Ghostmann’s Top 5 Cats!

In the current issue of DC’s Animal Man (one of the best of the New 52), there happens to be a talking cat, which naturally got me thinking about doing a top 5 list of cats in fiction that talk (or in some cases drive).

#5. Fritz the Cat

Ever see that documentary Crumb? About the underground comic book creator Robert Crumb? If so then you know that that dude was a little on the fucked up side. Crumb is responsible for the creation of Fritz but it was Ralph Bakshi’s 1972 animated film adaptation that made Fritz a star. The only cartoon cat to star in an X-Rated movie. See for yourself… Continue reading Ghostmann’s Top 5 Cats!

Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 1

Those of you in the know are already aware that we have a big anniversary coming up. With any luck our annual Best Of music list will publish on that very anniversary date, thus kicking off in a very formal fashion The Year of Idle Time. Looking forward always forces us to look back, so this first peek into the Institute’s origins takes us all the way back to 2001, and a blog post that was originally published in Justifications on June 26, 2006:

In the spring of 2001 a friend and coworker left a CD on my desk at work. We were (and are still) in the habit of recommending music to each other constantly, labeling every new find and must-listen as the best thing since the last record we swore would save rock and roll. This CD had a different sort of note attached; it was a different sort of record and required a more appropriate hook to give it a place atop of my need-to-listen pile.

The note reads (I’m not insensitive to the photo’s lack of clarity or the hundreds of readers who visit from outside this community and are looking at a duct-taped Suicide Girl rather than a CD-R and its memo): “Mike, Turn off the lights and curl up with this record. It will wreck you like a ninth grade romance. Keep a hankie close by. – Will. Oh, Inverted World!”

The album was, of course, Oh, Inverted World, the sublime debut by New Mexico’s The Shins. And it is a record with a place.

I listen to a ridiculous amount of music. Tuesdays are my Fridays and the latter half of the week is spent in frenetic caffeinated states of stereophoria. Oftentimes a record gets one chance to grab my attention before it’s relegated to the back of the pack and has to wait for a window in the cycle of new releases and mood-specific mixes for a second shot at roping me in. Gone are the days when every CD in an undergrad’s backseat carried a story, a memory, a reflection of a time and event and place. Blame the internet, blame my attention-span, blame Bush, blame whomever you please… that’s just the way it is. Continue reading Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 1

Avengers vs X-Men! Time to Vote!

This April Marvel Comics is getting some payback on DC by releasing Avengers vs X-Men, a twelve-issue series written by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman — and drawn by Olivier Coipel, Andy Kubert, and John Romita Jr. Marvel is billing this thing as the biggest event in comics history. Not sure about that (DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths will always hold that rank), but it will no doubt be huge and I’ll be buying the fuck out of it.

Along with the twelve-issue main series, Marvel will be doing a tie-in series called AVX: Versus. These will be one-shot books that feature one Avenger and one X-Men fighting each other – and as Connor Macleod of the Clan Macleod once said, ” there can be only one.” This is a fanboy’s wet dream come true. All those hours spent debating with your nerd friends on whether Colossus could beat up The Thing will now be answered – by writers better than you.

So let’s get to it! Who’s gonna come out on top? Let’s vote!

Continue reading Avengers vs X-Men! Time to Vote!

Ghostmann’s Top 5 Zombie Movies!

1. Dawn of  the Dead (1978)

I was about twelve or thirteen when I first saw this movie and dude, when that zombie took a bite out of that woman’s neck! I had never seen anything like it. Holy shit! I mean I was a big fan of horror movies and loved the Christopher Lee Hammer films and whatnot, but this was gore on a level that was LIGHTYEARS away from anything I had seen up to that point. I watch the movie today and yeah, the gore isn’t as shocking as it once was and the color of the blood is a bit on the flourescent side, but it is still an awesome zombie movie which set the bar high enough that few movies since could top.

Continue reading Ghostmann’s Top 5 Zombie Movies!

Ghostmann’s Comic Book Legends: Frank Miller

Ah my comic book loving friends, welcome to ghostmann’s time-machine. Step on in and let’s take a trip through time. Today our journey will follow the incredible career of Mr. Frank Miller. Now, sit back while I calculate our first destination here in the time-machine computer console. Yes, there, all set out first stop in time is…..

January 1981
Daredevil – Issue #168
Frank Miller’s first job as Writer and Artist came in the form of Matt Murdock. Daredevil at the time wasn’t selling that great so Marvel had no problem handing over the title to a young upstart with no experience. But Miller seized this opportunity and forever changed the character of Daredevil and himself as a comic book creator. The stories he wrote over thirty years ago still have resonance in the Daredevil comic being published by Marvel in 2012. What Miller did has rarely been duplicated – adding to the history of a comic book character and having that history become part of the legend. Oh, and he also gave us ninjas.

Continue reading Ghostmann’s Comic Book Legends: Frank Miller

It’s the End of the World as We Know It…..

…and I feel fucking great! 2012 is shaping up to be one apocalyptically fantastic year for dorks to be alive – including myself.

Movies, Comics, Television, Internets, all have something huge descending on us in the following 12 months – like a 170 kilometer asteroid heading straight for the Yucatan peninsula unleashing a tsunami of radness!

You’ll notice there is one genre missing from my list above there…. music!!! 2012 looks to be one of the shittest years ever for music fans. Well, I mean music fans that have good taste. If you like: Insane Clown Posse, Brett Michaels, Linkin Park, Matchbox 20, No Doubt, The Offspring, and Wilson Phillips then hey, things are gonna be okay pal. BUT, for the rest of us 2012 is going to be a tough one to get through.

There are only a few releases I’m actually looking forward too: The Shins, The xx,  The Wrens, Damien Jurado, and maybe Spiritualized (if I’m in the right mood). Looks like it’s time to break out the back catalog of The Band again and head up Cripple Creek for a few months. Continue reading It’s the End of the World as We Know It…..

Comics of the Year — 2011

One of the more interesting ironies of the new century is that while comics have become more popular in this country than ever before, it is that very popularity that seems to be threatening the existence of comic shops and specialty stores. Most major comics publishers, including the big two, have begun aggressively marketing digital versions of their monthly titles, complete with “smart” readers that zoom in and out on panel transitions like DVD-extra storyboards. Somewhat overlooked amidst DC’s New 52 initiative is the fact that the publisher is now releasing its digital editions simultaneously with print copies. Batman fanatics don’t need to hit their saver bin for a first peek into the mysterious Court of Owls. In fact, digital subscribers can download, read, and post spoilers on an issue before the local comic shop even opens for business.

Meanwhile, publishers of book-length graphic novels, as well as the cartoonists and creators responsible, are finding that their works are being embraced by mainstream bookstores and online vendors. The New York Times has a “Graphic Books” best seller list that includes volumes from pioneering indie comics publishers like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics. A backup story in Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve #12 addresses the painful realization that we’re likely never to see a staple-bound comic from the likes of Chester Brown, Peter Bagge, or Jessica Abel again. He includes a soundbite from a Daniel Clowes interview on NPR: “Nobody wants to sell some floppy thing that, you know, gets all bent on the shelf… No bookstore wants to carry it because the profit margin is so low…”

Continue reading Comics of the Year — 2011

Books Of The Year — 2011

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks & Rob Tannenbaum

I don’t know if he invented it, but writer Studs Terkel certainly perfected the concept of an “oral history.” He would go out and interview a wide variety of people who created or influenced an aspect of American culture, and piece together a book on that topic out of their own words. In recent years, two landmark works of oral history have been published — 1995’s Please Kill Me told the story of the rise and fall of punk rock in America and Britain in the words of the scene’s (surviving) participants, and 2002’s Live From New York dealt with the seemingly unkillable NBC late night comedy show Saturday Night Live. Marks and Tannenbaum acknowledge the influence of these two books in the introduction to their own (yes, I read the introductions to books), which gathers recollections from hundreds of artists, directors, executives, and on-air personalities (“VJs”) to explore the glory years (1981-92) of the revolutionary cable network Music Television.

MTV was a huge part of growing up for me, both through childhood and adolescence. In its early years (1981-85), my older sister and her friends would sit and stare at it for hours. It was a time for them to socialize, yes, but often they just watched, sometimes offering a little pre-Beavis & Butthead commentary. Occasionally, grade-school Holy Bee would join them as a welcome guest. Other times I had to sneak down after dark and hide behind the couch, half-listening as they talked about incomprehensible high school things, and watching images of Van Halen, Madonna, Lionel Richie, The Thompson Twins, The Eurythmics, and many others unspooling before my eyes as I peeked out through the crack between the couch and the wall. (I’m pretty sure they knew I was there now.)

Then, when my sister went off to college and my family moved to a rural area with no cable — no more MTV. As a result, there’s a noticeable gap in my knowledge of music and pop culture from 1986 through the first half of 1989. When people bring up the likes of Rick Astley or Frankie Goes To Hollywood (as they often do), I go a little blank. I wasn’t missing much, though. Evidently, ’86 to ’89 was hair metal’s time to shine, and the two biggest VJs were the absolutely odious Downtown Julie Brown and the pompous blowhard Adam Curry. (Want a quote from Curry straight from the book? “I called MTV ‘The Big M…’ I thought that was genius of me.” He’s serious. It’s on page 375.) Continue reading Books Of The Year — 2011

Favorite (non-album) Tracks of 2011

We saw this coming. Everything’s changed over the course of the last decade: the way we buy music, listen to music, share music. And although the Institute will forever and aye extol the virtues of the album, we’ve become increasingly aware that our so-called “bonus disc,” a typically 20-track compilation of our favorite non-album songs of the year, is often the finest mix in the best-of-bunch. My pal Uncle Isey is quick to point out that this is strongly suggestive of the 1950’s; we’re in a singles-era renaissance and one great track with popular appeal can go from an iPod commercial to an episode of Grey’s Anatomy to the cloud storage of a half-million Amazon customers in a matter of months. So it shouldn’t surprise me, then, that, for the first time, my picks for favorite non-album songs —  tracks from EPs, soundtracks, single releases, etc. — might just be my favorite songs of the year.

Welcome to the future, Idle Timers. These songs were bought online, digitized into tiny magic MP3 particles, and shared with Willy Wonka widgets on the world wide wonderland.

5. Total Warr – “Jamie” (Weezer cover)

Total Warr is a Parisian band with an affinity for cute aminals and charming pop hooks. They’ve released a pair of EPs since their formation including this year’s bubbly singalong-friendly Please Never Come Back Again. They’re also responsible for reminding us how good Weezer used to be… with this cover of a blue-album b-side.

Continue reading Favorite (non-album) Tracks of 2011

This Used To Be My Playground, Part 9: What’s Up? Cereal Killers, Vampires, And 12 Inches Of Snow, That’s What

#77. “Connected” – Stereo MCs
Connected I was most certainly not. I lost my first real job in January of ’93 before I even worked a minute. I was all set to be a lot boy on evenings and weekends for Enterprise Rent-A-Car (drawing upon my recent experience as an employee of Stephanie’s Detail – see previous entry.) Right before I was scheduled to start, I received a panicky call from their office manager. It seems they thought they were hiring someone already in college, and a quick review of my paperwork showed I was still a scum-sucking lowly high-schooler. The job was yanked away from me without much in the way of apology, even though they were the ones who made the mistake. Who’s laughing now, Enterprise Rent-A-Car? I went on to bigger and better employment later that year in the field of home video entertainment, and your crummy rental company…is, according to my notes, still going strong in its same location. Still…I think the moral victory was mine, as I was soon able to earn my gas and CD money without having to pick dragonfly corpses out of the grills of Ford Festivas.

I think the confusion may have sprung from the fact that I told them I would need Tuesday and Thursday evenings off for my Algebra II class at Yuba College. Yes, folks, I was taking another stab at that elusive math credit, this time via night class at our local community college.

#78. “Man On The Moon” – R.E.M.
I won’t try to convince you that this was R.E.M’s best all-around song, but it’s certainly my personal favorite. A sprightly, melodically-perfect tribute to late comedian Andy Kaufman, whose provocative, confrontational anti-comedy broke barriers in the 70’s, it reminds me of the times I would try to rock the establishment boat in minor ways. I was not much of a joiner. You can page through the yearbook and not see me participating in any sport, or as a member of a club. As Groucho Marx said, “I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” That, and I valued my personal time away from school. And I was lazy. And a poor athlete.

I raised my profile by trying to be amusing in various semi-subversive ways. I was given an Opinion column in the school newspaper, which was desperate for content that year, and then had it taken away when I informed its readership that the rag they were holding was an embarrassment to student journalism, a biased mouthpiece for the administration and “popular” kids, and should be used as birdcage lining or fish-wrapping material. And I forget which student council wonk handed me a microphone and told me to drum up business for the charity snack sale one lunch period, but my remark that “whatever lucky so-and-so finds the toenail I hid in one of the Nutter Butters gets a prize” set off a mild disturbance and I was relieved of my sales duties. All of this tomfoolery eventually ended up with me onstage as Master of Ceremonies for the Senior Showcase, but that’s a story for a later entry. Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 9: What’s Up? Cereal Killers, Vampires, And 12 Inches Of Snow, That’s What