Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Starting off the new year with positive memories of the last.

Last year had it's definite ups and downs. Your own monthage may vary. Still, at all times it is important to draw the positives that can from any event or time (Then start addressing the negatives, fill out the critique, etc.). So I want to end/start the year going over some of things I'm thankful for this last year. ...Gods! Another list, Jaded Skeptic? ...Well, yeah. I didn't get this done by Thanksgiving, or by Christmas! So here we are. Likewise, resolutions only go so far and often are just ways to verbalize regret. (I'll get to a plan of action for 2013 tomorrow, or today, depending on how long it takes me to finish this post.) Rather, let's talk what helped carry us through to year's end, and what we can call back next year to buoy us at dark times, or share with others to shore them up.

So! Let's talk about the good that came from the last year.

Why don’t we begin in politics, which brings out my cynicism and sarcasm, but has had certain moments and vistas to appreciate.

First, I’m thankful that President Obama has been reelected. I know there are issues with positions he’s taking and orders he's given for many liberals/progressives, but I can’t afford to be blind to what else has happened. The Affordable Care Act will continue, and health care access will expand. No global gag order reinstated. Supreme Court nominees for the next four years will not be in the frame of Anthony Scalia. An interest (at least) in green energy, green jobs, and environmental protection. And, restating, the basic point, NO NUTTERS in the White House. No folk who thinks they are prophesied leaders. No Ayn Rand acolytes. No pizza merchants. No sweater vest wearing internet sex jokes. That is something we should be thankful for. (And, yes, then we can get into what can and should move on to what can be done better.)

Also in this year's election, we saw the likes of Allen West and Scott Brown booted out. I can only hope we won’t see them on the news or as pundits this coming year. But at least they aren't voting in Congress.

In 2012 we also had a lot of good and important work being done by groups not in government. These groups have and will continue to strive to make a positive impact on the world. Planned Parenthood is fighting the good fight to try and guarantee women have access to reproductive knowledge and medicine, along with aiding women with getting cancer screenings. It has been a back and forth struggle, where some states have taken large strides towards driving them from their borders. But PP fights on, and saves the lives of so many woman, and makes certain many families have a brighter future. Likewise the ACLU continues to work to be sure we all have our 1st Amendment rights. I may not always agree with every fight they take on, but I applaud the principle they work towards. And we also can’t miss out on appreciating what the Occupy Movement has done. This year, among other efforts, they've been working to keep people in their homes, or getting people into one. Also they've done amazing work in the wake of the hurricane that struck the east coast. If you don’t know what they've been accomplishing, you ought to read up on it. There are plenty more groups acting as well, feel free to note and praise them in the comments so others (like me) can learn.

But now, let’s get into some of the more recreational pleasures of the last year.

In particular let’s get into the more merry and jolly…and things that end in -olly

What has helped me through some of my dark moments, something that has lifted my mood. Terry Pratchett and Discworld. I do love it. I already mentioned Hog Father on my list of great thing to watch at Christmas. But I also enjoy that miniseries anytime of the year. In fact, as I was feeling low today, I put it on, on my phone, as I worked. It does lighten one's mood. This also stands for the other series that have been produced recently (Colour of Magic and Going Postal) and the older animated work. Also, obviously, the actual written works of Terry Pratchett covering the various people and events of the Discworld (from the Unseen University to the witches to Death to the City Watch to the Post Office and so on).  There is something special in the mad logic and humor of the Discworld. It just connects with my often lost sense of whimsy and wonder. I know it’s not for everyone, but it is worth trying out and getting lost in.

Dark Knight Rises
Movies are another fun escape. There have been some more serious and sober pieces that are worth talking about, but…I’m in more an escapist mood now. So let’s look at some of the movies that came out this year which gave took me to my happy place. The Avengers. I have noted before that I have some issues with the movie. But as pure superhero team up, with escalating danger and Whedon snark, it's hard to beat. Better, to my mind, was The Dark Knight Rises (I know, a controversial opinion.). The end of the Nolan Batman trilogy hit all the right marks and will be a movie I go back to for years to come. And Hathaway's work as Catwoman was everything I've hoped to see in a rendition of that character. Now, just as we end the year, The Hobbit has come out, and it was a treat (Many disagree.). Glad to be able to look forward to this new trilogy of films (I plan to soak in all the details from the book or added by Jackson over the next two years. I may be alone in that.  Dredd, was also fun. Not for everyone, this violent post-apocalyptic scifi cop adventure hits many of the fun aspects of 2000 AD. Much of this was missed in the last attempt at a Judge Dredd movie. ParaNorman was another enjoyable film to catch. It went way to quick from the theaters, and unlike Dredd, I didn't get to see it until the disc for it came out. Spooky and humorous, I am glad I saw it. For me, this makes a good double feature with the animated movie, Monster House. Wreck-It Ralph was another animated pleasure. It offered a fun story and characters, and plenty of arcade nostalgia. Brave, also an animated affair, gave us another great adventure with a daughter and mother at its core. We need more of this. Heck we need more of all of this stuff.

Once Upon A Time -
Emma Swan


On TV, I have also gotten so needed escape (what a shocker). Sherlock has proven a fun translation of the old characters. And while it only gives a handful of mysteries each series, they've been pitch perfect, as far as I’m concerned. Also this year, I've finally started watching Once Upon a Time. It’s been a very palatable surprise. Fairy Tale characters trapped in our reality is proving a joy. I look forward to watching the second season this month. Community, while coming to an end, has also been a good laugh. It will be missed. As will Leverage, a great bad guys gone good heist show, which has been cancelled. Futurama, though, keeps coming back and still something that knows how to woo me. Doctor Who, as played by Matt Smith (being controversial again) has not lead me wrong yet. The adventures of the mad man with a box, the girl who waited, and the last centurion have kept me enthralled. And I look forward to what comes next with the new travelling companion, Oswin. Red Dwarf is another show that has risen again, and it’s proven in the latest series to still have the old charm, like their time traveling run in with Jesus. We also have had at least one new series of The Thick Of It. The political machinations continued wittily. If this is the end, they end on a strong bastardy note.

QI with host Stephen Fry

Also have to give some praise to all the British Comedy Panel and Quiz shows I watch, all helping to keep me sane and laughing. QI to Have I Got News For You to Mock the Week, thanks. Here's some of the QI to be found on YouTube.

Penny Dreadful and her cohorts
While it's more online these days, my favorite Horror Host shows have helped keep a smile on my face (whenever one appears). From Elvira to Penny Dreadful to Midnite Mausoleum, the snarky hosts dealing with horror and bad movies keep me coming back to join in the B-Movie mayhem.

Also online, largely, we have the movie riffing masters. From the great live shows of Cinematic Titanic (some available for download or ordering) , with part of the old MST3K team, to RiffTrax, with part of the old MST3K team. From the early MST3K on to today, these guys have helped me learn to laugh at the ridiculousness in life around me.

Captain Marvel - Art by
and Rachel Dodson
Comics are also a great respite through the year. And, yes, their have been problems from many quarters, from bad ideas made manifest to editor meddling, good results have occurred. Captain Marvel (starring Carol Danvers) is proving a great read. Ed Brubaker, as always, has been a joy to read. His work with Captain America and Winter Soldier, have given me, and will continue to give me, great joy and satisfaction. Batman has been a good book though it's fight between the Bat Family and the Court of the Owls. Also at DC Comics, Demon Knights has proven to be a very enjoyable medieval romp, and Justice League Dark has proven to be far more engaging and interesting than the main Justice League book. Working somewhat in concordance at DC, Animal Man and Swamp Thing have kept me drawn in to the battle with The Rot. Along with these DC books, Smallville Season 11 has proven to be one of the better and more engaging reads now being released. I'm quite happy supporting these books.

Captain Britain and

As far as the creators behind these books. I really want to applaud and be so thrilled I get to enjoy the style and work of people like: Gail Simone (who's now back again with DC Comics after being fired for a short period). Ed Brubaker, now leaving Captain America, and taking my heart with him. His work on Gotham Central (a police drama book set in Gotham City and Catwoman has been amazing. Greg Rucka, someone who did amazing and interesting things in writing Superman and Wonder Woman, in their books, is also a favorite. He's also currently writing a new detective (P.I.) series, Stumptown (Worth a read.). And Paul Cornell. His work on Knight and Squire, Captain Britain, MI13, Doctor Who, Demon Knights, and more has been just a joy to read. 

Ah, LEGO. I know, I should grow up. But there is something to putting the pieces together to build some place or thing. Or to come with a redesign. Or just do your own thing. It’s an accomplishment (Ages, 4 and Up.). And still I build, and it makes me happy.

I also want to remember those who are not doing well right now, and hope are on the mend next year. Hillary Clinton’s in the hospital right now, being treated, I hope things improve for her quickly. Also, a wonderful writer, Peter David, has just had a stroke. I can only hope he’s recuperating and will be better soon.

Also, want to be thankful for social media. From twitter to this blog to Tumblr to, yes, FaceBook, social media has helped keep me active, communicative, and engaged. I can only imagine what would become of me in a less techy world. I also am appreciative of those that FOLLOW or FRIEND me, or that I FOLLOW or LIKE. It is appreciated. Those people I do get to converse with and share ideas and jokes with are invaluable to me.

I also want to be thankful for my continued skepticism in life. For some, questioning, or not just accepting accepted wisdom or faith is a sad thing. But for me it means I'm trying to get a clear view of what is and isn't real. The world, humanity, and the universe are amazing. They don't need lies or tall tales to be staggering. The world is a wonder unto itself. And as a skeptic, I can take it in quite happily.

Which takes me to my ever persisting optimism. I am a grump. I am a pessimist at times. But, damn it, I do maintain some level of optimism. An odd sense that better results could still occur, that success could still be grabbed. And that is something that still amazes me. Even as dire as I can get, as lost as I can, I still see some way forward.

Many things help keeo me going. I hope you to have some sense of what helps propel you on, and appreciate it all.

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