Wednesday, November 30, 2011

nana nana nana nana (g g f# f# f f f# f#)


What a great character. Of all the super heroes created in the last 100 years, Batman is definitely the most intriguing. There are tons of other comic book superhero characters out there, some have more interesting premises and themes like the Wolverine, Hellboy, Spawn. Even lesser known characters from Batman's same publishing company (DC) on the surface have potential to be more interesting like Firestorm, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Doctor Midnite, and Deadman. However, Batman towers above everyone else in popularity in the comics universe, and in pop culture. The fact that until recently, Batman (Bruce Wayne) was one of the few DC heroes from the Golden Age (1938-1950) to not die or retire and be replaced by another younger character attests to his popularity and staying power. Boom Tron made him their Badass of the Week in July.

Batman's origin has been told by numerous writers in numerous mediums. Not only is Batman printed monthly in several comic titles, but he has also been the subject of 2 movie serials, a live action television show, 5 animated television shows, 5 animated films, 7 live action films, and 28 video games. Basically, a boy born into privilege has a traumatic experience when his parents are gunned down in front of him. Instead of spending decades in therapy, and for the rest of his life trying to recapture a ruined childhood, Bruce Wayne devotes himself to becoming the best crime fighter ever.

The ideals of justice, charity, community and intelligence coupled with individuality and kickass brute force appeal to everything that Americans hold dear. Bruce Wayne encompasses all of these things. I think the real reason the character is so well liked is this unwavering resolve for justice.  Batman is the darkest hero without crossing the line to become a killer. This is the one rule of Batman. Some would ask why. After all, even the State decides some criminals are better sent to death row. Batman gives a great answer in the comics, stating that he doesn't kill because it is too hard to take a life, but because it is too easy.

A Christian interpretation may be that Batman views all life, even the depraved, criminal, sociopathic kind of life to be sacred and redeemable. But I'd like to think that Batman would much rather toe the line at murder rather than cross over into the world of the very things he fights. Keep this idea in mind for later.

Bruce Wayne decides though, that it isn't enough to just bring criminals to justice. The police do that everyday. Striking terror into the hearts of villains while bringing them to justice is way more effective. And so, he dresses up like a bat, which is a pretty scary animal. The fact that a grown man dresses up like a flying rodent doesn't seem to bother anyone, the other traits mentioned above make his wardrobe less silly.

On top of all this, unlike his peers Superman, and the Green Lantern who also uphold law, order, and justice, Batman has no superpowers or magical energy paraphernalia. He is just a man, a man with more wealth than some small countries, a good education, and the gift of being a good detective.

Great heroes are often complimented by great villains. This very idea is often a central theme for the Joker, perhaps the greatest comic book villain of all time. Batman's villains do not stop with the Joker, however. The Batman villains have the potential to be the most depraved, insane, dark, and twisted villains ever conceived. Even the more goofy villains created during the campy Silver Age like Mr Freeze, Poison Ivy and Calender Man have been written in ways that reveal how disturbing obsession can become.

These guys are not like Spiderman's mostly animal themed villains, or Hellboy's fairytale monsters, or even Superman's mostly super powered Earth threatening alien adversaries (this doesn't count Luthor, in fact, he would make a great Batman villain). Batman fights not just criminals, but fractured human psyche at its worst. These villains are not cliche cookie-cutter hero opposites bent on doing bad things for badness sake, they come largely from places of virtue... virtue gone insane. Plain crazy people are bad enough, but most of these Batman villains are also very intelligent. These are the insane scientists, professors, and doctors.

Among the long list of villains, Batman faces a variety of: deranged psychologists (Hugo Strange, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow), twisted scientists (Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, ManBat, Blockbuster), evil doctors (Hush, Professor Pyg), terrorists (Ra's Al Ghul, Bane), mobsters (The Falcones, Scarface, Black Mask, Maxie Zuess, the Penguin), thieves (Catman, Catwoman, Cluemaster), a district attorney (Two-Face) and egomaniacal fanatics (Mad Hatter, the Riddler, Calendar Man)...

and this guy...

the Joker, who often fits into all of those categories. The Joker has become the most well known Batman villain. All heroes have at least one well known anti-thesis. Superman has Lex Luthor, Spider man has the Green Goblin, Sherlock Holmes has James Moriarty, James Bond has Ernst Blofeld, and Batman has the Joker. The Joker makes much of this relationship with Batman. The Joker has passed on killing Batman when given the chance, his explanation being what would the Joker be without a Batman? The Joker seems to be his own study in madness. However, recently in the mythos, it has been established that the Joker may not be insane after all, which makes his character all the more intriguing and evil.

As suggested above, Batman has embodied fairness, and justice, which are virtues. Batman battles what happens to virtues twisted by madness. There is a line somewhere that these villains have crossed, and Batman continues to refuse to go there, keeping his own madness at bay.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

If I Made Millions, I'd Dress Any Way You Want

So they NBA lockout is into it's 146th day. There are rumors that the two sides are meeting for the first time since the player's union decertified a few weeks ago. However, I'm not very hopeful. Mostly because I read Bill Simmons. The man that brought us all the Book of Basketball is a well known sports columnist for ESPN and has recently started his own blog/site Grantland, where he is the chief editor.

Simmons has recently published an article about the NBA lockout and has had some pretty interesting ideas about how the NBA ought to restructure itself. Mostly, I agree with Simmons. What I don't understand is his and others ideas and complaints about how owners deal with and treat players. According to Simmons, the commissioner of the NBA and the owners of the individual franchises have gone after players "like an overbearing principal". Now, I understand how people don't like being told what to do, however, Simmons gives a laundry list of things that David Stern has mandated in the last decade. These things include a dress code, showing up to work functions on time, taunting, and physical altercations (on the court, and in the stands). Apparently, players balk at these sorts of the things, and are basically defended by sports writers like Simmons, Mike Wise, and Bryant Gumbel. Gumbel even goes as far as to call these sorts of things racially motivated (which even Simmons has decided went too far).

The thing that I don't understand, and what most people who work for a living in real jobs probably don't understand either, is this... The owners employ the players to work for their franchise/organization. If the players are seen as employees, then they are so out of touch with how employee/employer relationships actually work. Even employees that have unions need to play by the employer's rules to a certain point. These unions help prevent unfair employment practices and gross misconduct by employers, but dress code, not allowing violence/harrassment, and being punctual don't seem to be issues for other unions.

NBA players have whined about the fines levied for showing up late for NBA functions like All-Star Weekend and NBA Cares events. Normal people with jobs are all expected to be on time for work. Dress Code was an issue that players didn't agree with either. Again, most jobs require employees to dress a certain way, including those sports broadcasters. Most have a uniform, others require certain types of dress so their employees look professional when representing their company/agency/organization.

Normal employers in normal occupations take "disciplinary action" if their employees show up late for work, don't dress appropriately, and conduct themselves unprofessionally on the job. Disciplinary action means consequences like docked pay, probationary employment status, and termination. NBA players get fined or get suspended, or banned from playing in a number of games.

The fact that NBA players are union members, contracted professionals, and/or free lance employees shouldn't make a difference. Other professions with unions who work on a contract play by similar rules like teachers, the police, and truckers. Each of these professions are required to dress appropriately, act appropriately, and come to work on time.

I have never heard of an NBA player getting fired. I don't think it's possible, and the thought of it actually being possible is a pretty interesting concept. However, that would probably turn into a strategy used to dump a bad investment, free up cap space, get out of a contract, or force a trade. On second thought, nevermind.

What is my point? Final summation? I think the overall attitude of the players is so out of touch with reality that even if this lockout ends in time to save a partial season, it will take a long time to bring back disillusioned fans who live on Earth and not planet Professional Athlete.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bitches Love Songs (named after them)

Yesterday I read a review by Liz Phair about Elvis Costello for Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists.  The thing that stood out for me the most was the line about how "his songs about women and girls are devastating".  Of course this made me think about Allison, which is probably his best known song about a girl.  It, of course, is about Allison, her name being the title of the song, much like many songs about girls.  This thought of course reminded me of this clip from Family Guy.  

To recap, the list is as follows...

  • Rosanna: Toto, Toto 4 (1982)
  • Roxanne: The Police, Outlandos dAmour (1978)
  • Michelle: Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965)
  • Allison: Elvis Costello, My Aim is True (1977)
  • Sarah
  1. Bob Dylan, Desire (1976)
  2. Fleetwood Mac, Tusk (1979)
  3. Thin Lizzy, Shades of a Blue Orphanage (1972)

  • Angie: Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup (1973)
  • Brandy: Scott English, Scott English (1978)
  • Mandy: Barry Manilow, Mandy 7 inch (1974)
  • Gloria: Van Morrison, The Angry Young Them (1964)
  • Cecilia: Simon and Garfunkle, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
  • Maggie Mae
  1. Beatles, Let it Be (1970)
  2. Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story (1971)
  • Jessica: 
  1. Allman Brothers, Brothers and Sisters (1973)
  2. Elliot Minor, Elliot Minor (2007)
  3. Dir En Grey, Kisou (2001)
  4. Adam Green, Friends of Mine (2003)
  • Nancy (with the Laughing Face): Ray Charles, Dedicated to You (1961)
  • Barbara Ann: Beach Boys, Beach Boys' Party (1965)
  • Billie Jean: Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)
  • Layla: Derek and the Dominos, Layla (1970)
  • Lola: Kinks, Lola Versus Powerman
  • Polly: 
  1. Kinks, Wonderboy single (1968)
  2. Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)
  • Helena
  1. Misfits, Famous Monsters (1999)
  2. My Chemical Romance, 3 Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004)
  3. Nicklecreek, Why Should the Fire Die (2005)
  4. Will Haven, Hierophant (2007)
  • Jenny from the Block: Jennifer Lopez, This is Me, Then (2002)
  • Sherry: The Four Seasons, Sherry and 11 (1962)
  • Laura
  1. Billy Joel, the Nylon Curtain (1982)
  2. Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters (2004)
  3. Flogging Molly, Whiskey on a Sunday (2006)
  • Wendy: Beach Boys, All Summer Long (1964)
  • Maria
  1. Bernstein and Sondheim, West Side Story (1956)
  2. Rogers and Hammerstein, Sound of Music (1959)
  3. Ricky Martin, A Medio Vivir (1995)
  4. Wu Tang Clan, Wu Tang Forever (1997)
  5. Blondie, No Exit (1999)
  6. Rage Against the Machine, Battle of Los Angeles (1999)
  7. Santana, Supernatural (1999)
  • Peggy Sue: 
  1. Buddy Holly, Buddy Holly (1957)
  2. Blink 182, Cheshire Cat (1994)
  • Minnie the Moocher: Cab Calloway (1931)
  • Tracy: Mogwai, Mogwai Young Team (1997)
  • Jean: Oliver, Good Morning Starshine (1969)
  • Sweet Jane: Velvet Underground, Loaded (1970)
  • Mary Ann
  1. Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
  2. Bob Dylan, Dylan (1973)
  3. Black Lace, Mary Ann (1979)
  • Eleanor Rigby: Beatles, Revolver (1966)

The concept of this joke is so interesting.  There are tons of songs about women, not all are named after the women they are about, but many are, and as you can see from the list, many names are used by several different songwriters.  Enter a girl's name in Wikipedia some time and see if there is an entry for (song).  Here are a few more not mentioned in the clip, in case that wasn't enough...

  • Omie Wise: Doc Watson, Doc Watson (1964)
  • Melissa: Allman Brothers, Eat a Peach (1972)
  • Samantha: Margaret Berger, Pretty Scary Silver Fairy (2006)
  • Julia:
  1. Beatles, White Album (1968)
  2. Our Lady Peace, Naveed (1994)
  3. Goudie, Peep Show (2000)
  4. Conway Twitty, Borderline (1987)
  • Christine: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kaleidoscope (1980)
  • Gina: Blues Traveler, Blues Traveler (1990)
  • Rosemary:
  1. Grateful Dead, Aoxomoxoa (1969)
  2. Gomez, Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline (2000)
  3. Katy Rose, Candyeyed (2007)
  • Emily:
  1. Bowling For Soup, Drunk Enough to Dance (2002)
  2. Dave Koz, Dave Koz (1990)
  3. Frank Sinatra, Softly as I Leave You (1964)
  • Delilah:
  1. Tom Jones, Delilah (1968)
  2. Dresden Dolls, Yes Virginia (2006)
  3. Queen, Innuendo (1991)
  4. Cranberries, Bury the Hatchet (1999)

This is pretty impressive, and just think, most of these songs are really good songs too.  and I only included titles of songs that are only names, which means titles with girl's names as part of the title aren't on here, like My Michelle by Guns n Roses, Hey There Delilah by the Plain White Ts, Jane Says by Jane's Addiction and Loose Lucy by the Grateful Dead.  Bob Dylan's song Lily, Rosemary the Jack of Hearts is a two-for.  I thought about putting links on each song, but I figure if anyone actually reads this and are curious, they can search for the songs themselves.

I guess Brian's comment to Stewie is true, naming songs after girls is a tired, unoriginal and lazy idea, but..  all girls want a song written about them, don't they?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

TV Party Tonight

Even since cable channels figured out they could air shows like HBO, television got way more interesting. The issue I have though, is that I never remember when certain shows come on during the week. I do enjoy certain television shows, and do my best to catch them when they are on.

Television, I believe, has outdone Hollywood and movie making, and I point to subject matter as proof. While Hollywood is busy remaking classic films like The Clash of the Titans, Straw Dogs, Flashdance, and the Crazies, television studios are making pretty amazing film quality series with original content, characters, and plotlines. Some are better than most new movies. A few shows I enjoy follow...

This showed premiered in September, 2008. Another in a long line of FX original shows, Sons of Anarchy could be said to be a spin-off from The Shield, however there are no connecting episodes, and no main characters from either show cross over. This show has romanticized the MC gang culture, and actually gang and organized crime culture in general. The third season ended a three season story arc, and the fourth season promises to begin another multiple season story arc. This show goes further than The Shield to create anti-heroes. There are no true good guys. Not only are the main protagonists criminals, gun runners and felons, but the law enforcement is also severely compromised. Each episode has moments of surprise, revulsion, and edge of the chair action, ending with me wishing I didn't have to wait for next week for a new episode.

First aired in September 2005 and has run for 7 seasons, some may say this show saw success mostly due to school girl crushes over the two main characters. I would like to think it has more to do with the nature of the subject matter. Two dudes creep around and hunt monsters, demons, and other equally scary things. Eventually they get mixed up in the second coming of the devil and perhaps the beginning of Armageddon. In retrospect, the theme of characters selling their souls to save other characters repeatedly gets tired. And none of the characters seem to resolve their issues or grow and change between seasons. However, despite this, the show continues to be fun to watch.

One of a long list of Sci-Fi (Syfy) network's original shows, Warehouse 13 premiered July 7, 2009 and shares the same universe as Alphas, and Eureka which are both on the same network and have characters that crossover between the three shows. Warehouse 13 is about a government installation much like the warehouse shown at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The characters seek out objects of supernatural origin and add them to an already vast archive of similar dangerous artifacts. The main characters mirror the male/female partners duo made famous by X-Files and copied by other shows like Bones, and Fringe. The supporting cast is pretty good, and the entire show has an X-Files, MIB, Indiana Jones type of feel to it, even though the majority of the episodes follow a similar pattern. Most of the time the warehouse hears of strange occurrences, goes to find a new artifact, it gets complicated, but in the end they prevail and neutralize the danger. This doesn't matter however, the show is still interesting, clever, and fun to watch.

This show debuted on the BBC in 2006 and I watch it through Netflix. This particular version of the Robin Hood legend walks the line between gritty, serious period piece drama, and campy family fun romp through the forest. The Sheriff of Nottingham is an evil, sociopath bent on taking England in a coup with shadowy partners. Robin Hood is a jaded peacenik veteran of the crusades and has surrounded himself with the usual merry men of Little John, Will Scarlet, and Allan a Dale, with Much the miller's son bringing comedy relief, a saraqcen girl named Djak joining the gang in season 2, and Friar Tuck introduced in season 3 to round out the legendary gang of outlaws. Marian is played very well by Lucy Griffiths, however, she is replaced by Joanna Froggatt in the 3rd season. Sometimes I feel like the show leaves much to be desired, especially after seeing the Russel Crowe version in theaters, but it is definitely an improvement over the Robin of Sherwood series from the 1980s.