Friday, May 18, 2012

Things I've Learned From Dieting

Two years ago, I lost 35 pounds in 4 months. After getting my MA, that was the thing I was most proud of being able to do that year, and I still talk about it the way Al Bundy talks about scoring four touchdowns in a single game. However, having to read damn near twenty books for my MA took its toll, and I finally stopped going to the gym and giving a shit about my weight, and worked on my project. I never got back into the workout groove, and gained around 20 of those pounds back since then. Sure, I fiddled with strength training a bit, and made half assed attempts to go back to the gym, but it was never as serious as it was then.

My girlfriend is in a weight loss competition with some coworkers, and both to support her and get rid of my gut, I've decided to get back into the weight loss groove. I'm about two weeks into it and have already lost six pounds, so I figured I'd share some things about dieting that I've experienced.

You have to weigh yourself.

This was the biggest thing that kept me from actually doing something about my weight. At some point, I was afraid to step on a scale and face reality. I knew I was gaining weight, but just couldn't get myself to see exactly how much. When I finally did, I was happy that it wasn't as bad as I was at my fattest, but it was still too much. Right now I weigh myself everyday (every week is probably best, but I don't care) and it's a great way to keep myself in check and prevent myself from gorging.

If you're strictly talking about losing weight, then calorie counting is the only thing that never fails.

I always hear all kinds of bullshit about what you need to do, what you need to check, what foods to cut out, blah blah blah in order to lose weight. It's all crap. People hate doing it, but if you're strictly trying to lose weight rather than having a balanced diet or some shit, just focus on calorie counting. That's it. That's really, truly, all there is to it. Eat fewer calories than you take in. It's the "buy low, sell high" of weight loss. For instance, the first week of my diet I had a spaghetti plate from an Italian restaurant and a bacon cheeseburger from Outback Steakhouse, and because each fell under the calories I was allowed for that day, I was fine. Sign up with MyFitnessPal and it'll set up how many calories you're allowed per day. As long as you're under the allowed calories per day, you will lose weight. To quote George Zimmer, I guarantee it.

The second day is the worst.

I don't know why it is, but the second day of your diet is the most excruciating to go through. Pretty much nothing satisfies your hunger, and you want to gorge on everything in sight. You hate life and you hate your stomach and you hate this stupid fucking diet. Then, the next's gone. I haven't bothered to research this, but I think it's because on the first day of a diet, your body is still unsure about why you're taking in fewer calories than you usually do, and sees it as some kind of odd freak occurrence. The next day, because your body hates change and actively forces you to go back to what was normal, it creates resistance and tries to trick you into cheating. You basically have to tell your body "fuck you, THIS is the new normal" for it to calm that funky shit down. This actually applies to all change, I think, including changing your attitude.

The elliptical machine is the best machine to use to burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time.

Again, this is if you purely want to burn calories and don't give a rat's ass about anything else. I spend 65 minutes on the elliptical machine everyday and burn around 1,000 calories each time. Tell me another machine that gives you those results.

Turkey and chicken are magic meats.

Extremely low in calories and delicious. In fact, one of the more surprising things that you find out when dieting is that meats in general aren't as bad for you calories-wise as you'd think. Steaks are pretty low, too. However, to get the most bang for your buck, you can't beat chicken and turkey.

Servings sizes are typically bullshit.

One of the most frustrating things about calorie counting is when you start discovering all the sneaky-ass tricks that the food industry plays when it comes to calories. If you take a brick of Top Ramen and check the calories on the back, it says 190. Hey, that's not too bad. Then you see the serving size, and it's half a brick. What the fuck? Who the hell eats half a brick of Top Ramen? I remember being horrified when I saw that one of those Mexican fruit pies was 500 calories (nothing slightly bigger than your fist should ever have that many calories), but I actually respect the fact that they weren't bullshitting you about it by saying that it was for "half a pie" or some shit. Hey, assholes at Top Ramen, your brick is 380 calories. Cut the crap and just label it correctly. You'll see this same shit on "fun sized" bags of chips, where it's like 2 servings per bag. Who the hell has ever shared a fun sized bag of chips? No one. Fuck you, food industry.

It's best if you view weight loss as a game you can win.

People are always looking for ways to win at games, and weight loss should be the same. One way that I'll cheat is by working out heavily at the gym, which causes the amount of calories I'm allowed per day to shoot up nearly double. I could get a large-sized fast food meal right now and not even feel guilty about it, because I've worked out enough to where my allowed calories per day is higher than whatever the calorie count of that meal would be. Also, if I'm going to get fast food, I can walk for it and keep a pedometer on hand to count the calories I burn on the way.

You have to be OK with being hungry.

At least for a couple of days. You find out that, at a certain point, the hunger passes. When this starts happening, you also get filled by eating less, which may be your stomach shrinking or some other kind of malarky. Know that this is going to happen, and everything will be fine.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The 5 Worst NBA Team Names

It's tricky naming a professional sports team. It has to be catchy, sound right when you say it, and represent where the team resides. The teams below have names that are either completely out of synch with their location, or just poorly thought out to begin with.

The Los Angeles Lakers

I'm going to start off with my favorite team, the Lakers. The name used to make sense, when they were in Minneapolis, but now that they're in a city with probably the weakest "lake" out of any major city, it doesn't go. Also, the name itself was never really that great: lakes are nice, serene, placid, and not at all indicative of the fast-paced excitement of basketball. However, considering how the "slowtime" Lakers have been playing as of late, maybe it is appropriate after all.

The Orlando Magic

Some fantasy elements can work in a team name, I'm not going to deny that. But why the fuck are you going to go with spells and whimsy? I get it...Disney World is there, it's the Magic Kingdom, ha ha very clever. It's still a stupid name considering that magic is widely associated with people pulling absurdly long socks out of their sleeves, guessing cards, and boring adults at children's parties.

The Oklahoma City Thunder

The saddest thing about this one is that the team used to have a really cool name. The Seattle SuperSonics had a nice alliterative ring to it, plus it sounded exciting. Now that they relocated, they opted to change the name to the Thunder, which just sounds fucking boring. It's all sound and fury, causing no really damage and just trying to scare you. Might as well be The Oklahoma Guy That Creeps Up Behind You and Goes "BOO!"

The Washington Wizards

This is how political correctness can kill a team name. They used to have the awesome name The Washington Bullets, but because of gun violence they decided that they didn't want that name anymore and opted to go with the absolute gayest alternative they could find. They went from something that can kill you to something associated with little boys and old men, neither of which typically can ball. Also, they have by far the shittiest logo in the NBA. Just take a look at this fucking thing:

The Utah Jazz

This right here is the biggest, best example I can think of of a team desperately needing to change their name once they switch cities. They used to be the New Orleans Jazz, which is both cool and made sense. Then, for whatever reason, after moving to the absolute whitest fucking state in the union, they kept the name. I keep trying to come up with an exaggerated example of a team having a woefully inappropriate name, but even at the most extreme I can't think of anything as ridiculous as the words "Utah" and "Jazz" being put together. Unfortunately, because the team has been consistently good, they're stuck with that name and it'll likely never be changed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Godzilla Showa Series, Some Thoughts

I just finished completing the Showa series of Godzilla films. For those who don’t know, the Showa series consists of the Godzilla films made before the 1984 “reboot” The Return of Godzilla, or Godzilla 1985 as it’s known in the States. There’s 15 of these movies, and it was great watching them in chronological order to see when things first started popping up, like Godzilla turning good (Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster) and when the series started going downhill (Son of Godzilla). I’ve always loved Godzilla, and unlike a lot of Godzilla fans, I have only seen the Showa films, since these were the ones being aired on marathons when I was growing up, and the ones I purchased as budget VHS sets when they came out. To celebrate this series, I’m going to throw down some lists. Enjoy!

The 5 Best Godzilla Films (excluding the first one)

King Kong vs Godzilla

Ditch the shitty American version and seek out the original Japanese film. The American film is mangled beyond recognition, and the original stands out as a great satire.

Mothra Vs Godzilla

The final battle between Mothra and Godzilla isn’t that great, but everything else about this film is. Probably the best-looking Godzilla film in the series, and the fantasy elements of Mothra mix well with the brute monster mayhem of Godzilla.

Godzilla vs Hedorah

A Godzilla “art” film. This one’s great because Hedorah is actually a threat, and you see people suffering because of him. There’s fun random animation thrown in between scenes, and when Hedorah starts sucking smoke from the factories, it’s disturbing. The ending kinda lags, but this is a shockingly good film for late in the series.

Monster Zero

This film is a lot of fun, and Nick Adams is terrific as your typical hard-nosed 60s spaceman. The aliens are deliciously dickish and look great as well, plus you have Godzilla and Rodan teaming up to battle King Ghidorah.

Godzilla vs the Sea Monster

I mainly like this one because of how well it ties together both Godzilla and Mothra’s stories near the end, and how Godzilla is used as a weapon again the villains. The Red Bamboo kidnapping people from Infant Island and using them as slaves is nice and disturbing, and even though Ebirah’s just a giant shrimp, he also has personality.

The Worst Godzilla Film: Godzilla vs. Megalon

When I watched this movie I really wanted to be objective about it, since everyone pegs this as the worst Godzilla film. That reputation is well-deserved. In addition to the film just being an overall piece of shit, the most egregious thing about it is that it seems to serve only as a masked pilot for The Jet Jaguar Show, a shitty Ultraman rip off. However, I liked how Megalon looks, almost in spite of how horrible everything else about this movie is.

The 6 Biggest WTF Moments in the Showa Godzilla Series

(Dishonorable Mention) Godzilla Raids Again: The Racist American Dubbing

The dubbing of this film is so shockingly bad, I almost expected the voice actor to say “I rikey vely much!” at some point.

Monster Zero: Godzilla dances a victory jig.

Godzilla vs Hedorah: Godzilla can fly now, and looks like a shrimp.

Godzilla vs Gigan: Godzilla and Anguilas talk to each other (in English).

Godzilla vs Megalon: Godzilla’s awesome new tail slide into Megalon.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla: Godzilla transforms himself into a gigantic magnet, which is only slightly less retarded than that issue of Spider-Man where he all of a sudden has powers of “chest expansion” to break some chains.

Terror of Mechagodzilla: Robot Katsura’s exposed breasts during an operation. That one I REALLY wasn’t expecting.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole with Thai Pop Spectacular

As a music fan, there's something special about discovering a new genre that you never knew about before, but instantly fall in love with. My own music tastes have been mainly relegated to foreign variations on typical American rock and pop sounds, with the biggest instance of this being the French ye-ye and pop scene in the 60s. My Mt Rushmore of this genre (Serge Gainsbourg, Michel Polnareff, Francoise Hardy, and Jacques Dutronc) are four of the best musicians I've heard in any genre, but when you get right down to it, their music, while brilliant, still works within the confines of Western rock and pop. At its essence, there's nothing much different from it aside from the language they're singing in. It makes sense that I would embrace it, as a fan of the 60s sound and the French language.

Once I got into French pop, I started seeking out other Foreign variants on rock and pop, but nothing ever took hold of me the way French pop did. I loved the Cambodian Rocks compilations, as well as the GS I Love You discs, but each new disc I found seemed to be following the same "garage rock but in X language" style. I never went down the rabbit hole with any of these genres, and my interest stopped with whatever disc I bought. The closest I ever got to looking for more was when I bought a Bollywood soundtrack comp, but I never really fell in love with that genre.

A few years ago my girlfriend and I went to a music store in LA (Amoeba, for those who live here), and I spotted a CD called Thai Pop Spectacular. I was intrigued by the cover featuring two Thai women in short blue skirts and a purple background, and in the lower lefthand corner it said "1960s-1980s." I flipped it over to see the track list/description, and instead was greeted by a smiling Thai woman holding some objected between her fingers. Hmmm. The CD gave me nothing to go by aside from the cover art and "1960s-1980s", but I figured that I'd say "fuck it" and gamble on it. It wouldn't be the first or last time I bought something that potentially sucked on a whim.

When we got home I popped it in and was greeted by the intro, "Welcome to Thailand," which is a somewhat obnoxious clip from a TV show where some very broken English is being spoken. Then, after those :46 seconds are over, track two and the album proper started...holy shit. The first song, Roob Lor Thom Pai kicks off with a slow, sexy beat and surf guitar riff. The singing, which may be off-putting to some, appealed to me in that this was clearly not mimicking Western singing. I remember thinking that, even if this was the only good track on the album, it was still worth the money I spent on it. The following song, Mae Kha Som Tum, solidified my love of this album and the genre. It's more Western, but fuck is it great. It has a great guitar hook and almost sounds like something you'd hear in a spy movie. And yes, this one also had a "sexy" beat to it. It's almost impossible to follow up the one-two punch of those opening tracks, but the next song, Lung Dee Kee Mao, was also really good, and had that unique beat that was starting to appeal to me, but almost straight-jacketed in a pop sound. The next song, Fawn Ngeo by Johnny Guitar, was a great instrumental that sounded both very familiar yet very foreign.

The fifth song, Kwuan Tai Duew Luk Puen, was a kick to the teeth and one of the best foreign pop songs I've ever heard, period. It's a fast-paced disco song and just stomps your ass all over the place. So far on this disc, I had heard three of the best songs I'd heard in years, and even though nothing else on the album came close to matching those three, it was more than enough to win me over.

The music seemed to get progressively "foreign," but still accessible. Songs like Tid Lom Ta Lai and Gao Guek were fun and enjoyable, and then you'd get hit with something like Sao Dok Kum Tai by Pumpuang Duanjan, which is a slow, beautiful ballad. There was so much variety in this album, with it seeming to hop genres and sounds at a whim, that it did something to me that hasn't happened since I first bought a France Gall made me passionate about the genre.

This is more of a biography than a review, but I recommend Thai Pop Spectacular to anyone with an interest in foreign music. It's more accessible than the Molam discs put out by the same label, but still sounds different enough from what you'll typically hear in a foreign pop compilation that anyone who wants to get their feet wet with Thai pop should start here. There's a sequel to this disc that's also really good, but this one still holds a special spot in my heart.