Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lord Admiral Discovers How Berkeley People Can Be

Today I was afforded the opportunity to attend a parade of eccentricities known as "How Berkeley Can You Be?" Accompanying me were my friends Kage and Lady Gray. It consisted of all sorts of organizations and causes, from Free Tibet to campaigning politicians to high school marching bands to brutal alien warriors. Yes, Klingons made an appearance. Based on a web search, I believe they were the crew of the formidable IKV Bloodlust.
Fiendishly, that person with the Selawsky sign just had to interpose her message in front of some of the Klingons as I was taking this picture. Curses!

The Vaqueros of Unity showed off some dashed impressive horsemanship.

Unfortunately, this next picture also turned out to be less than impressive, and unfortunately the sole picture I took. As I remember, it was of a Polyamorous group, and the reason I didn't take more is that the people handing out flyers sought out my friends and I specifically to give us a flyer. Though we were two gentleman and a lady, I can assure you that I am merely a friend. Before I could demand satisfaction for whatever the flyer-hander-outer was attempting to imply, the ruffian had already absconded. Harumph! In any case, the conveyance in the picture was still quite impressive, featuring a sort of expanding-contracting system that lifted the chair and lowered it.

The parade ended with a veritable parade... very well, a literal parade of art cars. I would like to share my favorites, though there were many, many more. Some were merely painted, while others had such elaborate designs that they could only be called works of art.

Of course, it would not be Berkeley if there were no political statements:

I saved the best for last, my friends. I now present my personal favorite vehicle from the parade:
It's hard to see in the picture, but that panel in the back was open to reveal several large cogs. Also, the gentleman driving it had a delightfully anachronistic driving costume on.

All in all, quite a colorful exhibition, wot wot!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lord Admiral Meets Wil Wheaton 2: The Revenge

Remember when we met Wil Wheaton back in May? You've probably forgotten all about it, but I'll tell you who hadn't: Wil Wheaton. That's right, my friends and I went to From the Land Beyond, a sci-fi and horror convention in Sacramento, and we ran into Wil Wheaton there (okay, so Wil Wheaton was pretty much the reason we went). As we were waiting in line for his show, having only just arrived, he came up to us and stopped to chat, telling us that he had gotten into PMOG on our recommendation. So he totally remembered us!

After talking for a bit, he kept going, and then the presentation that had been going on ended and the people started filing out. One of the people filing out was Richard Hatch... holy frak! I must have looked like a deer in headlights, as he gave me a smile, said "Hey," and kept going.

Wil Wheaton's reading was the same as the one we'd heard at SuperCon, but the interesting thing about it was that he tailored his presentation to the audience, with more horror movie references and such. Also, reruns of Wil Wheaton presentations are nothing to turn your nose up at. His impression of Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

We (well, mostly my friends) talked to him about the state of things today and "serious" topics that were the sorts of things you talk to your friends about while hanging out, not the sorts of thinigs you talk to famous people about at cons. I asked him if he still plays Warhammer 40K, and he told me about the Space Marines he had when he was a kid ("Blood Demons or something," he laughed, not sure what he had called his chapter). He said he no longer plays, as that was one of the hobbies he had to give up when time became a bigger concern. He also said that he used to play Magic: the Gathering when it first came out.

Which reminded me of something I've come to realize: Wil Wheaton really is "Just a Geek." When I first heard that the kid from Star Trek: TNG had a blog where he wrote about geeky things and that he had just (at the time) published a book entitled Just a Geek, I thought, sure, this guy is obviously just trying to wring some money out of having been on a SciFi show. Boy, was I wrong: Wil Wheaton is the real deal. This man is geek to the core, in the best and most endearing sense of the word. You name it, he's done it: D&D, WH40K, M:TG. He reads comics, loves Star Wars (and that other "Star" show you may have heard of), and countless other shows and books.

We bought a copy of both volumes of Star Trek: the Manga, both of which had Wil Wheaton stories in them, so he wrote "Collect them all!" in both, crossed out "all," and wrote "both."

As my friend Kage had bought a box of Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game cards, we looked through it, hoping to find a Wesley Crusher card for Wil Wheaton to sign. We didn't get one; however, we did get a card of Wesley Crusher's girlfriend. We decided that was close enough, and Wil Wheaton obliged and signed it. He even took my suggestion and wrote "I hit that!" on the card.

I also got the chance to talk to Aaron Douglas, who plays Chief Tyrol on the new Battlestar Galactica. He was very jovial and easygoing, and he cracked me up with what he wrote on the picture I bought of him. At first I asked him if he would beat up Wil Wheaton if Wil Wheaton called him a "toaster." (Since he and Wil Wheaton had been talking when I walked up). He said no, he was okay with it, since that's what he was. And so we got to talking about the show, and the new Caprica show they're making (which I forgot took place before the invention of the Cylons, so I looked like a total noob, but Aaron Douglas corrected me very patiently). I then bought a photo (I had figured I would talk to him first, and if he was cool, I would buy a photo, but if not, I wouldn't). He asked what he should write, so I said I'd think about it and so he asked for my name. While he wrote my name, I suggested he write "What up, my toaster?" and asked if that was offensive. "Oh, I know what I'll write," he said with a glint in his eye, and he happily wrote:

For Benny: If you call me a toaster again I will kick your FRAKKIN ASS!!"

Then there was a charity art auction, and nobody was bidding. Everything was going for between five to twenty dollars, I kid you not. The auctioneer seemed to not be sure whether to laugh or cry. So when I looked up from the conversation I was having with Wil Wheaton to see this piece of art going for ten dollars, I stepped forward and bid twelve. And won.

As it turns out, it's from a comic called Pigeons from Hell. Sound good? I was dubious, but the picture is awesome, so I figured it was a good purchase. Then I looked up the Pigeons from Hell comic upon returning home and found this:

A Dark Horse comic? Adapted by the guy who wrote Bubba Ho-Tep? Based on a story by Robert E. Howard?

Boy, did I luck out on this one.

And the picture looks awesome, too.

It was a truly unique experience, I must say. The con was much more lively than SuperCon had been, with Wil Wheaton's audience being much larger. People also seemed to be more into it, with some costumes here and there, and lots of people dressed to the nines in "dark" looks (some of which were quite impressive indeed). I am quite glad I went, and most indebted to my friends for the ride and the good company. Of course, special thanks go to Aaron Douglas and Wil Wheaton.

As a last note, we ran into a friend and coworker who was there with her fiancee. She loves Battlestar Galactica, Chief Tyrol, and especially Wil Wheaton, so getting to talk to them meant a lot to her. She's been through a lot lately, and that's quite an understatement. I should mention that when she spoke to Richard Hatch he, as a tongue-in-cheek favor, sealed her to her fiancee for 24 hours, in character as Tom Zareck. Now there's a great story to end this blog on, and huge thanks to Richard Hatch for being a truly classy gentleman.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cool Link: Lee's (Useless) Super-Hero Generator

So after spending some time watching the "I'm a Marvel and I'm a DC" videos on Youtube, I decided to check around the internet for other superhero-y things. I came across Lee's (Useless) Super-Hero Generator, and I decided to take a crack at it. The results were too hilarious and awesome not to share. So, with commentary:

The awesome Death Man
Power(s): Radar sense, Plant control
Source of powers: Metahuman
Weapon: Stellar Thorns
Transportation: Megacatapult

Clearly this guy was depressed about his awful powers and silly means of transportation, so he tried to overcompensate with his name. I dunno. Too much?

The adjectiveless Doc Flower
Power(s): X-ray vision, Force field generation
Source of powers: Unknown
Weapon: Silver Mace
Transportation: Commander Nag

Would be right at home here in Berkeley.

The invulnerable Gorilla Soarer
Power(s): Illusion casting, Autonomic function control
Source of powers: Soul sold to Devil
Weapon: Astral Jambiya
Transportation: Suicide Jet Pack

It's a good thing he's invulnerable, because he clearly didn't read the fine print under "Transportation" on Old Scratch's contract. I think he's going to be doing more soaring than he anticipated when he tries out that jet pack. Good thing he's got autonomic function control, or it might get embarrassing. Speaking of embarrassing...

The strange Vibro Queen
Power(s): Density control, Reinforced skeleton
Source of powers: Magic
Weapon: Flaming Neutralizer
Transportation: Brain Car

I don't really want to think about why the Vibro Queen has a reinforced skeleton.

And, rounding out the list, my personal favorite:

The enigmatic Z-monkey
Power(s): Explodes, Glows in the dark, Telekinesis
Source of powers: Genetic engineering
Weapon: Web Carbine
Transportation: Senor Forklift

I don't know where to begin. He's the enigmatic Z-monkey, he's got some of the coolest powers ever, and to top it all off, he rides around in Senor Forklift. Come on! Senor Forklift could have his own show, even!

If you want to take a crack at it, set the machine to "20", turn on "Show Adjectives," "Powers," "Source of Powers," and "Transportation," and be sure to share any good ones you find1 Bonus points if they're super-heroic!

Oh, and today was Talk Like a Pirate Day, so arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Coolest Music Videos Ever?


Мой парень снова влип в дурные дела
Подрался, наглотался какой-то мути
Он так меня достал и я его прогнала
И я хочу теперь такого, как Путин

Такого как Путин полного сил
Такого как Путин чтобы не пил
Такого как Путин чтоб не обижал
Такого как Путин чтоб не убежал

Я видела его вчера в новостях
Он говорил о том, что мир на распутье
С таким как он легко и дома, и в гостях
И я хочу теперь такого, как Путин

Такого как Путин полного сил
Такого как Путин чтобы не пил
Такого как Путин чтоб не обижал
Такого как Путин чтоб не убежал

My boyfriend is in trouble once again:
Got in a fight, got drunk on something nasty
I've had enough and I chased him away
And now I want a man like Putin

One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!

I've seen him on the news last night
He was telling us that the world has come to crossroads
With one like him, it's easy to be home and out
And now I want a man like Putin

One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!

The English lyrics (all I've been able to find... good luck understanding the second verse)
My boyfriend is dumb, he smokes and he’s drunk
My boyfriend is dumb, more than Powers Austin
I told him get out, I need a new boy
I thought and I know he must be like Putin.

He must be like Putin, that to begin
He must be like Putin, then I’ll give in
You must be like Putin, there’s just one way
You must be like Putin, you’ll not run away.

Here's a bit of background from this blog:

Five years ago a mysterious Russian all-girl group, called Poyuschie vmeste , came out of nowhere with a catchy tune devoted to the Russian president called "Takavo kak Putin" ("I want someone like Putin"). The lyrics are about their regular boyfriends, who get stoned and have too many fights and don't look after them properly. They've had enough of that and are now looking for a man just like Putin.

But where did this girl band come from? No one had ever heard of them. Their CDs weren't for sale and the Russian radio stations didn't seem to know where the their copies had come from either.

Then it was revealed that the band's promoter was a press secretary from the Russian supreme court. The speculation was that the tune had been manufactured by the Kremlin spin doctor's in aid of the "Putin Cult Project".
I have to say, this is some of the coolest propaganda I've ever seen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go ahead and laugh; Yeah, I'm a funny guy

I finally bought my two favorite songs from the Dr. Horrible soundtrack from iTunes. Incidentally, they are "My Freeze Ray" and "Brand New Day." Apparently a lot of artists are complaining about things like this, when people buy just a couple of songs from albums instead of the whole album. Naturally, this means the artists make less money, so they're calling shenanigans on us skinflints. Well, I say, if you want us to buy your albums, make albums we'll want to buy. That's not so hard to figure out, is it?

The title of today's blog is a lyric from "Brand New Day," and personally my favorite lyrics on the album.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sir Trent Reznor and the Nails that are Nine Inches in Length

I attended Friday's showing of Sir Trent Reznor and his sound apparatus. It was my understanding that he would be producing songs using nails of just under ten inches in length, but instead my senses were assailed by a show consisting of every sort of sound and light spectacle! It was truly a daunting experience.

Sir Reznor must be a mesmerist, for I found myself unable to control the motion of my head, which rocked forward and back in time with his music in a most singular fashion. At times, I was even impelled to "throw the goat," as they say, and "rock out" with little thought to personal embarassment.

It was a most fantastic show, with highlights being "March of the Pigs," "Terrible Lie," "Closer," and "1,000,000." Unfortunately, I was unfamiliar with the songs from the "Year Zero" album, as I did not yet own a copy. I have remedied that now, and I am working to familiarize myself with the songs on that album.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Stop the presses! Sockbaby four!

Sockbaby Four.

Now that I've seen it, I can only say: Sockbaby is back.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Shall We Throw the Goat Once More, Chaps?

Ah yes, I have again entered the local music-selling boutique for the purpose of acquiring an electronically recorded disc of sufficiently metallic properties. With the intrepid help of a friend of mine and her sister, I was able to choose not only a new recording for my project, but find several additional albums worthy of note and mention in this log.

Without any further ado, allow me to present the winner: Lair of the Minotaur's "War Metal Battle Master."

It has proven especially difficult to decide on a single track title as being the best on this album, so please allow me to share instead the entire track list, with my comments:

Horde of Undead Vengeance (Generally agreed to be superior to regular vengeance in nearly every way)
War Metal Battle Master (With the word "metal" in the title right there, in case any would dare say this album is not metal)
When the Ice Giants Slayed All (Think of a boring anecdote you have had to listen to many times. Would it not be improved if it began thusly?)
Slaughter the Bestial Legion (About time, I say. They've been in need of a good slaughter for a while now.)
Black Viper Barbarian Clan (Cut at the last moment from Diablo II, they now finally have their time in the sun.)
Assassins of the Cursed Mist (I can only assume that the assassins come from the cursed mist, and are not attempting to assassinate the cursed mist itself, as that would be somewhat less metal.)
Doomtrooper (George Lucas's favorite track.)
Hades Unleashed (A solid, simple track title to end on)

The music itself combines throaty, growled vocals in somewhat staccato delivery with more screeched, though still somewhat throaty, parts. The guitars and drums are suitably metal, and the album as a whole solidly embraces its genre.

The cover is simplicity itself, focusing on a horned helmet so firmly rooted in the swords-and-sorcery fantasy genre that you can almost see its stat bonuses.

If any doubt remains in your mind that the band members have played their fair share of Dungeons and Dragons, please see this video. I must warn you that the video is unsafe for work in more ways than one.

This does not conclude my report. As you recall, there are several more albums that deserve mention! Let us begin, then, with "Effortless Regurgitation...", by Regurgitate.

That image should give you something to work with if you intend to attempt the activity named in this album's title.

This album, it turns out, is the band's previous album "Effortless Regurgitation of Bright Red Blood," with additional tracks.

Beyond the cover, what earned this album its place in this list was its truly inventive and gut-churning song titles. To those of you with delicate constitutions, I must recommend skipping this list and going straight to the next review.

The best (or possibly worst) song titles were:
Torsion of the Testicle
Worm Eaten Rectum
Purulent Discharge From the Urethra
Cloudy, Grayish Vomitus
Bulging Vaginal Septum
Phrenetic Chainsaw Slaughter of a Crippled Infant
Forced Abortion Through the Rectum
You can see the full track listing here.

My problems with this album are twofold. First of all, it seems to have completely abandoned the fun that comes with metal. Metal is supposed to make a good soundtrack for dragon-slaying, rather than simply being an overuse of a doubtless very embarrassed thesaurus. Secondly, I previewed some of the songs at the store, and they seem to have taken the idea of "Effortless Regurgitation" as a business model, as every song I listened to sounded exactly the same, with a slightly different lead-in.

Moving on, then, we come to "Of Beatings & the Silence In Between" by Chthonian.

Not much more to be said for this album, though. The title is brilliant, and there are some decent track names, especially "Weep Human, Weep," they do not show any real inventiveness.

Also, "Larvae, Nymph, Decay" is a good, though somewhat head-scratching, title for another song.

Unfortunately, the cover is far too classy to qualify.

Moving right along, then.

Here we have "Pro Patria Finlandia" by Impaled Nazarene. A good, play-it-safe name for a black metal band, with a confusing, potentially jingoistic title for the album.

The winning song title here was, without a doubt, "Goat Sodomy." In fact, looking at their other albums, we noticed that they had something of a goat theme going on. We chuckled a bit over this, but as I was working on this article I saw that the blog "Lugar de Obscuridad" lists goats as one of the band's lyrical themes.

So it's not just us, then.

Again, like Chthonian, the cover was just too classy to win. To paraphrase Ramgar from the sadly defunct web comic Chainmail Bikini, "This ain't no fine art workshop!"

So we move on once more to another band, Dead Raven Choir. Well, that's about all I have to say for them. There is a band called Dead Raven Choir. I am filled with awe and jealousy, having never been able to come up with a band name that awesome when playing Rock Band.

So we move on to Cattle Decapitation, with their album Homovore, featuring the song "Colostomy Jigsaw Puzzle." I challenge you to say that out loud without laughing.

Of course, this band seems to have once again gone the route of "create truly revolting pictures and titles" rather than "create something one can headbang to while playing D&D," so it really doesn't fit into the category of metal that I prefer.

That said, one of their albums is called "Humanure."

Its cover has to be seen to be believed.

Well, it essentially looks exactly as one would expect the cover to an album entitled "Humanure" would look. Needless to say, it is unsafe for work.

Maybe you are wondering what I would consider a good dragon-slaying, dice-rolling, head-banging cover to look like.

I give you: "Thrash Metal," by Blood Tsunami.

This was a very strong contender for the final purchase. I think the cover's similarity to one of the previous winners might have cost it the game, though.

That said, "Thrash Metal" does have "I Pledge Agrievance." Heh. The others aren't great, though "Dragon Pie" deserves a mention. It has the word "Dragon," after all, but the word "Pie" makes me think of little old aunties. I cannot imagine a group of wizards, warriors, and thieves celebrating their epic victory by cooking up a lovely dragon pie. Dragon burgers, sure. Dragon jerkey, wonderful. But dragon pie? Not so much.

Let's end strong. I give you Nomans Land and their album "Raven Flight."

I would be hard-pressed to find a better cover to an album. Also, the title "Raven Flight" is brilliant, and the band name, while hard to make out in that font, isn't bad, though I'm forced to wonder why they chose to break it up the way they did.

The song titles are all good and solid, like "To the Far Lands," "Mjolnir" and "Dragon's Grin." Unfortunately, there is no single song title that raises itself above the "good and solid" into the ranks of "quite inventive" or "definitely metal." After all, if I had a dollar for every time "Mjolnir" appeared in a metal song, well, I could probably buy many, many more of these albums.

So there you have it, my latest foray into the world of metallurgical electrogrammaphonic recordings. What do you think? Shall we throw the goat once more?