Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Angry Post About Being Happy

"The axis today is not liberal and conservative, the axis is constructive-destructive."- Steve Jobs

I keep reading this quote by Steve Jobs and I think it really sums up a good chunk of my own thoughts here at the end of 2011.

I had a pretty good year. I got married, got a new job doing something I really like doing, and started doing Crossfit. My outlook right now is more positive than it has been in years. There is a brooding, moody, eighteen year old me who lives in the darker part of my soul and keeps screaming that the other shoe is bound to drop sooner or later, but the hopeful, happy, close-to-30 year old me keeps telling him to shut up. Hakuna Matata, eighteen year old me. So there's some context for where I am as you read the rest of this.

Back to the Steve Jobs quote. I think you have a choice of living your life in one of three ways:

1. You can spend your life as an appendix. It's pretty easy to coast through life neither contributing to society at large in any meaningful way, or taking anything away. Much like the appendix, you can take in nutrients without harming a body or doing anything really constructive for that body either. You can eat food, go to work, go home, watch TV, lather, rinse and repeat. It's a boring life, but it's an easy one too. I think most people probably live like this though no one would ever really admit to living like this.

2. You can break stuff. You can destroy. Steve Jobs in the above quote was talking about Fox News. His point was that it didn't really matter that Fox had a conservative bias. His problem with Fox was that they were destructive. As a network, they spend a huge chunk of their time decrying politicians, and groups of people they don't like without really contributing anything positive. They don't really make anything except hateful noise. Their politics don't really matter. There are lots of destructive liberals out there too. There are also conservatives who help the poor, build roads, and protect the peace, amongst other wonderful contributions. But there are plenty of people out there of all political/religious/etc. persuasions who just like yelling about how much everything and everyone sucks. Destructive people are destructive because they are selfish. They'd rather build themselves up by tearing others down than actually taking some responsibility and doing something constructive with their lives. And that brings us to the third way to live life:

3. You can build. In season 2 of the Wire (probably my favorite season of the Wire) Frank Sobotka says "We used to build shit in this country". Frank is of course upset about the decline of American manufacturing, shipping, etc., but you could apply this quote to the state of modern discourse. But the very best people still build stuff.  You CAN do more with your life than simply float through. You can take all of the energy that you may be applying to trashing someone else and instead "build some shit". The purpose of humanity (in my humble opinion) is to forward the cause of humanity. Leave the world better than you found it. Paint, work out, help the poor, raise a family, design airplanes, grow plants, read books, write books, dream and build, and work and struggle and love and be a living, breathing human thing. Life is too short, and too difficult- we can do more than make it even harder for our fellow humans.

With that in mind, here is my New Year's resolution. It's in two parts, but it's pretty simple.

Part the first:

Be more positive.

Part the second:

Build shit.

I am going to be kind to every human who I meet. I will hold doors. I will offer my coat to other humans who may be cold. I will donate money to charitable causes.  I will say nice things to other humans about their hair. I will not argue with anyone about politics, or music, or religion. More importantly, I will not decry and denounce anyone just because their opinions on music, politics, religion or whatever differ from my own. I will not blame anyone else for my own shortcomings.

I will make things. I will cook meals and share them. I will do small carpentry projects. I will perform and make people laugh. I will travel. I will work hard. I will work out. I will eat well. I will live well, and I will help you if I can.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Random Top 5s

Here are some random top 5 lists:

Top Five Favorite Breakfasts:

1. Fried Eggs (over easy), Bacon, and toast with a glass of orange juice
2. Fried Chicken and Waffles
3. French Toast
4. Cold Pizza
5. Eggs Benedict

Top Five Re-occurring but non-regular Star Trek TNG Characters:

1. Reginald Barclay
2. Q
3. Ensign Ro
4. Vash
5. Thomas Riker (he came back on DS9 so he counts)

And 1 awful re-occurring non-regular Star Trek TNG Character:

1. Lwaxana Troi

Top 5 Dinosaurs:

1. Stegosaurus
2. Pachycephalosaurus
3. Utah Raptor
4. Argentiniasaurus
5. Ankylosaurus

Top 5 Rogues Galleries

1. The Flash (Prominent members- Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang, Weather Wizard, Trickster, etc.)
2.  Spiderman (Prominent members- Dr. Octopus, Venom, the Lizard, the Green Goblin, Sandman, etc.)
3. Batman (Prominent members- The Joker, Poison Ivy, Bane, the Riddler, the Penguin, etc.)
4. The Fantastic Four (Prominent members-Dr. Doom, the Thinker, the Red Ghost, Galactus*, etc.)
5. the X-Men (Prominent members- Magneto, the Sentinels, the Hellfire Club, the Brotherhood, humanity, etc.)

*Galactus isn't so much a villain as he is a fundamental force of nature. But, he is a fundamental force of nature that eats planets, and the Fantastic Four fights him alot so I put him here.

Bottom Five Rogues Galleries

1.  Superman- (Lex Luthor is great. All of his other villains suck.)
2. Wonder Woman- (Doesn't even have a Lex Luthor)
3. Iron Man- (did you ever notice that the best Iron Man stories always feature Tony Stark fighting things he made himself?)
4. Aquaman- (Black Manta, Ocean Master, and Pollution? That's a pretty lousy rogues gallery)
5. Captain America- (Pretty much all Nazis who have somehow managed to survive for 60+ years in cloned bodies, robot bodies, or whatever)

Top Five Favorite Video Games (all time)

1. Final Fantasy VII
2. Metal Gear Solid III
3. Super Mario Brothers 3
4. Super Mario Galaxy
5. Batman: Arkham Asylum

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Time to Meet the Muppets....






Chelsea and I both love the Muppets. We both grew up with the Muppets, like so many other people of our generation. We watched Fraggle Rock, the Muppet Show, Jim Henson's Storyteller, and of course Sesame Street as kids. My favorite Christmas special is "A Muppet Family Christmas" which may be the only time all of those characters were featured in one special. If you ever visit our apartment, we have a display case full of Muppet figurines in the middle of our living room. That's our centerpiece. The Muppets, in our case, bring the room together.

So, we were both pretty excited to go see the new film "The Muppets" over the weekend. I mean, it's been a long time. Jim Henson passed away in 1990, and while the Muppets have survived, they haven't been quite the same.  Don't get me wrong- I loved "A Muppet Christmas Carol", and I liked "Muppet Treasure Island" and I didn't hate "Muppets from Space" but none of those movies felt like the Muppets to me. And the awful TV specials that Disney has produced since they acquired the property....well. This blog entry is meant to be positive, so we won't dwell on those (but FYI- they all suck. Especially the one where the Muppets do duets with various Disney Channel stars).

We built a whole day around going to see the movie. We went downtown, we did some Christmas shopping, we ate at the Purple Pig (easily the most Muppet-y restaurant name in Chicago).  And how was it?

Great. It was great.

You can read reviews of it pretty much everywhere, and while the praise has been nearly universal, there are some negative Nancys and Neds who mostly seem upset that it wasn't exactly the Muppet Movie they wanted. I loved it. I had a few quibbles, but they were minor. Here is a list of some random things I loved. If you haven't seen it, there may be some spoilers in here and you may want to look away.

1.  Uncle Deadly!

Uncle Deadly is on exactly two episodes of the original Muppet Show, but I always thought he was one of the coolest looking Muppets. And he has a big scene in the film!


2.  The songs! I thought the music was catchy, fun, and at times emotionally powerful. My favorite songs were "Man or Muppet" and "Pictures in My Head".

3. Dumb jokes- The Muppets have always, always been about dumb jokes, and this film had plenty of great ones. The Muppets are easily my biggest comedic influence, and I was happy to see them returning to the style of humor that made them great in the first place.

4. 80's Robot- speaking of dumb jokes, Kermit's robot servant 80's robot was a big one. He killed me every time he came on the screen.

5. Amy Adams. If I was put in charge of Hollywood, I would cast Amy Adams in all of the movies.

6. Jason Segel- I read that when they did the script reading of the film with the Muppets for the first time, Jason Segel cried when Kermit read something that he had written, because Kermit was his hero. It was so great to see someone interacting with the Muppets who really, genuinely loves them the way their fans do.

7. The Meta parts. The whole movie is about the fact that the world has forgotten the Muppets. There's even a point during the song "Pictures in My Head' where Kermit laments that maybe something broke somewhere along the way and maybe that something can't be fixed. I kept thinking about the aforementioned awful post-Henson TV specials when he sang that line and found myself genuinely wondering if the Muppets could really, truly succeed without the performers who created them. It made me happy (mostly- more on that) to realize that they could.

8. The Muppet Show as part of the movie. Gods I miss the Muppet show. It felt good to see it in some small way again.

9. The theme of growing up. Gary and Walter- Jason Segel and his puppet brother- both have to grow up in the movie and deal with their adult lives. As someone turning 30 in a few months, this really hit home for me.


So I loved it. I felt like a kid again, but I was most happy to see the characters I loved as a child being treated by people who loved and respected them again.

My one caveat, the one thing that made me kind of sad- While watching the credits, I couldn't help but notice how many groups of people worked on the puppets- the Muppet Workshop designed the puppets, the Jim Henson Workshop designed the costumes on the puppets (apparently?), and something called Puppet Heap did something as well? One of the things that always made the Muppets special was the...smallness of their production. Once upon a time the Muppets were Jim Henson, and the Jim Henson Workshop and you could feel through the small, family type atmosphere that spawned the Muppets permeating each aspect of the Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, etc. Now, the Muppets are a Disney brand- just one part of a corporate megalith, and that small community feeling that you got from the old shows will probably never exist again.

But that's just one quibble. I'm happy. I'm really happy that the Muppets are back, and that they (mostly) feel the way they're supposed to.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Favorite Scenes From Every Single Pixar Movie

I'm a sucker for Pixar. Here in chronological order of release are my favorite Single Scenes from every single Pixar movie:

1.  Toy Story- Clearly I Will Go Sailing No More:


Buzz Lightyear spends most of "Toy Story" thinking that he is a real space ranger and not a toy. This is the scene where he realizes the truth- he is an action figure, and he cannot fly. It's emotionally devastating.  The way the action of the scene is synced up to the music is perfect.

2.  A Bug's Life- Flik Stands Up


"A Bug's Life" is easily the most underrated Pixar movie. Flik may actually be my favorite character from any Pixar film.  And this is his best scene.  Beaten, bloodied, embarassed, Flik stands up to a bully, and inspires his people who have mostly shunned and rejected him to this point. When Flik Stands up after being beaten, I get chills.

3.  Toy Story 2- Jessie's Story


It seems impossible, but "Toy Story 2" is actually better than the first "Toy Story". Nearly every Pixar movie has a scene that makes grown men bawl like toddlers. This is one of them. Learn Jessie the cowgirl's story.

4.  Monster's Inc.- Boo's Door


Pixar tends to wear their influences on their sleeves. Miyazake, Disney, Henson- you can see them all in every single Pixar movie. "Monster's Inc." borrows alot from Jim Henson in particular. Frank Oz (Fozzie Bear, Yoda) even plays a small part in the film.  The last scene of the movie is my favorite when Sully, thinking he will never see Boo again, walks through her door, and hears her say "Kitty".

5.  Finding Nemo-Turtles


I like this scene for a bunch of reasons. For one, Crush the turtle reminds me of my father-in-law. For another, I love seeing Marlin realizing how to be parent and stop living in fear.  Finally, I love the lobsters with thick New England accents in the montage at the end of the clip.

6.  The Incredibles- Dash Runs as Fast as He Can


After being forced to hide his extraordinary abilities for his whole life, Dash Parr is finally given the opportunity to run "As fast as he can". The sequence is action packed, and fun. The look of realization on Dash's face as he realizes he's running on the water is my favorite part of the scene.

7.  Cars- Our Town


If you've ever loved a small town then this scene will hit you pretty hard. "Cars" is kind of a silly movie, but this scene, set to James Taylor's "Our Town" is really powerful.

8. Ratatouille- Anton Ego's Speech



"Ratatouille" is my favorite Pixar movie. I love food, and I consider myself an artist, and Anton Ego's speech basically sums up alot of what I think about art in general.  Such a great, moving speech.

9.  Wall-E- The First 45 Minutes of the Movie


I'm still kind of blown away by the fact that "Wall-E" got made. I can just imagine the pitch- "Okay, Disney Producers and Executives, it's a film about a robot in a post-apocalyptic future who falls in love with another robot. The film has a strong message of anti-commercialism. Oh, and the first 45 minutes has no dialogue."

10.  Up- I Was Hiding Under Your Porch Because I Love You

Oh, Doug.

11.  Toy Story 3- Andy Plays With His Toys


Remember how I said "Toy Story 2" was better than "Toy Story"? Well "Toy Story 3" is even better than that. This is the last scene in the film.  Andy is off to college, and gives his toys to another child so they can keep doing what toys are supposed to do, but he plays with them one last time.

12. Cars 2- Ummm...I haven't seen Cars 2. I'll add something here once I see it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Impossible Things: 31 Days Without Sugar

I've never been big on sweets.

Oh, I've been known to indulge in the occasional peanut butter cup, and my appetite for ice cream is legendary in some circles, but I've always preferred a salty bag of potato chips to a big piece of cake when it comes time to indulge my appetite. And I'll choose fruit over candy pretty much any time.

With that said, I took the month of October as an opportunity to conduct a little experiment on myself- from the first through the thirty first, I stopped eating sugar.

This meant- no sugar in my coffee, no sugary desserts, no syrup on my pancakes, no cookies, no cake, no ice cream, no soda (gasp!) and no candy.

Why did I do this? Because it was a challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it. And what's more it's a good-for-me challenge. Sugar is terrible for you, and we put it in everything.

How did I do? Well, I wasn't 100 percent perfect. I had a few sips of coffee with sugar in it (by accident- I didn't realize Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin flavored coffee is basically pumpkin flavored sugar water), I ate a couple of cookies that Chelsea baked (she looked at me with big doe eyes and said please! And she's my wife. There are rules against not eating things your wife bakes). I had some almond butter that had molasses in it (molasses is made out of sugar FYI) but by and large I had no soda, no cake, no ice cream, and in the month of October (which ends with Hallowe'en), no candy. When I wanted something sweet, I had fruit (which has natural sugars in it, I know. Shush.)

And you know what? It didn't suck. Mostly. For probably the first three days I went through sugar withdrawal. I had headaches and felt kind of ill, but after that it was mostly smooth sailing. I really would've killed a man for a Coca Cola. But after that? Cravings went away. Headaches subsided, and weirdly enough? Other food tasted better. By the end of week two, I was barely thinking about sweet things.

At the end of the month, at a friend's house, I ate a bon-bon thingy and found it tasted pretty bad. I mean, everyone else seemed to enjoy them but after a sugar free month it was just too much. And while I have re-introduced some sugar into my diet since, it hasn't been alot.

So I did it. And like I said, it didn't suck. It didn't suck at all.

Monday, November 7, 2011

We Need More John Denvers


John Denver was never cool. He wasn't dark. He wasn't mysterious. No one would call him sexy. He was kind of corny. He wore huge glasses. He recorded multiple albums with the Muppets. He was pretty much a huge nerd.

And as a celebration of all things nerdy, Frakking Shiny is here today to celebrate John Denver.

You know what John Denver WAS? Genuine. 100 percent genuine. When he sang about the mountains, you really knew in your heart that John Denver in his heart was really blown away by the majesty of those mountains. When John Denver sang about Christmas you knew that he really loved Christmas.  There was no irony to his music. There was no bitterness. There was just a genuine, honest love of whatever it was John Denver happened to be singing about at a given time.

When I hear a John Denver song I feel hopeful.  John Denver's songs make me feel that America is a great place, that Christmas is a wonderful time, and that true love is the very best thing in the world.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Which I Talk About Bullies and How Humor Works

I follow alot of fitness magazines, and fitness personalities on Twitter. I mean, I like working out, so it's nice to use Twitter as a resource for all things work out and nutrition related.

One of the fitness magazines I follow is Men's Fitness. Now, I'm sure I'm not the typical Men's Fitness reader. I mean, I'm a nerd. A geek. An adult person who reads superhero comics for fun. But I like lifting weights, and Men's Fitness is sometimes a place to get helpful information about lifting weights.

This week, they posted an article in which a writer from Men's Fitness went to New York Comic Con. So far so good, no problems there, right? Well, what do you suppose the focus of the article was? Do you think it talked about news coming out of the comic world? Nope. The passion that comic fans have for their chosen medium? Uh uh.  Cool costumes that people made themselves. Negatory, Ghost Rider.

The article consisted mainly of a series of photos of NYCC attendees with captions making fun of them for being fat.  Yup. That's right. The jocks went to nerdfest to publish an article teasing the nerds.

Now, as a nerd who works out and performs comedy I have a unique perspective on this article. Or I hate it for more reasons than most people probably would.

Reason the first, or why I hate this article as a nerd- Because it's 2011 and teasing nerds, or anyone, is stupid, and immature. Get over yourself, Men's Fitness magazine. Grow up. Move on with your lives. Nerds are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Reason the second, or why I hate this article as a weightlifting enthusiast- Because your magazine is called "Men's Fitness" not "Jocks Monthly." The whole point of your magazine is the advancement of physical fitness. How does teasing anyone help advance that goal?

Reason the third, or why I hate this article as a comedian- Because it's supposed to be funny and it's not. Comedy, at it's best, entertains, and advances ideas, or tells a story. Comedy fails when it's used as a means of oppression- to tease people who don't deserve to be teased. Teasing people, especially teasing people who can't defend themselves with fat jokes, is low comedy- it's easy comedy I would actually say it's lower than fart jokes and prat falls.

So I'm not going to link to the article in question here because I don't want to increase Men's Fitness's web traffic more than I probably already have. I just want to generally vent my displeasure. The author of the article, Jordan Burchette, and Men's Fitness magazine behaved like a schoolyard bully, and much like Captain America, I don't like bullies. Nerd, jock, preppy, skater, whatever, are all pretty silly labels when you really think about it. We're all human beings and we all deserve respect and dignity. Humor has a place, but that place isn't teasing people who don't deserve to be teased. A fitness magazine's goals, ideally, should be altruistic. They should be helping people- all people, get in shape. Making fun of people doesn't advance that goal.

In a perfect world, Men's Fitness would take the article off of their web site, issue a public apology, and fire the writer of the article. After observing their behavior towards the people who have responded negatively to the article, I don't really expect that to happen. But, if nothing else, I will probably never purchase another copy of Men's Fitness or visit their web site again. So, I'll consider that a small victory.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On X-Men Regenesis and Superhero Civil Wars

Much like sitcoms, superhero comics seem to cart out the same basic plot lines time and time again. For instance, how many comics have featured two superheroes meeting each other, having a misunderstanding, fighting, realizing their mistake, and then teaming up to fight a bad guy? Answer: A billion-ish. In the last 20 years or so, one of the more popular re-occurring plot lines is the superhero civil war in which two heroes, or two factions of heroes, have a falling out, fight each other (or each others) and then go their separate ways, glaring at each other vowing never to be friends again. The most popular example of this storyline is Marvel's "Civil War", and the most recent example is Marvel's "X-Men: Schism/Regenesis".

The two stories follow almost the exact same basic structure. In "Civil War", a superhero battle results in a some school kids getting killed. The US government decides that superheroes will basically need to get licenses to continue to be superheroes. Some superheroes are totally cool with getting licenses, like Iron Man. Others are not, like Captain America who thinks superheroes should have the freedom to hide their identities. The two superheroes fight over their new belief in registration/notregistration and their friendship basically ends. Oh, and then Captain America dies (SPOILER ALERT- He got better).

In X-Men: Schism, an attack leads world governments to revive their Sentinel programs. Threatened "as never before", the X-Men's leader, Cyclops, uses every weapon at his disposal, including X-Men students "Generation Hope" (like Generation X for the Millennial post-Barack Obama set). Wolverine objects to Cyclops's use of children as weapons (he never seemed to have a problem with Professor X sending the New Mutants, or Generation X, or the Young X-Men out to fight bad guys, but let's accept that for the purposes of this story that Wolverine objects to child soldiers). They fight. They stop being friends. Wolverine moves out to start his own X-Men team where young X-Men won't have to fight anybody (ummm, yeah right).

Here's the thing; I'm not really opposed to the fact that these stories are basically redundant. I get it- superheroes fighting each other is fun. Tension between characters is good for plot development. Watching Cyclops blast the skin off of Wolverine's face is great action. The problem I have with these stories comes from interviews where the writers say things like "We really tried to make both sides sympathetic. We want you to relate to both Iron Man/Cyclops or Wolverine/Captain America's point of view. No one's wrong here. Everyone is just doing what they think is best." I really, truly believe this is total bullstuff.  In "Civil War" Iron Man sided with the US government who were making superheroes register their secret identities AGAINST their will! Cyclops is using kids to kill his enemies! How in Odin's name are they NOT the bad guys in this? Sure, they aren't moustache twirling Snidely Whiplash villains. They have heroic intent, but they're doing villainous things. What did Cap do in Civil War that would make you unsympathetic to his side? Nothing. What did Wolverine do in Schism that was immoral? Nothing. Illogical? Sure. But bad? No way.

Oh, and did you notice that the more popular characters are the ones who take the more morally defensible positions in these stories? Wolverine is WAY more popular than Cyclops, so he gets to be both A) the good guy, and B) the "rebel" (who in American literature/pop culture is ALWAYS the good guy).

Look, if you're going to write a superhero fighting superhero story, great. Go for it. But make both sets of characters morally ambiguous, or don't pretend that both sides are sympathetic when really, one side is morally ambiguous and the other is as classically heroic as ever. I don't mind reading the same story over and over again, but I am kind of sick of writers saying the same, basically dishonest statements about the stories. That's it. Got a little ranty there. Sorry.

I love you, comics!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Impossible Things: Crossfit

A few weeks ago, Chelsea and I, newly married, found ourselves walking down an alley in the early evening. The alley was, as alleys are, kind of gross. There was some trash strewn about and the ground was wet. A few people walked by eying us warily and we warily eyed them right back. It's an alley. Alley law says that no matter how put together someone looks that you give them weird looks just to be on the safe side.

As we continued to stroll (briskly) we saw a light coming from a building- our destination. As we approached our destination we heard:

Loud rock music
Crashing
Yelling

We turned into the building and saw the source of the sounds- 20 men and women tossing barbells over their heads and back to the ground while an instructor shouted words of instruction/encouragement at them to the dulcimer tones of heavy metal music. The workout looked- in a word- terrifying.

This was/is Crossfit. Chelsea and I were there to sign up.

Okay, so it wasn't a done deal by any stretch. We're both fitness people now, and I've been looking for a new physical challenge in the wake of our wedding. I had been researching Crossfit as alot of people seemed to be doing it all of a sudden, the workouts seemed intense and awesome, and Crossfit Defined (the name of this particular Crossfit facility) was a five minute walk from our apartment.

When the crazy workout wound down, Noal, one of the instructors/coaches took some time to explain Crossfit to us. It's basically a fitness program that strives to create "complete" athletes- meaning they train you to be not just strong, agile, or fast, but all of those things. The gyms are Spartan. There are no treadmills, or stairclimbers, or Nautilus machines. There ARE barbells, pull up bars, kettlebells and rowing machines.

There is also a sense of community which I really like. If someone completes a workout early, they cheer on their classmates who haven't finished. You aren't there to beat your Crossfit fellows. You're there to overcome your own challenges, and help them overcome theirs- to me, THIS is what separates Crossfit from other gyms.

It has been a few weeks and we are now nearly done with our On Ramp program in which we have been taught the basic techniques that Crossfit incorporates. Soon, we will begin to participate in the "WODS"- workouts of the day.

So, when some future young couple shows up at Crossfit Defined and sees 20 people tossing around weights and shrieking like a Pict attacking Hadrian's Wall (look it up), two of them just might be Chelsea and myself.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quick Comment Clarification (aliteration, le sigh)

I'm not against comments in general.  I just think one should take a short pause, a breathe before posting something nasty.  A little etiquette goes a long way.

As you were. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What's in a name? And an Aside on Web Commenting

So, we're married. We just got our certificate in the mail so it's official and stuff.  Now I'm about to start the what-I-hear-is-no-fun process of changing my name.  I did what any Internet savvy person would do and Googled any suggestions on how to make the process as painless as possible. There is a perfectly nice post by "her" on the best way of going about the process in Chicago. Thank you to "her" for providing me with some very valuable information.  Then I made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments section. And what did I find? A lot of a$$holes commenting on the fact that married people change their name at all.  "Her" specifically asked for further comments about tips for changing one's name, but 95% of the comments were self-righteous vaginafaces shouting "Don't change it," and then some "feminist" blah blah blah.

First things first, I should have never scrolled down. I know better. I know that even though the Internet is a delightful place, people think it is the perfect place to let their jerk flag fly.  A sure way to ruin any benefit I get from an article is by reading the comments at the bottom.  But in this case, I was actually looking for some extra tid bits about changing my name and instead I got b*tchery. Shame on me for scrolling down.

And on to that b*tchery.  Most of the comments assumed that I was changing my last name because Sean is making me.  Lets be fair, if you're entering a marriage with someone who can make you do anything like that against your will, you've an entire set of other problems that have nothing to do with last names. To be honest, I find it insulting that some people completely disregard a decision that I myself found to be a very difficult one.  I love my family name. My name has a great ring to it.  I like the way it sounds.  And so forever ago, pre and early Sean, I was convinced that I would never change it. As the years went by, however, I became less militant.  I hadn't changed my mind, exactly, but I was willing to consider the option of a new last name.  And then I really spent time with Sean's family.  I went to holiday parties and weddings with them.  I had conversations with his multitude of aunts and uncles and joked around with his plethora of cousins.  And I found that I not only like them, I love them.  They're great people. I discovered that the potential new last name took on a pleasant ring when said with Chelsea.  And it's because I was adding people to my family quiver that are awesome.  I finally found my decision.  I am going to change my last name.  I want to have my last name reflect my love for my new family.  I'm not getting rid of my other names. I will now have two middle names.  I love my parents and my siblings.  Obviously. And I could never lose that name.  My name is just growing, just like my family is.  And it was a hard decision.  It is not a decision that should be dismissed or criticized. It was a well thought out decision. I'm proud of it.

Thanks for listening.

Signed,
soon-to-be Chelsea C.I. Kelley

The CW Network Has Caught This Nerd Girl in Its Net

I'm a sucker for terrible television and movies.  Many a Sunday, Sean comes home to find me curled up on the couch (still pj'd usually) watching something terrible I found on TV or via our Netflix live streaming thingy (side note, their movie select is terrible for the most part.  Which works for me alone, but not so much when the 2 of us are trying to find something to watch together).  And I've been known to DEVOUR past seasons of television shows.

Most recently, the tv-object of my nom noms is The Vampire Diaries on the CW network.  It's terribly...terrible. And yet I love it. Though it has been done WAY too many times before, the angsty, over-emotional vampire dude is sexy as is the asshole, mistake-prone vampire with the heart of gold.  Sure, the plot lines feel like they've been stretched over too many episodes and some of the tertiary characters are played by some completely atrocious actors (read: the vamp-mother, Isabelle. Frak n' A, my cats could read lines better than that woman).  There are actors that do little but act with their eyebrows (I'm looking at you, sexy Somerhalder). But I can't stop. I'm 3 episodes away from being caught up and my DVR is already set.

Poor Sean.

Because on top of my new atrocious show watching, I also am pretty smitten with Supernatural.  I mean, sexy guys who deal with demons, angels and magic all while dressed like a cross between a lumberjack, landscaper and a male stripper? Yes please.  Brothers who seem to have trouble emoting and yet tell each other they love each other all the time? Sex.  And don't get me started on smolder-eyed Castiel and his trenchcoat. Did you know the actor who plays him, Misha Collins, built his own house and the furniture in it?  Be still my heart!  Sorry, where was I?

Anywho - The CW has me in it's grips.  Sure, it can be terrible. But it's handling some much-Chelsea-loved subjects and using some pretty attractive people to do it.  I could probably be happy if I never had to see commercials for any of their other programming (even using the voiceover stylings of Veronica Mars' Kristen Bell couldn't make me watch more than 3 minutes of Gossip Girl), but I'm hooked on Supernatural & The Vampire Diaries.

Again, poor Sean.

Frakking Shiny: The Revenge of the Kelleys

Did you miss us?

Okay, okay. We haven't posted a blog since July 8th. Sorry. We were busy getting married. Steampunk married.

And we did! And it was great! And we'll post some blogs about it. But we are- officially- the Kelleys now, Mr. and Mrs.

We'll be getting back to posting blogs with some regularity. We will of course, be returning to our regular commentaries on various nerd/geek related topics, but we'll be adding some new stuff in here too.

First new thing? Sean and Chelsea's year of Impossible Things. One of our big goals as a married couple is not to let marriage become an excuse for complacency. So, throughout the year, we will be trying new things, and challenging ourselves in different ways. If you see an "Impossible Things:" blog post, it will be an entry documenting some seemingly impossible thing that we did, or are doing.

So, we apologize for the 3 quiet months. But we're back! And better than...well ever really.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Nerds: A Book

I should probably mention that I'm reading this book.  It seems pertinent to the overall mission of Frakking Shiny as it focuses on geeks and nerds.

"Nerds: How Dorks, Dweebs, Techies and Trekkies Can Save America" by David Anderegg asks a pretty simple question: Why in the United States do we chastise people, especially kids, for being smart? We've gone so far as to create derogatory slang for smart people- nerds, geeks, dweebs, etc.  Anderegg then goes on to examine the effect that being labeled a nerd has on a young child, on both a localized personal level, and large scale societal level.

I picked up this book because I am a nerd, geek or whatever you want to call me, and the idea that I might help save America appeals to me. I also picked it up because it talks at length about little kids who get bullied for being "nerds" and I have very, very vivid memories of being beaten up, teased, and generally made to feel like something less than a person throughout middle school because I was smart, and small.

I won't go into too much detail, but I really enjoyed "Nerds".  I mean, it mostly made me sad to read about little kids getting picked on because they wore glasses, or played Warhammer, or got good grades, but the writer has a strong voice, and he does an excellent job of analyzing a problem (Smartness is not valued by our society) and offering up a solution to said problem (Perhaps we should start valuing smartness). It's actually a quick read, the things Anderegg discusses are interesting, and if you have never been called a nerd in a derogatory way, you might learn something.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stuff that Makes Me Happy

Slow blog month.  Sorry.  Things have been pretty busy in the Frakking Shiny house with wedding planning and travel and whatnot.  Here's a wee blog for your reading pleasure.  We all have little things that make us happy.  Here are five of mine.

Graph paper-

There are two things I really love about graph paper. 1) No margins which means you can write or doodle anywhere on the page, and 2) the little squares help you draw more precise doodles.

Talking to Cashiers-

You might hate your job, but you know who has a crappier job than you? The cashier who took your order at McDonald's or the guy at CVS who broke the $100 bill you brought to their store.  I always try to strike up a conversation with a cashier.  If I can get them to smile and forget about their jobs for a minute I feel like I've won.

The Smell of Dirt-

Earth.  Soil.  Dirt.  It smells good.  Especially after it rains.

Feeling Sore the Day After a Workout-

I love to work out, but if I don't feel sore the next day, I feel like all of the weightlifting I did was for naught.  It takes some getting used to when you start, but after you've been working out for awhile you start to crave soreness.

A Really Good Fried Clam-

To many, the lobster is the ultimate culinary symbol of New England.  To me it's the humble clam.  I  love chowder, and steamed clams, but my favorite way to eat the little suckers is battered and deep fried.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Invitation Experience


Invitations are finished and sent! Squeeeeeeeeee!  It took a lot more work than was expected (I had to learn to use Adobe InDesign), but we are SO happy with the way they turned out!

DIY! DIY! DIY! DIY!

Now on to even more fun and artsy things!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

DC's Reboot

It should probably come as no surprise that as a longtime comic book fan, I have some opinions about DC Comics' plan to reboot all of their titles and release all of said books in digital format on the same day that they release their print comics.  What might surprise you is what my opinions on this big DC news actually are.

It seems that most longtime DC fans feelings right now range from apprehensive, to militantly angry.  And I understand that.  When you re-boot a nerd property or properties (like Star Trek for example) you're going to piss off fans who've poured time, money and most importantly love into that property.  But you know what? Comic book fans are going to get pissed off regardless of what you do.  I've stated this before and I'll state it again- there's a significant portion of the nerd population who just really, really enjoy hating stuff.

Myself? As far as the creative stuff goes, I'm kind of excited about the reboot.  Really.  I mean, some of it looks god-awful.  Teen Titans in particular looks like something that early 90's Image comics would barf out (they even have 90's uber-writer Scott Lobdell as their scribe).  And I really believe that every comic book company with a shared universe should re-boot their line every 10-15 years.  Comics get SO bogged down with continuity over time that it becomes almost impossible to get new readers into comics.  Have you ever tried to explain Cable's (X-Man Cable) back story to a non-comic fan? Hell, have you ever tried to explain how Superman came back from the dead to a non-comic fan?  I realize there is kind of a "eff that, we don't want any muggles reading comics anyway" thing going with this stuff, but if you don't get young fans into comics, you could lose whole generations of fans to Pokemon or whatever new thing young nerds are into nowadays.  Shared comic universes need re-boots to get rid of continuity detritus.  There is one caveat.  The re-boot needs to be executed well.

The other portion that is interesting about the re-boot is the release of comics in digital format on the same day as the print product.  I realize that this has caused something of a stir amongst comic shops in that shop owners (who are really the foundation of the comic book business) are annoyed by the move and feel like they may lose business to digital downloads.  I sympathize with that.  The thing is, the comics industry has been hemorrhaging business for 20 years now.  Comics have gotten too expensive, too continuity heavy, and have been replaced in the hearts and minds of potential readers by video games, the internet, and even things like card games (Magic, Pokemon, etc.).  Marvel, or DC or somebody had to do something to adapt to the current technological climate and going same day with the digital product, while risky, is probably a good move.  The only problem I have with same day digital? They're charging too much for it.  I don't know what the exact figures are, but my assumption is that it's cheaper to publish a digital comic than it is a physical one.  DC is charging the same price for their digital comics as their print product.  If they charged less, they could quickly dominate a market that their main rival, Marvel, hasn't fully committed to yet.  It would hurt comic shop sales which is unfortunate, but it would probably be good for the comic business overall.  If comic companies keep doing what they're doing- focusing on print, while putting out a half-ass digital product- then their reader base will keep shrinking.

Phew.  So basically, I like the re-boot, and I think same day digital is probably good too.  So what looks good and what doesn't in the re-boot?

Here's some good stuff:

Geoff Johns on Justice League- Holy crap, yes.  JL should be DC's marquee title and it has been AWFUL for like, 10 years.  I love the roster- a new big 7.  I love Cyborg on the team.  Justice League looks great.

Grant Morrison on Superman- Grant Morrison is my favorite writer, and if anybody can bring Superman back to prominence it's him.

Wildstorm as part of the main DC Universe- Martian Manhunter on Stormwatch? Voodoo and Grifter with Solo titles interacting with other DC characters? Why didn't DC do this YEARS ago.

Gail Simone on anything- Secret Six is probably my favorite comic on the market right now and Gail Simone is the reason why.  I will read anything she writes.

A book starring Kyle Rayner- I love Green Lantern, but I think Hal Jordan is the second most boring comic character ever (he's ALMOST as boring as Barry Allen) so I'm glad to see Kyle is starring in "the New Guardians".

And some bad stuff:

Jim Lee re-designed all of the characters- The 90's were kind of a bad time for the comic industry.  Every character had a giant gun, shoulder pads, and a bad attitude.  So why let a guy who was one of the main creators behind that style re-design every single classic DC character? Have you seen the Teen Titans? They look terrible.

Is this a re-boot or not? DC is being kind of coy on just how much of a reboot this is.  First they said it was a full reboot, then they said it wasn't a reboot at all.  Reading some of the descriptions of the new titles (like Teen Titans, Outlaws, etc.) you get the impression that DC is starting over from scratch.  But others- like Batman, Inc. and Green Lantern kind of sound like they're not re-booting at all.  If you're going to do a re-boot, don't half ass it.  They half-assed when they re-booted after Crisis on Infinite Earths and it kind of led to their "New Universe' being a mess for years.

52 new titles is alot.  DC has 3 bona fide superstar writers in Morrison, Johns, and Simone, but after that their bench isn't very deep.  I worry that they don't have enough writing talent to sustain this huge effort.  As I stated above, they brought back Scott Lobdell to write like, 3 different titles.  And Fabian Nicieza.  And a bunch of other guys who haven't been heard from in years.  I want every book to be great, but great books start with great writers.

Barry Allen and Hal Jordan still make me want to nap.  Despite every effort, I still really dislike Hal and Barry, and cannot for the life of me understand why DC felt they needed to be brought back.  DC's thing now is they want to have "the most recognizable versions of each of their characters" which is dumb.  They should want to use the most interesting and compelling versions of their characters.

Generally, I'm excited for the re-boot.  I hope it all works out.  I want the comic industry to grow.  I want more people to read comics.  I hope this whole thing helps get the industry back to a better place.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mushrooms


I love food and will eat just about anything.  I love stuff you probably think is gross.  Like beef tongue, chicken livers, and pretty much any type of sushi you can imagine.

But I hate mushrooms.  I hate them.  I hate their texture mostly.  It's weird, and feels wrong in my mouth.  Slimy, weirdly yielding... they're gross.

Even more than that? Mushrooms are frakking terrifying.  As a fungus, mushrooms are pretty much the only organic matter we eat that is neither a plant or an animal.  More than that? Scientists have a very poor understanding of how mushrooms actually work.  Like there's one type of mushroom that only grows in forests after forest fires and nobody knows why.  Also, most edible mushrooms look exactly like different types of mushrooms that are poisonous.

Oh, and the biggest organism in the world? It's not a huge redwood tree, or a blue whale...

It's a giant mushroom:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-largest-organism-is-fungus

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Weather

Just a little blog today. A bloglet.  A brief thought.

The weather's been kind of crummy here in Chicago for the last few days.  Every time the weather in Chicago is kind of crappy, someone will say this:

"You know what they say about the weather in Chicago- if you don't like it, wait five minutes"

Here's the thing- no one outside of Chicago says this about Chicago.  If you asked someone in Oregon, or England, or Maine about the weather in Chicago they'd probably say something like "Uhhh...I heard it's windy?"

Something I've learned in my 29 years of life is that almost everyone in the US attributes the above quote to wherever it is that they are from.  I've heard people from Chicago, Texas, Virginia, the West Coast and other places say "You know what they say about the weather in (the place I live)..."

So, just for fun, I looked up the origin of that quote.  Here is the actual, original quote:

"If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes."

The person who said this was Mark Twain.  And he said it about New England. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Muppets!



Dear Zeus, Thor, the one Cylon God, and that god-like being from the end of Star Trek V,

Please, please please let this new Muppet movie be awesome.  We (myself, and the rest of the Muppet loving public) have had to put up- in the years since Jim Henson's death- with watching the Muppets devolve into a mere husk of their former glory.  Please let this film be a return to form.

That is all.

Love,

A guy who once did a project in high school worth like 20 percent of his grade for US history and English on Jim Henson and the Muppets

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Arya Stark: My future Daughter, Fingers Crossed


It's no secret that Sean and I are totally infatuated with all things "Game of Thrones" and the Song of Ice and Fire series.  It's full of incredible characters in the book series and portrayed in the HBO series.  And among those excellent characters is little Arya Stark of Winterfell.  She's a total, tiny bad ass and I can only hope that some day, I have a daughter just like her.  And here, ladies and gents, are a few reason why:
  1. She's a tom boy of the finest quality.
    What this means is no pink, no princess dresses, no glitter, Barbies (are Bratz now more cool?), etc.
    I can't remember who said it, but someone said that if their daughter must be a princess, that they have to have a sword (or battle axe, mace, etc) as well.  A fancy lady shouldn't let frills get in the way of kicking some ass here and there.
  2. She speaks her mind.
    I know that in the teenage years, this will bite me in the butt, but I'd rather have a daughter who speaks her mind than one who doesn't speak or worse, says what she thinks she wants people to hear.  I tried the latter and it was an awful time.
  3. She loves her daddy.
    There is nothing better than a good, daddy/daughter relationship.
  4. She doesn't give up.
    Of course this gets her in trouble, but a girl who doesn't back down is WAY better than one that gives up.  You learn better if you "try try again" instead of giving up.
  5. She's resourceful.
    No matter the obstacle, she's smart and creative in her ways to get around it.  A daughter with ingenuity is a great daughter to have!
Now watch me have all boys.  That wouldn't be so bad either.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On Marriage

As I am getting married in less than four months, it should not surprise anyone to hear that I have been thinking about marriage and weddings quite a bit lately.  Most of this thinking has been related to planning.  What will our save the dates look like? Who will cater our wedding? How will we pay for everything?  What kind of top hat will I wear? Generally speaking, when I am not working, sleeping or performing improv, I am doing something related to wedding planning.

But, every now and again I also start to think about some of the larger marriage related questions.  Specifically, I think about these two:

1.  Why am I getting married?

2.  Why am I getting married to Chelsea?

I mean, don't worry.  I am getting married to Chelsea.  I love her.  I've never been more sure of any decision I have ever made in my life than I am of my decision to get married to Chelsea. The question is, why do I feel that way? Well here goes.

Something you should know about me is that I think marriage is a little archaic.  Why do you get married to one person and spend your whole life with them? Well because your parents did.  And their parents.  And all of your aunts and uncles.  And your friends. And the President. And Will and Kate.  And...well everybody who isn't a priest or some sort of weirdo, or some sort of weirdo priest, right?

There is so much pressure from society to get married.  When Chelsea and I were dating, and we dated for seven-ish years, I spent 6 of those years dodging a constant barrage of "when are you getting marrieds?", and "you've been dating for so longs!", and other comments of that sort.  It was annoying, and after a few years it started to make me angry, and then it kind of made me sad. And why do people put this pressure on young couples? Because it's tradition.  Well you know what? Who cares about tradition? Traditions are great sometimes like Christmas, or the Opening Day of baseball season but some- like segregation, or burning witches are pretty dumb too.  Long term, committed, monogamous relationships are not for everyone.  If they were, then there would be less infidelity, and less divorce.  Even if you are the committed, monogamous type, is it really important that the government, or the church recognize your relationship? Does it fundamentally change your long term relationship when it's codified in someone's ledgers somewhere?  What's my point here? I don't think marriage is for everyone.  It may not even be for most people. 

But it is for us.  Why am I getting married? Why am I standing up in front of God (or gods or the flying spaghetti monster depending on your persuasion) and my family and the government and saying "I do"? Well, despite the fact that my Vulcan logic can see all of the flaws in traditional marriage, I am not a creature who makes decisions solely based on logic.  Shocking, I know.  I want to get married because it feels right.  It may not change a lick about my relationship to have some institution or deity recognize our love, but in my heart (the emotional, metaphorical heart, not the blood filled bag in my chest) it is important to me that this all be made official.  Oh sure, there are some logical reasons to get married, tax benefits and other legal rigamarole, but the main reasons I want to get married are spiritual.  We already think of ourselves as a unit, a duo, a family.  Now, we will make the world outside of ourselves recognize that as well.

Also, it's always nice to have a party.  Especially a Steampunk party on an island with all of your family and best friends in attendance.

Onto question 2.  Why Chelsea?

Chelsea Cheyenne Ives is the happiest accident that has ever befallen me in my entire life.  Without going into too much detail, we never would have gotten together if it wasn't for the help of a man by the name of Samuel Adams.

I love her.  But why?  Very early into our relationship, I realized that we are made of the same basic stuff.  We come from very different backgrounds, but we view the world in the same way.  We want the same things out of life.  Some of that commonality is superficial.  It's great that we both love Lord of the Rings and Firefly, but it's more important we want the same things out of our relationship, and believe the same things about humanity.  We are two halves of a whole.

Also, remember this scene from the 2009 "Star Trek" film?



Every time I look at Chelsea, I want to do better. I want to make her life better.  I want to work harder.  The existence of Chelsea Ives is a cosmic dare to me to be a better person tomorrow than I was yesterday.

I want to marry Chelsea because she makes me a better person.  She makes my life better. And I will spend the entirety of our marriage doing the best I can to repay her for that by trying to give her the best life that I can.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

No Deadlifts Allowed


So this is a real advertisement that uber gym chain Planet Fitness is running right now.  The point of the ad, I think, is to show you that Planet Fitness isn't a gym for steroid-soaked musclebound lunkheads, but instead, is a gym for regular Joes and Janes like you, and me.  I get why you would air an ad like this.  Starting a workout regimen can be scary, and it's even more nerve-wracking to think that guys like the fellow featured in this ad will be working out right next to you, and probably judging you.  While Planet Fitness risks alienating a portion of their potential customer base- people who really enjoy lifting weights- they hope to attract even more casual gym goers.

The ads aren't the only steps Planet Fitness has taken to attract the non-Schwarzeneggers of the world.  Apparently, at Planet Fitness, you are not allowed to grunt whilst you lift weights.  You are also not allowed to judge others (I'm not sure how this is quantified, but it isn't allowed, so there).  You are also not allowed to do certain weightlifting exercises- like deadlifts, and clean and jerks.

And that's where Planet Fitness loses me.  I don't like this ad.  I don't like the idea that a gym would purposefully try to alienate anyone who is generally dedicating themselves to improving their strength and health.  In my experience, most serious weightlifters don't grunt too much, and don't really judge you.  In fact, most serious weightlifters will help out a casual weightlifter in pinch.  Most of the people who judge you at the gym are jerks who don't actually know what they're doing, and there really aren't that many of them.

I really don't like that Planet Fitness forbids you from doing deadlifts, clean and jerks, etc.  Why?  Because those are really good exercises!  The deadlift is one of the best exercises you can do for overall strength.  What that policy, and this ad say to me is that Planet Fitness doesn't give a rat's behind about your health- what they care about is your money.

Do you know why gyms love casual gym goers? Because casual gym goers usually don't use their memberships.  They know they should work out, sign up for a 12 month membership at a gym, go regularly for about a week, then promptly stop going. This means the gym is getting 11.5 months worth of dues at no real cost.

Of course statistically, someone who uses a product regularly is more likely to renew their membership/subscription to said product.  So I'm sure the Planet Fitnesses of the world lose a pretty good chunk of potential membership renewals by targeting the casual gym goer and not the gym regulars.  I'm also sure that they make up for that loss with the raft of new members they sign up each year on New Year's Day, and a few weeks before swimsuit season.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Planet Fitness is a business.  The point of a business isn't to make a real difference in the life of a consumer- the point of a business is to make money.  While some businesses do actually make an effort to produce a good product that will make human life a little more worthwhile, others are content to take your money in exchange for what is actually an inferior product.

That's what I have to say on that topic.  If you need me, I'll be deadlifting.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kitchen 2.0

My favorite room in my apartment is my kitchen.  I love to cook, and cooking ground zero is the room with my oven, refrigerator, and pantry in it.  As I have matured, so has my kitchen.  When I first moved to Chicago from Massachusetts and lived with 4 roommates, I didn't own a single pan or plate.  When I first moved in with Chelsea, most of our kitchen stuff was inherited from her grandmother, or purchased with money I got when I graduated college.  As time has gone along, my cooking powers have grown, and I have accumulated some bad-ass pots, pans, and appliances.  Now, I own a food processor, a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer, and a Wusthof knife amongst other neat things.  I have a pantry filled with brown rice, beans, canned tomatoes, and other sundries.  My refrigerator overflows with milk and leftovers, sauces and jellies.  And my freezer! Frozen vegetables, and chicken carcasses for making stock.

Awesome.  Amazing.  Wonderful.  My kitchen cup runneth over.

The ugly side to all of this is that my kitchen was a mess.  I mean, it didn't look like a mess from the outside, but from within? Let's just say, many a time I have lost a pan, or opened a cabinet and had pie pans come careening down- striking my person every which way.  While I use my wok almost constantly, other gadgets, like my old juicer sat in the pantry collecting dust.  Worse- the dust they collected was a horrid, tar-like combination of olive oil and cat fur. I organized my kitchen the same way most people do- without really thinking about it, or applying logic.

Then I read this:

http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2011/02/the-geeks-guide-to-rebooting-your-kitchen/

Lifehacker is a website that shows you neat little tricks to improve your life.  This particular article- based around ideas from the book "Cooking For Geeks" served as my general guideline.

So, over the course of last weekend, Chelsea and I did the following:

1.  Went through every single thing in the kitchen.  We emptied every drawer, every cabinet and the whole pantry.  We took an honest look at the crap we've accumulated over the years, and threw away anything we have never used.  Old humidifier? Gone.  Mint tins from our trip to Disney World in 2007? Disposed of.  That old juicer? Shot out of the airlock into the bleakness of space.

2.  Then we cleaned everything.  We bought a bunch of cleaning supplies and scrubbed down the whole kitchen from top to bottom.  I never knew a kitchen island could get so filthy.

3.  Put everything back in a way that made logical sense.  Normally, you group kitchen stuff like this "Glasses go with other glasses, Pots and pans go with pots and pans, appliances go with appliances", etc. etc. ad infinitum.  Per the article above, we went through a normal week of eating, and reorganized our kitchen to maximize efficiency.  For example, every morning, I drink a cup of coffee, some eggs, and toast.  Chelsea has tea, and either toast or oatmeal.  So, we created a cabinet that contained all of our tea and coffee, some mugs, bread, and peanut butter (our toast topping of choice).  This cabinet is right next to our stove.  On our island, we replaced the old rickety pans and gadgets that were there previously with our most commonly used pots and pans- the wok, the cast iron skillet, some sauce pans, and our frying pans.  The eggs, of course, still live in the refrigerator.  All of these things used to be all over the kitchen.  Now, in the morning, I barely have to walk anywhere when I put breakfast together, where before I had to walk all over the kitchen. 

4.  Actually made all of this look pretty.  We kind of redecorated.  We used our hutch- which has a glass front- as a display case for some cool stuff we have like an old-looking Chinese teapot.  This was set in front of a very nice carved wooden cutting board.

This doesn't sound particularly complicated, but the whole process took place over 2 days and roughly 6 hours.  Was it worth it? Absolutely.  My favorite room is now clean, and more importantly, set up in a way that is logical, and incredibly efficient.

As a side note- I'm going to add pictures to this at some point soon so stay tuned for that.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Improvised Star Trek- Boldly Going

The Improvised Star Trek Podcast has now been going for over a month now and there are now episodes avaiable for download here:

Improvised Star Trek Podcast

Ever wonder how the Gorn reproduce? Or do you love shuttlecraft races? Ever want to know what a holographic Abraham Lincoln thinks of dating? Well now, you can find out.

Check it out!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Steampunk Save the Date Video


Kelley_Ives Save The Date from very clever media on Vimeo.

A few months ago, with some help from our friends at very clever media, we put together a Steampunk Save-the-Date video for our wedding.  Check it out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

To Boldly Go: Adventures in Trekspace

In case I haven't mentioned it, Improvised Star Trek has arisen from the ashes, taken the form of podcasts, and is now available for download here.  Please feel free to download, listen and write glowing reviews.

As with any new ...podcast...thing...we've been working hard to promote the show.  We've gone through some of the more well known advertising methods- setting up a Facebook fan page, tweeting, telling people that our show is great, press releases, a launch party, etc. But, as a cast, we also did one relatively unique thing to get the word out about Improvised Star Trek- we all joined TrekSpace.

TrekSpace is exactly what it sounds like- a social networking site for people who love Star Trek.  As people who love Star Trek are our target audience, this seemed like a good place to go to drum up downloads.  So, each cast member of Improvised Star Trek has created a page for their character.  Here's the page I set up for Crick Watson.

Here are some thoughts, and general observations about TrekSpace:

1.  I assumed that creating a page for a character and not a real person would be a relatively unique thing.  I was wrong.  I am friends with, amongst other made up Star Trek people, the empress of the planet Vulcan.

2.  I am also friends with several starships.

3.  Sometimes I get invited to Star Trek related events! Cool!

4.  One of those events was a birthday party for a starship.  I wonder if it would take place at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards?

5.  Remember poking on Facebook? The TrekSpace equivalent of poking is giving ribbons.  I have no idea what ribbons have to do with Star Trek.

6. I know this is going to sound weird, but it's really comforting to see that there are still so many people in the world who are passionate about Star Trek- not just the new movie, but OLD Star Trek.  I miss Captain Picard, and Deep Space 9, and hating Voyager, and it's nice to know that there's a whole social network filled with people who feel the same way.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Game of Thrones Review

If you haven't read "A Game of Thrones" by George RR Martin or watched the debut of the HBO adaptation of the book, you may want to stop reading now, because there will be spoilers from here on out.


About a year and half ago, Chelsea and I sat down and had a discussion about whether or not we were going to renew our cable service.  Cable is nice to have, but it's expensive.  You also pay a lot for things that you don't use.  Like, I never watch the Golf Channel.  Or the Big 10 network.  Or NBC, CBS, ABC, FX, Me TV, WGN... you get the idea.  Of the hundreds of channels we subscribe to, we probably watch about 12 with any sort of regularity.  Finally, we watch more and more "TV" through the Internet (Hulu, YouTube) and through Netflix which we stream through our PS3.  Cable just makes less and less economic sense for us.

Then, we found out that HBO was adapting George RR Martin's "A Game of Thrones"- the first book of my favorite series of books ever ("A Song of Ice and Fire")- into a TV show.  HBO does not let you watch their programming online unless you have a paid TV subscription.  Hopefully this will change in the future, but this single show convinced us to (for now) keep our cable subscription.

Basically, we kept Cable primarily to watch this one show.

Fast forward to last night when the show debuted.  We decided to make an event of it. For Chelsea and I, the debut of "Game of Thrones" was our Super Bowl.  We approached this the way most regular humans approach major holidays.  About a dozen people came to our apartment- most of whom had read at least "a Game of Thrones" if not the whole series.  We served food that was loosely based on dishes described in the books- ham, fresh baked bread, mussel soup, leek soup, turnip mash, mulled wine, and lemon cakes (of course). 

And with all of the build up, how was the show itself?

Kind of great.  Really great actually.  A premiere episode is always tough for any show- plot and character development usually take a backseat to establishing ground rules- who are these people, what is this place like, etc.  The show did a great job of introducing main characters and giving them each at least 1 scene to establish who they are, and what their motivations are, while also beginning the story, and moving it forward.

What else did I like?

-The opening credits.  Holy crap that may have been my favorite opening credit scrawl for a show ever.  Did anyone expect an animated steampunk map of Westeros to kick off the show? Because I didn't.

-The actors.  The actors were all great.  They may not all look exactly how I envisioned them from the books, but appearance is secondary to talent, and this cast has an excess of it.

-The setting.  Westeros looks real.  You could practically smell the food in the dining hall of Winterfell.

-The adaptation.  For fans of the books like me, it's important that the show is faithful to the spirit of the series.  It is.  It is VERY faithful.  At the same time, it's just as different as it needs to be to succeed as a TV series.  Television is not the same medium and changes will need to be made here and there.

-It was fun! Sex, violence, witty dialogue, monsters- who doesn't want those things on a TV show?

What didn't I like?

-The Dany plotline felt a little rushed, but only a little.

-Not to nitpick, but Robert Baratheon's hair color (jet black) is actually an important plot point.  I'm sure it won't be an issue, but the fact that his hair wasn't black kind of struck me.

And...that's about it.  I actually kind of had to struggle to think of those two things.

Overall, a great start to the show.  And what better way to watch it than surrounded by friends with a belly full of good food?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Consider my Girl-Nerd Feathers Ruffled!

As readers of this blog are well aware, I am over-the-moon excited about the HBO Television series adaptation Game of Thrones, the first book of one of my favorite fantasy series of all time, Song of Ice and Fire by one George R.R. Martin.  The series is very adult, imaginative, unique and lush with color, description and in-depth characters.

So when I read the faux-feminist drivel review of Ginia Bellafante in the New York Times, I was furious. She basically says that the HBO series is boy fiction with sex scenes thrown in for the ladies.  It's very obvious she didn't bother to talk to any girl fans of the series to ascertain what it is about the book (and hopefully translated into the HBO series) that we're all a squeeeee about.  Heck, she could have even just used Google to find out that the sex is a very VERY small part of why we like this series.

This young lady's blog pretty much sums up my feelings on Madame Bellafante's review.  And sure, Bellafante didn't like the series which though incomprehensible to me, is totally fair. It's not for everyone.  But to say that the reason I'm having a few people over to partake in some Westeros-inspired grub and to watch the first episode is because of the sex is royally insulting.

Frak you and your gross generalizations, Ginia Bellafante. Frak you!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Real Snippets of Conversation from the Kelley-Ives Household

Here are some things that have been uttered in our apartment recently:

"Oh! Don't forget- we need to buy ramekins to make lemon-cakes for our Game of Thrones Party."

"I've arranged the spice/sauce cabinet by phases of matter- solids over here and liquids over there."

"(while watching classic Battlestar Galactica) Did he just say "feed him to the daggetts? What is a daggett?"

"I just watched that scene from The Girl Who Waited where the doctor says goodbye to sleeping Amelia Pond. I swear it makes me tear up every time." (the "Girl Who Waited" is an episode of Dr. Who)

"We need to close the door of the Room of Requirement.  We don't want the cats to get into the clock gears I'm using to make boutonnieres" (the Room of Requirement is our office)


Monday, April 4, 2011

Improvised Star Trek Returns- Part 2

A little shameless self promotion for a moment:

The Improvised Star Trek Podcast (which we've been working on since September) is just about ready to go.  We're having a party/show at iO Chicago on Saturday night at midnight.  After that, you'll be able to download the show on iTunes.  In preparation, for the podcast, we recorded a guided tour of the ship which you can find here

Enjoy.  Also, come to the show this weekend.  There will be prizes!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ten of the Best Things I've Ever Eaten

As I'm about to clean my kitchen, and cook dinner, I started thinking about food, and how much I love it.  Here is a quick list of ten of the best things I've ever eaten.  Or maybe, ten of my favorite things I've ever eaten.  Regardless.  Here they are.

My mom's baked macaroni and cheese- Such a simple dish.  Pasta, cheese, Ritz cracker crumbs crumbled on top.  But, just thinking about it makes me miss home.

Fried Clams- And speaking of missing home- whenever I go back to Massachusetts, I always have fried clams.  I love clams, and while I can find okay-to-decent clam chowder pretty much anywhere, I've never had decent fried clams outside of New England.

Pork Belly from Blackbird- Sweet zombie Jesus this might actually be the best thing I've eaten in my whole life.  Braised pork belly with cornbread and a prawn on top.  Delicious.

Foie Gras Hot Dog from Hot Doug's- The perfect marriage of fine dining and street food.  Deliciousness made manifest in tubular form.   I've had alot of hot dogs in my life, but the Foie Gras dog is easily the best.

Green beans straight off of the plant- When I was growing up in New Hampshire, we had a little garden in our backyard where we grew green beans.  I used to love to eat them straight off of the plant.  Crisp, fresh, clean.  Always refreshing on a late Summer Day.

Sweetbreads from Tango Sur- Somebody else said this;  I don't remember who, but I'm stealing it.  Imagine the texture of a Chicken McNugget- crispy on the outside, kind of weirdly creamy on the inside.  Now imagine that it tastes amazing.  My first sweetbread experience was at Tango Sur.  If you don't know what a sweetbread is...uh...look it up.

Blueberry Ice Cream from any random ice cream place in Maine- Maine blueberries are smaller and tarter than regular blueberries.  In New England, many local ice cream places (every New England town has at least 1 mindblowingly amazing ice cream place) make ice cream with these blueberries.  Sweet, creamy ice cream, and tart little blueberries- a winning combination.

Lengua tacos- One of my favorite things about Chicago is that there are probably a hundred (if not more) amazing tacquerias here.  My favorite thing to order is a lengua taco on a soft shell with onions and a squeeze of lime. The best part? A single taco is almost always less than 2 dollars

Wings- There was this place in Amherst, MA called the Hangar, and when I was going to UMass, we would order their boneless Wings all of the time.  Giant, random pieces of chicken, deep fried, and covered in a sauce of your choice.  My choice was usually honey mustard.

Eggs- Is there anything better in the entire world than a fried or poached egg?  Is there anything that can't be improved by the addition of runny, bright yellow egg yolk? The answer to both questions is no.  I will eat an egg on anything- pizza, burgers, a salad, ramen.  I eat eggs for breakfast EVERY DAY.  And I don't get sick of them.  Ever.

That's just ten things. I could go on.  But I won't.  I'm going to eat something.  I will probably put an egg on top of it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

How I Learned to Love Baseball

Okay, so I always kind of loved baseball. When I was young I played Little League baseball, and I grew up in Red Sox crazy New England. I had a poster of Wade Boggs on my bedroom wall when I was.  I have very fond memories of sitting behind home plate with my grandfather at Fenway Park. You get the idea.

With that said, it took me awhile to get into baseball the way that I was into say, Star Trek, or theater, or books about dragons.  Why? For one thing, I was TERRIBLE at it.  I couldn't hit.  I was so afraid of the ball hitting my face that I tended to run away from it, so I was even worse at catching.  I mostly played right field, and would literally sit on the ground and pick dandelions until my Dad yelled at me.  I was good at two things- stealing bases, and taking walks.  I was good at taking walks because my strike zone was incredibly small as I was a tiny, tiny human.  And when I went to see the Red Sox, I was more interested in hot dogs and cracker jacks than who was winning the game. I didn't find baseball all that inspiring, as a thing. I tried to. I really did.  I just had no knack for it, and honestly found it kind of boring.

So, how did I learn to stop worrying and love America's Past-time? Well, I discovered baseball as a literary concept.  Specifically, I discovered the Red Sox as a romantic idea.

New England is a very well educated area, and I think the Red Sox might have the highest number of fans who are authors and college professors of any major league team.  Prior to 2004 when they won the World Series for the first time since 1918, there were many, many books, essays, poems, songs, limericks, etc. written about the Red Sox. They were the ultimate under-dog.  They always struggled mightily and failed at the last moment. They had an undefeatable enemy in the New York Yankees.  They were like me- (or, they were like my perception of myself) a little nerd trying to deal with the bully down the street. 

As soon as I hit on that- the Red Sox as the little guy- I had something to relate to in baseball.  The Red Sox were me! But manifested as a baseball team.

That was my gateway.  That's how I got into baseball.  So what kept me coming back? Two things:

1.  Quality- Around the time I started getting really excited about baseball, the Red Sox started getting really good.  Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz- these were guys to get excited about.  And then in 2004 (as stated above), they won the whole thing, rewarding generations of fans who'd kept the faith over 86 years.  They did it in dramatic fashion by coming back against the hated NY Yankees from a 3 game deficit. The little guy won!

2.  Stats- In the last few years, baseball stats have become a really huge thing.  Sabermetrics- an obejctive, numbers based approach to analyzing baseball- came to dominate how teams were run.  Applying math to sports- that's an idea a nerd can get behind.

So romance, and stats.  That's why I'm a baseball fan. Being a Red Sox fan is also something that keeps me connected to friends and loved ones.  We may not like all of the same things, but most of my friends and family from home root for the Red Sox.  They are our common cause.

Today is opening day, and all I have to say is Go Red Sox!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

There's Nothing Wonder about this Woman

While it looks as though her costume revamp has succeeded in looking less plastic, I'm still totally dismayed by this Wonder Woman television show-thing.  As a nerd-lady who thinks Wonder Woman is pretty bad-ass, the casting of this individual really irks me.

When a guy is cast as a superhero, he's usually buff and honestly looks like he could kick some serious butt. Why should Wonder Woman be any different?  Shouldn't she look something akin to a female fitness chick? Or Jessica Biel's bod ala Blade Trinity? Even the overly exaggerated comic book artists do a better job than those casting for this show:

But what do we get instead?  A girl that I would happily force-feed a double quarter pounder with cheese.  Fooey!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Comics on Screen: Marvel vs. DC

So, this Summer, I have this to look forward to from Marvel Comics:




I mean, how awesome is that? Did your notice the Howling Commandos? Because I did.  Oh, and Tommy Lee Jones is in this.  Why? Who cares.  It's Tommy Lee Motherhugging Jones.

But wait, the awesome train hasn't stopped yet, because then there's this:



Thor! Directed by Kenneth Branagh! And Stringer Bell is in it as Heimdal!  Wow!  Marvel is killing it.  So, what is their Distinguished Competition giving us to compete with that?



Ummm...why is one of the two guys from 2 Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place playing Hal Jordan? And why do all of the Green Lanterns have glowing pectoral striations? This is a joke right? This is like a fan trailer that an animation student at the Savannah College of Art and Design made, right? For their final?  What? No? This is the ACTUAL Green Lantern Trailer? For a real movie?  Oh.  Well then...at leas the Wonder Woman TV show is going to be awesome? Right? Because it's Wonder Woman? And she's awesome?





Ooooookay.  That's the real Wonder Woman costume.  It's real...pleathery? What's that you said? The show is being produced by David Kelley? Whose primary claim to fame is creating Ally McBeal?  Oh great Zeus...

My point here is that Marvel is doing a really great job creating movies from their properties.  I mean, how awesome was Iron Man? But DC isn't.  Sure, Dark Knight was amazing, but Superman Returns was a huge turd.  And what else have they made? Where's the awesome Flash movie we deserve? Or hey, how about a Justice League movie? All of DC's movies that aren't directed by Christopher Nolan have been bad.  Or just don't exist.