Friday, October 28, 2011

Beavis and Butthead

I spent approximately 38% of my college years staying up all night drinking warm 40s of Budweiser and watching Beavis and Butthead with Howie Weingarten. And I didn't realize how much I missed it.

Mike Judge brought the show back last night after a 14 haitus. In that time he created King of The Hill and made three great cult films. Now he brings everything he learned from his other projects.

I watched some of the old episodes in preparation. They're still as funny as they were in the 90's but crude, choppy and with jokes that only work on one level. Judge has made this run even better. The two short episodes last night were painful, hilarious and true. The animation is clean and slick, the satire working more subtly but still filled with the two biggest idiots in the world slowly killing themselves (which explains why MTV picked up Jackass right after B&B ended).

And thankfully, the commentary segments are back, long discarded from Netflix and dvds. The best jokes are once again saved for videos no one has ever seen and, because that's the network MTV is now, reality shows get a central focus. They couldn't be more deserving.

When I first saw this show, I had no job, lived in my parents basement, and had one friend near my house. Now I have my own house, my own family, no job and all my friends on Facebook. I am no less into this show. And yes, after all these years I like Butthead but I love Beavis.

One complaint for the record; putting it on against It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (and a great one at that)? Way to fight over the same demographic, MTV.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zombies Vs. Vampires

Halloween is right around the corner (Monday but if you doing anything about it, it's Saturday) and that means lots of monster movies on AMC, centered around new episodes of The Walking Dead. It's as good as season one and considering the shape of our economy, just as well timed.

Zombie movies always do well in terrible economies. The backdrop of the collapse of society resonates with people at their core. The modern zombie era began with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead in 1968, a year of complete unrest. Even the Beatles didn't get along. But in 1978 was his sequel, Dawn of the Dead. That film, still considered the high watermark of the genre came out amongst gas lines, inflation and a weakening Jimmy Carter.

Conversely, vampire movies do well in good economies. When people don't have to worry about the world turning against them, they worry about the outcast; a sinister creature who will lure you alone to your death. Despite Bela Lugosi's turn during the Depression, Christopher Lee enjoyed a run as Dracula in the post war bliss of the 1950's, Fright Night and the Lost Boys found success in the Reagan era, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran under Clinton.

What's happening right now is we're seeing a resurgence of both at once. Yes, things are that fucked up. The zombies are easy to explain; this country has been in a sorry state since the tech bubble burst in 2000 and has been slowly sinking ever since. Everyone I know has at least a plan in their head of what to do when they'll lose their jobs, an inevitability these days. The end of their world is only a "come into my office" away.

Yet vampires have survived thanks solely to demographics; they're all aimed at teenagers. The Lost Boys pioneered the idea of sexy teenage vampires. Buffy carried it over into a post 911 world and Twilight since has owned the entire genre, getting skinnier and more topless with each installment. Teenagers don't care about the economy; they care only about themselves as turbulent hormones and emotional states cloud everything else (which also explains my terrible high school grades).

People have said zombies are about gore, vampires are about sex. But I believe it goes deeper than that. Zombies are about the world, vampires are about the self. Which are you afraid of? of all places corroborates with most of these theories, albeit for different reasons. So I can still be original.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts on the Star Wars Blu-Ray

The worst thing that could have happened to The Phantom Menace was The Matrix coming out one month earlier.

The worst thing that could have happened to Attack of the Clones was Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring coming out six months earlier.

The worst thing that could have happened to Revenge of the Sith was George Lucas coming out with more movies.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Batman: Year One Blu-Ray

In my sophomore year of high school I rediscovered Batman. I spent December of 1987 in bed with pneumonia and a copy of The Dark Knight Returns. When I got out I found the final issue of Year One in a comic store. Batman, ten years after Adam West reruns after kindergarten, became my favorite character again. It's a story I haven't gone a year without reading.

And now Bruce Timm has made a movie of it. Not simply using inspiration the way Nolan made Batman Begins but a full-on shot for shot, line for line adaptation. And it works exceptionally well. Where many adaptations have simply captured the moments of the book (Watchmen, the early Harry Potter films) Timm captures the spirit of the book.

In many ways, Year One is the peak of Frank Miller's work. It's a crime noir, a genre Miller would rarely leave. But where Daredevil showed broad sketches and archetypes and Sin City would devolve into outlandish characatures, Year One is balanced, down to earth yet exciting. The movie captures that balance eloquently.

Using the comic as storyboards, it's initially disconcerting in motion. David Mazzuchelli is a genius in finding the right moment for each panel, usually the result of action rather than action itself. Seeing this much violence felt wrong but looking back at the book, every single moment in the movie is a a direct adaptation. It's both faithful and heightens the excitement.

Part of what made Year One so revolutionary is that it spends as much time on Jim Gordon as batman. The film spends even more, removing most of Batman's interior monologue while keeping Gordon's intact. And performing him is the perfectly cast Bryan Cranston.

I'm a huge fan of Cranston and Breaking Bad because I am human. According to Comic Book Resources, Cranston initially passed on Year One, claiming he didn't want to do animation. It was only after recognizing the quality of the writing that he signed on. And he brings every bit of commitment and intensity from his series onto the movie. You can't believe this is the performance of of an actor not used to voice work. In every way, this is Cranston's show.

I've seen criticism online of Ben McKenzie's performance of Batman but I like it. This is not Batman at the peak of powers with a full utility belt, Batcave and teen sidekick. This is a young man trying to find out who he is without the confidence or gravitas Kevin Conroy brings to the part. It;s just right.

With each direct to video movie Bruce Timm releases (usually 3 a year) it's getting harder and harder to rank them. But no matter how many films the DC team will produce, Batman: Year One will always stand out.

And the Catwoman short is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tele Project

Anyone who knew me in the 90's remembers this guitar:

It was the only electric guitar I owned until 2002. It was beautiful, it sounded amazing and it weighed 11 pounds. Every guitarist that picked up exhaled quickly. In retrospect I was so hyper in my youth I needed a heavy guitar to keep me on the stage. But over the years it was way too much. Once I got a Les Paul (a freaking Les Paul) I put it down for the lighter guitar (the lighter guitar being a freaking Les Paul!).

I did love the Tele though and with this being such a strong guitar I couldn't justify another. On 2007 I added a Strat (first shown here):

But it wasn't quite the same. I kept dreaming about a blond, banged up, snarly sounding Tele, like Keith Richards or Bruce Springsteen. Then early this summer, I saw a listing for a Tele on Blonde, light, with an American body and Mexican neck for $500. I pulled the trigger and after a frustrating two weeks where the guitar went to Astoria and reshipped to Chicago, I received it. And it wasn't right. The neck was chunky and sat high, the strings buzzed and the neck pickup was thuddy. A pro setup and new strings helped a little but gigging with it didn't get me to love it. So I went to work.

After a fret polish at the shop, the old neck went on. It felt great; a new body with a vintage neck that was broken in by my own hand. But it still sat too high. I measured the neck pocket. It was 1/2 an inch when it should have been 5/8". I don't know why I was feeling so adventurous but I went to Home Depot and bought a router. After a morning practicing on spare wood, I slowly and methodically erased 1/8" of wood from the neck pocket. The neck went back in and felt more natural. I put the non locking tuners from my Strat on the headstock (light and simple is the key to this guitar) and the whole thing felt great. But didn't sound so great.

Many players hate the lipstick tube neck pickup. Now I know why. While I always loved the look, the sound is dead and thuddy. It had to go. I researched a ton aftermarket lipstick tubes but a couple of recommendations put me straight. I needed a humbucker in there.

The PAF clones were an early idea but I eventually settled on a used TV Jones. And it was the right call. The neck setting just glistened and in the middle position; magic.

I ordered a humbucker pickguard but it didn't fit the smaller TV Jones. So I went back to the single coil guard and routed. And routed. And routed. It's not the prettiest cut but this guitar wasn't designed to be pretty. It was designed to be badass. I don't know what the bridge pickup is but it sounds great so it stays.

I'm slowly relicing the body by keeping it out of its case and near the cement foundation of the house. I'd like to minimize that 20 year gap between the neck and body.

After all that work, I now own this:

Ii sounds amazing. Strong, alive, bold and comfortable. Everything I want a guitar to be. I always wanted to build my own Tele. And this is as close as I could without carving the wood myself. I couldn't sell it if I wanted to. But I'll never want to.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

iPad pedalboard

Last year I bought a Line 6 Pod HD500. I was playing in a band 30 miles away and sick of hauling a Marshall stack every week. It worked well but I couldn't get past the fact that I was playing a digital simulator. I also felt trapped in the presets as I had to sync it to a desktop to make any real changes.

That Christmas Renee got me Amplitube for IPad. It was a good practice tool but again limiting. I also lost the adapter somewhere in NY and never used the app again.

Digitech has taken this idea a step further and integrated the iPad right into a pedalboard.

This concept, while cool, doesn't seem to have a huge benefit. The board is still huge and needs an adapter to run but now it contains an expensive iPad. At a gig I'd rather have the iPad on a music stand to look up lyrics or, better yet, at home where it can't get damaged or swiped. If the it was much smaller and lighter and could be powered by the iPad's internal battery you'd really have something. As it is, it looks like Digitech made this board not because of any need for guitarists, but because they could.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Netflix is Netflix Again

Kudos to Reed Hastings for not following through on a stupid plan.

Dear Jonathan,

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.

While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.

We're constantly improving our streaming selection. We've recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we've added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.

We value you as a member, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.


The Netflix Team

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs

Every morning I get up and walk twenty feet to work at an office 800 miles away.

I walk my son to day care while checking my work email.

I carry a phone with the complete Beatles, Black Sabbath and Star Wars trilogy inside it.

I make a living creating games, websites, jokes and sci fi ideas for a category invented four years ago.

I buy action figures on ebay in the middle of the street.

I show my son cg animated movies based on story and character, not technology.

I talk to my friends all day while not seeing any for a year.

I keep trying when I'm down in the belief that the future will be better than right now.

I owe it all to Steve Jobs.

I owe my life to Steve Jobs.

I will miss Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

New 52: Final Thoughts

It's the first Wednesday in October and I've got my first batch of DC #2 issues. What were bold experiments last month are now the new status quo.

It was a unique experience; at least 17 years since I knew everything that was going on the the DC books. Never have I read them all. It's a unique look into the publishing philosophy of a a company. What kind of range do they put out? Like anything it's a wide range of quality. Some books were the best they've been in years, some soldiered on with the same level of mediocrity and some were just bad. I'm sure the batting average across the board was the same last year.

The "soft reboot" approach was confusing. basically, they rebooted anything that needed it. the Batman and Green Lantern franchises were left alone. The #1 issues could easily have been the next following. Because these titles were doing well. Some like Swamp Thing and Aquaman followed the new direction set in last year's Brightest Day. Others like Wonder Woman just got new creative teams starting new stories. Still others like Fury of Firestorm, Blue Beetle and Flash were so new they ignore everything that's happened before. All of this is immaterial if you're planning on reading one book. But when these titles cross over, be prepared for some major headaches.

More confusing were the Wildstorm titles now in the DC Universe. Not one established themeselves in the preexisting universe (other than shoving Martian Manhunter into Stormwatch) of DC Comics. And that's the problem. I don't know what the DC Universe is. This is 52 books with almost nothing in common between them. When I first started reading DC Comics after Crisis I knew how they all fit together and seeing characters meet one another was exciting. Now with some rebooting and others staying teh same I don't know if these charcaters will recognize one another.

More disturbing was the IMAGE style creeping into the DCnU. Whether it's 90's nostalgia or creators playing to their old strengths, books like Supergirl, Teen Titans were pretty splash pages with no story. And let's not get started on the sexism of Catwoman and Red Hood. Beware the bad girl comeback.

And Justice League is late. Nothing says IMAGE more than Jim Lee blowing a deadline.

Was it a success? Definitely more than the "One Year Later" reboot of 2006 which lasted as long as its initial stories. And it got me hooked again. This morning when I picked up my books, I thought, "that can't be all there is". I went back and grabbed two more DC titles I thought were okay. If the new DC can get me to buy casual titles a decade after I've trimmed down to my favorites, how many more readers are doing the same? Then again, who knows how long it will last?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

When they said the revolution will not be televised, what they meant to say was the revolution will be marginalized on mass media and sneak out online.

I thought Occupying Wall Street was a great idea. This economy is falling apart as the government does its best to protect the richest. The media is attacking the protesters for not having clear goals. I don't think this is about goals. This is about unrest. This country has become very comfortable with a silent majority. While nothing may change after this protest, the top 1% need to know the other 99% are as deserving of respect as their checking accounts. I wish I could be there.

Here's Tim Warner and Jon Savoy in the center of the action:

Ed Murray covers it better than I can and he is farther away.

And I love this guy. The FOX News correspondent tells him this is moment to give whatever message he wants, and then doesn't air it.

Don't quit, guys.