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-

A tornado hit Kent Island in the middle of the night last night. The Mount Holly, NJ National Weather Service declared it an EF2 tornado at ~125mph, but the photos of damage done to Kent Island indicate it is the strongest tornado to strike Maryland since the F4 April, 2002 LaPlata tornado that also went across the bay to be an F3 tornado in Dorchester County, MD.

Photos this morning showed extensive damage to some houses, others shifted off their foundations, cars and boats tossed around, and numerous large trees shredded or uprooted. Everything can be found on social media, but I wanted to comment that this appears to me to be another tornado forming as a result of the sudden friction difference between water and land. It’s widely taught on television during approaching hurricanes that when hurricanes strike land, tornados often form within the rain bands due to the sudden encounter of friction with land. It’s actually the friction difference and tropical systems that still have strong circulation that are later exiting the continent onto the ocean (which happens in some cases) also exhibit the same behavior.

The same appears to be true with “regular” thunderstorms or thunderstorm cells of a non-tropical origin – difference in friction can turn them into full-blown mesoscale low pressure systems with a strong tornado. Our local National Weather Service noted on a now defunct web page that the LaPlata tornado in 2002 was likely initiated by the strong thunderstorm crossing the Potomac River from Virginia. With the Kent Island tornado, the thunderstorm was strong in Prince George’s county (there was a report of a tree down in Glenn Dale), then went through Anne Arundel County, entered the Chesapeake Bay non-tornadic and by the time it was on Kent Island only 4.3 miles later, was obviously a full-blown mesocyclone with a strong tornado. It seems likely to me that the thunderstorm exiting the western shore of Maryland onto the Chesapeake Bay was a factor in initiating and forming the powerful tornado.

It’s fortunate that nobody was killed in this storm.

***

Justin Berk stated it was likely an EF0 or EF1 tornado around 1pm today after photos of damage clearly indicated it was EF2 or higher.

There were indications this was a major tornado (EF3), as exterior walls of houses fully collapsed, but its dependent on the construction of the house and that is a subjective call after the fact. The NWS usually goes conservative in their estimate, so the EF2 rating is not that surprising. Berk later stated Doppler radar estimate of winds was 86mph and that is presumably why he felt it was an EF0 or EF1.

***

Before the NWS assessment came out, a number of outlets stated the maximum wind gust was 68mph. I tracked down this obviously erroneous information and found that it came from a buoy on the western shore near Eastport and that this was the highest wind speed recorded in the local storm reports from the Sterling, VA National Weather Service forecast area. Why news outlets were saying this was the wind speed on Kent Island is beyond me, but it’s further proof that the mainstream media refuses to do its job and warrants being given the name “fake news”.

000
NWUS51 KLWX 240533
LSRLWX

PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
133 AM EDT MON JUL 24 2017

..TIME…   …EVENT…      …CITY LOCATION…     …LAT.LON…
..DATE…   ….MAG….      ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. …SOURCE….
..REMARKS..

0124 AM     TSTM WND GST     1 E EASTPORT            38.97N  76.46W
07/24/2017  M68 MPH          ANZ532             MD   BUOY

&&

EVENT NUMBER LWX1702513

$$

DH

Not as good as what reviewers stated it is. While all the acting was good and the characters fleshed out, it got way too slow in both the second and third acts. I know this is total blasphemy to say, but both my wife and I agreed that 2002’s Spider-Man and 2004’s Spider-Man 2 with Tobey Maguire were overall better movies. I skipped the Andrew Garfield reboots, so I can’t comment on or compare it to them.

There were a couple of very funny moments in the movie and there was a blink-and-you-miss-it reference to Batman with Michael Keaton’s Vulture character. I’m glad I didn’t blink. Stan Lee got his obligatory cameo in early. There were a couple of good action scenes, but the ferry scene was too reminiscent of Tobey Maguire’s train scene in Spider-Man 2.

While die hard fans of the Avengers will certainly like this film and I’m sure have already seen it in the theater, others may want to wait until streaming.

Grade: B-

 

Originally published February 3, 2007 on:

***

The most common reference to a woman’s posterior in contemporary pop music comes in the form of the word booty. This is true for the past several decades of music as well. While the word booty and butt for the most part can be used interchangeably, this is not always the case. The word booty in pop music has a sexual connotation to it and while many times the word butt does as well, sometimes it is what it is: a butt. While many of the artists and their songs listed below refer to the butt in a sexual nature, they do not try to guise their objectification of this portion of a woman’s anatomy by referring to it as pirate treasure and more or less come out, call it what it is and make a song out of it. Artists were judged by a panel of three expert judges (consisting of me, myself and I) on the overall sound of their song, their lyrics, and album cover. More weight was given to the sound of the artist’s song and their lyrics than towards the album cover.

5. Wreckx-N-Effect – Rump Shaker – 1992

Wreckx-N-Effect uses brilliant artistic license in Rump Shaker by not titling the song Booty Shaker or Butt Shaker and instead uses a word normally associated with meat in the back of a grocery store. In fact, the word butt only appears once (in reference to a girl getting “butt naked”) and the word booty only appears three times in the song. Compare that to the word rump which appears 34 times in the song. When listening to the song, however, the artist’s message is clear: it’s about the butt. The following chorus is repeated 25 times:

“All I wanna do is zoom-a-zoom-zoom-zoom and a-boom-boom
Just shake your rump!”

With a chorus like that repeated 25 times, the song has to appear in a top five list of butt songs. Unfortunately, a mildly annoying saxophone solo plays repeatedly in the background and their album cover isn’t that great and doesn’t speak to the butt loving men that they are.

4. Sisqo – Thong Song – 2000

Sisqo’s Thong Song is an ode to the backside translated into a song without using the word butt or a variant of the word butt in the title. Here we learn that Sisqo apparently enjoys butts when they are barely covered in an undergarment known as a thong. Also, Sisqo was also able to figure out that thong and song rhymed when translating his ode to song format and was able to make a rhyming title of Thong Song. Ensuring that rhymes are eloquent and roll off the tongue nicely is an important part of the butt music genre.

Sisqo’s opening lyrics illustrate the butt’s importance to life:

 

“This thing right here / Is lettin all the ladies know / What guys talk about / You know / The finer things in life / Hahaha / Check it out”

 

Sisqo goes on to refer to a woman in the past tense, apparently one that he had previously met and in case one were to not know that he was referring to the butt he ensures the listener is aware of this:

 

“She had dumps like a truck truck truck / Thighs like what what what / Baby move your butt butt butt”

 

The fact that he is singing about her having “dumps like a truck” may lead one to believe that he is familiar with her bowel movements and that he may be a coprophiliac, but he is actually again still simply referring to the butt itself.

And of course Sisqo must inform the woman in the song to “All night long / Let me see that thong.”

Thong Song was heavily played in the spring and summer of 2000 and was heard regularly at beaches. For this reason, many people associate the song with the bathing suit thong and not the undergarment. Either one works however. Unfortunately Sisqo’s album cover isn’t that great as well and it is unclear what the significance is of Sisqo being in the clouds with white hair putting on what appears to be a white fur coat without any undershirt. Has he died of TMB (Too Much Butt) and gone to heaven?

3. LL Cool J – Big Ole Butt – 1989

The title lyric in LL Cool J’s Big Ole Butt is a essentially a rip-off of E.U.’s lyrics in Da Butt, the song that appears at number 2 on the list. LL Cool J’s song and remaining lyrics as well as the song appearing during the golden era of butt songs, however, qualify the song to be at number 3 on the list. LL cool J crafts a story where he meets a girl at a mall, has sexual relations with her, then dumps his current woman and tells her it is because the girl from the mall has a “big ole butt.” He then cycles through two more girls in the song. Here is the first third of the song:

“I was at the mall, sippin’ on a milkshake
Playin’ the wall, takin’ a break
Admirin’ the girls with the bamboo earrings
Baby hair and bodies built to swing
That’s when I seen her
Her name was Tina
Grace and poise kinda like a ballerina
I said, “How you doin’, my name’s Big L
Don’t ask me how I’m livin’, ’cause, yo, I’m living swell
But then again I’m livin’ kind of foul
‘Cause my girl don’t know that I’m out on the prowl
To make a long story short, I got the digits
Call her on my car phone and paid her a visit
I was spankin’ her and thankin’ her, chewin’ her and doin’ her
Layin’ like a king on sheets of satin
That’s what time it is, you know what’s happenin’
She had a big ole booty, I was doin’ my duty
I mean, yo, I admit that my girl’s a cutie
But Tina was erotic, Earl’s my witness
With the kind of legs that put stockings out of business
When I went home, I kissed my girl on the cheek
But in the back of my mind it was this big butt freak
I sat my girl down, I couldn’t hold it in
And said to her with a devilish grin…

Tina got a big ole butt
I know I told you I’d be true
But Tina got a big ole butt
So I’m leavin’ you
Tina got a big ole butt
I know I told you I’d be true
But Tina got a big ole butt
So I’m leavin’ you”

The song appeared on an album from LL Cool J titled Walking with a Panther. This album came out at a time where LL Cool J had lost a little popularity due to the changing face of rap music. Some fans and critics felt LL Cool J’s songs and style had become dated and that maybe LL Cool J was a little too soft for the emerging hard-core sound of rap. This album, coupled with a firm reminder from Big L that LL Cool J’s birth name is Ladies Love Cool James, silenced those critics and brought his fans back. Further proof of LL Cool J’s hardness comes through in his album cover, the best album cover in the group. In an alley crouching behind a black panther that is wearing a big gold chain, LL Cool J’s style speaks volumes. If one looks closely, one will also note a briefcase with an unlocked pair of handcuffs attached to it further indicating that he is hardcore. It is clear that LL Cool J is a big butt man.

2. E.U. – Da Butt – 1988

Most people remember the song Da Butt, so much so that it is considered an anthem. E.U. was a go-go band from Washington, D.C. and the song entered the mainstream radio waves after Spike Lee had it in his movie School Daze. Da Butt (translated to “The Butt”) is actually referring to a dance. E.U. stands for Experience Unlimited and what an experience Da Butt is – the opening lyrics go:

“Walked in this place
Surprised to see
A big girl getting busy
Just rocking to the go-go beat

The way she shook her booty
Surely looked good to me
I said, come here, big girl
Won’t you rock my world
Show that dance to me

She was doin’ Da Butt
Hey, pretty, pretty
When you get that notion
Put your back build in motion, honey
Doin’ Da Butt
Hey, sexy, sexy
Ain’t nothing wrong if you
Wanna do da butt all night long”

The song has high historical importance because it was directly responsible for entering a new phrase into the American public’s lexicon. Shortly after the participant in the song does “da butt ‘til it made [him] sore” the song enters a series of lyrics consisting of “[enter person’s name here] got a big ole butt! Oh yeah!” Men everywhere (at least me anyway) ever since have entered various people’s names into that phrase and shouted it out with only moderate fear of retribution.

Da Butt was a single and thus was not part of an album. When the song became popular, a single cover was released consisting of one of the characters from the movie School Daze with a big “Da Butt” overhead. In the cover below, a character played by an actor by the name of Giancarlo Esposito holds a bowl of dog food. While it is not readily readable in the image below, the text on the bowl states “DOG or DIE.” This is presumably related to hazing in the movie, as this was a portion of the plot line in the movie. While not a great cover, it is easily overlooked due to the importance of the song.

1. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back – 1992

While Sir Mix-A-Lot was never formally granted knighthood, his song Baby Got Back certainly allows Mix-A-Lot to anoint himself with the title of Sir. This song reached number 1 on the billboard charts for five weeks during the summer of 1992. The song opens with the voices of two “valley”-like girls commenting on a girl with a big butt stating she must “be one of those rap guys’ girlfriends” then launches into the song with “I like big butts and I cannot lie…” Everyone that is familiar with the butt genre can quote numerous sets of lyrics from this song. Judges were extremely impressed with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s decisive commentary on the modeling industry:

“I ain’t talkin’ bout Playboy
‘Cause silicone parts are made for toys
I want ’em real thick and juicy
So find that juicy double
Mix-a-Lot’s in trouble
Beggin’ for a piece of that bubble
So I’m lookin’ at rock videos
Watchin’ these bimbos walkin’ like hoes
You can have them bimbos
I’ll keep my women like Flo Jo”

And later in the song Sir Mix-A-Lot states:

“So Cosmo says you’re fat
Well I ain’t down with that!
‘Cause your waist is small and your curves are kickin’
And I’m thinkin’ bout stickin’
To the beanpole dames in the magazines:
You ain’t it, Miss Thing!
Give me a sista, I can’t resist her
Red beans and rice didn’t miss her”

Judges were also very impressed that Mix-A-Lot allowed the public a glimpse into how he plays the game so well as well as his distaste for spousal abuse:

“Some brothers wanna play that “hard” role
And tell you that the butt ain’t go
So they toss it and leave it
And I pull up quick to retrieve it”

And later in the song Sir Mix-A-Lot states:

“Some knucklehead tried to dis
‘Cause his girls are on my list
He had game but he chose to hit ’em
And I pull up quick to get wit ’em”

At the end of the song, Sir Mix-A-Lot also graciously affords women an opportunity to dial a help line if they are in trouble and are in a time of need:

“So ladies, if the butt is round,
And you want a triple X throw down,
Dial 1-900-MIXALOT
And kick them nasty thoughts
Baby got back!”

Sir Mix-A-Lot’s album cover for Mack Daddy is average, but Sir Mix-A-Lot came out with an over-the-top video for Baby Got Back featuring him and two women with back dancing. Again, this alone would be average for a video in the butt genre, but Sir Mix-A-Lot’s video features them dancing on top of a giant butt. The unforgettable song coupled with the unforgettable video makes the song number 1 on the list and would have allowed Sir Mix-A-Lot to declare himself King if he had wanted.

Sadly, the golden era of butt music left us a decade and a half ago. There is hope that since similar fads come around every generation or so, there may be a renaissance of butt music in five or ten years. But for now we are stuck with “pop-tarts” consistently “accidentally” showing us their fronts because they have little to no back. Songs like Thong Song in 2000 give us hope that in the mean time every once in a while an artist will go back to basics and bring us another great song.

***

Update July 18, 2017:

Many people think of Sir Mix-A-Lot and Baby Got Back as a one hit wonder. These people fail to realize that he had another well-known song:  Books! Check ’em out!

 

War for the Planet of the Apes is brilliant in its story, characters and technical execution. While I still noted some slight jerkiness in the CGI in a couple of scenes, the combination of motion capture and CGI is finally at the technical level to conclude that there is no practical difference between traditional (or practical) effects and the technology used to create the apes. And there are a lot of apes. There is no moment in the film like The Matrix Reloaded’s Agent Smith(s) scene where the CGI degraded badly due to the amount of it moving on the screen.

Andy Serkis as Caesar is awesome, as is Woody Harrelson as the Colonel in a subtle and scary performance as the villain. Other actors and actresses of ape characters, like Karin Karnaval as Maurice, were terrific as well. The movie also took two big risks, one with a character named “Bad Ape” and another one with a child. The Bad Ape character was used a bit for comic relief and could have gone sideways quick, as movies often have scenes ruined by characters like this at a minimum, and entire movies are sometimes ruined by them at a maximum. But not in this case. The same is true for children in movies, but this child was used at a minimum and the results of both of these risks was a movie for the better with them, rather than for the worse.

There are people out there saying this movie elevates this prequel trilogy to greatest of all time status, at least in argument. While I agree that this is probably the best concluding movie to a trilogy that I have ever seen, I disagree that it makes the trilogy the GOAT. While the first two movies were good, they weren’t great enough to elevate the trilogy as a whole in my mind. Also, this movie can stand on its own as a film without necessarily having to see the other two.

About midway through the movie when I realized just how good this movie was probably going to turn out to be, I couldn’t help but start trying to compare it to the original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. Unfortunately, it’s totally like comparing apples to oranges and the two can’t be legitimately compared. Both of these movies are classics in their own right.

Grade: A+

***

I have to make a brief note about the theater I saw the movie in. I saw it in a theater that had a “Dolby Completely Captivating” system in it. I didn’t pay attention to what this was before going in the theater, I just chose it because it was the earliest showing and wasn’t 3D. While the digital screen and sound system was very nice, the chairs left a lot to be desired. They were the same recliners as the other screens have now at this AMC theater, but apparently are integrated with motion or vibration technology so that the recliner shakes when there’s loud noises (like explosions) coming from the movie. Basically, it’s a poor man’s attempt at a 4D movie theater experience without 3D and was something I didn’t want or need.

The opening preview for this technology, prior to the start of the movie, shook the chair a lot and the nicest, bestest adjective I can come up with to describe it is “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development”. I’m prone to headaches, have had a long running one this weekend, and it didn’t help it. Fortunately, it wasn’t used as extensively in the movie as it was in the preview for Dolby, otherwise I may have had to walk out.

The description of the film To the Bone, which stars Lily Collins as Ellen, is that Ellen is an anorexic who crosses path with an “unconventional” doctor played by Keanu Reeves. Reeves is the first-billed actor and he’s hardly in the movie and the most “unconventional” thing he does as the doctor in the film is to tell Ellen to tell the voice in her head to “fuck off”. I say fuck off a minimum of a dozen times a day, so I must be pretty fucking unconventional if you follow that logic.

Despite the false advertising, the movie is still a watchable one, albeit with problems. I had heard about the movie and had opted not to watch it, but an A- review by Chris Stuckmann got me wanting to watch it. I have no idea whether or not the film accurately portrays anorexia and people who have it. Some people say it doesn’t, others, like Stuckmann, say it does.

The performances are very good. Beyond Collins as Ellen is Alex Sharp as Luke, the only real guy in the film, and Sharp should be the second billed actor, instead he’s the FOURTEENTH down on the list on imdb. It’s his performance of goofy Luke having an interest in Ellen that actually carries the film. The writing is good too and Ellen’s dysfunctional family group therapy scene stands out as a notable example.

But, there’s also a feel-good artsy fartsy scene that feels very obligatory and one of the characters having a miscarriage shortly after a baby shower for her was the most unsurprising event in movie history. If you have a problem with me spoiling that for you, fuck off, it was obvious it would happen from the moment it was known she was pregnant early in the film.

The movie’s third act gets odd, Stuckmann calls it “transcendental”, for lack of a better word. There’s supposed to be a deeper meaning there, or something about finding a will to live, but it doesn’t work. Had it not been for the movie’s third act, it would have gotten a B.

Grade: C+

I did a little more research on garter snakes today. Apparently, the checkered garter snake is native to the southwest and isn’t near the eastern United States. That first picture I listed in yesterday’s post is likely a checkered garter snake, though, because it directly matches other photos online and I’m wondering if it was someone’s pet or progeny of a pet, as they are supposedly very easy to domesticate even if caught in the wild.

Another photo of the checkered garter snake from ten years ago.
Another one.

The other photos and the one I fought yesterday morning are likely the eastern garter snake, as the photos match other photos online and variants of the eastern garter snake are often checkered. The wikipedia pages for garter snakes have some interesting information:

  • They will release a foul-smelling liquid from their butt on to their attackers.  This is something that I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post – I could tell it was in a very aggravated mood early on because it released some stench when I first tried to grab it.
  • They are mildly venomous. This is contrary to what I said in my previous post.
  • They will strike and bite if provoked and have two large teeth towards the back of their mouth.

So I guess my point of this post is this:  In the epic Battle for the Beaven House the morning of July 11, 2017 as I was crouching down repeatedly trying to get the active and aggressive snake while in my underwear, two mildly venomous snakes could easily have touched tips with painful results for me, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

I did not see the snake last night or this morning.

And it was a snake. And I was afraid it was going to bite me.

As I plodded up my dark basement steps after getting up at 5:20am from my deep slumber, a large, shadowy snake-like figure next to my feet suddenly slithered up the steps. It scared me half to death and I quickly realized it was indeed a decent sized snake. It then moved behind a storage box and junk behind the box at the top of my steps.

The next ten minutes saw an epic battle between the snake and I as I tried to round it up to get it out of the house. I ran to get a flashlight, a recycling bin, and a paper towel to grab it with. The dark snake was much more active than the usual snakes around my house and it routinely squared up against me, the flashlight, or the paper towel as I was trying to get it. I was eventually able to grab it somewhere near its head with the paper towel and get it into the recycling bin to take it outside.

A pretty accurate artist’s recreation of the epic Battle for the Beaven House.

I left it in the recycling bin and woke up my wife and daughter to see it if they wanted to see it. I didn’t take any pictures of it because I didn’t want to stay outside looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man wearing only boxer briefs. After my shower, I went to check on the snake and to let it go if it was still in the bin and I discovered that I had inadvertently left the front door open as I went to take a shower still only half-awake. The storm door was closed, but there’s a piece of weather stripping that is missing at its bottom. The snake was gone from the bin, so the snake and I may be battling again tonight if it decided to come back in the house.

It turned out to be a checkered garter snake, which are fairly common in my neighborhood. Below are three pics I’ve taken over the years. Lacking venom, they’re harmless and I don’t even know if they have any teeth to sink into people if they wanted to. But damn, it was active and aggressive.

This smaller one was climbing on my lawnmower ten years ago. It was lighter in color than ones in recent years.
This mummified garter was another one in my basement found a few years ago in a pest control box by pest control.
This one was in my shed a few years ago and seems to be about the size of the one I fought this morning.

 

 

After the first third of the movie, I thought The Void was going to be good, instead it was mediocre-at-best. The Void was originally crowdfunded and has a 73% rating on rotten tomatoes and was certified fresh. The trailers for the film as well as reviews made it out to be a good homage to lower budget 80s Lovecraftian horror and science fiction movies from the likes of John Carpenter.

The movie turned out to be a film that wants to have the feel of a Carpenter film like a cross between Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing in the first half with the plot of a Clive Barker Hellraiser film in the second half. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come close to living up to any of those films and while the practical effects are great, they are way overused and character development is very light. In fact, I didn’t like a single character in the film, as none of their back stories were adequately explained. Thus, I had zero emotion when something happened to them.

The film was trying to be mysterious or something with the lack of character development, but was then oddly exposition heavy explaining the void in the second half. And the void was referred to as they abyss in the film. If there was a need to title the film The Void to not cause confusion with 1989’s The Abyss from James Cameron, which is what I suspect happened, then the abyss should have been called the void in the film.

Anyway, an honest attempt was made and that counts for something. It is indeed a film that some would like, I suppose it’s just that I’ve seen better homages to 80s films recently with Stranger Things on Netflix and a little-heard-of movie titled Synchronicity, which is a low budget homage to Blade Runner, but with time travel and one that I felt was even better than everyone’s favorite low budget time travel movie, Primer.

Grade: C

I ran into a problem with Netflix in mid-June – it opened fine, but refused to load videos and occasionally it did, but they were either extremely pixelated or completely froze within seconds. All I wanted to do was catch up on the latest available season of Supernatural for a few minutes before going to bed. (Laugh all you want, but it was decent through the first number of seasons and now that it’s up to season 12 and I’ve continued watching it, I may as well see it through til the end, whenever that may be.)

Video quality was worse than this, if I got video at all

It was annoying, but nothing to start getting pissed about. But it lasted for a couple of weeks where I couldn’t access it and at that point I was annoyed enough that I opened a chat with Netflix. My kids hadn’t reported any problems (but they aren’t reliable indicators) and there weren’t widespread problems being reported on the internet when I was having issues. Regardless, my opening was terse to get Netflix’s attention, even though I wasn’t sure what was going on:

“Long time customer here (check my account). I haven’t been able to stream reliably for a couple weeks. It is not me; it is you. I say that with absolute certainty. A refund for this month would go a long way in avoiding me cancelling Netflix altogether.”

At first, I thought I started chatting with a bot, but that feeling changed mid-way through the conversation, as it seemed like more natural troubleshooting was taking place. The representative (“Oscar”) eventually took me to fast.com, which is Netflix’s own speed test, and I was getting 24 Kbps. That’s Kilobits per second, not Megabits per second. So that was the problem.

But that only raised more questions. I pay for 75Mbps/75Mbps and I had done a ton of third-party speed tests over the previous two weeks and all were in the 75/75 range and slightly higher in the 80s. I even did one before opening the chat with Netflix and did one immediately after I got the 24Kbps reading from Netflix.

My thoughts turned towards Verizon Fios and the possibility of them throttling Netflix bandwidth and this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard of that. I could go to amazon prime video or youtube and stream without issue, even while on the chat with Netflix. So, that seemed like the culprit. I told Oscar I would contact Verizon and he ended the chat with:

“Sounds like a plan! I can assure you that will definitely correct it. Have a great night! And one more thing, if you wouldn’t mind, please stay online for a one question survey.”

So the “I can assure you that will definitely correct it” statement made it seem as though Netflix had probably seen this problem before. I went to bed and figured I would call Fios the next time I went to watch Netflix.

So, of course, the next time I went to watch Netflix, it streamed without issue and fast.com tested in the 80s. This was after two straight weeks of not being able to watch Netflix. The next evening was the same. This pointed the finger back at Netflix. Had Oscar put in a ticket to fix me later knowing that the problem was on their end but put the blame on Fios?

That wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened to me. Back in 2003, I worked for the slimiest company in my career and I had an issue with a particular server and I believed it had somehow dropped out of DNS, as I could access it via IP without issue. Since an app needed to access it via server name, I called the corporate HQ help desk. I explained the situation and I heard the guy perform a few mouse clicks, type a few things on a keyboard and then say “There’s nothing wrong. Can you check again?” His voice was accusatory like I was a moron. Except I already knew it was fixed because I had a ping -t going and saw it start resolving as soon as the keyboard clicks ended.

The company I worked for in 2003 was in the Montgomery Park building (the company is no longer there). We were in the second floor of the building and would see prostitute transactions and drug deals in Carroll Park across S Monroe Street.

 

Then on the third night post-chat, the issue was back and I was testing at 14 Kbps on fast.com, 80 Mbps everywhere else. So I pulled out my phone, went to fast.com and it tested at 80 Mbps. Went back to my Surface Book, tested it and It tested at 14 Kbps again. So what the fuck is going on? I bounced my Surface Book and all of the sudden it was testing at 80 Mbps on fast.com and streamed Netflix without issue.

So rebooting the Surface Book did the trick, but that doesn’t explain anything. I turn my Surface Book off during the day and at the times I had gone to access Netflix, it had only been on for a couple of hours with minimal usage. The Surface Book wireless network, even though I had not had a problem with it, was one of the original major issues with the Surface Book as it was apparently a crapfest of random shit happening until the problems were largely resolved with driver updates in April, 2016, just before I got my Surface Book. Is that the issue and why did it crop up now? A clue may be the fact that my Surface Book received its security updates (but no driver updates) on June 13, which seems very close to when the problems started.

So at the time of this writing, Netflix continues to have problems, I suppose Fios could be throttling me, my Surface Book is probably a factor in this, and Windows updates may be playing a role. But why would the problems only be with Netflix? I may be cancelling my Netflix subscription. If I happen to figure out that it’s not them, I’ll provide an update at that time.