One Month At A Time

Celtic Movies #2: Rob Roy

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Through the month of February, I’m studying (celebrating) all things Celtic (mostly, Scottish) and have been watching films related to Scotland (sort of).

My second film was “Rob Roy” with Qui-Gon Ginn and that lady who escaped from off the set of “American Horror Story.”

rob-royReleased in 1995 (near the same time as “Braveheart”), the film was more mining of Scottish history, this time about Rob Roy MacGregor, who gets tangled up in debt over some cows and Tim Roth in drag, which was totally cool in the 1700s.

It even wastes the usually very decent John Hurt (Still awesome in “Alien” and as Caligula in “I, Claudius”), who tends to elevate whatever crap thing he’s signed on for (Does anyone remember “King Ralph?”)

Ugh…I hated this movie.

To me, it was like the worst parts of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and something the BBC abandoned to spend on “Dr. Who” episodes instead.

Lord, this thing dragged and within 30 minutes, I wasn’t particularly interested in what happened to the MacGregors, Lord Montrose, Archibald Cunningham or the whole of Scotland –though I did see the point of those weird sashes that come with some kilts (SPOILER: They can be used as a kind of snuggie).

Based on material gleaned from Wikipedia, “Rob Roy” was a much more true-to-history tale than “Braveheart,” but that’s not saying much. Episodes of “Quantum Leap” were more truthful to history, even if you forgot about the invisible guy in the bad suits wandering around.

quantum72
I’ve seen the future and it works…

 

For me, the only bright spot was the hope that after Roth and Eric Stolz, a few more actors from “Pulp Fiction” to show up, waving swords and promising to go medieval and someone’s butt, but alas no John Travolta and no Samuel L. Jackson.

samuel-l-jackson
There really isn’t a movie, Samuel Jackson doesn’t improve.

Anyway, I muscled through “Rob Roy” for another hour, but realized it wasn’t getting any better. So, I quit and watched an episode of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which has nothing to do with Scotland, though I suspect Neil Patrick Harris has probably vacationed there.

Back to the library for me.

Celtic movies: #1 “Braveheart”

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Over the next couple of weeks, while I’m trying to immerse myself in all things Celtic (mostly Scottish), I’ll be watching whatever Scottish-related films I can get my hands on.

braveheart-poster
You may take our lives, but you will never figure out how to do our accents!

The first was a re-watching of “Braveheart,” the 1995 film that kind of made Mel Gibson more than your basic action star. The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won five, including best picture and best director.

Based very loosely on the legend of Scottish bada$$ William Wallace, who raised an army and fought the English, the film was wildly controversial in Scotland for it’s mendacious mangling of history for the sake of cinema.

Also, nobody liked Mel’s accent, which does tend to slip in and out, but in all fairness, he’s an American from Australia trying to sound like a Scotsman. He was doomed from the start.

Still, horrible abuse of Scottish history or not, Scottish tourism embraced the film with both arms for a while, offered tours and there was even a statue erected somewhere that looked a lot like Mel Gibson.

The locals hated it, but people kept spending money.

In looking at the film all over, I was reminded that Mel Gibson has a tendency toward gore that almost turns comic. Fights in the film often go well over the top with a variety of impalings, limbs being lopped off and gallons of blood flowing in every direction.

Even with some betrayals on the side of the Scottish cause, the film scans as very black and white. The English are universally horrible. The Scottish commoners are all noble and earnest, even if their leaders are kind of slimy opportunists.

I’m not fond of the characterization of King Edward’s son, who is clearly portrayed as effeminate, craven and gay for the sake of contrasting him with his severe, alpha male father and giving the audience another reason to dislike him –but blockbuster films of the time, of which this one was, tended to paint in broad, dumb strokes.

Also, it’s not a true to the man. According to history, the guy with the boyfriend who gets tossed out a window (SPOILER) had five kids by two women, which doesn’t absolutely say he wasn’t gay, but might be evidence that he didn’t loathe the company of women.

Still, overall, “Braveheart” is a good action epic that has held up fairly well over the last 20 years, even if Gibson’s career hasn’t. It’s more fun than pretty much everything Michael Bay ever released, even if the film isn’t as accurate as an episode of “Drunk History.”

“Braveheart” looks great, has all the excitement of a big, popcorn-munching film and has some heart.

I liked it.

February: Spartan Training

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I did my first bit of running in preparation for the Spartan Race this week. On the advise of my father, a retired cross country and track coach, I decided to run on gentle terrain as opposed to pavement.

I’m currently around 235 pounds, which is heavy for any runner on two legs.

The weight is going to have to come way down if I want to survive even just the training –and the sooner, the better, really.

I’m adjusting my diet as best I can –for me, this mostly means laying off the bread, veggie burgers and Fritos.

are-fritos-vegan
My love for these corn chips cannot be overstated.

For my first day of training, I opted to run on the soccer field at the YMCA in Charleston. With it being winter and a Sunday, no one was using it. The sky was bright, but it was was a little cold. Even the clutch of surly teenagers I saw blowing off their afternoon by swearing at each other and making out with their girlfriends stayed close to the building rather than sneak off to the relative seclusion of the practice field.

ymca-field
A nice, dull place for a run. Perfect and flat.

This suited me fine. I didn’t really want a lot of company and I expected my first outing to be kind of sad. The last thing my ego needed was a group of 15-year-olds laughing at me.

I got enough of that when I was 15.

While dodging deer poop (the Y has the same problem I have at my house), I managed to put in 12 laps or around 30 minutes of exercise. I ran the first two laps then alternated between walking and running laps.

I’m not a hundred percent sure how long all of that was, but at a guess, probably somewhere between a mile and a mile and a half.

I wheezed like a two pack a day smoker and threw up at my car when I finished for the day, but it happened. I started.

I came back for a second run Monday morning, after my usual workout inside the Y. I did about eight laps on the practice field, but ran about 2/3. I’d have done more, but I was starting to feel weak.

Breakfast had been a vegan protein shake and some coffee a couple of hours before.

My plan is to just do this over and over for a while –run laps around the soccer field and then eventually work up to another course. Maybe in a few weeks, I’ll try running along the river.

Some friends have suggested I should find a trainer or join Crossfit, but there really isn’t a budget for that and it’s probably too soon.

What I can do now is get my running up to speed –shoot for steady gains. There’s no point really thinking about how I’m going to jump over fiery pits, dodge vampire bats or crawl under barbed wire if I can’t physically handle 12 to 14 miles of just running.

Besides, the hope is that the years of strength training will count for something. It’s a hope. I have a long way to go.

spartan

February: Secret Stuff

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When I started the second season of “One Month at a Time” I felt like I needed an a new theme (that’s the whole fighting thing, which isn’t just fighting with your fists) and I wanted to do a couple of things that might actually take longer than a month.

The idea for my first planned big challenge/adventure sort of showed up while I was looking at stuff related to my February project (for those of you who haven’t guessed, I’m studying up on all things Celtic) I found the Celtic Calling’s Kilt Run. I thought, “Well, that sounds like a bad idea and not something I want to do. I should totally do that.”

This is how my process works more times than not.

Yes, this is a little self-destructive.

Anyway, while considering how best to proceed with a 5K race (I don’t really run), I got my first big project –and it’s going to be a lot to learn about. Hoo-boy and I have a long way to go.

I could be all coy and try to tease this, but jeez… nobody is really reading this blog anyway. So, it’s like a confessional thing.

In August, I will be participating in the Spartan Run at Summit Bechtel Reserve.

spartan

The plan is for me to run the Super Beast race, which is described as 12 to 14 miles and involves a bunch of obstacles.

This may end badly.
I don’t really jump. This may end badly.

I’m registered, insured and committed to doing this.

What I am not is ready to compete. I’m in no kind of physical shape to do this race. After my mini-triathlon training in July, I slacked off the running, swimming and biking. My season was done, but in order to do this I’ve got to get into crazy shape.

So, this is my big project for the next six months.

barbed-wire
I have never considered crawling through barbed wire as recreational.

One of my big projects, anyway.

Back in the saddle

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It’s been a while since I posted anything on the blog. There are a million reasons why I stopped, but the biggest reason was that I just needed a break.

“One Month at a Time” has been an amazing experience. Even when I haven’t enjoyed a particular thing I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed being a part of it, but it’s a lot.

Through October, it always felt like I was running somewhere or trying to cram one more thing into my day. It didn’t really slow down through the holidays either -and it felt good to just stop for a minute, slack off a little bit.

I might have come back sooner, but I forgot the password for this thing and finally had to ask somebody what it was.

Aa couple of months seems like a long enough time to take a break. I’m already back to work with “One Month at a Time.” January finished up Sunday. I completed my month of self-defense classes with maybe a broader understanding of what it means to choose to learn something like that.

I may write a little more about that on the blog since I’m currently still taking classes at Butch Hiles Brazillian Jujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts.

I’m also about five days into my next topic. More about that this weekend. I also have the following month locked down and a thumbnail sketch of things I might take on over the remainder of the year.

Basically, emails have been sent and I’m waiting to see if anybody bites –but it’s not all settled.

My wish list of stuff to do is long, but I’m always glad to hear a better idea. If you have an idea that sounds workable, let me know.

I will consider just about anything.

As far as updates –am I still a vegan?

Sort of. The working term I use is “veganish,” which I totally stole from the cover of a cookbook.

In the month since I finished up my year with being a vegan, I’ve had a few things outside of a vegan diet, but a lot less than I would have imagined a year ago.

I had some chocolate, which contains dairy. I’ve eaten two chocolate chip cookies and five pancakes, which were awesome.

I didn’t worry about the tablespoon of cheese on a mound of refried beans at a Mexican restaurant and had the vegetarian option at Bluegrass Kitchen, which wasn’t vegan.

There are probably a couple of other instances, but I don’t buy meat or meat products to take home.

I’m perfectly fine.

With other projects -I’m still reading about self-sufficiency and planning a big garden in the spring. It seems like a good time to do that.

I also got an Eton American Red Cross weather radio –found it on clearance for 9 bucks. It goes with the rest of my “prepper-lite” gear, along with the camp stove and a solar lantern.

I’m hoping to get into a half-triathlon in 2017, which means some training.

I’m also planning on returning to the Charleston Ballet next fall to be part of their production of “The Nutcracker” again. I didn’t even delete the video of the dance steps from my phone.

So, here we go again. More blogging. It’s good to be back.

Mail bag: West Virginia State Penitentiary

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I don’t get tons of email from readers, but I do get some. This one felt like a full blown letter and I just wanted to share it.
Dear Mr. Lynch,

I was in Charleston this past weekend for a birthday party for my wife’s one year-old grandson.  She is from Nitro, and my dad’s family is (was) mostly from the Huntington and Louisa, KY areas. While the festivities were going on I was able to find a quite spot and read your paper.

When I was a kid (about 4), we moved from Ceredo  to Fall River, Massachusetts.  My dad worked for General Foods Corp, and had married a Maine Yankee when he was a Navy pilot.  After my two sisters were born in Huntington she had had enough of WV and wanted to get back up North. Over the years we would make the trip back to Louisa to visit grandparents,cousins, aunts and uncles in the summer. A very long and tedious trip. Coming off the Pennsylvania Turnpike we would head west and eventually connect with Route 2/7 in Moundsville, and follow the Ohio River on our way to Huntington. He would drive us by the prison to impress on us that it was where the bad guys go. I think there was a glass factory my mom also liked to visit. We would even see chain-gangs on the roads.  Your fine story gave me some background on the prison. I was under the impression it had all been torn down.

I worked for The New York Times for 23 years before retiring down here in Prosperity, SC where most of my wife’s family migrated too from WV.  It is pleasure to read your paper.  Every time I am up your way I get a copy.  It is great to see how well a “small” market paper can do with great writing and good design (still has the size of a newspaper). We have an awful paper here in Columbia. The State would be out of business if it didn’t have obits, cooking and USC football to cover.  It is really sad, but it is not much better than the local weeklies.

Keep up your fine writing and picture taking.  Tell the editor, next time you risk your life and sanity, that you want to be on the front page above the fold.

Sincerely,
Rush L. Workman
Prosperity, SC

“Asylum” with Founders Porter

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Continuing October’s Thrills and Chills theme, I’m writing about horror movies and beer on the blog. Today’s film is the 1972 flick “Asylum.”

Our beer is Founders Porter.

The Movie: “Asylum.”

asylum

I had high hopes for this one. A lot of the cooler, quirkier horror films came out of the late 1960s and early 1970s –and I have always been a Peter Cushing fan (Most people remember him as the guy who was Darth Vader’s boss in “Star Wars” or as the guy who did those meh “Dr. Who” films).

The description on Amazon listed him as a star and sold the film as one of the best horror anthologies.

No. No, it isn’t.

“Creepshow,” off the top of my head, is much, much better.

At best, “Asylum” is a bland, uninspired mess with thinly drawn characters, a dull plot and special effects on par with the aforementioned “Dr. Who” television show of the time. The brightest moment in the whole thing concerned a batch of idiotic looking robot toys that sort of become grotesque by the end –but it really feels like the film missed out by just being cheap.

If the producers should have doubled the film’s budget to at least $20 they might have had something, but they must have sunk all their money in fabulous location shooting or a good booze for the writers or something.

Likewise, Peter Cushing is only barely in the movie. He shows up twice in one of the vignettes, but little depth is given to the motivation of his character.

Basically, Cushing is wasted on this, and I’d need to be wasted to watch this again.

It’s not even bad enough to be fun for the wrong reasons –just dull.

The Beer: Founders Porter.

porter

I bought this one entirely for the witchy-like lady on the cover –and had hoped to spend this beer on something good, but alas, no…

I liked the beer. It had nice chocolatey/coffee notes and a light chewy mouth-feel. I like a good porter and this one was pretty decent –but not as good as my beloved Big Timber porter.

Got a movie? Got Beer? Think the two would go together. Let me know. Drop me a line at lynch@wvgazettemail.com –or just post here.

“Let The Right One In” with Magic Hat #9

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Continuing our monthly exploration of what beers go with which horror films, I picked out an old one, 2008’s Swedish vampire film, “Let the Right One In,” and one of my go to beers when I can’t find anything better to drink, Magic Hat #9.

The Film:

letrightonein

“Let the Right One In” is about the difficulty of finding a true friend and navigating the world when you’re an outsider. In some ways, “Let the Right One In” is like a lot of other teen dramas, except periodically someone is brutally murdered and drained of their blood.

The story revolved around Eli and Oskar, a couple of 12 year-olds living in the armpit of the Sweden (which isn’t really all that bad, just kind of run down). Oskar is a meek and awkward kid who is being continuously bullied by a group of his classmates. At night, he spends his time fantasizing about stabbing his tormentors and collecting newspaper clippings of brutal murders.

Eli is a centuries old vampire shacked up with an old guy named Hakan who acts as a kind of caretaker and henchman.

If this were “Dracula,” Hakan would be Renfield, a thrall, but Eli and Hakan’s relationship is not so cut and dried. He loves Eli, but it’s a weird kind of devotion that is difficult to define –not exactly the love of a parent for a child, a child for a parent or a husband for a wife, but something of all three.

Eli and Oskar meet. Eli says he can’t be Oskar’s friend and immediately begins manifesting unnatural abilities. Oskar misses the social cues that would warn other people to stay away or maybe invest in a firearm.

They become friends anyway, despite Eli’s misgivings.

The pair learns from each other –Oskar learns to be brave when he has a weapon in hand and can easily overpower his opponent; Eli learns the secrets to the Rubik’s Cube.

The audience learns that cats do not like vampires. At all.

Joking aside, I’ve loved this one since I first saw it. It does a pretty good job of capturing the wide-eyed naivete of being 12, while also showing that being a pre-teen vampire is a drag.

The Beer:

Pairing the film with Magic Hat #9 wasn’t exactly inspired, but it was what I had stashed in the back of my fridge. I did have a batch of beer I got from the Wine and Cheese shop at the Capitol Market earlier in the day, but all of that stuff was still warm.

Still, Magic Hat #9 is a pretty good beer –not a great beer, not a life changing beer (which does not exist unless said beer suddenly makes me 10 years younger) –but a pretty good beer. It’s a good beer to have after mowing a lawn or raking leaves. It’s a good beer with a fairly depressing slice of vegan pizza. It’s a good beer to slug down whether you’re binge-watching some weird Canadian sci fi show on Netflix or catching an old film that’s held up pretty well despite the various advancements in vampire movies.

First off, let me say that I’m not a huge fan of flavored beers.

Flavored beers taste like a marketing ploy aimed at rich sorority girls and shandys are like the Arnies of the beer world (An Arnie is a half lemonade and half iced tea. Recently passed golfing legend Arnold Palmer drank them so often, people started calling the drink by his name.

Still, I wasn’t paying for Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Shandy and it seemed like a good start to this month’s “One Month at a Time” side project: pairing beers with horror films.

First up, “The Witch.” 

the witch

IMDb describes it as “A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.”

The set up is a Puritan family leaves town after they have falling out with the local church authorities over some interpretation of the New Testament.

I missed what they were arguing over, but given the time period, it could have been over punctuation.

The family moves out on their own, where they establish a poor farm, struggle to feed themselves and somehow attract the attention of the local witch who then tirelessly works to destroy them.

On its face, “The Witch” is like a lot of similar films set during the Salem Witch Trials era. Christians in the new world are under siege by what they perceive to be diabolical forces. In many of these films, the villain turns out to be the Christians themselves, who are just thick-headed jerks or whatever.

This one goes in an entirely different direction.

The devil is very much at work on this small family and there’s no real explanation for why, other than “just ’cause.” There is no logical reason why Satan is interested in this particular family and nearly as disturbing there’s no help on the way. God is in his heaven and can’t be bothered to lift a finger to help a (possibly) slightly misguided but devout farmer, his wife and their five innocent children. No heroic, young preacher stops in to save them with a glowing cross or just the right prayer. Angels don’t turn up wielding a flaming sword.

The family is effortlessly crushed under the hoof of something far beyond their understanding.

It was kind of fascinating to watch a horror film so relentlessly bleak and pessimistic.

In some ways, “The Witch” reminded me of something like “Jaws,” where the people are warned not to leave the safety of the beach because there’s this giant shark trolling out there in the ocean somewhere, which will eat them if it gets the chance. Everybody shrugs it off, of course. They know better, go for a swim and, predictably, are eaten.

The Beer: Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Sandy

pumpkinbeer

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not a huge fan of flavored beers –and this one is no exception. It has a rich, pumpkin flavor, which would be perfect if it was Thanksgiving and you just didn’t feel like dunking your pumpkin pie into a frosty mug of Coors Light while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I don’t know. Maybe this is for the all girls in yoga pants to sip on when they get bored of their gas station grade Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I wasn’t impressed, but I finished the bottle.

I liked “The Witch,” and the Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Sandy technically paired well with the movie. Both were thought-provoking and had an unexpected flavor, but, were each, in their own way, kind of depressing.

 

Triathlon: Gu!

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With the upcoming race, the subject of eating has come up.

While my race isn’t all that long compared to an Iron Man, it’s long enough. It’s been suggested that it wouldn’t hurt to have something between the bicycle portion and the running race (only a dork eats in the pool).

The problem is: I can’t eat and run.

I’ve tried, but even a piece of toast is too heavy for my stomach. It becomes something that restricts my breathing and makes running longer than 200 yards next to impossible.

So, I don’t eat, but with the swimming, biking and running, there’s a good chance I could “bonk,” become light-headed and groggy, which isn’t good either.

Probably, if I was a lighter American and not wildly overweight, I could handle a short sprint triathlon with nothing more than a mineral water and a stick of gum, but I’m an ox.

So, I began looking into things I could take along –and discovered GU.

GU is basically a flavored sugar gel that also contains amino acids and probably caffeine.

allgu

I hit up the Cycle Shop in Kanawha City and bought three different types to try out. The idea was that I could give them each a shot and then hopefully have one or two to choose from on race day.

First, the good news: They’re all vegan, including the maple bacon.

Second, the bad news: There’s a reason they come in opaque packages. You don’t want to look at this stuff.

On the charitable side, it looks a little like shampoo. On the uncharitable side, just don’t look at it.

gu1

Of the three, the peanut butter tasted the best. It tasted a little like some kind of peanut candy, but it contains no caffeine.

Also, I couldn’t tell if it improved or assisted my performance since I wasn’t actually training, but typing in the newsroom. I did like the flavor, however. It was yummy.

gu2

The maple bacon was a novelty. I haven’t actually tasted bacon since December, and Andrew at the bicycle shop sort of warned me about this one. He said, “If you can think of it as like wine tasting. It’s very up front with the maple and then the bacon is at the end.”

I didn’t taste a lot of bacon.

And after a short while, I felt vaguely angry. That could have been the 20 mg of caffeine talking, but that’s barely half a cup of coffee.

I wasn’t overly impressed.

gu3

The Tri-Berry was highly recommended. My triathlon mentors seemed to like it, but it tasted like candy with a vague chemical aftertaste –sort of like Runts, maybe.

Unlike the maple bacon, it didn’t fill me with hate.

That was a bonus.

So, I figure I’ll bring along the peanut butter and the Tri-Berry, in case I need a bigger pick me up than just some sugar and peanut goodness.

If I do something like this again, I’ll look into some of the other flavors –you know, after I get a better bike.