it, then it really wasn’t closure of any kind, much less a good ending for a series. The only reason people still talk about LOST is because J.J. Abrams is Hollywood gold for some inexplicable reason, and so people feel obliged to say nice things about the series that launched him to success.

I watched in disbelieving horror when Damon Lindelof was paraded out a few years back on The Nerdist, which was airing on BBC America at the time. Damon Lindelof paraded out and held up as some kind of authority on time travel stories, horrified as I watched him taking apart what were, in my estimation, more interesting stories that used the story-telling vehicle in question.

Damon Lindelof? An authority? An authority on time travel? An authority on time travel as a storytelling vehicle? An authority on stories about things which most scientists will tell you are theoretically implausible, which is about as close to impossible as you can get a scientist to go. The mind boggles.

Let me put it this way. My reading of time travel stories and watching time travel movies, my being obsessed with the concept of time travel for as long as I can remember. My discovery of Doctor Who in 1972 on a hotel television screen in Denver, Colorado (on a channel called PBS that I’d never heard of) makes my left testicle more of an authority on time travel than Damon Lindelof or J.J. Abrams himself. They so screwed up time travel as a story vehicle in every episode of LOST and in the Abramanation, making the story vehicle a distraction from rather than the method of telling the story that I can’t even begin to explain how they might fix it other than to tell them to go talk to actual speculative fiction writers about what they did wrong.

Which brings me to the real reason I started this post. I ran across a clip on Youtube (see, I said it was bad news) advertising an HBO series that riffs off of another movie and story that I grew up on. That would be Westworld.

This is one of those rare films I was allowed to go see as a child. What is most interesting to me looking back at it is this; Westworld and Andromeda Strain mark the beginnings of my exposure to Michael Crichton, a lifelong dance which ended with his death in 2008 and the novel State of Fear, a novel which many people mistake for non-fiction. In the middle was Jurassic Park as a high note and the poorly adapted Congo as a low note (the novel was much better than the film) it seems that his imagination has served as punctuation marks along my journey through science and speculative fiction.

I liked the original film. It is quite campy now and probably barely watchable. I don’t know for sure. I haven’t rewatched it in at least thirty years. What I do know is that J.J. Abrams is highly touted as having a hand in the HBO series.

Westworld promo trailer courtesy of Youtube and HBO

J.J. Abrams having a hand in the series creation spells doom for the series from the outset, in my less than humble opinion. I doubt that most people will agree with me since most people think that Star Wars VII is a good film. However, I’ll stand by this equation,

The watchability of any media offering will be in direct inverse correlation to how much actual control J.J. Abrams has over it.

Westworld could be a good series, but I won’t be holding my breath. I won’t be able to watch it anyway until it hits Netflix or some other third party site since I don’t pay for HBO any longer. That is one fine trailer though. Gunshots and partial nudity. Deep bass vibrations in the music to amp up the fear. Lots of famous actor cameos. It hits all the marks that advertising executives require. Just like the trailer for Star Trek: Beyond. Haven’t seen that Star Trek either, but I might watch it. I might even pay to watch it. Someone else wrote and directed it, so it might be OK as an experience. Remember, an inverse relationship to Abramanator control. The Star Trek trailer sports the Bad Robot logo, though. Not a good sign.

HBO is riding the crest of a wave that they hadn’t expected to be on. Who would have thought that George R.R. Martin would hit it big on television, with HBO as a backer, creating the adaptation of his long running A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series which only people who live in caves without the internet won’t recognize as Game of Thrones. I am now obliged to offer an apology to George R.R. Martin as well as George Lucas. Not just because I’ve first mentioned him in this article about the dreaded Abramanations; but also because, unlike the rest of the family and probably the rest of Austin if not the entire US, I haven’t seen, read or listened to his stories. I can’t name one title of his I’ve read even though I distinctly remember sharing a table with him at an Armadillocon somewhere in the murky past. For that, and for mentioning you here, I truly am sorry George.

But HBO is the channel riding the wave now, as AMC was riding the wave of popularity following Breaking Bad and the first few season of The Walking Dead. We’ll just have to see if AMC continues to ride the wave with the next seasons of The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul (which I like more than Breaking Bad, but my liking things is usually bad for their continued existence. Just a word of caution) After the lackluster reception for the cliffhanger ending season 6 of The Walking Dead, they’ll just have to keep their fingers crossed.

Since Westworld isn’t likely to include nuclear weapons or time travel, it is probably a safe bet to watch it. A safe bet for HBO to back it. I’d be on the lookout for the Abramanator to find some way to include those devices in the show, if I had money on the line. If he does, take your money, run and don’t look back. You’ll thank me for it later.

Top Ten Science Fiction Movies. Can’t Do It.

This is going to be a bit like stream of consciousness to the reader. My apologies in advance for this if you find it impossible to follow.


I clicked a Youtube video link not realizing I was going on a journey that would take all day.

Archangel Films Unbelievable!!!!! The Movie – Official Trailer 2016

This kind of slapstick comes across as too funny. Too funny as in 90 minutes of this would kill me with stupid. I might watch it. I might not. I can’t say. It is billed as featuring 40 previous iconic “Star Trek” actors so I might have to see it. But then that is what the filmmakers are counting on when they make these kinds of movies.

While I’m sitting there contemplating whether to hazard my diminishing quantities of brain cells watching so much stupid at one time (like a Marx Brothers film) the dreaded Youtube autoplay kicked in. First it was this short.

Looper, 6 Movies That Audiences Walked Out Of

Camera motion, blood effects. Chopping one’s own arm off. Yeah, I can see walking out of all of these (I haven’t watched any American Horror Story. It’s just not my style. I am surprised the wife hasn’t wanted to watch it) which is why I haven’t seen some of them. Infrasound would explain a lot of things about certain horror films and my reactions to them.

Crap. Autoplay kicked in again while contemplating Tree of Life (Should I, shouldn’t I? Have I already? Is this me thinking?) What the hell will be next is anybody’s guess.

WatchMojo, Top 10 Underrated Science Fiction Movies

I’ve seen all but three of these (those three are now in my Netflix queue)  Two or three of them are on my “must see” list when someone asks me what to watch next (hint; I have a soft spot for Bruce DernRoy Scheider and Sam Rockwell) For the inquiring minds, Heavy Metal was a movie about an adult comic book which apparently nobody ever admits to reading, not about the rock music which may or may not have been either inspired by or the inspiration for the magazine.  The artwork in the movie is drawn directly from the various illustration styles in the magazine. Yes, I will admit to reading a few copies in my youth. Regrettably I don’t own any of them anymore.

Had Pitch Black made it on their list, it would have been four movies. I am once again victimized by autoplay.

WatchMojo, Top 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

Not sure all of these films are worth watching, much less being best films you should watch but haven’t. Foreign language films are not for everyone, so I don’t generally recommend them to people I know who won’t be up for reading subtitles, even if I might watch them myself.

I would personally recommend A Boy and His DogThis is where the list starts to go sideways for me. This and the list that follows this one. It starts with the still image that introduces the list.

Don’t get me wrong, I think 2001 is a fine film. I think you should watch that and 2010 back to back. But 2001 is a snooze-fest. It is glacially slow as a movie.  I don’t think a lot of people watch that movie over and over. They remember watching it as a child, but haven’t tried to watch it recently. I have, several times.  Like the 60’s it was created in, it takes the right kinds of drugs to appreciate this film properly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Stanley Kubrick.  He has three films at least that I would put in the category of best science fiction films. Not just 2001 but also A Clockwork Orange and Doctor Strangelove.  Most film critics will speak highly of Stanley Kubrick and his films. He is an auteur, his films bear the indelible mark of his authorship.  But few of his films are light or fun to watch.  You don’t just pop in A Clockwork Orange for a bit of light afternoon entertainment.

If they can recommend Strange Days without a caution (and I wouldn’t do that. Be prepared for murder and rape scenes conducted in the first person) then A Clockwork Orange is a walk in the park to watch.

WatchMojo, Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

No top ten list of science fiction (SF) is complete without Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.  You cannot be a SF film fanatic without having seen those two films and recommending those two films. They can’t be on a list of films you haven’t seen; and if they are, your fan credentials will be subject to revocation.

Metropolis is arguably the mother of all modern SF, a film that has been revisited and reimagined in nearly every tale of dystopia, every film that questions who we really are, any film that posits the difference between man and machine.  In the same vein Forbidden Planet is the forebear of Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.  Those two films have to be on the top ten list or the list is invalid, in my opinion.

Especially any list that credits The Empire Strikes Back as the best SF film of all time. I doubt very much that anyone who wasn’t raised on Star Wars will think that Empire Strikes Back (much less any other Star Wars film aside from the original) should be on the list, much less topping it.  Well, perhaps the original Star Wars; not the now-titled Episode 4, but the film which aired back in 1977, the film that may single-handedly require my maintenance of a functioning laserdisc player in my home.  You remember, the movie where Han is the only person to fire a blaster in the famous bar scene? That film goes on a top ten list, if I could ever settle for ten.

I’m lying by the way. I won’t maintain the laserdisc player just for Star Wars. I will do it for the making of disc for The Abyss, for Tron, for the pressing of Highlander 2 Renegade cut and the copy of 1776 with the bits Jack Warner personally cut out of the film spliced back in and the splice marks still visible. I can link the version of 1776 that says “director’s cut” but there isn’t any way to watch the version I like other than on laserdisc. Same for the making of the Abyss which goes into the ordeal of constructing a set inside of and then flooding an abandoned nuclear reactor vessel so that real underwater shots could be pulled off with that deep water feel. The Abyss (special edition only) is one of the many, many films I would have to include in any list of SF films worth compiling.

There are a lot of good films included in their list, but I disagree with most of the films in the top five. I like them but they are all modern films. Derivative works of derivative works, unless you are talking about the Matrix or the Terminator (Not Terminator II. It’s good and a decent rewatch, just not as good as the first movie which it is derived from) both of which should be way up the list, higher than the Matrix actually appears.

Ten through six are all good solid films. I need to rewatch the War of The Worlds. I haven’t seen it since the 70’s on broadcast TV.  I have the box set of all the original Planet of the Apes films. They all rewatch well aside from the last one.

Children of Men was a heart-wrenching film to watch, but I have little doubt it will survive as a cautionary tale of meddling with mother nature. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still was almost unique in its time period with the portrayal of aliens as not being hellbent on destroying us (a fact that the equally good but not as memorable remake decided to change) which lends it the credibility to withstand time. Children of Men is actually one among many films which portray humans as our own worst enemy.

Jurassic Park is showing signs of age, despite their insistence that it isn’t. Maybe it is the weight of the miserable sequels that colors my impression of it. Can’t tell yet. But Aliens? Really, Aliens but not Alien? I agree the sequels that follow are best forgotten, but how do you watch Aliens without first watching Alien? Can’t be done.

Which is the problem with derivative works and especially sequels.  Without context the film is divorced from most of its meaning and has to survive on its own merit alone.  This is why The Empire Strikes Back will not be remembered as the best SF film ever. Because without the first film (1977 Star Wars) you don’t know who the Empire is. Why the villain being Luke’s dad is a problem. Who the hell Luke is in the first place.

If we’re just going to recommend sequels, movies that you have to have watched the previous versions to be able to appreciate, I’d like to put in a shameless plug for Terminator Genisys (deja vu if you’ve read my last post carefully) As I’ve noted when recommending previously, the first 10 to 20 minutes of the film (after the first time jump) is a shot for shot tribute to the original film. It is the most beautifully made and scripted film that I’ve seen for awhile now, and it builds on established previous entries into the film canon, builds on them then knocks them all down, in ways that the viewer will not see coming. If you want to watch a good sequel, this is one for you to enjoy.

If I was going to make a list of ten films you probably haven’t seen recently (if ever) but speak highly of, 2001 is going to be top of that list. In fact, most of the Top 10 list that WatchMojo put together are films that I guarantee the compilers have not rewatched recently.

If you surf over to the WatchMojo website you will notice that they do an awful lot of top ten lists. Way, way more of them than is healthy, quite frankly. In fact, I can’t even find the films-by-decade lists that are mentioned in the Top Ten list just to see if the films I think are relevant are on those lists. I think that creating these endless list films that they produce keeps them from taking the time to enjoy the life that they rate in top ten increments several times a day.

I appear to have stumbled upon the kind of site that internet surfers loathe.  The dreaded clickbait. The site that sucks up all your life and time, without giving you much in return. This explains why their films list is mostly modern films, or films recently remade with modern versions, like War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not an in depth analysis of any real kind at all. And I’ve written how much on this subject now? Several pages, at least.

So what about a real Top Ten List? The ten best SF films ever made? I don’t think I can create a list of only 10 of them. I tried to create one of those kinds of lists ages ago on Flixster. I soon found out that limiting the list to ten films requires that I eliminate films that are essential to understanding the artform.  Films like Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.

The profile link for my list says I have 15 films on it. I can’t see them because their website enters an error when I go to click on my own created content.  The web 2.0, more broken than the web 1.0 and now featuring more advertising. Luckily I copied a version of it off and posted it to this blog. I have no idea if it is the last one or not, but here is at least one of my lists.

Avatar should be in the top five. We can start with that. A lot of people love to hate on Avatar, but it is the film that inspired the resurgence of 3D and it wasn’t the 3D in the film that was remarkable. It is the fact that you cannot tell the animation from the real images in the film that makes it so remarkable. That you can have such a realistically animated film and not cross the uncanny valley in the process.  It is an amazing film, soon to be a series of 4 films.

Top Ten worthy films produced since Avatar? I can offer a few.

Ex Machina. Highly rated and very watchable, it explores the boundaries of what is or isn’t human better than any film I’ve seen on the subject.  A film worth mentioning that is also in the vein of Ex Machina is Transcendence, one of those poorly received for no good reason films, consequently not a film that would make a top ten list.

Why won’t Transcendence be a top ten listed film? Because commercial success figures into the calculation of what is or isn’t good, what is or isn’t preserved, what is or isn’t watchable by people who pick up the material to watch later.  If the film was highly rated and it made a lot of money, then it is also still a valuable experience to have, even though I don’t know who Luke Skywalker is (spoken figuratively, from the future) if you want to make lists that don’t make you sound like an idiot, you have to take all of those metrics into account. And since future prediction is something we humans suck at, most of our lists will be utterly worthless.

Take, for instance, Gravity. This is a fine film. Highly rated. Made lots of money. Probably won’t be remembered (my apologies to Sandra Bullock) because it deals with current technology and doesn’t do that really well, even though the cinematography is excellent an the acting is nearly faultless.

In the same vein of discussion, the mainstays of current cinema, the sequel, the franchise, none of those films survive without the other films in the series, just like the Saturday morning serials of old.  Consequently no Star Wars, no Star Trek, no Mad Max, no Alien will go down in history as worthy of mention, unless the first in the series merits it, or there is established a place for serial media (like television) to be consumed in the order it was produced.  This gives the viewing experience context, gives it meaning it doesn’t contain within its own constrained run-time.

That is why Alien appears at number five in my old list, and Aliens at number 10, and those are the only sequelized films on the list. Because films that are part of another genre, that can’t hold their own alone, will not be remembered. This means most of the comic book movies will also not be on any lists, if we can call those SF and not Fantasy. And whether they would be considered SF is an open question, so don’t dismiss it.  If we’re talking fantasy films, we’ve opened an entirely different discussion. A discussion where the film Legend figures prominently.

Continuing the SF list. Blade Runner would also have to be on the list. It is iconic. Worth mentioning is Dark City a twisted little film with the same feel and a completely different storyline. Both of those border on fantasy, so I could see how they would be excluded from a hard SF list.  That is, if anyone actually knew what hard SF was, could meet others who thought they knew and that group could then agree on what the term meant.  I consider that presumption fantasy in and of itself.

As I go down that old list, I can discard several films as being temporarily relevant. Films like Serenity. I still love it, but I am reconciled with the show never returning now. I keep hoping the Firefly online game will release, but I’m beginning to suspect that is also not going to happen.

Vanilla Sky and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind really are hard to rewatch. The Truman Show is still watchable, but really not surprising in the current age of reality TV. You can easily see someone pretending not to be on camera, deluding themselves into thinking the illusion is real. Sadly, it is all too believable now. Truman not knowing he was on camera? That is hard to believe.

I think A.I. should still be on the list, but it may fall off soon. We are just now getting to the point where robots are real things, much less making them capable of passing for human. The singularity that futurists are still fascinated with is portrayed loosely in that film, making it still relevant. Once the robots are among us, there is no telling what will happen next.

The last film that I’ve seen that should probably be included in any top 10 list is The Martian. Worlds better than Red Planet or Mission to Mars (Hollywood is so incestuous) both of which I paid money to see (Red Planet is good fun, just not good SF) The Martian holds up to the most intense scrutiny of scientists (other than the storm at the beginning) making it the most solidly science based fiction film since 2001.

Worthy of mention is Interstellar. Almost a time travel story (almost!) it mixes science and fantasy and comes up with a decent little film exploring the near future and what we might be facing soon if we aren’t careful.

Which brings me to the last great film that Robin Williams was in before he died, the movie The Final Cut; the story of a man afraid to live his own life, so instead spends his time authoring the stories of other people’s lives.

What else would be on the current list? I’m still working on that.

Rotational Vertigo

I’ve had several requests to describe what Rotational Vertigo feels like to me.  It is actually quite hard to describe in a way that the average person might be able to visualize. When I’m pressed for time I frequently say something like imagine the worst drunken binge you’ve ever been on. For most people (a majority, sadly) that gets an enlightened response.

But that really doesn’t do the symptom justice.  For me, being drunk (even mildly intoxicated) can be vertigo inducing, has always been vertigo inducing.  I don’t drink and go to sleep anymore. That almost never happens.  If I feel like having a glass or two of brandy or cognac, I’m generally up for the duration of the effect (8 hours or so) because lying down makes the vertigo worse.

So what is rotational vertigo really like?

First, imagine you are at the center of a merry-go-round.  The merry-go-round is spinning. It doesn’t even have to spin fast, it can spin quite slowly, just enough that you can’t fixate on a single point in the background.

This is the key problem with the spinning. It isn’t real, but your body doesn’t know this.  Your body doesn’t know that the balance mechanism in the ears is broken. So your eyes try to track the spin that isn’t there, causing your vision to dance back and forth (this is why reading can be a chore when you have a problem with vertigo) mimicking the spin the balance mechanism says is occurring.

So you are on a spinning merry-go-round. Now imagine that every stationary object you want to interact with is spinning at the same rate. There is no fixed point to anchor to (if you concentrate really hard you might just be able to override this. Maybe) so the handrails on the stairway, the walls of the shower, the glass of water to wash your pills down with dance madly around you while you try vainly to grab them from thin air.

Now imagine that this dance continues for the rest of your life; figuratively, if not in reality. Because it feels like forever. I’ve fought this thing for days at a time in the past, just because I’d already slept for what felt like days and I just couldn’t sleep anymore no matter how many pills I took.

I can’t describe it better than that. I don’t dare go looking for video to describe it.  Just seeing video that includes rotation in the theater can bring on sympathetic feelings of spinning.  I frequently must look away from films with rapid rotation (Gravity was torturous. Loved that film, couldn’t watch half of it. Go see Gravity in the IMax and sit real close with your hands trapped at your sides) or I have to hold my hands up in front of my face so that I can see that there is a stationary object in view while the rotation on screen persists.

The real answer is you don’t want to know.  You can trust me on this subject.


So how should I treat it? is the question you are probably left with if you have this symptom. My article Treating Meniere’s & Its Symptoms covers general treatment suggestions for Meniere’s. However, dizziness and vertigo are so common that they rate a separate discussion from the general Meniere’s discussion.

There are various treatments for re-aligning the otoconia in the inner ear, which is frequently the culprit causing dizziness and some forms of vertigo. benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of those types of dizziness. I’ve tried a few of these treatments for persistent dizziness (dizziness that lasts several days) with limited success. The half-somersault maneuver looks like one of those kinds of treatments.

If the problem is the otoconia then this kind of treatment should alleviate the problem. If it isn’t then it won’t. It is pretty straight-forward to just try these procedures if the vertigo doesn’t let up after a few hours. You are liable to find that it won’t help for meniere’s vertigo and dizziness. If you still feel dizzy it is probably a good idea to see a specialist before ruling this kind of treatment out entirely. I have given up on them unless it is a specific kind of dizziness that I recognize as being different from the Meniere’s.

The one thing I have found that helps for vertigo and dizziness aside from drugs is finding a head position and/or a focus point to stare at. I personally find that turning the head slightly to my right (I am afflicted in the left ear) and looking slightly downward is the best position for me. I have a catbus that sits near the correct position next to the bed. A friendly catbus that smiles its cheshire grin at me while I try desperately not to spin.

Staring at a fixed point in space, preferably staring at an object that is crafted to inspire trust and happiness, helps quell the spinning long enough for the drugs to kick in, or until the spell passes. One or the other of these two things will occur eventually.