Thursday, June 30, 2011

Taking Back Sunday: The band that defined my adolescence

Choosing a band that everyone in the car will like is tricky. In fact, picking the wrong music is downright barbarous. With my group of friends, however, the answer is easy. Taking Back Sunday is a band that we all, inexplicably, love. Now, love isn't an easy word for me to say, just ask any girl I've ever dated. I normally reserve the word for my dog Marley or The Third Man. But Taking Back Sunday is a band I love. When compared to all my other music taste it is a total outlier. It's arguable that screamo deserves a place next to The Strokes, Radiohead and Tom Waits in my top bands, but to be fair, my top five doesn't do Taking Back Sunday justice. They aren't just a band to me, they are a summation of my adolescent and formidable years.

I'm afraid to admit the play count on this album.

Many argue that their lyrics are whiny. Prepackaged angst that has never evolved past its initial selling-point. And in a way these concerns are valid. But that's not to say that the music is reserved for those in arrested development. It is this thematic consistency that allows one to rally around Adam Lazzara swinging his microphone around (mics are for singing and swinging). And listening to the harmonies and breakdowns brings the listener back to high school, when Taking Back Sunday had their golden age. And the music forgoes the pretension that has weighed Brand New down with every new album.

Brand New: good music, crappy album titles

With the release of their new, self-titled album on June 28, Taking Back Sunday returns with the classic Tell All Your Friends lineup. News that my friends found very exciting. As I stated before, my friends and I all love Taking Back Sunday, their first two albums to be exact. It takes a special kind of fan to memorize a bands song. Taking it to the next level, my friends and I have gone to memorize two albums worth of songs and sing them any chance we get. Per tradition, while on our annual spring break road trip, New Jersey is devoted entirely to the band we all worship. And by the time we reach Gloucester County, we have all lost our voice singing along as loud as we can.

We sing majestically.

And when we are all together, and someone is playing the part of ipod DJ (which is, more often than not, myself) there is nothing more gratifying than putting on Cute Without The 'E' and watching thirty people rally around their mutual love of screaming out music we all grew up with. Music that was there for us on bus rides to school, mix tapes for the girl we liked or gatherings we had with our friends. Taking Back Sunday Singalongs aren't just a mutual understanding, it's an institution. And I can't think of any other band or song I've stayed up till 5 a.m. just to sing along with my friends to.

Except for maybe Build Me Up Buttercup, I sing the hell out of that song.

The self-titled album might prove to be a disappointment (as much as I love Interpol, their self-titled left a little to be desired), but the fact remains that Taking Back Sunday takes up an important place in my life. Even with the minor disappointment of 2009's New Again, the fact remains that you can put on Tell All Your Friends and Where You Want To Be on anywhere in (at least) south Jersey and get everyone on board.

I'm unsure whether to declare this a Jersey-phenomenon or not. Do other states love TBS?

Last New Years I spent at an acquaintance's house, mostly not leaving the same corner as my friends. It was fun though, and as midnight approached we crowded the television to watch the ball drop, kissed whoever was next to us and mumbled the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne. We celebrated 2011 the same way our parents, their parents, Lieutenant Dan and Forrest Gump have before us. But once the champagne popped and the pomp wore off, we went back to playing beer pong and rang in the new year in our generation's own characteristic way. We had a Taking Back Sunday singalong. And for the next hour everyone at the party, most of which were people I didn't know, sang along to the songs we all loved. And we will continue to love those songs, because they are so dear to us.

New album out now.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Myspace

In a report by 24/7 Wall St., ten brands were listed as on their way to extinction. The list had Sears, Sony Pictures, American Apparel, Nokia, Saab, A&W Restaurants, Soap Opera Digest, Sony Ericsson and even Kellog's Corn Pops. While the inclusion of these companies on the list is not an outright death sentence, things are dire enough to be noticed. One company that particularly caught my eye was Myspace. Myspace, the once gargantuan social networking playground, appears to be on its way out. While that may be no surprise to those that have abandoned Myspace for Facebook (such as myself), it's still interesting to observe the meteoric rise and fall of the once ubiquitous friend site.

I wonder if Tom has a Facebook?

I joined in 2006 (I think it was 2006 because it was when I first got my braces off). Before Myspace really hit it big, self-involved pre-teens relied on Xanga and Angelfire websites. Social networking didn't really go past having an AOL Instant Messaging profile, complete with Green Day lyrics or declarations of schoolyard love in different colored type and comic sans font. Myspace was a place where we could all play in the same narcissistic sandbox. It was an extension of the worst parts of interpersonal relationships. There is no understanding or law on Myspace. There is only battles for Top 8 membership and chain-mail bulletins.

A place for friends, enemies, acquaintances and photos taken in bathrooms.

Like most guys in my school, I made my Myspace at the insistence of a girl. She was a girl, she was a friend, but she was never anything more. I was too naive to realize my crush on her, however I did make a point to slow dance with her every school dance (I was a slow dancing machine). She even supplied me with my first photo. In rebellion of the Top 8 paradigm I chose my Top 8 favorite comedians instead of being forced to choose my friends. Then I realized how lame I was being and finally dove face first into Myspace.

Myspace was so long ago, my login consisted of my Compuserve email.

I mostly used Myspace to pimp out my interests. I didn't have an obnoxious amount of pictures or a Top 32. The four years I had my Myspace account activated I never once changed my background. For many, changing the background and style sheets was a part of their individual expression. Me: I just thought it slowed my computer down when I tried to visit their page. I mostly just posted music and Youtube videos. I would use a certain theme and then send a bulletin out for people to watch the videos I chose. To this day I have no idea if anybody actually went to my page to see the videos or if they were just annoyed. I'd like to think people enjoyed it.

Just how I hope people enjoy my blog.

Myspace did have its problems. Like all of the internet back then, Myspace was seen as a stalker paradise (which was true for the most part). Hyper-sexualized adolescences who never heard of Lolita put themselves out on their profile pages. But, overall, Myspace was innocent. It was mostly just an over-glorified way to publicize your garage band. It never made any adaptations or advancements in the social network field. Myspace instead sat back and assumed that its reign would be forever. Then Facebook came out and, it just seemed classier. Myspace was too loud. Visiting someone's Myspace was a race to the pause button so you didn't have to listen to their music. Facebook was more streamlined and more mature. All the trappings of Myspace were left out. And individuals such as myself flocked to the relatively new website.

You don't see Myspace with an Oscar-nominated flick.

All of the careers launched by Myspace are now as stagnant as the website itself. Tila Tequila was once billed as the most popular person on Myspace, back when a statement like that actually sounded like it meant something. Two CDs, a television show, a book and one lesbian sex tape later, Tequila is mostly forgotten by now. Dane Cook also rose to fame through the social networking site. When he started out, Cook was nothing but a hyper-active comedian on stage. After being one of the first comedians to make his own Myspace, he had a legit following. Whether you hate him or not, it's impossible to deny the draw Cook had for a four-year span between 2003's Harmful If Swallowed and 2007's show in Madison Square Garden. Myspace is, arguably, the main reason for these two star's infamy. Their whole careers were propelled by the Myspace phenomenon. And, just like Myspace, they are now merely footnotes in popular culture.

To be fair, I didn't have the hatred for Cook that others experienced.
I completely admit to the fact that I owned his first two albums and
memorized most of the jokes.

The Facebook migration was slow to come for many. I wasn't too sure of Facebook at first, so I tried to maintain both accounts. Eventually though, Myspace just lost out. Anybody nowadays that admit to still using the dying network are met with condescension and nostalgia. Its time is over and, like 24/7 Wall St. noted, the brand will probably fade away into obscurity soon. I erased my Myspace in 2010. I stopped using in 2008, but just never bothered to erase it until 2010. The day I erased my Myspace was an important day for me. It was closing a chapter on my previous life. In all honesty, it felt like growing up. It remains to be seen whether Facebook falls for the same trappings as Myspace, but for now Facebook is stronger than ever. The social network is dead, long live the social network.

Consider this a time capsule for the younger, more innocent Myspace days.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guest Blog: Stewart V. O'Reilly

I asked for bloggers and now I have to own up to it. At least once a week I'll try and post a guest blog on top of my two. This week's blog comes from Frank, the future POTUS. And please for once, click on the links I give you. Any comments I make are in italics.
-Don Woods

When I saw the opportunity to be a guest writer for “First Sign of Trouble” I thought I would give it a shot. I was hesitant at first because I do not claim to be an expert on anything and do not think I am an Andy Rooney type of person. I thought about writing on a political issue since I am a political science major. I did not, however, want to write about a political issue like, healthcare, securing the border or anything like that. I hate being put through talks like that so I would never do it to complete strangers. For me it would be talking about the funnier side of politics. The fascinating news stories like Trump and his presidential run, Biden being Biden or anything that Glen Beck says (that’s a little unfair he probably is not crazy all the time) were all ideas that ran through my mind but nothing stuck out. That was until I heard that Jon Stewart was going to be on the O’Reilly Factor on May 7. That news was music to my politically geeky ears.
Now I should start out by telling you that I am a huge fan of Stewart and his show, The Daily Show. He and Stephen Colbert, to me, are some of the funniest and most brilliant people alive (I will so regret this later if either one has a terrible scandal they could never come back from). So, talking about Stewart in a debate/discussion with one of the kings of Fox News may be a little bias. To ease the bias I will come out and say that even though I am not a big fan a Fox News and their hosts, I have nothing but respect for O’Reilly. I do see him as mightier than all bully who treats people with opposite view point’s like they are lesser beings. But, the man is a legend. He has one of the most successful shows in cable news history, if not the most successful (I did not fact check this, but it is pretty much the tagline of his show so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt). He is a strong opinionated host who asks great questions, brings on different viewpoints and debates his opponents with the ferocity of an animal going after their unprepared pray (Bear comes to mind but that may be because of Colbert). He is a political fixture and when he and Stewart come together it is, in my opinion, amazing.

Two opposites combining, kind of like peanut butter and jelly.

The topic that brought them together was a controversy about Common, a rapper [by the way misspelled rapper originally by forgetting the second p (or, if you choose, the first p) which makes the sentence completely different] was invited to a poetry reading at the White House. Fox News did a lot of segments on the controversy saying he was not the type of person who should be invited to the White House. O’Reilly himself was unhappy about it because Common wrote lyrics about two convicted cop killers. Stewart and the folks at the Daily Show decided that all the attention on this issue was ridicules and did what they do best. If you haven’t seen the two segments you should.

I think they should of gotten Busta to do it.

Now probably hundreds of people wrote on this subject and my approach is probably not that original. I thought that I would take this opportunity to bring up how impressive these two men were in the debate. Stewart and O’Reilly possesses an amazing wit during this or any of their other debates. This is because, in my opinion, they respect the hell out of each other. They come from different backgrounds and different views, which would make them complete enemies. Yet, these two understand why the other is so successful and admires each other for different reasons. O’Reilly admires Stewart because he does not just sit behind his Comedy Central desk and make fun and judge from afar. He will go anywhere and defend what he said or believes (Crossfire and Tucker Carlson learned that the hard way when his appearance helped hammer the nail in the coffin of its cancellation). Stewart seems to respect O’Reilly because of his success and same attitude. I do not know either of these two men but I am pretty sure that any type of respect they have do not go to many other people with different viewpoints. O’Reilly does not have respect for Colbert or Keith Olberman, and Stewart does not have respect for people like Beck and Sean Hannity. It is the respect factor that makes this a good debate and fun to watch in my opinion. You can check it out for yourself here.
-Frank Mahoney

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The death of Ryan Dunn

The history of those involved in Jackass is one of self-harm and maiming. Danger was always close by to the Jackass crew, yet for so long they seemed to be protected by something divine and unexplainable. Johnny Knoxville himself only laughs his infectious, characteristic laugh every time something almost takes his life. As kids we grew up watching grown men injure themselves for our entertainment. And, if you asked thirteen year old me watching Jackass late at night on MTV which member would be the first to meet their end, Ryan Dunn would be the last on my list.

R.I.P. Random Hero

Dunn seemed the most sensible one in the group. He seemed genuinely affable and cool to hang out with. In short, he seemed pretty bro-tastic. He was my favorite member of Jackass. He didn't put himself at the forefront of the show like Knoxville of Bam Margera and he wasn't an annoying attention whore like Steve-O. He was just fun to watch. And, not counting Knoxville or Margera (arguably Margera), Dunn was the most successful outside Jackass. He had his own MTV with Homewrecker (only lasted a season but still, it was better received than Dr. Steve-O), guest starred in an episode of Law & Order and he had two projects coming out in 2011. G4's Proving Ground and a movie called Booted. Proving Ground has since been put on hold after Dunn's death.

I keep forgetting that director Spike Jonze technically got his start with Jackass.

Frankly, I'm shocked at the amount of attention Dunn's death is getting by the media. But with the 11 o'clock news a hold of it, it will mostly be played as a warning against drunk driving than anything else. Even Roger Ebert has chimed in on the accident. But the accident shouldn't be made into a drunk driving PSA. The people chiming in didn't grow up watching Jackass. While it is dumb to drink and drive, the point is that this was a man who made a living almost dying for our entertainment. And he did entertain us. Here now is a reprint of a column I wrote about Jackass 3-D when it came out.

They even have a video game.

“Hi, I’m Johnny Knoxville. Welcome to Jackass.”

Thus began the Jackass phenomenon. These immortal words ushered in a whole new world of painful opportunities. The MTV show that redefined the phrase “Don’t try this at home” is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a new film, Jackass 3-D.

The Jackass crew has been a part of growing up for many people of this generation. Their wild antics have entertained impressionable audiences for years. Some stunts were violent, some disgusting and others just plain fun to watch. In a world where you can’t count on much, it’s nice to depend on Jackass for its patented mindless fun. No matter how bad a mood someone is in, seeing a person get hit below the belt in creative ways is always pleasant to watch.

Ever since the first Jackass movie, the skits have been getting more extreme. Without having to worry about offending television audiences, Knoxville and his associates have the freedom to film new and creative ways of hurting themselves. The first film is relatively tame compared to the sequel. While the first Jackass film contained destruction and toy-car tomfoolery, the second one seemed downright suicidal.

Now that a third film is coming out this week with the now-overused 3-D gimmick, the antics can only be more insane. Each film, television show and project has gone further than the last. It will be safe to assume that the filmmakers will make the most out of the special effects and do things in 3-D that have never been seen before (and probably shouldn’t be seen at all).

While some may have been misguided enough to replicate some of the activities from Jackass, even a single iota of survival instinct should have prevented that. In the films, thankfully, the scenarios become more elaborate and less easy to replicate. Watching those idiots on the big screen should make for an enjoyable movie experience. The whole audience can laugh and groan together, uniting the packed theater in the spectacle that is Jackass.

Jackass is not high art. There is no artistic merit or deeper meaning. What the series stands for is the fun in stupidity. By performing these stunts, the crass entertain us and put their lives and souls on the line so viewers don’t have to try it at home.

Watching a semi-professional getting hurt is a lot better than peer-pressuring some kid from the neighborhood to try out homemade rocket skates. In a way, they are doing us a favor. They are angels of stupidity and self-inflicted harm.

Jackass 3-D premieres in theaters Oct. 15.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day special: The best fathers in film

Fathers have it hard in Hollywood. So many films not only include but hinge upon daddy-issues (like every movie Spielberg has made). Even the coolest dads in film usually start out as dicks. They don't truly redeem themselves until the third act. Just look at Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (my personal favorite of the trilogy). Sean Connery is enjoyable to watch as Henry Sr., Indy's absentee father. Yes, they bonded during their crusade for the Holy Grail, but before that their relationship was defined by thirty years of horrible parenting. Fathers in movies are either absent, neglectful or trying to force you to kill a man with an ax

I can't be the only person that remembers the movie Frailty.

In honor of Father's Day, I have assembled the top five fathers in film. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few in there, but for now this list will do.

5. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) in Taken

Liam Neeson takes this spot through sheer badassery. Not only does he save his daughter from being trapped in a sex ring, but he also sets her up to meet her favorite pop star. Neeson's character may not be the greatest of fathers, but it's hard not to see a one-man war against France as a dedication of his love. Plus did I mention Neeson is awesome is everything he's in?

4. Daddy Warbucks (Albert Finney and Victor Garber) in Annie

Though he is not Annie's real father, Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks proves that even red-heads need love. And that is a valuable lesson to take home with you. The gruff millionaire plucks the orphan out of the drudgery of New York's worst orphanage and finally gives her what she's dreamed of all her life: family. Family and lots of money during the depression. While everyone else was in line for bread she was kicking it with FDR (figuratively kicking it of course, damn polio).

Why does nobody have eyes?

3. Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) in Kramer vs. Kramer

In the beginning of the movie, Ted Kramer wasn't the best husband or dad in the world. Kramer belonged to the archetype of "workaholic dad" that so many movies abuse for drama. After his wife leaves him, Kramer is forced to finally learn to be a dad. Kramer vs. Kramer could of easily been a pedestrian film about parenthood. But thanks to Dustin Hoffman's vulnerability in the role, the whole film is elevated. And, although I previously decried absentee fathers in my intro, Kramer learned how to be a real dad for his son before it was too late. And though I will forever be angry at this film for beating out Apocalypse Now and Being There at the Oscars, it's still a really good film.

2. Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne) in Boyz n the Hood

Boyz n the Hood will always be one of my favorites. It's a perfect coming of age film about three teenagers who name South Central home. And, out of any coming of age flick, Boyz n the Hood is the one that stresses the importance of being a father more than any other. In the end, Tre is the only one to escape the neighborhood violence. This is in no small part thanks to his father raising him. Furious Styles not only raises Tre but shows him how to be a man. Laurence Fishburne plays the role exceptionally well, truly proving that any fool can be a father but it takes a man to be a dad. Furious is the Atticus Finch of the hood. Speaking of which...

1. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) in To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck may be seen as the poor man's Cary Grant, but Peck has one thing that Grant never won: an Oscar. Not just an Oscar, but an Oscar for one of the greatest characters in, not just film or literature, but history. Atticus Finch is the man that all men should model their lives after. He's gentle, kind, fair and honorable. A widower, Finch is left to raise his two kids on his own. But even with the loss of his wife and the case of his life, Atticus still finds the time to be a wonderful father to Scout and Jem. He never condescends to his children nor does he miss an opportunity to impress upon them how to be a human being. He's a hero to lawyers everywhere, AFI's greatest hero in American film and my choice for best father in film. While I may have had some trouble thinking of the other four, this choice was just too easy.

Happy Father's Day

And apologies to Henry Jones, Sr.

Friday, June 17, 2011

All time top five: Movies

I've always been a big John Cusack fan. I identify with his persona. Not just in paleness either but even general disposition. And, as much as I hate to admit, Cusack movies have influenced my development a bit. Better Off Dead is the reason why I name the Camaro my dream car. Maybe part of me hopes that it will help me win the love of a French foreign exchange student or finally beat those Asian brothers that always try and race me at the intersection. The fact remains that I owe part of my personality to what I stole from Cusack. Cusack is the reason why I have ever fooled any girl into dating a schmuck such as myself. Anyway, it is because of High Fidelity that I've gotten into the habit of making everything into Top Five listings. It's just simple and easy to organize. While my music Top Five is a bit more fluid (since I'm not as secure in my musical taste), my film Top Five is rock solid. So, for lack of a better topic for tonight, here is my all time, Top Five list of films. Please watch every one of them. For the sake of drama I'll list them in reverse order.

5. Trainspotting (1996)

This poster is currently hanging in my room.

The fifth spot has always been one of internal debate. All the other listings are set in stone, but the fifth spot has shifted over the years. When I made the listing, I stuck Wristcutters: A Love Story in there. I enjoyed the film's message and production. I also enjoyed watching Shannyn Sossamon. Wristcutters' is a charming film. It's a feel-good film about suicide. And I don't think any movie has made me smile coming out of it as much as Wristcutters did. Then I saw 500 Days of Summer and fell in love with it. To me it is one of the top cinematic displays of love. It doesn't hurt that I am fans of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel either. But after further soul searching, I wasn't happy with 500 Days on the list either. It was a film perfect for me when I watched it but I needed to pick a movie with more staying power in my life. Then I looked up on my wall and saw Ewan McGregor staring down at me.

Trainspotting is the kind of film that changes cinema. People argue that Tarantino brought style back to movies in the 90s, but Danny Boyle made it look much more effortless. And though I have no desire to even think about heroin, I find this story of Scottish heroin addicts addicting (see what I did there?). My brother lambasted the film for not having much of a plot, but that's where I found it refreshing. It does more than tell a story or give you a moral to take home, it shows you into the lives of some major screw-ups. I can pop the DVD in anytime I want and still be entertained. Also the book was enjoyable too. As I was reading it I liked to hand the book to my friends at the lunch table and see if they could look past the dialect. It's a charming story of characteristically uncharming people.

4. The Graduate (1967)

Mr. Feeney playing Ben's father still creeps up on me every time I watch.

It's almost cliche to say that The Graduate is someone's favorite movie. It's comparable to naming Catcher in the Rye your favorite book (or, more recently, cliche to hate Catcher). But The Graduate really does sum up every person that's ever felt lost in life. In at least one point of our lives we feel as Ben does. And though we don't have as nice a car as Ben, we feel his pain. Watching him become a man, not because he nabbed a cougar, but because he truly learned how to be an adult, empowers all of us to grow up. The generational divide is also perfectly illustrated in this classic. It's almost sad that the generation that grew up with Ben as a hero fail to realize that they are the Mr. and Mrs. of the world now. But even though it's more than 40 years old, it still speaks to every person that's watched it. That and the Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack helps.

3. Network (1976)

Such a good flick.

Network is considered to have one of the greatest scripts in cinema, and rightfully so. Paddy Chayefsky's words explode out of the screen with the fury of Mohammed Ali's jabs. The story of a news anchor's nervous breakdown could of been easily mishandled, resulting in a tepid, toothless movie. Network is pure satire yet one can't help but be drawn into the character drama. Instead of an easily forgettable farce about a fledgling network station, we ended up with a prophetic view of media and the fourth estate. Network makes one both hypnotized by the dialog and acting and horrified by the message. A message that becomes more relevant with each passing business quarter. The film is expertly handled by the recently deceased Sidney Lumet. Yes, I am a bit biased because I am a wannabe journalist, but Network is undeniably a memorizing film. And to be that engrossing yet only be dialogue-driven is a feat.

2. Brazil (1985)

It's only a coincidence that four of my top five represent a different decade.

Brazil isn't a film so much as it is an experience. When my local video rental store closed down, unable to compete with Blockbuster (it is dramatic irony that Blockbuster is now bust), I picked up a armful of cheap cassettes to add to my collection. The beauty of cassettes were how they forced you to watch trailers before the feature. That and the whirl of the turbo-rewinder were my favorite memories of the now dead format. It is because of these trailers that I learned about Brazil. Because of my childhood obsession with time travel, I decided to buy 12 Monkeys (I was aware of Terry Gilliam's work and was already a fan). The trailer for Brazil came on before the feature and I was amazed by it. I rewound it three times before I decided enough was enough.

Brazil is distinctly Gilliam in both style and substance. The battle between reality and imagination is always interesting. And as a young Orwell fan, the 1984-like setting was inspired. Brazil even out Orwelled the previous year's adaption of 1984. However, just like all other Gilliam films, Brazil is uneven and unwieldy. But, to me, that only gives it charm. And the story is a perfect blend of paranoia and liberation.

1. The Third Man (1949)

I've spoken about this poster before.

Ten years from now, I may look at my Top Five in disgust. As we grow older our taste changes. Whether our taste becomes more refined or not is a matter of debate. But even if I gut my list completely, The Third Man will always be the pinnacle of cinema to me. Finding one's soul mate in this life is tough, but I honestly think I found my cinematic soul mate in Third Man. It's a film about a man who travels to post-war Vienna to see his best friend, only to find that the man died shortly before his arrival.

To call Carol Reed's masterpiece a noir film is not doing Third Man justice. In actuality, it's quite funny. Not only is it funny but it's also suspenseful, ponderous, whimsical and depressing. Just like Network, Third Man was ahead of its time. One can't watch the film without being amazed at how modern it is. And not just because of its pioneering camera angles, but also with its story about loyalty and morality. And it doesn't hurt that the film hinges on Orson Welles during his most charming years. Free from having to direct, Welles is almost weightless as the endlessly endearing Harry Lime. Welles makes his character both lovable and despicable. Not just Welles, but every cast member and facade of this under-appreciated masterpiece shines brightly as each year goes by. Third Man is my favorite movie of all time, and I will fight anyone that doesn't agree with its perfection.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The state of comics and DC's reboot

I was going to write this post earlier today but I got sidetracked by sewing a button (sewing is cool). The actual button sewing didn't take long at all. It was threading the needle that was a pain in the ass. After finally sewing the button back onto my work pants I went sew-crazy and fixed all the holes in my jean pockets. For some reason, my pants all have holes in the left pocket. Either my Levi's unionized and are on strike for never washing them or my constant ipod carrying took a toll on structural integrity of the fabric. Either way I don't care, because you don't have to wash jeans every time you wear them. That's the beauty and fun of the coarse, blue fabric.

You're trousers. You have no say in what I carry in my pockets.

So, about the topic at hand. DC Comics announced a line-wide renumbering of 52 of its comic books. This news has been met with cynicism and anger by comic reading fans. You see, comic book fans are jaded individuals. With modern cinema so dependent on comic book panels for substance, you would think that this would be a reawakening in the comic book world. A renaissance (I feel like I use that word too much on here) in creativity and popularity. Instead, comic books are only dumbing themselves down for the wider market. By doing this they are alienating their loyal fans that have stuck with the comics through every superhero death and badly written character arc. Instead of comics affecting their cinematic interpretations, they are instead being affected by them. The comic book movie tail is wagging the comic book industry dog.

Picture unrelated.

DC Comics, fearing convoluted continuity and intimidating issue numbering (Action Comics just recently passed 900 issues), is restarting itself. Not just numbering, but many plot points are even being changed. Some of the most exciting storytelling in comics (namely Dick Grayson becoming Batman) is being rewritten for no good reason. To me, this seems pretty uncharacteristic of DC. Out of the Big Two, DC always seemed to show more reverence for its characters. Marvel heroes are interesting characters, but DC heroes are neo-gods. Unlike Marvel, DC never started issues with little summaries of the story so far. No, the average comic reader had to work to understand a DC story. And that lent pride to the line. A pride that Marvel couldn't touch. Marvel may have the larger market share but DC had more class.

I feel like DC characters are taller than Marvel ones.

Attracting new readers is important, especially the weakening comic book industry. But the current pop culture climate should be a perfect storm for readership. Is restarting half of the industry's characters really going to attract anyone that hasn't been reading already? Those interested will find the back stories of issues. Hell, ten minutes on Wikipedia is all someone needs to know what's going on in X-Men right now (and X-Men must have the most confusing story out of everybody). Instead of attracting it will only alienate readers. It's true, the numbers are just arbitrary. But to actually change the story is insulting.

Cancelling Secret Six is also insulting.

Comic books are ridiculous. Fans know this more than anyone else. But there is certain charm in the inherent ridiculousness. If somebody can't get a handle on that then they shouldn't start reading comics. Both companies have their own kind of ridiculousness, but DC should be better than this. When Marvel tried to attract readers with simplified continuity, they were smart enough to start a whole new line (the Ultimate Marvel experiment). If DC were smart they should of done that and left their core books alone. Instead they went and messed with the whole scene. Yes, Superman and Wonder Women were in desperate need of help, but Green Lantern and Batman were telling the best stories in years. Now, it is all for naught.

The jury is still out on Ultimate Marvel's impact.

Ever since Batman Begins the word reboot has been thrown around aimlessly. What was once referred to as remakes are now being reclassified. But really it's just semantics. And it sounds like a gift for artists. If a previous attempt has failed, then just redo it and call it a reboot. The entertainment world now has it's own word for a mulligan. But, while some reboots work, it is also breeding laziness. And comic books, which have always been like soap operas in tights, should not fall prey to this reboot-madness. You can always start a new series or create another dimension in the multiverse. While just as lazy, that route at least shows respect to the characters that have been growing for decades.

Some characters have literally grown up in that time.

But what does it really matter? Comic books are know for their cyclical nature and changes rarely stay the same. Superheros come back from the dead and stories are revised, but never to such a degree as what DC is attempting. Even previous reboots (such as the Zero Hour event in the 90s and Crisis on Infinite Earths) have never seemed this brazen. In the end, DC just wants to sell more comics, and what's a bigger seller than a first issue?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guest Blog: Why the Stanley Cup is the best trophy in the world

I asked for bloggers and now I have to own up to it. At least once a week I'll try and post a guest blog on top of my two. This week's blog comes from my dear brother Shaun. As I once stated, he has always been an ardent hockey fan. Ever since elementary school when he had his puffy Flyers winter jacket, he has been a hockey fanatic. So, in honor of the hockey playoffs, here are his thoughts on the greatest trophy in sports. Any comments I make are in italics.
-Don Woods

For those of you who don’t know me, I am Donny’s awesome brother Shaun. For those of you who do know me, what’s good? I am here to talk to you about a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Hockey has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, going all the way back to Super Nintendo’s Blades of Steel. I could go on forever about my love, but I decided to do this blog post on one hockey topic in particular: the Stanley Cup. In my opinion, the Stanley Cup is, by far, the greatest single trophy in all of sports. The Stanley Cup is one of the few things in the world that make grown men cry. If you don’t agree with me (I honestly don’t know how it’s possible that you don’t), I will give you reasons why I feel it is. And please, excuse the rambling.

The road to the Stanley Cup

Hockey is, arguably, the most grueling season in sports. The NHL training camp starts in September and the playoffs end in June. An 82 game regular season is tough enough, but once you make it to the playoffs you still have to play for another 2 months of even more demanding hockey then that of the regular season. This makes a single season of hockey one of the most physically demanding sports in the world, which alone makes Lord Stanley's cup one of the hardest trophies to win.

Ray Bourque waited 22 seasons before he lifted the Cup.


What do the MLB, NBA and NFL trophies all have in common? They make a new one every year. Notice something missing from that list? Oh yea, the NHL. That’s because there is only one. trophy ONE. The Stanley Cup has been around since 1892 (And no, that’s not a typo). And since then, hockey has been passing around the same single trophy for over 100 years. I don’t really need to go any further than that. Every other professional sports trophy in the US is made annually by Tiffany & Company. If you are looking for any single reason why the Stanley Cup is better than every other trophy, this is it.

Do you want a trophy from a lame baseball commissioner or
Lord freakin' Stanley, Earl of Derby?


If you took a poll of the greatest thing about winning the Stanley Cup I guarantee almost every player will tell you the same thing; getting your name engraved on it. The Stanley Cup is unique in that it is the only trophy that engraves the names of every single player on the championship team. Let’s be real, how awesome is that? The Stanley Cup has 5 rings on it each holding 13 previous championship teams and all of the players, which for the lazy or dumb means that you can read the names of every player that won the Stanley Cup all the way back to the 1940s. One look at the present Stanley Cup and you can find the names of some of the greatest players to ever play the game, and that is a chilling experience I am sure.

Sometimes there are mistakes, like when Eric Staal found an extra "a" engraved in his name.

Once you win the Stanley Cup, you get one day to do whatever you please with it. There have been hundreds of crazy stories that have happened with a player's day with the Cup, but I won’t get sidetracked by it. So if you are interested I definitely suggest you look them up. Another unwritten tradition for players is that they can never touch the Stanley Cup without winning it. The Stanley Cup must be earned. Some players will not go near the Stanley Cup for fear of jinxing yourself (This is true for fans as well, myself included. I'd refuse to go anywhere near the Stanley Cup until the Flyers win it). On a smaller scale, teams have made it a point to never touch the conference championship trophies, with the thought process being that they are playing for the Stanley Cup and all other trophies are meaningless (I wholeheartedly agree and I hate seeing divison/conference/etc memorabilia. You play for the championship, that’s the only thing that should be celebrated).

Western conference trophy looks like something you win for a derby, not a hockey game.

(Apparently it does matter)

The Stanley Cup is a very large trophy. It is 3 feet tall and weighs 35 pounds. This is another of the points I use mainly when arguing why the Stanley Cup is the best. When you win a championship, something you’ve been working your whole life for; do you want to pick up a little ass trophy with one hand? That’s not rewarding at all. Kids everywhere dream of one day hoisting the Stanley Cup (I still hope to one day), there is no better feeling in the world I am sure. And it's no fun hoisting up a baby trophy.


-Shaun Woods