Thursday, August 05, 2010

New digs

Things have been growing a bit stale 'round here. I've decided to make the move to Tumblr.

You can find me at Alt + Left Arrow. There's not much there yet, but I am very fond of how Tumblr works so there will be stuff.

If you can't stand the heat...

Don't move to Memphis.

I have been to some awfully hot places on this planet and this summer in Memphis is ranked right up with the hottest. Our heat index hit 130 the other day. That kind of heat is just hard to fathom. How do you even contemplate doing anything outside in that kind of heat? I remember training for football season this time of year when I was in junior high - I would call child protective services on someone who wanted to make kids train outside in this weather. We got ourselves a miserable heat wave and who knows when it's going to end?

However, about this time last year (middle of July, actually), our AC broke. And it was down for several days. We had to replace the entire unit, inside and out. It took time to get everthing installed and there were complications after that. Although them temps were 20 degrees cooler last summer, those few days made things plenty miserable.

So, even though my AC struggles to keep my house in the low 80s during the peak heat of the day, it's a blessing to have it. But my next house will have two units :)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The drive-time beat-down

I used to be able to drive forever. Between J-Mom and me, we could have driven New York to LA in one continuous burst of tandem driving. But times have changed.

This past weekend we drove from Memphis to my parents’ home in north-central Louisiana then to Dallas and then back home to Memphis. It’s been a while since I’ve done that kind of driving and it was tough. Tougher than I thought it would be.

Daughter Number 1 and The Boy had been staying with my parents for the past couple of weeks. They had a great time, but were very ready to come home. After picking up the kids, we jutted out a bit further west to Dallas to visit some friends who moved from Memphis a little while ago.

Our visit there was nice. It had been a very long time since I’d last been in Dallas – though technically we were in a suburb – I was pretty impressed at their traffic management. Sure, there’s still gridlock, but for a city its size, Dallas does pretty well. DN1 said that the area we were driving into reminder her of Phoenix, but with trees. I think it was a pretty apt description.

We debated a bit over what to do with our time Sunday. There was some discussion about going to Six Flags, but rational thought won out. It was too hot, it would have been too crowded and a couple of the crew were not feeling 100 percent well. Instead we went here. Fantastic way to spend some time on a hot day.

Otherwise, a lot of time was spent watching shark-related programming and resting. J-Mom and her gal-pal got to spend a lot of time catching up and that made the trip all the more worthwhile.

Up to this point, we all doing pretty well (other than a few sniffles and a couple of oncoming colds), but the drive home was brutal. Next time, and there will be a next time, we’ll have to have some time between driving in and driving out.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Smile

I saw this at Linkiest:

Can you spot the fake smiles?

My Results
You got 14 out of 20 correct

It's not as easy as it sounds.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Someone’s gotta do it

Sorry for the break in service, but I just haven’t had much to talk about. Everything’s either been kind of the same old-same old or just too depressing.

On the same old front, things have been quiet around here. My parents took Daughter Number 1 and the boy with them back to Louisiana for a couple of weeks. We go to pick them up this coming weekend. It’s amazing how quiet the house gets when you only have one of three roaming around.

This Saturday I volunteered at a certified barbecue judging class. I’ve been judging for the Kansas City Barbeque Society since earlier this year and it’s a lot of fun to be involved in this kind of stuff. It was a full class. There were 36 wannabe CBJs and the event organizer had to turn away about 12 more because we simply didn’t have and more room. These classes are great because you not only learn about the KCBS standards for barbecue, you get to go through what is essentially a mini-judging. The organizers provide samples of the four meat categories – chicken, ribs, pulled pork, brisket – and they’re presented to the students like they would be at a real contest. It’s a bit more laid back, but very similar.

There is a contest coming up here in September that is part of the local International Goat Days Festival. I really wish I was clever enough to do something with all that information, but there it is. The local township has a goat fest, we’ve got a sanctioned barbecue contest as part of it and I can’t even find something funny to say about that. Goes to show my state of mind, I guess.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy 5th, Bo!

My youngest turns 5 today! Five years packed full of moves, growth, change, craziness and barbecue.

Bo is a source of constant joy. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is always interested in making people laugh.

Below the fold here are a few things I've posted here about or inspired by my son. Happy birthday, boy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hitting delete

I had a nice, long post worked up where I was talking about hobbies and the energies we pour into them and I just had to select all-delete. Too whiny. Too scattered. Too …

Whatever.

In lieu of any enlightening content, here’s a thing:


I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




You too can try it!

Of course, I ran through the thing a bunch of times with a bunch of different posts. Dan Brown popped up a few times (and I almost jumped out a window) , Stephen King a few times, Chuck Palahniuk several times, H.P. Lovecraft a couple and William Shakespeare once (right). So, I’m a very uneven writer. Tell me something new.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

It really wasn’t that bad

I took Daughter Number 1 and a couple of her gal pals to see The Last Airbender last night. Avatar: The Last Airbender is her absolute favorite program on TV. I didn’t know that much about it, but was pretty interested based on the previews I’d seen at movies and on TV, but then it started getting crucified by reviewers. It has an 8% fresh rating on Rottentomatoes; for some perspective, Twilight: Eclipse has a 53% rating, Signs (Perhaps Shyamalan’s dumbest film ever) has a 74% rating. Obviously some people just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Anyway, the plot’s not all that important. It is suffice to say that a young boy has a great destiny and a great power and is going on a great journey. Beyond that, there are lots of big fight scenes, action sequences and special effects. It this a good movie? Well, not really, but it’s not bad either. It’s a popcorn flick and as such it really gets a bit more leeway in my estimation. Also, it’s a popcorn flick geared toward younger audiences based on a kid’s cartoon. I just really don’t understand why so many reviewers feel the need to pile on all this hate. Let’s take another perspective shot – Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel has a 20% fresh rating. Come on! Again, The Last Airbender is no high-minded fare, but it’s better than animated chipmunks.

My final analysis is to wait for video. It’s really not worth seeing in the theater. Oh, by the way, we saw it in 2D – after Alice in Wonderland I refuse to see any live-action film in 3D until convinced it really does something for the film – and it came off just fine.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

To have a new post

I've been neglecting ye olde blog, here for about a week, so I guess I need to put something up here. It's so much easier to post stuff on Facebook ... sigh

The last of our company left Saturday. We drove them out to Little Rock to catch their flight. Next time we're gonna have to get folks to fly into Memphis! Little Rock's not too bad a drive, but it is three hours, one-way. Enough whining. We had a good time with all the family and they are already missed.

I have a link of the day: Johnny Depp is rumored to play the title role in a rumored Doctor Who movie. In a way, I'm happy that there's enough interest for a movie to be made, but I really don't want a movie to be made. I mean, why? Why do it (other than the obvious money reasons)? The series is great and rather cinematic. However, it would be nice to see the Doctor in action on the big screen, and I'm sure Johnny Depp would do well.

The biggest problem with the proposed film is that Russell T. Davies may write the screenplay. Expect a movie full of hope and promise that ultimately leaves you feeling bitter and unsatisfied.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Uncanny valley and botox

The other day, my wife, sister-in-law and I were talking about plastic surgery and how unreal a lot of people are beginning to look because of botox and the like. We discussed how that unreality kind of inspires an unconscious revulsion in some people – admittedly, this is not a universal reaction, but I would argue there are enough to make the statement valid. Thinking along those lines, I was reminded of the theory of the Uncanny Valley.

Please take a moment to check out the link – it’s a quick read – but, basically, the Uncanny Valley theory deals with robotics and animation. It postulates that when robots and animation look *almost* like humans, it inspires revulsion. TV Tropes has a good section with some practical examples. Thinking in terms of animation, there’s a reason why animators cartoon-up their products. Think about the movie the Polar Express or the CGI in Beowulf – they were both *realistic* but still not quite right. For a lot of people, this was a huge turn off.

Now, to take this a step further and into the realm of plastic surgery, think about stars who have been accused of using botox (or Google). The Wiki Uncanny Valley link has this to say about the phenomenon as it pertains to what they call transhumanism:

According to writer Jamais Cascio, a similar "uncanny valley" effect could show up when humans begin modifying themselves with transhuman enhancements (cf. body modification), which aim to improve the abilities of the human body beyond what would normally be possible, be it eyesight, muscle strength, or cognition.[29] So long as these enhancements remain within a perceived norm of human behavior, a negative reaction is unlikely, but once individuals supplant normal human variety, revulsion can be expected. However, according to this theory, once such technologies gain further distance from human norms, "transhuman" individuals would cease to be judged on human levels and instead be regarded as separate entities altogether (this point is what has been dubbed "posthuman"), and it is here that acceptance would rise once again out of the uncanny valley.[29] Another example comes from "pageant retouching" photos, especially of children, which some[30] find disturbingly doll-like.

The TV Tropes link specifically mentions botox in their categories of where to find examples of the Uncanny Valley:

Botox (or any plastic surgery disasters for that matter) tends to send a real flesh and blood person sliding into the Uncanny Valley. Examples: Dolly Parton, Joan Rivers, Dr. Frederick Brandt (who is a client to his own products).
- Collagen injections make some vict... er, patients have faces bloated like someone with a shellfish allergy at an all-you-can-eat shrimp bar.
- You've seen nothing. Say "Hi" to Marijke Helwegen, a walking advertisement for plastic surgery.

All this to basically say that I’m fascinated by all of this. It makes perfect sense to me and it explains exactly why you can look at a photo of a recently botoxed film or TV star and think they look great, but feel quite put off when you see a video of them. Because that’s another part of the theory – the uneasiness is far more extreme in motion than in stills.

Again, I’m not really going anywhere with this. Just thought it was interesting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Michael Yon still isn't right

There are those who are calling the Rollng Stone article on Gen. McChrystal proof that everything Yon has been saying the past several months has been true. Maybe Yon called it on McChrystal, I think the jury's still out on that, but maybe. A Blackfive author has come out in support of Yon and U.S. Report has gone as far as calling Yon "prophetic." Again, maybe he was right about McChrystal. However my beefs with Yon (here and here) have nothing to do with his feelings about McChrystal and everything to do with his presentation of himself, his professionalism (the lack thereof) and the fact that he will not legitimately debate any point but rather launches attacks and slings expletives at those who would dare question him.

Take a moment to check out this audio clip from the G. Gordon Liddy show featuring Yon and Blackfive's Uncle Jimbo: LINK. Does Yon actually say anything here?

I must again say that I have been a fan of Yon for a very long time and it pained me greatly when he started launching all these attacks against the "crazy monkeys," etc. I would so like to see him go back to reporting, letting us know what the guys on the ground think. He needs to get his voice out of the story. And just one bit of advice for him: If it seems like the world is out to get you, maybe you need to think about why.

UPDATE: OK, maybe they had a little to do with his feelings about McChrystal, but it was more about the way he presented them than how he actually felt. One day he was praising McChrystal as brilliant, the next day (after losing his embed) he's criticizing him and the "crazy monkeys."

Findings on the Square

I spent the majority of this past Saturday in Mountain View, AR. I had never been there before and it is quite a lovely little town. I was there for a barbecue contest, but what really captivated me was their old-timey town square. I wish I had gotten a better picture of the square, but all the barbecue teams were set up around it and I didn’t really have a good shot. This pic of one of the square’s main drags kind of gives you an idea of what’s going on there – all the little, eclectic shops right in a row.

After the judges’ check-in, there is usually an hour or so to kill before the competition starts. That’s usually spent shooting shit with your fellow judges or walking around and seeing what teams are competing (though we’re not allowed to fraternize with teams on judge day until after judging), but this time, with so many cool shops offered, I decided to walk around and see what there was to see.

There were a lot of flea market style stores masquerading as “woodworking,” “general store,” and “military surplus.” In the military surplus store I stumbled upon something I’ve been kind of craving for a while – old school cast iron pans. Anyone who has bought cast-iron cookware recently is familiar with the texture of modern pans. It has a rough, pebble-blasted texture that is nothing like the smooth finish of pans our grandmothers used. So, to find some old Griswold pans (stacks of them!) in this store was quite the find. Better than having found them was the price. I picked up a 10-inch skillet and almost dropped it on my foot when I saw they only wanted $22 for it.

Now, did I buy any? Of course not. I pretty much had gas money for the day and couldn’t really see myself spending the money for something I don’t really *need*, but, man, it was hard not to.

Sometimes window shopping has to suffice. But there will be future trips to Mountain View. Blanchard Springs Caverns is only 15 miles north of the town. It’s only a three-hour drive, so that’s a perfect family trip on a long weekend. Caverns and cast iron sounds pretty cool to me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I've got company

The mother-in-law and sister-in-law arrived Saturday and are staying two weeks. The brother-in-law and my three nephews arrived yesterday.

My house is exceeding max capacity.

It's cool though because we don't get to see everyone very often. It's been a year since we got to see MIL and SIL, about that long for BIL and longer since I've seen my nephews (tehcnically, I haven't seen them this time yet either, they got in after I went to bed last night).

The next few days should be quite interesting.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy 235th US Army



I am proud of my 9 years out of that 235. I miss a lot of things about it. And there are a lot of things I most certainly do not miss. What's weird is that a lot of the things I find myself missing now are things that, at the time, sucked the most.

OPSEC, Michael Yon and STFU

Uncle Jimbo at BLACKFIVE has yet another piece up concerning Michael Yon.

Please go read it, but for those of you who don't Yon received an email from a troop in Afghanistan who completely violated OPSEC by telling Yon all of the flaws in the security at the FOB where he is posted. Yon, rather than informing the chain of command, goes and posts it for the world to see on his HIGHLY-TRAFFICKED website and Facebook pages.

Now, for whatever reason, OPSEC tightened. Did Yon's post have anything to do with that? Who knows? But the truth is that this might embolden other troops out there to attempt the same thing. Or worse. And eventually this is going to bite us in the ass.

I’ve got personal ties to both fronts of this war, but OPSEC doesn’t only matter when someone you know has their neck on the live. It should always matter.

The soldier out there in the sand knows better and Yon should damn well know better too. Yon continually beats up McChrystal and Army PAOs for being kicked off embeds. Well, after publishing crap like this it doesn’t surprise me one little bit. Hopefully Yon never finds his way back onto the battle field. Dude went from being one of the greatest voices for our forces in the war to being a huge liability.

The trials of barbecue judge


Barbecue contest number four took me to Nesbit, MS, on Saturday for the 2nd Annual Desoto Shrine BBQ contest. It was a lovely area and the Shriners have quite the compound out there. The contest was part of a larger event - the Shriners had a car and tractor show and a concert for the evening. I didn't stay for any of that - just the barbecue - but I got to see some nice cars and cool, old tractors.

It was kind of intimidating to be honest. The Shriners' compound was, as my choice of the word "compound" implies, a fenced-in area with several buildings. There were a lot of bikers helping control the influx of vehicles. Once parked though, they had tractors pulling trailors of hay bales giving rides to the back of the compound where there was a little pond where they held the contest. It was within walking distance of the parking lot, a good walk, but still a reasonable one, but the heat was so extreme that the ride was welcome. Temps were in the mid-90s Saturday with a heat index making the "feels like" temperture soar to the mid-100s. Fortunately our judging was inside where the AC was kicking.


We're not allowed to photograph any of the entries, so this is as close to that as I can get. My judging plate, scoring slip, pencil and water - all the essentials - are ready to go. Unfortunately, the fact that this was still a young event was pretty evident. There were a few experienced teams out there, but my table didn't seem to get any of their entries (except maybe for the pork category). Overall the entries we judged weren't as good, on average, as my previous three competitions. But none were as bad as the worst I've had, either.

According to the contest reps, this was the first year the event was sanctioned by KCBS, so I guess it's to be expected that the majority of teams were going to be newer to the competition circuit. The event itself was very well organized and went off without a hitch on our end of things. I plan to judge the event again next year. Hopefully it will pull some teams away from some of the other nearby events that go on the same weekend. This has a superior prize purse to some of them. We'll have to wait and see.

Next weekend - Mountain View, AR.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Plug and a post

The plug: Hey, check out the snazzy new poll I posted today in my sidebar. Let me know what you use to cook out with.

The post: Earlier J-Mom called me to let me know that my son, yet again, was being cute.

Some background - The Boy has never approached playing with toys quite the same way I did as a youth. He's always thought of playing with toys as "making movies." He'd set everything up and play with them, but he wasn't "playing" he was shooting his movie. At first, he wondered why he couldn't see them on TV, but has since come to realize that he has to shoot them with a camera, etc.

Over the past couple of days, he's gotten very interested in the concept of making real movies. He wants to make a movie that pits his hero - All Powers Man (who he portrays), against the villain - some kind of guy who freezes things (portrayed by me, apparently). He was talking to J-Mom about the costume - see, All Powers Man cycles through his powers by punching a button on his costume.

He's four years old, people. OK, almost five. But still.

Is this what a budding filmmaker looks like? If so, it’s pretty freaking cool in my estimation. I think we’ll be breaking out the Flip cam over the course of the next few weeks and see what we can do with it. I have some video editing software too, so we may even be able to add some special effects!

I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Making better barbecue part 4

Having covered some of the essentials in cookers and cooking (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I thought I’d cover some outdoor cooking accessories that, while not necessarily essential, make outdoor cooking easier.

You have a cooker. You have meat, rub, sauces, etc. You’re ready to get your barbecue on! And, well, that’s pretty much true. But what I’m about to list are some items some pitmasters consider indispensible while some are just nice to have.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Friday, June 04, 2010

Making better barbecue pt. 3

In Part 1 I talked about the various types of barbecue smokers and some of the pluses and minuses of the different types. In Part 2 I talked about meat prepping and cooking. In this installment, I want to talk a little about seasoning. In the barbecue world that means rubs and sauces.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Making better barbecue pt. 2

This one is about meat. Oh yes. Meat.

In Part 1, I covered educating yourself about types of smokers, learning to control your temperatures and practicing. Now, assuming you have a grill/smoker, have good temperature control and/or are ready to practice getting there, today we’re going to cover some basic tips concerning meat preparation and cooking.

Better barbecue

I am working on part two, but it is taking longer than I thought and I've been busy doing real work and getting my teeth scraped. Hopefully I'll have something up tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Making better barbecue pt. 1

Memorial Day kicks off the summer season in the U.S., and the week after is traditionally heavily focused on grilling and grilling accessories. So I’ve decided to devote this week to barbecue and grilling related posts.

Grilling and barbecue is taken pretty seriously here – in the U.S. and in Tennessee. Regardless of the alleged Caribbean origins of barbecue, the process as we know it today spawned out of the slave culture of the Southern States both as ways to preserve meat and to render tough, cast-off cuts of meat edible.

Making better barbeque prologue

To help kick off the grilling/barbecue season, I’m going to put up a series of outdoor cooking tips.

The first is this: The best, easiest, and MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do is to stop using lighter fluid!

Buy a chimney starter or use Weber’s lighter cubes. There’s not much worse you can do to your coals than dousing them with that nasty stuff, and this is coming from a recent convert! I didn’t used to think there was much difference until I honestly did some comparisons. You won’t believe how much cleaner your food will taste.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Grill pizza

As I said in the post below, I grilled some pizzas this weekend. I had a fellow BBQ forum-er ask me for the recipe, so I complied and decided to go ahead and blog it also.

The great grilling weekend

Ah, Memorial Day. A time to remember our veterans, and a time that Americans traditionally fire up their grills and smokers. Now, I'm a year-round outdoor cooker, but that doesn't mean I don't capitalize on the spirit of the weekend!

The weekend's cook focused on the beef ribs pictured here. That was what I barbecued on Saturday (Smoke Day VI). They were wonderful. It had been years since I cooked beef ribs and they have quickly become my favorite rib to cook. So flavorful.

On Sunday, I grilled up some chicken tenders. A quick affair, but they weren't really planned for Sunday night. No, I had Monday in mind - I fired up the grill once again last night for Grilled pizza! I've been playing around with grilling pizza for the past few months, but last night I finally nailed it.

I made four pizzas, two pepperoni, one cheese, and one barbecue chicken, bacon and onion. They all came out so good. If you haven't ever grilled a pizza, give it a go. It's the only way you'll want to cook a pizza in the future.

Hope you all had a good weekend!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mississippi Springfest, Ashland MS BBQ Contest trip report

I spent my Saturday morning judging barbecue in Ashland, MS. This was my second-ever contest and it was a great time. Unlike my first contest in Little Rock, this was a relatively small event. The Little Rock contest had more than 250 teams and is one of the largest events in the country. We had about 40 in Ashland. The practical upshot is that the event had a more relaxed feel and I was able to meet more of the KCBS judges and reps.

The bad: I don't know if it was just my table, but the quality of the barbecue wasn't up to what I had in Little Rock. Not that it was bad, but it wasn't A+ competition quality.

The event is part of Ashland's Springfest which involves a car show and a small carnival. In retrospect, I wish I could have brought the kids; they would have had a great time at some of the different attractions available.

Anyway, if you're interested in good barbecue, visit kcbs.us and look for a barbecue judging class near you. It's a lot of fun.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

Yeah, I don't have anything deep to say, so here's a comic strip about Muhammed eating a pulled-pork sandwich.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

LOST: The final season: The second to last one

Am I the only one enjoying this season of LOST? Talking to my wife, looking 'round the nets, It sure seems that way.

There are SPOILERS below this in case you haven't seen the ep yet.

.
..
...
....
.....

Was there ever any doubt that Jack was going to be the man? Any?

I'm left wondering two things. One, is Jack really going to be the man or is he gonna get wasted and Sawyer will step up and be all emo protector, and two, which reality is going to wind up on top when the two reconcile?

I am really looking foward to the finale on Sunday. Gonna miss the show when it's gone, but I am happy they decided to put a cap on the storyline.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The best fried chicken you could ever possibly ever have



I am not a fan of chicken. I grew up eating it every Sunday if not more often. It took years for me to start eating chicken again. So, trust me when I tell you that Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken is amazing. I didn't just eat this chicken, eating understates what consuming this food is like. A piece of Uncle Lou's chicken is a spiritual experience. It's that simple.

If you ever find yourself near Memphis, you have to do yourself a favor and make your way to Uncle Lou's.

Monday, May 17, 2010

RIP Ronnie James Dio



Well, our heavy metal elf has passed away.

We're all brought down, Dio, brought down:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

boPAD (11 March 1952 - 11 May 2001)

Douglas Adams …

I first learned about Adams’ work from a friend. This was, oh, ’86 or ’87. I was at his house and he asked if I’d ever played the Infocom Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game. Not only had I not played the game, I had no clue what HHGttG was. I quickly learned. After playing the game endlessly at his house, I found the books at the library. Then I found the radio scripts and the radio show. Then I found the BBC miniseries. I was hooked – a fan for life.

Looking back on HHGttG now, there are certainly some dated references. Some of the humor was structured to make fun of things happening then or social mores of the time. But it doesn’t lesson the impact. It’s easy to understand that digital watches can just as easily mean cell phones or tablet computers. The concepts are sound even if the references sometimes aren’t.

Considering the Guide itself, Adams was a visionary. He didn’t just envision the Guide as a tool for his fiction, he genuinely thought about having an electronic compendium of man’s knowledge accessible from portable devices. It sure didn’t take long for that vision to become a reality and every Kindle and iPad and like device brings the Guide closer to parity with the books.

The Dirk Gently books came along shortly afterward and while it didn’t resonate with me like HHGttG, it was still Adams. It was still great. The way he wove humor into plot was brilliant. No one does it quite the same way.

As a fan, you find yourself wanting more. That’s the reason another HHGttG book was published and Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer was tapped to write it. This book not only didn’t resonate with me, it just wasn’t the same. The pacing was off, the humor wasn’t as good or too different … It’s just not a world someone can come in and start writing in again. HHGttG was something unique to Adams and unlike the worlds of James Bond or Cthluhu, the adventures of Arthur Dent and crew don't lend themselves to having their torch carried by anyone else.

We fans, we need to be satisfied with what we have. I hope for everyone’s sake that we don’t have another book. Maybe we can figure out a way to make a better movie, but I’m not holding my breath.

P.S. boPAD is because that's what his signature looks like:

Monday, May 10, 2010

RIP Frank Frazetta



Sad news. I mean, it's been a while coming, but it's still very sad news.

What can I really say about Frazetta that other folks haven't experienced? His work is amazing and everyone knows it. There's a great documentary out there about him called Frazetta: Painting with Fire. It was there that I learned he had had a stroke years ago and had to re-teach himself to draw.

Amazing guy who leaves behind an amazing legacy.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Flood

For those of y'all who aren't my friend on Facebook, I want to let y'all know that we were right in the flood area and survived without getting any flooding at all. Our neighbors across the street from us got six inches in their garage and two inches in their house proper.

Our next-door neighbors got some flooding in their garage only. A friend a few streets over from us had several feet of flooding. I am in awe over how a little distance can make such a difference in damage. I mean, I realize that flooding isn't as arbitrary as a tornado or hurricane damage, but it still boggles the mind how certain areas get hit so hard and other areas escape damage.

The picture here is of of Navy base where I work. My building got about two feet of water in it. So, there's some fun going on there.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I'm back

Well, the family and I spent the last few days in Pigeon Forge doing Smoky Mountainy things. You'd know this if you were my Facebook friend.

We did not do Dollywood. The weather was too bad on the days we had considered going. We did wind up going to the Comedy Barn (much funnier than I anticipated) and going to Wonderworks. Wonderworks was a bit of a disappointment to me, but the kids loved it, so, it was worth the time. We also drove through Cades Cove - which was just amazing. We also took a quick drive through Gatinburg and discovered why everyone wants to go there.

I think the biggest lesson learned is that there are probably more timeshare agencies per capita in the Smoky Mountain area than anywhere else on Earth. I also learned that I really should have taken today off too.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The game is called SlugBUG for a reason, folks

What the hell is up with this “red one,” “blue one” Volkswagon commercial shit? I hadn’t thought about slugbug in years. Decades. Then this freaking semi-funny commercial comes on and they’re all “red one,” and we’re all “Yes, Mr. Wonder, you’re right,” even though it's a yellow cab.

Because of this commercial, my kids have picked up the habit. My middle child, Daughter Number 2, has developed the ability to pick out a Volkswagon with laser accuracy. She keys in on them in a 360-degree perimeter before anyone even realizes their approach. “White one!” she yells and smacks someone. I think she’d make a hell of a forward observer.

I can’t stand this though. First, I don’t like the kids hitting each other. Not in the car anyway. It just makes them too angry at each other and it gets too noisy too fast. Mostly, though, I hate the fact that they’ve perverted the game of slugbug. Think back, folks, you didn’t smack your best pal remorselessly on the arm when you saw a Mircrobus or a Rabbit; no, you saved the best, knuckle-forward smacks for when you caught the rare, faded orange VW Bug puttering ‘round a corner. It was never (or rarely) a free-for-all. It was a rare thing.

So, DN2 asks, “Why does it have to be a slugbug?” My wife answers, “Because your father doesn’t like change.”

Pshaw. I am fine with change. I just respect tradition.

UPDATE: FYI, this "punch dub" nonsense must be stopped.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Michael Yon and Milbloggers: A growing chasm

It’s really sad to see what’s happening between Michael Yon and a variety of military bloggers out there. If you’re not up-to-speed on what’s going on, I suggest reading this post at Blackfive, this one by Grayhawk and even looking up Michael Yon’s Facebook page for some perspective on what everyone’s talking about.

I wish I was better informed about what’s all going on, but all I really know is this: Michael’s been really critical of Gen McChrystal and of PAOs. He’s been “disembedded” from a recent embed and lays that blame squarely on the PAO. But this isn’t the first time this has happened (in fact, if Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive is to be believed, this was the fourth time he’s been disembedded). I remember reading some time ago about his getting pulled from an embed and he blamed the PAO then. I also remember him cutting into the PAO for not providing adequate facilities for journalists.

When I first read his dispatches about this first disembed, I just kind of wrote it all off. I was a bit upset about his rough treatment of PAOs (hey, being one, it’s hard not to side with your occupational brethren), but I figured it’d been a pissy experience for him and I let it go. However, his Facebook posts over the last month or so have just been wild. He refers to all the PAOs in-country as “crazy monkeys” and says that Gen. McChrystal “needs to be watched.”

I don’t know where Michael is coming from on a lot of this. I respect everything he’s done. I think he’s a hell of a patriot and a hell of a photojournalist. However this all seems so out of character. I get that he might have had one bad experience with on bad PAO – but four freaking times? That just doesn’t make sense. And how can every PAO in country be against you?

There are several milbloggers who have written to and about Michael’s recent FB postings. A lot of folks are reaching out to him; asking him to take a look at what he’s doing and what he’s writing. But there are a lot of folks who are coming to Michael’s defense. It’s sad. I can only comment on what I see and it looks like Michael’s in the wrong here, but all this is really going to do is further factionalize the folks out there who are trying their damnedest to provide us information about our War. That’s the shame, regardless of who’s right or wrong.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks

A fun, fast-paced, campy adventure in WWII-era England.

The Doctor has been summoned to England by Winston Churchill, but when he arrives it’s a month after the prime minister made his call. In that time, an English scientist has created a devastating new weapon – the ironsides which look suspiciously like a Dalek. Of course it’s all a Dalek plot and their scheme winds up firmly planting the Daleks back into the Doctor Who continuum without having to keep coming up with rebirth storylines.

There are tons of nods to Star Wars in this episode. Spitfire planes in space attacking a large spacecraft, an android who gets his hand blown off – there’s a lot of fun going on here.

Also interesting to this episode is how Amy Pond once again swoops in to save the day. Producer Stephen Moffat has talked about how fifth Doctor Peter Davison is his favorite and how we’d see a return to this style somewhat – given how prominent companions were to the fifth, it makes perfect sense to see Amy having a very active role in things.

That said, next week’s episode is one I’m really looking forward to. We’re getting a return of the angel statues from Blink.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kick-Ass: Meh, it was OK

I started reading the Kick-Ass comic series when it came out in 2008 because it was All. Anyone. Was. Talking. About. I swear, I couldn’t put up with another, “This is the story of what would happen if a kid REALLY put on a costume and tried to fight crime!!!!oneone!gasm!” No. It’s not. It’s a slightly more realistic story about a kid who decides to put on a costume and see what would happen if he tries to fight crime. By slightly I mean that the story should have ended shortly after his first encounter.

So, I can’t really do a decent review of this movie without giving too much away. So, for those who don’t want SPOILERS I’ll just leave it at this: If you like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez movies and aren’t bothered by that level of violence and profanity, you’ll be fine with this movie. If those things bother you, avoid this movie. Now, for the rest of you, there are SPOILERS below:

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

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There are three big problems with the movie Kick-Ass. The first problem is that you have to greatly suspend your disbelief for the central thesis to work. Two, as I said above, the kid should not have survived his first encounter. Three, it’s nowhere near as good as the comics are.

The primary story focuses on 16-year-old David Lizewski, a comic-book geek in a single-parent household who decides to start wearing a costume (a wet suit) and see what he can do to fight crime. So far so good – this isn’t too far out there. There are plenty of comic readers who want to do this. But on his first real trip out, David runs across a pair of hooligans who are trying to steal a car. When he tried to fight them, he winds up getting his own ass kicked and stabbed in the stomach. After the stabbing, he stumbles into the street where he is hit by a car (the driver of which promptly drives away). In the comic and movie, he survives. His body is put back together and in a few months he’s pretty much as good as new. Heck, in some ways better – he’s only got about 15% of the feeling left in most of his body.

I’m not saying that a person could not have survived what happened to the character, but it would have been a hell of a long shot. On top of that, to make a full recovery is beyond disbelief. So, there are problems one and two – you have to believe that not only does this kid survive, but that his injuries provide him with “special” properties – metal plates and pins “protect” him rather than hinder (like they do to every other person who’s ever had a pin or plate) and the numbness means he can take a hell of a punishment. But, hey, it’s a movie. In fact, it’s a comic-book movie. We can write all that off.

Problem three is a bit more detailed. See, in the comics, David gets the hell kicked out him, winds up falling in with these two other costumed characters – Big Daddy and Hit Girl – and barely survives taking on the mob. When all is said and done, his life as David does not change. He’s the same person. His second life had some unintended consequences on his civilian life, but not so much that he became anything more than he was before. However, in the movie, it is completely due to his Kick-Ass alter-ego that he becomes a cool guy and is eventually able to hook up with the girl of his dreams. There’s a happily ever after ending that just doesn’t exist in the comics. Not like it’s presented in the movie, anyway.

The other issue with the comics vs. movie is that all the primary characters in the comics have pathos. We understand their motivations or we’re at least given enough to identify in some way with why these things are happening. It’s even heavier for a comics reader, I think. The movie doesn’t give us this. Rather, we’re fed some pap that’s as clichéd as every other action-comedy out there.

This following comparison and contrast, to me, illustrates the difference in the execution and mentality between the two. In both the comics and the movie, David Lizewski is infatuated with his classmate Katie Deauxma. Katie is an attractive popular girl who doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. After the mugging and car accident, though, Katie is suddenly chatting him up and wanting to have coffee with him. He eventually finds out it’s because everyone at school thinks he’s gay and that Katie has made him her gay best friend. David wants her so bad that he doesn’t deny, goes along with it just to spend time with her. Now, in the movie, he eventually gets fed up and appears to her as Kick-Ass only to unmask, apologize, almost leave, but then be welcomed into her bed. They wind up hooking up and becoming a couple. It winds up being a primary motivation for him in the movie. This happens to him about 3/4 into the film. In the comics, David ALMOST approaches Katie as Kick-Ass. He stands in the Alley below her window and yells out to her, but before she can show up, he runs away. She catches a glimpse of him running away. At the VERY END of the book, he finally comes clean to her and she is so offended that she has her new boyfriend kick his ass. She and her friends send him abusive text messages and she even sends him a sexually explicit photo of her with her boyfriend.

The comic book ending seems like something that’s more likely to happen in real life. It doesn’t make you feel good inside, but it rings more true. There was no catharsis to David’s stupidity. Not in the comics anyway.

Hit Girl was great though. They pinned her character to a tee. The movie’s worth seeing for her alone.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taxed enough already

Yeah, yeah, think what you will of all the word associations that have been made recently to TEA Parties, but I count myself among them ideologically. The point I disagree with them on, though, is the "taxed enough" part. I mean, it makes for a catchy acronym, but I think the "enough" bit needs to be fleshed out some. I think it needs to be further nuanced - we need to be taxed fairly. I don't mean that in some hipply, lib, commie way, so hear me out.

I earn a little bit more than the U.S. median income, but because I am married, have three kids and am a homeowner, I actually get a refund on my taxes. Here's the rub, though, I didn't pay any federal taxes. Why do I get a refund? Of course, I'm a hypocrite. Although I'm disturbed by the fact that the government's giving me money for nothing, I willingly take it. In principle, it's wrong though.

So that's what I'm getting at. If we (the big, national we, that is) didn't pay out to folks like me who live at a certain income level and still qualify for refunds, we'd probably lop off a good bit of fiscal expenditures.

The second TEA Party ideology I want to talk about is one with which I'm completely on board: responsible spending. You can go ahead an talk about how bad the Republicans were with spending during Bush's administration and you'd be completely right. For those of us fiscal conservatives, it made us sick to see the fed grow and grow. It hurts people's feelings when we say that we can't or won't provide a service they want or that we have been providing, but the simple truth is that until we get our deficit under control, we have to reign in spending.

Although I won't be out carrying a sign today, I am with my countrymen in spirit.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Doctor Who: The Beast Below

The second episode featuring our new Doctor sees he and Amy Pond visiting a space-bound England (literally a flying megalopolis) 1,000 years in the future. Of course, strange things are afoot. The pace is high, the setting is amazing and the quotable quotes are a-plenty. Amy Pond really came into her own as a character this week. I was wondering last week. It wasn’t that she was bad, but just didn’t really stand out. Her role last week was (understandably) a far second to the new Doctor. This week she settles into her normal companion role and does an admirable job of it.

I love it when the Doctor episodes keep a good pace where so you’re never wondering when the episode’s going to move along. I also like it when they don’t get too preachy. This ep cruised along wonderfully and didn’t venture too far into preachy land like the majority of last year’s specials did.

Matt Smith again, proves that he’s the right man for this job. I just hope he chooses to stick around for a few years.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Eleventh Hour



Wibbly-wobbly, timey, wimey, indeed! The Doctor returned recently with Matt Smith taking the mantle in the longest-running science fiction series. I admit, I was rather skeptical about him. His age - he's just too young for the part! His looks - he just didn't seem right. But as soon as he climbed out of a tipped-over TARDIS, he was immediately the Doctor. It was like when Tom Baker finally stepped out the TARDIS in his long coat and scarf - he became THE Doctor. I haven't had an immediate reaction like that until this episode with Smith. Which is exactly what the series has needed.

David Tennant admirably stepped into the role after Christopher Eccleston revived the character in 2005. Eccleston was, to me, the very embodiment of what the Doctor could be. He added both an edge and a sophistication to the role that hadn't existed since John Pertwee rangled the time tubes back in the 70s. Tennant was a different Doctor than Eccleston and, at first, that really upset me. I still have problems with, but I admit that Tennant's run became quite good. His supporting cast was stellar and he shined even when the scripts did not - and those scripts increasingly worsened toward the end of his tenure. Still he rose above them and owned every scene. It was sad to see him go.

If you haven't seen The Eleventh Hour yet, you're in for quite a treat. Much has been made about the Doctor's new companion Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan), and there's no denying that she's an attractive young lady. In my opinion, the jury's still out on how much she'll add or detract from the show. In the episode the character appears as both a young girl and her current-day self. It's probably not saying much for Gillan that the young Amelia Pond stole co-star spotlight. I still have hope for Gillan though. It's not that she came across poorly or anything, it's just that the pacing of the show didn't really allow her the opportunity to do anything other than be very reactionary. This episode belonged to Smith's Doctor and he took possession with style.

Watch it for yourself and see. I think we're in for quite the treat with this Doctor and this Season. Many of our favorite baddies are returning. Don't blink or you might miss 'em ;)

LOST: Final Season: The episode that aired last night

Good to see Desmond back, always like his character.

For the life of me, I can't remember if they explicitly said that Faraday was Widmore's son last season, but they made it painfully clear well before they dropped it on us.

I couldn't stop saying - "See what we did there? Aw, yeah, we flipped that bitch" because that's what last night's show was all about.

Even though every single they did last night was easily spotted well before they executed it, it was played out very well.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I sold out long before you ever even heard my name

Yesterday, reading Cara Ellison’s blog, she made a quick comment about “selling out” on a post about Kurt Cobain.

Selling out … it’s something I’ve been trying to describe and define, mostly to myself … to attribute some kind of qualification or quantification to for some time. And I’m really just talking about music though the term applies across the creative spectrum – music is where most people apply it.

For a long time I have said that selling out is when a musician or band stops making music for the purpose of making music. It’s always been an oversimplification, but the obvious implication is that the artist(s) is now putting profit before creativity. And while that may be true in some cases, I’ve always had a problem with it because I DON’T really have a problem with people making money. In fact, I think it’s kind of crazy to expect someone to go out and make a product – consumable or no – and expect them to not want to make money from it.

So, I’m tossing out my previous definition. Instead, I lit upon something yesterday when I was mulling this over. I think the best simple description of selling out is when an artist starts “phoning it in.” When the music starts to lack passion and it seems as though they’re only going through the motions – that’s selling out.

To me, it’s kind of like Kevin Spacey is to acting. A lot of people like Kevin Spacey’s acting. I would go as far to say that most people think he’s a rather good actor. I would be one of those people. I think Spacey is capable of being a really good actor. He has all the requisite skills. He has shown in some of his films that he can really embody a role. However, the dude has been riding his early success for a long time. I’m not going to defend that point (it’s a pretty big rabbit hole); suffice to say, I think he’s become overrated.

So that’s where I’m going with this – selling out, to me, is either an artist(s) who was once good and now just kind of phones it in, or was never good but is strangely popular.

One of the best examples, in my mind, is Aerosmith. Aerosmith is a band full of amazing musicians. Individually these guys are outstanding in both their musical knowledge and their ability to play. However, they consistently put out pap. There’s that one song that’s on Guitar Hero that’s kind of good. Dream On is an overblown nightmare, but hey, it’s a ballad so you kind of have to sing along here and there. Walk This Way was improved exponentially when Run DMC covered it. Aerosmith is a musical debacle that somehow found their one-trick pony in the 80s and has been riding it ever since. Ever noticed how Every. Single. Song. they make sounds the same? The time signatures are similar. The keys are similar. The tone is similar. It’s formula rock. It’s Enfamil for the ears.

This next example is sure to be more contentious, but in my mind Metallica did the same thing with their Black Album. Sure, it can be argued that they opened up their music to an entirely new audience, but as they did so they alienated their original fan base. The Black Album in and of itself isn’t necessarily a “phoning in,” but after its success they began the process of churning out more formula rock. It was at this point that they started riding the waves of their past successes.

But heck, Aerosmith and Metallica are just more recent examples of the phenomenon. How long has the Rolling Stones been churning out the same tune? How long has Eric Clapton been relying on Cream and Derek and the Dominos (and that’s a real shame because Clapton is a monster guitarist)?

Perhaps I need to clarify the “riding their past success” point a bit. There’s formula rock and then there’s formula rock. Take Slayer. They’ve put out the same-sounding stuff since they gelled it in their 1986 release Reign in Blood. But here’s the thing – they didn’t break from their mold to achieve some kind of commercial success. They’ve been the same band forever. There’s a difference between that and a band like Nickelback who achieve an amazing degree of (stupefying) success and continually churn out songs that don’t deviate from that mold. They don’t challenge themselves creatively because they’re afraid of losing their success. The guys in Slayer don’t challenge themselves creatively because they’re afraid of losing fans. There’s the rub, I guess. Which of these points shows the most integrity?

The supposition in “selling out” is that those bands that haven’t sold out have some kind of moral high ground over those who have. I’m not making that argument. In fact, the point of this post (beyond working through a definition) is kind of to say that it’s silly to think that. Who’s laughing – the musician who ekes out an existence being true to their roots or the musician who embraces audiences that bring them financial success? Selling out, while I believe it is a real and true phenomena, is less about integrity or ethics and more about a philosophical justification that lesser successful artists, or at least those with low self-esteem, use to make themselves feel better at the end of the day.

How much of your soul do you really "lose" by making music for money? You're still doing something you feel passionate about, right? There's a line, I'm sure.

I don’t find much parity between Metallica and the Monkees, for example. Metallica is an entity whose members made their own choices and marketed themselves based on those choices. The Monkees were a marketing gimmick from the beginning. I just stopped enjoying Metallica’s music when it became noticeable to me that they weren’t making music for me any longer. Like pop music isn’t my niche, these bands that attempt to broaden their horizons aren’t really in my shot group either.

But who am I? I’m just one guy with an opinion. My disposable income isn't very, so it's not like my spending dollar is going very far. And that’s what really matters in this game. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments.

For a little more perspective, here’s Maynard James Keenan’s take:

All you know about me is what I've sold you,
Dumb fuck
I sold out long before you ever even heard my name.
I sold my soul to make a record
Dip shit
And then you bought one.

All you read and
Wear or see and
Hear on TV
Is a product
Waiting for your
Fairly dirty Dollar.
So shut up and
Buy, Buy, Buy,
My new record.
Buy, Buy, Buy,
Send more money.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Hm

I just noticed. Two posts ago I takled a little bit about subjecting moral authority on others and in the last post I talked about an encounter where I was faced with that reality.

Maybe I should write something about winning the lottery.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Other people and their children

I was in Walmart yesterday doing some last-minute Easter shopping. During the trip, I had an encounter that made me want to hit a man more than I can remember ever wanting to hit someone.

Before I get into the incident, I want to preface this by saying that I play with my kids. I mean, we have a banter. I tell them that I’m gonna smack ‘em upside the head. I tell them that they’re wusses. I call them weak. But it’s in fun. They say the same things to me. It’s only when we’re playing around. I also make sure that I only say things like this at appropriate times. When we’re wrestling around, physically or verbally, or whatever – we’re playful folks but there are no doubts whatsoever how we feel about one another or how close we are.

OK, so the wife and I are in Walmart and it’s a bit of a madhouse. We’re in the seasonal aisle picking over the slim remainders when I overhear a dad verbally disciplining his kid. He tells the child, “Your attitude is disgusting. You need to change your attitude or we just might cancel Easter.” Perhaps a bit harsh, but I’ve had to make such threats before. I don’t know what this guy is getting on to his kid for. Heck the kid could have been threatening to run over his sister with a lawnmower for all I know. I didn’t think much about it.

Seconds later I’m on the other side of their cart where I can see them and the dad’s still going at his boy. Now I see the young ‘un is about 5 or 6 and is now sitting in the cart, legs pulled up to his chest, arms circling them, and is just bawling. Then, THEN, the dad says to the boy: “You are such a wuss. I’ve never seen such a wuss as you.”

I’ve got to tell you folks – I almost went to jail last night. Were I more of a man, perhaps I should. I feel guilty that I didn’t at least say something. I don’t know though, on the other hand, I don’t want other people butting into my life. I guess I hope that that kind of verbal abuse isn’t common. I hope that if it is, the mom sees through it someday soon and realizes what it’s doing to their kids. I’ve got that poor boy’s image burned in my mind and if I ever see that dude in Walmart again, he better hope he’s being nice.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Hey Larry!

I was a huge comic-book geek growing up. I learned a lot from comics. Sure, I read a lot of “real” books too, but many ethical and moral issues that many people suss out in literature, I got through comics.

Comics is a wonderful medium that, at its best, condenses good and evil into easily recognizable actions and personas. The best comics put the good guys into moral quandaries such as those oft-visited: “Do I save one person I love or sacrifice him/her for a large group of unknown people?”; “Am I becoming what I hate by fighting evil on their terms?”; “Do the laws of man supersede a higher moral authority?” and in a similar vein, “What gives me the right to ignore the law in lieu of my own moral authority?”

It can be pretty heady stuff. Again, at their best, comics delve into these issues and at their very best, don’t offer any real answers. The characters find solutions, or justifications that suit their needs, but it’s obvious to the reader that it’s not a universal answer. There is no panacea for soul-searing ambiguity.

I’ve been going through some of the comics of my past. My favorite comic when I was in the 11-13-year age range was The Badger – an independent comic by prolific comic writer Mike Baron. What I find great about the book is that is does not seek to answer any of the “best comics do this” kind of questions. The premise involves a mentally disturbed, multiple martial arts expert, Vietnam vet who dons a costume and whups up on wrong doers, animal abusers and guys named Larry.

It is a glorious celebration of fists to the face, spin kicks upside heads and multiple personalities appearing at the most inopportune times. The lack of any high-minded moral exposition accomplishes two things: it makes the book approachable and fun, and it leaves the reader to make his own high-minded moral exposition based on the events portrayed. It’s not that Badger doesn’t cover the same oft-tread ground other comics do, it just that it doesn’t patronize the reader by having the characters climb atop tall buildings for pages worth of thought-bubbled introspection. While Spiderman laments his great power and great responsibility, the Badger is downing a six-pack of Point and smacking some dude upside the head with a bo staff.

When I was first reading these books, I had friends that were into their own books. One pal was into an underground sci-fi book called Albedo Anthropomorphics. This was the beginning of the hey day of anthropomorphic comics and cartoons. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the most commercially accessible, but there were tons of books: Boris the Bear, Albedo, Usagi Yojimbo, etc. Anyway, my buddy who was into Albedo, was also trading letters with the creator, and I decided to drop the dude a note as well. I had attempted to write the creators of Badger, with limited success (artist Bill Reinhold wrote me back!). Anyway, I started a conversation with Albedo’s creator and talked to him about the Badger. As many people, he dismissed the book as childish, violent and inane. And that really ticked me off. I couldn’t quite verbalize it then, but in retrospect, to have a guy who wrote space operas involving anthropomorphized forest creatures call your favorite comic “childish” is kind of ironic, especially considering his particular brand of comic helped fuel the furry explosion.

There was going to be a point to all of this, but I lost it somewhere along the way. I’ve kind of gone and pissed myself off remembering the whole Albedo crap. How fucked is it to essentially call someone’s favorite book a piece of crap? Well fuck you Albedo creator dude who I’m too lazy to look up at the moment. Fuck you and your anthropomorphized world. Except for Boris the Bear. Cause he’s cool.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thrown into the pit

Last night I had a specific DRI song in mind (Do the Dream), so I cued it up and started rocking it out. A few seconds into the song I noticed a strange but wonderful phenomenon. My four-year-old boy began to act like he got a shot of crack cocaine right into his supercharger. He started jumping around, shaking around, having all kind of fun moving to the music. I decided it was time to teach him what a mosh pit was.

I pulled up Youtube and searched mosh pits. Surprisingly lame results out there, guys. But I did find a Slayer show with a good example. Rather than play out the video, I cued up the song itself (Reign in Blood) and we got a very funny pit going - me, my son and my nine-year-old daughter.

We then went to Anthrax (I AM THE LAW!), Megadeth (99 Ways to Die), Metallica (Trapped Under Ice) and the below song I found on YouTube kind of typifies the sentiment, "Kick your friend in the head and have a ball ..."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

LOST: Final Season: I forgot to post the other day

It was an enjoyable episode. We have some better idea of what the island is (the devil's prison?), but the big thing that came out is that apparently guyliner is the source of immortality:

So, at this point in the story and earlier, Richard/Ricardo has little to no cosmetic enhancements to his eyeline:



But later he returns to his eye-shaping ways:


I pulled this interesting nugget from Nestor Carbonell's (the actor who plays Richard) IMDb page: Carbonell revealed on the "Lost" (2004) fifth season DVD extras that not only does he not wear eyeliner, mascara, or makeup of any kind to make his lashes and eyeline appear as dark as they do, but the makeup artists for "Lost" actually use concealer on his lashes and under his eyes to try to tone down the natural darkness of his eyeline. He also said that the unusual appearance of his eyes caused him to get teased and bullied when he was a child.

I smell BS, but hey, whatever floats your boat buddy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's a philosophy



Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin - give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath

Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show
Keep 'em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

And always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the right side of life...
(Come on guys, cheer up!)
Always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the bright side of life...
(Worse things happen at sea, you know.)
Always look on the bright side of life...
(I mean - what have you got to lose?)
(You know, you come from nothing - you're going back to nothing.
What have you lost? Nothing!)
Always look on the right side of life...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

History is made

Made like the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Fuck.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Food coma

I judged my first barbecue contest today! It was the Smoke on the Water USA Barbecue Championship in North Little Rock. The contest is considered the world's richest and it kicks off the competition season for many competitors.


Here's BBQ Pitmasters star Harry Soo. His site was right next to the judging area.

This was a Kansas City Barbeque Society contest, the largest barbeque certification agency. For those not familiar with KCBS competitions, teams compete in four categories - chicken, ribs (pork only), pork butt, and brisket. We judges grade six samples of each category. So each judge samples six pieces of chicken, six ribs (or racks, depending on presentation), six pieces of pork and six pieces of brisket. I gotta tell ya, even just sampling a bit or two of each, it is A LOT of food!

The entries we received at the table I was at were stellar. Each piece of chicken was wonderful, we had some great ribs, very good pulled pork and good brisket (one sample was phenomenal). I was looking forward to the pulled pork least - it's something we get a lot of here in Memphis - but every entry just floored me. It was so good!


The contest was held right on the banks of the Arkansas River in North Little Rock.

If you like barbeque, I highly suggest checking out a KCBS contest near you. Or look into a certified barbeque judge class. It's a great way to spend a day!

Friday, March 19, 2010

On metal

I discovered what heavy metal was in 1986.

Prior to 1986 I had heard AC/DC. There was Van Halen and the Scorpions. There was even Quiet Riot. All these bands had their place in laying the hard rock foundation that would become heavy metal, but I never realized what heavy was until I heard those thunderous drums and machine-gun guitars that Metallica laid out in Kill ‘Em All.

That year I was living in Air Force housing in Biloxi, MS. I was new to the area, having moved from Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs just a little before this. At 12, I was still trying to find my place in the world. I liked reading and writing, but I also liked certain sports. I liked my southern heritage, but there were things about it I despised. Musically I was raised on country, 50s rock and gospel, but there was always something about the faster beats and harder-edged music I craved. Little Richard’s Keep On Knocking was probably my first clue of the potential of fast music.

I’m not sure how exactly, but one day I met one of my neighbors who was a couple of years older than me. We started talking about music and my lack of knowledge became quickly apparent. He was asking: “You’ve never heard Metallica?” “How about Megadeth?” “Slayer?” I had to admit that I had not, but he quickly remedied that. I’m pretty sure the first thing we listened to was Kill ‘Em All, but the album I remember liking best was Ride the Lightening. It’s still my favorite Metallica album. And then Megadeth. Oh, how much I liked them. I guess I’ve always been attracted to intricate music and Megadeth had it all over Metallica in that regard. After a couple of hours of listening I was hooked. In no time, I was bringing over blank tapes to dupe so I could listen to them myself.

It’s also important that 86 was a watershed year for heavy metal. Metallica released Master of Puppets, Megadeth released Peace Sells … and Slayer released Reign in Blood. There were other great albums released that year as well, but these thee albums are considered to this day to be some of the most important albums in heavy metal history.

This was all so exciting to me. Not only because it was an entirely new kind of music to my ears, but also because it felt kind of wrong. I was raised in a very religious environment - the kind that frowned on all things rock and roll. We went to the kind of churches that taught about the dangers of “subliminal messages in rock music” and the “backwards messages” secreted in rock recordings. So listening to this “evil” music added an extra element of excitement. It’s similar to what the Ramones sang about in Rock and Roll Radio: “Do you remember lying in bed, with the covers pulled up over your head? Radio playing so no one can see.” Maybe I didn’t pull the covers over my head, but I totally understand the sentiment. At the time it was something I had to keep secret. Something I had to hold as my own.

In retrospect, that was all kind of silly, but I’m sure it’s what helped make that music, music in general, feel that much more special to me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mike Patton, renaissance man

Sheila posted what has to be the definitive post on Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter. I didn't know why, but reading the post, I kept thinking about Mike Patton, Faith No More frontman and purveyor of all things music avant-garde. So, yeah, I didn't get it at the time, but the more I think about it, Patton is to music what Depp has been to film (though with far less commercial success). He melds into each new form or shape effortlessly.

Let's inspectorate, shall we? Patton started in Faith No More when FNM was doing rather prototypical 80s schlock rock. There wasn't much outside the firing lane with Epic, but there was something about Patton. Something that demanded attention. Something that screamed that he was more than just another long-haired glam rocker. Faith No More's next entry - Angel Dust - proved the band had far more going on than many thought. Still they had some commercially accessible songs in A Small Victory or Mid Life Crisis (though I doubt many of those who remember the song know the lyrics to MLC). Still, they had some amazing tunes on that album and at the same time did a cover of Easy:



Patton's voice and manner meld perfectly in this cover.

At the same time that Patton was fronting FNM, he was busy working on his side project, Mr. Bungle - a band that defies description. They are at times surf rock, they are at times ska, they are at times metal, they play circus music, arcade themes and whatever else comes to mind. Yet, even though all these disparate styles go on, somehow it all works, and Patton has a lot to do with that:



WTF, right? But it works.

After Bungle disbanded and FNM split, Patton worked on a lot of different projects. There's probably my favorite, Tomahawk which features members of The Melvins, Jesus Lizard and Helmet:



He also fronted noise-experiment-rock-ish band Fantomas where he did a lot of experimentation with the voice as an instrument:



Another one of his many projects was a "love song" album called Lovage:



He's also worked on soundtracks (the bastards disabled embedding): He used his experimental vocals to provide the voices of the monsters in I Am Legend.

Lastly, his dissing of Wolfmother is legendarily hilarious:



I can't think of any other vocalist who jumps genres like Patton. I can't imagine anyone doing with his success.

Thoughts?

LOST: Final Season: Ep. 8

Wow. Not much to that, huh?

So. Sawyer's a cop. With Miles. Whee.

Widmore's there ... whoopty doo. We knew that.

Umm ... wow, a whole hour spent on that.

I was more intrigued by the trailer for next week than this week's entire episode.

Erin go bragh!

Or, as Emily says, happy excuse to get drunk on Wednesday in fake honor of the patron saint of American binge drinkers day.



So yeah, I prefer Guinness to Murphy's, but Bing beat me to it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kissing elephants

I love our zoo here in Memphis. It's very well-designed and growing - a new exhibit just opened, another big one is planned to open next year and they're building a giant nature hiking trail.

We're season pass holders; you only have to go twice to make your money back. I had the day off yesterday, so I drug the kids out to give J-mom some time to do schoolwork, etc.

One of the things I dig about the zoo, is that you never know what the animals are going to be doing. For example, I didn't think the elephants were going to be so affectionate:



We went through our nocturnal exhibit and, I don't know what this is, but he was either not fooled by the artificial darkness or was dead:



Bring a bag lunch, some bottled water and it's a great way to spend a few hours.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Grilled pizza success!

As many years as I've been grilling and barbecuing, I had yet to try grilling a pizza. Well, that changed this weekend!

I made three - two barbecue, one cheese. The two barbecue pizzas when on the grill. One was a pulled pork pizza, the other was pulled smoked chicken and caramelized onion. Here's the pulled chicken ready to go on the grill:


And here it is after being pulled off the grill:


Let me tell you how amazingly simple this was. First the recipe:

Crust (I made three large pizzas, so this could be used for four medium, or even five medium thin-crust pizzas):

> 5 cups of flour (I used 2.5 white and 2.5 wheat and it was great!)
> .5 ounce active dry yeast
> 1/2 teaspoon salt (give or take)
> 2 cups warm water
> 1 heaping TBL of honey
> 2 TBL olive oil

1. Mix the honey and warm water.
2. Add yeast to water and let sit for about 10 minutes - until it gets all foamy.
3. Pour into a large bowl.
4. Add flour, salt and olive oil.
5. Knead for 6-8 minutes. I used my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook on medium until it got kind of stiff.
6. Let rest for 30 min - hour.
7. The dough is ready.

I divided the dough as evenly into three parts as I could. This was enough to get a hand-tossed-style thickness on each. You could certainly divide more to thinner or thicker based on taste.

Some folks use cornmeal on a greased pan - I can't stand that. So I put a little grease on a pizza stone, sprinkle just a little granulated garlic and a bit of salt. The stone is the key for this - a well-seasoned stone doesn't need any further oil to release whatever is cooked on it, but I find a little oil helps crisp up the crust a bit.

I used about four tablespoons worth of barbecue sauce on the pizza - in retrospect I would use more. I craved that tangy bite from my sauce and I just didn't get enough of it.

I had about approx. 2 cups of shredded chicken. Let me let you in on a secret here - without going to the trouble of smoking your own chicken, if you don't have leftovers - Walmart has some of the best chicken you can get your hands on at a great price! Their Rotisserie Backyard Grill Seasoned Chicken is amazing! At just under $5 it's a hell of a bargain too.

Caramelize one Vidalia onion (or more, to taste). I didn't measure cheese, just look at the pic above. I use enough cheese to cover but not overload. It's easy to use too much cheese.

Of course, this works great in an oven, but on the grill it was just phenomenal! I had the grill up to about 450. Then I put the stones on the grill. I had some problems with flare ups and that's something I'll have to address in the future. Also, the pizzas cooked much faster than I expected. They were well charred done after 10 minutes; I think they were probably perfectly done at about six or seven minutes.

If you've never tried pizza on the grill, I highly recommend giving it a go. If you don't have a pizza stone, or don't want to temp it breaking, you might want to try a pizza screen or just some heavy duty foil. I'd be interested in hearing about any of your attempts!