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Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

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Love, Death & Robots

Right off the bat, a nitpick: Why no Oxford comma, Netflix?

Anyway.

During my young-adult years I frequented Cinema 21, the best-known at the time of the arthouse theaters in Portland Oregon. Among their regular attractions were the various animation festivals, such as Spike & Mike’s (who are apparently still at it, go figure). You’d get all sorts of weird, wonderful, and occasionally dark fare. Not all of it worked for everybody but there was usually something for everybody.

I also discovered the Japanese animated anthology film (technically an OVA but I didn’t know that at the time), Robot Carnival, during this period. It had robots, it had weird artsy ideas, it had funny bits, what more could I want?

Time passed.

Netflix recently announced their anthology series, Love, Death & Robots. The advertisement was intense. The buzz was… loud, I guess. Sci-Fi! Action! Humor! Wacky hijinx! Naked (albeit CGI) boobies! It seemed like something the arthouse animation-festival-going side of me would enjoy immensely, not to mention the appeal to the guy who nearly wore out a VHS copy of Robot Carnival.

So, why didn’t I enjoy it immensely?

Maybe I just got too old for this stuff. For all the high-end cutting-edge technology on display, several of the creators involved got too carried away with the fact that they were going to get to show grotesque horrors, naked women, or both in the same short film. Sometimes simultaneously. Which could have been fine in and of itself, but out of 18 short films fully one third were off-puttingly violent and gory (not to mention, in several cases, spectacularly brutal to the female characters).

And then there’s “The Dump” where we see a gangly old man with his pants down around his ankles, among other things. Deep sigh.

We’re also living in an age where everything’s 3D-animated already. It’s not like in my arthouse movie days when computer-generated animation was super primitive. (Go watch The Mind’s Eye videos if you don’t believe me.) Among other things, this means that you can’t really get a “wow” out of the audience with technology alone. It’s all in how you use it. Apparently, “how you use it” boils down for some folks to “super maximum-resolution gore, plus high-polygon boobies.” Hmm.

On the upside, one sixth of the anthology’s film count is made up of adaptations of John Scalzi short stories. No bonus points for guessing that these (“Three Robots,” “When the Yogurt Took Over,” and “Alternate Histories”) provide a sizeable percentage of the fun to be had in the entire run time of the series.

I got a kick out of “Suits” as well, featuring farmers with home-built mechs defending their homes against alien invasion.

Of the military sci-fi available, my favorite was definitely “Lucky 13.” My least favorite was “Shape-shifters,” which… was adapted from work by the same author as “Lucky 13.” Huh. Well, one of the two short films told a story, the other just kind of… showed us things happening. Maybe it just wasn’t for me.

The arty-est of the art films on offer here are the vivid and poignant “Zima Blue,” and the weird, beautiful, and disturbing “Fish Night.” And on the improbably weird but still rather adorable side, there’s “Ice Age,” about a tiny civilization living in an ancient icebox. I’ll also give points to “Good Hunting,” which I would kind of like to see expanded into a feature or short series or something. Vigilante shape-shifting robot-bodied mythological creature in a steampunk China? Yes, more of that.

Right near the end, a quibble: Shouldn’t there have been more robots in an anthology with the word “robots” right there in the name? Mind you, should’ve been more love, too. “Death, Robots & Love” might not have sold as well, I suppose.

Should you watch this anthology series? Eh. If you don’t find the gore and violence of a lot of the entries off-putting, then yes. There’s some good fun to be had here and some clever spectacle along the way. There’s some serious nightmare fuel as well (“Beyond the Aquila Rift,” especially) so… be warned.

As for me, I’m going to go spin up my DVD copy of Robot Carnival

Alita: Battle Angel

Last week, at the tail end of my birthday vacation, I took in the Alita: Battle Angel film before it disappeared from theaters entirely. So how was it?

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New phone + Nature park excursion

It began when Kyla’s previous phone (an aging Moto X Pure) started going kaput in a big way. After some research, she went to Best Buy on Friday and picked up a Nokia 6.1 as a replacement. That phone’s just a smidgen more powerful than my Moto G5 Plus, which makes it a huge upgrade for her. Huzzah!

Well. My phone had some issues as well and is nearing the end of active support. Plus, being a Lenovorola, it has some… quirks. So I figured, fine, let’s just get out ahead of the problem and use some of that sweet, sweet tax refund money to upgrade my own device. Saturday, while out on our grocery run, we swung by Best Buy and I nabbed a Nokia 7.1 (in blue, not that it matters because once the protective case goes on nobody’s going to see its natural color again).

How am I liking it so far? Quite a bit, albeit with some getting-used-to involved because it’s a longer, narrower device than my previous two phones. Text is smaller as a consequence. There’s also that weird “notch” display element at the top, and the fingerprint sensor is on the back with almost no physical guide to tell you where to tap your finger. (Once the case I ordered arrives, finding the sensor should cease to be a problem.) The phone is definitely peppier, and with the SD card I took out of the tablet (it wasn’t being used for anything since I haven’t made any time-lapse videos in ages) I’m able to put a whole lot of music on there instead of just a few hours’ worth.

Within 24 hours we went from being a fully Motorola household to a fully Nokia household, and we’re both quite pleased about that.

Today, because it’s absolutely gorgeous outside, we hiked around at one of our favorite places: The Tualatin Hills Nature Park. I played stevedore, carrying around our water bottles and battery packs and the “big” camera in my backpack. The trees lack leaves as of yet so it was up to the moss and ferns and some grasses to provide greenery. We didn’t see many birds but wow, were there ever gartner snakes all over the place! They all slithered under cover as soon as we could see them, which is a shame because I really wanted a picture. I had to settle for using the Go Snapshot feature of Pok√©mon Go for my “wildlife” photos.

Taillow reading about his distant cousins.

“You shall not pass!”

We also crossed the world’s smallest bridge.

Step on, or step over? You decide.

All in all, a lovely day out. We’ll have to do this again once the trees are somewhat leafier…

Late 40s Ahoy

Happy Birthday to me. I’m no longer in my mid-40s, but instead must embrace the late-40s tag. Ah well.

I’m starting my day with snow falling outside on the morning that I’m supposed to go see a movie, and I’ve already taken ibuprofen because I made the mistake of treating myself to a sandwich after dealing with the DMV yesterday and a bit of the hard cheap bread jammed my gum and now that spot is swollen.

And I’m writing this at before 7am on a morning I could’ve slept in, but of course was unable to.

May the day get better from here, everyone.

Mobile testing

Before I go looking around for an app with which to post content from my phone, I figure I should try using the built-in mobile web interface as a test. Let’s see how it works.

Here we see a dapper older gentleman, karate-chopping a city for its money.

And I’m using the new WordPress “block editor” because what the heck.

I guess this is doable. I’m not sure if I actually like it though. Ideally I should be in front of a proper computer to do any useful, long-form writing. But in a pinch? I guess it’ll do.

I expect to be haunted by Enzo Ferrari’s ghost now.

I’m not sure how to feel about assembling LEGO doodads as a creative outlet. All I’m doing is following instructions. On the other hand, if I take a lot of photos and write a snarky blog post about it… yeah, here we go then.

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