February 28, 2011

What a bunch of winners...

I'm kind of proud of a couple of our PHS graduates. They're both seniors in college now, but I'm proud to say that I knew them back when they were a couple of sophomore fools who were begging me to let their band play a concert to benefit Pasta for Pennies.

One of the fools in that picture up there is Matt Murray who is now the editor in chief of the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky's student newspaper. Recently, one of Matt's pieces was named as the #1 review as awarded by the Kentucky Intercollegiate Press Association and was nominated for the Hearst award for his article titled "Sit-in, then sleep-in at the Capitol" about a protest at the Kentucky state capitol against mountaintop removal by coal mining companies.

The fool opposite Matt in that picture up there is Michael Hardesty who headed a little further south after leaving Princeton. Michael matriculated to Belmont University and has apparently been doing pretty well for himself.

This past week, I got passed a bit of information saying that Michael had won a Grammy.

A frickin' Grammy.

The truth is a little more subtle, however, as Michael didn't exactly win a Grammy. One of the projects that he worked on, however, did, indeed, win a Grammy.

See, Michael was an assistant producer on Marty Stuart's newest album, Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions. An instrumental on that album, "Hummingbyrd", was nominated for and won the Grammy for best country instrumental.

According to PHS's recording expert, Michael doesn't have a little Grammy statuette because he wasn't a paid assistant producer on the sessions, but I still think it's pretty frickin' cool.

Take a listen to "Hummingbyrd."

Senate Bill 5...bad for education...bad for Ohio

(I'll be repeating this intro each day of the week. Feel free to skip it each time if you're a repeat visitor.)

I need some help here.

An Ohio state Senator, Shannon Brown, has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 5, that will drastically change the landscape of education and public service in Ohio. Feel free to take a while and read the full text of the proposed bill here.

(new content here)

Today I'm going to talk about how to help make your voice heard via email.

The first line folks that we need to convince are the members of the committee responsible for voting on SB5:
  • Kevin Bacon - chair - 466-8064 - SD03@senate.state.oh.us
  • Keith Faber - vice-chair - 466-7584 - SD12@senate.state.oh.us
  • Joe Schiavoni (currently opposing SB5, thank him, please) - SD33@senate.state.oh.us
  • Bill Beagle - 466-6247 - SD05@senate.state.oh.us
  • Edna Brown (currently opposing SB5, thank her, please) - SD11@senate.state.oh.us
  • Jim Hughes - 466-5981 - SD16@senate.state.oh.us
  • Shannon Jones (the bill's author) - 466-9737 - SD07@senate.state.oh.us
  • Kris Jordan - 466-8086 - SD19@senate.state.oh.us
  • Eric Kearney (currently opposing SB5, thank him, please) - SD09@senate.state.oh.us
  • Tom Sawyer (currently opposing SB5, thank him, please) - SD28@senate.state.oh.us
  • Bill Seitz - 466-8068 - SD08@senate.state.oh.us
Here's the text of the letter that I've been sending each of these folks each day:
I live in West Chester, Ohio and teach in the Princeton City School district, and I am vehemently opposed to Senate Bill 5.

The radical proposals of SB 5 are not reforms of public education; they are attacks on the rights of public employees and on the safety and education of all present and future Ohioans. There is no investment, no stimulus package that is as effective as an investment in education, and in a tough economy, with Ohio facing a major budget deficit, we must focus on the essentials. Nothing is more essential than giving our children a quality education that prepares them for good jobs.

I have never considered myself a single-issue voter. I have considered the varied positions of every candidate and chosen the one what has best agreed with my views.

For this, however, I will proudly become a single-issue voter and will do everything in my power to see any supporter of SB 5 voted out of office. I will organize and donate and spread the horrible truths about the supporters of this bill: that they voted against the people of Ohio and in favor of corporate interests who will benefit by taking away the rights of worker.

I urge you to vote against SB5.
Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice. I have no use for those - regardless of their political party - who hold some vain and foolish dream of spinning the clock back to the days when organized labor was huddled, almost as a helpless mass.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Lonnie Dusch
(my address)
West Chester, OH 45069
(my phone number)

February 27, 2011

Senate Bill 5...bad for education...bad for Ohio

I need some help here.

An Ohio state Senator, Shannon Brown, has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 5, that will drastically change the landscape of education and public service in Ohio. Feel free to take a while and read the full text of the proposed bill here.

Here's the summary of what the bill will do from the OEA's website...
  • Eliminates collective bargaining for state employees and employees of higher education institutions
  • Existing collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) covering those employees expire according to their terms
  • Eliminates salary schedules and step increases and replaces them with a merit pay system 
  • Eliminates continuing contracts for teachers after the bill’s effective date
  • Eliminates teacher leave policies in statute and requires local school boards to determine leave time
  • Eliminates seniority as a sole criterion for Reductions In Force (RIFs) 
  • Removes healthcare from bargaining and instead permits school boards to govern healthcare benefit plans for employees 
  • Requires employees to pay at least 20% of their healthcare costs
  • Allows public employers to hire permanent replacement workers during a strike
  • Limits bargaining for local government employees (including school districts) to issues of wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment
  • Eliminates binding arbitration for police and fire
  • Abolishes the School Employee Healthcare Board
  • Prohibits school districts from picking up any portion of the employee’s contribution to the pension system 
  • Allows a public employer in “fiscal emergency” to serve notice to terminate, modify or negotiate a CBA 
(What I'm writing about the bill, I should mention, is true as of Saturday, 2/26, when I'm writing this post. Because the bill hasn't, at this point, anyway, made its way out of committee, the bill's final form isn't known.)

Throughout the course of this week, I'll be posting some arguments against Senate Bill 5 and would ask you to help me convince Ohio's senators that the bill is a bad idea.

If you're an Ohio voter and you're down with helping out, please call the OEA's action hotline - 888-907-7309 - and ask your local Senator to oppose SB 5. If possible, try to request a meeting with your Senator (I've done that pretty much every day since Tuesday) so that you can explain your position in person. If you do get lucky enough to get a meeting, take along some of the folks who will be affected by this bill: fire fighters, police officers, non-elected city and county and state officials, teachers, and pretty much every union member in Ohio.

I'll do what I can throughout the course of the week to convince you why SB5 is bad for education and bad for Ohio.

February 26, 2011

Back with a frickin' vengance

Sorry 'bout last week. The Saturday Links were a little damp from the hot tub, so they took the week to drip dry.

    February 25, 2011

    Today's Random Ten

    At least this time I actually know all the songs and remember putting them on iTunes...
    • "Mi Ranchito" by Los Super Seven (3 stars) - There are better songs on the Los Super Seven album.  This one's not bad, though.  All in Spanish, this one's very much traditional Mexican.  The entire album is outstanding, capped by the cover of "Deportes (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)".
    • "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" by Matt Rollings with Lyle Lovett (4) - Most folks think of Lyle Lovett - if they think of Lyle Lovett - as a country singer, and he is sometimes.  But a lot of the times, he's much more a traditional, jazzy standards singer.  This one's from the Kissing Jessica Stein soundtrack and has Lyle singing over Matt Rillings's piano with brushed drums behind them both, simple, plain, beautiful.
    • "Stumptown" by Nickel Creek (3) - Nickel Creek's instrumental skills - and they were mad skillz - are on center stage here in this 1:44 instrumental.  The Nickel Creek albums bounced around stylistically, and it's not a surprise that the group went their separate ways, but they made some outstanding music while they were together.
    • "Time to Get Ill" by The Beastie Boys (4) -Old school Beasties from their first album, the Rick Rubin-produced masterpiece of white rap.  Say what's the time?
    • "Bullets" by Bob Schneider (4) - Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back isn't a great movie.  Yeah, it's fun because it's full of in-jokes from the first three flicks in the Jersey Trilogy, but it's not a great film.  I owned it but have since moved it along.  The soundtrack, on the other hand, is an absolute knock-out.  It's a great mix of older tunes ("Tougher Than Leather", "Bad Medicine", "Jungle Love", "Magic Carpet Ride") and alternative rock from the mid-90's ("Tube of Wonderful", "Hiphopper", "Kick Some A$$", "Jacka$$").  The whole album flows like nobody's business.
    • "Staring at the Board" by Spoon (3) - This one borders on being deleted from my iTunes whenever I hear it.  It's a fifty-second bit of lo-fi nothing.  I generally don't keep anything on my iTunes that's under three stars.  If it's a two-star song, I don't like it but think either it might come in handy somewhere down the line (as a prank, as a message, as a soundbite, something) or I want to keep it for completion (I have all the Wilco songs even the ones from The Wilco Book).  This one isn't going to be useful.  It isn't something I need for completist urges.  It might go away.
    • "New York's Not My Home" by Jim Croce (4) - Most people don't go more than a couple songs deep with Jim Croce.  Generally that's "Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown" (after whom we named our first dog) and "Time in a Bottle", maybe "Operator", but I absolutely love Croce's voice and have thirty-two of his songs (probably half of his output during his too-short life).  He was a bear of a man with a huge pushbroom mustache, a giant nose, and a heck of a cigar.  His songs tend to fall into either semi-funny songs about odd characters ("Leroy Brown", "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", "Roller Derby Queen") or achingly emotional (this one, "Operator", "Time in a Bottle").  It's a beautiful, heart-wrenching song.
    • "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" by The Chad Mitchell Trio (3) - I think this is a Pete Seeger song;  I do have his version of it.  The voices here are prettier - more in the vein of the choral/folk groups of the time, sort of a more choral, less peppy Kingston Trio.  It's a protest song against ever going to war again but presented without much vitriol.  It's a well-written song, but the three versions I have (Johnny Cash being the third) aren't spectacularly well sung.
    • "Temazcal" by Monsters of Folk (4) - Monsters of Folk are a modern day supergroup - a step down from Cream and Blind Faith, and two steps down from the Traveling Wilburys in terms of per-supergroup popularity and power.  Their lone release didn't quite live up to the hype - it's pretty music and good stuff but it's not the spectacular product that their combined prowess might have suggested - but it's some very pretty stuff.  The voices blend together surprisingly well, but I prefer when Conor Oberst takes lead, as he does on this song, the chorus of which features all four voices.
    • "Ricky's Theme" by The Beastie Boys (4) - Most folks don't know that the Beastie Boys have released two entirely-instrumental albums.  The first was initially a fan-club-only release taking selected instrumental tracks from their first few albums, but the second one was released as an entirely new instrumental album.  Neither one is magestic and spectacular, but the Boys can put on a surprisingly funky slow groove that makes both albums work as cohesive wholes.  This is one of the better instrumentals on that first, The In Sound From Way Out! album.

    February 24, 2011

    Just reblogging videos today...

    Michael Jordan circa 1985...holy crap, this is cool...

    Source: With Leather

    I'm down...

    Limitless looks good to me...

    February 23, 2011

    Fred Armisten & Jeff Tweedy

    On the way back from Sevierville, TN this past weekend, Anchorman came up in conversation as did the outstanding line "I will not eat cat poop."

    (sorry for the cat-poopy quality of the video...best I could find online, probably won't be there that much longer)

    For some reason it hit me that the character of Tino, the restaurant owner, was played by Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live. I'd previously noticed that the character of Tino was played by the same actor who played the South American music journalist in Wilco's I am Trying to Break Your Heart (jump ahead to 5:48 through 8:25 in this clip)...

    ...but for some reason, I hadn't ever made the connection that both were played by Armisen who has gone on to play a number of classic SNL characters including President Obama.

    Apparently it wasn't any kind of secret, but I'd not made the connection until this weekend...

    February 22, 2011

    Update: Hold me close, Tiny Desker

    One of my all-time favorite artists stopped by NPR's Tiny Desk a couple of weeks ago to give a three-song concert. Check out some of Richard Thompson's finest from his newest album:

    If you're interested in Thompson, check out some of his other sessions from NPR - including one with a downloadable "Hots for the Smarts."

    February 21, 2011

    The foodish geekiness

    I caught Fannie's Last Supper - a recreation of a twelve course meal in the style of Fannie Farmer's 1896 style of cooking - I wandered my way onward to Christopher Kimball's blog.

    The blog is absolutely nothing visual. It's plain as plain can be, a very simple Wordpress format, and Kimball's posting can be very, very irregular. He posts more frequently when there's something to say (like when Cooks Illustrated was filming back in October) and far less frequently when the material is a little more fallow.

    The content is a mixture of recipes, equipment reviews, food tastings, slices of the Vermont life, and videos from television shootings.

    Oh, if you're not familiar with Christopher Kimball, he's the founder, editor, and publisher of Cooks Illustrated, just about the coolest cooking magazine out there.

    Check out some of the clips from his show - as posted on his blog...

    February 18, 2011

    An 8Tracks Challenge

    Today's playlist is a mystery.  Anybody know what the theme is?

    I will offer this hint.  The picture shown was the first hit on google's image search when I typed in the theme.

    February 17, 2011

    Update: The new photo home

    It's been about ten months since I threw my online photo world in with Picasa using the PHSVikings account id.

    Since then I've uploaded 324 albums (some a number of times - particularly in the past week since our school firewall got some redefinitions and fobbed things right up), 44 of them have come from this school year. I've worked my way posting back catalog into the '07-'08 school year.

    I'm, admittedly, not thrilled with the pace of either of those (I wanted to have the entire back catalog posted by the end of 1st semester - and I'd been posting a hundred photo albums a year when I was running the website), but at least the pictures are still out there somewhere.

    I am a little disappointed that I have no clue whatsoever whether anybody is ever checking the photos. I'm getting no feedback from current students and certainly no emails from anybody asking me for larger versions of the photos I'm posting. As far as I can tell, I'm pretty much posting the photos so I can say I'm still posting photos. From time to time, I notice a Facebook account using one of the photos from the Picasa account, but other than that I'm not sure there's a reason to keep posting the photos.

    But I'm still posting them.

    February 16, 2011

    This bothers me

    I don't give a crap about Malcolm's problems. Apparently he's got a girlfriend, and thir relationship had a rough night.


    My problem is with this picture that buzzfeed provided to illustrate the story.

    Look at the girl's left foot.

    Is her left leg like six inches shorter than her right? Is it behind him or in front of him? Is it flat on the ground or floating in the air?

    Is that photoshop, or am I just this messed up this early in the morning?


    Science...Valentine's...superhero webcomics...what's not to love?

    If we could get every one of our sophomores to understand why this is funny, we'd probably get the science indicator on the OGT.

    February 15, 2011

    Pardon our ramblings: New Jack City

    I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I bought New Jack City on DVD, a moive that I remember fondly from when it came out back when I was in high school (1991).

    I've watched the movie once since I bought it, and I can freely admit that it isn't a good film, but it certainly is an interesting film. So I'm going to take a little bit, rewatch it, and jot down a few thoughts. I'm not sure whether this will end up as a single blog entry or a few, but it'll certainly be rambling.

    First up, the trailer...this is going to be the last embedded clip that isn't . Consider yourself warned.

    And now to the movie, itself.

    From the first strains of the soundtrack, you can tell that this is a film with a message. This isn't a standard urban gangster, throw-away film. We get a flyover of Manhattan, heading to a black man holding a white, three-piece-suit-wearing over the edge of a bridge, threatening to drop him. Throughout the course of the flyover, the soundtrack plays an early-90's rap over the the O'Jay's "For the Love of Money", one of the all-time great bass lines. Radio clips play over the music, informing us that there are too many poor in the country, that there are wealthy preying upon those less fortunate, that the poor are addicted to drugs.

    If there was a better way to scream "heavy-handed, message movie coming" as a warning, Mario Van Peebles didn't know it at this point in his filmmaking career.


    And out of a limo steps Wesley Snipes, resplendent in a head-to-toe, royal blue suit with a gold medallion the size of a bread plate on his chain. Snipes tells the upside down business man that "money talks, bull---- runs the marathon, " letting us know that he's a hip cat, someone who knows the old cliches but turns them on their ear with his own style.

    Down goes the white man into the river.

    And back to the radio voiceover:
    The number of addicted infants born in Manhattan-area hospitals has risen steadily over the past few years. Hospital officials say that the care required by these, the smallest victims of the cocaine epidemic, has severly impacted the available resources allocated for pediatric care.
    And, just in case you missed that this movie was going to be heavy, we pan down a mural painted on a building. The mural is a simple, single biblical quote:
    Don't be decieved
    Neither fornicators - nor
    Idolaters nor adulterers...
    Nor abusers of themselves
    With mankind nor
    Thieves nor drunkards
    Nor revelers nor
    Shall inherit the
    Kingdom of God
    1 Corinthians 6:10
    No foreshadowing there, no heavy-handed pushing of the message.

    I have absolutely no proof of it but I'm thinking that all of the radio voiceover was recorded for the movie rather than actually recorded off of the radio. There's no way that Van Peebles (the director, in case I hadn't mentioned) found radio quotes this on point to his message.


    And b'dam...Ice T, the main man himself in all his pre-Law and Order glory, eventually headed to the small screen but here acting for only the third professional (IMDB-listed, anyway) gig - after Fame, Breakin', and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (and those had been seven and eight years before NJC). This is the hard man, himself, and the casting of a member of NWA had to be a risk for a Hollywood studio.

    Respect, Mario, respect.

    Plus, Ice is paired up against a very young Chris Rock. Impressive talent.


    The camera circles our two actors as they talk through a drug deal, continually tiled at about a ten degree angle, reminding us that this film is not only heavy but edgy, too. We focus on Ice T's black, knit rastafarian hat, his gold chains, his black Adidas Raiders track suit, the Adidas shelltoes, the gigantic gold rings, the back-to-Africa t-shirt. Hell, I'm half expecting a Run DMC video to break out at any time.


    The chase is on as Rock robs Ice T and the deal goes sour. Our camera switches to overhead, back to a close up, then into another edgy tilt-ten-left-then-rotate-to-ten-right angle as Ice T hurdles down the stairs after Rock and the movie's theme, "New Jack Hustler" by Ice T, himself, plays over the chase.

    Suddenly the previously dry streets are wet, and Chris Rock is jumping a fence onto a playground where Ice T shoots him in the heel, bringing him down but spilling the drug deal money into the wind, bringing people from all over.


    I swear that one person - when he runs over for the money - says "He's kicking his monkey a--".

    I'm not making that quote up.


    Three times we flash back to a well-dressed, black man watching the shooting scene unfold. I wonder if he'll be an important character later on. Maybe if they'd flash back to his stunned face a couple more times, I might have an idea that he was somehow important.


    We're on a new basketball court with a dozen young black men. The lead is in a velour track suit with a four-inch dollar sign gold medallion. His leather Kangol hat is turned backwards, of course. The others all have bucket hats and Adidas non-velour track suits. His left hand has a dollar-sign ring spanning at least three of his fingers.

    Seriously, did Run DMC have a hand in producing this film?

    Velour-track-suit makes bets and shoots a twenty-footer for all the money. It took me five watchings, the final one slowed down to a crawl, to tell whether he made the shot or not. The rim doesn't have a new, so it's almost impossible to tell that he swished the shot. Sure, he acts like he made it and collects his winnings, but the actual shot might as well have been missed for the way it looks on screen.


    We spin right - again, camera tilted ten degrees - to see Wesley Snipes in a Jeep Wrangler, brick-sized cell phone to his ear, the business-man-dropping guy driving. Velour hops in the back, spanning at least fifty feet in the blink of an eye.


    Montage of the city storefronts...


    Wesley Snipes is different. His Kangol is turned sideways.

    Take that, convention.

    Take that, white man.

    Take that, Charlie Murphy.

    There's a new Darkness in town.


    And of course Flava Flav is in the movie with a giant clock necklace.

    How could he not be?


    And the rap he's doing samples heavily from the Inspector Gadget theme.

    Because it's the 90s.


    Wesley Snipes drinks Dom Perignon straight from the bottle...with a straw.

    Because it's the 90s.


    We're twelve minutes into the film.


    Ah, our first chance for a direct soliloquy.
    Snipes: Because you got to rob to get rich in the Reagen era.

    They running a strange program, y'all. I mean mo' po' and disenfranchised folks than this place has ever seen. And see they try to put this s--- off and act like it don't exist.
    Velour: Meanwhile, the rich get richer...

    Black businessman from earlier scene: ...and the poor don't get a f---ing thing.

    Snipes: Times like these, people want to get high...real high and real fast, and this is gonna do it.

    (focus in on vial of freebasing cocaine, crack)

    I think this movie was originally written as a television series proposal.

    After Snipes gives his preachings, he lays out the plan: take over The Carter (an apartment building) and turn it into a drug, making, distributing, using Mecca. This plotline eventually wraps up in about thirty or forty minutes, and the movie switches to a different storyline with the same characters, the kind of thing that would have happened with a one-hour, television drama.

    Sure the language would have to have been cleaned up drastically (NJC is all about the ). Maybe this plotline would actually have worked better as the first season story arc. In the movie the takeover of the Carter is about to take like five minutes via montage, but the consolidation of the Carter would be a number of episodes and have a lot more drama involved.


    Velour is now wearing a tailored suit and killing people in broad daylight on the sidewalk.


    We get our first visit from the wise old black man who appears at various times throughout the film to decry the actions of Wesley Snipes's Nino Brown character. Here he only looks on disapprovingly as Snipes holds a shotgun to the head of a naked man who is being divested of his control of the Carter's operations.


    Time for the 'consolidating power montage' with a capella, doo wop "For the Love of Money" being sung by a quintet of black kids on the street corner. The lyrics "don't let money change it" and "all mighty dollar" are emphasized this time.

    I'm thinking that "For the Love of Money" could have worked really well as a recurring leitmotif in the NJC television series, sort of the way "Way Down in the Hole" was for The Wire


    The gang - Snipes and Velour's gang - is now wearing custom-made clothes. They're sort of a letterman's jacket with leather sleeves and knit main in all black with red, glitter CMB on the back and on the front lapel.

    Nothing says 'serious movie' like henchmen dressed alike.


    Is Wesley Snipes really The Joker?


    Oh, and some of them have CMB shaved into their afros, too.

    Because it's the 90s.


    Snipes is now wearing a white suit with black t-shirt underneath.

    I'm thinking I couldn't pull that off without looking like a moronic Sonny Crockett.


    And it's winter by the time the montage ends, and there are only three singers in the group. Apparently it's the group Levert, which makes sense because I would have sworn it was one of the O'Jays standing around the burning trash can at the end of the montage. (According to this, one of the O'Jays was a father to two members of Levert.)


    It's 1989 now. I know because the screen said 1989 at the bottom. No reason for subtlety at this point.

    I think the movie said 1986 at the beginning.

    Ice T is leaning against a chain link fence outside a playground (probably not the same one as earlier, but maybe), and we zoom in to see a kid pick up a cheap soccer ball from a puddle. The puddle is filled with disposable vials, the same kind that we just saw the CMB (Cash Money Brotherhood) filling with crack in the Carter during the montage.

    Seriously, subtlety has no place in this movie.


    Wise black man is back, and we're on to season two of the series.

    He's yelling at a clearly out-of-touch policeman saying that "[He] wants to know how drug pushers could take over an entire apartment building right under your noses."

    Wise black man isn't really part of the story at this point. He's just window dressing so Mario Van Peebles (director and now actor, back since Sweet, Sweetback's Bada----- Song) can push past him as the harried police detective who 'gets it' and is willing to fight the drug pushers the right way, the only way they know how. Thankfully Detective Gets It has an Asian assistant detective who can help him out.

    Detective Gets It puts down photos of his two choices for officers who will work on his soon-to-be-successful task force: Ice T and Judd Nelson.

    Seriously...Judd Nelson.

    "These two are trouble," says the Police Commissioner. He might as well have yelled that they're both "loose cannons."


    Soliloquy #2
    Police Commissioner: You and I both know the system wasn't ready for this kind of epidemic. Crack came on the scene and spread like wildfire.
    But now I got the Mayor...and the governor on my back. I need some results...Fast!

    You get me Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes). Forget Paretti (Nelson) and Appleton (Ice T), the risk's too high.

    Van Peebles: With all due respect sir, I mean you still don't get it. You're talking about a war out there that we're losing, and you're not gonna give me what I need to win.

    Now I need some cops who know these streets.  I need some New Jack cops to take down a New Jack gangster.

    A motorcycle pulls up. The kickstand kicks down. The jeans are rolled up but not pegged. The hobnail boots are worn heavily at the toe. The laces aren't tied.

    Hell, it's John Frickin' Bender.

    I swear that Judd Nelson walked into this movie wearing the same boots that he last had on as John Bender in The Breakfast Club. Are we supposed to believe that Nick Paretti is some kind of grown-up John Bender?

    We'll see in our next installment of Pardon our ramblings: New Jack City...

    February 14, 2011

    Update; Spanglerific

    More Steve Spangler...the man is a hell of a pitchman, he really is...

    Check his new product -the Mentos Soda Geyser Car...

    Name the 80's references

    New movie - Take Me Home Tonight - has a decent bar-band-esque remake of "Don't You Want Me" and an accompanying video. In the vid the cast - Topher Grace et al - does quick reenactings of lots of 80's flicks & television shows.

    Can you name 'em all?

    Check after the jump to see my list...

    February 12, 2011

    The things with the links and the pain...

    Awesome Fish Attack ... Epic Heron Fail from Mark on Vimeo.


    February 11, 2011

    ChemGuy's CD

    Last week was The Girl's CD.  This week it's mine.  Enjoy the playlist.

    Just a warning that this week's playlist has a couple of songs that are admittedly .  Be careful with those couple of songs.

    Update: Update: The Terror of Tiny Town

    I'm thinking about changing the blog's title to In Deference to Midget Videos...

    February 9, 2011

    A Quick Primer

    This time, I'm talking primer like an introductory textbook, not Primer like the most awesome movie ever.

    This one's about a series of primers (pronounced pr-short i-mers) from the AV Club on a number of different topics.

    Want a beginner's guide to 80's sitcoms...Alan Moore...Canadian indie-rock...Neil Young...they've got 'em.

    In fact, they have thirty-one articles in their primer series.

    Go ahead, learn something.

    Quasi-update: Mighty Cool

    A while back I pointed out the line of Mighty Muggs and commented that I was really happy that they didn't offer a DC line because they're so frickin' cute that I might need to start collecting them if they did.

    This week, however, I noticed that it looked like the Mighty Muggs line had, indeed, been expanded to include DC heroes.

    Upon further inspection, however, I noticed that this is a slightly different line called Mez-Itz from Mezco, apparently a similar toy in a slightly smaller (2" high) scale and with a weirdly thin, freaky neck and an oddly shaped head. Where the Muggs were kind of cute, the Mez-Itz are just kinda freaky looking and hold no interest to me.

    Don't know exactly why those small changes make a big difference to me, but they do.

    February 8, 2011

    The Universally Stupid Record Database

    Welcome to the Universal Record Data Base, a web collection of foolish and inane records entirely self-attempted, self-verified, and self-important.

    Check out...
    There are, of course people who hold multiple such records. Those people seem kinda pathetic.

    And my question for you today...which record could you make up and hold?

    February 7, 2011

    Let's review some more comics

    I don't actually mean that you're reviewing the comics. That's my job.

    Your job is to relax and enjoy it...and maybe to go hunting down the best comics.

    X-ed Out by Charles Burns - Man, I don't get it.

    The reviews of X-ed Out mystify me as much as the book did. There's almost no clarity in the book - none at all. We get a main character, Doug, who recites beat poetry while wearing a TinTin mask, has a crush on an artist, and who has flashes of memory back to the time when his relationship with the crushed-upon artist was just beginning. We also get a dream world character who is a stylized combination of Doug and TinTin, wandering a mystery world that has connections to the past with the artist.

    I really have no idea what's going on in the story, and this is clearly (from the end panel's revelation that the TinTin/Doug character must visit The Hive to pursue the new queen of the dream world) the first chapter in a multi-volume story. All of the reviews talk about the story being mesmerizing, intriguing, multi-layered. That may be, but all I got from the story was that it was inscrutable and a lot more mystifying that mesmerizing.

    It's one thing when there's a mystery as long as some resolution to that mystery is promised and delivered. Here, in this first volume of the story, there is no resolution in the least, not even a suitable first chapter kind of resolution. Instead, all we get is the mystery, and that's not fulfilling to me at all.

    Oh, and apparently there's some kind of TinTin homage going on. I'm not familiar enough with TinTin to get more than that the dream world Doug looks like kind of like TinTin.

    X-Men: SWORD by Kieron Gillen & Steven Sanders - I've read the Joss Whedon run of Astonishing X-Men in which SWORD (Sentient World Observation and Response Department) was introduced into the Marvel universe as a kind of extra-terrestrial SHIELD, and I enjoyed the introduction of the SWORD leader, Abigail Brand. She comes off well as a female Nick Fury while still having her own identity (half-alien, girlfriend of Beast) and not being a simple Nick Fury knockoff.

    This volume collects the full five-issue run of the SWORD series with Beast and Brand as the main characters and are of a single story arc with Norman Osborne's lackey, Gyrich, being appointed as co-director of SWORD, distracting Brand, taking control of SWORD, and enacting his devious plan to rid Earth of every alien. The distraction takes place organically within the scope of the story, and the montage of alien arrests is well played here.

    But the real story comes when Beast and Brand break free from the now-hostile SWORD and have to return to SWORD headquarters to reclaim their positions of leadership. It's a pretty standard story trope (lose control, regain control), but here it's well played, bringing together the four seemingly disparate story arcs of the early issues.

    The real star here is the newly-minted Unit character, a long-term planner created by some distant alien race with the goal being to destroy all life in the universe. Unit is in SWORD's highest-danger prison cell but is used in an advisory capacity by all the characters here. His hugely long-term strategy paints him as a brilliant strategist who is able to solve most any problem that either side might have while still playing a long-term chess game (both literally and figuratively) in his goal of destroying all life. There's clearly an interesting story to be told with Unit, and it's sad that this series was cancelled before that story could be told.

    The other high-value content in this series is the interaction between Beast (who is drawn with an exaggeratedly long face that I didn't at all care for) and Brand. They come off as a very natural, witty, highly capable and intelligent couple that merits its inclusion as one of readers' favorite comic couples out there. The banter between the two is written as natural and casual, something that rarely comes off well in comic books.

    I'm a little sad that this series was canceled. The storylines weren't Earth-616-shattering by any means, but they were interesting enough and highly character-driven, making for a very engaging read.

    Give it a try and know that you can get the entire run pretty easily.

    Nightwing & Flamebird - As almost always seems to the be the case anymore (since I moved my trade paperback reading almost exclusively to the library resource), I grabbed a trade from a crossover event knowing that I probably wasn't going to get to read the entire crossover event.

    It's becoming more than a little frustrating. As part of the New Krypton storyline (not really a crossover but more of a significant event within the Superman titles as well as a few min-series), this volume makes for an interesting but terrifically unsatisfying read as the issues collected here (admittedly the first of two Nightwing & Flamebird trades) is terrifically incomplete.

    The premise is moderately interestign - seeing the suddenly grown-up Chris Kent (Clark & Lois's adoptive, Kryptonian son) and a New Kryptonian named Thara who have adopted the wildly over-used eponymous nicknames (complete with oddly Batman-esque chest logo) in a bid to help protect Earth from a conspiratorial New Kryptonian attack.

    The ties to ancient Kryptonian mythology (the two leads are somehow ancient spirit lovers reincarnated) is moderately interesting and is well presented in the final volume of the trade, but in total, this is a volume that I would say to skip unless you're willing to read the totality of the New Krypton event.

    Fables: Witches (vol 14) by Bill Willingham - It's tough for me to say if there's a better ongoing series than Willingham's Fables. DMZ might be, but I'm not willing to make that an absolute certainty.
    Fables is consistently excellent, maintaining a type of long-term storytelling that is rare among comics while also taking the chance to pause from time to time and tell brilliant, beautiful, self-contained shorter tales. In that way, Fables is very much like the epic Sandman, telling long-form tales but also letting the greater story be moved along with smaller tales that, at first read, have nothing to do with the greater story but that turn out to advance and enrich the main storyline.

    Here we get very beautifully-told an individual issue allowing the Dark Man to spin his background yarn, a few issues to relate the two main stories of Bufkin trapped within the business office and defending himself against a reborn Baba Yagga while Frau Totenkinder and the rest of the magical fables (now living entirely at the upstate farm) readying their defenses against the Dark Man, then two issues checking in with the kingdom of Haven where King Flycatcher has to mete out justice when a goblin kills one of the other Haven citizens.

    At this point in the Fables world (ninety-plus issues into the run), every character has such a rich background character (I can't imagine jumping on to the series at this point without going back through and reading every issue - other than the forgettable Great Fables Crossover which really should have stayed in the Jack of Fables series) that every action is enriches and explained more richly than can be believed.

    This isn't a climactic story arc. This isn't the equivalent of the Fables' invasion of the homeland. This is a 'readying for war' arc sprinkled with Frau Totenkinder's confident hold on her leadership of the Fables magical defense squad (while Ozma of Oz makes a clearly-to-be-regretted play for power of that organization). This is a chance to Bufkin (the winged monkey) to step up and defend the business office against Baba Yagga and a feisty djinn. This is a chance for Flycatcher to both wear the ever-heavier crown and to off-panel consummate his growing relationship with Red Riding Hood.

    This is a great arc. If you're not reading Fables, you're not reading the best that DC has to offer, and that's a shame.

    February 6, 2011

    Saturday links too crowded...

    Must spread out...

    Everything Is A Remix: KILL BILL from robgwilson.com on Vimeo.

      February 5, 2011

      What goes down stairs alone and in pairs...

      ...and makes a linkity sound?

      It's linky, it's linky, it's a wonderful way to spend a late bit of your morning or afternoon or just whenever you get around to looking through them donchaknow?

      February 4, 2011

      A CD for The Girl

      Back when we'd first gotten our second desktop computer (there have been four laptops since then - two for each of us), I burned a cd for each of us.  This is the one I made for The Girl.  I'll post the one for me next week.

      I do want to warn you that one of the songs is , but I'm hoping you folks can handle that.

      February 3, 2011

      Update: The Terror of Tiny Town

      Apparently I wasn't the only one with dwarves on the brain yesterday.

      Thank you, FilmDrunk.

      Mixing envy and revulsion today

      I've mentioned my few collections before, and they're about to look remarkably minuscule in comparison to these next folks.

      There's a weird mix of envy and revulsion that exists inside me when I look at the shelves in CBR's ongoing shelf porn series. The series is a simple and weekly one in which they give their readers a chance to show off their collections. The readers take photos of their collections and provide a little write-up. CBR just throws the photos up with a little introduction and leaves it to the rest of us to decide whether the shelves being features are cringe- or envy-worthy.

      For these shelves I'm going to choose envy-worthy, particularly because of the collection of Absolute DC editions (I just ordered Absolute Planetary Vol. 2, by the way)...

      ...the awesome organization of the shelves...

      ...and the great choice in original artwork that hangs on the walls...

      For these shelves, on the other hand, I'm going to go with cringe-worthy because they kinda freak my out with their single-mindedness.

      Back to envy-worthy because, even though collecting Superman is lame, collecting The Hulk, on the other hand, shows that you're a little off kilter, and I dig that about you - especially if you have a Hulk with a tiny Hulk necklace.

      Collecting Spider-Man: cringe-worthy.  I feel like a hipster saying that the other hipsters are too hipster for my hipsterness.

      Collecting Power Girl?  Kinda skeevy...

      For some reason, though, collecting Wonder Woman - envy.

      Collecting Captain Marvel & having your own spinning comic rackEnvy...

      Basically having a comic store in your basementEnvy

      Feel free to check out all the other shelf porn entries for yourself, especially the one about Neil Gaiman's shelves.

      Oh, and another thing, leaving your action figures in the package is totally cringe-worthy.  They're meant to be played with, folks.

      February 2, 2011

      The Terror of Tiny Town

      I've nothing witty to say today, so I present you with The Terror of Tiny Town, the only entirely midget cowboy movie ever made.

      My favorite part comes at about 9:00 in on this next one. The chef is a real joy.

      The only thing that could top cowboy midgets would be, of course, Nazi midgets, so I also offer you the climactic scene from Under the Rainbow...

      Hard to believe that you can't stream that one on the web...

      Also hard to believe that the director of that one turned around and directed Can't Buy Me Love, an all-time classic, next...

      February 1, 2011

      Wait, wait, wait...

      Big Lebowski 2?

      This is the first I've heard of this...(skip to 1:03 in)

      (from TheDailyWh.at)

      Apparently, though, it's been mentioned before and not panned out.

      Apparently it's just a rumor...sadly an unfounded one...

      Here's what I've got...

      Books and movies...it's almost like I'm trying to take these things in.

      Death at a Funeral - Everything is funnier with a midget.

      Admittedly, real life isn't funnier with a midget. Real life is far tougher for midgets, and I feel awkward around...um...little people because they're so darn funny in movies (evidence: tomorrow's post).

      But I digress...Death at a Funeral is absolutely hilarious, laugh-out-loud hilarious stuff. This isn't the American version that came out last year and was populated by Martin Lawerence, Danny Glover, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan. This is the original British version populated by white guys, British white guys.

      The set-up is pretty simple: dead guy, family getting together, accidental ingestion of hallucinogenics (repeatedly), unrequited love, revelations of gay midget extramarital affair, killing of midget, naked guy on roof, surprising opening of casket - from the inside, heartfelt resolutions. At least it plays like it's pretty simple. Honestly this is spectacular, typically British farce with a couple of American faces thrown in for seasoning.

      The Ghost Writer - Also leading to laugh out loud hilarity was The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski's latest directorial effort. Polanski had to direct the film in Germany even though it's set in Martha's Vineyard, MA because he is, of course, still deep in exile from America because of his long-standing statutory rape charges. This really has nothing to do with my review of the movie; I just feel like any time Roman Polanski's name is mentioned, it should be appended with "statutory rapist" so I'm doing what I can.

      To the movie then...

      This isn't a movie intended to result in belly laughs, but there were a few times throughout when I inappropriately let them out.

      Our unnamed but titular character signs on to ghostwrite the memoirs of a Tony-Blair-inspired British ex-Prime Minister who is now holed up in Martha's Vineyard. From the first moments of the movie, our ghost (as he notes himself to be) feels that he's in over his head and announces such to us.  He's mugged on his way home from the initial job interview. He sees a surprising news story that the ex-PM has just hit the news as having been outed as an authorizer of torture during his reign, and the story moves along quite quickly from there - far too quickly to be believed at times.

      In the movie's three or four days, the ex-PM goes from being mentioned in the news for authorizing torture to being investigated by the International Court to being charged to being unable to leave the US for fear of being arrested. I've watched some news involving the Hague in the past few years, and if ever there was a court that moved with glacial speed, they would be it. Three days from first mention of investigation to accusations to charges is ridiculously but it does, at least, push our main character directly into the plot more quickly.

      Once in the plot the ghost - who announces that he's not an investigative journalist - starts investigating that things that don't feel right about the situation. We know they don't feel right because he tells another character "things just don't feel right."  Seriously...

      At one point he heads down the beach to investigate the murder/suicide/accidental death of his predecessor and finds a gruff, old man who suggests he speak to Mrs. (something) who had told the police that she'd seen flashlights on the beach the night of the prior ghost's death.  Only he can't talk to her because just after she talked to the police, she fell down the stairs and has been in a coma EVER SINCE.

      I applaud Polanski for not bringing out all the Dun-Dun-Duns at every mention of something like this. The ghost shows up to the house of a man with some mysterious connection to the ex-PM (played with excellent low/high Scottish accent by Pierce Brosnan) and is greeted inside as we hear the wife on the phone saying "yes, he's here now" and then closing the doors.

      In one of the DVD special features, the screenwriter talks about his and Polanski's efforts to produce a modern-day Hitchcock thriller in which the main character is an everyman to whom a series of entirely plausible events happens as he gets swept up further and further into the fantastic circumstances, but this appears to be more the work of amateur Hitchcocks that pro's.

      When the aforementioned mysterious connection ushers the ghost out of his house, he reminds the ghost to turn right at the end of the driveway because if he turns left, he'll go deeper into the woods and may never be heard from again.

      I swear, that's almost the exact phrasing of the line. "If you turn left, you'll go deeper into the woods and may never be heard from again."

      As the film spent its first 80-90% leading us into the tightening web pointing directly at Pierce Brosnan's character, I kept hoping that there would be some twist, something to suggest that where we were being lead wasn't really the final destination. The only acceptable twist, however, was a classic and fairly transparent (spoiler) Lady MacBeth move which is right where the filmmakers took us.

      The film is poor, and the revelation at the very end of the film is too obvious to be shocking.

      I don't get why this one got positive reviews.

      Thor by J Michael Straczynski - Just finished up with the three-volume collection so JMS's run on Thor in which the Thunder God returns from the dead, recreates Asgard (in the center of the Oklahoma plains), brings back all of his Asgardian brethren, and gets immortally screwed over by his half brother, Loki.

      It's that immortal plot from Loki that really is the showpiece of JMS's story here. The recreation of Asgard in Oklahoma sets up a number of interesting plot threads that really aren't much dealt with here (they do get slightly wrapped up in the eventual Siege), but the rebirth of Loki (in female form for reasons that become apparent in the pace of the storyline) is the shining star here as he claims to have turned over a new leaf and continues to let loose truths that seem to cause more damage than could any lie that he has put forth in his time in Thor

      In the course of his scheming, Loki kills his father, births his younger self into the Asgardian royal family, and removes Thor from that self-same family. The plot reveals itself in such slow, trickling fashion that it's much too far along for any character to stop once we finally sense the scope and breadth of the treachery that is afoot in New Asgard.

      The rest of the storyline - Thor interacting with Donald Blake (which offers little in the way of introductions for those of us jumping on at this point in Thor's run), with the Oklahomans, with Sif - all seems far more secondary - and less interesting - than does Loki's plan. Yes, we get the Asgardians fleeing Oklahoma for Latvaria (speaking of dun-dun-duns) which is obviously a temporary destination, and we get the distraction of mortal-Asgardian love, but nothing seems permanent, engaging, interesting when compared to Loki's machinations.

      This three-volume run is worth reading.  Check out what Loki has done and be awed.

      The Night Bookmobile - This one's the week's weird offering.  It's the short, graphically-told tale of a woman who happens upon the titular bookmobile in the course of her wanderings around Chicago. She steps into the bookmobile only to find herself browsing shelf after shelf of books from her life, books the she's read that are occasionally complete only so far as she read within that particular book. In addition to the books are the pamphlets, manuals, even cereal boxes that she's read in the course of her life.

      Before she can understand any of what's happening, she is ushered out of the bookmobile as browsing hours are ending with the rise of the sun. The main character returns the next night only to find the bookmobile gone, and she spends years searching for the bookmobile only to find it three more times when and where she least expects it.

      This certainly isn't a graphic novel for the youngsters as the woman's obsession with the bookmobile wanders some fairly dark paths. It's also not a story that requires much time as it's a quick read with only three total characters, one of which who exists for one panel and in passing mentions along the rest of the book. This is a tale of obsession and the results thereof, but it's a tale that has been dwelling and haunting since I read it a week ago.

      I'm thinking it might be one for you as well. I don't know that it gets a strong recommendation but it certainly gets a recommendation for curiosity-sake if nothing else.