Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Survivors" 40th Anniversary: Episode 30 ("Mad Dog")

This is the thirtieth in a series of blog posts dedicated to the 40th anniversary of BBC's "Survivors" television series. "Survivors" followed a core group of characters who managed to survived a devastating viral outbreak -- one which managed to kill off somewhere between 95-99% of humanity. Society has crumbled and now those who remain must relearn the old way if they have any hope of surviving much longer.

This latest episode, titled "Mad Dog," features Charles Vaughan. He has left everyone behind Edith's farm so that he can search for her missing son, Tom. Very quickly in this episode, Charles is attacked by a pack of vicious dogs. He manages to get bit by one of the dogs before being saved by a traveler.

The traveler's name is Richard Fenton. He trades guns for food and supplies.

Richard Fenton
Charles pitches his idea about federalizing Britain's survivors, which causes Fenton to scoff. Fenton think that this is "pie in the sky" thinking and that it's better to remain detached from everyone and everything. After all, society is dead and those who've survived are just remnants waiting to finish the job!

Fenton does reveal three interesting tidbits to Charles. First, he's met Greg Preston. Second, Fenton has maintained a detailed journal of everyone he's encountered since the Death. And third, there's lots of rabies in the area. So, it's possible that Charles now has rabies! But it's too late to do anything about it!

Charles has a minor freak-out, but ends up camping out with Fenton. Unfortunately, he discovers Fenton feverish and slightly delirious in the morning. It turns out that Fenton has rabies!! He asks Charles to kill him -- but Charles won't do it. After all, he needs to find that journal! Instead, he ties up Fenton and runs off for help.

Charles brings a couple of men to the house. They find Fenton foaming at the mouth and running around like a madman! After a quick chase, they manage to shoot the trader in the back!

The men quickly discover that Charles is sick. Instead of quarantining him, they decide to kill him. They are concerned that he will get killed by a pack of dogs. The dogs would get infected by his blood, and in turn will put the surrounding farmers and livestock in danger of infection.

Charles manages to escape. But ends up getting all sorts of injuries during the escape, including getting shot...

... and getting tossed by a horse... twice!

Pretty soon, the entire countryside is out searching for the possibly infectious Charles Vaughan!

Exhausted, Charles ends up collapsing outside of a farm. The farmer is a woman named Ellen, who fortunately doesn't panic like the others when it comes to rabies. She assesses Charles' injury and decides that he does have rabies! (Probably)

Ellen gives Charles some food and a horse. Unfortunately, that was the second horse to toss Charles to the ground!

But fortune continues to favor Charles as he discovers himself next to a working steam engine! He crawls on-board before the crew finishes shoveling in a bunch of coal and manages to escape to a nearby train terminal!

Charles is patched up by a medic and then the train engineers offer to transport him far, far away! But not before revealing that they've met Greg Preston and have listened to his speech about connecting Britain's people and rebuilding society!

I jest a bit when it comes to Charles' misadventures in this episode. But it really is a very strong episode -- much better than I remember it being when I first saw it a few years ago!

Morris Perry -- the actor who portrayed Fenton in this episode -- did a marvelous job, both before and after the progression of his rabies infection. His degeneration from a detached intellectual into a foaming lunatic was inspired!

"Mad Dog" also did an excellent job of balancing weighty dialogue and intellectual jousting with action-packed chase scenes. All in all, it's been my favorite third season episode so far.

Before I go, I forgot to mention that Charles actually managed to stumble upon Fenton's cottage in the midst of the hunt. He found Fenton's journal and discovered that Greg had been sent to a nearby coal mining site. He pocketed the journal, which will be an important prop in next week's episode.

We will meet up with the rest of our travelers next week in "Bridgehead."

Trump: I Will Reverse Nationwide Same-Sex Marriage If I Become President

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was interviewed this morning by Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" and asked about same-sex marriage. Trump told Wallace that he plans to work to reverse the Obergefell ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide:
Wallace: You say that now that the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is the law of the land and that any politician that talks about wanting to amend the constitution is just playing politics. Are you saying that it's time to move on?
Trump: No, I'm saying this. It has been ruled upon. It has been there. If I’m elected I would be very strong in putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things, but they have a long way to go. I mean, at some point we have to get back down to business. 

But there's no question and most people feel this way. They have ruled on it. I wish this had been done by the states. I don't like the way they ruled. I disagree with the Supreme Court from the standpoint they should have been a states' rights issue and that's the way it should have ruled on, Chris. Not the way they did it. This was a very surprising ruling. And I can see changes coming down the line, frankly. But I would've much preferred that they ruled at a state level and allowed the states to make those rulings themselves.

Wallace: But just to button this up very quickly, sir. Are you saying if you become president, you might try to appoint justices to overrule this decision on same-sex marriage?

Trump: I would strongly consider that. Yes.
In other words, Donald Trump wants to return this country to a time when gay families were at risk for harm -- both emotionally, politically, and economically -- every time we crossed borders from marriage equality states to marriage inequality states. He wants a lopsided set of rules when it comes to gay families.

You can watch the whole segment here.

Are You Ready for the Chick-fil-A Diet?

Chick-fil-A is well-known as the fast food restaurant of choice for people who hate gay people. Apparently, they are now trying to be the fast food restaurant of choice for those who are trying to lose weight!

A picture has gone viral of a Chick-fil-A bag with "great idea for healthier living." First on their list of weight loss suggestions? Eat Chick-fil-A's 8-piece grilled nugget packs every 3-4 hours!

The bag also recommends that people supplement their eating with exercise.

Someone on Facebook posted some additional health information that may have you rethinking your new Chick-fil-A diet:
6 of those nuggets have: 140 Calories, 3g Fat, 1g Saturated Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 70mg Cholesterol, 530 mg Sodium, 4g Carbohydrate s ,0g Fiber ,1g Sugar 23 g Protein.

Average persons need 1200 to 2000 calories a day. (most base it on a 2000 calorie diet and moderate active (which most are not expectually CP costumers)

So, if you made this your 8 snacks a day you would have exceeded your weekly intake for bad fats, sodium and sugars and Cholesterol. No dietary fiber, iron, B vitamins, vitamin C , folic acids, or potassium. (or the other daily intake of mineral and vitamin recommendations) Not to mention over half of your caloric intake.
In other words, eat the grilled nuggets if you are looking for healthier food options at CFA -- but certainly don't go there multiple times daily!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Afternoon at the 2016 "Coexist" Event

A few weeks ago, I learned of an event called "Coexist" that sought to "break down barriers and... create peace and unity within yourself and amongst others in the community." It was to be held today at the Illuminations Healing Arts Center in nearby Cedar Rapids.

I had attended a workshop with the agency's director, Michelle Stafford, last October at the 2015 Iowa City Metaphysical Expo and was curious to learn more about Illuminations. So I marked the event on my calendar and arrived for series of half-hour speakers.

Actually, I arrived a few hours late today so I missed a variety of speakers, including Jorge Pena (who spoke about Native American spirituality), Jonathan Chambers (who spoke about Bring Peace), Ashok Chawla (who spoke about Hinduism), Iman Hassan Selim (who spoke about being a Muslim), Marion Patterson (who spoke about Unitarian Universalism), and Zuiko Redding (who spoke on the Buddha's Four Noble Truths).

I arrived in the middle of a meditative workshop. So instead of disrupting the class, I decided to check out the store at Illuminations. They have a merchandise, including oils, stones, charms, and books. They also employ several healing practitioners who specialize in everything from Reiki, massage, yoga, shamanism, spiritual healing, and life coaching.

I've mentioned before that I've been told that I am a healer -- in the metaphysical sense. At least, I have that potential. Which interests me enough to look up shamanistic and energy healing material. But not enough yet to do anything about it. I decided today to purchase a book called How To Meet & Work with Spirit Guides by Ted Andrews. I will let you all know how this plays out!

I did end up attending a couple different speaker events featuring Sterling Hart on "Yoga and Evolution" and Gina Hamilton on "A Pagan Circle." Hart's partner demonstrated various yoga positions and transitions. He also discussed the benefit of using yoga for meditation and personal transformation. Hamilton sang some Pagan songs for us and then defined and discussed some basic concepts behind Paganism.

I then attended "Hybrid Spirituality" with Don Marlette. I met Don back in October when I attended a panel with him on connecting with spirit guides and departed loved one. I then ended up sharing lunch with him and chatting about his family and career. This discuss didn't have anything to do with his work as a medium, but instead spoke about spiritual development. He spoke about being a Catholic, but also about including various other religious and spiritual sources in his life. He noted four different principles that people need to incorporate into their spiritual development: 1. Prayer/Study, 2. Community, 3. Morality, and 4. Social Justice.

There was one final presentation with Michelle Stafford on Sacred Spiritual Activism, but I was starting to feel mentally exhausted and ended up not attending that presentation.

Overall, I was impressed with the event and with Illuminations Healing Arts Center. I picked up some materials about upcoming classes from the store. So don't be surprised if I end up spending some time there in the coming week and writing about them here.

Lesbian Couple to be Featured on Upcoming Episode of "My 600-lb Life"

I don't watch a lot of television these days, but it's fairly well established that I enjoy reality TV. One of the shows that I enjoy watching when I'm at the gym is TLC's "My 600-lb Life," which following morbidly obese people through their journey to weight loss, diets, and surgery.

I was looking at YouTube this afternoon and noticed a preview for the newest season of the program, which begins on Wednesday evening.

This particular clip grabbed my attention because it features a lesbian couples named June and Sadi.

The two-minute clip features June making a complicated food order from some taco chain. Sadi picks up the order, clearly frustrated by the situation. She notes that June was confident when they first began dating and that she enjoyed getting out of the house and doing things. Now June is essentially immobile and has turned Sadi into her caretaker.

June is upset when the food order arrives and complains that not everything is there. She immediately calls the restaurant to complain and presumably to make arrangements for the missing food item to eventually make it back to their home. Sadi observes that June "acts like an addict. Her fix is food."

You can watch the clip here. I'm looking forward to watching this episode of "My 600-lb Life" at 8:00 PM on Wednesday, February 3rd.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Niagara Falls: Vacant Building Annoys Neighborhood with Nightly Performances of the "Iowa Fight Song"

Residents of Niagara Falls, NY, have been entertained by repeat performances of the University of Iowa Fight Song almost every night for the past six months -- and nobody knows who is playing the song or why!:
There's a tinny sound dribbling out of a vacant building's open windows on the corner of Ferry Avenue and Third Street. It's the University of Iowa's fight song, a 60-year-old composition played at Iowa Hawkeyes' sporting events, which has played on a loop from about 4 to 11 p.m. on most nights for roughly six months. The winter weather has not deterred its play. Even through stretches of freezing temperatures, the sounds echo faintly for a city block in any direction. 
The Niagara Gazette reports that neighboring businesses have complained for months about the looping song. The Niagara Falls Department of Community Development is reportedly aware of the issue, but hasn't gotten involved. It's unclear from the article if anyone has called the police.

I've heard speculation that this might be related to Iowa Caucus. But I sincerely doubt it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Introducing Old Lady Squirrel Girl!

Marvel Comics seems to be riffing Old Man Logan starting with THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #4.

A time travel story line has been happening in issues #2 and #3 (here and here) that has resulted in Squirrel Girl being trapped in the 1960s and being left with the responsibility of single-handedly defeating a time-displaced Doctor Doom, who plans to defeat all of Earth's super-heroes before they've even had the opportunity for origin tales. To make things worse, we know that Doctor Doom will win because we've already seen evidence (via Nancy Whitehead's wikipedia app) that Doom will successfully conquer Earth!

Issue #4 shows Squirrel Girl's fruitless effort to defeat Doom -- but ends with the addition of one final time-traveler from our present: Old Lady Squirrel Girl!!

What do you think? Can a 60-year-old woman with squirrel-based powers and forty-plus years of knowledge defeat a crazy dictator??

I think so!!

The bigger question is whether Old Lady Squirrel Girl will continue to be a presence once Squirrel Girl and friends finally return to 2016? That would be so totally and completely awesome if that became truth!!

We will find out for sure next month!

Iowa City: Man Arrested for Throwing Tomato at Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came to Iowa City yesterday. Interestingly, his campaign contacted my household with instructions on how to get tickets to attend this campaign event. Meanwhile, some friends sent an invite to me via Facebook so that I could attend a protest. I did neither due to work -- but my heart was with the protesters!

Among the excitement included a protester who was arrested for throwing tomatoes at the Donald:
Andrew Joseph Alemao, 28, was observed throwing two tomatoes at Trump, the real estate mogul and front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Alemao is charged with disorderly conduct, a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $625 or 30 days in jail. He was taken into custody by the Secret Service and the UIPD after throwing the tomatoes, the release said. He was taken to the Johnson County Jail Tuesday night and released at 9:25 a.m. Wednesday, according to jail officials.
Last time that I checked, there was a GoFundMe account for Mr. Alemao, which surprised me as I'd thought that GoFundMe no longer allowed people to contribute towards others' fines or legal defenses.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nero at Daycare -- 01/26/16

Nero had a blast at doggy daycare today -- though he appears a bit conspiratorial to me in this photo! Check this out:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Laverne Cox's UI Lecture Postponed

I wrote last November about a planned public lecturer by actress, producer, and trans activist Laverne Cox at the University of Iowa Memorial Union. I was planning on going until I realized that this would conflict with another event on 02/01/16: Iowa Caucus! This conflict was pointed out to the lecture's organizers by several local political insiders and by everyday people like myself. We were initially rebuffed, for fear of creating "any hint of controversy" and leading to the event's cancellation.

However late this afternoon, the University Lecture Committee and the Just Living Theme Semester issued an announcement that Cox's lecture has been postponed:
We are working to reschedule Laverne Cox and will update the website when a new date is determined.
The official explanation is that Ms. Cox had a "recent scheduling conflict."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Survivors" 40th Anniversary: Episode 29 ("Law of the Jungle")

This is the twenty-ninth in a series of blog posts dedicated to the 40th anniversary of BBC's "Survivors" television series. "Survivors" followed a core group of characters who managed to survived a devastating viral outbreak -- one which managed to kill off somewhere between 95-99% of humanity. Society has crumbled and now those who remain must relearn the old way if they have any hope of surviving much longer.

This episode, titled "Law of the Jungle," continues with Jenny's, Charles', and Hubert's quest to reconnect with the traveling Greg Preston. They don't intersect with Greg, but they finally meet up with Ages. She had been sent back to Greg's community at the end of our last episode and conveniently meets up with our group just in time for their latest adventure!

Our group arrives at a farm where they were hoping to find shelter. Instead, it was abandoned to the rats! They get coerced by a pair of traveling hunters and taken to a camp run by a tough guy named Brod. He keeps everyone fed, but keeps them all working for their meals and lodging. Soon enough, Hubert is being trained as a hunter, Charles is lugging water to the camp, Agnes is cooking meals, and Jenny is being prepped as Brod's personal bed-companion!

Of course, nobody likes this. But the alternative is being thrown out without any horses or weapons in an area full of wild dogs!

Charles tries rallying the others to stand up against Brod and to relocate at a nearby farm, but they're too fearful of Brod's weapons and mauradering ways. Brod quickly grows tired of Charles' challenges and tricks him into stepping onto a trap. Ouch!

Charles' band decides to escape by boat. But Charles insists on waiting around until the others agree to escape with them. Charles, Agnes, Jenny, and the others spend the next ten minutes debating how to move forward when Hubert -- ever practical -- takes matters into his own hands!

Despite Charles' attentions, Brod quickly dies. But not before telling him to keep Hubert nearby as he is a hunter! Brod's people are free to leave the encampment and our group of survivors are free to search yet again for Greg!

Over all, it was a strong episode. Charles continues to be portrayed as the stymied idealist -- while Greg would have snuffed Brod out much earlier! Meanwhile, Jenny was prepared to prostitute her body in an effort to save the lives of her friends and Hubert -- whom I usually loathe -- manages to step up and save the day!

Next week will feature a Charles-centric episode titled "Mad Dog."

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Degrassi: Next Class" Season One Debuts on Netflix

I've written before about my love for "Degrassi," that Canadian teen franchise that "goes there." I've been a fan since the late 80s when I got hooked on "Degrassi Junior High" and "Degrassi High." I jumped on board several years later when "Degrassi: The Next Generation" debuted on cable and watched for several years while its actors aged and the program lost its title adjectives. Then, about five years ago, I lost track of the program and moved on.

A couple months ago, I was searching on Netflicks and decided to see if they were airing old episodes of "Degrassi." They weren't, but the online network indicated that a new season would be airing in January. I received notice earlier this month that "Degrassi: Next Class" made its debut and I binge-watched the entire season earlier this week.

It shouldn't be a shocker, but I don't recognize any of these kids. I'm assuming that some of them appeared before this season, but they're all fresh and new for me. It was difficult for me to figure out most of the students' grade levels, but I suspect that this is deliberate. I like the new theme music. Familiar tune, but fresh and engaging.

If you've never heard of "Degrassi," this is how it works. It's about the teens, their romances, and their misadventures. An average episode doles out equal portions of character development in some, while exploring topical issues (such as teen masturbation, cystic fibrosis, or how to respond to a suspected STI) with other teens.

Here were some of the main plot-lines:

Maya and Zig are a power-couple at Degrassi High. Zig is happy with their relationship, though he's frustrated because Maya is focused on her new band and on her classes, and definitely because she keeps pushing back whenever he wants to get intimate. Eventually, he lets his insecurities get the better of him, which doesn't bode well for this teen romance!

Speaking of Maya, she has a golden (one might say, auto-tuned) voice and really wants to focus on her music. So she, her friend Grace, and attractive guitarist Jonah start a band and begin playing in a local bar. Maya and Jonah's collaberative relationship sets off Zig's jealousy big time.

During a performance, Maya takes offense at several incidents of sexist micro-aggressions and ends up writing a hit feminist song called "Not Okay." This attracts the attention of the school's Feminist Club and she ends up becoming the club's vice president.

Meanwhile, gay old Tristan runs for school president against his ex-boyfriend Miles. Miles wins the vote, but ultimately loses the election after Tristan reveals that Miles exceeded the campaign spending rules. Tristan spends most of the season fuming over Miles and hooking up with various gay teens.

Speaking of Miles, he finds himself struggling with family-related anxiety and begins having panic attacks. New girl Esme starts feeding him a steady supply for stolen prescription medications and pretty soon our guy is struggling with addiction!

Lastly, the Feminist Club takes aims at Hunter and his Gaming Club for being sexist and misogynistic. This leads to some serious online trolling against one of Feminist Club members. Serious stuff like anonymous rape threats, doxxing this girl, and swatting her home.

There was a bunch of other good stuff and I really encourage you to check out "Degrassi: Next Class" season one on Netflix. It will leave you salivating for season two!

Updated to Add: The first line of the first episode of the first season begins with a quote about Drake. Which got me hooting, given that he was part of the first batch of students in "Degrassi: The Next Generation!"