Tis the Season. Merry Happy Ramadan Christmas Vodun Kwanzaa Hanukaa Festivus!!! :)

Holidays are upon us.

That we, reading this, have the luxury of celebration and remembrance and family, is a blessing. Many do not.

 

And we are stuck in the middle.

Time keeps on rolling… rolling… rolling… into the future.

 

Sorry bits of archaic, near forgotten song lyrics, stuck in my head. 🙂

 

Glad for so much here at the end of this cycle of days.

Here at the end of days, glad for so much.

But also aware of so much… that I should have made better.

 

We are almost a hundred years removed from the wonders and horrors of 1920, and almost a hundred removed from the wonders and horrors of 2120.

Here is hoping that in 2020, that our wonders transcend our horrors. That the places where we aspire, transcend the places where we tear down.

Speculative.

All speculative. All we have of any real import, is our pressure on the moment.

Is our will… applied.

Do we make a better world or a worse one.

Depends on you.

It ripples outward.

Intent.

Will.

No guarantees, but we fall down going forward… it matters. The intent transcends the fall.

Rambling.

Slightly.

All this to say… embrace… better. ‘Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable.’, Blanche DuBois said in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. We are all at times cruel, and petty, but I try to always remember that line, and not be.. cruel, or petty.

Because Tennessee Williams was right, right in his 1947 Pulitzer prize winning play, and right in the Elia Kazan, nearly x-rated for the time, 1951 Academy Award Winning movie… deliberate cruelty is not forgivable.

But it is avoidable and it is correctable.

Here at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, with change like the stuff of science fiction upon us, we must hold to that one true thing… to aspire to better. To be better. And to spend less energy trying to make things (our phones, our tablets, our tv, our refrigerator, our voice operated Alexa assistants, our drones)… human, and more time making humans… humane.

God, whatever God or Gods you bend your knee to, bless you and yours, and give you the wisdom here at the figurative ending of days and at the beginning of a new cycle of days, to judge your wrongs… right.

Be well.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this rambling, but heartfelt, post, then like and subscribe to this blog, and click the link below and peruse some great gift ideas (ideas for 2020, it is too late to make it for the 2019 holidays). Your purchases keep the proverbial doors open, and are greatly appreciated. And you get great stuff. (ie Everyone should have an emergency bag , one in their car, and one in their house. It’s good karma to be… prepared. )

Today’s Deals of the Day.

This week’s absolutely must watch STREAMING MOVIE : FIVE FINGERS OF MARSEILLES

Five Fingers for Marseilles - poster

It had me.

It had me with the trailer.

At once elegiac and lyrical, this feature film debut by director Michael Matthews, writer Sean Drummond, and cinematographer Shaun Lee, is a revelation. Haunting and hauntingly beautiful, it transposes the myth of the western onto the looming shadow of Apartheid era South Africa, with staggering effectiveness. To tell a tale of childhood promises and adult realities, amidst a lawless land.

With a great cast of actors (Vuyo Dabula as protagonist Tau is particularly brilliant, but so is Hamilton Dhlamini as the almost preternatural Sepoko), some unknown and some familiar faces, and awe inspiring visuals and landscapes, this movie is both a surprise and a joy and is a GREAT Western, up their with the best of recent westerns.

UNFORGIVEN, TOMBSTONE, OPEN RANGE, BLACKTHORN, THE MISSING, HOMESMAN, BURROWERS, BONE TOMAHAWK  all heavy hitting, top notch westerns by master directors, and yet somehow first time director Michael Matthews makes those masterful films, all of which I LOVE, feel almost rote in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, FIVE FINGERS OF MARSEILLES is not better than TOMBSTONE, but its breadth gives it a unique quality.

This film is both a western and not a western, and its ability to transcend genre and exploit it, makes for a very fresh and freeing  viewing experience. I loved it. And can not wait for a Blueray edition of this film.

Watch it free courtesy of Amazon prime, and if as impressed as i am… buy the Bluray. Grade: A-.

 

TV Show Review : DAREDEVIL Seasons 1, 2, and 3!

cool-poster-art-for-daredevil-season-3-highlights-the-hero-and-villain1

The first season of DAREDEVIL, was and remains game changing , ground breaking TV. In terms of action choreography, and initial complexity of storyline, and some amazing performances.  It remains an astounding season of television, however it didn’t quite stick the landing.

There was something rushed and not quite satisfying in the ending. Something that did not quite live up to the AMAZING buildup.There was always a slight worm in the apple, and that was what was best and most enjoyable and most likable about the series, what was really brilliant about the series, was never the main three protagonists, the great acting of the series was done by the so-called villains such as Wilson Fisk, Alexandra, Wesley  and by the supporting characters such as Ben Urich and Stick.

What was annoying about season 1, was Karen Page, and she got increasingly more annoying, like nails on chalkboard through the season. Her remaining on the show, when two other astounding characters met violent ends, really for me weakened the show going forward. Also Matt Murdock, his maudlin approach, begins to wear thin at the end of 13 episodes.  But all those caveats aside, the strengths outweigh the failings of that first season. A solid A- of a season.

 

Fast forward to season 2 , which has a strong first half, but disintegrates in the 2nd half, Karen Page gets more annoying, Matt Murdock gets more whiny and maudlin, and Elektra storyline doesn’t do much for me. Karen Page playing girl reporter, just emphasizes everything I find annoying about that character, and how much the character of Ben Urich is missed.  Season 2 has its moments, largely due to the Punisher in the first half, but overall is strictly fast forward material through much of the 2nd half of season 2. This season is the definition of uneven, coming in at a C+/B-.

 

Daredevil Season 3 Review

 

The DEFENDERS series plays very much as DAREDEVIL Season 2.5. Because we get to minimize exposure to the weakest parts of season 2, namely Karen Page. Even though the Elektra/Black Star storyline is largely nonsensical and uneven (she can take blows from Power Man, but is affected by blows from Daredevil. Nonsensical.) the series moves at a fast clip, and seeing these actors together, enjoyable. Overall, inane ending excepted, a fun series. Grade: B+.

 

That brings us to the just finished third season of DAREDEVIL. It starts off intriguing, But quickly, particularly in the later episodes, drowns in all the unlikeable characters.

Karen Page is show stoppingly annoying every-time she is on the screen. Also three seasons of watching Matt Murdock suck all the joy out of everything, is just tiring. “Ooh, I have special powers, to make up for being blinded, I have friends, a good job, a great apartment… Oh I’m so angry!” what the hell does he have to be mad about all the time? 🙂

Just a joyless, depressing performance. And I am not saying it is badly acted, the actor is good, it is just he is written with nothing to do but complain all the time.

By comparison all the so-called villainous characters are far more interesting, to the point I was rooting though the later episodes for Fisk and the Mystery Villain 🙂 to take out Karen Page (Again, a fine actress, she is just written with nothing to do but eat the joy out of every scene. And what works in a few scant panels in a limited story, over three seasons… tires), and beat Matt Murdock.

I felt the ending was very unsatisfying.  Matt Murdock/Daredevil just comes across as much a psychotic as those he fights, and a hypocrite on top of it. And again the character flaws that work briefly in panels on a comic page, does not wear as well over three seasons. Add Karen Page to the mix, and you have a season 3 that I lose interest in whenever the three so-called leads are on camera. (To be fair, I quite liked the character of Foggy. He was the one thing that worked in that triangle.)

Overall a very dissatisfying wrap up to DAREDEVIL Season III. Karen Page survives, where yet more good characters die in her stead. I bought the first DAREDEVIL on BLURAY,  I bought the first LUKE CAGE on Bluray, and will be buying the 2nd season when it is available. I might buy the DEFENDERS, its flaws aside, overall it worked very well, and what IRON FIST couldn’t do in his own series (be good) he manages to pull off in the DEFENDERS and LUKE CAGE Season II.

With Luke Cage having been canceled, I don’t see anything to bring me back to the Netflix/Marvel Properties.  Not a fan of PUNISHER Season 1, Jessica Jones I fell off of, Iron Fist show was a train-wreck, and DAREDEVIL can not get out of its own way. Should a MOON KNIGHT show pop up, or a WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, I would definitely give those a look, but for now it appears the great Marvel/Netflix ship of success… has capsized.

 

DAREDEVIL Season 1 A-

DAREDEVIL Season 2 C+

DAREDEVIL Season 3 C+/B-

Overall Grade: B

 

 

 

 

TV Show of the Day : LUKE CAGE SEASON 2 by Cheo Hodari Coker

Cheo Hodari Coker’s 1st Season of Luke Cage was one of my favorite TV shows of 2016, right up there with the excellent Noah Hawley LEGION. They were each in their own way, game changing and ground breaking TV.

Mike Colter in Luke Cage (2016)

LEGION largely for its visuals and innovative storytelling, and Coker’s LUKE CAGE for in many ways being one of the few shows to offer a multitude of characters of colors in non-stereotypical ways, and with innovative roles, with unfettered storytelling. One of my favorite shots in the 1st season of LUKE CAGE, was four strong, upstanding women of color, captured in one great shot. Not as prostitutes, not as rappers, not as comedians,  but as heroes. Likewise their male counterparts were admirably done.

LUKE CAGE, the series, sings/rewards…  largely because of those conversation of books in the barbershop, those conversations on playwrights and writers. Those things, those conversations, that mostly uninformed people (who mainly know Blacks via the stereotypes they have consumed through mass media), would right off as preachy, or talky, or unrealistic, those are the conversations, that immediately sang for me, and clued me to the greatness of this show.

As someone who grew up in those Barbershops, those conversations are very true, to how many of us escaped the traps of the street, and found our way to something… better.

Always Forward.

If SEINFELD can be acclaimed for being, in places, a show about nothing, we should allow that same latitude to a serious show such as LUKE CAGE, that uses those seemingly frivolous nothings about the writers, and the artist, and the books, and the music; to say profound somethings.

Of All the Netflix shows, it is the only one that says something more profound, than the standard super-hero or for that matter action or drama tropes. It says something about the world outside our door, and how to meet it. Not preachy, not banal, and never losing the joy and beauty we can find, despite the dire days, and the dangerous nights.

It is the balance of crime and charm, violence and virtue, war and wit, that can sing, to those with ears. And it withstands repeated viewings better, because of all those layers you can view it on.

Cheo Hodari Coker’s LUKE CAGE is one of the best written and most innovative and ground breaking shows to come along in years for precisely this reason. It takes you the place all great writing should, beyond your prejudices, your assumptions, your comfort zone.

For my money it is one of the best of the Marvel/Netflix TV shows, right up there with the first season of DAREDEVIL. But edges it out, because I find the characters in LUKE CAGE, especially the protagonists, far more interesting and likable. DAREDEVIL’s main characters are various stages of unlikeable and annoying.

Add to that Coker’s plot has something valuable and timely and timeless to say about our world, that transcends bad guy fights good guy. There is a complexity to the storyline and the conflicts, that rewards repeated viewings.

Ten episodes in and that complexity remains for Season 2 of LUKE CAGE. It is not perfect, I can do with less Alfre Woodard, particularly her and the character of Shades getting intimate, I can really do without. I never really buy Shades attraction to Woodard’s character, and the more they try to sell it, the less it works for me. Also Alfre’s unhinged performance, while I get it.. she is Lady Macbething it up, for me it is too much. She is always in her twitches, and sputterings, always at eleven, always wildly and uncomfortably out of control, which for my own taste would have been better dialed back to 4 or 5. Also the poster for season 2 is absolute garbage, whoever came up with that poster should be fired. It is that inept of a poster. Right up there with the HANCOCK boxart and poster.

But those minor weakness aside, LUKE CAGE season 2, following strongly in the footsteps of Season 1 is crushing it; the story and performances shine, and like season 1 it has the best soundtrack of the year. Ten episodes in and I’m loving it… Grade: B+.

More to come as I watch the last few episodes.

 

Richard Carpenter’s seminal 80’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD may just be the best TV show of all Time

‘Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.’ — Richard Carpenter’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD

 

 

 

Richard Carpenter, no relation to John Carpenter, is largely unknown to modern audiences, however he shouldn’t be. In the 80s he created a TV show, ROBIN OF SHERWOOD, which became a surprising hit. Here in the states it was broadcast via PBS, and even watching it then, it felt mythic and larger than life. Revisiting it 35 years later, not only does the short lived series hold up as great television, those first two seasons remain the best version of Robin Hood ever conceived.

Richard Carpenter taking the traditional Robin Hood myth, and adding unheard of mystical and Moorish and pagan and Arthurian elements to it, created a show that was the crystallization of myth. Add the perfect confluence of young, hungry actors , a brilliant creator/writer at the peak of his powers, groundbreaking directors and cinematographers, led by Director Ian Sharp, that were rewriting the way action could be filmed, and a score done by Pol Brennan and hot new touring bad Clanad, and you had a show that was as mythic and forged by destiny, as the fiction it chronicled.

 

  • Michael Praed
  • Ray Winstone,
  • Nickolas Grace
  • Judi Trott
  • Clive Mantle
  • Robert Addie
  • Phil Rose
  • Mark Ryan
  • Peter Llewellyn Williams

 

The above actors were the perfect cast (thanks to Beth and Esta Charkham) to give life to Richard Carpenter’s groundbreaking mythic and mystic version of Robin of the Hood.

The writing, married to the performances, is at once eloquent and elegant; and like all great myths it is endlessly quotable and memorable. In the 35 years since, what Richard Carpenter invented for his series, the mystical elements, the addition of a Moor to Robin’s Merry Men, making Marion a vital part of the story, has been stolen by other tv shows and films, but none to any great effect. Because those were part of Carpenter’s vision, and 35 years ago he, with the exact right people, and the exact alignment of stars… gave birth to that vision.

Will someday someone make a Robin Hood series or film as good? Well they haven’t yet, but the good news is ROBIN OF SHERWOOD is available on DVD/Bluray and Streaming for a new generation to discover, and long term fans… revisit.

The first two seasons (called Set 1) are essential television. The third season (Set 2) is fun, but is not essential.

Get your fix here:

http://amzn.to/2H8TSQI

http://amzn.to/2ElZrxo

 

If you would like to try before you buy, Season 1 is available right now via Amazon Prime. But the commentaries in the Bluray’s are a clinic on film-making and storytelling, and are a must listen. As well as the other features, and interviews with the cast, it is… in the age of streaming; a must own Blu-ray.

Gift Idea/Product of the Day! LIFESAVER Systems 4000 Ultra Filtration Water Bottle

I just watched an excellent Michael Pritchard TED Talk on making filthy water drinkable. At only ten minutes you can view it here:

As someone who has always been concerned with the quality of drinking water, and has over several years tried various remedies to ensure clean water, the talk was of definite interest to me.

Especially as I see more and more companies pressure nations and communities to privatize their water infrastructure; I think water, clean drinkable non-contaminated or tinkered with for taste water (Dasani I’m looking at you)… is going to increasingly not be guaranteed. Water, in this ‘tail wags Dog’ America and World, Is going to start being a luxury item you have to pay for, rather than a basic necessity that should be freely available and provided.  And those who can’t pay for clean, non contaminated water, will not get clean contaminated water.

A Trumpian Dystopian Orwellian future, made ever less far-fetched as the more passionate among us do nothing, while the venal and greedy and ignorant among us, shout loudly.

Michael Pritchard is one who did not stay quietly on the sidelines, turning his outrage on tragedies of nature, and failures of governments and men, such as Katrina… into action.

In this case a portable water filtration system called LIFESAVER that checks a lot of the boxes, that others miss.

  • One it requires no external power source.
  • Two it is designed to catch just about everything, rather than just a few, and
  • Third and most importantly, and the one that most water filters fail on… it shuts the water filter off when it has reached the point of failure.

A water filter is only as good as that point of failure, and a system that lets you know when you have reached that point of replacement is indispensable.

In my house I use the zero pitcher, for this very reason. It’s a quick and easy test you can run on every glass of water, and when the meter hits that number of 006 TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) you know it is time to replace that filter.

LIFESAVER offers a similar level of confidence, where it matters even more… when you are on the go; away from your house. And I don’t just mean camping, I mean anyplace outside your home where you need to get a drink of water, whether that be the water cooler at your job, a public fountain, or a friends house.

I work for a billion dollar company, in a fantastic high rise in the middle of a major city, and way too often the water out of the tap, for the whole building… comes out brown. That is just not acceptable. And yes the company has mounted water filters, but are the filters getting changed as they should be? When the municipality of a so-called 1st World Nation can’t provide its citizens clean drinking water from the tap (or don’t prioritize such water), you begin to question the capability of every part of that chain.

We have this delusion in America, like so many delusions that allowed otherwise sane people to actually cast a ballot for Trump, we have a delusion that water quality is a third world problem. When the truth is, through the greed of billionaires, America is quickly becoming a third world nation. The problems of Mexico, and Sudan, and Kosovo, and Nigeria and India… these are quickly going to become American problems. Because we are allowing slavers and Robber Barons to make policy, that inevitably is designed to make the few masters and the many slaves.

Some of that you can combat through legislation, though voting, through boycotting, and some of it you combat by taking an active role, in making sure the basic necessities of life… clean water… in a pinch you can provide for yourself.

That is where the LIFESAVER System comes in. Its company grade is an A, and its Amazon Reviews have been vetted and are accurate (A lot of times they are not, don’t just assume a company with 4 or 5 stars on Amazon is a slam dunk of a product. Unfortunately unscrupulous companies use robots to pad their page with tons of fake 5 star reviews.)

You want to vet the company and vet the reviews, to see if the company is legit and the reviews are legit. There are various sites that will do this for you. I’ve checked the most reputable ones, and LIFESAVER as a company is an A, and its Amazon reviews get an A for being accurate, and non robot generated.

All this to say, this is the gift giving season, Dickens’ sweet story of a carol at Christmas, has been turned by savvy businessmen into a retailers dream, the need to purchase and buy, affecting all during this time of year, more like a fever, than anything to do with faith.

A compulsion.

Whether Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Vodun or Festivus you celebrate; we are all swept up in the compulsion to spend. All to some point swayed by the marketing push and Black Friday sales, or Amazon Monday sales.

But perhaps we can do better than the usual suspects of gifts. While the kids want (and deserve) their toys, for the adults give them the LIFESAVER. It lives up to its name. It is something that should be in each car you own, for emergencies, and one in the house as a backup filtration system. Essential for any bug-out bag.

And the lifesaver while impressive, no product should be considered an end all and be all. I would recommend having a UV pen water sterilizer as well. It is just a good one-two punch to get in the habit of doing. Especially as your filter gets close to its end of life.

Is it overkill? Probably. But considering it only takes seconds more to UV your drink after filtering, it is probably just a good routine to get into. But even without the UV step, I consider the LIFESAVER absolutely an indispensable purchase in 2017 and beyond, and a fantastic gift.

Get yours here:

LIFESAVER Systems 4000 Ultra Filtration Water Bottle

You are going to also need to have replacement filters on hand (In the words of Nick Nolte, from EXTREME PREJUDICE [one of my favorite movies, and easily his most iconic role] ‘One without the other, ain’t no damn good.’)

Lifesaver Bottle Ultra Filtration Water Bottle Replacement Carbon Inserts (4-pk)
And here’s the recommended UV pen:

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier

And here’s the pitcher for your kitchen (and you could also use an additional one for your bathroom or just go with an on tap unit for your bathroom faucet):

ZeroWater 23 Cup Dispenser with Free TDS Meter (Total Dissolved Solids) – ZD-018

Or more convenient for your bathroom would be a on-faucet filter, that also offers a end of life replacement light, which would be the below:

PUR 3-Stage Horizontal Water Filtration Faucet Mount Chrome FM-9400B

So that’s it guys. When I started this blog, far more than a decade ago, one of my early concerns was water quality. I had tried distillers, table top water filters, and tons of options in between.

And all of that research has brought me to the recommendations above. You want to give a gift this holiday season, give the gift of clean water.

It is… a start.

Use the links above and help this blog earn a few pennies with your purchases.

Enjoy!

 

TV Show of the Week! Amazon’s THE GRAND TOUR! Great Car/Humor Show!

 

 

https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/15107271_528972003968012_8096998581861718912_n.jpg?oh=95c9ebb5ab9cccbcb1845e214046fcb2&oe=58C181A9

Last year I became a huge fan of the BBC car show TOP GEAR. Thanks to catching episodes of past seasons on Netflix.  It took a couple episodes for me to warm up to the show, but quite quickly the natural camaraderie of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May  made a believer out of me.

The shows were just plain fun. So when news came that one  of the trinity was no longer going to be on the show, due to punching out one of the producers, and the other 2/3rds quitting to join him, I was dismayed. No more of the show that I had in quick order made a binge watch favorite.

And yes there was the American TOP GEAR, but the hosts there came off as annoying frat boys, making the show quite unwatchable. Nope it was clear that what made BBC’s TOP GEAR a long running hit, was the fun dynamic of the three hosts they had stupidly lost.

So when it was announced that AMAZON was giving the three ex-hosts a new car show, I couldn’t wait. Well tonight the waiting ended as the first episode of THE GRAND TOUR  dropped. And it’s great. Different but great. There are minor quibbles, the biggest being the absolutely awful ‘THE AMERICAN’ driver.

Their take on the very popular “STIG’ driver of TOP GEAR, but a very poor take it is. Being something of a very unfunny send-up of Ugly American cliches.  The ‘AMERICAN’ is very annoying, very unfunny, and is a bit that hopefully they will pull the plug on in short order.

That aside, the rest of the show and the skits and the cars and the banter of the hosts is great! And the opening sequence is quite frankly awesome. A welcome premiere and looking forward to the upcoming Friday release  of new shows!

 

http://amzn.to/2ePIPSa

 

 

The Grand Tour