And now for something different…

Made it through the Fourth of July and Panda Bear’s wedding (without killing anyone or anything).  We swore after the hectic pace of the last few days that once the wedding was done we were going to go home, lock the doors, unplug the phones, get into comfortable clothes, and do absolutely nothing the rest of the day except be as lazy as possible (except to go out for half-price shakes after 8 at Sonic).  Which we are doing to the fullest.

In the meantime we came across a couple of Star Trek movies, which we’re currently enjoying.  That reminded me that some years back, I did a homegrown review of all the Star Trek movies made, excepting the reboots (which only the first one was out at the time), to be used as blog filler at a later date.  I’ve decided, almost five years later, that the date is now.  So, for the reading pleasure for any Trekkies out there, here is Dave’s unofficial reviews of the Star Trek movie franchise (minus the reboots).

Let me start by separating out the four Trek movies that IMHO stand separate from the rest, in terms of being very good or very bad.

The best – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Almost indisputably the best.  I only say almost, because there will always be someone who resonates a little better with one of the others.  But seriously, this is close to perfection.  They took an old storyline from the old series, breathed new life into it, and turned it into the most dramatic, entertaining, and watchable Trek movie ever made.  Khan was a joy to watch, and will always be the best villain the series ever had.  The battle sequences between Enterprise and Reliant were first rate.  Those earworms really made me squirm.  And was there a dry eye in the house at Spock’s funeral, especially when they played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes?  Waaaahhh!!!  This movie set a standard for the Trek franchise that’s been very difficult to attain, let alone succeed.

The worst – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The polar opposite of The Wrath of Khan.  Terrible in all respects.  Started with a weak premise and went roaring downhill from there.  Most unforgivable of all, the special effects were horrendous, particularly of the Enterprise firing her weapons.  I actually found myself getting bored fifteen minutes into the movie.  Only two good things came from this movie – the fact that Paramount didn’t want to end the series (as far as the old cast goes) on such a weak note so they came out with a far superior successor, and the classic Kirk line, “What does God need with a starship?”  To get as far away from this wretched mess as possible.  Why else?

Above average – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

This movie likely wouldn’t have been made, had it not been for the awfulness of its predecessor.  But this one came up with a very good plotline, closely paralleling the relationship between the U.S. and the USSR at the time, and executed it brilliantly.  The tentative warming of relations between the Federation and the Klingons was something that was carried on and expanded on later in the Star Trek world.  Some good battle scenes at the end, and excellent acting by the whole cast.  I particularly liked Kim Cattrall as Valeris.  BTW, does anybody remember the movie Porky’s?  She was the one that played Lassie, the cheerleader who had screaming orgasms in the boy’s locker room.  Yes, I know I’m a terrible, gutter-minded person.  Couldn’t resist sharing, however.  Anyway, the only one I believe that came anywhere close to the excellence of The Wrath Of Khan.

Below average – Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The one thing that saved this movie from being ranked down there with The Final Frontier was that the special effects were admittedly spectacular, particularly back in 1979.  And it was truly refreshing to see the changes and upgrades made to the Enterprise and Starfleet since the old series.  Trouble is, that’s all there was to this movie.  Lots and lots of eye candy, but very little plot and an excruciatingly slow pace following an already overlong runtime.  Can’t watch this before bedtime or after a large meal, I’m guaranteed to fall asleep.  But this movie did have one thing that you’ll have trouble finding anywhere else in the Trek genre – a transporter malfunction that scrambles its hapless transportees.  Though not much was shown, the misshapen silhouette in the transporters and the agonized screeches of pain, followed by the Starfleet transmission, “Enterprise…What we got back…didn’t live long…fortunately” creeped me out then and still does to this day.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Insurrection
Star Trek: Nemesis

It’s real hard for me to categorize the other movies.  Dumping them all into an “average” category really isn’t fair, because a few of these are quite good on their own terms, and some of them are just as seriously flawed.  They just didn’t stand out for me as much as the other four, so I’ll try to evaluate them on their own merits.  One thing I will say is regardless of their qualities or deficiencies, all are very watchable and will gain my attention whenever I have the TV remote and time to relax in front of the tube.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

There really wasn’t anything seriously wrong with this movie.  Good plot, good script, good acting, and decent effects.  The only problem I had was that it was so difficult to follow in the footsteps of the excellence of The Wrath of Khan.  Yet this movie really tried hard to do so, and succeeded on more counts than such followups are often able to do.  We even got to see Uhura do a little more than her standard “Hailing frequencies open, Captain” lines.  I really missed Kirstie Alley as Saavik, though (who in a million years would believe that Kirstie Alley once played a Vulcan?).  Also I thought Kirk overacted his son’s death.  Otherwise, quite enjoyable.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Many seem to rank this as the second best of the whole series, at least of the Trek movies featuring the original cast.  And it probably is one of the more fun movies to watch, as far as sheer entertainment goes.  Yet this movie potentially could’ve been as much of a bomb as the one immediately following it.  Just look at the plot: The crew must travel back in time to get a couple of humpback whales to put in the ocean so the alien starship doesn’t destroy the whole planet Earth.  C’mon, sounds like the whole script was a collaboration between Greenpeace and the Sierra Club!  Please.  And I long ago quit being a big fan of time travel – it’s a badly overused script device, a deux ex machina, and it opens up too many plot and continuity holes.  Yet despite these potentially fatal flaws, excellent acting and directing made it all work, and work surprisingly well.  And if you can make a movie truly fun to watch, much else can be overlooked.

Star Trek: Generations

I gotta admit, I’m going to be a little more biased with this review.  (Actually, I’m biased with all my reviews.  After all, this is my blog and these are my thoughts.)  But I have more of an emotional connection with this movie than I do with any of the others.  I just was really able to resonate with the idea of the Nexus, a place where you could allow yourself to be forever consumed by joy.  At the time this movie was released, my life was at a crossroads and I had some life-altering decisions to make, and this movie contributed to tipping the balance in the direction to where I currently am, for better or worse.  Personal stuff aside, this movie had good and not so good to it.  I liked the plot premise (particularly the Nexus) and the old crew (what there was of them) compared and contrasted with the new.  And the NG crew held their own well in the acting department, particularly Picard.  His grief over his family losses seemed much more real and better acted than Kirk’s did back in The Search For Spock.  Yet the movie almost had a rushed quality to it, as if they had to cut out and condense a lot to meet screening deadlines.  I also thought that the scenes between Kirk and Picard could’ve been done far better.  But overall, despite some glaring flaws, one of my personal favorites.

Star Trek: First Contact

This turned out to be what likely was the best of the Trek movies with the NG cast.  Despite once again having to resort to the dreaded time travel plot device, this movie was done well enough to overcome any potential weaknesses.  The cast was again superb, the Enterprise –E  looked great, nice effects, and the sequences of the crew hunting the Borg and vice versa was reminiscent of the old George Romero zombie movies.  And they did a really good job with the Borg queen.  Complaints?  The hokey scene at the very end of the movie, after the Borg queen is defeated and the “space mission” is successful in attracting the attention of the Vulcans.  What do we get?  A spaceship landing, with a crowd watching, and a Vulcan steps off the ship, shows the familiar Vulcan hand sign, and states, “Live long and prosper.”  Sheesh.  Couldn’t they have done a little better than that?

Star Trek: Insurrection

Now we’re starting to slide into mediocrity.  This was not a terrible movie, not really even a bad one.  As usual, the NG crew keeps up a fine performance, and the storyline was decent and believable.  But for some reason this was lacking the “wow!” factor that most of the other movies had.  I just have trouble remembering any moment in the movie that really was able to hook me, to get an emotional reaction out of me, a “whoa” or “aha!” moment.  And I realize this is technical nitpicking, but I had a problem with the Enterprise flying into battle at the climactic end of the movie, phasers blasting, after she had dumped her warp core.  After watching most of the Star Trek series, I have a hard time believing that a starship, or any ship for that matter, would have the necessary power for anything other than limited movement and basic life support after jettisoning their main source of power.  Just didn’t make sense to me.  Overall, still quite watchable, but somewhat forgettable at the same time.

Star Trek: Nemesis

This movie seems to be a classic example of trying to do too much, and either overdoing it or not doing enough.  Have to admit I liked the battle sequences late in the movie between the Scimitar and the Enterprise, with some help from the Romulans.  And I never tire of watching the NG crew, especially Picard and his acting.  But I never could quite get into the whole B4 subplot thing, and never fully understood the whole story behind Romulus and Remus and how they fit in with the plot.  This movie bombed at the box office, and is critically considered as one of the worst of the Trek movie establishment.  I was entertained enough by the movie to think better of it, but it definitely had flaws.  Perhaps the real problem was at the time the whole Star Trek franchise was becoming stale, and people expected a lot more out of a film that tried to do so much, yet fell short on too many levels.  But it held its own with me as far as sheer entertainment value goes, and that’s what keeps me from ranking it lower.  As long as a movie is fun to watch I’ll never write it off completely.

If there are any Trek fans out there amongst the masses of chirping crickets, feel free to offer your thoughts.

Automotive purgatory

Great.

Just great.

My last functional vehicle, my faithful but worn-out Bonneville, may be terminal at last.

Heard a loud banging noise coming from outside while in the kitchen.  When I opened the door Yes Dear was pulling up in the carport.  Said banging was coming from under the hood.  Which, of course, disappeared when she shut the car off.

Can you say rod, piston, or bearing?  ‘Cause that’s sure what it sounds like.

On a 19-year-old vehicle with over 250,000 miles on it, worn inside and out, worth maybe $200.

The only other vehicle we own is the minivan with the blown transmission awaiting another $600 to (hopefully) repair.

We do have limited use of my father-in-law’s truck.  But relations with that side of the family are strained, to say the least, and we can’t rely on that every day.  Or even a few times a week.

So we got in our house two people working, one looking, and anywhere from 3-4 kids to look after during the week.  And probably no vehicle.

And no hope for extra income.  Not without a job, which btw requires a vehicle.

Dammit.

UPDATE: Mounting evidence (via friends, online, and Youtube) that it may be the harmonic balancer.  Good news is if so, it’s a fixable problem and the car’s not terminal (yet, anyways).  Bad news is it’s approximately a $100 part, right at the end of the month when I got to pay rent, so car still may sit for a couple weeks.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Fixed, $65 later.  It was the harmonic balancer, old one was shot.  Found a used one at a junkyard and had to buy and borrow some additional tools to take the old one off and put the new one on, but finally got it done.  Car doesn’t run fantastic (it didn’t before anyway) but it gets around and banging sound is gone.

The Face Of A Narcissistic Murderer

The Santa Barbara killer, for all those who would behold:

shithead

(sorry Chet)

Fuck that useless, worthless piece of rancid dog shit to eternity and beyond.  Here’s what I think of you and all you other losers who would consider doing such a thing.  So useless you couldn’t get laid in a barnyard full of comatose animals.  You’re a disgrace to every living being on the planet, and especially the parents that had the misfortune to give birth to you.  The only good thing about you is you’re no longer around taking up space or breathing the air of people more worthy of life than you.  I feel dirty even giving your ilk this kind of attention.

Too bad the media wouldn’t echo this sentiment.  Take the so-called glory out of these acts.

Now I need to repent for my un-Christianlike thoughts and language, especially on a Sunday.  But, damn, I’m getting sick of these losers taking out their issues on innocents because they’re mad at the world.

That is all.

Telephony

My phones, both the home and (prepaid) cell, do not rule my life.

I have never been much of a phone talker (except with a few select family members), and I shy away from situations that require talking to someone on the phone.

And, of course, I very rarely answer the phone, unless it’s someone I know and I’m not busy at the moment, or I’m expecting an important call (employment?).  Everyone else, if it’s important, can leave a message.  If your number is from an area code I don’t recognize, or a toll free number, or especially comes up as “unknown”, then chances are I will dismiss you as a bill collector, telemarketer, or scammer, unless they leave a message proving to me otherwise. And if I have a brain fart and pick up on one of the aforementioned, be prepared to be rudely hung up on.

Oh, and I never, ever converse with bill collectors.  Ever. At all. Nada.  If the debt is legit and I’m in a position to pay it up, I will talk to the original debtor for settlement.  Everyone else can eat voice mail.

This phone-shyness of mine probably comes from my insecurity.  I like to be able to think about what I’m going to say before I say it, and talking with someone on the phone without any inkling as to the nature of their business leaves me with no opportunity to prepare.  If I’m forced to call someone for whatever reason, I like to rehearse in my head what I’m going to say so I don’t come off as sounding (in my head) like a complete idiot.

Needless to say, there are times where I have to overcome my phone issues, bite the bullet, and make phone calls for pressing business or personal reasons, or emergencies.  But if I don’t absolutely have to, I stay away from talking on the phone.  And for those of you that wonder about texting, I’m a little better at that especially for the convenience (you can think about your text before composing and sending it), but I don’t like to idly chit-chat via text, I’d much rather do that in person.

Having said all of that, I do like to keep at least a prepaid cellphone handy because communication with the rest of the family is essential when we are all running in different directions.  But I don’t let it rule me, or become an electronic leash.

I do wish Yes Dear felt the same way.  At least as far as unknown numbers calling the house goes.

The past year we’ve experienced waves of the home phone ringing at all hours of the day, all day long.  Probably only about 10% of the calls were legitimately from someone we were interested (or needed) to talk to.  The rest of the numbers I would log in a notepad file, google them, and make a notation as to their source (if I could find it) and how many times they called.  The ones that called the most often got blocked (I can only block 10 numbers at a time).  When I got to ten numbers blocked, I would only add new ones if they were particularly obnoxious (like calling 3x a day) and I’d take the oldest number off the list.  Usually they were on the list long enough to get the message (at least to the robocallers) that their calls weren’t welcome and would not be answered, and I wouldn’t hear from them again.  A few likely switched to different numbers (or started spoofing), but the net result was that such calls dropped dramatically the past few months.

Until recently.

Yes Dear, unfortunately, doesn’t share my views so far as caller ID and unknown callers go.  Despite the evidence I’ve been logging that virtually every unidentified number from a different area code or toll free is someone we don’t want or need to talk to, she’s lately been picking up the phone almost every time.  And almost every time she gets absolutely nothing, a computer, or an obnoxious bill collector or telemarketer.  Worse yet, she’ll actually start to converse with the last two, despite the fact that all is accomplished is a lot of wasted time and irritation.  Guess part of the problem is she’s too polite sometimes, which really isn’t a bad thing, especially since she’s worked extensively with customer service.  But I have no problem being the asshole that hangs up the phone because he doesn’t want to hear your scripted spiel or be subjected to your Jedi mind tricks.

Of course, this just confirms to both the bots and humans that someone worthy of bothering lives at the other end of our phone number, which negates my previous efforts to encourage them to go away, so I have to start the process over again.  Real tempted to see if a phone service exists that operates on an opt-in basis, where everything automatically goes to voice mail unless authorized by me.

Oh yeah, and the above goes double for cell phones, where my pre-paid minutes are valuable.  Of course I’m even pickier about who gets my cellphone number, and I resent those websites and services that keep asking for your cell # as extra security backup (helloooo Facebook?)  I will though grant an exception to services that text severe weather warnings to your phone, those came in handy the other evening.

Antisocial?   A little.  At least until I get to know you better, or you have the courtesy to leave me a message.

 

Brain Dump 4/30/2014 (The Singing Crickets Edition)

The blog muse has not been with me lately.

Some of it is due to the fact I have a full house and few opportunities for quiet private time where I can organize my thoughts into anything coherent.

A good bit of it is due to sheer, unemployment-induced laziness.

And a fair bit of it is that I’m just not big on blogging anymore, and it seems that way with a lot of people, particularly my regular readers.  I don’t have any real plans to fold up shop here right now, but for a while it’s going to be on a take-it-as-it-comes basis.  If I have something I really want to say that is able to make it onto my laptop I’ll blog about it.  Otherwise, I won’t force it or decorate up with empty fluff.

The interesting part is that I do have a few things kicking around in my head, just not quite to the point where it escapes onto the blog.  Yet.

Some of that indeed can be blamed on laziness.

But at the very least I’ll give a little primer on what is in my head right now, and other current happs in my life.  At least until the rest of the household leaves and sticks me with babysitting the kids for the evening.

-  June Bug and CJ are still with us, and will be for the indefinite future, at least until she saves up enough money to move out on her own (a while down the road).  She went on an ill-advised date with a coworker a few weeks ago and ended up with a $500 citation for being a passenger with an open container in a vehicle in a local park after hours.  She claims to have realized her mistake in dating too soon after leaving her prior relationship, but it’s disturbing how easily she goes back to old habits that led her down the path to all her previous problems. *sigh*  At least there’s been no contact recently with the baby daddy, hopefully he stays out of the picture for a good long while.

- Grandson CJ is absolutely adorable, but a handful at times.  Yes Dear & I have tamed him quite a bit when he is with us and June Bug is working, but he knows how to push all his momma’s buttons.  And as tempted as we are to step in we have to let her learn to parent, because what is she going to do out on her own with no backup?  One major exception – hitting your mother in my presence.  Big-time violation of one of Dave’s prime directives.  Did not end well for him at all, and he has since learned the error of his ways.  Not. Happening. In. My. House.  Dirpa (his name for me) ain’t kidding.

- Employment situation is still meh.  Interviews are hard to come by, and the few that I have gone on haven’t gone anywhere.  At least two of them the positions were put on hold after my interview.  Do have a contact working at a large and good-paying employer in town trying to get my name to the top of their list for an interview, so we’ll see.  Part-timing doing crappy temp work to supplement my unemployment, which’ll be mostly gone after a couple more months.  Both daughters here are working and paying rent so that helps.  But I really need to get out of the house.

- Car situation is making it really tricky to do anything.  One car that is wearing out fast (my Bonneville) and having to run people all over town sometimes makes it a zero-sum game for me to work, after you add in gas and wear-and-tear costs on the car.  Tranny for the Windstar will cost $1500, and we only have slightly over half that figure saved at this point.  Fair possibility that daughter PBJ will be getting her grandpa’s truck in the next couple months and that will help, but we’ll watch that bridge burn when we get to it.

- Eldest daughter Panda Bear getting married in July.  So far looks like they are working out okay and hopefully it’ll stay that way.  Fiance seems to do really well with grandkids, but I was pretty confident he would.  Nephew Mark was asking me what he should call me, since technically the new marital status would make him another grandchild, and I told him he could call me anything he wanted (within reason), or just call me what he always has.  He’s already calling Panda Bear Mom, which makes me uncomfortable in some ways, but given the family history is understandable, and not really my place to say anything.  (For recent readers who may be totally confused about the dynamics of the aforementioned relationship, read here for a little clarification).

- Getting a work crew together from church this Saturday to go help clean up the storm damage from Sunday’s tornado, which hit about 45mi E of here.  At one point in time we were sandwiched in between two tornado warnings, but both passed by without dropping anything.  Good thing, because our current domicile doesn’t have a lot in the way of safe rooms or hallways, and would never survive a direct hit from anything stronger than an EF1.

- Lots of news items I would like to comment on, but too many of them downright depressing, if not making me want to hurl my laptop across the room.  For starters, what is it with the recent rash of cowardly ship captains that leave their passengers to die while they jump (or fall) into lifeboats?  Another one that disturbs me (at the risk of offending a few readers) is the recent push to totally legalize marijuana everywhere.  Just to be clear, I have no issue with someone smoking a doobie in the privacy of their own home or backyard, or certainly not with someone partaking to ease the pain of chronic or terminal illness.  But I fear that we are about to open a Pandora’s box of unforeseen and negative consequences.  More on that in a future post, sometime.

About all for now.  Maybe I’ll post in more detail in the near future.  Then again, maybe I won’t.  We’ll see.

Weak

Being weak is not unfamiliar to me.

I’m not talking so much physically (even though I’ve never really been a muscular powerhouse) as I am emotionally and spiritually.

I’ve been weak more times in my life than I care to admit. I let myself be pushed around and beaten down by bullies when I was younger. I had a major insecurity problem and tended to wear my emotions on my sleeve, which was a big fat bullseye during my school years, particularly middle school. I’ve always had problems with my self esteem. I’ve been guilty countless times of losing my resolve to commit to a particular course of action. I dread difficult decisions. I shy away from confrontation. I’ve battled with, and sometimes still do, unhealthy habits that can potentially break me spiritually.

And yet, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to develop somewhat of a shell, or at least a thicker skin. I’m caring less and less what others think of me, outside of the ones I love and love me. I’m better at taking criticism and applying it positively to myself. I’m better at dealing with assholes with a shrug and a “whatever”. I’m not afraid to seek out help when I need it, whether it be for small things or for major issues. I try very hard to keep the big picture in focus, and not be derailed by smaller distractions. I’m a lot better at overcoming failures rather than letting them overcome me.

It’s taken me over forty years, and at times I still struggle, but I’m a lot stronger person than I used to be.

Now if only my daughter June Bug could reach that point. Quickly.

She puts on a façade of a tough outer shell, but she’s easy to crack. She started a job a week ago which is a fantastic opportunity around here for a single mom trying to get on her feet, but according to her some rude coworkers are trying to break her. Yes Dear & I try to cheerlead for her as much as we can, but we can’t go to her work and experience what she is experiencing. We can’t tell how much of the problem is her work environment and how much of it is her inability to stick it out. She’s talking about switching shifts to nights where she would have much less responsibility, but I’m not convinced that her problems wouldn’t follow her to that shift as well. Not to mention it’ll be problematic keeping CJ and his separation anxiety away from her during the day while she sleeps.

She also says that she has issues dealing with people her own age, that she does better with people older than her. Probably because many of her peers are involved in the same kind of habits (partying, drinking, drugs) that she’s trying to stay away from. But it’s hard making it through life without friends, even when they may be bad for you.

And then there is the narcissistic Baby Daddy. Whom we discovered she contacted a few times last week, despite our strident warnings not to, because he’s exactly the type of person that can and will prey on her weaknesses.

Though she swears she now sees her mistake, we’re afraid she’s following her usual pattern of being wishy-washy. That she doesn’t have the strength to make the hard decisions for her own good and CJ’s, that she will always take the path of least resistance, even when she can see it leading her back to hell. That she will return to the habits that got her into trouble in the first place. That she will always make excuses to get out of doing the right thing, even when it’s the only thing.

We’re afraid. Very afraid. That we’ll have to make tough decisions of our own that involves cutting her loose and letting her sink, because we can’t afford to let her actions disrupt our family.

Or harm CJ.

And that’s a route that we pray that we don’t have to take again.

It’s not like she doesn’t have many options. There are numerous things that can be done, resources available, that can help her get on her feet and keep her and CJ safe. We have lots of people willing to help and provide us with such resources. Yet not one of them is going to matter worth a damn if she continues to be weak. And pretty soon, she’ll find herself without any of these resources, without any of these options. Where all the decisions, for better or worse, will be made for her and she will no longer have any say or control over her life or CJ’s.

We can only encourage her so much. We can practice toughlove only so much. The ball is now in her court, and it’s up to her to score with it or fumble it.

But she’s weak. And she knows she’s weak. And we don’t know how to get her to overcome and push through it.

 

 

Preface to the next post

I normally don’t do teasers like this, but my next post will be something I’d really like to share with my trusted blogfriends, but because of security reasons which will soon become obvious, the post will be locked.  If you care for the password, email me and if you’ve been around long enough (most of you know who you are) I have no problem giving it to you.  For those already in the know, the password will be the same as it’s always been.  My email should be found in my About Me post (I think).

But for anyone who’s been following lately, I’ll part with this bit of information:

My daughter June Bug and grandson CJ are now safe with us.  Thank every last one of you for your prayers and happy thoughts.  Because, believe me, we needed every last one of them.

That’s all for now.