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So much stuff! — March 15, 2018

So much stuff!

I have had a lot going on recently, which has had me too stressed out to get any thoughts jotted down… but good news, tomorrow will be my last day at my current job, and then I’m switching over to an opportunity with better compensation, more human interaction, and based on creativity and creation!

I’m hoping this will give me more time (and energy) to both draw and write, so in anticipation I want to get quick thoughts out about a bunch of different things that I’ve watched/played/seen/whatever lately

  • Black Panther
    • My parents, my wife, and I all went to see Black Panther on it’s opening weekend, and I absolutely loved it! The tone of the movie felt just a bit different from other Marvel origin stories, which helped buy a pass on the standard final scene of the hero fighting an evil version of themselves, and it was awesome to see so many ass-kicking-women!
  • Celeste
    • If you haven’t played it yet, you really should! Celeste is, at first glance, a pretty straight forward platform with four main mechanics; jump, climb, walljump, and airdash. While it does hit these mechanics exceptionally well, what really makes it something special is the story that it tells, which I think will touch anyone who has experienced or known someone who has experienced anxiety, depression, or even just self-doubt.
  • Tabletop RPGs
    • I’ve been part of tabletop group here in town for a few months now, and it’s been great to get to play again. Our game is a homebrew on old school DnD and a few other systems, which is exceptionally lethal. In the few campaigns I’ve played in before, I’ve never lost a character… in this I’ve lost about 4. What’s great, though, is that the creative story telling stays fun, even when my characters are exploding from the inside out, or getting murdered by the brain-washed friends, or attacked by swarms of butterflies.
  • Superhot
    • This game was super fun! I want to play it in VR, but also think playing it in VR might melt my brain.
  • PUBG/Awful Squad Jr
    • PUBG is a great game, if you have a good group to play with. Awful Squad Jr is that group.
  • Off to be the Wizard
    • A buddy recommended this book series to me, and I’m really digging it! I’m part way through book 3 so far, and the first is still the best, but I’m still really liking it! The audiobook is great, too!
  • Movie Trailers
    • Incredibles 2
      • Yes!
    • Christopher Robin
      • Pooh!
    • Mary Poppins Returns
      • My mom’ll love it!
  • Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men
    • I started this run years ago, and didn’t get pulled in to it for some reason… Tried again last week, and pushed through the whole things in a few days. I laughed! I cried! I cursed Joss for being Joss!
  • Bendis Assembled
    • This is a podcast covering Brian Michael Bendis’ run on New Avengers (and a boatload of other books). It’s giving me motivation to read a bunch of storylines I always meant to get to, for which I really appreciate it!


The definitive ranking of every cooking show ever. — January 30, 2018
You know what I just watched? The Orville — January 28, 2018

You know what I just watched? The Orville

My wife and I just finished up watching the first season of The Orville, and overall… it’s pretty good! Unlike Star Trek: Discovery, Seth MacFarlane’s love letter to Next Gen era Trek doesn’t try to push the formula into brave new worlds, but it is consistently fun, intermittently funny, and occasionally poignant throughout it’s initial run. To wrap up my thoughts on the first season, here are three sentence reviews of each of it’s 12 episodes, without going back and watching them at all, because that’s how I roll… apparently.

1. Old Wounds

The Orville ships out with MacFarlane’s Captain Ed Mercer in command and XO/Ex-Wife Kelly, portrayed fantastically by Adrianne Palicki, at his side. The ship, aliens, and costumes all look fantastic from the jump, and the crew introductions provide some genuine laughs (and a few groans). Everything seems to work okay, except for the love/hate dynamic between the Captain and First Officer.

2. Command Performance

Oh look, a whole episode about the love/hate dynamic between Ed and Kelly! It seems like if this is going to be focus, we need to see them handle this like adults, instead of making jokes about workplace harassment. Ed’s interaction with his parents about his prostate is everything that is wrong with the comedy in this show, but seeing a crew member from an all male species hatch a daughter brings a lot of heart and is super intriguing.

3. About a Girl

The crew wrestles with how to deal with Second-Officer Bortus’ (Peter Macon) daughter, in an interesting parallel to current conversations about gender politics. It’s nice to see the court room drama trope come in to play, since that’s such a staple of Trek, but the surprise arrival of another female Moclan is dampened by having her exhibit stereotypically feminine physical qualities. The ending judgement has the society standing up for their societal norms, and enforcing a male gender on the female-born baby, reflecting the grossness of allowing a state’s rights to override an individual’s.

4. If the Stars Should Appear

An awesome exploration of the trope of a society that doesn’t realize that they are living on a spacecraft, and not a planet. The reveals throughout are cool, and Liam Neeson’s cameo is pretty fun. The B-Story about Bortus trying to figure out how to deal with his duties and a newly grown family is an interesting exploration of life on a starship, but portraying his partner as a bit of a nag felt cheap.

5. Pria

playing on the con-man as time traveler trope seen in “A Matter of Time”, Charlize Theron flips the script by actually being both. Seeing the captain fall so quickly and completely under her spell made me miss the more reserved commanding officers of the Federation. Watching Ed’s best friend and helmsman Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes) try to teach the robotic Data-stand-in, Isaac (Mark Jackson), the art of the practical joke was phenomenal.

6. Krill

What if some of our crew members had to go undercover as members of our greatest enemies? It’s another pretty on the nose trope, but the comedy seems to be really hitting a stride here, especially with Malloy. The mass-murder ending took me by surprise, considering how much time was spent letting us get to know the Krill.

7. Majority Rule

Another attempt at true, Trek-style social commentary, this time looking at the value placed in social media’s social currency, especially Reddit’s up and down votes. It’s great to see Lamar get to step in to the spotlight, but a shame that he behaves so obliviously all the time. Ultimately, this episode makes a pretty compelling argument against the idea of the popular vote, which is a weird stance for a fairly liberal show to take with the current POTUS in office.

8. Into the Fold

Penny Johnson Jerald’s Dr. Claire Finn and Isaac, get to take the spotlight in this weeks episode, when a shuttle crashes on a planet with a diseased and cannibalistic populous, leaving Finn’s children in Isaac’s care while she is abducted by an overprotective “savior”. The children and Dr Finn both end up taking up arms against hostiles, giving us an exploration of the morality of self defense. Mostly, though, both watching Finn murder someone and seeing a kid take up a fire arm was just uncomfortable.

9. Cupid’s Dagger

Oh hey, another episode all about the relationship between Kelly and Ed, this time based on the man she had an affair with coming aboard and causing everyone to fall in love. Rob Lowe does a great job filling the Lwaxana Troi role in this romance romp, and is charming to the viewer, even without secreting phermones everywhere. Unfortunately, a lot of the humor and even the resolution for this episode is based way too heavily in date-rape analogies and a complete ignorance of consent, which means nothing really works.

10. Firestorm

It’s a holodeck-gone-wrong epsisode, except it turns out that it’s done intentionally. I get that we’re having Alara (Halston Sage) literally face her fears, but it seems like this goes well past confrontation to intentional psychological torture. Also, why clowns?

11. New Dimensions

This one started off pretty awesome, with a look at a two dimensional civilization living in a two dimensional reality, but then the Orville ended up being able to just fly through it as a three dimensional ship, for some reason? I feel like letting them slide through without really being impacted limited any interesting explorations. Unless it was trying to be a metaphor for Lamar’s (J. Lee) character development where, I guess, he’s not a dummy anymore and is going to be our Engineer, because Geordi?

12. Mad Idolatry

This is an episode of Voyager, from the main plot conceit, to the timeline not really making sense at all, but it was still super fun. Kelly is a great character, so it was awesome for her to really steal the spotlight, and I liked that the ultimate message wasn’t “Religion is bad because it’s fake”, but was instead “Belief and community are essential, regardless of their origin. Also, it looks like they are finally going to drop the will-they-won’t-they through-line for season two!

And that’s it! Looking back on these episodes, I had more complaints than I expected to, but overall I really did enjoy the series. My big hope for the future is that they’ll spend more time thinking of the impact of the scenarios they set up, a little bit less time on dick and fart jokes (not 100%, but a little), and a lot less time harassing Kelly.

It’s incredible to me that we have both this and Discovery on TV at the same time, and I like what they are both doing for the Sci-Fi genre. Orville, I’ll see you in Season 2!

Review: The Martian – Listen to the book, skip the movie — January 4, 2018

Review: The Martian – Listen to the book, skip the movie

If you know nothing about The Martian, stop reading this and go listen to the Audiobook! Seriously, I’ve got a lot of thoughts about it, and the rest of this post is going to be written pretty much specifically to try to convince you to listen to the Audiobook, but if you don’t know anything at all going in your experience will be so much better!

Still here, huh? Then either you don’t care about spoilers, or you’ve already experienced this story, either through the Matt Damon movie, the book by Andy Wier, or the Audiobook read by R. C. Bray. When I started listening to the Audiobook with my wife a few months back, I knew pretty much the basic premise, that it was the story of a guy (NASA Astronaut Mark Watney) stuck on Mars who had to “science the shit” out of figuring out how to stay alive, and not much else. Last week, I finished listening to the Audiobook, and a few days ago I watched the movie.

My short review is that the movie was disappointing, specifically because the audiobook is so good! However, I don’t think I would have gotten through this story if I read the actual book. The majority of the story is told through logs from the stranded astronaut, so the narrative device fits with the audio format perfectly. On top of that, a fair amount of the text is devoted to the narrator working out issues mathematically, and I think reading through those calculations would have been mind numbingly boring.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get in to what made the movie so, so disappointing.


The movie fails to live up to the original text because it simultaneously undermines the achievements of the main character while overstating how important his achievements are.

The first major change that stood out to me was that the Mark Watney of the book introduces himself as both a Botanist and an Engineer, while Matt Damon’s character tells the viewer he is going to survive because he is a botanist, even holding up his NASA file which is labeled, exclusively, “Botanist”. This immediately threw up flags for me, because so many of the challenges faced by Mark in the book were engineering based. Pretty much every issue Mark encounters in the book requires his engineering background over his Botany skills, but the movie is only interested in his quest for potatoes. Case in point: here are steps taken to retrieve Pathfinder in both versions:

Book Mark Movie Mark
Steal the battery from one Rover to increase the capacity in the other Steal the battery from one Rover to increase the capacity in the other
Figure out where to store the battery in the second rover Not an issue, because the movie Rover has a huge flatbed.
Test drive the rover within walking distance of his home base to ensure it wouldn’t fail and leave him (more) stranded “Bah, who needs testing.”
Find the RTG to heat the Rover Find the RTG to heat the Rover
Determine exactly how much insulation to remove from the Rover in order to balance the heat put out by the RTG and the loss of heat to the Martian cold The movie’s RTG is apparently a comfy 72 degrees
Develop a technique to navigate to ensure he didn’t get lost on his way to or from Pathfinder “Eh… I’ll just go that way, I guess?”
Figure out how to transport Pathfinder back See flatbed-Rover notes above
Modulate the electrical connection between the HAB and Pathfinder to not overload it Just plug it in!

A fair amount of this is just the need for movies to be more efficient with the storytelling, but removing these sections makes Mark seem luckier than he is smart.

On top of skipping over almost all of his smaller, incremental engineering achievements, the movie also removes two major obstacles from Watney’s journey from his original landing site to the Ares IV rocket he hopes to use to escape Mars. First, the movie version of Watney is able to stay in contact with Earth for the entriety of his journey after establishing contact using Pathfinder, and second, a major dust storm that threatens his trip in the book is dropped entirely. Considering the first exception, I can see why the dust storm was cut, because if he had been in contact with NASA in the book at that point, they’d just tell him to drive around, instead of him having to solve it himself. But that’s the problem; keeping Mark in contact with Earth means that a lot of the problems he had to work out himself in the book are solved by NASA, not him. It also makes one of the best lines from both the book and movie not make any sense.

As he’s preparing to go take the Ares IV rocket, both versions of Watney decide that they are space pirates:

I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars. There’s an international treaty saying that no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. By another treaty if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies. So Mars is international waters. Now, NASA is an American non-military organization, it owns the Hab. But the second I walk outside I’m in international waters. So Here’s the cool part. I’m about to leave for the Schiaparelli Crater where I’m going to commandeer the Ares IV lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m onboard the Ares IV. So I’m going to be taking a craft over in international waters without permission, which by definition… makes me a pirate. Mark Watney: Space Pirate.

This is the movie version of the speech… do you see the problem? He says no one has given him permission, “and they can’t until I’m onboard the Ares IV.” Except… he’s in direct contact with NASA! He’s having AIM chats with Venkat Vincent Kapoor every day! I know this seems like a nitpicky thing (hell, this whole post is nitpicky), but the inclusion of a line from the book without the context that made the line make any sort of sense stands out as a real failure at adaptation.

The biggest issue I have with the movie, though, is that it seems to miss the point of the book entirely with it’s ending. Both end with a monologue from Watney, but in different contexts. In the book, he’s recording a final log after being rescued, while in the movie he’s speaking to a class of potential future astronauts. Let’s look at both for comparision.

Movie Mark:

The other question I get most frequently is. When I was up there stranded by myself, did I think I was gonna die? Yes, absolutely. And that’s one you need to know, going in, because it’s gonna happen to you. This is space. It does not cooperate. At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, questions?

Book Mark:

If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.

If we subscribe to the idea that how a story ends tells you what the story is about, and I do, then the movie is about the incredible achievements of one man, while the book is about mankind binding together.

And that takes us all the way back to the beginning of my problems, with the glossing over of exactly how many issues our hero sciences the shit out of. The movie, has Mark Watney solving about three major problems on his own, and then ends with bragging about how great he is, while the book has him running up against countless problems, mostly on his own, and then applauding the entirety of the human race.

The more that I think about that difference, the more bothered by it I am… as evidenced by the fact that when I started writing this I thought it’d be about 500 words, and it’s now almost 1500. The movie was beautiful, but I don’t think it’s just a weak adaptation, I really think it undermines the story, so if that’s all you know of the Martian, go listen to the Audiobook!

Get The Martian book, audiobook, or movie over at Amazon!

Christmas music is weird — December 24, 2017

Christmas music is weird

I love Christmas.

I’ve got a big family, and we’ve always had big celebrations with tons of traditions around Christmas time. We were never raised religious, but Christmas has always been a celebration of family and togetherness. Every year we make tones of food, give gifts, and listen to boatloads of Christmas music. This year, we even went to a “Caroling and Cocktails” show put on by our friend Michael John, and got lyrics sheets to help us sing along. As the night wore on, I realized that I only know about three lines to most Christmas songs, and the lines I don’t know are really, really weird.

Quick, gut reaction, what is “O Christmas Tree” about? A pretty tree, right,? It’s got lovely branches and… something else? Let me tell you what else. It brings pleasure. Much pleasure, even! “Much pleasure thou can give me“. I guess that’s fine… it’s a bit of a weird way to say that you like looking at a tree, but fair enough. It’s also a God given tree. “How richly God has decked thee.” Okay, so it’s a tree that God decorated, that’s fine. Except it’s also here with a demand. “Thou bidst us true and faithful be, and trust in God unchangingly.” That’s right, this isn’t a person singing about their own tree, they are signing about a pleasure giving tree decked by God, and this tree is demanding the unwavering devotion and trust of the singer.

There were a bunch of lines like that throughout the night.. some weird in how they incoporate God and Christ, some just weird. Here’s some highlights:

“Hail the Flesh, the God Head see, Hail the incarnate diety.” – Okay, without context, you can’t tell me that this doesn’t sound like a DnD summoning spell.

“Troll the ancient Yuletide carol.” – What did Carol do to deserve us all trolling her?

“Let men their songs employ; while fields and floods, rock, hills and plans repeat the sounding joy.” – Men are going to hire some songs, then have use the living earth as an amplifier?

“Later we’ll have some pumpkin pie and we’ll do some caroling.” – Pumpkin Pie? At Christmas? For shame!

It’s really weird diving in to music that I’ve listened to my whole life without ever really processing the lyrics. It turns out that there’s a lot in these songs that I don’t really know the meaning to. But still, at the end of the night, when a room full of strangers all sang White Christmas together… it definitely meant something.