Friday, December 19

The Friday Hot Sheet

It's kind of strange that the closer the holidays get, the farther away they seem. Last week I was wringing my hands over the fact that Christmas was racing up on me and I was still in too much of a financial crunch to really do any kind of shopping for my friends and family. But now with the holiday literally a few days off, it seems like it will never get here.

I'll be honest. It's been a rough couple of weeks. A lot of it is money problems, which have a way of seep into everything, especially this time of year. But I think more than ever it's gotten to be this sort of annual holiday blues thing that just seems harder and harder to escape.

And yet, it's not like everything is doom and gloom. My son is very excited for the upcoming holidays, and with a little luck (and some creative bookkeeping) it looks like he's gonna come out of it pretty good -- and despite all of the other clouds in the horizon, looking forward to his reactions on the 25th is one ray of sunshine that makes it all seem worthwhile.

So before I go out to finish Christmas shopping -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
Because of financial issues, I've had to play things a little more last-minute than I would really like to this year. Of course the stores were mobbed, but even with the logistical problems that creates, it's hard not to enjoy the whole process -- even if it's just for the tradition of it all. It's funny though, because every couple of stores I'd be walking through I'd see some older guy sitting in one of the chairs in a furniture display, or those seats near the dressing rooms of the department stores with that whole crossed-arm, tight-lipped pissed off look in their eyes. The kind of posture that clearly says, "I'm throwing a tantrum because I've had it with these crowds and this mall." And while I can easily recall plenty of times where I was in some store with my ex-wife looking at effing nothing for hours on end and where I'd just reach my saturation point and tried to find any excuse to leave and go home -- if you're shopping for Christmas gifts with less than 5 days to go -- then you've really gotta quit your bitching and suck it up, OK? Here's the thing about Christmas gift shopping that I think people really lose sight of sometimes -- It's not about you. You fight the crowds and put up with the stress because the people you're giving the gifts to are worth it. Besides -- According to legend, three wise men rode smelly camels all night long across a desert just so they could drop off three tiny boxes of spices and trinkets to a baby they weren't even related to who was born in the place where livestock go to the bathroom. If they could handle that, then it really shouldn't be such a big deal for you to have to stand in line at a fucking Sears for a little while, ok?
I am the father of an 8 year-old boy. As such, I need to be constantly prepared to deal with the little cuts and scrapes that little kids tend to get from playgrounds, skateboards, and housecats who don't appreciate their less-than-soft touch when it comes to petting or picking them up. Of course 90% of those cuts and scrapes are usually more about wounded pride than anything else -- so I keep a steady supply of Batman band-aids on hand, which I've found have a much better curing effect on boo-boo's of the dramatic variety than anything a doctor could do or say. Unfortunately their actual medical value leaves a lot to be desired -- a fact I discovered after boneheadedly slicing up my thumb while cleaning the other day. I tried (unsuccessfully) to apply one of these bandages to the cut, watching it slide all around and not stick to the skin -- at which point I went kinda crazy and dressed the wound by applying five or six of them at various angles and then wrapping the whole ugly mess up with copious amounts of scotch tape that I'd originally purchased for gift wrapping. Then, in a burst of inspiration I made a quick trip to my workplace to "borrow" some of the real bandages we keep on hand just in case there's ever an accident on the manufacturing floor. I can only imagine my late mother -- a career nurse, looking down on me from heaven and just shaking her head in disappointment.
I spent a number of years when I was younger working for mall marketing offices (I was the guy who built the Santa Houses and hung all those oversized ornaments from the ceilings) and then for radio stations that specialized in playing marathons of Christmas music during the month of December. And during those years I had one real nemesis. One singular enemy that plagued my days and made every night of the Christmas broadcasts a living hell -- and that villain's name was Manheim Steamroller. For those of you who might not remember, Mainheim Steamroller was a soft-jazz/easy listening orchestra group that specialized in putting out Christmas albums full of souped-up holiday carols. They were as cloying and insipid as the worst Kenny G ballad and just as popular among the people who programmed Muzak loops, commissioned local radio spots, and customized telephone hold music. For many years Manheim reigned supreme as the go-to soundtrack for corporate christmas parties or that guy at work who liked to blast Christmas music out of his computer speakers to help everyone "get in the holiday spirit." But now there's a new scourge. A new and even worse source for over-produced "modernized" christmas carols -- all the way down to their name, which finally usurped the steamroller in terms of flat out pretentiousness. But that's not even the worst part -- which is that The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the brainchild of former Aerosmith/Scorpions producer Paul O'Neill, keyboardist Robert Kinkel, and singer Jon Oliva -- all of whom used to be in a band called Savatage. Most people remember that group because of a really cheesy song called The Hall of the Mountain King that got a lot of play on MTV's Headbangers Ball during the hair metal 80's, and then again when it got skewered for it's ridiculous subject matter on a particularly memorable episode of Beavis and Butthead (especially for those us who grew up in Florida [Savatage is from Tampa] having to continually hear how great they supposedly were). After a bashing like that you'd think they would have learned their lesson -- but instead they went in an even more ridiculous direction, deciding to write Christmas songs that blend Guitar-Hero like posing with movie-soundtrack orchestra cliché's, all culminating in a series of inexplicably sold-out concerts where the final chorus of Jingle Bells is punctuated by pyrotechnic explosions and laser-light effects. Ever since they found their way into being the soundtrack for this viral video a couple of years back they've been a fixture on the holiday music scene, adding as much schlock to these traditional tunes as they possibly can. Seriously, they're like the Nickelback of Christmas music, and for my money they can't go away soon enough.
The Curious
Case of
The more I read about this movie, the more I really want to see it. Say what you will about Brad Pitt's wacky media presence with his wife and his kids and his ex, the guy has an eye for unique scripts -- and although this is clearly a star-vehicle for him (like Fight Club, Babel, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [which was awesome, btw] before it), what I appreciate the most about Pitt is the way that so many of his performances aren't so much about him the movie star as it is about telling the story that's in the script. Oceans Twelve and Mr. and Mrs. Smith aside -- I love the way he likes to disappear into the roles he plays instead of using them as a billboard for his already accepted public persona the way the Will Smith's, Tom Cruise's, and dare I say the Angelina Jolie's of the world tend to do. At the same time, as intriguing as the story line of Benjamin Button looks, I am somewhat concerned that it could be like Meet Joe Black all over again -- where what seemed like a cool idea gets screwed over by ham-handed direction and spotlight grabbing co-stars. Hopefully he will have learned his lesson from that debacle, and this film will come out better.
Fresh off the box-office success of The Day The Earth Stood Still (which looks awful, btw) there's talk that he wants to make a big screen version of one of my all-time favorite anime series, Cowboy Bebop. On the one hand I'm excited, because I think the series would make a really fun film, but on the other -- you just know that Keanu will want to star in it himself, and I can't even begin to tell you how much that would suck.
and Me
It's a book about a dog. But it's clearly a movie about Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson, and haven't we all had enough of those already?
Great Songwriting      ..It's harder than it looks.

[Listening to:  Miles Davis - "Blue Christmas" ]

Thursday, December 18

Thursday Thunderdome: Jingle Hells

You all know how this works; two things enter, one thing leaves.
With the holidays right around the corner, it's only right that this episode of the
Thunderdome deal with one of the best parts of this whole season:
The Music.
Holiday music is an odd thing, because if you take a second or two to browse through iTunes it becomes instantly clear that they're still making it (a lot of it, in fact) -- but when you get right down to it, there are still really only like half a dozen songs that people want to hear.

There are literally thousands of versions of Irving Berlin's White Christmas recorded by artists in every genre you can think of -- but really when people put that song on at a holiday party or whatever, there's really only one or two versions that count.
If it's not Bing Crosby, most people sort of turn their nose up at it.
A big part of that I suppose has to do with tradition, and the fact that for whatever reason the Christmas holiday that was depicted in all those old Currier and Ives postcards and Frank Capra movies has become the gold standard of what Christmas should be. Regardless of the fact that the vast majority of those images are over sixty years old, apparently they were like the best Christmases ever, and nothing that's happened since has been worth a crap.

And sure, the holiday has become so overwhelmingly commercialized since then that it's easy to kind of hold one up over the other -- but I would argue that just because what we think of first nowadays might be presents and shopping and whatever doesn't mean that the spirit of togetherness and giving has diminished any. We express it in different ways now than perhaps we did in the 40's and 50's -- but when that morning comes around and you see children racing down the stairs all excited to see what is under the tree hoping that your most secret of wishes have been granted, there's just no way you'll ever convince me that it was Madison Avenue that put that light in their eyes.

But if you were to judge simply by the music, you'd maybe think
that Christmas had kinda peaked somewhere in the early 1960's.
So what's a modern kid to do when they want to update their menu of Christmas song choices, but can't really bring themselves to listen to Mariah Carey add those glass-shattering high falsetto notes of hers to your favorite Holiday tunes without vomiting?

If you're a metalhead -- your choices are even more limited than most, largely because of the way that the religious overtones in the holiday tend to clash with the largely anti-religious image that most of that music projects.
But that doesn't mean there aren't songs in the genre to choose from.
So the question before you is this: Of the two clips below -- Which heavy metal Christmas song is the best, and why?

King Diamond -- No Presents for Christmas

Karkis -- Secret Satan
Here are the rules: First, you can only pick one. If you love them both, you have to pick the one that you liked the most.
But here's the twist.
In order for your vote to be counted, you must also tell me the name of your favorite modern-era Christmas song, and why you like it (a link to a youtube version of it would also be nice, but certainly isn't a requirement). It doesn't have to be a metal song -- but I would prefer it to be something from the last 2-3 decades. I figure if we get enough of these together, we can put together a carolling group to go door to door and sing them for everybody -- just to get the Christmas spirit rolling.
Happy Holidays, everyone.

[Listening To:  Mike Keneally"'Cause of Breakfast" ]

Wednesday, December 17

Burgermeister Meisterburger

[Listening To:  Guthrie Govan"Fives" ]

Monday, December 15

You Mu's Sure Know How to Party

The knock on Danko Jones has always been that even though he's been on the scene for almost a decade now, he only really seems to have one song. Luckily for him, I really dig that tune -- so I never really mind whenever he puts out a slowed down or sped-up variation of it (which this tune -- King of Magazines, clearly is).
Regardless, I've always had a thing for this Ratfink/Kricfalusi school of animation -- so despite the fact that I pretty much have no idea what's going on in this short (other than the fact that it appears to be a pretty chilly day in cartoonland), it was a nice little break in what turned out to be a pretty lifeless Monday afternoon at work.
So, what song is helping you get through it today?

[Listening To:  Voivod"Missing Sequences" ]

Friday, December 5

The Friday Hot Sheet

The family is gathering for my grandmother's funeral, and tensions are running unexpectedly high. It's strange though, because even before all of this started happening it was still one one of those weeks where my mind felt like it was all over the place.

A big part of this was being stuck in a mindless repetitive burst-testing project at work that gave me little to do other than listen to music and let my thoughts wander. Sometimes that's a good thing, but with all the ghosts of Christmases past floating around the proceedings that are coming up Saturday afternoon, it wasn't so great.

So before things get too deep -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
David PlouffeIn the heat of the recent presidential race I wanted to do my part to help Barack win, which lead me to a website where I registered to volunteer whenever possible and donated a little money to the effort. Soon after, I began receiving emails from the campaign -- mostly about election issues (responses to the debates, etc), but included in there were repeated messages from campaign manager David Plouffe asking for donations to the campaign in the form of T-shirt offers, bumper sticker sales, and out and out calls for money donations. Pretty standard stuff for a presidential bid -- except that now, more than a month after Obama's historic victory I'm still getting emails from David Plouffe asking me to buy coffee mugs. I'm sure I'm inviting a slew of "I told you so's" by saying this -- but I'm not really appreciating the implications of these solicitations, especially considering all these reports that have been surfacing lately about a campaign that still has close to $30 million in unspent funds lying around. Hey Dave -- don't know if you got the memo on this one, but we won. Stop bugging me for cash.
In 1976, a team called the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their very first season in the NFL. Although they had several high draft picks to work with -- the team had very little talent or tradition to build on, leading them to bumble their way to a winless 0-14 season, widely regarded as one of the most embarrassing performances in all of professional sports. Since then, the Bucs organization has risen to distinction and even won a Super Bowl -- but no team has ever been able to match the utter suckitude of that sad-sack bunch from '76. In the past few seasons, we've had a bunch of hopefuls lose 13, 14, and even 15 games in hopes of achieving the dream -- only to blow it late in the year by actually figuring out a way to win. Every year we hope to see a team pull off the impossible, but every season our hopes are dashed by teams who for whatever reason lost the will to lose. One of the teams that have come close to this record is the Detroit Lions, who have gone 31-93 since 2001, including two seasons where they only managed to one win. Sunday afternoon the Lions take on the Minnesota Vikings, who have already beat them once this year -- followed by a stretch of games against playoff bound opponents to finish the season. The Bucs went 0-14 in 1976. Since then, the season has been extended to 16 games, meaning if the Lions can continue to suck they have a chance to be the single worst team in NFL history. I don't know about you -- but I think they can do it.
War Zone
The Punisher was a surprising gem of a hyper-violent action film, featuring a then-unknown Thomas Jane in the title role going up against a surprisingly evil villain played by John Travolta. Stuff blew up, revenge was served cold, and I was entertained. The movie did OK, so you figured there would be a sequel -- but when the ads for the new prequel/reboot arrived and it became clear that British actor Ray Stevenson was taking over as comic book hero Frank Castle, was I the only one wondering what could have possibly possessed Tom Jayne to pass on this? It's not like The Mist re-wrote the record book for box-office receipts or anything. Reports say he ditched it because of creative differences -- and I know doing sequels isn't always considered a good idea for stars, but it seemed like a good fit, and I'm sorta disappointed to see it go away.
Frost/NixonLike a lot of people out there, I was simply too young to experience Watergate firsthand. I knew that my parents hated Nixon, but it wasn't until I took several history classes and did some reading on my own that I had any idea as to why. Now, a seemingly unbelievable amount of time later a film is being released recreating one of the most important moments of that scandal -- the lengthy televised interviews that British journalist David Frost conducted with the former president in which Nixon unexpectedly spoke candidly and in many ways implicated himself in the scandal that led to him resigning from office. The movie is based on the play of the same name, and even though I am a huge history buff -- it looks unbelievably boring. Nixon was a pivotal historical figure, and this was a huge moment in his legacy -- but if audiences were cold about the X-Files movie that came out ten years too late a few months back, why did anyone expect them to line up to see this? I know it's aimed at an older crowd, but most of them who were interested in Watergate watched the actual interviews take place. It just seems too long, too badly timed, and too cold a subject matter to have much of a chance for success. However, all that being said -- I'd like to make a case for one of the actors in this film to get some oscar consideration. When I was growing up, Frank Langella made a mini-career playing Dracula in some of the cheesiest horror films ever made. Seriously, they were awful. As such, Langella kind of disappeared as a name actor -- even though he continued to work through the years. Recently he's been showing up here and there in non-vampire character roles in movies and on TV, and the guy is flat-out awesome. Seeing as academy awards like best supporting actor are usually awarded to performances in films that no one sees, it's quite possible that Langella might find himself nominated for his work in this movie that I have really no interest in watching, and in my opinion it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.
SnailsOne of the hobbies I've been quietly chasing for a while is keeping a fish tank. I have very little background knowledge, and have inadvertently killed a lot of goldfish and other household varieties along the way. During the past year or so, I've been able to keep and maintain 2 fish -- a little tiger oscar and this big red bellied Pacu that I nicknamed "Conan" -- because he'd eat anything, including most of the other fish I tried to keep in the tank with him. Recently I fell a little behind on cleaning the tank, and algae began to accumulate on the glass. So I moved the fish to a smaller tank, cleaned the entire tank, set everything back up -- put them back in the water, and an hour or so later they were both dead. I have no idea what I did wrong, and I was sad to see them go -- but like many other fish I've killed in my day, the only real move was to buy some more and start over. Figuring the tank cleaning had something to do with it, I bought some snails this time to help control the algae. First of all, they're just weird and fascinating to watch. Second of all -- And I had no idea this would happen -- they eat each other. One of the snails sorta up and died a few days in, and the other two took turns sucking what was left of him out of the shell like an escargot platter. Unbelievably gross, but really cool at the same time.
Soul Train                When I was a kid, there wasn't a Cartoon Network. Cartoons were played on Saturday Mornings in a huge back-to-back block, so if you wanted your fix you tended to watch the whole thing -- regardless of how bad the shows (*koff* *koff* The Snorks *koff*) were. I don't know what it was like where you grew up, but here in Jacksonville you knew there were no more cartoons coming on when Soul Train came on promptly at 11:30. Usually after you watched the opening animation of that show you got up and went to play outside, but at a certain point when I was really starting to really get into music I started sticking around an extra 30 minutes to catch Don Cornelius and see the so-called "live" performances they featured in each episode. MTV was in full swing by that time, but it was truly Soul Train that let me know that I couldn't dance. Even if I could have mastered some of the dorkier looking moves they did on that show, it was plainly clear I wouldn't look very cool doing any of them. Eventually when Don Cornelius stopped hosting I kinda lost interest, but it was a guilty pleasure of mine for many years -- not only as a way to keep a toe dipped into the waters of funk, r&b, and hip-hop, but also as an eye-candy fest of hot black women in skimpy clothes shakin' what their mama's gave them (and we all know how I feel about that). Of course the glory days of the show happened a decade earlier at the height of the disco/funk era -- which you can now see if you spend a little time on Rhythmbluessoul's YouTube page, which features a number of clips like this one. Not only is the music awesome (you can't do much better than the O'Jays), but the dance moves are just too much fun to watch.

[Listening to:  The Temptations - "Glasshouse" ]

Thursday, December 4

Klattu Barada Nnn.. Necktie.. Neckturn.. Nickel!?

Stolen from WIGSF, (Who stole it from Visiting Lucyville). Feel free to steal it from me, too. Here's how it works:
  • Pick 15 of your favorite movies.
  • Go to IMDb and find one quote from each film.
  • Post them here for everyone to guess.
  • Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, put who guessed it and the correct answer.
  • NO GOOGLING/IMDb search or other search functions.
If you're a movie nerd like me, the tough part here is cutting the list down to only 15, but then there's this problem I ran into more than once where the quotes I wanted to use were too obscure to make the imdb listings, but at the same times the ones that were there were so blatantly obvious that It was hard to feel like you were just sorta giving it away (see #15). Still, a good way to waste a little time if you've got a some to spare, and if nothing else, you get to see just how cheesy my taste tends to run when it comes to the cinema.
UPDATE: And we've got a winner! 15 for 15. Thanks to everyone who participated. This was fun :)
  1. Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked in the head with an iron boot? Of course you don't, no one does. It never happens. It's a dumb question, scratch that.   From Airplane. Winner: Werdna

  2. You pitiful fool! My life is not for any Earthling to give or take!   From Flash Gordon. Winner: Cakes

  3. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls -- Dyin' time's here.   From Mad Max 2: Beyond Thunderdome. Winner: Cookyspooky

  4. She has the face of Buddha and the heart of a scorpion   From Raise the Red Lantern. Winner: Cakes

  5. Catch you fuckers at a bad time?   From Blade. Winner: Cakes

  6. Why would a man leave his apartment three times on a rainy night with a suitcase and come back three times?   From Rear Window. Winner: Cakes

  7. Shoot straight, you bastards -- don't make a mess of it!   From Breaker Morant. Winner: Satorical

  8. I've been ionized, but I'm okay now.   From The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Winner: Cookyspooky

  9. I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!   From The Thing. Winner: Cookyspooky

  10. Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man.   From The Big Lebowski. Winner: The Kaiser

  11. It should take you exactly four seconds to cross from here to that door. I'll give you two.   From Breakfast at Tiffany's. Winner: Cakes

  12. When it comes down to making out, whenever possible put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.   From Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Winner: Werdna

  13. I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass -- and I'm all out of bubblegum.   From They Live. Winner: Lucy

  14. You cheated! Cheated! I hate you! I refuse to accept! I won't win any way but my way! You've ruined my reputation, do you hear? You I hate! You and your hair that's always combed, your suit that's always white, your car that's always clean! I refuse to accept! I challenge you to another race!   From The Great Race. Winner: Unmuse

  15. He's the brains, sweetheart!   From Star Wars. Winner: Satorical

[Listening To:  Fishbone"Beergut" ]

Monday, December 1

Admiral Crunch

      -- found via Deus Ex Malcontent.

[Listening To:  Paramore"Decode" ]

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