Monday, February 26, 2024

OK, now that that's over with

Regular programming, such as it is, will resume.

There are some people who live manic. There's always something happening, and typically it's happening RIGHT NOW!!! Because they're late. And the next thing is also right now, and the thing after that is much too soon, and often the really, really important thing, which could be tomorrow, might as well be an eternity away, until it's OMFG it's due INSTANTLY. Such people often live in all caps, and I'm sparing you from that. And if you let them suck you into that life, you can confidently expect a heart attack, or stroke, or high blood pressure.

That describes much of the regular work world, and every day I'm happy I'm not in it any more. My major tool of coping was the important urgent matrix, sometimes called the Eisenhower Matrix. There are 4 boxes. The two columns are headed Urgent and Not Urgent. The two columns are Important and Not Important. Figuring out which tasks belong in which box is key to staying sane. 

Keep in mind that the box you put a task in might be considerably different from the box your boss (and their boss), might think it belongs in. Tact, balls of steel, being the only person that can do your job, and not caring if you get fired are, in order, the best tools for helping to explain to your boss why they are wrong about their box assignment.

I sometimes get fixated on a particular thing in my schedule, and want it done and over with. In many cases I dealt first with the thing that has an assigned due date, even if that date might be later than tomorrow. My thinking was that it would probably take longer than expected, and handing it in early gave them less time to change their mind about what they wanted. I learned that it was hard to focus on other things with the deadline task looming. Oddly enough, having multiple deadlines wasn't a problem. I just picked the first one.

So last Friday morning was a medical date that required several days of a restricted diet and an evening chugging 4 litres of an unpleasant fluid. I didn't do much else that week, kind of dreading the whole thing. Most of you probably know what I'm talking about. If you don't, you'll find out soon enough in the great scheme of things. It all went as well as could be expected, and hopefully I'll never have to do that again. No, I didn't watch the movie.

Like I said, now that that's over, back to regular programming. Except the lane swim hours at the pool suck this week, and the last time I went at the current hours, it was a total gong show. I was sharing a lane with 4 other people, and a few times I wasn't sure if there were 5. People were dropping in and out without letting the other people know. It usually only took a couple laps for them to figure out that yes indeed I do swim quite a bit quicker than they did, and to stop at the end of the lane. A couple more laps, and they learned not to stand in the centre of the lane.

I ended up doing 3K all in one go, in just over an hour, mainly because I could never get in the groove, and I had to look at the end of the lane every time to figure out what the other people were going. Good thing I didn't really care about my time. I just wanted to get it in and done.

Non-swim days, mostly, I try to get out for a walk with one of the cameras. Except today is minus teens before windchill, and I can see the breeze. After a few days of nice weather, I'm a softie again. I mean, yesterday I was outside in a T shirt grilling bison burgers.

Some wintery photos for you.

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)

Driftwood (BC), with two serendipity images.


Film (new) (Acros II) Fish Creek Mallard Point.

Film (old) Last of a film tour of the plant.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Remake rant

What triggered this was finding out there are people actively planning to do a remake, or reboot, or retconn, or whatever the word is, of the 2004 version of Battlestar Galactica. Which itself was a remake of the dreadful 70's era version. That one was so bad I was amazed anyone would consider remaking it, since the property was thoroughly tainted with the badness. Mind you, in such a case the bar for success is so low that almost anything would be better.

Except somehow they got it made, and people kept telling me how good it was. We eventually started getting the discs out of the library and really liked it. Critics said it was the best thing on television, and they might have been right. I don't watch enough television to have an opinion. We even got a deal on the boxed set, and I was going to rewatch them in the correct order while doing spin training on my bike. Except for complicated reasons that didn't work out.

My big question throughout the series was wondering how much of a pay cut James Callis (Baltar) took when he found out that Trica Helfer (Six) was going to spend significant time draped all over him in that slinky red dress. Somewhere on that ship there must have been a huge booze production facility, since they seemed to run out of everything else except that.

So once upon a time there was Batman, a cheesy 60's era TV show. It was so bad it was good, and there's a market for that. (I'll come right out and say I like a good bad movie.) I saw the 1989 movie and was not impressed. There are a great many listings in IMDB for Batman, I know some are remakes, and others are sequels, and others are related stories in that universe, it's hard to tell. Not interested in any of them. OK, the clips of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, I'll cop to that, and the same for Heath Ledger as the Joker, but not the rest of it.

There was the 50's era TV version of Superman, and when I look at IMDB, there are a great many versions since then. I saw the 1978 version and wasn't impressed. There's been well over a dozen movies or TV shows with Superman in the title. I don't know if they would all be remakes, some seem to be sequels. Not interested in any of them.

Now that I think about it, I did see the one Batman sequel with Michelle Pfeiffer because, Michelle Pfeiffer. The rest of it was dreadful. There might have been another one I saw because our work team went out to celebrate something, but I'm pretty sure I slept through it. Superhero movies are boring, and the recent spat of superhero movies interested me not even a tiny little bit. 

I'm not even going to talk about the endless Star Wars or Star Trek add-on's to the original material. Then there's  King Kong and Godzilla. So many remakes! What on earth is the attraction? Sure, tell the story once. Done. Move onto something else.

So why a remake of Battlestar Galactica? I'm guessing it's been 20 years, so the network execs know it only by rumour. Like book editors who want something fresh and new, but exactly like what they know has sold in the past, the execs don't know how to tell a new story. They'd rather stir old dough and hope nobody notices. Or maybe it's a network exec bigger dick thing, my version is better than yours.

And besides, they tried telling another story in that universe. It's called Caprica, and it got cancelled pretty quick. I'm wondering how they can top the 2004 version? Although perhaps telling it from the Cylon point of view might be interesting. Maybe if Tricia Helfer is involved again, I'd consider it.

A digression. Back in the day when there were stores where one could rent DVD's, we liked browsing. So about 2002 when Ocean's Eleven came out we went to rent it. A clerk asked if he could help us find something. I told him I wanted the first version of Ocean's Eleven. He gave me a funny look because I had the George Clooney version in my hands. I told him we would watch the remake, but wanted to watch the original again. He thought this one was the original. He didn't believe me when I told him about the 1960's version. I made him look it up. Of course, the remake was so-so, and the following sequels were no better, till Ocean's Eight. I watched that one. The plot was predictable, but the star power! That was fun.

There are a few exceptions to the rule that the sequel is always worse. Aliens and Terminator: Judgement Day come to mind. The Terminator TV show was pretty good as well, just finding it's feet as it was cancelled. That happens so often.

The thing to keep in mind is that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. According to the authority of E. B. White, there are a certain number of words necessary to tell that story. Adding more doesn't make it better, just like adding parts to a functional machine doesn't make it better. In the movie world, things aren't so cut and dried, but there is an optimum length for a movie. Sometimes more is good, adding detail and richness to the story. Sometimes more is bad, padding out the story with flab. (Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies, I'm looking at you!) 

It's said that there are really only 7 original plots, and everything is a version, or combination of those elements. In that sense, West Side Story is a brilliant retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Or that other works of Shakespeare fueled Akira Kurosawa, who in turn fueled the producers of various spaghetti westerns and Star Wars. 

Why do remakes when there are so many stories out there begging to be made into a movie or TV show? I'd line up to see a BBC version of just about any Georgette Heyer novel, especially the Regency Romance novels. There's a couple short Alfred Bester novels that would make a terrific movie. Done right, the Lensman series could be good, or it could be terrible. I'd love to see Larry Niven's Known Space stories on screen, though Ringworld is supposed to be coming to Amazon Prime any decade now. The Mote in God's Eye could be a great movie, with no shortage of other war stories in that universe; you'd think that would excite the network execs. Bujold talked a bit about a movie option for one of her Vorkosigan books, and was relieved it didn't come to fruition. The network execs had butchered the story beyond recognition because they said it would sell better, while the novel had won a Hugo.

There was even talk of doing a remake of Princess Bride, which would be an utter travesty. That is very nearly a perfect movie. Fortunately that project seems dead now. (I am manfully restraining myself from quotes. If you know, you know. And if you don't, just go watch the movie, you can thank me later.)

So what should the rules be around remakes? Personally, I'd say as long as anyone involved with the original production is still alive, remakes are out. Clever retellings, or retellings with a twist, but without the original character names, are probably ok. Sequels, hmmm. If there's actually more to the story, and it isn't just doing the story over again, I guess are ok. 

While my blood is up, let's explore another aspect of why Hollywood productions are all so bad, with very, very few exceptions. If there's a problem, it's solved with guns, or maybe an oh so macho manly fist fight. Both of these "solutions" go on and on, well past boredom. Personally, these sorts of movies should be restricted to 18+. After all, just about anything happening with guns in these movies is depicting an actual crime. Yet 3 F bombs or a flash of boobs and a movie is restricted.

Yes, I know they are movies, and here I go bringing reality into again. I'm fine with conventions like there always being a parking spot near the entrance. I know the actor really isn't driving, but it's barely safe to let most people drive when they have nothing else to think about, and acting is harder than it looks, so yes, they've rigged up a Rube Goldberg contraption where someone else actually drives, or it's a clever fake in a studio.

But I've no patience with a plot that relies on the stupidity of characters, or their inability to say a simple thing that would clarify the situation. I don't want to watch teenagers (and especially adults playing teenagers) emoting, or trying to, which is one of the reasons superhero movies are boring. High school was a dreadful time for me, and I've no wish to revisit it. I made it through one season of Veronica Mars (because Kristen Bell) gritting my teeth and rolling my eyes. 

I'm tired of the revenge story. The one man against the world story. The conspiracy behind everything story. Gratuitous nudity (male or female) or the opposite, the pulling sheets off the bed to avoid nudity. Chase scenes in general, but especially when the characters are cardboard at best. The ticking countdown clock. Related to the prevalence of guns in movies, the villains are bad shots. And the villain talks too much rather than getting on with carrying out his or her evil plans for world domination. (And if they were THAT competent, let's let them run things, it couldn't be worse than the current clowns in office, could it?) I love cats, but using them for cheap jump scares is demeaning to their dignity. Being a photographer, I know you can't zoom deep into a photo (on screen or in print) for endless detail. And of course, deus ex machina. 

What did you like, if anything, I hear you asking. I quite liked most of Elementary, especially the season with John Noble. The earlier seasons of Leverage. Slow Horses and Killing Eve were wonderful. The afore mentioned Battlestar Galactica. Arrival was brilliant, and the opening scene brought joy to my photographer heart. The Good Place. Most of Lucifer was fun. The earlier seasons of Big Bang Theory. Most of Stargate SG-1. The Fifth Element. The Usual Suspects. Alien and Aliens, but not the rest. Terminator, T2, and the Sarah Conner Chronicles, with Dark Fate being an almost, and the rest are bad. I talked about Foundation in earlier blogs. Leon the Professional. All the Miss Marples with Joan Hickson, the other's are pale imposters. I still say that Yes Minister, and Yes Prime Minister are some of the wittiest shows ever. Fargo, the movie. Dead Like Me. My Fair Lady (which is a retelling, rather than a remake, I think, but so fabulous it should close the doors on any further remakes.)

That should give you an idea of what I've enjoyed. The most recent thing for me is Slow Horses season three and I can't wait for the rest. I'm not sure what's next. We are looking through Apple + while it's a freebie from buying a new Apple TV box. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

124 so far

Wine kits that is. I'm in the middle of the 124th now, and just started the next one. The kits say they make 30 bottles, but that's pretty rare. I normally get 29 bottles, and maybe a half bottle for a taster or to cook with. Many of them are surprisingly good right out of the carboy. 

A bit of arithmetic and that comes to about 3712 bottles have ended up on our wine racks. There are just over 300 bottles downstairs now, meaning we have drunk or given away 3400 bottles. That's since June 2002, or about 7900 days. Thus a bottle every couple or three days, depending on exactly how many we've given away. Our financial advisor and her team are the main recipient of the give away. 

The cost for making wine was about 3 to 4 dollars a bottle when I started and now it's about $5. We buy the expensive kits but get a deal because the place we buy passes on the savings of an inexpensive location. That's about $13,000 wine expense over 21 years, or about $650 a year. I'd say that was pretty good, given that the price of even cheap wine in the liquor store makes me wince, and don't get me started on the prices in a restaurant. I was looking at one menu where the glass of wine was more expensive than some of the entrees. And people wonder why we don't go out to dinner much.

There's been some years I've made as many as 7 kits, but that kept me going into August. I'm only going to do 3 this year, and will still have to shuffle around some bottles to make room.

Just yesterday I was talking to a buddy who asked if I wanted his equipment, since they don't drink much wine anymore, and he's mainly into beer now. We don't drink as much wine as we used to either. A bottle a week is the typical consumption these days. Meaning the current stock would last nearly 8 years. Hmmmm.

Here's what it looks like this morning. I'll do the next step for the blend in the carboy, then it will sit for 6 weeks. The Pinot Gris was just started yesterday, and the yeast is happily doing its thing. For non-winemakers the green strip with the cord running to it is a heater to keep the wine at just the right temperature during fermentation.

These are the two kits on the go now, and there's one more coming in March. The store is in Red Deer so I'm going to take a scenic route and hope to capture some nice photos. One of my readers has come along in the past, and is welcome again. He knows who he is.

When I have a label left over it goes up on the wall, though I only started that after I'd been doing wine for a decade or so. I like to put one label in the book where I track the making of, and if necessary I'll carefully peel off the label and that goes on the wall. 

Some, of course, don't peel off nice. There's a dark green label that says Eminence Tempranillo. You probably can't read it, but it's the one up and to the left of the Riesling LE2014 label. That one is just brutal to remove; even the Goo Be Gone stuff barely takes the glue off. The blue one right beneath it is no better. The rule used to be that the easier they went on, the harder they were to get off. Now they are mostly peel and stick, and they unpeel off the glass quite nicely. Mostly.

The red tape, you ask? There are cuts in the vapour barrier, and the tape seals them up. There's lots of places that needed doing as I sealed up around the joists. I found all kinds of stuff that I'd forgotten we had.

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)

Driftwood (BC)


Film (new)

Film (old)
I'm not sure when this photo was taken. The occasion was an SCA corset making sweatshop, I mean workshop. I know who the two women on the right are, although I haven't seen either in many years, and no idea who the person on the left is. This is well before the reno that took out the wall where the cards are hanging and opened up the space quite a bit. The (then empty) basement was full of sewing machines and extra lights with about a mile of extension cord to power everything. It's a wonder we didn't blow a circuit breaker. 

You'll note the two board games, Empire Builder and Eurorails. I don't even know if you can buy them any more, but they're a fabulous board game for a small group. Once everybody clues in it goes pretty quick, as long as you keep track of what you're doing. There are any number of fun stories associated with playing the games with friends, but the one with Linda's mom was epic. The winner is the first to accumulate a certain amount of money. Normally when someone wins, another person would have won when it got to be their turn, and someone else would be just about to win in a turn or two. Linda's mom whipped our butts. First time playing the game she got an amazing run of luck to get the best contracts with the minimum amount of rail building. She won and nobody else had even half the winning amount of money. 

The big picture on the wall to the right is still there. I bought when we didn't have much money, and still like it now. The blue carpeting is long gone and I don't miss it a bit. Slate and hardwood is the way to go. The chair with the red cushion is still in daily use now with different cushions, but the love seat thingies are outside furniture when needed, which they haven't been needed for some time. Anyone want to come get them and the cushions?

Saturday, February 10, 2024

An Opening

I went to an art gallery opening the other night. No, not a fancy dress event where the men are in a tux and the women in slinky elegant gowns, with waiters handing out endless glasses of champagne. (All while there is some nefarious sub-plot happening.) This was a bit more prosaic. The space was the cSpace Marda Loop, in the old King Edward school.

The draw was my friend Sean presenting his exhibit that has taken him out of the ramble loop for months, albeit with periodic texts or phone calls about the various trials and tribulations involved with the production, and there might or might not have been swearing about masking in Photoshop. As well, Kristin has an exhibit of sublime photos from a trip to Africa. As a bonus, I even ran into several other people I knew, and it was fun to catch up. There's even several other photo exhibitions that are quite nice.

I'll be going back on the 15th to hear Sean giving a presentation about his work, and to take another look at it. Try to drop by to see all the exhibits, there's something for everyone.

If you've been keeping up, you know we finished season 2 Foundation during our Apple TV+ trial period. The next thing we're chewing through is Slow Horses, and we're loving it. I mean a line like "Bringing you up to speed is like trying to explain Norway to a dog." Gary Oldman is almost unrecognizable, but totally awesome!

Stay tuned for a burble about Garry Winogrand. My number finally came up for the library book. A big heavy book.

Here's one from a recent photo ramble along the Bow River near Quarry Park. This about a 3 minute long exposure to smooth out the water.

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)

Plus a woody serendipity.

Driftwood (BC)
Really it's more Linda on a beach than a driftwood photo. There's only a few more in this series to go.

Both from the Yukon, one found as the serendipity of the other. How's that for a coincidence?

Film (new)

Film (old)
Another of Linda working on her new flower box.

Friday, February 2, 2024

January Image of the Month

Just two related images this time. I wasn't out with any of the cameras all that much. Most of the images that show up in January were taken between late November and mid January or so, using 2 rolls of black and white film. I consider those in the month I scan them. I've blogged some of those here, if you haven't seen them. 

Most of the images are perfectly fine, and I'm happy with them, but they don't quite make the podium. In a couple senses, these two are not 'good' photos. There's lens flare from aiming into the sun, and all the dust spots you can count. They aren't 'of' anything in particular. 

But. I loved how the shadows and texture of the snow interacted in the runner up. I stopped and stared at the snow on the tree branches, hoping the film would catch the delicacy of the scene.

And it turns out the lens flare is exactly what I like about these images, and how it fades into dark shadows.

Runner up.

Image of the Month