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Weekly Roundup 3.9.24

weekly roundup

And, we’re back. Or, more to the point, I am. As I often say, I’m trying to write here more frequently and would prefer it on a regular weekly (or more) basis. Sadly, what I want isn’t always how it turns out. You just have to learn to live with stuff like that I guess.

You know what helps live with things not going your way? Activities. Hobbies. Entertainment. All that kind of non-work and non-BS stuff. You know, distractions. A way to engage your brain in other actives so it doesn’t think about the state of the world and how fucked we may be. Damn, there I go again. Moving on.

This week (as we often do) let’s talk about some of the things I’m currently reading, watching and/or doing.

I’m still in the middle of the audio books for Lord of the Rings as read and performed by Andy Serkis. I’ve made it through Fellowship and I’m almost done with The Two Towers. We’re getting to the big battle towards the end. You know the one.

I’m also still reading Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber. There’s several books and I’m currently deep into Sign of the Unicorn (aka Book Three). Still really enjoying the books. I wonder if we’ll ever get an Amber movie or series? I can see it being a series more than something than a theatrical release. I don’t think it has the deep fanbase The Lord of the Rings has.

It’s more of a story you’d watch on Amazon or Netflix or Hulu. Actually, it would have been a good fit for HBO back when HBO was HBO and needed a followup to Game of Thrones. Although, I guess it’s easier and better for them to just keep making spin-offs or prequels to GOT rather than bring in a whole new series. Business over creative and all that.

Speaking of series based on books, I’ve started watching Shōgun on Hulu. Which, as you may know, is based on the epic novel by James Clavell released in 1975. It’s epic for a lot of reasons but it’s also just a big, long book with lots of words. Not that that’s a bad thing. Just know before you dive into it. It’s a big one.

In short, the show is terrific. I love everything about it. But then, I’ve always been a fan of that time in history, the culture and those types of stories.

I’m currently through episode three and looking forward to the next. But I must confess, I’m really excited for the eventual episode where the Ninjas show up. I’ve always been fascinated by them. Maybe it was watching Chuck Norris in The Octagon when I was way too young that did it. Or reading The Ninja by Eric Van Lusbader. I was probably way too young to be reading that too. Oh well.

Anyway, if you love exciting, interesting stories well-told, check out Shōgun. It’s that good.

I’m also drawing, sketching, painting, etc. again. I missed it. I was drawing or sketching infrequently before, as I’ve done my entire life. I’m just trying to make it a daily habit now.

I think it’s good to focus on something for a time and try not to think about other things. It works. When I’m drawing or painting (or making photos or whatever) I’m only thinking about making the art and not anything else. It’s great, you should try it.

As for why make art at all? Lots of people have said a lot of things about that. I think this quote from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. sums it up nicely:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

He’s a smart guy. Works for me.

If you’d like to start drawing or sketching or paining, I’ve got a bit of advice on how to begin. You don’t need much in the way of tools. You just need to do it.

And don’t worry, you’re not going to be great at the beginning . . . but you can be. Or, at the very least, good. Stick with it. Have fun and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. This art is for you. If you love making it, that’s what matters.

Here’s the minimum I think you’d want to get started:

A sketchbook – I like the Canson XL mixed media with the blue cover. It’s good for pencil, pen and ink or even some watercolor. My favorite size is currently the 7 x 10, but get whatever size you want and just start using it.

Pencils – It can be as easy as whatever HB pencil you have around the house. And no, that’s not exactly a Number 2 pencil, but it’s close. Try to get one that’s graded as an HB, or try out a few if you can. Maybe you’re more of a 2B or an F? Experiment and see what works for you. But to start, even a Number 2 will do. Or, you can grab a Mars Technico 780 lead holder from Staedtler and some HB leads. That’s what I do most of the time.

It saves on having a pencil sharpener around (although I have a lot of those too) and the 2mm leads are a joy to work with. You’ll probably want an eraser too, at some point. Grab a Tombow Mono Dust Catch and you’re good.

Pens – If you’re feeling confidant, you can skip the pencil and go right to the pen. I have a lot of pens, but for a couple dollars you can’t really beat the Sakura Pigma Micron. I also use a Uni Pin or even a Uniball Vision, if that’s what I have on hand. They’re all fine and can work well.

When you’ve been doing it longer you may find you want to use something like a fountain pen to draw with. People do it all the time. My fountain pen of choice for that is usually either the TWISBI Eco or the Lamy Safari. Each is a great pen and not terribly expensive. You can also write with them too. They’re quite versatile.

And that’s pretty much it. Have fun. Make art.

Until next time, be kind to each other.

Weekly Roundup 2.24.24

Wow, The last time I updated here was on 2.2.24 and now it’s 2.24.24. I find that weird . . . and kinda cool. How about you? I’ll bet you do also. Maybe? A little?

Okay. Whatever. I’m just trying to keep it light. Or lite. Or, you know, the opposite of heavy . . . or serious. You get the idea.

Anyway. What have I been watching, reading, listening to or otherwise distracting myself with lately? Glad you asked because, well, that’s kind the point of this and things work out better if you just go along. Cool? Cool.

As I mentioned last time I’ve been reading Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber. Gotta say, I’m still really enjoying these stories. I first read them as a teenager and loved them. Fortunately, they’ve absolutely stood the test of time and don’t disappoint.

I’ve also been listening to the audio books of The Lord of the Rings as narrated and performed by Mr. Andy Serkis. If you’ve never heard him perform the books before then you’ve never really heard them performed (no disrespect to the previous guy). In short, Andy is terrific and really brings the characters and story to life. Heck, he even sings the songs. All of them. Which, as any Tolkien fan knows, there’s a lot of.

I highly recommend the Andy Serkis versions to anyone who wants to get into the books for the first time or is looking to revisit them. They’re that good.

I recently watched the entire Peter Jackson movie trilogy and that’s what sparked my desire to go back to the novels. It’s so interesting to watch the films and then read (or listen, more to the point) how much of the story had to be changed in order to bring them to the screen. A lot of things had to be dropped and the story altered to fit a film narrative.

Also, the books are very long and you just couldn’t fit everything into three movies. It’s not like you can spend three movies on just one book or something. That’s just crazy.

I’m sure more than one person has already done an exhaustive chronicle of the differences between the Lord of the Rings novels and the Peter Jackson movies, so I won’t get into it here. And no, I’m not too sad that some things had to be cut. Sorry Tom Bombadil stans. Them’s the breaks.

I’m also gonna watch the Ralph Bakshi animated Lord of the Rings movie and see if that holds up. I’ll bet it does, mostly. I’ll let you know. If you haven’t seen it before, be sure to check it out.

I haven’t been watching as many TV shows or movies in the last few weeks. I did, however, accompany the boy to see Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Hashira Training (aka Demon Slayer) in the movie theater this week. It’s a version of the animated series containing the final episode of the current season as well as the first of next season. It’s all part of the upcoming Hashira training arc. If you know, you know.

It was fun and great to see anime on the big screen. The boy loved it too. We also had milkshakes. They were tasty.

In case you’re interested, here’s the trailer.

I’ve also included the trailer for The Fellowship of the Ring from Peter Jackson too. Enjoy and remember just how great those movies are. I’m not sure we’ll ever get a better cinematic treatment of the novels. Thank you Peter Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and all the cast and crew. Well done.

I guess that’s enough for the moment. Oh, in case you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget to check out the thing there on the right side (or below if you’re on mobile). Be sure to register to vote and then vote. It’s pretty important, especially if you give a shit about Democracy.

Be kind to each other.

 

 

Image: New Line/Warner Bros. / Amazon

(Semi)Weekly Roundup 2.2.24

Well, we made it through 2023 and now here it is 2024. And February too. Imagine that. I was pretty sure we could pull it off, but you never really know until you know. You know?

Yes, that’s an awkward sentence above. But what do you expect? It’s an election year so prepare yourself for a whole lot of awkward sentences and whole lot of other bullshit.

I know, I feel it too. That sense of impending doom that had sorta gone away for awhile. Yeah, it’s back now. I’m thrilled.

But hey, there’s plenty of time to feel bad and worry about the future. Although, there’s something you can do today to help make yourself feel a bit better. More on that at the end. For now, let’s get to the good stuff!

No, I did not end up getting any kind of new Apple product in 2023 or 2024. Not for me, at least. The boy, however, got a new M2 MacMini for Christmas so he can play Roblox at the proper frame rate. I don’t know, I just try to give him something he wants. Right now, it’s all Roblox-related.

He also got some other stuff for Christmas that’s not as cool, so I won’t bother to mention it. As for me, I got a few nice presents as well. One was an Asus ProArt Monitor to use with my (aging) MacBook Pro 13″. I’m not sure how I lived without an external monitor before this. People in The Dark Ages didn’t have it so bad. It’s a very nice monitor. Not 4K, but I don’t really need that at the moment. Maybe someday.

I’m also back to using a mechanical keyboard for typing instead of the Apple mini keyboard I had been using. The one I use most frequently at the moment is a Keychron V3 with brown switches. I really like it. The only thing I need to get used to are the keys being a bit smaller than what I had before so I tend to make a few more tying mistakes as I go. I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

I also got a Cherry MX 2.0 keyboard (also with brown switches) to try out. I like that one also but I wish it wasn’t a full sized keyboard. I know I could have looked around a got a different one from Cherry, but this is what they had at Amazon so . . . easier. Anyway, I like that the Keychron is a TKL (as in it doesn’t have a number keypad).

I prefer TKL form factor. But really, I’m still in the experimental phase so I may even try a third (or fourth) option just to see. I probably will. One or both of these test keyboards can also go to the boy when his current keyboard gets destroyed . . . as it inevitably will.

I’ve also been reading a bit and have taken a fresh look at Mr. Bukowski. I recently finished his novel Ham on Rye. It’s even better than I remember. Highly recommended. I’m going to read Post Office next. If you’re not aware, Charles Bukowski is one of the greatest authors of his or any generation. His work (novels, poetry, whatever) are well worth your time.

Sure, his stuff is heavy. But it’s also real and alive and essential. Give it a try. I don’t know a single person I’ve recommended him to that regretted it. Maybe they’re just being polite? I guess that’s possible. Judge for yourself.

I’m also going to get back to Roger Zelazny and his Chronicles Of Amber. I haven’t forgotten those.

As for movies and TV, I’ve watched a bunch of stuff. I can highly recommend Godzilla Minus One. Amazing film, even if you don’t love monsters. I’m also in the middle of a rewatch of Mad Men. Great show, in spite of its flaws. And yes, it has a few.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. I’ve been sick for the last week or so and I’m getting tired of typing, so I’ll just go ahead and get going for now. Until next time . . .

Oh, wait. I almost forgot to mention the important thing that will make you feel a bit better: This year is an election year (as you know) and you need to vote, no matter what.

You can register right there in the sidebar of this blog. Or, near the bottom if you’re reading this on a mobile device. Do it. Register or check your status or get more info at Vote.org. Then, vote. It’s that easy.

Now go. Make Democracy happen. You’ll feel better.

Image: Toho Studios

Weekly Roundup 11.10.23

Another week, another weekly roundup. I like how that sounds. This week I’ve got another bunch of things I’m interested in, watching, reading or whatever. In other words, If I like it, it’s probably something I’m going to talk about this week or in the near future.

What can I say? I like to share.

But before I get to the (more) interesting stuff I just wanted to mention I’m currently writing this post at a library. I’ve sat down at a table and I’m typing away on my Apple MacBook Pro. While doing this I’ve discovered a few things.

One, this MacBook Pro keyboard isn’t all that “magic.” Sorry, Apple, but it isn’t. It’s just okay. Personally, I prefer a bit more mechanical feel and a bit more key travel. The keyboard on my Linux/Windows laptop (from Lenovo) is way better than the one on this MacBook Pro.

I would sacrifice a bit of girth in order to get a better keyboard on an Apple laptop. Apparently, Apple doesn’t agree or care. Alas.

They used to care. In fact, the best laptop keyboard Apple ever made was the Powerbook 1400c and that’s from 1998. Maybe one of these days I’ll get my wish for a better keyboard. Probably not.

I’ve also realized the table I’m sitting at is slightly too high for me to type comfortably. I tend to be a lazy typer and rest my wrists on the laptop while typing. The height of the table makes it feel like I’m typing up hill a bit. It’s not a big deal, I’m just used to my desk at home and this just feels different.

Finally, this library is really quiet. I’m impressed so many people can shut up for so long. The section I’m in does seem like the more serious “study” area, so that might have something to do with it. But still, it’s really quiet. Almost too quiet.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s get to the good stuff.

Regardless of what I said above, I’m still very interested in the new M3 MacBook Pros Apple announced recently. No, I don’t absolutely need a new laptop, but they do look cool and are, apparently, blazing fast. So, maybe.

The reality is I’ll probably end up getting a new iMac instead. They’ve also been bumped to the M3 chipset and I’ve been thinking about my current setup lately and how, or if, it needs improvement. At the moment, I’m laptop only and have been for a few years.

I intended to get an external monitor for the MacBook Pro but never got around to it, mostly because it worked well enough and I was able to get stuff done without it. But now? I’m thinking.

Picking up an iMac would solve a few problems. I’d get a larger screen. It would be more powerful than my current Mac. I could still use the MacBook Pro when I’m not in the office. I kinda miss having a desktop computer. All true. The question is are they all true enough to make me spend the money when things work pretty well now? I guess that’s why I’m still thinking about it. More on this later.

As you may know (or not) the WGA strike was concluded with an agreement ratified by membership and the writers went back to work. This week, SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP reached a tentative agreement and SAG officials called an end to their strike, which has lasted over 100 days. I’m glad it’s over. I know people were suffering, but they held the line. Great job to all and congratulations.

I just wish my union, the DGA, had held firm in support of our fellow union members. Alas, they did not and signed a deal earlier this year. Although, they did issue a really nice press release once the SAG-AFTRA tentative agreement was announced. I guess that’s something.

I’m currently on an Aaron Sorkin bender and have watched The Social Network, Molly’s Game and the first two season of his HBO show The Newsroom. Why? Mostly it’s because I like the way he writes dialog. It’s pretty great. I don’t think I’m alone in that assessment. Plus, those movies and the series are excellent.

I’ve also watched the films in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. I love them all, with particular love for Hot Fuzz, which is a favorite among favorites. Great stuff.

As you probably know, I love notebooks. And pencils, pens and all that other “analog” stuff. My friend Dave Caolo gave me the heads up on notebooks from Dapper Notes and I’m hooked. They are awesome and whenever they’ve got new ones, I grab ’em ’cause they go fast. The latest one  just arrived at my door and, as usual, I love it.

I’m just about done reading Chuck Wendig’s Black River Orchard and holy crap, it’s a good one. I will never look at Apples the same way again.

Next on the reading list is Nine Princes In Amber, the first book in the Chronicles of Amber series by Roger Zelazny. I love these books but haven’t read them in years. It’s time to read them again.

Finally, I should mention that I continue to produce a podcast with my co-host Joe Dilworth. It’s called The Flickcast and it’s quite fun. We get into all sorts of nerd stuff that nerds love. We used to have a new episode every week but have transitioned to every other week for the time being. We’ll get back to every week soon enough.

That’s it for now. Until next time, be kind to each other.

 

 

Image: Focus Features

Weekly Roundup 11.3.23

station eleven by vincent chong

I’m starting/restarting a thing here on the blog. What is this thing, you may ask? Well, glad you asked. I’m calling it the ‘Weekly Roundup’ and will be items of interest and/or links I found interesting during the week or continue to find interesting or useful on a regular or semi-regular basis.

I won’t be talking much about or linking to anything to do with the current situation in the middle East or what’s going on in the world or politics or anything too serious. This is more of a distraction exercise that hopefully will help you find something to occupy your time and suppress the existential dread (at least for a few minutes).

Damn, that was a lot of words. Confused? Just go with it.

Here’s some of those links or interesting bits now:

I continue to be interested in, learn from and enjoy the Scriptnotes podcast with John August and Craig Mazin.

I’m also a fan of Marc Maron and his WTF podcast. He gets some great guests and is an excellent interviewer.

I’m reading a book about Python by Al Sweigert called Automate the Boring Stuff With Python. I’m learning a lot.

I’m also reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Loved the show on HBO (Remember HBO? Good times) and now I’m loving the book. I intend to read all her novels after this one.

Next on my reading list, though, is Black River Orchard, the latest from author Chuck Wendig.

I recently picked up an Apple Watch Ultra2. It’s chunky and a love it. No, I didn’t really need a chunky Apple watch. I just wanted a new watch and it seemed like the coolest one. Also, it’s an early combo birthday/Xmas present from H. She’s very generous. I’m very lucky.

And yes, I know I’m always talking about how much I love and still use analog things. That’s still true. Don’t believe me? Check out my Instagram.

I’m also a nerd and this Ultra2 is pretty damn nerdy. So, there you go. Did I mention it’s chunky? It’s also made of titanium. That’s pretty cool.

Until next time. Be kind to each other.

 

Image: Vincent Chong / Subterranean Press

 

I Guess I’m Back

i guess i'm back

I think the great Twitter / X / Medium / whatever experiment is over. I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to those places and what is there to show for it, really? Not much.

In the case of something like Twitter / X it was nice to meet a few people and nice to engage in some conversations . . . until it wasn’t. Now, well, let’s just say shithole doesn’t really begin to describe it. I do feel bad about it, though. I do. It was sorta nice while it lasted.

As far as Medium, Substack (which has other issues) and sites of that nature, I think I’m done with them too. I wanted to like/thrive at Medium and I did write some articles there. In the end, though, it’s still a place controlled by others and could, on what may be just a billionaire’s whim, turn into another shithole. Or worse.

So, enough if that shit.

I really think I should just concentrate what little time/effort/patience/talent I have on this blog. After all, it’s been with me since 2004 and unless I totally fuck something up (not out of the question) it should be here until they pry it from my cold, dead hands. Comforting thought, that.

So that’s it.

People keep asking if I’m back. Yeah, I guess I’m back.

 

 

Image: Lionsgate

New Home, Same Stuff

moving day

Hello to all of you who follow this blog. I do appreciate you. Just wanted to take a minute to let you know I’ve left Media Temple and moved my whole operation to new hosting.

Why did I do this? Well, one big reason and a few smaller ones. The big one is Media Temple was purchased by Go Daddy. I don’t like Go Daddy. Never have, never will. So, that’s a big “No” for me.

The smaller reasons have to do with use cases, cost and a bunch of other stuff I won’t bother to bore you with. Just know I didn’t make the decision lightly. It’s kinda a pain to move things, if I’m being honest. I wish I didn’t have to do it, but here we are.

So where did I move? I went to a hosting provider called Site Ground based on recommendations from several people, my own research, and more. I’m giving them the chance to keep my business. I hope I made the right choice. I think I did.

I guess we’ll see.

Cheers, all. Be kind to each other.

 

Note: No, I don’t know who those people in the photo are. I just grabbed this pic from a stock photo source. They look happy, though. That’s nice.

Begun, The Social Media War Has

social media war

Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on with Twitter these days either. Since Musky took over it seems to be going downhill fast(er). Not that it wasn’t kinda a shitshow before he came along and decided he knew best how to run things. Sure, sparky. How’s that going for you?

Even with the increased bullshit I’ve decided to hang in there and not delete my account just yet. Why? I’m not 100% sure. I guess it’s mostly just habit. I’ve been on Twitter since 2007 and I look at pretty much every day. Not saying that’s a good thing, it’s just a thing that happens.

I also don’t want some chode to come along and take the @ChrisU handle. That’s mine you fuckers. I got it on day one (or day three or at the beginning anyway) and I’m going to hold onto it. Keep your grubby paws off.

So even if I stop going to Twitter and disappear from it entirely, I’ll likely just disable my account and not delete it. That way, it won’t fall into the “wrong” hands and I can always go back one day if things improve. But really, at this point, I don’t know exactly what I’ll do.

Meantime, I’m also making accounts at all the other places people seem to be going. Like Hive, for example. Again, why am I doing any of this? And again, I’m not 100% sure. I enjoy some of the interactions I’ve had online so I guess I want to try to find that positive side of it again . . . if that’s even possible anymore.

I am enjoying Mastodon so far. Sure, it’s a bit wonky and the people running it aren’t always great at communication or tolerance for newbs, but I think they’re trying. I know the attitude has put a few people off so far and that’s not great for potential future community interaction. But everyone is getting used to a new platform and a new system with new rules and guidelines, there’s bound to be some growing pains. Let’s hope they don’t last too long.

I’ll probably hang in at Mastodon for the time being as I’m not having much of a problem figuring out how to make it work or talking to people. So far, everyone has been pretty cool. I’ve tried my best to be nice and people seem to respond in kind.

Don’t be an asshole and maybe people won’t be an asshole to you? It’s so crazy an idea it just might work. I just try to be kind and see what happens. It doesn’t always work out, though.

Some people are just giant dicks for no real reason. Shocking, I know. I tend to just block them and move on. You should try it.

As far as other social media sites go, as I said I’m on Hive now and I even took a look at my old Tumblr to see if that was interesting to go back to. Still looking at that one. I’m also on Instagram, Flickr, my other website, Facebook (yes, I know) and a few others I’ve probably forgotten about. And I’m still doing the podcast every week. You should listen to that, It’s fun.

Of course, I still have this blog you’re reading too. It’s been around longer than Twitter and a lot of other social media sites. Since 2004, if you can believe that. Hey, maybe that’s the answer?

Maybe we should all just go back to blogs. Those seemed to work pretty well for me and a bunch of people I know . . . at least for awhile anyway.

If I’m being totally honest (and why not?) I don’t know exactly what to do. You may have guessed that. I’ve also said it a few times already. Keep up.

Like it or not Twitter is a part of my life, for good or bad. It used to be good but I’ve been on it less and less the last couple years and maybe I should just deactivate it and commit 100% to something else like Mastodon? I don’t like the direction Twitter is going and I don’t know if it can be saved at this point.

Or, maybe it’s time for a total break from social media? That probably couldn’t hurt either. Lots of things to think about, anyway.

If you’ve left Twitter, where did you end up? I’m always interested to hear about other people’s experiences.

No matter where you go, always try to be kind. We need that now more than ever.

 

Note: The title of this point is not my joke. I can’t remember where I saw it so I can’t give credit. Thank you person on the Internet who said it first. Your sacrifice has not been in vain. 

Image: Disney / Lucasfilm

A New Update

So, I won’t be completely abandoning this blog after all. In truth, I kinda miss writing here. Over at Medium (which I like) I do feel the pressure to write things that are more “commercial” so I can get the tiny amount of money my articles generate from readership.

I’m not complaining, mind you, It’s nice to get any money for this shit. Still, complete freedom is nothing to scoff at. This blog is never going away (unless I stop paying for the server it’s hosted on or I die or whatever), so that’s pretty cool.

And nobody can tell me what to say or post on here. That’s pretty cool too. Although, you know what Lord Acton said about absolute power . . .?

Anyway, I’ll see you soon. Oh, and if you’re missing me, you can still find me at Medium, at Instagram and my new home at Mastodon. You should really give Mastodon a try, it’s pretty nice. Very few dickheads. I’d call that a positive.

Be kind to each other. Cheers.

Moving Day

Yes, that “brilliant” dude Elon purchased Twitter at the bargain price of 44 Billion, or something like that. And yes, he now seems to be tanking it for whatever reason. Cool.

Hey, it’s his (or someone’s) money, so what the hell, right? He’s so brilliant and all. Such a genius. So smart and so funny. How could it ever go wrong?

Nah, fuck that guy. Don’t like him. Don’t trust him. Never will.

All this is to say I’ve set up over at Mastodon. You should probably do the same. If you want to find me, I’m right here: @ChrisU@mastodon.social

See you on the other side.