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Friday, January 30, 2009

Do You Like Hitchcock?

With my 30th birthday coming up on another Friday the 13th, and a modern remake of Friday the 13th coming out that day, I think about the one film franchise that I have stayed mostly away from: Friday the 13th.

Yes, me: a regular contributor to DoomedMoviethon.com, fan of Halloween and Student Bodies, fan of all of the Saw movies, and an overall fan of scary/horror/thriller/slasher flicks have really zero to no interest in checking out all of the ones in the franchise. After re-reading Noel's excellent film-by-film review from two years ago, I don't believe I'm missing much by making this decision.

I've only seen bits and pieces of the first three Friday the 13th movies on TV. I saw most of the first one dubbed in Spanish, and various scenes from the others on Spike in English. Even in Spanish, I was shocked to see how shamelessly Halloween and Psycho were cribbed from. From the point-of-view shot from the killer's perspective to the similar music cues, I had a better understanding of where all the 80s splatter flicks came from. Blame goes to them, not the original Halloween.

Now, here's an interesting tidbit of my evolution as a film fan. The first film I ever saw full-on onscreen sex was Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. As a freshman in high school, I got a quick education not only in what the act looked like on film, but also how gory slasher films can be. People who have seen this film know what I mean with a certain scene in a tent.

But even back then, I rolled my eyes at a number of parts in The Final Friday. The film remains the only Friday the 13th I've ever seen start to finish, and it's not one I long to see again by choice. My attitude is, there's plenty of other, very good horror films to see.

Lately, I've been getting into a number of European horror flicks released from this decade. In a couple of years from now, I hope to share with a lot of people what I've seen and will see in the next few months. Stay tuned on this front. But for right now, I'm becoming acquainted with films like Severance, Do You Like Hitchcock?, and the Nightwatch/Daywatch films. For me and for now, those are much worth my time to check out for the first time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not on ice

I'm sure friends of mine up north will laugh, but just the hint of ice here in Dallas makes people panic. And, after ten years of living here, I'm trying to not be one of those people.

I don't seem to recall ice that much growing up in Houston. I remember a few times that school was cancelled because of ice, but never as much as in Dallas. I wasn't aware of lake bridges freezing over. I wasn't aware of overpasses freezing over. When my commute to and from school involved none of that, that sort of stuff never came onto my radar. When I moved to Fort Worth, that changed.

I remember very, very well when I slipped on an iced-over step en route to my first class of the day. It was Thursday, and Thursdays were the days when I was in class literally between 9:30am and 5pm. With the edge of a step hitting my lower left back, I thought I would temporarily be in pain. When I could barely sit still during my first two classes, I took some aspirin before my third class, a class that was three hours long and devoted to action-adventure films. Aspirin didn't work.

As much as I love Buster Keaton's movies, I couldn't sit through the one my class watched that day. Right as I put my feet down to leave, the power went out. My streak of perfect attendance was not dashed as class was cancelled for the day. Going to the on-campus clinic, I was relieved that it was only a bruise and I was prescribed Motrin IB. It did the trick.

Years later, while working in promotions, anxiety kept me away from driving between Fort Worth and Dallas for an event. The weather said ice was coming and people should stay off of bridges and overpasses. All sorts of anxiety filled me and I couldn't sleep. The only way I could fall asleep was after I called my boss and said I couldn't come out for the event.

A couple years after that, I'm working a job where I can't call in unless I'm deathly ill. The streets were covered in ice and I foolishly decided to drive on sidestreets all the way down. It was a slow roll, making my usual twenty-minute drive into an hour commute. I thought the highways would be bad, so I did what I thought I should do. Well, save the for slow fishtail right in front of a Presbyterian church (how fitting), my ride was rather calm.

Now I'm at a point where I can't call in because of ice. So today, I just had to brave the elements and just rely on faith that the sandtrucks did their job and go in at 4:30 in the morning. Save for a couple of hard brake-tapping turning onto sidestreets (and a long time for the car to defrost), I made the trip without much alarm.

Talk about being forced into a situation and just learning to deal with it. Often times, that's what it takes for me and my stubborn head.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This week in book-writing advice

Time for another round of book-writing advice. These pieces of advice are never meant to be the word on book writing. Rather, I'm sharing some of the many things I learned while writing Post, and what I'm currently experiencing with When We Were the Kids.

An outline is a great thing
There's nothing more frustrating than a bunch of general ideas in your head and a blank page staring back at you. What's helped me is writing out a very, very loose outline. Instead of having the daunting task of writing lengthy paragraphs, it's OK to start out with single sentences or just words. More people are going to see the final results, so you can really do whatever you want that gets you to the end result.

In the case of the Braid chapter in Post, I thought off the top of my head a handful of things I wanted to explore and/or talk about in the chapter. Words like "Age of Octeen," "break-up," "reunion" were written out and filled in much later. I had an idea to start the chapter out with Bob Nanna's backstory, and when I did my interview with him, I came back to the chapter with the new information I got. The same went with all of the other band members. Over a few months of research, and after working on other chapters at the same time, I had the rough form of what looked like a complete chapter.

Now, with When We Were the Kids, the chapter rundown is a little vague. The rundown I've used since I started writing it is by year. Since 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 (as well as a chapter about events taking place ten years later) are the main years I'm covering, I think it makes sense to cut up the chapters by year. Of course, this could all change. I could have a ton of sub-chapters, a la The Other Hollywood. I don't know, but that's part of the fun in writing. You just write and see how the material develops.

Books stick around
As I've said before, writing and publishing a book is making a document. Whether or not you wrote your book to be read for the future generations to come, it's probably going to be read by future generations to come. So, be aware that making bold statements about what's happening right now is bound to be different in the near future. A particular trend in music might be the coolest thing right now and might still be cool six months from now, but I wouldn't suggest writing about this trend like there is no tomorrow or there is no past. Write from your heart.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Commentary

Remember when I said I wanted to record a commentary track for POST? Remember when I hoped it would end up online? Well, Eric was kind enough to host it, and it's available to download and it's split up into eleven MP3s. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Don't spoil

After watching the season premiere of LOST, I believe I have another resolution for this year: stay away from reading major spoilers about upcoming shows. Seeing the first two episodes knowing only their titles and that I should rewatch "Flashes Before Your Eyes," I was quite impressed by the whole experience. And I'd like to keep it that way for the rest of the season.

Since my rabbit ears don't pick up ABC very well in digital as its (soon-to-be-gone) analog signal, I decided to see the two-parter-with-recap at a local theater. Filled in a room with other fans, there were so many curveballs thrown that I was happy people didn't moan and groan and/or storm out. Like season four's opening episode, all those who've been patient with the show get rewarded.

My resolution is to stay away from detailed, beat-by-beat rundowns of upcoming episodes. Despite defending reading spoilers before, I think at this point in the show (five seasons in), it's nice to still be surprised. That's why I choose to do this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Three?

Like yesterday's post, I thought I'd share some movies that I hope (and want) to see first-run in a theater. Like previous years, the list is short for a number of reasons, and the list to see DVDs is always long for a number of reasons.

I hope to see Watchmen in its full glory on the big screen, mainly so I can understand why this is such a beloved story. Its trailers look promising, but I seem to be in the minority as I've tried to understand the greatness of the graphic novel. When I read it a few years ago, its artwork and story just screamed 1980s, especially the Cold War/nuclear war angle. Hopefully Zack Snyder's take will shed some light on what I'm not understanding.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a given mainly because I've enjoyed all of the previous ones, and have seen them all in a theater. I'm sure my parents will venture out to the theaters to see this as well.

Hands down, the trailers for Black Dynamite have me excited. No, I'm not going to say that like so many people were with Snakes On a Plane a few years ago. No, I'm not going to claim it's to be one of the best things "ever," creating false hype, and pretending like it never happened once the movie comes out. Rather, this seems like a funny send-up of 70s blaxploitation films while being true to the spirit of blaxploitation films.

So yes, that's three, in one year. And I'm not married with a young child and am dying for a night out.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I still listen to CDs

Blame downloading all you want, but I still like to listen to a lot of music, whether it's on CD or MP3. I've never liked the sound of vinyl, so don't consider me one of those people who's gone back to vinyl because CDs apparently don't have any value in the digital age. As I've said before, MP3s and CD-Rs give me an idea about whether or not I'd like to buy the physical CD. If anything, MP3s have given me the chance to get a good listen before I drop some good money on an album.

Lately, I've been really enjoying the Killers' Day & Age record, but frustratingly so, the band continues to make fantastic singles and so-so album tracks. What I have been enjoying immensely is Glasvegas's self-titled debut album, which was just released stateside. Never did I think doo-wop and girl group sounds and beats would mix so well with shimmering guitars.

Two records I will probably buy without road-testing on MP3 are Zao's Awake? and Cursive's Mama, I'm Swollen. I'm quite sure that I will not be let down by these albums, as I have heard a few tracks and quite sure that these bands are putting out worthwhile stuff. Besides, both bands are some of the few that I'm quite impressed with album by album, a number of albums into their careers.

Lastly, Laura Nyro has made quite an impact on me. Thanks to a couple of Popdose write-ups on her I've been taken by her material as a solo artist and songs she wrote for other artists that were major hits, like "Wedding Bell Blues" and "And When I Die."

So, fear not music industry. I still actually buy products you put out. Just don't blame me for not blindly buying things I think I might like.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cool Kids

My second column for Late Night Wallflower is now online. This time, it's about division in sub-cultures.

Something I’ve wondered about ever since I started going to punk and hardcore shows is where a sense of elitism comes from. Yes, I know humans are humans, but one of the main draws of punk and hardcore is the sense of finding a crowd when you don’t think you fully belong anywhere else.


Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two more pieces of (writing) advice

Time for some more advice on writing a book. These two ideas come from talking with a couple of people who have just begun writing their own books, and I hope you can find inspiration as well.

Imagine your ideal reader
This is crucial because it affects the overall tone of your book. Are you writing a book for people who know everything about the topic or know nothing at all about the topic? Know your limits, and don't be afraid to explain yourself. You have plenty of space to explain.

For Post, I wrote it in a way that people my age would understand, but not strictly for people my age. Whether you put on a show for Hot Water Music at a rehearsal space, bought Braid's first few 7"s by mailorder, saw At the Drive-In in a small VFW hall, or saw the Promise Ring's "Why Did We Ever Meet?" video once on 120 Minutes, this book was written with those kinds of people in mind.

I did not want to come across as one of those elitist, "since you weren't there you'll never understand" types. Rather, this was my attempt to explain how and why people like me still think highly of bands like Fugazi, the Promise Ring, and the Get Up Kids and are probably disgusted by mall emo bands. So, taking some inspiration from a couple of documentaries that save bitter ranting and raving until the last few minutes (Hype! and American Hardcore), I tried to make Post a positive retrospective.

Write your book, then think about how you're going to put it out
If you feel strongly compelled to write a book, don't let the worry of who will release it stop you. Even though my original hope of putting out my book on a friend's label fell through, I still wanted to put out Post in some form or fashion. When a few interested editors wanted me to completely jettison the heart and soul of the book just so I could have a book out with a name publishing house, I decided to self-publish.

My point is, expressing yourself and marketing yourself are two different things. In the planning stage they seem like they're one in the same. I disagree. Say what you want to say, then look into release options. And just because you get turned down by agents or editors doesn't mean your book is crap. That's your call.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Three more reasons to watch Doomed Moviethon

I wrote three more movie reviews for Doomed Moviethon, and they are now online. This time, three lost classics from the 1980s.

On Night of the Comet:
When a comet wipes out most of the earth’s human beings, what are the few survivors to do? Moreover, who are the survivors, and why did they survive? ’84’s Night of the Comet tackles the effects rather than trying to understand why the earth’s population was reduced to only a few. And the few who are undead zombies are not the worst threat.
Read the rest here.

On The New Kids:
If director Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th was his take on Halloween and Psycho, then The New Kids was his attempt at Straw Dogs.
Read the rest here.

On Chopping Mall:
What happens when robotic security guards meant to protect the innocent go bad? Jim Wynorski's Chopping Mall addresses the possibility by using the slasher flick formula, but in a way that’s more entertaining than an attempt to rip off Halloween.
Read the rest here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

To cook or not to cook

Once again, some recipes come my way, seem possible to make with my small cooking skills, and I'm set to at least try them once. Stevie's food blog has a recipe for Vegetarian Tacos and a recipe for Black Bean Quesadillas. I'm intrigued, and willing to try to make them, even though I could fail miserably.

When I last checked in with my ongoing quest to cook, I tried to make breakfast tacos. My attempt to make tortillas was a complete bust, but I finally made scrambled eggs. Yes, all these later, I had yet to make scrambled eggs. So, there was an upside.

Understand that I refuse to adopt the single male lifestyle of eating out all the time. I like eating at home more than going out, but I'm not the biggest fan of making too much food. To be on the safe side, I tend to buy frozen food like pizza, soup, and lasagna. I still like that food, but sometimes I want to try something. I won't be disappointing anybody, unless the house stinks up and the stink won't go away for a few days.

Also, something certain members of my family don't understand, I'm not a vegetarian, but I do like to eat vegetarian food. Simply, it's a desire to taste different things and a way to manage weight.

Now I've been presented with a challenge, in the words of Adam from Midnight Madness, I'm not walking away from this one.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

You're Getting Married

I give some major kudos to Noel for checking out something I was very curious about but had yet to spend much time or money with: Rhino's reissues of the Replacements' catalog. Unlike Rykodisc's reissues from just a few years before, Rhino reissued all of the Mats' records, from Sorry Ma to All Shook Down, coupled with bonus tracks on each one. Sounds like a perfect jumping-in point for me, right? Well, I think otherwise.

The Replacements came onto my radar when one of the music critics at the Houston Chronicle praised them in a small write-up. Like how I got into a lot of the influential precursors to Nirvana, I collected information here and there through Rolling Stone and Guitar World articles, and the Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock. There would be months, even years, before I would ever hear this stuff.

It seemed to me, while Paul Westerberg was putting out solo records on major labels in the 90s, higher praise went to his pre-major label releases with the Replacements, coupled with the first few for Sire. Keep in mind this was years before MP3s, and curiosity and imagination came almost exclusively from reading about music (for me at least). I couldn't simply ask my parents over which was better, Hootenanny or Let It Be. And I wasn't going to have any luck rummaging through a used CD store nearby. The only one that was close to my home didn't carry that stuff.

So there was quite a bit of excitement when Reprise put out All For Nothing/Nothing For All, the two-disc compilation of material from the Sire years. Along with Let It Be and Tim, this was it as far as the Replacements material I could find anywhere. While I've always liked this stuff, I've never been one whose life was eternally changed by the band. I've long figured that it was kind of those you-had-to-be-there-in-the-'80s-to-fully-understand-the-true-power-of-this-band things.

When Rykodisc reissued the band's first four albums a few years ago, I picked them up almost immediately without really hearing anything off of Sorry Ma, Stink, and Hootenanny. Just having remastered copies of the band's first four albums was enough for me. I didn't mind that there weren't any bonus unreleased tracks. This was a band that accidentally threw out safety masters of their records into a river in hopes that outtakes would never see the light out of day.

When Rhino announced plans to reissue the band's entire catalog with bonus tracks, I was rather miffed at the thought of buying Sorry Ma through Tim again (and Let It Be for the third time), so I held off. While I still have an interest in hearing Tim remastered and finally hearing Pleased to Meet Me in its entirety, I'm not so inclined to buy these records for their bonus tracks. While the wonderful "You're Getting Married" is included in the slew of bonus tracks, there are so many album cuts that I want to hear for the first time. Plus, the iTunes store was nice enough to sell each track, including the bonus material. I believe that will be my picking up point with the ongoing saga of the Replacements.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Kinder Trauma

Kudos go to Richard for introducing me to a site called Kinder Trauma. Collecting stories of people's experience with movies, TV shows, and music videos that scared them when they were kids, the site is something plenty of us can relate to. For me, three memories immediately pop into my head. And looking back on them, I now have a better understanding of why so many people were traumatized by the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.

Even though my babysitter assured me that Murder, She Wrote was not a scary show, I was frightened by the opening scene of an episode. Showing a burglar entering a house, I don't seem to recall much after that, other than being very scared and not wanting to watch any more.

Seeing E.T. in the theater was an experience. And not a fun one. I really, really wanted to see the movie, but some of the trailers before it freaked me out. I don't remember any of the names of the movies, but I hope they weren't for The Thing or Blade Runner. Certain scenes in E.T. really scared me. Namely, the opening scene with men running in the woods with flashlights. And, when the man in the spacesuit showed up at the front door, I got really upset. My father took me out of the theater, and something about being out of room calmed me down.

Lastly, seeing the start of V (the movie) at a friend's house really got my goose. The whole thing about aliens tearing their human skin off was very difficult to watch. I believe I left the room once I saw that.

I should note that all of these experiences happened before I was eight years old and somewhere between the ages of four and seven. And looking back, they are rather laughable and not scary to me now. None of these experiences have prevented me from going about a normal life. They are no match for the kind of real life horrors that go on every day in the world, from spousal abuse to terminal cancer to genocide. So, I consider myself lucky that I had an upbringing free of that stuff.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Free Run

I was recently challenged to say a few things about Wii Fit, the exercise game for Nintendo Wii that is harder to find than the system itself, more than "it's awesome." Well, in the words of Adam from Midnight Madness, never walk away from a challenge.

As someone who saw video games develop through the 80s and 90s, never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I'd play a video game to get a decent workout. Well, on days like today, when it's just above freezing and unbearable to run outside, I turn to our Wii and do some exercises. I do the Free Run game for a good thirty minutes, roughly running five miles. This is a decent comparison to my forty-minute, three-mile-run I usually do outside. I prefer the run outside, but not every day is like this past Saturday, where it was in the mid-seventies and sunny.

I have played a number of Wii Fit's other games and have enjoyed the hula hoop one the most. By the end of the thirty or so minutes, I feel like I've done something good about keeping my body in shape. Still, I long for running down my street rather running in place inside.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Resolutions

I often find that when you make lofty New Year resolutions, it's only a matter of time when they fall through. So, I've decided to keep these resolutions small but attainable as I turn 30 this year.

--Stockpile more ideas for stories in When We Were the Kids.
--Keep exercising the rate that I'm at, and not be afraid to work a little harder.
--Do something different on vacation compared to what I normally do when I get home.
--Try to watch all the regular DVDs I own on my Blu-Ray player and flat screen TV.
--Read more books; so I can catch up with all the books I've bought in the last few years.