January 15, 2022

The Power of the Dog

This movie has been getting a lot of attention recently. It was already on my radar. It is a western. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch. It is easily available on Netflix. There weren’t any reasons for me not to watch it.

Right from the beginning it was clear this movie was going to be a thinker. I strapped in and got ready to absorb all of the meaning. I watched…. I kept watching… it was completely nonsensical. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t understand what was going on… it was just that it didn’t seem to matter. I couldn’t figure where this story was going, or even who the main character was.

It is a beautiful movie. New Zealand is standing in for Montana, and it looks great. The acting is great. I loved Cumberbatch’s surly Phil Burbank character. It has a methodical pace that forces you to keep your horse at a slow trot… we aren’t going to gallop. I like all that. I like being led through a world at a leisurely pace. But, I want to feel like I have some idea where we are going.

This movie wants you to be uncomfortable. It forces you to sit in uncomfortable situations where people don’t really want to play the piano. It constantly creates this vibe where you are not in a safe place. It is not a place where you can be yourself. It is a place you kinda want to get away from, and you might feel trapped there.

This all makes little sense until the very end of the movie. It all sets the stage, but it takes a very long time to get us to the point where something actually happens. I guess it could be up for debate how everything goes down at the end. I am going to (SPOILER ALERT) do my best to describe the ending of the movie and the sequence of the events that occurred.

I’d be very interested to know you if you agree. At first it came across more like a series of fortunate (or unfortunate) events… but I definitely ascribe malicious intent to everything that went down.

Okay… so definitely going to spoil the end of the movie with the rest of the post. I mean, I’m going to spoil the whole movie by describing the sense I made of it after it was over.

  • Phil Burbank is…
    • an asshole that likes to make everybody else miserable. He especially likes to mess with Rose and her awkward son Peter.
    • a college educated fancy boy who likes to act like a tough cowboy and exhibit toxic masculinity.
    • never going to wear gloves, even when handling bloody cow testicles.
    • gay
  • Phil’s brother George marries Rose so he doesn’t have to feel alone anymore. They all live together on a ranch.
  • Rose gets so stressed out by the whole situation that she becomes an alcoholic.
  • Peter moves back home for summer and Phil commences tormenting him.
  • Peter finds Phil’s hideout with dirty mags and maybe witnesses Phil getting handsy with a hanky? I’m not sure about that part. Anyway, Phil becomes concerned with what Peter might know about him and decides to befriend the boy. Phil is determined to make Peter a hand-woven rope as a gift to be completed before he returns to school at the end of summer.
  • Phil teaches Peter how to ride a horse and they generally start spending a lot of time together. Rose doesn’t like it one bit.
  • Peter finds a diseased cow laying dead when he is out for a solo ride. He skins it and takes the hide, though we never see that part on screen.
  • Rose gives away all of Phil’s healthy cow hides to the Native Americans even though Phil has been adamant from the beginning of the movie that they will not get his hides. Phil is super pissed because he doesn’t have the leather he needs to complete the rope for Peter.
  • Peter steps in and gives Phil strips of hide as a gift.
  • Things get really homo-erotic between Phil and Peter. Peter is leaning into this because he knows that Phil has a cut on his hand from when they were trying to scare a rabbit, and Phil is using diseased cow hide to make the rope. This is going to be fatal for Phil because he never wears gloves. Peter is getting pretty jazzed that his plan is coming together and wants to give Phil a boner before he dies.
  • It works… Phil dies.
  • George and Rose are happy to be rid of the terrible brother and will now live happily ever after.

So that is is. In my mind that is what happened. I don’t know if Peter’s plan was meticulously orchestrated, or if he just got really lucky. I don’t know if Peter had been thinking about this all summer long or if he just seized an opportunity.

Regardless, this is a movie where very little happens for the first 80%. It lulled me into a sense that this is going to be one of those artsy films that doesn’t really have a plot or a clear direction… just enjoy the acting and the beautiful cinematography. Then all this stuff happens right at the end and I was like… what the hell?

It was weird, but it was pretty good.

January 12, 2022

Spiderman: No Way Home

I waited a couple of weeks for the theaters to clear out before I ventured in to see the third MCU Spiderman film. I enjoyed the previous two, but I didn’t think there was anything particularly special about them. Tom Holland’s Spiderman was the same character, but it always felt off. It was a different creation that existed to serve the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Going into this 3rd and final Marvel Spiderman film I didn’t think about how they were going to handle that. I didn’t think about the fact that Marvel had to give this character back to Sony in roughly the same state in which they found him. That is what this movie was all about, and they did a really good job with it.

I had a great time watching this movie. It was far better than it had any right to be. The action was mediocre, as has been the case with the prior two films in this trilogy. The pivotal scene in this movie that was supposed to elicit the most emotion was laughably bad. The plot was a little nonsensical, which is what happens when your plot is driven by magical spells that brainwash millions of people.

Even with all of those complaints, Spider-Man: No Way Home pulled off one of the greatest achievements I may ever see in film. That alone was worth the price of admission many times over. I don’t see any sense in spoiling what happens so I won’t talk about it in detail, but this film feels catered directly to me, a teenager when the first Sam Rami Spider-man movie came out.

No Way Home had a lot of contortions to do, but in the end they put Spiderman back exactly where they found him, in the same broken condition as every Spider-man that has come before. That alone was an impressive feat. The stage is set for a new era of Spider-Man, cleansed of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will any of these subsequent movies be good? I hope so. Will Tom Holland ever be Spider-man again… I doubt it.

So is this Tom Holland trilogy the best set of Spider-man movies? I’d say yes. The first two entries were solid. The last one was bonkers with plenty of highs and lows. It makes me want to revisit the older films and try to stack them up against what Marvel did with the character. It made me very interested to see what Sony does with the character going forward. It feels like the stage is set for a solid franchise. It is hard to say it wasn’t a good film when it sparked that much interest in the character, and made me excited to see what might come in the future.

January 5, 2022

Succession Season 3

I just finished the 3rd season of Succession on HBO Max. This show took me a while to get into, but it has become one of my favorites.

If you know nothing about *Succession*I will give a quick description. It is about a huge media company that also has theme parks and cruises. I imagine Disney… if they also owned Fox News. From a leadership standpoint it is like if Walt Disney was still alive and still ran the company… and he had 4 shitty kids who are waiting for him to die so one of them can inherit the CEO job.

The whole thing is a bit preposterous and can feel like the plot is spinning in circles. Still, it is an extremely entertaining ride. Over the course of the seasons we feel sympathy towards characters and then we come to hate them even more than we thought possible. They are spoiled, entitled brats that have had everything handed to them their entire lives and their dad kinda hates them for it.

It is clear that he doesn’t trust his company to any of them. It is also clear that all of his kids think they are completely capable and obvious choices for CEO.

The show is filled with scheming, backstabbing, & plenty of strategy around mergers and acquisitions. Billions of dollars hang in the balance with almost every meeting or press appearance, and they almost all go badly. If this family were real I feel like they would be a total joke. Sometimes it is difficult to believe they’ve managed as well as they have up to this point.

Season 3 had some really enjoyable moments. However, the plot feels like it is stalling out a bit. Everything wasn’t resolved to my satisfaction so I hope they have another season in the works, but I also hope Season 4 will be the last one.

Succession crept in and took a spot among my favorite TV series of all time. The characters are so memorable and extremely enjoyable to watch. It is like a car crash you can’t look away from. I think the only sane person in the show might be cousin Greg’s grandpa.

November 13, 2021

Some Thoughts on Dune

Going into this movie I didn’t know anything about the Dune story… the book or the prior film. Ultimately I think that was a disadvantage.

I was expecting an action blockbuster. I was hoping for something more. We got a fairly slow-paced movie with lots of dream-like slow motion sequences. I had a hard time figuring out what was going on with Paul, which I assume is clear if you know the story. This feel like a movie the book readers will enjoy. I don’t blame it for not explaining everything, but it made it difficult for me to get into.

I did appreciate how the movie visually explained some of the technical aspects of this world. They did a good job of showing and not telling. For example, the voice that Paul is working on mastering. Another example would be the body shields. Through the test fight with Paul and then the more intense fights later on it was pretty clear how those things worked without having any exposition.

This movie looks really nice. The visuals are pretty amazing. I quickly grew tired of the slow motion sequences even though they looked nice.

Overall I found this movie mediocre. I can’t really argue with people who loves it or people who hated it. I didn’t feel strongly about it either way. Chalamet’s Paul Atreides felt like a very passive character in this story. His performance was okay… even good at times, but it felt like everything was happening to him. Not until the very end did he start to have some agency in his story.

Which brings me to one of the main weaknesses of this movie… the way it ended. It felt like we got the setup and first act of a movie. Just when it started to come together and gain momentum, it was done. That wasn’t good. It felt like the fist act of a typical 3 act structure. On its own I cannot say this is a good movie. It is just… incomplete. If more comes later it might be a good overall story, but this film itself was frustrating.

November 4, 2021

Aaron Rodgers Has COVID

Aaron Rodgers may have already been one of the most unlikable characters in sports. His hair-ogance makes him difficult to root for if you aren’t a Packers fan. Now Aaron has come across as even more pompous with his, “I’ve been immunized” comments.

I already didn’t really like the guy, but I would not have argued against his talent as an athlete. I would have also assumed he was a competent leader of his team. I don’t know if this incident calls into question his overall leadership… but it does make him look immature.

➔ Aaron Rodgers’ Covid–19 case is a failure of leadership that won’t be forgotten | NFL | The Guardian

November 2, 2021

Podcast Recommendation: Decoder Ring - Selling Out

Decoder Ring is a great podcast. I learn a lot when I listen. They had a particularly good episode recently about the concept of selling out. I remember a time when it was important for me to stay true to myself… whatever that means. I remember a time when I was concerned that people thought that I was authentic.

I think I don’t care about it anymore. In a sense I have “sold out” by working a job. I have sold myself out to having a house and a family. I have sold out to the idea of being happy.

In my mind, I was the one who changed. I was the one who got older and more mature and forgot about the idealistic teenage who wanted to be authentic. Decoder Ring made me realize that maybe the world changed around me, and I just sort of went along with it… exactly what a sellout would do.

➔ Oprah’s Book Club and Jonathan Franzen’s fear of selling out.

October 31, 2021

M1 Pro MacBook Pro Computer Upgrade

My 2015 MacBook Pro is getting pretty old. Last year when the M1’s came out I was really tempted to buy a new computer, but I decided to hold out until 2021 to see what happened. I was hoping for new computers in June. When that didn’t happen I basically made an agreement with myself that I was going to buy whatever Apple came out with in the fall. I did.

I think I put in my order for a 14" MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip within 15 minutes of the announcement finishing. I was able to get my new computer on day 1 of shipping this past Tuesday.

I thought I would share my initial thoughts on my new computer.

Performance

I am sure you have all heard that the performance is insane. I cannot really add much to that discussion. The performance is a lot better than my 2015 MacBook Pro. The battery life seems amazing. So far it seems like this computer offers way more power than what I need most of the time. I haven’t noticed the fans spin up at all.

Design

I don’t exactly know what I expected out of this computer, but I thought it would be thinner and/or lighter than my old one. It is neither. It feels about the same overall thickness and weight. I might be wrong… I haven’t even compared the specs.

The case design changed a bit. It doesn’t follow the exact same “squared-sided” design language as the iPads & iPhones, but it does move in that direction. It has a retro look. I don’t know that I absolutely love it, but it has grown on me over the past week. It feels nice and sturdy and dense. One reason I love buying Apple products is that they always feel premium. This computer is no exception.

Screen & Notch

Knowing I didn’t need the most powerful computer I initially considered saving a bit of money by getting an M1 Macbook Pro from this past year. However, the mini LCD screen put things over the top for me. Most of the time I used my laptop plugged in to a 32" 4K monitor, but it is always open right beside it. However, this screen is going to inspire me to use it in laptop mode much more often[1]. I am also going to use this computer quite a bit to watch tv and movies. It looks amazing.

I thought the 120hz display would also be a big factor for me. I don’t think I have noticied it, but I also haven’t gone back to my old display and done a comparison. Overall the screen looks amazing. I don’t know if/how the high refresh rate is contributing to that.

When I first heard about the notch it seemed insane to me. Why would we need to cut out part of the screen on something this overall size. I will say the screen part is very thin, and I appreciate the small bezels. While the case design may look retro, it is clearly a modern computer when you look at the screen. Ultimately I don’t mind the notch at all. In practice it has no effect on how I use the computer. I like that the menu bar lives in the “ears” on either side of the notch. When I use an app in full-screen mode it goes away completely anyway. It doesn’t get in the way of video. The notch is a non-factor when actually using the computer.

Keyboard

I sat out on MacBooks for the last several years, so I never got to experience the butterfly keyboard or the TouchBar. I like using tactile keyboards and I didn’t love the keyboard on the 2015 MacBook Pro. The keyboard on my new computer is better in every way. It is difficult to explain, but it does have a nice tactility that feels snappy. It definitely isn’t clicky, but it doesn’t feel nearly as mushy as the old version. I can happily type on this keyboard for a long time. [2]

Honestly I am a little sad this computer doesn’t have a TouchBar. I thought it would have been an interesting thing to play with while I am using the computer in “laptop mode”. It is fine either way. I enjoy and am used to the function keys. I love having Touch ID. This is my first laptop with that feature.

Final Thoughts

The new M1 Pro Macbook Pro is the best computer I have ever used. That is clear. It is extremely fast, especially for my needs. The screen looks awesome. The battery life is amazing. It has everything I could want out of a laptop. The Apple chips are clearly leading the way and I am happy to have a laptop that has one.

It is impressive that Apple released this computer with additional ports and no touch bar. The company made the decision to reverse direction on a couple items that seemed to be the future just a couple years ago. That is big deal for them. They have re-thought the pro line of laptop computers to give the people what they were asking for.

I actually thought the ports would be a big deal for me. However, I bought a cheap USB-C hub and have been able to plug everything I need into there. It is nice to have the MagSafe charger on a dedicated cable, but it is also nice to be able to unplug just one cable when I want to take my computer away from my desk.

Overall this has been a big upgrade for me. I was excited to get my computer on day one when I know a lot of other people are having to wait for theirs. This was an expensive computer, but I am confident it will serve me well for several years to come.


  1. Laptop mode… as-in, actually using the laptop keyboard with the screen much closer to my face. Not necessarily on my lap.  ↩

  2. I still mostly use this computer while connected to a mechanical keyboard.  ↩

July 31, 2021

The Show About the Show

I watched the entirety of The Show About the Show in a couple of sessions on the couch. That doesn’t necessarily mean I loved it, I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it, and it is short.

The concept is that this documentary film director (Caveh Zahedi) wants to get into television. He tries pitching several ideas but none of them are picked up. He documents the process of pitching the ideas and then pitches the process of picking a show as the show. Then the next episode will be about how he made the first episode… etc. etc.

The concept was interesting to me and it was all available on YouTube via Bric TV.

I enjoyed the first couple of episodes. It was novel and pretty interesting/entertaining. Then it started to spiral out of control… quickly.

I’m not even going to try to explain the direction the show goes. I will just say that the self-reflective nature of the show is an excuse for Caveh to be extremely honest to some of the people in his life.

The further it went the more I started to question the authenticity. The reenactments and talking head sequences have a relaxed while they are describing some very serious situations. Something just felt off to me.

After finishing The Show About the Show I watched a few interviews including this one on Bric. This bolstered my confidence that this guy’s life was really in shambles.

I honestly don’t know what to make of it all. I can’t say it is enjoyable, but it is interesting. I find Caveh to be a fascinating individual. He has recently published Episode 13 on his own YouTube channel. If his show comes back for a 3rd season I will watch it, though I am not sure I care what happens to him at this point. He is pretty much insane.

March 14, 2021

Never Ending Email

I don’t like to spend a ton of time in my email inbox. I don’t keep email open all day long. I turned off mail notifications years ago.

Email is clearly a valuable business communication tool, but it also distracting. I have been trying to strike the perfect balance between quickly acting on what is important while not getting lost in the sea of messages for years. I have failed. I am willing to admit that I am “bad at email”.

What does it even mean to be “bad at email”? A better term might be inefficient. I felt like I was spending a lot of time dealing with email, but I still felt unorganized and behind.

I would commonly leave things unread in my inbox and allow things to stack up. I found myself skimming through a huge list of unread email to make sure there wasn’t anything critical there while keeping a ton of emails that I just needed to come back and read later sitting there to distract me another day.

There is this term “inbox zero” out there that was coined years ago by Merlin Mann. People commonly think that literally means a state with zero messages in your inbox. I think that is wrong. I was achieving that from time-to-time after much effort, but it could only ever last for a few minutes. Email was always coming, now matter how much I tried to keep it at bay.

Over the last couple of weeks I have tried to get a point where I am spending as little time in my inbox as possible, but I am able to process through all of my messages and get caught up. This is a process commonly known as triaging your inbox. This is a simple concept, but thus far it has proved extremely valuable to me.

Checking Email

I have split apart the concepts of checking email and actually dealing with email. Checking email is quickly processing through my inbox and making decisions about each message. There can be 1 of 4 actions…

  1. Delete/Archive - I’m not going to differentiate these 2. Both of them result in an email disappearing directly from the inbox likely to never be seen again. I will delete if I know it is worthless. I will archive if there is a chance I might need to refer back to it again.
  2. Action - I have a folder that I call “Action”. I will move an email here if I need to respond to that email, or it contains a task that I need to complete. I will not do anything with it at that moment other than file it into my action folder to be dealt with later. Even if I think I might need to respond I will throw it into my action folder. If it turns out I don’t… great.
  3. Waiting - This is another folder that I use for items that don’t require me to do anything right now, but they are of interest to me and I want to make sure and follow up with them later if nothing else happens in the thread. I have considered calling this folder “Attention” because they are items that I want to pay attention to.
  4. Reference - There are items that I need to read later and want to make sure and keep them around. Again, I won’t read the message while I am merely processing through my inbox. I will keep it unread and move it to my reference folder.

Dealing With Email

I typically get over 100 emails a day. I pop into my inbox 3–4 times a day and try to weed through my list of unread as quickly as possible. I will take one of those 4 actions until my inbox is clear, then I will get out of email again.

Dealing with email is something I strive to do 2–3 times per day. I try to keep this as short as possible, but I still end up allocating around 30 minutes per day at a bare minimum. Sometimes it end up being much longer than that.

I will open my Action folder and respond to messages in the order I have received them. Once I have responded I will archive the message so it is no longer visible in my action folder.

I will look at the waiting folder and reference how long messages have been sitting here. If a thread has gone quiet for a period of time I may send a message asking for an update.

I will read through a few of the emails in my reference folder and decide what needs to happen to them. Typically I will archive them from that folder so I can search for and reference them if something comes up.

Conclusions

Thus far I am spending more time in email than I was before. However, it feels more focused. I have a system that will keep me from missing important emails. It is embarrassing how simple it is. I feel like I have tried systems like this before, but for some reason they didn’t stick. Hopefully this time I have found something sustainable.

I am two weeks into my experiment at this point and I feel like my email is staying under control. We will see what happens if things get extremely busy and I fall behind. I am going to do my best to allocate a little extra time each day to email so that doesn’t happen.

February 14, 2021

The Little Things

I watched The Little Things on HBO. This is the second Warner Brothers movie they have released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. So far they are 0 for 2. The first was Wonder Woman 84. I did not enjoy that movie at all. The Little Things was not as bad as WW84, but it also didn’t do anything new or exciting.

I’m a sucker for a cop drama or a serial killer movie. I was predisposed to enjoy this movie. The story was good enough to keep me interested and watching until the end [1]. That doesn’t mean it was a great story. Pacing felt extremely slow at times. There wasn’t a satisfying resolution in my opinion.

Aside from some awkward plotting and scenes with questionable acting, my main criticism with The Little Things is how familiar it felt. This could have been one of several cop/killer movies that came out in the 90’s.

In reading about the movie I learned that it was actually written in the early 90’s… which makes a ton of sense. It never got picked up by a director back then so it has been sitting on a shelf only to be dusted off and released in one of the most challenging times for film ever. They didn’t re-write the scrip, so it was needlessly set in 1990.

The Little Things wasn’t a bad movie. It was sort of entertaining to watch Denzel, Rami, & Jared act out these roles. Was it worth 2 hours of my life? I don’t know about that. Hopefully HBO Max has some winners this year in the direct-to-streaming releases. They aren’t off to a very good start.


  1. This is something WW84 could not achieve. I only made it to the end because we were talking about it on our podcast.  ↩