June 6, 2018: Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

My favorites…

Batman #48 (cover art by Mikel Janin)

Black Bolt vol. 2 (cover art by Christian Ward)

Death Or Glory #2 (cover art by Bengal, Julia Totino Tedesco)

The Immortal Hulk #1 (cover art by Alex Ross)

The Beautiful Death vol. 1 (cover art by Mathieu Bablet)

Weapon X #19 (cover art by Rahzzah)

Shipwreck #6 (cover art by Phil Hester)

Jasmine: Crown of Kings #2 (cover art by Deivis Goetten)

Lady Mechanika vol. 4 (cover art by Joe Benitez)

Olympus Mons vol. 4 (cover art by Pierre Loyvet)

Which were your favorites?

June 5, 2018: I need you to do me a favor! No, forget I asked! Wait, maybe if you’re willing to hear me out… No, never mind. I’ve already taken up too much of your time. Then again, on the off-chance you can do me this solid…

Okay, guys.  I don’t ask for much.  Maybe the occasional steady commitment to a t.v. series.  Sporadic support for an online campaign.  Help choosing episode titles. But, today, I need you to do me a solid.  I realize it may be a lot to ask and many of you may feel uncomfortable, so, please, don’t feel like you have to respond.

No, forget it.  I’m imposing.  Forget I mentioned it.  I’ll just find a way to muddle through it.

Of course, it would be A LOT easier if one of you were able to help.

But it’s too much to ask.  I’m being a bother.

Then again, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to throw it out there.  Still…

Okay, okay.  I’m going to ask anyway and, if any of you feel I’ve crossed a line, tell me.  Or, better yet, ignore this request.  Delete this blog entry from your consciousness like not so much as any residual memories of Movie 43.  Deal?

Fine.  I’m asking…

Anyone have a good bean recipe?

The last time Akemi made beans, they remained rock solid after some six hours of cooking.  We’re looking at preparing butter beans with smoked pork chops, garlic, and bay leaf.  Mom’s navy bean recipe calls for bringing the beans to a boil, then allowing them to simmer overnight.  Does that sound right to you?  Anyone have experience cooking dried white beans?  Any insider secrets you’d care to impart?

Was that too much?  Did I overstep the bounds of our online friendship?  If so, apologies.  If not, do you think adding salt during the cooking process will harden the beans?

Maybe I should start a patreon for butter bean recipes.

June 4, 2018: Our Favorite YouTubers!

Every night, before Akemi drifts off to sleep (and I read for another two hours before eventually turning in), we like to watch a little something.  Sometimes, it’s one of the food-themed shows on Netflix, or the latest episode of Top Chef.  Most of the time, however, it’s a youtube video or two.  We have a handful of go-to channels.  These are our favorites…

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Mark Wiens (Joined: February 2nd, 2009.  Views: 416,773,985.  Subscribers: 2M)

He’s based in Bangkok, Thailand but travels the world, eating and documenting said eating.  He’s adventurous and, while I’m not entirely convinced I’d want to sample all of the dishes he tries, I admire his willingness to go all in.  His euphoric yummy face is now classic.

Here’s one of my favorite Mark Wiens videos documenting a day long taco tour in Mexico:

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Simon and Martina (Joined: February 1st, 2008.  Views: 418,831,699.  Subscribers: 1.3M)

A couple of fellow Canadians (and Torontonians no less!) document their lives in Japan, covering everything from food to fun.  Akemi is especially fond of their dog Spudgie and cat Meemers.  I, on the other hand, particularly love the relentless undercurrent of competition between the host couple.

Here’s one of my favorite Simon and Martina videos which has it all: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and donuts.

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Guga Foods (Joined: July 30, 2015.  Views: 3,866,258.  Subscribers: 56,144)

I’ve really cut down on my consumption of red meat over the years, but this channel is directly responsible for my recent uptick.  Host Guga, with the help of his assistant Angel (whose assisting really just consists of sampling the final product), grills up variety of top cuts, all the name of research!

Here’s one of my favorite Guga Foods videos in which he puts a variety of steak tenderizing techniques to the test.  Deeeeelicious!

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Sous Vide Everything (Joined: January 20, 2017.  Views: 17,378,506. Subscribers: 175,850)

Another channel hosted by the busy Guga, this one with a focus on sous vide…but again, the star is the meat!  Here, his sounding tasting board is the animated Ninja.

One of my favorite Sous Vide Everything videos is this recent upload in which he surprises Ninja with some Australian wagyu strip loin.  Ninja nearly loses his mind:

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Paolo from TOKYO (Joined: October 23, 2016.  Views: 6,948,301.  Subscribers: 78k)

When I first came across this channel while doing research for a Tokyo trip, I was admittedly on the fence about its very animated host.  But in time, he grew on us. There’s no denying his enthusiasm!

Paolo hits Japan’s most famous fish market in this video, Best 10 Tsukiji Street Food:

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Strip Panel Naked (Joined: June 2, 2016.  Views: 508, 153.  Subscribers: 18k)

A rare non food-related channel, this one dedicated to art of comics.  Out knowledgeable host, Has, offers fascinating breakdowns and analyses of comics and comics art.

Check out his very first offering, a loving study of a 2014 issue of Moon Knight:

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Seto Koji (Joined: April 9, 2010.  Views: 708,409,871.  Subscribers: 1.4M)

Finally, Akemi’s favorite is this Japanese youtuber who covers just about everything that catches his interest.  Akemi finds him absolutely endearing.

Pressed for her favorite video, she agonized for a while, and finally settled on this one in which our affable host checks out bespoke online shop Zozotown:

So, what are we missing out on?

June 3, 2018: Movie Matinees!

This month, we’ll be doing the slow move into our new place.  Tomorrow, the cable guy comes by – between the hours of noon and 5 p.m. – during which I’ll be sitting on the floor, hopefully completing the rewrite on this series overview.  And maybe reading another book.  Tuesday, it’s the cleaners after which (and outstanding rewrites notwithstanding) I am free and clear.  I’m thinking of catching up on some movies by taking in a few matinees.  Recently saw Deadpool 2 with Akemi who absolutely LOVED IT, and I’m wondering if we can repeat that magic with another recent release.  Probably not, but I’m curious nonetheless…

Solo: A Star Wars Story –  Full disclosure = I loved the original Star Wars movie.  As  a kid, I must have seen it at least a dozen time in theaters. Empire Strikes Back blew my mind.  It was perfection.  And then, halfway through Return of the Jedi, the ewoks came prancing across the big screen and effectively destroyed my love for the franchise.  Heard not good things about The Phantom Menace and skipped it.  Accidentally went to see Attack of the Clones and wished I’d missed that, but the experience ensured I’d miss Revenge of the Sith. Considered going to see The Force Awakens but heard it was just a reboot of the original.  Didn’t see The Last Jedi.  Which brings us to Solo: A Star Wars Story. The reviews have been mixed but, from what I’ve heard, the reasons a lot of people love it leads me to believe I would love it too.  Conversely, the reasons a lot of people hate it also leads me to believe I might just hate it too.  Well, there’s only one way to find out.  I have no doubt that, regardless of how amazing the visual effects, how awesome the performances, how spectacular the stunts – it will, for me, as always, come down to the script.  Does the story make sense?  Are the characters believable?  Is the dialogue any good?  I’ll submit my review later this week.

Avengers: Infinity War – Man, as a kid who grew up reading comics – and The Avengers in particular – there was nothing I loved more than a good comic book movie.  Of course, actual good comic book movies are few and far between, but that never stopped me from seeing them.  Until, of course, Avengers: Age of Ultron came along.  I don’t think I’ve ever hated a superhero movie more.  Sitting through it was like watching somebody else plays video games for three and a half hour.  Thirty minutes in, I turned around to explain the plot to Akemi and discovered her curled up in her seat, fast asleep.  That movie nearly killed my love for the genre and, in fact, it was years until I actually sat down and watched another superhero movie (Deadpool, which I loved and then, most recently, Logan and Black Panther, which also pleasantly surprised).  While I’ll probably never get around to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in this lifetime, I have heard good things about Spider-Man: Homecoming, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Wonder Woman so they sit on standby pending my Infinity War experience.

Isle of Dogs – I didn’t realize until somebody pointed it out – Isle of Dogs = I love dogs!  And I do, but the lack of any pug or french bulldog representation relegated this one to a strong “maybe”.  It looks a little weird (which, admittedly, could end up delightful or annoying as hell), but since it’s still playing, I might just check it out.

You Were Never Really Here – When I first saw the trailers for this brutal-looking movie, I was all in and patiently awaited its release – only to eventually discover said release was surprisingly limited.  It’s like that Vince Vaughn prison movie I heard great things about that snuck in, hung around for a few days, then disappeared before I could see it.  Well, fortunately, You Were Never Really Here is still playing – at one theater near me.  My desire to see it has, however, been somewhat tempered by a friend who informed me “It’s really art house.” in a way one might warn against reuniting with an old friend who had lost their mind.

Hereditary – I love me a good horror film and my matinee screenings have proven surprisingly rewarding in that respect: The Quiet Place, Green RoomThe Babadook, It Follows, Get Out.  The only thing that gives me pause is all the buzz this movie has been receiving, with some proclaiming it one of the scariest films ever.  Whenever superlatives like this are thrown around, I’m inevitably disappointed – so I’m expecting to be pleasantly surprised.

2001: A Space Odyssey“To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi masterpiece, TIFF Bell Lightbox screens a 70mm print struck from new printing elements of the original camera negative. This is a true photochemical film recreation, with no digital tricks or remastered effects — the unrestored film as experienced by audiences 50 years ago.”  I’m in!

Anything else I’ve missed or should be looking forward to?  Do tell.

June 2, 2018: Recommended Recent Reads!

Something for almost everyone.

A few of my favorite recent reads…

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss [2018 RELEASE]

Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love.

The friendship at the heart of this book is so poignant, so real, that it’s impossible to resist a full emotional investment in these characters and the supporting players who orbit their lives. Roughly 170 books into 2018 and I already know that this will be one of this year’s Top3 when all is said and done. A great, great book.

Blood of Assassins by R.J. Barker [2018 RELEASE]

The assassin Girton Club-foot and his master have returned to Maniyadoc in hope of finding sanctuary, but death, as always, dogs Girton’s heels. The place he knew no longer exists.

War rages across Maniyadoc, with three kings claiming the same crown – and one of them is Girton’s old friend Rufra. Girton finds himself hurrying to uncover a plot to murder Rufra on what should be the day of the king’s greatest victory. But while Girton deals with threats inside and outside Rufra’s war encampment, he can’t help wondering if his greatest enemy hides beneath his own skin.

The second book in R.J. Barker’s The Wounded Kingdom series and the follow-up to his phenomenal debut, The Age of Assassins, continues the story of assassin Girton Club-foot and his pivotal role at the heart of conflict that sees three kings vying for a single crown. It’s an engaging character-driven narrative studded with brutal battle scenes and an underlying whodunit mystery genuinely surprises.

The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry [2018 RELEASE]

A threat is called into the LAPD Bomb Squad and when tragedy ensues, the fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company. Just returned from a tough job in Mexico, Stahl is at first reluctant to accept the offer, but his sense of duty to the technicians he trained is too strong to turn it down. On his first day back at the head of the squad, Stahl’s three-person team is dispatched to a suspected car bomb. And it quickly becomes clear to him that they are dealing with an unusual mastermind–one whose intended target seems to be the Bomb Squad itself.

The tension ratchets up to a full 10 within the first few pages and then maintains this relentless level of suspense throughout the books’ near 400 page run. Authorities seek to identify a serial who is targeting the LAPD’s bomb squad with increasingly elaborate explosive traps. Once you start reading, it’s near impossible to put down.

Police At The Station And They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty

Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.

Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.

The crossbow murder of a small-time drug dealer in 1980’s Belfast sets Catholic Detective Sean Duffy on a perilous, conspiracy-laden investigation involving the IRA, long-buried secrets, twists, turns, and more than a few surprises. A crackerjack thriller with heart and humor. My only regret is not having discovered Adrian McKinty, and this series, sooner – an oversight I deem to rectify over the coming months.

The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole [2018 RELEASE]

In this epic fantasy sequel, Heloise stands tall against overwhelming odds–crippling injuries, religious tyrants–and continues her journey from obscurity to greateness with the help of alchemically-empowered armor and an unbreakable spirit.

No longer just a shell-shocked girl, she is now a figure of revolution whose cause grows ever stronger. But the time for hiding underground is over. Heloise must face the tyrannical Order and lay siege to the Imperial Palace itself.

The second book in Myke Cole’s The Sacred Throne series is a terrific follow-up to last year’s breakout fantasy debut, The Armored Saint, building on the world and its characters with an action-driven narrative that raises the stakes in epic fashion yet still manages to maintain the focus on its grounded and engaging young heroine. It’s a thrilling read, peppered with surprises and unexpectedly touching moments. No sophomore slump here. This second installment delivers in spades (and flails and swords and shields!), vaulting this fantasy series into my Top 5 of all time.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones [2018 RELEASE]

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

An exceptionally honest exploration of a relationship complicated by a twelve year prison sentence meted out to an innocent man. Well-written, character-driven drama full of anguish and humor and hope whose only misstep is an in-prison twist that feels unearned and all too convenient in stark contrast to this otherwise grounded book.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

An emotionally exhausting but incredibly rewarding read about a missionary family’s experience in late 1950’s Congo.

June 1, 2018: Let’s decompress!

Well, it’s been a frustrating 48 hours where practically everything that could have gone wrong did – or came pretty damn close.  The final straw was the closing on our new place which the seller’s lawyer dragged out until five minutes before they were official in breech, thus ensuring I wouldn’t be able to get the place cleaned or internet installed until after this weekend.  Thanks a lot.

On the other hand, there were a few bright spots…

Finally tried Halo Top’s birthday cake flavor and I must admit it’s probably my favorite of their entire line.  It perfectly captures that grocery chain fakey vanilla cake and icing flavor.  And I mean that in the best way possible.

Oooh, check out the ships adorning the Scotiabank Theatre where Akemi and I took in Deadpool 2 the other day.  I enjoyed it, but preferred the original.  Akemi absolutely loved it and can’t stop talking about it.

Check out this interesting piece of artwork.

Swing by Le Gourmand on Spadina Ave. for their frozen custard accompanied by a piece of their city-best chocolate chip cookie.  Wash it down with a hot mocha.

Thanks to Dark Matter fan D. Dolphin for this veritable treasure trove of hot sauces.  Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me this summer.

Also included in the swag box, a strawberry hat for Akemi that fits Lulu just fine.

Also, a pug-themed winter hat for Akemi that shall henceforth be known as “Joe’s thinking cap”.

Hmmmm.  Thoughts…

I lose Akemi to King Street’s new abacus art installation.

Finally – Happy National Doughnut Day!  I celebrated by swinging by Krispy Kreme to purchase an original glazed only to learn they were giving them away for free! What a time to be alive!

May 31, 2018: Actor Steve Bacic Answers Your Questions!

Today, I turn this blog over to one of screendom’s smartest and most well-articulated actors.  Don’t believe me?  Chat Steve Bacic up at your next con!

Joanne Verbeek: “Can we see you as guest/recurring roles in tv shows/films, anytime soon?”

Steve: Yes, I’m doing a series of movies for Hallmark Mystery Channel.  They will air 4 of them in August.  They are called Garage Sale Mysteries with Lori Loughlin.  And I recently did a guest on Taken the t.v series and a second episode on Arrow.

scifirules: “Will you have Joe as your surprise guest at Gatecon 2018?”

Steve: Hey that would be awesome.  I was lucky enough to be standing outside my hotel in Toronto when Joe happened to be walking by and I hadn’t seen him in years.  Way too long.  So put some pressure on him and get him out.  Haha.

Joan Dutton: “You are such a versatile actor. Do you prefer movies or serial tv. Which do you prefer playing good guys or bad guys.”

Steve: Thanks for the compliment.  I actually love the variety and challenge of all of it.  Bad guys do tend to be more fun, however, I never judge my characters as good or bad just in a situation that has to be dealt with.

Christina Testa: “Hi Steve, thanks so much for taking the time to do this! A couple of questions for You! First up what has been your favorite project/show/movie to work on and your most memorable moment from it?  Second question is a Stargate one! What was it like working on the show and can you again share some of your most memorable moments on or off screen?

Steve: Thanks for the Q, Christina.  I’d say Blackway was most memorable.  Working with Anthony Hopkins was amazing.  My role was very challenging and I think I pulled it off. Tony actually applauded after my close up:) Such a sweet person. I had a great time with the Stargate cast.   So many to choose from.  I particularly enjoyed Richard Dean’s humour.

“And if you could work with anyone who would it be and why?”

Steve: Man, there are so many.  I couldn’t even think of a worthy answer.

Arctic Goddess: “How and why did you get into acting?”

Steve:  Haha.  Got into by fluke or destiny:)  I’ve actually tried to quit it many times but can’t.  It’s part of me and I love it, but it just doesn’t make sense as a living.

Shinyhula: “Heck yeah I have questions for Mr. Bacic, how in the world did you guys keep a straight face with all the hijinks on Andromeda?  Who are your actor heroes past and present? What is your favorite healthy snack? Favorite (or worst!) part of X-Files creepy Pusher ep?  What current shows would you love be cast in next? Love your work!”

Steve: Thank you:)) There was a lot of cracking up.  We had to stay focused or else! It almost became a game to see who’d break first:) So many actors I love. Too many to mention.   Favourite healthy snack is fruit, especially watermelon!!! Pusher was intense, especially watching them do a full body burn on my double.  It lasted forever.  I was freaking out!! And it was funny when David ate some salami of my burnt face as a gag)) Lately I’ve been doing a bunch of different things but mostly working with Hallmark.  They’ve been very good to me.

Shinyhula: “What was your fave Andromeda ep? My personal fave is The Others.”

Steve: God, it’s been so long – but I’d say first episode of season 5 and the one where I meet my wife again played by Colby Smoulders.  She was and is amazing.

Thogar: “Questions are always fun! Hi, Steve. I’m Tom and I’m nosy.  What would be your “dream role” to play?”

Steve: The more complicated the better, but the complexity is below the surface and isn’t evident til much later in the story.

“Do you prefer drama or comedy? Good guy or bad guy?”

Steve: All of the above with layers.

“What was your favorite project to be a part of?”

Steve:  Hard one.  It’s more pieces of different jobs for different reasons, but I loved working with Anthony Hopkins in the movie Blackway (suspense), and had a great time working with Jason Alexander in Hit the Road (comedy).

“You’ve been in a lot of scifi projects. Do you gravitate toward the genre or has that just been chance?”

Steve: Mostly by chance but I do love the genre.

“When and where can we see you next?”

Steve:  Hallmark Mystery Channel Garage Sale Mysteries with Lori Loughlin.

“Do you ever get tired of explaining how to pronounce your last name?”

Steve: Naw:)

“Is Joe going to hire you for his next project?”

Steve: He’d better:)))

“What witchcraft do you practice to keep from aging?”

Steve: It’s called stress:) I think it keeps me young.  Haha.  I try to have a sense of humour and keep moving.  A I’ve been blessed with good genes.

Suzan Harmon: “Who is his personal hero? Not professional.”

Steve: My brother Frank.

Delphi: “If you could have guested on any series in television history, what show would it have been?  What existing show would it be?”

Steve: New Girl.  Love that show and all the characters.  Soooo funny.  And Hawaii Five-0.  It’s in Hawaii duh.  Haha.

SG90: “Was there any role from your past you would love to reprise?  If so, what is it and why?”

Steve: I wish the Beast on X-Men would have worked out for all the obvious reasons.  Great franchise.

Sooner: “How do you as an actor with long hours manage to balance your work and family life?  You look as great now as you did all those years ago.  What’s your secret for staying in such good shape?”

Steve: Thanks you’re very kind.  Not gonna lie. It’s getting tougher and tougher. But as long as I can get to the gym and keep being grateful for all I have, I can manage:))

RedRedBlueGreen: “You seem to do a lot of scifi projects.  Is this intentional?  Is there something about the genre that draws you to it?”

Steve: I think it’s just how things have worked out. I do enjoy it very much.

StephenP: “A couple of questions: 1. What was your favorite role and why?  2. Who was your favorite co-star and why?  3. Tell us your funniest on set experience.”

Steve: Actually fave role was Miro on The Guard because he was such a cad – and hopeless yet still a hero. Fave co star – Anthony Hopkins is a gem.  Funniest set experience?   Too many to mention :))

May 30, 2018: This Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

My favorites…

The Amazing Spider-Man #800 (cover art by Alex Ross)

Black Panther vol. 5: Avengers of the New World Part 2 (cover art by Brian Stelfreeze)

Bloodborne #4 (cover art by Piotr Kowalski)

Dark Souls Covers Collection (cover art by Aituar Manas, Alan Quah)

Descender #30 (cover art by Dustin Nguyen)

Judge Dredd: Under Siege #1 (of 4) (cover art by Max Dunbar)

Quantum and Woody! #6 (cover art by Ariel Olivetti)

Saga #52 (cover art by Fiona Staples)

And which were your favorites?

May 29, 2018: Dark Matter Virtual Episode 4.01 collected links! And BTS photos from the vault!

First off, in the event you missed it and are dying to know how Dark Matter‘s fourth season premiere would have played out, here are the links to a breakdown of Episode 4.01:

Act 1

Act 2

Act 3

Act 4

Act 5

And raiding the archives for these pre-production BTS pics:

May 28, 2018: What am I still doing here?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot of late.  What am I still doing here in Canada when I could be enjoying a nice leisurely extended stay in Japan?  I mean, yes, there are these projects to finish up, and the dogs to consider, but these projects aren’t going to take forever to complete (They just feel that way sometimes) and I’m not above disguising my dogs as infants to ensure smooth travels.

Anyway, while I sit here in Toronto, this is what I’m missing…

Bathing with Gudetama

The Cowboy Bebop Cafe

Mascot raves

Alcopop

A.I. Police

Transforming cat armor

The Hello Kitty bullet train

I mean, seriously!

May 27, 2018: The Joseph Mallozzi Program!

Amid all the fine dining, the fried chicken eating, the vast consumption of varied chocolate-themed desserts, I am often asked: “How do you not weight 300 pounds?”.  Twenty years ago, I could have chalked it up to a high drive metabolism but, in recent years, the truth is somewhat more complex.  I’ve never really paid attention to my weight.  I don’t even own a scale.  What invariably motivates me to get into shape is when I put on a suit and the pants are too tight.  It’s either slim down or overhaul my entire wardrobe.

During my first season on Stargate, I was at my heaviest, roughly 20 lbs heavier than I am now.  This I attributed to a sedentary lifestyle (that saw me spending more quality time with my laptop than my significant other), no time for exercise, and the production’s delicious catered meals (something I didn’t have to worry about when I moved to Toronto because their production catering is absolute shit). It also didn’t help that we never cooked.  The only meals we ever ate at home were those I ordered in.

Fortunately, around that time, I hit upon a diet that effected a rapid transformation.  Called The Snake Soup Diet, it involved ordering the snake soup at the Hong Kong airport, then traveling to Tokyo where I was violently sick for a week.  I returned to Vancouver 15 lbs lighter, started working out, and kept the weight off.  [Note: My former writing partner unintentionally  invented a variation of this meal plan called The Hot Seafood Casserole diet which involves visiting your mom, then driving home and forgetting the leftover Seafood Casserole in the backseat of your car on a hot summer’s day…].

Anyway, with neither the access nor the inclination to acquire some snake soup or suspect seafood casserole, I recently opted for a new plan of action when I noticed my suits were feeling a little…snug.  I have friends who swear by the keto diet or paleo diet or vegetarian diet and while I applaud their commitment and the results they’ve seen, these diets aren’t for me.  I wanted something that would allow me to lose weight, but not leave me hangry.  So, I decided to create my own eating plan, one that incorporates my preference for early dinners, my general disregard for breakfast, and my appreciation for chocolate-coffee beverages.  It goes something like this…

1 – Never eat after 6:00 p.m.  I know, I know, very difficult to do for most, especially you Europeans and your 10:00 p.m. dinners.  But, damnit, I’m usually hungry by 5:00 p.m. and have no interest in waiting any longer.  If I’m ever invited to a dinner party where dinner is served after 7:00 p.m., you can be damn sure I’ll have eaten before my arrival.  So, yes, 6:00 p.m. is usually my cut off time.  No late night snacking.  And, truth be told, I never have the urge.

2 – Intermittent fasting can, if its proponents are to be believed, do everything from increase muscle mass and decrease body fat to stave off aging.  It involves – well, not eating for long stretches, usually some 16 hours.  Although I didn’t seek to follow this specific stratagem, I found I was unconsciously doing so every time I skipped breakfast and, instead, opted for an early 11:00 a.m. lunch.  I’m never hungry in the morning.  I’ve never been a big fan of breakfast (don’t even bother inviting me out for brunch).  I found that whenever I DID eat breakfast, I would be absolutely famished throughout the day.   So, instead, I skip it and fast for 17 hours.

3 – Early lunch – anything and everything.  This is why I hesitate to call this a diet because I don’t restrict myself.  Fried chicken, pizza, ice cream and cake. Whatever.  Maybe if I watched what I ate, maintained a cleaner, healthier diet, I’d see even better results.  I could be a hard body, kicking sand into the faces of unwary beach nerds.  Or, I could just continue to enjoy porchetta sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies.

4 – My mid-afternoon sweet brew.  Around 3:00 p.m. every day, I stop by one of my favorite coffee shops and order a mocha latte or variation thereof – almond syrup, nutella, ginger and cinnamon – as long as they compliment the two main ingredients: chocolate and coffee.

5 – By the time dinner rolls around, I’m rarely hungry, but I’ll eat all the same, usually a light meal comprised of greek yogurt with protein powder, fruit and all natural peanut butter, or a couple of soft boiled eggs with cheese.

And that’s pretty much it.  Oh sure, I’ll have the occasional cheat meals.  Go out for dinner.  Eat a little later than usual.

Oh, and hit the gym an average of 3-4 times a week.  A shoulder injury prevents me from lifting weights so I’ll just hop on the treadmill and alternate between a two minute brisk walk and one minute sprint for 45 minutes.

I know, I know.  It sounds crazy and maybe it is, but in the two weeks I’ve been on my specially-tailored-to-me-diet-plan, I’ve lost two inches off my waist and I am back down to my fighting weight.  So go figure.

I mean, sure, I could try paleo or keto or go vegetarian or attempt to suppress my appetite by consuming an 8 oz. glass of water and sheet of newsprint before every meal, but why make myself miserable if this is working?

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

But I’m curious.  How do you all stay in shape – or shed the pounds to make weight in the lead up to your UFC match?  Do tell.

May 26, 2018: Congratulations to The Expanse! And what does this mean for Dark Matter fans?

A well-earned congratulations to the cast, crew and fandom of The Expanse.  Your pluck and perseverance paid off in the form of a fourth season pick-up courtesy of sci-fi fan Jeff Bezos at Amazon.  Enjoy the ride!

On the heels of the announcement, many Dark Matter fans are wondering why Amazon doesn’t pick up a fourth season of their favorite show too.  Well, while it’s technically possible, the odds are stacked against us for the following reasons…

1 – Unlike The Expanse, Dark Matter was never considered a marquee show and, as such, never received the warm critical reception or celebrity endorsements that really bring attention to a show…and any post-cancellation campaign.  We were, admittedly, a budget-challenged production (delivering at roughly less than one-third the production budget of Syfy’s big sci-fi originals), but made up for it in heart and humor.  It’s one of the big reasons why, while our fans loved us, we remained off the mainstream radar.

2 – From what I understand, Amazon had the second window streaming rights to The Expanse.  By green lighting a fourth season, they will essentially be expanding their existing library.  In the case of Dark Matter, however, the scenario was slightly more complicated as it was Netflix that owned those second window streaming rights worldwide.  In a best case scenario, they would have picked us up.  When they didn’t, we faced an uphill challenge attempting to sell the show to another streaming platform (ie. Amazon) given that they would be picking up a fourth season without the streaming rights to the first three.

3 – Timing is everything, especially when it comes to standing sets.  Unlike The Expanse, Dark Matter’s sets were struck months ago.  A green light would require us to rebuild.  Not impossible given the fact we have all of the plans filed away, but extra costs would be incurred.

4 – Finally, there’s the issue of cast availability.  Since the cancellation, the former cast members have been very busy and, even in the miraculous event we were to get a fourth season pick-up, there’s no guarantee we could get everyone back – and I couldn’t imagine continuing the adventure without the whole family onboard.

Having said all that, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel just yet.  I firmly believe that so long as the fanbase is out there clamoring for more, there will always be hope.  In my mind, the best case scenario would be a page out of the Farscape playbook.  That show’s trajectory was very similar to Dark Matter‘s – cancelled by Syfy on a cliffhanger at the top of its game – yet its fandom never gave up.  Farscape fans hung in there, remained loyal and loud, and they were eventually rewarded with a mini-series, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.

The odds are admittedly stacked against us, but we’ve faced even longer and won. Like that time we first faced off against Ferrous Corp on that mining planet.  Or that time Wendy the robot tried to fly us into a sun?  Or that time we were captured by the Galactic Authority and locked up in the Hyperion-8 Maximum Security Galactic Detention Facility?  Or that time we were caught in the destruction of EOS-7?  Or that time TWO was infected by an alien, THREE was whisked away by Alt. Portia, the Android was taken off-line, SIX seemingly sacrificed himself, and FIVE was left in command of The Raza in the company of two unlikely allies: Ryo Ishida and Wexler?

All we need is faith, focus, determination…and an online campaign dedicated to targeting Jeff Bezos and Amazon.

May 24, 2018: Fried Chicken Fight – Toronto Edition (Round 1)!

Sure, I enjoy Iberico pork and shaved Alba truffles on risotto as much as the next guy,  but sometimes you want to take a break from the wagyu and o-toro and just enjoy the simpler things in life.  Like Nutella.  Or cabeza tacos.  Or, as was the case over recent days, some fried chicken.

I’ve had a hankering for fried chicken going on weeks and so I called on Toronto’s resident fried chicken expert, Elliot Sokolsky, to lead the way.  Unfortunately, since the last time I saw Elliot, he’s adopted one of those crazy diets where he avoids sugars and starches and fried chicken, but he made an exception for the occasion. (And, I’m hearing, regretted it soon after, but that’s a story for another blog post.  Maybe on his blog.)

Ivon Bartok (who no longer eats fried chicken and, instead, opted for one of those grass and shrub smoothies) and Akemi (who doesn’t like fried chicken) joined us for moral support…

Our first stop was Gdous Juicy Chicken House (223 Spadina Ave.), a Taiwanese fried chicken chain that opened up in Toronto’s Chinatown about a month ago.

Since we need to pace ourselves, we simply went with the double drumstick order. It was very crisp, with a surprisingly light coating, and the meat was tender.  My only criticism – the flavors were restrained and I felt they could have used more seasoning.

The restaurant is in the midst of a soft opening, so a lot of its menu items are not yet available, but I look forward to coming back and checking out the spicy wings on my next visit.

Don’t we all?

Our second stop was one of food personality Anthony Bourdain’s favorites, the venerable Popeyes (400 Queen St. West), a ubiquitous establishment I – believe it or not – have never visited.

Akemi and Ivon = super excited!

I deferred to Elliot, the Popeyes veteran, who ordered up some tenders and Buffalo Wing sauce.  Overall, not bad but there was a notable drop-off in the quality of the chicken from Jdous.

Our third stop was The County General (936 Queen St. West) where we ordered their signature County Fried Chicken (buttermilk fried chicken, Texas BBQ sauce, dill ranch, honey garlic herbs, pickles, corn bread).  The chicken was delicious, although I could have done with a lot less of the accompanying sauce.  Also, not a fan of cornmeal-crusting and its occasionally gritty texture.  Akemi loved the cornbread!

And that was a wrap on the Elliot-assist.  The next day, however, Akemi joined me for second lunch at Buldak: Home of Hot Taste (658 Blood St. West) for their Korean fried chicken.  I was, honestly, overwhelmed by the enticing offerings and ultimately elected to go with a combo that included both their regular and spicy fried chicken.  The waiter attempted to steer me clear of the spicy version, warning me “It’s very hot.”  I told him I’d be fine.

The original recipe was very good and served with a side of salt so that customers can presumably adjust to their preferred level (I definitely thought it needed a pinch).  As for the spicy fried chicken – wow!  I rated it a 7.5 (on 10) on my heat scale: fiery yet flavorful, sweet and savory, with a great crunch.  Akemi, on the other hand, rated it a 10 and then refused to hold my hand for the rest of the afternoon for fear I’d somehow transfer the spiciness despite the fact I used two wet towelettes and throughly washed my hands afterwards.

THE VERDICT?

Home of Hot Taste’s spicy fried chicken was, hands down, the winner of this extended outing.

I fully intend to check out some of Toronto’s other contenders.  But not before I pay a return visit to Home of Hot Taste so I can sample their green onion fried chicken and their Blazing Fire chicken with cheese.  Who’s in?!