The USS William D. Porter

You can — and should — read the full article on Cracked.com on the not-quite-so-illustrious history of this US destroyer that saw action (and tried to torpedo FDR) during World War II … but to sum up:

This destroyer WRECKED another ship leaving harbor on their first deployment, almost blew themselves up with their own depth charge, TORPEDOED the battleship the President was on (for which the Marines arrested the ENTIRE crew), fired a live round onto the front lawn of the Navy Aleutian base commander’s house while he was hosting a dinner party, and then got sunk by a Japanese airplane they’d already shot down.

I read this story on the Circulator Tuesday afternoon and couldn’t stop laughing.

I have been offered a free car.

UPDATE 3/2:

After pricing insurance & DC titling information, I decided to pass on the car. All I’d use it for anyway would be runs to the suburbs for giant tubs of cat litter, right?

*****

I have a dilemma.

I have been offered a car. Free.

I have been offered a free car.

Just, in case you missed it: FREE. CAR.

It doesn’t run because it needs a radiator (been sitting in a parking lot for six months). It’s also on its second clutch, and I’m not always easy on my clutches. It would have to pass DC inspection before I could register it in the District. I would also have to purchase insurance.

It’s a twenty year old Infinity G20. Stick shift. 250,000 miles. Basically, a perfect beater for city living. I mean, I’d probably only use it for picking up cat litter in Bethesda and running up to the burbs to visit my folks.

The guy making the offer works with me. He bought it specifically for a cross-country trip from California, and it passed an emissions test in Pennsylvania last year. The previous owner bought it new and used it to drive back and forth to and from work.

He’s been considering donating it for the tax benefit, but he’ll just be happy to be rid of it.

The pros: I could acquire a car for cheap. Even though it’s free, I’d still pay out $400 for the radiator and labor. Folks on Twitter are telling me registration, licensing, and permit ran them around $200 (but I think they had registration transferred from Maryland or Virginia), but I think somewhere there’s some ridiculous tax. Although, if the tax is based on purchase price, I’d be set – even 100% of zero is still zero, right?

The cons: Would I use it enough to justify however much I’d spend getting it running and legal? Would I be justifying the cost in insurance? Worse – would I use it as an excuse not to walk as much as I usually do?

Also: could I justify NAMING this car? Like, putting paint on it that would say HMS Beater? (I wouldn’t really name it “Beater”, though, and points to anyone who can figure out the HMS).

“CRY HAVOC! And let slip the DOGS OF WAR!”

Granted, I wasn’t paying 100% attention to the Oscars Sunday night, but that’s because I was having a ball on Twitter, which is basically just a gigantic chat room with the entire world.

So I missed some of Christopher Plummer’s acceptance speech, including the part where he apparently said that his role as a 70 year old father who comes out of the closet to his son after the death of his wife (Plummer’s character’s wife, that is) was the most fun role he’d ever had.

And I was like – really? Because, Chris, you played a Shakespeare quoting Klingon general with an eye patch.

(“…I’d give real money if he’d shut up.”)

There’s something ironic about that scene. George Takei, a gay actor playing a straight character giving the order to blow up a straight actor who’d make history as the oldest actor to win an Oscar for playing a gay character. Or maybe I’m reaching into things, but honestly: George Takei. Christopher Plummer. William Shatner. Klingons insisting Shakespeare was Klingon. Kim Cattrall. Aside from the fact that you now know how the movie ends, why wouldn’t you want to see this film!??!

Oh, sorry, what film? Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country where the Federation and Klingon Empires serve as an exploration of the collapse of the Soviet Union and how enemies must learn to trust and work with each other and not try to kill each other. Honestly, when I saw it many years later, I think the Star Trek writing staff was heavily inspired by the Gene Hackman/Tommy Lee Jones film The Package.

In any case, as General Chang, Plummer hams it up. The Klingons, in general, are insulted when Kirk & Co. try to tell them that Shakespeare was English. “Nonsense. You haven’t read Shakespeare until you’ve read it in the original Klingon.” Or some such.

So basically, when you’re reading about Shakespeare theaters putting performances of Shakespeare plays on in Klingon, you’ve got two people to blame:

1.) Christopher Plummer for being awesome at playing a Shakespeare quoting Klingon.
2.) Mark Okrand, a linguist who invented the Klingon language (and lives in Adams Morgan)

Also, here’s some Flickr galleries of Klingons on Dupont Circle last weekend. Sad I missed it.

Aaand if you’re a fan of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (that subtitle’s another Shakespeare reference), Cliff Eidelman’s complete score has just been released via Intrada.

The Good & The Bad of Jumping Off The Bus Six Blocks Early

It didn’t really dawn on me until the Circulator had already pulled away, but I was at 14th & P when I really wanted to be at 13th & K. This is what I get for falling asleep on the bus, I thought as I pulled up NextBus on my phone and confirmed that the next bus was coming in precisely way too long to wait if I was going to get to Penn Quarter in time for a bite to eat before meeting up with my favorite suicidal blond for her first and my fifth viewing of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

I shouldn’t have even been on the Circulator. There were a few things I needed at Target, but on the bus, I decided that jumping off the bus to run in and pick them up would’ve cut my available time too short, so I opted to push the errands back until Thursday.

And then I jumped off – what – five, six blocks early?

The good news is that I was wearing the shoes that I actually put the heel supports in. This is because my left heel’s been hurting me since early December and I still haven’t made a doctor’s appointment to get it looked at. I would have actually done it last week except my health care card had expired over the fall and I can’t locate the new one, so now I’m waiting for a replacement card to arrive. I should just make the appointment anyway, right? I will – tomorrow. Promise.

In any case, nice day, a little brisk but I was wearing a sweatshirt, so I started walking.

Straight down 14th until K when I veered east and down 13th. Crossing I Street at 13th I saw a thin figure emerging from the building on the NW corner. Skinny. My height. Beard. As we walked towards each other I became convinced that we knew each other. And as his face sort of had this “Wait, is that–?” expression forming I knew who it was.

Back when I started at Borders — way back in April of 2008 (which, let me tell you, I never thought I’d miss that front of store Cherry Blossom merch table … but I do) — there was a stack of Master Replicas Star Wars light sabers gathering dust down in the music section. After I’d started, and moved to a position as a bookseller from loss prevention, me and this guy — Bakhti — would open two of the boxes (which had already been previously opened) and duel each other (but only, I swear, when it was slow and there were no customers).

Let me tell you – those sabres were fucking strong. There were times I’d be swinging for Bakhti and he’d jump out of the way and I’d smash that thing full force into a shelf full of DVDs and the blade wouldn’t actually shatter into million of pieces.

Anyway, so we embraced in the middle of 13th Street, then I backtracked back across to the west side of the road. He was speed walking to a quick errand at a bank a few blocks south and I kept pace with him catching up on what was new. Bakhti came over to the DC from one of the former Soviet Union satellite countries — one of the ‘stans, but I can’t remember which one. Possibly Uzbekistan. When I worked with him, his wife was still back overseas. Since he left Borders (fall of ’08, I think, or early ’09), his wife was finally able to come over, they moved to Arlington (boo), and they’ve got an 11 month old son.

And I wouldn’t have even seen him if I hadn’t jumped off the bus five or six blocks before I should have.

I made it to Penn Quarter in time to grab a bite before meeting up with my friend for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Once again, a damn good film. And it really should have won Best Adapted Screenplay Sunday night.

What’s Wrong With This Bookmark?

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This morning enroute to my job at the Cinecave, I stopped into the nearby Barnes & Noble and bought a nice engraved metal bookmark purporting to hold a list of the “50 books to read before you die.” Six bucks, but a nice feel, and bookmarks make me feel classy, although remind me not to take this one on an airplane. Here’s the list of books – you tell me what’s wrong with the “50 books” bookmark, right?

THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY – J.R.R. Tolkien
1984 – George Orwell
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – Jane Austen
THE GRAPES OF WRATH – John Steinbeck
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – Harper Lee
JANE EYRE – Charlotte Bronte
WUTHERING HEIGHTS – Emily Bronte
A PASSAGE TO INDIA – E.M. Forster
THE LORD OF THE FLIES – William Golding
HAMLET – William Shakespeare
A BEND IN THE RIVER – V.S. Naipaul
THE GREAT GATSBY – F. Scott Fitzgerald
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE – J.D. Salinger
THE BELL JAR – Sylvia Plath
BRAVE NEW WORLD – Aldous Huxley
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK – Anne Frank
DON QUIXOTE – Miguel De Cervantes
THE BIBLE – Various
THE CANTERBURY TALES – Geoffrey Chaucer
ULYSSES – James Joyce
THE QUIET AMERICAN – Graham Greene
BIRDSONG – Sebastian Faulks
MONEY – Martin Amis
HARRY POTTER SERIES – J.K. Rowling
MOBY DICK – Herman Melville
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS – Kenneth Grahame
HIS DARK MATERIALS TRILOGY – Philip Pullman
ANNA KARENINA – Leo Tolstoy
ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND – Lewis Carroll
REBECCA – Dauphne du Maurier
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME – Mark Haddon
ON THE ROAD – Jack Kerouac
HEART OF DARKNESS – Joseph Conrad
THE WAY WE LIVE NOW – Anthony Trollope
THE OUTSIDER – Albert Camus
THE COLOUR PURPLE – Alice Walker
LIFE OF PI – Yann Martel
FRANKENSTEIN – Mary Shelley
THE WAY OF THE WORLDS – H.G. Wells
MAN WITHOUT WOMEN – Ernest Hemingway
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS – Jonathan Swift
A CHRISTMAS CAROL – Charles Dickens
HUCKLEBERRY FINN – Mark Twain
ROBINSON CRUSOE – Daniel Defoe
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST – Ken Kesey
CATCH 22 – Joseph Heller
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO – Alexander Dumas
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA – Arthur Golden
THE DIVINE COMEDY – Alighieri Dante
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY – Oscar Wilde

Figure it out?

The Obligatory “I Work In a Movie Theater So These Are The Movies I Think Will Win The Oscars” Blog Post

Best Picture: THE ARTIST

A lot of the nominees I don’t really care for and about. And for once, I’ve actually seen a few of them (but only a few). While I think part of me would jump up and down for Midnight in Paris to win, I’m pretty sure The Artist will take the top. What a beautiful, wonderful movie. Although, honestly, that could be said for MiP as well.

Actor in a Leading Role: JEAN DUJARDIN

As much as I loved Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I think I’m going to have to give this to Jean Dujardin in The Artist.

Actress in a Leading Role: GLENN CLOSE

Not a mark against Meryl Streep, but I’ve only seen bits and parts of The Iron Lady. My pick is Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs.

Actor in a Supporting Role: CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER

Since the only one of these films I’ve seen is Beginners, my pick is Christopher Plummer as a 70ish gay man who comes out to his son after his wife has died.

Actress in a Supporting Role: JANET MCTEER

I really don’t understand how Shailene Woodley wasn’t nominated for The Descendants. She stole the show from Clooney, IMO. Since she’s not up, this is an easy pick: Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs. Just to clarify: even if Woodley had been up, this still would’ve been a difficult call. They’re both just so absolutely wonderful.

Directing: WOODY ALLEN

I think Woody Allen is a pretty shady human being. That said, he’s also brilliant. But I don’t think artistic merit should outweigh a person’s faults and crimes (for example, I love Chinatown, but everyone who says a word in defense of Roman Polanski should be ashamed of themselves, for instance). In any case, I kind of hope Allen wins for Midnight in Paris, even if he could stand for massive improvement in his status as a human being (then again, so could I, and it’s not like he – or I – was running around raping minors so maybe I’m being too hard on him. Meanwhile, fuck you Polanski).

Music (Original Score): ____

Since there are very few of these soundtracks I’ve listened to, I’m going to avoid picking someone here, I’ll just note that John Williams has two chances out of five to win.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

The thing about this category is it requires people to have actually read the work that was adapted, and to have seen the movie the original work was produced from (or at a bare minimum to read the final script). I think Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan adapted LeCarre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy work while remaining faithful to the book (which I just re-read last week, and I’ve seen the movie four times – five on Tuesday). Throw in O’Connor’s recent death (she passed away last September) and I think they’re a shoe-in (which is sad, because they deserve to win on merit, not sympathy).

The Smurfs (2011)

I watched The Smurfs movie last night. I didn’t really enjoy it at all until I started pretending Neil Patrick Harris was playing Barney from How I Met Your Mother, only to avoid all the women he’d used, he changed his name to Patrick Winslow.

The movie actually made a lot more sense after that.

Descendants (2011)

Saw this yesterday, too, double show with Albert Nobbs.

Clooney plays Matt King, descendant of Hawaiian royalty, who is coping with his two daughters following a boating accident that has left his wife in a coma. He discovers his wife was conducting an affair and was going to ask for a divorce. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter (10) is acting out in all sorts of destructive ways, and his eldest daughter (17) has started drinking. At the same time, he’s responsible for deciding what to do with 25,000 acres of pristine land that’s been in his family for a century and a half and must either be sold, or lost.

George Clooney? I think for most people this is enough. But Judy Greer! I really liked her short-lived Miss Guided series. But, for my money, Shailene Woodley stole the show as King’s foul-mouthed angry oldest daughter, Alex, who’s willing to help her father go after the man his wife was cheating on him with, who becomes a surrogate mom to her younger sister, who is never hesitant to remind her father “Remember: I know where he lives” when Matt tries to exercise authority that he’s neglected for her entire life.

Good flick. The opening narration bothered me: it felt cheap and lazy. Decently done, but I won’t cry in my soup if it wins no Academy Awards. Is it nominated for any? This I don’t even know.

Albert Nobbs (2011)

What a sad, beautiful film.

This was the second movie I’ve seen this week with Glenn Close. The first was Reversal of Fortune. She spends the whole movie providing a voice over narration, while her character is in a coma. She’s awful in the film, which honestly, I felt was pretty bad all over. How this won an Academy Award, I can only speculate. This is what they mean by “topical”, right?

And then Albert Nobbs. Night and day. Night and fucking day.

(Some spoilers now)

Albert Nobbs — real name Albert — is the bastard daughter of an upper crust family, abandoned to the care of a Mrs. Nobbs. They live on an allowance, and comfortably, until it runs out, and they’re forced to a roughscrabble part of town. Mrs. Nobbs passes on. Albert Nobbs is gang-raped. Finds work as a waiter, and lives life as a man, eventually winding up at a second (third?) rate hotel somewhere in Ireland. Nobbs is saving all her tips to purchase a shop, and lives an empty, meaningless life. Love isn’t even a concept, as evidenced by a post plague-scene between Close and Janet McTeer.

The score is beautiful – I downloaded last night Lay Your Head Down, the song that plays as the movie closes, composed by Brian Byrne with lyrics by Sinead O’Connor – simply beautiful).

In a way, this film is a lot like any movie about the British class system – the wealthy are removed from the action, the serving class schemes and uses each other. Connections are made but, as ever, it’s always the working class which gets screwed. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey or Gosford Park, you’d probably like this. This movie does not have what you could call a happy ending: you are not going to leave with a broad smile on your face ready to embrace the challenges facing you.

But so, absolutely, amazingly wonderful. Close is wonderful, but Janet McTeer steals the show. Here’s for Oscar wins for both of them.

On the Silver Screen: Big Trouble In Little China

I don’t actually remember the first time I saw Big Trouble in Little China. But here’s my first memory of the movie. I remember working at Blockbuster while I was in high school in the 90s. Every month we’d get two VHS tapes delivered to the store to be played over the TVs hanging from the ceiling. These VCR tapes were a combination of promos, music videos, and movie clips. One month, one of the clips was from Big Trouble in Little China, when Jack confronts Lo Pan and throws the knife. It ends with his “Oh, shit, I missed” expression.

I don’t actually remembered if I rented the movie or not. As an employee, I got to rent any five movies a week I wanted (unless it was a new release, in which case I had to wait a month). I do remember that I bought a copy of the DVD when it was first released. It was one of those big case DVDs, back when releases with a “special edition” disc had cases twice as thick as single disc releases. In any case, they gave me a double “special edition” disc, so, yeah.

I bought it the day I moved to Cockeysville. I’d been living in Towson for two years, and I loved the apartment, but I was really not feeling life with a roommate. An apartment a few extra miles from school, where I’d live all by myself (erm, and with my cats). I was working delivery pizzas at that time, and I had the keys to the new place, so I dropped the DVD off the night before I moved in. The next day, the Comcast guy was telling me about when some rich guy had ran into him on his BMW (Comcast guy had been on a motorcycle) and paid him like $100 grand not to tell the cops. Er. And you’re still installing cable? Why are you telling me this?

Anyway, my first full night in the apartment, I hooked my DVD player up to this crappy analog TV, and I think I had to route it through the VCR. My previous roommate had gotten the nice new color TV he’d bought when we’d moved in together, and the next afternoon, I’d buy a new TV for myself, but for this first night, it was on a crappy TV that I watched the movie in its entirety for the first time (that I could remember, anyway). And I was eating General Tso’s chicken.

Two years later, when I moved to a larger apartment, I did the same thing: General Tso’s chicken and BTiLC. I’d gotten the keys late in the afternoon and literally the only things I’d moved were a chair, a table, the TV stand, and the TV. And all of my dishes, because this new place had a dishwasher. I lived there for five years, and then I moved to DC (and that move was almost four years ago).

That night — er, the move to the larger place, not to DC — was the last time I made my “first night movie tradition”, largely because the move to DC was so arduous and long, I just didn’t have the opportunity to watch the film. Also, I hadn’t discovered Meiwah yet, and every Chinese place in DC I’d tried had given me massive stomach evacuation issues. As in my stomach would say “Hey, in five seconds, we’re doing an emergency dump. Highly suggest you find a toilet and rip off your pants.” I seriously almost had a major fucking accident on the Metro one March 2008 Saturday.

But the station manager at Grosvenor was kind of enough to let me into the men’s room, which I promptly DESTROYED.

Seriously – was bad.

(You’re welcome).

Anyway. The entire point of this post is that Washington, DC’s E Street Cinema is screening Big Trouble in Little China as part of their Midnight Madness series the weekend of April 6th & 7th, with midnight shows Friday and Saturday. And word is it’ll actually be a 35mm print (and not a Blu Ray).

I know where I’ll be that Friday night, anyway.

Columbia Heights Target is 18th in Sales Volume for the Company

It doesn’t matter if I’ve been at my day job from 7-3, and then gone to my part-time job and done a 5-1am shift, and didn’t get home until 2, and didn’t get in bed until 3.

At six am, I will be wide fucking awake.

I can’t be wide awake Monday through Friday at six am, where I actually had at least six hour of sleep the night before, but on Saturday morning, BAM. Wide awake by six am.

This is actually kind of nice. I get to use the laundry room before anyone else is up. Well – almost anyone. The woman across the hall apparently has the same issue as I do because sometimes she’s got all the machines running.

But I can try to get my laundry started. I can have the community gym all to myself. Treadmill and an episode of the History Channel about World War Two destroyers? Sounds like fun!

One of the best things about being up so early is getting out to Columbia Heights for early morning errand running. Columbia Heights houses DC’s only Target, and it’s a good place for getting, y’know, crap. (You know how it is: “I need to go to Target to pick up some underwear” and then you wind up leaving with just about everything and spent $70 instead of $10 and isn’t $10 a bit much to pay for a three pack of men’s boxer shorts, anyway?)

I have a simply rule about doing a shopping trip to the Target in Columbia Heights: if I can’t be there before 10am, just fucking forget about it. What a nightmare. But at 9am, it’s quiet. At 8am, it’s even peaceful.

Last Saturday I ran out there to price some bedsheets. I wound up going with Bed Bath & Beyond (just across the way) – black sheets 400 thread count, plus an extra set of pillowcases (I have four pillows) wound up just shy of $100, easily the most I’ve ever spent on sheets but LET ME TELL YOU HOW AWESOME IT FELT WHEN I WENT TO BED.

Pretty fucking awesome, that’s how awesome.

Back to Target: I bumped into a guy I used to work with at the Bookstore. Good guy, fell in some hard times when the economy crashed, so I’m glad he found a safe haven (he’s working two jobs now). During our conversation, he mentioned that the store was ranked 18th in the company in terms of sales volume.

I was actually kind of surprised. The store’s not that big, after all, and it’s not the easiest place to lug stuff from. Only so much junk you can fit onto the Metro, bus, or Circulator, after all. But I guess it makes sense: it’s a lot easier to get to a Target that’s in the city then heading out to the ‘burbs, especially for those of us who are car-free.

I wonder how much their overhead is. Sales volume is one thing. Profitability is another. Rent’s not cheap.

(In other news, I’m kind of excited that DSW is moving into that shopping center this year. Holy shit, have I become Frank Ricard?!)

Feet, Bike, Car, Bus, Train, Cab, Uber.

My favorite mode of transportation is my feet. Weather and distance permitting, I’ll opt for my feet. When the weather is nice, I’ll routinely walk to and from my part time jobs (on weekends, at any rate — three miles downhill to, three miles uphill from).

Bike would be here, except, I’m pretty much terrified to bike in the city. I do have a Bikeshare membership … which I never utilize. Those car drivers scare the shit out of me!

Car would be here, except, I don’t own one. I’ve owned four. An Acura Legend. A Jeep Wrangler. A Toyota Celica. A Toyota Matrix, which I sold to my dad, and which I still occasionally get to borrow for periods of time. But even when I borrow it for extended periods of time, man, I hate driving into the city.

After my feet my favorite mode of transportation is the bus. The NextBus app makes waiting for them much easier, and I’m pretty well familiar with a few key routes, and not quite so familiar with some more connecting routes, and every now and then I’m on a route where I’m crossing my fingers and my heart that I hope I know where I’m going. Bus is, after walking, probably the cheapest way to get around the city (especially with the free transfers for SmarTrip users).

After bus, my favorite mode of transportation is the Metro itself. I tend to travel off peak, and usually do my best to avoid the system during rush hour, and weekends. Fortunately, since I do live in the city, this is hardly a killer proposition. There’s really not many places I’d want to go that can’t be reached with judicious use of a bus, coupled with a short walk. But to get out to the ‘burbs, like to my day job, the Metro’s a necessity.

After Metro, my favorite mode of transportation is a taxicab. When I say “favorite”, at the point, look: I’m using the word wrong, m’kay? It’s not my favorite mode of transportation. At all. But sometimes I need to lug some cats to and from the vets, or sometimes I need to just get home really quickly after working at my part-time job, or I just don’t feel like walking from the Metro to my apartment. Due to the expense, about $10 to $11 (fare plus a tip), I don’t do this often. I consider a cab ride a treat. Not always a good one: hard to read in a cab, especially at night. Public transportation is great reading time!

Because it is. It’s a treat. Cabs are not necessary to get around the city. Obviously, I speak only for myself, and my situation is not the same as I’m sure most people who regularly grab taxis, but I’d generally rather wait at a bus stop for fifteen minutes, knowing I’ll have to make a transfer, but get home only having spent a $1.50 than a whole hour’s worth of wages from my part-time job.

So tonight, for the first time, I called an Uber ride. Uber is a car service called from an app on your smart phone. It’s pretty easy to use. I’d registered last night from my (brand new) laptop, so I just logged-in, moved a pin to show the Uber driver where I’d be waiting, and got a notification that I had about a four minute wait.

I didn’t actually wait four minutes, he was there in about two, in a big, black sedan. I gave him my destination, and we were off. And then we got delayed by a motorcade running up Connecticut Avenue, but that didn’t take too long and we debated who it was. I don’t think it was Obama, since there was no ambulance with the procession. He didn’t think it was Biden, because it was running up Connecticut and not Massachusetts.

So. My receipt came in my email. My fee worked out to about $20 (with half off for the promotion, I paid just under ten bucks). The car was nice. The driver was friendly. There was even complimentary water. But I passed up several cabs waiting for the Uber. The ride was no faster than a cab would have been, and the driver was friendly, but honestly, I usually get cab drivers who tend to be on the friendlier side of things. Bottom line? Good service, but it doesn’t offer anything to me beyond cabs, and if a regular cab rate is pushing what I can afford, this is just …

… out of my budget.

I can see using Uber if I’m on my way to a job interview and don’t want to risk my suit carrying an scent of cab or bus odor, or just want to make sure I’m hedging my bets against traffic accidents or what have you, but for most occasions, I’ll be skipping.

Star Trek The Next Generation on Blu Ray

Way back in late 1987 and early 1988, I’d spend my Saturday nights belly down on the basement carpet, head inclined towards the TV as Star Trek: The Next Generation aired. The Enterprise flew, Picard gave orders, Riker led Data and Yar on away missions. Geordi did cool stuff with his eyes, Worf was a Klingon in the background, and Wesley got into trouble. In later years, I’d sort of realize that the show’s first season was pretty rough in terms of story telling, but there was a magic that hooked me.

A few months ago, I became aware that CBS was remastering Star Trek The Next Generation for a Blu Ray DVD release. Going back to the original film negatives, and doing whatever it is they “do” to remaster something. As a promotion ahead of the season-by-season Blu Ray release, CBS (which, I don’t know, owns the right to Paramount DVD releases, I think) put out a sampler of the work they’d been doing, a single disc release with three episodes: the premier episode, Encounter at Farpoint, which introduced the show’s concept, the ship, the crew, and Q; Sins of the Father, from the third season, where Lt. Worf returns to the Klingon Empire to answer charges brought against his long deceased father; and The Inner Light, where Picard lives an entire lifetime on a dead world (and learns to play a flute).

I did not expect to see a huge quality difference between my regular The Next Generation DVDs and the Blu-Ray episodes. I queued up Encounter at Farpoint and was completely blown away by the opening: the planets glowed, the Enterprise was so sharp and detailed. And then the episode began, and the first shot of the Enterprise is a belly-shot: the camera is moving in reverse, then begins elevating. The Enterprise is moving towards the camera, and our initial view is her belly: the underside of the stardrive, and the saucer, and the ship moves forward until the camera passes over the top of the saucer.

The Enterprise looked absolutely amazing. I popped out the Blu Ray, threw in my DVD disc, and there was absolutely no comparison. The clarity was noticeable on interior scenes, too — uniform colors popped, Data’s eyes glowed (well, not really), the carpet of the bridge looked like it needed a good vacuum.

Sins of the Father was not entirely complete – the crew in charge of updating the footage was unable to find thirteen seconds of the original footage. It’s from when Crusher is on the bridge briefing Riker about a second survivor of the Khitomer attack. CBS wound up “up converting” the original DVD for this sequence, and it’s very noticeable.

In fact, I think maybe that’s why they included this episode on the disc. So that anyone who saw it would have a very visible indicator of the lack of quality on other formats. Surprisingly, the DVD quality is worse than Netflix streaming: I suspect this is because Netflix streaming cuts the corners off the film, whereas my TV stretches the show. I’m sure I could adjust this fairly easy on the menu settings of my TV, but blah.

There’s no set release date for TNG Season One — just sometime this year. From what I’ve seen, though, I think I’ll probably pick it up.

(No – seriously – it’s fucking amazing.)

How My New Year’s Resolution is Doing

So – my resolution this year was not to buy any books. Or, rather, not to buy any books for myself. Gifts are okay.

Since January is over, here’s where I stand: I bought three books.

At Home by Bill Bryson was a birthday gift for a friend.

The other two were for myself: I picked up a trade copy of Lee Child’s Running Blind, and a used hardcover of his 61 Hours.

Personally, I’m still pretty happy with myself. That’s a lot fewer books than I usually buy in, honestly, a day.

I have another reading related goal this year. I wanted to read as many John LeCarre novels as possible, the first four of George RR Martin’s Fire & Ice, and all of Lee Child’s Reacher series (which will require another book purchase for The Affair). Additionally, I’ve had the complete Sherlock Holmes lying around, and I’d like to get through that as well.

How am I doing?

Well, I got through George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Even wrote a blog post about it. I’ll probably pick up Storm of Swords in April (yes, I already own it).

For LeCarre: I actually started this late last year, and am halfway through A Small Town in Germany. Chalked off the list are Call For The Dead, A Murder of Quality, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, and The Looking Glass War.

As for Lee Child … guys. Guys. My cousin’s boyfriend Jared first told me about Lee Child and his protagonist Jack Reacher. I’d heard Stephen King mention Reacher a few times (and he cameos, sorta, in Under The Dome), but I just wasn’t impressed. Then my uncle started reading the books and enjoyed them, and then my dad got the bug, and one day last fall at Second Story I found seven of the books on the discount cart for fifty cents a pop. And now I own all of them (except for The Affair). I read A Killing Floor back in December, and enjoyed it, but took forever to hunt down a used copy of Die Trying (I really hate this half-way-between a mass market and a trade the publisher has adapted and refused to buy it new). So, in very short order, I’ve read Die Trying, Tripwire, Running Blind, Echo Burning, and Without Fail.

Basically: I’m doing really fucking well on this goal!

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I somehow agreed to not drink alcohol for the fine month of February. Thank goodness it’s the shortest month of the year, but why oh why did it have to be a leap year?