Scared.

Sony announced yesterday that they are canceling the Christmas Day release of “The Interview”, a comedy starring Seth Rogan and James Franco. Their decision came after threats were made against theaters that would be showing the movie. The threats alluded to 9/11 type activity and this made key people nervous enough to cancel the release of the movie.

If you’re not familiar with the movie “The Interview”, it’s basically a comedy (and I’m sure I’m using that word loosely) about two journalists traveling to North Korea. Before going on their jaunt, they are contacted by the CIA with the request to assassinate North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. No fictional country or leader was named, the movie focused on the North Korea we all know and their current leader, who is often in the news for various reasons.

Setting aside the obvious political, social and economical differences between the United States and North Korea, I find it astonishing that this movie was actually conceived, scripted, filmed, edited and ultimately readied for a wide-release throughout the United States on Christmas Day. A lot of people had to have signed on board this whole concept, and it just seems wicked stupid to me that this movie was even made. Am I worried about offending North Korea? No. However, I find the use of real political figures in this manner to be quite tacky. Sony is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas and the inclusion of real political figures in this manner in the plot. What on earth were they thinking?

That being said, canceling the release of the movie after spending millions of dollars on it, hyping the hell out of it and then getting scared because of threats is rather cowardice. It shows that they absolutely do not have the courage of their convictions. When an organization can make threats against our country and then get a movie they don’t agree with canceled, it’s just another example of how scared our country has become. The United States has a scared population. At no other time in recent history has our population felt more terrified. It makes me angry that the execs can’t find the courage to stand up for what they believe in. You made the “art”, stand behind your “art”.

Unfortunately, “The Interview”, whether it’s ever released or not, is going to be in the forefront for a while.

Perhaps this is the real threat that we should be concerned about.

Fresh.

Jeb Bush formally announced yesterday that he is actively exploring the possibility of running for President in 2016. I don’t know much about the former Florida Governor; all that I’ve seen thus far is that he’s not convinced that Global Climate Change is a thing. Honestly, to me that’s like a frog saying that he’s not convinced that the water around him is boiling, but that’s just my spin on it all.

With Mr. Bush’s announcement of actively exploring an official announcement someday, I have to admit that I find this all disheartening. I thought that the choices for both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections were tepid at best; with Hillary Clinton always hinting that she may run for President in the next election, the idea that we may have a Clinton v. Bush Presidential choice in 2016 irks me.

Is this all we have left? Are there no bright up-and-comers inside the Beltway? How about outside the Beltway?

I can’t help but think that if we have a Clinton v Bush election in 2016 that voter turnout will be mediocre at best. I can’t be the only one in the United States that would find this choice too mundane, too much of the same same same. Do you know what happens when voter turnout is low? The crazy people make the decisions, because they’re too crazy to realize how crappy the choices are and they go out and vote and vote crazily. They vote on things like “who believes the Earth could be flat”, “who was there when Jesus was celebrating Christmas” and “who will make laws so the government can prevent me from burning my nether regions with coffee in the McDonalds drive thru”.

At one time I was rather worked up about the possibility of Hillary Clinton becoming President. Given the choice with what’s being bandied about right now, I’d probably vote for her, but honestly my gut says she’s been around too long and is way too entrenched in the political machine.

I know that my ideal candidate will never run, but I’d love to see some up-and-comer come in, be broad minded about social issues, be really conservative about fiscal issues and be super sane about world and national policy. My ideal candidate would the person that believes in a strong work ethic, that you earn what you get and that your life is your own business. Government would be small. Focus would be on the future, not the past, and we would double down our efforts to rebuild our country (infrastructure, etc) and then build from our rebuilt solid foundation.

I don’t think we’re going to get that with more of the same old, same old.

Odd.

Earl asked me to pick him up a quick supper as I was heading home from a pilot’s club meeting tonight. I stopped in at the drive thru. There were a couple of cars ahead of me, one at the pick up window and another at the speaker where you order. I put my window down because I figured the person in front of me knew how an ordering window worked and I would be up to place my order momentarily.

This is where it gets a little odd.

Even in the darkness of night I could see that there were three people on the car ahead of me. The driver was yelling into the speaker with what I assumed to be her natural voice, which was really shrieky, kind of like a mix of Fran Drescher and Rosie Perez over the racket made by your standard vacuum cleaner while it was running and someone was scraping the handheld vacuum wand across a chalkboard while alley cats yowled in heat at a nearby corner.

She was asking for separate checks for each person in the drive thru. Basically, she was placing three separate orders and the attendant was getting them all confused.

The hassle continued for 126 seconds. Then the shrieky woman went in another direction with the dialog, asking for assurances that she would have fresh fries, pickles on two of the three burgers, etc.

I jumped out of line, parked the a Jeep and went inside. I placed my order at the counter, paid and got everything to go in your standard amount of fast food time. I was headed back to the Jeep when I noticed that the same car had progressed from the speaker to the window but no farther. There was shrieking in progress. A line of vehicles has stacked up behind the car. I waved to no one in particular.

Who in their right mind creates such havoc at a drive thru window? It has never even crossed my mind to place separate orders under those circumstances, let alone place special orders.

Some people need to get out and walk.

Games.

I have dreams of turning this space in our basement into a game area.

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I want to drape a tarp along the right side of the space as a makeshift wall from the storage area and then put our dart board and maybe a card table and whatnot and make a man cave. Earl thinks I should just build a wall instead of draping a tarp but honestly, I have no idea how to build a wall. My dad’s business used to do that sort of thing and we hired them for that.

Earl asked who we would invite over to enjoy this area and I told him we could make friends. Folks in the area, folks passing through the area, it doesn’t matter, we’d grab them off the Thruway and play darts or play board games and drink beer or whatever.

I feel like I need a new project in 2015.

Friday Night Dance Party.

The track came up on iTunes radio earlier this week and I’ve been having a hard time getting it out of my head. I looked up the video on YouTube and found what I liked, the fantasy/sci-fi/edgey thing is really cool to me.

Here’s “Begin Again” by Knife Party. I believe it was released this past October.

Squatty.

We both enjoy watching “Shark Tank”. While some of the presentations from those looking for funding feel very awkward, I do enjoy watching the “sharks” wheel and deal. Barbara Corcoran is my favorite shark. I think she’s a good businesswoman.

A couple of weeks ago, a device that I had heard about over a year ago was presented on “Shark Tank”. It’s called the Squatty Potty.

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This is not me.

The science behind the Squatty Potty seems to make sense; humans weren’t really designed to sit on a chair when taking a dump, for our muscles and other anatomy to work properly, we should be squatting. While the folks behind Squatty Potty aren’t advocating ripping out conventional toilets are replacing them with holes in the floor and a couple of steady rails, they do advocate squatting by selling a stool that easily stores underneath your toilet bowl. The idea is simple, put your feet up on the stool when you’re doing your business.

We ordered a couple of them. It absolutely work.

I like holistic things like this, where we work in harmony with our body instead of trying to make our body do things it wasn’t really designed to do. This new device has basically taken the grunt work out of elimination. I feel good after using the toilet with a Squatty Potty. Things just seem to move better.

The Squatty Potty is a little pricey but it’s well constructed and it seems to do what it’s suppose to do. I’m a satisfied customer.

Spirit.

Earl and I started putting up the inside Christmas decorations last night. The trees will go up last, and yes, I said trees, plural, as we have decided to have three trees this year: a Disney tree, a travel tree (with the ornaments we have collected on our travels) and the big tree that has all of our traditional ornaments.

After being in this house for 11 years some of the Christmas lights have given up the ghost and had to be tossed in the trash as we have not been able to get them going again. I don’t know what it is about lights sitting in storage but several strands decided they didn’t want to work this year.

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Chick and Cow don their gay apparel.

We are both trying hard to find the spirit of the holidays, and we are finding it to some extent, but something doesn’t feel like it’s clicked completely into place. Perhaps getting together with friends and family over the next couple of weeks will help the situation.

In the meanwhile, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.

Mediageddon.

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Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel® has set up shop in nearby Syracuse to cover the Nor’Easter that promises to wreak havoc on Central New York over the next 48 hours. There’s probably a name for the storm but I think naming winter storms is the epitome of stupidity so I’m not going to bother to look up the name. Yes, I’m one of those people that complains when someone tells me that “Wanda Wind” is blowing through on a sunny day.

Our electronic gadgets have been buzzing, beeping and vibrating various states of Weather Catastrophe™ since midday yesterday. So far we have had quite a bit of rain and above freezing temperatures. It is currently 33º. Not to be deterred by the unpredictability of weather, folks are driving as if we are in the midst of a blizzard and adjusting their driving “skills” to maximum unpredictability in a predictable manner. I can’t wait until it is socially unacceptable to have an IQ lower than the speed limit.

The reason people are driving like idiots in what amounts a mediocre amount of rain, and then stocking up on bread and milk in mass quantities, is because the media is telling them to do this. I’m sure Mr. Cantore is standing on Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse begging Mother Nature to throw a snowball at him. He’s probably dancing around in some sort of Weather Channel® Ritualistic Dance that involves chanting names of clouds and pellets of precipitation and waving off folks that run behind him on camera having a grand ol’ time in whatever Mother Nature is offering at the moment.

The thing is, folks in these parts don’t really get that hysterical about a snow storm. Well, at least, we never used to, until King Andy™ decided that all of New York State should be gripped in typical downstate terror when it comes to “severe” weather. Who knew that pearls clutching could be such an art? I can’t wait until that’s out of style and pearls are back on Mrs. Cleaver where they belong.

After reading stories about the Discovery Channel staging a man being eat by a snake earlier this week, I’m pretty much giving up any sort of semblance of credibility when it comes to the media.

In the meanwhile, I hope that Mr. Cantore remembers to chant the names of the various stages of sunshine, (Sally Sunshine is a favorite) and that he gets his wish of lots of snow.

We’ll be able to show him that yeah, it snowed, and life goes on just fine in these parts.

Indecision.

Today I was suppose to fly with an FAA examiner for my Private Pilots License checkride. Because I have a habit of getting stressed about this sort of thing, I haven’t had a lot of sleep over the past three nights. I was able to eek out 6-7 hours each night, so it isn’t like I’m a walking zombie, but I’m not feeling like I’m at optimal levels. This sometimes happens to a middle aged man such as myself.

I arrived at the airport about 90 minutes before my scheduled time. This gave me the opportunity to do my thorough pre-flight of the airplane and then I had time to take the airplane up and go around the pattern to get a feel for what the winds were like up there. It was windy on the ground but the direction of the wind wasn’t awful, there’d be a little crosswind but nothing out of my comfort level.

The short flight was routine. I took a few moments to marvel at how wonderful it is to fly and to relish in the disbelief that I am fully capable of flying an airplane all by myself. There are days that I can’t believe that I can do that sort of thing, but there I was, flying an airplane at pattern altitude, talking to Air Traffic Control like it’s second nature and buzzing along at 100 MPH.

As I came in to land, it was evident that the winds were picking up a bit. I describe them as “burbly”, where the windsocks at each end of the runway are basically pointing in random directions and occasionally at each other. This made landing the airplane slightly tricky, but again, it wasn’t anything outside of my general comfort level. I wouldn’t fly in this kind of wind for fun, but I would do it for training purposes.

I then wondered if that was the type of weather I wanted to be flying in for this checkride, which is basically the final exam to earn my pilots license.

I decided to hold off on the exam. The examiner was gracious; we covered some ground school stuff that we needed to cover any way and he indicated that he would be available all week with a little bit of notice. I let my instructor know the same and he urged me to reconsider; he knew I was more than capable of flying in those particular conditions. I did reconsider and conctacted the examiner, letting him know that I’d touch base with him in an hour to reassess the situation.

The winds never died down. I had the option of doing part of the exam and then finishing up when the conditions were favorable. Basically, this would mean doing all the manuevers during flight and then putting the evalution on “pause” and then just landing the airplane without fear of failing the exam if the landings were to go less than great.

I decided against that approach. I ended up sitting at the airport for nearly two hours, trying my best to will the winds down to a more manageable level but Mother Nature had other plans. I finally called the examiner and gave the final no-go of the day. I advised my instructor of the same and headed home and took a nap.

My apparent indecision added to my stress level today and stress isn’t good for a person flying an airplane. I’m confident with my decision today, but I’m not completely happy with the way the day went.

Nevertheless, with the Winter Storm Warning being blared about these parts for the next few days, it looks like I’ll have 72 hours or so to get my head straight, get some sleep and then think about flying again. I’m hoping either Friday or this weekend.

Whenever it happens, I know that I’ll be more decisive about it.

Live.


Photo from the cnn.com website
 
 It has been all over the Internet but in case you haven’t seen it, Mariah Carey performed her holiday track, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration on the 3rd. Due to scheduling and timing issues and other factors, Mariah opted to perform this track live. She was accompanied by backup singers, a bunch of children dancing around and other assorted staged merriment.
 
 Admittedly, it wasn’t Mariah’s best live performance. Her voice sounds tired, but on the other hand, she performed it in the same key as the original recording 20 years ago. Unlike some of her contemporaries that would just drop the song down a few steps to a lower key to accommodate what age invariably does to one’s voice, Mariah sang it as her public knows it, albeit with a few different embellishments to avoid some shrieky high parts.
 
 Now, of course it’s 20 years later. Mariah’s voice is not going to sound the same as a 40-something as it did as a 20-something. Very, very few people sound the same that they did 20 years ago, whether they’re speaking, screaming at their kids or singing in the shower, so why there is an expectation that she’d sound the same live in 2014 that she did in a recording studio in 1994 speaks volumes about the dumbing down of the American entertainment consumption public. People have been rather vicious with their critiques and quite frankly, I find this all to be quite unfair. To rub salt further into the matter, an unscrupulous audio engineer at the event recorded her raw, isolated mic feed and leaked that onto the internet. I’m not going to link to it, but if I’ve heard it and it sounds as I would expect it to sound; like a professional singer singing live into a microphone with absolutely no audio processing at all, whilst moving around a stage and expecting embellishments from the backup singers and the backing track where the singer knows his or her voice is not at its strongest. Anyone with any sort of performance acumen would know this, but people delight in the negative today, even when someone is trying to sing her best for an uplifting, holiday celebration.
 
 Now, I’m the first to be critical of raw audio from the likes of Taylor Swift and the other smattering of manufactured crap pop princesses today because they’ve NEVER been able to sing without a lot of computerized, manufactured audio magic to make them sing good, but, even though I’m not particularly a fan of Mariah’s singing style, the woman can sing, has an incredible range (which has undoubtedly been shortened with age), can carry a tune and she still has an amazing quality to her voice. Does she sound like 22 year old Mariah Carey? No she does not and quite frankly if she did it wouldn’t be genuine.
 
 As I said, I’m not particularly a fan of her vocal runs; she has led the charge in what I call the “urban yodeling movement”, what with the splattering of singing loudly and splattering notes on and all around a melody line in some sort of tonal gymnastics that some find impressive, but when nuts comes to bolts and all the pieces are calmed down and following the reasonable laws of physics and music, Mariah has always had an excellent voice and she continues to do so, albeit with adjustments for age.
 
 So, as to the audio engineer that leaked the raw mic feed from the 12/3 performance, quite frankly I think you’re a dick and you’re probably hiding behind a union of audio engineers that will protect you for it. As far as the armchair critics go, the mean spirited comments are just that, mean, and you’re not entirely to blame because the recording industry has used way too much magic for way too long and ultimately set artists, both real and manufactured up alike, up for failure because no human can meet the robotic and artificial sounds of auto-tune with any sort of natural singing voice.
 
 Thank you Mariah for lending your talents to what was a joyous celebration. I enjoyed the performance as it was presented and I hope you continue to share your ability just as you wish for as long as you want.