Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rick’s Best Things from 2015

iZombie

iZombie is a Television program that debuted in March of 2015.  It is loosely based on a comic book series from Vertigo Comics by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred. It is the story of a Doctor becoming a zombie. In order for her to function she needs brains. This leads her to become a coroner to have access to these brains. One side effect of brain consumption is she is able to see the memories of the deceased as visions. She uses these to solve crimes that the decedents witnessed. One drawback is while the brains are in her system she exhibits personality traits of the decedents. This is almost a crime procedural version of the original concept. However, it works. They are doing a similar treatment to the Sandman version of Lucifer which I have a bad feeling will not work. The original source material was definitely not the crime procedural this show is, the main character does not have the same name either. This show is a fresh spin on zombies and the crime procedural. As of December 2015, the first season is available on Netflix.


Mad Max: Fury Road

2015 has seen several films returning to old film franchises: Terminator, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and James Bond. Surprisingly Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the most successful in terms of character development and story. Unlike the other film franchises, all of the entries in this series were directed by the same director, George Miller. I loved this film. Even in the quieter parts of it, it did not feel like it was dragging. Miller kept the momentum and pace at of good level. He also knows these characters and this world. With all the controversy about decent female leads in Action films, this proves it is very possible. Even though Mad Max is the title character, it is Furiosa’s tale. It also melded practical effects with CGI in a seamless and spectacular manner.


Muse Drones

Muse is one of my favorite bands. In 2015, they released the album Drones. I have listened to it multiple times. I loved it. Psycho and Dead Inside were the first two songs I became acquainted with. With those, Mercy, the Globalist, and Aftermath are among my favorites on this album. My favorite Muse albums are still Black Holes & Revelations, and Resistance, however this is still a decent album, and my favorite of the year.


Big-Ass Sandwiches Brick and Mortar Location

In 2015, Big-Ass Sandwiches in Portland Oregon made the transition from food cart to brick and mortar restaurant. Their signature sandwich is a sandwich with the French fries in the sandwich. By going to brick and mortar, they were able to expand they menu. Now they offer Regular-Ass Sandwiches (sandwiches with the fries on the side) and Cold-Ass Sandwiches (sandwiches using all refrigerated or room temperature ingredients).  They offer two non-sandwich items, Brian’s Meaty Balls (their meat balls with pasta) and Homemade Mac and Cheese. I have been to the location a few times since its opening in June. The food is still amazing. They have vinegar based coleslaw that inspired me to do the same. I have always suggested people go with the weekly special that has not changed. With the menu expansion the special are no longer limited to sandwiches. I loved this place back in the food cart days and still love it in the brick and mortar.


Bitch Planet

Technically the first issue came out in 2014. It came out in December, I rarely think something is the best just based on the first issue. I did not read it till after January 1st, 2015. For me, it is new for the year. A tale set in the future where all the progress in equal rights for women has been reversed to worse than it was before. Women who refuse to follow society’s demands of inequality are sent to prison for being non-compliant. It is written in the vein of the women in prison films and shows from the 1970’s. Kelly Sue DeConnick has written an angry treatise about the anti-women attitude in geek/nerd culture and in our society at large. She uses a dystopian future similar to the one seen in A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It is a wonderful look at where we could go if we are not careful.


Raven and the Writing Desk

I have been a fan of Chris Lester’s Metamor City Podcast. It was full cast audio dramas of his work all set in his Metamor City setting. That went on indefinite hiatus in 2011. He returned with a new Podcast Raven and the Writing Desk. This time it is his narrations of his stories including a few in non-Metamor City settings. Metamor City is what if a fantasy setting evolved into a world similar to ours. That is what you have with Metamor City. Chris Lester’s podcast also includes updates on his writing progress, public appearances, interviews with those in the Podcast fiction and self publishing world, and so on. I am glad he is back and he is even publishing his works again in E-Book format. It is well worth the time.


Best-Ever Cookbook by Bay Books (2007)

This book was published in 2007 and I have owned it for over 5 years. I never cooked from it till 2015, hence why it is here. So far there is not a single dud in the recipes.  Every dish I make I put in my culinary repertoire. These are also simplified version of classic recipes found throughout the world.  I have found more traditional versions of the dishes and I am more the likely to try those, now that I have found the versions in this cookbook. The top two I have enjoyed are the Sweet Pork and the Madras Beef.  I also made Lemongrass Beef and the Asparagus & Mushroom Salad. Will I make all 500 in this cookbook? Probably not.


In Ashes Born by Nathan Lowell

I have not hidden my love of Nathan Lowell’s writing. I was introduced to his work through Podiobooks, in which the author read his own work. The first series was Trader’s Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series. The series followed Ishmael Wang (pronounced with the long A sound, like Wong) a young man who found himself without family or a planet to live on. He became a merchant spacer on a merchant space freighter. The series followed Ishmael from mess attendant to the Owner of his own space ship and hauling company. This book is the first in the Seeker’s Tales from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper. It follows Ishmael on his new journey. I loved it. Characters we had not seen since the earliest books of the first series return. The first series is leaving Podiobooks, find it and download it if you can. All of the books are available on Amazon in their Kindle store.


Heroes: Reborn

I am and have been a big fan of the Television program Heroes. I know that the later seasons were not as strong as the earlier ones, and they had some serious dropped plot threads. I still enjoyed the show, heck I still own it. When I heard they were going to air a sequel min-series, I was seriously intrigued. Personally I have not been disappointed by the new series. Certain characters have not returned, but the new story is engaging and a fun ride. HRG (Horned Rimmed Glasses) is back and so are many of the favorites. This new series had done some interesting things with the concepts of time travel and constructs. If you enjoyed the original, give the new one a try.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens


I liked the new Star Trek Movies, but they did not feel like Star Trek to me. This film felt like the original Star Wars trilogy. I loved it, but I do think the Director, did his usual shtick. That is in a derivate work he harkened back too much to the source material. It was wonder to see those touches, but it did seem like blatant fan service to me. Despite this, I still think it is a wonderful movie. It was dissimilar to Star Wars: The New Hope enough to make it enjoyable. There were twists and turns, expected laughs and thrills as well as the unexpected. It was great and definitely and infinitely superior to the prequels, which in and of itself is satisfying. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Milepost 4 on the Road to Wellness

In November I saw my doctor I weight 367, I regained 7 lbs. I was disappointed, but I had been eating too much potato chips and other junk food. The next week I saw the dietician and lost 2 more lbs getting to 365 lbs. I worked in November and December to cut my fast and junk food consumption again. I weighed myself on December 22, 2015 and I weighed 357. I may reach my goal a month or two late. I still have been walking three days in a row and one day off. I had a few bumps in early November but I got back onto the regimen. The plan is four days in a row of walking then one day off starting in January.

                                  Chile relleno casserole

I have been having abdominal pain since June. I started to worry about the abdominal pain. I thought it could be a groin pull, but the pain was too high for that. My potassium was seen as low back in August, because of my new blood pressure meds. I had increased my potassium intake in October and continued it through the present. I had some tests, because I had a hernia as an infant. Those tests showed no new issues in that field. The soreness is overworking muscles, so I need to learn when to rest.


                                      Rick's chili con carne

In October and November, I really worked on eating more vegetarian and vegan dishes. My cholesterol was high. I went to two to three red meat dishes to only four meat dishes period. That does not include my two or three nights out. I had previously converted ground beef dishes to ground turkey. Otherwise I am following an Ovo-Lacto-Pesco Vegetarian diet, so that means I am following a semi-vegetarian or flexitarian diet. The term reducetarian fits more that I am working to reduce the consumption of meat. I am not being rigid, but doing my best to get healthier.

                                      Rick's veggie pizza

A result of the lowering of my intake of meats and starches is all of my size 56 waist pants are too loose. I seriously need a new belt. This is a good problem to have. My long term goal is 200 lbs. I may or may not get to 350 lbs by January, but the plan for 2016 is a 50 lbs goal for the whole year. I have to do this slow and steady. If I lose more next year I will be happy, but I am going to do everything in my power for 50 pounds a year. I hope to be at 300 lbs by next January.

                              
                  Rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce

I am working on my dental issues too. I have a broken tooth and two wisdom teeth causing issues. At the first dental appointment, my blood pressure was too high due to a migraine. I am scheduled for January 6th for the broken tooth. It is currently broken below the gum line and there is swelling.

I have been also working to get more consistent care in counseling and mental health services. Since I started my new life I have been battling with serious bouts of depression. I have suspected for years I may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I found a program that is more clinical, that last service provider was a University counseling center. That program I had to get renewed every 2 or 3 months. There was no guarantee I would have the same counselor, and after a year I would get a new one. This was not conducive to consistency of care.   


                                           10 layer salad

I am scheduled to get more tests, including calcium, kidney and liver function tests. I am doing my best to improve my health. I sometimes have to rest my regimen due to migraines, injuries, or illness. I have to just get back on the horse after these road bumps. I got to remember to keep moving and do let myself become stagnant. This is a marathon not a sprint. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Snark Attack

Why do internet nerds and geek have to tear down and attack with snark things they have only seen in previews? Are they so afraid that the thing they are looking forward too is going to be bad that they might as well assume it will be? This all started with reactions to the Superman V. Batman and Suicide Squad Trailers, and one pop culture commenter’s impressions of the upcoming DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

It all started with the reveals of some of the DC characters that will make cameos in Superman V. Batman: Dawn of Justice. The cinematic version of Aquaman is no longer the blonde haired and blue eyed, he appears to look more like a Pacific Islander. The actor portraying this character is of Pacific Islander descent. The commenters on the internet had a conniption fit. I like the idea of more diversity. Since I am a fan of Alternate Reality fiction I enjoy twists on old concepts. This is that, but instead of going with the flow the internet trolls gathered to be unmitigated pain.

They said the film will suck, some said that when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. When Jared Leto’s version of the Joker leaked on the internet, the trolls and fanboys said Suicide Squad would stink. These movies have not even been released yet. One was still in production when this all started. I understand having your opinion, but having an opinion before something even is released is uninformed and ridiculous. This is not new when Michael Keaton was announced as Batman fanboys were not happy, they were not happy when Heath Ledger was cast as Joker either. Both performances shut them the heck up.

Similar snarkiness was abound, before the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. They thought it would fail due to its obscurity. I mentioned in a previous article that Marvel seems to do well with obscure properties, especially true with the successes of Blade, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Big Hero 6. Judgments and assumptions were being made before the finished product was released.

Another possibility is now that their obsession has become popular with the mainstream, with the success of Superhero and other comic book based films and television, they do not feel like they belong to an exclusive club anymore. That is why some of their misbehavior to the newer fans. They now feel they have to be too cool and bash anything that deviates from their precious obsessions.

I read an article about the upcoming DC's Legends of Tomorrow. The writer spewed out late Bronze Age fanboy snark. He referred to the Silver Age Atom, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, and Firestorm as obscure. Obscure to the Mainstream audience maybe, and many late 80's to 90's comics book fans. Atom, Hawkman, Firestorm, and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman were members of the Justice League. Mind you the version of Hawkman and Hawkgirl they are using in the Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow are more in line with the Golden Age versions. The Golden Age Hawks were members of the Justice Society of America.

These characters in one form or another have had the own headlining titles. In my opinion that is not obscure, to me Booster Gold and Blue Beetle are more obscure than the Atom, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and Firestorm. With their appearances in Super Friends, both of the Justice League animated shows, and Batman: the Brave and the Bold, many folks are more familiar with the characters than previously. Rip Hunter, the Master of Time, and White Canary, I agree are obscure. Once again this is before the show’s premiere date, and the assumptions being made are based on the writer’s personal taste and experience. It ignores historical context. What is obscure to one generation is a huge pop culture franchise for another.

Here is an example, Captain Marvel (now referred to as Shazam) was so popular in the 1940’s that National Periodicals (DC Comics’ company name in the 1930’s to 1950’s) sued the parent company, Fawcett Publications, for copying Superman’s powers. Fawcett settled for fear of a prolonged legal battle. No one today would know of that popularity. Captain Marvel’s sales were over twice the amount of Superman’s. The settlement led to Fawcett getting out of comics. This also led to Marvel comics taking over the trademark of the name Captain Marvel. This is why his titles and more recently the character himself have used Shazam in the last 30 years.

It seems like these internet troll types and fanboys are unwilling to learn the history of their beloved obsessions. It is like they do not care that their ignorance shows. This problem seems to be rearing its head in many arenas in today’s society. Ignoring the past means you lack perspective. Also we seem to be in this weird era of celebrating and encouraging ignorance, which is sad.

There is a prevailing attitude of attack it in case it stinks, also is a lousy trend. I try not to make assumptions till the show, movie, or other media is released. Plus I do not care what others think, I like anything unironically. I like the Green Lantern film, but I was very clear to its shortcomings. I like both Ghost Rider films. I like the cheesy movie that is Billy Zane’s Phantom.

Overall I wait till something is out in public before making my decision. Bootlegs of stuff in post-production could be missing parts of it. Sometimes unfinished works get leaked, wait until is has been released properly. There have been films that were improved, because the director was unable to produce the film he wished and released it with his original vision at a later date. There are also a few cases where the studio was right and the later released Director’s cut was less than the original release. Remember Pop Culture is a personal preference.


It also seems that the level of discourse since the advent of the internet has seriously deteriorated. I believe this is due to the perceived anonymity. If they had to use their real names they would be afraid of repercussion to their snark and rudeness. However there are some with public identities that still spew venom and snark. Free Speech is not an excuse to be an ass and being told you are being a jerk is not an attack on your Freedom of Speech either. This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.