AvX Contest: Week 5 Scoring Update

This is how I say “I’m disappointed in you” with my fist.

No formal bouts to adjudicate this week (at least, none that we set up on the ballot; had Magik vs. Doctor Strange been an option, the X-Men would have had their first tally in the win column). There’s still some fun action to report, and, so long as you’re enjoying the ride, the third issue of Aaron and Romita Jr.’s Avengers vs. X-Men doesn’t disappoint.

Speaking of disappointing…

Last week Cap missed an opportunity at being disappointed in Hawkeye and Spider-Woman’s mid-crisis makeout session. This week, he lets Wolverine know how disappointed he is in the hairy bastich’s insistence on extreme measures with a fist to the face and a mid-flight quinjet ejection. And… it counts. I’ll admit, the judges had to deliberate a bit longer here, since the actual words “disappointed in” weren’t spoken, but, ultimately, Gene won the argument. “If this doesn’t say Cap is disappointed in a fellow Avenger, nothing does.” So… score it, fans. Five points for all entrants who predicted this eventuality.

The only other AvX book this week was Avengers Academy 29. It’s a decent comic, but doesn’t really add anything to the overall storyline. Longtime X-fans, or anyone who read up on the whole Phoenix Saga in anticipation, will love the final splash page, however.

Here are the leaders through week 5. Note that the bonus points for liking The Institute or Comics & Collectibles on Facebook haven’t been factored in yet. Which means, of course, that some of you still have a chance of adding a quick two points to your total. Get on that.

  • Maricus C. 19 pts
  • Carly W. 17 pts
  • Josh M. 16 pts
  • Brian H. 16 pts
  • Josh D. 16 pts
  • Ricky V. 16 pts
  • Ron L. 14 pts
  • Janson W. 14 pts
  • Gus P. 14 pts
  • Josh C. 14 pts
  • Brian S. 14 pts
  • Tony K. 14 pts
  • Chris B. 14 pts

SNIKT Counter: 3

Free Comic Book Day 2012: Top 5 Freebies

Who says nothing’s free these days? Comic book aficionados regard Wednesday as the most important day of the week, but since 2002, Free Comic Book Day has turned the first Saturday of May into a celebration of one of our country’s truly original art forms.

Many major comic book publishers, in conjunction with your local neighborhood comic book shop, and through the coordination of Diamond Distribution, offer an exclusive FCBD edition comic absolutely free to customers on this one special day each year. In past years, the FCBD book may have simply been a previously released comic re-marked for giveaway. As the program started becoming more successful, some publishers began releasing books created specifically for the day, even using FCBD as a launching point for major summer events or titles.

Obviously the best thing about Free Comic Book Day is that existing fans are able to get their hands on exclusive books while new readers, or just curious sorts, can be given an introduction to a variety of publishers and genres… all for free. My “Read More Comics” mantra is given a genuine holiday. And while the availability of the various books depends on the individual store (and how early you get there… don’t dawdle), everyone should take advantage of the industry’s generosity and get in on the action. So this Saturday, getcher ass down to your local comics shop. Spread the love, tell some friends, and share the books.

I’ll read anything and everything I can get my hands on. If I had to choose, however, just five titles to set my sights on, these would be the target books:

5. Barnaby and Mr O’Malley (Fantagraphics)

In addition to being the premier publisher of new, exciting comics art, Fantagraphics has done a masterful job, over the years, of collecting and preserving the work of classic cartoonists. Works as popular as Peanuts or as obscure (but no less fantastic) as Buz Sawyer have been painstakingly remastered and published. The latest project looks to be a little known strip by Crockett Johnson, creator of the beloved children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon. Barnaby is described on the Fantagraphics website as a “rollicking strip [that] follows the tyke Barnaby and his mischievous fairy godfather Mr. O’Malley.” The FCBD edition is a preview of a collection to be released later this year. Continue reading Free Comic Book Day 2012: Top 5 Freebies

Ghostmann’s Horror Movie Guide: The 1950’s

The Blob (1958)

Directed By – Irvin Yeaworth

Starring – Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Olin Howland

****** 6 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: Next time you see a falling star be careful, it could contain a gelatinous alien that eats everything in its path as it grows! Poor old farmer Ted didn’t know, and when he spots a meteorite falling into a nearby field he heads over to check it out. The old farmer is attacked by the alien and it tries to eat off his hand. Two teenagers, Steve Andrews and his girlfriend Jane Martin, run across the farmer and take him to Dr. T. Hallen. After the doctor treats the blister, he thinks it would be a good idea to send two kids to go back to the scene of the attack and investigate this “blob” (uh hey dumb ass, what about calling the police!). Well when Steve and Jane return to the doctors office after checking things out at the field, they find the Blob chowing down on the good doctor. Steve and Jane try to warn the police and the townsfolk but everyone thinks they are crazy. Meanwhile the fucking Blob engulfs half the city and it’s population.

Fun Fact: The actual Blob, a mixture of red dye and silicone, is still kept in the original five-gallon pail in which it was shipped to the production company in 1958 from Union Carbide. It was put on display over the years as a part of the annual Blobfest, held over a three-day period each summer in Phoenixville, PA, which provided a number of the shooting locales for the film. In addition to displaying the Blob and miniatures used in the shooting, the event features a reenactment of the famous scene in which panicked theatergoers rush to exit the town’s still-functioning Colonial Theater, as well as several showings of the film.

Classic Quote: “Doctor, nothing will stop it!” – Kate, the nurse [after throwing acid on the Blob]

Filming Locations: Colonial Theater, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, USA / Downingtown, Pennsylvania, USA (Diner)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Directed By – Jack Arnold

Starring – Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning

***** 5 out 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: After doing research for this Horror Guide Series, I’ve come to the conclusion – scientific expedition teams searching for fossils or artifacts is probably one of the most hazardous jobs ever! I mean it never fails – there they are just hanging out in a tomb, or in the case of this movie, a Black Lagoon, digging up some old relics when SUDDENLY a crazy-ass monster attacks them and kidnaps the one hot girl that’s in the team! The hot girl is usually the girlfriend or fiancee of the team leader and it’s up him and the rest of the team to rescue the hot researcher and kill the monster. Sounds like a great job.

Fun Fact: Ricou Browning, a professional diver and swimmer, was required to hold his breath for up to 4 minutes at a time for his underwater role as the “Gill Man.” The director’s logic was that the air would have to travel through the monster’s gills and thus not reveal air bubbles from his mouth or nose. Thus, the costume was designed without an air tank. In the subsequent films, this detail was ignored and air can be seen emanating from the top of the creature’s head.

Classic Quote: “We didn’t come here to fight monsters, we’re not equipped for it.”  – David Reed

Filming Locations:  Paradise Cove – 28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, California, USA (arrival at coast scene) / Park Lake, Backlot, Universal Studios – 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA (Amazonian lagoon)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Directed By – Terence Fisher

Starring – Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee

****** 6 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: Okay dudes, if you ever run across a Doctor, teacher, boss, construction worker, Starbucks barista, with the last name of FRANKENSTEIN! just keep walking man. Because at some point that person is gonna want to resurrect the dead and dig up bodies – and you know where that leads to? Yeah, not good. Once you start down that road you’ll no doubt find yourself speaking lines like this, “I must find the perfect brain!” It’s a one way trip to loonyville. You’ll start bringing dead puppies back to life – or maybe some goldfish and squirrels. Nothing will be safe from your maniacal ways.

Fun Fact: The original concept for this film was a black-and-white feature with Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster. Universal threatened a lawsuit if Hammer copied any elements from the classic Universal version. Hammer had Jimmy Sangster completely redo the script and had Jack Asher shoot it in Eastmancolour.

Classic Quote:  “I’ve harmed nobody, just robbed a few graves!” – Baron Frankenstein

Filming Locations: Black Park, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, UK / Oakley Court, Windsor Road, Oakley Green, Windsor, Berkshire, England, UK

The Horror of Dracula (1958)

Directed by – Terence Fisher

Starring – Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough

********* 9 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: Jonathan Harker travels to Castle Dracula to help the Count catalog his vast library – you know, books on how to suck blood and shit like that. But what Count Dracula doesn’t know is that Harker is secretly on a mission to kill him. But dumb ass Harker takes his sweet time getting out the wooden stakes and by then it’s too late because Dracula has already sucked the dudes blood – goodbye Librarian, hello life of the un-dead. And if getting turned into a vampire wasn’t bad enough, Dracula sees a picture of Harker’s fiancee, Lucy Holmwood, and decides he needs to tap that ass. Dracula heads into town in his best cape and starts to visit Lucy at night in her bedroom. Soon Lucy is all used up and Dracula sets his sights on one of Lucy’s friends, Mina. What a pimp! But Dracula’s cock is soon blocked by one Dr. Van Helsing.

Fun Fact: The cape worn by Christopher Lee was discovered in 2007 in a London costume shop during its annual inventory-taking. It had been missing for 30 years, and is believed to be worth around $50,000 (US$). Lee was contacted to verify its authenticity.

Classic Quote:  “Sleep well, Mr. Harker.” – Count Dracula

Filming Locations: Bray Studios, Down Place, Oakley Green, Berkshire, England, UK / Oakley Court, Windsor Road, Oakley Green, Windsor, Berkshire, England, UK

The Fly (1958)

Directed By – Kurt Neumann

Starring – David HedisonPatricia OwensVincent Price

****** 6 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: You ever wish you could just teleport places instead of having to drive there? Or take the train or jet plane? I mean how cool would it be to step into a transporter box and one second you are in California and the nest you are chillin’ in Japan? Fucking awesome! Whats not awesome is that you would have to bring a can of RAID with you every time you step in the transporter and spray the hell out of it – otherwise when you get to Japan you might be barfing up on your sushi roll to slurp it up through a straw.

Fun Fact: Michael Rennie was offered the title role but declined it because his head would be covered thru most of the picture.

Classic Quote: “Help me! Help meeee!” – Andre Delambre

Filming Locations: Stage 9, 20th Century Fox Studios – 10201 Pico Blvd., Century City, Los Angeles, California, USA

House of Wax (1953)

Directed – André de Toth

Starring – Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Charles Bronson

****** 6 out of 10 ghosty orbs

Plot: Professor Henry Jarrod has the talent to make extremely life-like wax sculptures (now there’s a lost art form). His favorite subjects are historical figures such as Marie Antoinette or Joan of Arc, but his business partner Matthew Burke, wants him to start making some more horrific wax sculptures – like a chamber of horrors and shit. When Jarrod refuses to do such sculptures, Burke sets his wax museum on FIRE and collects the insurance. What a fucking dick! Well, everyone believes that Henry Jarrod died in the fire but he unexpectedly reappears some 18 months later when he opens a new exhibit – and guess what motherfuckers, this one DOES have a chamber of horrors. Guess who Henry is inviting for opening day? That’s right – Burke the Jerk.

Fun Fact: Warner Bros.’ first 3-D movie, filmed by director André De Toth – who was blind in one eye and hence could not see the effect.

Classic Quote: “It’s sort of a shock to see your head detached that way. ” – Sue Allen

Filming Locations: Stage 12, Warner Brothers Burbank Studios – 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, USA

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Director – William Castle

Starring – Vincent Price, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook

***** 5 out 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: This was like the 1950’s version of the T.V show “Big Brother” – Let’s put five people in a  haunted house with ghosts that kill the shit out of you, and see which one survives!  The winner gets $10,ooo bucks! Sweet. Your hosts for this ghoulish spectacle are Frederick and Annabelle Loren – who really have no intention of paying any of these idiots, but hey, they don’t know that. One of the contestants, Mr. Pritchard, is a ghost expert know-it-all and tells everyone that there are seven ghosts. Not 6. Fucking 7. How does he know this? Just count the ghosty orbs fool…. ghosty orb 1, ghosty orb 2, ghosty orb Tims!  As the guests continue to be frightened and threatened, two have their own very specific reason for being there and not everyone will live through the night. No shit.

Fun Fact: The Ennis Brown House in Los Angeles, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924, and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was used for the exterior shots of the haunted house during the film’s opening sequence.

Classic Quote: “It’s almost time to lock up the house and then your party will really begin. I wonder how it will end… ” – Frederick Loren

Filming Locations: Ennis-Brown House – 2655 Glendower Avenue, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California, USA

Them! (1954)

Directed By – Gordon Douglas

Starring – James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness

******* 7 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: After several people in the New Mexico desert wind up missing or dead, including an F.B.I. agent and most of his family, police Sgt. Ben Peterson teams up with F.B.I. agent Bob Graham to find out what’s causing the strange occurrences. And do you know who they find out that did it? Mexican Drug Cartels? Serial Killers? Satanic Cults? Nope, giant motherfucking ANTS!  Turns out the ants over at the Atomic Testing site in Los Alamos got exposed to all the radiation from the bomb tests and got all huge. Thanks a lot Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Heisenberg. Well they manage to destroy the nest of ants and save the day, but then they see two ants with wings fly off to go fuck and make more baby giant ants, hell bent on destroying the world!

Fun Fact: The sound that the giant ants from “THEM!” make as they approach their prey is a recorded chorus of bird-voiced treefrogs (Hyla avivoca) of the southeastern United States. Occasionally a grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) can be heard on the soundtrack as well, as these species can often be heard together at the same wetland.

Classic Quote: “We may be witnesses to a Biblical prophecy come true – ‘And there shall be destruction and darkness come upon creation, and the beasts shall reign over the earth.'” – Dr. Harold Medford

Filming Locations: Blaney Ranch – 160th & Q Streets, Palmdale, California, USA (giant ants desert nest)

The Thing from Another World (1951)

Directed By – Howard Hawks

Starring – Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Douglas SpencerJames Arness

******** 8 out 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: Members of an American scientific research outpost in Antarctica find themselves battling a parasitic alien organism capable of perfectly imitating its victims. They soon discover that this task will be harder than they thought, as they don’t know which members of the team have already been assimilated and their paranoia threatens to tear them apart. Then then some dudes chest opens up into a mouth and chomps off the doctors arms then they blast the alien with flamethrowers and the aliens head detaches itself and scrambles across the floor….. uhhh.   oh wait, shit wrong movie.

Fun Fact: The scene in which The Thing is doused with kerosene and set ablaze is believed to be the first full body burn accomplished by a stunt man. Veteran stunt man Tom Steele replaced James Arness in the fire scene. Steele wore an asbestos suit with a special fiberglass helmet with an oxygen supply underneath. He used a 100% oxygen supply which was highly combustible. It was pure luck he didn’t burn his lungs whilst breathing in the mixture.

Classic Quote: “Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!” – Ned “Scotty” Scott

Filming Locations: Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

AvX Contest: Week 4 Scoring Update

General Ross eats Russkie punks like you for breakfast.

Four weeks in on Idle Time’s Avengers vs. X-Men contest, and we already have our fourth one-on-one duel to officiate. This week, thanks to the first issue of the AvX Vs: mini-series, the judging is conveniently taken out of our hands, with “winner” clearly stated at the conclusion of each of the comic’s two battles.

The main card focuses on one of the off-camera contests from AvX 2. Tony Stark, man in the Iron Suit, versus Magneto, Master of Magnetism. No contest? You’d be right, if you picked the second-smartest guy in the Marvel U to take the day’s honors. Decision: Iron Man.

The Thing takes on a familiar foe in the back-up battle. Despite Namor’s homefield advantage, the ever-loving blue-eyed Ben Grimm emerges from the San Francisco bay after having been declared the winner, “for now…” Decision: The Thing.

Continue reading AvX Contest: Week 4 Scoring Update

This Used To Be My Playground, Part 11: Whoomp! There Goes My Summer

#89. “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” – Lenny Kravitz
#90. “No Rain” – Blind Melon

First day of summer! The noonday sun tried desperately to penetrate my bedroom blinds as I slept off Grad Night, but it was all for naught. My room remained dark as a tomb. If it wasn’t for the fact I had a hip-pocket full of Wherehouse gift certificates and graduation cash, I would have slept another two or three hours. But I crawled out of bed and drove to the Wherehouse, where I bought Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek & The Dominoes, the Who’s double album Quadrophenia, and two albums of more recent vintage: Blind Melon’s self-titled debut, and Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way.

What a burn. Loved, loved, loved the Kravitz title song, so I bought the album…and there were no other good songs in evidence. Not a one. I would repeatedly fall into this trap until the dawn of the mp3 age. Kravitz would go on to never make a good song ever again. I deduced later that he never made any good songs before “AYGGMY,” either. I guess that proves that even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in his life.

The Blind Melon album fared much better. Known mostly for the massive hit single “No Rain” (and its iconic “Bee Girl” video), the rest of the album was solid and unpretentious, and has held up surprisingly well. The same could not be said of its follow-up, 1995’s Soup. Lead singer Shannon Hoon was a notorious drug ingestion machine, and it’s too bad the atrocious Soup was his last statement to the world before he went tits-up. (Note to aspiring musicians who are considering acquiring a My First Drug Habit kit: Drug use doesn’t always result in an Exile On Main Street or Appetite For Destruction. More often than not, it results in Soup.)

By the by, there’s nothing more boring than watching someone else negotiate to buy a car. While Stephanie was taking seventeen hours to trade in her old Datsun Z for a new Honda Civic del Sol at some point that June, I wandered over to the Underground to spend the last of my graduation cash on some alt-music roots: Primus’ live debut Suck On This, and Nirvana’s 1989 Sub Pop debut Bleach. Steph’s new vehicle reflected her new employment status as a medical records clerk for Chico Community Hospital. A real, adult-type job. The beginning of the tiniest crack in our relationship foundation. But she celebrated by buying me the Kinks’ Greatest Hits and the book The Films of Sean Connery, so it was all good. For now.

#91. “Two Princes” – The Spin Doctors

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Most Overplayed Song of 1993! Featured on movie soundtracks, movie trailers, a video that by federal law was played twice per hour for ten to twelve months, and as background music on dozens and dozens of MTV shows, including The Real World. I spent a lot of afternoons that summer glued to the groundbreaking “reality” series’ second season, the one in Los Angeles with the drunken Irish “music critic,” (he was shown fleetingly at a club show holding a notepad, so that makes him a music critic, right?), the obnoxious, glowering “stand-up comedian” who got kicked out of the house for general assholery, and didn’t seem to have a funny bone in his body (not a split-second of his stand-up act was ever shown to my recollection), and the stomach-churningly awful “country singer” (his act was shown — at least a half-dozen times — and it always consisted of one song: “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”) Some argue that The Real World reached its peak with the next season in San Francisco (a.k.a. “Puck and the AIDS Guy”), but I was already growing bored with the format by then. 

Anyway, It reached a point where “Two Princes” seemed to saturate the very air itself that summer. You would be out for a quiet walk, and then suddenly…a whiff of patchouli, and Chris Barron’s lazy, beard-y voice would be carried faintly through the breeze: “One, two princes kneel before you, that’s-a what I said now…” And you would curl up on the sidewalk and wait for help to arrive. This album had been kicking around since ’91, and showed no signs of going away.

(But never fear, a follow-up was in the works. And if there was one follow-up that was worse than Soup, it was the Spin Doctors’ Turn It Upside Down. It’s a poorly-kept recording industry secret that most artists try to front load their albums with the stronger tracks. The Doctors’ idea of a superstrong lead-off track? A gem called “Big Fat Funky Booty,” followed by the single (!) “Cleopatra’s Cat,” an exercise in scat-singing so repugnant it would make Cab Calloway claw his own eyes out.)

#92. “(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles” – The Proclaimers

Originally released by Scottish folk-rock duo the Proclaimers in 1988, and a fair-sized European hit at that time. As we all know, it’s not the 17th century anymore, and Europe has little to no importance to anything. (Keep playing soccer, guys. It’s riveting.) Therefore, the song remained unknown to American ears until its re-release and inclusion on the soundtrack of 1993’s Benny And Joon, a good-natured movie so slight that it dissolved in your mind upon viewing, like cotton candy, leaving only the sweet, sticky residue of Johnny Depp’s Buster Keaton imitations, and the Proclaimers singing over the closing credits in their thick Scottish burrs about “havering” and other nonsensical Euro notions that aren’t really words. The film was in theaters for about a day and a half, but the accompanying re-edited music video – now featuring clips from the film interspersed with the rather spastic Proclaimers (“Dah-DAH duh, dah-DAH duh”) – stayed in rotation for the rest of the summer.

I wanted to get hold of the song in an idle kind of way, not to the point of buying it or anything (still jobless, remember?). I resorted to an old trick from my younger days. I propped a cassette recorder against the television speaker and recorded the audio right off of MTV. In my formative years, I did this with the audio of George Carlin VHS tapes the clueless liquor store clerk would rent to me. (Remember when liquor stores rented movies?) Yes, I was the only twelve-year-old on the middle-school playground who had hours of George Carlin material memorized flawlessly. Explains a lot.

#93. “Slam” – Onyx

#94. “Push Th’ Little Daisies” – Ween

#95. “Thunderkiss ’65” – White Zombie

Three songs put on the map by being featured on MTV’s cartoon Beavis & Butthead, which debuted in the spring of ’93. Crude, shocking, and controversial at the time, B&B has been outpaced in terms of envelope-pushing content by later shows like South Park and Family Guy, but there was a time when B&B was truly Appointment Television. Later in college, I knew a couple who would stop having sex when they heard the distinctive opening riff of the B&B theme song in the next room, and come running in, frantically buttoning and tucking. The plot lines for each fifteen-minute episode were hit and miss, but the times when the two dim-witted title characters would sit and critique full-length music videos in their distinctive and often-imitated (by me and everyone I knew) voices were what kept me tuning in. Not everything was comedy gold, but there were frequent moments – you were guaranteed at least one in each episode –when a subtle turn of phrase or vocal nuance would bring down the house. (Butthead’s response to the Sting/Rod Stewart/Bryan Adams collaboration “All For Love” – a quick, nauseated “Oh dear Lord” – was a long-time favorite of mine, and like most of their antics, loses something in the translation into the written word. So just watch for it at about 3:11 in this clip.)

#96. “Creep” – Radiohead

Remember when Radiohead wrote songs? Sometimes really good ones. So if you ever get tired of Thom Yorke draaaaaaaaaaging out his vowwwwwwwwwwwels over minimalist keyboard plunking, which has characterized every Radiohead song since 2001, do yourself a favor and re-introduce yourself to 90’s Radiohead. The “Creep” single was originally issued in the fall of ’92, several months in advance of the Pablo Honey album, but it did not connect with a large listening audience. Capitol Records, savvy bastards that they are, put it out again in 1993, and ears were more attentive – alas, it was immediately lumped in with all the other post-grunge flash-in-the-pans like Bush, Everclear, and Dig. An unfair categorization, perhaps…but sales soared, and they proved their staying power with subsequent releases. (I was going to make a snide joke about the guy from Dig putting too much foam on my latte, but a quick Wiki shows that he’s currently a successful record producer and a highly-paid composer for commercials and the Discovery Channel, while I sit here and write a blog in my underwear for six semi-regular readers. And I may be overestimating my readership.)

#97. “Whoomp! (There It Is)” – Tag Team

Like whatever “it” it was talking about (I’m assuming “booty” or some such generic raunchiness), this song was certainly “there” during the summer of ’93, taking up valuable airwaves with its pointlessness. I never paid much attention, though. Maybe there’s some deeper meaning I’m missing in the verses. [Goes to check lyrics.com.] Nope.

#98. “Runaway Train” – Soul Asylum

Call this the male version of 4 Non-Blondes’ “What’s Up?” Why is the singer so traumatized? Dunno. It doesn’t seem to matter, as songwriter Dave Pirner (hair tousled by a professional hair-tousler) frantically clutches your sleeve and pours out his tale of woe and tries to overcome you with his powerful earnestness rays, and never, ever gives you a clue as to what the fuck he’s talking about. And someone needs to buy the guy a rhyming dictionary, so he can get more options out of “train” beyond “pain” and “rain.”

The video for the song was something of a cause celebre at the time, done as a public service message, showing pictures and names of over thirty missing or runaway children.

#99. “Soul To Squeeze” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Remember back in Part 2 when I said I owned exactly one cassette single? This was it. Pretty much every CD in my expanding collection was transferred to cassette so it could be played in the Mattmobile. The Peppers’ late-’91 magnum opus Blood Sugar Sex Magick clocked in at an awkward seventy-five minutes. Too long to fit on one side of a 90-minute cassette, but not long enough to fill both sides. I padded the last fifteen minutes of my cassette’s Side Two with three non-album Chili Peppers tracks: “Sikamikanico” (from the Wayne’s World soundtrack, which I already owned), “Show Me Your Soul” (from the Pretty Woman soundtrack, borrowed), and this song from the Coneheads soundtrack. My anal-retentiveness forced me to pay three bucks for the cassingle so my Blood Sugar Sex Magick tape wouldn’t have five minutes of blank space at the end.

I almost sprung for the full soundtrack, because it was pretty good (R.E.M., Digable Planets, Paul Simon), but not quite good enough to justify a purchase. Still unemployed. But I was being proactive! I mailed in a resume in response to an ad for a new video rental store that was set to open in north Yuba City that August.

And hey, remember the Coneheads movie? Didn’t quite hit it out of the park cinematically, but it had its moments, and the cast featured a who’s-who of early-90’s comedy: almost a dozen past, present & future SNL cast members, people from Seinfeld, bit parts from Ellen DeGeneres and Drew Carey when they were still struggling stand-ups, three of the girls from Dazed and Confused (released the same year, and soon to become one of my favorite movies), and…uh, Sinbad. And Tom Arnold. Well, they can’t all be winners.

#100. “Cannonball” – The Breeders

“It’s on!” Stephanie yelled from her room one August afternoon, and I came running to see this new video, my introduction to the whimsical world of video director Spike Jonze, and to a lesser extent, former Pixies bassist Kim Deal and her new combo, the Breeders. Stephanie had caught the video the night before, and was struck by its overall visual coolness (and it’s a good song to boot). We kept kind of a half-assed vigil until it repeated itself the next day, which was exactly the type of shit we still had time for. Those days were rapidly ending.

I soon learned Ms. Deal was something of a cult figure amongst indie-rock fans. Allen Maxwell had a homemade sticker of her peeping slyly out of the rear window of his pickup. I was a little too young to get into the Pixies when they were at full force (’86-’90), and despite listening to them hundreds of times over the past fifteen years, I still don’t quite get why they were/are such a big deal (no pun intended.) That and my extreme distaste for the fucking Smiths are the gulf that divided me from my new college/coffee shop friends I was about to make.

But that was still a little ways ahead. I started college not long after seeing the Breeders video (both seem to have about equal weight in my memory). Yuba College was like any junior college – “high school with ashtrays” in the wordsof John Hughes. But unlike high school, you only had to be there for a few hours a day. And sometimes, if you played your cards right, not even every day! Holyshit! I loved college! I don’t know if I had a plan or program, but my first semester sure seems like beautiful randomness: Western Civilization, General Psychology, Intro to Mass Comm., Public Speaking, and Intro to Film. Higher education seemed like a complete cakewalk. Three Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, a Tues-Thurs evening class, and a Thursday-only evening class.

Last day of summer! Just before I kicked off my collegiate career, I got called for a job interview. First Run Video, a six-outlet chain based out of Redding, California, was opening a Yuba City store…

Folks, I am proud to have been a professional educator for twelve years as of 2012…but I was born to be a video store clerk. Too bad it’s a dying breed…

Record Store Day 2012: Top 5 Exclusives

Tomorrow marks the first of my two favorite spring Saturdays. Since 2007, the third Saturday in April has celebrated independent record stores around the world with exclusive vinyl pressings, re-issues, and live performances. April 21, 2012, is Record Store Day. Dust off the turntables, and wake up early, because with runs as low as 1000 copies on some sexy seven-inches, there won’t be much left on the racks come April 22.

The next big brick-and-mortar blowout happens the first Saturday in May. Don’t worry: expect a post on Free Comic Book Day 2012 in the very near future.

Here are the five exclusives atop my wishlist:

5. M83 – “Mirror” (Mute) 7″ etched disc

M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming dropped in at eighth on Idle Time’s favorite records of 2011, and the standout single “Midnight City” was on the shortlist for Top 100 songs of the Idle Time Decade. The also great “Mirror,” a hidden track on Dreaming, gets the limited edition etched vinyl treatment tomorrow. Limited to 2000.

Continue reading Record Store Day 2012: Top 5 Exclusives

AvX Contest: Week 3 Scoring Update

Dented face, courtesy of Cap.

This week gives us three books under the AvX banner: Wolverine and the X-Men 9, Avengers 25, and the second “round” of the main series, Avengers vs. X-Men 2.

Check out those tie-in books, True Believers. Jason Aaron just might be the best there is at what he does. And what he does is write Wolverine. Bendis is united with a real legend on this Avengers book. Welcome back, Walt Simonson. I could make the same “best there is” comment about you and drawing Thor. But what we’re really waiting for is that second issue of the limited series and the expected showdown between Captain America and Cyclops.

The panel of judges has determined that the exchange between these two team captains qualifies as an official “bout” for contest scoring purposes. All that remains, then, is to decide on an outcome. Continue reading AvX Contest: Week 3 Scoring Update

AvX Contest: Week 2 Scoring Update

so close...

Only one book with the AvX banner this week, and New Avengers 24 is mostly flashback setting up the opening bell of last week’s Avengers vs. X-Men 1.

Even so, there’s a tense stretch of four or five pages featuring Luke Cage all riled up and dealing with a crowd of protesters outside Avengers Mansion. Come on, Luke… Say it… Say it…

But no. “In this house” is as close as he gets. Those of you who predicted that “Luke Cage yells “In MY house'” at some point during the event, are going to have to sit tight. No points scored this time around. But don’t worry: there’s a really good chance Cage is going to get pissed off again before this story wraps, and it could very well happen at home.

But for now, the points tally from last week hasn’t changed.


Beatle Battle! The Final Fight!

Over the last few months doing the Beatle Battles I’ve lived and breathed John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Can I possibly find any more to say about this band for this last Beatles Post*? Yeah, I think I can…. 

The Beatles are the greatest band that ever was or ever will be. Sure that’s just my opinion, but it also happens to be the truth. I could on for days about how their music influenced generation after generation, and how most likely your favorite band at the moment owes a debt to the Beatles, regardless of the genre. But you’ve heard it all before. I think instead I’ll talk about a word The Beatles sang about over and over. Love.

“All you need is love.” Absolutely goddamn right. If I’ve learned one thing in my 40 years on this planet is that love is the guiding force of human beings. It is what we are here for. Carl Jung said…

 “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

I believe that light he is talking about is love. Carl Sagan said…

“For small creatures such as we the vastness (of space) is bearable only through love.”

That’s my favorite quote of all time and one I want on my tombstone, because I believe 100% that it is the truth.  The Beatles sang this message to us countless times.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not praising the individual men of The Beatles and placing them in some sort of high pedestal next to Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, or Mohammad. Shit, I think John Lennon was kind of a prick for abandoning his son Julian. Ringo and George did more cocaine in the 70’s than Tony Montana in Scarface. And McCartney? I downright loathe the man. But together, these flawed guys made something important. Something lasting and significant. Human beings are not perfect – but we can create perfection in our art. That is the magic of our existence. The Miracle of us.

Thermodynamic Miracles…

Events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive, meeting, siring this precise son, that exact daughter…

Until your mother loves a man, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged.

To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold, that is the crowning unlikelihood.

The thermodynamic miracle.

-Alan Moore

The miracle of The Beatles will last forever. It started with my father’s generation. My Dad bought the White Album when it came out in 1968. Almost 20 years later his son would discover that record in his collection and place it on the turntable and listen as the music changed his life. Another 20 years pass and my 13 year old daughter is singing “Penny Lane” with me in the car as we drive down the highway and I can see her smile as the same music that moved me and her grandfather is now moving her. And in another 20 years, perhaps her own child will dig out some old mp3’s of their Mom’s and hit play and hear what those four boys from Liverpool created all those years ago.

The message will always be the same – all you need is love. Without love we are lost. The Beatles preached this to us all time and time again. For this reason alone, The Beatles are my favorite band of all time.

*yes Mike, this is the last Beatles post ever.

Top 5 Comic Book Events of All Time

The current Avengers vs. X-Men event seems like a pretty big deal. In reality, it’s just the latest in a long line of summer superhero spectaculars. These character-heavy, game-changing crossovers have been annual staples for Marvel and DC for decades, and in recent years the Big Two have made promotion of these events a top priority. In 2008, Marvel ran a TV commercial heralding their Secret Invasion, and just last year DC went viral with their promo for the New 52 reboot, even securing space in the advance screenings blocks of major movie auditoriums.

Marketing gimmicks and overused superlatives aside, there have been some genuinely entertaining superhero events that have stood the test of time. The best of these may be important in relation to continuity, or how they change the way comic book stories and characters are handled, but first and foremost they’re meant to be fun, like good Hollywood blockbusters. For this reason you won’t see DC’s seminal Crisis on Infinite Earths on this list. Yes, it was important and ground-breaking, but it was never meant for casual readership. Quite the opposite in fact. Personally, I could give a shit about justifying decades of continuity; just tell a good story and rattle the cages once in a while. These are four-color soap operas, not scrolls of apocrypha.

I’ve also disqualified storylines that were developed specifically within the confines of regular monthly titles. Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse had “event-like” gravity and ramifications, and was a damn good yarn, but it really was just a massive crossover. The events on this list, like this summer’s Avengers vs. X-Men, are built around a central limited series, with story extensions crossing over and tying in with existing books. And hopefully, like the central blocks of each of the events on this list, AvX will be a damn good yarn all by itself.

5. Avengers Disassembled / House of M (Marvel, 2004-2005)

I’m already breaking rule number two. Sort of. The “Disassembled” story was an Avengers family crossover, incorporating the main book’s storyline with plots in Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. The real event took place when series author Brian Michael Bendis connected this story to 2005’s House of M limited series.

Hard to believe now, but there was a time not too very long ago that The Avengers was a struggling, stagnant book. In fact, a decade ago, had you asked the average pop culture enthusiast to name teams of superheroes, you probably wouldn’t get further than The Justice League and The X-Men, maybe Fantastic Four and Teen Titans. What Bendis did for this team, by destroying and rebuilding them, was revelatory. Marvel today features four groups of Avengers, each with its own monthly title, and two monthlies for each of the three aforementioned primary characters (although Journey into Mystery is more Loki’s book than Thor’s). And of course the upcoming movie, and the five Marvel Studios films that have led up to it, have made The Avengers a household word. It started with Bendis.

Bendis displayed a penchant for dialogue, and sharp stories, with a pair of crime series for Caliber in the 90’s. He earned his superhero stripes with Ultimate Spider-Man beginning in 2000. What he hadn’t demonstrated prior to this Avengers stint, was an incredible ability to script team books. It’s not an easy task juggling great dialogue with clever plots all while respecting the ensemble dynamic. Some of the best comic book writers have failed miserably when trying to work with a big cast of big personalities (I’m looking at you, Geoff Johns). The Avengers have had some great stories since Stan Lee first assembled this team back in 1963, but some of the most memorable have come courtesy of Brian Michael Bendis.

This phoenix-esque Avengers burnout sees The Scarlet Witch go crazy and break down her former teammates in every way imaginable. Tony Stark has a drunken meltdown; Vision helps demolish the mansion; and characters like Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Jack of Hearts perish (comic book deaths, which are famously temporary, but still…) Then comes the Scarlet Witchhunt. And House of M.

The Avengers and X-Men may be dueling this summer, but in the summer of 2005 they were united to deal with a common problem: the reality-warping powers of Wanda Maximoff and her less than tenuous grip on reality. Wolverine’s solution: kill the bitch. Cap: now wait a second. But before either has a chance to sway popular opinion, the Witch shows off the full extent of her powers and reshapes the universe into a world in which mutants are dominant, and daddy dearest Magneto rules the roost as the head of the House of M. The epic climax includes the famous last words, “No more mutants,” which has had repercussions in the Marvel universe ever since. Cyclops’s current state of violent mania in Avengers vs. X-Men, actually, has everything to do with mutants’ current position as an endangered species.

The tie-in series and crossovers are fairly worthless, although House of M: Spider-Man focuses on the fun fact that Peter Parker is a celebrity, secretly pretending that he, too, is a mutant and part of the ruling class.

Read: Avengers Disassembled (Bendis and David Finch) and House of M (Bendis and Olivier Coipel) Continue reading Top 5 Comic Book Events of All Time