Sunday, September 27, 2020

Social Media is not the Root Problem

It's easy to blame social media for everything wrong in the U.S. today: the political polarization, the inward focus, the short attention span. And of course, it's part of all these problems, any of which we could look at in more depth. However, I believe that social media exploded as an attempted work-around for problems that already existed in society.

By the time personal computer access became wide-spread, followed by the rapid development of the smartphone, U.S. society was already fragmented. Again, many factors played a part in this, many of them economic. More people were working less regular schedules, more of them had multiple jobs, more of them were moving around to follow employment. This always existed, but as government polices began the process of dismantling social safety nets and privileging corporate interests, widening the gaps and destabilizing the middle class, it began to affect more and more people. Many factors work against social cooperation and promote an individualist, "go it alone" mentality.

As a quick piece of evidence, Robert D. Putnam's best-selling book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, came out in 2000, and was an expansion of an essay from 1995 on this very subject. To let Wikipedia do the work for me, "Putnam surveys the decline of social capital in the United States since 1950. He has described the reduction in all the forms of in-person social intercourse upon which Americans used to found, educate, and enrich the fabric of their social lives. He argues that this undermines the active civil engagement which a strong democracy requires from its citizens." 

The first version of Facebook didn't exist until 2003, the same year pioneering social media site MySpace started. Twitter launched in 2006. While cellphones existed, the smartphone as we know it didn't exist in the U.S. until after Putnam's book came out. 

While there's evidence that our clicking and scrolling feeds endorphins in the brain and whatnot, making them psychologically addicting, I think it's also true that the development of these social media fed the social needs that had been lost in society at large. And, sure, probably exacerbated them later. But what I mean is: people already felt separated and isolated before these technologies came along, which was part of the appeal for joining them. 

In many ways, the structure of society has changed, and we haven't come to grips with the effects of this. For example, in general, people are much less likely to know their neighbors than they once were. People move around more. When I was growing up, "house flipping" wasn't a concept. Not saying it's wrong, just a sign of changing attitudes towards the purpose of property, as an investment rather than a home that people would put down roots in.

At various places I've worked, the old-timers have had stories about the social events, formal and informal, that used to be supported by the organization, before rapid turnover, policy changes, etc. squashed all this socializing as unnecessary or inefficient, and mostly something individuals do completely apart from work. 

Anecdotally: even the college alumni organization my parents belonged to was very different from the ones that were offered to me. Theirs included regular physical social gatherings, and personal participation, Christmas card lists, etc., that were largely run by alumni volunteers. While the social, keep-in-touch element of the old organization was largely in support of underlying fund-raising for the campus, by the time I graduated, alumni organizations seemed to exist solely for fund-raising. It had all been professionalized, so I got generic fund-raising form letters, and occasionally an invitation to a golf outing. This was one of the types of social capital that had declined, from something people actively participated in, to something that was being marketed to us.

When social media came along, it was embraced as a way to counteract this isolating tendency in modern life. It made it easier to keep in touch with people who had moved, friends and family both, and that's still one of its primary benefits. You could find old friends that had drifted away in the currents of time. As the internet developed, it became a way to connect with people who have common interests, some of whom might become actual friends. 

If people hadn't felt so much of this need, social media might have become a passing trend, like CB radios. Instead, it's become a major factor in life, and the downsides -- encouraging short attention spans and reaction without reflection -- have become evident. It can be depressing to find out that you and people you care about have drifted apart for good reasons. But social media use is less the source of our problems than a self-medication for our real problems, which are a lot more complicated, and will take more work to overcome.

Food for thought. Don't forget to like and subscribe, LOL.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Halloween Countdown 2020

The world is falling apart, but Halloween goes on. We're not the first people in history to have the world fall apart on them. So I'm going to try to keep some track of our Halloween watching and doings again this year.

September 9: Watched Fright Night 2 for the first time. Not terrible! It's certainly not as iconic as the original, and everyone is right, vampire Regine doesn't have the charisma of Jerry Dandrige. But it was a fun, light '80s vampire movie, good for when that kind of mood strikes you. Pleasantly surprised. Plus, this vampire attack is truly amazing.

September 10: The original Cat People, which I hadn't seen in years. So beautiful! Then the ghost episode of Magnum, p.i., "The Woman on the Beach."

September 11: Re-watched the animated ParaNorman. I always forget how good this is: a fairly deep story, but with so many funny details about monster movies!

September 12: Lazy day. Bought squash and honey at the farmer's market, and whiled away the day catching up on Monster Kid Radio episodes that I've missed. Oddly, I used to listen them at work on Thursday, when they debut, but that's my busiest day for online meetings, and without the routine, I've gotten messed up. The episode on The Vault of Horror in particular gave me some ideas for seasonal viewing! In the evening: Svengoolie, with Night of the Lepus!

September 13 - 14: Started Scream, the TV series. I've seen some real critical eviscerations of how bad it is, but honestly, I feel like it's a pretty fitting homage to '90s slasher films: a glossy, airbrushed whodunnit, in which actors in their 20s, with fashion-model looks, play small town teenage archetypes. Plus it contains various threats and occasional gruesome murders. Maybe it's because we just recently saw and liked AHS: 1984, but I enjoyed this on a similar level. The '80s slasher style tends to get more respect than the '90s one, but it had its own influence, and it's nice to have something scary-ish that isn't too heavy, but not too technically incompetent. And I'm curious to find out who the killer is, so that's success.

September 15: The 2-disc documentary Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America. We checked this out of the library some years ago, and finally got our own copy. Fun, light-hearted horror-host/spookshow travelogue of haunted attractions, interspersed with bits of Halloween lore, and people like Angus Scrimm and Robert Englund reminiscing about their childhood trick or treating. 

September 16: We still have some other things to watch, so this was our night to watch The Karate Kid Part II. (I'd never seen any of them before last month). Then an episode of Cobra Kai. We're trying to space them out, but it's pretty hard! Soooo goooood!

September 17: Finished season one of Scream, the TV series. Maybe I'd be more critical of it in normal times, but I'm not. We correctly guessed part of what was going on with the killings, but the other part was a surprise, so I'd watch the second season!

September 18: Non-Halloweeny night. Finished season 1 of Cobra Kai, followed by a Magnum, p.i.

September 19: Svengoolie night: Doctor Cyclops. I'd never seen this before. There sure were a lot of reclusive mad scientists in old movies! As scientific knowledge grew and became more a part of everyday life, I wonder if there was a paranoia about the mysteriousness of science. You know: who are these people? What are they doing?

September 20: The "Halloween" episode from season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then Beetlejuice. I hadn't seen either of these in years! Alyson Hanigan was really the MVP on Buffy, and Charisma Carpenter, always my fave, is also really funny in this episode too, if not playing as big a part. And I don't need to tell anyone anything about Beetlejuice, other than maybe this is the most likeable I've ever found Alec Baldwin in any capacity. I wouldn't have really thought he could be likeable, but here's some evidence.

September 21: Night off. A few Magnums, an episode of Night Court.

September 22: A retro night, with 1981's Dark Night of the Scarecrow. I'd never seen this, and honestly thought it was from the '70s. You don't see a lot of G-rated slashers!

September 23: The MST3K version of Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster. I fell asleep a little, but not its fault.

September 24: A few episodes of Tales from the Crypt, to supplement the feature, Tales from the Hood. Another new view for me, and it was very good, although it's what trigger warnings were made for (containing real footage of real deaths). Apart from that, surprisingly funny.

September 25: I had social obligations, so I got home late. We unwinded with a few YouTube videos, one on how Candyman breaks the rules of horror films, one on the making of Halloween 4, and then started the lengthy documentary You're So Cool, Brewster documentary on the Fright Night movies. 

September 26: Son of Dracula on Svengoolie. 'Nuff said, as they used to say in the comic books.

September 27: A few years back we watched about half of that Tales of Halloween movie (short vignettes), and I was pretty underwhelmed. But we watched the last three that I hadn't seen, since its on one of those free streaming channels now, and they were better. By now, I suppose I also was thinking of them as comparable to "short films I'd watch on YouTube," rather than hoping I'd find anything comparable to Trick 'r Treat. Then we watched Stuart Gordon's "The Black Cat," from Masters of Horror, with Jeffrey Combs killing it as an unhinged Edgar Allan Poe.

September 28: The Fly (1986). I hadn't seen this in years, maybe since the early '90s, and I remember why. It's good, a classic, but the small-scale gross stuff is WAY squirmier than, say, Scanners' exploding heads. And I was really irritated by the plot stuff with Geena Davis' ex-boyfriend, which caused me to heckle. Still worth a re-watch and its place in the pantheon. 

September 29: The Cabin in the Woods, followed by a short making-of on The Fog.

September 30: The documentary Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film, followed by a short making-of on Halloween III. We're hitting a lot of John Carpenter background stuff!

October 1: Kicking off the season in EARNEST with the perennial favorite, Trick 'r Treat. So good! Every time we watch it, I notice some little details.

October 2: Brand-new to Netflix, the super-fun Vampires vs. the Bronx. It's in the perennial favorite genre of "kids fight monsters," with a lot of great inner-city locations and atmospheric nighttime creepiness, and it's really funny. The social message is conveyed by the storyline, and isn't a distraction from it. Loved it!

October 3: New to me was Island of Terror (1966), on Svengoolie. Peter Cushing starts in what feels a little like a well-done Doctor Who episode, about a rural island beset by Horta-like silicon monsters. The creature effects are truly ridiculous, but apart from that, it wasn't really cheesy at all, but quite effective! This was after a fine day of masking up and hitting the local Halloween shopping with friends, wearing one of my new t-shirts from Fright Rags. Came home to find the mail had been delivered, and received my membership from the Teenage Werewolves Horror Film Fiend Club! Lots of fun stickers, postcards, and goofy stuff.  

October 4: '80s Retro Night, centered around my favorite Tales from the Darkside episode, "The Cutty Black Sow." Included in the lineup, Halloween-themed or otherwise spooky episodes of Square Pegs (oh, does this not stand the test of time!), WKRP in Cincinnati (which does), Night Court (which also does), Amazing Stories, and the '80s Twilight Zone revival.

October 5: Night off. Watched some Magnum, p.i.

October 6: Had other things to do, but snuck in a behind-the-scenes documentary about Evil Dead II, mostly featuring the effects guys, and lots of footage from the filming. They were all so young!

October 7: Watched Creature from the Black Lagoon with the film historian audio commentary, then the DVD's documentary, Back to the Black Lagoon. Lots of interested stuff I didn't know!

October 8: Nostalgic 3-D in 2-D double feature. Both movies were 3-D, and aired on TV in the '80s as part of the mini-revival: Gorilla at Large (with Raymond Burr as a brooding heavy and Cameron Mitchell as a crime-solving law student, kind of the reverse of their usual roles!) and Revenge of the Creature, which I thought of less as a revenge than as a completely justified response to his situation! 

October 9: Mostly reading, but snuck in the 1989 documentary Stephen King's World of Horror.

October 10: Tarantula on Svengoolie. This was of course already on the schedule when we decided to watch the Creature movies this week, not realizing that this is another Jack Arnold film! A strange quirk of fate.

October 11: In the afternoon, I watched Ouija: Origin of Evil, since I'd heard good things about it. It's pretty much in the vein of Ouija or, say, The Slenderman, but much better made than either of those. The actors were good, and more importantly, the characters and basic situation were more memorable. Once the full-on possession got going, it it was a lot of eyeballs turning white and distorted CGI mouths, and all of that made me shrug. So, not a masterpiece, but fine for an undemanding haunted house/possession kind of mood. Then, keeping with that theme, we watched Poltergeist (the original) in the evening. I saw it in the theater when it came out, and I was pretty judgy, immediately finding it overrated, but I'm mellower now, especially since I now know it doesn't have much to do with poltergeists as I've read about them. Plus, affluent, clueless suburbanites getting bitten by the past they are completely oblivious about certainly seems like a contemporary theme! 

October 12: Followed up Poltergeist with Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce. Not THAT'S batshit crazy. I liked it!

October 13: The behind-the-scenes video on Halloween: 20 Years Later (a.k.a. H20), followed by Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (the English language version). An odd combo, yes.

October 14: Magnum, p.i. night.

October 15: Finally watched the Spanish version of Dracula, which was filmed at night on the sets of the Lugosi Dracula. It's true what they say; it's pretty good!

October 16: Nothing seasonal, just some standup specials from New Zealand on Netflix. Lots coming  up for the weekend!

October 17: Halloween (1978), Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. It turns out I don't have a copy of Halloween II, so we watched some synopses and things on YouTube, including the "Carnage Count" and various scenes, which I think covered it.

October 18: Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection, and Halloween (2018). Whew! 

October 19: Palate-cleanser after all those slasher movies: the first two episodes of Cobra Kai's season 2 ("No, Johnny! Don't listen to that guy!" -- I am shockingly invested) and a few Magnums

October 20: Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight. Haven't seen this in a long time, and it really holds up. It's compact and action-packed; its running time just flies by. Billy Zane is hilarious, and Jada Pinkett is a great action hero. In the opening scene, I was just about to ask when it came out, then I realized "Hey Man Nice Shot" was playing, so I was like, "Oh, never mind." So giving '90s horror a little love.

October 21: A brand-new movie for me, 1988's The Blob. I don't hear much about this one, but I really enjoyed it! Nice to see a creature movie from the '80s, to remind us it wasn't all slashers. 

October 22: Retro TV night. The mummy episode of Welcome Back, Kotter and the poltergeist episode of Barney Miller, followed by the first Tales from the Darkside episode, and a few of the '90s Twilight Zones.

October 23: Also Retro TV night, with a slightly different flavor. First we watched the TV special/pilot episode of Mockingbird Lane, which I'm not sure I knew existed. It was a 2012 reboot of The Munsters, with a modern sensibility. A dramedy, I guess: there was some pretty funny dark humor, but also a lot more blood and real death. Then we watched Over the Garden Wall, for our second time. It's like nothing else. So good! 

October 24: Mighty Joe Young (1949) on Svengoolie. Not Halloweeny, which is kind of a surprising choice for them to play this weekend, but I'd never seen it before, and it was fun.

October 25: The original Karloff The Mummy, with the group film analysis commentary. After that, a few episodes of Tales from the Darkside, starting with the goofy mummy-themed "The Grave Robber." 

October 26: Resolution, an oddball indie horror film, obviously made for a low budget, but made great use of its setting and had some intriguing creepiness.

October 27: Re-watch of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which I hadn't seen in years. I've watched so many '50s alien invasion movies in the intervening years, I'd forgotten how artistic this one is! The framing and the lighting of scenes are incredible, as is the amazing Bernard Herrmann score. Plus Patricia Neal doesn't get enough attention for this role! Such a classic.

October 28: The 1975 documentary In Search of Dracula, starring the amazing Christopher Lee. 

October 29: Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Another true classic, with so many gorgeous images, and a great soundtrack. Followed up with the "Headless Horseman" segment of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Old-school goofy Disney, but the Horseman part has some good spooky ambience. And honestly, I'm not 100% sure I knew that's where the Bing Crosby song came from: "You can't reason with a headless man."

October 30: The Mandalorian's second season premiered right in the middle of Halloween festivities, so that broke things up a little. Beforehand, we watched a Halloween episode of Happy Days (from the college years, and yikes, not great), and afterwards, the haunted house episode of The Andy Griffith Show that was an inspiration for the classic The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

October 31: Met online with friends, with Svengoolie on in the background. So didn't actually watch Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. After 9 o'clock, we went for a walk down the street to look at the neighbors' decorations. It was crazy windy all day, and chilly and quiet, so in some ways, it was honestly the spookiest a Halloween has felt to me, maybe since I was a kid. The lack of the normal activities pared the day down to its essence. A beautiful night.

Now we begin the new year, with a lot of trepidation, but also hope. Where will be next Halloween? As Kay Kyster and his orchestra told us, "You'll find out."

Friday, July 31, 2020

Agents of SHIELD Finale Predictions!

Fiddling while the world burns ... but we all need our distractions ... here are my predictions for the series finale of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one of my favorite shows of recent years.

The timeline will be restored to mostly normal, with some mild variations.

Coulson's consciousness, or brain patterns, or what have you, will be completely erased, so he can never come back in any form.

Mac and Elena will be more than happy to retire.

May is a wild card. I wouldn't be at all surprised with a heroic death, but on the other hand, she might just go off to walk the Earth, like Caine.

Daisy will become the director, and she and Sousa will form a new team, probably starting with some members of the Deke Squad. Sousa will want to make things legal, and she'll be like, "You're nuts, but yes!"

FitzSimmons will come back from space for a long-awaited happy ending. But first, Deke will sacrifice himself to save them, and his last words will be -- you know it -- "Don't you forget about me."

Not a dry eye, etc.!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Unlikely Formative Influences?

Does the media we watch, or even the books we read, contribute to forming our attitudes, or is it mostly passing entertainment that makes no meaningful mark? This basic question comes up in different contexts, and can lead to endless speculation, but I just realized I have an oddball story about American TV.

I used to watch Eight is Enough, a largely forgotten piece of pop cultural ephemera starring Dick Van Patten as the father of eight kids, which ran from 1977-1981, although I'd guess I only watched the first few seasons. Star Wars fans may remember it as the show on which Mark Hamill originally played the oldest son. I also read the memoir it was based on, because I've always been like this, so I knew that in real life, the parents were a D.C. power couple and the kids were friends with the younger Kennedys. None of that was on the show.

I have largely forgotten the details, except, you know, the kids were always getting into problems. However, this morning there was a passing mention on the news of a school ROTC program, and it occurred to me that I have never heard mention of ROTC without thinking of a specific episode of Eight is Enough. The political daughter, Mary, is protesting the reopening of an ROTC program after the end of the Vietnam War (a return to normalcy, if you will), and she bumps into someone she knows, who's now in the military. Their parents are old friends, and because he's played by good-looking young Dorian Harewood (before his big break-out role in Roots: The Next Generations), sparks start to fly.

When they begin dating, she finds out that her dad -- a big post-hippie liberal -- is uncomfortable with her dating a black man. I'm sure that if I re-watched this episode, it would be cringey, a subpar TV dramedy version of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? But what I remember is Mary calling her dad on his liberal bullshit. He believed he was all for equality, but not really. He was literally the guy with black friends, who thought he didn't have any prejudices, but he obviously does, just hidden. Not only the hypocrisy of this common situation, but the absurdity of it, was very obvious to me, and I've always remembered it.

I'm sure I always had a certain frame of mind that made me receptive to seeing things in a certain light, but still. This episode aired in November 1977, and the mere fact that it addressed the issue of liberal racism introduced me to the fact that this was a thing to deal with. Sometimes just acknowledging that something exists can be helpful for people to whom concepts are new!

For a deeper look at this subject, I recommend the Martin Luther King, Jr. collection Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Way more than I can Eight is Enough, but to each their own.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Dhund That To Me One More Time

Like so many bad horror films I've watched over the years, 2003's Dhund: The Fog (original review here) has improved with time. Not that it's necessarily any better, as such, but it was a lot better on the second viewing.

Some of this may be because, when I first saw Dhund in 2007, I had a limited frame of reference for Hindi films. My first encounter had been via the comic stylings of Salman Khan and Govinda, so I probably should have been more charitable to its stretches of so-called comedy. The best word for the early section of lighthearted romance is still "interminable," but now I'm more accustomed to the Bollywood rhythm of slow-paced, non-narrative shenanigans that suddenly take a drastic turn in tone and/or genre.

Certainly the film's logical problems are still noticeable. Like why a heroine who was willing to get some guys arrested for putting her picture in a fashion magazine wouldn't even TELL anyone that a creepy dude has literally threatened her life, broken into her family home, and killed her dog. It seems like she'd be right on top of that. And, unfortunately, the so-called motive for the murder spree is more nonsensical the more you think about it. But the charms I noticed the first time around, like the dramatic musical chord when the villain tosses his hair,and the crazy tub o' blood, are now ones I'm almost as fond of as that redeeming scene in Ruby when the guy gets a cup full of blood out of a pop machine.

Speaking of redeeming, there's really only one word to explain why we watched this again: IRRFAN!

Yes, this is the movie that introduced me to Irrfan Khan.

After this, I next tracked down a movie called The Killer, reviewed here. Yes, it's basically a rip-off of Collateral, but if you can get past the lack of subtitles, you can check out a scene on YouTube that shows off how much better a premise is with Irrfan in a role. It wasn't long before he became my favorite actor: not in Bollywood films, but period.

Now, Irrfan was NOT attractive in Dhund (although if you've seen Maqbool, wowza!), and his part is a pretty one-dimensional villain, but he immediately caught my eye. As he became more famous, appearing in a slew of high-profile American films and working with the likes of Wes Anderson, Danny Boyle, and Ron Howard, my best Bollywood friend has often asked me, "How did you KNOW?"

All I can say is that my years of B-movie watching have helped me develop a spider-sense -- speaking of high-profile American films in which Irrfan was wasted: he was totally set up for more in The Amazing Spider-Man, but then was barely on screen. In Dhund, however silly the story gets, he's super-intense, full of charismatic conviction. And although they ugly him up as much as possible, there's still a handsome framework peeking out underneath.

This is from Jurassic World, in which he also didn't get nearly enough screen time, but totally ruled the movie when he did.

NOTE: I've had a draft of this post revisiting Dhund: The Fog sitting around, and this morning, I woke to the news about Irrfan's death on April 29, 2020. I don't have a summary of anything, but that seems appropriate for this moment in time. Love to all. #irrfanforever

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Bellydabbler, Part I

Now that I'm working from home and have extra time due to the lack of commute, but also am not getting out of the house and getting my regular (not much) amount of exercise, I decided to bust out my collection of bellydance DVDs.

I am no expert, believe me, although I'm not an absolute beginner either. I'm not sure how any of these DVDs would work if you're brand-new, since at least I don't need to have shimmies or hip drops explained to me anymore, and I'm familiar with other of the terminology (like "releve" when you go up on your toes), but I'm listing what I've done so far.

After almost two weeks, I've found I'm already more confident about picking and choosing, and mixing up DVDs, although I haven't gone through all of them yet.

One of the most important things is listening to my body, knowing when to quit, and when something is too advanced or strenuous for me. If I need to cut it short, I do, and then do some stretching. I'm trying to alternate areas of the body that I'm working on, although it's sort of haphazard. In general, a more strenuous day leads to a more gentle day. Also, I obviously skipped some days, although I've been consistently doing light stretches.

Day 1. From The Belly Dance Shimmy Workout, with Sarah Skinner: Chapters 1-3. That got a little strenuous, but felt good! I'll get back to that.

Day 2. I could tell from the day before that my arms need some work, so I did some light weight lifting with my smallest weights. I have a routine I got from an old Jane Fonda workout video back in the day, which is pretty basic. She said to do weights only every other day, so that's what I've always believed! Then I did the Circles and Loops sections from Luscious: The Bellydance Workout for Beginners (with Neon).

Day 3. The Organic Movement section from Belly Dance: Opulent Motion, the Artistry of Slow Moves with Sarah Skinner.

Day 6.  Arm weights and a longer period of stretches, based on things I remember from classes.

Day 7. From Sacred Bellydance (Temple of Jehan): Stretching and Breathing from Disc 1, plus Hips, into some Walks, from Disc 2.

Day 8. Arm weights, then the Tune-Up section of Temple Goddess Workout with Revital Carrol. I did some of the Cool Down as well, but it was a little too much yoga for me.

Day 10. Arm weights, stretching.

Day 11. I did Hips and Chest through Chapter 9 in Shaabi Dance - Technique & Combinations for Belly Dance (with Shahrzad). Then I went on a long walk, and between the two things, I definitely overdid it! I strained a muscle in my shin, of all places.

Day 12. Put off the arm weights until tomorrow! Went back to Sacred Bellydance for the Warmup, Stretching and Breathing again, and Foot Stretches. Also did some Arm segments from Rachel Brice's Bellydance Arms & Posture.

I will try to keep notating my routine, and maybe I'll come up with some helpful suggestions in the end, for my fellow dabblers!