Clutter.

Many years ago, my brother and I used to “jam” in my mom’s basement.  I’d riff some Barre chord punk riffs on my reverse-headstock Aria Pro II, my brother would pluck away on his Fender bass.  We weren’t any good, of course, but that didn’t matter.  It was therapeutic.  Now and then, our buddy Danny would join us. Danny lived up the street and was essentially another brother.  One day we discussed getting an actual punk band together, and what we should call it.  The winning entry, in my opinion, was Danny’s suggestion of “Clutter.”  He said it represented the disorder of our music and the varying styles we would surely incorporate into our live shows and albums.  I thought it was wonderful.  But, as you can’t download our music on iTunes and I’m writing a blog in my spare time instead of banging groupies and dodging rehab, “Clutter” the band never took off.    But that name is still a good one, so I’m using it for this catch-as-catch-can blog entry.  Thanks, Danny!

First up: This…

D'awww!  Some Indonesian kid made his own Mushroomhead band member!

D’awww! Some Indonesian kid made his own Mushroomhead band member!

That right there is a little voodoo keychain guy that my Sweet Baby got me on one of her travels because she knows I miss surfing.  She’s a good ol’ gal, that wife of mine.  Anyway, the other day I noticed something horrifying.  Apparently, my little surf guy was a proud member of Hitler’s Waffen SS.  Take a look at the board…

Gott in himmel!

Gott in himmel!

Sure, it’s probably supposed to be a lightning bolt, like the legendary Lightning Bolt surfboards surfed by the likes of Gerry Lopez at places like Pipe.  Probably.  Or maybe this is supposed to be a promotional piece for “Surf Nazis Must Die.”  Either way, I’ll betcha green money that some little Indonesian kid fucked this shit all up.

Speaking of things I didn’t notice at first…the other night was a windy, blustery, snowy one in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  I sat alone in my loft and fired up the ol’ Netflix, choosing (for the 346th time, I believe) John Carpenter’s amazing, classic, incredible 1982 sci-fi thriller “The Thing.”  (Trust me, there really is no better dead-of-winter movie.  None.)  Anyhow, my friend and fellow blogger Blake (The Beard Gospel, Poptopia Madness, reviewer for Nerdspan, etc.) pointed this particular Easter egg out to me, so I waited eagerly for the last few moments of this film to see it for myself, and…I’ll be goddammed.  I’ve been watching this movie for over thirty years now and never caught it.  Peep this…

“Okay,” you say. “What’s the big deal?”  Here’s the big deal: SPOILER ALERT!!  SCROLL TO THE NEXT BIT IF YOU DON”T WANT TO HAVE A THIRTY-YEAR-OLD MOVIE THAT YOU SHOULD’VE ALREADY SEEN RUINED FOR YOU!!

The big deal is that Childs is The Thing, although technically he could be one of several “Things.”  Did they all get blown up?  Maybe.  MacReady was able to escape, so what if that final creature-combo that looked like a Super Mario Dragon Plant mixed with the worst sort of Greyhound rescue ever at Red Lobster didn’t include Blair?  Or Garry? Nauls?

Back to the point. How do I know that Childs is the creature?  We can’t see his breath.  MacReady’s is steaming and swirling with every word, encircling his head with clouds of cheap scotch-scented respiration.  Childs is in within three feet of MacReady, and yet…nothing.  Nary a wisp. He’s not a real human. He’s waiting to either freeze again so that when the rescue crew comes to the research station, they cart his remains back to the mainland where he will thaw and get into an amazing street fight with Rowdy Roddy Piper over whether or not to put on glasses that let him see (ironically) the alien invaders as they really are…or he straight up kills MacReady and assumes his identity.  (Although my money is on Mac.)

kurt

Remember, when you mess with Mac, you also mess with Snake and Jack. Just fair warning, pard…

Next subject:  Burn Notice.  Yeah, I know. I’m late to the party.  The wife and I basically started watching it this last fall because Netflix.  Boy, is it good.  I don’t know what I expected.  Maybe I figured it’d be a revamped Silk Stalkings or that stupid syndicated show wherein Hulk Hogan drove a powerboat around the Florida panhandle or whatever.
"Terry?"  Really?  Also: there are three discs in this box.  Three.  how...how did this come to pass?!

Terry? Terry?!? Okay. What if all this time, the Hulkster was really just Terry Bradshaw with a paste-on Fu-Manchu?!? It would make so much sense…

Anyway, it struck me the other day why I enjoyed it so much (Burn Notice, not that “Terry” Hogan crap.)  The writing is decent, the locale is spectacular (seriously, as long as there is a Miami, there will be crime dramas and such) but it’s really the cast.  Man, what a cast.  It reminds me of Firefly, in that it’s the grand total of all the pieces…that’s what makes this thing shine.  Change one character…say, the mom from Everybody Loves Raymond instead of Sharon Gless…or Tom Selleck as Sam…and the whole thing falls apart.  Sure, characters come and go, and it took about a season before everything gelled so perfectly, but imagine Bruce Boxleitner playing Jayne Cobb.  “Did that almost happen?!?” you shocked fanboys scream, to which I simply whisper back “No.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the Hero of Canton!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Hero of Canton!

But here’s my semi-legitimate fear:  I really hope this show doesn’t end up being like LOST or something.  Seriously, consider this theory that I just came up with:  what if Michael didn’t actually get burned in the pilot episode.  What if he got SHOT?  What if the whole show is either in his mind or in actual purgatory?  That would explain why he has trouble leaving, why he’s surrounded with the only people he’s ever really cared about, and why he’s compelled to help others.  He’s trying to earn his way NOT back into the service of the CIA, but into heaven.  It’s very possible that in the final episode of the series, Michael sacrifices himself for someone else and the show ends with him standing in a bright, white light as the voice of Morgan Freeman welcomes him home.  Or even better, Sam Axe is actually wither God or THE DEVIL!!! Does that make a lick of sense?  No. But tell me it wouldn’t fuck with some heads.
Thanks for reading, all.

Discotron and On, Mon!

I’m in a silly mood.  And when I’m in a silly mood, you get a silly blog.

Recently my kids have been on a TRON kick.  Specifically, they’ve been on a TRON: Legacy kick, watching it every day.  EVERY. DAY.  They’ve made Identity Discs out of paper plates and Frisbees, every toy motorcycle is now a Light Cycle, the Android tablets are full of Light Cycle games and TRON videos on YouTube, and TRON: Evolution has taken up permanent residence in the Xbox 360 tray.  It’s a phase, and I’m aware that recently they were in Iron Man mode, and Batman mode before that, and of course hockey is always a go-to obsession, so it’s all good.  But I took it upon myself to further their education by downloading the demo versions of the original TRON coin-op game and even found an Xbox Arcade demo for the classic “Discs of TRON.”  (It turns out that this game is not nearly as fun as I remember, but maybe that’s because I’m not playing it inside one of those enclosed sit-down cabinets that the original game employed.)

I seriously doubt my big ass would even fit in there.

I seriously doubt my big ass would even fit in there.

Anyway, word association and rhyming are two ways my addled mind uses to distract me from doing real work, so here’s the way my runaway brain train took off on me…

Instead of “Discs of TRON” I started thinking “Discotron.”  Now, Discotron can be a lot of different things.  A tune by Alex Metric which sounds an awful lot like some of the Daft Punk soundtrack to TRON: Legacy, ironically…

A disco-techno-house hybrid band…

A record player…

I'm guessing it looks like this.  Just spitballing here, but with a name like "Discotron" it has to be pretty close.

I’m guessing it looks like this. Just spitballing here, but with a name like “Discotron” it has to be pretty close.

A “Heat Digital Transfer Machine”…

transfer

Or this weird German party truck.

Das auto!

Das auto!

And actually about 4,000 other things.  In fact, if you add alternate spellings like “DiskoTron” or “Disco-Tron” the results from Google explode exponentially.  And goddammit, we don’t NEED more explosions!  My lord, didn’t you SEE that footage of the meteor in Russia?  THINK, PEOPLE!!  This world would be so much better if people would just learn to be responsible with their Google searches.  And don’t even get me STARTED on that Bing crap.
Anyway.
“Discotron” led me to think of Robotron 2084, another bad-ass arcade classic that was sooooo much better than “Berzerk.”
One of the few home-console versions that looked pretty much like the coin-op.  It's all we had, people.

Berzerk: one of the few home-console versions that looked pretty much like the coin-op. It’s all we had, people.

And “Berzerk” was infinitely better than “BirdZerk” the cut-rate San Diego Chicken rip-off that infiltrates minor-league ballparks around the United States every summer.
KILL IT!  KILL IT WITH FIRE!!

KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!

And “BirdZerk” is head-and-shoulders above that Myron Noodleman buffoon.  Seriously, dude:  looking and acting like Jerry Lewis has never been funny, even for Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis cosplay is the absolute worst.  Stop it.
KILL IT!  KILL IT WITH...ah, never mind.

KILL IT! KILL IT WITH…ah, never mind.

But Discotron also reminds me of Gravitron.  The Gravitron is the single-greatest carnival ride in history, equal parts fun and vomit.  It’s amazing.  Sometimes you sprawl all over the place like a confused Stephen Hawking, and sometimes you hope that the centrifugal force keeps that dude next to you’s puke right on top of him where it belongs.
Or you sack up and make gravity your bitch.

Or you sack up and make gravity your bitch.

In closing, here are some other things that Discotron reminds me of.  Thanks, kids.  Thanks, TRON.  Thanks, Google.  And thank you for making it this far.

ron-jon-41heymondon-juan-demarcowrath of khan 46

Beatin’ Them Wintertime Blues.

Look, I don’t just like wintertime:  I LOVE it.  I really do.  The brisk air, the clothes that cover my fat, the snow…it’s all really awesome.  It is.  But here’s the thing:  for the last nine years I’ve lived in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and our winters can be trying.  I know, I know, there are worse places.  A friend of mine hails from Fort McMurray, Alberta.  It starts snowing there in goddam SEPTEMBER.  In my defense I’ll point out that for the three years before living in Da Fort (as it is sometimes called) I lived in New Bern, North Carolina.  Carolina ain’t Florida or Hawaii, but one story sticks with me about my time in NC.  My lovely wife Heidi and I were at the gym, using side-by-side treadmills or something, watching the television.  The local news was reporting that there was a two-hour school delay the following morning…for snow.  The thing is, and this is what caused Heidi and myself to look at each other and giggle at these poor Carolinians in raw, Midwestern condescension was that NOT A SINGLE FLAKE HAD FALLEN.  They were delaying school over a forecast…FORECAST…two inches of snow.  Possibly.  We guffawed until a friend native to the area remarked that they literally had no salt trucks in the county and probably no more than a handful of snowplows in the entire state. It made sense.  Indiana does not post hurricane evacuation routes, and I’ll bet most people in New Mexico don’t carry flood insurance, so…yeah.

My Sweet Baby.  On a boat.  In the Caribbean. I feel better now.

My Sweet Baby. On a boat. In the Caribbean. I feel better now.

The point of this whole intro is to underscore how different the snowy tundra of Northern Indiana is to the mild barely-frost-covered winters of North Carolina.  And while I was very grateful for the prospect of a White Christmas again, I’m afraid that this winter has been harder than most to bear, probably because it’s been so damn mild.  “Wait…WHAT?” you ask, all perplexed by my contradictory statement.  It’s true.  A few weeks ago it was 60 degrees in Ft. Wayne.  I’ve used my snowblower maybe twice this season.  There wasn’t any hockey for the first half.  It just hasn’t felt like winter, and the motto I like shouting at my friends and family is “shit or get off the pot,” usually yelled as I sit reading on the toilet, not actually defecating.  (Makes your legs fall asleep, so it does.)  So I’m ready for this “season” to be over.  No snow?  Fine, then.  Turn up the sunshine, baby.  Break out the shorts.  And if that ain’t happening just yet (fuck you, Punxsutawney Phil!  YOU LIED TO ME!!) then allow me to offer these tips for getting through the mid-winter hump.  They work.  Trust me.

Video Therapy

This encompasses all manner of stimuli.  The go-to, easy method is to browse Netflix for shows and movies that are set in a warmer, preferably tropical, location.  This winter the wife and I have begun watching Burn Notice, and love it.  Not just because the characters and story are fun and smart (and Bruce Campbell.  ‘Nuff said, baby) but because all the transitions/cutscenes are footage of Miami.  People on Wave Runners, beach umbrellas to the horizon, and tons of eye-candy.  I mean, they oughtta call it “Butt Notice,” amirite? And for the ladies, well…Michael Westen is often shirtless.  But I’d also recommend “Point Break” or “The Endless Summer” along with episodes of BAywatch or even that one show where Hulk Hogan had a powerboat.  But don’t stop with the TV and movies.  I have played the holy hell out of “Far Cry 3” not only because it’s fun and immersive, but let’s face it…you’re on a tropical island that could be anywhere between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea.  Gorgeous, and you can imagine you’re actually swimming in warm azure waters (while trying not to get shot.)

Hi, ladies!  Want some yogurt?

Hi, ladies! Want some yogurt?

Audio Therapy

This is easy.  Got some Bob Marley on your iPod or Pandora channel?  Crank that shit up, mon.  Now, personally, I try to avoid this when it is the absolute dead of winter with the sun going down at 4:30 in the afternoon and a foot of snow on the ground.  When I do chance it,  I hear a voice made of cold, frozen tears tell me “Your magic will not work here.”  There definitely has to be a proper setting.  Daytime, perhaps.  Or when the first snowmelt begins.  Then, the music is a catalyst.  It’s a power-up of epic proportions.  And if there’s an unusually mild and sunny day, one where you briefly consider cracking the window on your ride, and you just happen to throw on anything by Sublime or Jimmy Buffett, then no power in the ‘Verse can stop you.  Feels good, man.  Let it flow.

Of course, listening to Marley or Sublime sometimes makes me want to, uh...what were we talking about?

Of course, listening to Marley or Sublime sometimes makes me want to, uh…what were we talking about?

Aroma Therapy

Perhaps the most powerful of these methods is the one most closely connected to memory.  Scent.  Smells. Aroma.  A long time ago, I even blogged about how powerful your olfactory senses are and how a whiff of perfume can send you right back to the night you lost your virginity, or how sniffing a roll of cloth tape can transport you to the hockey locker room.  For me, the smell of a bar of surf wax is magical.  It is EVERYTHING that I love about the beach.  Likewise, when I go by the Yankee Candle display and smell their line of summer/tropical candles..holy shit. Makes me wanna cry.  Coconut?  Coconut/Lime?  Beach Walk?  Seaside Resort? Surf’s Up?  Coral Sand?  Tropical Mango?  Coconut and Lime?  GAAAAAAAHHHH!!! Even the old-school, simply named “Ocean Water” makes me swoon. And in fairness, there’s not much better during the month of December than all the spice/mint/pine/cookie/pumpkin/hearth fire scents.  But after, oh, let’s say January tenth, THAT SHIT HAS GOT TO GO!!!  SO LONG, CRANBERRY CHUTNEY!!  HELLO, BEACH PARTY!!  There’s one more bit of therapy I have for you, and it’s not really a good idea, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.  We’re all adults here, right?  So let’s just get this elephant out of the room already…
Like actual summertime, many Yankee Candles apparently smell like booze.  Awesome!

Like actual summertime, many Yankee Candles apparently smell like booze. Awesome!

Tanning Therapy

I might as well call this “cancer therapy.”  You know this, right?  You know that there’s a decent chance that not only is your skin going to dry up like a stale pork rind, but you stand a better-than-average chance of melanomas and other potentially hazardous/deadly health concerns, right?  We’re clear on this?  Okay.  Okay, I thought so.  Just wanted to make sure.  But here’s the dirty little secret: sometimes that ultraviolet light is good for you.  Or at least “not so goddam terrible for you.”  Quick story: I worked the overnight shift at 103GBF, a radio station in Evansville, Indiana for about a year or so.  It was dark when I got home around 6:30 every morning.  I wouldn’t leave the house until at least three in the afternoon, meaning that in the winter months I had maybe…maybe…two hours of sunlight.  I fought depression.  I felt like a vampire.  And then someone mentioned the “Light Therapy” that doctors have recommended for people in places like Alaska or Siberia that are affected by the appropriately-named SADs.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It’s a real thing, and part of the treatment is basically putting your head under an ultraviolet light, tricking your brain into believing that it’s being bathed in lovely sunshine and kicking in some seratonin or whatever and making the “blahs” go away.  Another friend in the conversation mentioned “sounds like a tanning bed for your head!” And BINGO!!  GREAT IDEA TIME!!  I booked myself a couple of sessions in the ol’ cancer closet at a local gym and…now, bear with me here…I felt 100% better after one session.  It was sort of a revelation.  I’m also willing to consider that maybe the “treatment” was all placebo:  I thought I would feel better, so I did!  Whatever.  It’s like people with colitis learning that nicotine can help keep their symptoms at bay and then have to wrestle with the idea of either smoking cigarettes or spending a fortune on (and becoming addicted to) nicotine gum.  Not an easy choice.  Another motto I love to scream out at passers-by is “Everything in moderation.”  A glass of wine a day is beneficial.  A box of Franzia is not.  I’ve read articles about how kids today are vitamin-D deficient because over-protective parents slather 100-SPF sunblock all over their kids.  As a result, NONE of the sun’s rays penetrate, resulting in deficiency.  Like Ramirez sang to Connor MacLeod, B-A-L-A-N-C-E.
But aren't seals already sort of, um...brown?

But aren’t seals already sort of, um…brown?

That being said, I think we’ve had enough of you, Winter.  Thanks for coming by.  Four months is plenty.  Buh-bye.  Good seeing you, old friend.  Don’t forget your hat. (Of course, everyone is invited back to check out my forthcoming blog entitled “Jesus, Summer…Why You SO HOT?!?” to be published sometime in July.  Balance.)

SHARKS!!

If you know me, if you really know me, you know that I love sharks.  It’s not quite an obsession, but it might be an addiction.  I mean, I L-O-V-E those “Men in Grey Suits” as they call ’em in Oz. (And by “Oz” I mean “Australia.”  Or “Straya” as some call it these days.)  I have been a fan of these apex predators since childhood, but figure I would’ve fallen in love even if I hadn’t seen “Jaws” when I was about six or seven.  What sort of parents let their young children watch what is essentially a seaborne slasher film?  Awesome ones.  Anyway,  my younger brother and I started collecting plastic and rubber shark toys and re-enacting scenes from the movie with our Star Wars and Adventure People figures.  There’s something endearing about two towheaded kids in the basement yelling “HE CAN’T STAY DOWN WITH THREE BARRELS!  NOT WITH THREE BARRELS, HE CAN’T!”  Yes, “Jaws” remains one of my top-three all-time-favorite movies (probably my #1) but it goes beyond that.    Something primal makes me want to be an amateur marine biologist or oceanographer, just to learn as much as I can about these silent, deadly, beautiful beasts.  I mean, I have a tattoo of a Megaladon tooth on my left arm, fer crissakes, and (to date) not one single Star Trek tattoo.  That’s saying something, folks.
Holy crap...how come I never noticed thisprior to writing this damned blog?!?!  IT'S THE THINGS I LOVE!!

Holy crap…how come I never noticed this prior to writing this damned blog?!?! IT’S THE THINGS I LOVE!!

And then, 26 years ago, one of the most amazing events in television history debuted:  Shark Week.  Holy hell, it was like Discovery Channel had been monitoring my dreams and watching me masturbate (I’ve got some…issues, people.  Don’t you dare judge me) and conceived the perfect week-long block of programming.  Shows about sharks.  Documentaries, Mythbusters episodes, etc. all flew out of the screen and landed in briny glory at my feet. You could tell back in those days that Discovery didn’t quite know what it had, and likely didn’t grasp how significant this annual (as it turned out) gem would be.  Nowadays, Shark Week is arguably the most recognizable feature of the network’s programming, perhaps running a close second to Adam & Jaime’s Mythbusting exploits.  I speak for a lot of folks when I say that I treat Shark Week the same way I treat the McRib.  I know that it’s only going to manifest for a short time and then be ripped away again, like a wailing child from a mother’s teat.  Actually, the McRib has helped me through many a lean, long winter between Shark Weeks, simply because I imagine that I am Bruce and the McRib is Quint’s delicious torso.  I am a bit morbid.  Don’t you dare judge me.
Ba-da-bap-bap-BAAA!!!  I'm lovin' it!

Ba-da-bap-bap-BAAA!!! I’m lovin’ it!

About that whole “maneater thing.”  Peter Benchley (author of the novel upon which the Spielberg movie was based) has since bemoaned the fact that his book and subsequent film made a target of sharks.  People demonized them even further, and took to the seas to hunt and, well…slaughter as many of these amazing animals as they could.  It really did get grim there for a while.  Add to that shark finning, which had been a tradition in many parts of the world and is (thankfully) becoming harder and harder to practice legally, and life hasn’t been too good for the pointy-serrated-toothed set.  And then, wouldn’t you know it?  A stingray goes and kills Steve Irwin.  Guess who rays and skates are related to?  Yep.  Sharks.  Goddam it, they can’t catch a break.
(Artist's rendition.)

(Artist’s rendition.)

Fortunately, Discovery channel and others have been diligent with their education efforts and shark conservation has become a real thing.  Shows like Discovery’s rival Nat Geo’s “Shark Men” have been educational (if a bit boring) and there are even great apps for shark lovers; I highly recommend the “Shark Bible” app from the Google Play store.  While I was a bit disappointed to find that it wasn’t the actual Bible re-written to include more stories about Jesus swimming with sharks and tickling their bellies and such, it’s an exhaustive volume of details on just about any species of the class Chondrichthyes.  Goblin shark?  In there. Black Tip?  In there.  Cloudy catshark?  Yep.  Got it.
Well, I , um...it seems I must stand corrected.

Well, I , um…it seems I must stand corrected.

Now, the big question you’re asking:  why the hell should I care what happens to a bunch of fish?  Especially ones that bite people?  Ahem. I’m sure you’ve heard the stats about how you’re more likely to be struck and killed by falling coconuts (150 deaths annually)  than sharks (4.2 deaths annually.  WORLD-WIDE.)  Okay, maybe you don’t care because you never go to the ocean anyway.  (BTW, that boggles my mind…the number of people I know that have never even seen than ocean, ANY ocean, much less set foot in one.)  Okay, smarty pants, then how about this:  apex predators are good harbingers for the state of their particular environment.  In other words, look what happened when we killed off all the wolves.  The deer and rabbit populations exploded, spread disease and ate a bunch of crops.  Hunting becomes not only a luxury but a necessity, even going so far as modern-day “group kills” at National Parks.  Now imagine you kill off all the sharks.  Great!  All the tuna we can eat!  Except it’s not just tuna.  It’s craptastic fish you’d never want to eat.  It’s zebra mussels clogging ports and working inland to muck up reservoirs and our locks and dams.  It’s a million seals in New York harbor, requiring a massive seal-kill just to get to the port (ask anyone who’s been to the wharf in San Francisco about the sea lions that took over.) It’s smart-ass dolphins and squids running around like THEY OWN THE GODDAM PLACE.  It’s horrible.
NOTE:  I do not in any way condone homophobia or discrimination.  I support gay marriage.  I love gay people.  But this shit is funny.

NOTE: I do not in any way condone homophobia or discrimination. I support gay marriage. I love gay people. But this shit is funny.

So do your part.  Get involved.  Boycott places that serve shark-fin soup. (So far, I’ve only found one in Indiana: the Oriental Inn Restaurant in Indianapolis serves it at $12 a pop, which apparently feeds two.)  Stay away from deep-sea fishing charters that go on “shark hunts.”  Or at least make sure that they use the whole damned shark, not just stuff it and mount it.  I mean, come on: do like the Native Americans.  Use the meat for shark steaks, the jaws for tourist schmaltz, the cartilage for old people’s joints, and the skin for any number of things including (but not limited to) cool suits for Ray Liota and Joe Pesci (which is odd, because “Pesci” looks like it means “fish.”  Weird.) And keep swimming, folks, because Shark Week is only 188 days away…
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