Best Buy: I’m Done With You

I am a reasonable guy, but I’ve spent approximately 5 hours today either on hold, explaining the situation over and over again, or getting transferred to Citibank which is on my side of this issue.

So, I’ll explain this one last time before sending you packing permanently.

Today, I used the Best Buy app on my phone to make a purchase with my Best Buy Credit Card provided by Citibank. It’s the store card, the one that’s only usable at Best Buy and I’ve had it for a number of years. I have a $2,000.00 limit, and had a balance of approximately $1,250 at the start of this story of woe. So, basically I had about $750 available credit, which was sufficient for my purchase.

I added a Logitech 4k webcam, and two SteelSeries Apex Pro keyboards (one for me, one for my girlfriend) to my cart. Because I was feeling rather generous and like a sucker, I added a $10.00 donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Best Buy’s Geek Squad extended warranty to all of the physical items I was ordering. The grand total, including taxes, was approximately $567.76, which is fine, because it’s below the approximate $750.00 I had available. All was well and I checked out.

About 3 minutes after I made the purchase, I got an email and a text saying that I needed to update my payment information. I was confused. I checked to make sure the purchase was on my Best Buy Credit Card, which I have used numerous times before, and it was. I checked to make sure the billing address on the card was correct, it was. I checked the account balance and saw that there was an easily explained mystery, but it lead me down the right path: The account balance still showed $1,25x, the limit showed $2,000, but the available credit was just about $180. The easily explained mystery of the discrepancy is no real mystery at all: Citibank had approved the purchase. But since they had the discrepancy, I decided to call them first and confirm the purchase went through.

So, after almost no time on hold at all, I started speaking with the first Citibank customer service representative that confirmed that the purchase was completely fine, and that they had the exact purchase amount for the main transaction ($557.76) and it was approved. They were happy. I was moderately happy and I was about to hang up. Instead of hanging up, I asked if they could give me the authorization codes for the purchase and they happily provided them. So, needless to say, Citibank is not on my shit list.

I then called Best Buy’s customer service, was given an expected hold time of less than 3 minutes, which was actually about 20 minutes. No big deal, that happens especially with customer service around the big shopping dates like Christmas. I got to the rep, and explained the situation, cheerfully providing my account information and a summary of what appears to have happened. He looked at the account and vehemently denied that there was any problem between their system and Citibank. “The order failed for some reason,” he told me, and suggested I take it up with Citibank. I explained that I had just spoken with them and they approved it. He said he’d put me in touch with the payment department and transferred me. To Citibank. I confirmed that this was, indeed, Citibank and confirmed with them that the order had been successful, then called Best Buy back.

Same hold music, same 3 minute expected wait, same ~20 minute wait, different rep. Explained the situation again, and was again told that this was an issue with Citibank. Oh! I forgot something! The first and second reps had retried the transaction without telling me, and decided it was a problem with Citibank or that I was too close to my limit because their attempts to retry it failed. That’s where my [starting] account balance, the successful charge, and my credit limit come into play… So, if I have an effective balance (starting balance and successful charge) of approximately $1,800.00, it doesn’t take a mathematics degree to know that an additional purchase of $557 would not go through because of the $2,000 limit. Before I realized that they were hitting the retry button, I was transferred to Citibank for the second time.

My third trip through Best Buy’s hold system was initiated at my request by Citibank and it was the first time I got in touch with someone that actually understood what I was telling them and made an effort to get me in touch with a manager. Here’s a little secret that most people don’t think about when calling customer service or technical support: the first line of “defense,” as it were — the front lines answering the telephone or responding via chats — have basically no power. Their jobs are to take information down, see if they can solve the problem, provide canned answers, and, when really pressed, to escalate the situation to the next level, usually a supervisor or manager. This third person understood that there was really nothing he could do for me after I explained everything, and told him that his retrying the payment wasn’t solving anything because of the effective balance on the account and my limit. He attempted to get me in touch with a manager for the better part of the 45 minutes we were on the phone before we got disconnected. He was the first (and possibly only) person that documented what was going on with the order. I wish I remembered his name so I could at least give him a pat on the back rather than the middle finger that I’m giving to Best Buy as a whole from here on out.

In any case, this particular gentleman did manage to speak to a supervisor that suggested that I cancel the order and place it again with a different payment method. The problem with that is that because Best Buy’s order system doesn’t acknowledge that Citibank successfully charged my account for the order, it would not be refunded with Citibank, and I’d end up paying for the order twice: once now and once over time with Citibank. That’s a nonstarter. It’s possible that after 3 days, that Citibank will cancel the purchase because Best Buy didn’t follow up on it in any way, but Citibank’s reps were quite confident that I would see the purchase in 3 days on my credit card statement because everything looked perfectly routine and normal from their side. I pointed this out to this fine rep and he agreed with me. He put me on hold again to speak with his supervisor and then I was disconnected a short while later.

Call number four was the same routine: wait 20+ minutes, identify myself, explain the situation again, but this time the rep had the added benefit of seeing the previous guy’s notes. This time, I was put on hold and ended up getting transferred to Geek Squad, Best Buy’s technical support people. Neither they nor I have any idea why the hell I was transferred to technical support. The decent human being at Geek Squad also told me that #4 had added to my order information that I had been charged twice for the order. I told him I had not, just that I didn’t want to pay for this order twice. We spoke for a bit, he apologized to me constantly, and tried to get me in touch with the Purchase Support team. I’m not sure if I ever actually spoke with them because the remaining calls that I’m not going to cover involved additional disconnects (which I suspect were deliberate), more transfers to Citibank, and way too much aggravation as I kept getting promised to speak to or receive a call from a manager.

Again, to the third guy’s credit, I did receive one call back from Best Buy while I was on the phone with someone else, but no message was left, let alone contact information for following up.

In total, I spent over 5 hours on the phone trying to get this resolved today, and accomplished nothing except the realization that I’d much rather give Jeff “Dr Evil” Bezos my money than set foot in or spend another dime with Best Buy. Once my Best Buy Credit Card by Citibank is paid off (which I’m going to do in the next month), I’m done with Best Buy.

Now, if some manager or executive would like to reach out to me and help me get this sorted, I’ll gladly speak with you/them, but I’m not holding my breath. All I wanted to do was get the order fixed, get the merchandise Citibank and I agree I paid for, and call it a day, but that’s clearly not possible with Best Buy’s customer service system.

Oh, one more thing… After the last straw, I called Citibank to ask them to dispute/charge-back the purchase (which will have to wait a few days), and in all, Best Buy’s various representatives tried retrying the purchase a total of 11 times today, most of which were after I explained how the math works.

A Dreamlight Valley Conspiracy Theory

Before I go any further with this, I’m just making this up for fun, not to ruin anyone’s day or experience with the game. Frankly and honestly, I started playing it on Wednesday and I’m probably enjoying it as much as everyone else is. This conspiracy theory of mine popped up last weekend when I was teasing my girlfriend, and I immediately apologized to her for the way I could see it was making her feel. So, please don’t let this post ruin your experience or opinion of the game, just take it in the spirit I’m presenting it: a bit of fun with a little thought behind the premise. Oh and SPOILERS!!!

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My thoughts on Obi-wan Kenobi

Hey folks,

It’s been a while. A long while in fact. My last post to actually hit the site, visible to all, was way back at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic hit. I, thankfully and obviously, survived and if you’re reading this, you did too. I’m thankful for that, and I hope you’re doing well! My life, like most, has gone through changes and I’ve adapted as best I could but things are pretty much stable for me, and I’ve been busy, as always, and haven’t had much time to put towards things like this.

Nonetheless, my girlfriend and I just binge watched Obi-wan Kenobi and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on it.

First of all, I think it was worth the wait! I really enjoyed it overall though it went in a completely different direction than I thought it would… I was expecting that it, the first season at least, might be based on the novel that came out on the character a few years ago, that also took place in the years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. While that wasn’t the case, I wasn’t disappointed in what we did get, not significantly at any rate. It makes sense that Vader would continue to pursue Kenobi, and with the existence of the Sith Inquisitors in the various animated series and comics (along with the Emperor’s Hands in the Expanded Universe), it’s fitting that we finally get to see them in action.

But the show isn’t without some controversy and anger. There’s been a lot of anger at the fact that Leia has been “recast,” and I’ve heard a number of people talking about how bad the Third Sister/Reva’s acting is. To address the former, to be painfully blunt and insensitive, Carrie Fisher is dead and even if she wasn’t, we never saw Leia at age 10 before so they would’ve had to cast a different actress to portray her anyway. Get over it. Even if they recast her at an older age, if you want Star Wars content that is going to involve the character, Leia, you’re going to have to get used to the idea of a different actress portraying her or have her resurrected through computer imagery. Pick your poison.

As for the Third Sister… My problem with her had nothing to do with Moses Ingram’s acting. It wasn’t always perfect or what I wanted it to be, nor did I particularly like the character, but she was fine. My problem was the overly excessive CGI parkour sequence(s) in the show. The animation on those was just plain terrible, in my opinion, and were completely unnecessary since they accomplished absolutely nothing. If they had gotten her to where she wanted to go or needed to be within a reasonable timespan or in time to act on what led her there, I’d be fine with it but they didn’t and were pointless. So, cut them.

Perhaps the biggest nits to be picked about the series are more or less matters of perspective and character memory. For example, if Luke and Leia had been in jeopardy as depicted in the series before A New Hope, there almost certainly would’ve been some mention of it before now. This sort of adventure is in keeping with the life of a Jedi, especially a master, so I could see Obi-wan not remembering it, but for a child, especially one raised as a moisture farmer on Tatooine, being chased down by a crazy lady with a red laser sword would be a life changing event! He’d probably be in therapy for years after that, and he’d certainly wonder “why me?” Leia would likely have a plausible reason: princesses are high profile targets, so you could expect one or two kidnapping or murder attempts before she joined the imperial Senate, but she figured it out on her own. Well… Partially, anyway. This is one of the problems inherent with making content that takes place before earlier content, especially when that involves something that is old and very well known and loved like the original Star Wars film; you open a can of worms that makes things incongruous… Anomalies that stand out and can’t easily be explained.

Some anomalies can be explained, however. As my girlfriend and I discussed the series after completing it, she felt that it broke continuity with A New Hope because Vader says something to the effect of “when I left you I was but the learner, now I am the master.” She felt that this meant that the last time they saw one another was at the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith. In my opinion, it doesn’t imply anything other than “you were once my master, now I’m better than you.” To me, that means that there could be any number of encounters between the two in the future motion pictures, comics, or books between this point in Obi-wan and A New Hope, though I would think that their last encounter between the two would lead Vader to suspect Kenobi has died.

Going back to Third Sister/Reva, I do have another issue involving her… Not so much her acting, but the apparent and obvious filler that was her interrogation of Leia. Aside from it’s purpose of filler during the episode, it really makes no sense. A 10 year old kid wouldn’t have any significant information about any plan to move Jedi from planet to planet to safety. At best, they might know what it is and what it’s for, maybe a few people involved (maybe even a leader), but certainly not detailed plans and destination. So the interrogation really makes little sense.

Another thing is that there are definitely some issues with ship scales… The series demonstrated smaller ships landing/docking on some larger ships, but the problem is that those smaller ships are of significant size relative to the larger ship and would take up a considerable amount of space inside, eliminating room for cargo, propulsion, life support, weapons, shield generators if so equipped and so on. This particularly bothered me in episode 4, towards the end, when the speeder lands aboard the escape ship. It’s one thing in video games: scale is often an issue in games, and there’s no need for operational equipment in a game. Granted, the same could be said for a ship in a movie or TV show, but there’s usually a stronger effort to get scale correct, but there appeared to be little of that in this series.

The tactics, on both sides, during the Imperial breach of the base was sketchy at best. The defenders had sealed the doors, and had time to setup barriers, other obstructions, and cover in the tunnel. Instead, they used what tiny amount of cover was already in the tunnel. When the doors finally opened, both sides made basically the same mistake, though I feel the Jedi friendly side made the bigger mistake overall. Thermal detonators… Generally a weapon used by the soldiers on the “good” side more so than the Imperials, thermal detonators should’ve been tossed in the direction of the Stormtroopers flooding into the tunnel, creating a mass casualty situation for them. The good guys, hiding behind proper cover, wouldn’t have been nearly as impacted as the Imperial forces. Similarly, the Imperials had the heavy gun/blaster already pointed at the door… Why didn’t they use it? A few shots from it as the Stormtroopers cautiously and intelligently advanced — providing covering fire for the heavy gun to reload — would’ve given the invaders the advantage they needed, even if the opposition had good cover.

One last thing off the top of my head… Stormtrooper armor is seriously garbage. I mean, this isn’t news, but Kenobi has shown exactly how shit it is. The armored troops get beaten up by unarmored individuals, drown, can’t see in the dark, and, as traditionally seen, can’t take the slightest hit from a blaster. What is the point of this armor exactly? It’s little more than a uniform designed to anonymize the rank and file soldiers. The Empire’s armed forces need to union up and demand better equipment!

All that said, I really did enjoy the series and I’m looking forward to the next season, if it happens.

The Mandalorian: Full Circle

Due to a certain CGI Child, I probably don’t have to introduce you to The Mandalorian or explain what it’s about. I’ve read articles about how the show is a return to themes that Star Wars has always fundamentally been about, and that it’s more in keeping with the original trilogy than literally anything we’ve seen since, and how it’s pulled off the space Western idea, perhaps in a way that we haven’t seen since Firefly. But what I don’t see mentioned is the fact that The Mandalorian is really — especially in the fourth episode — getting back to Akira Kurosawa.

Buckle up, this is going to take a minute.

Unless you’re a film student, you probably are unaware that the original Star Wars — later referred to as Episode IV A New Hope — was based loosely on Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. The basic story is that two mercenaries escort a woman and man — ultimately revealed to be a princess and a general — across enemy territory… Sound familiar? In my book, Kurosawa is a genius and even though I knew nothing of him when I first saw Star Wars when I was a kid, I can see his influences all over Hollywood of the past and the present. That’s great and all but how does this connect to The Mandalorian?

This is where things get interesting.

Some of Kurosawa’s greatest works were inspired, not by history — at least not Japanese history — but by Western films. By Western films, I mean cowboys and Indians, not just films produced by Western cultures. Yojimbo and The Seven Samurai were both inspired by the Old West and how we saw it in films like John Ford’s Stagecoach starring John Wayne. Kurosawa was very fascinated with the juxtaposition of Old West with Old East (with samurai and their masterless cousins, ronin) that he almost had to make his own films with this concept. And he was very successful with them. So much so, that — in a fit of irony that’s so comical it had to come from Hollywood — Hollywood copied his works. Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven, and Yojimbo became the series of Clint Eastwood films including The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

By now, if you’ve seen these films, and see where I’m going, you should understand that The Mandalorian isn’t taking Star Wars to the Old West, as some assert, but taking it back to the Old West by way of the Old East. With the original Star Wars being based on The Hidden Fortress, and The Mandalorian clearly drawing on both Yojimbo and, especially in episode 4, Seven Samurai, all that’s missing from Jon Favreau is a special thanks shout out to Akira Kurosawa.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to suggest that Favreau is ripping off anyone. He’s done an amazing job of recreating the feel of the original trilogy, referencing a lot of deep lore, and painstakingly created something everyone can love. But it’s important when talking about returning to traditional Star Wars themes that you take it all the way, and not just half ass it by saying that Star Wars has been taken to the Old West. It was already there, Star Wars simply went full circle back to where it began.

The Torch Has Been Passed

I could sit here and talk about everything that is Avengers: Endgame but I’d rather not. This will be adjacent though; as the title says, the torch has been passed to the next generation, or in MCU-speak, phase. You know me, I’m not going to speak honestly without spoilers, I’m just going to speak honestly. This is your first and last chance to stop reading.

So, the status at the culmination of Endgame: Vision, Iron Man, and Black Widow are dead, Steve Rogers retired, having passed on the Captain America title to Sam Wilson (Falcon), and Thor ran off with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Hulk probably will continue to live the celebrity life, Hawkeye looking out for and raising his family. All the other characters are alive and presumably well, and not likely done with their adventures; or so we can expect from the known movie schedule.

What more is there to say?

A lot actually. There are multiple hints that this is not the end of the Avengers saga… Certainly not the individual members, but also for the team as a whole.

The first hint was that Tony made a set of armor for Pepper as a birthday gift or anniversary present or whatever. We know she got it because of her appearance in the film’s climax. Second, while he was already a hero and Avenger, Sam is now Cap. Third, Thor made a joke when aboard the Milano with the Guardians, “Asgardians of the Galaxy”, which happens to be a very real comic Marvel is doing, where Asgardians joined forces with the Guardians.

But I think the biggest hint is the one no one saw… But heard. Although I didn’t stay through the end credits myself, I was aware of the sound of metal clanging at the end of the credits. This, as many people of pointed out, it’s very reminiscent of Tony’s work on the first prototype in the first Iron Man film. There’s a simple reason for it… The cycle begins anew.

Valkyrie will take the place of Thor on Earth; Thor handed her the throne of Asgard before he left. Sam is the new Cap. So who is the new Iron Man? Well… It would be easy to say Pepper; she has the suit, is familiar with the capabilities, has Tony’s lab, and undoubtedly support from the other Avengers and Rhody (War Machine). But I’m going to go out on a limb, using the Marvel Comics links I’ve mentioned already, and say Riri Williams, the spiritual successor Tony already had in the comics introduced a few years ago. She currently goes by the name Ironheart, and here’s why I think she’ll take Stark’s place.

But first, a full disclosure… I only know what I’ve read of Ironheart and what I believe of her. I have not read any of the comics in which she appears, not because of how I feel about her or what she represents, but just because I haven’t bought any comics since before she was introduced. I keep minor tabs on them; I was a big Iron Man, War Machine, West Coast Avengers/Avengers West Coast fan back in the day, and frankly I like the idea of Ironheart.

So here’s why I think she’s up… While a lot of us really liked Tony Stark as portrayed by RDJ, a lot of people were not fans of his money, his ego, his personality. Tony’s chief advantage was also his greatest weakness: he was rich and had advantages no one else did as a result. From little I know about Riri, she came from the exact opposite background. She didn’t have money or power, she had her mind, curiosity, and strength of her beliefs to recreate the Iron Man technology but herself. She’s self built, from scratch, disadvantaged all the way. More importantly, not only is she a woman, she’s black. Part of the criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the lack of gender and racial diversity. That has greatly improved since Black Panther, but there’s always room to do more. Riri Williams, Ironheart, is both. The sound of metal being pounded is the sound of the cycle starting again with Riri creating her first suit of armor. The metaphorical, and quite possibly literal, torch being passed is, in my opinion, to Miss Williams who will take her place along side the new Captain, the new Asgardian monarch, and all the Avengers the MCU has collected over the years.

So… What do you think?

Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse

Spiderman was never my hero. Don’t get me wrong, I never disliked him… He just wasn’t my spirit animal, as it were. He was one of the many, many heroes I saw and respected, even liked. But he’s not the one I wanted to grow up to be. Superman was that guy… Now before you go and get upset thinking I’m in the DC side of that great DC-Marvel holy war, I owned and read far more Marvel comics than I did DC, but the thing is I read what I liked to read, and I looked up to who I wanted to be. For me, that was Superman/Captain America, though I recognize and respect the fact that we live in a world that needs Batman/Iron Man more. (Someday I’ll make my case for those parallels here, but this is about Spidey, so…)

I have friends that are diehard Spiderman fans, and I have frequently tried to stay awake while they explained why he’s the best. I have to admit that I loved a number of the mythos’s villains, and found a number of the stories interesting. But it wasn’t mine or for me. I kept in touch with it primarily for the various connections to the X-Men and Avengers, but I don’t think I ever ran out and bought a Spiderman t-shirt or hat or even keychain. I enjoyed, for the most part, the Toby McGuire films — Thomas Hayden Church’s Sandman was the best character in any of them though! Fight me! — but I couldn’t even tell you the name of the guy in the Amazing Reboots. And I’m not interested enough to look it up. I think Tom Holland, if he can keep himself from being banned from Hollywood films, is doing a great job as the current iteration, but still, Spiderman just wasn’t really for me.

I saw the trailer for Into The Spiderverse early this year, I don’t remember what movie it was in front of, but I thought the art style and idea was a bit weird. I mentally wrote it off, and wrongly assumed it was a videogame.

I just got out of the theater and all I can say is Spiderman still isn’t “my hero”, but this is my Spiderman movie.

I already knew of Miles Morales and his status as “ultimate Spiderman”, though honestly I didn’t know much about him. I also knew about Spider Gwen, and there’s some part of my brain that remembers Peter Porker… But what I didn’t anticipate was how well all these different takes on Spiderman would work together, and not feel redundant. Hell, at least 3 of the Spidermen present in the film were different versions of Peter Parker himself, just from different eras or different lengths of time having been there web slinger we all know. My favorite version, honestly, was Noir Spiderman, who was simply put, black and white in terms of costume and morals, and in his own words, the wind goes wherever he goes… So his trenchcoat was perpetually flapping in the wind. And as luck would have it, he was voiced by Nick Cage… God bless him!

Any way, the different takes on the character were just one facet of the film. It wouldn’t be a Spiderman film without a heavy dose of morality, character building for both the audience and the hero, and the moment of truth/rise to the occasion birth of the hero climax. We get that. We get that in a lot of films, frankly. But it was different in Spiderverse because it was actually fun instead of intense or over the top. The film made it a point to show that Miles is a kid and that none of the other Spider-peeps expected him to just go out and fight the bad guy. Peter even points out that he just wasn’t ready yet towards the end of the film. Perhaps in one of the most grown up moments I’ve seen in a comic book based movie, I’m an animated movie period, Peter chooses to sacrifice himself to save all the other Spider-peeps because it was the only way since Miles wasn’t ready. And he demonstrates to the kid that he just wasn’t ready without being brutal or unfair.

I’m rambling and have lost all sense of form but suffice it to say, I liked this movie. I’ll be happy to add it to my collection once it’s available.

A Counterpoint to #MeToo

Sexual assault and harassment are legitimate and real problems. I’m not here to argue that they aren’t. I’m not going to sit here and minimize them either. However, I do want to point out a couple things in how Hollywood and America in general are handling it, because it needs to be pointed out.

First and foremost, at this point in time, the accused are essentially being condemned, tried, and executed, frequently without an actual legal trial. In some cases, all it takes is a single accusation to bring down a person, and there doesn’t even have to be any validity to that accusation. This is a tough thing to try to deal with properly; on one hand, you have to take the victim’s claim seriously. You have to, there is no other option. But on the other hand, you also have to give the accused the benefit of the doubt: our law is based on the presumption of innocence until a court of law finds him or her guilty. That is the law of the land. You can’t bypass that and go straight to punishment. Except we have been. With the #MeToo movement, people have been drummed out of their jobs and society, frequently without a trial of any kind.

Take Kevin Spacey, for example; his accuser waited 30 years to bring up the assault publicly. He had 30 years to bring it up to the police (ok, probably a lot less given the statute of limitations) and to seek some justice, but only did so at the start of this movement. In the process, Spacey has been banished from Hollywood for something that may have been a one time, mutually consented to interaction, without a trial, or expectation of such. He was fired from his current role, digitally erased from a film, and likely will never earn another dollar as an actor. Hell, he may not even be able to work again period given the notoriety if the situation. All that without even giving him the benefit of the doubt or at least a fair trial.

I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it, I’m not saying he’s a saint. For all I know, Spacey may eat the hearts of puppies every morning for breakfast. What I am saying is that the court of social media and public opinion needs to stop convicting and punishing people without a legal conviction first.

The other point is that in cases where people have been legally convicted, and have served their time, they have a right to work again if they can find it. It’s hard enough for any ex-convict to find work; it always has been and likely always will be. It’s a stigma and struggle they have to live with. But once they have served their time, they are legally entitled to work again. I’m writing this post because I just finished reading about how unfairly Olivia Munn is being treated after she informed Fox about Steven Wilder Striegel who appeared in the upcoming film “The Predator”, apparently in a single scene, with Munn. There were many wrongs about this.

First of all, regardless of how Striegel got the role, he has a legal obligation to inform his employer about any convictions that he has. Given that Fox claimed ignorance of it, he either didn’t, Fox lied, or someone kept it quiet. Given that Striegel is a friend of the director, Shane Black, my bet is that it was kept quiet. That’s a tough call; on one hand Striegel did his time and is just trying to work and a friend has a duty to help another friend where he can, on the other Black’s obligation to the studio, the cast and the crew demands that he bring it to their attention prior to filming. Another thing to consider is whether Striegel was an “extra” or a paid member of the cast: it’s not difficult to be an extra on a film, and frequently no one even asks your name or has you sign a release, let alone do a background check. It would be impossible produce films the way they are currently and do background checks on everyone involved no matter how small the role. Nonetheless, this is something that Hollywood might have to change.

The second thing is, that had the proper notifications been made, Striegel had a fully legal reason and right to be there. I love Olivia Munn and have since her days on Attack of the Show (????????????????), I really do. But, strictly speaking, Striegel did his court assigned punishment; aside from being obligated to notify the powers that be of his conviction, he was entitled to be there as much as Munn was. While I agree that the fact that she wasn’t informed and given the option of not working with him, he didn’t do anything wrong on this film as far as we know. Her outrage is valid; there’s no disputing that especially she found out after the fact, but had she been informed, there’s no reason the scene needed to be cut from the film. As far as I know, Striegel did not assault or harass her or anyone else on the set, and no laws were broken. (Aside from the question of notification.) So, I again stress that the cast and crew had a right to know, but Striegel also had a right to be there.

Next, I think it’s absolutely disgraceful the way that Black and Fox have apparently behaved. If you’re going to ostracise someone for doing the right thing, you may as well kill the film. That seems to be the way things are being done these days; Spacey’s last film was released to a limited number of theaters with no advertising whatsoever, and then the media that covers Hollywood was alerted that the film made $126 in its opening weekend. So why not do that? Frankly, the only reason I’m probably going to see “The Predator” is for Ms Munn; frankly, I’m tired of the remakes and reboots that are all the rage these days.

My final point in this post is that despite what the #MeToo movement seems to think, people, whether they’re legally convicted or not, still need to work. They still need to feed themselves and their families. If they’ve been accused of a crime, push for legal prosecution; if they are guilty, then they need to stand trial, be convinced, and be put away so they can’t harm anyone else again. If they haven’t been convicted, as hard as it is for me to say it, then they “legally” haven’t done anything wrong. I’m not saying their actions weren’t terrible or a crime, but until they are convicted, they shouldn’t be persecuted and exiled from their jobs. It’s how our law is supposed to work. You can’t fairly force people out because someone accused them off something, when only the people who were there really know the truth. #MeToo shouldn’t be about forcing the accused out, it needs to be about supporting the victims, getting them to stand up and press charges in a timely manner, and getting sexual assault and harassment to stop by getting convictions. Right now, the movement is too similar to an angry mob out to lynch anyone it can find.

It’s Time to Invoke the 25th Amendment

I try not to talk politics, period. Like religion, politics is one of the most divisive subjects that can be discussed. It can turn brother against brother, mother against daughter, and civilized human beings into raving lunatics. I very rarely bring it up in face to face conversations with friends and family, and discuss politics even less on social media or my websites.

That said, it’s time to invoke the 25th amendment of the Constitution.

If it wasn’t already clear to the majority of my fellow citizens of the United States, Donald Trump from the moment he started his presidential campaign has repeatedly said exactly what the audience in front of him at the time has wanted to hear, unashamedly contradicting himself when it would bring cheers. He proved during the campaign that he had no grasp of the actual powers and limitations of the office and he continues to believe, or at least speak as if he believes, that the law serves the president and that said president is above the law, that the government serves the president and should do what he wants without question or debate (as if he were a king or emperor), and that whatever isn’t positive about him or he dislikes is fake, illegal, or a conspiracy. Anytime someone stands up to him or fails to perform as he expects, he screams of disloyalty and that they’re criminals and need to be turned over for prosecution, even when no law has actually been broken.

Mr Trump would much prefer that justice and the department of that name serve him and his needs. From the earliest days after he took office, his appointees have been investigated, indicted, convicted, and sentenced, and that’s without the probe into his campaign and it’s possible (and very likely) ties to Russia. Factor Putin into the picture, and Trump is actively working to prevent the justice department from doing its job which, given our due process system, puts the presumption of innocence on his side. He can’t take the chance that they’ll actually find enough evidence to act against him so he’s actively trying to stop the investigation. The only reason that makes sense is because there is indeed evidence that would bring him down.

With the number of his own appointees leaving (perhaps “fleeing” is a better word) the White House regularly, some of which brokering deals with the justice department or with publishers, the book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward, and one of Trump’s senior officials admitting [anonymously] that there’s a group actively working to keep him in line… Trump is clearly not fit to serve as President.

This goes beyond being a Democrat or Republican. We Democrats lost the election, big deal, we still want what’s best for the country. The Republicans in Congress have been trying to keep Mr Trump in check since the inauguration, trying to make him operate and appear like a normal president should and would, denouncing his behavior and comments only when absolutely necessary, but only putting in the bare minimum effort in pushing his agenda. We know that a Republican lead Congress with a Republican president can do a lot together; it happened with George W. Bush, but this Congress seems awfully reluctant to even try. The reason is simply that they’re trying to out last him.

We have reached a point where enough people on both sides of the political spectrum in this company agree on the issue of whether or not Trump should sit in the oval office, and I think the answer is clearly “no, he shouldn’t.” While impeachment has long been the dirty word most Democrats haven’t wanted to use, it is clear that it’s no longer necessary. Invoke the 25th amendment; the president is too mentally unstable and incapable to serve the office and the people of the United States.

I miss the internet

As the title says, I miss the internet. No, I haven’t been away from my computer, my tablet, or my phone for a while. I haven’t given up being a tech addicted brat. I just mean that the internet that we have today is not the internet I used to know.

I didn’t grow up on the internet. There was no world wide web when I was a kid. Email was barely getting standardized when I was born. You couldn’t view pictures online when I first got connected unless you had a rare but specialized client or knew a few tricks. You had to download the file to your computer using a file transfer protocol like X, Y, or Z modem, then use a utility to view them. There was no video to be found.

More importantly, there wasn’t nearly as much negativity, hate, misinformation or outright lies on the internet.

My internet thrived on dozens of different services, enabling people to chat with one another. While that still can be done, perhaps even more efficiently than in those days, the mediums are now saturated with messages of anger and hate no matter the subject. On my internet, two people that vigorously disagreed with one another could still maintain civility and discuss the subject without threats, SWAT’ing, or even foul language. Perhaps people were just better on my internet and in my youth.

The problem with the internet came with the eased ability to access it. When it was difficult to find an internet service provider and few people even heard of the internet, people valued the contacts they made and communications they had. There was little or no spam in those days, and people made valiant efforts to provide facts and truth on the services back then. Sure, there was still illegal activity even then, the Usenet newsgroups were just as filled with illegal content as they are now, but more often than not, the internet was a welcoming place, friendly to most if not everyone.

Then along came the web, providing an ease of use the internet hadn’t known, and binding together or replacing many of the services we’d known. With ease of use came more users, with more users came the bullshit humanity always drags along with it. Hate. Greed. Lies and deception. Crime.

I’m not saying I don’t like the last twenty years worth of development on the internet, but I am saying that it would be a lot better place if people would stop being the worst people they can be on it and in the real world, and start trying to be civil again. Stop the hate; there’s no reason to hate or hurt anyone. Listen to opinions other than your own or those that agree with you. Even if you don’t change your mind, there’s almost always something to learn and have less to fight about because you have put in some effort to understanding. Stop the pointless hate of celebrities that acted in some movie you didn’t like; they probably didn’t write their parts, they just played them out. If you don’t like it, don’t see it or its franchise if it has one. Don’t make celebrities into gods… For fucks sake, no one should become rich and powerful because someone stole or leaked a tape of them having sex!

Try to be better people. That’s what I’m saying. Try to be better people and that will translate and transform the internet. Please. I miss the way things used to be.

Update March 11, 2019: It seems that the father of the web doesn’t disagree with me.

A Quiet Place

While I’m going to highly recommend that you see this film, I’m really only going to tell you that its got an interesting story about a family surviving monsters, and that it’s well done. There are much more important experiences that make this film worth seeing than the story itself.

Right off the bat here, one of the experiences — perhaps the only one really story focused — is that the first scenes take place on day 89. By this point, the film’s creatures have pretty much overrun the world and our family has marked it as the 89th day. Whether that’s the 89th day of their ordeal or since the creatures’ first appearance is never explained. It’s a rare treat to be thrust in situ; as you’re all too well aware, most films, especially the first in a franchise, usually do some exposition before you really find yourself in the film. Not so with A Quiet Place. Right from the start, you’re in it with them.

Next up, as you might guess from the trailers, a small child puts the family in a bad situation. What isn’t obvious from them, is that that’s pretty much right at the start of the film, and despite the father’s best effort, there was just no saving that child. The film didn’t shy away from it, and it only occasionally reminded you of how much that loss hurt the family, but I applaud the film door not backing out of it or allowing the heroics to pull off a miracle. Deus ex machina was no where to be found. Thank you.

But the biggest and most important of the film’s experiences was the use of sound and silence. It’s so very easy to take sound in film and television for granted; even I tend to think of the sounds heard in them as just a part of the natural filming process, that the sounds we hear were the sounds present when the filming was being done. That’s me, a guy with a degree in film analysis, that has had classes on silent films and early films with sound. A guy that has done sound recording on short film projects and knows how difficult it can be to edit films and trying to make sure sounds match across footage. I can’t imagine that most people stand a chance at realizing how much work goes into a film’s sound design!

What A Quiet Place does so well is emphasize sounds we take for granted in films and make them stand out. How often do you think about your footsteps as you walk across the room? How many feet can you walk across a wooden floor before you hear a floorboard creak? How often do you even pay attention to the sound of crickets outside your window? Did you hear the sound of the dried leaf you just stepped on? These are all things you become obsessively aware of in A Quiet Place, and the only two other films I can think of that put such an emphasis on sound are Fritz Lang’s 1931 classic M and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation in 1974. My questions above are all directly relevant to the film because they are all things that you become aware of while watching this film, and you — well *I* — become aware of the artificial nature of the sound in the movie, the fact that every little noise was either intentionally engineered into the set design, left in on purpose to add unexpected character, or, far more often, deliberately added in or removed during post-production. Most of the time, you don’t hear the crickets in the film, except when the film is trying to accentuate how quiet the characters are attempting to be. During the entirety of the movie, despite seeing them walk on leaves, you never hear one crunch. The floors have places to step painted on them to minimize the creaking noises, which implies the family put a great deal of effort into finding out exactly where you can step. Even the use of verbal dialogue in the film is minimized. So much is said not only in sign language, but though body language. Even when there’s no subtitles, you know exactly what the characters are thinking.

So, if you’re missing the point, you should sit down, put on your favorite film, and watch 30 minutes of it with the sound muted. Then unmute it and marvel in the fact that someone, more likely than not, spent days or weeks listening to every single second of that film, gradually adding layer upon layer of sound, music, white noise to make it seem natural. Natural to the point that you didn’t even notice how many other sounds were likely missing, such as the hum of the electric lights, or the periodic hiss of an air conditioner or heater. Mentally thank them for composing the auditory reality of your film. Because sound and its absence are key players we fail to pay attention to unless it’s pointed out by films like A Quiet Place and a certain scene in The Last Jedi.