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JOSH BALES dot NET Posts

One-Star Reviews of the Sphinx

Over the past couple of months I’ve been reading FINGERPRINTS OF THE GODS, Graham Hancock’s seminal book wherein he proposed that a technologically and culturally advanced civilization existed in our world’s very early prehistory, was wiped out near the end of the last ice age, and which inspired/influenced the earliest ancient civilizations.

It’s a really interesting book, which I may talk about in more depth another day, but while reading it I’ve been googling a lot of the theories and evidence that Hancock references. One of those theories is that the Great Sphinx of Giza is much, much older than previously thought (see the water erosion hypothesis). While scrolling through the search results I noticed that out of 787 google reviews, it had a rating of 4.7. My understanding of highly advanced maths told me that since the Great Sphinx rating wasn’t 5.0, then there had to be at least a few negative reviews. So I wondered: Who would take the time to post a one-star review of the Sphinx? Turns out, a surprising number of people, including:

The random-bordering-on-nonsensical:

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The racists who think they are clever:

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And, my favorite, the people who are just trolling:

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But don’t think that negative reviews are confined simply to the Great Sphinx. There are plenty of other ancient monuments that people also think are terrible.

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So there you go. Next time you visit a place of great historical or cultural importance, one that’s survived the march of time for millennia, don’t forget to leave a shitty review on Google.

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So Qwerky

I hate the name Qwerkywriter — much the same way I will take an immediate disliking to anyone who describes his or herself as “quirky” — but an aluminum-constructed keyboard that emulates the look, feel, and touch of a classic typewriter but that can connect to a computer or tablet via Bluetooth would be pretty cool to have.

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On an entirely unrelated note, my birthday is a little under a month away…  *wink wink* *nudge nudge*

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The Winnie the Pooh We Deserve

Today at work was a little stressful, so when I left it was with a headache. Not a migraine, where I have to pop Vicodin like mints and flee to my dark Cave of Solitude and hope I either pass out or die. But the kind where I was able to skip going to the gym, grab dinner from Panera, and come home and watch a movie I’ve seen thirty times, all guilt-free. It wasn’t an ideal situation, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to be lazy.

I saw THE REVENANT over the weekend. It was very good, gorgeous to look at, and super fucking intense. The notorious bear scene, while expertly shot, was particularly hard to watch. I’m glad I saw the movie, and on a big screen, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to see it again.

Well, today I was talking with a coworker about the movie, who shared similar feelings towards it. Later, he emailed me this:

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I didn’t realize until now that the same person also made Winnie-the-Pooh-themed posters (Poohsters?) for all of this year’s Best Picture nominees. They’re all pretty great.

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The Adventurers Club

Below is the impressive spread of food from a birthday party I attended last weekend for my friend Melanie. The evening’s theme was an Adventurers Club, which meant there was a lot of khaki. The “gold and jewels” in the glass bowl was actually dyed caramel popcorn. It was so good I nearly made myself sick from eating so much.

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My favorite decoration (that I of course forgot to take a picture of) was a not-even-pretending-to-be-real tiger rug. Melanie’s parties are usually themed, but this one might have been my favorite.

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JOY-less

Earlier in the week I saw JOY, and I’ve been thinking about it off-and-on since — but not in a good way.

JOY is the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film about a woman who invents a new type of mop, and despite her truly awful family, manages to sell it on QVC — the setting is the early 90’s — and eventually becomes a hugely successful entrepreneur.  The plot itself is compelling, and Lawrence is entertaining and believable in the title role, as she tends to be in almost all of her movies.

No, what makes this movie so frustrating to watch is the rest of the characters.  With the exception of Joy, her grandmother, ex-husband, and the bigwig at QVC who eventually lets her sell her product, I loathed the rest of the characters.  They — “they” largely consisting of her family — use and belittle her, treat her continuously like crap.  And she just takes it.  I understand that, for narrative purposes, there need to be obstacles in the way of her achieving her objectives.  But c’mon: must that require we hate 90% of the film’s characters in the process

About an hour into the movie, as Joy’s fortunes are starting to change for the better, I whispered to my sister, “I hope at the end she never talks to any of her goddamn family again.”  Honestly, Joy could snapped in the middle of the film, and spent the second half hunting down and killing her family off one by one, and I would have been cheering.

The ending is satisfying, but her family was still alive as the credits began to roll, so I won’t say it was a happy ending.

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Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the gun.
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Foreign Shores

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This arrived a couple of days ago, a Christmas gift to myself. Only took two years of talking about it for me to finally get around to going to the local county office and applying. Now that I have a passport I can legally inflict myself upon foreign lands.  It’s in the Constitution, or something.

Fancy passport holder courtesy of my sister.

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2015 Look-back

As January marches along, and I have been back at work for two days now, it’s finally starting to feel as though 2015 is in the rearview mirror.

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, and I am not really one — at least not any more — prone to public introspection. However, I do think it’s important to sit back from time-to-time, take stock, and think about where you’re at and where you’re going. And now seems as good a time as any.

2015 was a very good year for me, both professionally and personally. Work-wise, I received a nice promotion and became more comfortable/confident at doing my job (at least until the promotion happened, and then it’s right back to zero). I consider myself to be very fortunate to have a job I like and that affords me the time-off to be able to travel. Even when I get frustrated, or overwhelmed, I try to keep that in mind.

On a more personal level, the thing that made me the happiest about last year was the traveling I was able to do. The older I get, the more I’ve realized how important jaunting around the country is to me. Something about it is therapeutic, re-energizing. Like by arriving at a new, ideally warm destination, the possibilities and potential for adventure are just laid out in front of you — even if said destination is just a few scant hours away by car. Seeing far-flung friends and family also doesn’t hurt. This past year I went to Denver, San Diego (twice), Chicago, Washington D.C., and Put-in-Bay. In 2016, my plan is to travel as much, if not more, and to some new locales.

The other thing that made me very happy this year was that I continued going to the gym. It may not sound like much of an achievement, but for someone imbued with my remarkable level of laziness, it really is. I also continue to eat much better than I did a year ago, even if I’ve slacked off some the last couple months. But slowly, surely, I am becoming fit. It’s made me feel better, both physically and mentally.

Other good things happened this year, but some things are, I think, better kept to one’s self. Keeps a little mystery going.

If you’re still reading this: kudos to you. Apparently I haven’t bludgeoned you to death (YET) with boredom. Thanks for sticking around. Here’s to 2016.

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Arnold Nose Best

That scene in TOTAL RECALL where Arnold Schwarzenegger jams the extractor device up his nose, and slowly, painfully removes that huge metal tracker?  You know, this one?

As someone who has been plagued with sinus issues most of my life, and, for all intents and purposes, haven’t been able to breathe out of my left nostril in years — I’ve always empathized with that scene, wishing upon a star, Cthulhu, whatever, that I could do what Arnold did.  Pull some big-ass metal ball from my nose and fix my breathing problems forever…

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THE FORCE AWAKENS

Caught a showing of THE FORCE AWAKENS tonight, which marks my second time seeing it. I enjoyed it in a slightly different manner this time, in that I was able to pay attention to more of the details, instead of being happily 100% absorbed in the tale unfolding on the screen.

John Scalzi has a good review that encapsulates a lot of my feelings — especially going in the first time, when I was still slightly terrified that it still turn out to be a clusterfuck of a film like the prequel trilogy.

I do disagree with Scalzi’s assertion that THE FORCE AWAKENS is just a good film, and not a great one. J.J. Abrams and the writers did a fantastic job at capturing the feel of the original trilogy. The reintroduction of Han, Leia, and Luke was done in a natural way, which acknowledged that time had passed and people had changed, but in believable and interesting way. They weren’t just shoehorned in to introduce the new cast. Speaking of the new cast: they were phenomenal, especially Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey. She’s very much in the Luke Skywalker tradition, except less whiny and a lot more independent (at the beginning of the film, she is a scavenger on a desert planet who lives by herself, and who beats the shit out of people who try to take her things). The villain of the piece, Kylo Ren, definitely hearkens back to Darth Vader, in both a figurative and literal way, without simply being Vader 2.0. I’ll be curious to see where both his and Rey’s characters go in later installments. (Side note: the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account is damned amusing (but spoiler-y).)

I won’t go into the plot, but I’ve read some complaints that it is too similar to A NEW HOPE[1]. It’s a takeon the Hero’s Journey, like the original was, with some similar locations. (For more Hero’s Journeys, see also: THE MATRIX, THE HUNGER GAMES, and Moses.) While they do share some parallel themes, it’s not like THE FORCE AWAKENS is a shot-for-shot remake of the original.

If I have one quibble with the story, it’s that I’m a little unclear on the political make-up of the galaxy in this new era.  There is a new Republic, and also a Resistance movement, both of whom seem to be fighting against the First Order (AKA the new Empire).  It seems a little needlessly convoluted, but it’s not enough to bother me. Honestly, I’m just happy that people didn’t spend half the film having politicians debate and moralize like they did in the prequels.

What makes THE FORCE AWAKENS great, I think, is that, aside from being an exciting and well-made movie, it’s captured the public’s imagination in a way that hasn’t happened, really, since A NEW HOPE came out nearly forty years. People are seeing it multiple times, blathering about it, like me, to each other constantly, and a shit-ton of merchandise is being sold everywhere. It’s Star Wars fever again, which I was as surprised to learn as anyone that I am not immune to. I thought that ship had sailed years ago, after a terrible trilogy of films and an ever-increasing shitty bunch of books.

That’s probably the highest compliment I can pay THE FORCE AWAKENS. It made me love Star Wars again.

1 In my head it is and always will be just STAR WARS, not A NEW HOPE. But when talking about the numerous movies, that can get a little confusing. So A NEW HOPE it is, albeit reluctantly.

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