Klaus Schulze & Dune

I’ve been thinking about (and listening to) Klaus Schulze a lot lately. He passed away in April. I’ve been listening to his music since I was a kid, when I first started getting interested in electronic music. I remember buying this 1983 live album on CD, at some point in the 80s (though probably not in 83, since I don’t think I had a CD player yet). I need to dig that out and rip it at some point, since it’s not on Apple Music.

And he showed up in a few Matt Howarth comic books. I think I’ve read both of the comics mentioned on this page. I know he’s been in at least one or two others.

He released an album called Dune in 1979, which is on Apple Music (or at least part of it is). And there’s also Deus Arrakis, which came out earlier this year. The Bandcamp page for that one has this quote from Schulze:

On the one hand this album was created as spontaneously as all my albums before, on the other hand it has a special history: when I produced my eleventh album ‘Dune’ in 1979 I already knew the ‘Dune’ trilogy by Frank Herbert inside out like other people knew their ‘Lord of the Rings’. I was totally fascinated by this monumental story of the desert planet and I read the books over and over again.

He continues on about Dune and his thoughts about the books and movies. It’s interesting.

The 1984 Dune movie had a soundtrack mostly by Toto, which is a thing I probably knew at some point, but had completely forgotten about until I just now looked it up on Wikipedia. There’s one lone track on there by Brian Eno, Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois, though. I just brought that album up on Apple Music, and it’s quite something. The Eno track sounds pretty much like you’d expect an Eno Dune-related track to sound. (Good!) The rest of the album is… mixed. The tracks have names like “Robot Fight” and “The Floating Fat Man.” A few of them have dialog from the movie mixed in with the music. Some of them are quite nice, actually, but a few are pretty bad.

The 2021 film has a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. There are actually three albums out related to it. The main soundtrack itself, something called The Dune Sketchbook, and another called The Art and Soul of Dune, which is apparently a companion to a book about the film. (The Sketchbook album also has a contribution from Schulze.) I’m not a huge fan of Zimmer, but I generally like his stuff, and his Dune music is very good. Here’s an interesting article from the Times about it.

And one more Dune-related bit of music: April Larson’s You Stand in a Valley Between Dunes, a 2017 album inspired by Dune.

Two Years

I’ve been meaning to write a “two year COVID anniversary” post for the last couple of weeks. I thought about it on the anniversary of the first COVID case in NJ, which was March 4. NJ Spotlight News has a good article looking back on the last two years of COVID in NJ. It’s one of those fancy interactive things, with a timeline that you can move around in. (Those things usually annoy me, but it’s not too bad.)

I didn’t get around to it last weekend though. But today is a good day for it too, since March 12 is the last day I was in the office before everything shut down the following week. I was posting a lot around this time in 2020. Here’s a link to the posts from March 12, March 13 and March 14.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re getting close to one million deaths from COVID here in the US, and how to process that information. There’s a good article at The Atlantic on that subject. Honestly, the whole thing is bothering me a bit more than it seems to be bothering most people.

Here in Somerville, it looks like the St. Patrick’s Day parade tomorrow is still on. It was canceled in 2020, of course, and also 2021. I noticed that a few towns that had their parades scheduled for today, Saturday, were canceled due to the storm. I guess that’ll all be over tomorrow, so our parade can go ahead, but it might be cold and windy Sunday, so maybe not the best weather for a parade. Still, I imagine the parade will attract a pretty big crowd. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I may spend the day holed up in my apartment and watch the parade from my window.

At work, we’re still at two days per week in the office. But we’ve dropped most of the COVID precautions. We’re not required to wear masks anymore, nor are we required to do the Sonde health check before coming in. And we never actually had a vaccine mandate, though it was looking like we might at one point. We’re scheduled to have an IT department “town hall” meeting in a couple of weeks. It’ll be an in-person thing, with an option to watch it remotely. I might talk myself into going in-person, but I’ll probably go with the remote option. I’m feeling mostly comfortable with the two-days-per week thing, but I’m still not enthusiastic about large gatherings, especially if not everyone is guaranteed to be vaccinated and/or masked.

In addition to the St. Patrick’s Day parade tomorrow, it’s also my birthday. I’d kind of like to do something to celebrate it this weekend, but I’m not too enthusiastic about any of the usual options. I’d consider going into NYC, but the snow and rain today makes that less attractive. And tomorrow might be clear, but a little too cold. We’ll see.

I’m a little more nervous about going into NYC now since they’ve lifted a lot of their COVID restrictions, including their indoor vaccine mandate. Looking at the web sites for the Met and MoMA, it looks like the Met has dropped their vaccination requirement, but MoMA still has one. (Or maybe MoMA just hasn’t updated their site yet.) Both still require masks, at least.

Given the weather outside today, it might be a good day to watch the last few films from the Criterion Godzilla box set that I bought about a year ago. (I also just bought their box set of Once Upon a Time in China films.) So maybe it’s a good movie weekend. Last night, I watched Turning Red on Disney+, the third Pixar movie to skip a theatrical release and go straight to Disney+. I know that bothered some people, since movie theaters are almost back to “normal” now, but I’m glad I could watch it at home.

I’m still waiting for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which should finally be out on home video next week, a little earlier than expected. I already pre-ordered the 4K Blu-ray, which won’t be out until mid-April, so I may find myself paying for this movie twice, once on digital, next week, and then again for the 4K Blu-ray. Unless I can talk myself into just waiting for the Blu-ray.

LoTR, and Neil Gaiman, and life in 2001

I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s Adventures in the Dream Trade, which is a collection of miscellaneous stuff, including introductions he’s written for other people’s books, some poetry and song lyrics, and a bunch of his blog entries from 2001, right after he had finished writing American Gods and was beginning the process of promoting it. I’m in that section now, and have made it through to mid-2001, when he had wrapped up his US book tour and just started his UK tour. I’m wondering how far into 2001 this goes, and whether or not we get as far as September 11, and what his thoughts might be on that.

I’ve also been rewatching the Lord of the Rings movies, including listening to some of the commentaries, and also listening to the Ringheads podcast, which has been discussing the movies at length (about 10 hour-long episodes per movie). The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001, with Two Towers coming out in 2002 and Return of the King in 2003. I’d gone into NYC to see a presentation on the first movie in September 2001, just a couple of days before 9/11.

So reading Gaiman’s blog entries, and watching the LOTR movies, has got me living in the past a bit this weekend, for better or worse. Gaiman’s blog was, at the time, done with Blogger, which I was also using at that time. (I started this blog in June 2001.) So reading about his struggles with Blogger brings back some memories. And he writes about buying a Japanese laptop from Dynamism, which is a company that used to import nifty laptops from Japan. (I’d never bought anything from them, but I know at least one person who did, and I was a bit jealous of his nifty Japanese laptop.) And there are mentions of early e-readers, and other fun esoteric stuff.

There are links in many of those blog entries, some of which still work and some of which don’t. It’s been interesting to follow some of them, and get sucked back into the web circa 2001. The review of American Gods from sfsite.com is still up, but the site itself seems to be pretty much dead, having gone on hiatus in 2018. SciFi’s Seeing Ear Theatre is long gone, but there’s a good list of the stuff they did here, with some of it still available for download from various places. (I could go on with more of this, but you get the idea.)

This has all got me thinking about big events, and how we see things differently before and after them, and how there are weird unintended resonances in fiction sometimes. (I have more to say about that, but I’m struggling to get it into words properly, so I’m just going to leave it at that for now.) So, some good memories, and some mixed feelings, and some amusement at old forgotten tech.

 

Another New Year

I missed my usual New Year’s Day post yesterday. There are a few reasons for that, one being that New Year’s Day fell on a Saturday this year, and I decided to treat it like a normal Saturday (mostly) and started the day with my usual Saturday chores and errands (laundry and grocery shopping), then proceeded to spend a bunch of time in front of the computer paying bills and organizing paperwork and stuff. So it was a pretty industrious morning, but after that, I took a nap, and then spent the afternoon in front of the TV, watching Godzilla movies. I didn’t really have the energy left for anything more ambitious.

So today, I’m going to try to spend some time writing a blog post. It’s Sunday morning, I just had a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich and a strong cup of coffee, and now I’m ready to sit around and ruminate on the year for a bit.

I usually start these posts with links to the last few New Year’s posts, so here are a few:

This past year has certainly been a doozy. It got off to a rough start with the Capitol insurrection and resulting turmoil, which was the subject for my second post of the year. On the bright side, the vaccines arrived, and I got my first shot in April, my second in May, and my booster shot in December. After that second shot, I started feeling better about things and actually made a trip into NYC in June to go to the Met and MoMA. Then, I went in twice in October, once for NYCC, and once to go to the Met and MoMA again. And that was about it for travel. The Omicron variant started showing up around Thanksgiving, and going out started to seem a lot less safe again. Contrast NYCC in October, which felt pretty safe to me, with Anime NYC in November, where one of the earliest cases of Omicron in NYC was identified. So any thoughts I had of going into New York for another Met/MoMA trip went out the window.

At work, we went through a bunch of different “Return To Office” plans through 2021. They kept setting dates and then pushing them back. In the end, we returned to the office on a one day per week schedule in October. My first day back was October 14. My last trip to the office was December 9. I was sick the week after that, and then we were allowed to work from home for the last two weeks of the year. For 2022, we were supposed to move to two days per week in January, but the Omicron variant has put that on hold. Now, we’re allowed to work from home until mid-January. Then, it’s back to 1 day per week for the last two weeks of January, then 2 days per week starting in February. We’ll see if we actually stick to that, or if things get worse and they have to back off again. I’m thankful that I work for a company that’s been more flexible about “work from home” than a lot of other companies. But I’m a little disappointed that they haven’t been more flexible, especially for workers like me who really aren’t any more effective in the office vs. working from home. At this point, I feel like they should just allow folks like me to go 100% remote if we want and give up our cubicles in the office. It would just make things simpler and safer for everybody.

But enough about that. I usually include a section on my general health in these posts, so I’m going to do that now. I started the year at around 135 pounds. I’ve gradually gained some weight this year, ending up at around 140. I’m trying to hold the line there. I set 140 as my goal weight in Lose It, so any time I go over it, my calorie budget is adjusted down a bit and I eat a bit less until I’m back under. I’d dropped down to 130 pounds briefly in 2020, without actually trying. Since then, it’s just been going up though. I guess it’s mostly due to my habit of going out for a cappuccino and a cookie in the afternoon on most weekdays. There are now three good places to get cookies here in downtown Somerville: Lucid Coffee, Blue Sheep Bake Shop, and Epic Cookies. So that’s kind of a problem. But it’s not a huge one. I’m managing to hold the line at 140. And even if I let myself go to 150, that would still leave me with a healthy BMI.

I’ve been doing OK on exercise. I take a walk outside almost every day. I started doing some yoga recently too, though I haven’t stuck with it. I’ve just been doing it on mornings when it’s too cold out for a walk. According to the iOS Health app, I’ve averaged 49 minutes of exercise per day over the last year, and 491 calories on my “move” ring. My move goal was 500 over the summer, when I was doing a lot of walking, and it’s 450 now. I generally hit my exercise goal most days, and the move goal 4 or 5 days each week.

I’ve continued meditating on a fairly regular basis. I’ve been using Calm all year, and generally do one of their 10 minute meditations every weekday, alternating between their two regular features, the Daily Calm and the Daily Trip. I signed up for a lifetime sub with them during their Black Friday sale, as I’ve mentioned previously. I’ve occasionally tried to get a streak going, meditating every day. The longest I’ve managed is 40 days, from November 1 to December 10. I’m not overly concerned with getting to a point where I meditate every single day, as long as I’m doing it more often than not, but it’s fun to try to see how long I can keep a streak going.

Looking at my history on this blog, I can see that I was posting a lot earlier in the year (7 posts in January and 11 in February), but less later in the year (only one post in December). I don’t know if that means anything, really. I still like using the blog as an aid to organizing my thoughts and reflecting on my life and my choices. A lot of my posts last year were all about entertainment though: comics, movies, TV, podcasts, music, and so on. I think I indulged in a lot of escapism in 2021. I do that every year, of course, but more than average in 2021, I think. It was a rough year. I spent a lot of time alone in my apartment. I don’t really feel bad about that. I’m still very engaged in my work, and I keep up with news and politics and make informed decisions about all that stuff.

And on that “escapism” front, I always like to look back at the books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched and so on and so forth in these posts. My Goodreads history last year is mostly comics. I set my goal at 100 books and read 79. I have a few serious books in there, like Americanah and The Picture of Dorian Gray, but it’s mostly comics and Doctor Who audio dramas. A few highlights would be reading through Grant Morrison’s X-Men run, discovering the Hilda books by Luke Pearson, and finally finishing Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina.

I watched quite a few movies this year too, though I never did make it into a theater. (The Spider-Man movie is really tempting, but I’m probably going to wait for that one to hit Blu-ray or Disney+, like I’ve done with all the other Marvel, Disney, or Pixar stuff since the pandemic started.) My Letterboxd stats show that I’ve watched 108 movies in 2021. I started and ended the year with Thin Man movies, which makes me happy. I love those movies. At the start of the year, I would have been watching them on my TiVo from TCM’s New Year’s Eve marathon. I gave up on premium cable in 2021, so for this New Year, I bought a DVD set from Amazon with the first four movies. I watched the third and fourth ones on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Still looking at my Letterboxd stats, I see that Spirited Away is the only movie I gave five stars to in 2021. That was obviously a rewatch for me, part of an effort to watch a bunch of Ghibli films, then listen to the corresponding Ghibliotheque podcast episode. I still have a bunch of movies to go on that front, and I should get back to that effort at some point soon. My other big watch/rewatch project in 2021 was to work my way through the Criterion Godzilla box set, which I wrote about in my last post.

I usually cover “professional development” in these posts, but I’m going to gloss over that this time. I did learn some new stuff last year, and I could list some nice work accomplishments, but honestly I haven’t been terribly ambitious about that stuff lately. This has largely been a “let’s just get through this” kind of year. And I think 2022 will be more of the same. I discontinued my Pluralsight subscription yesterday, since I haven’t been using it much lately. I still have access to LinkedIn Learning through work and O’Reilly through the ACM, and I think that’s more than enough for now.

There’s a lot more I could write here, but I’m going to try to wrap things up. I started writing this around 8 AM, and it’s now 11 AM. I took a half-hour walk at 9 AM, but I’ve just been sitting here ruminating and writing for most of that time. So it’s about time to stop and maybe go out for another walk. It’s 55ยบ out right now, so I should take advantage of that while I can. I know it’s going to start getting cold again later this week.

 

 

Doctor Who and Godzilla

If you were to judge my life based on my recent posts here, it would seem like I spend all of my time reading comics, listening to podcasts, watching movies, and so on. I do still have a full-time job as a programmer, and I spend most of my time on weekdays heads-down at my computer, working hard, I promise! I just haven’t had much to say about it here recently. There have been a few things I’ve thought about writing up, but they’re such niche topics that I can’t imagine them being very interesting to anyone but me. (Of course, most of these posts probably aren’t interesting to anyone but me…) All of which is preamble to excuse writing another post about comics and movies and podcasts and stuff. (What else am I going to do with my spare time in 2021?)

After finishing Doctor Who: Flux, I had a hunger for more Doctor Who content, so I dug into my backlog of comics and audio. I listened to The Lost Stories: The Fourth Doctor Box Set, a Big Finish audio drama that I’d bought back in 2016, featuring Tom Baker’s Doctor and Louise Jameson as Leela. I really enjoyed it. I wrote in my Goodreads review that it was the first Tom Baker audio I’d listened to, but I was organizing my notes this morning, and realized that I’d listened to a set of novel adaptations with Baker and Lalla Ward back in 2018. My Goodreads review for that set was pretty short, but I guess I liked it.

I’ve now started the Destiny of the Doctor series, which is a series of eleven stories, featuring the first eleven Doctors, that was released for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, back in 2013. I got it as part of a Humble Bundle in 2017. I’ve only listened to the first one so far, but it was pretty good. These aren’t full-cast dramas, they’re stories read by one or two narrators.

I also started reading the Ninth Doctor comic book series from Titan. I have the first two volumes of that from a Humble Bundle from 2018. It’s a pretty good series, featuring the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack.

I have a good backlog of other comics and audio dramas from those Humble Bundles, but of course every time I start reading/listening to this stuff, I start poking around for more stuff that I don’t own yet. I’d like to pick up the rest of that Ninth Doctor comic series, for instance. And more of the Tom Baker audios. And the new Ninth Doctor audios. And so on.

On the related subject of consuming DRM-free comics and audio from old Humble Bundles, I should mention that I’ve been using Panels for the comics, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post. I had some trouble with it repeatedly crashing on me yesterday, but I updated it to the latest version, and that’s been stable. So I guess there was a bug that got fixed. I’ll probably commit to a yearly subscription on that at some point. And on the audiobook front, I’ve been sticking with the Apple Books app to listen to stuff, using Audiobook Builder to put MP3s together into single audiobook files. (I bought that back in February.) I also recently downloaded BookPlayer to my iPhone, to try out. BookPlayer is an open source player for DRM-free audiobooks. It looks promising, but I haven’t actually tried it yet. Since it seems like it can pull stuff from OneDrive directly, I could simplify my workflow a bit by using it rather than Books.

My other recent pop culture obsession has been Godzilla. I’m working my way through the Criterion box set that I bought earlier this year. I’ve watched through to Son of Godzilla. Destroy All Monsters is next! For most of these movies, it’s the first time I’ve seen the original Japanese version. The last time I’ve seen most of these was probably back when I was a kid, on TV, as a Saturday afternoon movie. And that would have been the chopped up, dubbed, American version, obviously. For something like Son of Godzilla, it’s a goofy movie either way, so watching the uncut original, in Japanese with subtitles, doesn’t turn it into Citizen Kane, but it’s a more interesting experience to watch it that way, I think. I’ve been logging them all on Letterboxd, which has some pretty fun reviews for some of these movies.

Oh, and thinking about Doctor Who and Godzilla made me wonder if there’s ever been any kind of crossover between the two. There’s fan fiction of course, but the closest I could come to a “real” crossover is the Dr. Who character from the Japanese King Kong show and King Kong Escapes movie. Godzilla has of course met King Kong, so that puts Godzilla just one degree of separation from a character named Dr. Who, even if that character isn’t exactly a time lord.

Hurricane Ida, and Labor Day weekend stuff

It’s been a rough week here in Somerset County. Hurricane Ida hit us pretty hard. A house exploded just a few blocks from here, and a building collapsed right here on Main St. I’m fine. My apartment building is fine. (I suspect we had some flooding in the basement, based on the smell coming from down there, but that’s the landlord’s problem.) Peters Brook overflowed, so that caused a bunch of damage to homes near it. I walk along the Peters Brook Greenway quite often; I walked along it yesterday, and saw a lot of downed trees and other damage.

It’s Labor Day weekend. In a “normal” year, I might go into NYC today, but the Raritan Valley line is still shut down due to the storm. And, even if it was running, the Delta variant has dimmed my enthusiasm for NYC trips this summer. So I guess I’ll be spending the day relaxing at home. I’d like to go out and see Shang-Chi, but, again, my enthusiasm for sitting in an enclosed space for two hours with a bunch of strangers ain’t what it used to be.

The Tour of Somerville, which is usually held on Memorial Day, was moved to Labor Day this year due to the pandemic. I guess the original thought was that the pandemic would be over by Labor Day. Of course, that’s not the case. It might actually have been safer on Memorial Day. Despite the Delta variant, and the flood damage, they’re still carrying on with the race tomorrow. I’m not sure how great an idea that is, but there’s not much I can do about it. I’ll likely hole up in my apartment all day and watch from my window. I wonder what the crowd will be like this year. It’s hard to imagine it being anywhere near what it usually is, but it could still be pretty big.

On an unrelated note, I got an email recently detailing some changes coming to ComiXology. In a nutshell, it sounds like they’re basically going to be shutting down the ComiXology web store and integrating it into the regular Amazon site. That makes sense, and I’m surprised that it took them so long to get around to doing it. Amazon bought them in 2014, but they’ve continued running their own site, separate from Amazon. I merged my old ComiXology account with my Amazon account a long time ago, whenever they first enabled that, but it’s still been possible for people to use a separate ComiXology login. I think that’s going to stop being an option, at least if you want to purchase new books. There’s some coverage of this announcement at The Beat and Bleeding Cool. Also, there’s some discussion on reddit, including responses from official ComiXology support.

I may be spending some money at ComiXology this weekend. There’s a big DC Labor Day sale going on, with a bunch of graphic novels at $2.99. That includes all of the Sandman collections, which I’ve been thinking about buying. I’ve read the whole series, of course, but I don’t have all the original issues anymore, and I’ve been thinking about re-reading the series. (Oh, and the first part of the Sandman Audible adaptation is still free, for a while longer. The second part is coming out later this month. I bought the first part on MP3 CD some time ago, but I snagged the free Audible version too, since it’s convenient to have a copy in my Audible library.)

And as long as I’m talking about Neil Gaiman, I might as well mention that I started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane yesterday. It’s good! I guess I’ll keep reading that today, as there doesn’t seem to be much else to do.

movies and TV and podcasts

Thinking back to the beginning of this summer, I was somewhat hopeful about the trajectory that we seemed to be on, and was looking forward to making a few trips into NYC, seeing a few movies in a theater, and maybe returning to something like “normal” for the fall. But here we are at the end of August, and things aren’t going so well. I’m back to getting my groceries delivered, I paid $30 to watch Black Widow at home instead of going to a theater, and I’ve only been into NYC once. I still have my NYCC tickets for October, but I’m really not sure if I’m going to go.

Which is all prelude to saying that I’ve been watching a lot of movies and TV shows lately. I’ve also gotten into the habit of pairing my TV/movie watching with related podcasts. For older stuff, there are a bunch of “rewatch” podcasts out there. For newer stuff, there’s a lot of “recap” podcasts that come out the day after a new episode airs. So for the older stuff, I’m getting some contemporary context, and for the newer stuff, I’m getting a little bit of the feeling of being part of the real-time conversation about the show. I thought it would be fun to write up some notes about what I’ve been watching and listening to lately.

Star Trek: Discovery

I still haven’t talked myself into signing up for Paramount+, so I’ve just been buying this show on DVD/Blu-ray. I bought DVDs for seasons one and two, but splurged on the SteelBook Blu-ray set for season three. And I just finished watching season three a few weeks ago. I listened to The Greatest Discovery podcast along with it. Greatest Discovery is a spinoff of Greatest Generation, a TNG rewatch podcast that started in 2016. It’s a fun podcast, but there are a lot of in-jokes that I don’t get, and it’s mostly just a funny podcast with two nerds talking about Star Trek. (Which is fine. But it’s not something that’s giving you a lot of background or critical analysis.) As for Discovery itself, it’s… a mixed bag. There’s some great stuff in there, but there’s a lot of frustrating stuff that has me yelling at the screen. (Which is where the podcast comes in. It’s nice to listen to a couple of fellow nerds who are frustrated about the same things as I am, and who can crack jokes about them.)

Star Trek movies

I’ve also decided to rewatch the original Star Trek movies. I’ve gotten through to Star Trek V, which I watched yesterday. I’ve been listening to selected old episodes of Inglorious Treksperts to go along with that. For Star Trek V, I listened to this episode recorded at WonderCon 2019, featuring one of the writers from that movie, David Loughery. (I was at that WonderCon, but didn’t make it to that panel.) For Star Trek III, I listened to a two part series (part one and part two) where they dissect some script notes that went back and forth between Harve Bennet and Gene Roddenberry on the script for that film. It’s all very nerdy, but it’s cool to hear some of the behind-the-scenes history on these films. The guys who do that podcast are very knowledgeable about Trek, and also very funny. They did a Best Of Inglorious Treksperts video for this years Comic-Con@Home. If you’re curious about them, that’s a good place to start.

Disney+ Marvel shows

For the various Disney+ Marvel shows (WandaVision, Loki, etc.), I’ve been listening to the MarvelVision podcast from the Comic Book Club guys. They’ve also been doing a rewatch of the MCU movies, airing episodes about those in between the Disney+ shows. They’re generally pretty funny. The movie rewatch episodes have had some interesting guests too, including the guy who played Aaron in Winter Soldier.

Studio Ghibli movies

I bought a bunch of Ghibli movies on Blu-ray recently, and I’ve been watching those, and listening to the Ghibliotheque podcast along with them. Ghibliotheque is a (relatively) serious podcast, compared to some of the others I’ve mentioned here. It’s hosted by two British guys, one of whom has seen all of the Ghibli movies, and one who had only seen a few, and is watching most of them for the first time. They’re both smart guys who know a lot about movies. They have a book coming out soon, which I will probably buy.

Well, I have now spent way more time on this post than I’d intended to. (I went down a bunch of side paths while looking for links to include here.) But it’s a rainy Sunday morning, and there wasn’t much else to do.

Ghost in the Shell – Heart Grenade

I mentioned a while back about how I couldn’t locate the song “Heart Grenade” on Apple Music. I found it today, on a collection called Ghost In The Shell Superb Music, which was released in January. I’m going to try to embed the song below.

The full “Superb” collection seems to be a 5-CD set in a metal can. Pretty cool. The version in Apple Music is missing a bunch of tracks, but that’s fine. The part of my brain that was never going to be happy until “Heart Grenade” was in my iTunes library is now satisfied.

And all this reminds me that I still haven’t gotten around to watching the Netflix GITS show, Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045. It’s gotten mixed reviews, but I liked the earlier SAC stuff, so I’ll probably like this one too.

Nor have I watched the 25th anniversary edition of the original Ghost in the Shell movie that I got on Blu-Ray a while back (SteelBook 4K Ultra HD version, of course).

(So much to watch and so little time…)

Where I’m Calling From

I’ve had a lot of thoughts banging around in my head lately that I’ve wanted to write up as blog posts, but I haven’t had the time. I’ve also been ruminating on ways to link some ideas together into a theme that would make for a clever post. Nothing has really come together quite right though. This morning, I started going through that exercise again, while doing laundry, and the title of my favorite Raymond Carver story, Where I’m Calling From, popped into my head, so I thought I’d use that as a title, just start writing, and see where things went. (To be clear, this post has nothing to do with alcohol. I haven’t really been drinking at all over the last year. The link is more to the general idea of evaluating where I am right now.)

I’ve been very aware of this month being the one-year anniversary of the pandemic lockdown. That was the subject of my last post, from a couple of weeks ago. And I guess it’s going to be the starting point for this post too.

I’m almost exactly a year behind in my email “read/review” folder, where I file all of my email newsletters, so I’m just now reading some articles about the start of the lockdown. At the start of 2021, I briefly considered simply wiping out all of 2020 from the folder and starting fresh, but I didn’t do that. I’m definitely tired of reading about Trump, and there’s not much point in reading articles about the Democratic primaries, so I’m skipping those. But it’s interesting to read (or at least skim) some of the early articles about coronavirus, with the benefit of hindsight. A few people definitely saw what was coming, but most people didn’t. I’m reading stuff from early March, where people were still assuming that 2020 would progress normally, with little or no disruption to international travel, movie theaters, comic book conventions, and so on.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to write up some thoughts on various sub-topics, under individual headings. I’m not sure yet if this is all going to come together, or just be random, but here goes…

Movies

The last movie I saw in a theater was Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, at the end of December 2019. I had been planning to see Pixar’s Onward in a theater, but hadn’t gotten around to it when the pandemic shut everything down. Movie theaters in NJ were allowed to reopen in September, though many are still closed, apparently. Movie theaters in NYC are only just now being allowed to reopen. I’m on the mailing list for Film at Lincoln Center and Film Forum, both of which are reopening in April. I can’t see myself going into NYC to see a movie any time soon though. Over the course of the last year, I’ve had good intentions about watching a film or two from the virtual cinema selections that these NYC theaters have provided. But I didn’t get around to watching even one. Meanwhile, though, I watched a bunch of movies on the various streaming services to which I subscribe, and have also bought a bunch of Blu-rays, some of which I’ve watched. There’s a good overview of the NYC movie theater situation here. That article also gets into the overall situation for movie theaters right now. For me, I guess I’m going to stick to streaming and Blu-rays for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of Blu-rays, I may have gone a bit overboard with them over the last year. (I mean, I haven’t gone too far overboard, but I did buy a bunch.) Near the start of the pandemic, I picked up a box set of all four Avengers movies. And I’ve picked up the Steelbook Blu-rays for eight Ghibli films. and the big Criterion Godzilla box set. I’ve watched all four of the Avengers Blu-rays (including most of the special features). But I haven’t watched even one of the Ghibli or Godzilla films yet. (Or course, I’ve seen nearly all of them before, but not recently.)

Comic Book Conventions

WonderCon@Home is being held this weekend. I watched a few of the panels from last year’s virtual WonderCon, and it was kind of fun, but these virtual cons pale in comparison to the real thing. I last went to WonderCon in 2019. In retrospect, I’m really glad I went. That was the first time I’d gone to the con since they’d moved it to Anaheim. And it was the first time I’d been in Anaheim in many years. After that con, I’d fully intended to go back in 2020, and maybe make WonderCon an annual thing for me again. (I went to WonderCon regularly for a few years when it was in San Francisco. Looking back, I guess that was 2005-2008.) When the 2020 con was canceled, I think most folks assumed that things would be back to normal in 2021, and the virtual con would be a one-time thing. This year, we’re all hoping that the vaccine rollout will go great, and we’ll be back to normal for 2022. Honestly, I’m really hoping for that, but I’m not making any plans yet.

Anyway, I intend to watch a few of the panels for this year’s virtual con. I definitely want to watch all three of Mark Evanier’s panels. And there are probably a few other good ones. I should probably try to visit the virtual exhibition hall, but I haven’t had much luck with those, from the last few virtual cons I’ve “attended.” They’ve generally been poorly organized and underwhelming. But I’ll take a look.

The San Diego con has also been canceled for this year. They’ll do a virtual con again, in July, and they’re planning on doing some kind of in-person con in November. I wish them luck with that, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be making it out to any San Diego con, any time soon. Meanwhile, the San Diego Convention Center, which had been used as a homeless shelter earlier in the pandemic, is now being used to house migrant children, apparently.

Comic Books

This isn’t really directly pandemic-related, but I’ve finally stopped ordering monthly comics through Westfield. My last order was in February, so I’ll probably get my last few books from them in April or May. I’m way behind in my reading, and there’s not a lot of new stuff coming out that I’m really excited about, so I guess it’s a good time to jump off the wagon again.

I’ve been keeping an eye on all the recent changes in the comic book industry, and a lot of that is kind of weird and a little scary. The latest thing is Marvel moving to Penguin Random House for distribution. I could really go down a rabbit hole on the subject of the many changes at Marvel and DC, and generally in the direct market, over the last year, but that’s probably not a great use of my time. For me, personally, I have a good supply of comics and graphic novels to read over the next year or two, in both physical and digital formats, so I should just be happy with that, and wish everyone who makes their living creating and/or selling comics the best of luck. I could probably go through the rest of 2021 without buying another comic, and I’d be fine. (But, of course, I won’t do that. I’m sure to be tempted into buying at least a handful of new books.)

Summary

Well, that covers a few of the things that were rattling around in my head. I have quite a few that I didn’t get around to here, but they’ll have to wait for another day. It’s almost 11 AM and I haven’t done much with the day yet (aside from laundry). I need to get some exercise, and pay some bills, and stuff like that.

Heavy Metal

I discovered the Heavy Metal movie soundtrack on Apple Music recently. I had it on vinyl back in the early 80s, when I was in high school. I never bought it on CD, or from iTunes, because, for a long time, it just wasn’t available.

I’m not sure when I first actually saw the movie. It came out in 1981, but I don’t think I saw it until I was in college, so it would have been late 80s. And, likewise, I never got around to buying the movie on DVD or Blu-ray, though I’m pretty sure I had it on VHS at one point.

Anyway, I really listened to that soundtrack album a lot. Hearing it again is triggering long-dormant neurons in my brain. Now I guess I should buy the Blu-ray and see how many neurons get lit up by that.

I’ve been meaning to try an Apple Music embed on this blog, and it might as well be this. So here you go: the Heavy Metal soundtrack! It’s pretty corny and dated, but it’s one of my favorite albums from my misspent youth.