Posted in Odds & ends

‘Tis the season

We’re officially in the holiday season (I’m pretty sure it started before the Halloween trick-or-treaters got home with their candy), which means it’s time for cheesy Christmas movies. And I do love cheesy Christmas movies.

Netflix Original The Princess Switch feels like a mashup of The Parent Trap and The Princess Diaries, but it works because it embraces the ridiculousness of the concept. Vanessa Hudgens stars in the double role of Stacy, the Chicago baker who goes to the fictional monarchy of Belgravia to compete in a Christmas baking contest and Lady Margaret, a royal who’s soon to marry a Belgravian prince and wants to know what it’s like to live as a normal person. The two women switch places and romantic hijinks ensue. It’s sweet, fun, and recommended if you’re into this sort of thing.

Kurt Russell stars as Santa Claus in The Christmas Chronicles, a tale of two siblings who almost ruin and then save Christmas. Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis) lost their father and Christmastime hasn’t been the same same ever since. But Kate is still a true believer in Santa, and talks her brother into staying up to try to catch old Saint Nick on video when he visits their house. It works, and they manage to sneak aboard his sleigh while he’s delivering other gifts in their neighborhood. When he discovers the stowaways, the distraction causes Santa to crash his sleigh and lose his sack of presents, his magic hat and his reindeer. The two kids become Santa’s helpers to recover the lost items and save Christmas.

I enjoyed this one for the relationship between Kate and Teddy, as well as Russell’s mugging for the cameras. I’m not quite sure what to make of the CG elves that show up near the beginning of the movie’s final act. They’re cute, and seem designed to interest kids and sell toys… but by the time they show up, I wonder if those kids are still paying attention… the first twenty minutes sets up the Pierce family dynamics and doesn’t seem all that magical to those with short attention spans. 

The Christmas Chronicles is also recommended for those who enjoy sappy Christmas movies.

Posted in Odds & ends

Happy Thanksgiving

A turkey made from Lego bricks

I hope that you had a good Thanksgiving (unless you’re not from the United States, in which case I hope you had a good Thursday.) After the last few hectic days at work, I appreciated the one-day respite. 

Tomorrow, it’s back to reality and the oncoming rush towards Christmas. Yay.

One of the prayers from the Thanksgiving Eve service I went to last night asked for forgiveness for losing track of what holidays are supposed to be.

Patient Lord, we are rushing headlong into the holiday season, forgetting that the word “holiday” is actually comprised of two words: “holy” and “day.” Forgive us when we treat the “holiday” as a task and a burden, when we load ourselves down with tasks that do not enhance this day. Help us move past the busyness of the day into the attitude of gratitude we should display for all the many wonders and blessings you have poured on us.

I’m pretty bad at this – I often look for the busyness to have something to do to make this time of year feel less empty. It sorta works – “busy” feels better than “empty,” but it probably explains why I don’t really look forward to Thanksgiving very much.

My goal – and my prayer – is to do better as we enter the Christmas season. 

Posted in Odds & ends

So that happened….

A Lego minifigure drinking tea in front of a computer

I usually work on weekends, but I had this past Saturday off. I spent part of my Saturday sorting food donations for my church’s food pantry. And honestly, that was nice. I got to do something that helps people who are less fortunate than I am, and also get out of my own head for a couple of hours. Volunteering is awesome.

She-Ran and the Princesses of Power

I also got around to checking out Netflix’s new version of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. I remember the original show that aired when I was a kid, but I can’t say I was a fan. I’m not even sure that I would have paid any attention to this new version at all if it weren’t for the whiny, entitled fanboys who think everything has to be made for them making a lot of noise complaining about it.

And you know what? This new She-Ra is actually good. Noelle Stevenson took a property that was an extended toy commercial back in the 1980s and turned it into a show about friendship and family with complex characters that are better-developed than the ones on some shows that are aimed at adults. My favorite character ended up being Catra, who is at least nominally a villain.

Magic: the Gathering

I had planned to go to Friday Night Magic at one of my local comic shops, but I ended up having to stay late at work and couldn’t make it. So I still have a budget mono-black burn deck and a Dimir Etrata deck that I want to try out 🤷‍♂️ This weekend, Strictly Better MtG posted a video about a budget mono-black aggro deck that matches my preferred play style perfectly, so I ordered the cards that I needed to put it together. So that’s three decks waiting for trial runs to see if any of them are worth tweaking and upgrading… 

William Goldman

On Friday, screenwriter William Goldman passed away at age 87. He wrote the screenplays for a bunch of well-regarded movies, but the only one I’ve ever seen was The Princess Bride. It is one of my favorites. So I’m going to share a clip from one of its best scenes, and Atlas Obscura’s story about the scene-stealing Mad Max. RIP, Mr. Goldman.

How was your weekend?

Posted in Odds & ends

Hello again

Here I am, taking a selfie to show that I don't have the sense to come in out of the snow

Um, wow… last time I posted something here I wrote about planting something in our garden. Today we saw our first snow of the season.  😮

This morning, I read something that Jenny Lawson wrote about blogging. The Bloggess talks about how people write blogs for various reasons, ranging from wanting to change the world to wanting to share cat pictures.  

But mostly for me blogging is a way to say, “Hi.  I’m here.  You’re here too.  We’re a little less alone than we were yesterday.”

— Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess

And that really struck a chord with me. Sometimes, I write because I have something to say. Sometimes I want to entertain you. But mostly, I write to share a little bit of myself and feel a little bit less alone if someone reads it.

And lately, I haven’t been writing. Partly that’s been me being busy with other stuff going on in my life. Mostly it’s been me isolating myself and listening to my doubts and anxieties. I don’t want to keep doing that.

So here I am. Here you are. Take a moment to say “hello” if you like.

Posted in Odds & ends

So that happened… (Monday, Sept. 24, 2018)

Balloon-Flowers

Monday might be when you had to go back to work, but it ended up being my day off this week. Happily, the weather cooperated and let me work in our garden today. Mostly, that involved getting areas ready to put to bed for the winter in a few more weeks. But I also planted the balloon flowers I accidentally found and purchased on Saturday. I think they should have enough time to settle in before we get our first frost, and they should look really nice next summer.

* * *

Lord-of-the-PitElections are just a few weeks away… I got my mail-in ballot today. My other piece of non-junk mail? A Magic: the Gathering Lord of the Pit card that I’d purchased from UntappedGames.com last week. Coincidence?

But seriously, make sure you vote in this election. If you’re not happy with the way things are going, this is your chance to make your voice heard.

* * *

There were two passings of note to sci-fi film fans this weekend: Gary Kurtz, who produced Star Wars and The Dark Crystal, died Sunday at age 78 and Al Matthews, who played the cigar-chomping Sgt. Apone in Aliens, died Saturday at age 75.

* * *

I got to watch the new Bleach live-action movie today (thanks, Netflix!) and it is amazing! The film succeeds in bringing the major elements of the first arc of the anime to life. The actors playing Ichigo, Rukia, Renji and Byakuya are all perfect. If you’re familiar with the story from the anime series or the original manga, you should definitely check it out. And if you’re looking for something a little bit spooky for October (and don’t mind subtitles), keep Bleach in mind..

Posted in Odds & ends

So that happened: Monday, September 17, 2018

The world is still falling apart at an ever-faster pace. But trying to be positive, at least the weather cooperated to let me work in my garden on one of my mornings off.

That meant I got to catch up on some podcasts, and I want to share a couple of recent Escape Pod episodes with you. On September 6 & 13, they presented Andrea Phillips’ 2017 story “The Revolution, Brought to You by Nike” and it’s got just the right mix of optimism and cynicism to match my current mood. 

Photo of the Day

Here’s a friendly spider that’s taken up residence on our porch & is helping to keep other insects from bothering us.

I hope you’re all having a good week. Let me know if you’ve found any interesting podcasts that you want me to check out.

Posted in Baseball, Odds & ends

Monday roundup: summer, Magic & baseball broadcasts

PSX_20180904_002312

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. Someone should tell Mother Nature, because it’s still 81 degrees as I write this — a half hour before midnight — and we’re looking at highs in the 90s for much of the week.

Looking back, I feel like this was the summer that wasn’t. If I wasn’t working, it was either too hot or too rainy to do a lot of the things that I would’ve liked to do. And then there were the days that it was a challenge to make myself do anything. Here’s hoping that your summer was better than mine, and that fall will be better to us all.

~ ~ ~

1536024642372-353e308d-bf4c-4471-a6cc-84fa118c1b2b_

My local grocery store has a vending machine near the entrance with various sports cards, Pokemon cards and Yu-gi-oh cards in it. Today it had some envelopes of 10 assorted Magic: The Gathering cards for $1. I bought a couple.

I played Magic a bit in the mid-1990s. It’s a fun collectible card game that puts you in the role of a wizard dueling another wizard. You each build a deck of cards, with lands that you can tap for mana to summon creatures and cast spells, creatures that can battle your opponent or her forces, and spells that you can cast that have a variety of effects.

1536024617096-dd5e8ba9-cfe7-440b-9b68-2170d76f7063_ Obviously, I wasn’t going to find anything especially rare or valuable in a repack package from a vending machine. But there were some “new” old cards that have some cool art, and they inspired some nostalgia. I’d like to start playing Magic again, though I’ve gotta admit that I’m a bit intimidated by the thousands of cards that have come out since I last played. And it’s not helping that I don’t know anyone who still plays.

But hey, participating locations will be holding open house events to promote the new Guilds of Ravnica during the weekend of Sept. 21-23. Amazing Heroes in Union is listed to run an open house on Saturday, Sept. 22… if I’m not working, maybe I’ll be able to go and check it out.

~ ~ ~

Over the weekend, I read an article by Richard Dyer calling for a revolution in baseball broadcasting. While his modest proposal isn’t entirely practical, he’s not wrong. Baseball’s traditional broadcast formula, which pairs an ex-player analyst with play-by-play man and a sideline reporter, has worked for a number of years and still works for part of MLB’s audience. But it doesn’t work for everyone.

For each baseball broadcast, create a menu of commentary choices for fans. Have just one visual presentation, but allow fans to pick the style of broadcast they want to hear.

Watch your game, but pick from these broadcast menu choices:
1. Traditional play-by-play guy/color guy broadcast.

2. Sabermetric broadcast (which has already been done several times by Brian Kenny on the MLB Network). Brian Kenny, SABR President Vince Gennaro, or ESPN’s Keith Law, to name a few.

3. Comedian and humorist broadcast. Bill Murray, Jerry Seinfeld, Hank Azaria (“Brockmire”), Paul Rudd, or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (Robert Smigel). Let’s have some real laughs for once.

Dyer suggests five other menu choices which is at least five more than would be feasible. But really, why couldn’t you offer some different options for different fans? You might just manage to build baseball’s audience.