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"

Friday, December 28, 2012

Money Talk: Rent

It's been quiet here at Cavemen Go. I've been plotting out the course of my future since the end of summer and work work working to make things happen. In November, I began outlining a novel tentatively titled 1999, and just before Thanksgiving I began writing freelance for the Lowell Ledger. It is not for lack of words that I've been gone: it is for lack of time and lack of focus. For some time this blog just puttered along without purpose, content for the sake of content, but I intend to change that.

My financial obligations stand between me and my dreams. I expect that you have much the same problem. But money doesn't have to be as much of a deterrent as it is: we can join together and talk about how to save money and reapply it elsewhere. Let's start with the rent.

Finding the Right Place

Amy and I had a stroke of luck while looking for our current apartment. There are two apartment complexes in Lowell, and if either has an opening it is seldom at best. Beyond that, there are a couple independent property owners who rent to the public. When we were looking for a place to stay, Harold Ball the owner of Ball's Softee Cream was looking to fill a vacancy.

I don't want to tell you exact figures, but we have just about the cheapest rent in Lowell. The apartment is the upper story of a homey duplex and we absolutely love the place. But rent is still our most expensive single bill.

What is your experience with housing/paying rent?

Government Aid

When we first moved in, I had no idea how we were going to pay our bills. I was underemployed and encumbered with debt. In my first attempt to understand my options, I stumbled upon government assistance options. I don't like being dependent on state or federal assistance, but at the time it seemed like a possibility. My research lead me to an e-mail address and a non-response. I imagine we wouldn't qualify, but I know that some of you out there do.

Government assistance exists because we pay for it, but I still don't think people should become dependent on it. If you need help, you should apply, but I challenge you to go in with an escape plan. If you're saving money, put it away toward something that might help you reach the escape velocity from your circumstances: technical training, an interview outfit, etc. But most of all, act inn such a way as to minimize the amount of time thou rely on the benefits.

How do you feel about government assistance and access to government assistance?


Currently, Amy and I are renting. That means that my entire monthly payment goes to staying in this place for one month. After a year, if I discontinue this payment I own nothing and have accrued zero equity. It would be nice if we had something more to show for our payments, so we're looking into buying a house.

The main trouble is that my debt is great and my income is not. If we are to buy a house we will need via co-signer, and even with one it may not be enough. My goal is to pay the equivalent of our current rent toward a mortgage, and with said mortgage to gain equity enough to have other financial options.

To me it is a long and confusing process. Has anyone out there recently bought a house? What was it like? What are the tips and tricks that people should know about the process and the market?

We don't need to be under anyone's thumb financially. Let's talk about this. Let's free ourselves by degree.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The State of Black Comic Book Characters: Conclusion

As is often the case, I started with a big idea and lost steam part of the way through. Whereas I originally thought I was going to review every current comic book for the quality and care the writers and artists gave to depicting strong black characters, I have now decided to conclude the series after two posts covering six comics. You may rebuke me for my lack of courage, but the ultimate reason has little to do with the amount of work that goes into a project like this and a lot to do with the emotional impact. If you're looking for strong black characters in comic books who have as much emphasis and universal importance as they deserve, you're going to be depressed by the climate of current comics. I don't need a thirty-blog series to tell you that.

I'm not sure if I made it clear when I started this blog series, but I'm white. I know Rodney was quick to point it out when he shared my first article on Twitter. I'm not certain if it makes me disingenuous to forget to remind my readers of my social context, but some readers might note that a white person is the only person who can just decide to end his racial criticism of the comic books that he loves. I'll be the first to admit it: if comic writers and artists are giving me great stories that I can connect to, I honestly think I could get away reading books that are entirely composed of white characters. This may have something to do with the severe lack of minorities in some of the places I've lived, but it also has a lot to do with what privilege and whiteness do for a person. I honestly think that it would take me out of a story if all of our good and upright protagonists were white and all of our villains were black gang members who spoke only in broken English, but beyond that stark of a distinction I could get by.

I think this probes at a deeper question: Is this sort of reaction all right? Can we call literature good if it has no sense of justice, if it ignores the things that the status quo already find much too easy to ignore in the first place? This is the line between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty and justice, if ever such a thing could exist. Is art even considered art if it has no content that challenges, if it only placates and brings comfort? Or is that something else entirely?

My home town of Grand Rapids decided that it wished to develop a strong sense of culture while I was enjoying my travels. I am often hearing national news items about things like Art Prize, where art installations are featured throughout downtown Grand Rapids for a span of several weeks or about Heritage Hill which is considered one of the best historical neighborhoods in the country. When I was young, the only thing I ever heard about Grand Rapids was that it was the second cloudiest metropolitan area in the nation behind Seattle. While this fact could lead to providing a handful of artists with motivation for a blue period, it was rarely anything to be proud of.

In order to kick off Art Prize this year, Baltimore film director John Waters spoke at the Civic Theater and my girlfriend - who brags about her step father Cliff seeing one of the first scratch-and-sniff film experiences Waters ever put on - was quick to get tickets. Waters was introduced as a film maker but also as a collector. I didn't know if this meant that he collected strands of hair from his victims in his strangely successful second career as a serial killer or if he simply enjoyed his attic full of pogs, but after thinking for a moment I became aware that the announcer wanted the audience (many of whom were artists themselves) to know that Waters likes to buy art. Waters explained that he has never bought a piece of art that didn't originally repulse him. This might be an overstatement of art's connection to what is good and clean and moral and conservative, but I think it is a good starting point. I believe, with Waters, that art should trouble, disturb, move or de-center you.

I absolutely could get by reading comic books without thinking about issues of race. But it would be a little ironic to read the stories of superheroes constantly dealing with complex issues of justice without forcing myself to think of issues of justice, be it social, economic, racial or otherwise. At the end of the day, however, I would be reading comic books for the same reason my mother reads romance novels: it helps her pass the time between work and sleep and it conforms to an easy-to-predict formula. That just wouldn't fly for me. I am one of those armchair revolutionaries. When I see how much time I've spent watching reality TV on Netflix and think of all the adventures I could have gone on and art I could have made, be it literature or music or whatever, I hurt, and I want to rebel against myself. If I am going to be spending my time reading a comic book, one of two things has to happen: the book has to challenge me, or I have to challenge the book, preferably both.

I may have teased the idea of going back to a life where I can ignore issues of race in comic books, but I feel like the people who know me know that I could never do this. If it were possible before I began this short-lived blog series it certainly wasn't afterwards. I was able to humbly enter into a dialogue with people who don't have the option to check out when it comes to these characters. They will be made fun of if they dress as black Wolverine for Halloween. And I do believe that is a worst fate than being made fun of for being fat Spider-man, although I have only experienced the latter. In addition to this, I did an audit of every current comic book by the big two, Marvel and DC, from the New DCU/X-Men: Schism until present and gave all of these comics an incredibly subjective grade. I know where all of these comics stand when it comes to their black characters, and although it is a much better place than that of Asian, Latino/Latina, and individuals who belong to the dreaded "other" checkbox, it is not a good place. If I'm allowed to quote The Jeffersons, these people need some "movin' on up", and they need it fast.

If depression and white guilt weren't enough, the final reason that I need to end this project is because I have grown to despise articles where I find myself as the arbiter of what is good and bad. With an issue of race it is especially bad to place yourself on the top of the food chain, as judge, jury and executioner, because here's a gruesome fact: there have been white people who have made this decision and black people who have been lynched, enslaved, tortured and oppressed as a result. And that can't be me.

Continue the conversation. Bring questions and statements to this blog in the comments section. Challenge me on my Facebook. Hit me up. I want this to go on either forever or until everyone is hunky dory and there are no divisions of power. Look at your comic books differently. Learn to enjoy them not just for the intrigue of their plots, the development of their characters and the beauty of their illustrations - learn to love comics for their justice.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Frog Tries To Eat Fly Off Screen

I was in an incredibly bad mood when I noticed a link to this on Amy's Facebook - which she keeps open all of the time - and it was more than enough to cheer me up.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Borderlands 2 - Glitch or Feature

Steam pointed out how humiliating this situation is. You run out onto a poopslide. You get electrocuted. Then you get swirled up into a literal s*@%storm. Here's my thought: What do you put in that obituary? (I'm sure I'll have more Borderlands 2 tidbits to come. I'm a little bit enraptured with it at the moment.)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lonely Island Medley Emmy's 2011

I know I'm a little behind the times by posting a performance that took place in 2011. But I also know that some of my good friends have not seen this video yet. Amy is obsessed with the men dressed as waves who dance with Michael Bolton.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Oh Long Johnson

If you're up to date on South Park then you've already seen this video. But if you're slow at these things like Amy and myself then you're in for something amazing. I can see your dinner party vocabulary growing. It could be that you're just happy to see me...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Five Guys Review

This is the video that the autotuned "Oh My Dayum" song was originally based on. In some ways this review of Five Guys Burgers and Fries is actually better than the song based on it. But then again, "Oh My Dayum" is forever. Check this one out. If you don't have an entirely new vocabulary after watching these two videos, I'll be surprised, YouTube!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The State of Black Comic Book Characters: Astonishing X-Men, Fury of Firestorm, Legion Lost

After the publication of the first installation of the "State of Black Comic Book Characters" series, Rodney and I received a tweet from a blogger named BWilliams who just happens to be a black writer and independently publishes a comic with a strong black lead called Lucius Hammer. He pointed us to a blog post of his in which he criticized DC's history with black superheroes. While we have some differing opinions of the treatment of certain superheroes by both DC and Marvel over the years - and this is an issue I'd like to address in future posts - we agree that DC should hire more black writers and artists.

Flash forward a couple of weeks (it has been a while since I've had time to write) and the world of comic books is completely eclipsed by the Twittersplosion of veteran comic book writer and artist Rob Liefeld. If you don't know Rob Liefeld, then you're probably not reading up on DC's New 52. If the new set of monthly comic produced by DC were a deck of cards, Rob Liefeld is the guy who is in charge of the diamonds. Not really, but he is writing a lot of books. Or at least he has been: Liefeld announced that he is quitting all of his titles and will be leaving DC comics shortly. He cited problems with his editors including "massive indecision," "last minute changes that alter everything" and "editor pissing contests" as the reason for his departure. Other industry rockstars like Gail Simone (formerly of Fury of Firestorm), Paul Cornell (formerly of Stormwatch) and John Rozum (formerly of Static Shock), have spoken of similar problems, and one can only wonder if the recent announcements of Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, and Judd Winnick leaving the big two come from similar problems with the industry.

My point is that many of these big shots are working on multiple comics for DC or Marvel, which means that there is going to be a giant talent vacuum. Already, Scott Snyder has shown that he's ready to put in the work. Although Liefeld had some choice words to say about the Batman scribe, it is hard to argue against the brilliance of this young talent. Maybe this is also a chance for DC and Marvel to pick up some new black writers and artists. They may have to work for publishers in dire need of a change in methodology and they may get pigeonholed doing comics with already established and poorly handled black superheroes, but they may also have the resilience to weather this and give black characters some better representation. Here's to hoping.

On that note, I'd like to begin our discussion of black characters the Astonishing X-Men, Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men, and Legion Lost.

Oh My Dayum

Just in case you haven't had the pleasure of seeing this video yet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The State of Black Comic Book Characters: Green Lantern Corps, Mister Terrific, Voodoo

About a month ago, I spoiled the fun of my good friend Rodney. He was unfortunate enough to be celebrating something that I had an issue with. As a good friend, I made sure to put a stop to it.

Rodney was excited at the return to the DC universe of black comic book character Black Lightning. I want to emphasize that he's black, because I wasn't sure that you would pick up on this fact by hearing only the character's name. As of October, Marc Andreyko will be writing a mini-series for DC Universe Presents revolving around the unlikely team-up of Black Lightning and Blue Devil.

"If Black Lightning is so important to DC," I spewed at my unsuspecting buddy, "then why does he need to share a title with someone else instead of getting his own story? And on that token, why is he only given a short run in DC Universe Presents as opposed to his own title?"

Rodney fired back that sharing the title doesn't necessarily mean that Black Lightning can't hold his own. Rather, he suggested, and I agreed, the combination of "Black and Blue" could lead to a really entertaining and endearing sort of supernatural buddy cop drama, starting with how apart these characters are and ending with what can be accomplished if they can put aside their differences. As a fan of Rush Hour and the quintessential Schwarzenegger comedy Red Heat, I thought I would give DC a chance to do Black Lightning right.

The second thing to come out of this discussion was a commitment between Rodney and I to write a series of blogs that serve as a State of the Union for black characters in comic books made by the two major publishers (and also Spawn, at Rodney's request, which I will not be able to comment on for lack of experience with the character).

Today, I want to talk about three DC comics that feature black main characters: Green Lantern Corps, Mister Terrific, and Voodoo. I think I should warn you that there is likely to be minor spoilers in these descriptions.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fifteen Minutes: Thoughts on the Aurora Shooting

I may have even been reading a Batman digital comic on my iPhone when Amy first addressed the issue.

"The only people I know on Facebook who are talking about the shooting are my Arizona friends."

I don't think we even had a chance to talk about the massacre that took place at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in the Denver area suburb of Aurora until we were seeing the movie ourselves.

There were very few people in the theater. The three people who accompanied me thought to explain this phenomena as a fear reaction to what happened. Having worked in a movie theater for three years, I was leaning toward the fact that you're not likely to pack a theater on a Wednesday evening in the middle of summer.

In the end, I think it's unclear. Do you, the reader, think that the shooting effected The Dark Knight Rises crowds negatively (fear reaction) or positively (a la Heath Ledger's death)?

We discussed some of the salient facts of the assailant James Holmes' story.

Some reported that his outfit - a gas mask and camouflage clothing - was reminiscent of the film's antagonist Bane. There were people in the theater who thought his appearance was part of the show. When I saw The Dark Knight in IMAX, a theater employee dressed as the Joker walked in, did his best impression, and asked us to kindly move toward the middle of our rows so others could find seats. Oh, and "Why so serious?" Back then, nobody would have thought to question the intentions of such a costumed individual.

I'd overheard that Holmes had begun calling himself The Joker, and this is why he appeared in court with his hair dyed. He had looked distant and unconcerned, making most of America wonder if he's a sociopath, plain and simple, with Dexter monologues repeating over and over in his head to tell him how to interact with the emotionally available. What intrigued our friend Garret and myself the most was that Holmes was apparently a Ph.D. student in neuroscience. Garret mentioned that he was studying brain pathology, which made us wonder aloud if everything that happened was some experiment meant to be explained in a Ph.D. dissertation.

As the opening credits began to roll, I leaned over and whispered: "They say it happened during a shoot-out fifteen minutes into the movie."

Fifteen minutes.

As it turns out, I was so captivated by The Dark Knight Rises that I wasn't thinking about whether or not a killer would enter our theater when the fifteen-minute mark rolled around. I guess I have something in common with the people in the Aurora theater. Amy later pointed it out that the fifteen minute mark probably would have corresponded with a shoot-out involving Selina Kyle and Bane's crew in a pub. But by that point it was clear that we had escaped the terrible fate that would have come down were a detail-oriented copycat to target that Grand Rapids theater.

I will admit that later on I had a moment of terror. Seemingly beyond my control, I found my gaze shifting slowly to the left, from the screen to a bright EXIT sign aside the screen. That's where he would have entered the theater, I thought. But my mind drifted further. If I were a copycat, I'd come in the same way other movie-goers come in. I'd use the element of surprise. At that moment, a man stepped into the theater and it looked like he was staring directly at me. There was no way he could have seen me in the dark auditorium, but I was frightened nonetheless.

I imagine that I am not the only impressionable viewer who felt that kind of fear at some point watching The Dark Knight Rises. Maybe my crew was right to predict empty theaters and plummeting box office sales. Prior to this man entering the theater, I had taken my own bathroom break, and I had potentially re-entered the theater to the dismay of one of my fellow viewers.

I sit safely in front of a computer in a duplex in Lowell, pondering the repercussions of James Holmes on our world. As I type my first draft of this post, it occurs to me that James Holmes himself might be doing the same thing from some prison cell somewhere in the Denver metropolitan area.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Guano (Huge Bat-Related Crap)

I open up the Facebook application on my iPhone. It takes a really long time and I'm still not completely certain all of my notifications have loaded properly. As I read the updated status of a certain "Optimistic" friend from my favorites list, it feels as if something is caught in my throat. He writes, "Geeeesh. I just ignored a spoiler warning and spoiled one of the biggest shockers in pop culture history. Dang me." I become frightened, wondering if I might stumble upon this same tidbit in much the same way while hoping that this friend is not doomed to eternal dangnation for his transgression. Shortly thereafter I receive a group text from a similarly named individual with a simple warning: "Warning: Stay away from ALL comic-related web sites and beware spoiler warnings. HUGE bat-related crap just went down today. I recommend getting caught up on the Batman title." (Editor's note: While I have edited these quotes for capitalization, punctuation, and a few other things, I have left the original phrase "bat-related crap" intact despite the word "guano" being a much better fit.)

Nary a "comic-related web site" have I visited since these grave warnings on Wednesday (comic book day), June 13, 2012, despite having caught up on "the Batman title" in question. I now understand what "Optimistic" (for your ease, just consider this analogy - "Optimistic" is to Justin Tiemeyer, the publisher of Cavemen Go as "Deep Throat" is to Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and the American public) was referring to when he spoke of "one of the biggest shockers in pop culture history," and because I don't want anyone else to tread the obsidian path of doom that my friend recently walked I'm going to warn you now not to read this post if you don't want the great Bat-secret spoiled for you as well.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Community Project: Dreams Come True

It's been a little while since I've posted anything of value. In October, my computer crashed, and I used that opportunity to get away from blogging every day. The spark had left my posts, I felt, and maybe some time away would free me from the chains I had placed on myself: publish or perish, publish or perish, publish or perish. In December I devoted myself to frantically completing my Arnold 365 on YouTube and posting those videos on Cavemen Go. I now have two copyright violation strikes against my YouTube account. If I don't remove everything that violates someone's copyright, the third strike will spell the end of my YouTube account which has a few originals that I'm proud of with a lot of hits. At the beginning of 2012, I thought I'd write more meaningful pieces. I wanted to care about what I was writing. I wanted my people to care about what I was writing about. And I wanted publishers to care about what I was writing about. But I didn't, which makes it impossible for anyone else to care.

I've spent about half of a year away from this blog, and it may continue on and off until I can get back on my feet completely. Inspired by blogs like Chad and Rodney's Political Jesus and Kristin's As Luck Would Have It, I've had my eye on ways that I can involve the community with this blog. I'm not quite ready to give up control and have guest bloggers, though I imagine that might happen in the future, but I am ready to engage the community through a series of community projects. Who wants to hear what I have to say as if I'm some sort of expert of taste, anyways? I've tried to wear that hat, and it is just full of way too much hubris. The voice that speaks as if it is the most knowledgeable is not a voice I care to listen to. I want my posts to be part of a conversation. Rather than Justin Tiemeyer as Cavemen Go, I want to be Justin Tiemeyer, part of the Cavemen Go community. And this is why I have decided to begin a series of community projects.

The first community project is titled, "Dreams Come True." The first thing my mind jumps to when I hear that title is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, followed by some similar rhetoric that has been used by the Obama administration. I don't imagine that King's speech was actually based on an actual dream that he awoke from in a sweat, however. I imagine that he worked long hours, awake the entire time, in order to understand what needed to happen to the United States of America, to author a speech that would engage its populace, and to outline a practical guide to making this happen. A dream is both an intentional action that embodies hope and the future and an accidental event that happens while one is sleeping. I think that the "Dreams Come True" community project will embody both of these.


I had a dream the other night that my girlfriend and I visited our friends in New York City. When we were packing up to leave NYC and return to Grand Rapids I found three drawings done by my good friend Elliot Mayo of the blog Elliot Mayo among my personal items. He had apparently drawn them for me and ripped them from his sketchbook so that I could take them with me.

The first was Batman's iconic flying vehicle, the Batwing, not to be confused with the African superhero of the same name.

The second was Elliot's interpretation of the cover of the cover of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again #1.

The third drawing was just a funny doodle, something an artist in high school might draw in a yearbook in order to prevent saying something like, "Have a great summer."

How can you make this dream come true for me? Well, if you're not artistic, I suggest going over to Elliot's blog and petitioning him to do some sketches for the "Dreams Come True" community project. If you are artistic, then by all means send me your version of these three drawings. Put your own flair on the generic descriptions and send me some pictures for the blog at cavemengoblog@gmail.com, the official e-mail of Cavemen Go. I'll be sure to feature your pictures on the blog, and maybe I can even do a feature on you some time.


Tell me a little about your dreams. You can leave these little tidbits either in the comments section of this post or in the blog's inbox at cavemengoblog@gmail.com. I just have a couple of qualifications. First, I would prefer if the dreams you speak of are actual dreams. You may note that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "dream" wouldn't fit this description and that it was more than worthy of making real, and I'll agree, but that's not exactly the aim of this project. Second, I would prefer that the dreams occurred recently. Sometimes if you had a dream a long time ago you can add a whole lot of extra rational stuff to it when it was naturally kind of irrational. I want this project to capture the beauty of the irrational and unexpected nature of dreaming. And finally, I would prefer that the dreams you had seem like something that could happen in real life. We want to make those dreams come true, after all.

Ready. Set. Go.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dueling Carls

If you're expecting a description of a sexual act, you will be unhappy. Dueling Carls is entirely child friendly.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Vortex Cannon

A couple of weekends ago Amy and I enlisted the help of a few of her friends to pick up a gigantic dresser from Amy's parents' house, only to create an accidental meeting of the minds. Conversations moved fluidly from one topic to another, experiments with the creation of gun powder and thermite, burning out dead stumps and creating massive canons with high arcing flames, the sorts of things you might hear of on a televised science program.

The discussion eventually lead to something that Cliff had discovered on the internets, something called a vortex cannon which created a powerful blast - strong enough to knock stacked polystyrene cups over at a distance of thirty feet - simply using air compression in an empty cardboard box. Surely this science experiment will soon be on the docket for this intelligent group of twenty-somethings.

Perhaps we will even weaponize it in time to use it against the oncoming zombie apocalypse. Only time will tell.

I give you the vortex cannon:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chameleon Was Frightened By iPhone

A couple of weeks ago, Amy and I went to a get together on my side of the family. If you had seen us there, surrounded by enraptured children, you'd think we were storytellers reading off lines from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - which I found the other day at Good Will on cassette as read by Patrick Stewart - when in fact we were watching funny YouTube videos on our iPhones.

My cousin Ethan tried to carry on the tradition of showing funny videos this Easter by pulling up a video of a cat who drinks out of the toilet, uses the toilet for a bowel movement, and finally falls into the toilet while trying to escape. The bad news is that the cat was not trained to flush the toilet; the good news is that the cat was apparently trained to drink out of the toilet before taking a dump instead of after.

I digress. The following is one of the videos from the original family fun fest. I believe the title explains everything.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

LOST Easter Eggs in Arkham City

I think the concept of "Easter eggs" first started getting popular once videos changed over from VHS tapes to DVD discs. That is the first time I remember hearing this term. And what better topic to discuss the day after Easter than the phenomenon known as Easter eggs. If you're not familiar with the term, it simply means pictures or sounds hidden within something else.

I finished the main story of Batman: Arkham City about a week ago, but decided to keep playing until I defeated the Riddler. To do so, you must hunt down four hundred Easter eggs: Riddler trophies and riddles hidden throughout the game. I finally completed that Easter morning and then moved on to killing zombies (which also seems very Easter appropriate).

I was never the type to hunt for Easter eggs until the 2004 ABC television program LOST first aired. I got sucked into all the Hurley's in the background of Jin's flashback stuff, trying so hard to find the hidden messages in the show. I recently came to find out that Paul Dini, an early story editor for LOST was responsible for writing Arkham City.

I discovered my first reference to LOST fairly early on in the game. You see, Batman can detect the chatter of bored henchmen as he flies around the rooftops, and one such bored henchman states, "Did they ever explain what the island was?" But the really big LOST reference takes place in one of the Joker's video monologues:

It was nice to see an homage to a television program that took up so many hours of my time in a video game that has taken up so many hours of my time. I wasn't sentimental enough to cry - no, I used up all of those tears watching the last few minutes of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on Good Friday, but it was a good moment for me no less.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Arkham City Inspired Short Action Film

One of the things that inspired gamers while playing Batman: Arkham City was the fantastic fight choreography in the game. Playing as Batman or Catwoman - or as other characters assuming you've acquired the DLC - one can develop long chains involving interesting punches, kicks, and other options.

I recently stumbled across a short action film by design team Thousand Pounds Action Company in which a lone female martial artist adapts the unique fighting style from Batman: Arkham City. If you've played the game, you'll notice that the comparison is incredible. Even if you haven't, the video is stunning.

But you don't have to take my word for it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

250 Bears Rolling off a Mountain to Psychedelic Music

Yes, this is yet another video from the recent hit video game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. No, I have not yet played the game extensively.

There is something strangely beautiful to this video. And you might even notice a moment that reminds you of the scene in Titanic where the guy falls off the ship and hits the propeller.

No actual bears were harmed in the creation of this video. And so far as I know, none of them were singing autotune bears.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Skyrim's Singing Autotune Bear Mod

I have played Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a total of one time, and for less than ten minutes. My friend Matt was having trouble taking down a dragon, and before he decided to rage quit, I decided to give it a try. "I got this," I explained. After three or four terrible attempts to shoot a dragon out of the sky with a bow and arrow, I finally decided it wasn't fated to be.

That's not to say I don't want to try playing Skyrim again. After my last post, it should be clear that all of the critics are applauding the game, which makes it worth adding to the gaming queue.

I think I might be even more inclined to play now that I can fight and kill singing autotuned bears. This one gave me and the friends quite a kick as well.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Skyrim's Macho Dragon Mod

In a year where a couple of the most awaited video games of all time came out - I'm thinking specifically about Portal 2 and Batman: Arkham City - the name that was on top of nearly everyone's 2011 game of the year list was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

And that was before an official update was released that allows gamers to create their own mods for the game. Rather than being directed toward some seedy web site that is certain to infect your computer, gamers searching for "Skyrim mods" on Google are now directed to PC Gamer's article "The 25 Best Skyrim Mods." The world of gaming has changed, and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Below is a video of the Macho Dragon Mod, an edit designed to change in-game dragons - real-life and television dragons will be unaffected - into in-game dragons that kind of resemble The Macho Man Randy Savage. I don't know how someone thinks to change a dragon into a former WWF Wrestler, but I'm happy that someone did. The following video provided myself and a room full of people with a lot of laughs.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Amazing Spider-man: A Good Reboot?

I know that most people are just tired of reboots, but I think there is reason to believe that the forthcoming The Amazing Spider-man film can be good. The casting is fantastic. The look and feel, as displayed in the first and second trailer is spot on, and they have the courage to delve both into the tragic story of the Stacy family and the secret story behind Peter Parker's parents.

Some reboots are made solely for money. I have a feeling that this is one of the few that also employs a decent amount of art and soul.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Trailers

This film is adapted from the book Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. You may know Grahame-Smith from his earlier success with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which not only kicked off an entire genre of classic literature mixed with science fiction and horror monsters, but which is also currently being optioned off for a film adaptation.

This looks to be the most intriguing film since 2001's Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

One Month Until The Avengers

At midnight last night I noted that it was the first or April. Since April Fool's Day is considered a "holiday" by some, I decided to work on the "Storyteller" achievement in Batman: Arkham City which involves having "12 murderous dates with Calendar Man." Much like the Jeph Loeb Batman story arc titled "The Long Halloween," which if you haven't read you absolutely must, this simply involves meeting with the murderous Calendar Man in his cell in the Solomon Wayne Courthouse on every major holiday.

When I woke up this morning, however, and it was still the first of April another comic book realization appeared to me: Marvel's The Avengers comes out in one month, on Friday, May 4, 2012. It is finally here. And this is surprising because nearly every Joss Whedon project since the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel years has either been shot down before production (Ripper, Suspension, Afterlife, Wonder Woman), prematurely cancelled (Firefly, Dollhouse), or delayed for way too long (Cabin in the Woods). While I'll believe that Whedon's The Avengers exists only when I see the credits rolling (and then wait for way too long to see what's after the credits), it does actually seem like this movie is going to happen.

I ought to also mention that a lot has happened since I last posted on The Avengers. There have been two really fantastic trailers, one that aired during the Super Bowl and another that aired more recently, that blew the original trailer so far out of the water that Namor the Submariner could not reach it even with his most powerful foot-wing assisted dolphin jump.

Some people have suggested that the creatures that appear at about the thirty second mark in this trailer are Skrulls. I seriously doubt that this is true. Loki would be more likely to summon creatures from the nine realms to his side, which means that these are much more likely to be orcs or dark elves. Furthermore, I think that the line at the end of the trailer (Loki: "I have an army." Tony: "We have a Hulk.") may be the coolest line in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Finally, it is worth noting that this is the first Marvel film to use motion capture for The Hulk. I believe that my friend Elliot said it best: "That's all Ruffalo."

The creature at end of the trailer was referred to by my friend Elliot as "leviathan" and by my friend Chad as some sort of monstrous metal ship, but I felt that it was more likely that this beast was Jormungand, also known as the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. You know, the one that is foretold to kill Thor when Ragnarok comes.

That's all I have about the upcoming The Avengers movie. I know it's not as exciting as much of the false news spreading today on the web, and it's certainly not as exciting as the rumors last April Fool's Day that Justin Bieber was going to be in Expendables 2 (I WANT TO BELIEVE), but the thing about these trailers for The Avengers that I think is the most pleasing is that they are real and, no matter how many raptures are forecast between now and then, The Avengers is certainly going to come out on May 4 of this year.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Written and directed by Jalmari Helander, the 2010 film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale has been called Blogworthy by Cavemen Go author Justin Tiemeyer. The following is an essay inspired by the film.

I was once the leader of a high school group at a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) summer camp in Frankfort, Michigan called Crystal Conference Center. During family camp week, our group was designated to lead vespers, which is essentially an evening worship ceremony that we held outside. As a part of this service, we were required to hold what our church calls communion, but what other churches often call the Eucharist, a common Christian sacrament involving the symbolic (or literal, depending on your denomination) consumption of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. While I had often been singled out as a spiritual leader in the church, my knowledge of ceremonies and exact Bible verses was scant at best. I could interpret passages of scripture with the best of them, but I had trouble finding said passages and I certainly did not have them memorized. I knew that there was a specific communion verse in the Bible where Jesus says something along the lines of, "This is my body... This is my blood... Eat and drink in remembrance of me," but I had no idea where to find this verse.

The communion verse that I am referring to is found, among other places, in the Apostle Paul's first book of Corinthians. It speaks of the evening before Jesus was betrayed by Judas and the ceremony that took place. Jesus breaks bread and pours wine, the bread representing his body and the wine representing his blood, an ill omen of terrible things to come, but the idea is that Jesus might be a part of his people and his people a part of him, that after his death the love that he spread might be remembered until such love comes again. When I spoke with the high school group regarding this verse, we reflected on the beauty of this moment, on similar moments we'd had with friends we might not see in a long time or ever again, and it was quite touching. It was touching until a very bright student named Brendan pointed out that we had stopped too soon. Following the "words of institution" or "words of consecration," as they might be called, was a series of verses describing what happens when the unworthy partake in communion, verses I had never spent much time reflecting upon, but which Brendan wished to emphasize: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and the blood of the Lord. ... For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves." The whole thing stank of penal concepts of sin and condemnation, of death and punishment.

When I heard the warning that follows the communion verse, I was unhappy with what was said. But that warning is just as much a part of the tradition that I am a part of as the words of institution themselves. As such, I am responsible also for the implications of this part of the story as well, be they translated to something like "the unexamined life is not worth living" or "children should be frightened by the responsibility of communing with God because it could very well result in eternal condemnation and death."

In much the same way as Brendan elucidated the darker side of a potentially hopeful and uplifting Bible verse, the film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale elucidates the horrific underside of the Santa Claus/Christmas myth, and by that I don't mean the realization that you have coal in your stocking. While our understanding of the person of Santa Claus usually surrounds the legendary works and holiness of a Christian saint named either Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas, or Basil of Caesarea, imagined as a joyous old tubby fella who lives at the North Pole and manufactures toys for all the girls and boys with the assistance of a gleeful Elven work force, there are pagan stories that have influenced the construction of this figure where Santa is a force not to be taken lightly. This is the Santa Claus of Rare Exports.

The Santa Claus of this film most closely approximates the Scandinavian myth familiar to The Helander Brothers, Jalmari and Juuso, a pair of Finnish brothers who came up with the original idea behind Rare Exports. The creature that prefigures Santa Claus is an elf himself, called Tomte or Jultomten by the Swedes, Nisse in Norwegian and Danish, and Tonttu by the Finns. While these names are often derived etymologically from words for residence, home, area of influence (tomt - "house lot") similar words like tuftekall, tomtegubbe, haugebonde, meaning "mound farmer," connect both to the origin of the farm or building ground and to the idea of a burial ground. Tomte/Santa is at once both joyous protector of a farmer's home and a being from beyond the grave. Why this mythic elf was transformed into a saintly human I am not completely certain, as Santa could have just as easily been conceived as a mercurial demon who can change from caring protector to sociopathic punisher at the drop of a hat.

I think there is a clear reason why popular opinion holds on to the positive impression of Santa Claus rather than the negative impression. It's the kind of image that sells. Jolly old Saint Nick is the image that turned Christmas into the single most profitable consumer holiday on the planet. And it is not simply a day - it is a season. Businesses decide their plan for the entire year because of the way people spend their money between Black Friday in November and Christmas day in December. But I think there is something to the positive Santa myth that precedes this trend, something a little bit less dirty than big business profiting off of the poor and middle class. A Santa Claus who rewards to good and punishes the poor turns the season of Christmas into a moral event. And moreover, if the only punishment for being a bad child is a lump of coal in ones stocking rather than the ritualistic slaughter of all of your livestock, our Santa Claus myth largely employs positive reinforcement for good deeds which is proven to work better than punishment. Like with the first portion of the communion verse, our current Santa Claus myth emphasizes a hopeful view of the future, and hope is certainly a better emotion to focus on than fear.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to fully sublimate the dark side of anything. Whether you read Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, or Stephen King, you're bound to find out that the dark side pops up here and there, when you least expect it sometimes. While we've chosen to live our lives according to the Disney version of Fairy Tales rather than the grim vision provide by The Brothers Grimm, the remaining story continues just under the surface. Is it possible to imagine a volatile Santa Claus without haunting and corrupting the dreams of children? I liken this idea to the recent Republican emphasis on fear and terror that controlled our nation for at least half of a decade, transforming good people into frightened blobs who feel justified doing whatever is necessary in order to protect their own. I think you should note that I am not criticizing the Republican platform writ-large or even the existence of a military, but I do have a serious problem with using fear as primary motivation for a nation that once motivated itself according to a dream. The fear is there. It is always there. We don't need to be reminded that we are fearful. We need to be reminded that there is a way to overcome the fear.

I think I now view Santa Claus as a bipolar creature of great power. Having said this, I begin to wonder how many people out there view the Christian God similarly. Perhaps that is a discussion for another time. How am I going to deal with this image? Well, I hope that we, as a people, can learn how to be good for goodness sake, to put our animosity aside and learn to love one another. But if some supernatural creature begins imposing excessive force against those who commit minor transgressions, then I think that we need to have to courage to stand up to this beast. We need to grab Santa Claus by the horns and send him back to imprisonment in his massive burial mound in the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains.

Arnold 365, Day 372 (Junior)

Banner by Adam Friedli.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom Trailer

Mine Trailer

I have rarely seen a feature-length documentary that had more than thirty minutes of interest to it, so, in general, I don't like documentaries. But this one looks pretty cool.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beginners (2010)

Written and directed by Mark Mills, with outstanding performances by Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, and Melanie Laurent, the 2010 film Beginners has been called Blogworthy by Cavemen Go author Justin Tiemeyer. The following is an essay inspired by the film.

In the 2010 film Beginners, Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) inherits a Jack Russel terrier named Arthur (Cosmo) and, rather than simply ignoring the dog half of the time like most people would do, Oliver decides to recount to the needy dog the story of his life in detail. One finds oneself asking: Does Oliver simply begin waxing about the tragedies and joys of his existence to anyone who will listen? Has he told the same story to his ear, nose and throat doctor or the woman who feeds the pigeons at the park? Yet there is a kind of sincerity and urgency that tells the audience that Oliver is going out on a limb here, recounting his story for the first and potentially last time, that this is a necessary exercise for the sake of his mental health.

In summary, contrary to public opinion, it is for the sake of mental health that Oliver Fields tells long and intricate stories to his dog.

I'm sure that nobody reading this article is a stranger to the idea of talking with dogs. My mind drifts effortlessly to the 1996 Bush's baked beans commercial in which Jay Bush addresses the public need to know "what makes Bush's baked beans taste so darned good." After addressing what ingredients some think bring about such a delectable taste, Jay explains that "the real reason... is the Bush secret family recipe" which he's only ever shared with his dog. And he's not talking. A moment later, Jay's dog turns his head and enunciates the words, "Roll that beautiful bean footage," to the frightened "Uh oh" of his master.

Consider also the case of David Richard Berkowitz in the late 1970s. For several years, Berkowitz had harmless conversations with his neighbor's dog. Of course, Berkowitz is not as benign as I have just made him out to be. Beginning in July 1976, Berkowitz went on a killing spree in New York City shooting young women with a .44 Caliber Charter Arms Bulldog revolver and the media called him the Son of Sam. Berkowitz claimed that the neighbor's dog was given the power to speak as a result of it being possessed by a demon. And with the gift of elocution, the dog demanded the blood of young pretty girls. Berkowitz, who claimed to be a victim of the demonic dog's influence, also claimed that he once attempted to kill this satanic canine but was stopped by supernatural forces. Berkowitz claimed that there were others like him out there. And therein lies further reason for Jay Bush to say "uh oh" when his beloved confidant and "best friend" first spoke.

While researching for this article, I also stumbled upon (though not using StumbleUpon) a message board at a community pet web site called Dogster titled, "Are there any good talking dog movies out there?" I assume that this is a common question in dog-owner circles, and I also assume that the common answer is an exclamatory negative. But the web site listed several films: Babe (whose main character is actually a pig, but the film does feature several talking dogs), The Incredible Journey, Cats and Dogs, Good Boy, the Air Bud films and Benji (although I seem to remember that Benji was simple narration, not dog-speak...), Milo and Otis, a few William Wegman movies featuring his weimaraners, 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp's Adventure and Fluke. And this was just on the first of three pages.

I can't attribute my love for the film Beginners to the presence of a talking dog, because Arthur didn't talk. And I can't claim that the film was great because Arthur reminded me of the dog on Frasier. The most insightful fact I gleaned from Beginners is the fact that you can be honest with a dog in ways that you can't be with anyone else.

Most people I know have watched enough movies and sat through enough hours of television drama to know that there is a certain chain of honesty. When you are going through some sort of trouble and need to reveal some vital truth to somebody, there is a natural progression of people that you confide in, and as you progress from first to last you progress also from artifice to honesty.

1. Friends and family
2. Psychiatrist
3. Priest/Rabbi/Religious Expert
4. Stranger/Black Woman/Celebrity/Gay Man (Deus Ex Machina)
5. Self

When one confides in ones friends and family, it is always done with a shield raised. This is because facts are like an epidemic with those who are close to you. When your mother is bored and on the telephone with your aunt, these are the things they discuss in order to pass the time. What you said to your best friend, he shares with his girlfriend at the end of the day and they decide which of your actions are foolish and which are noble. And on a rare occasion, your second cousin twice-removed decides that she needs to intervene on your behalf and steer you away from some imagined evil. When you share your feelings with one beloved friend or family member, you share them with the entire community, and after the advent of the Internet, said community has grown intolerably large.

Therapists and religious leaders have a responsibility to keep your secrets. Perhaps they discuss how ridiculous you seem, but only with colleagues who will never meet you and have only an academic interest in your case and only in vague terms. When a priest calls another priest to discuss the woes of a sinner, you can be assured, at least to some degree, that your name, address, social security number and driver's license number will not be the topic of conversation. This allows you to lower the shield a little bit. But you're always ready to raise the shield, and there are a couple of good reasons to do so. If you are deemed a threat to yourself or others according to the whims of your psychiatrist or rabbi's opinion, then they are duty-bound to report you to the local authorities. And I'm not talking about mental or spiritual authorities (that's the second phone call...). I'm talking about people with guns and handcuffs and broken prison systems. But even if your actions aren't quite so drastic as the Son of Sam, therapists and religious leaders are the individuals who prescribe the tools for defeating your problems, so any revelation that comes about is merely a means of pointing you toward Wellbutrin, lithium, hail Marys or some sort of act of contrition.

Strangers on the edge of society (who, in the ancient poems, are almost always gods) don't seem to have any of these powers over you. Psychologically, they are little more than an extension of yourself. The consequences of announcing something to an utter stranger are mostly the same as announcing it to yourself. There's judgment, but it's judgment that you're well-practiced at blocking out. And it's relieving, so you can dump more and more of it from yourself. You can feel the weight on your shoulders simply disappear. Of course, this is only temporary. Because you purged more information than you would normally feel comfortable purging, your ego begins to feel damaged - and rightly so: your ego is built on a firm ground of lies, sustaining lies, some might say. And you're left with two options: Make a big change and stick with it, or drown out your conscience with drugs, alcohol, Call of Duty, Law and Order or something similar. Despite their boldest dreams, nobody ever chooses "big change."

Isn't the same true for telling your life story to a dog?

In the words of a famous Scandinavian god who has, of late, become popular in the theaters: "I say thee nay."

When Oliver Fields tells his life story to a dog named Arthur, something magical seems to happen. Rather than holding himself accountable and requiring some sort of correction, Oliver finds himself organizing his thoughts regarding the confusing data of a Jewish mother, a gay father, and a really weird childhood. It seems possible that Oliver has bamboozled his own ego, bypassing it by abstraction. The story he tells the dog seems far too literary and interesting to be a confession, its progression both logical and organic. But I think that the one thing that is different between Oliver's biography as recounted to the dog Arthur and any of these other memoirs is that fear never gets a chance to creep in. Unlike Jay Bush, Oliver has no fear that Arthur will get on his gossip call list and recount what he has heard. Unlike the demon dog, the therapist, the priest and the rabbi, Arthur cannot tell Oliver what to do. In a strange way, I think Oliver becomes the dog and experiences his own life as a novel or daytime drama. He is able to glean understanding, to cry when such feelings are required and to laugh at other times, and all because his own life story is held at a distance and he's allowed to see himself as foreign.

It is said that pet owners actually live longer than other individuals. I don't know exactly why that is true, but it seems like the statistics support this conclusion. Many of us have heard the stories of dogs and cats saving their human counterparts from fires, home invasion, and accidents in the house either by intervening or getting help Lassie style (if only Lassie knew how to talk - imagine how much better the world would be; she was the Mother Theresa/Superman of dogs). Of course, it is much more likely that pet owners live longer because they never feel alone, because they always have a purpose, and, according to my own personal theory, because pets and owners groom one another in much the same way that apes groom fellow apes, which is proven to increase life span.

Maybe during those long hours where there is only a man and his cat or a woman and her dog or a hermaphrodite and his/her cat-dog (Was that disrespectful? I was aiming at "cute.") people tell their stories to their pets and they achieve a type of catharsis that they've never encountered before. I know that in my darkest times as a child I would confide in my brother's cat Smokey. I would feel sorrow welling up inside of me and before a tear could roll from my eye, the cat would be right beside me. As I've gotten older and experienced the phantom feeling of the cat jumping onto my bed in the middle of the night - Smokey passed on a few years ago after twenty years of life - I have begun to wonder if the cat was some sort of supernatural guardian or angel, a being of great power who lowered himself in order to guide me through my life. I want to believe, but in the end I think that our pets simply give us something that we can't explain. And because we can't explain it, we either dismiss it or we ponder the impossible.

In conclusion, I feel that I must apologize for this article. I feel like I really gave it my best, but I can't help but to feel that were it dictated to a very thoughtful dog it would have been much better. Maybe if a major publication decides to pick up an edited version of this article, they'll provide me with a canine secretary. Until then, enjoy this half-truth.