Tuesday, May 22, 2018

John 19:30


It is accomplished.





Monday, May 21, 2018

Kitty Hawk

It's kitten versus hawk in yet another "nature's red in tooth and claw" video. But what makes this video so damn awesome is the priceless narration by the dude holding the camera. And when the camera briefly pans across a sign in the front yard... that sign's text adds hilarious poignancy to the tableau. Weep not for kitty: he's serving a purpose.






not exactly instant karma, but...

You have to wait almost two minutes, but please don't impatiently click forward: the payoff is fairly satisfying. Then again, if I'd had a shotgun filled with rock salt, things would have turned out differently at the Hominid residence.






the best online taekwondo lesson you'll ever see

I've finally subscribed to this guy, who is hilarious. He's legitimately good at several martial arts, but he's chosen the path of ultimate silliness for his "explanatory" vids:






Colion Noir: "Killers Inspire Killers"

A good video by Mr. Noir:






ululate!

Bernard Lewis, an often-controversial Middle East scholar and author of one of the most memorable books I've read, Islam and the West, has died only a few days before his 102nd birthday. I know Lewis best for his work in Islam scholarship, but he was an accomplished and well-rounded expert on Middle Eastern history and affairs in general. I read Lewis's Islam and the West some years after having had to read Edward Said's awful screed Orientalism, which adopts a victimization attitude (the West raped and plundered the Orient) and takes what I consider to be an illogical and hypocritical approach to the question of the West's interaction with the Middle East. Lewis, in Islam and the West, devotes an entire chapter to mowing down the many flaws in Said's monograph; that chapter in particular is a work of art, in my opinion. Lewis's academic trajectory involved many controversies and a general falling-out-of-favor over the past few decades because his right-leaning views caused many to consider his approach to the Middle East to be overly biased. Lewis was sympathetic to neoconservative ideology during the George W. Bush era, and he was one of the supporters of the 2004 invasion of Iraq—an invasion that I vehemently disagreed with. I can't say that I share Lewis's neocon sympathies, but I respect the breadth and depth of his knowledge of the Middle East, and I think his death represents a major loss for that sector of academe.

RIP, Dr. Lewis.



Sunday, May 20, 2018

Saturday, May 19, 2018

"Deadpool 2": review


[WARNING: big-ass spoilers! See the movie first unless you like ruining things for yourself.]

Let's get the obvious out of the way: "Deadpool 2" was never going to live up to the original. Oh, "2" is often gut-bustingly funny (e.g., the "dying Logan" doll that we see as the movie opens), but the sequel has to fight an uphill battle against problems like lack of novelty and sequelitis, the latter being a condition in which a sequel tends to crib tropes from the first film, match the first film's story beats, and overstuff the new film with too many characters. "2" doesn't transcend either of these problems, and that's a major strike against it. That said, the movie is a serviceable sequel with plenty of funny, gross, and vulgar moments in the spirit of the first film. Second, it's also arguably smarter than the first film, adding an extra layer of philosophy to the mix, especially thanks to a hilarious mid-credits sequence that offers the viewer much to think about. Third, the movie has a heart, if you can believe it, as one of the major themes of "Deadpool 2" is family—a fact that Deadpool himself points out, early on, during one of his fourth-wall breaks.

"Deadpool 2" is a 2018 superhero action-comedy directed by David Leitch and starring Ryan Reynolds as "the merc with a mouth" himself. As established in the first film, Deadpool is a Canadian ex-Special Forces soldier name Wade Wilson who undergoes a treatment that releases the latent powers of his X-genes, making him virtually indestructible thanks to a Wolverine-like rapid-healing factor, but also altering his body such that he looks like a burn victim. While he loves his firearms, Deadpool is equally in love with the two katanas he keeps strapped to his back. The new movie sees him once again flirting with membership in the X-Men as he trades barbs with Colossus (voice and mo-cap by Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), but Deadpool eventually forms his own group, the X-Force, whose members include lucky Domino (Zazie Beetz), brain-fryer Bedlam (Terry Crews), ninja-ish Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), acid-vomiting Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), invisible Vanisher (Brad Pitt in the movie's most hilarious cameo) and utterly normal Peter (a surprisingly fat and mustachioed Rob Delaney), who has no superpowers at all.

Before the X-Force thing happens, Deadpool, with Colossus and Negasonic, shows up in time to stop a young kid named Russell Collins (Julian Dennison of "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" fame) from tearing down a facility for mutant youth. As Deadpool attempts to negotiate with the boy—self-named "Firefist" for the pyrotechnics that can shoot out of his hands—it's discovered that the facility's headmaster and staff have been seriously abusing the children in their care, which is what ignites Firefist's rage. Deadpool himself, upon hearing this, actually shoots one of the creepier-looking staffers in anger, and he and Firefist end up being arrested and sent to a maximum-security prison for mutants, all of whom have their powers neutralized by a special neck collar (strangely unsatirized as a lazy plot device).

In prison, Wade/Deadpool rejects the kid's attempts to bond with him, and the kid turns to the huge fellow being held in The Cooler, the cell reserved for the most dangerous of inmates. Meanwhile, Cable (Josh Brolin) enters the scene, breaking into the prison, Terminator-style, on a mission to kill the boy. According to comics lore, Cable is the son of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and a clone of Jane Grey (Dark Phoenix); as a child, he gets transported into the future and trained as a warrior. He contracts a "techno-virus" (only comics writers could come up with this stuff) that has been eating away at his body for years, slowly turning him into a machine. "Deadpool 2" doesn't reveal this aspect of Cable's past; instead, it focuses on Cable's tragic history: it is an adult Firefist who, far into the future, kills Cable's wife and daughter, thus completing Cable's journey to becoming a badass killing machine whose only thought is to pull a Terminator and plunge into the past to kill Firefist while he's still a boy.

A fight breaks out in the prison as Cable goes looking for the kid. Cable's rampage releases Deadpool and Firefist from their shared cell, and Deadpool manages to stop Cable from capturing the boy, who escapes from both men but fails to escape the prison. Cable and Deadpool, still fighting, plummet over a cliff, with Deadpool landing in the water and having one of several visions of his lady-love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who was killed at the beginning of the movie by a criminal that Deadpool had failed to stop. This afterlife-Vanessa has been providing Deadpool with vague clues to help him reorient his life after her death. At one point, she tells Wade that his "heart isn't in the right place," and it takes him some time to figure out what Vanessa means.

The biggest action set piece in the movie occurs when Deadpool forms his X-Force and attempts to rescue Firefist when the boy is being transferred, along with several other mutants, to a different holding facility. In a copter and ignoring that there has been a wind advisory, Deadpool and his new team parachute down toward the convoy... and one by one, the X-Force members are killed off in gruesome ways as the wind blows them along unfortunate courses. Bedlam, upon landing, gets smashed by a bus; Shatterstar, presumably an alien, is ground into extraterrestrial pulp by a helicopter's rotors; Zeitgeist glides feet-first into a wood chipper, and when Peter tries to help him, he vomits enough acid to chew off Peter's arm and part of his torso, thus killing Peter. Domino, with her superpower of luck, manages to land right inside the prison-transfer convoy's main truck, the one holding Firefist and Firefist's soon-to-be-revealed gargantuan friend. Domino and Deadpool have to deal with Cable, who shows up and attempts to shoot Firefist, but all hell breaks loose when Firefist opens the chamber holding his prison buddy: Juggernaut, a man as large and strong as a bull elephant, and just as unstoppable. Juggernaut rips Deadpool in half, then the angry giant and Firefist escape with the intention of returning to Firefist's mutant school to wreak revenge on the cruel headmaster—a move that will set Firefist on the path of evil that culminates in the deaths of Cable's wife and daughter.

The rest of the film is devoted to stopping Firefist from going down the wrong path, saving Cable's future (he ends up teaming with Deadpool to stop Juggernaut), and giving Wade Wilson something to live for in a world without Vanessa. The ending is about what you'd predict it might be, with all the good guys getting what they want...

...and then comes the mid-credits scene, which introduces so much hysterical metaphysical mayhem that your head is left spinning when it's all over.

In order to do this review justice, I have to talk about that mid-credits scene, so here comes your major spoiler. This scene is actually two scenes in rapid succession: (1) Negasonic Teenage Warhead and her cute girlfriend Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna) repair Cable's wristwatch-shaped time-travel device, which Deadpool gratefully takes off their hands, leaving the girls to wonder whether they've just done A Very Bad Thing; (2) Deadpool goes on a series of quick time- and space-jumping adventures to correct parts of the timeline that he thinks need to be corrected. First, he zips back to the moment before Vanessa's death and kills the assailant before the assailant kills her. Second, he zips back to the moment before un-superpowered Peter gets killed and tells Peter to just go on home, thus saving Peter's life (but, strangely, not the lives of the other dead X-Force members). Third, he leaps into the events from "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and shoots the lame, mouthless version of Deadpool who appears in that film. Fourth and finally, he tracks down actor Ryan Reynolds (yes: the very same guy currently playing Deadpool) and shoots him in the head right as Reynolds is saying yes to starring in "Green Lantern" (and you'll recall that Green Lantern is from the DC Comics universe, so we're universe-jumping, here).

This series of events is designed to plunge the viewer into mental chaos. We're left with all sorts of questions: does Deadpool exist in our real world, such that he can kill the actual Ryan Reynolds? If he's just killed Ryan Reynolds, hasn't he just erased himself—Deadpool—from all timelines? If he's killed the Deadpool from the other X-Men cinematic timeline, does his action throw that timeline—which is already pretty confused—into further chaos? If all of this is meant merely as a joke, then does the saving of Vanessa also count as a joke, or will Vanessa be alive in the inevitable sequel?

This is, I think, one of the many ways in which "Deadpool 2" may actually be a much smarter film than its predecessor. The movie is satirizing the very idea of sequels and team-up movies: it immediately kills off almost all of the new team, and it very self-consciously calls our attention to the fact that it's a sequel when it deliberately relives certain moments from the original movie, e.g., Deadpool getting stabbed through the head; or Deadpool awkwardly regrowing body parts (this leads to a gut-buster of a parody of Sharon Stone's leg-crossing scene from "Basic Instinct," in which we get a quick, discomfiting shot of Wade's baby-sized dick as his lower body is regrowing; in the same scene, I was introduced to the term "shirt-cocking"); or Deadpool's interactions with Dopinder the Indian-American cabbie. "2" also satirizes and undermines the very notion of time travel as a story device; the resultant metaphysical messiness of Deadpool's mid-credits transtemporal escapade is meant as a fuck-you to most time-travel narratives out there, from "Terminator" to, quite possibly, the still-unnamed sequel to "Avengers: Infinity War." In the end, we viewers are clutching our heads and wondering how much of this movie was real and meant to be taken seriously. Now, when a movie that's already a satire can get viewers to wonder whether it should be taken at all seriously, that's about as meta as you can get.

My buddy Charles, who has made a study of tricksters, might appreciate "Deadpool 2" on this deep level. The movie as a whole, but especially that mid-credits sequence, plays such a degree of havoc with the question of textuality and the beholder's relationship to the text that Deadpool is, I think, a truer incarnation of a border-shattering trickster figure than Christopher Nolan's Joker could ever hope to be (and let's not even talk about Marvel's huge misinterpretation of Norse trickster-god Loki). As I noted in a long-ago post, the Joker is actually not as chaotic as he seems at first: his Rube Goldberg machinations require so much structured planning that the Joker can almost be seen as anti-chaotic. This leads to a certain irony when the Joker tells Harvey Dent, "I'm an agent of chaos." He is that, on the level of his intentions, but he isn't that when we consider his methods. Deadpool, meanwhile, throws several fictional universes into pandemonium.

So ultimately, for those of us who like to think about the movies we've seen, "Deadpool 2" is unwontedly philosophical, but in a gleefully playful way. While I didn't think the action or the comedy quite stacked up to that of the first movie, I give the film credit for absolutely shredding the metaphysics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a way that not even "Avengers: Infinity War" could manage. Deadpool is an anarchic force to be reckoned with, and he is perhaps more deserving of the mantle of superhero court jester than DC's Joker.

I haven't written much about this so far, but another thing that "Deadpool 2" gets right is the emotional side of the plot. The movie begins with Wade Wilson trying to commit suicide in the most nonsensical way possible: by lying on top of several barrels of accelerant while inside his grungy apartment. We find out that this is because he's just lost Vanessa during the aforementioned confrontation with the baddie that he had failed to kill earlier. Unmindful that he's going to be killing other tenants as well, Wade blows himself to smithereens, but when Colossus comes over and pieces Wade's pieces back together, Wade's healing factor takes over, and he ends up surviving the blast. Wade's several communions with the dead Vanessa convince him that he needs to find a family (which Wade initially dismisses as another f-word), and he ends up bonding with Colossus and Negasonic from the X-Men, as well as with Domino and Firefist—and possibly also with Cable, although Cable seems too prickly to accept hugs from Deadpool (Deadpool, mid-hug: "Is that a knife in my dick?" Cable: "That's a knife in your dick."—we'll leave the Freudians to interpret the homoerotic subtext). Of course, true to the movie's sandcastle-kicking comedic nature, it's questionable as to how powerful or meaningful any of this lovey-dovey stuff is once Deadpool gets hold of Cable's time-travel wristwatch and starts "repairing" timelines.

One of the major fan questions before "Deadpool 2" came out was whether the departure of "Deadpool" director Tim Miller was going to lower the quality of this new movie. I'm happy to report that David Leitch, who took over after Miller left due to creative differences with Ryan Reynolds, has proved to be a steady hand with a good sense of comedic timing and pacing. Leitch knows he's swimming in the ridiculous ass-end of the Marvel pool, so he lets the foolishness flow. Like Tim Miller, Leitch directs the action sequences in such a way that the viewer always knows what's going on, keeping any shaky-cam footage to a minimum.

The movie's jokiness doesn't quite rise to the level of the original "Deadpool," but as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, that was to be expected. This time around, the comedy is less of a one-man show and more of a team effort, with Deadpool's relationship with Cable at the center of the action. Josh Brolin's Cable is generally the straight man to Ryan Reynolds's wacky Deadpool; Cable cracks very, very few jokes of his own. Brad Pitt's hilarious, half-second cameo (enough time for me to think, "Wait—was that Brad Pitt?"), in which the Vanisher becomes visible right as he makes contact with power lines that are in his way as he's parachuting down, had me busting a gut. TJ Miller, back as Weasel, gets to have another funny "You look like..." rant moment when he sees the half-regrown Wade shirt-cockin' it in the apartment of Blind Al (Leslie Uggams, still looking and sounding like Nichelle Nichols to me). The Korean audience I was with lost it when Wade, in that moment, got off the couch and awkwardly midget-staggered toward Cable to shake hands on their deal to defeat Juggernaut and maybe save the boy. This being a Deadpool film, there are also plenty of jibes about DC Extended Universe movies, pop culture, and even comics artist Rob Liefeld, the creator of the Deadpool character. Some of these jokes land; some don't.

The special effects are of the bigger-budget variety overall, but not everything works, e.g., the effects for Juggernaut (voiced and mo-capped by Ryan Reynolds, his voice having been altered for the part). The downtown chase sequence involving Deadpool, Domino, Cable, Juggernaut, and Firefist looks pretty good on screen; there's a moment when Wade has to drive a Hummer—while standing bent-over on its hood and peering out at traffic from between his legs—that's pretty intense. There's also plenty of blood and gore to go around.

The actors all hit their comedic marks perfectly, which is to be expected from such a talented crew. Julian Dennison, who played a young rogue in "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," had already proved to be among the less annoying child actors, so I didn't have to worry about his performance. Zazie Beetz was bright-eyed and lovely as Domino; I wondered, for a bit, whether she might turn into Wade's new love interest with the death of Vanessa, but given the mid-credits sequence, it appears there's only one woman for Wade Wilson.

Domino's character presents her own metaphysical questions: for her to be as lucky as she is, reality basically has to walk on eggshells around her, constantly curving away any time there's any danger. Point a gun at Domino's head, and your gun will inevitably jam. Hurl a car end-over-end at her, and she'll be standing in the exact spot at which the car will miss her as it tumbles. Throw her into the air, and she'll end up landing on a giant balloon animal (you see this in one of the movie's preview trailers). Being lucky, when you think about it this way, is quite a mighty superpower because it's so damn ontological. One wonders what Domino could do if she ever found herself face-to-face with Thanos and his gauntlet. Domino reminded me strongly of Teela Brown, a human character from Larry Niven's classic novel Ringworld who was specifically bred by an alien race for luckiness. Niven's novel sometimes refers to Brown's special trait as "luck," but more often toward the end of the book, he uses the term "psychic luck," which is never explained in depth. At a guess, I take psychic luck to refer to a naturally lucky person's innate ability to see the most beneficial set of future possibilities and follow one of those paths flawlessly. That's the psychic part of psychic luck: an uncanny percipience about which branching possibility to follow among the constantly ramifying branches on the tree of infinite possibilities. Perhaps Domino is that way, or maybe she's just cruising along, with luck being more like a protective deity, floating alongside her and forever warding danger away and/or bending circumstances in her favor.

One movie-nerd panel discussion on YouTube speculated on what Domino's kryptonite might be, and the panel came up with the clever idea that there might be a state of affairs in which it would be luckier in general for Domino to die than for her to survive. This might involve some fate-worse-than-death scenario (e.g., the prospect of horrible torture), or it might involve Domino's having to make a choice that would save thousands of lives, but only at the cost of her own, thus allowing her to "share" her luck with others before she dies. Whatever the case, Domino makes for an interesting addition to the team/family, and since an X-Force movie is in the works, we'll be seeing more of her soon.

Overall, "Deadpool 2" is worth a second viewing. I didn't find it to be as funny as the original, but I do give the movie credit for its subversive smarts and for its surprisingly tender heart. The movie also casually slides a naughty middle finger up the bum of "Infinity War," given how it mocks the ultimately meaningless loss of multiple characters, most or all of whom we can assume will return thanks to the wacky benefits—and ultimate nihilism—of time travel, which sucks the value and significance out of everything. The plot leaves open a ton of logical holes, but that's kind of the point with any movie about Deadpool, our new trickster god.



run free, kitty

The most awesome video I've seen today is "9 Lives Parkour Cat," which answers the age-old question that cat owners constantly pose to their pets: "How did you get up there?" There's a horrific moment at the end of the video where a cat takes a long, long plunge; there's another, equally serious, moment in which a cat's parkour attempt ends in a wee bit of impalement. Not for the squeamish, but for what it's worth, the impaled cat, once it's been rescued by some kind humans, ends up running free, seemingly fine.






Friday, May 18, 2018

the ad

I created a goofy "ad," of sorts, as a way of inviting the IT team that works next door to come to the pulled-pork luncheon that I'll be hosting this coming Friday, May 25. I quietly printed out two copies of the ad, one for the IT team (which they have dutifully taped to one of their walls), and one for our office. I stuck the latter ad on the side of our fridge, using some McDonald's fridge magnets. When our resident graphic designer, a young Korean lady, saw my ad, she burst out laughing and couldn't stop. She ended up taking a picture of the ad, presumably to show off to her boyfriend and other friends later. Anyway, here you go:


Upper-left corner: Kevin's
Main text: Pulled-pork Festival
Blue box: May 25 (Fri.); 1:30PM; R&D Office; Welcome!

I'm rather proud of my expression, which is probably the reason why our graphic designer was laughing so hard. The tacky yellow aura is just icing on the cake.




heh

I normally don't find conservative political cartoons that funny. Conservative wit tends to be dry and tweedy, producing little more than a weak chuckle. It's the rare rightie political cartoon or meme that puts a smile on my face, but thanks to Bill Keezer, who constantly emails a barrage of images and links to articles, I finally saw some toons and memes that passed my personal litmus test for amusement:





Just to clarify: I'm not what I'd call anti-abortion; I think abortion is actually justified in certain circumstances. What I liked about the above meme was the inconsistency that it targeted. I'm sure, though, that there are plenty of egg-eating liberals to whom the above does not apply, so if a liberal were to say that the meme is straw-manning, I'd at least partly agree.

ADDENDUM: I anticipate that at least one wiseacre is going to leave a "meh... not funny" comment. Well, bring it!



Thursday, May 17, 2018

seeing "Deadpool 2" tonight, goddammit

Unbelievable. I wanted to see the 10AM showing of "Deadpool 2," this morning, so I stood outside my building to wait for a cab. Cabs normally come by with some frequency, but just like yesterday, there were absolutely no cabs for the twenty minutes that I waited. I do have Kakao Taxi (the Über-like ride-hailing service that's standard in Korea), but to use that app, you need to make a judgment call fairly early on because its takes a taxi several minutes to arrive at your location. I suppose I could also have taken the subway to the cinema, but that's a pain in the ass because I have to transfer en route. No me gusta.

So what I'm going to do tonight is leave work a bit early, scurry over to Jamshil Lotte World Mall a bit after 9PM, and buy a ticket for an 11:20PM showing of "Deadpool 2," which I hope won't be sold out. "Deadpool" has knocked "Infinity War" off its #1 perch, hogging 73.4% of all ticket sales at the moment ("Infinity War," now in second place, has a 12.85% share). I hope the movie does well internationally and in the US, but I know there's no way it's going to rake in as much money as "Infinity War," which is the tentpole movie to end all tentpole movies.



a warning to those who vape

If you vape, you're doing it to address a major concern: smoking. Well, my apologies to you ex-smokers, but you now have another concern: exploding vape pens. The poor guy who died essentially shot himself in the head and caused a fire in doing so. Be careful. Danger lurks.

ADDENDUM: if you watch the video that accompanies the article, you learn that the device in question wasn't a typical vaping pen, but was instead a much larger "vape mod," which has a substantially bigger battery. This larger battery is what failed catastrophically, causing an explosion that (1) propelled pieces of the device into the victim's skull, (2) burned over 80% of the victim's body, and (3) set fire to the victim's home.



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Tarnis"

When I watched "Avengers: Infinity War" the first time around, I was with my Korean buddy JW and his son. The boy is turning into a true movie buff, I think—at least when it comes to the major blockbusters. After we left the cinema that day, the boy and I started talking about what we had seen. One of his more interesting questions was whether Dr. Strange, who had apparently died at the end of the movie (along with a host of other characters), might not have been able to astrally project himself at the moment of death as a way to keep from disappearing completely.* As we talked about the movie, though, I noticed that the boy kept referring to Thanos (the main bad guy) as "Tarnis." When I asked him about his weird pronunciation, the boy unhelpfully explained that Thanos's name is spelled "Ta-no-seu" (타노스) in Korean, and Koreans, for whatever reason, pronounce that as "Tarnis." I'm very curious as to why the unnecessary rhotic "r" makes an appearance, given that the Korean spelling, pronounced faithfully, is "Ta-nos," which is fairly close to the English "Thanos."

I've noticed this verbal tic before, in other contexts: there are times when Koreans, in an effort to sound more anglophone, will inject an unnecessary rhotic "r" into a word to give it a more English-y spin (give me time to think of some examples; I can't conjure any at the moment). But "Tarnis" is pretty extreme, feeling more like an out-and-out mispronunciation to me than a simple warping of some vowels and consonants.



*I don't know how deeply I should dive into this, but one major fan theory is that all the "dead" characters are still alive, in some form, inside the Soul Stone, in which is contained the Soul World (or Soul Realm), a sort of pocket universe inside the stone. Strange isn't the only character with spiritual connections: Black Panther has his own spirit-realm, the Djalia, where he communes with his ancestors and various panther spirits, up to and including the panther god Bast (actually a feline goddess from Egyptian mythology). One of the loopier theories involves Ant Man: his ability to shrink down into the "quantum realm" might put him in touch with people in the Soul World. This sounds nutty to me, even by the nutty standards of Marvel fans, but it's a theory that's out there.



PJW on the "This is America" video by Childish Gambino






ululate!

Author Tom Wolfe has died. He was 88. Known for his classy white suits and satirical perspective, Wolfe's background as a journalist aided him in writing both fiction and nonfiction. One of his most famous nonfiction works is The Right Stuff, which was made into a hit movie (with the same title) in the early 1980s. I read Wolfe's 1987 The Bonfire of the Vanities when I was in college and was blown away: the novel ripped into everybody like a rampaging tiger. I next read Wolfe's 1998 A Man in Full, which didn't blow me away, but which was still a readable, albeit thoroughly implausible, satire.

Wolfe leaned rightward in his thinking, but his books tended to be fairly even-handed in their takedowns of society's sacred cows, and his death is a loss to the literary world. I, for one, will miss his often-wacky turns of phrase and his ear for accents and dialogue, which he deftly rendered on the page.

RIP, Mr. Wolfe.



coming soon

Get ready for a "Deadpool 2" review either later today or sometime this week. I'm off to watch Ryan Reynolds kick ass in the name of Canada* this morning. Meanwhile, see below as Reynolds and Josh Brolin insult each other on British TV. I got the feeling they were pulling punches, but the video is good for a chuckle.



UPDATE: no taxis this morning, so I missed my window. Will try to see the flick tomorrow.




*Reynolds is Canadian, and the superhero Deadpool is also Canadian, like Wolverine.



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

ululate!

Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the Superman films during the late 1970s and early 1980s, passed away on May 13 at the tender age of 69. Kidder suffered from bipolar disorder, having famously experienced a major episode in the 1990s, when she was found cowering on someone's property after having gone missing for a short while. She won numerous small awards over the years for her TV acting, and she was active with leftist political causes (her mother was a Canadian socialist, and her father was an American-born conservative Republican, which must have made for an interesting home life).

I may have had a short period during my preteen years during which I crushed on Kidder as Lois Lane. There was something charming about her gravelly voice and big doe eyes. I'll always remember her as a fixture from my childhood; the news of her passing makes today just a wee bit more somber.

RIP, my one and only Lois Lane.



people have no clue what an angel looks like

Rampant online idiocy as people flip out about a screen shot that originally came from a motion-activated security camera. The image purportedly shows an "angel" hovering benevolently over an SUV:

(story here)

Most likely, what you're looking at is a moth, so calm down, guys.

Wanna see a real angel? Here—this was a viral photo a few years ago. It shows John Unger and his dog Schoep, who was old and suffering from debilitating arthritis at the time the following photo was taken:

(story here)

One of the most touching images I've ever seen. If that man's not an angel, I don't know who is. You don't have to look around for magical beings to find real magic. Right in the here-and-now, right in front of your nose, there are angels everywhere. Just open your eyes.



tacking left, then right


The situation keeps a-changing. This is Korea, after all.

Check out the "Pacific Rim" and The Dark Knight Returns references in that post.

Oh, and Shakespeare.



Monday, May 14, 2018

sort-of deconstructed lasagna

I've still got a box of leftover lasagna noodles, plus a ton of lasagna cheese that's been frozen for ages (still tastes good, as it turns out), so I decided to make a sort-of deconstructed lasagna. It rates as "sort-of" because there's no red sauce and no meat, and I turned the cheese into an Alfredo by adding cream and butter (it's dried parsley that you see sprinkled on top). Aside from the missing elements and other alterations, though, the dish was tasty, even if boiling the pasta was awkward because of its tendency to stick to itself. Later on, I added some red sauce, and that proved tasty, too.







seen during a long Sunday walk






out of it

I didn't even know there was a "Lethal Weapon" TV series on Fox. Go figure.



Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

In memoriam:


Happy Mother's Day to the moms of all my friends, relatives, and loyal readers.





about Wanda Maximoff's disappearing accent

Elizabeth Olsen portrays Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, in the Avengers movies. Wanda is Eastern European—possibly Sokovian, but in the comics, she was born in Transia, a fictional country like Sokovia. When we first meet her, Wanda has a strong Eastern European accent, which she maintains through several movies. But sharp-eared fans have noted that, in "Avengers: Infinity War," Wanda's accent is barely noticeable, which has made some people grumble about what might have happened. Why did Wanda's accent disappear?

"Infinity War" takes place a few years after "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015) and "Captain America: Civil War" (2016), so I suspect that enough time has passed for Wanda, who is still young and impressionable, to have lost much of her original accent after having hung out with a group of superheroes who are, for the most part, speakers of American English. I just don't see this as a problem.

I re-watched "Infinity War" today and listened more carefully, this time around, for Wanda's accent. It's still there, but in muted form. She sounds more American (Elizabeth Olsen is American), but that's consistent with my theory that the young woman would have lost much of her accent after two years. This is not an issue as far as I'm concerned.



"Cobra Kai, Season 1": review


[NB: spoilers.]

Designed as both a trip down memory lane for folks who grew up during the 1980s, and as a cynical ploy by YouTube to get people to subscribe to its YouTube Red service (ad-free for $10 a month), the new dramedy series "Cobra Kai" continues the story of the rocky relationship between Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio, now 56) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka, now 52). It's been thirty-four years since that fateful 1984 All-Valley Karate Championship at which Lawrence lost to Larusso. Daniel has gone on to bigger things: he's become the most successful car salesman in the Valley (i.e., San Fernando Valley); he's also married and has two children, a sprightly daughter and a fat, lazy slob of a son. His family lives in a palatial home in the rich part of town. Johnny, meanwhile, works as a maintenance man and contractor, spending his days repairing damage to crumbling apartments and installing high-end TVs for rich, overprivileged clients who show no gratitude for his efforts. Johnny also drinks bottle after bottle of Coors, his head still swimming in bitter memories of the past. He blames Larusso for stealing his old girlfriend Ali (Elisabeth Shue), and he thinks that Daniel's winning front kick at the 1984 championship was illegal.

Late one night, Johnny sees a young teen named Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) getting beaten up by a group of bullies led by a gyopo named Kyler (Joe Seo). Johnny uses his martial-arts skills to defeat the bullies. Miguel, thankful, begs Johnny to teach him karate. Johnny initially refuses. One night, while he's out reminiscing under the stars, Johnny sees his car get rammed by a group of teen girls driving an SUV. Johnny yells at the girls, catching a glimpse of one girl in the back who—unbeknownst to Johnny—happens to be Daniel Larusso's daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser). The girls drive off; Johnny calls a tow truck, and it turns out that his car will be taken to Larusso's lot for repairs. Johnny goes to Larusso's the next day, and while there, he has an awkward encounter with Daniel, the old victim of his bullying back in the 1980s. Johnny also sees Samantha there and puts two and two together when Samantha hugs her dad. Now incensed, Johnny goes back to Miguel and tells him he'll reestablish the Cobra Kai dojo and teach Miguel karate. (The money for the dojo comes courtesy of Johnny's emotionally abusive stepfather Sid [Ed Holy Shit Asner!], who wants Johnny out of his life and is willing to pay a small fortune to keep him out.)

Johnny also has a son named Robby (Tanner Buchanan, looking like a young Val Kilmer), who is in the process of dropping out of school. Not content with being a mere delinquent, Robby is a small-time criminal, working with two older pals to score anything from laptops to spare auto parts. Robby loves his mother (Diora Baird), but she spends her days making money through prostitution. The boy has nothing to say to his father, whom he considers a loser. As the series progresses, Robby ends up finagling a job at Larusso's, and because Daniel has been looking for someone to train with, Robby begins learning karate from Daniel, knowing full well that his father would flip out if he knew Robby was taking lessons from an old rival. But Robby's relationship with Daniel deepens, and the boy begins to lose some of his cynicism about life and the world as he internalizes the teachings that Daniel passes along from his own mentor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita, seen in flashbacks).

Daniel's daughter Sam, meanwhile, realizes that Kyler, whom she has been dating, is the wrong person for her; the crucial moment comes when she happens to see Kyler bullying some runty students. She also begins to realize that her rich-girl circle of stuck-up friends is equally bad news. Although she's perfectly capable of defending herself, having been trained in Miyagi-do karate by her dad, Samantha appreciates it when, one day, Miguel—now well trained in Cobra Kai karate—steps in to defend her from Kyler and his gang while they're all in the school cafeteria.

For a humble, fairly low-budget series, "Cobra Kai" does an excellent job of giving us a tangled web of relationships. It also provides no simple or easy answers to the various questions it raises—questions like, "How do two men get over their past as bully and victim?" and "Can a delinquent kid transcend his rough life and forge a better future for himself?" Come to think of it, the idea of getting over the past and making a better future is a major theme of this series. Daniel and Johnny don't become close friends by the end of Season 1, but we can see that there's potential for friendship. Samantha, who drops the evil Kyler to date Miguel, ends up souring on Miguel when the aggressive Cobra Kai training warps Miguel into something the sweet-natured boy isn't, but here, too, we see potential for the relationship to be repaired. The season finale ends with the appearance of Kreese (Martin Kove), Johnny's mean old sensei from the 1980s, promising even more complicated things to come.

The nerd term "fan service" was invented for a series like this: there are plenty of call-backs (nowadays, the kids say "deep cuts," i.e., references to things long gone that only true fans can appreciate) to the original, now-classic 1980s film that inspired this series: "The Karate Kid." "Cobra Kai" is slightly more about Johnny, however; much of the focus is on his redemptive arc. Johnny faces a series of both external and internal obstacles, making the path to self-improvement a difficult one. Part of the show's comedy comes from Johnny's almost Dirty Harry-like inability to relate to modern times: he's so thoroughly marinated in the past that he has no idea what Facebook is ("What's a Facebook?" he asks Daniel at one point), and he blithely spews politically incorrect opinions to anyone who'll listen.

There are moments when the series flirts with the ridiculous (especially in terms of some of its Dickensian coincidences), but for the most part, the dialogue and action remain realistic and relatable. Late in Season 1, for example, Daniel and Johnny are at a bar, using Facebook on Daniel's cell phone to track down Ali, who is an old flame for both of them. Daniel feels awkward doing this because he's a happily married man, but he and Johnny are on a mission of discovery, and what they discover is that Ali is living in Colorado, and she's a pediatric surgeon married to an oncologist. Daniel tells Johnny that he has never sent Ali a friend request, and she has never sent him one. Staring hard at the picture of Ali's husband, both men grimly agree that the guy looks like an asshole. That bar scene, to me, felt like an authentic moment, and it provided a plausible outcome for Ali, whom I doubt we'll ever see on the series. Johnny's son Robby is also realistically portrayed as a teen trying to find direction in life. Without his own dad as the father figure, he turns to Daniel to teach him some much-needed life-wisdom. From Daniel's point of view, Robby is like a second son—sort of a do-over for the fat slob of a son that Daniel actually has.

You can't have a series that's ostensibly about karate without featuring some fight choreography, so let's talk about that. William Zabka, the actor who plays nemesis Johnny Lawrence, actually has a black belt in the Korean martial art of tangsudo (often written Tang Soo Do). His moves are clean, crisp, and plausible. But the actors around him, including Ralph Macchio himself (Daniel), don't look so comfortable performing martial-arts moves. One exception might be Xolo Maridueña, the actor playing Johnny's protégé Miguel; while there's a tiny bit of awkwardness in his moves, he looks as if he could eventually become comfortable portraying a developing martial artist. That said, the fight choreography overall is less than impressive, and sometimes even cringe-inducingly awkward, especially during an All-Valley tournament scene toward the end of the season. Daniel's version of Miyagi-do karate still seems to rely too much on gimmicky tricks that end up playing a crucial role in combating an opponent later on. The overly mystical training style of Miyagi-do doesn't hold up well under scrutiny in these days of closely observed MMA bouts; the show's heavily edited fight sequences, with their many jump cuts, are evidence that the actors need a dash of movie magic to look like proficient fighters, which is too bad.

That said, I think "Cobra Kai" is more about story and relationships than it is about the martial arts, and on that level, the series has my full attention. The show hits all the emotional beats: there's humor, there's anger, and there's tension. William Zabka, now thirty-four years older than his 1984-era self, uses his aged features well to portray a sort of weariness and profound sadness that come from a life poorly lived. Ralph Macchio brings a twitchy Italian zing to his role as a much-older Daniel. While he hasn't shaken the baby-faced looks that he has been cursed with since the 80s, he does look older and a bit more subdued. He does a fine job portraying an imperfect husband and father who often rashly acts before he thinks and who, despite having been exposed to Mr. Miyagi's wisdom, still can't seem to see people and situations deeply. This rashness causes problems between him and his daughter, and between him and Johnny. If only Daniel could see how Johnny is trying to do better and make things right, much of the show's tension would be relieved. So in a sense, the show relies on Daniel's being a bit of a douchebag to propel its drama.

All of the supporting actors are well cast and likable in their roles. Joe Seo, as the bully Kyler, gets credit for being convincingly hateful at first, then for turning into a hilariously scrote-shriveled coward after Miguel hands him his ass in that cafeteria fight. The show gives its minor characters plenty of room to breathe, such that no one comes off as a mere stereotype or cardboard cutout.

Best of all, the show's complex and nuanced portrayal of Johnny and Daniel makes it difficult for us to root for one over the other. Each man can be an asshole; each man is also capable of being charming, deep, and even noble. Miguel sees Johnny as a father figure; Robby sees Daniel as a father figure, but there's a moment when Daniel tells Robby that he shouldn't think of Johnny as a monster: Johnny's just a man with a lot of demons, and he's Robby's true father. Since we can't really root for one man over the other, we end up rooting for both of them—to put aside their rivalry, to become friends, and to end this good-hearted series on a note of reconciliation and the promise of a better future.



Saturday, May 12, 2018

the sunset of John McCain

As I predicted, it now seems utterly unlikely that Senator John McCain, the consummate Never Trumper, will be returning to Congress to fulfill his duties as an elected official. Much more likely will be an announcement of his retirement from politics over the coming months. McCain's brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is at about the one-year mark now (i.e., one year after diagnosis), and this is, statistically, when most GBM patients die.

McCain seems to have retained enough of his mental faculties to have, in recent days, expressed regret at having picked Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. He has also spoken against the confirmation of Gina Haspel to the position of CIA director, and he has stated that he doesn't want President Donald Trump to attend his funeral, but would rather have Vice President Mike Pence there instead.

If McCain is still functioning at that level after a whole year of suffering from advanced glioblastoma, I can surmise a thing or two. Most important is that, in order to retain this level of functionality, McCain must not have undergone what is usually the initial step in treating GBM: debulking surgery. A debulking operation removes as much of the original cancerous mass as possible, which entails removing a significant chunk of the brain. In my mother's case, this involved removing enough of her frontal lobe to render her permanently unable to take care of herself as well as unable to string together coherent thoughts in a logical way. McCain probably faced an uncomfortable choice last year, and at a guess, he went for the option that would allow him to remain mentally functional for the longest possible amount of time. Hence, minimal or zero debulking, plus the standard radiotherapy and chemotherapy. As of a few months ago, McCain's GBM would have begun to spread across his brain to the opposite lobe. Given that McCain is still at his home in Sedona, Arizona, we can guess that the GBM has multiplied inside his head to the point where mobility has become a serious problem.

I think it's sad that McCain is choosing to spend his final months continuing to fight Donald Trump, but I suppose Trump's very existence provides, perversely, a sort of focus for the cantankerous McCain—a reason to stay coherent and to keep soldiering on. As to whether one should feel a twinge of sadness or regret over McCain's imminent departure from this plane of existence, I'll hand the microphone over to Styx, who has some choice words within the first 45 seconds of this video:






Friday, May 11, 2018

Korean reactions to "Infinity War"

There has been a slew of complaints about mistranslated subtitles in "Infinity War," and based on the video below, people are actually calling for the translator's head. I didn't notice the translation problems, but that's partly because I can't read the Korean script fast enough when it's flashing quickly on the screen, and partly because I don't have the fluency to verify what might have been mistranslated. Anyway, here's the video:


Very interesting to hear so much praise for the person who did the Korean subtitles for "Deadpool." Humor is notoriously hard to translate.



the yummiest calamity

In Poland, a tanker truck has overturned and spilled tons of liquid chocolate onto the roadway. The chocolate is apparently congealing into a "sticky mess."

Oh, to be in Poland right about now.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

inflection point reached: the tangent now tilts


Life never goes straight from A to B, especially in this country.



South Koreans: likeliest to get drunk after takeoff

This cute fluff piece goes over some pet-peeve behaviors of the most obnoxious air travelers. Conspicuously absent from the list: noisy babies and rambunctious children. Of note:

Breaking things down by nationality, the study finds that South Koreans are likeliest to get drunk after takeoff and that Europeans are the first to push back when passengers in front of them recline their seats. It also found that 73 percent of Americans are too uptight to join the mile-high club.



Wednesday, May 09, 2018

found this interesting

Not sure why, but I found the following video interesting. It has all the elements of a good fantasy film, and the world-serpent's basso belching is impressive. Now if only Mímir, the severed head, didn't sound so much like Simon Pegg's version of Scotty...


(This scene comes from a video game called God of War 2018, which online critics have been raving about, mainly for the story and the character development. As with the previous iterations of the game, the story centers on Kratos, a god—or former god—of war. While the seven earlier games focused on Greek mythology, God of War 2018 focuses on Norse mythology. Kratos has been living the quiet life of a mortal when he is tasked with an adventure involving him, his son Atreus, and Mímir the charmed severed head, a divine being of wisdom and arcane knowledge, originally carried around by Odin.)



rumblings will have to wait

I had to wake up early for a 25th-anniversary celebration that started at 9AM. The "invitation" (attendance was actually mandatory, which sucks all the fun out of an already-joyless experience) said we needed to be there by 8:30AM; I took a taxi and ended up arriving at 8:50AM. No one said a thing as I took my seat. After four hours of droning speeches and half-assed musical numbers put on by our own staff, I'd had enough, so when it was announced that the pause was merely an intermission, I got up and fucking left, cabbing back to the office... which proved to be dead quiet because everyone was still at the damn gala.

Anyway, the Thing That Affects My Future can't happen until I meet with a certain higher-up in my company. We were supposed to meet yesterday, but he didn't show. I'm about to leave the office early, since my day started early thanks to the gala, and the guy still hasn't shown up. So I guess he and I won't be meeting until tomorrow or sometime later this week. Once I'm done with that meeting, whenever it occurs, I'll have a better idea as to whether I'll be staying with the Golden Goose or finally saying goodbye after three years here.