Rebuilding a Superhero: Take Two, Part Two

by Aaron Einhorn

Here we are, one week into consistently focusing on fitness, diet, health and costuming.  I talked about my goals here and while we’re off to a slow start, it’s been an encouraging one. I managed to stick to my calorie budget (for the most part), exercised some, and, well, thought more about the costuming goals.

Fitness

When I weighed myself this morning, Sunday, January 28, 2018, I weighed 228. My goal weight is initially to get to 185 lbs. again, and from there, I may shoot as low as 165 – but a well-muscled 185 is perfectly acceptable. Last week, I weighed in at 231.9 pounds, so we’ve got almost four pounds lost.

I tracked my food intake this past week using the LoseIt app on my iPhone. I am using the app to set myself a goal of losing two pounds a week, which gives me a rough calorie budget of this past week of 1,857 calories per day. I am also specifically using the app to track my recommended levels of Fats and Protein. Results:

  • Sunday, January 21: 1,778 (-79)
  • Monday, January 22: 1,650 (-207)
  • Tuesday, January 23: 1,742 (-115)
  • Wednesday, January 24: 1,659 (-198)
  • Thursday, January 25: 1,781 (-76)
  • Friday, January 26: 1,639 (-218)
  • Saturday, January 27: 1,860 (+3)

I didn’t log any of my exercise in the app, which according to the specifics of the app, would have given me extra calories to eat.

I did not quite hit my goal of working out six days this past week. I did manage to run today (although that’s going to count for next week), and I did the  Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred, one time this week. I’m going to try to make sure I do work out with the video at least twice next week.

That said, I did manage to hit my step total every day this week.

Sunday: 10,326 steps.

Monday: 10,353 steps.

Tuesday: 30 Day Shred attempted using 5 lbs. hand weights for everything except the Chest Flys in the third interval, which I used 10 lbs. for. This was really rough, and I ended up modifying a lot of the exercises and taking breaks, but I did it. And I hit my step total of 10,095 steps.

Wednesday: 10,272 steps.

Thursday: 10,437 steps.

Friday: 10,798 steps.

Saturday: 11,955 steps, helped out by doing a Hero’s Alliance event.

Costuming

There was not a lot of progress on costumes this week, partially because of how they still haven’t even revealed the full version of the costume on TV yet.

There was, however, a Heroes Alliance event, so I’d like to show off two pictures to demonstrate my current status.

From a Heroes Alliance event in the Fall of 2012

From a Heroes Alliance event in the Fall of 2012

 

 

See the guy there on the right in the Superman costume? That’s me, six years and over fifty pounds ago. When the Ohio chapter of the Heroes Alliance started, I wasn’t the biggest or strongest guy on the team, or the most in-shape one, but I was in good enough shape that I didn’t feel bad putting on a pair of tights.

I felt good about my body, I was putting on muscle, and kids seemed to enjoy meeting me as Superman. All in all? It was a pretty good place to be in.

This is the goal. This is what I want to get back to. I may even re-add Superman to my line-up in addition to the Mon-El costume – that’ll all depend on how things are going.

Me as Doctor Strange this past summer

Me as Doctor Strange this past summer

This is me in the costume I’m currently wearing for Heroes Alliance events. And it doesn’t look bad – but you’ll notice that there’s a lot of loose fabrics and a very wide belt – all of which are designed to cover a multitude of sins. And even with all that, I am noticeably broader in the waist than I was as Superman.

Right there? That’s one of the main reasons I want to lose weight and get back in shape. I don’t like how I look when I see myself in the mirror stepping out of the shower. And I love being a superhero for kids with the Heroes Alliance – I want to be back to the point where I can do that without shame.

Here’s the other reason:

27500411_10156486272895616_5397329113206739044_oThis is my family. From left to right, it’s my sister-in-law, me, my step-mother, a family friend holding my niece, Mira, Christina, my Dad, Cordy, and my brother.

I’ve been given some less than fantastic health screening results recently – nothing bad enough to panic me, but bad enough to say “Dude, it’s time to fix this.” I love being a superhero for kids with the Heroes Alliance. I love being a father, a brother, a husband, and a son to these amazing people even more.

The transformation continues…

Rebuilding a Superhero: Take Two, Part One

by Aaron Einhorn
Hello Internet! It has been almost two years since I’ve touched this blog, but I’ve realized that it’s time to bring it back. And what better place to start than with trying to make myself back into a superhero.

You see, long, long ago, I created a column on Comic Hero News titled Superhero Transformation. This column existed to chronicle my efforts to get in shape and to build my first superhero costume in over a decade – Superman.

That effort was originally based around wearing the costume to San Diego Comic Con, but that costume ended up leading me into helping to create the Ohio Branch of the Heroes Alliance, and has led to a lot more costumes.

Of course, life being what it is, there have been changes since I originally dropped from 216 to 185 lbs. Changing work schedules and increased activity from my children has given me less time to work out, and bad food habits have crept back into my life.

I currently weigh 231.9 pounds. This has left me fairly disgusted with myself. I’ve gotten rid of, or at least stopped wearing, every superhero costume I own that involves tight clothing (and spandex is right the heck out.) And I have made several halfhearted attempts at eating better or exercising more, but none of it has stuck.

So, what changed? Two things. The first was getting bloodwork back, and realizing that as I am now in my forties, my body (my glucose levels, cholesterol, and other factors) has been trying to tell me that if I don’t make a change, I’m not going to make it another forty years. The other one, for all of the vanity behind it, has been a costume. Which is a horrible reason to try to get in shape, but it worked out for me okay in 2011/2012, so let’s see if we can make lightning strike again.

The costume? Mon-El. Specifically, the version of the costume from the CW’s Supergirl. This costume, right here.

Chris Wood as Mon-El (photo from The CW)

Chris Wood as Mon-El (photo from The CW)

Nothing keeps me accountable as much as a public log of my efforts, and so that’s what I’m doing again. This won’t just be a log of my fitness though, because that would be utterly boring and of no interest to anyone who is coming here for the superhero stuff. I will also be showing off my WIP for the costumes I’m currently working on.

Fitness

When I weighed myself this morning, Sunday, January 21, 2018, I weighed 231.9 pounds. This was before any exercise, showering, or eating breakfast. My goal weight is initially to get to 185 lbs. again, and from there, I may shoot as low as 165 – but a well-muscled 185 is perfectly acceptable.

My intention is to track my food using the LoseIt app on my iPhone. I am using the app to set myself a goal of losing two pounds a week, which at my current weight, gives me a rough calorie budget of 1,857 calories per day. I am also specifically using the app to track my recommended levels of Fats and Protein. For future weeks, I will be including my daily results on sticking to that goal.

I also intend to work out five days a week. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, it will be weight-training/circuit training. I’m starting off with using Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred, which was the backbone of most of my success last time around. I intend to add some more intense upperbody and ab exercises in the evenings of those days as well, but those will not be for a few weeks, because my arms are plenty sore right now just from doing that video yesterday.

On Mondays-Wednesdays-Saturdays (or Sundays), I am returning to running. I’m in training to run the Walt Disney World Star Wars: The Dark Side Challenge race in April. That will have me running a 10k on Saturday of the race weekend, and a half-marathon on the Sunday. I will also be helping as a coach at my daughters’ school for the Let Me Run program, a running-program for boys in grades 4-8 that trains them up to run a 5K. The 5K for our program is on May 6th, with classes beginning March 12. Once those happen, the weekly sessions with the boys will probably be my daily runs, but I’ll be doing long runs on the weekends to get ready for the Dark Side Challenge. And I’ll be doing morning runs until those sessions begin. My younger daughter, Mira, participated in the girl’s version of this program, Girls on the Run, and it was a great experience for her.

Finally, I’m going to be using my FitBit, and making sure I hit 10K steps per day. On days I run, that should be easy. On days I don’t, I’ll have to work on getting those steps in. Fortunately, we have a new puppy who would probably appreciate the extra walks.

Daily run results, whether or not I actually did Jillian Michaels’ routine, and daily steps will be recorded here as well, starting next week.

Costuming

The Mon-El costume is my focus right now. I don’t even really know where I’m going to start with having that made. So, more details to come.

That’s where I’m at. Hopefully some of you have read this far and will keep me motivated. And maybe I’ll be able to motivate some of you.

When Heroes Collide – Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War: Review

civil-war-poster-3by Aaron Einhorn
We’ve come to a time where superhero movies are no longer rarities that come along every now and again, but to the point where they are a regular part of the cinematic landscape. Case in point – when Marvel began creating their own films in 2008, the previous year had only given us the poorly received Spider-Man 3.

Here we are less than ten years later, and Captain America: Civil War is the third big-budget superhero film of the year, with another four yet to come. Which means it’s a great time to be a geek – because if you don’t like a given superhero film, there’s another one coming along soon enough.

Comparisons between Captain America: Civil War and Warner Brothers’ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice are almost impossible to not make. Both movies feature the greatest heroes of their respective universes battle. I’m going to do my best not to draw direct comparisons between the films, because they’re very, very different. BvS is trying to kick off the DC Cinematic Universe while Civil War is the thirteenth film in an ongoing series. This of course means that the stakes are very different – instead of two heroes fighting on their first meeting, instead we see a team of heroes that have history being torn apart. They’re completely separate films, and so I’ll do my best not to compare them.

But of course the real question is “Does Captain America: Civil War live up to the hype?” Well, read on to see my thoughts.

Synopsis

After another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps, one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

The Feature

Civil War begins with the Avengers in action again, tracking down Brock Rumlow (former Hydra-mole and Cap’s faux friend), who is now known as the mercenary Crossbones. This current team of Avengers is slightly lower powered and lower-profile than the team we saw in action at the beginning of Age of Ultron, but they’re still powerful enough that they unexpected collateral damage can occur during their battles and one such incident is enough to provoke the creation of the Sorkovia Accords.

In short, the governments of the world have become concerned about the abilities of the Avengers coupled with their relative lack of oversight. Their desire is to put the Avengers under the control of the United Nations.

Obviously, this decision tears the Avengers down the middle, with Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow and the Vision being in favor of the accords, while Captain America, the Falcon and Scarlet Witch are afraid of being used as political tools.

Into this tense situation, enter Bucky – the Winter Soldier – still looking for keys to his past, and still wanted for atrocities committed while under the control of Hydra. When the Avengers are sent to take Bucky down, Steve and his allies can’t help but get involved, which brings them into conflict with their former friends.
In addition to this already heavily crowded film, we also see the introduction of T’Challa, King of Wakanda and the Black Panther, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Spider-Man, the return of Hawkeye to the team, and the addition of Ant-Man for Cap’s side.

The film picks up steam from here on to the climax, with heroes battling one another while realizing that they’ve been manipulated, and when we finally reach the climax, the Avengers may have been irreparably damaged. At least until The Infinity War.

The Good

The list of things that are good in this film could almost be the entire review. We’ll begin with the script. Unlike the comic book version of Civil War, this script does a remarkable job of keeping any of the heroes from having to pick up the Idiot Ball to justify the conflict. Although this is unmistakably Cap’s film, and our sympathies are supposed to lean towards him, the perspective of Tony Stark and his allies makes sense – and the reasons for the conflict, and each betrayal or changing of sides – make sense.

Next is the cast. We’ve had time to get used to these actors in their roles – so much that it’s hard to imagine a version of Tony Stark that doesn’t look like Robert Downey, Jr. The veterans in the cast have grown into their roles, and Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, RDJ, Jeremy Renner and Don Cheadle are all comfortable in the skin of these heroes, which allows the emotion to be conveyed realistically and effectively. They never feel like they’re acting – it’s easy to just get lost in the performances. They are well matched by the other returning heroes, and Sebastian Stan, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd and Emily VanCamp all fit in easily next to them.

But it would be irresponsible to mention performances without addressing the two newest heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Bosemna provides a delightfully nuanced performance as the Warrior/Inventor/King, and his Black Panther commands attention every time he appears on the screen. This is a character who is equally compelling in-costume or out, and proves himself to be a statesman ready to match the intensity of Tony Stark while still being a warrior capable of going toe-to-toe with Captain America. I am eagerly awaiting seeing more of him when Black Panther arrives in 2018.

As for Holland? While his introductory scene feels like it was cut a bit short (we see very little transition between his recruitment and his battling alongside the other heroes), this kid nails Spider-Man in a way we have never seen in live-action. He takes everything that worked from Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker with the best parts of Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man and synthesizes them into a perfect whole. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man may have helped start the superhero movie craze, but based on what we’ve seen so far, I think that 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming will be the Spidey film fans have been waiting for.

On top of a solid story, and a fantastic cast, the last good thing that has to be addressed is how well balanced this film. With a cast this large, it would have been very easy for Captain America: Civil War to collapse underneath its own weight, and for the leads to get lost in the shuffle. That doesn’t happen. While every character gets moments to shine, this is not Avengers 3. It is very much still a Captain America film, and the movie is focused on Steve, Tony, and Bucky. This is incredibly impressive.

The Bad

Captain America: Civil War does a great job of giving us hero vs. hero conflict in a way that is believable and doesn’t force us to start cheering against any of the heroes we’ve grown to love over the past dozen films. But it doesn’t do quite as well with giving us conflict between the heroes and the villains. Crossbones is almost wasted in his initial scene in this film, and it’s unlikely we’ll see him again. For one of Cap’s most feared foes, I expected better. He doesn’t get much more credit than Batroc did in Winter Soldier, which I also thought was criminally underusing the character.

I could forgive this, if they had managed Zemo better. But they didn’t. This Zemo isn’t a long-time Hydra operative, nor does he have the legacy connection to one of Captain America’s WWII enemies. He’s a modern villain with modern motivations rooted in the previous films, and there is no sign of his classic costume. Zemo – and especially the actions he took with the Thunderbolts – has been one of my favorite Captain America villains for over a decade, and I feel like he was wasted here. Rather than co-op a classic villain, they could have just made him a new character without losing anything. Considering how we’ve seen other Captain America villains handled – including the underuse of the Stuckers in Age of Ultron and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I was really hoping for a better treatment.

There’s also a romance in this film that very much feels shoved in. The characters – and their relationship – deserves a better treatment. This is doubly annoying because we see a different relationship forming through the course of the movie and handled masterfully and deftly.

The Ugly

I gave mention to how well they avoid having the heroes pick up the Idiot Ball earlier in this review. This is true. That said, there is a phenomenal example of Cap grabbing the ball and not letting go near the climax of the movie. It’s realistic enough to imagine that Cap might’ve said what he did at that point – but it was glaring enough that I had to lean over to my wife at that moment and exclaim “Or, you know, don’t say that and start fighting your best friend again.”

Also, while this may be personal, I found that the 3-D effects led to a lot of blurring during the film. When I saw clips of action at home on TV during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I was astonished at how much clearer it was.

Final Thought

At the end of the day, Captain America: Civil War didn’t manage to become my new favorite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. That honor still goes to Winter Soldier. That said, being my third favorite of these movies still puts it head-and-shoulders ahead of almost every other superhero film that has been released as of yet.

I’m unsure when I’m going to get back to see this movie. I’d like to see it again (not in 3-D this time), but as mentioned, this is one of the darkest entries from Marvel to date (although it doesn’t hold a candle to any of the Netflix series). And while I don’t think it’s too dark for my daughters to watch, it is a film I think I’d like to be able to pause to explain elements to them when they see it.

That said, Captain America: Civil War was a deeply satisfying experience, and it’s a movie I highly recommend.

Bonus

There are two things that every Marvel movie is expected to have, and I’m happy to say that Captain America: Civil War includes both stingers (one mid-credits and one at the very end of the credits), and a cameo from Marvel CEO Emeritus, Stan Lee. This time around, Stan comes in near the end, and while his cameo is slightly less hilarious than some of his others, it’s still deeply satisfying.

The mid-credits stinger is a bit of a miss for me – in that it feels like it belongs as a part of the main film, not as a tease for future films. The post-credit stinger is a more traditional tease which helps move us towards Spider-Man: Homecoming. Both are entertaining, and well worth sitting through the credits for.

(Disclaimer: I was provided a free preview pass screening to attend Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. I received no other compensation for writing this review, and all opinions and views expressed are my own.)

Dad in a Cape Podcast Episode 9

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Dad in a Cape Podcast Episode 4

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Musicals and Mira

Jekyll_And_Hyde_Complete_Works_The_Gothic_Musical_Thrillerby Aaron Einhorn
I’m a huge fan of Broadway musicals, and by extension, many film musicals. I think that my love of Disney films at least partially is due to that.

I’ve been trying to share some of my favorite musicals with the girls lately. And while Cordy is pretty indifferent to them, Mira finds them quite enjoyable, although I have to spend a lot of time while we’re listening explaining them to her. “Ok, so in this song, Tarzan’s ape father, Kerchak, is talking to Kala to show that even though he banished her and Tarzan, he still loves her.”

We started with Broadway adaptations of Disney, logically enough. At least in those cases she knows the characters and the stories, and some of the music. Tarzan was the first stretch there, but she got through it. And both Cordy and Mira have loved listening to the music of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog.

At her school, Mira and Cordy are both a part of the Chess Club, so I thought I’d share Chess: In Concert with them. It’s got good music, they enjoy the game of chess, and that version at least features the voice of Elsa from Frozen. And they’ve liked it a lot.

Recently, Mira has been asking me about the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and while I’m going to grab a copy of the book for her to read, it made me think about one of my favorite musicals that I haven’t listened to in years, so I figured I’d get Jekyll and Hyde (the concept album, not the Broadway cast recording) downloaded back onto my iPhone for them to listen to in the car. I haven’t actually been in the car with them since we discussed this, but I’ve been listening to it myself over the past two days and remembered how much I loved it.

I also made some observations on this listen-through.

1) Linda Eder is freaking amazing. The way she mixes in the lower-class London accent with her amazing singing voice in the same line is nothing short of astonishing.

2) “This is The Moment” is right up there with “Love is an Open Door” (from Frozen) for Most Ironic Song in a Production. In any other film, “Love is an Open Door” would be a really great, really cute love song between Hans and Anna. The problem with it, of course, is that in the rest of the film you discover that Hans is a manipulative sociopath who was playing Anna like a fiddle. Similarly, “This is the Moment” is an incredible, awesome, inspiring “Seize the Day!” kind of song… until you realize that it’s the song where Jekyll decides “Ok. Going to use the formula on myself.” In other words, if you look at the rest of the show, “This is the Moment” is really a song that should make you go “Ya know, maybe not. Maybe I’ll think about this a little longer and not do something rash and life-altering.”