Archive for August, 2011


“A cheap holiday in other people’s misery” [punk’s not dead?]

August 30th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. This is the tenth, a milestone number that I am going to completely fail to celebrate. I’ve been experimenting with punk music lately, and I think I might have something interesting to say about The Clash and the Sex Pistols, or, more specifically, their albums London Calling and Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. I don’t know anything about punk, so both albums were eye-opening.

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places, Mellowhype’s Blackendwhite

Another giveaway! Tell me something I need to know about punk in the comments (meaning: tell me something you like that I probably don’t know and will probably like), and you’ll get a free copy of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here (mp3s, obviously). It’s old man music, the sort of album you listen to while chilling on a recliner or on a porch somewhere. The upbeat stuff is when your grandkids come around for playtime and you stand up, stretch your back, and then you show them youngins how to do some pushups. It’s good, yo.

I don’t even really know what punk music is, man. Not properly. Most of my punk knowledge comes from the periphery of punk culture. I know of cyberpunk and steampunk, though I couldn’t tell you if they’re called that because of the music or because somebody came up with “cyberpunk” and now “-punk” is the new hotness. I owned a Sex Pistols shirt before I ever listened to a Sex Pistols album because I liked how it looked. I’m pretty sure what I thought was punk rock before I actually sat down and asked a friend where I should start with punk was in fact, black metal. Something really aggressive, dark clothes, piercings, and a dude with weird hair growling into the microphone. I thought it was this, from Brian Azzarello and Guy Davis’s Hellblazer:

Yeah. I mean, real talk, full disclosure, confession time: I figured punk was basically just NWA for white people. For headbangers, not head nodders, basically. Who knew?

Anyway, enough faux guilt over having ignored an entire genre of music that people apparently like a whole lot. January 28, 2011: the day I purchased London Calling. I was heavy into the Beatles and it seemed like a good idea because… I don’t remember, I think I asked Ron Richards of iFanboy because he knows this stuff. I bought it, downloaded, and listened and was caught completely flat-footed.

London Calling didn’t sound at all like I expected. I was expecting something with some sharp snares, or something about anarchists and antichrists. Something growly and mean, the sort of music I could scare my neighbors with or disappoint my parents (in this scenario, it is also 197something). Instead, it just sorta sounds like a regular rock album. More than that–it sounds like a radio-friendly rock album. This feels like music people ride drive around to and sing with, you know?

Not to say that I don’t like it–I actually like London Calling quite a bit. I was just surprised by the diversity of the music on the album. “Brand New Cadillac” is Elvis-y, “Jimmy Jazz” is jazzy, there’s some really reggae songs on here, and then there’s stuff like “London Calling” or “The Guns of Brixton”, which I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe yet. “The Guns of Brixton” sounds a little like talking to a distant drunk, with the strange over-enunciation and the sproings around 1:15 in.

I think my favorite track on the album is actually “London Calling,” though the reasons why are still a bit unclear. I like the phrase “London Calling,” particularly how it punctuates (or maybe just punctures) the song. It’s ever-present, and sorta menacing with the backing vocals layered in on it. (I had to look up the “I live by the river” bit to see if it was about being homeless). I like how this feels post/mid-apocalyptic, like the world’s gone all wrong and it’s too late to stop. It’s the last concert before the end of the world. Am I reading too deep into the song? I don’t think so, it’s sorta right there.

I like “Lover’s Rock” a whole lot, too. That first fifteen seconds leading into the vocals is pretty great, and the vocals just elevate how good this song makes me feel (setting aside the lyrics). It feels and sounds like summertime music. This album doesn’t feel like the ’70s to me. Its style isn’t modern, of course, but it doesn’t feel that dated. It feels sorta timeless.

Amazon tells me that I bought Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols on July 18th. Makes sense–I think I played it a lot while I was in San Diego. (I also got Public Image Ltd’s album on the same day.) The Sex Pistols are closer to what I thought punk was. It’s as raw as an open wound, with a lot of speedy guitar riffs (licks?). It’s great music to work out to because it’s all so high energy.

I really, really like how Johnny Rotten isn’t much of a singer at all on this album. He croaks his way through “God Save The Queen” like somebody at karaoke, yeah? But his swagger is so strong that the rough vocals don’t matter at all. This stuff is catchy. It feels like rebel music, even if that rebellion was a billion years ago. It’s pleasingly political in a way that really isn’t that political at all. It’s not a call to action. It’s just telling us something we already know. Political comfort food. I love the “No future!” chant toward the end, especially the way its drawn out “Noooooooooo fewcha” plays against the fast music. There’s also this hitch in there around 2:46, like the vocals don’t come all the way in. It feels like a slippery, slamming song.

I like the popular songs from this one, I guess. “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the UK” are tops. “Anarchy in the UK” is even rawer. Is it just me or is Rotten’s voice mixed super high on this song? While he sorta fades into “God Save the Queen” and blends with the music, on “Anarchy in the UK” he practically rides on top of the song. It’s all about the wobble in his voice and that whine he uses to cap off “know how to get it.” It doesn’t sound good, but it sounds great.

Does that make sense? I just love how much energy and style Rotten has on this album. All of the music sounds really great and well put together, with interesting solos and solid beats, and then Rotten comes in and freaks out all over the record. I don’t know that I can verbalize why this is so entertaining to me, but it’s sort of like how I’ll listen to a really great rap song and then hear that moment when the artist breathes in because he just finished a Jenga tower of a verse and his breath control ran out. It’s like the seams are showing beneath the music, and being able to see or hazard a guess as to how it’s put together is a good feeling.

This feels a little like history class, or maybe some type of innocent voyeurism. I’m observing this from somewhere else, far from who it was for and what it represents. I’m pretty much entirely divorced from the punk era and its ethos. Actually, that’s not entirely true–I don’t know enough to know whether or not its ethos still applies. Is that even a conversation I need to be having? Would that make me like the music more than I do? I just like how these albums sound, and not being a part of the culture doesn’t harm that enjoyment, I don’t think. I came away pretty impressed with both of these albums (they’re particularly good to write to, I’ve found, and easy to mindlessly sing along with, especially the end of “Problems”), and they definitely sparked further interest in the genre and the people involved.

The two albums either up-ended or confirmed the stereotypes I had about punk, and I think that’s what I like most about them. Punk is and isn’t exactly what I thought it is, right?

I know somebody out there is well-versed in punk. I’m taking suggestions, preferably full albums rather than singles, but if someone’s a one-hit wonder with a hot song, c’est la guerre. I’ll take it. The best suggestion gets a free copy of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.

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DC’s New 52: Are You Ready For The World That’s Here?

August 30th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

This is the week that DC throws everything at the same wall simultaneously and prays that at least 75% of it sticks. This means there are 52 new(ish) books hitting store shelves in September. You can check the list here. I went through and pulled out what I’m willing to pay cash money for and which I’m open to the idea of maybe someday reading.

Figure this might as well be an open thread for the New 52 in the comments too, huh? Discuss amongst yourselves. Do people still say that? Talk about your hopes and gripes or whatever for this New 52, unless they have to do with Wonder Woman’s pants (or lack thereof), in which case, please don’t.


Art by CAFU
Cover by CAFU and BIT
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The DCU’s most wanted man stars in his own series!
Cole Cash is a charming grifter few can resist. And yet he’s about to be branded a serial killer when he begins hunting and exterminating inhuman creatures hidden in human form – creatures only he can see!

Can the biggest sweet talker of all time talk his way out of this one when even his brother thinks he’s gone over the edge?

I like Grifter, and Nathan Edmonson’s the writer behind Who Is Jake Ellis? with Tonci Zonjic. That book gives him a lot of leeway (Zonjic is a problem and the script is pretty good, too). CAFU I’m not as keen on. His art can be a bit pedestrian and stiff, which isn’t really what I’m looking for in… well in anything ever, really. See that Thunder Agents book? Hopefully this isn’t that.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS
1:25 Variant cover by DAVID FINCH
RETROSOLICITED • On sale AUGUST 31 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US RATED T • Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
Comics superstars Geoff Johns and Jim Lee make history! In a universe where super heroes are strange and new, Batman has discovered a dark evil that requires him to unite the World Greatest Heroes!

This spectacular debut issue is also offered as a special combo pack edition, polybagged with a redemption code for a digital download of the issue.

It’s Jim Lee, stupid. Lee’s great, still one of my favorite guys. Seeing him on some new familiar faces will be interesting. And Johns’s only competitor for big action writing is Mark Millar, and Johns has twice the heart that guy does. I think this’ll be a pretty good read.

Art and cover by SCOTT McDANIEL and
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The brilliant, slightly awkward high school student Virgil Hawkins transforms into the cocky electromagnetic hero Static!

A mysterious tragedy forces the Hawkins family to relocate from Dakota to New York City! Virgil embarks upon new adventures in a new high school and a new internship at S.T.A.R. Labs!

As Static, he dons a new uniform and establishes a new secret headquarters! But is he ready to take on the new villains who lurk in New York City’s underworld?

John Rozum and Frazer Irving’s Xombi? Yeah, best DC comic of the past year. Maybe the past two or three years, frankly. It beats the pants off the Rucka/JHW3 Batwoman, Morrison’s Batman… pick your favorite comic and I’ll call it crap to drum up interest for this book I really want to do well. I trust Rozum, but I go back and forth on McDaniel. The past few years have seen me sour on him, but his art for this book looks to be in something of a new style, or at least a twist on his old style. I’m open to seeing where this one goes, and believe in it enough to put a few bucks on it.

Art and cover by CLIFF CHIANG
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Gods walk among us. To them, our lives are playthings. Only one woman would dare to protect humanity from the wrath of such strange and powerful forces. But is she one of us – or one of them?

Wonder Woman is boring, but Azzarello is the truth, and Cliff Chiang is, too. Probably gonna be the best book of the relaunch.

But yo, those booty shorts they’re making her wear? She looks stupid without pants, and being in her underoos don’t make her more of a Wonder Woman than any other take on the character. Fans are terrible, and that was a stupid thing to bend on. Ugh.


Art and cover by MORITAT
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+
Even when Gotham City was just a one-horse town, crime was rampant – and things only get worse when bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes to town. Can Amadeus Arkham, a pioneer in criminal psychology, enlist Hex’s special brand of justice to help the Gotham Police Department track down a vicious serial killer? Find out in this new series from HEX writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with lush artwork by Moritat (THE SPIRIT)!

All of these guys go a long way with me. Moritat just recently knocked The Spirit out of the park. Gray and Palmiotti did real well on Jonah Hex for a bunch of years. This sounds like more than that, swapping Jordi Bernet with Moritat. Good deal.

Problem: the price tag. Four bucks? Ehhh. Prices of DC books drop after a month, so I may pick this one up then.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The superstar creators from BLACKEST NIGHT and BRIGHTEST DAY reunite to take AQUAMAN to amazing new depths!

Aquaman has renounced the throne of Atlantis – but the sea will not release Arthur Curry so easily. Now, from a forgotten corner of the ocean emerges… The Trench! A broken race of creatures that should not exist, an unspeakable need driving them, The Trench will be the most talked-about new characters in the DC Universe!

I want to like Aquaman.


Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The witch known as The Enchantress has gone mad, unleashing forces that not even the combined powers of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg can stop. And if those heroes can’t handle the job, who will stand against this mystical madness?

Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna and John Constantine may be our only hope – but how can we put our trust in beings whose very presence makes ordinary people break out in a cold sweat?

Is this going to be the Mixtape Milligan, or are we gonna have to sit through another Carter IV? I’m a little iffy on Mikel Janin’s art, too. It looks too CG. It’s not terrible really, but it definitely looks like 3D models posed and placed on a background. Drives me crazy.

The thought of the Mixtape Milligan writing John Constantine in the DC Universe is pretty funny, though.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Variant cover by GREG CAPULLO
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.

The red-hot GREEN LANTERN team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke introduce an unexpected new Lantern.

Sinestro might be just the shot in the arm this series needs. Mahnke drawing aliens and mayhem is always fun, too.

Variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Be here for the start of a new era for The Dark Knight from writer Scott Snyder (AMERICAN VAMPIRE, BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM) and artist Greg Capullo (Spawn)! A series of brutal killings hints at an ancient conspiracy, and Batman learns that Gotham City is deadlier than he knew.

Snyder’s run on Detective Comics was incredibly unsatisfying (imagine biting into a really nice piece of cake and slowly appreciating every bite, only then Dan Didio rushes into the room and tells you that you gotta wrap it up so we can relaunch the cake, so you rewrite your icing so that the is-he-or-isn’t-he-a-serial-killer-creep mystery turns into “oh he just chopped off all of someone’s limbs and is giving crappy speeches out of B movies about the nature of evil” showcase, aren’t you glad that two good artists were wasted on this comic book?), but had a solid start. Capullo’s cartoony style looks pretty cool, too. Hopefully this is a good Batman story?

Art and cover by JESUS SAIZ
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
One is wanted for a murder she didn’t commit. The other is on the run because she knows too much. They are Dinah Laurel Lance and Ev Crawford – a.k.a. Black Canary and Starling – and together, as Gotham City’s covert ops team, they’re taking down the villains other heroes can’t touch. But now they’ve attracted the attention of a grizzled newspaper reporter who wants to expose them, as well as a creepy, chameleon-like strike team that’s out to kill them.

Don’t miss the start of this hard-hitting new series from mystery novelist/comics writer Duane Swierczynski (Expiration Date, Cable).

I dunno, I like Swierczynski’s novels and his comics are sometimes pretty okay. He definitely did well on Iron Fist. Maybe this’ll be good? Despite my prejudice against the very idea of pro-active covert ops superheroes, I mean.

Cover by J.G. JONES
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The world’s third-smartest man – and one of its most eligible bachelors – uses his brains and fists against science gone mad in this new series from Eric Wallace (TITANS) and Roger Robinson!

Michael Holt is the head of a successful high-tech corporation and an institute that recruits and encourages the finest minds of the next generation to excel. As Mister Terrific he inhabits a world of amazement few others know exists, let alone can comprehend.

I talked myself into really wanting this, and then DC went and replaced the artist on the next few issues (which is crap, the series just started) and everyone I know who has read Eric Wallace comics reminded me that he’s writing one of DC’s dumbest books (perhaps #2–Outsiders is pretty atrocious) and that maybe Final Crisis: Ink wasn’t as good as I thought it was.

I hope this book is good.

O.M.A.C. #1
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The all-seeing Brother Eye satellite has unleashed a new beast upon the DC Universe in this smashing new series! Kevin Kho has become an unwilling participant in a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye as he is transformed into the One Machine Army Corp known only as O.M.A.C.!

Yeah, crap, I–so Didio is trash as a writer, right? We’re talking bad, not incomprehensible bad but “writes comics that aren’t worth reading” bad. Bad enough that I completely wrote off his pet series. But the thought of Keith Giffen drawing Kirby, which is sure to be great–yeah, you know what? Never mind. As much as I want to see Giffen’s Kirby, this is probably going to be awful. Sorry for making you read these sentences. Maybe they’ll publish it unlettered.


Art and cover by ED BENES and ROB HUNTER
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Atrocitus and his Red Lantern Corps return in their own series, battling against injustice in the most bloody ways imaginable!

Ed Benes is comics poison. I like Milligan, but this comic will be unreadable. I just wanted to remind you not to buy Ed Benes comics, no matter how tempted you may be.

There are others I might be open to trying. Maybe Levitz’s Legion will convince me to finally like that series (probably not, even Waid and Kitson couldn’t make me stick around). Flash will be pretty, I’m sure. Oh yeah, I like Mahmud Asrar, the artist on Supergirl, and that writing team is pretty solid. Simon Bisley is going to be drawing a bit of Deathstroke, so I’ll probably roll through for those issues. Nobody beats the Biz, right?

Right. I don’t even really know what people mean whey they say something is metal, but I bet that’s it.

I just don’t feel a driving need to check out anything past the ones I already want to buy, and that’s… that’s not good, is it? The rest of my list is basically “Would buy it if I got bored and heard good things about it from friends and if the price were cheaper” and “Would buy it if I got bored and somehow ran out of the other comics I read,” then.

But before this, I was buying exactly one DC Comics (Xombi) and now I’m buying four. That’s in addition to Hellblazer and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest. So four definite and eight possibles on top of that? Probably a pretty good run for someone like me.

Anybody else want to talk out their New 52 interests?

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This Week in Panels: Week 101

August 28th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

If you’re reading this post, then it appears that I have no electricity due to the damage caused by Gregory Helms Irene. So I made this draft on Friday and hopefully it gets posted Sunday night like normal and maybe David Brothers edits it with stuff. Either way, I have panels from Was Taters and luis.

If I’ve lost power as feared, then please tell Eddie Brock I loved him.

American Vampire #18
Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque

Batman: Gates of Gotham #5
Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott, Graham Nolan and Trevor McCarthy

Read the rest of this entry �

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we don’t believe you, you need more people

August 23rd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I was reading some Alan Moore Marvelman for some reason today. I found one in the back there and I couldn’t believe. I pick it up and there are fucking two rapes in it and I suddenly think how many times has somebody been raped in an Alan Moore story? And I couldn’t find a single one where someone wasn’t raped except for Tom Strong, which I believe was a pastiche. We know Alan Moore isn’t a misogynist but fuck, he’s obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!

Grant Morrison, Rolling Stone 2011

From Grant Morrison, Richard Case, Stan Woch, Daniel Vozzo, and John Workman’s (very good) Doom Patrol 56, part of the lead-up to a big betrayal of the team:

Alternate options: the extended child gangrape in The Invisibles, Lord Fanny’s origin story in the “Sheman” arc of The Invisibles, and probably a few other things that I’m forgetting. I don’t remember whether or not that the monstrous moonchild from that series was the product of consensual sex, but I sorta doubt it.

My point being: get real. Stop believing your own hype. It’s cool you hate your wizard dad Alan Moore or whatever Oedipal thing you got going on, and he’s almost definitely written more rape scenes than you have, but you haven’t made it thirty years in comics without any rape, Chris Ware isn’t a nihilist, superheroes are not here to save us all, and no, Superman is not the greatest idea of the combined human species. It’s the idea of Siegel and Shuster. These soundbytes are absurd.

More Morrison that’s been bugging me enough to not even want to give Action Comics a chance:

You look at the people who created those characters, and they’re all dead. But the characters will still be around in 50 years probably – at least the best of them will. So I try not to concern myself with that. These are deals made in times before I was even born. I can say from experience that young creative people tend to sell rights to things because they want to get noticed. They want to sell their work and to be commercial. Then when they grow up and get a bit smarter, they suddenly realize it maybe wasn’t so good and that the adults have it real nice. [Laughs] But still, it’s kind of the world. I wouldn’t want to comment on that because it was something I wasn’t around for. I can’t tell why they decided to do what they did. Obviously Bob Kane came in at the same age and got a very different deal and profited hugely from Batman’s success. So who knows? They were boys of the same age, but maybe some of them were more keen to sell the rights than others. It all just takes a different business head.

Grant Morrison, Comic Book Resources, 2011

This was the exact moment I went from “Aw yeah, Grant Morrison! (as long as the artists are good)” to “Wait, really?” in terms of how I see this guy. He’s still one of the best writers in comics, but cripes, shouldn’t the best of them also stand up for the ones who got screwed over? Isn’t that what prestige and riches are for? I mean, yeah, do all of the drugs, have sex with all of the women, and I dunno, buy a castle in Scotland when you’re 25 after having made more money off Arkham Asylum than Bill Finger probably ever saw, but once you reach that elder statesman position, once you reach a spot where people look at you with respect and listen to the things you say because you’re viewed as an intelligent and worthwhile creator… shouldn’t you start saying intelligent and worthwhile things? “Well, you know, kids like to get noticed!” is garbage.

You know what Frank Miller did when he got a platform? He repped, and he repped hard. For Jack Kirby, for Bill Finger, for Steve Ditko, and for other creators who deserved to get their art back or to own their creations. For those who got screwed in the name of profit and cheap labor. Sin City letters pages are littered with shots fired at Marvel over how they treated Jack Kirby. The Big Fat Kill (#5, I think) was where I found out that Marvel screwed Kirby. He built a platform and then he used it for good. Is he perfect? Nah. Bill Finger’s name isn’t on DKSA, though it might have been shouted at as a street name or something. But he tried. He got an acknowledgement to Finger and Jerry Robinson into DKR. He didn’t hide behind mealy-mouthed corporate speak to justify two guys getting screwed so that he could write Action Comics with a clean conscience. Two guys who jumpstarted the genre that he loves so much, at that.

It took Abhay to point out that quote to me, and he ethered Morrison over it. King Mob went from counter-culture terrorist to corporate world-changer. Why did Morrison skip straight from counter-culture icon to stooge?

Creator’s rights count. They count more than whatever stupid looking superhero is your favorite. Without the people behind the comics, we wouldn’t have the comics. This sort of callous, blinkered disrespect should be inexcusable.

But sure, keep telling us that Superman is who we should all aspire to be, instead of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko or Curt Swan or Todd McFarlane or Jim Lee or Frank Miller or (yes, even now) Stan Lee or Adam Warren or any of these cats who have made the works we love. I don’t want to fly. I want to be able to point at something and say, “Yes, I made this with my own two hands and I’m proud of it.”

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Louie 2×10: “And what are you…?”

August 22nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Last weekend (Friday night?), I sat down to watch the tenth episode of Louis CK’s fantastic FX show Louie. It was a good episode, as usual. Dude is seriously talented. I wrote “seriously, absurdly talented” first right there and deleted it because it isn’t absurd at all. He’s a guy who knows his craft, who studies his craft, and clearly has a vision of how things should be. When a person with talent gets to do what he wants, the results are going to be good. There’s nothing absurd about that. That’s natural.

Anyway, check out this trailer spot for the tenth episode, “Halloween/Ellie.”

And let me tell you, this bit killed me. This hits early in the episode, before what other people would probably consider the real high point of the episode (the youngest daughter going off on someone, I’d say), but I was already done. I could’ve turned it off right there and been incredibly happy with the five minutes of TV I just watched. I buy these off Amazon for like two bucks a piece, and that interaction in the trailer? That was enough. I was completely satisfied and had one of those deep laughs that come right from your heart.

Louie is great at nailing that sweet spot of real-life awkwardness and comedy. The bit last season where he follows Tarese home (wrong clip, he buys her flowers in that one, but it’s related) was brilliant. It pulled one of those things we’ve all thought (“Oh, I bet I could woo her if I could just ______”) directly into real life and whoops, look at that, life doesn’t work like that. It’s funny because it’s mean, but it’s also funny because it’s relatable. It’s Charlie Brown missing the football after Lucy promises that she won’t pull it away this time for sure.

The most awkward thing in the world is going anywhere with young children. They either have no filter (like when my little brother, back when he was 3 or 4, said “Mommy, I don’t like her butt, she has a fat butt” about the lady in line in front of us at the BX) or they do stupid things just because they thought it would be fun.

Kids are a social faux pas waiting to happen, you know? I know this firsthand. I can only imagine how parents feel. Louis CK is great at showing you how parents would feel. The whole interaction between him and the lady–I don’t know what ladies who do nails are called–rings so true. The sort of condescending way she compliments them without even looking, and then the way she really notices the older daughter, pauses, and says, “And what are you…? Because, wow, little girl, there is no way you are actually what you look like, oh wait, yes, yes you are, wow” and the way she snaps directly to Louie like “Dude, seriously, what in the world? She’s a little girl!” is great, great writing.

Louie’s response is even better. That light stutter says so much. He’s clearly had a fight with her about the costume, and all his well-reasoned, mature, level-headed adult reasons why she shouldn’t dress up as a black guy ran up against the iceberg that is childlike innocence and being really into something after you learn about it for the first time. It’s so awkward, but so true.

I love how true this joke is. I grew up around a lot of kids, so I saw a lot of this firsthand. My aunts and uncles are probably like “You did a lot of this, too, boy,” but they aren’t here to snitch on me, so who cares. Kids do dumb things. That’s a huge part of the whole “being a kid” experience. But, looked at from the right angle, those dumb things are really, really funny. It doesn’t matter how horrible or outré or gross. There’s huge comedy potential in there. Louis CK is good at digging that stuff up and putting it where we can laugh at it. Sure, I mean, it’s terrible, that little girl is wearing blackface, whatever, but so is someone falling down after tripping over their own feet, and we all laugh at that. Everything is funny in the right light.

The best part of this gag is that that is all the attention it gets. While my first thought was that this was going to be a teachable moment, like the very good episode about Louie’s aunt, and we’d all learn a lesson about accidental racism or blackface (or whatever the technical term for non-minstrel blackface is). But, no, because, guess what? It’s 2011, the joke is that blackface is stupid, but the kid is too innocent/dumb to know better, and Louie is both too good of a dad and too bad of a dad to crush her dreams. “Well,” he probably thought to himself, “it’s just one night.”

I’ve watched this clip like eight times now while writing, and the look on the stylist’s face and her “Welp… OKAY!” response to the blackface never fails to crack me up. It’s cut a little differently on the show, and the music doesn’t cut out, but man, it’s such a good joke.

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This Week in Panels: Week 100 SUPER SPECIAL EXTRAVAGANZA! (Part 2)

August 22nd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Okay, so PART ONE is getting a little too stuffy. Here’s part two.

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This Week in Panels: Week 100 SUPER SPECIAL EXTRAVAGANZA! (Part 1)

August 22nd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

God, has it been 100 installments of this garbage already? Well, I said we’d be doing something special and I wasn’t lying. The regular update is merely the appetizer.

So for those of you seeing this for the first time because of the allure of triple digits, here’s the skinny: every week, me and my crew (usually 4L boss man David Brothers and readers Was Taters and Space Jawa) supply panels for all the comics we’ve read from the previous Wednesday. Each panel is meant to be a breakdown of what the comic is about. The essence. The chance to sell it and show off its tone. Give you an idea of what its contents are all about. Yes, some people actually enjoy this. Go figure.

Now let’s get moving.

Avengers #16
Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr.

Avengers Academy #18
Christos Gage and Andrea DiVito

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The Summerslam Countdown: Day Eight

August 19th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

So, yeah, Summerslam was the other day. That ending sure was a thing that happened, eh? While the use of Kevin Nash is head-shaking, I’m okay with the split angles. Why? Because you aren’t allowed to beat Cena in a feud unless it’s unceremonious and he gets distracted by someone else to the point that he forgot about you. That’s how it’s worked for Sheamus, R-Truth and now CM Punk. It’s the best we can get.

The highlight for me was Sheamus vs. Mark Henry because I dig everything Mark Henry-related from the last several months. His matches feel like a Godzilla movie, only with better workrate. I absolutely loved the creative ending of Sheamus going through the guardrail and failing to crawl his way to the ring in time while Henry stood triumphant. It also led to this gif from Jerusalem:

Linked due to size.

Other than that, Orton’s match with Christian was so good that it makes me forget that I like Christian as champ better. Barrett going over Bryan is how it should have been and the opener was good fun. Really, WWE should have just stretched everything out with this angle. Summerslam should have been Cena vs. Mysterio, which I still believe to be a money match that they wasted by throwing on Raw with no hype. The disappearance of CM Punk could have lasted up until after the main event, where he would have made his big appearance to mess with Cena. Then save all the champion vs. champion drama for Night of Champions, which works great because of the goddamn title. All the Nash/Del Rio stuff would have made it a bit easier on a lesser PPV like that.

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

August 19th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Directed by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, directors of the very pinnacle of human achievement, Crank 2, starring Jason Statham:

An entire movie of Ghost Rider wrecking dudes isn’t the triumph of style over substance. It’s proof that style is a substance all its own.

Can’t wait.

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“my swagger is natural flavor, then citric acid” [MellowHype – Blackendwhite]

August 16th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. Here’s the ninth, where I talk out why Hodgy Beats of MellowHype is ill and how he interacts with Left Brain’s beats.

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places

I liked Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin, but I think MellowHype’s Blackendwhite is a better album overall. I’ve got a free giveaway code for the entire album, too, so if you want it, leave a comment on this post (using your real email address, obviously) telling me your favorite rap song, favorite rap album, and why for both.

MellowHype is lyricist Hodgy Beats and producer (mostly) Left Brain. It’s not really in the same vein as Tyler’s aggressively transgressive lyrics at all, though Hodgy isn’t afraid to… go dark? Is that the best word for it? But nah, Hodgy puts me in mind of Fabolous, in terms of being lyrical, and AZ or The Lox or Nature, cats with real ill flows and a variety of styles. It’s funny that my brain goes directly to New York when trying to draw a comparison for Hodgy, but I can’t really think of any LA cats who spit similarly. Hodgy feels a little like 1997-2002 NYC to me, you know?

I think it’s because of how he spits. He’s a clever dude, with a strong grasp of wordplay and flow. His voice is real distinct, maybe a little on the high side, which gives his rhymes a certain flavor. Something like “F666 The Police” feels like Los Angeles to me, with that real aggressive Ice Cube “fuck the police” stance, but his flow skips all over the beat, and almost setting the pace for the beat, instead of vice versa. His first verse speeds up, too, and then slips back down a gear when the hi-hats (I think?) drop out. He’s not just killing time over a beat–he’s genuinely part of the song.

(Tyler’s verse on “F666 The Police” is great, too–crude, evil, and hilarious. “Well, that’s not happening, captain/ Not this time nigga, BAP! BAP! BAP! BAP!/ ‘Houston, we have a nigger down/ And the nigger that did it loves them gun sounds'” never fails to slay me.)

It’s that cleverness that really hooked me into Hodgy. I’m not a backpacker any more, but that sorta thing dies hard. You’ve gotta come with a lyrical spherical dirigible because of me your girl is hysterical that’s an empirical miracle at some point to really impress me. Smart dumb rhymes like that, dumb smart rhymes (Young Jeezy: “Big wheels, big straps, you know I like it super-sized/ Passenger’s a red bone, her weave look like some curly fries/ Inside’s fish sticks, outside’s tartar sauce/ Pocket full of celery, imagine what she telling me/ Blowing on asparagus/ the realest shit I ever smoked/ Ridin’ to that Trap or Die/ the realest shit I ever wrote/ They know I got that broccoli, so I keep that glock with me”), just give me something to make me grin and I’m good. And Hodgy does it on his first verse on the entire album:

Uh, it’s a Monday night, I’m comin’ home like it’s Friday
Live everyday high, burnin’ kush on the highway
On my way to Rico to make it final in the mornin’
Forgettin’ to study up for my final in the mornin’, fuck it
It’s only a final and plus it’s borin’, however
Tyler’s back hittin’ spinals when the chords end
Skeleton elephant golden elements bezelin’
We spit because we’re sick and irrelevant to your relevance
I’m comin’ down, but not from my high
I should live in a plane, shit I feel that fly

What I like is how he starts the verse like he’s dragging his way out of bed, and then starts hitting you with layered internal rhymes and rhythms (“Friday day” -> “day high” -> “the highway”), and then keeps stacking with the N sounds in the next few bars, and then doubling down on the whole affair with “skeleton elephant golden elements bezelin'”. And then one more line about how he raps (“sick and irrelevant to [you]”) that matches the flow of the previous bars and then he drops down a gear in complexity and pace.

This is good stuff, and “Primo” is a real weird song to begin an album on. It’s actually sort of like Bone Thugs’s “Mr. Ouija” in my head, but without the clear introduction that comes before it on Creepin on Ah Come Up. “Primo” (like “Mr. Ouija”) should theoretically be the song that sets the tone for the album. Sort of a “This is what you’re going to hear.”

But nah. It’s just something to ease you into tracks like “Gunsounds,” which is a hard hitter. Left Brain’s beat is all impact, with no softness or singsongy messing around. Hodgy rides the beat with hard breaks between most of his bars and then he pulls back from that and kicks another thick cloud raps before easing back again to the wide open bars.

I’m a big believer in the “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper” team-up. TI and Toomp, Common and NoID, Nas and Premo, David Banner and TI, Mannie Fresh and Juvie, The Clipse & the Neptunes, all of these cats work real well together. The beats match the rhymes, but are just off enough to pull out something great. The rapper has to work a little, and he shines. Left Brain and Hodgy Beats work together real well, and Hodgy gets to kick a number of different flows over the course of the album.

I’m a fan, man. At 11 tracks and a shade over half an hour, this is a lean album. I don’t want to skip any of the joints, but “Gunsounds,” “F666 the Police,” “64,” and “Deaddeputy” are songs that definitely stand out. If I’m just listening while I write (like I am right now) I might play them a few times in a row, but if I’m bumping the album as a whole, they give me something extra special to look forward to. And I can’t even front, I forgot about “Igotagun” every single time and get caught by surprised by that double time flow and then halting flow in verse two (“swag-me-the-fuck-out”)

Something cool: I copped the MP3s ages ago, bought the MP3 album this year, and then bought the vinyl because I like it that much. Turns out the vinyl pressing is transparent. I’ve got a white album (Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Leftfoot

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