Friday, December 8, 2017

TV Binge Review - The Punisher

Netflix's 'The Punisher' mixed incredible violence with plodding inaction disguised as drama.

  Netflix released their latest Marvel Comics series ‘The Punisher’ on November 17th. I waited until the Thanksgiving weekend to binge watch the 13 episodes, watching four episodes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, three episodes on Thanksgiving, and two episodes on each of the remaining three days of the long weekend. The 2004 Punisher movie starring Tom Jane is one of my all-time favorites and I liked the Jon Bernthal version that appeared in Netflix season 2. In that series, The Punisher (real name Frank Castle) avenged the murder of his wife and children at the hands of a drug cartel aided by corrupt members of the NYPD.

  I was hoping that having dispensed with the ‘origin’ in Daredevil, The Punisher would be moving on to his war on organized crime and corruption in government. Instead the main plot brings more layers to the death of Castle’s family by linking it to a drug-smuggling ring in Afghanistan that was unknowingly aided by an elite Black Ops team named Project Cerberus that Frank Castle was part of. The team would capture, torture, and kill unquestioningly at the command of group leader ‘Agent Orange’. The project comes under the scrutiny of Homeland Security agent Madani in New York when a video of her former partner in Afghanistan being tortured and killed by the as yet unknown members of Cerberus.

  The video was sent to Madani by a former NSA agent who is shortly shot and left for dead by ‘Agent Orange’ but survives and is off the grid except for his being able to hack into seemingly every computer and camera on the planet. The NSA agent (code named ‘Micro’ who is the Punisher’s aide and confidant in the comics) then locates the Punisher and convinces him that ‘Agent Orange’ was really behind his family’s death and sets off the 13 hour adventure.

  I understand the need for a ‘big bad’ for the series but dredging up the death of Castle’s family as the reason for the Punisher’s involvement seemed like overkill to me. Since we are introduced to many of Frank Castle’s military pals from his previous life and special emphasis is given to how the Punisher will risk his life for his friends there could have been many other ways to get to the main conflict between Punisher and Agent Orange underway. Having the constant flashbacks of Castle’s family being murdered combined with Micro’s anguish at being able to see his family (through cameras he has wired into their home) but not let them know he is alive made the series extremely dark. In addition, there is the massacre of a team of Homeland Security agents (including the brutal neck slicing of Madani’s confidant Sam Siegel). The Punisher is such a dark character that the rest of the cast doesn’t need to add more to it. The supporting cast doesn’t need to bring comic relief but they shouldn’t add to the darkness. The only character that didn’t brood their way throughout the series was Punisher’s fellow ‘Project Cerberus’ member Billy Russo. Russo has a great time dressing up in nice suits, having an affair with agent Madani, and running his ‘army-for-hire’ contracting business. Unfortunately for Russo he is also Agent Orange's right hand man and gets his comeuppance by series end.

Believe it or not this is one of the least violent confrontations in the series...

  To say the series was violent would be an understatement. In all but two episodes there are brutal fist fights, gunfights with head shots at very close range, and knife work with neck slicing and regular run of the mill stabbings. Agent Madani is shot in the head, shot in the side, and has her car smashed by a truck with each incident requiring downtime. The Punisher seems to need no rest after countless stabbings, shootings, being beaten to a pulp by ‘Agent Orange’ to the point of having his teeth knocked out. The only time Castle needs a break is when Micro poisons him and when he is shot with an arrow that causes a massive infection (that is cleared up within hours after the arrow is removed. I would rather have seen the Punisher being maimed one or twice in the entire series instead of hourly. After all he has no super powers and should be wearing body armor to protect him instead of miraculously healing in time for his next confrontation.

  I liked the show primarily because of Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the Punisher. Bernthal is unrelenting and vicious in his Punisher persona and I liked his ‘New York quiet tough guy’ Frank Castle. There was a lot of violence which OK with me but the show had a lot of warts also. With the extreme violence in each episode came a lot of slow moving plot development that seems to be a staple of the Netflix/Marvel shows. The intrigue at Homeland Security and the CIA was interminable as was Madani’s soul searching talks with her mother. The only slow moving parts of the show I liked was Castle’s bonding with Micro’s family as he infiltrates the household in order to keep an eye on them. I was expecting Castle to get involved with Micro’s wife which didn’t happen and was a nice fakeout.

This is more of the typical Punisher violence in the series.

  The overarching mission of once again finding his family’s killers intermixed with the slow moving plot development made the show lurch from one confrontation to the next. My favorite parts of the series was when the Punisher finds himself as part of the day to day violence of life in New York. In the opening episode Castle works at a construction site slamming a sledgehammer against concrete walls for hours on end in an attempt to forget his past when he stumbles on a co-worker being dumped into a cement foundation for his part in a robbery gone wrong. Castle switches from crazed sledgehammer guy to Punisher mode in a heartbeat and quickly and painfully dispatches his co-worker’s assailants. In another show Punisher saves his friend Karen Page from being killed by a PSTD suffering veteran turned suicide bomber while confronting the FBI, homeland security, and the NYPD. I would have liked to have seen more of the Punisher in the role of protector of the ‘somewhat innocent’ than once again seeking revenge for his family’s death. I can only assume the showrunners did not think the revenge plotline was exhausted in the Punisher’s stint in Daredevil.

  If there is another Punisher season it will likely be in 2020 at the pace Netflix is moving with their Marvel sagas. The stage is set for Punisher’s nemesis ‘Jigsaw’ to make his appearance. I am hoping I get to see more of the Punisher stopping random crimes in short bursts rather than the epic tale that season one attempted and failed to deliver.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Movie Review - Justice League

'Justice League' lived up to it's considerable hype in my opinion if not at the box office.

  The weekend after seeing Marvel Studio’s ‘Thor:Ragnarok’ Kathy and I went to see the DC super team flick ‘Justice League’ on it’s opening weekend. When I was a kid comic book readers were generally either in the DC or Marvel camp. Marvel was the cooler option with their large grey areas of flawed super-heroes and anti-hero villains set largely in Manhattan as opposed to DC’s white hat/black hat view of the world with the heroes living in fictional cities like Metropolis and Gotham. I was always a DC fan for a very simple reason – economics. 10 cents and later 12 cents were very hard to come by to get a comic in my youth and when I had that kind of cash to spend on a comic buying a Marvel story was almost a surety that I would walk into the beginning of a multi part story that I would not be able to afford to read to the conclusion of, the end of a story line that I had missed out on, or worse yet a crossover with another comic title that would be off the shelves before I ever had a chance to see it. On the other hand a DC comic was sure to have a self-contained story all in one issue and that made it my top choice. If these ‘comic wars’ were ongoing today I could characterize Marvel as the ‘limousine liberals’ of comics that had relatable characters but cost a lot of money to follow.

  This all changed in 1970 when DC brought Jack Kirby (along with Stan Lee the creator of many Marvel creations like the Hulk, Thor, and the Fantastic Four to name but a few) over from Marvel to create the ‘Fourth World’ of the peaceful planet of New Genesis and the hellish planet of Apokolips in perpetual war and Earth stuck in the middle. Kirby’s Fourth World got started in the formerly insipid pages of ‘Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen’ and continued in the issues of ‘New Gods’, ‘Forever People’, and ‘Mister Miracle’. The stories had overlapping plots and characters and made DC comics as hard to follow on a limited budget as Marvel was. When I got older and had more money I get the back issues of the ‘Fourth World’ series and was able to appreciate it for the epic saga it was. The addition of Apokolips, its leader ‘Darkseid’, and insidious allies like Steppenwolf, Granny Goodness, and Desaad revolutionized the DC Universe. Now DC had a cosmic scope to rival Marvel entities like Galactus and the Watchers and suddenly Superman seemed not nearly as super as before. The New Gods had made a brief appearance in the television series ‘Smallville’ but had not made it to the big screen, which made my anticipate the Justice League movie ever since I saw Kirby’s famous ‘Boom Tube’ make its appearance in the previews.

  Justice League takes place an indeterminate amount of time after the ‘death’ of Superman in last year’s Batman vs. Superman movie. The first third of the movie concerns itself with setting up the rest of the movie as Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) finds out about an invasion of the bug-like ‘parademons’ and finds out from Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) about an ancient battle for the fate of the earth between Steppenwolf and the allied forces of earthlings, Atlanteans, and the Amazons. Steppenwolf was going to recreate earth as a fire pit of a world by uniting three ‘mother-boxes’ that were split up after the battle. The parademons herald Steppenwolf’s return and he routs both the Atlanteans and Amazons to collect two of the three mother boxes.

  This leads Batman and Wonder Woman to recruit the super beings hinted in ‘Batman vs. Superman’ – Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg to form a super team and battle Steppenwolf. While the first part of the movie had some Batman and Wonder Woman action the assembling of the team was full of angst as Cyborg is full of angst at the half human-half robot he has become and Flash is full of angst because his innocent father is in prison for the killing of his mother. Aquaman is the funny man of the group but Seems more angry than funny. The team realizes that they cannot stop Steppenwolf from getting the third ‘mother-box’ so Batman hatches a plan to resurrect Superman using the mother box combined with Kryptonian technology. Superman is duly resurrected but is in no mood to team up with Batman so the group has to battle Steppenwolf alone until Superman rejoins the team and turns the tide to save the earth.

  Justice League was a good but not great movie and in my opinion far better than its reviews. When the team gets together the battle scenes are great. Steppenwolf made a fine villain and even though he was no match for Superman hopefully Darkseid will show up in a future movie to give Superman a challenge. The main thing I disliked about the movie was the time spent trying to introduce the three new characters to the moviegoing audience. Ben Affleck makes a great aging Batman and comes across as one scary guy even though he has no super powers. His interactions with the new members were great but there was too much of trying to get to know Cyborg by having him interact with his father and the Flash (through a macabre gravedigging scene when retrieving Superman’s body). Flash and Cyborg would have been better served by showing off their interesting powers more and talking less. Aquaman was a comic relief vehicle and had the same problem that the character has in the Justice League comics – if there is no underwater action he’s just a strongman and if the action is underwater the rest of the League is too slow to keep up.

  Wonder Woman was epic in her action scenes especially in the opening when she takes out a group of terrorists single handedly. She had a great fight scene with Batman (that was over in one punch) but she took a backseat like most of the characters when Superman made his inevitable appearance. I liked how the ‘Man Of Steel’ and even ‘Batman vs. Superman’ portrayed Superman as an alien that was distrusted by humanity and distrustful of humanity to a degree. Justice League gave Superman near-deity status and far too much screen time as he had to get his bearings after his death experience. As much as I like the Superman character the Henry Cavill version has all the personality of a block of wood and the character is still just too super for earthly adventures.

  The box office for the movie was disappointing but it was still enough of a money maker to justify more DC team-up movies. Justice League was very much like a DC comic in that it was self-contained except for Superman’s death which was covered well enough that any first time DC movie patron could follow the plot. I appreciated that this movie was only a single year after Batman vs. Superman and the same year as the Wonder Woman movie. I wish the Marvel movies could bang out the headline movies every year. Next year is scheduled to bring a Batman movie which will hopefully bring a Nightwing or Batman Beyond character. There is no Man of Steel movie on the schedule which doesn’t surprise me since Warner Bros/DC does not seem to have any idea how to make the character relatable or less super. When Superman is on the job there doesn’t seem to be any room for the other heroes to shine. Hopefully DC will be able to bring more of the New Gods saga to the movies as this is probably Superman’s best chance to have a worthy antagonist.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Movie Review - Thor:Ragnarok

'Thor:Ragnarok' is easily the best Thor film to date.

  I went to see the latest Marvel superhero movie ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ at the local theatre with Kathy three weeks ago on the opening weekend. The Saturday night showing we went to was half full which was expected for the #1 movie of the weekend but far from the norm for most movies I go to see in Marshalltown. This is the third Thor movie in the current series following 2011’s ‘Thor’ and 2013’s ‘The Dark World’. The first two movies alternated between Thor’s cosmic realm of Asgard and Earth with the major subplots being Thor’s relationship with earthling Jane Foster and his half-brother Loki’s persistent betrayal of Asgard and his adoptive father the all-powerful Odin. The movies were good but the earth action and constant showing off of the grandeur of Asgard made them slow-moving as well.

  ‘Ragnarok’ starts with an action scene and never lets up. It begins with Thor battling the demon Surtur on a hell-like planet. After his ultimate victory, Thor brings Surtur’s head back to Asgard for safekeeping as it was foretold that Surtur was the harbinger of Ragnarok (otherwise known as the end of Asgard). Upon his return Thor immediately sees that his father Odin is being impersonated by the mischievous Loki and the pair head to earth to retrieve Odin from the Norwegian village where Loki banished him.

  The trip to earth was as light-hearted as the battle with Surtur was action packed. This was a hallmark of ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ – the movie had both a great humor and superior action and the ability to switch between the two in an unforced manner. On Earth, Thor has a funny run-in with Doctor Strange who proves to be Thor’s match in every way and sends him to find Odin and Loki where Odin dies after giving some expository on his first born daughter Hela. Hela immediately appears and she is every bit the menace she is shown to be in the comics and more as she destroys Thor’s hammer with one hand and banishes Thor and Loki to the far ends of the universe by disrupting their escape through the warp-like BiFrost as she heads to Asgard to begin her quest for domination of the ‘Nine Realms’ (Asgard, Earth, etc..).

  At this point the movie takes another about face as Thor finds himself marooned on a planet controlled by the ‘Grandmaster’ where he is put to work as a gladiator while being enslaved by an electric shock device. Thor is desperate to get back to Asgard and promised by the Grandmaster his freedom if he can defeat the gladiator champion in battle. It turns out the Grandmaster’s champion is none other than the Incredible Hulk who disappeared at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Grandmaster is crazily played by Jeff Goldblum who oscillates between being a cutthroat killer and a party animal.

  After a great fight between Hulk and Thor (which Thor seemed to be winning until being ‘shocked’ into defeat by the Grandmaster), the movie pivots to Thor’s attempts to escape from the Grandmaster’s planet and reminded me a lot of ‘Star Trek Discovery’ except with super heroes. There is the help from a resident of the planet, finding an escape ship, and the eventual escape and obligatory chase scene. The best part of this section of the movie was the screen time afforded to both Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Instead of the mono-syllabic Hulk of the Avengers, this Hulk was intelligent in a petty and child-like way and liked being the ultimate gladiator of the Grandmaster’s planet. When the Hulk finally turns into Bruce Banner Mark Ruffalo’s Banner is not the mild-mannered scientist I’ve been used to but more of an arrogant type that argues he is more valuable than the Hulk because of his doctorate degrees but also manages to keep his pulse rate down while flying the escaping space ship.

  After the funny adventures on the Grandmaster’s planet, Thor and his team of Loki, Hulk, and Valkyrie (a confidant of Grandmaster but originally a resident of Asgard) head to Asgard for the final battle against Hela in which the good guys win but at a tremendous cost.

  This was a well-made and fun movie and in my opinion the best Marvel Studios production to date. The other Thor movies seemed too full of the ‘grandeur’ of Asgard or Thor trying to find himself or figure out his relationship with Jane Foster but this movie was just action or humor. Cate Blanchette was an incredible Hela with a bone chilling disregard for anything but revenge and power. Her costume was an improvement over the comics with an expanding headdress that gave her battle horns a ‘Medusa-like’ quality. Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk were perfect complements to the ever serious Hulk and stole every scene they were in. Tom Hiddleston was his usual superb self as Loki and Chris Hemsworth mixed humor and gravitas as he has seemingly figured out how he wants to play Thor.

  With the exception of February’s awesome looking Black Panther, this is the last Marvel Studio release until next spring’s much anticipated Avengers: Infinity War starring Thanos the Destroyer. I know it will be a big box office success but I wonder why after nearly a decade of Marvel Studios films there are still only three movies a year being produced. This year saw Spiderman: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and Thor: Ragnarok and that was it. Each movie did gangbusters at the box office. Marvel films are such proven moneymakers I can’t understand why they aren’t coming out at least every other month until the market proves it is oversaturated. There is such crossover between characters that these movies could be made two or three at a time for later release. I can see why a Planet of the Apes or Transformers movie can only come out every few years – the story centers around a basic theme and characters. I can’t understand why a multi-faceted franchise like the Marvel Universe can’t produce their movies like the money-making factory they have proven to be.

Next up from Marvel Studios is 'Black Panther' in three months. It looks incredible if it is even half as good as this trailer.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Five People I Don't Want to Meet in Heaven - Part 3

  Sadly for me I’ve again run into the type of characters that compel me to add a new chapter to my series on the five people I don’t want to meet in heaven should we both end up there. Part one was about the dumpster diver that called me heartless when I didn’t let him get close enough to me and my howling beagles to ask for a handout. Part two detailed my dealings with the representative of a government entity a program of mine interfaces with telling me errors and delays on their end was ‘their lead developers highest priority’ to quiet me down for two weeks and then telling me that the problem wouldn’t be fixed for months because their staff was ‘a quarter of the size it was a year before’. My most recent run in was with master of the ‘bait and switch’ who may or may not end up in heaven that I don’t want to meet there or anywhere else for that matter.

  Not much has changed on the work front since I last wrote about it. I am still a self-employed contractor hiring myself out as a programmer to a company in Ames and still working part time troubleshooting the program I wrote for my previous employer that they couldn’t keep running after eliminating my entire department earlier this year. The program is used by two different companies that are both having it rewritten by other companies meaning not the company that laid off everyone who could maintain the program. I am slowly turning over the day to day duties to the ‘user’ companies but since the program is quite complex the turning over and the rewrites are taking longer than expected and five months after assuming the second job I am putting in as many hours as ever on my two jobs.

Bait and Switch Artists

  One of the two companies that use the program I maintain owns the software and arranged to sell the other company the source code as of April 2014 (Don’t ask me why). The issue is that the buying company had also paid for specific enhancements to the program after this seemingly arbitrary April 2014 date. I was asked by my former employer if I could merge the purchased code with the specific enhancements.

  It seemed like a simple enough task. I had done several of the specific enhancements and all the code revisions were on a repository that I am very familiar with so I agreed. I asked for access to the code and was told ‘I would get the access I need’ from the executive I made the agreement with. The next day I got an email from someone I never met before who I shall call SDM for ‘Software Development Manager’. SDM said that the easiest solution on his end would be for me to get the source code versions in a format called GIT and that I should download the GIT software from the internet and put it on my machine. I wrote back to SDM saying I didn’t know GIT and that the easiest thing for me would be to have access to the code repository I was used to working with. I left out the part about how I am generally less than impressed with people when the first thing out of their mouths is what is easier for them.

  SDM wrote back saying that getting me access to the repository “did not fit the timeline” and “you can reach out in this thread if you have questions." and also that I would have to learn GIT at some point. I didn’t mention that I have survived 57 + years on the planet without learning GIT but mention that the learning curve would delay the project but I would give it a go. After all, SDM said there was a timeline and if I needed help all I had to do was ask in the email thread.

  That was on a Tuesday. I was supposed to receive this GIT version of the code and start working (there was a timeline after all). I didn’t get the files on Wednesday or Thursday but on late Thursday afternoon I got an email from the ultimate recipient of the merged code telling me they were told I was working on it and asking when I would be done. I didn’t tell the customer I hadn’t started because I didn’t have the code but I did write to SDM mentioning I hadn’t received anything but an email from the customer asking when I was going to be done. SDM said the PG (programming guy) that was supposed to send me the files was out sick and I would get the files on Friday.

  I didn’t get the files Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. So much for the ‘timeline’. I suppose I could have written again. I didn’t because I saw no reason why there would have been a different result than the last time I asked. I wasn’t SDM or PG’s mother and if I was they probably would never see a desert again. I was also wondering if I would ever get the file but on Monday I got an email from SDM asking me if I had everything I needed and if I had any questions about GIT, PG could provide “brief assistance”.

  Part of me wanted to drop this project like a hot potato. A larger, much larger part of me wanted to mention that if I wanted to work with clowns I would have run away and joined the circus when I was a child. But being the responsible adult and someone who had made a commitment I wrote back saying not only did I NOT have everything I needed I actually had NOTHING I needed. I also expressed my concern that the offer of reaching out in an email thread if I had questions had changed in the space of five days to the nebulous offer of ‘brief assistance’.

  I got an email from PG within the hour telling me that he had sent me an email containing the code but his email client ‘appears to be blocking the sending of the code’ and sent me a link to the 73 megabyte file. I know 73 megabytes is not as much as it used to be but it is still way too much for most email servers to send and receive. I was finally able to download the source code. Then SDM wrote to say they could indeed help with GIT and they were outsourcing the project because “our resources are tight”. He closed the email by saying "Have you reviewed the online resources on GIT? If you have questions after that, feel free to ask questions."

  Now for those who haven’t dealt with this type of technical support the translation of this ‘offer’ is known as ‘RTFM’ as in READ THE F******* MANUAL assuming any question I had was going to be so basic that I could just look it up online and asking for help was tantamount to admitting my laziness. As Johnny Cash said in his classic song ‘A Boy Named Sue’ –"What could I do?" Once I had agreed to the project I was getting pushed around like a piece of trash by SDM and possibly PG (who may genuinely not know about sending 73 megabyte emails) with their minds focused on what is easiest for them, blather about timelines, and then not being able to do what they say they are going to do, and fake offers of assistance. It was a classic bait and switch - once I agreed to use the GIT source code repository nothing else that was said by SDM and PG mattered because they were give the minimum of help and do as little as possible which almost didn't even include sending me the source code required to even start the project!

  I wrote back saying that "I will be sure to review the online resources on GIT before feeling free to ask questions." and I haven’t asked any questions because I am sure that I wouldn’t get any kind of an answer. I’ll get the project done but it will take a lot longer and while that’s not OK with me I will make a decent buck from the project and once complete I will run away having anything to do with this company.

  I don’t hate much but I despise dealing with incompetent people that can’t deliver on what they say they are going to do. The only person I’m more upset with that SDM and PG is me because I agreed to this project without nailing down all the details and didn’t demand to use the source code repository I was familiar with. There’s two reasons I don’t want to run into these characters in heaven – first because I don’t like them and more importantly if I ran into them I’d probably do something to get myself kicked out!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Beagle Birthday Dreams

It's that time of the year when America's most literate beagles – Daisy and Baxter,
take over the Broken Pawn to celebrate their birthday!

Hi Everyone! It’s Daisy… …and Baxter with another blog post for all our fans. And of course everyone knows the big news, right Daisy? They better, Baxter. We had our birthday this week! Happy Birthday Baxter! Happy Birthday, Daisy! Now we are 7 years old. Can you believe it? I don’t feel middle aged but the doctor sent us a birthday card with an advertisement for senior dog food. If senior means more meat, I’m all for it! YUM!! I love meat! I think it means food with less calories so we don’t get overweight (she said to the beagle that weighed in at 38 and a half pounds last month…)

That’s in the past! I’m pretty buff. I lost two pounds in the last week alone. If buff means fat then you’re super buff, Baxter! I weigh a petite 30 pounds. And you only lost the 2 pounds because we had to go to the Happy Tails Kennel again last week. It was the second time this year we had to go to the kennel. We had to go there in May when Hank and Kathy went to Idaho for Ben’s graduation. This time they went to South Carolina for Grandpa Walt’s retirement party. I wish retirement parties and graduations were beagle friendly. Me too. And the worst part of going to the kennel was that I got kennel cough. I have to take medicine and I haven’t felt good for a week.

I cut my paw and had to get wheeled around in my wagon. Owwie... I had an operation and had to wear this hideous shirt to keep me from pulling my stiches out.

Then you gave the kennel cough to me and I have it too. And that’s on top of my other ailment. What ailment was that, Daisy? Kathy found a lump on my arm. The vet took a biopsy and said it was a soft tissue sarcoma. Oh I remember now – that was pretty scary because a sarcoma is kind of a cancer. It was. I had to have an operation where they cut open my arm and took the lump out. But the vet said they got all the cancer out and all you have is a scar. And they had to shave my arm. The hair still hasn’t grown back yet.

I had an ailment too. I cut my paw and it hurt when I walked. Owwie... You should be more careful where you walk, Baxter. I had to take my wagon on walks for almost a week. Seems like a pretty first world problem to me, Baxter. That’s because you have four good feet. I already have a foot with one toe so I need all my other three feet. At least with the wagon Hank could wheel you around pretty fast on our walks. When you walk you are the slowest dog in the world. That’s because I like to smell all the leaves and every blade of grass. You’ve been walking faster since we got the kennel cough. That’s because it’s hard to smell stuff. I wish we didn’t get boarded. Then we wouldn’t get kennel cough.

Humans have all the fun. Look at this incredible food Hank and Kathy ate at the Waffle House!

Normally Hank stays with us when Kathy goes away but he wanted to eat at the Waffle House, Baxter. Who could blame him, Daisy? Did you see the picture of the T-Bone steak? YUM!! It sure looked good. It would have been nice to get a taste but Hank didn’t bring us back any. HELLO!!! Hungry beagles here! And how about those hash browns? SCATTERED ON THE GRILL! SMOTHERED IN ONIONS! COVERED IN CHEESE! CHUNKED IN HAM! DICED WITH GRILLED TOMATOES! CAPPED WITH MUSHROOMS! And TOPPED WITH BERT’s CHILI! I wonder who Bert is? I don’t know who Bert is but he must be a great chef, Baxter.

It doesn’t seem fair Daisy. What doesn’t seem fair? Hank gets to go to the Waffle House and eat T-bone steak and eggs and awesome hash browns with chili and ham but all we got for our birthday was premium dog food out of a can! I know. We love premium dog food out of a can but it would have been a better birthday if we got to go to the Waffle House. Hank says that there aren’t any Waffle Houses in Iowa and that’s why he doesn’t take us to any. It’s not right that we don’t live near a Waffle House. No wonder Grandpa Walt and Kathy’s sister Megan hardly ever visit us. There aren’t any Waffle Houses here. I wouldn’t want to visit us either. Even though we are very lovable I’d rather visit less lovable dogs that live closer to a Waffle House.

Hank said that he asked Chef Roger at the Waffle House how much a Waffle House franchise cost and that Roger told him it cost a million dollars. That’s not too much money, Daisy! We helped Hank and Kathy find $12.75 on our walks just in the last 2 months. We could easily find a million dollars and we could open a Waffle House so Hank and Kathy could take us there on our birthday. Unfortunately I looked up Waffle House franchise opportunities on the Internet and found out that Waffle House restaurants are all corporately owned. Hank and Kathy can’t buy a franchise because they don’t sell them. I guess Chef Roger should stick to making T-Bones and eggs. I guess all we’ll ever get for our birthday is premium dog food out of a can. Maybe not, Baxter. What if we opened our own restaurant?

I think we need a different logo for our Beagle House restaurant... Looks good to me!

That’s a great idea, Daisy! We can’t call it Waffle House. What should we name it? How about the Beagle House? It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? It sure does! We can serve T-Bone steak and eggs just like the Waffle House. And hash browns with ham and chili but I don’t know about the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Skip the vegetables! Let’s have more meat. I’d enjoy my hash browns SLABBED with bacon! How about STICKED with a topping of beef stick treats? YUM!! That’s what I’m talking about. Maybe BONED with a T-BONE steak! Sure! And PATTIED with hamburger patties! OH BOY!!! And for the high class customers FILETED with a topping of Filet Mignon! And for the value customer – FRIED with fried chicken. MAN!! I’d like an order of hash browns, DICED, TOPPED, SLABBED, STICKED, BONED, PATTIED, FILETED, AND FRIED!!! What a meal. And since we aren’t franchising the internet says we can open a restaurant for just $275,000. Is that less than the million dollars Chef Roger said it would take to own a Waffle House? A lot less! And don’t forget we already have the $12.75 we found over the past two months. At that pace we’ll have the beagle house open in no time. Maybe before our next birthday. And in the meantime we can practice cooking our DICED, TOPPED, SLABBED, STICKED, BONED, PATTIED, FILETED, AND FRIED hash browns!! What are we waiting for? Let’s get started! YUM!!!

That's what I call a plate of hash browns!! YUM!! I'll take two plates!!