Thursday, March 31, 2011

What You All Should Be Watching This Weekend

That's right -- ALL of you. The entire Internet!

Well those of you with subscriptions to the top premium cable channels, that is. I've already discussed here on numerous occasions the show I'm anticipating the most: HBO's Game of Thrones. But unfortunately this won't air for another two weeks. In the meantime I'd like to introduce you all to two other very HOT and SEXY new drama shows premiering over this very weekend on the Starz and Showtime networks.

First up to bat tomorrow night (April 1st) on Starz is Camelot, a reworking of the much familiar legend of King Arthur. Based loosely on Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, Camelot will be a graphic, bloody and explicit version of the tale as only paid cable television can bring to you. Have I mentioned yet how much I love my subscriptions to these three premium networks? Camelot stars relative newcomer Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur Pendragon, and veteran actors Joseph Fiennes and Eva Green as Arthur's mentor, Merlin, and wicked half-sister, Morgan le Fay, respectively.

I actually got a sneak peak at the pilot episode of this show back on Feb. 25th, after the finale of another Starz show, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. I went into it not expecting much I must admit. But, whoa! I was impressed. What little I saw was very promising, and I can now safely say that this is one of my more anticipated shows this year. I can't say, however, that I care too much for the dude playing Arthur. He might take some getting used to. And I'm actually not a big fan of Joseph Fiennes, although his alternate take on the legendary wizard and advisor, Merlin, here is somewhat intriguing.

Who I'm truly impressed with, however, is Eva Green as Morgan (aka, Morgana to some of you). I've had a HUGE crush on this French-British actress ever since her role as Vesper Lynd in the Bond flick Casino Royale several years back. She also stole my heart again in Ridley Scott's epic film on the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven -- the director's cut of which has become one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. Keep an eye out for her in this show. I predict she's going to steal it!

Next, airing this Sunday at 9 pm on Showtime, is yet another brand new and potentially awesome drama series: The Borgias. To my fellow historical buffs out there, I'm sure I don't have to explain who these people are or their notorious place in the annals of history. But for those of you not familiar with the name, the Borgias were a Spanish family headed by Rodrigo Borgia (portrayed in this show by the brilliant actor, Jeremy Irons) who, through shrewed intelligence, guile, bullying--not to mention various other deceitful and often illegal means--bribed and cajoled his way to the highest appointment in all the Roman Catholic hierarchy -- the Papal seat itself! The wicked rise and fall of this powerfully influential family in Italy is the stuff of many, many sordid books and movies. In fact, the true history is so made-for-drama perfect that it was a huge influence on Mario Puzo when he set out to write this little book you may have heard of called The Godfather. Yes, that book. It's not by accident, then, that the Borgias are known as "the original crime family." In many ways, their story is very much similar to the story of the major crime families that would someday make up the notorious collective we call today "The Mob."

I swear, the month of April could not be made up of any more WIN if it tried!

So, as I wait for Game of Thrones to air, this is what I will be keeping busy with, tv-wise. If you would like a glimpse into these two new series, simply check out the trailers below:

Even from this quick footage alone of what the season will bring on both shows, I think it becomes clear just what kind of quality drama we're getting here. You know, I used to always scoff at Showtime and Starz as being "wannabe" HBOs. But lately both networks have been stepping up their respective games in the original drama department.

Color me suitably impressed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Empathy For The Devil?

You know what I think this world needs more of? Empathy. That's right, I said it.

It's perhaps my biggest complaint with the human beings I inhabit this planet with. Not to toot my own horn, but I live my entire life by this one simple motto: "don't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes." Or something to that effect.

I think so many of us are so preoccupied with ourselves--and how the whole world revolves around us--that we cause ourselves undue amounts of stress and complications harmful to our overall well being.

Case in point, I overheard a conversation the other day that went like this:

Woman is selling her mother's house. Her mother recently passed. She's been in and out of the house now for the past two months getting everything ready. She was riding in the car with her broker, when he relayed to her that he, too, once had to sell his mother's house after she passed. And that for nearly a decade he could never go anywhere near the place, let alone set foot inside the house.

Do you know what this woman took away from this revelation? She was speaking to her friend, and her response went: "Gee, projecting much? Guess he wanted to make me feel guilty about being so gung-ho to sell my mother's house."

And I went: bwaaa? How did you get this from that? WTF, woman! What if the guy was sincerely trying to empathize with your situation? Did you ever think of that? Why does everything someone says have to have a motive behind it?

This right there. This is what I'm talking about. I used a specific example above, but let me tell you: I see this ALL the time! People are so wrapped up in their own needs and egos that they assume anything someone else says or does is some hidden commentary or criticism of their lives.

Please, people. Get over you. Not everything that happens in life is the universe trying to butt into your affairs. Instead of readily taking offense and thinking the worse of someone for something they said or did, how about taking a deep breath and stepping back? That's right, there. Now, put yourself in that person's shoes and ask yourself: which is more likely? That a complete stranger is being passive-aggressive toward me and trying to sneak some criticism past? Or that maybe--just maybe--this person is being sincere with no hidden agenda?

What's that rule about the simplest explanation most likely being the correct one?

Yeah, that.

Even if giving the benefit of doubt to people around you turns out wrong 1 time out of 10, if you ask me it's better going through life employing a little modicum of empathy toward others than it is to assume that everyone is out to DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!*

I think this is why I'm always described by people who know me as being so calm and stress free. It is true that I have a very mild-mannered, easy going nature. And that, for the most part, stress rarely gets to me.

And I'm here to say that this is the reason why. I don't go through life acting like everything is about me. I don't constantly try to read between the lines of what people say, or to second guess their actions. People who do this, in my opinion, won't live to see 60. Is it really worth it?

I don't know about you all, but I plan to live to be 200!

*For those who don't know this excellent line from a particularly great, award-winning movie, click here and ye shall be illuminated.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How Would You Like A Reset Button On The Last 16 Years?

At least, that was the going theme for the weird dream I had last night. Here's how it went:

For some inexplicable reason (in the dream, it didn't seem to matter how), I woke up to find myself back in 1994. December of 1994, to be precise. Actually, to be even more exact . . . it was just after I had completed my Fall semester of freshman year at college. I was back home for the holidays and reconnecting with family and friends. The funny thing was, my dream self *knew* that I had somehow gone back in time. 18 yr old me had all the memories of 34 yr old me!

Like I said, weird huh?

While I was dreaming, though, this seemed like a nightmare at first. I mean, this meant that I would have to redo all the hard work I had put into obtaining my degree! But then, during the course of the dream (which only lasted 9 minutes in real world time), I started to realize what a boon this really was. It meant that I could do things differently that had not turned out so hot in my past. Decisions which, in hindsight, were not the best ones I could have made. With this redo, I now had the luxury of setting things right!

I'm not going to go into what exactly those decisions might be. That would take a far, far longer post than I feel like writing right now. But it was a heady feeling for me, knowing that I could affect my future since I already knew what was coming.

Curiously, though, most of the dream was actually about me spending time with my brother and my best friends. Basically I came to the conclusion that I should have been doing more of that back then, I guess. But hey, it was a big time for all of us. In 1994, our lives were spinning wildly into the future as we came of age and entered the adult world. I guess a part of me was yearning for a time when we were all still just kids having a blast.

Towards the end of the dream was when it started to dawn on me all the interesting things I could really do now that I was 18 again and it was 1994. I mapped out the remainder of my college years, dropping all the useless classes I really shouldn't have taken and only focusing on the ones I knew were necessary for my major. Gone then was Calculus II, which I absolutely hated and which almost destroyed my brain in 1995. I also added in some classes I had never taken but which I'd always wanted to try at the time. Courses in astronomy and more advanced philosophy, for instance.

But just before the alarm rung for the third time this morning, the dream *really* got good! I realized: Hey, why not invest in all the companies that future me already knows are going to be huge down the line? Imagine all the money I could make investing in such startup companies like Dell and (eventually) Google? Not to mention more established companies like Apple and Microsoft? Now, yeah, I'm completely ignorant when it comes to investing. That should go without saying, for those who know me. But the great thing about a redo to life is . . . you have plenty of time to learn new things!

But, alas. Just as I was about to go sign up for some econ classes, the dream ended. Aww, damn. I could've made a killing!

Well, it was fun while it lasted, huh?

How about you? What would you do if you were suddenly transferred into the body of your younger self back in 1994? Or, hell, what if you could be 18 again, whenever that might have been? Would this be a blessing to you, or a curse? I know some of you out there might not be as enthusiastic about this prospect as I seem to be. Especially those of you with children, since there would be no guarantee that you would have the same exact kids you have now.

But, please, do feel free to sound off in the comments section below. I would love to hear what others have to say on this.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nostalgic For Paris

*Le sigh*

I'm miserable this week. Why, you might ask? Well, you see, for the past two years now the penultimate week in March has been reserved for our trip to Paris. Yes, *the* Paris -- France! Unfortunately, this year we couldn't pull it off due to circumstances beyond our control. And I'm seriously bummed out. I have such a yearning to be there, like, RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

So, in commemoration of the awesome time my wife and I had in the city of light back in 2009 and 2010, I'm posting the links to my original trip reports below. Won't you check them out and relive our happy adventures with me?

Paris Trip 1 (2009)
Paris Trip 2 (2010)

Also, if anyone would like to check out the pics I took of our time in Paris, I have the albums posted up on Facebook. Don't worry, you don't need to be a part of the "social experiment" to access these photos. I'm linking you all directly to the pics here and here. Please read the captions, too, if you fancy. I didn't write them just to give my fingers the exercise. :)

Meanwhile, if you'll excuse me . . . I have a nicely aged bottle of Saint-Émilion waiting to help me commiserate my separation sorrows.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spelling Bee

You know what I find funny about being a writer? When those around me, for some inexplicable reason, expect me to be this master speller or grammar Nazi. I mean, seriously? I laugh at this because--dudes, you really don't know writers! We're lazy. And some of us, even, barely literate!

Okay, okay . . . that last one is a bit of a stretch. But what I mean to say is, writers are the same cross-selection of society as any other lump grouping of people with similar interests. Some among us are good spellers, sure. Exceptional spellers, perhaps. But sadly most are not. Luckily for me, writers don't necessarily sell work because they're God's gift to the English language, but because they know how to spin an entertaining yarn that readers enjoy reading. Spelling mistakes and "grammos" come with the territory because--hey--we're only human, too. Not robots.

That all being said, I do consider myself a decent speller. More importantly, I'm fairly well-versed in that there reading thing. Reading's been my constant companion since before I had real life flesh-n-blood friends to call my own. And yet--gasp!--I'm actually human, so I've made plenty of errors in my writing over these many years. More than a highly literate person should make, perhaps.

Big whoop, I say. That's what proofreading is for. And good copy editors!

But, you know, it got me thinking about certain pesky words which I can never seem to spell correctly. And it's a fairly substantial list, I might add. But over the years I've been able to whittle it down some by employing certain mnemonic tricks.

For instance, I used to never get the word "government" correct. I would always forget the "n" in the middle there, see? Until one day I decided to break the word down into two parts: "govern" and "ment". I knew the word "govern" was a real word in its own right, so from this point on it was easy to think of that word when attempting to spell the other. Ever since, whenever I type "government" I find myself putting more emphasis on the second syllable in my head and remembering the word "govern". Hey, I just did it now!

Another trick, although juvenile (but hey, that's why it works!), is the one I employ to spell "assassin" which, as you can see, has a disturbing amout of "s" letters in there. The trick for this, again, involves breaking the word down into its component parts: "ass" "ass" "in". So, if you're still with me: that's two "asses," and one "in". Hey, the second coming of Oscar Wilde I am not. What can I say?

Anyway, all that being said, I still have a list of words which--try as I might--I cannot seem to ever get right. Here are a few of them:

Rhythm.  Oiy! This one is a constant thorn in my side. I have no idea how other people can spell this one correctly. And what's funny is, the harder I concentrate to get it right without resorting to a dictionary or a spell check program, the worse the result becomes. Personally I think it's due to the disturbing lack of vowels in this word. And I'm one of those people that consider the letter "y" to be an impostor vowel, too! So, if I stare at this word for too long, it starts to look like Russian to me. I hate this word.

Possess.  Once again, the letter "s" is the culprit here. I always misspell this by using only one s in the middle and two at the end. Don't you just hate that?

Conscious.  The "s" before the "c" -- it gets me every. single. time! I spell the word "concious," and then spend the next minute trying to determine if that looks right or not. Why? I have no friggin clue!

Necessary.  This one is bizarre because instead of unintentionally taking away an extra letter in the middle of a word, I erroneously add one instead. "Neccessary" is how I usually spell this, and then have to sit there and wonder what I did wrong when the dreaded red squiggly line of doom shows up in Word.

Banana.  Again, I'm usually guilty of adding an additional letter where none is required. This time, it's the letter "n" in the middle of this particular word, so that it looks like "bannana". Go ahead, laugh you bums. But it's not funny!

Posse.  I swear, how this word does not have an extra "e" at the end is beyond me. When I say it aloud, I just need that additional "e" there. It's like a deep seeded want that, despite my best efforts, is never correct. What, does "possee" just look wrong to the spelling authority people? Whenever I see the correct spelling, I have the tendency to sound it out as only one syllable -- like "poss" with a silent "e". I need that extra letter there at the end to convey a bi-syllabic pronunciation, I suppose. Do I need help, or does anyone else have this problem?

Judgment.  Okay, again, where the hell did that "e" go? Doesn't this word look ridiculous without that "e" to other people besides me? I keep getting this wrong because whenever I use the same trick I use with "government", as demonstrated earlier, things go horribly wrong. So let me get this straight: The root of this word is "judge," but yet "judgement" is the incorrect spelling? Says who? What the hell, English language, can't you get your rules straight? Although, I'm sure the rule must be that exceptions are made for words ending in vowels. Or something like that. You can't apply the -ment suffix to a word ending in a vowel, is that it? I wouldn't know since I have zero retention of my phonics lessons from back in the 2nd grade. Stupid English! *grumble, grumble*

Desert.  This one isn't so much about misspelling (although I'm sure that's partly my problem), but about incorrect word choice. Whenever I mean to use "desert" I use "dessert" instead, and vice-versa. I never seem to remember which is which. The only trick I can employ to know when to use which, is that the one with the double "s" is more tasty than the other, thereby deserving of the extra consonant. And yet, I still get this wrong more often than not. Grrrr!

Success.  Yet again, I'm at a loss with this one. Okay, so let me get this straight: "necessary" only has one "c", but "success" has two? Bwah? How the hell am I supposed to remember these rules? Seems rather arbitrary if you ask me. Although I can usually get this one right by using the break-down rule into its constituent syllables: suc-cess. Hmmm, it "sucks" first, before . . . er . . . "cess"-ing? Hmm, okay, maybe I need to rethink this approach. But, anyway, again I say -- WTF, English language? Why are you trying to kill my brain?

Well, I think that's enough for now. I know there are a few more words that need to go on this list, but right now I seem to be drawing a blank.

How about you guys? Any words that, despite you knowing better, you simply can never seem to spell right? I'm not expecting you to have the same ones as on my list -- we each have are own issues, after all. Some words I can't figure out are probably like, pfft!, so EASY for some of you. But then, perhaps some of the ones you get stymied on are like cake to me. Such is life.

So please do let me know in the comments section below. I would love to read some other examples out there, if at the very least so that I don't feel so special. And by "special," I think you all know what I mean.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Game Of Thrones, Fear And Blood!

Yup, I had a feeling this would happen . . . and I wasn't disappointed! Just before last night's airing of Big Love, HBO showed yet another new trailer from the upcoming tv show I've been driving you all crazy about these past couple of months.

Ooooh -- I think this is the best one yet! It shows you just how dark and gritty the source material can be at times. More focus is placed on the Wall, the Wildlings, and the Others (aka "White Walkers") to the North. But we also get glimpses of Winterfell, the Red Keep, Pentos -- and hey, a Varys sighting! He's the fat, bald-headed dude speaking to Ned at the 1:01 minute mark. Nicknamed "The Spider," Varys is the spy master to the King, collecting all the choice secrets and dealings going on behind the walls of the Red Keep and beyond.

And of course I'm loving Queen Cersei's devilish delivery of the line: "When you play the game of thrones you win . . . or you die!"

Aw hell. Just check out the footage for yourself already, dammit! :)

(Click here for the Youtube link if the above video doesn't work for you.)

"I'll kill them . . . Ned Stark, the King--the whole bloody lot of them!--until you and I are the only people left in this world."

And before I forget, here's the official poster for the show, released just a few days ago:


Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Dead Space 2 Shenanigans

So, as some of you know, I've been playing Dead Space 2 off and on for the past two months or so. It's taking me so long to get through this game only because I sometimes go weeks without finding the time to turn on the ol' PlayStation 3. But over the weekend I was finally able to devote a rather largish chunk of time to the game, and I have to say . . . things are really getting FREAKY!!!

Dead Space 2 is a sci-fi horror game. It takes place aboard a mining station orbiting Saturn's moon, Titan. In the first game, Isaac boarded the deep space vessel U.S.G. Ishimura and got introduced to the wonderful group of swell folk known as Necromorphs. After that adventure went bust, some idiot decided to tow the Ishimura back to Titan station (nicknamed "The Sprawl"), and so of course the Necromorphs are now all over this place as well.

Anyway, so, Isaac meets up with this other survivor--a technician named Ellie--and we're trying to get down to the bottom of some sneaky government cover-up occurring on the Sprawl. At some point before chapter 10, it's decided that Isaac needs to head back inside the Ishimura in order to get them from Point A to Point B. Ellie, naturally, waits outside the ship while Isaac climbs aboard and tries to get the big hunk of junk operational. This ship is HUGE, btw, but is theoretically supposed to be empty since Isaac took care of all the nasty baddies during the first game. But, do you think they would make it that easy?

At one point I'm contacted over the comm channel by Ellie, who has a clear view of the outside hull of the ship from where she's waiting. I was on my way to the Ishimura's bridge on an internal tram system when the following conversation takes place:

Ellie: "[Necromorphs] are coming in through a hole in the Medical Deck. At least you won't have to go through there.

Overhead Computer Voice: "Unexpected obstruction ahead. [Tram] shutting down. Welcome to the Medical Deck."

Isaac: "Crap."

*sigh* I just can't catch a break in this game!

Incidentally, from this moment on the shit really hit the fan. What was supposed to be just a quick run through the Ishimura to get it up and running turned out to be a nightmare trip down memory lane. I barely made it out of that damned ship alive and into Chapter 11.

Oh well, just another day in the life of a gamer. I hope the rest of you had as entertaining a weekend as I did. :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lightning Strikes Twice!

I know, WHAT THE HELL? Yet another vlog, David? Oh, geez. *rolls eyes*

But, hey, no one's forcing you to watch these. Right? RIGHT???

Oh, and this time I'm in another room in the house. The room where I close the door and do all my writing. Hey, in fact, I'm there right now . . . writing this very sentence!

Anyway, here's me babbling away for your amusement. Stay tuned 'till the end -- I have a special request for those of you brave enough to watch.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

In Preparation For Next Month

Just a quick note for those of you wishing to get into Game of Thrones next month on HBO. And, yes, after this I'm done with any more news regarding the show. Well, at least for the remainder of this week!

Some of you have expressed an interest in perhaps reading the books before the April 17th air date. To which I always say: not possible. Each book is about the size of a dictionary -- way too much to wade through in just 6 weeks. Even if you were to only read the first book, of which the 1st season encompasses, you still wouldn't have enough time.

So, I offer to you enterprising would-be fans a compromise: click on this link to be taken to The Tower of the Hand. Within you will find each book broken down by chapter, with a nice summary for each. Trust me, if you read these chapter summaries, you will be more than ready for when the first episodes air. Even if you don't read all the summaries, you can read one or two just to get a taste of what's in store.

Oh, but one thing to keep in mind if you embark on this journey: DO NOT read the footnotes at the end of each chapter breakdown! For realz. They're full of all sorts of spoilery tidbits gleaned from later books in the series. So the footnotes are only there at the convenience of folks who have already read the books and, therefore, won't be spoiled. Like, D'UH!!!

Sound good? Feel free to wander around the site some, too, as there are plenty of useful goodies regarding the franchise beyond just chapter summaries. It's an excellent resource for all things related to A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF).

That is all for now.

I'm Dying From Excitement Overload!

Fresh on the heels of what I erroneously called HBO's first full trailer for Game of Thrones last week . . . comes the actual and official full trailer! Hmm, I guess that previous one was just a glorified teaser, then. As you may recall, in that blog entry I broke down the footage to clarify some of the more important scenes we were getting glimpses of. Well, after watching this brand new trailer now, I see that the previous one was meant more for fans of the books as this one below seems to be more easy to follow for newcomers.

Feast your eyes on the new footage, then, and I'll provide my thoughts after the cut:

Click here if the above video doesn't work for you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

7 Facts About Moi

Yvonne, over at Writing My Life Away, tagged me in this meme. At the time I wasn't sure I'd be able to participate, but I've given it some thought and figure: oh, what the hell?!!

Heh, heh, I know it sounds like I'm giving it such a ringing endorsement. But, nah, actually this is pretty fun. I'm finding it more and more difficult to reveal things about myself that people don't already know through reading this blog, though.

Oh well, here goes:

List 7 Facts About Yourself

1 -- In a strange way, I look forward to death. I don't want to die, and I'm not trying to be morbid in any way. What I mean is, I'm of the firm belief that NONE of the world's religions have got it right. Absolutely not one. No one has been to the great beyond and come back to tell us about it. No one. Anyone who says they have is lying. So, therefore, what happens after we die is the greatest mystery of all. My gut tells me that nothing happens, and this is probably my greatest fear. But, what if? What if there is something wonderful and unimaginable after all this? (And no, I'm not talking Heaven.) I want to crack that mystery!

2 -- I have an unusually high tolerance for pain. It's freaky. I don't know why this is, except to suspect that it could be psychological. I absorb pain and then consciously transform it into something not-pain. I know, it doesn't make sense. But it's what I do. I had all 4 of my wisdom teeth removed at once and while still wide awake with no drugs, except local. And one of my teeth was impacted and hooked under a nerve, too! Still, the pain was like nothing to me. I enjoyed it, in fact.

3 -- When I was 2, I stuck my finger into an electrical socket and shorted out the entire room. No electronics worked in that room ever again. And yet, aside from a mild "funny" sensation that ran through me, I was perfectly fine.

4 -- If I could support myself, I would like to do nothing but learn languages and other cultures and travel to other places for the rest of my life. Every culture appeals to me in some way. I want to immerse myself completely and lose myself. Become that culture for a few years, before moving on to another. I don't want to study people, or write Ph D's on them. I just want to BE them for a little while and see things through their eyes.

5 -- Try as I might, I cannot seem to acquire the taste for beer or hard spirits. I drink wine on occasion, but even that isn't a big part of my life like for some people. I drink socially to not stand out if other people around me are drinking, but if you come to my home you'll never find a six pack of beer in the fridge. And the rum, vodka, or tequila bottles I own have been sitting there on the shelf for 10 years now. In fact, I'm sure they've gone bad!

6 -- I've never been in a foot race and lost. True, I haven't been in many to begin with . . . but those that I have, I'm always faster than the other person(s). Yet, I never had the desire to join track. I think the real reason is that, deep down inside, I refuse the possibility of losing. I can be extremely competitive when you least expect me to be, all the while appearing like I don't give a crap.

7 -- I have anti-luck. What I mean is, my luck is never good or bad: it just doesn't exist. At all. If you gave me twenty games of chance to play, I would win 10 and lose 10. Put my name in a bag with others, and my name will never be called first or last, but always in the middle. I see this as a good thing, ultimately, but it's why I'll never ever play the lotto. My destiny doesn't seem geared toward huge spectacular luck payouts, good or bad. I suspect my luck index is as such to allow me to live without getting too ridiculously rich, or too stinking poor. Which is why I put more stock behind ability and hard work. Leave nothing to chance is my motto.

And there you have it. 7 so-called "facts" about me. Hmm, they may not read like facts to some of you. But to me they are.

I'm supposed to tag a bunch of other people in return for being tagged myself. But those of you who know me know that I never do this. So, thanks to Yvonne for the honor! I truly appreciate you thinking of me, really I do. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Dish Best Served Cold


Is it sweet?

I never particularly thought so. And yet . . .

See, everyone expects me to want revenge against the man who changed my life forever the day he took my mom away from me. I spoke of the incident before, in this blog entry. So I won't go into the details again here. But because she was taken in such a horrific way, some people assume that if given the chance I would do brutal and nasty things to this guy.

First of all, I'm almost certain he's dead now anyway. The dude had some serious health issues the last time he was in our lives. Add to that, he must have been in his mid to late 40s when this happened back in 1986. Even if he is still alive today, he's old and decrepit no doubt. And I'm sure his life sucks, too.

So, no, even if I knew he were alive and where he lived, I would not seek him out or interact with him in any way, least of all to get my vengeance. Despite how my demeanor might frighten some people when they get on my bad side, I'm actually a non-violent person. I've had to deal with a LOT of crap thrown my way in life. Not to mention I grew up in one of the most violent and under-privileged urban environments in the country, so I had to learn to fend for myself at a very early age. Still, I abhor the idea of causing physical injury to someone else . . . unless I'm immediately threatened, or someone close to me is. Especially that last part. Beat up on me all you want (well, not these days, as I *will* in all honesty kick someone's ass), but don't ever try to harm someone I love. I'm afraid of what might happen to me then. I think something that's been buried deep down inside might get loose and do very bad things to the perpetrator. Very bad things.

Other than that, though, I'd rather people leave me alone and let me live in peace.


Sometimes I'll think back to things that happened to me in the past and I get very angry. Like this one time when I was around 12 or 13. My brother and I used to be so bored during school break for the summer, that we decided to start going to the local public pool only 2 blocks away from where we lived. Despite it being a crowded cesspool, we were kids and just loved the fact that we got to get out of the house on our own and swim all day long. The problem is, we were still in the ghetto. And public pools are gross to begin with, but in the ghetto they take on an added level of danger. You never know what dumbass juvenile delinquent or escaped convict might be in the pool with you.

Thus what happened this one day.

Now, I already said the pool was crowded. But you're not quite picturing it correctly, I imagine. You've ever seen a Tokyo subway during rush hour? On tv or in person? Well, yes, that's pretty much what public Bronx swimming pools looks like in July. It's so not cute.

Yet, most times my brother and I had no problems. Every now and then we'd have to deal with some rowdy punk kids our age trying to start shit. But most of the time that was nothing but pre-adolescent males blowing off steam. On this day, though, I had to contend with something else. I was fooling around with my lil' bro, playing swim tag or something, when out of nowhere these two grown ass guys grabbed me and started yelling at me. I say grown because I was little, but in actuality I think they were around 18 yrs old, give or take a year. This pair of assholes started accusing me of having said something about one of them at some earlier date, even though I had no idea who the hell these dudes were. And why would I? I was all of 12 years old!

Anyway, despite my protest to the contrary, they proceeded to hold my head under the water and try to drown me. Now, I know what you're thinking? Oh, you're still alive to blog today, so obviously they didn't mean to kill you. And I say to that: you weren't there, Jack.

Look, I've been in a lot of fights. This wasn't my first time hearing that someone wanted to kill me. And it wouldn't be my last. But these guys . . . they meant it! There was no smiling or joking going on: their faces told me they meant to kill me. And I believed them. It was very scary.

And where were the lifeguards or security in all this? Pffft! Well, for one, there was no security. Public pool. South Bronx. Lots and lots of brown-skinned folk in a square hole filled with water. Security my ass! And as for lifeguards? Oh, there was ONE. One measly lifeguard for a pool that easily contained 300 or so bodies at any given moment. We were packed like sardines in there! The lifeguard didn't see shit. Nor do I think he would have budged a finger even if he had. And everyone else in the pool around me must have thought I knew these guys and that we were just horsing around.

So now you see my dilemma. And my poor brother! He was so scared the entire time, standing off to the side and not knowing what to do. I remember him frozen in shock as each guy took turns holding me down under the water. I punched and I scratched, but to no avail. At first my protests didn't have much strength behind them, because I thought these guys would have their fun beating up on some poor scrawny 7th grader and move on. But when it became clear that they did in fact mean to drown me--and for no rightful reason I could discern--a rage built up inside me. I knew it was fight or die, so I gave it all that I had. I swear to you I felt like I had the strength of a grown man when it all clicked inside me! I felt betrayed and victimized, and by a bunch of asshats that had no business ganging up on a kid so much younger and smaller than them.

Now, I'm not saying that I was magically able to fight these guys off. I wasn't. But my sudden enraged kicks and punches started to *finally* attract attention. A little too much attention for these guys. They suddenly let me go and then high-tailed it out of the pool and vanished. My brother looked like he was close to tears, but I told him it wasn't his fault. There realistically was nothing he could have done. A lot of people stared at me for a while, but I tried to play it off like I was just pretending to be in a fight. Eventually people returned to their business and ignored me and my brother.

We stayed in the pool for a little while longer, even though we were no longer in the playing state of mind. I wanted to make sure those assholes had left before we finally headed for the locker room. I never did see those guys again, even though I did eventually return to the pool for the remainder of the summer and also the next. I didn't tell anyone what happened because, honestly, what would have been done about it? I was used to the authorities ignoring pleas for help in the ghetto. Us minorities were always on our own, especially back in the late 80s/early 90s. I didn't tell my grandmother, either. It would have just worried her more and then we would never be allowed to leave the house.

But I remember being so confused and angry that day. What the fuck was wrong with those guys, I wondered? The consensus I came to was that they must have been high on something. It really is the only explanation I have. I don't think they confused me with someone else. After all, what business would a 12 year old have with 18 yr olds? So, no, I think they had to have been on drugs.

That still doesn't excuse it, though.

And hence, as strange as it may sound to you reading this, if I were to seek vengeance against anyone today, it would be those two assholes. Not the man who murdered my mother, who I think will rot in hell anyway. But these two. If could somehow track them down without doubt, I would end them both. I'm not kidding. I believe they have to pay for something like that. For almost taking my life. That was the most scared I've ever been for my own safety. I mean, the deep-down-where-it-gets-tough fear, where it becomes either them or you who's going to live. And I want to live, so they would have to die.

See, then, why revenge is bad?

In theory it makes sense why I would want to kill these clowns, even after all these years. But in practice, how would I ever pull that off? How would I even know for sure who did this? I wouldn't. So that's why revenge is stupid. It serves no one. All it does is keep that anger boiling deep down inside where it can do nothing but damage.

Looking at it in this light, I suppose I really don't want revenge, then. It just isn't worth it, to be honest.

What about you? Anything really, really bad happen to make you actually want revenge on another person? Do you think the act of an "eye for an eye" makes you just as bad as the originator?

Or can one actually find relief from the demons of one's past when the dish is finally served?

Food for thought.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's Been A Long Time . . .

Since I did one of these, that is. For those of you not prepared, get ready to set your eyes on my hideous visage and atrocious-sounding voice as I subject you once again to the horror known as . . . my VLOG!!!!

It runs at nearly 15 minutes long, though, so don't say I didn't warn you:

Are you still alive? Are your eyes not blinded, and are you able to continue reading? Phew, good! I was worried there for a second. For some reason the finished video turned out even darker than it looked to me while I was recording it. So I apologize for that Two-Face effect I had going on where half my face was in the light, while the other half in shadow. Spooky!

Oh, and if you're having trouble viewing the above embedded video, or if it's not running smoothly, click on this link to view it directly on Vimeo.

And, as promised, below are the links to the books I recommended in the Vlog. Check them out and see if you might not be interested in one or more of these. Of course, for the ones that are sequels, maybe you'll be interested enough to read the first books in the series? I hope so!

God's War, by Kameron Hurley.

The Broken Kingdoms, by N. K. Jemisin.

The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss.

We'll see what I decided to discuss next time I do one of these. Unless, of course, you beg me in the comments not to. But it's going to have to be a LOT of you to convince me otherwise. Good luck with that!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Only 45 Days Left . . .

Until the premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones, that is! And to celebrate this realization, here is the latest--and this time, FULL--promotional trailer for the show:

As usual, if you can't get the above video to work, click on this Youtube link as an alternative.

Wow, this just keeps looking better and better! I've been talking about this series based on the popular epic fantasy books by George R. R. Martin for some time now, and it thrills me to no end that in just 6 weeks a lot more people will be introduced to the brilliance of the world the author creates here.

There's a lot to like in this latest trailer, especially for fans of the books who no doubt recognize many of the pivotal scenes from the first novel. Below I'm going to highlight the most important points from the trailer that might go over the heads of those not familiar with the books. After reading this and seeing the trailer, just try and tell me that all this doesn't ooze juicy political intrigue and high drama. You'd be lying!

The scenes of some great excitement to myself are:

King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) asking his long time friend, Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) to be his new Hand of the King after the passing of the former man to hold this position, Lord Jon Arryn. Fearing that the man was in fact murdered, and that his old friend might be in danger from scheming factions within his very kingdom, Ned reluctantly accepts in order to investigate. And as fans of the books all know, thus sets off a chain of events that will eventually lead to a great many tragic dealings.

Robert's wife, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) is seen conspiring with her twin brother, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), over the insult of not being chosen the King's Hand instead of Ned. The House of Lannister is going to be a force to be reckoned with during the course of this first season -- and that's putting it mildly! Queen Cersei is one of the most hated and conniving characters in the series, and the love between her and Jaime becomes more than just a touch uncomfortable when certain truths about their relationship come to light . . .

Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), the silver-haired Targaryen siblings exiled in the East, discuss "going home". As the last surviving heirs of the former "Mad" King Aerys II, and scions to the once great and powerful dynastic family the Targaryens, "home" is a reference to retaking the Iron Throne from King Robert and restoring a "dragon" to rule over all of Westeros once more. Of course, as we fans all know, Viserys is as mad as his father was, and his plans don't actually grow to fruition the way he hopes. But keep an eye on Dany, for her destiny is a whole other matter entirely . . .

"I'll try to keep you alive . . . for her sake." Ah, this is, of course, Lord Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) -- aka "Littlefinger," Master of Coin to the King. In this scene, he assures Ned's wife, Catelyn Stark, that he will keep an eye out for her husband's well-being while he serves as the King's Hand at the castle. What you might not know is that Petyr and Catelyn were childhood friends, and that Littlefinger still carries a torch for her after all these years. He offers his friendship and loyalty to the Starks, but in fact he's quite possibly the most cowardly, yet sinister and ruthless behind-the-scenes manipulator of all the tragedy that is about to unfold in the Seven Kingdoms. He's definitely one to watch out for.

A brief scene of Jaime Lannister, "The Kingslayer" and arguably the most skilled swordsman in all of Westeros, kicking much ass as the ground around him is littered with the bodies of those foolish guards who thought they could arrest him. I so hope they get the choreography right in this scene. I want to *believe* this guy knows how to use a sword! Even though he's just as arrogant and ruthless as his conniving twin sister, Jaime is a character much beloved by readers because of the quite amazing character arc he undergoes during the course of the first 4 books in the series. The actor portraying him, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, you might know from the short-lived "Highlander-lite" tv show, New Amsterdam. I liked him in that show, and definitely think he has the chops to pull this role off. And what a meaty role it shall prove to be!

"I know they did it. In my bones, I know it." Once more, another famous line from the book. This is Catelyn Stark referring to the Lannisters, and a particularly sick and frightening episode that befalls one of her youngest sons in the early pages of the first novel. The ending of that chapter was when readers sat up and realized that the author, Martin, was not bullshitting with this series. If he could allow something so horrible to happen to a child, what the hell else was he going to have in store for us later? What the hell else indeed! Because of this, the animosity between both the House of Stark and the House of Lannister really comes to a boil.

And last but not least, all the references to "winter" peppered throughout this trailer, which is actually part of the Stark family's motto: "Winter is Coming!" The House of Stark, of course, controls the northernmost kingdom in Westeros -- the territory closest to the Wall, which separates the Seven Kingdoms from the hordes of mythical, unseemly beasts that no one has set eyes upon for going on 8,000 years. The most dangerous and mysterious of these creatures are known through legend only simply as "The Others." The last time the ancestors of man fought this powerful force, it created a night that lasted for more than a generation, and a winter that stretched to almost a hundred years! So when you hear old people evoking the threat "Winter is coming . . ." in this world, it's not just a mild observation of the changing seasons (which do, in fact, last for several years on the unnamed planet the novels take place on). No, the saying is really just another way of warning: you better get your house in order, Jack -- because now the real shit's going to hit the fan!

Oh, I so can't WAIT to see all this unfold on the tv screen. This is going to be a marvelous show, just you wait and see!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nyahhh . . . What's Up, Doc?

Had my annual checkup today. As some of you may recall, around 6 years ago I had a major health scare that had the beneficial effect of whipping me into the best shape I've ever been in my life. You can click this link to read the storied end result of all that hard work.

Anyway, ever since then I feel that my doctor has been expecting for the other shoe to drop. As if, like so many other people in my predicament, I would slip back into my old habits. But as I said to him once: he didn't know me very well. No, truth of the matter is, I completely changed my life around back in 2005. And you know what? I'm still kicking ass on the health front here in 2011!

My blood work came back today, and I'm proud to say that my numbers are still beyond impressive. My doc continues to be astounded by the results I consistently get in terms of blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol--all of which came in at exceptional this time around. Even I was shocked by how good they were. He asked me what my secret was, because he's never seen anyone do what I've done. I told him it was simple: I'm psycho!

Haha, no I'm not. No, really I am.

No I'm not.

Okay, maybe just a tad. What I mean to say is: I'm really stubborn. You can call it a Virgo thing if you want, I don't care. The truth is that I just refuse to be a victim of my own laziness. If all that is required of me to accomplish something is to buckle down and work hard without fail, then I see it as the least I can do to achieve my goals in life. I'm very determined when it comes to getting what I want. And what I wanted more in life than anything back in 2005 was to never ever be dependent on meds. And, to kick this stupid disease in the ass and take its name. Which I did, and then some!

My doc says it really shouldn't be possible, to continue to go so many years with absolutely no medication and yet still keep the disease away with no recurrence. He said he hates using the word "cured", yet this is the only term that applies to my unique situation.

But I don't see why it's a surprise, at least to me. 6 years later, it's obvious I know what I'm doing. Working out six days a week and switching to a more natural and leaner diet has paid dividends. And to be honest, it really doesn't even feel like work anymore. It's just a part of my life now.

I used to always hear older people in the family talk about how important your health is. My grandmother was always telling me to take care of myself now, when I'm young, so that I don't end up paying for it later down the line.

Now, for once in my life, I can honestly say I understand what she meant. It's the best investment for the future you can make.

Oh don't you agree?

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...