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Cigarettes, Music, Art, Movies, TV, Hinduism, and Carl Sagan.

April 13, 2018

I don’t smoke much at all, but cigarettes help with anxiety and muscle tension, so lately, I’ve been smoking a few cigarettes a week. I’ve never had a smoking habit though. Just a few here and there during certain years.

There are only two brands of tobacco I really like. One is from Denmark, and called Peter Stokkebye. The other is an Indonesian brand called Djarum. Some of you might remember this brand from back in the ’90’s, when it was really popular among odd coffee house college kids like myself.

Officially, these Djarum clove-flavored smokes are cigars. This is thanks (no thanks at all) to Obama, who somehow managed to get flavored cigarettes outlawed..

.. Except for menthol cigarettes. Menthol is a flavor, in my opinion. Banning menthol cigarettes would have gotten rid of massive profits for American tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, so Obama didn’t push for a ban on menthol smokes, as far as I know – buy menthol.. buy American! (Screw that).

Having to find a way around the ban or go out of business, Djarum, like some other manufacturers of flavored cigarettes, changed the tobacco recipe a little, re-labled their cigarettes as cigars, and sold them in packs of 12, instead of 20.

These “cigars” look like cigarettes, just the tiniest bit wider. Don’t taste quite the same though. In the pre-Obama days, the clove cigarettes tasted better than these clove cigars.. but still.. good clove flavor.

The other brand I like I have to roll myself. Peter Stokkebye, a Danish company. Several blends available. I’ve tried three.

I like Amsterdam Shag, a Dutch blend with a very strong flavor. Much stronger than most Americans are used to. I’m Dutch, by the way, though born here. I remember when I was a kid, a distant Dutch relative came to visit from Holland, and brought with him a packet of roller-yer-own smokes.

I liked the smell of those. He was responsible enough not to let me try one, and I, being a good kid, did not ask for one. An uncle did let me have a sip of Coors beer when I was 7 or 8, though. I didn’t ask, he offered. Yes, I liked the taste of beer, even back then. Too bad alcohol does nothing for me except make me feel more agitated. I prefer a good smoke once in awhile.

The other blend I like is Turkish Export, which is more mild than Amsterdam Shag, but still good.

These tobaccos taste immensely better than pre-made American cigarettes that I’ve tried. These taste better than even the two pre-made brands I favor: American Spirit smokes, and Dunhill cigarettes, which are imported from England. I do miss Dunhill though. I haven’t found them in Boise as of yet.

I don’t know how to roll these smokes with just my hands, so I use a small rolling machine thingy. Yes, I thought it was really cool how John Travolta rolled his own cigs in “Pulp Fiction,” but I don’t feel like putting in the practice to learn how to roll my own without a little device.

Why do I not want to teach myself how to my own smokes? I’ve got a VERY low frustration tolerance. (Some of you may remember Michael Keaton playing a character with a very low frustration tolerance in the classic comedy, “The Dream Team.” Watch it!)

I keep these smokes in a metal case with a classic painting by Monet on the front of it. I spent many hours looking online for a cigarette case with art I like.

We have a print of the same painting on a wall in our family room. Sorry, I forget what the painting is called. There are sailboats in the painting.. but there are sailboats in other, perhaps many other Monet paintings, so I suppose mentioning sailboats won’t help you figure out what painting I’m mentioning.

While I was making the coffin nails, (great name for cigs), I felt I wanted to listen to a certain song by Macy Gray, which I have not heard in many years. The song is called “Do Something.” It is a sad, wistful song, with a chorus that has a positive message. Macy Gray smoked a lot, but not tobacco..

After that song on youtube.. Hinduism.

Why?

I like studying various religions, and don’t know enough about Hinduism yet. Also, three movies I really really like, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and “The Darjeeling Limited” are set in India.

Another reason.. I was discussing religion with my dad over coffee at the Roastere this afternoon (wonderful place except it closes at 5pm), and I brought up Hinduism.

Lastly, while browsing Netflix this evening, looking for something peaceful and humorous to watch, I found a movie featuring actor Danny Pudi. You probably don’t know who he is unless you, like me, are a huge fan of the remarkable and very original sitcom, “Community.”

Pudi played my favorite character, Abed, a movies and ’80’s pop-culture obsessed guy who is half Palestinian, half Polish, and obviously mentally ill.. suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, and occasionally schizophrenia-like psychotic breaks with reality. I don’t mean he’s psychotic, he just becomes.. unmoored.

Pudi’s performance of Abed was unusual, heartfelt, and often hilarious. Yes, you guessed it, the character Abed and I share a few similarities, though I am not, officially anyway, on the Autism spectrum, and have no schizophrenic symptoms.. thank goodness for that. Knock on wood (the one superstition I have).

The Danny Pudi film is called “The Tiger Hunter.” I’ve not watched it all yet. It’s not about hunting tigers, except at the beginning.

It’s about a guy, who, in 1979, moves from India to find a job in Chicago. Why 1979? I don’t know. No, the Smashing Pumpkins song, “1979,” has not shown up in the soundtrack, considering that song was released in the ’90’s.

Since the film starts off in India, I got to thinking more about Hinduism, so I watched a few youtube videos on that faith.

The most intriguing video on Hinduism that I watched tonight features the late Carl Sagan, talking about how Hindu cosmology matches up well with science.. something like that.

The video is 15 minutes long. If you have the time, and are curious about Hinduism, Cosmology, and how they relate to each other, you’ll find the video worth watching.

I’m going to go have a smoke now. Shall it be a clove cigar, Amsterdam Shag, or Turkish Export? Choices Choices.

Here’s Carl Sagan..

“A Quiet Place” sucked!!

April 10, 2018

Warning: Spoilers. Lots of ’em.

Saw the film just a few hours ago. Made a mistake believing the immense hype and rave reviews. Also, I wanted to see the movie because I’m a huge fan of “The Office (US)”- I therefore like John Krasinski. He was great playing the character Jim.

I quite like Emily Blunt as well, having seen her in some films which I’ve really enjoyed, or at least appreciated, such as “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Girl on the Train,” “Sunshine Cleaners,” …

Krasinski and Blunt (good name for a law firm or a private detective agency) are married. I just read this a few months ago, and was shocked. How did Average Joe Krasinski land a British babe, Blunt?

Emily must have really enjoyed the slow but romantic Jim and Pam story arc from “The Office.”

Ok then..  here are some elements of the film that I liked least:

No explanation of what the monsters are or why they are on earth or how they got here. There is a sound bite in the trailer, “massive invasion, total devastation,” but I don’t remember that being in the film! I was really paying attention, but I didn’t hear it. Did I miss it, or was it not in the movie? I don’t think it was.

The monsters look a bit too much like the critters from seasons 1 & 2 of “Stranger Things,” a rather good horror show on Netflix.

It is said that the monsters are blind (or this was written down on a piece of paper that was visible in a scene). It is not mentioned that they have echo-location. – you know, like dolphins, or Daredevil.

Just because they hear well enough to track a person does not mean they have echo-location.

Are we to assume the monsters have this power? I guess so, since, if they don’t, even though they have really good hearing, the monsters would be crashing into things all the time, running off cliffs, drowning themselves and so forth, and would soon be extinct.

The movie is surprisingly short. Considering how dumb and almost a complete waste the film turned out to be, it being brief would be a mercy, except..

The ending is really really bad. It appears that something awesome is finally going to happen – a final and dramatic showdown – which would have been satisfying even if the mother and daughter died, having gone out in a blaze of glory as they took out the last of monsters, and saved humanity. But no, the mom cocks her shotgun, the daughter is ready to use the home P.A. system to blast a frequency of sound that the monsters hate.. and the credits roll.

I was utterly shocked. Just because an ending is a surprise doesn’t mean it is a good surprise.

The concept of “A Quiet Place” was interesting. This film had a lot of potential to be great, or at least worth watching.  I hate when films with good concepts turn out bad.

Was this movie a total loss?

No. The acting was solid – even the child actors did a better than adequate job.  The cinematography was also well done.

But this movie could have been so much more.. so much better.

Want to see monsters going after people? Skip “A Quiet Place,” and instead watch “Cabin in the Woods,” almost any zombie movie or show ever made (my personal favorite is “Shaun of the Dead”) pretty much any of the Jurassic Park films (especially the first one), “Predator” and “Predator II” (which was a surprisingly good sequel), the first two of the “Alien” films, especially the second one, called “Aliens” (one of the best action films ever made), or both seasons of “Stranger Things.”

Even the cult classic, “Tremors,” with the huge underground worms, was better than “A Quiet Place.”

Good thing I went on cheap day, and also had a free ticket.  Only spent $5.50 on tickets for two people.

Alright then.. you’ve been warned.

“A Quiet Place” sucked!!

Writing online advice..

April 8, 2018

for what it’s worth..

I’ve taken on an odd hobby.. answering questions on quora.com. That is a site for people to ask pretty much any question, and maybe someone comes along and answers it.

I answer questions about movies, music, religion, and various aspects of human interaction. It can be a bit reckless to offer advice.. but..

I spent over 7 years studying the behavioral and social sciences in college (mostly psychology and sociology), am a former social worker, and have learned at least some things from experience..

So.. might as well try to help some folks.. and hope to be doing more good than harm.

Here is the most recent question I answered, and my answer..

“I’m starting to get feelings for a guy but I don’t want to be in a relationship. How can I control myself and get over it?”

My answer to this total stranger..

“I’ve had this problem too… feelings for women I didn’t want to get involved with. Unfortunately, part of being human is sometimes having feelings for those who are not good for us, or having certain feelings at wrong times in our lives.

It’s likely the best thing to do is avoid the guy, if possible. Not being around him will help the most. Hopefully, you have the option to remove yourself from the presence of the guy. But don’t just avoid him, and spend time alone feeling bad..more on that at the bottom of this answer.. but first.. read on..

If you cannot avoid the guy.. and..

If you are friends, if you know the guy already likes you, and especially if the subject of dating comes up, read this next part.. but, if he is not into you, as far as you can tell.. skip to the last part of my answer..

Ok.. so, if you know he likes you..especially if the subject of dating comes up.. it would be good to mention that you do not want to be in a relationship at this time. The guy might take it personal, and feel rejected.. but that’s how it goes. It’s pretty much impossible to go through life without rejecting at least a few people. Just be kind, if you can.

Years ago, a woman I liked, and who I was already friends with said, right out of the blue.. “Don’t fall for me, Tom, I just got out of a relationship a few months ago, and I don’t want to be in another one right now.” She said this to me, even though I’d not expressed romantic interest, and we hadn’t been talking about dating. She’d just figured me out.

I’d suggest that you not be quite as blunt as this woman was, unless you really feel the need to be. It might be best to wait until the subject of dating comes up. But maybe not. I don’t know you. I don’t know the guy. Luckily for me, I knew the woman well enough not to take her frankness personally, and was not offended. I was glad she was so honest and direct with me. Your situation might be different.

By the time she told me what was on her mind, I already liked the woman a lot (liked her right away.. couldn’t help it), but after she said that, I at least knew not to ask her out. We stayed friends for the rest of the time we worked together, though this was tough for me. If I and the woman had not been co-workers, I would have avoided spending time with her. But since we worked together, I thought it best she and I continue to get along.

Maybe you will remain friends with the guy, maybe not. But DON’T ever say to a guy.. “We can still be friends.” If he is into you, he doesn’t just want friendship. He might not want sex right away – not all guys do.. but he’ll be wanting a romantic relationship with you.

——–

Here is the last part of my answer: one other thing to consider, and possibly a helpful strategy to get past your feelings and move on..

I hesitate to write this next part.. I don’t know any details about your situation.. don’t know the guy, etc. But.. it might be possible that even though the timing isn’t great.. if the guy is great.. that might be the important thing.. not the bad timing..

Something to think about.. if the guy is great. If not, nevermind.

Alright.. here is a good strategy.. one that can work regardless of whether or not the guy already likes you.. get busy and stay busy with other people and activities. Hang out with friends (if they are good friends, and if the guy isn’t part of your crowd), make new friends, go on a road trip, join a gym and commit to working out at least 3x a week, volunteer, explore new interests. Take up the guitar or learn to paint, for example. Find something you like and put effort into doing it. Spend time with worthwhile people. Do good, enjoyable things. Some of what I’ve suggested will take courage and patience, but can be very helpful.

I wish you well.”

I hope I answered this question well, and am not being foolish by offering advice. I’m trying to do some good.

Usually, I don’t care for profanity, but..

April 6, 2018

This song is awesome!! One of the most fun, intense metal songs I’ve heard..

A Brief Introduction to Discworld Novels.

April 4, 2018

My last post was a quote from Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld novels. I also posted the quote on facebook. One of my friends, a missionary pilot living in Indonesia for over 17 years, asked if the Discworld novels are good. I answered his question on facebook, and decided to post my answer here on wordpress too. The links go to facebook pages. Here is what I wrote to my friend Craig:

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:

British author Terry Pratchett wrote 41 Discworld novels before he died in 2015. I’ve read something like 20 of them.

The books are fantasy novels, but are also satire. These are the only fantasy novels I like to read. I’m not a fan of the genre in general, though I used to be when I was younger.

Discworld is a flat, round planet, that sits atop four planet-size elephants, that are standing on an even more massive sea turtle, which swims slowly through space. The Disc spins around like a record album.

Some Discworld books are funny, some are more serious. But all of them have a definitely British style of writing and humour.

A few of the books have a tiny bit of profanity and a bit of double entendre, but otherwise are suitable for all ages.

Pratchett sometimes liked to do parodies of Shakespeare or other stories, and occasionally included references to pop culture.

He liked to take on subjects of race, religion, and politics, but not in an annoying way.

For example, some books deal with Dwarfs vs. Trolls – these two races hate each other. A couple books deal with dwarf politics and spirituality – moderates vs. radicals.

There are four main Discworld series. My favorite is referred to as The Watch or Night Watch. These are police procedural mysteries set in a Renaissance-era city based on London, but a city inhabited by three main species – humans, dwarfs and trolls, and several other types of people- gnomes, vampires, werewolves, and others, all living in a massive city.

The watch books: Guards! Guards! , Men at Arms (my favorite) Feet of Clay, Jingo (this one is a parody of the assassination of JFK, and elements from the film, “Lawrence of Arabia,”), The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, and Thud! (yes, the exclamation point is included in the title).

The other series I like is about 3 witches. They are based in a tiny mountain kingdom, and have many adventures. There are 6 of these books about the 3 witches .. some of the titles have purposely misspelled words..

Sourcery, Wyrd Sisters (a dark parody of Macbeth and King Lear), Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade (a parody of Phantom of the Opera), and Carpe Jugulum. Witches Abroad and Maskerade are the funniest, and best of these, in my opinion.

There are also books about another witch, and a huge tribe of tiny Scotsmen- type characters, who are rather irreverent, and called the Wee Free Men. I’ve only read one of these books. It was ok. Actually, I didn’t finish that one. Nevermind.

There is a series about the adventures of a hapless wizard named Rincewind. He, by accident, learned a spell that can destroy the world. He can never say it, and it takes up so much of his mind, that he was never able to learn any other spells at the wizard school called Unseen University.

The earlier Discworld books were published before Harry Potter. I’m pointing this out so that the Pratchett books won’t seem like a knock-off. Only males, with one exception, become wizards, and only women become witches. Also, I still don’t know why the school is called Unseen University, since its campus can be seen.. anyway. I only read two and a half of the Rincewind books – I don’t like these much, but other folks do.

The last series is about the Grim Reaper (just referred to as Death), and his adopted family. Death is the only character who shows up in all the books. There’s always at least a few incidental characters dying, and Death always has brief, usually amusing conversations with these characters right after they’ve died.

I’ve only read one of the Death novels. It was alright, but I prefer to re-read (lots of times) the Watch books, mostly. I’ll get to those other ones, eventually, I suppose. Or maybe not.

There are some standalone Discworld novels as well. The one I like best is a parody of the Golden Age of Hollywood, called “Moving Pictures.” Another good one is about the invention of the printing press and the first newspaper. It is called “The Truth.”

A novel co-written by Terry Pratchett that is not a Discworld novel, but is certainly worth mentioning, and worth reading and re-reading: “Good Omens,” co-written by Neil Gaiman, who has written mostly much darker, modern fantasy novels – some worth reading, some..not so much.

“Good Omens” is a parody of the events leading up to the End of Days. If you have seen the original version of the classic horror film, “The Omen,” you will get more of the jokes and references. But you don’t need to see the movie to appreciate the book.

The film is about the Antichrist as a kid. One of the main characters of the novel is also the Antichrist as a boy – but he’s not evil. Other main characters are an angel and a demon (both in human form) who team up to try to prevent the End from happening, because they rather enjoy life on earth. There’s also a young witch, and a young man who is a witchfinder sent to stop her, but they team up instead. And the four Horse-persons of the Apocalypse.

Death, being one of them, is in this novel too. Pestilence resigned in frustration, because vaccines were created to wipe out so many diseases, and was replaced by Pollution. War is a woman, and foreign correspondent. Famine is a diet guru.

I’ve read a lot of novels. Good Omens is one of the best I’ve ever read. Not as offensive to Christians as you might guess.. well.. depending on the Christian. I think you’d really like the book.

Can you download books online – from Amazon – onto a computer or kindle?

If so, I’d say start with “Good Omens,” or, if you want to jump into Discworld, either “Moving Pictures,” or else start with the first Watch book, Guards! Guards!

How do you get mail? Is it possible to send packages via MAF, or just send them directly?

When I was selling stuff on ebay years ago, I read about many vendors refusing to send merchandise to Indonesia. Is it tough to get mail there? I never sent anything to Indonesia.

Any idea how much sending a few books would cost to send from Boise to Terakan?

Ok then.. hope you enjoyed my lengthy summary! You might really like these books!

Where the agnostics are buried..

April 3, 2018

“This cemetery of Small Gods was for the people who didn’t know what happened next. They didn’t know what they believed in or if there was life after death, and, often, they didn’t know what hit them. They’d gone through life being amiably uncertain, until the ultimate certainty had claimed them at the last. Among the city’s bone orchards, the cemetery was the equivalent of the drawer marked ‘misc.’ – where people were interred in the glorious expectation of not very much.”

– Terry Pratchett, from his Discworld novel, “Night Watch.”

Beauty and Religion..

April 2, 2018

Jehovah’s Witnesses at times somehow manage to find incredibly attractive women to canvass the neighborhoods. Amazing! This is a sneaky tactic, but I bet it works, at least some of the time. No, I have not converted. Even in the presence of powerful beauty, I remain resolute.. and perhaps a little sad. Leave it to a JW to bring out the romantic in me. And, in past years, it’s been Christian women who’ve moved my heart the most. There is a downside to my being incapable of being religious.