A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal


So, I’ve gone on about my keen interest and love for Anthony Bourdain in posts before; what with my obsession for his show Parts Unknown, as well as his first book “Kitchen Confidential”. But this wasn’t enough, I needed to know more and find out more about his journeys and delve further into his personal and brash style of writing that I’d come to admire so much. So, of course, the first thing I did after finishing Kitchen Confidential was buy the rest of his books about his life and travels. I would later find out that he also wrote a few crime novels, and I’d run down that rabbit hole soon enough.


Once I figured out which book would be best to read next, I got stuck into what appeared to be his second book “A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal”, which suggested to me that this was going to be about his travels around the world. It was, except that this was his first time doing something like this, unlike in his later years in television where he would find himself constantly globetrotting.

It starts out with him talking about his unforeseen success with Kitchen Confidential. He was still a chef at “Les Halles” in New York at the time, but he feels that since his first book was doing so well, in turn making him increasingly popular with his publishers, that it was time to strike while the iron was still hot and pitch a second idea for a book. His reasons for writing a second book weren’t quite what I expected with most writers – rather than just wanting to make more money and to just continue writing because it’s a talent he possessed, he didn’t want to get stuck in a rut and only really being known for his first book.

This wasn’t to say he didn’t like the book, but more the lingering after-effects of suddenly becoming somewhat of a celebrity, in both the writing and chef worlds. Being constantly hassled by people about his “Don’t order fish on Mondays” bit as well as others, and having to repeat himself repeatedly with the same small anecdotes that had really stuck out in his book and appealed to readers, was starting to take a mental toll. He wasn’t enjoying this unforeseen aspect of his sudden fame and wanted the chance to get out there and write more about what he was passionate about – food. But he knew he couldn’t just slam into doing something like a sequel to Kitchen Confidential – not just yet anyway.

He put forward an idea to his publishers. How about he travels various parts of the world, and not just the glitzy and glamourous parts of the world, and try to find the “Perfect Meal”. To his surprise, the publishers loved the idea and decided to bankroll it, paying for the entire trip that he would then write about.

But there was a catch. If you’d read Kitchen Confidential, you’d know what it is, but if you haven’t then I’ll be nice and tell you. He hated television chefs. He regarded the Food Network as his nemesis and seemed to pity the chefs that made their living doing so. He would, in his words, “Be crossing over to the Dark Side.” It was going to be a hard pill for him to swallow but, if he wanted this amazing opportunity, he was going to have to swallow that pill and make sure he was smiling when he did so.

The deal was done. He had agreed to the terms and conditions, and soon enough he would be planning his first globetrotting event, eating wonderful and horrific – bordering on barbaric – food. To be honest with you, I think that if you’re a vegetarian or vegan then reading it probably isn’t a good idea. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read it, but be warned that it does get “vivid” in places, and even I found it difficult to read certain parts.

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There is also a TV series for “A Cook’s Tour” too! Although I’ve yet to get my hands on it. 

But enough getting off track. I just felt l that I should warn anyone who may be interested that it does have its very unpleasant moments; even Bourdain writes about how graphic and upsetting some parts are.


To help give you an idea, he first sets off to rural Portugal. One of his chefs at “Les Halles” is a native from Portugal, and upon hearing of his new book idea and how he would travel the world, he instantly insists on Bourdain visiting his family in Portugal and immediately rings his mother to tell her to “Start fattening up the pig.” So, yeah, this book is not for the faint hearted by any means. It’s a mostly brutal chapter, and it’s pretty early on in the book.

I really don’t want to say too much about it, because it is rather upsetting, but it does raise a certain point to meat-eaters out there – “this is where your food comes from.” Simply put. That isn’t to say Bourdain took it like a champ himself, as he goes into some depth about the experience. Okay, I’m rambling about what is probably one of the most upsetting parts of the book, and I should shut up now. I suppose you could skip it if you were sensitive to such things, but I managed to just about stomach it…no pun intended.

Upsetting parts set aside, a great deal of the book isn’t even really about food at all. Most of it is about his personal experiences whilst travelling, and some of the various interesting people he met on his journey. Whether it’s women working on food stalls in Vietnam, dodgy Russians at what must have been an illegal boxing match, Geishas in Japan working in a feudal setting, as well as sumo wrestlers, terrifying figures you wouldn’t want to bump into at night in some of the roughest parts of Cambodia, hanging out with vegans who apparently couldn’t cook a vegetable to save their life, or even just a Scotsman making you try absolutely everything possible – deep fried. Every single one of his experiences was unlike the other, stepping into entirely different worlds and asking what’s good to eat, or just experimenting for himself and trying pretty much whatever is handed to him. Some of the food given to him is certainly not for everyone, and some of it is literally horrific, what you might imagine being forced to eat in some sort of horror movie.

There are constant themes throughout the book. The first is how he never really, with the odd exception, goes to the super ritzy and fancy places in many of these countries. He’s not always eating at the top restaurants the country has to offer, and in a lot of cases he eats in people’s homes. In a lot of those cases, he even pitches in and helps, and preaches that if you want to taste a culture’s food, someone’s home cooking is the absolute best way to find out.

The second is how he shows distaste for the media following him around. Now, this isn’t to say he hated those with the cameras following him around, in fact he grows to love them, as they often eat what he eats, and show professionalism even if they’re having a nasty spell of violent food poisoning, or having to bunk down in some very questionable locations, or go off the beaten track into some even more questionable areas. He often showers them with praise. However, what he was not a fan of was the “advice” of being told to go and eat certain “dishes” such as Birds Nest Soup, which is apparently more of a Chinese “Medicine” more than it is a food dish, or dining on Iguana; the stuff that’s “for the viewers”! This is what filled him mostly with distain, made worse by constantly having to re-shoot things and always pretending to look happy.

Thirdly, his book revealed to me that Bourdain was a dark character. Sure, I had some idea of this whilst reading Kitchen Confidential, as well as seeing hints in episodes of Parts Unknown, but in A Cook’s Tour I started to understand that he was a very complex character and would easily and often seem to fall into a downward spiral, becoming heavily depressed for days, with nothing seeming to bring him too much joy, even if the food he’s surrounded by is exquisite. Sometimes this would be due to something he experienced on his journey, or even just because of something he ate that just… brought strange feelings over him. On the other hand, the opposite is also true, with him sometimes being overcome with immense happiness and pleasure, sometimes due to his environment and those he meets, or just because he puts something immeasurably delicious in his mouth. The way he tells us about eating Edo-Style sushi is a prime example. This stands for Edomae sushi, meaning it’s a very old-fashioned traditional style of making and eating sushi. I would tell you what things he ate filled him with sadness, but it’s probably best that I don’t and leave it to you to find out for yourself.


I can’t really go too much further into the book without spoiling anything too much. Overall, it’s another fascinating read with all his flare from Kitchen Confidential but in a different style and flavour. Hearing about his travels is very inspiring; I don’t think I’d venture to all the locations he visits, and I certainly wouldn’t want to try everything he tried – I don’t have the stomach for some of the crazy things he puts in his mouth – but his way with words was so descriptive, original and often raw, that it was hard to put down. I think it must have been the fastest I’ve ever read a book, and although I’m not a particularly gifted quick reader, I was in this case.

If you’re looking for something like Kitchen Confidential then this isn’t quite the same. But it’s written with the same attitude and vigour that made it so great. It’s hilarious and brutal. We get an idea for his character by seeing how he changes when travelling across the world, rather than being in his kitchen. This is Bourdain out of his comfort zone, and it’s unforgettable.


 

Captain Marvel Review [No Spoilers!]


You might not have heard of her, but soon enough you will. You may not care much about her, but soon you might. She’s the latest addition to the Marvel Comic Universe roster, Captain Marvel! Whilst I will admit that even as a self-proclaimed comic-book enthusiast, (basically being filled with what many people would call “useless trivia”), I don’t know that much about Captain Marvel. I didn’t really know her origins, the extent of her powers, her relation to the Avengers, anything at all really! All I knew was that she was pretty much a badass with enough powers to make short work of most of the heroes in the MCU.


This will be a spoiler-free review, so there’s only really a certain amount I can say. First of all – if you are on the fence about it, or maybe a little skeptical – go and watch it. I’ve noticed a lot of negative energy surrounding the film; although a good portion of this was before its release, which was to be taken with a pinch of salt.) But I believe, like many others I know, that you can only judge something once you’ve seen it. Besides, why would you not want to see it? It’s the last MCU movie before Avengers: Endgame. It should be on your MCU checklist of Marvel-related things to do before you gear up for what is guaranteed to be an unbelievable cinematic experience.

I’ll admit I was a little skeptical about seeing Captain Marvel initially. Not because I was riding the wave of negativity mustered by some of those on Twitter, but just because I was almost clueless on everything to do with her. But I’m so glad I decided to go for it. I was always going to. It was on my checklist.)

I felt Brie Larson’s incarnation of Captain Marvel set the bar for anyone else who may try and take up the mantle. (in the probably very far future.) I felt as though she was very likeable and had that Marvel-whit about her. Although, her performance is elevated with the addition of many other characters, namely Samuel Jackson as a young 90’s-esque Nick Fury. I can’t really say too much about the other characters, as it may spoil the movie somewhat, but the other characters really help give the movie some heart and help in setting her on the path to become Captain Marvel.


I know that sometimes when a new MCU movie comes out, some people will ask the question “Was it like Avengers? Guardians of the Galaxy?” or various other comparisons to other MCU films. In truth, I don’t really think it does compare to any. Okay, that’s a little bit of a fib. At first it screams that style that is “Cosmic Marvel” but that doesn’t last too long, and it really comes into its own. I don’t wish to compare to any other film, and some might feel like comparing it, but I feel that such a good job was done to make it unique, that it shouldn’t.

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Make sure you stay after the credits!

I walked out sort of shocked. I didn’t think I’d grow to like a character I barely knew anything about so quickly. I just had the same thought going through my head – “What a badass!”. I just can’t help but think that she’s going to fit right in with Avengers: Endgame. I know some who are skeptical for various reasons, but sadly I cannot really indulge talking about them. You’ll have to formulate your own opinion on that front.

I felt a lot of emotions throughout the movie. Several times I almost felt like welling up a little, and it did pull at my heartstrings a little bit. And of course, it wouldn’t be an MCU movie without some quippy one-liners and some bizarre comedic moments. It might not invoke some of those emotions for everyone, but it’s one hell of a ride either way. I believe that is it definitely not a bad movie like some people have been attempting to make it out to be. But hey, I’m not here to tell you whether you’ll like it or not, I personally just liked it a lot. You may hate it, hopefully not, or you may love it (Maybe even more than Winter Soldier! Gasp!) but it’s worth watching it and seeing for yourself. There’s a lot of mixed reviews out there, and it’s appearing to be in some cases look like a bit of a marmite scenario. (That’s a “Love it or hate it” scenario for anyone who’s not with me!)


Well, I’ve pretty much exhausted all I can say without spoiling anything. In a way I’ve not really said all that much. My argument is – if you’re undecided, just go and see it yourself. I will admit I want people to like it, maybe not as much as some of the popular MCU choice favourites like Black Panther, Winter Soldier, Civil War or Infinity War, but I know for some it will be up there with their choices at least. Enough waffling! If you’re after something a little different, you can’t go far wrong than watching Captain Marvel.


 

Dungeons and Dragons: Suddenly Mainstream?


Anyone else feel like Dungeons and Dragons keeps popping up everywhere? At first, I thought it was a coincidence. Whenever you get into something, whether it’s a TV show, book series or a new hobby, you always feel like you notice it more, mainly because you pay attention to it more. (And maybe internet cookies. They definitely have a role to play.) But generally, it’s because you just end up noticing it more. But now I’m starting to feel like maybe it’s a little more than that.


I got into playing Dungeons and Dragons in the later part of 2018. A few close friends of mine had shown great interest in trying to start a campaign, and were eager to recruit me to their ranks, and they knew I would be totally hooked, because they know me far too well. It didn’t take long for them to convince me to start thinking of a character to create, whilst our soon-to-be Dungeon-Master began crafting a world for us to venture, filling it with various characters, locations, as well as giving it a lore and history. And voicing goblins to a point where beer would almost shoot out my nose.

Creating my character wasn’t that hard. I cheated a little bit, and I used a character template that I had created years ago from my World of Warcraft Roleplaying days. Although there were some slight differences to make her fit into the Dungeons and Dragons setting, but overall the character was practically no different. The created character Shaavra Ragescar, a female half-orc fighter, formerly a Kingsguard of the soon-to-be King in the soon-to-be created world. Our Dungeon-Master was nice and asked us to give him our character backstories, and he would see where they could fit into the world he made.

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I recommend trying to get your hands on a copy of the 7th Edition of the player rules if you’re serious. Even just one person having it in your group is enough!

After getting past some of the initially confusing character creation details, involving choosing stats and such, it wasn’t long before we all got stuck in, rolling dice like our fictional character lives really did depend on it (which they did), and occasionally trying out awkward voice acting, and trying to get more comfortable in roleplaying. It isn’t easy unless you’re used to it, and it takes a lot of practice. But we’re not all sat around a table in full-on cosplay of our characters, taking everything super-duper seriously. No. More often than not, I’ve usually got a mild buzz on after two pints due to me being a lightweight, and there’s some snacks going around, baked goods as our host loves to bake something new for us every week, and there’s plenty, and I mean plenty, of laughs.


I’m getting off track. This isn’t about my first time playing and getting to grips with Dungeons and Dragons, that can be another post for another day. This is about noticing how popular it seems to be. I mean, to some degree it’s always been popular. It’s always had a fierce and loyal following. And it isn’t a single aspect or reason as to why it suddenly seems a bit more popular in the mainstream now. My friends and I were talking about the popular Youtube series, “Critical Role” which they had gotten me hooked on, despite being four hours long at a time. They thought that maybe this was a reason as to why it’s grown in popularity. These are voice actors famous in their fields for video games such as Overwatch and the likes, that get together once a week and play Dungeons and Dragons for everyone to watch and enjoy, as they get fully immersed into their characters, and obviously give amazing voices to them, and adventure in a world that’s oh-so-carefully crafted and thought about.

There’s zero doubt that these loveable nerds have helped to grow the fanbase of Dungeons and Dragons. But I don’t know if they’re the sole reason. In my personal opinion, I feel as though the level of escapism that D&D brings is tantalizing. Maybe it’s to do with the rise of social media in the last decade, and how gathering around a table with your friends for hours and playing pretend in a world with uncanny consequences is just too tempting. Maybe it’s because, generally speaking, it’s very cheap to enjoy playing D&D, and as long as someone has access to some of the books needed and can afford some dice for the many rolls required, it’s not hard to assemble a team and get started. Maybe it’s because it offers an experience that no video game can truly offer. Maybe it’s because Matt Mercer is that good. (It probably is, He’s such a gifted Dungeon-Master!)


Like most things, I think it’s a culmination of all of the above and more. There’s no single source for what seems to be a rise in Dungeons and Dragons. Although, I feel as thought Critical Role has certainly helped to open to the idea to people who may no have even heard of it before, but they’re now completely hooked and like dressing up as High Elves for every game session. If you’ve ever been curious, or perhaps know someone who plays, or even if you’re just after something new to watch on Youtube, no harm in checking it out. Dice are cheaper than Diamonds.


 

Kitchen Confidential: Anthony Bourdain


I discovered who Anthony Bourdain was too late. I first found out who he was while scrolling through Twitter and seeing that former President Barack Obama had tweeted about someone who he deemed a friend, had unfortunately died. It was when I noticed that the tweet had over 1 million likes that it peaked my interest.

Woah, this guy was clearly something of a big deal. And before I know it, Twitter is flooded with people talking about how they’re going to miss Anthony Bourdain, how there will never be anyone like him again, and how iconic he was with his various books and TV shows. Now, I’ve heard the name once or twice in the past, but I hadn’t really paid much attention. But this was clearly someone who was something of an idol. But I knew absolutely nothing about him, what he had done whatsoever. But I knew I had to find out.


It started like most things, with a quick google search. Anthony Bourdain was a chef, and a very well known one at that. Maybe not a super-fancy one, but a chef with strong opinions and lots of character and flare. One of the first thing that came up when I searched for him, aside from lots of tributes pouring out from every corner of the internet, was one of his famous TV shows called “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”. From just looking at the title, this wasn’t a dead giveaway. Although, finding out he was a chef did give me the hint that it was most likely a cooking show of some description. Which I guess was half right, in a way. Turns out most of the seasons of this show were on Netflix, and I instantly flicked the TV on, got comfy, and decided to see what the show was all about.

7 hours later, I decided to take a small break. I was instantaneously hooked. The first episode was set in Myanmar, which already seemed quite different for a location for a cooking show. I tuned in expecting it to all be about the food of the country, and okay, that was sort of right, but it had so much more to tell. Food was the glue that held the show together, but it showcased the culture of the country, as well as famous and sometimes infamous parts of its history, and had many interviews with people that were either experts in their field, or just someone who knew the area well, or even just random people who happened to be in the right place at the right time (Although, they usually had food to offer!) It was a mixed bag, but it had so many interesting facts and views that helped to give you a new perspective, it was hard to not keep watching. I didn’t really know anything about Myanmar, but I knew slightly more than I did beforehand after having watched it. Then there was Korea Town in California, then Quebec, London, Libya, Ethiopia, Manila. He really had started to cover the globe with this show, and in some cases going to very dangerous or isolated parts of the world, and always diving right into the cuisine and exploring the culture and how it more often than not, links together.

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Don’t expect 5-Star restaurants.

He had this gift of the gab unlike a lot of hosts for these kinds of shows, and what with visiting so many places that peaked your curiosity, and often going into such depth, it was hard to resist. He made practically everything he ate seem irresistible. (Most things anyway, some seemed interesting… but only for the brave to try, which he certainly was. I don’t fancy trying “Blood Soup”.) And before I knew it, I was starting to get close to finishing the episodes that were available on Netflix, but I had to have more. And if not for more episodes of Parts Unknown, then it had to be something else. Without thinking I ordered his first book, Kitchen Confidential and eagerly awaited Amazon to ring my doorbell.


As soon as it arrived, I was stuck in. From what I’d gathered from my Dad who had already read it, it was about his early career as a chef from his humble beginnings, through all his various misadventures, pretty much to the point where he was given the chance to work on television.

From working in small-time restaurants in his home town, to moving to New York and jumping from place to place, all the time, his life never seemed to slow down, other than the occasional slump. He wrote in such a colourful language, it was hard to put down. (Admittedly, it did take me a while to finish it since I’m a bit of a slow reader, but I didn’t want to finish it too quickly either! It was great.) From his brief memories as a child in France, especially his first time having oysters, which for him was described wonderfully as this defining moment in his life, and changed him forever – to starting his first job, talking about all the various characters he worked with, whom a lot seemed fairly dodgy bunch, but full of character and must had been undoubtedly unforgettable for him.

From these early chapters to his journey into Culinary School, and about his many different teachers for the different aspects of cooking. Some of whom sounded ruthless, as he described the dread of particular classes. He talks a lot in these chapters about his comrades, and how it was a very sink-or-swim atmosphere. It made the call of becoming a cook seem like a brutal path to following, which it is, even now. (Although he assured us that this is not the typical standard these days. Sometimes.)

Then we get to his misadventures in New York. This part of the book did feature some dark moments and showcased the problems he faced at this time in his chef as a career. From some very serious drug addictions to bouncing from restaurant to restaurant, and not really seeming to fit in anywhere for too long. What brief moments of success he had during this period didn’t seem to last, and he seemed almost cursed for a while, but of course, that would all change in time.

He talks about some of the characters he had worked for over the years, with one getting his own chapter, although he never gave away his real name, although he does reveal the location of where the restaurant was, which he says that anyone who’s been a chef in New York, or knew of the area or worked nearby, would know who he was. But he simply refereed to him as ‘Bigfoot’. He talks about him at great length, and about how merciless yet generous he could be. He took him in and lent him money to find a new place when he was down on his luck and was known for doing the same for many young chefs and helping to train them up and be more immersed with all the other factors that came with running a restaurant in general. From what Bourdain tells us of Bigfoot in this chapter – this guy knew how to run a restaurant well, like a well-oiled machine. How meticulous he would be with food orders, making sure he always got the best deal, and how he would treat those who didn’t give him anything but the best for his hard-earned money.

Later, Bourdain is now doing very well for himself. Married, working in decent restaurants and earning more than enough money, and had kicked his nasty heroin addiction. After taking us through an entire chapter of his daily routine as head chef, talking us through the many tasks he would have to do, as well as keeping his staff in check, taking deliveries and actually cooking, it seemed exhausting. Overall, he said that he would work 6-7 days a week, often working 14-hour shifts at a time. At this point, it’s very clear that to work in this field, you had to have the passion. You had to love almost every aspect of the work you had to do, which is was extraordinarily clear that Bourdain did, and he excelled at it.

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Those Knives though.

He also tells us about certain individuals that he worked with in the later parts in his career. Although he doesn’t give away most of their real names, he tells us how some of them never truly kicked their bad habits, as well as how some excelled further and shot up to fancy-hot-shots. He really worked with all kinds of people, from all over the world. Now, I really shouldn’t give too much away, since I do believe that it’s much more enjoyable to find out more yourself if you’re truly interested. Although, I will say that one of the last chapters in which he goes to Japan very briefly was amazingly written, and really captivated me, as it clearly did with him. I’m pretty sure I was at least craving sushi afterwards.


After finishing Kitchen Confidential, I felt a sadness overcome me. It had been one of my favourite reads in such a long time, and it was over, and knowing that he had unfortunately taken his own life added to that sadness. How could someone with such an amazing life, who had so much to offer, and brought so many people so much joy and intrigue possible even consider of taking their life? Sadly, that is the grim reality of mental illness. It affects anyone, and no one is exempt.

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Sadly, Bourdain died in 2018.

 

Regardless, he has obviously had a huge impact on so many people. Whether they were aspiring chefs, documentary aficionados, food lovers, or just enjoyed his flavourful writing, he had a lasting impact on everyone who had read or watched or maybe even tasted his work. I don’t have many heroes, but it’s unquestionable that Anthony Bourdain became one of mine quickly and swiftly, even after having passed on. If you haven’t heard of him, or seen or read his work, I highly recommend it. I can’t promise it’ll be your cup of tea, but you never know. It’s worth a shot.

 

Marvel Netflix: Cancellations

How is it that the Goliath known as Disney, who shows absolutely no sign of stopping or slowing down in terms of films and TV shows, make the strange and upsetting decision to cancel some of their most popular shows? Okay, to start off by cancelling Iron Fist was a somewhat foreseeable move by Disney, but to then cancel Luke Cage? I know some people weren’t huge fans of the show, although personally I did enjoy the style of the show, as I particularly liked a lot of the villains in the shows. Then Jessica Jones got axed. Why would they do such a thing? Maybe the second season wasn’t up to everyone’s standard, but to cancel it just felt wrong. Then they came for Daredevil. How could they do this? Did the Disney executives not even bother to watch Season 3?

Something seemed wrong, and Marvel fans around the world were angry, rightly so, and demanding answers. Fans around the world hold their breath as we await the fate of the Punisher, who unironically will make his final stand before being undoubtably being slashed down and meeting the same fate as his Marvel Netflix companions. But why is this happening?

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Only Jessica Jones and The Punisher remain.. (For now!)

At first, it all seemed like a bit of a strange and eerie mystery, with no one at Disney really giving any explanation, and Twitter being filled with the anger of thousands of fans, and the sad farewells of actors, writers and others from the cast and crew who helped work and create these shows. If the CBS Warner Bros DC comics shows are surviving, how is it that these Marvel shows with a lot of money behind them are getting cancelled and the indisputably slightly more corny shows that DC are churning out live onwards and upwards? I’m not saying I dislike the CW DC shows, but there’s no doubt the qualities between the shows differ. But this isn’t a Marvel vs DC argument, because I like both for very different reasons, it was just weird that these good shows were dropping like flies.

Like I said earlier, it was arguable to foresee the fall of Iron Fist. I didn’t mind it myself, and season 2 did show a lot of improvement, but most people shrugged it off as tough luck. Not many were worried. It was not long after when Luke Cage got the axe that people began to worry slightly more. Some people were fans, some were not. Perhaps they were going to end their own shows and merge them in a “Heroes for Hire” show? That could work. It could be interesting to portray as its own standalone series.

People wanted answers, and took to Twitter and other social media platforms, and wanting to know why some of these shows were cancelled. Word gets out about how Disney’s soon-to-be-made streaming service, Disney Plus, was going to come into existence, and they had negotiated with Netflix and bought back the rights to the characters. Jessica Jones and the Punisher hang in the balance, although no-one appears to be holding their breath over whether they are going to be cancelled or not; at this point it seems all too likely they’ll meet the same fate as the rest of the Defenders.

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Don’t let the mouse take you down, Frank.

But why are they cancelling these shows? It’s not very clear at this point. It is known that the new Disney streaming service coming summertime this year will showcase some new live-action Marvel shows, featuring characters such as Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Whilst this is interesting and somewhat exciting news, the fact that some of the well-established shows created by Netflix are sorely missed already, and personally, I’m either scared about them attempting to reboot the shows, or just deciding to leave them alone entirely. I feel this would be a very foolish decision, since the shows are involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Okay, maybe they’re not rubbing shoulders with the Avengers, but there’s lots of nice little hints and Easter Eggs that prove they’re all in the same universal setting e.g. the Battle of New York.

For my part, I just hope that they decide to bring the shows back with the original crews and cast that have worked on the previous incarnation on Netflix. It certainly doesn’t seem like an impossible feat, and it would greatly appease fans worldwide. I think a lot of people have come to like Charlie Cox’s version of Daredevil and trying to run another reboot with someone else will bring up constant criticism, and it very well may not take off as well as the original Netflix series. This deal may not spell doom for the shows yet, as when Daredevil was cancelled and the inevitable outcry came, Marvel was quick to announce that there would be a future for Daredevil, although there wasn’t anymore details than that really. Is he coming back in a movie? A new series? Will it be Charlie Cox? Will it be a continuation from Netflix’s version? We simply don’t know anymore.

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Daredevil was cancelled practically as soon as the acclaimed third season came out!

We know there is going to be a future for Daredevil. And it’s as vague as hell. The other shows, we can assume are probably not going to see the light of a TV screen again. Yet we have no idea. The internet continues to speculate wildly, and no more answers seem to be coming, for now at least.

I think Marvel will eventually come out with some of their plans for some of these shows or characters in the future, but that will undoubtedly be closer to summer this year once the Disney streaming service is much nearer to completion. For now, it is anyone’s guess as to what’s going to happen next in the coming days of Marvel TV shows.

For now, all we really know is, Iron Fist and Luke Cage have bitten the dust. Daredevil seems to as well, although with a glimmer of hope perhaps. Jessica Jones and Punisher seem to be next for the chopping block. However, it does, for now at least, seem to be limited to Marvel’s Netflix ventures. Various other Marvel-related shows appear to be safe for the time being, such as Cloak and Dagger and The Runaways. Maybe it’ll stay that way, but like I said, no one knows what the future holds for the ever-hungry Goliath that is Disney. Disney money can do whatever it wants.  


 

2019 – New Year, New Challenges.

It’s been a while since my last post, and I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been super busy writing, but that’s not entirely true.


The last stretch of 2018 was busy, working, seeing relatives, eating like a pig, etc. It’s frustrating that I’ve not been keeping to my workout routines, or my running, but December is a month that tests all of us in lots of different ways. For me, it resulted in working more and comfort eating and seeing as many people as I could over the busy holiday period.

But I knew that once it was new year, I would do the typical “New Year, New Me” crap that everyone loves to do. I also knew, that I was a secret weapon to kick-start the process for myself. And it was cruel.

I’d signed up for the Garstang 10k Run, which I had not trained for whatsoever since November, and even then, my training was beginning to slip up, as was my diet. (My birthday is in November, I’m not made of stone.)

I’d been dreading it. I considered dropping out, and telling myself that I should do little runs, train up for the next one, whenever that comes around. (I am also going to sign up for the Manchester 10k Run too, so I have another running goal for the summertime!) But, I felt a bit like if I gave up, I’d ending up beating myself up about it relentlessly, and maybe even sink further into a rut over it. I would end up moping around about it, and fall into a little spiral, and it would take a huge blow to my self-confidence. So screw it, I went for it. I signed up to it, I should make sure I run it, right?

So I ran it yesterday. (On a cold, wet, windy and pretty horrid Sunday morning.) I wasn’t feeling at all confident at first. I was worried about my breathing, my legs, and how hilly the run would be, and I was right to be worried about all three. But, I just went for it. I didn’t go crazy and push myself too far. (I did almost have to have a tactical throw-up about 400 metres from the finish, which was a new and horrible sensation.)

But I finished. It was one of the worst 10k runs for me ever, only due to the amount of times I felt queasy whilst running, and the weather was pretty poor. But I felt amazing about myself afterwards. (aside from some chaffing – No, no I won’t go into it.) And whilst I’m hobbling around a bit today as a result, I feel pretty good about myself.


Okay, so far this whole first post back is just seems like me patting myself on the back, and okay, I am a little bit. But I don’t do it often, and I did come out the other end feeling incredibly motivated and encouraged for the rest of this year. I just need to keep that ball rolling, and don’t let it slow down too much.


But, writing and running, whilst both require a lot of self motivation, are completely different. I’m still a little worried about getting into the full swing of writing as much as I can, as often as I can. I need to find the same kind of motivation that I had in regards to running and apply it to my writing. I still want to keep this blog active, even if it’s only me reading it. (That and some of my friends who’re nice enough to let me bug them to read it!) But it’s going to be a new challenge.

If anyone has any advice for what personally helps to motivate them to sit down and start typing, especially if you’re trying to juggle things around as so many writers are so often doing, feel free to speak up!

Here’s to 2018, and hopefully a successful 2019. 


 

One Long Weekend in Dublin


I used to travel a fair amount when I was younger. Both my parents enjoyed going to new places when and where they could and wanted to bring me with them to experience other countries: try their cuisine, see the landscapes, and understand and appreciate the culture. I was always a bit nervous, but I embraced the experiences when and where I could.

Sadly, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t have as many opportunities to be able to jet off to new locations and adventure as much as I used to. But I didn’t want that to spell the end for trying to get out there and visit new places, and not end up in a rut of only going on a beach holiday to somewhere in Spain again and again.

So, me and my girlfriend had a sit down and had a think about what we could do that was both affordable, not -too- far away, and somewhere neither of us had been. We started by thinking of places we’d like to visit; Italy, Germany, Cyprus. We only wanted a long weekend away, just for a nice little bit of escapism. We finally decided on Dublin, Ireland. Neither of us had ever been, and we couldn’t get much closer to a short journey than that. I had always wanted to visit Ireland, after having learned a fair amount during my history lessons in college. Booking tickets was fairly priced, and we managed to find a nice place to stay in the Temple Bar area.

 


We’d decided to set off early and get one of the first flights out of Manchester to Dublin, so we could spend our first day exploring and getting our bearings without losing any precious time. It was a stress-free journey, at least in our experience. When your flight only lasts about 30 minutes in the air, you don’t exactly have much time to stress out about anything. I literally only got to read the first chapter of my book before we were already set for our descent.

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Although it’d been an early start, as soon as we were able to drop-off our luggage at the hotel, we immediately set off to the nearest touristy sight – in this case, Dublin Castle. It was a lovely building, but only had fairly small bitesize bits of history dotted around. But then again, I’m a bit biased and could spend a long time just reading information about a place. Not that Dublin Castle wasn’t interesting, it was perfect weather to look around the castle grounds, and it is still an officially used building, so only part of it was open to the public.

What I really loved was just behind the castle: The Chester Beatty museum – a gentleman who I’d never heard of before, but left knowing a lot more about. Now I could go on for a while about this since I enjoyed it so much, so I’ll do my best to try and keep it brief.

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, an American, nicknamed the “King of Copper” was something of a business legend for his time. Having made his fortune from mining in the United States, he had moved over to Dublin in 1950, and became a private citizen. Beatty was a collector; European, Asian, African and Middle-Eastern texts, objects, all sorts. Some items were hundreds of years old, from all the corners of the globe, all carefully preserved and cared for at the museum, which has been open to the public since 1954. Although a large amount were religious texts and manuscripts, this didn’t make it any less interesting whatsoever, as there was bundles of information for everything that was on display. Even though it wasn’t the largest museum, it did still contain a fair amount; and if you took the time to stop and read everything, you would still be there for a while and learn a lot too. Overall, I was a huge fan, and we even ended up stopping by again a couple of days later just to try and get a little memento from the gift shop.

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We were a bit knackered after our first day, even though we hadn’t walked around too much. When searching for somewhere nice to eat in Temple Bar, we weren’t short of choices. We always try to make the effort to try and go somewhere completely new whenever we go anywhere, rather than restaurant chains which can be somewhat same-ish and a bit boring occasionally. We spent a lovely evening at a nice Japanese restaurant called “Eatokyo Noodles and Sushi Bar” where we subsequently stuffed our faces with Gyozas, Sushi, Japanese-style stir fry and Katsu Curry.

We’re big fans of Japanese food, and we jump at the chance to try somewhere that may have some different items on the menu. It was only a small place, but thankfully we were able to get seats even thoughit was busy. If you’re a fan of Japanese food and find yourself in Dublin for whatever reason definitely worth your time and money. (A darn side cheaper than going to Yo-Sushi.)


Staying in Temple Bar was a good choice. Right in the middle of the city, and everything was either in walking distance, or we could just get one of the hop-on-hop-off tour buses if we were going a little further afield. But we were lucky enough to have good weather practically the entire time we were there, so we pretty much walked everywhere. (Although, it was a good thing we got the bus back after visiting the Jameson Distillery…)

I think it’s fair to say, if you go to Dublin, you will end up at the Guinness Storehouse. Even if you’re not a fan of the “Black Stuff” you must appreciate how popular it is, and how far its reach is all over the world. We’ve all seen one of their adverts at some point in our lives, and most of us have tried it. (I don’t mind it myself, I used to drink a lot of it when I turned 18!) Although the Storehouse is a bit out of the way, it’s still easily within walking distance of the city centre.

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You know you’re close once you’re assaulted by the many smells from the brewery, as you start walking close to the brewery grounds. Once inside (and you’ve fought your way through the humongous gift shop) you take a nice leisurely walking tour of the entire process it’s making. With a very visual and interactive tour, showing you step-by-step the processes in which the good stuff is made, as well as the history.

Whilst most of the Storehouse is simply a testament to how big the brand is, it is impressive how far they’ve come: The process for making Guinness, the history of the brewery and the product’s surge in popularity, the brand’s various advertising campaigns, they’ve pretty much got all their bases covered. The best part of the tour is the last part when you get your free pint of Guinness, and get to take it to the sky-lounge. A fantastic 360 degree view of the city, it is definitely worth lugging up all those stairs to get. (Although don’t drink too much, or if you do, go down carefully.)


We had purchased the Dublin Pass, which got us into a lot of the iconic locations in Dublin for free or for a reduced price. If you’re going to Dublin with the intent of going full-tourist mode, I would highly recommend it. We used it for just about everywhere we visited, so it was well worth the money. We also used it to get in Dublin Zoo! One day on our ventures we hopped on the bus to Phoenix Park and thankfully it was the perfect day for it.

We got off the bus earlier and decided to walk through the park to Dublin Zoo, which is nicely placed near the middle. Admittedly we didn’t spend that long at the Zoo, and didn’t end up going around it entirely, but we had other things we wanted to do that day. It was a nice layout, but with it being a hot summers day, most of the animals were all tuckered out and sunbathing. Can’t say I blamed them.

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Afterwards, we made our way down to the Jameson Distillery. My girlfriend had to talk me into going, since I was unsure whether it would be as good as the Guinness Storehouse, and there were plenty of other things we could’ve done to fill the time. But she insisted that we go, so of course we did! It was the right decision,I ended up enjoying it more than the Guinness Storehouse by a mile.

There wasn’t a walking tour, but instead a guided tour. I loathed the idea at first, since I’d rather just wander around and read the available material. However, I was delightfully wrong, as our tour guide was very charming and knowledgeable on everything – the process for creating whiskey, the history of the distillery (which was even directly involved with the Easter Rising), the family history behind the brand, and about how Jameson are operating now.

Typical, I know, but it was very well laid out. We were given three whiskeys, one being Jameson, one American leading whiskey (Jack Daniel’s) and a leading Scottish whiskey (Johnnie Walker). We were told about whiskey tasting etiquette (I had to restrain my instinct to just down the shot, some habits die hard.) we compared all three, and discussed the differences between all of them in terms of taste, smell, and even how it moved around in the glass.

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Thankfully my girlfriend wasn’t half as buzzed as I was afterwards (She made me finish 2 of her whiskey shots, and I wasn’t about to say no!) as she managed to guide me to the bus stop. We hopped on and made our way back to the hotel and started to decide where to eat tonight. After a failed blunder at finding somewhere to eat one night, trying to find what we thought was a restaurant but turned out to be a takeaway, we had found somewhere named “The Hungry Mexican” that sounded appealing with some rave reviews.

The restaurant was quite literally a hole in the wall. Only a small place stuck between two shops, right by a very busy bus-stop, we walked past it by accident when trying to find it. The décor inside was simple – cheap and cheerful tables, with all the walls painted black. Our waitress came to the table to order drinks, and she returns with a large piece of brown paper. “Are you expecting us to make a mess?” I ask jokingly. “No” she replied “I expect you to draw!” as she plopped down a container full of crayons. She then turned to point out the wall behind us was covered in dozens of drawings from previous customers. (Many of which were of Donald Trump failing to assemble a wall correctly.)

Although we were a bit baffled, we went with it. Why not? We’ve got time to kill while we’re waiting for our food. I can only draw Snoopy, so that’s exactly what I drew. A few minutes later the chef comes out from the kitchen, with several sombreros, handing them out to customers if they wanted to wear them. Everyone in the restaurant bar a party of Americans instantly donned the hats, so we thought again: Why not? Then our food came out, and it was just amazing.

Typically, we went for the nachos and burritos, but they were just delicious. It was amusing watching people walk past, peek their head through the window after having looked at the menu and then walk on by, as they probably thought “I’m not wearing a hat like that to eat here!” they couldn’t be more wrong. If they’d brought out a poncho and insisted, I wore that too, I wouldn’t question it. It ended up being our favourite meal the whole time we were over there, and we got a pretty funny story out of it too.

 


On our last full day, we were tired; We’d done a lot of walking at this point, and just as much eating. We never did any shopping whilst we were there, although from what we saw we imagined it would have been pretty good. But we only had small suitcases (Actually, -I- had a small suitcase… My girlfriends’ case was somewhat larger, but already full.) We stopped by Trinity College, which was about 5 minutes away from our hotel, and it was positively bustling. We didn’t hang around too much, but it was a very impressive and large campus overall.

When we stopped for a quick lunch, we decided to stop by a nice little spot we’d walked past a few times in Temple Bar. It was called “Off-Beat Donuts”. If you go to Dublin, you absolutely need to go to Off-Beat Donuts. Honestly, it put every major donut chain to complete shame. Apparently, it’s only localised in Dublin, although it could -absolutely- expand further if it wanted to. Red Velvet, Ferrero Rocher, Reese’s Pieces… There were so many different ones to choose from, we ended up picking some up for breakfast on our final day. We both instantly loved it, and we’ve done nothing but sing songs of praise for it ever since. Make. Sure. You. Try. Them.

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The last place we ended up visiting was further down the river more towards the docks. It was the EPIC Immigration museum. We thought it would be good to end with something more educational, since most of the time we spent drinking and eating. It was very interesting, giving an entire history of Ireland’s immigration throughout the ages, telling us all about various famous figures, up to modern days. There were many famous Americans with Irish ancestry presented and lots of interactive features scattered all the way through the museum. Even though the museum is sort of out of the way from everything else, it’s worth going if you fancy learning a bit more about Ireland’s history, and how they as a people have spread across the globe.


To sum up, it was a worthwhile trip. The time we spent in Dublin was worth every penny, as we absorbed as much history and culture (and alcohol) as we could and didn’t waste a single opportunity. We ate at some lovely restaurants that we have done nothing but recommend to people we know if they ever find themselves on the Emerald Isle. I went over thinking I knew a decent amount of Irish history, and left knowing a lot more. If you’re ever looking for a nice long weekend away, Dublin is the perfect escape. Everyone we met was lovely and welcoming, and I don’t think we had a single negative thing to think about afterwards.

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We may not get the chance to go again for a while, although I do hope we get the chance to stop over again sometime, even if it’s only for another long weekend. Although we saw a lot, there were still a lot of things we sadly didn’t get the time for. We had a wonderful time. We actually went to celebrate being together for 5 years – and it’s fair to say it was an unforgettable experience that we’ll both remember fondly.