I like to go to the movies every weekend. The pickings have been slim, in my opinion. So, last weekend I was casting around for what to watch and settled on See How They Run. Sam Rockwell's presence encouraged me, as did Saoirse Ronan's. Both of them generally have good taste in picking their projects. Overall, it's a strong cast.
The tone is more than a little tongue in cheek. It centers on a production of Agatha Christie's Mousetrap. So we have a murder mystery movie about a murder mystery production. It's shot in an exaggerated color palette which made it look a touch cartoony.
Where this movie fell down for me was the writing. It is a boring script. Rockwell plays this aging, alcoholic chief inspector who emotes so much ennui that it infects the whole movie. Nothing gets under that guys skin, nothing shocks him, and he seems to take nothing seriously. This contrasts, purposefully no doubt, with Ronan's rookie constable character who is hyper-dilligent. As a dynamic, it works. But when this duo is put into motion, they are not fun because the plot is so insipid. For instance, a good chunk of time is spent on the constable catching the inspector drinking on duty. It's cute, but for the time they spend with it, it's not enough. Then they make a joke out of the inspector's excuse for not being on the job while he's boozing--a dentist's appointment. They return to that insipid bit two or three times in the movie.
That's the movie in general: cute but not enough.
David Oyelowo and Adrien Brody likewise play their quirky characters well, perhaps purposefully a little over the top. But like the stars, their characters are given weak bits with which to mine their quirkiness for comedy. Again, it comes off a little cute, but really not enough.
The tone they picked is difficult, but they pull it off. The performances are all strong. The production values are likewise strong. It's just a boring script..
The first trailers that came out for Nope were bizarre to me. They had this shtick about how such-and-such horse trainers had these deep Hollywood roots intercut with shots of the star galloping his horse down a road with those inflatable stick men you see outside car dealerships flailing alongside the road. I immediately said hell no. Later they had a trailer that said it was about aliens. They also gave us enough of a tease to make me say I'd try it.
I was gunshy about seeing another Jordan Peele movie because I absolutely loathed his second one, Us. Unfortunately he's fulfilled his M. Night Shamalamadingdong curse. After a brilliant debut with Get Out, we've now had two god-awful flicks from him.
Nope starts by introducing us to the incompetent main character, OJ (Otis Junior; kudos to Jordan for screwing up the movie's tone with that overburdened name). Remember all that horse heritage in the preview? Well, this scion of all that supposed greatness is a muttering fool who couldn't handle the most simple task of an on-set safety meeting. All he had to do was tell the cast and crew how to behave around horses, but he couldn't manage it. In rushes his sister who also fails, preferring to take the opportunity to sell herself. Then, less than a minute later there's a horse incident because the crew wasn't properly briefed. The Haywoods are fired and we're stuck with a film about two unlikable idiot siblings.
Then we're bizarrely introduced to the Haywood siblings' neighbor. We're shown a bloody set wherein a chimpanzee sits after having apparently killed a cast member. It turns out the boy actor in that show becomes the Haywood's adult neighbor. No fewer than three different views of that same asinine TV set are presented throughout the movie. It had no direct relationship to the story. It was backstory for a small side character. It's just one of a hundred choices Peele made in putting this movie together that had me shaking my head.
Long story short, it's an alien hunt. Can we capture aliens on film? I won't tell you, but I will tell you that the alien proper is the lowest-quality special effect I've seen in a modern movie. There were movies in the '50s that had better looking aliens. The alien in this movie looked like it was put together with dingy WWII parachute material.
The plot is so stupid that it hurts my brain to think about it. Mercifully, the movie does eventually end, but not with any sense of climax. It's just a shambles of a movie that lurches from scene to scene delivering a barely cogent narrative about three of the dumbest humans put on film trying to get their Ancient Aliens on. There is no rising tension, no climax, and no epilogue to tell us what happens to the Haywood twits.
Overall, it's a weak narrative about unlikable incompetent characters edited to be as unengaging as possible.
Don't watch this movie, not even for free. I don't think it would be improved by intoxicants unless you can come up with a mocking drinking game for it.
Jordan Peele is the new M. Night Shamalyan. I had such hopes for him.
The thing they sell you on in the previews is the black phone in the basement that isn't hooked up yet nonetheless receives calls from a supernatural source. I generally don't enjoy Ethan Hawke, but that phone gimmick was a strong hook.
The movie starts out fairly strong. It's the 1970s, so for those of you of a certain age, there's some nostalgia value in just seeing the '70s brought to the screen.
They have a decent setup: kids disappearing, taken by the Grabber. The main character is an abused boy whose classmates have been going missing. They set up a little parallelism between the abuse of kids in general and the kid's father who beats the crap out of his kids. So there's a lot to mine for engagement: abusive family, tight bond with sister, sister's psychic powers, and a whodunit regarding the kidnappings. But the moviemakers fail to capitalize on any of it.
The problem with this movie is that once the kid is trapped in the serial killer dungeon, the moviemakers didn't know what to do with the movie. So they throw out some side content about the kid's psychic sister, but generally speaking the movie just wanders around until it kind of ends all of a sudden.
Yes, there is a cogent narrative thread, but there's no pacing, no suspense, very little of a climax, and no epilogue or denouement. So in terms of being emotionally effective, this movie is weak. The ending isn't particularly satisfying.
Ethan Hawke does a good job with what they give him, but they don't give him much. So we don't get a portrait of a sick mind or engaging weirdness.
My biggest complaint is that they don't do much with the supernatural angle. Other than a few mysterious phone calls, there is almost nothing. The direction is flat. The scariest moment for me was when the little sister is riding around and gets a stunning hint from the Grabber's victims that she's in front of the dungeon house.
As a writer, I could sense there was a drama behind getting the screenplay written. Something went very wrong in translating the original short story into a shooting script. Likewise, the direction was weak. So in the end, we get a thriller that isn't suspenseful or thrilling. Since the short story was written by Stephen King's son, I suspect that this project was a square peg that a whole lot of influence got crammed into a round hole. Without that name behind this movie, I don't think it would have been made.
I don't recommend you watch it, but if you must, I suspect that intoxicants will greatly improve your viewing.
Actual discussion of this movie would just allow the movie makers to take more of my life.
Simply said, I recommend that you do not watch this movie under any circumstances.
Really bored people who actually plumbed the depths of my blog will have noted that I posted a fairly esoteric post a while ago that dealt with the economic model of Borderlands 2. Specifically, I was talking about arbitrage between the slot machines in Sanctuary vs. those in Tiny Tina's "Assault on Dragon Keep" DLC. That is, I'm a Borderlands geek.
Tiny Tina's DLC was so popular that they started selling it as a standalone game. People didn't want to have to buy Borderlands to get that DLC. It's a testament to what a great job they did with that DLC.
So when 2K announced that they were coming out with a game designed around that DLC in Borderlands 2, I was very excited. I spent months waiting. I pre-ordered the game on Amazon. Three days after I received it, I sent it back for a refund.
Wonderlands is a train wreck before you even get to the content. They made all the technical mistakes they made in Borderlands 3. Said another way, they never fixed all the things they broke in Borderlands 3. Let's review those mistakes. First of all, Borderlands 3 is unplayable for the simple reason that the user interface is unusable. In couch-coop mode, I couldn't read the screen. At times, I would walk up to my 50-inch plasma screen, put my eyes right up to the screen, and I still couldn't make out some of the text. So, in technical terms, 2K has given the middle finger to all the co-op players out there.
It also didn't help that Wonderlands doesn't have a way to calibrate screen position, so I found certain things on-screen clipped at the edges.
If those two technical problems don't sway you, there's also the issue of the vending machine interface. Since Borderlands 1, the vending machines have been a sink hole for computing cycles. You go into a vending machine and the rest of the game--often your partner sitting next to you on the couch--starts to stutter. It is so bad that sometimes my girlfriend and I take turns going into the vending machine interfaces because otherwise it brings the console to its knees.
Let's say none of that sways you. Let's say you only use single-player mode and have phenomenal eyesight. What's wrong?
Answer: everything else.
The game has no story. The game has no characters. The game has no objective. It has only the barest skeins of missions which aren't compelling because they don't tie into any story. If you're used to the Borderlands model, it's bizarre to navigate.
When I first started playing Wonderlands, I was dropped into a mission. Disoriented and annoyed with the interface, I played on in the hopes that things would get better. When I finished that mission I was transported to her "Overlands" area which is the weirdest gaming thing I've run into in a professionally produced game. In Overlands, they change the animation style so that your character becomes a little anime bobble-head figure walking around what looks like an old fashioned board game. Different spots in Overlands give you access to different areas with local missions.
So, once in Overlands, you might wonder, "Where should I go next?"
I didn't know. After a few days I didn't care. The entire game is an incoherent mess.
The only good in all of this is that Amazon let me send the game back. I didn't have the presence of mind to do that for Borderlands 3, so now it's a coaster.
My message to you is: DO NOT BUY TINY TINA'S WONDERLANDS.
This movie is too long, too busy, too fast in many places, and incoherent much of the time. It's a glorious mess.
I write 'glorious' because it's creative, funny, brave, and unpredictable. It starts out as a conventional drama about a harried laundromat owner's tax problems and devolves into an abstract rant against nihilism. There's a lot of room for fun in there, and they make use of a bit of it.
As the movie progresses, the visual style accelerates until the audience is subjected to a staccato barrage of imagery that races by so fast that it barely registers. In places, that's a smart fun way to do it, but after an hour and a half of this movie, you're still in for another forty minutes, and I felt every damn one.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
The conceit of the multiverse was fun to see. That's how far sci-fi has come. We can now throw the multiverse into a wide-release drama and everyone pretty much gets it. Their trick of transferring from one verse to another was weak as hell. They'd have someone do something wildly improbable and that would trigger a jump to another verse. I was willing to let it go, but then they got stupid with it. There were two separate characters that had to shove trophies up their rectums to jump verses, so we get these stylized shots of ardent fighters ass-slamming the trophies. It's sorta-kinda funny, but tonally it's at odds with telling a serious tale with serious consequences.
The notion of a character that had access to all their selves across the multiverse was also interesting. They chose to go to a dark place with it. The main character's daughter becomes a multiverse terror because with access to all her selves, she becomes indomitable. The downside is that with access to all that, she still can't find satisfaction. Having seen all things everywhere, all versions of herself, she becomes a nihilist. In none of those universes can she find a variation of herself worth living for--the very definition of nihilism.
The plot problems start when the mother acquires the same power as the daughter. Neither can defeat the other. It's the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. The upside of that problem is that for us to get resolution, there really must be a meeting of the minds, not subjugation. The downside is that the audience is subjected to a seemingly endless fight in which these two super-multi-verse mavens slap each other around across the multiverse. The notion of reaching a crescendo is achieved with pacing. The little set-tos come faster and faster with flashes of imagery that gets old in about ten seconds. Unfortunately it lasts like half an hour. It's maddening to sit through.
The ending was a cop-out to me. Mom and daughter tearfully make up, and the world resumes it's heartening, sloppy course. There's just enough time for mom to confront her own father with her daughter's homosexuality. It felt like a PC happy-horseshit add on to me. Ostensibly, her mother's ability to confront her father's bigotry is supposed to demonstrate growth on her part. To me, it was just pandering. They seemed to want to drop back into this one dreary existence and pretend that the wider multi-verse didn't exist. Their insistence in having these enlightened women stooping to address pedestrian bigotry was a statement to me of how far they haven't come. The mom's father is a shit that should be happily ignored. Where is the wisdom of letting the ignorance of mean people undermine one's sense of well being? You might not agree, but the larger point is that they had a decent resolution that they muddied with politics.
If we're going to address bigotry against gays, one of the best ways to do it is to let our gay characters in movies be gay without making a big deal out of it--because it isn't. The grandfather didn't care about the granddaughter's sex life. He was a misogynist. They have a scene of him disappointed at his child being a daughter, so the fact that his daughter's daughter is gay is a non-event to that asshole. They all lost him with their gender long before they developed a sexual orientation.
So, summing it up, we have a movie that has great bones, but was badly in need of a hard-nosed editor and a creative team less interested in farming for political brownie points at the expense of story. Someone could probably come along and edit that 139 minute monstrosity down to a brilliant 90 minute flick.
If you do watch this movie, I recommend intoxicants.
So, here I am, a minor author with some stories sold. I have a novel approaching publishability. I have enough stories to put out a collection.
This posting is the article I wish someone had written for me to read, a primer on author newsletter logistics. As with most learning, I like to start with the big picture, the context.
While I like to think I know something about writing, I knew next to nothing about publishing or marketing. So I bought a book about how to self-publish. The over-arching advice, rule number one, the bare minimum thing every self-publishing author must do--according to this book anyway--is build a list of email addresses for a newsletter.
Unless you're fairly famous, your books don't sell themselves. It's trivial to upload a file on Amazon and call yourself published, but after that? Who exactly will buy that book? The short answer is: almost no one. Even your potential fans won't know to look for it.
Of course any self-published author must do their own marketing. For some people that means giveaways. For others it means Facebook ads. But apparently the cheapest, most effective thing to do is send out a newsletter to your registered fans. The 'conversion' of newsletters to purchases runs pretty high, so they say.
I'm a technical guy (Computer Science MS), but I didn't understand how it all works. It's not rocket science, but I found it interesting to dig into. Author newsletters are a big segment of the email business. There are companies that are dedicated to managing newsletter subscriber lists, creating snazzy looking mailings, and even transactional stuff like giveaways.
Step one is to have a website or webpage somewhere from which you can collect email addresses. It's a simple idea, but there's a big difference between posting static content for readers, and quite another to implement transactions which require data storage and retrieval. I used to work in IT, so the idea of setting up a server with a database and coding transactions was a painful thought. It might be more painful to me because I know, in detail, what it takes to do and maintain. Imagine how your less technically inclined writers would feel about it. Even if you're clever and maybe think up a cheap way to code it, what if you're successful? Then the volume of those transactions shoots up. Will your little kludge of a system scale up to meet demand? And how much of your time to you want to spend maintaining and monitoring those systems? You get the idea, not fun to even think about.
Like all common tasks that no one wants to do, there are people you can pay to do it for you. You've probably heard of MailChimp. They are one of the companies that does all this email related stuff I'm talking about. MailerLite is another one, the one I decided to use.
Collection of email addresses is achieved by embedding a form from a mail service into a webpage. In my case, I log into MailerLite and use their GUI builder to create a page to collect email addresses. Really I only have to customize one of theirs; they provide templates because it's the basis of a ton of their business. Once you layout the page, your mail service gives you code to embed in your webpage, literally. You cut and paste that code into your webpage/website. In my case, I use Weebly to host my website, so I go into Weebly's GUI builder and insert 'header code' and 'control code'. The header code is for establishing page-scoped CSS setup. The control-scope code is to actually manifest the mail-service interface (screen/page/popup). Then when the user goes to that page of your website, the embedded form shows up. That gives the user a chance to enter an email address and click a button to send it to your mail service. In my case, if I log into MailerLite and go to 'Subscribers', I'll see the newly entered email address.
Simple, right? Conceptually, yes, but you do have to figure out your mail service's interface and your web-hosting company's interface to embed code. In my case, when the form popped up on my Weebly site, the paragraph ( "<p>" in HTML) content was the wrong style. Some sneaky combination of CSS settings polluted the embedded page. I had to spend a few hours trying to figure out exactly what bit of code to tweak and how. Unfortunately, MailerLite doesn't directly support Weebly. They have 'integrations' which is to say partnerships among these companies. So MailerLite plays with Wix fairly nicely and Weebly seems to play nicely with MailChimp, but MailerLite and Weebly gave me some grief.
That's the kind of thing that would put off a non-techincal author. Imagine someone like that having to debug the form embedded on their website. It's one of a thousand little things that pushes authors towards traditional publishing or hiring a 'web guy.'
I got through it, cursing a little. As usual, I'm happy to have done it because now I learned some important things in the process. At that point, users of my website could go to the newsletter page, enter their email address, and those addresses would pile up in my MailerLite account. In my case, when I publish short stories, I get to tell readers my website URL. The idea is that they get a tickle out of a story, go to my website, looking for more and signing up for my newsletter which will hopefully turn them into a book purchaser some day in the future.
Did I mention I've never sent out a newsletter yet?
It turns out you need email service to send out newsletters. Yeah, I know, you have an email, right? You don't need simply an email address, you need your own email domain. That may sound like a big deal, but if you have a website, you likely already own a domain. By 'email service' I mean that the DNS (domain name servers) entry of your website domain (e.g. lbspillers.com) will now contain the records that direct email correspondence to servers willing to take them.
Strictly speaking, you don't need your own email domain. The thing is, that free email services don't want to do bulk mailings for you and a lot of email client software gives the stink eye to emails coming from those free services. How many emails does it take to make Gmail balk? I don't know. A lot, I suspect. But more importantly, how many people will take your email seriously? There are authentication protocols like DKIM and DMARC that email clients can use to decide if an email claiming to be from you is authentic. Using your own email domain allows your email service to participate in these kinds of authentication protocols, ensuring that no one thinks your newsletters are spam or from a spoofed address.
Cursing again, I went to my internet domain seller, the people who manage my DNS entries, and discovered that basic email service with one glorious mailbox would cost me $11 a year. For that price, I was willing to get with the program. I purchased email service and spent a few hours setting up my one email email@example.com.
Now I am finally positioned to send out newsletters. Even better, those newsletters will have the very professional looking "unsubscribe" links that will let users opt out. That's not just a nice feature, but required unless you want to be accused of sending out spam emails. It's another little thing that your mail service takes care of for you.
Did I mention that MailerLite is free until you reach 1,000 subscribers? Yeah, pretty cool. So my total cost for setting up for author newsletters so far is $11 for the year (renews at $14…it was a sale) and some fairly aggravating hours learning the nitty-gritty details of all these vendor interfaces.
Now I just need readers.
Over the weekend I went to see Uncharted with my girlfriend. I was surprised that the theater was nearly sold out. I had probably only seen one preview for it. Ostensibly Tom Holland is pulling Spiderman fans to the theaters.
Sloppy is the word I'd use for this movie. Sloppy writing, sloppy plotting, sloppy storytelling, sloppy character work, and a sort of general disdain for believability. So, yeah, gimme a popcorn movie with eye candy and tension and…stuff, but does it have to be so sloppy?
The movie in a nutshell is that the Scooby Gang is on the trail of lost South American gold. Of course, so is our cliché bad guy played by Antonio Banderas. But don't worry. They won't bother with building any tension with that bad guy. He's just the sugar daddy that can supply the toys that this movie's visuals demand.
We open with Tom Holland in that preview scene where he Kong-jumps from palette to palette in 400 MPH wind behind a cargo plane. It's so god damned impossible that I can't watch it with any interest. Anyone being dragged behind a plane would be hard pressed to hold on. They certainly can't leap against that wind from palette to palette like a preening gymnast. I watched it, of course, but it wasn't affecting to me. It was just ridiculous piled on ridiculous. There is no, oh crap that guy might shoot him, because the entire scene is bullshit. It's just a question of what ridiculousness will they show next, a shrug.
Then we get to Holland being recruited by Wahlberg. I won't bother with the details, but it tracked about as well as Holland Kong-jumping in 400mph winds.
The best bit is probably them knocking around Barcelona trying to find the map to the treasure. That involved a lot of fun Indiana Jones style exploration with interesting eye candy.
Anyway, the Scooby Gang, riddled with mistrust as it is, eventually breaks up and separately get to the treasure about the same time as the bad guys. In a shot straight from The Goonies, there are two Spanish Galleons sitting in the back of a nearly closed grotto with sunlight streaming onto them. It was a a glamour shot of two wooden ships that have come through 500 years of weathering completely unscathed. And yes, they sat there, visible from above for 500 years with no one finding them and the ships' magical wood never succumbing to the elements.
Not only did that wood not succumb, but it's strong enough that two straps on each ship is enough for it to be hoisted into the air by some mythical helicopter capable of lifting a ridiculous tonnage of ship.
What you get in this movie is a string of startling visuals which completely lack verisimilitude. They constantly will pull you out of a plot that itself is asinine and populated with characters doing things humans don't do.
This movie's quality will increase proportionately with your level of intoxication. Do not watch it, but if you must, don't watch it sober.
"Consider our contract void," was what a recent email told me.
For those of you who aren't in the business of submitting stories to magazines, let me tell you, it's difficult. Americans don't read much short fiction these days, so the number of outlets for sci-fi shorts is small. That's not even talking about those which will pay the SFWA's pro-rate of eight cents a word.
You read that correctly. Eight cents a word. Sound like a lot? Well, let's say you sold a six-thousand word piece, that would earn you $480. That'd be great pay if you could write, edit and get it accepted somewhere in ten or twelve hours. Of the 238,777 words of short fiction that I have tried to sell, I average 1.93 words/minute to turn out submission-ready copy. For our imagined 6K word story that would be 51 hours. Of course, that's an average for all my writing. For my most recent story near that size, I produced 2.43 submission-ready words/minute. That faster speed, ostensibly garnered by experience, would still have me spending a little over 41 hours on that story. That translates into a wage of $11.70/hour--less than minimum wage in some states. I know, write faster, right?
All that's to say, it's a difficult, low-paying gig, writing is. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of places that will take a story for free and slap it up on their website so you can call yourself nominally published, but to get someone to actually pay for your writing is quite difficult.
That's why it was so much fun to receive an acceptance from Mythic Magazine for my story "Slivers" on October 11th. They were only paying a penny a word, down from three cents a word when I submitted. Since the story had already been rejected by the more lucrative outlets, I was happy. At least my work wouldn't be completely wasted. I signed the contract and waited for issue #18 to arrive.
Imagine my surprise when on December 21st I got an email from the publisher saying that he was closing the magazine indefinitely; I should consider our contract void. Thankfully he didn't actually write "Merry Christmas."
Of course, publishing a magazine of short speculative fiction is an even worse gig than writing for one. Getting Americans to pry open their wallets and actually pay for written entertainment is extremely difficult. The internet is awash in free content. Some sci-fi writers actually give away the first book in a series to get people to buy the others! People borrow/steal their friends' and family members' streaming passwords. Most video entertainment and books can be pirated on the internet. So getting those same people to pay for a periodical is outrageously difficult. People are more and more used to not actually paying for what they read, and often what they watch.
That is, I sympathize a little with the publisher, but only a little. Let's say his magazine runs 50K words of content an issue. To pay a penny a word for those 50K words would cost him $500. Said another way, to close out his last issue would cost him about $500 in content and a lot of elbow grease to get his electronic-only magazine published.
My point is that it would have cost him on the order of $500 to keep his word to perhaps a dozen authors who he strung along for months. But, wait a minute, his business failed (again). You can't expect one man to bear the responsibility of the entire enterprise. Maybe. Maybe it's my fault for not seeing that a magazine that just dropped its rates is faltering. And let's not forget that over-arching fallback of every crappy businessman: it's perfectly legal. Yeah, it's true. The reason we have corporations and LLCs is to protect hard-working entrepreneurs from having their life destroyed by a business failure.
So, there's no black-and-white in this little teapot tempest of ethics. There's an incompetent, well-meaning guy who I admired for his tenacity and pluck right up to the point where he screwed a dozen writers three days before Christmas because he couldn't cough up $500 to shut down his business gracefully.
How much is your integrity worth?
My house was built in 1903. It was originally something like 700 square feet. Over the years it had an addition put on the back, and a basement dug out. At some point, someone paid to put in eight-foot tall ceilings, leaving the ones at ten feet in place to form an odd dead space. The point is that it's old and heavily modified.
One of my earlier projects was to put in a pull-down ladder so access to the attic was easier. At the time, one of the reasons I did it was so I could use storage space up there. After insulating it--none of the house has any insulation--I put some plywood down so I could store boxes above the 'new' (like fifty years old) section.
The problem was that while I was up there I got a look at the original chunk of the house. It still had knob and tube wiring. Thankfully, it was only for one branch circuit. Everything else was modernized or installed much later--from the basement (that didn't exist when this stuff went in). I've posted a picture so you can get the idea.
The name comes from insulating knobs that hold the wires and insulating tubes that they insert through joists/rafters to run wires through. In my house, they ran buses of wire on ceramic insulators. Note that these insulators were nailed to the rafters where any roofer might damage the wiring. Then, when they needed to run power to a fixture or receptacle, they ran a set of wires (one hot, one neutral; this is long before the notion of grounding) down the insides of a couple of ceiling joists.
The best part is that any time you need power, you just splice into those buses. After perhaps eighty years of service, this left endlessly spliced wires all over the place. The modern National Electric Code requires all wire junctions to be in a junction box (with a few esoteric exceptions).
That's not to say it wasn't a valid way to do business. A properly installed K&T setup is nominally safe. In my case its served for likely more than eighty years without the house burning down. What creeped me out about it personally is that the wire insulation becomes brittle. When I was installing a new bathroom fan (inline in a six-inch duct), I had to deal with this stuff and I had the experience where you flex a wire and the insulation just snaps like a twig. The wire remains fine which is the problem. It will happily carry voltage through that insulation break, ready to do some real damage. No doubt that explained a lot of seemingly needless applications of electrical tape that I kept running into.
So, after almost three years of vaguely worrying about this, I decided to fix it. I bought a hundred feet of 12/2 (I know I only need 14/2 but I purposely installed heavier wire), a hundred feet of EMT (electrical metallic tubing), and climbed up there with my fish-tape and bender to replace it. Ten junction boxes later I had gone through about 70 feet of EMT. I'm sad to say it took me a total of about twelve hours. No doubt an electrician could have done it in half the time.
Most of the receptacles and fixtures are still wired with lines that are older than dirt, but the bus is all up to code. Baby steps. I worry less now.