Back in 2007, I bought the Blade Runner: Final Cut Blu-ray. After viewing it, I asked the question “Is Blade Runner: Final Cut the best movie ever made?” on myspace. I personally found it to be a flawless movie and while I’m not going to disagree with certain criticisms of the movie, I will disagree with a reviewer if it is not at least on their best science fiction films list.

So, I was excited to see Blade Runner: 2049 last weekend. As mentioned here, that didn’t happen, thanks again to AMC Theatres. This weekend my son was going to a birthday party at the cheap movie theatre, so my daughter wanted to go and see The Emoji Movie. So, we went and after viewing it, I have to ask the question “Is The Emoji Movie the Worst Movie Ever Made?”

It’s really that bad.

I had extremely low expectations going into the movie thanks to following Chris Stuckmann’s reviews and seeing a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes earlier in the year (the current 10% fresh rating has to be from fake reviews), but those extremely low expectations still weren’t met. Honestly, I couldn’t find a single redeeming quality of the movie. The plot was lame, the characters were lame, the animation was lame and the jokes weren’t even jokes. Here’s an actual joke from the movie:

The high five emoji bumps into the coffee emoji and says “Oh hi tea.”

The coffee emoji then says “I’m not tea, I’m coffee.”

Quality stuff and I’m sorry I spoiled that punchline for you. My daughter laughed once during the whole movie. I don’t remember what she laughed at, but it wasn’t at this “joke”. There was also a big “reveal” or “plot twist” that was attempted and fell remarkably flat. There was also a shot at men from the primary female character at one point, which is obligatory for everything on the big or small screen in the past two decades, but I found it kind of odd since I thought we were past that since everyone has been deemed one single sex and gender now by the very same people who take shots at men. There were also awkward edits and transitions in the first half of the movie.

But none of this is what makes it eligible for “worst movie ever” status. What makes it eligible is that the movie’s plot is simply there to take the viewer from one commercial to the next. No, seriously, that’s all the movie is – it’s one sequence of commercials. If you would like to have the experience of watching The Emoji Movie, here’s how to do it in the comfort of your home. Take a ten dollar bill out of your wallet, burn it, then go online and watch extended commercials for WeChat, Candy Crush, Just Dance, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram and Dropbox. In fact, doing this would probably be far more entertaining.

The Just Dance commercial, oops, I mean segment of the movie is particularly egregious as is the Candy Crush commercial, which is simply a tutorial of how to play the game. About half way through the movie, I wondered where the inside jokes were for adults that were having to watch the movie, but I quickly remembered there weren’t even any jokes for the kids, so it didn’t matter. But then, towards the end of the movie when it got to Dropbox, I realized the Dropbox commercial showing off its supposedly powerful security features was there for the adults because what kid is going to be interested in Dropbox?

The day after I watched the movie, I happened across The Film Theorists on youtube and they had just released a video talking about this exact thing. They make a strong argument that what The Emoji Movie did should be highly illegal:

But the fact that it’s one big sequence of commercials is actually not the most egregious thing about the movie. That accolade goes to the fact that they somehow got legendary Sir Patrick Stewart to voice the poop emoji in this movie. I guess everyone has their price.

I’ll have to revisit my “worst movies ever” list to give it some thought on where this one will be placed on it. Sure, there are plenty of “worse” movies, but it’s a very short list for ones from major studios (in this case, Sony) or movies that take themselves seriously. In the mean time, I have to give a couple of notes on the movie-going experience. It was at the cheap theatre, which I hadn’t been to in over a decade and couldn’t even remember. So I didn’t know what I was getting into, but my expectations were pretty low for the theatre experience too.

Some family towards the front of the theatre had brought in a ~2 year old child who was either crying or shouting for the first third of the movie before the mom and toddler had to leave. This is par for the course for any movie for kids, so it didn’t annoy me. About ten minutes after they left, a loud sound like a wild boar snorting started up and continuously made noise. At first, I thought it was some part of the movie, but it continued and as I looked around, I found that it was a man two rows ahead of us making the sound. I then came to the realization that the entire row of ~8 people two rows ahead of us were all mentally disabled people.

Wild boar man made his sound for about five minutes straight before stopping and started up two more times before the movie ended while others intermittently clapped or made noise. I didn’t have a problem with it either and what I’m trying to say is the theatre experience was the same, if not better, than the AMC White Marsh 16 Theatres, which I haven’t been able to go to two times in a row now. The screen and sound were both acceptable at the cheap theatre and I think I’ll go back.

It’s been nearly two weeks since the mass shooting in Las Vegas and now only two things are clear:

1) No information on motive will ever be released, and

2) Whatever information they have is too much of a national security risk to go public and the FBI and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department would rather be viewed as grossly incompetent.

Whether or not I believe in a conspiracy theory isn’t necessarily a binary yes/no answer from me and the Las Vegas shooting is no different. I actually have four categories – 1) nothing going on, 2) more information is needed, 3) something’s up, and 4) there’s a conspiracy. For the first week or so, I didn’t see a need to believe in any conspiracy theories about the mass shooting until more information came out, but it was in stage 2 of conspiracy theories simply because more information was needed. It smelled odd at the start, but I figured the air would clear fairly quickly.

To my surprise, the past week has pushed it into somewhere between stage 3 “something’s up” territory and stage 4 “it’s a conspiracy” since the FBI and LVMPD are continuously changing their story and Jesus Campos, the guy who was supposedly a Mandalay Bay security guard that first came into contact with Paddock has gone missing right before he was set to do a number of interviews with the media. Instead of Campos, a “maintenance guy” suddenly appeared as another witness that conveniently allowed for either a fourth or fifth official timeline (I can’t keep track) to be released, a timeline that MGM/Mandalay Bay has openly questioned. Add to that the investigation was finally forced to admit yesterday that Paddock checked in to the hotel three days earlier than they previously stated, a fact that Laura Loomer of all people reported TEN DAYS before while simultaneously not allowing her into the press conference where this information was released, and you have something that smells very rotten.

There’s a reason for conspiracy theories to arise and that’s when either a major news event occurs and people simply want to capitalize on it (9/11 was an inside job, moon landing faked, etc.) or when there’s an information vacuum surrounding an event. With the Las Vegas mass shooting, there’s both and given that journalists stopped practicing journalism long ago, there’s very little hope of more information coming out. The Las Vegas mass shooting will be discussed for years, even decades to come in conspiracy theory circles and justifiably so. The LVMPD getting upset that people want some fucking straight answers is disingenuous at best given that Las Vegas probably has among the highest amount of security features in the world and the feds know better than I do the porn clips I looked at last night. Fuck you, give us some answers.

I have to admit, watching ESPN burn to the ground this year has been far more entertaining than any sports game I’ve seen. It’s not that I want to take pleasure in ESPN’s downfall, I don’t, but I do feel a small amount of schadenfreude given that ESPN could have stuck to, you know, sports and not injected far-left politics into everything and that NFL players and owners, which have close ties to ESPN, could have stuck to, you know, football and not protested the anthem and not taken the bait from Trump to protest it even more.

So, ESPN is certainly entertaining, just not in the way it intended. It’s pretty tough to keep count of all the protests, but Clay Travis seems to be doing a good job. Al Sharpton and gang’s protest of ESPN after Jemele Hill got suspended for two weeks by ESPN – because she told people to protest ESPN’s advertisers – makes his protest a protest of the protest of the protest of the protest of the protest. If someone protests that, it will be a protest of a protest of a protest of a protest of a protest of a protest.

Personally, beyond the NFL being dead to me, I have a rule that protests have to be at least ten layers deep before I formally decide to join and protest…whatever it is at the time. But you can be assured that the outrage will be strong from me and that I will knit some sort of hat for myself to show just how outraged I am as I march for whatever it is.

More important than documenting the amount of protests, ESPN has now pissed off the left, which was inevitable, in addition to already having pissed off the right and center of the political spectrum. Given this, ESPN now rivals Blackberry in speed of going from hot to not, as Blackberry killed itself via stupid decisions in the last half of 2011 and was virtually dead by the end of 2012. At the beginning of the year, ESPN was a company with a few problems, now it’s a dumpster fire that has burned out the dumpster and spread out of control beyond the dumpster. After ESPN continues to burn, it will live on, much like Blackberry still does, but it will be a ghost of its former self, just like Blackberry.

I will be curious to see what Disney ultimately does with ESPN. I figure they may transition off a live sports streaming app for a loss a year from now, or maybe dump it altogether towards later 2018 or early 2019 and let someone else deal with it. Bob Iger’s obvious upcoming 2020 presidential run will be a factor in the fate of ESPN, as the public view of ESPN may overall become too negative for it to be a Disney brand at the time of his run starting in later 2019 even though he will have stepped down and won’t formally be a part of Disney by that time.

I suppose this is different from the “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” idiom, but it does mark the second time in a row I’ve tried to go see a movie at AMC White Marsh 16, only to have to turn around at the theatre and go home.

This time around, I was trying to see Blade Runner 2049 before I accidentally spoiled it for myself online. I purchased my ticket online later in the morning for the 2:15 showing and arrived at 2:00. I was greeted by employees at the entrance informing me that the theatre was closed “due to an incident’ and that it would “probably be closed for the rest of the day.” They said if I already purchased a ticket, I could use it on a later date.

When I got home, I checked online to see if they had marked the theatre as closed and indeed they had (title image). I would rather not go to AMC Theatres any more given the recent troubles, but I purchased my ticket using AMC Stubs rewards, so I’m guessing it will be a hassle to get it refunded. So whenever I go to see Blade Runner 2049, almost certainly after it’s been spoiled for me, it will likely be the last time I go to the White Marsh Theatres and AMC Theatres for a while because it does seem to be a major hassle.

Democrats can now sleep at night knowing there will be someone with a (D) next to their name in the White House come 2021.

Back in the summer of 2015, I began reading Breitbart News daily because they were one of the very few outlets left at that time with a comments section. By reading the average Breitbart reader’s comments, I knew with 100% certainty by October, 2015 that Trump would be the Republican nominee. This was at a time when nobody in the mainstream media, nobody on the left and nobody who was pro-Kascih, pro-Cruz, or pro-Rubio, or pro-Bush (“Jeb!” -LOL) believed Trump even stood a chance of being the nominee. What I wasn’t sure on, was whether or not he would beat Clinton in the Presidential race.

When Trump was elected, I felt strongly that he would be a one-term president, as I believed the Democrats would get their shit together and actually nominate a stronger candidate than Hillary Clinton in 2020. Those feelings then quickly turned the other way when Democrats completely lost their shit for months after the election while going so far left that it energized Trump’s core base even more.

The events of the past month and a half or so now strongly indicate he will indeed be a one-term president.

In fact, I guarantee it.

The first red flag that Trump may cross the aisle and start working with the Democrats came when Congress failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. At the time, people like me stated that Republicans now own Obamacare given that Republican voters have requested it be repealed for seven years now, there’s Republican majorities in Congress, and a President who wants it repealed, yet they still refused to repeal it. In fact, I actually now think of it as Republicancare.

Then he went and actually started working with Schumer and Pelosi on a spending and debt deal, basically saying “Fuck You” to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, no doubt due to their repeated failures with repealing Obamacare and a general complete inability to get anything done.

Then he went and struck a deal with Schumer and Pelosi regarding DACA and the wall, or lack thereof. Regardless of whether or not the deal is legitimate (there is nothing passed…yet) or whether or not it’s just Schumer, Pelosi, and the mainstream media playing games with misinformation, this has enraged Trump’s core supporters.

Working with the opposition party is a big no-no in our hyperpartisan society now and I could tell that day on twitter alone that Trump has now lost his core supporters. I don’t read Breitbart nearly as much as I did during the election cycle, and when I went to check on what Breitbart readers had to say about it the following day, I didn’t even have to go to the comments. Right there on the front page was Breitbart News, who was largely responsible for getting Trump elected, burning a red Make America Great Again hat.

This loss of core supporters will be Trump’s downfall in the 2020 election. He’s not going to get them back and a loss of interest from voters who voted for him in 2016 means the rust belt states that he won will go Democrat come 2020.

The only real question is, who will be the Democratic nominee? Current polls put Bernie Sanders as the leader. Even though there’s an eternity between now and then, the left hasn’t even been pretending it’s not socialist anymore, going full socialist in ideology on everything. Bernie Bros could easily get their President in 2020, but whoever it is will certainly be far left enough to satisfy the socialists.

The Congress of 2021 will be another question, but I don’t have an answer for that. The 2018 election looks to be a bad one for Democrats, but the 2020 one could easily be a wave election turning left. I just hope the Americans who vote the President in, and the Congress to go along with that President, adequately weigh the risks of socialism, which has never worked where tried, prior to voting. I do fear that American voters don’t realize that what’s going on in Venezuela now is what will be coming to America down the road given a far enough push to the left across all the branches of government.

A year and a half ago or so, I reduced my FiOS television package to have only the kids and entertainment packs. This cut out sports, which I was not watching. I checked to ensure ESPN was not available to me and it wasn’t. Then, on Labor Day weekend, I accidentally switched to ESPN and found it was available. I thought it must have been one of those promotions where you get free channels for a long weekend. I went back yesterday and found it to still be available.

So, I went to my Verizon online and found that I have been given the sports lineup for free to include a number of channels including ESPN and the NFL Network and Red Zone. The situation immediately reminded me of my cancellation of the Baltimore Sun back towards 2003 or 2004. After a few weeks of not receiving the paper after cancelling, it suddenly started showing up again. My wife called them (in CHICAGO) to see why they were doing that and they said that “the computer says someone called and asked to have it delivered again.”

That was obviously bullshit and I knew exactly what it was at the time – they wanted to keep delivering the paper to keep their numbers up for their advertisers. We had them stop delivering the paper again after making it clear we would not be paying for it. With ESPN and the NFL Network, I believe they are giving themselves away to keep their numbers up. Verizon seems likely to be chipping in too, since cord cutting is now admitted to be occurring even more frequently than before and they may be willing to play a part in the free channels to try to keep people from cutting out traditional cable-like TV entirely.

My two year agreement with FiOS has expired and I think I will renew (my kids watch plenty of the children’s channels) while calling them to ensure I am not given the sports pack for free. While I previously stated I stopped watching ESPN due to the all talk format they implemented with its left of center politics only being a minor issue with me, ESPN has gone way too far left for me to take seriously at all anymore and all of the left-of-center columnists who loudly insist that ESPN’s politics are not turning people off are incredibly annoying to read.

Most recently, ESPN was perfectly happy with its own Jemele Hill (who is black) calling Trump a white supremacist. This comes after ESPN suspend Linda Cohn (a long-time white ESPN anchor, who I have the utmost respect for as a sports commentator) for saying ESPN talks too much politics, something virtually everyone in the entire world, except ESPN itself, is in agreement with. This comes after ESPN fired Doug Adler (white) for using the term “guerilla tennis,” a term that has been in use since the 90s when Andre Agassi and Nike popularized it because black people on twitter thought he meant he was calling Venus Williams (black) a gorilla. This comes after ESPN fired Curt Schilling (white) for discussing right-of-center politics.

And sometime between Adler and Cohn, ESPN did one of the stupidest things the world has ever seen by removing Robert Lee (ASIAN) from broadcasting a game because his name was Robert Lee and might remind people of confederate general Robert E. Lee. You can’t make this stuff up and it really speaks to how stupid ESPN believes its target audience to be. I’m sure there’s plenty more nonsense that I can think of given time, but ESPN is dead to me given their asshattery, so it doesn’t matter.

As for the NFL, the national anthem protests continue, so I have no interest in the NFL beyond a passing interest in the Ravens, which I can watch on local channels if I want to.

There’s a scene in Red Dawn (the original one, not the shitty remake) where Colonel Andy Tanner takes Jed Eckert to the front line of the fighting in World War III where tanks are shooting at one another and planes are dropping napalm on either side, as both sides have gone conventional after initial nuclear exchanges. An exchange between the two characters goes:

Jed Eckert: So this is the battlefield?
Colonel Andy Tanner: It’s a real war, kid. It’s here every day.

We’re currently in the “events leading to” section of the Second American Civil War; that’s been evident for a couple of years now. The current front line has been twitter and that’s the reason I’ve been sucked into twitter – it really is a live look at the battle being waged for America. Initially, I started logging on to twitter to follow meteorologists, but when the politics of the 2016 Presidential election cycle started getting real ugly in later 2015, I expanded my horizons.

Today, those two worlds, meteorology and politics, collided as they often do, but today’s result was an epic napalming.

I have to first give a little background. Dr. Ryan Maue was one of the earliest people I followed on twitter because he’s the best meteorologist out there. Period. He earned my respect with his personal site back when he was studying the tropics in the PhD program and links to his site appeared on Anthony Watts’ “Watts Up With That?” blog from time to time. On twitter, he earned my respect even more because he basically wasn’t afraid to call bullshit when bullshit was evident.

Unsurprisingly, Maue has his detractors because of this too. Just take a look at some of the comments here from idiot weather weenies on the American Weather forum topic of his leaving WeatherBell recently; at least one of those comments is demonstrably false:

https://www.americanwx.com/bb/topic/50234-ryan-maue-has-resigned-from-weatherbell/

Between Hurricane Harvey and now Irma, all of the climate change and global warming crazies, basically anyone who leans left (including the mainstream media), are out in full force on twitter talking about the end of the world and how the two hurricanes are evidence of man made climate change getting out of control. They’ve conveniently forgotten the fact that 12 YEARS without a major hurricane causing destruction in the states completely negated their argument.

It was only a matter of time before a major skirmish between the two forces (pro-climate change religious zealots and rational meteorologists) occurred and the true napalm came out, and that occurred today. “Journalist” Kurt Eichenwald, who is a total clown, there really is no other way to put it, had this to say today:

“I’m not a scientist. I used a climate change equation &, using sea surface temps, predicted Irma intensity growth & timing. 100% correct.”

I can’t link to the original tweet, because it has since been deleted. Ryan Maue subsequently stated:

“I am a hurricane scientist and this is bullshit. That’s all.”

It’s enormously hilarious; thank God there’s at least one meteorologist out there not afraid to call bullshit on this stuff, but it got an extra boost of hilarity when David Burge, the overall funniest and wittiest person on twitter (I’ve been a long time follower of his too) chimed in with:

With a reaction like that from Burge, you know Maue’s takedown of Eichenwald was fucking gold.

There really is a war for America going on between emotional utter morons who honestly believe they are smart because they’ve been repeatedly told they are geniuses in their echo chambers and those who are rational, logical and simply want America to continue to be a great country. Both left and right sides believe they are in the latter camp, but as a political independent and relatively neutral observer, I can confirm only one is significantly closer than the other. Twitter is the current battlefield and it’s there every day, kid.

Another logical and rational opinion I saw today on twitter, this one apparently grabbed from facebook:

This is a full play-by-play of the eclipse with some technical details and minor analysis. Hopefully someone out there reads this and gets an idea of what maybe to do and not to do with their cameras during an eclipse. Click photos for full size ones.

I had identified the totality of the solar eclipse of Monday, August 21, 2017 as one I wanted to see years ago. It was the first one that I had access to see within my lifetime with plenty of options for travel within the United States to see it. I had planned on scheduling a big trip over a year out to see it, but the discovery of brain cancer and complications from it throughout 2016 led me to believe there was a reasonable chance of not being alive to see it. So, I waited until later December, 2016 to decide on a trip when it had become clearer that the tumor, or complications from it, would not kill me in the short term. I ultimately chose the Charleston, SC area, specifically Isle of Palms to the east/northeast as the viewing location. My other options seemed to be western KY or Tennessee, but neither provided a lot of options for entertaining my two kids. Given that my kids love the beach, Isle of Palms seemed like a no-brainer choice for a viewing location even though it would literally be the last place to see it along its path because the parts of SC further to the northeast within totality on the map along the coastline are uninhabited.

Sometime between then and the eclipse, the marketing and excitement within the general public for the eclipse began and the resort I was staying at, Wild Dunes, began a marketing campaign of “Dunes Go Dark”. Eclipse fever was in full effect when we arrived Friday later in the afternoon. For the week before the eclipse, the forecast was for partly cloudy skies with a 20% chance of showers on eclipse day. That was true as of that Saturday morning, but by Saturday afternoon the forecast for that Monday had changed to mostly cloudy skies with a 50% chance of showers. That forecast stayed the same through that Monday, with only the chances of showers varying from between 30% and 50%. Ultimately, the final forecast from forecasters was that skies would be cloudy and showers would be along the coastline for the morning and early to mid-afternoon before redeveloping inland sometime in the afternoon. I had previously decided I would drive to the northwest corner of South Carolina or far western North Carolina if the weather looked like it could be bad, but I decided to risk it and stay put on the beach for the eclipse.

At the time I booked the trip, I purchased a pair of plastic eclipse glasses and four of the cheaper paper eclipse glasses commonly seen. I also purchased an 8’x8″ solar filter sheet of the same material seen in the paper glasses to make a cheap filter for my camera for the partial parts of the eclipse. I definitely wanted some photos of the eclipse in all of its phases. My primary camera and lens combination is a Nikon D7100 with an 18-200mm lens. I had previously taught myself manual modes of DSLRs when I first got a DSLR in 2009, but I lost what I had learned and largely just became a “dad with a camera” using automatic mode almost exclusively.

A couple of months prior to the trip, I made my filters for my camera and took some test shots of the sun. My original plan was to try to do a time-lapse of the entire eclipse, if the skies were relatively clear, by using the filter during the partial phases of the eclipse and no filter during totality. I quickly discovered that a full time-lapse was not even close to possible because the sun moved too quickly across the sky. Even at 50 or 70mm, the sun moved too quick across the frame to be able to make a fairly seamless time-lapse. The test shots of the sun turned out well through the filter, though, and I jotted down some manual settings that I felt may help if there were light clouds or haze even though automatic mode seemed to work pretty well.

I then did some test shots of the nearly full moon at 200mm using some of the settings listed here:

 

The Nikon guide on photographing an eclipse helped too:

What I found was that all the photos of the moon looked relatively similar, but did not reveal any of the finer details of the moon and its craters, as I felt they should. Historically, my camera has always taken shit pictures of the moon no matter what I tried and this is the reason there was no way I was going to rely on automatic mode for the eclipse. It was only when I jacked up the ISO to 1600 in this series of tests that the details became a little clearer. I ultimately decided on an ISO of 1600, an f/number of 22 and a shutter speed of 1/200 as what I would attempt to photograph the eclipse with and those are the settings that were used to take this photo of the moon. The moon turned out significantly darker than it was to the eyes in this test, but it seemed like the best the camera would do:

According to the chart, those settings would give me some of the corona, which is all I wanted to capture as a memory, but really had no clue as to what I was going to get or if the photos were even going to look good at all. I also decided that since I was not going to be able to do a full time-lapse that I may take the camera off of my tripod right before totality so that I could also snap some quick pictures of the way the sky looked around the beach, as I figured this may look pretty cool too. But, I was bringing my old D70 for that, or as a backup camera in case my primary one somehow failed.

The day before the eclipse, I went on a fossil hunting trip in Summerville, SC and pulled out my old Nikon D70 to take some photos. The D70 game me a “CHA” error after snapping a photograph and turning the camera off and on allowed for another photo to be taken before the error occurred again. The same thing happened a third time. I didn’t try to take any more photos and when I got home, the photos were corrupted, and a quick internet search led me to believe that the CHA error is a result of a corrupt compact flash card or the camera having issues writing to it. So, my backup camera had failed.

Monday, August 21 arrived and the weather was mostly shit for viewing an eclipse. Skies were almost completely cloudy as a whole, a result of partly cloudy skies at the low, mid and high levels. There were even some sprinkles later in the morning, but a look at the radar showed the near-stationary thunderstorm bands to be forming about 20 miles inland and about 20 miles offshore, leaving us in the middle to be largely rain-free. The radar couldn’t be completely trusted, however, because the Charleston radar had failed the day before due to a lightning strike and wouldn’t be fixed until at least Tuesday, and the radar I was looking at was from far-away Columbia, SC. Regardless, my wife and I both remarked that it was great beach weather, if it wasn’t eclipse day, as the clouds made it feel nice without the sun beating down on us.

By partial eclipse start time, the sun had become mostly visible through the high clouds and I got some photos on a five second timer. They weren’t nearly as good looking as the test shots I had taken back at my house in Baltimore in clear skies, but they don’t look terrible either. Also, the videos didn’t show the transit of the moon nearly as well as I had hoped they would.

Here’s one just as the eclipse started:

Here’s another that seems overexposed after I manipulated the f/number and shutter speed in an attempt to make it look better through the clouds:

The last video shows the sun going behind a cloud deck and the sun continued to not be visible at all back behind cloud decks at all three levels:

 

It was especially the mid-level cloud deck that was the problem. This lasted for 45 minutes until about 10 minutes before totality. At this time, the low-level clouds started to dissipate and the mid-level cloud deck started to move away resulting in the sun being visible through the high cloud layer. People began cheering as the sun was now visible and nearly totally obscured by the moon. The low incoming solar radiation had made the sky look weird, too. It wasn’t like the evening; it was just different and a little eerie as pale sunlight came down from above. In the week before the eclipse, I had read a number of articles talking about animals acting unusual, like dolphins coming up to the surface of the ocean, starting about 15 minutes before totality. I can totally see why a more intelligent animal, like a dolphin, would come up to check out what was going on given the unusual light. This Gull’s behavior was not abnormal, however, as it was flying low looking for food in the low light that the crowd may have dropped on the beach:

I took my camera off the tripod. At this time, I snapped this photo without a filter and the time index indicates it was nine minutes before totality. Playing with the .nef file revealed just how many high clouds were remaining in place for the approaching totality:

Within a minute, photos without a filter were too bright because the clouds low and mid-level clouds continued to dissipate. I then snapped this photo with the filter. It didn’t turn out as well:

I kept briefly looking up at the sun, hoping that I didn’t blind myself. The photo through the filter overexposes the sun making the crescent look bigger, as I could see, and the previous photo showed, that it was just a small sliver at the time. With only a minute or so to go to totality, some younger women a few beach blankets towards the ocean started playing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler:

Then, totality came and the dunes went dark. The sun’s corona was clearly visible to the naked eye, despite the high cloud cover and the crowd continued to cheer. I had switched to the manual settings that I had wanted and snapped a quick picture as it entered totality. When I looked at it later, I wasn’t sure what was going on in the bottom left quadrant of the picture in the reddish area, but research leads me to believe the camera was picking up the chromosphere. As to why it’s blurry, it could easily be caused by the clouds, it could easily be lens shake from me, it could be features of the chromosphere itself, it could be blurry bailey’s beads, or some combination of all four:

Subsequent photos clearly show red solar prominences extending out from the sun:

Both the chromosphere and solar prominences being visible in the photos were completely unexpected to me and these were not visible to the naked eye. It’s curious that neither my wife or I saw them, yet they are clear in the photos and that they are clear despite the high cloud cover. It’s also curious that Mr. Eclipse’s chart believes a much quicker (in fact, 10x quicker) shutter speed is necessary to capture prominences. Did the high clouds somehow bring them out? But also, the corona was a little less expansive in the photo than I was expecting. Surely the clouds were an inhibiting factor for that?

I then switched to automatic mode, just to make sure those pictures weren’t better and snapped several. They were shit, as expected, and this is by far the best one I got:

I then very quickly snapped a few photos of the way the sky looked towards the ocean, which was similar to sunset:

The bright spot in the sky in this photo is not a star, but someone’s drone filming totality:

But then, the color in the sky was lost as we entered the middle of totality:

At this time, my daughter noted what was likely Venus shining brightly in the sky. But, we couldn’t see any other stars given the cloud cover. We could also see flashes of lightning from the thunderstorm band to the north. At first, I thought it might have been people’s flashes on their camera, but it was definitely lightning without the thunder. This is what some people call nighttime heat lightning, which is a misnomer. I switched back to photographing the eclipse on manual and snappedtwo more photos.

I then took some wider angle shots on the same manual setting in the hopes of picking up Venus and perhaps some of the clouds, but that didn’t happen:

What’s noteworthy, though, is that the solar prominences are still visible, indicating that their visibility was definitely not a function of my lens extending to 200mm, as these shots were taken around 32mm.

A closer look at the eclipse at 32mm, still showing the prominences:

I then went back to 200mm as the eclipse was exiting totality and got a series of shots, ending in the diamond ring effect:

Every year or two I take a photo that becomes my new “favorite photo” that I’ve taken and one of the final photos of the diamond ring effect, with the “diamond” flanked by solar prominences on each side is my new favorite photo. My imagination tells me it’s a diamond surrounded by rubies. I like that it also highlights the fact that clouds were there, as that was part of the eclipse experience. I made a quick widescreen wallpaper out of it with some minor adjustments:

Here’s an animated .gif of all the photos taken of totality at 200mm. I tried to line them up, but it’s not perfect:

The sun came almost fully out shortly after totality and I was able to snap some pictures that were closer to the original test shots of the sun at home:

Here’s a last video as the sun was lowering in the sky:

With about 20 minutes of partial eclipse left, the thunderstorms started migrating south towards us slightly, as they reformed on their own outflow boundary, and threw some more high and mid level clouds over the sun, obscuring it. I could tell that was it for the eclipse, so I turned off my camera and started packing everything up to head back to the resort and make some backup copies of all of the photos.

Analysis of the photos taken around the beach indicate to me a possible reason why the low level clouds dissipated shortly before the eclipse and that is because the eclipse itself was occurring. I believe the significantly reduced solar radiation prior to totality may have broken the convection currents happening at the time causing the low level cumulus clouds to dissipate. From a general perspective, a daytime convective current at the beach looks like this:

At the cloud level, lower level cumulus clouds form as a result of the sun heating the surface of the earth. The air rises, causing the cloud to form, then the air descends on either side of the cloud in return flow. With the solar output reduced, the surface of the earth wasn’t warming, thus the convection currents may have been broken.

I’ve circled and drawn some arrows on one of the previous photos on a set of clouds that I believe shows this. While the clouds’ initial convective structure is still intact, these clouds out over the ocean are clearly in a dissipating stage, as they look tilted, jagged and weak:

Photos looking east/northeast still show some thicker lower level clouds and even a sprinkle out over the ocean, so it doesn’t fully explain the dissipation over my exact locality, and it doesn’t explain the mid-level clouds luckily departing, either.

Taking the photos and looking at them later has been fun. While I did a little bit of homework prior to the eclipse, I would say it was still about 95% luck that the photos turned out as well as they did with the low-level clouds dissipating and mid-level clouds departing and the chromosphere and prominences unexpectedly turning up in the photos. If you’re a dad or mom with a camera, amateur or novice DSLR user and I had to summarize some bullet points for photographing an eclipse, they would be:

  • Make sure your camera is set to write raw files (.nef files for Nikons) or jpg and raw files simultaneously. I had gotten away from this practice, but made sure raw output was being written prior to the eclipse.
  • Make your own cheap solar filter if you want, or don’t. The pictures are only a little better than taking a camera phone and snapping a picture through eclipse glasses. The photos are impersonal and difficult to take if there’s any clouds.
  • The time-lapses would be cool, though, if the transit of the moon can be shown clearly. Obviously, get a tripod if you’re going to do this. My interval was five seconds and I don’t think there’s such a thing as taking too many photos in a time lapse, so the interval could have been shorter. It’s just dependent on the total number of photos the camera allows in a sequence and how long the battery is going to last before you have to switch it.
  • Do your homework and find the best possible setting for taking a photo of the moon with your DSLR. Hopefully this translates well to the low light of eclipse totality.
  • I totally forgot to test out bracketing of shutter speeds or set this up before the eclipse. This is something that should be done.
  • Write all of your settings that you decided on down on a piece of a paper so that you don’t lose track of what you’re doing. There’s only several minutes, at best, to see a total eclipse and capture it and you’ll want to look at it with your own eyes too.
  • Get yourself a pair of plastic eclipse glasses, not the paper or cardboard kind. It will be much easier to work with them in the partial eclipse phases.
  • If your camera lens doesn’t have the eclipse filter on it, but it’s pointed at the sun on a tripod, cover it with a towel or something so it doesn’t get overly hot.

Before this one, the last total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States was in 1979. The next one will be in 2024:

Looking at the map, I can’t be the only one thinking a trip to Niagra Falls is in order? Maybe I’ll get some even better photos when the Falls Go Dark.

***
Here’s a few more photos from the Isle of Palms and Capers Island:

 

 

 

So I got an email from AMC Theatres a little while ago about a free advanced screening for The Hitman’s Bodyguard at 7:00 at my local White Marsh theater sponsored by gofobo. It said I was receiving the email because I am an AMC Stubs Premiere member. I’ve previously been to several gofobo screenings and it took me to the gofobo site and I scored a ticket for myself, or so I thought.

Gofobo screenings can fill up if you don’t get there early because they give away more tickets than seats to ensure a full house, but I got there a half hour early, which was plenty of time, especially since most of the movies don’t sell out unless you get there with only a few minutes to spare. I asked a woman who takes tickets where to line up for the movie and she said I first had to get a physical ticket. So, I went to the counter to get a physical ticket and the guy said it was sold out and that I couldn’t see the movie. This was all fine, well and good, except the guy had a giant stack of VIP passes (whatever that means) professionally printed on quality stock paper to hand out to people to get access to the movie for free from August 21-24. The whole thing smelled strongly of a bait and switch.

As I left, a guy saw that I had the pass in the parking lot and approached me and asked if I knew we were supposed to go to the theater days in advance to get the ticket. I had no idea that was the case. I still wouldn’t have that big of a problem with it all if the movie wasn’t starting at the tail end of rush hour. White Marsh is only 2 or 3 miles from my house, but in the shit show Perry Hall and White Marsh rush hour that means 20 minutes one way. And who would want to go to The Avenue at White Marsh twice to see a movie, once to get a ticket and once to watch the movie?

The jury is out in my mind as to whether or not this was a true bait and switch. If the movie gets shit reviews, I will feel strongly that it was a bait and switch and that they were simply giving away free tickets for the movie after it opened to pad their numbers after the opening weekend and the bad reviews and bad word of mouth spread. Regardless, I won’t bother with any AMC Stubs Premiere advanced screening passes in the future.

Spoilers

Sometimes when re-watching movies later in life, the movie is better on the second viewing. Other times it seems worse, or at least dated. When I re-watched The Sixth Sense for the first time in 18 years, I found it to be exactly the way I remembered it to be, which was very good. It’s got the star power of Bruce Willis, a rare great child performance courtesy of a then entirely-unknown Haley Joel Osment and an academy award winning performance from a then-relatively-unknown Toni Collette. It’s too bad Olivia Williams character couldn’t be in it more, because she was great as well.

My biggest problem with this movie at the time was the twist ending. I didn’t buy it at all at the time, but I was one of the rare people who thought the movie was great despite not buying the ending. Of course, when re-watching it, I was on the lookout for clues to the twist, and found some that I didn’t see at the time, including some references from Cole (Osment), which seemed to indicate he was aware Dr. Crowe (Willis) was a ghost the entire time. But, I still feel Dr. Crowe getting shot towards the beginning of the film followed by a cut to a scene that begins with “The Next Fall” showing him seemingly alive and well was cheap and ruined the twist, something I said at the time following the movie. “The Next Fall” established that a significant amount of time had passed and seemed like a lame trick to play on the audience when coupled with him looking up items in his office at home, among other things. Was it foreshadowing when Shyamalan had Dr. Crowe do his lame trick with the penny, something another kid later said was flat-out stupid?

I also noted that about 50 minutes elapsed before Cole specifically states he sees “dead people” with a lot of character development and slow-burn buildup before the real scares get started. And the real scares are actual scares because there haven’t been any really cheap jump scare items before that point. While it’s not “the scariest movie of all time”, as the marketing put it, it is an effectively scary movie thanks to the character development, slow burn of the first half, and excellent direction from M. Night Shyamalan.

As for Shyamalan, this movie made him a household name with audiences expecting a similarly great movie with a twist from each subsequent movie from him. His subsequent movies then divided audiences, likely because of this expectation. I felt Unbreakable was rather boring, while it spoke directly to some people’s hearts – those people will love the fact that Shyamalan is making a sequel to it titled Glass. I enjoyed Signs, although I felt the same as many others at the time when it was revealed that the aliens had invaded a planet made of 70% water while being aquaphobic. Later, very solid-sounding theories seemed to indicate that they were demons, not aliens and that the water left around the house by the smallest child was actually holy water.

I felt The Village and Lady in the Water were weak and generally tuned out of Shyamalan movies after The Happening, which was an interesting premise, but poorly executed. I later saw Devil, which was written by Shyamalan, but not directed, and felt it was halfway decent. I would like to see Split, but haven’t yet. The Sixth Sense remains the best of his films that I’ve seen. Since I’m hearing good things about Split, hopefully Glass turns out to be a good one. I may have to re-watch Unbreakable and see if my opinion changes with that one. I hardly remember it, so it should be interesting viewing.

Grade: A-