2019 in Review

Another year of blogging under the belt. That makes six. I honestly had no idea I’d be able to keep it going this long, I figured I’d get bored with it sometime in Year 4…..

Anyway, I managed 58 posts – down two from 2018. Still more than one a week (vacations help!). There were 2,729 visitors and 3,859 page views (both of which are HUGE increases over 2018). Over two-thirds of those views came from the US. The United Kingdom, Canada, and France were next. People from a total of 69 countries (as defined by WordPress) stopped by (Hello Kazakhstan!). There were 136 “likes” – also a huge increase over 2018. Well, there are a lot more posts overall – their number isn’t going down. “Indiana Jones and the Top Men” is still my most popular post by a long shot – and I haven’t even been promoting it. It must show up on a lot of search engines.

Instead of the “most viewed” posts for 2019, I thought I’d plug the ones I personally liked the most (well, at least at this time of writing).

Continue reading

Christmas at WFMU

If you’re like me (and I know I am), you get tired of the same old holiday songs being played on the radio by the second week of December – if not sooner. Fortunately, there is a radio station that doesn’t play by the rules. WFMU (91.1 FM) broadcasts from northern New Jersey, and is what is known as a “freeform” station. The DJs play whatever they want, subject only to FCC regulations. All but the tiniest fraction of their income is from listener donations, so they are beholden to no one. Think of it as a college radio station – but without the basketball games.

Around ten years ago, they started archiving their shows on their website – so you can listen in regardless of the constraints of time or space.

Most of their DJs have holiday specials of some sort – tune in over the next week to hear what they’ve come up with. Here are last year’s (mostly) holiday shows from my favorite programs for your “streaming” pleasure. You are definitely going to hear things you’ve never heard before. The descriptions are the DJ’s own….

Enjoy! And don’t say you weren’t warned…..

Continue reading

Random Thoughts on Impeachment

I’ve been following the proceedings so far, watching the hearings and reading the press reports and occasionally the comments.

And I’ve got a few thoughts.

I feel safe referring to “Republicans” and “Democrats” as the two sides, since it really is split along party lines. No Republicans have even hinted that they would consider the possibility of voting to impeach, and no Democrats have suggested with any seriousness that El Presidente just might be innocent.

Continue reading

A Christmas Mix For You – VI

Let me be honest. I’m getting tired of digging through and dredging up all the Christmas music out there. I’ve already shared the holiday tunes I thought were worthwhile, and had to dig around near the bottom of the proverbial barrel to fill up the last holiday mix (or two).

So the heck with it. This year, I’m just going to go through my collection, and without curating or even ordering the choices, just toss out every single version of “Jingle Bells” I have.

Take it or leave it. Continue reading

Now What?

So we’ve had two weeks and many hours of people giving their testimony on Trump’s “Aid for Dirt” bribery scandal. As could be expected, the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee asked pointed questions that strengthened their case for Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, while the Republicans responded with “La la la, I can’t hear you, Biden, corruption, Burisma, hearsay, la la la…..”

The media have gone over the testimony picking out highlights and wondering why the whole megillah hasn’t moved the proverbial needle on Impeachment. Personally, the high point of the many hearings was Chairman Schiff’s closing comments on the last day of the hearings. He made an impassioned defense of law and order, as well as our nation’s role on the world stage. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, go do so now:

And to think it was all ad-libbed!

Anyway, now that the hearings are done, what happens next?

Continue reading

Book Review: Finder

FINDER
Suzanne Palmer
DAW Books, NY
Copyright 2019 by the author

Fergus Ferguson is what he calls a “Finder”. According to the book jacket copy, that means he’s a sort of interstellar repo man – with all the survival, “jack of all trades”, con man, and MacGyvering skills that entails.

His current job has him recovering a stolen spaceship of the latest design. He’s tracked it to the Cernekan (“Cernee”, for short) system, where before he can even settle in he survives being an incidental bystander to what turns out to be a politically-motivated murder. Which, by the way, turns out to be the opening salvo in a power grab by one of the local big shots in the system.

Now, he’s got to follow the book jacket copy and get caught up in the lives and politics of Cernee’s residents – and deal with the enigmatic aliens hanging around the place – if he wants to succeed.

Continue reading

MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year

Once the World Series was over (congratulations to the Nationals, by the way), baseball fans immediately turned their attention to specualting on the awards. There’s plenty of prizes and trophies to be handed out, but most fans only worry about the “Big Three”: Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player.

The general consensus this year was that Pete Alonso of the Mets and Yordan Alvarez of the Astros would take home the Rookie of the Year awards, and their teammates Jacob deGrom and either Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole would be honored with the Cy Young Award. The MVP “racesare a lot closer, with the Angel’s Mike Trout and the Astro’s Alex Bregman “battling” in the American League, and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Christian Yelich of the Brewers as the leading candidates in the National League.

Well, we already know the Rookies of the Year and Cy Young winners – the general consensus was correct for both, with Verlander getting the Cy Young nod in the AL. The MVP award will be announced next week.

You’ll note that in each league, the same team collected the two prizes given so far. I wondered how often does it happen where the same team has more than one of the three major award winners. I went and looked – and naturally, you’re going to read about it (if you click on the “More” thing below).

Continue reading

Halloween on Fremont Street – 2

Fremont Street is the “heart” of downtown Las Vegas. It’s actually in the city of Las Vegas; almost all of The Strip is south of the city line in the unincorporated community of Paradise. It’s where you’ll find a lot of the older, classic casinos like the Golden Nugget and El Cortez.

Some years ago, the city fathers saw that everyone was hanging out on The Strip, making the downtown area pretty much a ghost town. Something was needed to revive the area.

They closed off several blocks of Fremont Street in front of the casinos, turning it into a pedestrian mall. They covered it with a HUGE light display for hourly light and music shows, and set up three quasi-permanent performance stages (they look like they could be easily disassembled if the need arose). Street performers were allowed, within reasonable limits.

In effect, they turned it into the world’s largest open air nightclub.

So it’s the perfect place for public parties and festivities. Like Halloween.

Continue reading

Halloween on Fremont Street – 1

So I found myself with some vacation time that I couldn’t carry over to next year. “Self,” I say. “You don’t want to be a schmuck and use it up in November when we’ve got lots of days off anyway, or in December when everyone else will be using up theirs. You need to pick some time in October.” Then I notice that Halloween would be on a Thursday this year. “You can take that week off! Travel out on Monday, do tourist things on Tuesday and Wednesday, party with the spooks on Thursday, recover on Friday, and return home on Saturday! That’s a cunning plan!”

But where to go? The last time I traveled for Halloween, it didn’t work out too well. And there wasn’t anything there that I particularly wanted to see….again. What about Las Vegas? I’d been there before – several times, actually. And it would be rocking for Halloween, right?

I booked a hotel right on Fremont Street, so the party would be outside my front door. Can’t go wrong there! And a day trip to the Grand Canyon – why not?

Continue reading

Movie Review: PAIRD (2019)

LEGO has been an amazing tool for amateur filmakers. The pieces are cheap, infinitely combineable, and the human figures are all at the same size and are easily posable. Anyone wanting to do a little stop-motion animation need only get a bucket of LEGOs and a camera, and they’re in business.

There’s a whole genre of these “brickfilms”, with its own support communities and festivals. Given the time-consuming nature of the technique, most of them qualify as “shorts”. (The LEGO Movie and its sequels were made using computer animation, but were careful to follow the brickfilm style.)

Back in 2011, Joseph DeRose started making one of these brickfilms. His 20 minute short quickly grew to the point where it got away from him, and became a full-length feature film. He worked on it with friends and family over the years, doing it in segments and uploading them to YouTube as each one was completed.

He finished it in August, and uploaded the entire thing to YouTube.

Continue reading