Ikea instructions on D&D

If it were only that easy and didn’t require one of those damned allen wrenches!

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This really cute Coming-of-Age movie set in the Eighties helped solidify how much I enjoy seeing Rainn Wilson in about anything. Before you ask, I’ve barely watched the American version of The Office. I have no opinion of it, thus, I am neutral about the SitCom. What made me like Wilson more was his portrayal of Star Trek‘s Harry Mudd, his Podcast Dark Air with Terry Carnation (very funny) and he’s a very encouraging person to all with his Twitter account. I think he’s also a generous, supporting actor by letting Kira McLean and Patricia Arquette have their own comedic moments.

Permanent was also a story I completely related to because it’s about starting all over in a new community far from the one you grew up in and all during an awkward age, puberty.  Having socially awkward parents doesn’t help neither. Being set during 1982 compounded how much I really felt the main character’s pain too; it was the year my family moved from Springfield, IL to the crazy, out-of-control, sprawling Houston.

The overall premise is focuses on the Dicksons and the changes they all have to overcome individually and as a family. After a long career in the Air Force as the head steward on Air Force One, dad (Jim) is using his vet benefits to attend college with hopes of becoming a doctor. He just has one mental obstacle stopping him from passing his PE requirement, a swim class. Jim isn’t afraid of drowning nor is he a bad swimmer. He fears his toupee coming off. Mom (Jeanne) is more upset over several matters: Jim no longer wants her romantically, she misses all perks they had when they were stationed at Andrews AFB and the pressure of being the bread winner is getting to her as she’s the only non-student in their household, so money’s tight. Lastly comes Aurelie, the Dickson’s daughter. Being 1982 and her desire to fit in with the other girls, she asks her parents for a permanent, or a “perm” for short. They were very popular then, especially with all the feathering. Thanks to those money issues mentioned earlier, Aurelie has it done by a beauty school student and as the photo above shows…it didn’t go well. Now she’s off to a horrible start as the “new kid with the poodle hair.”

From here, check Permanent out and see how the Dicksons work through their struggles while trying to repair their familial bonds.

The performances from the trio are excellent. The comedy is subtle, not exaggerated, over-the-top wackiness period pieces or personal memoirs tend to have. Rainn is a plausible, vain guy with a bad rug. Arquette made great efforts to look rather dumpy. Kira is the best in her valid reactions for someone undergoing such teen trials and tribulations. The sites and set pieces are quite accurate and subtle. Permanent avoids one of my biggest peeves brought on by the shitty overrated The Wedding Singer, it doesn’t use glaring background, props and details screaming to the audience, “Look! It’s the Eighties!”. No soundtrack with the same crap we’ve heard a million times, New Order’s “Blue Monday,” I’m looking right at you! No neon-colored clothes on every other cast member. No mullets, mohawks nor Flock of Seagulls’ haircuts. No Rubik’s cubes and ET crap lying around the Dickson’s living room. The director, producers and crew let the story drive the movie for a change.

Currently, Permanent can be viewed on Hulu until further notice and I highly recommend watching it. If you’re a member of Generation X like me, it may make you smile, especially if you shared an upbringing similar to Aurelie’s and mine.

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Fox News interviews Grand Moff Tarkin

We shouldn’t be surprised that Tarkin is a sleazy, Republican apologist for the Emperor but not a diehard fanatic a la Boebert, Greene or Gaetz; he’s carved from the more cynical branch like McCarthy or McConnell. Sure the Death Star killed a couple billion people, destroyed a planet vital to the economy of the Core Worlds and cost enough money to bankrupt the galaxy. Those very valid points are insignificant because the Emperor needs absolute authority to defeat the Rebel Scum who are threatening the Empire’s security and prosperity…never mind he caused the Republic’s collapse 32 years earlier.

Meanwhile, ex-Chancellor Valorum’s defenders continue playing the What If…game and blaming the more Leftist Senator Sa’anders of Bakura for campaigning in the same infamous election caused by the Naboo Crisis. They often decry, “If he didn’t run, taking away votes from the Inner Rim, the Republic would still be around and we’d be enjoying brunch on Coruscant!”

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1977: Enterprise makes its only (known) flight

Today is the day this month’s header is explained because I remember the event pretty clearly…it’s when NASA demonstrated their new space shuttle’s capability to glide in for a landing.

What really sucked (and would suck) was how long America’s space program had been stagnating. After the US landed on the Moon first and then again another five times, all the enthusiasm to fund NASA fizzled. Firstly, the urgency to get to the Moon had always had opposition given the costs; even on July 20, 1969, a sizable number of citizens continued to complain; which is their right. I would only partially agree though. The US spends obscene amounts on “defense” and spying ever since the end of WWII. The Pentagon is the true culprit for domestic woes, not space exploration. Secondly, Tricky Dick couldn’t wait to defund any program initiated by the man who beat him fairly to be POTUS in 1960. He probably couldn’t stop the shuttle, it was already in motion as Skylab wound down. Lastly, Carter wasn’t a fan neither. I’m confident he was a huge reason why Columbia failed to make the first launch until St. Reagan took over in 1981. It didn’t improve much as the B-Movie actor wanted emphasize the shuttle fleet’s military applications.

Anyway, back to this odd day.

My brother and I were bunking at Grandma’s house while our parents took a separate vacation in Canada. Then Grandma’s daily routine of game shows on TV were interrupted for a live news event, NASA testing the space shuttle’s glide ability. Being nine, I figured it was going to fall off the 747 and plummet to the ground like a rock; learning about air pressure and actual flight was some years away. I think Grandpa shared my skepticism. To celebrate, the cast from Star Trek were present thanks to a write-in campaign to change the shuttle’s name from Columbia to Enterprise.

Obviously, it was successful. The engineers aren’t stupid and NASA is more cautious than the Pentagon or today’s DotCom douchebag billionaires with their “destroy everything quickly” mentality. Enterprise didn’t run the risk of anything horrible given its empty fuel tanks. The doohickey NASA attached to cover up the engines helped. I felt it was cheating a little; all of the future shuttles which followed had the area exposed.

Now to catch the Season Three Finale of For All Mankind. An alternate universe where America didn’t give up despite landing on the Moon second and by the mid-Nineties, the US, the USSR (still around) and a private company made it to Mars. Today, it’s a herculean task just to get two or three people to the International Space Station, soon to be obsolete. Ronald D. Moore’s imaginary world sadly has two things in common with ours: domestic terrorists awash in conspiracy bullshit out to stop progress; and whiney, low-educated morons bitchin’ about cleaner energy (fusion) taking away their earth-destroy, black-lung making jerbs all due to their laziness to learn useful skills. The US government could do more yet they won’t, both political parties remain identical.


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Domino’s Pizza closing its last 33 locations in Italy

What were they thinking in the first place? Of all the fast food chains to bring there, Domino’s is pretty low on the list, right along with Starbucks, Little Caesars and Olive Garden. In their defense, we could speculate that maybe Domino’s thought Italy had enough ex-pats experiencing homesickness for mediocre pizza, thus it would support them in the land of where it all began. Just remember this little clip which sums it up best…

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1992: Gen Con 25

My beloved Gen Con was last weekend and I’m shocked they made masks along with proof of vaccination mandatory. Indiana is a moron state ruled by a local branch of Amerika’s Taliban and there is a pathetic segment of gamers who worship Joe Rogan, Alex Jones and Ayn Rand.

I did some navel gazing about my only time on the other side of the booth 15 years ago here. But like Hollywood, I think enough time has passed to re-visit the event, I just promise not to re-imagine it, provide more clarity and wisdom which comes with age.

What has changed? I remember better on how much I was burning the candle at every end better. Those of us involved with Mythus were working long hours. I was so dedicated (and naive), I had a cot in the office for naps and since I was in my twenties, I was more accustomed to working into the wee times. This stupidity on my part went on from Spring until the two Mythus books were physically published by mid July. I squeezed in enough recovery to repeat the insane hours Gen Con would take. I stopped giving up my extra time on this planet for all employers after GDW too.

The deflated feelings for Mythus’ reception were muted for me. I was more excited to be back in Milwaukee. (Austin cured me after a couple years so I can’t imagine returning to the birthplace of Beer Goggles.) White Wolf handing out free copies of their mediocre magazine with its hit job on Mythus was a low blow even if some criticism was valid. These clowns published Vampire: the Masquerade, a game tailor made for immature Goths and Drama Club Dorks. I didn’t dwell on White Wolf’s dick move as I embarked on a good time at and away from the GDW booth. Mythus being a turd would have plenty of time to sink in a couple weeks later alongside my boss/friend Lester being poached by TSR behind our collective backs.

Another insight three decades has given me, I am more grateful about how much D&D and other related Nerddom matters have expanded their audience. I wasn’t against it in 1992 like the complainers who claim their culture was co-opted by Big Bang Theory or the novel Ready Player One. Back then, getting just a sizable population of girls and women to play was the Holy Grail of the industry. You also didn’t publicly state your hobbies if D&D was one because it continued to be stigmatized by the Satanic Panic and the dominant Bully Culture. Today we get several MCU films a year, Disney+ making more Star Wars stories, shirts with all kinds of inside jokes…the list goes on. How the 14- or 24-year old me would jump for joy over. I think it was a positive side effect from the Internet being made more publicly available through Bush the Elder.

When Gen Con was more of a secret club in the past, it did feel more special. The shift to it getting on the same level with the San Diego Comic Convention or Star Trek’s biggest/best gathering in Las Vegas is better. Sure I hate the larger, ruder crowds and Johnny/Janie-come-latelys but I would prefer the acceptance. Now if the owners could convince move Gen Con back to Milwaukee, I’d make a bigger effort to attend.

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KMAG Stream turns 20!

Dammit, dammit, dammit. My exhaustion from the Franz Ferdinand concert and two recent celebrity passings made me forget this huge milestone on Sunday. Better late than never with some events I’d say.

Well, way back on August 7, 2002, my friend Jeremy put his new Mac Genius training to work before he moved to Houston for their new Galleria Store by installing an 80 GB hard drive I put into an Indigo iMac. The iMac then sat up on the entertainment center with an audio-out cable plugged into the stereo after I installed Mac OS X Server version 10.2.x for its new QuickTime Streaming Service. KMAG began with a modest 2000 to 2200 MP3s with just a Top 30 to rotate. Still a larger playlist than any commercial FM station.

Twenty years later the stream has continued to push forward even though it has had to move from the Indigo iMac to a Mac Mini G4 and then three more Mac Mini Intels. The key has been hunting down a system capable of running Mac OS X Server version 10.6.x since Apple ditched QTSS officially with Mac OS X 10.7’s release; it runs on this but it’s work to hunt it down and make it function. Given how reliable Apple’s hardware is, I’m hoping this Mini hangs in there for a good long time. After it, either KMAG the Stream is put to rest or I’m combing local Goodwills and the Internet for one more.

Sadly, the current Mini is no longer in the living room nor connected to a stereo. It resides in my home office, streaming into other systems as I choose to listen. My bitchin’ stereo is disassembled until I have the time and means to hook it up with a turntable.

KMAG the Stream did receive a new job this year. Whenever I add new music to change out its Top 35 Hits, I comb the first 50 songs it plays to set up my next KMAG Podcast Mix. My mixtape rules from 1993 remain in a effect yet 50 is enough to work from to narrow it all down to 16-18 selections on a monthly or sometimes bi-weekly basis. I do try to update the stream weekly. Given all the cool new releases continuing to happen from established and up-and-coming acts, it isn’t hard outside of finding the time to make the picks.

Lastly, I want to close out with KMAG the Stream’s stats on its anniversary to show you how awesome it has been; it certainly blows away Spotify, I paid the artists more.

  • Songs Played in 20 years: 2,685,038
  • Songs in the playlist 20 years later: 16,293

I do hope the Mini can hang in there to make it 25 years.

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RIP Olivia Newton John

Olivia was a huge artist in the soundtrack of my grade school days. Even before every other kid at St. Matthew’s got the Grease soundtrack as a gift, she was a staple of AM radio via WLS (Chicago) with her Soft Rock hits. The glamorized (and sanitized) Fifties® flick just made her a bigger star alongside John Travolta.

Two years later came Xanadu which was the soundtrack my mother played to death in our house! Thanks to Mom, it took me about a decade before I could listen to ELO again; it wasn’t Jeff Lynne’s best work. I could be wrong but I think Xanadu was a flop so it lives on as a cult flick for its pure cheese. To me, I felt the people producing it were trying too hard, believing that Gene Kelly’s fanbase still went to the movies in 1980.

Olivia dodged the fallout of the movie’s failure by hitching her wagon to the early Eighties fitness craze mostly attributed to Jane Fonda with her hit single and album Physical. The song gave a boost to numerous mediocre comedians as they used it as their lazy punchline for a year and then had to wait for Joey Buttafuoco and Amy Fisher’s murder conspiracy. How I cringed when Mork & Mindy referenced it for a sexual innuendo.

Then somebody in Hollywood went against all good advice by having Olivia re-team up with John Travolta in Two of a Kind. By now it was 1983. Travolta’s fame was waning because he couldn’t shake off his association with Disco from Saturday Night Fever although he did briefly with Urban Cowboy; this success only made him more uncool to Generation X and younger Boomers (aka Generation Jones). My brother saw Two, said it was pretty abysmal.

Her 1985 comeback Soul Kiss embodied all the excesses of production for that big-haired decade. Afterwards I wouldn’t say Olivia disappeared, more like she slowly faded away into Adult Contemporary and semi-retirement with a couple more releases in the Eighties and Nineties. Obviously, we all know cancer was another factor in slowing down her ability to keep performing. I am glad she defeated the illness as long as she could.

Thanks for everything Olivia. My previous negative-sounding comments are of my past thoughts. I had a major reconciliation with the Seventies by ignoring FM radio for a long time so I am truly going to miss you, especially those memories of coming home from St. Agnes and finding my mom jamming to Xanadu.

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RIP David McCullough

Sad to hear the passing of David and it was weird to be notified via the mailing list of a publishing company. Normally I find out through Twitter or the newspaper sites. Still a major loss to the world because his biographies on Truman and John Adams weren’t made into musicals filled with bullshit to promote a Royalist.

I did read his opus on Harry Truman in the Nineties, it’s about a thousand pages long and covered the former, accidental president from his pre-birth (a quick background about his grandparents and parents) to a little while after his death. It certainly made Truman seem more successful, less reviled than current History treats him. Pretty scary America elected a person with only a high-school education this late in our existence too; now the Republicans promote clowns whose parents bought them advanced degrees they never came close to earning. For all of Truman’s errors, I think he did the best he could given the circumstances. FDR was a hard act to follow and the greatest president (not St. Reagan) of at least the 20th Century had quite an ego which kept Truman in the dark about what to do should he die suddenly.

With John Adams, I was going to read McCullough’s book but when I discovered he only wrote about a short period of the second president’s life, I chose a different writer since I’ve been trying to take in the whole picture regarding each person whose done the job.

Thanks for everything Mr. McCullough! You may have not been a true Historian yet you did a better job than Ron Chernow.

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Trying a new tactic with Vulture Realtors

Yesterday, I got a handwritten envelope in the mail and these are often sickening religious crap. It was worse, a shit bird realtor asking if I was interested in selling my house of twenty-plus years to a client of his. Yeah…right. Given how small our house is and how much work it needs (as we’re putting into it), he’s probably looking to flip it or rent it out. I seriously doubt some Californicator or Brooklyn Trust Fund Baby wants it.

He stupidly put his phone number on the letter which I should put on the Internet so other middle class residents are warned about this vulture. I called it too. He answered and I told him, “Two million dollars,” and to tell his fellow realtors before they bug me. He should get the hint to screw off, leave us alone and his ilk can have our house with its awesome location over our dead bodies; funny, 10-20 years ago, the location was crap and considered “ghetto.” I really hope this stops the unsolicited phone calls and letters better than the crappy interest rates.

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Charlie Says

I decided to revive this sub-category of movie reviews/discussion for several reasons: I just don’t go to the movie theaters as often due to my need to save money, the theatrical choices remain lame and the Pandemic isn’t really over. With the latter, not enough people are vaccinated thanks to mass-stupidity via Religion, Politics and what’s uniquely Amerikan…willful ignorance is considered a virtue! Covid-19’s latest strain NA 5, I think, may not be as immediately as nasty but it continues to kill people at random. Plus, we continue to have mass gatherings (and I’m guilty of attending a few) so it’s only a matter of time before Covid-19 mutates into a lethal strain.

Enough politics and on to this movie (2018) which flew under the radar before the dark times came…

Charlie Says tells the story of Leslie “Lulu” Van Houten, Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel and Susan “Sadie” Atkins. How they were under Charlie Manson’s spell before they were incarcerated for life and how prison social worker Karlene Faith undid their brainwashing. The latter just got these women to join the larger prison population, they will never regain their freedom despite Van Houten is only guilty of being accessory. Throughout the women’s sessions with Faith, there are flashbacks of Van Houten’s time at “The Ranch” with the Family (the movie is based upon her experience via Faith’s book). Here you can see Matt Smith amazingly channel Manson’s frightening charisma mixed up with crazy Biblical interpretations, nonsensical rants, gross lust and his frustration at becoming a legitimate songwriter/Pop Star. The real Manson was shorter than average yet Smith being about five inches taller could be used to demonstrate how this crazy person projected a larger presence. During the end credits, you will also see the movie got the rights to perform via Smith singing, actual songs he wrote. Holy crap! Manson may have been sick in the head but he was an adequate tunesmith and performer. Still, it was for the best he didn’t help the Beach Boys or Monkees (can’t remember if the legend of him auditioning for them was legitimate). Regarding the Beach Boys, it appropriately paints a negative picture of Dennis Wilson for coming to the Ranch just to get laid.

Over the years, Faith gets the women to stop repeating what Charlie told them to be true and to start thinking for themselves. This leads the trio to experience remorse for their crimes and racism; remember, the murders were supposed to provoke a race war between Black and White Americans. Sadly, the reforms took its toll on Faith; her husband left during those years and the government thought she was wasting their money. I wish Mrs. Faith lived to see her book transformed into this film too.

Overall, Charlie Says is a good counter to Tarantino’s fictionalized and somewhat glorified portrayal of the Manson Family in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. This movie shows how Manson beat down these women’s psyches in order to brainwash them into heinous acts along with how many enablers missed the warning signs.

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Jennifer will have a new car via Carvana soon

Like most American households, we need two vehicles which is shitty for the planet yet represents how crappy life is here. If you don’t have a car at all, you’re a third-class citizen unless you live in NYC, maybe Boston and Philly.

Since Jennifer insisted on having the exact same make and model, our overall experience with the dealership(s) was terrible. If we went to my Toyota/Honda people in Round Rock, I bet it would’ve been pretty good, they’ve treated me well with both Priuses. The objective was to get it for a reasonable price, used or new was fine and the one factor she wouldn’t bend on was the color, blue this time. The dealership kept trying to make her accept a black car so that was the end.

We tried one of the two online methods, Carvana. I’ve seen their commercials on TV and YouTube. I would’ve preferred a different Nissan dealership in order to get a test drive. Jennifer was insistent. After some searching on her phone’s browser, ugh, we found a used 2021 blue Rogue with fewer than 7000 miles. What happened to the original owner, we’ll never know I’m afraid. I am always suspicious of used cars. My parents bought at least one lemon and it was bottomless pit; ergo, you’re buying someone else’s problems. Plus, the friend who brought me to Austin constantly nagged me and insisted I get a used one as well, never mind how often his was busted.

In the end, I still disliked the experience. While I have the better credit rating thanks to our sexist civilization, the rate was the worst I’ve seen since 1996 Fed Rates, Inflation or Whatever. I also don’t like the gun they put to my head on having to accept Autopay. Should you not Carvana automatically grab the money from your checking account, they jack the rate another half point. I wish we could’ve talked to my credit union in Austin before moving forward. However, we needed the car yesterday.

Jennifer’s new Nissan Rogue, in blue, arrives at our house in 12 days. Wish us luck on the biggest purchase we’ve done together to date…and may the inept cops find her missing car so we can get the insurance to start their denials.

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Spotted in Denmark! I’m an energy drink!

I know I put this in the Dutch category yet this was spotted in Denmark, well, my friend Jeremy saw it and he lives in the Netherlands, so it counts as Dutch.

It is odd in how the description underneath the name is in English too. How does it taste? No idea, Jeremy wisely didn’t buy one. If it’s anything like all energy-based drinks, it’s probably awful which it besmirches my college nickname!

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Lucy in Disguise is closing

The news came in last night followed by the new lament in my adopted home…”Welcome to the New Austin.” I don’t disagree with the sentiment. All the great things that made Austin special, great and weird are dying thanks to all the Californicators, Red Texans and/or their broods and Tech Brohs moving here. Inflation is nothing compared to all the shit this unholy trinity has done to rents and property taxes. But after 38 years, the owner is calling it a day and I’m confident the bloated rent on South Congress pushed them out. If I won the lottery, namely the outrageous billion someone in IL landed, I would find a way to keep them going with a new, larger location.

Oh, what is (soon to be was) this place? It’s Austin’s best costume store for rentals or buying; Starting on 8/31, the store’s inventory will be liquidated to the public yet Lucy will keep going until the end of the year, lessening everyone’s panic for Halloween 2022. I have great memories with Lucy and their very helpful staff. They assisted on my legendary 1995 outfit to go as Patsy Stone of Absolutely Fabulous, they had the captain’s hat I needed when I went as Daryl Dragon (Captain of Captain & Tenille), they rented me an excellent wool suit I wore for Alamo’s Clue quote-along since I tried to resemble Professor Plum and we scoured them last year to get the right jacket for Jennifer’s Cyndi Lauper. Best run-on sentence ever!

Lucy was the best solution especially when Costume World on the north side shut down about a decade ago. Will another incredible shop rise from Lucy’s ashes? I sure hope so. Those temporary, pop-up Halloween joints and Amazon “solutions” just don’t cut it. Sometimes you need to go shopping in person to find the right inspiration and assistance from experts.

Meanwhile…another wonderful element of Austin dies as we continue our slow, painful slide into becoming a hybrid of South Dallas, North Houston and Eastern Silicon Valley, complete with douchebags, Suzies and Teslas.

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Bangui achieved!

I’m catching up thanks to my ongoing streak which hit 47 days in a row and I have arrived at the Central African Republic city of Bangui. No idea what it looks like. The first I heard of the place was when I needed to find a destination between Beijing and New Delhi as the distance between those two was formidable; trying to avoid another 1000-mile-plus gap. Those stretches involving LA and Honolulu, blech! Getting only one or two percentage points a day can be a demotivator!

Next up, New Delhi which should take over a month at my 17-miles/day method.

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