Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fatty's Vault of Shame, Pt. 1

(For the most part, my taste in music and movies kinda runs in the "kiss my ass if you don't like it" range.  But there are a few purchases I've made over the years that I'm legitimately ashamed of making.  So join me as I open up... FATTY'S VAULT OF SHAME!!!)

The late 1990s were not a good time for me and my metal fandom.  Grunge had come and, for the most part, gone.  There was little good metal this side of the Atlantic, and I had yet to get turned onto the Scandinavian metal scene.  For heavy, guitar-based music, it looked like I was stuck with what MTV was telling me was good, and at that point, what was good was nu metal.

Now, nu metal isn't really metal.  Slipknot was kinda metal, and they got to be much more metal as time went on.  But Korn?  Staind? They were loud.  They were heavy.  But they weren't metal.  Not according to my understanding of metal, anyway.  But that's what was there for me, so I tried to get into it the best that I could.

One of those late 90s nu metal bands that got FRAKKING HUGE was Limp Bizkit.  They strayed closer to rap than metal, but they still had big riffs and sounded pissed.  I decided to pick up their record Significant Other, and for a while, it was good.

Unfortunately, it didn't take a terribly long time to figure out the truth about Limp Bizkit.  And that truth was this: they were a pretty good band fronted by a no-talent, loud-mouthed crybaby who thought he could rap. Seriously, listen to the tracks backing up Fred Durst.  Guitarist Wes Borland riffed hard, creating some memorable and catchy shards of guitar work.  Bassist Sam Rivers crafted some pretty fine bass lines, with his highlight being the fluttery gem that serves as the foundation for the song "Rearranged".  Drummer John Otto could bash the hell outta the kit or lay down more subtle rhythms.  All in all, Limp Bizkit had a nice, loud, clean, and hard-hitting sound.

The problem was Durst.  The dude was nothing more than your average angry former frat boy with a chip on his shoulder.  He brags about how awesome he is.  He extols his homies to "GET THE F*CK UP".  He whines about the chick that cheated on him then announces that he was just with her for sex.  He bitches about everybody borrowing money from him.  This dude has more problems than a college algebra text book.

What this means is that the best songs on Significant Other of the quieter numbers, like the previously mentioned "Rearranged".  It bobs along on Rivers' awesome bassline and atop a bouncy drumbeat courtesy of Otto.  Borland supplies texture with his clean guitar lines.  But best of all, Durst is neither whining about people or swaggering around like God's Gift to Humanity.  He can't sing for shit, but at least you don't to wrap a fireplace poker over his head.

"No Sex" is even more surprising, especially considering how much boasting Durst has spent the record doing about his ability to get laid.  On "No Sex", he actually regrets sleeping with a woman.  Or maybe he just regrets how easy it was.  Whatever his reasoning, it's a little refreshing to hear a rock vocalist lamenting giving into his libido.  Although his slut-shaming is a little off-putting.

Those two highlights aside, Significant Other is pretty damn dismal.  But dismal isn't shameful, so why did I throw it into the Vault of Shame?  Because I'm embarrassed that I spent any time thinking this CD was a substitute for real metal.  It's embarrassing to get that far off course.  When I first heard bands like In Flames, At the Gates, and Amon Amarth, I was immediately booted back to reality.  These bands played REAL METAL, not hip-hop polluted crap that really only served as a vehicle for one spoiled little bitch to vent about how horrible his life is.  But I did like Limp Bizkit for a while, and for that, I am completely ashamed.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Gandalf Goes Grey-er

If you wanna see Sherlock Holmes, you have a number of recent option.  You can choose Johnny Lee Miller and his show, Elementary.  You can wait around for the BBC to put out new episodes of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock.  Or you can check out RDJ playing Holmes as an action hero in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes movies.

I haven't seen Elementary, in spite of the fact that it stars Lucy Liu, and I love me some Lucy Liu.  I like Sherlock and understand that it's accurate to the source material,  but I have a hard time with it cuz Mr, Cumberbatch looks too much like a camel.  I love watching RDJ and Jude Law work off one another as Holmes and Watson, but their movies aren't all that thoughtful or deep.

None of these options completely work for me, but I finally found a Sherlock Holmes I can totally get behind.  It's Holmes as he's presented in the new film, Mr. Holmes.  Played perfectly by the great Ian McKellen, this Holmes is way past his peak.  His memory is slipping so badly he has to resort to weird plant remedies to combat it.  He's arrogant and irascible, yet he's also unable to live on his own and completely dependent on his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker).

Holmes has left his profession after a case he worked went wrong.  He can't remember why or how the case went wrong.  At the same time, he replays an episode when he visited Japan in his mind.  As he wrestles with these issues in his mind, he and Roger bond over bees.  And on top of all of that, he's battles to finish writing a story that would be truer to real life than the character the public know him as from his books.

I loved this movie.  It's such a contrast to the usual blockbuster fare we get this time of year.  It's a small movie filled with delicate, emotional performances, led be McKellen.  Simply put, the dude's brilliant and his performance makes this movie worth seeing all on its own.  Throw in Linney, who is terrific as a woman who wants out of her currant situation and fears the growing bond between the old man and her son.  The movie is, for the most part, three people trying to find a way to live together.  It doesn't sound like much of a story, but the acting makes it hard to take your eyes off the screen.

Director Bill Condon uses a fairly light touch, letting the actors bring life to the frame.  The writing gives the actors multi-dimensional characters and plays up the importance of finding someone to share your loneliness.  I think that's the important takeaway here: nobody, no matter how unpleasant or hard to live with, should have to spend their whole lives alone.  It's a subject that resonates really strongly with me right now.

Mr. Holmes is not awesome.  There are no kick-ass fight scenes, no bitchin' explosions, and no heroic daring do.  But what is there is much more poignant and affecting than all the chaos and noise the summer tent pole flicks throw at us.  If you're looking for the antidote to Summer Blockbuster poisoning, check Mr. Holmes out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Big Fun Starts When “Ant-Man” Starts Shrinking

(I actually did write an Ant-Man review. I turned it in, but it never was published. I want people to see it. I also want to get back to blogging consistently, and this gives a pretty easy post the put up. Life has been pretty awful lately, but if you're fan of Stranded in Hickville, have faith. As soon as I can get on my feet, more regular posts will be coming.)

Most movie franchises have a pretty serious problem.  They tend to push toward bigger, more epic set pieces as they roll along, leading them to lose sight of what made so cool to begin with.  Marvel’s movie offerings have been suffering from that very condition lately.  Every movie needs to expand the universe while finding new, more outlandish ways to save the Earth from being wiped out of existence.  Few big franchise films ever try to do the opposite and pull back. But Marvel’s latest offering, “Ant-Man” shows how much fun smaller stories can be.

”Ant-Man” stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a down-on-his-luck ex-con who’s about to lose his daughter, Cassie (the sweet and hilarious Abby Ryder Fortson).  Scott’s recruited by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to help put the brakes on a plan by Pym’s former protoge, Darren Cross (Cory Stoll).

Pym has discovered a way to shrink people down to the size of insects while retaining the strength of their full size selves.  Cross has developed his own version of Pym’s tech and plans to sell it to the highest bidder.  Pym recruits Scott to steal Cross’s goodies before he sells to someone with bad intents.  Can Scott save the day, impress the girl, Hope (played by Evangeline Lily), and prove he’s good fatherhood material?  Well, you have to watch to find out.

While most of the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are big, sci-fi-laced action films, “Ant-Man” is basically a heist movie.  Said heist brings Scott into conflict with Cross, as well as some other surprising foes.  The focus of the film is on getting Scott into Cross’s lab to snatch and grab.  Along the way, a few jokes and a few skulls get cracked.  Thankfully, though, “Ant-Man” never get too big for its britches.  It scales the scope down in favor of being fast, fun and light on its feet.

Mr. Rudd is perfectly cast as Scott Lang.  Rudd’s is as good at cracking one-liners as anyone, but his face displays earnestness and vulnerability that make him easy to like.  Rudd gets excellent support from Mr. Douglas.  Douglas was terrific as Pym and it made me wonder what an Ant-Man movie with him in the lead role could’ve been like.   Mr. Stoll gets handed a pretty cliched role, but he look like he had fun with it.  Michael Pena steals every scene he’s in as one of Scott’s buddy’s.

The first 30 minutes or so of “Ant-Man” are a little clunky and slow, but once Scott gets the suit and starts training, the movie really takes off.  The jokes and visual gags fly fast and plentiful and the action scenes are amusingly put together while still packing plenty of punch.  Scott’s size-changing skill are put to great use.

As are ants.  This may not be the movie for you if you don’t like ants.  They play a pivotal role and have a lot of screen time.  That said, these ants do some pretty clever and creative stunts to help Scott achieve his goals.  They even help out in the final battle against Cross, a fight which is set in Cassie’s bedroom and is one of the most creative and entertaining fight scenes to come along in years.

”Ant-Man” is a smart, funny movie that serves as a refreshing coda to the MCU's Phase Two and serves as a bit of an antithesis to Marvel's big blow-up-the-world method of storytelling.  The cast is great, the jokes are funny, and the action is a blast to watch.  If it wasn’t weighed down by a clunky first act, it would be pretty much perfect.  As it stands, “Ant-Man” is up there with “Guardians of the Galaxy”, the first “Iron Man” and the first “Avengers” flick as the most fun movies in the Marvel movie cannon.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy an ant farm.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Haircut? Hell no!!

My hair is getting just a little bit outta control right about now.

I've never been a fan of haircuts.  I do enjoy having a woman run her fingers through my hair, but for most of my life, I've received haircuts from dudes.  Call it a lesson learned from my dad: Guys cut guys' hair better than women.  He never said that explicitly.  I just deduced that that's the way he felt from his actions.

Anyway, I've never liked getting my hair trimmed.  Usually that means I put as much time between haircuts as possible.  Like a minimum of six months.  My church mission was rough, since I had to keep my hair cut to a specified length.  As soon as I got home and left for film school, I let myself get super hairy.  Like a Sasquatch-worthy level of hirsute-ness.

Film school was also the first place I grew my beard out, and I learned I really dig having a bounteous booty of facial hair.  Maybe it's because of my viking DNA.  Maybe it's cuz I'm lazy and hate shaving.  Maybe it comes from some latent desire to be a lumberjack.  Whatever the reason, I like going bearded.  It suits me.

Problem is, I live in an environment that is unfriendly toward the hairy unshaven maniac look.   My dad perfectly reflects this attitude.  He's always ragging on me about my appearance and how local employers find hairy guys not worthy of hiring.  Like I should base how I feel about myself on the opinions of judgmental pricks that don't even know me.  I don't care if that is how it is around here.  It's wrong.  And I don't wanna play ball.

So, I'm under seemingly constant pressure to keep my hair trimmed up and my beard short.  Lately, though, I've realized that the hairier I am, the better I feel about myself.  I feel more capable, more confident, and more attractive.  I'm sure that's not the reality, The length of my hair has nothing to do with how good I am at my job or how smart I am.  But I honestly feel more comfortable in my own skin, more like the person I really am.  Maybe it's because I'm not bowing to anyone else's concepts of proper grooming.  I really have no idea, but I like it.

I last got a haircut back in January (I think).  But I don't conjure that I'll be receiving another one anytime in the near future.  I'm happy with how I look, with the exception of be a ginormous fat ass.  I've got nobody to impress.  I don't need to look Sunday best for church, and even if I was still going to church, I don't really think God gives a shit how long your hair is as long as you've got a good heart.  So, if you're offended by my Bigfoot-like hairiness, I suggest you refrain from telling me to get a haircut.  I certainly ain't gonna do it to please you.  And besides, that reveals more about your issues and attitudes than it says about me.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mind Over Matter Makes Fatty Unfatter - Pt. 2

Okay, so today I'm tippin' the scales at 294 lbs.  While that's still 8 lbs. lighter than where I started but my weight is back on the way back up.  I have been soooooo damn undisciplined in my eating habits.  On top of that, I haven't been riding my bike.  The weather's been pretty crumby, but that's just an excuse.  This week I'mma get it together and get back on the right track.  Starting with a nice, long walk today.  It's tubby-belly-clobberin' time!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mind Over Matter Makes Fatty Un-Fatter - Pt. 1

Okey dokey, Smokey.  I was supposed to kick this off last week, but I didn't get around to it due to the fact that I was sick and despondent.  Happily, I'm feelin' A LOT better and it's time to get this rolling, so here's the skinny: as of this morning, I weigh 289.0 pounds, down from 302.5.  That's 13.5 pounds in about 2 weeks.  I was down to 286.0 but that was when I was sick, and once I got feeling better and started eating again, I rebounded a bit.  Still 13.5 pounds is nothing to sneeze at.  I know it's all water weight, but you gotta start somewhere.

So, that's where things stand.  Hopefully, I'll be able to be more active now that I'm not feeling like someone's trying to shove a railroad spike through my gut.  See you back here again next week!!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fatty Goes to War with the Bulge

You see those four little red LED digits?  The ones that read "302.0"?  That's what I weighed when I stepped on the scale earlier this evening.  Three hundred and frakking two pounds.  To my knowledge, this is the heaviest I've ever been in my life.  I do like my music heavy, but this is ridiculous.  Something has to change.  Now.

The biggest issue is that I have heart health issues, and I'm supposed to be losing weight so my heart doesn't need to work so hard.  So, how have I put on 20+ pounds in the past couple months?  My guess is that it wasn't just one thing.  I went through a pretty serious bout of depression last month, brought on by my birthday and personal relationship troubles.  I've also been eating out A LOT recently.  And not healthy stuff.  Just whatever I want to eat.  I HAVE been feeling more attractive lately, and maybe I'm overeating to balance that out.  Who knows?

One thing I do know is that I'm fed up with feeling like crap all the friggin' time.  So, that's it.  Enough is enough.  I have way to much to do to die right now.  I'm am now officially at war with my waistline.  I gotta drop some mass.  80 pounds would probably be a good number to strive for, but that seems light-years away, so I'mma start with 10 and work from there.  It's time to change my lifestyle for the better.  Things are finally starting to turn around for me a bit.  I have to make sure I'm around to enjoy the good times when they get here.

Here's the deal: Every Sunday night I'll check in and let you, my loyal readers (I think there are at least two or three of you) how things are going.  I'll let you know what I'm doing for exercise.  I'll also share my highlights and low-lights from the weeks.  This way, I have someone to hold me accountable, and I can track my little victories.  Because that's how lasting weight loss is achieved: little victories.  The first shot in this war has been fired.  It's frakking go time!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Rankin' Em Up!

Avengers: Age of Ultron is conquering theaters (and cash registers) the world over, bringing Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a close.  Also, with the release of the movie, my life can get back to normal and I can actually do stuff that isn't Avengers-related.  At least I can after I finish this post cuz right now seems like a perfect time to look back on what has already transpired in the MCU.  Here's how I rank the Marvel movies from that first two MCU phases.  Let the countdown commence!!

11.  The Incredible Hulk - Ang Lee's Hulk movie was a pretentious, badly-executed, artsy-fartsy mess.  But at least it was about something.  Louis Leterrier's rebooted Edward Norton vehicle is less ponderous and heavy-handed, but it's also little more than an over-long TV episode.  Norton seemed like he was phoning in his performance, and in spite of some cool action scenes, The Incredible Hulk is a bit dull.

10.  Iron Man 3 - Shane Black's entry into the Iron Man Trilogy is a little too unfocused and rambling.  I like what they did with Ben Kingsley and The Mandarin.  It was a welcome surprise in an era when most big movies don't pack many surprises.  And the stuff between Tony Stark and the kid he befriends in Tennessee is pretty priceless.  But the main villain is little more than a bomb with legs and that sucks a lot of fun out of the film.  And, honestly, I think it would've worked a little better had Black reigned RDJ in a little bit more.

9.  Thor: The Dark World - Thor happens to be my favorite Avenger, but even he can't completely save this movie from being lackluster.  The villain is too boring, and the movie suffers whenever Thor and Loki aren't on screen together.  The movie does score for having a truly bad ass final battle where Thor and Malekith knock each other through worm holes.  And that Captain America cameo is inspired.

8.  Iron Man 2 - IM2 suffers from being to much of a set-up for future movies and having basically the same plot as the first movie.  You know Stark-must-stop-bad-guy-scientist-with-bigger-suit-than-his?  The sub-plot involving Tony's dad doesn't help things much, either.  Still, the action is great, RDJ is awesome in the title role, and it's worth it to see Scarlett Johasson kick John Favreau's ass.  Or to see her do anything she does in this movie.  Plus, Sam Rockwell's a hoot as Justin Hammer.

7.  Captain America: The First Avenger - It's kinda hard to put this movie this far down on the list cuz it's pretty great.  Director Joe Johnston delivers a movie that's thrilling, fun, and captures the essence of Ol' Winghead in epic fashion.  Chris Evans so totally embodies Cap's goodness and strength that you forget all the roles where he played a smarmy wise ass.  Hugo Weaving isn't quite compelling enough as Red Skull and that brings the movie down.  Plus, I felt (spoiler alert) Bucky dies a little to early in the story.  But with Evans kicking ass, plus great performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, plus the best (and most gorgeous) love interest in the MCU in Peggy Carter, plus a rousing musical score, the first Captain America movie is a blast.

6.  Thor - You could interchange the first Cap flick and this one.  I rank Thor a little higher cuz I like Thor a little more than Cap and cuz the Asgard stuff in this movie is beautifully rendered.  Chris Hemsworth is great as the Odinson, and he gets great supporting work from Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hiddleston, Kat Dennings, and Anthony Hopkins.  Plus, Idris Elba shows up.  I'd watch that guy play chess at an old folks home.

5.  Avengers: Age of Ultron - From here on up, there's very little to complain about, and any complaining done is pretty much nitpicky bullshit.  Age of Ultron was a bit overstuffed with so many new characters, so many characters from other MCU flicks popping up, and so much to set up for future movies.  But, it's still thrilling, ass-kicking, and totally awesome.  There are plenty of laughs, and new developments that add spice to the proceedings.  Age of Ultron is a blast, from start to finish, and that's exactly what you need from an Avengers movie.

4.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier - The Cap sequel is a comic book movie disguised as a political thriller.  That's a very good thing.  The addition of Falcon is inspired, giving Cap a great ally and us some moments of great fun a serious ass-kickery.  Robert Redford is terrific as the bad guy in the movie, and the scene where Nick Fury gets assaulted in his car is one of the best action scenes in MCU history.  It does go on a little long, but it's a great ride.

3.  Avengers - I didn't think Marvel could pull this off.  Even with so much set-up out of the way and Joss Whedon at the helm, I never imagined an Avengers movie could be this good.  Shows what I know.  This movie showed that you could do a big epic superhero team movie that's fun, has epic high stakes, plenty of action, and well-written characters.  The bottom line: Avengers is one of the most fun, most jaw-droppingly awesome comic book movies ever made.  And one of the best.

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy - Ok, if this seems high to you, consider this: No MCU movie has surprised me as much as this one did.  It manages to be gut-bustingly funny, ass-kickingly action-packed, and genuinely touching all at the same time.  The characters are terrific, a fun group to hang out with.  There's not a single boring second in this flick.  And the soundtrack kicks ass.  Not bad for a bunch of Marvel third-stringers that only hardcore comics geeks knew about.  If George Lucas would've seen Guardians before making Episodes 1, 2, and 3, maybe those prequels would've been better.

1. Iron Man - Not just because it started things out.  The first MCU flick showed the way for every single Marvel movie that's followed.  The tone is perfect.  The action is breath-taking.  The jokes and the emotional beats work.  RDJ is so perfectly cast as Tony Stark, that it's hard to believe he's just playing a character.  It's believable enough that you can buy in to the world yet fantastic enough that it transports you.  It's the perfect comic book movie.  'Nuff said!

So, that's how I rank 'em.  Do you agree or disagree?  How do you rank 'em up?  Drop me a comment or something and let me know.            

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ode to a Fallen Friend

If you walk out my back door, stroll across the back lawn, through the garden spot, and around the shop, you'll find the resting place of a dear friend of mine: my little pink Ford Escort.  This was the car I drove during college.  This was the car I drove on many quests for Star Wars merch.  I had more fun in this pile of junk than I've ever had in a car.  Let me tell you the tale.

I obtained Machi (because the Japanese name for the pink Pac-Man ghost is Machibuse) under slightly sad circumstances.  I allowed my sister to take my previous car, a grey Grand Am, on a fast food run.  She took a corner too fast, and, BAM, I needed a new car.  I test drove several other contenders: a purple Ford Probe that rattled like a frakkin' machine gun and a gold car that looked so much like something a cat puked up that I can't recall the make and model, among others.  I came across Machi as my dad and I were browsing at a used car lot.  She seemed to be pretty well put together, not held together with chicken wire and duct tape.  Dad wasn't crazy about the color, but I dug it.  Besides, he didn't have to drive it.

Machi and I embarked on many adventures.  We went for long drives at night.  We criss-crossed the northwest is search of Star Wars toys.  Sometimes we did it alone.  Sometimes we brought a friend.  We drove all over the empty wilds of Utah.  We traversed all kinds of Idaho back roads.  We got lost.  Most of the time, we didn't care.  With the windows down and the radio blasting, the destination just didn't seem important.

I recall one weekend that I jumped into Machi and set out for Craters of the Moon.  I vividly remember singing along with Ash (the Free All Angels record) and The Ramones (Rock, rock, rock, rock, Rock n' Roll High School) on a beautiful sunny day.  I got to Craters of the Moon and decided I didn't feel like stopping.  I decided to drive on until I got tired of doing so.  With the tunes blaring, the scenery gliding by, and Machi purring like a kitten, I soon found that I was damn near Boise.  I called a buddy and asked if I could crash overnight.  After all, I didn't really have anywhere special to be the next day.

Machi definitely took her lumps.  She was broken into one day while I was in class.  The thieves took her stereo and my guitar, although the joke was on them.  The stereo had died about a week prior to the break in.  Machi's transmission also had some issues.  The linkage slipped meaning the gears weren't where they were supposed to be.  We fixed it, but it was never the same.  Music played at high volume rattled Machi's frame, and her interior absorbed almost as much greasy. nasty fast food as I have.  I was also notoriously bad at changing her oil on time.  All in all, I'd say I was a pretty bad owner.

Machi finally gave up the ghost on the Ucon overpass on Highway 20.  It sucked because I stopped at the top of the bridge and there wasn't a lot of space between myself and the cars whipping by at 65 MPH.  A helpful police officer gave me a push to a safer stopping point and there I waited for help to arrive.  The diagnosis was dire: Machi's water pump had gone out, causing her to overheat and blow her head gasket.  Fixing her would be more costly than it was worth, seeing as how she also had a damaged door lock and the key was stuck in the ignition.  I moved on and Machi was put into storage, first in the shop behind my granpa's house, and then at her current location.  She is a shell of her former self, and I feel a pronounced twinge of sadness every time I pass by her.  I should've treated her better.

As for the future, my dad has been planning for years to fix Machi up so my nephew can drive her.  No progress has been made toward that end, and with my nephew having grown to the roughly the size of a dwarf planet, I'm not sure he could comfortably drive Machi anyway.  If I hand my way, I'd take her out somewhere deserted and I'd set her on fire.  Machi deserves to go out in a blaze of glory for all the happiness she brought me during our time together.  In reality, she'll probably just sit there until someone decides to sell her to a scrap yard.  And that day, when it comes, will be a very sad day indeed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Too Much To Write, Too Little Time

I didn't grow up wanting to be a writer.  Hell no.  The first thing I can remember wanting to be was an astronaut.  I wanted to fly around looking for new planets, and maybe even go on a smuggling run with Han Solo and Chewbacca.  Later, when I was old enough to think playing guitar was the coolest thing you could do, I wanted to be a rock star.  I went off to college wanting to be a doctor, then a newspaper reporter, then a teacher, and then a scientist.  I decided to go to film school, and that's where I first discovered I really like writing, but I didn't look at writing as a career.  Screw that!  I was gonna direct big-ass monster movies.  Um... That hasn't really panned out, either.

After drifting for a long while, I rediscovered my love for writing and decided that whatever my future was, it had to include writing in one form or another.  Ideally, I'd like to get published and get paid to write novels for the rest of my life.  But that's about as likely as Batman becoming a pacifist.  Still, just cuz I ain't getting paid big bucks, that doesn't mean I shouldn't keep at it.  Besides, I looks at it as a way to prolong my life.

See, I have a long list of projects I want to complete before I kick the bucket.  And as long as I still have stuff on that list, I figure I should at least try to take care of myself so I can write all that stuff.  What's on the list?  Well...

  • A Music Album - I've dreaming about recording my own music ever since I was a little shit running around with a piece of molding pretend to be a member of Alvin & the Chipmunks.  That desire only intensified as I learned to play guitar.  I've been slowly pulling together songs over the past few years.  I've got about 60 tunes now, in various stages of completion.  Someday, I'd like to put em on wax.  Nothing professional, just something for me to listen to.  And something for me to prove to myself and others that I can actually do it.
  • A Musical Screenplay -  I actually had an idea for a musical movie that I thought was pretty cool.  I even started writing it, but I hit a snag and haven't, as yet, finished the first draft.  Maybe someday...
  • A Detective Story - I'm a big fan of film noir and I always thought it would be fun to write something in that style.  I'd need to do a lot of planning and pre-production to pull something like that.  That's the problem.  I don't really like to plan when I write.
  • A Western - My dad likes westerns, and I think it might be kinda cool to write something he might enjoy reading.  Cuz, Lord knows, he wouldn't be able to tolerate what I usually write.
  • A Time Travel Story - Because time travel is bad ass.
  • A Story About Kids Making A Movie - I was inspired when I saw Super 8, at least the awesome half of that movie that was about movie-making teenagers. (The rest of that movie kinda sucked ass.)  But it would be fun to do a story about a bunch of people trying to tackle the herculean task of making a movie.  Cuz even a small movie is a ton of work.
  • A Ghost Story - Knowing me, it would probably end up coming off like an episode of Scooby-Doo in space.  What's wrong with that?
  • A Children's Story - I've had a few ideas that I kinda like.  Plus, I'd like to see if I could pull it off.  And it would be a big challenge for me to get through a story without using a ton of profanity.
  • A Memoir Based On My Friends And I Back In The Day - I've actually been dreaming about this project since before I knew I wanted to be a writer.  I just can't figure out how to do it in a way that's cohesive and says something that I wanna say.  But it would give me a great excuse to listen to all that lame-ass music I loved back in the day.  (Not that I need an excuse...)
So, as you can see, there's a lot spinning around in my head.  That doesn't count all the movie ideas I'd love to get shot or the myriad of smaller projects I've been kicking around.  So, that gives me an excuse to stick around for awhile.  I guess that means it's time to stop chowing down on cheeseburgers and hit the exercise bike.  Cuz I got lots to do. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Soundtrack of My Life

Tesla - Five Man Acoustical Jam

There's something wonderful about the sound of an electric guitar roaring through an amp with the gain cranked.  That sound feels like home, and can still make my hair stand on end, even after years of cranking the metal.  But every once in a while, I get burned out on the whole wall-of-blazing-electric-axes sound.  It's true.  Usually I love nothing better than to plug in my Jackson, crank up my amp, and make noise.  But sometimes, I honestly just wanna strap on my acoustic and chill out.  There's a good reason for that, and that reason is Tesla's Five Man Acoustical Jam.

When I first heard Five Man, I was in the grips of full-blown metal fever.  I couldn't stand acoustic guitar.  I didn't even really like power ballads that featured acoustic guitar.  (Though now I can sing every word of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and "More Than Words".)  Then, along came this platter.  Tesla was a band I really liked, although they were never a favorite.  Still, they kicked ass on tunes like "Modern Day Cowboy" and "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out").  I knew somehow that they wouldn't deliver an unplugged record full of weepy ballads.  And I was right.  Five Man Acoustic Jam rocks just as hard as any fully electrified Tesla release.

What performing unplugged did for Tesla was give them a chance to show that they could actually play.  Most of the tracks on Five Man feature stripped-down, spare arrangements.  Some of the songs are even performed withing drummer Troy Luccketta bashing away at the kit.  The band also adds a few flourishes, like harmonica and piano, to the mix.  The result is the songs take on different emotional tones.  "Comin' Atcha Live" becomes and laid-back, swinging blues jam, while "Before My Eyes" morphs into a mystifying, haunting affair.  "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)" rocks solid, even without the drums and electrified riffs.  "Modern Day Cowboy" manages to sound like a 60's protest song.  

Along with their own material, Tesla throws in a number of cover songs.  They stay pretty faithful to the originals, but it's impossible not to sing along with "Signs", "Lodi", and "We Can Work It Out".  The record is a live recording, so it also captures so funny moments, like singer Jeff Keith's reaction to being given a hat, and guitarist Tommy Skeoch's "Tommy's Down Home".  The records ends with the cheery, swinging "Down for Boogie", which is a blast to sing along with, and the perfect closing number.

For me, Tesla's Five Man Acoustical Jam was a monumental album, mainly because it proved to me that strumming an acoustic guitar can be just as cool as wailing away on an electric.  It also hammered home the point that whether you play plugged in or unplugged, you'd better have good songs.  Tesla had some pretty great songs.  They even wrote some of them themselves!  I dusted off my copy of Five Man last week, and it was every bit as enjoyable as it was when I first heard it.  And that's the most important thing.  Hell, it kinda takes me back a few years (to when I still had some hope).  So, really, it's kinda like time travel.  And that's priceless.

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Concert Report

(Note: This post contains some cursing, including the "f" word.  You've been warned.)

If you ever want to feel like an outcast, wear a tan plaid shirt to a heavy metal concert.  You really tend to stick out like a sore thumb if you wear any color other than black.  As I sat among the waves of black shirt-clad metal kids last night, I felt unbelievably conspicuous.  I just hoped it would work in my favor, like maybe Phil Labonte of Anders Friden might be able to pick me out in the midst of the crowd.  After all, I was an island of tan in a roiling sea of black.  Maybe they'd find my guts to buck the metal fashion trend inspiring and they'd throw a set list or something like that at me.  No such luck.

I decided to try to give my anxiety and depression a swift kick to the nuts by driving across the state to peep out In Flames, All That Remains, and Woverwar.  I don't see many live shows because I always talk myself out of going.  This time, for some reason, it seemed like a matter of life and death for me to go.  So, I pulled my shit together the best that I could and drove over for the show.  I'm a big In Flames fan, especially of their albums Colony and Clayman.  I wanted to scratch them off my concert bucket list.  I like All That Remains, too.  And I'd heard Woverwar and wasn't all that impressed.  In fact, even when I was lost driving around streets I didn't know, I wasn't too worried about getting to the venue on time.  I could miss Wovenwar.  No biggie.

I did manage to get to the gig on time, and I'm really glad I did, because Wovenwar was a lot better live than they were on CD.  The band formed out of the ashes of As I Lay Dying, after vocalist Tim Lambesis was jailed for trying to have his wife killed.  In fact, Wovenwar basically is AILD with a different singer.  The new guy, Shane Blay, trades off vocal duties with bassist Josh Gilbert, and gives Wovenwar a more melodic sound than AILD.  They played well enough live to convince me to give 'em another listen.  It was especially fun watching drummer Jordan Mancino beat the hell out of his drums.  Axeman Phil Sgrosso appeared to be having issues with his gear but he got it figured out and he and co-guitarist Nick Hippa dished out a powerful mix of metal riffs, bad ass solos, and melodic counterpoint licks.  It wasn't perfect.  Both vocalists missed several high notes they were aiming for.  But, damn, the energy was there, and that sound was plenty potent.  I came into the night not really caring about Wovenwar.  By the end of the night, I was a fan.

All That Remains came out next.  ATR has been amassing an ever-bigger following by moving away from their more brutal metal roots and adding more and more melody to their sound.  It works cuz the band writes interesting riffs and cuz singer Phil Labonte can really sing.  Their set put a pretty heavy emphasis on newer, more sing-songy tunes, including a trio of tracks from their latest record, The Order of Things.  I'm more drawn to their heavier stuff, but I gotta admit, I ended singing along at the top of my lungs.  Phil engaged the crowd with frequently hilarious banter, including a diatribe about how he had to tell whiny haters to "fuck off" when they complained about the ballad "What if I was Nothing".  Guitarist Oli Herbert shredded up a storm, and made it look pretty damn effortless.  He also had some very... interesting... stage move.  I wonder if he was itchy and that's why he kept grabbing at his crotch.  The other guitarist, Mike Martin, just seemed to enjoy rocking out, but he kept it pretty chill.  But it was hard to watch anyone other than Phil during the show.  And you could tell he lived for rocking a stage.  It was cool to see.  It made me wanna start a band.  And it was so fun to sing along with ATR.  In the end, it didn't matter too much that ATR didn't play too many of their old, bad ass metal jams.  All That Remains was just a shit ton of fun.

That left In Flames.  I had pretty high expectations, and they did not let me down.  I often joke that In Flames is cool because they sound like what you'd hear if you could stick your head inside an angry bus engine.  They don't sound like that live. In concert, they sound more like what's reverberating through your head after Thor whacks you in the noggin several times with Mjolnir.  Good God, they were powerful!  Guitarists Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin provided a wall of muscular guitar noise, backed by Daniel Svensson's thunderous drumming.  Bassist Peter Iwers rocked out, looking like a cross between an Viking god and a grizzly bear.  Once again, the band's frontman, Anders Friden, was a highlight.  Anders took the crowd to task for its lack of crowd-surfers.  Later, he bagged on U.S.-made beers by proclaiming "Fuck Budweiser".  He then made fun of Woverwar's Nick Hippa for having no facial hair.  And he ended the night by telling the crowd he'd make love to each and every one of us, although it would take a long time.

The best thing about In Flames was just how they went about taking care of business.  They looked that they were having every bit as much fun as I was and they truly appreciated us for coming out.  Anders made a point of saying that any of us could do what they do, "drink beer and play heavy metal".  While that's not really true (In Flames produced some pretty groundbreaking music, and not everyone is capable of that), it WAS inspiring.

Overall, this was an amazing, ass-kicking blast!  I'll be picking up Woverwar's record, and I'll be spending more time jamming out with In Flames and All That Remains in the coming weeks.  What surprised me is just how happy this show left me feeling.  People who don't get metal fuss and fret about it corrupting kids, giving them evil ideas, or making them do bad things.  I'm here to tell you that's a bunch of crap.  This music gives people something to turn to during troubled times.  It helps them feel like they aren't alone, like they're part of something bigger than themselves.  They go out to shows and they release all the pent-up negativity built up inside.  It looks violent as fuck, but it's actually an uplifting, spiritual experience.  It takes a lot out of you.  This morning, my neck hurts, my throat is soar, and my ears are still ringing.  I fell like I could sleep for a couple of weeks.  But I also got out what I needed to get out, and while I'm drained, I'm also really damn happy.  And I'd like to thank Wovenwar, All The Remains, and In Flames for the opportunity to let the monster inside me come out and play.

Here's a little video I shot last night.  In Flames playing "Bullet Ride".  If the image bounces around too much, I apologize.  It's really fucking hard to hold a camera steady while you're banging your head.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Conversation With...

I bet you didn't know, but I can be kind of the sentimental type every once in a while.  I can while away hours looking at old photos or reading old journey entries.  Tonight, I was looking at some old texts, and I realized I have some seriously silly conversation with my friends.  I thought maybe I'd share a couple of them.  So, without any further adieu, may I humbly present: A Conversation With... XXXXX.  What, you didn't think I'd actually use names, did you?

This first conversation I had over the course of a couple of days over text with my best friend a couple weeks back....  (Note: I'mma leave the spelling and punctuation uncorrected for the sake of authenticity.)

Me: Baked cupcakes today.  Wish they were healthy so I could give you one.

Her: Wat kind?

Her: Wat kind?

Me: Blueberry - key lime.  And pineapple - bacon - jalapeno.

Her: Ewwwww wat is that like

Me: The bacon one turned out the best but neither one was perfect.  But they turned out pretty good for my first batch.

Me: The lime ones needed more lime flavor and I was bummed the blueberries sank to the bottom.

Her: What made u want to make them?

Me: Felt like a new way to be creative.  Which I need right now.

Her: Bacon I like I had some Saturday

Me: I had some bacon pineapple jalapeno pizza a couple weeks back and it was delicious.  So I wanted to try that in a cupcake.

Me: For some reason.

Her: I had some bacon with cream cheese kinda similar

Her: Maybe it was going around like a virus.

Her: A bacon virus.

Me: Maybe.  I ate bacon cream cheese on my bagel this morning.

Her: Im sorry to inform u, We have a bacon virus, that causes odd cravings, and secondly I'm sorry to inform u we r cannibals

Her: (sad emoticon)

Me: Oh shit balls.

Her: (disturbed emoticon)

Me: Is there a cure?

Her: Vegetables and spinach

Her: And kissing the left eye of a goose

Me: Great.   I've tried to catch a goose 3 or 4 times before and was unsuccessful.  Geese are crafty and sneaky.

Isn't that fun?  I love this kind of silly, off-the-wall banter with friends.  This next one took place over text between my buddy C (the Entertainment Impresario of the Upper Valley) just tonight.  It made me laugh.  Hopefully it makes you chuckle a bit, too.

Me: I just watched the guy from Counting Cars fix the guitarist from Five Finger Death Punch's motorbike.

C: I've never see Counting Cars but I'd watch that episode

Me: It's not art but it's kind of a fun show.

Me: Definitely not as fun as Adam D on Price is Right.

C: I'm not a big car guy so those kinda show usually go unnoticed for me.  I stopped watching Price when Barker left but I'd watch more if they did full metal episodes.

Me: I'd watch if Dave Grohl was the host.

C: The Price is Metal hosted by Grohl.  I'm in.

Me: He'll yeah.  This needs to happen.

C: We'd have to tell em all they're getting a Grammy or something in order to get em in the same room.  And then lock the doors and spring it on em.

Me: Good plan.  We can feed em beer and Easy Cheese.

C: They could probably live on just those for at least a month

Me: I know.

This was kinda fun.  This may become a semi-regular feature!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Crappy Monday Haiku

It's Monday.  I feel dead tired and wish I would've stayed in bed.  I'm sure I'm not alone.  Here's a little somethin' somethin' that expresses what we all might be thinking right now.

Monday, you suck ass
Where'd my precious weekend go
Coffee won't work now...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fatty's First of the Year Playlist - 2015

Continuing on my little first-of-the-year-personal-inventory thing...

Some people say that one thing that makes guys different from girls is that girls are more fickle than guys.  For example, they'll love a music artist intensely (like my sister and New Kids on the Block - Good God...), and then abandon said artist at the drop of a hat for some other artist.  Guys, on the other hand, figure out what they love as teenagers and then love it for life.

If that's actually accurate, I don't know where I fit.  My tastes are constantly evolving and expanding.  For example, I didn't always like metal music with screamy vocals.  The closest I got was Soulfly, which I could dig cuz I liked Max Cavalera when he was in Sepultura.  Then I heard the riffs and musicianship in music by Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, and the like.  Soon, the screamy vocals were just part of the music.

I bring this up cuz I decided to put together a playlist representing where my head is at here and now in January 2015.  I've realized that I love a lot of the same music I loved back in the day, but I also love a lot of contemporary music.  And I love a lot of metal music.  But I also love a lot of mellower stuff, I guess cuz you can't be pissed off enough to spit nails all the time.  Sometimes I'll love a song cuz it reminds me of someone important to me.  Sometimes I'll love a song just cuz it kicks my ass.

So here you go: a musical representation of where I find myself at this point in time.  There's not a lot of up-to-date stuff on this list.  Some of these songs are actually pretty damn old.  But they're all here for a reason.  Maybe they're full of wicked awesome playing.  Maybe they make me feel something when I hear them.  Maybe I relate to what they're talking about.  And maybe they're just fun to sing along with.  So, without any more nattering on, here's Fatty's January 2015 Playlist (with short notes as to why the song's here):

  1.   "Walk with Me in Hell" by Lamb of God - I learned growing up that Hell is a state of mind.  I think that Hell is having to live in a world that isn't much like the one you wish you lived in.  Like this world is for me.  And sometimes I wish I had someone who'd walk through Hell with me.
  2. "I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots, and Your Motorcycle" by Austrian Death Machine - Cuz hearing what it might sound like if Arnold Schwarzenegger fronted a metal band is endlessly amusing to me.
  3. "Everlong" by Foo Fighters -  "Hello, I've waited here for you/ Everlong..."  And I'm still waiting...
  4. "She Just a Girl, Eddie" by The Darkness - Cuz sometimes you just have to let go...
  5. "Big Machine" by Ryan Miller - I feel like this is what everybody in the society I grew up in has been trying to do to me ever since I was a kid.  
  6. "DOEN" by Red Fang - Cuz it's got a a killer riff and just kicks my ass.
  7. "War Eternal" by Arch Enemy - See the previous song's commentary.  That plus awesome guitar solos.
  8. "Alright Guy" by Todd Snider - I think I'm an alright guy.  At least, I hope I am.
  9. "I've Had It Up to Here" by Weezer - I'm not a professional musician, but this tune perfectly captures how I feel about my writing.  And especially how I feel about writing my own stuff to make other people happy.  Which is why I'll always be a poor writer.
  10. "Cape of Our Hero" by Volbeat - After all the bullshit I've been through, how can I pick myself up, fly away, and most important, have any hope that good thing can still happen to me?
  11. "The Rain Song" by Led Zeppelin.  It's just a chill, pretty tune.  I'ts funny that Zep is known as this powerful, fire breathing force of a rock band, but my two favorite Zep tunes are mellow and laid back (This one and "Hey Hey What Can I Do?").
  12. "Killers and Kings" by Machine Head - One word: RIFFS!!
  13. "I Never Walk Alone" by Huey Lewis and the News - This one's here for my friends.  I don't really have a lot of them, but they are super important to me and I appreciate and love each of them.  Even Clifton.
  14. "My Day is Coming" by Rivers Cuomo - Ok, I know this song is about the U.S. soccer team, but the sentiment is still resonant with me: that some day I'll actually get my shit together and figure out how to win in life.  It might happen...
  15. "Wooden Leg" by Alestorm - Cuz the chorus is a lot of fun to yell at the tops of your lungs.
  16. "Thought of Sound" by The Rentals - It's just a really, really frakking fun song.  Sometimes that's all you need.
  17. "Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy - I found this tune on a friends Spotify playlist and really dug it.  Maybe someday I'll be able to get through it without getting all weepy.
  18. "Let Me Drown" by Soundgarden - Cuz some days, I just wanna quit.  And I want people to just let me end it.  Those are sucky days.
  19. "1000 Miles an Hour" by OK Go - One of those flight of fancy songs about just picking up and leaving everything.  And I think about doing just that at least eight times a day.
  20. "Old School" by Overkill - Cuz it's a rousing, sing-along rocker about being proud that you've survived.  And I think I'm proud I've gotten this far.
I seem to remember that the highest number of songs I've ever fit on a CD is 23.  So, here are three more bonus tracks:
  1. The Pacific Rim Theme by Ramin Djawadi - I wish this music came on whenever I entered a room, cuz it makes me feel like a badass.
  2. "Always" by Killswitch Engage - It reminds me of my little brother who passed away.  I miss you, Pookie.
  3. "The Rainbow Connection" by Weezer w/Hayley Williams - I love this song and this is my favorite version of it.  And it's the perfect closer for this playlist.
What songs are significant to you right now?  Care to share?  No?  Aw, well.  I tried...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Treasures to Hang On to...

Well, it's the start of another year.  And my resolution to blog more has already crashed to the ground in a fiery ball of death.  I'd like to do a couple posts a week, but I haven't been.  What can I say?  Cupcake Wars has taken over my life.

So, being that this is the first of the year and all, many folks are taking stock of their lives and talking about what they hope to accomplish in the next twelve months.  Yeah, this is kinda one of those posts.  But it's a little different.

You see, I've been looking back on things and taking note of what has changed what needs to change in my life.  I has occurred to me that as I evolve (and I'm constantly evolving) I've lost certain traits and aspects of my personality.  Hopes and dreams I use to hope and dream for are no longer part of the equation.  I've lost a lot.  My religious convictions. (This is a good thing.)  My need to be smarter or superior to those around me. (This is also a good thing.)  The hope that I'll ever meet the right woman or that I'll be in good enough condition to be the right person for her when or if I was ever to meet her.  (This is not so good, but it is what it is.)

Life is not all about what you lose along the way, because sometimes you find stuff, good stuff, along the way.  I hope to find the ability to be more open-hearted, to love people more, and to live healthier, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially.  I hope I find the ability to trust and believe in myself.  And there are aspects of my personality I need to get rid of.  I hope to lose my shyness, my temper, and my fear of just about everything out there in the big, bad world.  And maybe my Dolphins fandom, since they can't beat their way out of a frakking wet paper bag.  But with all that I need to lose and hope to gain, there are qualities in my personality that I hope never leave me.  Things that I love about myself.  Things I will fight to hold on to.  I'm assuming if you're still reading this far in that you're interested in knowing what those qualities or quirks may be, so here's a list.  Cuz us humans love lists and sh*t:

  • My curiosity -   One of the scariest things I ever heard when I used to go to church is when people would tell me that learning something was "not necessary for my salvation".  That may be true, but I sometimes wondered if people used that as an excuse not to ask hard questions or look for answers about life, the universe and everything.  Me personally, I wanna know how the universe got here, and what was here before.  I wanna understand what make the cosmos tick, and why humans got to be the way we are now.  I don't think I'll ever figure it out, cuz I'm just not all that smart.  But I never wanna stop asking questions or trying to find answers.
  • My sense of humor - I don't think you can get through very successfully without a good sense of humor.  You have to be able to laugh at things, even the bad things, sometimes.  That said, my sense of humor may not be all that "good".  It's warped, dark, politically incorrect, and I laugh at a lot of things most folks think aren't funny.  Plus, you should hear the woefully awful Ant-Man jokes I've been telling my boss for the past month.  But it's mine, and I like it.  I like to laugh.  Laughing has saved my ass plenty of times.  And I can't imagine not finding anything funny anymore.  Hell, even Batman's laughed a time or two.
  • My drive to create - Sometimes I don't write or play music cuz I'm too lazy.  Sometimes I can't turn off Netflix.  Other times, I can't overcome my depression or anxiety enough to create anything.  And a lot of times, I get pissed cuz I come up with stuff that's completely insipid.  But the compulsion is always there.  I'm always having ideas.  And the sense of accomplishment and confidence that comes along with shepherding an idea through to realization is quite possibly the best feeling I've ever experienced.  (Yeah, I know.  I haven't experienced that much.)  It's something that keeps me going, and I hope it never goes away.
  • My love of loud-ass, scary-ass music - Quite simply, the music has always been there for me.  Always.  I can't say that for anyone else in my life.  Plus, the music keeps me young.  It's hard to grow old when you're constantly bitching about what squares your parents are.  
  • The feeling of awe I get when I look at the stars - I always want to keep looking up cuz when I do, I feel connected to something much greater than myself.  Enuff said!
  • My enthusiasm for the things I love - I know that, in the grand scheme of things, comics, music, and movies aren't all that important, but the things I love are a part of me.  I get excited for new movies and CDs because they give me something to look forward to.  I need that, more than I care to admit.  On top of that, the lack of excitement I feel for the new Star Wars flicks scares the sh*t outta me.  If that's died, a big part of me has died.
So, these are the things that I like about myself.  These are the things I need to hold on to.  These are the things that are worth fighting for.  And over the coming year, I hope I can hang on to these things, while discovering new things I like about myself.  

I know what you're thinking: Me, me, me!  It's not all about you, ya fat-ass bastard!  Well then, what qualities in your personality do you like?  What character traits to you hope to hold on to?  Let me know so this can stop being about "me" and start being about "us".  Cuz, after all, WE are Groot.