Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Milepost 1 on the Road to Wellness

In the two months since my first post about my journey to better health a few things happened.  First, May was the month I lowered my convenience foods to a trickle.  I also started cooking from scratch.  I have not eliminated all frozen, canned, boxed, and bagged foods.  I eliminated all those loaded with all those unnecessary chemicals.  I kept my Zatarain’s but went with either the brown rice or reduced sodium versions.  I continued with the Thai Kitchen rice noodle soup bricks. I removed Cliff bars completely.  My soda intake was whittled down to five a month.  I have been eating a lot of frozen table seedless grapes. Canned chili was replaced with Carroll Shelby’s chili con carne mix.  I added vegetables to dirty rice and chili con carne.

Second, I continued working with portion control.  I went from three bratwursts a sitting to two.  In June, I went from four sandwiches a sitting to two.  In June I did treat myself to two high cocoa chocolate bars, but I did not eat either in one sitting.  When I do treat myself it is one fast food sandwich or two tacos.  Zatarain’s boxed dinners (red beans and rice, black beans and rice, and dirty rice) count for two or more meals instead of one.  I eat one apple or pear at a time.  I eat one piece of fruit leather instead of two or more.  My large Kellogg’s cereal bowls are used for fruit if anything these days.  I limit how much I eat.  I work on not overdoing it.  

I am trying to have more variety in my food. I am using either fat free items or those using olive oil.  Olive oil is my oil or fat of choice, I working to use less butter. Tortilla chips are baked with olive oil.  My dairy products are limited to yogurt and cheese these days.  I can make sorbets and smoothies with a new to me Vitamix, which was a birthday present.  I wanted a Dessert Bullet, but wonderful mother went with something she thought would benefit me more.  Alton Brown always says to avoid uni-tasker machines if at all possible.  I broke out my 6 year old never used George Foreman grill.  It helped keep the fat level down in grilled meats.  

                           Sopa de Lima with Julienne tortilla strips

In cooking from scratch again, I have re-ignited my passion for cooking and exploring new foods. In May, I made Sopa de Lima (Yucatan chicken and lime soup), something I had eaten, but never cooked. In June, I made Thai lemongrass and chicken soup, and Indonesian sweet pork.  Future plans include Russian style beef Stroganoff with rice, Madras Beef, and Spanish tortilla (a potato and egg fried omelet).  I get to try new things without the costs of restaurants.  I also get to learn new things and express myself creatively.  I also reconnected with a few favorites from my past chili relleno casserole, Filipino adobo, and my maternal grandmother's zucchini casserole.  Future plans also include meatloaf using rolled oats, another favorite from my childhood, and Filipino pancit with bean thread noodles. 

                                        Indonesian sweet pork

I pulled a muscle in early June and was down a week.  That was a set back, but I powered through. Also both push lawn mowers went down.  Those two affected my activity level.  The muscle pull more so, since I still did my walks with the lawn mowers down.  I exacerbated the pull in helping move some heavy items.  I took it cool after that.  I have had illness and other physical setbacks in the past.  I can get through them.  

In April, I learned I lost 6 lbs in 3 weeks, since I was seen in March.  The following five weeks at my second Dietitian appointment, I lost anther 21 lbs, leading to a total of 27 lbs since late March.  That 21 lbs was a surprise, I knew I had lost some weight, but not that much.  I am working with my dietitian to be watchful on what I am doing and eating.  This is not a sprint, but a marathon.

                           My Grandmother's zucchini casserole

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sir Christopher Lee & Me

On June 7th, 2015 the world lost the last of the Classic Horror Greats, Sir Christopher Lee.  He was in a long line that included Lon Chaney, Sr., Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, John Carradine, Lon Chaney, Jr., Vincent Price, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, and Peter Cushing.  In 2007 he was in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most screen credits 244 at the time, he had a few more after that.  He had been a covert agent in World War II.  He had been a Nazi hunter after the war.  He  did this all before he was 25.  In the late forties, at the age of 25, he decided to take up acting.

It is not an exaggeration to say Sir Christopher Lee seriously freaked me out as a kid.  I could handle some scary films, black and white or with humor like many of the Vincent Price films. Sir Christopher Lee’s Dracula in color scared little Ricky all to heck.  Many portrayals of Dracula were more sultry, more seductive, but Sir Christopher Lee was all those things and incredibly menacing.  I tried to watch his Dracula films multiple times till I was 12.  I failed miserably.  He scared the living bejeezus out of me.

When I saw him in The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and the Man with the Golden Gun as the villain I was like I can buy that.  I loved him in those roles.  He became one of my favorite villainous actors. The older I got the more I was able to go back and watch his earlier work.  So far the only Dracula film of his I have seen as an adult was Dracula 1972 AD.  I was impressed, he was everything I remembered and feared, he was also so much more.  It also starred his most famous collaborator Peter Cushing.  Those two together are magic. Now, I wish to hunt down those collaborations and the collaborations he did with Vincent Price, as well.

He was a Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Fanboy himself.  He told the story of fanboying out on J.R.R. Tolkien at a pub.  He took roles some would definitely pass on.  According to Guinness Book of World Records, in 2008 he was listed as the most connected actor, any actor connected to his in 2.59 steps.  Beat that Kevin Bacon.   He worked with some of the greatest directors of all time.

I saw his work in the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Hugo, and many of the films at the later part of his career.  I went back and saw some of his earlier roles as an adult, Wicker Man, the Magic Christian and more.  He never disappointed. Although he seemed always type cast as the villain, he never balked at it.  He wanted to play Gandalf, but Peter Jackson felt Saruman fit better.  His personality according to many sources was the opposite of the roles he played.  He was generous and gracious to his costars.  He did as much if not more television than he did film.  He was never above anything, so it seems.  He may have scared me, but he always entertained and awed me.  The world lost another great entertainer and person.  It is up to us, film fans to make sure Sir Christopher Lee, and many of the other Classic Horror Greats are never forgotten. Celebrate his life and works and go watch the man's films. You will not be sorry.  Thank you Sir Christopher Lee for all you work.  You will be missed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Childish Things

On May 19th, 2015, several Facebook friends posted an article about Simon Pegg (  In an interview he talked about how many adults are consuming childish things: superheroes, comic books and the like.   He wondered if this was an infantilzation of Western Culture. He later referred to the more intellectual work of genre fiction; his examples were Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road.  He posited that genre can be used to delve into deeper subject matter, but somehow the Superhero films and those that target nostalgia for those in the 30’s or older were possibly bread and circuses (the phrase refers to the Roman practice of using food and spectacle to distract the masses from what is really going on).

I had been in a situation where I was belittled for enjoying, video games, comic books, superheroes, and animation.  When I left, I re-claimed those things.  The reclaiming of my geeky passions was a way for me to reclaim my identity.  If you were to see where I live, you would see my superhero action figures and other geeky/nerdy merchandise.  Those who have known me for a long time know my childhood was no bed of roses.  When I have these things that connect to my childhood, they are because they connect to so very strong positive memories.  Pegg claimed that this infantilzation of pop culture is used to distract from weightier issues.  This may be true for many, but not for me.  The funny thing is that in the format superheroes where introduced, comic books, I have found myself drifting away from them.  I have even sold most of my comic book collection.  

I tried to keep up but the continuity and events soon soured me again on mainstream superheroes from the big two, Marvel Comics and DC Comics.  I still read, watch and buy merchandise and media about superheroes, just not in comic book format.  When Pegg mentioned the headier genre fiction, I have been reading those kinds of novels for decades. I enjoy work that makes me think and re-think my views.  Such authors for that lately have been Nathan Lowell, Charles de Lint, Jay Lake, Abigail Hilton, and John Scalzi.  I have many other authors I enjoy for sheer entertainment values.  Neither diminishes the need for the other. 

The attitude that reaching for the nostalgia of one’s youth is new to Generation X or younger is incorrect.  In the early 80’s there was a re-make of the Lone Ranger targeted to the Baby Boomers.  I know of grown men who were highly influenced by westerns on film, television and in literature who still consume all the media and merchandise associated with their youth.  Then you have the revival of fifties music in the seventies and the revival of sixties music in the eighties.  The nostalgia game is hardly anything new.  Wizard of Oz still appears yearly on television as do many holiday special from long gone decades.  In the 1980’s there were revivals of Gidget, Dobbie Gillis and they even reunited Frankie and Annette.

The thing is what Pegg is referring to is mostly targeted to the Nerd/Geek community, which in the last decade has gone seriously mainstream.  What we need to do is appreciate our loves from are youth, but not allow that to regress to being childish ourselves.  Youthful energy and passion is good, making it the end all be all that can be considered questionable.  

We need to not allow these passions to become bread and circuses. What I mean is do not allow the powers that be distract us from making the world a better place for everyone.  There are many injustices out in the world, we should work to make sure they no longer hold true. We need to build better communities.  Why not start with pop culture communities?  We can work to make them safe and enjoyable for as many as we can.  We can then work out in a widening spiral to help everyone in our personal sphere.  The Browncoats (Firefly/Serenity fans) hold events regularly to help the show’s creator, Joss Whedon’s favorite cause Equality Now, which works for the Human Rights for Females. That kind of fandom mixed with activism can and could be powerful.

We also need to promote balance with outside interests and our popular culture passions.  When passions become unhealthy obsessions they hurt those involved, not always directly.  When I talk about healthy, I mean physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.  I feel however putting away all childish youthful things may be going too far.  We need to feed the inner child that helps keep us youthful in our minds.  There is a fine line between passion and obsession, it is necessary to find the line and know our limits.

We also need to feed the adult, by dealing responsibly with the world and others. We should read things that stimulate our intellect and improve our knowledge base. We should help others find their passions and help ground them with the real world.  That can be by example and/or mentoring.  There is a time for all things under heaven as according to chapter three of Ecclesiastes also used for the Byrds song Turn! Turn! Turn!  Well, That Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.