Monday, July 20, 2009

Baptism by the Moon

Forty years ago today my brother was baptized into my mother’s religious cult. I know this because that was the only thing I really ever found extraordinary about him. That he was baptized on the day Neil Armstrong placed the first human foot on the moon.


That may sound harsh, but it is true. As a kid, I always wondered why I never looked up to him, my older brother. His name is Troy, named after a tiny hamlet of a town in Oregon, not a Turkish city where Trojans roamed and giant hollow horses were know to graze.


I have since discovered that he is really rather unremarkable, and a kid only fascinated by larger than life sci-fi and superheroes, well being boring is a rather extreme character flaw.


In reality, and sticking with the moon theme, we are pretty much opposite sides of that lunar satellite. Whatever we had in common once upon a time dissipated long ago. I am sure he thinks, just as I am quite the black/dark sheep of my family -- both immediate and extended versions, i represent the dark side of the moon.


We have spent the past 15 or so years embroiled in a non ending fight of which both origins and many skirmishes I will leave out of the public record -- for now. But like the moon has phases, and just as they effect the tides, our, lets just call it a less than ideal relationship, crashes into many shores and recedes to reveal the remnants of life. Good times, no?

Whenever he comes up in conversation with friends, no matter how awful the stories are, and trust me they are awful, and that bubbles up from both sides -- I did break a hockey stick over his back once upon a time after all, most people say they hope one day we can rekindle a relationship. And I just stare at them wondering, how do you rekindle nothing?

I have been thinking a lot about family lately. What it means, Why some people treat their given family with more reverence than those who we choose to become members of our friendship family, etc...

I hold both my mother and father's familial names within mine. I am also the last male relative on each side (my brother is really just a half brother and so has no real connection to my father, and he never was given my mom's family name like i was, plus his only daughter died four years ago). The last hope to let either side carry on through the next generations. Due to some choices on my part, lets just say I am not that popular at family reunions, what with my childlessness and firm commitment to stay so.

Yet what does all this have to do with the moon? Frankly, I am not all that sure. But I go back to that notion that I have never seen my family as remarkable or really interesting. I used to dream of ways that I would discover that I was witness protection programed into this family of mine and the like. But like the oft told tale that a full moon brings out the crazies, my desires were from the lunatic side of my imagination.

And that is just it really. The crux of the issue. Imagination. I have one. I have yet to ever see proof that anyone else in my family does. In fact, as a kid I was often punished for displaying my imagination, of wondering what lies around the corner, rather than accepting what others told me was there -- see that whole religious cult thing up above again, I was also baptized into a world where speaking in tongues was seen as the norm and critical thought was discouraged.

So today, I think of that time long ago when I saw my brother linked to one of the pinnacles of human ingenuity and thought. Then I remember the times since and it is easy for me to understand why so many people think the moon landings were faked.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vegan MoFo Survey #3

So October is VeganMoFo month. What, you say? Isa of Post Punk Kitchen created VMF as a month to express ones creativity with veganism. Last year I followed along fairly haphazardly, but this year I created a VeganMoFo blog search feed for my RSS reader, and man has it been nice to see some great recipes.

But I also ran across this survey from Liz over at Food Snobbery is my Hobbery. And I figured since I normally run away from labeling myself a vegan, fearing the vitriolic reaction people often get from runs in with the dreaded vegangelicals, that I would play along and get another blog posting out of the deal.

So here goes:

1. Name a song that involves food in some way.

Lemongrass - Parker Paul (Sadly, I can not find a free streaming copy, but know it is a great great great song)

2. What criteria do you use when choosing a new cookbook to buy?

It has been forever sense I bought a cookbook. I really just pursue the web for ideas and fill in the blanks with what I have. I am not one who colors well in the lines and recipes are just templates for me, so just seeing a dish gives me many ideas of how to get to the food being in my belly. I do often look through cook books at the store or library though, just to get ideas.

3. What did you eat today?

Just under a pound of pickles for breakfast (I have a serious pickle problem currently), a banana, rice noodles with a spicy peanut sauce, curried quinoa salad with chickpeas and assorted veggies, 1.5 bunches of kale. 1/4 a bar of dark chocolate.

4. Name a vegan food that you know exists but you have never tried.

Corn dogs. I thankfully have never seen one either. I might have to hit the person who was wielding it. Let the meat centric dishes go people! Embrace the veggies and the good health they will bring. Eff the meat substitutes!!!

5. The Food Network just called and needs you to start your new show tomorrow. What will the title of the show be?

Great Greens and Grains

6. Favorite hot sauce or other spicy condiment?

I use Siracha like ketchup. There are others, but I am certainly having a difficult time thinking of them.

7. How old were you when you became vegetarian/vegan?

Vegetarian: 11
Vegan: 17

8. Favorite vegan cheeze?

I make a sort of tofu ricotta that i really like. I have not bought commercial vegan cheeze in years and really see no point to change that soon.It has been so long I just do not miss it.

9. Cutest baby animal?

Marsupial babies! preferably pandas, but I take what I can get.

10. Favorite type of jam/jelly/marmalade/preserves?

I almost exclusively eat blueberry fruit spreads.

11. Do you take any vitamins/supplements?

Just B-12.

12. What food/dish most embodies the Fall season?

Stuffed squash

13. What food would you have a hard time living without?

Pickles.

14. Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?

Tea all the way. It has been far more than 10 years since i have had either of the other two.

15. It's 10 PM and you're starving. What do you eat?

If I am home, hummus and raw veggies/pita. If i am out, falafel.

16. If you have an animal companion, what is his/her favorite food?

Sadly, my kitty got old and no longer needed this world.

17. Worst injury you've gotten in the kitchen?

I cut off about an 1/8th of an inch of my left ring finger chopping broccoli for tofu scramble Jan 1st, 2000. Good times!!!

18. When you have a food-related question, who do you call?

No one. People seem to call me though.

19. Summer is ending- What food will you miss most?

Fresh tomatoes.

20. What snacks do you keep in your purse/backpack/desk at work?

Almonds or other nuts and/or bananas

21. Favorite soup to make on a rainy day?

A carrot ginger lime soup I made up, or really make up a new every time i make it.

22. What's your favorite combination of fresh vegetable and/or fruit juices?

I really do not have a favorite, I do enjoy tarter juices to sweeter juices though.

23. Favorite brand of root beer?

Most taste like diabetes to me, so I would rather have one mixed at a soda fountain sans all that sweet crap.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Damn the Music Man!!!

No, not Tommy Tune. The music industry. They took an amazing tool and killed it.
Yes, I am not surprised, but saddened still.

Last week, after what seemed like weeks of stalling, their demands killed Muxtape. A place where one could go to hear music. Not download music. Not steal Music. But listen to digital mix tapes from all around the world.

It was free advertising for bands (and if you read the whole story you will see that that is exactly how it will be formulated now. Only it will be missing a major key component, user input. Yes, user generated content, the key to any web 2.0 service is now dead. So while I am fairly sure i will be able to listen to 10 songs from Arcade Fire (or any other lame, derivative, "hip", band) when the service is reinstated, the main draw of the service is gone: who ever got mixtapes where there was only one band. The whole point was to hear people's favorite songs, to discover new music from an unknown artist that you would want to go out and find more of, devour.

I made at least 10 different mixes and people that I have never met, nor even knew, found my mixes and favorited them (sadly never more than 12 at a time) and I got to see their mixes, and discover new artists and re-find others that I had long thought I outgrew or dismissed in a fit of rambling, ill conceived hostility. I also just got to listen to or just see mixes from the thousands of other users and either laugh or admire their tastes.

But no.... Discovery is bad. Control is good.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.....

So for a little over a month I have been left with my favorite music platform on the web, Last.fm. And really, there is nearly nothing wrong with it. It provides for a damn near perfect individual radio station. My main complaint is that it has such a massive user database and has some serious wonky algorithms to match me up with people with similar tastes in music and that people use tags so inappropriately (French pop should not ever generate Elton John. Never ever.), that its social aspect is a tad worthless. Though I do always enjoy seeing what my friends are listening to.

But when I was finally resigned to the idea that Last.fm was going to be all I ever had, I was introduced to Blip.fm. And though I have only been playing around with it for a few days, well it is awesome! Awesomer than awesome even. It takes a twitter type interface and lets you add music to your posts. Rather than focusing on what you are doing right now, you can say something about the song, let the song state your feelings/state of mind, wtfever. And granted you really should read the terms of service and FAQ (re: the issue of uploading music), but this is a service for fans of music to share songs like postcards.

And while I miss the precision of making a mixtape (true mixtape creation is art blended with science), the single song focus is not one to scoff at.

And a big bonus for me, is that it seems to have a fairly large international bent. And as I am generally sick of the current American music scene, this is a plus to get hints on what I need to be on the lookout for that I can not easily find here.

Not every song you want will be in the library, but should be to make it worth your while. And it syncs up with Last.fm if you use that service (and really if you listen to music on your computer, why wouldn't you???).

So while I am sad to see Muxtape lose its charming lifeblood, I am happy to have found something that might be able to replace it. Well till the music man decides to take this one down too.

And for any musical heathens out there, feel free to make fun of any of my musical tastes. I just hope one day you will be as musically enlightened as me........

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Ode to "It's the Economy Stupid"

Lloyd Bentson would have ran for president in 92 if he thought he had a chance. He was the Democrats' rightful heir to the thrown being Dukakis's running mate. But before the primaries began he saw no chance of stemming the tide of Bush the first's popularity. So out of nowhere an amazingly flawed Clinton came in and beat the incumbent on critiquing the economy, reminding America that their wallets simply could not grow money.

I bring this up now because I am amazed at how just a simple pick of a under qualified running mate has taken this exact critique off the table. The Democrat operatives seem to smell blood and are attacking. Only they are attacking way off message. The economy and the war are the problems that they can provide solutions for. Framing the discussion around the fact that our country can not survive four more years of the same is the only way the Democrats can win.Palin is just a symptom, like an awful cough that one gets with a cold. One can take all the lozenges they want, the cough will not go away till the cold is beat.

The current fascination with striping Palin of her dignity by attacking her family is not going to have the wanted effect. Many are calling her an anti feminist due to her beliefs on abortion and reproductive rights. Only they fail to see a powerful woman who has balanced family and work in a pretty effective way. Attacking her family will turn off people that see her balancing act as something to strive for and could care less about the abortion issue. And yes, there are people out there who do not live and die on the abortion battlefield.

I mean there are tons of direct things one can attack Palin about without bringing in her family, which, by the way, when the Republicans do they are vilified. But this is not even the issue. The issues are jobs, health care, safe neighborhoods, and the war. The full frontal attack on Palin has shifted the troops on the battlefield away from the winning barrage of a well armed militia to opportunists who are throwing dirt clumps and rocks.

I predict that with her speech tonight, Palin will become a light that help guides the campaign, not derail it. She was a news anchor for god sake, she knows how to play to TV. And this incessant attacking of her and her family will seem more vindictive than rational - to the swing voters at least. I dare say, not a winning combo...

And the heart of the election will have been derailed for at least a week.

Good job!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Crossing the Road

Earlier this year I visited some friends in Vermont. Some from college and a friend who moved up to Brattleboro in the past year. It was partly a bit of my reconstruction of self after my horrid March and also a visit back to the old college-land. In fact I was there graduation weekend, unbeknown to any of us till Sunday night as we heard people next to us talk about graduation. I have only been back to Vermont four times in the years since graduating so many years ago and never been back to my college campus since the day after graduating. I just have no desire to go back. This seems so strange to compare to the days where I was deeply in love with my school. But now I see it as the past and better left there. I am glad that I went, for the friends I made there, and who it help make me, but my Alma Mater holds no sway over me now.

Yet when I was there it was nearly all consuming, as I assume most college experiences are. Though my school was so isolated - on top of a mountain in southern Vermont, four miles away from the nearest store (town was a much further 30 minutes away) with no TV reception and the Internet only hit in the middle of my junior year - I think it might have been a bit more all consuming than most schools. After graduating, it was beyond disorienting to burst forth into the standard world from the microcosm college was. And I think this readjustment period sort of soured me on ever going back.

One of the things that consumed me while in Vermont that did not deal with school was the desire to see a moose in the wild. It was one of those things I talked to long since forgotten high school friends about during those last few weeks of school when everyone knows 'nothing here really matters.' And while I did not run through the woods with infrared glasses looking for one, I was always on the lookout, when not studying. But in all my years on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, with many forages into deeper nowhere, nothing, no moose. Well until I was on campus the day before graduation paying my last respects and saying goodbyes to friends. After leaving everyone behind I walked alone among the small number of buildings and let the memories steep inside of me.

This was enough, I thought, so rather than going to that last party - I was a bit too melancholy - I went to my car and began to drive the 11 miles home. Down the mountain I descended, flooded with memories, when all of a sudden it hit me that I had never seen that moose I longed to see. It really flung me into a mood of despondency. All the world was in front of me, but one of my simple desires, that basically had to be done in the wilds of Vermont, was unfinished. The foreboding of this did not sit well with me.

So downward I rode, until I neared the last wind in the road, past that garden supply place and then I slammed on the breaks, stalling my car, as a 8+ ft moose slowly ambled its way about 40 ft in front of me. It's large horns catching the shine of my headlights and flicking it back to me. All I could think of was 'I'm dead, I'm dead, so dead....' as I skidded towards this immense beast. But the moose just scampered up the embankment on the opposite side of the road, like I was not even there. My car came to a stop and all I could hear was the blood rushing throughout my body as I sat there motionless. But rather than think about how close I had come to almost dying, I just sat in awe that i had finally seen the moose I longed to see.

Taking significance from random acts such as this is a fairly silly game to play, but I was convinced that this moment held great significance. I am not sure if this helped me on my path away from school. but just the experience was a great end cap to my college experience.

So in May of this year I had my second meeting of a beast on the roads of Vermont. As my two of my college friends and I traveled towards Greenfield Massachusetts, we passed a gigantic turtle who was slowly making its way across the road. We feared for its life. So we stopped and I got out to help, what turned out to be a very angry snapping turtle. It was as wide as an over sized serving platter and about half a foot tall. The thing's mouth was about double the size of the turtle, or so seemed when it stuck out its head to try and bite me. And its claws, man, they were enormous. As much as I was determined to see a moose so many years earlier, I knew I wanted to help get this turtle to safety.

So I found a stick and tried to push it from behind. It just hissed and dug those mammoth claws into the pavement. As I danced around the turtle - always keeping out of its jaw range - trying to think of what to do next, it jumped. I wish that there was a photo of my face, as my friends Megan and Becks said it was priceless. I then tried to get the thing to bite the stick, but s/he was having nothing to do with that. Megan gave me something from the car to help, I am 90% sure it was part of some blinds, but no matter, as it was equally ineffective.

All the while two cars passed, watching me make a bit of an ass of myself. This all ,likely took a little more than five minutes. And then, after much work and an ample amount of fancy foot work to help this beast of a reptile avoid getting squashed, I gave up. The turtle did not want or need my help. In fact the thing only had ten feet or so to move to get off the road when i got there, and by the time I was 'done' I had likely put it back a foot or two more. And as we drove away it quickly moved off the road and was out of harms way before it disappeared from view.

And where I tried to not take away meaning from my moose crossing, this experience was too perfect not to see the metaphors dripping off it. The obvious lesson: do not help those that do not want to be helped. Not only had I wasted the turtle's time, I wasted my own, my friends, etc... I have always valued efficiency, and this little side trip to our day was the antithesis of that. I have to sit here and think where the impetus of my initial reasoning of helping the turtle came from. And as I sit here today I am pretty sure that it was done more to make myself feel good - "I saved a turtle today!" - than to actually save the turtle. And this disturbs me. Deeply. Or maybe, I am just a bit sad from the obvious rejection from the turtle.

While I do not think the universe was communicating with me directly with these separate episodes of animal crossings, it is hard to walk away from them without letting the moments resonate. They are experiences that occurred, and to not take away something from each would be silly. And really, if they had happened inversely, would the understanding I took away from each be different? Does it always just mirror the place I am in my life right now? It is certainly is interesting to hypothesize about, but that is all I can do. After all, it is hard to argue the open ended, nearly infinite hopefulness aspect of the moose crossing had a sort of Dr Suess's Oh, The Places You'll Go! Such a perfect occasion to happen right before a graduation. While the turtle crossing seems to echo a rejection of many earlier held beliefs that just the desire to do 'good' will make the world a better place.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What is a Hipster?

A while back I was at a bar with some of my guy friends. Per normal, we were all cracking wise with one another, calling each other offensive names, talking ill about one another's manhood, etc, etc... Hell, I might have even threatened to use a pen to puncture some one's liver. Obviously, it was a jolly good time, and fun was had by all.

Well at least until some idiot played both Journey and Chicago on the jukebox (some idiot might have been two idiots, but idiocy was in full effect, for sure). Once I heard Journey and nearly everyone in the bar singing along with Steve Perry as he belted out "Don't Stop Believing," I sort of clutched my head and wondered if existence (not just mine, but collective) was worth such agony. Then some of my buddies sang along or tried to justify Chicago as a good band up to a point (somewhere between the albums 3 and 6 (the data was inconclusive) - yes, this band offered such an original musical voice that they could only think to name their albums after continuous numbers....), or that one of them stated, with a deserved sense of shame, that he played his Chicago 17 cassette till the tape broke, at that point I might have even exclaimed, in piercing falsetto no less, for all to hear: "What the fuck is wrong with my friends!?!?!?"

I am not exactly sure when it was realized that we were deeply entrenched in a hipster bar, or rather a bar full of hipsters, but it was readily apparent as soon as these songs started playing. And in fact one of my friends asked "What exactly is a hipster?" And well, we tried to answer it. But, there was no real conclusive notion on just what a hipster was or even who qualifies for such distinction. Truth be told, I am sure some people would label me a hipster. In fact, much to my dismay, I was once deemed "VonDutch" by someone, who never met me, just from what neighborhood I live in. The definition and meaning is what they call quite fluid, if you will.

But really, we were clearly at the older end of the age spectrum for the bar, and these songs were mainly recorded before the majority of these hipper than thou Williamsburg/Greenpoint hipsters were born. So, it was obviously not an ever supple massage from the gangrened hand of nostalgia that prompted the collective hipster love of these songs. Nor do I think it is the oft maligned and horribly misused irony. In fact in discussing what the hell was wrong with a world that sings along to Steve Perry and the boys, the first word that came up in our informal discussion on the subject was just that: irony. Now, I take much issue with this word, as recent events in human history - and yes I am looking right at you Ms Alanis Morissette! - have made any true definition of this word problematic at best. Bad luck does not equal irony. My fist raising to the use of the term irony took the discussion towards "camp". And really I have to say that is a great window to use to look at the current hipster phenomenon.

So I took what we discussed that evening and further tossed the idea around in my head and have come to some conclusions (be they right or wrong) on the ever important subject: what makes a hipster?

Before I begin, it is beyond lazy thinking to claim all that a hipster does is ironic due to a major totem in the attire of the hipster: the classic ironic t-shirt. I can not say I am surprised that most people attach the irony flag to the hipster and all they do, it is easy after all. But, it fails to capture the true archetype of the hipster. And I must say archetype might be too strong a term, as hipster is more of an aesthetic than an idealized model. Thus the easy marriage with camp. Or at least i hope my fellow bar goers were singing through a camp imbued microphone. And just what is this camp I speak of? Well, camp is defined as "banality, vulgarity, or artificiality when deliberately affected or when appreciated for its humor". And this is the lens that seemingly reflects the hipster worldview - seriousness need not apply.

Much like the punk/dandy/b'hoy/etc before, the hipster takes aim at culture and tries to deconstruct it though his/her accouterments. Only where those subcultural fetishists subverted the dominant culture though their exaggerated image, the hipster embraces pieces of the dominant culture, even if only just the fringes. There is no single cultural impulse that bonds disparate hipsters together, aside from what each fetishist queues up in their camp drawer. As a group (which clearly has no collective agenda, so i am only classifying them as a group in a general sense), hipsters seem to cling to particular moments of pop culture with just their finger tips, afraid to grasp at the whole trend (appearing as a normal, for lack of a better term, or in antiquated parlance: "a square") and afraid to let go and fall into cultural anonymity.

In fact, how i have chosen to see the hipster is that of a lurker or cultural shadow. The individual hipster finds disparate threads in the numerous streams of culture available to them and assembles them in their own affected way. This pastiche of symbols and signals is often an affront to those who adapt a more streamlined way of viewing and interacting with pop cultural forms. The easiest way of seeing this amazingly large chasm between the hipster and non hipster is to compare a sieve and a vase.

A non-hipster displays his/her cultural mementos as flowers in a vase, showcasing their affections in grandiose arrangements for all the world to see (think sports fans who drown themselves in the plumage of their team's colors). Weather they do this out of reverence to the team/sport/town/player/etc... or a combination of any or all of these things is not as important as doing this out of a high affinity to something in the greater cultural milieu. And while they might reject a rival team, they do not dismiss parts of the culture they choose to embody.

The hipster is not immune to this need to strut up and down their personal runway with their ruffled feathers broadcasting their affections. Only with the hipster, they replace the vase with a sieve and fill it with a general multitude of cultural products and even by-products. When the sieve is full, and the desperate forms are finely arranged, nearly ready to be set on the mantle next to the aforementioned vase, the arrangement is pounded down, letting the unneeded debris seep out, leaving only a shadow or dream like hazy memory of meaning. The sieve is then repacked and pounded down even further, letting the unwanted implications and significance of the idea/song/design/wftever leak out the sieve's holes, like maple tress crying syrup. This cycle loops continuously and whatever amalgamation is left, which may be quite different at any specific time, only has significance for the individual doing so, making any collective meaning or critique moot.

So, at the core of the hipster phenomenon is that of broken context. In funneling pieces from a multitude of sources, the hipster tosses away any notion of authenticity. For instance the John Deere trucker hat that might be collaged into his/her outward dress no longer implies a love for a brand of tractors and outdoor equipment, it is just a detatched piece of something else. What the new meaning is would be as varied as the number of people who don the cap. Hence, a common language of images and signs is made useless .

To bring this back to camp, the artifice of the hipster affronts sensibilities that deem authenticity important. Camp is about forcing the real into the unreal and creating new meaning from ubiquity. The lack of seriousness or reverence the hipster displays for cultural forms/products/wtfever confuses and confounds those seeking logical outcomes. Through the use of camp and the ever streamlined remnants of a cultural sieve, collective meaning is tossed aside for style. And as much as I find it disheartening to say, what better cultural impulse for this age of mass apprehension, where polar opposites swing into fashion at nearly the speed of just opening the drapes; thus, the impetuous of the hipster does make some sense. And the lack of critique becomes a critique in and of itself. That said, I still find the style over substance to be inadequate and a bit repulsive. And no, I have not been back to the bar that started this since that night (which is quite a shame as I really liked that place). My new rule in life is to avoid mass sing-a-longs at all costs (not to mention my "No Journey" rule), it reminds me too much of group think. This of course throughs a wrench into everything I have written above, but in classic hipster fashion recreation and reformulation is key; and thus, my analysis will be (if it is not already) as moot as.... [insert continuous loop here].

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What the Hell is the Purpose of this Blog???

So, I used to write on this here blog pretty frequently. Then in March of this past year I nearly died of the flu, right after I caught the chicken pox - no this is not a joke, it was a really bad month.... I am sure I have a good story in all of it, but that is not for telling now. Now is for figuring out what the hell I should be doing in this space and others online.

As I embraced my mortality these past few months I have really had to reassess my life and all that there is to it. And now it is finally this blog's time to get assessment. I started it to look at all forms of popular culture, but mainly comic books. At least that was the idea. But really it lacked focus and became fairly unmanageable quite quickly. And in my new worldview, that just will not work.

So from here on out, this blog will mainly be a space for things that I want to say, expect more of essays like The Knowing Wink of Nostalgia and Annihilating Melancholia and the odd rant or even rarer show of love for something.

This however does not mean that I am giving up talking about comics. I am just doing so over at a new space called Trade Waiting where I will review TPBs and Graphic Novels and discuss any and concerns about comics. Just no floppies! See the first post for more info.

And I will also be highlighting other blogs and web finds on my tumblr-esque google reader "not quite a blog" blog.

And of course there is my Twitter account for keeping up with my daily missives, if you are interested.

And let me be the first to say that this hardly seems like I am streamlining my life, which is something that I really aim to do. But this really helps me compartmentalize and focus on things and hopefully be more productive. But if all this seems a bit much for you, there is the all purpose clearing house friendfeed, where all the above will be collected.

Of course this all assumes that people will want to follow me, but you are reading this far so.... But also feel free to detach yourself from any or all this, it really is just to record a lot of my thoughts etc. Mainly these writings are for me, but this is often where one can find out those things I normally keep bundled and sealed away from normal human consumption.

So feel free to add any or all of these to your RSS readers or follow along when ever you feel like it. And I really hope that it will be, even though it might not look like it, more efficient and focused.

As for how often one can expect updates, well there is no definitive measure but here are some good assumptions:

Tales From the Mutliverse: One, maybe two times a week
Trade Waiting: Two or Three times a week for reviews, plus any other comments on the comic book world.
"not quite a blog": A few times daily
Twitter: Usually at least daily, though sometimes life takes over
friendfeed: As often as all the above are updated

And yes, updates are a coming at all the above, this is not just a shallow ruse....

Friday, February 29, 2008

Vegangelicals

Vegangelicals. WTF is that?

Well Vegan Bits posted what is quite possibly the best post on the subject.

Every movement has those that want to steam power you into their way of thinking. I always think this type of person needs to have others agree with them as their value stems more from others than from within. Vegangelicals are the fanatical vegans that try to make everyone feel horrible about themselves if they do not behave/think/eat like them. They are Brownshirts whose only goal in life seems to be "making the trains run on time".

I was completely unaware of this term, but not the type, until the NY Times published an article 2 weeks ago, I Love You, but You eat Meat. The Urban Vegan was quoted using it saying, “I’m not a vegangelical. He’s an adult and I respect his choices just as he respects mine, ” describing how she is able to live with and love an omnivore. I feel in love with it immediately. She recently posted another great bit on her blog about how her using the term has caused a small uproar from other vegans. She rightly puts them in their place.

If you could not guess from this post so far, I am vegan, have been now for over 17 years. But about 7 years ago I stopped ever referring to myself as vegan as I was utterly sick of the associations people were making with me, comparing me to some holier-than-thou vegan they had met that immediately soured their opinion on the concept entirely. So, as I am less than fanatical, I have been a vegetarian that does not eat any animal products ever since.

My goal is to consume what my values afford me, and let everyone else do the same. Would I mind if someone felt my values were great and wanted to join up and follow them, hell no. But preaching and/or demanding that others follow my way of thinking is about as appealing ever going back to eating meat; thus, the Vegan Bits piece made me extremely happy as they put many of my feelings on the subject into words. Words I have been far too lazy to ever type out. The idea that anyone can change anyones mind through intimidation has always seemed silly to me. Actions are emulated, force and intimidation only begets resistance.

Live they way your body/mind tells you to and let others do the same.

Nostalgia, Upon Further Reflections

In college, I tried to reign in my thoughts about something that would essentially be the antithesis of historical context. While I tried and tried to muster the words to describe my theory, they never came. And really the major problem with this theory was that I was trying to base it as the opposite of something else. My desire to define it against something, rather than for what it was, led to nothing but grand vertical drops in to the great abyss of plans/ideas never rendered.

What on earth does this have to do with nostalgia you ask? Well in my desire to create a beguiling academic theory I forgot about an essential quality to understanding, the sound intrinsic nature of an idea. I was far too fascinated how it would marry and play in the grander extrinsic discourse. And as I have debated the nature of nostalgia in my head over time I keep bumping into a natural vs. commercial divide, or better yet an intrinsic/extrinsic schism.

I think there are two different kinds of nostalgia, intrinsic and extrinsic, or really one that comes from experience and one that comes prepackaged and commercialized. The commercialized version makes me want to stick hot pokers down someone's urethra (the pandering producer of objects that gleam with nostalgia), and yes, I mean pokers as in plural. But I have no adverse reactions to the nostalgic feeling/impulse that comes from within. In fact I find the memories of experience to be wonderful (even when painful), like when a scent on the street opens up a long dormant memory of a different time or you notice a scar on your body that you never see and instantly return back to the time of injury.

The prepackaged version of nostalgia is simply a crass marketing tool, as it appears that people are trying to churn money out of previously discarded things, as they are too afraid to attempt to market something new - sans recognition value. In creating commercialized nostalgia they are employing triggers that attempt to key into an individual's intrinsic nostalgic mind space, bending the two streams together. That this is such a prevalent marketing angle tells me it is quite successful. And I find that greatly troubling.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Music I am realy digging right now

This is my absolute favorite song of Brisa Roché's new album Takes

She is clearly one of the best new artists of recent vintage, though would it kill her to sing in French again? I have no idea why this album has not been released in the states yet. It easily could drive one insane to try and figure out the music industry...

Sometime in late 06 I 1st heard Yelle and was instantly smitten. Who was this amazingly fabulous Frenchie?

Her first album, Pop Up was released last year and while this song has been in constant rotation for me ever since. I just found out she played a few show in NYC last week, and I am so amazingly bummed I had no idea and missed them. She = teh awesome for sure.

This is sort of like when I feel way to in love with that Baby Spice cover. I mean I know I should not fall so madly in love with such cavity inducing pop, but I just can not help it. This song, and much of her new album is fantastic.


Lizzy Ling has no real website, so here is her myspace page. She is tops, as she weaves a touch of Ye-Ye with a more electronica sound. Not enough people know about her.

The New Frontier: The Review



So I was bound to be disappointed after how much I was looking forward to this DVD, and I have to admit I am. As is quite apt to happen, the source material is far, far better. But this movie did not suck in the slightest. It was a very good time, only it was far too short, clocking in at only 70ish minutes.

This is the problem with this new series of direct to DVD releases from DC, they are far too short and lose the expansive, epic nature of the source material. The Superman: Doomsday film was whittled down from 3 extremely large TPBs which stared nearly every hero in the DC universe, to a quite boring 80ish minute version bereft of any other hero. It took Superman out of his world and inserted him into a fairly bad cartoon version of it. The Death of Superman is the best selling graphic novel of all time. There is/was certainly an audience for this movie, but the implementation of it was extraordinarily weak.

The New Frontier does not suffer the same fate. This is an extremely fun movie that captures the core essence of the book, it just does not feel complete. There are so many story lines going on here that any of them could have easily been expanded on without making this film lopsided. The Martian Manhunter is easily the soul of the book. His story of wanting to get home and giving it up to save earth highlights the true nature of heroism. And while the film does not short him as much as a few other characters, his story here just does not seem complete. It is as if his journey starts sputteringly then bang he is at his destination, almost as if Dorthy's house were to have fallen on the witch, some munchkins sang her a song and then she woke up in her bed. And really his journey fails as it was so contextual to the development of the history behind the the story in the book. His newspaper clippings, provided a window into the snowballing ills of the time. The ills that called for heroes and heroism. Not following this thread also forced the view to miss out on one of the most powerful pieces in the book, the story of John Henry Irons. And while there is a brief mention of his fate in the film, the power of his story is lost. That said, the changes they made to the storyline to pare down the story mostly work extremely well. Forgoing the tale of The Losers sadly made a lot of sense. And framing the story around the creation of a comic book was a spark of genius.

The voice actors were above competent and the art and design flawless. I can easily see watching it again, and really look forward to the extras on the DVD. I just really think it calls out to be longer. And to repeat a previous critique, why was this not released theaters?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

SCALPED: INDIAN COUNTRY

Scalped
VOL. 1: Indian Country
DC/Vertigo Comics

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: R.M. Guera
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Phil Balsman
Editor: Will Denis
Covers: Jock

I read the first issue on the Vertigo site a while ago, and really was not very impressed. The art made it very hard to understand at least the first half of the book. It was not bad, nor exactly out of place for the story, it just seemed a bit too free of hand, as I was not sure who was who, nor doing what to whom, until I reread it about 3 times. And after seeing some of Guera's other art, I will lay the blame on the colorist, as his other stuff is beyond gorgeous. His work here reminds me of the work of the late Jorge Zaffino, most notably his work on The Punisher Graphic Novel The Assassin's Guild, only with the red, orange and yellow shades of the expansive desert replacing the urban grit hues of blue, gray and black. I only wish his line work was a bit cleaner and offered more expression, though after reading the whole TPB, I can begrudgingly admit his art does echo the tone of detachment that is pervasive throughout the story.

But after my initial reading, I figured this would be a book I would skip and not worry about. But the praise that others in the comic industry have heaped on it and the strength of Aaron's other work I have read, The Other Side, which I completely and thoroughly enjoyed, made me rethink this. So I finally read the first TPB over the weekend to see if it improved.

Well the first issue was still hard to get through. Though the disorientation might have been intentional, as the introduction of the main character is as jarring to the reservation community as to the reader. As a single issue, i am not sure that it works, but as a part to the whole story, it sets up the story nicely. I just find it too bad that writing for the trade is the main thrust of comic bookdom . There are too many dangling pieces in the 1st issue, not really questions, as there are those as well, but just things that do not line up with the story, or at least it seems. A minor point really, as I am reading the trade, but it does echo another reason why I was dismissive of the story when I first read it.

Overall I am quite glad I opted to give this a second try, as the book plunges into a far grittier reality than I gave it credit for and while I am not exactly enamored by any of the characters, nor do I think I was intended to be, I am overly curious to what is going to happen to them. I will present the issues I had with the book first, get it out of the way, before I get to the good stuff, as other than the dusty pallor from the art, there really are not many problems with the book. The biggest is that even though it runs through two story lines (a 3 and 2 parter), there is no sense of an ending, as the ending is nothing more than a prompt to return to the buffet for seconds. And while I can understand the desire to reel in return readers, this just seems desperate. The story is compelling enough for me to want to return for more. This ploy just stank of over the top sloppy storytelling. The final few pages would have been amazing as the first few of the next story line, as they are exhilarating as the buckshot violence scattered throughout this book. It would have been akin to the first blast of a fire fight breaking up one of the numerous meth labs within this story. Here, it just falls flat, like an extraneous dead body in any of the aforementioned fire fights.

The other issues I have are really just questions about things that should become clearer as the story goes on. And in fact this issue of murkiness is really quite prevalent throughout this book. And really this story telling trick would make far more sense in a book taking place in a swamp than the dust bowl of South Dakota reservation life. It impinges too much on the central urgency of the book, which Arron really demonstrated well in the second and third issues, by framing it with linear jump cuts of ever increasing tension and decreasing time to a final hail storm of bullets. And while he really was able to aptly drive this portion of the story, the other elements, which to the main story are far more relevant drift off to the margins.

Aaron's construction of his main character, Dashiell Bad Horse, is the biggest strength this book possesses. While Bad Horse is far from a likable person, he is an amazingly compelling character. He could easily have been constructed as or fallen into a parody, as he is yet another prodigal son returning home. And of course he has baggage, all prodigal sons must have baggage... only his shines brightly in the sun and glistens with blinding reflection from his FBI badge. He is here to infiltrate his old tribe as it bores through its past and prepares to get rich off Casino Gambling. He also is the son of a Indian activist in the vein of AIM who was present when two FBI agents were killed, a'la the Leonard Peltier case. And of course, his FBI handler still holds a grudge that he was unable to put Bad Horse's mother or the away for the murders.

The plot, murkiness issues aside, is a compelling one. Bad Horse is there to enact his handlers forsaken justice and deal with his own scars from spending 13 years embedded in the Badlands. His twitchy impulse for violence, ready to implode at any moment, and near death wish force situations that could be paved over, like the desert for the foundations of the casino, to literally seep with tension. The next book in the series seems to deal more with Bad Horse's history, which I am sure will answer some questions raised in this book, but for now he plows through the land and the story leaving just enough of a semblance of what is going on.

One puts down the book eager to return to the reservation to see where the next dead bodies will land and just how an area as scared as the Badlands can heal if it were awash in Casino dollars. I will be back to read the next book at least.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Current Crop is Soooo Much More Important than that Which Came Before, Obviously...

One of my first reads of every day is Journalista, the news blog of The Comic Journal. I have sort of mixed feelings about The Comic Journal. It really is the best source of print journalism for the comics industry, but it seems to stay in the upper echelon of high brow comics. And while it certainly has its place, I feel it could do well with spending more time on more of the mainstream stuff as well. And I have to admit I used to think I was above most comics, back when I gave up 95% of superhero comics in the early 90s, and I felt The Comics Journal was essential reading and pretty much alienated all my comic reading friends by telling them off for not even giving it a go or for reading Quasar or other "silly little books." And as I try not to remember those times that much, my days with whipping others with high brow culture engines is pretty much over. But Journalista is far too good a read to pass up. And really if you have limited or no interests in comics there is no reason why you would ever care about the daily blog. Or maybe even this post.....

Now I sit here wondering if that introduction is even justified and/or useful, but I am going to keep it. But, back to the issue at hand: Today on Journalista there was a link to Pop Candy's 25 favorite comic series. So I clicked to it to see what was being offered up on the alter of "hip and hidden" pop culture gems. I have to say I expected to be far more disappointed, but that does not mean the bar was raised very high either. So let me take a few minutes to go over this list.

I have only read parts or all of at least 16 of the 25 listed. Not bad, and really there are two books on the list that in no way shape or form will I ever read. The winners are: Marvel Zombies and Buffy Season 8. Now my aversion to Buffy might be a bit on the nonsensical/irrational side, but it is what it is. I have never seen an episode of the show, nor do I have any plans to for one simple fact: an old roommate of mine would watch the show each week whilst donning plastic fangs. I kid you not: Plastic Fangs! It was enough to be scared for life from ever even considering having anything to do with the show (and I live alone now, read into this what you will...). And as for Marvel Zombies... My hatred for zombies is so vast that if I was a planet I could easily eclipse the sun's light for months if not years at a time. Seriously, the shit is so played out. Back when Romero first used zombies there was a political point to them. Now, they are as useless as pirates, vampires, or ninjas in that over use has killed any commentary or purpose they might offer. They went from relevant to kitsch to useless at something faster than light speed.

So those two are out. The other books I have not read: The Walking Dead, Death Note, Ex Machina, Finder, Scott Pilgrim, Umbrella Academy. Two of these books I have never even heard of: Death Note and Finder. Death Note is manga and I have never had much use for it. Yes, I know entirely dismissive - that hardly sounds like me at all.... As for Finder, well sign me up. It sounds quite interesting. So if this list had no other use it at least prompted my knowledge of this book. The Walking Dead is yet another zombie book, by the same writer of the other zombie book above. Is it any wonder that to my knowledge I have never read a thing by him. Scott Pilgrim is a book I have flipped through and it never spoke to me. I did not dig the art at all and it just seemed to focused on juvenile humor. The last two, Umbrella Academy and Ex Machina are books that I have planned to read. Both are still ongoing (I think). I read a preview of Umbrella Academy when the 1st issue came out a few months back and I am seriously looking forward to the trade of this book. And I was in love with Y - The Last Man so much that I did not want to read another Brian K. Vaughn book concurrently. So now that Y has sadly ended, Ex Machina is in my sights.

Of the 16 books I have read at least some of I am seriously puzzled at the inclusion of these books: The Goon, Criminal, Girls, and Hellboy way either. The goon does have beautiful art, I'll give it that. Eric Powell is beyond a fantastic artist, but his stories are like dreading the river bottom for bodies, and not in good noir way. Girls is the same way, great art (not nearly to Powell's level though), but the story put me to sleep. Hellboy is just infuriating to me. I have never seen anything redeeming about it. And yes, I know I am an outlier on this issue, but I have never even been remotely smitten with Mignola's art. I read the first arc of Criminal and while it was decent, it was nothing above that. That this book somehow supplanted Ed Brubaker's and Sean Phillips's utterly amazing, far, far superior Sleeper is quite honestly the single biggest flaw on this list. That was a series that had any and everything one could ever wish for in it, well except if you wanted it to keep going (which it easily could have and should have).

The major flaw, that is far larger than the Sleeper slight, of this list is that it seems to forget anything before the 90s. Other than the impeccable Love and Rockets everything else is new. Please take this moment to review the title of this post again.....

Yep, you guessed it, this is just insane to me. I am pretty convinced that the writer of this blog is fairly new to comics, at least of the periodical, episodic kind, to leave out so many great series ( Frank Miller's Daredevil, Will Eisner's The Spirit, Jack Cole's Plastic Man, Dave Sim's Cerebus, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!, among many other worthy candidates). At least the same can not be said for her top 25 graphic novels where the medium is approached with a far larger scope and time frame. My guess is Ms Matheson enjoys the single serving graphic novel far more than episodic storytelling, to which she is clearly late to the table. And while there is no fault to that, it does lists like this the greatest of disservice.

Or maybe focusing on the old is just not in line with the blogs raison d'etre: "unwrapping pop culture's hip and hidden treasures". But it sure would seem like it. To help rekindle the love to a long forgotten (albeit collected) series would seem like a no-brainer for this blog. But no, I guess hip and hidden treasures have to have at least a bit of flavor of the month. Ugh, ugh, and triple ugh....

And now my fingers feel like they have carpal ranty syndrome. But letting this go without acknowledging Matheson's good to great choices would be a slight as great as hers, so without further adieu, the great choices:


All-Star Superman - While I have not read the whole run, the 1st trade was beyond amazing. This is Grant Morrison at his best. If one has ever had a passing fancy towards Superman this is the book for you. And seriously Frank Quitely's art is nothing less than magical.

DMZ - Brian Wood is a genius. This is just an amazingly visceral reading experience. An American Civil War breaks out and Manhattan is the major battle zone. It is far enough removed from reality that the commentary does not seem forced nor overbearing. I would say that this is the single book that could get more people into comics than anything else.

The Invisibles - Another Grant Morrison epic. It is not just coincidence that there is more than one of his books on this list. He is easily the most important writer going today. This comic does nothing less than pile drive shared reality. As Yosemite Sam would exclaim "there's gold in them thar hills!," well there is magic/magik in these thar pages. Leaving Morison's Doom Patrol off this list is a serious oversight as well.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Alan Moore is comic royalty. His work easily pushed comics further than anyone before him. And as much great work we have gotten out of Moore, we have gotten work from far lessor mortals trying to cop his style that is truly embarrassing. And if you saw the movie of this, well now you know why Moore refuses any cash from film adaptations. But this story weaves together great characters of English literature and imagines them as amazing adventurers. Fabulous stuff, and amazingly not even remotely Moore's best work.

Love and Rockets - I hate to admit that I wondered why the guys from Bauhaus that went on to form Love and Rockets the band needed their own comic. When I first read a book of this series, I then understood why the band decided to name themselves after a comic. Great characters, great stories, great comic. Read it!

Planetary - I read a random issue of this way back when and completely failed to understand the hype on this book. Figured people were eating lead paint chips with their salsa and forged ahead without bothering to look back. Then I happened on the first TPB of this at the library and decided to check it out, or at least it made it home with me. Well to say I was hooked would be an understatement. The hidden history of comics/pop culture is real, just outside of your peripheral vision. Warren Ellis will have a hell of a time ever creating a book as good as this.

Queen and Country - Imagine James Bond without the gadgets, relationships, and female. In this book Greg Rucka explores just what putting Queen and Country ahead of everything will do to a Tara Chace, his Bondian analog.

Sin City - Frank Miller's crime story opus. I really enjoyed the first few books but felt like it started becoming a parody of itself. The simple use of color in a overtly black and white book is amazing to look at though. And like Moore, this is not Miller's best work.

The rest were books that while good, I would not elevate to a top 25 list at any time.

And seriously, why did this bother me so much that i just went on an overly long rant that likely few will even finish (and i was not just procrastinating, really...). I wish I could blame being overly caffeinated or some such thing, but I've got nothing. Without a historical context, this list was just void of meaning and leaves out so many great series from all ages, and this really irks me. The "what have you done for me lately" mentality is as annoying as NIMBYism. And picking a list like this without history is just offensive.

Cyborgs are Bloody Real

In Brittan anyway (hence the bloody). This story is all sorts of awesome.

I am not sure if I am more impressed with the grafting of machine to man or that colors have sounds.

Now since I am not really a fan of say purple, does that mean that purple sounds like The Eagles or Van Morrison? hmmmmmm.....

Now if only the French Would Take Over in the Music World as Well

I am not one to really give a damn about the Oscars, But I was very happy to hear that Marion Cotillard won the best actress award for La Môme.

I had my serious doubts of anyone being able to pull off playing the great Edith Piaf. I even was hesitant to see the film at first. But damn if Cotillard did not blow me away.

I will also delude myself into thinking that this will help usher in a onslaught of French entertainment goodness on the unwashed American masses.....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

As if one Needed Another Reason to Hate the Farm "Subsidy" Bill...

Celsias has pointed out yet another reason. I thought I was pretty up to date on the horrors of this agra-business mega money grab, but it simply slipped my attention that 75% of all subsidies go towards the production of meat and dairy.

I was planning a rant the size of Mongolia, but it just became a mishmash of profanity and images of me pummeling my head against/into/through multiple surfaces. So I will leave that alone. But please, do read the insanity above.

Via I'm Seeing Green

Like that Twilight Zone where Elliot Gould stops being able to read...

I am at an amazing loss about what the hell Amazon just recommended me. But, they thought it was so important to email me this.

I have so many questions about this one. So here goes (and really, you should check out that link first, well maybe not as I am sure you will be lost either way):

1. So is this a "Individual Use DVD Copy*" so that one will not become addicted to it through over use?

2. I guess shopping addiction will only be covered after further purchases are made: "It is strongly suggested that this be used with the Self-Esteem and Goal Setting track, so for those that own the SEGS track already, this is the appropriate purchase for addictions. If the SEGS is not owned, we would suggest either the combination of SEGS and Addictions or the Addictions (Comprehensive) title."

3. WTbloodyF does SEGS even suggest? Yes, I assume that it refers to "Self-Esteem and Goal Setting", but how does one own a SEGS? I can see it now: "Mannnnnn, I soooooo own my goal setting ability. No one can take that away from me...." Why do those wonderful self help meeting scenes from Fight Club keep popping up in my mind?

4. I sure hope this comes with its own RFID tag, as "it is illegal to loan this material to others".

The wankery of this product makes my head spin in perma-revolution.

And the biggest and best question I have for Amazon: WTF did I buy at one point in time that suggests this might be appropriate for me? I mean was it all the kids books from when I was a teacher, the graphic novels I have purchased over the years, or was it that I spent awhile combing through the rice cooker options a week or so back?

According to the email I once upon a time rated a movie, Foxes and therefore I obviously am a prime target for such dependency that I need to look to self help DVDs. The head boggles in ways I have previously found unimaginable....


As for the Foxes, it was a pretty good movie, or at least I thought so when I saw it 15 or so years ago. But be careful, the enjoyment of this film could label you an adict.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

These Sort of Need to be Mine

If I ever wore French cuff shirts these would be a mandatory accoutrement.

Maybe I need to start.

I am pretty sure that with these, I would be able to fend off bullets like Wonder Woman and her wrist bands.

I am soooo Looking forward to this (the first in a series)


I can not tell you how much I am looking forward to this DVD:Justice League: The New Frontier. Really, my excitement level for this is sort of past the acceptable. And this is even after having watched DC Comics first foray into straight to DVD fare: Superman Doomsday, which was a travesty of epic proportions. And the less said about it the better. But while I enjoyed the subject matter of the Superman Doomsday comic (the death and rebirth of Superman), I simply adored story of The New Frontier. And the simple reason for this: Darwyn Cooke.

Darwyn Cooke is easily one of the most exciting artists in comics today. Rarely will I ever get a book just for an artist. Cooke is one, Ted Mckeever another, but after than I can not think of anyone else I would seek out strictly for the art. This is easily Cooke's masterwork and to see it translated into animation makes me nearly swoon with gleeful anticipation. And trust me, me swooning at all, let alone gleefully is fairly out of character for me, what with my normal grumpy disposition.

This is a classic retelling of DC Comics silver age years, well sort of. It is well entrenched in DC's line of Elseworlds stories, a hodge-podge of "what if..." propositions (ie. what would batman be like in a Victorian era Gotham, what would have happened if Superman landed in Russia rather than Kansas, etc...). In other words, this is not the Justice League of recent JLU cartoon vintage. And as much as I liked that series, and I really did, this should be so much better.

In the graphic novel, Cooke took all areas of DC's historic silver age and tossed them like a salad to create an amazing story that his rich palate of 50s and 60s style make explode off the page like a bold, spicy vinaigrette. I am sure they have cut and altered the story to fit the 80 minutes for the film, which really begs the question, why the very short limit, and why, oh why, is this only straight to DVD??? Cooke's version of post WW II America is begging to be seen on the big screen. The magic of his art is that it is amazingly hopeful. While the design of his characters hark back to the era of his story, they are emboldened with an almost urgent flare. His story views the future with a wistful optimistic eye, even while taking on American military imperialism, racism, McCarthyism, etc... Even as a global threat over the main story, the heroes are able to seek a better tomorrow.

Will I be disappointed? Yes, more than likely, as I have read about some parts that have been nixed from the film that overwhelmingly were some of the most powerful moments in the story. But from the clips I have seen, just witnessing Cooke's art in motion will be a treat that might make me even consider buying my 2nd DVD. And now that he has left The Spirit I will have to take his art anywhere I can get it.

So I can just tell you that at some point on this coming Tuesday I will be watching this Film, and I am sure a review will follow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

If this was 2nd, What was 1st?

I now really, really want this lamp. What a great idea to power it from the ambient nature of gravity.

But seriously, if this this took second place, what was first? The mind boggles at its awesomeness.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The 2008 Tournament of Books Candidates

One of my favorite literary traditions is almost back. Okay, tradition might be too strong a word, but this is a wonderful way I can learn about books from people that are far better read than I. In the past 10 years I gave up reading the New York Review of Books and its ilk (The expectation of being a pompous literary snob is a real turn off). Also around the time of The Corrections (which begrudgingly I admit I have yet to read...) I sort of made a habit of forgoing the hype of when a book is first published, as I was burned too many times with bad works that were praised as the second coming, and began waiting to read them till long after it was the thing to be "scene" reading. So I crave the fun that this competition brings to reading. It introduces many possible choices to read in the future and is such a nice counter balance to the sheer awfulness of that whole college basketball whatever that this mimics.

As per normal, I have only read one book from their list, The Remainder by Tom McCarthy. And I liked it quite fine, but if it goes like past years, it will be knocked out in the 1st round of the competition. But keep track of this and enjoy the way they find "the best" work of last year, as its purely irreverent, fun, and will lead you to some decent literary choices that you may or may not know about yet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

To Further my point on Juno

Not sure what it says about me but, the biggest single google search driver to my blog is "clothes from juno". It is responsible for more the 50% of my traffic. In other words, people are digging them on the character and her clothing choices. My guess is they would like to emulate her.

And once again I get angry once again about the lack of options presented in the film. As I mentioned previously, "Juno is an easy character to idolize. She is written in a way that many people wish they were." And the traffic here while not proving this, does seem to suggest there is something to this line of thinking.

My only hope is that those people hoping to emulate Juno, go above and beyond the films creators and open their mind to the options of birth control and see a healthier version of family life than the ideal presented within the film.

So dress like her, aspire to talk like her, but lord knows do not fuck like her. Birth control is your friend!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Frakkin' Great News

This was yet another case of good news this week.

Though the potential of not seeing the final portion of the season till '09 does not do the body good...

The Knowing Wink of Nostalgia

Yesterday I was half tempted to put my head in the oven and be done with it. Okay, not really, but after watching this:



it did seem like a good idea. Go ahead and watch it if you have not yet seen it before you read yet another screed from me, calling out, no, begging for originality.

Now do not get me wrong, I am still looking forward to this film (though honestly, not close to the same degree), but the level of pandering in this preview is down right revolting. That Indy is first portrayed in silhouette, a shadow of his former self I am sure, should tell you everything about the intentions of this film. It is as much about the aged men who made the film as the characters that populate it. I guess this is what one should expect when the producers and director are stars, and demand that you remember it. They can not handle giving up the stage even for the good of the story.

Indiana Jones is an icon. The trailer even shows us this via use of the silhouette. Everyone knows who he is. Yet just as fast as Indy can crack his whip, the viewer is flung back to his earlier adventures (better times), as seen with clips from his earlier films. Do we really need this? Do they really think the viewers will have forgotten? Do they not remember the letters and outcry from the fans over many years demanding them to make another movie? And granted I am using this preview as a springboard, as this sappy pandering to the audience is not a crime perpetrated solely by the three headed monster that is Lucus/Spielberg/Ford. With that said.... that they feel nostalgia is the best (or is it easiest) way to market this film is disturbing at best.

This story has taken nearly 20 years to make it to screen since Indy's last adventure. With that much lead time I am under the impression that they worked out a script that truly captures the essence of the 1st and 3rd films (the less we talk about the second the better). Though this preview shows next to nothing about what we are to expect, it relies on our good natured memories of enjoying the past. It counts on the pulse of nostalgia to jolt the audiences' hearts to beat ever faster. My biggest problem with this is the trend that as we inch forward into the future, far too many commercial amusements are seeking to reinvigorate past products to recreate the past rather than plant seeds for the future. And the revival, or is it resuscitation, of this franchise is exactly that, looking backwards and discovering memory is a far larger harbinger of tickets sold than the creation of something new.

I guess what pisses me off the most is that this confirms everything I try and deny about much of the media I consume. They are all products and will be marched out in new dress any time a new audience can be identified. Another prime example of this is Transformers. As a kid they were fresh and new - and most importantly: totally exciting. Simply put they were cars and planes that could become robots. And really, robots are totally cool. So this was an earth shattering story telling device. I read the comics, watched the cartoons and played with the toys. Of course, over time the mold that was so successful had to be changed as new characters had to be introduced - one has to sell more toys! This only muddied the field, making sure that what was once special become commonplace. But rather than toss the damaged brand on the scrape heap for old media products, they were put in cold storage. Then when given enough time they re-incubated and birthed anew for a new generation to discover along with their parents to fondly remember, which i assume makes opening the pocket book a bit easier: nostalgia sells!

I am just so sick of this. Simply put this stagnation and looking backwards is a product of the current climate in America. I look to other areas of the world and their touchstones for awareness in everyday life often look like this, this, or this, etc. While the rest of the world looks ahead, we confined to look to the past. This is not a compelling sign that our influential status in the world will last. Compared to the rest of the world's creativity and what appears a boundless hope for the future, our backwards looking forecasts an ominous outlook. Our cultural output, in this crucial time of beckoning globalism, is staid and lackluster. We are pumping out cultural forms that resemble nothing more than Communist block rigid sterile architecture. And as those forms crumble under the steam shovels of progress, the culture from which they came long dead, what are we to think of the prospects of basing our one true global import on it directanalog, nostalgia?

The audience is not afraid to be challenged. If the stories are compelling, new pantheons and myths are welcome. Case in point: The Matrix. The first film was fresh and looked fantastic. The characters and action spoke to us, we shared their fears and dreams. The next two happened and style superseded substance and the the magic was gone. Outside the direct entertainment world we crave newness. Look at how we adapt to new products/services/platforms/wtfever in the cellular and/or computer world. Yet when it come to entertainment we get extremely stilted products that are forced into situations that recall a past that supposedly prompts desire. WTF, seriously WTF?

There is a product in Alan Moore's Watchmen called Nostalgia. It is a fragrance that is advertised with copy reading "where is the essence that was so divine?" and "oh how the ghost of you clings." I am not sure if this was the first time I started to notice the effects nostalgia had on buying patterns, but it certainly was the epiphany moment. It is extremely hard to compete with memory. One could say: "memory is all we are," and could easily make a strong case for it. So why do I find the practice of using it as the base for marketing so wrong? Well simply put, it is too easy. In the preview above, Indy is portrayed as a caricature of his past performances. He acknowledges his age and his long absence by complaining of his eye sight and that 'this used to be easier'. This is nothing more than slapping the back of the fan, placating him/her, lulling them to sleep -- lazy storytelling.

To subjugate one of the better characters ever created for film to an endless loop of self referential mirror games should be a criminal offense. The exact fans that are being pandered to are the ones that simply do not need it. They are the ones with the previous trilogy at home on VHS and DVD, and if they were early adaptors, LaserDisk. They are already excited about this film and will be in line to see it on opening day. So I ask how is this preview helpful. It speaks to the subset of the audience that does not need to be spoken to. Yet the ones who are not scheduling a day off on opening day are left a bit puzzled as the preview gave not an inkling of what maybe in store for them, if they even choose to see it. Again the limits of nostalgia are blatantly obvious.

One of the genius things about Moore's Watchmen is that while he was easily taking a shot at nostalgia in the story, he also scheduled his product to be replaced with a new line of fragrances called Millennium which is described as "projecting a vision of technological Utopia, a whole new universe of sensations and pleasures that is just within reach," and advertised with the phrase "this is the time, these are the feelings." He saw the power of new forms able to rise out of the bleak shadow of looking backwards for inspiration. Yet even today, twenty years later Hollywood is producing a film based on his book, helping to further their diet based on the regurgitation of the past and lack of creativity. Jolly good show that.....

So I ask, what is the reason behind the overuse of nostalgia? I say it is easier to reuse than to create, but am open to other suggestions. Go....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Project Implicit

Stop whatever you are doing and check this out: Project Implicit®. Also this is very time consuming, so do the click-click thing when you have ample time, as you will need it.

To say that I was anything other than utterly fascinated would be a big fat lie. It is a sort of test to see if you have deep seated sublimated prejudices, and really who does not. I have some issues with the methodology of it, which I will discuss latter, but I dare say that the results seem fairly accurate, at least for me. What do you folks think of this?

Found via The Morning News, which if you are not reading, you really should be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Favorite News Story of the Month

What is it about snow white animals that drives fascination. I think the only think cooler than this moose would be photos of a yeti or a sasquatch. And make sure you check out all the photos, this is am amazing beast.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Brazil

So a while back a group of friends and I were discussing movies and the topic veered towards Brazil. And one of my friends claimed it was his favorite movie of all time. I sort of hung my head in shame for him, as I always found it an extremely good case of why style should never reign over substance. And it is not like I did not give this film ample chances, I have seen it at least 4 times and watched both the uplifting American and regular versions of it. I saw it on the big screen and at home. I just never found it to be a good film. But after listening to him pontificate on how wonderful it was, I decided to try it again. So whilst in bed last week convalescing from a bout with the chicken pox, I slipped it in the media player and tried to give it a fair shake.

What I walked away with was that I figured out Terry Gilliam should stop making movies. It was far worse than I had remembered. Of the 15 films he has directed, well completed, I have seen 9 and only really liked one, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (I am sure having Hunter S. Thompson being the source of the material helped in more ways than I can imagine). And while 12 Monkeys has some good moments it feels like an incomplete film. The rest, holy crap.... I wish I had brushed my teeth with lye rather than sat through the dung he foists on unsuspecting audiences. They are horrible. And Brazil might just be the worst of the lot.

I suspect Gilliam considers himself to be cleaver. I also suspect he still laughs at the stilted, forced "humor" of Monty Python. I am sure there is medication he could take to help this delusional outlook. His outlook is amazingly juvenile, or adolescent at best. In Jr. high, I remember railing against the bureaucratic nonsense of my mega school, and feel I could have easily echoed many of the visions of bureaucracy nightmare gone wild he presents in Brazil back then. Hell, I still bristle when I encounter bureaucracy, but at least I can make critical comments/assessments about it now, without being reduced to surrealism and delusional fantasy. In fact I am pretty sure this might be the only way Gilliam can convey any "message". Hmmm, one trick pony much???

But watching Brazil again this time, I noticed how much the Cohen brothers modeled the beginning of the far superior The Hudsucker Proxy after the drones of paper shufflers seen throughout Gilliam's form of celluloid torture. I am sure both films sought to address the emptiness of corporate life, but The Cohen's were able to contextualize it around real people, rather, characters that seemed like real people, and not just abject abstract characters in a veil of prefabbed utter pomposity called set design. And yes, I understand that Gilliam tried taking the machinations of bureaucracy to the absolute most infinite degree, but what this fails to do is communicate the real horrors of the system. It tries to make it into a joke, or a slapdash of slapstick, rather than a concise critique on how the numerous wheels and gears of the bureaucratic machine grinds and spits out human emotion and leaves husks of us all. And while I can understand leaping out of bounds at specific times to make a valid point, but by having an entire movie exist so far outside reality causes the effect to wane and snuff out its own flame.

That surrealism is the only form of expression that Gilliam feels comfortable plucking from a directors' palate aptly shows why many of his works never get out of pre-production. His points have all been made and he is just reshuffling the deck. The overt over the topness squashed what were likely good performances from Bob Hoskins and Robert DeNiro. Where John Ford so rightly surmised that the eyes were (and i am paraphrasing here) 'the key to an actors soul', Gilliam is far more concerned with the way an actor can stand out, in crazed dress, from the mad surroundings he obviously is overly familiar or fascinated with. Gilliam's tone seems to be crank it up to level 10 on the dial and scream along till everyone is deaf and then nodding in agreement. How he has been as successful as he has with this formula is far beyond me.

I am not saying that everything about Brazil is useless, but I would harbor a guess that 95% is. I do love the soundtrack. There is also some very witty dialogue, and Jonathan Pryce's dreams of escape from the mad world of the film resonate quite well. I am just not sure he was really acting there, as the desire to get the hell out from under this abomination of a movie seems quite the intelligent choice.

This is to be my 1st post in a series I will Label Utterly Overrated, where I hope to pick apart totally misappropriated, time honored wonders/classics/perfect examples of group think/wtfever from the many realms of entertainment.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Man who Fell to Earth and the Desire for Intelligent Sci Fi Films

I have been on a Sci FI kick lately. Some might say I have been on one since I saw Star Wars in 1977. But I say "BAH!!!" to that suggestion, as I am on a more cerebral kick than the ever pedestrian Star Wars. I think it was seeing Sunshine a few months back that really got me going on it. And kick might be the wrong word for it, as I mainly lean towards Sci FI style entertainment anyways. I mean Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite author and I read comic books with ever demanding fervour. So this past weekend I decided to sit down and watch a film I had never seen, but heard much about. I am not sure if it is considered a Sci FI Classic or not, but The Man who Fell to Earth was and interesting thing to watch.

I am not sure why but I have always associated it with The Brother from Another Planet. And as I watched David Bowie's oddity play a visitor from space so well, I also understood that this was in no way as good as John Sayles's Sci FI masterpiece. In fact on numerous times I found myself wishing I was watching Sayles's film rather than the oh so oddly edited The Man who Fell to Earth. The large gaps left in the story were just too disconcerting to really enjoy the film. And I have never read the book it was based on, so I felt at a loss. Though at its core, it was fun to watch the cast play with so many challenging ideas.

For those of you who have not seen it, Bowie plays a space alien, Thomas Newton, who travels to Earth to bring back water to his home planet. And to make it interesting rather than landing and trying to take what was needed by force or enslave the population, Newton creates a cooperation to gain the resources needed to build a return craft to take the water back with him. So we see Newton take on the recluse role of Howard Hughes as he uses the technology of his home world to create World Enterprises Corporation. Over time he amasses amazing wealth and turns it to creating a space craft. This premise is used to explore greed and alienation quite well. And while I was not over joyed by the film direction itself, it was far better than most of the Sci FI film Hollywood throws at us today.

Hollywood is content in pumping out summer block buster tripe dressed in Sci FI clothes and motifs. In fact the ever pleasant, non threatening Will Smith is almost always, for unknown reasons, the Sci Fi de rigor star of these movies, see I am Legend, I, Robot, and Men in Black among many others. And while any of these might be entertaining (I admit I surprisingly enjoyed I am Legend), they are far more in the vein of action movies than true cultural probing Sci Fi that the world knew prior to Star Warization of Sci Fi (yet another reason to be pissed off at George Lucus). For most studios, Sci Fi has become synonymous with inter-textual tie-ins at fast food locales and toy stores (see Star Wars and Star Trek for prime examples) and of course they have to appeal to children that will demand these simulacra. Where is the next Blade Runner or 2001 style critical Sci Fi films Hollywood used to be more than happy to produce?

While Sunshine fit more in the mold of 2001 or Tarkovsky's great Solaris, it was not produced by Hollywood. It was also promoted less than Bacon flavored Pepsi might be. And for the record I quite enjoyed Sunshine, but would have enjoyed it far more with a slightly personable cast. It dealt with alienation and the possibilities of hard science in entertaining ways. So why does it seem that Hollywood is more apt to release films like The Island where the main issue at hand is staring at the attractive visages of cloned beautiful people. I mean there was so much potential within to explore and bring up questions of what is life/reality/the ethics of cloning/etc, but these points were obstructed by beauty. The best Sci Fi deals with our fears and/or desires for our civilization. And for the past decade Hollywood has seemed to basically given up on addressing this on the big screen, almost as if they have given up on the future.

I would wager to say that the last great real Sci Fi movie Hollywood released was over ten years ago, when the criminally underrated Gattaca was released. I could also see an argument made for The Matrix here, but damn it, Gattaca is a far better Sci Fi film, as the fears it percolates and dissects are ones that we can actually hold in our hands; therefore, far scarier. As a quick aside: seriously, who could have guessed Uma Thurman could actually act? How is it possible that it has been ten years (eight if using The Matrix) since Hollywood created a serious thought provoking Sci Fi movie? Am I forgetting a great Sci Fi film during the time between then and now?

And yes, I know i am leaving out those current day episodic Sci Fi epics that occur over the course of weeks or seasons on television. I have another post in mind about them. It just strikes me as strange that a genre with such potential in these ever fluctuating, panic inducing times seems bereft of any serious treatment at the multiplex. Any thoughts on why?