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Today’s Earworm

20 Years On

At 8:46 AM, on September 11, 2001, the world changed.  By the end of the day, thousands of innocent people would be dead.  Our allies and friends around the world stood with us and pledged to protect and help the United States after the attacks.  Most of all, Americans closed ranks and became more than what we were before.

Americans of all walks of life and beliefs stood together, arm in arm, to mourn the dead and hold each other up.  We saw politicians of all stripes stand on the Capitol steps and sing “God Bless America”.  For one, brief, shining moment, we were one Nation with a common thought.

In the 20 years since that terrible day, we have lost that, squandered it.  To me, that is the true tragedy of 9/11.  We showed that we are capable of finding common cause, of being Americans.  But somehow, we lost that.  We are more divided now than we were on September 10.  Where once we tried to do as much for each other as we could, now we step over each other’s bodies in a quest to be ‘right’.

Today, I look back and I mourn.  I mourn not only the lives lost that day, but also the loss of our sense of belonging, of duty, and of love for one another.

I hope, in my lifetime, for something approaching that moment when we all stood together, to return.  I only pray that it doesn’t take another tragedy to cause it.

Movie Review – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Alternate title – Crouching Panther, Hidden Avenger.

Marvel’s newest contribution to its already huge collection of popcorn movies, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is a fun, engrossing ride that holds on and doesn’t let go.  If you enjoyed the Avengers, you’ll love this one.

I won’t give a plot synopsis other than to say that the film includes one of the most romantic ass-kickings I’ve ever seen.  It is studded with martial-arts sequences and just enough comedy to remind you that it’s a comic-book movie.  If well-done martial arts movies set in either a classical or modern Chinese setting are your thing, this one is definitely up your alley.

The acting in the movie is superb.  Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi. His ability to work both the emotional and physical side of his character make Shang-Chi real from the first scene.  He is supported by a strong cast of notable actors, including Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung Chiu Wai.  A surprisingly strong performance by Awkwafina as Katy, his friend/love interest, filled out the cast and added some light-hearted levity to what could easily have become a much heavier and darker story.

The movie runs at over two hours, but it didn’t feel like it.  The plot moves quickly, pausing only a few times to expand on one point or another.  The characters are thrown down a rabbit hole and keep running until the very end.

Like all Marvel movies, Shang-Chi is targeted at younger people, but older folks who enjoyed the rest of the MCU should also enjoy it.  A good portion of the movie is in Chinese with subtitles, so if you’re watching with younger children who can’t read quickly, you may have to provide some help so they can keep up with the dialogue.  Other than a bit of mild cursing, though, Shang-Chi is appropriate for youngsters who can handle The Avengers or Spiderman movies.  That’s right, Shang-Chi is for the children.

So, if you’re in need of a couple of hours where you can just absorb a fast-paced action movie with outstanding acting, amazing visuals, and great characters, you really ought to check out Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Maskirovka

Well, we are at 18 months and counting of “2 weeks to flatten the curve”. According to the CDC, there have been 39,831,318 cases in the United States, with 644,848 of those cases resulting in death. That means that roughly 1.6% of the people diagnosed with Covid-19 have died from it.

There are 332,712,704 people living in the United States. That means that a little over 8.35% of our population has been diagnosed with Covid-19, and .19% of that population has died from the disease.

That is, of course, a broad average across the entire population. As we have seen, the elderly and infirm have been gravely impacted by this disease. The risk of death from this disease goes up dramatically if the infected person is older, immunocompromised, or has other comorbidities such as lung problems.

In order to stem that tide, first the Trump, and then the Biden, administrations, with the assistance of the various states, instituted broad economic and social measures. These included closing businesses and schools, restricting gatherings and travel, and the enforcement of social-distancing and mask usage.

Of course, nothing happens without consequences. If you shutter a huge chunk of the economy to prevent spread of a virus, the people who depend on the paychecks that economy produces need help. And so, we have seen an unprecedented level of emergency spending.

We have seen schools adapt, some better than others, to a reality in which students cannot congregate. My son’s school did a good job of at least getting the kids exposed to their coursework and enforcing homework, but it’s a small school that was already known for academic rigor. We are only now starting to see the impact of a year or more of remote learning has had on students from larger school districts that were already in trouble before this all started.

The impacts from all of these actions and reactions will ripple through our economy and society for years. In the short term, we are limping along. Things aren’t as bad now as they were a year ago, but they aren’t even close to how good they were two years ago.

We have also seen a litany of public shaming of those who don’t toe the line when it comes to social restrictions, accompanied with private hypocracy on the part of our social, economic, and political betters.

Governors who lock down their states have been caught enjoying a night out with their friends, family, and donors. Politicians who restrict travel within their own state have taken it upon themselves to travel to their vacation homes.

When protesters gather for one cause, they are berated. When protesters gather for another cause, their complaints are deemed worthy, and their lack of social distancing and masks are shrugged off.

When a group of people gather in a remote town to enjoy their hobby, they are labelled as super-spreaders in the national media. When a former president holds a birthday bash in a small community and invites a large number of people from around the world, nary a disapproving eyebrow is raised.

Meanwhile, American families are suffering because the economy is sluggish, at best, and the value of what money they can make is decreasing every day.

Covid-19, in all of its variants, is a serious disease. To some portions of our population, it is a deadly disease. Steps to prevent its spread, done in a prudent manner, are necessary. I am vaccinated against the disease, and even if it’s only as effective as the flu shot I get every year, it’s better than nothing. Masks are not a panacea, but if you feel that you should wear one, please do.

All Americans should take the steps they can to prevent the spread of this virus.

But the government telling us that we have to get our shots and we have to wear a mask and we can’t gather together and we have to follow instructions because they know better and you’ll have to get more shots and you have to do this because they said so is not going to fly with a large number of our fellow citizens.

We have spent the last three generations telling ourselves that the government has no business telling us how we should live or what we should do with our bodies. Is it any surprise that after 50 years of telling The Man he can’t tell us what to do, ex cathedra dictates from the CDC and Washington are being ignored, if not actively defied?

If those in power want us to do as they wish, they need to not only switch from coersion to persuasion, they also need to follow their own rules. Either their rules are law, or they are guidelines. Either they mean something, or they mean nothing. If you want the country to forgo large public gatherings, quit supporting them when they benefit your side. If you want people to stop holding large family gatherings, cancel your own first. If wearing a mask is important, you better be the most anally retentive mask wearer on earth before you waggle a finger at us during one of your daily news conferences.

In other words, the first people to follow these rules need to be the people promulgating and enforcing them. Either they mean something, or they mean nothing, and the first indicator that they mean nothing is when we see a governor, senator, or anyone else telling us what to do, who doesn’t follow their own rules.

Musings

  • Saying “I drink coffee for your sake and the sake of all His church” on a Sunday morning does not count as going to Mass.
  • Nothing says “I love you” like waking your husband up half an hour early for his middle-of-the-night work assignment because you don’t think the two alarms he set will be enough.
    • See above comment about coffee.
  • Always read your work emails before sending them.  Telling a vendor “I was doing your job while you were shitting yellow” is probably not conducive to receiving excellent customer service.
    • “He started it” would probably have not been useful in the talking-to I would have gotten.
  • I’ve been listening to Monster Hunter Memoirs and cackling to the humor.  Irish Woman keeps asking if I’m OK.
    • It’s what happens if the laughter stops that should worry her.

Musings

  • If you’re going to have the bridesmaids and groomsmen process to the altar to the sound of a string quartet playing “Sweet Child of Mine”, then please have the good graces to play a classical rendition of “Highway to Hell” as the groom approaches his place of judgement.
  • If you’re going to have an open bar at a reception, in a warehouse-turned-event-space, with a family known far and wide for its ability to vocalize at a level making amplification unnecessary, during a thunderstorm, please don’t get pissy when I ask you to repeat yourself and stand so that I can see your lips when you talk.
  • If you’re going to hold a pool party for your son and a half-dozen of his closest friends, please don’t feel it necessary to go back behind the pool to retrieve your phone in the pitch black of darkest night.  Doing so will inevitably cause one of said young men to approach your loving husband to say “Um, Mrs. Bear is laying on the ground and can’t get up.”
  • If you do, though, please don’t argue with your husband that you’re fine and just need a bandaid for your filleted shin so that you can drive your shocky self to the emergency room.
  • If your wife has filleted her shin, please don’t be shocked that she screams when you pour cold water down her leg to wash out some of the larger chunks of rock and dirt.  The peacock at the farm two streets over answering her call was pretty cool, though.
  • If you are a doctor or nurse in an emergency room, please don’t feel it’s necessary to repeatedly peel back the bandage on someone’s leg, wince, and pronounce that this is beyond your skills to sew up.  Also, loudly braying “No, this thing is freaking huge. No way am I trying to fix that!” into your cellphone does nothing for your patient’s state of mind.
  • If you’re thinking about going into medicine, might I suggest becoming a plastic surgeon.  Apparently, they have the power to answer a phone call from an emergency room at 3 AM, listen to the situation, then pronounce that they’ll be in at 9 AM.
  • If you’re a loving husband, don’t comment with “I’ve seen worse” and then tell your wife about it while you’re assisting her while changing her bandage.
  • If, two days after having 30+ stitches put into your leg, you start to run a fever, please don’t argue with your husband that you’re fine.  It tends to make us grumpy and rather curt.
  • If your loving husband is mixing up Dakin’s Solution for you to use on your wound, it’s funny to call it “Granny’s Recipe” the first three or four times he pours it into a mason jar.  After that, the smile is only there because he loves you.
  • If you injure yourself badly enough that you can’t enjoy your brand-spanking-new pool over the entire summer, please don’t complain about it to your husband who didn’t want the pool in the first place.  Schadenfreude is not conducive to a happy marriage.

Book Review – Other Rhodes

Sarah Hoyt begins another engrossing series with Other Rhodes:

Lily Gilden has a half-crazed cyborg in her airlock who thinks he’s Nick Rhodes,
a fictional 20th Century detective. If she doesn’t report him for destruction,
she’s guilty of a capital crime.

But with her husband missing, she’ll use every clue the cyborg holds,
and his detective abilities, to solve the crime her husband was investigating
when he disappeared.

With the help of a journalist who is more than he seems,
Lily will risk everything to plunge into the interstellar underworld
and bring the love of her life home!

Mrs. Hoyt’s greatest talent as a storyteller is to mold characters that spring from the pages fully formed, and Lilly is one of her finest creations so far. She is quickly painted as a loving wife to Joe, the jaded detective with a starship. But when things go sideways, she quickly evolves into the heroine, doing everything she can to save her man.

If you’re a fan of hard-boiled detective novels, Other Rhodes will be like slipping into your favorite fedora and trench coat for a midnight stroll down by the docks. The story moves quickly, and where it surprises, it does so in a way that puts a great twist to a familiar story.

This is a quick read, and would be perfect for a summer afternoon by the pool. Like the best of Agatha Christie or Mickey Spillane, Other Rhodes is appropriate for readers from teenagers to their grandparents. Mrs. Hoyt takes her time to fill in the broad strokes of a universe in our distant future, all while filling it with the characters and forces familiar to all of us.

For anyone who has enjoyed a dime-store detective novel or just likes solid, character-driven science fiction, Other Rhodes is highly recommended.

Today’s Earworm

Thought for the Day

Musings

  • You know you’re in a cool group of folks when you mention that you’re stuck on a rather esoteric subject in a project and someone goes “Oh, yeah, check out <INSERT BOOK TITLE HERE>.  If it doesn’t have what you’re looking for, let me know.  I know a guy.”
    • Another sign is the presence of not only a plushy manatee, but also a life-sized plushy lemur, at the party.
  • You learn things when you spend time with your tribe.  This weekend, I learned that I really like Irish whiskey.  Irish whiskey, on the other hand, wants me to die horribly.
  • I need to sit down with a paper map and plot out the routing for my flights to and from Texas this past weekend.
    • I’ll have to make an unbroken salt circle around the map first.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll summon something rather sticky and irritated when I finish drawing that particular shape.
  • I was 2 for 4 in the “Screaming Baby on an Airplane” game this weekend.
    • One waited until we were almost at the gate to deplane before losing his mind. Not perfect, but nearly so.
    • The other one started whining when the engines fired up, cried as we took off, then screamed from Denver to Louisville.  Everyone was, or tried to be gracious, about the situation. I was amazed at this infant’s stamina.  He’s got a career as a marathon runner who does opera in his spare time.
  • Folks, if you’re going to fly a low-cost airline in this day and age, please be sparing in your use of perfume, cologne, and fermented fish sauce during your morning cleansing rituals.  Just because we’re crammed in like sardines doesn’t mean you have to smell like one.
    • I normally tell my children that someone should be slow dancing with them before they can be smelled, but we were almost at the point of cuddling while we sat 6 across on a widebody.
  • In the never-ending debate of “WhatABurger versus In-n-Out”, I have to say that when you want a tasty burger served with a side of great service and awesome french fries, you go to WhatABurger.  When you want a delicious, sloppy, grease-bomb and a tee-shirt, you go to In-n-Out.
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