Monthly Archives: April 2012

Just One Drink

Just one drink at the bar is never just one drink. One drink turns into two drinks, which turns into four drinks, and before you know it, you are shitfaced and the bar is closing. The problem is approaching the bar with that “I’m only going to have a drink” mentality. It’s like approaching a grocery store, you have to know which particular thing you want, or you end up filling your cart. If you only want a beer or a gin & tonic, that’s ok. That is something specific that you came into the bar for. If you just want a drink, no matter what you get you are still unsatisfied, you are still thirsty. After whatever the first round is, you feel the need to switch it up and get something harder. If you started with beer, now it’s time for a jack and coke. If you started with a jack and coke, now it’s time for a shot. If you started with a shot, it’s time to double fist and take a random pill.

Most of the time when I get just one drink, it’s to kill time after work. I’ll go to the local dive bar and grab a drink and bitch about customers. And then someone will call or text and say that they are on their way. So I have to have just one more drink with them. It’s only polite, right?

Critically Rated at 9/17

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For Love of the Game

Kevin Costner did a lot of baseball movies. Over fifty-seven by some estimates. In this one he plays an aging pitcher throwing the last game of his career. Sam Rami directs it, and it is really down to earth, especially considering some of the crazy stuff he’s done in the past. The film flashes back and forth between fictional Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel facing the New York Yankees and key moments in Chapel’s relationship with his on again/off again girlfriend, Jane.

John C. Reilly plays Gus, Billy’s reliable catcher and friend. J.K. Simmons plays the Tigers manager. Brian Cox plays the owner. Jena Malone plays Heather, Jane’s daughter. And the always sexy Kelly Preston plays Jane Aubrey, the sexy love interest.

The baseball playing is really just a trick to lure guys into watching this film. It’s really a chick flick. It’s bearable because of the baseball to an extent, but this is a love story. There is way more about love and relationships than there is cool stuff about baseball. And there’s no nude scenes, so the love story part isn’t that cool.

Vin Scully plays himself. For some reason he is announcing a game between the Yankees and the Tigers. It doesn’t matter that he’s the announcer for the LA Dodgers. Whatever. It’s dumb to get permission to use real teams from the MLB and then have the wrong announcer from the wrong side of the country calling a game for the wrong league.

I’ve seen a lot of Kevin Costner baseball movies. This one probably isn’t even in his top twenty. If you see it while channel surfing, it’s ok to watch it. Just don’t go out of your way to see this movie. You aren’t missing much.

There are worse chick flicks than this. But just remember that it is a chick flick pretending to be a baseball movie. That’s manipulative Hollywood marketing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oh by the way, he pitches a perfect game and gets the girl. Life is great sometimes.

Critically Rated at 11/17

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Snapple Fruit Punch

Snapple is made from the best stuff on earth. Lies. It’s not terrible, but eating grass isn’t terrible either. That’s not fair, Snapple is a little bit better than eating grass. Snapple is known for its tea. Fruit punch is not tea. Why they would try and tread on Kool-Aid’s territory is a mystery to me. If you make tea, you shouldn’t make fruit punch. It’s not even a real flavor. It doesn’t even have caffeine. There is no reason to drink this. I would rather hold Skittles in my mouth, build up my saliva, wait a few minutes and swallow that liquid travesty than pay money for a mediocre fruit punch beverage.

Critically Rated at 4/17

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Blue Moon

Blue Moon Belgian White is a nice Belgian-style wheat ale, brewed by Blue Moon Brewing, Co. in Denver, Colorado. It’s unfiltered and refreshing. There’s a hint of a sweet orange finish. Lots of people garnish it with an orange slice. If you like hefeweizen, you would probably like Blue Moon. It has a decent 5.4% alcohol content, pretty standard for an American brew. Blue Moon sometimes comes in multipacks with a few other flavors, always a good choice when you can’t decide which beer to get.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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420

April 20 or 4/20 is Stoner Christmas. It’s a day to celebrate marijuana. The best way to celebrate marijuana is to smoke vast amounts of it. It’s a day to be social and vocal and share your shit with anyone who wants a hit. If you’ve ever wanted to try it, this is the day to do it. I’m not advocating doing drugs, I’m simply saying that smoking weed will make you more popular.

There are a few different reasons why 420 is stonerly significant. The most commonly accepted origin story hails back to a magical time known as the ‘70s, when a group of high school kids from San Rafael, California would meet at 4:20 by a statue of Louis Pasteur and would search the area for a fabled marijuana garden. After a while, they would just start blazing at 4:20.

A lot of people are under the impression that 4/20 happens once a year. The fact is that 4:20 happens twice a day. A lot of former stoners come out of retirement once a year to celebrate 420. I celebrate 420 by smoking everyday all year.

4/20 is a day when marijuana is mainstream. Well, more mainstream than it usually is. Comedy Central and other cable stations will inevitably show a marathon of marijuana movies. CNN and other news networks will have a bunch of stories about weed. High school kids all over the world will be more red-eyed than usual. 7-Eleven will have a surge in Slurpee and munchies sales.

I was high when I wrote this. I hope you’re high as you read this. Happy 4/20.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book 1

Len Wein created swamp Thing, but it took Alan Moore to make Swamp Thing an interesting character. The original Swamp Thing was the story of a scientist named Alec Holland who gets transformed into a plant and becomes the Swamp Thing. Moore revamps his origin and turns the Swamp Thing into a plant that thinks its Alec Holland. Now the Swamp Thing never was human, it just absorbed Holland’s memories and turned itself into a humanoid. He must deal with the fact that his identity is an illusion, that he’s not supposed to be self-aware.

Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 1 is composed of issues #21-27 of the comic. His take on Swamp Thing begins with the total deconstruction of the character. An evil businessman has the Swamp Thing’s body, and he hires Dr. Woodrue (the Floronic Man) to figure out how Alec Holland became the Swamp Thing. Woodrue isn’t entirely human; he is a little bit of a plant too, making him the ideal one to research the Swamp Thing.  Woodrue discovers that Planarian worms are responsible for transferring his consciousness into the swamp, and the plants tried to mimic his human form, turning themselves into the Swamp Thing.

The Swamp Thing escapes from being experimented on, and Woodrue goes psycho and becomes a threat. He starts attacking small towns and waging war on humans, using his control of plants as a weapon. He’s the opposite of the Swamp Thing, a parody of what he stands for.

After the Woodrue arc is done, Jason Blood/the Demon shows up. The second part of the story makes it apparent that the Swamp Thing is a horror comic. He deals with demons and black magic. It’s a lot different than what you would expect from a comic with a title like this.

Moore’s story is complex. He goes into the minds of characters and you see what they see. You see Woodrue’s descent into madness. You see the Swamp Thing’s fear as he discovers that he can’t regain his humanity, because he was never human to begin with. The Swamp Thing takes place in the DC universe. Superman and some other members of the Justice League make cameos, but the story is not about them. It’s about the Swamp Thing. It’s about monsters and things that go bump in the night. It‘s about what it means to be human.

The Swamp Thing is kind of an obscure comic character. People know about him, but they don’t know what he’s about. Read Alan Moore’s stories about him, andyou will see that he deserves to be as iconic as Superman or Spider-Man. If you like monsters, demons, and Monkey Kings scaring the shit out of little kids, you will like this comic.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Honking in Tunnels

Americans like cars. Americans like driving cars. And when Americans drive cars through tunnels, they like to honk. They like to honk repeatedly. Maybe they like the sound as it echoes. Maybe they only honk cause their daddy used to honk and they have daddy issues. Maybe they honk because they are celebrating to acknowledge human engineering achievements. Maybe they honk because they are assholes. But there is no doubt that Americans like to honk in tunnels. It’s a national pastime, like taking steroids and playing baseball.

Critically Rated at 10/17

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Tupac at Coachella 2012

So in case you’ve been living under a rock, Tupac performed on stage at Coachella. Ok, it’s not really 2Pac; it’s just a state of the art hologram of him. It gave me chills when he mentioned Coachella by name… the festival started 3 years after his death. It was a dynamic performance too. He actually has stage presence, he dances and struts around, and he lets the crowd shout out the lyrics at times. His chain swings around and his clothes move naturally.

Snoop comes out, and you see the two of them onstage again, interacting and doing their thing. It must have been weird as hell for Snoop to perform with him again. It seems like they are actually playing off each other. At the end of the set, Tupac stands in triumph and then disappears in a flash of light, and his glowing remains fade away.

Tupac is a legend, larger than life. A bunch of people already thought that he faked his death and is just hiding out somewhere. This defiantly won’t clear up any confusion. There is a whole generation of 2Pac fans that never got to experience one of his shows. This new technology is as close as you can get to seeing him live. It’s eerie, it’s haunting, it’s mesmerizing.

The implications of this new technology are amazing. Whole virtual concerts with ghosts rocking out with living legends. Imagine see Paul and Ringo jamming with John and George again. It could happen, it should happen. You can create the ultimate super group with all the members of the 27 Club: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. You can even reanimate the Rolling Stones.

You can use the hologram technology for things other than music too. You could record a Broadway show and replay it like it’s a film. Imagine museums where they have dinosaurs roaming around and over-scaled insects flying around. Imagine Skype acquiring hologram technology and how much more awesome video chats would be. You could also make your own R2-D2 unit complete with hologram Princess Leia.

For now, we must be content with Virtual Tupac. And that’s pretty amazing. The future is now. Check out the video. Even if you aren’t a Tupac fan, it will still give you goosebumps.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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Kingdom Come (comic)

Comics should have a good story and good art. Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come has a great story and even greater art. The world is in trouble. Superman has retired, and a bunch of new but dangerous vigilantes rise up to fill the void, so Superman has to get back in the game. He starts recruiting heroes to try to restore balance between metahumans and regular people. Batman thinks Superman’s ideals are outdated, so he creates his own team of heroes, mostly ones without powers. Lex Luthor leads a gang of villains called the Mankind Liberation Front, because you need a league of villains to fight.

Kingdom Come has a lot of similarities to Watchmen. Rorschach even makes a cameo. The glory days for heroes has passed. A lot of heroes have retired, only a few are still active. A growing threat emerges, and heroes are forced to confront it. The heroes have to pick a side, and they don’t always see eye to eye. Right and wrong isn’t always black and white.

The story deals with regular people being threatened by metahumans. The metahumans fight with each other, recklessly destroying things and endangering innocent bystanders. Superman comes out of retirement to remind them that with great power comes great responsibility. I might be paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.

Alex Ross’s drawings are practically photorealistic, making the superheroes look even more super. The artwork is amazing. The DC Universe seems to come to life. Alex Ross is a great artist. The panels looks like photographs, sometimes you think you’re reading a scrapbook with captions and not a comic book. The battle scenes are intense and chaotic. He crams a lot of background details into each panel, look carefully and you can find lots of Easter eggs, like characters from other comics or real people.

There are a bunch of DC characters running around the story. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern… most of the big boys make appearances. Captain Marvel plays a significant role; he is probably the most important character. Captain Marvel a.k.a. Billy Batson is the only one who is both a regular mortal person and a metahuman. He is initially being brainwashed and used by Lex, because he is the only one capable of stopping Superman. He eventually regains control of his mind and saves the world. Sorry, that was kind of a spoiler.

This book is worth buying. Not only does it have a good, satisfying story, but the art takes it to a whole new level. You can read it multiple times, and you should read it multiple times. In fact, you should have already read it. So go do that if you haven’t yet.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Group Texting

There is a right way and a wrong way to send a group text. The right way to text multiple people is to write a statement: “The party is at 8 tonight at my house”. The wrong way to text multiple people is to ask a question: “Should we have the party at 8 or 10 tonight? And where should we go?”. My phone will start to blow up from all the people responding to your stupid text. You might have saved a minute by mass texting, but for the next half hour I have to deal with forty people texting me their two cents about why the party should be at the zoo at 8, or why 10 o’clock at the bar is more convenient.

Sometimes when I respond to a group text, someone else thinks that I’m texting them. They will ask what I’m talking about. Or they will ask who I am because they don’t have my number. And that’s even more stupid shit that I don’t want to deal with.

Critically Rated at 3/17

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Full Metal Jacket

Stanley Kubrick is responsible for some other cinema’s greatest films. Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange… and Full Metal Jacket. Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, and R. Lee Ermey turn in amazing performances, but the Vietnam War is the main character.

There are a few films about the Vietnam War that are required viewing to call yourself a film buff. Oliver Stone’s Platoon is one. Francis Ford Coppala’s Apocalypse Now is another. But Full Metal Jacket is the best of the bunch.

The film starts with a new group of Marines arriving for basic training. The two main recruits are Joker (Matthew Modine) and the bumbling Gomer Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio). Pyle isn’t cut out for the Marines; he is fat, slow, and lazy. To make matters worse, their Drill Instructor, Sargent Hartman, has it out for Pyle. He targets him, humiliates him, punishes him, and tries to break him. Nothing works, so he makes Joker responsible for training him, and for a while things get better.

Pyle keeps fucking up, and eventually Hartman decides to punish the other Marines instead of Pyle. This causes the other Marines to start hating Pyle, and they let him know that he sucks. Pyle eventually becomes a model Marine, but suffers a nervous breakdown. In a disturbing scene, he shoots and kills Hartman and then turns the gun on himself. And just like that, two of the main characters are gone.

Joker ends up reporting for Stars and Stripes, and goes to Vietnam in time to experience the Tet Offensive. Joker meets and interviews a bunch of Marines and they all have different views on war and combat and life in general. During a patrol a single sniper begins picking off the Marines. They track down the sniper and discover it is a teenage girl. Talk about a mind fuck. Joker kills her out of mercy, and he gains the thousand-yard stare of a man who has seen war.

Full Metal Jacket shows what war does to a man. It can make him, or it can break him. Joker made it, he became a good Marine, he saw war, and he survived. Pyle didn’t make it. He wasn’t ever cut out for the Marines, and lost track of who he was. He went crazy, and his descent into madness is one of the most memorable moments of this movie.

Props go out to R. Lee Ermey. He isn’t even acting; he is a real life drill instructor that they hired as a technical advisor. You can’t contain him. He spews out poetic insults like Shakespeare pops out beautiful sonnets. Half the stuff he says is improvised, and Kubrick was a control freak, so you can’t deny his talent.

This movie doesn’t have a strong plot. It kind of meanders around loosely, but that adds to the theme of the movie: that war is pointless. Pyle and Hartman die halfway through the film. But the movie doesn’t end, just like the war doesn’t end just because someone died.

Full Metal Jacket is a classic. You owe it to yourself to experience this film at least once. Kubrick is a great director, and this might not be his best flick, but it is definitely his best Vietnam War movie.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Tangled Headphones

I like music. I really like listening to it. With the beats, and the notes, and the occasional lyrics… music is awesome. I like to listen to music when I’m in public or on the bus, but I don’t like disturbing people. In these situations I uses headphones, so I can privately listen to my music without bothering anyone around me. I am respectful like that.

But my headphones always get tangled. I have those shitty white Apple buds that hurt your ears if you leave them in too long. It doesn’t matter if I wrap the cord around my iPod, or if I coil it up like a rope. They become tangled as soon as I put them in my pocket. Sometimes they even get knotted and tied up. I just want to throw on my tunes and relax. It’s kind of hard to do that when your headphones are constantly conspiring against you. Fuck you tangled headphones. You ruined Christmas.

Critically Rated at 2/17

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Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice is the best Tim Burton movie that doesn’t star Johnny Depp. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play the Maitlands, and they are living in wedded bliss, but then they die, and things aren’t so great anymore. They are stuck in purgatory for 125 years and must get used to being ghosts. A New Yorker family moves into their house and they must rely on a bio-exorcist named Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetlejuice) to get rid of the Deetzes.

Beetlejuice is a classic film. Everyone has seen it at least once, and if they haven’t than they suck. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play an overly happy, extremely lovey-dovey couple. All they have are each other and a handcrafted scale model of their hometown. The first few scenes of the movie showcase their nearly perfect life. About eight minutes into the movie, they crash into a bridge and careen into the water. Not to ruin anything, but they die.

The movie explores the afterlife, but Death is portrayed as a bureaucracy, something you have to deal with, like going to the DMV.  The Maitlands receive a guidebook called the Handbook for the Recently Deceased. There is an afterlife waiting room with a receptionist and numerous dead employees. The afterlife reception waiting room is this movie’s Cantina scene. The Maitlands are assigned a caseworker, who offers them advice on dealing with the Deetzes, but her most important advice is to avoid soliciting help from Betelgeuse.

The Maitlands don’t like the Deetzes initially, but they gradually form a friendship with their daughter Lydia, played by Winona Ryder. She is a Goth chick and can see ghosts, because everyone knows that Goths see ghosts.

Michael Keaton plays Beetlejuice. He only has about seventeen minutes of screen time. He is not the main character; he is just the title character. There is a difference. Keaton is like Alan Rickman in this movie, he just does so much with so little. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis do a great job, but Keaton steals the movie. It wouldn’t have been as good with any other actor.

Tim Burton movies are very distinctive. CG advancements have cheapened his vision though. Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are his two best movies, and they were made without much computer magic. Second-rate effects don’t cheapen a movie if it is made with heart. This movie proves that.

Death is scary. This movie makes it funny. If the afterlife is half as cool as it’s depicted in this movie, I can’t wait to bite the dust. I hope death is lip-syncing Harry Belafonte songs and fighting sand worms. I’m pretty good at both already.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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That One Extra Key

Most people have keys. Most people keep those keys on a key ring. There’s a house key, a gate key, a car key, maybe an office key or a bike key…. And there’s always one extra key. It might be from an old apartment, or it might belong to a lock that you lost a long time ago. It might be a key to your ex’s place that you just keep for sentimental reasons. But there’s always one extra key on each key ring. It is a fundamental law of the universe. There’s only so many things you can do with an extra key: you can open use it for self defense as you make your way through a darkened parking lot, you can open a UPS package, or you can pick dirt from your fingernails. But you can’t get rid of it. You’ve had it for so long that your key ring will look weird without it.

Critically Rated at 9/17

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II

Alan Moore is the shit. The League or Extraordinary Gentlemen proves that. This is the second installment, and solidifies Alan Moore as a Comic Badass. The first issue in this series brings together a bunch of Victorian Literature characters together, and this second volume reunites them. We already know the characters so we can have fun with them. That’s that Moore does. He jumps right into the story, and it’s a better story than the first one.

The first issue of this series is important, because it introduces the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Now that we know each character and what the represent, the new conflict will either make or break the ensemble, and there is more drama and tension if it does so. There is much more at stake than in the previous story. The plot recreates the War of The Worlds, and so not only must man deal with foes from beyond, but they must deal with themselves internally.

Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man go at it. Much of what occurs between the two is implied, but it is horrific. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there is man rape in this story. Savage, dirty man rape. And it is justified. Literature doesn’t have to spare feelings; it just needs to reflect the real world. And man rape is a part of the real world.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen celebrates literature. The second volume rejoices in it. You have cameos from John Carpenter and creatures from The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Wind in the Willows. The character are much more active and independent from their creative author, Alan Moore gives them much more room to explore their boundaries.

Alan Moore has fun unifying classic literary characters. He pays homage to their origins, but also makes them his own. Mr. Hyde is the best example of this. Everyone who pretends to be cultured knows about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Moore makes Hyde more of a villain and more of a hero than Robert Louis Stevenson ever could have fathomed. He redeemed Mina Murray in a savage and brutal, yet honest way, the only way that he could have.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is a great comic. There are more than two volumes, but they are all the evidence you need to prove their longevity. They are essential. They are necessary. They  are worth reading, so get on it.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Goldfish Saltine

The classic fish-shaped snack has another flavor in it’s arsenal; saltine. Yup, now you can have a bland, tasteless cracker in a fun fish shape. If you like plain rice cakes or a mouthful of chalk, you might enjoy Goldfish Saltines. They look like fish, and some of them have happy faces. What more do you need? Flavor and taste are overrated. Bland is the new black.

Critically Rated at 7/17

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