Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rick’s Best Things from 2013

Most of these are things I discovered in 2013.  They may have been created before.  I found them in 2013.  These are in no particular order.


Misfits

This is a British TV show about a group of juvenile delinquents who get superpowers while serving out community service.  It is a very adult show.  There is a strong mature audience warning for this.  It is warped, twisted and wonderful all at the same time.  This was the last Series (what they call a Season in the U.K.).  They take the idea of superpowers and tweak it hard.  They try to be very realistic.  There is also a sense of mad joy with the show as well. 


Watson and Holmes

This is a Comic book Series with African-American version of Sherlock Holes and Doctor Watson.  It is set in Harlem, NYC. It is the best of Blaxploitation, True Crime and Mystery genre mashed together.  It is by writer Karl Bollers and artist Rick Leonardi.


Elysium

This is the latest film by Neill Blomkamp.  It is his follow up to District 9.  Matt Damon puts in a great performance as the protagonist.  It is interesting look as a dystopian world.  The haves live in an orbital habitat and the have not are stuck on the Earth’s surface.  It is not perfect, but I loved it.


Steam Powered Giraffe
http://www.steampoweredgiraffe.com/

Here is where description gets tricky.  They are a musical act, I use that term on purpose.  They are part Band, part performance troupe.  They mix Theater, Mime, Improv with folk and Pop music.  Their back story is they are a group of performing robots built in the 1800’s.  The have a wonderfully unique sound.  Musically they are wonderful, but to get a true clue as to their talents one needs to see their video or live performances.  They have become a big hit in the Steampunk Community for obvious reasons. 


METAtropolis

This is a series of short story anthologies.  The first collection was edited by John Scalzi, the others were edited by Jay Lake.  This takes the concept of the city and turns it on its head.  It is a shared world set first in the mid 21st Century then progressing to the 22nd Century.  It looks at what is both possible and probable.  This is not a Utopian or Dystopian future.  It just is with good and bad.  The first one is the only one available as a standard book.  The sequels, METAtropolis: Cascadia and METAtropolis: Green Space, are currently only available as Audio Books through Audible and Amazon.com.


Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Kettle

These are by no means new, but I received one at the end of this year.  I am not a Coffee drinker I prefer tea.  I am a philistine, in that I use mostly tea bags and Chai tea powdered mixes.  It works for me.  This little appliance makes things so much more convenient.   I have had a wonderful time learning how to use it and doing so. 


Geek Trivia at the Kennedy School in Portland, Oregon

I can say that 2013, was a great year for me and this institution.  My Team and I, this time only three of us, won a Grand Prize.  Actually my team won a time or two more in my absence. This is held at the McMenamins’ Kennedy School, which is a historic public school that has been converted into a Hotel with a series of restaurants, bars and a film theater.  The Masters of Ceremony are Cort Webber and Bobby Roberts.  The event’s main sponsor is Things from Another World, chain of comic book and pop culture stores.  It is a fun time every time.  It is held every other Tuesday.  If you are in town check it out.


Monster Kid Radio
http://www.monsterkidradio.net/
 
This is a wonderful Podcast that covers the 30’s through 60’s of Monster movies.  It is hosted by Derek M. Koch with various guests.  The show covers the full gamut of Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy film.  It is a great time.  Derek and his various guests know what they are talking about. 


Injustice: Gods Among Us.

I am a fan of fighting video games/ and I am a DC Comics fan.  For me, this was a perfect melding of the two.  The game was developed by the same studio that is working on the current Mortal Kombat games.  I loved this game and need to work on it some more.  There was also the obvious plus for me that Shazam and Black Adam are among the playable characters.


House of Cards (U.S. Version)

I was a fan of the Original British Production of this.  Kevin Spacey and Company did it serious justice.  It is not an exact copy, due to the differences in political system and time periods.  It also is one of the first big Netflix produced shows.  They made 13 episodes and released them in one day.  It is one of the best political thrillers out there. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Star Wars & Me

My journey with Star Wars began not with the movie, but with the Toys.  The Toys at the time were cool and they began a whole new scale in action figure sizes.  Before there were the 8 inch Mego or the 12 inch sized G.I. Joes and Six Million Dollar Man.  That was in late 1977, the Year the first Star Wars film came out.  Yes, I know it was Episode Four, at the time it was the first movie out.  I did not see it till 1978 and I saw it in a drive in.  I was 10 years old.  Mind you, I had been on a trip to the stars before with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.  This was different. It was reminiscent of the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers Serials from the Thirties and Forties.  I loved it; I had some of the toys.  I was not obsessed with it.  It spoke to me, but not as loudly as to others.  Light Sabers, really cool looking alien Races, Special effects that blew me out of the water, were among the things that surprised me in a pleasant way.  As a kid I did not really start going to movies in the theater much till I was 12 or so.  Science Fiction TV shows were more my forte.  I watched Battlestar Galactica at the time and thought that was awesome.  I know in retrospect the Seventies Original version was cheesy.  As a kid I was a mouse, I loved cheese.  I saw the much maligned Star Wars Holiday Special too, once again not my speed, although at 10 I liked it.  I read a few of the Han Solo prequel novels and the Star Wars comic from Marvel.  I did not get too much into the expanded universe.

In 1980, my family was living on Adak, Alaska.  At the time it was a military base.  When Empire Strikes Back came to the island, everyone was at that theater watching.  In order to handle the demand they had multiple showings and even did Weekday and night showings.  It like its predecessor shocked and amazed me.  At the time the special effects were something we really had not seen the like.  Once again we bought the toys, hell we had a Star Wars slot car set.  I made my own Tie Fighter and X-Wing Fighter Models, well I assembled them.  They were the glue kind, previously I only had the snap on types.   I was blown away be the images again.  Lucas used a great deal of Japanese influences to the wardrobe and production design to movies. 

In 1983 I was 15; we were back in Oxnard California.  Return of the Jedi came out and was played at the Ventura Theater in Ventura, California.  The Ventura went through a major renovation.  It tried to hearken to the days it was a Movie Palace in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Not only was it a great film it was in an amazing theater.  This was also the first time I realized I was no longer the target audience of the film.  The Ewoks, I did not care for them I knew they were fodder for the younger crowd.  Even my 11 year old brother did not care for them.  This was supposed to be a family movie so, I let it go.  Once again I was spellbound by the scope, the effects and the production design. 

During the hiatus between the original series and the prequels, I did not really get into any of the Expanded Universe novels or comics.  I was a young adult in my twenties when they started to arrive.  I was not that interested.  To be fair I was not into the novels for Star Trek either.  I tried to play the Star Wars table top RPG from West End Games.  It was not for me.  Star Wars informed my creativity, but it was never the big thing for me.  When the prequels came out I was in my thirties.  The first one definitely was geared for a younger crowd.  I was not it; I still understood where they were coming from.  The next two were good.  I felt disconnected from Star Wars by this time.  Mind you, my brother, Mike, loved Star Wars.  He was more the Star Wars guy than the Star Trek Guy.  I was the opposite.  We work that way.  This just was not my Science Fiction franchise.  I do not hate Star Wars, I love it.  I have my issues with certain tenants in Jedi Philosophy.  It is just not the one that permeates my every fiber.  I am not sure if there is something that does that completely for me.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holidazed

In order to show some holiday cheer I am going to go through the songs/skits from my Holidazed Playlist. This is a mix of Comedy, Rock Holiday Songs and Classics.  This list includes a few not safe for work or the kids.  It follows my warped and twisted sense of humor.  There is quite a bit from Bob Rivers and Twisted Radio, as well as The Brian Setzer Orchestra.  Originally it was just the Humor and Rock Holiday songs, later I decided to include the Classics. 

1. Father Christmas by the Kinks English street thugs mugging Santa or as he is known in the U.K. Father Christmas. Proto Punk definitely.
2. No So Silent Night by Bob Rivers. This is from White Trash Christmas. A rockabilly-ish rendition.
3. All I want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) by Spike Jones. Classic Comedy Christmas Carol.
4. Silver and Gold by Burl Ives  A Christmas Classic from a folk superstar of the 40’s and 50’s.
5. The Chanukah Song by Adam Sandler. Yes I know it is over already this year. Still good stuff.
6. Nutcracker Suite by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. A Swing/ Rockabilly version of Tchaikovsky's Classic.
7. You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft. The original from the Chuck Jones Animated show.
8. Walkin' 'Round in Women's Underwear by Bob Rivers. Another Bob Rivers song. This one is hilariously irreverent.
9. Christmas All Over Again by Tom Petty. From a Very Special Christmas 2.
10. Christmas At Ground Zero by Weird Al Yankovic. A Weird Al holiday Classic.
11. Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses. One of the great 80's New Wave Christmas songs.
12. Baby Its Cold Outside by the Brian Setzer Orchestra with Anne Margaret.
13. Wreck the Malls by Bob Rivers.
14. Chiron Beta Prime by Jonathan Coulton. Robot Overlord and Christmas what's not to love.
15. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by U2.
16. I'll Be Home for Christmas by Bing Crosby. 
17. The Night Santa Went Crazy by Weird Al Yankovic. Santa goes on a Homicidal rage.
18. Christmas Time is Here Vocal by Vince Guaraldi. This is the classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
19. A Letter To Santa by Bob Rivers. Imagine Don Vito Corleone giving Kris Kringle an Offer he could not refuse.
20. The Chanukah Song Part 2 by Adam Sandler.
21. Sleigh Ride by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. A Swinging verson of this Classic.
22. Santa Claus and His Old Lady by Cheech and Chong. Cheech tries to explain Santa to Tommy Chong's Stoner Musician Character.
23. What is Eminem did Jingle Bells? by Bob Rivers. The Twisted Radio crew always funny and irreverent.
24. Christmas in Hollis by Run-DMC. The Original Hip Hop Holiday song.
25. Winter Wonderland by Tony Bennett. Another Classic.
26. Twelve Day of Christmas by Bob and Doug McKenzie. Five Golden Touques.
27. Merry F'n Christmas by Dennis Leary.
28. Aquaclaus by Bob Rivers. A Holiday version of Aqualung.
29. Blue Christmas by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Yes I am a big Fan of Brian Setzer Orchestra and Bob Rivers.
30. The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) by Nat King Cole. Mel Torme's Classic by its original artist.
31. The Chanukah Song Part 3 by Adam Sandler. This is the final version found on the Eight Crazy Days Soundtrack.
32. Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry. One of the Best Rock and Roll holiday songs by one of the Pioneers of Rock.
33. Linus and Lucy by Vince Guaraldi. Not officially a Holiday song. It did debut on Charlie Brown Christmas.
34. Goin' Up to Bethlehem by Bob Rivers. A Creedence Clearwater Revival styled Holiday song.
35. Happy Xmas (The War is Over) by John Lennon. Another Rock Holiday Classic.
36. Let it Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow by Dean Martin. The most iconic version of this song.
37. Getting in the Mood [For Christmas] by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. A holiday version of In the Mood, the Glen Miller Classic.
38. Christmas/ Sarajevo 12/24 (instrumental) by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Their first big single.
39. The Twelve Pains of Christmas by Bob Rivers. Bob Rivers gives us why the Holidays for some are hell.
40. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) by Alvin & the Chipmunks. For me it is not the Holidays till this song comes on.
41. Mr. Heatmiser by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. This is both the Heatmiser and Snowmiser songs in one. IT is by a band that was big in the Swing Revival of the late 1990's. The song is from the Rankin Bass classic The Year Without Santa Claus.
42. I Saw Three Ships by Sting.
43.  Blue Christmas by Elivs Presley.  This is another must have classic.  Not a huge Elvis fan, but my Dad is.
44.  Mele Kalikimaka by the Blue Hawaiians.  Bing Crosby's Classic by a Hawaiian style band.
45.  The "What's It To Ya" Chorus by Bob Rivers.  The Hallelujah Chorus with attitude.
46.  God Rest ye, Merry Gentleman by Loreena McKennitt.  A Classic done in a Celtic Folk Style.
47.  Wizards in Winter (instrumental) by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Great song but he video with the Christmas lights on someone's home even better.
48.  Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo & Patsy.  This is a Redneck Holiday Classic.
49.  Kidnap the Sandy Claws by Korn.  This is a cover from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
50.  Jingle Hells Bells by Bob Rivers.  An AC/DC styled holiday song.
51.  Who put the D*&# on the Snowman by Rodney Carrington.  This is a rude classic.
52.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra. What can I say?  It is Old Blue Eyes.  You need at least one Holiday song from Frank Sinatra. 
53.  Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt.  Madonna move over.  No one else does this song justice in my opinion.
54.  Manger 6 by Bob Rivers.  A Motel 6 commercial done for the Nativity.
55.  Christmas by Blues Traveler.
56.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Gene Autry.  The original version of this Classic. 
57.  I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Spike Jones.  Spike was known for his warped and wacky humor.
58.  Oi! to the World by The Vandals.  The Punk holiday classic.
59.  You're a Mean One. Mr. Grinch by The Brian Setzer Orchestra.  A great cover of the classic.
60.  I am Santa Claus by Bob Rivers.  A holiday song based on Black Sabbath's Iron Man.
61.  2000 Miles by the Pretenders.
62.  Good King Wenceslas by Loreena McKennitt.
63.  White Christmas by Bing Crosby.  If you are going to have the Classic originals in your list this is a must have.
64.  A Christmas Raid Carol by The Guild.  The Guild gets into Holiday Mode with this piece.
65.  Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys.  One cannot have lived in southern California after the 1960's and not heard this multiple time.  A Surf Rock Holiday Classic.
66.  A Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives.  Another song for a Rankin and Bass Animated Holiday Special.  This one was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. 
67.  Oiche Chiun (Silent Night) by Enya.  Silent Night is Irish Gaelic.  Don't ask me how it is pronounced. 
68.  Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms.  Considered as one of the first Rock and Roll Holiday song by many.
69. Christmas Ain’t About Me by the Doubleclicks  A wonderful Holiday song about going from being an only child to the elder child.
70.  Back Door Santa by John Popper.  The lead singer of Blues Traveler tries to blues up the holidays.
71.  Christmas is the Time to say "I Love You" by Billy Squier.  An 80's Rock Holiday Classic.
72.  Christmas in Hell by Satan, Dark Prince.  This is from South Park.  If I am going to have some warped Holiday songs this one is a definite choice.
73.  Christmastime by Smashing Pumpkins.
74.  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/ We Three Kings (with Sarah McLachlan) by Barenaked Ladies. 
75.  Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid.  The first big Benefit Supergroup.
76.  Pretty Paper by Willie Nelson.
77.  Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee.
78.  Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano.  The Spanish/ English holiday classic.
79.  Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth by Bing Crosby & David Bowie.  A wonderful Holiday song that bridged two generations.
80.  Hava Nagila by Dick Dale.  Surf Rock does a Classic Jewish Celebratory song.
81.  Thank God It's Christmas by Queen.  Queen plus Holidays what's not to love.
82. Old Toy Trains by Roger Miller. A country classic Christmas song
83.  Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town by Bruce Springsteen.
84.  Ave Maria + Intro by Eleven.
85.  Oi to the World by No Doubt.  No Doubt's cover of the Vandals Classic.
86.  God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen by Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, & Simon Wright. A metal version of the classic
87. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by John Mellencamp.
88.  Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney.
89.  The Christmas Guest by Johnny Cash. A Classic Christmas tale
90.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by The Pretenders..
91.   Lucky Too by Bob Neuwirth It is about Christmas in Las Vegas.
92.  Fairytale in New York by the Pogues.  A Classic Holiday song from the quintessential Celtic Punk band.
93. Don’t Shoot Me Santa by the Killers. A strange and haunting song about Killers and Santa.
94. Baby It’s Cold Outside (The Hoth Version) by Kirby Krackle and the Doubleclicks.  A Holiday Classic meets a Galaxy Far Far Away.
95. Snoopy’s Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen.  Snoopy, the Red Baron and Christmas what is not to love?
96. The Chanukah Song Part 4 b Adam Sandler. His fourth installment about Chanukah.
97. Snow Miser-Heat Miser by Dick Shawn and George S. Irving. The original Classic from the Year Without Santa Claus Rankin-Bass special.
98.  I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Jimmy Boyd. The Original recording of this song.
99. Frosty the Snowman by Jimmy Durante. The classic from the Rankin-Bass special.
100. Run Run Rudolph by Lemmy Kilmister, Dave Grohl & Billy F. Gibbons. A Metal take on Chuck Berry's Classic.
101. If We Make It Through December by Merle Haggard. A Country Classic.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Bit of Reflection

December 12th, 2013, is the second anniversary of me ending the long term relationship with Barbara.  I may not have accomplished as much as I had hoped this year.  I have still done quite a bit.  I have changed the way I react to stress.  This last summer there was a lot of turmoil going on.  Most of it had to do with something that was beyond my control.  Instead of freaking out about it, I learned to be Zen about things.  I have been working with my family and counseling to get back on my feet.  As I am writing this I am unemployed.  I left, there were things at play that made me believe that I may not have been there long anyway.  I struggled with the fact that I was physically not cut out for that job. When I left my boss offered to be a reference.  I did things on my on terms. That has been the theme since I regained the reins of my life 

This last year has cemented the fact that I am making very solid connections in the Nerd/ Geek Community in Portland, Oregon.  There are things about the scene that frustrate me; regardless there are people who call me their friend.  That makes me feel real good. I have a little boy, my nephew Zeke, who lights up every time I enter the room.  I have done a lot of the things I wanted to this year: the final year of Trek in the Park, Wonder NW, Stumptown Comics Fest, Rose City ComicCon, FrightTown, Pirate Night at the Space Room, Monster Kid Radio Crash, Guardian Games Anniversary, Grand Re-Opening, Went to more signing at Things from another World and Bridge City Comics, First Rush Concert, First Podcast Guesting spot with In One Day Radio, sat in on a taping of Funemployment Radio, a few more shows at Sequential Art Gallery + Studio, Trek in the Dark, and Cort and Fatboy is Dead.  I am hoping within a year I will find work and a place in the Portland Metro area. I set a goal in February for Blog articles and completed it with a month to spare.   In a year my blog has almost 1700 hits from it inception, most 1600 of it was this year alone. 

In 2012, I wondered if anything I did created good in the world. I was still struggling with changes in my life. This year I was told repeatedly I mattered and was respected. Members of the Portland Geek/ Nerd community let me know I was one of them and always welcome. New friendships were made that I believe will last. A young man I mentored during the beginning of the darker days with Barbara returned in my life to inform me I had positive influence on him.  On the last day of Counseling, I was told by the person I was getting counseling from that they were proud of my achievements. They even gave me a list of what they were proud of. Recently a Facebook friend, whom I met at a geek event which was impetus for me to take back my life, told me she admired me. This is by no means all the positive feedback I have received this year. It has made me feel so ready to take on the world and my future. 3 years ago, if you told me that this would happen I would have thought you were pulling my leg.

I am by no means saying that I do not need any more work done growth wise.  I am still mending spiritually, mentally, and psychologically.  I am still a work in progress and I have learned so much about myself.  I know I am still not ready for a relationship beyond friendship.  Will I ever be ready?  I honestly do not know.  Does it matter? At this point, it does not.  I need to still find out who I am and who I want to be.  That may sound a bit clich├ęd, but it holds true for me at this moment.  I gave up a lot of myself over 14 years and it will be a time before I have completely healed.  I am healing and it is an on going process.  My friends and family have made this journey easier for me.  Many of these friends were made in the last year and a half.  The funny thing is I am glad things are not going where I thought they would.  The unpredictability of life is great.  I am still learning to let it happen and how to make it happen, but never force it to happen.  I am so glad of where I am, I cannot wait to see what is next. I give thanks to everyone and everything that has blessed me so.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Charles De Lint & Me

Through the years I have had two authors whose work I was totally enamored with.  One I outgrew in my twenties, Piers Anthony, the other I still follow today, Charles de Lint.  Usually in the Pop Culture and Me retrospectives I got through what years things happened.  I do not remember exact dates I will try to get it as close to the period.  Warning: folks this may be spoiler heavy depending on your definition.  I personally do not get upset about spoilers, it is the journey that matters not the destination.  It all started in 1994 Moonheart.  I had found its sequel Spiritwalk, but would not read it till I got the first book.  I finally found a new edition in 94.  Its idea that magic is still here in the modern era if we just know where to look spoke volumes to me.  At the time I was discovering my spiritual path in paganism and shamanism. Many of the themes Mr. de Lint wrote about were what I truly believed on a spiritual level. 

During this time I had also discovered Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale Series.  It was a series of Fairy Tale re-imaginings.  Each book was a different author.  When I got to Charles de Lint’s Jack the Giant Killer I could not find it, however there was a new release that collected Jack the Giant Killer with its sequel novella Drink Down the Moon.  His ideas that to most the magical is seen as mundane and only the lucky few can see the true magic beneath all things clearly resonated with me.

Later I discovered a collection of his Newford Stories called Dreams Underfoot.  I have been known to buy spare copies of this to give to friends.  It was my introduction to de Lint’s invented city of Newford.  One where Americans thinks it is Canadian and Canadians think it is American.  That is because Mr. de Lint, a Canadian, took attributes from both cultures in his city and still to this day has never said where it is exists.  That only increases the otherworldly quality of the setting.  It exists neither here nor there and in both all at the same time.  This collection introduced me to Jilly Coppercorn, a recurring character and the concept of the children of the secret.  In De Lint’s work the children of the secret are those who have suffered abuse, physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or a combination of all the above as children.  As someone who fits the bill this spoke to me and my experiences. 

I continued to read his works; the short story collections were wonderful.  I read Yarrow, Greenmantle, Svaha, and Memory and Dream.  Then I got to another favorite, Trader.  With my recent experiences, I need to re-read it. Trader is about a luthier, guitar maker, in his middle years.  He has become too stagnant in his life and other than his work he has not created connections to other people and the community at large.  In comes in a young man who is in serious trouble and finds a way to switch bodies.  The story is about creating connection with people and that without them we are rudderless and adrift.  With me losing so much of myself in my old relationship I can see what the Author meant even more now, than before.  That is the reason I probably should revisit this novel. 

I later read another favorite Someplace to be Flying.  It follows the First Nations/ Native American myths of the First Tribes or Animal People.  It follows a feud between the Corvids (Crows, Ravens, Jays, Rooks and Etc.) and the Canids (Wolf, Dog, Coyote and Fox).  It weaves Native American Myths with modern sensibilities.  It also handles how some people do not feel they fit in and how they find their “tribe.”  Many of Charles de Lint’s books cover the theme of how our relationships define us.  Sometimes they do for the better and sometimes they do for the worse.  I enjoy authors whose works deal with relationships and how they affect us, inspire us, and impact us.  I continued to read more of his books including two traditional fantasy novels Harper of the Grey Rose and Into the Green.  Later I read Little County, Mulengro and Forests of the Heart.

Then I started Spirit in the Wires.  This book took me almost 5 years to read.  Part of the reason it took so long was the deterioration of my relationship with my ex, Barbara.  This book I had to take breathers, because the subject matter was so heavy I needed time to digest it.  The story centers on the idea of what is reality and who is real.  Two main characters came into existence not in the typical way.  One was born from a Spirit that existed on the internet.  The other was a shadow, the parts of a person that are cast off who became real in the Dream Lands/ Otherworld/ Spiritworld.  These people came to our consentual reality and exist in it.  Does that make them less real?  These are the kinds of themes that play in this novel. 

The next two novels were related books they cover the character of Jilly Coppercorn.  They are Onion Girl and Widdershins.  I read one and listened to one on audio book.  I read Spirit in the Wires between them, but I am putting them together because of the common main character. Onion Girl covers how Jilly’s past comes back to bite her in the ass.  She deals with her family and her tragic history.  Mr. de Lint furthers his concept of the children of the secret and covers much of the implied history of Jilly.  Through many short stories we know she had been abused, homeless, a prostitute and a drug addict. She cleaned up her act and became an artist and a community leader. Onion Girl deals with her healing some of her connections.  Widdershins goes on with its theme of healing scars that keep us from being with our soul mate.  Jilly and her friends are very compelling characters, they remind me of my friends and acquaintances in the Portland Geek creative community.  I have been reading a series of short stories de Lint has released for the Kindle I am by no means caught up to all his books.  His sense of wonder and melding the mythologies from Celtic lore and Native American Lore is fascinating.   He is able to ground magic in the real and make the mundane world seem magical.  This is My Not So Humble Opinion. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Podcasty Goodness

So here I thought I was done with writing up various podcasts.  Then I remembered all the podcasts I loved that were either in long hiatus or finite, meaning there was a limited amount of episodes.  There are also some here that were really new when I wrote the last podcast article.   There also are some good podcasts I enjoyed but did not have the time to stay on.  This batch is heavy with Podcast Novels, Podiobooks or Podcast Dramas.  These are all terms for the same thing, these works can be single narrator, be it the author or a hired gun, or a partial to full cast audio/ Podcast/ podio drama.  As said previously many of the Podcast Authors have released their works as e-books on Amazon or Smashwords.  Whether or not, you listen to the audio format of their works; I would suggest get the e-books too.  Many of these podcasters have been doing it for years.  Remember podcasting is so diverse you will eventually find something you like.  Just about most of the Podcast novels are not kid safe either in Audio format or their e-books versions either.


Fantastic Disaster

Robert Wagner, Portland’s own Podcast Guru, is back.  He just cannot stay away from podcasting.  This new show is weekly and clocks in between a half hour to an hour.  It is Robert’s musing based on current event or things that he notices in his own life.  He includes a few musical interludes in this new format.  Robert does not suffer fools lightly, so some of his observations can be highly charged with his pinpoint acerbic wit.  The show is extremely thought provoking and entertaining.

UPDATE:  Sadly Fantastic Disaster only lasted 6 episodes and six weeks.  The site is shut down and none of the shows are available at this time.


The Metamor City Podcast/ The Raven and the Writing Desk

Chris Lester is the author behind this feed.  It is a collection of short stories, novellas, and novels set in his world Metamor City.  Imagine a fantasy setting allowed to progress to the 21st Century and that is what you have with Metamor City.  It is Urban Fantasy with elements of Cyberpunk and Steampunk.  The various works go from single reader narration to full cast audio dramas.  Of the podcast novelists out there Chris Lester is one of my favorites.  Here is a warning the feed does have gaps between works.  This is due to the Author writing, then working to get the show produced.  There is a large amount archived so it will take a while to get through.  On May 10th 2015, after a long hiatus Chris Lester returned to the Metamor City Podcast feed with a new Podcast called the Raven and the Writing Desk.  Now instead of a full cast audio drama, Chris is narrating his works, talking about the writing process and progress, and things somewhere in between.


Mur Lafferty

Mur Lafferty like Scott Sigler is a Podcasting and Podcast Novel Juggernaut.  Her Podcasts include, I Should Be Writing, Angry robot Podcast, Escape Pod, Geek Fu Action Grip, Princess Scientist’s Book Club, and Pseudopod.  As a Podcast Novelist her works are The Shambling Guide to New York City, The Afterlife Series, Playing for Keeps, Marco and the Red Granny, and The Takeover.  Most of her work is available on Podiobooks.com.  She has a very wry sense of humor and that shows in her work.  In her Afterlife series she destroys the universe and rebuilds it multiple times.  As one of the Podcast pioneers with Tee Morris and Scott Sigler, she is one to watch and read.  Her archive is available through subscription.  Check her work out and if you like it buy it, I have.


Movie BS with Bayer & Snider

Movie BS with Bayer and Snider is a Movie reviewing podcast with two Portland area Movie Critics, Eric D. Snider and Jeff Bayer.  Even though the reviews themselves are fairly serious, the host do not take themselves too serious.  They give their audience a silly, fun and wonderful time.  They have various regular segments.  They do not care if they are silly they embrace it.  So I would suggest that you try their brand of Movie Tomfoolery.


Antithesis Progression/ Literary Abominations/ Down with Ten

J. Daniel Sawyer is another prolific podcast novelist.  He has podcasted many of his works and has non-fiction podcasts too.  His Feeds and shows are Antithesis Progression, Literary Abominations (which is his Uber Feed), Down with Ten, Sculpting God, The Polyschizmatic Reprobates Hour and many podcasted literary works.  I liken Mr. Sawyer like a 21st Century Rod Serling, I mean the writer part not the host.  His work looks at our condition and uses genre to heighten what needs to change and what is so great about us.  Half of his work is solo narration, the other half like Down from Ten is a full cast audio drama.


James Durham/ FETIDUS

James Durham is known for FETIDUS (The Foundation for the Ethical Treatment of the Innocently Damned, Undead and Supernatural) a podcast Audi Drama set in a post-apocalyptic Supernatural Thriller.  This is very Noir in tone.  It has an almost Horror-Noir feeling to this.  It is set in Washington DC in 2034.  James is working on the second season.  It is a very gritty setting as well as the first story line of the series.


Podiobooks.com

Podiobooks.com is a website whose founders include podcasters Evo Terra and Tee Morris.  There reason I support this site is that it hosts various Podcast novels.  These novels are either read by author or Narrator, or partial or full cast audio dramas.  All the books here are free, however donations to the authors are highly recommended by the site’s staff and me.  They also take public domain works and give them new narration as audio books too.  The site covers most genres and just about every audience.  Check this site out; it is definitely worth a listen.


Murder at Avedon Hill/ Tales of the Children/ SpecFicMedia/ P.G. Holyfield


P.G. Holyfield started with his fantasy murder mystery Murder at Avedon Hill.  The he continued with Tales of the Children an Anthology that covers the deities of the Murder at Avedon Hill Universe.  Two or so years ago he founded SpecFicMedia, which started with the Beyond the Wall Game of Thrones podcast.  He also is a host on the new panel show Consumption also on SpecFicMedia.   Holyfield’s fiction is very moody and atmospheric.  He was very capable of fusing Mystery with fantasy without either genre suffering any issues.  He is a wonderful host and worth the listen.  UPDATE:  With the Passing of P.G. Holyfield in 2014, SpecFic Media is the only feed still up.  Murder at Avedon Hill is still available at Podiobooks.


Patrick E. McLean

Patrick started with his The Seanachai podcast.  It was short stories, observations and humor.  He then did his How to Succeed in Evil Podcast novel and Unkillable podcast novel.  His work has many elements of humor in them.  His wry wit is clear in all his work.  Like many of the other Podcast novelist his work is available in e-book formats.   He is not kid friendly, but he is a whole lot of fun.


Michele Roger/ Dark Matter/ Something Wicked This Way Strums/ The Conservatory

Michele Roger is a Horror Podcast Novelist so far she has put out two novels, Dark Matter and The Conservatory; and a collection of short stories, Something Wicked This Way Strums.  She is also a professionally trained Harpist.  This comes out more in The Conservatory.  Some of her choices in direction are unconventional.  Her work has a sense of wonder as well as dread. 

UPDATE: This site and Michele's work are no longer up.  However her works are for sale on Amazon in Kindle format.  Some are also available in Dead tree.

Jared Axelrod

Jared Axelrod is a prolific Podcast writer and Podcaster.  He has been involved or podcasted the following: 365 Tomorrows, Fables of the Flying City, The Voice of Free Planet X, and Aliens You Will Meet.  Jared and his wife, J.R. Blackwell, are pinnacles of the podcast fiction community.  They have been known to frequent both Dragon-Con and Balti-Con.  He is a greater writer and performer; do not just take my word for it.

These are some of the more glaring omissions I left out.   I have listened to many more Podcast Authors.  With Podiobooks.com, you can find the ones you like.  That is what I did and It worked for me.  Is this the last write-up piece form me.  I cannot say; saying never seems to be a mistake I can avoid.  This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monster Movies & Me

I have an interesting history with monster/horror Movies. For a time, they freaked me out. I blame one man for that - Christopher Lee. For a little kid growing up in the 70s, Hammer films were everywhere. Christopher Lees portrayal of Dracula was scary, seductive, and menacing. It freaked me out. That man scared the living bejeezuz out of me. In college, I went back and watched the Hammer films and discovered their allure. I love them now, but if seven-year-old Rick saw Christopher Lee on the street, would have pissed himself in fear. There was a movie that also terrorized me as a kid was 1975's Trilogy of Terror starring Karen Black. It is a three act anthology movies with Ms. Black starring as different characters in each segment. The act with the Zuni Fetish doll scared me beyond belief it was a total wig out moment when I saw it. Another thing that got me was a trailer It’s Alive. I never saw the movie just the trailer and to a six year old me that was enough to traumatize. It was about evil mutant babies and if you are a younger kid who has baby sibling you know that is not too far off from reality at least in a little kid's mind.

Let us start in the beginning. I used to check out those Crestwood Monster Movie books as a kid. I thought they were cool. I loved a lot of horror comedies like the Abbott and Costello Meets series, Mad Monster Party, The Addams Family, and The Munsters. I could handle the Universal monster movies, Vincent Price films, Roger Corman films, Ray Harryhausen films, Godzilla movies, and a great deal of the sixties schlocky films. Like all young boys, I thought they were cool and neat. Ray Harryhausen was a childhood hero of mine. I was fascinated with the Sinbad movies he did, as well as with Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Many of his movies were more action and adventure and less horror. Now, I was more into super heroes than monsters, but many monsters are found in comics, too. Vincent Prices element of camp made his movies a bit more palatable. That may have worked for me, allowing me to laugh at what scared me. My mom let me read the kid-friendly monster books from Harvey Comics - Casper, Wendy, Spooky, and Hot Stuff. Those were easier on me than some of the other stronger scary comics.

I grew up in and out of hospitals and as a little boy, I knew what real horror could be. The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock, Outer Limits, and Hammer horror films freaked me out, maybe due to their intense emotional content. I just know that I could not watch them for the longest time. My uncle was a huge fan of the Warren horror comics, EC reprints, DC, and Marvel horror lines. I was able to handle those because of they were hand drawn. In 1982, I went to see Poltergeist in the theater, and this was the rekindling of my love of monster and horror movies, television, books, and comics. I got into the Nightmare and Elm Street films, the Return of the Living Dead films, and so much more.

As a teenager, I discovered that according to certain Eastern European superstitions, I would have been expected to become either a werewolf or a vampire just because I have a cleft lip and palate. This made me curious in my twenties. I watched and read many vampire- and werewolf--based media, including the White Wolf World of Darkness role-playing game setting. As an adult, I began to see a trend in which the monsters were not the real evil; humanity was. This was through the Clive Barker film Nightbreed and many of the Zombie media as well. With my experiences as a young child this was not refuted. I started going back and checking out those things that scared me as a little kid: Hammer Films, Twilight Zone (I watched those when I was 13), Outer Limits and Alfred Hitchcock. I began to read Horror, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Mythic Fiction. I saw that the line between these genres were thin. Charles De Lint and Clive Barker often blurred the lines between them often.

The theme of what is the true monster - the other or us - is a theme from the ages and it continues today. These monster movies can be used to tell allegories we otherwise would not be able to handle. Sometimes understanding our darker nature as a species is not easy. My history with monsters in movies went from the safe as a kid, to the more philosophical as an adult. With certain childhood experiences and even certain adult ones, I learned what true monsters were. Using the supernatural, horrific and grotesque to examine these ideas in a safe forum, we are able to ask and answer some very hard questions about ourselves and our natures. That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Iconography

Recently there has been a metric ton of controversy over the recent Idea from Andrew Garfield about Spider-Man being bisexual.  There also was quite a bit of hubbub over the casting of Laurence Fishburn as Perry White and years earlier Michael Clark Duncan as Kingpin.  The question has come about whether changing a character’s race, creed, gender, and sexuality takes away from the character.  Does it even matter?  This type of stuff has been done; it is interesting when it becomes evident how bad our collective memories are.   DC has their Elseworlds imprint.  It was an anything goes idea.  They re-imagined DC’s Iconic characters.  They had all the superheroes in World War Two were O.S.S. Agents, Civil War Batman and Superman, Victorian Era Wonder Woman and the list goes on.  The DC Multiverse includes a Gender reversed world.  One pre-Crisis of the Infinite Earths world had a racially diverse Justice League. 

The controversy all seems to begin with the introduction of the second Spider-man in the Ultimate Marvel Universe.  He is Miles Morales, who is of Hispanic and African-American descent.  There were rumors he would be gay as well.  Some people were upset a person of color was Spider-man.  Some people thought why change an Iconic character.  First they did not make Peter Parker African-American.  Second this not in the main Marvel Universe, but the Ultimate Marvel Universe.  They were treating Spider-man as a Legacy character.  That means many people become that hero passing it down from on generation to another.  There were a number of folks who said why not make a new character all together instead of try to make Spider-Man politically correct.  I understand the reason to use an existing character to do this.  The case example is Nick Fury.  How many folks know that he originally was Caucasian?  In the Ultimate Marvel Universe he was introduced as African-American.  His Original appearance was more like Will Smith, which was until Bryan Hitch drew him in The Ultimates, and then he resembled Samuel L. Jackson.  When Marvel started their big Film push they hire Mr. Jackson to play that role.  In the regular Marvel universe they introduced Nick Fury, Jr. That character looks an awful lot like Samuel L. Jackson too.  It can be done.  Mind you Nick Fury is a second tier A-list Marvel Character.  The mainstream is not as familiar with him. I think that making a fictional work more diverse is a good thing.  Using already established Icons instead of creating new characters from scratch is the issue sometimes. 

Some folks are too attached to their fictional heroes.  Superman has been African-American in some Alternate reality stories.  In one version of the Squadron Supreme Marvel’s DC Stand in characters, their version of Batman, Nighthawk was Black.  With Erotic Lives of the Superheroes by Marco Mancassola has become big news among comic book folks. This is due to its portrayal of Batman and Robin as a gay couple. I do not have a problem with that. I have a problem that based on the ages when most Robins started as his partners that would make him a pedophile. The Geek community is freaking. They forget that Dr. Fredric Wertham leveled this accusation back in the Fifties. Even Rick Veitch satirized this in Bratpack with Midnight Mink and Chippy. People are upset their favorite is portrayed as gay. Mind you this is an independent writer and it is a book of prose. Disney and Time-Warner have yet to do legal battle; I would not be surprised if they do. I think it is funny everyone is looking at the homosexuality and not the child abuse angle of this. I have not read the book and may not. To me at first sight seems to be written for shock value although the author denies this. 

The reason why there is the idea to do it with the bigger icons instead of create newer characters from scratch is profile.  Newer characters do not have the history or the name recognition.  Publishers can also bury lesser characters.  The Mexican-American Blue Beetle has lost his title twice.  This is due to sales not quality according to DC Comics.  This was also a Tier one B-list character, but a popular one.  Mixing up the cultures of characters, having more high profile female character, even more LGBT characters would show how really diverse our world really is.  Here is an example that upset people: since 1988, Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl has been a paraplegic.  She became the superheroes hack extraordinaire Oracle.  Although she was physically challenged she still was contributing to the Superhero Community.  She also still kicked ass.  In the fall of 2011, DC revamped their world, and cured Ms. Gordon of her paraplegia.  Many in the disabled community were upset.  She had become a symbol of self reliance and capability to those in wheelchairs.  DC had other characters become Batgirl; heck, Ms. Gordon was not the first to have that Moniker.  Barbara was the most visible and memorable of the Batgirls.  Still her life as Oracle had become very popular as well. 

An example of successful re-imagining was the Modern version of Batwoman.   The original was created in the Fifties to battle Dr. Wertham’s theories about Batman.  The character was recreated for a Modern era in 2006.  This time she was a lesbian as well as Jewish and a socialite.  Greg Rucka wrote the character in many of her earlier exploits, he is credited with fully flushing out a complete character.  Initially the character was received with mixed reaction.  After seven years, it is accepted as part of the character.  During this time they also present Batman supporting character Renee Montoya as Lesbian as well.  Not just Lesbian, but in an on again off again relationship with the Modern Batwoman.  Montoya later became the second vigilante character known as the Question.  That part has changed post New 52, Montoya is not the Question.  As far as I know Montoya has yet to appear in the New 52.  Once again these were not any major big name characters.

In the late Seventies early Eighties Roy Thomas suggested that the Earth-1 version of Captain Marvel/ Shazam be African American.  They were going to go with the name Captain Thunder which was the originally proposed name of the character.  They dropped because another publisher, I believe National Periodicals (DC’s name in the thirties and forties), had a character with that name.  Honestly I think it would have been nice.  A Major Tier 1 A-Lister being African American would have been cool.  In various Elseworlds books they have went back to that.  Here is an interesting thing.  We have had a Black Green Lantern; Heck there is a generation of people thanks to the Justice League Animated Series who see that character as their Green Lantern.  It difference is they did not make Hal Jordan Black; they introduced another character with a Green Lantern Ring.  This is much like what was done with the Ultimate Spider-man or the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle.  They did create a new character, but the used the Superhero persona of a previous character.  That seems to be a compromise.  Still some people claim political correctness. 

One fact pointed out in various articles, when Peter Parker was created in the early Sixties a White kid from Queens was not unusual.  Today based on that area’s ethnic make up he would stand out.  A higher percentage people of color are affected by crime than their Caucasian counterparts.  It then would be more likely for a vigilante to be a person of Color based on that.  I am not saying there are not economically challenged White people.  I am saying if you go be percentages.  That is partly due to the difference in socio-economics between the various racial and ethnic groups.  When these characters were created America did not seem as diverse as it appears to be now.

Here is my final point.  Does it really matter what Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexual Orientation or other defining characteristic these characters have?  Does it need to stay static?  Honestly I do not believe so.  As a culture changes so does its heroes as villains.  It is nice when I see that reflected.  Is this new? No, it is not things change to reflect where we, human being, are in a certain point in history.  Are some people too attached to their Pop Culture Icons?  Definitely, in time the change will be part of the main culture.  Nick Fury, John Stewart (Green Lantern) and Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle) show us that change can become part of the culture at large.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Child of the Seventies

I was born in 1968, but I grew up mostly in the 1970’s.  When the 80’s rolled in I was 11, so my teen years were in that decade.  As a child of the 70’s there are things I experienced that succeeding generations take as a given that were new.  The Seventies saw the beginning of really merchandising to kids.  Now it occurred before that, but after 1977 and Star Wars that changed.  The Toy licensing of Star Wars is interesting.  In 1977 Lucasfilms approached Mego, a toy company known for licensing various properties into toylines.  They did the DC and Marvel 8 inch figures; they also did Happy Days, CHiPs, Star Trek: The Original Series and many more.  The President of Mego refused saying he did not want to be known for licensing every B Science Fiction Movie.  So Lucasfilms went to Kenner and they took it, that lead to Kenner becoming a powerhouse in the Toy Industry.  Kenner later became part of Hasbro.  Mego went out of business in 1982.  They were a top Toy company in the seventies. 

In the Seventies, Toys were made from characters from TV, Movies, and Comic Books.  By the 1980’s TV Shows, Comic Books and other merchandise were made from toy lines.  That led to many concerns that animated TV shows in the 80’s were thirty minute commercials.  Star Wars helped come up with the idea of anything was game to license for merchandising to kids.  My brother owned the Jaws game that was made in the Seventies.  In the Seventies businesses really began to understand how media affected kids.  A positive spin on this is Children’s Workshop using advertising techniques to teach kids with the advent of Sesame Street.  ABC did this also with Schoolhouse Rock.  Advertisers both in positive and negative ways began to really target kids more in the 70’s.  It did not hurt that the saturation of media as we know started to go into overdrive in that decade as well.  It was not just Television and Film, radio and the Music industry started to target the tweens during this time with Michael Jackson, Donny Osmond, David and Shaun Cassidy, Lief Garret and many more. 

The Seventies are when we saw people advertise their tastes with their clothes.  This is when the TV and film tie in T-shirts began.  There were also shops that made custom shirts using vinyl decals and heavy duty presses.  With more stores carrying the screen printed work these types of places went away by the mid Nineties.  Before the Seventies one brand was really big in Athletic shoes, Converse; by the mid Seventies they had major competition form Adidas, Puma, Nike, and up and comer Vans.  The late Seventies saw the advent of the designer Jeans, before that Levis and Lees ruled denim.  Many of these trends still exist today.

The Seventies with the rise of the FM station was when music had long shelf lives.  Songs released years ago would be re-released as singles again if the act was increasing in popularity.  Dream On by Aerosmith only charted to 59 on the U.S. charts when it first was released in 1973. After the success of Toys in the Attic in 1975, it was re-released and went as high as 6 in the U.S.  When I was in high school a song from almost 10 years earlier were on the pop stations.    In the early eighties a lot of the early Punk and New Wave songs that came out in the mid to late Seventies were still on the radio.  So when I was creating certain play lists based on chronology I was surprised by the actual release date of some of the music. Today music seems more transitory having a shelf life of months or weeks as opposed to years. 

It seems that all Popular Culture is losing itself shelf life due to easy accessibility.  Movies from the Thirties, Forties, Fifties Sixties and even ones released a few years prior remained in Theaters especially Drive Ins.  That is something many Children of succeeding decades will have missed out in.  By the Eighties over half of the Drive-In Theaters closed down.  This is due to the rise of the huge Multiplex theaters in urban and suburban areas.  In many was Drive-In Theaters were more Communal in nature.  People would socialize during the Intermissions.  In some case almost have a tailgate party.  Luckily I live in an area were we have a Drive-In with in 5 miles.  They still play the older movies there, in the last few years we have seen Creature of the Black Lagoon and The Warriors on the Big Screen.  Drive-Ins were a major part of American Popular Culture between the late 1940’s and the 1970’s.  In Ventura County California where I grew up the City of Ventura had a large Drive-In that had 3 screens.

As I said Earlier I think the Seventies is when the media started targeting the Tweens (9-12) and early teens which is also the Junior High/ Middle School set.  This is when the Young Adult Literature movement started to really take off.  The momentum of it started in the late Sixties with S.E. Hinton.  She helped continue the movement with more books in the Seventies.  Without this previous history we may not have had Harry Potter or the Hunger Games.  Those adult who read Young Adult Literature as Tweens and Teens, are now Adults reading Young Adult Literature.  They know the label does not mean lower quality. 

As a Child of the Seventies I have seen many changes in the way media affects us.  I have seen the continued marketing targeting younger and younger people.  Mass consumerism seems to continue to this day.  I am still not sure how I feel about it.  This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What’s in A Name Again?

Funny thing, I finally post my examination the Origins of this Blog, A Recovering Ubergeek.  I realized I was not done.  I realized another meaning to this title.  I am recovering from an abusive situation and I am an Ubergeek.  This meaning was implied in the last article on the subject.  I felt though it needed to be obvious.  This post will be fairly short.  I am a survivor of abuse and this most recent period, a fourteen year relationship, was the worst in my experience.  At the time I was unable to truly see it for what it was.  I was too close to the situation.  I allowed someone to make me responsible for everything in both our lives without any real decision making power.  I gave up too much of what made me who I was.  That has led to where I am I now; trying to figure out who I am and who I want to be.  The overwhelming problem is not what can’t I do but deciding from the infinite possibilities.  The funny thing is that this is in many ways a wonderful problem to have.

In the Future, I am going to be more about self interest.  That does not mean I am putting myself above others in a negative way.  It means I will not subsume my necessities to the point I have in the past.  I will not give up my necessities or parts of myself to please others.  I will surround myself with people who would never ask for that.  I will do better about boundaries my own and others.  I will let things happen in their own time not my own.  No rushing any relationship, be it a friendship or an intimate relationship.  People will need to accept the whole me, including that dorky nerdy Ubergeek part of myself; especially that part of me.  If people are not interested in getting to know me, I will let it go.  If it is meant to happen it will happen.  Forcing things never works.  What I left is proof of that.  I also need to remember sometimes the destination is not always the most important thing.  Sometimes the Journey itself is everything.  Well That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rush & Me

Sometime in late 1981 or early 1982 I discovered a band that blew my mind.  One whose music and lyric sung to my heart and resonated with me ever since.  The band was Rush and the album that kicked it all off form me was Moving Pictures.  My Uncle Bob is 8 years my senior and my Cousin Steve is 4 years my senior.  These two introduced to most of the rock acts from the seventies and sixties.  However Rush was one of the first I discovered without either of them.  I am not saying neither knew of Rush, they did.  I just never heard it from them.  When most Rush biographers talk two albums are considered their seminal work.  The later of the two is Moving Pictures, the former being 2112.  So when my journey with the band started I chose well.  I followed with their live album Exit… Stage Left, then Signals and Grace Under Pressure.   I started to go back in their catalog first with 2112.  By the time I left the University of Oregon I had all their studio albums to that point, 1991.  After Counterparts in 1993, I drifted away.  I heard but did not buy their 2002 album Vapor Trails.  I was there for Feedback their cover EP in 2004. It was not until 2011 did I go back and get caught up with all their studio albums.  I still do not own all their live albums.  I started to want to look back at my history with this band after I heard they were to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.  I also finally was able to get tickets to a concert of theirs after 32 years of being a fan. 

What is it about Rush that I love?  Musically they can go from complex to simple in a flash.  Their mastery of their instruments especially Neil Peart, the drummer, is beyond anything.  They have one of the tightest rhythm sections in all of Rock.  They never rest on their laurel their music changes with the time and them, but do not lose their core identity.  Geddy Lee is incredibly talented being able to sing, play bass and keyboards with in the same song not always at the same time.  Neil Peart is a drumming machine; he grasps complex syncopations and rhythms.  Alex Lifeson complements the others whereas other guitarists would take over the spotlight.  With Rush one can truly say they are the sum of their parts.  It would not be the same without any one member.  This is extremely evident if you listen to their debut Album Rush.  That album is the only album in which Neil Peart was not on.  If you listen to their next Album Fly By Night, the first album with Peart, you can see the foundation that followed the band throughout their career. 

Thematically their early music was like a lot of Hard Rock in the Seventies, in that there were a great deal of Fantasy and Science Fiction References.  This is even more so since many consider Rush Progressive or Prog Rock.  In that Genre of Fantasy and Science Fiction themes and stories are abundant.  There are also many songs that cover the subjects of individualism, self determination and struggle of the Individual versus the desires of the group.  Neil Peart is the primary Lyricist and even though he did not have any higher education, he grasps many philosophical and political concepts.  He is proof that education does not always equal intelligence.  Their songs also handle personal responsibility and how we perceive things in society, media and popular culture.  Musically they have traversed various genres, Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk, Synth Pop, Techno and so much more.  Not only are they innovators, but they have taken styles of the day and put their spin on them.

I went to their show at the Clark County Amphitheater in Clark County, Washington on July the 28th, 2013.  I went with my brother Mike and my Uncle Bob.  Before the show Mike and I watched the Induction of Rush to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Taylor Hawkins of The Foo Fighters said that Neil Peart’s drumming was melodic.  Neil proved that in the show with a song called Percussor.  The song replaced drum beats with notes.  It was a phenomenal piece proving what most Rush fans already knew.  He proved it before with YYZ which the opening notes and rhythm is the Morse code for Toronto’s Airport which YYZ is its designation.  Toronto is Rush’s home.  They played nine of the twelve songs from Clockwork Angels, their newest album.  That album has a string section and that section played at the show.  They played on YYZ, The Manhattan Project and few other classic songs as well as the new stuff.  I have not been to many big time concerts in my life, but this was a pinnacle.  I did not have a dry eye towards the end.  I just could not believe I finally got to see them.  It was worth every penny, Canadian and American.  That IS My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Perception

Growing up I never saw people who looked like me.  Now I know you are saying, “Dude you are white.  There are lots of White folks in media.”  Well, that is true.  However as a kid, I had a physical attribute that in my mind was a huge red flag.  In retrospect, it was not huge.  To me it glared at me from the mirror.  It screamed you are different, you are a freak.  What was this attribute? It was my cleft lip scar.  It is a faint scar now, but with the constant surgeries I had to keep up with my growth it was swollen a lot for a quarter to a third of the year.  So to me it was loud and screaming.  When I was young my identity was tied to my disabilities.  By my Twenties, I did not do that as much.  After 14 years with someone whose whole life was about their disabilities, I found myself there again.  Now that part of my life is over, I am reassessing myself and my history. 

I look back at my picture of myself as a little kid.  The only time the scar is obvious was either right after surgery or the one time I tried to shave at the age of 5 or 6.  I was trying to be just like my Uncle who was 13 or 14 at the time.  I think it did not help that my mother kept bringing up my being different.  She did not do it with any malice.  She just did not want me to be disappointed when I was unable to do things other kids could.  Were my challenges as harsh as my friends of color?  Socially, no they were not.  My physical challenges though at times were difficult. 

I never had to deal with people putting me down for being a Harelip or freak.  In many ways I had myself for that.  As a kid I only heard one Harelip joke.  There was on incident where a kid finally went after me for being a Harelip.  Later, I discovered his baby brother was like me with a cleft lip and palate.  Somehow, since I was the only other person he knew that was like that he blamed me. We were little kids, these things happen.  Later as an adult, I have encountered more insensitivity about that subject.  Mostly the problem is about those God Awful Harelip jokes.  I grew up in a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood and that kind of stuff did not happen.  Here in rural Oregon, I encountered it a lot in my early twenties.  Funny thing very few of the idiots telling the jokes knew that I was a Harelip.  It is less obvious to people, because I wear a full beard and do not sound like the stereotypical Harelip.  Harelip is a common derogatory term for someone with a Cleft Lip and/or Palate.  Most people who have this condition find it highly offensive.  The jokes made present someone with limited intelligence.  The condition almost never affects cognitive abilities.  It also uses the stereotypical speech impediment, which most modern folks with either do not have.

This re-examining came after several articles about people dealing with being minorities in America and what it means.  With me, it has been about perception.  I saw myself as a minority.  I doubt however many around me saw the same thing.  They saw an educated, Blue Collar Caucasian guy.  Honestly, I did not have it that bad.  Due to my father being a career military man, all my surgeries, speech therapy and dental work were covered.  Financially, we had rough patches when dad was on deployment.  Overall, we were fortunate.  Now the only two celebrities I knew growing up who had clefts were Stacy Keach and Cheech Marin.  In high School I saw them as a coke fiend and a pot head.  Now that is not a nice thing to say, but that was my perception.  In the 1980’s Mr. Keach had legal troubles surrounding cocaine.  Mr. Marin’s most famous character is a pothead.  Since then I discovered that Tom Brokaw, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Jason Robards and Doc Holliday had a cleft of some kind.

What I am saying is that sometimes perception is everything.  What I saw as a major thing, was not so major in the big scheme of things.  Many folks overcame their challenges similar or worse than mine.  I did not deal with real discrimination based on my challenges.  I dealt with insensitive idiots.  Compared to what some people deal with it is an irritation.  I need to step out of my skin from time to time to gain perspective.  Lately I have been doing a lot of that.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Star Trek & Me

So my history with Star Trek goes back, way back.  It goes back to the Original Series from the sixties.  First thing is I am a little young to remember watching the show first run.  I was born in the summer between the second and third seasons.  However in the two areas I grew up in, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, the show was on via syndication sometimes running on multiple days.  My paternal grandmother was very sick.  Due to this I do not have many memories of doing things with her.  I do have memories watching two iconic TV shows with her.  One I loved, the other went over my head.  The one I loved was Star Trek: The original Series, the one that went over my head was Perry Mason.  I was 5 or 6 during this memory, possibly even younger.  To me Star Trek was adventurous, thrilling, cool, and a roller coaster ride. 

Everyone seemed to think Captain Kirk was the man.  My Favorites were Spock, Sulu and Scotty.  Spock was logical and could stop a person without killing them.  Sulu was the navigator, he flew the ship.  He also was a swordsman in an era of phasers.  Scotty was the chief engineer, he kept the ship going.  He knew it like the back of his hand.  Without these men Kirk could not do a thing.  The Original Series had several Alternate history stories.  A few of them were viewed through the idea of parallel development.  This concept that a planet identical to Earth popped up but the details of it history was slightly different. Alternate history literature continues to be a genre I love to this day, Star Trek started all that for me.

 In the seventies to the mid eighties rarely missed the Original Series.  I continued by following the films starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That came out in 1979, and I was again enthralled by the world.  Everyone was back.  The story was not in sync with the Star Trek philosophy, but as an eleven year old I loved it.  In 1982, my brother and I were supposed to see a Disney film.  Instead we saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Space Seed was a favorite episode of mine, so this blew my mind.  It is still my favorite of the Original Series Films.  I continued to see all the Original series films on the Big Screen.  In 1989, I saw Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in Eugene, Oregon.  This was first showing opening day.  It was the first time I encountered hard core Star Trek fans.  Several folks were in cosplay to see this film.  I knew this existed, but I had not experienced it for myself.  Now, I like things, but when it comes to fandom I am sometimes reluctant to go whole hog.  I can, just don’t for some reason.  Other than a Star Trek : Motion Picture Captain Kirk Action Figure from Mego and Star Trek III: Search for Spock Taco Bell Glasses I had not had much merchandise.  Lately I have bought  an Original series Enterprise Mug, Original Series Glass set and some symbol buttons.  For the most part I have not gone too crazy there either.

During my sophomore year in University, Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted.  I loved it, I was happy to se a new kind of Trek on every week.  It was different from the original show.  The Captain was a diplomat not a cowboy.  The First Officer was in charge of most missions to the planet.  The show was definitely different in tone than the show from the 1960’s.  In some ways it was more cerebral.  I followed it up till Season 5 or 6 in 1992.  I watched the first two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and tried a few episodes of Star Trek Voyager.  Neither show really hit me.  I am not saying Deep Space Nine was bad, it just did not resonate with me at the time.  I may go back and catch it plus the seasons of Next Generation I missed.  Later I was onboard for the first Season of Enterprise, but that fell flat for me too.  The Next Generation Films were OK, but not great.

In 2009, two things happened that brought Star Trek back into the minds of the general public.  Well actually one was world wide and the other only in Portland, Oregon.  That was the year the J.J. Abrams re-imagining of the Original Series came out in Theaters.  I wanted to see that but Barbara, my ex, refused to watch it.  She thought it was sacrilege and blasphemy to redo the Original Series.  I finally watched it with my brother and his family when it was released on DVD.  The second thing was Atomic Arts began their production of Trek in the Park.  The idea behind this was similar to the tradition of Shakespeare in the Park.  That is holding productions of Shakespeare plays in parks during late spring and summer.  Atomic Arts did this with Original Series Episodes, starting with Amok in Time.  Following years Atomic Arts put on productions of Space Seed, Mirror Mirror, and Journey to Babel.  I tried to go the first three years, but I encountered resistance thanks to Barbara.  Last year I finally went.  It was hot as Hades, but I had a great time.  This year, 2013 in August they will have their final production with Trouble with Tribbles. So if you are in Portland, Oregon in August head out to the Cathedral Park on a Saturday or Sunday.  For more Information go to: http://www.atomic-arts.org/

I saw the sequel to the J.J. Abrams film, Star Trek into Darkness.  I enjoyed it, but it had some things about it that missed the target of the Star Trek philosophy.  I still have a closer relationship to the Original Series than with the others.  That is just where I am and where I am coming from.  So That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Zeitgeist

For Whatever reason, I seem to be hooked up with the Pop Culture Zeitgeist.  The reason I believe this is that I have had ideas that have turned up in Television and Comic books.  Since I am not paranoid, I do not believe I am being plagiarized or my mind is being data mined by aliens or what not.  I feel somehow I tapped the same part of the collective unconscious that other creative types have.  Also the bigger concepts are the same but the details are very different. 

In the early 1980’s I was a teenager with way too much imagination and time on my hands.  I created a lot of worlds and concepts.  I was a huge Doctor Who fan back then.  I came up with an idea of a Gallifreyan who had an affinity with American Culture.  He was a Military man.  Funny thing is twenty years later; we get Captain Jack Harkness an American Time Traveler in the Doctor Who Universe, who later finds himself immortal.  Now there are differences, my character was from Gallefrey and his rank was Major.  Am I claiming I came up with the idea first?  No there probably were many American Whovians who came up with a similar idea.  I am just pointing out the interesting thing there is that a similar idea ended up on the show.

In the mid 90’s I had this idea.  What if Superman’s rocket landed in the Soviet bread basket of the Ukraine?  A decade later Mark Millar put out his great series Red Son.  The Series was in development since the late 90’s.  It is considered one of the best Superman and alternate reality comics of all time.  My idea had the superheroes spread out in more countries.  Lex Luthor was Soviet as opposed to being American as he was in Red Son.  I was not surprised this happened.  There are a lot of cultural parallels between Kansas and the Ukraine in their importance to the two countries they were a part of.  Early Superman was very pro the common working man which some people translate as Communist.  So I was not surprised that more that one person came up with this idea.

Also in the mid- nineties, I had the idea that the members of the X-men aged in real time and were as old as the year they were introduced.  So the original five were teenagers in the sixties so today they would be in their sixties.  The original New Mutants would be in their Forties, and so on.  In 2006 Marvel announced GeNext.  It was supposed to be similar to my concept; however it ended up a sequel to X-men: The End Trilogy.  I think the original idea would have been fun and interesting. 

Another idea I had back in the Mid 90’s was a few other X-Men related ideas.  Most of it has come to pass.  The idea was to integrate the New Mutants into the X-Men.  This was a concept that Chris Claremont had implied as the natural progression of their story.  Thirty years later they are only a few years older.  Some have become full fledge X-Men.  With the recent integration of the Avengers and X-Men, Cannonball and Sunspot are Avengers.  I also thought with integrating the New Mutants/ X-Force members, that the idea of the X-Force should be a black ops team headed by Wolverine.  This team would utilize Mutants with Covert ops backgrounds and those with powers that lend themselves with those kinds of missions.  In 2008, Marvel did just that.

Now in all this I am not claiming responsibility for any of these ideas.  I just think it is interesting these ideas could not be contained to one person.  They came out regardless of my own situation.  It is weird how some ideas will do that.  These ideas came along with parallel inspiration.  Others came up with them independently of me.  It is like we were tapping into the same part of the creative ether.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Doctor & Me

With the Fiftieth Anniversary of Doctor Who occurring this year,  It makes me look back at my own personal history with the show.  So do I know the exact date I was introduced to Doctor Who?  No, I do not.  Do I remember the exact episode?  I cannot help you there either.  It was on a UHF channel from Glendale.  It was a Tom Baker and Sarah Jane Smith Episode.  It was in a Frankenstein like castle on an Alien Planet.  It was some time between 1976 and 1977, maybe even 1975.  You know what?  It had me hooked.  One small problem, getting reception was trying.  This was the days of Antennas and rabbit ears.  Cable was still new.  I am not sure if our local PBS carried it either.  Our reception of that in Oxnard, California was not the best either.  It was not until I visited my extended family in Oregon and later moved there that I was able to truly catch up on Doctor Who.  OPB or Oregon Public Broadcasting has always had a good relationship with Doctor Who.  Even after it went into hibernation they still showed episodes.  They even found old shows and broadcast them. 

Of course there is a saying among Whovians, Doctor Who Fans, there is nothing like your first Doctor.  In my case that is true.  The Fourth Doctor Portrayed by Tom Baker has a special place in my heart as well as my first companion Sarah Jane Smith.  Tom Baker was the delightfully mad and playful Doctor.  He still holds the record for most seasons and episodes.  His Jelly Baby eating, Scarf wearing and Sonic Screwdriver wielding Doctor is one of the most iconic of the Doctors. I watched most of his adventures with Leela, K-9, Romana and Sarah Jane Smith.  Later through the mid to late Eighties I caught up with the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors.  As older shows became available I was able to catch the stories of the First, Second and Third Doctors; I also saw the Fourth Doctor’s adventures I had missed.  When The BBC made the Video tape about Shada, the Fourth Doctor’s Story that was never finished, I bought that too.

Doctor Who was always fascinating.  His different incarnations made him refreshing and unpredictable.  During the Seventies to the Nineties, American Whovians were still kinda fringe.  In the UK Doctor Who was like what Star Trek is here in the U.S.  It was also very popular in British Commonwealth countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia.  In The U.S., it was not as widely known.  It took more to get into Doctor Who.  Not to mention, mainstream found the low budget costumes and special effects silly.  If you look closely, that can be said of many 20th Century Science Fiction Movies and Television.  From 1989 to 2005, when the BBC put Doctor Who on its long Hiatus there was very little fueling Doctor Who Fans.  There were books, audio plays, comic books, and in 1995 the failed Fox/ BBC reboot Television Movie with Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor.

I personally loved the show; the idea of a Protagonist who tried to avoid physical confrontation and in some incarnations did not what the adulation was amazing to me.  I still found the Fourth Doctor to be my favorite, although the Seventh Doctor was a Close second.  The other concept I loved was the Companion.  Anyone could become a companion.  A companion did not need to be the fastest or strongest.  They definitely did not need to be the smartest; all they needed was the spark of spirit that the Doctor could see clearly.  Many of the Doctor’s companions were outsiders to their respective cultures.  Those things did not just resonate with me, but many Geeks and Nerds who grew up with the earlier version of the show.

In the Eighties many BBC executives saw the show as this silly little children’s show.  Some felt it had not place in the BBC.  Funny thing happened during the long Hiatus.  The people, who became BBC heads, were now the generations who grew up the Doctor.  That led to another discussion to attempt to revive the show.  The attempt in 1995 had some serious issues.  By being a joint U.S. and UK Production, it lost many of the things that made it unique.  Many of the unique flavors of Doctor Who have to do with it being ensconced in British Culture.  The 1995 Movie tried to Americanize it too much.  So in 2005, Doctor Who re-premiered.   This time with the Ninth Doctor and a young London Shop Girl, named Rose Tyler.

Not only did it premiere in the UK, but within a year it showed up all over the world.  With the advent of the internet, fans worldwide were able to keep each other up and discuss their passion for the show.  The show seemed to be a cultural juggernaut.  Some old school Whovians get irritated that the newer fans do not know the pre-2005 cannon.  Is it Necessary to enjoy the show? Not really.  My ex was a fan of the old show like me.  We watched faithfully the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s tenures.  We enjoyed the spin-off, Torchwood, up until the Last series.  When that relationship ended, Sixth season had just finished.  Honestly I am not a huge fan of the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith.  He is better than some of his predecessors.  He just does not connect with me like previous Doctors.  I will continue to watch, because I enjoy the show.  I still plan on catching up with another spin-off, the Sarah Jane Adventures, mostly due to my fond memories of the character when I was a kid.  To this Day Sarah Jane Smith and the Fourth Doctor are my Doctor and companion.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.