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Living in Portland

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Thoughts on the first six weeks of living in Portland…

  • People are generally polite, much in the same way folks in Cedar Falls are. I’m relieved by that, as I expected the majority of big-city folk to come off as stand-offish if not downright rude.
  • Prices are generally the same, though gas is about 50 cents higher (for non-ethanol). As I live a mile east of I-5, I have noticed that gas stations closer to the interstate can command prices 25 to 50 cents higher per gallon than stations further east, even amongst the same chains.
  • I live within a mile of five grocery stores. The closest, Fred Meyer, is a mere three block walk from our apartment. It is similar to Wal-Mart in that it is split between groceries and home goods. The interior is much better designed, it is far more clean, and aside from super-busy weekends, there is less anxiety being there.
  • On the note of super-busy weekends… everything is busy on weekends. Which makes sense. But when you live in a metro area of one/two million people, foot traffic is basic stores and shopping areas is downright insane. So far I have done my damnedest to only shop on weekdays, around midday if I can help it.
  • The variety of bars and restaurants is far greater than anywhere in the midwest outside of Chicago, though so far we have found more so-so places than we have places we want to visit again. A few standouts: McMenamins for a tasty burger, Pho MeKha on Sandy Ave for pho, Angelina’s (downtown) for gyros, and My Father’s Place for an afternoon beer and a basket of crinkle-cut fries.
  • The variety of movie theaters is initially exciting, until I realize most of the larger multiplexes are owned by Regal and charge an arm & leg for tickets, even for matinees. It has taken a bit of sleuthing to find a few cheap theaters, but they exist — the best one (so far) being the Laurelhurst, a mere mile-walk from my apartment, which charges $3 for matinees and $4 for evening tickets. They also serve beer and wine, and are a 21-and-over establishment (after 6 p.m.). Also work checking out are the Academy Theater ($4 and BOGO Tuesdays), the McMenimans Kennedy School Theater ($4), the 5th Avenue Cinema, student-run through PSU ($5), OMSI’s IMAX theater ($7) and the Hollywood Theater a mile to the east ($9), which occasionally screens 70mm prints.
  • The weather was warm the first month – mostly sunny with temps in the 60s and 70s. November brought cooler temps (40s through lower 50s during the day, low 40s at night), more cloud coverage and occasional rain. When it rains, it’s light, and only lasts for a short while. The weather forecast may show a chance of rain every day for the week, but it’s usually nothing my hooded jacket can’t handle. Only one day over the past six week has it rained all day long.
  • We are about a 90-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean. Traffic along Highway 101 this time of year is not as heavy as I expected, though I’m sure trips taken next spring and summer will end up with more gridlock.
  • Driving through the forests (yes, Oregon has forests, in the mountains no less) is an absolute treat. Lots of twists and turns, ups and downs, with the occasional scenic vista off to the side of the roadway.
  • Amtrak serves the Pacific Northwest capably enough that taking it north to Seattle (a 3 hour 45 minute trip) is the better option versus the 3 hours spent driving on Interstate 5, which is a constant state of disrepair and congestion.
  • We live half a block from a Falls Avenue-like commercial area, mostly small shops, restaurants, a few offices peppered here and there, and on-street parallel parking. Barber shops, dance studios, pet stores, a tiki bar, wine bars, whiskey bars, Thai food (forgot to mention above in my list of standout restaurants: Sweet Basil on 32nd has amazing fried rice w/ mango and avocado, and their lobster balls are the best appetizer I’ve had here thus far), bakeries, tailors, a sewing studio, tattoo parlors, a mattress store, a post-office annex that handles UPS/FedEx/USPS packages, a Goodwill, a few chain places (Subway, Qdoba, Village Inn), et cetera.
  • I have yet to find a substitute for either the Panther Lounge (though My Father’s Place comes close) or the Lava Lounge (Hale Pele, a half-block away, has several affordable happy hour options, but otherwise it’s WAY too crowded for my tastes, even during the week.
  • The best place for a margarita, ironically, is right next door, at the Cha Cha Cha, which has $5 happy hour margs every day of the week. They taste different… no, better, than the margs at the Lava Lounge. So I’m happy. But no plastic monkeys on the glass, so that’s a bummer.
  • Recycling is a big thing in Portland. Our building has two garbage bins, two recycling bins for paper, plastic and aluminum, and a bin for glass.
  • There is no gas hookup in our building. The stovetop/oven and heaters in the living room and bedroom are all electric.
  • Portland has a homeless problem, exasperated by an affordable housing crisis. It is an everyday occurrence to find folks sleeping curled up in business doorways and/or digging through waste baskets for empty cans. On more than one occasion I’ve walked by someone urinating in public, in broad daylight. The second time it happened, I literally had to leap over a growing puddle of piss sliding down the sidewalk. How pleasant.
  • One way folks have temporarily/halfway avoided homelessness is by parking vans/RVs on residential streets and sleeping in them at night. I’m getting pretty good at telling which vehicle don’t belong to the houses they’re parked in front of.
  • Portland loves mass transit. When I need to go somewhere more than a mile away, I can use my Hop card to tag a ride on a city bus (which passes by every 15 minutes from early morning to late at night, a refreshing change of pace from the Cedar Valley’s lame 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. once-an-hour offer). Either side of the Willamette River offers street car service (one route clockwise, one route counter-clockwise, and one route strictly north-south on the west side). Max lines also connect downtown with the outlying suburbs and the airport to the north. My Hop card lets me ride the bus once for $2.50, the street car once for $2, or unlimited all day for $5. It’s smart enough to know when I’ve already ridden earlier in the day so I never overpay in any 24-hour period.
  • Because I walk 50% of the time and take the bus or streetcar 40%, I’ve significantly cut down on driving. Ever since getting my Oregon plates, I’ve driven approximately once per week. I’ve only had to put gas my car twice since moving here.
  • Because the chance of even a light about of rain on any given day is about 90%, the odds of seeing a rainbow in the sky is also about 90%.
  • Before it got cold outside, I’m pretty sure I didn’t notice any flies or mosquitoes outside. Ants, yes.
  • At least in the nearby 3-6 block radius, most folks have eschewed lawns for moss and tree-covered landscapes. I live in a neighborhood that has taken its landscaping cues from the Mandalay.
  • Our apartment building, while beautiful, only provides us one large window facing east and one large window facing west. Neither window has more than a two-inch sill. So we are mostly without houseplants while we live in our current digs. So it goes. Viet’s monkey plant remains outside our door for the time being.
  • For the first time in nearly 11 years, I have a shower with a tub. But the stopper in the drain is jammed open, so I can’t close it to take a bath.
  • I discovered the coolest video store in the history of the universe, only a couple miles from where we live. Their selection is amazing, their method for organizing their titles is whimsically delightful, and they recently completed a fundraiser to merge management with the local Hollywood Theater, staving off a shutdown and sale of their inventory. Long live Movie Madness! I’m going to rent so much weird shit from them in the years to come.
  • I cannot find a single store that will sell me Brach maple nut goodies.
  • I have only hung a couple items on the wall so far, one of them our travel map of the U.S. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for with the other pictures. Something to tackle this week I suppose.
  • We made the right decision to move here.

Written by camcarlson

November 14, 2017 at 2:07 AM

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Favorite films of 2017 (part 1)

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[minor visual spoilers ahead]

While I have seen several films in theaters and a couple dozen more on DVD, the bulk of the first half of this year has been playing catch-up on older films (mostly 2016 releases) and the plethora of serialized shows on Netflix and Hulu. Here’s what I’ve seen and liked…


“Get Out”

Of the 2016 films I saw this year, I really liked “The Founder”, “Gold”, “Lion”, “Moana”, “Paterson” and “The Red Turtle”. “Jackie” was a good character study that, in my amateur opinion, captured the look and feel of the early 1960s very well. I saw Martin Scorsese’s latest film “Silence”, and liked it, but if it holds up like most of his other films have over the years, I’ll probably like it more, a lot more, as time goes on. He’s always been very good in that way, creating art that grows in value over time.



2017 films that I’ve really enjoyed include “Dunkirk”, “Get Out”, “Split”, as well as Amazon’s Grateful Dead doc series “Long Strange Trip”, Netflix’s WW2 doc series “Five Came Back” and their comedy special “Oh, Hello on Broadway”.


“The Red Turtle”

I’ve seen several superhero movies so far this year: “Logan” and “Wonder Woman” (both very good), “Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2” (fun, more of the same) and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (also fun, but 6 Spider-Man movies in 15 years is a little much).


“Long Strange Trip”

“Kong: Skull Island” was fun to watch and I get why it was regurgitated (to tie in with a future Godzilla crossover), so I’m glad they put a new spin on the origin story. “Ghost in the Shell” boasts some impressive visual effects but it pales to the 1995 anime version. “The Lost City of Z” had a great premise but it petered out near the end of its overly long 141-minute run time. “Alien: Covenant” was a bit of a letdown… it did not feel like “Prometheus” at all, which I was hoping for, and opted for too much darkness and gruesome violence.


“Oh, Hello on Broadway”

A pair of 90s documentaries — “Oklahoma City” from PBS chronicles the rise of fringe hate groups that culminated in the 4/19/95 bombing. And “Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine” revels in rebel skateboard culture but, like the publication, it meandered from one thread to another with no clear scope or purpose in mind. In hindsight, that’s the perfect approach to this doc.



I caught the 1981 oddity “Roar”, starring real-life mother-daughter pair Tippi Hendren and Melanie Griffith. The film took 11 years to make, was never released theatrically stateside, and at one point during production Griffith was mauled by a lion and required 50 stitches to her face. The director Noel Marshall (also the co-star) developed gangrene from his injuries, and the film’s cinematographer had his scalp literally lifted off his head in one animal attack. Between 70-100 (if not more) crew members were injured in some way… wild stuff!

I'm Going on a Date With Josh's Friend!

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

Of those plethora of serialized shows I’ve seen, I liked “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (seasons 1-2), “Better Call Saul” (2), “Shameless” (1-6), “Bloodline” (1-3), “Glow” (1) and “Westworld” (1), as well as “The People vs. O.J. Simpson – American Crime Story”. Oh, and the current (seventh) season of “Game of Thrones”.


“Game of Thrones”

Some shows felt like their latest seasons are running out of new ideas, such as “Halt and Catch Fire” (3), “Veep” (6), “Grace and Frankie” (3) and “Silicon Valley” (4). The fifth season of “Orange if the New Black” seemed to breathe new life into a series that had left me feeling meh after season four ended, so I’m glad for that. Some shows, like “House of Cards” (5) and “Mr. Robot” (2), I’m still watching (for now) just to see where the overall story goes.

Written by camcarlson

August 7, 2017 at 3:54 PM

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Favorite films in 2016 (part 2)

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Following up on my previous entry…

I haven’t watched the Academy Award ceremony in several years, but this year I’m actually upset I missed it. Turns out Bonnie & Clyde committed the mother of all blunders and misread the Best Picture winner, though it wasn’t immediately clear partly because everyone figured La La Land was going to win anyway. So when they reversed course and announced Moonlight as the legitimate winner, I was genuinely surprised. And somewhat pissed; Moonlight winning would mean my streak of seeing every Best Picture-winning film in a movie theater would have ended (it began with Titanic in 1997). As luck would have it, the film came back to College Square for one week following the awards, so Viet & I were able to catch it and keep my streak intact. I’m glad we did — it’s a tremendous, moving, beautiful film, full of hurt and mistrust and confusion and beauty and hope and I’m not really describing the film at all, but it doesn’t really need its plot described, just the emotions it brought out in me.



Thinking back on 2016, I really liked Rogue One more than I did The Force Awakens.


“Rogue One”

Right after Christmas we tried out a free one-month trial subscription to Amazon Prime, and consumed all three seasons of Transparent as well as Mozart in the Jungle, and the first season of The Man in the High Castle. It moved a little too slowly for my tastes, so I passed on the second season in favor of randomly selected episodes of Shaun the Sheep.


“The Man in the High Castle”

Speaking of Aardman Studios, 2016 was a pretty good year for animation. I equally enjoyed the simple beauty in the adventure tale Long Way North and the juvenile crassness of Sausage Party. Kubo and the Two Strings was also visually stunning. But the real gem was the 1973 Japanese animated film Belladonna of Sadness, which felt like a watercolor version of Kill Bill crossed with Faust.


“Long Way North”

Quality documentaries include Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall; Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things; The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?; Oasis – Supersonic, and Dreams Rewired.


“Sausage Party”

Between mid December and late March I also saw and enjoyed Beauty and the Beast (the 2014 french live-action version), Born To Be Blue, Dark Water (the 2002 Japanese version), Don’t Think Twice, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, Last Days in the Desert, Little Men, Snowden, Under the Shadows and Zero Days. The FX mini-series “The People vs. OJ Simpson” was extremely well done and I stayed up until well past 2 a.m. Saturday morning watching the last 5 episodes on Netflix… though I still prefer the ESPN 5-part documentary “OJ: Made in America”

Dark Water 2002

“Dark Water”

The most overrated film of the year award easily goes to Manchester By the Sea. I was so bored sitting through this chore of a movie. Runners up include The Accountant, Bad Santa 2 (so sad, I had such high hopes for it!), Patriots’ Day, The Birth of a Nation, and Southside with You. Sully was okay but nowhere near as compelling as Captain Phillips was a few years ago.


“Last Days in the Desert”

Todd Solonz has made a career out of making films that make its audience squirm. His latest, Weiner-Dog, definitely hit that mark with its awful ending involving two semi trucks. That’s all I’ll say about that.


“Under the Shadow”

I thought La La Land was cute and charming but not the great film everyone made it out to be. Emma Stone did her best to try to sing, but Ryan Gosling, nope. The two of them can barely even dance.


“Shaun the Sheep”

Written by camcarlson

April 14, 2017 at 9:23 PM

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Favorite films of 2016

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I’ve seen some good movies this year, a few I would consider “great”, but none have really stood out over the others. I guess I would say that, so far, I’ve been a bit underwhelmed. Well, maybe not “under”… just “whelmed”. Not overly impressed. Granted, there’s a lot being released this time of year, and it will likely take me a few months to get through them. Anyway, here’s what I’ve liked so far…


“Captain Fantastic”

I really liked Michael Moore’s latest documentary “Where to Invade Next”, the 1991 Studio Ghibli animated film “Only Yesterday” (whose English-language release in the U.S. occurred just this year), the excellent sci-fi think piece “Arrival”, the alt-family Robinson road trip tale “Captain Fantastic”, the 5-episode 8-hour long EPSN doc series “OJ: Made in America” and the Netflix series “Stranger Things”.


“OJ: Made in America”

(though really, who didn’t like “Stranger Things”?)

I also liked “The Witch”, “Midnight Special”, “The Nice Guys”, Werner Herzog’s Netflix-produced doc “Into the Inferno”, “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party”, “Hell or High Water” and “Rogue One”, which I just saw tonight.


“Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party”

Other films I enjoyed: “10 Cloverfield Lane”, the career-spanning doc “De Palma”, “Doctor Strange”, “Don’t Breathe”, “Everybody Wants Some”, “High Rise”, “Indignation”, “Into the Forest”, “Louder than Bombs”, “The Shallows”, “Sing Street”, “Swiss Army Man”, “The Lobster”, “The Program” and “Zootopia”.


“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”

I was disappointed by “Batman vs. Superman” (I watched the torturous 3-hour long director’s cut), “Knight of Cups” and “The Neon Demon”. Netflix’s “I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” was so boring, I had to stop watching before the first hour was over. I watched “Hardcore Henry” and I can’t recommend it other than to people who like watching other people play video games.


“The Witch”

I saw a number of ‘blockbusters’ this year — “Captain America: Civil War”, “Ghostbusters”, “Star Trek Beyond”, “The Legend of Tarzan” — but the one I would recommend would be the live action “The Jungle Book”.


“Midnight Special”

My film list has been heavily marked up in red, both crossing off titles and writing in ones that were impromptu watches. I’d wager I watched about 200 movies this year. Given the size of films in queue with Netflix and Facets, it’s going to take me at least another year of heavy consumption before I can significantly “dial it down”.



Speaking of Netflix, I watched and liked the first 3 seasons of “The Fall” as well as the first 2 seasons of “Halt and Catch Fire”. Also, the first season of “Lady Dynamite” and the third season of “Bojack Horseman”. Their stop-motion CGI film “The Little Prince” was cute and enjoyable.


“Only Yesterday”

Of the older movies I’ve seen this year, I really liked “Araya”, “The Dead Lands”, “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”, “The Gold of Naples”, “Kings of the Road”, the 1980 PBS film “The Lathe of Heaven”, “Lianna”, “Lonely Are the Brave”, “Murder by Contract”, “On the Silver Globe” and “The World According to Garp”.


Written by camcarlson

December 16, 2016 at 9:57 PM

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Favorite films of 2015 (part 2)

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Figured it was about time to write about the films I’ve seen during the first half of 2016. A good number of them were 2015 films I didn’t get a chance to see last year but wanted to. Always playing catch-up.

Of last year’s films I watched this year, I recommend two animated ones; “Anomalisa”, if you like Charlie Kaufman’s other films, and “The Prophet”, just because it’s such a beautiful film.




I also liked “Carol”, “Grandma”, “99 Homes”, “In the Heart of the Sea”, “45 Years”, “Love”, “Youth”, “Black Mass”, “Tomorrowland” and “James White”.


“Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet”

I didn’t see the newest X-Men movie, but I was slightly tempted simply because Michael Fassbender is in it. I believe he’s one of the best actors working today. He starred in a new version of “Macbeth” last year that’s worth watching.



Despite some misgivings which I laid out last year, I did see “Montage of Heck”, and I’m glad I did. A really well done biopic on Kurt Cobain’s life, which thankfully didn’t end (or dwell) on his suicide. A much better documentary than “Soaked in Bleach”.


“The Annunciation”

Still regularly binging on Netflix, Facets and Hulu. Some great older movie’s I’ve seen include “The Annunciation”, a collection of historical tales featuring only children; “The Deep” and “The Deep End” (1970, not the 2001 one), “Viy” (The Vij) from 1967, based (I believe) on Russian folklore; and “Vasilisa the Beautiful” from 1939, also based on Russian folklore… both Russian films are available on YouTube.


“The Deep End” (1970)

Last month we took advantage of a free one-month trial subscription to HBO Go, in part to watch the sixth season of “Games of Thrones” and the fifth season of “Veep”. We also watched all three seasons of “Silicon Valley”, a funny show by Mike Judge. HBO also has a knack for making quality original movies. I finally saw “The Gathering Storm”, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, “Game Change”, “Temple Grandin”, “The Normal Heart” and re-watched “When Trumpets Fade”. And, I watched most of the first episode of the first season of “The Wire”… progress!


“Silicon Valley”

We saw Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” on Netflix, and the Hulu mini-series “11/22/63” as well as the six new episodes of “The X-Files”, which carried the general feel of the first 5 seasons of the series. I especially liked the episode “Founder’s Mutation”. I’d like them to bring it back for another season, even if it’s a truncated one like the 10th was.


“The X-Files”

Still waiting to see a few more films from 2015. They’re buried in my Netflix queue.

Written by camcarlson

July 10, 2016 at 1:42 PM

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Favorite films of 2015

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Favorite movies of 2015


“The Walk”

I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to see last year, but amongst the movies I did see, these are the ones I enjoyed the most and recommend…

My favorite movie of 2015 is “Mad Max: Fury Road”. It was written and directed by George Miller, who made the first two films in the series (in 1979 and 1981). The man deserves an Oscar for what he’s done with this movie.

I also liked “Ex Machina”, “Inside Out”, “Room”, Sicario”, “The Revenant” and “Straight Outta Compton”.


“Inside Out”

I really liked “National Gallery” though it was a 2014 release and I didn’t get to see it until last year. It’s 3 hours long, it held my attention throughout and I would like to see it again. Another 2014 film I saw last year and recommend is “Love is Strange” starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.

I also really liked “Steve Jobs” and am saddened it didn’t do better at the box office. It’s not a kind portrait of Jobs, which will turn off many who adore him. Michael Fassbender does some incredible acting and Aaron Sorkin’s script is on par with his work on “The West Wing” and “The Social Network”, perhaps even more impressive given that he’s creating three in-depth scenes (product rollouts) based on the best-selling biography by Walter Isaacson, a book that doesn’t focus on product rollouts.


“Steve Jobs”

Other movies I enjoyed: “Jurassic World”, “Maggie, “Slow West”, “Chappie”, “That Sugar Film”, “The Visit”, “Crimson Peak”, “The End of the Tour”, “Love and Mercy”, “Chi-Raq”, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Sisters”, “The Walk”, “The Hateful 8” (too long, though) and “Bone Tomahawk” (a better Kurt Russell western).



I saw “The Martian”, “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” and thought each of them was okay, but I have no desire to watch any of them again. “Spotlight” wasn’t as revelatory as it wanted to be (everyone knows about the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal nowadays) and “The Big Short” annoyed me for glossing over certain causes of the 2008 economic meltdown while overplaying other aspects (this article does a good job addressing these issues).

Each of these three movies has been nominated for the Best Picture oscar, though if I had to choose from amongst of the 8 nominees, I’d be torn between “Mad Max” and “The Revenant”.


“The Revenant”

I was disappointed by “Soaked in Bleach”, a documentary about Courtney Love’s possible involvement in Kurt Cobain’s death. To put it bluntly, the doc was very sloppy. I somewhat want to see “Cobain: Montage of Heck”, but like “Amy” and other docs about musical subjects that have come out recently, it feels like the music labels are partially supporting these films just to drive up sales of their catalogs.

I was disappointed by “Queen of Earth”. I liked the imagery of “Goodnight Mommy” but it was too torture-porn for my tastes.


“The End of the Tour”

Films I didn’t get to see but want to: “Carol”, “Grandma”, “99 Homes”, “Anomalisa”, “Brooklyn”, “In the Heart of the Sea”, “45 Years” and “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet”.

Between Netflix, Facets and Hulu, I’ve continued to watch many older films, I figure I watched over 200 movies last year, not counting theater films. After my annual new year’s redraft, my film list is now down to a single page… three column, 10-point font. Roughly 100 titles on this year’s list.


“Crimson Peak”

Of the older movies I saw last year, the ones I really liked were “All That Jazz”, “The Execution of Private Slovik”, “The Hurricane” (1937), “Letter from an Unknown Woman”, “Mamma Roma”, “Panic in the Streets” (seen just after our honeymoon in New Orleans, natch), “Passing Strange”, “The Quiet Earth”, “Round Midnight”, “The Silent Partner” and “The Two of Us”.


“The Quiet Earth”

I regret that I have STILL not been able to watch “The Wire”, but we did manage to binge on the first five seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” and all seven seasons of “Nurse Jackie”. The only show we regularly watch on Hulu is “Bob’s Burgers”, though it’s been on hiatus since November-ish. I’m cautiously optimistic for the six new episodes of “the X-Files” coming out… today, actually.


“The Walking Dead”


Written by camcarlson

January 24, 2016 at 9:29 PM

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Movies and whatnot

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Haven’t written in some months. Let’s play catchup.

Still watching movies at a ridiculous pace, aided by subscriptions to Netflix (both streaming and DVDs), Facets, Hulu Plus and (for the next few weeks) a free trial membership of Amazon Prime… their selection kinda sucks, though they did let me enjoy the first season of “Veep”.

I think I found a way to con Netflix into sending me more than the 2-DVDs-at-a-time I pay for. What I did was load up my queue with over 100 titles, some of them listed as “very long wait”, and move all those to the top of my list. When they get a disc back in their hands, they find my next selection may not be available at the nearest shipping facility (which I believe is somewhere in Illinois). So they find another facility where it is available and ship it from there, emailing me a message that it may take 3-5 days to arrive (when in fact it’s usually just one extra day). In the meantime, they find the next title in my queue that is available at the nearest facility and ship that one as well. So they send me 2 titles for the price of one. Since my subscription is for 2 DVDs, it means at times I can have 4 DVDs out at a time, all thanks to their overly generous customer service.

Anyway, since my last entry (sadly, the only other one I’ve written this year), I’ve been trying to play catchup with a number of 2014 titles. The ones I saw and really liked include the Australian horror film “The Babadook”, Jon Stewart’s directorial debut “Rosewater” and the paintbrush anime “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”. I liked “The Theory of Everything” but it wasn’t interesting enough that I feel I’d ever want to see it again. Ditto for “Whiplash”, though it’s story was a bit more compelling. I also saw “The Overnighters”, “Open Windows”, “Foxcatcher”, “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” and “Young Ones”.

I still haven’t seen “Selma”, “Love is Strange”, “Inherent Vice” and a few others… they’ll have to fight their way into my summer schedule.

So far this year I’ve only seen a few movies in the theater and only two of them were worth recommending: “Ex Machina” and “Mad Mad: Fury Road”.


Recommendations for the following services:

Netflix — “In America”, “The Innkeepers”, “Letter from an Unknown Woman”, “Panic in the Streets”, “Passing Strange”, Yukio Mishima’s “Patriotism”, “Ronin Gai”, “Round Midnight”, “The Two of Us” and the early Wim Wenders film “The Wrong Move”.

Facets — Another early Wenders film “The American Friend”, “The Execution of Private Slovik”. Roman Polanski’s 1971 version of “Macbeth” and the 1928 silent film “The Wind”,

Hulu Plus — “The Challenge” (really neat 30s films about the climbing of the Matterhorn) along with hundred of Criterion films, and a bunch of older television shows like “Strangers with Candy”, “The State”, “Ren & Stimpy”, “Reno 911!”… because who has time to watch TV shows?

Actually, we did binge-watch the first four seasons of “The Walking Dead” — great show —  as well as the third season of “House of Cards”, which I did not find as interesting as the first or second seasons.

So there’s that.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 9.44.37 PM

But hey! My life has not just been watching flickering images on a screen.

Viet and I got hitched in January (!!!) and we’ve begun the arduous process of applying for his permanent residency.

We spent our delayed honeymoon road-tripping down to New Orleans and Pensacola. In lieu of the bullet point entry I wrote for last year’s Yellowstone trip, I’ll condense our six days on the road to these six points:

1. I-55 through Mississippi is very beautiful, whereas the I-55 overpass by Lake Maurepas is a seemingly endless white-knuckle hellscape.

2. The French Quarter can be surveyed by foot in less then 4 hours; aside from that and the nearby historical cemeteries (which we were warned not to visit unless we paid to be in a tour group, lest we end up mugged and/or stabbed), I can’t conceive of wanting to go back unless I was there with someone who knew the city.

3. Within the French Quarter are the French Market and the Cafe Du Monde. Both are tourist traps. Avoid at all costs. Especially the cafe — it’s actually a chain, and you can find them all around the city (for example: across the street from the Hilton we stayed at) and they serve the exact same coffee and beignets as the original in the FQ.

4. There’s a neat tunnel on I-10 that takes you underneath downtown Mobile.

5. Pensacola Beach is nice and all, but if you’re willing to drive a bit further, turn left onto Fort Pickens Road and pay the $8 entry fee for the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Miles of deserted beaches, fine white sand, warm southerly breeze, green water and pelicans flying overhead. I figure the entry fee also keeps the riffraff out (like the noisy, obnoxious college kids getting drunk on St. Patty’s Day). At the very tip of the island is Fort Pickens itself, which offers guided and self tours.

6. Cutting through the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee is fun. Getting stuck in multiple bouts of gridlock on I-24 within Nashville and just north of the city is not fun.

Here’s a fun fact: with an average elevation of -1.5 feet below sea level, New Orleans is the lowest city in the western hemisphere with a population over 250,000.



Viet graduated earlier this month and just last weekend the government sent paperwork allowing him to go out and get a job. So between now and when he finds something, we’re planning another within-the-midwest road trip, something we could pull off over a 3-day weekend.

Been bicycling more this year. About a hundred hours in so far this spring.

Work keeps me busy. Get to the office before 7 and usually leave at 4:30, if not later.

Things continue to move in and out of the apartment. After graduation, Viet simplified his bookshelf and sold or donated a lot of books, and tossed out a lot of paperwork. Seems like every week a new plant finds its way onto a windowsill or out on our patio (ornamental cabbage and web cacti being the latest acquisitions). Picked up a much-needed coffee table for free and our new couch should arrive in a few weeks.

And that’s about it for now. Enjoy a picture from yesterday’s road trip to Maquoketa Caves State Park.


Written by camcarlson

June 7, 2015 at 10:02 PM

Posted in Uncategorized