In Lieu of Softball

Those of you who follow my Twitter account may have noticed that I’ve been trying to workout in the offseason.  During the spring and summer months, I absolutely love playing softball.  The weekly games of swinging a bat and playing the field really sheds the pounds as I try to be the fastest guy in my weight class on the base paths.  I actually don’t steal bases, but I like to try and run out the ball from the plate to first base.  And I get compliments on my speed, in spite of my size.

That being said, I’m trying to do as many push-ups and sit-ups as I can, to keep myself in a kind of pattern.  This is going to take a little bit of nagging from certain people, and they’ve been pretty good about making that happen.  I’m sticking to the whole 100 Push-Ups and 200 Sit-Ups programs that I found online and got permission from my doctor to pursue (in case you cared) it to week six.  I just need to figure out what I can and can’t do, because it tends to fluctuate with each week that you progress.  Week One might be at one level, and then Week Two could kick it up a notch based on how you do in the previous week.  And so on, and so forth.  I like the adaptive nature of it.  Plus, it has an iPhone app, so it’s definitely awesome.

If you’re looking to see how I do, all you need to do is go to the bottom right hand side of the front page of my blog and follow me on Twitter.  I’ll be posting my updates, there.

Black Lagoon

I’m going to use today’s post to talk a little bit about anime.  And plus, it gives me the chance to use more graphics, which I think is kind of lacking in a lot of my blog posts.  So, enjoy the images, because Google Image Search rules all.

Way back in the mid-nineties, during my first marriage, I caught this crazy anime called Cowboy Bebop.  I loved it to death.  I think since then, I’ve watched that series of episodes at least ten times and it never seems to get old for me.  Of course, can’t dispute the fan service or the action, and it’s actually a pretty good story.  So good, in fact, that most of my friends who wouldn’t admit to liking anime or plain just don’t like it, they like Cowboy Bebop.  To me, the mark of a good piece of entertainment, animated or live-action, is whether is has broad appeal.  And this does.

Faye Valentine's pretty hot with that gun in her hand, and I fell pretty hard for her the first time I saw Bebop...

I started out telling you about Cowboy Bebop to talk about another show that I kind of fell for pretty hard.  That’s Black Lagoon. Much in the same way that Bebop grabs you, Black Lagoon fucking latches onto you like a facehugger from Alien and rams its goodness down your throat.  I watched the first episode for research purposes and after seeing it, I was eager for me.  Now, since you asked me, “What research?  For what?”  It was for a radio show where I offered my opinion on anime on a semi-weekly basis.  More like bi-weekly.  But anyway, it was fun and awesome and it’s over, now, so I’m pretty much going to put my opinions on anime right here, okay?  I knew you’d understand.

Black Lagoon features a quarter of characters that work together as a band of fortune hunters.  I use that term because it seems like they get hired to do all sorts of shit, including kidnapping and espionage, as well as cargo running and, oh… piracy!  All of this takes place on the high seas, too.  Bebop was science-fiction and obviously took place in space, but Black Lagoon brings it all home in a contemporary setting and does it well.  The story centers around these four, but the manner in which you’re introduced to them is from the perspective of the newest member, Rock.  He’s a Japanese businessman doing a job for his conglomerate in the South China Sea, except that he doesn’t know how much in the shit he is when Dutch, Revy, and Benny show up to steal the disk he’s carrying to its destination.

They hijack his ship, beat the shit out of him, then kidnap his ass.  All the while, he’s in need of a change of underwear, because Revy keeps wanting to kill him and wear his skin or something like that.  She’s pretty badass.  All the while, I’m pretty sure Rock doesn’t know whether to be absolutely terrified of her or to be turned on by the fact that she’s stacked, wearing cutoffs and is carrying two of the biggest guns this side of Dirty Harry.  All I can say is that she’s a crazy chick, but I think she’s perfect for that crew.  Also, she’s more likely to end you than kiss you, but later on in the series, there’s more to Revy than meets the eye.

... but I will put money down on Revy kicking Faye's ass in a New York Minute.

Anyway, Rock ends up on their little PT boat, with Dutch at the helm.  And needless to say he is kind of losing it at this point.  Revy puts him in a headlock at one point, with one of her two Cutlasses (pistols) pointed at his head, begging Dutch to let her kill him.  Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it turns out Rock’s own company is basically cutting him loose… forever.  That PT boat they’re on?  Yeah, they hired another merc group to blow it out of the water.  Wonderful.  That’s what I call company loyalty, but then again, in this day and age, that’s pretty hard to come by.

The other group pretty much destroys the bar the four of them were hanging out in, much to the dismay of the bar owner, who’s not only so used to it that the inside of the bar is reinforced for just such an occasion, but he’s putting all the damages on their tab.  But the beauty of this whole exchange of gunfire is when Dutch lets Revy off the leash… and holy shit, does she go off!

I want to talk a little bit about a movie I once saw called “Equilibrium.”  It was written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, who would later give us “Ultraviolet,” which was essentially a 90-minute advertisement for Milla Jovovich’s physical trainer.  In “Equilibrium,” there was this kind of martial art involving the use of a gun, where the guy would kind of stand in the center of a large number of assailants and use both of his guns in a fashion to give him the optimal angle for killing every single one of them.  It was pretty much the only part of the movie that I considered intriguing, and the rest of it was like a bad rip-off of Orwell’s 1984.

I’m discussing that to say that the scene in that bar reminded me very strongly of that gun martial art, because Revy just kind of gets this sick gleam in her eye, whips out her guns and just owns the whole fucking battalion of guys coming after her to kill her.  I submit to you the following YouTube video as proof of awesome:

Once they make it out of there, they pretty much have to flee on their boat and evade a fucking helicopter!  I won’t give away the ending, but the way they come up with the plan is very reminiscent of another quartet of soliders of fortune from my childhood.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Black Lagoon is available from FUNimation on DVD.  I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the box set.

Dilation and Numbness

Last night I went to go see my eye doctor for the last time before my vision plan is switched over to a crappy one.  My work is discontinuing my awesome eye coverage as of January 1st for reasons passing understanding (not really, they’re trying to save money), so I decided that December would be the time to get my eyes checked, see if there’s any change in my prescription.  I briefly toyed with the notion of switching to contact lenses, but when they did the fluid pressure test (air puffer) and my eyelashes got in the way, it reminded me of why I don’t get contact lenses.  Anyway, my eyes are fine and I can see fine as long as I have glasses on.

During the test, though, they had to numb my eyes and then dilate them for this test that sends the power of the sun directly to my optic nerve.  Actually, it was this very powerful laser that shoots into your eye and takes a picture of the whole back of your eyeball.  Then you get to see it in high-definition on a computer screen.  Well, you don’t really get to see it.  For some reason, these guys are showing me stuff that I can’t focus on… like bright-ass computer screens.  Hi, Asshole, you just poured drops of this yellow shit into my eyes that allows me to suddenly have ultravision in the dead of night, and now you want me to stick my eye into a machine that sends light into my eyes?  Oh, and then you want me to look at sun-powered computer displays?  Thanks a lot.

It was like having night vision goggles on and then someone throws a flashbang… except I couldn’t close my eyes.  At all.  And if I did, well… we start all over again.  Wonderful.  By the time I got out of that place, my entire head was throbbing.  And I remembered why I sometimes goes years without getting my eyes checked.

Keitaro from Love Hina

No, my older glasses weren't quite that big, but they sure felt like it.

I chose a different set of frames this time with smaller lenses.  I’ve been kind of paring down from the ol’ seventies-throwback aviator-sized frames and lenses that I had since I was a kid.  My last set were a little smaller.  The pair I chose recently are even slimmer, and they’re full frames.  Something I haven’t had since middle school.  I’ve been rocking the half-frames since I was twenty and I wanted to go for a new look.  But it seems like the hipsters are going with the full-frame goodness and me not wanting to left out of the crowd, might as well join in.  Also, my wife was on hand to help me choose them, so if the next time you see me in them and you hate them, well, just be glad I’m not asking you to wear them, okay?  Good.  I, on the other hand, like them.  Which is pretty much all that matters.

In other news, I’ve been writing a lot more, lately.  Not blog posts, obviously, but still.  I’m really trying to sink as much time into this short story series I’ve been working on since early last year.  I was all full-bore when I started and cranked out like six stories in a row, from January until March.  And then I took a break.  Wrote another one near the end of 2009, early 2010.  And now I’m writing another one and it’s freaking December 2010 and we’re about to enter 2011.  Oh, well.  It’s not like I’m getting paid to write, so there’s no real deadline, but I’d like to at least keep up the pace that I’ve been known to embrace in the past.  I will keep chugging along.  I wrote a ton of outlines for stories that I’m going to try and keep to.  Plus, writing about the same cast of characters is nice and gives me a sense of continuity.  Also, since I’m intending on having them grow up a little bit through the various stories, I’m looking forward to writing that emotional maturity and hopefully expressing it nicely.  The first seven stories are actually already online.  Ping me sometime and I’ll give you the link.

Only two more days until the last shopping weekend of Christmas.  Have you finished all your gift shopping, yet?  I know we haven’t.

It’s Bigger on the Inside

Yesterday’s prompt was about Guilty Pleasures, and I missed that one, so I’m going to take care of that with tonight’s post.

When I think of what I consider to be a guilty pleasure is something that I like but I’m embarrassed to admit.  The problem with that is that I’m unabashed at proclaiming my fandoms.

Karen Gillan
Have some Karen Gillan.

If I did have a guilty pleasure, I think it might be my inability to pass on anything related to Doctor Who.  Most everyone knows about my Trek fandom, but what they might not understand is that I was less vocal about having watched most of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor when I was a kid growing up on PBS stations here in the Bay Area.  Tom Baker was MY Doctor.  And you never forget the first Doctor you watch on the screen.  For a six year old, watching this guy bandy about the screen with a robotic dog was pretty much the beginning of a childhood memory that’s lasted to this day in the form of the Ninth and Tenth, to the current Eleventh Doctor.  Also, for the record, I think that I watch Doctor Who more for Amy than I do the Doctor, though I still love the Doctor… but damn, dude.  Have you seen Amy (Karen Gillan)?  I haven’t had a crush on a companion this hard since Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler (Ninth and Tenth Doctors) and of course, Elizabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith (Third and Fourth Doctors).  I need to locate a really good picture of her so I can just show you how awesome she is.  Hang on a sec, Google Images has not failed me.  Let’s pop that in there, and there.  This post has now surpassed awesome for that picture, alone.  I could stop writing right now (but I’m not going to).

Badge of Fandom

One of the things that I’m grateful for with my recent resurgence of  my Who fandom is the fact that I can actually share one of my fandoms with my wife.  Which is something I haven’t really been able to do.  She doesn’t like Star Trek or Babylon 5, The West Wing or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and our tastes in anime make it nigh possible to find any but a handful of series that she and I will both enjoy.  Our television watching had dwindled a lot lately, and I think the last time we’d watched anything together was due to the World Series and before that, the National League Championship Series.  But we’d really failed to connect lately with something non-sports, so it was really nice to be able to share that with her.  When you find a bit of a rift between you and your partner on some of your deeper passions in life, it’s great to find those few things and really hang onto them as much as possible.  Though, I doubt she’s has passionate as I am… and she’s more into Matt Smith and David Tennant than Karen Gillan (of course).

Of course, Doctor Who isn’t something I’m ashamed to admit that I love it.  I think it’s just been kind of a well-kept secret due to the fact that I had largely ignored the recent revival from the BBC.  I had caught the pilot episode with Christopher Eccelston and Billie Piper when the SciFi Channel (not Syfy) premiered it a couple of years ago.  Problem was that I kind of watched it and felt like it didn’t really capture me as much as Tom Baker had.  If anything, I kind of felt like Ninth Doctor was a bit too Hell’s Angels for me to really like him and so I walked away and never really went back until one day when I was at work this year.  I was on instant messenger talking about old Who, and he was raving about Tenth Doctor.  He sent me a YouTube link that I will gladly share with you in a moment, but when I saw it, I was more than intrigued.  I wanted more.  So I found out that on Netflix, they had all four series of Doctor Who, plus the specials.

I devoured the first series and I was actually sad to see the Ninth Doctor go, but after I saw the Christmas special with the Tenth, I was immediately taken with Tennant’s portrayal of my favorite Time Lord.  Plus, I was happy that Rose was sticking around for another series, at least.  She was a strong character, and I happen to like strong female characters.  When she left the show, though, it was a pretty devastating way to go.  Even my wife thought it was sad.  I will admit to shedding some tears, because I thought it was sad and a little too final for such a great character.  But it was far more dramatic than some of the other companions’ departures.  The Doctor literally dumped Sarah Jane in the middle of nowhere, and Leela just left.  And then even with the Seventh Doctor, Mel just up and decided to go with Glitz and she shoved Ace into the fray (Ace was my last favorite companion before Rose).  Anyway, I will digress…

Before I go, I want to leave you with a final video that kind of defines the series for me.  It’s a compilation of all the themes and the Doctors, though it’s kind of aged and doesn’t include the Eleventh.  Enjoy, and I’ll talk to you more tomorrow!

Going to Bed Early

Today’s Holidailies Prompt is: “Childhood holiday traditions that you’re happy not to follow as an adult.

I think one tradition I’m happy to not follow is having to go to bed early on Christmas Eve.  Traditionally, this was the time that my parents would use to wrap presents or bring them out of hiding places.  I think one year, I remember them buying me a bicycle and they were putting it together while my sister and I slept.  I woke up to use the bathroom and they freaked out and mom literally waited for me to come out to escort me back to the bedroom.  Looking back, I know why, but then I think it was just a weird thing to have happen to you when you’re trying to pee.

These days, I like staying up late.  I totally pay for it the next day, but I don’t miss the direction of going to sleep when I don’t have obligations the next day such as school or work or other things that require me to wake up.  But I will say this: I do miss getting up early on Christmas morning and waking my parents up in order to rip open presents.  I miss that feeling of anticipation sometimes and I look back on it as one of those happier times of my family’s time together when we were all much younger.  I also loved watching my sister go apeshit when she didn’t get what she wanted and then get sent to her room or grounded or otherwise punished for acting like a spoiled brat.

Ah, good times.

I don’t have any children, and I’m not planning on having any.  So all I have are those memories of Christmas morning at our house, and recalling the various Christmases that we got to spend every year until we all went our separate ways.  Of course, I still talk to or see my family during those times, and it’s great to have conversations with them as adults… but I still look back wistfully sometimes.