Thursday, December 31, 2015

WOO HOO! The Expanse Renewed For 13-Episode Season 2 To Air in 2017

Excellent news! Syfy announced today that they have renewed The Expanse with a 13-episode order for Season 2, that will begin airing in 2017. The Expanse is based on the best-selling series of science fiction space opera books written by James S.A. Corey. The first four episodes of the 10-episode first season have aired so far, and are available for free online. The next new episode ("Back to the Butcher") will air on Tuesday January 5 at 10pm PST.

BOOK REVIEW: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

The sequel to The Emperor's Blades is The Providence of Fire. This is book 2 in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy written by Brian Staveley. Staveley deservedly won the Gemmel Morningstar Award for Best Debut fantasy Novel for The Emperor's Blades and has since signed a new contract to write four more books set in the same Universe that this young author dreamed up.

The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne is set in the Annurian Empire, in a world which basically has Bronze Age technology with the slight twist that there exist giant birds called kettrals which are large enough to allow a half-dozen full-grown men travel far distances riding them, And there are people called "leaches" who are able to perform magical feats (such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis, super-strength, etc) by "kenning" when they are close to the source of their power (called a "well.") Leaches are feared for their incredible powers but also socially stigmatized as evil and disgusting freaks of nature by the general public. Oh and there is a whole pantheon of gods, some of whom are actually walking around now and appear to be very interested in eliminating humans.

But enough about the setting, let's talk about the plot! As I mentioned above, this is the second book in the series (which is ostensibly a trilogy) and the story primarily follows the three children of the recently murdered Emperor Sanlitun Malkeenian: Adare, the eldest, the daughter who grew up among the trappings of royalty and knows the contours of the corridors of power in the Dawn Palace; Kaden, the eldest son and heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has spent the last 8 years or so being trained by monks to practice a form of mental discipline that will allow him to use a network of secret gates that will allow him to instantly be transported all over the Empire; and Valyn, the youngest and most physically capable of the three Malkeenian children, he has been training to become a Kettral fighter.

In Book 1, Adare appeared to be more of an afterthought as the story was told primarily from the perspective of the boys Kaden and Valyn. However in Book 2, Adare's point-of-view is front and center and this is a good thing. In fact, basically everything is better in Book 2, the plot is more intricate, the peril is more thrilling and the secondary characters are even more interesting. Some of these secondary characters are Pyrre (the matronly worshipper of the Blank God who is also a deadly assassin), Rampuri Tan (the erstwhile monk who is also incredibly skilled with a double-headed axe) and Triste (the potential concubine who may also be the earthly manifestation of a Goddess).

In fact, the question at the heart of the book involves these gods, called csestriim, and what their plans are for humanity. The plot focusses on the many plans and machinations of several players as they vie for control of the Unhewn Throne and the Annurian Empire.

Overall, The Providence of Fire is incredibly exciting, absolutely enthralling and exceedingly addictive. I can't wait until the story concludes with The Last Mortal Bond.

The Providence of Fire.
Brian Staveley.
Paperback: 607 pages.
 Tor Books.
Date Published: January 15, 2015.
Date Read: July 25, 2015.

OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Ark (Chidren of a Dead Earth, #1) by Patrick S. Tomlinson

Summary: A fun, thrilling and intriguing story combining space opera and mystery elements.

I had low expectations for The Ark (hey, it's available for only $2.99 on as an e-book!) but was intrigued by the high concept of a mystery/science fiction hybrid tale. One of my favorite reading experiences in 2015 was Ben Winters mystery/science fiction hybrid The Last Policeman trilogy so I had hopes that this book could be as good. That story combines a typical police procedural set in the context of 2012 New Hampshire in the shadow of the imminent arrival of extinction-level collision with an asteroid. In The Arka violent death occurs on a huge spaceship carrying the last fifty thousand humans on a centuries-long journey to Tau Ceti after the Earth is destroyed by an encounter with a black hole. The main character is a male (and manly) cop named Bryan Benson who used to be a sports hero and the setting is culturally familiar enough to Americans, with interesting SF details (digital implants, hundreds of years in the future with associated technological advances, living in an artificial environment) and a compelling plot.

The story is peopled with a very diverse cast and the story raises some thought-provoking questions and scenarios: What should be preserved from the cultural heritage of all of humanity? How and when should the death penalty be used when there are only 50k humans left? What are the ethics of forced universal contraception? Are sociological phenomena like elitism, heteronormativity and class permanent and inevitable? What kind of societal and governing structure would be best to insure humanity's survival if we were reduced to the population of a mid-sized city? All of these questions are raised while Tomlinson manages to deliver a fun, thrilling story that combines an exciting police thriller with thoughtful science fiction.

I'm very much looking forward to the sequels in The Children of a Dead Earth series as there are several important questions that are raised towards the end of the book which make the reader wanting more. In the end that's one measure of a story well told.

Book 2 in the series, Trident's Forge, comes out in early 2016.

 Title: The Ark (Children of a Dead Earth, #1)
Author: Patrick S. Tomlinson.
Paperback: 400 pages.
 Angry Robot.
Date Published: November 3, 2015.
Date Read: December 22, 2015.


OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).


Monday, December 28, 2015

EYE CANDY: Michael Thurston (reprise)

Michael Thurston is one of my favorite male models. He is incredibly handsome and has an amazing body. He has already appeared as Eye Candy two times before (August 31, 2015 and October 19, 2015). He has his own gym in Britain and is beginning to be quite well-known as a trainer. He's listed s 6-feet tall and 25 years old.

If you want to see more of Michael, I encourage you to check out his Instagram page (@mikethurston). Enjoy!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters

Ben H. Winters is the author of The Last Policeman trilogy. I had seen mentions of the series for years on Goodreads (via automated recommendations) and was intrigued by the premise: a police procedural set in the context of the imminent destruction of the Earth by an approaching asteroid. As you know, my two favorite genres are speculative fiction and mystery, so this would be an example of a rare cross-genre hybrid. Sadly, most mystery-SF mashups tend to slight one of the genres and have generally left me feeling unsatisfied or somewhat disappointed.

Disappointing was my overall evaluation of another well-known mystery-SF hybrid trilogy, Jo Walton's Small Change books (Farthing, Ha'Penny and Half a Crown). These are a series of British murder mysteries set in an alternative history where Great Britain appeases Germany and thus Hitler's Third Reich is not defeated. Ultimately, I felt that the Small Change books, did not succeed as speculative fiction or police/thrillers, but were more focussed on making cogent and compelling commentaries on the slippery slope of unchecked anti-Semitism and seductiveness of fascism.

Happily disappointing was not a word I would associate with any of The Last Policeman books: The Last Policeman, Countdown City and World of Trouble. The author does an excellent job of effectively putting the reader in the situation where you really believe that you are living in a modern America that has an execution date of October 3, 2012 (less than 6 months away when we begin the first book). After ingesting so many post-apocalyptic works recently (like AMC's The Walking Dead, Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, George Miller's Mad Max Fury Road, Wesley Chu's Time Salvager) it was a thrilling revelation to discover that the time period right before an apocalyptic event is also ripe with artistic possibility and compelling melodrama. (I think this was why people like myself were so annoyed and frustrated with AMC's Fear The Walking Dead which was billed as a prequel to AMC's The Walking Dead but then basically skipped depicting any salient details of how the zombie apocalypse ended up destroying civilization in Southern California.)

So, in addition to providing a compelling science fiction setting with the drip-drip inclusion of little details that engulf the reader with feelings of verisimilitude, Winters does not skimp the mystery/police procedural aspects of these SF-mystery hybrids.

The main character is Hank Palace, a relatively inexperienced police patrolman in Concord, New Hampshire who has just landed his first dead body as a police detective (which he was promoted to only because so many police officers and other professionals are walking away from their jobs to spend their last 6 months on earth crossing items off their bucket lists instead of clocking in at a job which seems irrelevant when life as we know it will end in the foreseeable future).
Hank is an orphan, and has wanted to be a police officer ever since his mother was murdered when he was about 13 which is a little more than a decade ago. Even though the body presents as just another suicide (considering the fin du monde setting, the suicide rate has been steadily rising) Palace is troubled by certain details (the victim, Peter Zell, was an insurance adjuster who used an expensive belt to hang himself in the bathroom of a MacDonald's). The first question we have to figure out as readers is does Hank just really want this suicide to be a murder to give his own decision to continue working meaning or is this really a murder? And what would cause someone to murder someone and disguise it as a suicide when everyone is going to die soon when the asteroid hits?

Hank doggedly follows the available clues which leads him to pursue a theory of the death involving insurance fraud and so he goes to Zell's place of business. There, he questions Zell's co-workers, including Naomi Eddes, a woman with a shaved head who was friendly with Zell and whom Hank appears to be attracted to as she reminds him of his former girlfriend. Hank also attempts to question Zell's sister but she appears to be avoiding him by refusing to call him back. As Hank learns more he discovers that Zell was starting to experiment with addictive drugs (OxyContin, etc) several months before he died. Even though I was able to solve the mystery of who killed Peter Zell before it was revealed the story is still compelling as we learn more about Hank's life (he has a sister named Nico who is convinced that the government has a secret plan to save humanity when the asteroid hits), he gains a pet dog and we get further glimpses of the many ways that society begins to fray and disintegrate as the asteroid gets closer and closer.

Title: The Last Policeman (The Last Policeman Trilogy, Book 1).
Ben H. Winters.
Paperback: 336 pages.
 Quirk Books.
Date Published: July 10, 2012.
Date Read: November 28, 2015.


OVERALL GRADE: A- (4.16/4.0).


As Countdown City begins, Hank has been (forcibly) retired from the Concord Police Department as local law enforcement has been superseded by the federal Justice Department.
There are now just 11 weeks until the asteroid hits and even though the world knows the (relatively remote) location of where it will hit, the ramifications of the increased imminence of the end of the world has resulted in an almost complete loss of regular order (there is no phones or internet or traffic and electricity is intermittent). Riots and anarchy are widely expected but no one is sure when it will start (or what will set it off). Into this disturbing setting, Hank is asked by a family friend to find her missing husband Brett, and even though Hank is no longer a cop, he takes the case as a favor to his former babysitter Martha. Now it becomes even more questionable that Hank would risk his own life to track down someone who has disappeared, at a  time, when even the people he knows quite well are simply taking off for the carnal pleasures of New Orleans. We as the reader start to realize that Hank is really using his self-assigned responsibility as distraction (or obsession) to prevent him from thinking about the state of the world and processing his own thoughts and feelings about the end of the world.

This middle book of the trilogy is less successful overall than the first but there are some aspects of Countdown City which are improved over the first. Primary among these is the inclusion of Hank's dog, a bichon frise named Houdini. Hank and Houdini are basically inseparable in the second book and it is fun to see their interactions. Another big difference in the second book is the greater presence of Hank's sister Nico. Hank enlists his sisters assistance in order to gain safe passage and entry to the University of New Hampshire which has been turned into an anarchistic utopia run by former UNH students and faculty called the Free Republic of New Hampshire. Brett's trail leads there because a girl he had a relationship with is known to be a big whig in the Free Republic.

Amazingly, Hank is able to trace down Brett and discover the truth of why he left Martha but things do not end well for either Hank or Brett as they encounter a sniper with deadly aim. Hank manages to get back to Concord to see Martha again and the learn the ultimate truth about her husband's disappearance just in time to witness the final collapse of the city into looting and mayhem. Hank and Houdini are whisked to safety by a unlikely source as Nico reveals (right before she disappears in a military helicopter) that she is part of an organization that is trying to use a nuclear weapon to try and deflect the asteroid and save humanity.

Title: Countdown City (The Last Policeman Trilogy, Book 2).
Author: Ben H. Winters.
Paperback: 320 pages.
 Quirk Books.
Date Published: July 16, 2013.
Date Read: November 28, 2015.


OVERALL GRADE: A- (4.0/4.0).



As World of Trouble begins there are now just over a dozen days before the asteroid is going to collide with the Earth and most likely extinguish all life on the planet. Our hero, Hank Palace, is of course obsessed with solving one more mystery instead of simply counting his blessings that he has the opportunity to live out his final days before the apocalypse in relative safety and comfort. Instead Hank (with Houdini in tow) has traveled hundreds of miles to Ohio with a guy he doesn't (and shouldn't) trust to try and track down his sister Nico, who when we last saw her had access to a military helicopter and was working with a group to deploy a nuclear weapon to prevent the asteroid from completing its genocidal trajectory.

By recounting the details of Hank's journey from Western Massachusetts to Ohio, the author is able to show us the many different ways civilization can end. Hank sees the results of double suicides on porches, town burned to the ground, and (very rarely) towns where the populace has banded together to keep everyone relatively safe and well-fed. Money is now completely useless but bottled water (or even snacks from old vending machines) are precious beyond measure. People are literally counting the number of meals before the end of the world.

Incredibly (and this does stretch credulity to the point of snapping) Hank is able to find his sister as well as a murderous crime scene that he needs to use his best detective skills to determine who did what to whom. One last mystery to solve before all life ceases to exist. These books were also compelling to me because of the extremely well-crafted nature of the writing. This following passage struck me so profoundly I recorded it as a status update on Goodreads:
It's not just a person's present that dies when they die, when they are murdered or drowned or a giant rock falls on their head. It's the past, too, all the memories that belonged only to them, the things they thought and never said. And all those possible futures, all the ways that life might have turned out. Past and present and future all burn up together like a bundle of sticks.
Winter, apparently calls his books "existential detective novels" and in this third book this focus of the book becomes heartbreakingly central to its plot as the number of days that civilization will exist dwindles to zero. If there are literally a handful of days left  to live, how would you spend them? I'm pretty sure that I would not make the same decisions as Hank Palace, but I can't deny that the entire trilogy had an emotionally resonant impact on me. Both the mystery and the speculative aspects of the story were incredibly well-balanced throughout the entire series and will be attractive to fans of both. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Title: World of Trouble (The Last Policeman Trilogy, Book 3).
Ben H. Winters.
Paperback: 320 pages.
 Quirk Books.
Date Published: July 15, 2014.
Date Read: November 29, 2015.


OVERALL GRADE: A- (4.16/4.0).


Friday, December 25, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I've been a big fan of director Denis Villeneuve since I saw Incendies and the emotionally complex film became one of my favorites of 2011. I also saw his 2013 film Prisoners (starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard and Maria Bello) which is a taut thriller about suspicion and kidnapping. Both Incendies and Prisoners have very good ratings from (92% and 81%, respectively).

Villeneuve is back this year with Sicario, (starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin) a thriller about the drug war. Sicario is also critically acclaimed, with a rating of 93%.

The film revolves around Blunt's character who is an FBI agent who is pressured into volunteering for an inter-agency Task Force to work with characters played by Brolin and Del Toro after she discovers a house in a Phoenix suburb with dozens of corpses that are directly linked to a Mexican drug cartel.

The story (written by Taylor Sheridan) proceeds at breakneck pace, as both we and Blunt's character are swept along by events, crossing the border from the United States to Mexico and back again to retrieve a person we are old is a person of interest in the ongoing investigation, without much more of an explanation as to what is going on and why. Eventually we are told that Brolin's character is ostensibly trying to cause a big enough of a ruckus so that the head of the cartel that was responsible for the bodies found in the Phoenix area will take notice and make a move that would expose him to capture by law enforcement.

However things are not what they seem and eventually it becomes clear that the motives of the characters played by Brolin and Del Toro are not completely aligned with those of the FBI and Blunt's character. This is exposed in a harrowing sequence where all of the main characters go into a long drug-running tunnel where some surprising (and very violent) events occur and Blunt's suspicions are confirmed.

Overall, Sicario is suspenseful, adrenaline-pumping ride which depicts the realities and ethical dilemmas of the drug war with compelling verisimilitude.

Title: Sicario.
Director: Denis Villeneuve.
Running Time: 121 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence, grisly images, and language.
Release Date: October 2, 2015.
Viewing Date: November 27, 2015.

Writing: A-.
Acting: A-.
Visuals: A+.
Impact: B+.

Overall Grade: A/A- (3.75/4.0)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

TENNIS TUESDAY: Federer Releases 2016 Schedule, Murray Keeps Mauresmo, Kvitova Engaged!

Roger Federer has released his tentative 2016 ATP tour schedule and the 34-year-old has decided to only play one clay court tournament (Roland Garros) and will increase the amount of grass tournaments he plays, adding Stuttgart to his schedule the week before his traditional Wimbledon warm-up in Halle. (This is especially exciting news for me, because I am planning to visit Germany this summer and if I could also see Federer play on grass that would be an incredible experience!) Because of the length of his career and age Federer is deciding to skip a surprising FOUR of the 9 Master's Series tournaments: Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Canada (Toronto/Montreal).

The musical chairs among coaches of the major tennis players continues. This week's announcement was that Andy Murray is going back to having Amelie Mauresmo as his main coach, ending his professional relationship with Jonas Bkorkman. A few weeks ago Federer announced Stefan Edberg would not coach him in 2016, instead that role would be taken by Ivan Ljubicic. Previously it was announced that Jesse Levine would be coaching Madison Keys (instead of Lindsay Davenport) and that Darren Cahill had been named Simona Halep's official coach.

2-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova surprised many tennis players by announcing via Twitter that the 25-year-old was now engaged to be married to 27-year-old Czech hockey player Radek Meidel.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced that Novak Djokovic has won the title for the 5th time and Serena Williams has won the title for the 6th time. They both won 3 major titles in 2015. Serena won the first three, while Djokovic lost in the finals of the French Open. The ITF is the official governing body of international tennis and is the group that sanctions the Grand Slam tournaments and manages international team competitions like Davis Cup, Fed Cup and Hopman Cup. The ITF champion almost always is the person who wins the most singles majors that year.

The Indian Aces were the most dominant team in the off-season exhibition competition called the International Premiere Tennis League (IPTL) for the second year but this time they lost the championship match against the Singapore Slammers. The Aces had stars like Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna while the Slammers had Belinda Bencic and Stan Wawrinka. Major champions like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Marin Cilic all competed this year.

QUEER QUOTE: Anti-Trans Initiative Fails To Quality For CA 2016 Ballot

Good news! Previously we had reported that some haters had been circulating petitions in California to try to literally regulate the access to urination facilities of transgender people with their so-called "Privacy for All" act.

Today comes news that this ballot measure has failed to qualify for the 2016 ballot! The Washngton Blade reports
A social conservative group seeking to place an anti-transgender initiative on the 2016 California ballot announced Monday it failed to collect enough signatures by the deadline to make it happen. 
The initiative, dubbed the “Personal Privacy Protection Act,” sought to prohibit transgender people from using restrooms in government buildings consistent with their gender identity and would have allowed businesses to do the same. 
The anti-trans coalition, known as Privacy for All, needed to submit 365,880 signatures by Monday to qualify the measure for the ballot. Nowhere in the organization’s statement does it say how many signatures it did collect. 
The coalition is supported by the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute and other groups in California that passed Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage in the state.
Today's Queer Quote is from Kris Hayashi, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center:
"This initiative was a poorly veiled attack on transgender people that sought to undermine that freedom and single out for harassment anyone who doesn’t meet stereotypes of what it looks like to be male or female. Today Californians have made clear these types of discriminatory attacks on transgender people and our families, communities, and neighborhoods have no place in our state."
This is the same group that was behind Proposition 8 and also tried to repeal the Student Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266) which makes it clear that students can participate in all student activities regardless of their gender identity or gender expression. Because they have lost so dramatically on the question of marriage equality, these heterosexual supremacists have taken to targeting the most vulnerable group in the LGBT coalition: the transgender community.

Hat/tip to Joe My God

Monday, December 21, 2015

FDA Reduces Lifetime Ban On MSM Blood Donations To 1 Year

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency responsible for protecting the United States blood supply has finally issued regulations on changing the discriminatory (and patently offensive) policy on preventing any man who has said sex with another man (MSM) from donating blood. The decades-old policy of a lifetime ban was replaced with a "1-year deferral" for men who have had (any kind of) sex with another man.

From the FDA press release issued today:
As part of today’s finalized blood donor deferral guidance, the FDA is changing its recommendation that  men who have sex with men (MSM) be indefinitely deferred – a policy that has been in place for approximately 30 years – to 12 months since the last sexual contact with another man. These updated recommendations better align the deferral period for MSM with the deferral period for other men and women at increased risk for HIV infection – such as those who had a recent blood transfusion or those who have been accidentally exposed to the blood of another individual. The FDA examined a variety of recent studies, epidemiologic data, and shared experiences from other countries that have made recent MSM deferral policy changes. 
“In reviewing our policies to help reduce the risk of HIV transmission through blood products, we rigorously examined several alternative options, including individual risk assessment,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the U.S. population. We will continue to actively conduct research in this area and further revise our policies as new data emerge.” 
Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, currently have 12-month deferrals for MSM. During the change in Australia from an indefinite blood donor deferral policy for MSM to a 12-month deferral, well-conducted studies evaluating over 8 million units of donated blood were performed using a national blood surveillance system. These published studies document no change in risk to the blood supply with use of the 12-month deferral. Similar data are not available for shorter deferral intervals.
The website and Williams Institute conducted an analysis on the numerous proposed changes to the lifetime blood ban on MSM donations and these are summarized:

There should be an estimated 2 million more people eligible to donate blood, with 190, 000 of them likely to do so.

However, as the New Civil Rights Movement blog points out, the revised policy still continues the stigma of homosexuality, since a married gay couple who only have sex with each other (even with condoms!) is technically barred from giving blood for a year while a straight guy could be having sex every day for a year with sex workers or other high-risk individuals and the straight person is not bared from donating blood under this policy. This communicates the message that homosexuality is inherently more "dangerous" than heterosexuality.

I applaud the progress from the ridiculously stigmatizing lifetime ban on men who have sex with men but would urge the FDA to consider a policy that is neutral based on the gender of the person the potential blood donor has sex with.

EYE CANDY: Daniel Royal Georges

Daniel Royal Georges is most well-known as a trainer (his Instagram account is @royalelite_fit). His profile there says he is 6-foot-2 and 24-years-old. As you can see, he has an incredibly chiseled body and a very handsome face.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Expanse First FOUR Episodes Available Free At SyFy.Com!

I am crazy busy this week with grades being submitted and a quick trip to the East Coast but I must pause for a minute to let you know that The Expanse, the SyFy television show adapted from my favorite space opera series written by James S.A. Corey premiered on Monday and Tuesday. But there's even better news! The first FOUR episodes (of the 10-episode first season based on the events in the first book Leviathan Wakes) are available for free at! Go watch them and let me know what you think via Twitter @maprofessah.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Serena Williams Named Sports Illustrated 2015 Sportsperson of the Year!

Wow! Serena Williams continues to make history. For having a 53-3 season and coming within two match wins of the calendar grand slam, the 34-year-old has become Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year, the first woman to be honored (by herself) in more than 30 years.

EYE CANDY: Lucien Laviscount (reprise)

Lucien Laviscount is a Black British actor (of West Indian descent) who has been featured Eye Candy once before (March 24, 2014). He was born in 1992 and is listed as 5-foot-9 (no weight listed). You may recognize him as Earl Grey on Fox's Scream Queens:

Yes, he cleans up well and looks good in or out of clothes! He also seems to have a really nice personality and a very sexy British accent :)

You can follow him on Twitter (@itslucien) and Instagram (@its_lucien).

Friday, December 11, 2015

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: First X-Men: Apocalypse Trailer Released!

I have been a huge fan of the X-Men comics since I was introduced to them as a teenager living in Barbados. I started collecting them in earnest (especially when they split off to form the New Mutants) when I was in college. Anyway, I have also been a fan of director Bryan Singer's film adaptations of the X-Men movies. The last one was X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014 and the one before that was X-Men: First Class which stars James McAvoy as the young Charles Xavier an Michael Fassbender as Magneto. The third movie in the sequence if the forthcoming X-Men: Apocalypse.

The trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse is now out, and it looks amazing! The film comes out May 27, 2016.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

TENNIS TUESDAY: WTA Awards Announced, Fedberg Ends, Swiss Sweep Doubles In Rio?

The WTA Awards were announced today and for the seventh time in her career Serena Williams was named the WTA Player of the Year. Other big awards announced were Doubles Team of the Year (Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza), Most Improved Player of the Year (Timea Bacsinszky), Newcomer of the Year (Daria Gavrilova) and Comeback Player of the Year (Venus Williams).

Roger Federer announced that Stefan Edberg will not be part of his coaching staff in 2016. Former ATP pro (and Federer friend) Ivan Ljubicic will join the team, with Severin Luthi remaining as head coach of Team Federer. Ljubicic had been coaching Milos Raonic for the last two years,

Federer has agreed to play Mixed Doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Martina Hingis, who is part of the current Best Doubles Team of the Year. Federer famously won the Men's Doubles With Stan Wawrinka at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so one would think that they would have a good chance in 2016 now that the team has 19 major singles titles between them. Additionally, the Women's Doubles team of Belinda Bencic (or Bacsinsky) with Hingis would be hard to beat. Could Switzerland sweep the doubles medals next year?

Monday, December 07, 2015

WATCH: 2015 Movie Trailers Supercut

You know the end of the year is approaching as these video compilations start being released. This one is takes all the trailers for movies in 2015 and mashes them up into one stunning year-in-review compilation.

EYE CANDY: Pietro Boselli (3rd time!)

Pietro Boselli has appeared as Eye Candy twice before (April 26, 2015 and July 6, 2015). Boselli, you may recall, is the Italian mathematics Ph.D. student who made headlines around the world when one of his students realized their maths instructor was also a smoking hot male model and posted the news to social media and it went viral

I think part of the reason why the story got so big is that Boselli is so hawt, don't you?

Friday, December 04, 2015

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

WORLD AIDS DAY 2015 Is Today

Today is World AIDS Day. Interestingly, the term "AIDS" is increasingly becoming disfavored among clinicians and doctors who work in this are, who are gravitating towards the term "HIV Stage 3."

Check out this helpful fact sheet:

  1. Acute HIV Infection
    Acute HIV infection is the earliest stage of HIV. Acute HIV infection generally develops within 2 to 4 weeks 
  2. after a person is infected with HIV. During acute HIV infection, many people have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and rash. In this acute stage of infection, HIV multiplies rapidly and spreads throughout the body. The virus attacks and destroys the infection-fighting CD4 cells of the immune system. HIV can be transmitted during any stage of infection, but the risk is greatest during acute HIV infection.

  3. Chronic HIV Infection
    The second stage of HIV infection is chronic HIV infection (also called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency). During this stage of the disease, HIV continues to multiply in the body but at very low levels. People with chronic HIV infection may not have any HIV-related symptoms, but they can still spread HIV to others. Without treatment with HIV medicines, chronic HIV infection usually advances to AIDS in 10 to 12 years.

  4. AIDS 
    AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. Because HIV has destroyed the immune system, the body can’t fight off opportunistic infections and cancer. (Examples of opportunistic infections include pneumonia and tuberculosis.) AIDS is diagnosed when a person with HIV has a CD4 count of less than 200 cells/mm3 and/or one or more opportunistic infections. Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about 3 years.

I wonder how Charlie Sheen is marking todays date (in light of recent revelations)?

Monday, November 30, 2015

POLL: Marriage Equality Has Majority Support In Japan

A new poll shows that marriage equality has majority support in Japan. This is something of a surprise because previous polls have shown that support for LGBT equality is not high in the Asian island nation.
Fifty-one percent of people polled by researchers from universities and the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research back such partnerships, the Asahi newspaper reported. Support exceeded 70 percent among respondents in their 20s and 30s, while 38 percent in their 60s and 24 percent in their 70s were in favor, the Asahi said.
Hat/tip to TowleRoad 

EYE CANDY: Devin Goda (#3)

Devin Goda has appeared as Eye Candy twice before (June 15, 2015 and September 14, 2015). He is a former football player who is now a model. He's in his mid-twenties and listed around 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. You can follow him on Instagram (dgoda85) and Facebook (DevinGoda85).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Britain Wins Davis Cup As Andy Murray Achieves Another Career-Defining Goal

The British Davis Cup team with Andy Murray and his brother Jamie managed to do something that had not been done since 1936: win the entire annual national team competition and bring the Davis Cup home. That's a drought of 79 years!

Murray, who ends the year as the World #2, went undefeated in singles play 8-0 and teamed with his older brother Jamie to win 3 doubles ties as well. Andy Murray became the first player since Pete Sampras (did it in 1993) to win three live rubbers in a Davis Cup tie. Murray also joins his major champion brethren Roger Federer (2014), Novak Djokovic (2010), Rafael Nadal (2011, 2009, 2008), Stan Wawrinka (2014) who have managed to win Davis Cup titles for their country.

Andy Murray has now ended three major sports droughts for Great Britain: winning the Davis Cup (first time since 1936), winning a singles Gold Medal (2012 London Olympics) and, of course, the first British male player to win Wimbledon (in 2013) since Fred Perry did it in 1936. Murray also became the first male British player to win a major title when he won the U.S. Open in 2012. Surely, he'll become Sir Andy Murray sooner rather than later?

Friday, November 27, 2015

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Michael B. Jordan on Cover of Men's Fitness Stars in Creed

You may remember Michael B. Jordan as the star of the movie Fruitvale Station in 2013, the dramatization of the horrible killing of Oscar Grant by BART cop Johannes Meherle (who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and only served 11 months in jail before being released despite shooting Grant in the back while the black man was face down on the sidewalk on New Years' Eve of 2011.)

Jordan (and the director of Fruitvale Station, the talented Ryan Coogler) is back in theaters this week with Creed, the latest installment of the Rocky franchise (some 40 years after it began in 1975) as the son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Johnson. Jordan worked hard to get into shape for the role (and he is getting much deserved attention for the results) and the film is getting strong reviews. Both Jordan and Coogler are young African-American men. Jordan is 28 and Coogler is 29.

Go ahead, young bruthas!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

GAME OF THRONES: Season 6 Teaser Poster Features Jon Snow...

Game of Thrones Season 6 will begin next year in April and the first question that will need to be answered is whether Jon Snow is alive or dead after the events at the end of Season 5. HBO has released a teaser poster that features an image of  Kit Harrington as Jon Snow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TENNIS TUESDAY: Djokovic's Amazing 2015: $21.6M, 11 Titles, 82W-6L

Novak Djokovic, 28, ended his amazing 2015 season by surprisingly defeating Roger Federer 6-3 6-4 in the finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in London, cementing his domination over the rest of the field. It was Djokovic's 11th tournament win of 2015 and he reached the final of 15 of the 16 tournaments he played in 2015. The win, along with bonuses for remaining World #1 for the entire calendar year means that he earned $21,646,145 in prize money in 2015, the most ever. (In fact, it is more prize money than Andy Roddick earned in his entire career!)

Djokovic has been at the top of men's tennis since 2011, and this is demonstrated by the fact that he has won the season-ending championship for the fourth consecutive year. In this year's tournament he finally lost a match, but it was in the round-robin format so he was still able to qualify for the semifinals an d get revenge in the final. During this tournament Djokovic evened out his rivalry with both Rafael Nadal (23-apiece) and Federer (22-apiece). It seems more likely than not that the Serb will end his career with leads against both these champions since both Federer's and Nadal's peaks are definitely behind them but Djokovic's may still be yet to come.

Djokovic won 27 of 28 grand slam matches in 2015 and went 82-6 overall, winning 93.2% of all matches he played. This chart puts his remarkable 2015in the context of some of the best years of all time:

It is very possible if Djokovic has another 2-3 years at the level he is currently playing at and no one else emerges to challenge his dominance that he will be in the conversation for greatest player of all time, especially if his current major haul of 10 titles gets into the mid-teens. His number of Masters Shields titles is already impressive (he won 6 of 9 in 2015) and now is just 1 behind Nadal's record total of 27.

Of course, I still think Federer has the edge in any conversation about the Greatest of all Time because he not only has 17 major titles (the most ever) but also has been at or near the top of men's tennis for well over a decade (2003). Djokovic won his first major title in 2008 so he has until about 2018 to see how many more majors he can get, but I would not be surprised if it was in the 14-16 range. He currently is 10-8 in major finals (but he has won 3 of 4 he played in 2015, including 2 consecutive Wimbledon finals against Federer) while Federer is 17-10 and Nadal is 14-6. Ultimately, it will be his final record in these historic matches that will determine his place in the pantheon of tennis greats.

Monday, November 23, 2015

EYE CANDY: Billy Brown (a.k.a. "Nate Lahey" on #HTGAWM)

Billy Brown is an African-American actor appearing on ABC television show How To Get Away With Murder which stars Viola Davis (for which she won an Emmy this year for her portrayal of Annalise Keating in Season 1). Brown plays Dtective Nate Lahey, who is one of Annalise's love interests (the other is a woman played by Famke Janssen!). There is not much information on Brown's physical statistics like age, height and weight. (Although his IMDB page does list him as 6-foot-2½ inches tall.

There are some crazy good looking people on How To Get Away With Murder, but Brown more than holds his own. Previously we featured another handsome guy from the show, Kendrick Sampson, as Eye Candy, on November 9, 2015. Brown has an incredibly chiseled body but for some reason it is quite difficult to find good pictures of him online. And by good, I mean pictures of him showing off some skin! Almost all of the images here are from the show, and even though his character has disrobed several times for some reason there aren't very many good shots of those scenes available either.  The best I could find is given here:

I can't believe I am the only person to notice what a banging body Mr. Brown has. His role appears to be getting bigger as Season 2 continues (last week's Season 2 mid-season finale was wild) so hopefully, we will literally see more of him in the future.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

FILM REVIEW: The Martian

The book The Martian by Andy Weir is a publishing phenomenon, widely regarded as one of the best (and probably the best-selling) science fiction books of 2014. When I discovered that the movie adaptation was being directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus, Gladiator) and starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney this film jumped to the top of my want-to-see list for 2015.

The Other Half and I saw it with another gay couple at our go-to place for watching movies in the theater, Arclight Pasadena. Since we saw it opening weekend the film has gone on to become a box-office smash (and is currently the #6  top-grossing film released in 2015, with well over $200 million in receipts in North America) as well as a critical smash, with 93% positive ratings at from both critics and audiences. Director Ridley Scott is starting to appear on Best Director Oscar consideration lists.

I read the book at the end of 2014 and enjoyed it, but was not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about it. I actually think the movie is a better (more entertaining) version of the story. The cast is incredible. Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor play bigwigs at NASA with Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara and Michael Peña as fellow astronauts on a Mars mission with Matt Damon. Donald Glover has a key role as a quirky NASA astrophysicist.

The movie is centered around science and the importance (and dangers) that are involved with space exploration and scientific progress. I complained to my fellow moviegoers that despite the centrality of science (especially, botany, biology, physics, astronomy and mathematics) to the plot there is not a single equation displayed in the film. They pointed out that for the vast majority of people who go to see the film, including a mathematical equation would be communicating something similar to including Chinese characters in the film. In other words, the symbols would have almost no inherent meaning to the audience, and would be communicating information that the audience is not intended to understand. I see their point, but I still think the filmmakers could have done a better job of indicating the mathematical calculations that must have occurred while all the science and engineering was being done to attempt to rescue Mark Watney on Mars.

That being said, the movie is not a geek-laden paean to NASA, but is instead a very suspenseful thriller which is exciting, emotionally gripping and inspiring.

Title: The Martian.
Director: Ridley Scott.
Running Time: 2 hours, 22 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.
Release Date: October 2, 2015.
Viewing Date: October 4, 2015.

Writing: A.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A+.
Impact: A.

Overall Grade: A/A+ (4.08/4.0).

Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 ATP FINALS: Federer-Djokovic XLIV Is The Last Regular ATP Match Of The Year

The semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals are complete and Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets while Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka in straight sets. Therefore, for the   eighth time this year (and forty-fourth time in their careers) the two will meet on the ATP tour. In fact, the two met earlier in the week during the round-robin stage and Federer won that meeting in straight sets (7-5 6-2).

The two have met in 2 major finals and four other tour finals in 2015 and Djokovic won both major finals while they split the regular tour final meetings 2-all. Federer currently leads their overall head-to-head 22-21 and indoor hard courts is widely considered his best surface. However, Djokovic has won the ATP Tour Finals for the last three consecutive years. Last year Federer could not compete in the final due to a bad back and Djokovic won in a walkover. Despite that result, Federer went on to join with his compatriot Wawrinka and Switzerland won the Davis Cup in 2014.

If Djokovic wins tomorrow he will have evened up his rivalry between both Federer and Nadal and his 4th consecutive year-end championship. If Federer wins he will have won an unprecedented seventh year-end tour championship.

MadProfessah's Prediction: Federer.


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