Sunday, August 28, 2016

Smokelit Flashback V

"In My Dream I'll Catch You"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]



I’ve mentioned a couple of times1 that Smokelit Flashback is my longest mix.2  Volume VI is perhaps half done, and there’s a very rough roadmap for a volume VII, which is definitely more volumes than any other mix.  It was the first,3 so it makes sense that it’s collected the most tracks.  And downtempo, darkwave, and trip-hop continue to be interests of mine, and I find it great music to have in the background while I work.  So, given all that, it’s perhaps no surprise that I’m ready to present you with a mind-blowing fifth volume of this unusual mix, before I’ve ever even presented a fourth volume of any other mix.4

And, given what we’ve heard from the previous four volumes, there will be a lot of head-nodding and mumbles of “oh sure.”  Falling You is back, as is Hooverphonic.  Thievery Corporation, who we first heard on Smokelit Flashback III, is here, and gives us our volume title this time around (as well as providing our centerpiece: “Heaven’s Gonna Burn Your Eyes” is a pretty stunning track).  Mazzy Star returns from Smokelit Flashback II, with perhaps the best song off Among My Swan, “Umbilical,” which also provides our required “creepy” factor.5  While in general I don’t care for Among My Swan, this track’s pervasive organ, coupled with Hope Sandoval’s mumbled lyrics, are something you wouldn’t want to have missed.  Devics, who we first6 heard from last volume, is also back with a pretty tune off their amazing album My Beautiful Sinking Ship.

Also back from volume III is Goldfrapp, who once again embodies a smokey bar lounge singer transported from a sixty’s Bond movie better than anyone since Portishead.  Back from last volume is Beth Quist, giving us a vocal track this time out: “Blue Planet” is a bit more deliberate than what we’ve heard from her so far,7 and it’s just a wee bit haunting, which makes it fit perfectly here.  And, finally from the returning artist crew, French downtempo trio Télépopmusik, who provided the closer from last volume, give us another track off Genetic World, “Love Can Damage Your Health.”  (In fact, there’s a bit of a “Breathe” reprise at the end of this song.)  I wasn’t entirely sure where I first heard Télépopmusik, but Wikipedia just informed me that “Breathe” was used in a season 2 episode Six Feet Under,8 so I guess that was probably it.  Although I wasn’t inspired to go out and find them right then and there.  But I suppose that’s why it sounded vaguely familiar when I finally did discover it.

Also unsurprising to find here is the stuff I already warned you was coming.  Back in Smokelit Flashback II, I mentioned Love Spirals Downwards, an excellent darkwave band on Projekt Records, and hailing from my hometown of LA.  I told you we’d hear them on volume V right in footnote 5, and here they are, providing our volume opener.  “Illusory Me” is a wonderful tune which puts us right back in the mood that this mix epitomizes.  I was a bit more vague when referring to Widowspeak, a band very reminiscent of Mazzy Star: I said we’d probably hear them at some point, but I wasn’t sure when.  Well, now I am: “In the Pines” provides the perfect lead-in to Devics’ “Gold in the Girl.”  It’s vaguely unsettling and trippy and just perfect for this mix.

We also have a few imports this time around, all from Paradoxically Sized World.  Ugress (from PSW volume II and volume III) shows a bit of his darker side with “The Beauty Never Lasts,” the last vocal track on this volume.  Trentemøller, who we first actually heard on Darkling Embrace (his track on PSW hasn’t come around yet), was also discovered via LittleBigPlanet, although they have have plenty of range, as they demonstrate here with ”... Even Though You’re with Another Girl.”  It’s the perfect bit of menace to lead into the dark hallucinatory entrails of Widowspeak thence to Devics.  And lastly we have Bonobo, who, while never directly used in LBP,9 has appeared on both PSW volume I and volume II.  “Noctuary” is a bit darker than those other tracks, so it works well here.

Perhaps the major discovery, though, is Violet Indiana.  Remember Mono, from volume III?  Imagine if you could take the female vocalist from that band (Siobhan de Maré) and throw her in a studio with the guitarist and cofounder of Cocteau Twins (Robin Guthrie) and cut an album.  Well, you just invented Violet Indiana.  And, while the resulting trip-hop is not as perfect as it probably sounds, there are quite a few stand-out tracks, of which “Rage Days” is the absolute best.  Coming off the mellow instrumental downtempo of “Noctuary” and leading into the more frenetic classical-with-a-backbeat trip-hop of “Battersea,” it’s the perfect intro into our center stretch.


Smokelit Flashback V
    [In My Dream I'll Catch You]


        “Illusory Me” by Love Spirals Downwards, off Idylls [Reissue]
        “Given” by Falling You, off Faith
        “Umbilical” by Mazzy Star, off Among My Swan
        “Human” by Goldfrapp, off Felt Mountain
        “Blue Planet” by Beth Quist, off Silver
        “Love Can Damage Your Health” by Télépopmusik, off Genetic World
        “Noctuary” by Bonobo, off Dial 'M' for Monkey
        “Rage Days” by Violet Indiana, off Roulette
        “Battersea” by Hooverphonic, off Blue Wonder Power Milk
        “Heaven's Gonna Burn Your Eyes” by Thievery Corporation, off The Richest Man in Babylon
        “Farewell Ferengistan” by Banco de Gaia, off Farewell Ferengistan
        “... Even Though You're with Another Girl” by Trentemøller, off Into the Great Wide Yonder
        “In the Pines” by Widowspeak, off Widowspeak
        “Gold in the Girl” by Devics, off My Beautiful Sinking Ship
        “Empty” by Amanda Ghost [Single]
        “The Beauty Never Lasts” by Ugress, off Cinematronics
        “Lost River” by A Produce, off Land of a Thousand Trances
   
Total:  17 tracks,  78:57


That just leaves us with 3 tracks.  Two of those come from two sources of previous inspiration: my cable provider’s “Zen” music channel introduced me to Banco de Gaia, and Hearts of Space was the first place I heard A Produce.  In the former case, “Farewell Ferengistan” is a little bit world, mostly instrumental, with a splash of dreampop vocals, so it works nicely here.  In the latter, “Lost River” is our closer; almost a bridge, it’s a short bit of downtempo trance from A Produce’s stellar (if somewhat hard to find) Land of a Thousand Trances, which winds us down to the end quite beautifully.

Which just leaves us with Amanda Ghost.  British born, with ancestry tracing back to India via the Caribbean, she would eventually become the president of Epic records after writing songs for Beyoncé and Jordin Sparks.  But, at 26, she released a single album called Ghost Stories.  For the most part, it lay in that strange middle ground between pop and folk that had been mined so thoroughly 5 years prior by Poe, Jewel, and Joan Osborne, with some eclectic touches of techno and subtler electronica.  Overall, not my bag.  But “Empty” is a whole different animal: torchy trip-hop that allows Ghost to show off her pipes in ways that I don’t think the rest of her debut did.  I can’t remember where I found her, but I do remember flicking through the samples off that album and thinking, “man, this is a waste of my time” until I got to track 8 (out of 10), and then just being blown away.  Which goes to show you that you should never stop listening to an album after the first 3 or 4 tracks, even if you sort of hate it.  ‘Cause you never know what hidden gem you might be missing out on.


Next time, we’ll sit around a virtual campfire and listen to some stories.


Smokelit Flashback VI




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1 Specifically, in Salsatic Vibrato I and Smokelit Flashback III.

2 Well, these days Salsatic Vibrato has more total tracks.  But Smokelit Flashback still has more volumes.

3 Of the modern mixes, at least.  Refer to the series list for definitions.

4 Honestly, I only have two other mixes which even have a volume IV: Salsatic Vibrato, and Paradoxically Sized World.

5 You may recall me discussing the creepy angle in Smokelit Flashback IV.

6 Well, first in terms of Smokelit Flashback.  I first first mentioned Devics in conjunction with Darkling Embrace.

7 Not only on volume IV of this mix, but also on Sirenexiv Cola.

8 Who I also credit for inspiring Rose-Coloured Brainpan by reintroducing me to “Woodstock.”

9 At least to my knowledge.



Sunday, August 21, 2016

Something to Say

(although not necessarily anything good)

In my informal “nothing to say” series, I have typically taken advantage of having nothing that I really wanted to write about to do a retrospective on how many words this blog has spewed forth.  But last time I had nothing to say, I said something instead.  Which means it wasn’t really a post with nothing to say.  This is a post in the “nothing to say” series, but it actually has something to say, so it’s the opposite of a “nothing to say” post just like the other one was, but in the other direction.  It’s a good thing I believe in balance and paradox, elsewise all this saying something while having nothing to say would really scramble my brains.

So, where do we stand?  Well, as I mused in that previously mentioned non-post, I’ve gone ahead and recategorized many of my “interstitial” posts as “partial” plus some other label.  For instance, if I wrote about not having time for a full post because of various goings-on in my life like birthdays or house-hunting or what-have-you, I labeled that as “partial” plus “family.”  Or if I went into some detail about a problem I was dealing with at work, that would be “partial” plus “technology” (or perhaps “partial” plus “business” if it was less of a technical problem and more of a corporate or workplace issue).  Whereas, if I just said, “I’ve got no time to post this week; sorry” then that I left as a true “interstitial.”

With this new system, about 62% of the former “interstitial” posts are now “partial” instead, making “Perl” now the top category, followed by “partial” (which almost doesn’t count any more, since there aren’t any posts which are only labeled “partial”), followed by “family,” then “fiction” (meaning my ongoing novel), and then “music.”  Not too shoddy.

There are now 333 posts altogether.  If we look at it from an estimation viewpoint, we should not count the “interstitial"s at all, and we should count the “partial"s as perhaps ⅓ of the word count of a regular post.  So that would give us just over 400,000 words.  Doing an actual count of my source files yields closer to 340,000, but that doesn’t include my novel.  (It does, however, eliminate some of the problems that I reported with previous word counts of files: I’ve now separated out what’s actually published from my working drafts for future posts, and I’m now using my more sophisticated script which discounts words in block quotes, URLs, footnotes, and so forth.  So this is far more accurate than ever before.)  Adding in the novel bumps us up another 60,000 words, roughly, which puts us right at that 400,000 figure again.  (In fact, even if I stop rounding, there’s less than 2,000 words difference in the two methods.)  So that seems a rational number to go with: 251 full posts and 51 partial ones for a total of about 400k in terms of words.

Which is overall not a terrible output for roughly six and a half years’ work.  It’s about 1200 words a week, on average.  Sure, Stephen King is pumping out more, but he doesn’t have a full-time job on the side.  (Well, I guess pumping out words is his full-time job, to look at it another way.  But you get where I’m coming from.)  It’s respectable, is what I’m saying.  Nothing to be ashamed of.

Now, whether that sort of pace can continue for another 6½ years or not, I can’t say.  Part of me feels like it’s not sustainable.  But part of me wants to try it and see.  So—for now at least—that’s the part of me I’m listening to.

Hope you’ll stick around to find out as well.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Why the MCU Is Cool: The Heroes I Like


[This is the second post in a new series.  You may want to begin at the beginning.  Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]


So perhaps one of the reasons I like the MCU is just plain that I like superheroes.  Which, in some sense, I do.  But I’ve never liked all superheroes equally: I don’t believe anyone does.  Some you like, and some you like a lot, and some you don’t care much for at all, and some you really despise.  It’s like anything: Shakespeare plays, Beatles albums, Stephen King novels ... anything that has sufficient variety, you’re going to like some, dislike some, and be distinctly “meh” on quite a few others.

I used to find it hard to describe what sort of superheroes I like, until I realized what the pattern was: even when it comes to comic nerddom, I’m still a non-conformist.  I like the lesser-known heroes: the more obscure, the better.  With a few exceptions, when it comes to the big names, I’m not that big a fan.

On the DC side, that means I hate Superman, and most of the others I can take or leave: Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash.  The only big name I even sort of liked was Batman, and honestly the best thing about Batman was that, without him, you couldn’t have The Brave and the Bold, and that’s where a lot of the really obscure guys showed up: Creeper, Deadman, the Metal Men, Metamorpho, etc.  On the Marvel side, I thought Spider-Man was okay, but Captain America was nearly as bad as Superman, Hulk was practically cliché, Thor was boring, the Fantastic Four were annoying, and Iron Man was utterly useless: a knock-off Batman with better armor.  The only really big name I really liked was Wolverine, and I’m nearly positive that that’s just because I liked him before he got super-popular.  I can distinctly remember buying Giant-Size X-Men #1, which wasn’t the first appearance of Wolverine ... but it was the second.1  It’s emblematic of my comic buying habits: I saw a cover with a bunch of heroes I didn’t recognize at all, so of course I had to have it.  New superheroes!  Is there anything cooler?  New people with new powers, new costumes, new powers ... I’m one of those schmucks who is easily seduced by the new, the different, the revamped, the reinvented ... gimme something fresh and I’m a sucker for it.

So, when it came to Marvel, my favorites were always the more obscure folks: I liked Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Warlock, Son of Satan, Hellcat, Moondragon, Power Man and Iron Fist, Tigra, Cloak and Dagger, and a billion other guys, most of whom you will have never heard of (unless you’re as big a comic book nerd as I am).  Probably the biggest (Marvel) name I can say I really liked was Doctor Strange, and that was mainly because Doctor Strange gives us the Defenders, which had a membership so fluid that there was practically someone new every issue.2  And, as much as I liked the Defenders, I also liked the Avengers.

Okay, now it’s time for a brief diversion on comic book publishing philosophy.  Let me stress that I don’t have any inside info: this is all based on things I’ve read, things I’ve heard, and a lot of observation.  The first interesting thing about comic book publishing philosophy involves a story about a lawsuit.  I’ve never been able to find out if this is actually a true story or not,3 but I read about it in some book about the comic industry, and it certainly seems true, in that it neatly explains a universal principle.  The story goes that, decades ago, when there were a lot more than 2 comic companies, company A had a hero, but they retired him.4  Some years later, company B made a new hero that resembled company A’s hero in some way: same name, similar costume, identical powers ... I don’t remember exactly how they were alike, but that’s not that important to the story anyway.  So company A decides to sue company B—again, I can’t remember if this was a claim of copyright infringement, trademark dispute, or what.  But, again: not that important.  The point of the story is, the court ended up ruling that, sure, the heroes were similar, but company A wasn’t using the hero any more, so therefore the similarity of company B’s hero wasn’t costing them any loss of revenue.  Therefore, no damages.

And, supposedly, this is why every comic company ever regularly trots out their old heroes, no matter how stupid (and let’s face it, some of those older heroes are pretty damn stupid5), even if they really don’t want to: because they’re trying to make sure their rights don’t lapse.  Titles like The Brave and the Bold were excellent for this sort of thing, because you had a big hero (in this case, Batman) to sell the issue to the masses, and you’d have a minor, or resurrected, or maybe even a long-forgotten, hero who’s just appearing to stay in circulation.  If the minor character happens to achieve some reflected popularity, that’s just bonus.  Mainly, you keep the guys in there, in the public eye.

This concept of using the big guys to sell the little guys crops up again and again, and especially in the “supergroups.”  In music terminology, a “supergroup” is when a bunch of successful musicians from other bands all get together and form a new band.6  In comic terms, all groups of superheroes are in one sense a “supergroup.”  But to use the term in the musical sense, there are two basic supergroups: one for each company.  DC’s is of course the Justice League of America, and Marvel’s is, naturally, the Avengers.7  Oh, sure: there are many, many groups of superheroes.  But most of them, such as my favorites the X-Men and the Legion of Superheroes, were created as a complete unit: in other words, X-Men members Cyclops, Angel, the Beast, Iceman, and Marvel Girl (a.k.a. Jean Grey) didn’t exist before the X-Men existed.  They were created specifically for that group.  But a true supergroup gathers heroes who were previously appearing in their own solo titles, as separate, pre-existing heroes.

The original Justice League, for instance, was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter.  If we were playing “one of these things is not like the others,” I think you’d see the odd man out here.  But let’s look at the original Avengers: Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, and Ant-Man and the Wasp.  (That’s right: Captain America is not an original Avenger, although he did come along just 3 issues later.)  See the pattern here?  They always throw in a minor character or two, because that way the big guys help sell the little guys.

This pattern is generally taken to an extreme in the supergroups: the minor character(s) end up being crucial to the team, because otherwise the audience can’t figure out why the writers keep them around.  So, in many incarnations of the Justice League, J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, is the guy who stays on the satellite and coordinates the missions for all the other members.  On the Avengers side, Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man, a.k.a. Giant-Man, a.k.a. Goliath, a.k.a. Yellowjacket, is pretty crucial to the history of the Avengers.  This creates a rather serious dilemma for the architects of the MCU, as on the one hand you need Ant-Man, and, on the other hand, Ant-Man is pretty stupid.  I mean, he shrinks and talks to ants.  Not exactly exciting as superheroes go.  You can get more action of Aquaman, with a decent writer.  But let’s explore that in a future installment.

The point here is that the Avengers, like the Justice League, always appealed to me for exactly the opposite reason that they appealed to most people.  I never cared about the fact that the greatest heroes of the Marvel universe were all there: Iron Man and Hulk and Thor and Captain America.  Because I never particularly cared for those guys.  I loved the Avengers because of the little guys: Ant-Man may be stupid, but Hank Pym is actually very interesting, and Wasp is very cool.  Then there’s Scarlet Witch and Vision and Beast and Hawkeye and Black Panther and Black Widow and Tigra and Jocasta and Hellcat and Wonder Man.  The Justice League seemed to follow a strict formula of one or two A-listers and then fill out the mission roster with the lesser-known guys, but the Avengers would often do entire storylines where the “Big Four” would never show up at all.  So, while I was in general more of a DC man than a Marvel one, it’s definitely true that I liked the Avengers more than the JLA.8

But that’s difficult to translate into the MCU.  The whole function of the MCU is to sell movies (and TV series).  To do that, they need to push the big names: the Big Four, of course, and Daredevil to a lesser extent (because he’s a lesser known name, if still bigger than most of the folks I liked), and they’ve finally managed to bring Spider-Man home, who’s probably the biggest name of all.  But those are not the guys I care about.  So what’s really interesting to me is how successful the MCU has been at integrating the smaller names.  We’ve only had two Avengers movies, and already I’ve gotten to see Black Widow, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Vision.  Now, with the advent of Civil War, they’ve added Black Panther.  Over on the Netflix side, Power Man was introduced in Jessica Jones, and he’ll be getting his own series in just a little over a month, plus Iron Fist is also in the works.  And, speaking of Jessica Jones, that opened the door for Hellcat, of all people, who is one of the most interesting comic stories of all time, and another one of my favorites.  Hell, they even managed to devote an entire movie to freaking Ant-Man, which I swore was impossible—or, if possible, could not possibly be any good.  But it was all right.  (They had to go the Scott Lang route and relegate Hank Pym to a side role, but, again: we’ll look at that angle in a bit more detail in an upcoming installment.)  Point being: the MCU has really done pretty well—surprisingly well, even—with bringing out the lesser known heroes.  And those were always the ones I loved.

So there’s one reason I’m so enamored of the MCU.  But there others.






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1 Unless you count the teaser panel of the issue before his first proper appearance.  Which I don’t.

2 Although, to be fair, I also had a great affinity for the mystical superheroes, who were fulfilling my comic book requirements and my fantasy requirements simultaneously.  And Doctor Strange is pretty crucial to the mystical storylines, at least on the Marvel side.  Back on the DC side, it would be Dr. Fate and Phantom Stranger, along with some other lesser known guys (Spectre, Demon, Deadman, Ragman, Zatanna, Blue Devil, etc).

3 And I did some extra research while writing this post, only to come up completely blank.

4 Or her, but let’s face it: that far back, it was probably a “him.”

5 Exhibit A: B’wana Beast.

6 Being a child of the eighties, my go-to example of a supergroup is Asia, composed of former members of Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, and the Buggles.

7 We could discuss other supergroups: the Justice Society of National Comics (the predecessor to DC), the Invaders—originally known by the unimpressive moniker “the All-Winners Squad”—of Timely Comics (the predecessor to Marvel), the Crime Crusaders Club (another terrible name) of Fawcett, even the Mighty Crusaders of Archie Comics (yes, Archie had superheroes too).  But the big two are the only two left, for all intents and purposes.

8 Don’t get me wrong: the JLA had Firestorm and Zatanna and Red Tornado and Black Canary and Phantom Stranger.  So they had fun times too.  Just not as many.



Sunday, August 7, 2016

And now for something not nearly as completely different as it was last time ...


Well, I have to bail on another post this week, unfortunately.  I just (as in hours ago) finished a long project for $work,* and there’s just no time to work in a proper post before the weekend is out.

So, let’s play another little game of “Last Two,” which I invented about two years ago when I also didn’t have time to do a proper post.

Last two movies I watched:  We (meaning the whole family) just watched The Little Prince on Netflix, which we all thought was pretty good.  Even our eldest, jaded teen that they are, managed to keep their earbuds out of their ears long enough to get to the end.  Higher praise I cannot imagine.  Before that ... I think it was The Last Witch Hunter, which is sort of brainless entertainment, except it had XXX, Frodo, and Ygritte, which is not a bad cast for brainless sword fighting and car chases and nonsensical explosions (considering it’s a movie about witches).  But I’m not particularly hard on movies.

Last two audiobooks I listened to:  Well, I just finished Bitten, which is the first in the Women of the Otherworld series.  I wanted to try it out because I’d heard good things about, but I found it distinctly “meh.”  I’ll try at least one more to see if it improves, but it was a little too Harlequin-romance-y for my tastes.  Not bad ... just not great.  Before that I blew through Around the World in 80 Days, as a palate cleanser after coming off of The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi (which is the one I would really recommend: it was a bit slow for the first 2 or 3 chapters, then it took off like a bat out of hell and was amazing straight through to the end, plus I’ve already talked about what an awesome reader Wil Wheaton is).  80 Days is one of the few Verne books I never read when I was younger, and I picked it up at one of those buy-1-get-1-free-but-only-certain-titles sales at Audiobook.  One is always a little surprised by the casual racism when one reads a book published in, say, 1873, but it was actually the casual classism that irked me more.  ‘Cause, you know, Phileas Fogg is an English gentleman, and Passepartout is just a servant.  And here’s a fun fact that you might not know if you haven’t read the book: Fogg hired Passepartout the day they left on the journey.  So they go off and have all these adventures and Passepartout trusts Fogg implicitly depsite barely knowing him ... because he’s a gentleman.  It’s sort of ... disturbing, really.  But a sort of fun book nonetheless.  Just a bit anachronistically jarring when you’re reading it 150 years later.

Last two real books I read:  Dude, I hardly ever read real books any more.  But, weirdly, I’m right in the middle of one right now: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  I wasn’t going to even start it until next week, but I made the mistake of reading the first several pages to see if the play format was going to work for me, and I got sucked in.  It’s not as good as sometihng actually written by Rowling, but it’s her story, so it’s still interesting enough to make you not want to put it down.  Before that ... I honestly can’t remember.

Last two bands I discovered:  Well, I just (as in minutes ago) discovered Pomplamoose.  Not sure how I never heard of them before, as they’re apparently a bit of a big deal on the Internet.  Everyone else in my house had heard of them, apparently (The Mother is the one who pointed me at them, actually).  I’m just a bit slow, I guess.  Prior to that, I guess I would say Aurora, who I was bit taken with after her appearance on Colbert.  I don’t think it was the song she played on The Late Show, but “Conqueror” is pretty amazing.

Last two albums I bought:  All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend by Aurora, obviously, and before that I think Still Night, Still Light by Au Revoir Simone.  Whom I also discoverd thanks to Colbert, because one third of Au Revoir Simone is now one third of Nice as Fuck, who was on Colbert last week (or the week before, maybe ... I forget).

Last two restaurant meals I ate:  Does Jack in the Box count as a restaurant?  I tried their new portabello-mushroom burger thing.  They keep advertising it all over the TV there, and it looks so good on the commercial ... but don’t do it.  It’s a bad, bad idea.  Before that, no family meal since last week (Topper’s pizza last Sunday—and, may I say, if you happen to live in Southern California and haven’t yet eaten at Topper’s, put down your computer right this instant and order; you won’t be sorry).  I suppose I ate out with my coworkers on Tuesday (I was sick the latter part of the week), but damned if I can remember what we ate.  Japanese, maybe?

Last two real animals I saw (excluding family this time):  I rescued a widow spider out of my shower this morning.  It wasn’t a black widow, but I’m not 100% sure if it was a brown widow or a red widow or what.  But it definitely had the characteristic widow shape.  Before that ... hmmm ... yesterday, I think it was, I saw a bright red dragonfly that swooped in and landed on one of The Mother‘s planter hooks.  It was pretty cool.

Last two television shows I watched:  Hmmm ... not counting watching things like Sesame Street with the kids, I would probably say SCTV Network 90 and Whose Line Is It Anyway?.  Last two shows I watched with another adult ... probably the season finales of Preacher and Stranger Things.  You totally have to check out Stranger Things if you haven’t yet, by the way.  It’s insanely good.

Last two podcasts I listened to:  I don’t really listen to podcasts, per se.  Judge John Hodgman sometimes.  But I do listen to streaming versions of NPR shows, so if we can count that, I was just listening to Car Talk in the car today.  They’re on repeats now, of course, since Tom died.  But I still enjoy it.  Before that ... well, I just recently discovered Nerd HQ and I watched a shit-ton of Zachary Levi’s “Conversations for a Cause” panels, which they thoughtfully videoed and put up on YouTube.  Again, not really a podcast, and, again, not sure how I only became aware of this recently, but they’re pretty entertaining to watch (top pick from the 2016 set: Felicia Day), and I find Levi just as entertaining as Hardwick, and maybe even a bit more endearing, somehow.

And that’s about it.  Hopefully that’ll tide you over until next week.  And, honestly, this post is long enough that I don’t even really consider it “interstitial,” so, you know ... be happy.



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* Technically speaking, the project is not done.  But it’s done enough to make my boss happy once again, and I think I can take the remainder of the project at a more reasonable pace.