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"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

People Come Back... Wrong

This is the video that YouTube didn't want you to see, but strangely enough Facebook had no qualms with it. Click here to view.

Publication History: X-Mail

My publication history is pretty sad. This first piece is a letter I wrote that was published in the X-Mail column in the back of Uncanny X-Men #336. The publication date of September, 1996, would mean that I was only thirteen years old at the time. The best adjective I could think of to describe this letter is inane, and I think that the bold-lettered response from the editor reflects this pretty well.

Feel free to construct your own opinion. Here is my letter that was published in X-Mail in 1996:

I have some digging to do before I can reveal to you more of my publication history. Until then, try not to feel too bad. According to mathematics, there's a probability that even a randomized series of letters, numbers and punctuations could form a best-selling novel. So there's hope for me yet, nyet?

The Military and the Living Dead, Part Two

If you haven't read it yet, The Military and the Living Dead, Part One is available here.

If you have ever taken a writing course, there's a chance you've heard the line, "Write what you know." When I write about zombies and the military, a fair reviewer might say, "Justin Tiemeyer doesn't really know anything about the military." Fortunately, I make up for this by being fairly knowledgeable of zombies and zombie affairs. I've even been called in as expert counsel when Lime Green Shirt devoted an entire podcast to zombies.Rather than deducing how the military would respond in the event of a zombie apocalypse according to my partial knowledge of modern military, I wonder if we might gain more insight into the matter by examining the situations presented in zombie films.

The central "text" when it comes to zombie films is George A. Romero and John A. Russo's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. While this is certainly not the first zombie film, it is easily the foremost zombie film. Night of the Living Dead makes an article like this possible, because it presents the zombie film genre as one of the most significant critiques of society and so-called human nature. If you can't survive an attack by unintelligent, slow-moving, single-minded, hobbling bodies, then there's something wrong with the world. There's something wrong with us.

After Night of the Living Dead, Romero and Russo went their separate ways. Romero continued the franchise as "of the Dead" films: Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2009). Russo offered a series of "of the Living Dead" films (The Return of the Living Dead: Part One in 1985, Part Two in 1988, Part Three in 1993, Necropolis in 2005 and Rave from the Grave in 2005) that refer to Night of the Living Dead as a fictional account based on true stories. His films are usually looked upon as more of a farce than a continuation of the Night of the Living Dead story. In light of the works of these giants, all latter zombie films are seen along this spectrum, from insightful to ridiculous.

Romero's zombies are weak and slow. (You would do well to forget the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.) Their decomposing bodies would break apart at high speed. They can sense the bodies of living human beings and attack with vicious strength once they are within melee distance. These zombies can be disabled if shot int he brain or whacked hard enough on the head. There is no reason small groups of human beings shouldn't be able to survive in Romero's depiction of the zombie-infested world, and yet by the time of Dawn of the Dead the structure of the nation's government already appears to be crippled. It can be argued that Romero has a negative perspective on human nature. The only reason we can't rise up against the zombies is because we're too busy arguing with fellow survivors. I don't see this as a negative perspective on human nature so much as I see it as an accurate reflection on the world sociopolitical climate. It's just a fact at this point in history that humans are incapable of getting along with one another at any level of organization for any extended period of time.

In Romero's world, the military is an unorganized force. It exists as small pockets of armed men, besieged by zombies and left to make their own decisions. Like everyone else on the planet, life becomes a matter of "taking care of me and mine." The negative image of the military merely points out the important moral question that Romero poses: How does one act in the absence of rulers to tell one what to do? Without the leisure time needed to contemplate ethical issues thoroughly and/or restructure society, the answer seems to be: We fall apart. The accusation is never made solely against the armed forces; all of humankind, the military included, are on trial here.

Russo's vision is more of a comedy of errors, and it poses a serious accusation against the military. Unlike Romero's vision, we always see the chain of command of the military and the system of American government completely intact. The zombie evil is created by a chemical that was invented for spraying on fields of marijuana. By fighting what is viewed as an unnecessary war on pot, the U.S. has inadvertently created an invincible army of brain-hungry infected undead. Russo's zombies are juggernauts that are just as deadly without their brain intact. Burning them simply spreads the re-animating chemical in the form of acid rain. The military's only response is to store these zombies in metal barrels. But the barrels roll off of trucks. They break easily. They're opened in order to weaponize zombies. The result is always a zombie outbreak. How is containment accomplished? Nuclear detonation of an American city by the U.S. military is the answer in the original Return of the Living Dead (further spreading the re-animating chemical). Shooting anything that moves, zombie and human alike, from a militarized perimeter is the answer in the first sequel. Russo, as we can see, poses a much more difficult accusation against the military.

As a dark comedy, the Russo line of zombie films does not present a probable account of realistic events. Instead, it presents military foibles that the viewers cannot rule out as impossible in light of current events. Is the government involved in science and technology that could have unexpected results? In light of terrorism and war, we'd be foolish not to. Is it possible that military engineers could fail to keep citizens safe from an immanent threat? The ninth ward of New Orleans is proof of this possibility. Would the military drop a nuke on U.S. soil to stop an otherwise unstoppable infection from wiping out the continent? While every military commander seeks to minimize collateral damage, there is always a level if justified risk. Nuclear destruction becomes a matter of calculus if we think like this. It's Jack Bauer utilitarianism.

For both Romero and Russo there is a process. Observation is the first step. People argue. People war. People make foolish mistakes. People abuse power. We see it on the news eacha nd every day. Then comes analysis. A certain ethic or sociology or concept of human nature emerges that represents these cases. Finally, there is a new creation. Romero and Russo translate what they see every day and their judgments on this phenomena into movies. Zombie movies are a reflection, whether realistic or hyperbolic, of everything we learn about humanity from day to day. If the military were the only problem in zombie movies, I might raise my own objection, but zombie movies present a world where civilian and soldier alike live in corruption and idiocy.

The accusation is against all of us, not the few and the proud; in some sense we're all responsible for this zombie apocalypse we're currently experiencing.

Chronologically LOST

A long time ago, I made the decision that once LOST was finished I would be able to have a normal relationship. You see, LOST had taken up so much of my consciousness for the six years that it was on air that it seemed impossible to be emotionally available to anyone else. There would always be LOST in the way. Within a couple of days of the series finale, like clockwork, I entered into the best relationship I've ever experienced.

I vowed from that day forward not to watch LOST again for at least another year, but I still think about the show here and there. Recently, I was thinking about taking clips from the show and arranging them in chronological order. But then I thought: What's the use? There is a new kind of law since the advent of the internet that if you can think of something, it's already on the internet. Sure enough, within a week I saw a link to this blog titled Chronologically LOST.

This web site presents lost as 101 videos, starting with our first image of the island in the distant past until our last faint glimpse of our characters. The flash-sideways reality is presented as an epilogue to the main story. Included in the series are all aired episodes and 14 mobisodes. Here are the first three videos:

Episode 001: The Beginning

Episode 002: 1867 to 1954

Episode 003: 1954 to 1972

Remind me to check this out next year. The entire series can be found here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Detroit Gun Shirt from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the most important source of fashion in today's world. If it's not Charlie's green jacket and silly t-shirts that one can only surmise came from Good Will or Salvation Army, it's Dennis's button-down shirts and sweaters. For me, however, it's Mac. I'm not talking about the t-shirts he fishes out of the trash and cuts the sleeves off of. I'm talking about those custom t-shirts that I have difficulty finding on-line. Though I still haven't found the That's Blowtorch t-shirt from early on, I was lucky enough to get a link to this, the Detroit Gun T-Shirt from this season. The t-shirt is available in several different colors here, through Spread Shirt.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Clip Sesame Street Doesn't Want You to See

This video was pulled from Sesame Street because parents believed her outfit wasn't appropriate for children aged one to six. Reflecting on my childhood, I can say that I've seen more inappropriate images from Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry. Cleavage is not a terrifying thing for children. It's not going to make them into sex criminals. Considering the World Health Organization recommends at least 2 years of breastfeeding, somewhere near 1/3 of the audience in question (children ages 1 to 6) already see naked breasts on a daily basis. The other 2/3 remember naked breasts as a not-so-distant memory, a non-sexual memory. I believe the hit 1989 movie Look Who's Talking said it best. James (John Travolta) and baby Mikey (with telepathic voice of Bruce Willis) are looking at a woman's breasts. James says, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Mikey responds with his baby telepathy, "Yeah. Lunch!" If you, as a parent, can't see breasts as anything but sexual, then you, as a parent, are the one who is socializing your child to do the same. Don't blame Katy Perry and Sesame Street.

UPDATE: Apparently, the video has been removed from YouTube as well.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

God Hates Skags

A little while ago, you may remember the response of the people of the San Diego Comic Con to the hate-filled Phelpsite protesters. Steam recently linked the community of gamers to this image from the popular game Borderlands, describing the people of Westboro Baptist Church as hatemongers. Good work, gamers. Maybe the rest of the world will catch up.

If you don't understand the parody, then you need to play Borderlands. More on Borderlands here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cowboy Upgrade: Welcome to the NFL's Next Flagship Arena

Recently, I had the great pleasure of watching the Dallas Cowboys play the Chicago Bears at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the largest domed structure in the world. As excited as I was to witness my first live NFL game, I was much more excited at the technological wonder that is Cowboy Stadium. Many people responded to my exciting journey with words of, "Screw the Cowboys," or "Screw the Bears," and quite often a mixture of the two. My response was that this building is to the modern world what architectural wonders like the Colosseum were to the ancient world. It is equipped with HD screens so large (in fact, the largest in the world) that practical rulings had to be decided ahead of time for the event that someone hits the screen during a kick-off or punt. I've taken art classes where it is suggested that if you do not understand the wonder of architecture, you have no way of understanding the wonder of divinity. Let's just say that I'm a wee bit closer to divinity today, having experienced Cowboy Stadium firsthand.

I wrote this blog post because I have kept repeating the following phrase time and time again in reference to this Sunday well-spent: "Have you read the Wired article about Cowboys Stadium?" The article is titled "Cowboys Upgrade: Welcome to the NFL's Next Flagship Arena," and it is available on-line at Wired. Read this article here, and try to tell me that you're not amazed at the existence of this building.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Spin Doctors on Sesame Street

Yucatan Taco Stand

When it comes to Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Barbecue I've found a certain level of Hubris in Fort Worth. There is this resounding belief that if it comes from Fort Worth, Texas (read as The Wild Wild West) it's got to be better than anywhere else in the world. It's the old Pace Picante Sauce commercial sort of dichotomy: The South/West is good, The North/East is bad ("New York City?!?!?!"). An unfortunate result of this fact is that it sometimes seems like restaurants just aren't trying. I've found better burgers in Fort Worth than anything else.

I honestly don't think that Yucatan Taco Stand boasts of these same things. The reason I say this is because it's fairly clear to me that they are focused on making good, solid food that fills you up and tastes better than elsewhere. I think the Taco Stand comes into the game with the same standards as a Mexican restaurant in Michigan might. They feel like they have to prove that they can make great Mexican food, and as a result, they do. It's easily the best Mexican I've had in Fort Worth to date.

Personally, I'm a sucker for the Burrito filled with Spicy, Aged Chorizo. It honestly doesn't look like anything you couldn't get at Chipotle or Q'Doba, but it tastes wonderful. You have the option of getting it [ ] white or [x] wheat, and also between [ ] Red (Mild), [ ] Green (Medium), and [x] Habanero (Stupid) spices. I recommend getting a beverage also, because this is a restaurant where spicy actually means spicy. All burritos are filled with Chihuahua cheese, queso fresco, tomato, red onion, cilantro and roasted garlic aioli sauce.

One of these days I'm going to try the nachos, but I have to admit that it seems like something of a daunting task. I've seen the nachos placed in front of other customers and it's one of the largest nacho plates I've ever seen in my life. When I do order the nachos, I need to be fully ready to devote a weekend to it.

Yucatan Taco Stand - Magnolia
909 West Magnolia
Fort Worth, TX 76104

Yucatan Taco Stand - Southlake
2801 East Southlake Blvd
Southlake, TX 76092

Yucatan Taco Stand - Frisco
2809 Preston Rd.
Frisco, TX 75034

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Scott Pilgrim

When I watched the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I was told that it is basically a frame by frame remake of the graphic novel series titled Scott Pilgrim. However, reading the graphic novels, I found that there's much more to this story, and it's told in a really interesting way. The graphic novel series gives much more back-story and makes the individual encounters more fleshed out. It's much less episodic, but still episodic in the sense that Scott Pilgrim continues to battle mini-bosses in a very Mega Man style. The first volume is almost entirely the same as the film, but stick around until the second volume and you'll find a lot more meat to the story. Bryan Lee O'Malley mixes all-too-timely web comics with all-too-untimely video game themes, throws in a dash of anime/manga, and all of a sudden he's got a brilliant graphic novel series that speaks to this generation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kari Lehtonen Presents Chuck Norris

Some of the true believers among you probably remember my first article on Kari Lehtonen, the Dallas Stars goalie with all those amazing masks. Well, Lehtonen recently unveiled a brand new face mask adorned with pictures of actor/martial artist/Total Gym endorser Chuck Norris.

Dallas has always known how to make sports about more than sports. Whether it's cheerleaders, ice girls, the largest domed structure on the planet, personalized songs by Pantera, or in this instance, the most interesting face masks in the league, Dallas can really sell their teams. You have to love or hate that, which means they're doing their job --- inspiring people to feel passionately about Dallas teams.

Go Stars!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

4 Video Games From Which A Justin Tiemeyer Can Be Constructed

(In chronological order)

1. Super Mario 64 (N64)

There were a lot of games that came before Mario 64. There was Galaga, 1942, Super Mario 1-3, Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games (especially Turtles in Time)... But those were games I played with other people, which means that it basically meant someone like my brother Micah or my Uncle Paul playing and me either watching or dying creatively when I did play. Super Mario 64 changed things. I had my own save game file and I meticulously played through every level until I had done everything you could do in the game. Super Mario 64 made me realize that I am a hundred-percenter when it comes to games. It was the first game that ever felt like it was mine.

 2. Cruis'n USA (N64)

While you were playing Mario Kart 64 and Golden Eye, I was playing Cruis'n USA and Star Fox 64. I beat every race and earned every model of car in every color. My brother and I would play Cruis'n USA all the time, one of us racing ahead of everyone else and the other crashing into any car that approached the leader. The destruction would get to hilarious that I would feel sick to my stomach at the end of the day. It opened and closed the book on racing games. As for Star Fox 64, I loved that game, but I never really was good enough to do everything on it.

3. Final Fantasy VII (Playstation)

Final Fantasy VII was an amazing journey that began with watching my best friend Jared's older brother Paul playing. I didn't own the system and I didn't own the game, but that changed after what I saw. Not only did I do everything you could possibly do in the game, but I personally verified every single theory as to how you could resurrect Aeris. None of them work, by the way. You have no idea how many 3/5 Soldiers I had to collect and how many levels I advanced before finding that out.

 4. Borderlands (PC)

Final Fantasy VII was the last game I ever got so completely engulfed in. I would invite friends over after class was over in high school just to show them my Knights of the Round summon. That's why Borderlands is such an amazing game. It's been somewhere between a decade and a decade and a half since a game has captured my imagination in this way. The difference between this game and the prior three is that Borderlands is social. It allows me to re-connect with my good friends Adam, Stephan, and Derek, who all live in different cities across the nation, and it's also a game that I can play with my lovely girlfriend who is now a whole country away from me. I've nearly completed every steam achievement, but that certainly won't be the end. I still need to get every skill point, max out my weapon stats, go back and assure that I've gotten every Backpack SDU, get the best possible weapons and specs, and do all of the in-game challenges. Once I'll complete that I'll just move on to the next DLC, or perhaps perform a speed run of the game with my good buddies. I've had hours upon hours of fun with this game and I expect that I'm not anywhere near quitting it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Neil Patrick Harris

Actor Neil Patrick Harris. Everybody's been raving about this dude for years, so I'll bet you have an expectation of what I'm going to tell you. You think I'm going to tell you that he was hilarious as himself in the Harold and Kumar movies, or as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. Both are fairly true, but that's not what I want to tell you. You immediately begin to think that I'm referring to the fact that he can sing and dance as witnessed by his roles in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and Glee. These are interesting facts, but not my concern today. I want to raise up Harris's true talent: voice acting. He was amazing as the voices of Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood, Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier, and Spider-Man in the 2003 animated series. NPH, you've found your true calling!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gene Wilder

Actor Gene Wilder. If you don't know who Gene Wilder is, you have a problem. This isn't a personal opinion. It's an assertion of fact. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory... Blazing Saddles... Young Frankenstein... Wilder is one of the most accomplished and amazing comedic actors Hollywood has ever seen. The interesting side of Wilder, however, is just how disturbed he can seem. In Willy Wonka he is terrifying at times, definitely not the sort of person you want leading your children through a strange land. In Blazing Saddles, it's nearly impossible to ignore a kind of sadness in his character, like he's given up. I am in awe of the work of Gene Wilder, and you should be too!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Good Name: Avi

I heard the name Avi on a recent episode of Weeds, and it had a really nice ring to it. Short and simple, but somehow mysterious. It would seem that Avi is a Hebrew word for father, which makes it strange and paradoxical, because I would definitely consider using the name for a possible future son:

Some day, my little boy would say, "Hello, father," to which I would respond, with a dorky smirk on my face, "Hello, Avi." I'd try to play it cool and keep it to myself, but then I'd need to share my cleverness and say, "See, it's funny because your name means father," and he would say, "I know, dad. You've been saying the same thing for twelve years." I would mutter to myself, "Doesn't make it any less funny," before stomping away.

In the event that the mother of my child doesn't like the name Avi, there are always other alternatives. One such alternative would be to get an African grey parrot and name him Avi. We're all originally from Africa, after all, so the name would fit the bird perfectly.

Finally, I think a pygmy goat might benefit from such a name. The term scapegoat comes from the fact that people used to cast blame and sin upon a goat. When they rid themselves of the goat, they'd ritually rid themselves of blame and sin. And who gets more blame in a world of Freudian psychology than our fathers?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Military and The Living Dead, Part One

In the beginning of the 1985 film Return of the Living Dead, a foreman named Frank (played by James Karen) tells a scary story to a teenage employee named Freddy (Thom Mathews). He explains that the film Night of the Living Dead is a fictional story, but that it was based on true events. (This is funny because the same person who wrote the book this film is based on, John A. Russo, also co-wrote Night of the Living Dead with George Romero.) It seems the military had created a gas called 245-Trioxin, an agent they intended to spray on marijuana plants. When 245-Trioxin was released into the morgue in the basement of a Pittsburgh VA hospital the bodies there began to move about as if alive. "How would Frank ever find out about such a story?" Freddy wonders. To answer this question, Frank takes Freddy into the dark basement of the Uneeda medical supply warehouse.

In the basement are three military vats of a mysterious chemical. Upon looking through the transparent dome atop one of the canisters, Frank and Freddy see the remains of one of the bodies from the morgue. It seems that these three barrels were accidentally sent to Uneeda instead of the military storage facility where they were supposed to go. Freddy questions Frank about the safety of storing such a dangerous chemical in the basement of the warehouse, but Frank is confident. He explains that they were made strong by Army engineers, and to prove his point he slaps the side of a container. The barrel springs a leak and the entire complex is invaded by the 245-Trioxin vapors which effectively animate the dead.

A Facebook friend once posted a Facebook rant regarding this very topic. He wondered (never) to himself (because it's Facebook, duh!), "Why is the military always portrayed in such a negative light in zombie films?" If you don't know what we're talking about here, you need only see the film 28 Days Later. (Some of you may stop me right there and make the claim that the enemies in 28 Days Later weren't actually zombies. They were, in fact, infected. For the sake of this article, however, zombies, infected and revenants are all included under the umbrella word zombie.) In this film, we watch civilians running here and there in order to escape the speed-demon zombies all around them for somewhere near an hour before they are finally "saved" by the military. While the immanent threat of zombie evisceration seems scary enough, the threat of execution and rape at the hands of these crotch-driven soldiers makes this movie truly horrifying.

I used to be the kind of guy who was against even the idea of a military. Force only begets force. Violence only begets violence. There is no such thing as a just war. I perceived those who joined the military to be either crazy, foolish or inhumane, and that's not even counting the ones who were convinced that their financial poverty gave them no other choice. At first, I was incredibly frightened that some of my friends were considering going into the military. The first close friend I remember going off to serve our country was Tom Steenwyk. Tom could be a hothead, but he was also one of the kindest, most loyal guys you could know. He tended to his relationships as best as he could and embodied virtue wherever possible. After that was Jeff Kingsland and Stephan Mathos, kids who really seemed to stand for something, but who had also dreamed of joining the Navy since they were in diapers.

Tom joined the Army and served for several years, often in hotbeds like Iraq, before devoting himself to the family life. Jeff and Stephan went to the Naval Academy immediately after graduating from high school. Stephan continues to work toward his lifetime goal of becoming a Naval aviator. He recently got his wings after working hard at the base in Corpus Christi, Texas. Jeff has become a Navy seal and a legend to those who meet him. My brother and I have randomly encountered people who went to the Academy at the same time who were in awe when we mentioned that we know Jeff Kingsland. Whatever I had previously believed about the military had to change. At the very least, the military was home to three of the best men on the face of the planet.

But three men do not a military make.

My awareness of the American military, it's policies and it's various endeavors began in 2001. The terrorist attack of September 11 happened when I was less than a month into my first semester in college. I was in a strange place where I didn't really know anybody when I found out about the catastrophe. But then I kept hearing about more catastrophes. About faked information regarding weapons of mass destruction that guided America into a war where a whole lot of people my age were dying on both sides of the gun. As soon as American soldiers were deployed overseas, reports started coming in that some of these soldiers were responsible for horrible breaches of human rights. I don't want to go too far into depth, but I think the words Abu and Ghraib might be enough to bring home the point. It seemed that there were crimes being committed at nearly every link in the chain of command. It made a good chunk of the population doubt the nobility of our nation's military and the administration that sent them their marching orders. I'd be a liar to say I wasn't similarly affected.

It seems awfully difficult to decide which way the United States military would fall in the event of a zombie apocalypse. In Return of the Living Dead, the military quickly resorted to dropping a nuclear bomb on American soil to stop a possible outbreak of infection. But the anti-American, radical Muslim, terrorist ideology that brought about the destruction of the two towers of the World Trade Center and as a result the subsequent wars that America would become entrenched in, that ideology was treated as an outbreak that needed to be contained and stopped as well. We had decided that the perpetrators of this horrendous crime were in one of a couple particular areas, and yet we didn't resort to nuclear arms in this situation. For some, this might be enough to suggest that the military ought to get more credit in zombie films. Others realize, possibly because of the last decade of violence, that a great deal of atrocities can be committed without the use of nuclear weaponry. It is far from clear whether or not the critique of the military seen in zombie films is accurate, but so long as there is a seed of reason to the indictment we ought to follow this line of thought further.

Part Two of The Military and The Living Dead can be accessed by clicking here.