Joker (2019)

Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix team for an unconventional comic book movie about a man and a city’s descent into madness. There has been some discussion that this isn’t a comic-book movie, but it undeniably is. It is an origin story.

Arthur Fleck is a devoted son. He lives with his mother, but he is not dependent on her. Rather, he takes care of her, and he does it by working as a clown for hire. His job takes him to various places: for example, a music store going out of business and a children’s hospital. Arthur also suffers from a (real-life) condition, which causes him to laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate times. So much so that he carries a card that can explain it to people when he cannot.

The construction of the story is masterful and subversive, and it requires the audience to think and deduce some of the action going on before them. Phoenix’s performance is nuanced and skilled. It captures some of the cartoon-like nature of The Joker without it being cartoony. In some form, you respect Fleck’s struggle, and then he shocks you with his behavior. In a sense, Fleck has a code, and until the very end of the film, he never violates it.

To tell you more would spoil the experience.

Rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images, Joker is the best comic book film with that rating since Logan.

I highly recommend it.

#MCURewind and How “I” Got to Avengers: Endgame

A shoutout here to Joshua M. Patton, whose writing and social media presence I discovered when serendipity intervened; I used a similar hashtag on Twitter, #MCURewind. I hadn’t intended to use that hashtag when, independent of the rest of the universe, I decided to “countdown” the days to the premiere of Avengers: Endgame. (Apparently. Joshua hadn’t either since the original title of his piece was “MCU Rewatch.”)

With every prior MCU premiere, I had marathoned every previous film beforehand. I have a YouTube playlist (linked below) set up just for that purpose. However, this time around there was sufficient time to plan a one-a-day re-watch of every MCU film to-date. (Hopefully, on 25 April, my local movie theatre is still showing Captain Marvel.)

By way of introduction, Joshua (although anyone reading is welcome to follow along), I’m a 65.5-year-old commentator on the social zeitgeist. (Don’t let that avatar fool you.)

By way of introduction, Joshua (although anyone reading is welcome to follow along), I’m a 65.5-year-old commentator on the social zeitgeist. (Don’t let that avatar fool you.)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the things that got me back in the movie theatre. When Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk first appeared, I was more than content to allow the rest of geekdom to trot out to the theatre while I sat back and consumed the MCU the way I consume most forms of entertainment these days: in the comfort of my own home.

When those movies hit streaming, I purchased them on my Digital HD service of choice — VUDU (an unsolicited, unsponsored blurb) — and watched both movies to see what all the hubbub was about.

To go even a little more in depth, at that time, I had found comic book movies to be a hit-or-miss proposition. Between 1980 — the year Superman IIpremiered — and 2005 (Batman Begins), I had seen little in the realm that pleased me. There were a few exceptions: Michael Keaton’s first turn as Batman (1989) and M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000) which I enjoyed much more than The Sixth Sense. Other attempts such as subsequent Batman-, Superman-, and any Marvel-branded films were left on the wayside and pretty much ignored by me.

Batman Begins, a DC comic-book based movie, was the first to make me take notice. It wasn’t because it was a comic-book film. It was because it was a Christopher Nolan film. Christopher Nolan was the other thing that got me going into movie theatres again.

I consumed my first Nolan film like all other content — at home. Batman Begins was a serious and extraordinary take on the Batman mythology, and I was impressed with how Nolan told the story — so much so that I wanted more. In 2008, as Marvel Studios was gearing up to develop the MCU, Nolan, Warner Brothers and its corporate cousin, DC, produced a second film based on the Batman character, The Dark Knight (2008). I was in the theatre. Those first few moments, which Nolan filmed in IMAX, had me hooked.

As times passed, I consumed everything Nolan: Insomnia (2002); Memento (2000); Following (1998), which has presumably an unintended reference to Nolan’s future work directing Batman movies; and, finally, The Prestige(2006). I was ready for how Nolan was to conclude his trilogy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in SoCal, a producer named Kevin Feige had a plan. Perhaps it was a small plan; maybe it was a grandiose one. That’s a story for another correspondent to tell. For me, however, I hadn’t been consumed by comic-book culture; so Marvel Comics and characters were foreign to me. I had certainly heard of them, but in the framework of Marvel vs. DC, I had always been a DC guy. I had never read more than a few comics, but when I had, they were DC-branded ones. I knew of Marvel and certainly of Spider-Man, but I never much paid attention to them.

When Marvel and Feige decided to produce a slate of films based on their stable of comic-book characters, I was sufficiently intrigued that I decided to watch those first two films on Digital HD. As you mentioned, Joshua, Feige’s decision to use mid- and post-credit scenes in those and subsequent films was important, if not critical. Feige had either learned or intuited what moviemakers of the past had discovered. Those scenes built those individual movies into something akin to the old Saturday matinee serials that our parents and grandparents were exposed to during their lifetimes. It is also the basis of television since its invention until the current day. Give audiences characters and stories that they care about and they’ll keep coming back for more.

By the time Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)rolled around, like Nolan before him, Kevin Feige had me sitting in a dark theatre again. Ever since, I’ve discovered not only numerous Marvel and DC comic-book movies but countless other films that I’ve watched and enjoyed in a movie theatre.

So, Joshua, like you and millions of other movie fans, on April 26th I’ll be sitting in a dark theatre — an IMAX 3D one — preparing myself for, perhaps, the conclusion of the greatest Saturday-matinee movie serial of my lifetime: the Infinity Saga, as you called it. I hope we all enjoy it.

And so it goes.

(Mike’s MCU Playlist)

[Also published on Medium.com]

One Year Later… (Time Approximate)

A lot has happened in the last year.

After my first blog post in January, 2018, I started going to Planet Fitness on a regular basis, bujt that only lasted for a few sessions. My brother developed an abscess under his arm and ended up being hospitalized. The hospital was 45 minutes away and I spent several days commuting back and forth which was enough to break my streak of fitness visits.

Once he came home and a few snowstorms later and the habit was broken. I couldn’t gather myself to get back in the gym.

Around the time of my 65th birthday, I gained medical insurance (in the form of Medicare Advantage) and I began seeing doctors. The primary care physician, who I will call Dr, Kate, diagnosed a number of conditions during our initial visit but was truly alarmed that I appeared to have an irregular heartbeat. It was alarming enough that she scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist that very day.

Six months later, I have seen seven doctors and had thyroid surgery once. Nothing life threatening, but almost all completely related to the excess weight that I’m carrying around. If I don’t want to be bankrupted by America’s wonderful health care system, lifestyle changes are necessary.

Last week, through Medicare Advantage, I joined a gym (insurance paid) and hired a personal trainer (personally paid). The idea behind the trainer is to keep after me and make sure I show up on a regular basis and keep me honest on form and effort.

Meanwhile, I’ve drastically re-worked what I consume for nourishment, I’m not sure whether that’s been completely successful. While I have made gains in certain areas, my body chemistry is, in my opinion, “shot to hell.”

I am more closely watching my measurements, both physical and medical. My mood is good; I want to see where I am when my birthday rolls around in six months. Hopefully, I’ll be more regular recording my activities,

Ciao for now!
Mike

[Originally published on myfitnesspal.com]

SimCity BuildIt returns to its roots

Electronic Arts and their Track Twenty (EA Helsinki) studio has released an updated version of the mobile game that refocuses the game back on city building as opposed to city destruction.  In the latest update, EA/TT has introduced three new regions where players can build new communities and use some of their stored inventory of currency and tchotchkes.

SCBI players have been begging for additional territory for some time now.  Yet, EA/TT added layer upon layer of game mechanics of which each changed the way the game played before.  When SimCity Club Wars was added to the mix, the game entered a period of destroying cities (albeit temporarily) for fun and profit.

The latest iteration somewhat returns the game to its roots: city building.  Players get to choose one of four new regions and build it out with the prospect of eventually opening up all four regions.  Basically, it potentially allows players the ability to build five areas as opposed to one.

There’s still going to be a conflict between players who wants to build cities and those who want to play war using SimCity as a backdrop.

Well, at least now you have a choice.

And so it goes.

A Controversial Condiment

On 11 April 2018, the H.J. Heinz Company, known for its 57 sauces, proposed another one in a public message on Twitter.

I’ll save you from doing the math.
511,880 respondents answered YES, which led to this.

Update: 25 September 2018

Apparently, it’s happening.
Although I haven’t seen it in stores, I have started to see adverts for it.
I made some homemade with Hellmann’s Mayonesa and Hellmann’s Ketchup.
Very tasty.
How it compares to the Kraft Heinz product remains to be seen.

 

In Search Of Raktajino

It all got started with a discussion about Deep Space Nine.

My brother and I were talking about the regular presentations of the various Star Trek series on BBC America. Yet, very seldom do you see any episodes of Deep Space Nine on that channel. However, I subscribe to Netflix and Verizon Fios recently added access to Netflix to its services; so I set up my brother on my Netflix account and showed him how to access DS9 and that should have been that.

However, it’s been a while since I’ve watched DS9 myself and it got me thinking about Raktajino. or simply put, Klingon coffee. While not as rabid a Trekkie (or is it Trekker‽) as some, I have my moments when I get engaged with a topic and won’t let it go. So it was with raktajino.

Like the deconstruction of the Klingon language, you just know some enterprising person had come up with a recipe for Klingon coffee as well. So, I called upon my trusted friend, Google Assistant, to direct me to a recipe.

Mikeylito: Hey, Google! Recipe for raktajino.
Assistant: Here are some results from the web.

There were recipes for an alcoholic beverage which I’m anxious to try and a couple of convoluted non-alcoholic ones which are spicy equivalents to a Dunkin Donuts Dunkaccino.

One correspondent, pen name Siderite, has an entire blog post, The Quest for Raktajino, where he explores the chemistry of creating a recipe. Another young lady, pen name MommaTrek, has another blog post, also titled The Quest for Raktajino, that has the two predominant recipes found on the web for this coffee/cocoa hybrid.

Oddly enough, the most bland description of raktajino comes from “The Star Trek Cookbook” (ISBN:0671000225). In it, the authors, Ethan Philips (a/k/a “Neelix”) and William J. Birnes, describe the beverage essentially as an aged java mixed with “dark French roast or Italian espresso beans that you grind yourself.” What?

After all this investigation, I have devised my own recipes for the non-alcoholic variety and they are presented elsewhere on this site but are basically similar versions of the coffee and cocoa combination. They are dubbed Raktajino Dark and Raktajino Light. They are works-in-progress. The recipes may be updated depending on how adventurous I get in the future.

And so it goes.

Beverage: None

The Meaning of Life

It is the ultimate existential question.
What is the meaning of life?

Life is a near-infinite series of choices, decisions.

You can choose either A or B and once the decision is made, you can’t really know what the outcome of the other choice would have been at the time you chose.

Life is serendipity.

As you experience it, you never really know what awaits you around that next corner and how that thing awaiting you will affect your choices and decisions in the future.

Life is destiny, happenstance.
It all depends on your outlook.

In the past, my blog was titled One Man’s Eye View and it was my perspective on various topics and events of the day. That chapter is over now.

Going forward, the blog will be known as Coffee Grounds.
It will still be a distilled look at life albeit filtered by a cup of coffee.

It took many years to come to some acceptance of my state.
I’m fascinated by the world around me and at events as they unfold. Things that were important to me in the past hold no meaning. Things that were irrelevant are now imperative.

You can read or not read; it doesn’t matter.
You can agree or disagree; that’s likewise immaterial.
The purpose here is to expound on the circumstances of life.
With any luck, the meaning will become clearer.

And so it goes.

Beverage:     Raktajino Dark

“No Excuses” Day

Planet Fitness, Bay Shore NY

I have tried to start a meal plan and exercise program so many times before, but as I approach my 65th birthday, I think it’s imperative to get in the best possible shape in order to reduce expenses and remain healthy.

So, as 2018 dawned, a piece of junk mail arrived and motivated me to join a gym. I have not had a regular gym membership since the 1980s. I’m twice the age I was then. I think back on that time and I know from that experience that if I stay focused, I can achieve the healthy and active lifestyle I desire to have.

So, I’ve bought a pair of new cross-training shoes, a couple of basketball shorts and a gym membership to a dubious outfit named Planet Fitness. Dubious because it feeds its members pizza and bagels. However, I look at that as an exercise in self-control. Nobody is forcing me to eat pizza and bagels at the gym… at least, not that I’m aware of,

So, today, Tuesday, 16 January 2018, is “No Excuses” Day.
I have 75 cents for the bus, a new backpack, a bottle of water and a new winter coat. There’s nothing keeping me from going to the gym except procrastination.

Stay tuned.

Ciao for now!
Mike

[Originally published on myfitnesspal.com]