• 5 television finales that gets too much hate.


    There really is no easy way to end a series. You’re always going to have loose endings and dropped plotlines. The viewer will always wonder “but what happened next” – perhaps with a lingering feeling that the story isn’t finished yet. Some endings have gotten a lot of praise for how they handled things. MASH, Breaking Bad, even Newhart’s comedic ending. And then there are the endings that really make the fans mad. Some with good measure, sure – what the hell were they thinking with Rosanne? Still – some deserve a second viewing with an objective mind. Come, journey with me into a few of these “terrible endings.” Perhaps your point of view will change.

    Lost: The End (2010): I’ve written about this before: Lost was a series about life and death. Lost was not a puzzle to be solved, though there were puzzles certainly in the series. Lost was not about providing all the answers – yet so many fans wanted a perfect ending that spelled out every answer to every unanswered question. Maybe it’s not the fault of the viewer mind you; maybe it’s the fact that we’ve all been weaned on Chekov’s gun. I respect the concept of Checkov’s gun – it’s a solid concept that applies to most good fiction. Having said that, a literary theory is not a scientific theory. If a Literary theory does not fit with the overall piece of fiction, it can and should be thrown out with the compost. Lost was one of these instances where there were several “guns” in the room which were never used (or explained): Why was Walt special? Why was Desmond able to see Charlie’s future? Why were those specific numbers asigned to those specific people? The answer – happenstance. I’m digressing into things I’ve written before. The point is the theme of Lost was life and death. Of course it’s going to end in a scene where everyone is dead. Be it Jake, Kate, Hurley, Desmond, or even Jacob, all have to die. Some might die early and heroically, such as Jack. Some might die a long time afterwards, such as Hurley. But all died in their time. This was the final message of Lost, and this is why “The End” fit so well into the rest of the series.

    640px-Battlestar_Galactica_Last_SupperBattlestar Galactica: Daybreak (2009): Before we get too far into apologetics, I will agree it was kind of lame to find out the entire series happened what, 150,00 years ago? But this plays into the theme that echoed throughout the theme: All this has happened before, and all this will happen again. There was nothing special about this specific race of humans. They died to give birth to us. Maybe we’ll die to give birth to the next race of humans in a few million years, maybe we won’t – but these humans did. Regardless – it was a bold move. Bold moves such as this often cause dissent and contempt amongst viewers, true, but such bold moves can also give us a bit more subtext. In this case, the bold ending really made us think that maybe, just maybe, we’re not all that special. Maybe we’re just playing a game that’s been going on for eons upon eons. Or maybe we’re just special enough to break the mold. That’s the literal interpretation, sure. However, if you’ve watched the series, you know that you can’t just go on literal interpretations alone. Daybreak was a metaphor for the civilizations of the past, present, and future. Of the past – they’re gone; they were either too weak to avoid other civilizations, or they ended up destroying themselves. The Romans, the Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Chinese, the Mayans – sure, they have decedents, but their civilizations are gone. The Future is not known – but the present; well – we’re in the present and for every technical marvel we produce, we also seem to produce something not so wonderful. Poverty, mass shootings, environmental catastrophes, wars, terrorism, politicians acting like children. If we don’t wake up – we (21st century America) will be a distant memory, destroyed by our own strength and technology. Just like the Romans, and the people in the 12 colonies of Kobol.

    Seinfeld: The Finale (1998): Yes, yes, they all ended up in jail – but is that really a bad thing? Four narcissistic people who really didn’t give two shakes about anyone but themselves got locked away. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer have been treating other people like circus animals for years – as if other people had no value other than to amuse the four of them. This was, essentially, what they got locked away for too. They saw a guy they could have helped get robbed. They didn’t have to put themselves in danger, they could have just called for help. Instead, they just sat there, watching, laughing, and saying I’m glad that isn’t me. Annnnd then they get arrested and every single person they’ve treated like a circus animal for the last nine years got to testify against the four. This episode was so Karma for so much schadenfreude. Still, going beyond locking up four sociopaths before they did any physical harm was just the surface. The Finale sent a message to its audience. The Finale told us all not to take the series literally – it is NOT, repeat, NOT ok to treat people like Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer treat other people. You might notice a running theme in this article: that the ending episode has one last message, one final thing to say to its audience. This was Seinfeld’s: Treat people as though they’ll be a witness at your day in court.

    How I Met Your Mother: Last Forever 2014: I can already feel the hate from my readers for even suggesting that this episode has any redemption. It’s been almost two years, and people still act as though Last Forever was a slap in the face. Two things specifically anger people: a) Robin and Ted DO end up getting together after all is said and done, and b) the mother dies. And guess what – you should have seen both of these coming. With the latter, the series has always hinted that the mother was dead at the time of Ted’s epic story to his kids. Firstly. The series creators always stated that the destiny would always be the same, despite changes in course. The mother being dead wasn’t the only possible ending that could remain intact despite changes to the series, but it was a definite possibility. Secondly, in the episode “The Time Travelers,” the theoretical speech that Ted gives the mother says he wishes he had the extra 45 days between then and when he finally meets her. This implies that there is a finite amount of time the two had together. Sure, that’s true for all relationships – eventually someone dies. But in this case, Ted’s speech really does make us wonder – how much, or how little, time do these two have together? Thirdly, and finally – if Ted had really spent all this time (maybe two or three hours) telling his children this long story about how he and their mother actually met, wouldn’t she have interrupted at some point? If the mother had been Stella, we KNOW this would have happened (as this happened in Ted’s head). True, the mother could have been out for a few hours, but the vibe that this story gives is not one of telling a story about someone who could walk through the door at any minute – it’s one of someone who isn’t there. But, like Ted does so many times during the series, I digress. Let’s tackle the Robin and Ted thing. This will be shorter, I swear (Please imagine that being said in Bob Saget’s voice). The show began with a story about how Ted and Robin meet. Every time we think Ted is finally over Robin, something happens. Robin even, indirectly, causes Stella to leave Ted before their wedding. If it was not for Robin, Ted would have married Victoria after he bridenapped her from Klaus. And at the end of the series, we have a very sad Robin. We have one that no longer wants to hang with her ex-husband, a married couple that hardly has time for her, and the guy she probably should have hung out with. Tracey took Robin’s place in the group. At the end of the series, we have Robin who is sad and lonely, we have Ted who has his kids and the memories of his dead wife. Why not let these poor souls have a little bit of happiness? So you see (kids) – the two reasons that people really despise “Last Forever are pretty much moot points. You’re allowed to your opinions mind you, but the series ended in a logical and compassionate way. I recently watched the ending again, and I felt like I had just watched an independent romantic film – it made me giddy with joy. And the blue French horn? Perfect!

    Dexter: Remember the Monsters (2013): You’re probably going expecting me to say that this ending was perfect. You’re probably expecting me to say that Dexter faking his own death and fleeing to Oregon, Deb Dying, and Hannah and Harrison getting abandoned in Buenos Aries is the ending I wanted for this series. If you’re saying anything along those lines, you’re wrong. But not as wrong as the writers of this episode. Seriously, what were these idiots thinking? Even Micheal C. Hall – the guy that played Dexter and created the freaking series hated the ending. The lack of hope alone – just makes me mad! They spent so much time saying that maybe Dexter could actually get rid of his dark passenger and lead a normal life, only to say “nope! we lied about that, Dexter is screwed for life.” So, why did I include Dexter in this list? Well, this is more of a plea than anything. Maybe a bit of wishful thinking. They’re thinking about starting the series again – continuing the story. This is my official plea that if they do this, the entire last season ends up nothing but a dream. That at the end of the series, Dexter is happy, and mentally healthy – that Harrison gets a normal childhood – that Deb is well adjusted – and that well, you get my point. Seriously guys – let’s make this happen! Don’t let the bastards drag us (and Dexter) down!

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  • The Best (and in one case the worse) music of 2015

    music-studio-2015-familie-int

    This year’s best of music list is going to be a little different. Instead of a numbered list, I’m doing things by category. Why not? My tastes are eclectic so rating my favorites of the year against each other would be like comparing avocados and orangutans. Ok, that’s not how the phrase goes, but when have I ever done anything the way it’s supposed to be done! But I digress. Anyways, here’s a list of music I really enjoyed this year (and one album I really didn’t).


    Best free album of the year: Star Wars – Wilco: This album starts out with an experimental track called “EKG.” You’re treated to a guitar that sounds like it was tuned wrong and a rhythm section that sounds like it’s a little too slow. But it works. The album is blessed, or plagued (depending on your opinion) with Wilco’s melding of classic guitar rock and Lo fi, followed by a little space pop followed by psychedelia followed by …well, you get the picture. I can honestly say this is my favorite Wilco album since A Ghost is Born. Seriously – go download it. Now!

    Best hipster song: Bored in the USA – Father John Misty: OK, so that’s a bit of a mean thing to say – but it’s true. This is a hipster song if there ever was a hipster song. But hipster or not, the witty lyrics paired with an almost Elton John-esque feel. The use of a laugh track halfway through the song makes the protagonist sound like his life is the butt of some cosmic joke – as though his life is only there for the amusement of some unseen audience. But back to this being a hipster song. This is a hipster song because this was written about the fears the Millennials are currently looking at. The same fears Generation X had 20 years ago. The same fears the Baby Boomers had 40 years ago. The same fears the next generation will most likely face in 20 years. So maybe this isn’t a hipster song. Heck, what’s a hipster again?


    Best album I forgot existed: Girls In Peacetime want to Dance – Belle And Sebastian:
    While I was reviewing the music I bought in 2015 for this article, I realized there was a brand spanking new Belle And Sebastian album I bought and totally forgot about. Belle and Sebastian might be the favorite band of mine on this list, so this was a big deal – almost a late Christmas gift. As I opened this gift, I was pleasantly surprised. The album starts out with one of the most, if not the most, personal song Stuart Murdoch has ever written. The song, “Nobody’s Empire” speaks of struggles with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how it affected every aspect of his life. Going past the state they’re currently in though, this album differs from past Belle and Sebastian albums, in the fact that they rely heavily on keyboards – giving sections of the album an almost disco feel. Despite the disco, this album really feels like a Belle and Sebastian album. Perhaps that is why it’s such a great album – they kept their essence, and yet infused it with something new.


    Best album from a rock and Roll legend: Alone in the Universe – Jeff Lyne’s ELO:
    John Lennon once stated that Electric Light Orchestra is the spiritual successor of the Beatles. So, what better way to judge an ELO album than by asking “what would the Beatles sound like if they made an album now?” Honestly, I think the Beatles would sound a lot like the music on Alone in the Universe. The opening tract, “When I was a Boy,” feels like the song “Yesterday” evolved (and by the way, it might be the best song that Jeff Lynne has ever written). That’s not to say Jeff Lynne and ELO can’t do anything that isn’t Beatles-esque mind you. The haunting title track sounds nothing like a Beatles song, yet it is easily one of my favorite tracks. There’s also “Fault Line,” a fun rockabilly song which will stick in your head for days and days. It was 14 long years since we’ve had a new ELO album, and Alone in the Universe proves the wait was well worth it.

    Worse album from a rock and roll legend: No Pier Pressure – Brian Wilson: I have a ton of respect for Brian Wilson. There are times I’ll listen to his music and wonder if maybe we’re twins separated at birth (even though he’s 30 years older than I am). So I was, of course, really excited when he released a new album. Sure, all his albums can’t be Smile, but this one just bored me. To be fair, it felt like Brian Wilson is trying to capture the days of his youth. I can respect that. The very album name makes a reference to this -maybe I just don’t get it. I will say though, I do love the song “On the Island” featuring She & Him.

    Best album of covers: The Cover Up – The Protomen: While we wait for The Protomen to finally give us Act III, they have given us a lot of really good covers. Starting with “Because the Night” (Patti Smith Group) as a duet. While this version isn’t as sultry as the original, I do feel like it actually trumps the 10,000 Maniacs’ version. The album also features a Version of Celine Dion’s “I Drove all Night,” which totally changed my opinion of the song from meh to whoa! The Gambler even belted out an amazing version of Total Eclipse of the Heart – albeit her voice is an octave or two lower than Bonnie Tyler’s original. It’s hard to not talk about every song on this album (Danger Zone, Mr. Roboto, I Still Believe, Princes of the Universe). Having said this, the ending track, Mike + the Mechanics’ Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground) might be the strongest song on the album. The Protomen version is a bit more updated, and a bit darker with the addition of missing persons reports voice over at the end of the song. A perfect ending to the song, and a perfect ending to the album.

    Best artist discovered in 2015: The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones – How did I NOT really know this band before this year? Yes, sure, I knew “The Impression That I Get,” – everyone knows that song. But I didn’t know the Bosstones. I did not know “Royal Oil,” I did not know “The Rascal King,” I didn’t know the heavily Ska inspired “Where’d You Go?”. I did not know their Brilliant cover of Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City.” My sins have been forgiven, as I’m now fully into the Bosstones, but I still weep for my wasted years of not listening to this amazing band. Fun fact – their manager dances around the stage when they play live shows. How cool is that?

    Best album discovered in 2015: A Prarie Home Invasion – Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon: Ok, if you’re not offended sometime during this album, you’re probably a psychopath, but that goes without saying if Jello Biafra is involved. Add Mojo Nixon, and you’ve got yourself a cocktail of anarchy! This album purposely jabs at the “rednecks” of America (circa 1994). The music is mostly public domain gospel tunes with new lyrics. A high point of the album is a cover of Fred Kirby’s “Atomic Power.” While the original was totally serious about the benefits of “God Given” Atomic Power, the unchanged lyrics in the context of Biafra and Nixon is a good, tongue in cheek jab at nuclear power plants. And then there’s “Will the Fetus be Aborted” to the tune of “Will the circle be unbroken.” Yeah – even I’m a little offended by that song.

    Best artist to finally wake up and let Spotify stream their freaking music: AC/DC: Yes, Finally! I can scream along to “Thunderstruck” while sitting at my desk. OK, ok, that might not be a good thing – but seriously – I was happy when they announced this. Now, if Only we could convince Joana Newsom to do the same thing. Hmmmm…..Imagine a mash up of AC/DC and Joana Newsom. You’d have a harp playing girl singing about a Highway to Hell. I’d certainly pay to listen to to that! But I digress.

    Best Song that everyone knows and loves of the year: Hello – Adele I won’t write too much about this, because like I said – everyone knows it. But geez, how can anyone not like this song? Wow. Just wow. She’s got a pretty voice.

    Honorable Mentions: There were several songs, artists, and albums I wanted to include on this list – but I can only give so much! But Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, Kathryn Calder, Sleater-Kinney, Chicane, The Alabama Shakes, and Enya all produced some amazing music this year. So, go check those out too!

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  • Ten obituaries for shows canceled too early.

    We all have our list of TV shows we truly miss. There’s some that lasted a long time, but we kind of wish could last a bit longer. There’s also shows that only got a season or two before we took them out back and had them shot. Losing these shows can sometimes feel like a traumatic event – like a death of a close friend, or at least someone you liked to get a beer with from time to time. You truly miss them, and you wonder what might have been. We almost want to have a funeral for these shows, and write obituaries. So this is exactly what I’ve done with ten of these shows that I cherished during their runs. Some might surprise you, others, not so much. No, I do not have Firefly on this list (though it was considered), and yes, I do have shows that….well. You’ll find out.

    Here they are – ten obituaries for ten shows canceled too early.

    1) Freaks and Geeks / Undeclared – I lump these two shows together, because while they were two different shows with two different continuities, both shows were the same group of brilliant people and it can be argued these shows happen in the same universe. The same reason The Wonder Years was such a great show. These shows were about a group as they came of age. It was about their struggles, their triumphs, their love lives and their lack thereof. The shows were about humanity – about times changing both in the character’s lives, and the world around them. It was about high school / college age students learning the best they could the lessons their classes couldn’t teach them. I do have one question about Undeclared though – what kind of sadistic professor assigns Atlas Shrugged to a bunch of Freshmen? RIP Freaks and Geeks. RIP Undeclared. If you couldn’t relate, at least partly, to one of the characters in theses shows, I question your emotional state.

    2) Ringer – If there’s one rule about what shows to cancel, it’s this: Never cancel a show involving Sarah Michelle Geller. Never. Apparently, the WB/CW doesn;t abide by this commandment, because they’re also the one that canceled Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To be fair, maybe they only needed a couple more seasons – we’ll never know though. And the show left more loose ends than a badly tied knot. The last line uttered in the series – well, I won’t ruin it, but it’s not what you’re expecting. Ever. There was even a huge surge of fans, including a petition with 16,000 signatures – all demanding the show be UN-canceled. But in the end, the ratings spoke more the network execs more than the loud fans. I hope they’re fans of some shows that got canceled before their prime, because they deserve to be treated the same way. (middle finger pointed strait at them). RIP Ringer. Don’t let the bastards bring you down.

    3) Primeval – What the CBC did to Primeval may never be forgiven. New World sucked so badly, that (well, I really shouldn’t repeat myself). This is why I want at least two more seasons of Primeval proper produced by the BBC. Usually after the fifth season, the series tends to lag – but not Primeval. The series felt like it was nowhere near peaking. Maybe that’s why they stopped when they did – maybe they were afraid of the possibility that the show would become stale, I mean lightning can’t strike twice (ahem – Doctor Who anyone?). Eh, what can I say – British TV is weird. RIP Primeval. I said I wouldn’t repeat myself, but I do a hope T-rex rips apart the doppelgangers that replaced you.

    Let’s hope we hear these words…

    4) Futurama – Yes, yes, this series has been resurrected more times than Lazarus stuck in a time loop – but I want more. The show is funny, yes. The show is brilliant, yes. The show makes us love people we would not normally love (what about Zoidberg?). The show is just, quite frankly, the best 30 minute show produced in the last 20 years. Every summer I re-watch the entire series because, well, why wouldn’t I? Sure, I cry every time I get to Jurassic Bark, and sure, I cringe every time they show the Professor Au-natural, but the show just leaves me wanting more. I feel like even if they resurrect it again, I’ll still want more. RIP Futurama. I guess all good things must end. But maybe, just maybe, the ending could have been prolonged a little more.

    5) Victorious – Don’t watch this show, as you’re probably not going to like it. My target audience and the target audience of this show do not overlap much. And unless you watch it with your kids, you’re probably going to look creepy watching it. Having said that, I have to admit I kind of loved this show a little more than I should. The writing was pretty good, the jokes were pretty funny, and every so often they’d have a lot of fun (one episode is a shot by shot recreation of the Breakfast Club). The ratings were strong too. And yet for some reason it was canceled. There was some rumors going around that they canceled it because they only allowed Nickelodeon shows to go four seasons usually – but come on. That’s a bunch of crap and everyone knows it. They canceled it because they wanted to do the terrible spin off which I shall not even name here. To add salt to the wound, if they hadn’t canceled this series, maybe, just maybe, a certain annoying pop star wouldn’t be all over the media now. She was in the series, but only as a supporting role. She was also a star of the spin off….Yes, I blame the cancellation of this series for the evil, doughnut hating queen of sheer slutty stupidity…well, I think you can figure out the whore’s name. RIP Victorious. Your death gave birth to a new breed of pure terror, heard on every pop radio station in the nation. Your resurrection might be the only weapon we have against her.

    6) Stargate Atlantis – This show just ended awkwardly. The Wraith were still out there, and they might even know the location of Earth. There’s still millions (maybe even Billions) of humans in the Pegasus galaxy waiting the be culled, and Atlantis just kind of sat there, bobbing away in the San Francisco Bay. Come on people! There’s so much more to the story here. At least give us a movie! We deserve that! We need some freaking closure on this sucker. Even Firefly got Serenity! RIP Stargate Atlantis. I do hope the wraith make our ultimate culling as quick and painless as possible, though they are the wraith – so they probably won’t. Yikes.

    7) Stargate Universe – And this one….this one is just as bad! At least the crew of Atlantis got to go home – but not the crew of Destiny. Nope….they’re doomed to never know the true mission of the ship, doomed to never explore the rest of the massive spacecraft, doomed to never go home, and doomed to – you get the idea. Stupid Canadians – they probably canceled this show so they could focus on Primeval: New World. RIP Stargate Universe. I hope you someday finish your mission – I hope you find what you’re looking for.

    It’s like Jurassic Park meets the Flintstones. Well, maybe not…but it was good!

    8) Terra Nova – I pretty much stopped watching FOX after the canceled this series. Sorry, buh-bye, no more. OK, ok, I still watch Fox on Sunday nights, but that’s different man, I gotta have my Simpsons! But back to Terra Nova. It was a fun show at first. Kind of light, had the appeal of Jurassic park, only there’s like an entire colony instead of just a few tourists – and nowhere to escape. But then you started getting good. Then you started showing the real reason Terra Nova existed – the politics, and those that didn’t believe in the cause and what that meant to the citizens of Terra Nova. RIP Terra Nova. You escaped into the past of a parallel universe, looking for a new home. I hope you find that new home in the future of another network.

    9) Selfie – This show looked really dumb – and perhaps that was its downfall. To be fair, it was indeed very dumb at times – but when it stopped trying to appease the masses and started finding its voice, it because a brilliant commentary on post-modern America and the age of social media. It described a woman who was a slave to her technology, how her Facebook and twitter and Instagram and Tinder lives ruled her real life. One wonders how many people like her our society fosters. Note: I’m sharing this on a blog which most of you will find through social media. So yeah, no wonder this show got canceled. Americans don’t feel comfortable with introspection. RIP Selfie. You may have been shallow at times, but you really did know what punches to throw.

    10) The Crazy Ones – This is going to hit us all in the feels, but if this show hadn’t been canceled, we might still have Robin Williams with us. I’m not an expert on the subject, but a quick google search shows that Robin viewed the cancellation of the show as a personal failure, and that his depression which lead to his suicide started with this event. It makes me wish I had a time machine. I seriously loved the show, and looked forward to it almost every week. It really made me happy. Maybe if I could travel back in time and somehow tell him how much I adored it….maybe we’d have Robin with us still. RIP The Crazy Ones, and RIP Robin Williams. You were too good for your critics and you are severly missed. And again – there’s the whole don’t cancel a show if Sarah Michelle Geller is involved!!!

    Seriously – why would they cancel this?
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  • Larry the Happy, Homicidal Squirrel

    As with the tradition of the last few years, I’ve once more written a story in the spirit of Halloween. So, without further adiue, I bring you the adventures of Larry the Happy Squirrel in Happyville. Happy Halloween, and enjoy.

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    It was a peaceful day in Happyville. The sun was shining, the flowers were singing, the trees were swaying, and everyone was happy. After all, this was Happyville. Wait, wait, there is no such place as Happyville! Well, there isn’t now…for on that very day Happyville ceased to exist.
    Like I was saying, Happyville was a happy place for happy people with happy lives and happy jobs, happy families,….even the cows they slaughtered for their evening meals were happy! To be unhappy in Happyville was just impossibility until that day. A couple weeks before, Larry the happy squirrel ventured back from his happy journey from the lands south of Happyville. No one is sure what happened, but Larry the happy squirrel somehow lost his happiness on the happy journey. Larry decided to fake happiness for awhile, thinking no one would notice. For the most part, no one did. The residents of Happyville were rather simple and a little dumb. Besides, they had no concept of unhappiness – it was almost like gibberish to their brains.
    Larry, feigning happiness, walked to the diner like he always did, and ordered happy eggs with happy toast and happy coffee. As the waitress, Lisa the gazelle, poured the happy coffee into Larry’s happy cup, she accidently poured scolding happy coffee on Larry’s unhappy hand. Those two weeks of feigning happiness were taking their toll on Larry – faking it usually does. This, unfortunately for Lisa and everyone else in the diner, was the last straw. Larry couldn’t hold his happiness in. In his cute, cartoony squirrel voice, Larry wailed…
    YOU BITCH! YOU STUPID MORON! YOU GOOD FOR NOTHING IDIOT OF A STUPID….
    Larry stopped and realizing everyone else was staring at him. No doubt, their small brains could not figure out exactly what was happening. No doubt they felt something terrible had happened, but couldn’t decipher what….but they knew Larry was no longer something Happyville could have in its happy borders. Farrah the Earthworm squirmed towards the door. She had to inform the happy mayor that Happyville needed to do something about Larry. But Farrah, poor Farrah, she couldn’t move too fast. Larry saw her slithering to, so he took his happy boot and smashed her. Farrah’s happy guts squished out of her, all over the happy floor. Some of the happy diner patrons let out a happy gasp, some even let out a happy vomit. Larry, on the other hand, felt a rush of euphoria…Larry liked it. Larry belted out, almost in celebration….
    Farrah is in a happier place!
    As he laughed psychotically, he grabbed a happy knife from behind the happy counter, and happily sliced and diced the rest of the diner patrons and staff. There was Ester the Moose, Eli, the Emu, Roger the Mouse, Bella the Cow…Larry carved all of them up and threw their guts into the middle of the happy room.
    When everyone was dead, Larry screamed in pleasure….I am no longer Larry the Happy Squirrel, I am now Larry the Homicidal squirrel!
    Of course no one else in Happyville knew what had happened in the Happyville Diner, so when Larry emerged from the Happyville diner, no one expected him to bring a happy Automatic rifle to the town.
    Larry didn’t just start shooting the happy people of Happyville though – nooooo, that would be too obvious, and not enough collateral damage. Larry decided to start with the happy town square. But as he started walking towards the happy town s quare, the happy flowers saw the happy rifle behind Larry’s back.
    What’s that strange, but happy, tree behind your back Larry?
    Larry, silently looked at the flowers with a murderous grin. The flowers, innocent of murder, thought Larry was just extra happy with his odd, big, and in retrospect, creepy grin. After a few seconds, Larry replied — It’s a flower pal generator. Let me show you…
    Larry open fired on the happy flowers as they’re once happy songs turned into unhappy screams of terror.
    Of course, with the unhappy screams, and what was left of the once happy flowers, the citizens of Happyville were not quite sure what to do. The happy constable of Happyville, Marvin the Happy Basset Hound, strolled up to Larry and casually said….
    Larry, you’re not making us happy. What’s wrong big fella?
    Larry did not say a word. Larry just took his happy cleaver and stabbed Marvin repeatedly.
    With that, Larry happily hopped down Happy Avenue, killing the citizens of Happyville one by one. Linda the happy skunk got a shotgun to the gut, while Henry the happy leopard got ripped to shreds with a chainsaw. Wayne the happy Elephant got force fed a trunkful of night shade. And Sarah the happy lemur, well she just got thrown off a happy cliff. The streets of Happyville were bathed in happy blood. The happy survivors decided it was time to take action.
    Rachel, the happy centipede drove a happy tank down Happy Avenue, looking to bring happy justice to Larry. Meanwhile, Annie the happy gorilla started handing out happy AK-47s to the happy townspeople. The happy Militia searched high and low for Larry – but Larry was good. Larry was the Happyville hide and seek champion. Larry ran behind a happy building and then into a happy alley, where he squatted behind a happy trashcan. Larry took a happy bazooka and made both Rachel and her tank blow up into a happy explosion of happy fire and happy smoke. A happy tree saw the whole thing, and yelled to the happy militia…..he’s over there, tear his happy limbs apart!
    What happened next is not important, and much too gruesome to mention. Needless to say, Larry paid for his happy crimes with his unhappy life. A couple days later, at a happy town meeting, the survivors of the happy massacre decided that the victims died because of blind happiness. They vowed to rid Happyville of its happiness plague once and for all. From that point on, Happyville would be a happy free zone. Or should I say the town once called Happyville. For that day, as I mentioned before, Happyville ceased to exist. That day, the residents of Happyville renamed their city to the unhappy thing they could think of. And that, that is how we got the city of Houston.

    Not a happy place
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  • I Love Rock and Roll!!!

    Joan-Jett-774x320
    Most people I share my music with are pretty impressed with my wide range in musical tastes. You’ll find me listening to Mogwai one moment, Brahms the next, an 80s pop classic the next, some psychedelic deep cut the next, and then maybe a song that everyone loves (but no one wants to admit to loving). Picking a favorite genre is like picking a favorite appendage. Do I like post punk and my right pinky? Do I like classic rock and my big toe? What about 1960s hippie music and my right thumb? Or maybe new wave and my – you get the point? But truth be told – while picking a favorite genre is indeed like picking a favorite appendage, I do have a favorite genre….and that is my – that is good old rock and roll!
    What do I mean by rock and roll? Do I mean Rock out with your….uhhh, Def Leppard? Thoughtful, politically motivated and passionate U2? Soulful and R & B inspired bands like The Rolling Stones? Journey, Jack White, The Eagles, Roxette’s first album? The answer is simple…..YES! Yes, I mean it all! Every single one of those! I like the stuff that makes me sing into a hair dryer, 80s style. I like the stuff that get’s my booty moving, I love the stuff that’s incredibly complicated musically, and, I’ll admit —- I kind of even like Stryper. The question I ask is simply – does it rock? If yes, it does indeed rock, then I consider it rock.
    Why do I like it though? Why can I jam to Bad Religion’s 21st Century Digital Boy? Why can I scream the lyrics of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck? And why do I make fun of Lars Ulrich? Well – the answer to the first two questions is because – it rocks! It just does. It sounds good loud, (and it might get loud). The answer to the second is that Lars Ulrich is a pansy! I mean a sell out! I mean a member of a band that used to be good! I mean a …..I’m digressing, but shame on you Metallica. Break up already!
    Don’t get me wrong by the way – I’m not at all trying to define rock and roll for everyone – I’m just trying to define it for me – and to me, rock and roll is true to the musician – even if that means the musician is a shallow fogwad that only cares about getting stoned and laid. Warrant’s cherry pie is a dumb song – but it rocks nonetheless! KISS’s I want to rock and roll all night might be dumb and banal lyrics – but they’re true to themselves in that message. And let’s face it – who wouldn’t want to rock and roll all night and party every day? Ok….ok. Maybe I would need a break now and then to sleep and read and freaking get some peace and quiet….but the song is hyperbole anyways!

    And hey - the video was kind of cool.
    And hey – the video was kind of cool.

    By the way, every artist is allowed a little stupidity or banality. U2, who is one of my favorite bands and is known for their politically charged and passionate lyrics wrote a song for the soundtrack of Batman freaking Forever. No, Hold me, Kiss me, Thrill Me Kill Me wasn’t the angry call to justice as say, Sunday Bloody, Sunday – but it was fun and even if they sold out by making a song for one of the most hated superhero movies of all time, I still feel like they put themselves in the song – and therefore the song still rocks (and at least Bono didn’t wear Robin’s bat nipple costume – ugg).
    This of course doesn’t mean that a rock song can’t suck. Steve Miller’s lyrics really do suck at times (Big ol’ Jet Airliner anyone)? And do we really need to mention STIX’s Come Sail Away? ALIENS? Really? Some would say “We Built this City” by Starship is one of the worse rock and roll songs ever recorded. I disagree – but those people are certainly entitled to their opinions. Personally, I think “Sweet Home Alabama” is kind of dumb. But just as I’m not here to define rock and roll for the masses, I’m also not here to say my taste in songs is the only correct one. I’m just saying some rock songs suck, and just because they’re from the heart and all that – this doesn’t mean that they get a pass.
    Back to the definition of Rock – I kind of left out something important. It’s why the Beastie Boys song “Sabotage” rocks, and “Intergalactic” does not.

    So hardcore....NOT!
    So hardcore….NOT!

    I love both songs. I really do – but the former rocks because, to me, if it’s going to rock, the dominant instruments have to be an electric guitar, bass, and drums. There’s just no getting past that. I love a lot of the new wave songs of the late 70s and the 80s – but they don’t rock! Nothing they can do will ever make them rock, because they’re so steeped in keyboards and not steeped enough in electric guitar. I’m looking at the song “Stepping out” by the brilliant Joe Jackson. Seriously, this is one of my favorite songs – but it doesn’t rock. Going back in time, the 1960s had a lot of guitar based songs, sure, but Dylan did not rock (well, maybe when he went electric), Simon and Garfunkel did not Rock, Crosby, Stills, and Nash did not rock. The Beatles – well they rocked sometime. The Stones? Ok, the Rolling stones rocked a lot more than most of their counterparts. And again, I’m not here to define what rock is to the masses – hell – the 60s and the 50s was when Rock was born. But while a lot of the songs were considered in the rock and roll genres, they did not, to me, rock.
    Joan Jett loves rock and roll. This is a fact. But I think I love rock and roll more than she does. Ok, maybe that’s unfair – I am just a lowly blogger with a passion for writing about music and a lust for the talent I do not possess. Joan Jett has been rocking us with her bad Reputation since before I learned to talk. Rock and roll is one of my passions – but Rock and Roll is Joan Jett’s life. But I still love rock and roll more than a normal person should. I always have. I even loved it when my version of Rock and Roll was a Petra tape in seventh grade! I thought I was so badass when I was listening to my headphones and my aunt Arlene asked me what I was listening to – I said TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL!” (by Stryper). I still remember her reaction – she was kind of shocked and taken a back. She just kind of said “well then….” Heh, yeah….I thought I was so hardcore (though I was still more hardcore than Lars Ulrich is now, but I digress).

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  • Blasting off with Sci-Fi!

    stargate

    I’ve loved science fiction my entire life. The idea of blasting off into space and landing on a distant planet, or maybe slipping into an alternative dimension where all the apes are purple and all the barnacles are made of gold? Yes please! I was two years old when Star Wars came into theaters, I grew up watching Star Trek re-runs, and even went to see the Black Hole in theaters (quite possibly the first time at a theater where I didn’t fall asleep during the movie).I love Sci-Fi so much that I almost feel like I can claim a deep love for the genre is in my genetics……and while I’m on the subject, I’ve got to say – I’ve never understood the stereotype of only nerds liking Sci-Fi. But then again, I am a nerd, so there’s that. Hell, I’m even wearing a t-shirt referencing Stargate (there’s no place like ). But I digress – there’s a war in science fiction – there’s those who care more about the fiction and less about the science, and there’s those who care more about the science and less about the fiction. Whose right? In my opinion, it depends on the piece of Science Fiction. There’s some simple rules one must follow when writing science fiction.

    1) One must know their audience:
    This is such a 101ism that it hurts to include this in this list. I know my readers enough to know that they know this already – but yet for the sake of completionism I feel I must say this. Knowing one’s audience is a basic part of writing, but this is especially important in this discussion, as science fiction fans are a diverse group of individuals. There’s physicists who study things that, quite frankly, I’ll never be able to understand. There’s people who can barely grasp the concept of warp speed. There’s the ten year old kid who saw Anakin Skywalker in the Phantom Menace as character they can relate to, there’s the disgruntled gen Xers who scoff at the prequels and swear by the original three. One has to know what kind of science fiction fan one is writing for, or else you’ll get something that no one likes. To add to this, knowing which audience you’re writing for means knowing which opinions can (and should) be ignored, and which opinions should be taken seriously. Are you writing the next 2001? Then don’t listen to the ten year old kids when they say it’s boring. Don’t listen to those who prefer Micheal Bay explosion type movies. Listen to someone you might find as a character on the Big Bang theory, because they’re the ones who are more likely to understand your creation. Likewise, don’t listen to the hard science crowd if you’re trying to write the next Skyline – though I will say that if you’re trying to do this, maybe you should just chop off your hands because Skyline was the worst movie ever.

    Skyline's brain removal was a perfect metaphor for what the movie did to the audience.
    Skyline’s brain removal was a perfect metaphor for what the movie did to the audience.
    2) One must have likable characters: I just said that Skyline was the worse movie ever written. That was not just a cheap jab – Skyline is seriously the worse movie I’ve ever seen. I hold it as the bottom measure of how bad a movie can be. There’s two things that made it bad: a) it felt like it was written by a board of directors and b) I just didn’t give a damn about the characters. Seriously – the main guy didn’t give a damn about his girlfriend until her life was threatened. He was going to leave because he knocked her up, but then he decided he needed her I guess. It was such a badly written character that I expected him to die pretty quickly, but he didn’t. He was harder to wipe out than a piece of crap stuck to a strand of butt hair and twice as disgusting. Now, maybe there was a small percentage of people who really liked him, but considering that movie was hated by so many people, I highly doubt it. I could go on, and on, and on….about how bad of a movie Skyline is – because seriously, I’ve found things more pleasant in my kitty’s litter box, but my point is if the audience doesn’t like your characters, you’ve failed! Look at Walking Dead. Look at Lost. Look at Star Trek (TOS and TNG). Heck, look at pretty much all of the Marvel Movies! Why are they so loved? Because you don’t want the main characters to get swallowed by black alien goo or zombified or just die. When they do, be it Tasha Yar or Lori Grimes or John Locke or (spoilers) Quicksilver, it’s a tragic thing. You’ve invested yourself into those characters, and even though they’re fictional people, you feel a sense of loss. This is how it always should be. You should be wanting your audience to care about your people enough that if you do choose to go all George RR Martin on them, your audience is going to be a bit pissed off.

    3) One must define what Science fiction is to them: In the last section, I mentioned The Walking Dead, Lost, Star Trek (TOS and TNG), and the marvel universe as examples of Science fiction. I chose these examples, because in a broad sense, they’re all science fiction. In truth however, I see The Walking Dead as horror, Lost as mystical fantasy, and the Marvel Movie Universe is mostly superheros. Again, they all have something involving science fiction, but if I’m writing Sci-Fi, I’m thinking about traveling to other worlds, or the implications of technology in the future or maybe life in an alternative universe. It should deal with issues, though it doesn’t have to be dystopic. It should be a world which we don’t live in now, though this world could be part of it’s history. This is by far no ironclad definition of science fiction, as I am only one voice amongst many – but if you write science fiction you better have at least some definition and focus. Again, The Walking Dead clearly has some science fiction involved – the virus is man made. However, the focus on the series isn’t really how to cure the virus – the focus is surviving a zombie apocalypse, which therefore puts it into a more horror category. The island on Lost has many mysteries, however they’re not scientific in nature. They’re mystical. The Marvel Universe? Well, science has been a huge part of creating most of those guys, but really the focus is a super hero focus. Star Trek however – that’s about exploring the galaxy. That’s about “boldy going where no one has gone before!” That to me is the heart of Science Fiction.

    4) Be it science or fiction, a sense of wonder and imagination is key: This almost needs no explanation but it still needs to be said. I tend to lean towards the fiction part of science, and therefore a sense of wonder and imagination really is key as I don’t really have the science to back up my writings. Sure, I’ll BS my way through some rudimentary physics or what have you, but the science part of the equation really is nothing more to me than a plot device. Honestly, my audience is not the physicist – but that means that I have to work extra hard to present the reader of anything I write with a sense of “wow! I wish that would really happen!” But while it’s not as important for a “hard science” piece to rely on a sense of wonder and imagination, it is important to provide a little. Hard science is, to be frank, boring as hell. It’s fascinating what it can do, but it’s still science fiction – not science. It’s taking a concept and theorizing (and I use the literary definition, not the scientific definition) what it’s implications might be in, say, 100 years. It’s about exploration of things beyond this world, and how it will effect humanity. Most hard science buffs I know really like Stargate, and I do too. I like it because they really do put me in a different place. I like it because it explores the morality scientific endeavors. It’s got action and adventure and big explosions, it’s got relationships and people being people (be it good or bad), it asks the basic “we can, but should we” questions when it comes to some technology (Asgardians singularity anyone?). It really is the balance between the two universes – and that’s why it was such a great series(s) and movie.

    In an alternative Universe, Han Solo is related to Mickey Mouse.
    In an alternative Universe, Han Solo is related to Mickey Mouse.
    5) Don’t be afraid to use an alternative universe: Look, not everything in sci-fi can be explained with modern science. The sooner you learn to accept this, the happier you will be. This concept is not just limited to science fiction by the way – pick a discipline, fictionalized it, and I guarantee they’ll get things wrong. Be it construction, be it medicine, be it the police, be it computer programming. I work in television – this is something TV shows should get right because they know how things work – but Television shows about television get things sooo wrong on so many levels. The reason being is that most things are boring without a little fictionalization added. They don’t make sense, or maybe they just look stale. This is why hard science fans gripe about movies such as independence day or Pacific Rim. But guess what? Science fiction, be it soft or hard or any firmness in between, likes to use Alternative dimensions. This is a great tool to explain why maybe your physics don’t work in this world, because maybe they’re not supposed to work in this world – they work in a different universe that has a different set of rules. I know hard science fans are going to hate this – but like I said, I’m not a hard science person.

    6) Your universe should be consistent
    : Don’t take that last point as an excuse to make your universe a place where any random thing might happen (unless there’s maybe an infinite improbability drive or something). Set your rules and use them. Do not stray too far. If they don’t work for you, then change them – but make the changes consistent or at least find a way to explain why all of a sudden you can travel three times the speed of light, when in chapter 4 you couldn’t even travel half that speed. It is fiction – but it’s science fiction. And even if it’s a different genre of fiction, any fiction worth their salt cares about consistency and continuity.


    May the Force be with you. May the Klingons and the Borg not attack on this day. May the Cylons leave you be. And may there be no Volgan Poetry in your future. Have fun, and write like the wind. Oh wait – that’s not Sci-Fi!

    May Everything you right be as awesome as this,
    May Everything you write be as awesome as this,
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  • Morrissey vs Crowdfunding

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    Morrissey is an old man, shaking his cane, and yelling GET OFF MY LAWN. I mean, that’s like his dinner after all. OK, ok, the dinner part was an undeserved jab. I respect his dietary choices, though he doesn’t respect the rights of others to do the same, but that’s an entirely different story altogether. Morrissey recently said something downright ignorant and hurtful to independent musicians. Coming against all the musicians one finds on Kickstarter and gofundme, Morrissey stated: Crowdfunding Is Desperate and Insulting. This simply is not true!

    go vegeFirstly, music is a dream of many a people. Music is a very fickle business to get into, but if that’s your dream, then you should use all tools at your disposal to make this happen. Chase your dreams! Morrissey has been in the business for a long time, and has reached a point in his career where he can release a symphony of white noise and it would still sell a zillion copies because he’s freaking Morrissey. Good for him, but not all musicians have reached that point. Sure, I can see that someone of his caliber and popularity might feel a little desperate if they have to resort to crowdfunding to publish their music, but again – not everyone is Morrissey. Not everyone has the privilege and luxuries afforded by Morrissey.

    But the issue goes deeper than simple privileges afforded by big name musicians. Crowdfunding provides the musicians with the ability to not have to deal with a record company. The day of releasing an album through a big label, and then having it distributed to all the record stores is over. Artists no longer need that, and that’s a good thing. Record companies are notorious for taking more than their fair share of revenues. When all is said and done, the average musician (including Morrissey himself mind you) has to tour to make any money at all. Record companies provide a lot of perks – expensive studios, advertising, distribution, and the like. They also have a lot of staff that needs to be paid, overhead, stockholders, etcetera. If a band can sidestep the middle man, and just rent a studio themselves and distribute their music online, that’s a bigger cut for the musicians. That means they might not need to spend 200 nights a year on the road, just to feed their families.

    Stepping away from the monetary hassle, there’s also a certain amount of freedom a musician gets when they’re not tied to a record company. It’s common for musicians to have to sign a contract saying they must make X amount of records. This has led to things like Andrew Eldritch’s SSV-NSMABAAOTWMODAACOTIATW. Sometimes bands just peter out before their contract lets them. You get bitter feuds in bands, you get crappy albums, and you get unlistenable music that doesn’t sell well. It’s a stable gig, sure, but it also sucks when one wants out of that gig. Crowdfunding means record labels don’t have that power over a musician. It also means the artist has the freedom to write whatever they feel inspired to write. They’re not pressured by their label to keep it clean, keep it radio friendly, or even to keep it in a certain style. Crowdfunding throws the shackles into the recycling bin where every other piece of scrap metal belongs!

    There’s another aspect that Morrissey doesn’t get, and that’s how crowdfunding creates a bridge between the musicians and the fans. As much as I wish I could be the former, I’m the latter. I’m a fan of the music. As a fan, the most hurtful thing Morrissey said was “What next? Do you want us to brush your teeth?” This statement makes me want to kick Morrissey in his nether regions and delete all the songs out of my library. He does not get that crowdfunding makes those of us who feel so connected to the music even more so connected! We can actually be a part of the process of making sure our favorite artists can publish their music. No, we didn’t write it, and no, we don’t own their music. But it fills us with joy to help. A band I’ve loved for a long time, Flemming and John, are making music RIGHT NOW because of crowdfunding…and I helped! My 43 bucks is getting me a copy on vinyl, but more importantly it’s helping put out the first Flemming and John album since 1999. No amount of swag can match that feeling – the feeling that I’m part of the album. morrgetofflawn

    Finally, crowdfunding allows fans to show our gratitude to the artists. I remember walking around downtown several years back, listening to Over the Rhine’s Ohio album. I loved it. It was part of who I was. I wanted to do more for OTR. I knew buying the album and going to their shows was good enough, but I felt like I wanted to do more. They were sharing their soul with me (and the rest of the world). This in turn fed my soul. How is 15 bucks for an album and 25 or so for a concert even beginning to repay that debt? Sure, a few bucks more in a kickstarter isn’t repaying that debt either – but it helps. Again, it gets the music out there. It helps them fulfill their dreams. That’s at least a start.

    Crowdfunding really isn’t a new concept. There was an album Willie Nelson put out in the 80s or 90 to pay off his tax burdens. He fully disclosed that he was in trouble and he needed the help of the public. A fifteen dollar CD would make sure that Willie didn’t go to the slammer after messing up on his taxes. Maybe Morrissey is just too far removed to realize the benefits of crowdfunding. Maybe he’s just an old dog who can’t learn a new trick. Maybe he’s just a jerk, and that’s why he and Johnny Marr will never get the Smiths back together. Maybe I’m being unfair with that last part. If I am, burn me at the stake, just make sure I smell the flames as they rise and my Walkman starts to melt. Now I know how Joan of Arc felt!

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  • Star Wars. Why not?

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    When Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope came out – I was two years old. There’s some possibility that my parents went to see it for the first time, and dropped me on my head. I mean, it might have been a different movie, I really don’t remember, but I do know I was dropped on my head at about that time at a drive-in theater and they said it was a distinct possibility. Just to be fair, it was a total accident – I had heavy casts and one of my parents sat me on the counter – I swiveled my legs over the edge, and down I went. But I digress.

    This guy still hangs out on my dresser.
    This guy still hangs out on my dresser.
    Growing up in the eventual class of 1993, Star Wars was a HUGE deal. We grew up playing with the Kenner toys, we got hyped up when the new movies came out, and we talked – oh we talked and talked and talked about Star Wars. We knew of the eventual 6 movies that would come later. We knew that one had to do with the Clone Wars Obi-wan and Leia mentioned – we knew one had to do with Anakin falling to the dark side. We had no idea what the third trilogy was about, and frankly we didn’t care. We just knew we couldn’t wait till it was released! Star Wars was a huge part of growing up in the 80s – one might argue it was bigger than Transformers, and certainly bigger than GI Joe.I even remember staying over at my friend Isaac’s (who seemed to be a little more into Star Wars than the rest of us, if that was even possible). He wanted to do a reenactment of Star Wars. I was to play Darth Vader, he was supposed to Play Luke Skywalker, and his little brother, dressed in white pajamas and a pair of tighty whities over to simulate the Armor, was to play a Storm Trooper. My dad simply looked at us – the younger brother in his skivvies, and said “no” and I went home. Even the girls liked to play star wars, despite a severe lack of female characters. Star Wars was equally loved by both genders: Be you a wearer of Princess Leia or of Luke Skywalker underoos.

    In my early twenties – Star wars mania was still alive and well. A couple good friends of mine were obsessed with all things Star Wars, and it was pretty common for us to spend hours in the Borders Bookstore cafe, looking through books showing technical specs, artists concepts, and little bits of trivia. To be certain, Star Wars fandom among gen xers was far from isolated to us. I went to a music fest and saw a band called “Bobba Fett” (later renamed “Twin Sister” for what I understand to be legal reasons). The band was a side project of several other bands, but the point is Generation X and Star Wars went together hand in hand – not just when we were children, but also into our adult years. It was part of our lore, part of our story. We all knew we were secretly Luke Skywalker or Chewie or Han or Leia.

    And then the dark times began….

    George Lucas did a remix of the original movies….the special edition. The internet was young and didn’t hold as much power to share opinions as it does now. Most people were not online, and therefore most of what we heard was either word of mouth or read in a magazine or a newspaper. I’m dangerously close to going off topic here, but the reception of the zeitgeist of the special edition is not the reception we have now – and I think it’s because the internet has changed the way we discuss these things. But back to the topic at hand: I personally had an opinion on computer graphics – and that was pretty much “use them only if you need them.” I feel like everyone I knew was ok with Lucas over using computer graphics. Even people who now preach that the special editions were an abomination against creation itself seemed to be ok with them in the mid 90s. To be fair, while I mocked the special effects, I actually liked some of the special edition scenes – the scene with Jabba the Hutt in IV, the ending of Jedi, and while the used too many computer effects in Empire Strikes Back, at least they didn’t fiddle with the story too much (Empire has always been my favorite). Again, it seems like most people I talked with felt the same about the Special editions. I really never heard much talk against them until after Episode 1 came out four years later…

    The special edition of Episode III includes this scene.
    The special edition of Episode III includes this scene.

    Episode 1…..two years later. I saw the damned thing in theaters several times. Sometimes I would go to the movie theater, flip a coin, and say heads I’ll watch the Matrix again, tails, I’ll watch Episode 1 again. I’m pretty sure I saw each four times in the theater, which is a record. We had been waiting sixteen years for this film. We waited from childhood, through puberty, through our college years, and into our early career phases. Some friends were already married with children when Episode 1 finally decided to flush itself out of the rectum of Lucas like so many other turds before it. But I was in denial – it was Star Wars. It was the movie I had been anticipating for what felt like forever. Surely, this was not a piece of crap. It wasn’t until I saw a commercial showing 9 year old Anakin leaving his mommy – I realized that this was a kid’s movie. I hated Jar Jar before that mind you – a friend told me to look at him as the comic relief, much as C3PO served in the original trilogy (this friend was most likely in the same denial I was in). But I realized this movie was not meant for Generation X. This was meant for the next generation. It had it’s good points mind you: It set a tone. Episdoe 1 was about showing what the galaxy was like before the Dark times. It was a time when a 14 year old could address the senate and demand that her planet’s senator be elevated to Supreme Chancellor. It was a time when the invasion of a planet could bet thwarted by a 9 year old kid who got lucky and an army of Gun Guns. It was a simple time, where things just worked out because the dark side wasn’t really a factor. The Phantom Menace was a story that needed to be told to set up the next two movies – and to even put the original trilogy into perspective.

    My reaction, both immediate and delayed, to The Phantom Menace probably helped me process the next two movies. Yeah, they had bad acting, and yes, they still rely on bad CGI, but really they were the stories we knew were coming. They were the stories of the clone wars, they were the stories of Anakin and Obiwan, going from master and apprentice to brothers to eventually nemesis. They showed the death star under construction. They showed Darth Vader reborn. They told us the clones in the war eventually became the Storm troopers. They weren’t the original trilogy, but could anything ever live up to that hype of sixteen years? No, of course not. And more and more people seem to be forgiving their shortcomings because the story really is important and the really are fun at times.

    We’re looking into the future again. We’re looking to a new trilogy that may or may not disappoint us. All signs say no, it won’t. It might even be the trilogy we’ve been waiting for…or it might not. But regardless, I will be there for every movie. I will be in denial if the films suck, and elated if they don’t. I cannot look at a new Star Wars movie objectively, because like so many other Generation Xers, Star Wars is part of who I am. It’s a link throughout my lifetime. When they finish the six movies coming in the next few years, I will be wanting more.

    I have no doubt these will not be the last movies we see either. Star Wars is a cash cow that Disney plans on milking for all it is worth. We’ll reach a point where the zeitgeist will say: Another Star Wars movie, why? But myself? I’ll be saying Another Star Wars movie….Why not?

    I hear in Episode X, Mickey Mouse plays Han Solo's son.
    I hear in Episode X, Mickey Mouse plays Han Solo’s son.

    EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: The Force Awakens freaking killed! The trailers for Rouge One look amazing! Let’s hope it stays on this way. On a sadder note – RIP Kenny Baker.

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  • God gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You, but KISS doesn’t care.

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    Gene Simmons seems to have a constant case of foot in mouth. He’s told depressed people that they should kill themselves, he’s claimed that piracy killed Rock and roll, and he said that being in a band with certain people was like having cancer. The man should have his freaking tongue cut out. And what a long tongue that freak has. Seriously, I know this has been said before, but jeez Gene! Did you have extensions or something? But I digress. Gene has said enough idiotic crap to fill a couple phone books, and yet he and his band mates hit a stream of wisdom when they wrote “God Gave Rock and Roll to you II.” It’s quite a simple song mind you – it’s a song about achieving one’s dreams by working hard, by the sweat of the brow, by…..oh wait, this is just another example of Gene Simmons (and the rest of KISS) spewing out crap!

    Gene Simmons' tongue is slightly longer...
    Gene Simmons’ tongue is slightly longer…

    Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and company stole a happy go lucky song about the beauty of rock and roll, about the gift that is the music, about the love and peace and happiness it brings humanity and spit all over it. KISS took the song into a back room, had their way with it, and called it their own. In the end, they took a few lyrics, a minor point in the original, and made it into a whore of a song. To be fair, KISS did change the name of the song – instead of “God Gave Rock ‘n’ roll to You,” they called it “God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You II.” The “II” at the end changes everything, doesn’t it? OR DO THEY MAKE IT WORSE?!?!?! Yes, they do – they do make it worse because by adding II it implies that the KISS version of the song is a spiritual successor, a sequel if you will, to the original song.

    Now, to be fair – the song has a great message. I’m sitting here writing this very article on a Saturday night because I knew I had to write something. I didn’t know what I was going to write, just that I had to write. I had to work hard to share my “rock and roll,” with the world. No, I don’t have money or a fancy car, and dang it I am really tired of just waiting for a fallen star. These words you’re reading – they ARE my loud guitar! They are my passion and the sweat of my brow. The song has inspired me more than any KISS song ever could, however it feels kind of cheap that they wrote a song about working hard to accomplish their dreams, when they really just phoned in the song to begin with. They didn’t just write another song – they took an existing song and made it to fit their purpose. They song is a solid cube, and they pried it into a round, circular hole. Why Gene, why?

    Sell Outs...
    Sell Outs…
    Oh, but it gets worse! So much worse! They didn’t just write (or re-write) the song because they wanted to convey a message. They wrote God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll for You II for a freaking movie! They wrote it for Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey! Now, it’s been way too long since I’ve seen that movie to really judge it, but dang it – the song about working hard to accomplish your dreams and bringing Rock and Roll (or what have you) to the masses was not written for that reason – it was written because some movie producer wrote KISS a big enough check! That is the very definition of selling out! This is the band that a few years prior, gave up their gimmick (ie their famous makeup) because they wanted to be taken more seriously. Geez guys, you want to be taken seriously, here’s a hint: you don’t BS your way through a song like this for the highest bidder!

    The sad thing about it: I still like this song. I still feel inspired to write when I hear the song. It really is a good song, despite the fact that the band that “wrote” it are a bunch of lazy sell outs. I remember a Jonathan Richman concert a few years back where he essentially said fame is going to happen if it’s going to happen. While that was pretty much is what happened with Richman, we can’t all be mentored by Lou Reed! Most of us have to work hard at what we do. The thesis of the song isn’t what’s in question, as the thesis is sound. It’s just that I almost feel like we’re being mocked or perhaps trolled, by KISS. Hey, work hard, your dreams will come true! Meanwhile, I’m going to go do a line of cocaine off a few hookers with the money I made by telling you that shit!

    I’m expecting too much from a band like KISS. While they have a few good songs, most of their stuff is boring, pedantic, and kind of shallow. Their music got worse as the makeup came off. In fact, the only good song they had post make up was God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You II. Maybe that’s a harsh opinion, and I apologize to my readers if you think otherwise. My point though, I shouldn’t expect much in the way of deep meanings from this specific band. Maybe I should just love my friends, love my neighbor, love my life, and love my labor. Maybe I should just forget that the KISS version would not have come to us save for a check from the highest bidder. Maybe I should even forgive the laziness of the song, and just view it as an interpretation of the original. And maybe everyone reading this should also enjoy the song! Just make sure to download it from a source that won’t pay Gene Simmons one red cent – it’s fun to make Gene Simmons mad!

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  • Show me that smile again….Or, whatever happened to the TV theme song

    tapesThe 80s and 90s were a golden age of music…we had New Wave, alternative, pre-alternative, punk, and a million other amazing genres. Even the theme songs from sitcoms knew where it was at. We had such classics as Family Ties (what would we do baby, without us?), The Facts of Life (You take the Good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have), Perfect Strangers, Who’s the Boss, Silver Spoons, Full House, Friends, The Wonder Years…I could literally fill this entire article up with examples of memorable, and quite frankly, amazing sitcom theme songs from 1980 through the year 1999. I can’t even fill a quarter of this article with good theme songs from 2000 through 2015. What the heck happened?

    whatchutalkinboutwillisMaybe I should back up and ask a different question: what makes a good sitcom theme? Let’s look at the following: The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, and The Flinstones – all theme songs I would bet most Americans know. Yes, yes, I realize those are all from a time-frame outside of the periods I’m talking about, but I’m viewing these three as a control – as a canon in which to judge all other sitcom theme songs. As I stated before, most Americans (and I’m guessing many people in many other cultures) could recite or sing the lyrics to all three of these by heart. This is one measure of a good theme song – it’s memorability. They are catchy and they are something one might catch oneself singing, or at least humming in the shower. A second criteria – these songs tell what the show is about. For example, The Brady Bunch tells us about the merging of the two families into one; Gilligan’s Island tells the tale of how the castaways got to the deserted island they’re stranded on. The Flinstones theme tells of the prehistoric family, and even invites the audience to watch their zany adventures as they live their lives.

    The third, and most important thing in a sitcom theme is that it is something that becomes part of the culture. The theme song becomes something more than just a song which tells us a show is about to start – it becomes something we find ourselves singing when we’re drunk or in a silly mood or what have you. Granted, cultural relevancy is closely related to the fact that the theme song must be memorable. A song won’t become part of the culture if the song is not memorable, though that does not mean they are one and the same. A song must have culture relevancy. When I was a teen, I remember hearing a preacher trying to shame us because we could sing the theme song to the Flinstones easily but very few in that crowd could recite certain Bible Verses. That preacher did not understand, that while said Bible Verses are not necessarily part of the culture, the theme to the Flinstones is very much a part of the culture. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the theme from the Flintstones over a thousand times. Aside from maybe John 3:16, I’m not sure I can name one Bible Verse that I’ve heard recited as often. One does not walk down the street to hear Romans 3:23 being whistled by some random passerby-er, or Psalms 119 being played from a nearby television. They aren’t really part of the culture; they are part of certain subsets of the culture, but not the American culture at large. However, the theme from the Flinstones, the theme from the Brady Bunch, and the theme from Gilligan’s Island are indeed part of the American culture at large. That’s why we were able to recite them. That’s why youth groups sing Amazing grace to the tune of Gilligan’s Island, that’s why I heard someone singing the Brady Bunch on the bus just the other day (note: this might sound like anecdotal evidence – however in this case I think we can forgive the lack of scientific data). Granted, cultural relevancy is closely related to the first point I made, ie the fact that the theme song must be memorable. A song won’t become part of the culture if the song is not memorable, though that does not mean they are one and the same.

    To be fair, there are a few of theme songs that really don’t fit all these criteria, but are great nonetheless. Most of them, however, are instrumentals and do fit points one and three. The Theme from the Office is a classic example. However, even those are becoming few and fare between. I used the Office as an example, because it is the only sitcom in the semi-modern era I could think of. The others I thought of were Seinfeld (1989 – 1998), The Simpsons (while current, it began in 1989), and Night Court (1984 – 1992). To be fair, I did think of another which is indeed modern era: The Crazy Ones. The theme for the Crazy Ones made me very happy, and is very memorable to me – however, most people really didn’t like The Crazy Ones. Despite staring a beloved cast (we miss you Robin), the show, and by extension, the theme didn’t really become part of the culture.

    I'm no superman!
    I’m no superman!
    Going back to shows that meet all three criteria, I can only name two that fit the current criteria: Family Guy, which I don’t count because it started in the 90s, and The Big Bang Theory – which is a stretch for point number two. If we add in shows that have ended, but are still in the current era, I guess we can add Srubs. Sure, there are sitcoms that failed which might have tried (Selfie). There’s The Goldbergs, which hasn’t quite ascended into “part of the American culture at large,” (yet?). There’s probably a few cable shows that I’m missing (maybe on Disney or Nickelodeon), but again they might be part of a sub-culture, but not part of the culture in general. If I heard someone whistling the theme to say, ICarly (is that still on?), I wouldn’t recognize it. It’s time to face facts – the powerhouse of sitcom songs from the 80s and 90s seems to be a thing of the past.

    But why has this happened? What happened to the TV theme song? To be honest, I don’t know that the why even matters. What matters is we somehow storm the Bastille, or rather Hollywood, and demand they give us our freaking sitcom songs back! Now! No, no, no, we don’t want a clone of Charles in Charge or Silver Spoons or Who’s the Boss – those wouldn’t be culturally relevant. We want something fresh. You can even give us a song that wasn’t originally written for the show – I’ve mentioned the shows Friends, Scrubs, and the Wonder Years; those weren’t original songs – but they were culturally relevant, they were memorable, and they explained the general premise of the show. So please, production companies – for the sake of the culture! Of all mankind! Bring us a renaissance of sitcom theme songs! Just think about this, it’s free advertising. Every time I hear the theme from Friends, it makes me want to watch friends. Sure, the show is in syndication, but one day I won’t be able to pull it up on TBS or Nick at Night, and one of these days it won’t be on Netflix. That is the day I shell out a couple hundred bucks for the entire damned series. That is the day you get my money, all because I heard a stupid song.

    I leave you with this tribute to 80s sitcom theme songs…

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