Friday, May 01, 2015

Monthly Update - April 2015


1. Read books. Still at 10 books for the year so far. But I didn't read any this month. I bought a couple more, though. I'm sure I'll get some reading done on my June vacation, at least.

2. Watch all the TV & movies I have saved. Finaly got the DVR mostly clear and started watching some DVDs and Blurays. Got around to re-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season One and started in on Community Season Five.

3. Buy no more than six videogames this year. I got Evolve for my birthday, which I say doesn't count as buying a game, so I'm still at 3 games for the years.

4. 12 More Boardgames. This month, I played Battlestar Galactica and Dead of Winter had a boardgame night where I played Formula D and Superfight, both of which I loved. I also hosted International Tabletop Day at the store, where I got the chance to play Batman Love Letter and Geek Out. So that's 4 new games for this month, for a total of 14 already. Hit that goal early.

5. Get below 190 lbs. Last month was 202... this month, I've wavered between 205 and 198.

6. Travel - Nothing until June, probably. I looked into Dallas Fan Days, but there's other stuff going on that weekend. Ditto Heroes Con, which is just too close to the Disney trip and our All-Ages event to be logistically possible, even if I could easily swing the budget.

7. Eat! - Not a resolution, but so far on my list of "places I want to eat in 2015" There were five on this list, and I went to Hopdoddy, as well as a birthday dinner at Barlata. So there are four I want to revisit: Perry's Steakhouse, Estancia Churrascaria, Sawyer & Co. and Texas Chili Parlor (probably not until colder weather) and 4 new ones: Porter Gastropub, Shake Shack in The Domain, Twisted Root Burgers on Burnet, Voodoo Donuts on 6th in June.

8. Cook! -Made a few of my new standards: Alfredo Chicken Baked Ziti, Chicken Parmesan and Baked Parmesan "Fries." Cooked pork chops, burgers, salmon and steaks on the grill (the latter with HEB's garlic and herb finishing butter, which I'll now be using for every steak ever). Made the cajun and shrimp pasta and chicken and mushrooms again, which are now part of my regular standards. I also made a double batch of bacon/beef/coffee porter chili and a triple batch of macaroni and cheese for my birthday party.

9. NaNoWriMo - No progress this month, and I'm starting to reconsider whether I want to devote a whole month to it or not.


Best Week of Comics This Month:
April 8th (Ant-Man, Birthright, Copperhead, Darth Vader, Descender, Howard the Duck, Kaijumax, Rat Queens, Saga, SHIELD, Southern Cross, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Woman, Storm)

Top Five Favorite Comics This Month:
  1. SHIELD #4
  2. Kanan the Last Padawan #1
  3. Saga #27
  4. Spider-Woman #6
  5. Howard the Duck #2
    Comics I Read This Month:
    • Alex + Ada #14
    • Amazing Spider-Man #17
    • Ant-Man #4
    • Avengers: Ultron Forever #1
    • Birthright #6
    • Bitch Planet #4
    • Chrononauts #2
    • Convergence Action Comics #1
    • Convergence Detective Comics #1
    • Convergence Green Arrow #1
    • Convergence Plastic Man/Freedom Fighters #1
    • Convergence Suicide Squad #1
    • Convergence Superboy #1
    • Copperhead #6
    • Darth Vader #4
    • Descender #2
    • Giant Days #2
    • Hellbreak #2
    • Howard the Duck #2
    • Kaijumax #1
    • Kanan The Last Padawan #1
    • Legacy of Luther Strode #1
    • Ms. Marvel #14
    • New Avengers Ultron Forever #1
    • Princess Leia #3
    • Punisher #17
    • Rat Queens #10
    • Rebels #1
    • Rick & Morty #1
    • Sabrina #2
    • Saga #27
    • SHIELD #4
    • SHIELD #5
    • Silk #3
    • Southern Cross #2
    • Spider-Gwen #3
    • Spider-Man 2099 #11
    • Spider-Woman #6
    • Storm #10
    • Superior Iron Man #7
    • Superior Iron Man #8
    • The Fade Out #5
    • Wayward #7
    Graphic Novels I Read This Month
    • Absolute Green Arrow by Kevin Smith
    • Brody's Ghost Vol 6
    • Rutabaga The Adventure Chef
    • Empowered Unchained
    • Crogan Adventures: Catfoot's Vengeance
    • Bandette Vol 2
    • Zenith Phase 3
    • Scott Pilgrim Vol 6 HC
    • Cleopatra in Space Vol 2
    • Spider-Verse HC

    TV I Watched This Month:
    This is mostly for me so I can keep better track of favorite moments, best and worst episodes and do a little less homework in prepping for my "Best of the Year" list next year.
    • The Flash "Tricksters" (Another huge episode, with the origin of the Reverse Flash, another identity reveal or two for Barry, fantastic work from the two Tricksters, and a long-awaited Flash trick. Plus, was this the first mention of the Speed Force?) "All Star Team Up" (I really want Atom to shrink, but this was a fun team-up. Loved their version of the Bug-Eyed Bandit, love the use of Tina McGee... but they have got to stop lying to Iris for no reason.) "Who is Harrison Wells?" (Really good elevation of a minor villain into a major threat, always fun to see Flash/Arrow cross-pollinate, *love* that Cisco provides the Canary Cry and that the Wells mystery is heating up. Also really like Eddie working with the Flash.) "The Trap" (Nice swerve on Wells, I didn't see the twist coming. Lots of answers, still plenty of questions, and they finally, finally seem to have let Iris figure it out.)
    • Marvel's Agents of SHIELD "One Door Closes" (The assault on SHIELD by SHIELD was pretty good, even though I'm wishing they hadn't done the traitors storyline again. I kind of want SHIELD as a big organization rather than a small scrappy one, I hope they're leading to a merger and not more SHIELD on the run) "Afterlife" (I'm still not sure how a show that was firing on all cylinders has returned to the barely-watchable state of season one... but it has. It's not terrible, but it levels off at mediocre and rises above only for rare sequences, like Coulson and Hunter and Deathlok escaping SHIELD in this episode) "Melinda" (Solid at best action sequences the week after Daredevil was probably a mistake. The Cavalry story was OK, but I don't really care. Ditto the Inhumans stuff. Basically, another OK to mediocre episode, I guess that's what the show is now.) "Frenemy of My Enemy" (I wouldn't have guessed bringing Ward and Agent 33 in would work, but if you ignore a few things, it works, and makes the show stronger. Just having an enemy in Hydra helps a lot, I think that may be the biggest thing SHIELD has been missing, a conventional bad guy instead of the weird Inhumans/other SHIELD organization.) "The Dirty Half-Dozen" (I suppose it's possible there are people who care about seeing the original, boring team back together... I'm not one of them. Some good action (Skye's one-woman take down of a bunch of Hydra agents in particular) undercut as always by inconsistent characters whose abilities and skills are tailored to the needs of the plot, rather than the other way around. Fun little nods to the MCU, which ultimately serve to remind me how much more I like the source material than this limp spinoff.)
    • The Americans "Stingers" (Wow. It's been building, but the way the Paige story turned this episode was stunning, and game-changing. Add in a twist on the defector and the usual strong work from everyone involved, and this was a great episode) "One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov" (The Paige relationship has amped up this already tense show to new levels, and spun so many of the relationships in interesting directions. Great comic relief moment with Oleg and his comrade reading FBI mundane conversations too.) "I Am Abassin Zadran" (Many great moments, including the Jennings in the car with the Afghani warlord, the confrontation with Martha, more friction with Paige and the two KGB handlers in the diner... a strong penultimate episode, lots of tension winding up for the big finale.) "March 8, 1983" (A lot of plates left spinning in this overstuffed season, so this felt more like a midseason break than a season finale, but... it's still really good stuff, and that closing bit with Paige... I don't know where they're going next, but I want to see as soon as possible.)
    • iZombie "The Exterminator" (Great confluence of story-of-the-week and ongoing stories about Liv, her fiancee and her roommate, not to mention another zombie and more David Anders) "Liv and Let Clive" (Little info on Clive's past, fun connection between Ravi and Major, good case of the week, nice Matrix reference and I like it all so much it keeps my attention even though Anders's criminal zombie empire is a more interesting story) "Flight of the Living Dead" (The zombie love interest and missing persons case are interesting threads, the reveal of the zombie captain was huge and the case of the work was great too, with guest star Ryan Hansen and a Party Down nod to boot. Not to mention, left unsolved, so I think everything here plays into the ongoing story.) "Virtual Reality Bites" (They snuck in the Were-Terrier! Also like the continuing story of Major's hunt for his friend's killer. And the cyber-case was an interesting touch.) "Maternity Liv" (This show really does a great job of marrying dark subject matter (murdered pregnant girl) with a light tone. I like all the interactions on a moment-to-moment basis, and I'm invested in the mythology too... I'd forgotten the Lieutenant was a zombie.)
    • Arrow "Public Enemy" (They make a big point here about things coming full circle, and it's not a good thing... I'm tired of the repeat of Arrow vs. the World. I'm annoyed that Ollie was known as the Arrow for like 20 minutes before they introduced a stupid way to roll it back. Their Ras Al Ghul is dull. The action sequences are good, though. And if that nanotech injection turns Ray into the Atom, I'll be very happy ) "Broken Arrow" (I feel like there's a lot of piece-moving and illogical stuff going on here in the name of plot, and it weakens the show... but the fight between Roy and the inmates was really good, Ray coming into his own as the Atom is great and I'm kind glad to see Thea and Roy taken off the board for a while, if only because they're some of the weaker actors on the show. Also... Opal City! Metahumans beyond Central City! Cool stuff for the overall DC TV-verse.) "The Fallen" (This whole Arrow becomes Ras story has been stupid and inconsistent... so he kills Thea, and in exchange for undoing it, Oliver agrees to join him? Felicity and Ollie get together, but they can't stay together, and nothing has really changed, but she can't be with Ray? I don't even know what we're supposed to make of Malcolm right now. They're going for divided loyalties, but landing on inconsistent, plot-driven character decisions, and it's wearisome.) "Ah-Sah-Him" (So I pretty much hated this. Oliver going dark Oliver is boring and stupid, Ras is a cartoon villain with no understandable motivations beyond what the plot requires, and it has amped up the CW drama that has always been the weakest part of the show. Some good action sequences, and a use of the new Canary Cry, don't make up for a plot that I've grown to hate. Oh, and I continue to not give a shit what happened in Hong Kong.)
    • Archer "Drastic Voyage" (Killer finale, too many good gags to write them all down, finishing off a strong season)
    • Mad Men "Severance" (The Ken Cosgrove stuff was killer, the Don stuff I felt like I was missing something but it was still great, and I love dissatisfied, angry Joan as much as goofy, drunk Peggy - great opener to the final season) "New Business" (Don's continuing tour of his life that could have been continues, but the winning scene was Harry Crane being a complete jackass and of course the bits of Roger Sterling, hapless chauvinist) "The Forecast" (The first truly strong episode of the season, although still weirdly focused on sort of outlier characters. But Joan/Bruce Greenwood was great throughout, it's always fun to see Don and Peggy interact and misunderstand one another and though I wasn't crying out to find out what happened to creepy Glen, it was a weird but interesting story) "Time & Life" (Lou Avery having his victory moment was weird and funny, the rush to secure California reminded me of some of the best moments in Mad Men history, and Peggy/Stan was pretty important... but this still feels really scattershot for a final season, especially now that we're past the halfway point.)
    • Community "Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing" (Solid A, B and C plots, but this merely amiable, not the crazed hilarity that was Community at its best) "Laws of Robotics and Party Rights" (Fun Brian Van Holt guest spot, opens strong and peters out, not unlike the rest of the Yahoo! Community so far) "Basic Email Security" (The group confronting each other over leaks and trying to figure out the moral were fun, and they almost got somewhere good with the cop show/True Detective parody at the end, but... it's still not quite working.)
    • Better Call Saul "Marco" (Jimmy's breakdown at Bingo, the con man montage and return of Slippin' Jimmy, and then... the turning point from Jimmy to Saul. Great season... and I find myself wishing it was longer)
    • Justified "Collateral" (A little more Bob, the finale of a few characters, some great stuff with Markham, Loretta & Boone and a preview of the Raylan/Boyd showdown... sad to see the show end, but can't wait to watch the finale) "The Promise" (A quieter finale than I expected, but a very good finale)
    • Louie "Potluck" (So much greatness. Little things like a pitch perfect version of Louis making fried chicken, the awkward party and wrong potluck, the whole thing with angry Myrna and her sweet, quiet, put-upon pregnant surrogate... just great.) "A La Carte" (The Bart Folding stinger killed me, but the A La Carte discussion was honest and interesting and also really funny. Adlon's character can be problematic, but I thought she mostly worked here.) "Police Story" (Kind of a weaker episode, leaning heavier on the uncomfortable and not much on the funny and I found most of the characters pretty awful.)
    • Daredevil (13 episodes - My favorites were "Cut Man" with its amazing one-take fight sequence, "In the Blood" with its Kingpin flashback, "Stick" for everything, "Nelson vs. Murdock" for everything else, and "The Ones We Leave Behind" for the shocking development)
    • Game of Thrones "The Wars to Come" (A slow start, to be honest, but some great scenes, particularly between Tyrion and Varys.) "The House of Black and White" (That picked up the pace. So much to like here, from our first real glimpse of Dorne, Jaime and Bronn on a mission, Brienne meeting Sansa and that meeting not going well, Daenerys proving to maybe not be so great at ruling, and a big change at the Wall. Also, Arya being a total badass on her way to becoming even more of one. I confess I'm not looking forward to a whole season of Tyrion moping, and hope that ends sooner rather than later.) "High Sparrow" (I love seeing Cersei & Margaery spar, and marrying Sansa to another sadistic psychopath is terrible and yet compelling, I'd watch a whole show of Brienne and Podrick, ditto Tyrion and Varis. Jon Snow and Stannis make interesting scene mates and of course I love everything to do with Arya, and Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow? Fantastic episode. And I have *no* idea what's happening next in most cases, which is really great.)
    • Silicon Valley "Sand Hill Shuffle" (I *love* Suzanne Cryer as Monica's new boss, the "negging" sequence was a lot of fun and there were some funny bits in the funeral as well) "Runaway Devaluation" (Great payoff to the negging sequence, and Dinesh trying to ruin his cousin's Kickstarter was a lot of fun as well) "Bad Money" (Fun episode, and their new backer is such a douche-bro it's hilarious, and yet... a lot of this was me feeling kinda bad for our guys and how screwed they are.)
    • Veep "Joint Session" (I love the transition to Selina in the White House.) "East Wing" (The unlikable Catherine, Mike's mustache, Amy's car connection, the Indian painting and the blow-up with Gary, not to mention Jonah's three stories in this episode all made for a great episode) "Data " (The HIV/medical records scandal, fireworks/music and more Catherine/Selina stuff)
    • Broadchurch (Watched all of season one and really enjoyed it... the psychic is sort of a weird presence, but otherwise I was really engaged and looking forward to catching season two at some point)
    • Inside Amy Schumer "Last Fuckable Day" (Booty Dance, Football Town Nights No-Raping, Last Fuckable Day full of guest stars, Birth Control ad, interview with the trans woman, an amazing first episode back) " " (It's Amy!, Not Cool With It, Girl You Don't Need Make-Up, Plain Jane, Bad Boyfriend, the interview with the sleaze from Ashley, what a dark and amazing episode)
    Top Five Shows This Month:
    1. Better Call Saul & Justified, but since they only had one and two episodes, respectively, I'm adding a #6
    2. Daredevil
    3. The Americans
    4. Game of Thrones
    5. iZombie
    6. The Flash
          Favorite Last Week with John Oliver Segments This Month:
            Favorite Daily Show Segments This Month:

            Movies I Watched This Month:
            • Non-Stop
            • Let's Be Cops
            Places I Ate This Month:
            • Peached Tortilla (x2)
            • Kin & Comfort
            • Alamo Drafthouse (x3)
            • Popeye's
            • Noble Sandwich
            • Hopdoddy
            • Jack Allen's Kitchen
            • Hoody's Subs (x2)
            • Culver's (x3)
            • Mesa Rosa Mexican
            • Sushi Nini
            • PizzaRev
            • Torchy's (x2)
            • Chi'Lantro
            • 24 Diner
            • Mighty Fine Burgers & Shakes

            Wednesday, April 01, 2015

            Monthly Update - March 2015


            1. No cancer. Well, the CT Scan and CEA markers came back clean. Next scan isn't until September. This is looking a lot more likely. I'll be taking this one off the count until September. No news is good news, in this case.

            2. Read books. Slowed down a bit, but that still puts me at 10 books for the year so far. 12 books is gonna be a breeze, hope to hit a lot more than that:
            • The Martin by Andy Weir
            • Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
            3. Watch all the TV & movies I have saved. Haven't watched anything this month. But also haven't bought anything new. I watched a ton of TV, as noted below.

            4. Buy no more than six videogames this year. I got three new games as part of Playstation Plus *and* I couldn't resist the siren's call of Helldivers. Since that puts me at three new games, it may be that I get more than six games this year... but I did just get a new system, which usually has me buying more games.

            5. 12 More Boardgames. This month, I played Lords of Waterdeep and X-COM for the first time. Also played Carcassonne Winter Edition. So that's two new games for this month, for a total of 9 this year so far. (Although I already counted the digital Waterdeep last year, so I'm kinda cheating)

            6. Get below 190 lbs. Last month was 204. This month I ate a lot during STAPLE! week, did not start my intended exercise routine, and still wound up around 202. So... yay?

            7. Travel - Took a quick trip down to San Antonio so my daughter could enter the regional science fair. Disney World looms for June. Really wish I could have worked Emerald City Con into the mix, I think I have to do that next year.

            8. Eat! - Not a resolution, but so far on my list of "places I want to eat in 2015" I've hit six, and that just leaves 5 on the list: Perry's Steakhouse, Hopdoddy, Estancia Churrascaria, Sawyer & Co. and Texas Chili Parlor. I've also added a couple more places I want to try, both already open (Porter Gastropub and Barlata) and coming soon (Shake Shack in The Domain, Twisted Root Burgers on Burnet, Voodoo Donuts on 6th in June).

            9. Cook! - Fell off a little bit due to STAPLE! and various other busy times, but did make Brussels Sprouts again, pretty off the cuff, so I feel like I'm comfortable with that recipe. I also learned a new recipe, a relatively easy Baked Chicken Alfredo Ziti that was pretty good. Also made the chicken and mushrooms recipe again, which I feel like I've got down. I also made chicken fried steak, but the steak needed to be thawed and wasn't perfect, and I totally botched the gravy by accidentally dumping in salt. However, on third attempt, I finally got it all pretty much right, and used some tenderized center cut sirloins from HEB, which will be my go-to from here on in. Also fired up the grill for the first time this years to cook some burgers and salmon. I've already planned my menu for the first two weeks of April, so I should be doing more cooking then.

            10. NaNoWriMo - I'm set up the site. I've also started a few outlines for characters and general plot/chapter ideas.


            Best Week of Comics This Month:
            March 11th (Amazing Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Hellbreak, Howard the Duck, Ms. Marvel, Southern Cross, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man 2099, Star Wars, Superior Iron Man)

            Top Five Favorite Comics This Month:
            1. Howard the Duck #1
            2. Ms. Marvel #13
            3. Saga #26
            4. Spider-Gwen #2
            5. Spider-Woman #5
            Comics I Read This Month:
            • Alex + Ada #13
            • Amazing Spider-Man #16
            • Amazing Spider-Man #16.1
            • Ant-Man #3
            • Batgirl #40
            • Big Man Plans #1
            • Bill & Ted's Most Triumphant Return #1
            • Chew #47
            • Chrononauts #1
            • Daredevil #14
            • Darth Vader #3
            • Descender #1
            • Empty #2
            • Frankenstein Underground #1
            • Giant Days #1
            • Grayson #8
            • Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #4
            • Hellbreak #1
            • Howard the Duck #1
            • Jem & the Holograms #1
            • Ms. Marvel #13
            • Nailbiter Hack/Slash
            • Princess Leia #1
            • Princess Leia #2
            • Rat Queens #9
            • Saga #26
            • Silk #2
            • Southern Cross #1
            • Spider-Gwen #2
            • Spider-Man 2099 #10
            • Spider-Woman #5
            • Star Wars #3
            • Storm #9
            • Superior Iron Man #6
            • The Punisher #16
            • Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3
            • Wayward #6
            Favorite Comic Panels This Month:
            Graphic Novels I Read This Month

            • Grendel Omnibus Vol 4
            • Astro City Private Lives HC
            • Lazarus Vol 3 TP
            • Bucko HC
            • Sexcastle TP
            • Superior Spider-Man Vol 3 HC
            • She-Hulk Vol 2 TP
            • Big Hard Sex Criminals HC
            • Wayward Vol 1 TP
            • The Private Eye (Digital)

            TV I Watched This Month:
            This is mostly for me so I can keep better track of favorite moments, best and worst episodes and do a little less homework in prepping for my "Best of the Year" list next year.
            • Last Man on Earth "Alive in Tucson/Elephant in the Room" (A difficult premise that works because of the inventive, anarchic energy of Lord & Miller and the fantastic performances of Forte and Schaal) "Raisin Balls & Wedding Bells" (A weaker second episode, although still funny, with a great if predictable twist) "Sweet Melissa" (I haven't loved this show as much since the first episode, but I still like it quite a bit) "Dunk the Skunk/Some Friggin' Fat Guy" (Each episode is falling off a bit for me, and they've made Phil way too unlikable. I still haven't figured out what the status quo of the show is, and it's not consistently funny.) "She Drives Me Crazy/Moovin" (Aside from Todd, I'm growing to hate every character... and I'm sure at this rate they'll find a way to make me hate Todd too. Got fifteen minutes into Moovin and finally gave up. There are only so many "Phil is a giant douche" stories I can take)
            • Togetherness "Party Time" (Mary Steenburgen is great here in a totally different way than how she's great on Justified. I like how real everyone is about their emotions on this show, and I like that it has a mellow, emotional vibe combined with laugh-out-loud funny moments) "Not So Together" (It feels like this show was just ramping up, it's too early to be over, and this was a heart-breaking place to leave it. So good... I want more... NOW.)
            • Rebels "Fire Across the Galaxy" (This show has been getting better and better, and the season finale brought some familiar and welcome faces, featured an awesome infiltration sequence and lightsaber fight and started bridging the gap between the Clone Wars era and the classic Star Wars era. Loved it.)
            • Better Call Saul "Little Alpine Boy" (The stuff with Jimmy and his brother was fascinating, the opening sequence of Jimmy finding clients was great, but the real gold was finally starting to see a little more of Mike's backstory) "Five-O" (Finally, we get Mike's backstory, and it's every bit what I wanted out of it) "Bingo" (After the heavy Mike episode, this could have been a disappointment, but the tangled web of the Kettlemans was fascinating and twisty, and carried emotional weight... and that music scene with Mike was killer) "RICO" (Wow. The elder law thing seemed like a gag, but it pivots to become an extremely important story for Saul and his brother's relationship, and the ramifications from "Five-O" continue to resonate as well.) "Pimento" (Mike vs.the militia douche was a killer scene, as was Mike meeting Ignacio, It's a testament to how compelling the Jimmy and Chuck scenes were that I don't just wish this was a Mike show.)
            • Walking Dead "Remember" (After a rough start to season 5.2, I'm starting to warm to this again. The Alexandria story in the comics was somewhat frustrating, so I hope they avoid the same pitfalls, but so far, it's an interesting new status quo for the show) "Forget" (The badasses out in the world are scary monsters in Alexandria... I like that it's not what we've seen before, and Carol's little speech was scary as hell and horrifying) "Spend" (Finally back to where it had been for me, there were a ton of great scenes, and great use of zombies, here. Some really gory disturbing scenes, too. Mind you, I'm not thrilled that they're killing all their interesting characters. And in a way, I hate Gabriel more than I ever hated the Governor... at least the Governor stood for something besides his own self-interest.) "Try" (There's a lot I like here, and a lot of characters acting kinda dumb for dramatic purposes. But it's intense and interesting, so I'll give it a pass for the dumber stuff) "Wolves" (Took a while for season 5.2 to grab me, but I really enjoyed the finale. Lots of good character turns, *love* Morgan as a sort of wandering post-apocalyptic monk, and the Wolves are scary adversaries so far that are very different from what we've seen from the Governor or Terminus.)
            • Justified "The Hunt" (Did a good job of showing what happens when a dangerous fugitive is on the hunt and Raylan isn't involved, was a welcome return of Natalie Zea and had more great tension between Ava and Boyd. Plus that scene with Markham and Art.) "Dark As a Dungeon" (Watching Art with Catherine reminds me how much I like Nick Searcy on this show, and Raylan and Boyd going at each other is always great TV) "Burned" (Wynn Duffy, snitch is yet another great turn for that character, Mary Steenburgen had a really badass moment with that gun, and that Markham party was a thing of beauty) "Trust" (I wish we could have had Sam Elliott in this show seasons ago, he's such a great bad guy. Also his scary new henchman has a great scene here. And that ending... did not see that coming.) "Fugitive Number One" (The scene that'll stay with me is the Mikey/Catherine scene, but there was a lot of great stuff here, including Raylan facing off with Boone and his face-off with the corrupt Sheriffs, as well as Boyd's escape. Brutal, ugly, amazing stuff that really feels like it's ramping up to the finale.)
            • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "The Gang Goes on Family Fight" (They keep finding great situations to put the Reynolds into, and this was another... the use of Keegan Michael Key as the host was a great bonus) "Frank Retires" (Stupid Mac is best Mac, the gang trying to scheme against one another is hilarious, the attempts to steal Frank's blood were uncomfortably hilarious, as were Mac's continuing blood oath cuts) "Ass-Kickers United: Mac and Charlie Join A Cult" (What a gloriously insane episode in a terrific season of TV)
            • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Aftershocks" (I'm wary of the Inhumans on this show, but the takedown of Hydra was surprisingly dark and very well done) "Who You Really Are" (I'm already missing Tripp, and putting the focus back on the less interesting members of the team isn't doing the show any favors. Having the Kree and Sif in an episode should have been really cool, but things are moving at a slower pace, it's time to get to the revelations because the mysteries they're building are feeling a lot like the "why is Coulson alive" plot that was such a non-starter) "One of Us" (Weirdly, the Skye stuff was the best stuff this episode... the super-villain team was kinda low-rent, the Inhumans stuff feels tonally wrong for the show and introducing another secret faction of SHIELD is disappointing, at best) "Love in the Time of Hydra" (They're flailing again. It's not as bad as season one, but the best parts of this episode were the parts with Agent 33 and Ward as a spy Bonnie and Clyde, and even those were melodramatic and borderline goofy. The SHIELD vs. SHIELD plot has never been interesting in the comics, and it's not interesting here. And the takedown of Hydra may have been a huge mistake, as it left them without an interesting nemesis, forcing the creation of this artificial anti-SHIELD.)
            • Broad City "Kirk Steele" (A weaker episode, but great use of Trey and guest-star Amy Ryan as a clueless rich woman) "Coat Check" (Kelly Ripa, wild woman, was a lot of fun, and it was weird seeing Alia Shawkat grown up, but that was a fun B-story as well) "St. Mark's" (Maybe the best episode the show has ever done, a night on the streets of New York with Abbi and Ilana)
            • American Crime "Episode One" (Strong cast, nice music and cinematography, reminds me of what I liked about The Killing so far) "Episode Two" (It's a bit screechy and preachy at times, and Felicity Huffman is playing a really shrill, hateful character, but it's an amazing cast, looks beautiful and is very engaging. And the actress playing Aubry is fantastic, probably the best part of the show.) "Episode Three" (Again, engaging, beautiful, great actors... but this seems to be about showing every single character at their worst, and it's wearisome at times)
            • Archer "Pocket Listing" (The episode itself was just OK, although the dart gun was a great running gag... but what it means for Archer and Lana is promising) "Reignition Sequence" (Seeing Lana and Archer together is entertaining, as was the return of Katya... and anything that pits the "pit crew" of formerly ISIS against their two lead agents) "Achub y Morfilod" (Guest-starring Matthew Rhys, the Irish terrorist/MI 5 plot was funny, and the Ray's hand runner also had its moments... but the stingers to both stories at the end were both laugh out loud funny)
            • Powers "Episode One" (Pretty terrible... comes off a little low-budget and doesn't have the kick that the Powers comics did when they came out a couple decades ago)
            • Brooklyn Nine-Nine "Captain Peralta" (Bradley Whitford guest-starring, and still this was a weaker episode... couple funny moments, but not one of their best) "The Boyle-Linetti Wedding" (Strongest episode in a while, great moments between Jake and Amy, Holt's speech was sweet and well done)
            • Man Seeking Woman "Branzino" (Dating as college entrance letters, Late Night with Mom, Mike as active and interfering dog... this was a great episode) "Teacup" (Fun role reversal, seeing that Josh's sister is just as narcissistic as he is in many ways actually made me like the show more... it's not misogynist, it's misanthropic, and I can totally get behind that) "Scepter" (Possibly the best episode of the series; Trackanon, time travel, the last viable woman to date in a mountain expedition, so much good stuff)
            • Bob's Burgers "L'il Hard Dad" (Remote control helicopter warfare... it remains weird, but it's not cracking me up as much. DVR deleted an episode and I didn't much care.) "Adventures in Chinchilla-Sitting" (Much stronger episode, with the date night at trivia and the kids seeking out a lost chincilla. Strong A- and B- stories, and a funny C- runner with Teddy driving around) "Runway Club" (Breakfast Club + Project Runway = Fun episode. The B-story with a magazine scam was less interesting, but overall, pretty good)
            • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (All 13 episodes)
            • The Flash "Out of Time" (Wow. So many reveals, all coming at once, so many good action sequences... one of the best episodes of the show) "Rogue Time" (Walks back a lot of the last episode, but in an interesting way. There are some groaners, including Golden Glider's gun, which works better in comics than in comic-based TV, and I'm not sure I'm cool with Flash basically letting the Rogues operate in his town because of blackmail, but... I also liked seeing the characters get to similar places through different means re: Wells.)
            • Arrow "The Offer" (Maybe it's because the twists and CW drama are becoming predictable, or maybe it's because Flash is so much less a compromised version of DC's characters, but while Arrow is still good, it's fallen quite a bit in my estimation in this season. Good action... weak character arcs) "Suicidal Tendencies" (The Suicide Squad stuff was pretty great... the stuff with Arrow/Atom and the city is beyond stupid.)
            • Community "Ladders" (Lesser Community is still pretty good TV. The show has lost too much to feel like itself anymore, but it's still better than most comedies left on network TV) "Lawnmower Man" (Great casting this season, the dean's VR adventures were pretty hilarious and Britta's family was unexplored territory that worked) "Basic Crisis Decorum" (This show feels weird, even for Community, but I thought this was the best episode of season six so far. The Japanese Dean texting was a really funny runner, Paget Brewster has fit into the cast really well and the crisis involving a dog getting a degree skirts too wacky but mostly works. OTOH, they still don't know what to do with Britta or Chang, which is kind of a problem.)
            • iZombie "Pilot" (Bears no resemblance to the comic, but that's OK because it's great. The vibe and style of Veronica Mars with a completely different premise, fun and clever and entertaining) "Brother, Can You Spare A Brain?" (David Anders is great, and Liv's venture into the art world made for a good, light plot of the week)
            • The Americans "Baggage" (That was a creepy and fantastic opener. The other stories are in their early going, but I know from experience they'll pay off down the line.) "Open House" (This show's old school tradecraft, here notably in the extended tail sequence with the CIA and Elizabeth's car, is some of my favorite stuff.) "Dimebag" (Man, this show does not glamorize spying... Phillip recruiting a teenage girl, Nina working for the KGB inside the prison... creepy. And the stuff with Paige and her family and Stan and his ex is fantastic) "Salang Pass" (Phillip and Kimmie continues to be creepy and heart-breaking, and I'm liking the Stan/Oleg/defector story too... and that flashback to Phillip's training was super effective) "Born Again" (Martin Landau as Gabriel is great and there's a nice undercurrent of sinister in his interactions with Phillip and Elizabeth... and the interactions with Phillip and Kimmie and Elizabeth and Paige continue to be riveting) "Walter Taffet" (Starting to suspect the new agent has an agenda, some kind of internal affairs or something, based on these scenes. That big scene with the bug and Martha's reaction was a memorable one. As was the Martha/Clark scene later. And that final action sequence. Great episode) "Divestment" (Last time I saw that tire fire thing, it was on The Shield... this was more distressing and effective. Also, are IA type guys always distant and weird in fiction? And I continue to find Nina's story engaging, even though she's disconnected from the main narrative.) "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" (The Martha/Clark thing has become one of the most fascinating plots on the show in the last couple episodes. The scene with the old woman in the mail robot shop was heart-breaking. And that final scene with Phillip and Gabriel was fantastic.)
            • Bloodline "Part 1" (I like it a lot, and will definitely be watching more. However... I also felt like it was a 2-hour premiere, where in fact it was only an hour. I enjoyed it the whole time, but I also felt like I was always checking my watch, sure that it was going to end soon. I don't know if that's because they packed so much into the episode that it felt like two hours, or if it was the pacing that had me wondering when they were going to get on with the story.) "Part 2" (A few more clues, a little more deepening of characters, this is definitely drawing me in) "Part 3" (Throwing a lot of characters at me, and I feel a little lost occasionally... that plus all the timeline jumps are giving a good sense of foreboding, but I worry about it all unraveling or just plain forgetting what's going on by the time they get to the explanation)
            Top Five Shows This Month:
            1. Better Call Saul
            2. Justified
            3. The Americans
            4. Broad City
            5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
                  Favorite Last Week with John Oliver Segments This Month:
                    Favorite Daily Show Segments This Month:

                    Movies I Watched This Month:

                    • Big Hero 6
                    • Robocop (2014)
                    • Face/Off
                    • It Follows

                    Videogames I Played This Month:

                    • The Swapper
                    • Valiant Hearts: The Great War
                    • CounterSpy
                    • Helldivers

                    Places I Ate This Month:
                    • Jack Allen's Kitchen
                    • Abel's North
                    • Lucy's Fried Chicken
                    • Hoover's
                    • Michi Ramen
                    • Baton Creole
                    • Gordough's
                    • Noble Sandwich (x2)
                    • Peached Tortilla
                    • Franklin Barbecue
                    • French Quarter Grille
                    • Juarez Mexican Bakery
                    • PizzaRev (x2)
                    • Sushi Nini (x2)
                    • Chuy's
                    • Garbo's Lobster
                    • Kin & Comfort
                    • Torchy's Tacos
                    • Smashburger
                    • Alamo Drafthouse (x2)

                    Sunday, March 01, 2015

                    Monthly Update - February 2015


                    1. No cancer. No new developments. Again, CT scan in March.

                    2. Read books. Doing well on this one. Four more books down this month, which puts me at 8 so far for the year. I'd love it if I can maintain this "book a week" pace:
                    • Queen of Stone by Keith Baker
                    • Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick
                    • Bumper Crop by Joe Lansdale
                    • Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
                    3. Watch all the TV & movies I have saved. Haven't watched anything this month. But also haven't bought anything new. I watched a ton of TV, as noted below.

                    4. Buy no more than six videogames this year. Didn't buy anything new this month, other than the two free games I get as Playstation Plus, and actually played Wolf Among Us and tried out two of the free PS+ games.

                    5. 12 More Boardgames. This month, I played a couple games of Pandemic and then had a boardgame night, where I played Machi Koro (three times, once with the Harbor expansion), Loonacy, King of New York, Diamonsters and Settlers of Catan. I also learned to play Star Realms. Also added X-COM, Netrunner, Epic Spell Wars: Battle Wizards of Mt. Skullzfyre, Pandemic: Contagion and Splendor to my game library. So that's three new games for this month, for a total of 7 this year so far. Also ran a game of Deadlands and a game of Pathfinder.

                    6. Get below 190 lbs. Last month was 202. This month was 204. Which, if my math is correct, means that in ten years I will weigh 440 lbs. This is unacceptable, and I need to stop it. Daylight saving time starts immediately after STAPLE!, so my plan is to start taking walks at least three days a week. Hopefully more like five. I am considering getting up an hour earlier than normal (so 11 AM... shut up, I'm a night person) and walking before I head to work, but I don't know if that'll happen.

                    7. Travel - I officially scheduled and booked our Disney World trip. That may be it for travel this year, it is not a particularly cheap trip. But it's gonna be fun.

                    8. Instagram - Uh... still trying to figure out that other resolution. Is "not karate chopping people who piss me off" a resolution?

                    9. Cook! - Another Mexican meatloaf (this time with pork mixed in and Diablo sauce toned down a little, and I was pretty damn happy with the results) and another go at the sausage & shrimp cajun pasta (also de-spiced a touch, could use a little less spice but turned out better this time). Also revisited the chicken thighs with mushrooms from last month and confirmed that it's a pretty simple and delicious recipe. Suzanne also made the Crockpot Carnitas again, which turned out pretty great.

                    In terms of new recipes? Made chicken fried steak for the first time. The steak was pretty tasty, the gravy could use some work. Grilled up some pork chops with "Texas seasoning" from HEB along with "sliced baked potatoes." The pork was good, the potatoes needed probably another hour to cook. Also made homemade mac and cheese for the first time (nailed it... smoked paprika was the "secret" ingredient) along with some basic grilled chicken with rosemary and thyme. Another new recipe for the month was chicken parmigiana and parmesan-garlic baked potato "fries," both of which turned out pretty great, if I do say so myself.

                    So that's only 7 meals (I ate out for dinner quite a bit this month), but three new recipes, all of which worked out pretty well.

                    10. NaNoWriMo - Created my profile on the site. If anybody else is doing this thing this year, feel free to send me a buddy request if that's a thing. Also began working on novel ideas, there are several I've been thinking about. My plan is to start outlining/developing characters next month.


                    Best Week of Comics This Month:
                    February 4th (Ant-Man, Birthright, Hellboy & BPRD, The Punisher, Shaft, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Saga, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye)

                    Top Five Favorite Comics This Month:
                    1. Darth Vader #1-2
                    2. Saga #25
                    3. Ms. Marvel #11
                    4. Spider-Gwen #1
                    5. Amazing Spider-Man #15
                    Comics I Read This Month:
                    • Amazing Spider-Man #14-15
                    • Ant-Man #2
                    • Batgirl #39
                    • Birthright #5
                    • Bitch Planet #3
                    • Chew #46
                    • Cluster #1
                    • Daredevil #13
                    • Darth Vader #1-2
                    • Ei8ght #1
                    • Hawkeye #21
                    • Hellboy and the BPRD #3
                    • Ms. Marvel #11-12
                    • Punisher #15
                    • Rumble #3
                    • Saga #25
                    • Shaft #3
                    • She-Hulk #12
                    • SHIELD #3
                    • Silk #1
                    • Spider-Gwen #1
                    • Spider-Man 2099 #9
                    • Spider-Woman #4
                    • Star Wars #2
                    • Storm #8
                    • Superior Iron Man #5
                    • The Empty #1
                    • Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2
                    • Velvet #9
                    Favorite Comic Panels This Month:
                    Graphic Novels I Read This Month

                    • Starlight TP
                    • Master Keaton Volume 1
                    • Uncanny Vol 1 TP
                    • Storm Vol 1 TP
                    • Avatar The Rift HC
                    • The Fade Out Vol 1 TP
                    • Sex Criminals Vol 2 TP

                    TV I Watched This Month:
                    This is mostly for me so I can keep better track of favorite moments, best and worst episodes and do a little less homework in prepping for my "Best of the Year" list next year.
                    • Man Seeking Woman "Traib" (The texting situation room was good, but... I find the weird outrageousness so much more believable than any of the characters or that *anyone* is this awkward and terrible at dating) "Pitbull" (The pre-game sequence actually made me laugh, and may have kept me onboard for another couple episodes, and the second half of the episode was *so* weird as to maybe win me over) "Dram" (Maria Thayer guest-starring is always good, the torture/faked death stuff was really funny... I think I'm starting to get this show. I still think the lead character is shallow and kinda dim, but it's becoming funnier to me) "Sizzurp" (Mt. Olympus cracked me up. As did Tanaka the penis monster. The utter strangeness of this show took a while to grow on me, but I love it now.) "Gavel" (Weaker episode, but Mr. Raymond Holt as the judge of cheating court was fun) "The Stain" (Every time they focus on Josh being self-involved, it's a weaker episode, but a lot of the wedding in hell stuff, like buying a sword, was pretty entertaining)
                    • Hacking the System "Season One" - Tons of good info, very entertaining, my daughter's favorite show
                    • Archer "The Archer Sanction" (Mountain climbing, incompetence, spy action... good to have Archer back) "Edie's Wedding" (Archer vs. Barry, casting Alison Tolman as Pam's sister Edie is genius) "Vision Quest" (Bottle episode in the elevator, this was one of my favorite episodes so far this season) "Sitting" (A fun episode with guest star Kumail Nanjiani, with a nice stinger ending) "Nellis" (It's funny, all of this could have worked with last season's status quo, but the show just works better when they're spies instead of hapless drug dealers) "The Kanes" (Keith David and CCH Pounder as Lana's parents, a car chase through San Francisco in the Bullit car... the stuff with Pam, Krieger and the rest was just gravy... best episode of the season so far)
                    • Star Wars Rebels "Path of the Jedi" (Ezra becoming a Jedi has been a thread that made him a much stronger character, and this was a pretty solid episode in that journey) "Idiot's Array" (Lando!) "Vision of Hope" (Love the new adversary presented here, I didn't see the reveal coming at all even though I should have) "Call to Action" (Grand Moff Tarkin was memorable in his small role in the movies, with this being a prequel of sorts, we get to really see what he can do, and he makes a great bad guy) "Rebel Resolve" (This early in, and they've already gotten their Empire Strikes Back, with the team desperate and down by one. It's an impressive show.)
                    • Justified "Noblesse Oblige" (Choo-Choo is such an Elmore Leonard character. The intricate character stories this season are making this pretty great so far) "Trash and the Snake" (So much for The Wiz, I guess. Amazing tension with Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen facing off with Raylan and Ava, respectively) "Sounding" (They're doing a great job managing this big cast, giving everyone their moments, and still making room for past greats like Limehouse and Constable Bob) "Alive Day" (Not how I saw the Choo-Choo thing going, but I really liked it, and there's some great tension with the various pieces in motion)
                    • Parks and Recreation "Donna and Joe" (It is somehow perfect that control freak Leslie has uncontrollable children... and I loved seeing Jen again. April as the meanest wedding coordinator ever. Drunken Ben and/or Leslie is the best thing ever. Both of them dancing together... somehow even better.) "Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington" (A really sweet wrap-up of April's story, loved all the politician cameos), "Pie-Mary" (More Kathyrn Hahn is always welcome, I loved their take on men's rights and seeing Ron at his giddy puzzle-solving best, and the Gerry/Donna story was sweet and fun) "Johnny Karate" (Just a really fun show within a show) "Two Funerals" (Bill Murray! A sweet wedding proposal for Tom! Mayor Gergich! So many guest stars... it's a great penultimate episode) "One for the Road" (The only thing that would have made this more perfect is if it had ended with a "Just kidding, one more season!" trick reveal)
                    • Flash "Crazy for You" (I've been down on the past two, but this was great. Amazing stuff with Barry and his dad, Barry and Caitlin, the intro of Linda Park (!), a bit of Grodd (!), more Firestorm... just a great episode.) "The Nuclear Man" (Really like the device being part of Firestorm's costume, like that Joe is onto Wells and love the Barry-Linda relationship) "Fallout" (The full Firestorm... and Grodd. So happy as a comics fan right now)
                    • Top Chef "Holy Escamoley" (I've liked the challenges in Mexico, love seeing some of the previous contestants as sous chefs - and glad to see Gregory pick up his game again after losing steam before the finals), "Finale" (Overall, this was a pretty great season of Top Chef. Lot less frustrating "why is that guy still on?" and I was happy with how the last meal played out, less gimmick-y and more just two great chefs getting to show what they can do.)
                    • Arrow "Uprising" (There's a lot to like here... and stuff I still have difficulties with. Vinnie Jones is great, but I feel like they missed the opportunity to have a great African-American villain by sticking closer to the comics version. Laurel is... OK, but I miss Caity Lotz a whole lot. The Felicity/Ollie relationship continues to be frustrating. Their use of Wildcat was disappointing, as is the slow-burn-maybe-never use of Katana. And I love John Barrowman, but I feel like Merlyn is falling into the Buffy/Spike problem, where they love an actor so much they forget he's supposed to be a villain. It's a good show, occasionally great... but Flash is doing what it does so much better.) "Canaries" (Some long-held secrets finally out, some good action sequences - and I'm glad to be rid of Douchebag DJ, secret threat, who I never bought into) "The Return" (Really missing Felicity this episode, but they're doing nice work with Thea and I love that all the secrets are finally coming out) "Nanda Parbat" (Their take on the Atom is disappointingly generic, the twisted motivations they keep having to pull to keep Merlyn alive are becoming ridiculous... but the Diggle/Ollie invading Nanda Parbat scene was a great action sequence)
                    • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "Charlie Work" (This late into a series, there's no way a show should be doing something that could legitimately be in its top five episodes ever. What a great episode, and a great show.) "The Gang Spies Like U.S." (Another of those "can't believe they did that on TV" combined with the return of the waiter from the restaurant episode) "The Gang Misses The Boat" (I love when they do the meta stuff about the show and its critics... and Def Poetry was great) "Mac Kills His Dad" (The extended cast on this show rivals that of Parks & Rec, and when they use them well, like they did here, as well as turning in some truly dark funny stuff about prison gangs and suicidal addicts... the show is at its best)
                    • Broad City "Knockoffs" (So... they went there. Susie Essman, Bob Balaban and pegging... Broad City, you are amazing.) "Hashtag FOMO" (Abbi as "Val" definitely goes in the "best moments of TV" for this year) "The Matrix" (I don't know why this wasn't called Dog Wedding, because everything about that was hilarious. Abbi hallucinating is also always fun.) "Citizen Ship" (You either love Bevers or hate Bevers. I love him, because he's so sweet and well-meaning and yet a total pain in the ass, and seeing him locked up with Ilana and Abbi made for some good TV)
                    • The Walking Dead "What Happened and What's Going On" (I've been happy with this show since they stopped having characters do stupid things and stopped killing their best characters off. This one did both. It's still better than it's been, but it's not what I wanted coming back.) "Them" (I'm so bored by this show right now.) "The Distance" (That's a relief. The first two episodes back angered and bored me, this one was a step back onto the right path, with much stronger character moments and forward story momentum)
                    • Better Call Saul "Uno" (Similar but different sensibility to Breaking Bad, beautifully shot, and seeing Jimmy McGill in his early days turns out to be something I wanted after all. And that opening... and closing. I laughed out loud in the first two minutes and the last two minutes when I figured out what was going on.) "Mijo" (Just as tense as the best of Breaking Bad, just as beautiful to look at, love the montage - another Breaking Bad staple - and love Michael Mando here. Echoes it's predecessor in all the right ways, but doesn't feel like it's riding on its coat-tails, just the same talent telling different stories.) "Nacho" (Three episodes in and I'm loving this. Unpredictable stories, and Jimmy McGill is a very different character from Saul Goodman.) "Hero" (The bookends, with Jimmy and his old pal pulling a scam and Jimmy's brother making a crazed run for a paper, were great. The rest of the episode... also pretty great. Loving this show.)
                    • The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO's true-crime documentary series, definitely hoping to play to fans of "Serial." It's... interesting so far, but not as compelling as Serial was, partly because it lacks the light touch that Sarah Koenig had. But some hated that light touch, so they might find The Jinx more to their taste.)
                    • Brooklyn Nine-Nine "Windbreaker City" (A weaker episode, but still fun) "The Wednesday Incident" (Gina and Jake pairing up was fun, a much better episode)
                    • Agent Carter "A Sin to Err" (The scene between Dotty and the scientist was a nice misdirect and bit of spycraft, and Jarvis's discomfort with children and Stark's mistresses was fun. And that badass fight scene in the Automat... wow.) "Snafu" (Lots of twists and turns... the period of all this makes it feel less Marvel Cinematic than Agents of SHIELD, but it's been a fun ride and I look forward to the conclusion) "Valediction" (This was a great series, but after the finale, I would dearly love to see a second season that's just Sharon Carter, Howard Stark, Edwin Jarvis and maybe the Howling Commandos. Dominic Cooper is great as Stark.)
                    • Togetherness "Houston We Have A Problem" (This is the most real, complicated human relationship stuff I've seen... does what Married and You're the Worst does, but in a completely different, and in the case of Married, better, way. I was mad at each of the characters during this episode, and then completely understood their POV at other times. That's good writing and good performance.) "Kick the Can" (That Kick the Can sequence was amazing, and it got very real by the end) "Ghost in Chains" (The stuff with Lynskey and her "boyfriend" is breaking my heart, and Zissis continues to bring it to every moment on this show)
                    Top Five Shows This Month:
                    1. Better Call Saul
                    2. Togetherness
                    3. Justified
                    4. Parks & Recreation
                    5. Broad City
                    Favorite Last Week with John Oliver Segments This Month:
                      Favorite Daily Show Segments This Month:

                      Movies I Watched This Month:

                      • Maleficent
                      • Book of Life

                      Videogames I Played This Month:

                      • Wolf Among Us

                      Places I Ate This Month:
                      • Kerbey Lane x2
                      • Torchy's Tacos x3 (Last month it was Tuk-Tuk, this month the Scallywag)
                      • Joe's Crab Shack
                      • Smokey Mo's
                      • Black Star Co-Op
                      • The League
                      • DiMassi's Mediterranean Buffet
                      • Sushi Nini
                      • BJ's Brewhouse x2
                      • Juarez Mexican Bakery x3
                      • PizzaRev
                      • Salt & Time
                      • Cover 2
                      Added to the Food Wish List:

                      Archived Links:

                      Sunday, February 01, 2015

                      Monthly Update - January 2015


                      1. No cancer. So far, so good. CT scan in late March.

                      2. Read books. Doing well on this one. Four books down this month:
                      • Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt
                      • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
                      • Feed by Mira Grant
                      • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
                      3. Watch all the TV & movies I have saved. Haven't watched anything this month. But also haven't bought anything new. I watched a ton of TV, as noted below.

                      4. Buy no more than six videogames this year. I am doing terrible. Playstation network had a sale and I bought Wolf Among Us and Costume Quest 2 because I couldn't resist a sale. So that's 1/3 of my allotted budget in one month.

                      5. 12 More Boardgames. Doing well so far. I've played four new games (Betrayal at House on the Hill, Lost Legacy The Starship, Diamonsters and Red Dragon Inn) and added another four (Star Realms, Onward to Venus, Deus and Mythtopia) to my library. I also played the tabletop RPG Dread for the first time, and got in a couple games of Smash-Up and King of New York. Added to my "To Play" List: Roll for the Galaxy and X-COM.

                      6. Get below 190 lbs. Not as good. Right now I weigh 202... really need to get back to walking and exercising more, and get better about my soda intake.

                      7. Travel - I did well so far. Took a three-day trip out to San Francisco for the Image Expo, and brought Suzanne so we could go out and eat at a few places (and visit tourist-y Fisherman's Wharf) too. Heroes Con may conflict with some other stuff, like Free RPG Day... Emerald City Comic Con falls on the weekend of my daughter's birthday. San Diego just sounds like a damn nightmare at this point. But we're thinking Disney World for the summer.

                      8. Instagram - On *average*, I'm hitting the one picture a day, but I'm clearly not doing a picture every single day. Some days I just don't have anything (or don't see anything) photo worthy. But mostly this goal was to make sure I used Instagram, and so far that hasn't been a problem. I feel like I should probably make another resolution to replace this one.

                      9. Cook! I did pretty good this month, cooked over a dozen dinners. I need to adjust my spice, because I made three dinners that were almost too hot for Suzanne: A Mexican meatloaf recipe I've had for years, using Torchy's Diablo Sauce, a brisket, bacon & beer chili recipe I got from a friend and a Cajun shrimp & sausage pasta. All turned out good but could use some adjustment on spice.

                      I also cooked some more basic dishes, an improvised 5-ingredient brisket chili that turned out alright given the cost and time that went into it, steak & mushrooms a couple times, a shrimp & veggie stir fry a couple times, and a couple packaged meals from HEB for steak fajitas (but I did make fresh onions and peppers to go with) and butter chicken (which I liked well enough to find a real recipe instead of making it from a box next time.)

                      There was also an attempt, mostly unsuccessful, at shrimp scampi, and another, more successful, at crockpot carnitas. I also learned a new recipe for chicken with mushrooms and made them with bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts, which turned out pretty damn tasty. So that's five new recipes, two that were over-spicy, one that was underwhelming, two that turned out good. Not an ideal ratio, but not bad. Hoping to add 3-5 new recipes next month too.

                      Looking back at my Facebook status via Timehop, this is similar to the pattern I had last year. I hope to maintain cooking more than I did last year.

                      10. NaNoWriMo - This isn't really until November, but I do have a couple ideas percolating. I think it's gonna happen this year.


                      Best Week of Comics So Far This Year:
                      January 7th (Ant-Man, Birthright, The Fade Out, Hellboy & BPRD, The Punisher, Shaft, Storm, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Usagi Yojimbo Senso, X-Men)

                      Top Five Favorite Comics This Month:

                      1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1
                      2. Star Wars #1
                      3. Ant-Man #1
                      4. S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
                      5. Shaft #2

                      Other Comics I Read This Month:
                      • Alex + Ada #12
                      • All New Captain America #3
                      • Amazing Spider-Man #12
                      • Amazing Spider-Man #13
                      • Ant-Man #1
                      • Batgirl #38
                      • Birthright #4
                      • Bitch Planet #2
                      • Copperhead #5
                      • Daredevil #12
                      • Deathlok #4
                      • Dungeons & Dragons Legends of Baldur's Gate #4
                      • Fables Wolf Among Us #1
                      • Graveyard Shift #2
                      • Hellboy and the BPRD #2
                      • Lazarus #14
                      • Revival #27
                      • S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
                      • Sex Criminals #10
                      • Shaft #2
                      • Spider-Man 2099 #7
                      • Spider-Man 2099 #8
                      • Spider-Verse #2
                      • Spider-Verse Team-Up #3
                      • Spider-Woman #3
                      • Spread #5
                      • Star Wars #1
                      • Storm #7
                      • Superior Iron Man #4
                      • The Fade Out #4
                      • The Kitchen #3
                      • The Punisher #14
                      • Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1
                      • Usagi Yojimbo Senso #6
                      • X-Men #23
                      Favorite Comic Panels This Month:
                      Graphic Novels I Read This Month
                      *Grendel Omnibus Vol 3
                      *Saga Vol 1 HC (Re-read)
                      *American Vampire Volume 7 HC
                      *Superior Foes of Spider-Man Vols 1-3

                      TV I Watched This Month:
                      This is mostly for me so I can keep better track of favorite moments, best and worst episodes and do a little less homework in prepping for my "Best of the Year" list next year.
                      • Friends Season One Episodes 1-9 (Background watching, mostly... I know most of these by heart)
                      • A to Z ("J" through "M", sad to see it go)
                      • Bob's Burgers "Best Burger," "Father of the Bob," "Tina Tailor Soldier Spy""Midday Run" "Speakeasy Rider" "Late Afternoon in the Garden of Bob and Louise" (The Midnight Run music homage in Midday Run was a favorite, but the song in Late Afternoon and the revelation of Bob's dad and diner backstory were also really good)
                      • Top Chef Boston (I like how they're changing up the format here, having chefs challenge to come back in or drop out immediately, mixing up the Last Chance Kitchen, trying to eliminate crazy things where bad chefs stay in until the finals or great chefs wind up eliminated after one bad break. It wasn't my favorite season, but it was stronger than the last couple.
                      • Agent Carter Episodes 1-4 (Really pleased with this at the halfway point. It's not as good as Arrow or Flash, and I'm not as connected as I was to the second season of SHIELD so far, but the cast is great, I love Atwell as Peggy and I like what they're doing with Jarvis)
                      • Brooklyn Nine-Nine "Beach House", "Payback," "Defense Rests" (Beach House is one of the series' best episodes so far, with hilarious lines from Jake, and I'm loving the deepening of the Jake/Holt friendship in general, but all three of these are solid episodes)
                      • The Simpsons "The Man Who Came To Be Dinner" "Bart's New Friend", "The Musk Who Fell to Earth" (A lot of the goodwill the marathon earned is wearing off, as none of these were great episodes and one (Musk) was so terrible I couldn't finish it. The post-credits Star Trek riff on "Dinner" was fun, the X-Men/Loki stinger on Bart's New Friend random and funny and "Bart's New Friend" generally has a touch of sincerity and sweetness that the old Simpsons had.)
                      • Cougar Town (The Matrix riff, Tom's Speakeasy and the baby names were all favorite moments)
                      • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - "The Gang Beats Boggs" (Drinking games on the plane definitely potential best moment/best episode material) "The Gang Group Dates" (How the gang describes each other is really funny, and Dennis's creepy serial killer vibe is always funny) "Psycho Pete Returns" (So mean and so funny... always good to see Rickety Cricket.)
                      • Man Seeking Woman (Definitely weird... not particularly funny. Gonna give it a couple more episodes, though, because the promos are really fun and promise a better show than the first episode delivered.)
                      • Broad City (Really hilarious so far, and the naked singing bit in episode two was great)
                      • Justified 6.1 & 6.2 (The return of Dewey Crowe, Raylan and Boyd maneuvering... great opener - Garrett Dillahunt is doing great reserved malice - great banter between Tim & Raylan, and Raylan's interaction with Choo Choo)
                      • Modern Family - "They Day We Almost Died," "The Big Guns" (Potty training and a weak attempt at multi-storytelling, I think I'm almost off this show)
                      • 12 Monkeys "Pilot" (Tense opening scene, like how they're doing time travel and how fast she believes him, solid SyFy opener)
                      • Best New Restaurant (Not as good as Top Chef, but interesting, especially in the head-to-head. Colicchio is the difference between success and failure. And now I want to eat at Swift's Attic, which was on the second episode representing Austin.)
                      • The Nightly Show (First two weeks were pretty solid - the Obama episode was probably strongest, with the Cosby episode runner-up. #Keepit100 is probably the best part.)
                      • @Midnight (Patton Oswalt lured me in. The Archer episode was brilliant, Rory Scovel's "they have my family" runner was great)
                      • Togetherness ((Three episodes in, and I know we're not even out of January yet, but I *love* Togetherness and think it has a shot at favorite show of the year. The chemistry between Amanda Peet and Steve Zissis is killer, and the whole thing is real and human and warm, it can be funny and kind of awkward and then sweet and then heartbreaking... love it.)
                      • Mad Dogs (Really great cast, beautifully shot... I'm not sure where the show goes from here, it's like a fucked-up South American crime-tinged version of Men of A Certain Age, but I'm in)
                      • Archer (After a bit of a misfire on season five, season six is stronger, the holographic office gag killed me and the return of Conway Stern was very welcome)
                      • Flash (Heat Wave is a little over-the-top, and I had some issues with the Heat-Wave/Captain Cold/Flash fight, but... still a lot of fun, and love the character work and STAR Labs vs. Flash training)
                      • Arrow (Loving how they restored Ollie, a little weary of weepy Felicity instead of kickass Felicity, and still disliking Laurel as Black Canary... I miss Caity Lotz.)
                      • The Americans "EST Men" (I always forget how much I love this show until it comes back on. Tense, amazing character-work, amazing period design... and Frank Langella was a nice surprise)
                      • Key & Peele Superbowl Special (Damn weird, but pretty funny. The guest stars, especially Craig Robinson and Allison Janney, were the high points.) 
                      Top Five Shows This Month:
                      1. Togetherness Season One
                      2. Broad City Season Two
                      3. The Americans Season Three
                      4. Justified Season Six
                      5. Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season Two
                      Favorite Daily Show Segments This Month:

                      Movies I Watched This Month:

                      • Beverly Hills Cop
                      • Alien Nation

                      Videogames I Played This Month:

                      • Injustice: Gods Among Us (PS4)
                      • Grand Theft Auto V (PS4)
                      • Disney Infinity (PS4)
                      • Lego Batman 3 (PS4)

                      Places I Ate This Month:

                      • 600 Degree Pizza
                      • Ajisen Ramen (San Francisco)
                      • Annie's Cafe at ABIA
                      • BJ's Brewhouse
                      • Chuys
                      • Crab Shack (San Francisco)
                      • Fork + Taco (x2)
                      • Fuddrucker's
                      • House of Nanking (San Francisco)
                      • Jack Allen's Kitchen
                      • Kaiju Ramen (San Francisco)
                      • Kerbey Lane (x3) - Key Lime Pie Pancakes, Bacon & Pear Grilled Cheese, Cinnamon Roll Pancakes all lured me in
                      • Michi Ramen (x3)
                      • PizzaRev (x2)
                      • Super Duper Burgers (San Francisco)
                      • Sushi Nini
                      • Torchy's (x5) - Tuk Tuk month is here!

                      Added to the Food Wish List:

                      Archived Links:

                      Thursday, January 01, 2015

                      New Year's Resolutions 2014-2015

                      2014 was an improvement on 2013 in almost all major ways. For one thing, while the cancer was still around, and I had to do chemo and have a surgery, nothing was quite as major as the surgery I had in 2012 and had to recover from. For another, I got myself a new car, a Mustang, something I've been wanting for quite a while. One of my best friends got married. My store continued to thrive. I continued to meet a ton of interesting and fun people. My family was all pretty happy and healthy, all things considered. Some of my friends had shitty years, and that sucks, but a lot of them did pretty well. New babies, kids growing up, new relationships, all kinds of cool stuff out there.

                      So now we come to 2015, which just really sounds like living in the future, despite the lack of jet-packs, flying cars or reasonably-priced sex-bots. So it's time for resolutions, and a check in on last year.

                      Last year's resolutions:

                      1. Don't die. Bam. Knocked that one right out. Suck it, death.

                      2. If I do die, regenerate as a ginger. See #1.

                      3. Learn Spanish. So, yeah. Started off strong using Duolingo, faded entirely. I would guess that what I gained is the ability to read a tiny, tiny (pequino) bit of Spanish, but speaking and understanding it spoken? Not so much.

                      4. Read at least 12 books. Done. No problem. I read:
                      City Primeval by Elmore Leonard (July)
                      Devil Red by Joe R. Lansdale
                      Galveston by Nick Pizzolato
                      Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale (April)
                      Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (August)
                      Pagan Babies by Elmore Leonard
                      The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
                      The Great Divide by Matt Taibbi (May)
                      The Hunter by Richard Stark (June)
                      The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (February)
                      The Walking Dead by Greg Rucka (January)
                      Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale (September)
                      Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham (March)

                      5. Be 10% less of an asshole. Hard to quantify. I'm gonna go ahead and give myself this one, I feel like I at least managed 5%.

                      6. Spend time with as many of my friends as possible, as much as possible. The most successful of my resolutions, and also quite honestly the easiest. I fully embraced my extroverted nature this year.

                      7. Play at least 12 new board/card games this year. Yep. 20, actually. For the record, they were:
                      Battlestar Galactica
                      Boss Monster
                      Cards Against Humanity
                      Escape from Colditz
                      Firefly The Game
                      Forbidden Desert
                      Geek Out!
                      King of New York
                      Machine of Death
                      Night of the Grand Octopus
                      Once Upon A Time
                      Roll Through The Ages (Bronze Age & Iron Age)
                      Sentinels of the Multiverse
                      Shinobi Wat-AAAH!
                      Terra Mystica
                      The Resistance
                      Unspeakable Words

                      8. Stay under 200 lbs. Ballpark? At end of year, I think I'm at 199. I was doing well before holiday eating habits kicked in. But... I managed the most important part, which is not having to buy new clothes. (I mean, I did buy new T-shirts, but not because I in any way needed them.)

                      9. Go bike riding with my kids. Not so much. My bike, which is a holdout from college, turned out to be pretty broken. And the kids don't ride their bikes a lot.

                      10. Travel. We took a family trip to Denver, and I managed to get up to Dallas, which I haven't done for a couple of years, and I took the daughter to San Antonio for Six Flags. So... baby steps on this one.

                      This year's resolutions:

                      1. No cancer. I managed not dying, let's see if we can push that up a notch by having no chemo, no surgeries and no cancer. I've got 2-3 CT scans I've got to get through to make that happen. #nocancer

                      2. Read books. To start with, all the books I have on my night table. I've been gathering books, both graphic novels and just-plain novels, for years now. I'm going to do my best to get through them before I buy more. Graphic novels I sort of buy as they come out so they don't go out of print, but I'm going to continue to not buy too many extra until I get through the pile. Novels... I'm gonna try not to pick up anything new until I've read those on my stack.

                      Five Eberron novels, Elmore Leonard, 3 Fletch novels, and several others - if I read only what I have now, I'll hit 17 books

                      I'm also doing a reading challenge with friends, there are categories and the idea is to read 50 books. I'm not gonna get anywhere near that number, I'm guessing more like 12-15. #books2015

                      3. Watch all the TV & movies I have saved. Similar vein, I'm gonna try and slow down on buying movies and TV on Bluray until I've gotten through my backlog of several years. I'll no doubt still buy a few new shows and movies, but I'll try to relegate it to must-have new releases (like anything from Marvel Cinematic) and hard-to-resist bargains. This also comes with a resolution to start up my movie nights with friends again. #videos2015

                      The "To Watch" stack - Not shown: Key & Peele Season 3, Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season One, Space: Above and Beyond, Boomtown, Police Squad!, Max Headroom, Profit, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies Season 1, Band of Brothers, Batman Beyond and a few more DVDs
                      4. Buy no more than six videogames this year. Again... backlog. Until I need new games, I'm going to refrain from buying too many new games. I mean, when Arkham Knight comes out, I'm buying that, and if Pathfinder Online hits, I'll probably buy that... so I'm allowing myself essentially one every two months. Also, this is a cheaty one since I got a couple videogames for Christmas already. And since I won't be counting games I buy for Aaron. And since I got a Playstation Plus account to go with my PS4, so I'll have 1-2 new "free" games each month. #ps42015

                      5. 12 More Boardgames. I plan to add at least 12 more boardgames and card games to my repertoire this year. Since I also hope to do mostly-monthly boardgame nights at the house, this should be pretty easy. #games2015

                      I've got over 20 on the list just from 2014 games alone:
                      7 Wonders
                      Attack Wing (Dungeons & Dragons, Star Trek and/or Star Wars)
                      Battle for Kemble's Cascade
                      Betrayal at House on the Hill
                      Castles of Mad King Ludwig
                      Dead Winter
                      Dice Masters
                      Doomtown Reloaded
                      Five Tribes
                      Formula D
                      Guardians' Chronicles
                      Love Letter
                      Machi Koro
                      Red Dragon Inn
                      Shadowrun Crossfire
                      Star Realms
                      Terror in Meeple City
                       X-COM: The Boardgame

                      6. Get below 190 lbs. By the end of the year, I will weigh less than 190 lbs. Quite possibly 189. But that's the goal. This means trying to get back to my "less snacking, less desserts" rule and keep cutting back my soda intake (currently I'm at every other day, I need to drink less) as well as continuing to take the dog for walks, use the elliptical and generally do a bit more exercise and healthier eating. #diet2015

                      7. Travel. I've already booked the Image Expo in San Francisco for January. I've been threatening a New Orleans trip for all of 2014. Emerald City Comicon is in March (on the weekend of my daughter's birthday, so this may not happen this year.) Heroes Con in June. San Diego Con in July. I will make at least one other comic book-related show and a trip to New Orleans this year. #travel2015

                      8. Instagram - I plan to post at least one picture a day. This isn't really a self-improvement thing or anything, just something fun I plan to do. #365in2015

                      9. Cook! I bought Thug Kitchen and got a Salsa cookbook as a gift. I'm hoping to cook at least one new recipe a month. Ideally lots more. If anyone has any good recipes or cookbooks or websites with recipes to recommend, let me know. #cook2015

                      10. NaNoWriMo - I've been wanting to try this for years. As long as it doesn't conflict with #1 or #7, I think this year I'm gonna try and write a novel in November. Not for publication, because it will more than likely be terrible... but just for me. #nanowrimo2015

                      I *should* resolve to be less angry, less judgmental and less snarky... but I know full well it's not gonna happen. And honestly, being angry, snarky and judgmental, while absolutely character flaws, are a big part of who I am and I'm not willing to change that at this point.

                      Also, less a resolution and more a plan, places I didn't eat at enough that I want to eat in 2015 at least once: Perry's Steakhouse, Lucy's Fried Chicken, French Quarter Grille, DiMassi's Mediterranean Buffet, Hopdoddy, Estancia Churrascaria, Garbo's Lobster, Salt & Time, Sawyer & Co., Texas Chili Parlor, and Fork + Taco.

                      By The Numbers:
                      1. I read about 300 single-issue comics this year. Well, I'm sure I read a few more than that, but I read and liked that many.

                      2. I ate at over 50 different restaurants this year. Some of them more than once. OK, several of them more than once. My favorites, the ones I went to at least a half-dozen times, were Curly's BBQ (R.I.P.), Chuy's, Jack Allen's Kitchen, Torchy's Tacos, Lucy's Fried Chicken, Michi Ramen, PizzaRev, Sushi Nini, Haymaker and Noble Sandwich.

                      Monthly Update - December 2014

                      Comics I Read And Liked:
                      Afterlife with Archie #7
                      Alex + Ada #11
                      All New Captain America #2
                      Amazing Spider-Man #11
                      Axis Hobgoblin #3
                      Batgirl #37
                      Bitch Planet #1
                      Chew #45
                      Copperhead #4
                      Daredevil #11
                      Deathlok #3
                      Django Zorro #2
                      Dungeons & Dragons Legends of Baldurs Gate #3
                      Gotham by Midnight #2
                      Graveyard Shift #1
                      Hellboy and the BPRD #1
                      Kitchen #2
                      Manifest Destiny #12
                      Ms Marvel #10
                      Punisher #13
                      Revival #26
                      Rumble #1
                      S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
                      Scarlet Spiders #2
                      Sex Criminals #9
                      Shaft #1
                      She-Hulk #11
                      Southern Bastards #6
                      Spider-Verse Team Up #2
                      Spider-Woman #2
                      Storm #6
                      Superior Iron Man #3
                      Thor #3
                      Wayward #5
                      Wytches #3

                      Tuesday, December 30, 2014

                      Best Headlines of the Year 2014

                      So early in the year, I started sharing headlines that I thought were funny and saying "Contender for headline of the year." A friend wondered if I was actually keeping track... so I did.

                      So... presented for your approval, the contenders for headline of the year 2014. If I do this again next year, I'll probably leave Gawker headlines out, since those are purposefully exaggerated for linkbait purposes. The Guardian from the UK might also be too good at this.

                      As for what caught my eyes (and the eyes of others)? Sex, genitals, murder through unusual means, bestiality, drugs and unusual uses for animals.

                      My favorite? I still have to go with the very first one, which is the last one on the list.

                      Husband arrested for attacking his pregnant wife with a McChicken sandwich because "he doesn't like them"

                      Snake Thrown in Tim Horton's after diced onion dispute

                       "Cannibal" Eats Woman and then dies after being tasered in Welsh Hotel

                      Male SF startup promises to make women's vaginas smell like ripe peaches

                      Nude man falls through ceiling at Logan, assaults bystander

                      Nervous Chinese Officials Search Pigeon Anuses for Bombs

                      Teletubby Breaks Into Home, Dumps Chinese Food In Purse, Leaves

                      Farrah Abraham Dressed Up As Frozen Elsa to Sell Molds of Her Asshole

                      Polygamist women dressed 'like ninjas' attack home of witness in Utah sex assault case

                      Nude Beach Blow Job Jet Ski Fight Leads to Wife's Death

                      Kid Rock subpoenaed to produce glass dildo as evidence in Insane Clown Posse lawsuit

                      Chubby Checker, HP settle lawsuit over penis-measuring app

                      American Exchange Student Pulled out of Giant German Vagina

                      Captain America Arrested for sending dick pics to teenage girl

                      High Elf High on Acid Attacks Woman's BMW with a sword

                      Woman killed with banjos

                      Topless Florida Woman Destroys McDonalds, Stops To Eat Ice Cream

                      Police Cite Texas Man In Banana Costume With AK-47 Across His Back

                      Norwegian Mass Murderer Refuses to Eat Until Prison Upgrades His Playstation Console

                      Man Covered in Jelly Had Sex With Cow While Friend Recorded It

                      German Barn Explosion Caused by 90 Farting Cows

                      Woman Pulls Gun from Vagina After Dispute Over Space Aliens: Cops

                      Wednesday, December 24, 2014

                      Best of 2014 - Top 10 Ongoing Comics

                      Image had 7 of my top 10 in this category, with Archie Comics sneaking one in and Marvel claiming the other two. There are also three more Image comics that didn't quite make the top 10. So yeah, it's pretty easy to call Image my favorite publisher. There are two superhero books in this list, 6 sci-fi/fantasy (fudging to include Rat Queens and Manifest Destiny in that latter category), 3 horror (fudging to include Fatale), 1 action/crime (Velvet) and then whatever category Chew is. I suppose you could call it sci-fi... or superhero. At any rate, it definitely fits in the category of comedy, as does Sex Criminals, Rat Queens and arguably Hawkeye.

                      Something interesting to me is how many books on this list are on the "also appeals to women" list. Notably Saga, Sex Criminals, Alex + Ada, Velvet and Rat Queens, but every book on this list has a strong female following. I don't know what that says about my tastes, but I think it says something for the health of the market that my top 10 contains a lot of female-friendly titles in genres other than superheroes and that unlike in past years, these are series that are doing well in the market. I'm used to loving series that get cancelled too early, and there was a lot less of that in 2014.

                      Interestingly, only one of the series in my top 13 published 12 issues this year, and that's Daredevil. The rest were at about six, eight at the highest. Maybe as a general rule, the monthly grind doesn't produce the best books anymore?

                      1. Saga #18-24 (Last year: #1)
                      Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to tell the best story in comics. They've built up an expansive cast and fascinating setting, and feel free to screw with reader expectations, often to heart-breaking effect. Like Game of Thrones, Saga is not a series where you want to get too comfortable with any characters, because nobody is really safe. That sense of danger, along with deep characterization that gives a strong sense of humanity to these alien characters, Staples's lush and distinctive artwork and Vaughan's gift for clever dialogue make this the best comic on the stands.

                      2. Sex Criminals #4-9 (Last year: #1 on My New List)
                      Last year this was shiny and new and shocking and I didn't know where it was going. This year it was more familiar, but still outrageously funny, surprisingly smart and serious at times and still one of the best comics every month. The letters column is almost as good as the comic itself, and I'm glad they decided to collect those as well as the comics.

                      3. Daredevil #35-36, 1-11 (Last year: #2)
                      Waid wrapped up his run on Daredevil and then immediately relaunched a new series with Chris Samnee on board, relocating Daredevil to San Francisco, and the results have been terrific. Very strong use of a couple of traditional Daredevil villains in untraditional ways, the change of locale has worked out well... next year they're closing out the run, but that's a good long run of pretty consistently great comics.

                      4. Afterlife with Archie #3-6 (Last year: #3 on My New List)
                      The second half of this one was every bit as good as the first, and the single issue Sabrina vs. Cthulhu a surprising and entertaining change of pace. I sure wish the production was a little faster, as this is pretty much a quarterly book, but I'll take what I can get.

                      5. Alex + Ada #3-11
                      Didn't make the list last year because I'd only seen two issues. Now that I've seen more, this definitely ranks among my favorite series. Great speculative technology, meditation on the nature of A.I. and the nature of love and life and human emotions. Probably my favorite things the Luna Brothers have been involved with, I don't know if that's co-writer Sarah Vaughn or what, but this is a really great series. It also happens to be the first one in my top five that was closer to monthly.

                      6. Chew #39-44 (Last year: #4)
                      Big, big things happening in Chew this year. Family Recipes starts positioning the main conflict of Tony vs. the Vampire, and shows us a lot more about Olive Chu, not to mention bringing back Savoy in a major way. And Chicken Tenders just rolls on and builds that momentum. With a year and a half worth of issues to go, this book definitely feels like it's hitting the home stretch. Still plenty of mysteries, but the character arcs are dovetailing nicely, and there's still plenty of room for weirdness and humor, a lot of it in the form of the increasingly present Poyo.

                      7. Velvet #3-8 (Last year: #5 on My New List)
                      As always with Brubaker's work, I like this more in collected format where the stories and characters are easier to keep track of. I look forward to the first hardcover, maybe in 2015, maybe in 2016? At any rate, this post-Cold War spy thriller remains a favorite book.

                      8. Fatale #19-24 (Last year: #5)
                      Closing out in fine style... I can't quite rank it higher than previous Brubaker/Phillips collaborations like Sleeper, Criminal and Incognito, but it was an interesting ride that ended before it got too long in the tooth. I'll definitely be picking up the second hardcover.

                      9. Rat Queens #4-8
                      This one didn't make my best of last year because I hadn't read it yet. Now that I have, I love it for its attitude, its over-the-top humor and its perfect portrayal of fantasy adventurers from every RPG you've ever played, except with female leads instead of the guy-heavy dynamic.

                      10. Hawkeye #15-20 (Last year: #3)
                      Truthfully, this one has lost some luster with me. Only five issues this year, with a book that really needs to be read closer together to get the full effect, and it seemed like the creative team just kind of ran out of steam. Each issue is still good, but it doesn't have that great charge it had early on, perhaps because Fraction's Sex Criminals feels like a purer version of what it was doing in terms of quirky character-driven storytelling. Still really good, mind you, which is why it's in my top 10, but... not as amazing as it was, which is why it dropped out of the top 5.

                      Just outside the top 10: Manifest Destiny #8-12, Lazarus #6-13 (Last year: #6 on My New List) and Revival #17-26 (Last year: #6).