Sounded Good On Paper

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Ouija iPod (A Second Opinion)

Will I get far in life?

“Watertown” – The Exit 

How do my friends see me?

“Shunned and Falsified” – Mike Doughty 

Where will I get married?

“By the Sea” – Sweeney Todd OST 

What is my best friend’s theme song?

“Stone Love” – Pepper 

What is the story of my life?

“Suffragette City” – David Bowie 

What is/was high school like?

“Sly” – Death in Vegas 

How can I get ahead in life?

“Exploring the Ruins” – God of War OST 

What is the best thing about me?

“Fields” – Sponge  

How is today going to be?

“Next to You” – The Police

What is in store for this weekend?

“Vapors” – God Lives Underwater 

What song describes my parents?

 “The Shortest Ending” – Nonpoint

What song describes my grandparents?

“Lovey Dovey” – Local H 

How is my life going?

“Industrial Zone B” – King Crimson

What song will they play at my funeral?

 “Drowned” – The Who

How does the world see me?

“Circles” – Soul Coughing 

Will I have a happy life?

“The Barry Williams Show” – Peter Gabriel 

What do my friends really think of me?

“Loom of the Land” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 

Do people secretly lust after me?

“Girls on Film” – Duran Duran 

How can I make myself happy?

“Sometimes it Hurts” – Stabbing Westward

What should I do with my life?

“I Beg Your Pardon” – Tom Waits 

Will I ever have children?

“The Tourist” – Radiohead 

What is some good advice?

“Disenchanted Lullaby” – Foo Fighters

What is my signature dancing song?

“Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads

What do I think my current theme song is?

“A Better Place” – VAST

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?

“What Would Jimi Do?” – The Tony Levin Band

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DCBS Shipment

It’s the last Friday of the month, which means I’ll be receiving a big box of comics from Discount Comic Book Service containing the second half of my comics ordered for January. Here’s what’s coming in the order I plan to read them:

  1. New Avengers Annual #2 (Brian Michael Bendis/Carlo Pagulayan) – Takes place between New Avengers #37 and #38 and caps off the Hood storyline. Apparently there’s some stuff concerning Dr. Strange, World War Hulk and Secret Invasion.
  2. Mighty Avengers #8 (Brian Michael Bendis/Mark Bagley) – Continues the twice a month shipping of Mighty Avengers to catch them up in time for Secret Invasion. Venom symbiotes everywhere! Crazy stuff.
  3. The Order #7 (Matt Fraction/Barry Kitson) – Sub Mariner comes to play as the awesome story continues to the end of its ten issue run.
  4. Captain America #34 (Ed Brubaker/Steve Epting) – The new Cap debuts.
  5. Avengers: The Initiative #9 (Dan Slott/Stefano Caselli) – Great cliffhanger at the end of last issue, and it’s a lot of fun seeing Taskmaster interact with the new recruits.
  6. Comics Now! #1 (Magazine) – Created nearly entirely by members and listeners of the Comic Geek Speak podcast (nearly all of which I met at Episode 300). It’s sure to be interesting.
  7. Black Adam: The Dark Age #6 (Peter Tomasi/Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy) – Finishes off the mini that bridges Black Adam’s role from 52 to Countdown.
  8. Green Lantern #27 (Geoff Johns/Mike McKone) – More on the Alpha Lanterns, and most likely more fallout from the Sinestro Corps War.
  9. World War Hulk Aftersmash: Damage Control #1 (Dwayne McDuffie/Salva Espin) – Three issue mini concerning the cleanup of New York after the Hulk went nuts. Not sure what to expect here.

Should be some good stuff.

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MUSIC!!!

Joe Quesada, the current Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics, was on The Colbert Report last night to promote the release of Captain America #34, wherein the new Cap donned his shiny new suit to begin the new era of Captain America. That’s all well and good, and it was a very entertaining show overall, which is a testament to Colbert’s ability to carry on without writers. What was significant about the evening, however, was a commercial. Said commercial is for a Cadillac of some kind and features a song in the background. I’ll get to the name of the song later, but it was one of the best examples of quite possibly my favorite era of music: mid 1990’s alternative rock. With the death of Kurt Cobain, the grunge movement halted pretty quick. 1995 saw the last significant release of new Alice in Chains material (their self-titled album). Soundgarden’s last release came in 1996. 1996 also saw Stone Temple Pilots move away from their grunge roots. It was on the decline, and this beautiful, generally unclassifiable music movement began in its wake, which I simply refer to as the aforementioned mid 1990’s alternative rock.

 

What I immediately thought after seeing the commercial was something along the lines of “wow, that needs to become Rock Band downloadable content. Bad. What’s more, they should make it a three song pack akin to the punk music one they put up before. They could call it the Alternative Pack or something.” So, without further ado, here’s what I would consider the ultimate Rock Band DLC release:

 

Alternative Pack.

  1. Sponge: “Plowed” (1994) – Really helped bridge the gap between standard grunge and what it eventually grew into. Great riff, and it seems like it would be an excellent fit for Rock Band with its good use of all four instruments.
  2. Hum: “Stars” (1995) – This would be the song from the Cadillac commercial. Grunge sensibilities mixed with early 70’s psychedelic space rock. Really catchy, really awesome. This is probably the archetypal song to elucidate the mid 90’s movement.
  3. Failure: “Stuck on You” (1996) – The culmination of the 90’s movement, no one did it with as much art and skill as Failure. This was the single from the best damned album of 1996, Fantastic Planet (and it had some stiff competition that year from the likes of Firewater, Sponge, Tori Amos and Nick Cave).

 

If this could happen, I might be the happiest person on earth for a very short period of time. This was really the music that got me into music as such. I know it’s clichéd to talk about back when MTV actually played music videos, but the late night MTV alternative rock shows on the weekends, namely Alternative Nation on Saturdays and 120 Minutes on Sundays, did so much to shape my musical upbringing. I discovered Hum, The Foo Fighters, Spacehog, The Toadies, Ween, Sponge, Stabbing Westward and so many other bands during these shows. It was a great time to be a rock fan. Rock music had become more complex than the grunge movement, with heavier interplay between multiple guitars, weaving together with the drums, bass, vocals, keyboards, etc. I ended up losing my way a couple years later, falling for the shallow nu metal and rap rock “music” that has proliferated the radio and airwaves since 1998 or so.

 I finally extricated myself from this in 2003 and returned even further in the past to prog rock and the 1970’s classics. I think I’ve hit a good groove for music. Lots of eclectic styles to choose from, dominated by alternative rock, prog, classic rock and those songwriters (the Tom Waits’ and Nick Caves of the world) that defy genre and only concern themselves with artistry. The two albums I’ve heard in the past couple years that made me truly excited to love music like I did in 1995 came from both of these men. Waits’ Real Gone and Cave’s Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus were these beautiful explosions of artistry. It’s the same feeling I used to get the first time I heard Firewater or Soul Coughing. You couldn’t deny there was something there, even if you couldn’t immediately put your finger on it. With the planned releases of Cave’s Dig! Lazarus! Dig! and Firewater’s The Golden Hour in April, as well as the possibility of both bands touring, it looks like I could be at the beginning of another banner year for music. Whether it could ever stand up to 1995-1996, I don’t know, but a man can hope.

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VS System, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Cardboard

I want to talk about a particular passion of mine. Sometime around the end of 1993, my brother and I began to play Magic: The Gathering with the release of the Unlimited base set. Safe to say, even though I was quite young and didn’t have a full grasp of what playing a Collectible Card Game meant, I found myself immersed in the challenge and fun of these games. What followed was a four year (or so) whirlwind of the two of us playing just about every TCG we could get our hands on. Star Wars, Star Trek, Jyhad (now known as Vampire: The Eternal Struggle), Ultimate Combat, Netrunner, Illuminati, On the Edge, Gridiron Fantasy Football, and so on. Once my brother left for college, and a bit before that, I fell out of the TCG world. With the release of Upper Deck Entertainment’s World of Warcraft TCG at the end of 2006, I decided the time was right to jump back in to the world I loved so much. WoW is a very good card game. It definitely benefits from being made 13 years after Magic first burst on the scene. It’s very balanced, and does an exceptional job of transferring the tropes and mechanics of the MMO into cardboard crack form. I bought the hell out of the first set, Heroes of Azeroth. My interest in seeking out information on the current trends and general strategies of TCGs led to my discovery of the Realms Radio family of podcasts, and through them, the VS system TCG, another of UDE’s properties based around Marvel and DC comic book characters.

Here’s the thing about VS System. It is, at its purest form, the greatest and most balanced TCG ever created. For all the beauty and  design of 15 plus years of Magic, you still have to deal with the mana screw/mana flood issue that no matter how good your deck is, if you don’t draw any lands, you’re going to lose the game. You don’t get that in VS. If your deck is constructed correctly, you will nearly always hit every character you want at the time you need them. Search cards are abundant, which seriously helps things, but the big deal is the threshold system. Plot Twists (the non-character cards. Equivalent to spells, abilities, plots, etc.) and Locations (think land, but different) do not cost resources in the standard way. They have a threshold, in that once you have enough resources to play the card, you don’t have to worry about running out of resources. If you’ve got fifteen 2 cost Plot Twists in your hand and two resources in your row, you can play all fifteen cards in one turn. This allows for constant reaction. You just about always have an out of some kind. This is why VS system had to change from the 2 out of 3 games system to a one game system for tournaments, due to the fact that a single six turn game can easily take 30 to 45 minutes. It’s an extremely intense game and an extremely involved game, and the best out there.

But it’s not without its flaws. Often, and this is due to the people they hired as designers being comic fans themselves, the mechanics of a certain character are quite reminiscent of his comic exploits. There is a Captain America card where you can pay some ATK (Power, for the Magic fans) to boost another character’s defense (i.e. Toughness), which corresponds to Cap throwing his shield to protect his fellow men. This is great, and is usually the case. However, sometimes you get some horrifically overpowered characters that aren’t exactly horrifically powerful comic characters. The greatest example of this is Ahmed Samsarra. He’s a character from the DC Infinite Crisis set on the Checkmate team, and is one of the most played characters in the history of the game, due to his ability to create extreme consistency. Ahmed the comic character is one of the White Kings of Checkmate. He is introduced in The OMAC Project #2. He is killed via gunshot wound to the head in The OMAC Project #2. Yup. Introduced and killed in one issue. And every Superman card ever made is sub par. They’ve done a very good job in the past three sets (DC World’s Finest and DC Legends, as well as Marvel Legends) in tipping those scales back to characters that deserve it. Themes based around Batman and (to a lesser extent) Superman, Wolverine, The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Jean Grey, Magneto, Lex Luther, The Joker, Darkseid, etc. have reached that upper echelon of top tier decks. This is the way it should be. It makes it even more fun when that crazy deck based around one or two silly characters becomes strong. It’s just like Squirrel Girl getting the drop on Dr. Doom.

The only real drawback to VS System is its popularity, and lack thereof. It used to be a big money game, with nearly every major tournament having cash prizes. This was great for the competition, but a lack of a casual base severely cut into UDE’s sales, as most of the pros would simply check out card spoilers, figure out what were the strongest cards and decks and buy singles from the second market for what they needed, as it was cheaper than buying boxes and hoping for the best. The money dried up and the monetary prize support was taken away. Most of the pros left to return to Magic or take up WoW, and the VS player base shrunk quite a bit. For at least the immediate future, UDE has decided that major tournaments will now feature electronics as prize support. Playstation 3’s, Wii’s, iPods, and such will now be available. Sure, it’s not the same as the million dollar Pro Circuit, but with the rising sales for the Marvel and DC Legends expansions, hopefully things will return to their original popularity among pro gamers. It’s a great game, and anyone with any interest in card games or comics should at least check it out.

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Terry Gilliam: Cursed Filmmaker

In the past seventeen years, Terry Gilliam has managed to make five films. The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Brothers Grimm, and Tideland. Gilliam has probably failed at creating just as many films in the same period of time. Good Omens stalled and started numerous times. He’s tried to film Time Bandits 2, Watchmen (twice), and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which was a collapse so epic and total in scope that it led to the release of a documentary about the collapse in Lost in La Mancha. To this day, despite it being a fantastic documentary, I have trouble watching some parts of Lost in La Mancha. Gilliam’s my favorite director, and one of the reasons for that is the overwhelming sense of life and vitality you get from Gilliam whether during documentaries or audio/video commentaries, press junkets, etc. The first forty-five minutes or so of Lost in La Mancha is how excited Terry is, and how excited Depp is and all of these other actors and production staff feel like they’re part of something crazy and special. And it would have been crazy and special. The concept was great, and to watch Terry realize that this great project was falling apart around him was heartbreaking. But this is nothing new. Budgetary issues with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and the very public creative battle with studio executives over the final cut of Brazil plagued Terry in the 80’s.

 

So, of course, I was looking forward to Terry’s next film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I saw a blurb about it on Ain’t it Cool News noting that it starred Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, and Tom Waits. The article also noted that Waits, who is pretty much the greatest human being, like, ever, would be playing the role of the devil. Keep this in mind. Ever since I watched Coppola’s Dracula, which featured Mr. Waits as Renfield, I thought that guy would make a pretty good devil. And this was before I even really knew who he was or listened to his music. Since I’ve become more familiar with the brilliance of Tom Waits, especially when listening to albums like Bone Machine or Real Gone, or songs like “Eyeball Kid,” I noticed that he really would be able to churn out a fantastic performance as a sort of Mephistopheles style “suave devil,” as it were. And then I heard about this movie. And that Tom Waits’ dream role (for me, at least) would be happening. And that Terry Gilliam would be directing it. And that it was currently in production.

 

And then I got home yesterday and found out about the death of Heath Ledger.

 

Well, shit.

 Sure, he could recast, and he’ll probably try to do so. Hopefully, he’s got names lined up already. One of the big things that killed The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, outside of there being a giant flood on the first few days of shooting, was the fact that the actor who played Quixote had health problems, which led to shooting delays, which can’t be done with a high profile actor like Johnny Depp with other projects on his slate. Who knows what the other actors in Terry’s new film have on their schedule beyond the shoot? A few days or a week’s delay could absolutely wreck a film, and considering the luck Mr. Gilliam has had in the past, things don’t seem very hopeful. As with most of Terry’s projects, I am reverting to the position that I’ll believe it when I’m sitting in the theater watching the end credits. If it happens, fan-freaking-tastic. If it doesn’t, this might crush me more than any of Terry’s other failed projects.

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