Watch Netflix’s “Black Mirror” if you like “Orphan Black”

I just binge watched the first two seasons of the British TV program Black Mirror on Netflix. If you liked Orphan Black you should definitely watch Black Mirror. Fuck that. You should watch Black Mirror even if you didn’t like Orphan Black.

Each episode of Black Mirror stands alone and is completely unrelated to the other episodes. Unrelated other than the fact that each one will make you think about and how we interact with each other and technology. Every single episode made me think about my own interactions with technology (e.g., the smart phone most of us carry with us 24/7). Not to mention my own base instincts about retributive justice or what it means to interact with someone I love.

Very few TV shows have affected me as deeply as Black Mirror. A similar TV series which was too short lived was The Booth at the End on Hulu.

Video of my dogs playing while I play with my new Canon 5D Mark III camera

Recently my next door neighbor acquired a female puppy. My two male dogs have been having a great time playing with the puppy. I finally grabbed my expensive Canon 5D Mark III DSLR camera, put the 50mm lens on it, and recorded the dogs playing a couple of nights ago. This is the first time I’ve used the video feature of the camera and was pleasantly surprised. Especially since it was late evening and the light level was low. The videos I’ve embedded below are approximately half the resolution of the original.

This video includes another neighbor’s dog, buddy, a Boston Terrier, who stopped by unexpectedly.

Here we see Cronut, my neighbor’s puppy, playing with Hank, my Chihuahua/Terrier mix. The Black Lab/Basset Hound mix that is only interested in the tennis ball is my other dog Junior.

Here we have two children who regularly come by to play with the dogs make an appearance.

Just saw the trailer for the movie “The Martian” and it looks awesome

I just watched “Straight Outta Compton”. Which I highly recommend. But that isn’t the reason for this post.

The reason for this post is the trailer for “The Martian” which played before the movie. It looks awesome and has a fantastic cast. Best of all the trailer makes it clear the movie will hew closely to the book with a strong emphasis on reason, rationality, and respect for science. I can’t recommend the book highly enough and the movie looks like something I’ll probably watch twice in the theater.

Movie Review: Jurassic World

I just wasted an afternoon watching a summer blockbuster movie even worse than San Andreas. Even though I only payed $5.50 to watch the movie I still feel like I was ripped off. At least San Andreas had Paul Giamitti portraying a scientist who wasn’t an idiot or amoral asshole. Too, very little of the dialog in San Andreas was laughable. The same cannot be said about Jurassic World.

The only redeeming feature of Jurassic World is the CGI. The dialog is awful. The acting is awful. It’s clear that Chris Pratt understands he is in a movie that deserves an over the top performance.

A few people sitting behind me clapped at the end of the movie. They were clearly not being ironic given other emotive outbursts I heard from them throughout the film. The only reason I would clap is because the fucking train wreck was over.

Interesting reviews of Nick Offerman’s new book

I learned today, thanks to The Daily Show, that Nick Offerman (best known for playing Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation”) has a new book titled “Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers”. I loved his first book, “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living” and gave it a rare five star rating. I would listen to him read the back of a box of breakfast cereal. So I was elated to learn that his new book was available on Audible.com and rushed over there to purchase a copy.

Some of the Audible listener reviews from conservatives are jaw dropping. The first is from Erin Gilmore who writes

It’s not as good as his first book. Very heavy on politics and religion, and sadly Mr. Offerman adheres to most of the Hollywood ideology. While he tries to come across as middle of the road, he most definitely spouts off his hatred against anyone who believes in God and anyone who is conservative. I honestly think he’s still trying to figure out what he truly believes.

Erin is clearly not reading (or listening) for comprehension. It was absolutely clear in Offerman’s first book that he is a “Hollywood” liberal and has a low opinion of evangelical Christians (which Erin appears to be). I honestly don’t understand how she could be surprised that he continues to exhibit disdain for people like her in his second book. Too, I still don’t understand how a “Hollywood” liberal differs from someone like myself; a software engineer with zero artistic ability but a very liberal viewpoint.

The second is from Kenny who writes

I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately he seems to be stereo typical Hollywood liberal. Stating very many opinion that have very little facts to support then. Corporations are evil, GMO’s, hydraulic fracturing, cars, technology, USA are all evil. It seems to me he wishes that the country in the world would stay in the 1900s and have stopped evolving since then. His writings on World War II are downright juvenile. Overall there are some very interesting characters that I hadn’t know the ton about before hand. Unfortunately his spouting made me want to constantly turn this audiobook off.

I love that Kenny can say with a straight face that “His writings… are downright juvenile.” while being incapable of writing a grammatically correct sentence or coherent paragraph. Something most people who read books are able to do by the time they reach adulthood. Kenny also felt the need to post the same review twice.

I don’t know if Cody is being sincere or trolling but I agree with the sentiment about Offerman’s first book when he comments that

Mr. Offerman has come into his own with this book writing thing. His second book is exponentially better than his first and I enjoyed the first more than a colonoscopy. That being said, I can’t wait to read his sixth book

White trash heterosexuals raising children with godly morals

This is what happens when you let heterosexuals raise children.

Said by a commenter on the Joe My God blog article about a brawl between two women at a Walmart in Beech Grove, Indiana. The comment is in response to learning that one of the woman instructed her son to:

Johnny, punch here in the face! Johnny, punch her in the fucking face!

This is the perfect counter-example to all the bigoted xtians who wail about homosexuals being allowed to marry and adopt children. It’s true I don’t know that these women are god fearing Christians. However, the city of Beech Grove is 92% white and Indiana as a whole is staunchly Republican. Too, Indiana’s current head is Governor Mike Pence, a bigoted tea-party idiot. And according to the Pew Research Center Indiana is 72% xtian. So it’s a pretty safe bet that these women are god fearing xtians who believe that without God they would be free to do whatever they felt like doing. Such as brawling in public.

Johnny, punch her in the face!

<sarcasm alert>Yes, we definitely need more God fearing Christians in our society. <eye-roll>

Movie review: “San Andreas”

San Andreas” is what I call a summer popcorn movie. Something very different from the art house fare I usually watch (e.g., “Far From the Madding Crowd“). That was reflected in the audience which included a man who fiddled with his phone, making no attempt to shield the screen, at least eight times throughout the film. He was close enough to be annoying but far enough away that I couldn’t discreetly tell him to stop being a self-centered asshole. Too, a lot of the audience applauded at the end. Which made me think these are people who think the TV show “Duck Dynasty” is awesome.

Let me start with the two things about the movie that were good: Paul Giammati’s performance as the scientist and the special effects. Not only was Paul’s performance excellent his character avoided the usual movie scientist cliches. And the CGI special effects were for the most part amazingly realistic and blended extremely well into the live action.

The rest of the movie was a disaster (pun intended). Formulaic. Stocked with the usual disaster movie stereotypes and cardboard cutout characters. No thinking required because you could predict the next scene and each scene required no knowledge of what preceded it.

The opening scene wasn’t just implausible it was downright ludicrous. It portrayed a helicopter (piloted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character) descending into canyon narrower in places than the diameter of the helicopter’s rotors. The pilot deals with that by angling the helicopter along its long axis to “side slip” into the canyon. And he did it with a civilian reporter and cameraman onboard. Such ludicrous scenes appeared every few minutes from start to finish. Which is acceptable in a movie like “Avengers: Age of Ultron” or “Mad Max: Fury Road” where you know you’re in a comic book universe (and I thoroughly enjoyed both). In “San Andreas” it just made me chuckle every time it occurred.

I’m damn happy I only paid $5.50 for a Sunday matinee showing. Had I paid $11+ I would be royally pissed.

Movie review: “The Last Brickmaker in America”

I put “The Last Brickmaker in America” in my Netflix queue solely because it starred Sidney Poitier. If you haven’t seen “To Sir, with Love”, “In the Heat of the Night”, and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” you really should do so. Those were filmed when Mr. Poitier was at his peak and are amazing films. Especially the last one which is set in the 1960’s and involves an interracial romance that has both sets of parents initially dead set against the pending marriage.

In “The Last Brickmaker in America” the only redeeming feature is Mr. Poitier’s performance. Let me start by pointing out that the DVD begins with trailers for four other “family friendly” (a phrase mentioned several times) films. One of the trailers included the breathlessly intoned “This is the film Christians have been waiting for.” The distributor of this film and at least two of the trailers is Phase 4 Films. Their logo makes you immediately think of a Christian cross. Given the company is based in North America and focuses on family-oriented films that is probably intentional:

Phase 4 Films logo

This is apparently a made for TV movie similar to those produced by the Hallmark Channel that anyone watching TV in the 1970’s and 1980’s will remember. Unfortunately this is movie is far worse than anything I remember from the Hallmark Channel.

Every single character is cherubic with not a hair out of place and clothing so clean and starched, even when digging a ditch, you marvel at their ability to go through life as if every moment was wearing their Sunday best as they enter church. The child protagonist is given dialog that is completely unbelievable for a 13 year old.

There were a couple of memorable scenes before I gave up around the halfway point and ejected the DVD. The first was a set piece between the estranged husband and wife. The husband is expressing his frustration that the wife not only went to college after they were married but went on to have a career that didn’t involve spending all day cooking and cleaning their home. The second was a storm of biblical proportions that destroyed several hundred bricks the Poitier character and the child protagonist had made earlier that day. Note that this wasn’t just an unexpected rain storm. It was a hurricane level event. Something you might think the national weather service might have predicted and a brick maker might have prepared for.

I remember when “God’s Not Dead” was released last year. I did not waste my money to see it in the theater. Not even a $5.50 matinee showing. Yet based on the reviews of “God’s Not Dead” I can only conclude it is a better movie than “The Last Brickmaker In America”.

I just learned there is a Christian movie even worse than the one I just wrote about. This review of “C Me Dance” by The Bible Reloaded team makes “The Last Brickmaker in America” seem almost Oscar worthy in comparison. Also, see the reviews of “C Me Dance” on IMDB. Awful dialog, storylines, acting, directing and cliches seem to epitomize “Christian” movies. This is itself a strong argument for reducing the influence of Christianity in America.

Californians starting to worry about climate change

Andy Borowitz nails it again at “The Borowitz Report” from which I give you a couple paragraphs:

SACRAMENTO (The Borowitz Report) – A new poll shows that Americans who were unconcerned about climate change as it wreaked havoc around the world are beginning to worry, now that global warming is affecting the appearance of their lawns.

and

In interviews across the state of California, residents expressed anger and outrage that climate change had been allowed to worsen to the point that it has now severely limited their choice of ground cover, shrubs, and other decorative plantings.

Yes, it’s satire. Sadly it also reflects the reality that most people are self-centered and unable to think beyond next week and therefore won’t take climate change seriously until it affects them personally. Not to mention that they are likely to be upset by trivial effects (e.g., not being able to have a quarter-acre of lawn). It will be interesting to see how we react when forced to deal with major impacts like another dust bowl.

#Cinequest Film Festival day twelve

This is the last day of the Cinequest film festival and is the day they have encore screenings of films deemed particularly good. I managed to exceed my goal of 30 films. The express line pass (which costs an extra $100) was really useful for only two screenings this year, and three last year, so I’m not sure I’ll make that investment next year.

Film #29: “Factory Boss” tells the story of a factory owner and his workers in China. I worked in the Asia-Pacific region for 19 months almost 20 years ago. That included three trips totaling five weeks to mainland China. I did not visit any factories in China but did visit many factories elsewhere in the region (Malaysia, Singapore, India). So I was not surprised by the images of life in a major city in China or factory conditions. As a “far-left liberal” (the epithet people like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh apply as a pejorative to people like me) I expected, and did, identify with the factory workers. What surprised me was the empathy I felt for the owner of the toy factory as he struggled to keep his business in operation despite the pressures put on him by the American multi-national corporation. I rate this 4 of 5 stars.

Film #30: “For Here Or To Go?” focuses on the challenges faced by high-tech workers who come to work in America. In this case software engineers from India who come to work in Silicon Valley. I’m an American software-engineer who has been working in Silicon Valley the past seven years and in the field for thirty-five years. Thus I’ve worked with many people in the situation explored by this film (including other countries like Britain and Russia) and could readily relate to the core issue of the film. I also spent nineteen months working in Asia-Pacific and saw many Bollywood films during that time. Yet I found myself unable to really like this film for two reasons. First, the chemistry between the primary male and female characters just isn’t there. Second, and a more serious flaw, is the film has too many sub-plots. Including one having to do with the homosexuality of one character that seemed to be included simply because it is topical. I rate this 3 of 5 stars.

Film #31: “No Evidence Of Disease” is the phrase everyone wants to hear on follow up to treatment for cancer. This is a documentary about a group of doctors who specialize in trying to make that phrase a reality for women afflicted by cancers unique to women. As someone who underwent surgery for stage two skin cancer a few years ago (including having two lymph nodes removed in addition to excision of the primary site) I know how powerful that phrase is. I think the main failing of the film was its inability to explain why female gynecological cancers deserve extra attention above and beyond what any other cancer receives. The closest it comes is literally at the end of the movie when it states that male prostrate cancer research receives 50% more funding than female GYN cancer research. That was it. No details or supporting evidence for the assertion. Nor were the implications of that disparity explored. Sorry but I can’t rate this more than 3 of 5 stars.