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.

If you have not seen The Leftovers, I don’t believe that I spoil much, but I suggest not reading this review if you absolutely have to watch something not knowing anything about it beyond the general plot synopsis.

Too often, The Leftovers has contrived sequences and the characters do frustrating things. Some of this can be chalked up to events and actions occurring in a post-rapture world, although it’s never specifically stated it was a rapture that took place in the years prior, suddenly vanishing 2% of the world’s population, until season 3 and only then it was conjecture from an overly religious character. And that was part of my issue with The Leftovers from the beginning – it just assumes that you think the sudden vanishing was the rapture and not something else. But even though the show assumes rapture, it tries to explore it from a scientific standpoint briefly at times (and nothing ever comes of that). As for me if 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappeared, I would first think that we’re living in a virtual reality and the 2% were deleted, either accidentally or intentionally, and if accidentally then we’re living in a dead-end timeline before everything gets restored. If intentionally,well, shit.

The show reminded me of Lost while watching it, a show that I watched every now and then but didn’t take too seriously and I’m fortunate I did not given the scathing reviews of its finale from people who did take it seriously. Apparently The Leftovers was created by the same creator of Lost.

As I mentioned before, season 1 of the Leftovers was just good enough to continue watching. A cult known as the Guilty Remnant (GR) played a prominent role in season 1 and this was probably its weakest subplot in the whole series. Why these people act the way they do and how they are able to recruit so many members is never adequately explained. The show simply assumes that the viewer is to understand that people would act this way in a post-rapture world. But is that the way some people would act? It’s a take it or leave it scenario and taking it is a large stretch. They all dress in white, they all chain smoke, and all have taken a vow of silence and do not speak. So, they communicate by writing things down on notepads all the time and this gets pretty tedious at times given that they’re always communicating by writing when they’re not supposed to be communicating. As to why they do all this, it’s not explained. They are able to recruit a few new members by standing outside their houses silently stalking them. And that’s all it takes to recruit new members. Lame. They also do things like break into everybody’s houses and take their family photos and nobody bats an eye, then later when they do something equally lame, everybody in town completely and totally loses their shit.

Members of the Guilty Remnant chain smoke and communicate by notepad and sharpie.

Also, subplots are brought up, then dead-ended. A couple from season 1 included characters I mentioned in a previous post. The dog-killer states that the leftover dogs are a danger and Kevin helps kill them in his sleep walking, then Kevin later adopts one. That’s it. So are the leftover dogs a danger, or what? How do they figure into the rapture? The other subplot included Aimee, who was living with Kevin and Jill. The reason she was living with them was never explained and at one point there was an odd sexual tension in one scene between Aimee and Kevin. Nothing was ever done with this tension except to have Jill accuse Aimee of fucking her dad (which wasn’t true) to have a fallout occur between the two and get rid of Aimee from the series. The whole thing was pointless and odder still because Aimee is presumably an underage character (she’s in high school) even though the actress is obviously in her 20s. The scene with the odd sexual tension occurs because Aimee appears in the kitchen wearing a see-through shirt. I don’t know current laws with television, but this could be considered child pornography even though the actress is in her 20s because it’s a portrayal of a bare-breasted female child in a semi-sexual manner. But again, the whole thing was pointless, so I don’t know why they did any of it.

Scenes had to be cut short for the American edition of Trainspotting due to the underage sex between the actor Ewan McGregor and actress Kelly MacDonald playing a 15 year old girl, even though the two were of age.

But for all of my problems with The Leftovers, the performances from the actors and actresses are top-notch. Justin Theroux (playing Kevin Garvey) and Carrie Coon (playing Nora Durst) carry the show. Other supporting actors are great as well – Christopher Eccleston playing Matt Jamison, Kevin Carroll as John Murphy, and Regina King as Erika Murphy, to name a few. The fantastic Scott Glenn plays a supporting role too and one of my favorite episodes, Season 3’s Crazy Whitefella Thinking, featured him prominently (as the crazy whitefella). It’s these performances and stellar episodes every once in a while that kept me coming back. Season 2’s International Assassin episode is another example of great storytelling from all involved and Season 1’s Guest is the episode that really got me into the show. These three episodes all had something in common – they focused on a singular character and his or her journey. This is where The Leftovers is at its strongest and it’s engrossing.

Then, just like that, Crazy Whitefella Thinking gets followed by an episode that is one big contrived and cliched mess. Going into the last four episodes of the series, I gave The Leftovers a C+ in my mind with the final episodes being capable of raising it up to a B or B- level or dropping it down to a C. Would the final episodes be strong ones focused on a Garvey or would they go the more likely route of jumping back and forth through different characters to tie up the character arcs? But why bother doing that when so many other things haven’t been tied up? Will I be really upset by the ending like so many were who took Lost seriously?

I’m happy to say that season 3 episodes 5, 6, and 7 all largely focused on a singular character and each was successively better than the previous. Episode 5’s It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World seemed odd with the lion sex party (you would have to watch it), then Episode 6’s Certified allowed Amy Brenneman (who plays Laurie) to shine brightly despite an episode nearly devoid of plot. I felt her acting talent was largely wasted until this episode. Then came The Most Powerful Man in the World (and his Twin Brother), a brilliant episode and largely a sequel to Season 2’s International Assassin, also from the same director (Craig Zobel, who also co-founded Homestar Runner!). This penultimate episode is every bit as good as International Assassin and has one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen on the small or big screen in quite some time.

Homestar Runner is great, but who would’ve thunk one of the creators would go on to direct something as good as International Assassin?

Before I get to the series finale, I have to say that I read up a bit on the many theories online about the show. While some seem like they could be legit and others are pretty far out there, I came across one written during the first season stating they felt the series was largely a study in depression. In fact, I got the feeling that’s what the show was about before I even saw that article. That’s probably why I don’t like it quite as much as others – as a largely depressed person, I crave a little more escapist entertainment than what The Leftovers has to offer. My understanding is that the first season was loosely based on the book (which I have not read), then season 2 and 3 was not. Season 2 is where The Leftovers got significantly better, probably because the creators and writers were able to take the characters and ideas and write their own material directly for a visual format. But they still kept the depression theme at times, especially given what takes place in Certified during the third season.

As for the series finale, it was mildly disappointing and again, reminded me of Lost. There’s even a reference to Lost early in the episode. I’m not going to say anything else about it.

The strength of the latter half of season 3 earns it an increase in grade from C+, but the series finale prevents it from getting a full B and results in a B-.

I’ve been watching “The Leftovers” on HBONow. I originally avoided it because it looked too religious to me, but I started watching it to check it out and while some episodes seemed mediocre, others were very good (especially S1E6). By episode 8, I was looking up a couple of the people on the show on IMDB who I liked. One of those people turned out to be Michael Gaston, who plays Dean, a rather mysterious character who shoots the stray leftover dogs in the neighborhood. I found his IMDB profile picture to be odd:

Is he flipping the bird to the camera? It’s a very grainy image and while Trump appears to be giving a thumbs up, Gaston certainly appears to be using another digit.

Zooming in on the image, although making it grainier, pretty much confirms it’s the middle finger. So the question is why would this be the profile picture? I would like to give Gaston the benefit of the doubt and say that IMDB chooses one at random, but I find that highly unlikely to be the case. The odds are clearly in favor of Gaston making a political statement right there on his IMDB page.

Examining Gaston’s twitter profile shows that he is very anti-Trump. In fact, not too long after his profile states “I’m that bald guy from that thing you saw currently” comes a #FUCKTRUMP hashtag.

Doing a brief spot check on his twitter feed shows it is littered with anti-Trump tweets. In fact, this photo of him giving the finger appears about a million times in his media feed. He’s particularly proud of it. Oddly, the original post of it appears to be in June, 2013 and this one is the title image of the post:

The hatred of Trump runs deep with Gaston. Here he is stating IMDB “suppressed” his image, followed by a tweet stating he had gotten it back up:

Anyway, the day after the 2016 presidential election, I chatted with a good friend and stated I was 100% sure Trump would be a one term president because the Democrats would learn their lesson, do a proper primary, and come up with a more qualified candidate. Now I’m not so sure. The left still fails to understand that this type of behavior (always going low) is part of what got Trump elected. Other items with the Democrats that led to his win, beyond the scope of this post, are still in play today too. Going low is somewhat ironic, too, given the “when they go low, we go high” statement from Michelle Obama, but again, most everyone understands at this point that statements from politicians are the exact opposite of reality meaning that everyone knows that this statement from Obama is admitting the Democrats go low, not high.

They go low because they can get away with it. Compare this to an average person who may have had a “FUCKOBAMA” hashtag and a photo giving the middle finger with Obama. That person’s career, wherever he worked, in whatever industry he worked, would likely be ruined because the cries of racism would rain down on him. The difference in extremes in shit like this is part of the reason large amounts of independents broke Trump in the swing states.

There’s always the possibility I may be wrong and Gaston is not a rank and file Democrat, just simply someone who dislikes Trump. Monkeys may fly out of my butt too. An earlier tweet seems to confirm he’s a Clinton supporter, though:

I haven’t given his tweets that much time and don’t intend to any more. As for my thoughts on the 2016 election – I firmly believed Trump was a horrible candidate and would probably be an incompetent president. And I believed the other primary candidate in the election was even worse. That’s the problem with our current two party system. Indeed, I agree with Trump when he said Clinton is a nasty woman, but it’s the pot calling the kettle black, just different genders. Oh wait, am I allowed to use the word gender? Another reason Trump won.

As for The Leftovers, I think I will stop watching it for now, as Gaston’s shit stinks and has turned me off of it. The other person I was looking up, the actress of the character I liked named Aimee, left me wanting to see more of what she’s in. Why?

BECAUSE SHE’S NOT FORCING POLITICS DOWN MY FUCKING THROAT VIA IMDB.

Funny how that works. Also, I inadvertently saw that Meade was only in the first ten episodes, meaning she either gets killed or exits the show somehow after season 1. Lame. (Am I allowed to use the word she? Am I allowed to use the word actress? Serious questions.)

I brought back my subscription to HBONow a day into the flu to get some new things to watch when I wasn’t dead in bed. Here’s some brief reviews, none of them of brand new movies or shows:

Westworld: The best series I’ve seen. Better than Game of Thrones, which jumped the shark at the very, very end of season 5. The blonde woman with the snake tattoo, played brilliantly by Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, is absolutely lovable in her badassery, even though it’s a pretty small part. Everyone else does well too. I also liked seeing Tessa Thompson again, who I first really saw in Creed. I ended up binge watching the entire season over two days thanks to it being so good. Grade: A+

Batman V Superman: I finally saw it thanks to the subscription and while it wasn’t a great film it wasn’t terrible either. My issues with it were the length and the odd tonal shifts where they tried to shoehorn in items for the next Justice League movie. While a lot of people were harping on Affleck being Batman when it was first announced, my issue at the time was with Eisenberg being Lex Luthor. I’m happy to say his performance as Luthor wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Grade: B-

Independence Day: Resurgence: Not good. There was mediocre CGI, bad green screen, lame plot. And that was in the first 30 minutes because I fell asleep after that. So, I can’t really say I saw the movie. Another noteworthy item – “Madam President” is introduced within the first few minutes of the film, instantly dating itself to the dark times of the mid-teens where Hollywood was simply assuming the next President would be Hillary Clinton and was helping pave the way. Grade: D (from what I saw of it)

X-Men Apocalypse: While it was nothing that hasn’t been seen before, it was a decent movie and it being set in the 80s was fun. Sansa Stark, I mean Sophie Turner, played a young Jean well and I liked seeing how Charles Xavier lost his hair. Truthfully, there’s been so many X-Men movies, I have no idea if this is supposed to be in an alternate timeline or not compared to others from the 2000s as well as others from this decade. Regardless, it was a fun movie. Grade: B