I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cate Blanchett

Actress Cate Blanchett. You probably recognize her as Daisy from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Jane Winslett-Richardson from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Blanchett brings class and beauty to every role I've ever seen her in and she's one of the true loves of the Academy. She deserves all the awards we can give her.

Willem Dafoe

Actor Willem Dafoe. You may recognize him as Norman Osborne / Green Goblin in the Spider-Man trilogy or as Jesus in Last Temptation of Christ. (I watched Last Temptation of Christ right before watching the original Spider-Man film, and it really gave me a weird feeling toward the Green Goblin. I strongly suggest watching them back to back.) Even though Dafoe was in the film Speed 2: Cruise Control he has remained one of the most solid and consistent actors in the business. For that, I owe him a great deal of respect.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Guide to Video Game Lingo 3 (CS: Source Edition)

1. Deagle - (noun) IMI Desert Eagle; semi-automatic pistol designed by Magnum Research, manufactured in Israel by IMI

"I don't care how loud you scream when you're shooting at people, Justin. The Deagle's just more useful than the Dualies."

2. Dualies - (noun) .40 Dual Elites; a pair of Beretta 96 semi-automatic pistols, .40 S&W, manufactured in Italy

"I just downed a terrorist and picked up his Dualies. WOOT."

3. Auto-Shotty - (noun) Auto Shotgun; M4 Super 90; Italian semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun manufactured by Benelli

"That noob's running through the halls with the Auto Shotty again."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Publication History: Fugitives and Refugees Review

In 2005, I was back in school going for my second bachelor's degree, a writing degree with a creative writing emphasis. A professor of mine, Ander Monson, challenged us to widen our understanding of publication. I took this very seriously, writing a poem on a McDonalds bathroom wall, sneaking a non-fiction essay into Barnes and Nobles and Schuler Books. For this review, however, I did something sort of mundane: I published it on Amazon.com. If you don't believe I was published on such a cherished site, you can see for yourself here.

Portland's Finest (Well, Not Exactly)
Portland, Oregon.

For George Bush (senior) and Ronald Regan, greeted consistently with vomiting protestors, it was "Little Beirut."

For Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland Oregon (Crown Publishers, 2003) this place is called home.

For Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, Portland is the likely destination of everyone who, looking for a new life, migrates west across America to the Pacific ocean. Why do they end up in Portland, Oregon? Because it's the cheapest place to live.

"We accumulate more and more strange people," she says. "All we are are the fugitives and refugees."

Palahniuk's aptly titled collection of short non-fiction speaks of oddballs and the things that make them tick. He speaks of what makes Portland, more than any other place, home.

Palahniuk is best known for his novels. Since his first bestseller, Fight Club, was made into a movie, Palahniuk has been the subject of a cult following. As a matter of fact, his web site is called the Cult (www.chuckpalahniuk.net). Since Fight Club, he has released a series of grotesque minimalist novels, including Choke, Lullaby, and Diary that delve into the strange: sex addicts, murder hymns, living statues, the works. Personally, I am a fan of Palahniuk's works. For me, he picks up where Joseph Conrad left off in Heart of Darkness, the exploration of the odd and why it is so appealing.

Fugitives and Refugees, though boasting with its name to tell only the stories of the grotesque, is actually something of a journey away from Palahniuk's normal style. While there are plenty of fun stories about strange people, the overwhelming feeling is that this place is home. "[W]hen you walk down the street, every corner has a story," Katherine Dunn says of Portland. "Here, the rolling history of your life is visible to you everywhere you look." This is the sentimental side of Palahniuk as he journeys through the past. It is an avant-garde travelogue mixed with the stories that Palahniuk has acquired on many street corners.

The book starts off slowly. From the interesting interview with author Katherine Dunn, fellow inhabitant of Portland, Palahniuk launches into descriptions of Portland terminology. This list of clever nick-names for places is entirely too long, and though I assume that these nicknames have acquired meaning through the years, they are entirely too contrived. Simple rhyming phrases. Nothing more, nothing less.

There are some interesting anecdotes that are definitely worth wading through the first part of the book for, for example, Palahniuk devouring a woman's scarf while on LSD at a Pink Floyd laser light show. It is not until the chapter entitled "Haunts: Where to Rub Elbows with the Dead" that this book picks up the pace and feels like a normal Palahniuk book. I read this chapter alone in my apartment, in the middle of the night. It is my opinion that Hollywood can produce nothing scarier than a true story. Thus, when Palahniuk writes non-fiction about the supposed haunting of much of Portland, it gets the adrenaline pumping. It keeps you awake, and willing yourself to read more - perhaps for the thrill, perhaps simply to read about something less frightening before you go to bed (like a later chapter on the sex industry entitled "Getting Off: How to Knock Off a Piece in Portland").

According to Palahniuk, the vast majority of Portland is haunted. He even interviews Bob and Renee Chamberlain, founders of Northwest Paranormal Investigations. "Renee and Bob say that something very basic about the Portland area, something organic, possibly the soil, allows spirits to manifest there more easily." This is when it hits you that this is not a normal travelogue. Palahniuk is telling stories about things that would keep most people away from Portland, but yet, this is the home of "the most cracked of the crackpots[, t]he misfits among misfits." This is a book that will help one set up an itinerary if, like Marlowe in Conrad's epic, one seeks that strange and irrational feeling in other people. More specifically, if one seeks that strange and irrational feeling in Portland, Oregon.

But then again, Palahniuk warns: "This book is not Portland, Oregon. At best, it's a series of moments with interesting people." More than that, this is a series of moments with interesting people, many of whom have effected Palahniuk in strange and profound ways. These are the people that fuel Palahniuk's fiction. He writes: "That's my job now, to assemble and reassemble the stories I hear until I can call them mine." Would I be jumping to conclusions to say that when I hear about Palahniuk's drug-addicted friends working for restaurants, I think about the members of Project Mayhem in Fight Club who add their own extra flavor to the New England clam chowder? Or that when I hear the story of Bob and Renee Chamberlain of the Northwest Paranormal Investigations, I think of the characters in Lullaby who have become completely desensitized to the haunting of their town? Palahniuk even mentions that the mausoleum at The Portland Memorial inspired his second novel Survivor, and even mentions that he wrote much of the novel while sitting in the mausoleum, "but the air is freezing and your fingers get stiff."

Fugitives and Refugees is the side of Palahniuk that any of his fans, of his Cult, must see. For newcomers and non-Palahniuk fans, this book is worth reading because it's short and satisfies the thirst for the gross and frightening, which at the same time is transposed into the entertaining and the delightful. For the writer, this is a sample of how one modern writer got started, from the moment he threw his tonsils from an apartment building wishing that he could be a writer to the moment his highly acclaimed first novel was made into a Brad Pitt movie.

And if you're planning to go to Portland any time soon, this book gives you the ingredients for one hell of an exciting trip through the city.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Adam Friedli's Memories That Are Totally Real 2

In this photo: Justinyote: Creativious Awesomosius, Justin, Amy Runner: Femalious Mostexcellentacius, Amy

Justin and Amy are pretty big fans of the outdoors. If they are not, then I have no idea why they were doing this. It wouldn't make any sense. But since this does make sense, they were playing their usual game of who can get to dinner first. And they always freeze-frame while doing this and look into what I suppose is a camera. But there is never a camera there. If something doesn't make sense, it's that. And let's talk about what they make appear as their captions under their names. Seriously. Can you get ANY more egotistical than that? But they're both good people. I'll let it slide. Again.

In this photo: Amy, Justin

Oh man. I remember this. He totally tripped while running at superhuman speeds to beat Amy to dinner. This. This right here. This is EXACTLY why you are always told NOT to run with sharp objects. Look what happens. They get stuck in the pavement. The fact that this can even happen means Justin really knows how to shop. Can your fork and knife do this? No way. So for all of your utensil shopping needs, consult Justin "Awesome, my knife is in the pavement!" Tiemeyer. He's got you covered. But this isn't even the point. And yes, I have a point on its way. That's the whole point of memories anyway, isn't it? Well, don't run with sharp objects, because there is no way he ever got those out of the pavement. They're probably still there somewhere on I-96. And I guess you could lose a hand or an eye too. Too much screwing around...

In this photo: Justin, Amy

Amy: "So...whatcha planning on doing with that anvil?"
Justin: "..."

Amy: "I've never known you to have any interest in anvils."
Justin: "..."

Amy: "It would almost seem like you are trying to hide something from me."
Justin: "..."
He was. He was hiding some presents in the anvil. He didn't think she would be so suspicious. He still looks pretty normal to me. His cover is still perfectly intact.

Amy: "Why are you hiding presents from me?"
Justin: "..."

And that's how Amy ruined AND killed Christmas all at the same time, simultaneously, in one fell swoop. Wait...no. No, that was a different time. And possibly a different person altogether. I don't even remember this.

In this photo: Adam, Justin, Amy

Unfortunately for Justin, white men CAN jump. He wasn't sure if he could do it, but he did. Amy and I were definitely impressed, even though we appear to be looking at something on the ground? I don't understand. Why, if someone had just jumped clean through solid rock with their head, would you not be looking at that? ... Oh, I remember now! It's pretty hard to stay cool after smashing through elevated earth crust like he did, so Justin tried to lessen the blow by telling a joke. He was like, "Hey Adam, I bet this nearly made you lose your head..." Amy thought it was in pretty bad taste. I personally thought it was hilarious. But it's a little difficult to not look at the ground when you're in my position.

In this photo: Adam, Justin, Amy

Knowing what to expect, Justin readied himself to jump again. And this time, we all decided to look as cool as we possibly could while it happened. Did we succeed? I don't know. Do trains live inside of mountains until a tunnel is painted on the outside to release them? Yup. Just look at those glasses. There is nothing keeping them on Justin's face except the rule of magnetism between two entities of awesome. And no scratches either. Amazing. This rule of magnetism applies to people as well. How else could Justin and Amy have found each other so easily? From this picture alone, I mean, memory alone, it is plain to see how well they gel together. Anyway, we were all looking pretty ice cold that day. What was I doing? Well, I wanted to look up and look cool at the same time, so I did a flip for the sole purpose of looking up. You can have your fancy necks. I flip to look up.

In this photo: Amy

Being so remarkably cooler than cool gets exhausting after awhile, so Amy decided to call it a night. Which in hindsight was weird, because it was still daytime. I guess it's always daytime here though. Interesting... So, on her walk home she noticed something peculiar on the ground. A bowl of seeds with a sign sticking out of it? Nah, there's nothing weird about this. She went to check it out. It read, "More free lovin." Ah, she thought, it must be from Justin! And it was. He was working earlier to get this gift ready for her as a surprise. She realized she couldn't wait until tomorrow and had to tell him immediately that she found it and how much she loved the subtle reference...

In this photo: Justin, The Power of Unwanted Biological Regeneration, Amy

Amy: "So, were you sowing something earlier today?"
Justin: "Whatever do you mean, my dear?"
He was doing his best to hide his growing smirk by keeping his face focused on his book.

It didn't work. His smile was wider than a size 1500-font capital "W".

She made his head spin so fast up from his book that it made his hair stand up on end and emulate the shape of a human hand. With nail polish. There are ways. You don't wanna know about it, believe me.

In this photo: Amy, Justin

Justin gets the craziest ideas sometimes. And that is why we all love him of course. But come on. How many times have his purchases from ACME worked as advertised? Actually, what advertising do they have? I have never seen an ACME infomercial before. Have you? What is their advertising budget? Do they have one? Obviously that crazy coyote on TV orders their products...wait. Whoa. Those cartoons...are the infomercials. Holy crap.

Amy: "Are you sure you know what you are doing?"
Justin: "I already philosophized the outcome and combined it with Prince and LOST. I can't lose."

Amy: "Even though your tail that you really shouldn't have is on fire?"
Justin: "Yes. That is all part of it. This is the best way to light the fuse."

Amy: "Did you read the manual?"
Justin: "There wasn't one. I philosophized my own, and I am following it exactly. This includes the glasses and hat."

Amy: "What hat?"
Justin: "It was too small, so I tied it around my head. I'll give you a head start, on my mark..."

Amy: "Ok. You be careful. And what mark?"
Justin: "Oh, you'll know."

Justin: "Ready...set...NIETZSCHE!!!!!"

In this photo: Justin, Amy

Well, Justin ended up being just fine, because he found his Delightfully (you can't see this since it is around the other side of the hat) Malevolent Times hat. And it turns out, the lack of said hat is the only reason the coyote runs into as many problems as he does. Remarkable. What a day it's been. And for you too. To have all the known properties of physics unabashedly bashed to bits must be unrelentingly entertaining. Now how did all this end?

Amy: "Where are we going?"
Justin: "We still need dinner right?"

Amy: "Absolutely. To your house?"
Justin: "Sounds marvelous."

Amy: "What are we having?"
Justin: "How about...cool beans?"

Amy: "Cool beans?"
Justin: "Yes. With Arnold."

Amy: "So like, Cool Beans." (said in classic Schwarzenegger fashion)
Justin: "Ha, yes. Cool Beans." (also said in classic Schwarzenegger fashion)

Justin: "Remember when I promised I would love you last?"
Amy: "That's right, Justin! You did!"

Justin: "...I lied..."

In this photo: Tom

(cue a theme that is both looney and also a little bit tuney)
Tom: "Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-That's all, folks! Serirousry. That's it. Look how seririrous I am. I scoff at the English language. That. Is. It. You know that one guy, Serial Sam? My favorite breakfast is Serial Sam Cereal with bits of real Serial, so you know it's good."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

NASA Finds Alien Life?

A couple of weeks ago, everyone on the Facebook community was posting one of these two articles, "NASA Finds New Life" or "Nasa Reportedly Discovers 'Completely Alien' Life on Earth." If you've read my article "Office For Outer Space Affairs," you know that I am something of a conspiracy theorist interested in the existence of extraterrestrial life. By extension, you know that I was pretty excited to stumble upon these articles.

Shortly after people began talking about NASA's discovery of aliens on Earth, a much smaller faction of Facebook researchers began to surface. While many had begun to act as if we were living in a momentous time in history, the time of first contact with extraterrestrial life, this faction was devoted to deriding these individuals for their ridiculous beliefs. They began talking about how this scientific discovery was a heck of a let down.

These particular articles talk about how NASA has discovered a new form of bacteria called GFAJ-1 in Mono Lake, California. Nearly all life forms on this planet are called carbon-based life forms, which means that the structures that support us are carbon compounds. These newly discovered bacteria do not fit this mold. Their DNA, RNA, proteins and cell membranes are instead constructed from arsenic compounds.

It has been hypothesized for years that non-carbon-based lifeforms may exist on Earth. When I was in grade school I remember hearing that people suspected that silicon-based organisms lived beneath the Earth's crust. Since silicon is a metal, it would be more useful as a building block of life where heat and pressure reach extremes beyond that which carbon-based life forms can handle. Furthermore, it is directly below carbon on the periodic table, which means that it would function like carbon in many ways. This theory was common enough by the 1960s that Star Trek: The Original Series featured a silicon-based alien life form called a Horta in the first season episode "The Devil in the Dark."

The 20th century has seen its fair share of upsets in the definition of how life forms are defined, most significantly with the discovery of archaea, microorganisms that were originally understood as bacteria but which are now understood as having a completely different evolutionary path. These organisms can thrive in the harshest of climates, in volcanic vents and toxic waste even, because of their ability to metabolize a variety of gases and metals that would kill nearly any other organism. Knowing about these variations on life, it never seemed like much of a leap to suggest that we would find a non-carbon-based life form on or in the Earth.

While the discovery of arsenic-based bacteria is certainly a momentous scientific discovery that can lead humankind down some interesting avenues of research, it has been marketed to the public as if scientists had just discovered intelligent extraterrestrial life capable of long-distance space travel. If the headlines referred to scientists discovering new life, few would find it very interesting. The nature specials I used to watch in the 90s told me that new species are being discovered on a daily basis in places like the Amazon rain forest. Instead, the headlines made use of the "NASA" keyword, which combined with the keywords "new" and "life," plants the false idea that we are dealing with ET here. Throw in the word "alien," meaning "other" or "different," and people automatically think you mean "extraterrestrial in origin."

I would love to fit this story into my greater theory regarding the possibility of extraterrestrial biological entities traveling lightyears to make contact with the civilization of Earth, but it just doesn't fit. This scientific advance is extraordinary but it is also a let down, and the crux of this distinction is the bait and switch that popular sources reporting on this issue have used. They promise Independence Day and X-Files, but instead they give us Nova.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010 National Geographic Photography Contest

The folks at Ned Hardy have recently compiled a series of photos titled "47 Incredibly Amazing Photographs From the 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest," which you can look at for yourself here. The following are just some of my personal favorites:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Batman Live - World Arena Tour

Imagine a Medieval Times action-packed drama only with Batman characters and storyline. This is how Batman Live, the World Arena Tour has been described to me. As of today, Batman Live only has dates scheduled in the United Kingdoms, but I know I have my fingers crossed that this live act hits state side sooner than later. Keep updated on Batman Live here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Morris Day

Today is Morris Day. Why? Two reasons: 1. Morris Day was born on this day 53 years ago, and 2. Morris Day Day is just plain redundant. My friend Stephan once said, "There's more to [Morris Day and] the Time than oh-wee oh-wee oh." This is the day where we explore the works of Morris Day, "Jungle Love" and beyond. It is a day for us to celebrate Morris Day. So, pop on Purple Rain and remember those killer Morris Day lines ("Your lips would make a lollipop too happy.") and be joyous today.

A wise man once said, "And should we win the day, the Thirteenth of December will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Morris Day!" (Did I get that quote right?)

Role Models, Part One

I was in middle school when reports came in of a child who burned down his family's barn. At face value, this doesn't seem like a story appropriate for national news. But this barn burning was political. It wasn't terrorism. It wasn't the Ku Klux Klan or Al-Qaeda. It wasn't even the Michigan Militia. This crime was much more insidious than all of that. It was committed be a child under the influence of cartoons.

The cartoon in question was Beavis and Butt-head. The story we were fed convinced us that since the teenagers on this show were depicted playing with matches and laughing while saying, "fire, fire, fire," children watching this show had no choice but to become arsonists. By this time in my life, I had already been on my fair share of campouts with my Boy Scout troop in which boys my age were expected to start camp fires. I only had to see two or three of my compatriots melt their windbreakers painfully to their skin only to run back and do it again before I realized that teenage boys have been obsessed with fire since time immemorial. Beavis and Butt-head didn't prescribe our delinquency. They reflected our delinquency.

However enlightened I may have been regarding human nature as a teenager, I was not free from the veritable witch hunt that followed in the 90s under the names of "censorship" and "political correctness." I remember that my brother and I were at a church youth group get-together after school and that we, accompanied by a kid we know named Jake, were trying to do our best impressions of the Beavis and Butt-head laughs. I know that I had never seen Beavis and Butt-head before. I think my brother saw it once or twice at his friend Pat's house. But everyone knew about Beavis and Butt-head back then, even if they had never once seen the show. It was part of the zeitgeist. It was a result of that same magic that granted me knowledge of songs by Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. We always did impressions of cartoon characters. There was the Bart Simpson: "Don't have a cow, man," the Wolverine growl with the word, "bub" at the end, the Tick's ridiculous exclamations like, "Honk if you love justice!" We never got in trouble for those impressions, but if you were referencing Beavis and Butthead back then you could get in some serious trouble. I remember on this particular occasion I was reprimanded verbally and the guilt was laid on so heavily that I felt like I had just burned down my parents' house with both my parents still inside, and that I had done so with only the power of my words.

It was through the media hype and government focus on my childhood cartoons that I first encountered the discussion of the responsibility of public figures as role models for the children of America. It was also during this conflict that I felt some of my earliest stirrings of authority issues. I had a serious problem with some Senator or Representative telling my parents that I shouldn't watch my favorite television programs. I felt the earliest pangs of righteous indignation with the idea that someone might stand between me and my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

A few years later in 1999, former Mickey Mouse Club child star Britney Spears got a record deal and released the album ...Baby One More Time. As Spears transformed from a girl into a woman she also transformed from the influence of Mickey to Madonna. She was dealing with her awakening sexuality just like any other girl, but unlike any other girl every moment of Spears ascent into adulthood was documented by either MTV, VH1 or the paparazzi. By the time Oops!... I Did It Again came out in 2000, Spears was defined by the lyric, "I'm not that innocent." (If it were up to me, I would define the girl by her overuse of the ellipsis in album titles, but it's not up to me.) Her interviews before this time usually centered around her sudden rise to fame and how grateful Spears was to those who helped her along the way, people like her mom or her friend Justin Timberlake and his band N'Sync. Now her interviews centered around the fact that she was acting as a bad role model for young girls and accusations flew that Britney Spears was responsible for over-sexualizing the day's youth.

I used to try to imagine what it would feel like to take Britney's place. Physiologically and emotionally she was changing into an adult, and sexuality is part of adulthood. (Why else would we put pornographic films in the adult film section?) She was also growing as an artist and doing whatever she could do to keep her dream of singing and dancing alive. In her place I think I would probably feel like there was nothing I could do right. I don't mean to say, "Leave Britney alone!" I'm not trying to excuse anything she's done in the public eye. I mean to say that even with all of the money and recognition Britney Spears racked up during this short period, I would prefer my overweight, zit-faced life with no money and no girlfriend to the life of Britney Spears, because at least I had the option to be myself without the media turning me into the scapegoat for a world full of sins.

Returning to the story of the boy who burned down the barn, I can say that I don't feel any connection with this boy. The two of us liked our cartoons and we liked our MTV, but this kid was known to the nation as the poster child of a poorly spent youth while I was emerging as an example of a well-raised son. I was a Boy Scout. I was engaged in community service. I stayed in school. I respected my parents and credited their teaching for any kindness anyone said to me. I went to college. I went to church. Most importantly, I was never caught burning down any buildings. I sometimes wondered if there weren't more similarities between me and the barn burner. To paraphrase the Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke, perhaps the difference between me and him was as insignificant as one bad day.

Maybe it's just the philosopher in me, but I cannot think about these events without stumbling into a difficult string of questions. Who are the role models that our children look up to? Who ought our children look up to? Who gets to make the choice? What is a role model? How ought a role model to act? How do we understand responsibility in light of the influence of role models in people's lives? How should we respond when we believe that role models are not acting properly? Should we respond at all? Should our government representatives intervene in these matters? What should they do? I know that if I am to listen to the testimony of someone pointing a finger and placing blame on cartoons and pop singers for the corruption of our youth, I'd like them to be able to answer all of these questions for me. I'd really like to be able to answer these questions for myself.

Role Models, Part One can be viewed here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Comic Vine

A couple years ago I decided that I was going to read every X-Men related series, mini-series and one-shot ever put out by Marvel since the publication of X-Men #1 in 1963. I stopped a little over a year ago when I built my new computer, and by that point I had followed the continuity up to 1988 with the help of an archaic looking web flow chart. Over the last couple of months I've been getting back into comic books a whole lot more - thank you, in alphabetical order, Amy, Arthur, Chad, Jared, and Josh - and I've found that my archaic guide no longer exists. They apparently stopped paying the domain fees.

After I could find no satisfactory reading order flow charts, I began looking for web sites that could tell me about publication dates. There are quite a few wikis out there that claim to have all of the good information regarding comic books, their publication dates, story summaries, character overviews and creator information, but just about every one I encountered was not worth the time. While looking for the continuity of X-titles in the late-80s, I kept finding web sites with little or no information on older issues, issues that debuted before the era of wikis. While looking for recent comics - the recent 2009 reboot of the Ultimate Marvel Universe under the title Ultimate Comics, for example - I found huge gaps even much of the information hadn't even been archived on the main comic publishers' web sites. I waded through a whole lot of crap before I finally found something I could put my name behind.

Comic Vine is the wiki I put my name behind in reference to comic book information on the web. I've fed a great deal of titles into this database from post-Crisis on Infinite Earth Batman story arcs to Green Lantern: Rebirth continuity in reference to Infinite Crisis, 52, and Final Crisis, Marvel's X-titles from 1963 until present, Marvel's Ultimate Comics titles, and Starman. Equipped with an easy to use search box and intuitive formatting, Comic Vine is like the IMDB of comics mixed with the Rotten Tomatoes of comics. Whenever I'm either too embarrassed or it's too late to ask one of my super-knowledgeable comic book friends, I am on Comic Vine. If you're into comic books, I'd check it out here.

Battle: Los Angeles Trailer

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jack Coleman

Actor Jack Coleman. I was never all that big on Heroes, but even as Noah Bennett I could sense that Jack Coleman was probably the best actor on the show. With Ando Masahashi, Noah Bennett was one of the only characters I wasn't completely annoyed with by the end of the first season, probably because these were regular human beings who showed great courage without having insane power to back it up. That said, I really don't want to talk about Heroes. I want to talk about Coleman's performance as political adviser Joe Dugan on a recent episode of House, which is easily one of the best guest performances all year. If you blinked you may have missed him, but he also had a cameo on The Office as an unnamed possible love interest for Angela. The Office needs more breaths of fresh air like Coleman. As a matter of fact, I'm already willing to offer him Michael's job at the end of the current season, but you know that I'd rather they finish the show right. My beefs with Heroes and The Office aside, I want to say that I really look forward to seeing Jack Coleman on my small screen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Justin/Jeff Project: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

In the spirit of the Julie/Julia project in which writer Julie Powell chronicles cooking all of the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 524 recipes in 365 days, I bring you the Jeff/Justin project. The Justin/Jeff project chronicles my descent into the filmography of Jeff Goldblum and will take as much time as it takes.

If Jeff Goldblum were to die tomorrow, and I pray to God that he does not, the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (as well as Goldblum himself) would be considered late-Goldblum. This means that you shouldn't expect some skinny kid who is just trying to get his name and his face out there (Annie Hall) and you shouldn't expect an unlikely blockbuster hero (Independence Day) - you should expect Jeff Goldblum to focus on interesting characters in movies that not a lot of people watch (Igby Goes Down). The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is probably one of the highest grossing films of Jeff Goldblum's later years (though I fear that gimmicky chick flick The Switch may have surpassed this number), but it still holds on to, and in many ways defines, the Independent feel and character complexity that Goldblum has chosen to pursue in these, his latter years.

In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Jeff Goldblum plays Captain Alistair Hennessey, the nemesis of Steve Zissou (Bill Murray). Though he is described as the antagonist to the protagonist and namesake of the film, this is certainly not an evil and good, harmful and helpful, black cowboy and white cowboy sort of thing. Like the works of Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov) or Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development), this is a story of a group of individuals whose faults outnumber their virtues, none of them good by any definition, but all of them struggling together through the situations in life that everyone faces, love and loss, crime and punishment, rivalry, revenge, forgiveness and hope. Alistair Hennessey may be the declared nemesis of Steve Zissou, but this is almost a throw-away description. The two men spat and battle and tussle and groan but in the end they are enveloped in a narrative that is bigger than just the two of them.

Hennessey is the former husband of Eleanor Zissou (Anjelica Huston), Steve Zissou's former wife. Early in the film he is portrayed as stylish and debonair, occasionally wooing Eleanor, but possibly only because it gets under Steve Zissou's skin. It seems very likely that Hennessey's days of chasing woman have come to an end, and this is supported by the fact that he declares himself half-gay. When this morsel of information is revealed, the viewer suddenly understands why the crew of Hennessey's ship (which, if I'm not mistaken, is called The Hennessey) is comprised of attractive, boyish men and also why Hennessey would walk around his ship in a bath robe. A man with money is likely to surround himself with the things he loves, and if this is any measure then Alistair Hennessey loves men, big ships, fancy parties, real estate, research vessels, research turtles and fancy coffee makers.

The most interesting part of Alistair Hennessey's story, if I'm to be considered any sort of judge, is when The Belafonte has been attacked by pirates and Hennessey is the captain of the rescue ship. Zissou is in his moment of greatest need. The ship has taken enough damage to render it dead in the water. The crew has just been roughed up by pirates who stole much of the ship's contents and abducted the bank stooge. The damage from the pirates alone will cost more than Zissou can reasonably raise. When Hennessey encounters Zissou, he does not respond with kindness and caring. He responds coldly and calculatingly, charging Steve for every single extra cost that will come about in tugging his ship to dry land. Where one might expect compassion even from ones enemy, Hennessey pledges only to continue his rivalry with Zissou, stacking fuel on the fire of their mutual hatred.

Things are soon turned on their heads. As Zissou and crew approach the Ping Islands, they encounter The Hennessey, destroyed and almost completely submerged. Zissou wishes a great many bad things on Hennessey, but I doubt death at the hands of pirates is one of them. When Zissou and crew stumble upon these pirates, Alistair Hennessey is sitting among them, alive, but this may not last long. Hennessey is shot in the chest by a pirate and a gunfight ensues between Team Zissou and the pirates of Ping. Zissou has no time to thin about rivalries, about the price of Hennessey's rescue. There is only time to act. Zissou and crew hold off the pirates long enough for Hennessey to escape with them. (It is almost in vain, because as Team Zissou takes cover against the gunfire Hennessey stands, dumbly, in the line of fire, holding his chest wound. By the grace of cinema, however, he isn't further wounded.) Through clever use of pirate ex machina, Hennessey and Zissou dissolve their rivalry, at least temporarily. A common enemy will do that. They find common ground in the fact that they are both bad husbands (though Hennessey excuses his behavior on account of being half gay). Their bond is strong enough that Zissou includes Hennessey in the enormous crew of the tiny submarine he pilots to find his true enemy, the leopard shark, another rival that Zissou finds peace with.

Alistair Hennessey is a giant leap in acting for Jeff Goldblum from his first role as Freak #1 in Death Wish. Rather than a nameless criminal, Goldblum takes on a role that is probable best described as a kind of brother to Murray's Zissou. In East of Eden, John Steinbeck describes every set of brothers as sharing something in common with Cain and Abel. Zissou and Hennessey fit this mold perfectly. One has gained favor and the other has not, but we're given a creative solution to the murder story of Cain and Abel. We're given the possibility of redemption in human relationships. Unlike my write-up of Goldblum in Death Wish, I don't need to write some fake happy ending for Alistair Hennessey. I expect that Hennessey and Zissou bicker in some comedic fashion for the rest of their natural lives, and honestly I wouldn't want it any other way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Songs of the Sorting Hat

In celebration of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 coming to theaters, Paste Magazine released a series of playlists appropriate for the four Hogwarts houses of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.

The first thing that you have to do is take The Hogwarts Sorting Hat quiz to determine what house you belong to. (I refrained from taking any such test because I knew that I would be horribly disappointed if I ended up with anything but Gryffindor. I was happy to find that this particular test placed me in Gryffindor among the brave and the bold.)

The next step is to listen to the playlist that corresponds to the house that was chosen for you. Sadly, Paste only lists the song. You're responsible to gather them through whatever means, legal or otherwise, you are accustomed to using. Here are the playlists for each house.

Mascot: Lion
Traits: Courage, Daring, Nerve, Chivalry

1. The Flaming Lips - "The W.A.N.D."
2. The Replacements - "I Will Dare"
3. The Hold Steady - "Stay Positive"
4. The Lovemongers - "The Battle of Evermore"
5. U2 - "Pride (In the Name of Love"
6. Pink Floyd - "When the Tigers Broke Free"
7. Sigur Rós- "Hoppipolla"
8. Otis Redding - "That's How Strong My Love Is"
9. My Morning Jacket - "What a Wonderul Man"
10. Drivin' N' Cryin' - "Fly Me Courageous"
11. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Fight Like a Brave"
12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Gold Lion"

Mascot: Badger
Traits: Hard work, loyalty, tolerance, fair play

1. The Whigs - "Right Hand on My Heart"
2. The Avett Brothers - "Hard Worker"
3. Ryan Adams - "Perfect and True"
4. The Youngbloods - "Get Together"
5. Bob Dylan - "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"
6. Aretha Franklin - "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"
7. James Taylor - "You Got a Friend"
8. Jack Johnson - "Hope"
9. Dispatch - "Carry You"
10. Dave Matthews Band - "Steady As We Go"
11. Hootie & the Blowfish - "Let Her Cry"
12. Tea Party - "The Badger"
 Mascot: Eagle
Traits: Intelligence, creativity, wit and wisdom
1. Vampire Weekend - "Oxford, Comma"
2. Andrew Bird - "Scythian Empires"
3. Midlake - "Young Bride"
4. Yo-Yo Ma - "The Eternal Vow"
5. The Long Winters - "Copernicus"
6. Blackalicious - "Chemical Calisthenics"
7. Vic Chesnutt - "Strange Language"
8. The Decemberists - "The Island"
9. TV on the Radio - "New Health Rock"
10. Talking Heads - "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)"
11. R.E.M. - "Moral Kiosk"
12. Steve Miller Band - "Fly Like an Eagle"
Mascot: Snake
Traits: Ambition, cunning, resourcefulness
1. Sixteen Horsepower - "Coal Black Horses"
2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Red Right Hand"
3. The White Stripes - "Conquest"
4. The Raveonettes - "Bowels of the Beast"
5. Tom Waits - "Little Drop of Poison"
6. Mastodon - "Oblivion"
7. Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath"
8. The Rolling Stones - "Paint It Black"
9. The Sex Pistols - "Anarchy in the U.K."
10. Drive-By Truckers - "Cottonseed"
11. Ween - "Buenos Tardes Amigo"
12. Marilyn Manson - "Snake Eyes and Sissies"
If you want to read the original article, click here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2011 Miss TSA Calendar

I found this calendar on Cachinnate.net and thought it might be worthy of your time. You can view the original post here.