A Toy Story

Twenty-two years ago, Pixar released it’s first feature film, a delightful romp through childhood from the perspective of the toys children play with, and history was made. I was eight years old, but the characters and the animation delighted me. Today, I am thirty, and I still find enjoyment and amusement from the antics of a few old toys.

Apple released watchOS 4 in recent days, the new operating system for its watch, and with it came a delightful new watch face: an animated Toy Story themed face.


With the watch face selected, each time the wrist is raised, one is likely to see Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Rex, the Aliens, Ham, and other characters from the Toy Story universe. The characters are fully animated, and will often give a wave, check out the time above their heads, and smile at you.

They also get active! They will run away, or bounce across the screen, or dance – or, well, I don’t think I’ve seen everything they are capable of. I just know that every time I glance at my watch for the time, I smile and often giggle. It’s just plain fun and funny.

The thing is, I am clinically depressed. Joy and happiness are difficult things for me to feel and express. To have a thing as simple as a watch face bring a smile to my face and laughter to my heart is quite special. I will treasure those few seconds when Buzz, Woody, and the gang, light up my face.

Thank you, John Lassiter, for creating the magic of Toy Story, and thank you, Tim Cook, for bringing that magic to my wrist.

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checkUp twenty17: August

Just so you know, August was a flustercluck. Here goes:

Each month it is my task to accomplish: #1: Writing, #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. So, how did I do in August?

#1. Writing. I wrote twice (in addition to my update)! Go me. 5/5

#2. Reading. So here’s where we get to the aforementioned storm of feathers. I had bed bugs in my apartment, discovered right at the beginning of the month and essentially taking the whole month to not really take care of until I moved out and into a new apartment. Then I took, inadvertently, bed bugs to my parent’s house and helped with that extermination. So I didn’t read nothing. But I get a pass? 2.5/5

#3. Building. Following, but not really related to, the bed bug incident, I had to pack up all my LEGO and noticed that much of it was dusty as if it were left out on Tatooine for a week. So I’ve embarked on a “clean most all LEGO” endeavor. No building, just work. Again, pass? 2.5/5

#4. Art. I finished painting my Stormtrooper helmets! The Artoo Detoo helmet came out really good and the Packers helmet came out ok. I attempted to sell them, but no one wanted them, so I guess they’re mine. 5/5.

#5. Activities. Other than becoming the “Great Bed Bug Squasher” and working, I haven’t had the chance to do any activities, except for going to a Ranger’s game with some friends of my parents. I’ll be generous and give that a full credit, otherwise this month will be very lousy in deed. 5/5.

Total? Looks like 20/25 or 80% for August. For the year then I am at…71% if I’ve done me math correctly. Not bad. I am pleased that I’m keeping up with my goals throughout adversity and work and life. Beating depression one step at a time is good!

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Star Wars: The Phantom Confession

At last I will reveal myself to the internet. At last I shall have catharsis.” – Darth Me


The Phantom Menace premiered in theaters on May 19, 1999. I had just turned 12 two months before and I was ecstatic to see this new Star Wars film. You have to remember, in those days, Star Wars was a trilogy, a finished masterpiece in three volumes. It had been since 1983, four years before my birth. For my entire life, Star Wars was the best set of films there were for a nerd, young or old. It was “this colossus, this great legendary thing”.

A new film, a new trilogy, was announced. I scoured the young internet for news, images, clips, rumors and at dial-up speed, fuzzy jpegs revealed themselves for my viewing pleasure. Articles kept me fascinated. There wasn’t much being disseminated, remember, again, this was before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every other network. We had no smart phones, no texting, no social media. I remember reading articles in actual magazines and the newspaper about this new Star Wars film. I cut out pictures from pages and savored images of Qui-Gon Jinn, whom I mistook for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Jake Lloyd and Ewan McGregor whom I thought were playing Anakin Skywalker. I also remember savoring images of the Naboo starfighter: graceful, sleek, and deadly. Much of my information also came from LEGO, who had just signed a deal with Lucasfilm to produce Star Wars branded and based Lego sets. Most of my early spoilers came from LEGO fan club magazines that depicted ships, characters, and locations in brick form. Pepsi had also made a marketing deal in which every can of every variety of soda featured a different character image with a printed backstory that you could collect. Even Taco Bell got in on the marketing with their stupid chihuahua.  It was all glorious and amazing and wonderful. I annoyed my family and friends silly because I would not stop talking about the new Star Wars film. It was to be the best thing EVER.

A few days, or weeks, I don’t remember exactly, into the premier my dad took myself and my brother to a Saturday afternoon showing of The Phantom Menace and I floated into the theater. I absorbed every sound, image, and musical cue with delight … except … except, something wasn’t quite right. Jar Jar Binks wasn’t funny, like he was supposed to be. There were fart jokes, in the middle of John William’s grand score even! Some bits blew my pre-teen mind – Darth Maul versus the Jedi – podracers roaring around Tatooine, but mostly it was boring with a shine and long with excitement. I didn’t realize it then, but every time thereafter that I saw it, my smile was less broad and the twinkle in my eye shrank. I remember visiting my grandfather, perhaps the next summer, and convincing him to Pay-Per-View rent The Phantom Menace. It was a day long thing, where you could watch it over and over again for 24 hours. I must have watched it 8 or 9 times that day. Over and over again. It was amazing! It was Star Wars! but it wasn’t quite the Star Wars I loved and had grown up with.

Truth is: I loved The Phantom Menace. Even with Jar Jar and the fart joke. In those early days, I couldn’t get enough of it. It wasn’t until 2002’s Attack of the Clones that I began to become disillusioned. 2005’s premier of Revenge of the Sith arrived and I was in college. It failed to end the new trilogy properly, but I had lost my love. Star Wars was nothing more than the Old Trilogy, as it was now known, and the new films were dead to me. I even spent time methodically watching Menace, Clones, and Sith and tearing them systematically apart on my blog (which you can still read under the Star Wars tab). I made a reputation among friends and a presence online by hating the prequels.

But. But. I did love Menace. I thought Clones had good parts. I figured Sith was mostly there. I don’t know when or why I let other people’s opinions and acidity eat through my heart of enjoyment. I like plenty of badly written movies that are chock full of bad performances and cheesy effects. So I suppose now we are here, at the end of my vitriol to admit a love I once held dear.

I haven’t watched the Prequel Trilogy in years, now, and I feel a strange urge and longing to do so. Maybe it is the 11 year old in me that collected Mountain Dew cans for their images of Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn. Maybe it is the 12 year old that convinced my grandfather to let me spend a day watching a movie ad nauseam. Maybe it is the 13 year old that treasured old LEGO magazines and their pages of colorful LEGO Star Wars sets.

At least I am willing to admit it to myself, and now, the world that reads my blog: unabashed, unashamed, unfettered: I loved Star Wars The Phantom Menace a long time ago, and may yet love it. And that’s ok.

Embrace your famdoms, nerd out, rock on, love what you love. It makes you you and no one else. And that is the best thing ever.

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On Weddings

red-wedding-dress-taffeta-tulle.originalMy ma is attending a wedding this weekend for my cousin on her side, and at the end of the month, a paternal cousin is to be married. I will unfortunately miss both weddings, the latter making me most sad as I’ve been fairly close to that cousin. But the occasions have been making me ponder nuptials, and having been through one myself, I’ve got some thoughts on another, should I ever get the opportunity (which I doubt I will).

I will present my ideas as “Thoughts on “whatever” ” and in a heteronormative way. This is because I am heterosexual, and most familiar with the “classic” Western wedding. But weddings are becoming, and rightfully so, so much more what you make them with whomever you decide to marry and that is a Good Thing. Weddings shouldn’t be blind tradition. They should be a union of what makes you collectively you. To hence:

Thoughts on The Ring and Rings: maybe Tolkien has soured me on rings, but I don’t like the idea of giving my future bride an engagement ring. It seems to be little more than a Western bride price, dowry, or guarantor of the marriage. If my future bride cannot “reserve” herself for me without me spending a bunch of money on what is probably an overpriced conflict diamond or cheap synthetic, then she isn’t the one for me. Furthermore, why do we need wedding bands? I don’t understand jewelry as a symbol of love. Make it hurt, and I’m being serious here, get matching tattoos. They don’t come off, can’t get lost, cost a bit depending on what you get, and are a forever memory literally etched into your flesh. Now, having been through a divorce, this scares me because “what if, round two” but if you are unwilling to get tattooed, you probably aren’t willing to go through the long haul and tough it out when it really, really hurts either. Let’s just say I still can’t imagine my ex getting a tat, for any reason. If I’m wrong, she can send me photographic proof.

Thoughts on Sex/Wearing White (Purity): This is so wrapped up in draconian ideas of sexual ethics and shoddy economics that I don’t really want a bride wrapped in a white facade. I don’t believe in saving sex for marriage, and since I’ve already been married and had sex (spoiler! also, sorry ma, but well, we all know it happened at least once) what am I to do? Maybe my future next Mrs. Martin (also a point to be discussed) will be a virgin when we get married, but I kinda hope not. I mean, if we are getting married, have the tattoos, what is there to wait on? Sex just isn’t that important to me as a symbol of anything, or an act to be preserved, so what is the point of wearing white to pretend she is somehow “pure”? Especially if she is going to have sex that night, or soon thereafter anyway, does she then lose that purity or something? I don’t believe it transfers to the husband or anything, so again, point being? Be colorful! Again, be you and if you like white, go for it, but I’d like my bride in scarlet, or bright yellow, or something bright and happy. White is boring.

Thoughts on The Isle: So, it goes like this: the groom waits up at the front of wherever, the bride walks up toward him, arm in arm with her father, who hands her off, and after whatever, the bride and groom walk down the isle together. NO. This is clearly, and explicitly in traditional services, the father giving the woman to the man and the man accepting her and taking her with him. NO. The implication here is she is property, bought with the ring, and duly delivered and accepted and transferred. NO. In my wedding, if I get one again, we will enter from the sides, as equals, and go forward together and come back down together as a unit never again to be separated.

Thoughts on The Name: Afterwards it goes “I present to you Mr and Mrs Groom’s Name Only” NO. Is the man the only thing that matters in western society and weddings?? (Really, the answer still is yes, but to hell with that. This is the 21st century. We need to act like it.) I have a friend who took his wife’s name, but that is just inverting the binary. Wipe it out altogether. Get a new name. Or hyphenate (though who goes first?). Or, shockingly, keep your own name. Or something, but I really don’t like the wife surrendering her identity into that of her husband’s for the rest of her life. The woman is important all by herself and that desperately needs to be honored.

Thoughts on The Church: Even the religious these days are eschewing the steeple for the seashore, or prairie, or wherever. I’m not getting married in a church because the church does not rule over my marriage, and, well, I’d rather be married somewhere in nature, not necessarily in a building. If it’s raining, we get wet. I’m open to negotiation on this point, but I have strong preferences.

Thoughts on a Few Other Things: Invite who you want to be there, not who you are related to or feel obligated to invite. I get there are lots of politics here, but it’s your day, do what makes you happy. Have a fun cake and eat it. I don’t want it mashed in my face because I am not two anymore. I won’t mash it in her face either because she’s not two. Also, she worked damn hard on that makeup (probably) and I don’t want to ruin it with icing and sugar. Do what else has meaning for the two of you, and not what is “traditional”. Don’t spend money on glitzy things for the wedding, the party, or the wedding party. It’s just a wasted expense. Decorate in a fun, not expensive, way. If you want to do something meaningful for meaningful people, do that. I had a birthday cake at my first wedding because it was my grandmother’s birthday and I wanted to honor her at the occasion, and I’m glad I did. Having a birthday party at my wedding was probably the most “me” thing about that wedding. (And it wasn’t about me at all, my idea of perfect.)

And that’s all I have to say about that. For now. Thanks for listening.

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checkUp twenty17: Junly

Yeah. So there’s that. I haven’t updated since June 18th with my Wonder Woman review. In my own defense, I have been busy, but I’ve thought a time or two “I should write” and I’ve not, so I don’t get completely off the hook here. I mean, it’s taken for it to be 0404 on a Friday morning with insomnia to get me writing. How bad is that? Or maybe good? I dunno. Anyway. Here goes…something….

Every month I try to do some or all of the following: #1: Writing, #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. This is a check up for June and July.

#1. Writing. I did write an update in June, and a review of WW. But I didn’t write at all in July. Combined score: 5-10.

#2. Reading. I finished St. Francis: In His Own Words, a compilation of writings by the monk St. Francis of Assisi. I am also working through another book. I’ll get most credit, but not all: 7.5-10.

#3. Building. I didn’t build anything, but I did spend the months organizing my LEGO minifigures and accessories. Now that I write that it sounds so grown up! but fuck you, little voice in my head. Anyway, it will help further endeavors, so again, partial credit? but it is also what kept me from building. So, one step back, two forward? Sounds good to me: 7.5-10.

#4. Art. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nunca. No excuse here. I’ve had opportunity. 0-10.

#5. Activities. I’ve not missed a day of work, continued meeting with my friend, and even had a friend over for dinner So, that gets me full credit. I know the idea is to get out of the house and do new stuff, but that’s hard with two jobs and little extra time. Full credit on this one: 10-10.

Hmm. It’s been an interesting summer, but so far, so good, I guess. Crunching the crunchables I get: 30/50. 60% for the months, and I think 74% for the year. Still not terrible. August is already looking better because I’m writing! and I have a commission for a LEGO portrait that I can work on, a book to finish, and probably an activity or two, plus some art this weekend? We shall see.


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This past week I took an evening for myself and watched Wonder Woman. Spoiler: it was a good movie and an excellent representation of what female superheroes should be.


Beautiful. And I don’t just mean Gal Gadot, the Woman herself, but the entire movie. It was moving, fun, action-y, and thought provoking. While the DCU has been very lackluster and straight-out bad, they went where Marvel has yet to venture with all it’s success: a female directed, female led movie about a female superhero. From little girl Diana shadow boxing while Amazonian warriors spar to adult Diana deflecting bullets with shield and bracers above the trenches of World War One, this film delivered on almost all of it’s promises.

Without going into a bunch of detail, or long plot discussion, I will say this movie was excellently written, with witty dialogue, good themes, foreshadow, callbacks, delightful fight choreography, and great casting. As I write, I am listening to the score, and that is fantastic as well. From start to finish, this film was well constructed. However, it isn’t perfect.

I felt that a few moments were unearned, and that lessened my opinion, but not enjoyment of, the movie. First unearned moment, and perhaps a big one: when Wonder Woman and her love interest (I loved typing that phrase just now! finally not a hero and his love interest!) supposedly have sex. Earlier in the film, Steve and Diana discussed sex and reproduction, and Diana (having grown up on an island entirely populated with women) admits that men are necessary for reproduction but unnecessary for sexual pleasure (!) but seems uninterested in trying heterosexual relations for herself. But then, in what a few days, or weeks, maximum, she is inviting Steve into her bed and arms (again, supposedly, the movie suddenly cuts to the outside and shows nothing but gently falling snow and only implies the union). I do like that Steve was about to leave in the scene, having escorted Diana to her room, but then Diana herself invited him in and initiated the first kiss between them. It was nice to see Diana not only taking the lead on the battlefield, but also in the bedroom. Too often the man imposes himself in near sexual assault, so it was nice to see a reversal here. Still, though, the love story had barely developed by that point and I thought that it was unearned. Small quibble.

Secondly, it was a little ham-fisted setting up General Ludendorff to be the big bad, Ares God of War. I knew from the beginning it wouldn’t be him, as he was just a little too evil and intent on conquering the world, which no one really was in World War I. As I understand history, the war to end all wars was more about protecting self-identity and honoring alliances. Anyway, without a mustache to twirl, Ludendorff was too twirly for me to believe him as Ares. Interestingly, the guy with the mustache I missed completely as Ares until he showed up to reveal himself. I was thinking there was no Ares in this film, as the story was developing, and indeed didn’t need him to be for the story it was telling. (But what is a superhero movie without a big boss battle? A better superhero movie, in my opinion, but then, this is DC.) Anyway, the reveal of Ares I thought was pointless except to give Diana a boss to battle at the end while Steve was actually, you know, fighting for something.

Now, to the real Big Bad: World War I. In the comics, and history of comic-book Wonder Woman, she saves Trevor who I believe was originally a World War II pilot (and then every conflict thereafter? in updates) but never a WWI pilot. Setting the film in World War 1 was a brilliant move for the story they were telling, which was that Diana believed she could end war, and bad men, by killing Ares the God of War who was supposedly the machinator behind the scenes. If you have this set in World War 2, there is a clear Ares: Adolf Hitler. And killing him would have almost definitely ended the war then and there, thus proving Diana right without her learning anything about mankind or conflict. However, WW1 is a war without sense, purpose, big bad, or natural end. It was simply a meat grinder. Without a big bad to kill, even if you mistake Ludendorff for Ares, you must come to grips with the reality that mankind carries within each person the capacity for depthless evil and insurmountable good and it is a personal choice for each one of us which path we follow, God of War or no. This is a lesson that Wonder Woman learns the hard way when she does kill Ludendorff and nothing changes. It was, for me, the climax of the film.

Lastly, the final unearned moment of the film: Steve sacrifices himself to stop the Germans from gassing a bunch of people, and Diana goes ballistic, enabling her to defeat Ares, whom she is battling thus far without success, because she loves Steve and is devastated by his death. Like I said when I was discussing their maybe-sex scene, it didn’t really seem like she had loved him that deeply. Obviously he did her, but not her him, yet. Minutes ago she even thinking Steve was as evil as everyone else on the planet. And then he dies and she is all “but I love you!”. I just didn’t buy it. That and the unnecessary battle with Ares ruined the end of the movie for me, but not enough for me to not enjoy the movie as a whole. Bigger nit.

Wonder Woman, despite it’s flaws, is a good film, and a better one for what it is, the first film in which a female leads, and leads well, and where the men around her are equals or content to follow her obvious expertise. I enjoyed it, and will probably own it. I cannot say the same of any other DCU movies to date, or even in the future as I can foresee it.

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checkUp twenty17: May

Wow. It’s been a busy time lately, which is why I am writing my checkUp for May in the middle of June.

I’m seeking to accomplish the following each month: #1: Writing, #2: Reading, #3: Building, #4: Art and #5: Activities. So how did I do in May? Pretty good, I think. To sum up:

#1. Writing. I wrote my update, a review of the latest Guardians’ and Pirates’ films and I wrote a review of a book over at nerdspan.com. 6-5

#2. Reading. I finished the book I was reading for Life Group and I finished the book I reviewed, Off Rock by Kieran Shea. 6-5.

#3. Building. I built two Stargates in LEGO. I have yet to decide exactly what to do with them. But I built them. I haven’t yet photographed them. But I still get credit. 5-5.

#4. Art. I have been working on painting two stormtrooper helmets while my dad works on his model of a vintage Mustang. I have a few pics of the in progress paintings, but will wait to post any until the helmets are finished. 5-5.

#5. Activities. I met with my friend, back from Africa, once or twice, and I started a new job! so that counts extra. Incidentally, the new job is what is keeping me so busy. Way to bury the lede, Phil. 6-5.

I did extraordinarily well this month: 28/25, or 112%. That brings up my yearly average, last seen at 79%, to a robust 85.6%. Very nice.

So far June has been busy with work, but not much else, but we shall see what comes of it.

Thanks for following along, and look out, I do have some more writing to do!

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