The King is Gone

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Photo by Danny Clinch

Photo by Danny Clinch

By now everyone knows that Riley “Blues Boy” King is dead at 89. There are some people whose absence means that things will not and cannot ever be the same. B.B. King was the face of blues music for more than half of a century, with a reputation earned by relentless touring, soulful singing, legendary playing and remarkable stage presence. The best entertainers can be summed up immediately by one image. When you see King’s Gibson “Lucille” guitar you know who it is, and who is coming.

Anybody could have written that paragraph though.

Blues is unlike other forms of music in that the more notes you play, the less it sounds authentic. The best blues players don’t use a lot of equipment or a wide variety of guitar. The technique is all in the hands, in wringing every bit of soul and emotion from every note. B.B. King was the master of timing, of teaching when to play and when not to play. And that vibrato where he swings that pinky while keeping that first finger fixed? Divine.

King created an internal tension in every lead he played. Sometimes in a song he would dedicate time to labor-intensive string bending, slowly creating rich, sobbing notes. Then he would just hold one note for one seemed like forever, finally finishing it with a flurry of activity. That understanding of his audience is something that hundreds of thousands of players have imitated ever since.

It would have been enough for him simply to be great. But its what King did after that that was even more astonishing.

King put together shows and specials and became the glue that held blues together. You could always count on his consistent performance, but it’s his chemistry with other musicians that made him irreplaceable. On any given day he could trot out Eric Clapton, whose voice would blend perfectly with his as they calmly traded licks. They would bring in a couple singers, say, Dr John or Koko Taylor for a couple tunes for a different feel.

Then out would come Buddy Guy, whose showmanship, competitiveness, and constant improvisation would immediately energize everyone. From Texas you’d have the Iceman Albert Collins with his reedlike Telecaster sound, or the earthy overbends of Albert King or Stevie Ray Vaughan. From Memphis, maybe Lonnie Mack, from Britain, good old Ron Wood or mercurial Jeff Beck.

It didn’t matter.

As long as B.B. King was there, he could play with them all, and their respect for him held it together. With anyone else it would have been cacophony. But B.B. King would calmly play on Lucille, and then he would give a little nod, so slight you may have missed it if you were watching. And that’s how everyone knew it was okay for them to play, cause he said so. And if he made that little grimace, they knew they had hit that sweet spot.

To some people blues is sad, an intense protest from the soul about trials that never seem to change. To some people blues is happy, the music for a weekend at the juke joint. B.B. King did both, often in the same show. He connected every regional style in the country, easily adapting to everyone one else. He held everything together.

I’ve worried for years whether blues is dying. It used to be the music for the common person, and now its relegated to a niche. Fewer people play the music honestly, its more a pastiche of overamplified rock technique, then what it is supposed to be. Maybe in twenty years it goes the way of polka and becomes a curiousity – a punchline to an untold joke.

I don’t know who is the man who holds things together now. Who is the face of the blues? Who keeps the concerts from collapsing under their own weight? Who is the player that sends everyone to the woodshed practicing? What happens to a kingdom when the king dies?

Lost River: A Review

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I heard terrible things about Lost River. I heard it was booed at Cannes, and the majority of reviews have gone from unimpressed to vile. But my model for film critics was the late, great Roger Ebert. Aside from his relative humility, he really worked at going into films with no baggage, or as little as possible. And in the end, he evaluated movies by looking to see if they accomplished what they set out to do.

Before I watched the movie I thought about why I wanted to see it.

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My close friends know that I have a terrible crush on Christina Hendricks, but more fundamentally, I feel bad for her as an artist. She’s been around a while, and then all of the sudden there’s all this attention, and at first, it has to be flattering and welcome, but then five years later, people are still talking about your boobs and nothing else. That’s got to get old.

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I have been waiting for her to get that great movie role, but I bet most of the stuff that comes in has her playing a stripper or something. And although she was in Drive she had no material to work with.

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I didn’t know anything about Ryan Gosling until his recent work with the frustrating Nicolas Winding Refn. Their two films (Drive and Only God Forgives) were visual treats (sort of like a live-action version of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City) and the trailer for Lost River showed me that same sensibility. Even though those are two very different films narratively and overall, there’s a lot to be proud of.

The description I got for this movie was so inaccurate that I had to suppress a smile at certain points while watching this. I’m not sure anybody at Warner Brothers had any idea what this was.

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Of course this was after the incompetent teaser trailer, literally one of the worst marketing efforts I’ve ever seen, and one of the reasons I think the movie was so poorly received.

I was also kind of curious to see how Barbara Steele fit into the film. In the end, she is more of a prop, a visual reference to her work on Black Sunday with Mario Bava. Bava’s gift for lighting is an obvious influence on both Gosling and Refn’s work.

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So how was Lost River?

I can sum up the plot rather quickly, because this isn’t about story. Single mother Billy and her sons Bones and Franky don’t want to leave their family home, but all the homes around them are getting demolished one by one. Bones is trying to help the family by stripping houses for precious copper pipes and other metals.The problem is that a small-time crook named Bully has decided that the abandoned properties belong to him, and with his small crew he has a habit of cutting people’s lips off with scissors if they cross him.

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Billy tries to talk to the manager of the bank that owns the home, Dave and he suggests that she take on a mysterious job – that he won’t tell her about. Meanwhile Bones sort of romances his neighbor, Rat, who lives with her nearly catatonic grandmother. She tells him about a city buried underwater, and a curse that needs to be broken.

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Billy finds out that the ‘job’ is a stage show (they might as well name the place the Grand Guignol) where they pretend to murder each other, among other indulgences. Out of desperation she begins to get involved, but Dave has his eyes on her, and every night she begins to see the extent of his madness. These stories intertwine, and for such an ethereal movie the end is unusually satisfying.

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Succinctly put, I don’t know why anyone would boo this film. I don’t know why it has a such a terrible reputation and I think that as time goes on, if anyone remembers this movie, they’re not going to feel the same way about it. As a debut, its pretty impressive, although looking at Director of Photography Benoit Debie’s credits I’m inclined to believe that a great deal more credit is due to him than he is getting.

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Lost River is a dream, and employs dream logic almost entirely, except for the only emotional beat that Gosling takes seriously, the family drama between Billy (Christina Hendricks), and her oldest son Bones (Iain De Caestecker). If Gosling is able to improve his writing enough to make the audience consistently care about his characters, he’s going to be a force, and this is the biggest flaw I have with Lost River.

Lost River is beautiful, a staggering accomplishment and a triumph in a visual medium. The problem is that the shots take so much precedence, there is no time for the people that occupy the story. The film also seems to have a lot more interest in some people than others, and the people it chooses to follow are the wrong ones.

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Most of the longer scenes are with De Caestecker and Rat (Saoirse Ronan) and those scenes tend to drag (although that term is relative with all the cuts and vibrant lighting going on) while Matt Smith scorches the screen as vicious, (and possibly developmentally disabled) Bully, and Ben Mendelsohn channels a milder version of Frank Booth as the increasingly lecherous Dave. Most unforgivably, Hendricks turns in an excellent performance, even getting the best out of De Caestecker in her scenes, but again there just wasn’t a whole lot for her to do.

The real star of Lost River is Gosling’s vision of Detroit and there was no upstaging it. To his credit, he gets something out of the ruins that no one else has. The idea that someone saw this and catcalled it seem boorish at best.

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This isn’t a film for everyone, but its a thoughtful, well-acted film, a visual feast, and more passion projects like this need to be made. I’ve heard it described as a pretentious art film and I would personally like to see a non-pretentious art film, because I don’t know how such a thing could exist. Personally, I see this as a neon Jodorowsky film. If Gosling can find a way to make his movies a little more hypnotic or a little more human, there is no ceiling to what he can do.

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Comics Are Hip Hop

freepretzels:

A wonderfully written article with a great take.

Originally posted on The Afrosoul Chronicles:

4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape... We're coming for yo' ass! 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape… We’re coming for yo’ ass!

“It was all a dream, I used to read Wizard Magazine…”

– Paraphrasing ‘Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G

Pssst… Guess what?

Comics are Hip Hop.

It takes a strong woman to control a community... It takes a strong woman to control a community…

Of course, if this were written in the 20s, I would have said, “Comics are the Blues.” If this were written in the 40s, then Comics would be akin to Jazz. In the 60s, Comics would be considered Rock and Roll

You get the idea.

Comics started out as a sort of gutter hybrid art form of image and text, which (for the most part) were crudely drawn, crudely written disposable fair printed on cheap paper for the unwashed masses, mostly children, to enjoy.

Comics are hood. Back in the day, nobody who considered themselves “true” artists or…

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The Kentucky Derby is Basically the Player’s Ball

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You can't beat the Hulk by punching him. When will they ever learn?

You can’t beat the Hulk by punching him. When will they ever learn?

“If I don’t see the Avengers soon,” I said, “I think I’ll explode.”

“You know,” my friend said, “The NFL Draft, the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight and the Kentucky Derby are also on that weekend.”

That’s a pretty stacked weekend, and I didn’t know it was happening. I think we all need to get the boo-loving done early, because wives and girlfriends are getting neglected May 1-3. But the most entertaining event of them all might be the Kentucky Derby. (Just kidding, its going to be Avengers!)

You may be too innocent to know about the Player’s Ball. Previously, I would have simply assumed that you knew the skit from Chappelle’s show that lampooned the Player’s Ball, but there seems to be a generation that has never seen him, or doesn’t get his humor which is utterly terrifying to me. Will he end up being our Ernie Kovacs, that guy we thought was hysterical, but then we get old and no one knows what we’re talking about?

There are several versions of the Player’s Ball, but the basic idea was that ‘pimps’ gathered together with their women, and garish outfits and strutted around celebrating themselves. Also there were a lot of parties and celebrations attached to that, which likely included a fair amount of gambling.

The Official International Players Ball 2012 And Birthday Celebration For Arch Bishop Don Magic Juan

The Player’s Ball has a lot of stigma attached to it. These are not very nice people taking advantage of women, and doing variously illegal things. It features over the top fashion that isn’t generally received well by mainstream culture. Its ‘ghetto,’ if you will.

Realistically,  the Kentucky Derby is the exact same thing. The fashion is nearly indistinguishable, its just that culture has condemned one style and praised another. The Derby is playful. The Player’s Ball is ratchet. Why? Who knows.

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What?

The Kentucky Derby is the one time a year rich white people get to dress like African dandies. It may be the fashion equivalent of blackface. It is a collection of fashion that resembles what the colorblind wore to Baptist churches in the 1940’s.

I think these guys just burned out my rods and cones.

I think these guys just burned out my rods and cones.

...and African dandies.

…and African dandies.

The Kentucky Derby is also a collection of not very nice people who parade around women that wouldn’t touch them if they weren’t rich. It is the summer event where you take the trophy wife for a spin.

This is a church lady hat. You know what this is.

This is a church lady hat. You know what this is.

Some of these same people own a stable of horses, dress them up in colorful outfits, have small men ride them and then bet on the whole thing. They don’t deal with them personally, they have handlers. Sounds like a pimp to me!

And then sometimes, all roads lead to Rome

And then sometimes, all roads lead to Rome

What made it weird is that at some point black people got rich and started going to the Kentucky Derby. Irony imploded on itself at this point, although it is nice to see a post-racial society where everyone can get together to look silly.

For instance, a lot of these guys were former athletes. Have you seen athlete fashions? If Michael Irvin goes to the Kentucky Derby, he doesn’t need a special suit, he can just wear what he wore last Sunday.

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The actual horse race seems inconsequential. If I remember correctly, its an hour long program, but the horses go around the track once, and the whole thing is over. That means the majority of the whole thing is pomp, fluff, and circumstance. Its 99% self-service, a touch of action and then the whole thing is over. (This description applies to the Godzilla remake as well. )

The Kentucky Derby is the Michele Bachmann of events, something stunning inane that is somehow taken seriously by a faithful minority of the general population. The only difference between it and the Player’s Ball is cocoa butter, type of cognac, and candor.

Seriously…Godzilla sucked.

The Debt of Nature: My Shameless Plug

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Welcome to the Debt of Nature companion blog!

This is a shameless plug for the project I’m working on, a historical horror series that spans centuries and starts in 1873 in Manitoba, Canada.

As a person who loves to have his art freely available, it pains me to say there is a modest cost for this subscription site. I started up a separate blog to serve as a supplement to the ongoing story and to allow feedback for people.

As a person who is excited about everything they put their hand to, it is not particularly unique to hear me say that this is the best thing I’ve done, but I think it is. The majority of fiction I watch or read isn’t compelling to me, and I think the onus is on me to rise above merely criticizing and start creating.

The Debt of Nature takes everything I love about monsters, and then adds all the cool stuff about history I probably never paid attention to in school, and then I focused on plots that felt fresh, while Jasmine helped me fill out the characters. Originally, I was going to draw this as a webcomic, but our President will be a sentient brain in a jar before I finish that. On the plus side, it meant we spent years getting some of this stuff right.

So in summation:

The Tractate Middoth: A Review

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For decades the BBC has honored legendary horror author M.R. James with short film specials, through one production or another. James’s formulaic, reserved stories make for great reading, but honestly the adaptations can be quite dull. (1971’s version of The Stalls of Barchester should not be watched if you intend on operating heavy machinery) This 2013 version is delightful though.

It was adapted by Mark Gatiss, who has worked on Doctor Who, the League of Gentlemen, Sherlock, various Agatha Christie projects, and various other successful endeavors.

This guy? He's not up to anything.

This guy? He’s not up to anything.

I had never heard of him prior to this film. M.R. James has been dead for nearly 80 years and I talk about him all the time. Not sure what that says about me.

This is the first project that he has directed and he needs to stick with it because he’s onto something.

fo86fo86

Sacha Dhawan is William Garrett, a mild librarian who is asked to retrieve a book for John Eldred (John Castle) an older man who seems rather reluctant to get it himself. At first, it seems like the book has been checked out already, but that was a mistake.

When Eldred returns, Garrett finds out how who actually has the book, and the shock of the discovery causes him to faint and destroys his nerves. You see the Tractate Middoth is not a normal book, and it has something that seems to follow it.

fiyfli

Through a rather convenient co-incidence Garrett finds out the history of the book. It was owned by the vile Dr. Rant, who found himself in declining health with both a niece (Louise Jameson as Mary Simpson) and nephew (our Mr. Eldred) that he doesn’t care for at all. So he decides to have a bit of fun. His entire estate will go to one of them in a will. The will will be hidden in a book, and the book will go to a place that only he knows. The niece and nephew will be given only a couple of clues to find the will, and each person won’t be given the same clues.

And what we know, but they don’t…is that the book is cursed.

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Gatiss does a great job adapting the short story and even capturing some of the humor inherent in James’s story, and he provides the best ghoul in the entire BBC M.R. James oeuvre. The only thing I really don’t understand is that in the story, the denouement occurs in the evening, creating what I visualized as an unsettling ending and here, Gatiss shoots it rather light. Aside from this, The Tractate Middoth is an amazing looking short film, just some of the work with the diffused light is spectacular.

light

I’d like to see another generation of BBC adaptations in this vein.

Seven Random Things I’ve Learned About Being a Bouncer

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I recently stepped away from the business and I decided to share some random thoughts about the experience. Some of them are going to be offensive even if I don’t mean them to be but they’re based on what I’ve seen. I do want to give a little context first.

I started out ten or so years ago and worked a little over five years of that time at various spots in the Philadelphia area. The business changed radically over that time, and not for the better. I worked in a variety of contexts, and unlike a lot of other guys, there were places that I worked by myself.

I’m not going to sit here and present myself as the toughest guy out there. I was able to stay around because I didn’t fly off the handle a lot, I showed up on time, and I didn’t chase girls or drink up the bar. But I would have washed out a long time ago if I couldn’t fight or was afraid to stick my nose into things. Which leads to my first point.

1. If you can’t figure out why the bouncer is there, leave him alone.

Sometimes you’ll be at a place and you’ll see a little guy, or someone that looks like he’s fifty and you probably wonder why he’s there. Sometimes its just a bad hire and he’ll be gone in two weeks.

Yeah...do NOT test him.

Yeah…do NOT test him.

Or he’s an absolute terror that you should never mess with. Guys that have been around for a while have faced everything there is to face, big guys, athletes, thugs, drunk cops, MMA fans, martial artists, everything. All that experience adds up. They don’t get excited, they don’t get nervous, they just handle their business.

I remember running a small crew and they gave me this guy from South Philly. He was bald on top, average height and weight…and he was an absolute psycho. It took everything I had to keep him from absolutely killing people that got out of line. Conversely I worked with a modern day Adonis that spent one shift complaining about a hangnail.

Fighting bouncers is a terrible idea, but leave the old guys or little guys alone.

2. People should keep track of their friends.

There a lot of people now that hit the club or bar and immediately start partying with no idea where their friends are. Then at two or three in the morning, they start panicking when their friend doesn’t answer their text. Well…its too late now. Your girlfriend left an hour and a half ago with some creep that was waiting for a drunk girl, and he’s going to do some variety of sexual assault to her. I can stop some of it, but I can’t stop all of it. And frankly, its not my responsibility.

Its your job to protect yourself when you’re out, as opposed to getting helplessly drunk/high. Its also your job to make sure your friends don’t end up in a bad situation when they leave.

I remember walking home after a shift, and I passed a long driveway that was actually a pretty vicious incline from my perspective. At the top, I saw a drunken kid pass out. He rolled down the pavement like a tumbleweed. His clothes were ripped from the fall and he was bleeding everywhere. When he woke up he was incoherent. It was obviously hypothermia.

I watched him turn blue as I called for an ambulance. I put my jacket over him so he didn’t freeze to death. As they loaded him into an ambulance, his buddy showed up.

“Man,” he said. “I was looking for him.”

If you get drunk in winter and wander off without your jacket, you can get frostbite or hypothermia. Anything can happen. Just ask Shane Montgomery’s family. The best protection for people is if their friends know where they are. If you want to hook up with someone, just let them know before you catch a cab.

These are signs of hypothermia...oh yeah, this is the same stuff that happens when you're drunk.

These are signs of hypothermia…oh yeah, this is the same stuff that happens when you’re drunk.

3. Bouncers have multiple jobs.

I cannot tell you how many middle-class kids have insulted me or my guys as they get thrown out of the club by telling us what they do, or what their salary is. Some guys are pretty blue-collar, but there are a lot of guys that bounce and have good day jobs. If you’re a big guy and you want to meet some girls and make a little side money, it makes sense. Don’t assume that I don’t have any money or education. In fact, you know nothing about my background, and maybe you should.

I remember a guy walking around the club with his dog-tags out, trying to pick up girls by telling them he had just come back from Afghanistan. A bouncer got in his face and told him to calm down and to tuck his tags in his shirt.

He got rude. He cursed the bouncer out and explained what sacrifices he had made for our freedom. What he didn’t know was that the bouncer was a Special Forces Captain who was home because he had taken some shrapnel in the abdomen. As an officer he had a clear line of communication to the guy’s superior officer…which he used. That guy was in for hell when he reported back. Lesson is, you have no idea what we do. You might not make more than we do, and also, because you’re drunk you peed yourself and haven’t figured it out yet.

4. A fight in your place is a complete failure.

If you like to fight or want to prove yourself, this is the wrong job for you. Things have changed. That kid that is crazy aggressive and wants to fight you in the middle of the street? The moment he actually takes a bit of damage he’s going to try to sue you, and if they’re too broke to get a lawyer, they might get a gun. (But mostly they’ll try to sue.) The system is set up so people don’t have to take responsibility for anything they do anymore.

Tough guys on the street, victims when they hit court.

Tough guys on the street, victims when they hit court.

You bring liability to your bar every time some idiot fights. Guys like fights, but girls don’t, and guys go where girls do, so fights kill business. In my state, every time the police get called it goes against your liquor license. and you could get the place closed down if you’re considered a ‘nuisance bar,’ which is a really arbitrary designation.

The more you fight, the higher the odds are that you’ll lose a fight. Every time you lose a fight, you plant a seed in people’s minds that you can be beaten, and for some guys there is no bigger trophy then saying they knocked out the bouncer. And even a fight you win still could get you hurt and those injuries add up. Black eye? Busted hand? Well, you’re going to be back working in a couple days so I hope you heal like Wolverine.

5. The secret to my job is just being nice.

If I’m calm, everyone is calm. If you’re just nice, most people are accommodating, mostly because you’re bigger than them. And you end up meeting people. I can’t tell you how many celebrities or important people I was able to deal with because I didn’t walk around trying to act tough.

You being decent to everyone is good for the business. Even kicking someone out, if its not busy and no one is being too aggressive explain to their friends why the person has to go. It goes a long way. People will go peacefully and they’ll come back when they’re sober.

6. Don’t expect a long-term relationship anywhere near a bar

I love my wife. I love my wife. I love my wife...

I love my wife. I love my wife. I love my wife…

I’ve seen some relationships work, especially with married people and my one consistent exception is if both parties work at the same bar. But mostly I’ve seen hot messes.

As a customer, you go to bars and clubs to hook up, if you’re expecting anything else, you’re in for a disappointment. It sounds basic, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen that were surprised when the object of their affections didn’t call them back afterwards. Of course they didn’t. The transaction was completed.

Dating someone that works in a bar/club? I don’t know how to tell you this but there is always someone hitting on us. A Bartender’s job is to connect to patrons because basically anyone can just pour a drink and give it to someone. There has to be something else. And sometimes that gets out of hand. Managers have to face a lot of ‘friends,’ the staff they hire that they end up getting close to and random women/men. And bouncers?

Jesus.

If you can’t get women as a bouncer, kill yourself. Most of the time I worked I was married. I have a great wife and a great situation and there was still temptation out there. There were certainly guys that got hit on a lot more than me. It adds up.

Its not realistic to expect the average person to be faithful with that many options and in this business, the options are constant.

7. Fighting is mostly mental.

There are always two things I think about when I go into a shift: that someone might have a weapon, and that I am outnumbered and someone is always going to be coming from my blindside. I am mentally prepared for both and that’s the difference for me.

If you see me walking around in plain-view, I’m just observing what’s going on or I want to know who is going to be trouble later. After that, I stay out of sight because there’s nothing more overwhelming than thinking there’s no bouncer and then suddenly being on the floor because he came from your blind side.

I ambush people because I know I’m outnumbered. This is the most important part. If there are a bunch of guys standing there about to fight, and I show up, they have a decision to make.

Do they try to fight me? What are the consequences of that?

Last week, there was a fight between four guys and I jumped in the middle of it. There was a fifth guy that came from my left, and I grabbed him, put in him in a bit of a collar choke with my left and then put a joint lock on with my right. He started screaming and went down and I dragged him off. No one even twitched even I came back. That happened because I took the guy down immediately and he was in obvious pain. If he had landed a punch on me, took me down, they would have all gotten beer muscles and jumped me.

See crowds are big dumb animals. If you make an example out of the first person that does anything, everyone else will back down. That first guy determines everything.

That’s just one example, but there’s a thought process behind what I do. In the old days, you could just go all out and beat people, but things have changed, so you have to think a little more tactically.

Bouncing can be decent. When I started you made more money, but fundamentally, it was the same place I went to to have dinner and a couple of drinks, except now they were paying me. There’s a potential to meet a lot of people and have a lot of fun. If you were going to do it now, I would say be very cautious. If you hang around long enough, you’ll learn a lot.

Totally Worth It: Winter Survival Edition Part 3

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If you’re wondering why I’m still posting a “winter survival guide” in the middle of February, then these articles clearly are not written for you. Enjoy your toasty tropical weather, jerks! (And keep this stuff in mind for next year. Pretty much all of them would be awesome gifts, if you’re so inclined.)

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– Korean Ginger Honey Tea (in a jar!)

First of all: this is the most exquisite, delicious tea ever. If there’s one thing you try from these reviews, it’s this flippin’ tea. Still need convincing? Let’s look at the facts.

1) Tea is awesome.
2) It’s a zillion times better for you than soda.
3) It’s a great way to get warm and cozy when your thermostat is at 55° because you can’t afford heating, haha not that I would know anything about that life.
4) Herbal teas (like Ginger Honey) aren’t caffeinated so you can have them whenever you want.
5) Ginger is really healthy or something I guess?

Seriously though, ginger is great for all kinds of digestive upsets, for your general health and metabolism, and both ginger and honey are good for sore throats and colds.

Saenggang_cha,_Korean_tea

The taste is a perfect blend of sweet and savory. Tom loves strong kick-in-the-teeth ginger flavor (ie: real Jamaican Ginger Beer) and I love sugary junk with only a passing resemblance of actual ginger (ie: gingersnaps). But we BOTH love this damn tea.

The jar packaging is brilliant. Add a large spoonful to a cup of boiling water, and bam! Instant comfort. No steeping. No forgetting your steeping tea until it’s too late, and now it’s too strong and tepid. No sopping wet teabag on a pile of napkins awkwardly shoved into a corner of your desk. No leaving your teabag in the cup, getting stronger with each passing sip, until the dregs are too strong to finish. …You get the picture.

tea

Here’s a picture, in case you don’t.

It doesn’t clump like powdered mixes, and you can eat the delicious caramelized shredded ginger when you’re done, if you like.

If there was one downside, it’s that I can’t seem to find a place to buy this online?

You can find it in a Korean grocery store, if there are any in your area. You might be able to find it in a more generalized Asian or international grocery store, but I make no promises. Here is an online store, but I’ve never used them, so no comment on that either.

We take a look at the ingredients and pick one without artificial preservatives (they don’t last long in our house!), which usually ends up being Jayone brand, although every one we’ve tried so far has been great. A huge 2 lb jar goes for around $10 – $15.

There’s a granulated instant version, which is nice, but just doesn’t hold a candle to the jar kind. You can find other fruit and honey tea jars, which are also nice, but again just aren’t in the same realm as honey ginger.

Here’s instructions to make your own, if you are so inclined.

Totally Worth It: Winter Survival Edition Part 2

– Happy Light

How you SHOULD be using your therapy light: Happy people soaking in happy morning sunshine drinking happy tea while "Good Morning Starshine" plays happily. Happy no longer looks like a real word. You're welcome.

How you SHOULD be using your therapy light: Happy people soaking in happy morning sunshine and drinking happy tea while “Good Morning Starshine” plays happily. And now ‘happy’ no longer looks like a real word. You’re welcome.

During the shorter days of winter, many people suffer seasonal depression*.

* I refuse to call it ‘S.A.D.’. Refuse. I mean… come on, guys. C’mon. SAD? Really? SAD?

You can suffer from seasonal depression even if you don’t have other kinds of depression, and even worse, you can suffer seasonal depression on top of other kinds of depression. Also, the symptoms are kind of broad and can be symptoms for a ton of other maladies, so please do talk to your doctor to make sure that it’s lethargy from depression and not like, ebola. </disclaimer>

While we still don’t understand what causes seasonal depression, it is definitely a result of less daylight. The further north you live, the more likely you’ll want to crawl into a cave and hibernate like a bear.

Fortunately, the best medication for seasonal depression is: get more sunlight.

Now, we can’t magically make the sun stay out longer, but we do have some pretty great artificial sunlight lamps. There’s a large range of “light therapy” boxes that offer a variety of strengths and features. There’s a nice article on Mayo Clinic with a section about different types of light boxes and the factors you should consider when looking to purchase one (ie: blue light vs. white light, UV rays, etc).

The better the light boxes, the higher their output, the more effective they are… and yea, the more expensive they are. But a cheap little light box is still better than no light box.

Last winter I picked up a Verilux HappyLight 2500. This one is only 2500 lux. The same light comes in different sizes / outputs, and right now the Verilux HappyLight Liberty with 5000 lux is going for the same price.

Ideally you can use the light for hour or two in the morning (for the model I have). I use it in the morning before heading off to work, so I can only get about 10 – 15 minutes in. But you know what? Those 10 – 15 minutes help. It definitely works, and it would work even better if I had more time to use it. Anything than helps alleviate the crushing winter-time exhaustion and apathy is welcome.

How you actually use your therapy light: alone in a gloomy room on your computer, reading internet reviews while waiting for your porn to finish downloading, and trying to convince yourself that it's not your fault that your life is a train wreck. Happily.

How you ACTUALLY use your therapy light: alone in a gloomy room on the computer, reading internet reviews while waiting for that porn to finish downloading, and trying to convince yourself that it’s not your fault that your life is a train wreck. Happily.

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