Cheeseburger Gothic

Burger Lite. The last twelve months

Posted August 8 by John Birmingham

I stepped on the scales yesterday (for my birthday) and had a pleasant surprise. But first some context. I stepped on the same scales about a year ago and had another surpise, not so pleasant. And really not much of a fucking surprise. It was more a confirmation of what I already suspected. I was a mess.

Some of you will remember that I took the death of my dad pretty hard. It's tipped me into about six months of depression, which had physical as well as psychological consequences.

Before that happened, however, I had other problems. Specifically a couple of the discs in my lower back were starting to grind together, trapping nerves between them. I first became aware of it at a genre fiction festival in Sydney. I was standing around enjoying a drink at the Saturday afternoon cocktail session, as you do, when I started getting shooting pains down my side. Electric tingling in my feet and legs. With about a quarter of an hour, I had to sit down. It was agony to keep standing.

I'd had similar issues over the previous couple of months with my standing desk, finding it more and more unpleasant to remain on my feet for any length of time, eventually returning to just slumping into my chair for six or seven hours a day. It caught up with me in Sydney.

Just over 12 months ago I hopped onto my scales, which are these fancy digital magic boxes that measure not just weight but a whole bunch of other stuff, including, gulp, body fat. Apparently they pass a small electrical current through your body to measure resistance. The current travels through fatty tissue and muscle fibre at different speeds. Or some shit. Anyway the results weren't good. I weighed 98.3 kg and 32.9% of that was fat.

I'll jump to the spoiler. Hopped onto the same scales yesterday and I was down to a touch over 92 kg, but more importantly only 18% of that was fat. I'd dropped about 16 kg of fat and packed on about 10 kg of muscle.

How?

The usual way. Eating less crap, doing more exercise. Specifically I've been doing a lot more strength training. I'd always try to throw some weights work into my gym routine, but I'd never been particularly directed about it. I never really improved.

About nine or ten months back I started working with a personal trainer, a mate from the dojo, Darren Rae, one of our black belts who had switched careers from moving stuff around a warehouse, to torturing fat bastards like me into shape.

We spent the first couple of months, yes months, building up my lower back strength, creating a sort of girdle of muscle mass around the degenerating spinal discs. This had a pretty spectacular and immediate effect on my lower back pain. It mostly disappeared. I still get twinges every now and then, especially if I'm slumped into my chair on a deadline for seven or eight hours a day. But the chronic, debilitating pain seems to have been banished.

Having laid the foundation we then started to build out the rest of my frame and build up some endurance with boxing and kickboxing work. I still have a fair way to go. There's another seven or eight kgs of body fat to burn off and at my age I have to be careful not to overdo it, particularly not with my knees which I trashed many years ago doing hill sprints.

I aim to get back to my fighitng weight by Christmas. But again, I'm an old bugger now, so I wont actually be fighting anyone or anything other than the desire to eat donuts at every meal.

19 Responses to ‘Burger Lite. The last twelve months’

Naut asserts...

Posted August 8
Nice work JB, this stuff doesn't get any easier.

I have been experimenting for cutting sugar for a month at a time.

It's tough to do both physically and practically, but it makes a serious difference. Especially if you can train in a glycogen depleted state.

The challenge is not losing all the gains when you reintroduce sugar back in.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted August 9
Yeah, I’m not an anti-star fanatic, but I did recognise it as White Death. And I love it so.
My main source of sugar was cups of tea. I’d drink heaps of them during the day, each with one tea spoon. I cant come at tea without it, so I switched out 7-8 cups of Yorkshire Gold for green or Jasmine tea, both of which I dont mind. I dont love them. But I dont mind them either.
That one small tweak took about 700-800 calories a week out of my diet.

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Dirk reckons...

Posted August 8
Congrats JB on the gains.

Maybe riding a bike instead of driving the beast for the small trips in and around Bris might help, but that depends what other kinds of risk using pedlepower would have.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted August 9
I do have a bike but I live in a very hilly neighbourhood and never quite figured out how to work the gears. Instead I walk. I figured that if I walk to my local bar and have two glasses of wine, I’m still in calorie deficit when I get home, up the big hill.

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted August 8
Glad it went well.

You have a weird arse birthday ritual in my opinion.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted August 9
It is a little odd, yes.

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insomniac mumbles...

Posted August 8
I wish I had done as well as you. I'm stuck around 115 and I have no idea what percentage of me is fat. I have lower back issues too and it's paradoxical that exercising actually makes it better.

With a standing desk I was told that you need to alternate between sitting and standing on a regular basis, ideally every half hour. Now when I work from home I always stand, and when I'm in the office I always sit.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted August 9
The back pain is a killer. It demotivates you for anything other than eating lots of donuts. It was a little frustrating working only on my lower back strength for months, but it did finally start to pay off.

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted August 12
Apparently you can get standing desk stools (yes, it's exactly as irrational as it sounds) but it means you can remain active and engage your core muscles and legs muscles and lean while using your standing desk. They have a low back profile to force you to sit up properly, and you can rock or wobble while you're working and engage muscles differently throughout the day:

https://au.varidesk.com/en-au/products/standing-desk-chair-varichair

This might be an option to keep your different muscles groups active and take some pressure off your back?

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted August 12
By odd coincidence I've just come off two hours of standing desk usage without problem.

she_jedi mutters...

Posted August 12
Wonderful! *Virtual high five*

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jl ducks in to say...

Posted August 8
Excellent! Makes me feel like a piker.

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beeso mumbles...

Posted August 9
The really interesting thing I've found is hitting what seems to be my body wants to be its natural equilibrium. I am sitting at 82kegs and 16% and I don't think it would be healthy to reduce my intake any more (fasting twice a week). I could completely cut the red wine and coffee I guess, but I don't see the trade off worth it.

Instead i'm trying to learn a few athletic skill that keep me playing around physically at home outside of structured training, the boys are trying them as well and it is good fun.

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she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted August 12
This is a great result JB, very inspiring. At Easter I took up reformer Pilates, and I'm now doing 4 sessions a week (Mon - Thurs, and then I recover over the weekend). I've not weighed myself, and I'm not sure if I'm seeing any results in dimensions yet, but I'm definitely getting my flexibility back, and I feel a lot stronger and capable. I shattered my right ankle about a decade ago, and my balance was shot after that, but that's definitely improving.

My main issue has been my hips and lower back being stiff and painful (hello office job!) and both have improved out of sight. Now everything hurts because I'm exercising, not because I'm sedentary. I'm still calling it a win.

I remember after my first session, I rolled over in bed the next morning and my abs all went "OH HAI!". I'm still finding muscles I didn't know I had lol.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted August 12
Yeah, Pilates is supposed to be great. I can't come at it, because I'd just want to be at a jujitsu class, but I hear it's really good for core and flexibility.

she_jedi asserts...

Posted August 12
It's brilliant, and it's a way harder workout than one would think, although it's easy to scale to your fitness level and flexibility. Every now and then a gym junkie will rock up to give it a go and they stagger out after a 45 min workout wondering WTF they just went through lol.

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted August 12
I had an osteopath once who just had his hands fingers up underneath my back as I was lying down, apparently doing nothing, but the next day I'd be aching as if I'd done something much more physical.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon has opinions thus...

Posted Tuesday
As i get older i appreciate tales of people able to make gains like that. (still in the 40-50 bracket age wise and in the lower end of the 90-100 weight bracket). I discovered over the weekend that playing with the kids in the snow (all weekend) reminds you that yes there are some muscles in there and over there and that one round the back you don't think of often . . . and don't you even think of limboing under the snow jackets drying out hanging from the door lintel.

she_jedi mutters...

Posted Tuesday
That makes me ouch just reading it!

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Beautiful objects

Posted July 23 into Books by John Birmingham

A couple of days ago I received notice of a package waiting for me at the post office, a box containing a dozen limited edition proof copies of The Cruel Stars.

"Limited-edition proof" sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is. These are pre-release copies, usually generated from the text before the proofreader has had her evil way with it. So you get the occasional typo. But you also get to feel the book as an object in your hands for the first time. It's always exciting.

I gave a copy to Thomas (who's already told me it's a bit thinky - he hasn't got to the shooting and the swearing yet) and to some friends who were visiting for lunch over the weekend. The others will get salted around to various science-fiction fans in the city's bookshops and to a couple of journalists. I'll keep one or two copies for myself, because although proof copies are imperfect by nature, they're also very rare. A couple of dozen, as opposed to the tens of thousands of finished copies which will soon hit the bookstores.

Today, however, another package arrived. Much smaller. All the way from London. My English publishers, who have the rights to release the title in Australia and New Zealand, had emailed a couple of the finished hardbacks. Having already handed out a couple of copies of the proof edition, I didn't tear the packet open with trembling hands. In fact I put it on the kitchen bench, made a cup of tea, and went back to my work, forgetting about it for an hour or so. When I came up for lunch a bit later, I was surprised to see the parcel sitting there. My books, I thought. I should have a look at them.

Holy shit. I knew as soon I lifted them out of the bubble wrap that they were very, very different. They are beautiful. Hardback books often are of course, they have to be to justify the price. But the artwork, the finish, the fine details such as the light blue ribbon to mark your place, they all suggested an objet d’art rather than some gross commercial unit that would soon be making its way into the back of a goods truck for delivery into the retail channel.

In many ways they are the same object that arrived last week; the same pages, the same cover, the same contents. And yet holding them in my hands I am still taken, many hours later, by the way in which the aesthetics of the final artefact make it something quite different from all previous iterations. That, I suppose, is the magic of publishing.

19 Responses to ‘Beautiful objects’

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 23
I trust Thomas will still give a 5 star review on Amazon after all as the bard would put it "“If she must teem, Create her child of spleen, that it may live And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her! Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth, With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks, Turn all her mother's pains and benefits To laughter and contempt, that she may feel How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is To have a thankless child!”

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jl would have you know...

Posted July 23
Yeah. There's something about a finished proof. I've got a few of them hanging around here- pretty sweet to hold your baby toward the end of the process and look it over. I've never had a hardback, though.

Ceramic reckons...

Posted July 25
Same. To hold (or in my case, hug) something I created that didn't exist before - priceless.

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Sparty puts forth...

Posted July 23
they look "class" and I know the contents are pretty outstanding....

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 23
British publishers, mate. Still setting the gold standard.

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she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted July 23
Gosh, they’re just SO beautiful!

jl mutters...

Posted July 23
Agreed. First class.

Ceramic is gonna tell you...

Posted July 25
They really are stunning!

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insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted July 24
The one lying flat looks like it's charging.

insomniac asserts...

Posted July 24
Nice, but

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted July 24
no question that they look the goods. I wish i could stack my shelves with hardcovers. Paperback will just have to make do! Been on a fantasy stint lately - looking for a bit of a change and scifi might just fit the bill . . . . : )

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WA n'ker is gonna tell you...

Posted July 24
...meanwhie, city ways,
Life goes screaming on....

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted July 29
I wants the precious.

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pitpat has opinions thus...

Posted August 2
Just a quick question. Will there be an audiobook ? Asking as a new convert.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted August 2
There will indeed!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted Friday
Please Sir, can you tell us when they may be released into the wild. I have a handful of sweat stained notes awaiting.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted Friday
Magic 8Ball says 20 Aug.

NBlob mutters...

Posted Saturday
Noice.

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she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted 3 hours ago
One more sleep until this baby drops on iBooks. I am beside myself with anticipation!

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Carpe Donktum

Posted July 12 by John Birmingham

A New Yorker report on the WH 'social media summit' that is both hilarious and a little bit terrifying.

When the closed-door summit met, in the East Room, most of the seats were filled by such stalwart maga memesmiths as Bill Mitchell, whose indefatigable pro-Trump cheerleading has made him a target of mockery even on the far-right; James O’Keefe, who styles himself as an investigative journalist but acts more like an opposition researcher; Charlie Kirk, whose organization, Turning Point USA, keeps finding itself mired in racism scandals; and a stay-at-home dad from Kansas City who goes by Carpe Donktum. This was not Mr. Donktum’s first invitation to the White House. Last week, while some of the country’s top legal minds scrambled to justify the President’s mercurial and self-contradictory desires related to a citizenship question on the census, the President himself spent twenty minutes relaxing in the Oval Office with Donktum, whose job, according to his Twitter bio, is “the creation of memes to support President Donald J. Trump.” “Where is the genius?” the President asked as Donktum entered the inner sanctum of American power. “I want to meet the genius.”

4 Responses to ‘Carpe Donktum’

FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted July 12
oh no - i googled donktum in Chrome (to see if it has some meaning like 'seize the donkey anus' or something). Now the profile they are building on me is messed up and i'm going to get recommendations for the wackos. Damn it. Rookie mistake at my age.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted July 12
You poor damn fool.

savo puts forth...

Posted August 3
So what does it mean? You have sacrificed yourself for the greater good you should let the rest of us know. I certainly don't want that query on my profile history.

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Dave W asserts...

Posted July 15
I'm only just starting to realise that there is a whole other definition of genius/expert out there. This is around a dismissal of expertise based on booklearning and experience.

So if that traditional view of expert is out, then what is in? What is valued? What is the redefined version of 'correct'?

But what this also does is sweep the rug out from underneath those with the traditional view. Yes, I am out of touch, obviously. I can't grasp the value of a Kirk, Mitchell or Donktum. But I also don't understand what Ivanka, Kelly-Ann Conway or even Trump himself have that makes what they say ring true to a segment of the population.

Obviously that ill defined (and perhaps undefinable) concept of Truthiness. But in a related sense, is there trustiness?

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Did an interview. Did not disgrace myself

Posted July 11 into Books by John Birmingham

I spoke to Pete Wells from the Herald earlier this week abut writing for audio. I seem to recall meandering through the convo like a complete mofo.

But he has some pretty sharp editing chiops, so it came out all right.

Considering the very bleak premise of Zero Day Code, I asked if Birmingham is optimistic about the future of humanity.

“Look it depends what time of the day you catch me. Whether I've had a cup of coffee or not,” he laughs. “There are times, like everyone, where I feel pretty bleak about the future.

“But then I see some of the work that's being done, some of it by technologists, some of it by activists, some of it by people who were bad guys and became good guys … There's an awful lot of people who used to work in petroleum who've left it and they are working very, very hard to repair the damage they've done.

“And of course, you know, once we develop a carbon-free energy market there will be trillions of dollars to be made out of it. And never, ever underestimate the motivational power of human greed to solve the problems that human greed has created.

“But right now I'm in my nice office, looking out into the forest. It's a sunny day. So today, I'm optimistic. Ask me in an hour.”

Full report here.

6 Responses to ‘Did an interview. Did not disgrace myself’

insomniac would have you know...

Posted July 12
Sometimes I wonder what sort of world my young grandchildren will have to grow up in. Yeah there's lots of good stuff happening out of sight but I still think it's going to be a shithole with widespread and catastrophic population declines.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted July 12
I'm a pessimistic optimist : ) but i must say i have caught myself in the dark wee hours thinking about my kids future. Not the usual "are they going to be successful, will they get on okay" but more "is there going to be a future". Terminator 2 is seeming more like an instruction manual on what to teach your kids. Although i think the "AI is going to kill us all" is a red herring with years we have left. We are going to do it ourselves way before AI is smart enough to do it for us.

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she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12
That was a great piece from Mr Wells, you did more than simply not disgrace yourself!

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pitpat puts forth...

Posted July 14
Just finished it . Fantastic Thanks for the effort in research writing, and editing. This is only my second audio book ( first was World War Z) and it was a right up there with that. I loved the Rupert Degas's narration although I found some of the dialogue didn't mesh with my mental image of the accents and intonation. I'm not sure the medium is suited to wordy, snappy, info dense conversation - for me at any rate.

Hope it kills it and that you have a follow up ready to roll.

Will get a five star review on audible once I've bought a gen set, some long life supplies, cans of beans, some seeds. Have the Hilux and a good little petrol driven pump, need a winch tho - a manual one-, some decent fishing kit, maybe another compound bow and a fletching kit, a couple of flints, epoxy resin and a few other things that might come in handy. The rest can be sourced during the early days of the pillaging. Getting peeps out of the kill zones will be the tricky part.

Generally a bit of an optimists simply because the alternative seems such an interminable drag on the very limited time we have on this watery rock and enormous enjoyment can be had simply by sticking your head in some nature and sucking back. But love a good catastrophe novel to bring it back to the mean.

Cheers and Beers, Get Some Fun.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted July 15
Thx mate. I'm taking notes on your To Do List.

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Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted July 15
If there's one thing which Zero Day Code tells us is that go-bags need to be really handy. One in the car, one at home, one at work.

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Digital siege

Posted July 9 into Blunty by John Birmingham

It's book launch time, it must be thinky column time too.

At the Instrument.

Cod, Mark Kurlansky’s enjoyable history of the big mouthed Atlantic all rounder, is just as much a history of human politics, economics and warfare, ranging from the murderous adventures of maximum Viking Eirik the Red to the three strange and mostly bloodless "Cod Wars" between Iceland and Great Britain in the decades after the Second World War.

A thousand years of human folly and conflict, with the cod swimming through it all; European colonisation, the American War of Independence, the rise of the slave trade.

The seemingly porous state of Australia’s defences against cyberattack has been exposed by serious intrusions or attempted intrusions.
The seemingly porous state of Australia’s defences against cyberattack has been exposed by serious intrusions or attempted intrusions.
In living memory, Germany lost two wars in part because of that fish. While first the Kaiser and then the Führer’s Volk suffered privation and malnutrition in the First and Second World Wars, their English enemies harvested the North Sea for megatons of protein to feed millions of soldiers and factory workers.

Crediting an Allied victory to plentiful supplies of fish and chips might seem an amusingly hot and salty take on such a grim topic, but it does go to a hard truth in the history of human conflict. Starving your enemy can be just as effective as bombing, shooting or stabbing them.

In any future global conflict involving the post-industrial West, siege and starvation, the most medieval of tactics, are likely to be among the first deployed.

And the more advanced the belligerent, the more vulnerable they are to digital disruption of real-world supply chains...

6 Responses to ‘Digital siege’

Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted July 9
Invest in paper, typwriters, and analog.

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Therbs asserts...

Posted July 9
I can see a book coming on. One about the end of civilisation. Erm, hang a bit ...

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted July 9
"The seemingly porous state of Australia’s defences against cyberattack has been exposed by serious intrusions or attempted intrusions."
Are they? Have they been significantly interrupted?
Hodgepodge, Jerry Rigged, post-Hoc? yes, indoubidably.
But, vulnerable ?
Every target of $ value, or just worthy of a "digital wristy in an anonymous chat-room" has been atacked 9 wise west of Tuesday for the past decade.
Possibly by Corrupted Nerds of the spotty oik variety, not weaponised hackers with Skillz.
But Shirley said services have mirrors, redundancies, fail safes?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 10
They haven't been interrupted because the purpose of a probing attack is to probe. Not to attack. You establish you can penetrate the system. You survey the weaknesses. And you leave. There's no point collapsing anything until you need to.
They do it to us. We do it to them. It will end badly.

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Dave W asserts...

Posted July 10
Having not read Cod, I don't know how much it goes into the whole supply chain logistics of feeding a war with only (or mainly) northern European resources v a global opposition.

But there's a reason that the word ersatz entered the anglo lexicon: so many German items were. From memory, everything from painkillers to rubber had to be fabricated rather than harvested.

And yes, break today's supply chains and we're in trouble, I believe. Three weeks of fuel. No domestic car manufacturing capability (because why would we need to think about retooling to a military capability when the US is on our side, right?).

In a way, though, I think Aus is better off than a place like the UK. I believe that if we could solve the fuel issue, we can at least feed ourselves. The UK's food supply chain is based on just in time from across Europe, North Africa and the Americas. Oops.

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wyvernsridge has opinions thus...

Posted July 24
1. I hope that Alvin Toffler's "War and AntiWar" is in your reference bookcase. TL:DR "Societies make war the same way they make money".
2. "Effects based Operations" or "Effects-based Strategy" depending on the level you are working on. lots of reading out there - good examples from WW2 - lots of more wonkish stuff from the US think tanks. The problem is how to do BDA (ie. "Bomb Damage Assessment) meaning how to check that your actions actually had the effect you envisaged.
3. If you ever get a chance to, talk to the author of the NRMA paper on Fuel Security in Australia (AVM John Blackburn Retd) - if you do, take your notebook, you'll need it!

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Frank Grillo is doing some really cool shit for Netflix

Posted July 8 by John Birmingham

I loved his last film about the getaway driver scammed into an underworld shakedown. This looks even better.

(And yes, I'm trying very hard not to post shit on Twiiter and da Book that should really go here. Which means everything).

5 Responses to ‘Frank Grillo is doing some really cool shit for Netflix’

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted July 8
Netflix has a budget B grade saturday matinee type alien invasion movie called ‘Beyond Skyline’ starring Frank Grillo that is quite enjoyable.

On the subject of Netflix Sci-Fi, there is a movie on Netflix called ‘Spectral’ with hard-nosed military people fighting supernatural beings. It didn’t get a cinema release because I think it was perceived as crap. It’s a quality entertainment if you like that sort of thing.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted July 9
Yeah, seen it. Top shelf B grade. Loved it.

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Thalesian puts forth...

Posted July 15
Have you seen ARC on Netflix? It's a one-room 'time resets' movie, which is surprisingly riveting. Each reset has a different twist.
4-stars, would recommend

Thalesian mumbles...

Posted July 15
Dammit... ARQ with a Q...

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted July 16
Yes, it was one of the first Netflix movies I watched. Very much enjoyed it.

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