• I tried an IV therapy spa so you don’t have to

    IV Bags
    Photo by NIAID, used under a Creative Commons license

    As someone who gets easily dehydrated during the hot summer months in a good year, I found myself struggling to get enough fluids after a recent illness. No amount of water, herbal tea, Gatorade, etc. seemed to be cutting it. I needed something stronger — and I needed it fast.

    So I went to an IV therapy “spa” (or clinic, really) to get my blood supply topped off with a liter of saline.

    Now if you’re unfamiliar with IV therapy, this type of treatment was starting to become trendy shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began, so it never truly had a chance to catch on.

    I know for many people this sounds like their worst nightmare because they hate needles, or at the very least seems like something questionable that warrants immediate skepticism. 

    I went to Ivy En Rose (try saying it out loud if you don’t get it) over on West Portal. On the inside the layout is kind of like a barber shop; a strange irony considering that barber shops once relieved people of their “bad” blood.

    After a check in and medical evaluation that focused on my blood pressure, the nurse brought out the IV bag, the needle, etc. and hooked me up. This took maybe five to ten minutes.

    Next came the waiting game, as in waiting for that saline solution to drip its way into me. This was a little under 45 minutes for a one liter bag which left plenty of time to peruse some magazines.

    So based on my extremely limited experience it’s not as though anyone can walk in the door and demand that stuff be injected into their veins, no questions asked. Of course this assumes you go to a place that’s actually licensed.

    However there is one big reason to be skeptical: the primary business of IV therapy spas is not to cure dehydration, but rather to supplement your blood directly with vitamins, minerals, etc. These treatments can be quite pricey and I’m not sure how medically necessary they are for most people. That said, I could see someone with a liver malfunction, or an iron deficiency, etc. getting a quick boost from some of these IV therapies; I’m far less sold on mainlining vitamin C for an immunity boost or an entire cocktail of supplements for post-workout recovery.

    In my case I’m pleased to say that one liter of saline drip was exactly what I needed. 

    Today in our modern era of on-demand convenience, there are mobile IV therapy nurses who can come directly to your home or office. There’s not much equipment involved so this could be an option for someone who’s either bedridden or is busy with work.

    Is IV therapy right for you? Well, if you’re a biohacker type or if you’ve undergone similar treatments under the supervision of a doctor, you’ll be fine. On the other extreme end I can’t see anyone who’s terrified of needles opting in to an IV under any circumstance. As for everyone in between, it’s ultimately your call — assuming you even have a reason you’d even need IV therapy, of course.

  • Six most outrageous moments in the 2024 On Cinema Oscar Special, aka “AmatoCon”

    Once again I’m here to provide my takes on the latest On Cinema Oscar Special. Except this year it’s called AmatoCon and it’s a business conference with a special presentation about The Power of Mercy from G. Amato. He believes in the power of mercy… or so he says.

    Spoilers follow!

    Describing the events that led to AmatoCon is no easy task due to everything that happened since the previous Oscar Special. To quickly summarize, in season 14 Tim Heidecker accepted the questionable businessman G. Amato as his new father. Tim allegedly developed a medical condition that prevents him from seeing movies, so he changed the format of the show to a Joe Rogan style podcast and invited a muscular man known as Joey P. to review movies on his behalf. But as usual, the movie reviews between Tim or his proxy Joey P. and Gregg Turkington add nothing of value.

    Meanwhile Tim has renamed himself “T. Amato” in honor of his new dad. He’s also been treating his nonsensical medical condition with sunlight and has become so sunburned that he looks like, well… a tomato.

    The latest business venture from the mysterious G. Amato this season is his personal brand of bottled “Argentine style water,” a concept Gregg rejects as it doesn’t even claim to be from Argentina and is entirely meaningless.

    Tim reconnected with his ex-wife Toni Newman over the death of her son, Matt Newman. RIP Matt, we’ll miss ya son.

    This year’s Oscar Special was presented as the last presentation of the three-day AmatoCon held at a hotel in Rialto, California. As always it was broadcast live online.

    And of course it’s not On Cinema unless everything goes horribly wrong.


    6. Tim’s keynote speech

    This confusing keynote speech was supposedly about business, but it seems to promote Tim’s obviously fake medical condition that allegedly lets him convert sunlight into lithium with his mind? To say it’s unclear would be an understatement. He didn’t even finish his presentation and claimed the PowerPoint file was corrupted.

    Making matters worse, the presentation seems to be a promotion for Tim’s upcoming book “The Hei Way System,” which he was supposed to finish writing before this conference but he was too busy. What a shame.


    5. Gregg’s cringey advance towards Kaili

    Gregg has expressed interest in Kaili’s movie trivia segments from the moment she was introduced to On Cinema, but when she mentioned the Harry Potter movies in season 14 it seemed to trigger an unrequited love, with Gregg unsuccessfully asking her out on camera.

    During the special Gregg asked Kaili to figure out the “movie links” between a series of VHS tapes he handed her, all of which clearly amounted to a marriage proposal. She quickly excused herself and ran away, while Gregg quietly accepted his defeat and hid behind a stack of VHS tapes. I’ll admit I had a hard time watching this.

    Eagle eyed viewers might have noticed that Gregg had no chance with Kaili anyway as a photo of Joey and her in Mexico briefly flashed on the screen earlier in the special when Tim was looking at Joey’s vacation photos.


    4. The assassination of Matt Newman

    Tim missed a day of his own business development conference to attempt to attend the funeral of his deceased “stepson” only to find he wasn’t welcome. I’ll get to it later but this was hardly the biggest surprise in this plot point.

    In an episode this season Tim kept replaying the doorbell camera footage of a man allegedly shooting Matt, though he’s nearly impossible to identify as he’s wearing a hoodie and a face mask. Fortunately Tim’s yes-man investigator Roy St. Charlemagne LaRoux, or whatever his name is, used AI to generate an image of the killer as seen above. Definitely some of LaRoux’s best work yet.

    Perhaps the best part is “Bang Bang,” another one of Tim’s terrible and misguided songs.


    3. Baboon: A Pep-Boys Movie

    G. Amato promised funding for two new movies, one of which would star Mark as a baboon and the other would somehow be about the Pep Boys, the mascots of an American auto parts chain of the same name. This ran into difficulties when Gregg spent all the money on dubious movie memorabilia.

    Somehow these two movie concepts have now been converted into one which mostly consists of b-roll jungle footage and shots of Tim, Gregg, and Mark dressed up as the Pep Boys with Tim beating up Mark with a wrench.

    Suspiciously, Tim’s Pep Boy is dressed in a yellow shirt with blue overalls just like the Minions that were tormenting him in the Oscar Special three years ago.


    2. AmatoCon Idol

    After Tim was ejected from the one-hit-wonder band he created, Dekkar wrote a song condemning the potentially suicidal actions of Tim that nearly left them all dead. But naturally Tim couldn’t stand for this, so he made his former bandmates compete for the right to use the band’s name. Judges included Joe Estevez and two members of rock band The Sweet.

    Tim hired a powerhouse of talented session musicians to back him up, only to become visibly frustrated when they started to outshine him with guitar and saxophone solos. (The livestream chat absolutely exploded when viewers recognized the saxophone player.)

    At the end of the contest Tim forced the original band to reunite by threatening not to renew Axiom and Manuel’s work visas, rendering the outcome moot.


    1. The Power of Mercy / It’s the knockout

    This is the biggest spoiler.

    AmatoCon ends with G. Amato’s “The Power of Mercy” speech, followed by Tim asking his “dad” for the keys to the 2018 Dodge Charger he was promised. G. Amato points out that it was conditional on AmatoCon’s success, and the event clearly failed. Tim gets into a rage, snatches the keys and runs out the door to the car.

    But of course, it’s not On Cinema if it doesn’t end in utter chaos. And wouldn’t you know it, there were two Chekhov’s guns right in front of us this entire season:

    1. The opening theme for season 14 is a hip hop song that begins with the line “It’s the knockout.”
    2. The muscular Joey P. has been verbally bullied by both Tim and Gregg the whole season and is sick of their shit.

    So naturally this plays out with Joey grabbing the car keys back from Tim and punching him out. When Gregg surprisingly comes to Tim’s defense, Joey tosses Gregg into this bushes and walks off camera.

    Oh and during this altercation, we also learn that the gunman who killed Matt was hired by G. Amato — and he was there for Toni.

    Meanwhile, this is all intercut with Tim’s hired band performing a jam session with “The Power of Mercy” graphic behind them.

    Honorable mentions

    • Whenever the camera zooms out, we see that most of the seats are empty.
    • Joe Estevez keeps talking loudly while signing autographs to the perpetual annoyance of Tim. But somehow all the publicity Joe is doing is for the 1990 box office bomb Soultaker, co-starring Robert Z’Dar. If you’re familiar with this movie it’s probably because you watched it on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
    • The callously indifferent revelation that Mark Proksch couldn’t be there because he’d just been hit by a bus.
    • The ever complicated situation with the food vendor continues with Hank having regained control of the name Chaplin’s Chili following the death of Tom Chaplin. Unfortunately Hank couldn’t join in person because he’s launching new locations in Germany. Also, their logo is now a drawing of Charlie Chaplin but without his signature mustache — a subtle joke about marketing in Germany that took me far too long to get.
    • Gregg visits the Harry Potter world at Universal Studios Hollywood Park to make the seemingly baseless claim that it’s the same location where the Ma and Pa Kettle movies were filmed. Even if it were true, I can’t imagine even the most bored person in the world caring about this.
    • Tim had someone in a third rate Big Bird costume from Sesame Street show up, only to be waved away by G. Amato with the phrase “I do not like this bird.” Somehow that didn’t stop Big Bird from returning to witness the madness at the end.

    There’s been some criticism online that On Cinema is too expensive, which I think is fair. Personally I subscribe annually to support the show and two of my favorite comedians. And I do commend them for refunding us for the time they didn’t work during the recent Hollywood strike. But if you’re concerned about cost you can pretty easily catch up on the last season or two with a one month membership and buy the Oscar Specials as you go along.

    This year’s livestream unfortunately suffered a major glitch that required refreshing the page as they switched services. Fortunately no major plot points happened during this time but there was a funny exchange between Gregg and Joe Estevez that live viewers missed.

    For me this season and particularly the Oscar Special that capped it off was so funny that I was laughing so hard I was crying a little by the end. Now I know On Cinema’s style of comedy isn’t for everyone — it’s extremely dark and outrageously cringey — but if I can provide any general takeaway here it’s that you’ve got to find comedy that brings you joy and embrace it.

  • Recent movie review round-up (second half of 2023)

    Right as it seemed the movies were back in a big way, the powers that be in Hollywood screwed up with yet even more poor business decisions and a lengthy strike with two major unions. So even though I’m still going to call this one “second half of 2023” for consistency, most of these movies were released in the first quarter. Which means I’m extra late to getting around to this post.


    Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

    As the film opens we’ve skipped back to the past with Indiana Jones and his fellow archeologist Basil tracking down the Holy Lance. Instead, they come across half of a dial built by Archimedes which when completed with the other half is said to have the power of predicting “fractures in time.” They nearly lose the dial when chased down by Nazi physicist Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen.)

    When the extended flashback ends we’re in present-day 1969 as Jones announces his retirement while the streets outside are preparing for a big parade to celebrate the moon landing. One of the scientists who helped get the rockets to the moon? A certain Jurgen Voller. And what do you know, that very same day Voller is ready to reclaim his Archimedes dial.

    There’s something about banking on nostalgia that can make an already dated series feel even more dated. This is a feat that seems almost impossible, since the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, was very much intended as a throwback to the classic adventure films of yesteryear.

    Part of the problem with nostalgia is it’s difficult to break new ground when you keep dwelling on the past. Dial of Destiny keeps running into this problem and solves it the same way: by distracting you with another chase scene. There are so many chase scenes in this movie that even the James Bond writers would balk. 

    One of the criticisms of this film is the heavy use of de-aging for the flashback scenes. While I didn’t find it particularly distracting, it’s not quite perfect. Makes you wonder why they didn’t just cast a younger actor to play a young Indiana Jones like they did before in Last Crusade or in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series. Don’t get me wrong, what they did here was impressive — but unnecessary. Which basically sums up this entire film.

    Best moment: Without spoiling anything I thought this one had a fun and unexpected ending.

    Rating: 6/10


    Past Lives

    Whether we want to or not, most of us can’t help but to reminisce about “what if” moments in our past. What if I’d gotten into Oxford? What if I’d been in the car crash that killed my best friend? In the case of this movie, the question is what if I’d married this person instead of that one?

    This subtle drama lives in that headspace where we can never truly be certain. In life you either take advantage of an opportunity or you don’t — and there’s no way of really knowing what would have happened if you’d chosen a different path.

    Nora aka Na Young (Greta Lee) and her childhood best friend Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) grew up together in Korea. Years later, they reconnect online as Nora has a new life for herself after moving to the US and settling in New York City. Fast forward again and Hae Sung visits Nora and meets her and her (white, Jewish) husband Arthur (John Magaro.)

    Although this film has a romance of sorts and quite a few moments of awkward humor, I would not call it a romcom as it doesn’t fit that format at all. I would categorize it as a drama and a sharply written one at that. This is the most original movie I’ve seen in a long time; it captures a feeling that I think we can all understand but is difficult to explain in words alone.

    Best moment: Even though I’ve never been to the country, the depiction of childhood in South Korea felt authentic and somehow familiar.

    Rating: 10/10


    Tunnel Vision: An Unauthorized BART Ride

    What is a movie? Is this one? It kind of seems more like one of those podcasts with video footage. But again, what even is a movie? 

    Local aspiring filmmaker Vincent Woo (creator of CoderPad.io) attached a camera to the front of a BART train and then sort of shoehorned that into a movie with voiceovers. The footage is surprisingly mesmerizing as it’s a view that you’d normally never see unless you work as a BART train operator. Turns out much of the system is oddly hypnotic from that perspective, especially if you appreciate symmetrical modern architecture.

    This movie(?) was screened in San Francisco before being uploaded to watch for free on YouTube.

    Best moment: The footage of the Transbay Tube was the most interesting part to see from the operator’s perspective.

    Rating: Full disclosure: I own a collectable piece of the original BART system manufactured by Rohr so I’m probably biased. But I still have no idea how to rate something as unconventional as this.


    Close to Vermeer

    Johannes Vermeer was a 17th century Baroque painter, best known for Girl with a Pearl Earring. Although he’s a widely appreciated artist today and often mentioned in the same breath with his contemporaries such as Rembrandt, in his time he was relatively obscure. He’s thought to have had no formal training and it’s believed only 34 of his paintings still exist, though a dozen or so more are in dispute.

    Closer to Vermeer is a documentary about experts at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum traveling to other museums to borrow their Vermeer works to create an exposition of his paintings. Along the way we meet many other experts — one gets the feeling there are more Vermeer experts than actual paintings — who use both science along with analysis of technique and composition to pick out which paintings are his and which are forgeries.

    Despite all the theories explored in the film, a large part of the attraction is looking at his paintings up close on the big screen. In real life his paintings are about the size of an iPad yet they still appear detailed when blown up larger than life on a movie screen. 

    At merely 80 minutes this documentary goes by surprisingly fast. If I had one small gripe it’s that I would have liked to know more about how disagreements of authorship of a painting typically work in the art world. From this movie alone it seems based primarily on hunches and shaky evidence, but is that normal, or is that simply because we know so little about Vermeer himself?

    Best moment: The behind the scenes moments where we get an inside look at how museum exhibits are laid out and physically assembled.

    Rating: 8/10


    Asteroid City

    There’s a big movie recently from a famous director about a nuclear bomb, and somehow this isn’t that one. No, this is the Wes Anderson movie that is certainly about a nuclear bomb, or maybe a science fair, or an alien encounter. Or maybe it’s about car repair?

    Somehow Wes Anderson’s “pop-up book” style has become almost a parody of itself, with every shot being a tracking or crane shot, or a miniature. Or all of the above. Asteroid City leans pretty heavily into this style.

    I want to say Wes Anderson is “the NPR of movies” but I’m not really sure what that means. It feels right, though.

    Now I have to rank on a curve here, but I will say that this is easily one of the funniest movies from Wes Anderson despite an uneven story. The scenes with Jeffrey Wright in particular both feel like they’re too ridiculous to work, and yet they’re too ridiculous for me to care. I guess I laughed either way.

    Maybe the silliest moment was Bryan Cranston showing up in a scene only to forget if he was supposed to be there or not.

    Best moment: “Let’s say she’s in Heaven… which doesn’t exist for me, of course, but you’re Episcopalian.”

    Rating: 6/10



    The biggest, longest, and loudest movie of the year, Oppenheimer tells the story of the “father of the atomic bomb,” Robert Oppenheimer. Recruited based on his experience with quantum theory, he was put in charge of the project and given enormous leeway to finish the project before the Nazis or Soviets built one of their own. After the war he was practically blacklisted due to his alleged communist sympathies.

    We see and hear in a very abstract sense what Oppenheimer is thinking and feeling throughout the movie, both from close up shots of his face and a sort of “bubble field” that seemingly also represents the quantum world.

    If ever there was a movie that made sense being big and loud it’s this one; ideally in a giant IMAX theater with its earthquake-inducing sound system. Yet at the same time, the movie completely hinges on Cillian Murphy’s nuanced performance as Oppenheimer.

    I think at three hours, if I was going to cut something down it would be the scenes about his rather chaotic love life, which don’t add much to the movie. If the point of those scenes is to make the audience feel a sense of humanity in the guy it falls flat. But you know what this lengthy movie really needs? An intermission — especially when theaters insist on selling bucket-sized sodas.

    Best moment: Niels Bohr: “We have to make the politicians understand, this isn’t a new weapon, it is a new world.”

    Rating: 8/10



    As a boy growing up, when I played with girls sometimes I had to play with the Ken doll. Which was always boring because it was clear he was a side character; Barbie was the one with the different jobs and playhouses. Ken was just… well Ken, with his blank empty expression.

    There’s been some discussion as to how this movie relates to feminism, but I think that’s irrelevant to the greater point: it’s a comic send up about the way we perceived these dolls as children. Our knowledge of sex and gender at around four years old was so limited the only thing we really understood was that these dolls were missing some parts between their legs.

    The cast of Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken might not seem like the most obvious choices but when pitted against veteran comedy actors like Rhea Perlman, Will Ferrell, Kate McKinnon, etc. they rise to the occasion as the sort of sketch comedy “guest stars” that the script calls for. And who knew that Ryan Gosling could sing and dance?!

    This film is a masterclass in trolling its audience. Perhaps its greatest achievement is its production design, which takes Hollywood’s default plasticky fake look and simply dials it up a notch to make everything look like Barbie doll houses.

    Best moment: “I’m just Ken and I’m enough, and I’m great at doing stuff.”

    Rating: 9/10


    Glitch: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia

    HQ Trivia was the live game show you played on your phone. It came out of the ashes of short video app Vine, which was acquired and then shut down by Twitter.

    This documentary from CNN chronicles the rise and fall of the company, with a much greater emphasis on its fall — a shock considering the games were regularly attracting millions of players. Self included: I made a total of around $25 from the dozen or so games I won.

    A surprising amount of insight comes not from the behind-the-scenes people, but from the show’s original main host Scott Rogowsky.

    I think the main issue with this documentary is that it won’t appeal to those who weren’t fans, or at least those who never tried playing HQ Trivia. But the almost unforgivable problem is we never hear from HQ founders Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll. (Kroll died of a drug overdose in 2018.) This seems unfair as there’s nobody to respond to the allegations lobbed against them.

    The documentary addresses the constant glitching of the app, the numerous HQ Trivia copycats, and the repeated falling out between the founders. Unfortunately it ends before explaining what happened when Yusupov briefly re-launched the app before shutting it down for good.

    Best moment: The clip of a woman jumping up and down and screaming after winning a comically small amount of money.

    Rating: 4/10


    CatVideoFest 2023

    Everyone loves cat videos, which is not only why this annual festival exists, it’s also (allegedly) why the internet exists.

    While these short video festivals are only available in theaters, that’s also kind of the point: it exists to raise money for local animal shelters. You could donate some money to your local cat rescue organization and spend an hour or two watching cat videos on YouTube and get almost exactly the same experience, but this is curated and you’re watching along with other people.

    So if this piques your interest and it’s available in your area, why not check it out? It will probably be back next summer as usual.

    Best moment: If I have to pick just one, it would have to be the loud and obnoxious music video from a guy who simply wants to hug his cat. Cats of course notoriously hate being hugged.

    Rating: 10/10



    Donya, a young Afghan refugee moved to Fremont, California and has a job writing fortunes for a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco. She consults a psychiatrist (Gregg Turkington) to help with her insomnia, but he’s too easily distracted to offer meaningful help.

    Meanwhile, egged on by a friendly co-worker and an older man who works at a restaurant, she tries dating and winds up driving all the way to Bakersfield in an attempt to go on a blind date.

    This unusual indie comedy takes place here in the Bay Area, but it’s not about the Bay Area. It’s more about the absurdity of life itself. With unusual characters and plenty of long, awkward pauses, this is the kind of film that will appeal to anyone who likes comedy that tends more towards the understated than the abrasive. 

    I’m told the interior shots of the fortune cookie factory were filmed at a real fortune cookie factory across the bay in Oakland. 

    Best moment: The psychiatrist casually implying that he doesn’t have any friends.

    Rating: 6/10


    Cade: The Tortured Crossing

    I watched this movie at an Alamo Drafthouse, where the defining feature is that the audience is supposed to be quiet. In spite of that, I couldn’t help myself from shouting “what the fuck?” numerous times during this insanely insipid movie.

    This is a Neil Breen film. And the strangest thing about Neil Breen films is that he’s been making these movies for almost 20 years while seemingly learning absolutely nothing about the filmmaking process. They all look like those full motion video games from the mid 90’s.

    The plot of this movie allegedly has something to do with a humanoid AI rescuing people from a corrupt mental hospital. But if you somehow watched this movie and didn’t figure that out, I couldn’t blame you.

    Perhaps the most baffling thing about this movie is that it was shown in theaters at all.

    As terrible as the trailer above may seem it doesn’t include the most ridiculous scene in the movie in which Breen gets into a fight with a poorly rendered CGI tiger — and wins.

    Best moment: “The only way to find out what is possible is to go beyond what is impossible.”

    Rating: 0/10, but in a funny way


    Dream Scenario

    Biology professor Paul Matthews (Nic Cage) isn’t a particularly memorable person… until he starts appearing in people’s dreams. Unprepared for his sudden fame he hires a questionable PR agent (Michael Cera) who offers vague promises of a Sprite sponsorship. Yet ultimately Matthews’ inability to control his fame becomes his downfall. These are other people’s dreams, after all.

    Or at least that’s the surface level plot. I’m not sure I could even explain all the twists and turns the story takes but the movie is more interested in the increasing absurdity of the situation than filling in all the details.

    Although this is a very funny movie, it’s also a bit uneven and some of the humor maybe goes a bit over the top by the end. Still, if you’re looking for something off kilter it may be just for you.

    Oh and if any of this sounds familiar, it’s not from your dreams — the story is loosely based on a viral internet hoax.

    Best moment: The awkward, lingering smile between Cage’s and Cera’s characters is somehow funnier than any line of dialog could ever be.

    Rating: 7/10

  • I tried the weirdest 20+ year old health fad so you don’t have to

    Oxygen bar

    Remember oxygen bars? No? Well prepare to let me save you money on your, uh… time machine bills, because I’m about to explain this health fad that had run its course by the early 2000’s.

    Somehow there’s still an oxygen bar in San Francisco at — where else? — Pier 39. So of course I had to go try it.

    Now obviously there’s something a little sketchy about anything at a tourist trap like Pier 39, and last I checked it was still perfectly legal to breathe oxygen for free. So what’s the point?

    Brad Pitt: Oxygen gets you high

    Despite what Brad Pitt’s character claims in the movie Fight Club, no, oxygen does not get you high. In healthy humans we should have a blood oxygen level of at least 95% at all times. So if oxygen could get you high then we’d all be high all the time. If your blood oxygen level is low you need to see a doctor, not go to an oxygen bar for some kind of quick fix.

    As far as I can tell the real point of oxygen bars isn’t so much the oxygen, but the vials of scented oil that the oxygen bubbles through — basically a type of aromatherapy.

    For me the best part of the experience had nothing to do with the oxygen at all. The employee working there handed me a massage gun and told me to try it out. I’d always thought those were gimmicky, like most of the stuff they sold at Sharper Image back in the day. But it honestly felt great on several stiff spots on my lower back.

    And that’s when the real purpose of the “oxygen bar” kicked in as the employee tried to sell me a massage gun for a price which could have easily paid for several actual massages at a nice spa. She offered me a few other products and discounts all of which I declined as quickly and politely as possible.

    In the end it cost around $25 including a decent tip. Would I do it again? Probably not, but if someone wanted to go I wouldn’t be opposed to joining them either.

    At the same time it’s easy to see why this fad was so short lived, and why it’s been relegated to this strange economy of tourist traps.

  • Is “We Built This City” the worst rock song ever made?

    I recently read that Starship’s “We Built This City” is considered to be one of the worst rock songs ever made, mostly because of the disconnect of its anti-corporate message and the undeniable fact that it sounds like a cheesy advertising jingle.

    Let’s dig deeper.

    Perhaps its worst offense is that they named the entire album after its cringiest lyric, “Knee Deep in the Hoopla,” a line that not only sounds dumb but doesn’t even make the slightest bit of sense in the context of the song. 

    The second cringiest lyric is, of course, “Marconi plays the mamba.” Listen to the radio… or maybe turn it off?

    There’s also the fact that the song can’t decide which city it’s about, with references to both San Francisco (“the city by the bay”) and New York City (“the city that never sleeps.”) And the video clearly references Las Vegas. But does any city even want to be associated with this song?

    If there’s anything interesting about the lyrics, it’s how utterly devoid of meaning any of it is. It’s the lyrical equivalent of a lorem ipsum.

    As for the music video I’m still struggling to understand what any of this has to do with Abraham Lincoln, but perhaps we’re beyond that point. The extras in the video seem equally confused. And what’s going on with the compositing? Even by 1985 standards it looks worse than a typical TV weather report.

    I was a bit surprised when I found out the song was covered recently by a band called *checks notes* um… *checks notes again* Ninja Sex Party. And that the music video for this cover was filmed — where else — at Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe.

    Take a look:

    What makes the Ninja Sex Party, a phrase I can’t believe I just had to type for a second time, version of the song so much more palatable is the way they injected some much needed silliness into it all. If anyone is knee deep in the hoopla, it’s them.

    It still keeps the baffling line that brings up the ugly specter of police brutality, only to say nothing whatsoever about it. No matter who sings it, this truly is a song about nothing. Eat your heart out Seinfeld.

    Still, is it really the worst song ever made? While it may sound like a commercial jingle, they’re not here to sell you Pepsi or Levi’s or anything. And it has a catchy enough hook and chorus to at least be listenable, which unfortunately is more than you can say for most pop rock.

    So I’ll step up and say that no, We Built This City is not the worst song ever made. That doesn’t mean it’s good, but as Ninja Sex Party’s version goes to show maybe all you need to do is put on a shirt made out of glitter and have some fun with it. After all, if who cares what’s good or bad as long as we’re having a good time?

    Update: In reply to a Reddit post about this song, user Jack_Q_Frost_Jr points out the following:

    One part of the song says it’s Sunday, and another part of the song says it’s Saturday.

    Sure enough, one of the verses starts out with “It’s just another Sunday / In a tired old street” but then in the radio interlude, the announcer says, “I’m looking out over that Golden Gate bridge / On another gorgeous sunny Saturday.” I’m repeatedly applying my forehead to the desk here, folks.

  • Bubblewrap sort

    bubble wrap
    Photo by creative_stock

    The problem

    Anyone familiar with computer science algorithms knows about bubble sort. In this algorithm, you sort a list of things in “bubbles” by going over it repeatedly in sequence and swapping two bubbles next to one another until they’re all sorted.

    Although this algorithm is simple to explain, it’s really inefficient as you will have to go over the list potentially many, many times until it’s sorted.

    And it has one more problem: isn’t the most fun part of bubbles popping them?

    The solution: Bubblewrap sort

    Enter bubblewrap sort! This takes advantage of a shortcut most sorting algorithms haven’t even thought of. Here’s how it works.

    After putting everything in our list in bubbles, we simply pop all the bubbles. You know, like bubblewrap. Now the list is empty, and by definition an empty list is a sorted list.

    C++ code listing

    Here’s an implementation of bubblewrap sort on a C++ vector:

    #include <vector>
    #include <iostream>
    // Perform a bubblewrap sort.
    template <class T>
    void bubblewrap_sort(std::vector<T>& vec) {
    // Print the contents of a vector.
    template <class T>
    void print_vector(std::vector<T>& vec) {
        std::cout << "Vector:";
        for (T content : vec) {
            std::cout << ' ' << content;
        std::cout << std::endl;
    int main() {
        // Create an unsorted list of integers.
        std::vector<int> list_to_sort;
        // Print our original list.
        // Run bubblewrap sort and print our list again!
        return 0;

    Program output:

    Vector: 3 6 1 -2 10


    Traditionally we expect a sorting algorithm to return a list with the same elements in a sorted order, but if we shave those requirements down to just returning a sorted list — any sorted list, really — the problem becomes much simpler to solve. And more fun, because there’s nothing more satisfying than popping bubblewrap.

  • My own unique piece of BART history

    BART legacy number plate

    You may have been on it, or you may have seen it go “rohr”-ing past you. What could it be?

    I recently purchased a number plate from a retired BART train over at RailGoods.com. This was the plate on a B-type BART train car — specifically car number 1648 — made by Rohr Industries in 1974. It was retired from service after 6 million miles.

    All of the original BART fleet was made by Rohr and had two types of train cars: A and B cars. A cars have an operator’s cab at one end and feature a distinctive sloped “nose” design. B cars were the middle type of car, featuring no operator cab. In the 1980’s BART added a new type of train car, the C car which features a flat front with a small operator cab that could be closed off and used as a middle car.

    BART legacy number plate

    After buying this big metal plate I wasn’t exactly sure how to frame it. So I took it down the street to Underglass Custom Framing and let them do their thing. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of the frame choice they recommended, but I also have no problem deferring to professionals. In this case the co-owner of the shop, Eric (no relation) not only picked out a frame color that matches the number plate perfectly, but also treated the tops of the screws he used to mount the plate so that they appear to match its wear and tear.

    Now that this plate is mounted it feels like a museum worthy piece. For some strange museum that keeps parts of old subway cars, I guess.

  • Dallas wrap up and stray observations

    Don’t go to Dallas during a heat wave.

    That’s probably super obvious advice to anyone who’s been to Dallas during a heat wave, but if you haven’t here’s the deal: in a Texas heatwave when there’s a breeze it’s not a relief. Oh no. It’s like being inside a convection oven where the breeze simply brings more heat.

    And with that, let’s get on to my not-so-timely musings about Dallas.

    What’s Dallas like?

    Physically, downtown Dallas reminds me a lot of downtown Los Angeles — the oldest buildings are from the same era, the sidewalks are nice and wide, and there are freeways criss-crossing the area.

    In terms of the people, they are by and large “city folk” who are not reflective of the general Texas population. You’re not going to find many people with thick Texas accents, and plenty of them (gasp!) don’t even own a pickup truck.

    Oddly, many of the locals seemed blissfully unaware of some of the hidden gems in their own city, including a somewhat well hidden mall (more on that later.)

    JFK assassination sites
    JFK assassination sites

    JFK assassination

    Call it morbid, but one of the bigger tourism draws in Dallas is the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the above photos, the one that looks like an oversized bathroom stall is the JFK memorial. It’s meant as a quiet reflection area. The brick building is the School Book Depository Building where Lee Harvey Oswald fired two bullets from a window on the sixth floor (on the right, second window down from the top.) The two spots where JFK was shot are marked by big Xs on the street.

    Oh and before anyone says “grassy knoll!” I should mention that when you see it in person, it’s plainly obvious that if someone fired a gun from there, the bullet would have been traveling in the wrong direction. So there’s that.

    First Baptist Corporate Church

    First Baptist Church of Corporate America

    When I first spotted the complex of buildings known as First Baptist Church, I thought it was a bank. In my defense, it looks like a series of office buildings and there are plenty of banks that have “First” in their name. Yet apparently this is the largest “megachurch” in the region.

    Now I’m not religious at all but I can’t even begin to imagine wanting to spend my Sunday mornings in an office building. What next, eating Sunday brunch in a cubical?

    Dallas DART
    Dallas public transit

    Public transit

    The main public transit operator in Dallas is DART, or Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Really creative name, wonder where they got the idea. They have a fairly decent light rail system that goes to and from downtown, and even connects to the Dallas Fort Worth airport. But it’s largely a bus system. Although it could use more frequent service, their app is pretty good and makes it easy to pay for rides. One unique feature they have are AM and PM tickets, valid for either the first half or second half of the day.

    In downtown Dallas there’s also a free historic streetcar line called the M-Line Trolley operated by McKinney Avenue Transit Authority. These vary quite a lot from typical PCC streetcars to custom streetcars made of wood.

    Mercifully, all the public transit I experienced in Dallas had air conditioning. Your mileage may vary.

    AT&T Discovery District

    AT&T Discovery District

    The company currently calling itself AT&T — formerly known as Southwestern Bell or SBC — is now headquartered in Dallas. This headquarters consists of several buildings connected by a big public plaza and includes a food court, a 3D model of the AT&T logo, an AT&T store, and the original Spirit of Communication statue with its big gold penis.

    The food court is pretty pricey though they do have a lot of options, including a full bar. Be aware that it’s a strictly cashless affair.

    "Secret" mall in downtown Dallas

    The “secret” mall

    The downtown Marriott is actually a collection of seemingly unrelated buildings connected by a massive atrium. Inside that atrium is a small and apparently struggling two story mall. Since the Marriott mainly caters to business travelers, this impressive space seems to largely escape the radar of locals.

    Of the five or so locals I asked about this place, only one recognized the above photo. None of them could tell me what it’s called. It’s not even marked on Google Maps.

    Downtown Dallas


    I stayed at an Airbnb located in the old Statler Hotel, a very retro 1950’s building that was partially converted into apartments, and a chunk of those apartments were then converted to Airbnbs by Sonder. Everything that’s old is new again, right?

    Well, sort of: these apartments feature in-unit laundry and full kitchens, perfect if you’re traveling light and/or on a budget. I had a couple frozen pizzas and did my laundry twice. And the view (see above photo) was fantastic.


    Some of the tours I had booked were unfortunately cancelled due to the heat, but here are the two I went on.

    • ExperienceFirst Dallas Highlights Tour: This is a long, detailed tour that covers a lot of ground in downtown Dallas. Many of the places I visited in Dallas — including places in this post — I found out about while on this tour. I did this tour on my first day in Dallas and would highly recommend doing the same. It’s a great intro to the city.
    • Dallas Terrors Ghost Tour: Covering some of the less savory aspects of Dallas’ history, this somewhat short tour touches on both the JFK assassination as well as an unfortunate history of lynchings that occurred in downtown Dallas. It’s reasonably priced, though they do offer ghostly upsells as well as a pub crawl option for those inclined.

  • Spoilers: Meow Wolf’s The Real Unreal

    I’ve reviewed The Real Unreal in a previous post. While I hinted at the story and space in that review I did my best not to spoil anything.

    This post is all spoilers, so stop reading now if you want to go in fresh.


    After going through the security checkpoint there’s a gift shop on the immediate right and the lockers are on the left. The cafe and bathrooms are on the hallway on the right.

    The entrance to the exhibit is straight ahead. They will give you an introduction spiel if you arrive as part of a timed group, but may wave you through otherwise.

    We’re told the house is from a small town in Illinois, but upon entering it’s immediately obvious that it bears many similarities to The House of Eternal Return, which was originally said to be located in California.

    The family that lived here are clearly missing, but where did they go and why? The story doesn’t seem to answer this although we can make some educated guesses.

    The Real Unreal


    All of the secret passages from the house are basically the same as the ones in The House of Eternal Return — but they lead to different places.

    Most notably the refrigerator in the House of Eternal Return that led to Portals Bermuda has been replaced by a fridge from the brand “Brrrmuda” which leads to a strange room connected by refrigerator doors.

    Which takes us back to the story… sort of.

    The Real Unreal


    Due to technical issues during my visit I’m not sure I absorbed the entire story, but here’s the gist.

    Food entrepreneur and vlogger Carmen Delaney, who proudly describes herself as Black and bisexual, lives with her semi-retired jazz musician father Gordon in a big old house in Bolingbrook, Illinois. They’re both mourning the death of Gordon’s wife and Carmen’s mother, Ruby.

    Ruby was the first one to notice there was something… odd about the house they lived in, but in her mind it was a positive force that helped care for the family.

    Since the house is pretty big, they’ve allowed Carmen’s close friend LaVerne Fuqua to share a bedroom with her young son Jared as part of a business arrangement.

    The Real Unreal
    Oh no. Not this guy again.

    Seemingly because the house was so similar in design to the House of Eternal Return (see: spoilers here) it somehow collided with the “metaverse” created by Lucius Selig and his psychic/sonic powers. This is confirmed by a note left by Morgan Pastore in the laundry room and a video from Lucius in the Brrrmuda-verse through one of the fridge doors.

    Unfortunately these inexplicable changes to the house have lead to the disappearance of Jared. They’re all trying to find him and his older sister is visiting from her college dorm to help investigate.

    An email on Carmen’s laptop in the dining room also confirms this story takes place in the same narrative universe as Omega Mart. This seemingly means that all Meow Wolf installations are connected.

    The Real Unreal


    As far as immersion goes, this installation needs better connections between the story and the physical space. The main question in any immersive story is “who am I?” and I was never clear on this.

    The next question is of course where this family went and why we’re going through their home. All we seem to know is that Jared disappeared, but where is everyone else?

    The cafe at this location is a bit boring, and given that the installation is partially food related it seems like an obvious opportunity for a crossover.

    But perhaps the most obvious gap between the story and the installation is Gordon’s music. Aside from a record player in a bedroom we don’t hear much of the jazz he’s known for, which seems odd considering there’s a unique background soundtrack throughout this and every other Meow Wolf attraction.

    The Real Unreal


    The most surprising aspect of The Real Unreal is its location — inside of a massive shopping mall. These days malls aren’t doing particularly well, so if Meow Wolf can make it work then more power to them.

    But will this work in a mall setting long term? I have no idea. Seems like an odd choice to me but I’ll admit that I don’t know Texas, nor have I ever set foot in a mall of this scale before.

    However, the most obvious aspect of this entire attraction is that it’s physically so similar to the House of Eternal Return. That’s incredibly bold — perhaps too bold? It suggests a commitment to the strength of the story, which isn’t quite there yet.

    The Real Unreal
    Stage and dance floor

    My takeaways

    As I said in my general review, The Real Unreal feels a bit unfinished. There’s a pretty big disconnect between the story in the house and everything that happens behind it. This criticism could be applied to almost any Meow Wolf installation but it seems particularly obvious here in Grapevine. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of cool rooms to check out, I just don’t see any connection between them and the story. I don’t know if the current Hollywood WGA writer’s strike applies to Meow Wolf or not, but this seems like an easy enough problem to fix.

    Grapevine Mills has a number of entertainment options, with a movie theater, a Legoland playground for kids, etc. The Real Unreal is by far the most expensive entertainment option in the mall. On the other hand, it feels like the one thing in the mall you have to go see. The larger question is if people feel the need to return.

    There is one trick Meow Wolf has up its sleeve: just like the House of Eternal Return, there’s a big stage and dance floor area within The Real Unreal. As far as I know it hasn’t been used — yet. If they were to host live music it could very well be the thing that gets people coming back again and again.

  • Dallas Museum of Art

    Dallas Museum of Art
    Dallas Museum of Art
    Dallas Museum of Art
    Dallas Museum of Art
    Dallas Museum of Art
    Dallas Museum of Art
    Dallas Museum of Art

    Located in the middle of downtown Dallas, the Dallas Museum of Art is a free art museum with pieces from a wide variety of places, styles, and time periods. It includes everything from works by Picasso to a large Hindu shrine.

    And there’s even a mummy.

    This scattershot approach provides a taste of a lot, but not much depth to any one style or period. Which is fine if you’re a casual fan or just interested in checking out types of art you might not usually go see.

    The museum’s current building opened in 2007. From the outside it’s very forgettable looking, though a number of interior courtyards break up the space and provide ambient natural light in the galleries.

    My recommendation: It’s free to reserve a ticket for the main galleries, and a perfectly fine way to spend a couple of hours. Some special exhibits may require paid tickets.