A Pirate’s Life for Me-Black Sails

So it’s been a while…  Hope you’re all still well and not pining for your next dollop of my writing.  (Doubtful)

It’s been busy of late and I haven’t had time to sit down and really get something through the keyboard.  Partly because I’ve been binge-watching the show named above.

black-sails

Think Deadwood, but with pirates.  I was hooked from the first episode.  I’m a big fan of the genre, including Johnny Depp’s take of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (yes, even the dreadful sequels), but this is altogether a different animal.

It’s gritty, dark at times, over-sexualized at times (but then again, we are talking about pirate life, so maybe the amount of nudity and sex is historically accurate?), but the overall themes of loyalty, ambition, and the Game of Thrones-esque gray area when it comes to the main characters and their moral compasses makes for a great TV show.  There are great characters that you can’t decide if you love or hate, double-crosses, double double-crosses (cue Johnny Depp’s gun and explanation to Orlando Bloom’s surprise look of unfairness in their duel in the blacksmith shop in PotC, “Pirate!”), politics, sea battles and raids, and there’s plenty to love.

The opening credits are some of my favorite of any show I’ve ever watched:

The dissonance of the piano and chanting seems to fit perfectly well with the chaotic life of piracy, and the incredible detail in the sculptures take something that I usually ignore by checking my phone while I wait for the show to come on and turn it into something I’m intently watching.  It’s also a great juxtaposition of the light (society, aristocracy, religion) and darkness (skeletons, blood, prostitution).  The shot at 1:00 is one of my favorites as in the foreground you can see the incredible detail etched into the waves, buildings, and ships.  Don’t even get me started on the amazing detail at 0:25 and in the preview above.  Simply unreal.

I found myself googling “Pirate books” and have now set out to get myself copies of Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton.  Surprised I haven’t found a good novel about Blackbeard yet, but I’ll keep looking.  Anyone have any other pirate books that they’ve loved?

Currently seasons 1 and 2 are available if you subscribe to Starz via cable or dish, but I was able to watch by adding it as an add-on subscription for my Amazon Prime Video app on my PS4.

 

Going full nerd

So, I already dropped a hint on being a bit nerdy with my World of Warcraft reference in my last post, but something I discovered today reminded me of a portion of time in my teenagerdom where I dabbled with Dungeons and Dragons, novels of the like, etc.  I even had the dice collection.  (Dusty might still have them somewhere).  s-l500

Like I said…full….nerd.

Funny part of all that, I didn’t really have anyone to play with, so, it was basically me delving into the books and using them to write stories and such.  (Hmmm, looking back, that’s incredibly sad.  I played Dungeons and Dragons with….myself.)

Today, I discovered an article on polygon.com that discussed how there are a group of video-game voice actors started a live stream of their D&D game.  I am embarrassed to admit that I watched their first episode published back in June….all three hours of it.

http://www.polygon.com/features/2016/1/11/10589378/how-the-voices-behind-your-favorite-games-and-shows-are-re-inventing

I’m not going to lie.  This is UBER-NERD territory, but by god is it hilarious to see these people do this and voice-act their characters.  Nicolette will attest to the fact that I am prone to burst out laughter quite a bit, but I’m telling you that I lost it quite a bit with the give and take between the Dungeon Master (NERD ALERT) and the players.

Part of me is A) jealous of the huge amount of creativity that is present in all of these people and B) jealous that I’m not actually AT that game watching these people all do their thing.  (I don’t feel I could contribute as I’m not THAT funny.

I kind of just lost track of time as I was watching this and ended up treating it like I just watched Lord of the Rings or something.

The striking thing about all of this for me is just the sheer imagination that goes into these people fully realizing their characters to life.  The mannerisms, even the unrelated snarky banter that occurs unrelated to what is happening at the time, just make me chuckle.

All that said, you don’t have to check out the three hours, but the huge battle they get in happens to be towards the last 15 minutes or so, and the true skill of the DM deftly handling all seven players is pretty fun to watch.

 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (by Robin Sloan)

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

Lately, a book I can’t put down is a rare thing.  I mostly read only a few minutes before I start nodding off in bed.  For me (before this year’s reading resolution) the hallmark of a book I’m enjoying is if I bring it downstairs to read in the morning with coffee.  (Remember how depressed the books were under my bedside lamp?  This happening probably feels like winning a gold medal in the Olympics or something.  “I’m going downstairs?!  You like me!  You really like me!!”)

Coincidentally, this was the second book in a row I’d read that was about a bookstore.  (Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was the book I read before this).  Of the two though, I enjoyed this one quite a bit more.

It wasn’t a perfect read for me, and doesn’t make it’s way on to a Top 10 list of mine (I imagine I’ll have to compile that for a future blog post), but it was a very, very solid read that seemed to fly right by.  Sloan has a very effortless writing style that had me flipping page after page and then being surprised at how quickly I was progressing through the story.

I could only give it a 4 on Goodreads, but it’s probably closer to a 4.5.  My gripes with it were few and far between.  Overall, a very good book that I would recommend to anyone who was the least bit curious by the synopsis above as I was.  I’m always on the lookout for something that is a bit different than anything I’d read before and this seemed very unique.  I wasn’t disappointed in the least after finishing it.

For further Penumbra reading, there’s also Ajax Penumbra 1969 that Sloan published the year after Bookstore.  It’s basically the title character’s origin story, and I just picked it up on Amazon for my Kindle for $2.99.  I think I’ll pick up something else for now, but I’m looking forward to coming back to this world for sure.

Funny people…vehicles…and caffeine

I like all of those things.  A lot.  If I had to rank them though, it’d be 1. Funny People, 2. Caffeine, 3. Vehicles.  Your mileage may vary.

It wasn’t until a while ago, that I realized that all three together could be a recipe for something that often makes Nicolette and I shriek with glee.

If you’re a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, then you absolutely need to check out Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Short description of the web-show…Jerry picks a vintage car to match his guest, often wears matching Nike Shox to said car, picks up his comedian guest, and they go get coffee.  They run anywhere from 10-20 minutes.  Sounds simple, but the fact that they are being recorded from the get go, in the cars, in the coffee shops/diners/restaurants, is really the part that makes it hilarious.  It’s starting it’s third season and has a SLEW of amazing talent that Jerry hangs out with.

Just to name a few:

President Obama (leads of Season 3), David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon (two-part episode), Kevin Hart, Ricky Gervais, Alex Baldwin, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert,  Amy Schumer, Jon Stewart, Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, Louis C.K., Larry David, and a slew of other hilarious people.

Nicolette and I discovered one of our favorite comics from this show, Gad Elmaleh.  He played Jerry’s character in the French version of Bee Movie.  We recently got to see him at Higher Ground.  He’s amazing.

http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/gad-elmaleh-no-lipsticks-for-nuns

Gold, just gold.  (The french fry shop scene kills us!  “The combination of those two moves….I never saw that…)

What this show really made me realize is that comedians have to be incredibly intelligent.  They can take a mundane situation in life and find the exact point within it that makes it comedy.  Not to mention the incredible timing, quick wit, and overt personalities.  It’s great for them to be in this one-on-one situation though and you get to really hear normal conversation from them.

Please do yourself a favor, and binge-watch…now…

…with a cup of coffee, in a car, if possible.

 

Resolutions…

It’s that time of year again.  (Actually, the first time of the year period, I guess).  Now that I think about it, we use this expression a lot for a load of different times, don’t we?  When the Valentine’s Day decorations come out before you open your Christmas presents…when the black flies and mosquitoes come out to ruin so many BBQs and bonfires…when you’re a teacher and you go back for those two staff-only days before the first day of school…when Black Friday hits on the morning of Thanksgiving Day (sigh…another blog post)…when you actually have to scrape the ice off of your windshield in the morning, etc.

So to be more specific, the time of year to set our sights on a goal and strive to achieve it.

Somewhat sadly, one of my goals is the same as last year.  (I failed.)  I, like many before me, and quite possibly many of you, want to be healthier.  I seem to have developed the perception of others to view me as the athletic, in-shape, PE teacher.  I am two of those for sure, but that “in-shape” thing is wholly inaccurate.  I definitely need to get running again, but I really want to get myself into some yoga.  I need to be more flexible, more relaxed, more centered, but above-all, more mindful.  Nicolette wants me to tag along for one of her classes, but I find myself leaning towards a more private yoga with myself to start out.  🙂  Any suggestions on some resources for a fledgling yogi?

While I’m definitely concerned with my physical health, I definitely also want to work on the mental and emotional aspects of my health.  Not that I’m mentally ill (these and future blog posts aside) or emotionally incompetent (I like to think I’m very empathetic, sometimes too much so), but I can afford to be a little more aware of my state of feeling in a particular moment.

If you’ve played World of Warcraft (you probably haven’t, and I’m outing myself as a complete and utter nerd right now and you’re probably second-guessing your friendship/association with me) there is a race of humanoid Pandas (have I lost you yet? No?  Wow, thanks for sticking around!) who believe in the harmony of opposites.  When you’re running around with your character doing stuff in the game, it’s common to hear a generic NPC (non-player character) just say the line “Slow down.”

Sounds like this:

That’s what I need to do.

Nicolette and I are so busy, on the run, always somewhere to be, and she’s WAY better than me at slowing down, being at rest, and calm.  Stop and smell the roses.  Be in the moment.  Observe.  It’s such a simple concept, but incredibly easy to forget, especially for me.  Netflix, movies, iPhones, iPads, computers, PS4s, and other distractions take up so much of my precious time that I fail to use that time properly and in a meaningful way.

I need to be with Nicolette more, laugh with her more, and experience things that we’ve never gotten to do before.  When you live with someone as amazing as her, and see her everyday right in front of your face, it’s easy to forget and overlook how absolutely extraordinary she is.  You could own the most beautiful painting ever created and hang it in your living room, but after seeing it everyday for years, it’s easy to fall into the habit of not appreciating it as much as it deserves.  I’m the luckiest man on the planet, married above my class, and hit it out of the park with her.  It’s about time that I remember that.

I need to spend more time with my parents and find out more about their lives growing up before me.  Their time when I was in the oven, their stresses, hopes and dreams, regrets…I don’t know enough about them.  I’ve been alive for 34 years, spoken countless words to them, and yet there are times when I sit down and realize that there is so much about them that I am horribly unaware of.

I need to see my niece, Ava, 10, and nephew, Jack, 7, more before they grow out of wanting to see me and hang out with me.  Being with the young makes you feel younger, and there’s never a moment with them where I don’t marvel at something they do, or say, and even though I’m sure I’ll never stop marveling, it’s about time that I enjoy being their Uncle Jesse more. (I get to choose between Dukes of Hazzard Uncle Jesse and Full House Uncle Jesse)

Not bad company to be in…

Whoa…that’s some heavy stuff, at least until it went off the rails at the end there.  On to the second less incredibly soul-searching and emotional part!

A new goal for this year is to read more.  Read more books, more magazines, more newspapers, more blogs (start one up!  I’ll read it religiously!), etc.  I started a “reading challenge” on Goodreads to read 20 books in 2015 (I think I set it up in September though, so I didn’t give myself much leeway in terms of my habits to that point) and ended up getting 11 done.  So I figure if I can do 11 in three months, I can knock out 40 or so in 2016 if I am diligent.  I’ve got an insane backlog of books that I’ve collected from bookstores, yard sales, and friends over the years that it’s time to start doing something about getting them read.  If only so that I can empty the bookcase, and fill it with the hundreds that are sleeping in cardboard boxes up in the attic!

There are so many amazing worlds, fantastic writing and stories, and colorful characters just sitting there on a shelf in my room or in a stack on the floor by my desk or supporting my computer monitors, alarm clock and lamp on my nightstand.  I find myself looking at them sometimes and thinking, “that book was probably so excited when I bought it, just like I was.  Now it’s probably incredibly depressed at the fact that my bedside lamp has been sitting on it for ten months.”  I need to free my books from the prisons I’ve sentenced them too.  (Don’t even get me started on my Kindle backlog.  Signing up for the daily Kindle deal email from Amazon has been the bane of my existence.)

What are you aiming for in 2016?

Happy New Year, everyone!