Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Today, I headed down to South Florida National Cemetery, to remember that we are free because of the brave.

I visited the grave of Sgt. Justin Johnson, a local soldier who was killed in action at Bagram Air Force Base in 2013:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Books: Unseen City

There are plenty of days when the closest I get to nature are the trees planted in the sidewalk next to my office building. But ever since reading "Unseen City" by Nathanael Johnson, I've looked at those trees (and their squirrels, and the turkey vultures sailing above them) with new eyes.

The book was inspired by Johnson's daughter, whose innocent questions about the trees she saw on her walks through San Francisco led Johnson down a rabbit hole of discovery. Each chapter of "Unseen City" is a fun portrait of some very common plants and animals - pigeons, snails, ginkgoes - and you'll also learn tips on how to best observe these often-invisible denizens of the urban jungle. The overarching message is that you don't need to go to some national park or exotic rainforest to appreciate nature. It is all around us, if we just take the time to look and listen.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

TV: Mystery Science Theater 3000 - The Return

I've been a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ("MST3K") since the old Comedy Central days. The premise was preposterous - a guy is trapped in a spaceship and forced to watch awful movies with his robot companions, making jokes all the while - but I ate it up as a kid. My Saturday mornings were filled with obscure B-movies, silly prop comedy, and robot puppets:

I followed the show when it moved to Sci-Fi (before it was "SyFy"), but when MST3K finally got canceled, I resigned myself to never seeing a new episode again. I never predicted that the show would get its own revival on Netflix, courtesy of more than 48,000 determined Kickstarter backers:

So how does the MST3K revival fare in a time when seemingly every beloved '90s-era show is getting a reboot? Really well, actually. The new season features some wonderful cult classics (including "Cry Wilderness," "Starcrash," and both "Wizards of the Lost Kingdom" movies) that strike the satisfying balance of being bizarre enough to be interesting, but bad enough to make fun of. The revival also benefits from being helmed by the show's original creator, Joel Hodgson, who wisely kept everything - the sets, costumes, and skits - cheesy and low-fi.

The jokes are a little different this time around, of course. The original MST3K writing room had a pleasant intellectual Midwestern sensibility in its riffs, but the comments in this one sometimes feel a little mean-spirited (calling out a film for using cheap sets or costumes) or lowbrow (making random fart noises). The streaming format also imposes more serialization than before (it's weird to have jokes reference earlier movies in the season, and to have continuing storylines). For the most part, though, this is a very faithful continuation of a show that I thought was long gone.