Tuesday, December 29, 2009

So I think I am at risk of signing up for World of Warcraft (or other MMO if anyone can recommend a good one):

I finally need a new computer and am in the market for a desktop. That being said, I am considering signing up for an MMORPG. I am thinking of World of Warcraft but am concerned that as a player more interested in solo play I have to wonder is it worth it?

What to do, what to do...any suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

My observations on homosexuality and other plot devices in "Dragon Age: Origins": MINOR STORY SPOILERS

I'm just going to add my two cents about this surge of press concerning "dirty gay sex" in Dragon Age: Origins. I've seen some articles on some NSFW websites (no I'm not going to give you the links, you degenerate) about DA:O and homosexuality contained there-in. Amanda sent me a link to a NYT article (12/05/09) which was pretty interesting and has a good interview with DA:O's lead designer Mike Laidlaw. Penny Arcade has an awesome webcomic, of course.

Now normally I'd go on and on about the yadda yadda video game blah blah series of choices, games rated "M" are not intended for xyz, video games are not part of the homosexual agenda, etc etc. I don't think that I am going to.

I'm going to try to keep this coherent, for once. So what? Does the option of entering into a romantic relationship with a humanoid of the same gender (in a video game) really bother people? Is it miscegenation if a heterosexual romance and becomes "sexual" between a human & dwarf/human & elf/elf & dwarf? Is it "dirty gay sex" if my dwarven female rogue has intercourse with Leliana? What about the minefield that is romance with Morrigan (who will only engage in heterosexual relationships)? What if one of my characters performs acts of good and charity yet sleeps with everyone possible (including but not limited to: a pirate queen, prostitutes of varying races and genders, deflowering an elven virgin, and schtupping almost every important character besides Sten and Ohlgren - who are un-schtuppable)? What about my male dwarven noble engaging in a threesome with two female casteless "noble hunters" (the casteless are the lowest of the low in Dwarven society and these women try to impregnated by dwarven nobility in order to move out of the slums and into society) and when my dwarven noble returns to the dwarven realm it turns out of the women is with child? Do I take care of the woman and child or cast them aside (for the record I did the correct thing)? Do I allow a mother to sacrifice herself for her son? Do I sacrifice a friend for her mother? Do I murder a child? Do I allow demons to possess children and roam the earth? Do I let imprisoned demons roam free simply for monetary gain? Is it unscrupulous to do the demon's bidding for my own selfish rewards, only to trick it in the end and killing it for even greater gain? Do I bring brutal justice to a man who has done wrong - though he thought he was doing was right and his daughter begs me for justice? Do I dump bodies down a well? Should I tell the Chantry to seek the light of Andraste in my butt?

And some people are worried that there might be the possibility of a chance of an option of a PG level love scene between two digital characters of the same gender? Or are people worried they may like it?

Side note: I think The Sims is a dirtier game than any console RPG. Besides "dirty gay sex" and polyamory, the high level of emotional manipulation seems cruel and unusual. Not to mention that a Sim usually is murdered horribly when boredom sets in.

PS Further proof Bioware is gay brainwashing us, Mass Effect dirty gay alien sex. Interplanetary filth!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins Final(?) Thoughts

Well I finished Dragon Age: Origins play-through one. I've started several other characters and deleted others. My favorite character has been Hrothgarn, Dwarven Noble Warrior. I ended up calling him "Cuisinart" due to the two runed up swords he was slicing and dicing with. Snikity snak indeed. Another favorite was a female mage who ended up being a really unpleasant character, treated everyone like shit, and killed pretty much everything and everyone in the way.

My current character is going to be a human rogue with a penchant for grenades and traps.

Dragon Age: Origins is a good game, from start to finish. The story was fantastic, the characters developed nicely, and oddly enough I even grew fond of some of them. Alistair can still go take a long walk off a short pier.

I have to admit that, in the wake of Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Origins seems to leave me wanting...more. My first complete playthrough only took about 60 hours and other playthroughs have just taken less time. While I can play through several times and in fact start a new character just to really tweak my stats - plus there's one or two things I have forgotten to steal, ahem...purchase for a fair price - ultimately there's a vague sense of...meh. I suppose it is like picking up "Game of Thrones" and realizing that "Clash of Kings" ain't comin' out for awhile.

All in all a great game, very enjoyable and exciting, and good enough that I keep playing it. Nice work Bioware. Now don't screw up the DLC.

I lifted this cheat from wikicheats.com

There is an unfixed glitch in where the player is able to raise his/her level in relatively no time at all. In Ostagar, you will be required to obtain three vials of Darkspawn blood and the Grey Warden treaties as part of your ritual to become one of the infamous Grey Wardens. It is well known that if you obtain the three vials of Darkspawn blood and go back to Duncan without the treaties, you will recieve the XP for completing the quest without, well, actually completing the quest. This can be repeated as many times as the player likes in order to reach high levels in no time at all.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Chile paper rough draft. DO NOT PLAGIARIZE!

Okay, here's the rough draft. I've sent it to a few people but here's a "cleaner" version. There's still a great deal missing and editing to be done. Whatever comments/ideas/thoughts/concerns you may have are welcome and appreciated.
From Caral to Tenochtitlan:
A selection of the ritual uses and folklore concerning Capsicum in Pre-Columbian Societies

A note on the term and various spellings of chile:
The term “chile” refers to the fruit of the Genus Capsicum plant from the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the fruits are referred to as chillies. This is the source of the Spanish chile. In the Mendoza Codex, the chile is called aji; “from the Arawak axi”[1]. The Inca “called them "uchu" in the Quechua language; and "huayca" in the Aymara language.”[2] Chili refers to the popular dish, known in some sections of the United States as a “bowl of red”[3]. To take a cue from Jean Andrews and Sophie D. Coe I will simply use the term capsicum for the purposes of this paper.
* * *
Millennia before McIlhenny’s Tabasco sauce became a global household name, or the habanero lost its Guinness Book of World Records title as “hottest chili pepper in the world” (a title now held by the Bhut Jolokia aka Ghost Chile), and before Columbus ever set foot on Hispaniola capsicum played a significant role in every major empire in the Pre-Columbian world. Indeed, the domestication and cultivation of the capsicum plant is one of the most significant agricultural developments in the history of the world. The role of capsicum in the Pre-Columbian world went far beyond most modern G4 usages. The plant was no mere condiment but an integral part of life, culinary and otherwise. Pre-Columbian societies used capsicum not only as victual or condiment but also as; a medicine with a wide range of curative properties, a monetary unit, a punishment for children, an integral part of religious ceremonies, and in some cases part of their creation myths. Regardless of the region, reigning power, or dominant mythos capsicum played a vital role in the life cycle of peasants and royalty alike.

Capsicum was one of the earliest domesticated plants in the Western Hemisphere. During the Bronze Age (4th Millennium BCE – 400 BCE) Mesopotamians were ______, ______, ______, and ______. Almost nine thousand miles away other great civilizations waxed and waned, developing similar skill sets. Scientists estimate that humans (ranging from the modern Southwestern United States to South America) consumed the self-pollinating plant during the Pre-Ceramic ages. In the February 16, 2007 article in Science magazine capsicum microfossils were discovered at Valdivian sites in Loma Alta and Real Alto (both are located in modern southwestern Ecuador). Capsicum starches recovered at those sites dates from over six thousand years ago (along with other culinary mainstays such as maize, manioc, and arrowroot).[4] Archaeological work on numerous other sites has proven the agricultural presence of capsicum. Traces of capsicum plants have been uncovered[5] in dig-sites at the Norte Chico City of Caral (thought to be one of the oldest pyramid complexes in the West[6]). These sites and others including Nasca[7], Real Alto[8], Huaca Prieta, Peru and Ceren El Salvador were both community and religious centers. Based on research concerning later civilizations, it is safe to hypothesize that capsicum played a _______________.

Another example of capsicum association with religious imagery is the Tello Obelisk - recovered from Chavín de Huantar, Peru (c 1000 BCE). The carving depicts a caiman holding chiles (illustrated in Jean Andrews’ Peppers). The caiman (a smaller member of the Alligatoridae family found throughout Central and Southern America) is a sacred animal in those regions and continues to be a recurring motif in art. Any creature that could devour a jaguar was worthy of respect and idolatry[9].

A great deal of information dealing with myths of the ancient Americas has been lost due to Diego De Landa (and the Aztecs before him[10]). It is difficult to believe that only the Inca have a dedicated capsicum god in their creation myth, Ayar Uchu. Despite the importance of chiles (as predominant as salt and maize) in Mesoamerica, cultures have (within an admittedly narrow scope of research) no mention of a specialized chile patron deity (or deities). Unclear myths or information is not readily available. Also important to note is that there are a vast number of gods and goddesses any number of which could regionally change (in the case of many Aztec deities have several roles) as well as widespread syncretism. Additionally, a vast amount of information lost due to the Roman Catholic propensity for immolating “heretical” native texts.
The Incan creation myth is the only one with widely accessible information that clearly shows the mythological importance of capsicum in Pre-Columbian civilizations. To grant such a position of power to the plant (placing capsicum on a level of importance with salt) is surprising. None of the Children of the Sun were involved with standard crops, such as manioc or potatoes, only salt and capsicum are anthropomorphized. There is debate as to whether wild quinoa (Ayar) was anthropomorphized as well, “To the Incas, quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) was a food so vital that was considered sacred. In their language, Quechua, it is referred to as chisiya mama or “mother grain.”[11] Further explanation of the term “Ayar”: Gary Urton Inca Myths UT-Austin Press 1993?

There are several interpretations of the Inca creation myth. The most widely accepted tale is based on the Viracocha (explain?) legend. Inti the Sun God (Creator God) shaped the Incan ancestors, four brothers and four sisters. As Brundage succinctly wrote, “[Inti] had commissioned them to establish dominion over the world, to conquer, to despoil, and to administer in his name.”[12] These holy beings were created by the conquering Inca as proof of the divine right of Inca rule.

Among these beings was the legendary first Incan king, Manco Cápac. His brothers: Ayar Awka (troublesome brother), Ayar Kachi (brother salt), and Ayar Uchu (“brother chile pepper”[13]) and their respective sister-wives followed Manco Cápac and his bride.[14] These “Children of the Sun”[15] sallied forth from the House of Windows on Pacarientambo (a mountain roughly twenty miles southeast of modern Cuzco) in pairs seeking the land where they could prosper and bring civilization to the unruly and primitive people who populated the Earth.[16]
After many adventures and arduous travels the People of the Sun found themselves on the slopes of Huanacauri, overlooking the valley of Cuzco from the south; there Ayar Uchu was transformed into a huaca. A huaca or guaca connotes a holy place and includes idols, graves, and other places of worship[17]. These huaca would become “revered as shrines of surpassing sanctity”.[18] At the huaca, dedicated as Ayar Uchu Huanacauri[19], huarachico (rites of initiation for young men into the Inca knighthood Inca coming of age ritual Raymi Festival[20]) took place at the site. Ayar Uchu would also become one of the patron gods of Cuzco.[21] After this point in the myth (as far as current available research has led) capsicum does not play a major role in the tale. The capsicum did not fall out of favor with the Inca, indeed capsicum continued to hold a position of power in Inca life.

The Maya are an enigmatic bunch. The information I was able to find did not place capsicum in a major role other than an abstract parable about a rat who wanted chiles for his soup in Tedlock’s 1996 edition of Popol Vuh[22].

There are a handful of tales related to Quetzalcoatl. The god ate at capsicum on several occasions. In “The Deeds of Ce Acatl” written in the Codex Chimalpopoca there is a passage that reads, “They cover them [fallen foes] with hot pepper, cut up their flesh a little. And after they’ve tortured them, they cut open their breasts.”[23]

One of more amusing stories involving capsicum and the Winged Serpent is the ribald tale revolving around Titlacauan (an evil sorcerer who plagues Quetzalcoatl throughout his incarnations) manifesting himself as a Huaxtec Chili-Vendor:

And here is still another thing that Titlacauan brought about in order to bode ill. He appeared in the form of; he represented a Huaxtec, an inhabitant of the hot and fertile lands to the east. He just walked about with his virile member hanging, he sold green chilis.[24]

Whether or not capsicum was a cultural metaphor for virility is open to interpretation. However, based on global folklore regarding fertility and the purported aphrodisiacal qualities of capsicum it is safe to assume that Maya got the wink and the nudge.

Due to the rampant syncretism in Aztec myth, it is excruciatingly difficult to discern whether or not the Aztecs recognized a single capsicum deity (as with the Incan Ayar Uchu). In Kandell’s La Capital: the History of Mexico City he explains that even their primary deity, Huitzilopochtli, was “not originally an Aztec God”[25]. Huitzilopochtli was worshipped by the Teotihuacan (c.400-600 AD), nearly a thousand years before the Aztecs conquered Mesoamerica.[26] That is not to say Aztec culture did not make extensive use of capsicum and with the number of deities worshipped it would be false to assume there was not a dedicated capsicum deity.

Holmer mentions one god in his The Aztec Book of Destiny in association with capsicum, the Monster God Xolotl, twin brother of Huitzilopochtli. Holmer describes a healing ritual dedicated to Xolotl using capsicum. By consuming and burning capsicum (combined with a drop of the person’s blood, cactus needles, and incense) at midnight the practitioner petitions the god for good health and spiritual well being.[27] Additionally, on page fifty-two of The Aztec Book of Destiny there is an illustration of Xolotl and Tlachitonatìuh with a capsicum clearly depicted between the two gods.

In Fray Diego Durán’s Book of the Gods and Rites he describes the use of capsicum during the week-long festival devoted to the dual-natured goddess Chicomecoatl/Chalchiuhcihuatl. The festival of Chalchiuhcihuatl began after a good harvest and lasted from the seventh to the fifteenth of September and features capsicum. Chicomecoatl was responsible for frosts and crop failure. The first day was a grand event, with much merry-making and feasting. A slave girl was adorned and worshipped as Chicomecoatl on this first day. The week following was marked by fasting in an attempt to appease the goddess Atlatonan. Atlatonan was responsible for both causing and healing birth defects, leprosy, and lesions. From the second day of this festival to the end, a second slave girl was adorned with raiments (?) and offerings of the harvest bounty in appreciation of Chalchiuhcihuatl (I jokingly called her a personified cornucopia). Durán goes into great detail about the festival, detailing the enforced fasting, the solemnity of the week’s worship, and the girl’s demise. Capsicum (along with corn and squash) was included in her vestments, palanquin, and funeral pyre.[28]

As with the Incan deification of capsicum the ritual use or rather the prohibition of use allows for a glimpse into the significance of the fruit. Pre-Columbians loved fasting and penance as much as the Catholics did. The Maya, Inca, and Aztec cultures used capsicum and salt in nearly every meal, daily or otherwise. Throughout many of the sources (both primary and secondary) examined in this study ritualized denial of capsicum has been a constant. Gallenkamp notes in regard to the Maya, “Nearly every ritual was preceded by fasting (meat, chili peppers, and salt were particularly taboo), sexual abstinence, and purification rites.”[29]
“The Incas had strict fasts: one consisted of only maize and water, the maize being uncooked and minute in quantity. After three days they were permitted some uncooked herbs, aji, and salt but nothing else with their single daily meal of maize.”[30] Incan fasting[31] included penance for having children with birth defects[32]
More fasting[33]

Capsicum have a long history of being used in rituals and practices ranging from birth to death.[34] There are examples in the Pre-Columbian codices of the role capsicum played. The Mendoza Codex contains an illustration depicting the use of capsicum smoke as a punishment for errant children[35]. One the left a mother holds her son over a fire billowing noxious smoke. To the right is a young girl threatened with the same punishment.

Capsicum was also used in other forms of punishment and as penance (it seems that fasting was the most predominant form of penance besides execution). Proof or examples? Was capsicum used to punish adulterers, drunkards (in Aztec culture this carried the death penalty), or any variety of criminal?

Offerings made during Dia De Los Muertes often include capsicum in order to attract the dead.[36] It is for this reason that capsicums were banned at Incan funerals. The dead would be drawn to the fruit (capsicum are often associated with the element fire and life) or confused by any smoke produced by burning capsicum. RE: Conversation w/ Dr. Chandler-Ezell.
As in nearly every other aspect of Pre-Columbian life, capsicum was also used during human sacrifices and anthropophagy. Ritualized (and widespread) cannibalism show humans were not used as a bridge food (a term applied to food eaten during times of famine and other duress) and is mentioned by Bernardino de Sahagún, Durán, Bernal Diaz and several codices.[37] One particular dish mentioned in several accounts, Tlacataolli (which translates roughly to “maize and man stew”) featured capsicum, chocolate, and other ingredients in copious amounts.

Many of the ancient uses of chiles prevail today, though cannibalism is not widely practiced (or socially acceptable). Capsicum has become an international economic powerhouse. It features in medicinal products, and _____
Most of texts I have found are a decade old. While in most historical cases such a minimal expanse of time would be laughable, in the last ten years (1999-2009) a great deal has happened to capsicum.
Modern societies whose culinary cultures are associated with capsicum heavy dishes (i.e. Sichuan and Hunan cuisines, curries, masalas, vindaloos, a wide range of African dishes) in fact had no contact with the plant until after the European landing in the southern Americas in 1492 AD. Yet the plant became ingrained in society enough that it appeared in sculpture

[1] Michael Krondl, The Taste of Conquest: the Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice, New York: Ballantine Books, 2008 pg 169.
[2] Janis McPhilomy,"Looking back at the chile pepper." Borderlands 9 (Spring 1991): 8, 14. Borderlands: EPCC Libraries.
[3] Tolbert, Frank X. A Bowl of Red. Dallas: Taylor Pub. Co., 1988.
[4] Starch Fossils and the Domestication and Dispersal of Chili Peppers (Capsicum spp. L.) in the Americas http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;315/5814/986
[5] Isbel, William Harris & Helaine Silverman. Andean Archaeology III: North and South. New York: Springer, 2006, 49.
[6] http://www.philipcoppens.com/caral.html
[7] Isbel, William Harris & Helaine Silverman. Andean Archaeology III: North and South. New York: Springer, 2006, 391.
[8] Slovak, Nicole. "Real Alto". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/real/hd_real.htm (October 2003)
[9] Elizabeth P Benson, Birds and Beasts of Ancient Latin America. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), 99-101.
[10] Brundage, Burr Cartwright. A Rain of Darts. Austin: University of Texas, 1972.
[11] National Research Council (U.S.). Panel on Lost Crops of the Incas,. Lost crops of the Incas : little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation : report. National Academy Press, 1989.
[12] Burr Cartwright Brundage, Empire of the Inca, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 9-14.
[13] Janis McPhilomy, "Looking back at the chile pepper." Borderlands 9 (Spring 1991): 8, 14. Borderlands. EPCC Libraries.
[14] D’Altroy uses the spelling “Manqo Qhapaq”. Terence N. D’Altroy, The Incas, (Malden: Blackwell, 2003), 49-52.
[15] Donna Rosenberg, World Mythology: an Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics. 2nd Edition. (Chicago: NTC Publishing Group, 1994), 472-475.
[16] Burr Cartwright Brundage, Empire of the Inca, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 9-14.
[17] Cobo, Father Bernabe. Inca Religion & Customs. Trans, Roland Hamilton. Austin: University of Texas, 1990, 10.
[18] Terence N. D’Altroy, The Incas. Malden: Blackwell, 2003.
[19] Catherine J. Julien, Reading Inca History. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000, 188.
[20] Cobo, Father Bernabe. Inca Religion & Customs. Translated Roland Hamilton. Austin: University of Texas, 1990, 149.
[21] Cobo, Father Bernabe. Inca Religion & Customs. Translated Roland Hamilton. Austin: University of Texas, 1990, 149.
[22] Dennis Tedlock. Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 111-112.
[23] Bierhorst, John translator. History and Mythology of the Aztecs: The Codex Chimalpopoca. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 1992.
[24] León-Portilla, Miguel. Native Mesoamerican Spirituality: Ancient Myths, Discourses, Stories, Doctrines, Hymns, Poems from the Aztec, Yucatec, Quiche-Maya and Other Sacred Traditions. (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 155-160.
[25] Jonathan Kandell, La Capital: The Biography of Mexico City. (Owl Books. New York 1990), 27.
[26] Christy G. Turner & Jacqueline A Turner, Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1999), 421.
[27] Rick Holmer, The Aztec Book of Destiny, (North Charleston: BookSurge LLC, 2005) 91.
[28] Durán, Fray Diego. Book of the Gods and Rites & The Ancient Calendar. Translated and edited by Fernando Horcasitas & Doris Heyden. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975.
[29] Charles Gallenkamp, Maya: The Riddle and Rediscovery of a Lost Civilization (Brattleboro: The Book Press, 1985), 109.
[30] Jean Andrews, Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995, 29.
[31] Cobo, Father Bernabe. Inca Religion & Customs. Translated Roland Hamilton. Austin: University of Texas, 1990, 124.
[32] Cobo, Father Bernabe. Inca Religion & Customs. Translated Roland Hamilton. Austin: University of Texas, 1990, 200.
[33] León-Portilla, Miguel. Native Mesoamerican Spirituality: Ancient Myths, Discourses, Stories, Doctrines, Hymns, Poems from the Aztec, Yucatec, Quiche-Maya and Other Sacred Traditions. New York: Paulist Press, 1980, 95.
[34] Dave DeWitt, The Whole Chile Pepper Book. New York: Little Brown,1990.pg 101
[35] Ross, Kurt (commentaries). Codex Mendoza: Aztec Manuscript. Productions Liber S.A., CH-Fribourg, 1978. 80.
[36] Rebolledo, Tey Diana & María Teresa Márquez. Women’s Tales from the New Mexico WPA: La Diabla a Pie. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2000.
[37] Christy G. Turner & Jacqueline A. Turner, Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1999. pg 417

“I’ll smash the first guy who says ‘It’s all Greek to me’!”

The Cultural Relevance of Classical Mythology in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules

The myths of ancient Greece have long been a deep well from which authors, artists, and creative minds have drawn inspiration from. The influence of Greek culture on the development of Western Civilization has run the gamut; from the loftiest ideals of politics and philosophy to advertisers’ renditions of Cupid and providing fodder for B-movie plots. That the myths and legends of a civilization more than two thousand years still bear relevance in Western culture is impressive to say the least. Yet classical mythology is not relegated to the Ivory Towers of Academia or opera houses or other bastions of intellectual snobbery. The true staying power of classical mythology is its accessibility to the everyman, even if a person has no background concerning the works of Hesiod, Virgil, Euripides, or even Hamilton. To remove the pretentiousness surrounding classical myth is ensure its survival. As Peter Schaffer’s Mozart states, “Come on now, be honest! Which one of you wouldn't rather listen to his hairdresser than Hercules? Or Horatius, or Orpheus... people so lofty they sound as if they shit marble!” (Shaffer).

In searching for a modern form of entertainment that has made use of Classical mythology I found that I was not lacking in choices. In the last hundred years cinema has made great use of ancient stories ranging from: My Fair Lady (which has its roots in the tale of Pygmalion) to the famed special effects work of Ray Harryhausen on Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans to the Italian pepla (“sword and sandal”) movies (filmed in lurid Technicolor and sporting titles like Hercules and the Captured Women) to the domestic box office disappointment Troy. My searching ended up focused on the tale of Hercules. I was familiar with Steve Reeves’ Labors of Hercules (1958) and Hercules (1959) and the Reg Park Hercules series of films ranging from 1961-1965. I had seen the Kevin Sorbo series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999) on television. I had even seen Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1970 film Hercules in New York on UHF Channel 62 one Saturday afternoon two decades ago. Lou Ferrigno starred as Hercules in two Italian films in the early 1980s. Hercules has apparently not been a subject of interest for film-auteurs like Ingmar Bergman or Francis Ford Coppola.

One film that stood apart from the rest of the B-listers was The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962). My curiosity was piqued. More accurately my morbid curiosity was piqued. I had to watch this Stooges film, if only for the presumed fact that it would be of such poor quality that not even the crew of Mystery Science Theater 3000 would touch it. I was expecting a train wreck but was pleasantly surprised. Not only were there more laughs to be had than in most twenty-first century comedies but after watching the film I was surprised by the amount of depth in a Three Stooges film. When I began looking at the reasons why the film was made (including the cultural timeframe) I noticed how the reemergence of the myth of Hercules and the concept of hyper-masculinity in post-World War II societies coincided.

Before discussing The Three Stooges Meet Hercules it is important to mention the mainstreaming of bodybuilding. The pre-World War II development of Charles Atlas (who is still billed as a modern day Hercules), the popularity of Muscle Beach, and the establishment of the Mr. Universe competition (Steve Reeves and Reg Park were both winners of the competition) all laid the groundwork for Hercules to make a comeback. To the Greeks he was the ultimate man physically, so it’s only natural for him to become a template for modern bodybuilders. For a deeper insight into the role of bodybuilding and masculinity influencing the Pepla genre (1957-1965) a number of books have been written on the subject, including Stephen Flassiter’s sadly out of print Muscles, Myths and Movies: An Acquired Taste on Video Guide to the Cinematic Adventures of Hercules.

The Three Stooges Meet Hercules is an amusing satire of bodybuilding and Italian pepla, cashing in on the popularity of the film genre with movie goers. The Stooges were enjoying resurgence in popularity in the late 1950s as well. They had renewed their contract with Columbia Pictures for several feature length films. The Three Stooges Meet Hercules became their highest grossing feature film.

The basic premise is the Stooges work in a pharmacy in Ithaca, New York. Their friend is a goofy scientist Schulyer (Quinn K. Redeker) who is busy working on a time machine. Hijinks ensue and the Stooges, Schulyer, and romantic interest Vicki Trickett (Diana Quigley) and transported back in time to Ithaca, Greece. Through a series of misunderstandings the guys cause Ulysses to lose the throne. King Odious, backed by Hercules (Samson Burke), seizes the throne and the girl and put our heroes on a slave galley. The movie takes off from there, working with classic sight gags, double entendres, and general mayhem – there is even a pie fight/chariot chase at the climax of the movie.

Directed by Edward Bernds, the film plays with many classical mythology conventions. A good deal of the humor in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules is based on an assumed knowledge of Classical mythology. Most of the humor relies on sight gags and subtle asides but the real gems rely on the source material. For instance: after Curly Joe incites Hercules’ rage by accidentally tossing a cup of wine in Hercules’ face, Hercules begins to crush Curly Joe’s head between his forearm and bicep. The evil lord says to Hercules, “How many times do I have to tell you? Not in the palace.” This subtly alludes to the classical Hercules’ penchant for manslaughter. Indeed, Hercules is portrayed as a mindless brute until his comeuppance.

Familiarity of Classical mythology continues through several characters. Theseus is portrayed as a bloated buffoon upon his pleasure boat. Played for pure ham by Hal Smith this is not the Theseus as hero. Hal Smith is one of the high points of the movie. In a sharp departure from the Classical myths it is Theseus who sets Schulyer and the Stooges upon their quest not Eurystheus. They have convinced Theseus that Schulyer is Hercules because of the guns he has developed during his time in the slave galley. Theseus offers the lads a job. The lads begin taking on the labors, not for any glorious cause, but for cold hard cash. There is a long section of the film where the Stooges are promoting Schuyler/Hercules in arena fights. The hydra is mentioned and the Lion of Nimea is fought (using a real lion). The jokes keep rolling in. There is a face off between the real Hercules and Schulyer during which Hercules learns his lesson, Kind Odious is deposed, the girl is rescued, and the time machine whisks our heroes home.
The Cold War, Pax Americana, undertones in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules are, as a 21st Century viewer, difficult to ignore. There are several moments, whether intentional or otherwise, in the film that caused me to rewind the scene. One moment in particular, the climax of the film during which Schuyler defeats Hercules; Schulyer demands that Hercules live up to his modern day reputation as a hero, a supporter of justice and liberty.

Ultimately, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules is a fairly disposable piece of early sixties fluff. That being said, the writing is sharp and the comedy is excellent. The tongue in cheek references to Hercules and other characters and events in classical mythology make for some enjoyable viewing.

Friday, December 04, 2009

I'm not dead.

It's that time of year. Don't have much to review unless you nice folks want an annotated bibliography. I'm behind on movies, games, and assorted stuff. I will be posting some stuff ASAP, including a final impression review of Dragon Age: Origins and DLC for Dragon Age: Origins as well as Borderlands.

Hope you guys had a good Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chile pepper updates...pics pending.

So I harvested almost a dozen serranos from my plant this morning. I finally know what the plant is, I had forgotten what seeds I planted. Now I just have to figure out what to do with them. Probably just going to end up pickling them.

Thanks to the fine folks over at World Spice Merchants for sending my latest order quickly and efficiently. I picked up some Aframomum melegueta aka "Grains of Paradise", Urfa Biber, Poivron Rouge, and another ounce of Bhut Jolokia (my new friend aka "ghost chile").

Here's a quick run down:
  1. The grains of paradise have an outstanding aroma and peculiar flavor. When ground they have a floral, peppery smell with a hint of I don't know what. The taste is a combination of pepper, coriander, and possibly a hint of anise. I'm not 100% sure what I'm going to use this in but I may end up using a pinch here and there for my grains.
  2. Urfa Biber is a Turkish chile that is dark chocolate brown. I got it ground so I don't know what the chiles look like. The stuff looks like freaking tar but has a mellow, mid-range heat and a very mysterious flavor. I know that may sound insane but I tasted the stuff and got a weird sensory image in my head of a bazaar in Instanbul. I think I might have to use this stuff on ribs.
  3. The Poivron Rouge hails from Marrakech and has a similar look and taste to Hungarian Paprika. I plan to have this as an additive to couscous or quiche.

That's all the news I have today folks. Have a good weekend.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins Tips and Tricks 1

  1. I discovered that by holding down Left Trigger/L2 (brings up the radial menu) you can scan the area for items of interest and in some instances enemies. The names of said items will pop up in the general area they are in. Granted, it's a very short range scan but it is helpful in discovering secret areas and pickups you might have missed.
  2. This may depend on your style of play but I wholeheartedly recommend bumping up your persuasion skill ASAP. Communication actually matters in Dragon Age: Origins (unlike most RPGS where communication is a wasted skill *cough* Oblivion) and unless you want to strong arm everyone a little tact is a good thing to have.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins Voice Actors, or I thought I knew that voice!

Yes, Dragon Age:Origins is awesome, narf, narf, narf...we know Joshua why do you keep writing about it?

Because it just gets more awesome!

The Grey Warden Duncan sounded very, very familiar but I couldn't figure out who the hell it was. Turns out it's freaking Peter Renaday! The voice of Splinter, about a million video game characters, and bit parts ranging back to The AristoCats. Awesome!

Turns out Steve Valentine does a voice, you'd know him if you saw/heard him, he's kind of like a bizarro Richard E. Grant. I like him.

Kate Mulgrew, who played Capt. Janeway does a voice though I haven't encountered the character yet.

Tim Curry also does a voice and I have yet to encounter his character either.

I'm sure there are more but I have to go to class.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins (2009) First, first impressions.

That was how I felt about Dragon Age: Origins over the last few days and although I only got a few hours of gaming in I still feel that way.
The manual (you know that thing that comes with the game that has been rendered archaic by most games) is dense with 8pt font text. Bioware calls the game, "a modern re-imagination of an epic party based fantasy roleplaying game, dense with story and tactical combat" and so far they are right. Narf, narf, narf. I am +d20 with glee.
For my character I chose a female dwarf commoner (dwarf commoners excel at stealery) rogue with a specialization in ranged weapons. Her name is Scylla and she rules.
Apparently there's a different opening story for each race and class - for a total of six. That's kind of wicked awesome in my opinion. I don't want to give away Scylla's story but it's pretty fucking bleak. Odd that I experienced racism and classism in a game. Interesting too.
There is a serious learning curve in Dragon Age: Origins. If you're a gamer used to FPS styled RPGs (i.e. Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Fallout 3) then you might be in for a shock. I was drinking while playing so that might have impaired my ability to assimilate information but damn this game has a lot to it. Some gamers might be put off by the amount of tinkering and menu fiddling (weapons, armor, assorted gear, etc.) but I love it.
Hopefully I will be able to get some serious game time in tonight. Granted we do have a guest but I want to make him feel comfortable and at home. Besides I can either goob out about Dragon Age: Origins and bore people or I can sit quietly.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Red Cliff (2008) Dir John Woo

Ever since John Woo came to America he has made movies that are so bad that even with the taste of Tarantino could like them. They suck. Hard Target-sucked. Face/Off-blew. Windtalkers-both sucked and blew. You get the idea. I had pretty much written Mr. Woo off. Fin. I wasn't expecting much of anything from the man ever again.

Then I heard drums in the deep about Woo returning to China to make an epic of such sweeping proportions even Ang Lee and Yimou Zhang said, "Damn! Now that's a sweeping epic!" I've read that Woo's Red Cliff was released in Asia in two chunks for a total of four viewing hours and has outgrossed Titanic in China. Outside of Asia Red Cliff has been edited down to two and a half hours. The movie is not due in theaters until later this month. I downloaded a copy from XBOX Live and watched it with the missus last night.

I tell you what-Red Cliff is awesome. While there were one or two weird editing problems I noticed I was quickly distracted by all the awesome. I don't know if Red Cliff is as pretty as a Yimou Zhang (Hero, Curse of the Golden Flower) movie but it has an excellent look of its own. I don't recognize the movies the cinematographers (Zhang Li & Lu Yue) have worked on but I want to track those movies down. Red Cliff is blessedly 99% free of spastic camera work allowing the viewer to watch the action. The action director was Corey Yuen, stunt supervisor Dion Lam, and stunt coordinator was Jian Yong Guo (all have impressive backgrounds to say the least). Red Cliff is a top notch action movie (at least this version was). When the main ass kickers are let off the chain they seriously dish out the Mu Shu Pain. One awesome move I haven't seen before was: impale a guy with a spear, keep running, yank the spear through the guy and keep fighting. Amanda and I were actually cheering because some of the action was so awesome. Cheering, in the house, I shit you not. At one point the action got me so riled up I started whistling the action theme to Better Tomorrow II.

The basic story of Red Cliff takes place during the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" period c208 BCE. If you're familiar with the story (or played any number of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" KOEI games) then all the major players will be familiar-Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Sun Qian, Zhang Fei, etc. Zhang Fei (played by Jinsheng Zang) captures the image and personality I had of him in my head perfectly; plus it was fun to watch him bodyslam a horse. For viewers not really familiar with the story Red Cliff does a perfectly decent job of introducing the characters and their roles in the grand scheme of things.

Wow. I gotta say Red Cliff is so damn enjoyable. I'm still excited by seeing it. I would see it again and will probably buy the complete cut if and when I see it for sale. John Woo, I love you again, please don't make shitty movies in America any more. xoxo Joshua

Friday, October 23, 2009

Borderlands trick.

When you continue a game but not after a respawn all the assorted lootable containers are restocked. Pretty neat.

Another tip: When you run out of health you have a chance at a "second wind" if you kill something before the timer runs out.

Other things I like about "Borderlands" and other FPS/RPGs

One thing I really dig about the FPS/RPG crossover is the lack of JRPG random attack screens and thumb numbing menus. Being able to whup a target then and there, loot, and move on makes grinding easier.

I also like being able to avoid enemies that aren't worth the time fighting, in the case of "Borderlands" you can simply crush them under the wheels of your vehicle (once they are unlocked). The vehicle control is a little wonky at first but pretty smooth once you get used to it. They are more tank controls than traditional press A to go.

I'm about to enter the second section of the map, completed all missions in the first part and it took me longer to complete that part than all of Brutal Legend. Hopefully I'll be playing this for awhile. Even better is there are three other characters to play with.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Borderlands (2009) First Impressions

If only there was a post-apocalyptic, dystopian sci-fi, off-world Deadwood/Last Man Standing styled, with an excellent soundtrack, and inspired by kick-ass Heavy Metal artwork game...


Oh wait, Borderlands fits the bill perfectly. Developed by Gearbox Software out in Plano, TX (the same folks who did the Half Life series and several of the Brothers in Arms games) this game has some serious love put into it. What could have been a knock off of Fallout 3 is most certainly not. There's a different sensibility to Borderlands. Where Fallout 3 is just kind of a miserable, radiation soaked hell hole Borderlands is more of a "no guts, no glory, winner take all and the loser takes a dirt nap" experience. I like it. Don't get me wrong, Fallout 3 will always have a special place in my heart but for now I'm rolling with Borderlands.

From the get-go you can tell that Borderlands is not a place for panty-waists. The game takes place on the planet Pandora, home unknown xenos-technology and vast power and wealth for those with the testicular fortitude to get it. It's a fairly dusty enviro (so far) with arroyos and cutbacks. I like the terrain because you're actually rewarded (tactically not XP or loot) by taking your time to recon pays off. In the early stages of the game, without a silenced weapon, I get one shot before every hostile in the area comes screaming after me.

As far as hostiles go, there's a lot of them. Granted I haven't seen anything big and pants-soiling yet. From what I've seen in the trailer that's bound to happen sometime. There's a solid challenge level that matches character development. Bandits that were barely armed in the beginning are starting to sport rifles and power shields.

Another kind of kick-ass feature that I am not used is level restricted weapons. I like it, though it seems like there might be a bit of inventory juggling in the future. Apparently the game is very proud of the firepower it provides and each weapon has a slew of stats to compare and look at.

One thing I kind of went...eh...about was the lack of character customization but honestly that's because I'm spoiled by Bethesda games. There are four solid characters to choose from at the onset of the game, Soldier, Tank, Sniper, Stealth Melee(?). I went with sniper (plus he has a bitchin' "Bloodhawk") each character has several specific skills that can be developed. Mine has sniping, bloodhawk/treasure hunter, and gunslinger. As you level up you're awarded skill points which you distribute towards whatever you want (I'm treasure hunter klepto man in RPGs so you can guess what I went for). The nice thing is, at save points if you so desire you can redistribute your skill points. I imagine a sneaky trick would be to switch your skill points to tailor your character to certain missions (not that I would ever do such a thing). Granted resetting skill points costs you money and I don't know how prohibitive the cost is.

Thanks to Gearbox's experience with FPS the controls are smooth and intuitive. Like I've said before, this is important to me. If controls are counter-intuitive or if I need to be a freaking octopus to play (Section 8) then I'm very likely to stop playing after an hour. It's a good thing the controls are smooth because combat is fast. You don't have the VATS crutch in Borderlands and enemies tend to swarm if they have the chance. There are also nasty airborne critters on Pandora which make me thankful I have Bloodhawk around.

So yeah, so far so good. I haven't had the opportunity to play multiplayer co-op (up to three other players) so if some of you XBOXers need a new game to play we can mob up or we can go toe-to-toe in the Arena. DOOM DOOM DOOM! Sorry, I just had to throw that in there. Now, do I really have to go to school today? I feel a cold coming on...*cough*.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brutal Legend (2009) Campaign complete review

Well I wrapped up Brutal Legend and had a good time playing it. I laughed (a lot), I cried (a little), I banged my head (and got woozy).

When all is said and done the game is well worth playing; but not worth buying. I polished off the campaign in a little more than thirteen hours. I haven't gotten 100% complete and frankly there's not much incentive for me to do so (I'm at about 91%). There's not much replay value to speak of. The multiplayer modes aren't really my cup of tea anyway. The game just doesn't have legs.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Update on the 2009 Holiday Spice Mix.

Over the last few years I have doled out a fair amount of homemade spice mix. I have run through several names for this mix. Today I came up with a name:

"That Which Shall Not Be Named"

I don't mean to give it a rather diabolical or Voldemort-y title. Actually, in fact in my readings what I've created might be a good thing for kicking shadows, spirtes, ghouls and assorted peripatetic revenants in the ass.

I am going to work on a layered heat based around a foundation of spices. I might be adding a new spice to the mix depending on my reaction to it. What I hoping for is three or four layers:
  1. Flavor of the foundation, a grounding/primary taste
  2. Sharp notes of the first layer of heat
  3. Blast off
  4. Lingering afterburn, with any luck there will another pop of heat

Ultimately I want to have a result that's a bit hotter and meaner than my last efforts but still edible. Any input/questions/suggestions/issues will be more than welcome, as always.

More news to follow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bhut Jolokia, the "ghost chile", the Dorset Naga, the world's hottest chile, many names one bite.

As I posted 03/02/07 "I gotta get me some of those" and after two years of not really searching at all I found out the fabled "ghost chile" is available for purchase in the United States for a fairly reasonable price (less than ten dollars an ounce). I bought mine from World Spice Merchants.

I have to admit I was worried about consuming the ghost chile. I had seen videos of people wolfing them down and looking like they were going to turn inside out, unless you are Anandita Dutta Tamuly. Yes I was having second thoughts, the dried chiles have the color and vague appearance of sun dried tomatoes. Indeed, they smelled like dried wickedness. I threw one pepper in the grinder and tried to avoid breathing the dust. I poured a saucer of olive oil and added about a gram of the ghost chile powder to it. Then I dunked a chunk of bread in and sampled.
In such a small amount the heat was certainly apparent but was certainly manageable. I noticed a tomato-esque flavor and another hint of something unidentifiable. The heat managed to fill my head, this may sound insane but I could feel the heat radiating through my head like a fever. However the gustatory rhinorrhea did not seriously kick in so I think I need to step up the amount I consume. I added some to my eggs this morning and got a good little kick.
My plan this weekend is to take several ghost chiles and add them to a chile mix I have sitting around (like everyone does right?). I believe that the ghost chile will bring an edge that I've been looking for. More news to follow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Tale of Hephaistos (Fiction)

The Tale of Hephaistos
Hephaistos, lord of the forge, molder of earth, master of metal was not always thus. He was an immortal bastard, born from Hera’s bitter jealousy of Pallas Athena. Hephaistos at an early age showed a gift for shaping metal and stone into beauteous works. He made delightful trinkets and gifts for his fellow Olympians and his craft pleased them. Hera loved her son, who, even in his youth had a visage and form that seemed to be carved from the roots of Olympus. Zeus, however, resented the boy; his distrustful mind leading him to think that Hera, his wife, had taken a lover. On one occasion, while Olympus was still freshly hewn, during the time almighty Zeus, Lord of Olympians, was beginning his conflict with his own father Kronos, Zeus railed against Hera and questioned the origins of her son. When Hera’s acerbic tongue vexed Zeus mightily and he prepared to smite her. Hephaistos stood before her in defiance of Zeus’s wrath. For his impertinence Zeus turned his fury on Hephaistos, striking him down, and raining upon him many fearsome blows. Zeus caught the boy as he attempted to crawl away and cast Hephaistos from Mount Olympus, banishing him from the home of the gods.
Hephaistos’s fall was great, for Olympus towers far above the clouds, glancing against Ouranos’s realm. For three days Hephaistos fell through the firmament. None came to the aid of Hephaistos, for none wished to interfere with the path the Furies had set the youth upon. Hephaistos became a comet. Zeus’s ire had made him a javelin, and Hephaistos struck Gaea’s mantle with such force his immortal form was shattered and twisted.
Hephaistos’ broken body came to rest at the bottom of a volcano. He had landed far to the east of Olympus on the Isle of Lemnos. In the heat and smoke of the caldera his mind drifted far from his corporeal wreckage, soaring from Euxine to Axine, from Hyperborea to Cimmeria until a maternal voice, deep and rich with the ages, drew him back to Lemnos. It was the voice of Gaea and she nursed the youth back to health. With her molten blood she salved his pain, and reforged his body. But flesh and bone, even that of an immortal, does not mend like earth and he was left crooked. She brought her daughter, Rhea, Zeus’s mother (who fed Kronos the swaddled stone to save her son) to tend to him. Rhea in turn called to Lemnos; Thetis (daughter of Nereus, long before she was mother of Achilles by Peleus the mortal) and Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus, Mother of the Graces. These goddesses were to keep Hephaistos safe from harm.
Hera frantically sought Hephaistos during his recovery. Her servants across the lands spoke of a streak of light passing in the direction of Helios’s abode, visible even by day. It was the whim of the Fates that she came to rest on the Isle of Lemnos one sultry dusk. She took the form of a crone and entered a small village there. A mortal was tending to his cattle with delicate care and this pleased Hera, for the cow is one of her sacred beasts. She spoke to the man and complimented his herd. The mortal was courteous, in those times when Olympians walked among the mortals it was wiser to be kind to a stranger than not. He told Hera his cattle had been much disturbed by the eruption of a nearby volcano. They had gone off their feed and this rightfully troubled him. Hera’s curiosity was piqued by news of the eruption and thanked the herder, telling him his devotion to his stock pleased the Gods. She promised they would be strong and bring him much mortal praise. She then took her leave.
Hera approached the smoking volcano, feeling the earth tremble beneath her feet as if it withdrew from her tread. When she mounted the precipice and looked far below, she saw a form slumbering at the heart of the crater. Her immortal heart sang, only her son could slumber in such a place. As she made her way to him her visage darkened. The form was warped, the right side shifted higher than the left. Shoulders and spine had become a jagged ridge, as mountains form. Surely this creature could not be the son of dread Hera but she recognized Hephaistos’s face scarred and battered it may be. Indignation built within her, her frustration building to rage. Just when she was about to act, Rhea stepped from the billowing smoke to defend Hephaistos. Rhea admonished Hera, for how could any mother seek to strike down her own child? Hera found wisdom in Rhea’s words and calmed the storm within her. Bitterly Hera turned away from Hephaistos and told Rhea to care for the youth if she so desired for Hera would have nothing more to do him. Such an ugly, crippled creature had no place among the Olympians or as her son were Hera’s parting sentiments. While Hephaistos’s healing slumber continued Rhea set near him all the tools fitting the blacksmith of the gods. She had heard some whispers of the youth’s skills with stone and metal and hoped her gifts would bring him some consolation.
Another being was drawn to Lemnos, the Cyclops Ktistis. He was only guided by his curiosity, “What had caused Gaea to tremble so? What new foolishness had Titans and Olympians engaged in?” Ktistis travelled chthonic byways known only to him and emerged from the fiery depths of the volcano. The Cyclops spied a smith, alone at his forge, working with vigor. Ktistis saw that the craftsman, though misshapen of body, swung his hammer with grace. He also noted that the youth used more natural talent than skill in his labors. Ktistis told the youth as much. The Cyclops settled his massive bulk next to the forge as if it were a simple campfire. Hephaistos was taken aback by these remarks, for not even Zeus had insulted his works. Ktistis laughed, a sound like a rockslide, “Young Olympian, you know nothing; nothing of rock or stone, ore or gem. You create baubles, trinkets, simple amusements. To truly become master you must be able to breathe life itself into your works.” With these words Ktistis took a great block of stone in his hands and dipped them into the depths of the forge. He pulled forth the stone, pressed it between his palms, and breathed upon them. He unfurled his great calloused fingers and Hephaistos beheld the shape of a towering man. Ktistis set the stone man down and the statue, grinding at first, slowly stretched like Hermes before a race. The golem lumbered towards the forge and began to stoke the furnace. Hephaistos humbly said, “Will you teach me your art?”
Thus began a long friendship between the fallen immortal and the solitary Cyclops. Both felt a bond of kinship neither had known before. Together they began work on the Aethaleia, a forge the likes of which no creature had ever seen before. Under Ktistis’s tutelage he slowly learned to form living stone in the shape of men. These creatures kept the Aethaleia alive, mined the depths of Lemnos, and performed innumerous tasks tirelessly, under the direction of Hephaistos and Ktistis. Rhea, Thetis, and Eurynome kept watch over them and on rare occasions visited. For the most part Hephaistos and Ktistis worked together alone for many years, uncaring of any happenings beyond the workshop.
Hephaistos was as happy with his lot as he could be but sometimes his mind would turn nostalgic for the airy majesty of Olympus, for Helios’s luminescence, and the glamour of the Olympians themselves. He began to wonder if metal could be brought to life. Ktistis reasoned that it could but he knew not the delicacy such work would require. Hephaistos joked with his friend that perhaps his own skill creating baubles and trinkets would provide the delicacy needed.
Long did Hephaistos tinker and ponder. He created delicate metalwork that impressed even Ktistis. Hephaistos’s love of his craft went into each piece and his clever mind brought these pieces together. The elaborate puzzle pieces began to build a statue. It was that of a gold and bronze woman. Its beauty rivaled that of an Olympian goddess. Ktistis jibed, “Even the golem will be distracted by the gifts the Graces have bestowed upon your daughter.” Finally Hephaistos finished his task and with great tenderness turned the final screw into place. For some moments nothing happened and Ktistis looked at Hephaistos sadly, ready to offer condolences. Then both detected a subtle thrum in the air as the clockwork maiden awoke. She turned her gilded head towards Hephaistos and with a sweetly chiming voice said, “Good morning Father.” Hephaistos felt a deep swell of love and pride within himself and replied, “Good morning Iota.”
So it was that Hephaistos’s first daughter was born, bringing joy and light to the bottom of the inferno. Iota became Hephaistos’s right hand at the smithy. Ktistis himself loved Iota and taught her what craft he could. She could not breathe life into stone or metal for she herself did not possess anima. He would become her protector in the years to come, when the Titanomachy would reach its pinnacle, and even the peace of the calderic workshop would be shattered. But such a tale is for another time.

Bulfinch, Thomas. The Age of Fable. New York: Review of Reviews, 1913; Bartleby.com, 2000. www.bartleby.com/bulfinch/. (September 11, 2009)
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. Ill. Steele Savage. Penguin Books USA Inc. 1969.
Hesiod. Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, Shield. Trans. Athanassakis, Apostolos N. John Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London. 1983 pp. 27 line 571
Stewart, Michael. "Hephaistos", Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant. http://messagenetcommresearch.com/myths/bios/hephaistos.html (November 14, 2005)

Trick 'r Treat (2008) Dir. Michael Dougherty

Halloween is fast approaching and October is the month where I have an excuse to watch nothing but horror movies-not that I ever really needed and excuse in the past or other times of the year. The problem with consuming a diet rich in horror is I quickly run out of good or even halfway decent movies. Since most of what is available is worse than what airs on the Sci-Fi channel, it is refreshing and happy inducing to find a worthwhile horror flick.

Trick r' Treat was directed by the guy who wrote Superman Returns not the lead singer of Soul Coughing. It's in the same vein of Creepshow, Tales From the Crypt, or any of the "several stories interwoven" horror gems from our past and it works. Trick 'r Treat was damned enjoyable. If I see it for sale I will purchase it. This is one of those movies that received no press, no backing and appeared on XBOX360 to download. It has an excellent cast from Dylan Baker to Brian Cox, Anna Paquin is Anna Paquin, and I was pleased to see Leslie Bibb looking all sexy (again).

I really enjoyed Trick 'r Treat through and through but here are some potential problems for you folks (especially if you are not fans of the Creepshow format). The movie is not a fright fest or an Asian horror knock off or splatter movie - there is gore but nothing I would cry about. There is an element of creepy cheese that might not be appreciated by some audiences. Trick 'r Treat is one of the better Halloween-themed movies I have seen in a looooong time. Definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday dinner: Casserole that you'll actually want to eat.

All right this is pretty simple, though it takes a little bit of time.

  • Three large chicken bone in breasts (they were on sale)
  • A couple of chunks of salt pork (or thick cut bacon)
  • One white onion chopped
  • A teaspoon of thyme
  • A punch of black pepper (fresh)
  • A punch of sea salt (or kosher)
  • Two cups of chicken stock
  • teaspoon of chile powder (cayanne will be fine)

Chop the onion and salt pork and brown in a cast iron or oven safe sautee pan. Add thyme, salt, pepper. Preheat oven to 400. Add chicken breast up, on the bone. Cook for about half an hour.

  • small can of V8
  • can of corn
  • a cup of water
  • a cup of sauce the chicken and everything cooked in
  • a half dozen leftover small corn muffins
  • one more chopped onion
  • a chopped tomato
  • a minced Serrano

Shred the chicken, peel off the skin. Put the shredded chicken in a casserole or oven safe pan. Mix in everything wet. When that's done crumble up the corn muffins and put on the top of the goop. Put everything in the oven again.

p.s. if you have cheese you can add that too.

A great tip for slow cooking on a Sunday: Time your cooking around doing the laundry. Kill two birds with one stone, right? Each cycle of the washer is about 20-30 minutes and the dryer is 45-60 minutes. Tada!

House of the Devil (2009) Dir. Ti West

House of the Devil (2009) is an excellent retro-style horror movie. Set in the 1980s, House of the Devil is a classic babysitter in peril movie. That's the long and short. I honestly feel that saying much about the movie takes away from the experience.

It's a perfect Halloween month movie. House of the Devil is creepy as hell, well shot, solidly acted, and satifyingly bloody without being a splatter flick. It's available for download on XBOX360 but still hasn't come out on netflix.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Abstract: A Brief Examination of Chillies in Pre-Columbian Societies

I intend to explore the cultural history of capsicum before 1492. Much of my preliminary research has involved secondary sources from a wide range of disciplines. Most of these sources deal with the dissemination of capsicum after 1492. Certainly this makes for a fascinating story but ignores thousands of years of pre-Columbian history and culture. Pre-Columbian societies used capsicum not only as victual or condiment but also as; a medicine with a wide range of curative properties, a monetary unit, a punishment for children, an integral part of religious ceremonies, and in some cases part of their creation myths. My primary focus will be centered upon pre-Columbian uses of capsicum not only in mythos and religious practices but the plant’s influence on customs and superstitions as well. Like maize, capsicum played a major role in many aspects of pre-Columbian life, from fertility practices to ritualized cannibalism.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Upcoming reviews and assorted good stuff!

After some downtime I have a bucket of reviews and goodness coming up this week including:

  • Brutal Legend demo
  • Wolfhound
  • Section 8
  • some books
  • chiles
  • something else


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Brutal Legend (2009)

In a dark realm, far from our own, an evil power reigns. That power has turned away from the sacred ways of heavy metal, perverting and twisting the land and enslaving hard rocking men and women. An awesome hero has emerged to combat this evil and free the land from suck. That hero is Eddie Riggs, a "roadie", and he will teach this realm to rock again.

I wasn't excited about Brutal Legend very much. A 360 game coming out in two weeks, based around Jack Black as roadie for a faux-metal band who gets transported into a metal world and has to save the blah blah blah...

I saw the demo popup for download on the 360 and was like, meh, whatever. Then I read the sidenotes...wait, what? It's a Tim Schafer game? Nanidesuka? Fucking sign me up!

I purchased and played a couple of hours last night. Brutal Legend is, for lack of a better phrase, totally fucking awesome. The sheer insanity of driving a hot rod through forests of chromed trees and across fields dotted with ancient symbols of heavy metal (one of my favorites so far are the enormous stone swords buried in the ground) is a blast. The dialogue is funny (Jack Black's style works really well in the game) and what little I've played of the story rocks. Brutal Legend is fun too - in that Tim Schafer "I can't believe this is going on" way.

The heavy metal soundtrack is insanely huge. Most of the bands I've never heard of. Many of the classics are represented: Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Slayer, Manowar, etc. I also really dig the score, which shifts in tone depending on what region you are travelling through.

More input to follow once I have played more.

Friday, September 18, 2009

DS releases: Scribblenauts and Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Scribblenauts is sitting on our kitchen table unopened - wow it has been a busy week. It's gotten brilliant reviews and seems like it's going to be one of those knock it out of the park DS games.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box! AWESOME! A new Professor Layton game! Yes, I got fed up with the first game because it made me feel dumb. I think I might be smarter now, maybe? Who cares? Yay! New Professor Layton game!

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 trailer

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 may not have reinvented the wheel but it sure as shit is fun.

I borrowed Marvel: Ultimate Alliance from a friend a couple of years ago and had a grand old time smashing and bashing stuff with a massive cast of Marvel superheroes. Hell, I was pretty excited about MUA2 coming out.

I've had a busy and sickly week so I haven't been able to put too much time into gameplay (only about five hours) but I'm having a grand time. The story revolves around the Marvel Universe Civil War (see trailer). Battlelines have been drawn yadda yadda yadda. Who cares? It's clobberin' time!

I have a lot of fun putting together my team of heroes and micromanaging their powers. I tend to go with brawlers/goon squad (i.e. Juggernaut, the Thing, Hulk, Wolverine) but sometimes I'll throw in Storm or Gambit.

All in all it's a solid game, enjoyable, action packed, with a decent difficulty curve. The extra training missions and ability to replay previous levels makes for extended game play, especially since you can bulk up on experience and skill points by going back to previous levels and exploring.

The one downside is the music. I turned it off after awhile, it just kind of annoyed me. Other that the game is aces.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) Dir. Gavin Hood

Let me preface this by saying:

I am not a X-Men fan, not the comics or the movies but I did like the cartoon. I like certain characters but all in all they are not my favorite bunch of superheroes.

That being said I really enjoyed 90% of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hell, I even thought Liev Schreiber did an awesome job as Sabretooth.

Amanda and I were feeling under the weather and she wanted to watch a movie. I wanted to play Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. So we came to an agreement. I'm glad we did.

Wolverine is pretty simple, straight-forward, and moved along at a pretty good clip. I'm not familiar with Gavin Hood's movies but he's a sharp director of action. Action is what we wanted and action is what we got.

I also like how grim the movie is. Sure, it's not as bleak as the new Batman movies but Origins was darker than I was expecting.

My only problem with the movie is the absolutely wretched CG Patrick Stewart sequence. not only was it inexcusably ugly but it was also pointless. Fail.

I don't know if I'd watch Origins any time soon but I'd buy it for less than ten bucks.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

As we all know pretty much every Batman game sucked - with the exception of LEGO: Batman. Well folks, we can add Batman: Arkham Asylum to the list of Batman games that does not suck.

B:AA is, a few stealth nitpicks aside, awesome. Most of you probably know I am a big fan of the stealth action genre and B:AA hits all the right notes. This is more of a Batman sim than a Batman game. Combat is smooth as silk and looks bitchin' as Batman delivers the beatdown. Some of the combat is a bit repetitive but that didn't matter to me so much as sneaking around and Batman-ing foes from the shadows.

What really puts B:AA over the top for me - quality wise is the voice acting and writing. They rangled the crew from the animated Batman series; Mark Hamill as the Joker, Kevin Conroy as Batman, and written by Paul Dini. I was and am a huge fan of the animated Batman so having this crew on B:AA is a joy for me.

The only downside - for me - is I doubt the game has much replay value for me unless I can start the game over with all my upgrades and gadgets. There are endurance missions and timed missions that you can play apart from the storyline but I haven't gotten into them too much. I think, ultimately, B:AA is a top-notch must play game but I will be turning it in for credit to put towards Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Inglourious Basterds - Second Viewing review

There will be spoilers in this review, just a heads up.

A friend and I went to see Inglourious Basterds last night - he for the first time and myself for the second. I went to see it again for the same reason I saw Kill Bill Vol 1 twice in the theater - to make sure I actually had problems with the movie and not just Tarantino. I still had problems with both.

Chapter One:

The Tarantino Break-Up Metaphor

I feel that I must clarify my dislike of Tarantino and his projects. I came up with this metaphor: I had to break-up with Tarantino, my first auteur boyfriend. If you can imagine: a small town nerdy weirdo who grew up on 70s thrillers, crime flicks, heist movies, action movies, Saturday afternoon Z-Grade horror movies, WWII movies, Westerns and then one day a movie was reviewed by Vincent Canby in the New York Times. The movie reviewed sounded awesome and even had a cool title, Reservoir Dogs. I, me the small town nerdy weirdo, had to see this movie Canby described as, "Though small in physical scope, "Reservoir Dogs" is immensely complicated in its structure, which for the most part works with breathtaking effect." I saw Reservoir Dogs ASAP and from the first moment I was smitten. Then came True Romance -written by QT and steeped in film geekery - and then boom Pulp Fiction. If you knew me in 1995 then you'll know how much I loved that movie. I think I saw it more than a dozen times in the theater - and I'm not exaggerating.

Tarantino was one of my main jumping off points in my film geek maturation process (along with Mike who actually owned a lot of the early HK movies Tarantino was paying homage to). After I moved to Austin in 1999 I kicked into overdrive, watching pretty much anything I could get my hands on that was classic, grindhouse, Asian, underground, Yakuza movies, Yaphet Kotto movies, giallo, sexploitation, girls in jail, and more. I read, I watched, I picked up the soundtracks and scores I could find, and I educated myself.

The beginning of the end of my Tarantino love affair began August 17-26, 2001 at QT5 - the Tarantino MC'd filmfest at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. For each night Tarantino hosted a bunch of like themed movies - i.e. "Martial Arts Epic Adventures", "Old-School Kung Fu films", etc. Some of the movies were top-notch but most were...disappointing. A week of listening to Tarantino rabbit on was exhausting. As my father used to say, "the bloom was off the rose". Two years later Kill Bill Vol 1 came out. I hated that movie and I still hate 3/4 of it. Saw it twice just to make sure.

I decided to break-up with Tarantino. I had outgrown him, his stories were repetative - what scraps of his stories were original, I was unhappy in the relationship, and frankly he annoyed me.

Death Proof was pretty fucking disappointing. That's all I have to say about that.

Now Inglourious Basterds. I give Tarantino another chance, maybe he's changed maybe I can give him yet another chance to be my auteur sweetheart. Hope against hope the magic can be rekindled. Instead, it's more of the same bullshit and I'm reminded why we had to break-up in the first place.

Hence, Tarantino Break-Up Metaphor.

Chapter Two:

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.
And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

Isaac Davis: Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Y'know, I read this in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, y'know, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.
Party Guest: There is this devastating satirical piece on that on the Op Ed page of the Times, it is devastating.
Isaac Davis: Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.
- Manhattan (1979) Dir. Woody Allen

Much has been made of Inglourious Basterds being a Jewish revenge fantasy. I have to admit that I am a touch confused by such a sentiment because people are acting like such a thing never existed before. A great majority of movies I've seen with Nazis have them being shot, set on fire, executed, put on trial for war crimes, melted by the wrath of God, machine gunned, blown up, gunned down when attempting to surrender, and pureed by airplanes. Yet people are acting like Tarantino and Roth have reinvented the matzoh ball.

Roth calling IB "kosher porn" is absurd and immature. In his interview with the Toronto Star, he has a vague explanation of the phrase, an enmity between him and Germans (more correctly Nazis):

This sentiment leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I'm still trying to figure out why. It makes me uncomfortable, like listening to a WWII vet explaining why he won't buy anything from Japan.

Another troubling issue is the execution of Sgt. Werner Rachtman (Richard Sammel) by Sgt. Donnie "The Bear Jew"Donowitz (Eli Roth). Jeffrey Wells's review at Hollywood Elsewhere really brought this issue to my mind, especially watching IB a second time. Sgt. Rachtman refuses to divulge information about other German patrols. Sgt. Donowitz gives him the business with a Louisville Slugger and afterwards rants, pretending to be a big league ball player who just won the big game. Now I'm all for moral ambiguity and twisting concepts of right and wrong in cinema but in this case Tarantino's Basterds come across as socio and psychopaths who have been given free rein to commit whatever atrocities they see fit. In a strange way it reminds me of the torture/execution scene in John Woo's Bullet in the Head.

Chapter Three:

Vainglourious Bastard


Autofellatio Tarantino Style

“I think this might just be my masterpiece.”
- Lt. Aldo Raine, final line of Inglourious Basterds

"Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinémathèque."

"I am not an American film maker, I make movies for the planet Earth."
-Quentin Tarantino

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Inglourious Basterds - the Soundtrack (2009)

My main problem with Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is the absolute bullshit soundtrack.

Perhaps I am missing vital information but I am curious as to why Tarantino cherry picks Ennio Morricone cuts when the master is still alive and composing original scores. The same can be said for Lalo Schifrin, Charles Bernstein, and Jacques Loussier - though the latter hasn't done a film score since the late 90s. Several of the Morricone cues can be found on the A Fistful of Film Music Anthology released in 1995! IB's soundtrack is amateur, repetitive and lazy. He reuses Charles Bernstein's title track from White Lightning for chrissakes (Side note: White Lightning is my favorite Burt Reynolds movie. Check it out ASAP). He used it in Kill Bill Vol 1 and IB. From Kill Bill Vol 2 he recycles Il Mercenario (ripresa) by Ennio Morricone.

The piece de resistance of this self-derivative mess is David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder's Cat People (Putting Out Fire). This title theme from 1982's Cat People is from my least favorite era of Bowie's work. My dislike of early 80s Bowie aside the sequence when this track plays is beautifully shot and could have been one of the best scenes of the movie if not for the ham-handed use of Cat People (Putting Out Fire). Some people left the theater during this part and didn't return.

Tarantino once managed to meld music and image with a deft touch that rivalled Scorsese. Now his soundtracks are as dull and repetitive as his movies.

The Soundtrack Listing for Inglourious Basterds

The Green Leaves Of Summer by Nick Perito
The Verdict (La Condanna) by Ennio Morricone
L'incontro Con La Figlia by Ennio Morricone
White Lightning (Main Title) by Charles Bernstein
Il Mercenario (ripresa) by Ennio Morricone
Slaughter by Billy Preston
Algiers November 1, 1954 (from Battle of Algiers) by Ennio Morricone & Gillo Pontecorvo
The Surrender (La Resa) by Ennio Morricone
One Silver Dollar (Un Dollaro Bucato) by Gianni Ferrio/The Film Studio Orchestra
Hound Chase (from 'White Lightning') by Charles Bernstein
Bath Attack (from 'The Entity') by Charles Bernstein
The Fight by Jacques Loussier
Davon Geht Die Welt Nicht Unter by Zarah Leander
The Man with the Big Sombrero by Samantha Shelton And Michael Andrew
Ich Wollt Ich Wär Ein Huhn by Lilian Harvey & Willy Fritsch
Main Theme from Dark of the Sun by Jacques Loussier
Cat People (Putting Out Fire) by David Bowie
Mystic And Severe by Ennio Morricone
The Devil's Rumble by Davie Allan & The Arrows
What'd I Say by Rare Earth
Zulus by Elmer Bernstein
Tiger Tank by Lalo Schifrin
Un Amico by Ennio Morricone
Eastern Condors by Sherman Chow Gam-Cheung
Rabbia e Tarantella by Ennio Morricone

p.s. The scores that Tarantino "pays homage" to are individually excellent as well are some of the movies they accompany. I whole-heartedly recommend tracking down both.

Inglourious Basterds (2009) Dir. Quentin Tarantino

BC3 and I went to go see a matinee of Inglourious Basterds opening day and it was surprising how full the theater was and what a cross section of demographics made up the audience. Pretty cool that Tarantino can get all sorts of folks to skip work on a Friday afternoon to go see a movie.

I honestly wasn't expecting much from IB seeing as how disappointed I was by both volumes of Kill Bill and Death Proof. In fact I can honestly say that I went into the theater with a chip on my shoulder. I enjoyed IB much more than Tarantino's last ventures. It is pure alternative history fantasy in the vein of Garth Ennis's Adventures in the Rifle Brigade. Robert Richardson's cinematography was excellent, reminding me more of his early work - i.e. Salvador - than Kill Bill. There's beaucoup violence and buckets of claret tossed around but that wasn't a bad thing in my opinion. Christoph Waltz plays Col. Hans Landa and is an absolute monster on screen. You thought Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men was an evil fucker? Col. Landa has him beat, hands down. I have a new favorite cinema villian.

My problems with IB are personal beefs; the soundtrack (I am writing a second post about the soundtrack, including a full track listing and why it pisses me off so much) and Mr. Tarantino himself. While, thankfully, he didn't show up in IB his self-congratulatory smarm is all over the movie. Primary example, the final line of the movie. Other scenes don't come across as provocative they feel forced and frankly, cheap. To be fair, there are some excellent sequences in IB - indeed, there are more great scenes than bad. However, each scene that jolted me out of the movie watching experience was a Tarantino trick or standby. I don't want to throw out any spoilers but you'll know the scenes when you see them. Ultimately these stumbles soured my opinion of IB.

When all is said and done, I think most of you folks would enjoy IB. The problems I have with the movie are pretty nit-picky ultimately. I'd definitely be interested in your input.

Greatest Hits

Blog Archive (s) It's like a Wayback Machine!