The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (2017 Edition)

Happy new year everybody!

2017 is in the past and we’re all looking forward (well, we all should) to a great 2018. I wish you all the best and all the rest this new year’s day.
One last look at the last year before we move on. They’re all mixed bags, right? nothing is good if something isn’t bad and nothing’s really bad if… you get it. So on we go with:

The Good:

Though I moved here late in 2016, it’s 2017 which was the first full year in Mexico for me. En Serio, this was one of the best years of my life so far (and we’re talking quite a few years here…). A lot to be thankful for. GREAT people, amazing food, different work experiences, a continued cultural education, all of which leading to a really satisfying and gratifying year. México, ¡te queremos!

I also got the chance to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina as well as Lima, Peru this year. Another one of those things I couldn’t imagine in early 2016.
2017 was also the year I got my back side in gear, gathered all of my courage and edited my debut novel (which is actually my second) and am in the process of submissions. This is very exciting for yours truly and I hope 2018 will top it by a nice acceptance letter (hint hint).

I started collaborating with and contributing to two very interesting websites. One is hazavit, which is a Hebrew sports websites managed and updated by true sports fans who want to have an interest free discussion about the athletes, teams and the sports we’re passionate about. The other is of course, combat docket, who I’m proud to share my MMA related posts with. A group of real MMA fans, and practitioners who also want a discussion of this sport, that goes past the hype and the chewed up material that circulates in many other outlets. Here are links to my articles on both sites. I hope you read them, then browse for much more content. There are brilliant writers on and I’m sure you’d like what you see.

Hazavit articles (Hebrew)

Combat Docket (English)

And just when I thought this year couldn’t get any better, came Georges Saint-Pierre, my all time favorite Mixed Martial Artist and after a 4 years hiatus, he took the middleweight title in a spectacular fashion.

There’s a whole lot more to be thankful for, but
  • Those are things I’m not going to spill over in the interweb.
  • I don’t believe in the saying “Count your blessings”. You shouldn’t count them. Just be thankful. So thanks 2017. You’ve been good to me.

The Bad:

On a whole other level, 2017 was the biggest bitch since 1994…
Numbers-wise perhaps, 2017 wasn’t as bad as say… 2016. But God damn it 2017, you took Chester Bennington. You took Malcolm Young. You fucking took Chris Cornell, and you took Tom Petty, you musical thieving whore!

And The Ugly:

Well, we still have wars raging, hunger devastating lives, greed and corruption everywhere. Nothing new. Just more of the ugly sameness that we can’t seem to break off of.

But I am an optimist, and I still (and forever will) believe that the vast majority of humanity is good. And I’m a hopeful person. I know that we’re far from done.

On that positive note, let me wish you all a happy new year. Don’t be strangers now eh? come back here and check up on me once in a while. Good times ahead!

That Ain’t No Punishment

One doesn’t need a degree in psychology to know that once you get used to something being good, the expectation is that it stays that way. In the world of entertainment, this may be the most accented. A successful TV series normally develops a following, gathers momentum and reaches that crossroad where some fans give up and others stick around.

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An idiot. With a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out, learning.

Good morning. Or evening, or…. Well, it’s got to be morning somewhere… I mean sometime… you know, this whole time thingy is confusing so I’ll just stick to my original version. Good morning. Definitely morning. Or not.

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13 Reasons (not to)

Whatever you say about suicide, most chances are, your opinion would sound either heartless, patronizing or both, with a touch of sanctimonious preachy feeling. How can you ever begin to understand what goes through a person’s mind, or heart, that leads her to such a terminal decision. If you haven’t walked in these shoes, I believe the saying goes.
That is why I want to start this post by saying, I understand. I – to use the clinical term – sympathize. I am not here to judge. I am not here to shame. I am here to, most empathetically, disagree and discourage.
If you understood the context of the title, you’ve likely watched Netflix’s original series – 13 reasons. I’ve heard opinions and if nothing else, they are emotional and charged.
For what it’s worth, from an artistic point of view, I thought the series was made extremely well. Just ask yourself, at the end of the day, what you feel about each of the characters. I doubt you’d have a black or white opinion of most. It’s pretty clear who the “good guys” and who the “bad guys” are, but there are also varying degrees of redemptive qualities. The message is clear and unapologetic, as it should be. The results of bullying are always, and forever devastating. The ripples affect a great many.
I’m not really going to list 13 reasons not to commit suicide, and really – one is enough, but like Hannah Baker in the series, I’d ask you to read through before making your mind up about this post.
I am strongly opposed to the death penalty. I believe we have no right to take a life of a person, as horrible as that person might be. When we execute a human being, we pretty much commit the same crime – murder. I believe there is one, and only one case where taking another person’s life is justified – to protect your own life, or the life of someone who’s in immediate danger (a danger coming directly from the person in question).
For me, having this belief means that life is precious and should be protected at all cost. From this stand point, ending my own life is unacceptable (and again – this does not come to fault those who did, nor to paint me as superior in any way, shape or form).
People of faith wake up in the morning and of the first thing they do, is thanking the creator for restoring breath in their bodies and bringing them back to life (consciousness). We say this in good days, and we say it in our darkest days.
Not everyone is a believer, but I’d like to suggest that we keep this habit, as a daily reminder of the preciousness of life.
Buddhism tells us that “life is suffering”. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. These are things that we can change. This is something we can, and need to work on (ourselves). There are great teachers and literature, and I highly recommend consulting them. Life does not begin and end at school (unfortunately one of the best hotbeds for bullies and meanness).
A reminder. I am not pretending to have gone through each and every hardship (thank God) that people who committed suicides have. I am not in a competition. I want to say that – as I know very well – many people suffer more than I do. If so many of them find the way, I don’t feel I have the right to feel sorry for myself.
Sounds harsh, but I am not saying “Just buck up!” or “Stop whining”. I’m saying that at the end of the day, the responsibility is on us. And at the young age of high school, we simply (most of us) do not have the perspective.
That is where I turn the finger back at the environment. Yes, ultimately, everything we do is our responsibility. But we’re also responsible for each other. Part of bettering one’s self, is having empathy, and actively reaching out to help. Help an old person cross the road, or simply sitting down and listening to someone. Simply being available. And we’re responsible for the people we bring into this world and the education they receive.
It is our responsibility to teach our kids these lessons. To SHOW them that there’s always another way. To show them we are always there and available to listen. To fight this plague called bullying.
It is also true for adults. Not all suicides are committed by youngsters, and not all are a result of schoolyard bullies. Some are committed over other types of bullies. Banks and debtors, abusive husbands and so many other types of menacing forces in our lives.
It’s up to us to be there for each other.
I’ve been privileged to have some really good people in my life (Family, friends, complete strangers), and went through some pretty dark moments because I had that sense of safety. Not everyone has that – or FEEL that they have it.
While we can’t always fix someone else’s reality (we rarely can), we can always listen. We can always do our best to help with the load others may carry. We can always show empathy.
I honestly believe there’s far more good than bad in the world. But the good must be more visible, sound louder, be felt.
That is our responsibility. Look at each other in the eye when you speak. No need to pry, just make absolutely sure your message is clear – I’m here and you’re not alone. Never alone.

Hardwired… to rise again.

Metallica fans are divided into two main groups.
One group is made of people who heard the “Black album”, snorted and cried “Sellouts!” then vowed never to listen to this band ever!11!!!1!~
The other is made mostly of people who loved the “Black album” and gave the band the chance it so truly deserved.
Then came “Load” and “Reload” which further split the camp into the disappointed and the not so much.
I think that St. Anger really reunited everyone behind the collective WTF and that was that. Hard core fans stayed and others sought (and destroyed) other outlets.
To be perfectly honest, I loved the “Black album”. I think it’s a masterpiece. I even liked “Load” and tolerated “Reload”. I loved “Garage Inc.” (who doesn’t?) and still think “S&M” is genius. Heck, I even bought “St. Anger“.
That was it for me though. It was fairly obvious their heart wasn’t really in it. I wrote it off as an exercise in staying together post-Hetfield-drama.
Then came “Death Magnetic” and I wasn’t impressed. I was beginning to think that Metallica was really done.
When “Hardwired… to self destruct” was announced I was very skeptical. It seemed like one more attempt to stay relevant.
Then I heard “Moth into flame”.
Suddenly, something moved. It was my head, moving down and up. Almost automatically. Like the good ole times. Then I heard “Hardwired”, same result. Then “Atlas, Rise!”. Same. Could… could it be?… Could this actually be a good album after a long while?
I decided to take the plunge and bought the album. I got the “delux” version with the extra CD, cause Metallica live is always awesome, regardless.
The following is written after 3 times of going start to finish.
The first thought that bounced through my head was that there’s a lot of correspondence with past albums. Not repetition, just shout-outs to previous pieces. There’s some “ride the lightning” and “Kill ‘em all”, some “Justice” and “Master”. Some of Kirk’s work is very “Black album” and James dances well between the old ones and the “loads”. A lot of things that simply ring true.
Metallica has always been somewhat unfairly judged. On the one hand they “got it” whenever something didn’t sound original enough, then when they dared to go off-road, they got it for “not being Metallica”… a bit of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
So my first impression is that the men found the golden path between repetition and innovation.
My second impression – or rather confirmation – is that James is one of those really underrated lyricists. This guy wrote some really good lyrics in the day. Really good. And in this album (not on every song, but that’s just fine) he sharpened his pencil again. “Atlas” and “Moth” are but two example of how metal-heads (like Black Sabbath before them) can write some beautiful words, and still rock the hell out of the song.
Is this album “Master” level? No. It’s not going to threaten the top 3 of all times list. It has its ups and downs (though nothing bad).
But this album sounds as honest as they come. I think they found what they were looking for (creatively), for the first time since Jason’s departure, and they sound Metallica enough, with the right sound, the right feel.

This is a true Metallica album, and I hope you buy it. The passion of this band to overcome some real difficulties and keep going was always admirable, and we never know what would be the last new helping we get from the best Metal band of all times (Yes, I said it!).
Rock on!