Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hey....Gandalf, Nice Dress!

A while ago, my brother Kelly sent me a link to a newer band called Red Fang.  They are great.  Hard driving rock n roll with a southern flair.  Reminds me a lot of my favorite (now defunct) local band On A Pale Horse (seriously Junk Poet is still around but not these guys - ugh, what is the world coming to).

Album #2 - to be released
April 12, 2011
Their album is pretty awesome.  You can give it a whirl and order it from Amazon here.  They also have a new album coming out in two weeks on April 12, called Murder the Mountains.  I am very much looking forward to this album.

But even better - MidwesTix has just announced a Red Fang show in Des Moines!  May 24, 9pm.  House of Bricks.

Tickets on sale Friday from the MidwesTix website and will set you back $10.  Even though I haven't personally seen them live, from the videos on youtube, it definitely looks like it will be easy to get your money's worth in rock.

I will be there.  It's a Tuesday, but I suggest you skip the Biggest Loser, Glee, or Dancing with the Stars...or whatever crap you watch and get your ass down to HoB!  I am really looking forward to this show...if only they could get On A Pale Horse to open...but I am sure that amount of awesomeness would make people's heads explode (or at least pants to be soiled)!

This video is from Red Fang's first album...and is pure awesome.  I better start drinking now so I can have my suit of armor ready for the concert.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Harmful if Swallowed

Last night, I was running some errands with Angie.  She had to stop at one of those dollar stores to pick up some cheap party supplies.  I don't go to these places often because although they have their uses and good deals, I rarely actually need the kinda cheap, plasticy items that these types of stores specialize in...or I would rather go some place more specialized.

Delicious - like all Mike & Ike products
However, I love their candy aisles.  Getting the big boxes of candy about 50 cents cheaper than at the gas station and two dollars cheaper than the movie theater is great.  They also tend to have the stranger flavors of some candies that you don't see as often - like Mike & Ike Jolly Joes or maybe Lemonhead & Friends (both delicious).  There's always new stuff for me to try.  I was tempted by Muddy Bears - chocolate covered gummi bears but wasn't in the mood this time.  I also like how the have a bid section of knock-off candy like Sour Kiddos (obviously not a ripoff of Sour Patch Kids).  I decided on some horehound hard candy and some Jolly Joes...since it had been a really long time since I had both.

Not So Hazardous
I also perused their selection of candy in novelty containers and decided to go with Toxic Waste because of the fun container and the fact that it said "Hazardously Sour Candy".  According to the back of the barrel if you could hold Toxic Waste in your mouth for 15 seconds you were a Total Wuss, 30 seconds earned you Cry Baby, 45 seconds Kinda Toxie, but 60 seconds meant that you were a Full Toxie Head.  I was a little disappointed...it didn't seem that much different that Warheads to me.  Decent I guess.

Evil Incarnate
But on the way to check out, I saw the most venomous candy item imaginable.  Something that would probably induce vomiting in me...something that must be the spawn of the devil because I can't believe anyone else would be evil enough to create such an item.  I am talking about Good & Plenty Lip Balm.  I seriously don't think there could be a worse thing in the world.  Good & Plenty are not even candy, they are like little poison pills.  I love candy of nearly every kind and don't even mind black licorice on occasion...but somehow Good & Plenty removed anything good from licorice leaving a hard center of black death covered in a tantalizing looking but nasty tasting candy shell.  I can't think of a worse flavor than Good & Plenty for a lip balm.  Remember the Harry Potter Bertie Bott Every Flavor Jelly Beans they came out to tie in with the movie with flavors like pepper, dirt, grass, earwax, dish soap, and vomit*?  Still better than Good & Plenty.

Just thinking about the G&P Lip Balm is making my stomach turn.  I am pretty sure if I kissed someone wearing this, I would probably vomit in their mouth (fair warning!).  I know that Good & Plenty is the oldest branded candy in the US (first produced in 1893), but that is no reason to still have it around.  I can really only see three scenarios where Good & Plenty candy is sold at all.

  1. Old people who ate it as children when there was nothing else have found memories of it.  You know, like people from the great depression and world wars when sugar was scarce.
  2. Parents who want to shut up their kids who are whining about wanting candy will get it as a "Really you want candy?" type punishment
  3. Young girls fall for the pink and white packaging...but this will only ever happen once to each child.
The name Good & Plenty is such a misrepresentation - well half misrepresentation.  They are definitely NOT good, but you will have plenty because you will never finish a box.  Good & Plenty stop tricking old people and kids...you should not be in the candy aisle.

*I think Jelly Belly actually wussed out on the second run of these beans and the gross flavors were changed to ketchup, fish, onion, and sausage (still better than Good & Plenty).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Winter is Coming...(finally)

***Spoiler Alert*** 
The following contains some possible but somewhat vague spoilers

Book 1
Several years ago my good friend CT, recommended a book to me - A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, he even loaned me his copy.  It was book one of an immense fantasy saga called Song of Ice and Fire.  I had seen it in the stores many times over the years but knowing nothing about it, it never really held much interest (there is so much bad fantasy out there, that I have a hard time justifying purchase of something I know nothing about).  I was big into knights and fantasy novels when I was younger (around seventh through twelfth grades) but hadn't really been able to get into much of anything in the genre since.  Even the DragonLance series where I devoured  probably 50+ books when I was young didn't hold any interest and I hadn't been interested in re-reading The Lord of Rings books since the movies came out (I liked the movies but they kind of ruined the imagination part of reading the books).

The book sat on my bookshelf for a couple months.  I finished the book that I had been reading and then went to look for something new...nothing sounded good to me.  I finally decided to start reading Game of Thrones...mainly because I felt guilty for having CT's book so long already.  I didn't go in with the best frame of mind, the first few chapters I was literally thinking "blah, blah, blah, sword, blah, blah, blah, king, blah, blah, blah, knight..."  The story was intricate and complex and soon enough I was hooked.  I even charted out characters, houses, and relationships since there were many and with complicated and detailed histories - just so I could help keep everything straight in my brain.

Book 2
But what really captured me the depth of the characters.  Characters weren't just good and bad, they all had varying amounts of each aspect.  I hated several 'good' characters and liked several 'bad' characters.  The characters surprise you in many ways.  A supposedly 'bad' character will show compassion and courage, and a 'good' character can be craven and betray everyone.  The character's actions, motivations, and emotions are complicated and realistic.  I was also drawn in by George RR Martin's lack of attachment to his characters.  You know that character that you have been reading about for the past 500 pages and that you figured was one of the main characters, if not THE main character of not only the books but the saga?  They chop off his head...and not as a climax either.  It just happens.  You sit there reading it and you are thinking "Really? REALLY?  WTF?" but the story continues.  Maybe this was planned all along and maybe it is not GRRM's lack of attachment to his characters, maybe he just doesn't care about our attachment to his characters.  It sounds horrible but it makes the books a very interesting read.  Anything can happen, no one feels safe.

Book 3
I read through the first and the second (A Clash of Kings) and started the third book.  Number Three (Storm of Swords) is a big book (1200+ pages).  I was a couple hundred pages in when I happened to leave it on the front seat of my car on an extremely hot summer day.  The glue in the binding melted and all the pages started to fall out.  It was big hassle trying to keep all the pages in order and make sure I didn't lose any.  I ended up reading another 100 pages or so before giving up on this copy.  I looked for a used copy but couldn't find one at the time, so after a couple weeks I had resigned to ordering one from Amazon.  Just as I was about to order, George RR Martin delayed the new book (this would be book five) in the series (to 2008)...which was strange since book four had supposedly been way too long for his publisher and had to be split in half.  So you would think that book five was all (or at least mostly) written.  I guess you would be wrong..as I was.  After it was delayed again...or more precisely George hinted it would be a few months and more than a year later he still wasn't done, I made a decision.  I didn't want to be all caught up with the story and then have to wait forever for a new book, all the while forgetting details.  I put off finishing book three and four until a publishing date for the new book was announced.

Book 4
The release date changed several more times...and after the past 3-4 years, I grew more and more hesitant of re-starting book three: Storm of Swords.  Had I already forgotten too much?  Man, that is a big book.  Will I be able to get into it again?  When HBO announced the air date of their original series based on Game of Thrones, I knew I had to get going.  They were forcing my hand.  Although my brain was a little rusty with some of the details, I was soon back into the swing of things...although I forgot exactly how much it shocked me when he killed a main character...yes, he got me again.  I have had to change my notions of where the story is headed again...and each time this has happened, I have grown more and more uncertain.

Book 5
I am 80% done with Book Three and soon to start Book Four: A Feast For Crows.  Finishing right on time for Book Five: A Dance With Dragons.  Yes, a firm publishing date has finally been announced!  Book Five: A Dance With Dragons will be released on July 12, 2011...my pre-order is set and I am now near giddy with excitement (even though I still have another entire book to read before it gets here).  Book Five, is only about 5 years after I originally expected it, but it is finally coming (although a very small part of me is expecting another delay).  I am highly looking forward to both it and the HBO series starting on April 17th (check out the trailer below).

Please don't die
But there is a problem...and it worries me greatly.  The problem is that there is still another planned three volumes to the story (at least)...which is great, but...  I've been told I sound morbid but I really (really, really) hope that he lives long enough to finish the series.  I mean think about it, this book was supposedly at least partially written in 2005, and it took George another 6 years to finish it.  George is not getting any younger and honestly doesn't look like the healthiest of people - sorry but it is true.  He is in his early sixties and if it takes him another five years per book he will be in his later seventies.  That is not unheard of, but then again people die all the time without completing their life's work.  Take half the characters in these books as a perfect example.  It might not even be a health issue...think about when Stephen King almost didn't finish the Dark Tower because he got hit by a car.  I had a huge pit in my stomach after that happened.  Luckily, Stephen King was able go on to wrap up the series (even though it wasn't as satisfying or as great as I hoped).  But it was close, he almost died and then he didn't feel like writing.  His tone changed in the books after the accident and it just wasn't quite the same...but at least there was some closure.  PS - did you see SK just announced a new Dark Tower book coming out in 2012?  I don't wish George harm certainly, and don't want to rush him...but we are dealing with some what of a time constraint (of indeterminate length).  George, I love the books, I just want to know what happens in the end.

Be sure to check out the HBO series A Game of Thrones premiering April 17th, 2011.  It looks pretty darn good.

And if you like complex, character driven stories where characters aren't black and white but all shades of grey: Read the books!  Even if you are not a fan of fantasy books, give them a try.  It is worth the time and effort.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Roots of Dorkness...

A Creative Commons Licensed photo from GP(MPK)

I have been into comic books for nearly thirty years.  It all started in 1983.  In 1983, Star Wars was shown on HBO for the first time.  Watching Star Wars on HBO was a big deal.  It was the first time you could see Star Wars since it had been in the movie theaters years earlier.  Remember this was before DVDs, and even before everything was released on VHS.  Our family didn't have cable...cable wasn't even available in our neighborhood.  But we were invited by some family acquaintances to come over and watch.  After watching Star Wars, us kids were left to our own devices in the 'play room' while the adults enjoyed some alcoholic beverages.

There was a pool table and various stuffed animals, but after a few rounds of trying to smash each others fingers with pool balls I became bored.  Looking around I found a shoe box.  Inside was a pile of comic books...they looked ancient to my eyes (later I realized they were just a year or two old, but had been treated rough).  They weren't the best comics - a mix of mostly crappy Marvel and DC: Red Sonya, Conan, Green Arrow, Silver Surfer, Aquaman, and Fantastic Four (some of these might have actually been decent but all were in the middle of a story line so it was hard to know what was going on).

Worst blog post ever.
I had seen comic books before but they were usually Donald Duck, Popeye, or Archie...stuff that just didn't interest me at all.  These were different - realistic characters, intriguing art, complex stories, anti-heroes, and villains.  I found these comics fascinating.  I guess I showed enough interest that the box of comics was given to my brothers and I.  I probably read each of the comics about 10 times.

This began an obsession that lasted about 15 years (one dorky obsession of many).  I was never a huge collector, but would gladly read whatever I could get my hands on (which wasn't much considering were we lived).  It wasn't about the money for me, it was about the stories, characters, and art.  It was a simple enough hobby, but one that helped me down the road to dorkdom and relating way too much to The Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons.  It is a hobby that still calls to me although I feel much differently about it these days.  It is a hobby that I probably spent way too much money on.  It is a hobby that I still see the impacts upon my life so many years later...but more comic stories later, this was just about the very beginning and how Star Wars made me a dork in more ways than one.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vasectomy Madness...Really?

The past few weeks, as I get home from work and flip on the local news while I cook dinner, I have been hearing a commercial about getting a vasectomy so that you can stay home and watch March Madness basketball.  The first couple times I heard this in the background, I thought "Wha-wha-what?  No, I must have misheard.  Ha ha, who would really get a vasectomy to watch basketball."

But I kept hearing this commercial day after day.  I no longer thought I was hearing it wrong, but thought that maybe since I was only listening to it (while I was in the kitchen and the TV was in the living room) that maybe I was missing some connotation or joke.  After about a week, I finally took the time to stop what I was doing, walk to the living room and rewind and watch the commercial.  Nope, I wasn't missing anything...it was a commercial advocating getting a vasectomy so that you can stay home and sit on the couch to watch March Madness Basketball.  I find this incredibly strange.

I haven't been able to find the actual commercial I saw, but here is a clinic in Virginia that did a similar promotion last year.

And here is a news story about a Wisconsin clinic running a similar promotion.

I don't know, it is all just a strange ad campaign.  Does this work better than - get a vasectomy so you don't have to wear a condom and don't have to worry about more kids?  I guess, if you are thinking of having a  vasectomy anyways, you probably want to schedule it around a time when you want to stay home...but it sounds strange when put into a commercial.

Come on down and let us cut into your furry beanbag so that you can watch some hoops!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Global Warming - You're Doing it Wrong

Image courtesy of NASA image archive

Every winter for at least the past 10 years, if not 15 or 20...I have heard someone make a comment about how cold or snowy it is and follow that up with something like "So much for Global Warming!"  Most the time, you can tell that the person is joking and a good laugh is had by all (even though it has now been used so much that I want to punch the person instead of laugh)...but in the past couple years, I have been running into people who I am pretty sure are serious.

So let me just point out a couple common mistakes that some people seem to make.

  1. It is GLOBAL warming.  Just because it happens to be cold where you are at the moment doesn't mean that temperatures are higher than normal elsewhere.  It is a global average of temperatures...and the average appears to be rising.
  2. More rain and more snow.  All over the US the past couple of years there have been some record snowfall and rainfall amounts.  This does not negate global warming...in fact it could be because of global warming even though on the surface that might not make sense to people.  Weather is somewhat cyclical - a severe summer will often lead to a more severe winter.  Higher temperatures in other parts of the world can lead to more precipitation.  Warmer air holds more moisture and warmer seas evaporate faster into the air.  When this air laden with more than traditional amounts of moisture finally do cool, it creates more precipitation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Good Ol' Days of YouTube

Remember the good ol' days...you know like just over a year ago.  A time when you could watch YouTube videos without ads blocking the lower quarter of the screen.  A time before you had to watch the same Geico commercial before 3 videos in a row.  A time before Vevo where you have Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber staring at you even though you are watching Marilyn Manson videos.  And speaking of Vevo, I like how the record companies nuked their own artists sights with copyright take down notices to force traffic to the new Vevo site...and yet the new Vevo sight doesn't even have 25% of the artists' videos, that was a nice touch.  Those were the good ol' days...days when you could just enjoy some videos.  I don't mind YouTube, the artists, or even record companies trying to make a profit.  I just wish it wasn't so annoying or the ads fit better with what I was currently watching.

But there are times when it all comes together in a zen-like, perfect moment.  Why yes, watching a Slipknot video does make me want to order a pajama-gram.

"Honey, I had to get you a pajama-gram when Slipknot sang 'I'm gonna laugh when I'm buried alive'!"  Thanks YouTube, you are always there for me.

Sometimes you want to headbang, sometimes you want to buy a pajama-gram...sometimes you want to do both.