Monday, October 18, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion, Part Deux

In my continuing effort to conquer the internets, I did some more guest blogging for those misogynists over at Rules to Date Girls By. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Logical Proof Against Either The Pledge of Allegiance or The Declaration of Independence

I've been thinking a lot lately about The Pledge of Allegiance, and have decided that it is irreconcilable with the ideals upon which the United States of America was founded as set forth in The Declaration of Independence. Consider the following:

1. Either the United States of America is devoted to the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance or The United States of America is devoted to the ideals of The Declaration of Independence.
2. If The United States of America is devoted to the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance, then The Declaration of Independence is un-American, since the ideals of The Declaration of Independence are in direct contradiction with the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance.
3. If the United States of America is devoted to the ideals of The Declaration of Independence, then The Pledge of Allegiance is un-American, since the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance are in direct contradiction with the ideals of The Declaration of Independence.
4. Therefore, either The Declaration of Independence is un-American, or The Pledge of Allegiance is un-American.

You might be asking yourselves, what is it about this pledge and this document that make them mutually exclusive? The answer is that one supports unequivocal loyalty and support to a system of a government, while the other does not.

The ideals upon which The Declaration of Independence are based do not support blind devotion to one's government. According to the Declaration of Independence, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," and "whenever any Form of Government becomes is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government," as well as "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is [mankind's] right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." All of these quotes say the same thing: governments are based upon their ability to provide for the rights of the governed, and any government which does not provide for the rights of the governed should be abolished.

Conversely, The Pledge of Allegiance offers no such qualifications as to what kind of government it is to which we pledge. We are merely expected to pledge our loyalty to our flag and government, which stands indivisible (regardless of whether there have been any of the abuses and usurpations of which the Declaration speaks).

Friday, September 10, 2010

VH1 Makes New List of Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time

Back in 1998, VH1 (then VH-1) made a list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, as voted on by musicians both young and old of various genres. They decided to do a re-vote, and this week unveiled the new list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, once again as voted on by musicians both young and old of various genres. I was curious about the differences between the two lists, so after some comparing and contrasting, I've created a side-by-side analysis of the 1998 version and the 2010 version listing the 1998 version on the left, with DFNL (Dropped From New List) next to the names of the artists who didn't make the cut this time around and the 2010 version on the right, with how far the artist rose or fell (or whether they're new to the countdown all together) noted next to their name (I had the lists all nice and spaced apart, but it didn't stay that way because blogger hates me):

1998 ---------------------------------------------------- 2010

1. The Beatles ----------------------------------- 1. The Beatles (same)
2. The Rolling Stones -------------------------- 2. Michael Jackson (+38)
3. Jimi Hendrix ----------------------------------- 3. Led Zeppelin (+1)
4. Led Zeppelin ----------------------------------- 4. Rolling Stones (-2)
5. Bob Dylan -------------------------------------- 5. Bob Dylan (same)
6. James Brown ---------------------------------- 6. Jimi Hendrix (-3)
7. David Bowie ------------------------------------ 7. Prince (+11)
8. Elvis Presley ----------------------------------- 8. Elvis Presley (same)
9. The Who --------------------------------------- 9. James Brown (-3)
10. The Police ----------------------------------- 10. Stevie Wonder (+1)
11. Stevie Wonder ------------------------------- 11. Bob Marley (+13)
12. Ray Charles ---------------------------------- 12. David Bowie
13. The Beach Boys ------------------------------ 13. The Who 
14. Marvin Gaye --------------------------------- 14. Nirvana 
15. Eric Clapton (DFNL) ---------------------- 15. The Beach Boys (-2)

16. John Lennon -------------------------------- 16. Madonna
17. Elton John ----------------------------------- 17. Queen
18. Prince ---------------------------------------- 18. Pink Floyd
19. Pink Floyd ----------------------------------- 19. U2
20. The Doors ----------------------------------- 20. Marvin Gaye (-6)

21. Aretha Franklin ----------------------------- 21. Bruce Springsteen (+6)

22. Fleetwood Mac ----------------------------- 22. The Clash 
23. The Eagles (DFNL) ----------------------- 23. AC/DC
 (New to List)
24. Bob Marley --------------------------- 24. The Velvet Underground (+50)

25. Van Morrison ------------------------------- 25. Chuck Berry
26. Chuck Berry --------------------------------- 26. Neil Young
27. Bruce Springsteen -------------------------- 27. Aretha Franklin 
28. Sly & the Family Stone --------------------- 28. Elton John 
29. U2 -------------------------------------------- 29. Radiohead 
(New to List)
30. Neil Young ---------------------------------- 30. Aerosmith (+49)
31. The Clash ------------------------------------ 31. John Lennon (-15)
32. Joni Mitchell ---------------------------- 32. Black Sabbath 
(New to List)
33. Queen ------------------------------------ 33. Guns N’ Roses 
(New to List)
34. Buddy Holly (DFNL) ---------------------- 34. Tina Turner 
35. Otis Redding -------------------------------- 35. Johnny Cash
36. Little Richard ------------------------------- 36. Paul McCartney
37. Al Green ------------------------------------- 37. Fleetwood Mac 
38. Elvis Costello -------------------------- 38. Sly & The Family Stone (-10)
39. Miles Davis (DFNL) ---------------------- 39. The Kinks
40. Michael Jackson ---------------------------- 40. The Police 
41. Janis Joplin ---------------------------------- 41. Van Halen
42. Nirvana -------------------------------------- 42. Metallica
 (New to List)
43. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers ----------- 43. Ray Charles
44. The Jackson 5 (DFNL) -------------------- 44. Joni Mitchell (-12)
45. Crosby, Stills & Nash (DFNL) ------------ 45. Al Green 
46. The Sex Pistols (DFNL) ------------------- 46. Ramones 
47. Creedence Clearwater Revival (DFNL) ------- 47. Jay-Z
 (New to List)
48. Van Halen ------------------ 48. Rage Against the Machine 
(New to List)
49. Roy Orbison (DFNL) ------------------ 49. Parliament-Funkadelic
50. R.E.M. ---------------------------------------- 50. Sade 
(New to List)
51. B.B. King (DFNL) -------------------------- 51. Billy Joel
52. Cream ---------------------------------------- 52. Beyonce 
(New to List)
53. Peter Gabriel --------------------------------- 53. Little Richard 
54. The Grateful Dead (DFNL) ----------- 54. Public Enemy
 (New to List)
55. The Byrds (DFNL) ------------------------- 55. Peter Gabriel
56. The Kinks ------------------------------------ 56. KISS
57. Steely Dan ------------------------------------ 57. Iggy & the Stooges 
58. Sam Cooke (DFNL) -------------------- 58. Cheap Trick
 (New to List)
59. Bo Diddley (DFNL) -------- 59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
60. Earth, Wind & Fire --------------- 60. Whitney Houston 
(New to List)
61. Smokey Robinson (DFNL) ---------------- 61. Cream
62. Paul McCartney ----------------------------- 62. Genesis
 (New to List)
63. Sting (DFNL) ----------------------- 63. Notorious B.I.G.
 (New to List)
64. Frank Zappa (DFNL) ---------------------- 64. Talking Heads (+2)

65. James Taylor (DFNL) --------------------- 65. The Doors
66. Talking Heads ---------------------- 66. Justin Timberlake
 (New to List)
67. Kiss -------------------------------------------- 67. Coldplay
 (New to List)
68. The Allman Brothers (DFNL) ------------ 68. Otis Redding
69. Pretenders ------------------------------- 69. Tupac Shakur 
(New to List)
70. Stevie Ray Vaughan (DFNL) ----------- 70. Def Leppard 
(New to List)
71. Rod Stewart (DFNL) ----------------------- 71. R.E.M. 
72. Simon & Garfunkel (DFNL) -------------- 72. Janis Joplin 
73. Muddy Waters (DFNL) -------------------- 73. Van Morrison
74. The Velvet Underground ------------------- 74. The Cure
 (New to List)
75. Curtis Mayfield (DFNL) ------------------- 75. Rush
 (New to List)
76. The Bee Gees --------------------------------- 76. Run-DMC 
(New to List)
77. John Coltrane (DFNL) --------------------- 77. Lynyrd Skynyrd 
78. Billy Joel ---------------------------------- 78. Judas Priest
 (New to List)
79. Aerosmith ------------------------------------- 79. Eminem 
(New to List)
80. Tina Turner ------------------------------ 80. Mary J. Blige
 (New to List)
81. The Band ------------------------------------- 81. ABBA (New to List)
82. Devo (DFNL) ------------------------------- 82. Steely Dan 
83. Iggy Pop -------------------------------------- 83. Earth, Wind, & Fire
84. T. Rex (DFNL) ----------------------------- 84. Curtis Mayfield 
85. Carole King (DFNL) ----------------------- 85. The Band
86. Madonna ------------------------------------- 86. N.W.A. (New to List)
87. Santana (DFNL) --------------------- 87. George Michael (New to List)
88. Ramones ------------------------------------- 88. Bee Gees (-12)
89. Johnny Cash ------------------------------ 89. Beastie Boys (New to List)
90. Tom Waits (DFNL) ------------------------ 90. Elvis Costello (-52)
91. Gladys Knight & the Pips (DFNL)--------- 91. Green Day (New to List)
92. The Temptations (DFNL) ----------------- 92. LL Cool J (New to List)
93. The Four Tops (DFNL) -------------------- 93. Pearl Jam (New to List)
94. Diana Ross & the Supremes (DFNL) - 94. Mariah Carey (New to List)
95. Robert Johnson (DFNL) ------------------ 95. OutKast (New to List)
96. Lynyrd Skynyrd ----------------------------- 96. Journey (New to List)
97. Fats Domino (DFNL) ---------------------- 97. Pretenders (-28)
98. Traffic (DFNL) ----------------------- 98. Depeche Mode (New to List)
99. Parliament/Funkadelic ------------------ 99. Hall & Oates (New to List)
100. Paul Simon (DFNL) --------------------- 100. Alicia Keys (New to List)

(DFNL) = Dropped from New List

I’ll avoid stating my own personal feelings about the changes in the list, but I will provide you with some statistical analysis:

37 Artists new to list, highest spot 23 (AC/DC, Radiohead, Black Sabbath, Guns ‘N Roses, Metallica, Jay-Z, Rage Against the Machine, Sade, Beyonce, Public Enemy, Cheap Trick, Whitney Houston, Genesis, Notorious B.I.G., Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Tupac Shakur, Def Leppard, The Cure, Rush, Run-DMC, Judas Priest, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, ABBA, N.W.A., George Michael, Beastie Boys, Green Day, LL Cool J, Pearl Jam, Mariah Carey, OutKast, Journey, Depeche Mode, Hall & Oates, Alicia Keys)

37 Artists dropped from list, highest spot 15 (Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Buddy Holly, Miles Davis, Jackson Five; Crosby, Still, & Nash; Sex Pistols, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Grateful Dead, The Byrds, Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, Smokey Robison, Sting, Frank Zappa, James Taylor, The Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rod Stewart, Simon & Garfunkel, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Devo, T. Rex, Carole King, Santana, Tom Waits, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Robert Johnson, Fats Domino, Traffic, Paul Simon

Highest rise: Madonna (up from 86 to 16)

Biggest fall: Elvis Costello (down from 38 to 90)

Artists who climbed 25 or more spots: Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Madonna, Velvet Underground, Aerosmith, Tina Turner, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, Ramones, Parliament-Funkadelic, Billy Joel, Iggy & The Stooges

Artists who fell 25 or more spots: The Police, Ray Charles, The Doors, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Pretenders

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

I did a little guest blogging for some friends of mine. You should totally check it out!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Review of the Free Comic Book Day Preview of Fame: Lady Gaga OR As I Like To Call It, One Man's Descent Into Madness

Every first Saturday in May, there's an international event known as Free Comic Book Day, where comic book stores, libraries, and other locations across the globe give away comics in order to help promote literacy. The comic book shop I frequent has a big sale, and it's always a really good time. This year, however, I picked up this free comic:

I know what you're thinking. "Josh, you're the coolest guy around! You read awesome superhero comics, zombie comics, and other cool stuff! Why would you want to read a comic book about Lady Gaga?" And the answer is morbid curiosity. When you read comics from a company who made a biographical comic book about Stephenie Meyer narrated by Dracula, it's like a train wreck. You can't look away. And, I must say, this preview (only the first seven pages were about Lady Gaga; the rest was a preview of a Taylor Swift comic and a preview of a kid's book called the Puppy Sister) both amused me and terrified me to my very core.

The preview didn't center itself around Lady Gaga. We are instead introduced to our titular everyman character, Lester Bangs:

Freshman year creative writing class indeed, sir. Lester apparently spends his days wishing his music had more "pizazz" and "glam", just like every other red-blooded American male. And the life Lester lives certainly is glamorous: what with his taped in remote control batteries, his taped up ragged recliner, and his "babe" who looks like she's his mother.

Lester then bemoans the fact that musicians today aren't any fun, they aren't willing to take risks, and (a sentiment I'm fine with) wishes music was more like David Bowie, Queen, and Blondie:

As much as I love Lester's gut hanging out of what appears to be a Nietzsche t-shirt (although I doubt it's supposed to be) and his (and everyone else's) giant gorilla hands, those people behind him cannot be David Bowie, Queen, and Blondie. I'll give you the fact that the man on the left could function as a crude representation of Ziggy Stardust:

I'll even give you the fact that those Asians standing behind the woman with a mean case of man face and confused gaze might look Blondie if I squint:

But as for those "men" in the middle, nothing could convince me that they are Queen. I can't even tell which one is supposed to be Freddie Mercury:

Anyways, I digress. After this horrid attempt at homage, Lester continues to ignore his "babe" as she pleads with him to take out the trash, whilst something new on MTV catches his eye, and we see our first glimpse of Lady Gaga:

There are so many questions this image raises, I'm not even sure where to begin: Is her mask made of ice and it's melting? Is she made of ice and she's melting? Does the artist think that when people sweat their faces melt? If someone gets impaled on one of Lady Gaga's shoulder spikes, is it murder or manslaughter? What happened to her left nipple? How can she see anything with hair in her mask's eye holes? Does she always have chipmunk cheeks, or did she have some sort of dental work done? How do I get my shoulder spikes to glisten like that in the noonday sun? And so on.

Mr. Bangs, intrigued by this "Lady...Something" heads to his local record store, where, not even in her own comic book do they bother to get the name of her album right:

I don't think Lester even has a niece. There's so much wrong with this next page, I couldn't even pick one issue to point out, so I had to present it in its entirety:

Get your groove on? First of all, I doubt these kids know anything about David Bowie. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of his work, but he's not exactly a pop culture icon. Maybe they've seen Labyrinth, or know him from his cameo in Zoolander, but I doubt these kids would even recognize the name David Bowie. Second, I hate to keep harping on the artist, but look at panel two: that is not what a human arm looks like. Did the artist get their start drawing Popeye? I showed this to my wife, and she said: "It looks like the rest of him shrunk and his arm stayed the same size." Third, I think I'd probably be losing my mind too if the ghost of Lady Gaga was following me around. She's not even dead. Why does she have a ghost?

The final panel on this page is what cinches the deal, however. Not only does the man become flustered because he's being mocked by middle schoolers, he's sweating profusely. Dehydration in a matter of moments level of sweat here, people. Also, Menudo? These kids could be any older than 13. That means they were born in 1997 or later. I doubt they've heard of 80's Latin boy band Menudo (okay, so they were still around in 1997, and got back together and lasted until 2007. But I'm still doubtful of these kids having any idea who Menudo were).

Oversized hands abound on the next page as Lester walks home talking to his wife on his cellphone, while her pleas go unheard as he becomes distracted by a Lady Gaga t-shirt. Distracted to the point of knocking a helpless young woman down on the sidewalk. This is not a healthy man, folks.

Finally, Lester picks up some McDonald's on the way home, and his descent into madness is complete:Pray for Lester, folks. He needs help.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do NOT Eat the KFC Double Down

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, he obviously did not live in a world where an acceptable substitute for bread in a bacon and cheese sandwich is fried chicken. Today, I had such a monstrosity for lunch. Motivated by morbid curiosity and reckless abandon with the natural flow of my arteries, I went to KFC and ordered this so-called "sandwich".

My Double Down "sandwich" alone was a whopping 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1380 milligrams of sodium. But, since I ordered the combo meal, I also received some potato wedges and a medium Dr. Pepper, for a grand total of 1080 calories, 45 grams of fat, and 2190 milligrams of sodium, which is more than half the daily recommended amount of calories, about 2/3 of the daily recommended amount of fat, and 210 milligrams shy of an entire day's recommended serving of sodium (values taken, respectively, from KFC's website and from the USDA website).

I cannot remember the last time I had a meal as gross as my Double Down combo meal. I was somewhat disappointed not to immediately drop dead of a heart attack by merely gazing upon its grim visage, and equal surprised my heart didn't stop after the first bite. In fact, my heart was much less disturbed by the experience than my stomach, and, when it comes to the stomach, the KFC Double Down is the gift that keeps on giving.

For the rest of the afternoon, my stomach was a quivering mass of unrest, with constant burping reminding me of the fowl abomination I had ingested as it attempted to escape its acidic tomb. As a personal apology to my stomach, for dinner I ate merely steamed rice and boiled vegetables, hoping that this peace offering would be enough to appease my stomach into making the Double Down's passage into the watery beyond as easy as possible.

Do NOT eat the KFC Double Down. There is no need to challenge yourself against this ghoulish hellbeast. This is no challenge to your masculinity or some childish dare to tempt you into making the same mistake I have. For your sake, I beg you: eat something else.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Prodigal Blogger Returns

It's been awhile. Partially because of my daily responsibilities on the rule blog, partially because of a busy schedule, but mostly just because I couldn't think of anything interesting to write about. That is until now.

For those of you who know me, you know that I'm an avid fan of comic books. And I think about them a lot. And, as I sit here at my computer instead of in bed next to my lovely wife, it is because I have just perceived what I see to be a flawed understanding of the entire comic book medium. This has nothing particular to do with the source material per-say, but is rather a realization of a misunderstanding as to the closest analogy comic books have with other media.

Most people assume that comic books are just like books, but with more pictures. For some forms of comic books, such as graphic novels*, this would certainly be true, but for monthly based issues of comic books, it seems less clear. Others would say that comic books are like movies that don't move. This might also be true, but it falls under the same difficulty as the argument for books.

Movies and books, although commonly having sequels, are, for the most part, stand-alone works. When one watches a movie or reads a book, one is presented with a story that has a definitive beginning, middle, and end. Even books or movies that have sequels usually have some sort of story progression in mind. Comic books do not function this way.

When writers of a comic book begin the project, they have no idea how long it is going to last. A new comic book could last for 70 years, or it could last for 70 days. Often times comic books continue far beyond the plot; that is to say, that they continue even after they've run out of ideas. Sometimes comic books are cancelled even with a loyal burgeoning fan base and promising story-telling. What other medium does this sound like?

Oh, that's right. Television. Much like television, comic books are subject to the whims of periodic survival. If someone is in the middle of a movie with a confusing plot, they are more likely to give the movie time to develop and elucidate, since it will only be a few hours and they have already invested time and money into beginning to watch. Comic books and television, however, are judged not as a whole endeavor but by the bits and pieces we see on a regular basis. Until the recent advent of seasons on DVD, it wasn't even possible to watch a whole TV series beginning to end in one, fluid perception.

Much the same with comic books. Most either suffer from not explaining enough what's been happening or instead waste half of the issue catching the reader up on the story. And, much like TV, comics are not given as much time to develop story without readers losing interest. We are often left, then, with two equally bad kinds of story telling: what I will call "Gilligan's Island" comic books and "Lost" comic books.

With "Gilligan's Island" comic books, there is little opportunity to lose sense of the story. Although there are overarching themes (such as being stranded on an island, or Batman fights crime), issues have little interconnection of story-telling. Instead, they tend to function as isolated units that are hampered by all the constraints of single-issue storytelling.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, "Lost" comic books certainly have a central plot. The only problem is, by the time the story ends things have become so convoluted that you're not always sure what exactly it is you're reading about anymore. When little changes in the plot between issues 1-19, and then the reader is suddenly expected to remember (without help from the writer) a minor detail of issue 4 that is suddenly vitally important, this can often become frustrating.

So next time you watch Adam West dance the batusi, remember how hard comic book (and television) writers have it.

*I use the term "comic book" generally to apply to pictures with words interpreting them. I know some do not consider graphic novels to be comic books, but for the sake of argument, just go with me.

"The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness."