Return to Atheism

I’ve attempted (successfully) to avoid writing about subjects like this (in this blog) over the last several years. I’ve wanted to keep things more light-hearted and not dive into the heavier more debated subjects I used to drown this site in. Keeping mostly to my various feelings on physical media formats and technology. Maybe I should have stayed with those subjects. I even wrote an entry five years ago, about a half of a month shy of exactly five years ago in fact (October 17th, 2016). An entry where I discussed my thoughts on big issues, or rather, my thoughts on thinking about big issues too much. I was beginning to feel it was a waste of my time. That my time was better spent focused on things that directly affect my own life and things I can control. Things I can work on. But as of my last entry about death and the afterlife, I seem to have broke the trend of writing about these deeper subjects. The truth is though, I never stopped thinking about them. Or even in some cases writing or vlogging about them. In fact I’ve been doing a lot of vlogging (both pubic and mostly private) over the last year. A certain percentage of it has been about these big ticket subjects. So it seems I can’t escape that type of thinking. And the last two years especially has been difficult on me. To the point where I have questioned these things, multiple times.

I’d rather not get too personal here, despite this being my personal blog, where I have gotten plenty personal in the past. But one of the things that has changed about me over the last five or so years, is my distrust of the internet. And it’s not without merit. Social media has turned into nothing but a big info grab. Not that it hadn’t already been an info grab. But it feels like it has gotten worse. It seems lately my facebook feed, for example, has turned into nothing but veiled phishing questions. Which all of my friends seem happy to answer. Things like showing an image with a grid of celebrities that have a month under their photo and the question “the month you were born is the person you’ll marry” and “characters from the last TV show watched are the people who will save you from…” some disaster. It’s made me much more aware of the fact that everything put online is harvestable. That there are large servers somewhere, possibly all over the place, chunking away, processing this data for various reasons. Most of which I probably am not all that cool with. So I’ve tried to be more reserved with what I have to say. Less of the open-book than I used to be. Though I’m afraid that my previous state of open-book policy may have already given most away. In which case I’m being cautious for nothing other than my own illusions. But oh well. I don’t know that for sure.

That said, let’s get a bit personal without getting too personal.

As I mentioned the last couple years have been a trying ordeal for me. Really you could say that’s true of my whole adult life, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that claim. But the last three years in particular and the last two especially have been difficult. As of last year, I began to reevaluate my position on religion.
It all started with Judaism. I began watching videos and reading texts that looked at the bible from a Jewish perspective.
As someone who was raised casually Catholic, it was interesting to see more of a Jewish perspective. Not for the first time, but certainly more in-depth than I had before.
Somehow or another I stumbled into something I never had before, evangelical Christianity. Which is a strange thing to say, being an American and having had plenty of discussions with Christians online over the years. So maybe I’m being a bit vague, what I really mean to say is, I stumbled onto certain evangelical beliefs I had not really examined before. Combined that with a reading of Bart Ehrman’s Heaven and Hell and I was into an interesting mix of things. But it all got me thinking about Christianity again, and the rough state that I was in, got me praying. I think for the first time in my life I actually pushed to make Christ part of Christianity. Growing up I had believed in God but always seemed to have issues with this Jesus figure who I was fascinated by, but I had a hard time worshipping. I would always look around at other Christians and wonder if they worshipped Christ because they just had a hard time with a disembodied godhead. Maybe they needed something they could paint pictures of or carve into stone. It always felt a bit idolic to me. Like Jesus existed to appease the masses of non-Jews who needed something more human to believe in. Maybe that was the case. I don’t know. But it seems to me that Christianity does have a pagan streak in there, in regards to influence; so I wouldn’t be surprised.

Even so, I persisted and attempted to make Christ part of Christianity for me. And in doing so also attempted to make myself Christian. But at some point I realized it was only making things worse for me. It wasn’t helping my state of being at the time. It was just causing me more stress. Which didn’t seem right. So instead I took a step back. A breather if you will. I then looked around and I asked myself one simple question. The question was “have you ever had any supernatural experiences?” What I meant when I asked myself that question was, have I ever felt the presence of God, been spoken to by God or Jesus or angels or demons or ghosts or anything really? I was even willing to throw bigfoot and aliens into the mix just to give it all a more material fighting chance. But the answer to all the above was no. I had not. In all of my decades of existence there has never been anything that I have personally experienced that would lead me to believe that anything supernatural exists at all. Just stories I’ve heard, read, and watched, with a great deal of fascination a lot of times, and yet nothing personally I can attest to.

I started thinking about what made me go back to a more generalized belief in God after my first round with atheism in my late twenties. It was really hope more than anything. I had been feeling vapid with a lack of belief. I wanted to believe in something higher. And to be fair to myself, I hadn’t exactly abandoned that entire train of thought during my first round of atheism. I still had a sense that there was order in the world. I hadn’t thought too deeply about fate or meaning or purpose.
My first round was more of a shedding of religion itself. At a certain point I began to feel like maybe I had thrown the baby out with the bathwater. That maybe I needed to reexamine my belief in God, but without religion. Convinced that maybe the coincidences that happened in my life that didn’t seem purely coincidental, were the result of some intelligent structure. After all, we’re here and we’re intelligent, maybe the universe is as well or maybe there is something far greater than us we just can’t understand. That maybe there was a God but there were no further details, so everyone had been filling in those details with their own beliefs (and agendas) over the millennia.
So I spent the next decade believing in a sort of formless God. At first it started a bit more deistic. The kind of God that formed the universe and then stepped back and maybe didn’t even interact or only every so often. Over time I realized I took a more generically theistic approach to this God. That maybe it was there and was loving and listened to my plight. Or maybe that’s just what I needed it to be at the time. Either way, it all reached a summit last year where I attempted to be a Christian again.

After answering this simple question I had asked myself, I quickly realized I was an atheist again. Full on. Even more so than I had been in my late twenties. Because this time I realized that without any higher order, there wasn’t any real purpose or meaning to anything other than the purpose and meaning we give things. I had been holding on to a shred of hope that my struggles had some greater purpose or meaning. Like a lesson I was being taught or a fee I was paying for a better tomorrow. Or something like that. But for any of that to be the case there needs to be a greater structure in place with an intelligence behind it and a desire to make that happen. Yet I wasn’t seeing any evidence of any of that. I had never seen any evidence of any of that. Instead I was simply told stories my entire life about God and Jesus and all these people that lived a long time ago with all these miraculous things that happened to them and conversations they had with God. I was indoctrinated into the religion of hope, where the belief was that things would work out and get better and there was a reason for all of it, and God never gave you anything you couldn’t handle. That last one in particular is a humdinger, because of course, if you live they’ll claim God gave you something you can handle. Nobody ever talks about the fact that people die, and guess what, whatever killed them is something they couldn’t handle. So it’s really just a way of trying to make you feel better in the moment. All of those sayings and beliefs are. The reality is, it’s not always going to work out. It’s not always going to get better. There is no set plan. There is no reward for our suffering.

Do I have any proof to back up those last statements? Nope. And boy would I love to be wrong about them. But I haven’t seen any evidence to show that we’re being cared for and that our  best interest is in the mind and actions of some loving deity. I need not look further than my personal life and the things I’ve suffered with for the last twenty years. And while I realize I’m not the worst case scenario among humans, let alone any living things, it’s still real to me. I look at the lives of people around me, I know they also have issues and those issues are a struggle for them. But I see the things they can do that I can’t, and I realize that in many ways they are in a better position than I am. They can drive across town and have a meal in a restaurant. I cannot. There was a time in my life I could, but not now. Not for the last couple of years. As just one small not-all-that-important example. And yet still, kind of important to me since I can’t do it. So for others it may seem silly and not all that important, but it matters to me. And for a loving God, something as simple as that seems like it would be easy to solve, or at the very least would have some kind of purpose that would later become known and hopefully be resolved.

Now of course there are always the religious types who like to walk in with their smug resilience about God and all his mysterious ways. The greatest of which is his own existence. One would think that an all-knowing, all-power deity would be able to step into each person’s individual life and plainly, without doubt of it being God, present himself (itself, whatever) to each of us and say something like “Hey I’m God and I want to have a personal relationship with you. Are you willing?” To which the answer would be yes on my part. Though it would come with a boat-load of questions.
And yet that hasn’t happened. In fact the only thing remotely close was a dream I had after sex with my girlfriend when I was nineteen. I saw a sphere, and realized it was God. As my vision pulled out it was surrounded by a multitude of other spheres just like it. The message imparted was that God was just like everyone else. But it was just a dream and I was kind of into the movie Sphere starring Dustin Hoffman which had just come out at the time. Nothing about it rang of Christianity. In fact it was the exact opposite. It was telling me that God was not a deity on a throne but instead just like everyone else.

Now I’m sure that there might be some of you of a more religious bent who will cling to that vision and say “See! see! That was God trying to communicate with you and you’re just being obstinate.” But if that is God’s method of communication, a vague vision in a dream with a humble but strange message, it’s a poor method of communication. Especially for the often spoke of all-knowing, all-powerful creator of our reality. And it was tried only once, twenty-plus years ago, without anything since. I think if God knows me as much as people like to claim, he also knows the kind of communication that would be needed to convince me. So either he’s there and doesn’t care, doesn’t like me, or isn’t there. And if he’s testing me, well maybe I failed. Kind of hard to pass a test you don’t even know you’re taking.

That’s really the point. In the end I have no evidence in my personal life to claim there is a God or gods or anything supernatural. Let alone a specific deity from a specific faith like Christianity. A faith I struggled with for years as is, because of the strange beliefs. It’s just not in me to believe in a God that requires sacrificing himself to himself to save humanity (but only those that believe) from his own wraith, because of our sins, which he was well aware we would have because he created us to essentially have them. It’s really (if I’m being honest) a bat-shit crazy series of beliefs. It makes zero sense to me. And then when Christians throw in the whole “he’s an all-loving God” or “God is love” part. Well… now it makes even less sense to me. It sounds to me more like a hacked up Judaism with some paganism thrown in, with a series of excuses as bandaids to cover up all the glaring errors. It’s not a coherent narrative to me. Becoming even less coherent when you throw in the concept of the trinity. Which seemed hard to understand as a Christian and something I just needed to take on faith. Yet it’s actually fairly easy to understand if you consider early Christians shoehorning Jesus into the role of God without getting rid of God. Even though it messes with the idea of monotheism and doesn’t make any sense when Jesus is supposed to be both fully God and fully human. Bit of a contradiction there. So when I look at Christianity from a more historical perspective, I see a lot of human interaction and meddling in the religion. Forming it as it goes. And not without a series of errors in the process which has been patched up with more excuses as time goes on.

And so the irony is that it really does require faith to believe that religion, because a logical narrative left a long time ago. So despite my own attempts to have faith and believe it too, I’m left scratching my head and wondering why any of us bother. The more I see debates about the specifics online, the more they begin to look like a bunch of nerds debating the specifics of Star Trek or Lord of the Rings or something. It all begins to feel like yet another fantasy story. Which is likely all it actually is. Again, I’ve seen no evidence in my personal life to say otherwise. And that’s all I can really go on. I’ve decided to stop having faith in fantastical stories other people tell me, especially when they don’t meld with my own sense of reality, my daily life, or make any logical sense to me.
It’s like walking out of a movie theater into the summer sun and all that fun you just had in whatever world you were just exploring is still on your mind, but has nothing to do with the reality you live. Now it’s back to reality. That is how all religion feels to me now. It’s a lot of fun, and I can understand why people want to play in those worlds. The same as people want to play in any fantasy universe, but that’s all it seems to be.

At best I can point to some logical underpinnings as to why things in our reality work the way they do. And that’s using science. And it doesn’t point to anything being in our favor. Just that we persist as a species against the odds until one day we won’t. That seems to ring true on a personal level as well. And while it doesn’t explain why I struggle (at least that I can figure out) it doesn’t make excuses for it or lead me to expectations of hope for a better tomorrow. It is how it is and that’s all there is. And as cold as that is. As much as I personally dislike it and long for greater meaning. It’s the only thing that really makes sense to me.

What happens after we die?

This started as a reply to a post in a facebook community I belong to. The person asked this same question. However I wrote this long response and before posting it as a comment I realized that it would be wasted on that community because of how quickly those posts come and go. Plus it seems like people in general have little patience for reading long comments. Myself included a lot of times. It’s a bit strange, but when you format it like a blog post or article, it somehow changes a person’s level of patience. So instead I’ve decided to post it here, where I can own it and refer to it later if necessary.

With that said, here we go.

What happens after we die?

All I know is what has been observed. We stop being conscious and our bodies stop functioning. Slowly they begin to breakdown.

Whether our conscious mind and memories go somewhere else, I doubt it for a few reasons.

First: When we get knocked out our consciousness does not appear anywhere else. We simply blackout. So consciousness seems to rely on the physical body.

Second: We have no record of being conscious before we were born and had a body. To the best of our knowledge we simply weren’t around. Furthermore our consciousness, memories, and personalities had to develop and grow after being born. And they change over time.
So who we are is based on our life and body experiences and our genetic predispositions that are inherited from our parents.

Third: There really isn’t a rational reason why we should continue on after death. Sure, people don’t want to die and hope to see loved ones again, but this seems to be nothing more than an extension of our will to live. A survival mechanism in all species. But in a species as intelligent and imaginative as we are, it manifests itself as an afterlife desire. Likely an evolutionary trait developed to help the mind deal with the crisis of eventual death.

So much of who we are is based on our physical bodies, starting with our physical sex which determines a lot about our temperament, desires and motivations. Add in things like skin color and how that has shaped how we see ourselves in our society. As well as our height, body build, attractiveness, sense of taste and smell. For example, my friends love sushi but I hate it. I wish I could love it, they seem to, but my tastebuds disagree. This helps shape who I am and where I go in life. I’m not hanging out in a lot of sushi restaurants for example. I’ve missed out on certain experiences where co-workers have gone out to lunch at those restaurants but I’ve held back to eat something else. So I’ve missed out on certain experiences like that and felt bad about it. This in part shapes who I am. Even if it’s something I don’t like about myself.
If there is an afterlife me, will it love sushi? Is there sushi in the afterlife? Where does this afterlife even take place? We don’t have any evidence that any of this even exists.

Just because we want an afterlife, doesn’t mean there is one. Nor does it make a lot of sense to first die only to then continue living. If endless life were the goal, why even have death to begin with?

It seems to me that our prime directive as an animal species is to survive long enough to successfully procreate. Any life we live after that is a bonus. Beyond that we aren’t necessary. In fact in some ways we are a burden on nature after that. Consuming resources without any apparent function and nothing new to contribute to the gene pool. So eventually our body wears out and we die. Harsh as it may be, our existence seems to be for the here and now only. There doesn’t seem to be a rational reason why we should have a second life, other than we want it. And yet if you ask a lot of people if they would want to live to a thousand years old, they would tell you no. So it’s a bit of a contradiction.

Snobs, Sluts, and Garbage Collectors – Cinephiles

I’ve noticed that there are three types of cinephiles outside your average movie enjoying public. I’ve categorized them as follows:

1. Snobs. These are your hoity-toity cinephiles who sometimes use their movie collection to feel culturally superior to others. Be it Criterion Collection, anime, or something else. While not always snobby, not to make them sound like terrible people, they are after your more specific classic, arthouse, or genre film, and sometimes because they perceive it to be better then the typical pop-culture dreck put out there.

2. Sluts. These people collect everything. Usually on a certain format, like: Laserdisc, D-VHS, 3D Blu-ray, 4K Blu-ray, etc. $40 for [insert terrible movie]… Ok! Their collections can be in the thousands of pieces and dollars.

3. Garbage Collectors. These are people who are intentionally after so-terrible-they’re-good or so-terrible-they’re-terrible movies. Often horror genre but also some sci-fi, martial arts, exercise and other instructional videos of decades past.

The main difference between sluts and garbage collectors is that sluts are usually buying mainstream new releases. Doesn’t matter how terrible that new big budget blockbuster is, they’re going to own it on X format with all the bonus content, Atmos sound, and special packaging. And they’ll pay whatever high dollar it costs. Whereas garbage collectors are after niche stuff within a specific genre. Usually low budget. Mostly older stuff that is found on the used market. These are the guys ransacking videos stores as they are going out of business looking for those old gore porn videos from 1985 on VHS.

The one thing all of these people typically have in common is that many are collecting physical media of some type, whereas most of the mainstream population has moved on to streaming and digital downloads. That said, there are also digital collectors and many people with a mix of both.

Where do I fall myself? I’m pretty average. I don’t really fit into the the snob category when it comes to movies. I don’t collect those kind of movies. They really aren’t my thing. I find most of them boring and pretentious. As if painfully slow pacing and overinflated dialog scenes are going to reveal some kind of mysteries of the universe to the audience watching. Whereas the only real depth that is actually there is that sinking feeling you’re wasting your time as you’re watching it.
On the flip side, I have bought my fair share of big budget terrible movies and sometimes paid way too much money just to have the 3D or steelbook version (or both-in-one). But it’s only every once in a great while. The kind of people I’m talking about are picking up a handful of movies every week it seems. These are guys (typically) who are middle class and have sizable  disposable incomes, and they just love movies. The bigger, bolder, more action packed, and over the top the better. Look at all the pretty lights!
I once heard movies like that described as “movies for guys who like movies” and it’s perfect. And while I do have plenty of guilty and not-so-guilty pleasures among them, I still have standards.
Lastly, there are a more than a handful of garbage movies I’ve enjoyed. As an indie filmmaker these were often some of the most inspirational movies because they seemed achievable. They’re often low budget and typically don’t have any big name actors in them. The special effects are usually ridiculous and they can be funny or at the very least, fun to make fun of. And while I’ve got a handful (or two) of these movies, I’m far from being one of the guys who have an entire basement full of old VHS tapes of obscure cult b-movies from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with any of these types of collectors. I’m not here judging. In fact, there is a certain part of me that wishes I could be more like these folks. They obviously get enjoyment out of it.
Having been a low budget indie filmmaker in the past, you might think I would be. However, my personal movie collection is not as sizable or specific as you may think. Outside of a few specific choices, it’s pretty mundane and average and can fit on a single bookshelf. My folks old VHS collection (that I’ve inherited) aside.

The MacBook Pro Dilemma

A few days ago my Macbook Pro wouldn’t turn on. It had been working fine. The last time I used it a day or two before I had closed it up and set it to the side. I didn’t turn it off or anything, but now it was acting as if it had a dead battery and wouldn’t boot. It had been plugged in the whole time. I checked the power connection and noticed that the little two prong adapter had slipped off the power brick a few millimeters but not enough to see like it would have cut power.  I also noticed there was a bit of browning on the USB-C cable end connected to the brick. Maybe the cable got fried somehow? We’ve had a few storms lately but the power never went out and the brick has been plugged into a surge protector the whole time.

After re-securing everything with no success, I tried a different wall outlet. Still nothing.
Lacking a second USB-C to USB-C cable I decided to try my iPad power brick with my GoPro USB-C to USB-A short cable. Considering the 13 watt output of the iPad brick compared to the 87 watt output of the native MacBook Pro power brick, I figured I would give it a half hour or so to charge up before attempting to turn it on.  But even then, nothing. So I got an idea. I would use my USB-C to USB-A dongle that I normally use for hooking hard drives and other things to my MacBook Pro, and connect it to the GoPro cable. The result is a makeshift USB-C to USB-C cable that I could then plug into the 87 watt brick.
The second I plugged the computer in, it chirped and flashed a 100% battery charge icon center screen.

What the heck?!
If it had 100% battery power already, why wasn’t it turning on?

I have no idea but it booted right up, reopening everything that had been open before and it’s been working ever since. That was two or three days ago. That said, I immediately backed up all of my data off the machine, just in case.

After thinking about it later, I realized I hadn’t even attempted to try booting it up without any power cable plugged into it. I had just assumed the battery was dead, so I wonder if a cable being plugged in had prevented it from booting off the 100% charged battery. I wouldn’t think so consider the computer still runs if it’s on and you disconnect the mains power. It just switches to battery immediately. So I would think the same would be true for booting, but I don’t know.

The messed up thing is that I later reconnected the original USB-C to USB-C cable and it recognized it immediately and started charging the machine. So apparently nothing is wrong with that cable. And that’s the scary part. Either this was all some big fluke or I have a potential motherboard issue with the laptop. Let’s hope it was just a fluke. The machine is only four years old and it was the most expensive computer I’ve ever bought, it already had to go in for servicing once a couple years ago when the battery tarted swelling on it. Apple fixed it free of charge, they even fixed the keyboard issue I was having and I’m pretty sure I got a whole new case it, since the scratch I had on it was also gone. For all I know they could have given me a whole new machine and just transferred all my data over from the old one. I have no idea what they did to it in the three weeks I was without it. All I know is that it came back pristine and had been working great for the last couple of years until the last couple months where the keyboard issue started to rear its ugly head again. My L key is still problematic and barely wants to press down. Now this power issue, which hopefully was just a one time thing. Although after reaching out and posting about this on a mac forum, another user chimed in saying they had a similar problem and after a few days of dancing with power cable, the machine crapped out on them completely. I haven’t had to dance with power cables at all after that initial issue, but I also haven’t moved the machine since, nor powered it down or closed the lid on it. It’s been sitting open on my end table and I just dimmed the screen. I even used it the last couple of days to do some video encodes and a bit of web browsing and it was working fine. That was after backing up over 300GB of data off of it when I first got it powered back on. So… so far so good. Finger crossed and all of that.

Still it got me thinking, What happens if it does die, what are my options? The only real option is to send it in for service with Apple, but out of warranty and with no Apple care on it. That means seven or eight hundred dollars to get the mainboard replaced. After a quick ebay search, that’s about the price one of these machines goes for on the used market. And sometimes with more SSD space than mine has. So not really worth it. Plus how long would I be looking at it lasting after service, another two years? It’s already redeveloped the keyboard issue that plagues these machines. So even if that got fixed with a new servicing it would likely happen again. They just aren’t the best designed machines to begin with.

When I bought this machine in 2017 I had originally intended to switch from Mac to Windows. Although I like MacOS, I was already getting worn out on the Apple ecosystem at the time. I had switched from iPhone to Android again and was working on a Window box at my day job anyway.
Before switching to Mac exclusively for my personal machines in 2010, I had bene a PC/Windows user since somewhere circa the early 1990s when my dad brought home a 386 machine. I did my first PC build in 1998 when I wanted my own computer and the old 386 was just too outdated for what I wanted to do. While I had toyed with Macs from the early 2000s, briefly owning a few here and there, I made the switch in 2010 when I traded my newly rebuilt desktop PC to my girlfriend for her late 2008 model MacBook.
At the time she wanted to game and I wanted something portable and Mac. I had a white MacBook a year prior that I sold and I missed it. My intention had always been to buy another, but after selling it, money got tight and I hadn’t replaced it. She had originally bought the machine for going back to college but then realized they had labs with machines and her Mac at the time wasn’t very compatible. So this swap worked out well between us.

That first MacBook was a great machine for me. I used it as my only machine until 2013 when I got my Mac Mini, and even then continued to use it as my only laptop up until mid 2017. I even went back to using it for those three weeks my newer 2017 MacBook Pro was getting repaired in 2019. In fact the old MacBook still works today, although without a working battery in it, it runs off wall power only. I just turned it on about a week ago to check a DVD in it. It has a built-in superdrive (DVD Burner). A feature my new MacBook Pro sadly lacks. The new machine should have a Blu-ray burner in it, but I’m biased toward optical media.

That’s the thing though, the old MacBook has a DVD burner in it and a user replaceable battery, as well as a whole variety of ports, including an ethernet port, mag safe power adapter, full sized USB ports, a headphone jack AND a mic jack, both with digital optical capabilities as well as analog ability. It also has user replaceable ram and a hard drive. Both of which I upgraded; going to a SSD for a number of years. Although I put an HDD back in it, now that it’s just a spare backup machine. I repurposed that SSD to my Mac Mini.

The old MacBook also has a keyboard that feels great and never gave me any issues. That little MacBook even has an nVidia GPU in it, and it isn’t even a pro machine.

When I bought my Macbook Pro in 2017, the only machines coming with dedicated GPUs were the midrange and higher 15 inch models that started somewhere around $2500 or so.

Sure the 2017 MacBook Pro has a bigger, brighter higher resolution screen, a faster CPU and GPU, USB-C connectivity and longer battery life. It’s also a thinner machine. All of these things are nice on some level. But there is zero user upgradability. Power selection is compliant on your dongle supply and those aren’t cheap usually. Mag safe is gone. Optical drive is gone, which for me is a loss. So is the loss of optical audio ports. I actually used to those for transferring digital audio to my Minidisc recorders. So it’s missing a lot of features the older smaller non-pro model had back in 2008. And at over twice the price. Which is all disappointing.

So why did I buy it?
At the time I had actually bought a Lenovo laptop for half of the cost. Somewhere around $1300 brand new from Best Buy. I liked the machine. It had a fifteen inch 4K touch screen on it and could be flipped around and used as a tablet. I also believe it came with and nVidia 1050 GPU in it, but with only 2GB of VRAM. Nothing too powerful, but enough for what I do.
However I started noticing a thin black line at the top right of the screen. After looking it up I discovered these particular machines had and issue with them where the LCD panel might shift inside the casing. That was happening on mine, and it was not even two weeks only.
I realized I was a bit out of my depth. I had only owned a couple of used PC laptops in the past and not for that long. My PC experience was mostly with desktops I could work on myself. I didn’t have a way of fixing this and wasn’t sure how tech support was going to be or how long I would be without a machine. I had read horror stories online about various PC manufacturers and people being without their machines for months. I didn’t want to deal with all of that for a machine I just bought and what would happen two or three years from now after it was out of warranty. So I returned the machine to Best Buy, as I was still within my return window. I then went and spent twice as much buying the MacBook Pro, losing the 4K resolution touch screen and nVideo GPU in the process. Although I did get an equal if not better 4GB AMD GPU. And two years after having bought the MacBook Pro and I had to take it in for service, I was able to easily walk it into one of my local Apple stores. So I feel like I had made the right choice at the time, even if I spent a ton more money and didn’t end up leaving the Apple ecosystem as I had originally intended.
A year later I bought a new iPhone and was fully back in the Apple eco system, and have been there since.

So why switch now?
Well, I’m not. Not yet anyway. And who knows, maybe not for a long time if ever. But despite cooling my jets about making the switch back to PC after buying the MacBook Pro, I had still been considering replacing my aging Mac Mini with a new PC desktop machine. In 2017 when I bought my MacBook Pro, my Mac Mini was still fairly new. Only a few year old. But as of last year and now, it’s seven and now eight years old. I mention last year because that’s when I really started ramping up the idea of build a new PC again. I almost pulled the trigger on it last summer (bought a base model iPad instead) but decided to wait to see what kind of Apple silicon machines would be released. As Apple themselves were machine the switch from Intel CISC to ARM based RISC. So I sat and waited. A few months last they announced their new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro lower end 13″ model and Mac Mini. All of which underwhelmed me, despite everyone falling all over themselves saying how fast they are.
This year we got the new M1 iMac announcement. Again, eh!
And while I have since recently reconsidered the M1 Mac Mini, mostly as a result of peer pressure from fellow video professionals who think I’m crazy for wanting to build a new PC in the era of the so powerful M1 Mac Mini (especially being a Mac user already), I haven’t pulled the trigger on one since I’m still not thrilled with it and as time goes on we just keep inching closer to potential pro machine announcements, including some rumors (maybe outdated now) of a pro Mac Mini. So again, I found myself waiting. Not just for that, but the 2021 computer parts shortages (especially GPUs) have put a stop on any ability to just run out and buy a bunch of parts and throw a new machine together. So I wait. Again.

But this new MacBook Pro issue has me on a tight rope. If it fails on me soon, I’m going to be bitter and mad and not want to buy another Mac ever again. However if it was just a fluke and I get another four plus years out of it… well then the reality is that all my Macs have been long lasting and worth it. At which point maybe I should have bought a new M1 Mac Mini or whatever new pro machines they might announce in the coming months instead of a PC build.

There is also the consideration that I don’t really need a laptop anymore. I enjoyed having one that I could take with me into the office every day or on the occasional (rare) work trip I made, but for the last couple years I have been working from home. My home is my office and my work machine is mostly my Mac Mini which is on my desk in my family room. My laptop has bee living on my coffee tablet in that same room. Barely leaving it. With the introduction of the new iPad last year, I get even less screen time with the MacBook Pro. I take my iPad with me when I go sit outside or use it on the couch a lot or in the kitchen. There are times the Macbook Pro just sits there for days doing nothing. And while I made sure to get it with a good dedicated GPU and CPU so I could use it as an editing machine as well, my Mac Mini has still served that purpose, despite being older and less advanced.
So one way or the other, the need for a laptop is less (if even) and the need for a newer editing desktop is more.

So why not just switch the Mac Mini and the MacBook Pro roles?
As in, use the MacBook Pro as my new editing desktop machine. I tried it. For one I have a lot hooked up to my Mac Mini, which would meana. lot of dongles for my macBook Pro, but also there is just a psychological barrier where it feels like a waste to me to keep the MacBook Pro tied to a desk constantly. Even though it kind of is on my coffee table. But I have moved it occasionally. That wouldn’t be as easy to do with ten har drives connected to it and  and two monitors and an ethernet port. Ad i don’t wan to spend $100-$300 on one of those fancy dock port things for thunderbolt. Especially not with it acting up like this, I don’t want to switch it to being my main work machine.

All of that said, I also just want to be out of Apple’s clutches. Even if my MacBook Pro continues to work and works great without any further issues and the keyboard L key magically fixes itself, I’m still faced with the fact that all of Apple’s new machines are non-upgradable. A fact I pensively walked into when buying my 2017 MacBook Pro and still dislike about it. The new Apple is all about computer you can’t work on yourself and barely give you any ports to connect things without dongles.
Granted I’m not thrilled about the idea of jumping back into a problem laden Windows environment either. I don’t miss the days of reformatting my C drive once every year or so to clean it out and getting running smooth again. Having to reinstall everything again. But my girlfriend still runs a PC. I helped her do some upgrades last summer, with a new GPU, case, and Windows 10 upgrade (from 7). She plans to do some new upgrades in a month or so. New mainboard, CPU and ram this time. I’ll be helping her with that and it just might be enough to kick me in the pants and make me want to do my own PC build.

I guess time will tell. For now, I’m still a Mac user.  And depending on how things go with my MacBook Pro here, I could continue to be or get angry and suddenly make a sweeping switch to PC.

Ode to the Compact Disc – CDs

I’ve talked a lot about Minidisc on this blog over the years. My minidiscs are fun little packages of sound I still enjoy today. I have three working players and my original that is still broken. Although I believe I have discovered the problem with it. Now it’s just a matter of sourcing the right part and building the courage to break it open and fix it. I’m not sure that will ever happen. But if it never does, that’s ok, I got many good years out of that portable player/recorder. It’s pretty beaten up, having taken many rides with me when I used to drive a truck cross-country. It was thrown around the cab a handful of times back then. Sliding off the seat and falling onto the floor, and yet it kept on ticking for about fifteen years.

I’ve also talked about vinyl a few times. About how I bought a used Sony turntable from a record shop and used it for several months until it stopped working. Then a year or so later I discovered it magically started working again. It wasn’t magic, I fiddled with the belt on it. Not sure what I did exactly, but it’s been working ever since.

In my post titled Blu-ray is the new vinyl I talked about how I was over vinyl. I reaffirmed this stance about a year later in my post titled Minidisc instead of vinyl. Apparently, even though I was over vinyl, it wasn’t over me. I ended up receiving a few new vinyl records as Christmas gifts a year or so later and I believe it was last year, maybe the year before, that my lady stuck a new stylus in my Christmas stocking. Nothing crazy or expensive, just one of those cheap off-brand replacements you can get for $5-10. But it works. I never claimed to have any kind of audiophile setup when it comes to vinyl. In fact when I hear some audiophiles claim that vinyl is not supposed to have any pops or crackles during playback, I say “what’s the fun in that?” And I mean it. They may be after some perfect audio experience, but to me that’s already achieved through CDs. I’m listening to vinyl because I want the bon fire of audio formats. The format you sit around, poking at, as you stare into it and listen to it pop and crackle.

That said, I’ve been temped by a few records, especially the new rerelease of Tori Amos’s Under the Pink in 180 gram pink vinyl (being released in the middle of this month), the prices still continue to put me off. That one goes for (I think) $28. Which is not terrible for vinyl these days, but considering that most of my life I’ve bought CDs at half that price (or less), it’s really difficult to spend that much on a single album. Especially when it’s really only a novelty for me. It’s not easy for me to play that format. In fact it’s often frustrating since it skips so much. It’s not portable, and it’s not higher sound quality. So it’s really difficult to justify spending twice as much on it. Just checking Amazon the CD is $13.97. So yeah, half the price.
After looking again to confirm the $28 price, it seems the pink vinyl is now sold out, before it ever really went on sale. So I guess that saves me from having to ponder that choice any longer. Which is a bit unfortunate, but like I said, I didn’t pull the trigger during the pre-sale because it’s hard for me to justify.

I still find vinyl fascinating and sometimes fun, if not a mostly frustrating format to listen to. What gets me about the format is the physicality of it. The idea of music being imprinted into physical grooves on vinyl discs that are read by a stylus as it spins. It’s almost archaic in its analog nature. In the modern era of super advanced semiconductor powered computers and wireless headphones, it’s strange to consider getting your music from a needle being dragged across the surface of a big plastic disc. When I really think about it, I’m like “What the hell are we doing? We’re not cavemen anymore!”
It’s the same way I feel about film photography and cinematography. Some of my favorite movies of all times are shot on film. I love the look of classic film stock like Eastman color and Kodachrome, and I learned both film photography and cinematography back in the 1990s when that was the best we had. Yet today, when I really think about it, it’s almost amazing to me that studios still let filmmakers shoot on film. A mechanical physical medium without any backup, and yet it can end up being the primary image capture format on a $100+ million dollar production. Crazy!
Imagine if film were a new invention. If we had been shooting digital for a century and some filmmaker walked into a studio and said “I want to shoot this next $100+ million dollar production on this clockwork device that runs strips of plastic through it that are light sensitive. Oh and also, that strip of plastic needs to be sent to a lab and developed before anyone can see any moving images off of it. Oh and if at any point between the camera and the lab it gets exposed to light, everything is lost.” Not to forget the added cost of film stock, processing, and scanning.
I would guess that the studio executives would laugh their asses off before booting that guy out the door. And yet film has proven itself for over a century. So it continues to be taken seriously. As it should be. But still, when I really think about it, it seems archaic and such an unnecessary risk. And personally, modern film stock doesn’t really look any different than digital to me. Sure there is a bit of a difference, but seeing footage from an ARRI Alexa and Kodak Vision 3 film stock, I’m hard pressed to tell the difference most of the time. Which makes me wonder why anyone would still want to shoot film. For me, I would want to shoot film if I could shoot the older more unique looking film stocks. Although I guess an argument can be made for smaller gauges like Super 16mm and Super 8mm. Even running Vision 3 through them, they tend to have a character that looks more vintage to me.

One last thing about vinyl before moving on to the real topic of this post. I have a good friend who collects vinyl and has done so continuously from either his childhood or teenage years. I’m not sure which. Let’s just say, all of his life. When having a conversation with him a while back he told me some advice his father gave him. Which was something along the lines of buying the real music on vinyl because you can always digitize it, but you can’t go the other way. I could be seriously botching that message, but I think I’ve got the gist of it.

I guess to him that made sense, and from personal experience, advice from your father can often be taken with more weight and meaning at times in your life than from complete strangers. But when he said this to me, it struck me as kind of strange. I remember thinking “so are you saying CDs aren’t real music?” I never asked him that question, and I assume would say that is not what he is saying, but I also assume that to many audio purists, the answer would in fact be “that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
I think there is this idea that once the analog audio is digitized, it’s nothing more than an imitation of the real thing. So if you want the real thing you need the analog tape or the vinyl record. You know, the real audio. I guess I look at things differently. To me there is no real audio. Just like a photograph, everything we capture is a stylistic imperfect representation of the real thing that happened one time in the real world. No medium we have ever created is perfect to reality. And while there is no doubt that some are better than others from a common sensory and consensus perspective, better can also be subjective. Such as the case with vinyl and film. So whether you compress the audio into physical grooves on a vinyl disc, or particles on magnetically coated mylar, or ones and zeros embedded in polycarbonate and read by a laser, you are always creating an imitation of what actually happened. And for my money, the ones and zeros are a more perfect imitation. Or at the least it can be when properly mastered.

Which leads me to my real post. An ode to the CD.

While I grew up being able to play with and use a variety of formats over my lifetime, the one that has been there most often for my generation and me personally, is the compact disc. The CD. Despite buying or being gifted a few albums on cassette tape in the late 1980s and very early 1990s, I really began my music collection on CD starting around 1991 or 1992. It’s hard for me to remember exactly when I got my first CD player. Although it was on Christmas one of those years and it was a Sony Discman. I believe the model number was the D-202. This:


It came with a set of these headphones. The Sony MDR-A10.

In my attempt to find out what Discman it was that I first owned, I came across many that I have owned over the years. Probably a handful total. All of them broke on me at some point. Usually the center spindle plastic would break and the metal bearings that click and hold the disc in place would come out. So they were replaced with whatever similar model was new at the time. This was back in the 1990s, when owning a Discman for me was a utility. Something needed to play my CDs on the go. Not something owned for the novelty of it, like I might today if I bought one. Though there is still utility in owning one even today. But I would be more likely to baby it today and pull it out on special occasions when I want to directly listen to a CD on my headphones. Not something I need to use to listen to my music. Since all of it is available on my computer and my iPhone 8+ (256GBs).
At some point I should update this post with pictures and model numbers for all of the portable CD players I’ve owned. Similar to my list of cameras I’ve owned.

As I count now, I own eight devices that can play audio CDs. My girlfriend owns three. So between the two of us, we have eleven players. That’s counting the one built into my car, but not counting the one built into her car, since that player is broken. That’s also not counting the Nintendo Wii and Gamecube we have, since those don’t play audio CDs. Although they do accept disc media that is CD-like. It’s possible I even have another CD player somewhere I’m forgetting about. I’m thinking of the boombox I used to own, which I could have either thrown away or could be in storage. Not sure. The point is, we have a lot of CD players. They may come in different form, CD player, DVD player/recorder, DVD-Rom drive, Blu-ray burner, game consoles, UHD Blu-ray player, but they can all play audio Compact Discs.
Even to this day, outside of files on my computer, my largest collection of physical music is on CD. In fact just about a month of so ago I bought a couple small shelving units so I could pull my CDs out of storage and display them. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve had all my CDs on display and accessible. Although I’ve always had a stack on hand just for fun. So I’m pretty geeked about having them all out.

I’ve never stopped using CDs. If no where else, I’ve consistently used them in my car over the years. My car (and my last car) could play regular audio CDs and MP3s burned onto CD-Rs. And I’ve got a mix of both discs. Mostly regular audio CDs. So even if it’s rare that I pull a CD out and put it on my stereo system at home, I am still listening to CDs in the car all the time.

I’m also at a point where I’ve been throwing around the idea of buying a used Discman. A newer model that can play MP3 discs. While I’m still considering if I really need one, the prices are right at the moment. CDs are considered boring to most people right now. They haven’t hit cult status like vinyl, cassettes, or minidiscs have. At least not yet. So as a result, retro fans haven’t been buying up old used gear and driving the prices up to ridiculous amounts. Luckily I was able to get a Sony Minidisc player before things got too high. At basically the price a Discman is today. Although I should have bought a couple more at the time and certainly a bunch of used discs. Still kicking myself over not having bought a lot of used discs when they were basically a buck a disc. So I should probably buy one or two used Discman while I can still get them for under $35 a piece. Even if I’m not sure I need one. I do want one and will only be kicking myself if I discover that in a year or two I can’t get one for a decent price anymore.

So what’s the purpose of this post? It’s really just to say that I still have a loyalty to CDs in some way. They are the format of my generation. Even if some in my generation may disagree. Such as older Gen Xers who collected vinyl or cassettes. But for younger Gen Xers like my friends and I back in the early to mid 1990s, we (and most people we knew) were all about the CD. It was the format of choice. A modern, high quality, portable, and convenient format that offered track skipping and no need to rewind or fast forward. It’s digital nature meant that every listen was like the one before. Even today I still own all my original CDs, including the first ones I got, and they still play as good as they did on day one… thirty years ago.

I remember the first time I heard a CD on headphones. It was the setup above, the Sony D-202 with the MDR-A10 headphones. It was Christmas and I loaded one of the three new CDs I had gotten as gifts along side the player. The clarity was so immense I couldn’t believe it. I knew CDs were supposed to sound better, that’s part of the reason I asked for a Discman for Christmas. But previous to that I had likely only heard a few CD demos in a noisy store over loudspeakers. I hadn’t heard them up close and in-person with headphones on. The lack of background hiss and the resolution of the audio stuck out. It was amazing. My ears have never heard anything like it since. My brain has tuned itself with every listen afterwards to accept that digital clarity as the standard. Today digital audio is everywhere. It’s unusual not to hear it. We’re spoiled by it. And my ears have only gotten older.

There is certainly room in my life for a lot of different formats. It’s silly to claim one and stick with only that. All of these formats are part of my life. They all hold a special place in my heart. Each with their unique quirks and characteristics. But I often don’t give CDs the credit they deserve. They have been the digital workhorse of my music collection for thirty years. The constant medium. The format that first introduced me to perfectly clean sound. The format that shaped a lot of my music discovery. The format I have collected. The format that has taken more road trips with me than I can possibly count, and the format that acts as the vigilant backup for all my audio in case my hard drive crashes. So while I may have spent several posts extolling the virtues and fun of the Minidisc format or waxed and wained about vinyl; CDs have been there the whole time, doing everything they do for me. This post is my genuflection of respect to the CD as a format.

UPDATE  – July 9th, 2021
So I was doing a little research on hi-res and lossless audio the night before last (July 7th-8th). I guess the skeptic in me never believed that FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) or ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) were actually lossless. Despite the word lossless being in the names. I figured something of some kind of audio purist importance had to be lost in order to reduce the file size by nearly half. But I read on and watched a bunch of explainer videos and while I don’t know the science well enough and can’t do the tests myself with any degree of sophistication, there are enough people out there who know what they are talking about who agree that it is in fact lossless. Enough that I have to given in and go with the consensus.

So with that in mind I started re-ripping some of my CDs to Apple Lossless. Since I’m Mac/iTunes/iPhone based.

Can I actually he hear the difference between a CD/Lossless file and a 320 kbps MP3 that I have ripped my CDs to previously? Probably not. And yet I found myself still gravitating toward the lossless files more. It felt like there was something else there, even if it wasn’t apparent to my ears. SoI guess the best way I can describe it is, relation to fonts or good design in general, which is to say that even if you don’t understand the technical and aesthetic reasons why a good font or a good design looks good, on some level your brain is processing it and enjoying it more based on something you may not even understand.
Or maybe it’s a purely placebo effect. Either way, there is some effect on me. Make of it what you will. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it myself yet.

As for hi-res audio, the jury is still out on that for me. CDs are definitely more than good enough for me. I’m still enjoying my mp3s. But ripping my CDs to lossless and the prospect of buying a new discman, definitely has me handling my CD collection more these days. And it has given me a desire to hit up some thrift shops and used record shops to pick up more. Especially albums that had special collectors editions that are out of print. We’ll see.

The one big downside to CD/Lossless quality is the lack of wireless support. I listen mostly on my Bose bluetooth headphones these days. And while I can and do wire them in sometimes, most of the time I’m listening to music, it’s wireless. I like that freedom. So to rip my collection to lossless means not just more file space being taken up but also being tethered by a wire again like the old days. It also means my computer need to work harder to transcode those lossless files to AAC when sending them over bluetooth when I want to listen to that collection wirelessly. Lastly it means stirring up my iTunes library that has been in place for over a decade or maintaining two different library, which is sort of the route I’m on at the moment. My main decade long library is on my laptop, whereas this new lossless library is being started on my desktop computer. On the plus side though, this new library is giving me a chance to probably structure and organize my music collection. I started ripping my CDs to mp3 back in the late nineties, so it’s all a mixed bag or structure and organization over the last couple decades. Different bitrates, file types, folder structures, etc. Kind of a mess. This new one is much more organized. But I run into the issue that a good portion of my collection isn’t lossless. I bought a lot of music online over the decades that is AAC or even MP3. So the question is, do I make this just a smaller all lossless library or go with another mixed bag, but just replace the stuff I can with lossless versions? Still deciding on that one. Though I’m kind of leaning toward the former at the moment. Might be nice to have a digital library that I know is all lossless for when I want to just sit down and listen to that. I don’t do a lot of listening off my desktop to begin with. My laptop, iPhone, and my wireless headphones allow me to bring my main music collection everywhere around the house as is. So turning my desktop into a lossless listening station is probably the better choice.

My Photos and Videos are for me

I don’t think it’s good enough to be a photographer. I think you have to be a philosopher with a camera. Otherwise you’re just shooting pretty pictures no one cares about immediately after seeing them.


A brutal truth hit me as I woke up this morning. Will anyone care about all my photos and videos?
I’ve certainly thought about this before, but today it hit me harder.

I put all this time and energy into taking photos and recording home videos. Most of it is not any kind of special production, it’s just home videos or snapshots with my smartphone. Much of it completely meaningless, like the countless product photos I shoot in the stores while walking around shopping, simply because I like the packaging or find the product fascinating. Even then, I discover that most of it is meaningless to me when I find it later on in my folders of photos on my hard drives. Sometimes it’s neat, but often it’s just mud I have to wade through to get to photos that matter. Even so, I can’t bring myself to delete any photos. It’s not in my nature.

Me at ten or eleven years old shooting into the mirror on my parent’s Video 8 camcorder.

There are two kinds of photos. Those of people and those of things. Photos of people matter most to people who know those people. For example, family members want to see pictures of other family members or friends. They don’t really care about that landscape shot you took on your vacation. Especially the ninety-seventh landscape shot you took. Doesn’t matter how pretty it is. That’s not why they are going through your photos.

On the flip side, the general public doesn’t care about the people in your photographs. Usually. I for example have no interest in seeing the wedding photos of your grandparents. Unless I’m related to them. Even then, there is a certain degree of separation that comes into play where I stop caring. For example, I would love to see a photograph of my great great great grandparents. But my parent’s cousins, I could care less about. Sure there his some relation there, but I don’t know them. At a certain point they become no more important to me than the general public. Even then, people of less relation to me might be more important to me, friends of mine or even celebrities I’ve never actually met but have had more impact on my life because of my enjoyment or their films, music, artwork, books, or products. Which on some level is weird, but true.

Me in my early twenties shooting on my DVCAM video camera.

Which leads to the fact that the general public is going to care more about your landscape photos. Photos your family might pass by. But the public is only going to care if they are good photos, and even then, how much they care is entirely based on how much those photos move them in some way. Most photos shot, even by professionals who spend their life trying to achieve technical and artistic perfection, will never get anything more than a curiously glance on the internet. An even smaller micro percentage will be used by other people as background wallpaper on their computer screens or as clipart in powerpoint presentations. How long do those last and how much do people really care about those?
An even tinier fraction will hold some kind of meaning in the public as a whole. And usually, that’s only because people are told they should care about them.
Be honest, would you care about the Mona Lisa had you not been told since childhood that you should? I wouldn’t. I’m much more interested in da Vinci’s last supper or his technical drawings if anything. Had I been told nothing about the Mona Lisa and was presented with it in a sea of millions of other pieces of artwork, it likely would be one of the last pieces I would have picked out. It has impacted me that little.

Me in my early thirties shooting a blurry self portrait.

So the reality is, who will care and what I am I doing spending all this time trying to make sure this stuff lasts? When I face the facts, I am the person that will care most about my images and videos. As time goes on, others will care less and less, and that drop-off happens pretty quickly. Already I can see that my son has less interest. Granted he’s only sixteen years old right now, so I suppose that as he gets older he’ll start to care at least a little bit more. But I don’t ever assume he’ll care about these images and videos as much as me. If he is to care about anything more, it will be HIS images and videos. That’s to be expected. At which point it becomes a question of bulk. How much do you weigh down future generations with the glut of past memories? Am I to expect my son to carry terabytes of data from my life into the future with him? Along with any he gets from his mother. Right now I do. Although I can also see how that might be unfair to him. Beyond that though, am I to expect that should he have kids one day that one of them might then carry those terabytes forward, not just of my life but then also of their parent’s life and their own? And so on down the line.

In the past there wasn’t as much to carry forward. Film and prints were expensive so there weren’t as many photographs or film strips. Maybe people had some letters or certain artifacts they passed forward. I’m not actually sure if my sisters or cousins even have anything from my grandparents, let alone their great grandparents. I know I don’t. There is a certain degree of falloff that just happened naturally as things wore out or were lost as they were passed around or moved or suffered some kind of disaster.
Even if we assume that digital storage gets smaller and cheaper over time, and that most of it moves to the cloud as some kind of free option (which we can’t assume – look at Google’s recent reversal of their free photo storage plan), we would still face the problem of excess. The idea that future generations just won’t have enough time in their own lives to wade through generations of people’s digital mud. Like all the pointless photos I shoot in stores. Even I don’t have time to go through and separate out the photos of people in those stores (like a shot of my son holding up a stuffed animal or something) from the photos of bare products on shelves that I thought were neat at the time I took them.
At a certain point we end up creating oceans of digital mud.

Me at thirty-nine years old shooting a photo of myself at work for my website.

I’m reminded of the lyric from the song Last by one of my favorite bands, Nine Inch Nails.
“This is not meant to last, this is for right now.”

That concept is difficult for me to grasp. Because I’m the kind of person that is trying to make things last. I have an archival mindset and persona. The idea that things fade into non-existence scares me. It assumes a certain degree of meaninglessness long term. I want to believe that the universe remembers everything or that God records everything and safely archives it. Take your pick. It’s difficult or me to operate on the premise of right here right now. I really enjoy things in hindsight. Whether those are memories viewed through rose colored glasses or through the magic of motion or still images. Which is why I shoot so many photos and videos wherever I go. Plus it gives me something productive to do while there.
That said, I do try to enjoy myself in the moment. But I also like to know I can relive those moments later in high definition. And I want to believe that others in the future will as well. But I have to accept that they won’t. That this is not meant to last. That this is… at most… for MY life. Not as much for those that come after. Which means that all these photos and videos I shoot today are really just for MY tomorrow. For me to look back on as I get older. Not for my son or his potential children or so on down the line.
Hopefully something will carry on. I can only imagine what. But I also can’t count on anything. As uneasy as that makes me, I guess I should take solace in the fact that I won’t be around to care. lol

 

Ode to The Fifth Element

It was nineteen ninety-seven and my then girlfriend at the time and I went to the MJR movie theater in Chesterfield Township to see this film called The Fifth Element. We had seen some advertisement that claimed it was the best science fiction movie since Star Wars or maybe it was the Star Wars for the nineties or something. I don’t remember how it was phrased. What I do remember is sarcastically thinking “yeah, right!” And that’s pretty much what I was thinking when I walked into the movie theater. But I did like sci-fi movies and Bruce Willis. And if I remember correctly (it’s been 23 years), my girlfriend who was into art and fashion was interested in the movie because of the work of Jean Paul Gaultier who did the fashion design for the film. Plus the two of us didn’t need an excuse to see it, we pretty much went to the movie theater every weekend as it was, sometimes more than once. So anything that looked even half-way appealing we probably bought a couple tickets to see. In the late nineties, there wasn’t a shortage of half-way decent movies to see. If anything, the late nineties was a bit of a cinematic golden era.

The first thing that grabbed me about the movie was the opening in the ancient desert ruins. I’ve never been to the desert, but i have a bit of a soft spot for it when it comes to cinema and especially science fiction. It probably comes in part from seeing Star Wars as a kid with Luke on Tatooine but also my childhood fascination with ancient Egyptian stuff. By nineteen ninety-seven I was eighteen years old and just about the graduate high school. By that point in my life I had been sucked in by not just Star Wars but also Stargate and countless other films that featured ancient Egyptian ruins or post-apocalyptic sci-fi films that took place in the desert. So combining the desert with ancient Egyptian-like ruins and then adding aliens, you’ve already earned a soft spot in in heart. Especially when you open the film like that.

But the movie went on to just be stylistically weird in a way I had barely seen before. It was… European. More specifically… French. Which at first brush, I was turned off by. It had more style than logic in its design. It was bright and unforgiving in its fashion style. But as I sat there watching it, it began to work for me. Partly because it felt alien. These were not the choices I would have made as a filmmaker making this movie.

In fact I would have never imagined them or considered them if someone else brought them to me. But here they were and they were growing on me. And it wasn’t just the costume design that was kind of alien and odd and definitely French. The eclectic mix of music, interesting editing style, set design, props, it all took me for a loop. Just in what I would come to regard as an unexpected and great way.

As far as I remember, I walked out of the theater shocked at how much I liked the movie and pronounced that the claim made by the advertising was actually right. This was just as good as Star Wars or whatever it said. Just in a different way. And this was coming from someone who loved the Star Wars trilogy and idolized George Lucas as one of my filmmaking heroes. Now I had to add Luc Besson to that list. At the time.

When it was available I bought the movie on DVD. Decades later, Blu-ray and then 4K Blu-ray not long after. In fact it’s sitting there paused on my TV as I write this. General Munro and his two peeps just showed up to the apartment of Korben Dallas to try and convince him to go on this mission.

It’s safe to say at this point (and for a couple decades now), that this movie has been in my top five favorite films list since seeing it for the first time. I won’t spoil where it falls in the top five or what the others are (for now), but it’s in good company.

It’s also safe to say that I’ve seen this movie many times. More than I can remember and it was only a handful of years ago I picked up the Blu-ray and then not too many years after, the 4K blu-ray. Both in the same Best Buy exclusive steelbook case. Which is nice, on the outside, but leaves much to be desired on the inside with its basic chrome blue sheen and no artwork. The quality of the 4K transfer is great. Though it really does bring out the grain of the film. But I would rather have that then some grain removal process performed that makes everything soft and artificially smooth. The high dynamic range (HDR) and the colors really pop in this film. Though not as much as a more modern movie shot digitally. But I’ve noticed this to true of all the ten plus year old film to 4K HDR transfers I’ve seen. They look great, but they lack that digital pop and precision image that comes from something like an ARRI Alexa or RED or Sony CineAlta digital cinema camera, or even dare I say, modern Kodak Vision3 film stock that always looks more digital to me. To the point where I wonder why filmmakers even bother to shoot film anymore (at least in 35mm and higher). Vision3 seems to change its look on Super8 and 16mm in my opinion. Probably due to less mechanically sound cameras producing more frame movement and lenses that are not as modern. But that’s a subject for a different entry.
Personally I like both the older film and newer cleaner digital looks. But some may prefer one over the other and I have a feeling that might depend on your age. I’m both old enough and young enough to be used to and appreciate both.

At this point, I’m going to end this here. But not without first mentioning Valerian the City of a Thousand Planets. Another Luc Besson movie and the story(from the comics) which originally inspired The Fifth Element. A movie I also saw in the theater and own on 4k Blu-ray. And speaking of digital pop, that one has it more-so than The Fifth Element.

It’s not as good of a movie and doesn’t have the cult following The Fifth Element has. It also didn’t strike me the same way. In other words, it didn’t have the same affect on me as when I first saw The Fifth Element. Of course I was much older seeing this one and I saw it alone. I wasn’t a young impressionable eighteen year old about to graduate high school with all my dreams and life ahead of me and deep in the honeymoon phase of a relationship with an artsy girlfriend who might have helped influence my acceptance of the art-meets-runway style of The Fifth Element. By the time I saw Valerian, I was at a point in my life where I was used to that visual, artistic and fashion style, having lived with The Fifth Element for twenty years and plenty of other stylistically dynamic movies I hadn’t yet seen by eighteen years old but had seen by the time of seeing Valerian. In fact, at first I didn’t really like Valerian and was disappointed. Not because of those things, but maybe partially as a result of having my hopes up that I would feel that dynamic way again. The way I had when I first saw The Fifth Element. But… no cigar.

You can’t go back to being young and seeing the world anew again. At a certain point you just begin to see recycled old things and if you’re lucky, you can pull some semblance of nostalgia out of them. At least enough to remind you how you felt about the old thing to the point where you might find some similarity in the new thing and enjoy it as a result. Sort of a love-by-vague-association-with-something-you’re-nostalgic-for kind of thing. Which eventually did happen with Valerian and me. But it took a  couple watches before I really began to see it. So it has since grown on me and I do enjoy Valerian quite a bit now.

The Decline of the Video Store

I thought we were immune. At least to some degree. I had heard that in other areas of the country people no longer had video rental stores. Most of ours in the Detroit area had closed up shop. The days of Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video, and Movie Mania are long gone. They have been for years. Not to mention all the various mom and pop video shops that used to exist in the 1980s and early 1990s. They had all pretty much dried up by 2000. But one holdout still remained. A chain that I had always looked at as a cross between the big chain stores and small one-off mom and pop video shops. That was (and is) Family Video. Arguably the best of the chains to remain. So in that sense we lucked out. I would take a Family Video over a Blockbuster any day of the week. The former would send you get-out-of-jail-free cards in the mail if you had gone too long with late fees on your account. It was a way of forgiving you of those debts and getting you renting again. Smart and caring. Especially for a younger guy like myself, who, back then wasn’t great with money or returning videos on time. The latter (Blockbuster) would report you to a collection agency. Yikes! Blockbuster was also more expensive, and didn’t carry certain adult content. It tried to be a moral authority on what people watched by censoring what it carried. Family Video didn’t. Which is a bit ironic. Based on the name of each video chain you would think those policies might be reversed. But ultimately Family Video won in the battle of who had the most staying power.

Now before I declare Family Video dead (which I hope I never do), let me clarify. It is not dead. In fact as far as I know, there is still a Family Video open by me. If not more in the overall Detroit area. It’s a bit of a drive, but still remains last I checked (I confirmed – it’s still there). It’s not my regular store but I was there about a month ago tonight [edit: same night after writing this article]. However last night I discovered the one closer to me is now a Dollar General. That surprised and saddened me. More than I expected.

So why didn’t I know this sooner? Well, because I hadn’t been to the one by me in about a year. Not because I didn’t want to, but other things got in the way. So I didn’t exactly help its survival. And that is part of what makes me feel bad. I really did like it.

I guess I’m going to have to make an effort to go to the farther away store (pictured here) more often. To try and help ensure its survival.

UPDATE: January 7th, 2021
Well, that didn’t last long. Looks like Family Video is dead. As of the 5th of January 2021, the CEO of Family Video declared that they were shutting the doors of the remaining 250 stores that were still open. Including the 58 that remained here in Michigan. Ending a 43 year history of the video chain starting in 1978.
The last day for video rentals was yesterday the 6th, but I’m just hearing about this today. They are selling everything in the stores, so I will be heading to my closest store tomorrow to see what remains. If it’s still open and I can get some additional pictures, I will post them in a future update to this article.
This is sad news. Truly the end of an era.

Things I Want – Master List

Some of this is just for fun and part of it is because my son has been asking me for my Christmas list this year. Problem is, I never have any ideas. Well… not true. I do have ideas. But it’s stuff that is too expensive or too niche and has to be found in good condition on the used market at a good price. Which is a lot of work. Or it’s stuff I don’t want very much and would probably make a horrible gift. lol

Rather than just a Christmas list for 2020, I figured I would just make this a master list of everything I want. From the mundane to the ridiculously expensive.
By doing it here I can mix and match retailers, rather than just having say… an Amazon wish list. Because they don’t sell Ferraris on Amazon. Go figure.

So here goes, my master list of things I want.

Key:

White: Things I plan to eventually buy for myself or would happily accept as a gift.

In Green: Things I’m not excited about and may or may not ever buy for myself, but wouldn’t mind getting them as a gift.

In Red: Things I’m not excited about and may or may not ever buy for myself, but don’t want as a gift. So please don’t buy them for me.

Crossed Out: Things I’ve already bought, gotten as a gift, or changed my mind and no longer want it.

Started: 2020-11-25
Updated: 2020-12-08, 2021-10-13, 2021-11-22

 

1. Polk Audio T50 Loudspeakers ($79 each – two of them needed for a pair – so $158 total) (changed mind 2021-11-22)
Best Buy or Amazon

2. Polk Audio T30 Center Channel Speaker ($69 – only one needed) (changed mind 2021-11-22)
Best Buy or Amazon

3. Polk Audio PSW10 Subwoofer ($117 – only one needed) (changed mind 2021-11-22)
Best Buy or Amazon for $109

4. Polk Audio T15 Bookshelf (surround sound) Speakers ($59 for a pair – only one pair needed) (Gifted on X-mas 2020)
Best Buy or Amazon

Ultimately I want to get the whole set of Polk T series speakers and subwoofer to replace all my home theater speakers that are nearly 28 years old.
This is my reasonable affordable choice. And probably the best choice for me considering my budget. Otherwise if I had more money to spend I would get a full set of Klipsch at just over two or three times the price. After consideration I have decided that for the time being I would keep my existing setup including the Polk T15 I received for Christmas last year. This is mostly out of nostalgia. I’ve had my current Pioneer/KLH front end since the early 1990s and I’m generally still very pleased with the way it sounds. Over the years I have consistently swapped out my rear(surrounds) with various brands/models since the original KLH speakers I got with my front center KLH were just never very good. Eventually I lost one anyway and then threw the other out during a move from house to apartment. I’ve used my Kenwood bookshelf speakers then, Klipsch pro media speakers and then now the Polk T15. I was pretty happy with the Klipsch as rear (surrounds) but after getting the bigger Polk I have repurposed the Klipsch back on my computer desk. (striked out original and added new comment on 2021-11-22)

5. Fifty Used Minidiscs from Japan ($93)
Ebay

I’ve wanted a lot of used minidiscs from Japan for years, but this is probably not the best gift idea since it will likely take months to ship. But again this is a master list that will stay up for years and be updated and recycled for every Christmas. So maybe eventually I’ll splurge and buy them myself or get them as a gift.

6. Acid Purple replacement pads for my Grado SR60 Headphones ($20) (Gifted on X-mas 2020)
Amazon

I just got some new blue pads I paid only $5 for, so I don’t need these right now (especially at four times the price). But I thought the color was unique and cool. Also they may or may not be more comfortable than the blue pads which are not very comfortable. Who knows.

7. Orange Timex Watch Band ($10)
Amazon

I’ve had this watch band on my Amazon Christmas lists for the past three years. I just think it’s kind of a fun color.

8. Lord of the Rings Trilogy 4K UHD Blu-ray Steelbook Set ($120 )
Best Buy

9. The Hobbit Trilogy 4K UHD Blu-ray Steelbook Set ($120)
Best Buy

I don’t want them as a gift. This is one of those examples of a disappointing gift. So I’ve crossed them out.
I have these movies on two other formats already and have seen them so many times there is nothing exciting about getting them as a gift.
The only reason they are on this list is because I would like to eventually pick them up at a reasonable price. Probably used and definitely in the steelbook collection like this. Please don’t spend $120 buying me one of these sets. 

I decided I don’t really want the steelbook versions of the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit 4K movies anymore. If anything the cheaper regular 4K extended editions would be fine.

8.(Updated) The Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended & Theatrical)(4K Ultra HD + Digital) $69-$89 (depending on sale)
Amazon
 or Best Buy

10. Plaid Flannel Shirts (size extra large)
I don’t even know where to find these, anywhere and everywhere I guess. Color can vary. I’m not that picky.

11. Red Wing Iron Ranger Copper Color Boots ($330 or less – size 13)
Amazon

Again, too expensive for Christmas. But I’m throwing everything on this list. These are aspirational boots for me. I’d even take a used pair in good shape.

12. Street Fight V Champion Edition PS4 ($20)
Best Buy or Amazon

13. DualShock 4 Controller ($65 – Glacier White or Steel Black)
Best Buy or Amazon

The extra PS4 controller is only for Street Fighter V otherwise it wouldn’t be used often. So, something to keep in mind.

14. Various 4K UHD Blu-ray Movies
Alien 40th Anniversary 4K ($9.99 Black Friday special) – Best Buy (added 2021-11-22)
Alita: Battle Angel 4K+3D ($9.99 Black Friday special) – Best Buy (added 2021-11-22)  Bought 2021-11-27

Whatever else you think I might like.

15. Dior Sauvage 
I kind of want some, but kinda don’t. The price is way too high. But eventually I’d like to get a small bottle if they ever release smaller bottles.

16. Timex Weekender Watch ($42)
Amazon

I already have a Timex Weekender and like it, this is just a different color variation with a chronograph.

17. Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens ($267)
Amazon

18. Canon EOS R6 camera kit with 24-104 f4 ($3600)
Amazon

19. Sony FX6 Camera w/24-105mm lens ($7200)
Amazon

20. Billy Bookcase IKEA (Black Brown color – $80) We just don’t have room for this so I’m removing it
IKEA

21. Tori Amos Under the Pink Vinyl (Bought myself 2021-08-22)
Amazon

22. Playstation 5 with Disc Drive ($500)
Best Buy or Amazon

23. Any working Minidisc Players or Recorders – portable or component (Used prices vary – I prefer Sony, they seem to work the best)
Ebay

24. Ryobi Electric Battery Planer ($79) I don’t really desire this (striked out on 2021-11-22 – I need this for one project, my desk, and that’s it, so I don’t really want it. I’ll probably just buy a new flat butcher block piece of wood for my desk at some point. – See number 42)
Home Depot

25. Sony Discman with MP3 playback (Used prices vary) (Bought myself summer of 2021 used Sony without MP3 playback)
Ebay

25. Videomaker Magazine Print Subscription (1 Year – $30)
Videomaker store

26. American Cinematographer Print + Digital Subscription (1 year – $30)
ASCMAG Store

27. Dress Shirts – Slim Fit Stretch (size 16.5 neck 36/37 length) – Prefer solid colors like black, grey, white, purple, electric blue or green
Amazon or Kohls or Macys or wherever

28. Silk Ties
Amazon or wherever

29. Memory Foam Pillow ($11-$25)
Big Lots or Amazon or Amazon (2) or Target

30. Velvet Plush Blanket Queen/King Size ($20) or Queen Size Sherpa Blanket (taken off – have too many blankets as is 2021-10-13)
Big Lots

31. Feelworld 5.5 Inch Video Monitor ($99)
Amazon

Below added 2021-10-13

32. Vinyl Records ($various):
Nirvana – Unplugged ($25) Target (Purple colored)
Peter Gabriel – US ($25) Amazon
Pentatonix – A Pentatonix Christmas (Deluxe Edition – White Vinyl – 2xLP) (used – Mint or Near Mint please) ($20+) Discogs
Tori Amos – Ocean to Ocean (Blue Vinyl preorder) ($35) Official Store or Center Stage Classical
Queen – Greatest Hits Vol 1 ($35) Target (Ruby Red colored) or Walmart (Red and White colored)
Queen – Greatest Hits Vol 2 ($35) Target (Blue colored)
Gladiator – Soundtrack ($45) Amazon (this is so expensive :( – wish I could find it cheaper. Maybe they will reissue it when the sequel comes out)

33. Blank Blu-ray discs BD-R ($21 for 50 at Amazon)
Microcenter Windata (25 pack) $18 or Microcenter Verbatim (25 pack) $25 or Amazon Plexdisc (50 pack) $21

34. Sony NP-F970 Generic Replacement Batteries ($36 – two pack)
Amazon

35. Foster Grant +1.25 or +1.50 Magnification Multi Focus (Troy style) reading glasses ($31)
Kroger

36. Neewer 660 LED Bi-color Two-Pack Lights ($97-$105 on sale)
Amazon

37. iPhone 13 Pro 256GB (or higher) Unlocked any color ($1100)
Apple store 

Below added 2021-11-22

38. Blu-ray Cases (30+) ($0.75 each plus tax and shipping) 
Castopia.com

39. Apple USB-C Digital A/V MultiPort Adapter ($63.99 currently) – Two are needed, one would do.
Amazon

40. Maglite replacement LED bulbs ($15.99) – Two pack for three cell D battery Maglites
Amazon

41. D size batteries ($whatever) – 6 needed in total – not picky on brand
Amazon or wherever

42. Butcher Block Wood Desktop(countertop). 1.5″ thick (unfinished)
5′ (foot) x 30″ (inches) Beech – Home Depot – $229
Anything with the same dimensions so long as it’s a hardwood

Is it time to upgrade my home theater speakers?

I bought some Pioneer CS-G203 loudspeakers in 1992 when I was 13 years old. I think I paid $50 each for them, brand new from Montgomery Ward.

I was super excited to get them. Back then my goal was to get as big of a woofer as I could afford. Which for a thirteen year old without a steady job, wasn’t much. So to get a cheap set of 3-ways with a 10 inch from a brand like Pioneer. I thought I did alright. To be fair, I kind of did. But this was also at a time when brands like Cerwin Vega and JBL with their huge drivers were all over stores like Best Buy. So ten inches seemed pretty average back then. Today I really don’t see them in most loudspeakers for sale, at least at stores. The trend seems to be a series of smaller five or six inch drivers.

 

 

Thing is, I still use these Pioneers today. They are my main left/right speaker in my five channel home theater setup. I’ve been using them in this configuration since 1993 when I got my Sony AV Receiver (STR-D711) that had pro logic on board. When I got that receiver, I also got a cheap set a KLH surround speakers and a center channel. I think they were included as freebies. Part of some Best Buy holiday deal or something. That or I bought them separately for really cheap. It’s hard to remember.

 

I’ve since tossed out the old and always terrible from day new KLH surround speakers and replaced them 

several years ago with my little Klipsch speakers and came with my old Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 setup, after the subwoofer died and I could no longer use them with my computer. But I still use that KLH center channel.

 

It wasn’t even until 2017 that I replaced my old Sony Pro Logic receiver with a new Onkyo TX-SR737 entry level 5.2 channel DTS-HD MA and Dolby TrueHD receiver. Now I think it’s time I maybe update my speakers overall. Maybe even finally add a subwoofer for the first time ever.

Problem is, I’m still on a budget. A few years ago I might have been able to drop a few hundred per speaker for a new 5.1 channel setup. Today I’m hoping to accomplish the entire setup for around $500. Which has me looking at the Polk T series. I’d like to finally have a matching set for speakers for all five channels and possibly add a subwoofer.

 

The sub, center channel and rear speakers for the T series all look fine, but those T50 loudspeakers are throwing me off a bit. Right now they’re on sale for $79 each, which is a great price. Externally they look nice, but when I found out that these are not three-way speakers but two-way speakers and even more the two bottom drivers are not actually powered drivers but instead they are passive radiators, this all threw me for a loop.

The first question. Would this even be an upgrade for me?

 

While this is mostly used for a home theater setup, watching movies/shows, I do still pump music through my system on occasion, listening to stuff from my computer via bluetooth and from my small vinyl collection.

 

Second question. Assuming I don’t buy a subwoofer, will the bass be any good out of these loudspeakers alone?

Bonus question. Is any of this even worth it for me?

 

I’ve gone 27 years with this five channel setup (for the most part) without any real complaint. Changing out my receiver alone a few years back was a huge help, it finally gave me true five channel audio. For the first time in nearly twenty years I could hear the Dolby Digital audio from DVDs I bought back in 1998 rather than just a pro Logic variation. It also gave me a much needed boost to my center channel speaker. My old Sony receiver had low powered center and rear channels, which made it difficult to hear dialog. The new Onkyo drives even the old KLH center channel to a point where things can be understood. So in that sense, new life was breathed into my old speakers as is.

Even today I don’t have any real complaints. I’m not even sure I want to add a subwoofer, I’m in an apartment now and afraid I might upset neighbors with bass notes that vibrate too much. Whereas my ten inch woofers can get low, they never vibrate the room and turn me into that annoying guy with a sub in his trunk or in this case, family room.

 

In fact, outside of just feeling compelled to upgrade for the sake of upgrading (and getting everything to match sonically and visibly), I’m not sure any of this is needed. Part of me fears I’ll spend this money and not notice any significant improvement in sound quality, or worse, a downgrade in quality.

The big question is, have speakers improved drastically on the low end (entry level) from 1992 to 2020? At least enough to notice and merit dropping half a grand.