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  • Unpopular Opinion: Green Day is a Really Solid Band

    No. Shut up. Sit down and let me finish.

    Green Day is actually a really solid band.

    Yeah I said it. What? You wanna fight about it? Okay fine. Green Day isn’t a really solid band…

    Green Day is legitimately one of the greatest bands of the past two decades. They deserve credit for keeping the punk movement alive into the new millennium. They’re massively underrated as musicians and social commentators and their skills as live performers are jaw-dropping.

    Yeah, fine. Click away. Plug your ears and shrink your world just a little bit more. God forbid someone challenge your preconceived notions.

    I’m not saying they’re the sexiest band of all time.

    You know what I can’t stand? When people say the worst thing about a band is that they’re not as good as another band. Yes, sure, fine, the Ramones are the best American punk band. I’m an Iggy fan myself but we can put the Ramones up at the top if it makes you feel better. So I guess everything short of Blitzkrieg Bop is just tripe worthy of the cultural dumpster then, huh? I mean if we’re throwing out Green Day on the pretext of “severe lack of Dee Dee Ramone” then I guess we’ve got to oust Black Flag and Joan Jett and Against Me while we’re at it. Hell, throw Motorhead out with the wash. It’s not like Lemmy ever did anything for the punk community.

    So you know how serious I am, I’m going to say this in italics: Green Day is not the best band in history. They don’t have to be. They’re just really, really good.

    And really easily confused by cameras.

    Let’s get some of the easier canards out of the way here. First of all, being popular does not make you bad. Led Zeppelin is popular. And shitting on popular things does not make you a music aficionado; it makes you a snob. I refuse to believe a band’s revenue somehow affects their tonal quality. “But they’re sellouts!” I hear you shouting. Oh goodness me, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize stadium venues were so passé. Obviously all real music just so happens to occur at the acoustic open mic nights you frequent. Pardon me if I want a show.

    Green Day languished in obscurity for years before lucking into a record contract, penning a chart topping album, coasting on the success with a few lackluster releases, and then outdoing themselves in fantastic form with a mid-career mega-hit. You might recognize this as the same pattern literally every band you’ve ever loved has followed. And I also think that just because they wear the “punk” label means they’re somehow exempt from the need to reach larger audiences. They got bigger. They didn’t get worse.

    This is where we fall back on the next piece of anti-Green Day propaganda: “They’re not actually punk! They’re just pop!”

    SO IS ELVIS. SO ARE THE BEATLES. SO IS MICHAEL JACKSON. GUESS WHAT? SOME POP MUSIC IS ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD.

    This guy kicked the Super Bowl’s ass harder than the Stones and the Who combined. Deal with it.

    “Yeah, but punk is the opposite of pop! Pop is committee designed and auto-tuned, an easy shill for dumb masses. Punk is anti-authority and anti-establishment and ne’er shall punk and pop mix!”

    Wrong.

    You remember those Ramones fellas you were lording over Green Day a few paragraphs back? You know who they were trying to imitate? The fucking Beach Boys, a.k.a. the 1960’s version of NSYNC. Also, Sex Pistols was cobbled together from some regulars at a clothing shop in London as an ersatz marketing shill (the talentless Sid Vicious was only in the band because their manager thought he would appeal to the hardcore scene). Also, everyone from Black Sabbath is devoutly Christian, Pink Floyd never did drugs, Lars Ulrich shops at Armani, and Santa Claus isn’t real.

    I’m sorry guys, but at some point all music is storytelling. And that means adopting different characters once in a while. Does that mean these people aren’t talented, or that their music is somehow fake? Of course not. Tom Waits doesn’t actually hang out at junkyards drinking moonshine and shooting craps with hobos. But when we see him onstage, when we hear his drunken caterwauling, we believe him. Like every great artist before him, Tom Waits uses lies to tell us deeper truths.

    Usually moonshine-related ones.

    Punk has always been DIY theater. Green Day’s just a really good act.

    So let’s get to the biggest issue here, the issue of talent. Is Green Day the most talented band ever? Once again, no, and once again, they don’t have to be. But I think there’s more going on with Green Day in the music department than some people appreciate. Mike Dirnt, for instance, is a fantastic bassist. Very much kin of Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament or Nirvana’s Krist Novaselic, Dirnt’s style is rhythmic and heavy, sometimes adopting the role of rhythm guitar. His tone is fantastic, his rhythm is perfect, and his basslines are some of the best ever written. Seriously, aspiring guitarists learn Smoke on the Water and aspiring bassists learn “Longview”. That’s got to be worth something.

    I’ll admit, Tre Cool’s drumming gets same-y after the billionth cymbal crash and Billy Joe’s got four or five power chord progressions he’s really, really fond of, but I still think Green Day deserves more credit than they get as musicians. And Billy Joe’s lyrics are stunning. Maybe you’re not fifteen anymore and angst isn’t your thing, but “Minority” took the sneer of every mall goth in America and made it anthemic. Our parents/grandparents j-j-just tried to talk about m-m-my generation, and we wanted to be American Idiots. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Give Green Day some credit. You don’t have to like them, but if you’re going to criticize, at least criticize fairly. Being big, silly and listenable doesn’t make it bad. Sometimes things are popular because they’re good.

    Sometimes.

  • Unpopular Opinion: Game of Thrones Is Better Than Lord of the Rings

    I’ll give you a second to staunch that aneurysm that no doubt just shot blood through your nose and ears upon reading that title. Go ahead, get a towel. I’ll wait.

     

    This is me waiting.

    Done? Feel better? Cool. Game of Thrones is better than Lord of the Rings.

    Oh shit, wow, that is a lot of blood. No, please, get another towel. I’m not in a rush.

    Better? For real? Alright then.

    Let me just start trying to salvage whatever nerd cred I may have by saying that I love Lord of the Rings. Unlike many LotR fans of this generation, I actually did read the books before I saw the excellent movies, and I currently wait with baited breath for The Hobbit 3: Why Is This a Trilogy Again to hit theaters later this year. I love Frodo and Sam and I totally don’t think they’re gay but I totally wouldn’t care if they were. Aragorn is just the ultimate badass, Boromir is every ounce the tragic villain, and Gimli’s awesome. Legolas can eat a bag of dicks.

    Because every story should have one character who’s handsome, has no flaws and is the best at literally everything.

    And yes, before your brain poops blood again, let me be totally clear when I say Game of Thrones would not exist if LotR hadn’t blazed the trail. George R.R. Martin knows this and I know this. Tolkien invented fantasy fiction, and we are all richer for his contributions.

    But doing something first and doing something best are two very different things.

    Let’s first look at the stories from a literary perspective. This one’s really no contest. Lord of the Rings is terribly written. Tolkien’s wording is clunkier than my car, and much like my car, LotR requires a lot of stopping and starting. Remember the epic old man slap fight between Gandalf and Saruman in the movies? In the books that’s all monologued at you after the fact by Gandalf in Rivendell. No tension, no action. Gandalf’s already sitting there while he explains how he totally escaped from the bad guy last weekend. Because as we all know, great stories have characters explain shit to you constantly.

    In case you think I’m being facetious, Tolkien’s literary buddies, the Inklings, positively hated Lord of the Rings for just these reasons. Hugo Dyson was famously quoted to have said “Oh God, not another elf!” while Tolkien was reading at one of their meetings. Remember, these are the guys who could stomach seven frikkin Narnia books. But three volumes of Lord of the Rings was too damn much, thank you kindly.

    Why would you need any more elves? This one’s basically Superman with better hair.

    So the characters, plot and setting are gorgeous, memorable, world-changing achievements of imagination. The actual delivery mechanism that gives them to us, the prose, the actual words on the page, are grade-A crapola.

    Game of Thrones on the other hand has a character so unique, so real, so devastatingly well-written they filled an airport novel with just his quotes. And that’s just one character. Out of a billion.

    “If I could pray with my cock I’d be much more religious.”

    So on the readability chart, Game of Thrones beats Lord of the Rings’s gilded panties.

    That’s not even touching on concepts like character yet. LotR has great characters, yes, but they don’t exactly leap off the page. Quick, tell me three of Legolas’s greatest fears. Oh wait, there aren’t any because Legolas is fucking perfect all the time always. Aragorn’s a bit better since he’s grappling with his family’s legacy that’s haunted him his whole life, and Gimli’s at least funny. But do they talk differently? Do they like different foods? Do they have sexy kinks? Of course not. Because as Michael Moorcock once so aptly pointed out, Middle Earth is basically the Hundred Acre Wood.

    Game of Thrones characters have flaws. They fail as often as they succeed. You may recognize these as traits actual people have. “Wanting to get home to your strawberries” is a great motivation for a Clifford book, less so for a genre-defining epic.

    So I’ve talked down LotR off its pedestal, but why do I get to put GoT up on it?

    Well, let’s ignore the mind-blowing complexity of the series’ plot, the depth of its myriad characters and the fantastic vests GRRM wears. Let’s just look at one piece of the series that I think makes GoT essential reading and LotR a cute book for kids. Two words: Moral relativity.

    This guy shoved an eight year old out a window and he’s still somehow my favorite character.

    Lord of the Rings’ morality is as complex as an Oreo cookie. The bad guys are literally subhuman, with sharp teeth and bad skin. There are no good Orcs, such that we’re expected to rejoice when we witness the ground split open and genocide an entire race of intelligent beings at the end of the third movie. The villain seeks only to cover the world in darkness. Each race has a set of predefined traits instilled in them at birth and impossible to avoid: men are greedy dicks, dwarves are greedy miners, and elves are just always fucking perfect seriously fuck elves. You never see the one elf who’s not so good at archery, or the one dwarf who fucking shaves. Everything is set in nice, easy, racist blacks and whites. Gollum is the series’ only grey character, but that doesn’t last. He still gets tossed in the lava with all the other irredeemable scum of Middle Earth.

    Game of Thrones, on the other hand, teaches us that all too often our greatest foes come from within. Sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes the good guys die screaming. Sometimes our best just isn’t good enough. Sometimes salvation comes from unexpected places.

    So it’s derivative of LotR. LotR was basically Norse mythology fan fiction sprinkled with Christian overtones. So it’s adult. Life is adult. So it doesn’t always have happy endings. Neither does life.

    Plus, in Game of Thrones, Legolas would get his testicles chopped off by Khal Drogo in five minutes tops. That’s reason enough for me.

  • Why is Skyler White such a bitch?

    So I'm almost done with Breaking Bad. God, what a show! All the twists and turns and whatnot! Crime! Murder! Meth! Breakfast!

    I'm no doctor, but should a kid with serious health issues really be eating that much bacon?

    Seriously, what a drama. The adventures of Walter and Co. are as thrilling as they are poignant. This is the tale of a man taking his destiny by the horns. We thrill as Walter sticks it to the man in ways we only dream of. We laugh as he squashes his enemies. We cry when he cries, we triumph as he triumphs. Truly, Breaking Bad is an inspiration to us all.

    And then there's this cunt.

    Look at her. Being all cunty.

    Seriously, what is Skyler's deal? All Walter wanted was to start a meth empire built on the bodies of dozens of dead people, some totally innocent, driving his brother-in-law insane and endangering his family in the process. The least you could do is put out.

    How could you not be attracted to this man?

    Skyler is this show's only flaw. If Skyler had just backed out of the equation and allowed Walt to continue doing business the way he saw fit, literally nothing bad would have happened to anyone. She's a monster, totally devoid of human emotion, existing only to wreck Walt's day. She saunters about each scene with shrill, harpy's eyes, ready to give Walt shit for his completely innocent backstage shenanigans. Pussy whipped doesn't even begin to describe it.

    Even in the earliest episodes, Skyler's bitchiness is in full swing. So Walt disappears for days at a time. That's no excuse to be all bitchy and ask him where he was! So Walt could die at any moment, leaving his bereaved family without adequate means of financial support. You don't have to force him to take chemo! I still shudder when I remember the scene, with Skyler gleefully strapping Walt into the hospital gurney, bathing him in life-saving radiation and forcing miracle pills down his throat with her long-taloned fingers, cackling madly as she watches him recover against his wishes. Because seriously, what kind of cunt encourages chemo for a cancer-riddled man?

    So your aging, dying husband disappeared for a few days with no explanation and comes home exhausted and with a California tan, and you just instantly assume he's having an affair?

    All Walter wanted was to secure his family's legacy. That's all. Everything he did, he did for her and the kids. The least she could do would be grateful to him. He's out there every day, gladhanding with hookers, drug pushers, cartel hitmen, and crooked lawyers, busting his hump to bring home the bacon (seriously, Walter Jr. eats a lot of bacon). So maybe he didn't consult her first. And maybe he didn't actually start bringing in any money they could spend. That's no excuse for her severe lack of gratitude. The same way that my girlfriend owes me a big, fat apology tonight when I go home and tell her I was only at that dog fighting ring in the first place because I wanted to win money for her! Jesus!

    Anyway, I haven't even gotten to the "big thing" yet. You know what I'm talking about. Even if you haven't seen the show you've heard about the "big thing". Of all the crimes committed on this show, from brutal executions with box cutters and guns to exploding cars and wanton abuse of the justice system, one crime stands head and shoulders above all else.

    Skyler White cheated on Walt.

    This guy.

    Of all the cuntish things this cunt could have cunted, that has to be by far the cuntiest. What kind of stone-hearted, psychotic bitch do you have to be to cheat on your husband, a man who works long hours stealing methylamene barrels from high-security warehouses surrounded by armed police to feed his family? What kind of harlot do you have to be to think it's okay to sleep with a guy who you aren't married to?  In what bass-ackwards moral universe could that kind of behavior possibly be justified? It's not like there's gray areas in this show, after all!

    He did it all for you, you bitch. Everything. Yeah, okay, you didn't ask him to do any of this, but that doesn't mean you don't owe him.

    Anyway, it's not like Walt ever tried anything like

    Oh.

    Okay, fine, so he attempted to sexually assault his boss. He didn't actually get laid, Skyler.

    Now get back in the kitchen. Walter Jr. needs his bacon fix.

  • Sherlock and John play L.A. Noire

                         
    "This…what is this? What do you have me playing, John?"

    "It’s a video game. It’s called Grand Theft Something."

    "What is-"

    "LA Noire."

    "…"

    "…"

    <long pause>

    "How do I arrest that man over there?"

    "Who?"

    "The bartender. How do I arrest him?"

    "I don’t think you can, Sherlock."

    "But he’s so obviously the culprit!"

    "He’s a background character, you can’t arrest just anyone."

    "Oh please. The past three murders have all been prostitutes from south central LA, all white, late 20’s early 30’s. They had severe bruising. The bartender’s obviously lonely, see? No one’s talking to him and that’s his bloody job, to listen to people. Obvious prostitute patron.”

    "I don’t think anyone’s programmed to talk to the bartender. He’s just a background-"

    "He’s got malformed knuckles."

    "Hmm?
    "I think his hands just weren’t rendered very well."

    <short pause>

    "What…what am I doing?"

    "You’ve got a clue. You have to look at it and see if it’s-"

    "The murderer is a time traveler."

    "….what?"

    "Coca cola bottles didn’t feature the white paint logo until 1957. This one right here has the murderer’s fingerprints all over it. He’s obviously come back in time-"

    "I don’t think that’s possible."

    "When you’ve eliminated the impossible, what remains-"

    "Yes, yes, I’m aware, but it’s not that kind of game, Sherlock."

    "Then what kind of bloody game is it!? The case is open and shut. The man behind the bar has malformed knuckles, and displays all the signs of a manic depressive sexual deviant. His coke bottle in the trash out back is clearly displaced in time. He’s a time traveler. He’s murdered three prostitutes. We have to stop him before he kills again."

    "I don’t think you’ve found all the suspects yet."

    "No need."

    "You have to advance the story-"

    "What story? They copy-pasted the head of one of the actors from Mad Men onto a digital puppet body. I can’t take any of this Raymond Chandler tripe seriously."

    "You study the suspect’s faces. You have to see who’s faking-"

    "THEY’RE ALL FAKING. THEY’RE ACTORS. THEIR HEADS ARE STAPLED ONTO OTHER ACTOR’S BODIES."

    "…"

    "How do I bring the bartender to justice?"

    "You could steal a car and run him over."

    "Fine."
  • The Dreamworks-ification of Disney

    My girlfriend is addicted to Frozen right now. Tumblr is ablaze with Olaf gifs. The Blogosphere is blorgasming over how progressive and feminist this movie is. It has more gold statues than the lovechild of Donald Trump and Scrooge McDuck. This seems like exactly my kind of movie.

    I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen it. Because Disney’s marketing department has done its best to convince me I’ll be watching Shrek on Ice.

    Wacky!

    Let's pretend I've never seen a movie before. What assumptions can I draw from this poster? Well, the film seems to take place on a frosted-over car windshield. It has at least five characters, all of whom are having just the best time. The guy on the far left looks like the face I always picked in Guess Who? because it was the most nondescript. The snowman thing looks punchably adorable, holding his head up to better get a view at the unimpressive logo that only he seems able to see. The closest thing we have to conflict in this poster is that one girl's raised eyebrow, something Dreamworks has done its best to associate with "sassy" in our minds.

    Sassy!

    Hell, I can't even see the character models in that Frozen poster (Frozter?). For all I know this movie could be about severed heads. I'm unimpressed is my point.

    Oh well, so the poster's lazy and crap. Maybe the trailer could offer us something better.

     

     

    Hmm. Ruthlessly upbeat music, near absence of conflict, emphasis on slapstick non-human comic relief. Are they trying to keep me away from this film?

     Look, don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for the Disney formula same as the next guy. But this doesn't feel like a Disney film. Hell, it doesn't even feel like a film. It feels like a snow-based sitcom involving a princess discovering talking snow people. This trailer feels like a cartoon, and I absolutely mean that in a bad way. 

    There's a technique studios use in trailers aimed for families, I call it a "record scratch moment". It's where the music cuts out for a second and everything pauses so a character can deliver a wacky line. There's nine of them in this trailer. Nine record scratch moments in two and a half minutes. Extrapolating from that, I have to conclude this film is at least 60% snow jokes, and I got enough of those from Batman & Robin to last me til the heat death of the universe, thank you very much.

    Let's take a moment to compare the previous trailer to this one for Miazaki's The Wind Rises. See if you can spot the differences. They're subtle but they're there.

     

    brb. crying.

    That trailer isn't a trailer. That trailer is an event. And Disney's ultra-progressive new millenium hyper-empowered love song to women has to focus on a structurally unstable talking snowman to keep anyone interested.

    Why is this happening? Well, in 2000, the newly minted Dreamworks Animation hit upon a formula so perfect they haven't deviated one iota from the recipe since. Just take a well-rendered fantasy setting, add a schlubby, ineffectual everyman protagonist, sprinkle liberally with anachronisms and garnish with sass. Bam! How to Train Your Kung Fu Shrek in Madagascar was born.

    The Disney formula is, well, formulaic, but historically it's involved at least a passing resemblance to depth. The Lion King had us watch a young child desperately try to snuggle his father's corpse back to life. Heavy shit can happen in Disneyland. Dreamworks, on the other hand, will usually have a few crying scenes in between the fart jokes and references to American Idol. In Dreamworksville, everything is okay for everyone ever because nothing matters enough to actually hurt anyone. If the narrative demands that someone die, they'll cleanse our palette with a good record scratch moment so the kids don't cry too hard.

    And now Disney wants to suckle at the Shrek teat (apologies for the visual). It's the same problem I saw in Tangled. The very first line of the movie is "This is the story of how I died...but it's not all bad!" Oh good. I was worried I'd have to give two shits about you for a second. Thank goodness I can focus on the whiskey I snuck into the theater instead.

     

    Oh look, he's RAISING HIS FUCKING EYEBROWS.

     

    This is especially insulting when we realize that it really is just here in America that Disney decided to market Frozen  as a piece of fluff. Look at these French posters.

     

     

    Based on these, I can conclude this film is about some sort of magical snow queen who may or may not be benign, living in an impossible ice fortress in a gorgeously drawn Paramount logo. I can't see her face, I don't know her intentions, I don't know if that snowflake Hadouken in the air is going to illuminate the heavens or lay waste to God's green earth. But now I'm eager to find out.

    Disney, please, you build beautiful worlds full of diverse characters. We want to live there for a bit. If I wanted to watch Shrek I'd watch Shrek.

  • Cookie Clicker will ruin your life (and you will love it)

    There’s been a burst of “clicker” games on the internet lately, all stemming from patient zero: Cookie Clicker, the biggest thing in browser gaming since Crush the Cooking Unicorn Dash Mama’s Submachine Castle. It’s one of those ridiculously successful games that makes you slap yourself on the forehead for not having the idea first. The concept is downright simplistic, and there’s absolutely no challenge. You are a cookie seller. You click on a big cookie icon, and get a cookie. One click equals one cookie. This is the basis of the game.

    Repeat 2,153,986 times.

    Obviously there’s more to it. When you have enough cookies you can buy new items or upgrades to increase your clicking power, or even do the clicking for you. Grandmas who bake, cookie mines, factories, portals to cookie hell. They’re all upgradeable. None of them can be destroyed.

    So why is this popular again?

    For the same reason the scientist with the grapes is popular with test monkeys. Push a button, get a grape. Push a button, get a grape.

    Honestly, this game reminds of Guitar Hero more than anything. In Guitar Hero, there’s no enemies to destroy, no puzzles to solve. Just a row of colored dots fly toward you in rhythm. Push the button, play a note. Push the button, play a note.

    Repeat 2,153,986 times.

    Once again, we’ve proven we can reduce gaming to its basest components and still become addicted. Because gaming is all about the buzz, that little endorphin shot you get when you’ve accomplished something. That’s the beauty and the curse of gaming. In real life, that buzz must be earned with sweaty, bloody effort. You have to seal your roofing, pay your taxes, plow your fields and bury your dead before you can rest your weary feet by the fire in your cottage, happy in the knowledge that you have served Mother Russia dutifully this day. In GameLand, the buzz comes in fast, easy bursts. I know gamers who salivate like Pavlov’s dogs whenever the Final Fantasy victory theme plays.

    Cookie Clicker doesn’t have boss battles. If gaming is to real life what a Segway is to a marathon, then cookie clicker is having a beautiful Swedish model operate that Segway for you with one hand while feeding you grapes and/or sexually pleasuring you with the other.

    I chose to draw the grapes one.

    Cookie Clicker gives you the kind of buzz Ayn Rand gets from money and/or spitting on poor people. With every single click you’ve accomplished something. You’re one step farther up the mountain of cookies than you were before. There’s nothing urging you onward. No threats, no storyline. Nothing but your own insatiable drive to succeed. It’s a frikkin study in hedonic set points. The first few clicks are great, and then your brain gets desensitized and you want more. It’s all about maximizing profits. Imaginary, pointless, addictive profits.

    KNEEL BEFORE YOUR GOD.

    A while back I caught a video on Youtube, one of those semi-alarmist views of the not-too-distant future depicting a world where gaming has infiltrated our lives through Google Glass to the point where chopping cucumbers in even sections earns you points. It displays your shopping list as objectives and gives you achievements for interacting with friends. I think we’re heading in that direction. The technological singularity isn’t going to come in the form of Terminators and sentient drones, it’s going to come from Apps and browser games so addictive we’ll just hook ourselves up with IV drips and catheters and sit at our desks for eternity. We’ll be in Lotus Land, lying in naked piles on our magical island of technology, eating virtual lotus leaves made out of clickable cookies, too lazy to get up and do things because why should we? It’s all taken care of for us. Hell, when the burden of clicking our own cookies becomes too much we can just buy more grandmas and have them do it.

    What I’m saying is that Cookie Clicker will suck the joy out of life and bring about the apocalypse and there’s fuck all we can do about it and I’m mostly okay with this because there’s a beautiful Swedish man waiting for me in Lotus Land and his name is Olaf and I want his grapes.

    It you give a mouse 2,153,986 cookies…

  • We are just our brains. Why is this scary?

    I caught an interesting article on Reddit yesterday.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/new_scientist/2013/12/the_self_as_brain_disturbing_implications_of_neuroexistentialism.html

    Apparently, you are your brain. Your loves, lusts, prejudices, and hatred are all complex chemical reactions in the brain. That niggling terror you get in the bottom of your colon when you hear that is called “Neuroexistentialism”; the crushing fear that you are a piece of complex meat encased in a skull, peeking out through eyeholes at a world you’ve little connection to. When you die, you’re gone. You cannot change that.

    I’m going to pepper this blog post with kittens so nobody feels sad.

    My first thought when I heard this was: wait, is this actually up for debate?

    I suppose I should come out with this now. In case you couldn’t tell by the fact that I go on Reddit and have a blog, I’m an atheist. Yeah, that’s right! Deal with it, sheeple! I’m enlightened by my own motherfucking intelligence and there’s not a damn thing you theocrats can do about it! YOLO (literally)!

    No seriously, I try to be one of those cool atheists who’s part of the movement because it makes sense to me, and I think it would to you too. I like Dawkins and Joss Whedon and Stephen Fry and even Hitchens (though the feminist part of my brain can’t stand the fucker, but that’s another post). I’ve gleaned a mantra out of what I’ve read from the Atheist Horseman and various other pop scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, whom I love. It goes thus: Accept uncomfortable truths. Therein lies the subjective philosophy behind my Vulcan lifestyle. If the evidence points one way, you’re deluding yourself by thinking another. This can apply to huge, worldchanging discoveries like the fact that the earth goes around the sun, or small day-to-day annoyances like whose fault it was that I lost my shoe and was late for work (hint: it was mine).

    In short, your beliefs are great, they’re a part of you and they’re natural, but when they’re put up against cold, hard facts they tend to fall by the wayside. This is the way of things. And this is okay.

    Though I will admit, this kitten is a compelling argument for the existence of God.

    So, again, why the confusion over whether or not we’re just brains attached to life support? Where else do we exist if not the brain? The spleen? Come on. No spleen could contain MY intellect!

    I think our reluctance to embrace the idea that we’re made out fragile meat is because we’re uncomfortable with the idea of not existing. This is easily disproven: you can’t not exist. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. The particles that you are made of at this moment were forged in the heart of a star a billion years in the past, and someday those particles will shake hands and get in their separate helicopters and fly away while the MASH theme plays. They’ll still exist, they’ll just become dirt, and then that dirt will become other dirt, and that dirt will become oil maybe, or turn gaseous. And someday it’ll collapse into the heart of our sun when it turns into a red giant, and then you’ll be sun juice getting pumped into the galaxy at the speed of who knows? And then you’ll be sun juice for a few billion eons, and then maybe you’ll work your way back into a sperm and an egg somewhere on some distant planet with purple trees. And you won’t remember a goddam thing, but who cares? You’re still there, you’re just in pieces.

    Hell, maybe it’s happened before.

    This kitten will always exist, though it will not always be this cute.

    So, again again, why are we scared that we might just be brains? Does this somehow invalidate you? Does the fact that you’re meat makes you sad because meat is pretty useless when it’s not on a sandwich and you’d rather not associate yourself with such a lazy form of matter?

    All I can say to that is that everyone else has the same handicap. We’re all meat. Squishy, throbbing, fragile meat that will someday turn into dirt or maybe poo if you get eaten by a bear. I’m okay with this because meat is a hell of a lot rarer than neutrons, quarks and black holes combined. We’ve found supermassive planets in unimaginably huge galaxies so distant that when we look at them we’re looking millions of years into the past. But, as yet, there’s no meat out there in space. We’re it. Earth is the only deli in the known universe.

    You might be just a brain, but that makes you more important than any star in the night sky. Why worry about it?

    You are not nearly as important as this cat, however.

  • Desolation of Smaug is better, but not ideal

       We nerds are a fickle lot. The problem is we think we know what we need. Give us too little of our favorite IP and we’ll beg like Oliver Twist. Give us too much and we won’t bother buying the next installment. It’s a hell of a hat trick, giving us just the right amount of awesome to keep us happy yet hungry for more.

    NEEEEERRRRRD!

        The Hobbit: Desolation of Dragonbatch definitely feels like a taste of too little, which is strange since the movie is stuffed with more sweet, saccharine padding than Winnie the Pooh. People gave the Hobbit part 1 so much shit for being bloated as all hell and now that criticism seems to have faded for part two. In many ways it’s even more noticeable this time around. There’s a scene where Thorin and Co. need to open the magic dwarf door to get into the mountain before the last light of Durin’s Day fades over the mountain range, so the spend about ten minutes trying to find the keyhole before bowing their heads and shuffling off to drink away their sorrows in Lake Town; Bilbo being the only one to realize that moonlight also counts as… light. The whole scene just reeks of needless, cloying melodrama. Hell, Bilbo doesn’t even accomplish anything, he just stands around for five extra seconds so he can notice the moon.

        Speaking of “barely necessary”…. Lake Town. Why?

        I was so excited to hear that Stephen Fry was going to become part of the Jackson/Tolkien family, and as a villain no less! He’s the Master of Lake Town, a very “let them eat cake” style despot ruling over the lower classes with an iron gut. Fry is majestic in the role. For all five minutes he’s on screen.

    Tolkien wrote three sonnets for that mustache alone.

        Seriously, how does a movie this long feel this rushed?

       We get exactly one scene of Fry stumbling out of bed, chugging brandy and muttering about how ungrateful the people of Lake Town are that Fry’s bleeding them dry with taxes and then we’re back to more wacky hijinks with the dwarves. One scene to assure us this Lake Town subplot is going somewhere. It really doesn’t. Which leads me to my next point:

       This movie is half a movie.

        If you’ve heard anything about this film, you’ve heard about the abrupt ending. The film just sort of….stops. I guess I shouldn’t spoil anything but really there isn’t anything to spoil. If you’ve seen the trailer you know there’s a silky voiced dragon in this film. Well here’s your spoiler alert: he doesn’t die. He just sort of, flies away to go fuck shit up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m expecting at least an hour of dragon-related mayhem to kick off the next movie, and there’s worse ways to pad out your threequel, but still, it really should have been in this film. We didn’t get a climax so much as a really awesome setup. P-P-Please, Mr. Jackson, may we have some more?

    Pictured: Peter Jackson

       Anyway, I feel I should wrap up by saying Benedict Dragonface is worth the price of admission many times over. Britain’s Sexiest Fish-Faced Detective is in peak form as Smaug the Sexyvoiced. You can hear every syllable just gush with malice, enunciated to perfection. Cumberbatch brings his radio A-game in this film and holy shit is it worth the wait. Seriously, he’s the new Gary Oldman. I mean, Gary Oldman is the new Gary Oldman, but Cumberbatch is right on his tail.

        So yes, Smaug is the best part of Desolation. It’s just a shame they had to wrap him in layers upon layers of elves eye-fucking each other.

  • The Code of Moshing, and the Greatest Mosh Pit Songs

    So I have some excellent Slayer bruises right now, because I saw Slayer last night and bruises were to be expected. I tend to be the tiniest person in every mosh pit I've ever been in, which leads me to rely on the unspoken Code all moshers must follow. I shall now speak that unspoken code:

    1. Moshing is about fun, not killing people. Sorry to burst your bubble, but moshing is not about murder. Murder is about murder. Moshing is different. In the same way that death growls are singing for people who cannot sing, moshing is dancing for people who cannot dance. Thus, think of this Code as roughly analogous to the rave scene's concept of PLUR, or any other dance venue's concept of "don't be a dick." So rule #1, don't kill anyone.

    2. Moshing must be consensual. If someone wishes to exit the pit, you must let them. They may communicate this through a friendly tap or a hand wave. Don't shove somebody back in when they've clearly had enough.

    3. Body blows only. No punches, kicks, or grabs (especially on the neck or hair). Open hands can be used to shove, but fists should not be used. That is called fighting. Moshing is different.

    4. If somebody falls down, you pick them back up. To avoid doing so puts you in direct violation of rule #1. Being on the ground makes your head extremely stompable. Do your duty: help them back to their feet, then shove them back into the fray.

    5. No sexual assault. Though it's a primarily male pasttime, women also enjoying moshing. When they are in the pit, they are consenting to being elbowed in the gut and flung across the room into a crowd full of strangers. They are not consenting to being groped. Smash into them, by all means, but no touchy-feely.

    And a few general safety tips (such as they are):

    - Keep a readied fighting stance. You never know when someone is going to blindside you from behind. Keep your arms up, ready to shield. Most of the hitting is done with the forearms and hips. No sharp elbows, they can hurt you and others. Keep your mouth open and your jaw set, so your teeth don't smash together. And for the love of Dio, protect your neck.

    - You know that spiky denim jacket with all the Slayer patches your mom sewed on? Yeah, don't get that thing anywhere near the pit. There's a reason most men go in shirtless. Even a cotton shirt can feel like sandpaper when you're smashing into it at the speed of double bass.

    - No fights. Break that shit up. Fighting is not moshing.

    - Watch out for spilled drinks. Indoor venues tend to have floors that can become very slick once wetted by dropped beer or water. Ignore wet spots at your peril.

    - Stay hydrated! Alcohol dehydrates you, sweating dehydrates you, heat dehydrates you, and intense physical activity dehydrates you. Moshing tends to involve most or all of these. People DO pass out in mosh pits. Don't be one of those people.

    We who are about to plow elbow first into a wall of sweaty humans salute you.

    Here's my personal list for greatest moshing songs. If you're at a concert where one of these songs is likely to be played, prepare for mosh pits to form. It is as inevitable as the tide.

    1. Raining Blood, Slayer- This may seem a bit vanilla for a top slot, because even your grandma loves that opening riff, but I think it's worth noting just how masterfully conducive this song is to a mosh pit. It opens with a long, slow feedbacky build up that leaves the audience guessing, wondering, hoping. And then the riff to end all thrash riffs, ten notes straight from Satan's personal alarm clock. Like if Tschaikovsky were scoring the Rapture. This is the riff that rapists hear as they are dragged down to Hell, because its the only way God can communicate to them exactly how fucked up their shit is about to be.

    Dat (double) bass.

    Anyway, then reality explodes for a few bars, and then reality explodes again in a different way for a few more bars, and then the lyrics start. Dave Lombardo is the god of thrash drums, and this song is his Ode to Joy. And then we get the riff again, followed by a half-tempo chugga-chugga segment that begs you to headbang along. And then everyone gets to expend their final energies in that last ten seconds. It's an absolute symphony of fucked-uppedness; all the peaks and valleys of a Mozart concierto in the key of Hell. This song is the reason I don't keep my iPod on shuffle while driving. If Raining Blood comes on, I WILL throw myself out of the driver's side door into the nearest living human.

    2. Ace of Spades, Motorhead- Motorhead stumbled on something good with Ace of Spades. Something so good, in fact, that they've decided to make every song they've ever recorded sound like Ace of Spades. And I. Do. Not. Care.

    December 12th, 1963. The last time Lemmy Kilmister gave a fuck.

    Ace of Spades is everything your parents' parents warned them about rock and roll. Cheap, simple, violent, brash, crass, and utterly Satanic. It's inspired by Lemmy's gambling "addiction" (quotes added because Lemmy doesn't have addictions so much as "illegal enthusiasms") and it captures the simple joy of stupid behavior in a way few songs can. The bassline is basically just two notes, playing with that trademark Lemmy "fuck that's loud" loudness. Drums and guitar are added almost incidentally. It's Lemmy's show here and he knows it. Ace of Spades was a landmark thrash anthem and holy shit does it hold up today.

    3. Tommy the Cat, Primus- Hear me out. Primus is the only band with its own ID3 genre tag. That is because there is no known category that can explain what Les Claypool can do to a bass guitar outside of the Kama Sutra. Les Claypool can give a bass guitar a refractory period.

    Tommy the Cat is probably their greatest song, a proggy, Zappa-esque ode to an anthropomorphic cat's run-in with a back alley seductress. On the recording, it's reknowned whiskey gargler Tom Waits who recites Tommy's woeful tale, but in live performances Les does the honors himself. While still playing that eleven note bass line. It's stunning musicianship, and live shows often involve an extended improv jam breakdown, stretching the song into ten minutes of glorious insanity that the Grateful Dead would be proud of. Primus fans are a chill bunch for the most part, but Tommy gets them as riled as RATM fans.

    4. Caught in a Mosh, Anthrax- This is the song that brought the term "mosh pit" to a broader audience, so it would be churlish to ignore its contributions. Plus its a damn fine song. Anthrax has more than earned their place in the Big Four of Thrash Metal, and Caught in a Mosh is their anthem. I suppose it just feels cheap to actually ask your audience to mosh, rather than let it evolve naturally. Regardless, its a solid track. The chorus is damn singable, even when you're being launched across a blood soaked dance floor.

    5. Walk, Pantera- You don't always need speed for a good mosh. Pantera's Walk is pure groove. The world's simplest riff. Walk is the song a baby would write if you gave it a guitar and a heroin addiction. There's something primal about the way it pulls you out of your comfort zone and into the ribcage of some guy you just met. The wailing guitars, shouty vocals, and glorious drum kick in the fade out cement it as one of metal's best violence-inducers.

    Happy moshing.

  • Doctor Who's greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness

     In keeping with my ability to stay on the razor edge of pop culture several months too late, I recently rewatched the Doctor Who episode "Angels Take Manhattan", and I'm pissed. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful episode in many ways, maybe one of the best of the Matt Smith era. Everything's moody and well-constructed. Alex Kingston is always a joy as River Song. And I dig the noirish feel, even if it does inexplicably disappear in the second half of the episode. But it does get at a very frustrating concept at the core of our fair Doctor's temporal exploit programme.

       That Stephen Moffat couldn't give two shits about consistency.

       If you think I'm being spurious, here's a quote to that effect from the man himself:

    “He can’t interfere. Here’s the ‘fan answer’ – this is not what you’d ever put out on BBC One, because most people watch the show and just think, ‘well there’s a gravestone so obviously he can’t visit them again’. But the ‘fan answer’ is, in normal circumstances he might have gone back and said, ‘look we’ll just put a headstone up and we’ll just write the book’. But there is so much scar tissue, and the number of paradoxes that have already been inflicted on that nexus of timelines, that it will rip apart if you try to do one more thing. He has to leave it alone. Normally he could perform some surgery, this time too much surgery has already been performed. But imagine saying that on BBC One!”

       Too right, Moff! Can’t have the plebs mixing with the normals, now can we! Never mind that these annoying “fans” you seem so eager to dismiss with a wave of the hand are the only reason anyone gives a flying fuck which direction your inexplicable jeri-curl is twisting at the moment. It must suck having people ask reasonable questions about your scripts, but then again, I’m not the genius who’s taking the “Most Killed Off Character on TV” award every damn year.

    It’s a really tasteless award, truth be told.

     

      Here’s the thing, Grand Moff Steven: you’re not just some sitcom writer anymore. You’re a Nerd King™. You’re not at the cool kids table anymore and you never will be again. You knew that when you took on Doctor Who. You’re one of us now. The people who are so deeply ensconced in pop culture’s warm, escapist embrace that we will actually dress up as characters that never existed and never will and hang out together in public like it ain’t no thang. We take this shit seriously. And it’s always frustrating for us to learn that we’re taking it more seriously than the man who frikkin wrote this shit.

      What you’re saying in the above quote is that you wanted an emotional climax, but you didn’t want to think of a non-contrite way to make it happen because thinking is hard. And dude, that’s your fanbase’s job. Maybe this shit would fly on Adventure Time, but Doctor Who is a science fiction program, emphasis on the science. You do realize this show started out as edutainment, right? Doctor Who is all about thinking too hard about shit. Don’t patronize the people who are paying for your curling irons. Our disbelief is firmly suspended, believe me, but there’s only so far you can push it, especially when you’ve got the deaths of beloved characters on the line.

    Doctor Who, Bill Nye, Oregon Trail and the Magic Schoolbus. The Holy Quadrinity of Edutainment.

     

      And dude, I get it, really. This show is a live-action cartoon. That’s part of why I love it. You’re keeping alive the legacies of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Hell, throw Python in their too. It’s all British satirical mind-blown space art. So maybe we don’t need to know exactly what clinical illness has befallen the Madman with a Box. We can let some of this boring shit slide. We’re not Nazis.

       But, let me be as frank as possible here: the egress of the Ponds was a cheap emotional low-blow. You were so quick to go for the jugulars of our hearts you forgot to let our brains get involved. The Doctor can travel through space and time, he can wake up at eight, rub quasar juice on a black hole’s testes by nine, and stop for tea in Andromeda before noon, but he can never ever visit New York again because grrrrraaaahhhh DRAMA. What? Bullshit. The Doctor rebooted the fucking universe last season, but he can’t stop by late 19th century New York to spill coffee on William Randolph Hearst? I’m only pissed because I just know you’re going to forget all about that in a few episodes and have our fair Doctor stumble into the Bronx in the 40’s and dick punch a young Woody Allen, without even the slightest passing mention of Rory and Amy. Because who cares right? Just the fans, that’s all.

      I’m especially pissed about this because I really loved Commander Strax and he got a pretty awesome death in “Demon’s Run”, and I felt sad and then I accepted it as dramatically necessary. Good tension builder that. And then he pops up again in “The Snowmen” with no explanation and absolutely no references to his being dead. No, scratch that, there was exactly one throwaway line I can’t even remember. Something like “Oh, yes, I rejiggered the fliburbal device, anyway, he’s fine now.”

       To clarify: beloved, long-standing companions, whom the Doctor explicitly swore never to bring to harm, get blasted back in time to live out the rest of their days among strangers in the past, never able to return home to the friends and family they’ve grown up with, because there are just some things the Doctor, in all his magic, alien wisdom cannot do. But luckless, affable side character gets an extra life because fuck it, that’s why.

    Yes, I’m sure there was a prequel episode that explained this. No, I don’t care.

     

      You get what I’m saying, Stoffen Mevet? Not explaining anything lets your imagination go anywhere and do anything, and that’s great. But that also means you don’t have to explain anything, and sometimes, that feels a tad condescending. Also, I wouldn’t take this so hard if you weren’t constantly waving your death-boner in all of our faces. “How many fucking times is Clara going to die THIS episode?” has become my Doctor Who mantra.

       You do good work, Steve. Just remember, “it’s a cartoon” is a lousy cop out when it comes to killing characters we’ve known and loved for years. “Science = Magic” lets you get some damn creative material on the screen, sure. But that doesn’t mean you get to re-write the rulebook each episode.