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.

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.