57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)

I realized back in 2005 that internet TV was probably going to be a thing.  It wasn’t just that YouTube made it’s debut, but also Revision3 – former cast and crew from TechTV making free, professional, content delivered like a podcast.  The format of the two were a little different with Revision3 offered high resolution versions of their shows; Systm (tech how-tos), Diggnation (tech/social news), Control Alt Chicken (cooking), and more.  Fast forward twelve years and I find the majority of programming I care about doesn’t come from a standard TV network, but can instead still be found online.

Here are a few of my current favorites:

Welcome to the Basement/Blame Society

I originally found Blame Society back in 2006 because of their show Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager.  Picture the loser relative of Darth Vader who works in a grocery store, but is just as power hungry as the Vader we all know and love.  Turns out they make some pretty great (and hilarious) observations on film.  Side note, Matt Sloane (voice of Chad) is so good at doing Vader’s voice that he now voices Darth Vader in most Star Wars video games.  I rediscovered Blame Society while on a Brian DePalma kick – their video commentary on Phantom of the Paradise kept coming up in searches on his films.  Now it’s a weekly staple in my video watching routine.  It’s one of those shows where you feel like you get to know the hosts over time.

Screen Junkies/Honest Trailers

I found Screen Junkies because of Honest Trailers and now it’s something I look for every Tuesday.  You’ve probably seen at least one – honest commentaries on films with more than a touch of humor and biting commentary.  Screen Junkies News is also a great source of film and TV news, especially comic book and sci-fi genres.  It started as a little YouTube channel with a few people riffing on movies and has grown into something resembling a laid-back pop culture news network.

Hot Ones/Food Grails

Hot Ones is spicy chicken wings and questions… that’s it.  The challenge for the celebrities (or near celebrities, in some cases) is to keep focused on answering questions while eating wings with ever-escalating spiciness.  Almost everyone is over confident on their ability to handle the sauces and hilarity ensues almost every time.  TJ Miller was my first, but I’ve watched them all (some a few times).

Food Grails, also from Complex/First We Feast, documents little-known foods within cities and neighborhoods.  From Atlanta’s lemon pepper wings to D.C.’s Mumbo Sauce, it sheds light on foods I otherwise wouldn’t know.  I even bought a bottle of Capital City Mumbo Sauce out of curiosity – totally worth it!

Binging with Babish

Ever wanted to sample foods from your favorite TV shows?  Andrew Rea experiments with recipes, usually trying the accurate recipe first from a classic TV episode.  If that doesn’t work out then he attempts to make a tastier version based around the original concept.  Seinfeld’s chocolate babka, The Moistmaker from Friend’s, the foods of South Park, the and many, many more are covered on the show.  The foods can range from something simple (carbonara or fish tacos) to the outrageous (SNL’s TacoTown taco or Big Night’s Il Timpano).

Cinefix

You know those internet countdown lists?  They’re everywhere, but this one has a twist… it’s really good!  It’s a masterclass in filmmaking in the form of short YouTube videos (and I’ve taken three film courses, so I know 😉 ).  Some picks may seem arbitrary on the surface, but there’s always a method behind their madness.

Kaptainkristian / Nerdwriter / Lessons from the Screenplay

These tree YouTube channels are not related, but they share a very similar structure… deep dives into a single subject.  Kaptainkristian pulls ahead as my favorite of the group, but are all equally interesting and thought provoking.

Song referenced:

Where’d the Cheese Go?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love foods like milk, cheese, and chocolate.  Unfortunately, it came to my attention a couple years ago that I could no longer consume dairy products of any kind.  I’ve always had some sort of unexplained health issues and have tried a few things over the years – cutting out gluten (yeah, yeah), beer, peanuts, etc.  I went so far as getting tested for celiac and a few other food allergies, but I had no luck finding the guilty party.  A couple years ago I tried lactose-free products and lactose-inhibiting pills (e.g. Lactaid).  I know they work for some people, but not me.  My theory is that it isn’t lactose that’s the culprit, but casein – an ingredient in all milk products.

As a result of these discoveries, I’ve been avoiding cow’s milk for some time now.  Despite being an inconvenience, the good news is that I feel a lot better!  So what does a milk-aholic eat and drink when they can’t have milk products?  I was using soy milk for cereal, chai, and other dishes and drinks, but I’ve switched to unsweetened almond milk.  Trader Joe’s and Ben & Jerry’s have some excellent ice cream products, as does Tofutti, who also make a decent faux-cream cheese.  Daiya make a cheese substitute that’s great for pizza and tacos/nachos.  Are they as good as the real stuff?  Absolutely not!  They’ll do in a pinch though.

At restaurants, I try to figure out options before I order and not announce the allergy.  I do get some curious looks when I request a pizza with bacon and chicken and vegan cheese.

In a lot of cases there are food where that contain dairy that you never would have thought of.  Most fried chicken has buttermilk, a lot breads have it for no reason, and lunch meat uses it for filler, especially turkey and sausage.

Although it’s been an adjustment, it’s been worth feeling better on a day-to-day basis.

Hair

After two years of growing out my hair, I finally got it cut.

I’d been lazy about cutting it for a few extra weeks and discovered it was more curly than expected.  Upon realizing this I decided to see what it would look like longer.  Two years and almost twelve inches wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I started, but it was a fun experiment.

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2003: An earlier attempt at long hair

For this round of hair growth I’d discovered a high school friend and his wife had grown out their hair for donation.  He too had lost family to cancer (for him it was his sister, for me it was my father) and seeing their photo sparked the idea to do the same.

As I near 40, I’m starting to see more and more friends and acquaintances impacted by cancer and chemo – people all younger than me.  Whether it’s aplastic anemia, stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, successfully fighting tumors for seven years, or, in one case, not winning the battle, it just felt like the right thing to do.  The hair will be going to a program run by Pantene for women with cancer.

It turned out to be a bigger commitment than I realized.  I can’t say my wife was a fan.  While she was supportive of the idea of donation, having a husband with curly footlong hair was not anticipated.  I remember a specific conversation just before we started dating nine years ago about her disdain for men and long hair.

Beyond that, there were some logistical issues as well.  With a newborn in the house, I quickly discovered long hair gets pulled and straight into his mouth.

My wife and daughter similarly have long hair.  Our floors started looking like tumbleweeds blowing through the desert.  It was constantly getting caught in my laptop bag strap.

Then there were the looks.  I found people either didn’t care or were very intrigued by my hair.  A woman walked up to me at an event and told me I had “beautiful curly hair.”  In a hardware store it was more of a “what’s up with this person?” sort of look.

While I don’t think I’ll ever get the support to do it again, I at least now know what it’s like to have significantly longer hair.  I may sneak an inch or two extra from where it is today, but it’s doubtful you’ll see me with hair past my shoulders again anytime soon.

Good Taco Hunting

Saturday Night Live recently had a sketch with Casey Affleck playing the stereotypical New England Dunkin Donuts customer.  It jogged my memory of a celebrity meeting that happened over a decade ago.

I’ve had the chance to meet or talk to a few famous people over the years.  There are concert and record signing meetings; Wilco and Gillian Welch come to mind.  I once met the artists Christo and Jeanne Claude in a secretive appearance at my alma mater.  Then there were the times I walked by Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips and Henry Rollins in separate incidents on Congress Street in Portland, Maine.  I talked to Henry (we’re on a first name basis, clearly) about how much I liked him on Sons of Anarchy.  He looked at me kind of funny when I said it.  He was playing a neo-Nazi and I just told him how much I liked the character.  Oops.

My family and I met then-Vice President George H. W. Bush at his house in Kennebunkport, Maine when I was 6 or 7 years old.  My father was a cop and he’d invited various people from law enforcement to his house as a thank you.  I played Atari and horseshoes and swam in his salt water pool.  We had some Coke together, too.  Pretty sure it was Coke Classic, not the new formula released around that time.

So why mention all of this?  The Dunkin Donuts sketch reminded me of a time I went to Anna’s Taqueria in the Boston area.  I was visiting some friends and we decided to grab a bite to eat.  As we made our way in, a man and women were headed out.  He was tall, broad shouldered, scruffy, and wearing a dark hat and some Carhartt gear.  He bumped into my friend and quietly apologized.  The woman was in head-to-toe pink winter outwear and appeared to have a shaven head (though we debated this fact).  While it didn’t click for my friends, I realized immediately it was Ben Affleck.  He was dressed and groomed almost identically to his brother in the Dunkin Donuts video.  I guess you can take the man out of Boston, but not the Boston out of the man.

What celebrities have you met or seen in person?

 

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac.  And with that affliction comes some really odd TV watching.

In middle and high school it was Tom Baker-era Doctor Who reruns on PBS, Dream On and Tales from the Crypt on HBO, and Friday the 13th: The Series (which had nothing to do with Jason Vorhees or Camp Crystal Lake).
One of my favorite late-night discoveries came a few years later in the form of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.  It was essentially a pastiche of low budget British programs, Stephen King-esque storylines, a hospital soap, and behind-the-scenes documentary all in one.  Oddly, it shares some ideas with Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital (based on Lars Von Trier’s Riget/The Kingdom) from the same year (namely a haunted hospital).

It’s hard to describe… it’s a show within a show with the actors reminiscing about their now forgotten work.  It’s gory, purposefully offensive and dumb, and just kind of brilliant.  If the behind the scenes interviews hadn’t been included, I’m not sure it would have worked as well as it did.

Instead of trying to describe it, you can watch the first episode:

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Although I’m posting this as the day draws to close for me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a long while and Transgender Awareness Week is as good a time as any.

Continue reading Transgender Day of Remembrance

Ireland VI: Into the West

Though much of what I’d seen in Ireland on this trip could easily have graced a postcard, Doolin, at least in my opinion, was the most idyllic up to this point.  The village center contained a tight grouping of colorful buildings, Doonagore Castle (really a round tower) was visible in the distance, and the Cliffs of Moher were just a stone’s throw away.  There were musicians playing Celtic music and jugglers on the street, though I later found out they were likely Celtic-music enthusiasts from Germany (it’s a thing).

Continue reading Ireland VI: Into the West