Saturday, July 26, 2014

Slayer...on a Ukelele

This is an incredibly faithful rendition of Slayer's War Ensemble being played on a ukelele.  It's pretty awesome, even though you can't convincingly headbang while playing a ukelele.

I totally loved about a minute of it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I watched a documentary on Netflix about hippies who once lived at the Black Bear Commune in Northern California.  There was a time when I had a neutral-to-positive reaction to hippies, but I must admit:  Those days are over.

Now I can't decide if they're naive or just stupid.

Consider the Black Bear Commune.  It was founded by young idealists who wanted to escape mainstream society.  Their slogan was "Free land for free people."  Of course, that's just a slogan, not a policy, so they had to buy some land for their commune.  Being young idealist hippies, they had no money, so what did they do?

They went to Hollywood and started shaking down rock stars, telling them "you're profiting off our lifestyle, so you owe us."  As absurd as this is, some rock stars actually paid up and so the hippies bought Black Bear Ranch. 

As is common with Utopian settlements, the first few years were tough.  They almost starved in winter, and it took some going to figure out how to live with each other.  Since they were hippies, it was free love and nakedness all the time. 

But being reality, there had to be rules.  You couldn't sleep with the same person more than two nights in a row because it promoted couples, which if you think about it is every bit as oppressive a social convention as the one that demands monogamy.  Eventually, human nature being what it is, couples form anyway.

Towards the end, they discover that their "free land for free people" mantra has holes big enough to drive a cult through it.  When the Shiva Lila arrived at Black Bear, they were welcomed and allowed to stay.  But apparently hanging around a bunch of acid-taking baby-worshippers was too much, and the Shiva Lila were asked to leave.

"Hey, man, I thought it was free land for free people."

"Yeah, well...fuck you."

The history of the world right there.

Black Bear Ranch still exists today, even though all the old hippies left to seek fulfillment as individuals.  For me, it's on the "nice place to visit but wouldn't want to live there" list.

Monday, July 21, 2014

That's a Shot!

I know, I'm evil.  I really don't like "Pornstache" Mendez on Orange is the New Black, but I loved Pablo Schreiber's performance in this scene.

I found myself watching it over and over and over...

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Loretta Pearce - R.I.P.

My step-mom passed away on Monday after a long illness.  I had been long estranged from that side of the family for a variety of reasons, but when I got word on Friday that she was on her deathbed, I set those reasons aside and showed up at the hospital.

If I couldn't live with her, the least I could do is be there for her when she died.

I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I arrived.  My Dad, shockingly aged and frail in a way I've never seen before.  My step-brothers, one of whom I haven't seen in a over a decade, and his kids, neither of whom I've met.  And then my step-mom, laying half-sideways in the bed, medical equipment obscuring her swollen face.

When I looked at her, all the bitterness and anger dissipated and I just felt sadness and compassion.

I was on death watch for three days, while also trying to stay focused at work, and each day she got progressively worse.  By the end, she was at home, no longer connected to monitors, no longer receiving any medical treatment whatsoever, and she was barely conscious.

I sat down to say some final words, not sure if she could hear me.  I couldn't bring myself to say the words "I'm sorry" but I told her I loved her and that I was grateful.  She couldn't reply.

My Dad is heartbroken, kept aloft only by the optimistic dreams of a widower:  working on his train set, or selling everything and traveling the country in an RV.  I worry that optimism will be swallowed by grief in the coming months.  He may not be ready for the independence that has been suddenly foist upon him.

I was glad, at least, to get some closure.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Six Seasons and a Movie!

Community was canceled by NBC earlier this year, which made everyone sad, so Yahoo "picked them up" for a sixth season.  I didn't know Yahoo was getting into the TV business, but a sixth season of Community?

I'm listening.

Hopefully I don't have to subscribe to something to watch it though.  I mean, hopefully I don't have to subscribe to something else.  DirecTV, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime.  On the subscription front, I'm covered.  Sell me the episodes themselves or I'll wait for the DVD.

All this, of course, is an excuse to post this clip, which not only features Abed's hilarious Nicolas Cage freakout, but my favorite joke from Community.

 Britta starts talking about some goofy social theory that makes no sense and the professor, played by Kevin Corrigan, interrupts her with "Good one."  It's not that funny, but the patronizing indifference from Corrigan and Britta's reaction to it is priceless.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Rock is Not Dead - Once More Around the Sun Edition

New Mastodon record out this week.  First impression:  Sounds great.  It's heavy yet clean, with some really focused song-writing that retains that proggy sensibility. 

I can't wait to let it soak in. 

The Fridge

Not too long ago, I bought a new fridge.  The old one started making a noise I didn't feel like repairing and I wanted a smaller one anyway.  My kitchen isn't the biggest and I don't need to stock up for a huge family, so the smallest full-size fridge?  Hook me up.

I was thinking space mostly but in the back of my mind I was wondering if a smaller fridge would save me money on my electric bill.

The proof is in the pudding.  This month's bill was less than a hundred dollars, a record for the decade I've been living in this house.

Walmart to Go

I live near the worst Walmart in America.  (It's an objective fact.)  And yet I rely on them for supplies of cat food, hot cocoa, coffee, and other staples.  This leaves me with a dilemma.  The convenient Walmart is a nightmare, and all the others are not convenient.

So I tried their Walmart to Go service.  For a small fee, they will deliver your groceries to your front door.  There is waiting involved, as you have to schedule a delivery window, but you are not standing three deep in a line staffed by someone who can compete in the Special Olympics.

Standing in one of those lines, I've often wished there was some way I could just pay to get out of there.  Just, please take my money.  Free me from this prison of Handiwipes and Bic lighters.

So Walmart says if I pay them $5, I don't have to stand in one of those lines and they'll deliver my entire grocery list to my front door sometime after I get off work. 


True Detective

I don't mean to keep beating this drum, but shortly after acquiring the first season of True Detective on Blu Ray, I binge-watched it again and then after that, I re-watched certain scenes, and even re-watched entire episodes.

You could call it a bit of a study, to figure out how this story was constructed.  Unlike many viewers, I'm not really motivated by novelty.  It's less interesting to find out what happens next than it is to see if what happens next makes some kind of sense in terms of theme or character.

Unusual for a mystery story, there are no red herrings.  All the completely bonkers stuff --the devil worship and the child sacrifice-- all that turns out to be true.  Indeed, detectives Cohle and Hart only scratch the surface, peeling back just one layer of a larger, darker story that's merely hinted at.

Consider what they find:  a Satanic cult operating in secret along the Louisiana Coast that has been killing women and children for generations.  A serial killer?  No, it's bigger than that.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Narcissistic Navel-Gazing

I found this piece through Alyssa Rosenberg, who's working for the Washington Post now, and I loved how it basically calls out the Rosenbergian school of cultural criticism.  The writer, Glenn Kenny, is either too gentle or too untalented to come out and say what he means directly, but he does make some great points:
These days, in the discourse of popular culture, nothing is JUST entertainment, but EVERYTHING must be fun.
This is why these critics can't accept shows like True Detective or Sons of Anarchy without performing an audit of its "social responsibility" factor, and it's also why they reject the one-dimensional polemics they seemingly desire in favor of things in the pop culture mainstream, which --to their endless frustration-- refuses to conform to their narrow expectations.

Kenny hits it out of the park with this:

This leaves us free to debate just how adolescent we’d like our culture to be, e.g., ought we read "adult" books as a teenager would (what did I learn from Updike, what was he trying to tell me?), or should we just give up and read YA as adults because that has its value too, and what ought we be embarrassed by?
Before now, I never thought of it as an issue of maturity.  Rosenberg's work has always struck me as the work of a teacher's pet seeking out an atta-boy, but I never really thought of it as "immature." 

But damn it, watching at Sons of Anarchy and thinking you're going to get some kind of diatribe against gun violence is rather immature.  It displays a childish ignorance of how art is created and how it interacts with the commercial marketplace.

I also like Kenny's conclusion:
Nowadays, nobody wants to destroy Hollywood. That would be ugly. Not to mention impossible. But, it’s "important" to make Hollywood "less sexist." So we can feel more comfortable in our chains or pods or whatever you prefer to call them .... because we have a better, nicer, more "representative" mirror to dwell on/in.
Translation:  Making Hollywood "less sexist" is not important.  Instead of grappling with real problems, it amounts to little more than narcissistic navel-gazing.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Pain & Gain

I watched Pain & Gain the other night, a crime caper with Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, and the Rock.  It was funnier and darker than I expected, which means I pretty much loved it.

A couple of bodybuilders who have ambitions two sizes too big for their capabilities decide to kidnap a rich guy and steal all his stuff.  It kinda works.

Michael Bay directed the movie, so some of this gets played as a joke, but underneath is a script throbbing with subtext.

At one point, Mark Wahlberg is trying to scam a guy by putting on a slide show about a telecom venture in India.  There's a few quick cuts of him sounding almost convincing, but then he says, "We get you in on the groundfloor.  Boom.  Sky rocket.  Next!"

Later the guy he's trying to scam admits that some of the stuff he says sounds goofy and calls him an amateur.  Boom.  Mark Wahlberg kills him with some Olympic 45s.  Next!

And then there's this scene:

I was rolling. "But that bat was aluminum.  I switched to wood."

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Pit Bull Ban

Well, this is an easy one.  The city is allowing voters to consider lifting a ban on pit bulls.  The ban is enforced mostly bureaucratically, with licenses and such, but it's also somewhat silly.

Pit bulls can be vicious animals, it's true, but they can also be great dogs.  I've chosen a garden over a pit bull for myself, but if my neighbors want to get one, I say go for it.

May it drive out all the squirrels.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Off to Utopia

I don't believe in censorship, but I do believe in editing.

And some shit just doesn't need to be promoted.

The Normal Heart

Last night, I watched most of The Normal Heart, HBO's new film about the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  Tears were streaming down my face, although it's mostly because my allergies are going haywire at the moment.  (For the past 50 hours, I've had brief sensations of odor, and almost none of taste.)

I think the writing was pretty good, but I'll just come out and say it: I bought Mark Ruffalo's performance except for all the parts where he added a bunch of swish.

The canted hips, the occasional limp wrist.   He's smart not to overdo it, but it's still an affectation that's totally unnecessary and a bit showy.  It calls attention to his performance --oh, look, straight actor playing gay-- and takes you out of the moment.

Matt Boemer, who plays Ruffalo's doomed partner in the film, and is actually a gay man in real life, doesn't do any of that.  He plays it, pardon the expression, fairly straight.

Hate to say it, but Boemer's comes off as the more powerful performance.