Posted on Saturday, December 1st, 2012
I started writing an entry for today, then realized what I had written back in 2008 still holds true and sums up what I feel perfectly. And so, a repeat, of sorts...
Today is World AIDS Day.
Back when I was in high school, there was talk going around about the "disease that kills faggots dead," and I remember very well listening to some insane bitch on television spout off about how God's retribution against the homosexuals was at hand. Of course, for the homophobic masses, it was too good to be true. Or too good to last. Because AIDS soon moved on to heterosexuals, which was still okay because they obviously did something to incur God's wrath, right? But then children started getting AIDS and, since nobody wants to think that God would give a child AIDS, attitudes towards the disease started to change.
But not fast enough.
Because I also remember the widespread panic that hit in the late 80's as there was serious concerns that the AIDS crisis was going to wipe out a massive chunk of the population before anything could be done to stop it. This eventually proved to be true, but not to the genocidal levels that were originally projected by some of the more alarmist "specialists" in the field.
I've known exactly four people who have died of AIDS.
To me this seems like a tragic number to have died from anything, but it's barely a blip on the radar to some people I know. People who tell horror stories of how they did nothing but go to funerals in the late 80's and early 90's, and how most everybody they knew who wasn't already dead was dying. An unfathomable situation that would test the resolve of anybody.
Yet the human condition prevails. The survivors pick up the pieces and move on as best they can...
AIDS is not over.
AIDS is happening right now.
AIDS is still killing people around the globe.
And now a new generation is reaching sexual maturity. A generation which has no memory of the rampant destruction that AIDS is capable of unleashing... not in some far away country, but right here at home.
Somebody has to educate them
And that's why today we remember.
Posted on Sunday, December 2nd, 2012
Beware of stray casings... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Chips! Chips Ahoy! is not a cookie brand that I enjoy very much. When it comes to mass-produced bags of chocolate chip cookies, I'd rather not go there. And, if I have to, I'd rather go with Famous Amos. But then I saw that Chips Ahoy! has a new Holiday version that I had to try...
They're just like regular Chips Ahoy!... with the addition of candy-coated chocolate chips. They're crunchy and delicious. As are the cookies. If you see them in your local store, they're worth checking out!
• Killers. Forget The Walking Dead... the scariest show on television bar none is a series on Biography Channel called Killer Kids. This highly disturbing mess features documentaries on, you guessed it, killer kids. As in kids who kill their entire families and stuff like that. It is mind-bogglingly, unbelievably horrific, and I accidentally came across it while channel-surfing the other day. If you want nightmares, by all means please tune in.
• Split. Speaking of The Walking Dead... remember the good ol' days when there was no such thing as a "Mid-Season Finale?" Well, it's more and more common now to break up a television into two chunks, airing the first half when the TV season starts in September/October... then withholding the remaining shows of the season until February sometime. It sucks. Especially when The Walking Dead just aired their mid-season finale and now we have to wait until NEXT YEAR to see what happens. Booooooo!
• w00t! And while I'm talking about television, I would be remiss not to mention that the BBC is going to adapt an amazing book by Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, into a six-part series...
The story is about a kind of alternate history where magic existed, but died out. And now its back as the Napoleonic Wars are heating up. What ensues is more than magic, and one of the best reads you'll happen across.
Obviously, I love this book. So this series could be a very good thing. Or a very, very bad thing. Director Toby Haynes has worked on some nice episodes of Dr. Who, so I have high hopes. All I can say to the BBC and all involved... please, PLEASE don't fuck it up. This chance won't happen again.
• Twain. I've had zero interest in taking in any of the big Vegas shows that have taken up residence on The Strip. Celine Dion? Pass. Cher? Pass. David Copperfield? Pass. Donny and Marie? Double Pass. Barry Manilow? Oooh... Pass? I've come very close to flying down for a Penn and Teller show a couple times, but ultimately decided against it. But now Shania Twain is playing at Caesar's and I can't help but be intrigued. I'm not a big fan... and I really don't like Country music... but I've always been fascinated by Shania and have enjoyed her music...
Shania "Still the One" show photo by Getty Images.
What I don't know is if I like the idea of attending her show enough to spend $55 for crappy tickets... $250 for decent tickets... let alone the cost of a hotel and airfare. Apparently I've got two years to make up my mind, so I guess I won't stress about it.
Annnnd... I'm spent. Another very busy week awaits.
Posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Seriously... HOLY CRAP!
The new Man of Steel movie poster has been unleashed on an unsuspecting world, and boy oh boy is it a steaming pile of shit. If this... this... is how the people making this movie see Superman, then we're all fucked. And so is the film...
Are you frickin' kidding me?
Look, anybody writing Superman has to wrap their head around one concept and one concept only.
He is a god.
But a god who was raised as a man, so he walks amongst them.
But not really.
Because his powers and abilities are far beyond what any mere mortal can fathom. The problems he has to deal with are on a scale that dwarfs the understanding of any man. Because he's not a man... as much as he aspires to be a man. As much as he tries to pretend he's normal by dressing up as Clark Kent.
So having the movie poster for a Superman film which shows your "Superman" in handcuffs like a regular guy... being dragged down to our level... it's a complete betrayal of everything that makes Superman be Superman. And I don't for the life of me understand what director Zack Snyder is trying to say with it. Superman could bust out of those fucking handcuffs and beat every soldier around him senseless in seconds. Fractions of seconds. So is this symbolic? A way of saying that, despite all his power, Superman is just a man? He's not above the law? Well, barf... who would want to watch that movie?
Superman is not Batman. He's not fighting insanity in the gritty streets of Gotham City.
He is a god.
Who clings to the humanity that his earthling parents instilled in him.
All while being the most powerful being on the planet.
He's about as far removed from the "gritty streets" as you can get. And, yes, he IS above the law.
Superman is above everything.
Except in this movie, apparently. I mean holy crap, Superman was better portrayed in the LEGO Batman video game. This... this... is just pathetic.
Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Yeah. Not a good day to be me...
Fortunately, the solution is easily accessible and mostly legal.
Posted on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
For some stupid reason I just drank two huge glasses of water without thinking that I'll be heading to bed in about 20 minutes. I can only imagine that I'll be waking up in the middle of the night at least once this evening.
The only way things could get worse for me would be if something goes terribly wrong with that Three Bean Chili I had for dinner.
Posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2012
And so today is the first day that Washingtonians can get a marriage license if the person they want to marry happens to be the same sex as they are.
It's all the sweeter knowing that their fellow Washingtonians voted to make it so. 53.7% of us feel that love is love, and our laws have no fucking business telling people who they should fall in love with. And this number has nowhere to go but up. Especially now that backwards-thinking straight people will see that two dudes getting married or two ladies getting married has absolutely no fucking effect on their lives.
The pictures rolling in are heartwarming.
Some of these people have been waiting decades for the opportunity to get married...
Photo ©2012 from Meryl Schenker's beautiful set
Photo ©2012 from Meryl Schenker's beautiful set
And even here in Redneckistan, happy couples came to get licenses...
Photo © 2012 The Wenatchee World by Mike Bonnicksen
You have to be one cynical bastard not to be happy for such happy people being so happy.
But, of course, cynical bastards are everywhere.
The bigoted pieces of shit over at the hate group "One Million Moms" apparently feel that gay people shouldn't even be allowed on television. Even when they're not doing anything "gay." Their latest in a long line of absurd targets is this cute ad for JC Penny with Ellen and some elves in it...
What the fuck?
Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?!??
It's a commercial featuring one of the sweetest, kindest, most caring people on television talking to some elves. I mean, holy shit... I could understand if Ellen was eating out the entire Dallas Cowboys cheerleader squad and the ad was airing during Saturday morning cartoons... but this?!? THIS is what's being protested?
I guess these morons think that seeing Ellen in a television commercial is going to turn girls into lesbians or something, so hold on to your vaginas, ladies.
But even more disgusting than a group of repugnant bitches wanting to eradicate gay people from television is that these repugnant bitches ARE MOMS! They are raising children! Children who may very well end up being gay in one of the most hostile environments imaginable... their own parents want them eradicated.
Which is how teenagers end up putting a gun to their head and pulling the trigger.
I can only hope that the fact that gay people are on television... and gay people are in the news being happy... and gay people are getting married... only serves to show these kids that there is life outside the horrendous environment their own homophobic parents create for them. That one day they can escape from these million idiots and be happy. That life gets better.
And so, on behalf of the 53.7% of the people in Washington who want to create a better life for all kids out there... fuck you, "One Million Moms." Fuck you up your ignorant, bigoted asses. If there's any justice you'll have to pay for the blood on your hands. I just hope your children aren't going to be forced to pay with you.
And to all the happy couples out there... congratulations!
Posted on Friday, December 7th, 2012
On Pearl Harbor Day, I can't help but think back to the times I've visited this National Historic Landmark. The Visitor Center was re-opened in 2010 after having been beautifully remodeled, and should be on everybody's travel to-do list. The changes and upgrades made by the National Parks Service are world-class and absolutely destination-worthy.
One thing that hasn't changed at the center is the USS Arizona Memorial, which is one of the most stunning monuments I've ever seen. Meant to resemble a bridge over the wreckage of the ship, it was designed by Alfred Preis and had an opening dedication on May 30th, 1962. In some ways, the structure is very much rooted in a 1960's design sensibility... but in others, it feels modern and timeless in a way that few architectural achievements have managed...
Like I said, well worth a visit. Get there early (or reserve a spot online) so you can claim a water shuttle ticket, because there's a limited number of people allowed on the monument each day.
If Hawaii isn't in your travel plans, I understand that the National Parks Service is planning on touring the US with some kind of mobile exhibit in 2016 for their 100th anniversary. So maybe Pearl Harbor will be coming your way in a few years? Keep an eye out.
Today and every day, thanks to those who gave their lives in service of their country. Whether aboard the USS Arizona... elsewhere at Pearl Harbor... or in foreign lands far from home... you are remembered by a grateful nation.
Posted on Saturday, December 8th, 2012
I'm a bit of a video game whore, even though I rarely have time to play them. But that hasn't stopped me from acquiring a plethora of gaming hardware over the years, including the Atari 2600, Microvision, Nintendo NES, ColecoVision, Atari 7800, Nintendo GameBoy, Atari Lynx & Lynx II, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo GameBoy Color, Nintendo GameBoy Advance, Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo DS, Nintendo DS Lite, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and the Sony PlayStation 3.
And, of course, there were a bunch of computers capable of playing games tossed in there (most notably by Atari and Apple) plus a bunch of dedicated handhelds like Mattel Electronic Football and Electronic Poker. Oh... and my iPhone/iPad, which has all kinds of games on them.
And, for a while there, it looked as though my gaming future was going to be the iPhone/iPad.
But the lack of a dedicated control pad make for a crappy experience. And the lack of LEGO titles meant that the games I most wanted to play weren't available.
Enter the Nintendo 3DS XL...
I had played around with the original 3DS, but the 3D screen gave me a headache. I had read that the new "90% bigger screens" of the XL version was easier to view properly, so I decided to give it a shot.
And it's pretty awesome.
The 3D really looks great and, on the larger screen, is much easier to see... though the resolution is kinda low and chunky. The only problem with the glasses-free 3D technology is that you have to hold the hardware a specific distance from your face and look at it straight-on for the best effect. Start looking at the screen at more than a couple degrees off-angle and the screen will darken and eventually go all blurry. At first, this was a problem for me, but now I seem to instinctually hold it properly, so it's not a problem at all.
Having dedicated controls is what makes a hand-held video game superior than a mobile phone for gaming, and Nintendo has quite an assortment. The buttons on the shoulders and right-hand side are pretty standard. As is the D-pad on the left. But above the D-pad is the "Circle Pad." It is glorious. So smooth and precise that gameplay is much improved. A lot of people complained that Nintendo should have put another Circle Pad on the right-hand side (rather than doing so with a clunky add-on) and I have to agree. That would make shooter games a dream to play on the 3DS XL. Oh well.
Both of Nintendo's 3D units have a lot of features outside of gaming... most of them kind of lame, overly-complex, and unnecessary, to be honest. There's "Spot-Pass" and "Street-Pass" for exchanging data with Nintendo, your friends, and even random strangers you pass on the street. There's Mii creation functionality taken from the Wii to make an avatar of yourself. There's an e-shop for buying games and apps. There's internet connectivity and friend codes for playing games with friends over the web. There's a sound editor of some kind. It goes on and on. I will probably use very little of this stuff. I just want to play games.
There's also a crappy, grainy, low-res 3D camera on the back (plus an equally shitty front-facing 2D camera) which can read QR codes. I can't show you what the photos look like without having you look at the 3DS's full-color 3D screen, but I can have Photoshop break out the MPO 3D image file into a cheesy red/blue 3D thing for your to look at...
Get out your 3D glasses! Note how the further back you go, the more the image skews to create the 3D effect.
The camera also saves out a non-3D JPEG image that you can look at on any computer or other device capable of displaying JPEGs. But the quality is so bad, why would you want to?
I guess if you needed a camera in an emergency and your phone wasn't handy, this would be better than nothing. But not by much. Since Nintendo saves the photos to a standard SD memory card they are easy to transfer, so I guess there's that.
I'll probably review the 3D games I bought later on, once I've had time to play them a little more... but I am compelled to mention that my main reason for buying this handheld in the first place was the abundance of LEGO games available...
Sure, they're not very challenging. But they are a lot of fun. Except for the Lord of the Rings game. The battle system is really flawed, which makes playing it more of a chore than fun. Especially for casual, on-the-go pick-up gaming. Unfortunately the 3DS LEGO games don't have all the features of their console counterparts, which means there's less to do. But, on the other hand, you can take it with you.
Nintendo being Nintendo, there's a bunch of great Nintendo-themed games featuring popular characters and properties like Mario, Professor Layton, Link, Nintendogs, Pilotwings, Mario Kart, and the like. No Kirby or Pokemon yet though, which is kind of alarming. Still, a library plenty packed with quality games that people want to play.
Overall, I'm fairly impressed. More than anything else, the Nintendo 3DS Xl is fun, which is kind of the point of video games. If you have the original 3DS, it's probably debatable whether it's worth the $200 price tag to upgrade so quickly (though the bigger screens are SO nice). But if you own any other previous-generation handheld, the 3DS XL is worth checking out.
Posted on Sunday, December 9th, 2012
Wear something pretty and grab your kitty... because a very special Cat Shelter Edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Abandoned! My building doesn't allow pets, which means the cat that's been hanging around here can't live with me. And now that it's getting colder, I'm starting to worry about Spanky surviving the winter outside. So I scoured the internet for shelter plans and ended up taking the best ideas from all of them to come up with a design of my own, made out of a plastic tub...
For anybody who has a stray or feral cat that they want to protect from the elements, here's how I did it...
• Tub! Most of the plans called for a fairly small 18-20 gallon tub to be used so that body heat can be conserved. But I wanted enough room to use some pretty thick insulation, so I went for a 25 gallon tub. It's made by Sterilite in the USA, and costs about $15 at Target. Spanky likes to stretch a bit, and I wanted her to have room to sit up if she felt like it, so the size worked out pretty good.
• Insulation! Home Depot had several weights of insulation. I bought 1-1/2 inch for the floor, ceiling, and back wall (which is against an outside wall of an open carport). I bought the 1-inch for the sides and the front wall to give her a little more room. I got the stuff with the reflective surface to better retain her body heat. The final interior dimensions are 19-1/2" wide by 11-inches deep. That seems like it will be cozy enough to keep her warm, but big enough that she's not cramped. Each sheet was about $4.50, so... $9 total.
• Cutting! The plastic container cut fairly easily with a larger serrated kitchen knife. I made the door 6-inches square, but rounded the top. I think she can fit through that hole fine. Any larger and I worried that dogs might climb in. I also cut the insulation with the serrated knife, but held it flat against the metallic surface so as to minimize the styrofoam crumbling apart. By cutting flat, the blade heats up and gets you a cleaner cut than if you just stab into it. IMPORTANT: Be sure to examine the lid on your tub! Some tubs have a lid that rises above the edges. The tub I bought have a recessed lid which meant that I had to cut the insulation down an extra inch so the lid could fit. I made sure that my tub has side-latches so the lid can't come off easily.
• Gluing! I bought a low-odor, thick-tack, instant-grip glue made by DAP to adhere the floor to the bottom of the tub and the sides to the sides of the tub. I figured this would prevent the shelter from falling apart if she gets crazy in there. The ceiling insulation piece fits snugly into the insulation box I created. I then put the quick-grip glue on it so that it would stick to the lid of the tub. So now when I need to clean out the shelter, the lid and ceiling are one piece. The glue also keeps it from falling on Spanky when she's inside. A tube was $4 at Home Depot, and I used all of it.
• Caulking! This was the part I really questioned. A good sealant is going to stink like silicone (or whatever that is). But I felt it was really important that any snow/rain moisture wouldn't mix with cat hair, work its way into the cracks, then mildew or something. Far better to have a sealed shelter that will wipe out clean. I'm letting the shelter air-out, so hopefully the odor will dissipate once the caulking dries. A tube was $4 at Home Depot and I used half of it.
UPDATE: I now have serious reservations about using caulk to seal the insulation. The smell does not dissipate quickly enough, and I worry a bit about Spanky chewing on it. So I covered it with aluminum tape. If I were doing this over again, I'd probably just glue the pieces together with the low-odor glue and use the tape. It sure looks better...
• Flooring! The vast majority of shelter plans I looked at insisted that dry straw (not hay!) was the ONLY acceptable flooring material, because it dries easily and won't trap moisture on the surface like a rug or blanket. Some plans said that crumpled or shredded newspaper was okay. I decided to go with straw, because many websites said that kitties like to nest in it. It also has some insulation properties to it. I worried about Spanky's claws shredding the insulation, so I found an outdoor straw mat that I could cut down. The mat has a pocket for catnip in it too, which will (hopefully) act as a little incentive for her to use the shelter. If this ends up being a moisture-trap or cause some other problem, I'll ditch it and use linoleum for the floor instead. I drilled holes in the corners with straws so water can drain if Spanky gets soaked. The mat was $12 at Petco.
• Finish! And so... $44 for a first-class kitty shelter that will (hopefully) help Spanky survive the winter. If I were to cut corners, I probably could have made one for $35. I have a covered place to put it, so I'm not worried about snow piling up... but the lid is pretty good, so it would probably be okay outside. Though if it were being placed somewhere exposed... I might think about putting some kind of plastic overhang to make it nicer for the cat to enter and exit the shelter.
• Ideas! If the shelter I made doesn't appeal to you... or you need ideas for something cheaper, a good place to start is the Urban Cat League's "Winter Cat Shelters" page.
• Purchase! If you have the money, the best cat shelter I found was The Kitty Tube for $95 with a straw bottom... $130 for a heated shelter. Another shelter that was recommended to me comes from Cozy Winters and is $95 heated.
And there you have it. Winter shelter info for saving a stray cat or feral cat that might be in your neighborhood. Stay toasty.
Posted on Monday, December 10th, 2012
I don't know what this world is coming to.
I'm horrified that monkeys are now being jailed for wanting to do a little holiday shopping at the local IKEA. I mean, what the heck? Humans aren't the only ones who want to buy a BOOMFLARG bookcase for their den... or to give POOFENVOOG glassware for Christmas gifts!
And it doesn't even matter if they're wearing a fancy-ass coat!
Needless to say, Bad Monkey is livid.
He seems intent on putting on his little shearling coat and taking a trip to IKEA so he can dare somebody to say he isn't allowed to shop there...
I think he must have at least one gun in that coat. Probably two.
Posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
And here's where I start to think that perhaps Zack Snyder might understand Superman after all.
Though it's understandable that I remain skeptical. Between his absurd pet project Sucker Punch (one of the worst films I've ever seen) and the way he managed to fuck up Watchmen while not fucking up Watchmen at the same time... well, his track record rests solely on 300, a film that I'm still very much undecided about. How all that will translate to his Superman movie reboot is anybody's guess.
As I said when I condemned the asinine movie poster that debuted last week, Superman is a god.
The level at which a super-man with such powers would operate is so far above us dregs of humanity that there is no way to treat his story than that of a god-like being. But what makes Superman be Superman is that he aspires to be a "regular guy," thanks to his very human upbringing by John and Martha Kent in the American heartland. It's this concept which drives the character, and the way that writers have walked this line over the decades is what defines a good Superman story.
Which is why the new Man of Steel trailer gives me a lot to be hopeful about...
There he is... all god-like and feeling very much like Superman... all while clinging to the humanity he was instilled with as a child by his adoptive earth parents. Which is not at all the tone I took away from the shitty poster that made Superman look so small and less than super. Contrast that with Kevin Costner debating the merits of saving people with young Clark, and you get the very real impression that Superman has power over life and death... which is exactly what the character is about.
And from the snippets of action being shown in the trailer, it also looks as though we're going to get some epic, larger-than-life battles (General Zod!) which will (hopefully) challenge Superman at that god-like level his fans want to see.
And so now I have something to get excited about.
Even though I still wish they had done a better job on the costume.
Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
And so... today I got pulled over for expired license tabs. Which means that I never got my renewal notice, because I always pay my annual licensing fees immediately after I receive that little card in the mail. Fortunately, the police officer wasn't a dick about it, and just asked me to get it taken care of. Which I did, straight away. And now I've told my iPhone to remind me every year so I don't have to rely on state government efficiency.
In other driving-related news... Google Maps is now available as an app for iOS...
Apple dropped Google for their mapping service because Google wasn't updating the iOS maps as quickly as their own Android mapping service. Android got turn-by-turn directions... the iPhone did not. And so on. This put Apple at a competitive disadvantage, so they really had no choice but to drop Google and create something of their own that would feature-map what the competition was getting.
And we all know how that turned out.
Now that I've actually been using Apple Maps... I prefer some aspects of their app more than I do Google (even on my Android phone). Especially when it comes to caching map data, turn-by-turn directions, and the look and feel. But there was one area where Apple falls flat. And continues to do so. Location data. Google's database for mapping locations is insanely massive. Apple's is pretty much shit. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, it's also stupid. Google can make pretty good guesses, even when you misspell something. Apple has a hard time finding shit even if you spell it out completely and accurately.
This is something that Apple will get better at with time.
And they do have to keep getting better (=cough= public transit maps =cough=).
Because that's what's going to keep Google from shitting all over iPhone users by refusing to give them the same features of their own Android OS maps. Odds are, if Apple hadn't dumped Google, we would still be without turn-by-turn directions.
But now iOS users have turn-by-turn on both Apple maps and Google maps. They can choose what works best for them.
For me, it will probably be a combination of both.
Whichever one will get me to the Department of Licensing on time.
Posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012
In case you hadn't heard, my good friend RW Spryszak and I put out a literary magazine called THRICE Fiction, and we just finished out our second year with volume number 6. As always, the issue is FREE to download in PDF, eBook, or Kindle formats... just follow this link to our website.
When we first created THRICE, my only interest was having a creative outlet for my fictional writing. I'm not a very good writer, but I am enthusiastic about it, so why not? After the first year, our little literary rag started getting thousands of downloads... exceeding any expectations RW or I could have dreamed. But this unexpected success was bittersweet. Thanks to people far, far more talented than I, THRICE Fiction had outgrown my meager writing talents.
This put me in an awkward position. I wanted a place to write! Why would I want to continue to work on the magazine now? I do graphic design for a living, so having my only contribution be graphic design didn't sound like a lot of fun. It sounded like more work. Which meant that THRICE was probably going to die a quick and horrible death, as so many lit-mag attempts before it.
...RW started sending me the stories for the next issue.
They were brilliant, captivating, imaginative, and all the things that I actually enjoy reading. And now that I wasn't having to worry about what I was going to write, I could finally appreciate what everybody else was doing. So I decided to stick around.
And ultimately realized that finding ways to come up with something creative for other people was more "fun" than "work."
And so here we are with another year under our collective belt...
It was not all smooth sailing this time around, however. Two artists who had committed to contributing work had to drop out at the last minute. This left me with no cover plus five additional pieces of artwork that were needed. And this was right in the middle of a very busy travel period, which meant there was no way I could even think about it until December (and it's at this point that I must once again thank Kyra and Chad for not only producing some amazing art, but for getting it to me on time!). Guess I really need to start having firm deadlines for artists like RW does for the writers. Anyway...
When it came to the cover, I kept coming up empty. I had no clue what I was going to do, so I found a random story idea generator on the internet. My first pull was "A FRUSTRATED LEOPARD'S BOWLER HAT IN THE PARK." This was just too insane, so I hit the randomizer again and got "A HAPPY SKELETON'S DREAM DURING ARMAGEDDON." That was even worse. So I combined the two and came up with a frustrated leopard attempting to get his bowler hat back from a skeleton that was dreaming in the park during armageddon. Simple.
I don't know why, but it totally works! The background was grabbed from photo I took of trees in the cemetery. The skeleton was drawn on a yellow pad with a felt-tip pen, using reference pieces I found on the internet (and then scanned). The leopard was traced from a stock photo I bought (because, seriously, I was not going to spend the time trying to figure out how to draw all those spots correctly). Ultimately, I'm pretty happy with it and think everything turned out great. If nothing else, it's colorful.
If you want a "Behind the Scenes" peek at what went on for the rest of the art in THRICE Fiction No. 6... it's all in an extended entry. The art thumbnails are low-res, so you'll be able to see them better if you download the issue...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Friday, December 14th, 2012
Posted on Saturday, December 15th, 2012
I have nothing but an odd photo or two.
Posted on Sunday, December 16th, 2012
The weather outside may be frightful, but everything is still delightful... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Snow. And so it looks like winter is finally getting serious here. Previous attempts at snow have melted away in less than a day... but it doesn't look like that's going to be the case now. To everybody who just looooooves a "White Christmas," I'm happy for you. But for people like me who have to scrape their car windows twice a day...
I want to spend winter in Hawaii.
• Ghey. ZOMFG, y'all! It's been ONE WHOLE WEEK since same-sex couples could legally marry in my home state of Washington... AND WE'RE STILL HERE! I'd have thought for sure that we'd all have been turned gay by now. Or that Seattle would have sunk into the ocean. Or a meteor would have crashed into Bellevue or something. But nooooooo! Now all we gotta do is survive this Mayan apocalypse thing, and I think we're in the clear. Until the end of the year, anyway.
• Sticker. I don't like going shopping. To be honest, I hate going shopping. Which is why most everything I buy (except groceries) is bought online. It's just so much easier and, sometimes, even ends up saving me money. So... on those rare times where I am forced to go shopping (usually for somebody else)... I spend most of my time being very unhappy. Which is why it's always nice when I see something to cheer me up. Like this sticker in the back-window of the car parked ahead of me...
KNEE MAIL! HA! Pretty clever, huh? I like this one better than the Winnebago rear-window screen I saw previously because the horse has his head bowed in prayer too. Which begs the question... what do horses pray for? Probably to be released from the servitude of their cowboy masters. I wonder if eventually God will deliver them from bondage like He did the slaves of Egypt? I guess all we need is Horsey Moses to come along and say "SET MY EQUINES FREE!" and we're on our way to greener pastures for horses everywhere.
• Bob Bomb. The unimaginable conditions Londoners endured through The Blitz just got even more unimaginable thanks to the Bomb Site, which maps the bombs dropped on the city during World War II...
Keep Calm and Carry On, indeed.
• Nowalla. Around this time last year, Gowalla... a location-based social media network... was sold out to Facebook. Users were told that they would be able to download their check-ins, photos, and badges, but it didn't happened. The site was scuttled back in March, and they never did give their users the data they promised. Not surprisingly, they didn't offer refunds to people like me who paid for custom badges when they loaded up on that sweet Facebook cash (and I'm still waiting for my window cling, assholes)...
My logo on the left, the Gowalla stamp interpretation on the right (enlarged 250%).
Look, I get it that sometimes shit doesn't work out. Gowalla lost to FourSquare,the network is gone, boo-hoo, and all that. But a year has passed and we still haven't gotten our photos and stuff? Apparently "it's a long story and still gonna happen" but I'm not holding my breath. Well, lesson learned. Anything I send anywhere is archived and stored outside of whatever services I'm using.
• Six! Just a reminder that the latest issue of THRICE Fiction is out and, as usual, is absolutely FREE to download...
There's some good stuff in there, so be sure to give it a look.
Annnnnd... time to get back to work, I suppose.
Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2012
Getting old sucks ass.
There can be no better indication of this than having things go randomly wrong for no particular reason. Like tonight when I went to get up out of a chair and found that my back was out. How in the hell did that happen? I mean, when I was younger, I'd have to attempt to pull a car out of a ditch to throw my back out. And now? Sitting.
Ideally, I'd join a gym and strengthen my back (and everything else) so that crap like this doesn't happen. But I am usually so busy that just finding time to go to the frickin' bathroom is a challenge.
Perhaps I should start wearing diapers and use the time saved from not going to the bathroom to work out.
But I digress.
The primary consequence of an injured back is that you can't get comfortable. Ever. Unless you take pills, in which case your brain is able to ignore the pain. Unfortunately, your brain ignores everything else as well, so any attempt to work while under their influence is futile. Which is why I usually chose to be uncomfortable. I may not be as productive, but at least I won't spend my entire day staring at a computer screen trying to remember what it is I am supposed to be doing with it.
Which is usually what happens when I sit down to blog, but never mind.
Posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
Today I heard somebody use the phrase "je ne sais quoi" and was overwhelmed with a sudden longing to be in Paris.
This is rather odd for me. Sure I like Paris. Love Paris in the Spring. I've been there four times and have nothing but good memories. And, contrary what everybody seems to say, I find the French people to be very kind and helpful. At least they have been to me. The food there is wonderful. I love their cheese. I love their bread. And French pastry is something to be savored at least once before you die. As if that weren't all enough, Paris is just simply a lovely, magical city...
But, in the grand scheme of things, Paris is not one of those cities that I pine over. Not like, saaaayyyy... Edinburgh.
But I would love to go back. Absolutely.
Especially if the rumors of the Hard Rock Paris relocating to Avenue des Champs-Élysées are true!
Who knows when that will be though. In the meanwhile, a viewing of Amélie and A Very Long Engagement will have to suffice.
Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
I've been writing drafts of emails all night. Since I am leaving work early tomorrow, I want to make sure that I get as much done as possible this evening. It was a good plan, except I just looked over at the clock and it's 1:30am. Oops.
The mountain passes are sure to be horrible (100% chance of snow!) which means it will probably take me three or four hours to make the two hour drive. I hope I don't fall asleep on the way over.
Or get in a wreck.
But, then again, it's not like I put much faith in weather forecasts. They're mostly wrong anyways. It could very well end up being 80° and sunny on the mountain pass tomorrow. You just don't know. Seriously, you don't.
For the longest time, I always assumed that the reason weather forecasts were so inaccurate was because the meteorologists are all idiots. They must be looking at the satellite data wrong or something. So I decided I'd be all smart and look at the data myself...
And now I'm like "What in the hell is THAT supposed to mean?
No wonder meteorologists don't know what the fuck they are doing. It looks like somebody put a map of Washington in a Spin-Art machine or something.
Remember Spin-Art? Where there's a kind-of record player that you stick a sheet of paper on... then dribble paint on it while it spins so the centrifugal force splatters the paint around? The result is supposed to be "art" but always ended up looking like somebody puked on a paper or something...
REAL working motor? FUN and easy FUN? Sign me up!
But sign me up tomorrow. I really should try and get some sleep tonight.
Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Since the End of The World is a religious holiday for me, I planned on fleeing work today and driving to Seattle where, as is my people's custom, I will spend the entire time drinking Jägermeister.
Unfortunately, the weather updates kept getting worse last night.
By the time I checked the forecast early this morning, I decided that driving over the mountains was not a smart thing to do. I have chains in my trunk because drivers are required to carry them on the passes, but my car manual says not to put chains on for some reason. I ended up booking a flight instead. The local weather was great, so I knew I'd get out...
It was nice knowing y'all.
Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2012
Well, gee. Guess I shouldn't have told all my friends I hate them, quit my job, sold all my stuff to buy cocaine, and gone on that bitch-slapping spree after all.
Stupid armageddon end of the world doomsayers.
I mean, really. If you can't trust the nut-jobs who keep predicting we're all going to die... who can you trust?
I guess I should have learned my lesson after Harold Camping got armageddon wrong three times...
Speaking of Harold Camping... have his followers put him to death yet for having violated Deuteronomy 18:20 as a false prophet? No? Anyone? Anyone? Of course, Pat Robinson's followers haven't killed his false-prophesying-ass yet, so I guess I shouldn't hold my breath.
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
— Han Solo
Posted on Saturday, December 22nd, 2012
It appears that FOX "News" has been so successful for whipping up a frenzy over a "War on Christmas" that doesn't even exist that even sane people can no longer ignore it.
I say "sane" because you'd have to be fucking crazy to entertain the notion that such a war is happening, or that Christmas is in any danger whatsoever of being eliminated any time soon. And while I have no problem in people believing in imaginary things, the absurd leap in logic required to even conceive of such idiocy is so far beyond rational thought as to be laughable...
When somebody says... "Our government is supposed to represent all people of all faiths, so I don't think it is appropriate that government institutions should be displaying items which celebrate religious holidays of specific faiths." It is somehow interpreted as... "WHAT DO YOU MEAN A POST OFFICE CAN'T PUT UP A NATIVITY IN THEIR LOBBY? THAT'S VIOLATING OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF RELIGION!!! YOU ARE ATTACKING CHRISTIANS!!! THIS IS A WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!! Oh, I'm next in line? Give me a dozen Madonna and Child Christmas stamps with baby Jesus on them!"
When somebody says... "I say 'Happy Holidays!' because there are several religious celebrations this time of year, and I want to be sure that I'm including everybody in my well-wishing!" It is somehow interpreted as... "THE HOLIDAY YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT IS CHRISTMAS!!! WHAT?!? PEOPLE CAN'T SAY 'MERRY CHRISTMAS' ANY MORE??? THAT'S VIOLATING OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND FREEDOM OF RELIGION!!! YOU ARE ATTACKING CHRISTIANS!!! THIS IS A WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!! There can't be religious freedom if people are allowed to acknowledge holidays other than Christmas during the month of December!"
It goes on and on.
Sure you can always drag out some nut-job exception, but the vast, vast majority of non-Christians in this country have no problems with people celebrating Christmas. No sane person wants to destroy this kind of personal freedom in a country based on personal freedom.
All they want is the freedom to celebrate their own religion.
Or to not be forced to celebrate any religion at all, as the case may be.
And yet everything always gets turned into some kind of personal attack on the front lines of this mythical battle. Some kid is told they can't wear a "Merry Christmas" shirt to school, so the parents go ballistic and start screaming bloody murder about an attack on their religion and a War on Christmas. And yet... these parents would likely be the first people to condemn a kid who wears a "Celebrate Satan" shirt to school on Halloween who comes from a family that practices Satanism. Granted, this is an extreme example, but it's not misrepresenting the situation. Religious freedom always seems to be a one-way street and, all too often, a battle cry of "religious freedom" is leading the charge when attacking religious freedom. Apparently there's no hypocrisy in saying "You can practice whatever religion you want... so long as it's just mine!"
And, yes, I think sometimes it goes too far. I think it's stupid to call a "Christmas tree" anything but a "Christmas tree" when it's obviously meant to be a "Christmas tree." Political correctness is being taken to absurd levels in an increasingly stupid number of situations. But pointing out stupidity does not a war make.
In the meanwhile, Christmas is everywhere. You can't really escape it.
Maybe people who don't celebrate Christmas should start declaring themselves prisoners of war?
The problem is, those who keep pushing the idea of this fucking idiotic "War on Christmas" don't seem to be taking any prisoners. And why should they when they've got God on their side?
Posted on Sunday, December 23rd, 2012
Okay. Okay. I take back everything I said yesterday.
Clearly there very much is a "War on Christmas," and Google is leading the charge?
It was definitely a "laugh out loud" moment for me when I read how somebody has posted a complaint to Google that their Santa and Snowman "Emoji" characters look sad, thus destroying the jolly feeling of the holidays...
Personally, I think the snowman looks happy enough with his arms up like that, but okay.
At first, it seemed like Apple was getting a pass because their Emoji characters look happy...
But then somebody brought up that Santa has brown eyes instead of blue eyes so, you guessed it, WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!!
Then somebody brought up that the Snowman is wearing a fez hat that is worn in some Muslim countries so, you guessed it, WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!!
I tried to point out that Emoji originated in Japan where most people have brown eyes, but nobody was listening. I tried also to point out that the Snowman wearing a fez is merely an internet tradition based on what got dreamed up by somebody back when the Unicode standard was being created, but nobody was listening either.
ZOMG! THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS IS REAL, PEOPLE!!!
Posted on Monday, December 24th, 2012
Every year NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) tries to diffuse their scary image as the harbinger of a nuclear attack by tracking Santa as he travels the world delivering toys to all the good boys and girls. Well, those who still believe anyway.
I'm guessing that Microsoft paid for the endorsement... one way or another. Just like they do when they buy air time in popular shows like Hawaii Five-0 and Elementary for product placement. Hell, in the case of Hawaii Five-0, they go further than just placement... they pay for actual fucking demos of their products to be injected into the show (I can't imagine how humiliating that must be for the writers and actors).
Anyway, Google, not one to miss out on an opportunity, game up with their own Santa Tracker. But they made it all cute with animations, games, and colorful graphics. I admit it was a pleasant change from the same old cheesy video renders you get from NORAD...
I wish Giant Santa luck on his big ride tonight. Hopefully he has some bottles of 5-Hour Energy to get him through.
Posted on Tuesday, December 25th, 2012
This morning I got a ride to the airport not knowing if my flight would be canceled or not. Freezing fog back home limited visibility to a quarter-mile, which is well under what's required to land. Add that to the fact that last night's flight was cancelled, and you can see how sitting at SeaTac was a somber affair for me. At least the airport was relatively calm thanks to it being Christmas and all.
But, by the time my flight was to leave, the fog had lifted, so we took off under a "weather advisory" which means the plane would return to Seattle if it couldn't land. Lucky for me the visibility was over ten miles, which was plenty, and we were on the ground before I knew it.
It's a Christmas Miracle, I suppose.
Despite the high price of a last-minute ticket, I ended up being very glad I flew instead of drove. The mountain passes have been all kinds of messed up since I left, and the route I would have driven over Stevens Pass ended up having some fatalities due to heavy snowfall (and is currently closed).
And here is where I settle down for a long winter's nap.
At least I hope so.
If I can just get a decent amount of rest... a mere six hours of sleep, perhaps... that would truly be my Christmas Miracle.
Hope your holiday was a happy one!
Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2012
Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2012
Despite being a major comic book whore, I've never done a wrap-up of my favorite comics for the year. That needs to change.
Overall, I am reading more comics now that I have in many years. This is mainly due to the beautiful Retina Display on my iPad and its ability to purchase comics instantly and immediately via Comixology. Nobody is mourning the decline of printed comics more than I am, but I already have more than enough physical comic books with no room to put them all. My digital collection, however, takes up no space and is available to me wherever I have an internet connection. So many times I find myself stumbling across a review of some obscure comic that I want to read, then click over to Comixology and buy it. All too easy and addictive!
THE TWELVE BEST...
What can I say? My favorite comic book character of all time has been given some of the best stories ever in his signature book. Writer Scott Snyder has given us two great story arcs with "The Court of Owls" and "Death of the Family," all illustrated with jaw-dropping beauty by Greg Capullo. Looking forward to 2013, I can only hope that the creative team stays put and keeps cranking out some of the best Batman tales I've ever read.
Never a character I've been overly enamored with, Hawkeye has always been nothing more that a Green Arrow knock-off who seems woefully out of place in Avengers stories to me. Enter Matt Fraction and David Aja, who wisely decided to use the character's primary weakness (no super-powers) as a strength by trying to make the book more "reality-based." The Clint Barton in this book is a fascinating effort and I can't wait to see what comes next.
#3 Thor: God of Thunder
With only three issues released thus far, I'm still ready to proclaim the title one of my favorite books of the year, and absolutely my favorite of the new "Marvel NOW" books. I really shouldn't be surprised, because Marvel has consistently given the character quality writers and artists over the past several years. And Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic are right up there. Their stories are epic and wonderfully told. If you haven't checked out Thor in a while, here's a good place to jump on.
#4 Batman, Incorporated
Proving that DC was intent on making sure only top-shelf talent was going to touch their Bat-Books, Grant Morrison is here with some really good Batman & Robin stories that I can't seem to get enough of. I still think the "Incorporated" concept waters down Batman, but it's easy enough to ignore that with stories this good.
#5 Wonder Woman
This is a book I both love and hate in equal measure. Sometimes the art looks great... other times it looks like stick-figures gone bad. Sometimes the stories are brilliant... other times they seem half-written and ill-conceived. But, and this is the important part... Wonder Woman never bores me. It's always fresh and interesting even when I am having issues with it. So much so that this is one of the few books that I buy day-and-date, paying the extra dollar rather than waiting for DC to drop a buck when the next issue comes out. What more praise can I offer than that?
The book is a deep, meaningful, entertaining read with some of the most beautiful art you'll ever see. All too often, the female version of a male character is just a retread of the same material... but with heels and lipstick. With Batwoman, we have a uniquely different character experiencing uniquely different stories, in a uniquely different way, and I love it. There are also heels and lipstick, which means the book pretty much has it all. And, as a special bonus, Batgirl is yet another unique and interesting book in the Batman Family that's also worth reading.
As Robert Kirkman ramps up to issue no. 100, he's got a story arc going on called The Death of Everyone that's going balls-out every issue. And, since it's Kirkman we're talking about, you know that killing off all his characters may not be an idle threat. No... he may very well do exactly that, choosing to start over with all new characters so he can keep surprising his loyal Invincible fans. Regardless of what happens, I'll keep reading. This book has the most consistent quality of any comic out there, and I don't plan on missing out.
#8 Justice League Dark
I dropped this title from the DC Comics "New 52" relaunch after just two issues. It simply wasn't doing anything for me. But then I read The Underwater Welder (see below) and was intrigued as to what Jeff Lemire has been doing there since he took over this book this Spring. What I found was really good stories that were actually better than what the lead Justice League book had going on. And, thanks to Mikel Janin, they were beautifully illustrated to boot. If you like some supernatural in your comics and are looking for something a little different than the standard super-hero fare, this is the book for you.
#9 The Walking Dead.
Just when I think this book is dead, Robert Kirkman somehow manages to save it from the grave with some really good stories. How fitting. And how great for fans of the book. If you are only familiar with the hit television show, the books are quite different... but in a very good way. Though be forewarned that with Kirkman, no character is safe. This was made shockingly clear in the controversial #100 issue that dropped this summer. The book haunts me still and, even though I didn't like where it took me, you can bet I'm going to keep on reading.
#10 The Underwater Welder.
This book was completely off my radar until somebody gave it to me as a gift. As my pick for one of the best comics (well, actually a 216 page graphic novel) of 2012, I obviously owe them a great debt. This is a really good mystery story with borderline awful art that somehow completely hits the mark. Jeff Lemire, who handles some of the better books at DC, also moonlights with indy books like his amazing Essex County and now this. I don't really know how to describe The Underwater Welder, because it doesn't really fit any specific genre. It's angst drama with a splash of sci-fi/horror that's ultimately a kind of a mystery. Or something. But however you want to look at it, this tale of flawed character on the verge of fatherhood who is attempting to sort out issues with his own missing father is worth a look.
It's amazing how a D-List character like Aquaman has been given new life in DC's "New 52" relaunch. Until this effort by Geoff Johns, I always kind of ignored the character. He was occasionally used well in a team book, but ultimately nothing worth getting excited about. But now? Aquaman is actually interesting and the book is nicely entertaining in 2012. If I had one criticism, it would be that the endings to each of the story arcs have been a bit simplistic, easy, and sudden. Almost as if they weren't entirely thought out in the plotting stage. But, ultimately, this is a book well worth reading.
#12 Punk Rock Jesus
I don't even know what to say... except you need to try this book. Seriously.
Here's the thing. I like this book. I like it a lot. It's the classic by-the-numbers super-team heroics I love done really well. But everything always feels cramped and rushed. After reading every issue, I get a feeling that the story would have benefitted greatly if only they had a few more pages to work with. Oh... wait a second... they do have more pages to work with! Except they keep running these fucking "Shazam!" backup tales, STEALING PRECIOUS PAGES FROM THE MAIN STORY! It's so fucking stupid! The book is called JUSTICE LEAGUE, NOT SHAZAM! If you want to tell Shazam stories so fucking bad, GIVE HIM HIS OWN FUCKING BOOK! This is a $3.99 title. If the writer/artist truly only needs a $2.99 page count, THEN CUT PAGES so people who don't give a flying fuck about Shazam aren't forced to pay for this shit. Would have absolutely been in my Top 5 if they'd focus on the actual Justice League. P.S. I know it's probably a legal thing, but renaming "Captain Marvel" to "Shazam!" makes me hate the fucking character even more.
Surprisingly, it is actually all-new. Lucky for us, it's also all-entertaining. Thank you Mr. Bendis!
A really good book destroyed by greed because Marvel is releasing two issues each month at $4 a pop. If they dropped the price a dollar after a month like DC does, I could see paying $6 a month for stories of this quality. $8 just feels like too much, even though I'm certainly enjoying the title.
I was late to this party because I thought I was already getting the best entertainment when it came to a mysterious school with unusual students, thanks to the television show Tower Prep. But then the show was canceled and this book was recommended to me to fill the void. It is unlike anything I expected in the best possible way. Unlike the television show Lost where the writers didn't know what the fuck they were doing with all the mysteries and subplots... writer Nick Spencer has promised that this is not going to be the case here. There is a definite ending planned out, and everything he is doing is leading to that moment. Good enough for me!
There are times I just want something different to read. But, when it comes to comic books, all too often "different" is just another word for something that is different for different's sake instead of something actually interesting. Based on a shitty idea for an old comic book called Dial H for Hero, writer China Miéville has knocked me on my ass with what he's doing in the "New 52" reboot. What a pleasant surprise and a breath of fresh air. I know it sounds hard to believe, but this is a book you really need to try. Most people will be surprised that Saga isn't on my list. For the longest time, it was. Until Dial H knocked it off.
America's Got Powers
Started out brilliant, but then started to fade (not helped by the long delay between issues). In the future, super-powered persons are used as television entertainment in violent sports-like competition, but with some surprising twists. Despite having some "been there, done that" elements (Hunger Games?), the book is fairly fresh and a fun read thanks to scripts by British personality Jonathan Ross and gorgeous art by Bryan Hitch. Still worth checking out.
NOT QUITE A COMIC BOOK COMIC BOOK...
Chris Ware's Building Stories
I am a massively huge Chris Ware fan, but what he does just doesn't feel like a "comic book" to me. His latest epic, Building Stories, is among Ware's best work, and showcases his unparalleled talent in creating true Graphic Novels that exploit the printed medium like nobody else. In this case, it's a $50 box stuffed full of fourteen separate pieces... from comic books to posters, to a fold-out game board... all genius. How you tackle the content is up to you, but everything intersects in different ways to tell a complete story that's not so much a story... but a snippet of everyday life told in separate pieces from different people in three different apartments. Figuring out how these pieces intersect is what makes everything so compelling and uplifting... even though the "story" itself is kinda depressing most of the time. I realize most people are not going to want to spend $50 to buy this tome, or even the $32 you'd spend at discount, and that's a real shame. This is a work of art that demands to be seen and experienced, and is easily one of my favorite "comic books" this year.
Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2012
Time for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year. Not surprisingly, many of them were viewed on an airplane screen or my iPad since I rarely get to the theater now-a-days. But oh well. I wouldn't have seen a fraction of these films if not for occupying time while on a trip.
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw...
#1 The Avengers.
I'm such a comic book whore that I even like comic book movies when they suck. Which is mostly. But when a comic book film doesn't suck, it is an event to be savored. And The Avengers gave audiences plenty to be happy about thanks to writer/director/genius Joss Whedon. Respectful to the source material at an unheard of level, The Avengers got absolutely everything right. Arguably the best comic book movie of all time, and easily the best film I saw this year.
#2 The Dark Knight Rises
The end of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is bittersweet. Yes, it was fantastic, but it left you wanting more. Much more. I don't know that it was the perfect story to go out on, but it was a definite win for Batman fans around the world.
Some call this the best James Bond film ever made. I don't know that I would go that far, but it was a damn good movie that looked amazing. My favorite thing about it, however, was that it was so fresh, new, and exciting... but unquestionably classic Bond all at the same time.
#4 Django Unchained
Everything you love about Quentin Tarantino... but drenched in more blood and violence than usual. Which is saying a lot, if you know what I mean. It's also the most disturbing Tarantino film to date, but not for the reason you might think. Add to that a performance from Samuel L. Jackson that's so brilliantly heinous that you want to crawl out of your own skin... and you've got my fourth favorite film of the year: a Western comedy/drama that's ultimately about slavery and the evils that men do.
Most times, filmmakers don't even bother to try and get the "science" right in a science fiction film. When it comes to depicting time travel in the cinema, it's usually a thousand times worse. But along comes Looper, which not only did a good job being terrific sci-fi, but a fantastic job being a great film. Smart, entertaining, thrilling, and wonderful to look at... this is a movie both geeks and everyday filmgoers can enjoy.
It's a very good movie indeed when you can already know how the story ends... yet be on the edge of your seat the entire time you're watching. Director/Lead Actor Ben Affleck takes a true story from the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and crafted one of the most smartly suspenseful films of this year or any year.
#7 The Cabin in the Woods
Nothing quite like taking the horror genre and then completely knocking it on its ass... but that's exactly what Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have done here. If you haven't seen it, I guarantee that you have no idea what you're in for, no matter how many horror flicks you've seen. Smart, scary, humorous fun that redefines a genre and gives audiences everything you could want in a movie.
#8 Life of Pi
This is a beautiful, imaginative, and entertaining work... but Ang Lee wasn't content to stop there. Much like the book upon which it was based, the film is also inspirational in a way that doesn't seem overly-forced or heavy-handed. Even after seeing the movie, I still don't know how they managed to turn a philosophical indulgence featuring a tiger on a raft into something so accessible and entertaining. Try to see this in the theater if you can, because there isn't a television big enough.
A lot of critics thought this film was shit. They call it offensive, unoriginal, and not funny. I, on the other hand, found it brilliant, unique, and hysterical. The titular character was nothing short of a triumph in computer generated effects. Sure, I thought last year's Paul was a better CGI buddy film, but that didn't stop me from loving Ted. And laughing. A lot.
#10 Moonrise Kingdom
Usually when a filmmaker is defined as "quirky" they end up producing embarrassing, unwatchable shit that makes me want to get punched in the face. But Wes Anderson isn't defined by anything, he just lives "quirky." And totally makes it work in his films. Moonrise Kingdom is no different, taking a charming coming of age romance and infusing it with characters so surreal and wonderful that the movie lingers long after you've finished watching it. I get why some people don't "get" Wes Anderson but, for those who do, this is a magical film.
#11 Sleepwalk With Me
As a long-time Mike Birbiglia fan who loves his brand of comedy, even I was shocked at just how good a film Birbigs managed to create. It's a warm, touching, sweet, and really funny movie that most everybody can relate to in one way or another. It's also neurotic and a little crazy but, unlike Woody Allen films (which I loathe), not annoyingly so. Sleepwalk With Me is humor with note-perfect delivery by a smart comedian at the top of his game. Totally worth a look on video if you missed it in theaters.
#12 Men In Black 3
A film that should have been a complete disaster ended up being a terrific addition to the franchise and added to the story in surprising, wonderful ways. That, along with a masterful performance by Josh Brolin as a Young Tommy Lee Jones, put MIB3 on my Best List, bumping other films that were probably more worthy. Assuming Barry Sonnenfeld takes his time to come up with something this good, I am hoping that MIB4 will come out sometime down the line.
Monsters Inc 3D/Finding Nemo 3D — I'm not a fan of 3D films, but fully admit that it totally added to the experience of viewing two of my favorite animated movies. Pixar uses 3D with such subtle perfection, even though they could probably get away with just slapping the shit everywhere... but they don't, and that's why I love them.
The Secret World of Arrietty — Oh shock... Hayao Miyazaki is involved in yet another animated masterpiece. This fantastic interpretation of The Borrowers rings true on every possible level and adds yet another film to Miyazaki's stunning filmography. He keeps saying he's going to retire... oh how I hope he doesn't. Nobody... not even Disney... is making films like this any more.
Shut Up And Play The Hits — I'm a fan of James Murphy's music, and this remarkable film follows him over 48 hours, both before and after LCD Soundsystems's last show ever. I wish more of my favorite bands would have films like this... knowing them better somehow makes me appreciate what they do all the more.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi — I fully admit that this film held no surprises for me. I've been to Japan many times and have studied the culture for decades. And yet... there's something about seeing this very Japanese film that encompasses what I love so much about the Japanese people. Yes, I know a documentary about sushi doesn't sound that exciting, but it's what's going on around that which makes this film such a treasure.
Robot and Frank — The performance by Frank Langella in this film appears so effortless that it's easy to forget the entire story hinges on his ability to deliver when playing against a hunk of plastic and metal. If I had to pick a word to sum up this film, it would be "charming." And don't we all need a little bit of that?
Chasing Ice — Probably one of the most important documentary films ever made, Chasing Ice tells a story nobody wants to hear... beautifully. The consequences of disappearing ice on our world are so unpleasant that most people choose not to think about it. This film is like a slap in the face that all humanity needs.
Gayby — So a single woman decides to have a baby with her gay best friend before the time on her biological clock runs out. It's a concept that's so clichéd as to be annoying, and yet... hilarity ensues and you just don't care. Surprisingly quality filmmaking in a genre that isn't known for it... an unexpectedly funny surprise.
Safety Not Guaranteed — While I didn't love this film as much as the big critics did, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The acting was all top-notch and drove the story to a wonderful conclusion I honestly didn't see coming.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen — Kind of a romantic comedy... but not offensively so. For the longest time after seeing the film, I debated with myself over whether I liked it or not. Was it too predictable and lame to be a good film? Does the story come through just enough to save it? Ultimately, I decided I wouldn't debate the film with myself if it wasn't worth debating so, yeah, I liked it.
DIDN'T SEE, PROBABLY WOULD HAVE MADE MY LIST...
Zero Dark Thirty — This film flew completely under my radar until everybody I know started raving about it. I was gutted that I couldn't find a theater playing the film when I had opportunities, and it will probably go down as my greatest cinematic regret of the year.
Lincoln — Having read two Lincoln biographies, I just didn't make this film the priority it deserved to be. Now I'm regretting not having seen it on the big screen because I would have undoubtedly enjoyed it given my fascination with our 16th President.
Silver Linings Playbook — I saw an interview about this film and became convinced I'd enjoy it. That being said, I have no problem waiting for video rental to see it.
Wreck-It Ralph — When I was at Disney World back in September, this movie was being heavily promoted. Ordinarily, I'd be skeptical, but the retro video game love provided pretty much assures I would like it.
ParaNorman — Another cartoon I passed on. Just like MegaMind and Despicable Me, this animated feature will undoubtedly be something I regret not seeing on the big screen.
Frankenweenie — A Burton film that I was looking forward to for the longest time. Unfortunately, I never found time to see it in a theater.
NOT QUITE AS BAD AS I WAS LED TO BELIEVE...
Dark Shadows — Yes, the film sucked if you were looking for a reboot of the classic television show. Yes, it's not one of Tim Burton's best works. Yes, the story was weak and some of the characters weren't given much to do. But, despite all that, Johnny Depp as Barnabus Collins was pretty damn entertaining to watch. I did not love this film. But there was just enough entertainment at play to make me glad I saw it. I have no idea why everybody else was in such a tizzy over it, but I couldn't throw a stick without hitting somebody rambling on about how much they hated it for weeks after the movie debuted.
OVERRATED BUT NOT TERRIBLE...
Chronicle — From the way comic book fans were gushing about this film, I thought I was destined to love it. Instead I found it to be one of the most whiny, predictable, boring pieces of super-hero cinema ever made. All efforts of trying to portray the realistic consequences of super-powers was clichéd and uninteresting to me. Still, it was a comic book film, and I was glad I saw it.
The Master — The critics were practically blowing themselves over how awesome a film this was, so I put quite a bit of effort into making sure I saw it. Only to find that it was cinematic garbage tied to great performances masking as some kind of deep character study. The critics had no choice but to love it because this is the kind of crap that makes them feel smarter than all the people they write for. Meanwhile, I just sat there wallowing in the mediocrity of this movie, but still happy to see the performances which were quite good.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — WTF?!? I mean, seriously, how could Peter Jackson manage to condense the fucking massive Lord of the Rings trilogy into three films... but not keep a short story like The Hobbit as a single film? I probably could have forgiven stretching it out to two films... but THREE?!? There's so much boring padding attached to this movie that I'm shocked you can even find the story in there. Yes, it's beautifully shot and the performances and all that are great... but holy shit was it repetitive and slow. Granted, I am not a massive fan of The Hobbit novel, but I was still excited to see it after falling in love with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I immediately regretted it. Here's hoping somebody with some fucking sense in their head will edit all three films down to the story it should have been in the first place so I can love it without shining a LOTR lamp on it.
The Amazing Spider-Man — I just don't get it. Half of the film we had already seen in the Sam Raimi trilogy, the other half wasn't anything to write home about. I didn't think the humor worked. The romance was dead. The tone seemed too dark for the character. And Garfield just wasn't as good as Maguire in the role. Yes, it's a shitload better than Spider-Man 3 (one of the worst super-hero films ever made), but I think it's pretty weak compared to the first two films. About all I can say is that the special effects were really well-done, and I liked the fight sequences. Such a pity they didn't bother to tie all that together with something bigger and better than what's come before. All I can hope is that all the foreshadowing pays off in the sequel. It had better, because I want the time spent watching this to mean something.
Prometheus — I am such a huge Ridley Scott fan that I would have his baby if he asked me to. His films are some of the most beautiful, inventive, imaginative stories in cinematic history. The man defines genre entertainment. So when I learned that he was creating a "not-really-a-prequel" to Alien, one of the best films of all time, I lost my fucking mind. So imagine my disappointment when Damon Lidelof turned in another fucking disaster of a script filled with cool elements, but no explanations of story points, and plot-holes so fucking big that you could shove a planet through them. Holy crap was this a jaw-dropping film to look at... even in 3D... but for fuck's sake, WHERE WAS THE GODDAMN STORY?!? Because of my love of Ridley Scott, I actually went out and bought the 4-Disc Blu-Ray Super Deluxe Home Video Package for Prometheus because there was a sticker on the front which said "QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED." And, yes, some questions are. BUT ISN'T THAT SOMETHING YOU SHOULD FUCKING TAKE CARE OF IN THE ACTUAL FUCKING FILM?!?? You honestly expect people to hunt down and watch a bonus disc and listen to a commentary track to know what the fuck was going on and why the characters acted the inexplicable way they did? Really? Fucking bullshit. Damon Lindelof should be ejected from Hollywood for this overrated mess.
Cloud Atlas — The book by David Mitchell was difficult and demanding, but ultimately brilliant and rewarding to get through. With that in mind, I couldn't figure out how it was going to be turned into a film. But the Wachowski siblings (along with Tom Tykwer) somehow managed to do exactly that... but I'm not sure if it's successful or not. Parts of the movie are just mind-bogglingly amazing and have you convinced that no film ever has managed to do this before. Other parts are just boring, confusing, and so unsatisfying that you wonder how in the hell such talented actors bought into it. Ultimately Cloud Atlas is completely lacking the structure and cohesiveness of the book, but is still something I'm glad I saw. I just don't think it deserves the accolades some critics are hoisting upon it. Nothing here is life-changing, so move along.
Flight —Denzel Washington is so damned talented that I don't even bother to question whether or not I should watch his films. The guy can act his way out of just about anything... including a shitty script... so why should I? Well, Flight is why. Yes, Denzel is his usual amazingly talented self. Yes, I actually did enjoy the movie overall. But to heap such astounding praise on a movie that's not really sure of how to handle a character that's drunk and high all the time... and instead goes for long stretches of BORING to fill the gaps... isn't my idea of fun.
The Grey — I get what the filmmakers were doing. I understand the message that was trying to be communicated. And Liam Neeson remains one of the most talented actors in Hollywood. But The Grey fell way short of my expectations... being more boring than entertaining... as the filmmakers tried to bash me over the head with some great message for humanity. In the end, it just didn't work that well for me even though I thought the film itself was pretty good.
WORST OF THE WORST...
John Carter — Take one of my all-time favorite books, add in a massive budget and a very talented director, then put Disney behind it all... and you're pretty much assured of a great movie, right? Wrong. This film was fucking awful. Everything wonderful about one of the most influential books of all time was systematically dumped from the movie, and the lead actors were so horribly miscast that the end result was beyond saving. I have waited most of my life to see A Princess of Mars and the rest of Edgar Rice Burroughs' brilliant Barsoom books brought to the big screen. This box-office bomb and total fuck-up has insured that I'll probably never see it happen in my lifetime. Fuck everybody who crushed my dreams with this hideous turd of a movie.
Battleship —Taylor Kitsch is on a roll. Not only did he contribute to fucking up John Carter, but he also starred in this crap-fest. You could have guessed that a film based on a board game would turn out badly... but there was no way to anticipate something this fucking stupid. I hated every damn minute spent watching this cinematic disaster, and can't help but blame myself for thinking "YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP" would end up inspiring anything but shit.
One for the Money — OH MY FUCKING GAWD... STOP GIVING KATHERINE HEIGL NEW FILMS! She was annoying enough when she whined her way through Grey's Anatomy, but this is the cherry on top of the shit sundae of her film career. Why somebody felt the need to remake J-Lo's character in the far, far, far better film Out of Sight, I will never know. This is bland, uninspired, humorless filmmaking at its worst.
The Watch — OH MY FUCKING GAWD... STOP GIVING JONAH HILL NEW FILMS! He drags down every project he's attached to, including otherwise genius films like Moneyball and MegaMind... so you can just imagine how he could completely sink a turd like this film. Firmly in "so bad it's bad" territory, The Watch is about as lame an alien invasion film as you could possibly imagine.
Taken 2 —The first film was mindless action fun that I found myself enjoying. The sequel is a heinous mess of a film that takes capable stars and plunges them into something less than mediocre. Just further proof that Hollywood will churn out anything... no matter how creatively bankrupt.
Total Recall —In one of the most unnecessary remakes in cinema history... the Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger classic is leveled for a CGI crap-fest that looks incredible, but turns out to be lacking in just about every way possible.
Wrath of the Titans — This is worse than an unnecessary sequel, it's an unnecessary sequel of an unnecessary remake! The filmmakers had two chances to get it right and failed miserably. Has the distinction of being one of the most action-packed movies this year, yet is still mind-numbingly boring... all thanks to a woefully uninspired and humorless performance by Sam Worthington.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter — I went into this film expecting good ol' cheesy fun, and ended up getting a violent joke of a film that takes itself way too seriously. More like a mindless video game shooter than a serviceable story, this movie is a worse theater experience for Lincoln than he had at the Ford's Theater (I'm betting a lot of critics thought the same).
The Dictator — Oh look! It's a take on Borat but with a quarter of the laughs! Left me wondering if perhaps Sacha Baron Cohen is out of ideas, because Brüno before it was a take on Borat with half the laughs. Can't wait for his next film with one-eighth the laughs.
Alex Cross — Okay... this one is my own fault... I was somehow convinced that Tyler Perry could step into the impossibly large shoes left by Morgan Freeman and actually manage to carry an Alex Cross movie. My bad. Though, in retrospect, it's not entirely on him. This movie was so badly written that I sincerely doubt even Morgan Freeman could have saved it. For a psychological crime thriller, this movie sure had a lot of laughs... a pity every one of them was unintentional.
Red Tails — Okay... this one is my own fault... I let my nostalgia for George Lucas' early work convince me that he could actually be involved with a film that might be worth a shit today. My bad. What's amazing is that the idea only came from Lucas... the unbelievably cheesy characters, groan-inducing dialogue, and pedestrian situations were all written and directed by somebody else. On top of all that, the special effects for the air combat weren't even that great... AND THIS IS LUCASFILM!!! It just kills me is that the story of the Tuskegee Airman is ripe with all the elements needed for an amazing film, and yet nothing in Red Tails seems to take advantage of it. Maybe one day we'll get lucky and somebody like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg will give us an HBO mini-series as well-crafted as Band of Brothers that is worthy of these brave men and their amazing story. Until then, we get stuck with this crap. Just astounding that George Lucas has fallen so far that he would even consider this flick worth releasing. My pick for the film of 2012 whose poster had more depth than the movie it was advertising.
Posted on Saturday, December 29th, 2012
Time for my annual wrap-up of my favorite TV shows this year.
Despite being a total television whore, I didn't seem enjoy it as much as I had in previous years. Partly because there wasn't as much great television airing to waste my time on... but mostly because I am just getting burned out on TV. Even so, lucky for me, I still watch entirely too much of the stuff.
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 The Finder
I loved this show more than I thought it was possible to love a television show. That hasn't happened in a long time. Which means it was a show destined for cancellation which, of course, it was. Then Michael Clarke Duncan died, dashing any hopes for a reunion movie or some kind of conclusion written into Bones. And so I re-watch the old episodes, wondering what could have been.
The fact that I ended up liking this show was a bit of a shock, given that I'm a bit of a Sherlock Holmes purist. The fact that I enjoy it more than the more faithful BBC series is surprising. The fact that it is now my favorite show on television makes no sense at all. And yet... here it is. The casting of Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock and Lucy Liu as Watson is genius. The stories are well-written and make for good mysteries. Everything just works.
Well slap my ass and call me Sally. I had no hope for a television show base on the Green Arrow comic books. And yet... it is perfectly realized for the small screen. The plot is solid. The stories are entertaining. The casting is excellent. What changes they made to the source material serve the medium well. It's not the Green Arrow of the comic books, but it has the feel of a Green Arrow comic book. I couldn't ask for more, and I'm enjoying the show quite a lot.
#4 Raising Hope
Remains one of the best shows on television. Funny, charming, smart, entertaining... everything you want in a series. I had thought that finally getting Jimmy and Sabrina together would be the death knell for the series, but it strengthened it in many ways. Here's hoping they know how to keep things fresh for many more seasons.
Consistently the funniest show on television, and one of the few series which likes to innovate in new and fascinating directions. Unfortunately the latest direction is the firing of show runner Dan Harmon and the eventual departure of Chevy Chase. Marry that to NBC consistently shitting all over the show, and one has to wonder how much longer it can last. Enjoy it while you can.
In many ways, this is the best show on television. But the genre isn't really my thing, so it's not at the top of my list. And yet, it's such compelling television that I enjoy it just the same. The writing has not faltered since the first episode, but it's the way the cast brings the words to life that makes the show such a must-see.
#7 Breaking Bad
If you're not watching the show, you really should check it out. Preferrably from the beginning. Now that we're in the final stretch, things are bound to get even messier. Which is exactly what has made Breaking Bad such a hit with its fans.
#8 Happy Endings
This show has yet to recapture the magic from its awesome first season. But it's still funnier and more entertaining than most of the crap on television, so I keep watching. The problem being that my interest is waning more and more. If they can't find a way to make things interesting again, it may drop off my radar completely.
#9 The Walking Dead
The second season was a bit of a mess after what had come before. Not so surprising considering visionary director Frank Darabont was fired. But then things seemed to come back together in Season 3. Characters that had outlived their usefulness were eliminated... kickass new characters were introduced... and the threat level started to grow. I don't know if Season 4 will continue to improve, or if we're due for a setback, but I plan on watching so I can find out.
#10 Sons of Anarchy
This show seems intent on shaking things up more often than not, but sometimes what gets shaken isn't very effective in the long run. This season it felt as though the writers had no intention of going calmly into the night, and made radical changes that left SOA fans reeling. Deep down, everybody knows where things are ultimately headed with the show... the question has always been "Will the writers have the guts to take us there?" Now we know the answer is unequivocally yes, and I can't wait to enjoy the ride.
#11 Hawaii Five-0
This show had me, then lost me. Then I started watching again and was amazed at how well it had progressed. The chemistry between McGarrett and Dano is some of the best on television... and funny as hell. The stories are uniquely Hawaii and pretty good crime drama as well. Unfortunately, every episode has a fucking Microsoft product demo crammed into it, which brings everything to s screeching halt each week. But if you can ignore that, it's a show that might surprise you.
For the longest time, this show was kind of treading water and didn't seem to have the ambition to do much more than that. Then, almost without warning, things escalated very quickly. By the time we got to the last episode of the season, it was if the writers were throwing everything they could think of to take the story to maximum thrust. I like the cast. I like the concept. And now I'm liking the story. If they have the guts to keep running at this pace, Season Two Three is going to be some excellent television.
A DOZEN MORE WORTH WATCHING...
This modern version of Murder She Wrote still has terrific mysteries every episode. Even better, they've pushed the show forward by finally having Beckett and Castle hook up. As if that weren't enough, the supporting cast is wonderfully competent and vital to the series.
The show may be coming to an end, but it was a staple of my 2012 viewing schedule. Tina Fey can do no wrong in my book.
Rules of Engagement
Getting tired, but's still funny and worth watching.
The New Normal
Surprisingly funny television, even though most of the humor relies on tired stereotypes.
Keeps. Plugging. Along. Fortunately, Shonda Rhimes knows what makes good television, and is constantly shaking things up to keep viewers interested. The airplane crash that took out two popular characters couldn't have been an easy decision... but it was critical in keep the show fresh and moving forward though yet another season. But what happens to keep things interesting next season?
2 Broke Girls
Yeah, it's rude, crude, and isn't very smart... but it's also darn funny. Why they keep clinging to the pretense that the broke girls will eventually dig themselves out of their financial troubles is beyond me. That's the end of the show.
This show is so far under the radar that few people even know it exists. That's a shame, because it's a crime drama that's worth a look.
Hot in Cleveland
By now, I'm over this show, but the constant presence of Betty White cannot be ignored. She is as hilarious as ever, and that alone is enough to keep me watching.
I kind of waffle on this show. It's funny and well-cast, but never seems to reach much. It's the same problems and misunderstandings each episode... but with different people and situations. Oddly enough, it kind of works, and I find myself watching more often than not.
I'm going to be crucified for mentioning this show because everybody I know seems to hate it with a passion... but I think it's funny. Sometimes charming even. Not so much for brash and abrasive Whitney Cummings, but instead for Chris D'Elia, which somehow keeps the show on-track. Yeah, it can be annoying at times, but it's got real heart beneath it all, and that's what keeps me coming back.
This show is not my cup of tea, but it's so incredibly lush and smart that it can't be ignored... even when the drama reaches ridiculous levels. Dame Maggie Smith has just been the icing on the cake.
I am still not 100% sold on Matt Smith as The Doctor, but the show has such fantastic writing and production values that I don't dare ignore it. I'm also in love with Amy Pond, so there's that. Now that she's left the show, I'm a bit worried about the show, so only time will tell if my television future in 2013 will include Doctor Who... but Amy & Rory's replacement, Clara does look promising...
IT'S NOT TV, IT'S PREMIUM CHANNELS...
Game of Thrones
Continues to impress. One can only hope that George R. R. Martin figures out a conclusion to the books before the TV show catches up.
Rarely does a show inhabit such a fully realized environment as Boardwalk Empire. Even if the writing were shit, I would still probably tune in just to look at it.
The Big C
While Laura Linney's character grows more unsympathetic with each new episode, I have to say she's as fascinating as she's ever been. This is in direct contrast to Dexter where I just can't find him interesting any more. Since the next season of The Big C is the last (and oddly abbreviated to four 1-hour episodes) it remains to be seen where Cathy will end up. All I can do is hope that it's worthy of what she's had to face over the past three seasons.
ANIMATION WORTH YOUR TIME...
Continues to be brilliant, relevant commentary on pop culture and society in general. I hope it never ends.
Probably the most bizarre show to ever air on television, and I love every minute of it. I fully realize that the stories of Jake the Dog and Finn the Human are not going to be everybody's cup of tea... but they really should be.
The ultimate spy series, but oh so wrong. How they manage to get away with something so raunchy is a mystery to me. Probably because it's so bloody witty and brilliant.
Burn Notice — Even though I still like the characters, the stories are built on a premise which has grown very tired. I've hoped for a couple seasons now that they will wrap up the show before it gets bad... but I'm starting to lose confidence.
Revenge — The first season of this show was utterly brilliant. Emily Thorne picks a new target each week and then destroys her enemies in clever and darkly humorous ways. This season? Corporate finances and coincidences. How a show so delicious could devolve into something so pathetic and boring is just beyond me.
Modern Family — How many times can Phil Dunphy do something stupid and it still be considered funny? I dunno, but we've long since passed that point.
The Big Bang Theory — Adding Amy Farah Fowler was a stop-gap necessity to keep the show from going stale and repeating itself over and over again. Except now the stop-gap is getting tired.
Parks & Recreation — The show used to be funny because it was so tightly wound. But now it's so expansive, scattered, and decentralized that the laughs are fewer and far between.
Fringe — I still like watching this show, but not nearly as much as I used to. The thrust of Fringe was always the alternate universe. Then that got unceremoniously dumped for a future world which seems so disconnected from what we've known that it doesn't even feel like the same show.
Grimm — The monster of the week aspect of the show is just so tired. There are baby steps made to expand on the mythology of the Grimms, but it's not coming fast enough to save this show from seemingly endless repetition.
American Horror Story — The first season wasn't great, but it was so different from anything else on television that I was compelled to watch. This second season doesn't have that advantage, and seems to be treading water rather than forging out in a brave new direction.
Being Human — At first I resented this show as a poor American copy of the British original. But it quickly grew on me because it had a "voice" that was evolving into something different. But now it's just kind of settled into something that's not nearly as interesting. Yes, they try and pop in some big events to shake things up, but the net effect isn't change enough to keep me watching.
Go On — I really want to like this show because I've been a big fan of Matthew Perry's work in Friends, The West Wing, and Studio 60, but it's just not anywhere near that level. I suppose Perry is okay, but it's too hard to like his character and the supporting cast isn't helping.
How I Met Your Mother — Worn out its welcome years ago. Just reveal the mother and get this over with.
Psych —Probably because of syndication concerns, this show just doesn't seem to grow. Nothing really changes. Even big events like Shawn hooking up with Juliet is played to minimal effect so you barely notice it. As a result, brand new episodes feel like they could have happened in the first season. Something drastic needs to start pushing the show forward or they should just pack it up.
White Colar — Yet another USA Network show that doesn't want to evolve. It seems as if the characters are just caught in a loop so that the episodes can be syndicated more easily. Boring.
Suits — I really enjoyed the first season, but cannot seem to get into the second season for some reason. The characters are ultimately one-note cut-outs that don't engage. Maybe this season I just started to notice that?
SNL — More misses than hits this year. But every once in a while... a surprise that makes it all worthwhile.
Posted on Sunday, December 30th, 2012
Time for my annual wrap-up of my favorite albums that were released this year.
As usual, a lot of my time spent listening to music was rediscovering old bands I hadn't heard in ages. I just can't seem to escape the 80's I guess. 2012 was a depressing year for live music... with the exception of Matt & Kim, I don't think I went to any concerts. Though The Local Strangers did come to Redneckistan, so there's that. Here's hoping I make more time for seeing the bands I like in 2013.
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 Elysium by Pet Shop Boys
When I first heard this album, I figured it would be lucky to break my top five. Sure it has some nice slow-pop magic by one of my favorite bands, but the lack of amazing dance-based tracks that they usually unleash left me cold. Even worse, I immediately dumped three songs that I didn't like even a little bit (Your Early Stuff, Ego Music, and Hold On). But then, inexplicably, I found myself listening to the remaining Elysium songs more and more. Often times without even realizing I was going there. And then I fell in love with the sublimely beautiful track Memory of the Future... and the rest followed...
Note: The above YouTube song is the original hauntingly beautiful album track... not the butchered pop trash remix they released as a single. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. Yes, I still wish that three or four tracks were killed in favor of some dance tracks... but there's enough great stuff here to nab my #1 spot.
#2 E.P. 1 by Father Tiger
I used to restrain from putting EPs on my list because they're not a "real" album. But, for whatever reason this year, a good chunk of my favorite music was on EPs, so I just went with it. And, in the case of Father Tiger's EP, it came dangerously close to being my No. 1 album of 2012... despite having only four tracks. Which I can kind of explain like this... Vince Clarke, a founding member of my favorite band, Depeche Mode, quit to go on and form two new bands... Yazoo with Alison Moyet, then Erasure with Andy Bell. Both of which are total synth-pop genius that I love. And if somebody were to ask me to describe Father Tiger, I'd tell them that it's a cross between Yazoo and Erasure. I first became aware of them in August when they got some attention for a video they made that was composed from Instagram photos...
Then I kind of lost track of them until they released a video for On Christmas Day that got forwarded to me. It was kind of clever and funny, and sounded great, which got me interested in them all over again...
I ended up buying their EP and loved all four tracks... my favorite being Right Now, which will undoubtedly end up being played at weddings around the globe...
What I don't understand is why Father Tiger didn't pile more tracks on their EP. Their YouTube channel is packed with other great songs I'd gladly buy (especially this one, called High Road... oh, and this one, called First Love). But, oh well... four tracks or one track, Father Tiger has some of my favorite music this year.
#3 Lightning by Matt & Kim
Well, no surprise here. Matt & Kim are easily one of my favorite bands, and Lightning is yet another winner. The sound is less of an evolution from Sidewalks that we previously heard from Grand, but that's not a bad thing at all...
Not uncoincidentally, the above video for Let's Go is my favorite this year. I laugh every time I see it. And now I count the days until I can experience Matt & Kim in concert again.
#4 St. Lucia EP by St. Lucia
The thing about hearing a cool snippet of music in a television commercial is that you don't know if it is representative of the entire song. Plenty of bad songs have a nifty music riff that sounds awesome in a 20 second burst, but fails miserably when listened to in context of the full song. Or, even worse, not representative of the entire album. So when I heard a beautiful, soaring piece of pop splendor in the Victoria's Secret "Sexiest Gifts" ad, I was naturally skeptical...
Or blinded by angels. Nevertheless, I went ahead and Googled the lyrics to discover the song was All Eyes on You by a one-man band called "St. Lucia." A quick trip to iTunes so I could preview the self-titled EP, and I was hooked. It may have only six tracks, but they are really good tracks.
#5 Nocturne by Wild Nothing
In what I can only describe as a dreamy love-letter to the mellower side of the 80's, Wild Nothing has crafted an exquisite album that was pretty much my soundtrack for the last days of summer...
So long as you're giving a listen to Nocturne, I'd recommend taking a listen to their previous effort, Gemini, which is equally amazing.
#6 Port of Morrow by The Shins
James Mercer is the musical genius behind The Shins and their mind-blowing smash album Wincing The Night Away. That he chose to follow that success by abandoning the band and moving on to a new project called Broken Bells was cause for concern. Would we ever get new music from The Shins? Turns out the answer is yes... but with Mercer repopulating the band with all new musicians. Turns out that wasn't a cause for concern, because the new album was as brilliant as fans could have hoped for...
Like butter. But... different than I was expecting... somehow. It's as if this latest iteration of the band has not so much built upon what has come before, but instead tossed it out and started from scratch. I can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I like the album quite a lot so it probably doesn't matter.
#7 Battle Born by The Killers
Brandon Flowers has piercing vocals that could cut through steel, and any time he chooses to really cut loose on a song, you can be assured of it touching your very soul. Battle Born is remarkable because he cuts loose on most every track...
And, yes, that fucking incredible video was made by Tim Burton and stars Winona Rider(!!). Here's another track where the video is too good to be true...
If any band was more primed to throw caution to the wind and create a concept album in the vein of Pink Floyd... well, it would be Pink Floyd... but The Killers would be a close second.
#8 Night Visions by Imagine Dragons
After giving a listen to the polished sound of Night Visions, you'd be hard-pressed to peg this as a debut album. And yet, it is...
So pretty. And, just because I can't help myself, here's their latest video. It's pretty awesome...
If this is where the band begins, it will be very interesting to see where they evolve to.
#9 Shields by Grizzly Bear
This entire album could be the soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino film, and I don't know how I could pay it a better compliment than that. Tarantino uses music to secure a sense of place for his stories... and it doesn't matter from which time period they come. Grizzly Bear has gone retro in a very unique way, creating their own sense of place, wherever that may be...
This album convinced me to check out the band's back-catalog, which is pretty impressive.
#10 The Truth About Love by Pink
If I were to die tomorrow, one of my regrets would be that I haven't yet seen Pink in concert. She's amazingly talented in a way that harkens back to sirens of old, and to experience that live would truly be an experience to be savored. The Truth About Love sounds a lot like what Pink has given us in past releases, but I think her lyrics are getting more clever...
Tell me that listing to Pink belt that one out to the cheap seats from on-stage wouldn't be awesome. You can't! Probably one of the most consistent vocalists working right now, I'd buy any new Pink album audio unheard. This release hasn't changed that.
#11 Living Things by Linkin Park
For reasons that just mystify me, hardcore Linkin Park fans have been railing against Living Things when I honestly feel it's some of the band's best work. It would be easy to dismiss the criticism if I thought there was some kind of new directional shift happening here, but it seems more like a shift back, which should be something that makes fans happy...
Oh well, I have -zero- complaints. The album is a fantastic listen and gets a lot of play on my car's iPod (good driving music!).
#12 Body Faucet by Reptar
I caught this band opening for Foster the People last year and was suitably impressed enough to check out their album debut when it dropped this Spring. My first reaction was "Meh. Nothing really special." But then I found myself playing it a lot more often than I ever thought I would. Body Faucet started growing on me. Like a virus...
Just good ol' fashioned FUN, that is! The album is pretty much more of the same. I think this might be a band to watch.
SINGLE SINGLE VISION...
Unfortunately, there were only a couple other songs off his album I liked, so I gave it a pass. Still, it's pretty song.
CHEESIEST VIDEO 2012 AWARD...
Hall of Fame by The Script
Since I've already shown my favorite video (Matt & Kim's Let's Go) I thought I'd come up with a different video award this year. I can see how it would be easy to dismiss The Script as pop fluff... their first single release off of their third album (titled #3, get it?) features a track with will.i.am for heaven's sake. But the album isn't that bad and there's a sensibility behind their music that reaches for something more. Except where their videos are concerned...
When I saw this video, I actually laughed out loud. I mean, seriously. A deaf girl and a boy from the wrong side of the tracks each aspiring for greatness? Holy crap... did they get Nicholas Sparks to write this crap? I kept waiting for Lionel Richie to show up with that blind girl from the Hello video. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have to use schmaltz to sell your song, regardless of how schmaltzy that song is, you're never going to be taken seriously.
And... that's a wrap! Rumor has it, 2013 brings us a new album by Depeche Mode. It's looking to be a good year in music already.
Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2012
For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.
It wasn't a bad year. Finally made it to South and Central America. Finally made it to The Keukenhof after years of visiting the Netherlands. Got to see Matt & Kim again. Oh... and didn't kill anybody again. And, as usual, any year you don't have to kill somebody can't be all bad, right?
• Found out I'm my own worst enemy...
• Warned the world that Newt Gingrich's presidential plan to colonize the moon would lead to freaky-ass space bitches that turn into freaky-ass space monsters...
• Congratulated the Republicans for re-electing President Obama by nominating Mitt Romney as their candidate...
• Live-Tweeted the first time I cut my own hair...
• Explained how politics in Washington State work...
• Tried to understand how YouTube comments work...
• Accidentally had an amazing day exploring Kansas City...
• Took a cruise that went through the Panama Canal...
• Got to visit adorable baby sloths in Costa Rica...
• Went to Hell... with chickens.
• Returned to Key West, one of my favorite places...
• Worried about Rick Santorum having a massive repressed gay breakdown over giant pink balls...
• Visited the DutchBitch, where she took me on a wonderful tour of bulb fields in the Netherlands...
• Finally had the DutchBitch take me to the glorious Keukenhof Gardens...
• Attended Bitchsterdam 3 with some really great people...
• PATATJES MET!!!...
• Flew to Hamburg so I could see the sights... including MINIATUR WUNDERLAND!...
• Have a child that's acting a little light in the loafers? You can fix that right up... just beat the gay out of 'em!...
• Said goodbye to Mr. Maurice Sendak and Where the Wild Things Are...
“Oh, please don't go—we'll eat you up—we love you so!”
• Explained what I do to be able to afford to travel the world.
• Became really poor when I bought the single most amazing computer I have ever owned.
• Decided to take a short, relaxing vacation to the Bahamas, man...
The view from my room pretty much sucks, doesn't it?
• Spent my time in the Bahamas getting drunk, running into a tree, and ending up with a sunburn and a hole in my pants...
• Fell in love with Rafalca, Mitt Romney's dancing horse and tried to understand how one transports a horse to The Olympic Games...
• Found out what happened to Raggedy Andy after all these years...
• I TOTALLY GOT TO FLY IN THE MICKEY MOUSE PLANE, Y'ALL!...
• Took a trek on the wild side at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom...
• Watched the wildlife outside my window while staying at Disney's amazing Animal Kingdom Lodge...
• Flew to Atlanta so I could SEE MATT & KIM LIVE IN CONCERT...
• Visited the steamy Creation Museum in Kentucky...
• Flew to DutchyLand for 48 hours so I could visit the new Hard Rock Cafe in Brussels...
• Totally didn't gloat over having called the election ten months ago...
• Threw caution to the wind and went ghost hunting at Old South Pittsburgh Hospital...
I took this bear away from a naughty ghost child and let him go for a tricycle ride.
• Decided to give dips a try while in rural Georgia...
• Celebrated marriage equality coming to Washington State.
• Watched Bad Monkey protest anti-primate bias at IKEA...
Pretty spiffy. It never seems that I do much in a year until I take a look back at it.
Hope 2013 is a great year for you.