A Groundhog Tradition Again

Well it’s Groundhog Day…again…and I’m enjoying my annual re-watch of one of my all-time favorite movies, Groundhog Day! In the spirit of the film and its repetition, I’m re-posting my Groundhog Day post from 2019 below. Enjoy.

It’s Groundhog Day here in America. Kind of a weird holiday on the calendar when you think about it. But it’s kind of a fun annual event I look forward to.

“That’s right woodchuck-chuckers, it’s Groundhog Day!”

One of my favorite movies is Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. I have a tradition now; every year I watch the movie on or around Groundhog Day. It’s like I’m stuck in a time loop, doing the same thing every year…ironic.

I’ve watched the movie many times, and it truly seems like I get more out of it each time I watch it. It’s like an onion where layers keep peeling back to reveal more inside.

The thing about this movie is that there are no special effects like today’s common superhero movies. There’s no computer generated stuff. Even the setting is pretty much the same scene over and over.

The story, though, is compelling, not to mention humorous. I enjoy watching the main character’s story arc as he slowly does a complete change for the better from start to finish.

I like the existential or philosophical stuff the protagonist demonstrates. Trying to understand his weird situation (no spoilers), he goes through stages like disbelief, denial, and despair. He is selfish and hedonistic.

But after failing at finding meaning in his life in himself, he finally starts to look outside or away from himself towards others. He becomes selfless and then finds true meaning or fulfillment. He learns to love.

Anyways, I don’t mean to go deep on the movie. I just enjoy it and am glad to be watching it again in 2019. Maybe I will find more in the movie that I missed before.

In a way, I think our lives are similar to the movie. We are given many days to live and figure out how to live this life the right way or the best way. Each day may not literally be the exact same, but in general, we encounter the same basic circumstances over and over.

Through these experiences, we learn how to respond slowly over time. Our first reactions to things that are difficult are usually selfish in some way. We’re taught to be better than that, and we kinda figure out how to get along with others most of the time.

I think we should be thankful for the time we’ve been given and realize that whatever lesson we did not learn yesterday will probably come back around over and over until we learn that lesson. We get a lot of chances, and every day is a precious opportunity to learn and grow.

Anyways, not too insightful really, but I hope that helps bring some good perspective to the table.

If you have not seen Groundhog Day, now’s your chance to go watch it!

Have you watched Groundhog Day? What’s your take?

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3D TV Comeback?

By now, maybe most people have upgraded their TV sets from HD to 4K; I finally did last summer. So to get consumers to buy more TVs, maybe the industry wants to try 3D again? Recently, Wired published a piece reasoning 3D could return but this time succeed. My take? I doubt it. Seriously. Though the tech looks cool, is it really? Here are some reasons why I don’t think so.

The simplest reason is that people don’t like covering their face. Unless you’re already accustomed to wearing glasses, donning thick goggles to watch a movie is inconvenient and a bit uncomfortable. 3D effects look cool, but are they impressive enough to mask half your face for a couple hours?

Another reason is that while immersive, 3D depth doesn’t really help tell a story. Eye candy and the thrill factor are fun and can draw viewers in on some level, but the story is what’s most compelling in a good movie. In fact, the medium of cinema altogether, whether 2D or 3D, is arguably inferior to good storytelling, as it’s generally true that “the book is better than the movie” in most cases. That’s to say, a good book is oft regarded as better than its movie counterpart. (Though in the case of The Martian, starring Matt Damon, I enjoyed the movie at least as much as the book.)

A good writer can create characters with real depth that a movie goer connects with. But if a hero or villain is flat, no amount of 3D visual effects will make the story better. Rarely are subjects popping out from the background powerful enough to overcome weak writing or directing.

One rare example of where 3D is daftly used in a movie to convey the story is Tron: Legacy. It consists of the real world and a computer generated digital world. The real world is always shown in 2D while the digital world is 3D. Such implementation makes sense in that film due to the story. But again, though a 3D spectacle can be enthralling, the story and characters are what truly grip audiences most on an emotional level.

Let me add that not only do I think 3D video effects are not worth the extra cost and equipment in my home, I also gave up on 3D audio effects — surround sound. Long ago, I was into Dolby Pro Logic and set up a home theater system with 5.1 channel audio. It was cool. But for years now, I’ve preferred the more simple and affordable 2.1 channel setup. Just stereo and a bass-y subwoofer is all I need to enjoy a movie at home. Don’t forget some popcorn.

Now, the final reason I doubt 3D will make a comeback: it already had its chance and failed to catch on. People voted with their wallets. While some folks bought 3D TVs and 3D disc players, it seems that most people didn’t. James Cameron’s megahit, Avatar, wowed the world, caused many to run out and buy 3D home theaters, and then…nevermind, it’s all about 4K UHD!

3D came and went. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So no, I don’t think 3D movies and TV will pop back into the market and succeed.

Do you think 3D TVs will make a comeback, why or why not?

The Batman Review

One of the top movies of this year that I wanted to watch, besides Top Gun Maverick, was The Batman. So last night, I had a good chance to chill for 3 hours and take it in. And oh wow, it was worth every moment.

Batman’s storied character is simply one of the most interesting in fiction, so most Batman movies are bound to be good. The glaring exceptions are Joel Schumacher’s overly campy versions in the mid–90s. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan’s depictions resurrected Batman with night and day difference.

Now enter Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Incredible.

Despite the movie’s positive reception, I thought the 3-hour runtime might be a stretch, but oh no. Once it started, I was hooked all the way.

The film’s dark noir ambience is a cinematic delight. The deft use of black and red color punctuated by audio cues like the deadpan thuds of Batman’s looming methodical boot-steps were simple yet profound marks of storytelling.

Actor Robert Pattinson’s performance was a mystery going in. How would he be as Batman? Without doubt, he was far better than I had imagined. His steely unblinking dark stares, rigid jaw, and gothic demeanor gave such weight to Batman that I could almost feel his threatening presence.

Other character performances throughout the movie were also well done. The interplay between Batman and Catwoman feels better than expected. But if I have any low points, it’d be the unmasking of the Riddler. The plainclothes version of this antagonist was too plain.

Else, costumes, props, settings, and Gotham itself were as good as anticipated. In particular, the aural build-up of the Batmobile’s engine dark-rage presence is gripping and a clear example of what makes cinema a wonderful storytelling medium.

Everything together creates a thrilling tale of a dead-serious detective who pulls all-nighters fueled by vengeance more than vigilante justice. Batman’s street-fighting fisticuffs is perhaps more realistic than Christian Bale’s martial-artistic performance in the Dark Knight, making The Batman grittier and more human than superhero.

I look forward to watching The Batman in future viewings, so I’m glad I was able to buy the digital only 4K HDR version on sale for $10 via Apple TV/iTunes.

And for a guy who came of age when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was screaming out, to hear his Something in the Way play a theme in The Batman is icing on the cake.

Have you seen The Batman? What do you think?

Tenet Impression

I’m a little late to the show, but my wife and I enjoyed watching Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic experience recently, Tenet. If you say it while inverted, it won’t really get you anywhere. As for the movie, I’m thinking of playing the whole thing in reverse to see if it makes more sense, like playing an audio cassette backwards to find the “hidden lyrics” or something. The movie was fun and cool, but I think it hurt my brain. You are entering a spoiler-free zone.

Overall, yes, Tenet was worth the 2.5 hours of my life because they really flew by. I was hooked from the start. Despite scratching my head most of the time, wondering what was going on, I couldn’t escape its storytelling grasp. Action sequences, special effects, cinematography, decent characterization, and a crazy soundscape combined to impress and immerse all my mind. And also melt it.

I love a good sci-fi film, especially one that makes you think — like The Matrix, whoa — and Tenet stands up with the best. Time travel is always a tricky thing in a story. But Tenet puts a new-to-me twist on time travel that lit up new circuitry in my head. Characters don’t travel back through time. Instead, they continue on the timeline moving forward but inverted, so it’s like going in reverse. The past replays itself as you, once again, travel through its time, just in reverse.

Sorry, my explanation isn’t helping anyone, I’m sure. Plus, my understanding is weak; I’m grasping at straws here.

And that’s the thing. Tenet makes your brain try to figure out things, like an enigmatic puzzle, a paradox, or some strange irony. It’s not just action, fight scenes, and physics mumbo-jumbo. It’s cerebral, intellectual, and also a suspension of reality for high-caliber escapism.

So why did I wait so long to see the film? As you might recall, it released to theaters in 2020 when Covid was relatively new and, well, show-stopping. Then I kind of forgot about it. But this week, I noticed it was on sale for just $8 — in 4K — via Apple TV/iTunes, so I grabbed it. I knew I would want to rewatch the film a few times to wrap my head around it, so purchasing at 2x the rental price was a bargain.

Have you seen Tenet? What happened to your brain afterwards? Thumbs up or down on the film?

Bricking In Pokémon

Though I’m not always a good loser, I’m pretty good at losing in Pokémon (I’ve had plenty of practice). There are different ways a player can suffer defeat in the Trading Card Game. Two I have found both involve “bricking.”

Deck Bricking

No matter how well a deck is made battle-ready in Pokémon TCG, it can brick (like a smartphone that became a paperweight). I’ve seen in championship tournaments with highly-skilled players, rare as it might be, that a winning deck can still sometimes brick. Chalk it up to bad luck or Murphy’s Law, but every now and then a deck, even the best ones, can and will simply fail to work. Usually the key cards needed for setup simply aren’t drawn into because the “draw engine” in the deck simply doesn’t start up. Whatever Trainers or Pokémon Abilities are used to draw more cards just don’t surface when needed, and/or they’re Prized. Whether you draw good cards at the wrong time or bad cards at the right time, it’s like your whole game is a dud.

Brain Bricking

While Deck Bricking can happen to anyone, Brain Bricking, well, is more of a personal problem…for me. It’s like Stage Fright. Picture this worst-case scenario I faced recently (my own fault):

  1. Being unfamiliar with the Pokémon and Trainers in the deck
  2. Being unfamiliar with the basic strategy of the deck
  3. Being not proficient in basic Pokémon strategy altogether
  4. Playing in a tournament with time pressure of the clock (not casual)
  5. Playing against those who know their cards and their deck’s strategy
  6. Playing against those who know basic Pokémon strategy like it’s their first name

Basically, that’s the situation I was in recently. Being an unpracticed player, any of the above put me at a disadvantage. But when all of the above occur together, I’m toast. The burnt kind.

My brain turns to mush with such disadvantage and competitive pressure. Sometimes people excel under pressure, but I tend to freeze up/stress out. My ability to strategize and adapt to the card battle situation gets derailed. Once that happens, unless pure luck hits me, it’s game over. Any confidence I might have had melts like chewed gum on sun-baked asphalt. Though I try to check my ego at the door, I still suffer embarrassing defeat. OK, so I’m not great at playing cards.

But maybe Yoda would say, “Opportunity to learn, failure is.“

Learning, I am. I haven’t been playing Pokémon TCG for long and am still practicing general rules like: in the first few turns especially, draw, draw, draw (get set up). One mistake I learned from was to not worry about using disruption cards early on when I should just focus on setting up my basic strategy.

I keep playing Pokémon because, despite my opponents leading me as a lamb to the slaughter, I sometimes have great fun in battle. When neither my deck nor my brain bricks, the pocket monster Trading Card Game is rich and robust with tantalizing strategy options. In fact, it’s so fun to play a good hand that, even when I lose, I enjoy a sense of satisfaction. On top of that, I quickly and readily analyze how I could have played better or think of ways to augment my battle deck with better cards.

Bricking happens. Decks brick on anyone. Brains – well, mine at least – brick sometimes. But Pokémon TCG shines when zero bricking occurs. Playing, not bricking, is definitely a winning strategy.

Have you bricked in a card game? How do you handle it? And what’s your favorite card game to play?

Top Gun Maverick Impression

Fantastic! Yes, I got to see the movie starring Tom Cruise this week on Discount Tuesday at my local theater – what a treat it was! (No spoilers.)

I think the movie is a must-see on the large cinema screen, full of close-ups and eye-widening aerial shots. But it’s not just the visuals that impress. The excellent sound effects come through loud and clear while the music is silenced, so you feel like you’re in the cockpit with the aviators, gripping the flight stick, punching buttons, and being slammed into the canopy as the jet maneuvers like a pinball in the sky. The flight action is visceral.

The actors portrayed their characters well, and I think this is where the movie outshines expectations. Yes, it’s a fantastic summer blockbuster action flick, through and through. But beyond action, there’s very good characterization and interplay between the different relationships, and they move the emotions.

Also, I think the movie stands tall on its own, but if you’ve seen the original from the 80’s, the backstory and nostalgia factors do play heavily and enrich Top Gun Maverick. The soundtrack…yes, reprised or replayed, loved it!

The movie is so thrilling that I plan to watch it again soon on the biggest theater screen I can find. And I plan to sit closer so I feel more immersed in the tense and fast action. It really is a fun flick! I plan to buy it on Blu-Ray as well.

Have you seen Top Gun Maverick? What did you think?

Pokémon Pulls Me To Play

Lately I’ve been purging things and limiting tasks; less to have, less to do. And over the past year, I’ve especially pulled back from collecting and playing Pokémon cards. Until last week when I “accidentally” bought a box of new cards and spent hours organizing my collection and trading cards; Pokémon pulled me back.

I can explain.

Back Story

But first, some back story. Three years ago, my family first played Pokémon TCG, so my wife and I enjoyed a new hobby with our kids for wholesome family fun. Well, I wrote about the cost and craze of Pokémon back then. In short, the Trading Card Game is involving, time-consuming, and expensive. At times it’s a bit overwhelming.

As I pulled back from playing Pokémon, some of my family has stuck with it. Instead of playing, I just collected some cards while purging others. Yes, Pokémon can be fun to get into, but with my limited free-time and money, I would rather geek out on video games — it’s hard enough making time to play RPGs that average 70 hours each.

Turning Point

Things were going okay. But the latest expanded card set — Astral Radiance — caught my attention more than usual. I think it was simply because it features Darkrai, a dark type Pokémon I happen to like, having played it in one of my favorite battle decks. I was also pulled in as my wife bought a new Elite Trainer Box and was setting up a new deck. I also spent some time checking out justinbasil, a super helpful site for playing Pokémon.

It’s worth mentioning that since the Covid pandemic strongly squelched Pokémon TCG in America over the past year or two, it was much harder to meet-up at Pokémon League to play. And it was hard to find new Pokémon cards to buy in the first place as supply and distribution were very limited. Pokémon itself was pulled back, making it easy to distance myself from it.

But now, Pokémon TCG is getting back to “normal,” so it seems to be pulling me in again, like the Death Star’s tractor-beam attracting a small ship that can’t escape.


I’m kind of at a crossroads. In August, when the next expansion releases, there will be the annual rotation. A certain set of older cards will no longer be considered “Standard” for play. My current main battle deck will become rotated out of the playable lineup. So either I must build a new “current” deck, or use this moment as opportunity to resist the pull and further distance myself from Pokémon TCG.


Part of me says I should keep pulling away. Save time and money. But part of me wants to enjoy the fun, the family camaraderie, and the strategic challenge of the card game. Oh, and also I like getting cool new cards. #GottaCatch’emAll


Each new Pokémon expansion releases more cards, often with new game mechanics to keep things fresh. Buying new packs is like playing the lottery — you might get a good pull! A “pull” is a rare and valuable card — either for collecting or playing or both — that is sometimes found in a pack of “common” cards. Just keep pulling the lever on that slot machine until…jackpot!

“Pulls” are part of the pull of Pokémon.

To combat the expensive habit of buying more packs to find pulls, there is the excellent TCG Player online website, where you can buy the exact cards needed to build a winning or fun-to-play deck. But sometimes I just want the excitement from getting a new booster pack of unknown cards, hoping to pull a card so valuable that I wouldn’t otherwise buy it directly online. It’s cool to spend about $4 on a pack and then pull a $20 card from it. In fact, I got a $4 pack a few months ago and pulled a $55 card and sold it within a few days. Nice!

Battle Decks

I just learned about the how Theme Decks have changed. They’re now called League Battle Decks or V Battle Decks and have a level rating system. Basically, these take the classic theme decks and amp them up with better cards. The more you pay, the more “pull” type cards you’re given, along with specific trainer cards.

So I found a League Battle Deck I really like and ordered it: Single Strike Urshifu. What’s great is that besides the physical cards, you also get the digital version for the online card game. To me, that makes practicing the deck easier. Either way, this version of Urshifu is a mix of Fighting and Dark type, which are my two favorites. While Zygarde 100% Complete and Eternatus have been my favorite Pokémon, I think SS Urshifu will be my newest (third) fave. Oh, and since Urshifu was introduced with the Isle of Armor expansion in the Sword & Shield video game, I think I’m going to play that too (I finished Pokémon Sword but never played the expansions).

And as if Pokémon TCG and TCGO (soon to be TCG Live) and the Sword & Shield video game weren’t enough, there’s also the upcoming video game. The next generation of Pokémon, Scarlet & Violet, was further revealed June 1st, showing off the newest legendaries set to release November 18. And they look awesome! With so much happening in the world of Pokémon, its pull is inevitable. I can’t wait to enjoy these games!

I’ve definitely been pulled back into the game. What began as capitulation has become celebration. I’ve got that excitement for playing again. New Pokémon, new sets, new mechanics, and family that stays into it: these make the game’s gravity very hard to escape. Despite the costs, falling diving into Pokémon is fun.

Do you play Pokémon? What’s your favorite? Have you felt the pull?

Alita Battle Angel Impression

For the first time, I recently watched the movie called Alita Battle Angel. Somehow this one didn’t stick out to me when released in theaters in 2019. I noticed the 4K version was on sale so I got it; glad I did.

The story overall (no spoilers), characters, and world building are pretty good but the narrative isn’t too deep; don’t expect The Matrix-level mind candy here. The plot centers on Alita discovering who or what she is while also learning about the people around her. The ones closest to her have a hidden side to them, which affects their relationships and the plot.

The biggest downside to the story is how much of it is left out of the movie. I don’t know how well the film was adapted from the original manga story it’s based on, but I wanted more backstory that was briefly shown and also more of the, uh, later story that was not shown.

The overall cast and dialogue are fine and get the job done. But of course the real standout is Alita. She’s a good heroine. Yeah, surprise, she starts with the amnesia trope in this cyberpunk film. She grows pretty well, gaining a sense of her identity and purpose both via her own autonomy and also with the help of others. Alita is also portrayed with moving emotion. Her greatest trait is her unrelenting determination to fight. She’s got the spirit and strength that make her a fierce warrior.

The biggest draw to me in this movie is its cyberpunk sci-fi setting with mild martial arts fighting. Special effects are excellent, presenting a good mix of CGI with real-time action. It works well together throughout the entire film. If you’re any kind of fan of the genre, you should appreciate this film. There are several darkly lit scenes but they looked very good in 4K HDR on my TV. Smoke, steam, and shadows all came across more life-like and clear with plenty of detail. Alita’s final body with its amethyst purple muscle fibers is striking. The overall tone of the film is classic cyberpunk: gritty, dystopian, yet flashy and shiny at times.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this movie but am quite happy to have it in my library. It will be worth watching again for sure. And it definitely needs a sequel!

By the way, I ended up buying Ghost in the Shell shortly after watching Alita as it has similar story roots from manga and features a strong female cyborg protagonist in a fighting action sci-fi film. I’ve seen it once before but it’s been a while. Its manga origin inspired The Matrix, so it has a lot going for it.

Have you seen Alita Battle Angel, what did you think?

Apple TV+ Severance Like Twilight Zone

No major spoilers, but there are minor ones.

After watching the first episode of Severance, a new thriller series on Apple TV+, I was wholly ready for more; no schism in my mind. The show’s creepy and mysterious vibe reminds me of the Twilight Zone.

The premise is simple enough. Employees at a company elect to undergo a procedure called severance, where the brain is somehow divided, thus completely separating one’s work life from their personal life. Never-mind that the neuroscience doesn’t exactly match reality; TV fiction is for escapism. The draw is to see the big “What if?” What can actually happen if such a scenario were possible? The implications of severance seem plausible…yet controversial and disturbing.

The TV show does a good job addressing the real consequences of such a set up. While the main character, Mark, expresses positive feelings for being severed, each episode brings examples of its problems. In one episode, there’s the morally questionable notion that one’s work self could have a girlfriend within the company while one’s outside self could have a wife at the same time, yet each self would be totally unaware of it. Another issue raised posits that one’s outside self could be a serial killer while one’s work self is an outstanding employee who doesn’t even steel a paper clip, yet each self would be oblivious to it.

Counter to these potential conundrums, the company at the center of the show, Lumon, frequently reassures its severed employees that their outside selves are highly idealized citizens in society, successfully enjoying life to the fullest at all times. Though it sounds far fetched, the mind-split workers happily accept the good news, except for the newest severed staff member, Helly. Her work self quickly decides being stuck in perpetual work hell is hopelessly unwelcome. Helly’s work self must feel like every day is Monday. Forever.

Only three episodes have been released so far; I’m eager for number four. But after watching episode 3, I wondered, did the plot advance at all from episode 2? Because it seemed to show the same things, mostly. But I think I see a point. The main character, Mark, was given a reason to investigate what his former coworker, Petey, had talked about — the hidden and sinister stuff going on inside Lumon. Seeing Petey’s unfortunate outcome, I think Mark will now want to learn more about what Petey was trying to convince him of in regards to Lumon. Mark might eventually see good reason to become un-severed.

So episode three helped develop more of Mark’s character arc. He starts in the overall story as wholly devoted to severance, believing it is moral, ethical, and beneficial. It helps him personally deal with the loss of his wife. But now I think the loss of his friend and former coworker, Petey, will compel him in the other direction. Though Mark freely chose, so it seems, to be severed, he is confronted with the possibility that there’s more to it, something nefarious beneath the surface. He will more likely change his mind and, for example, decide to take the risk of following the map Petey hid for him.

Also, I think there must be a map connection with the old house replica, a secret inside it. As for the wax figures…my first thought was that formerly severed employees had been turned into wax to keep them quiet at some point. Basically, once someone gets severed, they never go back. They’re cut off forever from the rest of life. And Helly, did she get truly broken in the break room, her heart contrite for her evil misdeeds inside Lumon? Or is she faking it, still seeking a way out of the company? Will Mark be more devoted to his company, Lumon, or his coworker, Helly, helping her either quit or get to work?

There are some other interesting characters in Severance, both inside and outside Lumon. It’s too early to tell what could happen. I’m hoping that any plot twists and reveals are fully worth the wait, and that the built-up tension reaches a satisfying climax towards the end of the season.

Have you seen the show; what are your thoughts?

Pokemon TCG Is Ever Expanding

It’s also ever expensive. A little over two years ago, I started playing Pokémon TCG with my family. During that time, numerous expansions were released, featuring new cards, new Pokémon, new abilities…you get the idea. Sometimes it only takes a single new ability to trigger an idea to create a new battle deck. A lot of money later, I’d take my fresh fighting strategy to the league and mostly get slaughtered by the veteran players.

Recently, the Evolving Skies expansion reinvigorated my Pokémon TCG habit. Before that, it was my Eternatus Dark Deck. It’s a signature new Pokémon from Sword & Shield, an awesome looking dragon. I bought two of the latest versions of its cards and added new Trainer cards to my deck, making it stronger than ever. It was a lot of fun to play for a while. Eventually, better players defeated me more and more.

It’s fun for a while. It’s also expensive. And now with so many Pokémon cards stored up in my bedroom, among other things, the space is very constrained. Besides limited space, I have limited time and money to invest in Pokemon. It competes for attention amidst my other interests, like video gaming. While hobbies are a healthy outlet for fun and creativity, I can only do so much.

I’ve been pondering the possibility of getting out of Pokémon TCG altogether, except for maybe some focused card collecting only. It would be a form of minimalism, wherein I eliminate one good thing in order to focus on — prioritize — the better things. No matter how trite, it’s still true: less is more.

With less Pokémon TCG, I’d have more time and money — plus physical and mental space — for video gaming, blogging, writing, and another bourgeoning idea I’m planning… Of course, I’m still interested in playing new Pokémon video games, just less so the trading card game.

I feel like I don’t have enough interest and availability to continue Pokémon TCG. It takes considerable overhead to organize the cards I have accumulated in just two years. On the upside, I have so many good ones now that, if I decide to liquidate some, I’d have a chunky wad of cash to spend on more interesting pursuits.

One sticky point to bailing out of pocket monster card playing is that my wife and kids are still into it. But if I decide to continue by only collecting a few certain Pokémon, then I’d still have my big toe dipped into the Pokémon pool, which would be enough to stir the pot and trade cards amongst my kids.

This is a thing that I think I should do, but it seems hard to do. It’s not the only hobby I had to quit in recent memory. I practiced Kyokushin Karate with my whole family for a few years and got pretty good at it. But two things transpired to end it: Covid–19 and my physical condition… The point is, I already know what it’s like to step back from a shared family hobby when necessary, and if I do it for the right reasons, then it’s for the best. At the very least, I’m sure I can downsize, which seems more reasonable than quitting altogether cold-turkey.

I’ll be thinking it over.

A Truly Smart TV

Last year, I wrote about Switching to 4K video and how reluctant I was at the prospect. I figured I’d hold out longer but was also starting to warm to the idea because I’d love to play games in 4K. Well, we upgraded!

After being content with our 40” HDTV for the past 9 years, we finally bought at 4K TV at 55”. There were only two things we we’re wanting: the bigger screen (for more immersive/expansive entertainment) and the higher resolution (for more stunning life-like imagery). To our surprise and delight though, we got a lot more than we bargained for.

I don’t keep up with TV tech trends; I’ve always treated my TV like a computer monitor, just a simple “dumb” display. Our previous HDTV had the Nintendo Switch, a Bluray player, and a Roku connected. The latter stick was our portal to online streaming content like YouTube and AppleTV.

Now our new UHD TV is smart in many ways. It totally eliminated the need for our Roku. Every streaming service you would want is built-in and runs great: Prime video, Netflix, and Disney+ to name a few. I can even AirPlay stuff from my iPhone to it with ease.

The shiny new rectangle (not curved, by the way) also has more HDMI ports than our former polygonal movie portal, and one of them has the ARC capability as does our existing soundbar. So now we can connect all our devices directly to the TV, removing the need for the janky cable splitter while also minimizing cables.

Things are also simpler since we’re now able to control our soundbar with the TV remote rather than a separate remote. Also cool, the new TV is smart enough to detect when a connected device powers on, which auto-switches to the correct input. Another bonus, the TV has Bluetooth, so now I can enjoy stuff on the big screen using my wireless headphones so I don’t disturb those in slumber.

There is one minor downside to our new set-up, but it’s not the TV’s fault. Our DSL internet is, by definition, not broadband (it pains me to even say it). So it’s simply not fast enough to stream 4K content. I sampled 4K HDR videos on YouTube and have been able to watch only a few. I tried selecting the full 4K setting on some videos but they collapsed inside a buffering black-hole. The next resolution down (1440p I think) is something like 3K or 2.5K and we’re able to stream that, so at least we have improved over 1080p full-HD (or what you might consider 2K).

If we want to watch full–4K videos, we’ll need to buy a 4K disc player, but those are still very expensive. Frankly, this gives me pause as I consider no longer buying physical media for movie watching and instead may rely on streaming. Hopefully, in the next year or two, our local service providers will finally roll out fiber optic internet to our house (we live in a rural area).

Playing Switch games in HD upscaled to “4K” on the bigger screen is awesome for the improved immersion in 3D environments. Overall quality looks better too. Part of that is due to the smoother motion thanks to a simulated (or interpolated) refresh rate of 120Hz (true native is 60Hz). When Nintendo unveils a 4K Switch, I’ll certainly want to upgrade my gaming. Glad I have a TV ready for it. That said, I’m more inclined now to also buy a PS5. One thing at a time.

I resisted the march of progress for more pixels until now. The cool thing is we got more than that. We have a truly Smart TV that meets our entertainment desires with less effort and greater efficacy than ever. Looks like a smart move to me.

Better Gaming Through Broader Story Telling

A hallmark of good entertainment is a compelling story. In a video game, a background story is sometimes used to merely support the game-play. But in role-playing games (RPGs), the story is forefront, giving the player an immersive role in a grand story-arc. So I was excited and surprised to discover an RPG video game with a story so important that it spans across mediums.

The promising RPG I found is waiting on my backlog: Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition.

I’ve been looking forward to playing this game for a while now. It ticks all the boxes that almost any RPG fan would crave; good story is one of them. And it will be my first “Tales of…” game ever. As part of a long-standing and successful action-RPG franchise by Bandai Namco, I can’t wait to dive into it!

But to sweeten the deal, I found more to the story. Literally!

Thanks to Amazon’s smart suggestions, while shopping the website recently, I stumbled upon Tales of Vesperia: First Strike (check it out on Letterboxd). It’s a movie prequel to the story found in the game. Wow!

Wait, what? Based on reviews, I learned that this movie sets up the video game by telling the back story of some of the characters. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this kind of expanded story-telling before, other than a book/movie tie-in. This is a video game/movie tie-in!

I’ve got to try this new experience, so I bought the movie right away. And now, instead of looking forward to only the video game, I’m also eager to see the prequel story set it up. It should make my role in the RPG more immersive and satisfying.

I never expected an RPG to be enriched by a movie complement. So, yeah, I’m pumped about it. It’s exciting to find new stuff like this. And what impresses me, too, is that a company cares enough about a franchise to create its art in multiple formats for the sake of good story-telling.

Through the mediums of both movie and video game, I hope to connect with the world and characters in Tales of Vesperiamore deeply and be moved more emotionally while playing the RPG.

Anything to make a good RPG great and the role-play more immersive, bring it on.

A Social Network For Movies

The other day, I wondered, “There should be a goodreads for movies.” You know, a niche site that lets you catalog and discover movies. It would also have a social media like aspect. I didn’t think IMDb was the right thing. So I searched…and found it!

Social Movia

The site, called Letterboxd, is exactly what I was lookin’ for; I joined quickly!

Its look and feel are designed nicely, a dark background with elegant lines and fonts. Things are neatly organized. The interface is nicer than goodreads.

You create your own profile with a Bio, which other members of the site may follow. Then you start adding movies you’ve seen or want to see.

With all the movies you’ve seen, you can take several actions:
  • Like
  • Favorite
  • Tag
  • Rate
  • Log
  • Review

Of course, you can add movies you haven’t seen to your Watchlist. Speaking of, you can create your own custom lists too.

There are reviews of movies by other people on the site. And you can find folks who have similar movie tastes as yourself and connect with them by clicking, “Follow.”

I’m still new to Letterboxd and have only started building my movie catalog. But so far it’s cool.

There are cinephiles or movie buffs there, people who are really into the art of cinema and theater. This makes me feel a bit like an outsider since I’m more like the guy who just wants a good popcorn flick most of the time. Think Blockbuster. Oh well.

If you’re looking for the “goodreads for movies,” Letterboxd is it!

Video Game Music Rabbit Hole

A few days ago, I was scrolling the home page on YouTube. I do that. Maybe too much. One of the videos that surfaced was of
a composer’s reaction to the Final Fantasy VI song, “Dancing Mad.” Intrigued, I watched the whole video with glee! And a rabbit hole of Final Fantasy music swallowed me up.

When I was a teen, circa 1994, I played FFVI on Super Nintendo. It was called FFIII here in the west. And I recall the great final battle with Kefka and the music that played. Nobuo Uematsu’s score, “Dancing Mad,” was epic! The whole game and the ending were too, of course.

What intrigued me about the YouTube video were two things: the guy who reacted to it is a music composer. And he had never played the game, so he did not know the context of the song! His reaction would be purely based on the quality of the composed score itself, even in its SNES form. Nice!

Good news: I liked his reaction.

This led to me wanting to hear full symphony orchestrated renditions of Final Fantasy songs from the SNES and PS1 days, back when audio quality was still poor and video game music sounded only slightly better than the blips and beeps of 80’s gaming with Atari and the NES.

I discovered several YouTube renditions and covers and orchestrated pieces of FF music – lots to enjoy! Best of all, I also found some of these on Apple Music!

My favorite so far is the album, A Place To Call Home featuring orchestral tributes to Final Fantasy IX. One of my fave songs is Freya’s Theme! This song has so much emotion in it; you have to feel it, like ineffable earnest heartache with a twinkle of hope. Hultgren’s tribute captures the spirit of the song.

So after more than an hour, I was saturated in compelling symphonies of Final Fantasy video game music. What a time it was. Sonic serendipity.

What do you think?

Switching To 4K Video

Are you already aboard the 4K train? You know, Ultra High Definition (UHD). Despite being a tech-nerd, I’m dragging my feet, content to live with HD quality videos. Why? Because, for goodness sake, it looks great already!

Maybe it’s because I come from a time when the best we had was VHS, which I think displayed something like 320×240 (or 640×480?) resolution on an interlaced TV. It was yuck! Yet it was color TV!

Then we evolved to the awesome DVD format. And today I live with 720p or 1080p HD. It’s superb!

My family was late to the HD party by several years. The advantage: by then, HD was ubiquitous and easy to adopt. And it had dropped in price, becoming affordable.

That’s basically where I stand now with 4K. Sure, it looks stellar. But the costs are also sky high. Well, they are coming down I think.

The trouble is once you’ve invested in a blu-ray player, a new HDTV, and movies on blu-ray, you kind of want technology to stand still long enough to enjoy your investment.

Oh, and let me interject: the 3D movie fad…yeah, I never even considered it.

The next thing you know, marketers are telling you that you might as well be rubbing sandpaper on your eyeballs if you’re not watching glorious 4K stuff.

Now all of the sudden, you’ve got to buy another new TV. And a new movie playback machine. And new more expensive movies.

This is where things get more tricky than usual! Besides contemplating an upgrade to 4K, you must decide whether you’re gonna stick with physical discs or just go all digital. Either way, you’re gonna spend more money.

So I’ve resisted 4K for a few years now. I might hold out at least one more.


Switch To 4K

I recently realized a new factor. I enjoy video gaming on my Nintendo Switch. There are rumors that Nintendo is planning an upgrade for the Switch to play games in 4K! And, okay, I admit: I am much more interested in jumping on the 4K bandwagon with that prospect.

Just think about it! Mario, Zelda, Metroid, new RPGs…in 4K!!

My digital wallet is starting to feel lighter already.

Spotify Plays Game Music

Let’s talk music streaming for a bit. I bet you already have your go-to place for tunes. Me, well, I’ve jumped around, tried a few things.

It took a long time for me to break from the iTunes a-la-carte model. That ability to purchase one song rather than a whole album was liberating; I came from a time of cassettes and CD’s. If I wanted that-one-hit-song, I ran to the radio and mashed the record button – and groaned when the tape wasn’t queued.

Fast forward to streaming music services. Their monthly subscription fees seemed like too much commitment, but I started to try them out.

First, I sampled Apple Music. It was nice… Then I dove into Spotify; I loved it! Part of the reason I bothered looking into it was knowing that Google Play Music would soon be killed off by Google, but I digress.

Well, despite loving Spotify, I wanted to later try YouTube Music Premium. I did, I liked it, and most of all I enjoyed the perk of ad-free YouTube Premium for only $2 more a month.

But then something happened.

When I first opened up to YouTube Music, I realized quickly that I’d have to give up some official soundtracks; Spotify had them, YouTube Music didn’t. I thought I was willing to live with that.

Turns out, I wasn’t.

Towards the end of Summer, when I got back into playing video games, I wanted the soundtracks to the games! The official soundtracks for all the Final Fantasy games are on Spotify! There’s even the album for Octopath Traveler!

There were a few other albums I missed too. So, there was no choice. I had to have my tunes!

Despite the benefits of YouTube Music, I couldn’t resist the greatest feature of Spotify, the most important reason for choosing it: my songs. Like, music by Nobuo Uematsu!

Aside: Why video game music? When you play certain games, like role-playing ones, the music sets the atmosphere and draws you emotionally into the story. Those tunes stick with you. And you feel sonically obliged to immerse in them.

So, all that to explain why I switched something again. I’m back on Spotify and am loving it!

Ah, but there’s one more thing.

I’m now also trying something else again: Apple Music…on Android!? Yes, it’s true. I’d always thought Apple Music on Android was bad due to poor reviews. But now that I’m in an actual free one-month trial, I’m surprised at how well it works! It looks and feels just like it did on my old iPhone 7!

Not only that, I discovered Apple does, in fact, make a cloud based web player for Apple Music. And it’s working well on my Chromebook!

I love Spotify, so why am I trying Apple Music after leaving Apple devices behind? Long story short, my wife is an iPhone user and likes Apple Music. If she doesn’t switch to Spotify, then I may switch to Apple Music so we can save money with a family share plan.

And yes, the first thing I did was check to see if Apple Music has all my video game soundtracks; it does! Moreover, to my surprise, Apple Music also has a particular game soundtrack that Spotify lacks: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch!

What’s your gotta-have music?

Three Great Gamecasts

These days, lots of folks binge watch shows on “Awesome Streaming Service.” Other fun things you might enjoy: a hobby, cooking, music… I bounce between different things. Lately, I’ve enjoyed the imaginative worlds of video games. The interactive escapism makes for rich entertainment.

When not playing video games, it’s fun to geek out over them with others. Sharing gameplay experiences and anticipating new ones adds excitement. So the social game-cataloging site, Grouvee, is a joy. But I’m here to focus on another avenue for gaming geekery: podcasts.


I’m sure there are a ton of podcasts about video gaming; I’ve found three good ones. You might like’em too.

  1. NVC by IGN
  2. Switchcast
  3. Random Encounter by RPGFan

The first two focus on Nintendo Switch games. The third one is all about RPG games across various platforms besides the Switch, like on Playstation or Xbox.

What they all have in common is intense or serious enthusiasm for gaming – something I relate to. Or you might just say there’s fun and joy.

The people on these podcasts exude passion for gaming when they review games, discuss upcoming ones, and talk about the gaming industry as a whole. They’re informative and bring excitement.

Do these podcasts encourage escapism? You bet! This is a good thing. America in 2020 has been less than enjoyable to say the least. So having something fun to distract from bad news is helpful.
What Else?

Maybe you’re not into video games. No problem. Whatever you’re into, I’m sure you’ll find podcasts for it. Have you thought about it subscribing to any? It’s super easy!

There are many apps for downloading and listening to podcasts on your phone. Best of all, most are free (ad supported). If you’re into writing stories or underwater basket weaving, and you need some fuel for your fun-fire, check out some podcasts by like-minded folks to geek out with.

I’ll leave you with links to some popular podcast players:

Pokémon Fun Reshuffled

This past weekend, I played something besides a video game: Pokémon TCG. My interest was rekindled by last Friday’s release of the new Champion’s Path expansion. The previous one, Darkness Ablaze, helped fuel the flames. And the new Standard Rotation reinvigorated the playing field.

Put Down The Controller

Yeah, I paused Final Fantasy X, docked the Nintendo Switch, and fully diverted my attention to rebuilding an all-new battle deck. With the recent Eternatus cards, how could I avoid revitalizing my Darkness game!?

So I took my Dark-type deck and started swapping out old cards. Thankfully, one of my favorite strategies remained intact with Weavile GX; I love his Shadow Connection ability! But now I can use his Nocturnal Maneuvers to set up my new main attacker, Eternatus VMAX.

I won’t bore my non-Pokémon readers with too many of the details. Yet you might relate.


Pokémon is very involved; it engages the brain’s problem solving capacity. The numerous cards and abilities are somewhat daunting, but the game boils down to a few basic strategies. And while that translates to costing a lot of time and money, it’s also much fun.

The strategic part captured my brain this weekend. With so many new cards and abilities, I saw time fly by while my mind weighed all the options. You can be imaginative in discovering sneaky tricks or certain knock-outs in the game. But you must always weigh the trade-offs with the benefits. And Pokémon TCG is balanced well; it requires careful planning.

Family Fun

So for the first time in months, my whole family went to the Pokémon League meet-up. My kids and I had fun! I scored great trades for new cards, adding them to my arsenal. Then it was time to start testing my revised Dark deck. It worked, but it has weaknesses; no surprise. So I’ve begun addressing those and will tweak my deck to victory.

And I can’t wait for more! It’s nice to have good family fun, especially during otherwise stressful times. Balancing books, video games, movies, and all forms of escapism is a great problem to have; I’m thankful.

A cool bonus: playing Pokémon with my kids helps me be involved with them more. For example, my oldest son asked me to help him tweak his new Water-type deck. So I’ve started suggesting certain cards and strategies to him – even made a good trade. And my youngest son, still too young to actually play, enjoys trading cards with daddy and his brothers.

So bring it on. I’m eager for the next expansion, Vivid Voltage. It might electrify the game even better, giving the family more to buzz about.

Lastly, speaking of buzz, The Pokémon Company and Nintendo announced yesterday that the newest expansion, The Crown Tundra, for the video game, Pokémon Sword and Shield, will be released on October 22. The biggest news to me: it includes ALL the legendary Pokémon from previous games! That means I’ll finally be able to catch my favorite, Zygarde!

Star Wars Saga Sentiments

Laser-swords and Force-chokes! Star Wars is a cultural force that I’m sure you’ve heard of. The world-building of George Lucas inspired a whole expanded universe. I’m reading part of that now in a Star Wars Legends novel. It got me thinking, what’s my take on the main canon of the 9-movie saga?

The Saga

This is my sort of for-the-record stance on the Star Wars saga. Many who loved the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V, & VI) despise the prequels with a hatred matched only by the darkest Lords of the Sith. If you really want to know the power of the dark side of the Force, mention Jar Jar Binks. You will incur the wrath of many light sabers.

The final trilogy (Episodes VII, VIII & IX) by Disney seems to have everyone split down the middle. And you know such fence riding doesn’t work. The Force is not so ambiguous; it has two sides. Pick one, you must. Light or Dark? Good or Bad?

So whose side am I on, Vader’s, or Luke’s? Answer: Skywalker’s…

And what order should the 9 movies be watched? What about the expanded universe movies, Solo, Rogue One, The Clone Wars? (Sorry, Disney+, I have not subscribed to watch Mandalorian. Yet.) Plus, how do I rank all 9 from worst to best??

Before I answer, I admit I’m not too hard to please with sci-fi escapism. Especially when a light-saber is involved. And it’s purple. And it’s wielded by Samuel Jackson.


First, let’s look at the sequence. I say watch the movies in the order they were originally released, simple as that. There’s really no other way to see them if you want the true cultural experience of Star Wars. Not chronological, just logical. So that’s:

  1. IV, V, VI
  2. I, II, III
  3. VII, VIII, IX


These three episodes are modern classics now. Most people love The Empire Strikes Back most; it’s great! The, “No Luke, I am your Father” reveal may never be outdone. I love the inescapable constraint on Luke. Either the devil cannot be your dad, or your dad cannot be a devil. Luke chooses to believe the latter!

Swashbuckling, family drama, and sci-fi somehow mesh together in a believable and exciting manner. Sentient droids, Chewbacca, tractor beams, giant slug-like gangster, cute fuzzy Ewoks, moon-sized space station with epic explosion…what’s not to like?

There’s controversy about things like: Did Han Solo shoot first? Should later cuts have been made that added CGI? Personally, I don’t quibble over these. The overall stories and cinematic experience stand up despite a little tarnish. Life’s too short to die on a hill of fiction. Star Wars is entertainment, not religion.


I can see why the prequels are derided: bad acting, sappy love story, kid Anakin, CGI Yoda… While many would love to Force-choke Jar Jar Binks or torture him with finger-lightning, I don’t think he alone ruins the prequels. To think so gives Jar Jar too much credit (or blame, if you must). There’s enough good backstory, action, and lore in the first three episodes to outweigh the annoying antics of Mr. Binks. No need to dwell on the negative. Only a Sith would think so absolutely.

Overall, the formula of the first three episodes works. There’s good escalation of events and action scenes, especially light-saber action. Double-saber, curved-hilt saber, two sabers at once, four sabers at once, purple saber!

I appreciate how the prequels fill in the back-story about Skywalker, the little details of Palpatine’s rise to power, the fall of Anakin, the birth of Luke, the clones, etc. The immaculate conception of Anakin via midichlorians is very interesting. It makes the Force more concrete yet more mysterious at the same time.


The Disney owned conclusion to the Star Wars saga is a tough one. New, modern, great CGI and FX, good fresh acting, lovely performances by the original cast, intriguing story line. But contrast that with misdirection from the Director swap and somewhat convoluted story-telling.

The Force Awakens was a fantastic blend of nostalgia and potential. But The Last Jedi, while good, was simply too unorthodox. The tone was wrong, and the enigmatic Force balancing could have gone better. This gave The Rise of Skywalker shaky ground to stand on. It propped itself up well, but it could have also been better.

The resurrection of the Emperor is almost too big a stretch. Snoke was an unfortunate distraction. The First Order is wasted opportunity. Maz Kanata had more potential too.

The sacrilegious treatment of Luke Skywalker and the Jedi was too jarring. But then I embraced the challenge that the story is not about the Jedi, or even the Sith, it’s about the Force. The protagonist and antagonist is the Force itself that somehow finds completion in the convoluted Skywalker genealogy. Okay, fair enough.

Also, there had to be a way to work in a purple lightsaber. Missed opportunity.


Everyone gets hung up by some part of the Star Wars saga, myself included. But by and large it’s a great franchise of fiction for many fans. The lore of the Star Wars universe pulls me in. The characters are interesting, no matter how unbelievable. The sci-fi sets a standard.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe grabs much attention, but I’d rather see more of the Star Wars universe on the big screen.

I really like the movie, Solo. And Rogue One is excellent! More please. Seriously, I want a whole movie about Mace Windu with crazy amounts of purple light-saber action!

My ranking of the 9 episodes, worst to best:

  1. I
  2. IX
  3. II
  4. III
  5. VIII
  6. VI
  7. VII
  8. IV
  9. V

This list is tough and will likely change as the movies age.

What do you think?

Now Playing YouTube Music Premium

YouTube Music kicked Spotify’s tail. But it wasn’t a fair fight! That’s because YouTube, the video service, jumped into the ring. It took a lot to pin down Spotify for 10 seconds. In a future match, who knows? For now, my money is on YouTube Music Premium.

Playing Now

About a month ago, I decided to give YouTube Music Premium a full 30-day try. Go all-in!

So how’s that going? I’m sticking with it!

Spotify (Premium) was my music streaming service of choice. It’s great! It was the catalyst I needed to finally understand music streaming, helping me break free from my music library I held onto for years.

YouTube Music (YTM) is very similar to Spotify. There are only a few minor differences. One of those I happen to prefer is that YTM has a dedicated “Songs” list unlike Spotify.

There are two main reasons why I switched.

YTM is built-into my Android phone (can’t uninstall) and integrated by default with Google Assistant. Being all-in with Google, this makes sense for me. Third-party services have their place, but living on a first-party ecosystem (Apple is the gold standard) is best. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The larger reason is the bundle option with YouTube Premium. For only $2 extra per month, I get YouTube ad-free on top of YouTube Music Premium. Nice!

At first, I thought having music videos mixed within YTM would be an ugly intrusion. But guess what? It’s not. In fact, it’s quite nice. Music videos are integrated in an elegant fashion. They’re present and available yet not obtrusive.

I also find a nice synergy between YouTube and YTM. Seeing my music playlists on YouTube makes their similarities consistent in my mind. I feel more connected to both YouTube and YTM. I’m sure this is by design. It makes the services more sticky. But that’s fine with me because I’m loving them both.

Sure, there are a few small downsides to YTM when contrasted with Spotify. The only significant one is not every official album on Spotify is available on YTM. Yet for every “official” song missing from YTM, they’re often found on YouTube itself. And since that is integrated, you can play any song you want almost always.

Playing Next

Whether you download or stream your songs, YTM is a great music subscription service on par with the premium level of Spotify.

I’d also say it’s comparable to Apple Music, but I’ve only tried that one for 90 days. Apple Music is available on Android phones, but I doubt the app and service works well based on app store reviews. If you’re going to use Apple Music, then you’re going to have an iPhone (like I did) anyways, right?

I have not used YTM long enough yet for it to learn my music tastes well. But based on my past usage of Google Play Music (which is being euthanized later this year), I trust Google’s eerily impressive machine learning will figure it out.

Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy YTM and ad-free YouTube!

And if it doesn’t work out, I know I can always fall back to Spotify Premium.

It’s good to have a few great options.

What do you think?

Pokemon Replay

The Pokemon bug bit me again. Yeah, must have been a Bug-type Pokemon. Of course. Actually, it was Heatran, a Fire-type. I had re-tweaked my Darkness deck for a while. But now I’m building a new battle deck based on Fire. There will be many burned Pokemon. Just sayin’.

New Moves

So the Cosmic Eclipse expansion was released in November; my family and I had some great pulls! It is the last expansion before the new base series for TCG comes out: Sword and Shield. And speaking of, the newest mainline Pokemon videogames already hit stores in November too, which really stirred the Pokemon pot!

There are brand new never-before-seen-or-caught Pokemon in the new Galar region! So even if you had caught’em all, well, now you’ve got more work to do. Get crackin’! And since my family had our Christmas early this year, we are!

I have been playing Pokemon Sword, my first ever Pokemon video game. It’s fun! And it’s helping me learn more about the Pokemon and Trainers in the card game, in which I’m enjoying a resurgence.

I’ve had fun learning and trying things with my first major battle deck based on Dark Pokemon. It had good mechanics with my main strategy (Weavile GX Ability). I guess I got tired of it though. But I recently had a jolt of the fun of finding new cards and putting together a new strategy with a new battle deck. So I’ve been eyeing several fiery Pokemon.

I started looking at Fire abilities and was stoked! But things took a twist. As I was building up ideas for a Fire deck, I crossed paths with my Zygarde Fighting Pokemon and a fellow TCG player on Facebook. One thing led to another, and now, for the first time, I have an Expanded battle deck! I had been locked in my mind to play only Standard cards in rotation, but now I have…expanded.

The cool thing about my new deck, which utilizes all my Zygarde Pokemon, is that besides being Expanded, it is for fun! And it’s easier to play against young kids who sometimes have weak decks. It’s really about having fun and trying new things with Pokemon TCG. Meanwhile, I continue to build my new no-holds-barred Fire deck to bring the heat to battle!

Fighting With Fire

So what’s next? For my Fighting deck, I must start practicing it, finding its weaknesses, and tweaking it. I played in the recent League Challenge tournament and did okay. My new Zygarde deck took some beating, but I got a few lucky first wins. It was fun and I learned stuff, so either way!

Also, I’ve ordered some cards for my Fire deck, but I have more to order at a later date. So I’ll play my Fighting deck more while working on the Fire one. And starting in February, the brand new base set of Sword and Shield Pokemon will go on sale, and oh boy! There are all new types of cards, so there will be new strategies to try!

Do you play Pokemon?

Tickets To Star Wars

I can hardly believe it. I bought tickets for the newest Star Wars movie. Episode IX. The Rise of Skywalker. Is this really happening?

As part of my family’s Christmas celebration/holiday time, we decided to include the 7 of us going to watch The Rise of Skywalker.

So I busted out the Fandango app and reserved seats at our local Cinemark. Plus, it’s on the super big fancy movie screen with extra whammy-kablammy cinema sauce!

And there you have it. Somehow I managed to find 7 seats in a row for my family to see Star Wars on opening day! It’s a matinee viewing, and it should prove to be a fun family event, kicking off my holiday vacation time.

As for the movie itself, I don’t know what to expect. Yeah, I think it will be great! But I have many questions, wondering how JJ Abrams has wrapped up the huge Skywalker saga. I think it has something to do with The Force and bringing balance to it. But how does Kylo Ren turn out? How epic will this thing be?

We should find out in a few days!!

Do you plan to see the newest Star Wars?

Quest For A Music Service

Raise your hand if you remember iTunes in the era of the iPod and how game changing $0.99 songs a-la-carte were. Nowadays, it’s all about streaming music services. I’ve stood as a hold-out, but the ground is cracking beneath my feet. I think it’s time to move on.

Listening History

If you’re like me, then you may recall the way music worked in the 80’s and 90’s. If I wanted a hit song, I rushed to the boom box to mash the fat plastic record button on the tape deck while the radio announcer talked over the first few seconds of the music. Ah, those days…

If I wished to avoid the DJs, the air-wave ads, or the hissing crackling audio of cheap cassettes, despite Dolby B and NR noise reduction, my other option was to buy a whole entire CD (album) from an artist to get that-one-song. That’s right, we “old” people would sometimes pay $15 for a song.

Then Napster, Kazaa, and Apple changed everything.

Now Playing

Fast-forward (like a cassette tape!) to now. Way back in January this year, I tried Apple Music for the first time! I told you, I’ve been a hold-out. Buying specific songs for a buck on iTunes to make a mix-tape (playlist) was revolutionary and easy, and not so easy to let go of.

So Apple’s streaming service was cool, if not a bit overwhelming. It was kinda weird to see my decades old music library suddenly inundated with new albums and artists. The Apple Music app on my iPhone also wasn’t organized very well. I had a hard time combining my trusty library with all the new stuff and getting it sorted. But most of all, I wasn’t ready to pay $10 a month for the rest of my life; I figured it’d be cheaper to buy 5 new songs a month at roughly half the price!

But things have changed. Again.

I switched my main computer from iPad to Chromebook. In other words, from Apple to Google. So I wanted to switch to Google Play Music too. I’d used it before, and besides uploading my songs from iTunes (library migration is hard!), it had a feature I really liked: Stations based on a song or artist. It was great for new music discovery!

But I quickly saw that Google was, yet again, killing a service! Slowly but surely, Google Play Music is being replaced by YouTube Music. And it’s just not there yet. You can’t transfer your existing song library to it. The app is limited too. If I must abandon my old song library and start over, then I’ll go with the best solution I’ve found so far.


I’ll start with this one-weird-fact. For years, I thought the Spotify logo was lame. But I can say it has grown on me. Judging a book by its cover is a no-no. And now that I’ve actually started trying Spotify…oh my, I think I may have fallen head over heels!

The app and service are so MUCH better than Apple Music! The interface is clean, elegant, simple, and easy. The service works great as a result of clarity and simplicity. How has Apple fallen behind in this regard? I think it’s due to the baggage. Apple’s music app/service has the burden of combining the old (iTunes library) with the new (streaming library). But Spotify starts fresh from the ground up as a groundbreaking streaming service.

Speaking of starting fresh, I’m experiencing a surprising liberation. Since there is no way to import my old music collection into Spotify, I’m literally starting over with a clean slate. It’s a refreshing transformation! I can create all new playlists. I don’t have the laborious task of migrating, importing, or matching music. I have all-the-songs!

Also, Spotify is a third-party solution. It’s an independent, not sold-out, service. So it’s cross-platform. That means I can use any company’s device (iPhone, Chromebook, fire tablet) and always have my whole music library!

A Sound Summary

Long have I resisted subscription services, but Spotify is awesome! I’ll keep trying it out and see if it sticks. I think it will.

At least the Spotify logo is not a cassette tape.

Where do you get your music?

Subscriptions To Escapism

Entertainment abounds. It’s so prolific, you can’t escape from Escapism; it’s everywhere! We unplug so much, we may need to unplug from unplugging. As I considered the options for a monthly subscription service, I was reminded how inundated we are with endless entertainment.

There is now a subscription for all forms of entertainment.


For movies and TV shows, there’s streaming Video: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, YouTube Premium, Apple TV+, and more. Binge on binging.


For music, streaming audio: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, and Amazon Music to name a few. Millions of songs!


Like to read books? There’s kindle unlimited. How about news articles or magazines? Apple News+ and more.


Are you into games? Now there’s Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass.

For a small recurring fee, you can be fed a limitless supply of consumable content, like an all-you-can-eat-buffet. Binge much? To stand out, the creators, aggregators, and distributors must up the ante, making entertainment more delicious than ever.

Stories Of Other Worlds

There’s one thing all forms of entertainment have in common: story. It has universal appeal. Whichever way you like, a tale is ready for the telling.

A single 3-minute song often tells a simple story. An epic novel is the longest form of story-telling. In between those extremes, a 2-hour movie portrays story as does a 40-hour role-playing-game. The different forms of amusement engage our brains, both thoughts and emotions, in various ways.

I like all forms of entertainment. No surprise there. Recently I tried out Nintendo’s new iPhone game called, Dr. Mario World. It’s a simple match–3 game like Candy Crush or Bejeweled. Despite the simple mechanics of the game, it’s supported by a story. Viruses (the antagonist) have invaded Mushroom Kingdom (setting), and everyone (protagonist), from Mario to Bowser, must unite against them to save the world. There’s “Man versus Nature” conflict in a setting with characters. Story!

Fiction Subscription

If you could choose only one subscription service to get stories, which one would you sign up for? I’ve been wondering about this for video: Netflix, Apple TV+, and Disney+ to name a few. If I could have just one, I still don’t know which it would be.

Movies are great, but it’s said that the book is always better. Lately, I’ve been immersed in reading. This form of storytelling engages the mind on the deepest level. Novels are excellent forms of escapism! But for the money, I’m not sure. An eBook is typically 10 dollars. At that price, you can get a month’s worth of movies and TV shows. It’s an issue of quality versus quantity, and it comes down to preference.

Amazon offers a kindle unlimited monthly subscription; I’ve never tried it. Yet I recommend reading stories and not just watching them. So your call to action is: go get you a good book. But also keep reading my blog too. 😉

Are you overwhelmed with monthly subscriptions?

Angel Has Fallen

My wife and I enjoyed watching
Angel Has Fallen at the theater last weekend – we got to go out on a date!

The movie was better than we expected! I liken it to a spy thriller. There’s Secret Service, fast-paced action, and guns. Lots of guns.

Overall, it’s a fun, yet violent, late Summer action flick. Not only that, it’s got some really funny parts and a good cast of characters.

I’d watch it again. In fact, I think I’ll buy it on Blu-Ray when available.

I like to check Rotten Tomatoes for the movie scores. How good might I expect a movie to be? Critics, of course, can be hyper-critical.

For this movie, they only gave it an average of 39%! That is far lower than the movie deserves. In fact, the Audience – normal people – scored it at a whopping 93%! Yeah!
Go Watch

If you want some good entertainment and must get out of the house, Angel Has Fallen is worth your time and your dime.

Have you seen the movie already?