All posts by tyrannofloresrex

Mr. Enthusiasm

RF’s First Half Faves

My Top 5 albums from the first half of 2015…

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar offers his reflections on where he has come from  on his journey through the  music industry, recalling some of the most influential figures in hip-hop to celebrate his origin and climb to the top. While acknowledging his success, Lamar struggles with the toxic nature of fame thats inseparable from it, and the responsibility of being a cultural icon in a time when our culture is saturated with race-related violence. A lot of Lamars verses are conversations from one aspect of his feelings to someone in his life, or himself, or in one excellent piece of found footage editing, Tupac. Besides its political content, the album delivers dynamic, raw vocal performances, finely utilized samples coupled with an amazing studio band, and is one of the most engaging records to come out in the last decade. To Pimp a Butterfly is a work that could be dissected, discussed, and enjoyed for years to come. And it probably will.

Continue reading RF’s First Half Faves

Jack Kirby’s The X-Men

I remember the day I played sick from high school to read entire collections of Mark Millar’s Ultimate X-Men, thus kicking off an expensive habit of collecting the trades as they came out. And I collected every stupid iteration of the team from X-Babies, to Exiles, and those gory X-Force books, because the depth and width of their universe is fucking incredible. These days I don’t read many comics, but I always find myself asking MMDG or another Idle Timer about what’s going on with my team. I love those X-books, and I guess I kind of love Jack Kirby for starting it.

Truth be told, Jack Kirby didn’t have to do with much of the X-Men I know. Wolverine, or Hugh Jackman, as some people may know him, was the brain-baby of Len Wein, Roy Thomas, and John Romita Sr, before being fleshed out into the tormented berserker by Chris Claremont. A lot of the stories and characters from the X-Men cartoon are from the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne era, too.

So why give thanks to Jack Kirby? Continue reading Jack Kirby’s The X-Men

The Final Salvo: Jack in the Box’s Munchie Meal

Some of the more conscientious readers out there may wonder why Subway’s five-dollar foot long isn’t on our five-dollar meal to-do list. My immediate response is that it’s just not sexy. Look at Jared. He may be healthy, but he’s also kind of creepy. Subway is for those people who don’t want to feel guilty after eating. This is not an experiment on what’s the healthiest thing to do with five bucks. If you go into a fast food place expecting every brick of the food pyramid to be appropriately represented, then you’re kind of missing the point. Also, and I know I have some friends out there who feel me on this, in Subway’s commercials, their guacamole sandwiches look like they’re suffocated in guacamole, and then when you actually get there, they give you half a tablespoon of guac. Fuck Subway. This juicy bit of bloggorhea is about finding out what these huge corporate food vendors think five bucks is worth, and how they entice us into spending that money. And it’s also an opportunity to make poop jokes.

With that in mind, this adventure in fast food gastronomy has to end on a grand note. My final stop has, what I believe to be, the most intriguing name and the clearest target market. Continue reading The Final Salvo: Jack in the Box’s Munchie Meal

Fast Food Lunch Fight, Round Four: Burger King

When I began this investigation a few short days ago, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to get out of it.  Now, I admit that this whole thing has been more fun than I expected, and so far I think every joint that thinks I’m worth five bucks plus tax has its merits.

a-suggestive-burger-king-adSo, maybe if I was more familiar with Burger King’s current ad campaign, I wouldn’t have had high expectations. If someone were to literally poop in my cornflakes, I’d suppose it’d be fair to say that this would make me feel that way.

When I walk into the Ellensburg Burger King, I ask if they have a $5 lunch, and the cashier says, “No.” Taking her word for it, I leave the restaurant and head towards the Jack in the Box, thinking that MMDG was mistaken when he put BK on my to do list. A couple of quick messages to him assures me that BK has a $5 deal.

He tells me, “They have ‘we re-invented the $5 bill’ commercials.”

I don’t think these guys understand what’s out there.

Continue reading Fast Food Lunch Fight, Round Four: Burger King

Fast Food Frenzy Day Three: Dairy Queen

I think it’s pretty easy to see that fast food places like advertising to stoners and students. You can tell that these restaurants are doing this when in one of their commercials a group of bros appear at a gathering with a box of tacos and then the party really gets started, or when some dude suddenly transforms into a puppet. However, I can’t tell who Dairy Queen’s target market is. Commercials for DQ straddle a line between friendly and stupid, so they attempt to appeal to everyone, but fail to establish a strong personality. These ads are few and far between and they’re probably more frequent than actual DQ storefronts. I can’t even remember the last time I went to Dairy Queen, but more than likely it was to get ice cream, not a lunch. With so few locations and a damn near invisible brand, I’m curious as to how Dairy Queen can compete in this fight for five bucks.

SubstandardFullSizeRenderOne of the wonderfully strange things about Ellensburg is that there are two Dairy Queens. One of everything else, two Dairy Queens. This place is as cold as Narnia and now twice as magical. If anyone is wondering where their local Dairy Queen is, Ellensburg probably took it. One DQ is located next to the university. My mom tells me this one is nasty. The $5 meal she ate there came with a cold hamburger with mealy meat, a small soda and fries, and no ice cream. This does not get me jazzed. Fortunately, there is another, and I venture to the Dairy Queen on the far side of town, near the freeway. Continue reading Fast Food Frenzy Day Three: Dairy Queen

Five-Buck Lunch Day Two: KFC

To be honest, I knew how my Taco Bell experience was going to end. Though I’d say I’m a pretty healthy eater, I’m no stranger to fast food, particularly Taco Bell’s value-to-flavor ratio and the eventual digestive wringing that follows a meal. Knowing and accepting that eventuality makes it easier to enjoy the experience, but I did not approach my second outing with the same calm resignation.

I usually don’t mess with KFC.  I admit I fell into the whole “KFC doesn’t use real chickens” hoax, and even though it’s been disproved, I think the very idea of a mutated chicken that’s mass produced in a lab to supply a fast food chain is too close to plausible for me to take the risk. Test tube chicken aside, KFC just looks unhealthy. All of the food from there comes in mostly shades of brown, which speaks to its nutritional value and I think is an indicator for the “T + 3” effect. Continue reading Five-Buck Lunch Day Two: KFC

Fast Food Lunchbox Blitz Day One: Taco Bell

If the 20th century adage, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” is true, then the next best thing must be a cheap lunch. A recent fad in fast food marketing has several restaurants fighting over customers’ lunch money by trying to lure them in with a five dollar meal deal. A cousin to the dollar menu, these five dollar deals promise more for less; a hearty serving of tasty chow that leaves you with enough change to rent a Redbox, buy a lotto ticket, donate to charity, etc. MMDG brought this trend to my attention, and issued a challenge: to spend one work-week sampling the meal deals from the various institutions eager to win my wallet through my stomach. Normally, MMDG would handle this sort of business himself, but the idea of consistently eating fast food is something he can’t commit to in good conscience. “It’s a young man’s game,” he explained. Well, I’ll throw my hat into the ring on his behalf. I intend to eat one $5 lunch per day for one week in search of value, nourishment, and satisfaction. I’m skeptical as to whether I’ll find all three at one time, but I’ll take two out of three. I mean, technically whatever they serve me counts as nourishment, right?

My first stop: Taco Bell.

Continue reading Fast Food Lunchbox Blitz Day One: Taco Bell

The Best of DC’s New 52: #2, Batman

#2 Batman – Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion

For a long time,  Saturday morning cartoons were my only inlet into the world of capes, cowls, and spandex.  Growing up, my comic-related knowledge relied on two volumes of colorized Eastman/Laird Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stories, and the entire set of ’95 Fleer Ultra Spider-Man trading cards.* Instead of reading the books, I watched every single super-hero cartoon that made its way to the Saturday morning block. Actual comic books were neglected, their covers providing a simple sense of the kinds of dramas that were supposed to unfold between my action figures. I was a superficial comic fan, liking the content for what it looked like, never really thinking about it as literature.

When I inevitably made the cross-over from television to graphic novels, I was eighteen, a legal adult, and I made mine Marvel. After all, it was Marvel’s cartoon cast of costume-clad characters that first piqued my pubescent fan-boy interest. Every opinion I’ve developed about comics, every urge to spend $3.99 on 24-pages of glossy, illustrated wonder is rooted in those Saturday mornings inside Marvel’s animated universe. And to this day, I see Marvel heroes as old friends–drinking buddies from the juice-box era, here to help me escape from boredom into a world of imagination.

There is, of course, one exception–the one exception I think every Marvel fan concedes to: The Batman. When I think about DC comics, only three (maybe four) characters jump to mind, all of whom grace the top three spots on this list, and Batman is hands down the coolest. Before Marvel got their shit together to produce accurate cartoon versions of their popular book titles, Warner Bros. had Batman: The Animated Series, an extension of the successful launch of Tim Burton’s cinematic Bat-franchise. Batman: TAS was DC’s sole cartoon offering for a long while, but it’s dark tone and excellent animation put it levels above anything Marvel had at the time, including the awesome Jim Lee/Chris Claremont inspired X-Men cartoon. Even after a well-received Justice League show and several (pretty good) Batman incarnations, The Animated Series is still the best super hero cartoon show ever.** So, shortly after pledging to devote myself strictly to the goings-on of the Marvel U, I allowed myself one concession – Batman books – and I opened my world to Gotham City legends by Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Jeph Loeb. As one of DC’s signature characters, and arguably the most visible super hero in the game thanks to those fine Chris Nolan flicks, Batman carries the burden of many fans’ expectations. Die-hard readers critique lame Batman arcs with the same animosity as those against Julie Taymor Beatles musicals and inconsistencies in Star Wars prequels. So when DC relaunched all of their titles, believe when I say that Batman was one of the few that really mattered. Continue reading The Best of DC’s New 52: #2, Batman

Movies You Can Watch: A Retrospective Look at the Films of 2011

While I completely dropped the ball when it came to pursuing new music in 2011, my theater attendance was at an all-time high. Even while I lived in the U.K., where the price of a movie was roughly $20.oo after the conversion, I somehow managed to see just about everything I thought was worth seeing, and some films that might pass for entertainment if they were playing in the upper corner of Hell’s waiting room. Is there anything I can say about the year in movies as a whole? I suppose.

Actually, I do think Tin-Tin represents the future of blockbuster entertainment, and I hold The Artist and Hugo  in high esteem for gilding film history and incorporating it into entertainment. Then there’s the success of  The Tree of Life, which demonstrates how far people are willing to like something even if it is dense beyond comprehension… But otherwise, this was not the most remarkable year for the moving pictures. Speaking generally, the budgets of 3D action-adventure flicks continued to expand into the grotesque, and 3D technology itself became more engrossed in the production process, gaining the support of beloved American directors (Spielberg and Scorsese each made 3D films this year to much critical acclaim and equal audience satisfaction); even so, there was nothing really “innovative” or urgent about the movies of the past year. So why even talk about ’em?

Despite being cynical toward the future of the industry, there were plenty of things to enjoy on the big screen. Sure, nothing was absolutely life-changing, but after I shelled out my ten bucks for admission more often than not I left the Cineplex satisfied that neither my time nor money was wasted. I do think it’s sad that we’ve probably exhausted the grammar of popular film making to the point that entertaining innovation seems impossible, but let me say this: 2011, I ain’t mad at ya’! You reminded us of the charm of Woody Allen’s comedies; you lifted Ryan Gosling to the prince-like stature of a young DiCaprio; and you soiled the jeans of many fanboys, as Marvel completed their set of Avengers “prequels” with the promise of the biggest cross-over event in blockbuster history! This wasn’t the zeitgeist of twenty-first century movie making, but it certainly wasn’t a year to avoid theaters. Continue reading Movies You Can Watch: A Retrospective Look at the Films of 2011

Is It Safe To Sing Along? Pop Culture and Post-racial America


“The coolest stuff about American culture—be it language, dress, or attitude—comes from the underclass. Always has and always will.” – Russel Simmons

The release of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and my current enrollment in a class on film and cultural politics has inspired me to bring up something that’s been on my mind.

It’s recently come to my attention that I’m supposed to be living in a Post-racial America. Granted, right now I’m studying in England and not living back home in California, but when I was in the U.S.A, I didn’t think too much about what electing Barack Obama meant for race politics in America. Obviously it was a progressive step in a positive direction for a country with a history steeped in racism, but the term “Post-race,” though flaunted by the media after the election, was not something I really thought about. After spending some time studying the topic, I can summarize what it’s about. Basically, the Post-racial philosophy assumes that what the Civil Rights movement strove so hard to achieve when it began fifty-plus years ago – equal opportunities, respect and compassion for all people – has been realized. Since we’ve elected a Black president, issues concerning race have been, for the most part, satisfactorily resolved.  Race is no longer a current issue because a Black man is in the White House. Does this make sense to you? Continue reading Is It Safe To Sing Along? Pop Culture and Post-racial America