Archive for November, 2011


Call Your Brother Son Because He Shines Like One

November 29th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I’ve been following this documentary series called Little Brother for a while now. It’s composed of several interviews with young black boys from pre-teens on up. The producers talk to the boys about their life, basically what life is like. It’s counterprogramming, I figure, for black pathology, which teaches that black boys will be dead or in jail by 25, are crack babies, are savages, will stick you for your purse in an elevator, wants your white daughters, and on and on. It starts at the top, really, with “What’s wrong with the black community?” before trickling down to “How will black women date if all the black men are in jail?” to “Let’s completely ruin the perfectly useful phrase ‘down low’ so that we can push a paranoid and probably homophobic trend, also, how will black women date if all of the black men are secretly gay?” to “Why are black teens having so many babies?” and then on down to “Seriously though, black boys will rape and murder you just for living. Hide your daughters.” Talib Kweli had a good line in “Astronomy (8th Light)” that took a while to sink in for me. “Black like the perception of who on welfare.”

It’s an old and poisonous lie, and one we still haven’t gotten rid of. It’s taken new forms, too–Herman Cain is cooning his black behind off in order to convince the white people who will make or break his campaign that he isn’t like the dangerous black people, look! he hates Muslims, too! “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?”

This documentary hits close to home for me and probably a lot of other people, because you grow up seeing this on the news (this is back when the news was true), reading it in text books, and hearing warnings from teachers and/or DARE cops. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t actually true because you had no way of knowing better. You assume that it’s right, and maybe you start living your life accordingly, because that’s how you’re Supposed To Be. You get boxed in.

Personally, I grew up fatherless. My mom took me to the YMCA or the sports league on base so I could play basketball and soccer. She was a social worker at the time, so she saw the worst of us. I taught myself to shave, which is still one of my least favorite things to do, cut my hair, and talk to girls. I had to guess at what makes a man, or try to glean secret truths by watching other people. It was confusing and frustrating, and the sort of thing that everyone probably goes through. You’d never know it, though, because who’d talk about it? “Hey man, what should I say to Terra?” “How do I shave?”

This documentary is really interesting. I like seeing black boys getting a chance to talk about what they like and don’t like, how and where they’re growing up, and how they relate to their family. It’s nice to see them talking about what love feels like. It’s nice, I guess, to see a confirmation that I was normal, everyone I knew was normal, and things are probably gonna be okay.

The trailer:

I got an email this morning letting me know that Little Brother is airing on TV tonight. It’s showing on the Documentary Channel.

Don’t miss the U.S. National Television Premiere of Little Brother: Things Fall Apart on Documentary Channel, tonight at 8pm EST/PST with a repeat broadcast at 11:00pm EST/PST.

Subscribers of Dish Network (Channel 197) and DirecTV (Channel 267) across the United States will be able to watch the broadcast.

If you’re like me, though, and you don’t have that channel, you can check it out on Amazon. Little Brother: Things Fall Apart is available for seven day rental for $4.99.

I feel like this project is pretty important. It’s a humanizing effort, a reminder that these boys are no different from anyone else. They weren’t poisoned from birth.

Give it a look, if you’re curious.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 13

November 29th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

The third full month of DC’s New 52 experiment comes to a close and I’m going to take my last look at the lineup for a little while. Coincidentally, I don’t have much of a choice in taking a break from writing about the New 52 as this coming week has zero books from the reboot being released. I don’t mean zero books that I’m following. I mean absolutely none of the 52 titles altogether.

First of the week is All-Star Western by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Moritat and Jordi Bernet. It’s a rather odd issue, as the Gotham Butcher storyline almost takes a bit of a break. The good guys win, almost a little too easily and once the villains get back at our heroes, Hex simply shrugs it off and leaves it behind for the next story. Obviously, the plot threads will stay in the background, ready to come back at a moment’s notice… at least, it better. I am noticing as the comic goes further that Hex is essentially Frank Castle in the DC Universe, only in a different time. Same personality, only he uses his bounty hunter persona to feed his need to kill those who need it rather than devoting himself to his own never-ending war.

The backup was so uninteresting it’s shocking. El Diablo fighting zombies turns into a brief confrontation with a Native American antagonist, some arguing between the main characters and then it simply ends. I can’t believe they pissed away all the good will from the first installment. I’m still enjoying the main story enough that I’ll endure the extra buck and check out the next backup. Just as long as Arkham isn’t completely pushed away from the story. I like him. Sticking.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis continues its strong run. It does a lot of decent world-building, while holding onto the fun gimmick that few take Aquaman seriously. Even when he proves himself a bit, the reaction is just slightly better, but still condescending. Not only are our villains given some more background, but we’re introduced to a new (?) villain of sorts in Mr. Shin, whose appearance only brings potential to upcoming stories. Will he rise as a threat or remain a bitter and sad man? What was he talking about when he brought up Aquaman’s trident? What’s that stuff going on on the side of his neck?

I think this has potential to be one of the top three best New 52 comics when all is said and done. Going to stick.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


“who’s world is this?” [the roots – undun]

November 28th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Here are four promo videos for undun, the upcoming album from The Roots. Watch them in order. They go by pretty quick, and the music is predictably great. There’s an official playlist on Youtube if that’s your thing.

They’re all pretty good, right? I like all of them a whole lot. But “Sleep” is the joint that has my favorite image in the set of four. It’s actually more than an image, I figure. It’s a sequence. It runs from 0:20 to 0:54, more or less, and focuses on the hooded figure that kills Redford Stephens in the first video. There isn’t a lot of action, or any action, really. The most that happens is an old lady walks by and the killer shifts his head as she does. Another man twitches as he dies and people walk past him.

What I really love about this sequence is the bit where Hoodie is looking out over the city. A common thing in movies and books is someone looking out over a city and claiming it for his own. He sees nothing but potential, or something to be violated. A city is something to be conquered and devastated. It’s something that’s full of potential, something you want. You need to have it. Possessing it is a sign of success. When your supervillain, or criminal mastermind, or Tony Montana, or whoever looks out over a city and raises a glass, he’s doing that because he’s looking at his future. L’chaim.

I don’t get that feeling here. Hoodie is looking out at the projects. His future is where he is right here, right now. That’s no future. That’s depressing. Instead of bettering his life, or winning, Hoodie’s best hope is treading water. Here’s your tomorrow, kid, the same as your yesterday. There’s a nihilism lurking in that image if you look close enough, and the black hood gives him the appearance of a Grim Reaper. “The world is mine, but who wants it?”

I like the way the shot of Hoodie on the church steps looks, too. The church is old, and a bit weather-beaten, but it looks strong. It’s weather-beaten because it’s lasted some time, right? And Hoodie is sitting there at the foot of the church, outside its walls, like a black mark. Apart from salvation, but close enough to taste it.

It’s… I dunno, that shot really, really works for me. The closed doors, the empty street, and that lone figure sitting right there. When the lady walks by, she looks at him and then quickly looks away after she takes him in. It’s that thing people do when they don’t want to deal with whatever’s at hand. They do it with homeless people, harassers, crazy people, whatever. We all do it. If you aren’t looking, it isn’t real.

This guy in black… I just realized, but he’s probably a literal manifestation of death, right? He kills the subject of undun, he’s close to the church, he’s faceless, and the way he watches the old lady go by is predatory.

I’m really looking forward to this album.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


This Week in Panels: Week 114

November 27th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Pretty small week on the Marvel front. They were sold out of Fantastic Four, so I only picked up Captain America and Bucky. I got the usual crew this time around with David Brothers, Was Taters and Space Jawa.

Kind of a small week on all fronts, now that I think about it.

All-Star Western #3
Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Moritat and Jordi Bernet

Annihilators Earthfall #3
Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Tan Eng Huat

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


on twilight, liking stupid things, and being a creepo

November 27th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The best part of each new Twilight movie is the flood of essays examining the book that pop up like unwanted weeds. It’ll teach our daughters crappy values (because our daughters are idiots, I guess), it’s anti-feminist, it’s creepy, it’s fine leave it alone you haters, no it’s not fine shut up, girls like it? ugh!!! on and on and on ad nauseam. Along with all of that is the relentless mocking about how Twilight is so dumb (how dumb is it) it’s so dumb that vampires sparkle in the daylight! Haw haw haw! Never mind that telling Twilight jokes in 2011 is basically the exact same thing as having “a really good Black Eyed Peas joke” or “hysterically funny image macro.” (Sorry, dawg, but you don’t. Wrap it up and move on.)

And I mean, personally, Twilight isn’t even on my radar. I don’t really care about vampires. I’m not a teenaged girl (or a cougar, which I think is another large part of that franchise’s fanbase? I don’t know anything but what the internet tells me). I don’t like the summaries I’ve heard (though the vampiric c-section sounds pretty crazy). But Twilight is a sales juggernaut, dominant in pop culture right now, and a post about it in one style or another guarantees a certain number of hits and controversy. So sites I like roll out their Twilight coverage and I trip over it. People I know dis it hard and others defend it as a thing of value. I don’t really have a horse in that race, but I like reading things, so sometimes I go against my better judgment and read big fights about something that I don’t care about beyond being curious about people’s reactions to other people liking/disliking it.

I had a Twilight-inspired epiphany earlier this year. It was while I was at San Diego Comic-Con, in fact. Twilight fans showed up at SDCC and camped outside to see… I don’t even know what they were there for, come to think about it. Maybe a panel with an exclusive trailer or a signing or something. Regardless, they had tents, sleeping bags, the whole shebang.

Late one night, the people I was with were like “Let’s go to the Twilight camp and take pictures!” This was like 1am, I think. Very late, but before the shuttle buses stopped running. I was pretty sober, since drinking during SDCC is expensive and I don’t particularly like being drunk anyway, but I went along because I wanted to keep hanging out.

We got there and they took pictures and I felt completely creeped out the entire time. It just felt strange and ugly. My skin was crawling. I really didn’t want to be there, but I waited it out and left when my friends were done. It bothered me, though, and it stuck in my craw the entire week.

Later on, I realized that I was the creep. There’s this aura around a lot of the criticism about Twilight, a suggestion that the fans are creeps with bad taste who like bad books. But they weren’t the ones taking photos of folks who weren’t doing nothing in the middle of the night or creating long, punishingly funny posts about how terrible Twilight is. They were just having fun.

I like a lot of things. I like books, movies, music, girls with certain haircuts, Anna Karina, girls with freckles, and even a few video games. But if you asked me to camp out for four days so that I could get a brief taste of any of those… honestly, I’d laugh at you. That’s a silly idea to me.

I think that’s because I don’t like anything as much as those people like Twilight.

Which is sorta crazy, because I straight up love a lot of things, but that’s a step too far to me. I couldn’t do it. I don’t want to do it. I don’t even wait in line to get things signed, because I could care less about autographs. Midnight opening for a video game? What, so I can go home and play it for ten minutes before falling asleep so I can go to my job on time? C’mon, son.

Grantland posted a really good Twilight photo-essay by Lane Brown the other week. I clicked because I generally like Grantland, and was curious to see their take. Would it be defensive, a desperate plea that Twilight is okay? Or would they go on the offensive and strip Twilight bare? Turns out, it was neither. They took a look at the fans and talked to them.

It’s a really nice piece. They found a bunch of friends and families who treated it like a vacation. They were out there to have fun and enjoy this thing that they like. Everybody looks normal. There’s old people, young people, and in-between people. They’re just out to make some fun memories.

The Twilight phenomenon is pretty interesting. That sort of devotion is foreign to me, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous of the fans. I like things I like to the fullest extent that I like them, and that’s fine. But I don’t “camp out overnight” like anything. There’s a difference in approach and scope that’s really interesting to me. Everybody consumes things differently, and these people found a way that works for them just like I did.

The onslaught of Twilight press is draining. Every time I see somebody that probably reads X-Men comics or plays the same crappy video games as everyone else talking about how terrible Twilight is in that exaggerated “Pay attention to me, love me please!” sort of way that abounds online, I sorta wince.

I’m the last person to suggest that you shouldn’t call things bad (everything I have seen about Twilight suggests that it is at least as bad as them Anne Rice novels my mom used to read, and probably equally as bad as that comic where Ms Marvel was impregnated by and then gave birth to her own son from another dimension), but critiquing the fans instead of the work is… it’s pointless, isn’t it? Because really, who cares? They’re not going to stop liking what they like, the people who like you will parrot your jokes, and then life goes on. And on top of that, you’re critiquing a legion of people who like the books for a legion of reasons. That’s like trying to hold water in a funnel. It isn’t going to work. You’re going to lose.

There’s no deeper truth beyond “Yeah, this lady likes Twilight because she likes the way the lead actor looks” or “Yeah, this dude likes Twilight because his girlfriend got him into it.” It’s popular now, and its popularity will fade, just like everything else. Maybe the stars will have to do something drastic to avoid being typecast, like the major characters in Harry Potter did. It seems like it’s way more interesting and… maybe not fulfilling, that’s a realer word than I want to use, but let’s use it anyway: more fulfilling to talk about the book and what it’s saying than some schmuck who’s willing to sit outside because he likes something more than you do.

I don’t really have a point, I guess, beyond the fact that I hate feeling like a creep.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Are you buying stuff on Amazon tomorrow? Or ever?

November 24th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I am totally bummed out over some real life drama right now, BUT I wanted to say that if 1) you like the site and 2) are planning to shop at Amazon for Black Friday (or whenever) then you could do us a solid by clicking any of the links in this post before adding stuff to your cart. We get referral money if you buy something after visiting Amazon from one of our links. You don’t have to buy what we link, either, just visiting and buying your own ish after is enough.

So, on that note, here’s two thousand words on stuff that I like that’s probably worth buying if you like things like I like things:

Do you want music? I’ve actually been striking out on music lately. People I like drop mediocre albums (Pusha T) or albums that don’t grab me (Yelawolf). That new Busta Rhymes & Chris Brown song starts off super tight before descending into garbage. (Andre 3000: “Took a shower, kinda sour ’cause my favorite group ain’t comin with it/ but I’m with ya ’cause you probably goin’ through it, anyway/ but anyhow, when in doubt, went on out and bought it/ ’cause I thought it would be jamming/ but examine all the flawsky-wasky”) But anyway: I just discovered Lianne La Havas thanks to a tip from a friend, and Lost & Found is pretty good. I like her video for “No Room For Doubt”. Here’s her website, which has a link to a free EP. Aesop Rock, DJ Big Wiz, and Rob Sonic are Hail Mary Mallon, and their Are You Gonna Eat That? is pretty good. It sounds like exactly what you’d expect them to produce, but in a good way. Aes has really grown as an emcee, too, from nice to even nicer. (I’ve been listening to these cats since high school. Cripes.) Special shoutout to “Grubstake” for being about an eatery that is basically a block and a half from my crib (if you’re in SF, hit it up. They’ve got meat for days) and also being an ill song. I love that trading verses thing pretty much every time I hear it. This bit especially: “Traded the jalopy for a nickel bag of fake bud/ Wait, what?/ Fake bud!/ Wait, fuck!/ Wake up!/ 9:30, back home, no chick, sober/ Sober?/ Sober./ No shirt?/ Stouffer’s.” Little Dragon’s Ritual Union is by Little Dragon, and therefore good. Here’s the title track, which sounds sort of like a sway looks when that rising… organ? Is that it? Whatever that instrument is. You’ll know it when you hear it. Another video: Brush the Heat.

I like Charlotte Gainsbourg a lot, and her Terrible Angels EP is pretty good. Dig the video for the title track. Have I written about this before? I have. “Terrible Angels” is the song that plays at the dance party just before the end of the world kicks off. When the timer hits 3:15, the bombs drop and the ether begins to release.

Tabi Bonney’s The Summer Years is a fun album produced entirely by Ski Beatz. There’s a few great features from Nicole Wray, too. Remember her? “All In My Grill”? “Make It Hot”? I’d buy a new Missy Elliott album, too. Rappers don’t dance enough any more. All they do is this. Anyway, here’s a video off that Summer Years that makes roller skates look real cool and features all my favorite lady hairstyles. This one features parachutes.

That video actually puts me in mind of Pac Div’s ill song “Fallin'” and their similarly-themed video. That takes me to “Anti-Freeze”, which has a real hard beat. “Peep a nigga’s footwear, now I’m all Italy/ Ricky D flashy nigga, on-point actually, nigga.” That takes me to “Posted”, which is like West Coast crunk, I don’t even know. It sounds like some ill lo-fi Lil Jon joint, really. It’s off The Div, which just dropped a couple weeks ago. It’s ill. Like that video, too. “Who the FUCK are you on the phone with?” That last chick is so bout it.

Finally, Danny Brown and Black Milk’s Black And Brown album (EP?) is pretty solid, but feels real short. I mean, it’s just over twenty minutes long. I dig it, though, and “LOL” goes super hard. “Niggas sent the text, said ‘it’s light on the scale’/ I text back, ‘LOL'”. “If it ain’t about money, TTYL.” Wild ignorant, foul, and funny. I guess that’s Danny in a nutshell, though. “LOL” is the “Bruiser Brigade” of Black and Brown, I figure. Super hot, but real ugly if you actually listen to the lyrics. The #1 rapper you could never play for your mother. (psyche, that’s DMX)

Are you looking for book books? Or maybe Kindle books? I’m all Kindle at this point, personally. I bought what is now apparently called a Kindle Keyboard at the top of this year and I don’t regret it a bit. It’s light, like a wallet, and super-easy to use. It’s nice to have a dedicated ebook thing, instead of a multipurpose heavy device like an iPad (which I also enjoy, though for different reasons). Anyway, Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill was a treat. It sort of spins a video game concept (what if you had infinite lives, like in a video game, but were conscious of that fact?) into a really interesting meditation on war and life and the best ways to kill aliens. The lives thing is executed much better than you’d expect just hearing a summary. Free excerpt over here. (Great title on that book, too.) I haven’t started it yet, but Ryu Mitsuse’s Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights is another book with a great title and hook. I liked the sample I read, I just need to wrap a couple books up first.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend Richard Stark’s stuff. You know the drill already probably, but I’ve read The Hunter probably half a dozen times, and The Outfit has my favorite scene or bit of writing or whatever in any book ever. Here:

The receptionist knew that no one was supposed to come behind the desk. If anyone tried to without permission, she was to push the button on the floor under her desk. But this time she didn’t even think of the button. She reached, instead, for the package. Suddenly, the mailman grabbed her wrist, yanked her from the chair, and hurled her into a corner. She landed heavily on her side, knocking her head against the wall. When she looked up dazed, the mailman had an automatic trained on her. “Can you scream louder than this gun?” he said in a low voice.

She stared at the gun. She couldn’t have screamed if she’d wanted to. She couldn’t even breathe.

The outer door opened and the four men came in, two carrying shotguns, and two machine guns. The girl couldn’t believe it, it was like something in the movies. Gangsters carried machine guns back in 1930. There was no such thing as a machine gun in real life. Machine guns and Walt Disney mice, all make-believe.

The mailman put his gun away under his coat, and removed the mailbag from his shoulder. He took cord from the mail sack and tied the receptionist’s hands and feet. She gaped at him unbelievingly as he tightened the knots. They were in the wrong office, she thought. It might be a television show shooting scenes on location, they must have wanted the office next door and these men had come into the wrong place. It must be a mistake.

The mailman gagged her with a spare handkerchief as one of the other men brought the two musical instrument cases and two briefcases in from the outside hall. The mailman took the briefcases. The men with the machine guns led the way. They all walked down the inner hall and stopped at the door next to the book-keeping room. The mailman opened the door, and all five of them boiled into the room.

This was the room where the alarm buzzer would have rung if the receptionist had remembered to ring it. Four men in brown uniforms wearing pistols and Sam Browne belts, were sitting at a table playing poker. They jumped up when the door burst open, then they all froze. They believed in machine guns.

“They believed in machine guns.” If I could be half as good as that at some point, I could die happy. “Machine guns and Walt Disney mice, all make-believe.”

Got a few more on my list here… Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is great, but you knew that already. Duane Swierczynski’s Fun and Games has a really slow start, but once it starts burning, it explodes like a forest fire. James Sallis’s Drive is a speedy read, and different enough from the movie to be worthwhile all on its own. I wrote about the movie last month.

Colson Whitehead’s Zone One: A Novel is pretty good, though a slow burner. He spends a lot of time building up the world, but that time is split with origin stories (for lack of a better phrase), anecdotes, and some really great imagery. I’m a third into it, I think? And thus far the main line in the book has all taken place in one scene. Very interesting way of writing, but I’m digging it. Last one is David Peace’s Tokyo Year Zero, which Tucker Stone recommended to me. I read the first couple chapters in an airport, and they about knocked me off my feet. It’s very lyrical in style, and puts me in mind of my time in high school studying Everyone’s Favorite Fascist Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, though much less opaque than that work. It’s sort of hard to explain, but it struck me as being very good and extremely enthralling. Hypnosis in text form. Snake-charming from a typewriter.

Oh yeah, speaking of Tucker– his review of Richard Stark’s Butcher’s Moon made me want to read that book even more. I read the first thirteen Parker novels over the course of a few months and then took a break. Butcher’s Moon sounds like a good comeback novel.

Thinking about buying video games? The story in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is dumb as rocks, but the Spec Ops and multiplayer is just as fun as ever. People like that Batman: Arkham City. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was a pretty fun ride, with some pretty impressive visuals and action set-pieces. I’ve been thinking a lot about moments in gameplay, those scenes where you aren’t in full control but still a part of the action? Uncharted may well be the best in the business at those. More on that later, maybe. I’m still digesting.

I play an absurd amount of NBA 2K12. I usually play a certain friend online after work each day. I’m up 41 to his 39, but he’s beating me on points, 4774 to 4711. If you figure each game takes 25 minutes (including time-outs, delays, free throws, etc), then… what is that, like thirty-three hours of that game? At the least? That isn’t including my time on MyPlayer and all that. I’m a fan. I worked on an early rev of Saint’s Row: The Third, but I’d love to play the full game. Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 is a worthy update to a solid game. I like it a lot better, actually. Being able to spectate online adds a lot. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is a must-have, as far as I’m concerned. Metal Gear is the best franchise.

Also, yo, you can get a PS3 for like two hundred bucks tomorrow. Black Friday 2011 Bundle: LittleBigPlanet 2 Special Edition and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One If you do that, then, I dunno, I owe you a drink or something.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


The Summerslam Countdown: Day Eleven

November 24th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

First off, I got to go to Survivor Series the other day. There I got to meet Zack Ryder’s buddy and supporting character on the Z True Long Island Story, the Big O.

Us internet sidekicks need to stick together, you see.

Well, this is long, long, LONG overdue, isn’t it? Again, I apologize. I simply timed everything wrong when trying for this Summerslam Countdown. I started watching too late and by the time I finished, I only had a day before the first update was due. These updates take a lot out of me, and doing them on a daily basis eats away at me. At a certain point, you just have to wave it away and decide, “You know what? I think I’d rather spend the next couple months writing about superheroes instead.”

Plus other things stepped into the forefront and put this on the backburner. Since it’s been a while, here’s our list so far.

23) Summerslam 1995 (Diesel vs. King Mabel)
22) Summerslam 1997 (Bret Hart vs. Undertaker)

21) Summerslam 1993 (Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger)
20) Summerslam 1999 (Austin vs. Triple H vs. Mankind)

19) Summerslam 1988 (Mega Powers vs. Mega Bucks)
18) Summerslam 1994 (Undertaker vs. Undertaker)

17) Summerslam 1996 (Vader vs. Michaels)
16) Summerslam 2007 (Cena vs. Orton)

15) Summerslam 1990 (Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude)
14) Summerslam 2010 (Team WWE vs. Nexus)

13) Summerslam 2000 (Rock vs. Angle vs. Triple H)
12) Summerslam 1992 (Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog)

11) Summerslam 2005 (Hogan vs. Michaels)
10) Summerslam 2009 (Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk)

9) Summerslam 1991 (Match Made in Heaven/Match Made in Hell)
8) Summerslam 1989 (Hogan and Beefcake vs. Savage and Zeus)

7) Summerslam 2003 (Elimination Chamber)
6) Summerslam 2008 (Undertaker vs. Edge)

5) Summerslam 2006 (Edge vs. Cena)
4) Summerslam 2004 (Orton vs. Benoit)

Let’s finish it up with our top three.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 12

November 22nd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s the third week of the third month, so what DC comics do we have in store? What will drop off and save me a couple bucks and what will stay with me for another month at least?

We start with Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. I am really, really enjoying Snyder’s take on Batman here. More importantly, I’m loving his interactions with Bruce and Lincoln March. I’m almost desperately hoping that Lincoln isn’t messing with Bruce and that he isn’t part of this owl’s nest conspiracy. When I see the two, I get the feeling of Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. At least, what we’re meant to think the two were like. We never really got to experience much of it. An episode or two of Batman: The Animated Series, but other than that it’s usually Batman sulking over what Harvey’s become while doing what he can to make it like the old days. The idea of Bruce genuinely getting along with someone outside the hero/Bat community as a friend is something that I haven’t seen explored nearly enough. If Snyder plays his cards right, Lincoln could end up being a possible mainstay in the Bat-cast.

The other thing about this issue is that this is one of the rare times where owls come off as anything close to threatening. I understand that owls are actually scary as hell in real life, but in fiction, I can rarely buy it. Nite-Owl from Watchmen always looked like a complete doofus and Owlman always seemed like a complete joke of a concept. As far as I can tell, the only cool owl-based designs have been Supreme Power‘s Nighthawk and Soul Calibur‘s Olcadan.

Damn it, Namco. Why did you stop using this guy in your games?

Anyway. The story’s been doing a good job of painting an owl-based villain who I can actually take seriously. Hope Snyder and Capullo keep it up. Stick.

Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz continues to be a decent book that’s ultimately forgettable. I will say that Poison Ivy seems like such a different character when she isn’t standing around in her leaf pubes. The black and green bodysuit is a nice change. I’ve been enjoying Starling, especially when compared to the boring leader Black Canary. The team is starting to come together a bit more, but it’s hard to say if I’m still going to continue liking this. I’m going to go on a probationary stick here.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


“People call me Captain Harlock! Captain Harlock!”

November 21st, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Y’all remember Apollo Smile?

1998, man. For some reason, I thought this was earlier, like ’92 or ’94, but my memory of childhood is mush.

Anyway, this week in 1998 was when I was introduced to Leiji Matsumoto by way of Galaxy Express 999. I remember being sort of frustrated by Galaxy Express 999 at first. It probably didn’t come out of the gate swinging like Ninja Scroll or 8-Man, and I mean, I was like fourteen. Introspection? Slow burns? Trains in space? How about we leave that talky-talk garbage in books where it belongs, buddy?

I think my uncle must’ve been into it, though, because I remember watching it all the way through. I haven’t seen it in years, so the details are fuzzy. There’s this itch to create a narrative where there probably wasn’t one–“I saw GE999 and hated it until I fell in love with Leiji Matsumoto’s work!”–but I do remember eventually coming around to the film. It’s not a movie I would put on just to listen to, like I would with Ninja Scroll or Akira. I don’t remember ever dubbing it from a Blockbuster tape or anything like I did everything else. But it was Captain Harlock and some of the weirder imagery that really hooked me. Space trains are whatever, but space pirates? That’s the business. Harlock was the man, and I fell in love with his logo, too.

Maetel is another really strong part of GE999. Her design is really simple, with basically three strong colors: a little skin, a lot of blonde, and a mass of black. She’s got enormous eyes, too. There’s this whole femme fatale thing in her design. The black completely covers her body and maintains a certain level of mystery, but also danger, I think. You don’t know what’s under there. She has a kind face, and her long, flowing hair is clearly meant to be beautiful. But then there’s all that black sitting there like an unasked question you don’t want to know the answer to.

I remember specific aspects of Galaxy Express 999 better than I do the actual film. Harlock’s skull, Maetel’s creepily quiet beauty, and the train arcing through space most of all. It’s a weird place to be in, because it makes every conversation I have about the series suspect. What happened at the end? Who knows? I assume Harlock shoots someone with his sword and then they all get on a train and leave. But I think there’s still value in having memories that are bits and pieces of things I like. I don’t think I can actually overstate how much I like Harlock’s emblem and Maetel’s design, you know? It’s one of those things that’s fundamental for me.

Hulu put up a lot of Matsumoto-related stuff at some point. They’ve got nine episodes of the Galaxy Express 999 TV series, The Galaxy Railways, Gun Frontier, and most importantly, Captain Harlock. I’ve been watching it over the past couple weeks. Not a lot–an episode before bed, another on a Saturday after breakfast but before a nap. I’m a handful of episodes in, and it’s nice to do something other than binging on a series or waiting desperately for the next episode.

“The Jolly Roger That Flutters Through Space”–all of the episode titles are really good, incidentally, especially “The Castle of Evil in the Sea of Death”–is the first episode, and it pretty much sets the tone for the series. Harlock is wanted by the united government of Earth because he’s a pirate. His ship is the Arcadia. He sips red wine out of a goblet from a chair while gazing upon the vastness of space and thinking thoughts too big for us. Sometimes he stands at a window. Kei Yuki, the ship’s XO, keeps Arcadia running, because it’s staffed entirely by children and insane sitcom characters. Harlock has a warm heart inside his cold demeanor, and he’ll stick by his friends. He has a small orphan girl for a friend, Mayu, the daughter of a dead comrade. The government knows that Mayu has a connection to Harlock, but never do much more than send her to her room or bully her if she doesn’t summon him.

The first episode is pretty good, and has aged better than I expected (but still not all that well, it’s from the ’70s). The second episode, “A Message From The Unknown,” is where it really gets going, though. Harlock tries to prevent an enormous meteor from hitting the Earth. He fails, and his ship is almost wrecked because of it. He disengages and watches the sphere fall directly onto a city. Fire blasts through the streets, a few bodies flash to ash, and the majority of the city is destroyed. The narrator downplays it, and no one really talks about the people who clearly just died. It’s pretty wild.

“A Woman Who Burns Like Paper”, episode 3, tops even that. Dr. Daiba meets a member of the Mazone and gets lasered to death. She zaps him once, and we see the exit wound and his long, slow, horrible fall to the ground. I don’t know if they were trying to play for time or what, but he spends almost an entire minute dying. The entire sequence is pretty stunning, from a craft point of view. The way the Mazone’s hair falls over her eyes while she smiles her cruel smile. The way the palette flashes to white once the gun goes off. The way his scream turns into a haunting soundtrack and becomes a reverbed out wail by the time he hits the ground. His red eyes. The Mazone super-imposed over the scene, above Daiba’s body. The way his whole body shreds as he falls. 10:30, when the camera splits up like a comic book and shows us slightly different angles of his fall. It’s like he’s falling through time.

(Actually, come to think of it, if the split-screen dividers are viewed as comics panels, then he is literally falling through time. We just can’t see the gutters. He’s falling right to left, too, which is how you read Japanese comics. He’d probably fall left to right if this were an American production.)

It’s like someone on the staff saw “Dr. Daiba gets shot with a laser, dies” in the script and had a bunch of free time to storyboard it up real special. He’s got an art–or maybe film, both apply–degree, by gum, and he’s gonna use it, right? And the results are pretty good, I’d say. It really livens up the scene, and this scene, including the bit where the Mazone burns blue, is really the centerpiece of the episode.

Every couple episodes, something like this happens. There’s either some really well-animated sequence, some really solid visual comedy, or really strong imagery to tie it all together and elevate the series. It’s a slow series, as you might have guessed from the fact that the bad guys show up three episodes in and aren’t explained for one or two more, but it’s a comfortable kind of slow. It’s a confident kind of slow. There’s a point, and they have some room to breathe before it becomes a driving concern.

An episode here and an episode there is really the best way to watch this show. It prevents it from blurring into a pleasant mush (like Party Down did when I watched it in a few fat bursts last week) and gives the really good bits time to digest.

(Another good bit: Mayu running alongside the Arcadia during the end credits.)

I only have the vaguest memories of his MO, but nothing in this show has been an unpleasant surprise. He makes the moody space pirate thing work. It’s interesting that he’s portrayed as a brooding, older man. He gives off the feeling of being older, or at least world-weary. He puts me in mind of Robert Mitchum maybe, especially as he was in Out of the Past, or maybe Tatsuya Nakadai could do it. The current mode for brooding heroes runs much younger and prettier. Sasuke from Naruto, or I dunno, one of them Gundam Wing dudes or InuYasha. You know the type I mean. Harlock can’t be a young actor. He’s got to be seasoned. The other guys, you would cast them young.

It’s nice to see that the Harlock material is still so strong. I never got a chance to properly get into it, barring an abiding love for its iconography, and this trip through his origins has been a good one.

Bonus round: Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4, a true-blue Son of Harlock, a Leiji Matsumoto tumblr with some nice art, and a bootleg of the trailer for the CG movie that theoretically hits in 2012:

How weird is it to see a sexed up Kei Yuki? I mean, I assume that that’s what she would have looked like in real life, but Matsumoto’s original version was nicer. According to wiki, these guys worked on it:

Mobile Suit Gundam UC author Harutoshi Fukui, Appleseed director Shinji Aramaki, Appleseed mechanical designer Atsushi Takeuchi, and Ninja Scroll character designer Yutaka Minowa worked on the new Space Pirate Captain Harlock pilot with Marza Animation Planet (formerly known as Sega Sammy Visual Entertainment).

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


on strong songs [Betty Wright & The Roots – Betty Wright: The Movie]

November 21st, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. This is the fourteenth. I’ve still got The Roots on the brain, and this time Betty Wright is along for the ride. I’m trying to think through what makes a good R&B song and ended up talking about The-Dream’s album 1977, too.

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, a general post on punk, a snapshot of what I’m listening to, on Black Thought blacking out on “75 Bars”, how I got into The Roots

I feel like R&B, or soul, or whatever you call it, is one of those genres that’s timeless when perfectly executed. Nas’s Illmatic is insanely good, but it’s also distinctly 1994. You need Reagan in order to get an Illmatic. But good R&B? Aretha, Redding, Mayfield, and them? It sounds like every day. I really like R&B, though I don’t listen to near enough of it. I’m still sort of weirded out by cursing in R&B, honestly. Those cats from the ’60s and ’70s at least had ill metaphors, you know? Maybe I’m stupid and just never listened to it, but I didn’t know that “Me & Mrs Jones” was about sleeping with somebody else’s wife until my uncle told me. I was in my twenties.

Anyway, someone on Twitter, I think Duncan, mentioned that Terius Nash, bka The-Dream, had released a free album, 1977. Nash is a pretty good songwriter (“Umbrella” and “Single Ladies” were inescapable for a very good reason), though I dunno how successful his solo efforts have been. He’s got good chemistry with Fabolous (“Shawty Is A 10” is just aight, but I really get down with “Throw It In the Bag”). Fab has worked with basically R&B singer ever, and is the rapper most likely to make a full length album with a singer, Best of Both Worlds-style. I always put The-Dream, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, and a few of these other singing dudes in the same box. Maybe that’s unfair, I dunno.

1977 isn’t a bad album. It’s got Big Sean on there, which is basically an instant L (and real talk America, we need to bully him until his regular behind quits rapping and goes away), but The-Dream knows how to spin a song. The beat selection is a bit on the okay side of things. It sounds like a modern R&B album, for good or for ill. Actually, that’s probably for ill. There’s nothing here to distinguish this album from everything else that’s out there. The-Dream isn’t as good a singer as some of his contemporaries (I’d rate Chris Brown above him), he’s not as stylish (Ne-Yo at least has that Harlem Renaissance/wears a fedora and vest thing going on), and he’s not as much of a try-hard as Trey Songz.

The surprise, and I guess why I didn’t really take to the album like I was expecting, is that so much of it is concerned with simping. It seems like every other song is about how a lady done him wrong and now he’s an alcoholic. “You used to be so sweet, but now you act bitter/ And just so I don’t hear that shit, I drown my liver in this liquor” off “Used To Be” almost made me turn the album off. The other songs are about how jiggy he is, how much champagne he can drink, and how many women he’s run through. None of that’s new–that’s basically the state of black music in 2011 I guess–but it makes the album feel sorta weird.

It’s like he’s trying too hard. Maybe it’s because his voice isn’t in the same register as the dudes I like the most (Mayfield, Redding, Withers, Hayes, etc), but I’m not really buying it. He’s higher and lighter, but not like distinctively high, like Prince. He’s in this weird mid-range where he sounds as generic as possible. The best word for 1977 is “soft.” He’s going to sing about how a chick drove him to snort coke and somehow that’s an okay thing to sing about with a swagger like you’re a player.

Which brings me, in a weirdly roundabout way, to Betty Wright’s new album, Betty Wright: The Movie. Wright is from my grandmother’s generation, and I’m not over-familiar with her. If you’d said her name before a couple weeks ago, I would’ve had where I know her from on the tip of my tongue. I heard that The Roots co-produced her new record, though, and The Roots have rarely done me wrong, so I bought it without even hearing a sample track. Why not, right?

1977 is soft. Betty Wright: The Movie is hard. She deals with similar subject matter, from heartbreak to having a good time to a remarkably chaste song about doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well, but there’s a… a presence? Is that the best word for it? There’s a strength and depth to her voice that makes her songs sound and feel a lot better than Nash’s. She doesn’t simp like he does. She draws strength from her wounds, fictional or otherwise, and pours that out on the track.

The album opens with what’s basically a statement of intent in “Old Songs.” There’s a two-and-a-half-bar rap in there (“I must admit, your beats got phatter/ but add subject matter on subjects that matter… ’cause it matters, yeah it matters”), but for the most part, it’s about how old songs were stronger than current fare. It’s nostalgic, but she up-ends that nostalgia by shouting out modern artists who do “the strong songs.” It’s not the age that matters, it’s the content. She lists a lot of modern folks, The-Dream and Ne-Yo included, but exhorts them to listen to and learn from the old cats, too.

The rest of the album follows on from “Old Songs.” This is… the best phrase for it is grown folks music. It’s the kind of R&B that your parents or grandfolks wouldn’t mind listening to. It’s very wholesome, and several songs are about growing up, basically. The chorus to “Real Woman” goes “get yourself a real woman so you can be a real man,” and is flipped at the end to “be a real woman, then you can get a real man.” It’s kind of like love advice handed out by your grandmother, and that’s a little strange, but it works. She’s been around, right? Experience counts for a lot.

I think my favorite bit on the album might come on “In the Middle of the Game (Don’t Change the Play),” where she exhorts the audience to keep trying at love. It’s a bunch of suggestions for men and women to keep their relationship going, but it’s delivered with a grin and a sense of humor. “Make sure there’s gas in the car/ give her money to go to the spa/ and she’ll never forget who you are/ in fact, you’ll be a su-per-star/ When his friends are watching sports in the den/ get in the kitchen, hook him up something/ and even if you can’t cook nothin’/ have a little takeout brought in! (owww!)” There’s something sweet about this. It’s just about being into someone and doing things for them, and them doing the same for you.

Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne show up for a couple of guest spots. They’re shockingly clean, which is sort of weird in a way, but they both deliver pretty good verses. Weezy’s the standout here, though I feel like his metaphor gets muddled partway through (“You gotta pay the price, just keep the receipt,” really though?). Regardless, “Grapes on a Vine” is strong song, and sort of a rock meets soul number about sticking by your people and enduring. (Wright hits the highest note ever at the end of Wayne’s verse, too.)

My other favorite moment is probably all of “Tonight Again,” which Wright opens with a warning to put the kids to bed. It’s a love song, or rather, a making love song. The song begins, “Light up a candle, we got business to handle” and then it’s off to the races. And I mean, let’s be real here: most of the music I listen to is explicit. Beyond explicit, probably. Danny Brown’s “I Will” is basically off-puttingly earnest and honest about oral sex. In contrast, Wright’s restrained romance on “Tonight Again” is fantastic. There aren’t a lot of limits on what you can say in a love song these days, but Wright sticks to the old school style of doing these songs. It’s all hints and promises delivered with a wink. You know exact what she’s talking about, but she doesn’t have to be as blunt as R Kelly or The-Dream or whoever. The hint is enough. It’s sexy on its own. It’s on that grown & sexy level. “A little knowledge that you can’t get from college/ Lessons that you learned from me, not from the university.”

Grown folks music, right? This is R&B for the thirty-plus set, people who might wanna settle down. Fireplace and house shoes music. Mortgage music.

It’s not all love songs. “Go!,” the second bonus track, is about bouncing up out of abusive relationships and getting your life back on track. It’s not really what I expected to hear on an R&B album, and it’s nine minutes and forty seconds are time well spent. It’s sad and mournful and pragmatic. I think it was this track that really unlocked the album for me. 1977 is full of simpery. A lady dumps him and he uses it as an excuse to feel bad for himself in-between songs about how cool he is. Betty Wright: The Movie takes that bad feeling and uses it as motivation. Your husband beats you? You leave. It’s heartbreaking and sad, but abuse isn’t a secret worth keeping, so you leave. The difference in approach, and granted the subject matter in this specific instance are apples and oranges, is tremendous. “Such a big big man/ Why you gotta beat up on me?/ Just lets me know you ain’t the man you sposed to be.”

That way of processing emotion runs through to the rest of her songs, too. If you love somebody? Then keep trying. If you don’t love someone? Leave. If you never seem to meet a real woman, make sure that you’re a real man. If you feel bad about a friend, reach out a hand. It feels motherly, in a way, like an R&B album that’s about nurturing and doing better, not just being in love.

I think that’s what makes good R&B. It’s not about being sad or being in love. It’s about the process, or the feeling, behind it. That has to shine through. Sort of a, “Anyone can say he loves you, but it takes a man to really mean it” sort of thing. Wright sings like she means it. “You and Me, Leroy” is the last official track on the album and it’s deadly. It turns “stand by your man” subject matter into “We’re in this together, and as long as that’s true, we’re gonna be okay.” It goes.

It helps that The Roots are her backing band on this album. Some songs feel more live than others, complete with count-ins and mid-song direction, but it all sounds very full. “Look Around (Be A Man)” has a little Zapp flavor, “Hollywould” has a bit of that ’80s throb (like Drive), and I swear “So Long, So Wrong” feels like The Dove Shack’s “Summertime in the LBC.” Betty Wright: The Movie is a soulful and funky record.

Betty Wright: The Movie actually puts me in mind of their John Legend collabo Wake Up! (there’s a really nice iTunes-only live version, too). Those were cover songs from the ’60s and ’70s, which actually provides some interesting connective tissue between the two albums. If Wake Up! was proving that specific things from the past are still relevant to the present, then Betty Wright: The Movie proves that past methods still work, too. I would’ve vastly preferred Black Thought drop a couple verses on the album than Snoop or Weezy, but that’s whatever. (Wright also vamps a lot less than John Legend does.)

Wright and The Roots are a good combo, sonically and thematically. The Roots have been together for a couple decades now, and they’re in a place where they can afford to do rap songs that aren’t just traditional rap songs. They still have songs where they can show off or whatever, but their more recent albums have been attempts to… I don’t want to say transcend, because that’s condescending, but “get past it” is as close as I can get. Black Thought’s 40, which practically makes him an elder statesman in rap. They’re going for meatier concepts and subject matter. They’re aiming for timelessness.

(You know has that timeless feel, too? Anthony Hamilton. Dude might well be my favorite R&B sanger. More on that later, maybe.)

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon