Yearbook 2016 #2 | The Entertainers & Public Figures

As 2016 continues to claim the lives of entertainers and other public figures, I’m going to take a moment to give shout-outs to the notable entertainers and public figures of the year of 2016. Obviously this list is highly subjective of my personal perspective.

I’ll start first with the socio-political, then move on to sports and the arts.


Person of the Year – Van Jones

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Mr. Jones, the man who stole my look (haha), has been the sane, rational and peace-promoting voice amid the tumultuous political storm of this election year. He’s open to debate, to listening to the other side and establishing the kind of dialogue that can lead to understanding, enlightenment and hopefully empathy. I posted a video here over the summer that showed him taking time out to answer some pro-GOP’ers question on the streets when they tried (unsucessfully to goad him into a contentious debate. He didn’t fall for it, and he managed to surprise and educate his interviewees and all the onlookers. He’s a classy guy with a big heart (was also good friends with the late Prince). After the election was over he did a special series on CNN called “The Messy Truth” that aimed to understand why voters supported the Orange One. A journalist/political commentator willing to go into the shark infested waters of ‘the otherside’ in an effort to understand and expose their specific truth, is just another of many reason why I’m compelled to tune in to this man.


Male Public Figure of the Year – Bernie Sanders

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No, he did not win the Democratic nomination at the end of the primaries, but he was very gracious in defeat, and while he campaigned he helped galvanize a nation of progressives while awakening and reminding those who’ve been asleep or have forgotten what a progressive democracy should look like. A model of consistency, he never wavered in his message.


Female Public Figure of the Year – Ana Navarro

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One of few conservative public figures who had the courage and integrity to speak out against the very existence of U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump within her beloved GOP. And when a lot of ugly truths started coming into the light, she did not back down, especially on her CNN platform. She once tweeted: “The (R) behind [his name] does not stand for Republican. It stands for REPREHENSIBLE. REPUGNANT. REPULSIVE.” Navarro never backed away from her opposing stance against the Orange One. She even voted outside of her party. She’s my favorite conservative mouthpiece.


Athlete of the Year – LeBron James

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2015-16 NBA Champion and Finals MVP. Season Stats: 25.5 ppg / 7.9 rpg / 8.6 apg | Career Stats: 27.1 ppg / 7.9 rpg / 6.9 apg.


Sports Competitor of the Year – Russell Westbrook

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2016 Stats – Averaging a Triple-Double in the main categories: 31.7 ppg / 10.6 rpg / 10.9 apg at 6’3″, 200 lbs, 28 years old for the Oklahoma City Thunder.


Sports Broadcaster of the Year – Molly Qerim

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Words that describe “Mollywood” are: poised, intelligent journalist, fair-minded moderator, astute commentator, and a jubilant and exciting hostess with the mostest who is quite easy on the eyes. She can be seen weekdays on ESPN’s First Take and Mike and Mike shows.


Sports Podcast of the Year – Jalen and Jacoby

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While at work I would listen to a specific lineup of daily sports podcasts. This is the one I most looked forward to for unique insight (Jalen Rose being a former player likes to take us “behind the curtain”), humor (Jalen and his co-host David Jacoby have great chemistry and a naturally blended sense of humor) and a variety of sports, hip-hop and pop culture entertainment topics. The self-depreciating humor and things like the “Don’t Get Fired Topic of the Day”, “Jalen Summarizes a Movie Plot” (badly) and the “Give the People What They Want” Q & A are standout segments.


Sports Entertainer of the Year – “Papi” Gonzalo Le Batard

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Papi is the sardonic heart and driving force of humor on his son Dan Le Batard’s TV show Highly Questionable on ESPN. Co-hosted with Bomani Jones who plays both the other straight man and the other comic foil, the three men have developed some of the best chemistry on TV. But every fan of the show watches it for Papi’s antics, everything from his hot takes, his disses, his rants, his raps, his dancing, his stripping, his predictions, his phone calls to “Jaunito” to place a bet, and his declarations ending with “Papi has spoken.” And of course he’s always intrigued during the “Si or No” segments.

Honorable mention goes out to Bomani Jones as well as the entire Inside the NBA crew (who essentially win this category every year by default) of “E.J.” Ernie Johnson, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, Sir Charles Barkley and “The Diesel” Shaquille O’Neal


Sports Analyst of the Year – Herm Edwards

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I love. This man. I could listen to Coach Edwards speak just on life, let alone sports, all damn day long. He’s that sage uncle we all wish we had. His sports analysis is great because of his unique perspective on life and sports comes with a profundity that you really can’t get elsewhere. He is a national treasure. Remember, even in the game of life “you play to win the game.”

Honorable mentions go out to Jalen Rose, Max Kellerman, & Shannon Sharpe.


Comeback of the Year – Metallica

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With eight years passed since their last proper album, the fellas–James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo –returned with Hardwired . . . To Self-Destruct, an effort that arguably surpasses their previous few. Standouts songs for me are: “Moth to a Flame”, “Now That We’re Dead”, “Hardwired”, “Spit Out the Bone” and “Atlas, Rise”.


Letdown of the Year – The Weeknd

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Starboy the album is easily Abel Tesfaye’s worst offering in five years. ‘Nuff said. “Starboy” is a good song, though.


TV Ensemble of the Year – Cast of The Flash

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Favorite TV Show. One of my favorite TV families. It’s always a good time hanging with them on Tuesday nights.

Honorable mention to The Walking Dead ensemble cast.


Film Ensemble of the Year – Cast of Captain America: Civil War

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If you’ve seen this movie, then you know full well why.


Writer of the Year – Ed Brubaker

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From Criminal to Velvet to Kill Or Be Killed, Ed Brubaker (a writer on HBO’s Westworld also) was the scribe who entertained me the most this year.


Newsletter of the Year – Orbital Operations by Warren Ellis

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Warren Ellis and his old blogsite were the original inspiration for my finally adopting the practice of keep a regularly updated blog. A couple of years ago he discontinued the blog in favor of his morning.computer irregular journal and his weekly newsletter called Orbital Operations, which arrives almost every Sunday afternoon/evening. It keeps me inspired to write about the writer’s life.

Honorable mention goes to “From the Desk of Ed Brubaker” newsletter.


Comics Podcast of the Year – iFanboy Pick of the Week

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I finally started listening to Connor, Josh and Ron break down the week’s comics on a more regular basis this year and have enjoyed it quite a bit.

Honorable Mention goes to John SuintresWord Balloon of course.


I could think up all kinds of subjective “of the year” categories, but I think this is enough for this Yearbook entry.

So what does your “of the year” lists look like?

-BLR

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Writing Advice | Joseph Finder

I haven’t been able to embrace this approach in well over a decade, much to my chagrin and detriment. Since they first became intent on literary matrimony, I’ve not been able to divorce the writer in me from the editor in me. It’s time for an abrupt separation.

#Relax #CutLoose #BeFree

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Yearbook 2016 #1 | The Entertainment

First and foremost, 2016 was pretty much the year of the Reaper, since it claimed so many lives of notable public figures (especially musicians) and the lives of the innocent (such as those in Aleppo) that a hearty and proper

FUCK YOU, 2016

2016

is very much in order. Now, with that out of the way . . .

A moment of silence for all of those we lost in 2016.


Books – Notable Reads of 2016

Some of these are re-reads. My reading focus kind of took on a crime spree for a large part of the year. I owe a large part of my noir voice and style to both Elmore Leonard and John Ridley, thanks to the specific novels in this list.


Comics Series/Graphic Novels – Notable Reads of 2016

A couple of these are a few years old that I finally got around to. In 2016 my comics buying habits got rather ridiculous  and my yet-to-read stack hovered around 100 issues all year long. I still predominantly avoid superhero comics from DC and especially Marvel, but I found myself reading the relaunches of both Superman and Wonder Woman series (not pictured). The absence of both Sex Criminals and Southern Bastards for much of the year was disappointing. My favorite writers in 2016 are easily Ed Brubaker (Criminal), Greg Rucka (Lazarus) and Brian K. Vaughan (Saga). Jaime Hernandez (Love & Rockets: The Love Bunglers) is a life-time-achieving favorite comics creator.


Movies – Notable Flicks of 2016

If my increased attendance to the cinema is any indication, then 2016 was one of the better years in movies for me. NOTE: I still have not seen Arrival, nor Passengers, nor so many others (I’m an old man with a family, I don’t get to the theater much), and then there’s Star Wars: Rogue One. That one is still pending and should be taken care of this week. I suppose my ranking–sans Rogue One–would breakdown like this:

  1. The Secret Life of Pets
  2. Captain America: Civil War
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  4. Star Trek: Beyond
  5. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
  6. Suicide Squad
  7. Deadpool
  8. Doctor Strange

Music – Most New Spins of 2016

Like movies, I don’t spend a lot of time in search of new music and it’s been said that by the time you hit your mid-30s (I’m in my early 40s) you tend to become less adventurous in your musical quests, likely due to a cynical jadedness of “been there, heard that”. I can attest that’s mostly true. I definitely tend to stick to many old favorite artists that I likely discovered in decades previous, although I did discover both The Weeknd and BANKS this decade.


TV – Most Compelling Scripted Series of 2016

With television, a medium where you’re inviting casts of characters into your living room on a regular, mostly weekly basis, the primary criteria has to be your general endearment of the characters. After the 2015-16 season ended I decided to drop Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Gotham and Sleepy Hollow for various reasons. For me, the most endearing, charming characters with the most compelling stories are what’s going to keep me coming back week after week. From my perspective in 2016, that played out as follows:

  1. The Flash
  2. The Walking Dead
  3. Fear the Walking Dead
  4. This Is Us
  5. Shades of Blue
  6. Game of Thrones
  7. Preacher
  8. Supergirl

Honorable mention should go to Luke Cage, which would have made this list but lost out to Supergirl due to its more endearing ensemble cast.


Well, that’s a wrap. Maybe I should do another one or two of these yearbooks to list the actual entertainers and notable events of 2016.

-BLR

 

Lifebook 13 | 2016 X-Mas Gifts

A few notable X-Mas gifts I received this year.


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Drink coasters, presumably for my office/study/man cave! I have three desks in my house so I’ve got at least one on each.


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This hefty, heavy coffee table tome documents the making-of, while also commemorating the 30th anniversary of Master of Puppets, one of the most influential musical masterpieces by Metallica, which is one of the most influential and favorite bands of mine. Over 250 pages of rare photos, exclusively-written content and great testimonies of the legendary tour. Naturally also serves as a memento of late bassist Cliff Burton as this was his last recording.


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One of the best reviewed and most successful videogames of the year. I’m a crime fiction fiend, so it should be great fun. My plan is to dive into it on New Year’s Day.


I absolutely must get my remaining kids at home, ages 16.11 and 11.9, into the greatness of Star Wars. They’re highly resistant to things, despite my pass success rate of exposing them to things they like. As great as they are, Episodes IV – VI are ancient in their eyes, and as for the dreaded prequels, I refuse to fully acknowledge them, nor would I subject them to my children. I think the perfect gateway is The Force Awakens, given that it is contemporary at just a year old, and also features a female lead. Wish me luck on this arduous task.


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One of two Marvel Studios films I’ve yet to see (the other being The Incredible Hulk). The plan is not only to see all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also to own them all. I have a few more to add to my shelf. Aside from the Hulk, the only other one I missed seeing in the theater was Thor: The Dark World, and I think my viewing experience suffered from not having seen it on the big screen. I hope that’s not the case for Ant-Man, as I’ve been told by a few friends that it’s one of the favorites of the bunch.


Yes, it should be evident by now that I am a big, geeky kid!

I hope you all had a safe, warm, tasty, satisfying, fun and family-and-friends-filled holiday season.

Best,

-BLR image_for_christmas_gift_clip_art

Ruckin’ With You | 12.20.16 | Work In Progress

Transmitting the last Ruckin’ of the old year.

When you really think about it, aren’t we all just a work in progress? We’re never a finished project, that is unless we’re dead. We’re never truly done with our work, because the next work awaits. Even if we’re fortunate enough to gracefully–willfully–retire, what awaits us is the work of getting on and keeping on at actually living, or if the case may be, barely surviving. It’s all work, and if we’re breathing air, it’s work in progress.


Head Trip

As you might imagine by that intro, I’ve been wandering around inside my head the past week and a half, given my unexpected newfound free time at home. Considering the way my head works it could be argued it’s too much time–time that could lead to mental rampancy because I could literally overthink myself into oblivion (they say that’s kind of a Libra thang).

I think the subconscious question echoing in the back of my headspace has been WHY AM I HERE AND WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING? Aside from being a family man, my default answer always seems to be that I should be creating and producing art, either music or stories. My curse is I am highly creative and so if you add the aforementioned overthinking aspect to that equation, well it helps get the meticulous, large-scope planning done, but unfortunately the acute focus and execution tends to be more elusive. That’s something that simply cannot continue and steps are being made to reverse this trend.


Team Player

I am also a very collaborative person, particularly musically. Making music alone hasn’t been highly fulfilling to me since I was that teenage kid in his room writing all those guitar riffs that would eventually lead songs for my first band. Once I began to experience that band life and the mode of collaboration that comes with a band, it became the only way I prefer to make music. Have I written and produced (and performed and recorded) plenty of music on my own in a solo musician capacity? Sure. Yet despite the inherent pride that comes with that, it can never top making music with others.

Comics/graphic fiction is another art form I desperately want to produce work in. It is also highly collaborative because at the very least, for myself as a writer/creator it relies on a very close working relationship with an illustrator, if not also an inker, colorists and letterer (if neither of us are providing one of those aspects also). A few weeks ago I lamented the lack of successful connections with prospective collaborators where that’s concerned.

Here’s the rub: independence and self-sufficiency are core values to me, and so that makes the desperate need to work in these collaborative arts so frustrating and ultimately fruitless of late. If I would never had to rely on other people for contributions, I surely would not. Never mind the fact that from 2008 to 2011 I composed and produced some 60+ pieces of music by myself with the exception of a few pieces that were collaborative (much of this music is available online via one streaming platform or another; see the JUKEBOX).

Now, if only I had never stopped drawing twenty years ago. I would already be illustrating my own stories.


Perseverance is a Virtue

But hey, I’m not giving up. I’m going to used my newfound-hopefully-finite free time to prepare and pitch some projects to prospective artists in the hopes that 2017 is finally that year to make something happen on that front.


Project Announcement

Earlier this month I tapped my artist friend Jack S. Rogers for a project that’s been brewing for a few years, inspired by an image he created some six years ago or so. The codename I’m using for this project (meaning it’s not it’s official name) is Project AmWitness.


Project Update

Project Blood-Borne, that long-gestating novel series that I’ve written some 10k words for has had a plotting breakthru that just arrive in my noggin this week that currently sorting through. It addresses a couple of issues I was having with the narrative scope vs. the complex timeline of events. It’s also been split into two separate-yet-intimately/intrinsic-ly-connected trilogies, one of which is decidedly Young Adult New Adult.


Off the Grid

Barring a possible last-minute decision to do some kind of “Year-End List” kind of post, this may be the last proper post of the old year. At the Winter Solstice I’d like to “go dark” for the rest of the old year and come back better than ever in the new year.  Maybe shutdown all social media for a couple of week’s worth of radio silence. Yeah, that would be a first.

Next year I want to diversify this blog again with a variety of subjects like it used to be in the early days of this decade. The last two years have been focused on writer-ly aspects, but with the focus on just me as a writer, I think to its detriment.

I have a big day tomorrow but I’ll come back tomorrow with proper year-end send-off.

Until then, be good.