Monday, October 24, 2011

At Last!

Hopefully my creation works here...

Sorry to those hoping for a real blog post... google+ didn't play my animated gif, and I am in a photoshop war.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Troll Hunter - 2010

Hooray, I did it!
I managed, in between many other things, to finish Troll Hunter over the weekend. Maybe it's just my American sensibilities, but I expected this fake documentary about the Norwegian government's conspiratorial cover-up of the existence of the Troll menace to be a comedy. Worse yet, maybe it was one.

I saw it.. I still don't

While I did, in fact, enjoy Cloverfield Troll Hunter, it wasn't spectacular. It wasn't funny, the action and suspense were a bit lacking, and there wasn't anything particularly terrifying about the trolls themselves. I'm already pretty used to the idea of "things that go 'bump' in the night", and to the type that can be killed by sunlight... I've heard of that somewhere before... but where?

Urban thug throws "gang sign" (probably a "Blood")
The trolls in Troll Hunter were unintelligent beasts, which meant you pretty much had to intentionally get in their way for them to be a threat. Granted, that is precisely what a hunter of trolls would do. Add to the mix a student film crew who stumble on to this hunter's life and mission, and you have the recipe for some pretty fun chaos.

Fun. That's about all there is to say about Troll Hunter. It was fun.

I kept thinking that one of the stars looked familiar.

Yergen splergen Norwegian gergen
Perhaps it's my old friend, and rock legend, Andy Zipf:

Or maybe all gingers look alike.

Every last one of them (Eric Stoltz... allegedly)
You should watch Troll Hunter for a bit of fun
You should listen to Andy for a lot of awesome.
You should not watch Troll Hunter if you are easily duped by fake documentaries.
You should not listen to Andy if you are prone to awesome-induced seizures.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I wanted my review this morning to be on the Norwegian "mockumentary" Troll Hunter.   Instead I have to give a few facts.

I work a 9.5 hour day. 
My job is 33 miles away from my home.
That commute involves something known as a "Beltway".
Beltways circumnavigate major cities, they are parking lots in rush hour. 
They are comprised of an "inner loop" that travels clockwise, and an "outer loop" that travels counter-clockwise.
I am only allowed to work my 9.5 hour day between 6AM and 6PM.
I can only avoid 1 rush hour in that range.
To do so, I depart my home by 5:30AM.
To do so, I wake by 5AM.
Every hour I stay up after 9PM is one less hour than 8 I get to sleep on a weeknight. 
Even dodging 1 rush hour, I still work what amounts to 11.25 hours when you factor in the driving. 
I am also a husband to my wife and the father of our infant.
All of the above to say, I am pretty tired some evenings.

I watched the first hour of Troll Hunter and promptly passed out on my couch. I was on baby duty. Reading subtitles made me extra sleepy. I love a lot of foreign films, and I despise having them overdubbed with English audio. But with my current lifestyle, I am far too tired or lazy or apathetic to put up with reading while watching a movie. This is a shame, especially if you saw what percentage of my Netflix queue was foreign. 

I leave you with the hope of a Monday Troll Hunter review, and a relevant youtube clip of a delightful British comedy, The IT Crowd.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Z Axis and its Role in the War Against Joy

Apparently Disney got it into their heads that they ought to re-release some of their successful films in theaters. I am all for that idea. I remember roughly 6 years ago going to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in the theater with a lifelong friend who had also grown up with Indy as his hero. The theater even had Guinness on tap. It was a perfect experience.

Imagine my surprise at discovering that The Lion King, probably my favorite Disney movie, was playing at my local theater. My wife and I would love to one day take our daughter to see the Disney movies we grew up watching. They are certainly better than some of the other garbage being marketed to children these days. But we'd want her to see the movies we saw.  This wasn't The Lion King, it was The Lion King 3D.

Disney as I knew it

Disney's 3D Extravaganza!

I have gone to great lengths in the past to explain that just because a movie is 3D doesn't mean it is somehow superior. So far only one movie has used 3D correctly, and it was The Smurfs, Fern Gully, Dances with Wolves,  Avatar.

Avatar... oh, wait...

Wow, Smurfette! Have you been working out?
James Cameron, a film-making legend, put so much time, thought, energy, and money into making a film that is a visual masterpiece. I won't say that he put even 1/100th of that time into creating an original story. Also he didn't break the cardinal rule of film making, letting Michelle Rodriguez's character live through the movie... I mean, come on... who lets that "woman" "act"?

His entire film was planned to be a 3D experience from the get-go. Nowadays, thanks to the success of Avatar, just about everything imaginable is adding 3D effects during post production.

Hollywood, this does not work!

Wearing the 3D glasses reduces the amount of light that reaches your eye, so your precious film is now darker than it is supposed to be. There were entire moments in the tragedy that was Tron 2 and the respectable superhero movie, Thor, that I flat out could not see. It was just too dark.

I realize that it has been proven by a gigantic douchebag that there is money to be made by the torture, rape and murder of classic movies held in the highest regard by a die-hard fan base of idiots who liked the prequels. This crime has been called "digital enhancing". (and yes, expect them in 3D)

The aforementioned giant douchebag

A finished work is a finished work, film is film, and 3D is 3D. It's not like Da Vinci, 20 years after painting the Mona Lisa, said "You know what would be great? Now that there has been 20 years worth of advances in art, I will take my painting and wrap it around a marble figure of a woman. Now I can have the sculpture I always wanted".

Disney intends to re-release Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and a few others in 3D by 2013.

You should boycott 3D movies that aren't The Hobbit or Avatar sequels.

You should punch George in his neck-fat.

You should admit that the prequels are terrible movies.

You should not badmouth the three Indiana Jones movies... (That's right, three. Go on... say something)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ringworld - by Larry Niven

Ringworld... it's a world that is also a ring
I am not even going to bother reviewing this book. It's number 44 on NPR's list of the top 100 sci-fi/fantasy books of all time. Nerds everywhere agree, it's worth a read. But, here is where they are wrong. If you are going to read anything by Mr. Niven, you are going to read The Integral Trees and then its sequel The Smoke Ring.

East takes you out, out takes you west, west takes you in, in takes you east; north and south bring you back.

What I DO intend to talk about is phonetics and the concept of invented cuss words.

There is something perversely satisfying about saying the word "f*ck". Whole documentaries have been made to that effect. Other science fiction sagas have invented expletives with varying degrees of success. Some have even chosen to swear in an existing language not native to its core audience. Of all the myriad invented oaths, only one has ever really done the job: Frak.

You might think it's because it's the most similar to the F-word proper, and you are correct in part. I firmly hold to the opinion, because it is the correct one, that it is phonetically appealing as a curse word.

There is something deeply satisfying about the sounds of K's, T's, and hard C's. Possibly why the "C Bomb" is the pinnacle of the swearing pyramid. It grates on the ears, it's violent, and when you create a new curse, one meant to be interchangeable with the great F, you need to retain a measure of harshness.

Tanj. The word Mr. Niven invented was tanj...

"Tanj you! You tanjing tanjer!"

That sounds wrong, it's too soft. It glides to a slow stop instead of exploding to a violent end. It sounds like something I would order at an Indian restaurant. "An order of Aloo Tanj Paneer, if you don't mind".

It's meant to be an acronym-swear word, like FUBAR or SNAFU, but it's used like "f*ck". No one ever says "Fubar you!" or "Get to the snafu chopper before I fubar you up!".  Even those acronyms have the decency to contain an expletive.

Tanj - There Ain't no Justice

In Mr. Niven's defense, audio books weren't a commercial offering until sometime after the founding of Books on Tape in 1975. He didn't have to consider how obnoxious it would be to hear a somewhat nasal voice say that word a couple of dozen times. In his post-books-on-tape era work, his swearing was better, "Copsik" and "Checker". I think he learned his lesson.

Oh, and one more thing. A highly advanced society builds a habitable environment on a ring-like structure in outer space and seemingly disappears only to [highlight the spoiler] have it turn out that it was built by a previous society of humankind. [end]

Go tanj yourself, Bungie.

You should read this book with your eyes.

You should not listen to this audio book with your ears.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Speaker for the Dead - Graphic Novel

U mad, bro?

Speaker for the Dead is among my favorite novels of all time, so I jumped at the chance to buy the Marvel Comics graphic novel. It's probably considered sacrilege by the masses, those many floundering fools, but I think it surpasses Ender's Game, a phenomenal book in its own right.

The story is rich with guilt, brokenness, loss, pain, faith, longing and hope.

Andrew Wiggin, once "Ender" to all of humanity, is faced with a new challenge. Due to planet-hopping and the wonders of relativistic space flight, Andrew has seen the passage of 3,000 years while only having lived another 20 or 30 years since he saved humanity from the Bugger menace as a child. Now, a new race has killed a human and Ender rushes off to the colony world Lusitania to investigate the death and attempt to get to know the strange aliens known only as Pequininos or "piggies".

I realize that a several hundred book will have to cut content in order to meet the needs of a much smaller graphic novel, but did they have to cut out EVERYTHING?

Golly, that looks like it has lots of pages! (side note: you can buy me a signed copy of this edition and become my new best friend)
Major characters were reduced to minor rolls to leave room for Andrew to be on almost every page. He is less the star of the story, and more a force of nature that changes everything he touches by the mere fact of his existence. His friendship with the AI known only as Jane is downplayed to almost nonexistence. The early scenes in the novel when he parts ways with his sister and closest friend, Valentine, were removed completely, robbing the reader of an insight into the cost Andrew has to pay to serve a greater cause.

Novinha and her children were almost exclusively in the background, which would make future graphic novels much more difficult as Andrew begins to take more of a back seat and Miro, Jane, and others step into larger roles. The redeeming factor here is that the graphic novel has the potential to introduce a new audience to a fantastic story, and perhaps whet the appetite for the novel and its sequels.

You should read this if you are able to forgive the absence of crucial elements.

If you haven't or won't read the novel, you shouldn't read this.

The Code of the Woosters - P.G. Wodehouse

I mentioned in an earlier post that a sale at Audible enabled me to get my hands on a few new audio books to hold me over until "new credit day" when I will likely begin the Tales of the Black Company saga. The Code of the Woosters was among the three shorter books used to fill the void until Thursday.

The Code of the Woosters is one of several stories of the life and misadventures of Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster and his valet, Jeeves. Set in pre-WWII England, the story follows Bertie as he is swept up in the problems of the extremely rich and insufficiently wise. Such drama includes, but is not limited to, being denied meals prepared by his aunt's amazing chef, having to convince antiques brokers to sell silver "cow creamers" at lower prices to his collector of an uncle, and keeping his loved ones happily affianced thereby eliminating the threat of marriage for himself. Jeeves, the brains of the operation, is busily set to saving Bertie from his own bungling of these stressful situations.

I presume many people have had little or no exposure to these tales. I must confess that my first encounter was through the British TV show Jeeves and Wooster, starring the equally amazing Stephen Fry (Jeeves) and Hugh Laurie (Wooster).

Hugh Laurie as "Bertie Wooster" and Stephen Fry as "Jeeves"

And yes, you uncultured ass, that is TV's "Dr. House" on the left. He is British. He is a comedian. Shame on you for not knowing (and kudos to him for being great at drama too).

You can see this pair in another great British comedy, A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

It's 9/27/2011 and every episode is streamable on Netflix today!

I firmly believe that the Brits have a better understanding of comedy than most Americans. I would go so far as to say that, once I am elevated to the place of power that is my destiny, I will see to it that everyone will be mandated to watch British comedy or will be publicly flogged. Those doing the flogging will be the many out of work American sitcom writers, since their "services" will no longer be required. Not to say that all American sitcoms are bad, just most of them, enough to staff a small army of "punishment distributors" out of the "writing staff".

A cow creamer, two engagements, a chef, a policeman's helmet, a fascist, newts, burglaries, blackmail and broken noses. This fast-paced, witty book has it all.

If you love real comedy and a profound mastery of English, you should read or listen to this book.

If you believe Friends was the pinnacle of humor, you should not and you should not breed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Agent to the Stars - by John Scalzi

Thanks to a great sale at Audible, a service that I endorse to all commuters on a level that should earn me a kickback or two from said service, I picked up a copy of John Scalzi's Agent to the stars, read to me by Wil Wheaton, an actor best known for his work on a program titled Star Trek: The Next Generation.

He played the charming, be-sweatered young man known to all as Wesley Crusher.

I suppose that since it has been eighteen years since Mr. Wheaton portrayed this character, it might be unfair to reference it willy-nilly, but that picture makes me feel superior to Wil, even with my professional acting experience being limited to a bastardized Christmas Carol/Cirque du Soliel mash-up as Scrooge's nephew and the star of the comedy pre-show. I had to do many things that one might consider embarrassing, but I never had to wear the above costume.

The book!

Agent to the Stars follows the life of a mid-level Hollywood agent who has just been given the client of a lifetime, an entire alien race. In their study of humanity, this race of gelatinous beings who communicate by what amounts to farting at one another have realized they need help being spun in a positive light before making first contact. It falls on the shoulders of this agent to discover a way, in secret, to introduce humanity to aliens while his clients go crazy and a tabloid reported tries to sink his career.

Here's the part where I retract my previous low-blow to Mr. Wheaton and replace it with a "bravo, sir".

He did a fantastic job reading as the various characters and was a contributing factor in the breaking of my "save it for the commute" rule for audio books.

I'm a big fan of Mr. Scalzi, particularly Old Man's War and its companion novels. This book was a departure for what I would consider "Scalzi Proper", but it was still a lot of fun.

If you have read Scalzi before, and are looking for a quick and easy read that will make you chuckle, you should give Agent to the Stars a read/listen.

If you have never read any Scalzi, read Old Man's War.

Drive - 2011

Before I dive in to my review, let me say that I never saw the movie poster until this moment, and the sentence "From the producer of 'Wanted'" would have been enough for me to write Drive off for all time, and I would have been robbing myself of a delightful experience.

Drive (or, how to have 100 minutes of movie with only 20 minutes of dialog) was a staggeringly good crime drama about a young man who is, by day, a Hollywood stunt driver and local mechanic and, by night, a getaway driver for area criminals. Upon becoming entangled in the life of his neighbor and her young son, he finds himself in circumstances much larger than he signed up for as his entire world comes crashing down in a deluge of death, destruction and dangerously daring driving.

The style of this film completely blew me away. I am a major nerd for good lighting, and this had some of the best I have seen in years. Add to that the moody soundtrack, moments of insane violence, and a unique dashboard-and-windshield-perspective during the high-speed antics and you have a recipe for a movie that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat.

One thing that may have been overlooked by a casual viewer was that this was, in point of fact, a superhero movie. Our hero has everything you need to fit that mold.

Costume: Check
Power: Check (sort of)
Damsel in Distress: Check
Alter ego: Check (sort of)

The costume in question involves aviator sunglasses, a toothpick, leather gloves, a hammer and the most memorable jacket of all time. I would love to see a sequel or prequel to Drive about the exploits of The Silver Scorpion Jacket.

I even gave you the name of the movie, Hollywood... what's stopping you?

My wife and I, being the amazing people that we are, could not get the this song out of our heads while watching the movie.

If you enjoy ultraviolent, stylized dramas about crime, you should see this movie.
If you think that movies with violence are abhorrent, you should not see this movie.

Beverage-Air BM23C-B Direct Draw Beer Refridgerator (or the 1980's equivalent model)

First an foremost, praise to and the many bargains and rare finds you can obtain through that service.

I acquired the kegerator for $100 back in the summer of 2010. It's roughly 30 years old, and its newer counterpart retails for about $1,200 - $1,500. It being a $100, largely neglected, piece of equipment, I understandably had some technical troubles. The compressor fan would jam until I bent each blade into a new shape that wouldn't catch on other parts. The unit would suddenly stop cooling (ruining a 5 gallon batch of beer). It had, on occasion, delivered a minor electric shock to me when I would mess around with components.

The modern BM23C-B

I had it unplugged for about 3 months since there was no beer being brewed in the last trimester of my wife's pregnancy. I plugged it in 2 days before I intended to keg my latest batch of homebrew only to have it trip a breaker. This upset me greatly since my breaker box is located in what I lovingly refer to as my "dead hooker basement". It's the type you would expect to see on the news after hearing the phrase: "Local man arrested after the an anonymous tip led to the discovery of the bodies of seventeen women in the basement of his suburban home." A basement not at all unlike this:

Internet example of a creepy basement. I decided not to search for the term "dead hooker" at work.

After I bravely reset the breaker, I went back to the safety of my main floor and began again. This time, I turned off the kegerator thinking it must be on the same breaker as our new mini-fridge that we recently acquired for keeping baby bottles upstairs. Having worked as an electrician for a year, I have seen stranger wiring jobs than a circuit upstairs having a few outlets downstairs. I unplugged the mini-fridge and went back downstairs to turn on the kegerator and what happened next can only be described as a lesser 4th of July celebration exclusive to the gap between fridge and wall.

I quickly shut off the impromptu and anachronistic celebration and hovered over the area looking for signs of a fire. There was none. I then examined the rear of the device looking for the culprit. The wire that powered the compressor fan was so old that it had hardened and cracked in at least 7 individual places that I could see.  There were "arc marks" all over the compressor, and I was filled with a dread that I had killed my mighty kegerator.

The next day, I set about the task of replacing the wire in question and was met with more than simple success. Not only did the kegerator work, but it worked better than ever. It no longer sounded like a single stroke diesel engine when the fan was running, and it reached the temperature I desired in approximately 30 minutes.

I cannot put this more plainly. No other fridge in the history of keeping items cool in a contained space can compare. It's clearly almost impossible to kill the thing, and can run strong for at least three decades.

If you want beer on tap where you live/work/play, and you have disposable income, you should buy one today.

If you want beer on tap where you live/work/play, and you do not have disposable income, you should lurk on craigslist, ebay, or your preferred previously owned retailer site until you can track one down.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Left Foot - 1989

Daniel Day-Lewis can out-act any chump in Hollywood! (with a couple notable exceptions to that blanket statement)

Many of us have come to know, admire, fear, or respect Mr. Day-Lewis for his impressive performances in movies like There Will Be Blood.  But, 22 years ago, he gave an Oscar-winning portrayal based on the real life story of Christy Brown, a young Irish artist/author born in the 1930's with Cerebral Palsy. 

If you have ever known, met, or seen a person with cerebral palsy, you will be absolutely floored by his performance. Told in flashbacks, you get to see his journey from a young man incapable of communicating with his family to an adult who has mastered painting, writing, speech, and the consumption of whiskey(like any good stereotypical Irishman).  He so flawlessly mimics the speech and motion of a person with cerebral palsy that it is easy to forget that he is a healthy man with full control of his faculties.

The pace of the movie is on the slow side, but the amazing acting by the entire cast more than makes up for the occasional lull in the plot. I was also taken aback by the love, acceptance and involvement of his entire family.  Even in today's "enlightened society" there is a whole lot less love to go around for people who are different from ourselves. There are many touching scenes where family members proudly show that Christy is not an incidental member of their family, but a key, critical, loved part of the whole.

If good acting is your cup o' tea, you should see this movie.

If you want a director like Michael Bay to blow up Dublin 6 ways to Sunday, you should watch something else (and kindly don't breed)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TiMER - An indie film that DOESN'T make you vomit in your mouth

First of all, my apologies. I know you rely on my profoundly developed opinion and I have let you down.

Now that my [forced] apology is behind us, and you know you are going to forgive me, let's dive in to TiMER.

The basic premise of the movie sounded like a decent genre-mashing good time. There exists a device one may have implanted with a timer displaying days, minutes and seconds in a countdown. Said device is blank unless your "soul mate" also has one. If that's the case, then the display will begin counting down to the moment when the two of you will meet and find true love in one another. This could be almost instantaneous, or decades down the line.

This "Sci-fi Dramedy" follows the life of a woman in her late 20's whose timer is blank, and her sister who is set to meet the love of her life in 15-20 years. It manages to raise very good questions about love, trust, casual dating and reckless promiscuity and never ceases to keep your attention.

It's not a gut-busting, roll on the floor and pee your delighted bladder out all over the carpet comedy. It's not a serious, search your soul for meaning drama. It's not an epic sweeping tale of the distant future where machines harvest your organs for their robotic version of pleasure. It is, however, a solid movie.  There was even a moment that made my wife laugh so hard she woke our sleeping infant, I kid you not. Let's see how it scores on my newly made indie movie checklist of wins and woes.


Interesting Plot - Check

Good Soundtrack - Check

New to the viewer talent - Check


Needlessly "arty" - nope

Unrealistically weird characters to whom the viewer cannot relate or connect - nope

Painfully obvious low budget - nope

You should watch this movie if you like good movies

You should not watch this movie if you don't wish to wake nearby sleeping infants.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spencer Horsman at Illusions: Magic Bar and Lounge - Baltimore

As my wife and I ambled about the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, MD, we passed a curious looking building with a marquis advertising a magic & comedy show that very evening.

Here are the facts:

Every Friday & Saturday at 9pm (though it really didn't start until 9:30 or 9:45)
$7. Or, to quote the owner, 2 for $14.
2 drink minimum. But they have a couple decent beers for $3, a few OK ones for $4, and some good ones for $5.
We laughed almost the whole time. 

So, if you went for the cheapest possible route, you are talking about $13 per person plus tip, and this is not a case of "you get what you pay for".  Spencer's comedic timing is on par with his ability to amaze. One moment he is dropping a clever anecdote, the next he is retrieving a purloined twenty dollar bill from within a newly cut orange, then he is hanging upside down and attempting to escape from a straight jacket ala Harry Houdini.

You can barely even see a movie for $13 a person, and most theaters don't have the beer and single malt scotch selection of Illusions.

Be warned, he does call on members of the audience to come up and assist. If you don't want to go on stage, keep your mouth shut about it being your birthday, how far you drove, and please don't go with the kinds of friends that will volunteer you into participating.

You should see this show if you are in Baltimore on a Friday or Saturday night and have $13 plus tip.

You should not see this show if if you are in Copenhagen and only have 2 Euros.

The Town - 2010

Is all the world mad?????

This movie is held in high esteem by moviegoers and critics alike, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why. The basic premise is so far from believable that it took an extreme effort to even pay attention. The pace of the story moved from 5 minutes of high tension robbery to 45 minutes of the most unconvincing romance ever played out on the screen, continuing that cycle until the movie eventually fizzled out into closing credits.

Lord grant me the strength to continue reviewing this pointless shell of a film.

My BS detector was firing high pitched sirens in my brain every time one of the "characters" had to "act" in a "scene". Granted, I know very few professional bank robbers, "people" from Boston, or FBI agents. Even with a lack of expertise, I know fake when I see it... and those characters were just plain fake. The icing on the cake was that after all the crime, murder, drug abuse and so forth, the creators of the film had the audacity to dedicate it to the good people of the Charleston neighborhood of Boston, AKA Sir Not-appearing-in-this-film.

If you have not seen Heat, watch that instead of this movie.

If you have seen Heat, re-watch that instead of this movie.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Game of Thrones - Audiobook - Discs 1-6 (of 28)

Sweet merciful crap I want to speed up time so I can review this story in its entirety!

I have been listening to it during my commute, and I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed a fantasy epic more thoroughly. Granted, I am only about 8 hours into the 34 hour audiobook, so I suppose it is too early to tell for certain, but here's what I know so far.

If I faithfully continue this series on my commute, I should be finished in about 3 weeks. I might have to expand my listening hours beyond the time stuck in my car in traffic.

The version I have is narrated by Roy Dotrice, who I hear is something called a Shakespearean Actor. What that means for you the listener is that there is emotion in every line of dialog, enough to make even the cold of heart feel tears well up at times.

I started this book because of the new HBO miniseries based on it. I simply love being able to say "the book was better" and I wanted to say that with the knowledge and experience to back it up. I must admit that I am tempted to watch the first episode or two, so I can catch up to where I am in the story, but I worry that I will be weak and watch beyond my current chapter.

So far, this story and its characters seem better than some of my favorites from fantasy, including:

The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Series)
Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn (Trilogy)
The Farseer and Tawny Man (Trilogies)

I realize that this story could still go anywhere, and that my current high hopes could be dashed upon the harsh rocks of disappointment.

If you read my blog, you should eagerly await the full review sometime in May
If you do not read my blog, you should read my blog.

Deadwood - Season 1 (2004)

I will put this as plainly as I can.

After watching the first season of Deadwood, I can state without reservation that it is among the greatest serial dramas of all time.

Set in the late 1800's, Deadwood is the name of the "camp", which is really more like a town, set up illegally in Sioux territory where our cast has come to find their fortunes. The camp revolves around gold prospecting, though most of our characters are not in that trade themselves. Rather, we follow the stories of the saloon owners, shop keepers, doctors, criminals, gunmen, whores, preachers and gamblers who make up the rest of the budding community.

Existing in Sioux territory means that this camp is not a part of the United States, not under it's laws or jurisdictions, not taxed, and not protected. As such, it is a very dangerous place filled with people who would just as soon kill you as pour you a shot of whiskey. There are plenty of shots of whiskey in every episode, ergo...

Now, let me get to what makes this show truly great, the acting. This amazing ensemble is perfectly cast. You love, hate, fear, respect, abhor, and pity the characters because they are portrayed to perfection. I have a hard time picking out a favorite character. The idiots are that stupid, the heroes that bold, the villains that loathsome, the desperate that pitiable, the annoying that irksome, and so forth.

Then there's the cussing. This is the most profane show I have ever seen. It can occasionally harm my suspension of disbelief. Sometimes I have been pulled from the moment to wonder "did they really swear that much, and that way, back then?" I think it may have harmed the reception of the show.

You should watch this show if you are a fan of being completely impressed.

You should not watch this show if the following words offend you: Cocks*cker, c*nt, f*ck. (* = u... in case you are that stupid)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bulletstorm - PS3

So there's a storm, or something, and it's made out of bullets... I guess.

I will hop on the comparison bandwagon, as it were, and tell you straight up that this game wishes it were Gears of War and just plain isn't. Gears has a rich world filled with mystery and horror, amazing game play, impressive scale, stunning art direction and at least halfway decent voice acting throughout.

Bulletstorm has none of those things, but, oh boy, do they wish that they did. There was also no storm of bullets, unless that is an unlockable extra I was too bored to attempt to acquire.

I enjoyed the game on its merits which are as follows:

It is humorous.
It is novel.

After 4 or 5 of the 7 chapters of the game, the humor and novelty had worn off for me, and I was playing out of a sense of obligation to have completed SOMETHING this weekend to criticize.

Alas, putting down grass seed on my .84 acre yard, hauling 4 tons of debris from said yard, then hosting a family event prevented me from spending my time on the greater goal of forming my perfect opinions and sharing them with you for your own personal growth.

I made some small progress, and here' an update on that list from last week.

Akira, Volume 1 - Graphic Novel = returned to library unread, will check out again
Deadwood,  Season 1 - TV show = 1 episode to go
A Game of Thrones - Audiobook = 4 discs down, 24 to go
Echoes of Honor - Novel = 400 pages down, 300 to go
The King's Speech - Movie = no update
Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Movie = no update
Red Cliff (full version) - Movie = no update
The Town - Movie = no update
Robogeisha - Movie = no update, need more beer to attempt.

Back to Bulletstorm

If hearing people yell things like "what the dick?" will amuse you, you should play this game
If you want something with substance or replay value, you should not.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No time for opinions

Sorry folks, there's been little to no time for me to form my eloquent, righteous opinions due to circumstances once called "an act of God". Today, to keep people from squirming, we shall call it "a catastrophic happenstance". The catastrophic happenstance in question knocked a tree limb the size of Montana onto both my car and my wife's. All is well, but I've not had the opportunity to complete any of the various entertainments I would like. Here's what I am viewing, reading, and hearing this week.

Akira, Volume 1 - Graphic Novel
Deadwood,  Season 1 - TV show
A Game of Thrones - Audiobook
Echoes of Honor - Novel
The King's Speech - Movie
Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Movie
Red Cliff (full version) - Movie
The Town - Movie
Robogeisha - Movie

I hope to conclude the majority of that by Monday, but my weekend is filled with the grueling task of being useful, rather than complete ease of being right about everything.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cirque Du Soleil, Totem

This was, without questions, the most amazing live performance of any kind I have ever seen, and likely will ever see, in my entire life. The art direction, music, and feats all worked together to melt my face off.

The challenge in reviewing something of this nature is in decided which part is best. There were so many acts that came up to the bleeding edge of what the human body is physically capable of doing, and what the psyche is able to release self-preservation to attempt. Also, they made fun of Italians, and that fills me with great joy.

If anyone has ever said about Cirque: "I can't explain it, you just have to go see it" Trust them. There's a chance that they aren't mentally deficient, it might not be the lack of knowing the proper words. I would say that, at least in the English language, there's no good way to define the extreme heights of live entertainment that the team behind Totem have achieved without dropping excessive expletives, gesturing madly, then just giving up and saying: "I can't explain it, you just have to go see it"

Now that we've covered that, here's the bad, dramatized for your convenience.

Are you sweating from the temperature?
Would you like to spend $6 on a cold water?
How about a "beer"? Bud light is a meager $7
-Thanks, I'll pass...
We've got Stella Artois, $8.50
-Seriously, knock it off. I'm not spending $8.50 on a below average beer
Well, why don't you just go out of the tent to cool off during the 30 minute intermission?
-Finally a bit of good advice... aw, what the hell man? People have to smoke right outside the tent openings? Does the Maryland law about distance from doors apply to tents?
Fine, be that way, Just go sit in your tiny plastic seat that is uncomfortably close to the people on either side of you.

You should attend this show.

 If you are blind, you should not... but I recommend the soundtrack.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pygmy - A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

When I was an angst-ridden youth, I enjoyed the collected works of author Chuck Palahniuk. He was dark, subversive, and edgy. I read everything he ever wrote up through Diary.  Fight Club, the movie, came out when I was about 17 or 18 years old. I lived and breathed his dark, broken little world.

Then I discovered Kurt Vonnegut. I realized that his works were superior, even occasionally uplifting, and never went back to the author I then dubbed "Poor man's Vonnegut"

I went to my local library in the vain attempt to acquire interesting graphic novels or audio books, since I have plenty of unread novels at home. That last sentence sounds bad when I read it. I have a greater amount of read novels. I just have a backlog of purchased/borrowed books to get through before I delve into new books.

The audio books are my new endeavor to keep my sanity on my commute. I should have started them a year ago, when my commute first began, but I did not. I couldn't find anything from a trusted author, other than books partway into series' I hadn't yet begun. Then I noticed a couple books by Mr. Palahniuk.

This will have to do.

My initial reaction to the prose being read out loud for an hour was: "Sweet merciful crap, what the frak is this?"

“Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival Midwestern American airport greater 'REDACTED' area. Flight 'REDACTED'. Date 'REDACTED'. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name: Operation Havoc.”

The entire book is read this way. All from the perspective of "Operative me" all in broken English. It may break the typical way he writes, but it's still filled with Palahniuk's normal themes. Abuse, rape, murder, sexual deviance, anti-religion, and so on.

The only reason I kept on going was that I had no other audio book as a fall back, and no time for another trip to my library.

In all, the whole story is completely unbelievable. The characters are all hollow stereotypes and nothing of lasting significance transpires. The best parts are the flashbacks to Operative me's early childhood training, and the book could have used more of that and less scenes in the community church.

I wouldn't recommend this in written form. I imagine it would be very tiring to convert the written broken English into concepts. At least with hearing it spoken to you, half the work is already done.

I must praise the reader, Paul Michael Garcia, for doing an excellent job with such challenging writing. His reading helped to keep me engaged.

If it's playing in your car and you have a long commute, don't stab your ears, just listen and pass the time.

If you have access to other audio books, perhaps you should try them first.

Hot Tub Time Machine - 2010

One of the many joys/pitfalls of having a netflix account if the ability to "stream" something you never had any intention of watching. This can work to your advantage when you discover that delightful film or series that somehow flew under your radar, or can just waste your precious time.

I had just finished watching a special episode of Top Gear UK, because netflix increased the total amount of episode that were available on their service, and decided to see what else was new. Hot Tub Time Machine then caught my eye.

I thought inside my brain to myself, mindfully "Oh, a comedy film movie. I like to enjoy laughing at humor jokes"

I laughed once.

I'll even tell you the funny part.


Craig Robinson's character, Nick, figures out how they traveled back in time, then has the titular line. He says "Hot tub time machine" and looks into the camera with an expression that says: "Yes, I just said the name of the movie, make a big deal out of it and I'll kick your ass"

That made me laugh, but probably because if made me think of an episode of Upright Citizen's Brigade.

Say it! Say I had the titular line in Star Wars!

I guess the irony of John Cusak playing a failure who gets to go back to the decade when people gave a rat's ass about John Cusak was also kinda funny... but not "ha ha funny"

If your netflix account is broken and will only let you select this movie, and there is nothing else you can even attempt to do with your time, you should see this movie.

If you can stream episodes of Top Gear UK instead, you should not see this movie.

Monday, April 11, 2011

SMBC - a web comic

SMBC is one of those internet gems that help to kill the drudgery of a long week at work. One of the best points of this comic is that it is updated daily, almost without fail. If you are reading my obscure little blog, odds are you are mastered in wasting your time on this, the series of tubes and you need no help from me to guide you to content that has existed for ages.

I felt the need to review this comic when I read this episode:

I am guilty of using the term "gay" as a pejorative. It's interchangeable in my vocabulary for "lame" or "stupid".  I would greatly miss my go-to word for when something seems unfair, trivial, or boring, but this new definition is pretty hilarious.

As far as SMBC goes...

If you like jokes about science, nerds, math, and erectile dysfunction, then you should treat yourself to a daily dose of internet hilarity.

If your definition of funny is "Family Guy", you might like the erectile dysfunction jokes, but this comic is most likely not for you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Agricola - A Board Game

Initially, this game was described to me as a farming game. I happen to live in farm country, surrounded by that great industry, and nothing could interest me less than a game that simulates sowing, reaping, and so on.

It should be described as a competitive victory point game, where you compete against your opponents and factors in the game to achieve the most points in 14 brutal rounds.

To be clear, I have only played 4 games of Agricola. One with my brother-in-law as we tried to figure out the game, and then three more with he and a friend. I am far from a pro, and there are aspects of the game that haven't even been introduced due to the number of players and the level of proficiency we currently have.

Many of the reviews rave about this game, and they are correct to do so. It's the best game I've added to my rotation in a while. Aspects of Agricola remind me of Catan and Shogun, both excellent games in their own right.

1-5 players

1-2 hours per game

You should play this if you like strategy, competition, and being occasionally frustrated.

You should not play this if your idea of a good board game is Mall Madness.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories

If you haven't treated yourself to the Dr. Horrible Sing Along Blog, you must.

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories, however, isn't worth the 20 minutes it took me to read it. You get a deeper look into the origins of some of the main characters, and how they became the way they are in the Blog, but this isn't something you actually needed.

I would go so far as to say that the comic actually made Felicia Day's character, Penny, completely unlikeable. They took her bleeding heart sensibilities and amplified them to the nth degree.

The other stories weren't as bad, but they don't hold a candle to the original video.

If you were going to spend 20 minutes murdering your neighbor, you should read this graphic novel instead... but you should save the $10 and check it out from your local library.

If you were going to spend $10 on a large Pizza Hut pizza, and 20 minutes eating it, you should just stick to your plan... fatty.

Monday, April 4, 2011


There's only one word to describe this graphic novel - disturbing

It's not good, it's not bad, it simply exists. I've read plenty of end-of-the-world scenarios, and none of them are cheerful. Crossed just takes it too far. I don't think you need to read it, in fact, don't. There's nothing in it that will be memorable apart from the hideous amount of extreme violence.

Halfway into the book, when the "crossed" are eviscerating a child while raping her parents, I caught myself wondering why I was still reading it. It felt like the author was saying "You think The Walking Dead is screwed up? Well check this out!"

You should read this if you are a budding sociopath, it will make you feel moderate.

You should not read this if you are a person.

Paul - 2011

With the grand exception of Freaks & Geeks, I do not care for the collected works of Mr. Seth Rogen. In fact, it's fair to say that I find him completely intolerable. Suffice to say, I had my doubts about Paul when I heard he was voicing the titular role. To my surprise, he's not a bad voice actor. I think it might that the animators did nothing to try to make the character resemble the actor in any way whatsoever, thereby allowing their creation to emote on screen instead of just looking like a vapid pot head.

Vapid pot head.

I absolutely adore Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz. Those were the selling points for me to go see this movie, rather than waiting for DVD release. Here are the answers to the questions that any fan would ask in advance.

Is it as good as Spaced? No
Is it as good as Shaun? No
Is it as good as Hot Fuzz? Yes, better if you are a sci-fi nerd.

The movie was jam-packed with references to iconic science fiction. There were enough to give me a "nerdgasm". I won't ruin any of them for you by quoting here, but a couple of choice moments had me grinning from ear to ear.

It was also nice to see Jason Bateman not playing another Michael Bluth clone. His character in Paul was actually a total badass, and I think he played it very well. I hope for his sake that it gives him more opportunities to branch away from apparent typecasting.

I could praise the film further, but there is a little bad I would like to discuss. It's anti-faith, particularly anti-Christian. I don't know why this trend is so popular among comedians. It feels to me like beating a dead horse.

Dear Atheists,

I know that you don't believe in God, and that you find the faith of other people to be anywhere from cute and harmless, to silly, to the cause of all the world's problems. You've been ranting about it for long enough, I got it already. I don't need another movie, or chunk thereof, to browbeat me with your own thoughts on the matter. I mean, for the love of crap, The Invention of Lying went from hilarious to tedious because Ricky felt the need to preach atheism for more than half of the movie.

I digress. It could just be a pet peeve.

All told, this is a solid comedy road trip movie with a little romance and action throughout.

If you like funny movies, you should see this.

If you think that Paulie Shore movies are funny, you shouldn't.

The King and the Clown (Wang-ui namja) - 2005

I'll admit, I was hesitant to devote a couple of hours to this particular movie. The basic synopsis didn't do much for me.

Here's what it says on imdb:

"Two clowns living in the Chosun Dynasty get arrested for staging a play that satirizes the king. They are dragged to the palace and threatened with execution, but are given a chance to save their lives if they can make the king laugh."

Here's what it should say:

"Two street performers flee their latest company after a botched attempt by their manager to pimp the gentler of them to an old man with a lust for boys. They find themselves in Seoul and soon join a ragtag bunch of performers eking out a living. They begin to mock the royal court, which draws legal attention.

The prime minister, who is impressed by their gall, gives them the chance to perform for his king. He manipulates the troupe to perform plays that expose the corruption and intrigue within the royal court, in a desperate bid to set his king free from the chains that those around him would place upon him. The lives of many hang in the balance, as the antics of the performers draw out conspiracies."

I realize that basically triples the length of the synopsis, but it gets much more into the meat of the story. It has little to do with the clowns saving their own necks, and much more to do with tyranny, corruption, intrigue, and basic human brokenness.

This was not a good movie, it was a great one. The actors all deserve recognition for their performances, particularly Jin-yeong Jeong who played the king.

If you like awesome stuff, you should see this movie.

If you think "awesome stuff" = Michael Bay movies, you should probably watch something else.

If you are homophobic, this probably isn't your cup of tea, or can of Budweiser, rather.

If you can't read while watching a movie, this also might not be for you.

Mission Statement

One of my nearly limitless virtues is my inability to simply like something. I can't just enjoy a good book, TV show or movie, I have to also derive pleasure from knowing that my impeccable taste makes me somehow better than you. The purpose of this blog is to drive home a few irrefutable facts.

Fact 1: My taste in entertainment is flawless

Fact 2: Your taste in entertainment is, at best, a mere shadow of my perfection

Fact 3: The above facts make me better than you, obviously

Fact 4: I've never completed a novel or full length feature film, but I can tell you, with confidence, the merit of other people's creative works.

I will not be limited to new releases. I intend to write about what I encounter. This blog will include, but won't necessarily be limited to, reviews of books, movies, TV shows, comics, and music. On the rare occasion that I attend a play, I might also write about it. Enough about the blog, it's time for some reviews...