Being as there are now over 900 entries here, I thought I'd make a tag index for the unlikely circumstance that someone other than myself might want to look for something here ;)

   Unfortunately everything is going to be listed from most recent to oldest so if you start at the top it'll be "reverse order" -- I don't know how to fix this.

   I'm sure there are entries that lack the proper tags. The travelogues at least are pretty well tagged I believe.

   Introductions - I've introduced myself a few times, typically for LJ Idol, here's the ones that are correctly tagged.
   LJ Idol - Nonfiction LJ Idol entries
      America - Only a few of the most travelogue-like posts tagged, since I've lived most of my life there.
            Brisvegas! (AKA Brisbane)
            The Bundaberg Gulag
            Life in and around Moorepark (outskirts of Bundaberg)
            Birregurra - Life in and around my quaint little village
      Dominican Republic

   Historical Fiction
   Science Fiction - I know there's more that could be here, it seems I haven't been using this tag diligently
   LJ Idol Entries - Mostly fiction, a wide variety of topics. I think only about 75% of these entries are correctly tagged.
      LJ Idol Season Indexes - used to be a thing I did, though I stopped doing it in later seasons because it was kind of tedious to put together.
   The Coming Zombie Apocalypse - Continuing coverage of the coming zombie apocalypse
   The Clone Series!

Media Reviews
   Movie reviews
   Book reviews



Podcast! - "Tales of a Wandering Beekeeper" -- travelogues from Africa.

And most important:


The Trump Putsch

Today was a beautiful day. Perfect for beekeeping. I didn't get much work done today.

In the early morning my time, my phone started beeping like mad with notifications. When I'd gone to bed the two democratic senators had just been declared winners in Georgia, yet when I opened my phone to the messenger chat group of my politically minded high school friends the first post I saw was "shit shit shit shit," but I scrolled up 44 messages to the last one I hadnt' seen to see what was happening in order. Of course as I was reading them more shit was going down. I finished right around the time people were announcing "they've breached the senate chamber" and "people are shooting in the capitol" .... shit shit shit shit.

This has been.... an unprecedented day. I hope all these insurrectionists whose faces are brazenly on camera --mugging for shots behind the rostrum or even livestreaming themselves with their feet up on Pelosi's desk-- get charged with sedition and locked away forever.

The one plus side is I hope Trump and his ilk have overplayed their hand and completely discredited themselves. A number of republicans and conservatives loudly distanced themselves from him today and there seemed to be serious talk about the 25th Amendment, wherein his own cabinet would declare him unfit. He shockingly actually conceded in the early morning hours after the EC count was finally formally completed (which I think was at 3:45am so he was still awake and monitoring it at that time like a neurotic maniac?? Like he somehow thought it might somehow still go his way???), but I hope that doesn't take reimpeachment or the 25th off the table. I think they need to send a strong message that this is utterly way beyond acceptable. Rermember when Sen Collins said she thought Trump had "learned his lesson" after the last impeachment (and therefore her vote against it was, she alleged, justified), yeah about that. Related fact, Adolf Hitler was convicted of High Treason in 1924 but given a slap-on-the-wrist sentence, eight years later he had absolute power. Sedition cannot be punished with slaps on the wrist.

I'm going to bed now, I fully expect to wake up to more wild news developments.


2020 Year In Review

   As is tradition let us begin with the map of where I've traveled in the past year:

   Though this would seem to imply I've been to the Melbourne airport, which, I have not, but you have to input at least one airport code to make it make a map.

   In fact I never left the state (indeed for much of the year we legally could not. Counting just these furthest trips this year I traveled 969 miles, which compares to my mileage and my comment about my mileage last year: "23,695 miles this year, a fraction of any previous year since 2012."

   Anyway, so, this year! I'm pretty sure this will be a year we'll all remember for the rest of our lives. [Interruption for the celebration of new years. Okay all writing after this is in 2021!]

Cases in this state

   In January Australia was on fire. Literally a seventh of this state was on fire. Its funny I think I recall in the first week it looekd like Trump was going to start a war with Iran, Australia was on fire, and I forget what all else but we were all like "whoa 2020 slow down." Little did we know. Little did we know.

   In February my parents made their annual visit. One of dad's friends happened to be on an around-the-world cruise that happened to be stopping in to Melbourne while they were here so we met up with them and went on a walking tour of Melbourne. Needless to say, their cruise never made it around the world (they were actually left wandering the sea for awhile with nowhere willing to allow a cruise ship to dock, which was a bit silly since having been at sea for over two weeks it clearly wasn't aboard)

   March: by the beginning of March the pandemic was definitely on our radar but we had nooo ideaa what we were in for. On March 5th I booked the flights for Cristina and I to fly to the Bahamas to get married April 20th... woo yeah woo! .... that was $3,000 I may as well have flushed down the toilet as the airlines refused to refund any of it, though United agreed to give us the equivalent maount in credit that will expire after a year. I'll definitely start harassing them again to at the very very very least get an extension on it's usability.
   Anyway things quickly exploded from for example 28 new cases on March 12th to 537 on March 22nd (the height of the first wave it turned out), and the state went into lockdown on March 25th. What we initially thought was going to be a two or three week lockdown turned out to be a 112 day lockdown. In what became known as the "ring of steel" Melbourne residents couldn't leave Melbourne except for work, and the state borders were also locked for all but a small handful of very narrowly defined reasons. During the height of the lockdown one could only leave the house to work an essential job or go on one grocery shopping run a week (I think?) and an hour a day of exercise within 5km of their house. This didn't effect my day to day much at all really.

   On March 30th the beloved tallship Pilgrim sank at her dock, which was heartbreaking for those of us who have spent countless hours aboard her.


   April I started to notice it was severely impacting my sales, cutting my income to a meagre trickle, and unlike all my neighbors I don't have the support of the numerous Australian programs that supported people with lost income. Also coronavirus was hitting Venezuela and Cristina and her coworkers had no PPE, leaving them feeling doomed like little coloured chickens, and it was freaking me out.
   And again, Cristina and I had been going to get married on April 20th. I then could have added her to my existing visa, she could hae joined me within months, and been no my Permanent Residency visa application. Instead I need to wait till the PR hopefully gets approved and then start a separate $13,000 14 month visa to get her here, so not being able to get married in April _really_ set us back.

   June after about two months of low double digits of monthly cases it felt like we had this Covid thing mostly behind us and lockdowns were starting to ease up. My friend even had a party and all got together! Not like huge bumpin 30 person party but there were like a dozen of us. In one indoor location! Meanwhile in the states Trump was encouraging ominous displays of police force against protestors. It's funny I suppose for many of you reading this that was summer but for me that was mid winter and literal dark days. My memory of this whole period is of one continuous night actually.

   July - On July 3rd my grandfather Roger collapsed and died, he was 93. He's fortunate I suppose, there was no lingering away in a hospital, he was up on his feet, had just gone to the hardware store, and then he suffered heart failure. I never posted about it earlier because how do you begin to do justice to an amazing man who lived such a multifaceted remarkable life? Also I hate it when people say "I'm sorry for your loss" to me. I do feel like I should make a post about him though. Obviously I was unable to travel to his funeral, which I would have under normal circumstances, but then again, no one was able to. There was a nice ceremony in August via zoom attended by dozens of people recalling how he had impacted their lives. Later later in October there was an "inurnment" in which his ashed were placed in the grave beside his wife my grandmother, which hadn't been intended to be a ceremony but a dozen plus people ended up attending, and as well since he was a veteran the military sent a bugler to play taps.
   In July the "second wave" hit us here, this time it was almost exclusively in Melbourne. It apparently had somehow gotten out from the quarantine hotels. There was a pervasive rumor, apparently started by a tabloid making up a story whole cloth, that it was because a security guard had had relations with a quarantinee, but I believe that turned out to be baseless. On July 21st, masks began appearing around here. Which is amazingly late in the game looking back on it. On that date there were 359 new cases in the state and rising vast, and I estimated about 1 in 8 people out on sidewalks was wearing a mask and about 40-60% of the people in the grocery store. Also around this time Cristina and I succeeded in getting her PPE.

   In August having successfully figured out how to get money to Cristina and source PPE there I decided to start a gofundme for her coworkers, which raised $2080 in 48 hours! Also some time around here I discovered that a group of volunteers here in the little village of Birregurra get together every Tuesday to do landcare around the township, weeding, planting native plants, cutting out blackberry brambles, etc. I found this very enjoyable and a way to be more involved with the community.

   In September I signed up for classes at two community colleges in California, since everything is offered remotely now! So that was the one up side to this year. I took two biology classes and a writing class, finishing with a 98% average. (: Also in September I was increasingly panicked since my 457 visa was due to run out Oct 4th and I had to chase down a lot of paperwork from my boss and jump through some other hoops (it looked for awhile like I'd have trouble proving I speak English but that turned out to be unnecessary in the end).

   November I took the train out East (the Easternmost route on the above map) to go hiking with my friend Billie, whom I hadn't caught up with in over a year. Most people I met out there in Eastern Victoria were excitedly hoping for a Trump win in the election that was then days away. Yikes. And then there was the election!


   December a beekeeping friend invited me to their family's place in Warnambool for Christmas dinner, thus making the westernmost extremity of my travels for the year. In the United States and Great Britain people began to receive vaccination shots for covid which is exciting. Here in Australia a new outbreak began in Sydney mid month (20-30 cases a day since then), and, after 60 days with not a single new locally acquired case here in Victoria we had 3 locally-acquired-from-unknown-source cases yesterday and six today. With undetermined local cases and people generally thinking its over and attending multi-hundred-persno NYE parties tonight, I fear we may be in for a third wave.

   Tonight as I mentioned, I was working on this very entry when I took a break to videocall Cristina to ring in the new year with her. After midnight I went outside to see if anyone was firing fireworks or anything, but things seemed pretty low key here. The moon was bright like a floodlight, and when I looked up at it whispy clouds were scudding past in front of it ... but they were going the opposite direction they usually do. I've only ever seen the wind blow west-to-east here. To see clouds flitting east-to-west across the moon felt downright eerie. I hope this isn't some kind of omen for the year.


All in all 83.7 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with coronavirus this year, and 1,824,053 people have confirmably died of it. This is almost the population of Latvia, and certainly greater if one ccould include undiagnosed deaths. There are about 30 countries with populations smaller than the 2020 death toll from coronavirus.

Plans for 2021
   They don't expect to open up international travel for the year so probably no traveling. If at all possible I very badly want to see Cristina as one could imagine but it's not looking likely. I tihnk my PR should be approved sometime between April and July, which will be a huge relief and make life easier. Other than that it's hard to make plans in this uncertain world!

See also:
all posts tagged with "coronavirus"

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Whimsically Hunting For Lucrous Chunder

   Ambergris. A greyish substance that looks like a rock, is sometimes found washed up on beaches. When fresh it smells vaguely of manure or squid, though after it dries out it smells "sweet and earthy." Recently a fisherman named Naris Suwannasang while walking on the beach in southern Thailand found a 220 pound lump of it, which has been estimated to be worth $3.2 million.

   Ambergris is whale vomit. Only sperm whales seem to regurgitate this golden ejecta. One can imagine one of these scarred old leviathans cruising along in the dim depths of the sea feeling content after a recent snack of giant calamari when suddenly he grimaces a bit, soon he's arching his back and hoik hoik hoik here comes a whale hairball right on the reef rug.
   "What do they do with it??" my friend Asli asked me.
   "I don't know, it's probably magic or some shit" I helpfully responded.

   In truth they use it in perfumes apparently, but it seems to be so rare its hard to imagine how anyone could plan to make anything that depends on a reliable supply of it.

   The extreme value of this material plus the difficulty of finding it plus its pungent nature gave me an idea. What if you could train a bloodhound on the scent of ambergris, the way they use pigs to hunt for truffles ... or bloodhounds to hunt blood. You then set off out into the wild blue yonder towards the whalegrounds with your faithful dog in a sailboat, and literally follow its nose in quest of floating treasure.

   Asli who had rolled her eyes at my earlier assanine response, googled it herself, and then pointed out that US regulations make it illegal to trade in ambergris because there's a blanket ban on all whale products and they darkly assume if you're coming back with lots of ambergris you've been hunting whales to take it from them. This method of acquiring ambergris hadn't occurred to me but I promise I am not suggesting plying sperm whales with cheap bottom shelf vodka until they chunder their lucrous treasure out. Additionally, the US government saying you can't do it gives it a certain piratical cache.

   Anyway this idea struck me as both delightfully whimsical ... but also possibly actually possible? The google informs me most ambergris is found in the Caribbean (which is weird because I don't think that's where sperm whales hang out?) so one could sail around there hunting floating treasure by bloodhound. I think one of the main problems would be actually getting ahold of a sample to train the dog on.

   I don't happen to have a greyhound so I may have to try to talk Cato into participating. What could go wrong? (no Cato, you can't eat that tunafish!) Also they use honeybees for scent identification of land mine locations. I googled to try to determine if they were more effective at following scents than dogs but couldn't find an answer. Also this googling did reveal to me that apparently bears have the best smelling abilities of any terrestrial animals soooo it might be me and yogi on a hunt for ambergris.
   And can you imagine if they used "drug sniffing bears" at airports and such?? That would certainly scare the bajeezes out of would-be smugglers.

Related: Argan Oil

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Some Good and Bad Travel Writing (or vice versa)

   This past weekend I once again took the six hour train trip to Eastern Victoria, this time for my friend Billie's 30th birthday party. That was fun but I came here to write book reviews. In fact, on my return trip she gave me back all the books I had loaned her to read, having read them, so I returned like a mobile library with six books in my knapsack (4 returned books, the book I brought to read, and a book she has loaned me to read).

Geldof in Africa
   I had picked up this book somewhere since someone's collected travel writings about Africa sounded imminently interesting to me. I'm not terribly enjoying it but muddling through. And trying to put my finger on exactly what I'm not enjoying about it, since it has many characteristics of good writing, such as nice turns of phrase, good descriptions, thematic structure. Some (other) writing fills me with a fear I can't possibly write as well as what I'm reading, reading this fills me with the fear that my writing might be as uninspiring as this.
   I think a major problem is that it's a collection of short pieces ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages and as far as I can tell zero effort has been made to tie it all together. I often wonder if there is any rhyme or reason to the order. Is it chronological? It's not organized by country because it bounces back and forth. Is there some thematic order I haven't yet grasped?
   Another problem for me I suppose is right from the get go it's written from the perspective that you already know and admire Bob Geldof, know what he's famous for, why he's in Africa, and apparently are familiar with mundane details of the London underground. Since I had never heard of Bob Geldof, this came across rather wankerish to me. There's a picture on the cover of him staring off into the distance... wankerishly. I mentioned this Geldof to someone and they said "oh he did Live Aid," which I suppose is admirable. I googled him and wikipedia said he was the lead singer of a rock band I'd never heard of that was popular at the height of the punk rock movement. Having been rather a punk myself I thought maybe this might earn my respect and pulled up some of his band's top hits on youtube ... and it in no way conformed to what I think of as punk rock, was rather sickly sweet crooning like cats in heat with bubblegum for brains. So no, knowing something about him didn't increase my esteem at all.
   The theme for most of the pieces seems to be how dangerous, sad, and unfortunate life in Africa is. Granted he was traipsing about thirty years before I was and I have no doubt there were terrible things afoot, I feel like surely this could have been balanced by some less dire glimpses at African life. As it is, even though he never says anything that could be construed as racist against Africans, the collective impression I feel like would fuel racist views that the continent is on a whole just a giant "shit-hole." He generally blames all their ills on European/American involvement and generally derides all aid and charity work by anything other than liveaid* (which he doesn't actually really mention). I too would say yes most Western governments have been terrible to Africa and a lot of aid work can be looked at pretty cynically, but the unsaid implication that he alone sees through all this is kind of wankery.
   When he's not talking about what a shit-hole it is or heaping shit on other charities he's sharing out of context little snippits about what a badass he is chillin with Somali warlords.
   So yeah, in conclusion, I guess he made his money with his music/television career / tax dodging in Mauritania, I suppose he wasn't trying to win fame or money through writing a best seller here, he just thought he'd publish a mish mash of stuff he had written so good for him I guess. But literarily speaking it fills me with existential dread that I might come off like him.

   *and it's worth noting that Live Aid raised funds for the Ethiopian famine and gave those funds to the Ethiopian Derg government that was causing the famine ... well a small amount was siphoned off to buy weapons for the TPLF fighting the Derg (as thoroughly explained in my recent podcast!). Charities make occasional mistakes, I understand that, which is why it's worth evaluating their activities cynically while keeping in mind that they do mean well. But this kind of downright stupid lack of understanding of the context of the problem is exactly the kind of thing he spends much of the book sarcastically deriding every other charity for so it all seems a bit rich.

Personally I think this is one of the more wankery cover design ideas one could go with for a book about your time in Africa

Patrick Leigh Fermor - A Time of Gifts & Between the Woods and the Water
   My current writing teacher put me on to Patrick Leigh Fermor, who was "Britain's greatest living travel writer during his lifetime" and I had never heard of him either. I'm clearly not very plugged in to post-15th-century English culture. As wikipedia goes on to say, he's like "a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Graham Greene." And indeed, he appears as a character in the 1957 film Ill Met by Moonlight not as a travel writer but the war hero he also is (he organized and successfully executed a mission to kidnap a German general in Crete in WWII).
   The two books of his I recently read are two parts of a journey he took in 1934 on foot through Europe from Holland to Constantinople. He wrote about it decades later from his journals, so the writing looks at the journey through the retrospective lens of the coming calamity of WWII. The rising nazism of Germany and fascist movement in Austria contrast with the kindness of strangers and bucolic scenes of every day life. His descriptions are poetic, precise, and full of awareness of the context of the moment in time. Traditional dress and culture in Eastern Europe is recited with a detailed intimacy simultaneous to a wistful nostalgia knowing it would all be seen wiped away by war.
   I gather his family was somewhat well-to-do, his father was a Sir So and So Fermor, distinguished geologist, and his mother was "daughter of [someone apparently worth naming in a wiki article]," and his original intention was to live like a hobo during his journey, but he somewhat accidentally befriends a German or Austrian count living in a castle at some point relatively early in the journey, who sends him off with a letter of introduction to the lord of the next castle over, who does the same, so he ends up spending most of the journey staying in castles being hosted by grafs and margraves. This could come off wankerish if it weren't for the fact that he remains humble, often mentioning its not how he expected to be traveling, feeling a mild guilt for not traveling in the style he had intended to (and one really can't blame him for taking the opportunity), and he does absolutely insist on adhering to his intention not to travel by car or train except in extraordinary circumstances. He mostly goes from castle to castle by foot even with rides in cars proffered, though he's not against riding in barges or by horse.
   Sadly he died before he finished the third and final installment of the journey. It was published posthumously from the draft manuscript but I couldn't get my hands on that. Indeed, this "greatest British travel writer" seems to only have three works available on Audible (which is by far usually the easiest way for me to access works).
   But anyway, in conclusion, in complete contrast to Geldof this was some really good inspiring and enjoyable-to-read travel writing. I hope I can find more of his writing.
   By an amusing coincidence I mentioned this book to my mom and she was like "oh dad and Maria [my sister-in-law] were just talking about that book." Yes, it turns out, and I'm pretty sure I hadn't put them onto it, they happened to also be reading this book published in 1977 & 1981 at the same time as me. What a funny coincidence! We're an accidental book club!

   And speaking of travel I recently discovered this song I really like, called "The Wandering Song," purely as a poem I think I would like the lyrics and you should listen to them. But also it's a good song:

   In other other news, another important milestone to mark, yesterday the first covid vaccination shots in the United States began. Also the Electoral College finally met, and important figures in American politics like Vladimir Putin recognized Biden's win, but Trump still has not. Not sure how long he can hold out without big daddy Vlad's support though, even Moscow Mitch changed his tune on Vladimir's cue.


Uncovering Bridges

   I have posted another episode of the podcast! This one explains the current Ethiopian civil war in Tigray and tells some stories of my time in Tigray in better times.

Ethiopia Episode II

   Today we continued cutting back the blackberry brambles by the river. Myself and two other regular volunteers have come to be referred to as "the three musketeers of the blackberries" (: Today we were also assisted by a a four person conservation crew that apparently roves around the region.

   But we had an exciting development today, we seem to have inadvertently conducted a bit of archaeology! As we cut back the impenetrable brambles the pilings of an old bridge emerged. None of the current old lifelong residents of the town have any recollection of their having ever been a bridge there, but our wee little village is complete with a historical society so hopefully they can find some record.

   After cutting blackberries until noon, we three musketeers had been encouraged to stop by the golf clubhouse for pizza. It was apparently the christmas party of the local golf club (is that what you call a club for playing golf? It sounds like an obvious pun). I was a bit self conscious at first because I'm not golfer, but they made us blackberriers feel welcome and noted that since the blackberries we've been eradicating border on the golf course we've been contributing, and everyone was very friendly, so it ended up being enjoyable. I love the community of my little village. (:

   Now in other news, why does the FBI have to be like this? Recall I posted a bit ago about what I had to go through to get fingerprinted here to send them to the FBI to get a background check for my visa. Well the FBI received them and I got this email. Why do they have to make it like a gosh darn exploding message?? And because my computer crashes about once an hour I'm terrified to access it on my computer and have it crash before I can save their secret message. So I actually dusted off and booted up my OLD laptop that I had replaced with this one. It's really slow and half the keys on the keyboard don't work, but I can get around the latter by using an external keyboard. So I managed to try to go to the FBI site on that computer, only to find a message there that my records might not be available for 12 more hours. I am really lucky I used the old computer though because my newer computer did in fact crash in the next minute or two of usage. So anyway tomorrow morning I'll try again, once again with the older more dependable computer. But seriously why do they have to make my life difficult with this dire you-can-only-look-once thing???


First Vaccines (in the UK)

   Today the first vaccines were administered, in the UK. (and the second person to receive it was named William Shakespeare!)
   This is the 40th consequtive day with no cases here in Victoria, Australia.
   209,756 new cases today in the United States, 2,960 deaths. The hospitals in my home county (Orange, California) are all at ICU capacity now.

   One thing that's kind of funny over here is that we no longer need to wear masks outside, and we can go eat in the restaurants and pubs and don't have to wear a mask while sitting at the table, so in effect we put on a mask for the thirty seconds between the door and sitting down. Normally I don't poke fun at any mask wearing activities and I understand and agree with the mix of rules that cause this circumstance ... but still its a kind of funny sign-of-the-times sort of ritual I wanted to jot down for posterity.


Danger Tangerineland and the Giants -- Movie Reviews!

   Moar movie reviews! Rather inadvertently I've collected an international selection here, An Australian, Georgian, Macedonian and Namibian movie, with further references to a Norwegian and Bosnian movie. (:

Danger Close (2019): This is another one I got put onto by something I saw on the youtube. This is an Australian film about an Australian unit in Vietnam. I'd seen the classic Americna Vietnam films such as Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, etc, so it was interesting to compare the Australian perspective to those, thought frankly its been so long since I'd seen any of the aforementioned my memory of any of them is vague and general. Here's a crazy thought that occurred to me, when I was a teenager in the 90s WWII was as long ago as the Vietnam War is now.
   Anyway, I found this movie to be well made and engaging with numerous well fleshed out characters. They seemed to focus on fleshing out their character flaws thoug or that was their primary idea of how to flesh characters out, as every character seemed to have major character flaws ... which is much better than everyone being golden at least. Also the director must have had a major anti-establishment bend as with every step higher in rank the chraacter is portrayed more unlikably, with several comparatively unknown characters prominently disobeyed orders from the known battalion staff (ie helicopter pilots fly in after being ordered not to, mechanized infantry drive their APCs in after being ordered not to, also the commander of the main-character-platoon refuses to withdraw when ordered to), with the colonel ordering these things portrayed as not making the right decisions and the general above him portrayed as all but incompetent. I bring this up because it compares to the Soviet propaganda themes I mentioned in last entry, where in Soviet films the protagonists always followed orders very well. American films like to have the protagonist heroically defy a stupid order but its not usually occurring over and over again like this film (and its usually done by main characters, in this case its relatively unknown characters who just pop up to disobey orders, so the focus isn't on a hero disobeying orders but rather on how many people are disobeying the commanding offers who are prominent characters in the film), I wonder if its because Australia is even more anti-authority than America? And also, because all the characters are based on real people, using their names and casting actors who look like them, I really wonder if the portrayal was quite fair to all real people involved.
   Also the commander of the platoon is that guy who plays Ragnar in Vikings and he mostly spends a lot of time making the same crafty/brooding looks.
   Altogether A-

   I'd be curious if there was a good movie from the point of view of some North Vietnamese soldiers or just Vietnamese who aren't solidly on the allied side, if anyone knows of any good ones?

Tangerines (2013): If one is searching for this movie it's important to include the year because "Tangerine (2015)" is apparently a movie about prostitutes and pimps or something as I found out ahaha. Thanks mexpatriot for putting me on to this film in comments to last entry. Unfortunately I had the hardest time with subtitles. The version I downloaded once again didn't hve them, so I downloaded seperate subtitles but they were out of sync. So I downloaded tow more subtitles files that were both our of sync in the same way. After googling and asking around I determined that I should download another shareware media player, VLC, which makes it easy to sync subtitles. This worked except for some reason every time I synced the subtitles and film it would quickly get out of sync again until about every ten minutes it would be so far off I'd have to resync it, which wouldn't have been tedious doing it just once but became tedious hving to do it that frequently (it usually involved watching a part multiple times to press the right keys at the right time to bring the right dialogue in sync with itself). I guess the subtitle files were all running at a slower rate for some reason? Bizarre. Hope I never have to deal with that again for a future movie, it made watching really a bit tedious.

   Anyway, the film takes place in the Georgian breakaway province of Abhkazia, which is an area I've always been interested in. It's the classic "two guys from opposing sides are stuck with eachother" subgenre, in this case a Chechen and a Georgian both badly injure eachother and are nursed back to health in the same house by an Estonian living there. Even having formally studied the conflict in university it was a bit hard to sort out who was on what side. In reality Abkhazia had broken off Georgia and Russia had sent "peacekeepers" in to help "protect" Abkhazia, but I was wondering what these Chechens were doing there since Chechens had been at war with Russia just prior to that so it wasn't my first guess that they'd be on the same side as the Russian backed Abkhazians, but apparently these characters were mercenaries who were in fact on the Russian/Abkahzian side. Anyway, you probably don't care about that ahaha suffice to say it was a spot confusing, but maybe that's the point.
   The protagonist Estonian appears to have some beehives but they are never mentioned and there appeared to be no activity on front of them despite being seen in good weather so I think they were just empty props.
   It reminded me of two other films along the same idea: No Man's Land (2001) is a Bosnian film in which a Serb and an Albanian get trapped together between the front lines, and even a visit from blue-helmeted UN Peacekeepers ("oh here come the smurfs) can't break their stalemate. It was a bit dark comedy almost, I really liked it (I gave it an A-). And Into the White (2012) is a Norwegian film in which s luftwaffe and a British aircraft shoot eachother down in a remote part of Norway and then have to survive together. "Based on a true story" and featuring gorgous Norwegian scenery, I can't quite recall the finer points to put it in a rank with these other two films.
   My watching experience was certainly detracted by the subtitles problems but I think I give Tangerines a B+.

Honeyland (2019): Finally got around to watching this movie I'd been wanting to see (yes having figured out how to torrent I've been knocking out all the movies I've been meaning to watch). Ehh it was fun to see a movie about beekeeping and was well done, and I appreciated the themes, but I dunno, maybe I'm an uncultured ogre for not loving something so critically acclaimed but maybe I just prefer a bit more action in a movie, because I only feel like giving it a B-

Baxu and the Giants (2019): Okay here's proof that I don't only like war movies! You need to watch this cute little Namibian movie. I say little because it's only 29 minutes long. The protagonist is a nine year old girl, the general plot involves a neighbor poaching rhinos, and the cinematography is amazing. AND it's available on netflix so you don't even need to engage in piracy for this one. A+

   The current state of streaming movies is a bit odd. Now that there's several competing streaming empires to Netflix, and movies always seem to be exclusively on one or the other, what do they expect us to do? Do they really expect us to either subscribe to every single streaming empire, or to content ourselves with only their own selection? If I could legally support the makers of indie movies I would, but they're kind of forcing people into a life of piracy if they want to see a variety of movies that belong to the vassallage of different media empires.

   Unrelated photo from nearby Lake Colac the other day.

And an unrelated political thought of the day: Honestly if say ten years ago you proposed making a movie with an evil small handed orange skinned super villain trying to spread disease assisted by a goblinoid sycophant henchman who sweats a thick black fluid and is constantly audibly farting I'd have said that's a pretty silly fantasy setting


Youtube, or T-34, or Russian Movies In General Or Something

   So Pandora finally figured out how to block my VPN a bit ago, and spotify quickly showed itself to be so awful at predicting music I might like that about 90% of its choices were awful, and then Ii discovered that youtube does a pretty good auto-mix predicting music I might like. Well that was good for awhile and I actually discovered a fair number of songs I liked, but what it's not good at is anticipating when I've heard a song I like _too_ much and now I'm starting to become a bit frustrated with youtube always serving me up the exact same selection.

   But the other consequence of this is that I've been logging into youtube on the daily, primarily for the music, but its always optimistically suggesting other things. So I rediscovered my love of Stephen Colbert, and then tentatively branched out to other stand up hosts: I found Jimmy Kimmel bareable, Jimmy Fallon can get a chuckle if one is really bored but somehow his demeanor comes off like he's skulking in a corner like a chastised dog, and this guy Seth Myers, is it just me or is he like 0% funny? He's like a guy reading the news in a desperate trying-too-hard tone with the occasional dead-on-arrival joke punctuated by a "that was funny wasn't it??" expression. It's painful to watch.

   Anyway what I came here to write about was that so I got served up this compilation of scenes from a movie:

   And I felt quite compelled to watch the movie. It turns out it's not easy being a pirate any more. It took me quite I bit of fiddling with torrents and wading into dodgy website before I finally managed to get the movie, T-34, and even then it didn't have subtitles but surprisingly downloading and integrating subtitles only took 5 min or less.
   I didn't really have high hopes, but late Saturday night I was finally in the mood to lean back, pour myself a glass of mead, and watch a mindless shoot em up movie. I was actually pleasantly surprised. Don't get me wrong, it's not exactly deep and meaningful with subtle analogies future generations will analyze or inspiring character development arcs, but as a shoot em up movie it delivers. It's heavy on the sort of CGI you see in the above video but I thought that was well done as far as CGI goes. And wheras most shoot em ups are people running around with guns or random explosions, it was kind of fun to see a shoot em up that was specifically tanks doing their tank thing. There was even a surprising twist about a third of the way through which caught me totally by surprise because I wasn't expecting any twists.
   Its also hilariously propagandistic. It's clearly made by and for a Russian audience and the "rah rah rah Russia is the best!" component is a bit eyeroll and giggle worthy. The movie would have you believe the Germans were absolutely shaking in their boots at the utter prowess of all Russian tankers. For a context not given in the movie: the Russian T-34 was, I believe, an inferior tank to the German tanks it was facing though it was pretty good for its "price point" and Russia was able to churn out a bazillion of them, stuff them with scarcely trained farm boys and "Zerg rush" the Germans with them. So to have one T-34 destroying joblots of panthers is... very optimistic ;)
   I took a Russian Film class back in college and one thing I had enjoyed actually was the way propagandistic themes were woven into the films, so for me personally it had the added layer of comparing the specific thrusts of its propaganda with old classics of the Soviet era such as Chapaev and The Cranes are Flying.
   But all that being said, the jingoism wasn't sickeningly saccharin just kinda laughable, and we can all get behind nazis getting what they deserve anyway, so I enjoyed the movie and felt in a silly good mood by the end. So can recommend as far as shoot em up war movies go. A-

   As long as I'm on about Russian movies, my favorite soviet classic is The Reds and the Whites (the director actually got in real hot water for portraying the Whites (anticommunists) too humanely and the war not as a heroic affair but as awful and brutal); and favorite more recent film is Prisoner of the Mountains which takes place during the (first) Chechen war in 1996.


Current State of Things

The current state of things:

Australia: we haven't had any cases in this state in 21 days now. They are very slowly easing up restrictions. Masks are still mandatory inside but while outdoors one merely needs to have one on them and wear it "if you can't social distance" (ie, most Aussies won't). Melbournians have been released from the "ring of steel" and flooded in the coastal areas down here in historical levels the first weekend they were free. We were a bit leery but they don't appear to have brought any cases with them. There's still a handful of cases in other states, including a recent outbreak of 17 cases in the neighboring state of South Australia (apparently, a cleaner at a quarantine hotel got it and then an employee at a pizza place got it and infected many people? I'm not very well plugged in to Australian news though).

United States:

   The coronavirus epidemic is completely out of control with President Trump not even pretending to be doing anything about it, recently golfing instead of attending the G20 summit meeting about the virus. Deaths are above the second wave levels and creeping up to surpass the heights of the first wave, with hospitals overwhelmed.

   It looks like they're expecting vaccines to become available in the US in mid December.

Ethiopia: you're probably not following the situation in Ethiopia but it seems to be having a small civil war. Let me see if I can briefly and simply explain it for you. Tigray is a northern province bordering Eritrea. At the end of the civil war that ended in 1990 with the defeat of the oppressive national communist regime (the Derg), Tigray was a preeminent power in Ethiopia and remained so until as recently as 2018 or 19 when they, for reasons that aren't quite clear to me, did not end up in the ruling coalition in parliament. The immediate cause of the current conflict seems to have been that the national prime minister (Abiy Ahmed, seemingly usually cited as Abiy), declared there would be no elections this year due to coronavirus. Tigray went ahead and held elections anyway, leading Abiy to declare the new Tigray government illegitimate, and that has what has escalated to airstrikes on the Tigrayan capital (Mekelle) and as of the present moment apparently national government tanks are surrounding the capital and Abiy is vowing "no mercy" 'for civilians in Mekelle.
   To be fair, Tigray was seen as having exercised overwhelming influence over Ethiopia for most of the past three decades, but I must say as to the immediate casus belli it seems to me Tigray was in the right to have elections and it doesn't seem worth pounding the civilian population of mekelle into the sand over.

   I'm following this very closely because I've spent time in Mekelle and Tigray, and have friends there, and it breaks my heart to imagine its peaceful cobblestone streets being shot up, and I'm very worried for my many friends and acquaintances there.

I think in some recent footage I saw the tall building on the right there has been damaged by an airstrike