Thursday, December 11, 2014

Don't Prey on Me

Mantises are cool!  This is the first time I ever saw one outside of the Insect House at the zoo.  The Northeastern United States is known to have two species of mantis, both non-native and introduced sometime in the late 19th century, probably by accident.  However, they are great pest control, and have been encouraged by nurseries and farms throughout the area.  This particular mantis is the tenodera sinensis, the Chinese Mantis.


This one must have been around three inches long.  They can grow as big as four and a half.  I caught it chowing down on what I think used to be a bee.  Mantises will eat anything apparently, which is a good thing if you want to decrease your populations of pests, but not so good if they eat the bees, spiders, wasps and other similarly beneficial predators.  They have also been known to go after hummingbirds, and small rodents, as well as other mantises.  


Mantises share the same order, Dictyoptera, as termites and cockroaches.  They are the suborder Mantodea, and the termites and cockroaches are of the suborder Blattodea.  They are also pretty similar to phasmids (walking sticks), and grylloblattids (ice crawlers).  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tell all your Nurses and your Nuns about It


Brett Dennen
Hope for the Hopeless
Dualtone, 2008
produced by John Alagia

singles- 
  • Make You Crazy
  • Heaven
I confess, the single Ain't No Reason brought me here, and originally I intended to buy the album that song is on.  Instead, I got this one, by accident, but I don't care because it's awesome.  If you enjoy folk/rock (and by that I mean more like Dylan, and less like Mumford and Sons), this guy is a solid choice.

The songs are all well-meaning, nice guy lyrics from a dude that loves baseball and easy going California living.  His idol is Van Morrison, and it shows.  Also, he teams up with Femi Kuti from Positive Force, and Natalie Merchant from 10,000 Maniacs.  

Arik Danielsen from PopMatters said Dennen is "No Dylan or Lennon, but he does capture the spirit of a generation attracted to the hopeful promise they witnessed in the Obama canidacy".  Although he is no Dylan, or Lennon, or Morrison, these obvious influences leak out into Dennen's music, and it's awesome.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stranger and Stranger Still

A while ago, I started writing pieces about Batman villains, because, why not? You can click the label tag at the bottom to read more. This post is about one of Batman's first villains.


Dr. Hugo Strange (not to be confused with Marvel's Doctor Strange, or Nedor Comic's Doc Strange) appears in Detective Comics months before Batman #1 (the first appearance of the Joker and Catwoman). Dr. Hugo Strange is also very much like another early villainous doctor, Dr. Death. Their physical appearance, and their use of science to create weapons may lead one to question whether the two early characters are that much different. They appear six months apart and are nearly identical.

Strange originally operates as the leader of a gang, and uses science to create fog machines and super strong 15 foot mutant henchmen.  He is also the first villain to deduce Batman's identity, and attempts to auction off the information.  

Strange gets reinvented in the early '90s as a psychiatrist obsessed with the Batman, and tries to become the Dark Knight. In the Prey and Terror storylines, he works with the GCPD and is an advocate for an anti-Batman task force. He also pairs up with another insane psychiatrist, the Scarecrow. Everything backfires and Strange ends up in Arkham. This Batman obsession has recently become a theme every new (and sometimes old) villains have. Bane, the Court of Owls, Prometheus, Dr. Hurt, and Hush all have a Batman obsession that is the driving force behind their plots to kill or ruin the Batman. Even the Joker recently has fallen into this trope. 

Dr Hugo Strange as psychiatrist has become the more popular version of the character, and often he is seen as a doctor at Arkham Asylum, but has also appeared at Belle Reeve, or in a private practice in Gotham. The Arkham connection is also shared by other doctor/psychiatrist characters like Harleen Quinnzel, Tommy Elliot, Jeremiah Arkham, and Jonathan Crane.  

I always thought he was far more dangerous as a respected psychiatrist than as a crazy Batman-obsessed, kidnapper/gang leader. The video game Arkham City helped to recast Strange as a worthy Batman foe. A trusted doctor that studies people's minds and prescribes medication, and practices some ethically questionable studies on the human psyche can be a truly scary premise. Dr. Hugo Strange is definitely one of Batman's most underrated villains with so much potential. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Turkey!

This guy is a pet of a man I met during work.  I asked if the idea was to eat it for Thanksgiving, as it was pretty close to the holiday, and I was laughed at.  He's far too old to eat, apparently.

This particular bird is a Narrangansett turkey, which is a rare type of heritage turkey, which are domestic breeds of Meleagris Gallopavo.  This particular breed is a cross between the Meleagris Gallopavo, and the Meleagris Gallopavo Silvestris.

Judging from the picture I took, this could even be a Silver Narrangansett, which is even more rare, as the Bronze, and Narrangansett breeds are far more popular.  Happy Thanksgiving!




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Dynamic Duo, or, those Low Notes that you Hear

Royal Blood
Royal Blood
Warner Brother Records, 2014
Produced by Tom Daglety

Mike Kerr - bass, vocals
Ben Thatcher - drums

singles-
  • Out of the Black/ Come on Over
  • Little Monster/ Hole
  • Come on Over/ You Want Me
  • Figure it Out/ Love it and Leave it Alone
  • Ten Tonne Skeleton/ One Trick Pony
There has been a lot in the media recently about how rock music is dead.  Gene Simmons said it, Jerry Coyne from the University of Chicago said it, Pigeons and Planes ran an article about it, and I read a great article about the rise and fall of all great artistic styles with a focus on rock, but I cant find it.  The point made, though, was that all great artistic styles have a golden age where all the best material is created, and Rock Music's golden age had passed.

Royal Blood seems to be a glimmer of hope for a genre that has been in the decline since the mid '90s.  The music is fundamentally sound (pun intended), the lyrics meaningful and catchy.  And it isn't overly produced.  It's only two British guys, without a traditional lead instrument.  Move over Black Keys.  If it's rock you want, that is new and kicks some ass, check them out.  Also, the art for the album cover, and all their singles, is pretty sweet.  









Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Peacock in a Box

This is another post where I just show pictures of weird-ass nature that I see at work. Today, I have one of the coolest mostly flightless birds ever invented. Apparently you can keep peafowl as pets, as evident by these pictures. There are two of them, a male (peacock) and a female (peahen). The male is rather obvious.

There are three kinds of peafowl, these particular peafowl are Indian Peafowl, pavo cristatus, and are probably the most recognizable of the three species. It is also the national symbol of India. These birds are most closely related to tragopans, pheasants, and junglefowl.



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Feeling Lucky, Punk?

I think it has been well established now that I work outdoors and see cool nature things all the time.  The other day I found something lucky, which I immediately plucked and took pictures.  After all, the internet says "pictures or it didn't happen".  So, here are your pictures, you weirdo voyeurs.



That is a four leaf clover.  I've actually found a bunch.  Usually they are found in the same patch.  Science says the fourth leaf on a regular trifolium repens (white clover) is most likely a recessive gene found at very low probability.  There are estimated one four leaf clover for every 10000 normal clovers.

According to what we can remember about Druids, they considered clover to be magical, and therefore, rare 4 leaf clovers to be even more so.  They were also thought to be markers of fairy gardens.

Because Christianity borrowed a lot of traditions from other religions, the clover stuff found a new home in the Christian mythos.  St Patrick was said to use the 3 leafs of the clover to teach about the holy trinity.  A four leaf clover looks an awful lot like a cross, and therefore would be extra holy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Its a Snap!

I almost ran over this guy the other day.  Another segment in my "cool things I almost run over at work", I bring everyone pictures of a snapping turtle.  This is a common snapping turtle, the chelydra serpentina, found in North America.  Not as cool as an alligator snapper, but still pretty awesome.  I tried to push it out of the road with a broom, but it just snapped at the broom, and stayed right where it was, stubborn bastard.



Thursday, June 19, 2014

So Much Better When You're Naked

Ida Maria
Fortress Round my Heart
2008, Nesna Records

Ida Maria Borli Sivertsen - vocals, rhythm guitar
Stefan Tornby - lead guitar
Johannes Lindberg - bass
Olle Lundin - drums

singles- 
  • I Like you so Much Better when You're Naked/ Leave me, Let me Go
  • I like you so Much Better when You're Naked/ Lightning
  • Oh My God/ We're all Going to Hell
  • Oh My God/ Keep me Warm
  • Oh My God/ Drive Away my Heart
  • Drive Away My Heart/ Leave Me, Let Me Go
  • Stella/ In the End/ Small People's Smiles
  • Queen of the World/ Everybody's Always Alone/ Stella
Sooo many singles!! This album is so cool!  I'm a sucker for a strong female lead, and Ida Maria is one of my favorites. She's like the rock chick from high school who would probably kick your ass. She is from Norway, and proves that not all Scandinavian musicians are weirdos like Bjork, or Gorgoroth. The sound is very much like the garage rock of the late '90s. The whole album is good, another example of the perfect album.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lunarcy! Complete Lunarcy!

Once again, I'm contributing to the popular segment Crazy Shit I See at Work.  Today's episode is brought to everyone by the phases of the Moon, and the letters L and M.  The Actias Luna, more commonly known as the Lunar Moth, is probably the largest moth species with a 4.5 inch wingspan.

Giant bugs are always terrifying, especially the flying ones, mostly because they remind me, and probably everyone else, of potential B Movie terrors.


However, the Lunar Moth, although enormous and seemingly life threatening, only lives for around one week, mostly because it doesn't have a mouth or digestive system.  From the subfamily Saturniidae of the family Saturniidae, of the order Lepidoptera, Lunar Moths are closely related to other moon moths, mostly from East Asia, and Tussah silk moths.  

The picture below was taken in the morning, around 9am.  Lunar Moths typically hatch from their pupa stage in the morning, and find a place to stretch and harden up their wings in order to fly away.  Usually this takes about 2 hours.  So... I witnessed an important process in its brief life.  Nature is pretty cool up close.  



Friday, June 6, 2014

Ghetto Gotham will be Televised

Fox announced a new television series about Batman, sort of.  Gotham, a series about Gotham City before Batman will air sometime this year.  Soon.  I've seen the first trailer.  This post is about what I'm hoping to see in this new show.



When I heard the plan was to do a show not about Batman, but about the city of Gotham and James Gordon, I dismissed it as boring.  There were already comics written about this concept, and while Gotham Central, Gotham Nights, and Batman: GCPD may have been interesting, they didn't sell well because fans want to read about the Batman, not the police department.

However, after seeing the trailer, I changed my mind.  This series could be interesting.  This could be successful like Arrow.  But it also could turn into Lois and Clark, or the Muppet Babies if realistic continuity is thrown out the window.  This could be done well, though, and here is how...

In the comics, there is already a history of Gotham crime.  This is pretty much laid out in Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, and The Long Halloween and Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb.  The first thing I want to see is the rise of the Falcone and Maroni crime families.  Jeph Loeb covers the fall of organized crime in Gotham, and when Batman arrives, they are already well established.

In the trailer, we get to see a few villains before they become villains.  Poison Ivy, Scarecrow and Catwoman make appearances, and so does the Penguin.  The second thing I hope we get to see are some of Gotham's 1% families.  The Penguin is Oswald Cobblepot, and the Cobblepots, according to the comics, are an old rich Gotham family, like the Waynes.  Other families include the Elliots (Thomas Elliot aka Hush), the Kane's (Kate Kane aka Batmwoman), and the Sionis's (Roman Sionis aka the Black Mask).  I hope to see all of these families at least mentioned.

The fact that certain characters are mentioned outright in the trailer, suggests that origin stories will be told throughout the series.  But there are Batman villains who are far older.  Therefore, the second thing I hope to see are the older villains.  Jason Woodrue becomes the Floronic Man, but before that, he mentors Pamela Isley and is responsible for turning her into Poison Ivy.  Ra's Al Ghul is ancient.  Dr. Hugo Strange is an older man when he first encounters Batman.  Amadeus Arkham founded Arkham Asylum, and went mad and died far before Batman arrived.  All of these characters would be great to see, if only in cameos.

In conclusion, I just hope this show doesn't suck.  And if it turns out to be awesome, I hope Fox doesn't decide to cancel it prematurely, like it has done to a bunch of potentially great shows.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

75 Manly Albums!!!

Pass the scotch, and beef jerky, and roll up the sleeves of your flannel.  In March 2009, Esquire Magazine published a list of the 75 Albums Every Man Should Own!  Cigars and donkey punches for everyone!!

I'm not sure how Esquire has the credentials to make a list of the top manly anything, but this list is pretty badass.  They are missing a few good ones though...  the list is as follows, followed by my critique of course:

  • Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town
  • Willie Nelson: Phases and Stages
  • The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses
  • Iggy Pop: Lust for Life
  • David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust
  • James Brown: Live at the Apollo
  • Marvin Gaye: Whats Going On?
  • Pavement: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
  • Nas: Illmatic
  • Dire Straits: Dire Straits
  • Grateful Dead: American Beauty
  • Minor Threat: Out of Step
  • The Rolling Stones: Aftermath
  • Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique
  • Led Zeppelin: 1
  • Elvis Costello: Imperial Bedroom
  • The Cars: The Cars
  • Wilco: Being There
  • Kiss: Destroyer
  • Radiohead: the Bends
  • The Temptations: Gettin Ready
  • ACDC: Highway to Hell
  • Otis Redding: the Dictionary of Soul
  • Cody Chessnut: The Headphone Masterpiece
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Soundtrack
  • Bod Dylan: Blood on the Tracks
  • Taj Mahal: Take a Giant Step
  • Bob Marley: Catch a Fire
  • Nirvana: MTV Unplugged
  • The Best of Mississippi John Hurt
  • Traveling Wilburys: vol 1
  • Townes Van Zandt: Live at the Old Quarter
  • Bill Callahan: Woke on a Whaleheart
  • The Beatles: Rubber Soul
  • The Velvet Underground and Nico
  • Ike and Tina Turner: Working Together
  • Explosions in the Sky: The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place
  • Talking Heads: True Stories
  • Pulp: This is Hardcore
  • Guns n Roses: Appetite for Destruction
  • Frank Sinatra: in The Wee Small Hours
  • Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain
  • The Clash: Combat Rock
  • Ramones: Road to Ruin
  • Television: Marquee Moon
  • Pink Floyd: Animals
  • The Pixies: Doolittle
  • The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
  • The Notorious BIG: Ready to Die
  • Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings
  • Pearl Jam: Ten
  • Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys
  • Drive by Truckers: Brighter than Creation's Dark
  • Ray Charles: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
  • Metallica: ...and Justice for All
  • Van Halen: Fair Warning
  • Jay Z: Reasonable Doubt
  • Beach Boys: Pet Sounds
  • Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville
  • Joe Jackson: Look Sharp!
  • Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life
  • Rage Against the Machine: Rage Against the Machine
  • The Who: Who's Next
  • Vic Chessnut: Left to His own Devices
  • Beethoven: Symphony number 5
  • Sam Cooke: Night Beat
  • Leonard Cohen: Songs of Leonard Cohen
  • Luna: Penthouse
  • Buena Vista Social Club: Buena Vista Social Club
  • Tom Waits: Small Change
  • Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison
  • Neil Young: Harvest
  • Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um
  • Gustav Mahler: Symphony number 5
  • Jeff Buckley: Grace

cover to the March 2009 issue
That is a lot to take in.  Let me start with the few pieces I'd throw out from the list of most manly records.
We can toss out the classical music, it predates records anyway, and at this point takes up space for actual records.  If you want to experience Beethoven or Mahler, actually go to a symphony.  With the same line of thinking, The Good the Bad and the Ugly is a film to be watched, not listened to.  Get that crap out of here, what man buys a movie soundtrack, anyway?
Since this is a manly man's list of albums to own, we can toss out Radiohead, as they make you feel less of a man, and more of a girly alien.  Ike and Tina can be tossed out also, since Tina Turner is a chick, and there is nothing manly about wife beating.  Speaking of women, Liz Phair can also go, men need not be shamed, feminism tries their best as it is.  Also, Cody Chessnut?  What the hell?  and Luna can go away too, there isn't much manliness in indie/pop.  And because their music is horrible, and no self respecting guy should be wearing clown makeup and glitter, Kiss needs to be thrown on a fire.

This means there are now 9 empty spots to be filled.

  1. We would be less manly without some Van Morrison.  I nominate Moondance.  
  2. George Thoroughgood and the Destoyers Bad to the Bone ought to be included for being the manliest sounding record ever made.  
  3. Aerosmith's Toys in the Attic is obviously missing here
  4. so... James Brown is on here... this list definitely needs more Bootsy Collins.  Funkadelic's America Eats Its Young should be included.   
  5. How about Loudon Wainwright III: I'm Alright?  or Steve Goodman's Somebody Else's Troubles?  or John Prine: John Prine?  I feel like at least one of these ought to be included.  
  6. Black Flag: Damaged.  
  7. Motorhead: Ace of Spades
  8. If you still want to argue about Beethoven or Westerns, I see your classical music and soundtracks and raise you Frank Zappa: Joe's Garage.  fuck you.  
  9. Public Enemy: It takes a Nation of Millions, because there isn't enough righteous angry rap on this list. 
In addition to these additions, I'd swap out a few of the choices made here.  For example, The Rolling Stones record Some Girls is way superior to Aftermath.  Elvis Costello made Liz Phair cry with My Aim is True, so... since Liz Phair makes us ashamed of being men...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Put that Needle on the Record!


The Bouncing Souls
How I Spent my Summer Vacation
2001, Epitaph
produced by John Seymore

Greg Attonito - vocals
Pete Steinkopf - guitar
Bryan Keinlen - bass
Michael McDermott - drums

singles -
  • Gone
This is one of my favorite post punk/pop punk/new punk/whatever albums ever. The Bouncing Souls certainly picked a good name for their band, as it describes their melodic rhythm. Each song makes you want to sing along, fist pump, and possibly stage dive into your friends. Antonito's vocals are equal parts Bad Religion's Greg Graffin, and Agnostic Front's Roger Miret. The sound is hopeful, playful, and so good for rocking out while driving. Jo-Ann Green does a good review of the album over at All Music.  


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stop Excusing Bad Behavior!

I read an article today from the Huffinton Post. It was meant, I'm sure, to be a fun little fan list meant to be a diversion from the rest of the heavy, crazy headlines, like Crimean invasion, Mayors abstaining from St Patrick's Day parades, a missing airliner, and downed helicopters. The article is titled The 10 Most Misunderstood Villains in Literature, which sounds pretty interesting to an English major. However, after the first number in the list, I realized that it was less about character study, and more about apologizing for villainy.

Let me sum up the article:

The ten villains chosen as the most misunderstood were (in order)
  1. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale's character in American Psycho)
  2. Regan and 
  3. Goneril (King Lear's daughters)
  4. Freddy Montgomery (Book of Evidence)
  5. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins's character in Silence of the Lambs)
  6. Grenouille (Perfume)
  7. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates's character in Misery)
  8. Kurtz (Heart of Darkness)
  9. Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men)
  10. Dr. Frankenstein (Frankenstein)
So, right off the bat, the good looking, successful Wall Street businessman monster is pegged as the number one misunderstood villain. I think we need to set down some ground rules for what a villain is exactly. The word villain describes a character who is the opposite of the character of the hero. If the story has no hero, is the monster character technically a villain to start with?  

Regardless of the answer to that rhetorical question, the title of the article is about misunderstood bad guys. Whether the character is a villain foil, or the subject monster doesn't matter, so much as they are, in fact, awful people who commit atrocities, but maybe not, because they are misunderstood. I do not believe you can misunderstand Patrick Bateman, or anyone else on the list. The man hides behind a facade of successful boredom, and lures unsuspecting people into his apartment where he murders them in crazy methodical ways, sometimes with chainsaws.  
if he tramples you, its not his fault, he's the victim
To quote the article, and also most other criminal apologists, "But his amorality mirrors in miniature the heartlessly vampiric, ethically vacuous culture of Wall Street". In conclusion, the article states that we ought to blame the institution, not the monster it created.  

I call bullshit. True, Wall Street culture creates cold, calculating businessmen who prey on common people and each other to bolster their own portfolios. Gordon Gekko famously stated greed is good, and would sell out his own daughter. However, Gekko doesn't murder strangers on a whim to alleviate sexual frustration. If Bateman is the only example of a Wall Street broker becoming a psychopathic killer, then no one is responsible for his actions but Batmen.  

My point to all this is pretty simple. We can basically go down the list and arrive at the same conclusions. The theme here is making excuses for bad behavior. Stop that. There has been a trend in the justice system for a while now that finds someone or something else responsible for creating criminals, and finding these scapegoats to be legally liable for terrible behavior.

Dr Menninger, author of Whatever Became of Sin? in 1973, wrote, "Wrong things are being done, we know [...]  but is no one responsible, no one answerable for these acts"?

We are quick to acknowledge anxiety, depression, bullying, and neglect, as well as mental illness (the DSM V is 947 pages of diagnoses). And it is easy to give people a pass for a faux pas or bad manners after being aware of these things. But a social faux pas is very different from a psychotic murder rampage, or a shrewd calculated plan to keep your favorite author hostage. There can be no excuse for murder, kidnapping, and war crimes.  

This idea of misplacing blame is highlighted in works by journalist Charles J Sykes, and Stanton Peele (Diseasing America). Bert Thompson writes in an article for the Apologetic Press that "practically every human action can be accounted for by the plea "I'm not guilty, I'm just sick"".

I remember watching, when I was a kid, the trial of the infamous Menendez brothers. The two brothers were accused of murdering their parents with a shotgun in their home. The reason this trial was memorable, was because it was nationally televised, and because the defense relied solely on portraying the brothers as victims without any other recourse but violence to free themselves from oppression. Later in the trial, it was decided that the motive was more likely a desire to gain a large inheritance, instead of stopping abuse.

As a kid, however, I was amazed that this particular defense was given any credibility. It shouldn't matter, I reasoned, what happened before the murders, the trial is about whether or not there was a murder, and what the consequence for that murder would be. Clearly, someone shot somebody with a shotgun. You have victims (dead people), suspects, murder weapon... let's put this stuff together and come up with a conclusion, and then fit the crime with a reasonable consequence (usually murder is a life sentence). Apparently justice isn't so simple.

So, in conclusion, this list of misunderstood villains isn't a very good list, and falls prey to this idea that everyone is a victim of something, and that makes it okay to act in awful, illegal, and monstrous ways. This idea that these villains aren't really villains, just misunderstood sick people, is ridiculous. Yes, they are monsters, and yes they are correctly understood as monsters, and yes they are completely responsible for their actions, every one. Just the fact that everyone who is treated poorly, or is in compromising situations doesn't end up psychopaths is enough, one would think, to negate the victim card.

It is also interesting to note that the title of the article is called 10 Most Misunderstood Villains in Literature, and after reading a title like that, I was so sure I would see characters like Iago (from Othello), Moriarty (Sherlocke Holmes), Mr. Hyde (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), Damian from the Omen, Joffrey (Song of Ice and Fire), The actual Monster from Frankenstein, or even the Grinch (although I suppose that would be too easy). Also, there are only really 9 villains, you can't combine two from the same work, talk about them together, and number them separately. That's cheating.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Even M Night Shaymalan Wouldn't see it Coming

I just had a really great idea while in the shower!

So... I blog about movies sometimes, often within the theme of Hollywood being a bunch of unoriginal hacks who keep redoing old films instead of putting money towards new and exciting scripts. Just think what these directors would be able to do with Hollywood money?

Anyway, I was thinking about how much the Star Wars franchise went from awesome (A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back) to kind of disappointing (Revenge Return of the Jedi), to downright atrocious (all the prequels make me angry). But then I remembered a comic I have from a while back called Star Wars Infinities, which poses the question "what if Luke failed to blow up the original Death Star? Basically, Leia becomes the new Sith apprentice, but is saved by Luke and Darth Vader in the end, and Yoda drops the Death Star onto Coruscant and ends the Empire. Way better than any battle with Ewoks.

Which brings me to my point... reboots are stupid. Let me explain using a well known classic picture.

Psycho by Robert Bloch, Joseph Stefano, and Alfred Hitchcock --

Starring Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the psycho of the title, and Janet Leigh, the actress that made everyone afraid of the shower. This film broke boundaries and started a whole genre previously unexplored in film. A masterpiece, a classic worthy to be shown in every film studies class until the end of time.

Universal Pictures remade it in 1998, directed by Gus Van Sant. It is in color, and filmed and edited shot for shot, scene for scene just like the original. What a waste of money and film. Universal should have just done what Disney always does, and release the original in theaters. Might as well. Aside from being in black and white, it is also filmed scene for scene, shot for shot like the original... This is quite possibly the greatest example of how much Hollywood is barren of good ideas.

The best part about Psycho was the shock of watching a woman get murdered in the shower (we used to all feel safe there), thinking the mother did it out of jealousy (she must be the pyscho from the title), and then discovering that the mother is already long dead, and Norman Bates has become two people! Holy Moly!

So... a remake of the same film, shot the same way, with the same plot would never have the same shock value as the original. Everyone knows how it ends, just like if you  watch the Star Wars films (all of them) in order, Empire Strikes Back is no longer shocking. Episode 3 gives away the surprise. By Episode 5 everyone except Luke and Leia know that Vader is their father.

This brings me to my really great idea. What if the Psycho remake was expected to be a shot for shot remake of the original, but wasn't?  Picture this: Psycho begins as expected, Janet Leigh's character Marion gets to the Bates Motel, she and Norman have their conversation about his mother, the shower scene is about to happen. The audience sees Marion, they see the shower, and the water, and the drain, and blood washing down the drain... but there is no scream. Cut to Marion washing blood off her hands, and then jump cuts of a murdered Norman Bates? To make this work, the murder would have to happen off screen, but I'm sure Hollywood's love for flashbacks will help fill in the lost time, etc, etc.

Marion is the pyscho? Totally unexpected. Turns out, Marion travels around murdering people and assuming their identities. The rest of the film is all about Tommy Lee Jones following leads trying to track down a serial killer. Best idea ever?  I think so. Also, if this happened the internet would probably explode.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Church and Destroy!

Alkaline Trio
Good Mourning
2002, Vagrant
produced by Joe McGrath and Jerry Finn

Matt Skiba - vocals, guitar
Dan Andriano - vocals, bass
Derek Grant - drums

singles - 
  • We've Had Enough/One Hundred Stories/ Blue in the Face
  • All on Black/ This Could be Love
On this album, everything clicked for Alkaline Trio. They cleaned up their earlier dirty DIY sound, found a better drummer (this is Derek Grant's first full length LP), and were able to write good songs without dumbing things down for the pop charts (i.e. Stupid Kid). I wrote about their follow up to this album here, a while back. Everything I wrote about this band then still holds true, I think.

This is one of my favorite records from my favorite band from that weird pop punk/emo rock era. Alkaline Trio has a similar sound to Blink 182, Sum 41, Jimmy Eat World, and all those other almost surfer rock, almost hard rock, almost punk rock bands from the late 90's and early 00's (or whatever we call that decade). The difference for me was the song writing. Liz Phair once remarked about Elvis Costello that his songs about relationships were devastating to women. I like to think that Alkaline Trio's songs about relationships are devastating to love songs. Matt Skiba is far darker and more clever than his contemporaries. Evil makes for some good music, just ask Metallica and the Misfits.

Pitchfork writer, John Dark once wrote that:
"There's quite a bit that Alkaline Trio's music is not. It's not challenging, ambitious, or visionary. It's not clever or self-aware. It's not even terribly skillful. But what it is, is tasty. Pure musical junk food: fast, greasy, and crafted for a general palate."
I have never agreed with anything on Pitchfork until I read that bit of an underhanded compliment. I hesitate to call this band pop punk and bordeline emo, simply because the lyrics are so unique to the otherwise unremarkable genre, much like the Misfits own horror theme separates them from the rest of the American Hardcore scene. I admit to the guilty pleasure of listening to this band and liking them, but unlike New Found Glory fans, I can hold my head up high.

Friday, February 28, 2014

None More Black

AC/DC
Back in Black
1980, Albert Records
produced by Mutt Lange

Angus Young - lead guitar
Malcolm Young - rhythm guitar
Cliff Williams - bass
Phil Rudd - drums
Brian Johnson - vocals

singles - 
  • You Shook Me all Night Long/ Have a Drink on Me
  • Hells Bells/ What do You do for Money, Honey
  • What do You do for Money, Honey/ Back in Black
  • Rock and Roll Aint Noise Pollution/ Hells Bells
No other band has come back from the tragic death of their frontman better than AC/DC. Bonn Scott died in February of 1980, and by July the band had hired new singer Brian Johnson and released their follow up to Highway to Hell. This has become the best selling album of their careers.

The album cover is all black with the band name and name of the album outlined. This apparently was done as a show of mourning for their deceased singer, and unlike the parody allbum by Spinal Tap, the record company did not approve. I'm sure this also influenced Metallica when they designed their own black album a decade later.

This album is absolutely a must have for any fan of rock or metal. It shows that even after a seemingly career ending tragedy, a band with a distinct sound can still carry on and be successful.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Revolution will be Bloggerized

I'm about to write all about old news.  And by old, I mean it has already been happening for a few years, but not necessarily covered by the local press/news media.  By now, it may be pretty clear that I'm a big fan of radicalism, or possibly just a radicalist tourist.  It is easy in this country to sit back and talk about taking the power back, and being able to rebel against the status quo and government like our patriot heroes of old, and as our constitution has given us the right.  But usually, realistically taking our government back seems like a longshot, not to mention completely unnecessary.  Also, it is usually crazy reactionaries like the Tea Party that cry about taking the country back.  Back from whom?  Did another nation invade and set up a puppet government, and I missed it?  

The problem with the Tea Party expressions of "revolution" is the extreme hyperbole used for fear mongering.  Tactics like this mask the true xenophobic, selfish and greedy aspirations of the conservative right.  No US congress, or executive branch would ever repeal the second amendment.  Also, civil rights is essential for strong family and community values, even if those civil rights smack traditional religion right in the face.  


what is going on in this picture?
However, there have been several instances recently of the people standing up when it has been absolutely necessary, and taking back their countries from tyranical, oppressive, and irresponsible regimes.  My friend, and blogger extraordinaire, writes for EA World News, and the Interpreter.  He has covered the Arab Spring as it unfolded in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, the situations in Syria, and recently, the issues in the Ukraine.

Below are a few links to places I go to for news, getting far more and better information, and often first hand accounts of what is going on in places like Egypt, the Ukraine, Venezuela, and Syria.  






Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Beer Bottle Cap Project

Something New!!

I started a third blog today.  I had this idea for a new project, to keep me busy over the winter. Since I was a kid, I've been collecting bottle caps, for, at the time, no specific end.  I just thought the designs and logos and typefaces were cool.  However, by the time I reached college, I began collecting them as a badge of accomplishment.  One cap from each type of beer I've drank.  And so... the collection grows.  Everything from Bud Light and Coors, to Belgian abbey ales and small defunct micro brews.  

Since this seemed far too involved and specific, I created a separate blog.  This blog will showcase them all, one cap at a time.  and I'll still write other nonsense here at the same time, cluttered by Batman, music, and other stuff, but uncluttered by bottle cap pictures.  Huzzah!  

click me to read about caps!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Blind Baptist Live


The Reverend Gary Davis
At Newport
1968: Vanguard
prooduced by Sam Charters?

I will not tell a lie.  The Grateful Dead sent me here.  The Reverend Blind Gary Davis was an old school blues/gospel singer and song writer who made most of his music between 1920 and 1950.  However, a folk and blues revival in the '60s rediscovered Rev. Davis, and plenty of new up and coming acts became influenced by his blues and songs.  

Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and Hot Tuna all famously covered his work, which included the songs Candyman, Samson and Delilah (If I had my Way), Hesitation Blues, and Death Don't Have No Mercy.  So, of course, having heard not just one of my favorite bands (the Grateful Dead), but also Hot Tuna (best blues band ever?), I decided I had to find out who this was and what he was all about.  Funny how music can lead you on a journey, isn't it?  On top of influencing this "new" generation of musicians who would become the cornerstone of modern classic rock, Rev Davis had previously influenced a whole generation of bluesmen, including David Bromberg, Ernie Hawkins, Larry Johnson, and Tom Winslow.  

This particular album is a live recording.  It is actually so crisp and clean that it sounds like a studio record.  Apparently recorded in Newport around 1968, the record jacket doesn't help at all, and there is no internet page anywhere with specifics.  I'm guessing Samuel Charters may be the producer of the record, as he worked for Vanguard at the time, and worked on the Newport recordings for the Everyman series.  But, that is just a guess.  

There is a pretty lengthy note on the back of the jacket detailing the last time the writer drove Rev Davis back to his home in Long Island.  It is a pretty cool anecdote, but the author's by- line is missing.  The mystery writer's jacket note reads like a biography, nothing truly profound or quote worthy, but still interesting to read.  According to the writer, Rev Gary Davis ought to be heralded as one of the great blues men, if not the most influential.  Of course, I agree.   

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Star Wars: The Council of Disneyland

Awhile ago, Disney made a statement that, due to their new ownership of the franchise, and their interest and plans to continue the story, there is a group that will be deciding what stays part of the Star Wars cannon, and what will be thrown out.



This is great news!  I realized in the mid '90s that The Star Wars expanded universe had started to get out of hand.  I stopped reading the books at that point.  15 years later, it must be completely out of control and exponentially ridiculous.  This article on ars technica basically sums up how I feel about the giant dumpster that is the expanded universe.

Now, as a cynic, I won't get my hopes up.  This is Disney, after all.  They want to make as much money off Star Wars as possible.  However, there are going to be people not named George Lucas making decisions about story lines, characters, and other stuff not in the original movies.  Worst case scenario, the canon is streamlined and limited to the films and a few books and games from the expanded universe.  Keeping things simple, Disney would make some room to write and create after Return of the Jedi, without being held up by an already haphazardly established canon.

However, best case scenario, they scrap everything before and after the first three original movies (episodes IV, V, VI) and throw out everything else to start completely from scratch!  I wrote a post all about how to remake the prequels, relying heavily on Mr. Plinket's reviews from Red Letter Media to make my case.  This is the chance!

Disney could throw out the notion of midichlorians.  They could rewrite the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, tossing out the "slave boy rescued from Tatooine" nonsense.  They could create a better, more plausible conflict that would be known as the Clone Wars.  Finally, Jar Jar Binks could be just a memory of a bad concept that fans rejected, instead of a recurring character that fans have to vehemently loathe.

io9 published a story the other day about this, as an open forum for fans to put in their two cents regarding what Disney ought to keep, and what they should toss out.  The link is below.  The comments are mostly worth reading.

click me



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Best Driving Music?

Creedence Clearwater Revival
The Concert
1980, Fantasy Records
produced by Russ Gary

John Fogerty - guitars, vocals, harp (harmonica)
Tom Fogerty - guitars, vocals
Stu Cook - bass, vocals
Doug Clifford - drums

Creedence received much radio play on classic rock stations around the time I started buying music for myself. I went to the record store to purchase something that had Fortunate Son on it, and since I had an aversion to "best of" albums at the time (something to do with wanting to seem like a "genuine fan", whatever that meant) I passed on the Chronicles album, which has some of my favorite Creedence songs like Looking Out My Backdoor, and Long as I can See the Light, and instead bought this one.  

Performed and recorded at the Oakland Coliseum in 1970, this show is actually one complete show, unlike some other "live" albums of the late '60s and early '70s that were a mash up of several dates (see Live Dead by the Grateful Dead, Roxy and Elsewhere by Frank Zappa, and Bless Its Pointed Little Head by the Jefferson Airplane, among others).  

I like the sound of this album. Being a live performance, the recording is not so crisp and clean as studio tracks, which is excellent for experiencing the southern roots rock blues sound of one of the pioneers of country and blues inspired rock and roll. Although some of my favorites are not on this set list, all of the tracks are great songs.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

We all Wear Masks


There has been far more interest and emphasis put on Batman villains as gang leaders and organized criminals than as petty criminals and thieves with silly motives.  A need to make the villains believable and grounded in realistic crime grows from the Christopher Nolan films, and also the comic arcs written by Jeph Loeb, Grant Morrison, and of course Frank Miller.  Two Face and the Penguin have been reimagined as mob bosses, and The Black Mask has become a better, more compelling villain because of this refocus.  

The Black Mask was a villain recently resurrected from obscurity and pushed to the top tier of Batman adversaries.  Filling the need for interesting gang leader/mafioso type characters, Black Mask bridges the gap between ordinary organized crime characters like the Falcones, and the more colorful deranged crazies like the Joker and Scarecrow.

Roman Sionis first appeared in Batman #386 in 1985.  Created by Doug Moench and Tom Mandrake, Roman Sionis appears to be similar to a few other Bruce Wayne foils.  Sionis is another wealthy kid inheriting his family's fortune after their premature death, very similar to Tommy Elliot and Prometheus.  He inherited his family's company, Janus Cosmetics.  However, Sionis mismanages the estate, and after a catastrophic mistake with a new cosmetic line (much like the Joker's plot in Tim Burton's film), plunges the company into bankruptcy.  Janus is then bought out by Wayne Enterprises.  Sionis goes mad afterward, forms an alternate persona, the Black Mask, and creates a new criminal organization, the False Face Society.  However, he and his organization were defeated by Batman and Robin (Jason Todd).  The Black Mask would then be a regular in Arkham Asylum.

The Black Mask was resurrected for the War Games arc in 2004.  During an organized crime power vacuum, Roman Sionis is able to take control of Gotham's underworld and is portrayed as a ruthless, cunning, and murderous psychopath.  But instead of being randomly murderous for the fun of it, like the Joker, Black Mask's agenda is to be the supreme head of crime in all of Gotham.  He could possibly be the first crazy Batman villain with business sense.

This would lead to the character making a comeback in television and video games as more of a hard nosed mafia-type kingpin, most recognizable from The Batman cartoon show, and the Arkham Asylum video game franchise.  In Arkham City and Arkham Origins, the Roman Sionis identity is tweaked to add a steel company to his legacy and resume, as well as recreating Janus Cosmetics as a chemical/pharmaceutical company.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Did it Eat the Basketball? Charlotte Part two

The Charlotte NBA basketball team recently petitioned to rename their team the Hornets, after a team that played there in the '90s but had since moved to New Orleans.  The New Orleans club abandoned the Hornets name and colors before this season.  Since the Hornet mascot is unused, and far more suited for a team in the famous Hornets Nest of the American Revolution, the club was granted the requested rebranding.

Next of course came debates about what the new rebrand would look like.  The club chose to use colors from the past (teal and purple), but there had been no consensus as to the logo.  I wrote about concepts in an earlier post, which took research of the highest caliber.  I came out of that surprised to discover how many people were fond of (truly loved) the old "Hugo" logo.  In my opinion it may actually be the worst logo in modern sports (the last 30 years).  It is a minor league mascot at best, a cartoon worthy of the Kid's Corner fan club, and yet it was the primary logo of two major sports clubs.  So, I am happy to see it (finally) retired, and relegated to throwback nights and nostalgic fans.

The other day, the Charlotte Bobcat/Hornets released their new primary logo, which is below.  While it is definitely an improvement over Hugo, it is still pretty frustrating.  I'm sure seeing it for yourself will tell you why.  Also, the title of this post is a pretty good clue.  According to press releases that accompanied the release of the logos, the club seemed pretty committed to not only including a basketball into the logo, but making said basketball part of the insect.

primary

secondary logo

mascot logo