Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Dream Act fails but "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" is repealed...

It's rare I get political on HYR - it's a review site after all (66% of the time) but I feel that I have to put down my thoughts after reading the news today.  There will inevitably be some soapboxing about issues I do not have the full facts about nor have I followed every piece of news because it doesn't directly impinge on my day to day existence.  What can I say?  I'm an average American.

The Dream Act, which would have given illegal immigrant youth the ability to gain citizenship through either a college education or military service, did not pass in the Senate today.  I had not heard of the DREAM Act before a few days ago but I thought it was a perfectly reasonable idea and when I read about it for the first time I said to myself, "Finally the Government has figured out that what I've been saying for years makes sense.  Good thing I kept that thought recording chip in my head."  I joke but for quite some time I have been soapboxing about how to solve the "illegal immigrant" problem - to paraphrase Starship Troopers "Service Equals Citizenship".  The volunteer American Armed Forces have, over the last decade, have had a difficult time meeting quotas.  Since I am not El Jefe of the United States I cannot incorporate my idea of good old fashioned penal legions (which, historically have been some of the most bad-ass dudes around) but I was -and am - a strong proponent of what would become the Dream Act.  And why not?  Immigrants still believe in the fabled American Dream - a concept a good cross-section of the American population scoff at.  I'm not saying that immigrants are naive and silly for believing in what our country once stood for, I'm saying that immigrants still believe that America is the Land of Opportunity - otherwise why would they risk life and limb and leave their families behind to come here?

FDR's Good Neighbor Policy and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the establishment of an immigrant population is a topic I would like to research further because I'd like to understand the impact this New Deal program and FDR's administrations policies have had on current events.  I realize that sounds like a thesis statement and there are probably a pile of research papers and academics texts asshole deep to an adult giraffe but these are important issues to consider.  In reading the news (or admittedly scanning the headlines and reading the news that interests me) it seems that the concept of a Good Neighbor Policy went out the window with the Cold War.  But I digress.

So, the Dream Act.  Give immigrants the opportunity to better themselves and in turn better our nation.  That's the gist of the Act right?  Sounds pretty reasonable to me.  Take care of people and their families, give them a safe port in the storm, honest pay for honest work, and a chance to make better lives for themselves.  Call me naive but isn't that what decent human beings do and by reason (A government by and for the People) their elected officials should strive for?  Isn't common decency towards your fellow man the cornerstone of most major religions?  Aren't the basic Ten Commandments about not being an asshole (okay I have a problem with Thou Shalt Not Worship Any Other God But Me and a couple of others but the basics, Don't kill people, Don't steal, Don't fuck your neighbor's wife...those are pretty solid givens.  Y'know laws and rules are made for a reason and usually because the rule didn't exist before and therefore needed to be implemented.  That being said Old Testament times were batshit crazy)?  Aren't we a Christian nation (more or less - that's what FOX and the 700 Club told me)?

Maybe the Senate Republicans didn't want more gay immigrants in the Armed Forces.  You'd think that some of those Senators didn't know ferocious some of the Latin trannies can be.  I bet some of those Senators have some lady boys set up in apartments in Rosslyn.  The Senators should know those bitches will cut you.  Amusing scenario: Lady Boy on coke vs fundamentalist insurgent - "Bitch I know you dinnit point that AK at me.  Gimme that shit.  Bitch, I will cut you."

God forbid we get some hard ass Latinas in the Armed Forces.  Haven't any of those Senators seen Aliens?  Vasquez has got a bigger set of huevos than I will ever have.  Fuck that - how about some hardcase ladies who like ladies?  I mean paladins for women's rights...with the US military might backing them up.  Female genital mutilation?  Yeah that shit would be over.

A historical point, once upon a time was a waste of semen to be with a woman (I'm talking about Greeks, Romans, and Samurai).  Women were for breeding and taking care of the homestead.  Only non-military men (kids, old folks, pussweeds and shit shovellers) stayed at home to tend the home fires.  Manly men only loved other manly men and after they were doing manly man stuff they had manly man sex.

All joking aside, I view the repeal of DADT as a good thing.  I hadn't realized that it had only been established seventeen years ago.  To me if an American citizen is willing to potentially put their lives on the line, no matter what their race/creed/color/social status/economic bracket, (this goes for police, fire fighters, EMTs, and any civil servant who does their civic duty in a time of crisis as well) then who gives a shit?

My sentiment is that right now, at this juncture of American history, we have the opportunity to elevate ourselves from mundane bullshit like whether or not a person feels emotional and physical feelings towards a member of their same sex (and could get married).   As far as immigrants go I feel that the United States should support and encourage immigration anyway we can.  Education opportunities?  Roles in our military?  Programs that provide living wages and opportunities for personal growth?  Yes to all three.  In some ways it's a starting point to making America great again, being that shining beacon on the hill, and making up for our Cold War policies which have fucked us in the ass over the last decade.

Erotic Grotesque Ultraviolent Japanimation (and a few others): a brief retrospective 1986-1998

These films and hence this retrospective = NSFW.  Additionally, if you dislike movies which might potentially make you physically or mentally ill I suggest avoiding them (except Akira but even that might freak you out).  These movies will warp your fragile little minds.

Once upon a time, before the American manga/anime boom in the early-mid aughts and upswell in wall scroll bedecked millenials clamoring for Avatar, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece and wretched "emo" Americanized yaoi, and when Japanime was still Japanime, you had hardcore violent, sexual deviant, perverted, bizarre, questionable (by Western standards) morals, BDSM, Nazis, demons, BDSM Nazi Demons, psychotic heroes, psychotic villians, and gore and nudity and gore and tentacles.  This ain't no Miyazaki touchy feely bullshit about earth spirits and healing nature or flying pigs (though Catbus in My Neighbour Totoro is really fuckin creepy).  This was splatterpunk, balls to the wall mental shit, and I loved it.  Here are some my personal favorites, in no particular order from the heyday of animated filth flarn filth.
  • Legend of the Overfiend (1988)  I still remember the first time I saw this in '95(?) at a friend's house.  None of us had seen it before and it had come as a recommendation from a video store clerk.  Let's just put it this way - none of us had seen tentacle rape before or even seen most of what was going on in the movie.  The level of violence and horrific sexual violence is beyond pornographic.  This is things you can't unsee shit.  AND WE LOVED IT.  That night we ended up watching it twice in a row.  I haven't seen it since after I moved to Austin and got obsessed with Japanese cinema and animation but I remember enjoying it but not as much as the first time. 
  • La Blue Girl (1992)  Hentai, plain and simple, with hot chick sex ninja demon hunters who bang demons to death.  Smut, filth, garbage, so awesome. 
  • Battle Angel Alita (1993)  Now Alita is a different story than the previous two entries because there no sex but some brilliant action, plot, setting, and characters.  It's also a very dark and in some respects bleak movie.  Out of this list, this film is the friendliest (non-tentacle rape-y that is) but the level of violence might freak out some faint hearts.
  • Ninja Scroll (1993) I LOVE NINJA SCROLL.  It is certainly in my top three faves on this list.  Ninja Scroll, man talk about a fucking epic classic.  It's got everything.  Ninjas, demons, an immortal bad guy, a snake chick, political intrigue, lots of violence, sex, violence, hordes of ninjas, and now I want to watch it right now.  I can't give away the plot or my favorite parts because if you haven't seen it - go pick up the DVD.
  • Wicked City (1987)  The movie I usually double feature with Ninja Scroll for similar characters and parallel themes.  Wicked City is creepier than Ninja Scroll, with a mean misogynistic lean (almost all of these movies are rife with misogynist themes and tones - except Battle Angel Alita), there's a spider woman with vagina dentata (who is actually frightening and awesome), and some really twisted concepts.  Wicked City is not the action cheerfest that Ninja Scroll is but is well deserving of being on this list.
  • Fist of the North Star (1986) and Doomed Megalopolis (1991) are "classic" anime from this era but I'm not a huge fan.  Initially, when I was building this list, I thought I liked them and then I remembered that I didn't enjoy them.  They are still must-see if you're serious about your Japanimation.
  • Akira (1988) Classic.  The remastered version with a new English dub sucks.  Japanese is the way to go but I recommend finding a copy of the original dub.  The English dub is actually really good.  Akira, yup nothing I can say about it that hasn't already been said.
  • 3x3 Eyes (1991) Demons.  Fan service.  "Yokomo they've got the statue!" 
  • Anything by Go Nagai from Violence Jack (1986) to New Cutey Honey (1994).  Go Nagai, man, there was a time I would watch anything with name Go Nagai slapped on it.  He's the perverted Japanese Russ Meyers.  I prefer Kekko Kamen (legendary panty mask) myself - a superheroine who wears her panties as a mask an stuns Nazis with her vagina.  No seriously, her glowing vagina stuns them and then Kekko Kamen breaks their necks with her thighs.
  • Plastic Little (1994) one of the funnier and more "traditional" space trader adventure with some bouncy bouncy thrown in for good measure.
Now these are just a few of the Japanese animated features I enjoy.  I only really rewatch Ninja Scroll and Wicked City and the films of Satoshi Kon.  My taste in anime shifted as the market shifted - I don't go out of my way to dig through endless episodes of series though I have some on my queue.  I keep my ear to the ground for feature films but haven't hear of anything grand.  Oh well, maybe I can revisit these twisted gems and view them from a new perspective.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Every once in a while...

I try to write to fiction but it always ends up being everything I want to say or am too afraid to say or too afraid of people reading.  And as I suck down another Champagne of Beer and worry my pipe and keep turning up the volume on Dylan my fingers falter, nails two weeks uncut I don't and can't type the way I normally do.

I'm worried that the fiction, the caricature, the lyrics of Mama, You Been on My Mind, the dregs of my last six beers, the failed flirtations with Millienials, and dredging monetary karmic debt...

And I'm amazed it's only 9PM CST.

My nails are too long and I need a haircut though I brushed my hair tonight and I had to smile at the way I looked.  I'm not abhorrent to look at but I couldn't look myself in the eye.

Valhalla Rising (2009) Dir Nicholas Winding Refn

I'm gonna say it and you heard it here first folks!  Vikings are the new pirates.

However Valhalla Rising is not going to be a high water mark on the resurgence of Vikings in pop culture.  Refn's film is too bleak, too dark (literally, the film is very dark and washed out), too slow, and thematically/philosophically/intellectually meandering to really capture mass appeal.  My movie buddy said she felt sick while watching it (not because of violence - she's a gorehound).  Valhalla Rising is an art film and if it weren't for the brilliant action, cinematography (never has Scotland looked colder or wetter than in this movie), pacing (of the first half of the movie), and Mads Mikkelsen's silent protagonist the movie would have been a total snooze-fest.

Mads Mikkelsen and the level of psychotic violence his character can dish out really kept me watching.  In some ways he (and the film) reminded me of some of the chambara films I have seen.  Mikkelsen plays "One-Eye" a country-less, nameless, silent force of violent nature.  In the first half of the movie he is either caged or kept in chains or at the end of a rope, he barely moves or even registers the slightest emotion on his face in his eye.  But when he is pitted against other fighters he's terrifying.  He crushes his opponents - in one case he smashes the brains out of a fallen foe with a rock.  As the film progresses though and One-Eye gains his freedom, Mikkelsen allows some subtle expressions play across his face and it's a true testament to his skill as an actor at he can convey emotion and thought with only one eye (without any need for melodrama or tears or going moon eyed).

If you're a fan of Herzog (especially Aguirre, Wrath of God -1972) or Skandinavian and Japanese slow-paced actioners you might want to check it out.  I'd be interested in your thoughts and responses to Valhalla Rising.

Babysitter Wanted (2008) Dir. Jonas Barnes

I read a review somewhere of Babysitter Wanted though I can't remember where or when.  However I watched it last night and I was actually surprised at how good it was.  That being said it is in no way as good as Ti West's House of the Devil (2009) but they would make for a great double feature.

Babysitter Wanted is a horror movie about you guess it - a babysitter in danger.  What set this one apart from the standard teen scream fare was: the decent writing (though there are some absurd plot holes), the action - while this is a splatter pic, the really hardcore gore is either just out of frame, obscured in shadow, or only heard (which in someways is worse), Bruce Thomas out Bruce Campbells Bruce Campbell as Jim Stanton, Kai Kaster is awesome as the son Sam Stanton, and Sarah Thompson (who played Eve on Angel) was a pretty kick ass heroine (though she's about ten years older than her protagonist is supposed to be).  The movie isn't high art or the best horror movie ever made but it certainly is better than your standard fare these days.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions (1995) Dir. Clive Barker

Watched this movie for the first time in a month of Sundays, and truth be told I don't I think I'd ever seen it in it's entirety.  I used to be a huge Clive Barker fan (particularly Everville and Imagica) but over the years I stopped reading his books.  As far as the movies he directed I only really enjoyed Hellraiser and even then I think I'm more of a fan of Hellraiser II.  So I wasn't expecting much at all from Lord of Illusions - in fact I expected it to pretty much suck.  I was mistaken, Lord of Illusions was actually pretty good.  Creepy and gory (borderline ero-guro) in that way only Clive Barker used to be able to do - this mid-90s horror flick is pretty solid.  Sure the CGI effects are pretty dated (not as bad as Altered States but still amazingly crude by today's standards) but the good old fashion gore and splatter is still wince inducing.  The movie is solidly constructed, written, acted (surprisingly Scott Bakula was pretty good), and though Famke Janssen kept her clothes on she was still stunning.

What was kind of funny is the person I watched it with was only familiar with Barker's young adult novel Abarat.  I guess that, for me, Clive Barker was such a well known name - what with Hellraiser being released in 1987, The Books of Blood, Barker's name on Candyman (1992), The Great and Secret Show, Everville, and my favorite dark fantasy epic Imagica.  Hell, Barker was excellent when it came to splatterpunk (one of the best) and I read a shit ton of splatterpunk in its heyday (1987-1995).

I really had a good time watching Lord of Illusions and was pleasantly surprised.  It's not as good as some horror releases from the mid-90s but it's definitely one of the better ones. 

Upcoming reviews from HYR:

Was just trying to organize my netflix queue for instant download since you can now have just a streaming account - about fucking time in my book - for about six bucks a months, unlimited viewing.  In any case I am gonna stack up some gems and hopefully have a good bumper crop of reviews over the holiday break.  Here some highlights and movies I'm looking forward to watching:

  • Blood into Wine a docu about former Tool frontman Maynard opening up his own vineyard.  Potentially pretty good.
  • Valhalla Rising (2009) Mads Mikkelsen stars in this Viking/supernatural/horror/action movie.  Why wouldn't I want to see this?  I really hope this doesn't disappoint.
  • The Good, The Bad, the Weird (2008) a Korean weird Western set in the Manchurian desert.  I'm in for a penny.
  • Whispering Corridors (1998)  I'm looking forward to this late 90s (now classic) Korean murder mystery about a new teacher investigating the "suicides" of students.  At least it won't have most of the tired tropes that ended up plaguing Asian horror cinema of the 00s (hopefully).
  • Sweet Land (2005) A quiet period piece set in the 1920s about Scandinavians in Minnesota.
  • Alix Lambert's The Mark of Cain (2000) a docu about Russian prison tattoos.
There are also a truckload of other movies but nothing really worth writing home about.

Don't tell Mom the baby sitter is a psycho pervert: My favorite evil nanny/babysitter horror movies

Last night I watched the made-for-cable gem The Sitter (2007).  It wasn't particularly great but it wasn't particularly awful either, on a scale of one to ten I'd give it a 5.5 or 6.  The basic premise is - and there are no spoilers because if you've seen one movie like this you've seen them all - lonely psychotic young woman worms her way into a nice upper middle class family's house, psychologically manipulates the family members in an attempt to replace the wife, ends up murdering a bunch of people, ends up dying.  Personally I'd love to see one of these movies where the psycho ends up winning in the end.  But while watching The Sitter I remembered that for a brief period of time there were a rash of evil babysitter/nanny movies so I'd thought I'd try to highlight my favorites or ones that I have always wanted to see.

  1. The best of the bunch is undeniably Curtis Hanson's The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) with Rebecca De Mornay at the height of her hotness and crazy-ness.  Not just at the top of the evil nanny in our midst heap but also one of my favorite early 90s suspense/thrillers (a.k.a. rich white people in danger - if it's poor people it's a horror movie).
  2. The Guardian (1990) dir William Friedkin.  I never got to see this movie which is a shame because I love William Friedkin movies (The Exorcist, Sorcerer, The French Connection, To Live and Die in LA).  Additionally this movie is unavailable on netflix, which is kind of a drag because now I really want to watch it.
  3. Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter is Dead (1991) dir Stephen Herek.  I don't know how this hold up because I have seen it since the 90s.  I really enjoyed the movie but then again it might have just be my love for Christina Applegate.
Huh, this is turning out harder than I thought.  I know there are more evil babysitter movies than this.  I was going to include Poison Ivy but that's just a stranger in our midst movie.  Any of you fine folks remember any gems?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Citizen Kane (1941) Dir. Orson Welles

Many times I watch a movie and wonder, "Why isn't this a classic?"  Normally the movie in question is an obscure genre piece from the 1970s that most people today have never seen - e.g. Report to the Commissoner (1975).  Sometimes I watch a movie and wonder, "Why is this a classic?" - e.g. Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo (1970), Andrey Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972), Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990), or It's A Wonderful Life Frank Capra (1946).  Welles' Citizen Kane is a movie I understand and recognize as a very important piece of American cinema but frankly the movie leaves me...shrugging and wanting more and frankly wondering what the big deal is about Orson Welles.

I have to say that I've seen Citizen Kane several times, especially when growing up.  My father took me to a revival theater to see it back in the 1980s.  At the same theater I had seen noir classics served up as double features and had a deep love of Bogie and Bacall, Lorre and the Fat Man, and even loved Widmark though he scared the shit out of me.  Hell, thanks to my father and grandfather I had seen Triumph of the Will (1935) - as a follow up to a UHF airing of World at War.  So when I was a kid I loved Citizen Kane.  I certainly didn't pick up on some of the details that my film professor pointed out but growing up I was a big fan of Welles.

Now, nearly two decades since I had seen Citizen Kane in it's entirety - until today - I must say that I am not impressed.  If I was going to be snarky I would say that Welles was the Tarantino of his day.  A gross sweeping generalization but at the core I think that statement has merit - a subject for another article.  Kane is an amazing piece of American cinema but not because of Welles (certainly the man influenced every aspect of the film) but because of cinematographer Gregg Toland, composer Bernard Herrmann, editor Robert Wise, and Mel Burns' make-up department.  Citizen Kane is brilliantly shot, lit, scored, acted, dressed, recorded, and written.  In some ways I wish that I could have seen a stage production of Kane by these men instead of their movie.  

But I was bored and I'm not sure why I was bored.  Maybe it's the same reason Olivier's Hamlet (1948) makes me want to claw out my eyes or why the majority of Jim Jarmusch movies fill me with an urge to dig for, study, and eat my boogers.  In all honesty, I think Kane is so frightfully dull is because of Welles.  Not as director, writer, or iconoclast but he's kind of a shite actor.  Don't get me wrong, Welles is a brilliant Harry Lime and Hank Quinlan but as Kane he just is...frankly...pretty lacklustre.  Every time Welles was on screen he was outshone by the Mercury Theater cadre.  The search for the truth about Charles Foster Kane is more compelling than anything involving Kane on screen.  In the confrontation with James W. Gettys (Ray Collins) Welles just doesn't deliver the on screen impact that Collins does.  Joseph Cotton is brilliant in his role at C.F. Kane's old friend and Cotton brings out aspects of his character that I had never seen (or been able to understand during previous viewings) before.

However, Welles does have one shining moment as an actor.  The building audio/visual cuts leading up to his bombastic speech and the way he delivers his campaign speech is brilliant.  Maybe it's the remastered cut of Bailey Fesler and James G. Stewart's sound design but Kane's speech has an amazing reverberation and resonance.  During this scene Welles is projecting to the balcony and he sells it.  Fuck, I would have voted for him.

While watching Citizen Kane I kept thinking about Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007) and comparing the two.  Lewis' Daniel Plainview is a magnate through strength of will - with a heavy dose of psychosis.  Welles' Kane is a magnate through charisma - with a heavy dose of...I do not know...narcissistic Freudian issues?  Charles Foster Kane is a pathetic creature where as Plainview is simply, and ultimately, a monster.  Perhaps this is what Welles was going for, not an "absolute power corrupts absolutely" but more of a tragic Shakespearean (Lear not Richard III) character.

Interesting that in the course of writing this review I want to watch Citizen Kane again just to make sure I didn't miss anything which, in the end, causes me to dislike the movie.  Unlike There Will Be Blood, Kane  does not grab me by the lapels and shake me but unlike There Will Be Blood I'm not attempting to analyse why I did or did not like the film.

Maybe, and this may sound a bit obtuse, but that's what makes a great piece of cinema (or art or literature).  You might hate it and want to rub the offending object on your nether-regions but what you saw evoked a response, and more importantly and vital, an intellectual exercise.  I know that sounds trite but how many times (or how easy is it) have you or I dismissed things out of hand?  I pissed and bitched and moaned about having to watch Citizen Kane however I feel that I've taken something away from the movie, and, really, when it comes down to it...ain't that what movies are about and the reason we keep watching them?


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reviews! Waxwork (1988) and Centurion (2010)

Waxwork (1988) was one of those movies that when I was a kid I saw the box for it at the video store and was fascinated by the cover and tag line, "Stop on by and give the afterlife a try." I finally saw it, probably when I was twelve or so and the movie really creeped me out.  There are a couple of scenes from that movie that have stuck with me since then so when I saw that Waxwork was available for download I knew I had to rewatch it.

This movie is awesome!  It's one of those movies that you watch and think, "Only during the 80s could this movie have been made."  It's nuts and you just have to go along with it, the movie is just too fun and bizarre not to go all out with.  There's gore, weird sexual themes, David Warner, the dude who played James Hurley in Twin Peaks, the dude from Gremlins, nudity, gore, and an ending that has to be seen to be believed.  Now I'm not a fan of camp or most cult movies but Waxwork is just too much fun to ignore.  Hell I might add it to the Saturday afternoon movie roster.

Centurion (2010) is Neil Marshall's (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday) newest pulpy actioner with buckets of claret splashed around, Scotland, and squads of grizzled guys doing kick-ass grizzled guy stuff.  It's also my least favorite of Marshall's films.  I still enjoyed it and will probably pick it up if I see it on sale but it really seemed to lack the spark of his other films.  The dynamic of the squad was lacking and kind of poorly developed - especially in comparison to Dog Soldiers or The Descent - which is a shame because I think that's one of Marshall's strengths as a writer.  The action is still solid though, with some wince inducing kills, the writing ain't bad, and when the chips are down Marshall still cranks out a solid action movie even the genre seems to be faltering these days.  Definitely worth seeing but run out and buy ten copies...not so much - though I recommend Dog Soliders as a Christmas gift for anyone who likes action/horror/werewolf movies, it's really the best werewolf movie ever made.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Thoughts after class today, in no particular order:

The lecture I attended today focused on how America and Americans dealt with the Vietnam conflict.  A vast topic that unfortunately was limited by time to one lecture.  I'm going to attempt to put down some thoughts (hopefully I can write a more cohesive article soon for HYR).

  • I was born in 1977 and in a certain respect grew up during the time period when America was trying to come to grips with Vietnam; politically, socially, and culturally.  What's interesting is being able to look back and recognize moments in my early years that, at the time, I had no idea what was going on or if I did I was too young to understand the significance of events.  Some of the important series of events for me were 
    • The bring 'em home movies of the early/mid 1980s - Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Missing in Action (1984), 
    • Vietnam vets are nutcases movies, Lethal Weapon (1987), Blind Fury (1989), 
    • Oliver Stone's Vietnam trilogy
    • the building of the Vietnam Memorial (1982)
    • POW/MIA bumper stickers and flags
    • Tour of Duty (1987-1990)
    • an Uncle telling me about his experiences in Vietnam
    • the first time I saw Apocalypse Now
    • Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    • Stanley Karnow's PBS Vietnam series
    • 'Nam - the comic book
    • The CIA is evil movies
    • Air America (1990)
    • growing up with Dad and Grandpa being military history nuts and movie nuts
    • the collapse of the Soviet Union
  • I realize that most of those influences are from Hollywood or TV but then again I think that's the way it was for a lot of my generation (and the generations that follow and maybe Americans in general).  However, Vietnam is shifting into ancient history.  Hell it seems to me that people think anything pre-9/11 is ancient history.
  • In the last decade I have read a fair amount and watched more than a fair amount of documentaries about the Vietnam conflict, Vietnamese culture, and want to learn more about the country's history of invasion and how it dealt with invaders.  That might be key to helping me understand the nature of the conflict and why America was doomed from the start in Indochina.
    • The armchair historian that I will forever be strongly believes that if the United States had supported Ho Chi Minh in 1945 (hell another example of the US training and supplying insurgent forces - in this case by the OSS to combat the Japanese and Vichy in Indochina - and then discarding them  when they were no longer useful and then suffering the consequences) and been able to keep Charles de Gaulle's lunacy in check then the United States could have - in theory - created a bastion of pro-US support in the region.  Thus doing so could have prevented decades of needless chaos and bloodshed (not only in Vietnam but Laos, Cambodia, and Burma).  
      • In January 1944, in a memo to Sec. of State Cordell Hull, FDR wrote "The case of Indo-China is perfectly clear,  France has milked it for one hundred years.  The people of Indo-China are entitled to something better than that."  The Vietnam Declaration of Independence written by Ho Chi Minh (September 1945) cites and extols the virtues of our own United States Constitution.  How different things could have been.
  • Conspiracy theory time!
    • Did JFK step up American involvement in Vietnam because he was was Ngo Dinh Diem?!?  Dun dun dun!  Where's Glenn Beck and his chalk board when we need them?
I think that there might be some coherent points in there some where, though as to which and where I'm not sure.  Maybe I'll just write a massive tome about the history of Quang Ngai province or if I wanted to be a real egghead - the historiography of the Indochina conflicts...but that's probably been done.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Faery - Legends of Avalon (2010) Focus Home Interactive

So it's that time of year when I've played through most of the games I wanted to play and start digging through the catalog of XBOX Live games and DLCs.  Last night I was wading through demos, some good, some not so good but I stumbled across Faery - Legends of Avalon from Parisian indie designer Focus Home Interactive.  I downloaded the demo and I have to admit that I am kind of charmed and impressed at this little release.  It's a well done classic turn based RPG with a 3 member party system, elemental magic, minimal inventory management, and a "get to the root of the problem" story arc filled with step'n'fetch and puzzle quests along the way.  It's not ground-breaking and it's probably not going to wow a lot of fans of shit that blows up or fans of jabbing plastic instruments with their pudge paws but for fans of classic non-JRPG styled games it certainly fits the bill.

The basic premise is Avalon, ruled by Oberon, is fading as modern man forgets and disrespects the magic of the Old Ways.  The player character is awoken from stasis within a crystal to find out if there is anyway to salvage the realm.  The adventure begins.

Four things really work for me while I've been playing Faery:

  1. The art design is brilliant from NPC to level to monsters.  There's a very clever and understated Brian Froud-esque quality to the characters - vaguely menacing and ugly though, in some cases amusingly adorable.  My favorite character so far is Grim who looks like a cross between the Artful Dodger and Jacob Marley.  
  2. This is one of the rare games that I would let children play but I would enjoy playing with them.  Hell I think the text based speech would be fun to read out loud to a kid, especially since each character has their own style of dialogue.
  3. Though the levels initially seem small the ability to fly from the beginning of the game creates an excellent illusion of scale.  The second level (based around Ygdrassil) was a lot of fun simply because of  zooming through the leaves and branches of the tree exploring.  I am currently on the Flying Dutchman but have yet to explore it.
  4. Just because this might be a game I approve for children doesn't mean it's for slack jawed troglodytes.  In fact many of the jokes are only funny if you know anything about mythology and folk tales (no Greco-Roman bullshit either) or 16th-Century French literature (okay I had to wiki one joke in the game to understand it, I think it's a funny joke - now that I get it - but you won't).  It's nice to play something that intellectually amuses as well.
I expect the game to top out at maybe 12-14 hours of gameplay but for the low price point I'm over-joyed at the experience.  Faery is like a meal at a fancy French restaurant.  You may be disappointed by the tiny portions at first but the meal is so delicious and filling and satisfying.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare: Initial impressions.

I'm pretty sick of zombies and the zombie genre in general.  That being said Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare DLC is totally fucking awesome mayhem.  I was up way too late last night running and gunning on multiplayer Undead Overrun missions.  I cannot stress enough how much fun I had battling the Undead hordes.  For a ten dollar DLC this is excellent fun and I've barely gotten into the storyline.  More news to follow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Full review of "The Passion of Joan of Arc"

“I wish it was one of those good American light things.”[1]
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Since its release Carl Theodor Dreyer’s depiction of the trial and execution of the French Maid continues to stun audiences and film critics alike.  In 1995, the Vatican included The Passion of Joan of Arc in their “Top 45 [Great] Films”.  This list is subdivided into themes of Religion, Values, and Art (Joan is entered into the Religion category).  Their brief review describes the film “as [a] Silent screen masterpiece portraying the heresy trial, confession, recantation and execution of the Maid of Orleans (Maria Falconetti) in a performance of such emotional power that it still stands as the most convincing portrayal of spirituality on celluloid.”[2]  Mordaunt Hall’s two pieces for The New York Times (March 29 and March 31, 1929) extol both the cinematic virtues of the film and Maria Falconetti’s performance as Joan.  Richard Watts, Jr. echoed Hall’s sentiments in his The Film Mercury review (April 12, 1929). However, it is the poetess H.D.’s review in Close Up that truly does The Passion of Joan of Arc justice.  Her review masterfully captures power of the film and the myriad of confused responses it draws from the viewer.
I find it impossible to clinically or objectively review The Passion of Joan of Arc.  My own impressions and responses to Dreyer’s film are simply too complicated.  My feelings during every viewing range from disgust to awe to claustrophobia and dread (often shifting within moments of each other).  The film elicits a physical response from me, I feel unwell while watching.  The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the most powerful films I have ever seen (along with Bergman’s Virgin Spring, Rossellini’s Germany, Year Zero, and Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour) and one of the more difficult to come to terms with on a personal level.  I have been unable to watch the film in one sitting since my first viewing; I have to break it into chunks.  My copy of Einhorn’s Voices of Light score has become one my favorite scores yet I am unable to separate the score from the imagery of the film.  The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the rare films that will stay with me and I will continue to puzzle over and discuss and read about for a long time to come. 
            But why?  I’ve watched ero-guro pink-u eiga (Japanese erotic grotesque films).  I’m familiar with the works of Fulci, Bava, and Argento.  I love Herzog/Kinski films.  Dark Scandinavian films, American and European ruminations on the nature of evil, chillers, thrillers, Night of the Hunter, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Triumph of the Will, and many other of my favorite films have never gotten their claws into me this deeply before (except maybe Fanny and Alexander or Peeping Tom).  Joan is not a grand guignol or a penny dreadful or a “roughie”.  Certainly the panchromatic film[3], Hermann Warm and Jean Hugo’s minimalist (and rarely fully visible) sets, Dreyer and Joseph Delteil’s script, and brutal edging given to the cast’s faces (unadorned by makeup) create an oppressive and discomfiting tone that is difficult to endure.  The Passion of Joan of Arc evokes in me the same sensations as reading Kafka’s “The Trial” or Orwell’s “1984” and this is part the intellectual and emotional tug of war at work in The Passion of Joan of Arc.  As H.D. wrote, “[this] is one film among all films, to be judged differently, to be approached differently, to be viewed as a masterpiece…but there is a Jeanne sobbing before us, there is a Jeanne about to kicked by huge hob-nailed boots.”  H.D. reminds me of Orwell again, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face -- forever.”  Dreyer denies his audience any catharsis, not Joan’s death nor the resultant riot provide any release from the level of tension the film creates.  The climactic riot only allows the viewer to be swept along, frustrated and unsure, with the violence, an Orwellian “Five Minute Hate”.
Dreyer is a master of the close up (not only in Joan but his other films as well – e.g. Vampyr): tight shots of the Judges - craggy, menacing, darting suspicious eyes under heavy brows, cruel bemused expressions, the camera does not mask the subtle ticks and contemptuous askance the Judges deign to award Joan.  Maria Falconetti’s performance is as far removed from Angella Salloker’s in Das Madchen Johanna (1935) as it is from Milla Jovovich’s in The Messenger.  Falconetti’s Joan is not beatific, nor angelic, nor warrior woman.  Her Joan bears a rapturous expression that borders upon the madness imparted by the divine.  Falconetti and Dreyer also bring out a deep pathos for Joan who one moment looks like a confused, filthy, ignorant peasant girl and another looks like she truly could be the Maid of Orleans. 
All of these points make for a truly impressive cinematic experience however it is deep undercurrent of madness that makes The Passion of Joan of Arc such a powerful film.  It is not simply an issue of whether Joan is mad (schizophrenic or autistic by today’s standards) or whether the Judges are malignant sadists (though historically the Catholic Church during this time was corrupt and twisted).  It is the sense of stark realism Dreyer creates and the performances that creates the feeling of madness.  The Passion of Joan of Arc does not make excuses for protagonist or antagonists.  While our natural inclination is to side with Joan, Falconetti’s performance instills feelings of doubt.  Often I wonder if Joan is cognisant of her surroundings or her trial and the charges leveled against her.  Falconetti’s Joan at times seems like an idiot savant, as uncomprehending of her impending doom as a cow to the abattoir.    Yet, just as quickly and concurrently, I am filled with un-erotic love and adoration for Joan, the desire to defend and fight for her.  Pauline Kael wrote, “No other film has linked eroticism with religious persecution” and while I can understand Kael’s point I (as I often do) have to disagree with Kael.   
 Contradictions and doubt and uncertainty and fear are the strongest themes in The Passion of Joan of Arc but it is Falconetti’s resolve as Joan, her depiction of true Faith (religious or otherwise), that, in the face of adversity she remains unbowed.  I watch Dreyer’s film and am plagued by questions, not about the film, but about myself.  Would I have the testicular fortitude to stand by my convictions?  Would I refuse to admit that 2+2=5?  Sadly, I lack the resolve of Falconetti’s Joan.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Syed Irfan Haider

Every once in a while I find music that grabs me and I feel the need to find out more ASAP.  This usually happens while listening to "World" music - a term that I find revolting because "World" music means anything that isn't Western/American.  I recently stumbled across Syed Irfan Haider, a Shia Pakistani with an amazing voice and cuts that appeal to my love of work songs, shanties, soulful rhythms and and call and response, fight songs, and a brilliant heartbeat tempo.

 Jheetay Rahoo Aun-o-Muhammad is the cut that hit me and hooked me.  No offense intended to Mr. Irfan 

Haider but the tempo appeals to me on several levels - whether bhangra or aforementioned religious/labour songs.

I am attempting to find out more about the man and his music.  When I do I will certainly post my findings.

It's funnier of you know what the Hays Code is

A 1942 Warner Bros. cartoon, "A Tale of Two Kitties", features two cats attempting to catch Tweety, in his first appearance. One cat says, "Give me the bird! Give me the bird!" To which the second cat replies, "If the Hays Office would only let me, I'd give him the bird, all right!" ("Give the bird" means to stick up one's middle finger, an obscene gesture prohibited by the Hays code.)"

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Descent: Part 2 (2009) Dir. Jon Harris

My movie buddy and I watched this last night because we were trying to find something to watch on teh netflix and we normally watch horror movies and we are both fans of Neil Marshall (me especially) so we figured, "Meh, fuck it why not?"

I have to say, not bad...not bad at all.  It's not a sequel, it's a continuation of the first movie with the same protagonist (Shauna MacDonald) and takes place two days after the events in The Descent.  Does it hold up as companion piece to the brilliant Neil Marshall movie?  Yes, yes it does though I have to recommend watching them back to back - unless you've recently watched The Descent and remember what happens.  I haven't because I don't own it and I usually end up watching Dog Soldiers instead.

The Descent: Part 2 has two, possibly three problems with it, all of which involve spoilers so I won't say nothin about them.  However, the tension is high, the claustrophobia is (for someone like me who is as terrified of spelunking as I am of going in the water with sharks) really discomfiting, and I absolutely love Shauna MacDonald.  She's a brilliant protagonist with a great back story and, for me, very identifiable - not because of her character's history or motivations - but because I completely empathize with her.  She's not some half-wit that I want to see torn limb from limb because her ineptitude makes her deserving of it.

A solid horror gore-fest, though none of the effects or direction are as good as Marshall's film.  Well worth watching if you're looking for a horror movie to watch that isn't some teen slasher flick.

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) Dir. Leo McCarey

Having only seen Ruggles of Red Gap's Charles Laughton, as the eponymous lead, in serious roles (Mutiny on the Bounty and Spartacus) I was unsure of what to expect from him in a comedic role in this 1930s Paramount social satire.  Laughton, with his Droopy Dog demeanour, was actually an excellent comedic actor.  Director Leo McCarey, with his experience with actors like W.C. Fields and Harold Lloyd, brings out an almost natural humor from Laughton (in a way it reminds me of the humor that was drawn from Denholm Elliot at times).

Ruggles' plot is fairly simple: Ruggles is a very proper butler for an English Lord whose services are lost to an American in a game of poker.  Hilarity ensues.  Eventually, while in America (after a brief comedy of errors), Ruggles learns to stand on his own two feet and pursues the American dream.  What could have come across as treacly as a Jimmy Stewart vehicle is, through Laughton's performance, oddly stirs feelings of patriotism and pride in the immigrant's American Dream (a great deal has been written about the influence of the immigrant studio heads during this era by far better educated folks so I won't presume to write about what I'm ignorant about).  I think these feelings are roused because Laughton sells it honestly.  His interactions with the widow Mrs. Judson (ZaSu Pitts) in her kitchen and his brief reverie about cooking just work at creating an empathetic bond between Ruggles and the audience.  I wanted Ruggles to succeed in his endeavours and to prevail.  Which by the end of the movie he does and the bad guy gets his comeuppance and the spirit of the American Dream triumphs.

But Joshua, really?  Have you finally succumbed to your head injuries and gone potty to embrace and enjoy this American Dream nonsense?  What happened to cynical and angry Joshua?  Well folks, I'm still cynical and cranky but, as some of you might know, I'm also a sap for a well-crafted under-dog movie, whether rags to riches to rags back to riches (e.g. Preston Sturges's Sullivan's Travels (1941) ) or a Henry Fonda vehicle, hell, I even (though I am loathe to admit) enjoy It's a Wonderful Life.  Sure, it's a rose-colored view of the American Dream but for some reason it works for me.  Does it make me want to listen to "I'm Proud to Be an American"?  Hell no.  Does it make me think that the truth is always different than what's on the screen?  Of course not.  What I do take away from movies like Ruggles of Red Gap is an understanding and appreciation of the promise and draw of the American Dream to immigrants.  At the risk of drifting into the (continuously) controversial issue of immigration, legal and illegal, into the United States - watching Ruggles of Red Gap makes me wonder how some US citizens can rail against immigrants (if not the Irish then it's the Chinese, if not the Chinese it's the Italians, if not the Italians it's the Jews, if it's not the Jews it's the Germans or the Poles or the Swedes or the Mexicans get the idea) and still claim to espouse the virtues of the American Dream.  Perhaps it's another topic for another time.

Ruggles of Red Gap is a finely acted, written, and directed movie.  If you have the opportunity to watch it then I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fallout New Vegas - the pre-seventh inning stretch review (80-90 hours)

Yeah you read that right, I'm coming up on the 90 hour mark.  I know I still have a long way to go (and one or two more reviews to wring out of the game) but here are my impressions at this point in the game.

  1. The story and the "mature" themes (not naughty or sexy though there are some) such as massacres by government forces, intrigue, double dealing, heavy alcoholism and drug dependence and some really depressing story arcs. 
  2. Right now I have the choice between selling out one of my companions to a pretty nasty bunch of folks (for a high profit and the opportunity to turn around and murder all of them) or not selling her out and putting both me and her at risk of life and limb.  Or we can walk into the bastards' HQ guns ablazing.  Or I can stealth into the HQ alone and try to dig up incriminating evidence.  Or I could turn down the job.  Hmmm..."what would Joe do?  Shoot everybody, say something cool, and smoke some cigarettes..."
  3. The characters and companions.  Two of my two new favorite game characters are in Vegas; Raul and Grandma Lily.  I am really enjoying the story arcs for Boone and Rose as well.
  4. Crafting ammo.
  5. Dealing with factions.
  6. Planning my new character to RP - a drug addicted chemist/snake oil peddler with a mean streak and a proclivity for explosives.  Basically my evil character out to manipulate and murder his way across the Mojave.
  1. The glitches and bugs are pretty bad at times.  There will be long stretches where everything is hunky dory and then the engine hiccoughs and stutters.  Unfortunately I just don't think the game should have been published in this condition.  Reviews and gameplay would have benefitted immensely.
  2. The load times can be a little frustrating at times, especially during step'n'fetch quests that require you to enter and exit several different areas.  That being said there's no rhyme or reason to the length of a load screen.
  3. I wish you could choose between being a ghoul and a human.  This isn't really a con but I really would love to RP a ghoul.
So you take the good, you take the bad.  Fortunately I can and am ignoring the exterior on this rough gem because it's what's on the inside that counts.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas (hours 6-11)

You're just gonna bear with me folks while I jabber on about Fallout: New Vegas  for the next few weeks (though I do have some reviews and recipes on the way I promise).

So here's some of the fun and the tips I've been picking up:
  • Using Iron Sights is a great way to pick off targets at long distance that you would have no hope of hitting with VATS.
    • Trick: click on VATS to get the location of the target, turn VATS off, you're very closely sighted on your target.  If you're hidden you get an auto critical hit.
  • The next character is going to put some extra points into explosives.  I forgot how much I like blowing stuff up.
  • When you are starting to explore and at a lower level - stay near the main roads.  Listen to people when they tell you, "Yeah, you might not want to go over there, the nutcases and monsters over there will make you have a no-good bad terrible day."
    • Example: I was warned by some NPCs not to venture into an area.  Pfft stupid NPCs, what do they know?  I have guns, grenades, dynamite, and a motherfucking shovel.  Bring it!  Unfortunately it was broughten by three giant radscorpions and as I was fleeing a pack of feral reaver ghouls joined the chase.  I died within sight of the town.  Lesson learned.  Bring bigger guns and a shovel covered in chainsaws that drip acid.
  • Obey the maxim "Stay alert, stay alive."  It might be the difficulty level I am playing on or it might be the fact that, unlike the DC wastelands, the Mojave desert didn't suffer the worst of the nuclear holocaust but whatever the case is - there are always things that want to cancel your living status.
  • I love the bizarre humor of New Vegas.  It's kind of a subtle, "wait, what?"  kind of humor - the bizarre absurdity hits you after the moment has passed.
  • Don't forget!  You can use VATS to detonate explosives in your foe's hand or mid-air if you are quick.  Nothing like the satisfaction of turning a ganger into scrapple with his own grenade.  Mmm...scrapple.
  • Get yourself a scope or a pair of binoculars ASAP.
That's it for now Wastelanders. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas - very first impressions.

I resisted the influx of teasers, trailers, and press regarding Fallout: New Vegas. I skimmed the reviews collected on metacritic and was surprised that the game was not knocking reviewers on their asses.  Reviewers were bitching about two main issues, bugs and the "same old, same old" syndrome.  I respond, I played for five straight hours and didn't encounter any game crashes or bizarre glitches and it's not the same old, same old - it's not leftovers from Fallout 3 casseroled. 

So far I'm pretty pleased with the game.  Everything I liked about Fallout 3 is present and there are several tweaks I really dig.
  1. Hardcore mode.  This mode not only more difficult but you have to monitor your sleep level, food level, and hydration - the same as you have to monitor your rads.  Ammunition now has weight so you can't run around with ten thousand rounds of every kind of ammo. 
  2. Crafting is actually worth a shit now.  You can break down unused ammo into supplies and then use those supplies to craft better ammo (armor piercing, etc, etc).  You can combine ingredients at campfires for impromtu food, healing items.  It certainly makes for a more tailored style of game play.  I'm doing exceptionally well with a silenced .22 with HP rounds (one shot one kill if in stealth).
      1. A trick for hardcore mode - while ammo has weight, the components do not.  What I did was break down all the ammunition I didn't have weapons for into components.  Plus I was able to craft some better ammo for the weapons I do use.  Better ammo is also better for maintaining your weapons.
  3. I haven't gotten that far into the perks and upgrades so there will more info to come as I unlock those.
  4. Iron sights!  Since my V.A.T.S is still low level I've been using the iron sights a lot.  This is great, since I got tired of using V.A.T.S as a crutch in Fallout 3.  Plus it helps for one shot, one kill, sneaky tactics.
There's a lot more depth to Fallout: New Vegas and it feels it's going to be a deeper role-playing experience than Fallout 3 or Dragon Age.  Some people might be put off by thought, strategy, skill, and some inventory management juggling.  To those people I say, "Go play fucking Halo."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spicy chicken, stuffing, and beans: an experiment

Joshua was hungry.  Joshua had limited ingredients.  Joshua didn't order Chinese food because that would involve putting on pants. *cue Twilight Zone theme*

Amusing and true.  I made a dish that was absurdly simple:

  • 3 frozen chicken breasts - the flash frozen kind that come in a giant ass bag
  • 1 box stuffing
  • 1 can ranch styled beans
  • 1/4 cup Abuelita Joshua's spice mix (Casting Out Demons hot)
  • 2 or 3 cups water
Start water boiling in pot on stove and add 1/4 cup Abuelita Joshua's spice mix.  Nuke chicken about two minutes, chop up chicken, throw chicken in water.  Cook chicken until done.  Add the beans.  Add the stuffing - if it all looks a little dry add a little more water.  Stir.  Cover and remove from (as per directions on box of stuffing).  Wait five minutes.  Eat.

I think it's some kind of casserole and if I make this again I'll add cheese.  I also think I learned this from Amanda - who uses cornbread mix instead of stuffing.  

It's pretty darn tasty and doesn't stick to you ribs, it covers your chest in concrete and then has an elephant take a nap on you.  ooo...nap.

Isolation (2005) Dir. Billy O'Brien

Isolation was one of those random horror picks made while hanging out with people.  The description is not particularly gripping:
On a desolate farm in the Irish countryside, destitute Dan Reilly (John Lynch) -- in return for cold cash -- allows his heifers to be part of a genetic study intended to boost bovine fertility and beef output ... until the experiment goes awry. When one of his cows spawns lethal mutants, Dan and a few other unlucky folks suffer the repercussions of meddling with nature in this unsettling chiller also starring Essie Davis and Marcel Iures.
That being said, I am big fan of the horror movies coming out of the British Isles over the last decade or so.  For me they remind me of the creature features I grew up with on Saturday afternoons - movies I love and have stuck in my memory even to this day.  Isolation fits the classic "Don't mess with Mother Nature...or else." mold and it does it well.  This is a really fucking good horror movie, in fact I put it in the category of "was that so fucking hard to do"?  Really, it's hits the marks: gore, tension, the monster barely makes an appearance until the end of the movie, the acting is solid, the action is solid, it doesn't look like it was made by a bunch of hacks, and it doesn't try to Shamalayan the fuck out of a good taut story.  Additionally it's not some campy hyuk-fest filled with teenagers who deserve what they get.

Definitely worth checking out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Addendum: Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign

I have been a fan of Dan Savage for years and years but this new campaign "It Gets Better" is fucking bad ass.  My only addendum is "It Gets Better" is for all of you kids, teenagers, and grown-ups.  I know some days you want the Earth to open up and swallow you whole.  I know some days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months I've barely been able to keep moving forward but it really does get better.  Terry's fucking right though, "Living well is the best revenge."

p.s. If you really feel like shit watch this:

Hooligan Youth United: A fairly serious post, at least as serious as I get.

Grace: Oh, he's very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude.

It's not just Punk rockers, rude boys and girls, skins and skin byrds, SHARPs, and assorted weirdos we support here at HYR.  GLBT, Martians, paste-eaters, Drag-Queens, Drag-Kings, bantha fodder, perverts, Mods, greasers, and so on and so forth.  You get the idea.

Hooligan Youth United is a concept I came up with years ago while I was involved with the DC Ska scene in the late 90s.  I knew and met a lot of people from different backgrounds and different ways of dealing with the world but we were tied together by our love of music.  There wasn't a need for fussing and fighting, ultimately we were all on the same side, there for the music, the beer, and the camaraderie.  As the years have progressed I've realized that a lot of people I know and have known fall into the Hooligan Youth category (either were or still are Hooligans).  Some how regardless of race, creed, color, sexual predilections, socio-economic backgrounds we've had some kind of common ground.

Now don't get me wrong, I haven't gone all touchy feel-y on you folks.  I still abhor ignorance (willful and otherwise), racists, religious loonies of any stripe, people who do ill to others (physically, mentally, or spiritually), and I believe that the ice caps melting isn't such a bad thing.  I guess in the light of all the press and word of mouth and social networking sites recently lit up with pro and anti-LGBT rhetoric I've rethinking my ideas and beliefs.  I've been hardcore pro-LGBT for a longtime but I never sat down and thought about why. The only answer to "Why?" that I can come up with is, "Why the fuck would I think any different?"  Over the last few years I've come to realize that, basically, who the fuck am I to judge people?  Sure I can safely say that rape squads are a bad thing, throwing a bag of kittens off a highway over-pass is a bad thing, people who  think Glenn Beck is an intellectual beacon are a bad thing, people who tell me I'm going to suffer eternal damnation for not believing what they believe are a bad thing, kiddie rapers are a bad thing, etc., etc.

Like I've been saying recently, "There's not a lot of good and happiness in the world so who the fuck thinks they have the moral/ethical/fuckwit right to deny someone, anyone, their happiness?  That's pretty sickening."

So, well, what's the point of all this?  Hooligan Youth Reviews firmly believes that if someone ever tells you that you are worthless or going to go the "Hell" or treats you like shit or your life just fucking sucks or any combination of the unnecessary bullshit the world and it's fucking inhabitants dish're always welcome at Hooligan Youth Reviews.  The drinks are cold, the music is good, and there's a hot meal on the table.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I worry this next food experiment might cause...

a trans-dimensional portal to open and the result will be either, "It's full of stars!" or "We'll tear your soul apart!"

"Oh God, what is he going to make now?" I hear you sigh.

Spicy, tangy, delicious chicken prepared in a Hunan or Sichuan style.  Served with diced green onions.  On tortilla chips.  Chex-Mex (Chinese Tex-Mex) at it's finest.  Madness!  I think not!  While I was making lunch today I was just going to make my standard spicy chicken nachos but then I got to I really want nachos?  I don't really want to turn the oven on.  Nachos sound like a lot of work.  Rice?  Meh, I'm sick of rice and chicken.  Noodles?  Meh.  Why don't you just eat the chopped up spicy chicken with the chips?  Meh...wait what?  Yes (said in the tone of Brain)!  Mwahahahahaha!  Cue Night on Bald Mountain.

Boy howdy, I tell you what, that was a fine ass lunch.  Pretty damned spicy (on the par with the special batch of slow-cooked pork I make for two old friends when we hang out) and since I'm out of paper towels and all my hankies are in the wash I had to use coffee filters to blow my nose.

I'm gonna fine tune the recipe and once I do I'll post it here.  Hope you guys are having a good weekend.  Don't eat anything I wouldn't.

New in Nacogdoches! Tabu Coffee!

All Week: 6am-Midnight

There's a new coffee shop in Nac.  That might not mean much to you non-Nacogdoches dwellers but here that's kind of a big deal because besides Java Jack's Coffee House, a couple of sports bars, and a bowling alley there ain't much to do on...well...any night of the week.  Hell, people go to the bar at Fuddrucker's and hang out.  Not Just Games closed down about two weeks ago (and I only was able to eat there once).

Now Tabu Coffee is on the scene and I have to say that I am pretty impressed.  Good layout, lots of tables, small stage for live music, hip but not hipster pretentious, friendly staff, a nice mix of clientele, and they make a damn fine cup of coffee (I think even Agent Cooper would approve).  I'm looking forward to trying the food - especially the breakfast.  I'll give the 411 after I try it.

I strongly recommend going here, there really isn't any reason not to since they are open until Midnight, a stone's throw from campus, and Tabu is not a many tentacled, soulless, corporate chain.  A local business like this needs all the word of mouth it can get and all the support it can get.  They've got mine (and normally I hate coffee shops).

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A much better write up than mine...

for Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light score by

Crawlspace (1986) Dir. David Schmoeller

Crawlspace (1986)Well, huh, what can I say about Crawlspace?  I watched it last night as part of my bored out of my skull, tired of doing homework Netflix trawling the horror section downloads routine.

Was it bad?  Yes, but it was better than some of the pieces of shit that came out in the last three decades(especially lately).  Was it creepy?  Yes.  Was it bizarrely wrong in many ways?  Yes.  Why was Klaus Kinski one the spookiest actors to ever live - spookier than Udo Kier?  Because he's fucking goddamned Klaus Kinski!  He is quoted as saying, "I'd have been better than Adolf Hitler. I could've delivered his speeches a lot better. That's for certain."

Kinski sells this movie and turns the crazy meter up to 11.  I would have turned it off but Kinski was so psychotically compelling that I had to keep watching.  You almost expect him to start gibbering and speaking in tongues and summoning the Old Ones and undulating his limbs in an unnatural fashion.  In a way that would be better because Kinski manages to look like a great white shark with some serious mental problems.

Since it's October and everyone is looking for good or at least better than slop movies I whole-heartedly recommend Crawlspace.

Observations and comments (and a few gripes) about upcoming games:

It's been a while since I've posted anything about games.  Perhaps that's because nothing has really caught my attention outside of a few XBOX Arcade titles (i.e. DeathSpank, The Misadventures Of P.B. Winterbottom - see video below).  I've had a good time playing Star Wars: Force Unleashed but then again it's always fun to light sabre things to death.  DarkStar One: Broken Alliance sounds like it could be a good time but I don't know if it's worth forty bucks.

Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Collection comes out next week and it has a shit-ton of stuff, Awakenings, DLC, etc and all for $60.  Don't ask me how much I spent on individual DLCs.  This has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Why?  Because now I'm not that thrilled about Fallout: New Vegas coming out on the 19th.  I'm still excited but...I suddenly don't feel the need to run out and buy it right away.  In fact I feel like I would be a patsy if I ran out and spent the money on it on launch day.  If I wait until all the DLC and GOTY edition come out then I conceivably save a good amount of money.  It's not just the saving the money it's the factor of I want the whole game experience at once, not handed out piece-meal like a miserly grandmother.  "Epic" games are barely 40 hour experiences with a little bit added here and there a few months later.  Nostalgia moment: Dragon Warrior VII -PSOne (2001) I played for 300+ hours on one play-through, not the same game played six times through.  That being said I have played through Fallout 3 more than once and Dragon Age several times with different character builds but there's nothing fresh to it.  Then when DLC comes out, the additional content -especially equipment - are a potential game breaker.  What I mean by "game breaker" is the new equipment is so powerful that it makes any challenge in the game null and void. 

Grumble grumble...maybe I'll just pick up a copy of Civilization V.    

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer

I had never seen Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc but was fortunate enough to see it in class on Thursday.  It was...I'm not sure how to describe it and I'm not sure if I like it but it was an overwhelming piece of cinema.  If you're serious about cinema and haven't seen it then you must ASAP.

However, and as I listen to it now, Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light score for the film is now in my top ten favorite scores.  It is made up of choir, cello, and a few instruments I can't easily identify.  There are more than a few of you fine folks who I know who would appreciate this score.  Anything I could say would not do it justice.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The General (1926) Dir. Buster Keaton

Although I've been a fan of Buster Keaton since I was introduced to silent films when I was a kid I had never seen The General.  Today I had the opportunity to view it and while it is not my favorite Keaton (I think Seven Chances (1925) or his later bit roles take that slot) it has not only some brilliant physical comedy pieces but I gained an insight into one of favorite sight gags (Woody Allen's sword and scabbard mishaps during Love and Death) and am trying, with some difficulty to think of a comedy film that has really solid physical comedy (and not just dick and shit jokes).

The General is a fairly straight forward film: protagonist loves girl, girl gets kidnapped, protagonist chases after girl, rescues girl,  girl and protagonist have to escape the clutches of the pursuing enemies, protagonist saves the day, and gets the girl.  What makes the film is Keaton's sense of comedic timing, athleticism, and his dead pan expression.  The chase scenes (after the girl and then away from the pursuers) are all set on steam engine locomotives - Keaton is the engineer of the locomotive named "General" - so much so that the trains become characters in the film as well as set pieces for action/comedy.  Factor in Keaton performing his own stunts and you have some pretty thrilling cinema.  In case you haven't seen a Keaton film, imagine a comedic actor with total control over his body and the physical prowess of a top notch traceur (a practitioner of parkour - i.e. the bad ass bomb-maker in the beginning of Casino Royale (2006) ).  He doesn't use a stunt man - further drawing the viewer into the scene.  The style of comedy he has, well I can only describe it as dead pan "Are you fucking kidding me?" - the quintessential reaction to Murphy's Law.  However while watching The General you forget that these sequences are plotted and practiced and rehearsed - it's so well done it seems all accidental and that Keaton is simply reacting to events.  That's what good movies are supposed to do.  Often when I watch a movie, especially a FX heavy movie, I don't wonder how the filmmakers did it, I know how (recent exceptions being Casino Royale and the action sequences in Inception) and that lack of wonder jolts me out of the experience.  So, in a way, it's kind of surprising that an action/comedy silent film nearly a century old can draw me in.  There were several moments where in my head I said, "Holy Shit!  How'd he do that?  That's fucking nuts!" - if I had been watching it at home I would have rewound the scene.

If you have the opportunity to watch The General I whole-heartedly recommend  it.  Yes, it's black and white.  Yes, it's a silent movie.  And, what? - it's certainly better than some Will Farrell drek or a wanna be John Hughes teen sex romp.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Why the fuck are you in this class?": a vitriolic polemic

Warning: Contains material which might not be suitable for sensitive or young readers.

Today was filled with examples of students who clearly did not have any interest in the class, the material taught, or the social grace to appear alert.  To these "students" I want to ask, "Why the fuck are you in this class?"  Now I understand that some of these fine folks might be fulfilling requirements or took the class because they thought it might cater to their interests.  Fair enough, I have requirements that I have no interest in (i.e. mathematics) but I show up, stay alert, do the fucking work, and God forbid I might actually learn something or realize that I might have an interest in a topic or point made during the class.  Sure, I've even gone into a fugue state where my eyes are open, I'm taking notes, but the god damn lights ain't on.  Everyone has good days and bad.

However, today pushed me to write this simply because I don't have any idea how else to get these thoughts out of my head without going batshit crazy and screaming in tongues and being taken away to a relaxation facility.
  1. A big shiny fuck you to the young lady sitting next to me in class, in the front row, who texted the entirety of the class.  This charming coquette didn't have the where-with-all to even attempt to hide her texting.  Hell, the god damn click click click click click of the phone against the desk sounded like an Underwood typewriter.  I think my eye started to do that twitching thing it does when I start to crack a little.  I don't wish her any physical harm and I'm sure she knows a lot about tanning, buying things, and the Shakespearean scope of The Hills.  What I want to harm is her fucking phone.  I want to Bernard Black that fucking thing into a million pieces under the oppressive heel of my hob-nailed boot or similarly re-enact that "Dead fucking duck!" scene from The Doors.  I know you BFF doesn't know how she got gonorrhea in her throat (again) so take the call outside.  You're not only disrespecting the professor but you're also disrespecting your fellow students.  I had a hard time taking notes (and drawing an awesome tiki mask) by you click click clicking away.  I hope you get a suppurating boil on your inner thigh.  p.s. Buy some fucking shorts that cover more flesh than my fucking boxers.  There's a time and place for those kinds of shorts (on stage with men putting dollars in them) and the classroom is not it.
  2. Hey ladies who fucking yell across the room (and into my left fucking ear) at your friends before class starts...perhaps you wouldn't have to yell if you walked over and spoke with your friends.  Additionally, 
    • For the love of the Virgin's cooch please turn down your music.  I know we're at the back of the class and you think that the subject is boring and "gay" (her terms not mine, I'm pretty sure that the class itself is not homosexual) but y'know turn down the Usher or Florida or whatever shit you're listening to.
    • I'm not sure which of you were masticating your gum loudly (maybe you couldn't hear over your delightful music) but it sounded like very well lubricated manual vaginal penetration.
    • I am impressed by one young lady's ability to play The Sims on one phone and watch something on youtube on another phone and pay attention to your friend snickering and handing you her phone to see something terribly droll...all while watching a silent movie.
    • Finally, I would greatly appreciate it if you didn't suck your teeth at me and mutter something underneath your breath when you saw me look over because I was distracted by the glare of your iTouch fucking Android T-whatever the fuck it is.  I know I maybe white and have close cropped hair but I don't hate you because of your gender or skin tone or your crappy weave (By the way, you need to glue that nasty thing down before it scuttles off and attacks people) - I hate you because you're ruining this class for me.
  3. I'm not just hating on the ladies.  Dude.  Druids suck.  How do I know you're a Druid?  BECAUSE FUCKING WARCRAFT WAS BEAMING OFF YOUR LAPTOP IN A DARKENED ROOM.  Truth be told I was trying to figure out where you were and I was hoping you'd be ambushed or have a Troll insert his member into your toon's ocular cavities repeatedly.  I missed parts of the film because I kept seeing flashing Warcraft in my peripheral.  Here's some rare drops for you - an education and an opportunity to know people outside of your Guild.
  4. Dear Bro.  I realize that reading "all this faggot bullshit" may not be as enlightening as Mr. Glenn Beck's latest magnum opus and that your professor is some limp dick liberal spouting Socialist propaganda and that you'd rather be playing Halo and teabagging n00bs.  I deeply apologize that the education that your parents are going into debt to pay for (so much for retirement, thanks son!) is not to your liking.  Perhaps you should drop out and get a job doing something you enjoy or naturally excel at (this last line is actually honest and not snarky and there is no hidden punchline).

So, "Why the fuck are you in this class?" people who obviously have interests, passions, or skills laying elsewhere?  Or, perhaps, is this the way you act outside of the classroom as well?  Do you text when your Grandmother is talking to you?  Do you text when the police are talking to you?  Do you stare vacantly, on the verge if drooling, when someone is attempting to dispel the shadows of ignorance with the illumination of knowledge?  Are you the kind of prick who answers an essay question on a final, "Esays is stoopid."?  Do you treat your professors/instructors the way you treat anyone in the service industry, that is to say like your fucking servants?  Do you worry more about the promised money you are going to get with a college degree than an education or working towards a specific goal (much love for Nursing students!  I'd trust a nurse over a doctor any day of the week)?  Are you getting anything out of college - besides the beer, parties, sexual encounters, a certain amount of liberty (don't get me wrong these are the reasons I dropped out after my first semester in 1996 and didn't return to college until 2008)?  

I suppose that these are rhetorical questions and that all you useless fucking flesh sacks are going to excel in whatever corporate middle/upper management position you get into.  Meanwhile, I'll be here...over educated, dicking around with this blog, asshole deep in debt, with a bitter, secretly envious, ultimately false feeling of superiority.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Beef Stock 2: The Quest for Purification

After the flurry of roasting and boiling and watching movies that was Monday, I let the stock sit for a day in the fridge in several containers.  Tonight, I peeled off the foulness and am in the process of getting all the unpleasantness out of the mix.  Once again my house, my self, and my cat all smell like beef stock.

Spice and herb madness in my kitchen:

Well I received my order from myspicesage yesterday - my hat's off to those fine folks in da Bronx; well packaged, complete (and correct) order, and they just seem like nice people.  I posted my order a week or so ago and I wanted to update and tell you guys what is new and exciting that I can't wait to try:

  • Ajwain seeds:  The seeds of a plant from the Near East, they are very similar to thyme or caraway.  I'm not sure what I am going to do with them yet but I think I might add them to couscous or any dish I would normally use thyme.
  • Aleppo chiles:  A capsicum named for the Syrian city it comes from.  It has a really delightful flavor and heat to it and will serve as a solid mid-tone for any chile mix I add it to.  Either that or it can stand alone, again with either poultry or couscous.
  • Aji Panca and Aji Amarillo: Peruvian chiles I have read about but haven't sampled yet.  Neither look or smell particularly dangerous but I have yet to cook with them.  The Amarillo almost has the look of ground mustard mixed with tumeric but the smell of neither.
  • Sun Dried Tomato Powder:  But Joshua, couldn't you have dried and powdered your own tomatoes.  Yes but I didn't so meh.  I plan to use this in my pasta sauce, my jambalaya, and my slow cooked pork.
  • Cacao Nibs:  Because I wanted them, plus they might make for some tasty mole.
More news to follow.  Hopefully I can get some pictures ASAP of the bounty.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fun with roasted garlic!

I spent a good part of the last evening in the kitchen, drinking beer, shooting the shit with friends, and after they left I threw on Spice World and then Aliens.  Don't judge me.

While my initial attempt at making beef stock was disappointing I remain undaunted.  Besides, I only ruined one container of stock - not all three - so I have two foundation weak stocks I can build on.  All is not lost and I have a better idea of what I need to do in the next stage of prep (plus I need to collect some spices).

What was very fun last night was roasting about two dozen big cloves of garlic (tossed in grapeseed oil and then thrown into the cast iron skillet) and then pureed them.  Now what was kind of drunkenly brilliant was mixing what roasted garlic there was left in the blender with a splash of oil, a splash of cider vinegar and two big fistfuls of bird's eye chiles then blending the shit out of it.  It has a really bold flavour - aka it feels like falling face first into a box of superheated acupuncture needles dipped in garlic.  I think I want to use it on a sandwich.


This trailer makes me want to clap my hands and jump up and down giggling.  Granted I think the Ultramarines are bunch of prats but y'know what?  I'll still play the shit out of it.

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