Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Monday, December 31, 2012

12 New Year's Resolutions

  1. Be happier - Perhaps this is an odd resolution, but it's one I think everyone should make.
  2. Buy an HD TV - I've got Blu-rays and a Blu-Ray player, but my TV is freakin' heavy clunker. Yeah, it's a got a decent screen, but I'm afraid my dresser is going to collapse under the weight before too long. This TV is a beast. I want to get one of those neat slim ones like my brother and my parents have.
  3. Buy a Kindle - I know this is weird as I am a devout paper guy, but I want a Kindle now.
  4. Get out more often - I make this every year and it seems I never quite succeed. I'm a bit of a hermit so my friends don't see me that much. Of course, I'm so insanely awesome that my friends wish to see me more often and I understand their sentiment and appreciate it. I am indeed awesome. 
  5. Read More - I didn't read dick last year. I might have read five books. I've got to read more. I know work jerks me around on my schedule and I always been a routine kind of guy, but I certainly hope I can get a bit more reading done this year. 
  6. Continue to support anime - Yeah, this is a given. I'm going to keep flying the flag. 
  7. Find a new job - Fast food is an apt name because it gets old fast. I've been at Sonic for eight months and I'm hoping I can find something better on the horizon.
  8. Buy a new guitar amplifier - I really need one because mine is about seven years old and has severe limitations. I'm surprised the thing still works.
  9. Buy a Fender Strat - I've got an old Squire (Fender off-brand that just happens to looks like a Fender Strat) that doesn't hardly work much. The toggle switch is screwed up and if it's not in exactly the right position then the sound shuts off completely. The whammy bar has also been broken off for about six years. Hey, it happened when I was a newbie. Shut up. I've decided that I want a real Fender Strat after digging up my Squire and playing it again. 
  10. See a concert - I've never been to a concert. Ever. I want to go to a concert one day.
  11. Go to the beach - I am insanely pale-skinned and rarely go out. I can't swim, either. At least I don't think I can. You see, that's how often I get to swim. The last time I tried to swim I almost drowned, but the time before that I did fine. I just don't swim that often so I don't know. But I haven't felt sand between my toes in forever. Not since before my voice changed, I don't think. Of course, I normally won't be caught dead without a pair of jeans and a shirt on so that'll certainly be interesting.  
  12. Chop off Tony Iommi's remaining fingers and surgically attach them to my hand so I can play guitar better.  Play my guitar better. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Goodbye 2012

As of this moment I am employed to Sonic and making a paltry sum of money. That is a big change from 2011. I have my own car which I bought for the sum of $500 from my grandmother. That is also a big change from 2011. I have 22 anime titles in my collection when I used to just have one. Another change from 2011.

My father almost died in 2012 from liver failure and then miraculously got better in spite of how the hospitals treated him. I actually had to call 911 when he collapsed from a doctor's visit and that is something I never want to do again as long as I live. My brother fell into a manhole cover in Memphis and broke his knee. After too much time away from work, my brother was unceremoniously fired and I (with my father ill and my mother considered to be "untouchable" by prospective employers because of her own health condition) was left as the only person in my family making money. And that is only a pitiful $7.25 an hour with barely 38 hours a week.

This period in time sucked major balls and there were quite a few occasions where I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. A few times I probably did and just didn't really notice. During this time I didn't miss a single day of work, either. I couldn't. While my father was potentially on what could have been his deathbed I was making the moolah. Yup, 2012 can rot in hell.

But things got better toward the end of the year and I'm hoping 2013 is a vast improvement. My brother has landed a job interview, I believe, so that is good. Maybe I can find new employment, too. And my father is as healthy as an ox. We had a very merry Christmas and our inner-materialists are greatly satisfied.

I got From Dusk Till Dawn, Young Frankenstein, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Men in Black 3, and Spaceballs on Blu-ray for Christmas. I also got five Brando movies (Julius Caesar, Mutiny on the Bounty, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Teahouse of August Moon, and The Formula) and three John Wayne movies (The High and the Mighty, McLintock!, and Island in the Sky) on DVD.

I also got an Eli Manning jersey, a Giants hat, and a shirt that looks similar to an Eli Manning jersey but the fabric is like a regular shirt. Whereas the jersey would be a special occasion thing to wear the shirt could be more of a daily basis type of thing. I got a Pantera "Fucking Hostile" shirt, a Metallica "Ride the Lightning" shirt, a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt, a Grateful Dead shirt, and two new pairs of pajamas. I also got cologne (something I've never used before) and a beard trimmer (something I've also never used before).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I love Christmas. I think holiday shopping is a lot like scavenger hunting and the goal is to find that one item that no one could even think of getting. And I admit, my inner ten year old comes out this time of year and I don't think I'll ever quite shake the anticipation of opening the gifts. But now I take as much joy in watching my mom, dad, or brother opening their swag as I do in opening mine.

Our tree is full this year. I've heard that the real reason for the season is not commercialism and I don't oppose that view, but it sucks ass having nothing under that tree. I've been there and got the t-shirt. There's no joy in that.

"Gee, what am I getting for Christmas?"

It's kind of like watching your team miss the playoffs or a bad case of the blue balls.

So allow me a chance to gloat and post a picture of all the shit under/around/near our tree:

Tomorrow morning it will all be demolished and we'll see what surprises lurk behind the wrapping.

Friday, December 21, 2012

AC/DC Goes Great With Trigun

Don't you just love a good music video? Trigun is one of my favorite TV shows. So I naturally wrote a story about it. You can read it here. The story continues on the TV show and includes a character featured prominently in this story.

Anyway, I love it when people take the time to combine music they love with shows they love. I know it's very time-consuming, but people still do it and I appreciate it. AC/DC goes great with Trigun.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Overlooked Albums Vol. 2

Pantera/ The Great Southern Trendkill (1996) - Cowboys from Hell, Vulgar Display of Power, and Far Beyond Driven are undoubtedly the heavies from the Pantera catalog. And Reinventing the Steel is pretty damn good, too. But The Great Southern Trendkill gets a little lost in the shuffle. The album features the most down-tuned guitars of any Pantera album, the fastest songs of any Pantera album, and Phil Anselmo's most brutal vocal performances. It's a bruising album and undoubtedly the least accessible of Pantera's albums in terms commercial appeal, but it is far from a bad album. Drag the Waters is the song that most people are probably familiar with because of its place on the official greatest hits release, but it's be criminal to overlook Floods or 10's. 10's is actually featured in the Funimation dub of the Dragonball Z: Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan movie and Floods contains what could very well be the finest guitar solo of Dimebag's career.

Now if you are familiar with Pantera then you probably know that this was their eighth album. If not, then now you do. Their first four albums are called Metal Magic, Projects in the Jungle, I Am the Night, and Power Metal. These albums could be called overlooked, but I don't particularly care for them. They make for a nice novelty listen every now and then just to hear what Pantera was like before they really became the Pantera we all know and love, but they are worthy of mentioning, I suppose. The first three albums feature a guy named Terry Glaze on vocals and not Phil Anselmo. Power Metal is the first album to feature Phil Anselmo, but he and the rest of the band are still hanging onto the glam thing. It's all pretty jarring if you only know songs like Mouth for War or Five Minutes Alone and Anselmo certainly hits more high notes than he did on Cowboy from Hell

Rebel Meets Rebel/ Rebel Meets Rebel  (2006) - Metallica and Lou Reed might not exactly have been a winning combination, but Pantera and David Allan Coe certainly was. Largely worked on from the late 90's to the demise of Pantera in 2003, Rebel Meets Rebel was ultimately released in 2006, two years after Dimebag Darrell's murder on December 8th. Exit Phil Anselmo and enter David Allan Coe as vocalist and you have this album. The songwriting still maintains the edge of Pantera, but it has a more "cowboy" feel which is more or less the whole point of this album. Hank Williams III sings guest vocals on Get Outta My Life, Dimebag (in a rare singing role) and David exchange lyrics in the title track (with fiddle-accompaniment), and the the cherry on top is the thrash-like opener Nothin' to Lose. This is country metal and I wouldn't mind a few more albums like this. Unfortunately, this was a one-time project and not many marquee metal musicians or country singers have the stones for a fusion of this type.

Mountain/ Nantucket Sleighride (1971) - In 1820, Owen Coffin was a seaman aboard a Nantucket whaleship when it was rammed and ultimately sunk by a sperm whale. After the wreck his shipmates shot and ate him. This is what the title song is named for. The title also refers to the ride that whale ships would take when being pulled through the water by a whale they had harpooned. Leslie West, the guitarist for this criminally overlooked band didn't even know what a "Nantucket Sleighride" was when bassist Felix Pappalardi brought the song in. The title song is complicated and has a very progressive feel to it. It's almost a shame that Mississippi Queen (from Climbing!) is the only song most people know from them. And it's probably worth mentioning that Pappalardi was the producer of Cream and Mountain certainly has a Cream quality to it. (Leslie West actually formed a band with Jack Bruce at one point, by the way. ) The majority of these songs are written by Pappalardi and his wife Gail Collins. It's kind of ironic that a song written by a guy who was shot and killed was also written by a guy who would also be shot and killed (albeit under different circumstances). Pappalardi was killed by his wife in Gail in 1983. His legacy is undoubtedly forever attached to Cream and Mississippi Queen, but this album should be mentioned, too. In fact, so should Climbing! Listen to them both. They are fantastic albums.

A version of Mountain still tours with Leslie West (who actually started Mountain out as a solo band) and they still rock, but there's something extra special about the four years that Pappalardi was in Mountain.

Leslie West recently released a solo album entitled Unusual Suspects and I highly recommend it.

P.S. - The band Leslie West formed with Jack Bruce was called West, Bruce, & Laing. They released two studio albums (Why Don'tcha and Whatever Turns You On) and one live album (Live 'n' Kickin'). You could do worse than to look them up.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The 2012 SEC Championship Game

It doesn't normally happen like this. In fact, it almost never does. The SEC is full of hard-hitting no-nonsense defenses that don't like it when teams get score-happy. The SEC was the first conference to introduce as championship game in 1992 and it has since had little to add in the way of excitement. Before today only four games had been decided by less than 10 points. Four. The games in 1992 (Alabama/Florida - 28/21), 1994 (Alabama/Florida - 23/24), 1997 (Tennessee/Auburn - 30/29), and 2007 (LSU/Tennessee - 21/14) were the only ones that could make this boast before today.

The previous four years have brought us such ass-whippings as LSU's throttling of Georgia 42-10 in 2011, Alabama losing to Teblow in 2008 to the tune of 31-20, and Alabama making ole Teblow cry the next year in a 32-13 beatdown. Let us not forget the 56-17 ass-whipping Auburn delivered to South Carolina, either.

If you are a fan of close football games and slug-fests then you could do better elsewhere. 

But every now and then we catch lightning in a bottle. 

I certainly knew the game would be close. Of course, Georgia got whipped by South Carolina during the regular season, but after watching Alabama struggle with LSU and Texas A&M earlier this season I was understandably nervous. Earlier in the year the talk was that Alabama could at least make a show against an NFL team, but cracks began showing and the Tide seemed to become a bit more disorganized. 

And we found ourselves on the outside looking in for the second year in a row. When Oregon and Kansas State fell, many of us knew that we were blessed again and it was time to kick ass again all the way to the National Championship game. 

Nothing Georgia had done during the year suggested that we'd get what we got. And while Alabama had already been in two tussles earlier in the season with LSU and A&M, there was nothing to suggest they'd have the same problem with Georgia. 

But Georgia showed up in a way they obviously didn't against South Carolina. This was one for the ages and I can practically hear all of the Georgia fans crying and the Notre Dame fans cursing their luck. 

We watched two teams give their best when it really counted. It wasn't perfect for either team, but each team had a shot and only five yards and five seconds proved to be the difference in the game. SEC fan or not, if you didn't appreciate this game then something is severely wrong with you. 

The first half was a typical defensive battle and the second half was a score-fest. 

This was everything a fan could hope for. Naturally, all of the Alabama fans wish that the game had been a beatdown, but we are all impressed by Georgia. They knew what was on the line and they played accordingly. Undoubtedly, they remembered being embarrassed last year by LSU and that added extra fire. 

No matter who won the SEC would win because it gets a representative in the SEC, but that winner turned out to be Bama and its their first conference title since the revenge against Teblow in 2009. They have a shot to make a dynasty and to keep the BCS National Championship in the state for the fourth straight year. 

It was a helluva game. 

Now there is one more to go and it is only fitting that the game would be against Notre Dame. This match-up might turn out to be a bit one-sided so appreciate the National "semi-final" you just witnessed. 

Roll Tide.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Are you shopping yet?

I think I'll have most of my shopping done by December 6th. I mentioned in a previous post that I bought my dad a Peyton Manning Broncos jersey, but I've just decided that tomorrow I'm going to go to the Bama Fever Tiger Pride store in the mall and see if I can get my brother an Alabama jersey. Now, I know what you're thinking... you're thinking the same thing I am... why the hell would Auburn and Alabama apparel be sold in the same store?

It's a very good question that begs an answer, but at least the store is segregated (as is only proper) into two separate parts. One side is Alabama and the other is Auburn.

But I still say it's poor building planning. If someone could build a wall between the two sides in that sumbitch then that would be just dandy. 

Essentially, I'll probably be paying three hundred bucks on two shirts. I'm hoping the Alabama jersey is under $100, though. But I figure it will be worth it because I've always defined Christmas as the time of year where you get shit for others you normally don't/won't/can't get. It's an outside the box type of thing for me. My brother has never asked for a jersey and neither has my dad. My dad didn't ask for the Colts jersey the first time around, but you would have thought that he'd been wanting one his entire life when he opened that box to see his favorite QB's jersey.

I bought my mom the first season of Big Bang Theory for Blu-Ray because she said that it's the funniest show she's seen since I Love Lucy. That's really saying something, too. She loves Lucy probably more than Ricky did. I also got her (my mom, not Lucy) the second season of Bewitched because she already has the first, third, and forth seasons. I'd buy her a jersey too (I'm sure they sell some for females), but she doesn't like football like we do. Instead she is listing stuff she actually needs like a washer, dryer, and all that good stuff. 

I keep saying that Christmas is a time for getting shit we want and that needs can wait until after Christmas when we're all done spending money on gifts. Yeah, it's backwards thinking, but the washing machine and dryer will be just fine for a while. An appliance is only a gift if you are a newly wed. And when you are expecting a washing machine... C'mon, it takes away all the fun of looking for shit. 

In the meantime I'll try and help complete her I Love Lucy collection, but my dad might have to foot that bill. She only needs seasons 3-5. 

My brother has expensive taste in clothing so outside of the Bama jersey, I'll leave the clothing to my mom and dad. They know what he likes more than I do, anyway. I've looked at a couple of Big Lebowski shirts online for my bro (he loves that movie to death), but I can't find one that really looks good. If I could find a John Goodman one that didn't look uglier than hell then I'd probably get that one. 

Of course, none of the stuff I've bought has arrived yet. Then the fun will start when I try to remember how the hell to wrap stuff. I've always sucked at it. Trust me, you don't even need to look at the name tag to know it's from me. 

I'm going to keep looking for a good gift for my mom. I got my brother and my dad "open last" type of gifts, you know? After my brother sees that Bama jersey there isn't anything else he could open that would even come close. Maybe I'll find something really killer. If not, I'm sure my dad will. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Good Morning, Black Friday

I purchased the first Christmas gift of the family this season late last night. I didn't go to a store or anything, either. I just clicked on Amazon and let the ole internet do the rest. I bought my dad a Peyton Manning Denver Broncos jersey (the orange one with blue stripes down the side) and it will go great with his Manning Colts jersey. I probably should get him a matching hat, too. I should also mention that the year we got him the Manning Colts jersey (and a matching Colts hat), Peyton won the Super Bowl. So let's hope this trend continues (if I don't get him the hat, things might turn out like '09 and wouldn't that just suck... must get a Broncos hat).

My own Christmas list is short one. I'm really not asking for stuff as much as I am just suggesting stuff. I've been through Christmases where me and my dad bought everything for everyone (including ourselves... and I admit it's easy to pick gifts for yourself when you know what you want) and a Christmas where we didn't even have gifts to open. But this'll be the first Christmas where I actually don't have to depend on my dad or brother for everything. So that's good. I can get them stuff without them having to pay for it. Always a plus.

I've already bought myself stuff over the course of the year that I've always wanted so I don't really have as much of a list as usual. I just sort of winged it this year.

Work today sucked big ones. I got three hours shaved off my shift because we were dead as hell and labor costs got way too high. So I went home at 4:30 with six hours on my time slip and absolute boredom in my brain. Three hours cut off my shift. Yay me.

No one bought anything. Surrounded on all sides by the mall, Best Buy, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, H.H. Gregg, Academy, and Marshall's and we didn't do a damn thing. We were less busy than usual. We sucked.

But I'm off tomorrow and I'll be watching the Iron Bowl and doing some Christmas stuff (decorating, purchasing stuff via Amazon) and I'll probably fit some anime in, too.

I hope you stayed safe today. Whatever shit you want to buy isn't worth your life. It can wait until tomorrow. Or better yet, buy online. I don't buy anything from an actual store unless it's groceries or something I just can't find anywhere else. Buying online takes less time, gas money, and there are no crowds. There's no traffic, either.

That's my advice for the day.

My Christmas list is a very short one (I said that earlier, didn't I?). As much as I love Dragonball Z, I've never had a shirt. I've had action figures (and still do somewhere, lol), posters, magazines, coloring books, VHS's, DVD's, and I've even got a Majin Buu keychain right now. But I've never had a shirt. So that's on my list. I also want something NY Giants related. A hat, shirt, something. I told my mom and dad that I'd prefer to not have something too blue because the Giants suck worse than a drunk Courtney Love when they wear blue. I also want John Carpenter's They Live on Blu-Ray. It's about time I get that one, right?

And I don't want an AC/DC shirt. I have five of those already while my only Black Sabbath shirt is a little too small. So if I get one more AC/DC shirt, I'll pull my hair out, lol.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Overlooked Albums Vol. 1 (Aerosmith Edition)

I'm always looking for albums that have been seemingly forgotten by the world at large. Some of them are recent and some of them are not so recent.

This volume kicks off with Aerosmith:

Aerosmith have released quite a few albums in their forty year history. Some of them are classics and some of them are not. The majority of albums which don't qualify as classics are basically all of their post-Pump albums. Their recent Music from Another Dimension and less than recent Just Push Play make one wonder if all those drugs did indeed fracture their brains. They keep channeling I Don't Want to Miss a Thing and Angel over and over again so much that it gets ridiculous.

But Aerosmith used to be good. In fact, they used to be badass. So here are a few of the diamonds in the rough by the former badasses from Boston:

Done With Mirrors (1985) - You could argue that this is the weakest album they've released, but only if you've been in a coma for the past twenty years. Containing the cover of Joe Perry's Let the Music Do the Talking and My Fist Your Face, this album actually does rock. It's far from great, but it's worth a listen or two every now and then.

Get Your Wings (1974) - We've all heard Same Old Song and Dance and Train Kept A-Rollin' but do you know the album they are from? Well, now you do.

Aerosmith (1973) - This is my third favorite album by Aerosmith next to Rocks and Toys in the Attic. Quickly name a song other than Dream On from this album. Did you guess Mama Kin? There are other songs on this album and they are all worth listening to. I could listen to Movin' Out all day.

Night in the Ruts (1979) - My dad still has this on vinyl. There are no breakout hits on this album. The closest might be Remember (Walking in the Sand), but calling that song a hit would be a bit of a stretch. It's just a good album. Of course, it's easy to see that they were on their last legs. They sound more weary than hungry. Joe Perry is only partially on the album.

Rock in a Hard Place (1982) - Continuing the trend of becoming a weary and strung out rock band, Aerosmith released their penultimate album before their '80's ballad band makeover. This album kind of reminds me of Never Say Die by Black Sabbath in that it is fairly bad, but bad Aerosmith (or Sabbath) isn't that bad compared to today's Aerosmith and it will grow on you. I should mention that this album doesn't feature Joe Perry at all.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Anime in Review

I haven't reviewed any anime in a long while but that doesn't mean I haven't watched any. Oh, I've watched quite a lot. When I'm not working, I'm watching anime or watching football. And sometimes I read and write and record stuff.

Currently, I'm watching season four of InuYasha because it's been a long time since I've watched the series and I'm certain I skipped over a few episodes here and there. The first part of InuYasha: Final Act is out and I'm certainly going to get that when I reach the end of season seven.

But this is a list of what I've watched since I last blogged about anime:

Light Yagami
DeathNote - A co-worker sort of referred this series to me. It's a very dark series and the main character is a boy named Light Yagami who discovers a strange book called a DeathNote. The DeathNote is a book that can kill people. All that you need to do is write down the person's name while you have their face firmly envisioned in your head and within forty seconds they will die. Light (after a very, very brief moral conflict of whether or not he should use this book) uses this to cleanse the world of crime and to essentially become god of the new world. Light is often befriended (more or less) by a shinigami (or: god of death) named Ryuk and it is to Ryuk the DeathNote actually belongs but once a human touches a DeathNote they essentially own the book until their death or until they give up possession of the book. Ryuk simply hangs around Light until he can get possession of the DeathNote back.

Along the way Light and Ryuk encounter a masterful sleuth called L and it is L who begins to suspect that these criminals who are dropping like flies are not just dying from natural causes: they are being murdered.

It is an intense game of cat-and-mouse between L and Light that drives this series and that is why the second half of the series sort of loses its luster. The new characters introduced at the end of the series don't quite have the same presence as L and that is possibly the fundamental flaw in the series.

Good overall... but it should have had more L.

Outlaw Star - It's a show in the vein of Cowboy Bebop but not quite as good. It shares a few of the same voice actors like Wendee Lee, though. I believe she even directed the series. The show follows around Gene Starwind and his young friend Jim Hawking sort of travel through space on the search for something called the Galactic Leyline. Along the way they meet a strange tiger-girl, a semi-cyborg girl, and a tough-as-nails samurai girl. There are a few filler episodes and that's kind of a disappointment because the series is only 26 episodes. But it is a very strong show anyway. Could have been stronger, though.

Casshern Sins - This show was featured on the Adult Swim revamped Toonami but I didn't watch it on there because I normally have to be at work early on Sundays and staying up late on Saturday nights is not ideal for me. I did not know this show was a reboot of an earlier show called Casshan. The show was also adapted into a four part OVA series called Robot Hunter Casshern in the early '90s. This show is a lot different from what I've read about those shows so it's tough to call it a decent adaptation because it is such a different version. But I really liked the show. It is a stark show and it may not be so original considering that it is a reboot. We've all certainly seen post-apocalyptic shows about plagues and robots.

But I really liked this show. It was tough to tell where it was going at times and there are characters that I wish that could have stuck around a bit more. The angel of ruin was certainly a hoot and I'm disappointed she only made it into one episode.

Claymore - Maybe not the most clear and precise review given here, but all I can say is that it is AWESOME!!! If you like monster shows then this is the show for you. The show follows around a half-human half-Yoma woman named Clare as she battles these creatures called Yoma and deals with being shunned normal humans. There are fight scenes galore, scenes with smoking hot women duking it out with monsters, and a great story line.  If not for the abrupt ending, this show would rank among my top three favorites. As it is, it's in my top seven. Definitely in the Blog House Catalog of Greatness.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In response to "The Loss"

Well, here I am. I haven't made any entries in a while and I would be remiss if I didn't try to post something. I really don't want to talk about football right now but there is this huge elephant standing in the room and it's not like it will go away any time soon.

Here's the type of Alabama fan I am: I don't want to watch knuckle-biting games or dramatic second half comebacks. I want to watch forty-point maulings. I want the teams that play Bama to feel like they've been ran over twenty times by a Mac truck and then buried in the Pet Sematary only to be ran over again after they've been zombified.

Of course, things don't always happen that way. The game against LSU is a good example.

But I would rather Bama have lost to those purple and yellow teletubbies than to A&M. My reasoning is a bit perverse, but a real simple one. The LSU Tigers have a history here in the SEC and a rivalry with Alabama that goes back a long time. LSU is an SEC team and one Bama knows inside and out no matter who is coaching or playing.

Texas A&M is not. Who the hell is Johnny Football? Who is their coach? Beats the hell outta me. They still have the stench of the Big 12 on them to me. I'm a spoiled brat and a sore loser, but they should be getting humbled in the very worst way in the West and not royally screwing the SEC out of a National Championship by knocking off the Number One team. I mean, like we all really want to watch Kansas State vs. Oregon or Kansas State vs. Notre Dame. If an SEC team isn't in it then why would I watch it? It'd be like watching a Redskins-Patriots Super Bowl. Might as well be watching a movie.

Of course, every team wants to win. And in a very perverse way the pride of the team is more important than the pride of the SEC. But every SEC fan with any sense will tell you they want an SEC team playing in the big game. So the entire thing is a bit of a contradiction because if your team is playing the number one and knocking them off means no National Championship for the SEC... why the hell would you want to knock them off?

But that's just how we roll and many other conferences probably feel the same.

Now, had LSU beaten Alabama last week than we'd likely have the same scenario, but I'd feel better about it because LSU is an SEC team and they were a higher ranked one than A&M at the time.

I don't know Texas A&M. I know even less about them than I know about Michigan or Notre Dame.

And they beat my team, goddamn it.

And the fuckers in charge of the SEC let them in.

In short: Stop this expansion bullshit.

Or, better yet, let's kick these new fuckers out and go back to the way it should be.

But all hope is not lost. If two of the top three teams lose a game then Bama is in. So I've just become the biggest Texas, USC, and Stanford fan you'll ever meet in your life. My hopes are in their hands. A lot less has to happen this year compared to last year. Last year Boise State, Stanford, and Oklahoma State all had to bite the big one for Bama to get a shot. Now we just need two to go down.

If Bama can win out and get lucky and those teams go down than all is forgiven.

But if not... this SEC expansion will be the biggest boneheaded move I've seen since the call at the end of the Seahawks-Packers game.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Trials and Tribulations of Cross-Country Recording

I got this neat recording software recently and I've been recording a couple of songs. It's tricky, though. I have to essentially record riffs and sequence them in a way that doesn't sound "choppy" and use a drum machine that can only do so much in order to record anything that could be considered a song. I can free record without limits, but that particular program requires me to create my own drum beats using the keyboard on the computer and that is ridiculously time consuming and difficult. So I use a program that uses pre-set drum tracks, but the drawback is I can only record a something for so many bars at a time. This also limits effects I can use because if an effect from one riff ends at a point where the next riff begins there is almost an audible click. So I've got to either use the same effect throughout the song or change the riff entirely to where the effect can fit. 

All of this requires some ingenuity and some self-sacrifice. I can't really record the songs (or the guitar parts for the songs... which is probably the more accurate way to put it) the way I feel they should be heard. 

But I am a step ahead of where I was before I'd gotten this software. 

I have this buddy who lives in California and he sends me tracks that I can record over. I have to use the same guitar settings he does or it'll sound like shit, but it's kind of cool to piece together a song from across the country like that. 

He's asked me if I am planning to go to California and actually play in his band that he's trying to form and this is something that is sort of difficult to answer and to contemplate. And certainly expensive for a minimum wage guy like me. 

It'd be something interesting, for sure. But... I'm not quite sure how viable this option is. I can think of nothing worse than moving to California while completely broke (I consider a thousand bucks almost completely broke in the grand scheme of things, don't you?), having this band idea not work out, and then being forced to work my way home. All the while being stuck in freakin' California, home of the Raiders, Chargers, and Niners. Also home to USC and a bunch of other crummy self-righteous college teams. As well as Korn and Limp Bizkit fans. 

I'd die. 

In the meantime, I'm recording stuff. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

10 Favorite Horror Actors

This is another horror list that is completely up to personal opinion. You have yours and I have mine. You can guess whose opinion I am posting, eh? Now the qualifications for each actor is a little difficult to describe. You see, some actors may only be in one horror movie in their entire career, but the movie is so great that it becomes a classic. Gregory Peck in The Omen is a good example. (Of course, us movie snobs could probably list Cape Fear and The Boys from Brazil as the next closest example of horror he was in, but those movies aren't true horror movies as we think of them now.) But one horror movie does not make a horror actor.

The debate begins with "have they been in a lot of horror movies?" vs. "are they known for their horror movies?" vs. "are they really good actors or just good horror actors?"

Well, I don't care how many mainstream flops anyone of these guys have had. I'm ranking them by their horror movie cred and by their ability to make bad movies that much more watchable. These guys may have been in other movies, but they are the ones I think of when I think of horror.

10. Basil Rathbone - Okay, it's pretty hard for many of us to not picture him as Sherlock Holmes. And for my money, he always will be Holmes or at least how I will always picture Holmes. But his contributions to movies like Son of Frankenstein, Tower of London, Tales of Terror, and The Black Cat warrant him a mention on this list. He's undoubtedly a fantastic actor and he's not a horror actor per se, but when he was in a horror movie he put forth a great performance. Few actors can pull off being multi-genre, but Rathbone did it in style. I would have liked to have seen him in more horror movies because it would undoubtedly have put him much higher on my list. Instead, he's tenth. 
09. Dwight Frye - Frye is peculiar in that he was only really ever a supporting actor, but he seems to be popular enough that even Alice Cooper named a song after him. Indeed, his roles are quite good and the great shame is that there isn't more of them. Unfortunately, he was typecast as being the supporting crazy lunatic in too many movies and grew frustrated with Hollywood. And his untimely death at the age of 44 in 1943 makes one think about what he could have done. 
08. Lon Chaney Jr. - He is the son of probably the greatest actor in silent cinema and the constant comparison to his father made him look like the lesser of the two during his time. Now most people probably couldn't tell you who his father was or who he was. Or maybe I'm just being a cynical prick. Lon Chaney Jr. played the Wolf Man/Lawrence Talbot a total of five times. He also played Frankenstein's monster once in The Ghost of Frankenstein, the mummy in three films, and even a vampire in The Son of Dracula.
07. Donald Pleasence - The Eagle Has LandedThe Great Escape, and You Only Live Twice... Those are some pretty good movies. But what do we think of when we think of Mr. Pleasence? Dr. Samuel Loomis, of course. Some of us even think of Prince of DarknessAlone in the Dark, and a version of Dracula that starred Frank Langella as the Count. But he is the face of Halloween next to Michael Myers (who is really the face of William Shatner... go figure).
06. Bela Lugosi - With his peculiar and often times distracting accent, Lugosi proved that it was possible to be a star. Yes, for a time he was ranked as one of the greats even though he's now fallen into obscurity with the exception of his one landmark film Dracula. Perhaps his relation with the likes of Ed Wood near the end of his career and his involvement in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (the second and final time Lugosi ever played the legendary Count) serve to reinforce the idea that Lugosi was just a one hit wonder. But that isn't quite correct. Sure, in the forties and fifties his good movies were few and far between. And the ones that were bad were really bad. But it's his tremendous role as Ygor in Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein and his roles in The Raven and Murders in the Rue Morgue that show you that the man was capable of more than just flapping a cape. But Lugosi is a peculiar actor when it comes to horror because people do think of him when it comes to horror, but they can't or don't necessarily think of his movies.
05. Peter Cushing - His two best known roles are as the mad scientist Baron Frankenstein and the eccentric Professor Van Helsing and that should be all I have to say.
04. Christopher Lee - He is probably the most well-known Count and the one who put on the cape the most. And he is also the only one on this list still alive as of this writing. But the strange thing is that he has sort of managed the best career of any actor that could associate themselves with the horror genre. Roles in the The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies as well as the love-it-or-hate-it Star Wars prequel films sort of have a way of making people forget that this guy used to be a Hammer horror icon. He was Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy as well as being the Count. But it was always a treat to watch Cushing and Lee duel each other on screen. I wish they could have been in Star Wars together (in the same movie, wouldn't that have been something?) and done a few more Sherlock Holmes films... but I suppose we can only treasure the films there are and thank Hammer for them.
03. Boris Karloff - Whether he was starring alongside Bela Lugosi or asking for his creator to make him a bride, Karloff was always a treat to watch. His best movies were made in the 30's, but gems like The Body Snatcher and House of Frankenstein could be found later in his career. Of course, he's undoubtedly best known for his first two outings as Frankenstein's monster.
02. Lon Chaney - Silence has to be the hardest way to convey horror. In this age of uber-gore and grotesquely uncomfortable scenes... it seems truly impossible to imagine what it would be like to make a silent horror movie. But Lon Chaney did it all the time and he did it extremely well. The ever classic The Phantom of the Opera was released only six years before Universal's Dracula, but the former is completely silent while the latter is of course not. I often wonder what The Hunchback of Notre Dame or The Unknown would be like if they had sound. Undoubtedly, they would find a much bigger audience today, but then that would take away some of the mystique or Lon Chaney. The man only made one talkie in his life and that was the final film he ever made. It's interesting to hear him talk, but it's even more interesting to see him perform.
01. Vincent Price - You saw this coming, yes? No one made bad films watchable quite like Price and he managed to become an icon without ever being the Wolf Man or Frankenstein's monster. He was only the Invisible Man once in The Invisible Man Returns (unless you count his "cameo" in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), but all the same Vincent Price has become a household name. It's pretty amazing, really. Can you imagine Price playing opposite Lon Chaney Jr. in a Wolf Man sequel? That would have been interesting. But Price didn't need to stand by anybody or under anybody's shadow. His frequent Edgar Allan Poe semi-adaptations and his always classy portrayals of mad men have given him a bit of cinema immortality. But what really sets him apart from the rest of the pack is his voice. He's just got the voice of horror. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

I like movies that have an visceral edge and an in-your-face quality that most Hollywood films either steer clear of or pour it on in such a brainless fashion that it becomes a parody. But when Hollywood doesn't fuck things up and a director with an intense vision manages to capture it perfectly... that's what wins me over.

Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant is far from being subtle film. It is very much a gritty and grotesque work. As uncomfortable a movie as I have seen in quite a while (perhaps rivaled by The Passion of the Christ or The Girl Next Door), this movie is essentially what embodies my rather peculiar taste. 

Harvey Keitel gives what is probably his best performance as a drug-addled and perverted cop who stumbles upon a case that has him questioning his lifestyle. Or at the very least realizing his lifestyle is wrong. But what will he do about it?

This movie is not really a cop drama or a drug movie (though there are enough drugs in the movie to rival Oliver Stone's Scarface in terms of usage), but more of a human tragedy and a spiritual drama.

Don't get me wrong, though. There are disturbing scenes abound in this movie. Keitel's character eyes the boobs of dead corpses, masterbates on the car of two scared young women he's pulled over, and then does a shitload of drugs and treats his family like shit. Perhaps the most disturbing scene next to the semi-subtle masterbation scene is the not-so-subtle full-frontal scene Keitel treats us to only about ten minutes into the film. 

Did I also mention that a nun gets brutally raped in this movie and a church gets desecrated in the process? 

And it is that crime that eats away at Keitel's character. 

There isn't much action in this movie. It is mostly all situational and emotional drama. And a whole bunch of sick shit thrown in. 

This movie might not be your cup of tea. It probably isn't. 

But I believe that the movie is perfect for me. If not for the nudity, the drugs, the rape, the masterbation, and the frequent gambling... this movie would look great sandwiched in between Ben Hur and A Christmas Carol

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10 (11?) Favorite Horror Performances

Okay, this is a list of performances and not necessarily movies.

10. Sid Haig in The Devil's Rejects - Okay, this is probably a bit of a stretch to say it is one of the best horror performances ever. But it's one of my favorites. Hence the title of this blog. I just think that Haig makes a great homicidal clown. This movie is ridiculously suspenseful and grotesque and remains Zombie's and Haig's best effort to date. And yes, I'll go ahead and plug Zombie's latest film The Lords of Salem. I believe Sid Haig makes a cameo. I can't wait to see it.
09. Max Von Sydow in The Exorcist - For the longest time I thought that Sydow had really been as old as he was portrayed in this movie and I racked my brain trying to wonder just how old the guy was. Make-up did wonders, but his performance sealed the deal for me.
08.  Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II - Comedy/horror is probably the toughest genre to pull off, but Campbell seems to be able to do it in his sleep. The first movie was more straight-up horror and the third movie was goofy comedy, but this one contains the perfect mixture and Campbell shines.
07. Donald Pleasance in Halloween - It's a legendary role and Pleasance's performance always sends chills up my spine even though the movie as a whole doesn't quite do it for me as time goes on. He even makes the sequels worth watching at least once. Despite the terrible performances around him, Pleasance brings his A-game. Of course, the first movie is where it all started so this is the one that gets the nod.
06. Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist - Seems like every King novel features a crazy religious/political zealot, right? Not all of them have made it to film, but I'm sure they will eventually. Some folks might choose Piper Laurie for her portrayal of Carrie's mom, but I honestly hated Harden's character even more than I hated the written version from The Mist or Carrie's mom. And if I can hate a character that much then you know that someone did her job right.
05. Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs - You'll have a tough time trying to convince me that this is a horror movie, but there is no doubt that Hannibal Lecter is a horror villain. Hopkins did more in 16 minutes than most actors do in a lifetime.
04. Boris Karloff in Frankenstein - Okay, I want you to go through hours of make-up and grunt and groan for an hour. Scary, right? Well, maybe not. It only works if you are Boris Karloff, I guess. Karloff played the legendary creature three times (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Son of Frankenstein) and each time the role varied slightly. You could argue which movie or performance was better, but there's no denying that when people think of Frankenstein... they think of Karloff. They don't remember Colin Clive who actually played Henry Frankenstein in the first two films or the author of the book Mary Shelley. It's all Karloff.
03. Anthony Perkins in Psycho - Subtlety is the key. Think about it. Even though you know how the movie ends and you know that Norman Bates is really his mom... it never really enters your mind that the guy you are watching perform so brilliantly probably had to take a dump between takes, does it? The sequels aren't that great and remake is by far worse, but everyone remembers this movie even if they have never seen it. And everybody remembers poor Norman and his mother. That last scene at the end of the movie where Norman *ahem* Perkins is staring right at us through the screen... Classic.
02. Kathy Bates in Misery - It's not number one? Really? Yep. Kathy Bates gives an amazing performance as the insane Anne Wilkes, but I'm not making her number one. I'm not trying to earn her as a "number one" fan and for damn good reason.
01. Jack Nicholson in The Shining - Here's Johnny! I could watch Nicholson in just about anything with the exception of maybe gay fetish porn, but Nicholson playing an SK-inspired character? Man, I love this movie and his performance especially. If you like the mini-series version more Kubrick's than good for you. Personally, I think Mick Garris is about as entertaining as watching paint dry and for the life of me I can't tell you who played Torrance in that mini-series. But everyone knows Nicholson's Torrance and his incredible descent into insanity.

Oh, shit. There's no Vincent Price on this list. Okay, well, just this once I'll add a number...

00. Vincent Price in The Masque of Red Death - It's the first one to pop into my head, but Price in anything is pretty darn good. He makes bad movies watchable.

Damn it. There's no Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing on this list. No Lon Chaney Jr. or Sr. There's no Robert Englund. No Linda Blair. No Al Pacino (remember that he played Satan in Devil's Advocate) and you know what a huge fan of Pacino's I am. Hell, I watched Gigli because he had a cameo. No Sissy Spacek or Jamie Lee Curtis. No Piper Laurie (well, I more or less stated my reasoning why above, but still...).

Well, I'll just deal with it and so will you. The list is final.

As of now...

Just wait a few minutes...

Okay, it's definitely final.

Monday, October 1, 2012

10 Favorite Horror Movies That Begin With "The"

Is it really October already? Well, shoot. I guess it's time for some horror movie talk. So how about an absurd movie list? 

The following are my favorite horror movies that begin with "The." So there are a lot of classics that won't make the cut because they don't begin with "The." So you won't see Evil Dead II even though I really love it (probably more than the original) because it doesn't have "The" at the beginning.

You also won't see The Bride of Frankenstein because it was originally titled just plain Bride of Frankenstein

10. The Birds (1963) - I love this movie, but it is not my favorite Hitchcock movie. But try thinking of how many Hitchcock horror movies begin with "The." It's a pretty short list. 
09. The Evil Dead (1981) - The only movie that features a scene where a woman gets raped by a tree. 
08. The Mummy (1932, 1959) - Okay, this is cheating. The original is superior, but the Hammer remake featuring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee is great, too. 
07. The Mist (2007) - A modern classic. And yes, the ending is beyond freaking awesome. 
06. The Wolf Man (1941) - Claude Rains, Lon Chaney Jr., and Bela Legosi all in one movie. How could I possibly leave this movie off my list? Plus, I dare you to name a werewolf movie that came out before this one. Aren't too many, huh? 
05. The Omen (1976) - A horror movie with Gregory Peck? Hell yes! 
04. The Masque of Red Death (1964) - I've said it before but any horror list not including Vincent Price is not one worth making. 
03. The Exorcist (1973) - Yeah, it's an obvious choice, but you are probably surprised this is not No. 1, right? 
02. The Thing (1982) - John Carpenter remakes a classic and makes an even better classic. 
01. The Shining (1980) - Kubrick was a genius and he certainly flexed his muscles with this movie. Jack Nicholson stole the show with his classic performance and even Shelley Duvall's atrocious miscasting becomes gets buoyed by the ridiculous talent around her. 

Okay, I missed quite a few. The Phantom of the Opera, The Invisible Man, The Girl Next Door, The Fly (the remake that I really do love), and (perhaps most egregiously omitted) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all missed the mark. That's not on purpose, I swear. But what movie would I cut? Yeah, I could extend this list to fit fifteen, but then where would I put The Amityville Horror? See, it never ends. I'll end up just adding movies one after the other. 

So this is my list and it is final. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

More Football in Our Football

My work is seriously preventing me from watching many games, but I was off Saturday to watch Alabama absolutely dismantle Arkansas. I also watched (half-assed, I admit) Stanford ruin USC's undeserved high-ranking.

So what will that leave us with? Well, we've got Alabama and LSU in the the top two spots again. Barring any plane crashes... we are looking at the Number 1 and Number 2 teams facing off again in November.

There's this guy at work who is a Chicago Bears fan and he thinks I shouldn't jump to such conclusions. He sort of looked at me funny when I told him Bama could probably play the Bears and at least make it competitive for three quarters.

There's also this guy at work who thinks South Carolina is going to win it all. I wish I had such bliss.

At any rate, Oregon and Florida State seem to be sitting in the catbird seat now that USC fell.

Of course, USC could still come back. But it would require a miracle. And yes, Bama getting to the championship game last year was a miracle, but they lost to a team in the top two and not a team ranked twenty-something.

Now let's go the pros...

I'm almost not a Colts fan. Don't get me wrong. They are still my team, but as long as Manning is playing then my loyalties are seriously divided. I think Luck is good and I'm glad he won today, but I grew up with Peyton Manning playing. I remember the playoff losses to the Pats and the redemption in the '06 playoffs. I remember the brutal Super Bowl loss...

The Colts are my team, but any Colt will tell you that Manning built the Colts. And even though I wanted the Colts to draft Luck (or RGIII), I didn't want Manning to get cut. I knew he would get cut and I probably would have done the same if the decision had been mine...

But it was when Irsay so blatantly bullshitted us about whether or not he was ditching Manning that I said, "Fuck this guy" and started sticking needles in my Jim Irsay voodoo dolls.

So, yeah, I guess I'll have to buy my dad a Manning Broncos jersey now to go with his Manning Colts jersey. I hope Manning plays long enough to beat the shit out of the Colts. No offense to Andrew Luck. I do like him and I think he'll go far, but I sort understand how '9er fans felt when Montana went to the Chiefs now.

As for who I think will go to the Super Bowl...

The 49ers are going to be tough to beat. The Ravens, Steelers, and Pats are iffy. The Broncos are a serious contender, but they have a very tough schedule and Manning will have to once again prove he can carry the load. The Giants are... well, your guess is as good as mine.

So... who is going to the big game? You know where my loyalties are on this matter and Manning Bowl would be great, but I see the 49ers and the Texans as a very serious probability. Now the Broncos and the Packers are my dark horses.

Of course, I could be way off the mark. Honestly, it's tough to imagine someone beating '9ers in the NFC and I don't think lightning is going to strike twice and cause the '9ers to fall short of the Super Bowl again.

The AFC is more or less open to anyone who doesn't completely suck. But I say that Manning beating his old division rival the Texans in the AFC Championship would be pretty darn cool.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Genital Grinder by Ryan Harding

Okay, first off lemme get a few things out of the way: A) Yes, I realize the title of the story is gross and the cover art is also gross, B) I've never heard of the author before a week ago, and C) Why yes, this is an extreme horror novel. Wonder what could give that away?

Chances are that if you don't normally read stuff like this then you won't read stuff like this after you see the cover. 

But I'll be the first to admit that shock titles do intrigue me. Most 'em aren't that great unless it's your bag and you naturally just like these books. One can't simply convert normal folks to read books entitled Super Fetus or Cannibals of Candyland. Surprised, right? 

But there were three things that sort of convinced to buy this book and read it. The first was that I don't mind reading extremely wet horror every now and then and it had been a long while since I've read anything *ahem* without much class. The second was that I saw that Bryan Smith was reading it and asked him if it was any good. He said it was alright and I said okey dokey and bought the thing. 

But the final thing that made me read this book from cover to cover was that the stories were actually good and that Mr. Harding has some talent. This book and its seven stories actually made me laugh my butt off at times in ways that made me feel like I haven't laughed in forever. Which is sort of the truth. 

Okay, well, not all of the stories are funny. In fact, even the ones that generated laughs from me were seriously gross and violent (again, what gave that away?). If I never read about someone getting their dick sliced with a cheese grater or about a man loading up a fetid corpse with his "ball sauce" ever again then I think I'll be just fine. 

But... I knew what I was getting into and I brought my iron stomach and I feel I was rewarded for all of my near-retches. 

The stories are:

Damaged Goods
Sharing Needles
Genital Grinder: A Snuff Act in Five Acts
Genital Grinder II: Dis-Membered
First Indications (although it also says the title "Final Indications" so I have no idea which one it really is)

Three of these stories feature characters by the name of Von and Greg and they just happen to be two moronic psychopaths, sadists, and all manner of screwed up human beings. But, strangely enough, I found them to be kind of endearing by the time I made it to their third outing in this book. 

I think that stories like "First Indications" and "Sharing Needles" are pretty decent efforts at what is the closest to restrained horror in this book. They really stood out to me because they were that different. I suppose the same could be said of "Emissary" as well. 

"Development" is sort of One Hour Photo-ish with a sort of reverse role-playing. What if you discovered some bad things while you were developing a man's film and decided to blackmail him into letting you play in his basement funland?

"Damaged Goods" and the two title stories are by far the most depraved of this collection, but the second title story is the one I found the funniest. In "Dis-Membered," Von and Greg decide to steal a rich man's penis and ransom it back to his wife for three million dollars, but the mission goes haywire when they discover they've stolen the wrong man's penis and that the newly penis-less man is very pissed off and coming after them. 

Fun for the whole family, really. 

You should buy this collection. 

P.S. - The title of this collection comes from the name of a song by Carcass, but it certainly fits this collection.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy (2008)

This album's history is a very long and tedious one. With the aid of my September 2006 and February 2009 issues of Guitar World by my side and sometimes dependable Wikipedia by my side I can go into a brief history of this album. We all know that Izzy Stradlin left the band in '91 and Gilby Clarke (who played on the cover album The Spaghetti Incident) took his place until '94 when Clarke himself was replaced by Paul Huge [aka Paul Tobias] (who played on the cover of Sympathy for the Devil). Slash himself left the band in '96 and was initially replaced by Robin Finck. Matt Sorum left the band in '97 along with Duff McKagan and they were replaced in early '98 by Josh Freese and Tommy Stinson, respectively.

At this point the only original member of the band is Axl Rose and the second-longest tenured member is keyboardist Dizzy Reed who had been with the band since 1990.

Now we begin with the first song of the "Chinese Democracy" line-up that is ironically not even on the album.  The song is called Oh My God and it is from the End of Days movie soundtrack. This song was recorded with Axl Rose, Paul Tobias, Robin Finck, Tommy Stinson, Josh Freese, Dizzy Reed and an additional keyboardist named Chris Pitman. Dave Navarro from Jane's Addiction guested.

The song itself is a bit of a sign of things to come even though it precedes the album's release by 10 years. It is very industrial sounding, but it is pretty decent. Not as good as anything on the album, but not bad.

This initial group probably started writing and recording the album. The album credits are very detailed as to who wrote and played on what, but it doesn't necessarily provide an accurate picture of when.

But when in doubt go back to Oh My God.

When Josh Freese and Robin Finck left in '99, renowned guitar virtuoso Buckethead [aka Brian Carroll] entered. In 2000 Robin Finck came back (Buckethead did not leave) and Bryan "Brain" Mantia took the drummer position. We know that Finck, Buckethead, Chris Pitman, and Bryan Mantia played on the album. As did Tommy Stinson. Josh Freese is credited with songwriting and "drum arrangement" but not an actual studio performance as far as I can tell. I could be wrong, but I don't don't think anything he did made it on to a final recording.

Guitarist Richard Fortus entered the band in 2002 and Buckethead left in 2004. Buckethead's contributions were clearly kept in some shape or form but how much he initially did is tough to tell because in 2006 Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal came in and he is credited with solos and guitar parts as well. In 2006 Frank Ferrer comes in on drums and Bryan Mantia leaves.

Robin Finck leaves in early '08 and after the album is finally released in November of 2008, DJ Asha joins the band in 2009 as a lead guitarist and still remains there.

Now there are a few things I overlooked and I'll get to them now. In '99 a leaked version of Catcher in the Rye featured Brian May of Queen. The album version is slightly different and doesn't feature May. There are also leaked versions of Street of Dreams (originally titled The Blues), IRS, and Chinese Democracy that sort of help pinpoint who recorded what and when and what was added between then and the final album, but it is still tedious detective work because there's at least a ten year gap between the leaked versions and the final versions. Only the musicians really know. But looking up the demos on YouTube doesn't hurt because they are quite good and you'll realize that the lyrics are actually the same or very close to it.

Now let's get to the actual album.

Comprised of 14 songs that span about an hour and eleven minutes in total, Chinese Democracy is what we would expect from Axl. It's very good. And it sort of is a natural descendant from the epic songs Estranged, Coma, and November Rain. Added in is the element of semi-industrial sound that we first glimpsed in Oh My God. That is the album in a nutshell and it probably isn't for everybody. If you swear by the classic line-up of Guns than this probably isn't your bag.

But I honestly don't see how anyone could possibly listen to this album and be shocked that it sounds so different. This album was 13 million dollars and at least 12 years in the making and Axl Rose was at the helm the entire time. Don't feign being surprised because there isn't a big enough rock you can live under to not know this.

I knew what I was expecting when I first heard this album. And by that token, I really did and do enjoy it.

My favorite songs are the title track, Better, There was a Time, Sorry, Street of Dreams and IRS. In fact, I knew from the moment that I heard the title track back in '06 that I would enjoy the album. The other songs I  just mentioned really proved my claim. Especially Sorry. Sure it's covered in that Axl-attitude (as are many of the other songs on here), but it is so very heavy. Part ballad, part slow doomy riffs. I really like that.

I think my least favorite tracks are If the World and Madagascar. If the World's very bass-driven and it is probably unique in that aspect, but overall it just doesn't stand out to me. Madagascar's middle section of movie quotes (a trick that is clearly a descendant of Civil War from Use Your Illusion II) goes on for a bit too long.

The other songs on here are very good, too.

But on the whole this album is an absolute failure even though I really like it. To quote the old Guns, "It's been fourteen years of silence, it's been fourteen years of pain, it's been fourteen years that have gone forever, that I'll never have again."

Considering how long it took to make this album, this fucker should have been damn near perfection personified.

It's not even close. It's just a pretty good album made by an asshole.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

It's been forever since I've been in a mood to read a book or even finish one. Most of this is attributed to work and the stress from family matters. However, once I saw my dad's eyes were actually white for the first time a long time and I discovered that he did not have cancer of the liver, I think my brain started to turn on again. Or at the very least I need a distraction to help me recover from my frustrations.  

It occurred to me that I have not reviewed a book in a long time, too. Well, here we go. I started this book a long time ago so a lot of the detail are kind of fuzzy, but the overall story is not forgotten. Basically, you need to read Game of Thrones before you read this book. This ain't one of those series you can read out of order. 

We follow Maester Cressen (for one time during the prologue), Bran, Catelyn, Tyrion, Daenerys, Jon, Sansa, Arya, Theon, and a man named Davos as they come to terms with a land that is essentially torn apart and at war and learn of the parts they must take in the struggle. Robb Stark is King in the North, Joffrey is King on the Iron Throne, Stannis is King in the Narrow Sea, and Renly is King of Highgarden. Let's not forget Daenerys because she is the Queen Across the Water. This book is just one giant can of whoop-ass and you have no idea who is going to bite the dust at any moment. 

As in the previous book, there are a lot of names and places and the description can get very tedious after a while. I guess it kind of balances out the action pretty well, though. We actually sort of feel like we are there and playing a role because everything from the food to the dresses of the characters are described in such detail. The characters are so fleshed out that the ones we are supposed to hate (Joffrey, Cersei, Tywin, Theon, etc.) we really do hate and the characters we are supposed to love (Jon, Arya, Bran, etc.) we really do love. A few characters could keep folks on the fence as well. I'm not sure if Tyrion or Daenerys are good guys in this story or not, but I do like them. Tyrion is such a hoot, but he is a Lannister and those Lannisters just can't trusted!

If politics and descriptiveness isn't your bag then you might not like this series. It's basically like Lord of the Rings meets The Godfather (in terms of the familial drama and intricate relationships and it seems like everyone is being betrayed or getting offed every ten seconds). Tywin Lannister is kind of like the prick Barzini while Eddard Stark is kind of like Vito Corleone who dies way too freaking early (hell, Eddard is only seen in visions and flashbacks in this book so I guess you can tell that he didn't survive the first book... but then I'm hoping you already knew that). 

Well, there you have it. Next I'll review Storm of Swords by Mr. Martin and then I'll probably review Genital Grinder by Ryan Harding, a book that was sort of inadvertently recommended to me by author Bryan Smith. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Big O (The Biggu Ō)

Comprised of two seasons and 26 episodes, The Big O is a show that wears its influences on its very large sleeve. It is Batman with giant robots and a film noir style of storytelling. The first thirteen episodes are very episodic in nature with only a few ties to each following and previous episode. The final thirteen episodes have a more over-arching story that tries to answer all the questions from season one while posing a few more that might or might not be answered in the final episode.

I really love this show, but it is not for everyone. There is a lot of talking in this show and it is the talking that drives the story. Sure, there is action, but it's the narration and characterization that really make the show worth watching.

Now let me get to the actual story (such as I understand it)...

40 years ago an event took place that caused people in Paradigm City to lose their memories. Since that fateful day people do what they can to get by with technology they don't fully understand or they choose to shun the technology and live off the land (since the land is largely shit they basically live in poverty). At the center of the story is Roger Smith, a negotiator who provides services for people in need when he can. Roger is our Bruce Wayne character, but his alter ego is not a bat suit but a large robot (called "megadeus") named "The Big O." Roger doesn't understand how or why he can pilot The Big O so well, but there is some sort of strange connection between the two that kind of gets explored.

Later on in the series Roger Smith suffers from strange recurring visions that might or might not be memories. Since memories are something that no one seems to have, it is difficult to say what memories actually are in Paradigm City. But Roger sees an apocalypse happening, fire everywhere, and megadeuses destroying everything or possibly fighting to keep everything from being destroyed...

But what does this have to do with Roger? Why does he see this?

All the while a corrupt politician named Alex Rosewater is planning on becoming Paradigm City's new God and he plans on re-creating the event from 40 years ago.

Honestly, there are not many answers by the end of the series. What exactly happened 40 years ago is never totally explained and what happens at the absolute end of the series sort of takes The Truman Show, The Matrix, and a big ole bag of "what the fuck just happened?" and places it all into a blender and serves it to us. I've seen the show multiple times and I can sort of figure it out, but there is no definite "this is what it all means" moment.

A third season really might have helped, but the second season didn't get good enough ratings to warrant one, I guess. Hell, I'd settle for an OVA (original video animation aka an anime feature) to at least tie some of the unresolved issues together.

Final Note: Steve Blum is one of my favorite voice actors and he is perfect for Roger Smith; I could listen to that guy read the dictionary and be reasonably entertained by it. And hearing his Cowboy Bebop co-star Wendee Lee as the strange woman named Angel is a real treat, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Catching Up On Anime - Reviews Galore

Okay, I don't have time to go into in depth reviews of each shows I have viewed (or re-viewed) so I'm sort of crunching them up into one brief entry.

Neon Genesis Evangelion - This series is fantastic. With weird-looking monsters, pseudo-religious tones and images, giant robots that live on blood, and a very controversial ending this show has just about something for everyone. This show is stark and at times very depressing. There is very little fan service in terms of cleavage, but there fight scenes between the robots and the "angels" are normally very good. You can tell that the budget was being cut in the end because scenes got a bit too long and the last two episodes were probably made on a shoe-string budget. I believe the final episodes work, but it won't leave you feeling like you got the ending you wanted. In fact, the creators of the show thought the same and created The End of Evangelion just to soothe their fans and themselves. But the final two episodes aren't really bad; they are just very different.

Blue Gender - This sci-fi/horror show is comprised of 26 episodes like many other anime shows. The English voice talents include many folks from Dragonball Z, but this show is quite a bit more graphic and it's a bit of an adjustment to hear voices from my childhood in a more adult show. There are sex scenes and nudity and plenty of gore. Some say the final third of the show is when it falls apart, but I beg to differ. This show stays solid throughout and the ending is really good, if not slightly head-scratching. The series also comes with the movie, but the movie is essentially an inferior re-telling of the series.

Samurai Champloo - Cowboy Bebop took the space western and film noir genres and combined 'em with a jazz soundtrack with amazing results. Samurai Champloo combines hip hop with samurai action and pseudo-historical references. You can tell the same guy is the mastermind of both shows, but they are vastly different. Steve Blum voices the main character in both English versions of the shows and that can be a bit jarring because there's just no way you cannot think about Cowboy Bebop as you watch this show, but this show really does stand-up. Personally, I can't stand the opening song because I am not a fan of hip-hop, but the show itself is quite good.

School Days - This show is only twelve episodes long and you will hate every single character. Yup, every single one. This show begins as a light romantic comedy, but gradually turns into something much more disturbing. By the end you will wonder just what you fucking watched. This show will make Fatal Attraction look like The Wizard of Oz. This show is only available in Japanese as far as I know, but I'd be willing to watch an English dub. 

Just a word of warning... the last episode is violent. So violent that when a young girl in Japan killed her own father with a machete the last episode's showing date was pushed back. Again, things don't stay light and fluffy for long on this show.

Higurashi- When They Cry - This show is fucked up. There's just no other way to put it. You ever see The Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network? Well, imagine a Powerpuff Girl carrying a bloody machete and swinging it at you. Yeah, the characters may look cute and some parts of this show are downright funny, but other parts are downright depressing and fucking disturbing. This show is 26 episodes and it is sort of like Groundhog Day in that the events play over and over again but with very different results depending on what choices are made and by what characters. I think there are a total of six or seven segments and each one tells you just a bit more even though events are different. By the end you'll know why everything is happening , but not just how or when. It is head-scratching and the violence is extreme, but it is a good time to be had if you have the stomach for it. There are sequel seasons to this show, but none of them are in English. The collection I ordered was from the UK because the US version on Amazon is fucking expensive. I'd love for the sequels to this series to become more readily available in the US because I want to figure out all the unanswered questions.

And... F.Y.I. - This show actually gave me nightmares. 

**Consider Samurai Champloo and Neon Genesis Evangelion in the Blog House Catalog of Greatness.